Tim Tebow is going to get plenty of credit for Denver's playoff victory against Pittsburgh on Sunday, and rightfully so. He played better than anyone expected against the vaunted Steelers defense.
Tebow passed for a career-high 316 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winning score in overtime, and he also had 50 rushing yards and a touchdown. It was an amazing performance, but did he do anything to help his Fantasy value in 2012?
Many Fantasy owners are going to consider Tebow a starter on Draft Day, especially if you like to wait on drafting a quarterback with a late-round pick. After all, he had plenty of positive moments in 2011 with six games with at least 18 Fantasy points in 11 starts. He averaged 17.4 Fantasy points a week as a starter, which would have tied him with Mark Sanchez as the No. 12 quarterback in a standard league.
But heading into next year, Tebow should not be considered a No. 1 Fantasy quarterback. He barely cracks my Top 15 quarterbacks based on an early rank list for 2012:
1. Aaron Rodgers, Packers
2. Drew Brees, Saints
3. Tom Brady, Patriots
4. Cam Newton, Panthers
5. Matthew Stafford, Lions
6. Michael Vick, Eagles
7. Peyton Manning, Colts
8. Eli Manning, Giants
9. Tony Romo, Cowboys
10. Philip Rivers, Chargers
11. Matt Ryan, Falcons
12. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
13. Matt Schaub, Texans
14. Tim Tebow, Broncos
15. Carson Palmer, Raiders
When watching the playoffs, don't overreact when a player has a big game or get too down if a star struggles. But the postseason can help solidify an opinion you have of a certain player, especially if they build on something that was started in the regular season.
Here are five winners and losers from this past weekend. We'll consider Tebow a winner based on his play against the Steelers, and now he has to follow it up with another quality outing at New England. But even if that happens he should not be considered a No. 1 Fantasy quarterback heading into 2012.
Andre Johnson, WR, Texans
Playoff performance: Five catches for 90 yards and a touchdown vs. Cincinnati
Anyone wondering if Johnson is back from his hamstring problems saw against the Bengals that he is just fine. He scored on a 40-yard pass downfield where he put a nice double move on Bengals cornerback Pacman Jones. He also had nine targets in the game. Keep in mind this came with T.J. Yates at quarterback, and Johnson will get Matt Schaub (foot) back in 2012. He should be drafted as the No. 2 receiver behind Calvin Johnson next year with a pick toward the end of Round 2. Yes, injuries are a concern since Johnson missed nine games with the hamstring injuries this season. But he had three games with double digits in Fantasy points and remains a star when healthy, and we're expecting him to play big next year.
Hakeem Nicks, WR, Giants
Playoff performance: Six catches for 115 yards and two touchdowns vs. Atlanta
Victor Cruz was the best receiver for the Giants in 2011, but Nicks will be the best Fantasy receiver for the Giants in 2012. He showed his dominance in the playoffs against the Falcons, and he will re-emerge as the go-to option for Eli Manning next year. Cruz will still remain a star, but Nicks is the receiver to target on Draft Day with a pick in Round 3. He has more upside than Cruz and he still had a successful campaign in 2011 with seven games with double digits in Fantasy points. He had a tremendous game against the Packers in Week 13 with seven catches for 88 yards and two touchdowns, and he should play at a high level against Green Bay in the rematch this week.
Isaac Redman, RB, Steelers
Playoff performance: 17 carries for 121 yards and two catches for 21 yards at Denver
Redman got the start against the Broncos with Rashard Mendenhall (torn ACL) out, and he showed Fantasy owners that he can be a reliable option heading into 2012. There's a strong chance Mendenhall won't be ready for Week 1 next year, which means Redman can be a starter if the Steelers re-sign the exclusive rights free agent as expected. He should be drafted as a No. 3 Fantasy running back with upside, and he is now in the same category as Toby Gerhart with Adrian Peterson (torn ACL and MCL) likely out to start next season. Depending on how long Mendenhall takes to return, we could be looking at Redman as a solid sleeper in 2012.
Matthew Stafford, QB, Lions
Playoff performance: 380 passing yards, three touchdowns, two interceptions and a rushing touchdown at New Orleans
The 2012 Fantasy value for Stafford and receiver Calvin Johnson were enhanced with their performance against the Saints. Stafford should be considered a Top 5 Fantasy quarterback next season, worth drafting in Round 2. The only quarterbacks better than him are, in order, Rodgers, Brees, Brady and Newton. And you won't get much of an argument from me if you take Stafford ahead of Newton. As for Johnson, he proved that he should be drafted in Round 1 in all leagues. There is no receiver better than him, and he produces like a running back with his ability to score. With his two touchdowns against the Saints he finished with 18 on the season.
Demaryius Thomas, WR, Broncos
Playoff performance: Four catches for 204 yards and a touchdown vs. Pittsburgh
Thomas established himself as the No. 1 receiver for the Broncos and Tebow with his performance to close the regular season. He had three games with double digits in Fantasy points in his final five outings, and he was the star against the Steelers. Thomas will continue to improve as Tebow develops as a passer, and he is entering his third season in 2012. You can draft Thomas as a No. 3 Fantasy receiver, but he can end up starting for you in all leagues based on his big-play ability. We hope Thomas can have another outstanding game against the Patriots in the divisional round to further solidify his value heading into next season.
Cedric Benson, RB, Bengals
Playoff performance: Seven carries for 14 yards and a touchdown at Houston
This might have been Benson's last game as a starting running back in the NFL, especially with the Bengals. He is a free agent this offseason, and Cincinnati might be ready for an upgrade. Benson was fine in 2011 with over 1,000 rushing yards and six touchdowns, but he had just six games with double digits in Fantasy points. Keep an eye on where he lands in 2012, and if he does get a featured role again then he could still be drafted as a low-end No. 2 Fantasy running back. But we expect him to be in a tandem next season, even with the Bengals if he returns, and his value is definitely on the decline.
Mark Ingram, RB, Saints
Playoff performance: Did not play vs. Detroit
Will Ingram ever be a starting Fantasy option in the majority of leagues? It's not expected to happen in 2012 with Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas both back, and Chris Ivory will remain in the mix. Ingram (toe) is out for the rest of this season after being placed on injured reserve, and the Saints continue to march on without him. He will definitely have Fantasy value in 2012, and he should be considered a No. 3 running back with upside. But he might not be a starting option in the majority of leagues for a long time with how New Orleans throws the ball and with Sproles and Thomas under contract through 2014. Barring an injury, Ingram's Fantasy value will continue to be limited, which is shame given his immense potential.
Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons
Playoff performance: 199 passing yards at the Giants
Ryan will enter 2012 as a No. 1 Fantasy quarterback, and he will be great value on Draft Day. But his poor performance against the Giants will keep him from being a Top 10 Fantasy option next year. He will enter the season behind Rodgers, Brees, Brady, Newton, Stafford, Vick, Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Romo and Rivers. He could crack the Top 10 if Peyton Manning doesn't recover from his neck problem, but Ryan should not be considered an elite Fantasy option. He had seven games with at least 20 Fantasy points in 2011 and six of them came indoors. Until he becomes more consistent outside then his Fantasy value will be limited.
Kevin Smith, RB, Lions
Playoff performance: Six carries for 21 yards and two catches for 20 yards at New Orleans
Smith is a free agent this offseason, and we guarantee he will get more attention from other teams this year after no one signed him prior to 2011. He had a great regular season in limited action with double digits in Fantasy points in three of the seven games in which he appeared. But if he returns to Detroit next year then he will be in a timeshare with Mikel Leshoure, who was out in 2011 with a ruptured Achilles' tendon, and Jahvid Best, who expects to make a full recovery from his concussion problems. And he's unlikely to land a featured role with a new team. Smith should be considered a No. 3 Fantasy running back at best on Draft Day in 2012 depending on where he is playing.
Michael Turner, RB, Falcons
Playoff performance: 15 carries for 41 yards and one catch for 5 yards at the Giants
Turner was already on my bust list heading into 2012 before his performance against the Giants, and he is a running back on the decline. He had a successful season in 2011 with more than 1,300 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns, but this is now three times in the past four years where he has at least 300 carries, which is beginning to take a toll. He is not a threat as a receiver, and the Falcons are trending toward a passing team with Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez. Turner will remain a candidate for double digits in touchdowns, but his yardage should begin to slip. I would consider him a No. 2 Fantasy running back in 2012, and he should not be drafted in the first round in the majority of formats.
The Broncos ruined my team with their upset victory against the Steelers since I had Redman, Shaun Suisham and the Steelers DST in my lineup for the wildcard round. I had to make changes with at least three of my eight transactions.
Here is my roster for the divisional round:
QB – Drew Brees, Saints - 79
RB – Ray Rice, Ravens - 64
RB – Ryan Grant - 19
WR – Marques Colston, Saints - 37
WR – Robert Meachem, Saints - 14
TE – Jimmy Graham, Saints - 37
K – Billy Cundiff, Ravens - 15
DST - Ravens - 31
I ended up making four transactions to replace Sproles with Rice. Sproles is better suited to play at home -- he had two games with double digits in Fantasy points on the road and only one outdoors -- and Rice has a chance to lead the Ravens to the Super Bowl. I then went with Grant as my second running back based on his value at 19 units, and I'm going with Cundiff and the Ravens DST to fill out the rest of my roster. If the Saints and Ravens reach the Super Bowl then my team should be in good shape.