- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
One of the general questions I get asked most often in fantasy football is about when to finally give up on a player. Is October too soon? Can you afford to wait well into November before seeing production commensurate not with draft position, but with whether said player is even worth owning or dealing for? You know the names of the disappointing players this season. I still cringe at the fact I thought DeAngelo Williams was a top-10 running back. Sure doesn't look like it!
The truth is I don't mark a calendar and then decide I've waited long enough for a running back to produce. Every player is different. Someone like Cedric Benson has generally underachieved in relation to his 2009 performance, but you don't cut the guy. You don't trade him for a kicker, either. However, it's possible you've given up hope that the fellow you drafted in the third round will ever deliver reasonable numbers for a fantasy starter. In the case of Benson, I'm not giving up.
Here is a starting lineup of players that I think can salvage a relatively disappointing first half of the season with useful numbers down the stretch.
Matt Schaub, QB, Houston Texans: Many fantasy owners wouldn't call the fellow that led the league in passing yards last season a top-10 quarterback anymore, but I'll stop short of that proclamation. I would like to see more consistency, and I hate to think the rise of running back Arian Foster has deemed this passing game merely average. Through eight games, Schaub has more single-digit fantasy performances in standard leagues than double-digit ones. How does this happen with awesome wide receiver Andre Johnson on the squad? I like Schaub's chances of having a better second half, in part due to the schedule -- the Jacksonville Jaguars twice, the Denver Broncos, Philadelphia Eagles -- and also because we haven't seen Foster play a full season before. The passing game will be needed in December.
Knowshon Moreno, RB, Denver Broncos: This is a team that will likely be going through changes if the losing continues, namely with future quarterback Tim Tebow getting to realize his future sooner than Kyle Orton owners expected, but I think fantasy owners are selling Moreno short. No, he hasn't had a strong first half, even when injury didn't prevent him from performing, but I'm willing to give him plenty of time before moving on from him. He was a second-round pick for me on draft day, and what I've liked from him recently has been his work catching passes out of the backfield. Moreno scored a pair of receiving touchdowns in the Week 7 demolition loss to the Oakland Raiders; a season ago, Moreno caught 28 passes in 16 games. This year the rate is certainly higher. He's not Frank Gore, but it's nice to see his game branching out.
Shonn Greene, RB, New York Jets: I wouldn't hold on to Greene solely because LaDainian Tomlinson is an older player likely to see some decrease in production in December, but because Greene is fully capable of making this a timeshare -- or his job -- sooner than that. The playoff-bound Jets want to use this larger, potentially bruising workhorse back more than they have this season, and there remains plenty of time for the attention to shift. Greene is averaging a healthy 4.5 yards per carry but just over 10 carries per game. I'd call him underused. Fantasy owners seem to be running away; I'd go get him and wait.
Michael Crabtree, WR, San Francisco 49ers: The talent level is obviously there, but the team's quarterback play has been a bit erratic. Let's not assume Troy Smith is any more an answer than Alex Smith was, but Crabtree did enter the Week 9 bye with touchdowns in three of four contests, and an enticing schedule the rest of the way. Look at the final month, for example, with the Seattle Seahawks, San Diego Chargers, St. Louis Rams and Arizona Cardinals pending. Crabtree will be making noise.
Donald Driver, WR, Green Bay Packers: By the time he suits up again for the Week 11 game in Minnesota, Driver will have been dropped in a whole lotta fantasy leagues. Big mistake, people. Yes, Driver hasn't been his normally productive self, but a quadriceps injury is mainly to blame. OK, so the Ryan Grant season-ending injury hasn't helped, either, but Aaron Rodgers is still putting up numbers. Driver will, too. Look at Weeks 14 and 15, with games against the Detroit Lions and New England Patriots. Driver isn't a young man, but he can still help fantasy owners.
Kellen Winslow, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Why can't Winslow still deliver numbers similar to his 2009 campaign? OK, so he finished the first half of the season without a touchdown, and Josh Freeman has made rookie Mike Williams the top target, but Winslow isn't far behind. This is a very talented player capable of the occasional 100-yard effort, and touchdowns.
On the other hand ...: If you want a lineup of players I wouldn't hold out high hopes for, Donovan McNabb of the Washington Redskins is the quarterback, over Jay Cutler and Brett Favre. At running back, DeAngelo Williams/Jonathan Stewart (both of them, really), Pierre Thomas, C.J. Spiller and Felix Jones top my list. At wide receiver, I'm not giving up on Carolina Steve Smith or Chad Ochocinco, but I can't call either a surefire No. 2 wide receiver anymore. And at tight end, Brent Celek remains ownable, but I don't view him as a top-10 tight end.
Eric Karabell looks at a number of buy-low candidates for the second half of the season.