Fantasy Football Strategy, Advice, and Commentary
By: Dave Stringer — August 26, 2013 @ 1:32 pm
QB Colin Kaepernick
(2012 QB Rank – #27, 15.6 FPts/G)
After taking over for a concussed Alex Smith in Week 10 against St. Louis, Kaepernick never relinquished the starting position, leading the 49ers to a Super Bowl loss to the Ravens. He established himself as a solid playmaking quarterback, capable of winning games both with his arm and his legs. Despite playing in the 49ers’ conservative offense, he topped 200 passing yards in six of his seven starts while throwing for ten touchdowns and three interceptions in those games. Even more impressive was his rushing ability, as he gained 415 yards with five touchdowns on just 63 carries. And that’s not counting the playoffs where he ran for a quarterback playoff record of 181 yards against the Packers in a Divisional Playoff win. Entering the offseason, Kaepernick appeared on the verge of being a top five fantasy QB, a prognosis that grew even more sound with the trade for wide receiver Anquan Boldin. Shortly after that, Michael Crabtree suffered a torn Achilles tendon that could cause him to miss all of the 2013 season. While that dampens Kaepernick’s outlook somewhat, he remains a solid option as a mid-tier QB1 for the upcoming season.
Frank Gore: He keeps on ticking.
RB Frank Gore
(2012 RB Rank – #11, 12.4 FPts/G; #10 PPR, 14.2 FPts/G)
Gore is like a Timex—he just keeps on ticking. There was little difference between his production in 2011 and 2012 other than one key area: receptions. He ran for just over 1,200 yards for the second year in a row. with eight rushing touchdowns, but he was more involved in the passing game in 2012, catching 28 passes for 234 yards and a touchdown. And that wasn’t just because Kendall Hunter missed five games due to injury, since Hunter caught only nine passes on the season. At 30 years of age, Gore is bound to hit the wall at some point, but it doesn’t appear this will be the season that occurs. He averaged a solid 4.7 yards per carry last year, although part of that was aided by running behind arguably the league’s best run-blocking offensive line. The bigger concern is whether the offensive game plans will call for Gore to approach the 286 touches he had last season. With Hunter back from injury and 2012 and second-round pick LaMichael James due for a larger role, the 49ers could limit Gore’s regular-season workload in order to keep him fresh for a playoff run. That would prevent him from hitting double-digit fantasy points in 14 of 19 games, which shows just how consistent he was in 2012. With so much talent surrounding him in the backfield, Gore should be considered a mid-tier RB2 with little upside in 2013.
RB Kendall Hunter
(2012 RB Rank – #58, 5.0 FPts/G; #60 PPR, 5.8 FPts/G)
It has been an interesting two-year run in the NFL for Hunter. After an impressive rookie season in which the 2011 fourth-round pick ran for 473 yards and two touchdowns while chipping in 195 receiving yards, the 49ers chose another smallish back in the 2012 draft to challenge him, using a second-round pick to acquire LaMichael James. Hunter not only held him off but was even more impressive, rushing for 371 yards in 11 games while averaging 5.2 yards per carry. Unfortunately, a ruptured Achilles tendon ended his season in Week 12. That was followed up with the 49ers drafting Marcus Lattimore in the fourth round of this year’s draft. While it doesn’t appear Hunter is in the 49ers’ plans as a starting option down the road, James has done little to warrant taking his backup job away, so Hunter should enter the season as Frank Gore’s main handcuff. With Gore hitting the magical age of 30, Hunter rates as a solid handcuff and one who could be worthy of flex consideration in larger leagues.
RB LaMichael James
(2012 RB Rank – #108, 3.9 FPts/G; #114 PPR, 4.6 FPts/G)
After playing in Oregon’s spread offense in college, James was expected to have a redshirt season in 2012 as a rookie second-round pick, playing behind Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter. And that’s exactly what happened, with James not even dressing until Hunter was lost for the season in Week 12. After that, James played reasonably well with 125 yards on 27 carries and three receptions for 29 yards. However, the backup job appears to be Hunter’s to lose in 2013, with all indications that James will need a great preseason to unseat him. That makes James nothing more than a late-round flyer in 2013 and a dubious one at that. In addition, his value in dynasty leagues took a hit with the fourth-round selection of Marcus Lattimore, further crowding the team’s backfield.
RB Anthony Dixon
(2012 RB Rank – #100, 2.5 FPts/G; #111 PPR, 2.5 FPts/G)
If there’s one thing you can say about Dixon, it’s that he’s a survivor. Despite seeing his production decline in each of the last two years after he ran for 237 yards and a pair of touchdowns as a rookie sixth-round pick in 2010, Dixon should hold on to a roster spot once again in 2013, provided rookie fourth-round pick Marcus Lattimore doesn’t make a miraculous recovery from his knee issues. While Dixon has done little, he is worth knowing about because both of Frank Gore’s main backups, LaMichael James and Kendall Hunter, lack the size necessary to handle major touches. If Gore goes down, Dixon could be a solid flex option as a short-yardage and close-out runner.
RB Marcus Lattimore
(2012 RB Rank – N/A)
The 49ers took a flier on Lattimore in the fourth round of this year’s draft even though he has little chance of playing in 2013 due to the horrific knee injury that ended his collegiate career. The South Carolina product would have otherwise been a first-round selection given his solid size, speed and athletic ability, and there is a chance he could take over for Frank Gore in the 49ers starting lineup at some point down the road. And it’s worth noting that San Francisco has some experience going this route, having acquired Gore in the 2005 draft despite his injury issues. Even though there are no assurances that Lattimore will fully recover, he is worth stashing on your dynasty league roster because of his potential.
WR Anquan Boldin
(2012 WR Rank – #31, 7.8 FPts/G; #30 PPR, 12.1 FPts/G)
The 49ers’ decision to acquire Boldin for just a sixth-round pick turned out to be a great move after the team lost Michael Crabtree to a torn Achilles tendon in May. That opens the door for Boldin to take over as the team’s lead wide receiver, but the question is how much gas the 32-year old Boldin has left in the tank. While he was lights out during the Ravens’ four-game march to a Super Bowl victory last season, he has failed to top 1,000 receiving yards over the past three seasons, despite being Baltimore’s leading receiver. And there are warning signals on the horizon. Even though he’s a possession receiver at this point in his career, he caught just 58 percent of his targets last season, hauling in 65 receptions for 921 yards and four touchdowns. However, since the 49ers have major issues on the wide receiver depth chart below him, Boldin is expected to have a major role in the team’s passing offense in 2013, along with tight end Vernon Davis. Consider Boldin a WR3 but one who is a bit risky and could be in line for an inconsistent season while facing the solid cornerbacks that reside in the NFC West.
WR Michael Crabtree
(2012 WR Rank – #15, 10.3 FPts/G; #15 PPR, 15.6 FPts/G)
In 2012, Crabtree finally showed the league that he was worthy of being the 10th overall pick in the 2009 draft. With a full training camp and solid play from his quarterback, Crabtree emerged as a true lead receiver, hauling in 85 of his 127 targets for 1,105 yards and nine touchdowns. That is impressive production considering San Francisco’s offense is based heavily on the run. Unfortunately, a torn Achilles tendon suffered in May cast a major cloud over Crabtree’s prognosis for the 2013 season. Rather than being a candidate to emerge as a WR1 for fantasy purposes, he is not expected to be available until mid-November. And by available, we mean available to begin practicing. Since a torn Achilles is a major issue for a wide receiver, we don’t see Crabtree being startable in any fantasy format in 2013. Consider stashing him in your dynasty league.
WR Mario Manningham
(2012 WR Rank – #76, 4.8 FPts/G; #73 PPR, 8.3 FPts/G)
While Manningham has more talent than he is given credit for, he made a major blunder when he signed with the 49ers prior to the 2012 season. Rather than being a key contributor as a backup with the Giants, he went to San Francisco in order to secure a starting position but ended up sharing that role with Randy Moss in a 49ers offense that relied heavily on the run game and rarely threw deep. Or not to Manningham, at least. Torn ACL and PCLs ended his season in Week 16 but by then he had done little, with just 42 receptions on 57 targets for 449 yards and a touchdown. While there is an opening for a larger role in 2013, with Michael Crabtree expected to miss much of the season with a torn Achilles tendon, Manningham’s slow recovery casts doubt on his ability to open the season in the starting lineup. He isn’t worth drafting but could be a worthwhile one-week fill-in if he can return to health early in 2013.
WR Austin Collie
(2012 WR Rank – N/A)
With a major hole in the depth chart at wide receiver, the 49ers signed Collie early in training camp and he will have an opportunity to carve out a role in the team’s passing attack in 2013. A torn patellar tendon ended his 2012 season in Week 1, and concussions have plagued him throughout his four-year career, although he did manage to remain healthy for 16 games in 2011. While Collie is just two years removed from a 2010 season in which he had 649 receiving yards and eight touchdowns in just nine games, we don’t expect him to put together a bounceback season in 2013. He fits best working out of the slot, and slot production just hasn’t been a major factor in San Francisco’s offense during Jim Harbaugh’s two years leading the team. Collie might be worth taking a flier on in deeper leagues, but that’s about it. And keep in mind that he isn’t even a lock to be on the 49ers opening-day roster.
WR Quinton Patton
(2012 WR Rank – N/A)
The 49ers used a fourth-round pick to acquire Patton and the plan was to relegate him to a minor role as a rookie. However, Michael Crabtree’s torn Achilles tendon, Mario Manningham’s slow recovery from a torn ACL, and the lack of development of 2012 first-round pick A.J. Jenkins have given Patton a path to playing time in 2013. The Louisiana Tech product has solid size and, provided he can learn the team’s playbook and show some dependability in the preseason, he has a decent chance to open the season in the starting lineup. With Jenkins looking like a bust and Manningham and Kyle Williams both coming off knee injuries, we won’t be all that surprised if Patton starts in Week 1. Of course, there is no telling if he can produce. Monitor the 49ers’ situation at wide receiver and consider grabbing Patton off the waiver wire early in 2013.
WR A.J. Jenkins
(2012 WR Rank – N/A)
Despite possessing a depth chart featuring Michael Crabtree, Mario Manningham, and Randy Moss, the 49ers used a 2012 first-round pick to acquire A.J. Jenkins. While he displayed excellent speed and playmaking ability at Illinois, he was considered a raw prospect, and that proved to be prophetic when he failed to catch a single pass during his rookie season. In fact, he barely played. With offseason reports indicating that Jenkins had done little to impress the 49ers brass despite Crabtree being out with a torn Achilles tendon, he got shipped off to Kansas City in exchange for Jonathan Baldwin. Perhaps the change in scenery will do him some good, but he won’t do any good for your fantasy team this year.
TE Vernon Davis
(2012 TE Rank – #15, 5.7 FPts/G; #20 PPR, 8.4 FPts/G)
Is this the year Davis reemerges as an upper-tier fantasy TE? After a monster year in 2009 with 965 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns, Davis once again topped 900 receiving yards in 2010 while scoring seven touchdowns. Since then, he has been a major disappointment; especially last season when he hauled in just 41 passes for 548 yards and five touchdowns. With Colin Kaepernick taking over for Alex Smith at quarterback in Week 9, Davis went AWOL from the 49ers offense. He was targeted just 12 times over a six-game stretch from Weeks 12 to 17, catching six passes for 61 yards and no touchdowns. The good news is that he topped 100 receiving yards in both of the 49ers’ playoff games, and he should figure prominently in the team’s passing attack in 2013 with wide receiver Michael Crabtree expected to miss most of the season with a torn Achilles tendon. Anquan Boldin will help fill the void left by Crabtree’s injury, but he is no longer a true No. 1 receiver and the team lacks quality depth behind him. Add it all up and Davis should be line for a solid season in 2013. Just remember that we’ve said that before.
By: Dave Stringer — August 24, 2013 @ 1:51 pm
QB Russell Wilson
(2012 QB Rank – #11, 20.8 FPts/G)
You would have to look pretty hard to find a bigger steal than Wilson in the 2012 rookie draft. Taken in the third round, the Wisconsin product quickly ascended the depth chart and by opening day had beat out both Matt Flynn and Tarvaris Jackson to become the Seahawks starter. With the team’s coaching staff keeping the offensive game plan heavily run-based early in the season, Wilson failed to eclipse 160 passing yards in his first four starts. After that, the chains came off somewhat, with Wilson averaging 23.3 PPG over his remaining 12 regular-season games. However, it’s his final five starts, including two playoff games, that have the fantasy landscape abuzz. Despite attempting just 125 passes in those games (completing a nifty 83 of them), Wilson averaged 31.3 PPG on the strength of nine touchdown passes, 306 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns. The question is whether he can produce that way over an entire season. While Wilson rates as a lower-tier QB1, expecting him to average 61 rushing yards and a touchdown per game (his averages over his final five games) isn’t realistic. And he is also unlikely to approach 4,000 receiving yards given that he had just two regular-season games with over 250 passing yards and the highly anticipated arrival of Percy Harvin will have to wait until late in the 2013 season. There is nothing wrong with liking Wilson. Just don’t reach too high for him.
Mr. Skittles is primed for another big fantasy season.
RB Marshawn Lynch
(2012 RB Rank – #4, 15.7 FPts/G; #5 PPR, 17.1 FPts/G)
Over the last two seasons, Lynch has emerged as one of the league’s most consistently productive running backs. After rushing for 1,204 yards and 12 touchdowns during his first full season in Seattle in 2011, he followed that up with a 1,590-yard, 11-touchdown season. Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll is clearly sold on the importance of a heavy rushing attack and on the benefits of giving Lynch a major role in that effort (his 348 touches last season were a career high). Lynch reached double-digit fantasy points in 13 of the Seahawks’ 18 games (counting two playoff contests) in 2012, and he had nine points in three other games. Furthermore, he’s hit double digits in 23 of the Seahawks’ last 30 games. The Beast shows up every week, and with 25 touchdowns in his last 28 games, he usually finds the end zone. Lynch seems to have put some major character concerns to rest, and that solidifies his position as a top five fantasy RB, even though the team now has a pair of talented players behind him on the depth chart.
RB Christine Michael
(2012 RB Rank – N/A)
Despite some rather material character concerns, as well as injury issues, the Seahawks used a second-round pick in this year’s draft to acquire Michael. Of course, when your roster lacks any real major holes, you can afford to grab a high-upside player like Michael. At least that is the party line in Seattle. At 5’11” and 220 pounds, Michael has the size, along with solid speed, to eventually take over for Marshawn Lynch as the Seahawks’ leading rusher. While Michael has the potential to be an explosive player, he doesn’t have a clear path to playing time as a rookie. Lynch is locked in as the team’s starter and the team was also pleased with the play of second-year back Robert Turbin during his rookie season in 2011. That means Michael will need to first unseat Turbin to have any fantasy value at all in redraft formats. We like the chances of that happening at some point in 2013, if not by opening day. Lynch’s owners need to monitor that battle, and dynasty leaguers should consider Michael a solid prospect with the chance of being in the Seahawks’ starting lineup by 2015.
RB Robert Turbin
(2012 RB Rank – #59, 3.6 FPts/G; #55 PPR, 4.8 FPts/G)
Taken in the fourth round of last year’s draft, Turbin quickly solidified the backup running back position behind Marshawn Lynch. Using his solid size (5’10”, 222 yards), Turbin rushed for 354 yards (at 4.4 yards per carry) and had 181 receiving yards (9.5 yards per reception), with a 100-yard rushing performance against the Cardinals in Week 14. Unfortunately for him, Seattle added rookie second-round pick Christine Michael to their depth chart at running back. While Turbin has the ability to have a lengthy NFL career, his talents are no match for those of Michael. Turbin may hold him off early in 2013, but we expect Michael to emerge as Lynch’s top backup at some point this season.
WR Sidney Rice
(2012 WR Rank – #29, 7.3 FPts/G; #36 PPR, 10.5 FPts/G)
The good news is that in 2012 the Seahawks began to get some return on their five-year, $41-million investment in Rice. The bad news is that it wasn’t exactly the type of return they were hoping for. After appearing in just nine games his first year in Seattle, Rice was healthy for all of last season but was a bit of a disappointment with just 50 receptions for 748 yards and seven touchdowns. While the touchdown count was nice, he simply isn’t a lead receiver at this point of his career. He had just four games with more than 60 receiving yards, and upper-tier cornerbacks can neutralize him. While Rice’s solid size (6’4”, 202 pounds) make him an enticing red zone target, we don’t anticipate him once again averaging a touchdown every 7.1 receptions. If he regresses to his pre-2012 form of one touchdown for every 8.9 receptions, Rice will rate as a lower-tier WR5 in 12-team leagues. And a risky, injury-prone, inconsistent one at that. The talent is there, just don’t reach for it.
WR Golden Tate
(2012 WR Rank – #35, 7.5 FPts/G; #41 PPR, 10.5 FPts/G)
After a pair of disappointing seasons to open his career, Tate came on strong in 2012, finishing the year with career highs in every receiving category. Although he caught an impressive 45 of his 67 targets for 688 yards and a healthy seven touchdowns, the Seahawks hedged their bets by trading with the Vikings to acquire Percy Harvin. However, with Harvin undergoing hip surgery in the preseason, Tate will return to the starting lineup. And we expect even more improvement and big plays from him. The one area where Tate could continue to improve is with his consistency (he had six games with less than five PPG), and offseason reports indicate that he has been the team’s most consistent performer at wide receiver. With fellow starter Sidney Rice experiencing knee issues, it won’t be a surprise if Tate once again leads the Seahawks in receiving yards. However, that doesn’t make him a great breakout candidate, considering Seattle’s heavy run-to-pass ratio. Consider Tate a low-end WR3 or, better yet, a high-end WR4 this season, but remember that he could lose his spot in the starting lineup when Harvin returns.
WR Doug Baldwin
(2012 WR Rank – #80, 3.9 FPts/G; #79 PPR, 6.0 FPts/G)
If you’re looking for the poster boy for sophomore slumps, we present Doug Baldwin. As a rookie undrafted free agent out of Stanford, Baldwin wasn’t on anybody’s fantasy roster entering 2011, but he managed to carve out a solid role in the Seahawks offense, hauling in 51 of his 85 targets for 788 yards and four touchdowns. However, his production plummeted to just 29 receptions for 366 yards and three touchdowns in 2012, despite his having played in 14 games. Golden Tate surpassed Baldwin on the depth chart, and with Sidney Rice appearing in all 16 games (he missed seven contests in 2011), Baldwin saw his role shrink. Although free-agent signee Percy Harvin will be out most or all of the 2013 season, that just puts Baldwin in the same place he was last year—stuck behind Rice, Tate and tight end Zach Miller. That increases the odds that he will more likely replicate his 2012 production and not his rookie production of 2013. He is waiver-wire material.
WR Percy Harvin
(2012 WR Rank – #43, 11.3 FPts/G; #39 PPR, 18.1 FPts/G)
Unable to agree on a long-term contract extension with Minnesota, Harvin was traded to Seattle during the offseason. Expected to be the Seahawks lead wide receiver and bring a dynamic playmaking dimension to the passing offense, he will instead miss much of the season after undergoing hip surgery early in training camp. While the prognosis for Harvin’s recovery from the surgery is good, his fantasy prospects for this season are not. He is not expected to return to the active roster until late in the year, with Seattle hoping to have him available for the stretch run to the playoffs. That puts fantasy owners in a major bind. If he returns late in the season, can you trust him in your starting lineup? Remember, this is his first year in Seattle and his first year with a new quarterback. Unless your league’s rosters are deep or you can stash him on injured reserve, Harvin isn’t worth owning in redraft formats.
TE Zach Miller
(2012 TE Rank – #29, 3.6 FPts/G; #30 PPR, 6.0 FPts/G)
Two years into the lucrative five-year contract he signed to join the Seahawks, it is safe to conclude that Miller has not lived up to his salary. After averaging 756 receiving yards during his final three seasons in Oakland, Miller has had seasons with 233 and 396 receiving yards with the Seahawks. Looks like he is earning his paycheck as a blocker. While his usage went up last season (53 targets, compared to 44 in 2011) and he had an eight-reception, 142-yard, one-touchdown performance in the Seahawks’ playoff loss to the Falcons, we’re not excited by his 2013 prospects. He did catch three touchdowns in his last six games last season (including two playoff games), but those are the only touchdowns of his Seahawks career. Miller is a low-end TE2 with little upside.
By: Dave Stringer — August 23, 2013 @ 12:39 pm
Target Carson Palmer in the late rounds. A good QB2 with upside.
QB Carson Palmer
(2012 QB Rank – #16, 19.9 FPts/G)
Buyer beware. Palmer regularly gets lukewarm reviews as a fantasy QB, but he deserves more credit than he gets in that his arm isn’t nearly as bad as it is made out to be. Sure, elbow surgery has taken some zip off of his passes, especially his deep throws, but there are plenty of quarterbacks who have worse arm strength than Palmer. Despite having to play with a group of Raiders receivers that was among the worst in the league last season, Palmer threw for more than 4,000 yards for the third time in his career, with 22 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. And that was despite missing almost two full games. In Arizona he gets a full set of receiving options in the form of Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Andre Roberts and Robert Housler and an opportunity to operate new head coach Bruce Arians’ downfield passing attack. There is some risk to drafting Palmer since his poor mobility is a bad fit playing behind a suspect Cardinals offensive line. Since Palmer finished last season as the 16th-ranked quarterback despite a lack of receiving talent, consider that his floor for 2013. Safely grab him as your QB2 and don’t be shocked if he is surprisingly productive.
RB Rashard Mendenhall
(2012 RB Rank – #83, 5.1 FPts/G; #84 PPR, 6.6 FPts/G)
He ain’t sexy, he’s Rashard Mendenhall. Insert collective yawn. A first-round pick of the Steelers in 2008, Mendenhall has failed to live up to his draft status. Even in 2010 when he ran for 1,274 yards and 13 touchdowns, he averaged a paltry 3.9 yards per carry, proving volume can make up for a lack of talent. A torn ACL late in the 2011 season limited Mendenhall’s production last season, as he carried the ball just 51 times for 182 yards and no touchdowns. Even more unimpressive is that he lost his job to a pair of middling talents in Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman. However, he gets another chance in 2013, signed by the Cardinals in the offseason to a make-it contract and reunited with former Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, now Arizona’s head coach. Even though the Cardinals have a crowded depth chart, it is populated by the unimpressive and injury-prone Ryan Williams and a pair of rookies in Stepfan Taylor and Andre Ellington. With Arians’ preference for using one back in a workhorse role, Mendenhall appears to be the first man up. Since the Cardinals offense can’t be any worse than it was last season and since Mendenhall is a solid short-yardage runner, he should be considered a mid-tier RB3 with upside in 2013.
RB Ryan Williams
(2012 RB Rank – #96, 4.2 FPts/G; #99 PPR, 5.6 FPts/G)
Two years into his career, Williams has done exactly nothing to justify the Cardinals having used a second-round pick to acquire him in the 2011 draft. A torn patella tendon caused him to miss his entire rookie campaign, and he missed 11 games last season because of a shoulder injury. And when Williams did play, he was awful, averaging just 2.8 yards per carry and failing to find the end zone on 58 carries. Rashard Mendenhall has replaced Beanie Wells as the Cardinals’ starter at running back, but Williams has almost no chance of unseating him by opening day. That’s because he has missed time with a knee injury, further frustrating the coaches. With new management and a new coaching staff, Williams’ draft status will do nothing to enhance his chances of making the team. While plenty of pundits consider him a potential starter and sleeper candidate at running back, it won’t be a surprise if he finds himself on the street on opening day, provided rookies Stepfan Taylor and Andre Ellington play reasonably well in the preseason. Even if Williams sticks, he will likely be relegated to a backup, pass-receiving role behind Mendenhall.
RB Stepfan Taylor
(2012 RB Rank – N/A)
Taken in the fifth round of this year’s draft, Taylor joins a crowded Cardinals backfield that faces much uncertainty entering the season. Starter Rashard Mendenhall is coming off a pair of injury-plagued seasons, as is top backup Ryan Williams. Fellow rookie Andre Ellington needs to prove his worth as a receiving, chance-of-pace option, while Taylor has more size and could emerge as a player capable of fulfilling a more full-time role. The 5’9”, 214-pound Stanford product will need to have an impressive preseason to unseat Williams and challenge Mendenhall. While the opportunity is solid, Taylor’s upside isn’t. He lacks speed and agility and doesn’t have the size necessary to thrive as a short-yardage runner. However, with Williams struggling in the preseason, Taylor is definitely worthy of being owned in standard leagues. He is also a decent dynasty prospect, but you get the feeling that Arizona would add to its backfield stable if Mendenhall doesn’t produce in 2013.
RB Andre Ellington
(2012 RB Rank – N/A)
The Cardinals drafted a pair of running backs this offseason, with Ellington being taken in the sixth round. While fifth-round pick Stepfan Taylor has more size, Ellington, at 5’9” and 199 pounds, will likely battle Ryan Williams to become the team’s change-of-pace and receiving back. While Williams has struggled with injuries both in the past and during training camp, Ellington hasn’t been able to take advantage of his absence because of a concussion. The Clemson product possesses solid speed and playmaking ability, but his use in 2013 likely depends on just how fed up the Cardinals are with Williams’ injuries and lack of productivity. That makes Ellington waiver-wire material in redraft leagues but a player to keep your eye on. He is also a decent prospect in dynasty formats.
WR Larry Fitzgerald
(2012 WR Rank – #42, 6.5 FPts/G; #33 PPR, 10.9 FPts/G)
You would be hard-pressed to find a player who remained healthy for 16 games and was a bigger fantasy disappointment than Fitzgerald. Just don’t go blaming him for that. Despite possessing some of the best hands in the league to go along with his 6’3” and 218-pound frame and excellent leaping ability, he caught just 45.5 percent of his targets in 2012. Blame that on the shoddy play of the Cardinals quarterbacks. Fitzgerald finished the season with just 71 receptions (the third lowest of his nine-year career) for 798 yards (the second lowest total of his career) and four touchdowns (a career low). Ouch. Want more ugly? He caught just six of his 37 targets during a four-game stretch from Week 11 to Week 14. He had nine games with four receptions or less. He failed to top 50 receiving yards eight times. Not pretty, but things are looking brighter for 2013 with Carson Palmer now heading up new head coach Bruce Arians’ downfield passing attack. While Palmer isn’t a world-beater at this point of his career, he is light years better than the quarterbacks employed by Arizona in 2012. Can you say bounceback? Consider the 29-year old Fitzgerald a low-end WR1 for the coming season.
WR Michael Floyd
(2012 WR Rank – #68, 4.5 FPts/G; #65 PPR, 7.5 FPts/G)
Stuck behind Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Roberts on the depth chart, Floyd struggled for much of his rookie season, finishing the year with modest totals of 45 receptions for 562 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The Cardinals’ 2012 first-round pick was used sparingly for the first half of the season (just 18 targets over the first seven games) and failed to provide many big plays when given more of an opportunity over the second half of the season (outside of an eight-reception, 166-yard, one-touchdown performance in Week 17 against the 49ers). Floyd had more than 50 receiving yards just twice, but the Cardinals envision a much bigger role for him in 2013. He is expected to unseat Roberts in the starting lineup, and with Carson Palmer now at quarterback, he is primed for major improvement. The issue is how much. Given his solid speed and size (6’3”, 225 lbs.), Floyd rates as a potential breakout candidate; but it appears the odds are against that happening. Consider him a solid WR4 with major upside in 2013.
WR Andre Roberts
(2012 WR Rank – #39, 7.3 FPts/G; #34 PPR, 11.5 FPts/G)
Last season, the fantasy football world penciled in first-round pick Michael Floyd to take over as Arizona’s starting wide receiver opposite Larry Fitzgerald, but Roberts had other ideas. The Cardinals’ 2010 third-round pick continued to steadily improve, finishing the season with 64 receptions for 759 yards and five touchdowns, marking the third consecutive season that his production had increased in the major receiving categories. At 5’11” and 195 pounds, Roberts lacks Floyd’s upside, but his solid play in 2012 ensures that he will continue to have a large role in Arizona’s offense. The question is whether he can once again relegate Floyd to a secondary role. Given Floyd’s upside, we don’t like the chances of that happening. Even worse is that the Cardinals are experimenting with cornerback Patrick Peterson as a receiving option. While Roberts will continue to have a role in Arizona’s offense as a slot receiver, he is unlikely to approach the 114 targets he had last season. He rates as a low-end WR5.
TE Robert Housler
(2012 TE Rank – #38, 3.2 FPts/G; #31 PPR, 6.7 FPts/G)
Housler earned a spot in the Cardinals’ starting lineup during his second year in the league but failed to establish himself as a solid fantasy producer. The Cardinals’ 2011 third-round pick finished the season with just 45 receptions for 417 yards while failing to find the end zone in 15 games. The good news is that he caught an impressive 66.2 percent of his passes, a solid feat considering the play of the team’s quarterbacks in 2012. The bad news is that the offensive line remains a work in progress, which could contribute to Housler being used in a blocking role—and this guy named Larry Fitzgerald is a pretty darn good option in the red zone. However, with his solid speed and agility and with Bruce Arians’ downfield passing attack now in Arizona and being led by Carson Palmer, Housler is a potential breakout candidate at TE. We like him better as an upper-tier TE2, but don’t feel too badly if you have to use him as a starter in 2013.
By: Mike Krueger — August 22, 2013 @ 1:01 am
Player Projections, Rankings & Cheatsheets
Change Log – 8/22/13
- Michael Vick (+6) – Named the starter but too much of an injury risk for a QB1.
- Geno Smith (+12) – He may start but your fantasy team shouldn’t care. Stay away.
- Arian Foster (-6) – Foster returns to practice and I move him down. Go figure. He’s still a bottom of Round 1 RB.
- DeAngelo Williams (+3) – With Stewart still battling his ankles, Williams could be a nice flex play.
- Monte Ball (-7) – Hillman isn’t going anywhere.
- Le’Veon Bell (-36) – This one hurts. I’ve been high on him since early June and was happy to draft him as my RB2… not anymore. A foot injury will cause him to miss at least 6 weeks.
- Isaac Redman (+11) – May be the lead back in a RBBC with Dwyer but this is a situation to avoid.
- Julio Jones (+1) – A slight bump for Jones as I re-organize his and White’s numbers.
- Lance Moore (-5) – Distributed some of Moore’s yardage to Stills and Sproles.
- Brian Hartline (+4) – A very unsexy pick, but should benefit most from the loss of TE Keller.
- Dustin Keller (dropped) – Ugly knee injury for the Dolphins TE.
- Rob Gronkowski (no change) – Still ranked at #2 but took away 100 yards and 1 TD. It doesn’t appear he will be ready for Week 1.
- Zach Sudfeld (+9) – Any Patriots’ TE running with the first team deserves a bump.
- Vernon Davis (+2) – It will be an upset id Davis isn’t 2nd on the team in receiving this season.
- Fred Davis (+4) – I continue to be bullish on Fred. A sneaky TE1 in the making.
By: Dave Stringer — August 19, 2013 @ 9:07 pm
Cam Newton’s running ability makes him top-shelf fantasy QB.
QB Cam Newton
(2012 QB Rank – #4, 24.5 FPts/G)
While Newton wasn’t quite as productive last season as he was during his impressive rookie season, there is little doubt the Panthers hit a home run by making him the first overall selection in the 2011 draft. No quarterback has thrown for more yards over their first two seasons than Newton’s 7,920, and he has contributed 62 total touchdowns (40 passing, 22 running) over that time frame. That’s impressive, especially considering the Panthers scored just 16 touchdowns during the 2010 season. Did we mention the hole? Unfortunately, the Panthers have done little to fill the hole in the depth chart at receiver opposite Steve Smith and thus improve their receiving corps in 2013, and that limits Newton’s explosiveness in the passing game. With Rod Chudzinski now in Cleveland, Mike Shula takes over at offensive coordinator, which adds a little risk to Newton’s fantasy profile. However, that’s a minor issue since Newton has the talent to make any offense run well. Speaking of running, did we mention that Newton is the NFL’s preeminent rushing quarterback (sorry, RGIII fans) with 1,447 yards over the past two seasons. Last season, we questioned Newton’s ability to approach the 14 rushing touchdowns he had as a rookie, and he dropped to eight touchdowns. But we have no doubt that he can top 700 yards for the third consecutive season and score 8–10 touchdowns. To sum it up, Newton’s lack of explosive receiving options puts him behind the likes of Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers, but he rates as the next best option, and one that possesses amazing upside.
RB Jonathan Stewart
(2012 RB Rank – #53, 6.8 FPts/G; #50 PPR, 8.7 FPts/G)
With Stewart, it’s never been about the talent. It’s been about the injuries and having to split time with DeAngelo Williams. Last season, he missed seven games with an ankle injury and was only marginally productive in the seven games that he did play, with 493 total yards and a pair of touchdowns. Worse yet, the Panthers restructured Williams’ contract and now Stewart is the more likely back to leave town if the team decides to shed some salary cap at the running back position. To make matters worse, Stewart entered training camp on the PUP list because he is still recovering from ankle surgery and there are no indications as to when he will return. With Mike Tolbert and Cam Newton vulturing rushing touchdowns and Williams still in the picture, Stewart shapes up as a risky, low-end RB3 at best in 2013.
RB DeAngelo Williams
(2012 RB Rank – #23, 8.4 FPts/G; #27 PPR, 9.2 FPts/G)
With Jonathan Stewart out for half of the 2012 season, Williams assumed the lead back role to mixed results. His yards per carry declined to just 4.3, with at total of 737 yards and five touchdowns on the ground. Since Williams hasn’t topped 20 receptions since the 2009 season, his fantasy value is solely predicated on his running abilities, and he hit the dreaded 30-year-old mark this offseason. While that shouldn’t make alarm bells go off since Williams has spent most of his career splitting duties with Jonathan Stewart, the real drag on his fantasy value is Stewart’s continued presence and the fact that Cam Newton and Mike Tolbert pilfer so many touchdowns. Even though the ankle injury that plagued Stewart remains an issue entering training camp, predicting a 1000-yard season for Williams (he hasn’t had one since 2009) is a stretch. Consider him a low-end RB3 with some upside.
RB Mike Tolbert
(2012 RB Rank – #38, 5.4 FPts/G; #37 PPR, 7.1 FPts/G)
After a pair of solid seasons with the Chargers in 2010 and 2011, Tolbert signed with the Panthers during the 2012 offseason, a move that many pundits viewed as a signal that one of DeAngelo Williams or Jonathan Stewart were heading out of town. That didn’t happen, leaving Tolbert with a marginal role as little more than a short-yardage battering ram in 2012. While he handled that role effectively with seven touchdowns in just 54 carries, Tolbert sees just enough touches to be fantasy relevant in scoring formats that are not touchdown heavy. If Williams or Stewart is lost to injury, Tolbert could have some use in leagues that utilize the flex position. Otherwise, he is best left as a potential waiver-wire pickup.
WR Steve Smith
(2012 WR Rank – #19, 9.0 FPts/G; #19 PPR, 13.6 FPts/G)
Smith has been the undisputed king of the Panthers receiving corps since the 2003 season, and that isn’t expected to change anytime soon. Although not quite as productive as during the 2011 season, he enjoyed another solid season in 2012, catching 73 passes for 1,174 yards and four touchdowns. Better yet, Smith was very consistent with double-digit fantasy points in eight games (including four of his last five) and fewer than five points just three times. The only issue with Smith is his age. At 34, the wheels will start to come off at some point, and at just 5’9” and 185 pounds, Smith relies on speed and determination to make a living. The good news is that he didn’t show much, if any, regression last season, and there are no challengers to take away his lead receiving position. That makes him a solid, low-end WR2 with a little bit of risk for the upcoming season.
WR Brandon LaFell
(2012 WR Rank – #49, 7.3 FPts/G; #54 PPR, 10.7 FPts/G)
This figures to be LaFell’s last chance to lock down a starting position at wide receiver for the Panthers. Although he has solid size at 6’2” and 211 pounds to go along with decent speed, LaFell has failed to develop much during his first three years in the league. After a respectable rookie season in which he caught 38 passes for 468 yards and a touchdown, he has accumulated just 80 receptions for 1,280 yards and seven touchdowns over the past two years. Spending plenty of time in the slot last season, LaFell was targeted just 76 times in 13 games—a pretty light workload for a starting receiver. While he had at least 62 receiving yards in four of his last seven games, we don’t expect LaFell will post a breakout season in 2013. Carolina added Domenik Hixon in the offseason, David Gettis is now two years removed from his torn ACL, and Armanti Edwards has had an impressive offseason. Look for the Panthers to once again limit LaFell’s targets in 2013. Consider him a low-end WR5.
WR Domenik Hixon
(2012 WR Rank – #65, 5.3 FPts/G; #70 PPR, 8.3 FPts/G)
It’s been a long time since Hixon warranted potential breakout status after a solid run at the conclusion of the 2008 season in the Giants starting lineup. Since then, he has been a disappointment, failing to build on that momentum in the 2009 season and suffering a pair of torn ACLs. In 2012, Hixon caught 39 passes for 567 yards and a pair of touchdowns in a backup role. In 2013, the six-year veteran brings his talents to the Panthers offense, where he will compete with a pile of journeymen and unproven younger players to start opposite Steve Smith. While Brandon LaFell has done little to excite anyone during his four years in Carolina, he is expected to retain his starting position, with Hixon the most likely candidate to assume the top backup spot. If Hixon can develop some chemistry with quarterback Cam Newton, he could emerge as a decent flex option in larger leagues, but we’re not holding our breath. Hixon is waiver-wire material in most leagues.
WR David Gettis
(2012 WR Rank – N/A)
While other players have made miraculous recoveries from torn ACLs, Gettis is following the old school route to ACL recovery. After suffering the injury during the Panthers’ 2011 training camp, he missed all of that season and then was placed on the PUP list to open the 2012 season. Although he was added to the roster in mid-November, he failed to register a single catch. A sixth-round pick in 2010, Gettis had a solid rookie season with 37 receptions for 508 yards and three touchdowns, but it now seems like the promise he displayed that season will not be fulfilled.
WR Ted Ginn Jr.
(2012 WR Rank – #180, 0.2 FPts/G; #177 PPR, 0.7 FPts/G)
Ginn is generating some buzz in training camp this season, but it seems like every potential starter opposite Steve Smith is getting some healthy publicity. Maybe that’s because they all look solid standing beside each other. With Ginn, we can be pretty certain that he is not going to emerge and become the game-breaking receiving talent the Dolphins expected when they chose him with the ninth pick in the 2007 draft. Remember, this is a player that has 33 receptions over the past three years.
WR Joe Adams
(2012 WR Rank – #173, 0.5 FPts/G; #175 PPR, 0.8 FPts/G)
Looking to add some punch to their receiving corps and in the return game, the Panthers grabbed Joe Adams in the fourth round of the 2012 draft. So much for that. Despite the Panthers’ legendary issues trying to find someone to play opposite Steve Smith and with injuries at the wide receiver position, Adams finished the season with just one reception. Barring some major improvement, he won’t be worth owning in 2013. In fact, he may have difficulty even landing a roster spot.
WR Armanti Edwards
(2012 WR Rank – #141, 2.0 FPts/G; #142 PPR, 2.9 FPts/G)
It has been a rough ride for the 2010 third-round pick. Converted from a college quarterback to a wide receiver in the pros, Edwards has struggled mightily with the transition, failing to catch a single pass during his first two years in the league and hauling in just five receptions for 121 yards last season. While reports indicate that he has had a solid offseason, it is worth noting that there are several more proven receivers ahead of Edwards on the depth chart. With injuries ravaging the position, he needed to make his move last season and that failed to happen.
TE Greg Olsen
(2012 TE Rank – #6, 7.1 FPts/G; #7 PPR, 11.5 FPts/G)
Olsen spent his first year in Carolina having to cede targets to Jeremy Shockey, but with Shockey out of the picture in 2012, Olsen put together the finest season of his six-year career. It was a long time coming for the Bears’ 2007 first-round pick. With no proven threat opposite Steve Smith, Olsen emerged as the Panthers’ second best receiving option, hauling in 69 receptions for 843 yards and five touchdowns. Better yet, he was fairly consistent especially over the latter part of the season. The good news for Olsen is that Carolina once again is unsure of what it has opposite Smith, with Brandon LaFell and Domenik the front-runners to win the second and third receiving jobs. That bodes well for Olsen’s fantasy prospects in 2013. He should be considered a mid-tier TE1.
By: Dave Stringer — August 16, 2013 @ 2:48 pm
QB Josh Freeman
(2012 QB Rank – #13, 20.3 FPts/G)
Entering his fifth year in the league, Freeman faces a make-it-or-break-it season in Tampa Bay. With the Buccaneers having failed to sign him to a long-term extension, Freeman will enter 2013 in the final season of his rookie contract with no guarantees that he will be back in Tampa Bay next year. While he topped 4,000 passing yards for the first time in 2012 and had a reasonably solid 27-17 touchdown-to-interception ratio, Freeman came apart as the season came to a close. He had a pair of four-interception games in the team’s final three contests and threw just six touchdown passes in the Bucs final six games as Tampa Bay skidded to a 1-5 finish. One thing is certain and that is that Freeman has all of the physical tools necessary to be a complete NFL quarterback. While his accuracy was off in 2012 with a 54.8 completion percentage, he topped 60 percent in both the 2010 and 2011 seasons. His biggest issue is his poor decision-making, and that will need to be corrected if he wants to earn a big payday from Bucs management. Entering his second season in offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan’s offense with his motivation high, Freeman should be considered an upper-tier QB2 with upside.
You can make the case for Martin being the top pick in PPR leagues.
RB Doug Martin
(2012 RB Rank – #3, 16.5 FPts/G; #2 PPR, 19.6 FPts/G)
To think, most of us believed Martin would cede some touches and the goal-line work to LeGarrette Blount in 2012. The Bucs’ 2012 first-round pick laid those plans to waste, exploding onto the scene and emerging as a workhorse back in his rookie season. By season’s end, he had totaled 368 touches, 1,454 rushing yards, 472 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns. At 5’,9” and 223 pounds, Martin is an explosive package of power, speed and agility and a threat to take it to the house every time he touches the ball. If you are looking for a wart or two on Martin’s rookie season (hey, that’s my job, right?), you could point out that that 32 percent of his production came in just two games, Week 8 and 9 wins over the Vikings and Raiders. OK, enough with the negativity. As a threat to top 2,000 total yards playing in a backfield where the backups are a mixed bag of unproven players and veteran retreads in an offense that likes to run, Martin is fantasy gold. Consider him a rock-solid top five fantasy RB, and one who could go as early as the second pick in your auction.
RB Peyton Hillis
(2012 RB Rank – #66, 4.1 FPts/G; #69 PPR, 4.1 FPts/G)
Whether it has been injuries or attitude or the realization that his breakout season in 2010 was a fluke, Hillis has done precious little during the last two years. Other than generate headlines for all of the wrong reasons, that is. In 2013, he joins the Bucs but isn’t even guaranteed a roster spot. He will need to beat out the likes of veteran journeyman Brian Leonard, rookie sixth-round pick Mike James, and 2011 seventh-round pick Michael Smith to earn the top backup spot behind Doug Martin. Yes, it has been a precipitous decline. If you’re in a really deep league and you’re a Browns fan who truly enjoyed Hillis’s career year in 2010, then grab him for nostalgic reasons. Otherwise, move on.
RB Mike James
(2012 RB Rank – N/A)
A bowling ball of a runner out of Miami, James will battle to be the Bucs’ top backup running back in 2013. The rookie sixth-round pick has solid size at 5’11” and 22 pounds and was considered the favorite to land the role before the team signed veteran free agent Peyton Hillis. The Bucs are a young team, however, and we suspect that Hillis is little more than insurance in the event that James doesn’t measure up. Whoever wins the role isn’t expected to eat into Doug Martin’s touches, so James is likely waiver-wire material in almost all formats.
RB Brian Leonard
(2012 RB Rank – #106, 1.4 FPts/G; #98 PPR, 2.4 FPts/G)
Leonard joins the Bucs after stints in St. Louis and Cincinnati. He will battle a cast of unproven players and veteran Peyton Hillis to backup Doug Martin. While the sixth-year veteran is a solid player, capable as both a running back and fullback, he offers no upside, having never topped 400 total yards in any season. You can do better.
RB Michael Smith
(2012 RB Rank – N/A)
The Bucs’ 2011 seventh-round pick, Smith failed to get a single touch during his rookie season. The Utah product will battle Brian Leonard, Peyton Hillis, and rookie Mike James for the scraps that Doug Martin leaves behind. Unless Smith wins the battle and Martin gets injured, there isn’t any reason to have Smith on your roster on opening day other than in dynasty formats.
WR Vincent Jackson
(2012 WR Rank – #6, 11.7 FPts/G; #13 PPR, 16.2 FPts/G)
Jackson arrived in Tampa Bay in 2012 and promptly put together the most productive season of his eight-year career. His ability to generate big plays didn’t suffer with the move from San Diego, as he set career highs in receptions (72) and yards (1,384) while continuing to score plenty of touchdowns, finishing with eight on the season. He also averaged a healthy 19.2 yards per reception as he remained one of the league’s preeminent deep threats. And he did all that despite the streaky play of quarterback Josh Freeman. Therein lies the problem with Jackson. While he finished the season as a top 10 fantasy WR, he caught less than half of his targets and had several poor outings, including six games where he was held to six fantasy points or less. With Freeman essentially in a make-it-or-break-it season, there is hope that Jackson can avoid the lengthy slumps that have plagued him throughout his career, and that would go a long way in reducing his own inconsistencies. Consider him a low-end WR1 in 2013.
WR Mike Williams
(2012 WR Rank – #18, 9.6 FPts/G; #20 PPR, 13.5 FPts/G)
It is generally a bad idea to chase touchdowns in fantasy football, but occasionally there are exceptions to that rule. Meet Mike Williams. The Bucs’ clear No. 2 wide receiver behind Vincent Jackson, Williams is coming off a season in which he caught 63 passes for 996 yards and nine touchdowns. That brings the touchdown count over his three-year career to a very solid 23. To be sure, there is plenty of risk with Williams. He fell in the draft due to maturity issues, struggled in his second season after a solid rookie campaign, and he just got paid to the tune of $40.3-million over six years with $9.4-million in guarantees. However, he is in the perfect situation in Tampa Bay as a No. 2 receiver. With Vincent Jackson one of the league’s top deep threats, Williams can handle the intermediate routes and surprise with the occasional big play. Since the fantasy world seems to be down on him, he should represent decent value on draft day as a solid WR3.
WR Tiquan Underwood
(2012 WR Rank – #81, 3.9 FPts/G; #80 PPR, 5.9 FPts/G)
Underwood emerged as the Bucs’ top backup receiver in 2012, having the best season of his four-year career. The former Jaguar set career highs in receptions (28), yards (425) and touchdowns (2) as he took over the slot-receiving role early in the season. While Underwood was a decent performer, his low completion-to-target percentage of 50.9 was likely the main reason the Bucs brought in former Cowboy Kevin Ogletree in the offseason. Since Underwood was the more consistent performer of the two, we expect him to win the job, but there is a decent chance that Ogletree will earn some looks as well. Underwood is unlikely to have much fantasy value this season, barring injury further up the depth chart.
WR Kevin Ogletree
(2012 WR Rank – #66, 4.9 FPts/G; #72 PPR, 7.2 FPts/G)
After three seasons of being a training-camp star for the Cowboys, Ogletree had a breakout game in Week 1 of last season, hauling in eight receptions for 114 yards and a pair of touchdowns against the Giants. Then he vanished, catching just 24 passes for 322 yards and two more scores over the balance of the season. Signed by Tampa Bay in the offseason, he will look to unseat Tiquan Underwood as the team’s top backup receiver. Even if he wins that role, we’ve seen enough of Ogletree over the past four years to know that he lacks the consistency to be a solid fantasy option.
TE Luke Stocker
(2012 TE Rank – #50, 1.9 FPts/G; #49 PPR, 3.2 FPts/G)
Stocker, the Bucs’ 2011 fourth-round pick, played little as a rookie and failed to unseat aging veteran Dallas Clark last season, appearing in 12 games and catching 16 passes for 165 yards and a touchdown. With Clark no longer a Buc, Stocker will assume the starting role in 2013, but there is little to no reason to suggest he will have a breakout season. While Stocker has enough skill to be a starting tight end in the league, he has shown precious little as a receiver. He is waiver wire material in all formats.
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
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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.
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