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Player Outlooks – New England Patriots

By: — June 30, 2011 @ 2:06 pm

QB Tom Brady
Outside of his magical 2007 season when he threw for nearly 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns, Brady was never better than he was in 2010. Despite losing the team’s projected top receiver and only true deep threat, Randy Moss, in an early-season trade and being left with a group of merely average receivers, Brady threw for 3,900 yards and 36 touchdowns with a career-low four interceptions. He easily adapted to Moss’ departure, with the offense moving from an air-it-out to more of a dink-and-dunk approach. Considering what he accomplished last year with a lackluster receiving corps, Brady is essentially a guarantee to produce at quarterback. With talented tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez entering their second seasons and with the team hopeful that either Brandon Tate or Taylor Price can scare defenses a little on the outside, Brady should at least match his strong season from a year ago.

RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis
BJGE came out of nowhere to have a breakout season in 2010. The former undrafted free agent had 1,008 rushing yards, becoming the team’s first 1000-yard running back since Corey Dillon in 2004. He proved to be an effective closer and short-yardage back with his 13 touchdowns, helping him to a 15th place fantasy ranking at running back. And what was his reward for such a respectable season? Watching the team draft running backs in the second and third rounds of this year’s rookie draft. Of those rookies, Stevan Ridley is Green-Ellis’ main threat, given his size and potential as a short-yardage runner. Green-Ellis is certainly not the most talented back in the league, but he figures to earn the most playing time given his strong season, his ability to hold on to the ball (no fumbles in the regular season), and his pass-blocking ability. The team’s coaching staff isn’t going to give much playing time to the rookies until they have proven they can protect their marquee quarterback. There are clearly doubts about BJGE’s fantasy stock in 2011, but he is worth gambling on as a low-end RB2 or upper-tier backup.

RB Danny Woodhead
If there’s one thing the Patriots have proven over the years, it’s that they can take other teams’ castoffs and make them productive players if they fit the New England system. There were plenty of heads shaking in New York when the Patriots turned former Jets running back Danny Woodhead into a serious backfield threat for much of 2010. Woodhead arrived in New England in time for opening day and took over for Kevin Faulk as the pass-catching and change-of-pace back in Week 3. Generously listed at 5’8” and 195 pounds, Woodhead ran for 547 yards and five touchdowns on just 97 carries while chipping in 34 receptions for 379 yards and another score. You would figure healthy averages of 5.6 yards per carry and 11.1 yards per reception would earn you significant playing time the following season, but Woodhead will battle with the Patriots’ second-round pick, Shane Vereen, for playing time. It’s unlikely Vereen will win the job by opening day, which means Woodhead will have an opportunity to solidify his position on the roster. Expect more of the same from Woodhead in 2010 and draft him as a high-end RB4 who should prove useful as a flex player.

RB Shane Vereen
The Patriots were clearly looking for quality competition for Green-Ellis and Woodhead when they took Vereen in the second round and Stevan Ridley in the third. In his rookie year, Vereen shapes up as a competitor to Woodhead as a pass-catching, change-of-pace back; but he’s an intriguing option in dynasty leagues given his overall skill set. A tad undersized at 5’10” and 210 pounds, Vereen could emerge as the Patriots’ lead back in the next year or two. He is unlikely to win extensive playing time by opening day, but he could gain touches as the season goes on. Keep your eye on him in training camp, but at this point he is most likely to be waiver wire material early in the season. In dynasty leagues, he is definitely worth grabbing, given the strong state of the Patriots offense.

Welker scored double-digit fantasy points in only 5 games last season.

WR Wes Welker
Entering 2011, Welker has a laundry list of both positive and negative issues that affect his fantasy prognosis. On the plus side, he is now a year and a half removed from the surgery that ended his 2009 season, he is clearly the Patriots top wide receiver, and he was a significant weapon in 2010 with 86 receptions for 848 yards and seven touchdowns, which were the second most of his career. The flip side is that he caught 69.9 percent of his targets (down from 75.9 percent for the 2007-2009 period), his reception total was down 30 from his average over the previous three seasons, his yards per reception was the lowest of his career, and he had only five games with double-digit fantasy points. Welker turned 30 in the offseason, and while that usually isn’t a big issue for receivers, it could be for a small player who relies on his quickness and cutting ability to get open. The question is whether his drop in production was mainly the result of his knee injury or whether it was because defenses gave him additional attention with Randy Moss no longer in the lineup. With no proven deep threat on the roster, Welker figures to get plenty of attention again in 2011, so expecting him to bounce back to his 2007-2009 production is not very realistic. Draft Welker as a low-end WR2. He no longer has the upside to achieve WR1 status.

WR Deion Branch
Quick—who is the New England wide receiver to own in 2011? Wes Welker, right? Not so fast. While Welker may bounce back from a bit of a down year, Branch was surprisingly solid for the Patriots after he was acquired from the Seahawks prior to Week 6 last season. In the 11 games in which Welker and Branch were both in the lineup, Branch had 101 fantasy points to Welker’s 87. However, Branch was definitely the more inconsistent of the two players, with less than five fantasy points in the 11 games he played with the Patriots. He will open the season starting opposite Welker, and he figures to roughly duplicate his 2010 production of 61 receptions for 818 yards and six touchdowns. That makes him a low-end WR3, but he will be drafted far lower than Welker in 2011 and should therefore provide excellent value. If you’re looking to get a piece of the New England offense on the cheap, Branch might be your guy.

WR Brandon Tate
The Patriots have been waiting patiently for Tate to produce after taking him in the third round of the 2009 draft. So far, they have little to show for their investment. Tate has been a good kick returner, displaying nice moves and the speed that saw him move up draft boards in 2009. However, he has been inconsistent as a receiver and was only marginally useful in 2010 with 24 receptions for 432 yards and three touchdowns. He enters his third year in the league this season, but there is little reason to think he is ready for a breakout year. With a pair of veteran wide receivers ahead of him on the depth chart, two heavily targeted tight ends, and a pair of pass-catching running backs, Tate doesn’t figure to get much more than the occasional deep target in 2010.

TE Aaron Hernandez
Hernandez was a revelation as a rookie early in 2010, busting out of the gate with 34 receptions for 406 yards and a pair of touchdowns over his first eight games. However, a suspected hip injury that caused him to miss the final two games of the season may have caused his second-half stumble, as he caught just 11 passes for 145 yards over the final part of the season—although his four touchdowns over that stretch made his fantasy point total respectable. Fellow rookie Rob Gronkowski emerged as quarterback Tom Brady’s favored option at tight end, but Hernandez has more upside given his ability to stretch the field. Look for Hernandez to win the receiving yardage battle but for Gronkowski to catch more touchdowns in 2011. Draft Hernandez as a mid-tier starting tight end with upside, but as one with an injury risk due to offseason hip surgery.

TE Rob Gronkowski
Gronkowski started slowly in his rookie season in 2010, with just two multi-reception games over the first seven weeks. From that point on, he gained the trust of the coaching staff and earned a greater role in the offensive game plan because of his soft hands and ability to get open on short and intermediate routes. By season’s end, Gronkowski had emerged as a top-ten fantasy producer at tight end, finishing with 42 receptions for 546 yards and a whopping ten touchdowns. Replicating his touchdown count in 2011 seems unlikely if fellow second-year player Aaron Hernandez remains healthy, so Gronkowski enters 2011 as an upper-tier TE2 with upside if he can relegate Hernandez to more of a third-down role.

Player Outlooks – Miami Dolphins

By: — June 29, 2011 @ 1:35 am

QB Chad Henne
Henne’s fantasy stock was on the rise entering 2010 after the Dolphins traded for Broncos wide receiver Brandon Marshall. The acquisition of Marshall provided Henne with a true number one wide receiver for the first time. With another year under his belt, a solid running game, and Marshall opening up defenses, Henne seemed like a sound bet to have a productive season under center for Miami. Unfortunately for Henne’s owners, he failed to take advantage of the situation and had a disappointing season, throwing for just 3,301 yards with 15 touchdowns and 19 interceptions. He enters 2011 knowing it is a pivotal year in his career. The 2008 second-round pick’s contract is up after the season and he knows this will be his last chance to solidify the starting position in Miami. While he will be motivated, we don’t like his chances of having a breakout season. Henne’s prospects of developing into a fantasy starter are slim, and he fits in as a low-end fantasy backup with little upside.

RB Daniel Thomas
With the aging duo of Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams having substandard seasons in 2010 and sitting on expiring contracts, the Dolphins traded up to take Kansas State’s Daniel Thomas in the second round, dealing three of their draft picks to get him. The bruising 6’0”, 230-pound runner enters a great situation in Miami and figures to have the inside track on opening the season as the starter. He was highly productive running the ball at Kansas State and he can contribute in the passing game as well. Given his opportunity, Thomas is in a virtual dead heat with the Saints’ Mark Ingram to be the top rookie running back taken in redraft formats, and he likely ranks behind only Ingram in dynasty rookie drafts. He enters the season as a low-end RB2 or high-end RB3 with upside.

WR Brandon Marshall
With his trade to the Dolphins prior to the 2010 season, Marshall brought considerable talent to the passing game in Miami. Unfortunately, he also brought a considerable amount of baggage—and he has proceeded to add to it. The Dolphins knew in advance how that equation works, but Marshall, while having a solid year by most standards, had his worst season since his breakout campaign in 2007. After totaling 307 receptions for 3,710 yards and 23 touchdowns during his final three years in Denver, his production plummeted to 86 receptions for 1,014 yards and a measly three touchdowns in Miami. The low touchdown total caused him to drop to 27th in the wide receiver rankings after finishing no worse than 11th over the previous three seasons. Worse yet, he pouted both on and off the field about his role, despite having just eight fewer targets (in one fewer game played) in 2010 than in 2009. Marshall is a big name who will be drafted as a WR1, but there are better options out there that carry far less risk (considering Marshall’s attitude and his quarterback). Buyer beware.

WR Davone Bess
He’s not that big, not that fast, and not exactly the shiftiest receiver in the league. No matter, all Bess does is get open and move the chains, earning the trust of the Dolphins coaches and, more importantly for his fantasy owners, plenty of targets. He has improved his numbers in each of his three years in the league and enjoyed a career year in 2010 with 79 receptions for 820 yards and five touchdowns, all career highs. Considering his penchant for plenty of receptions but not many big plays, Bess is a player whose ranking depends on your league’s scoring system. In redraft formats, he is clearly a WR4 or low-end starter. In point per receptions leagues, he is a solid WR3. Given his lack of star power and the dearth of big plays he provides, he should be a bargain on draft day.

WR Brian Hartline
Hartline emerged as the Dolphins’ starting wide receiver opposite Brandon Marshall last year but failed to capitalize on the opportunity. Despite having the talented Marshall opposite him and seeing his targets increase from 56 to 73, Hartline registered minimal improvements in receptions (31 to 43) and receiving yards (506 to 615) while suffering a drop in touchdowns (three to one). Although the 2009 fourth-round pick is entering his third season, a breakout seems highly unlikely given his marginal skill set. On a Dolphins team that would prefer to feature the run more than they did in 2010, Hartline is the third option in the passing game behind Marshall and slot receiver Davone Bess. In fact, it wouldn’t be a surprise if 2011 fourth-round pick Edmond Gates emerges as the starter by midseason.

TE Anthony Fasano
Fasano enters 2011 coming off of career highs in both receptions (39) and receiving yards (528). Still, his best fantasy season came in 2007 when he padded his fantasy point total with seven touchdowns. Entering his sixth season in the league, Fasano isn’t a player who is about to emerge as a solid pass-catching tight end, nor is he likely to catch a pile of touchdowns with Brandon Marshall in the lineup. He’s a low-end TE2 with little potential. Better to take a flier on a younger tight end who has some upside.

Player Outlooks – Buffalo Bills

By: — June 27, 2011 @ 12:28 pm

QB Ryan Fitzpatrick
When the Bills pulled the chute on the Trent Edwards era after two games last season, they handed the reins over to the unheralded Fitzpatrick. Prior to 2010, Fitzpatrick had little success filling in for an injured Carson Palmer in Cincinnati in 2008 and for Edwards in 2009. However, the Bills’ moribund passing attack came alive with Fitzpatrick under center for 13 games (he sat out Week 17), and he finished the year with career highs in passing yards (3,000) and touchdowns (23). He is also an underrated threat rushing the ball, finishing the year with 269 yards on the ground (he had 304 in 2008). He also finished as the 17th-rated quarterback but was ninth overall in quarterbacks with ten or more starts. Bills management showed their faith in him by not using a pick in the draft to acquire a young talent at the position, which means he will be the team’s starter in 2011, barring injury. Consider Fitzpatrick an upper-tier backup in 2011 and a player you can feel reasonably comfortable using as your starter if you want to employ the strategy of using a late pick (or few auction dollars) on the position.

RB Fred Jackson
If you’re looking for resiliency and determination, look no further than Fred Jackson. Hardly the biggest or fastest running back in the league, he has overcome his status as a Division II college player to unseat a pair of first-round draft picks (first Marshawn Lynch, then C.J. Spiller last year) to retain his starting position with the Bills. And why not? All he does is produce. Despite breaking his hand in training camp and sacrificing playing time as the team showcased Lynch for a trade, Jackson had another productive season. He finished with 927 rushing yards, 215 receiving yards, and seven touchdowns, despite having just 22 touches over the first four weeks of the season. Over the remaining 12 games, he averaged 11.8 fantasy points per game, which ranks as mid-tier RB2 production. Jackson will have to fend off Spiller once again in 2011, but history suggests he will enter the season as the team’s starter. While it’s possible Spiller will take over as the starter at some point, Jackson would still get plenty of touches in that scenario as well as remain the team’s option at the goal line. He should be a good value on draft day.

RB C.J. Spiller
The Bills took plenty of heat for using the ninth pick in the 2010 draft to take Spiller, despite having Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch in their backfield depth chart. The hope was that Spiller would provide a spark as a triple threat—a runner, receiver, and return man similar to Percy Harvin and Reggie Bush. Unfortunately, he didn’t prove to be much of a threat in any facet. He averaged just 3.8 per carry and 6.5 yards per reception, finishing the year with 440 yards and just a single touchdown (although he also had a kickoff return touchdown). Heading into 2011, it’s basically a leap of faith to believe that Spiller is ready to unseat the reliable Fred Jackson as the team’s starter. Spiller will definitely get more touches than he did last season, but he needs to develop into more of a playmaker to become a useful fantasy option. He could become a solid flex option, but it’s hard to predict much more than that from him based on his performance last season.

WR Lee Evans
The Bills signed Evans to a monster four-year, $37.5-million contract early in 2008 and he has done nothing but disappoint since. Over the last two seasons, he has posted successive career lows in receiving yards (612 in 2009 and then 578 last year) and been a complete non-factor on short and intermediate routes. That basically makes him a one-trick pony. But he hasn’t even been able to beat defenders deep, particularly last season when he finished with just four touchdowns. Simply put, he can’t get open anymore, catching just 46.3 percent of his targets in 2009 and 44.6 percent in 2010. Evans lost his role as the Bills lead receiver last year to Steve Johnson, and there’s no evidence to suggest he’s going to earn it back. The Bills are a young, rebuilding team, and the argument could even be made that the 30-year-old Evans will have a lesser role in 2011 as the team attempts to develop a crop of promising young receivers. Let somebody else take a flier on him.

Johnson will retain his role as the top receiver in the Bills offense.

WR Steve Johnson
While it certainly wasn’t a surprise when Johnson beat out disappointing 2008 second-round pick James Hardy for a starting position, nobody could have foreseen the tremendous season he would have in 2010. As Lee Evans continued to disappoint, Johnson made the most of his opportunity, finishing the year with 82 receptions for 1,083 yards and 10 touchdowns. That production made him the tenth-ranked fantasy wide receiver last season. While there were plenty of receivers trumpeted as potential breakout candidates entering their third seasons, Johnson was rarely mentioned in that group. Entering his fourth year in the league, and with Fitzpatrick back at the quarterback, Johnson figures to retain his spot as the team’s top receiver and should provide solid fantasy production in 2011. While it’s hard to predict a repeat top-ten performance given his lofty touchdown total last season, Johnson shapes up as a potential upper-tier WR2—one who could be a bargain on draft day given his short track record. Other owners in your league might consider him a one-year wonder. Don’t make that mistake yourself on draft day.

TE Shawn Nelson
The Bills have been searching for a pass-receiving threat at tight end for what seems like ages. They grabbed Nelson in the fifth round of the 2009 draft hoping he could grow into that role. But he has done little during his first two years in the league, missing much of last season with migraine headaches and having to serve a four-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Nelson is talented and the Bills have little invested at the position, so he remains the player most likely to win the starting job on opening day. Just don’t expect him to make much of the opportunity.

Projections & Rankings Update – 6/23

By: — June 23, 2011 @ 11:56 am
Filed under: Forecast

Player Projections, Rankings & Cheatsheets
Change Log – 6/23


  • Changed the passing attempts and competition numbers for Aaron
    Rodgers, Tony Romo, Matt Schaub, Josh Freeman, Jay Cutler, Tim Tebow,
    Matt Cassel, & Colt McCoy.
  • +3 in the Rankings for Joe Flacco for his consistency the last
    two years.
  • Slight yardage downgrade (-75) for Matthew Stafford as his injury
    risk weighs on my mind.
  • Slight passing yardage increases for Cam Newton and Andy Dalton
    however both rookies remain in Tier 4.
  • Included Vince Young. He’s not expected back in Tennessee
    and has little fantasy value until he finds a home.

Running Backs

  • Changed the rushing attempts and reception numbers for numerous
    players which should help those of you with MyFFT PPR leagues get
    a more accurate view of the projections. Players with these changes
    include Arian Foster, Adrian Peterson, Michael Turner, Matt Forte,
    LeSean McCoy, Peyton Hillis, Michael Bush, & Beanie Wells.
  • -50 receiving yards for Jamaal Charles but Ranking stays the same.
  • Flip-flopped Ryan Torain (38) and Keiland Williams (52). Given
    Shanahan’s track record, I wouldn’t touch any Washington
    RB at this point.
  • +2 in the Rankings for Ryan Mathews. I’m anxious to but him
    in Tier 3 but can’t pull the trigger until on-field workouts
  • +3 in the Rankings for Mark Ingram due to upside.
  • +10 in the Rankings for Marion Barber. I don’t expect him
    to be in Dallas this year but he has more upside value than where
    he was initially ranked.

Wide Receivers

  • Changed the reception numbers for numerous players which should
    help those of you with MyFFT PPR leagues get a more accurate view
    of the projections. Reception totals were changed for Hakeem Nicks,
    Mike Wallace, Dwayne Bowe, Brandon Lloyd, Miles Austin, DeSean Jackson,
    Dez Bryant, Steve Smith (CAR), Jacoby Jones, & Greg Little.
  • -100 yards for Amendola. Trying to predict the Rams receivers at
    this point in time is difficult at best and while I’m bullish
    on Amendola succeeding in Josh McDaniels’s offense, my initial
    yardage total was a little ambitious.
  • +50 yards for Dez Bryant and +2 in Rankings. Bryant’s upside
    is big.
  • Included Eric Decker. He was left out of the initial Rankings by

Tight Ends

  • Slight bumps for Jimmy Graham and Greg Olsen who were both slotted
    a couple spots too low in my initial Rankings.
  • I still haven’t gathered my thoughts on Shockey and how much
    he’ll be a factor in the passing game but he does move up a
    few notches for the time being.
  • Reception numbers were altered for Owen Daniels, Todd Heap, Ben
    Watson, and Tony Moeaki.
  • I’m predicting a down year for Gonzalez as he comes to the
    end of a fabulous career, but my initial projections were too low.
    A slight bump for Tony G.

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