Every year one of the top guys taken in fantasy football drafts turns out to be a dud.
Kansas City's Larry Johnson left fantasy owners in the lurch when he finally limped away midway through last season with a career-low 3.5 yards a carry. In 2006, Seattle's Shaun Alexander only played 10 games as his career started sputtering.
This year it's ... everybody. Yes, pretty much the whole first round has been unimpressive, occasionally terrible or, in the case of Tom Brady, no longer participating.
LaDainian Tomlinson has three scoreless games and only one 100-yard game. Adrian Peterson hasn't scored in three of his last four and was stopped cold by the non-threatening Saints defense. Joseph Addai is scoring but with only about 50 yards a game. Brian Westbrook's body parts are falling off. And Steven Jackson's still a Ram.
Still, it's too early to panic on most of these guys. Most should find their groove eventually, so ignore those 30-cents-on-the-dollar trades coming your way (unless one allows you to unload Jackson).
As you again wonder why you didn't just take Tony Romo, here's a look at some players to start in Week 6, some to avoid, and a few long shots who just may pan out:
A safe bet
¢ New Orleans' Drew Brees could easily hit 400 yards against the Raiders. This, of course, will be former coach Lane Kiffin's fault, as outraged owner Al Davis will explain at length afterward using a number of visual aids.
¢ Kurt Warner just took a break from Arizona's film session to send a text message to his wife saying he's really excited about facing the Cowboys' mediocre secondary. He has two or more TDs in 12 of his last 13 games.
¢ Don't sweat Aaron Rodgers' gamey shoulder as the Packers try to keep up with Seattle. In five games as a starter, he's gone for multiple TDs four times and passed for 300 yards twice. (He has no 6-TD games, however.)
¢ New England's Matt Cassel was a little slow with that whole "just throw it really far" thing Randy Moss has been trying to explain to him. He'll heave it far and often against the Chargers, who've allowed more yards and touchdowns than anyone.
¢ Here's something that perhaps nobody's ever said before: Chicago's Kyle Orton and Atlanta rookie Matt Ryan should have good games. Orton has eight TDs his last three games. Ryan is coming off his first two-score game and may be forced to pass a lot.
Take a shot
¢ This week may offer a rare chance for Seattle's Matt Hasselbeck to remember what a good offense is like. He's still sore, but the Seahawks are always better at home, he's got security blanket Bobby Engram back and faces the Packers' 26th-ranked defense.
Back away slowly and nobody gets hurt
Please, in the name of Stan Gelbaugh, don't start these guys:
¢ Is it insane to ever bench the Colts' Peyton Manning? Usually, but against the Ravens No. 1 pass defense go with another option if you can. As they say down South where Manning grew up: That boy just don't look right.
¢ Are we nearing the beginning of the end of the J.T. O'Sullivan feel-good story? He had the worst-looking three-TD game ever last week, the losses are piling up, and he's about to get chased around by many blitzing Eagles.
¢ Not long ago, it seemed Houston's Matt Schaub would be a great start at home against Miami. But now the Texans can't win and the Dolphins can't lose. (Look for Houston to lose on a direct-snap play in the waning seconds.)
All day long
¢ If you're for some reason entertaining trade offers for Minnesota's Adrian Peterson after his spotty start, remember these three little words: Here comes Detroit. He went over 100 with a score in his one other home game with the Lions, and now they're even worse.
¢ Pencil in Seattle's Julius Jones for about 135 yards and a touchdown, which is what he's averaging against the last two weak defenses he's faced. Everybody scores on the once-proud Pack, which gives up about 160 yards rushing and a TD each game.
¢ Baltimore's Willis McGahee and lineman-in-disguise Le'Ron McClain are both great starts against the Colts, who give up 189 yards a game as the league's worst run defense, by far. (Joe Flacco may throw fewer than five passes.)
¢ It's probably safe to assume Correll Buckhalter's starting in place of rib-less Brian Westbrook. The Eagles face the 49ers' 23rd-ranked run defense and may have noticed by now that having a running game is a good idea.
¢ Don't ever again expect Arizona's Edgerrin James to be what he was as a young Colt, but the Cardinals are at least letting him touch the ball near the end zone again. (He has 3 TDs the past two weeks.)
He could find a seam
¢ Denver's Michael Pittman is due to get a lot more carries with Selvin Young out. He's already the Broncos' goal-line guy, and he faces a Jaguars' run defense that allows about a TD a week.
¢ Don't go thinking Green Bay's Ryan Grant will suddenly break loose against a Seattle defense flattened last week by giant Giant Brandon Jacobs. Grant still hasn't hit 100 yards or the end zone, so don't try him until he's home against somebody like the Lions.
¢ Oh, for a job like Earnest Graham has in Tampa Bay: Sign a big deal for a lot more money, then get assigned half the work. He's lost a ton of value since the ancient Warrick Dunn started swiping all those carries.
¢ Oakland's running backs, including the newly recovered Justin Fargas, face a New Orleans defense that held Adrian Peterson to 32 yards.
Throw him the darn ball!
¢ The Falcons are back at home, and Roddy White has developed into somebody you can't bench anywhere. Over the past three weeks, he's averaging about 7 catches for 115 yards, with two TDs.
¢ Laveranues Coles may be in line for six touchdowns this week against the Bengals. (By the way, he officially forgives the Jets for getting rid of Chad Pennington.)
¢ Crazy as it may seem, a Vikings receiver may be worth starting twice in a row. Bernard Berrian, coming off his first game with 100 yards and a score since 2006, should do it again vs. Detroit's No. 29 pass defense.
¢ Hey, nice goose egg last week, Santana Moss. The normally reliable little Redskin should actually score more than his rather obscure brother Sinorice this week, as the Redskins become the latest to crush the Rams.
¢ Arizona's Steve Breaston has 16 catches for 199 yards since Anquan Boldin was injured. He may match that in this week's pass-a-thon against the Cowboys.
Maybe throw him the darn ball?
¢ Some guy named Mike Walker went over 100 yards last week for the Jags, who face the Broncos' really terrible pass defense.
Show him the darn bench
¢ Yes, a coaching change will help matters for the woeful Rams, but even a beat-up Redskins defense is too good to start Torry Holt. (Hang onto him till the 49ers or Cardinals come to town.)
¢ Still have a tiny shred of hope for Cleveland's Braylon Edwards? I don't. Maybe he and Derek Anderson spent the bye week watching film of the good old days, when they were good at throwing and catching.
¢ In other news about guys in Ohio who were good in the recent past, only start Ocho Cinco if your league awards bonus points for three-catch games. (Amazingly, he's become even less threatening than Antonio Chatman.)
Free agent shopping list
Pick up these guys if they're available in your league: Broncos RB Michael Pittman (more playing time), Oakland RB Justin Fargas (returning from injury), Bears WR Rashied Davis (6 catches, 97 yards), Jaguars WR Mike Walker (107 yards), Broncos WR Brandon Stokley (more playing time?) Dolphins WR Greg Camarillo (68 yards, TD), Bills QB J.P. Losman (potentially starter), Chiefs QB Brodie Croyle (starting again).
Off this week: Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Tennessee
What do I know?
Here's the best and worst of last week's projections:
Big Hits: I figured Ben Roethlisberger was back up to speed (309 yards, 3 TDs) and Carson Palmer (2 TDs) would somewhat resemble his old self. I also thought DeAngelo Williams (148 yards, 3 TDs), Steve Slaton (93 yards, 2 TDS) and Bernard Berrian (110 yards, TD) would do well. I was half right on the Giants-Seahawks shootout, with Eli Manning (2 TDs) and Domenik Hixon (102 yards, TD)
Big Misses: I was wrong about most everything in Green Bay, predicting road failure for Michael Turner (121 yards, TD) and problems at home for banged-up Aaron Rodgers (313 yards, 3 TDs) and Donald Driver (TD). I thought Marion Barber (84 yards) and Frank Gore (1 TD) were in for at least 3 scores apiece. I also did not expect failure from Matt Hasselbeck (105 yards, INT) and Deion Branch (31 yards). I thought Jake Delhomme (2 TDs) wouldn't throw much, and I thought the Saints would at least give Deuce McAllister a run once in a while.)