Fantasy Football Strategy, Advice, and Commentary
By: Mike Krueger — August 30, 2012 @ 9:54 am
Player Projections, Rankings & Cheatsheets
Change Log – 8/30/12
- No significant changes from 8/27.
- Dustin Keller (-1) Minor bump down for a “minor” hamstring injury.
By: Mike Krueger — August 27, 2012 @ 5:40 pm
Player Projections, Rankings & Cheatsheets
Change Log – 8/27/12
- Russell Wilson (+22) Wins the starting job in SEA. A solid QB2 given his rushing ability.
- Nick Foles (#37) Making the most of his opportunities during the preseason. Could land the No. 2 job behind Michael Vick.
- Tarvaris Jackson (#48) Moving to Buffalo doesn’t change the fact that Jackson is a below-average NFL QB.
- Matt Cassel (-4) After a solid start to the preseason, Cassel has been mediocre at best the last two games.
- Jonathan Stewart (no change) His ankle injury is notable but I won’t move him until we get a better indication of his status.
- Isaac Redman (-7) The potential return of Mendenhall in October and a hip injury have Redman’s stock on the decline.
- Rashad Jennings (+3) Week 1 is fast approaching and still no MJD. It’s likely Jennings will start at RB for JAX in Week 1.
- Lance Ball (+25) Ball is running with the 2nd team behind Willis McGahee.
- Terrell Owens (dropped) Cut by Seattle means you don’t have to consider him on draft day.
- Sidney Rice (+5) A slight bump with less mouths to feed in Seattle.
- Brandon Marshall (+4) A slight bump for the Bears No. 1 wideout.
- Austin Collie (no change) It appears Collie may be ready for Week 1 but his injury risk is too high to move him up the rankings.
By: Mike Krueger — August 23, 2012 @ 8:33 am
Player Projections, Rankings & Cheatsheets
Change Log – 8/23/12
- Maurice Jones-Drew (-7) The longer MJD holds out the more I sour on his 2012 prospects.
- Doug Martin (+2) Starting to dig the rookie more and more.
- Isaac Redman (-4) The potential return of Mendenhall in October and a hip injury have Redman’s stock on the decline.
- Rashad Jennings (+8) He’ll showcase his talent if MJD continues to sit into the season.
- Rashard Mendenhall (+28) Could return in October.
- James Starks (-12) Turf toe and bad play aren’t a good combination.
- Dez Bryant (+2) Slight bump as knee tendinitis is noteworthy but doesn’t negatively affect his value.
- Miles Austin (-3) Chronic hamstring problems are a concern.
- Pierre Garcon (+1) Becoming the favorite target of RGIII.
- Sidney Rice (+14) Back on the field after offseason shoulder surgery.
- Justin Blackmon (+23) Running with the first team and looking good doing it.
- Terrell Owens (-14) Sidney Rice’s return deflates Owens’ value.
- Austin Collie (-22) Another concussion, yikes!
- Jason Witten (-2) Will avoid surgery on his spleen but may not be ready for Week 1.
- Greg Olsen (+2) Lack of a legitmate No. 2 wideout could lead to a big year for Olsen.
By: Dave Stringer — August 16, 2012 @ 2:21 pm
Aaron Rodgers: The top QB in fantasy football.
Much like Peyton Manning used to be considered money in the bank as the league’s elite fantasy signal caller, that throne has now been passed to Aaron Rodgers. Entering his fifth season as the Packers starter, Rodgers has finished as the 2nd, 1st, 2nd and 1st rated fantasy quarterback with the 2011 season rating as his most remarkable season to date. Despite sitting out the finale, Rodgers set career highs in passing yards (4,643) and touchdowns (45), topping his previous best of 30 by 15. If that wasn’t impressive enough, he also chipped in 257 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, bring his season averages as a starter in those categories to 281 and four. Shall we continue? The Packers have the best group of wide receivers in the league and go five deep at the position. Their tight end has the potential to emerge a notch below Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham. Their head coach treats the running game as an afterthought. Rodgers is just 28 years old, the age where most quarterbacks are entering their prime. Could he be even better in 2012? Well, if he starts all 16 games, why not? We wouldn’t go so far as to predict that but we wouldn’t discount the possibility. If Rodgers isn’t the first quarterback off the board in your league, then join a new one. After Arian Foster, Ray Rice and LeSean McCoy are gone, feel free to grab Rodgers. And if you are picking in the top three and really love him, go for it. As noted, he’s money in the bank.
The Packers spent the offseason talking up Starks and his potential as a workhorse back in their offense. Then they signed Cedric Benson midway through training camp after Starks suffered a turf toe injury. Some players spend their whole careers on the cusp of earning a major role and you get the feeling that will be the story of James Starks. A 6th round pick in the 2010 draft, he entered the league with the reputation of being injury prone and he’s spent his career backing up that claim, having missed 13 games of his rookie season due to injury and then three more in 2012 while also playing nicked up in numerous other contests. Starks entered training camp as a solid RB3 with upside given the expectation that he would not be splitting the job with a veteran back like he did with Ryan Grant. However, with Benson likely to earn a roster spot, Starks is a RB4 and most likely best suited to using in the flex role in leagues that use that position.
With a pile of injuries at the running back position, the Packers restocked midway through training camp by signing Cedric Benson. Despite topping 1,000 rushing yards in each of the three previous seasons, there was little market for Benson’s services this offseason but he will get a decent opportunity to earn a starting role in Green Bay. Or he may enter the season on the street. With the Packers not paying him any signing bonus, it is clear that Benson will need to prove his worth in the preseason in order to make the roster. However, with James Starks’ return from turf toe uncertain and Alex Green recovering from a torn ACL, it seems likely that Benson will open the season either in a starting role or in a reserve capacity. It’s too early to tell what the Packers plans for him are but he is worth taking a flier on given his potential starting role in the league’s best offense.
The Packers liked Green enough to select him in the third round of the 2011 draft but he spent his rookie season nailed to the bench before suffering a season ending ACL tear in Week 7. Green shaped up as a potential late round flier in 2012 as the player most likely to enter the season behind James Starks on the depth chart but injuries at the running back position forced the Packers to sign free agent Cedric Benson part of the way through training camp. With Benson on the roster and Green on a reduced workload as he recovers from his injury, don’t expect much from him in 2012. Given Starks’ struggles with injuries and inconsistency, Green is a decent dynasty league prospect but he’s little more than a lottery ticket in 2012.
Like the other Packers running backs, Saine’s value took a hit when Cedric Benson was signed in training camp. Saine played reasonably well in a backup role after earning a roster spot as an undrafted rookie free agent and seemed like a decent bet to be used in a pass receiving role when training camp opened. While that may still be the case, Benson’s presence coupled with reports indicating that fellow backup Alex Green’s rehab from a torn ACL is going well have torpedoed what little fantasy value Saine had. Grab him off the waiver wire if he plays well early in the season.
Jennings was on pace to set a career high in receptions, reach double digit touchdowns for the third time in five years (nine in 2008) and top 1,000 receiving yards for the fourth season in a row when he suffered a sprain knee in Week 14 that caused him to miss the rest of the regular season. While the timing of his injury was unfortunate and likely sank the fortunes of many of his fantasy owners, Jennings has remained injury free for most of his career, missing just eight games during his six years in the league. Although Jordy Nelson emerged as one of the league’s better receivers in 2011, Jennings remains the Packers most explosive playmaker at the position and the receiver opposing defensive coordinators are most focused on. While Jennings isn’t a typical diva receiver, it doesn’t hurt that he is entering a contract year. With Jennings, you get consistent production on a year over year basis as well as on a weekly basis as he topped double digit fantasy points in nine of the twelve full games he played last season. In two of the other three games, he put up 8 and 9 points. As fantasy wide receivers go, Jennings has plenty to offer. Consider him a mid-tier WR1 in 2012.
While it’s not exactly fair to say that Nelson burst onto the scene in 2011 since he had showcased some playmaking ability during his first three years in the league, it is fair to say that he shocked those outside of the Packer Nation with his performance last season. Nelson finished as the 2nd ranked fantasy wide receiver courtesy of his 68 reception, 1,263 yard, 15 touchdown season. What is perhaps even more remarkable is that Nelson put up those numbers despite being targeted just 96 times, easily the lowest amount of any top 10 fantasy receiver. Nelson clearly benefited from consistently facing single coverage, hauling in eight touchdowns on passes of 36 yards or more. While Nelson may get more targets in 2012, expecting another 15-touchdown performance isn’t very realistic. It’s also worth noting that Nelson also benefitted from the absence of Greg Jennings down the stretch, as he racked up 20 receptions for 387 yards and six touchdowns between Weeks 14 and 17. With so many mouths to feed, Nelson isn’t going to get the 140 or more targets that many top wide receivers get but expect another productive season in 2012, one that will likely rank him as a lower tier WR1 or upper tier WR2.
Since Driver’s string of seven 1,000 yards seasons over last eight years ended in 2009, he has gone from being a solid fantasy producer to a bit of a vulture in the Packers offense. Driver was targeted 56 times in 2011, hauling in 37 receptions for 445 yards and six touchdowns. However, unless you had a chance to be a fly on the wall in the Packers game planning meetings, you wouldn’t ever know when to start him. With younger players James Jones and Randall Cobb in the fold as backups, Driver wouldn’t even see a big increase in targets if starters Greg Jennings or Jordy Nelson were lost to injury. Driver isn’t worth owning in 2012.
Poor James Jones. Despite spending almost his entire career as a backup, he has averaged 46 receptions for 608 yards and 4.8 touchdowns per season during the four years that he has played 16 games. That’s pretty solid production for a backup. Unfortunately, when he hit the free agent market prior to the 2011 season, the market for his services never developed and he re-signed in Green Bay. Then the Packers drafted Randall Cobb in the 2nd round of last year’s draft and kept aging veteran Donald Driver. Both players return in 2012, meaning Jones will once again split the backup role with two other players. While it helps matters that the Packers love to play with five wide formations, Jones doesn’t get fed enough (just 55 targets last season) to make him fantasy relevant. Unless he gets a new home during the preseason, Jones will shape up as a low end WR4 or as a WR5 in 2012.
Taken in the 2nd round of the 2011 draft, Cobb looked like a future stud after he took a kickoff back for a touchdown and caught a nifty 32 yard touchdown pass in the Packers opening game of the season. While he showcased his play-making ability in that game, it didn’t change Green Bay’s plans to limit his role and Cobb ended up finishing the season with just 31 targets, catching 25 passes for 375 yards and that one touchdown. Unfortunately for Cobb, the Packers re-signed aging veteran Donald Driver in the offseason and James Jones remains on the roster despite reports indicating that the team was considering moving him. As we noted last season, most 2nd round receivers end up getting a decent shot at playing time but that’s a difficult proposition when you play on a team with the deepest, most talented group of wide receivers in the league and one that also possesses a Pro Bowl quality tight end. While it’s easy to love Cobb’s game and potential, it’s pretty much impossible to love his fantasy prospects for 2012. He’s waiver wire material this season but a solid prospect in dynasty formats.
While the sky may be the limit in terms of Finley’s upside, the fact remains that he was mostly a bust in 2011 even though the season-ending numbers indicate that he finished last season as the fifth ranked fantasy tight end with 55 receptions for 767 yards and eight touchdowns. Unfortunately for his owners, Finley was the most inconsistent top ten fantasy tight end. Of his 124.7 fantasy points, 26.5 came during a three-touchdown performance in Week 3, 12.4 came in Week 17 (when most leagues were finished) and he had double digit point performances just three times in the first 16 weeks of the season. In his 13 non-double digit performances during weeks 1-16, he averaged just 4.7 points per game. The issue with Finley isn’t talent, it is lack of opportunity as he finished with the lowest average targets per game amongst the top 10 fantasy tight ends. And with the Packers returning all of their key skill position players on offense, why should we expect much to change in 2012? Consider Finley a mid-tier starting fantasy tight end with upside but one whose inconsistent production may frustrate you.
By: Mike Krueger — @ 12:10 am
Player Projections, Rankings & Cheatsheets
Change Log – 8/16/12
- Matt Cassel (+1) Slight bump for Cassel who has more weapons at his disposal in 2012.
- Jake Locker (+2) Nothing’s official but it sounds like Locker could land the starting job Week 1.
- Roddy White (-1) White told his coaches, “I don’t want to be the most targeted receiver in the NFL.”
- Robert Meachem (-6) Needs to build a better rapport with Rivers.
- Jonathan Baldwin (+4) Benefiting from the absence of Bowe.
- Pierre Garcon (+4) Becoming the favorite target of RGIII.
- Jason Witten (-4) Spleen injury suffered in first preseason game. Ouch!
By: Dave Stringer — August 15, 2012 @ 9:10 am
Stafford led the league with 663 attempts last season.
Considered an injury risk heading into his third year in the league in 2011, Stafford proved his doubters wrong by putting together a Pro Bowl quality season (although he miraculously wasn’t named to the Pro Bowl) by throwing for 5,038 yards and 41 touchdowns. With the Lions struggling to run the ball, Stafford led a high flying passing attack that threw the ball 663 times and attempted more passing plays than any team in the league. Perhaps most impressively, Stafford was able to produce in the clutch, leading the Lions to big comeback wins over the Cowboys, the Vikings and the Raiders in helping Detroit secure their first playoff spot in more than a decade. If you were looking for consistency, Stafford provided that too by registering fewer than 19 fantasy points just once. That’s what happens when you throw for multiple touchdowns 12 times, have eight 300-yard passing games and fail to throw for 250 yards just four times. What’s in store for 2012? Provided Stafford remains healthy, and it is worth noting that four shoulder injuries caused him to miss 19 of his first 32 games in the league, he should finish the season as a top five fantasy quarterback. With Calvin Johnson in the fold and Titus Young expected to build on his impressive rookie season, Stafford has explosive weapons at wide receiver as well as a solid tight end in Brandon Pettigrew, not to mention perhaps a shiny new toy in 2nd round pick Ryan Broyles. While Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady need to be the first quarterbacks off the board, you could make a strong argument that Stafford needs to go number three.
When Lions head coach Jim Schwartz announced that Best was “week to week” early in training camp, that swirling sound you heard was his fantasy value heading down the drain. The Lions first round pick in the 2010 draft, Best’s first two seasons in the league have been derailed by injuries, including a devastating concussion that forced him to miss the final 10 games of last season. Concussions were also an issue for Best in college so the prognosis for 2012, and the rest of his career for that matter, remains highly uncertain. That is unfortunate because Best is a dynamic playmaker when healthy, capable as an outside runner and a receiving threat out of the backfield. In six games last year, Best averaged 112.8 yards from scrimmage and 14.3 PPG, which is RB1 territory. Since we don’t know when or if Best will return to action and we also don’t know the Lions plans for him if he does return in a backfield that could run three deep with Kevin Smith and Mikel Leshoure, taking Best in your fantasy draft is a huge gamble. He is nothing more than a late round flier until we see him on the field.
After being a 2nd round selection in the 2011 draft, Leshoure’s prospects looked rosy. Let’s run down Leshoure’s running back opportunity checklist as it looked heading into this rookie season. Incumbent is coming off a disappointing season? Check. Incumbent is injury prone? Check. Incumbent isn’t a great short yardage back? Check. Unfortunately a torn Achilles tendon ended Leshoure’s rookie season in the preseason and he enters 2012 with some major question marks, specifically maturity issues that resulted in the league imposing a two-game suspension and a hamstring problem that caused him to miss the early part of training camp. The suspension came from not one but two marijuana charges so Leshoure’s clearly got some growing up to do. Basically, the Lions don’t know what they have in Leshoure and neither do we. He’s a big back who should excel in short yardage work but he faces competition from Kevin Smith and possibly Jahvid Best for playing time, a pair of backs whose pass catching skills make them better fits in the Lions offense. Leshoure is worth taking a flier on but don’t reach for him expecting him to emerge as an upper tier RB2 in 2012.
Jahvid Best isn’t day to day, he is week to week. Mikel Leshoure is going to sit out the first two weeks of the season due to a suspension and up until mid-August, he had missed most of training camp due to a sore hamstring. Meet the Lions expected starting running back to open the season – Kevin Smith. What was old is new again in Detroit’s backfield. The old man of the Lions backfield at the ripe old age of 25, Smith returned to the fold in midseason last year, taking over the lion’s share of the team’s running back duties over the final seven games of the season. He put up 535 total yards and scored seven touchdowns over that stretch, despite playing through injuries himself. A solid fit in the Lions offense due to his ability to catch the ball (he had 79 receptions during his first two years in the league), Smith must overcome his own injury history in 2012. He starts the season with a big opportunity and that isn’t something most expected when the Lions chose not to place a RFA tender on him after the 2010 season. Consider Smith a high risk, high reward RB3 this season.
Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald says Calvin Johnson is the top fantasy wide receiver entering 2012 and we’ll take his word for it. The beast known as Megatron posted career highs across the board in 2011, with 158 targets, 96 receptions, 1,681 receiving yards and 16 touchdown passes, finishing the season as the top ranked fantasy wide receiver with a whopping 16.5 FPts/G. If you’re looking for something to quibble about, it would be Johnson’s production during a five game stretch between Weeks 10 and 14 when Johnson failed to top 100 receiving yards in any game and caught just one touchdown pass. Other than that, it was all sunshine as Johnson hit double-digit fantasy points twelve times and topped 100 receiving yards eight times. Since Johnson has the ability to regularly beat double and even triple teams, he is basically money in the bank given his lack of missed time during his five-year career (just three missed games). The only potential red flag is the health of quarterback Matt Stafford, who put together his first 16 game season in 2011. Megatron needs to be the first wide receiver off the board in 2012 and he makes for a solid 1st round pick. No other wide receiver is even close.
Looking to replenish their wide receiver depth chart and provide quarterback Matthew Stafford with another offensive weapon, the Lions wisely used a second round pick in 2011 to acquire Young. And Young didn’t disappoint, putting together a solid rookie season during which he showcased his solid playmaking skills. Despite lacking ideal size at 5’11”, 174 pounds, Young proved capable of lining up outside and finished his rookie season with 48 receptions for 607 yards and six touchdowns. After putting up decent numbers over his first seven games, the speedy Young came on down the stretch catching 33 of his 52 targets over his final nine games for 398 yards and all six of his touchdowns while averaging 8.4 FPts/G over that stretch. That’s WR3 territory, folks. While the Lions figure on passing less in 2012, they will still chuck it around plenty and Young has earned a bigger role at Nate Burleson’s expense. That bodes well for Young’s fantasy prospects as does lining up opposite Calvin Johnson. Look for Young to build upon his solid rookie season and emerge as a low end WR3 in 2012, provided he keeps his maturity issues in check. He is a solid dynasty league prospect.
In 2011, Burleson had a bigger role in the Lions offense, seeing increases in his targets (86 to 110), completion to target percentage (66.4% in 2011), receptions (73, a career high) and yards (757). That’s the good news. And here’s the bad. Burleson seems to have lost whatever explosiveness he had left, with his yards per reception dropping for the second consecutive season (from 12.9 to 11.4 to 10.4) and his touchdown count declining from six to three. Did we mention the Lions have used 2nd round picks in consecutive years (Titus Young in 2011 and Ryan Broyles this year) to upgrade the wide receiver position? The writing is on the wall, folks. Young had a solid rookie season and figures to earn more looks in 2012, pushing Burleson inside to a slot receiving role more frequently. Considering the Lions are likely to throw it less than they did in 2012 when they led the league in passing plays, Burleson’s fantasy prospects this season aren’t looking so great. And it’s not like he was great in 2011, averaging just 5.9 FPts/G. He’s a WR5 with little upside.
Despite having three solid wide receivers, the Lions used a 2nd round pick on Oklahoma wide receiver Ryan Broyles even though Broyles suffered a torn ACL last November. The pick was panned somewhat but with Nate Burleson aging and chewing up a decent chunk of salary cap space, Broyles figures to line up as the team’s main slot receiver within a year or two. And there’s a chance he could earn some looks at some point in 2012. More quick than fast and lacking ideal size at 5’10” and 188 pounds, Broyles isn’t a candidate to earn a major role outside but he caught a ton of balls in college, making him an intriguing flier in deep, PPR leagues, although he may not be fully recovered early in the season. Look for Broyles to have a limited role early in the season but monitor his usage and consider him a potential waiver wire candidate by mid-season. He rates as a mid-tier dynasty prospect given his potential role as a target eating slot receiver in a young Lions offense.
With the Lions stable of running backs struggling with injuries and failing to provide the team with consistent production, Pettigrew emerged as a solid receiving option on short routes and was a target machine, finishing 2011 with the second highest target total amongst tight ends with a whopping 126. Unfortunately, that caused his yards per reception to drop to 9.4 as Pettigrew finished the season with 83 receptions for 777 yards and five touchdowns. While that is solid production, it is hard to predict a breakout season for Pettigrew in 2012. If he is going break out, it is going to have to result from increasing his touchdown count. The problem there is that the Lions possess the top wide receiver red zone threat in the league in Calvin Johnson. Also not helping matters is the presence of backup tight end Tony Scheffler who pilfered six touchdowns last season. In 2012, look for Pettigrew to post similar production to what he put up in 2011, making him a lower tier fantasy starter.
The Lions reduced Scheffler’s role in their offense during his second year with the team but he still managed to put together a solid 2011 season. Playing second fiddle to a fully healthy Brandon Pettibrew, Scheffler saw his targets decrease from 72 to 42 but his fantasy points increase from 44 to 71. That’s making more with less, folks. Scheffler’s point total jump is directly attributable to his touchdown production as he emerged as a solid option in the red zone, catching five touchdowns between the opposition’s 10 and 20 yard line. While his 2011 production was amazing considering his target total, it is not hard to consider it a bit of a fluke considering he caught a touchdown pass every seven targets. If Pettigrew were to go down, Scheffler is productive enough that he would likely emerge as an upper tier fantasy backup.
By: Dave Stringer — August 11, 2012 @ 3:27 pm
Is this the year Jay Cutler emerges as a fantasy QB1?
Is this the year Cutler emerges as a solid fantasy starting quarterback with the Bears? While Cutler has been a solid performer for two consecutive years after struggling in his first year with the team in 2009, he hasn’t emerged as a solid fantasy producer and the explanation has been two-fold. One, the team has lacked playmakers at the wide receiver position. Two, he has been saddled playing behind one of the worst offensive lines in the league. In 2012, the Bears addressed the wide receiver position with the acquisition of Brandon Marshall and by drafting Alshon Jeffery in the second round. Unfortunately, they did little to improve the leaky offensive line. The reality of it is Cutler is unlikely to see a big improvement in his production this season. The team doesn’t really know what it has in Jeffery, Devin Hester and Earl Bennett and they lack a receiving threat at tight end. Even with Marshall in the fold, Cutler is unlikely to top the 3,666 passing yards he had in his first season in Chicago. He is a mid to lower-tier fantasy backup.
With no starting jobs on the offer, Campbell decided to join the Bears as Jay Cutler’s backup. Given Campbell’s lack of success as a starter in Washington and Oakland, that wasn’t exactly a surprise. He rates as one of the better backups in the league but the Bears conservative offense attack isn’t going to help Campbell’s fantasy production in the event he joins the Bears starting lineup. While Cutler is less of an injury risk with Mike Martz no longer in Chicago, the Bears offensive line remains one of the weaker units in the league, increasing the odds Campbell will spend some time under center for the Bears in 2012.
It has taken a while but it is now time to consider Forte as a top 10 running back in the league and a consistent top 10 fantasy option at the position. While Forte isn’t amongst the flashiest players at his position, he is a solid running back adept at running outside or up the middle as well as being one of the top pass catching backs in the league. In four years, he has topped 1,000 rushing yards twice, came up 71 shorts despite playing through injuries in 2009 and missed by one yard last season despite missing four full games and part of another. In addition, he has topped 50 receptions every season while averaging 498 receiving yards a year. Forte was racking up yards at an incredible clip last year, averaging a league-leading 134.2 yards from scrimmage over the first eleven games before suffering a knee sprain in Week 13 that caused him to miss the rest of the season. He rates just below the top fantasy options at running back and given the question marks surrounding several players in the second tier, you could make a strong argument that he is the top rated second tier fantasy running back. Feel comfortable making Forte the 4th or 5th running back off the board in your draft or auction.
Coming off a career year in 2011 with Oakland, Michael Bush was expected to be one of the more sought after free agents on the market. However, the market for his services was soft and he ended up signing with the Bears to a team friendly four-year, $14-million contract. With the Raiders, Bush emerged as a solid producer when Darren McFadden was lost to injury, finishing the season with career highs in rushing yards (977) and receiving yards (418). While those numbers were solid, he wilted down the stretch gaining just 378 yards over the Raiders final six games and averaging a measly 3.2 yards per carry. With the Bears, Bush will serve as Matt Forte’s backup and the expectation is that he will also assume short yardage duties. Bush rates as one of the better handcuff options in the league and could emerge as a decent flex option in leagues that employ that position given his role as a touchdown vulture, especially if you are of the opinion that the Bears offense is ready to take it up a notch in 2012.
In Bell’s rookie season in 2009, he showed some pop, picking up 220 yards on just 40 carries. In his next opportunity, Bell played well at the end of the 2011 season splitting time with Marion Barber when Matt Forte went down, gaining 337 yards on the ground (4.3 yards per carry) and 133 receiving yards (7.0 yards per reception). Not bad. But the Bears weren’t impressed, choosing to sign former Raider Michael Bush in the offseason to back up Matt Forte. That leaves Bell sitting third on the depth chart and needing a Forte or Bush injury to gain a shot at some decent playing time.
With Marshall’s trade to the Bears in the offseason allowing him to be reunited with quarterback Jay Cutler, fantasy enthusiasts began envisioning Marshall putting together another 100-reception season like he did during 2007-2009. That’s wishful thinking, folks. While Marshall and Cutler may make some sweet music this year in Chicago, Marshall isn’t about to see the 169 targets in 2012. That is how many he averaged during his heyday with Cutler in Denver. Let’s just say that the Bears have never targeted any receiver that much. While 100 receptions isn’t likely on order, look for Marshall to continue his string of 1,000 receiving yard seasons, which currently stands at five. Toss in another 6-8 touchdowns and you have yourself a solid WR2 with little risk. That’s right, folks. When a guy has topped 1,000 yards for five consecutive seasons and only missed four games over that span, you pretty much have to consider him risk free.
At long last, the Bears decided to revitalize their wide receiver depth chart in the offseason and Jeffery was part of the equation, with Chicago grabbing him in the second round of this year’s draft. Maturity issues, poor quarterback play and too much time at the buffet caused Jeffery’s draft stock to fall but he figures to have a chance to open the season in the Bears starting lineup provided he puts in the time during the preseason. At 6’3” and 216 pounds, he is a big receiver who will likely be used on short and intermediate routes but he also has enough speed to be an occasional deep threat. Unfortunately, while Jeffery clearly has more upside than Devin Hester and Earl Bennett, he will likely split the scraps that Brandon Marshall leaves behind with those two players during his rookie season. If the Bears were a high flying offense, Jeffery might be worth taking a flier on but that clearly won’t be the case with new offensive coordinator Mike Tice running the show. Consider Jeffery waiver wire material in 2012 and a solid prospect in dynasty formats.
Bennett is a fantasy tease. When the Bears use him, he looks good. Witness his three game run last season when he had 95 receiving yards and a score against the Eagles in Week 9 and then followed that up with games of 81 and 75 receiving yards. Then he went back to being an afterthought. But wait, he was quarterback Jay Cutler’s teammate at Vanderbilt so they have a connection. Here’s the bottom line. The Bears used Bennett as a starter in 2009 and he caught 54 passes for 717 yards and a pair of scores. But that was his high water mark and the Bears know it. If you watch Bennett play a couple of games, you will know it too. The Bears keep him around because he is reliable, not because he has upside. If you’re looking for five points a week in an extremely deep league, then dig in. Otherwise, take a guy who has more promise and whose team believes in him.
After four years of the Devin Hester experiment at wide receiver, we can safely conclude that he’s not on the verge of fantasy stardom any time soon. Hester has seen his targets drop every since his high of 92 during the 2008 season and his receptions from went from 57 to 40 to 26 over the past three years. Hester struggled badly in 2011, catching just 26 of his 56 targets for 369 yards and a single touchdown – a career low. And no, Jay Cutler’s absence wasn’t an issue since Hester had basically been relegated to returning kicks by the time Cutler was lost for the season. Over the last eight games, Hester was targeted just seven times and had five games where he wasn’t targeted at all. If that wasn’t enough evidence that Hester isn’t worth adding to your fantasy roster, then consider the Bears decisions to trade for Brandon Marshall in the offseason and use a 2nd round pick on Alshon Jeffery. Move on, folks.
A back injury suffered in Week 15 last season resulted in Knox having spinal fusion surgery and his career may now be over. That’s unfortunate since Knox showed plenty of promise during his first two years in the league (1,487 receiving yards and ten touchdowns) before struggling somewhat in 2011 with 37 receptions for 727 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Knox will open the season on the PUP list but the likelihood of him seeing the field in 2012 is low and the likelihood of him emerging as a decent fantasy option is non-existent.
The Bears 5th round pick in the 2008 draft, Davis was buried on the bench behind Greg Olsen and Desmond Clark for the first three years. Given his first chance to start following Olsen’s trade to Carolina, Davis was barely used, a victim of then offensive coordinator Mike Martz’ offensive system. Despite playing in all 16 games, Davis was targeted just 34 times, catching 18 passes for 206 yards and a respectable five touchdowns, proving to be a solid red zone threat with four touchdowns from inside the 10-yard line. Unfortunately for Davis, the Bears traded for Brandon Marshall in the offseason and he figures to assume the role of Chicago’s top threat from in close. While new offensive coordinator Mike Tice may be fond of throwing to the tight end, Davis doesn’t figure to be worth drafting in 2012. Check him out on the waiver wire provided he isn’t beaten out of his starting position by rookie Evan Rodriguez.
Having watched Kellen Davis largely flounder during his first season as a starter in 2011, the Bears used a 4th round pick to acquire Rodriguez in this year’s draft. Rodriguez has solid speed and showcased an ability to get open at Temple but maturity issues and his lack of ability as a blocker caused him to slide in the draft. However, with Davis and Matt Spaeth ahead of him on the depth chart, Rodriguez has a fairly easy path to playing time provided he can keep his nose clean. He rates as a lower tier prospect in dynasty leagues.
By: Mike Krueger — @ 9:16 am
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Player Projections, Rankings & Cheatsheets
Change Log – 8/11/12
- David Garrard (-1) Garrard or any of the Miami QBs should not be drafted right now in redraft leagues.
- Matt Moore (+3) Moore or any of the Miami QBs should not be drafted right now in redraft leagues.
- Ryan Mathews (-6) I’m expecting Mathews will miss 1-2 games. Luckily this wasn’t a knee or ankle injury.
- James Starks (-12) Starks has had a rough training camp and didn’t show well in the Packers first preseason game. His stock is falling.
- Cedric Benson (+31) It appears Benson will be a Packer very soon.
- Ronnie Brown (+23) In line to receive more work while Mathews is out.
- Julio Jones (+1) The bandwagon is full.
- Robert Meachem (-2) More adjustments likely to come, the more I see Chargers’ receiving corps on the field.
- Jonathan Baldwin (+16) Baldwin is having a strong training camp.
- Josh Gordon (+5) Another concussion for Massaquoi made fast track Gordon to the starting lineup.
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