History supports what I’m saying here, not always can the dynamic of two super personalities, amazing talents, wonderfully crafted names and/or awkwardly revealing spandex outfits, fit together like Steve Young and Jerry Rice, Marcus Allen and Bo Jackson, or even a more well-known duo, Batman and Robin (and even the last two heroes might find it tougher together nowadays)… In fact, if you look at the big picture, it becomes more and more evident that not every Super-Hero needs a Sidekick. In fact, most of the big name stars produce more box office fantasy potential all by themselves in their own little uniforms (As you can easily recognize that even Batman does his best movies sans his puffy feathered bird of a sidekick).
There are a few guys I’m looking at this year where a certain sidekick is digging into the main man’s cover-value, and even a couple more stars that are getting matched up with other stars – two superheroes do not always make a friendly team: Wolverine, Punisher, Spiderman, Captain America. You have to remember, when a team gets better, a fantasy player doesn’t always improve.
Scrappy Doo basically crushed a very good cartoon of young crime fighters. Scooby was doing a fine job begging for Scooby Snacks, being a scaredy dog, and being his pot-head friend’s best bud. All Scrappy did was come in and steal some of the spotlight, and since everyone loves a puppy, soon he was getting too much attention. Suddenly, the drop off happened and Scooby and his friends have never quite recovered.
And what about Jimmy Olsen, Superman’s pal, one of the only guys to know Supe’s identity – well, all he did was get his buddy into trouble at every turn. Did Superman ever need Jimmy? I think not.
Wolverine vs. Punisher? Spiderman fighting Captain America? It’s amazing that a couple guys looking for the same thing (in both instances) could get into such a fiasco with each other – but it happens.
These things happen in the “fantasy world” and they also happen in fantasy football. This season there are some sidekicks ready to help the team all the while stomping out some fantasy fire of their own teammates. And while most of these guys play for wins and losses instead of statistical superiority – the truth of the matter is… You and I don’t. Not in fantasy football anyway. So which gridiron heroes will have their value cut down to size by the Scrappy Doo’s, Jimmy Olsen’s, Wondergirl’s and Aqualad’s of the National Football League? Follow along closely…
Matt Cassel and Tyler Thigpen
This seems like the easiest one around. Matt Cassel found a new home with a new offensive genius taking over in Kansas City. But what about Thigpen? What about the guy that dominated down the stretch? What about Tyler Thigpen? If you look back at last season’s stats, you will see two new teammates ranked 2nd and 3rd amongst quarterbacks during last season’s second half. That’s right, you guessed it, Tyler Thigpen is number 2 and Matt Cassell was number 3. That Top 5 list looks like this… Drew Brees, Thigpen, Cassel, Peyton Manning, and Aaron Rodgers. So, while many people probably don’t even know who Tyler Thigpen is, as he was really only a super hero fantasy star to those that picked him up for a late run into the post season (yes, that was me in more than a couple instances), he was still a star. Thigpen was 3 points shy of Drew Brees during those 10 weeks, and Brees had a brilliant season. But Cassel has the job, and surely Thigpen will suffer most in this match up of free agent pick ups turned fantasy playoff super heroes of 2008 turned teammates of 2009. This season will mark the first time in history that this situation will ever have taken place. Two young quarterbacks with huge statistical seasons meet up on the same team the very next year. But it is what it is, and Matt Cassel will be crushing the fantasy relevance of his teammate, and higher rated fantasy performer of last year’s second half. The team has gotten better, but Thigpen has lost his way.
Jay Culter and Matt Forte
Both players became fantasy stars in 2008. Matt Forte did so in his rookie season for a Bears team that used him as their main weapon, finishing a win away from the playoffs. Forte was as consistent as fantasy stars get, putting up solid numbers week after week as the Bears gave him the ball early and often. Jay Cutler was Mike Shanahan’s little buddy, a coach in uniform, the son he always wanted. Jay got the green light to throw any ball he wanted any time, and while that made Cutler one of the best fantasy quarterbacks in football, it also ended Splinter’s long run as the head coach in Denver. That led to Josh McDaniels getting the reigns for the Broncos, which led to Cutler having a fit when McD wanted his former QB, which led to bagels being just another way to get cream cheese to your face, which led to Jay Cutler getting traded for 2 first round picks, a couple more picks, and a 6 pack of Chicago’s best brew. That dysfunctional set of circumstantial dominoes led to Jay Cutler and Matt Forte, two rising fantasy stars, to meet up in Chicago’s backfield. Well goodness me. But whose value is effected more? Well, I would imagine that both players have a slight hit in value, but both could see their efficiency ratings moving on up. Crazy how fantasy and actual football can be so different. Matt Forte is likely to see less 8 man fronts (if any), while Cutler is likely to see more open secondaries with defenses actually paying attention to the run game in his offense. But, Forte will get less carries, less catches, and likely less touchdowns in 2009. Jay Cutler will almost surely have less yardage, fewer touchdown passes, while continuing to throw interceptions this season with the Bears. But Forte will get more yards per carry while Cutler’s QB rating will likely rise. They may make a nice duo, two young guys with their entire comic book careers in front of them, but this year both will suffer in the fantsy realm, losing the numbers from their days as single stars.
Tony Gonzalez and Roddy White
After years of lacking a #1 receiver, the Falcons finally came through with the coming of age of Roddy White. And after years of stumbling around losing seasons without another true offensive threat, Tony Gonzalez was traded to a city of bright fantasy youngsters making a name for themselves in the NFC South. But who will be the star in this receiving situation? The young up and comer or the old school TE that can stake his claim as one of the best ever? Only I have the answer you’re looking for. Both should fail to match last year’s top notch numbers. Say what you want about Dwayne Bowe’s rise to stardom or Matt Ryan being better than the Chiefs’ no-name quarterback last season, but neither piece of information will convince me that Tony G is in a better fantasy situation than he was last season. Last year, Bowe was still just the 2nd fiddle in KC’s passing game, with the attention of opposing defenses collapsing around Tony. And he may be relatively unknown, but I already showed you that Tyler Thigpen was no joke going down the stretch, so stop belittling the guy. Plus, KC threw the ball a lot last year, which is how Tony got so much fantasy love. Likewise, Roddy White was the only real threat in the passing game last season, but the Falcons ran so dang much that defenses had to bite on the play action. Matt Ryan locked onto his number one guy, and reasonably so, White was a yardage gaining machine for the Falcons. Now both top flight receivers will see differences in 2009. Tony Gonzalez will find himself in an offense that runs the ball as much as they throw which should cut down on his chances to get anywhere close to last season’s targets. Not only that but Roddy White is one of the best young receivers in the league, one that 2nd year QB Matt Ryan made a living throwing to in 2008 – so a repeat of last year’s totals should be close to impossible. And for Roddy, you know the Falcons are still going to run a ton, and a great tight end is a quarterback’s best friend, and his notoriety as a receiving threat should have defenses paying more attention to him this season – so his targets will likely fall as well. The Falcons offense should be great, even better than last season’s surprising numbers, but these two super-heroes won’t win as often in fantasy circles.
Thomas Jones and Shonn Greene
This is definitely a case similar to Scrappy Doo’s fuse lighting to the dynamite under Scooby’s career. Thomas Jones had his best season as a pro. If anyone gained value from Brett’s arm last season it was Jones. Thomas finished 5th amongst running backs in non-ppr leagues, making him one of the best fantasy values of 2008. But in comes the younger cuter puppy hero drafted by the Jets. (Actually, Shonn Greene is a beast of a kid and as far as looks go Thomas may have the girls gushing after his bulging biceps, but you get the picture). Still, already Shonn is getting rave reviews in Jets camp, and with a new coach in town there’s no real loyalty to last season’s production. If Coach Ryan learned anything from his time in Baltimore it was that the best player plays no matter if he’s getting paid like Willis McGahee or Le’Ron McClain. That might be just the ignition Greene needs to up-end the 31 year old Thomas Jones’ career. This could definitely be a case of the sidekick back-up unproven option stealing too much of the star’s light, and slowly eating into that profile he worked so hard to build. Drop Thomas in your rankings, yes, but don’t completely ignore the guy. I’ve seen him falling way too far in Fantasy Drafts, and there’s a good chance he’s still a productive piece of the Jets rushing attack.
Chris Johnson and LenDale White
Last season it was Chris Johnson eating into White’s numbers, but this season the roles may be reversed. I’ve noticed Chris Johnson getting lots of fantasy love on draft days. But LenDale is now a much slimmer and still powerful version of himself. Everyone expected Chris Johnson to continue his growing percentage of carries from last season. After starting pretty equal, he was definitely the horse the Titans tried to ride down the stretch. But this season could be a lot more even than people are ready to believe. LenDale has always had a knack for the end-zone with very athletic feet for a big powerful back. Coming into camp in the best shape of his life, running faster than ever, and apparently buying into everything more than ever before makes him a sneaky thief to Johnson’s carries. When you add the often forgotten fact that LenDale is smack dab in the midst of a contract season, he has even more to play for, a future contract and a starting gig (if the Titans don’t want to pay the man his money). So before you draft Chris Johnson with all his speed and excitement and all that man-love you have for him – remember, there’s a big bad touchdown thieving guy from USC that not only has something to prove, but money to earn in 2009. Chris should still be a nice player in 2009, he’s a great young back, but expecting even more impressive numbers in 2009 might disappoint you this season.