Fantasy Football Strategy, Advice, and Commentary
By: Dave Stringer — July 12, 2012 @ 11:07 am
In past years, an analysis of Peyton Manning’s fantasy football prospects would be about how remarkably consistent and highly productive he has been. This year, it’s about his health and his role with a new team, the Denver Broncos. Reports out of Denver indicate that his arm strength is nearly back to full capacity after having multiple neck surgeries but training camp and the preseason will tell us if that is truly the case. Preseason games will also give us an indication of how well his body responds to physical contact. As to the Broncos offensive philosophy, let’s just say that they didn’t get Peyton Manning to hand the ball off anywhere near as much as they did last season. With a pair of emerging wide receivers in Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, two solid receiving options at tight end in Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreesen and an intriguing rookie out of the backfield in Ronnie Hillman, there are more than enough weapons for Manning to finish as a top five fantasy quarterback provided he can remain healthy for the entire season. More on to the consistency factor: Prior to last season, Manning had thrown for over 4,000 passing yards in 11 of 13 seasons (missing the mark in his rookie season and in 2005 when he was rested at the end of he year) and had at least 26 touchdown passes in every pro season. And we all know that he had never missed a start prior to 2011. Given his health status, Manning should be taken as the 9th or 10th quarterback but his upside is certainly greater than that.
With Manning at the helm during the 2008-2010 seasons the Colts finished 29th, 32nd and 31st in rushing yards.
Having been signed by the Broncos prior to last season to supplement Knowshon Moreno, nobody can say that McGahee did not exceed expectations in his first year in Denver. Rather than supplement Moreno, he supplanted him and by season’s end had topped 1,000 rushing yards for the first time since 2007, his first season with the Ravens. McGahee finished the year with 1,199 rushing yards, 51 receiving yards and five total touchdowns. While you could make the argument that Tim Tebow pilfered some touchdowns from McGahee, you could make an equaling compelling argument that Tebow’s presence necessitated a run-first philosophy and also forced opposing defenses to account for him in the running game. Either way, it’s all moot for 2012 with Tebow having been jettisoned to the Jets and Peyton Manning in town to lead a far more heavily passed based offense. Look no further than the Colts rushing production during the 2008-2010 seasons as the team finished 29th, 32nd and 31st in rushing yards. On the plus side, McGahee is clearly the Broncos best short yardage back and there doesn’t appear to be a player on the roster capable of stealing his starting position by opening day but his ability as a receiver has steadily eroded over time as evidenced by his 41 receptions over the past three seasons. Basically, his fantasy value will come as a rusher so you need to believe that the team’s offense will generate enough red zone touches and 4th quarter clock eating work if you want to draft him as a starter. He will likely be chosen as a low end RB2 but I would be more comfortable grabbing him as my RB3.
With aging starter Willis McGahee ill-suited to handle a full workload in a Denver offense that will rely on the passing game far more than it did in 2011 and Knowshon Moreno at a career crossroads due to injuries, ineffectiveness and off the field issues, the Broncos used a 3rd round pick to acquire Hillman. At 5’9” and 200 pounds, Hillman doesn’t have prototypical size but he may possess enough quickness, speed and lateral agility to eventually start in the Denver backfield. But that’s not likely to happen with Willis McGahee coming off a solid season in 2011. As with all rookie running backs, Hillman will need to prove his worth as a pass blocker in order to earn significant playing time, especially so with Peyton Manning having missed all of 2011 due to injury. Hillman rates as a high-end RB4 with upside in 2011 and move him higher in leagues that utilize the PPR scoring system. As a dynasty prospect, Hillman has a solid chance to earn the starting role as early as next season making him a valuable commodity.
Let’s sum up Moreno’s 2011 season: he lost his job to veteran retread Willis McGahee, he tore his ACL in Week 10 and then he was busted for DUI. After three seasons in the league, Moreno has done little to warrant having been taken with the 12th pick in the 2009 draft and his current situation indicates that he is unlikely to get an opportunity to change that assessment in 2012. Moreno will enter training camp in a battle to retain a roster spot, not fighting for a starting position or even significant playing time. Willis McGahee seems entrenched as the team’s starter and rookie 3rd round pick Ronnie Hillman will likely assume a pass catching role, leaving Moreno fighting with Lance Ball for scraps. Moreno has no fantasy value in Denver but a preseason trade is a possibility and Moreno was productive enough in 2009 and 2010 to suggest that he could be a solid fantasy option with a new team.
When Knowshon Moreno was lost for the year with a torn ACL, Ball was thrust into a major role for the first time in his three-year career. The 5’9”, 220 pound bowling ball (get it!) carried the ball 96 times for 402 yards and caught 16 passes for 148 yards to go along with two total touchdowns. While Ball was effective last season, he is facing an uphill climb to replicate those touches in 2012. Willis McGahee is entrenched as the Broncos starter while Moreno will try to resurrect his career while coming back from the ACL injury and the team also used a 3rd round pick on Ronnie Hillman. Barring injury or subpar performances in the preseason by Moreno and Hillman, Ball won’t be worth owning in your fantasy league in 2012.
Not much was expected of Thomas last season due to the ruptured Achilles suffered in the off-season. He missed the first six weeks but came back with a vengeance, catching 32 passes for 551 yards and four touchdowns over the Broncos final 11 games despite having two games where he received one total target. Even more impressive was his performance in the post-season where he caught four passes for 204 yards and the game winning touchdown against the Steelers and then followed that up with a six-reception, 93-yard game in a losing cause against the Patriots. Just imagine what he could have done without scattered arm Tim Tebow chucking him the ball. Oh wait, no imagining required. Peyton Manning is in town for the 2012 season. Manning has said that Thomas is the most physically gifted wide receiver that he has ever played with but let’s not confuse physically gifted with production. Since Thomas hasn’t come anywhere close to reaching the heights of Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne, the question is – will he? Thomas possesses freakish natural ability with outstanding speed and strength to go along with a willingness to be a physical player. While Thomas was a top five fantasy wide receiver from Week 10 on last year, those lofty heights aren’t likely to be reached in 2012. Consider him an upper tier WR3 with a huge upside in redraft formats and an outstanding dynasty league prospect.
The Broncos 2010 3rd round pick put together a reasonably productive season in 2011 with Tim Tebow at the controls of the team’s offense, catching 44 passes for 612 yards and eight touchdowns. He started the season strong with 37 receptions for 527 yards and all eight of his touchdowns over his first 11 games before fading badly down the stretch with seven receptions for 85 yards over his final five games. There are two big concerns with Decker entering the 2012 season. One is his completion to target percentage which checked in at a woeful 46.3% last season. While that was partly the result of having Tebow as his quarterback, that explanation is partially negated by the fact that Decker was often used as the team’s top threat on short and intermediate routes. Equally concerning was his lack of production when Demaryius Thomas returned to the lineup. With Thomas out of the lineup for the first five games of the season, Decker caught 22 passes and then caught 22 more over the final 11 games with Thomas in the lineup. With Peyton Manning now in Denver, Decker is certainly going to catch a higher percentage of his targets and he has the speed and athleticism to emerge as a 1,000-yard receiver. Consider him a WR3 in 2012 although he lacks Thomas’ huge upside.
You have to love Stokley. At 36 years of age, he signed with Denver to join with Peyton Manning and hopefully provide the team with a receiving threat out of the slot. What you don’t have to love is his fantasy prospects. Stokley makes for a nice story but his best receiving season since topping 1,000 yards in 2004 came in 2007 when he caught 40 passes for 635 yards and five touchdowns. Last year, he caught one pass for seven yards in two games with the Giants.
In an off-season filled with several solid player acquisitions for Broncos management, the one head scratcher has to be the decision to sign former Bengal Andre Caldwell to challenge for the team’s slot receiver role. Despite the Bengals having a gaping hole at wider receiver opposite A.J. Green, they made little attempt to re-sign Caldwell.
It’s all about opportunity and Tamme got his in 2010 when Colts starting tight end Dallas Clark suffered a season-ending wrist injury. Over the final ten games of the season, Tamme caught 67 passes for 631 yards and four touchdowns, averaging 8.7 fantasy points per game over that stretch, which placed him third in that category amongst tight ends who played ten+ games behind only Antonio Gates and Jason Witten. He gets another solid opportunity in 2012 having signed with the Broncos as a free agent and joining former teammate Peyton Manning in Denver. He is getting pegged as a breakout candidate this season but you’re not getting a buy in on that here. He isn’t anywhere near as talented as the upper echelon players at his position and Joel Dreessen isn’t chump change as backups go. Tamme can be a solid contributor to your fantasy squad but he isn’t worth reaching for and it looks like that is what will be going down on draft day. He shapes up as a lower tier starter or upper tier backup at this point.
It is not often that we need to do a fantasy write up on a team’s backup tight end but when Peyton Manning is the team’s new quarterback, it seems justified. Of course, it also helps that Dreessen is a backup who figures to get plenty of playing time and the player ahead of him (Jacob Tamme) isn’t an overly established starter. With ten touchdowns over the past two seasons in Houston, Dreesen knows how to find the end zone and while he isn’t the most talented tight end, he is a decent route runner and knows how to find the weak spot against zone defenses. Tamme is the clear favorite to win the starting job but this situation is worth monitoring in the preseason.
By: Mike Krueger — @ 10:10 am
Player Projections, Rankings & Cheatsheets
Change Log – 7/12/12
- David Garrard(+5) – appears the starting job will come down to Garrard vs. Moore.
- Ryan Tannehill(-5) – will likely get his chance late in the season.
- Jonathan Stewart(+2) – settling in to my choice of Carolina RBs. Stewart’s receiving ability and use in the redzone gets the slight nod.
- DeAngelo Williams (-1) – an ever so slight downgrade.
- Donald Brown (+1) – a slight bump for the starting RB in Indy.
- Rashad Jennings (+1) a slight bump for an undervalued RB.
- Steve Smith CAR (-3) – Initial ranking was a little to high for the veteran.
- Randy Moss (+5) – looking like the starter opposite Crabtree.
- Rueben Randle (+16) – Will battle Hixon for the #3 receiver position.
- Jacob Tamme (-1) – Could be more of a TE by committee in DEN.
- Joel Dreessen (+5) – Could be more of a TE by committee in DEN.
By: Dave Stringer — July 11, 2012 @ 9:54 pm
With Jason Campbell out and the Raiders desperate to hang on in the tight AFC West, they swapped 1st and 2nd round draft choices with Cincinnati in order to acquire Carson Palmer. Palmer’s acquisition failed to spark an Oakland playoff berth but his performance in 2011 suggests the team has the quarterback position stabilized for the next several years. While his statistics from last season (2,753 passing yards, 13 touchdowns, 16 interceptions in ten games) were a notch above ugly, he clearly had a number of factors working against him. He was given precious little time to learn the team’s playbook and starting running back Darren McFadden was lost for the season in Palmer’s first game with the team, forcing Palmer to lean heavily on Darrius Heyward-Bey and Denarius Moore. A closer look reveals that Palmer threw six of his interceptions in his first two games and four more in a blowout loss to the Packers, meaning he threw six picks in his other seven games. In addition, he threw for 299 or more yards in five of his nine starts. With an improved offensive line, hopefully 16 games with McFadden in the lineup and a healthy, more established group of wide receivers, look for Palmer to have a more impressive 2012 season. Consider him a solid QB2 with upside.
McFadden: An RB1 with upside along with major injury risk.
It’s fair to say that the light came on for McFadden in 2011. With 761 total yards and five touchdowns over the first six games, the 2008 1st round pick appeared on the verge of establishing himself as one of the premier running backs in the league. However, a severely sprained foot in Week 7 caused him to miss the remainder of the season and his fantasy owners were mystified that the Raiders failed to fully disclose the extent of the injury until late in the year. That was a huge blow as McFadden had the potential to be the top fantasy producer at running back despite having to share time with Michael Bush. In 2012, Bush has left for Chicago providing McFadden with an opportunity to be a workhorse back but his injury history suggests that is unlikely to happen. In his four seasons in the league, he has failed to produce a 16 game season and has missed 19 games due to injury. In McFadden, you are getting an extremely talented player who will likely average 20 touches a game but he also is a major injury risk. The injury risk was negated in prior years because fantasy owners knew they could grab Michael Bush and expect him to produce with McFadden out. That isn’t the case this season. Consider McFadden a low-end fantasy starter with major upside but grabbing him likely means using a high mid-round pick on your RB3.
The Raiders basically got nothing out of Jones last season and that was to be expected. Undersized at 6’0” and 195 pounds but possessing blazing speed, Jones had just 18 touches in 2011 and missed five games due to a hamstring injury. A raw prospect coming out of Eastern Washington, Jones will have an opportunity to carve out a much bigger role in his second season due to the departure of Michael Bush to the Bears. Of course, that is dependent on his ability to beat out former Panther Mike Goodson for the role and for the Raiders to be sufficiently impressed that they don’t bring in a veteran such as former Bengal Cedric Benson. Jones’ fantasy value is purely dependent on his ability to win the backup role to Darren McFadden but we have no way of knowing whether he would actually produce if given that opportunity. Hopefully the preseason will provide some evidence on his 2012 fantasy prospects.
With a major void at the backup running back position behind Darren McFadden, the Raiders acquired Goodson from the Panthers in the offseason. Goodson was barely used in 2011 after playing surprisingly well in extensive playing time in 2010. With injuries in the Panthers backfield, Goodson started three games, posting two 100-yard rushing games and topping 100 total yards in all three. In 2012, Goodson will battle second year player Taiwan Jones to backup McFadden and the winner of that battle should be considered a high-upside handcuff given McFadden’s lengthy injury history. Even if Goodson loses that battle, he could be a solid flex play in larger leagues in the event McFadden goes down given Jones’ diminutive stature and Goodson’s superior skills as a short yardage runner.
After a pair of disappointing seasons, the Raiders 2009 1st round pick looked like a solid bet to become another in a long line of busts for the Oakland franchise. However, after a pair of middling performances to open the season, DHB put together a solid four-game stretch where he caught 22 passes for 385 yards and a touchdown. Just when it seemed like he had turned the corner, former head coach Hue Jackson took him out of the game plan with a one target game and then no targets the following week. After three more duds, DHB caught 26 passes for 433 yards and two touchdowns over his final four games. In 2012, he will compete for targets with Denarius More and Jacoby Ford but Heyward-Bey is the odds on favorite to remain the team’s leading receiver. With Carson Palmer having a full off-season and no receiving threat at tight end, DHB should be in line for plenty of targets in 2012. Consider him a mid-tier WR3 with upside and a solid dynasty league prospect.
The Raiders 2011 5th round pick generated quite a fantasy buzz prior to the 2011 season due to his outstanding speed and the lack of established receivers on Oakland’s roster. When the lights came on, Moore showed plenty of ability, finishing the year with 33 receptions for 618 yards and five touchdowns despite missing three games with a foot injury. His 18.7 average yards per reception were indicative of his big play ability and Moore will enter the 2012 season in the starting lineup opposite Darrius Heyward-Bey. DHB’s solid 2011 season puts a bit of a damper on Moore’s fantasy prospects but he has breakout potential provided he can polish his route running on short and intermediate routes and his run blocking. Moore’s completion to targets percentage was an ugly 43.4% but that can at least partially be attributed to his lack of experience and frequent use in the deep passing game as well as the team’s struggles at quarterback. Consider Moore a WR3 capable of a breakout year in 2012. In dynasty leagues, he is a solid prospect.
A lot of pundits pegged Ford to emerge as the Raiders leading threat at wide receiver in his second year in the league but a hamstring injury and a sprained foot effectively derailed his season. After catching 25 passes for 470 yards and a pair of touchdowns as a rookie, the 5’9”, 185-pound former Clemson product, had just 19 receptions for 279 yards and a single score in 2011. With Darrius Heyward-Bey having established himself as the team’s leading wide receiver last season and the Raiders high on Denarius Moore’s prospects, look for Ford, who possesses outstanding speed, to get the majority of his playing time out of the slot in 2012. With no receiving threat at tight end, Ford could end up getting a fair number of targets in the short passing game provided he has improved on his route running ability. Ford is worth taking a flyer on in larger leagues.
A couple of years ago, Murphy was getting some love as a potential breakout candidate due to his solid rookie season in 2009. Of course, the one major disclaimer from that season was that he caught just 35.4% of his targets and that proved to be the most telling statistic from his rookie campaign. After three years in the league, the 2009 4th round pick now seems buried on the Oakland depth behind Darrius Heyward-Bey, Denarius Moore, Jacoby Ford and possibly Juron Criner. It’s hard to put up fantasy points when you’re not on the field and Murphy is unlikely to get much playing time unless an injury strikes a player further up the depth chart. He is waiver wire fodder in 2012.
Wow. From Zach Miller to Kevin Boss to Brandon Myers. As gramma used to say, if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. Myers’ biggest contribution during his first three years in the league has been mashing opponents in the running game as the former 2009 sixth-round pick brings little to the offense in terms of receiving ability, posting career highs of 16 receptions for 151 yards in 2011. He has yet to find the end zone. There are backups from other teams that have more fantasy appeal than Myers.
By: Dave Stringer — July 10, 2012 @ 8:00 am
The free agent market over the last two seasons has not been kind to Rivers. Last season, he lost running back Darren Sproles and watched as his diminutive checkdown option went on to enjoy a career season in New Orleans with 1,313 total yards and nine touchdowns. This off-season, Rivers watched as his top wide receiver Vincent Jackson left town for a lucrative long-term contract the Chargers were unwilling to give him. While Robert Meachem will take over for Jackson in the Chargers starting lineup, he is an inconsistent player and both Gates and Malcom Floyd have proven to be injury-prone. On the positive side, Rivers enjoyed arguably the best year of his career in 2010 despite numerous injuries amongst his receiving corps and losing Jackson for most of the season due to a holdout, suspension and injury. However, that comforting fact is offset by his performance in 2011 when he threw a career-high 20 interceptions in what was regarded as the worst year of his career. Rivers is still too good and the Chargers throw it too much for him not to be a starting fantasy quarterback but the odds of him cracking the top 5 in 2012 are unlikely. Consider him a mid-tier to lower-end fantasy starter this season.
In his two years in Seattle, Whitehurst did little to justify the Seahawks investment in him. And, the team’s decision to forfeit a third round and swap second round picks with San Diego (with the Seahawks moving down) seems to have been a poor one. Simply put, Whitehurst gave up on passing plays too soon, failed to get and stay settled in the pocket and displayed poor accuracy on all but the shortest of passes. His NFL career likely would have been over had the Chargers not decided to attempt to salvage it.
After sharing the running back duties with Mike Tolbert last season, Mathews appears ready to take over a workhorse back role with San Diego in 2012. Tolbert signed with Carolina as a free agent and the Chargers will enter the season with the uninspiring trio of Ronnie Brown, Le’Ron McClain and Curtis Brinkley in reserve behind Mathews. That should translate into plenty of touches for the talented Mathews. He enters the season having had a very productive 2011 with 1,545 total yards and six touchdowns despite missing two full games and playing nicked up in several others. Tolbert saw plenty of action last season both as a short yardage runner and the teams’ third down back, pilfering 10 touchdowns. Look for Mathews to assume most of that workload, giving him an opportunity to approach 2,000 total yards and reach double-digit touchdowns for the first time in his career. The only risk with Mathews is his penchant for getting hurt (six missed games over the first two years of his career) but reports out of San Diego indicate that he is in the best shape of his career. He is a legitimate RB1 in 2012 and likely to be amongst the top five fantasy producers at running back.
How big of a bust was Brown last year for the Eagles? So big that they tried to trade him to the Lions for Jerome Harrison, who they felt would be a better fit in their offense. While Brown stayed healthy and played in all 16 games, head coach Andy Reid never gave him much of a role on game day with Brown getting more than four rushes in just three games and failing to catch a pass all year. Brown’s fantasy value is as a handcuff to Ryan Mathews and even if he beats out Curtis Brinkley and Le’Ron McClain for that role, it’s doubtful he could even be a marginal fantasy starter in that capacity. More likely, the Chargers would move to a RBBC approach if Mathews were to go down.
For years, the debates have been whether Meachem was capable of producing solid numbers in a big role and whether he was being held back by having to play in a Saints offense that spread the ball around. The 2007 first round pick never topped the 66 targets he received in 2010 and he has never topped 45 receptions in a single season. Barring injury, he is almost guaranteed of having a career year this season in San Diego, having been signed by the Chargers to take over for the departed Vincent Jackson as their top wide receiver. Possessing outstanding speed and solid size at 6’2” and 210 pounds, there has never been any questions about Meachem’s physical gifts. He will get a healthy dose of targets this season and appears to have landed in the perfect role with the Chargers, who will rely on him to be their main deep target. His first 1,000-yard season is within reach as well as an opportunity to approach double-digit touchdowns. Meachem is a boom/bust pick but the probability of a boom is greater. Consider him a low-end WR2 with major upside in 2012.
Floyd: A great buy-low option.
Quick – where did Malcom Floyd rank as a fantasy wide receiver in 2011? The perception seems to be that Floyd doesn’t cut it as a fantasy option but he has improved his ranking from 53rd to 35th to 31st over the past three seasons. That’s not bad for a guy who missed five games in 2010 and four games last season. In fact, the 53rd ranking from 2009 is a bit misleading since he had 776 receiving yards but fell down the charts because he caught just one touchdown. Last year, he had the 20th highest FPts/G average at wide receiver and there is no doubting that he has the size (6’5”, 225 pounds) and speed to replace Vincent Jackson. With Jackson finally taking his talents (and drama) to Tampa Bay, the Chargers signed former Saint Robert Meachem to replace him in the starting lineup and the assumption is that Meachem will assume Jackson’s role and a large portion of his production. That makes Floyd a solid buy low option. If you’re not drinking the Kool Aid yet, consider this: over his last eight games last season, Floyd posted four 100-yard games while catching 34 passes for 698 yards and five touchdowns. He’s a WR3 that will likely come off the board after 45 or 50 other players at his position.
The Chargers 2011 3rd round pick enjoyed a modestly successful rookie season, establishing himself as the front-runner to assume the role of the team’s slot receiver this coming season. Brown had just 19 receptions for the season but made the most of them, totaling 329 yards for an average yards per reception of 17.3 and scoring a pair of touchdowns. More impressive was his work when he was given more playing time. In the three games that Brown had five or more targets, he caught 12 passes for 226 yards and a touchdown (and missed another one on a replay challenge). At 5’11” and 187 pounds, Brown doesn’t possess the size to play outside, he doesn’t possess good speed and the Chargers don’t utilize their slot receiver often. Those factors limit Brown’s upside but he did prove he was a gamer as a rookie, capable of subbing in for the team’s starters when needed. Look for him to battle free agent signee Eddie Royal to earn the slot position but even if he wins the job, Brown is not worth owning in redraft formats and he is a modest prospect in dynasty leagues.
If there was ever a player whose fortunes were solely tied to that of a head coach and his system, Eddie Royal is that player. Royal was a revelation as a rookie in 2009 playing in Mike Shanahan’s offense, notching 91 receptions for 980 yards and five touchdowns. Shanahan was fired following that year and Royal’s production fell off a cliff. The former second round pick caught 115 passes for 1,127 yards and four touchdowns over the following three seasons and is coming off a 19-reception, 155-yard, one-touchdown campaign. Finally free of his rookie contract, Royal had a chance to rejoin Shanahan in Washington where he would have been the team’s top slot receiver but instead chose to join in San Diego where he will compete with 2011 3rd round pick Vincent Brown. Since coaches generally like their slot receivers to catch more than 38.8% of their targets (Royal’s receptions to targets ratio last season), look for Brown to win that battle. I said it last year and I’ll say it again this year. Don’t go thinking Royal is ready to recreate his rookie magic because it ain’t gonna happen.
Despite missing three full games and most of another game, Gates still managed to finish 2011 as the 7th ranked fantasy tight end and 4th in average FPts/G with 11.7. While Gates’ fantasy prospects may be dimming somewhat due to his inability to stay healthy, he remains a hugely productive player when healthy. Safeties and linebackers struggle to get around Gates’ large frame, as evidenced by his completion percentage of 74.5% over the past two seasons. That ability also makes him a red zone demon with 74 touchdown receptions in 117 games over the last eight seasons. At 32 years of age, his skill set remains strong although he has lost some of his speed. With nine full games lost to injury over the past two seasons, the issue is clearly whether Gates will remain healthy and how many games he will play. Even if you forecast in a couple of missed games, Gates remains a top five fantasy tight end who could be the third player taken at his position.
By: Dave Stringer — July 6, 2012 @ 11:03 am
There was a time when Schaub appeared on the verge of establishing himself as a bona fide upper tier fantasy starting quarterback. After averaging 4,570 passing yards, 26.5 touchdowns and 13.5 interceptions during the 2009 and 2010 seasons, Schaub saw his 2011 season cut short after ten games due to a Lisfranc sprain in his foot. He averaged a respectable 19.2 FPts/G last season, which was good enough to finish 11th among fantasy QBs. While that was only 2.6 PPG off his career-high in 2009, the NFL has become more of a passing league over the last couple of years. That fact coupled with the emergence not only of Arian Foster but also Ben Tate in the backfield has put a severe damper on Schaub’s fantasy prospects. The Texans are now more of a running team and the absence of a solid starting wide receiver opposite Andre Johnson and the failure of tight end Owen Daniels to reclaim his 2009 form are also impediments to Schaub reclaiming fantasy glory. Consider him a mid to lower tier QB2 in 2012.
After being an undrafted free agent out of Tennessee in 2009, Foster has emerged as not only the top rated fantasy running back in 2012 but also as a contender for the title of the league’s top player at his position. Although a hamstring injury caused him to miss two and a half games and he sat out Week 17, Foster still managed to finish the season as the 4th ranked running back in total fantasy points and 1st on a per game basis. If you want consistency, Foster also provides that, having reached double-digit fantasy points in 27 of his last 31 games. Are there concerns? Sure. The team lost two starters along the offensive line (Eric Winston and Mike Brisiel), Foster signed a lucrative long term contract and backup Ben Tate proved he was worthy of touches as he came within 58 yards of topping 1,000 rushing yards. While Tate is good, Foster is clearly the Texans go to player on offense and it is worth noting that Tate was barely used in the team’s two playoff games last season and averaged less than ten touches per game when Foster was healthy. It’s a no-brainer, folks. If you have the 1st selection in your fantasy draft, Foster is your pick.
After a rookie season lost due to an ankle injury, the Texans 2010 second-round pick bounced back in a big way in 2011. Tate started two games and amassed an impressive 942 rushing yards and four touchdowns on just 175 carries in a backup role behind Arian Foster. Like Foster, Tate is a great fit in the Texans running scheme, capable of making one cut and then using his speed and power and get past linebackers and into the secondary. While Tate possesses enough natural ability to start for most teams, in Houston he sits behind the league’s best running back and that limits his fantasy appeal. While Tate had 188 touches last season, his usage when Foster was healthy wasn’t consistent or hefty enough (under ten touches per game) to make him a solid option as a starting fantasy running back. However, he is a decent flex option provided you are willing to live with some inconsistency with him in your starting lineup. And of course, he is an absolutely must have handcuff for Foster and a player that will needed to be taken early in drafts as the first true handcuff off the board.
The risk in grabbing AJ as your WR1 has never been higher.
Johnson’s hamstring injury in Week 4 torpedoed the hopes of many fantasy owners as one of fantasy’s top rated wide receivers went on to finish the year with the lowest level of production of his career. By season’s end, Johnson had appeared in just seven games, amassing 33 receptions for 492 yards and two touchdowns, averaging 11.2 fantasy points per game, the third worst performance of his nine-year career. Johnson will be 31 years old when the season starts and with 12 missed games over the past two seasons, there are legitimate concerns as to whether he can remain healthy for an entire year. Adding to those concerns is the arthroscopic surgery on his knee that he underwent in May. While his health is up for debate, Johnson’s talent remains top-notch and he will eat up plenty of targets in Houston’s passing attacked with no clear-cut starter opposite him and Owen Daniels seemingly in decline. Offsetting those positives is the fact the Texans are clearly a run first team. AJ is worthy of being drafted as a mid to lower tier WR1 in 2012 but the risk of grabbing him has never been higher.
The Texans have been trying to push Walter to the bench for years without much success. Jacoby Jones was expected to unseat him for the last few years but was jettisoned this offseason after a costly fumble in the Texans playoff loss to the Ravens. In this year’s draft, Houston used 3rd and 4th round picks on DeVier Posey and Keshawn Martin to acquire some competition for Walter but neither player is likely polished enough to step into a starting role in 2012. Walter’s only other competition for the starting role (barring the signing of a veteran to the roster) is Lester Jean, an undrafted free agent signed prior to last season. While Walter figures to start once again this season, he is coming off his worst statistical performance since the 2006 season with 39 receptions for 474 yards and 3 touchdowns. In 15 games, he hit double-digit fantasy points just twice and failed to reach 20 receiving yards seven times. There’s no upside here, folks. You can do better.
Apparently the Texans like Jean, a second year former undrafted free agent. What we do know is they don’t like Kevin Walter, the incumbent starter opposite Andre Johnson. With a pair of raw rookies behind him on the depth chart, Jean will be given an opportunity to unseat Walter in 2012. He has solid size at 6’3” and 215 pounds and that has been a prerequisite for the Houston coaching staff in the past. Keep an eye on this training camp battle and adjust your cheatsheets accordingly.
The Texans used a 3rd round pick on Posey to replenish a wide receiver depth chart that is suddenly looking very thin with the release of Jacoby Jones. The Ohio State product possesses good size at 6’2” and 210 pounds and has enough speed to emerge as a downfield threat. However, after playing just three games in his senior year as a result of a suspension for accepting benefits, Posey is unlikely to carve out a significant role in 2012. Expect him to be used on some deep patterns early and possibly see his playing time increase as the season wears on. Posey isn’t worth drafting in redraft formats and is a mid to lower tier prospect in dynasty leagues.
Martin was taken by the Texans in the 4th round of this year’s draft and the expectation is that he will line up in the slot for Houston. While Martin has enough speed to get deep and was used as both a kick and punt returner in college due to his shiftiness, he averaged just 11.8 yards per reception on 66 catches as a senior. Not helping his fantasy prospects is that the Texans have not utilized the slot receiver role much during Gary Kubiak’s tenure as head coach. That makes it a strong possibility that Martin will likely need to win a job as a returner in order to dress on game day. He makes for a lower tier dynasty prospect in deeper leagues.
It’s officially official. It’s time to give up on the hope that Daniels will regain the elite form that he displayed over the first half of the 2009 season before suffering a torn ACL. At this point, it is even hard to get excited that Daniels has the chance to earn plenty of targets with Kevin Walter in decline and a trio of unproven players behind him on the depth chart. He caught 54 passes for 677 yards and three touchdowns last season and it is unlikely that he will significantly improve on those numbers in 2012. Consider Daniels a mid to lower tier TE2.
By: Mike Krueger — @ 10:11 am
Player Projections, Rankings & Cheatsheets
Change Log – 7/5/12
- Matt Ryan (+1) – talk of slightly more passing in ATL gives Ryan upside.
- David Garrard (#40) – making the most of his opportunity thus far.
- Steven Jackson (-2) – A slight bump down for a RB who has 16 total TDs in the last 3 years.
- BenJarvus Green-Ellis (-2) – looks like the Bengals will use a RBBC approach in 2012.
- Bernard Scott (+3) looks like the Bengals will use a RBBC approach in 2012.
- Mikel Leshoure (-3) 2-game suspension plus recovery from an Achilles injury.
- Justin Forsett (#91) opportunity to earn a job as the third-down back.
- Marques Colston (-2) – still like Colston as a safe WR1, just not top 5.
- Julio Jones (+4) – Getting more excited about Jones’ prospects as the Falcons move away from the run.
- Santonio Holmes (#18) – moved Holmes from Tier2 to Tier3.
- Jeremy Maclin (+6) – A healthy Maclin should lead the Eagles in receiving.
- Demaryius Thomas (+3) – still formulating my opinion on whether Thomas or Decker will have the better fantasy season.
- Randy Moss (+15) – looking like the starter opposite Crabtree.
- Kendall Wright (#70) – technical error had Wright out of the 6/21 Rankings.
By: Dave Stringer — July 5, 2012 @ 12:54 pm
Hasselbeck was quietly efficient in his first year in Tennessee, remaining healthy for an entire season for the first time in four years and having his most productive year since the 2007 campaign. By season’s end, he had accumulated 3,571 passing yards to go along with 18 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, good enough to finish the season as the 18th ranked fantasy quarterback. While that was reasonably impressive and he exceeded expectations, a closer look reveals that Hasselbeck’s play began to decline starting in Week 5. He threw for 1,152 yards, eight touchdowns and three picks in the first four weeks but just 2,419 yards, ten touchdowns and 11 interceptions over the final 12 weeks of the year. In 2012, Hasselbeck will need to hold off 2011 first-round pick Jake Locker, who was impressive in limited playing time as a rookie, in order to retain his hold on the starting quarterback job. In essence, drafting Hassselbeck as your fantasy backup is a major risk given the uncertainty as to whether he will beat out Locker and retain it for the entire season. Couple that with his lack of upside and it seems clear that Hasselbeck is waiver wire material in 2012, despite the potential explosiveness of the Titans offense.
Taken with the 8th overall selection in the 2011 draft, Locker spent most of his rookie year learning behind Matt Hasselbeck. He showed some playmaking ability in the three games that he received meaningful playing time, especially on the ground, running for 56 yards and a touchdown on just eight carries. As a passer, Locker’s accuracy is his biggest issue as he completed just 34 of 66 attempts although he did avoid throwing any interceptions. In 2012, Locker will be given an opportunity to unseat Hasselbeck to earn the starting position. While it seems likely that the team will open the season with Hasselbeck under center, Locker figures to get playing time given Hasselbeck’s injury history and declining play as the 2011 progressed. Unless he wins the job in camp, Locker should be avoided in redraft leagues but he is a decent prospect in dynasty leagues.
It is hard to find a running back with more polarizing fantasy prospects than Chris Johnson.
After a disastrous 2011 season that featured a holdout and the worst production of his four-year career with just 1,047 rushing yards and four touchdowns, it is hard to find a running back with more polarizing fantasy prospects than the Titans Chris Johnson. Although Johnson agreed on contract terms with Tennessee in time to start on opening day, he showed up out of shape and was not the explosive player that he was during the first three years in the league when he ran for 4,598 yards and 34 touchdowns. Although some of his troubles could be laid at the feet of the team’s offensive line, Johnson looked disinterested and appeared to run tentatively, often times failing to hit the hole hard and turn up field. Removing three solid performances against three of the worst run defenses in the league (Carolina, Tampa Bay and Buffalo), Johnson managed just 574 rushing yards and 9.7 FPts/G in his other 13 contests. The question is can Johnson bounce back in 2012? He has little competition for touches and the supporting cast at the skill positions has been upgraded so defenses will not be able to focus on shutting him down as much as they have in the past. Along the offensive line, Steve Hutchinson was signed to shore up the left guard position but troubles remain at center. While some may view Johnson as a boom/bust pick, he is unlikely to perform worse than he did last season and he has tremendous upside. Expect him to produce at a rate somewhere between what he did in 2010 and 2011, good enough to be taken as a low-end RB1.
Ringer has backup up Chris Johnson for each of the last two seasons and he enters his fourth year in the league in 2012. Barely used in 2010 with just 58 touches, Ringer actually carved out a bigger role with Johnson struggling last season, getting 87 touches in twelve games before a broken hand ended his season. While it was nice to see the Titans’ coaches use him more, his performance was ultimately disappointing as he averaged just 3.1 yards per carry and 6.7 yards per reception. This is the final year of his rookie contract so Ringer will need to have an impressive performance to earn a new deal but second-year player Jamie Harper will be given an opportunity to unseat Ringer as Johnson’s backup. Ringer is nothing more than a handcuff and maybe not even that in 2012.
The Titans used a fourth-round pick on Harper in the 2011 draft and he played well in training camp, pushing Javon Ringer for the backup role behind Chris Johnson. While Harper lost that battle, he took over for Ringer in Week 15 who was lost for the year with a hand injury. With the Titans having entrusted Ringer with just 153 touches over his three-year career and witnessing him average just 3.1 yards per carry last season, Harper will get every chance to unseat him for the right to earn the few morsels that Johnson leaves on the table. Monitor this situation in the preseason.
After a string of inconsistent performances over the first year and a half of his career, Britt finished the 2010 season strongly, recording 15 receptions for 302 yards and 2 touchdowns over his final three games and igniting hope that he was ready to put together a breakout performance in his third year in the league in 2011. That seemed to be happening with Britt posting 14 receptions for 271 yards and three touchdowns in his first two games of 2011 before he suffered tears to his ACL and MCL that ended his season in Week 3. Britt has clearly exhibited enough talent to be an upper tier receiver in the league but injuries, maturity, and off-field issues have prevented him from reaching his potential. In 2012, Britt figures to be the Titans number one wide receiver but he carries enormous risk from a fantasy perspective. The Titans quarterback situation is in flux, Britt had to undergo a second knee operation in May and his off the field issues are too numerous to list. Did we mention that Nate Washington is coming off a career season, the team used its 1st round pick on Kendall Wright and tight end Jared Cook was lights out over the final three games of last season?
After a pair of middling seasons in Tennessee, Washington finally began to justify the contract the Titans gave him to leave Pittsburgh prior to the 2009 season. Given additional playing time and utilized as a focal point of the offense when Kenny Britt was lost for the season in Week 3, Washington had career highs in all receiving categories with 74 receptions for 1,023 yards and seven touchdowns, finishing the year as the 14th ranked fantasy wide receiver and proving that he wasn’t quite the one-trick pony most made him out to be (yours truly included). Put your hand up if you saw that coming. Despite his production and role as a returning starter, Washington isn’t getting much love from the fantasy prognosticators with his ADP sitting in the mid-fifties. While Washington will clearly see fewer targets with Britt back in the lineup and the addition of Kendall Wright, he figures to represent decent value on draft day. Britt was forced to undergo a second operation to correct the knee damage he suffered last season (torn ACL and MCL) while Wright is an unproven rookie who will need to get up to speed with the Titans playbook. Washington is a long shot to replicate his production from a year ago but he is far from the afterthought that most are making him out to be. Draft him as a WR4.
The Titans used a 1st round pick to acquire Wright and the plan is for the Baylor product to step into the slot role on opening day. Highly productive in college with over 4,000 receiving yards in his career and 14 touchdowns in 2011, Wright is known for his shiftiness and ability to make tacklers miss in the open field. A less than stellar 40-yard dash time at the combine caused his draft stock to fall but he improved on his time at his pro day. In Tennessee, Wright figures to be 4th in the receiving pecking order behind Kenny Britt, Nate Washington and Jared Cook and that doesn’t bode well for his fantasy prospects in 2012. He is worth nothing more than a late round flier in redraft leagues but is a solid prospect in dynasty leagues, especially those that employ the PPR scoring system.
Williams didn’t do much to excite fantasy owners in his rookie season in 2010, posting modest totals of 16 receptions for 219 yards, but played surprisingly well last season after being inserted into the starting lineup for Kenny Britt when he was lost for the year in Week 3 with a torn ACL and MCL. In 13 games as a starter, he caught 43 passes for 568 yards and 5 touchdowns. While his production exceeded expectations, it wasn’t enough to prevent the Titans from using a 1st round pick on the wide receiver position, acquiring Kendall Wright in the draft. The acquisition of Wright coupled with the return of Britt ensures that Williams will open the season in a reserve role and is now stuck behind three players (including Nate Washington). That means Williams is only worth owning in dynasty leagues and his value is even questionable in those formats given the age of the players ahead of him on the depth chart.
He is in a contract year and played well at the end of last season. There is little explanation as to why the Titans chose to ignore Cook’s talents for much of the year as he was targeted just 55 times over the team’s first 13 games (4.2 per game). The coaching staff finally made him a bigger part of the game plan over the final three weeks and Cook responded, catching 21 of his 26 targets for 335 yards and a touchdown. Of course, that meant nothing to his fantasy owners who by then were either bounced from the playoffs or too scared to start him. By season’s end, Cook had amassed 49 receptions for 759 yards and three touchdowns, good enough to finish as the 14th ranked tight end. Consider him a low-end TE1 for 2012 with the potential to sneak into the top five if the Titans make a concerted effort to get him involved on a consistent basis.
By: Dave Stringer — @ 11:17 am
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Every so often a team is lucky enough to land itself a franchise quarterback. And if you are the Indianapolis Colts, you hit the jackpot and end up having two consecutive eras with franchise QBs. At least, that’s the plan. The Andrew Luck era starts in 2012 and the Stanford product possesses the athleticism, intelligence and intangibles to start for the Colts from Day 1 of training camp. But that doesn’t amount to a hill of beans for your fantasy squad given the lack of talent the Colts possess on offense. While Luck makes for an outstanding dynasty league prospect, his prospects for 2012 leave something to be desired. Not only is Indianapolis attempting to rebuild its aging, leaky offensive line, the team also lacks a proven starting running back, has a pair of rookies atop its tight end depth chart and has a group of wide receivers led by 12-year veteran Reggie Wayne but with little else behind him. For Luck to emerge as a starting fantasy quarterback, he will need his supporting cast to improve greatly upon what is expected in 2012 and that’s not likely to happen. He is a low end QB2 at best.
Brown will get first crack at making an impact on the ground.
It’s a sorry state of affairs when a team’s top fantasy option on offense is a former 1st round pick who enters his 4th year in the league with career highs of 645 rushing yards and 205 receiving yards. But that’s the case with Donald Brown and the Colts in 2012. While Brown was surprisingly decent in 2011, the fact remains that he has started just 11 games in three years with most of the starts coming due to injuries to former Colt Joseph Addai and has topped 70 yards rushing just three times. Hey, just how promising can a guy’s prospects be when he started his most successful season getting exactly zero carries over the first four games of that season? With a cast of players ill-suited to be a feature back, the Colts are staring squarely at a running back by committee approach in 2012 with Brown the front runner to get the most carries. He rates as a RB4 with some decent risk but also some upside if he can figure out the path to success isn’t dancing in the backfield.
Drafted in the 4th round of 2011, Carter emerged as the Colts top backup coming out of training camp only to be surpassed by Donald Brown a quarter of the way into the season. That was unfortunate as starter Joseph Addai spent most of the year injured and Carter blew an opportunity to emerge as the team’s future starter at the running back position. The biggest knocks on Carter’s rookie performance is that he failed to move the pile despite his 5’10”, 215 pound frame and he lacks breakaway speed. He’s also not much of a pass catcher out of the backfield. Basically, Carter’s upside is as a two-down back who plays on a team that features an elite rookie quarterback prospect in a league that’s becoming pass heavy. If Carter struggles in short yardage in training camp and doesn’t outplay rookie fifth-round pick Vick Ballard, don’t bother taking a late round flier on him in your redraft league.
On the positive side, Ballard enters the league as a fifth-round pick with an opportunity to carve out some meaningful playing time in a Colts offense that has a pair of unproven players who have had largely disappointing starts to their careers. Sounds good. Not so good is that Ballard is essentially a similar player to Delone Carter but one who enters the league with a reputation as a fumbler and a player who had maturity issues in college. Ballard’s scouting report basically reads as a player who gets what is blocked but that might not be much given the state of the Colts offensive line. Ballard is worth a late round flier in redraft leagues provided he can unseat Carter and is a middling prospect in dynasty formats.
How bad is the Colts running back situation? So bad that I feel compelled to do a write up on Deji Karim, a player who was unceremoniously dumped after just two years in the league despite his former team who is counting on a player coming off a major knee injury to assume his role on the roster. Karim has speed to burn but was awful last year backing up Maurice Jones-Drew in Jacksonville, averaging a paltry 2.1 yards per carry on his 63 rushes.
Well, it is safe to say that Reggie suffered from the loss of Peyton Manning but it’s also fair to say that he didn’t fall off the fantasy map like many prognosticators seem to believe. Hey, 75 receptions for 960 yards and four touchdowns isn’t horrible when you are playing for a 2-14 squad with major issues at quarterback. Nonetheless, at 33 years of age (he will turn 34 during the season), it is also fair to wonder just how much Wayne has left. However, with no threat to unseat him as the Colts leading receiver, he will get plenty of looks in 2012 and that should bode well for his fantasy prospects. Sure, a return to the 111 reception, 1,355 yard and six touchdown production he put up in 2010 isn’t going to happen but he should be a rock solid WR3 provided the injury bug doesn’t strike. And with just three missed games (all as a rookie in 2001) during his eleven-year career, the odds of that happening are slim. In fact, with his fantasy rep at an all-time low, Wayne could be a bargain on draft day.
After appearing on the verge of establishing himself as a major threat as a receiver during an injury-shortened 2010 season with 58 receptions for 649 yards and eight touchdowns in just nine games, Collie regressed in 2011 as the Colts scaled back his role in the team’s offense and he suffered with Peyton Manning out for the entire year due to injury. Entering just his fourth year in the league, Collie will have a chance to re-establish his role with little competition for playing time and with Andrew Luck under center. Collie figures to earn a starting position and line up in the slot in most formations although rookie 4th round pick T.Y. Hilton is ill-suited to play outside and could earn some looks in the slot. The bigger issue for Collie’s fantasy prospects are the amount of two tight end formations the Colts are likely to use as well as the comeback attempt by former Ram Donnie Avery – a player better suited to lining up outside than Collie. Consider Collie a low end WR4 and a player who should be moved up the rankings in leagues that feature PPR scoring. He is also a decent dynasty prospect in PPR leagues. We all know about his concussion history so consider Collie a major risk in the injury department.
The Colts used a third-round pick to acquire the speedy Hilton and he figures to challenge for playing time out of the slot as well as win a role as a returner in 2012. At just 5’10” and 180 pounds, Hilton isn’t likely to line up much outside as a rookie and with Austin Collie a fixture in the slot, Hilton likely won’t spend much time in the team’s base offense. He isn’t worth owning in redraft leagues and his dynasty prospects are middling at best.
With the departure of Pierre Garcon to the Redskins, the Colts signed former Rams wide receiver Donnie Avery to provide a deep threat opposite Reggie Wayne. Avery missed all of the 2010 season after suffering a torn ACL in the preseason and doubts remain as to his ability to regain the speed that made him the first wide receiver taken in the 2008 draft. However, off-season reports out of Indianapolis indicate that Avery has impressed the Colts brass and with Austin Collie and rookie T.Y. Hilton better suited to line up in the slot, Avery will have a decent chance to line up outside in many formations. Temper your expectations as Avery’s injury history and the Colts rebuilding offense are major impediments to his fantasy success. Consider Avery a late round flier in larger redraft leagues.
Considered the premier pass catching tight end prospect in the draft, Fleener was taken with the 2nd pick in the second round of the draft and will join his college quarterback, Andrew Luck, as rookies in Indianapolis. At 6’6” and 244 pounds, Fleener has solid size and more than enough speed to excel as a receiver but his progress as a blocker will determine how much he sees the field in 2012. Fleener was a big play receiver in college, scoring 17 touchdowns over his final two seasons at Stanford and averaging nearly 20 yards per reception as a senior. He figures to assimilate to the pro game quickly and Luck’s familiarity with him should result in plenty of targets in 2012. Consider Fleener an outstanding tight end prospect in dynasty leagues and a mid-tier TE2 with upside in redraft leagues.
The NFL is a league of copycats and the Colts were clearly paying attention to the New England Patriots offensive success when they chose Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen in the second and third rounds of the 2012 draft. Fleener is the more polished receiver while Allen enters the league with better blocking ability. With the Colts expected to use plenty of two tight end sets, both players figure to receive plenty of playing time as rookies. While Allen isn’t a downfield threat, he is similar to the Lions Brandon Pettigrew in his ability to get open on short and intermediate routes. Consider Allen a lower tier prospect in dynasty leagues.
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