With the first half of the season behind us, it's time to shift our focus to the stretch run where the pressure mounts and the games are even more important. Past performance is always necessary to keep in mind but fantasy football is all about "what are you going to do for me next?" That's why, this week, we're asking our Featured Pros to predict which players will step up as well as who will see their production decline down the stretch.
Below is the list of this week's Featured Pros. You can click on each expert's name to follow them on Twitter for more advice.
Russ Bliss - (FFStarters)
Josh Moore – (4for4)
Q1. Listed below are the top 12 RBs (pts per game) for the first half of the season. Which player is the least likely to put up top 12 numbers over the second half of the season?
LeSean McCoy (PHI)
Fred Jackson (BUF)
Arian Foster (HOU)
Adrian Peterson (MIN)
Matt Forte (CHI)
Ray Rice (BAL)
Beanie Wells (ARI)
Ryan Mathews (SD)
Michael Turner (ATL)
Darren McFadden (OAK)
Ahmad Bradshaw (NYG)
Frank Gore (SF)
Beanie Wells (ARI): Wells is the easy answer after indicating Sunday night that he expects the knee injury to be a season-long problem. He can also expect regression in touchdowns because the Cardinals offense won’t keep providing short scoring opportunities. Ahmad Bradshaw and Michael Turner are the two other candidates. Bradshaw is a committee back with foot troubles. Turner has slowed down noticeably, taking advantage of an easy schedule and a few gaping holes out of the no-huddle for RB1 numbers in the first half of the season.
Beanie Wells (ARI): Beanie is my choice. He has had an eye-opening season so far to be sure, but his injury history suggests he won’t be able to keep up the pace. He played though a knee injury in week 8 and while he managed to still be productive against a stout Ravens run defense, he has admitted that his knee is likely to be an issue the rest of the season. He had a similar knee issue in 2010 and it stunted his production. A healthy Wells would stand a good chance of keeping it going, but Wells playing through a knee injury? Not likely.
Beanie Wells (ARI): Wells has had a great start to the season, but is now dealing with a knee injury similar to what bothered him for much of last season. Add to that the fact that Kevin Kolb is dealing with turf toe and Wells has three extremely tough matchups left on the schedule (two against the 49ers and one against the Cowboys), and I don’t believe Wells will be able to post top 12 numbers in the second half.
Ahmad Bradshaw (NYG): Job security isn’t an issue for any of these top backs, so my primary concern would be injury-related. Going into Week 9, Wells, Mathews, McFadden and Bradshaw are either nicked up, playing through an injury or possibly sidelined. Of those, I’m more concerned with Bradshaw keeping his pace. McFadden’s injury is perhaps the most concerning at the moment, but I think he’ll be fine and put up strong numbers as long as he’s on the field. Bradshaw aggravated a previous foot injury, but appears to be day-to-day and no worse for the wear. Another back who looks great, but has missed a of couple games or more every year is Frank Gore. One can’t predict injuries based on the past, but in the dicey world of “who is due”, Gore would be at the top of that list.
Q2. The following RBs have underperformed relative to preseason expectations. Which player do you think will have the biggest impact during the second half of the season?
Chris Johnson (TEN)
Felix Jones (DAL)
Mark Ingram (NO)
Peyton Hillis (CLE)
Reggie Bush (MIA)
DeAngelo Williams (CAR)
Knowshon Moreno (DEN)
Joseph Addai (IND)
Ryan Grant (GB)
Chris Johnson (TEN): I’m not crazy about any of these guys. I like Ingram, but only in TD-heavy leagues. I guess Hillis is the best bet to regain RB2 production, but I’m aiming higher than RB2. I’ll take the long odds on Chris Johnson and say a prayer that he can get back to RB1 territory by the fantasy playoffs.
Chris Johnson (TEN): Tough call on this list but I think Chris Johnson can get things turned around. This past week should be a wakeup call for him as Javon Ringer simply was a more productive RB and appeared to hit the holes harder than Johnson has, and with more authority. Johnson is just the ego type of guy who may take it as a personal affront that the coaching staff may decide to sit him in favor of Ringer. Such a slap in the face to a guy who has been one of the most productive RBs the last 3 years may be the motivation needed for him to want to get back to being a decisive RB. I might not have taken Johnson, though, if the other names to choose from had any better chance.
Joseph Addai (IND): I’m not overly high on any of the RBs on this list, but I think once Joseph Addai fully recovers from his hamstring injury, he should be handed back the starting RB job in Indianapolis. Delone Carter and Donald Brown haven’t done much to hold onto the job once Addai is back, and I think Addai could be a decent stretch run option in PPR formats provided he gets healthy.
DeAngelo Williams (CAR): Not one of these players inspires me to make a selection, so lets go with DeAngelo Williams. The rest of the group are either fading, hurt or on a bad team. Williams is none of those three. While he may not be performing as well as his counterpart Jonathan Stewart, he’s arguably the most talented of this group, save for pre-pay day Chris Johnson, and he’s the most likely to continue in his role. I like Hillis the most of this group, but I don’t trust his situation. Otherwise, I suspect he’d be most likely to resume a feature back role of this group.
Q3. Listed below are the top 12 WRs (pts per game) for the first half of the season. Which player is the least likely to put up top 12 numbers over the second half of the season?
Calvin Johnson (DET)
Wes Welker (NE)
Steve Smith (CAR)
Greg Jennings (GB)
Mike Wallace (PIT)
Dwayne Bowe (KC)
Andre Johnson (HOU)
Miles Austin (DAL)
A.J. Green (CIN)
Jeremy Maclin (PHI)
Hakeem Nicks (NYG)
Larry Fitzgerald (ARI)
A.J. Green (CIN): I don’t think A.J. Green can count on WR1 production the rest of the way. The Bengals have feasted on one of the easiest schedules in the league, and I don’t trust Andy Dalton’s arm to fare as well once the elements become a factor in the AFC North over the final two months.
A.J. Green (CIN): As much as I have been impressed with Bengals rookie A.J. Green, he has to be the choice here. He’s on pace for an unbelievable 1,179 yards and 11TD’s as a rookie WR with a rookie QB throwing to him. In the second half of the season he’ll be facing Pittsburgh and Baltimore twice each and both are top 5 fantasy pass defenses. Matchups against Cleveland and Houston are tough as well as both of them have been solid against the pass this season. When you consider the schedule, the fact that rookie WR’s just don’t finish seasons with the numbers I previously mentioned, especially with another rookie throwing him the ball, and then figure in that weather is going to start playing a factor very soon, and you get a recipe for Green’s numbers to trail off enough for him to drop out of the top 12 fantasy WRs.
Andre Johnson (HOU): Johnson is still dealing with a hamstring issue and reportedly is having troubles pushing off and accelerating. It’s looking like a real possibility that Johnson might not return until after the Texans week 11 BYE. If I’m picking one guy to not post top 12 numbers the rest of the way, I’ll take the guy who currently isn’t playing.
Larry Fitzgerald (ARI): Although he’s a player I love to root for, Larry Fitzgerald might have the worst situation of this group depending on the severity of Kevin Kolb’s turf toe injury. Fitz is already seeing bracket coverage week in and week out. If Kolb is forced to the sidelines, it’s a dicey situation like last year. Give Fitz all the credit in the world. He somehow sustained WR2 value despite the team’s QB woes last year, but if Kolb isn’t healthy Fitz may slide back into that WR2 range through no fault of his own.
Q4. The following WRs have underperformed relative to preseason expectations. Which player do you think will have the biggest impact during the second half of the season?
DeSean Jackson (PHI)
Brandon Marshall (MIA)
Santonio Holmes (NYJ)
Reggie Wayne (IND)
Brandon Lloyd (STL)
Santana Moss (WAS)
Mike Williams (TB)
Percy Harvin (MIN)
Mario Manningham (NYG)
DeSean Jackson (PHI): Jackson is the easy answer because he’s a tier-one talent in an explosive offense that is finally hitting its stride. I’d nominate Harvin as the best “buy” in that group, though, considering his current price tag. He has the bye-week to get over the rib issue, an upgrade at QB, and a play-caller willing to give him the ball out of the backfield.
Mario Manningham (NYG): I like a few names here but the one that stands out most is Mario Manningham. The uncertainty of Hakeem Nicks and his week 8 hamstring injury could push Manningham into the WR1 role for the Giants for a game or two. In the last 8 games of the 2010 season, during which Nicks missed 3 games, Manningham had 35 receptions for 559 yards and 6 TDs. If Nicks misses any time, Manningham has proven capable of stepping up his game and being able to produce. Victor Cruz has drawn a lot of the limelight, but he’s proven also to be inconsistent. Manningham is a steady option who has a high ceiling.
Brandon Lloyd (STL): I love the situation Brandon Lloyd has found himself in for the second half of the season. Lloyd was underutilized in John Fox’s conservative offense and now goes back to Josh McDaniels who knows how to get the most out of him. Lloyd steps in as the no-questions-asked WR1 in St. Louis and should post borderline WR1 fantasy numbers the rest of the way after seeing 12 and 13 targets the last two weeks.
Brandon Lloyd (STL): I’d roll with Brandon Lloyd. Back in Josh McDaniels’ system with Sam Bradford looking like he’ll be able to return this week, Lloyd might have the most favorable situation of this group and he is a proven commodity in an offense that features him correctly. He hit the ground running in his first game with the Rams and I think he’ll build on that over the last months. It is frustrating that there is absolutely nothing wrong with Santonio Holmes or DeSean Jackson, but their teams seem to be content using them merely as decoys. They’re hardly being utilized or targeted to the extent I expected before the season. I wouldn’t give up on either one, but it is becoming increasingly foolish to rely on either of them for consistent production. Mike Williams could pick things up, too. He continues to see a plethora of targets, and once Josh Freeman rights the ship, so should Williams.
Thanks to this week's Featured Pros for stopping by to share their advice! Be sure to check out the experts' respective sites to keep up with all of their latest content.