Fantasy Football Strategy, Advice, and Commentary
By: Dave Stringer — @ 12:35 pm
By: Dave Stringer — August 20, 2011 @ 3:22 pm
QB Sam Bradford
The first overall pick in 2010 proved last season that he is the real deal, leading the Rams to within a game of the playoffs. Bradford displayed veteran poise throughout his rookie season and appears to have the Rams ready to make a run at the playoffs in 2011. Missing the team’s top two wide receivers in Mark Clayton and Donnie Avery and having marginal talent at tight end, Bradford spread the ball around, throwing for 3,210 yards with 18 touchdowns and 15 interceptions, making him the 19th-ranked fantasy quarterback. Look for more this coming season. He had a solid six-game stretch at midseason, throwing for 1,307 yards with 11 touchdowns and only a single interception. However, he fell off over the final five games, a stretch where he passed for 1,046 yards with six interceptions and only one touchdown as defenses began to focus on shutting down slot receiver Danny Amendola. With new offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels running the show, look for improvement in Bradford this coming season. However, the team failed to address its needs for a true No. 1 wide receiver, and while there is talent at tight end, it is largely unproven. Bradford enters 2011 as a mid-tier fantasy backup with upside, and he is a great option in dynasty leagues.
RB Steven Jackson
What to make of Steven Jackson… On the one hand, he’s only 27 years old and is a true workhorse back in a league full of timeshares; he rarely comes off the field, gets the goal line work, and can catch the ball. That’s why it’s no surprise he’s had at least 1,273 total yards every year since taking over as the team’s starter at the beginning of the 2005 season. On the other hand, he’s been used heavily (averaging 25.1 touches per game over the last five years), is coming off a career worst 3.8 ypc season, and has trouble finding the end zone. In fact, since scoring 16 touchdowns during his career year in 2006, Jackson hasn’t scored double-digit touchdowns in any one season, averaging just six scores per season over his last four years. By adding Cadillac Williams and Jerious Norwood to the fold, the Rams have given SJax his best backups since, well, Marshall Faulk. While Jackson has earned a reputation as a player who often gets hurt, the bottom line is that he has missed just ten games over the last six years and has a willingness to play through pain. He enters 2011 as a reliable, low-end RB1 with some upside if he can start finding the end zone again. With the Rams on the upswing, that just might happen.
After years of having a black hole behind Steven Jackson, the Rams may have finally found a decent backup in former Buccaneer Cadillac Williams. Williams was relegated to a backup role in 2010 after losing his job at midseason to LeGarrette Blount. His prospects for playing time were actually better in Tampa Bay than in St. Louis, however, given Blount’s poor blocking and receiving ability—areas in which Jackson has proven capable. At this point in his career, Williams is clearly a backup, but one who has played reasonably well in most games since his resurgence in 2009. However, he has not been able to produce against the league’s top defenses. He shapes up as a worthy handcuff on your fantasy roster.
RB Jerious Norwood
Norwood comes to the Rams after a pair of injury-plagued seasons in Atlanta. He suffered a torn ACL in Week 2 last year and has missed 20 games over the last two seasons. Prior to that, he enjoyed a career year in 2008, rushing for 489 yards, gaining 338 receiving yards, and scoring six touchdowns. At that point, Norwood looked like a player who just might emerge as a solid time-share back, but the Falcons signed Michael Turner and Norwood couldn’t stay healthy. Norwood will fight with Cadillac Williams for the few scraps Steven Jackson leaves behind, but his main role will be on third downs. He’s only worth grabbing if SJax or Williams gets injured.
WR Danny Amendola
After the 2010 rookie draft, the Rams boasted about how they got a steal in selecting slot receiver Mardy Gilyard with the first pick in the fourth round. Turns out that was a wasted pick since they got a steal when they plucked Amendola off the Eagles practice squad two years ago. Amendola’s willingness (bordering on reckless) to go over the middle and ability to convert third downs helped him develop into Sam Bradford’s go-to receiver. Bradford targeted him 123 times, with Amendola catching 85 passes for 689 yards and three touchdowns. The nifty 69.1 completion percentage pretty much ensures Amendola doesn’t have to worry about Gilyard. Clearly Amendola is a better option in PPR leagues, where he ranks as a lower-tier WR2 or upper-tier WR3. In non-PPR leagues, consider him a WR3. New offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels helped make Wes Welker a star in New England, and the same might just happen with Amendola in St. Louis.
WR Mike Sims-Walker
Conventional wisdom is that the Rams are desperate for a No. 1 wide receiver and Sims-Walker is the player most likely to fulfill that role, given his size-speed combination and his accomplishments in Jacksonville. The only hiccup with that theory is his production in 2010, where he caught just 43 receptions for 562 yards and seven touchdowns. That’s not No. 1 wide receiver production to most folks. More likely, the Rams will spread the ball around among several wide receivers because, while they don’t have a true No. 1, they have several that are NFL caliber. Sims-Walker is worth taking on as a WR4 or WR5, but he’s not a player you want to rely on in your starting lineup until he proves otherwise.
WR Danario Alexander
While Mike Sims-Walker is getting all the pub as the Rams receiver most likely to replicate Brandon Lloyd’s breakout season in Denver with Josh McDaniels running the offense, Alexander has far more potential if he can stay healthy. However, the odds of that happening cannot be considered good. Alexander is a solid 6’5”, but he went undrafted due to his numerous knee injuries. Although he joined the Rams near the end of preseason last year, he quickly picked up the offense and had three double-digit fantasy point games despite playing in just eight contests. Unfortunately, he was in and out of the lineup with those same knee problems. Alexander has the potential to be one of the top receivers in the league if his knees would just hold up. He’s worth a late-round flier in larger leagues.
WR Donnie Avery
The Rams made Avery the first wide receiver taken in the 2008 draft, using the first pick in the second round to acquire him. With DeSean Jackson still on the board at that point, let’s just say St. Louis may regret that one. In three years, Avery has proven injury-prone and inconsistent, missing all of last season with a knee injury. He’s a burner but his route running doesn’t seem to have improved much since he entered the league. While the Rams are stacked at wide receiver with no clear-cut No. 1, Avery’s size and poor route running don’t bode well for his becoming quarterback Sam Bradford’s go-to guy in 2011. He’s far more likely to be used as a deep threat. See what Avery does in the preseason before wasting a roster spot on him.
WR Brandon Gibson
What’s a guy have to do to get some respect? After being plucked off the Eagles practice roster in 2009, Gibson stepped into the lineup and caught 34 passes for 348 yards and a touchdown in ten games, including three starts. Last season, he was the Rams’ most consistent outside threat with 53 receptions for 620 yards and two touchdowns. Unfortunately, the Rams weren’t impressed, bringing in Mike Sims-Walker and drafting two wide receivers in the middle rounds of the draft.
WR Mardy Gilyard
Gilyard was considered a steal when the Rams used the first pick in the fourth round of the 2010 draft to acquire him. A few picks later the Bucs grabbed Mike Williams. You don’t need a degree in rocket science to figure out who got the real steal. With a plethora of wide receivers worthy of roster spots and Danny Amendola having cemented his position as the team’s slot receiver, Gilyard has no chance of making the Rams roster. He’s trade bait for the Rams and not worthy of a roster spot in your dynasty league.
TE Michael Hoomanawanui
The Rams’ 2010 fifth-round pick had an up-and-down rookie season. He performed well in training camp and appeared to be on the verge of claiming the starting position by midseason, only to suffer a high ankle sprain to his left ankle on opening day. He returned in Week 6 and had 12 receptions for 138 yards and three touchdowns over the next six games before suffering a right high ankle sprain. Hoomanawanui will battle rookie second-round pick Lance Hendricks for playing time but has the edge to open the season as the team’s starter given his superior blocking ability. Monitor the situation and consider Hoomanawanui a low-tier backup with upside, provided he beats out Kendricks.
The Rams haven’t gotten much out of their tight ends in recent years, and new offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels’ system calls for a tight end with the ability to get downfield. Hence, the selection of Hendricks in the second round of this year’s draft. More receiver than blocker, Hendricks will likely spend his rookie season playing mostly on passing downs, but he could be a solid fantasy backup if he can win the starting position, which just might happen considering his play in training camp. If it doesn’t happen, he isn’t worth owning in redraft formats but is still a decent option in dynasty leagues.
By: Dave Stringer — November 5, 2010 @ 11:56 pm
1. Jets head coach Rex Ryan did a masterful job in 2009 of bringing his team to within a game of the Super Bowl, succumbing to the Colts in the AFC Conference Final. However, he hasn’t had that same success this season. The team returned Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis to the starting line-up too soon after he injured his hamstring and it remains to be seen whether that decision will affect his performance over the balance of the season. At this point, the consensus is that he has not performed up to his 2009 standard. This week, Ryan released defensive tackle Howard Green knowing that the Jets opponent, the Green Bay Packers, were desperate for help along their depleted defensive line. Green stepped in for the Packers on short notice and played well in helping the Packers restrict the effectiveness of the Jets rushing attack. And finally, the Jets not only lost to the Packers at home, they were also shut out and that is inexcusable considering New York was coming off a bye week and two weeks to prepare. Ryan is a solid coach, just not as solid this year as last.
2. Speaking of bad coaching, Redskins head honcho Mike Shanahan, another coach who always thinks he’s the smartest guy in the room, takes the prize this week for the biggest coaching blunder following his decision to bench quarterback Donovan McNabb in favor of Rex Grossman so Grossman cold run the two-minute drill. No, folks, that wasn’t a typo. Grossman in for McNabb. Grossman stepped in and promptly fumbled on his first play, leading to a fumble recovery and touchdown for the Lions Ndamukong Suh. Shanahan’s initial reasoning was that Grossman was more adept at running the team’s two-minute offense. When that rationale was questioned, he stated that McNabb was not conditioned well enough to run the two-minute offense. Hey, if you’ve already dug a hole for yourself, why not dig deeper? He forgot to mention that McNabb has engineered 25 fourth quarter comebacks in his career.
3. Lots of bad coaching this week so next up on the hit list is the Texans’ Gary Kubiak. Kubiak has done a fine job of turning around the Texans program but with a chance to make a statement this week by beating the Colts in Indianapolis and sweeping the season series with them, he fell flat in a big play. In the Texans Week 1 win over the Colts, running back Arian Foster ran wild, gaining 231 yards and three touchdowns on 33 carries. In that game, quarterback Matt Schaub was a non-factor, passing for 119 yards. Despite that, Kubiak came out throwing on Monday night on the road in a loud Lucas Oil Stadium in left tackle Duane Brown’s first game back from a four-game suspension, squaring off against Dwight Freeney. It took all of three plays to figure out that Brown was no match for Freeney. However, Kubiak kept dialing up the passes and Schaub finished the first half 5 of 15. He reasoned to ESPN reporter Michelle Tafoya at half-time that they needed more balance and that they couldn’t pass protect one on one or in maximum protections. Frankly speaking, there was more than a little fiction in that statement since almost all of the pass protection schemes in the first half did not include running backs or tight ends. As for the comment about needing balance, that’s another fiction. The Texans won in Week 1 without any balance. They could have won last week without any balance. They just needed to give the ball to Arian Foster. He had 102 yards on 15 carries and 65 yards on nine receptions. The Texans threw it 38 times. That’s not balance. Kubiak clearly outthought himself in this one, despite having two weeks come up with a game plan.
4. Here’s to stating the obvious. Broncos Chief Operating Officer Joe Ellis, speaking on behalf of owner Pat Bowlen, was asked by the Denver Post to comment on head coach Josh McDaniels job security. Ellis refused to guarantee that McDaniels would be back in Denver in 2010. I guess when a head coach has lost 14 of his last 18 games and the team’s fans are hurling their fury at him, it’s no surprise when upper management refuses to guarantee the coach will be back the following year.
5. It seems like the Rams got it right with the selection of Sam Bradford with the first overall pick in the draft. Bradford has showed poise in leading the Rams to a 4-4 record that leaves them a half-game behind the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC West Race. Despite having a wide receiver group missing Mark Clayton and Donnie Avery, Bradford has moved the ball effectively with an array of short passes. All the more impressive is that he has been able to accomplish that and avoid interceptions despite lacking a true deep threat. He has thrown 96 straight passes without an interception.
6. If the Rams hit the nail on the head with Bradford, the Lions did the same with defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh with the second overall pick in the draft. He has been a beast for the Lions and has already emerged as the team’s most disruptive defender less than halfway through his rookie season. This week, he scored on a fumble recovery to seal the Lions win over the Redskins, although he almost got caught hot dogging it too much Leon Lett style with Santana Moss nearly stripping him at the one-yard line. Suh has six and a half sacks on the season, tied for eight overall in that category. It’s not often that the top two selections in the draft prove themselves to be potential Hall of Fame players mere games into their careers but that seems to be the case with the 2010 draft.
7. How about those poor Buffalo Bills? Two overtime losses in a row. I don’t know if that’s a record but somehow it doesn’t seem all that surprising that it would happen to Buffalo. Maybe linebacker Shawne Merriman can bring some much needed pass rush to a Bills’ defense that struggles mightily in putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
8. Fantasy owners of Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles are disappointed by head coach Todd Haley’s refusal to insert Charles into the starting line-up over Thomas Jones. However, Charles has put up decent production in a backup role despite being used in a change of pace role and not getting any goal line work. It’s also encouraging that with their 274 yard rushing effort this week against the Bills, the Chiefs have now surpassed 200 rushing yards in three straight games.
9. Don’t look now but the Oakland Raiders have actually made their presence felt in the AFC West for the first time since Jon Gruden was coaching the team. They sit at 4-4 but are on a roll, having trounced the Broncos in Denver in Week 7 and the Seahawks in Week 8. This marks the first time they are playing .500 ball in November since the 2002 season. With 92 points over their past two games, the offense is clicking behind a solid rushing attack and big plays in the passing game on play action. Al Davis must be smiling in his grave. Err, he’s still alive, you say? Who knew Chiefs at Raiders would be a feature matchup in Week 9?
10. Keeping with the Raiders, wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey showed some toughness for the first time in his career this week, playing through a shoulder injury he suffered during the game to haul in five passes for 105 yards and a score. He also had a 30-yard run to pad his fantasy stats. While it was nice to see him display some toughness, the production shouldn’t be emphasized too much since the Seahawks have a suspect pass rush and played the game without two of their top three cornerbacks.
11. Get your wide receivers in this week against Cincinnati. Their secondary is banged up and extremely thin heading into this week’s game against the Steelers. At cornerback, Adam Jones was placed on injured reserve two weeks ago and Jonathon Joseph will likely gut it out this week with an ankle injury. If he can’t go, Morgan Trent will step in. At safety, Nedu Ndukwe and Roy Williams will both try to play through knee injuries. If they can’t go, the Bengals will have to rely on inexperienced Tom Nelson to man one of the safety positions. The Bengals need a lot of things to break their way if they’re going to field a decent secondary over the next few weeks.
12. After watching wide receiver Donald Driver unsuccessfully try to play through a quadriceps injury for two straight weeks (no receptions in either game), the Packers quickly ruled him out for this week’s contest against the Cowboys. With the team having their bye in Week 10, that gives Driver two full weeks to recovery. Owners in deeper leagues likely have James Jones and Jordy Nelson stashed on their benches in the event Driver went down. Early this year, it looked like Jones had locked down the third receiver role but Nelson has been the steadier performer of the two over the past few weeks. Jones has the flashier numbers with 19 receptions for 284 yards and a score. However, it’s taken him 40 targets to reach that production and he has been prone to drops. Meanwhile, Nelson has caught 62.8% of his targets and is clearly the more sure-handed of the two.
13. IDP leaguers take note that Rams defensive end Chris Long is finally living up to his potential after being taken second overall in the 2008 draft. He has sacks in three straight games and four and a half sacks in his last five contests.
14. With Mike Tolbert topping 100 rushing yards this week, the Chargers broke a streak of 16 consecutive games without having a running back top the century mark.
By: Dave Stringer — July 22, 2010 @ 10:31 am
The Bengals were one of the surprising success stories in 2009, managing to win ten games and capture the division title in the tough AFC North. Even more surprising was that they accomplished the feat behind the impressive running ability of former Bear Cedric Benson and a passing attack that barely topped 3,100 yards.
A defeat at home against the Jets in the first round of the playoffs was the only blight—other than the unexpected death of wide receiver Chris Henry—on an otherwise successful season for Cincinnati
Head coach Marvin Lewis returns and so will a reliance on a power rushing attack and a solid defense that is equally effective at stopping the run and pass. With defensive end Antwan Odom healthy after posting eight sacks in just six games, the Bengals defense might be even better in 2010.
Coming off an elbow injury suffered in 2009, Palmer struggled with his accuracy, and the Bengals turned to the run more often than during any of his other seasons as the team’s starter. Given the success the Bengals enjoyed with their running game in 2009, it is unlikely that Palmer will return to posting the gaudy passing statistics he put up from 2005 to 2007.
Benson was the heart of the Bengals offensive engine last season and should remain so in 2010. He had a breakout season and proved that he could produce if given the ball on a consistent basis. Bernard Scott, who showed flashes as a rookie, may be needed if Benson is suspended as a result of an altercation at a bar over the summer. If Benson is suspended, it is expected to be a short one spanning one to three games.
At wide receiver, the Bengals struggled to replace the production that T.J. Houshmandzadeh could be counted on for, as Laveranues Coles was disappointing in his only season in Cincinnati. Former Bucs wide receiver Antonio Bryant was signed to start opposite Chad Ochocinco, and that tandem provides the Bengals with a pair of receivers capable of making big plays.
Andre Caldwell will man the slot position again this season, unless rookie third-round pick Jordan Shipley is able to supplant him. Matt Jones will battle 2008 second-round bust Jerome Simpson along with Quan Cosby for the remaining wide receiver spots on the team’s depth chart.
After going several seasons without a receiving threat at tight end, the Bengals used their first-round selection in this year’s draft on Jermaine Gresham. The Oklahoma product has excellent size (6’5, 260 pounds) and speed. He totaled nearly 1,000 receiving yards in 2008 while averaging over 14 yards per reception (he missed last season with a knee injury).
The Bengals abandoned their pass-heavy approach from previous seasons in 2009 and were rewarded for it with their first playoff berth since 2005. While Palmer has impressive credentials in the passing game, there is little chance the Bengals will return to their pass-happy ways in 2010.
QB Carson Palmer
Without question, Palmer was a fantasy disappointment in 2009, suffering through his worst year in the NFL since struggling as a first-year starter during his second year in the league. In 2009, he was recovering from an elbow injury that ruined his 2008 season, but the bigger issue was the team’s reliance on Cedric Benson and the lack of a big-play threat once they lost Chris Henry. Palmer had seven games with under 200 yards passing, surpassed 300 yards only once, and had only five games with multiple touchdown passes. In fact, he ranked 18th among fantasy quarterbacks, courtesy of a five-touchdown performance against the Bears along with three rushing touchdowns on the season. Although the Bengals added Antonio Bryant to play opposite Chad Ochocinco and selected tight end Jermaine Gresham in the first round of the rookie draft, Palmer’s outlook for 2010 is not promising. He is a fantasy backup at this point in his career, and that won’t change until the Bengals part with their run-heavy offense. The Bengals are going to run a lot again in 2010, and Palmer will almost certainly be drafted before he should be, based on his name recognition and past fantasy achievements.
RB Cedric Benson
Benson followed up a productive 2008 campaign by becoming one of the league’s better inside runners in 2009, finishing with 1,251 rushing yards and six touchdowns despite not playing in three games. He displayed an ability to cut once past the hole and get outside, breaking several reasonably long runs in the process. In 2010, Benson enters the season as one the league’s true workhorse backs and will get plenty of touches in the Bengals run-based offense. It’s hard to expect him to average close to the 25 touches per game he had in 2009, but an improvement on his six touchdowns is likely if he can remain healthy. His availability for a portion of the entire season is in question as a result of an incident at a bar where he is accused of assaulting an employee. Because of the Bengals’ offensive philosophy and lack of a proven backup running back, Benson is a low-risk option as a high-end RB2 with upside, provided he can avoid a league suspension. Hard to believe after his disappointing tenure in Chicago.
RB Bernard Scott
Scott will enter the season as Cedric Benson’s top backup, and the second-year player has a chance to put up decent numbers on a Bengals squad that likes to run. He lacks the size to challenge Benson but managed a respectable 4.3 yards per carry while showing an ability to make tacklers miss in the return game. If he can carry that over to the base offense, he could be a low-end flex play, but , either way, he is definitely a worthy handcuff for Benson owners.
WR Chad Ochocinco
Ochocinco is coming off a solid comeback season in 2009, where he finished with 1,047 yards and nine touchdowns. However, his age (thirty-two) is becoming a bit of a concern—as is the Bengals offense, which struggled mightily in 2009. The team did sign Antonio Bryant, who should be an improvement over Laveranues Coles and whose presence may free up Ochocinco with more single coverage. Nonetheless, it is unrealistic to expect Ochocinco to return to his glory days from 2002–2007 when he averaged 1,339 receiving yards per season. Expect him to match his production from a year ago, with a number of low-production games due to a lack of targets.
WR Antonio Bryant
Bryant is a talented receiver coming off a disappointing season with the lowly Buccaneers in 2009, where he finished with 600 receiving yards and four touchdowns. Injuries and inconsistent play at quarterback contributed to Bryant’s lack of production, but don’t be deluded into thinking he has an opportunity to match his 2008 Buccaneers season in Cincinnati this year. In fact, Bryant’s fantasy prospects were likely better served had he stayed in Tampa Bay. In Cincinnati, Bryant will be the second most talented receiver on a team that doesn’t throw a lot. Keep your expectations realistic.
WR Andre Caldwell
Quarterback Carson Palmer trumpeted Caldwell’s ability during his rookie campaign, and there was some hope that he would develop into a receiver capable of moving into the starting lineup at some point. However, after a pair of largely nondescript seasons, Caldwell’s future appears to be in the slot; and he has shown little ability in making tacklers miss, averaging just 8.2 yards per reception. He will battle rookie third-round pick Jordan Shipley for playing time and, should he win the job outright, could be a decent flex play in a pinch, given his 52 receptions from a year ago. Not much upside here.
WR Jordan Shipley
Chad Ochocinco isn’t getting any younger, Antonio Bryant and Matt Jones aren’t getting any smarter, Andre Caldwell’s best suited as a backup, and Jerome Simpson will be starting his second career soon. Shipley’s got an opportunity, just not this year. Keep Shipley in mind in your keeper leagues, but avoid him in your redraft leagues.
TE Jermaine Gresham
Forecasting solid production from rookie tight ends is kind of like expecting to win the lottery. It’s very rare, especially when that tight end plays in an offense that’s going to run, and run a lot. While Gresham may be a solid receiving prospect, the Bengals have a decent slot receiver in Andre Caldwell to go along with three big wide receivers in Chad Ochocinco, Antonio Bryant, and Matt Jones.
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