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Player Outlooks – New York Giants

By: — July 7, 2011 @ 10:19 am

QB Eli Manning
Do you get the feeling that Eli is the Rodney Dangerfield of fantasy quarterbacks? Rodney couldn’t get any respect and neither can Eli. After his breakout campaign in 2005 when he finished as the fourth-ranked fantasy quarterback (albeit in a soft year for production at the position), he fell to 11th, 13th, and 15th over the next three years. However, over the last two seasons, Manning has made it into the top ten, finishing seventh this past season and 10th in 2009. Yet despite his two consecutive 4,000-yard seasons and 58 touchdowns over that period, look for Eli to be rated as a bottom-tier starter in 12-team leagues heading into 2011. “He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother” might best sum up the respect Eli gets in fantasy circles. Clearly Manning’s production is due in part to his solid supporting cast, including one of the league’s best trios of wide receivers in Hakeem Nicks, Steve Smith, and Mario Manningham—along with a solid pass-catching running back in Ahmad Bradshaw and a serviceable tight end in Kevin Boss. Look for the Giants to bring back that same supporting cast on offense, although Smith is a question mark because of the microfracture surgery he needed to repair the knee injury he suffered midway through last season. Considering his propensity for giving the ball away (25 interceptions and five fumbles in 2010), move Manning down in leagues that penalize turnovers, but consider him a decent option just outside the big six at quarterback.

RB Ahmad Bradshaw
Last year Bradshaw won the training camp battle against incumbent starter Brandon Jacobs and proceeded to have a solid season for the Giants. The former seventh-round pick produced career highs in rushing yards (1,235), receiving yards (314), and touchdowns (8), finishing 13th overall at running back. The only black mark on his season was his six fumbles, which caused head coach Tom Coughlin to relegate him to backup status from Week 12 to 16. The Giants have become more of a passing team over the last two seasons, and that virtually ensures that Bradshaw will remain the starter due to Jacobs’ inability to catch the ball. Bradshaw enters 2011 as a mid-tier RB2 with upside and with a mild amount of risk due to his fumbling issues.

RB Brandon Jacobs
Jacobs enters 2011 coming off a pair of subpar fantasy seasons. He was injured and largely ineffective in 2009 and then lost his starting position to Ahmad Bradshaw last season. Jacobs was a rising fantasy star after posting consecutive 1000-yard seasons in 2007 and 2008 as well as putting up 15 touchdowns in 2008. However, Bradshaw appears to be firmly entrenched as the starter, so the prospect of Jacobs emerging as a fantasy stud appears to be over. While his fantasy stock has taken a hit, he remains a solid RB3 and a great flex option in leagues that employ the position. Despite losing his starting position, he still managed to average 8.9 points per game—a drop of only 0.3 from 2009—with 882 total yards and nine touchdowns. In addition, he has only missed one game over the last two seasons, putting to rest the injury concerns that plagued him earlier in his career. He also raised his yards per carry from 3.7 in 2009 to 5.6 last season. Add it all up and he might provide value on draft day.

WR Hakeem Nicks
After a solid rookie campaign, Nicks entered 2010 on the verge of overtaking Steve Smith as Manning’s go-to receiver. Sure enough, he blasted out of the gates with a four-reception, 75-yard, three-touchdown performance against the Panthers in Week 1. From there, Nicks went on to establish himself as the team’s top receiving threat, having an outstanding sophomore season with 79 receptions for 1,052 yards and 11 touchdowns, despite missing two games with injuries. Entering 2011, Nicks has the potential to become one of the top five receivers in the league due to his impressive combination of size, speed, and route-running ability, although he is still prone to the occasional drop. With Steve Smith likely to suffer a dip in production courtesy of offseason microfracture surgery, look for Nicks to see a big increase from the 128 targets he had in 2010. Because of that, he is a solid bet to finish in the top ten at wide receiver, and a top-five ranking would come as no surprise.

WR Steve Smith
Smith burst onto the scene in 2009, finishing the year with 107 receptions (the most in team history) for 1,220 yards and seven touchdowns. With the Giants moving to more of a pass-based offense, more of the same was expected last season. However, Smith caught the injury bug, suffering a torn pectoral muscle that caused him to miss four games, only to return and suffer a season-ending knee injury in Week 14. Even when he was in the lineup, his production was down, with his point-per-game average slipping from 10.3 to 7.9. With Mario Manningham developing into a big play receiver and Smith’s recovery from microfracture surgery uncertain—and a stint on the PUP to open the season not out of the question—he ranks as a backup wide receiver at best in 2011. And don’t forget that he’s a better option in PPR leagues than in standard scoring formats.

WR Mario Manningham
After washing out during his rookie season in 2008, Manningham finished as the 28th-ranked fantasy wide receiver in 2009 and then improved upon that in 2010, finishing 15th. He became better in every area last season, finishing with 60 receptions for 944 yards and a healthy nine touchdowns, which were all career highs. What is even more impressive is that he managed that with only 92 targets while catching 65.2 percent of those targets—a very high percentage considering he finished the year averaging 15.7 yards per reception. With Steve Smith coming off a knee injury and Manningham having shown major improvement over the past two years, he is a breakout candidate in 2011. Look for Manningham to open the season in the starting lineup and relegate Smith to a backup role. There isn’t anything to suggest he can’t finish as a WR2 again in 2011, especially since he should see the ball more. He will likely be a bargain on draft day.

TE Kevin Boss
Entering his fifth season in the league, it appears that the mold has been set for Boss’s offensive production. Basically, it’s touchdowns, touchdowns, touchdowns. He doesn’t catch a lot of balls (42 is his career-high), he doesn’t get a lot of yards (a career-high of 567), and he’s wildly inconsistent with 19 games of five fantasy points or fewer in his 30 games over the last two seasons. However, he has 16 touchdowns over the past three seasons and has scored at least five every year. Entering 2011, there may be more opportunities for Boss to produce with Steve Smith recovering from a knee injury. He will need to hold off third-year player Travis Beckum for the starting nod, but that appears likely. Boss is clearly a TE2 with little upside and ranks as a mid-tier backup.

Player Outlooks – Dallas Cowboys

By: — July 5, 2011 @ 3:07 pm

QB Tony Romo
After finishing as a top-five fantasy quarterback in 2009, Romo gave his owners high expectations entering 2010 that were dashed with a broken clavicle that ended his season in Week 6 and also put the team’s playoffs hopes to bed. That’s the bad news. The good news is that Romo was having a solid campaign before he was injured, averaging 21.3 points per game, a very slight decline from the 22.3 points per game he averaged from 2007 through 2009. Although there are questions along the offensive line, the Cowboys figure to return all of their key passing weapons from a year ago and are expecting major improvement from 2009 first-round pick Dez Bryant. Add it all up and Romo is a solid bet to finish with 4,200 yards and close to 30 touchdowns. That should be enough to finish just outside of the big six at quarterback.

RB Felix Jones
The Cowboys’ depth chart at running back has been in flux for much of the offseason, with Jones’ fantasy prospects along for the ride. On the plus side, the Cowboys are very likely to release Marion Barber, who was Jones’ main competition for the starting position. On the down side, the team chose DeMarco Murray in the third round of the draft with the expectation that he will assume Barber’s role in the backfield. While competing with a rookie for touches is preferable to competing with an established veteran, the bottom line is that Murray’s selection is a clear signal that the team does not consider Jones a candidate to assume a big workload, despite the fact that he finished with career highs in rushing yards (800), receiving yards (450), and receptions (48). Murray’s presence will once again make the Cowboys backfield a running-back-by-committee approach, with Tashard Choice also in the mix. Jones is clearly a talented runner who possesses blazing speed, but that hasn’t translated into consistent production. Entering his fourth season, this is likely Jones’ last chance to prove his worth as a starter in Dallas. With Murray on board to steal goal line touches, Jones’ touchdown production (eight through his three years in the league) isn’t likely to rise, and neither is his 26th ranking from last season. There’s basically no reason to expect a breakout campaign from Jones in 2011, and that makes him a RB3 with little upside.

RB DeMarco Murray
The Cowboys like to employ at least one bruising back, and with Marion Barber suffering a major decline in production last season, the team used a third-round draft pick on Murray. He is a similar player to Barber, but with more speed and less size, making him a better option than veteran Tashard Choice to win the backup role behind Felix Jones. Murray unfortunately had injury issues at Oklahoma, so we’ll have to wait to see how well he handles the pounding at the pro level. But given Jones’ injury history and the Cowboys’ reluctance to give a meaningful opportunity to Choice, Murray has intriguing fantasy potential. At worst, he wins the short-yardage and closer role. At best, he ends up getting significant touches as Jones’ misses time. He is a must-have as a handcuff to Jones and worth grabbing as one of the first backups off the board at running back.

RB Tashard Choice
Personally, I like Choice. I’m just not too sure the Cowboys feel the same way. With Felix Jones and Marion Barber in the fold, Choice was clearly the team’s third option at running back. Barber is expected to leave, but the team drafted a replica of him in the third round in DeMarco Murray. Expect Choice to be the fallback option once again in 2011. He has been productive when given an opportunity, as evidenced by his double-digit fantasy points in four of the five games in which he has received 15 or more touches. However, his likely status as the third-string running back in Dallas makes him waiver wire material in all but the deepest leagues.

Austin will be happy to see Romo under center in 2011.

WR Miles Austin
After having a breakout season with 1,320 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2009, Austin was a bit of a disappointment last season even though he remained productive. Despite losing Tony Romo at quarterback, Austin still managed to haul in 69 passes for 1,041 yards and seven touchdowns—good enough to finish as the 17th-ranked fantasy wide receiver. However, more was expected from him since he was ranked in the top ten by nearly every fantasy prognosticator. With Romo back in the saddle, Roy Williams clearly an afterthought, and Dez Bryant displaying some offseason difficulties, Austin is in line for another big season in 2011. In the five full games Romo played, Austin had three games of double-digit targets and fantasy points (averaging 12.1) with more than 100 receiving yards in each of those games. For 2011, he shapes up as a high-end WR2 with upside and the possibility of replicating his top-five fantasy ranking from 2009.

WR Dez Bryant
The talent is there. The opportunity is there. But is Bryant’s production going to get there, too? Tough question. The Cowboys gambled on Bryant, using the 24th pick in the 2010 draft on a player who likely had top-five talent. As a rookie last season, he displayed his big-play ability both in the passing game and as a returner, finishing the year with 45 receptions for 561 yards and six touchdowns plus a pair of punt return touchdowns, all despite missing four games with a broken leg. However, many of his targets were on screens and short passes, which created the lingering suspicion that he failed to grasp the playbook. That potential issue, made worse by a shortened offseason (as well as his offseason problems and the petulance he displayed at times as a rookie) increase his risk and make the odds of his having a breakout season in 2011 somewhat remote. That being said, he is a gifted player capable of being one of the top five wide receivers in the league. Just don’t bank on that happening this season. Look for Bryant to be a WR3 in 2011, but a player with significant upside.

WR Roy Williams
Has a wide receiver with more talent ever accomplished less than Roy Williams? It is hard to think of one. The light has never fully gone on for the big, fast and reasonably shifty Williams, who has topped 1,000 receiving yards just once in his seven seasons in the league. And he hasn’t gone over 600 yards in any of the past three seasons, although his fantasy production has been padded by the 14 touchdowns he has scored over that span. Williams will turn 30 during the 2011 season, and while that isn’t a huge issue for many receivers, it’s just another reason to avoid this major disappointment.

TE Jason Witten
Entering 2010, Witten’s fantasy reputation was as a player who gained significant yardage year in and year out but who failed to find the end zone on a regular basis, with just six touchdowns combined over the 2008 and 2009 seasons. He put that to rest last season, scoring a career-high nine touchdowns to go along with 94 receptions (for the second year in a row) and 1,002 yards, good enough to make him the top-ranked fantasy tight end. For 2011, the only red flag on Witten is that he caught just two of his nine touchdowns during the six games that Tony Romo started. Ignore that, however, since Witten has topped 90 receptions and 1,000 yards in three of the last four seasons, chalking up 81 receptions for 952 yards in a “down” year in 2008. He’s money and ranks behind only Antonio Gates for 2011.

Player Outlooks – New York Jets

By: — July 1, 2011 @ 1:58 pm

QB Mark Sanchez
Sanchez has had an interesting two-year run as the Jets’ starting quarterback. Since being taken with the fifth pick in the 2009 draft, he has led the jets to the AFC Championship Game twice, losing both times. Despite that success, he hasn’t received the acclaim one would expect from such a successful start to his career. On the fantasy side, Sanchez improved from the 23rd-ranked quarterback in 2009 to 18th last season, a tidy five-place jump. Nonetheless, that’s still backup status, and there isn’t a lot of evidence to suggest that another significant jump is in the cards for 2011. The Jets are a run-first team that features a quality group of receivers and a good pass-catching tight end in Dustin Keller. The offensive philosophy is based on taking few risks and not turning the ball over. While Sanchez improved his yardage total from 2,444 to 3,291 and his passing touchdowns from 13 to 17, his outlook for 2011 remains that of a fantasy backup.

RB Shonn Greene
With Thomas Jones out of the picture and LaDainian Tomlinson expected to assume the role of a third-down specialist and change-of-pace back, much was expected of Greene last year. And he flopped. Big time. Greene was drafted in some leagues as a low-end RB1 with upside, but he finished as the 37th-ranked running back in leagues with standard scoring. Removing running backs who can’t blame their poor production on injuries, Greene was likely the biggest fantasy bust at the position in 2010. But 2011 is a new year and a time for redemption. Tomlinson is a year older and Joe McKnight was so bad as a rookie last year that the Jets drafted Bilal Powell in the fourth round to challenge him. Greene figures to take over as the starter—if not on opening day, then sometime in 2011—and there is a strong possibility he will have a solid fantasy season. The team’s offensive line remains perhaps the best run-blocking unit in the league, and the offensive philosophy will be based heavily on the run. If Greene opens the season as the team’s starter, he figures to be a low-end RB1. If not, draft him as a RB2, but one with considerable upside if he can win the starting job by mid-season.

RB LaDainian Tomlinson
Well, I told you last year “those of you out there looking for a return to glory for LT in New York, you can think again.” And this year, I’m telling those of you out there expecting a repeat of last year’s return to glory, you can think again. LT was great last season, having a renaissance year with 914 rushing yards, a healthy 4.2 yards per carry, 52 receptions for 355 yards, and six total touchdowns. That placed him as the 18th-ranked fantasy back and provided excellent value to his owners, most of whom grabbed him with a low-round draft pick. That’s the good news. The bad news is that it was a tale of two seasons for LT as he basically hit a brick wall late in the year. He scored just one touchdown in his final nine games and averaged a measly 6.7 points per game in his last five games. From Week 6 on, he averaged only 3.3 yards per carry. At 31, LT is headed for backup status; but in a Jets offense that loves to run, he ranks as an upper-tier backup in 12- and 14-team leagues as well as a nice option in flex leagues.

WR Braylon Edwards
After his 2007 breakout season in Cleveland in which he caught 80 passes for 1,289 yards and 16 touchdowns, Edwards struggled mightily over the next two years, catching just 90 passes for 1,557 yards and seven touchdowns. Despite showing inconsistent hands at times, he had a bit of a renaissance in 2010, becoming a big-play threat for the Jets while making 53 receptions for 904 yards and seven touchdowns. Fantasy-wise, Edwards’ production dropped when Santonio Holmes returned from a four-game suspension. With Holmes in the lineup, Edwards’ fantasy points per game dropped from 10.2 to 7.6. In New York, Edwards won’t be the featured receiver, with a large part of his role being that of a deep threat. That makes him a WR3 at best in 2011.

WR Santonio Holmes
There’s not much to dislike about Holmes’ game. He has reliable hands and the speed to get deep. He can turn slants and crossing patterns into big plays. While he has never had a true breakout season, topping 1,000 yards only once in five years and never catching more than eight touchdown passes in a single season, the issue has usually been lack of opportunity, not talent. In Pittsburgh, he mostly played second fiddle to Hines Ward. Last season in New York, he missed the first four games of the season because of a suspension and then he was saddled with playing in a run-based offense that topped 200 passing yards in just six of the 12 games in which he played. Because he’ll be available for all 16 games and have another year in the Jets’ offensive system under his belt, Holmes figures to up his production in 2011. However, another sub-1000-yard season and five or six touchdowns seems most likely. That makes him a high-end WR3 in most leagues.

WR Jerricho Cotchery
With Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards in the fold, Cotchery will be relegated to the role of fill-in starter and to playing on obvious passing downs, meaning his days as a fantasy starter are clearly over. In fact, Cotchery didn’t even perform well when given an opportunity in 2010, catching just 47.7% of his targets—by far the worst performance in that category in his career. For further evidence of his demise, look to how his yardage totals have dropped in each of the last three years to just 433 last season. Summing it up, he’s a player on the decline playing as a backup in an offense that prefers to run. You can do better.

TE Dustin Keller
Over the last two years, Keller has been a reliable, albeit unspectacular, tight end for the Jets, which is somewhat of a disappointment after his impressive rookie campaign in 2008. He is coming off of a career year in 2010 when he finished the season with 55 receptions for 687yards and five touchdowns. Looks good until you dig a little deeper. First off, he caught just 54.5% of his targets, and this percentage has dropped over each of the past two seasons. Secondly, 55 of his 98 fantasy points and all five of his touchdowns came in the first four weeks of the season. Over the remaining 12 games of the year, he averaged a paltry 3.6 points per game. And that’s because once Santonio Holmes returned from a four-game suspension, Keller’s role in the Jets offense was reduced. With Holmes on board for 2012, look for Keller to produce as a TE2.

T.O. Ready to Play in August? Don’t Count On It

By: — @ 11:22 am
Filed under: Player Analysis

The T.O. Show is in it's final act.

I asked our resident athletic trainer, Bob Thompson, to give his analysis of T.O.’s mysterious ACL injury…

Injury: ACL tear and reconstruction
Healing Time: 6 months
Impact on the Field: More drama for this guy. Apparently T.O. injured his knee during a workout back in April. I have read a great deal on his injury because nothing seems to add up to me. Based on what his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, has said, T.O. injured his knee in April, had surgery for a torn ACL, and will be ready by the start of camp, if there is one. The problem that I have is that the time frame doesn’t add up. If T.O. did have surgery in late April, he would not be ready for full contact until October. And that is the best-case scenario. Ask Wes Welker, Owen Daniels, or anyone else with this injury how it works out when they come back to competition within the same calendar year. When a player tears his ACL, he may have little difficulty in performing everyday activities, but he will experience significant problems when placed in an athletic event. T.O. was seen walking around at an event in late April without any noticeable problem. That makes me believe he had surgery sometime in late April or early June and that Rosenhaus is talking him up as ready for camp because he is unsigned. If he takes the field earlier than he should, he will be nowhere as good as he once was. He was already losing speed, and if he loses any more ability, he would become a possession receiver—if he is willing to run those short routes over the middle. As has been reported, he was never a big fan of those routes and I doubt he starts becoming one now.

With all respect to Drew Rosenhaus, I’d be shocked if Owens makes any kind of impact on the field in August or anytime this season.  Sure he’s known for being a freakishly quick healer but at this point in his career, who’s going to sign him? He’s already worn out his welcome in San Francisco, Philadelphia, Dallas, Buffalo and Cincinnati. I’m sure Mr. Rosenhaus will do his job and land Owens a roster spot late in the season but make no mistake, the T.O. Show is in it’s final act.

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