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By Dan O'Shea
You can make snap judgements about your quarterback's fantasy football performance after just one game, or even just two, but what about three? After Week 3 of the NFL season, there are couple fantasy surprises at the QB position. Tom Brady is not among the top 10 fantasy QBs thus far, though he was probably an early second-round pick in many leagues. Joe Flacco has not only avoided a sophomore slump after a great rookie season, but has actually performed as one of the top 5 fantasy QBs thus far - even though he was probably a back-up choice at the position in many leagues.
Brady is coming back after playing only a few minutes in the opening game of the 2008 season, but the injury itself doesn't seem to be a factor. One of his favorite targets, Wes Welker, has been battling a knee injury, and he's also getting used to a new receiver, Joey Galloway, though Galloway is of course a very experienced receiver who usually, if anything, makes QBs look better than they are.
Meanwhile, Flacco's success is interesting because it almost appears to be part of a system change in which we have seen Baltimore thus far throw a lot more than anyone expected, especially for a team with three good RBs - Ray Rice, Willis McGahee and LeRon McClain.
Other surprises at QB? The Manning brothers have both been better than expected, which for Peyton means he is currently ranked No. 2 behind Drew Brees in most Yahoo! leagues. That's perhaps surprising because Manning the Older was perceived to have a challenge with his top receiver from many seasons past leaving town. Eli, meanwhile, had a similar problem, with favored target Plaxico Burress leaving for the Big House. Manning the Younger has fared almost as well as his brother, finding a new BFF in Mario Manningham (There have been a lot of Manning-to-Manningham calls, in other words).
Here's our Fantasy Fix Action Ratings for some of the QBs in the news as Week 4 convenes:
Player: Tom Brady
Comment: One of the smartest QBs in the game will start getting into a groove, though it could take him a couple more weeks.
Player: Tyler Thigpen
FFAR: PICK UP
Comment: Why? Because Chad Pennington is done for the season and Miami acquired Thigpen this week from Kansas City. He's a proven starter and a great back-up for a fantasy roster.
Player: Kevin Kolb
Comment: Poor guy has been working in Donovan McNabb's shadow and with the Ghost of Christmas Future, Michael Vick, looking over his shoulder. Philadelphia has a bye for Week 4, and if he does start again will likely see his snaps cut even more by Vick.
Player: Matthew Stafford
FFAR: PICK UP
Comment: Only 12% owned in Yahoo! leagues, get in on the ground floor. Stafford and Detroit have the monkey off their backs, and this rookie is capable of eating yardage by air or ground.
* Yahoo! Pick-Ups of the Week eyes Glen Coffee, RB, San Francisco, as a Strong Buy with starter Frank Gore out of action for at least the next few weeks. Coffee did a decent job picking up for the injured Gore in Week 3, though the 49ers may be conservative about how many touches gets.
* Bleacher Report advises sitting San Diego QB Philip Rivers in Week 4 against Pittsburgh. With LaDainian Tomlinson still out, Rivers will be passing. He hasn't been great thus far, but defending Super Bowl Champ Pittsburgh is getting too much respect for a 1-2 team with their top defensive threat to the pass, Troy Polamalu, out with an injury.
* RotoWorld notes that Buffalo RB Marshawn Lynch comes back from suspension this week, though it sounds like he will not get any more carries than Fred Jackson. I'll be surprised if Lynch doesn't quickly take over the workload, if only because the Bills are flailing, trying to get something to work before WR Terrell Owens self-destructs.
As league playoffs wind down this week, it's time to hand out full-season awards. Because the majority of fantasy leagues take the interleague approach (though there are A.L.-only and N.L.-only die-hards out there), I'm only picking one player overall for each award, so let the arguments begin.
MVP: Albert Pujols, 1B. Really no argument here for anyone else, though feel free to make one. He may yet surpass 50 homers before the season ends. His batting average has slipped in the second half, but its a testament to how good his season was overall that he still ends up way ahead of everyone else. One of the most startling stats is that he had 15 stolen bases for a team that just doesn't steal bases. Stats as of Tuesday: 47 HRs, 132 RBIs, 15 SBs. .328 BA, 43 doubles, 112 BBs, 121 runs.
Cy Young: Zack Greinke, SP. Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Roy Halladay, Juston Verlander, Tim Lincecum, CC Sabathia - there are cases to be made for all of them. But, Greinke has been truly dominant, with an ERA getting close to 2.00, 16 wins, 237 strikeouts, 6 complete games and 3 shutouts. ERA is the only category where he leads the league, but in terms of overall fantasy impact across all categories, no pitcher made a bigger impact than Greinke.
Surprise of the Year: Mark Reynolds, 1B/3B. He had reputation as a speedy power hitter coming into this year, but no one predicted 44 home runs to go with 24 stolen bases. Good fantasy value there was made better by the fact that he hit between .260 and .280 for much of the year, a lot better than last year and remarkable for a guy who broke his own league record for strikeouts this season.
Comeback Player of the Year: Chris Carpenter, SP. This one was easy. He not only came back and contributed, he actually dominated. 16 wins, 3 CGs and almost 200 innings pitched for a guy who started the season by missing amonth after his first two starts after missing virtually all of the previous two seasons.
Rookie of the Year: Pablo Sandoval, C/1B/3B. I don't know if he truly qualifies, but he only played 41 games in 2008 before this year. In any case, he earned something by hitting .325 with 23 HRs and 85 RBIs.
My early take on next year's fantasy baseball draft is that Pujols should definitely go No. 1, but that Greinke, who would have won 25 games this year on any other team than the Kansas City Royals, may get lost in ther shuffle a bit. We'll see.
Dan O'Shea's Fantasy Fix appears in this space every Wednesday. Tips, comments, and suggestions are 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.
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