Players To Target Midway Through Your
It’s the time of a fantasy draft when owners roll up their
sleeves, slide to the edge of their seats and scan their cheat sheets
with laser precision. It’s when the prepared owners separate
themselves from the also-rans. It’s the middle of a fantasy
draft, and perhaps there’s no time more fun during the entire
football season than this. The beer is flowing, the pizza is being
devoured and snickers or all-out laughter is heard after head-scratching
draft picks. This is the time when the well-informed make the bold
draft choices that add validity to their roster. Are you the well-informed
or the also-ran? The list below should help you be part of the former
and not the latter.
Olsen, TE CHI – Mark this down: Greg Olson will be one of
the top two TEs by year’s end. QB Jay
Cutler arrives in Chicago with one receiver who’s still
learning the nuances of the position (Devin
Hester), another receiver better suited to be an NFL team’s
#4 pass catcher (Rashied
Davis), and a receiver who did nothing in 2008 (Earl
Bennett). Suffice it say, the need for a receiving threat
in the Windy City is dire.
Enter Greg Olson. The third year TE showed vast improvement
last year over 2007. He finished last season with a total
of 20 catches and 3 TDs over the last four games. With a better
QB under center, the dearth of talent on the outside for the
Bears, and a better feel for the NFL game, Olsen is primed
to pick up where he left off. His speed and athleticism will
cause mismatches all season long, and Cutler will have Olsen
in his crosshairs from week 1 forward. The third year TE could
finish with 80 catches and 6 - 8 TDs.
Trent Edwards: Will surprise in 2009.
Edwards, QB BUF – Perhaps no player in the NFL benefits
more from the addition of a new teammate than Trent Edwards
does with the arrival of Terrell
Owens in Buffalo. Edwards was pedestrian at best last year,
throwing just as many TDs (11) as interceptions (10). And during
the 24 games in which he’s played over the past two seasons,
he’s only thrown for multiple TDs in a game three times. So
on the surface, Edwards is a bottom-feeder in fantasy QB terms.
But T.O.’s arrival in Buffalo catapults Edwards’ stock tremendously
and gives the third year signal caller a viable weapon alongside
T.O.’s first year with a new team has been well documented.
He’s blown up the spot with incredible production, and there’s
no reason to bDamoneve he won’t do the same in Buffalo. The
young and presumably impressionable Edwards will look to Owens
early and often in an attempt to ensure the mercurial WR receives
the attention he wants. Edwards will surprise in 2009 while
more than doubling his TD output from last year.
Roethlisberger, QB PIT – Ben Roethlisberger entered 2008
a hot QB commodity after a sizzling 2007 season in which he
threw for a career high 32 TDs. Somehow along the way during
last season, Big Ben’s numbers plummeted from those 32 TDs to
18, and his interceptions more than doubled, from 11 to 23—all
of this despite throwing 14 more completions from 2007 to 2008.
Due to his struggles last year, Roethlisberger’s value is much
lower than 12 months ago, and consequently he should be available
several rounds later than 2008.
One may look at the 46 sacks from last year as the reason why
he struggled. But he was sacked 47 times during his career-best
season of 2007. So why the problems last year? Injuries at the
RB position? Big Ben taking more chances with the ball? Struggles
at the WR position? All of those things may be true, but regardless
of the reason, Roethlisberger can be had on the cheap in 2009
and should be a suitable back-up. His RBs will be healthy, Super
Bowl MVP Santonio Holmes is primed for a breakout season, and
maybe—just maybe—Big Ben can return to his 2007 form.
More realistically, however, is Roethlisberger falling between
what he did in 2007 and 2008. If that materializes, you’ve
got yourself a fantastic #2 QB.
Jones, RB DAL – The former Arkansas Razorback displayed
a stunning display of athletic talent last year during the six
games in which he played. Unfortunately, a toe injury sidDamonned
him for the season, but he showed enough to warrant significant
playing time in 2009. How much, though, remains to be seen.
But how can the Dallas coaches ignore 8.9 yards per carry, or
the average of his TD runs being 35 yards, or the vision and
patience he displayed on kickoff returns? The short answer:
they can’t. And they won’t. He is simply a big play waiting
Now, the challenge will be handling those games in which he does
little, thanks to limited opportunities. But with the way in which
I envision the Cowboys utilizing him, coupled with the always-present
threat of Marion Barber getting injured due to his rugged style,
Jones will pick up where he left off in 2008. I’ve read
material from others who indicated that Tashard Choice’s
performance late last year may muddy the waters in Dallas’
backfield even more, but neither Choice nor Barber possess the
open field skill set that Jones does. At the absolute least, Jones
is a MUST handcuff for those who select Barber. But even without
Barber on your roster, Jones will add quality depth to your team.
Edwards, WR CLE – I’ll admit. I’m a bit biased when it comes
to Braylon Edwards. He lived across the street from me in Detroit
during his high school and University of Michigan days, so I
quietly root for him. But that’s not why he’s on the list. This
is a watershed year for Edwards. He’s the unquestioned leader
of the receiving corp now that Kellen
Winslow resides in Tampa. Although the Browns drafted WRs
Robiskie and Mohamed
Massaquoi, Edwards remains the elder statesman of the bunch
and, in fact, is the most experienced receiver on the roster.
Plus he’s a free agent at year’s end.
Edwards led the league in drops in 2008, and he’s battling
a non-football injury in training camp. His QB situation is rocky
and there’s no other WR on the team of any significance
to take attention off of him. While others may see all of those
facts as reasons to shy away, I don’t. His value hasn’t
been this low since his rookie season, so he can be had dirt-cheap
this year. Target Edwards as a WR3.
Coles, WR CIN – The Cincinnati Bengals replaced one possession
receiver (TJ Houshmandzadeh) with another in Laveranues Coles.
While Coles isn’t as physical as Houshmandzadeh, he brings the
same level of precise underneath route running and the sure-handed
receiving skills that made Houshmandzadeh Palmer’s #1 option
on most pass plays. Coles has never been a TD machine, but he
should be a beast in PPR leagues. Carson
Palmer is now healthy, and for my money Coles will be the
biggest beneficiary of his return.
Much like Brett Favre’s arrival in New York last year,
Coles’ production should hit his career bests. He finished
2008 with only 70 catches for 850 yards, but his seven TDs matched
his highest output. That’s what Palmer’s return to
the line-up will do for Coles. Plus, nowadays when a receiver
plays opposite Ochocinco—a player who at times seems more
interested in marketing himself than bettering his game—he
tends to get the lion’s share of Palmer’s attention.
Such is the case with Coles in 2009. Expect a boatload of catches
with 7 to 9 scores.
Donnie Avery: The last hope.
Avery, WR STL – One look at the dwindling skill position
talent in St. Louis makes most fantasy owners throw up in their
mouth. The Rams’ front office hasn’t done a very good job replacing
receiver stalwarts Isaac
Bruce and Torry Holt. The Drew
Bennett and Dane
Looker experiments didn’t pan out, so Donnie Avery is essentially
the Rams’ last vestige of hope regarding production from the
wide out position. It became obvious last season that former
St. Louis receiver Torry
Holt had lost a step, but Avery showed fantasy owners and
the NFL world that he is capable of being a go-to guy.
I’ve seen several mock drafts online that had Avery drafted
as a #4 WR. That’s stealing. Sure St. Louis has a struggling
QB and bare cupboards regarding skill position players outside
of Avery and RB Steven Jackson, but Avery is the #1 receiver on
his team, which should garner enough attention by itself. With
a year under his belt, he should show marked improvement from
his rookie campaign. He will have inconsistent production week
to week to be sure, but having Avery on your team will not be
Benson, RB CIN – Cedric Benson a mid-round target? You bet.
I know it’s tough for most fantasy owners to get the stench
of Benson’s stay in Chicago out of the air, but he was serviceable
in stretches last year while on a team that couldn’t get out
of its own way offensively. Eleven passing TDs and six rushing
TDs for the season are all one needs to know regarding the limitations
of the Bengals’ offense in 2008. Cincy made a concerted effort
to fortify its O-line, Chad
Ochocinco says he has a renewed love for the game, and QB
Carson Palmer returns after missing three-quarters of last year.
These are all reasons to keep Benson on your radar as a RB3.
Palmer will be the best QB Benson has ever played with, so I’m
curious to see how well he fares when for the first time in his
NFL career defenses won’t stack the line of scrimmage while
ignoring the threat of the pass. Benson is nonexistent in the
passing game, so don’t expect much there. But he is in line
for 18-22 carries per game and there’s little threat of
McCoy, RB PHI – Honestly, LeSean McCoy’s presence on this
list has more to do with his teammate Brian
Westbrook that it does the rookie from Pittsburgh. Westbrook
battled injuries on and off last year, frustrating his owners
(myself included) in the process. Sensing the continued brittleness
of its multi-dimensional RB, Philadelphia selected the Westbrook-like
McCoy in the second round of this year’s NFL draft. His skill
set and his body type are similar to Westbrook’s—shifty and
elusive, with deceptive speed and excellent pass catching ability.
McCoy will get on the field if Westbrook gets injured or not.
Westbrook turns 30 before the season starts, plus he had knee
and ankle surgery during the off season. Those are enough red
flags for me to grab his back-up—even if I don’t draft
Westbrook. The Eagles are a pass first, pass often offense that
utilizes their RBs in all aspects of the game. That bodes well
for McCoy, who at the very least could get 8-10 touches a game.