Wednesday, May 30, 2012

On The Rise: Peterson Beats Harvin

Six months after major knee surgery, Adrian Peterson is apparently racing teammates to get him in shape. According to an NFL.com article, Peterson outpaced Percy Harvin in a recent competition. Peterson beat Harvin in two hill sprints, indicating that Peterson is well on his way to making a full, and speedy, recovery from a pair of injuries that he suffered at the end of the 2011 season. This is great news and would move Peterson up a few spots on my fantasy draft board. Most running backs have a lot of trouble coming back from knee injuries, but Peterson has never been an average running back.

Training camps are still a long ways away, but Peterson apparently believes that there is about a 50% chance that he will be ready by then. There are other reports that Peterson might not be available for the first week of the regular season. I would be very surprised if Peterson were not available for some sort of duty during the first week of the season, but this is something that is still 2-3 months away from being fully resolved. At this point though, Peterson is looking great. Just ask Percy Harvin.

As a side note; if Peterson is not available for Week 1, Harvin will get a few touches at running back, meaning that his value will be ever-so-slightly higher than it would be with Peterson in the game.

32 in 32: Arizona Cardinals

The Arizona Cardinals won 8 games last season despite having a -13 turnover differential. That is a pretty amazing feat, and as great a story as John Skelton might be, he is not your answer at quarterback. It is really easy to get caught up in a player who has a few decent games and wins despite the odds. I completely get that, but the guy threw 14 interceptions in 8 games played compared to only 11 touchdowns. There is just no way you can deal with someone who is going to average two interceptions per game. If he played a whole season he would have more interceptions than most teams have touchdown passes. Unlike Skelton, Kevin Kolb had a 57.7% (respectable) completion percentage and threw 8 interceptions to 9 touchdowns. Those are not great numbers, but you can't help but think that the Cards would have done better without some of Skelton's 0TD-2INT games. Kolb needs to realize that he can just chuck the ball downfield to Larry more often; an area where he is out-shined by Skelton. I expect Kolb to win out on accuracy in training camp, but if this team doesn't do better at protecting its quarterbacks, they allowed 54 sacks last season, nobody is going to be able to stay healthy for the whole season.

Regardless of who is throwing the ball, Larry Fitzgerald will be a wonderful option at WR. I don't need to talk him up, there is virtually no chance that this guy will be less than a top 5 receiver in the NFL this year. Fitzgerald apparently lobbied for the addition of Michael Floyd before the draft, and then saw his dream come true on April 28th. Floyd looks to take Early Doucet's place as the number-two receiver, opposite Larry. I don't think Floyd will have a 1,000 yard season, but I think he could come close. Depending on how well he sniffs out the end-zone, he might just be worth a late round pick. Doucet, on the other hand, probably maxed out his value at 700 yards and 5 touchdowns last season. Color me shocked if he beats out Floyd for the number two spot.The tight end position is one of weakness for the Cardinals. I don't think Todd Heap can break out of last season's funk.

Beanie Wells was the only productive runner for the Cardinals last season. If it weren't for the addition of Ryan Williams in the draft, I would project another big season out of Wells. In all honesty, I don't know how many carries Williams will take from Wells this season. If Wells can still get 15 or so carries per game then his value will remain as a decent flex player. I think that can happen and I would imagine that Wells gets drafted between the 7th and 10th rounds in most leagues. If I am looking for a back in that area, though, I would go with Donald Brown. Williams will probably miss out on being fantasy-relevant this season, but it couldn't hurt to draft him late and hope that he beats out Wells for the top spot on the depth chart.

The Cardinals have a decent defense that might be worth drafting thanks to the return power of Patrick Peterson.

Taking a Hit: Draft Stock Falling for Pocket Hercules

At first I didn't think much of Maurice Jones-Drew staying away from the Jaguars' OTAs. Everything I read suggested that Jones-Drew always trained on his own and came into mandatory mini-camp looking like a perfect human specimen. In fact, MJD might have been the best conditioned player coming into the lockout-defined 2011 season. Unfortunately for Jones-Drew and the Jaguars faithful, it looks like the contract situation is going to be a bigger issue than previously anticipated. According to an NFL.com report, MJD just didn't look like the kind of runner they wanted to put a lot of money into.

Now this is really no surprise given the current state of the league. Most organizations consider the running back position a luxury, and Jones-Drew is locked into a contract that carries him through the 2012 and 2013 seasons. Given the kind of physical beating he has taken over the last six seasons, amassing nearly 1,500 carries including 343 last season, the Jaguars believe that Jones-Drew has lost a step. That is really no shock. I wondered the same thing about his short term productivity in a number of articles, but that was without reading anything that suggested evidence of MJD losing speed.

Given this new development, Jones-Drew should be anchored securely below Chris Johnson, with Ryan Matthews coming on fast. If we hear more about these issues once training camp arrives, or if Pocket Hercules fails to show up to training camp, then he might take an even bigger hit. This whole situation is a bit disappointing; I hate to see a player as dedicated to his physical well-being as Maurice is treated this way by the press and his organization, but this is a business and the Jaguars are in no position to make lofty promises they cannot keep. If MJD is not in their long term plans, then there is no way they can give him a big contract. I still think he is a strong first round pick, but you have to be wary of any 'back who carries the rock more than 330 times in a single season.

32 in 32: Seattle Seahawks

The Seattle Seahawks managed to pull off a miracle trip to the playoffs two seasons ago when Marshawn Lynch made a mockery of Saints' inability to tackle in one of the great runs of the NFL playoffs. Last season the Seahawks won another 7 games but came nowhere close to making the playoffs. The good news for the Seahawks is that they have a great defense returning with plenty of potential and brought in a strong contender in Matt Flynn. There are a lot of reasons to believe that the San Francisco 49ers will fall off considerably from their sensational 2011 campaign, and the Seahawks might have the necessary pieces to knock them off. The Seahawks boast a great safety in Earl Thomas, who might end up being the next Ed Reed with great tackling abilities, and the first player to score a rushing touchdown on the 49er defense in Marshawn Lynch.

Marshawn Lynch is probably the most valuable player on this team. Lynch is going to be one of the only true featured backs in the league and should easily rank among the top 10 backs in the league. My biggest worry with Lynch at this point, unlike posted in the RB rankings, is that he will have less of a nose for finding the end zone. Last season Lynch matched 1,200 yards with 12 touchdowns, which is a relatively amazing feat. I think that he should rush for another 1,200 yards, but might score 10 TDs instead. Those are still great numbers, and his upside is fantastic. If he can be as determined as he was last season, he might be able to reach 16+ total touchdowns this season. Lynch just turned 26 in April, so there is no reason to worry about age at this point. After taking a better look at Lynch, I have no qualms about drafting him in the first round.

The quarterback situation is a little less clear. Matt Flynn received a nice contract and should win the starting job early in training camp. I know Pete Carroll loves T-Jax, but I just can't see him passing on Flynn's potential. Flynn played absolutely spectacularly in his two starts over the last two seasons, and I would actually suggest that the Seahawks receiving corps is very similar to that of the Packers. I think Flynn is an easy QB2, especially for those teams with a weak starting quarterback. Dropping a 7th-10th round pick on Flynn could pay off huge, especially if some of the other big name quarterbacks face injuries this year. If Flynn does not win the starting job, Tavaris Jackson is little more than an extreme situational player. He played at an average level last season and should play at an average level whenever he steps onto the field this season.

You might think I'm crazy to say that the Seahawks' receivers rivals the Packers', Patriots' or Saints' in depth, but it is true. We are talking about a team with Sydney Rice, a truly talented player who catches the injury bug too often, Doug Baldwin, one of the best rookie receivers from last season, Golden Tate, a player with good potential entering the pivotal third year of his career, Mike Williams, 2010's player who finally decided he wanted to play football, and Ben Obamanu, a relatively unknown player who was drafted by the Seahawks 7 years ago. Any one of these guys could become Matt Flynn's new favorite target, and unless I see something to suggest otherwise, I would be happy to draft any of these guys as depth at receiver for my fantasy team. The truth is that Rice and Baldwin could see 1,000 yard seasons this year, but Tate, Williams, and Obamanu carry some value going forward. The two guys who probably won't be valuable in this Seahawks offense are Zach Miller and Kellen Winslow. Miller flew in from Oakland and promptly had the worst season of his career. I expect much the same from the aging and troubled Winslow. They might have some value this season, but I would be surprised.

Consider this defense to be relatively valuable in the turnover and return categories, while Steven Hauschka could be a great add at kicker this season.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

32 in 32: Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs turned the undefeated Packers into the one-loss Packers last season, meaning that Romeo Crennel would stay on as the head coach after Todd Haley was shown the door. I really like Romeo as a defensive minded guy, but I'm not certain about his ability to spark this team offensively. Last season the Chiefs only managed to score 13.2 points per game, good enough for 31st in the league. Tamba Hali had another great season, scoring double digit sacks for the second season in a row, but the Chiefs lost Brandon Carr in free agency. I don't want to put too much emphasis on Carr here, because they still have Brandon Flowers, who is a little better in my opinion, and they added Stanford Routt, who was cut from the Raiders after signing a huge contract just before they let that new Eagles cornerback walk. They also have Eric Berry coming back from injury, meaning that they should actually have one of the best pass defenses in the league. You can quote me on that.

Another Chief returning from injury is Jamaal Charles. I think Romeo will probably be committed to the run this season, especially if Charles can stay healthy. The common belief amongst football gurus is that Charles' injury is the kind that take two full seasons to fully recover from. I think he got injured early enough and is young enough to bounce pack this season. Last year was supposed to be his break out campaign, but instead he ran for only 83 yards in two games before going out for the season. This was a serious problem for many fantasy owners who drafted him in the top 5 of most fantasy drafts. As an insurance policy, the Chiefs added ex-Madden-cover-star, Peyton Hillis. How about that. Two new Peytons in the AFC West. I refused to touch Hillis in my fantasy drafts last season. The guy was a fullback for the Broncos and had one good season for the Browns. There is absolutely no reason to believe he will ever get more than 100-150 carries again, barring injury to Charles. He has a terrible attitude, an inflated ego, and his best season as a pro saw him rush for less than 1,200 yards, although he did rack up 11 touchdowns. Do not draft Peyton Hillis. In case anyone was wondering, the Chiefs are no longer sporting Jackie Battle or Thomas Jones on their roster.

Matt Cassel is returning as the starting QB for this Chiefs team, but there is an alarming lack of competition on the roster. Cassel is accompanied by Rickie Stanzi and Brady Quinn, neither of whom are threatening to take away his job. I am somewhat surprised that the Chiefs didn't keep Kyle Orton around, at least through training camp, to help push Cassel after his injury last season. Perhaps Romeo didn't want to rock the boat before seeing Cassel play with his head-coaching glasses on, but whatever the reason, I think it is a mistake. Cassel has some potential to be a good QB, but I don't really see him as better than mediocre. Just to be clear, this isn't even the Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco mediocre where they are pretty good game managers who are typically a positive force on the team. No, this is the Tavaris Jackson mediocre where you never know is he is going to lose you the game or not. There is always a chance I will get burned on this, but I'm probably not going to draft Cassel this season. Even very late in the draft. I would just end up dropping this guy in week 2.

Dwayne Bowe, on the other hand, is a pretty valuable wide receiver. He had a very pedestrian season last year, but he should be a consistent player. 1,200 yards and 7 touchdowns are probably his mean productivity with Cassel as the starter, which translates to a 4th or 5th round pick in most drafts, for me. Steve Breaston has some low-end value, but I haven't seen anything to suggest that he is going to be better than 700-800 yards with 2-3 touchdowns. After missing Tony Moeaki (pronounced Moe-A-ah-key) for a whole season, this third year player should be ready to step up and play a pretty big part in the passing game. I am hopeful that he can get 700 yards and 7 touchdowns, but that might be a little steep. He is worth a late round look, if you have your other positions solidified.

These are the Chiefs. Their defense is good, their offense is bad, and they have a few players worthy of being on your fantasy team. Not an especially flashy bunch, but they were good enough for 7 wins last season. That seems about right for this season, too.

Monday, May 28, 2012

32 in 32: Buffalo Bills

The Bills started last season 5-2; knocking off the Patriots and looking like a whole new team. The Bills finished last season 1-8; losing momentum and looking like a team without a direction. This defensive line is looking fierce, with Marcell Darius, Mario Williams (maybe I'll coin the term M&M for these guys), and Jairus Byrd playing as one of the best safeties in the league. If this defense can keep their act together all season then this team will win plenty of games, but they still might not be able to overtake the patriots as division leaders. I would put this defense in the top 10 in the league and would advocate drafting them in the 13th or 14th round.

While Ryan Fitzpatrick had serious issues with picks last season, earning him the name "Pickspatrick," he did play quite well. If you look at his career stats, you'll see that one of his biggest weaknesses is his propensity to fumble the ball. Even though he only lost two fumbles last season, he put the ball on the ground 7 times. The year before he put the ball on the ground 8 times and lost 5 of them. Those fumbles and interceptions are going to kill you in fantasy, especially if Fitzpatrick can't be a more consistent passer. Now I can cut him some late season slack. Playing QB in Buffalo in December is not one of the easiest tasks in the world, but he should play well all season after signing a huge contract extension last year. I think we can expect 3,900 yards and 28 touchdowns from Fitzpatrick this season, but he seems like he is destined to end up with 16-20 interceptions and another 4-6 fumbles. I think he is a strong QB2 in all fantasy leagues, and will fill in admirably if your starter succumbs to injury.

The running situation became a lot more clouded once Fred Jackson went down and C.J. Spiller stepped up and starting playing football. I was high on C.J. Spiller each of the two years he was in the league, but the boy just could not become a real football player. Instead, Fred Jackson stepped up and became one of the biggest surprises of the early season. I would imagine that Fred Jackson will win a competition between the two players IF his age hasn't caught up to him. He has had truly limited carries throughout his career, but at 31 years old and coming off of an injury, it could be difficult for him to get back in shape for the season. On the other hand, Spiller is 24 years old and is finally growing up. He was an excellent back during the final few weeks of the season, and I would be surprised if he did not beat out Jackson during training camp. I do worry that he will have lost some of his ferocity from last season, but his pure physical power and speed should top what Jackson can give at this point in his career. I would say that Spiller is a solid 5th round pick, but could be replaced there by Fred Jackson if Jackson can beat him out in camp.

The passing game for the Bills is much less uncertain. Steve Johnson (I always thought he was Stevie Johnson) should be good for 70-80 catches and a little over 1,000 yards. I can't see him having a huge season, but he should be good for about 150-170 points this season in fantasy. He will certainly have some 16-18 point games, but he will also have a few 2-3 point games. It is simply the nature of the position. Avoid playing him if you can against the Jets, although he has played pretty well against Revis in the past. The second receiver on this team, David Nelson, was a decent player all through last season. He has shown real improvement during his first two years in the league and I wouldn't be surprised if he ended up getting 800 yards and 5 touchdowns this season. Scott Chandler, the Bills tight end, is completely infuriating from a fantasy prospective. He is purely a goal-line player who managed to score 6 touchdowns with only 389 yards this season. When you see him on waivers with 12 yards and 2 touchdowns you might wish you had him, but I would strongly suggest against picking him up. He has been a journeyman until last season, and while he might be worth drafting, especially in deep leagues, he will probably not be worth holding on to. If you have an amazing team with a poor tight end, you could consider adding him and hoping that he has a nice season, but I wouldn't count on it.

As indicated above, this defense should play well this season, but the Bills do not have a great kicker. Don't even consider him as an option. Period.

32 in 32: Carolina Panthers

This is the first team we've come to with a truly developed offensive game plan. The Panthers managed to average over 25 points per game last season, despite only winning six contests. The Panthers were definitely banged up on defense last season, but I am not sure that they did enough in the off-season to correct their porous defense. They have a great set of linebackers, but their defensive backs and defensive line least something to be desired. All of this leads to a team that is going to have to keep scoring if they want to win games. It also means that players in the NFC South (New Orleans, Atlanta, and Tampa Bay) should have favorable match-ups within their division this season. The Carolina offense all starts with one man...

Cam Newton took the NFL by storm last season, having one of the best rookie seasons as a quarterback in the history of the league. He should be a top 5 quarterback next season, thanks to his running ability and his decision making in the passing game. Newton completed exactly 60% of his passes last season, but he was sacked 35 times. It makes me nervous that he never broke the 300 yard mark after the 4th game of the season, especially since his team tended to do better when he threw for fewer yards. The biggest upside for Cam is that he should generate 4-6 points on the ground in every game this season in just rushing yards. I still feel like Newton is the fifth best quarterback in the NFL, but I would be more than happy to have him on my fantasy team if I can grab him at the end of the second or early third round.

While Cam Newton might have had a great season rushing, the guys who were supposed to be running the ball were mired in a weak rushing committee. DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart are both great backs, each of them averaging 5.4 yards per carry but neither of them receiving more than 155 carries last season. If these guys can get up into the 200 carry region they will be valuable, but it is really difficult to count on either one of them to have a significant impact with Newton running the ball 7-10 times per game. I would feel comfortable drafting either one of them as a flex player, but we'll have to see how they are utilized once the season comes. I would feel much better if I could be certain that either of these backs were going to get 200 carries this season. Jonathan Stewart is probably the better bet to be drafted next season, since he recorded 43 catches last season while Williams only caught 16 passes.

Speaking of pass catches, Steve Smith had an amazing season last year. If there were any other serious receivers on this team I would worry about Smith having a let down season this year, but I cannot imagine any of these receivers being a better target. Brandon LaFell might see an increased roll in the offense this season, but I can't see him being a huge part of this team. He could be an option if you want to give him a shot at the very end of the draft, but Greg Olsen is probably going to be the second leading receiver on this team. Unfortunately, Olsen has never really lived up to the potential he always seems to have in the the time between seasons. I would consider him a second tier tight end, at best. He was not highly utilized in the Carolina offense last season, and really fell off the map at the end of the campaign. He is another player who we will have to wait on to determine whether he is worth a late round draft pick. 

32 in 32: Miami Dolphins

Matt Moore must be one of the most under-appreciated quarterbacks in the NFL. The man started 12 games for the Dolphins last season, throwing 16 touchdowns and only 9 interceptions. To top it off, he completed over 60% of his passes. He might not be the best QB in the NFL, but he certainly wasn't the reason they were losing games last season.  The 'Phins won 6 of the 12 games he started for them. Unfortunately for Moore, the Dolphins traded away the one great receiver they had, meaning that he will be the sacrificial lamb at the beginning of this season. Matt Moore will play 6-8 games before being supplanted by Ryan Tannehill. I don't see Moore having a good season simply because he has no one to throw to.

We can take a look at the group of nobodies that will line up outside for the Dolphins. The leading receiver for the team will probably be Davone Bess. Now Bess is not a terrible player; he did have a better season than any receiver wearing a Jaguars uniform last season, but I just cannot imagine him having a 1000 yard season. Brian Hartline also has an opportunity to have a great season, but I haven't really seen anything to suggest a break out season. I would prop Anthony Fasano up as the man to grab from the Dolphins receiving corps, but this tight end has never had more than 39 receptions in a season. As much as I like Fasano, I think Hartline and Bess will beat him out for receiving yards this season. The Dolphins did draft a pair of receivers at the end of the draft, but they are no more promising than any of the guys already mentioned in this blog. The Dolphins could actually use a guy like T.O. to give them some kind of option in the passing game, but I don't see that happening.

The one winner in all of this is Reggie Bush. After initially faltering last season, Bush rushed for over 1000 yards in 15 games, on 216 carries, while maintaining a 5.0 yard-per-carry average. Those numbers suggest a player who is going to carry the ball more like 280 times this season, and while he might drop off of that lofty yard-per-carry number, he should stay consistent if he can stay healthy. As we know from his days in New Orleans, Bush can definitely work as a pass-catching back, meaning that he should get plenty of dump-off looks when those lame receivers cannot beat their coverage. If Bush has a tough year, second-year-man Daniel Thomas should pick up the slack. Most people bet against Bush last season and picked up Thomas in fantasy drafts. Thomas never really got off the ground, though, and was essentially a non-factor in the passing game. This all adds up to a back I would probably not draft at any point unless Bush gets injured or looks bad in the preseason.

All of this adds up to a Miami team that is going to struggle moving the ball through the air. This team could live off of the screen pass and running game this season, or they could have Bush bust out the wildcat formation from years past. The instability in the passing game should improve the value of Bush, pushing him towards a top 10 ranking amongst running backs. Only time will tell if his small frame can handle the beating that comes with being a premier back, but he is certainly the only Dolphin player who is worthy of an early pick in any fantasy draft.

32 in 32: Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars have a significant opportunity this season. They have a completely unobstructed path to the playoffs, and the could be one of the bigger surprises of the season. Sure, you might say that the Texans or Titans have a better chance of making the playoffs, but the Texans are going to need to find a new identity on defense and the Titans are still locked in a quarterbacking battle. Also, amazingly, this division has three of the best running backs in the league, with Donald Brown not being too terribly far behind. The Jaguars should be able to go 8-8 if MJD can stay healthy all season. This defense is way underrated, and if the offense can be more consistent then they should win plenty of games.

The easiest pick off of this team is Maurice Jones-Drew, AKA Pocket Hercules. Now I am extremely nervous about this guy coming into next season. He carried the ball 343 times last season and recorded 43 more receptions. He fell just 20 yards short of 2,000 total rushing/receiving yards this season, meaning he took a serious beating. In the history of the NFL, almost every player who has had more than 330 touches in a season has sustained a serious reduction in production the following season. I hope that MJD can stay healthy throughout the season, but I am wary of drafting him in fantasy next season. Fortunately for me, Chris Johnson will typically be available for me to take over Jones-Drew in fantasy drafts. This guy helped me win a fantasy league last season, but I think he could get battered this season. I don't know if he will miss games, but he might be slowed down. If he is, Deji Karim will get an opportunity, but this guy is really really bad compared to MJD. If you don't believe me, look at his per-carry average from last season. Don't draft Karim.

I really think Blaine Gabbert was given an unfair shake last season. Much like Colt McCoy, when you look at his numbers and consider the players he had to work with, you can see that he has real potential. Now I am far far removed from suggesting that you draft Gabbert in any fantasy draft at any position, but if you are in a dynasty or keeper league, you might look at grabbing him in the 14th or 15th round. His potential really is tied to the level of his receivers, since he did only throw 11 interceptions last season. That points less to a guy with bad decision-making and more towards a guy who was always running for his life because the receivers couldn't create separation. Let's look at this receiving corps.

Last season, no single receiver on the team caught 50 or more balls. Laurent Robinson will probably start out the season as the number one receiver on the depth chart, after receiving a large contract in free agency. Robinson finally broke out in his 5th season in the league, but I really doubt that he is going to make a huge impact in Jacksonville. My guess for him is 60 catches, 800 yards, and maybe 3 to 5 touchdowns. I am not confident about players who have one good season after multiple mediocre to crappy seasons. I cannot think of a single example where the player pops over to another team and continues to have great success. Justin Blackmon (I secretly wonder whether he is a kin of Will Blackmon who was a DB for the Packers and then moved around the league) should be the better long term player, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him mirror or exceed the production of Robinson this season. Players like Mike Thomas or Chastin West could see numbers approaching 30 catches and 400 yards, but this puts them squarely off the fantasy radar. Marcedes Lewis, on the other hand, could be a borderline worth-owning tight end. If you like to carry two tight ends, Lewis could be a nice flex player depending on the role he carves out for himself this season. He has been as good as decent in the past, but has never really excelled as a pass catcher. He had his best season, with 10 touchdown receptions and 700 yards, the season before last. If he can duplicate that production he will be worth owning.

This Jaguars defense is solid. I would consider them as a candidate to finish in the top 10 this season. I also think that Josh Scobee could have a great season. He hit over 92% of his kicks and has the gravitas to boot 59-yard game winning field goals. If this team can make it into field goal range more often, he could see improved numbers. I would like to see this guy in the top 5 of kickers, but I don't know if he will have enough extra points to make that list.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

32 in 32: Washington Redskins

After another season of big free agent additions and a landmark trade to get a new quarterback, the Redskins might end up being the exact same team they were last season. The Redskins have to learn the value of building talent through the draft rather than adding through free agency. Regardless of the team's overall success this season, it seems reasonable that someone on this team is worth owning in fantasy. The issue is going to be figuring out who you want to draft from this team. In all reality, this team is such a patchwork at this point that it is impossible to make any definite assumptions, but I can sure as hell try for you. So here we go.

Before Robert Griffin became a Redskin, there was another player who signed a bigger contract who will have to prove that he deserved it. That man is Pierre Garcon. Garcon actually had some success last season, despite the terrible quarterback situation in Indianapolis. At this point, I would say that he is going to be the number one receiver on this Redskins team, but it is possible that Santana Moss will beat him out. Really, it is whichever player the opposing defensive coordinator wants to focus on the most. My bet would be that Garcon gets the stronger coverage in 12 of the 16 games because of his youth and speed, but Moss might see tighter coverage near the goal line. If Moss slows down any more this season or faces some injuries, Anthony Armstrong could step up as a serious contender. I'm not saying you should draft Armstrong, but I wouldn't be surprised if he had a few good games this season with Stallworth and Gaffney gone. One of the strongest pieces of this passing game might be the tight end, Fred Davis. Davis was drafted a few years ago, but never managed to push past Chris Cooley until last season. It seems like Father Time has been cruel to Cooley, and he just didn't look dominant last season. Cooley should be a non-factor this season, with Davis being the premier tight end for the 'Skins.

All of the passing game, of course, hinges on how well the newly acquired Robert Griffin III lives up to the hype. Griffin is smaller than Newton, meaning that he is more likely to get injured if he takes off and runs on every play. Everything we have heard from the Redskin vets suggests that this kid is everything he was expected to be, but we will have to wait and see how he does once the regular season rolls around. 3200 yards and 20 touchdowns is probably a reasonable estimate for Griffin, assuming he has a good season. Naturally, Griffin's value will be hinged upon the plays he makes with his legs, and we can assume that he will get 300 yards and 4-6 touchdowns in the rushing game. The more the runs, the less productive his passing will likely be and the higher risk of injury he runs. Once we see some actual results from this guy, we won't know what to expect from him.

Last season a guy named Cam Newton took the league by storm, rushing for over 700 yards and 14 touchdowns. This was detrimental to the rest of the running backs on the Panthers. Last season a guy named Mike Shanahan drove the fantasy world crazy by randomly deciding which running back would get the most carries for his team. This leads to the perfect storm of having absolutely no idea which, if any, Redskins halfback is worth owning this season. The best bet would probably be Roy Helu. Helu was respectable last season while he was healthy, but he had trouble reaching the endzone, scoring only two rushing touchdowns on 151 attempts. Then there is Tim Hightower, who only played in 5 games but got 84 touches and scored one rushing touchdown. Both of these backs caught the ball successfully out of the backfield,  but if we don't have a clear-cut starter each week, it is hard to play either of those guys. Ryan Torain and Evan Royster loom as possible break out candidates if they have a strong showing in training camp.

The moral of the story for the Redskins is that there is no certainty at any position outside of tight end. You are rolling the dice when you draft anyone on this team, although they do typically field a good defense. The kicker, Graham Gano is an average guy who I probably wouldn't draft. Roy Helu and Tim Hightower might end up being better than late round picks, but we're going to have to see if anyone really wants this starting job.

Friday, May 25, 2012

32 in 32: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

I realize that my posting is erratic, but no one reads this blog anyways, so I don't feel bad. I do it because it forces me to think out  every fantasy possibility. Without further ado, this is the fifth installment of 32 in 32.

The Buccaneers are one of the biggest mysteries heading into 2012, for me at least. They seem to have most of the necessary pieces in place to be a decent team, but they just can't hold it together. Fortunately for the fantasy world, this team does provide some value to fantasy owners, especially with their most recent free agent signing.

With the Chargers last season, after holding out to try and get a better deal, Vincent Jackson only caught 60 passes. Those 60 passes went for over 1100 yards and 9 touchdowns. There is little doubt that Jackson will be the best receiver on this Bucs team, meaning that he should get plenty of looks and could move closer to the 100 catch mark. Now before you go drafting this guy in the second round, consider that he has never reached 70 catches or 10 touchdowns in a season. His potential is is bigger than his ego, but his ego really makes it hard to love this guy. If he starts hot, he should be good all season. I can't imagine he is a guy like Greg Jennings, who is willing to catch 3-4 balls per game if it means the team is winning. Last season Kellen Winslow was the team's leading receiver. With him gone, there is a definite void to fill at the tight end position. Unfortunately, there is no clear-cut favorite at this point. We will have to wait and see who shows up at the top of the depth chart when the season starts. Mike Williams is probably one of the greatest beneficiaries of Vincent Jackson's addition to the team. Williams as the number-two receiver sounds much better than Williams as a first option. Williams caught 65 balls for 771 yards last season. I would look for the catches to go up slightly, but the yards per reception to go up significantly, especially if they every get the run game going.


LeGarrette Blount was a major disapointment last season. For some reason he still thinks he is going to be the feature back in this offense, even after the Bucs drafted Doug Martin early in the draft. It is possible, in my opinion, that Blount beats out Martin in training camp, but this is another position where we will have to wait and see. It might end up being a committee situation, which would make both of these guys borderline useless all season long. Until I see something definite, I won't suggest you draft either one of these guys as more than a bench warmer.

Josh Freeman can go one of two ways at this point in his career. He can step up and be a top 15 quarterback in the NFL or he can become a journeyman backup who might start a few games for a desperate team somewhere down the road. Last season he completed over 62% of his passes, but also threw 22 interceptions to only 16 touchdowns. Freeeman is definitely worth a late round pick as a back up QB, especially for teams with a weak or injury prone starter (I'm looking at you, Stafford and Vick owners), and he could actually replace some borderline starters (Eli Manning or Phillip Rivers) if he can keep his interceptions down. I really think that this organization has given him the tools to succeed, if he is capable of taking the next step.

As a final thought, this defense is mediocre. They did not generate enough turnovers last season to be a fantasy contender, but they have potential. Keep an eye on them, but I would not draft them.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

32 in 32: Cleveland Browns

The Browns were absolutely anemic on offense last season, but played surprisingly well on defense. Unfortunately, they did not generate enough turnovers to become a real valuable fantasy defense. They added a plethora of important pieces in the draft this year, so they could be a much improved team in the future. Again unfortunately, it seems very unlikely that these pieces will translate into wins this year, but they could have some fantasy impact, starting with this guy.

Trent Richardson is easily the biggest fantasy addition from the draft. Last season the Browns had an absolute disaster at running back, scoring only 4 rushing touchdowns on over 350 attempts. Trent Richardson should see 250-300 touches this season, hopefully rushing for 1100 yards and 6 touchdowns or more. This guy will be a true featured running back, but if he gets injured the Browns will go back to Chris Ogbonnaya and Montario Hardesty or the recently acquired Brandon Jackson. Don't fool yourself into thinking any of these backups will be fantasy relevant.

I really like Colt McCoy. He played admirably, despite having a terrible receiving corps. I think McCoy can beat out Weeden as the starter this year, IF the coaches are willing to give him a fair shake. Weeden is too unpolished this season, but they might make the switch to appease the fan base. I truly believe that McCoy can be borderline fantasy-relevant if he is given the opportunity. If you take a look at his numbers, they are actually decent. He does need to work on ball security and making faster reads, but that is something that comes with time. Bet on McCoy this season over Weeden.

Greg Little is the one guy who might make an impact this season. This will be his second year in the league, and he should be a decent late-round guy. Odds are that he will spend his season warming fantasy benches, but he should be able to outproduce most free agent receivers. Josh Cribbs might show some flashes this season, but he never really lived up to his recent contract extension. He is louder than he is successful outside of the return game.

I don't typically talk about kickers, but Phil Dawson made 7 of 8 attempts over 50 yards last season. He also made 7 of 8 from 40-49 yards, so he definitely has the ability to kick the ball. The worry here is that he will never get into field goal range. This could be the closest thing we see to David Akers from last season, so I would give this guy a shot if you need a kicker in the 15th round. I'll probably draft him in 2-4 leagues.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

32 in 32: Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings don't look very improved from last season. Sure, Matt Kalil is a long term help at the tackle position, but we'll just have to wait and see if any of their other draft picks prove to be special. It is amazing that a team with Adrian Peterson can perform so poorly in this league. This is less a statement on how the league has turned into a passing league and more of a statement on how terrible the rest of this team really is. That being said, there are a few fantasy jewels if you can get them at the right price, starting with the receiving corps.

Let's start with Percy Harvin. This 23-year-old playmaker struggled with migraines during his season in the league, but really stepped up last year. Harvin quietly caught 87 passes for 967 yards, while also rushing for over 300 yards. Considering how absolutely terrible this team was with Donovan McNabb (if you don't remember, they had trouble breaking the 100-passing-yard mark), that is quite impressive. I would consider Harvin as a solid WR2 this season. Michael Jenkins was the second leading receiver for the Vikings, but only accumulated 38 catches on the season. The Vikings did add Greg Childs, who's birthday happens to be three days before mine on the same year, at wide out, so we will have to see if he can gel with Ponder this offseason. There is really nothing to talk about when it comes to TE on this team. Visanthe Shaincoe was one of Favre's favorite targets, but did not get many looks from Ponder last season.

Speaking of Christian Ponder, I don't feel like there is a whole lot to love about his game coming in to this season. He is a very mobile quarterback, but I don't see him going over 3500 yards and 22 touchdowns this season. He is still learning the pro game and does not have any strong receivers to throw to. He really needs to work on not getting injured this season. If he gets hurt, Joe Webb is an intriguing QB prospect, but he has more value as a running back than as a quarterback.

Adrian Peterson is only 27 years old. Adrian Peterson only had 208 carries last season. Adrian Peterson is coming off a serious injury. Peterson has proven that he can come back from minor injuries at various points in his career, and if he is available for Week 1, I don't think he should fall past the 3rd round. He is just too good at the goal line. Of those 208 touches, 12 were finished in the end zone. Unfortunately, Peterson is not incorporated into the passing game as frequently as some of the top running backs of this fantasy season, and Toby Gerhart proved to be very good when giving the opportunity last season. Unlike Peterson, Gerhart had 109 rushes but only scored one touchdown. If anything, Gerhart will steal touches from Peterson outside of the red-zone, with Peterson coming on as a goal line back. I really think Peterson is being undervalued this season, but that is assuming he does not miss any time in the regular season.

Monday, May 21, 2012

32 in 32: Saint Louis Rams

I am having a lot of trouble thinking of any Rams to get excited about. The defense might be the strongest part of this team, as far as fantasy is concerned, but they only gain real value with an offense that can move the ball and keep them off the field. Josh Brown is a great kicker, too, but I am far from convinced about his ability to get into field goal range. These two selections could be great waiver wire pick-ups, but they really aren't worth drafting in most leagues.

Steven Jackson is easily the most valuable offensive piece on this team, but his injury history is getting scary. Where do I draft a back who I only expect to play 14 games each season? That is the kind of problem facing owners who come up with Jackson still on the board. He has slowed down a little bit, but was still given given significant touches throughout the season. His saving grace is that he tends to catch passes out of the backfield, which will likely be necessary since the receiving corps for the Rams is full of question marks. He should be a solid RB2 in most leagues.

Sam Bradford really needs some help on offense before we know how good he really is. For his sake, I really hope he has a nice season this year, but I still don't know who he is going to throw the ball to. He is a great value pick for teams who grab a great quarterback early in the draft, and might have some trade value if he makes a significant jump from last season. We have to hope that his injuries from last season stay in the past.

If you want to know how badly this group of receivers really was last season, consider the following. Steven Jackson had 42 catches last season. That is more than any receiver currently on this roster. The Rams do get Danny Amendola back after he had two bad injuries last season, but we'll have to wait and see if he can stay healthy. The rookies, Chris Givens and Brian Quick, are complete wild-cards. There is no real way for us to judge how well a rookie receiver will play, but they have as good a shot as any other Rams receiver to make a difference. The Rams also brought in former Giants and Eagles receiver, Steve Smith. This guy might be worth a pick since he is a veteran and only 27 years old. He is the most likely receiver to have a big season, but his recent history does not instill confidence. I would be willing to take a risk on him late in the draft. Amazingly, their options at tight end are even weaker. Unless I see something special in preseason, I'm not even going to bother listing those guys. Consider Lance Kendricks an extremely deep tight end option.

For the sake of all the Rams fans out there, I hope this is one of those teams that is worse in fantasy than they are in real life.



Sunday, May 20, 2012

32 in 32: Indianapolis Colts

After completing the "Predicting Success" series, it is time to do a team-by-team breakdown of fantasy potential. I really hate putting NFL teams in alphabetical order, so I am going to go through the teams in the order that they would have drafted if not trades had occurred. Without further ado, the Colts.

Indianapolis Colts

This is an offensive roster that has been completely remade over the last two seasons. The best player on this team, in terms of fantasy, is probably going to be Donald Brown. I was surprised to see that Brown actually ran for a very competitive 4.8 yards per carry last season. If Brown becomes the featured back in this offense, and he should at least see increased touches with the departure of Joseph Addai, he could run for 1000 yards and 8 touchdowns. Delone Carter, a rookie last season, carried the ball 101 times for a pedestrian 377 yards. Donald Brown is someone who you can grab with great value, and, if he proves himself to these new coaches in the off-season, he could get 250 carries this season. I'd grab Brown in the 6th to 8th round as a flex back. He could be the Marshawn Lynch of this season.

In terms of the passing attack, this team is pretty barren. Coby Fleener is probably the most likely player to make an impact at his position, since so many tight ends are bogged down in the 700 yards/6 TDs range as far as stats go. Fleener could be a good bet because he played with Luck in Stanford, but there is no guarantee that he will be able to make a quick adjustment from the college game to the pro level. These linebackers are much faster, stronger, and better in coverage than the ones he faced in college. If you miss out on one of the top TEs in your draft, Fleener could be a nice late round pick who is more likely to help you in the last 8 games of the season once he learns the game.

Reggie Wayne is probably the most likely veteran to make an impact this season. At 33, he is going to have to use his smarts and route running to create separation, rather than his speed, but anyone who can get nearly 1000 yards receiving from the likes of Painter and Orlovsky is still a great player in my book. Luck might not be polished yet, but I would expect Reggie to approach 1000 yards, depending on his health and how he adjusts to Luck's game. He will probably be a top 30 receiver this season, but it is very unlikely that he will turn up stellar numbers. That being said, I would probably take him around Steve Smith of Carolina.

If Wayne proves to be a disappointment this season,  Austin Collie could be the beneficiary of increased looks. I really don't think Collie is a true #2 receiver in the NFL, but this could be one of the surprises on the season. I really wouldn't drop a valuable pick on this guy, but if you are weak at the WR position towards the end of the draft, this guy could be a nice situational play.

Andrew Luck. What to do about Andrew Luck? Historically, rookie QBs don't play well their first season...but this is Andrew Luck! Odds are that Luck will have a mediocre season, but if you are looking for a second QB late in the draft, this could be your guy. He will benefit from the improvement of Donald Brown and the addition of Toby Fleener, but I don't know if he has the right WRs to be good this season. I would expect Andy Dalton-like numbers this season. Temper expectations, but don't dismiss this guy. Unfortunately, he is probably not a #1 QB this season.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Predicting Success: Kickers and Defense

These two positions are difficult to project because of how little separation there is between individual players. Kickers and defenses fluctuate slightly over the years, but as long as you aren't playing Scobee you should be fine. That is an interesting point, actually. Scobee is an incredible kicker, but the number of times that the Jags offense is going to move the ball into field goal range is minimal. Typically, you should draft kickers from teams with dynamic offenses. Ones that will have ample opportunities to kick field goals. The two exceptions to this rule last year were David Akers and Janikowski. Akers had an unbelievable season because the 49ers just never turned the ball over. Janikowski had a great season because he is an amazing kicker. You are taking a risk on consistency with players who aren't going to score points on extra points, but it can pay off. For the most part, my recommendation is to pick a kicker like Mason Crosby, of the Packers, or Gostkowski of the Patriots.

Defense is similarly difficult to predict. So much of defense rests on the ability to generate turnovers and limit offenses to abnormally low point totals that it is difficult to predict which teams will shine each year. We already know that the Packers will get a lot of turnovers, that's just what they do, and that the Ravens will limit teams' point totals, but the question is really about whether any team can do both. The Titans or Texans could have surprisingly good defensive showings this year thanks to their in-division games. Alternatively, the Vikings are destined to have a horrendous season playing in the NFC North. Make a gut decision on this one, and you can also pick up a better defense on FA or during bye weeks.

If you have an elite kicker or defense, do not drop them for their bye week. I went into bye weeks with mediocre kickers and defenses and came out with top 5 guys. It might not make a huge difference, but when I can score an extra 5 points per week with my kicker-defense combination, it really adds up. They are valuable enough to draft, they are valuable enough to hold during byes.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Predicting Success: Tight Ends

The tight end position is an interesting one, to say the least. It is extremely important to have one good tight end, but it is completely useless to have two good ones. I wouldn't be too surprised if the NFL format made tight ends eligible for the flex position in the near future. Last season was an unbelievable year for the tight end position, with two of them breaking effectively all of the single season tight end records. It should be no surprise that those two tight ends lead off the list of best tight ends in Fantasyland going forward.

My Top 10 Tight Ends of 2012: (Compare to NFL Analysts' Top TEs)

1. Jimmy Graham: If Rob Gronkowski or Aaron Hernandez were alone for the Patriots, they would hold this spot, but I would not risk my tight end having looks taken by a different tight end. Graham was nearly unstoppable last season, and there is really no reason to expect anything new this season. Grabbing Graham early might be more valuable than grabbing a wide receiver, since there are so many relatively good receivers out there. Think late second round for this guy, because he will consistently score WR level points at a typically inconsistent position.

2. Rob Gronkowski: Read above for why this guy is number two. I expect his numbers to be down a little this season. Keep in mind that Hernandez was injured on-and-off all last season. I think Hernandez is the more athletic player, but Gronkowski has had more of an opportunity to build rapport with Tom Brady meaning that he is still more valuable.

3. Aaron Hernandez: This guy is a lot like Jimmy Graham and he is a great consolation prize if you miss out on Grok or Graham. He is going to be less consistent, but I feel like he is much more likely to have monster yardage games. He feels faster than Gronkowski, and he started getting some carries towards the end of last season. If this guy is put in as halfback more often he will have huge value.

4. Antonio Gates: This guy can be amazing if he stays healthy. Even at 31, he should be one of the strongest weapons for a Chargers team that just keeps bleeding talent. Don't pass on this guy in the 6th round, but don't reach for him either. He has been plagued by injuries recently.

5. Jason Witten: As long as Romo plays, Witten scores big. Tony Romo loves this guy as a security blanket. He is a strong player who is still outplaying some of the younger tight ends. This might be his last really great season, but since Robinson left the Cowboys he might get more looks.

6. Jermichael Finley: This guy suffers from the strength of the Packers receiving corps and his propensity for dropping passes. He could have a break out season if the Packers suffer many injuries on offense, but he could fade into obscurity if he doesn't show up hungry to compete this season.

7. Vernon Davis: Can you imagine the value of this guy with a strong quarterback? Unfortunately, he just hasn't won the eye of Alex Smith. This is one player who might actually improve thanks to the improved strength of those around him. Defenders will be less able to key on him, meaning that he could see more single coverage or linebacker coverage. This is a wait and see situation, but he is a steal in the 6th or 7th round.

8. Fred Davis: This is a risky call. If Rex Grossman was the starter, Davis would be, well, right here on the list. This placement is assuming that RGIII can be as good as Rex Grossman was last season. Don't overdraft him, but don't let his potential slip by.

9. Brent Celek: He is young and full of potential. If the Eagles do a better job of not imploding this season, he should really play well. He is more of a red zone threat than a big yardage guy, but I think Vick could start keying on him more this season.

10. Jacob Tamme: Manning loves his tight ends. Manning and Tamme played together in Indy. This seems like it should be a great pairing, but I just don't feel it for some reason.


The value of these tight ends really levels out at about the 8th position. Almost every other tight end in the league is borderline "worth-owning" in the league. Look at the possibility for a Lions tight end to break out this year. Additionally, if Flynn or Kolb play well this season, look for their tight ends to step up in a decent way.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Predicting Success: Wide Receiver

This position is the exact opposite of the Running Back position. It is nearly impossible to find consistent play...well, at least consistently good play...from any one wide receiver. Additionally, top flight fantasy wide receivers can be found throughout the draft. Take Jordy Nelson and Victor Cruz as relevant examples of players who were drafted late or undrafted but still finished in the top 5 wide receivers in Fantasyland. When it comes to wide receivers, you can win without elite players. My best advice is to take one top-shelf guy in the first five rounds and then draft another 2-4 guys in the last 7 rounds. Then, once the season starts, be cavalier about using the waiver wire. I'm more worried about letting Victor Cruz slip by on waivers than I am about dropping a guy who might turn his season around later. Funny story, in one league I actually picked up Victor Cruz when Manningham got hurt. Didn't play him and he scored like 35 points on three receptions. Figured it was a fluke and dropped him...it wasn't. When it comes to fantasy receivers you can be bold, because receivers are unpredictable. Now that I have explained the WR quandary, here is my list of top 30 wide receivers for the 2012 season.

My Top 30 Wide Receivers of 2012 (compare to NFL Analysts' Top WRs)

1. Calvin Johnson: Megatron is the easy pick here. He absolutely exploded last season, and as long as Stafford can stay healthy he should have another fabulous season. It is likely that he is the only WR who will be taken in the first round.

2. Larry Fitzgerald: Larry is my number two because of his consistency. No matter who is throwing him the football, he always seems to have a respectable to spectacular season. I predicted Kolb as a bust last year, but I think he will actually bounce back from terrible to mediocre. I know the Arizona fans are enamored with Skelton, but I think Kolb has more talent and will win the job with a full offseason. This will be good for Larry.

3. Wes Welker: The Patriots really hate this guy. Does no one else get that feeling? They are always trying to add new receivers to push him out and are refusing to give him a long term deal. I think Wes will be largely immune to the addition of Brandon Lloyd, but only time will tell. I would temper expectations, just in case.

4. Andre Johnson: This year is a real changing of the guard. The old favorites, like Peterson, have given up their top spots to fresh legs. I was hesitant to rank Andre this high, but I can't pretend I would pass on him in the middle of the third round. I'm not drafting him higher than the third round unless I see some great stuff in preseason.

5. Brandon Marshall: Way higher than most people have him rated, but you tell me exactly which other receiver is going to take touches away from him. When your response is Matt Forte, I rest my case. I saw way too many dropped balls from this guy last season, especially in the end zone. He was top 10 in Miami with greater competition and a worse quarterback. He will have a great year.

6. Roddy White: I know Roddy is young, but I really think Julio Jones will be cutting into his receptions this season. The saving grace for White is that they do different things in the passing game. White is a much more complete receiver, meaning that he has one more year as the top dog in Atlanta. I think they will trade him down the road due to attitude issues, but use him now if you can get your hands on him. He will probably be drafted too high in most leagues.

7. Greg Jennings: If Jennings weren't such a nice guy and didn't play for the Packers he would probably be ranked somewhere in the top 5. If you have never heard this man talk, you are missing out on one of the most unselfish football players alive. Unfortunately for fantasy owners, the Packers just have too many other options in the passing game right now. A great problem to have until you are drafting fantasy WRs. 

8. A.J. Green: Green has the ability to be huge this season, but this pick is mostly for consistency. His looks and receptions should not vary too much from week to week, which is something that I cannot say for some of the players that will come in the next few spots. He might not be explosive this season, but I can't see him losing you too many games.

9. Hakeem Nicks: Without Victor Cruz he would be much higher. His injury history is also concerning, but he should have a nice season. Eli probably will not be as good this year, just as a regression towards the mean, but hopefully this won't impact Nicks too much.

10. Mike Wallace: If Big Ben was telling the truth about how the offensive playbook is looking, this could be a steal of a pick. Unfortunately, Wallace just is not consistent enough to warrant a higher draft slot. 70 catches per season is just too low for a top flight fantasy receiver. The Steelers' running back woes could force them to throw more this year.

11. Percy Harvin: Every year I put this guy down. Well this year I'm going to prop him up. With Peterson ailing, the Vikings did everything they could to get this guy into the action. Hopefully that trend continues.

12. Demaryius Thomas: One of these Broncos receivers will have big years thanks to the arrival of Manning. Thomas seems to be forming a good rapport with him, so he lands here.

13. Marques Colston: This guy was injured last season, and with Meachem leaving for San Diego, Colston looks to play a bigger role in the offense.

14. Jordy Nelson: Jordy gets the nod because he was second in points last season while playing as WR2 for the Packers all season, unlike Cruz.

15. Steve Smith: Smith is not uncoverable. Even with Newton throwing the ball to him, Smith is getting old and plays in a division with decent defensive backs.

16. Julio Jones: When Jones was on the field last year he played great. Unfortunately, he scored exactly 0 points every time he was hurt.

17. Victor Cruz: Victor Cruz needs to prove that he can be a great player when defenses are keying on him. That is not something we had the pleasure to observe last season, and this guy might fade back into obscurity after this season.

18. Kenny Britt: Assuming this guy can come back from that knee injury, he should easily be a top 20 WR. That being said, his quarterback might limit him.

19. Miles Austin: I wanted to put him higher, but I just cannot commit to him yet. I need to see him play without getting injured again.

20. Dwayne Bowe: Bowe is a better player than this, but he needs to prepare harder and play harder than he currently does.

21. Steve Johnson

22. Brandon Lloyd

23. Vincent Jackson

24. Malcom Floyd

25. DeSean Jackson

26. Torrey Smith

27. Robert Meachem

28. Justin Blackmon

29. Pierre Garcon

30. Randy Moss


I could make a case for every one of these players to lead the league in receiving next season. In reality, a fourth of them will be marred by injury and half of them will fail to live up to lofty expectations. This is why you stock up on late round receivers. Anyone can have a great season.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Predicting Success: Running Backs

Regardless of any changing scenery their might be in the real NFL, the running back is still king in Fantasyland. Let's say, for example, that you have the second pick in this year's draft. Presumably your top options will be Aaron Rodgers, Ray Rice, and LeSean McCoy.  For the sake of argument, let's say you choose Aaron Rodgers here, thinking that you will go double running back with the 19th and 22nd picks in your snake draft. Odds are you will be looking at players like Trent Richardson, DeMarco Murray, Darren McFadden, and Steven Jackson as the next few RBs on the board. Alternatively, you go Ray Rice at the second overall pick. You can still at Trent Richardson as your RB2 (an absolutely stellar running back tandem) while grabbing another top QB, probably someone like Tom Brady or Matthew Stafford, or you could get a great WR at this position. The difference between a Rice-Richardson combo and a Richardson-Muray combo is probably greater than the difference between Rodgers and Brady, Brees, Newton or Stafford. If this were my decision though, I would probably grab both Richardson and Murray after grabbing Rice, depending on the remaining WRs. Having that flex spot solidified with a #2 back is a true luxury, and I can stock up on QB and WR later in the draft. Without further ado, here is my top 20 list of running backs for the 2012 season.

My Top 20 Running Backs of 2012 (compare to NFL Analysts' Top Backs)

1. Arian Foster: There is really no question here. Assuming he can stay healthy, Foster is a certain #1 pick. The man catches the ball like a WR and can get a big gain on any play. The Texans' improved defense means that they are running the ball a lot more, so Foster should score you QB-like points every single week.

2. Ray Rice: You really can't go wrong with Rice. He had a really low number of rushing attempts last season, less than 300 attempts, meaning that he should still be fresh for another season. Rice is special because of his value as a receiver. Unlike Foster, who almost exclusively catches balls out of the backfield, Rice can line up as a wide receiver and catch passes 50 yards down the field. Rice even threw a touchdown pass last season. The man can, and will, do it all.

3. LeSean McCoy: Another player I would pick over Rodgers. McCoy is a feature of the Eagles offense, and might have squeaked by Rice if it weren't for LT Peters' unfortunate injuries. He catches the ball and plays in a dynamic offense. McCoy does not feel like a dynamic runner, but he gets enough touches and has enough skill to score huge points every week.

4. Chris Johnson: After breaking an NFL record and scoring a huge contract, Johnson failed to live up to expectations last season. I don't foresee another season like last year, but he falls to fourth because of his potential as a bust. Fortunately, he was not injured last season and was sparingly used, so health should not be a concern. I am still picking Johnson ahead of Rodgers.

5. Maurice Jones-Drew: I have serious durability concerns for Pocket Hercules, after he ran the ball over 360 times last season. He played through injuries all of last season, and that Jaguars passing game is not looking any better than it was last year. Those two points can be spun in a positive light or a negative light depending on whether you want to take MJD next season. His value is equal to Rodgers'.

6. Ryan Matthews: If this guy can stay healthy for a whole season he will have a huge year. Matthews has the ability to amass 2000 all purpose yards pretty easily now that Tolbert is out of San Diego. With the added goal line touches and his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, Matthews has the strongest chance to push into the top 5.

7. Darren McFadden: This guy won't be drafted this high, but he has the ability to play this well. Not a huge pass catcher, McFadden was on fire until his latest injury sidelined him for the rest of the season. I would look for the Raiders to play it a little safer with him early in the year and hopefully he won't miss any games from injury. He needs to live up to his lofty draft position. With Michael Bush out of Oakland, McFadden should be a feature back as long as he is healthy.

8. DeMarco Murray: We got a brief glimpse of what Murray offers in terms of Fantasy production last season. The second year player should come through and have a big season, lest his durability issues catch up with him. Dallas needs a strong runner to help them regain control of the NFC East.

9. Marshawn Lynch: Lynch is young in terms of carries, and he was the only player to surprisingly crack the top 10 running backs last season. The issue with Lynch is less his ability and durability, but is more vested in the ability of those around him. The Seahawks have difficulty keeping their O-line healthy and quarterback is a quagmire at the moment. The 'Hawks just recently added their rookie QB to the competition, and we likely won't know who the starter is at that position until the end of the preseason. It is hard to imagine anyone benefiting from this fractured situation.

10. Matt Forte: Forte deserves better than this, but he cannot get along with the front office in Chicago and will likely be sharing carries with Michael Bush this season. I don't think Bush can take many carries from Forte, but there is always that threat if Matt decides not to partake in offseason activities with the Bears. Contract issues loom.

The next group will just be listed in the order that I would draft them.

11. Trent Richardson

12. Jamaal Charles

13.  Michael Turner

14. Adrian Peterson

15. Frank Gore

16. Ahmad Bradshaw

17. Reggie Bush

18. Darren Sproles

19. Steven Jackson

20. Beanie Wells

There are a lot of break-out candidates in the 21-40 range who will provide real depth and solid flex play. The Law Firm, Doug Martin, Fred Jackson, Shonn Greene and Roy Helu could all play well. Statistics say that a number of these runners will have serious health issues this season. Having 3-4 solid running backs can really save a team. They are much more valuable than Wide Receivers and Quarterbacks. You need to grab them in the draft rather than in free agency.

Final Words: I do not believe in handcuffing. I would rather add a borderline back like James Starks or Isaac Redman in the last 4 rounds than pick up a guy like Kendall Hunter who only has value if Gore gets hurt. Every roster spot should be optimized.

Predicting Success: Quarterbacks

We talked previously about having specific numerical expectations for each position going into the draft. For quarterback, I pegged the goal at 18.00 points per game. You can adjust that to your own philosophy, but it seems perfectly reasonable to me. This post will also look at the advantages and disadvantages of taking a top tier QB in the top of the first round.

My Top 10 Quarterbacks of 2012 (compare to NFL Fantasy Analyst's Lists)

1. Aaron Rodgers: It is hard to not pick the guy who has been so consistently good for so long. He scores with his legs and rarely throws interceptions. Unfortunately, Mike McCarthy typically plays it conservative late in games, limiting his value. Still, barring injury, he is almost guaranteed to meet the 18 ppg threshold. If you hate the Packers and can't stand me picking Rodgers first, consider that he has been in the top 2 in fantasy points at the QB position for the last 3 years. That was without playing the last game of the season last year.

2. Drew Brees: This is not a consensus pick. I think the Saints, with their aging defenses, are going to be playing from behind more than they are used to. With Colston back, it is hard to bet against Brees. Sure the loss of Sean Payton for the season will hurt, but Brees should still be good for 38 TDs and 4500 Yards. More importantly, he is consistent. It will be a rare occurrence when he scores fewer than 2 TDs and 300 yards in a game. A solid 20 points in fantasyland. Need another reason to draft Brees? He plays week 15 and 16 at home against the Bucs and @ the Cowboys. Two indoor games where Brees and his receivers typically kick ass.

3. Matthew Stafford: Again, you might think that this is a crazy proposition, since there are two very good quarterbacks who have yet to show up on this list. Stafford is playing in a division with weak corners and great offenses, meaning that he should have to score lots to keep up. I think Titus Young will emerge as a strong compliment to Megatron, and Stafford will have a season similar to Brees. The up-side on Stafford might be lower than Newton and Brady, but I am picking the guy who I think is most likely to reach 18.00 points per game. Stafford is not an especially strong runner, but if you don't think he can get 32 TDs and 4400 yards, I think you are crazy. Additionally, it is HIGHLY unlikely that the Lions will secure a playoff spot before the last few games of the season, unlike the Packers, meaning that Stafford will be playing his hardest during the Fantasy playoffs.

4. Tom Brady: It would surprise me greatly if the defense were as bad this year as it was last year. If the defense is not as bad, the Patriots will be relying less on the pass. I think of this as more a regression towards the Tom Brady mean than a step down. Brady is no worse than he was last year, but I don't think he will be asked to do as much next season. If you are desperate for a huge scoring QB, this might not be your guy. Brady is consistent. I can imagine him scoring around 18.00 ppg this season, but I would not count on him carrying a team. Also, the Patriots tend to wrap up their division very early, meaning that Tom will have little to play for down the stretch.

5. Cam Newton: Finally, and I almost put a few players (Romo, Cutler, Manning, Manning, Vick) above him. This is your ultimate boom-or-bust QB prospect. Undoubtedly he will be over-drafted this year. He had to do absolutely everything for the Panthers last year. Without so many defensive injuries, he should be asked to play a more traditional role. That is not to say that he will stop running the football, but anyone expecting him to rush for 700 yards and 14 TDs again is delusional. I'm looking more for 400 yards and 6 touchdowns rushing, with about 20 TDs and 20 INTs in the passing game. His good games will be good, but his bad games can be atrocious. You don't want your 18 point bet to score 0 points in the playoffs. This is the last player who I believe has the potential to reach 18 ppg, but the next 5 players could finish around 17 ppg.

6A. Tony Romo: This kills me, because I absolutely hate Tony Romo (sorry Cowboys fans), but I really think he will have a nice season this year. If Miles Austin can stay healthy and if Dez Bryant can ever mature, Tony Romo can have a really great season. He has had two really difficult years in a row, and I won't go so far as to say that his 4th-quarter-woes are going to disappear, but in terms of pure Fantasy numbers, I think Romo will squeak out ahead of the next 4.

6B. Jay Cutler: Cutler has had an interesting career so far. First he was dealing with undiagnosed diabetes and then he went to a Bears team with a terrible offensive line and worthless receiving corps. This is the year for Cutler to really shine, if it is ever going to happen. If he does not blossom this year, he never will. I am betting he plays well enough to brush 16-18 ppg, but it would surprise me if he doesn't fall a bit short of the top 5.

6C. Peyton Manning: This is a shot in the dark. I would have a lot of trouble pulling the trigger on Manning anywhere in the first four rounds of the draft, but I do think he could do some impressive things in Denver. We will know more about his conditioning and how he readjusts to the speed of the game in the coming months, but if I had to pick now, I would put Manning I eighth overall. His numbers have never been flashy, but they have been consistently solid. If everything goes perfectly he could reach the top 5, but I have a hard time envisioning that.

6D. Eli Manning: Eli's best season as a pro landed him at a solid, but distant, 6th best QB in Fantasy. That is not promising for the future. Victor Cruz emerged, but the team lost Manningham, and it is something of a waiting game to see how Cruz does as a true #2 receiver. When all is said and done, the younger Manning will probably still be looking up at his older brother.

6E. Michael Vick: Last season he was a first round draft pick; now he has fallen to the bottom of the top 10. Last season, despite a myriad of injuries, Vick finished 11th amongst quarterbacks. We should be looking for closer to 25 touchdown passes this season, but if the injury bug bites again he could be a wasted pick. Even if he scores 24 points every week he suits up, he is too prone to injury for me to draft above some of these more consistent players. I could see drafting a Vick/Schaub/Flynn combo, assuming I have a strong early draft.

The nest group of QBs would be, in order that I would draft them, Rivers, Schaub, Roethlisberger, Ryan, Flynn, Sanchez, and Flacco. I am not spending a draft pick on any other QB unless I see huge late round value or have a shallow QB draft.

Final Word: This is a ranking of quarterbacks, not necessarily the order you should draft them. You should draft for VALUE in every round. If Vick's average draft position is 45 and Eli's is 68, and I need a quarterback picking in the 51st spot, I would either draft Vick or draft neither, even though I have Eli rated higher. There is no reason to spend a significantly higher pick than necessary on any player.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Positional Expectations

The last few days have been very busy, not that anyone reads this blog, so I don't know why I feel compelled to apologize, but I do. I am graduating on Sunday and I just finished my student-teaching on Wednesday, so I have plenty of time to focus on the upcoming season. Tonight I am going to talk about an ideal team and what you should expect from each position going into the draft. This is a guideline for creating a great team, and it is very unlikely that every one of your drafted players will meet these expectations. The goal is for your daily average to be at least... 100.00 points.

That's right. If you can pull out 100 points per game, you should easily move into the playoffs. Lets break this down by position.

Quarterback: (18.00 points)                  5 in 2011

Running Back 1: (12.00 points)             6 in 2011

Running Back 2: (12.00 points)             6 in 2011

Wide Receiver 1: (11.00 points)           7 in 2011

Wide Receiver 2: (11.00 points)           7 in 2011

Tight End: (9.00 points)                        2 in 2011

Flex WR/RB: (10.00 points)                32 in 2011

Kicker: (8.00 points)                            13 in 2011

Defense: (9.00 points)                           7 in 2011

The number to the right indicates how many players qualified at each position in 2011. Obviously there are not enough good players to go around. This is where getting value picks in every round will save you a lot of headaches down the road. This also shows why RB is still a more important position than QB. We will talk more about relative value in the coming week when I break down each position and discuss who will and will not reach these marks.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Introduction

If you are anything like me, you don't read these articles and blogs because you think the person who wrote them is smarter than you. You read them for validation and new ideas. There are countless different angles to take when it comes to fantasy, and it is always best to find as many different angles as possible. This blog will be devoted to winning Fantasy Football. Come next basketball season, it will be devoted to winning Fantasy Basketball. First, a little bit about myself.

Last year was my first year playing fantasy football and fantasy basketball. I won all three leagues of fantasy football I played and came in second in my fantasy basketball league. The difference between the two was that I have been an avid football fan for most of my life, while I had never watched a regular season basketball game until this past season. I already knew who good and bad football player were, while I had to go off of projected stats for my basketball draft. Additionally, fantasy basketball is much more intense than fantasy football is, and there are a number of different settings that a league can use. In the end, though, I lost my fantasy basketball league because my players couldn't stay healthy. At the start of the two-week finals period, I only had three players that I drafted on my team. None of them would make it through the two weeks. That is a situation you cannot control. These were all durable players who had moments of misfortune at the end of the season. Alternatively, I finished with no fewer than 5 players I drafted on any one of my fantasy football teams. Luck of the draw.

I am a diehard Packers fan. My biggest rule is that I NEVER draft a Packers player ahead of his projected draft position. The only Packers player I drafted last season was Greg Jennings in 1 league where he fell to 20th. He played well all season and was easily worth the pick. If I had the 15th pick, I would have passed on him. This blog will be about making the right decisions. Drafting properly, being active and getting lucky are the three phases of fantasy football. In the final game of the season, I had the option to play Rivers against the Raiders, Tebow against the Chiefs or Orton against the Broncos. Instead, I dropped Orton to play Matt Flynn against the Lions. Rivers scored 22, Tebow scored 0 and Flynn scored 39. I won that league because I took a chance. That is what fantasy is all about.

Welcome to my blog.