Several players had career best or worst years in 2009, but which are reliable and which were flukes who will revert to previous form? Brett Favre had one of his best statistical years last year, shocking us with his highlight reel plays as usual, but more so with his lack of completions to the other team. Brett’s 2009 struck me as a last gasp. Now, minus his top receiver and another year older, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him plummet to fantasy irrelevance this season. Miles Austin‘s breakout was foreseeable as the number two receiver behind Roy Williams. We had to know he would get his shot. And he took full advantage. I’m not willing to vault him into the absolute elite tier of receivers, but I certainly believe his 2010 numbers will be more like 2009 than his career previously. Cedric Benson suddenly showed what we had been waiting for. And now we don’t believe it. To use a baseball analogy, he had too many .230, five home run seasons to suddenly believe the .280/25 season. I’m not buying. On the other extreme, Matt Forte was a consensus top-four overall pick, and disappeared. Now with Chester Taylor threatening his playing time and Mike Martz in town, nobody is quite sure what to expect from the Chicago offense, but Forte is a good receiver out of the backfield, so expect some improvement. It seems safe to project a balance between his 2008 and 2009 seasons, which makes him a useful flex option with upside as a #2. Calvin Johnson was going in the first round of most drafts this time last year, but with a rookie quarterback, let alone a rookie with injury issues, no Detroit receiver got enough looks to give an accurate representation of talent. If the Lions can keep Stafford on his feet, Johnson should return to his near-elite status. Jake Delhomme, who enjoyed years of success in Carolina, started 11 games and finished with eight touchdowns against 18 interceptions. He is now the starting man in Cleveland. Now, I know he is listed as one of the worst starting QB fantasy options in the NFL, and I wouldn’t advise you to go pick him up, but keep an eye on him. There are three talented receivers there in Robiskie, Massaquoi, and Cribbs. And the team’s offensive line is not horrible. Definitely keep an eye out. Kyle Orton topped 3,800 yards and was consistent all year. Now, without the team’s only elite receiver, expect his numbers to come down some. But he could still prove useful as a bye-week fill in. If Gaffney, Royal, or rookie Thomas steps up as the prototypical number one receiver, there is some surprising upside here. Clearly, by giving him the $9 million, one-year extension, the Broncos are comfortable with him under center until that obscure new rookie QB wearing #15 is ready to take over. Ray Rice ascended to the heights of fantasy running backs last year with remarkable speed and consistency. Now he is a “consensus top-four pick”. Sound familiar? The Rice profile is similar to Forte circa fall 2009. Don’t expect the same results. Rice is a stud and seems to be here to stay. Look for him in the first round of drafts for years to come. Vernon Davis caught 13 touchdowns last season and has now leaped into the near-elite wrung of fantasy tight ends. Don’t expect 13 touchdowns again. With Gore carrying the offense, and Alex Smith under center, he won’t get as many looks close to the goal line, but 10 scores would be a fair expectation. He definitely deserves to go in the top five of tight ends this year.
This is obviously not a comprehensive list, but some of the biggest shifters in value during the last year are covered. We will see who breaks out this year.