Fantasy Football Strategy, Advice, and Commentary
By: Dave Stringer — July 21, 2011 @ 3:31 pm
With the Bengals struggling for much of the season, and with a pair of veteran wide receivers in Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens at his disposal, Palmer threw for 3,970 yards and 26 touchdowns in 2010, good enough to finish as the 11th-rated fantasy quarterback. His play improved upon a 2009 season in which he suffered through the worst statistical year of his career—other than his first year as a starter in 2003 and an injury-shortened campaign in 2008. However, with neither veteran wideout expected back with the Bengals in 2011, and with the team likely to revert to the run-based offense that propelled them to the AFC North title in 2009, Palmer’s fantasy outlook for this season is not promising. The wide receiver depth chart will feature rookie first-round pick A.J. Green and youngsters Jerome Simpson, Jordan Shipley, and Andre Caldwell, along with second-year tight end Jermaine Gresham. That’s a big drop-off from Owens and Ochocinco and probably part of the reason Palmer has asked for a trade. The constant losing in Cincinnati certainly hasn’t helped, either. If Palmer were to stay, he did shine a ray of hope during the Bengals’ final two games last year, where he put up solid numbers while throwing to the team’s youngsters at wide receiver. But that was most likely an anomaly. Palmer ranks among the worst fantasy options at quarterback for 2011.
He’s a rookie and his receiving corps may be the league’s worst if veteran Chad Ochocinco isn’t back, as is expected. In addition, the Bengals are expected to rely heavily on the run, even though their workhorse runner is a free agent who averaged 3.5 yards per carry in 2010. While Dalton will open the season as the Bengals starter if incumbent Carson Palmer is traded—or holds out or retires—there are basically no reasons to endorse him as anything more than a last resort fantasy option for 2011. With a bevy of young talent at wide receiver, Dalton is a decent option in dynasty leagues, but he should be avoided in redraft leagues.
After having a career year in 2009, Benson stumbled slightly last season, finishing with 1,111 rushing yards and seven touchdowns on the ground to go along with 178 receiving yards and a touchdown. While his rushing total only dropped by 140 yards, his 2009 production came in just 13 games compared to the 16 he played in 2010, and his average yards per carry dropped from 4.2 to 3.5. Benson is a free agent but figures to return to a Bengals team that has major question marks in the backfield, with quarterback Carson Palmer having requested a trade and only the unproven Bernard Scott behind Benson at running back. Benson has had 667 touches during his two-year, 29-game stay in Cincinnati, so look for him to be one of the league’s few workhorse backs once again if he remains with the team. That argument is bolstered by the success the Bengals had with the run in 2009 and the possibility that rookie Andy Dalton could open the season at quarterback. Given the high number of touches he should get, Benson ranks as a mid-tier RB2 heading into 2011, provided he stays in Cincinnati.
When the Bengals used a sixth-round pick in 2009 to draft Scott, the assumption was that he would challenge Cedric Benson for playing time. Despite Benson’s inability to generate many big plays and his lack of production as a receiver out of the backfield, Scott has not been able to earn significant playing time in the Bengals offense. He was basically an afterthought for most of the 2010 season, getting nine touches in the opening game but not topping six touches again until Week 15. Given Scott’s lack of production and use, there is little doubt that the Bengals will look for another veteran running back if they fail to re-sign Benson. That makes Scott little more than a handcuff in 2011.
Two years ago, there were rumors the Bengals had turned down two first-round picks for Ochocinco. In typical Bengals fashion, they are now looking at getting a low-round draft pick for him or releasing him outright. He has a large salary for the coming season and the Bengals will soon have to test the youth they’ve acquired at wide receiver. With Ochocinco approaching 34 years of age and having just 831 yards last year and only one 1000-yard season in the last three, his days of being a fantasy stud appear to be over. If the Bengals decide to part ways with him, he has enough left to earn a starting spot wherever he lands, but his diminishing speed means the best fantasy owners can expect from him is a repeat of his 831 yards and four touchdowns from last season. That makes him a low-end WR3 with little upside and a history of inconsistent production.
Chad Ochocinco is getting long in the tooth, and the Bengals seem destined for a youth movement. That bodes well for Green’s targets, and the odds are strong that the fourth pick in this year’s draft will emerge as the team’s top threat at wide receiver early this season. Easily the most polished wideout in the draft and arguably the most talented, Green was very productive at Georgia and had a nose for finding the end zone, with 23 touchdowns in just three seasons. At 6’4” and 210 pounds, Green has prototypical size for a receiver in the West Coast offense that new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden will employ. The biggest issues for Green will be learning a pro offense in a shortened offseason and the team’s uncertainty at quarterback and wide receiver, with the futures of Carson Palmer and Ochocinco in doubt. Green is gold in dynasty leagues, but he ranks as little more than a WR5 in 2011.
If you’re looking for a Jerome Simpson endorsement, you’ve come to the wrong place. That would involve ignoring the first 45 games of his career (in which he caught just one pass) in favor of the final three games of the 2010 season, in which he caught 20 passes for 277 yards and three touchdowns, including a pair of games with more than 18 fantasy points. While the former second-round pick likely secured another season on the Bengals roster due to those three games, the fact is that he was headed for the unemployment line and major bust status. Simpson has decent size and speed and he should be considered the front-runner to start opposite rookie A.J. Green, provided Chad Ochocinco is released as expected. However, barring a consistently productive training camp, Simpson carries major risk and is worth little more than a low draft pick in redraft leagues and should be considered waiver wire material in shallow leagues. His finish to the 2010 season makes him worth monitoring, not necessarily worth adding.
The Bengals have raved about Caldwell’s ability. Carson Palmer has raved about Caldwell’s ability. Yet in three years he has caught just 87 passes for 855 yards and three touchdowns, and last year he was beat out by rookie Jordan Shipley to be the team’s top slot receiver. Basically, Caldwell isn’t shifty enough to play inside and he’s not big or fast enough to play outside. Move on. And don’t be surprised if the Bengals follow suit.
There’s a good side to Shipley and a bad side as well. It was certainly nice that he put up a fine rookie season in 2010, with 52 receptions for 600 yards and three touchdowns. Yet it became apparent over just one season that he is best suited to line up in the slot because he doesn’t have the physical abilities necessary to succeed outside. That limits his fantasy appeal and potential in leagues that employ standard scoring. In PPR leagues, Shipley has some value given the current state of the Bengal’s wide receivers, provided he continues to build on his 2010 production. His value is further increased if rookie Andy Dalton starts at quarterback since young quarterbacks tend to throw shorter routes, which Shipley usually runs. Shipley is a WR5 in standard scoring leagues, but move him up to WR4 in PPR leagues.
After a respectable rookie season with 52 receptions for 471 yards and four touchdowns, Gresham has some sleeper appeal heading into 2011. Unfortunately, that is dampened by the Bengals potentially starting a rookie quarterback and featuring an unproven group of young wide receivers. While both factors increase the likelihood of Gresham’s targets increasing, there has to be significant concern regarding the Bengals ability to move the chains and generate any type of consistent offensive output. And although Gresham started strongly as a rookie, catching four or more passes in five of his first six games, he notched only two other such games over the balance of the season. He has the talent to excel in the team’s new West Coast offense, but Gresham remains a fantasy backup heading into 2011.
By: Mike Krueger — @ 10:40 am
Player Projections, Rankings & Cheatsheets
Change Log – 7/7
Very few changes as we wait for the CBA to be completed. The calm before the storm…
- Slight decrease in Willis McGahee’s rushing yardage (-100). Potential departure from Baltimore.
- Slight increase in Le’Ron McClain’s rushing yardage (+100). May backup Rice if McGahee departs.
- Flipped-flopped James Starks and Ryan Grant. It’s likely Grant’s job to lose.
By: Dave Stringer — July 20, 2011 @ 12:55 am
Entering 2010, the Browns planned on keeping McCoy nailed to the bench behind veterans Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace, but when injuries struck, McCoy took over, ending up with eight starts. As a rookie, he played with decent poise and produced reasonably well given the sad state of his receiving corps. He threw for 1,576 yards and six touchdowns with nine interceptions. However, a closer look reveals that six of those nine interceptions came in the Browns’ last two games against the powerful Steelers and Ravens defenses. But swap one body part and my grandpa would be my gramma and vice versa. While McCoy looks like he could be good for the Browns in 2011, the same can’t be said for Cleveland’s wide receivers. Mohammad Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie have done nothing in their first two years to suggest they are starter worthy, and rookie third-round pick Greg Little has plenty of talent but missed all of his senior season because of a suspension. That makes McCoy one of the least desirable fantasy options at quarterback but a player worthy of a spot on your dynasty league roster.
Not much was expected of Hillis after the Broncos sent him to Cleveland in exchange for former first-round pick Brady Quinn. But by the end of 2010, Hillis had made that trade look as lopsided as any in recent memory, finishing with 1,177 rushing yards, 477 receiving yards, and 13 touchdowns and establishing himself as one of the top rushers in the AFC. The only blemishes were his eight fumbles and a weak finish, with just 335 total yards and no touchdowns over his final five games. That leaves two questions unanswered: is he the player we saw for the first 11 games or the one we saw over the last five games, and will his slow finish cause the Browns to reduce his workload in 2011? Look for Hillis to produce somewhere in between after the Browns cut back on his touches. That leaves him as a solid RB2 heading into the season.
Coming into Cleveland as a second-round pick in the 2010 draft, and into a depth chart with Jerome Harrison at the top of the list, Hardesty seemed to have a bright future. However, an injury that ruined his rookie season and a career year from Peyton Hillis has Hardesty pegged as little more than a backup for the foreseeable future. The injury came as little surprise to those who followed Hardesty’s injury-plagued college career. With Hillis atop the depth chart, Hardesty’s preseason outlook is primarily as a handcuff. Considering his injury, the current state of the Browns offense, and the fact that Hillis is entrenched as the starter, Hardesty is waiver wire material or a low-round draft pick at best in redraft leagues.
With no proven wide receiver on the depth chart, Little stands a decent chance of earning a good amount of playing time in 2011 despite missing all of his final college season because of a suspension. Unfortunately, the Browns offense doesn’t feature a proven quarterback either, and the team’s passing game has been among the worst in the league over the last few seasons. Little has prototypical size and speed for the West Coast offense the Browns will use next season, but expecting consistent production from the talented rookie is a tad unrealistic. Look for Little to emerge as Cleveland’s top wide receiver prospect, but don’t rely on his being useful as a fantasy starter in 2011. For dynasty leaguers only.
In 2011, Massaquoi enters his third year, playing on a team that lacks a proven No. 1 wideout and is moving to more of a pass-based offense. Sounds promising, no? Not so fast. Massaquoi struggled during his second season, catching just two more passes than he did in his first year and averaging just 13.4 yards per catch after being a big-play threat as a rookie (with 18.4 yards per reception). To earn the role as the team’s top threat at receiver, he needs to beat out Brian Robiskie—another disappointing player entering his third year—and rookie Greg Little, who missed all of his senior college season. The opportunity dictates that Massaquoi be drafted as a fantasy backup or a WR5 at worst, but don’t be surprised if he busts in 2011.
For the first 29 games of his career, Robiskie looked like a bust. Then the light seemed to come on over the final three games of last season, with Robiskie catching nine passes for 152 yards and three touchdowns—the only touchdowns of his career. With the Browns moving to a West Coast offense, Robiskie’s chances of breaking out in his third year clearly improved, especially considering that he has the size and pedigree to excel in that type of offense. Although the Browns are lacking in talent at wide receiver, it is difficult to foresee Robiskie becoming a fantasy starter in 2011 when looking at his lack of production during his first two years (36 receptions for 416 yards and three touchdowns). At this point, he is a fantasy backup in all but the deepest leagues and waiver wire material in leagues with shallow rosters.
Cribbs is one of the most electrifying players in the league and arguably the best returner in the game (although in 2010 he did fail to score on a kick or punt return for the first time in his six-year career). However, that hasn’t translated into fantasy success as a rusher or a receiver, and there is scant evidence to suggest that’s going to change in 2011. He had just 358 combined rushing and receiving yards on 43 touches last season, an extremely low number considering the lack of playmakers the Browns featured on offense. Consider that, as well as his lack of production in Cleveland’s base offense throughout his career, and you’ll find that you can do better than Cribbs on draft day.
Prior to joining the Browns in 2010, Watson was viewed largely as a player who had failed to capitalize on his considerable athletic gifts as a pro. Despite possessing blazing speed for a tight end, he never emerged as a consistent threat for a Patriots team that relied heavily on the passing game. Moving to a Cleveland offense with questionable talent at best, little was expected. However, Watson put together perhaps the best year of his career, leading AFC tight ends in receptions. With a dearth of talent at wide receiver, Watson caught 68 passes for 763 yards (both career highs) and three touchdowns. Moving into 2011, the Browns have improved the depth chart at wide receiver and will be moving to a West Coast offense, which traditionally benefits the tight end. Look for those factors to negate one another and for Watson to remain a TE2.
By: Dave Stringer — July 17, 2011 @ 1:21 pm
Roethlisberger entered last year coming off his best season as a pro when he finished as the eighth-ranked fantasy quarterback. Despite having to serve a four-game suspension to start the 2010 season, he proved that his fantasy production in 2009 wasn’t a fluke, throwing for 3,200 yards and 17 touchdowns in 12 games. He also chipped in 176 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, helping to pad his fantasy point total. The Steelers are clearly a pass-based offense when Roethlisberger is in the lineup, and his projections for 2011 remain solid with Mike Wallace entering his third season and second-year receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown coming off impressive rookie campaigns. Throw in the reliable Hines Ward along with Heath Miller at tight end, and Roethlisberger could have six quality receiving options in 2011. Roethlisberger will be drafted after the big six at quarterback and ranks in the second tier with Tony Romo, Matt Schaub, Eli Manning, and Josh Freeman.
With the Steelers forced to open the season without Roethlisberger, Mendenhall burst out of the gate over the first four games, gaining 411 yards on the ground with four rushing touchdowns. At that point, he looked like a sure bet to establish himself as a top five fantasy running back. However, when Big Ben returned to the lineup, Mendenhall’s production took a hit. Over the last 12 games of the season, he ran for 863 yards and nine touchdowns. To sum it up: without Roethlisberger, 17.0 points per game; with him, 12.8 points per game. Without Big Ben, Mendenhall is a top five running back, but having Roethlisberger in the lineup likely lands him just outside of the top ten. There’s little reason to believe that Roethlisberger won’t stay healthy for all but a game or two in 2011. A pair of divisions that feature weak run defenses (the AFC South and NFC West) are on tap for the Steelers, so draft Mendenhall as a low-end RB1 or a high-end RB2, but he shouldn’t be considered among the league’s elite fantasy running backs.
Redman essentially came out of nowhere to win the backup role behind Rashard Mendenhall in 2010. He averaged 4.8 yards per carry, gaining 247 yards on 52 carries and playing well enough that the team decided against adding to the backfield in the draft. Redman also showed some nifty moves as a receiver, scoring twice on just nine receptions. He shapes up as needed insurance for Mendenhall owners, and he displayed enough last season to suggest that he could provide solid fantasy production if Mendenhall were to be out of the lineup for an extended period.
The 2010 sixth-round pick lost the backup role to Isaac Redman last season and rarely saw the field during his rookie year. Dwyer has good size at 5’11” and 230 pounds and was the lead runner for Georgia Tech, but he has failed to impress with the Steelers so far. Head coach Mike Tomlin essentially called him out after the season, stating that he needed to improve greatly in 2011. Don’t bet on that happening. Unless he can beat out Redman (which seems unlikely), he isn’t worth a roster spot in dynasty leagues.
Wallace played well as a rookie in 2009 and was given a major opportunity when the Steelers unloaded Santonio Holmes to the Jets before last season. He didn’t disappoint. With 60 receptions for 1,257 yards and ten touchdowns, Wallace earned distinction as one of the league’s top ten wide receivers. Over the course of his two-year career, Wallace has averaged 20.3 yards per reception, making him perhaps the best big-play receiver in the league. Simply put, quarterbacks can’t overthrow him, and he has worked hard to develop his game on short and intermediate patterns as well. He was the sixth-ranked fantasy wide receiver last season and averaged 12.7 points per game with Ben Roethlisberger in the lineup. There is no reason to suggest he can’t duplicate both feats in 2011.
Ward finally showed his age last year, posting his lowest receiving total since his injury-shortened 2007 campaign. Removing that season, his 755 receiving yards in 2010 was his lowest total since 2000, his third year in the league. A knee injury may have hindered him last season, but with Mike Wallace now firmly entrenched as the team’s top wide receiver, and with second-year players Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown coming off solid rookie seasons, Ward will likely struggle to match even his 2010 production. He is little more than a possession receiver at this point. While the temptation will be to draft him as a WR3 based on his previous production, he should be considered a backup or a solid flex option for leagues that employ the position.
Drafted in the third round of the 2010 draft, Sanders enjoyed a reasonably productive rookie season as he shared the third receiver role with veteran Antwan Randle-El and fellow rookie Antonio Brown, catching 28 passes for 376 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Sanders started slowly with just four receptions over the first half of the season, but then he became the team’s main option in three-receiver sets, catching 24 passes for 300 yards and a pair of scores over the second half of the season. That production bodes well for the future as he appears set to take over Hines Ward’s spot as starter as early as 2012, provided he can build on his rookie performance in 2011. Bank on that happening. Consider Sanders a solid prospect in dynasty leagues and a player to watch on the waiver wire in redraft formats.
Miller entered last season coming off a career year, when he caught 76 passes for 789 yards and six touchdowns in 2009. There were warning signs for 2010, however, with Ben Roethlisberger serving a four-game suspension, Miller having been a fantasy dud in 2008, and his 2007 season having been saved only by seven touchdown receptions. Sure enough, he suffered a huge drop-off in 2010, with 42 receptions for 512 yards and just two touchdowns. With a wide receiver depth chart that features four quality options, Miller doesn’t figure to rebound in 2011. Consider him a mid-tier backup with little prospect of a big season.
By: Dave Stringer — July 15, 2011 @ 2:20 am
With Anquan Boldin in the mix at wide receiver, much was expected of Flacco in 2010. While he improved in his third year in the league, it’s safe to say the Ravens and his fantasy owners were a little underwhelmed by his overall production. He threw for a career-high 25 touchdown passes (four more than in 2009), but his yardage total increased by just nine yards to 3,622. With aging starters at wide receiver (Anquan Boldin and Derrick Mason) and tight end (Todd Heap), improvement in the passing game will be placed squarely on Flacco’s shoulders. He remains a work-in-progress who displays poor mechanics and poor decision-making more often than the Ravens would like. For 2011, consider Flacco an upper-tier fantasy backup or a great option if you choose to play the matchups with a pair of decent, if unspectacular, quarterbacks.
Rice: Best suited for PPR leagues.
What a difference a year makes. After bursting onto the fantasy scene in 2009 with 2,041 total yards and eight touchdowns, Rice was considered a bit of a disappointment last season with 1,779 total yards and six touchdowns and with his fantasy ranking slipping from fourth to 11th at running back. Rice continued to lose touches in the red zone to Willis McGahee, and while McGahee likely won’t return in 2011, there is a decent chance that Le’Ron McClain will assume his role for the coming season. Add it all up and Rice is clearly a player better suited to PPR leagues, and those generally do not have touchdown-heavy scoring formats. Barring injury, Rice is a lock to average more than 100 total yards per game, and he could easily vault back into the top five at running back if he can find the end zone on a more regular basis. Don’t be surprised if that happens in 2011.
At 29 years old and having spent most of the last three seasons as a backup, the chance of McGahee ever becoming the star running back many expected when he entered the league is remote. While his days as a starter are clearly over, he has proven to be a valuable backup who is capable of producing as a runner, particularly in short yardage situations. He has also been a nice change-of-pace back and receiver out of the backfield—although that is not his strong suit. Best of all for McGahee owners, over the past three years he has been a touchdown machine (as far as backups and handcuffs go), scoring 27 times over that span—production that many starters have failed to attain. He enters 2011 as a decent flex option in larger leagues, but one with little upside.
McClain has been a victim of circumstance during his four years with the Ravens, originally stuck behind Willis McGahee and then both Ray Rice and McGahee. With McGahee carrying a big salary while still being reasonably productive, the Ravens chose to stick with him despite the solid potential that McClain displayed in 2008 when he supplanted McGahee as the team’s lead back, rushing for 907 yards and ten touchdowns on 231 carries. He has been relegated to a fullback role for the past two years, but with the skills he’s shown in his limited opportunities and at just 26 years old, he remains an intriguing option. He’s clearly a deep, deep sleeper but worth stashing at the back end of your depth chart in leagues with large rosters.
Boldin was traded to the Ravens with much fanfare during the 2010 offseason, the thought being that he would help lead the team on a deep playoff run and ignite a Baltimore passing attack that failed to produce big plays in 2009. Suffice it to say, Boldin didn’t produce as expected, and playoff success eluded the Ravens. While he wasn’t a bust in Baltimore, he had the worst year of his career in 2010 (not counting injury-shortened campaigns), catching just 64 passes for 837 yards and seven touchdowns. Removing a 142-yard, three-touchdown performance against the Browns in Week 3, Boldin averaged just 6.2 fantasy points per game, hardly justifying the upper-tier WR2 ranking he had upon entering the season. In fact, he barely produced more than Derrick Mason, scoring the same amount of touchdowns and gaining just 35 more yards. While Boldin’s drop in production can be partly blamed on the Ravens’ lack of game planning, the bottom line is that defenses can take him out of games when they don’t have to key in on a proven deep threat, which the Ravens don’t possess. Baltimore used a second-round pick on speedster Torrey Smith, but he is raw and unlikely to take much pressure off Boldin. Boldin ranks as a low-end WR2 entering 2011, but with some upside if the Ravens can find a way to better utilize his talents.
When the Ravens acquired Anquan Boldin during the 2010 offseason and added T.J. Houshmandzadeh just before opening day, Mason was expected to see a major drop in both his playing time and production. However, while his targets dropped dramatically from 134 to 100, he remained productive, catching 61 passes for 802 yards and seven touchdowns. With Houshmandzadeh and Donte Stallworth out of the mix and rookie second-round pick Torrey Smith likely to win the backup role, there is a decent possibility that Mason can duplicate that production in 2011. He’s not a sexy pick, but he can likely be had as a low-end WR4. That should make him a bargain on draft day.
In 2010, the Ravens’ passing attack clearly suffered from the lack of a big-play threat, with Donte Stallworth suspended for eight games and then failing to earn significant playing time for the balance of the season. That allowed defenses to key in on Anquan Boldin, causing him to have the worst year of his career. Enter Smith, the team’s second-round pick in this year’s draft. He is a speedster capable of forcing defenses to play with a safety deep, provided he can produce at a reasonable level. With Boldin and Derrick Mason both in their thirties, Smith is an excellent prospect in dynasty leagues; just don’t expect him to produce on a consistent basis in 2011.
Heap looked good at times in 2010, displaying some big-play potential while averaging a career-high 15.0 yards per catch. Unfortunately, he missed most of one game and all of three others when he was injured in Week 13 against Pittsburgh, bringing back the injury concerns that plagued him earlier in his career. To be fair, he has played all 16 games in four of the past six seasons, so the injury issue isn’t as big as it’s made out to be. The bigger issue for Heap may be the presence of a pair of second-year players in Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta, who are ready to challenge him for playing time. Of the two, Dickson is the bigger threat, thought to be Heap’s potential replacement when he becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2012. Consider Heap a mid-tier fantasy option for the coming season.
By: Dave Stringer — July 13, 2011 @ 10:13 am
At this point, all indications are that Beck is head coach Mike Shanahan’s preferred option as the team’s starting quarterback entering training camp. The former second-round pick’s entire body of work consists of five games with the Dolphins during his rookie season in 2007. In his four starts, he struggled with accuracy and failed to throw a touchdown pass. That means two things: Beck performed well in practices, and Shanahan is dead set against going with Donovan McNabb or Rex Grossman, the top two quarterbacks on the depth chart from a year ago. Since Beck hasn’t played much, it’s hard to predict how well he will perform, assuming he starts in Week 1. However, since he hasn’t thrown a pass over the past three seasons and has already been dumped by two teams (the Ravens also gave up on him), his prognosis for 2011 isn’t good. He’s strictly an option for 14-team leagues. And even then, it’s difficult to recommend him. You can do better.
Last year, the Redskins were expected to use a combination of veterans to man the running back position, with Clinton Portis, Larry Johnson, and Willie Parker in the mix. Sitting at the back of the depth chart was the largely overlooked, former Bronco (and Mike Shanahan) draft pick in Torain. Sure enough, he became Shanahan’s new pet project and emerged as the Redskins’ top running back. Despite playing in just ten games and only starting eight, Torain finished the year with 742 rushing yards, 125 receiving yards, and six touchdowns. However, with a lengthy injury history (including four missed games last season due to hamstring problems), Shanahan chose to supplement the backfield depth chart through the draft, selecting Roy Helu in the fourth round and Evan Royster in the sixth. That means Torain will have to fight to retain his starting spot in 2011. Look for him to hold off the rookies at least for the early part of the season. Because of Helu’s presence, Torain will likely be drafted lower than he should be, but he will offer solid value if he can hold off the rookie.
With an injury-prone starter in Ryan Torain and a top backup better suited to third-down duties in Keiland Williams, the Redskins drafted Helu in the fourth round. Look for the Nebraska rookie to challenge for playing time out of the gate, provided he picks up the blitz protection schemes. However, Torain played well in 2010 and figures to hold off the rookie early in the season. Helu possesses better-than-average size at 6’0”, 220 pounds and has good speed, timing out at 4.42 seconds over 40 yards. He is a one-cut runner whose style fits well in Shanahan’s rushing attack. But the knock on him coming out of college is that he lacks lateral agility. Helu is worthy of a late-round flier in redraft leagues and as a low-end first-round pick in dynasty rookie drafts.
After struggling in 2009, Moss had a productive campaign last season as he was once again the Redskins’ leading receiver. With the team lacking depth at the position and playing from behind regularly, Moss was targeted a career-high 145 times, catching 93 passes (also a career high) for 1,115 yards and six touchdowns. Even at 31 years old, Moss still possesses nice deep speed. He was also remarkably consistent in 2010, which has been a knock against him for much of his career. He hit double-digit fantasy points six times and had a reasonable four games with five or fewer points. With Anthony Armstrong emerging last season and the team high on rookie third-round pick Leonard Hankerson, there is a strong possibility that Moss will see his target count reduced. He produced as a mid-tier WR2 last season, but that isn’t likely to happen again in 2011. Draft him as a WR3 and hope the target count stays high.
An afterthought entering the season, Armstrong quickly emerged as the Redskins’ best option starting opposite Santana Moss and established himself as the team’s big-play threat. Despite being 27 and never having caught a pass in the league, Armstrong finished the season with 44 receptions for 871 yards and three touchdowns. His 19.8 yards-per-reception average was good enough to finish third in the league in that category, behind only DeSean Jackson of the Eagles and the Steelers’ Mike Wallace—not bad company to keep. Armstrong will have to battle rookie third-round pick Leonard Hankerson to retain his spot in the starting lineup, but he seems like a safe bet when considering the shortened offseason, which will affect rookies more than veterans. Draft Armstrong as a WR4 with upside for 2011.
The Redskins used a third-round pick to acquire Hankerson in the hopes that he can shore up the team’s depth chart at wide receiver. Hankerson was productive in college at Miami and has solid size at 6’2” and 209 pounds to go along with his excellent speed. He should get a decent opportunity as a rookie as he fits in as well with the diminutive Santana Moss and deep threat Anthony Armstrong. However, the shortened offseason will hurt his chances of producing early. The best-case scenario for Hankerson is that he emerges by midseason, pushing Armstrong to the bench and showing enough for Redskins management to envision him as their top receiver in the coming seasons. Monitor his preseason progress, but at this point he ranks as a late-round flier in most leagues and waiver wire material in leagues with small rosters. He is a great option in dynasty leagues, however.
After suffering an ankle injury midway through the 2009 season, Cooley bounced back strong last year. The Redskins passing attack didn’t reach the heights many expected with Donovan McNabb at quarterback, but Cooley was his typically productive self, catching 77 passes for 849 yards (third most at tight end and matching his career-high) and three touchdowns. The only thing holding Cooley back from being mentioned with the elite fantasy tight ends is his touchdown count, and it doesn’t appear much will change in that regard in 2011. The Redskins continue to have problems at quarterback, and until that changes, Cooley will remain a solid albeit unspectacular fantasy performer. He remains a lower-tier TE1 for the coming season.
Davis came on strong subbing in for an injured Chris Cooley midway through 2009, finishing that season with 48 receptions for 509 yards and six touchdowns despite starting just ten games. Heading into 2010, Davis seemed a decent bet to continue to produce even in a backup role, given the Redskins poor depth chart at wide receiver. However, that never happened and he finished the year with just 21 catches for 316 yards and three touchdowns. The Redskins have upgraded at wide receiver for 2011, so look for Davis to be even more of an afterthought this coming season.
By: Dave Stringer — July 11, 2011 @ 7:27 am
Well, what is there to say? If you plucked Vick off the waiver wire in 2010, there’s a strong possibility he carried you to a championship in your fantasy league. Simply put, he was the most dynamic fantasy player last season—averaging a remarkable 29.7 points per game—and the most dynamic fantasy quarterback over the course of a season ever. Consider the highest career PPG totals of the league’s other top fantasy quarterbacks: Tom Brady, 28.9; Peyton Manning, 26.7; Aaron Rodgers, 25.1; Drew Brees, 24.7. Vick came into his own in 2010, displaying an uncanny knack for big plays both with his arm and in the running game, where he rushed 100 times for 676 yards and nine touchdowns. Despite finishing fourth in yards per passing attempt, he completed a career-high 62.6 percent of his passes (his previous high was 54.6) and threw for 3,018 yards and 21 touchdowns with just six interceptions. If you’re looking for a knock on Vick, it’s that his refusal to avoid hits when carrying the ball caused him to miss three games to injury (he also sat out the season finale to rest for the playoffs). Consider Vick a top-five quarterback in redraft formats, although with a qualifier due to his injury risk.
McCoy proved he was the real deal in his first full year as the Eagles’ starter at running back. The 2009 second-round pick made Eagles fans forget Brian Westbrook and made his fantasy owners ecstatic, courtesy of his 1,080 rushing yards, 592 receiving yards, and nine touchdowns. That production vaulted McCoy into the top ten at running back, and he finished at eighth despite taking Week 17 off to rest for the playoffs. He was also remarkably consistent, reaching double-digit fantasy points in 12 of the 15 games he played. McCoy isn’t the fastest or most elusive running back in the league, but he possesses enough ability in both areas to be a dangerous runner. His pass-catching ability helps separate him from several of the other upper-tier running backs—as does the presence of quarterback Michael Vick. With Vick requiring a defensive spy and DeSean Jackson often double-teamed out wide, defenses can’t focus on McCoy. Because of that, he is a solid bet to duplicate his 2009 ranking with an outside chance of entering the top five, especially in PPR leagues.
The Mike Bell experiment didn’t last long in Philadelphia as he was shipped off to the Browns for another disappointing runner in Jerome Harrison. The change of scenery benefitted Harrison, however, as he seemed a more natural fit in Philadelphia than in Cleveland. In limited opportunities, he rushed for 330 yards, averaging 4.6 yards per carry, with one touchdown. If LeSean McCoy were to go down, Harrison would likely put up RB2 production as his replacement. The Eagles took Dion Lewis in the fifth round of this year’s draft, and he will battle Harrison for the backup spot. Monitor that situation and consider Harrison a decent handcuff option (but not an imperative one), provided he wins the job.
Picked in the second round of the 2008 draft, Jackson has since established himself as the premier pass catcher of his rookie class, with 3,124 receiving yards and 17 receiving touchdowns through his first three years in the league. The speedy Jackson is a highlight-reel playmaker, capable of scoring at any time from any position on the field. After finishing as the ninth-ranked fantasy wideout in 2009, his production dipped slightly in 2010 as he finished with 47 receptions for 1,056 and six touchdowns. The main reason for the drop was due to a concussion he received on a devastating hit from Falcons cornerback Dunta Robinson. That caused him to miss the rest of the game and the next two games as well. However, he also had fewer big plays last year, and that is one of the issues with Jackson’s fantasy production. While he is a big-play machine, he doesn’t catch many passes, which results in a number of games with low fantasy points. In 45 career games, Jackson has reached double-digit fantasy points just 17 times and has 18 games with five or fewer points. When he booms, he booms. When he busts, he busts. Jackson will be drafted as a WR1, but you need to ask yourself if you want to put up with the inconsistency he brings to the table.
Jeremy Maclin: The Eagles top fantasy wideout in 2010.
Think fast! Who was the Eagles’ top fantasy producer at wide receiver last season? DeSean Jackson? Nah, it was Maclin. With 70 receptions for 964 yards and a whopping ten touchdowns, Maclin’s 160 fantasy points topped Jackson by three points and was good enough to place him 12th at wide receiver. Better yet, Maclin showed major improvement over his rookie season (when he caught 55 passes for 762 yards and four touchdowns) and figures to improve even more in his third season, the point at which many wide receivers take a big step forward. Add in the fact that the Jackson commands a healthy dose of double teams, leaving Maclin facing predominantly single coverage, and he seems like a sure bet to cement his 2011 status as a top-tier WR2 or perhaps a low-end WR1. While Jackson will go higher in fantasy redraft formats because of his superior skills and bigger reputation, Maclin will be the better value and is a far more consistent performer.
After signing a five-year contract extension prior to the 2010 season, Avant merely duplicated his 2009 production, catching 51 passes for 573 yards and a touchdown. Even though he had 16 more targets in 2010, he failed to capitalize on the increased opportunity as he suffered a case of the dropsies, including a couple of easy ones in the end zone. Entering 2011, he will battle second-year receiver Riley Cooper for playing time. Look for Avant to hold off Cooper, but it seems that a drop in production remains likely for Avant. Tight end Brent Celek figures to be more involved this season, and Cooper will nonetheless eat into Avant’s targets. Unless injuries strike DeSean Jackson or Jeremy Maclin, Avant is only worth owning in the larger leagues with deep rosters.
Celek entered 2010 coming off a breakout campaign in which he caught 76 passes for 971 yards and eight touchdowns—production that made him the fourth-ranked fantasy tight end in 2009. Things turned sour early in 2010, however, when quarterback Kevin Kolb was replaced by Michael Vick. Vick overlooked Celek early and often last season, leaving the talented pass-catching tight end as one of the biggest fantasy disappointments of the year. His production plummeted to 42 receptions for 511 yards and four touchdowns. Clearly, Celek benefitted in 2009 from playing with Donovan McNabb, who had made marginal talents such as Chad Lewis and L.J. Smith into solid producers at tight end. Heading into 2011, Celek’s prospects for a big rebound look remote. Vick is entrenched at quarterback and will have his favorite targets in DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin back at wide receiver. Consider Celek worth taking a flier on only as a backup tight end.
By: Mike Krueger — July 7, 2011 @ 10:54 am
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Player Projections, Rankings & Cheatsheets
Change Log – 7/7
- Flip-flopped the projections for Tashard Choice (+7) & DeMarco Murray (-7). The more I consume on the Cowboys backfield, the more I think Choice wins the playing time battle with the rookie.
- Added John Kuhn (GB) and Alex Green (GB). Both had been projected but were left out in the last update.
- Delone Carter (IND) up, Javarris James (IND) removed.
- Slight decrease in Maurice Jones-Drew’s rushing yardage (-50) as I become increasingly skittish about his knee injury.
- Added a TD to the rushing totals of Ryan Mathews (SD).
- Chris Cooley (-2) moves down until we get a better handle on who the QB is going to be.
- James Casey (+8) ranked too low in previous update.
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