By James Zembriski
Fast forward to October. It is the middle of the NFL season and it is a must win game for your team. As you scan your team deciding which players you are going to start and going to sit, you realize that list is shortened thanks to all of the injuries and inconsistent play from your players.
If a team goes a whole season without a player who is injury prone or inconsistent play, you should get yourself a lottery ticket because you are incredibly lucky. A great start to a championship-bound team is a roster filled with guys you know you can count on week after week.
Here are some dependable players outside your typical superstars at each position that you can count on come draft time in August or early September:
No matter who is lining up at receiver, this guy puts up stats. He threw at least one touchdown in every game last season, ending his year with 34 passing TDs. That was with an inconsistent receiving corp. and his prized tight ends Gronkowski and Hernandez missing some games.
Every signal caller in your top five is probably as consistent as it gets. You know: P. Manning, Rodgers, Brees and Brady. But who can you count on after them?
Depend upon who you talk to, Romo is either a top ten QB or should be riding the bench. The truth is Romo can flat out throw the ball. He finished last season on 97 yards shy of 5,000 and 28 touchdowns.
For a guy you can get as late as a 4th rounder, you are getting someone who threw a touchdown in all but one game while failing to post 12 or more fantasy points in just two games.
Luck lived up to his high expectations last season throwing for nearly 4,400 yards and 23 TDs. While Bruce Arians is now coaching in the desert and some believe in the sophomore slump, Luck looked like the legend who played before him in Peyton Manning last season.
Not to mention, he lead a team that went 2-14 to the playoffs in a season where he played all 16 games and only failed to score 12 points three times as a rookie.
Take away Rice from Baltimore’s offense this season and not even a high school team would be scared. Rice is Baltimore’s workhorse who will give you double-digit touchdowns this season and simply cannot be injured because without him, Baltimore’s offense is in trouble.
Do not expect Morris to put together the magical rookie season he had last season where he finished with only one game below 50 yards but in the pistol style offense, he is still going to get his 275-plus touches. He received less than 15 carries in just two games last season. For today’s NFL, he is a modern workhorse like Rice.
Sproles may not reach 500 yards rushing this season but it is a different story through the air. With 75 catches and seven touchdowns catches, Sproles ranks number one in virtually all-receiving stats for running backs. According to ESPN, Sproles also posted 10 or more points in 18 of 28 games he has played with the Saints.
With Julio Jones being one of the fastest rising superstars in the league, White remains a consistent threat for the Falcons. He had more targets, catches and receiving yards than Jones and has been a top ten fantasy receiver the past five years.
Marshall and windy city QB Jay Cutler were made for each other. In his reunion with Culter and first year as the Bear’s number one receiver, Marshall posted career highs in receptions, yards and touchdowns. He caught less than five passes in only two games last season when defenses knew he was the only aerial target.
At age 34, Wayne has proved to be an ageless wonder. It helps when you have Andrew Luck throwing to you. Whenever he was in trouble, Luck found Wayne and ended the year third in targets with 194.
When it comes to consistency, Witten’s name comes first as far as tight ends go. Showing he can play through injury last year with his spleen, Witten still posted stats every week. If only he could catch a couple more TDs.
Daniels missed only one game last season despite nagging injuries and had solid production for the Texans, receiving over 700 yards and seven TDs. He only caught less than three passes twice last season.
What is the weakest division in football this year? One could argue it is the AFC West and the Broncos are the clear front-runner which the rest of the division struggling last year. The mile-high defense will soar through the division that features some weak offenses. They are also one of the very few teams to score at least one point in every contest last season.
Houston, give thanks to Wade Phillips. Since Phillips arrived in Houston from Dallas, he turned to Texans’ D into a top five unit. With talent across the board, the addition of legendary safety Ed Reed and a healthy linebackers Brian Cushing and Brooks Reed, they could put up solid points against any offense.