Fantasy Football Strategy, Advice, and Commentary
By: Dave Stringer — July 29, 2011 @ 2:31 pm
After failing to reach an agreement on a long-term extension in Seattle, Matt Hasselbeck has landed in Tennessee with the Titans.
Hassebleck to Tennessee - Music to fantasy owner's ears?
Reports indicate that Tennessee was willing to give Hasselbeck a lengthier contract than Seattle was, and he is expected to open the season as the Titans’ starter.
With rookie first-round pick Jake Locker previously atop the depth chart because of Kerry Collins‘ retirement, the Titans were interested in acquiring a veteran to help ease Locker’s transition into the NFL. Hasselbeck’s solid character and experience make him a perfect fit for that role.
In Seattle, Hasselbeck had become redundant after the team came to terms with former Vikings quarterback Tarvaris Jackson.
Going from the unemployment line to starting in an offense with Chris Johnson certainly improves your chance of success, so the move is positive from Hasselbeck’s perspective.
That’s not to say you should plan on owning him in 2011.
While the Titans’ solid offensive line should keep him upright more than he was in Seattle, it is hard to ignore that he suffered through his worst year as a starter last season. He is also 36 years old and is coming to a team with major question marks at tight end and wide receiver. Avoid Hasselbeck in 2011.
However, Johnson’s value gets a slight uptick since Hasselbeck will help take some of the pressure off the rushing game.
The Titans wide receivers and tight ends also see an increase in their fantasy value. Of those players, only Kenny Britt has the potential to be a fantasy starter, and his off-the-field troubles make him a huge risk.
Even with Hasselbeck on board, the only Titan offensive player you want to own is Johnson.
By: Dave Stringer — @ 1:48 pm
In his three years as Green Bay’s starting quarterback, Rodgers has finished second, first, and again second in fantasy points at his position, missing out on repeating as the top-rated passer in 2010 because of a one-and-a-half game absence due to a concussion suffered in Week 14 against Detroit. Despite having starting running back Ryan Grant for just one game, starting tight end Jermichael Finley for only five games, and playing behind an offensive line that struggled in pass protection early last season, Rodgers remained highly productive in leading the Packers to a Super Bowl championship. With the offensive line likely to improve in 2011 and with the return of Grant and Finley as well as a deep, talented group of wide receivers, Rodgers has an opportunity to become the top-rated fantasy passer once again. Deep threat Greg Jennings remains the most underrated wide receiver in the league, and while Donald Driver’s declining skills seem likely to land him in a backup role (or a ceremonial starting position with reduced playing time), Jordy Nelson proved in the playoffs that he is ready to take over Driver’s production. James Jones is a free agent who may not return, but the Packers added another talented receiver in Randall Cobb in the second round of the draft. Since he’s produced both with and without injuries to the team’s other skill position players, Rodgers is as close to a sure thing as there is at fantasy quarterback and is worthy of being taken in the first round in redraft leagues.
More than ever, the world seems to want the sexy new thing, but when it comes to the Packers backfield, it may make more sense to love the boring old guy, if you consider a 28-year-old with just 790 career rushes “old.” With second-year player James Starks breathing life into the Packers’ moribund rushing attack during the playoffs, third-round pick Alex Green in tow, and Grant having suffered a season-ending Week 1 injury last season, the fantasy world is down on Grant’s prospects for the coming season, perhaps unreasonably so. While he is a poor pass catcher and will never be mentioned as one of the more talented running backs in the league, Grant rushed for nearly 3,400 yards and 23 touchdowns during a 38-game stretch from 2007 to 2009. The risk with Grant is that he is entering the final year of his contract and could end up splitting time with Starks as the Packers build for the future. Or, perhaps more likely, Grant will remain Green Bay’s dominant running back as he becomes motivated by the thought of a new contract, and the Packers will go with their most productive running back in an attempt to return to the Super Bowl. There’s nothing wrong with gambling on Grant in 2011.
After watching Brandon Jackson and John Kuhn make a futile attempt to give the team a decent rushing attack during the regular season, the Packers turned to rookie sixth-round pick James Starks in the playoffs. Starks was hardly dominant, but he did upgrade the team’s production at the position, gaining 315 rushing yards and four touchdowns over the Packers’ four-game playoff run. With Jackson on his way to Cleveland, Starks will battle incumbent starter Ryan Grant to be the lead back. While Starks was impressive during the playoffs, Grant has a history of solid production, gaining 3,412 rushing yards and scoring 23 touchdowns from 2007 through 2009 despite barely playing for the first half of 2007. That history suggests Starks will enter 2011 in a backup role. However, with Grant entering the final year of his contract—and lacking solid receiving skills in a pass-happy Packers offense—look for a platoon role for Starks with an outside chance of his winning the job outright. He is a great option as the potential Green Bay starter in 2012.
With Ryan Grant entering the final year of his contract and Brandon Jackson in Cleveland, the Packers picked Green in the third round to supplement the running game. Playing in the dynamic Packers offense and being a reasonably high draft selection makes Green an obvious candidate for dynasty leagues, but his fantasy prospects for 2011 look dim. Grant has played well as a starter, and James Starks was impressive during the team’s playoff run. That makes it unlikely that Green will see much playing time as a rookie, barring injury to Grant or Starks. He’s waiver wire material entering 2011.
You pick the narrative. 1.) Jennings was headed for bust status last year as the team chose to feature tight end Jermichael Finley—with only Finley’s season-ending Week 5 injury saving Jennings from WR3 status. 2.) The Packers offensive line was so porous for the first part of the year that head coach Mike McCarthy was forced to feature Finley, but Jennings’ true value became apparent once the O-line shaped up and Finley was injured. Let’s go with the latter. Despite opening the season with just 36 fantasy points (183 receiving yards, three touchdowns) over the first five weeks, Jennings rebounded in a big way over the balance of the season, averaging 14.7 fantasy points over game and finishing as the fourth-ranked fantasy wide receiver. That’s an impressive turnaround. To sum it up, Jennings is entering his sixth year in the league, he’s the undisputed No. 1 wide receiver on what is arguably the most explosive offense in the league, and he’s finished fourth, 20th, fourth, and 12th over the past four years in the fantasy wide receiver rankings. Barring injuries, he is a mid-tier WR1 who could easily finish in the top three.
After an amazing run of seven 1000-yard seasons over the last eight years, the 36-year-old Driver saw his production plummet to just 51 receptions for 565 yards and four touchdowns in 2010. He did have an amazing 61-yard touchdown reception against the 49ers, but he is clearly on the downside of his career and seems unlikely to improve upon his 2010 numbers in the coming season. Driver ran more short patterns last year, but with tight end Jermichael Finley back from an injury that cost him 11 games last season, Driver will likely lose that work this season. Luckily for him, the Packers run plenty of three-, four-, and five-receiver sets, so he isn’t going to just drop off the face of the earth. That being said, he topped six fantasy points just four times last year, and only once over the final 12 games. Let somebody else take a gamble on Driver regaining his glory in 2011.
Jones isn’t big but he’s big enough. He doesn’t possess great speed but he’s fast enough. His routes aren’t always the right ones but he gets open regularly. Unfortunately, he always leaves the Packers coaches and his fantasy owners wanting more. After four years in the league, Jones is a free agent, and with a solid depth chart at wide receiver and having witnessed Jordy Nelson’s nice playoff run, Green Bay isn’t likely to overpay to retain him. While Jones also had a decent four-game playoff run, with 144 yards and a pair of touchdowns, Nelson appears to have developed into a more reliable option. Look for more of the same from Jones (500-600 yards, four or five touchdowns—good enough for WR5 status) if he returns to Green Bay. However, he’ll gain some upside if he moves to a different team in 2011.
With Donald Driver wearing down and James Jones a free agent, Nelson was shaping up as a solid sleeper option for 2011. That all changed with his superlative three-game playoff run in which he caught 21 passes for 286 yards and a pair of touchdowns, culminating in a nine-catch, 140-yard, one-touchdown performance in the Super Bowl. How’s that for getting noticed! While Driver is squawking about remaining a starter, there is little doubt that at 36 his usage will decline, and Jones seems likely to leave as a free agent. That equals opportunity, and Nelson showed in the playoffs that he has the ability to make the most of it. He ranks as a WR4 until there is more certainty regarding the futures of Driver and Jones, but move him up if circumstances warrant prior to start of the 2011 season.
Most receivers taken in the second round get an opportunity to produce in their rookie seasons, but that might not be the case for Cobb. The Packers possess perhaps the deepest depth chart at receiver in the league, and Cobb will enter the season behind four solid veterans if James Jones is re-signed. If that happens, Cobb figures to dress on game day only if he wins a job as a returner, which seems likely. He is a shifty player with very good but not outstanding speed. He’s not recommended for redraft leagues, but he definitely shapes up as a good prospect in dynasty formats.
This side of Antonio Gates, there isn’t a more feared pass-catching tight end in the league than Jermichael Finley. He possesses outstanding size, speed, and agility, and he is entering just his fourth year as a pro. The only problem is that he hasn’t played a lot after spending his rookie year figuring out the team’s offensive playbook, missing three games to injury in his second year when he was just getting rolling, and missing most of last year after he tore his meniscus in Week 5. On the plus side, the Packers featured him over the first four games of last season, targeting him 26 times. In those four games, he averaged nine fantasy points per game on 21 receptions for 301 yards and a score. With Finley, the upside is huge, but so is the injury risk, which precludes him from being in the top-tier at the position. Place him at the top of the second tier, but make sure you have a decent backup at the ready.
By: Doug Orth — @ 12:40 am
After attempting to plug in four different quarterbacks last season, the Arizona Cardinals looked north to find what they hope is answer to their quarterback problems. The question: is Kevin Kolb that answer?
Kolb will have a very capable receiving corps at his disposal.
On Thursday, Arizona sent former Pro Bowl cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a 2012 second-round pick to the Philadelphia Eagles for Kolb, hoping they filled the sizable void left behind by the retirement of Kurt Warner. In addition to shipping a 25-year-old defensive back to the Eagles one season removed from a Pro Bowl appearance, the Cardinals gave Philadelphia another second-rounder one year after it fleeced the Washington Redskins for one in the Donovan McNabb trade. To its credit, Arizona immediately stepped up with a five-year contract worth over $60 M.
It was no secret that Arizona needed a quarterback in the worst way. In a league where a 60% completion rate is considered acceptable, the quartet of Derek Anderson, Richard Bartel, John Skelton and Max Hall combined to connect on just over 50% of their passes last season. By comparison, Kolb has a career 60.8% completion rate over parts of four seasons with the Eagles.
However, is Kolb worth the cost both in terms of his contract and the resources required to acquire his services? Despite his aforementioned accuracy, Kolb was 3-4 in his seven career starts for Philadelphia with a 10:13 TD-to-INT ratio. While one could say his opportunities to keep a starting job in NFL have been virtually non-existent, it is hard to defend anything less than a 1.5:1 TD-to-INT ratio throwing to the likes of DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Brent Celek, Brian Westbrook and LeSean McCoy over the years with the Eagles.
Perhaps the stability of a new contract and the certainty of a starting role will help Kolb fulfill expectations. More than that, however, is the knowledge that he will have the opportunity to throw to one of the league’s elite receivers in Larry Fitzgerald. Along with rookie surprise Andre Roberts and Early Doucet, the Cardinals will have a very capable receiving corps on par with the one he grew accustomed to as an Eagle.
Fantasy owners would be wise to tread carefully with Kolb despite the presence of Fitzgerald. There is substantial reason to doubt Kolb with his mediocre track record – albeit in limited time – so viewing him as anything more than a high-upside QB in 12-team leagues is probably wishful thinking.
By: Mike Krueger — July 28, 2011 @ 3:54 pm
Player Projections, Rankings & Cheatsheets
Change Log – 7/28
- Matt Hasselbeck (+7) up slightly. Better value for him early in the season; as long as TEN stays in the race.
- Donovan McNabb in Minnesota might be a good fit for the team but doesn’t get my fantasy juices flowing. No Sidney Rice means McNabb is QB2 at best.
- Bump for Tarvaris Jackson (+30) as for some reason the Seahawks want him to be their starting QB.
- John Kasay dropped from the Rankings. He will be released by Carolina who just agreed with Olindo Mare on a 5-year deal. Seattle is looking for a new kicker.
By: Doug Orth — @ 2:29 pm
Despite introducing the “Wildcat” into the public consciousness, the Miami Dolphins haven’t been regarded as one of the NFL’s most dynamic offenses lately. They are hoping that changes now that Reggie Bush will be frequenting South Beach.
With two player-acquisition brushstrokes, the Dolphins have moved on from their aging and injury-prone backfield of Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown over the last several years. Miami moved up in April’s draft to select its new running game focal point in Kansas State running back Daniel Thomas and, on July 28, sent a late-round pick and safety Jonathon Amaya – a special teams standout – to the New Orleans Saints for Bush. Much as he did when he first arrived in New Orleans in 2006 for Deuce McAllister, Bush figures to serve as the explosive passing-complement to the 6-0, 230-pound Thomas.
12-15 touches per game is exactly what Bush is looking for.
Bush’s relevancy in fantasy – which was already in question following the 2010 season – became even more clouded following the Saints’ addition of Alabama’s Mark Ingram in the first round in April to a backfield that already possessed Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory. Because Bush was due $11.8 M this season with New Orleans, the Saints knew they had to address his contract one way or the other, be it via renegotiation or trade. Considering Bush still views himself as something much more than a complementary piece, a trade out of New Orleans became a likely option.
Make no mistake, Thomas is the present and the future in Miami’s backfield and is a good bet to push or exceed 250 touches this year, but this trade should allow Bush to be the 12-15 touch per game player he wants to be while also preserving the rookie as he gets introduced to the NFL. If Miami follows through on another trade for Denver’s Kyle Orton, then Bush should find himself in about as good of a situation as he could have hoped for this offseason.
Since he was moving toward irrelevance as a Saint, a trade to Miami represents a definite boon to Bush’s fantasy stock. The absence of Drew Brees and Sean Payton as his quarterback and play-caller, respectively, will hurt, but the promise of regular touches in a Dolphins’ offense that promises to be more aggressive under new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll should give Bush a chance to be a regular flex starter in fantasy, at least in PPR leagues.
By: Dave Stringer — @ 10:14 am
Looking to bolster a wide receiver depth chart devoid of playmakers, the Seattle Seahawks landed Sidney Rice, the premier wide receiver available in free agency.
Rice is reunited with offensive coordinator Darren Bevell.
The acquisition of Rice immediately upgrades the Seahawks’ passing attack, providing their starting quarterback with a true No. 1 wide receiver, a role Mike Williams was ill-suited for. Who will be starting at quarterback for the Seahawks remains a major question mark, with Charlie Whitehurst and the recently signed Tarvaris Jackson expected to compete in training camp and through the preseason.
Chosen in the second round of the 2007 draft, Rice did little during his first two years in the league before reaching the Pro Bowl in 2009. With Brett Favre at quarterback, Rice had 83 receptions for 1,312 yards and eight touchdowns.
His production fell dramatically in 2010, however, as poor quarterback play and a hip injury suffered at the end of the 2009 season limited him to just 17 receptions for 280 yards and a pair of scores over six games.
Prior to the Vikings’ acquisition of Donovan McNabb, moving to Seattle would have made little difference to Rice’s fantasy prospects, with each team having major question marks at quarterback. But while McNabb is clearly on the downside of his career, he represents an obvious upgrade over rookie first-round pick Christian Ponder in Minnesota, as well as over the Seahawks’ pair of Whitehurst and Jackson.
In addition, the Vikings’ offense features more talent at the skill positions and along the offensive line than Seattle’s. That figures to limit Rice’s touchdown count with the Seahawks.
In Seattle, Rice will be reunited with former Vikings offensive coordinator Darren Bevell, so he should make a smooth transition to the Seahawks offense—always a concern when a wide receiver joins a new team.
While that is a positive, Rice’s fantasy value takes a hit with his move to Seattle because the Seahawks are likely to struggle with a pair of unproven quarterbacks and a rushing attack that also has major question marks. Rice remains a WR3 but moves down a couple of notches in the rankings, and the odds of him having a big season are far less likely in Seattle than they would have been in Minnesota.
By: Dave Stringer — July 27, 2011 @ 1:29 pm
In 2010, the Lions featured a bevy of talented playmakers at the offensive skill positions as well as a decent offensive line that allowed quarterback Shaun Hill to average a respectable 19.1 fantasy points per game, despite his lacking the arm to consistently connect downfield with star wide receiver Calvin Johnson. With the addition of rookies Mikel Leshoure at running back and Titus Young at wide receiver, and more help along the offensive line, the future looks bright for third-year quarterback Matthew Stafford, provided he can stay healthy. That’s a big question mark since Stafford has suffered four shoulder injuries as a pro, has undergone surgery in the offseason, and has started just 13 games in the first two years of his career. The talent is there and the Lions possess tantalizing offensive potential, but relying on Stafford as your QB1 is a massive gamble. Draft him as a QB2 with upside and maybe you’ll have great trade bait by mid-season.
Jahvid Best looked like a fantasy star during the first two weeks of his rookie season, scoring a whopping 56 fantasy points on 98 rushing yards, 170 receiving yards, and five touchdowns. Of course, banking on two and half touchdowns per game from a Lions running back is folly. And, sure enough, Best didn’t find the end zone again until Week 16 when he scored his last touchdown of the season. After Week 2, he averaged a pedestrian 6.5 fantasy points per game, although his lack of production can partially be blamed on a turf toe injury. The Lions have added the bruising Mikel Leshoure to the mix, and he will almost certainly handle the short-yardage role and has a decent chance to end up splitting carries with Best. While Best clearly has the talent to be a productive running back, at this point the split of touches is likely only 60/40 in his favor, with little if any of those touches coming inside the opponents 10-yard line. Throw in Best’s injury history and he shapes up as a mid-tier RB3 with upside for 2011.
Let’s go down the rookie running back opportunity checklist: Incumbent is coming off a disappointing season? Check. Incumbent is injury prone? Check. Incumbent isn’t a great short-yardage back? Check. Team’s offense is a powerhouse? Well, there’s no check here, but the potential is there. Add it all up, and Leshoure figures to be one of the most intriguing backup running backs in 2011. Although he is a solid 225 pounds, Leshoure is more than just a power back. He has the ability to make defenders miss in the open field and possesses enough speed to break the occasional long run. Leshoure should be considered a low-end RB3 or high RB4 with significant upside, and he could be a fine flex option in 12-team leagues. If you’re going after Jahvid Best, Leshoure is a must-have handcuff who will be taken in the middle rounds of this year’s fantasy drafts—probably only a round or two after Best.
After a disappointing campaign in 2009, Johnson bounced back strongly in 2010, catching 77 passes for 1,120 yards and 12 touchdowns, despite playing with starting quarterback Matthew Stafford for just over two games and playing through an ankle injury. Backup Shaun Hill enjoyed a fine season, but his arm is no match for Stafford’s, and Megatron has the potential to be the top-rated fantasy wide receiver in 2011 if Stafford can remain upright for 16 games (granted, that’s a big “if”). The Lions added rookie Titus Young to challenge Nate Burleson, so Johnson figures to once again see plenty of targets. In fact, he could be even more productive if one of his sidekicks begins contributing more regularly; he often sees double coverage when there is no threat on the opposite side of the field. Johnson is clearly an upper-echelon WR1.
Disclaimer: I’ve never liked Burleson and I like him less now. In 2010, playing alongside Calvin Johnson, he proved just how average he is (or has become, if he were ever that talented). With Johnson seeing plenty of double coverage, Burleson was the epitome of mediocrity, catching only 55 passes for 625 yards and six touchdowns. The touchdowns padded his fantasy stats, boosting his points-per-game average to 7.0. At 29, his upside is what he produced last year and his downside, well, it’s basically the floor. Surely you can come up with a more inspired option for your fantasy team’s WR4 or WR5. Don’t let me down.
With Calvin Johnson atop the wide receiver depth chart and a pile of question marks after him, the Lions wisely used a second-round pick to upgrade the position with the selection of Boise State playmaker Titus Young. While Young lacks ideal size at 5’11”, 174 pounds, he brings plenty of speed and playmaking ability to the table. Look for him to be used mainly on special teams as a returner and out of the slot, which limits his upside. The Lions clearly see an Az-Zahir Hakim/Brandon Stokley potential, and with the attention Johnson warrants outside, Young could surprise (although relying him to be a consistent fantasy producer in his rookie season is looking for trouble). He’s worth monitoring on the waiver wire in redraft leagues and worth adding to your dynasty squad.
Detroit used a 2009 third-round pick on Williams in the hopes that the talented college playmaker would produce as both a receiver and a returner. Sure enough, he’s been a complete bust. Is there a theme here? Detroit Lions…Wide receiver…bust? Yep, that’s it. Sure, they hit on Calvin Johnson, but that’s like throwing beach balls into the ocean. Here’s what you need to know about Williams: despite having the two forgettable, aging players ahead of him in Nate Burleson and Bryant Johnson, he couldn’t muster up any playing time. Not to mention his career stats: two years, 18 games, nine receptions. With rookie second-round pick Titus Young on board, what is going to change in 2011? Not much even with the Lions releasing Johnson.
Pettigrew entered 2010 as a big question mark courtesy of the torn ACL that ended his 2009 rookie season in Week 12. He recovered quickly enough to avoid the PUP list and increased his reception total from 31 in 2009 to 71 last season—good enough to finish third in that category among tight ends. He ended the season as the 11th-ranked tight end thanks to his 722 yards and four touchdowns, but most of that production came with Shaun Hill at quarterback. Hill is clearly more of a checkdown artist than Matthew Stafford, and getting deep is not a big part of Pettigrew’s game. If he is going to improve or even duplicate his fantasy production from last season, it’s going to have to come from increasing his touchdown count. The problem there is that the Lions possess the league’s top wide receiver red zone threat in Calvin Johnson. Look for Pettigrew’s fantasy production to drop in 2011. He’s a TE2 entering the season.
With Brandon Pettigrew coming off a torn ACL and Scheffler’s history of making big plays (a nifty 13.7 yards per catch heading into 2010), it didn’t seem unrealistic that Scheffler would put together a solid season in an improving Detroit offense. Unfortunately for him and his fantasy owners, only the second half of that equation came to fruition. While Scheffler had a career-high 72 targets, he only caught 45 passes for 378 yards, averaging a career-low 8.4 yards per catch. Furthermore, he scored only one touchdown, also a career-low. With Pettigrew having entrenched himself as the team’s main threat at tight end, Scheffler’s arrow will be pointing straight down unless he finds a new team in 2011.
By: Dave Stringer — July 26, 2011 @ 12:18 pm
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After struggling in 2009 during his first year with the Bears, Cutler was expected to improve with the addition of offensive coordinator Mike Martz last season. Unfortunately for both men, Cutler failed to ignite the Bears passing game, although more than a little of the blame can be placed on the team’s porous offensive line and its mediocre crop of wide receivers. Cutler ended up as the 11th-ranked fantasy quarterback, courtesy of his 3,274 passing yards, 23 touchdowns, and 16 interceptions. Interestingly enough, his passing yardage total dropped and he reduced his interception total by 10 from 2009, with his touchdown passes also decreasing by three—not exactly the result you would expect with Martz at the helm. The Bears offense actually came around when Martz eschewed his normal reliance on long passes in favor of more runs and a short passing attack. Heading into 2011, the Bears have improved the offensive line, but their wide receivers figure to once again put a restriction on just how effective their passing game can be. Basically, not much has changed in Chicago, and you shouldn’t expect much to change with Cutler. He’s a low-tier fantasy starter or a backup with upside. Drop him down a couple of notches in leagues that penalize for interceptions.
Forte has been in the league for three years now and fully healthy for two. In 2009, he played through knee and hamstring injuries, yet still averaged a respectable 10.3 points per game. In his two healthy seasons, he has been highly productive, averaging 15.2 fantasy points per game in 2008 and 13.5 in 2010. He ain’t sexy, but he produces, albeit not as consistently as one would hope (of his 216 fantasy points, 133 came in just six games). While Forte isn’t a top-five candidate given the lack of playmakers on the Bears offense, which limits his touchdown potential, his list of positives is long. He’s a workhorse back, having beaten back the threat of a timeshare with Chester Taylor from a year ago; he’s one of the best receiving backs in the league, averaging 57 receptions per year; and he hasn’t missed a game in three years. Better yet, he will likely present value on draft day. Chalk him up as a low-end RB1 or high-end RB2 for 2011.
Taylor got sick of being Adrian Peterson’s backup in Minnesota, so he hightailed it to Chicago prior to the 2010 season, with the chance to compete with Matt Forte for the starting job. So much for that. Not only did Taylor not even come close to beating out Forte, he actually saw his touches decrease from 137 to 132. That’s what happens when you average a career-low 2.4 yards per carry and suffer through your worst year in the league since being a rookie. Taylor will turn 32 in September, so the odds of him bouncing back are slim. He’s little more than a handcuff for 2011, and even if Forte goes down, Taylor is unlikely to put up great stats. In large leagues, Forte owners may want to grab Taylor for insurance, but otherwise don’t bother.
Johnny Knox: Where's the love?
Knox doesn’t get much love from NFL commentators or fantasy pundits, and there’s a strong argument that he doesn’t get a fair shake considering that the diminutive wide receiver is entering just his third year in the league. The rap on Knox is that he isn’t a true No. 1 receiver, even on a team desperate to ignite its passing attack. Ok, fine, but let’s take a closer look for the sake of argument. As a rookie from tiny Christian Abilene, Knox was raw and not expected to contribute much, yet he managed to catch 45 balls for 527 yards and five touchdowns. He improved upon that in 2010, catching 51 passes for 960 yards and five touchdowns while averaging an eye-popping 18.8 yards per catch. With that type of production, I’d label him as a DeSean Jackson or Mike Wallace-lite with upside. Entering his third season (the supposed magical year for wide receivers), Knox has no competition to be the Bears top wide receiver, quarterback Jay Cutler will be entering his second year in the Mike Martz offense, and Chicago has taken steps to improve the offensive line. Knox will enter the season as a low-end WR2 or high-end WR3, but he has plenty of upside. You could do worse.
Bennett might be the Bears’ third best wideout, but he’s the second best fantasy wide receiver in Chicago heading into 2011. With Devin Hester having proved over his first three years that he lacks the skills to be a solid starting receiver, Bennett is an intriguing option this year. As the 2010 season progressed, Bennett began to see the field more and more, averaging 6.6 fantasy points per game over the final ten games of the season—respectable production given that he was essentially splitting time with Hester. A bigger role seems likely in 2011 considering he caught 65.7 percent of his targets compared to Hester’s 57.1 percent. In addition, Bennett and Cutler were teammates at Vanderbilt, so there is a comfort level there that doesn’t exist between Cutler and Hester. While Bennett shapes up as a WR4 or WR5 entering the season, he’s worth adding as a player who has some upside if he can continue to outproduce Hester.
After two years of decent production, Hester tailed off in his third year and the Bears’ patience may be growing thin. After catching 57 passes for 757 yards and three touchdowns in 2009, his production dropped to just 40 receptions for 475 yards and four touchdowns. The big-play explosiveness that he regularly displays on special teams just hasn’t shown up at wide receiver. He has questionable hands, doesn’t seem capable of tracking down deep balls even when he does get open, and seems to run the wrong route more frequently than the Bears would like. The biggest indictment of Hester as a wide receiver is that he caught just 57.1 percent of his targets, despite averaging a pedestrian 11.9 yards per reception. Let somebody else drink the Hester Kool-Aid in 2011.
Entering 2010, the line of thinking on Olsen was that he would suffer with the addition of Mike Martz as the team’s offensive coordinator. While Martz and the Bears told anybody who would listen that Olsen would be an integral part of the offense, history suggested otherwise, with no tight end ever topping 380 receiving yards in a Martz offense. Right on cue, Olsen’s targets plummeted from a career-high 108 in 2009 to just 69 last season. His production dropped from 60 receptions for 612 yards and eight touchdowns to 41 receptions for 404 yards and five touchdowns. At least he was the most productive tight end ever in a Martz offense, good enough to rank 22nd in 2010. So, what’s going to change for Olsen in 2011? Barring a trade, nothing.
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