Fantasy Football Strategy, Advice, and Commentary
By: Dave Stringer — August 15, 2013 @ 1:48 pm
QB Drew Brees
(2012 QB Rank – #1, 27.3 FPts/G)
It was another banner year for Brees in 2012 as he finished the season as the league’s top-ranked fantasy QB. Since the 2006 season, he has held that title three times and never failed to finish ranked among the top three fantasy QBs. And we don’t expect that to change in 2013. While the Saints’ cast of wide receivers isn’t as deep as in recent years, Brees benefits from playing with the league’s top pass-receiving runner out of the backfield in Darren Sproles, as well as the league’s premier pass-catching tight end in Jimmy Graham. With head coach Sean Payton back in the saddle, you could make the argument that the Saints will be even more explosive in 2013. Of course, it will be difficult for Brees to top the 5,177 yards and 43 touchdown passes he threw for in 2012. That marked the second consecutive season that Brees threw for over 5,000 yards and 40 touchdowns, making him the first quarterback to ever accomplish this feat. And that is the main reason why he should be the first QB off the board in your fantasy draft.
RB Darren Sproles
(2012 RB Rank – #22, 10.7 FPts/G; #13 PPR, 16.5 FPts/G)
At $14-million over four years, Sproles rates as one the NFL’s truly amazing bargains. Hard to believe that former Chargers general manager A.J. Smith let Sproles walk rather than sign him to such a modest contract, but I guess that is part of the reason why Smith got canned. While Sproles wasn’t quite as dynamic as he was during the 2011 season when he totaled 1,313 total yards and nine touchdowns, he was still a solid fantasy producer, averaging 10.7 PPG. With his carries being reduced to just 48, Sproles totaled just 244 yards on the ground while catching 75 passes for 667 yards with eight total touchdowns through 13 games. He finished the season as the 22nd-ranked RB in standard scoring formats, 13th in PPR formats, and eighth in PPG in PPR formats. During his two-year stint in New Orleans, Sproles has averaged 10.2 touches per game and hit double-digit fantasy points in 19 of 31 games (including playoff games). Don’t make the same mistake Smith did. Grab Sproles if the price is right, particularly in PPR formats.
RB Mark Ingram
(2012 RB Rank – #35, 5.8 FPts/G; #41 PPR, 6.2 FPts/G)
What to make of the Saints Mark Ingram. A first-round pick in the 2011 draft, the Alabama product has spent most of his first two years in the league proving that the Saints made an ill-advised decision in selecting him so high in the draft. While Ingram has solid power running skills, he lacks agility on the second level and the speed necessary to become a truly elite running back. However, he showed some glimpses that he is ready to become a more productive player of the second half of last season. During the first half of the season, he split the rushing role with Pierre Thomas and totaled just 134 yards and a touchdown on 47 carries, averaging 2.8 PPG. Over the remainder of the season, his role increased at Thomas’s expense, with Ingram getting double-digit rushing attempts in seven of the Saints last eight games. From Week 9 on, Ingram carried the ball 109 times for 468 yards and four touchdowns, averaging a respectable 8.2 PPG. While that is hardly outstanding, it makes Ingram a solid RB3 with upside in 2013.
RB Pierre Thomas
(2012 RB Rank – #33, 6.3 FPts/G; #32 PPR, 8.9 FPts/G)
At a certain point, the young buck puts the old man out to pasture, and that is what seemed to happen to Thomas over the latter part of the 2012 season. After getting double-digit touches in six of his first seven games, he had only two such games over his final eight (he missed Week 17). Meanwhile, Mark Ingram had double-digit rushing attempts in seven of his last eight games. By season’s end, Thomas’s production had declined across the board, as he totaled just 473 rushing yards, 354 receiving yards and two touchdowns. His PPG average has now dropped three straight seasons from a high of 11.3 in 2009 to just 6.3 last year. With the Saints seemingly committed to Ingram as their leading rusher, and with Darren Sproles the league’s top receiving threat out of the backfield, Thomas doesn’t seem to have much of a role in 2013. Barring injury, his fantasy value is limited.
WR Marques Colston
(2012 RB Rank – #11, 11.0 FPts/G; #12 PPR, 16.2 FPts/G)
Since his truly amazing breakout season as a rookie seventh-round pick out of Hofstra, Colston has finished as the 14th, 8th, 32nd, 12th, 18th, 10th and 11th WR in each year’s fantasy rankings. And that rank of 32nd came during the 2008 season when he missed five games due to injury. Nonetheless, Colston never seems to generate much excitement. Sure, knee issues have caused his stock to plummet in certain years, and a foot ailment might cause it to drop this season, but his injury issues have been overblown. Since entering the league, he has missed just ten games over seven seasons, appearing in all 16 games three times and topping 1,000 receiving yards every year other than the aforementioned 2008 season. While Colston lacks blazing speed and is unlikely to be on the receiving end of a highlight reel 80-yard bomb, he more than makes up for that with his solid size and ability to haul in touchdowns, averaging 8.3 scores per season. As the undisputed lead wide receiver in the Saints offense, there is a lot to like about Colston. With issues at the third wide receiver position, Colston should once again approach the 130 targets he had in 2012. Consider him a solid low-end WR1 and a steal if you can grab him as your WR2.
WR Lance Moore
(2012 WR Rank – #21, 9.3 FPts/G; #21 PPR, 13.7 FPts/G)
There are certain players that fail to generate much excitement in fantasy circles and Moore is at the top of that list. At just 5’9″ and 190 pounds and lacking great speed, Moore is never going to be a candidate to have a truly outstanding season. That being said, he’s been a solid contributor in the Saints offense for several years, and the team has done little to replace him as a starter. Removing his injury-plagued 2009 campaign, he has averaged 8.7 PPG since the 2008 season. Did we mention that he topped 1,000 receiving yards for the first time in 2012, despite being targeted just 104 times? If that were any other player, we’d be writing that his solid production in limited opportunities warrants a larger role in 2013. But it’s Moore, so nobody’s writing that. Don’t get me wrong—he’s not that exciting. But he is a low-risk alternative as a lower-tier WR2.
WR Nick Toon
(2012 WR Rank – N/A)
The Saints used a fourth-round pick on the 6’4”, 218-pound Wisconsin product only to watch him miss all of his rookie season with a foot injury. Polished as a route runner but lacking deep speed, Toon will battle to earn the top backup spot at wide receiver in 2013. We’re just not sure we like his chances to win that battle, however. With starters Marques Colston and Lance Moore lacking deep speed, it won’t be a surprise if the Saints try to plug in a speedier threat as their third guy. With rookie Kenny Stills possessing good wheels and the team having added veteran retread Steve Breaston, Toon will need to prove his worth in the preseason in order to have even a marginal role in 2013.
WR Kenny Stills
(2012 WR Rank – N/A)
Taken in the fifth round of this year’s draft as developmental prospect, the door has opened a crack for Stills to earn some playing time as a rookie. Possessed with outstanding speed but lacking route-running chops, the Oklahoma product has a chance to earn a role as a deep threat in the Saints high powered offense because of the loss of Joe Morgan. Stills has decent size at 6’0”, 194 pounds and will need to beat out Nick Toon and Steve Breaston, both of whom are more intermediate threats. He is a lower-tier dynasty prospect and a player worth monitoring on the waiver wire in redraft formats.
WR Steve Breaston
(2012 WR Rank – #151, 1.1 FPts/G; #145 PPR, 2.1 FPts/G)
After a string of four solid seasons, Breaston flamed out with the Chiefs in 2012 as knee issues caused his production to plummet. He appeared in just ten games, catching seven of his 15 targets for 74 yards. Released by Kansas City, Breaston landed with the Saints, where he will compete with Nick Toon and Kenny Stills for a backup role. Barring a solid preseason, we don’t like his chance to emerge as the winner of that competition.
WR Joe Morgan
(2012 WR Rank – #78, 5.1 FPts/G; #64 PPR, 7.1 FPts/G)
While Morgan is out for the year with a knee injury, you might want to stash him away in your dynasty league. There are players that do several things well and some that do just one thing well. Morgan gets lumped into the latter category. Possessed with outstanding speed, Morgan did one thing in 2012—run straight down the field. While he caught only ten of his 21 targets, he managed to average a ridiculous 37.9 yards per reception and take three of his catches to the house. Sure, he’s a one-trick pony, but there is a chance that Morgan can round out his game and become the deep threat the Saints need. It just won’t be happening this year.
The No. 1 TE in fantasy football.
TE Jimmy Graham
(2012 TE Rank – #1, 10.1 FPts/G; #1 PPR, 15.8 FPts/G)
Speed, skill, athleticism—is there anything that Jimmy Graham doesn’t bring to the table as the league’s most talented tight end? Other than durability, probably not. Although he has missed just two games during his three-year career, Graham battled wrist and ankle injuries last year and as a result saw his production decline. After totaling 1,310 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2011, he failed to top the 1000-yard mark in 2012, with 982 yards and nine touchdowns. Great numbers to be sure, and good enough to be the top-ranked fantasy TE. But is there value here? If you have to spend a high second-round pick to get him, then no. But if you can grab him late in the second round, then go for it. The Saints return all of their key skill position players but they lack a proven No. 3 receiver, and that should mean plenty of targets for Graham once again in 2013. With Rob Gronkowski’s injury woes, Graham is the undisputed top-ranked fantasy TE.
By: Mike Krueger — @ 1:38 am
Player Projections, Rankings & Cheatsheets
Change Log – 8/15/13
- Robert Griffin III (+2) – No setbacks. However, we won’t see him in any preseason games.
- Carson Palmer (+3) – I like the weapons at Palmer’s disposal but can he stay on the field?
- DeAngelo Williams (+5) – This move upward has more to do with Jonathan Stewart (ankles) than Williams.
- Jonathan Stewart (-5) – Coach thinks Stewart will be ready for Week 1 but given Stewart’s injury history, the risk is becoming too great.
- Christine Michael (+3) – It’s still unclear who will backup Lynch but this kid has skills.
- Roy Helu (+3) – Starting to establish himself as the clear backup to Alfred.
- Montario Hardesty (-26) – Scheduled for a knee scope today.
- Mike Wallace (-4) – Is Tannehill going to have time to get this speedster the ball?
- Kenny Britt (+5) – An upside bump, but injury history is a huge concern.
- Rueben Randle (+3) – Good upside pick late in your draft.
- Coby Fleener (+3) – Concussion concerns are gone for the time being. Making his mark with Dwayne Allen (foot) out.
- Ed Dickson (-3) – Just when you thought Dickson might have some value, he pulls up lame with a hamstring injury.
- Zach Sudfeld (+1) – Any Patriots’ TE running with the first team deserves a bump.
By: Dave Stringer — August 14, 2013 @ 10:55 am
QB Matt Ryan
(2012 QB Rank – #5, 24.0 FPts/G)
The Falcons took the leash off Ryan in 2012 and he put together the finest season of his five-year career, leading Atlanta to the NFC Championship Game. Ryan reached career highs in pass attempts (615), completions (422), passing yards (4,719) and passing touchdowns (32). For good measure, he also chipped in 141 rushing yards and completed 68.6 percent of his passes, both career highs, as he finished the season averaging 24.0 PPG. Looking forward to 2013, the Falcons have retained all of the team’s key weapons with Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez all returning. In addition, the team signed veteran free agent running back Steven Jackson to replace Michael Turner. Although Jackson represents a clear upgrade over Turner, the Falcons figure to remain a high-flying passing offense once again this season, with Jackson a solid pass catcher out of the backfield. Add it all up and Ryan figures to be a top five fantasy QB once again in 2013.
Jackson has a high-end RB2 ceiling.
RB Steven Jackson
(2012 RB Rank – #17, 10.0 FPts/G; #17 PPR, 12.4 FPts/G)
Buyer beware, we’re a tad biased on Steven Jackson. Toiling in relative obscurity for his entire career on a Rams team that has been a disappointment ever since he entered the league as a first-round pick in 2004, Jackson was a workhorse back in St. Louis. After playing behind Marshall Faulk as a rookie, Jackson began a run of eight consecutive 1000- yard rushing seasons despite being the focal point of the team’s offense and having to run behind a string of subpar offensive lines. He brings his talents to Atlanta in 2013, at 30 years of age and coming off a 1,042-yard season with in which the Rams curtailed his use for the first half of the year. Beginning in Week 10, SJax resumed his normal workhorse role, piling up 862 total yards and three touchdowns over the final eight games of the season, averaging 13.0 PPG over that stretch. That should put to rest any concerns that his production is about to fall off a cliff. With so much talent in Atlanta at the skill positions, Jackson won’t get as much attention as he has in past seasons. Another 1,300–1,400-yard season with double-digit touchdowns seems to be in order, and that would make Jackson a high-end RB2 for 2013.
RB Jacquizz Rodgers
(2012 RB Rank – #37, 5.5 FPts/G; #29 PPR, 8.8 FPts/G)
With Michael Turner in serious decline in 2012, Rodgers appeared to have some long-term fantasy potential. Unfortunately for Rodgers, once Steven Jackson lingered on the free agent market for too long, the Falcons pounced, acquiring the former Ram on a modest three-year deal. That put the fork in Rodgers’ hopes of establishing himself as a full-time starter, a notion that was always a bit dubious given his 5’6”, 196-pound frame. After a moderately successful rookie season in which he ran for 205 yards and caught 21 passes for 188 yards, Rodgers totaled 362 rushing yards, 402 receiving yards and two touchdowns in 2012. While his totals were up, it was largely based on volume, as he averaged just 3.9 yards per carry and saw his yards per reception drop from 9.0 to 7.6. Barring a collapse by Jackson, Rodgers just hasn’t been productive enough to warrant a bigger role than he had in 2012 when he totaled 153 touches. Consider him a potential flex option in 12- and 14-team leagues and a mid- to lower-tier handcuff since he would likely split the role with Jason Snelling if Jackson were lost to injury.
RB Jason Snelling
(2012 RB Rank – #80, 2.0 FPts/G; #62 PPR, 4.0 FPts/G)
It has been four years since Snelling reached the pinnacle of his career, rushing for 613 yards, adding another 259 through the air, and scoring five touchdowns while backing up Michael Turner and starting a pair of games. Since then, his touches have declined every year with Snelling getting just 18 rushes and 31 receptions last season. Of course, three straight years of failing to run for 4.0 yards per carry can cause a player to get his workload reduced, and that has been the case with Snelling. With Steven Jackson having replaced Turner, look for more of the same. Snelling could be a useful fantasy option if Jackson were lost to injury since Jacquizz Rodgers doesn’t have the size necessary to handle a workhorse role.
WR Roddy White
(2012 WR Rank – #10, 11.1 FPts/G; #10 PPR, 16.8 FPts/G)
White has been a regular as a WR1 over the past five years and we don’t expect that to change in 2013. With the more explosive Julio Jones attracting plenty of attention from opposing defenses, White was the most targeted Falcons receiver last season with 143 looks. He hauled in 92 passes for 1,351 yards and seven touchdowns, averaging 11.1 PPG for the second consecutive season. That marked the sixth consecutive season that White has topped 1,000 receiving yards, and in five of those seasons he topped 1,200 yards. At 31 years of age, White still provided plenty of big plays, and that shouldn’t change in 2013. The Falcons have clearly morphed into a pass-based offense, and the presence of free agent running back Steven Jackson shouldn’t change that. With the fantasy world tantalized by the potential that Jones possesses, there is a solid chance that White will represent solid value on draft day. Consider him a mid- to lower-tier WR1, and one that comes with little risk, especially in PPR formats.
WR Julio Jones
(2012 WR Rank – #9, 11.1 FPts/G; #11 PPR, 16.4 FPts/G)
Since the Falcons traded away a pile of draft picks in order to draft Jones with the sixth overall pick in 2011, he has displayed tantalizing potential. Despite missing three games as a rookie, he caught 54 passes for 979 yards and scored eight touchdowns. Last season he was even better, catching 79 of his 128 targets for 1,198 yards and ten touchdowns. While Jones has the potential to be the league’s second most productive receiver behind Calvin Johnson, the truth is that he is unlikely to reach those heights playing alongside the equally productive Roddy White, and that limits his upside. With defenses more focused on Jones due to his blazing speed, White led the Falcons in targets and receptions in 2012. In another year or two Jones figures to emerge as an elite fantasy option, but we don’t see that happening just yet. Consider him a mid-tier WR1 with upside.
WR Harry Douglas
(2012 WR Rank – #87, 3.1 FPts/G; #78 PPR, 5.6 FPts/G)
While you might expect an unchallenged slot receiver on one of the league’s top offenses to provide some fantasy value, that just hasn’t been the case with Douglas. Playing alongside three potential Hall of Famers in Tony Gonzalez, Roddy White and Julio Jones, Douglas was targeted just 59 times last season, catching 38 passes for 396 yards and a touchdown. That marked the fourth consecutive season that Douglas has hauled in just one touchdown pass. In 2013, another potential Hall of Famer joins the Falcons in the form of running back Steven Jackson, and he is a solid pass-receiving threat out of the backfield. With so many mouths to feed, Douglas just doesn’t get enough attention to warrant your fantasy consideration. Barring an injury to White or Jones, keep Douglas off your roster.
TE Tony Gonzalez
(2012 TE Rank – #3, 8.8 FPts/G; #2 PPR, 14.6 FPts/G)
Expecting it to be his final season, Gonzalez left it all on the field in 2012, having the finest season of his four-year run as a Falcon. With the running game struggling, Gonzalez hauled in 93 receptions for 930 yards and eight touchdowns and then promptly reversed his decision to retire. The question is whether he can repeat that performance in 2013 at 37 years of age. With his speed in serious decline, Gonzalez creates space with his route running, but his usage is likely to be reduced with Steven Jackson now patrolling in the Falcons backfield. While another 93-catch season is unlikely, Gonzalez has the potential to finish just behind Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski as a top fantasy TE.
By: Dave Stringer — August 11, 2013 @ 2:36 pm
QB Aaron Rodgers
(2012 QB Rank – #2, 25.6 FPts/G)
After a string of five consecutive seasons in which he has finished as the first- or second-ranked fantasy QB, Rodgers enters 2013 as the safest elite QB you can grab on draft day. And after a season in which he was considered a bit of a disappointment, the cost of adding him to your roster won’t be as punitive as it was last year. With defenses taking away the Packers’ ability to generate big plays by playing their safeties deep and using plenty of zone coverage, Rodgers was forced to throw underneath more than in previous seasons, finishing the year with just 4,295 yards despite attempting 552 passes. That’s a far cry from the 4,643 he put up in 2011 on just 502 attempts. His touchdown passes declined from 45 to 39 and he tacked on a pair of touchdowns and 259 yards on the ground. While Greg Jennings left as a free agent and Donald Driver retired, the Packers still feature one of the league’s best trio of receivers in Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson and James Jones, in addition to enigmatic tight end Jermichael Finley. With opposing defenses certain to replicate the strategies they used last season, Rodgers is unlikely to approach the 5,000 passing yards that some quarterbacks could hit this season. However, his rushing prowess and ability to avoid turnovers and keep the chains moving should ensure he finishes as the first- or second-ranked fantasy QB once again in 2013.
RB Eddie Lacy
(2012 RB Rank – N/A)
After struggling to run the ball over the past few seasons, the Packers loaded up on running backs in the draft, taking Eddie Lacy in the second round and Johnathan Franklin in the fourth. Lacy, a 5’11”, 230-pound bowling ball of a runner out of Alabama, will get the first crack at earning the starting spot. Lacy fell to the second round of the draft due to injury concerns, but he was highly productive when healthy in college. Unfortunately, the Packers have been content to use a committee approach since Ryan Grant’s heydays ended, and that limits Lacy’s fantasy upside. Also not helping matters are reports that he came in to camp out of shape and carrying additional weight. There is potential here, especially as a short-yardage runner, but it’s unproven, so Green Bay seems likely to once again use a committee approach. Consider Lacy a lower-tier RB3 and flex option in leagues that use that position, provided he sends DuJuan Harris, James Starks and Alex Green to the bench or off the roster.
RB Johnathan Franklin
(2012 RB Rank – N/A)
Taken in the fourth round of this year’s draft, Franklin faces an uphill task in his attempt to earn a significant role in the Packers backfield as a rookie. The 5’10”, 205-pound Franklin may lack the size necessary to handle the lead role and appears best suited to handle a backup role. However, since the Packers love to throw the ball, he could emerge as a decent fantasy option in a change-of-pace, receiving-back role. Of course, he needs to show that he can handle pass protection duties, and that has been an issue early in training camp. Given the lack of a proven runners on the depth chart, Franklin does have an opportunity to emerge as a starter, but that seems unlikely. Consider him worthy of a flier in the later rounds of your fantasy draft.
RB DuJuan Harris
(2012 RB Rank – #104, 8.8 FPts/G; #112 PPR, 9.8 FPts/G)
Harris seemingly came out of nowhere to land the Packers’ starting running back gig by the end of last season. He started the final two games as well as both of Green Bay’s playoff games, scoring three touchdowns with his strong, determined running. While Harris ran hard and showed some decent chops as a receiver, it was clear that he lacks great speed and isn’t very shifty. While he will enter training camp third on the depth chart, don’t be surprised if he is overtaken by James Starks or Alex Green by opening day. Unless one of Green Bay’s running backs is injured or traded, Harris could be on the outside looking in by Week 1.
RB Alex Green
(2012 RB Rank – #55, 5.4 FPts/G; #51 PPR, 7.1 FPts/G)
Taken in the third round of the 2011 draft, Green suffered a season-ending ACL tear in Week 7 and was slow to recover from the injury. Although he led the team in rushing last season, he failed to top 70 rushing yards in any game and averaged a subpar 3.4 yards per carry. He failed to show much instinct as a runner and didn’t display any big-play ability. With a loaded depth chart at running back, Green will need to display his pre-ACL explosiveness to land a roster spot. He shapes up as a pass-receiving, change-of-pace back, but DuJuan Harris or rookie fourth-round pick Johnathan Franklin could snag that role. Even if Green earns a roster spot, we’re not excited by his fantasy prospects.
RB James Starks
(2012 RB Rank – #76, 5.8 FPts/G; #85 PPR, 6.4 FPts/G)
In the category of “the NFL stands for Not For Long,” we present James Starks. One year after entering training camp atop the Packers’ depth chart at running back, he is in a dogfight to win a roster spot. And most don’t expect him to make the cut. The Packers used second- and fourth-round picks on Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin, and DuJuan Harris may have been the team’s most effective running back in 2012, albeit in limited playing time. Alex Green also returns, and the Packers view him as a potential playmaker. Meanwhile, Starks hasn’t been able to replicate the string of solid games he put together as a rookie when he helped Green Bay roll to a Super Bowl victory. After three injury-plagued seasons during which he hasn’t always run with determination, Starks’s Green Bay career will likely come to an end some time this summer.
Randall Cobb is locked in as WR1.
WR Randall Cobb
(2012 WR Rank – #17, 10.4 FPts/G; #16 PPR, 15.8 FPts/G)
After a breakout season in which he caught 80 of his 104 targets (a remarkable completion percentage of 76.9) for 954 yards and eight touchdowns while chipping in 132 yards on the ground, Cobb has risen to the top of the Packers depth chart at receiver. A dynamic playmaker, the Packers’ 2011 second-round pick could be in line for an even better statistical season in 2013 with the departure of veteran Greg Jennings. Of course, Cobb will also have to deal with the extra attention that comes from being a team’s top threat. At 5’10”, 192 pounds, Cobb has the ability to line up outside but does his best work out of the slot, using his speed and elusiveness to generate big plays. Cobb rates as a low-end WR1 with upside in standard scoring leagues; and move him up slightly in PPR formats, as he has an outside chance of hauling in 100 receptions if the Packers curtail his use on special teams.
WR Jordy Nelson
(2012 WR Rank – #30, 9.7 FPts/G; #38 PPR, 13.8 FPts/G)
After a remarkable breakout performance in 2011 in which he caught 68 passes for 1,263 yards and 15 touchdowns, Nelson crashed back to earth last year as an assortment of injuries derailed his season. Starting around midseason, Nelson caught the injury bug and couldn’t make it go away, missing four games and receiving just a single target in another contest. By season’s end, he had accumulated 49 receptions for 745 yards and seven touchdowns, an impressive haul given the number of full games that he appeared in (11). While the impression seems to be that Nelson wasn’t very effective in 2012, the numbers show otherwise. The biggest reasons for his lack of production were his low target count (just 73) and injuries. Nelson’s 2013 preseason is already cloudy, as he’ll miss the entire preseason after undergoing a procedure to correct a nerve issue in his knee. The team is hopeful Nelson will be ready for Week 1 but there’s no guarantee. While a return to his 2011 form is unlikely, a season of 1,000 yards and double-digit touchdowns could be in the offing, thanks to the departure of Greg Jennings. Consider Nelson a solid WR2 in 2013 is he’s able to step on the field to start the season.
WR James Jones
(2012 WR Rank – #16, 10.8 FPts/G; #17 PPR, 15.1 FPts/G)
After putting together five solid seasons as a backup, Jones morphed into a nice fantasy producer in 2012. He reached career highs in targets (98), receptions (64), yards (784) and touchdowns (14) as he stepped into the starting line up for an injured Greg Jennings and never left it. By season’s end, he had amassed a very solid 10.8 PPG. Now that Jennings has signed with the Vikings, Jones figures to start once again in 2013, and he should reach a career high in targets. However, another 14-touchdown season is highly unlikely, so he is going to need to increase his yardage total to once again approach 10 PPG. While it is nice that Jones is in a contract year and should be motivated, he rates as a lower-tier WR3 since his 2012 season looks as though it might have been the pinnacle of his career.
WR Jarrett Boykin
(2012 WR Rank – N/A)
An undrafted free agent in 2012, Boykin failed to catch a pass despite appearing in 10 games. Of course, when you sit sixth on the depth chart, you aren’t going to generate many targets. Boykin has a chance to leapfrog to fourth on the depth chart with the departures of Greg Jennings and Donald Driver. While the Packers like his potential, he will have to beat out rookie seventh-round picks Charles Johnson and Kevin Dorsey. Since this is the Green Bay offense, there is a chance that their fourth receiver could have some fantasy value in 2013.
TE Jermichael Finley
(2012 TE Rank – #17, 4.9 FPts/G; #14 PPR, 8.7 FPts/G)
Five years into his career, Finley has failed to reach his potential despite playing in one of the league’s top-rated offenses in each of those seasons. He disappointed once again in 2012, catching a career-high 61 passes but failing to deliver much in the way of big plays. He averaged a career low 10.9 yards per reception and caught just two touchdown passes, after emerging as a solid red zone option in 2011 with eight touchdowns. With Greg Jennings having left town, there is one less mouth to feed in Green Bay, but that positive is offset by the fact that the team seems ready to re-dedicate itself to the running game, having used two draft picks to replenish the position. Perhaps the truth is that the Packers’ offensive scheme just doesn’t utilize the tight end position enough for Finley to maximize his immense potential. Or maybe he’s just an enigma. Either way, he rates as a lower-tier TE1—one who will drive you mad with his inconsistency (consider his five-game stretch in which he failed to top 3 fantasy points).
By: Dave Stringer — August 8, 2013 @ 9:50 am
QB Matthew Stafford
(2012 QB Rank – #10, 22.8 FPts/G)
Stafford enters 2013 coming off a subpar season in which he had to battle issues at wide receiver and along the offensive line. With Nate Burleson lost to a broken leg and Ryan Broyles suffering a torn ACL, the desperate Lions were forced to acquire Mike Thomas from the Jaguars. You know you’re hurting when that happens. The truth is that Stafford’s play didn’t warrant the criticism he received. When you’re down in the fourth quarter, you need to try to make things happen, hence his high interception total. His touchdown-to-interception ratio dipped to 20-17 after being a solid 41-16 in 2012, but his yardage total remained solid, dropping only slightly from 5,038 to 4,967 as he came close to being just the second quarterback in league history to top 5,000 passing yards in consecutive seasons. In 2013, the Lions still have issues at wide receiver but have added another playmaker in former Dolphin Reggie Bush. If Calvin Johnson can push a few more receptions into the end zone, Stafford could re-emerge as a solid mid-tier QB1. We like the chances of that happening.
RB Reggie Bush
(2012 RB Rank – #14, 11.0 FPts/G; #14 PPR, 13.2 FPts/G)
When the Lions signed Bush this offseason, it seemed like a great pairing of an explosive, multi-dimensional running back in a heavily pass-oriented offense. It seemed like fantasy cha-ching. The only issue is that the entire fantasy world seems to be in agreement that Bush could be fantastic this year in Detroit, and that is causing his ADP to go through the roof. He was underutilized as a receiver during his two years in Miami, but Bush now has a chance to approach the 89 receptions he had as a rookie back in 2006. Mikel Leshoure and Joique Bell combined to catch 86 passes last season and Bush should get most of those looks. Not hurting matters is that the Lions have issues at wide receiver opposite Calvin Johnson. As a runner, Bush is coming off his finest two seasons as he remained healthy throughout and last season came within 14 rushing yards of topping 1,000 for the second consecutive season. Consider Bush a solid mid-tier RB2 with major upside in 2013.
RB Mikel Leshoure
(2012 RB Rank – #20, 11.1 FPts/G; #18 PPR, 13.5 FPts/G)
After being taken as a second-round selection in the 2011 draft, Leshoure suffered a torn Achilles tendon, ending his year in the preseason. Last season he had another golden opportunity, playing in 14 games and amassing 798 rushing yards while catching 34 passes for 214 yards and scoring nine touchdowns. Solid numbers to be sure… unless you actually watched him play. He averaged a pedestrian 3.7 yards per carry and 6.3 yards per reception and really only excelled as a short-yardage runner. With Reggie Bush in town, Leshoure will be relegated to more of a backup role, provided he beats out Joique Bell. While there are some pundits who are touting Leshoure as a solid flex option, we’re not going there. In fact, it won’t be a surprise if Bell beats him out. Still, consider Leshoure a respectable handcuff if he wins the backup job.
RB Joique Bell
(2012 RB Rank – #29, 6.7 FPts/G; #23 PPR, 10.0 FPts/G)
Here’s a little secret. The fantasy world seems to have handed the Lions backup role to Mikel Leshoure but there is a solid chance that Joique Bell steals it, making him an attractive late-round pick. The 2010 undrafted free agent failed to earn a single touch during the first two years of his career but came on strong last season with 414 rushing yards, 485 receiving yards and three touchdowns. While he had 52 receptions, those touches will mostly go to Reggie Bush in 2013. Bell’s value lies in his ability to offer the playmaking ability that Leshoure failed to provide, other than at the goal line. If Bell improves his chops as a short-yardage runner, there is little doubt that he will unseat Leshoure. Look no farther than his solid average of 5.0 yards per rush, which was considerably more impressive than Leshoure’s 3.7.
The unquestioned leading receiver in fantasy football.
WR Calvin Johnson
(2012 WR Rank – #1, 14.2 FPts/G; #1 PPR, 21.8 FPts/G)
Well, what is there to say other than “Wow!”? Johnson was absolutely amazing in 2012, having the best season of any wide receiver in league history. He shattered Jerry Rice’s record for most receiving yards in a season, hauling in 122 passes for 1,964 yards and five touchdowns. Unfortunately for Johnson and his fantasy owners, the five touchdowns were a bit of a disappointment because he was regularly hauled down inside opponents’ five-yard lines. Hey, the fact of the matter is that had Johnson scored 10 touchdowns yet gained “only” 1,600 receiving yards, he would have come close to matching the 226 fantasy points he had last season. Sure, that’s nitpicking, but Johnson’s amazing real-life season didn’t translate as a truly amazing fantasy season. The Lions will throw it plenty once again in 2013, and there are question marks opposite Johnson with an aging Nate Burleson returning from a broken leg and Ryan Broyles coming off a late-season ACL tear. Johnson will be the first WR off the board in all drafts this season. The only question is whether he will blow away the next best WR.
WR Nate Burleson
(2012 WR Rank – #96, 6.8 FPts/G; #87 PPR, 11.3 FPts/G)
At 31 years of age (32 on opening day), it is safe to say that Burleson’s best days are behind. Always more hype than actual production, Burleson has topped 800 receiving yards just twice in his 10-year career and 1,000 yards just once, way back in 2004. A broken leg ended his season after just six games last year, but he was marginally productive before the injury with 224 yards and a pair of touchdowns. In 2013, Burleson figures to be an opening day starter with Ryan Broyles returning from a torn ACL suffered last December. That gives him an opportunity. Just don’t expect him to do much with it. There are younger options with more upside.
WR Ryan Broyles
(2012 WR Rank – #92, 5.4 FPts/G; #94 PPR, 8.1 FPts/G)
The Lions used a second-round pick on Oklahoma wide receiver Ryan Broyles in the 2012 draft even though he had torn his ACL in November of his final college season. While that looked like a questionable move, Broyles heated up in Week 7, catching 21 passes for 307 yards and a pair of touchdowns over the next six games. Unfortunately, he suffered another torn ACL in Week 13, clouding his outlook for 2013. While offseason reports indicate that Broyles has had a solid recovery, there are no guarantees that he will be fully recovered by opening day, even if he is able to suit up. At 5’10” and 188 pounds, Broyles isn’t a great option outside, but he figures to get plenty of targets in the league’s most pass-oriented offense once he’s healthy. That gives him upside. If you’re willing to wait for him to get healthy, Broyles is worth a late-round flier.
WR Mike Thomas
(2012 WR Rank – #121, 1.6 FPts/G; #119 PPR, 2.9 FPts/G)
Hard to believe the Jaguars handed Thomas a $19-million, three-year contract extension with $9-million in guarantees in 2011, and almost harder to believe that a sinking Lions team traded for him last season. By season’s end, Thomas had proven to be a complete non-factor with only 18 receptions for 108 yards and a score. No matter that the Lions need increased production opposite Calvin Johnson. Thomas got paid and went in the tank.
TE Brandon Pettigrew
(2012 TE Rank – #21, 5.7 FPts/G; #16 PPR, 10.3 FPts/G)
Although the Lions were the league’s most pass-oriented offense, Pettigrew’s role decreased as his targets dipped from a career-high 126 in 2011 to just 102 in 2012. And he caught just 59 passes for 567 yards and three touchdowns, a pretty low figure given his 6’5” frame. Come to think of it, Pettigrew has been a bit of a disappointment in the red zone during his four-year career with just 14 touchdowns. Part of that lack of production is explained by his solid blocking ability. That counts when your team has three new starters along the offensive line as the Lions do in 2013, but it doesn’t make for nice fantasy numbers. Also not helping matters is the presence of backup tight end Tony Scheffler, who had 85 targets last season. Pettigrew rates as a low-risk, low-end TE1.
TE Tony Scheffler
(2012 TE Rank – #30, 5.7 FPts/G; #29 PPR, 6.6 FPts/G)
The Lions utilize two–tight end formations as much as any team in the league, providing Scheffler plenty of playing time in an offense that threw the ball 740 times in 2012. If there is one thing you can say about Scheffler, it’s that he seems to be more productive the less work he gets. In 2010, he was targeted 72 times and scored 2.9 PPG, due to his catching just one touchdown pass. He averaged a respectable 4.7 PPG with 42 targets in 2011, mostly because he scored six times. With a career-high 85 targets last season, he averaged just 3.8PP because he again found the end zone just once, although he had 504 receiving yards. What’s that mean? Even if Brandon Pettigrew were to get hurt, we have our doubts that Scheffler would see his production increase.
By: Mike Krueger — @ 2:45 am
Player Projections, Rankings & Cheatsheets
Change Log – 8/8/13
- Arian Foster (-1) – A little nitpicky here, as I dropped 1 TD of his total.
- Daryl Richardson (+1) – A nice vote of confidence from his head coach this week but I already had him pegged as the leader of the Rams RBBC.
- Shane Vereen (+1) – His ADP (6.03) is on the rise.
- Mikel Leshoure (-3) – He’s losing the battle for the No. 2 RB job.
- Christine Michael (+20) – Michael has benefited from Turbin (foot) being on the sidelines.
- Ryan Williams (-5) – Can’t shake his knee injury.
- Jordy Nelson (-1) – Knee is a concern, but no reason to drop him significantly at this time.
- Steve Johnson (-4) – A Hamstring injury and a questionable QB situation doesn’t inspire confidence.
- Vincent Brown (+41) – Brown has a golden opportunity but needs to shake his hamstring injury.
- Tyler Eifert (+9) – With no proven performer opposite A.J. Green, Eifert could be utilized sooner rather than later.
By: Dave Stringer — August 6, 2013 @ 11:23 pm
QB Christian Ponder
(2012 QB Rank – #22, 16.0 FPts/G)
Two middling seasons after being taken with the 12th pick in the 2011 draft, Ponder faces a make-or-break season in 2013 with the Vikings. Entering training camp, reports indicated that the Vikings weren’t going to allow Ponder to play through the growing pains he experienced during his first two years in the league, making him a candidate to be replaced at some point during the season. While he threw for a respectable 2,935 yards with 18 touchdowns and just 12 interceptions, Ponder offered little in the way of big-play ability and had several poor performances, throwing for fewer than 150 yards five times and topping 250 yards just four times. Although the Vikings added Greg Jennings in the offseason, the team still possesses one of the worst wide receiver depth charts in the league, and that will hinder Ponder’s ability to keep free agent signee Matt Cassel nailed to the bench.
QB Matt Cassel
(2012 QB Rank – #32, 14.9 FPts/G)
Cassel’s four-year run as a starter in Kansas City ended this offseason, leaving him to sign on in Minnesota to ostensibly back up Christian Ponder. The eight-year veteran suffered through his final two years with the Chiefs, completing less than 60 percent of his passes (he failed to top that mark in any of his four years there), missing 14 games due to injury, and compiling a combined 16–21 touchdown-to-interception ratio. His reward? Perhaps the best backup job in the league, with Ponder having shown a clear inability to connect on deep passes. It won’t be a surprise if Cassel ends up starting at some point in 2013, but even if that happens, he’ll rate as one of the leagues’ worst fantasy QBs.
So, this guy is pretty good.
RB Adrian Peterson
(2012 RB Rank – #1, 19.3 FPts/G; #1 PPR, 21.8 FPts/G)
Peterson entered 2012 as the biggest fantasy question mark at RB and finished the season as the indisputable top-ranked player at his position. What a difference a year makes! AP put to rest any concerns that he would not be fully recovered from a torn ACL suffered in Week 16 of the 2011 season, coming within just nine yards of breaking Eric Dickerson’s all-time single-season rushing record. With Percy Harvin out for much of the year and the Vikings’ passing attack among the league’s worst, Peterson ran for 2,097 yards and 12 touchdowns on 348 carries while chipping in 40 receptions for 217 yards and another score. It was his finest season and it left little doubt that AP is the league’s premier player at his position. Better yet, at just 28 years of age, he has a few more years of elite productivity left. If you land the first overall pick in your fantasy draft, you won’t have to ponder long over which player to take.
RB Toby Gerhart
(2012 RB Rank – #70,2.6 FPts/G; #63 PPR, 3.9 FPts/G)
When you back up the most dynamic running back in the league, you are basically the equivalent of the Maytag repairman. And that is Gerhart’s football fate in backing up Adrian Peterson. With Peterson coming off a torn ACL suffered late in the 2011 season, Gerhart was expected to get his most extensive workload last season, but those hopes evaporated as Peterson had a miraculous recovery on his way to one of the best single seasons a running back has ever had. Gerhart is a worthy handcuff but he offers no value unless Peterson is lost to injury.
WR Greg Jennings
(2012 WR Rank – #74, 7.6 FPts/G; #76 PPR, 12.1 FPts/G)
Unable to agree on a long-term contract with the Packers, Jennings chose to sign with their NFC North rival, the Minnesota Vikings. While that may hurt Packers fans, it also hurts his fantasy value, since catching passes from Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay’s high-powered offense is light years from catching balls from Christian Ponder or Matt Cassel. In Minnesota, Jennings will assume the lead receiver role left vacant by the offseason trade of Percy Harvin to Seattle. The 29-year old Jennings (30 on opening day) is coming off an injury-plagued two-year stretch in Green Bay where he failed to reach 1,000 receiving yards after topping that mark for three consecutive seasons, from 2008 to 2010. Jennings is a solid route runner with deceptive deep speed and some ability to make tacklers miss. Unfortunately, the big plays that he generated in Green Bay are unlikely to follow him to Minnesota with Ponder at quarterback. Jennings rates as a mid-tier WR3 with some upside.
WR Jerome Simpson
(2012 WR Rank – #112, 2.3 FPts/G; #106 PPR, 4.5 FPts/G)
After a disappointing first year in Minnesota, the Vikings re-signed Simpson to a one-year deal this offseason. Let’s not mistake this as an endorsement for Simpson’s ability to produce in the Vikings offense. It’s more of a stopgap signing since the team had no proven options to step into the starting lineup. A three-game suspension hurt Simpson’s ability to get on the same page as quarterback Christian Ponder last year, and he finished the season with just 26 receptions on 52 targets for 274 yards and no trips to the end zone. While Simpsons has freakish abilities, his average of just 10.5 yards per reception was a major disappointment. After five seasons of mostly mediocre, inconsistent play, there is little reason to suggest Simpson will establish himself as a solid fantasy producer in 2013, especially with Ponder throwing him the ball. Fill out the bottom of your roster with a player who has more upside than Simpson.
WR Jarius Wright
(2012 WR Rank – #89, 6.3 FPts/G; #25 PPR, 9.4 FPts/G)
While Wright may not be capable of doing everything that Percy Harvin can, he is expected to replace him as the Vikings’ main slot receiver in 2013. The Vikings’ 2012 fourth-round pick, at 5’10” and 182 pounds, Wright barely saw the field until Harvin was lost to injury. However, he made the most of his limited opportunity, hauling in 22 receptions for 310 yards and two touchdowns while averaging 14.1 yards per reception over seven games. With Greg Jennings fulfilling the lead wide receiver role and the inconsistent Jerome Simpson battling raw rookie first-round pick Cordarrelle Patterson to play outside, Wright has a solid opportunity to establish himself in 2013. Consider him a potential waiver-wire pickup based on his early-season usage, especially in PPR leagues.
WR Cordarrelle Patterson
(2012 WR Rank – N/A)
Looking to replace Percy Harvin, the Vikings traded into the back end of the first round to acquire Patterson. The Tennessee product has solid size at 6’3” and 205 pounds and also possesses blazing speed and excellent run-after-the-catch ability. While the Vikings lack a proven threat to play opposite free agent signee Greg Jennings, Patterson is considered a raw prospect, which limits his fantasy upside in 2013. Look for Jennings to help mentor Patterson, perhaps allowing him to take on a more significant role later in the season, but don’t expect the Vikings to throw their full playbook at him early in the year. While not worthy of a selection in redraft formats, Patterson is an excellent prospect in dynasty formats.
WR Greg Childs
(2012 WR Rank – N/A)
After struggling in college while recovering from a torn patella tendon, Childs suffered a devastating injury in training camp last season, injuring both patella tendons and putting his career in jeopardy. While the Vikings’ 2012 fourth-round pick was once regarded as a solid pro prospect, the fact is that the injury he suffered is not one in which any professional players have truly recovered him. Unless the science has advanced, Childs’ career is over.
TE Kyle Rudolph
(2012 TE Rank – #11, 6.5 FPts/G; #11 PPR, 9.8 FPts/G)
After catching 53 passes for 493 yards and nine touchdowns while averaging 6.5 PPG, there is a good chance that Rudolph will be getting some fantasy love in this year’s draft as a potential third-year breakout candidate at TE. We’re not buying it. While the Vikings’ 2011 second-round pick has solid size at 6’6”, 259 pounds and is a good route runner on short and intermediate patterns, he lacks the speed necessary to become a truly elite tight end. Not helping matters is the presence of quarterback Christian Ponder, who is clearly more of a game-managing check-down artist and not the gunslinger who could propel a player like Rudolph to fantasy stardom. Where Rudolph excels is in the red zone, having caught 12 touchdown passes in his last 23 games. And we all know it’s foolhardy to chase touchdowns, even if the Vikings lack a big receiver to steal Rudolph’s red zone looks. Consider him an upper-tier TE2 in 2013.
TE John Carlson
(2012 TE Rank – #78, 0.5 FPts/G; #73 PPR, 1.4 FPts/G)
Carlson enters the season coming off a concussion that ended his 2012 campaign after nine games, a miserable stretch of play during in which he caught just eight passes for 43 yards. His 2011 season, his first in Minnesota, came to a conclusion in the preseason when he suffered a torn labrum. It seems a long time ago that Seattle took him early in the second round of the 2008 draft and watched him begin his career with two promising seasons. At this point, Carlson isn’t even a lock to make the Vikings roster, given his poor blocking ability and diminishing skills as a receiver.
By: Dave Stringer — August 5, 2013 @ 4:06 pm
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QB Jay Cutler
(2012 QB Rank – #23, 16.7 FPts/G)
Is this the year Cutler emerges as a solid starting fantasy QB while with the Bears? In four years in Chicago, he has put up pedestrian numbers for the most part. But he faces a make-it-or-break-it season in 2013 as he enters the final year of his contract with no extension in sight. While Cutler has had to deal with an assortment of offensive coordinators, poor offensive line play and a lackluster group of wide receivers during his stay in Chicago, the bottom line is that he must produce this season or new head coach Marc Trestman will go in a different direction next year. The offensive line has added reinforcements in veteran left tackle Jermon Bushrod and guard Kyle Long, the team’s first-round selection in this year’s draft. Improvement is expected from second-year wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (last year’s second-round pick), and Martellus Bennett, coming off a career year with the Giants, is a major upgrade at tight end. It was an impressive offseason haul for the Bears, but there are also a lot of new pieces that need to fit together. That makes us a bit wary of declaring Cutler a QB1 in 2013. Grab him as a mid- to lower-tier fantasy backup with sneaky upside.
Forte should deliver PPR goodness in Trestman’s offense.
RB Matt Forte
(2012 RB Rank – #13, 12.0 FPts/G; #11 PPR, 14.9 FPts/G)
After five years in the league, the Bears know what they have in Forte. He is among the league’s top 10 running backs, capable in every facet of the game except for one, as a short-yardage runner. He has also been remarkably consistent, reaching 1,400 total yards every year and reaching 1,000 rushing yards three times and just missing twice, falling 71 yards short during an injury-plagued 2009 season and a yard short in 2011, when he missed four games. Last season, he was once again a key cog in the Bears attack with 1,094 yards and five touchdowns on the ground while chipping in 44 receptions for 340 yards and another score. The reception and receiving yardage totals were the lowest of his career, but new head coach Marc Trestman has vowed to increase Forte’s usage in the passing game, so a return to the 50-plus reception totals in each of his four years seems likely. Basically, Forte would rate as a top-five fantasy RB if he were a solid goal-line option, but backup Michael Bush will steal those looks. Consider Forte a safe, low-end RB1.
RB Michael Bush
(2012 RB Rank – #43, 6.1 FPts/G; #45 PPR, 6.8 FPts/G)
Expected to garner plenty of suitors entering free agency after the 2011 season, Bush didn’t generate much interest, leaving him to sign a four-year, $14-million contract with the Bears. His first season in Chicago was a bit of a bust, as he struggled with injuries on his way to career lows in rushing yards (411), receptions (9) and receiving yards (83) before going on injured reserve after Week 14. Bush is a talented back, capable of handling a full workload if starter Matt Forte were to be lost to injury. He excels in short yardage, has some wiggle and decent speed and caught 37 passes in 2011 with the Raiders. While that all sounds nice, we are a bit skeptical of his fantasy prospects given his lack of production last season and uncertain role in new head coach Marc Trestman’s offense. If the Bears offense gets rolling in 2013, Bush could emerge as a solid flex option, but that’s not something you want to be counting on during your draft.
RB Armando Allen
(2012 RB Rank – #99, 2.2 FPts/G; #106 PPR, 2.4 FPts/G)
Allen enters training camp third string on the Bears depth chart at running back. Unfortunately, he is stuck behind two players capable of playing workhorse roles in the Chicago backfield. Both Matt Forte and Michael Bush can handle more than 300 touches in a season, leaving little opportunity for Allen even if one of them were to be lost to injury. While Allen is a speedy option out of the Bears backfield, he lacks the size to handle a large workload and isn’t worth owning for fantasy purposes.
WR Brandon Marshall
(2012 WR Rank – #2, 13.5 FPts/G; #2 PPR, 20.9 FPts/G)
Reunited with quarterback Jay Cutler during the 2012 offseason at the bargain basement price of a pair of third-round picks, Marshall was expected to provide the Bears with a true No. 1 wide receiver and ignite the team’s passing attack. Well, at least his acquisition accomplished one of those goals, as he set team records in receptions (118) and receiving yards (1,508) while scoring a whopping 11 touchdowns. Unfortunately, Marshall loaded up on his production by hogging all of the team’s targets in the passing game with Cutler looking his way 192 times, the third most in the league. Can you say lack of balance? While the Bears plan on spreading the ball around more in 2013, the truth is that the team’s wide receiver depth chart offers little in the way of upside outside of second-year player Alshon Jeffery. That should mean plenty of work for Marshall once again, justifying his ranking as that of a top five fantasy WR and a pretty low risk one, given that he has missed just five games during his seven-year career.
WR Alshon Jeffery
(2012 WR Rank – #79, 5.5 FPts/G; #82 PPR, 7.9 FPts/G)
In an attempt to get their offense into the 21st century and revitalize their wide receiver depth chart, the Bears used a second-round pick in last year’s draft to acquire Jeffery. After a solid performance in Week 1 with three receptions for 80 yards, he was a disappointment as injuries and ineffectiveness held him to just two more games in which he topped 50 receiving yards. By season’s end, the 6’3”, 216-pound South Carolina product had amassed just 24 receptions for 367 yards and three touchdowns. While he displayed some decent playmaking ability and put the character concerns that followed him out of college to rest, the bottom line is that the Bears need him to take a major step forward in 2013. With little competition, Jeffery is assured of a starting position, but he will need to earn quarterback Jay Cutler’s trust to increase his production. With Martellus Bennett a solid receiving option at tight end and running back Matt Forte expected to get increased looks as a receiving target out of the backfield, Jeffery looks like the fourth option in the Bears passing attack. That limits his upside to that of a WR5 or perhaps a WR4.
WR Earl Bennett
(2012 WR Rank – #83, 4.1 FPts/G; #83 PPR, 7.9 FPts/G)
Sometimes you should just trust your eyes. Unless you’re new to the NFL, Earl Bennett probably just looks like some average dude running routes. And if that’s your conclusion, then trust it. Bennett doesn’t have great size (6’0”, 206 pounds), he lacks speed, he doesn’t have much wiggle and his career year came back in 2009 when he caught 54 passes for 717 yards and a pair of touchdowns. After five years in the league, a breakout season doesn’t seem to be on tap. In fact, if he wasn’t Cutler’s teammate at Vanderbilt, he might not even be on the Bears roster. But Cutler trusts him and that counts. We will see if new head coach Marc Trestman thinks that is enough to keep him on the roster. Don’t have him on yours.
WR Eric Weems
(2012 WR Rank – #169, 0.9 FPts/G; #169 PPR, 1.6 FPts/G)
Despite appearing in all 16 games during his first season in Chicago last year, Weems barely had a cup of coffee in the team’s base offense, catching two of his four targets for 27 yards. He gets his bread buttered on special teams but may get an opportunity as a slot receiver if the Bears new coaching staff decides they want a quicker option than Earl Bennett in that role.
WR Devin Hester
(2012 WR Rank – #106, 2.4 FPts/G; #104 PPR, 4.1 FPts/G)
In case of you weren’t paying attention this offseason, the Bears let it be known that Hester would be focusing on special teams in 2013. That makes him an emergency or gadget-play option in the team’s base offense, so you can officially stick a fork in the prospect of his ever emerging as a solid fantasy option at WR.
TE Martellus Bennett
(2012 WR Rank – #14, 5.8 FPts/G; #12 PPR, 9.2 FPts/G)
Signed by the Giants during last year’s offseason on a prove-it, one-year deal, Bennett had the best season of his career playing alongside Eli Manning, catching 55 passes for 626 yards and five touchdowns. A knee injury suffered early in the season prevented him from having a true breakout season, but he has a decent chance of making that happen this year. Bennett joins the Bears for the 2013 season, and with a lack of proven playmaking ability at the wide receiver position, he could earn a large role in new head coach Marc Trestman’s West Coast–based offensive scheme. He certainly has the talent to emerge as a TE1 if given the opportunity, but because of the uncertainty regarding his role, he is best taken as a mid- to upper-tier TE1.
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