Fantasy Football Strategy, Advice, and Commentary
By: Dave Stringer — August 2, 2011 @ 11:40 pm
Burress (one-year deal) will have to prove it to the Jets and to fantasy owners.
With a difficult salary situation and a hole at wide receiver opposite Santonio Holmes in their starting lineup, the New York Jets have reportedly reached a contract agreement with former Giant, Plaxico Burress.
The Jets lost backup receiver Brad Smith to division rival Buffalo and were apparently not willing to meet Braylon Edwards’ contract demands to secure his return to New York. That led to the signing of Burress, who will likely assume Edwards’ role as a red zone target and deep threat.
Burress returns to the league after a two-year absence stemming from a jail term related to shooting himself in the leg in a New York nightclub.
Although a significant market for his services seemed slim, there turned out to be remarkable interest, and the Jets were in the market for a veteran receiver. He was also recently linked to the Giants, Steelers, Eagles, Rams, and 49ers.
Given his age and time away from football, Burress faces significant challenges in returning as the player he was when he left the league. He will get that opportunity with the Jets, but in New York’s heavily run-based offense, his upside would appear be limited. In fact, it’s basically what Edwards accomplished in 2010—53 receptions for 904 yards and seven touchdowns. And the odds of Burress getting there seem remote.
He is 34, he hasn’t played in two years, and he has never had the reputation as a truly dedicated player. Not to mention that the Jets still have Jerricho Cotchery as their top backup receiver, a player who has 64 starts over the past five seasons.
For Burress to move up to WR3 status, he will need to find the end zone plenty because he’s just not going to get close to 1,000 yards. He will likely become the team’s top red zone target, so he could reach seven or eight touchdowns, but banking on touchdowns is never a smart thing.
If you’re willing to gamble on those touchdowns and the inconsistency that comes with them, you could roll Burress as a WR3. But there are better options out there that possess far more upside.
By: Dave Stringer — @ 11:29 pm
With Sproles in the mix, the Saints are now 4-deep at running back.
Having traded Reggie Bush to the Miami Dolphins, the New Orleans Saints were in the market for a versatile player to replace him. They found that player in former San Diego running back Darren Sproles.
Sproles figures to assume much of the role that Bush performed during his five-year career with the Saints. He joins a revamped Saints running back depth chart that includes Pierre Thomas, second-year player Chris Ivory, and rookie first-round pick Mark Ingram.
The Chargers franchised the diminutive Sproles for the 2009 season and retained his services last year, paying him close to $14 million over the past two seasons. Reports indicate the Saints will pay Sproles that amount over the next four years.
Because San Diego had a difficult salary-cap situation and had Mike Tolbert, 2010 first-round pick Ryan Mathews, and 2011 sixth-round pick Jordan Todman on their roster, it was expected that Sproles would leave as a free agent.
While Sproles is a dynamic player, he doesn’t enhance an offense the way Bush did, and he is unlikely to have as big an impact in New Orleans as Bush had.
In addition, Lance Moore was re-signed to a lucrative contract extension this offseason. A receiver’s new contract may seem to have little bearing on a running back’s production, but Moore was essentially Bush’s replacement as a receiver, often posting big numbers when Bush was injured. While Sproles will certainly contribute in the passing game, Moore’s lucrative deal likely means that he will get more playing time in 2011 than in previous years.
In the run game for the past few seasons, Bush essentially split time with Pierre Thomas and a second running back (first Mike Bell and then Chris Ivory last year). With Sproles now on the roster, the Saints are four deep at running back. This ensures that, barring injuries, Sproles won’t be receiving a significant number of carries.
If the presence of Sproles in New Orleans doesn’t sound too exciting from a fantasy perspective, there’s a reason for that. It’s all about opportunity. It’s hard to see Sproles getting significant touches in New Orleans, and that leaves him as waiver wire material unless those above him on the depth chart become injured.
By: Dave Stringer — @ 11:11 pm
QB Matt Schaub
After posting a career year in 2009, Schaub was subpar in 2010 as he suffered with Andre Johnson missing time, tight end Owen Daniels struggling to recover from a torn ACL, and the team’s rushing attack improving dramatically with the emergence of Arian Foster. Schaub’s passing stats dropped by 401 yards and he threw for five fewer touchdowns, going from 29 to 24. On the plus side, he remained healthy for the second year in a row, once again starting all 16 games for the Texans. In 2011, Daniels figures to be much improved, and Schaub should benefit if he and Johnson can avoid the injury bug. While a return to his 2009 form seems unlikely with Foster playing a major role, Schaub remains a solid fantasy starter. Consider him a notch below the big seven at quarterback and a good bet to repeat his 2010 production, with an outside chance to match his outstanding 2009 season.
Outta my way! Arian Foster powered his way through 2010 and is now a candidate for the top pick in fantasy football.
RB Arian Foster
In two years, Foster has gone from being an undrafted rookie free agent to being mentioned with the league’s top running backs. He’s even considered a potential top overall selection in fantasy drafts. When rookie second-round pick Ben Tate went down with a season-ending injury last preseason, Foster was already well on his way to relegating the rookie to backup status. Foster has good size and held up well in carrying a workhorse load for the Texans last season, as his 393 touches attest to. Better yet, the Texans were happy to hand him that role, leaving main backup Derrick Ward with only 58 touches on the year. Foster chalked up 1,616 rushing yards to go along with 604 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns. You can put to rest any concerns that Tate is going to eat into Foster’s workload in a meaningful manner, or that Foster was a one-year wonder. He’s a safe top-three pick in 2011, and the case can certainly be made for taking him first overall when considering the quarterback issues in Minnesota and Tennessee.
RB Ben Tate
What a difference a year makes. Last season, the Texans used a second-round pick on Tate with the expectation that the rookie would immediately become their featured back. But a preseason ankle injury ended his rookie season, and Arian Foster took over to become the most productive running back in the league. In 2011, Tate will battle with Derrick Ward for the scraps that Foster leaves behind. Because Foster is a complete back, capable in both short-yardage situations and the passing game, those scraps won’t amount to much. Unless Tate wins the backup role over Ward outright, he isn’t even worth a low-round pick in redraft leagues.
WR Andre Johnson
For the first time in a couple of years, Johnson cannot be considered the surefire top fantasy wide receiver for the coming season. While he continued to play at a high level, he failed to top 1,500 receiving yards (as he had in 2008 and 2009). Of course, missing three games due to injury was the biggest problem; he averaged 93.5 yards per game in the games he actually played. Look for him to up his production in 2011, but the days of coming close to 1,600 receiving yards are likely over with Arian Foster eating into the Texans’ passing game production. While the case could be made for taking others as the first wide receiver off the board, Johnson should regain his title in 2011 as the most productive fantasy wide receiver.
WR Kevin Walter
Try as they might, the Texans are having a hard time getting Walter to play a reduced role with the team. Although Houston regularly touts the potential of Jacoby Jones, Walter continues to average about five targets a game, making both players marginal plays from a fantasy perspective. Walter caught 51 passes for 621 yards and five touchdowns last season, but a closer look reveals that 68 of his 92 fantasy points came in five games. Good luck figuring out when to use him. Regardless, with the team’s decision to hand Jones a lucrative long-term contract extension, things should change in 2011—just not in Walter’s favor. Walter lacks upside and is likely headed for a reduced role. He’s waiver wire material at best.
WR Jacoby Jones
The Texans apparently love Jones, and what’s not to love? He has good size and breakaway speed, and he can get open. Unfortunately, he doesn’t always run the right route and he doesn’t always catch the ball. Still, his numbers have improved in each of the last two years, and the team signed him to a three-year contract, so they may reward him with more playing time. However, with Arian Foster, Andre Johnson, and Owen Daniels clearly ahead of Jones in the pecking order, and Kevin Walter a worthy third wide receiver, Jones just isn’t likely to get enough looks to be a consistent contributor in 2011. He’s a late-round pick in redraft leagues.
TE Owen Daniels
The question with Daniels heading into 2010 was whether he had fully recovered from the torn ACL that ended his 2009 season. However, when the season started, he also had to deal with hamstring issues and never really regained the Pro Bowl form at which he played in 2009. Another year removed from the surgery, Daniels could easily rebound in 2011. Just look at how he finished his 2010 campaign. Over the final two weeks, he caught 13 passes for 135 yards and a pair of touchdowns, hitting double-digit fantasy points in each game. Look for that to happen much more frequently in 2011. Consider him a lower-tier fantasy starter, but one who could make a surprise jump into the top five.
TE James Casey
Casey was regarded as a potential replacement for Owen Daniels when the Texans took him in the fifth round of the 2009 draft. However, despite Daniels’ missing significant time over the last two seasons, Casey rarely saw the field because he couldn’t beat out journeyman Joel Dreessen. Following the team’s decision to sign Daniels to a four-year contract extension, Casey’s value in dynasty leagues has been pretty much extinguished.
By: Doug Orth — @ 6:13 pm
Last season, Arizona established the start of a pipeline when they sent Anquan Boldin to the Baltimore Ravens. On Sunday, the Cardinals fired their return shot when they agreed to a two-year contract with Todd Heap.
In 2010, Heap caught 40 passes for 599 yards and five touchdowns in 13 games – the fifth time in his career he has eclipsed 40 receptions, 500 yards and five scores in the same season. To put that accomplishment into some kind of perspective in the long history of the Cardinals’ franchise, only two tight ends in franchise history have hit each of those benchmarks in the same year (Jackie Smith and Robert Awalt) and both of those players only did it once in their time with the team. So, to say Heap adds another dimension to this team is a gross understatement.
For a Cardinals team that has been a virtual wasteland for fantasy TEs since the days of Freddie Jones, Heap is a huge get. Even at age 31 with a poor record of durability, Heap fills a void that has existed in Arizona for countless years. The signing is also the latest in a number of recent moves from the Cardinals to do whatever takes to make Kevin Kolb’s adjustment to the desert as smooth as possible. As far as Heap is concerned from a fantasy perspective, his arrival in Arizona is basically a lateral move. If owners were targeting him as a low-end TE1 before, they should do so now as well. As it has been for years, his biggest flaw is his injury history, so be sure to pair him up with another high-upside, late-round TE. But his presence should definitely make the lives of Larry Fitzgerald and Kolb much easier, especially since Kolb has already shown a willingness to throw to the tight end. The biggest loser with Heap coming to town is rookie Rob Housler, who was set to take on the pass-catching TE role in this offense before this signing.
By: Mike Krueger — August 1, 2011 @ 2:22 pm
Player Projections, Rankings & Cheatsheets
Change Log – 8/1
- Kevin Kolb (#20) comes to ARI as a QB2 with upside.
- Kyle Orton (-7) slides as starting spots across the league dwindle and rumored MIA deal fizzles.
- Vince Young (+15) lands in a good situation but has little fantasy value barring a Vick injury.
- Todd Heap (+3) gets a slight boost. Could be second-leading receiver in Arizona.
- Ed Dickson (+15) gets a crack at the starting job in Baltimore.
- Kellen Davis (+14) gets a crack at the starting job in Chicago but still fantasy irrelevant.
- Greg Olsen (-6) will share targets with Jeremy Shockey in Carolina.
By: Dave Stringer — @ 3:14 am
With a youth movement under way and their star wide receiver no longer in their plans, the Cincinnati Bengals have traded Chad Ochocinco to New England. Reports indicate the Bengals will receive the Patriots’ fifth-round draft pick in 2012 and their sixth-round pick in 2013.
Me? No longer the imposing deep threat?
The enigmatic Ochocinco has spent the last few seasons talking his way out of Cincinnati. With the team expected to start rookie quarterback Andy Dalton and having used their fourth pick in the draft on wide receiver A.J. Green, Ochocinco finally got his wish.
In New England, he will join a receiving unit that has lacked a proven deep threat since Randy Moss was traded early in the 2010 season. He will start opposite Deion Branch with Wes Welker playing out of the slot.
Ochocinco is coming off a disappointing 2010, having caught just 67 passes for 831 yards and four touchdowns during a season in which Terrell Owens overtook him as the team’s lead receiver.
In Cincinnati, Ochocinco would have been the lead receiver on a team that will likely start a rookie quarterback and would have been looking to reduce the receiver’s role as they underwent a youth movement.
Going to New England, Ochocinco joins one of the NFL’s most prolific offenses led by arguably the league’s top quarterback in Tom Brady, so this trade increases his 2011 fantasy prospects.
However, expecting him to return as the fantasy stud he was a few years ago is ill-advised.
New England’s offense features a pair of solid, young pass-receiving tight ends in Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez; Welker remains the league’s top slot receiver; and Branch was a good, if inconsistent, performer last season after coming over from the Seahawks.
In addition, Ochocinco is approaching 34, he has failed to reach 1,000 receiving yards in two of the last three seasons, and he is no longer the imposing deep threat he was for most of his career.
He was a WR5 in Cincinnati, and while the move to New England should increase his production, he still ranks no better than a low-end WR3 with the Patriots.
The biggest fantasy losers in this deal are Dalton and Branch. Dalton loses his top receiver while Branch will likely see his targets reduced. Branch was rated as a WR3 before the trade but drops to an upper-tier WR4.
By: Dave Stringer — @ 2:54 am
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While the quick thought is to write off the aging McNabb’s fantasy prospects for 2011 after a disastrous season last year in Washington, there is hope for a rebound this year in Minnesota. He was ill-suited for Mike Shanahan’s offense and is a better fit in Bill Musgrave’s version of the West Coast offense. With the team grooming rookie first-round pick Christian Ponder, McNabb will likely start in Week 1 and has a chance to hold on to the starter’s role as long as the Vikings remain in playoff contention. He will be 34 on opening day, and several quarterbacks have remained productive into their late thirties. In Minnesota, the wide receiver depth chart took a hit with the loss of Sidney Rice, but Percy Harvin may be ready to ascend to the No. 1 receiver role. There is also talent at tight end and in the running game. Add it all up and McNabb looks like a lower-tier QB2 with some risk that he may not be starting during the fantasy playoffs.
With Brett Favre likely to stay retired this time, Tarvaris Jackson a free agent, and Joe Webb the only quarterback on the roster, the Vikings used their first-round pick to acquire Ponder, and it looked as though he would open the season as the starter. The Donovan McNabb trade all but ended that scenario. Nonetheless, the rookie walks into a great opportunity and could be starting by midseason if the Vikings struggle under McNabb. If that happens, however, Ponder will face many obstacles in 2011. Top wide receiver Sidney Rice left as a free agent, and Bernard Berrian is coming off a poor season and is likely to be released unless he accepts a salary reduction. Because of the league’s labor strife, Ponder was also robbed of valuable practice time. While he was productive in college at Florida State, he lacks a big arm and was injury-prone during his time there. But the Seminoles threw it plenty, and that works in Ponder’s favor. He is waiver wire material in redraft formats but is a mid-tier prospect in dynasty leagues.
Webb wasn’t horrible replacing Brett Favre in 2010, but with the lockout in place and free agency delayed, the Vikings were pushed into choosing Christian Ponder in the first round of the draft. And if that didn’t torpedo Webb’s short- and long-term prospects, as well as his fantasy value for the 2011 season, then the Donovan McNabb trade certainly did.
There is only one running back who has finished with a top-three fantasy ranking over the past four seasons, and that player is Adrian Peterson. While you could make the argument that there are better all-around backs in the league, there is little doubt that Peterson is the best pure runner in the NFL. In just four years, he has rushed for 5,785 yards and 52 touchdowns and caught 119 passes for another 1,170 yards and two more touchdowns. Let’s put it in perspective. Peterson averages 13.5 touchdowns per season, which would qualify as a career year for most running backs and is 3.5 more than Steven Jackson has scored over the last two years combined—and Jackson is regularly mentioned as a lower-tier RB1. Peterson’s is money in the bank and a near-certain bet to remain highly productive in 2011. The issue of having a new quarterback in the Vikings’ system drops AP down a notch, but he remains a lock to finish in the top five if he avoids the injury bug.
With the league’s top pure runner ahead of him, Gerhart stands little to no chance of carving out a meaningful role in Minnesota. To make things worse, Adrian Peterson is a more-than-capable short-yardage runner, and Gerhart isn’t a proven receiving threat. That limits his upside and makes him little more than a handcuff for 2011 and beyond, barring a catastrophic injury to Peterson. Therefore, the issue becomes whether Gerhart would produce if given an opportunity. While he looked tentative at times as a rookie, he was solid in his lone start in Week 15 against a stingy Bears defense, gaining a respectable 95 yards on 19 touches. There you have it—that’s all you need to know about Gerhart.
Let’s be honest. As a football fan, it’s not hard to like Percy Harvin. He’s a jack-of-all-trades who is capable of making plays as a rusher, receiver, and returner. The problem is that as a fantasy owner, you need to remove your personal feelings for a player to determine his true value. The book on Harvin coming out of Florida as a first-round pick was that he was a bit of a malcontent who would get plenty of touches as a running back and as a receiver while also contributing in the return game. However, it hasn’t really materialized that way. His role as a kick returner takes him out of the base offense for a few snaps each game. And he has taken a handoff only 33 times in his first two years. With Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart around, don’t expect much to change in 2011. The big positive for Harvin is Sidney Rice’s decision to leave for Seattle, which makes Harvin the de facto No. 1 wide receiver in Minnesota. While his migraine issues could flare up at any time, the addition of Donovan McNabb at quarterback and Rice’s departure increase the likelihood of Harvin busting out in his third year in the league. He looks like a lower-tier WR2 with significant upside.
With Sidney Rice out with a hip injury, Berrian had a chance to re-join the starting lineup and give the Vikings a reason to pay him the $3.9-million salary he is due for the 2011 season. Yeah, that didn’t happen. The Vikings couldn’t have been impressed with his 28-reception, 247-yard, zero-touchdown season, and his fantasy owners certainly weren’t either. Barring a salary reduction, he won’t be back in Minnesota next season, and there’s a decent chance the Vikings won’t even bother re-signing him—he averaged a paltry 8.8 yards per reception last season and wasn’t much better in 2009 with 11.2 yards per catch. When your deep threat becomes a bigger threat to your team’s salary cap than to opposing defenders, you move on. You should too. Berrian is waiver wire material at best.
Last year I told you that Shiancoe’s overreliance on touchdowns made him an inconsistent contributor at tight end and increased his risk factor. Sure enough, he caught just two touchdowns in 2010 after grabbing 11 in 2009 and eight in 2008. He dropped to 24th among tight ends, and with rookie second-round pick Kyle Rudolph on board, the odds of Shiancoe returning to his status as a fantasy starter are not great. The addition of McNabb does help his case a bit, however. Move him up to TE2 status if he relegates Rudolph to a clear backup status. Otherwise, you can do better.
Rudolph was widely regarded as the premier tight end in this year’s rookie draft, and with Visanthe Shiancoe entering the final year of his contract, the Vikings grabbed Rudolph in the second round. Shiancoe has never been a feared receiver and is a poor fit for new offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave’s West Coast offense. Nonetheless, Rudolph isn’t likely to beat out Shiancoe by Week 1, particularly since he hasn’t had an offseason to learn the team’s playbook. Keep an eye on him as potential bye-week filler off the waiver wire in redraft leagues, and consider him the top tight end prospect in dynasty league rookie drafts.
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