Fantasy Football Strategy, Advice, and Commentary
By: Dave Stringer — June 29, 2012 @ 9:34 am
In real football terms, Dalton delivered far more than was expected of him as a rookie signal caller in 2011, leading the Bengals to a 9-7 record and earning a wildcard playoff spot. Along the way, he threw for 3,398 yards with 20 touchdowns and 13 interceptions and even chipped in 152 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Considering he didn’t have the benefit of a full offseason, those accomplishments were impressive but it’s safe to say more is expected in 2012. The knock on Dalton is that he lacks elite arm strength which hurts his ability to make big plays but that is somewhat offset by having the opportunity to play with wide receiver A.J. Green, who has the ability to adjust in midflight on deep passes. For Dalton to improve on his 15th fantasy quarterback ranking from a year ago, he will need both Green and tight end Jermaine Gresham to make improvements and for another player to step up opposite Green at wide receiver. Dalton hit the rookie wall in Week 13, tossing four touchdowns and averaging just 178 passing yards per game over his final five games, which included four games with less than 200 yards passing. On the plus side, he averaged 27 rushing yards over his final three games, including the team’s wildcard playoff loss. Heading into 2012, Dalton ranks as a middle tier QB2 with upside if he gets some unexpected production opposite Green.
With Cedric Benson having worn out his welcome in Cincinnati despite having produced three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, the Bengals signed former Patriot Green-Ellis to take over as the team’s starting running back. Green-Ellis and Benson are remarkably similar players in both the running and passing games but Green-Ellis has much better ball protection skills, having never fumbled during his four years in New England. In essence, much of Green-Ellis’ appeal is that he doesn’t make mistakes since he isn’t a big play threat and his ability as a receiver leaves much to be desired. He derived much of his fantasy production in New England from his ability to find the end zone (24 touchdowns over the last two seasons) and churn out yards in the fourth quarter. Let’s just say those opportunities won’t be as bountiful now that he’s in Cincinnati. The Bengals have said they want to go with more of a committee approach so The Law Firm is unlikely to approach the 21.7 touches per game that Benson averaged over the last three seasons. However, if the Bengals liked Bernard Scott, they would have handed him the starting job and not signed BJGE. Add it all up and Green-Ellis rates as a lower tier RB3 who isn’t risky but also lacks upside.
Scott enters his 4th year in the league having solidified his hold on the Bengals backup running back position. On the plus side, the Bengals finally followed through in 2011 on their oft-stated plans to get him more involved in the offense, with Scott reaching career-highs in rushing attempts, yards and touchdowns as well as in receptions. Unfortunately, the team couldn’t have liked what they saw – and with averages of 3.4 yards per rushing attempt and 2.9 yards per receptions, who can blame them? Scott will play a complimentary role to BenJarvus Green-Ellis and will be drafted as an RB5 late in your fantasy draft.
A.J. Green is looking to become one of the league's elite receivers.
What more could you expect? Despite not having an offseason, Green stepped into the Bengals starting lineup and with a rookie quarterback, put together a Pro Bowl quality season with 65 receptions for 1,057 yards and seven touchdowns in 15 games. His first year numbers topped those put up by Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald as Green became the first rookie wide receiver to make the Pro Bowl since Anquan Boldin in 2003. More is expected of Green in 2012 and it will qualify as a major surprise if he does not deliver. Andy Dalton struggled at quarterback over the Bengals final five games but both he and Green will benefit from having their rookie seasons under their belts as well as their first full offseason to work together. Look for the pair to improve on their 56.5% completion percentage and for Green to continue his ascension on his way to becoming one of the league’s elite receivers. He has the size, speed, leaping and athletic ability to be mentioned alongside Johnson and Fitzgerald as one of the league’s top wide receivers and that should happen no later than the 2013 season. In fact, it won’t be a surprise if he is at that level by the end of this season.
Chosen in the 3rd round of the 2012 draft, Sanu has an opportunity to compete for a starting spot as a rookie on a Bengals team desperate to find a solid starting option opposite A.J. Green. Coming out of Rutgers, Sanu has solid size at 6’2”, 210 pounds and is considered strictly a possession receiver given his inability to consistently get separation from defenders and the low average yards per catch he had in college. He has solid hands and will challenge for a spot outside although there is a chance he could also be used in the slot. With A.J. Green and Jermaine Gresham expected to eat up plenty of targets, Sanu rates as little more than a late round flier in redraft leagues provided he puts together a solid preseason.
After a solid rookie season with 52 receptions for 600 yards and three touchdowns, Shipley suffered a torn ACL in Week 2 last season. Shipley lacks the physical abilities to succeed playing outside and is best suited lining up in the slot which limits his upside. The Bengals figure to employ three wide receiver sets often in 2012 but Shipley will need to hold off rookie 3rd round pick Mohamed Sanu and 2nd year player Andrew Hawkins, who was decent filling in for Shipley for parts of last season. Given his uncertain role and the fact he is returning from a serious injury (albeit one suffered early last season), Shipley should go undrafted in all but the deepest of leagues.
With a hole in the starting lineup opposite A.J. Green, the Bengals chose Mohamed Sanu in the 3rd round of this year’s draft and Jones in the 5th. While Sanu is the more polished route runner and closer to contributing right away, Jones may have more upside given his superior speed (4.46 40-yard dash) provided he can add some bulk to his 6’3”, 200 pound frame. Jones didn’t put up huge numbers at California (62 receptions for 846 yards and three touchdowns in 2011) but will get an opportunity to earn a starting role in Cincinnati in 2012. While he will likely enter the season in a reserve role, Jones is worth monitoring as a potential waiver wire candidate in redraft leagues and he is a lower tier prospect in dynasty formats.
Cast aside by the Patriots after failing to justify his selection in the 3rd round of the 2009 draft, Tate found a home as a kick and punt returner with the Bengals in 2011. Although he failed to catch a single ball last season, he will compete for a role as a wide receiver and deep threat on a Cincinnati squad that lacks a proven producer opposite A.J. Green. Unless he surprises and opens the season in the starting lineup, Tate isn’t worth owning.
With Jay Gruden coming on board in 2011 as the Bengals offensive coordinator to run a version of the west coast offense, the hope was that Gresham’s role would be increased. However, that failed to materialize as his targets only increased from 83 to 92 (he missed two games). His production improved marginally to 56 receptions for 596 yards and six touchdowns. While that isn’t horrible, Gresham is clearly capable of much more given his outstanding athletic ability although there have been whispers that his route running and understanding of the team’s playbook could be improved. There is also the issue of whether Gruden is going to get him out into more patterns as opposed to staying in to block on passing downs. Gresham clearly has upside and the ability to become a mid-tier TE1 but until we have indications that his use is going up, draft him as an upper tier backup.
By: Dave Stringer — June 28, 2012 @ 9:00 am
The Colt McCoy era, if you can call it that, has seemingly come to a quick end in Cleveland with Weeden, the 22nd player taken in the draft, expected to take over in the starting lineup in 2012. That’s nice but the bottom line is that Weeden won’t enjoy much more success than McCoy unless the team receives improved performances from its running backs, wide receivers, tight ends and offensive linemen. McCoy suffered at least partly because he lacked a true number one wide receiver, a role the Browns hope that second-year player Greg Little can grow into. Running back Trent Richardson, the highest rated player at his position in this year’s draft, should help the ground game. While Weeden is a solid dynasty league prospect given his age, maturity and strong arm, he is not worth owning in re-draft leagues.
Browns president Mike Holmgren all but admitted that McCoy never got a fair shake in 2011 as he couldn’t overcome the poor performances from every other facet of the team’s offense. Despite his solid character and toughness (how many quarterbacks would have returned to the game after getting put on another planet from taking a James Harrison headshot?), McCoy may not have the arm strength to be anything more than a quality NFL backup. It remains to be seen whether he will be in Cleveland on opening day.
Richardson will have a tough time living up to his fantasy hype.
Let the hype machine get rolling! Best rookie running back since Adrian Peterson. No competition for touches in Cleveland. Three-down back. Bad passing attack means plenty of runs. Yada yada yada. Time to pour some cold water on the hype. Is he 99% of Peterson or just 80% (hey, I could tell people I applied to Stanford and avoid telling them I had a 0% chance of getting in). Is plenty of touches in one of the league’s worst offenses a recipe for fantasy production? Did we mention the rookie quarterback issue? Did we mention the lack of a true number one wide receiver? Have we gotten to the fact that most of the upper tier ranked rookie running backs have flopped in recent years? Check out the rookie production of Darren McFadden, Knowshon Moreno, Beanie Wells, LeSean McCoy, Mark Ingram and Daniel Thomas. There is little doubt that Richardson has impressive size, speed and agility and should be a three-down back, perhaps as early as this season. But the issue is value. Unless Richardson produces 1,500 yards and 8-10 touchdowns, his fantasy production is not going to merit where he is being drafted, which is as a lower tier RB1.
Here’s the way the NFL can work for running backs. You suffer a season-ending preseason injury in your rookie year, then battle injuries and ineffectiveness in your 2nd year and enter your 3rd season destined to be a backup. The NFL doesn’t wait for you. In 2011, Hardesty failed to prove that he is a starter worthy player, averaging just 3.0 yards per carry on 88 rushes and failing to find the endzone. While the Browns plan to give rookie 1st round pick Trent Richardson plenty of touches in 2012, Hardesty doesn’t even rate highly as his handcuff because the expectation is that he would split the role with Brandon Jackson and Chris Ogbonnaya if Richardson would go down. Hardesty rates as a lower tier handcuff in redraft leagues, provided he wins the backup job.
Ogbonnaya had a pair of solid performances subbing in as a starter in 2011, topping 100 total yards in consecutive games against the Rams and Jaguars. Unfortunately, he struggled badly in his two other starts against the Texans and Bengals. He will enter 2012 competing with Montario Hardesty and Brandon Jackson for a roster spot and the backup job behind rookie Trent Richardson. While Hardesty enters camp as the front-runner for that role, Ogbonnaya clearly outplayed him in 2011, averaging 4.5 yards per carry to just 3.0 for Hardesty. That helps Ogbonnaya’s chances of winning the job but he also clearly lacks Hardesty’s upside.
A toe injury ended Jackson’s season in training camp last season and he returns to the Browns hoping to secure the 3rd down pass-catching role that he fulfilled as a Packer for the majority of his four years in Green Bay. For Jackson to have any fantasy value in 2012, he will need to assume the lead backup role, for the Browns to use rookie 1st round pick Trent Richardson only occasionally on 3rd downs and for the dormant Browns offense to come alive next season despite having a rookie starting quarterback and no proven top level wide receiver. Play the odds, folks.
Every so often a player comes along and the fantasy world seems to completely overlook their prospects. Such is the case with Little in 2012. As a rookie, Little had his ups and downs. On the plus size, he amassed 61 receptions for 709 yards despite the shoddy quarterback play in Cleveland last season and the fact he missed all of his final college season due to a suspension. Not as impressive was his touchdown total (two), his double-digit drops and his average yards per reception (11.6). Heading into 2012, Little stands out as the only wide receiver on the Browns roster capable of assuming a leading role and he figures to benefit from strong-armed rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden. With rookie burner Travis Benjamin on the roster, there is even a chance that opposing defenses may have to respect the deep ball more than they did in 2011. A converted running back, Little shed some pounds this winter and that should help his YAC totals. He’s being drafted as a high end WR4 under the assumption he will merely match his 2011 production and that’s a bargain given his upside and lack of competition for touches in the Browns passing attack.
What’s the book on Massaquoi? Well, the Browns seem to love him with president Mike Holmgren once again predicting a breakout season for the 2009 second-round pick from Georgia. Let’s see if Mike’s on the ball on this one. Massaquoi’s receptions totals have went from 34 to 36 to 31 and his yardage totals have dropped in each of the last two years from 624 to 483 to 384. He has scored seven touchdowns in three years. And, perhaps most damning of all, Massaquoi has caught 41.6% of his passes over his three-year career. I don’t care how bad the quarterback play has been – that’s pathetic. Concussion issues hindered his production last year but there is absolutely no reason to have Massaquoi on any fantasy roster to open the season.
If you’re looking for a reason as to why you need to ignore the training camp hype, let’s look at Jordan Norwood. The Browns talked him up last summer and then proceeded to give him exactly two targets over their first six games. By season’s end, Norwood had accumulated just 23 receptions on 34 targets for 268 yards and a score. Best suited to play out of the slot, Norwood will battle rookie 4th round pick Travis Benjamin and veteran Josh Cribbs for that role in 2012. While he may put up some numbers in the first few weeks of the season, he figures to see his playing time decrease as Benjamin grows into the role. Norwood is not worth owning in 2012.
The Browns used a 4th round pick to acquire Benjamin and he has the opportunity to earn a significant amount of playing time in 2012. While some rookies have the pedigree to get that chance, Benjamin’s road to playing time is more the result of the Browns having arguably the worst group of wide receivers in the league. The speedster from the University of Miami has outstanding speed (4.34 40-yard dash) and his size (5’10”, 175 pounds) would seem to dictate that he play out of the slot. However, the knock on him coming out of college was that his route running needed improvement so it may take him half a season to carve out a meaningful role. In redraft leagues, Benjamin is worth monitoring as a waiver wire option and he rates as a lower tier prospect in dynasty leagues.
There was a time when it appeared that Cribbs would establish himself as a threat in the return game as well as on offense in both the running and passing game. Let’s stick a nail in that coffin. Cribbs managed career-highs in receptions with 41, receiving yards with 518 and receiving touchdowns with four in 2011 but failed to supplement that on the ground, getting just seven touches – his lowest total in five seasons. With a running back depth chart going four deep, that won’t change in 2012 and with the Browns focused on developing Jordan Norwood and rookie 4th round pick Travis Benjamin behind starters Greg Little and Mohamed Massaquoi, Cribbs figures to get even less use in 2012.
After failing to reach his vast potential and having several largely unproductive seasons in New England, Watson was a revelation in his first year with the Browns in 2010, catching 68 passes for 763 yards, both career highs, and three touchdowns. Unfortunately, he went back to being his underwhelming self in 2011, as concussion issues plagued him on his way to a 37 reception, 410 yard, two-touchdown season. At this point of his career, Watson figures to more into more of a blocking role with veteran Evan Moore and 2011 4th round pick Jordan Cameron assuming a larger portion of the pass catching duties. Watson is waiver wire material in 2012.
After putting together a few solid performances in 2010, Moore was expected to make a decent leap forward in 2011 but that failed to happen, despite starting tight end Ben Watson missing time with concussion issues. The Browns clearly don’t trust Moore in a blocking role so you have to wonder how much playing time he will get this season with the team committed to pounding the rock with rookie running back Trent Richardson. We see little reason to suggest Moore see much of an improvement on his 34 reception, 324 yard, four-touchdown performance from a year ago.
By: Dave Stringer — June 27, 2012 @ 10:57 am
Roethlisberger put together another workmanlike season in 2011, throwing for the 2nd most yards in his career (4,077) with 21 touchdowns. While those numbers are reasonably impressive, they were only good enough to rank as the 13th best fantasy quarterback and 14th on a FPts/G basis. He failed to put up starter quality fantasy points partly due to the decline in his rushing production, as he ran for just 70 yards and no touchdowns after averaging 125 yards and two touchdowns over the first seven years of his career. A late season high ankle sprain didn’t help matters, further proof that his refusal to throw the ball away increases his risk of injury. In 2012, Big Ben gets a new offensive coordinator in Todd Haley with Bruce Arians having been shown the door. While Haley’s Kansas City tenure was marked by huge production in the running game, he relied heavily on the pass as the Cardinals offensive coordinator so concern that the Steelers will pound the ball on the ground is overblown, especially considering that largely unproven Isaac Redman will assume the starting role while Rashard Mendenhall recovers from a torn ACL. With a pair of quality starting wide receivers in Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown and the talented yet injury-prone Emmanuel Sanders coming off the bench, the Steelers may actually throw the ball more this season. Consider Roethlisberger a low-end fantasy starter but one who could surprise on the upside, provided the offensive line replenishments work out. He could be a bargain on draft day.
Redman is a classic boom or bust candidate for 2012.
With Rashard Mendenhall almost certain to start the season on the PUP list, Redman gets his first chance at expanded playing time in 2012. A 230-pound bruiser out of Bowie State, Redman enters his 4th year in the league having served as Mendenhall’s backup his entire career. In fact, Redman’s running style is eerily reminiscent of Mendenhall’s although Redman doesn’t seem to have the same burst once he gets past the first wave of tacklers. Solid between the tackles, Redman averaged 4.4 yards per carry on 110 rushes last season, scoring three times. In the passing game, he is serviceable at best, averaging just 4.3 yards per reception on his 18 catches. With 2010 6th round pick Jonathan Dwyer having been a disappointment and coming off foot surgery that will keep him out until training camp, Redman is locked into the starter’s role but the questions are how long he will keep it and how much will new offensive coordinator Todd Haley rely on the run? Redman is a classic boom/bust pick, a player you should be comfortable drafting as your RB3 but scared to death of as your RB2.
Timing is everything and for Mendenhall, the torn ACL he suffered at the end of last season was the worst possible timing. Entering the final year of his rookie contract and having had three solid, yet unspectacular, seasons after a horrendous rookie campaign, Mendenhall will have little chance to earn a lucrative long-term contract extension in 2012 as he is likely to start the season on the PUP list. His best season came in 2010 when he ran for 1,274 yards and 13 touchdowns but averaged a less than stellar 3.9 yards per carry. Of course, his career average of 4.1 yards per carry can at least partially be laid at the feet of an offensive line that has struggled in recent seasons. Nonetheless, Mendenhall has not proven worthy of his 1st round draft status yet alone a lucrative contract so the Steelers aren’t going to be handing him his starting position back if Isaac Redman plays well. Let’s sum it up – Mendenhall needs to come back healthy, preferably early, and Redman needs to stink it up in order for him to get his job back. Oh, and he needs to be productive after suffering a torn ACL in Week 17. I’m not buying folks. I recommend you don’t either.
The 2010 6th round pick lost the backup role behind to Isaac Redman in each of the last two seasons and enters 2012 coming off a foot injury that ended his season in Week 13. The Steelers liked him coming out of Georgia Tech but he was a bust as a rookie and has earned just 25 carries in two seasons. Granted, he has averaged 6.0 yards per carry in his limited work but you might want to know that 76 of those yards came on one run. While it is nice that Dwyer sits behind the largely unproven Isaac Redman, he has done nothing to suggest that he can take advantage of a situation. Dwyer is worthy of a late round pick in your fantasy draft based on opportunity.
When the Steelers used a 5th round pick to nab a 5’9”, 175-pound running back, there were probably a few heads shaking. After closer examination, the pick isn’t so questionable after all. With Mewelde Moore no longer on the roster, Rashard Mendenhall expected to miss the first part of the season and neither Isaac Redman nor Jonathan Dwyer established pass catchers out of the backfield, Rainey could carve out a role as a 3rd down back early in 2012. He possesses outstanding speed, having been timed at 4.37 seconds in the 40, and should earn a decent amount of touches provided he stays healthy and doesn’t put the ball on the ground. He is a late round sleeper in larger leagues.
Wallace’s status entering 2012 appears uncertain as the Steelers 4th year wide receiver has thus far refused to sign his restricted free agent tender which would pay him $2.7-million for the upcoming season. With reports indicating that Wallace and his agent have instead asked the team for a long term contract averaging $14-16-million, the gulf between the parties is clearly huge. Wallace is coming off a solid 2011 campaign where he finished the year with 72 receptions (a career-high), for 1,193 yards and eight touchdowns. While those are solid numbers, he faded down the stretch and averaged a career-low 16.6 yards per reception. Over the final seven games of the season, he caught just 25 of 50 targets for 325 yards and a pair of scores. Despite that late season swoon, Wallace remains perhaps the most feared big play receiver in the game outside of Calvin Johnson and should be considered a mid-tier WR1 on draft day.
With Hines Ward clearly in decline and Emmanuel Sanders confined to the infirmary, Brown stepped up in a big way in 2011, catching 69 passes for 1,108 yards and two touchdowns in just his 2nd year in the league. While it would be foolhardy to suggest that Brown is a threat to emerge as an upper tier wide receiver or that his production wasn’t at least partially the result of playing opposite a big play threat in Mike Wallace, Brown showed far more athleticism than most thought he possessed. He consistently beat single coverage and displayed an ability to gain yards after the catch, a trait that made his two touchdown total all the more surprising. In terms of yards and receptions, it wouldn’t be a stretch to suggest that smallish Brown (5’10”, 186 pounds) has perhaps reached his potential so an increase in his fantasy production may need to come from an increased ability to find the end zone. Few 1,000 receivers manage just two touchdowns so look for that total to increase to the 6-8 range in 2012, making Brown a low-end WR2 on draft day.
Drafted in the 3rd round of the 2010 draft, Sanders was the player expected to eventually take over in the starting lineup for Hines Ward. Injuries have derailed that plan and Antonio Brown, taken in the 6th round in 2010, has laid claim to the starting spot opposite Mike Wallace with Ward now retired. Sanders role in 2012 is yet to be determined as he will either battle Jerricho Cotchery for the 3rd receiver role or for a spot in the starting lineup if Mike Wallace doesn’t sign his restricted free agent tender. Of course, Wallace stands to lose close to $170,000 each week he misses so we expect he will report just prior to Week 1 at the latest. Look for Sanders to nail down the slot receiver role.
Miller is now two years removed from his career-season in 2010 when he caught 76 passes for 789 yards and six touchdowns. Over the past two years, he has been used as a blocker more frequently and that has hurt his opportunities in the passing game, as evidenced by his target average of 70.5 in 2010 and 2011. Miller will turn 30 during the season, the Steelers offensive line will likely feature a pair of rookies and new offensive coordinator Todd Haley hasn’t exactly featured the tight end position very much in his play calling. Miller’s fantasy value is likely to be based on his ability to find the end zone and he has only done that four times over the past two seasons. He rates as a low-end TE2 with little upside.
By: Dave Stringer — June 26, 2012 @ 8:42 am
After a career year in 2010 with 3,622 passing yards and 25 touchdowns, Flacco was considered a solid candidate to have a breakout fantasy season in 2011. However, with Anquan Boldin in decline and Ray Rice having a career-year running the ball, Flacco never emerged as a consistent fantasy option as he failed to build on his solid 2010 campaign. Despite increasing his passing attempts by 53, his yardage total dropped to 3,610, his number of touchdown passes declined to 20 and he threw two more interceptions (12 in total). Let’s just say that Flacco’s offseason assertion that he is the best quarterback in the league may be off a tad (as in not even in the top 10). After another season of mostly dink and dunk passes (23rd in the league in yards per attempt) despite having dynamic rookie wide receiver Torrey Smith in the lineup, there is little reason to suggest that Flacco’s breakout season will arrive a year late. Consider Flacco a mid-tier backup.
Ray Rice: One of the safest picks in fantasy football.
Finally freed from the shackles of sharing red zone touches with a productive veteran (first Willis McGahee and then Ricky Williams), Rice put together his finest fantasy season with 2,068 all purpose yards and 15 touchdowns, good enough to finish as the top ranked fantasy running back. With Williams relegated to essentially a pure backup role, Rice eclipsed 2,000 yards for the second time in three seasons, reaching career highs in rushing yards (1,364), rushing touchdowns (12), receiving yards (704) and receiving touchdowns (three). At 25 years of age, Rice has plenty of solid years ahead of him and figures to approach the 367 touches he had last season given the lack of a proven backup. The only negatives with Rice are his contract situation (he has refused to sign his franchise tender) and his huge workload over the past three seasons where he has averaged 357 touches per year and has played in two playoff games each season. Given the lack of explosiveness in the Ravens offense, Rice lacks the upside of Arian Foster or LeSean McCoy but is the least risky of the three given the huge amount of yardage he has accumulated over the last three years (5,891 total yards).
With Ricky Williams riding off into the sunset, the Ravens used a 3rd round pick to acquire Pierce. Despite having good size at 6’0” and 218 pounds, he too often avoids contact and he can’t stay healthy. So, will practicing against Ray Lewis and the boys on the Ravens D make Pierce want to avoid contact more or less? Interesting question. Pierce will battle Anthony Allen for the opportunity to back up Ray Rice and Pierce figures to win that battle given his superior upside. However, there’s no chance of either player approaching the amount of touches (121) that Williams had last year.
The Ravens like Allen, a 2011 7th round pick, but apparently they didn’t like him enough to forego drafting a running back in this year’s draft, hence the selection of Bernard Pierce in the 3rd round. Allen has enough bulk at 230 pounds to move the pile but earned just three carries as a rookie. Monitor the Ravens backup running back situation in the preseason so you can grab the right handcuff if Ray Rice ends up on your fantasy squad.
Considered a raw prospect who possessed outstanding speed coming out of Maryland, the Ravens 2011 2nd round pick burst onto the scene with a monstrous Week 3 performance against the Rams, catching five passes for 152 yards and three touchdowns and having another scored called back because of a penalty. Let’s just say that Lee Evans’ early season injury turned out to be a blessing in disguise. While Smith proved to be inconsistent, he still managed to finish the season with 50 receptions for 841 yards and seven touchdowns, despite being targeted just once in the team’s first two games. He takes over as the team’s top threat at wide receiver in 2012 and figures to approach 1,000 yards and be around the seven-touchdown mark once again. Consider Smith a mid-tier WR3 with a big upside for the upcoming season.
While the fantasy world seems to have given up on Boldin, a closer look reveals that there wasn’t much, if any, drop off in his production between 2010 and 2011. In fact, you could argue he had a better season in 2011 with more yards (40) in two fewer games and just seven fewer receptions. His fantasy production suffered due to a drop in touchdowns from seven to three but that total should increase in 2012. Boldin will benefit from playing alongside a pair of speedsters in Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones, which should open up the intermediate routes that are his specialty and allow him to line up more in the slot. At 32 years of age, Boldin’s days as a WR1 are clearly behind him but a bounce back season could be in the cards. Draft Boldin as a low-end WR3 or high-end WR4 and consider him a better option in PPR leagues.
There aren’t many wide receivers out there who are as talented as Jones but have produced as little as he has. Despite possessing better than average size (6’2”, 210 pounds) and having outstanding speed, the light has never clicked on. The Texans dumped him after having signed him to a long-term contract prior to the 2011 season and it’s time for the fantasy world to give up on the hope that he will have a breakout season. He lands in Baltimore for two reasons: to return punts and because none of the players behind Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith have ever caught pass in the NFL. Even if Boldin or Smith were to get injured, Jones still isn’t worthy of your trust.
With the surprise release of Todd Heap last season, Dickson was thrust into a starting role and played reasonably well in his first year in that role, catching 54 passes for 528 yards and five touchdowns. Entering his third year in the league, Dickson is a talented tight end that needs to play more consistently and display better hands. Even if Dickson improves in those areas, he is unlikely to break out given the presence of fellow third year player Dennis Pitta. Pitta basically shared the pass catching role with Dickson last season, eating up 56 targets and his presence relegates Dickson to low-end TE2 status in 2012.
Although listed as a backup, Pitta essentially split the tight end role with Ed Dickson in 2011. In his first extensive playing time, Pitta hauled in 40 passes for 405 yards and a score and came on strong in a three game run that began in Week 17 and included two playoff games, catching 13 of 19 targets for 132 yards and two touchdowns. By season’s end, Pitta was the more reliable of the team’s two tight ends, as evidenced by his 71.4% completion percentage for the season compared to 60.7% for Dickson. Since the Ravens appear to prefer Dickson in the starting lineup and the role will likely remain a timeshare, Pitta isn’t worth owning in 2012.
By: Dave Stringer — June 23, 2012 @ 10:46 am
At 34 years of age, Brady put together another stellar campaign, throwing for 5,239 yards with 39 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. The yardage total would have been a league record if not for Drew Brees throwing for even more yards with New Orleans. There doesn’t appear to be any slippage in Brady’s game as he enters his 13th season in the league and there is nothing to suggest that he isn’t capable of another MVP-caliber season in 2012. In fact, you could easily make the argument that he has the chance to improve on his 2011 production. Starting running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis left in free agency and his most likely replacements consist of a pair of largely unproven second-year players. At wide receiver, the team added a deep threat in Brandon Lloyd as well as a steady veteran producer in Jabar Gaffney. And at tight end, the Patriots feature the most lethal combination of pass receivers in league history in Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. About the only negatives you can find are that Pro Bowl left tackle Matt Light has retired and left guard Logan Mankins is recovering from a torn ACL. Brady’s a top-three fantasy quarterback for 2012.
A committee approach will limit the value of any Patriots RB.
With BenJarvus Green-Ellis having departed via free agency to Cincinnati, Ridley will enter training camp as the team’s starter at running back… at least that is what the football world is expecting. What head coach Bill Belichick has in mind is anybody’s guess. Having looked solid in a reserve role as a rookie in 2011, Ridley shapes up as the best bet to start in a New England backfield that also includes Danny Woodhead, fellow 2nd year player Shane Vereen and former Colt Joseph Addai. Ridley is the most physical runner of the group and is the favorite to land the short yardage and fourth quarter clock eating work, provided he avoids the fumbling issues that landed him in Belichick’s doghouse last season. With so many options, look for Ridley to get 10-12 touches per game, which should be good enough to rank as a mid-tier RB3 in 2012.
Taken in the 2nd round of the 2011 draft, Vereen was expected to earn a role in the Patriots backfield committee last season but nagging injuries caused him to miss time in training camp and throughout the season. At season’s end, he had accumulated just 15 rushes for 57 yards and a score in five games. Fellow rookie Stevan Ridley surpassed him on the depth chart and Vereen enters 2012 competing with Danny Woodhead and Joseph Addai for the role as Ridley’s backup and as a pass receiving threat out of the backfield. Since we can all assume that New England will use each player in a situational role, Vereen will need to clearly beat out Woodhead and Addai to earn 8-10 touches a game and that seems unlikely. Woodhead has been productive in limited opportunities during his two years with the team and will likely approach the six touches per game he had last season. While Vereen is clearly the player to own rather than Woodhead or Addai given his upside, he also clearly ranks behind Ridley. He is a late round pick in redraft formats and has more value as a prospect in dynasty leagues.
A pleasant surprise in 2010 as a late training camp addition after being cut by the Jets, Woodhead saw his touches and production drop in New England last season. After registering 131 touches for 925 yards and six touchdowns in 2010, he posted just 95 touches for 508 yards and one score in 2012. With Shane Vereen expected to be healthy after several nagging injuries ruined his rookie season and Joseph Addai added in free agency, Woodhead has plenty competition for the team’s pass receiving role out of the backfield. He isn’t expected to get consistent touches this season and that makes him a borderline RB5 on your fantasy squad.
Cast adrift by the Colts, Addai landed with the Patriots after receiving little interest in the free agent market. While he enters training camp 4th on the depth chart behind Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen and Danny Woodhead, there is a decent argument that Addai would assume the lead role if Ridley were to go down with injury given his strengths as a pass protector and as a short yardage runner. Addai is also no slouch as a receiver but the biggest knock against him is his inability to stay healthy (12 missed games over the past two seasons). Those traits, along with the fact neither Vereen nor Woodhead have the bulk to be effective inside runners, could land Addai in a starting role if Ridley is injured or ineffective.
A year and a half removed from tearing his ACL, Welker returned to his dominant form in 2011 posting career highs in yards with 1,573 and touchdowns with nine while catching 122 passes, one short of matching his career-high. After suffering a torn ACL in Week 17 of the 2009 season, Welker’s production dropped in 2010 and there was some concern that injuries and age (he turned 30 prior to the start of last season) were beginning to catch up to him. He put those concerns to rest but apparently not enough to entice the Patriots to sign him to a lucrative long-term contract extension as he was slapped with the franchise tag for the upcoming season. That might be a good thing for his fantasy prospects as he will be forced to put together another strong year to get the contract he is looking for. While the Patriots have improved their depth chart at wide receiver with the additions of Brandon Lloyd and Jabar Gaffney, Welker’s role as the team’s main threat in the passing game will remain unchanged. He remains a top-ten fantasy wide receiver.
Coming off a career year in 2010 when he posted career-highs with 77 receptions for 1,448 yards and a whopping 11 touchdowns, Lloyd’s production suffered in 2011 due to a midseason trade from Denver to St. Louis as well as poor quarterback play on each team. Despite those issues, Lloyd still managed to haul in 70 receptions for 966 yards and five touchdowns, although those numbers don’t seem as impressive when you consider he had 150 targets. He moves to a New England squad that is lacking a deep threat and he figures to assume that role. The issue with Lloyd is how many targets he will get playing alongside Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez with fellow veteran wideouts Deion Branch and Jabar Gaffney also in the mix. Look for Lloyd to approach 1,000 yards with six or seven touchdowns but to suffer from inconsistent use. There is a strong possibility he will be overvalued on draft day as fantasy owners will likely overestimate the odds of him recreating the magic he had in Denver in 2010 with Josh McDaniels calling the plays, so buyer beware.
With Wes Welker back to full health and Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez gobbling up targets at the tight end position, Branch managed just six targets a game in 2011, catching 51 passes for 702 yards and five touchdowns. He will turn 33 by opening day and his age coupled with the addition of Brandon Lloyd figures to relegate Branch to a backup role in 2012 and a reduction in his usage. In fact, Branch may need to beat out Jabar Gaffney, another free agent addition, just to secure his roster spot. Branch should be avoided in fantasy drafts.
Basically written off in each of the past two seasons, Gaffney has been quietly productive, averaging 66.5 receptions for 911 yards and 3.5 touchdowns per season during that time period. Unfortunately for Gaffney, he’s going to need a serious injury situation to approach those numbers in 2012 with New England. He will battle Deion Branch for a backup role in the explosive Patriots offense but his fantasy value will hinge on his ability to win a roster spot and on players further up the depth chart having injury issues. You have better options.
After a solid rookie season in 2009 when he caught 37 passes for 359 yards and a touchdown, Edelman seemed a decent bet to eventually assume Wes Welker’s role in the team’s offense. However, after two seasons in which he totaled 11 receptions for 120 yards, the odds of that happening now seem remote. He would have some fantasy value, especially in PPR leagues, if Welker were to go down with an injury. Entering the season, Edelman’s only real fantasy value is if you own Welker in a deep league and want to handcuff him. Dynasty owners in deep leagues could also grab him in the hopes that Welker isn’t in New England in 2013.
After a strong rookie season which showcased his ability to make plays in the red zone but yielded just 546 receiving yards, Gronkowski’s role in the Patriots offense took off in 2011 as he set single season league records for the tight end position with 1,327 receiving yards and 17 receiving touchdowns. And for good measure he added another touchdown on the ground. He is clearly a major cog in one of the league’s best offenses so the question becomes: where do you take him? While Gronkowski has been a revelation in New England (and to his fantasy owners), the odds of him replicating his 2011 production are unlikely. Brandon Lloyd joins the Patriots this season as a proven deep threat and defenses will adjust and increase their focus on Gronkowski. His high ankle sprain at the end of last season was a reminder of the injury issues that caused him to drop into the 2nd round of the 2010 draft. Gronkowski rates as either the 1st or 2nd ranked fantasy tight end for 2012 but don’t get crazy and use a 1st round pick to get him.
Who says playing second fiddle to the most productive tight end in the league makes you a second fiddle fantasy option at the position? That certainly isn’t the case with Hernandez, who finished the 2011 season as the 3rd ranked fantasy tight end with 910 receiving yards and seven touchdowns in just 14 games. With an offense as prolific as the Patriots, there are more than enough targets to make Hernandez a solid fantasy option and that isn’t expected to change in 2012. While many fantasy prognosticators have Hernandez suffering a decline in his production in 2012 based on free agent wide receiver Brandon Lloyd gobbling up some of his targets, expect Hernandez will get at least as many targets as the 113 he had last season with no decline in his production. He can be regarded as the 3rd ranked fantasy tight end this season and no lower than 6th.
Why does Fells warrant a write up? Well, he put together a 41 reception season on a middling Rams squad in 2010 so he has some receiving ability and he joins a Patriots squad for the 2012 season that loves to throw to their tight ends. If Rob Gronkowski or Aaron Hernandez suffers a season-ending injury, Fells just might be worth a look.
By: Dave Stringer — June 22, 2012 @ 11:25 am
After a pair of seasons leading the Jets to the AFC Championship game, Sanchez put together a career year in 2012 with career highs in passing yards with 3,474, passing touchdowns with 26 and rushing touchdowns with 6. All the more impressive is that Sanchez produced despite having his lead receiver (Santonio Holmes) sulk his way through the season and having an aging Plaxico Burress on the other side with no proven third receiver on the roster and tight end Dustin Keller go through another late season swoon. The reward for Sanchez? A chance to compete with former Bronco Tim Tebow to retain his starting job. Not helping matters is that Holmes returns as the team’s lead receiver and Burress has been replaced by raw rookie Stephen Hill. The current plan is for the Jets to rotate Tebow in for a number of plays each game, basically torpedoing any fantasy value Sanchez had. Unless the rotation plan changes, don’t add Sanchez to your roster.
After a successful season in Denver that culminated in the Broncos winning the AFC West division crown and taking out a strong Steelers team in the first round of the playoffs, the Tebow show heads to the Big Apple for the 2012 season. Jettisoned to the Jets after the Broncos landed Peyton Manning, Tebow will enter the season as the backup to Mark Sanchez but will be rotated in for a number of plays each game. His exact role is yet to be determined but rest assured that it will include plenty of red zone touches, an area of the field he excelled in during the 2011 season. Tebow rates as a low-end fantasy backup if (when?) he unseats Sanchez.
After his strong late season and playoff run as a rookie in 2009, much was expected of Greene but he has largely disappointed over the last two seasons. With Thomas Jones out of the picture in 2010, Greene was expected to assume the lead role in the Jets backfield with LaDainian Tomlinson in a change of pace and receiving role. Unfortunately for Greene’s owners, LT still had some life in his legs and Greene flopped with 766 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Last season, LT was relegated to a pure backup role but Greene again failed to impress, gaining 1,054 yards and six touchdowns with three of those scores coming in Week 13 against the Redskins. In fact, if you take away his Week 13 and 14 games, Greene’s FPts average drops from 10.2 to 7.7, hardly confidence-inspiring. For 2012, Tony Sparano joins the Jets as their offensive coordinator, LT is gone and he will be replaced by Joe McKnight and Bilal Powell, neither of whom is a threat to steal Greene’s job. That means Greene should top his 253 rushing attempts from a year ago and it was also nice to see him active in the passing game last season with 30 receptions for 211 yards, both career highs. On the negative side, Tim Tebow joins the Jets and will likely garner plenty of red zone touches, making it almost impossible for Greene to significantly improve on his six touchdowns from a year ago. Add it all up and Greene shapes up as a risk-free RB2 in 2012.
McKnight is one of those players that, if you catch him on the right day, can fool you into thinking he’s talented enough for a major role. Don’t make that mistake. McKnight has topped 15 touches just twice in his two-year career, gaining 173 yards on 34 touches against the Bills as a rookie and 121 yards on 22 touches against the Broncos last season. However, the more telling statistic is the amount of carries the team’s coaching staff has given him in two years – 82 with 32 coming in the meaningless Week 17 win over Buffalo in 2010. McKnight has solid speed and the ability to make defenders miss but he is ill suited to assume a heavy workload if Greene were to go down. Grab him as Greene’s handcuff provided he beats out Bilal Powell for that role.
The Jets used a fourth-round pick in 2010 to acquire the Louisville product and he will get his first chance to earn extended playing time this season after sitting behind Shonn Greene, LaDainian Tomlinson and Joe McKnight as a rookie. Powell touched the rock in just two games last season, gaining 21 yards on 13 carries and showing little promise as an NFL back. However, Greene has failed to impress and McKnight is better suited running outside the tackles. There is a decent chance that Powell will sit third on the depth chart coming out of training camp but if Greene were to go down or struggle, Powell just might leapfrog McKnight to earn a more significant role.
Red flags mark Holmes' fantasy value in 2012.
Let’s run down the Holmes situation from 2011. Quitter? Check. Drama queen? Check. Fighting with the quarterback? Check. Called a team cancer? Check. Called out by teammates (more than once)? Check. Let’s face it folks, had the Jets not had to pay Holmes nearly $8-million in guaranteed salary for the upcoming season, he would have been released. Now let’s check in on the 2012 situation. Argued with his position coach, chucked his helmet and pulled himself out of an OTA because he thought he was being overworked? Check. Proceeded to sit out drills claiming injury? Check. If I haven’t convinced you that Holmes is a major risk, how about we check in on his 2011 production: 51 receptions on 101 targets for a career-low 654 yards with eight touchdowns. Sure, there isn’t a proven wide receiver on the depth chart to start opposite him but Holmes’ attitude and the presence of scatter shot quarterbacks in Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow are major concerns. Holmes is a low-end WR2 in 2012 provided he keeps his attitude in check.
Hill’s combine numbers tell you that he has more upside than any other wide receiver taken in this year’s draft. Then you view his highlight reel and your expectations take a major hit. At 6’4” and 215 pounds with 4.35 40-yard speed, Hill is extremely gifted but he is also extraordinarily raw. On most teams, he would come off the bench as a rookie but the Jets moved up in the second round to take him and they have a glaring hole opposite Santonio Holmes in the starting lineup so the current plan is for Hill to open the season as a starter. Having never caught more than 28 passes in college and with Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow at quarterback, Hill won’t catch a ton of passes as a rookie. Look for him to take a few bombs to the house but he won’t be a reliable fantasy producer in 2012. His work ethic and attitude make him a good to great option in dynasty leagues.
Healthy for the first time since his rookie season in 2008, Schilens couldn’t find a role in the Raiders offense last season, finishing the year with 23 receptions for 271 yards and a pair of scores in 15 games. In 2012, he moves to a Jets teams desperate to find production opposite Santonio Holmes and with rookie 2nd round pick Stephen Hill penciled in as their other starter. As the most experienced backup on the roster, Schilens will have a chance to spit time with Hill but it is doubtful he will develop into a solid starter in his 5th year in the league given his past production and injury issues.
The Jets 2011 5th round pick put together a decent rookie season, catching 29 passes for 314 yards and a touchdown while solidifying the team’s punt returner role. At 5’9” and 188 pounds, the Texas Christian product seems ill suited to a starting role but has some potential to develop into a decent slot receiver in a Jets offense that lacks proven pass catchers. Kerley has more value in dynasty leagues that use the PPR scoring system than in standard scoring, redraft formats.
The knock on Keller is consistency. Consistency as in he generally starts out hot and then hits a wall. Over the first four games of the last two seasons, he has totaled 515 yards and seven touchdowns. Unfortunately, he has not been able to sustain those hot starts and has scored just three touchdowns over the final 12 games over the last two seasons. In 2012, Keller figures to get more opportunities in a New York offense that lacks a proven starting wide receiver opposite Santonio Holmes. The departure of Plaxico Burress also bodes well for Keller’s opportunities in the red zone. The talent is there and he is in a contract year so maybe 2012 will be the first time Keller puts it together for an entire season. If he can increase his touchdown count from five to seven or eight and maintain his yardage total from last season (a career-high 815), Keller will be a mid-tier TE1.
By: Dave Stringer — June 21, 2012 @ 3:11 pm
With Chad Henne sidelined for much of last season, Moore started a career-high 12 games and did a serviceable job, throwing for just under 2,500 yards with 16 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. Entering training camp, he sits atop the Dolphins depth chart at quarterback but it appears to be only a matter of time before he is relegated to a backup role behind 2012 1st round pick Ryan Tannehill. Moore’s fantasy fortunes hinge on the Dolphins getting out of the gate early and remaining in the playoff picture as long as possible. However, with a rookie head coach and a rebuilding roster, look for the Dolphins to struggle in 2012 and for Tannehill to take over by midseason. You have better options.
Desperate for help at the quarterback position and unable to acquire a solid veteran free agent to bolster the position, the Dolphins used the 8th pick in the 2012 draft to acquire Tannehill. The Texas A&M product is a converted wide receiver and scouting reports indicate he is a raw prospect who will require extensive seasoning before becoming a solid NFL starting quarterback. Unfortunately for Miami fans, Tannehill may not be afforded the luxury of time given the state of the Dolphins quarterback depth chart. Veteran retreads Matt Moore and David Garrard are Miami’s other options and neither is considered a viable long-term option at the position. That means Tannehill will likely join the starting lineup sooner than he should and the Dolphins passing attack will take its lumps with him under center. Considering the team’s lack of talent at the wide receiver position where the current starters (Brian Hartline and Davone Bess) wouldn’t start for nearly any other team in the league, Tannehill will have little help once he joins the starting lineup. Avoid owning Tannehill in 2012 but consider him a mid-tier prospect in dynasty leagues.
After being released by the Jaguars during the 2011 preseason, Garrard spent the rest of the season out of football as he rehabilitated an existing back injury. He joined the Dolphins in the offseason and will be part of a three-player competition for the team’s starting quarterback position along with incumbent starter Matt Moore and rookie 1st round pick Ryan Tannehill. Let’s just say that at this point, Garrard is the clear underdog in that battle. Given his status and the state of the Dolphins receiving corps, you can safely pull his name of your cheatsheets.
After five mostly injury-plagued and somewhat disappointing seasons in New Orleans, Bush was traded to the Dolphins prior to training camp last season. Most pundits expected that Bush would continue to tease with his potential and fall short of the lofty expectations that accompanied him based on his outstanding college career, culminating in the Saints drafting him with the 2nd overall pick in the 2006 draft. Although Miami’s oft-stated objective was to make Bush a workhorse back, that was met with much skepticism given that the team had traded up in the 2nd round to acquire Kansas State product Daniel Thomas. Bush started the season slowly, gaining just 243 rushing yards, 97 receiving yards and scoring once in the team’s first six games. After that, he came on strong, rushing for 854 yards and six touchdowns while chipping in 199 receiving yards over last nine games. During that stretch, he topped 100 rushing yards five times, including his final four games, and hit double-digit fantasy points eight times. In 15 games (he sat out Week 17 with a knee injury), Bush set career-highs in rushing attempts with 217 (60 more than his previous high set in 2007), rushing yards with 1,097 and rushing touchdowns with six. The Dolphins scaled back his involvement in the passing game and he averaged fewer than three receptions per game for the first time in his career. For 2012, Bush rates as a risky high-end RB2 and it will be a surprise if he matches the 11th place running back ranking he had in 2011 given the new west coast offense being installed by head coach Joe Philbin. Expect Bush to be more of a hybrid back with less running up the middle or more time spent slit out wide as a receiver.
Entering 2011, Thomas was in a virtual dead heat with fellow Saints rookie Mark Ingram in the battle to be the top first-year running back taken in fantasy drafts. While Ingram was joining a high powered Saints offense, he was staring at a running back by committee situation with Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles while Thomas appeared destined to be the lead back in a rotation with the injury-prone Reggie Bush. Unfortunately for Thomas, on his way to fantasy stardom, Bush enjoyed the healthiest and most productive year of his career. Meanwhile, Thomas was the more injury-prone of the two players, missing three games and playing several others with an assortment of injuries. After rushing for 107 and 95 yards in his first two games, Thomas highest rushing total over the balance of the season was 73 yards and he had more than 50 yards in just two more games. Even more unimpressive was that he was billed as a power back coming out of college but failed to find the end zone once despite amassing 165 rushes. Throw in a 3.5 average yards per carry and Thomas’ rookie season was a disaster. With new head coach Joe Philbin installing a west coast offense, Thomas’ value in Miami is based on his size and ability as a short yardage runner. He currently rates as a RB4 but the risk is that intriguing rookie 4th round pick Lamar Miller may supplant him as Bush’s handcuff by opening day.
With Miller surprisingly remaining undrafted in the 4th round of this year’s draft, the Dolphins pounced, moving up to acquire the former University of Miami speedster. At 5’11” and 212 pounds, he has solid size to go along with his 4.4 40-yard speed. Miller was available in the 4th round due to injury concerns but likely would have otherwise been a 2nd round selection. Unfortunately, he will enter training camp 3rd on the depth chart behind Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas. However, given Bush’s injury history and Thomas’ ineffectiveness as a rookie, Miller could surprise in 2012. He is worth drafting in deeper redraft leagues and rates as an upper tier prospect in dynasty formats.
With the Texans, Slaton burst onto the scene as a rookie 3rd round pick out of West Virginia in 2008, gaining 1,282 rushing yards to go along with 377 receiving yards and ten touchdowns. Since then, his career path has pointed straight down, culminating in his release by Houston last year. The Dolphins plucked him off the waiver wire and kept him in obscurity until Reggie Bush missed their season finale against the Jets. Slaton ran well in that game, gaining 55 yards on 11 carries, and his performance earned him another look with the Dolphins in 2012. However, one of Daniel Thomas or rookie Lamar Miller will earn the role as Bush’s backup and Slaton will likely get sporadic playing time as a third down and change of pace option if Bush goes down. That makes Slaton not worth owning.
Davone Bess could be Miami's top fantasy receiver in 2012... yikes.
Meet the Dolphins top wide receiver entering 2012. If that seems too scary to you, imagine how Ryan Tannehill, Matt Moore and David Garrard feel (hint: maybe they don’t really want the starting job that badly after all). I like Bess – he is a solid slot receiver who can find the open areas against zone defenses but he lacks playmaking ability, as evidenced by his career average of 10.3 yards per reception. With poor quarterback play and Brandon Marshall and Reggie Bush gobbling up targets, Bess had career lows in receptions (51) and yards (537) last season. However, he should bounce back in 2012 and a return to his production in the 2009 and 2010 seasons (averages of 77.5 receptions and 789 yards) isn’t out of the question. Bess clearly has more value in PPR leagues and he should be drafted no higher than a WR4. With the expectations for the Dolphins offense extremely low, Bess could be a value on draft day.
After three years in the league, the knock on Hartline is that he is a one-trick pony. He has a gaudy career yards per reception average of 15.3 but has never topped 615 receiving yards or three touchdowns in a season. Basically, he gets open on deep passes but not as frequently as needed to be a true starting wide receiver. On the minus side of the ledger, Hartline isn’t a great route runner and has decent but not outstanding size so he is a questionable fit in the Dolphins new west coast offense. However, a position in the starting line-up seems almost certain, just don’t bother adding him to your roster. With just four double-digit point performances in 44 career games, Hartline is a waiver wire option and bye week filler if you are desperate.
Desperate times call for desperate measures. And so, with arguably the worst group of wide receivers in the league, the Dolphins signed Ochocinco after his release from the Patriots in June. There’s not a lot to like about this signing. Miami is rebuilding and Ochocinco is 34 years old. Miami will run the West Coast offense, Ochocinco has never played in this type of offense and he isn’t a disciplined route runner. Finally, the pièce de résistance, he is coming off a 15-reception season where he faced plenty of criticism for failing to learn New England’s playbook. He’s worth keeping an eye on in preseason but don’t expect much from Chad Johnson in 2012.
If you’re looking for an ultra deep sleeper, you could do worse than Cunningham. The rookie 6th round pick joins a Dolphins receiving corps that lacks playmakers and features veterans with little upside. It also helps that he is the only player on the team with the requisite size to be a lead wide receiver in the west coast offense. His lack of speed caused him to fall to the 6th round but he was productive at Michigan State and could become a solid possession receiver in Miami. While Cunningham isn’t worth of a spot on your fantasy roster just yet, he could be a decent sleeper by opening day.
Naanee had a chance to shine with the Panthers in 2011, with career highs in starts (11) and targets (76). Unfortunately for him, he proved the Chargers correct in letting him walk, catching just 44 passes for 467 yards and a single touchdown, despite playing opposite Steve Smith. While the Dolphins lack playmaking ability at the wide receiver position, it would seem unlikely they would hand significant playing time to a player with little upside who has averaged just over 20 receptions a season during his five-year career.
After a career-year in 2010 with highs in receptions (39) and receiving yards (528), Fasano settled back into his normal production last season, catching 32 passes for 451 yards and 5 touchdowns. Entering his seventh season in the league, Fasano isn’t a player who is about to emerge as a solid pass catching tight end nor is he likely to catch a pile of touchdowns given the state of the team’s offense. While rookie 3rd round pick Michael Egnew needs seasoning before earning a starting position, Fasano remains a low-end TE2 with little upside and that’s being generous.
The 6’5”, 252-pound Missouri product joins the Dolphins after a mildly disappointing senior season. Egnew proved to be a solid receiving option in Missouri’s spread offense and he has the physical ability to develop into a solid pass catching tight end in the Dolphins new west coast offense. Just don’t look for that to happen in 2012. The 3rd round pick spent little time blocking in college and won’t earn significant playing time in Miami until he picks up that part of his game. Consider him a mid-tier prospect in dynasty leagues.
By: Mike Krueger — @ 1:20 pm
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Player Projections, Rankings & Cheatsheets
Change Log – 6/21/12
- Matt Ryan (+1) – talk of slightly more passing in ATL gives Ryan upside.
- Drew Brees (no change) – slight adjustments to Pass Att & Completions.
- Matthew Stafford (no change) – slight adjustments to Pass Att & Completions.
- Kevin Kolb (no change) – slight adjustments to Pass Att & Completions.
- Tim Tebow (+1 rushing TD) – Jets likely to use the QB around the goaline.
- Frank Gore (-2) – continued talk of Gore sharing carries and losing opportunities around the goaline keeps his value on the decline.
- Shonn Greene (-2) – will likely lose goaline carries to QB Tim Tebow.
- Beanie Wells (-8) – previously ranked too high given his injury risk.
- Ryan Williams (+9) – recovery from knee injury is on track.
- Taiwan Jones (-14) – competition from Goodson as McFadden’s backup.
- Ronnie Brown (#90) – previously unranked, recently signed by SD.
- Wes Welker (-3) – still love Wes, but Lloyd will take a few targets away.
- Brandon Lloyd (+6) – I’m jumping on the bandwagon.
- Stephen Hill (#53) – inexplicably left out of our initial rankings.
- Chad Ochocinco (+51) – still not quite sure what his role will be but he’s got a better chance to be fantasy relevant in Miami than in New England.
- Josh Cribbs (-15) – talk of Cribbs being less involved in the offense and more involved on special teams.
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