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Player Outlooks – Dallas Cowboys

By: — July 31, 2010 @ 11:28 am

Even though the Cowboys won the division crown in 2009 and were able to knock off the Eagles in the wildcard round, picking up their first playoff victory in 12 years in the process. Unfortunately, they crashed to earth the following week against the Vikings, getting crushed 34-3 in what was easily the team’s worst performance of the year.

While the Cowboys failed miserably that day, it wasn’t a fair measurement of the team as a whole. With the Super Bowl in Dallas this year, there is hope in the air that the Cowboys can make it to the big game, and they have the talent on both offense and defense to make that happen.

Quarterback Tony Romo played a more measured style of game in 2009 that served him and the Cowboys well. He toned down his gun slinging ways and had a career year for the team (although not for fantasy purposes). He cut back on his turnovers but still managed plenty of big plays, finishing the year with a career-high 4,483 passing yards.

The Cowboys added hotshot rookie receiver Dez Bryant in the first round of the draft to provide another weapon in the passing game. The only significant departure on offense was left tackle Flozell Adams, but the team is confident that Doug Free, who played well at right tackle subbing for Marc Colombo in 2009, is ready to step up. They also picked up Alex Barron from the Rams, essentially stealing him in return for reserve linebacker Bobby Carpenter.

Miles Austin ascended to the top of the depth chart in 2009, coming out of virtually nowhere to set the league on fire. He is a big, strong, fast wide receiver who seemed to catch everything in sight last year. Roy Williams had another disappointing season, and this will likely be his last year in Dallas, barring a major rebound.

Tight end Jason Witten was as steady as ever, topping 1,000 receiving yards for the second time in three years. He has averaged 1,042 yards over that stretch. Martellus Bennett backs him up, and he needs to step up his game in 2010. Bennett plays well in the preseason but tends to disappear when the regular season begins. That needs to change, or the Cowboys will look to replace him in 2011.

One area of focus for the Cowboys this season will be their performance in the red zone. Despite finishing with the 2nd most total yards on offense, they ranked just 14th in scoring with 22.6 points per game.

There are big expectations in Dallas, and the roster is loaded with the talent to back up those expectations. With the offense stacked at the skill positions and the defense hoping to take another step up after a solid performance in 2009, a Super Bowl berth is within the Cowboys’ grasp.

QB Tony Romo
Romo is coming off a season in which he finished as the 5th-ranked fantasy quarterback, averaging a solid 21.5 points per game. Since becoming the Cowboys starter at the midpoint of the 2006 seasons, he has averaged 268 passing yards per game and 1.9 passing touchdowns per game. During his stretch as a starter, he has averaged over 20 fantasy points per game in each of those seasons. Romo’s owners get solid, consistent production, and there is little reason to expect that to change in 2010. Despite his past accomplishments, Romo is never mentioned with the big four fantasy quarterbacks (Manning, Brady, Brees, Rodgers). He might not even be the fifth quarterback taken in many drafts. That translates into value. I’m on board, you should be too.

RB Felix Jones
Given the offseason comments emanating from Dallas, it appears that Jones will ascend to the starting running back role in 2010. Unfortunately, that won’t mean much if he can’t stay healthy. When he is indeed healthy, Jones has proven to be a dynamic playmaker capable of producing a big play at any time. With limited touches as a rookie, he averaged an astonishing 8.9 yards per carry (which dropped to 5.9 with more carries last year). What limits Jones’ upside is that Marion Barber will get the goal-line work when healthy, and Tashard Choice could even be the second option in the red zone if Barber goes down. Draft Jones as a low end RB2 or top-quality RB3 with upside.

RB Marion Barber
Barber had a second consecutive season of marginal production last year, finishing 2009 with 932 rushing yards, 221 receiving yards, and seven touchdowns. With Felix Jones emerging as a big-play option, Barber’s role as a receiver was reduced, and he recorded just 26 receptions after catching a combined 96 passes through 2007 and 2008. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has suggested more than once this offseason that Felix Jones deserves an opportunity to start, so it seems as if the Cowboys are convinced Barber’s future is that of a backup. At least he’s in a solid offense and figures to get the goal-line and game-closing work, a role he excelled at in 2006 and 2007. For all the criticism Barber gets in fantasy circles, he still managed to post a very respectable 10.5 fantasy points per game last year. Expect fewer yards but a similar amount of touchdowns in 2010, which would translate into RB3 status.

RB Tashard Choice
Choice had another solid season, displaying nifty footwork on his way to 481 total yards and three touchdowns. He averaged 5.5 yards per carry and was also effective as a receiver, averaging 8.8 yards per reception. He has some ability to make tacklers miss but is not a burner, and his upside is likely that of a backup running back. In 2010, he will run the Cowboys version of the Wildcat but will probably need injuries to Felix Jones or Marion Barber to gain significant playing time. While he played well in his first two years, fantasy football is all about opportunity and there are no guarantees Choice will get much of them this season. He is waiver wire material in all but the deepest leagues.

WR Miles Austin
Austin was a fantasy revelation last year, bursting onto the scene with a 10-reception, 250-yard, 2-touchdown performance against the Chiefs in Week 5. He proved that was no fluke the following week against the Falcons, registering six receptions for 171 yards and two more touchdowns. Despite being barely used during the first four weeks of the season, Austin finished 2009 with 81 receptions for 1,320 yards and 11 touchdowns. While the case could be made that the presence of first-round pick Dez Bryant will cut into Austin’s production, that doesn’t exactly add up. More likely, Bryant will eat into Roy Williams’ playing time, and that should not have much impact on Austin. Any time a player busts out like Austin did, they are a bit of a risk the following season. But Austin is obviously Tony Romo’s go-to guy in a solid offense. Having vaulted himself to the top of the Cowboys wide receiver depth chart, there’s no reason why he can’t duplicate his 2009 performance this year. Consider him a top-tier WR1.

WR Roy Williams
Here’s the thing: when you catch 44.2% of the passes thrown your way, your team may just use its first-round pick on a wide receiver to replace you and then your fantasy value may plummet—even if you were considered top 20 material the previous year. That sums up Williams’ predicament. In 2009, Williams averaged a respectable 6.8 fantasy points per game on 38 receptions for 596 yards and seven touchdowns, but expecting him to catch a touchdown pass every five receptions in 2010 is expecting the unlikely. Williams was probably drafted as a WR2 last year, making his production one of the biggest disappointments among wide receivers in 2009. Williams’ problems were many: he wasn’t on the same page as quarterback Tony Romo, his route running was poor, and he lost the ability to separate from defenders. Perhaps he’s spent his offseason studying the playbook, refining his route running, and getting in better shape. If you want to gamble on all that—along with his holding off hotshot rookie Dez Bryant—then grab him in your fantasy draft. Or maybe take the safer bet and grab somebody else.

WR Dez Bryant
The Cowboys moved up in the draft to grab Dez Bryant with the 24th pick. Bryant has Pro Bowl potential and the reports out of Dallas have been glowing. However, his recent ankle injury has put a temporary bump in the road for 2010. Byrant is schedule to miss most of preseason with a high ankle sprain and it’s questionable whether or not he will be ready to go Week 1. While wide receivers are notorious for not playing well in their rookie seasons, the evidence suggests Bryant may be the exception to that rule. The list of his positives is a long one. He is extremely talented, he is motivated by his draft position, he has the size to be a solid red zone target, and Roy Williams has been a bust. If he can beat out Williams by opening day, he moves way up. However, the expectation is that Williams will start in Week 1 with Bryant biding his time as a backup until part of the way through 2010. Don’t reach for Bryant in redraft leagues, but try to grab him before the final few rounds of your draft. Just be sure to have a veteran such as Derrick Mason to fill in during the first few weeks of the year. Bryant is the top rookie wide receiver in dynasty leagues, considering his huge upside in a solid Cowboys offense.

WR Patrick Crayton
Even though Crayton has been a loyal soldier of Jerry Jones in Dallas, it appears that the team doesn’t have a meaningful role for him in 2010. With Miles Austin coming off a breakout season, Roy Williams unlikely to be jettisoned after signing a big contract, and the team using its first-round pick on hotshot rookie Dez Bryant, Crayton will struggle to find playing time in Dallas. That being said, of all the Cowboys wide receivers, Crayton may be the best suited to play out of the slot—unless Kevin Ogletree steps up his game during the preseason. Crayton generally has a couple of solid games each year, but at number four on the depth chart, there isn’t much upside here. He might be useful in PPR leagues if he’s traded to another team prior to opening day.

TE Jason Witten
Witten had the 3rd most yards among tight ends last year with 1,030 but was only the 8th-ranked fantasy tight end due to his low touchdown total. It’s been a recurring theme for Witten over the last two years, as he finished 2009 with just two touchdowns after having only four in 2008. The Cowboys have shown a propensity to throw to their big wide receivers in the red zone, and the addition of rookie Dez Bryant could exacerbate this trend. In addition, they have an outstanding short-yardage runner in Marion Barber. With Bryant on board and with better health at running back, look for Witten to see fewer opportunities in 2010, resulting in a lower yardage total. Unless his touchdowns increase, his fantasy totals figure to drop this season. He’s definitely more useful in PPR leagues.

Player Outlooks – Minnesota Vikings

By: — July 29, 2010 @ 3:43 pm

The Vikings enter the 2010 season wondering what could have been. Despite outplaying the Saints by a wide margin in the 2009 NFC Championship Game, Minnesota came out on the short end, courtesy of five turnovers and quarterback Brett Favre’s inexplicable decision to throw across the field late in the game rather than running for what looked like a sure first down.

While the loss was a disappointing one, the Vikings have a solid chance to take the next step toward a Super Bowl appearance in 2010. The team retained all of its key free agents, losing only running back Chester Taylor and offensive lineman Artis Hicks, both of whom were backups.

The Vikings offense figures to remain explosive provided quarterback Brett Favre returns as expected. On defense, the Vikings feature one of the league’s top run defenses and perhaps the league’s top pass rusher in Jared Allen. While age is creeping up on a number of key defenders, the unit figures to remain a strength in 2010.

Favre had perhaps the best year of his career in 2009. He played error-free football, and wide receiver Sidney Rice emerged as a star with Favre under center. Second-year player Percy Harvin offers intriguing talents, giving the Vikings the potential to have two dynamic wide receivers for the next few years.

While the passing game is clearly solid, the Vikings offensive identity revolves around the running talents of Adrian Peterson. Peterson is the league’s most talented running back, equally capable of making defenders miss as of running them over. He sheds tacklers better than any player in the league and is a big play threat every time he touches the ball. However, he is still emerging as a runner and needs to work on his ball protection and pass receiving.

At tight end, Visanthe Shiancoe provides the receiving ability and Jim Kleinsasser is the mauler in the running game. While Shiancoe is a respectable blocker, his main strength is as a target in the red zone. He has 18 touchdowns on just 98 receptions over the last two years.

With a young Packers team expecting to take a step up this year and the Bears bringing in Mike Martz and Julius Peppers to work out the kinks, the Vikings will have a difficult time repeating as NFC North Champions in 2010. But with Favre under center and Peterson running the ball, Minnesota has a chance to hold off the rest of the division and repeat their 2009 success.

QB Brett Favre
Will he or won’t he? We’re not even going to go there since it’s a foregone conclusion that he’ll be back for a second season with the Vikings. After finishing as the 6th-ranked fantasy quarterback last year courtesy of 4,202 passing yards and 33 touchdowns—and a career-low seven interceptions—there is little doubt that the forty-year-old Favre has a lot left to offer in Minnesota. Because young receivers Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin are still emerging talents and Bernard Berrian suffered through an injury-plagued 2009 season, it is hard to predict that Favre will be able to duplicate last year’s performance. He is coming off ankle surgery performed in May and, although he hasn’t missed a start in his career, the odds of injury increase as a player gets older—even with Favre. Consider him a low-end starting quarterback for fantasy purposes. Hopefully he signs with the Vikings before your fantasy draft.

RB Adrian Peterson
Peterson was a bit of a disappointment in 2009 with 1,819 total yards and 18 touchdowns. Furthermore, his 1,383 rushing yards were significantly lower than his 2008 output, when he finished with 1,760 yards on the ground. While he may not be the consensus top-ranked running back for fantasy purposes, he does remain the best bet to land within the top three fantasy running backs in 2010, considering his size and the Vikings powerful offense. His ranking would have received a blow had the Vikings taken a solid pass-catching back, such as Jahvid Best, in the draft. However, second round pick Toby Gerhart isn’t such a threat because he is a very similar player to Peterson. There is also speculation that wide receiver Percy Harvin could see time as a pass-catching threat out of the backfield. There seems to be a developing concern that Peterson’s propensity to fumble the ball (seven times last year plus two in the playoffs) will cost him touches, but that is unlikely to happen. Simply put, Peterson is the top offensive talent on the Vikings, and that will translate into an average of over 20 touches per game.

RB Toby Gerhart
Gerhart enters his rookie season as a must-have handcuff for Peterson owners. However, determining his true value is a difficult task because he is a very similar player to Peterson—a tough inside runner but not an exceptional receiver. Therefore, his job will be to give Peterson a breather as opposed to having a specific role in the Vikings offense. If Adrian Peterson gets hurt, Gerhart’s gold. Otherwise, he is likely to get at most 4-6 touches a game. Drafting him is like playing the lottery…at $2 a ticket, I’m in; at $10, forget about it.

WR Sidney Rice
Rice’s 2009 breakout campaign came as a huge surprise given his lack of productivity during his first two years in the league (46 receptions for 537 yards and eight touchdowns). He meshed perfectly with Brett Favre in the quarterback’s first year with the team, proving to be as solid on intermediate patterns as on deep plays and supplying big-play ability that most scouts didn’t think he had coming out of college. He finished 2009 as the 10th-ranked fantasy wide receiver, with 83 receptions for 1,312 yards and eight touchdowns while averaging a surprising 15.8 yards per reception. With Percy Harvin’s role expected to expand and Bernard Berrian healthy to start the season, Rice will be hard-pressed to match his 2009 production. The recent announcement that he is suffering lingering hip pain as the result of an injury suffered during the playoffs last year raises another red flag. Rice should be drafted as a low-end WR1 or upper-tier WR2, but the hip injury needs to be monitored prior to your fantasy draft or auction.

WR Percy Harvin
Harvin had a nice rookie season, despite suffering from intermittent migraines that robbed him of valuable practice time and caused him to miss one game. He has the talent to be a 1,000 yard receiver for years to come and could surpass Sidney Rice as the team’s go-to threat as early as this season. While there is speculation that he could be deployed as a pass-catching threat out of the backfield, it would seem that his long-term development would be best served concentrating on the wide receiver position. Despite being targeted on several short and intermediate passes, Harvin averaged 13.2 yards per reception as a rookie, evidencing his big-play ability. The quarterback situation in Minnesota will impact his production, but there is ample reason to believe that Harvin is the real deal and will see plenty of touches in 2010. Recent reports that he’s added ten pounds of muscle indicate that he’s ready to take his game to a new level this season. Consider him a WR3 with upside and one of the best wide receiver prospects for dynasty leagues.

WR Bernard Berrian
For some reason, Berrian evokes thoughts of Joey Galloway, Santana Moss, and Lee Evans. All are talented players with speed to burn and the capability to put up huge games, but they are also likely to disappear for long stretches. Start ‘em and they disappoint; bench ‘em and they burn you. With Berrian, there always seems to be some issue. It’s the quarterback, the hamstrings, the this and the that. Last year, it was bad ankles and competition for targets from youngsters Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin. You’re going to read that he will bounce back this year and put up close to 1,000 yards and 6 or 7 touchdowns like he did in 2007 and 2008. Don’t believe it. Rice and Harvin are too good not to get the ball, and Berrian is going to be relegated to running deep patterns. It’s also worth noting that Berrian averaged a career-low 11.2 yards per reception last year despite playing on the Vikings high-powered offense. I don’t like him—never have and I’m not about to now.

TE Visanthe Shiancoe
Shiancoe has been a solid fantasy tight end for the last two years simply because he is a touchdown machine (11 last year and 7 in 2008). He has yet to surpass 600 yards, however, so if you grab him, you’ll be banking on his touchdowns. That means his production is going to be inconsistent, which increases his risk factor. Nonetheless, production is production. And if Brett Favre is on board at quarterback, Shiancoe has a 50/50 chance to catch 8 or 9 touchdowns in 2010.

Player Outlooks – Green Bay Packers

By: — July 28, 2010 @ 8:19 am

The Packers clinched a wildcard berth in 2009 on the strength of the team’s offense and the passing exploits of quarterback Aaron Rodgers. With Rodgers emerging as one of the league’s top young passers and with a number of young key performers on offense, the Packers should be an offensive juggernaut for the next few years.

Unfortunately, the team’s defense collapsed in a 51-45 playoff loss to Arizona, continuing a season-long trend of poor play in key games that included a pair of losses to Minnesota in which they surrendered 68 points. The defense, in particular the secondary, will need to perform better if the Packers expect to go deep into the playoffs.

On offense, the Packers will once again feature a strong passing attack led by Rodgers. The team finished 7th in passing offense last year and would have finished higher if not for the inordinate number of sacks they gave up. Rodgers was sacked a league-leading 51 times, with many of those sacks a direct result of his refusal to get rid of the ball early.

The Packers feature four solid wide receivers in Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, James Jones, and Jordy Nelson as well as the league’s top receiving tight end prospect in Jermichael Finley. Rodgers spreads the wealth among his receivers, and each player is capable of making big plays in the passing game.

Jennings had a mildly disappointing season, failing to generate as many big plays as he had in each of the previous two seasons. His touchdown production plummeted to only four, but he remains one of the league’s top receivers. The aging Driver had another solid season but may be replaced by Jones in the starting lineup as early as 2011. Jones and Nelson have not yet reached their potential, but both players have starting potential if they continue to develop.

Finley was a revelation during his second year in the league, displaying big-play ability when head coach Mike McCarthy increased his playing time. He possesses outstanding size and speed and has the opportunity to become one of the league’s elite tight ends in 2010.

Running back Ryan Grant isn’t a flashy runner but he excels in the Packers system. He is a one-cut runner and, although not one of the fastest backs in the league, is able to break long runs. He is one of the league’s most underrated running backs despite averaging 80 rushing yards per game since becoming the team’s starter at the midway point of the 2007 season. Grant’s backup last year was the disappointing Brandon Jackson. This season, Grant will be challenged by rookie sixth-round pick James Starks.

The offensive line suffered through injuries last season and did not have a great year, particularly in pass protection. With aging tackles Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher healthy and ready to start the season along with rookie first-round pick Bryan Bulaga on board, the Packers expect greater things from this unit in 2010.

With the team returning all of their key skill position players on offense, they are set for another solid season. The only issue that could prevent that from happening is an injury along the offensive line or to Rodgers. The Packers seem set to challenge the Vikings for the NFC North crown, and a run to the Super Bowl isn’t out of the question for Green Bay in 2010.

QB Aaron Rodgers
Rodgers was the top-ranked fantasy quarterback in 2009, courtesy of 4,434 yards passing and 30 touchdowns. He also put up 304 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns, propelling him past Drew Brees. The one knock on Rodgers was his refusal to get rid of the ball to avoid being sacked, which bogged down the offense on occasion. With a mixture of emerging young players and veterans returning from injury, expect better offensive line play in 2010. The Packers are four deep at receiver, with James Jones and Jordy Nelson both capable receivers in backup roles. Jermichael Finley provides a dynamic receiving threat at tight end and could emerge as one of the league’s top receiving tight ends this year. The ingredients are there for Rodgers to repeat his 2009 performance, with the only risk being a potential injury due to his inability to get the ball out quicker.

RB Ryan Grant
Grant is coming off a solid 2009 campaign where he finished with a flurry, scoring six touchdowns and gaining 322 rushing yards over the final four games of the season. He topped 1,000 yards for the second year in a row, finishing with a career-high 1,253. While Grant has put up solid production during his three years in Green Bay, he remains undervalued for fantasy purposes, and there is a lingering concern that the Packers would like a more explosive player at the position. While both issues may be true, the bottom line is that he’s put up 3,412 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns in what amounts to two and a half seasons in Green Bay. That means he’s productive. Brandon Jackson has been a disappointment, and the team waited until the sixth round before drafting James Starks. That should translate into opportunity for Grant. Throw in the fact that the Packers should be a top five offense in 2010 and there’s not much more you can ask for. Grant is a borderline top 10 back with little risk.

RB Brandon Jackson
Jackson has been a bust for the Packers since being taken in the second round of the 2007 draft. Drafted to challenge Ryan Grant, Jackson has not proven to be effective running the ball and has been relegated to serving in a pass-catching capacity. Even in that role he leaves something to be desired given his lack of ability to make big plays, although he is a solid pass blocker. In three years, he has topped 400 yards only once, and he is coming off the worst year of his career. In fact, he was so bad that the Packers felt the need to dust off Ahman Green and bring him back for the stretch run. When Grant needed a breather on running downs, the Pack turned to Green. Frankly, there’s no reason to handcuff Grant with Jackson since he wouldn’t be able to accomplish anything anyway. Don’t waste a roster spot on this guy.

RB James Starks
The Packers used a sixth-round pick on Starks in the hopes that he can be a quality option running the ball behind Ryan Grant. Former second-round pick Brandon Jackson hasn’t proven to be an effective runner, and the Packers have had to hit the scrap heap for the likes of Ahman Green to supplement Grant. Starks’ measurables and collegiate production don’t jump out at you, but there is potential here considering that Grant isn’t an overly talented back and that the team lacks enthusiasm for Jackson. It also doesn’t hurt that the Packers offense is great, which makes Starks worth the gamble in leagues with larger rosters.

WR Greg Jennings
Jennings was a fantasy disappointment in 2009. While he posted a solid 1,113 receiving yards, he managed just four touchdowns after scoring 21 over the previous two years. His lack of touchdown production was all the more shocking given the Packers solid offensive output and the strong quarterback play of Aaron Rodgers. Jennings still showcased his big play ability, averaging 16.4 yards per catch, but he simply couldn’t find the end zone on a consistent basis. Given his poor fantasy season, a number of his 2009 owners will likely look the other way on draft day, with the result being a solid number one receiver on one of the league’s top offenses potentially being undervalued. While the Packers are four deep at wide receiver and have an emerging tight end in Jermichael Finley, Jennings remains their best receiver—and Donald Driver’s age is becoming a concern given the low number of receivers that produce at his age.

WR Donald Driver
Driver turned thirty-five this offseason and while his production was solid last year with 1,061 yards and six touchdowns, there are warning signs on the horizon. He only had 185 yards with no touchdowns during the last four regular season games of 2009, so there should be a concern that he is slowing down. He is also coming off double arthroscopic knee surgeries, and older players generally take longer to recover from surgery. Few wide receivers play well after turning thirty-five, and Driver could very well follow that trend. He is certainly a risky fantasy play in 2010, although the risk is somewhat mitigated due to his prominence in Green Bay’s solid offense. Based on his production last year, Driver will be drafted as a WR3 in most leagues, but his value lies as a fantasy backup when considering his risk/reward factors.

James Jones
Based on his performance last year, it looks like Jones has solidified the third receiver role ahead of Jordy Nelson. Jones is a tall target with decent but not great speed who has inconsistent hands. He is a solid red zone target (five touchdowns last year) and is talented enough to produce if injury strikes Greg Jennings or Donald Driver, although he may not have the upside of those two players. With 32 receptions for 440 yards last year, Jones doesn’t get enough targets to be a flex option, so his value lies as a prospect in dynasty leagues and as a fill-in if Jennings or Driver goes down for an extended period of time. Driver’s contract expires after this season, so if he retires or is ineffective in 2010, you may be glad you grabbed Jones for your dynasty league.

WR Jordy Nelson
Not many fourth wide receivers are worth mentioning in fantasy circles, but Nelson is an exception. The third year, former second-round pick is a talented player who suffered through an injury-plagued 2009 season, which allowed James Jones to pass him on the Packers depth chart. While Nelson isn’t worth taking in redraft leagues, he is worth taking a flier on in dynasty leagues. He has good speed and is reasonably shifty in the open field. With Donald Driver in a contract year, Nelson could battle Jones for a starting spot in 2011.

TE Jermichael Finley
Finley had a coming-out party in 2009 with 55 receptions for 676 yards and five touchdowns, despite playing in only 13 games with nine starts. In those nine starts he amassed 97 fantasy points, and he averaged 11.5 fantasy points per game over the last five games of the season. Finley is a talented receiver with excellent size, speed, and hands, and his production last year might just be just the tip of the iceberg. Given Finley’s obvious skills, he figures to only get better with more experience. With a young quarterback at the helm in Green Bay, Finley has major upside and should be regarded as the top-ranked tight end in dynasty leagues. A top five fantasy ranking in 2010 is within reach, and a number one ranking isn’t out of the question.

Cheatsheet Compiler & Draft Buddy Live Chat II

By: — July 27, 2010 @ 6:11 am

Welcome to the Cheatsheet Compiler & Draft Buddy live chat discussion take two with CC/DB developer Mike MacGregor. Check the transcript for take one from back on July 15th if you missed it.

This chat gives all FF Today users an opportunity to talk (type) directly with Mike to get answers to questions about the Compiler, Buddy, Projection Pal, or just anything fantasy football related for the upcoming season.

The chat is scheduled to begin at 9:00pm Eastern on Thursday July 29th.

Click Here (new window will open)

Player Outlooks – Detroit Lions

By: — July 26, 2010 @ 12:15 pm

The Lions enter 2010 coming off another disappointing season. After going winless in 2008, the Lions managed just two wins in 2009 under Jim Schwartz’ first season as the team’s head coach. The arrow is pointing up in Detroit, however, especially on offense where the team has used the draft to add a number of solid skill position players over the last few years.

The Lions are hoping that second-year quarterback Matthew Stafford takes another step in his development and establishes better chemistry with talented wide receiver Calvin Johnson. Too often in 2009 they were not on the same page, resulting in Megatron catching less than half the passes thrown to him.

Detroit added several pieces in the offseason, which should help jumpstart the offense in 2010.

Nate Burleson was added to provide a deep threat and take some pressure off Johnson. In addition, Tony Scheffler’s acquisition provides insurance in case Brandon Pettigrew isn’t 100% healthy at the start of the season. Rookie first-round pick Jahvid Best reduces the concerns about the running attack as Kevin Smith fights his way back from injury.

On the offensive line, physical left guard Rob Sims was acquired from the Seahawks, and the team is hopeful that right tackle Gosder Cherilus shows significant improvement in his third season, after a disappointing start to his career.

While the Lions offense can’t be expected to break out in 2010, they have been building a solid foundation. Look for them to finish in the middle of the pack offensively this year, but the pieces are in place for long-term offensive success in Detroit.

QB Matthew Stafford
Stafford is coming off a decent rookie season in which he started ten games and threw for 2,267 yards with 13 touchdowns and 20 interceptions. His completion percentage was a disappointing 53.3%, but in his defense, the performance of the Lions wide receivers in 2009 was simply atrocious. Calvin Johnson missed two games and most of another with a knee injury, Bryant Johnson was a complete bust, and Derrick Williams did nothing as a rookie. With no threat opposite Johnson, he was double-teamed on almost every play, and the team’s other receivers failed to take advantage of that. Even when they did get open, too often they dropped catchable passes. The fantasy world seems focused on Jets sophomore quarterback Mark Sanchez, but Stafford figures to produce more fantasy points in 2010. Consider him a low-end fantasy backup with upside if Johnson avoids the injury bug and Burleson can take advantage of single coverage.

RB Jahvid Best
After the rookie draft, the consensus seemed to be that Best’s 2010 fantasy prospects in Detroit didn’t look promising. However, Best could put up good numbers this season. Detroit’s offense is on the way up (not way up, mind you) and Best will get extensive playing time early in the season. Kevin Smith might not be ready on opening day and, if he is, figures to struggle from his injury recovery. That translates into opportunity for Best. While Smith is a starting-caliber back best suited for early-down work, Best seems to be most apt as the third-down, change-of-pace back, so this could be a committee situation by the end of the year. Draft Best as a fantasy backup in redraft leagues. In dynasty formats, he offers excellent potential given the young talent Detroit’s offense features.

RB Kevin Smith
Smith appeared to be the Lions answer at the running back position after a solid rookie season in 2008. But he sputtered last year, was ineffective at times, and did not provide many big plays. The Lions traded up to take Jahvid Best at the back end of the first-round, so he figures to get an opportunity to play ahead of Smith. In addition, Smith is recovering from a knee injury suffered in Week 14 and may not be ready on opening day. Once healthy, Smith figures to rotate in and get the goal-line work. He is worth taking a flier on in the later rounds of most leagues, but avoid reaching for a player recovering from injury, particularly when their team has drafted a player in the early rounds to replace them.

WR Calvin Johnson
Johnson was, without question, one of the largest fantasy busts at wide receiver in 2009 with less than 1,000 yards and only five touchdowns. Johnson had various nicks and bruises that hindered his performance, and he was unable to beat double coverage as he had in 2008. Matt Stafford figures to improve significantly in 2010, and hopefully Johnson can remain healthy for 16 games. If that happens, Johnson could return to his 2008 form of 1,331 yards and 12 touchdowns—a result more likely to happen if free agent acquisition Nate Burleson performs well. The Lions offense should be more explosive with the addition of running back Jahvid Best, and Johnson figures to benefit in the touchdown department. Coming off a poor 2009 season, Johnson could be considered a bit of a buy-low option.

WR Nate Burleson
Burleson moves to the Lions where he figures to get plenty of single coverage opposite Calvin Johnson. He was the Seahawks top wide receiver in 2009, finishing with 63 receptions for 812 yards and three touchdowns in 13 games. In Detroit, he may have difficulty replicating that production because Calvin Johnson eats up the targets, so Burleson may not get as many passes thrown his way. Look for Burleson to be more of a deep threat—a role he has played for most of his career. As with other receivers that run mostly deep patterns, Burleson has been extremely inconsistent from week to week. Consider him a backup wide receiver in all fantasy formats, capable of filling in on bye weeks if a solid matchup presents itself.

WR Bryant Johnson
Since leaving the Cardinals, Bryant Johnson has been a disappointment with the 49ers in 2008 ad with the Lions in Detroit last year. Although he is a gifted receiver with speed, size, and decent hands, Johnson has been a tease, unable to turn his natural ability into production on a consistent basis. The Lions signed Nate Burleson during the offseason, perhaps the premier free agent wide receiver on the market. His acquisition moves Johnson out of the starting lineup and likely off the roster due to his lack of ability on special teams. The team employs Dennis Northcutt out of the slot and wants to find playing time for their 2009 third-round pick Derrick Williams, making Johnson a likely candidate for a new team in 2010. Johnson’s talent has never translated into solid fantasy production and it isn’t about to now.

TE Brandon Pettigrew
Pettigrew was last year’s top-ranked rookie tight end but is recovering from a knee injury and may not be fully healthy on opening day; plus, he now has Tony Scheffler to contend with. In a nutshell, the odds of him breaking out are pretty much zilch. That’s too bad since he was playing well before he was hurt (15 receptions for 165 yards and two touchdowns in the three games before his injury).

TE Tony Scheffler
Scheffler goes from being a forgotten man in Josh McDaniels’ Denver wonderland to being a backup in Detroit. Makes you wonder what he did in his past life. While he has undeniable receiving ability, Scheffler is a poor blocker and is unlikely to get much playing time ahead of Brandon Pettigrew if Pettigrew is ready to start the season. Scheffler’s fantasy prospects are basically tied to Pettigrew’s availability, and he is worthy of a late-round pick only in larger leagues.

Player Outlooks – Chicago Bears

By: — July 25, 2010 @ 1:24 pm

The Bears had a tumultuous season in 2009 as they struggled on offense during quarterback Jay Cutler’s first year in the Windy City. Cutler’s propensity for turnovers doomed the Bears offense, and his presence failed to lift the performance of the team’s receivers as Bears management anticipated when they traded two first-round picks, a third-round pick, and incumbent starter Kyle Orton to acquire Cutler and a fifth-round draft choice.

Mike Martz was brought in to coordinate the offense, and the Bears and head coach Lovie Smith are counting on Martz and Cutler to lift the team into playoff contention. Otherwise, Smith, Martz, and general manager Jerry Angelo will likely be looking for employment elsewhere in 2011.

Martz brings his high-flying offensive philosophies to Chicago where he gets a chance to work with Cutler, who he has described as the most talented quarterback he has ever worked with. While that may be the case, Cutler has a long way to go to reach the heights Kurt Warner and, to a lesser extent, Marc Bulger reached while working with Martz.

It also doesn’t help that the Bears don’t have a pair of wide receivers as talented as the Rams former duo of Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt.

Nonetheless, the Bears do possess emerging talent at wide receiver in Devin Hester, Devin Aromashodu, Johnny Knox, and Earl Bennett. While none of the foursome has proven yet to be a consistent producer, each has achieved some marginal success in the league. The Bears are hoping for at least two of them to emerge as consistent threats in 2010.

Greg Olsen is an emerging talent at the tight end position but may see his role reduced this season. While Martz has talked openly of developing a solid role for Olsen, he did the same in San Francisco and failed to develop Vernon Davis. Traditionally, the tight end position has been more involved in a blocking role in the Martz offense, and it won’t be a surprise if that occurs again this season.

The running back position will be handled by Matt Forte and free agent acquisition Chester Taylor. They are similar players, most effective running between the tackles and catching the ball out of the backfield. Neither is considered a power runner or exceptional at breaking long runs. Regardless, both players have proven to be more than reliable when called upon and figure to have productive, if not outstanding, seasons.

With playmaking defensive end Julius Peppers on board, the Bears have added one of the premier pass-rushing talents in the league to help out on defense. If the defense, particularly middle linebacker Brian Urlacher, can remain healthy and hold up its end of the bargain, Cutler and the offense will be in a better position to manage the game, as opposed to being forced to play from behind. That would go a long way in reducing Cutler’s turnovers and giving the Bears an opportunity to earn a playoff spot in 2010.

QB Jay Cutler
After a disastrous season in 2009, Cutler hopes to rebound under a new offensive system and the tutelage of former Rams head coach Mike Martz. Martz is a great offensive mind that has turned around offenses in St. Louis, Detroit, and San Francisco, so it seems likely he will make the Bears a more dynamic offensive team in 2010. Unfortunately for Martz and Cutler, they are going to have to live with the team’s current crop of wide receivers since the front office failed to improve the unit in 2010. There is potential on the Bears wide receiver depth chart, but the unit lacks a proven, consistent playmaker. Cutler threw an astounding 26 interceptions last year, with many of them coming in the red zone and late in games. He needs to improve his decision-making to succeed in Martz’s offense, but the talent is clearly there. With Martz calling plays, look for Cutler to be a viable fantasy starter with the potential for 4,000 passing yards and 30 touchdowns.

RB Matt Forte
While Forte isn’t an overly talented runner, his lack of production during his sophomore year can be chalked up at least partially to injuries and ineffectiveness along the team’s offensive line. While he has recovered from the knee and hamstring issues that slowed him last year, the offensive line remains a question mark entering the season. Forte’s rookie production was as much about the number of touches he had (379) as his overall ability. He has the chance to rebound in 2010, provided he can relegate free agent acquisition Chester Taylor to a receiving-back role. Forte shapes up as a boom or bust candidate based on whether he can retain his starting role and earn the team’s short yardage work. He should be drafted as a high-end fantasy backup with upside and is more useful in PPR leagues given his solid pass-receiving ability. He’s also a great option in flex leagues.

RB Chester Taylor
Taylor joins the Bears after serving as Adrian Peterson’s backup in Minnesota for the last three years. In Chicago, he will battle Matt Forte for playing time but enters training camp behind him on the team’s depth chart. Taylor will turn thirty-one during the season, but he should have plenty of tread left since he has topped 200 touches only once during his eight year career. With a new offensive coordinator on board in Mike Martz, Taylor will be given a fair shot to supplant Forte in the starting lineup. However, look for the younger Forte to retain the starting position since both players have very similar attributes. However, if Forte were to go down or Taylor were to win the starting job, Taylor would immediately become worthy of fantasy backup status or as a solid flex option in leagues that employ the position (especially if he wins the short-yardage work).

WR Devin Aromashodu
Earl Bennett is a little slow, Johny Knox is a little small, and new offensive coordinator Mike Martz has said Devin Hester is best suited for the slot. Although head coach Love Smith disputes Martz’s version of where Hester will line up, Martz is nothing if not stubborn, and he will be given free rein over the team’s offensive play-calling. Add it all up and Aromashodu might be the receiver to gamble on, benefiting the most from Martz’s presence in Chicago. Arosmashodu doesn’t have elite speed, but he is fast enough to succeed in Martz’s offense and possesses good size at 6’2” and 201 pounds. He emerged as quarterback Jay Cutler’s main target over the Bears final four games of last season with 39 targets. Over that span he posted 22 receptions for 282 yards and four touchdowns, with 196 yards and three touchdowns coming in the Bears final two games.

WR Earl Bennett
After a rookie year of inactivity, Bennett ended the 2009 season as one of the Bears starting wide receivers. He posted decent numbers with 54 receptions for 717 yards and two touchdowns, benefiting from the team’s lack of depth at the position and his familiarity with quarterback Jay Cutler from their time together at Vanderbilt. However, Bennett faces an uphill battle in holding on to his starting position in 2010. He is not the prototypical wide receiver for a Martz offense given his lack of speed, and he doesn’t have the shiftiness to be useful in the slot. Bennett is also recovering from minor knee surgery. While he is entering his third year in the league, when receivers often make a major leap in production, the odds seemed stacked against Bennett making such a leap this year in Chicago.

WR Johnny Knox
Knox is an intriguing option for fantasy purposes. The Bears fifth-round pick of the 2009 draft (acquired in the Jay Cutler trade) had a surprisingly solid rookie season with 45 receptions for 527 yards and five touchdowns. Coming from tiny Abilene Christian, Knox was not expected to contribute much, if at all, as a rookie. He has good speed and his 11.7 yards per reception average belies the number of big plays he made during the season. Knox is worth monitoring in the preseason and could be a solid contributor to the Bears passing attack, provided he can crack the starting lineup. He is worthy of taking a flier on in the late rounds of most leagues and is a decent prospect in dynasty leagues, considering the Bears lack of proven pass catchers.

WR Devin Hester
What to make of Devin Hester and his role in the Bears offense? Hester clearly has upside as a wide receiver, and he posted decent numbers over the last two years, topping 50 receptions in each year. It’s also encouraging that he sought out tutelage from former Ram and future Hall of Famer Isaac Bruce. On the downside, Hester really didn’t show much explosiveness last year, he now has to learn the Martz offense, and there are indications the Bears want to increase his use on special teams. He has just six touchdowns since concentrating on the wide receiver position beginning in 2008 and has averaged 13.0 yards per reception over that time—hardly an exceptional number given his speed and ability to make defenders miss. Hester has the talent to break out in 2010, but it seems a 50/50 proposition at best. Monitor his preseason performance and average draft position as your draft or auction approaches, but don’t reach for him. He should currently be viewed as a fantasy backup in all but the largest leagues.

TE Greg Olsen
Olsen is a talented tight end coming off a career year in 2009, but new offensive coordinator Mike Martz has a well-earned reputation for not utilizing the tight end position. Look no further than the case of Vernon Davis. Forgotten by Martz, Davis became a Pro Bowl tight end once Martz left the 49ers. Tight ends in Mike Martz offenses have never topped 380 yards in a season, so if you grab Olsen, you will have to bank on touchdowns for fantasy production. Fortunately, quarterback Jay Cutler loves to look Olsen’s way in the red zone. He ranks as an upper echelon backup for fantasy purposes.

Player Outlooks – Pittsburgh Steelers

By: — July 24, 2010 @ 10:17 am

After winning the Super Bowl in 2008, the Steelers have had a tumultuous run both on and off the field. The team struggled to an 8-8 finish last season and then suffered through a horrendous offseason that included a suspension for the franchise’s star player.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was suspended for four to six games for violating the league’s personal conduct policy. If that weren’t bad enough, wide receiver Santonio Holmes, coming off a career season, was traded due to his off-the-field troubles, and the team lost starting right tackle Willie Colon to a season-ending injury in June.

Whether or not the Steelers, despite these issues, can remain in the playoff hunt in perhaps the league’s toughest division will be an interesting development to watch.

With Roethlisberger suspended, Byron Leftwich, Dennis Dixon, or Charlie Batch will be the team’s opening day starter at quarterback. That figures to increase the team’s reliance on the running ability of Rashard Mendenhall over the first part of the season. However, after passing the ball 536 times last year, the Steelers were expected to shift to a more balanced attack in 2010, even without Roethlisberger’s suspension.

Given Roethlisberger’s off-the-field issues, Steelers management is unlikely to give him another chance if he is involved in any more incidents. Still, he remains an elite quarterback.

After taking over as the team’s starter during Week 4, Mendenhall had an impressive 13-game stretch where he accumulated 1,063 rushing yards and six touchdowns. With no proven backup behind him, the Steelers need Mendenhall to remain healthy and to duplicate his feats from last season.

With Holmes out of the picture, second year speedster Mike Wallace moves into the starting lineup opposite Hines Ward. Wallace had an impressive rookie season that included several big plays, but he needs to prove that he can build on that production against starting cornerbacks. Ward is coming off a season in which he had the second most receiving yards of his 12-year career, and he doesn’t appear to be slowing down at thirty-one years of age.

The team is hoping to find a third receiver among veteran retreads Antwaan Randle El and Arnaz Battle or rookies Emmanuel Sanders (third round) and Antonio Brown (sixth round). Return specialist Stefan Logan could figure into the mix on gadget plays, as well.

At tight end, steady Heath Miller figures to see an expanded role with Roethlisberger out. He is a solid blocker and receiver but doesn’t offer much big play ability. Matt Spaeth backs him up.

With both the Bengals and Ravens shaping up as solid playoff contenders in 2010, the Steelers will be hard-pressed to make up ground if they struggle during Roethlisberger’s suspension. However, they will benefit from a schedule that features, over the first six weeks of the season, a number of winnable games.

QB Ben Roethlisberger
Roethlisberger is coming off his best season as a pro, finishing as the 8th-ranked fantasy quarterback in 2009. The Steelers moved to a more pass-based offense last year, using three solid wide receivers in Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes, and second-year speedster Mike Wallace. However, Holmes was traded to the Jets, and the team is expected to move to a more ground-based attack in 2010. Nonetheless, Roethlisberger’s fantasy prospects for 2010 were still solid until the league suspended him for four to six games for violating the league’s personal conduct policy. Assuming a four-game suspension, Roethlisberger becomes a questionable fantasy starter, and drafting him becomes risky unless you plan on starting the fantasy season with three quarterbacks on your roster. If it turns out to be a six-game suspension, you need to plan on having two starting-caliber fantasy quarterbacks, and the resources to do so are likely better served strengthening your roster in other areas.

RB Rashard Mendenhall
From a fantasy perspective, the biggest winner from Ben Roethlisberger’s suspension is Mendenhall. The Steelers were expected to utilize the running game more in 2010 anyway, but Mendenhall now figures to be used even more heavily with Roethlisberger out of the lineup. Mendenhall is a reasonably shifty runner who is a decent receiver (25 receptions last year), and he has impressive size, though he doesn’t always use it to maximum advantage. If he becomes a more physical runner, he has a chance for a true breakout fantasy season in 2010. Once he was moved into the starting lineup in Week 4 last season, Mendenhall averaged a very impressive 13.8 fantasy points per game. Amongst running backs in 2010, Mendenhall is in the tier below the consensus top four running backs, and there is a decent chance he will be at the head of that tier by season’s end.

RB Jonathan Dwyer
The rookie sixth-round pick has an opportunity to earn the primary backup role to Rashard Mendenhall. While Mewelde Moore will assume the pass-catching role out of the Steelers backfield, his lack of size means the team will probably go with a bigger back in the starting role should Mendenhall go down with an injury, as he did during his rookie season in 2008. Dwyer has good size at 5’11” and 230 pounds and was a workhorse runner at Georgia Tech. If Dwyer wins the role, he is worth taking a flier on and is worthy of using as a handcuff to Mendenhall.

WR Hines Ward
Mr. Consistency is back with the Steelers and, with Santonio Holmes off to New York, Ward’s role as the team’s top wide receiver seems secure for another couple of years. At thirty-four years of age, there are no signs of Ward slowing down, and he is coming off his second consecutive 1000-yard season and has now reached that plateau in six of the last nine years (twice he finished with 975 yards). Even though he had to play through some nagging injuries last year, he managed his highest number of receiving yards since the 2003 season. He’s still Ben Roethlisberger’s security blanket. Ward loses value because of the Roethlisberger suspension but gains targets with Holmes departing for the Jets.

WR Mike Wallace
Wallace looked like a budding star prior to the Holmes trade and he looks even better after it. He should be a solid option in 2010, even with the Roethlisberger suspension. Wallace was the biggest surprise among rookie receivers in 2009, with 756 yards and six touchdowns—good enough for 34th overall at the position. Wallace has excellent speed and was as a solid deep threat for the Steelers last year, averaging 19.4 yards per reception. It’s not realistic for him to maintain that average in the starting lineup, but he should improve on his production from a year ago, and he has excellent upside and is a great option in keeper leagues.

TE Heath Miller
Coming off a career year, Miller emerged as a solid check-down option for the Steelers as well as a great red zone target. He is likely to suffer due to Ben Roethlisberger’s four to six game suspension, which will likely reduce his looks in the red zone if the offense struggles. However, he could quickly become a favorite for Dennis Dixon or Byron Leftwich, which may benefit him in PPR leagues. Miller was a low-end fantasy starter with Roethlisberger but reverts to a fantasy backup in 2010—albeit a high-end one.

Player Outlooks – Cleveland Browns

By: — July 23, 2010 @ 9:39 am

The Browns had another disappointing season in 2009, managing to finish 5-11 despite having one of the worst offenses in the league. However, that record is a bit misleading since it was aided by a four-game winning streak that featured victories over the Steelers, Chiefs, Raiders, and Jaguars at the end of the season.

Mike Holmgren was hired as the team’s president prior to the conclusion of last season, and he brought in Tom Heckert in as the team’s general manager. Despite the impressive pedigree of the team’s new management, the Browns figure to struggle once again in a very competitive AFC North in 2010 as they attempt to revitalize a roster that is devoid of playmakers on offense.

Jake Delhomme was signed from free agency to keep the quarterback seat warm while the team develops rookie third-round pick Colt McCoy. Delhomme is clearly a declining player, so it won’t be a surprise if the team turns to backup Seneca Wallace or McCoy at some point during 2010.

Despite an impressive season from Jerome Harrison, the Browns used a second-round pick on rookie runner Montario Hardesty, who they hope can supply the power running presence they lacked in 2009. There are concerns about Harrison’s ability to handle a heavy workload for an entire season, but he figures to get plenty of touches, especially on receiving downs.

The Browns feature a young, unproven group of wide receivers in Mohamed Massaquoi, Brian Robiskie, Chansi Stuckey, and rookie sixth-round pick Carlton Mitchell. They are joined by veteran Bobby Engram, who will likely battle Stuckey for the slot receiver role. Barring an unexpected breakout season by one of the younger players, the Browns figure to once again have one of the worst groups of wide receivers in the league.

Ben Watson was signed to start at tight end, though he failed to make the most of his natural talent during his stay with the Patriots. Perhaps a scenario change will revitalize his career. Evan Moore showed some impressive receiving ability as a rookie in 2009, but he leaves something to be desired as a blocker.

Barring a strong comeback season from Delhomme and unexpected production from the team’s wide receivers, the Browns figure to struggle in the passing game in 2010. That will force head coach Eric Mangini to rely on the running game behind an offensive line that struggled at times during 2009. Add it all up and it won’t be a surprise if the Browns come close to duplicating their offensive performance in 2009 when they scored a paltry 19 offensive touchdowns.

QB Jake Delhomme
Delhomme has been horrible for the last season-and-a-half on a Panthers team with an outstanding rushing attack, a solid offensive line, and Steve Smith at wide receiver. In 2010, he moves to a Browns team that has a depth chart at wide receiver that is absolutely scary in that it had the worst passing offense in the league last year with a woeful 129.8 yards per game, was the only team to complete fewer than 50% of their passes, averaged a league worst 5.1 yards per attempt, and had the second-lowest number of touchdown passes with 11. There’s no point in adding much more, considering that only Delhomme’s relatives were thinking about adding him to their fantasy squads in 2010.

QB Seneca Wallace
There are some that think Wallace is in Cleveland to compete with Jake Delhomme for the starting position, but that may be a stretch. Instead, look for Wallace to be used extensively in the wildcat formation and perhaps even in running the option. In addition, he has experience at wide receiver, so he could be used in that manner when the defense thinks a wildcat play is being run. Even if Wallace were to win the starting job, it’s extremely unlikely that he would be worth owning in fantasy leagues.

RB Jerome Harrison
Harrison is coming off a surprisingly productive 2009 season after suffering through three seasons of relative inactivity for the Browns. He finished last season with 862 rushing yards to go along with 220 receiving yards and seven total touchdowns in only seven starts, and he had been touted as a breakout candidate in 2010. However, of his 150 fantasy points from last year, 89 came in three games against the Chiefs, Raiders, and Jaguars; and it’s hard to ignore that he failed to win significant playing time from an aging Jamal Lewis in 2007 and 2008. Harrison is also a leftover from the previous management regime in Cleveland, and the new group headed by Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert traded up in the second round to draft Montario Hardesty. Did we mention Harrison plays in the Browns popgun offense led by Jake Delhomme? To summarize: bad offensive team, solid play for half a year out of four, team’s new management has drafted his replacement. By mid-year, Harrison could be coming off the bench in a change-of-pace, pass-catching role. While Harrison has an opportunity to produce in 2010, he is a player who carries significant risk and will likely be drafted before he should be based only on his 2009 production.

Montario Hardesty
Here’s the good news: the Browns traded up in the second round to draft Hardesty, new Browns general manager Tom Heckert said he views Hardesty as a feature back, and president Mike Holmgren thinks he can be special. Of course, they drafted him, so what else are they going to say? Now the bad news: he needs to supplant Jerome Harrison, he had an injury-plagued college career, and the Browns offense has serious deficiencies at quarterback and wide receiver. In fact, by season’s end, they may have the worst production in the league at those positions. While Hardesty has appeal in keeper leagues, he is unlikely to provide solid production during his rookie year in Cleveland.

WR Mohamed Massaquoi
With Massaquoi, the beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Is he the player who had a productive rookie season with 624 yards, three touchdowns, and a nifty 18.4 yards per catch average, despite playing on a bad team with poor quarterback play? Or is he a marginally talented player who put up some decent numbers because the Browns didn’t have anybody else to throw to? At 6’2” and 207 pounds, he has good size and displayed some big play ability as a rookie. However, he was very inconsistent, with a large portion of his production (407 yards and two touchdowns) coming in four games—the only games in which he topped 40 yards receiving. In addition, his average yards per catch as a rookie may be deceiving since he doesn’t possess great deep speed. Nonetheless, he projects as the Browns top wide receiver in 2010 and as a low-end WR4 with limited upside.

WR Brian Robiskie
Robiskie came into the league last year with the reputation of the most polished rookie receiver in the draft. However, that analysis was proven wrong when he failed to earn a meaningful role on a Browns team that may have had the worst group of wide receivers in the league. Despite being the fourth pick in the second round and possessing decent speed, he was active for only 11 games—many of which he barely played—and caught a mere seven passes for 106 yards. He was targeted only 21 times. Barring major improvement during the offseason, along with a solid training camp, he does not currently project as a player worth drafting in any but the deepest of fantasy leagues.

WR Josh Cribbs
Cribbs has displayed some obvious big-play ability, but the most yards from scrimmage he has had in a season over his five-year career came last year when he totaled 516. In the previous four years, his combined total was 292 total yards. Although the Browns list him as a wide receiver, there is little doubt that his biggest potential for fantasy purposes lies in his ability as a running back. With Jerome Harrison showing only a solid half-season out of four full years in the league, Montario Hardesty having a history of injuries, Peyton Hillis being a marginal talent, and James Davis coming off a wasted rookie season, Cribbs could get a shot for some carries at running back. It’s a long shot at best. But it would be interesting to see what he could do if given an opportunity.

WR Chansi Stuckey
For one season, Stuckey was reasonably decent as a third receiver on a 2008 Jets offense that put up solid passing numbers. However, the Jets gave up on him after he started three of four games with minimal impact. He’s a marginal talent at best and isn’t even guaranteed a roster spot in 2010—although head coach Eric Mangini brought him in, which helps his situation. The Browns passing offense figures to be horrid, so there are no tailwinds to help Stuckey’s fantasy production like there were when he was with the Jets.

TE Ben Watson
Watson brings his tantalizing speed to a Browns roster desperate for receiving help. However, he failed to flourish during his six seasons in the pass-heavy Patriots offense. While he may get more opportunities in Cleveland given the state of the team’s wide receivers, most of his fantasy production in New England came on touchdowns, and he will likely have fewer scoring opportunities in Cleveland. For fantasy purposes, he is a low-end backup tight end who possesses little upside.

TE Evan Moore
Moore looks the part of a solid pass catcher and figures to get some opportunities with the Browns in 2010. Unfortunately, they signed Ben Watson to take over as the team’s starting tight end, and Jake Delhomme is at quarterback. Keep your eye on Moore as a potential waiver pick-up or bye-week filler, considering the skills he showed last season.

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