Moving the chains: Williams is no No. 1

BY foxsports • November 6, 2009

If it were my job to determine odds for Williams' chances of being a Cowboy for the start of the 2010 NFL season, I'd estimate something around 8-to-1. Terrell Owens didn't even make it through the gates of Jerryworld, so Williams' chances of remaining in Jerry Jones' circle of trust aren't promising.

As for the fantasy owners who continually swoon over Williams every August citing his limitless potential and God-given talent, maybe this will be the last time you get burned? Austin's 250-yard, two-TD game against the Chiefs in Week 5 has been more than the self-proclaimed Numero Uno receiver in Dallas produced through six games. Poor No. 11 just can't seem to catch a break in Big D — or anywhere else for that matter.

Delusion can be a very dangerous thing. By midseason, you should realistically understand your chances of going to the playoffs. Your team could be terribly unlucky (injuries, etc.), but it's also possible to misjudge what you've actually got at your disposal and think that you're just a couple of breaks away from making a late-season push.

This week, I requested nominations for the most disappointing players of the 2009 season. There was enough of a consensus even in a small sample size to see that there are about a half dozen players who have single-handedly Yoko'd a significant number of rosters this season. Through the first eight weeks of the season, I present to you the All-Disappointment Team.

QB — Tony Romo

RB — Steve Slaton

RB — Matt Forte

WR — Calvin Johnson

WR — Anquan Boldin

WR — Eddie Royal

FLEX — Derrick Ward

TE — Jason Witten

Some thoughts ...

Romo's actually ranked seventh in the NFL in fantasy points per game this season. Maybe the frustration here has been that the production isn't very consistent? He's surpassed 25 points in four of seven games, while finishing with less than 17 points in his other three contests. Bottom line, this was probably the selection I disagree with most of the eight players thrown out there. There was reason to be concerned about Romo dropping from the top-five among fantasy QBs with the departure of Terrell Owens, but sliding two spots from the previous season isn't worthy of this label. Not playing well in big games may be a fair critique, but he should still be considered an weekly starter right now.

Slaton owners had to love watching Ryan Moats roll up 126 yards and three scores against the Bills in last week. A juicier matchup for running backs simply doesn't exist right now, but Slaton's persistent fumbling issues put him on the bench after he fumbled his first carry of the game. In 268 carries as a rookie, Slaton only fumbled three times and lost just two. He's already coughed it up seven times over 110 totes this season, with five of those fumbles becoming costly turnovers for the Texans. Even though he's struggled on the ground, his ability to contribute as a receiver has helped make him the 14th-ranked running back in the league in fantasy points per game. With tight end Owen Daniels out for the season with a torn ACL, Slaton should remain a regular part of the team's passing attack, even if Moats has permanently played his way into a share of the carries.

After seven games, Forte still trails 18 running backs in weekly production, including unheralded backs such as Joseph Addai and Tim Hightower — a duo that's survived fantasy Armageddon thus far after their respective teams selected running backs in the first round of April's draft. Most of his production has come from huge games against weak opponents (Detroit & Cleveland), leaving owners stuck in the difficult position of starting him despite poor or inconsistent results. Looking ahead, Forte has the Cardinals, Niners, Eagles and Vikings over the next four games before getting a big cupcake with the Rams in Week 13. Depending on how steep the discount is, you may be able to trade him and hope for a second-half turnaround based on the fact that he's still not going to be threatened by a talented backup poised to steal his job, but that didn't used to be the only reason to own Forte.

Throw out the game against Pittsburgh — the one where he hurt his knee in Week 5 — and Calvin Johnson's really only had one truly disappointing week. He's essentially missed three games thus far, but Megatron was back on the practice field on Thursday and there's a chance he'll be ready to go against the Seahawks in Week 9. Having Matthew Stafford healthy and firing the ball his way should help also, so there's reason to be optimistic about him turning things around over the next nine games. The Lions are still one of the league's bottom feeders this season, so there will be plenty of opportunities for the Detroit passing game to make attempts and playing catchup in the second half the rest of the way.

If you're a coach, you love having players who are willing and ready to play through injuries. If you're fantasy owner, you hate it. Boldin's been playing with hamstring and ankle ailments for most of the Cardinals' first seven games. It simply hasn't been pretty on the stats side, as he's produced just one game with double-digit fantasy points. As of Thursday's practice, it sounds like he may sit out Sunday's game against the Bears in an effort to rest and get healthy for the second half of the season. But until he shows signs of being himself, it's worth benching him in favor of a waiver wire option.

The ghost of the Jay Cutler-Kyle Orton flip continues to haunt Royal owners. For those who were excited about his 10-catch, 90-yard showing against the Patriots in Week 5, he's offered two catches for 10 yards since. As it stands right now, his skill set doesn't mesh well with Orton, even though Orton's playing well and limiting his turnovers to keep the Broncos in games. You're better off moving on and cutting him than crossing your fingers for Orton to morph into a downfield gunslinger, a la Cutler. Coach Josh McDaniels simply isn't going to let that happen.

Even though it's not a three-headed monster at running back for Tampa Bay, Derrick Ward's first season with the Bucs has been about as successful as Caddyshack 2. It's not entirely his fault, as there are some members of the national media who think the 2009 version of the Bucs are the worst team they've ever seen. (Have we already forgotten about the 0-16 Lions of last season?) I'll have a better read after getting a good look at them against the Packers in Week 9. Cadillac Williams has been the most reliable runner for Tampa Bay thus far, but his chances of breaking down in the second half remain very high. Even if Ward's able to claim a larger share of the workload the rest of the way, one issue doesn't appear to be in any position to fix itself anytime soon. The Bucs are very inexperienced at quarterback and the switch to rookie Josh Freeman's a long-term rebuilding approach rather than a short-term, "see if we can squeeze a few wins out of a veteran" plan. If you're looking for any sort of potential silver lining down the line, the Bucs have the Seahawks in Week 15, and potentially a Saints team that's wrapped up the NFC in Week 16. Even that is speculative and lacks promise.

Last season, Witten had six games where he was targeted 10 or more times. So far in 2009, it hasn't even happened once. Having a productive, legitimate No. 1 receiver (Austin, not Williams) should help Witten's production as the season progresses. More than likely, it's going to force opposing defenses to be more honest and Austin will stretch the field while enabling Witten to do his work underneath.

"I don't know what it is," Witten told the Dallas Morning News of his missing production. "Some of that stuff over the middle, I'm getting tackle soon after I get it. You always strive do more with routes down the field. You've just got to take the good with the bad, and it's a reality that that is down. You just hope you can get more production."

Tight end's a deeper position than usual for fantasy owners this season, but that shouldn't discourage anyone from trying to make a midseason push to acquire Witten in a trade. As the aforementioned article points out, he's had three of his eight career 100-yard games against the Eagles, who just so happen to be the Cowboys' opponent in Week 9. Philly's struggled against opposing tight ends this year as well, so perhaps a familiar NFC East foe is just what he needs to get back on track. Betting on him to exceed 5.8 fantasy points per game for the rest of the season is a must.

The above squad of players hardly covers all of this year's disappointments. Take it from a guy who knowingly gambled on Darren McFadden in the early rounds of a 14-team draft. Fortunately, there were a few strong late-round selections that have been enough of a band-aid to keep that league fee from being completely wasted.

Who's been to blame for your team's disappointing results this season? It'd hardly be surprising to see Brandon Jacobs' name pop up on more than few lists. The same holds true for rookies Beanie Wells and Donald Brown, but their time could still come if the veterans ahead of them on the depth chart are unable to hang onto their starting gigs.

With many league trade deadlines coming up within the next two weeks, it's now or never to start concocting some wicked trade Kool-Aid. And remember, it never hurts to open up the lines of communication to make that first offer. The answer can't be any worse than no.

Good luck in Week 9.

Article first appeared 11/5/09