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By Dan O'Shea
In reviewing the 2009 fantasy football campaign, I came across this fact: Only two players - Adrian Peterson and Maurice Jones-Drew - projected as top 10 stars in the pre-season were ranked in the top 10 going into this week, the final week of the NFL season.
And of those two players, only MJD had the season his owners probably hoped for and expected.
Though Peterson led the league in rushing touchdowns with 17, his fantasy points performance was marred by fumbles and he had fewer truly great games this year as Minnesota's offense revolved around Brett Favre.
Other pre-season top 10 picks that didn't pay off: Michael Turner, Matt Forte, Brian Westbrook, LaDanian Tomlinson and DeAngelo Williams. Even Larry Fitzgerald, Steven Jackson and Frank Gore, who rounded out the Yahoo! pre-season top 10, will finish slightly off expectations.
A discouraging year for some top players means the top 10 for next season will look pretty fresh. Here's my first stab at it:
1. Chris Johnson, RB: Hands down, fantasy football's MVP this year, with a chance to join the 2,000-yard rushing club this week. MJD may be a more reliable No. 1, but Johnson's stock also may soar next year as part of a 1-2 punch with Vince Young.
2. Maurice Jones-Drew, RB: He managed to be a one-man team most weeks, and that won't change. Picking him No. 1 wouldn't make you look like a fool either.
3. Ray Rice, RB: A huge campaign after beginning the year in a three-man backfield; he came out of it as the undisputed starter. Baltimore briefly became a passing program, but next year it could be on an all-Rice diet.
4. Frank Gore, RB: His 11 TDs (eight rushing) hint at a runner that might have finished closer to Peterson's totals had he not missed three games with an injury. He has actually never looked better.
5. Adrian Peterson, RB: Yes, that's AP way down here. Fumbles have become a big problem, and the offense really has shifted out of his hands, despite obvious efforts in recent weeks to change that. He was never better this year than in Week 1 (180 rushing yards, 3 TDs), which doesn't bode well for next year.
6. Michael Turner, RB: Injury problems were predicted by some after a high number of touches in 2008, and that's exactly what happened. AP and The Burner both need to prove they are better than mid-first round.
7. Aaron Rodgers, QB: Early for a QB pick, but he has been phenomenal, with 29 passing TDs against only 7 INTs. His rushing performance of 314 yards with 4 TDs gets him into this position. Plus, improvements in his receiving corps and line in the off-season will make him the next Brees.
8. Andre Johnson, WR: A career high in TDs already (9), and should come close to 1,600 yards receiving this year, which would be another career high. QB Matt Schaub probably will be more settled in next year, which could mean a few more TDs, and make him the fourth receiver to cross the 1,700-yard mark.
9. Drew Brees, QB: Has been great this year, though maybe a notch below last year. He'll still have the same offense in 2010.
10. Cedric Benson, RB: I may rescind this one later. Steven Jackson could easily go here as well, but Benson had six 100-yard games this year going into Week 17, and has scored six TDs despite missing three games. Cincinnati has looked great this year, and could be better next year.
Meanwhile, as we close out our fantasy football reports for the year, here are a few other players we would like to recognize:
Best Sleeper Picks: Brett Favre, Darren Sproles, Rashard Mendenhall, Johnny Knox, Vernon Davis, Desean Jackson.
Best Rookies: Knowshon Moreno, Michael Crabtree, Percy Harvin, Austin Collie.
Best Kicker: David Akers.
Best Individual Defenders: Patrick Willis, Jon Beason, Brian Cushing.
Farewell from the fantasy gridiron until next season.
At press time, it was looking likely that Tracy McGrady, SG/SF, would be traded from Houston. The bad news for McGrady owners is that T-Mac is shut down until that happens. He hasn't done much at all since returning from a season-opening stay on the injury list, and definitely needs to log some playing time to get anywhere near back to his old form.
If he lands on a team that badly needs a scorer, it could turn his season around. By the same logic, if he lands on a good team that just needs a role player, his minutes and chances to get back to 100 percent will be limited.
Meanwhile, here's our Fantasy Fix Action Ratings on some players recently in the news:
Player: Stephen Curry, PG/SG
FFAR: PICK UP
Comment: Only 75% owned in Yahoo! leagues, he has been the hottest rookie in the NBA this month. He has 24 three-pointers in 15 December games and has come close to triple doubles at least twice.
Player: Beno Udrih, PG/SG
FFAR: PICK UP
Comment: Only 61% owned despite great numbers the last three weeks. He's shooting at a .518 clip for season, among the highest rates for a point guard.
Player: Tyreke Evans, PG/SG
Comment: Along with Curry and Brandon Jennings, Evans has been in the early hunt for Rookie if the Year. He suddenly has a bothersome ankle injury that is costing him some games, but hang in there. I'm predicting RoY honors go through Sacramento this year.
Player: John Salmons, SG/SF
Comment: Has been shooting horribly, and Kirk Hinrich replaced him as a starter, but his playing time hasn't suffered. He's still capable of bigger scoring nights than Hinrich, though he needs to get going with whatever minutes he's handed. Some movement up or down in coming games could change his status.
* Life is never easy with Ron Artest. He has had a sub-par year, and then, as the Associated Press reports, he fell down the stairs in his home and lost partial memory on Christmas Day. There's good reason for Artest owners to be concerned and wondering when they will need to cut their losses.
* SLAM Online has hot pick-ups for the coming week, including Hinrich. They still rate Salmons as a "buy low."
* Ben Gordon and other Detroit starters are back from injury. Gordon should get back into upper-teens scoring form before too long, but the Detroit Free Press notes that the player to watch in Detroit may be defensive star Tayshaun Prince. He's been out since very early November, and was on the verge of becoming a top 100 player at the beginning of this year.
Dan O'Shea's Fantasy Fix appears in this space every Wednesday. Comments welcome. You can also read his about his split sports fan personality at SwingsBothWays, which isn't about what it sounds like It's about.