Fantasy Football Strategy, Advice, and Commentary
By: Dave Stringer — August 11, 2012 @ 12:42 am
San Diego running back Ryan Mathews spent the offseason bulking up in order to fulfill a larger workload in the Chargers backfield in 2012.
It took just one play for Mathews to suffer an injury that may keep him sidelined on opening day. Mathews broke his collarbone on his first preseason carry, and reports indicate he will be out of the lineup for four to six weeks.
With Carolina’s signing of Mike Tolbert as a free agent in the offseason and the Chargers’ signing of former Dolphin and Eagle Ronnie Brown to replace him, Mathews was expected to see his usage increase in 2012.
However, with the start of the season just four weeks away, he is unlikely to be available for the Chargers’ opening game in Oakland.
San Diego’s first-round pick in the 2010 draft, Mathews has played well when healthy but has suffered numerous minor ailments that have either caused him to miss games or play at less than full health.
Mathews is living up to his label as a fragile RB with big injury risk.
It didn’t take long for Mathews to prove his fantasy doubters correct. He was already labeled an injury risk by many, so a broken collarbone on his first preseason carry is likely to cause plenty of owners to drop him down their cheat sheets or consider him persona non grata on draft day.
As they say, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Maybe this is an opportunity.
Given his solid production in a timeshare with Tolbert last season and his projected workload this year with Tolbert now gone, Mathews was expected to build on his 2011 production of 1,091 rushing yards, 455 receiving yards and six rushing touchdowns. Considering that Tolbert vultured ten touchdowns in 2011 (and 11 in 2010), all Mathews needed to do to improve on his 2011 fantasy running back rank of seventh was stay healthy.
So much for that.
If you had Mathews rated as a top five running back (as most did), you have to bump him down a couple of notches under the assumption that he will miss at least one game. The greater risk may be if the San Diego coaching staff were to decide against making him the workhorse back they had envisioned in the offseason.
But do they have that option? Brown appeared to be on his last legs in 2011 with the Eagles, and his signing seemed a desperation move by the Chargers. Curtis Brinkley looked decent last season but not good enough to stop the team from signing Brown, Le’Ron McClain and Jackie Battle.
While Mathews’ injury is clearly a setback, it’s not one that should preclude fantasy owners from grabbing him if he slides too far. Where is too far? In a 12-team league, you can feel good about grabbing Mathews in the early second round, given the question marks the second tier of running backs face in 2012.
By: Doug Orth — August 9, 2012 @ 1:39 pm
In my continuing quest to contribute to your draft-day domination, I will compose a series of blogs over the next few weeks that focus on players that are sure to create some hardship for fantasy owners: players on the same team who play the same position that will likely have a significant fantasy impact. For those of you who regularly read and contribute to the FF Today Forums, consider this short series a distant relative to “Look-Alike Players”. My goal is to create a compelling case for and against each player before handing down a final decision. Let’s get started:
The players in question this week: Wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker
The setup: Full-point PPR; 10 rushing/receiving yards equal one fantasy point; all touchdowns are worth six fantasy points.
Current ADP (courtesy of Fantasy Football Calculator): Thomas – 5.05 Decker – 6.04
What’s at stake: Grabbing the better fantasy WR2 of the two the Denver Broncos have to offer.
Decker doesn't possess Thomas' natural talent.
The case for Thomas: Raw talent. When Thomas was healthy for the first time in his pro career, it showed. From Week 13 on, Thomas dwarfed all of his teammates in just about every receiving category with Tim Tebow as his quarterback, commanding over 37% of the targets (65 of 175) over the Broncos’ final seven games, including the postseason. New QB Peyton Manning has already admitted to the Denver Post that Thomas “is a guy we’re going to feature” and CB Champ Bailey told the team’s website the 6-3, 228-pound receiver is “on top of” his route running this season. In terms of the S-W-S model (size, weight and speed) the NFL likes to use, fellow Georgia Tech alum Calvin Johnson may be Thomas’ only peer at the receiver position.
The case against Thomas: While one could question the lack of durability tag that I placed on Julio Jones last week, Thomas has a significant injury track record. He has battled a number of injuries – most notably to his hand, head (concussion) and Achilles’– since the pre-draft process in 2010. His lack of durability certainly hasn’t helped his development as an all-around receiver, although Bailey’s comments above suggest that part of his game is coming around.
The case for Decker: Route-running and the Broncos’ plans for him, which include moving him around the formation. While Decker is the same height as Thomas and actually only gives up about 10 pounds, Decker simply knows how to get open – something that was on full display when Kyle Orton ran the team for the first month as he posted a 20-270-4 line to begin last season. While it is never good to put too much stock in early training-camp returns, the consensus seems to be that Manning and Decker have “clicked” and their off-season work together shows on the field. Since Decker seems to be the clear choice for slot duties and the potential exists that Manning may not have the same arm strength he used to – due to his neck surgeries – Decker could easily finish with upwards of 100 receptions given the history Manning has with using that position (Austin Collie, Brandon Stokley).
The case against Decker: Simply put, Decker isn’t all that flashy, which makes it hard for some fantasy owners to buy into him. The 2010 third-rounder also hasn’t exactly dodged the injury bug either over his two-year pro career, although he has missed just two games – both in 2010. And while Denver has big plans for Decker, he’ll have plenty of competition for slot duties with Stokley, Andre Caldwell and Jacob Tamme all likely to get some time there as well.
The verdict: First, let me just say that both players are incredible value at their current ADP. But given the PPR format, I would side with Decker. In non-PPR, it is probably a coin flip. Perhaps it is unfair to cite durability as the main reason to rank one player over another – just as I did last week – but sometimes the best ability is availability. Flash doesn’t always produce cash; fantasy owners must be willing to look at more factors than just talent when ranking players. Sometimes, quarterbacks bond with the unexciting options they can trust and that seems to be the case with Decker. With that said, owners should be thrilled to land either player as a WR2 in a Manning-led offense because there’s very little “bust” potential here. There’s also a very good chance that at least one – if not both – of these players will be considered a fantasy WR1 at this point next season.
By: Mike Krueger — @ 9:19 am
Player Projections, Rankings & Cheatsheets
Change Log – 8/9/12
- Mark Sanchez (-3) Tebow is likely to get his shot sooner or later.
- Brandon Weeden (+1) We assumed but it’s now official… Weeden will start.
- Colt McCoy (-6) McCoy’s slide continues. By the time training camp is over, I’m expecting Seneca Wallace to be the No. 2 QB.
- Kevin Kolb (-5) Poor play in first preseason game has Kolb trending downward.
- Trent Richardson (-2) Minor or not, surgery is surgery. It’s a red flag that sends Trent to the bottom of the tier. Depending on his progress, he may fall out of the tier 2 in the next update.
- Kevin Smith (+27) Smith’s value continues to rise with Best and Leshoure on the sidelines.
- Roy Helu (-8) Still like Helu to lead the team in fantasy production but its anyone’s guess, which one of the RBs Shanahan will play.
- Evan Royster (+16) Shanahan’s favorite… for now.
- Robert Housler (+2) This kid would be a stud in a better offense with a better QB.
By: David Bond — August 8, 2012 @ 10:47 am
The running back position in fantasy football has lost a bit of its luster the last few years as the emphasis has shifted to elite quarterbacks and wide receivers in the NFL. However the position is still a requirement in our fantasy football leagues and running backs play an important role in your team’s success. This year there are some notable names slipping to the later rounds and simply being counted on to provide quality numbers despite age, injury and declining skills while others are looking to rebound into stud RB1 territory. Here is a look at a few such players – one’s to target and others to seriously think twice about.
Average Draft Position: 1.07
Johnson appears to have benefited from reputation alone. Are people forgetting last season? It was a brutal year – not interrupted by injuries but slowed by Johnson’s apparent apathy and the fact that he is a smallish back running behind a smallish offensive line. So what has changed? Unfortunately not much expect for a slightly better attitude heading into camp. A look at the trends raise huge red flags – in the last three years he has gone from 358 to 316 to 262 carries; from 5.6 to 4.3 to 4.0 yards per carry; and from 14 to 11 to 4 rushing touchdowns. Yup, Johnson is trending exactly the wrong way and is still the fifth back being drafted in mocks this season. The addition of rookie Kendall Wright and the presence of Javon Ringer will certainly limit Johnson’s touches. He was a bust last year and his situation hasn’t improved – late second/early third round is OK for Johnson. Middle of the first round is not.
Average Draft Position: 1.11
There is no denying the talent of Mr. Forte but there are is no shortage of red flags ahead. The screen-happy Mike Martz is gone as offensive coordinator and Forte is coming off an sprained MCL suffered in Week 13 last season. Finally, there is the Bears’ acquisition of Michael Bush who figures to snake goaline opportunities from Forte. Matt is a nice player for sure but to count on him as your first running back pick may be a little overly optimistic. Late second round, early third is OK for Forte but first is just too rich.
Average Draft Position: 2.07
Don’t be fooled by the videos of AP working out, looking chiseled and shrugging off an injury that should take 12 months to get over. It was only December that AP had reconstructive surgery on three, count ‘em three ligaments in his knee. I guess that Peterson could be the exception to the rule but I am expecting at least mid-season before he is back to full strength. Add in the fact that he is playing on a subpar team and Peterson looks like the biggest risk on the board. Let’s face it – Christian Ponder scares absolutely nobody and Percy Harvin is as big a question mark as Peterson. Let someone else gamble on AP this year in the second round – if he is there late in the third/early in the fourth round then take the gamble.
Average Draft Position: 5.06
I know, I know – Greene has been underwhelming but a look at the Jets backfield situation reveals that Greene is a virtual lock for 250-300 touches this season. He finished 17th among fantasy backs last season with LaDainian Tomlinson snaking a portion of his opportunities. This season he is the 23rd RB off the board and he has just Joe McKnight to compete with…? He is durable and is evolving into a decent pass catching back and will be the feature back in a run heavy offense – what’s not to like? He has certainly been underwhelming in the past but with the opportunities he is certain to get, he is a rock solid RB2 and may be worthy of at least a fourth round pick.
Average Draft Position: 5.11
With all of the noise that Peyton Manning has made in Denver, it is Willis McGahee that has slipped between the fantasy draft cracks. Absolutely nobody is talking about him. Last season he had 1199 yards, 4.8 yards per carry and but only four rushing TDs – something that is bound to change now that the touchdown snake Tim Tebow has left town. Knowshon Moreno isn’t going to threaten his touches; Lance Ball isn’t either and the only other competition for McGahee is Ronnie Hillman – a smallish back that won’t be on the field in the red zone. The Broncos are a far superior offensive team to the one that took the field in 2011 and McGahee, arguably their best and most consistent contributor from last season, figures to benefit from the holes that are bound to be open with the presence of Mr. Manning. McGahee as a RB2 in the fifth is a steal – 1200 yards and 10 scores is value as the 25th RB off the board!
Average Draft Position: 6.09
It is not often that you can bank on getting the unquestioned backfield leader of a powerful offense in the sixth round but that is exactly what you get in James Starks. Sure, he hasn’t scored since the first game of the 2011 season and sure he only had 162 touches last year. But entering 2012, Ryan Grant is gone and his competition for carries is Brandon Saine – Brandon who? My guess is that Starks hits 1000 combined yards this season with 6-8 scores. As mentioned, he has no competition and remember – Aaron Rodgers is just one open field hit away from another serious concussion. Green Bay has to run more this season and Starks has to be the beneficiary.
By: Dave Stringer — August 7, 2012 @ 3:07 pm
Considered a bit of a reach when the Vikings selected him with the 12th pick in the 2011 draft, Ponder showcased some potential after replacing Donovan McNabb in the starting lineup in Week 7 but clearly needs to work on his pocket presence and following his progressions. While he is unlikely to ever become an elite NFL quarterback, Ponder displayed some play-making ability last season both as a runner and in the passing game, despite the team’s obvious deficiencies at wide receiver. Unfortunately for Ponder, the team did little to upgrade its receiving corps for the 2012 season and running back Adrian Peterson is unlikely to be back at 100% after suffering an ACL injury late last season. When Peterson was out of the lineup, defenses clamped down on Ponder and that does not bode well for his fantasy prospects early in 2012. Given the Vikings investment in him, Ponder should be considered a safe, lower-tier option as your fantasy backup and a player with solid, but not great, prospects in dynasty leagues.
The athletic Webb has played reasonably well in limited opportunities during his first two years in the league but the Vikings have clearly cast their lot with 2011 1st round pick Christian Ponder. That doesn’t bode well for Webb’s prospects and he is not worth owning other than in the deepest dynasty leagues.
Of all the question marks at running back entering the 2012 fantasy football season, none is bigger than the Vikings Adrian Peterson. A perennial candidate for the 1st overall pick in every format, Peterson tore the ACL in his left knee in Week 16 last season and there are doubts that he will be fully recovered from that injury by opening day. What is not in doubt is that Peterson will not be 100% to start the season. In fact, he may not even return to his pre-injury form at any point in 2012. Of course, when you have scored 64 touchdowns in 73 career games and averaged 92.6 rushing yards, 110.5 total yards and 16.6 FPts/G over your career while remaining mostly injury free despite being the most punishing running back in the league, you don’t need to be 100% healthy to be productive. There are plenty of question marks with Peterson in 2012 but it all boils down to where do you draft him? Let’s examine the scenarios. AP could open the season on the PUP list, forcing him to miss the first six games of the season. He could be on the roster on opening day but still miss the first 2-3 games of the year. He could split time with backup Toby Gerhart for several games and then assume a larger role as the season progresses (just in time for the fantasy playoff run). Maybe the Vikings, expected to be NFC North doormats, choose to be very cautious with their franchise player in 2012. One last scenario: since the guy is basically superhuman, maybe he doesn’t need as much time to recover from a torn ACL as other players do. If you like to play the odds, you need to assume that Peterson will rate no better than an upper tier RB2 in 2012 and hopefully he gets rolling by the end of the season… and nabbing Gerhart is an absolute must.
When Adrian Peterson suffered a torn ACL in Week 16 last season, it appeared that Gerhart, the Viking’s second round selection in the 2010 draft, would finally get an opportunity to strut his stuff, at least early in the 2012 season. Unfortunately for Gerhart, he suffered an MCL tear and off-season reports indicated that Peterson is ahead of schedule in his recovery and may be ready to play on opening day. Those factors combined relegate Gerhart to little more than Peterson’s handcuff – barring a setback in Peterson’s recovery. At best, Gerhart may be a useful flex option for the early part of the season until Peterson is fully recovered.
Harvin will be a mid-tier WR1.
It was a tale of two seasons for Harvin in 2011, as he entered his 3rd year in the league. Expected to be a major component of the Vikings offense, the 2009 first round pick was marginally productive but hardly the explosive player that Minnesota needed him to be early in the season. Over his first seven games, Harvin accumulated 442 total yards (a respectable 63.1 per game) but failed to find the end zone. Afterwards, Harvin turned on the jets, finding the end zone eight times over the Vikings final nine games and notching 867 total yards, while averaging a nifty 15.0 FPts/G. What happened? Well, this one’s not rocket science, folks. Adrian Peterson missed four of the Vikings final nine games and part of another one, allowing Harvin to become the focal point of the team’s offense. Peterson returns from a torn ACL suffered in Week 16 and that will likely result in plenty of touches for Harvin, especially early in 2012. Will he get enough touches to top the 1,312 total yards and eight touchdowns he put up in 2011? Ask the Vikings. While they added little to one of the league’s worst group of wide receivers in the off-season, they also had Harvin sitting on the bench plenty in 2011 in an attempt to keep him fresh for returning kicks. We’ll take the gamble. Expect Harvin to be a mid-tier WR1 in 2012.
Wonderfully talented and wildly perplexing. Meet Jerome Simpson. There isn’t much that Simpson can’t do on a football field but it’s what he has done off it that caused headlines as he approached his first year with the Vikings. Felony drug charges resulted in a suspension that will cost Simpson the first three games of the 2012 season. Simpson was signed to compete for a starting spot opposite Percy Harvin but off-season reports indicate that he has struggled to learn the team’s playbook. That, along with the suspension, put his ability to become a consistent deep threat for the Vikings in doubt. Simpson clearly has upside and could earn a prominent role in a Minnesota offense desperate for some production opposite Percy Harvin. However, banking on more than his 50-reception, 725-yard, four-touchdown performance from 2011 might be overly optimistic. Consider Simpson a WR5 with upside in 2012.
With Bernard Berrian persona non grata, Jenkins started seven of the eleven games he played last season, catching 38 passes for 466 yards and three touchdowns. A torn meniscus ended his season in Week 12 and with a plethora of young wide receivers on the roster, Jenkins faces an uphill battle to retain his roster spot in 2012. With free agent addition and expected starter Jerome Simpson facing a three-game suspension to open the season, Jenkins will likely need the team’s younger receivers to underperform in training camp to remain on the Vikings roster. Even if he does, there is no point in having him on your fantasy team.
Having left the Bears after five mostly frustrating and unproductive seasons, Aromashodu was expected to challenge for a starting spot with the Vikings in his first year in Minnesota. However, he failed to earn significant playing time despite being a part of one of the league’s worst group of wide receivers. Aromashodu had three games with double digit targets but struggled to catch 13 of 36 targets in those games, finishing the season with 26 receptions for 468 yards and one touchdown. Don’t expect much more than that in 2012, provided he makes the team’s final roster.
The Vikings used a 4th round pick to acquire the speedy Wright and the diminutive wide receiver will provide insurance for Percy Harvin in the slot. At 5’10” and 182 pounds, he isn’t a candidate to line up outside so his playing time will be dictated by how well he plays inside compared to how well the team’s other young wide receivers play on the outside, with Harvin alternating between the two positions. Add it all up and Wright is waiver wire material in redraft leagues and a marginal prospect in dynasty formats.
While the Vikings used a higher pick to acquire fellow rookie wide receiver Jarius Wright, it was Childs that was the more intriguing prospect. Plagued with a slow recovery from a torn patella tendon suffered close to the end of the 2010 season, Childs was a shadow of his former self last season, catching just 21 passes for 240 yards and failing to find the end zone. However, his 40-yard dash time at his pro day improved to 4.41 from the 4.55 time he posted at the combine, signaling that he had finally regained the speed that intrigued scouts after his junior season. Unfortunately, Childs suffered a devastating injury in training camp, apparently injuring both patella tendons, ending his 2012 season and perhaps his career. He is not worth owning in any formats.
Regarded as the premier tight end in the 2011 rookie draft, Rudolph was basically red-shirted last season, catching just 26 passes for 249 yards and three touchdowns (all of his touchdowns were scored in his last seven games) as a backup to Visante Shiancoe. The Vikings chose not resign Shiancoe and with John Carlson brought on in a backup capacity, Rudolph will assume starting duties in 2012. He has sleeper potential given his solid size (6’6”, 258 pounds), which makes him a viable red zone option on a team that lacks size at the wide receiver position. However, it remains to be seen whether or not he can be a consistent weapon in the team’s passing attack. Consider him a TE2 with upside in 2012.
It seemed like a curious decision when the Seahawks signed Zach Miller prior to the 2011 season to compete with Carlson for the team’s starting tight end position, especially considering Carlson’s solid production during the 2008 and 2009 seasons. However, Seattle’s decision was validated when Carlson suffered a torn labrum in the preseason and was placed on injured reserve and no other team chose to sign him as a starter when he became a free agent at the end of last season. That left Carlson to sign with Minnesota as a backup to second year player Kyle Rudolph. Add it all up and Carlson is waiver wire material for the upcoming season.
By: Dave Stringer — August 6, 2012 @ 9:21 am
Matty Ice has been regular season nice for the Falcons. Just not so much for his fantasy owners. He is the perfect example of a player whose value to his NFL team far exceeds his value as a fantasy player. Or should we say has been the perfect example? With former offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey having been hired to lead the Jaguars, Dirt Koetter assumes the coordinator position this season and he will bring a vertical passing attack to the franchise and enhanced fantasy expectations for Ryan. Let’s face it, the weapons were already in the fold and what Ryan really needed to unleash an upper tier fantasy season was an offensive philosophy that emphasized the pass. Let’s dig deeper. Will head coach Mike Smith allow Koetter to unleash Ryan and stud wide receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones as well as tight end Tony Gonzalez on the rest of the league? Does it matter that starting running back Michael Turner has reached the ripe old age of 30? Would you be surprised to know the Falcons, despite adding Jones to the roster, actually scored 12 fewer points in 2011 than they did in 2010? Can speedsters Jacquizz Rodgers and Harry Douglas put together solid seasons? With Ryan coming off his first 4,000-yard season (4,177) and having thrown for a career-high 29 touchdown passes in 2011, it looks like Ryan may reach elite fantasy status in 2012 for the first time in his five year career. Ryan rates a notch below the big five at quarterback this year.
Turner's demise is exaggerated.
Let’s go on record and say the stories of Turner’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. There hasn’t been any demise. Of course, you’re reading this because you want to know if we’re projecting his demise, right? Let’s frame the arguments. Cons first. Turner had the second most carries in the league last season and he turned 30 years of age in the off-season. He has chalked up 300 or more carries in three of the last four years (he missed five games in 2009) while averaging 298 carries per year. A groin injury caused him to stumble down the stretch last season, accumulating just 280 yards and a single touchdown on 84 carries between weeks 12 and 16 before rolling over a Bucs team in Week 17 (172 yards, 2 TDs) that had clearly quit. Heading into 2012, the Falcons have said they want to emphasize the passing game more and reduce Turner’s workload with head coach Mike Smith recently stating that Turner won’t get 300 carries this season. And we all know he isn’t much of a receiver with 51 receptions during his eight-year career. Pros are up. He was the 6th ranked fantasy running back last season with 1,340 yards and 11 touchdowns. During his four years with the Falcons, he has topped 1,300 rushing yards every year other than the aforementioned 2009 season while also reaching double-digit touchdowns every year. While he is now 30, does that mean as much given that he carried the ball just 228 times over the first four years of his career with the Chargers? While Jacquizz Rodgers may emerge as a solid pass catching back, the jury is out on whether he is big enough to handle many carries out of the backfield and Jason Snelling is no threat to eat into Turner’s workload in a major way. Turner also set career highs in receptions and receiving yards last season (17 for 168) while also setting a career single game high in receptions with four during Week 16, proving that he might be ready to assume a larger role in the Falcons passing attack. Okay, those points, while true, are a reach but it did give me a chance to show you how much I research this stuff. The bottom line: Turner rates as a mid to upper tier fantasy backup in standard scoring leagues and a lower tier backup in PPR formats. And a tremendous value given the bad pub he’s been getting in the fantasy football world.
After a moderately successful rookie season in which he ran for 205 yards and caught 21 passes for 188 yards, Rodgers is slated for an expanded role in the Falcons offense in 2012. The question is how expanded will his role become? The Falcons 5th round pick in the 2011 draft, Rodgers lacks ideal size (5’6”, 196 pounds) to assume a heavy workload in the team’s offense and with Michael Turner doing the heavy lifting, Rodgers will likely get 6-8 touches per game. That’s not enough to make him a useful fantasy option. Even if Turner were to be lost to injury, Rodgers would almost certainly split the workload with Jason Snelling with Snelling assuming the short yardage role. While some are predicting a Darren Sproles type role for Rodgers, he lacks the speed that Sproles possesses. Do you get the feeling I’m not excited at the prospect of Rodgers having an expanded role? He’s a lower tier RB4 with more appeal in larger PPR leagues that employ the flex position.
The equation for success is ability, motivation and opportunity and after five years in the league, Snelling always seems to come up short on the opportunity part of that equation. When Michael Turner was injured during the 2009 season, Snelling proved he could handle a large workload by having a career year. He rushed for 613 yards, averaged 4.3 yards per carry and caught 30 passes for 259 yards while scoring five total touchdowns. It looked like he had carved out a role for himself in the Falcons backfield. Since then he has seen his touches drop in two consecutive years down to just 70 last season. In 2012, Snelling will once again split the backup role with Jacquizz Rodgers. While Snelling would likely assume the early down and goal line work in the event of a Turner injury, Rodgers would also see an expanded role, making Snelling only a moderately attractive handcuff.
The world likes its shiny new toys and there is no better example of that than witnessing Roddy White’s perceived fantasy value slide heading into the 2012 season. With the Falcons having unloaded a pile of picks in order to move up in the 2011 draft in order to draft Julio Jones and having seen his strong performance as a rookie, a large portion of the fantasy world seems set on him surpassing White to become the Falcons leading receiver in 2012. Not so fast, folks. Let’s check White’s resume over the past five seasons. Five consecutive seasons with at least 83 receptions and at least 1,153 yards. Two seasons with at least 100 receptions. Two seasons with double-digit touchdowns. Two seasons with at least 1,382 receiving yards. Twenty-nine touchdowns over the past three years. Two consecutive seasons with a league-leading 179 targets. Maybe it’s the age? Nah, he’s 30. While Jones is likely to warrant more looks in 2012 (he averaged less than six targets per game in 2011), the Falcons have said they planned on passing more this season and tight end Tony Gonzalez could end up with fewer looks given his decline over the past few years. In 2012, expect White’s production to approach his 100-reception, 1,296-yard, eight-touchdown performance from 2011. That would be good enough to make him a top three fantasy wide receiver.
Having parted ways with a boatload of draft picks in order to draft Jones with the 6th overall pick, the Falcons were expecting big things from the former Alabama product. And Jones didn’t disappoint, hauling in 54 passes for 959 yards and eight touchdowns despite a hamstring injury that caused him to miss three full games and resulted in him not being targeted in another contest. He possesses elite size and speed and his rookie performance suggests that Jones will become an elite receiver in the league. Will it happen in 2012? His explosive performance as a rookie (17.8 yards per reception and nearly 1,000 receiving yards on just 94 targets) suggests that it is possible. However, the smart money is on Jones improving on his production as a rookie but not receiving elite status just yet. Roddy White soaks up a pile of targets (leading the league in each of the last two seasons with 179) and while the Falcons plan on throwing the ball more in 2012, no one is predicting they will be amongst the league leaders in passing attempts. Jones shapes up as one of the top three dynasty league wide receivers along with Calvin Johnson and A.J. Green and as a lower tier WR1 in 2012.
After a largely disappointing 2010 season in which he caught just 22 passes for 294 yards and a touchdown, Douglas bounced back last season to post career highs in all receiving categories with 39 receptions for 498 yards and a pair of scores. Perhaps most importantly, he developed more chemistry with quarterback Matt Ryan, catching 62.9% of his targets after hauling in just 41.5% in 2010. While Douglas has displayed some decent playmaking ability at times (witness his eight reception, 133 yard performance against the Saints in Week 10), he is primarily a slot receiver playing in an offense that features perhaps two of the league’s top 10 wide receivers in Roddy White and Julio Jones as well as a future Hall of Famer in tight end Tony Gonzalez. Consistent opportunity just isn’t what is in store for Douglas in 2012. He is only worth owning if White or Jones are out for a significant period of time.
After appearing to be in serious decline in 2010, producing his lowest reception (70) and yardage (656) totals since the 1998 season, last year Gonzalez put together the most productive season of his three year stint in Atlanta, finishing as the 4th ranked fantasy tight end. With Roddy White and Julio Jones taking the focus off, Gonzalez finished the year with 80 receptions for 875 yards and seven touchdowns. He figures to be plenty motivated in 2012 having stated that this will be the last season of his illustrious Hall of Fame career. While Gonzalez might be motivated, the Falcons aren’t likely to be as motivated to get him the ball. If White and Jones remain healthy, look for a slightly reduced role for Gonzalez. He simply isn’t worth forcing the ball to anymore given his lack of ability after the catch. Consider Gonzalez a low end fantasy starter in 2012.
By: David Bond — August 4, 2012 @ 10:39 pm
The presence of a good stable of wide receivers for your fantasy squad is often overlooked on draft day. Most get caught up in the quarterback and running back bonanzas that inevitably take place. In PPR leagues especially, WRs value a can vary and while some owners like to jump on big names early, they may leave themselves vulnerable at other positions on their roster. There is definite value in the top tier of wide receivers but there are also some elite names that are being chosen way too early. On the flip side there are some quality names that could be available in the middle rounds – ones that could start and produce for your championship winning squad. Let’s take a look…
Average Draft Position: 2.11
When choosing a wide receiver in the second round, he had better be an unquestioned #1 on his team. That’s where the problem lies with Mr. Jennings. There is a guy named Jordy Nelson on the Packers – a player that not only out gained Jennings by 300 yards in 2011 but also scored six more touchdowns. There is no doubt that Jennings is an elite talent on an absolutely insane offense but Nelson and Jermichael Finley turn him into a risk that I am unwilling to take in round second round. I love Greg Jennings and would love to have him on my team but I am only willing to spend a third round/early fourth round pick on him which means Jennings will not be on any of my fantasy teams this season.
Average Draft Position: 3.06
Welker, like Jennings is certainly an elite talent in the league but at present he is the fifth WR off the board on average. A look at his numbers late in the season throws up a huge red flag for me. During his torrid first eight games last season Welker averaged over eight catches per game, 120 yards and 0.75 touchdowns. The rest of the way he averaged just 6.8 catches, 71 yards and 0.36 touchdowns while garnering nearly the same amount of targets. He failed to record 60 yards receiving in seven of his last eleven games proving the feast or famine rule with Welker. Brandon Lloyd has been added to take some of Welker’s targets and the tight ends still loom and may affect his production. Don’t get me wrong – I love Welker but not at this price as ahead of Brandon Marshall, A.J. Green, Roddy White and Julio Jones.
Average Draft Position: 7.07
I am not touching Britt this season. More arrests will lead to more suspensions for sure. There is also his knee issues that haven’t seemed to right themselves quite yet – 2 surgeries on the same knee has me wondering if he will be close to 100% this year. Britt in the 7th round, as a WR2 could offer tremendous value but I can’t help but think that the downside far outweighs the upside. My guess is that Britt will spend more time on the sidelines than the field this season – not exactly a recipe for fantasy success!
Average Draft Position: 5.04
Remember when Lloyd was the #1 fantasy receiver with Kyle Orton throwing him the ball? That was only a couple of seasons ago after which he endured some terrible quarterback play (A.J. Feeley and Kellen Clemens included). He is now in the fruitful gardens of Foxboro and has already developed a rapport with Tom Brady – the same Tom Brady that had 5200 yards passing last year. He has a chance to do what Randy Moss and Chad Ochocinco failed to do – become that legitimate deep threat that the Pats have been missing since the hay-day of Mr. Moss. With Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez creating distractions, Lloyd promises to see more open field than he ever has in his pro career. Something else to remember – Josh McDaniel is the offensive coordinator in New England and will be employing a similar system that made Lloyd a stud only a couple of seasons ago. Lloyd finished 25th in fantasy rankings last year and is being taken on average as the 21st WR in mock drafts. My mouth is watering at the prospect of 1100 yards and double-digit scores in the fifth round.
Average Draft Position: 6.05
Decker has the potential to become this year’s Victor Cruz. He has been working with Peyton Manning this off-season and we already know that his route running and ability to hold onto the ball are right up the alley for Mr. Manning. Decker has shown good fantasy chops in the past – only last year he was the #7 fantasy wideout after five weeks, then Tebow took over and the Broncos threw the ball five times per game. Manning himself has already praised the athleticism and hands of Decker and we all know that when you have Peyton’s attention, good things happen. Expect Decker to become Manning’s more talented Austin Collie or Brandon Stokley with more upside. 80-90 catches, 1000 yards and 8-10 touchdowns are likely but the ceiling could be higher.
Meachem comes into the season as the No.1 receiver for Philip Rivers and is being drafted on average in the seventh round – incredible! He has the size, the durability and most of all the chance to break out in a huge way this year. Meachem has Malcolm Floyd and Vincent Brown, not to mention Antonio Gates to compete for catches with – my guess is that Meachem outperforms them all. Look for 120+ targets this year instead of his customary 50. Also expect 1100-1300 yards along with 8-10 touchdowns for San Diego. The #1 receiver in San Diego typically means big numbers which means that Meachem should be in for a big season – not bad in the seventh round.
By: Dave Stringer — @ 1:48 pm
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There weren’t many worries with Freeman entering last season after he had an outstanding year in 2010 with 3,451 yards and 26 touchdowns with just six interceptions. Unfortunately for Freeman owners he slumped badly in 2011 – his interceptions skyrocketing to 22 as he was victimized by his own poor decision-making and the sophomore slump that wide receiver Mike Williams experienced. Not helping matters was the team’s other sophomore receiver, Arrelious Benn, failed to develop. While Freeman clearly slumped on the field, his fantasy production actually went up 0.1 PPG to 19.4, padded by his four rushing touchdowns. There appears to be bright skies ahead for Freeman with the arrival of former Charger Vincent Jackson. Jackson’s presence will allow Williams to slide into more of a secondary role and provide Freeman with his first true established deep threat at wide receiver. Freeman ranks as a mid-tier fantasy backup with considerable upside in 2012.
Tampa's rookie runner should make a big fantasy impact.
With LeGarrette Blount failing to build upon his solid rookie season and struggling for much of 2011, the Bucs traded back into the first round of this year’s draft to select Doug Martin. A solid all around running back, the Boise State product has decent size (5’9”, 223 pounds), agility and speed and excelled as a receiver and pass blocker in college. Martin’s skill set sets him apart from Blount, who has struggled in a receiving role and is more of a power runner. That makes Martin the favorite to open the season as the team’s starter and earn a significant amount of touches in 2012. Given the addition of guard Carl Nicks, further improving an already solid offensive line, and new head coach Greg Schiano’s preference to run the ball, Martin is a breakout candidate this season. The only issue dampening his fantasy prospects is that Blount is likely to earn the goal line work, which limits Martin’s touchdown potential. Consider Martin a mid to lower tier RB2 in 2012 and an outstanding dynasty league prospect.
Blount was a revelation for the Bucs as an undrafted rookie free agent picked up on the waiver wire after being released in the preseason by the Titans. He assumed the starting role at midseason for an ineffective Cadillac Williams and finished the season with 1,007 rushing yards and six touchdowns while averaging an impressive 5.0 yards per carry. However, his limitations as a receiver and pass blocker were evident and with the Bucs often playing from behind, Blount struggled mightily, finishing the year with 781 rushing yards and five touchdowns. He was especially ineffective down the stretch, accumulating just 137 yards and one touchdown on 46 carries over the Bucs final five games. His struggles caused the Bucs to draft Boise State product Doug Martin late in the first round of this year’s draft and he has entered training camp ahead of Blount in the pecking order at running back. While there are no guarantees that Martin will excel in his rookie season, he will get the first crack at earning a significant amount of playing time with Blount likely to get the goal line work and subbing in as a change of pace option. Consider Blount a low end RB4 entering the season and a potential flex option in larger leagues.
With second-year players Mike Williams and Arrelious Benn suffering through sophomore slumps in 2011, the Buccaneers were in the market for a big play wide receiver and Jackson figures to take over as the team’s top threat in 2012. Jackson signed a five-year, $55-million contract with Tampa Bay that includes $36-million in payments over the first three years of the deal. The former Division II player out of Northern Colorado possesses excellent size at 6’5” and 230 pounds and speed as his career average yards per catch of 17.5 indicates. Jackson has also shown the ability to out jump defenders on deep balls. Removing his injury-marred, suspension and contract holdout shortened 2010 season, Jackson caught 187 passes for 3,371 yards and 25 touchdowns during the 2008, 2009 and 2011 seasons. However, that production was in San Diego. He goes from catching passes from one of the top quarterbacks in the league and playing in the league’s 5th ranked scoring offense to playing with a far more inexperienced quarterback coming off a horrible season and playing in the league’s 27th ranked scoring offense. Jackson was the 10th ranked fantasy wide receiver in 2011 but he rates as a mid-tier WR2 in 2012. Simply put, Josh Freeman is coming off a horrendous season and has not proven to be as accurate on deep passes as Philip Rivers and those plays have been Jackson’s bread and butter throughout his career.
Williams wasn’t a complete bust last season but he was clearly a huge disappointment, as his yardage and touchdown totals plummeted from his rookie year in 2010 when he caught 64 passes for 955 yards and 11 touchdowns. With Vincent Jackson in the fold, Williams’ chances of matching his rookie production are unlikely, although it wouldn’t be a complete surprise if he approaches 1,000 receiving yards. However, given Jackson’s size and ability to stretch the field, Williams figures to be featured on more short and intermediate routes in 2012 and his red zone opportunities also figure to be diminished so a double-digit touchdown performance won’t be in the cards. Williams rates as a WR4 but is worth taking a flier on provided he shows a renewed dedication and remains in better physical condition.
Entering his 2nd season in the league and coming off an unproductive rookie season, not much was expected of Parker. That won’t be the case in 2012. After putting together a solid season with 40 receptions for 554 yards and three touchdowns, Parker will challenge Sammie Stroughter for the team’s slot receiving role until Arrelious Benn returns from a sprained MCL suffered in late July. The former undrafted 6’0”, 200 pound free agent from North Alabama figures to have the upper hand in that battle. While Parker is shifty enough to be successful out of the slot, he lacks deep speed and is unlikely to deliver many big plays, limiting his fantasy upside. He also struggled down the stretch in 2011, catching 12 passes for 171 yards and no touchdowns over his final seven games. With the Bucs expected to feature Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams, Parker isn’t worth owning in 2012.
If there was any further evidence needed that NFL’s teams don’t take long in making up their mind about a player, we can add Benn’s history to the pile. Drafted in the 2nd round in 2010, Benn was expected to take over as the team’s lead wide receiver as early as that season, as the team entered the season with no established veterans at the wide receiver position. Unfortunately for Benn, fellow rookie Mike Williams took over as the team’s lead receiver and just when Benn was beginning to show some promise near the end of the season, he suffered a torn ACL in Week 16. As expected, Benn struggled following the ACL injury, finishing last season with just 30 receptions for 441 yards and three touchdowns. That prompted the Bucs to sign former Charger Vincent Jackson, dropped Benn out of the starting lineup and dropping his fantasy value to nil other than in the largest of leagues and in dynasty formats. A sprained right MCL early in training camp further clouds his 2012 prognosis. Unless he does the unexpected and beats out Mike Williams, Benn isn’t worth owning in 2012. Grab him off the waiver wire if he proves worthy.
Stroughter played well as a rookie in 2009, notching 31 receptions for 334 yards and a touchdown before breaking his foot late in the year. He played mostly out of the slot in 2010, seeing a decline in his production to 25 receptions for 248 yards and was even worse in 2011, playing in just six games and catching four passes for 52 yards. Having seen a decline in production for two straight years, Stroughter is unlikely to beat out Preston Parker for the team’s slot receiving role and the 2009 7th round pick may not even be on the Bucs roster on opening day.
When new Bucs head coach Greg Schiano decided to send a message to his team’s roster by releasing Kellen Winslow, it opened a door for former Colts tight end Dallas Clark to join the team. Unfortunately, it is doubtful that it opened a door for Clark to regain the fantasy glory that he enjoyed in the 2009 season when he topped 1,100 receiving yards and scored 10 touchdowns. With Schiano expected to install a run heavy offense, Clark’s limited blocking ability will negatively impact his playing time. Not helping matters is the presence of 2nd year player Luke Stocker, who will likely be the team’s main blocking tight end and who the Bucs feel could develop into a solid pass catcher. Clark will likely have a few solid games in 2012 but he is best used as bye week filler in most leagues.
The Bucs 2011 4th round pick, Stocker played little as a rookie catching 12 passes for 92 yards in a reserve role behind Kellen Winslow. With Winslow having been traded to Seattle and Dallas Clark signed as a free agent, Stocker’s chances for a bigger role in 2012 were increased. Given Clark’s poor blocking ability, Stocker has an opportunity to win the starter’s job and the Bucs like his potential as a solid all-around tight end. However, he is unlikely to be a solid fantasy option this season splitting time with Clark and slot receiver Preston Parker coming off a breakout season in 2011. Grab Stocker off the waiver wire if he surprises early in 2012 and consider him a lower tier dynasty prospect.
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