Real or Fantasy?

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Five games into the 2010 NFL fantasy season is enough time to determine whether a player is having a hot start to his season and will return to earth, or has raised his game to a new level.

Before trading for that seemingly rising superstar, or trading him away, you really should have the answer. Let's look at a couple of guys at each position.

Quarterback -

Kyle Orton, Denver - Orton has yet to throw for fewer than 295 yards and has thrown for as many as 476 yards (against Indianapolis). However, he's had to throw because the Broncos have absolutely no ground game. Knowshon Moreno is due back from his hamstring injury in Week 6 and could provide a little balance. Orton is a prime candidate to trade this week while his fantasy value is at its peak. His first five weeks are a FANTASY that will not last the entire season.

Jay Cutler, Chicago - Jay Cutler had two very good years in Denver before falling apart in his Windy City debut season. He's bought into the Mike Martz system which means throwing the ball all over the field, but very little protection from the offensive line. He'll be good for as long as he survives, but given the Bears' porous offensive line, that might not be a full season. A great 2010 season for Cutler is a FANTASY, but 2011 might be better if Chicago signs/drafts a couple of stud linemen.

Sam Bradford, St. Louis - Bradford has played well for a rookie, but looking at his numbers, he really only has value in dynasty leagues. Ignore the hype and see for yourself. He's thrown two more interceptions than touchdowns (six TDs, eight INTs) and is averaging 231.8 ypg passing. He's also lost his favorite receiver, Mark Clayton, for the year. It's a FANTASY that he'll have value in 2010. Next year, however...

Matt Schaub, Houston - Schaub led the league in passing yards last season (4,770) but has gotten off to a rough start in 2010. Consider that his star tight end (Owen Daniels) is playing on one knee, the league's best receiver (Andre Johnson) was hurt in Week 3 and has struggled since and their No.3 wideout, Jacoby Jones, was hurt in Week 4 and was inactive on Sunday. As soon as they get healthy, Schaub will again be an elite passer.

Running Back -

Peyton Hillis, Cleveland - Hillis has scored a touchdown in all five weeks this season. When he was installed as a starter he posted back-to-back 100+ yard games and only an injury slowed him on Sunday. He's also been an integral part of the Browns' passing game with 20 receptions. Hard to believe that from the 2007 Arkansas Razorbacks' backfield of Darren McFadden, Felix Jones and Hillis, that Hillis turned out to be the best pro, but he is for REAL.

Ryan Mathews, San Diego - The Chargers moved up to get the Fresno State running back and promptly installed him as their starter and replacement for LaDainian Tomlinson. Sorry, but he's not "LT" and the jury is out as to whether he will be a superstar fantasy running back. The primary problem is that Mike Tolbert is replacing him in goal line situations. At this point he's good between the 20's but he's not going to score unless he does it from distance. That puts him in the "Felix Jones" category, or at best Willie Parker when the Steelers still had Jerome Bettis.

Wide Receiver -

Austin Collie, Indianapolis - Collie has had two "monster" statistical weeks, which makes him look like a fantasy star. Unfortunately, with Peyton Manning running the show, he'll likely continue to be up and down based on the defense they face. Manning is great at exploiting what the other team gives as evidenced by Week 5, when Pierre Garcon was targeted 14 times to Collie's six. On a team with Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, Garcon, Collie and a good receiving back in Joseph Addai, it's a FANTASY to believe that Collie is a top-10 receiver despite the fact that he was No.1 in receiving points (66) heading into Week 5.

Hakeem Nicks, New York Giants - On the other hand, it's not hard to believe that Nicks has become the Giants' primary target and a top-10 receiver. He's caught 33 balls for 409 yards and a position-leading six touchdowns. He's Eli Manning's favorite target in the red zone, which means 15 touchdowns is a reachable goal. Nicks is definitely for REAL.

Brandon Lloyd, Denver - Lloyd leads the NFL in receiving yards with 589 yards on 30 receptions (19.6 ypc). He and Orton hooked up for two long touchdowns on Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens. However, the Broncos have four solid receivers including Jabar Gaffney, Eddie Royal and rookie Demaryius Thomas, each of whom is capable of leading the team in receiving on any given Sunday. Throw in the return of Moreno and a reduction in passing attempts and Lloyd might be at his FANTASY peak. Trading him before Week 6 could be your best move.

Malcom Floyd, San Diego - With all of Vincent Jackson's problems in the offseason, fantasy owners wondered who, beside Antonio Gates, would step up and be counted. Floyd was just one of the choices with Legedu Naanee being the other popular choice. Though Floyd got off to a slow start in Week 1, he's proven to be a great option for Philip Rivers. Floyd and Gates make a potent receiving threat and Floyd's fantasy value should continue to rise.

Tight End -

Dustin Keller, New York Jets - Keller's value could hardly be higher after his five touchdown catches in the last three weeks. But Monday night's game against the Vikings might be a reality check for Keller owners as the Jets get their most talented receiver back in uniform - Santonio Holmes. Keller's first four weeks were fun, but it's FANTASY to believe that it will continue the rest of the way at this high a level.

Marcedes Lewis, Jacksonville - Gates has seven touchdowns and tied for second behind him in tight end scores are Keller and Lewis with five each. But Lewis has just 16 receptions for 192 yards and his quarterback is the inconsistent David Garrard. Continuing to think that Lewis will get into the end zone this often is a FANTASY.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Steve Schwarz at

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