Fantasy Football Strategy, Advice, and Commentary
By: Dave Stringer — March 14, 2012 @ 11:20 am
The Buccaneers have joined the 2012 free agency fray, landing the top available free agent wide receiver in former Charger Vincent Jackson.
Jackson will reportedly sign a five-year, $55-million contract with Tampa Bay that includes $36-million in payments over the first three years of the deal.
With second-year players Mike Williams and Arrelious Benn suffering through sophomore slumps in 2011, the Buccaneers were in the market for a big play wide receiver and Jackson figures to take over as the team’s top threat at the position in 2012.
The former Division II player out of Northern Colorado possesses excellent size (6’5” 230 pounds) and speed, as his career average yards per catch of 17.5 indicates. Jackson has also shown the ability to out jump defenders on deep balls.
Removing his injury-marred, suspension and contract holdout shortened 2010 season, Jackson caught 187 passes for 3,371 yards and 25 touchdowns during the 2008, 2009 and 2011 seasons.
Despite his solid production, the Chargers were unwilling to sign him to a lucrative long-term contract given their belief that he had failed to reach his potential, his constant injury issues and their concerns regarding his off the field behavior.
Jackson's move to Tampa may not improve his fantasy stock.
Off the top, this move has to be viewed as lowering Vjax’s fantasy value. He goes from catching passes from one of the top quarterbacks in the league and playing in the league’s 5th ranked scoring offense to playing with a far more inexperienced quarterback coming off a horrible season and playing in the league’s 27th ranked scoring offense. Let’s get one of those pointing down arrows and stick it beside his name.
Jackson was the 10th ranked fantasy wide receiver in 2011 but he rates as a mid-tier WR2 in 2012. Simply put, Josh Freeman is coming off a horrendous season and has not proven to be as accurate on deep passes as Philip Rivers and those plays have been Jackson’s bread and butter throughout his career in San Diego.
Freeman obviously wins out as he now has a true number one wide receiver for the first time in his career and the Bucs receiving depth chart rounds out nicely with Williams, Benn, Preston Parker, Dezmon Briscoe and Sammie Stroughter. Freeman ranks as a high-end fantasy backup with upside in 2012.
Williams wasn’t a complete bust last season but he was clearly a huge disappointment, as his yardage and touchdown totals plummeted from his solid rookie season in 2010 when he caught 64 passes for 955 yards and 11 touchdowns. Given Jackson’s size and ability to stretch the field, Williams figures to be featured on more short and intermediate routes in 2012 and his red zone opportunities also figure to be diminished.
Williams rates as fantasy backup in 2012 but is worth taking a flier on provided he shows a renewed dedication and reports to training camp in better physical condition than was the case in 2011.
Outside of deep leagues and dynasty formats, Benn’s fantasy value basically drops to nil. Unless he beats out Williams, he is waiver wire material in most formats.
However, the biggest fantasy loser is Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, who loses his top wide receiver and arguably San Diego’s top receiving option ahead of tight end Antonio Gates. While Robert Meachem will take over for Jackson in the Chargers starting line-up, he is an inconsistent player and both Gates and Malcom Floyd, the team’s other starting wide receiver, have proven to be injury-prone. Rivers moves to low-end starter status in 2012.
Both Meachem and Floyd see their fantasy values rise but neither should be relied on as a starting option in 2012 until they prove otherwise.
By: Doug Orth — November 6, 2011 @ 1:43 am
In 2010, there were 25 NFL running backs that logged at
least 100 carries and played in all 16 games. In 2009, the number was 19.
This year, let’s hope you kept your rabbit’s foot alongside
your four-leaf clover and threw some salt over your shoulder while avoiding
black cats and remembering not to walk under ladders…
In 2011, the numbers are sobering. Since the season is
nearly half over, I’ll set the bar at 50 carries. By my count, only 30 runners
have surpassed that low benchmark so far. Of those 30 players, only 18 can be
considered decent (or better) regular fantasy starts – and that’s only if you
classify the likes of Chris Johnson, James Starks, BenJarvus Green-Ellis and
Jackie Battle as “decent” this season.
Taken one step further, I count only 14 of those 18 as
runners who have yet to miss a game and/or not projected to sit out this week
(which includes Darren McFadden, Ryan Mathews and Ahmad Bradshaw).
Among the more intriguing bits of information are the names
of some of the players who have survived the carnage so far: Maurice Jones-Drew
(entered season with knee concerns), Frank Gore (missed at least one game in
five of first six NFL seasons), Shonn Greene (yet to play a full season) and
Starks (missed most of 2009 and 2010 seasons due to injury).
Assuming Mathews (who hasn’t played a full football season
since high school and has suffered five known injuries already this season)
beats the odds and finds a way to play through his groin injury in Week 9 -
Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union Tribune tweeted that he “had a
feeling” he would – he only adds to bizarre list of this season’s
With running back depth charts around the NFL already
looking like something out of a horror movie, I decided it was about time to
take a look at the “new wave”. For the purposes of this blog, I’m not
interested in singing the praises of a high-profile second-stringer who is about
to step into the starting lineup, I’m more interested in writing about the
talented third- and fourth-stringers that may end up deciding fantasy
championships this season if this injury wave doesn’t stop.
In no particular order…
Tashard Choice – Perhaps I’m a fool for Mike Shanahan
running backs, but unlike the other RBs on this list, Choice has already shown
a little bit in the league – albeit not much recently. However, unlike the
situation in which he found himself with the Cowboys, Choice may now be able to
show fantasy owners the skills that made him one of the best backup RBs in the
league just two years ago. With a change of scenery, more devotion to the
running game and a chance to rest his nagging injuries, Choice is as good of
bet as any to emerge as the Redskins’ lead RB by the time the fantasy playoffs
Taiwan Jones – If the rookie from Eastern Washington wasn’t
buried behind one of the league’s premier backs (McFadden) and one of its
finest second-stringers (Michael Bush), there is a pretty good chance you would
know Jones by now. Perhaps Oakland’s plan of resting McFadden for Week 9 allows
him to play in Week 10 (a Thursday night game vs. the Chargers), but D-Mac’s
return for that game is far from guaranteed, which means Jones could have a
shot at fantasy value for two games. With his speed and playmaking ability, he
may not need more than 8-10 touches in either game to have a fantasy impact for
Chris Ogbannaya – Peyton Hillis aggravated his hamstring
(again) and is likely to miss multiple weeks while Montario Hardesty is on the
same timetable with a calf injury, which means Ogbannaya is already assured a
starting job for the next week or two. Ogbannaya, who did some good things with
the Texans in the preseason, struggled in his first real shot at significant
touches in Week 8. However, as long as he is only fighting off the likes of
Thomas Clayton, Ogbannaya will have a shot at 15-20 touches and will be a
usable bye-week fill-in/desperation start in PPR leagues because the Browns
lack playmakers in the passing game but rank among the league leaders in pass
Kregg Lumpkin – There’s a pretty good chance Lumpkin is
already rostered in deeper leagues. HC Raheem Morris is talking up LeGarrette
Blount as an every-down back in the wake of Earnest Graham’s season-ending
injury, but I can’t imagine how that experiment will work out well for the
Bucs. First and foremost, when Blount returns to the field in Week 9, it will
be for the first time he’s played in nearly a month, so conditioning will be an
issue. Secondly, Blount isn’t the most able or willing in blitz pick-up nor is
he an accomplished receiver, so defenses like the Saints will be even apt to
load the box and blitz more than they already do. Last but not least, I have my
doubts about Blount’s ability to avoid another injury.
Curtis Brinkley – The Chargers’ running-back rotation of
Mathews and Mike Tolbert takes turns getting hurt, which means owners of either
one or both players really need to consider keeping tabs on Brinkley. While he
is hardly a threat to either player and is clearly a backup, PPR owners
undoubtedly took note at what Brinkley was able to do following Mathews’
departure in the Monday night loss to the Chiefs. Should Mathews and/or Tolbert
both miss games at the same time, Brinkley would quickly become a temporary RB2
in PPR since San Diego utilizes its backs so often in the passing game. With
bye weeks mercifully coming to an end, I would strongly advise owners of
Mathews and/or Tolbert to find room for Brinkley.
Phillip Tanner – I briefly discussed Tanner in the Blitz
last week, so suffice it to say that his opportunity to shine on the likelihood
that DeMarco Murray cannot stay healthy and Felix Jones continues being
“fragile”. Since both Murray and Jones are huge injury question
marks, it is not a stretch to think that Tanner won’t get an opportunity as the
featured back for a 1-2 game stretch. There’s also a pretty good chance Tanner
never gets that shot, but Dallas should consider using him in a goal-line role
and make sure it reduces its risk of burdening any of its runners by making
sure it uses all of them.
Da’Rel Scott – Even by the standards of this blog, Scott is
a complete shot in the dark for any modicum of fantasy value this season.
However, his chances just increased this week with Ahmad Bradshaw’s foot
injury. Coming off his own injury, Brandon Jacobs is talking and playing his
way out of New York and D.J. Ware has essentially been pigeonholed into a
third-down back role. The one thing Scott has is what Bradshaw brings to the
table and the other two do not – speed. Like Bradshaw, Scott enters the league
as a talented but injury-prone enigma. Either way, it would not surprise me if
Scott got his first real chance vs. New England today and makes the most of it.
By: Dave Stringer — August 23, 2011 @ 1:20 pm
The Cardinals expected the worst when rookie running back Ryan Williams went down in the team’s first preseason game and their fears were realized. The team’s 2nd round selection in this year’s draft suffered a ruptured patella tendon that will cause him to miss the 2011 season and he was placed on injured reserve.
Dissatisfied with the platoon of Tim Hightower and Beanie Wells, Arizona had traded up in the 2nd round to acquire Williams. The former Virginia Tech star had performed well enough in training camp that the Cardinals were comfortable enough with their running back depth chart to trade Hightower to the Redskins.
With Williams out, diminutive LaRod Stephens-Howling becomes the team’s top backup with a number of undrafted rookie free agents after him on the depth chart. That has to be a concern for Cardinals management given Wells well-documented injury history at Ohio State and last year in Arizona when he missed time due to torn meniscus in his knee.
A number of veteran free agent running backs remain unsigned and it seems likely that the Cardinals will look to replenish their running back depth chart at some point during the preseason.
Beanie: The lead man.
Wells becomes the lead man in Arizona with an outside chance of becoming one of the few workhorse backs in the league. There is little proven talent behind him and of the veteran running backs currently available in the free agent market, none are likely to come to Arizona and steal his job.
That means Beanie is likely in line for a significant workload (approaching the 300-carry mark) in 2011 provided he can stay healthy – something that’s been difficult for him to do.
He came to the NFL with the injury prone label and appeared to shake that off in his rookie season by playing in all 16 games. However, he missed three games last season and most of another contest with some reports indicating the team felt he was taking too long to get back in the line-up.
So what can we expect from Wells? A breakout season is unlikely given it is quarterback Kevin Kolb’s first year as an NFL starter as well as his first year in Arizona and the state of the team’s offensive line.
A more realistic scenario would Wells emerging as a solid RB2 but his injury history wouldn’t make this a comfortable proposition for his fantasy owners either. Consider Wells a great option as one of the first RB3’s off your draft board.
As for LaRod Stephens-Howling, he clearly gets the biggest uptick in fantasy value going from being undraftable to the top backup behind an injury prone player. That scenario plays out if the Cardinals don’t add a veteran running back.
If a draft were being held today, Stephens-Howling would be worth a late round pick given the likelihood of the Cardinals acquiring another player to challenge him. Whoever is Wells’ backup figures to get a decent amount of work considering how head coach Ken Whisenhunt has rotated the team’s running backs over the past few seasons.
By: Dave Stringer — August 6, 2011 @ 12:45 pm
Set adrift by the New York Jets, Braylon Edwards has finally found a new team. With the free agent market for his services not matching his expectations, Edwards will reportedly sign a one-year deal with the 49ers.
Is Edwards a good fit for Jim Harbaugh's west coast offense?
In San Francisco, Edwards will immediately move into the starting line-up with Michael Crabtree out with a foot injury. If Crabtree is out for an extended period of time, Edwards will start opposite Josh Morgan, who will likely move to a reserve role when Crabtree returns.
Given their salary cap situation, the expectation entering free agency was that the Jets would have a difficult time re-signing Edwards and that proved to be the case.
With Edwards after a lucrative long-term extension, the Jets moved quickly to sign Plaxico Burress, agreeing to a $3-million, one-year deal with the former Giant. Reports indicate Edwards will receive just $3.5-million from San Francisco.
Edwards decision to sign a short term contract with the 49ers in hopes of having a solid season and hitting the market as a free agent in 2012 is a curious one. While his size and speed would seem to indicate that is a good fit in the West Coast offense new 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh will run, Edwards has not proven adept at running short patterns, in part because of his questionable hands.
In New York, he was used almost exclusively on intermediate and deep routes. After a pair of disappointing seasons, he played well in 2010, making several big plays on his way to a 53-reception, 904-yard, seven-touchdown performance.
The issue for Edwards is that 49ers starting quarterback Alex Smith has never proven capable of connecting with his wide receivers on deep patterns. His preferred option on those plays is tight end Vernon Davis and that is not expected to change in 2011.
Edwards’ upside in 2011 is similar to what he produced in 2010 and that would make him a WR3. However, the more likely scenario is a reduction in big plays and touchdowns. Grab him as a low end WR3 if you have to but feel more comfortable with him coming off your bench as a bye week fill in and injury replacement.
By: Dave Stringer — August 2, 2011 @ 11:40 pm
Burress (one-year deal) will have to prove it to the Jets and to fantasy owners.
With a difficult salary situation and a hole at wide receiver opposite Santonio Holmes in their starting lineup, the New York Jets have reportedly reached a contract agreement with former Giant, Plaxico Burress.
The Jets lost backup receiver Brad Smith to division rival Buffalo and were apparently not willing to meet Braylon Edwards’ contract demands to secure his return to New York. That led to the signing of Burress, who will likely assume Edwards’ role as a red zone target and deep threat.
Burress returns to the league after a two-year absence stemming from a jail term related to shooting himself in the leg in a New York nightclub.
Although a significant market for his services seemed slim, there turned out to be remarkable interest, and the Jets were in the market for a veteran receiver. He was also recently linked to the Giants, Steelers, Eagles, Rams, and 49ers.
Given his age and time away from football, Burress faces significant challenges in returning as the player he was when he left the league. He will get that opportunity with the Jets, but in New York’s heavily run-based offense, his upside would appear be limited. In fact, it’s basically what Edwards accomplished in 2010—53 receptions for 904 yards and seven touchdowns. And the odds of Burress getting there seem remote.
He is 34, he hasn’t played in two years, and he has never had the reputation as a truly dedicated player. Not to mention that the Jets still have Jerricho Cotchery as their top backup receiver, a player who has 64 starts over the past five seasons.
For Burress to move up to WR3 status, he will need to find the end zone plenty because he’s just not going to get close to 1,000 yards. He will likely become the team’s top red zone target, so he could reach seven or eight touchdowns, but banking on touchdowns is never a smart thing.
If you’re willing to gamble on those touchdowns and the inconsistency that comes with them, you could roll Burress as a WR3. But there are better options out there that possess far more upside.
By: Dave Stringer — @ 11:29 pm
With Sproles in the mix, the Saints are now 4-deep at running back.
Having traded Reggie Bush to the Miami Dolphins, the New Orleans Saints were in the market for a versatile player to replace him. They found that player in former San Diego running back Darren Sproles.
Sproles figures to assume much of the role that Bush performed during his five-year career with the Saints. He joins a revamped Saints running back depth chart that includes Pierre Thomas, second-year player Chris Ivory, and rookie first-round pick Mark Ingram.
The Chargers franchised the diminutive Sproles for the 2009 season and retained his services last year, paying him close to $14 million over the past two seasons. Reports indicate the Saints will pay Sproles that amount over the next four years.
Because San Diego had a difficult salary-cap situation and had Mike Tolbert, 2010 first-round pick Ryan Mathews, and 2011 sixth-round pick Jordan Todman on their roster, it was expected that Sproles would leave as a free agent.
While Sproles is a dynamic player, he doesn’t enhance an offense the way Bush did, and he is unlikely to have as big an impact in New Orleans as Bush had.
In addition, Lance Moore was re-signed to a lucrative contract extension this offseason. A receiver’s new contract may seem to have little bearing on a running back’s production, but Moore was essentially Bush’s replacement as a receiver, often posting big numbers when Bush was injured. While Sproles will certainly contribute in the passing game, Moore’s lucrative deal likely means that he will get more playing time in 2011 than in previous years.
In the run game for the past few seasons, Bush essentially split time with Pierre Thomas and a second running back (first Mike Bell and then Chris Ivory last year). With Sproles now on the roster, the Saints are four deep at running back. This ensures that, barring injuries, Sproles won’t be receiving a significant number of carries.
If the presence of Sproles in New Orleans doesn’t sound too exciting from a fantasy perspective, there’s a reason for that. It’s all about opportunity. It’s hard to see Sproles getting significant touches in New Orleans, and that leaves him as waiver wire material unless those above him on the depth chart become injured.
By: Dave Stringer — August 1, 2011 @ 3:14 am
With a youth movement under way and their star wide receiver no longer in their plans, the Cincinnati Bengals have traded Chad Ochocinco to New England. Reports indicate the Bengals will receive the Patriots’ fifth-round draft pick in 2012 and their sixth-round pick in 2013.
Me? No longer the imposing deep threat?
The enigmatic Ochocinco has spent the last few seasons talking his way out of Cincinnati. With the team expected to start rookie quarterback Andy Dalton and having used their fourth pick in the draft on wide receiver A.J. Green, Ochocinco finally got his wish.
In New England, he will join a receiving unit that has lacked a proven deep threat since Randy Moss was traded early in the 2010 season. He will start opposite Deion Branch with Wes Welker playing out of the slot.
Ochocinco is coming off a disappointing 2010, having caught just 67 passes for 831 yards and four touchdowns during a season in which Terrell Owens overtook him as the team’s lead receiver.
In Cincinnati, Ochocinco would have been the lead receiver on a team that will likely start a rookie quarterback and would have been looking to reduce the receiver’s role as they underwent a youth movement.
Going to New England, Ochocinco joins one of the NFL’s most prolific offenses led by arguably the league’s top quarterback in Tom Brady, so this trade increases his 2011 fantasy prospects.
However, expecting him to return as the fantasy stud he was a few years ago is ill-advised.
New England’s offense features a pair of solid, young pass-receiving tight ends in Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez; Welker remains the league’s top slot receiver; and Branch was a good, if inconsistent, performer last season after coming over from the Seahawks.
In addition, Ochocinco is approaching 34, he has failed to reach 1,000 receiving yards in two of the last three seasons, and he is no longer the imposing deep threat he was for most of his career.
He was a WR5 in Cincinnati, and while the move to New England should increase his production, he still ranks no better than a low-end WR3 with the Patriots.
The biggest fantasy losers in this deal are Dalton and Branch. Dalton loses his top receiver while Branch will likely see his targets reduced. Branch was rated as a WR3 before the trade but drops to an upper-tier WR4.
By: Dave Stringer — July 29, 2011 @ 2:31 pm
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After failing to reach an agreement on a long-term extension in Seattle, Matt Hasselbeck has landed in Tennessee with the Titans.
Hassebleck to Tennessee - Music to fantasy owner's ears?
Reports indicate that Tennessee was willing to give Hasselbeck a lengthier contract than Seattle was, and he is expected to open the season as the Titans’ starter.
With rookie first-round pick Jake Locker previously atop the depth chart because of Kerry Collins‘ retirement, the Titans were interested in acquiring a veteran to help ease Locker’s transition into the NFL. Hasselbeck’s solid character and experience make him a perfect fit for that role.
In Seattle, Hasselbeck had become redundant after the team came to terms with former Vikings quarterback Tarvaris Jackson.
Going from the unemployment line to starting in an offense with Chris Johnson certainly improves your chance of success, so the move is positive from Hasselbeck’s perspective.
That’s not to say you should plan on owning him in 2011.
While the Titans’ solid offensive line should keep him upright more than he was in Seattle, it is hard to ignore that he suffered through his worst year as a starter last season. He is also 36 years old and is coming to a team with major question marks at tight end and wide receiver. Avoid Hasselbeck in 2011.
However, Johnson’s value gets a slight uptick since Hasselbeck will help take some of the pressure off the rushing game.
The Titans wide receivers and tight ends also see an increase in their fantasy value. Of those players, only Kenny Britt has the potential to be a fantasy starter, and his off-the-field troubles make him a huge risk.
Even with Hasselbeck on board, the only Titan offensive player you want to own is Johnson.
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