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Player Outlooks – Oakland Raiders

By: — August 18, 2011 @ 3:14 am

QB Jason Campbell
It’s not often you get a second lease on your football career with the same team in the span of two years, but that is the case for Campbell. Despite joining the Raiders with the expectation that he would be the team’s starter, he was yanked out of the starting lineup by former head coach Tom Cable six quarters into the 2010 season. Enter new coach Hue Jackson. Jackson let Bruce Gradkowski go in free agency, and with little depth behind Campbell, the starting job is safely his. Once he was back in the starting lineup last season, he played reasonably well over the final five games, averaging 15.4 points per game while throwing for 1,065 yards with six touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. That’s decent QB2 production, and with a cast of young speedsters at wide receiver and a pair of solid running backs in Darren McFadden and Michael Bush, the Raiders possess some intriguing, young offensive talent. Unfortunately, tight end Zach Miller, the team’s most dependable receiver, left for Seattle and his replacement, former Giant Kevin Boss, is not nearly the same receiving threat. That hurts Campbell’s fantasy value and makes him a low-end backup for 2011.

RB Darren McFadden
After a pair of largely disappointing seasons, McFadden showed why he was the fourth pick in the 2008 draft with an outstanding 2010 campaign. Even though he missed three games with injuries, he rushed for 1,157 yards and seven touchdowns while adding 507 yards and three more scores through the air, reaching career highs in every major offensive category despite playing in the Raiders’ popgun offense. He was also remarkably consistent, hitting double-digit fantasy points in ten of 13 games. Can he do it again? Why not? New coach Hue Jackson figures to open up the offense more than his predecessor Tom Cable did, and Run-DMC produced top-five running back numbers last season despite not playing a full slate of games. Given his injury history, you can almost certainly bank on his missing a game or two and hope it won’t be during the fantasy playoffs. Either way, that makes acquiring Michael Bush as his handcuff imperative. McFadden ranks just outside of the top five at running back for 2011, and he could be a bargain if others are wary of his injury history and the fact that he’s had only one solid season out of three.

RB Michael Bush
Considering Darren McFadden’s subpar first two seasons in the league, it appeared entering 2010 that Bush had a decent chance to unseat him as the Raiders’ starting running back. Bush held up his end of the bargain, rushing for 655 yards and eight touchdowns on just 155 carries while chipping in 194 receiving yards, proving he could put up good numbers with more work. However, we already knew that based on his performances in 2008 and 2009. The problem was that McFadden didn’t hold up his end of the deal, finally putting together a Pro Bowl-caliber season and gaining a stranglehold on the starting spot. Nonetheless, Bush was still a valuable commodity, finishing 2010 as the 27th-ranked running back. Expect more of the same in 2010, which makes Bush one of the better flex plays considering he can likely be had for a low-round pick.

WR Jacoby Ford
Ford was a pleasant surprise as a rookie in 2009, proving to be a multi-dimensional threat for a Raiders squad lacking in playmakers. He caught two touchdowns passes, scored twice on the ground, and ran back three kicks for scores. That’s nice if your league counts return touchdowns. However, most don’t, and that limits Ford’s upside, as does his size. Listed at 5’9”, 186 pounds, he’s not going to catch a ton of balls, but he is dynamic when he does, putting up 470 yards on just 25 receptions last year for a tidy 18.8 yards-per-catch average. All of Ford’s production came in the final ten weeks of the season (save for an eight-yard run), so he averaged a respectable 8.7 points per game over that stretch. That’s WR3 production. Ford is definitely a nice sleeper pick, but the Raiders have a number of speedsters on their roster and Ford hasn’t exactly established himself just yet. He’s definitely worth owning, but don’t reach too far for him.

WR Louis Murphy
On first glance, Murphy had a middling performance in 2010, catching 41 passes for 609 yards and two touchdowns over 14 games. However, the Raiders’ quarterback play was spotty at best, Murphy played banged up for most of the year, and he was still clearly the Raiders’ most consistent wide receiver when in the lineup. Did we mention he’s entering his third year in the league? Murphy doesn’t project as a breakout candidate for 2011, but it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if he performed as a top-tier WR3 either. He has good size and enough speed to get deep, and that’s always a plus when playing for Al Davis’ Raiders. Murphy is definitely worth taking a flier on in 2011, but make sure to monitor the hamstring and groin injuries he has been dealing with in training camp.

WR Darrius Heyward-Bey
Heyward-Bey enters his third season in the league, the point when wide receivers generally take a big step forward. The only problem is that a big step forward for Heyward-Bey would get him in the 600-yard, five-touchdown range. He needs a huge step forward to be a solid fantasy producer after a 2010 season in which he caught only 26 passes for 366 yards and a single touchdown. Of course, that production was a big step up from a rookie campaign where he looked completely lost, catching just nine passes for 124 yards and a score. You need playing time to produce, and there’s no guarantee Heyward-Bey is going to get a whole lot with Jacoby Ford and Louis Murphy ahead of him on the depth chart—and rookie fifth-round pick Denarius Moore having a solid training camp. Did we mention that Chaz Schilens figures to operate as the Raiders’ possession receiver since they lost tight end Zach Miller? Heyward-Bey’s nothing more than a deep sleeper, worth owning only in larger leagues.

WR Chaz Schilens
There was a time when Schilens was considered a lower-tier breakout candidate for the Raiders. So much for that. He played in just eight games in 2009 and five games last season, as knee and foot injuries kept him out of the lineup. With several younger, talented wide receivers in the fold, Schilens doesn’t figure to earn much playing time other than as a backup possession receiver. And we all know that backup possession receivers aren’t going to carry you too far, especially when they play on a team with a suspect passing attack.

WR Denarius Moore
The Raiders apparently love Moore, their 2011 fifth-round pick. Of course, new head coach Hue Jackson is talking up every Raider wide receiver under the sun. We’re waiting for him to say Tim Brown has come back and he’s looking good. Joking aside, there are plenty of reports coming out of Oakland that Moore is lighting it up, but it’s one thing for a speedster to dominate against scrubs and another for a rookie wide receiver to consistently beat veteran defenders. Do I sound skeptical? That’s right. This guy’s waiver wire material and nothing more in redraft leagues. He is worth taking a shot on in dynasty formats, however.

TE Kevin Boss
Mea culpa. I drank the Boss juice a little too heavily in years past, figuring he would vulture some red zone touchdowns for the Giants and become a low-end TE1 or upper-tier backup. To be fair, 18 touchdowns through four years is decent production for a young tight end, but hardly enough to make up for low receiving yardage totals. Boss moves to the Raiders this season, leaving a gaping hole at tight end in the Giants’ offense. Or, more likely, there’s a reason the Giants let him go: he’s not that good. You’re dreaming if you think Boss is going to come to Oakland and replace Zach Miller’s production. Keep an eye on him on the waiver wire, however, since the Raiders don’t exactly have an abundance of solid possession receivers.

Player Outlooks – Kansas City Chiefs

By: — August 17, 2011 @ 9:55 am

QB Matt Cassel
Cassel is coming off a career year where he threw for 3,116 yards and 27 touchdowns with just seven interceptions. Those are solid numbers in the Chiefs’ ground-based attack, but their offensive scheme hasn’t been a boon for fantasy success, as Cassel has failed in each of the last two years to reach the eighth-place quarterback ranking he had in 2008 with the Patriots. He has finished 15th and 21st over the past two seasons and seems entrenched as a fantasy backup. Offensive coordinator Charlie Weis has left the Chiefs, so head coach Todd Haley will have a greater say in the team’s play calling this year, but Kansas City is once again expected to rely on the run heavily. In addition, Dwayne Bowe is coming off a career year and the team has added former Cardinal Steve Breaston and 2010 first-round pick Jonathan Baldwin to the receiving mix. However, the team’s reliance on the run limits Cassel’s upside. Draft him as a QB2 for 2011.

Jamaal Charles is ridiculously productive in a timeshare.

RB Jamaal Charles
How good was Jamaal Charles last year? Very good, actually. Of the top 15 fantasy running backs, only BenJarvus Green-Ellis (ranked 15th) and Darren McFadden (ranked sixth) had fewer touches than Charles’s 275, and he still managed to finish the season ranked fourth at running back. By season’s end, Charles had rushed for 1,467 yards on just 230 carries and caught 45 passes for 468 yards while accumulating eight touchdowns. Over his past 24 games, he has averaged 16.8 fantasy points per game. So, he’s ridiculously productive in a timeshare, which begs the question, How productive could he be if Thomas Jones is relegated to a backup role in 2011? Actually, that’s not the question, since we know Charles would go gangbusters if given a larger share of the workload. The question is really whether head coach Todd Haley will relegate Jones to a backup role in 2011. And it’s not sounding like that’s going to happen, although Haley has said Jones’s workload will be reduced slightly. That means we can expect more of the same from Charles in 2011, and that makes him a near cinch for the top five at running back, provided he remains healthy (and he’s missed only one game in three years).

RB Thomas Jones
While Jones might be a workout warrior, it’s pretty obvious that Father Time caught up with the 33-year-old running back in 2010. Jones seemed to slow down as the season wore on, and it became apparent that he no longer has the ability to break long runs—made even more apparent by Jamaal Charles reeling off one big play after another. Jones managed to eke out 3.7 yards per carry, but that was a far cry from the 6.4 average that Charles had. Jones was a pedestrian performer last year, topping 100 total yards just three times despite having double-digit touches in 13 games and getting 20 touches eight times. While he was a decent flex option heading into 2010, he is now strictly a handcuff.

WR Dwayne Bowe
There’s a good chance you were leading your league in 2010 as the fantasy playoffs approached if you had Bowe on your roster. There’s also a good chance you got bounced in the first or second round if you had Bowe on your roster. Bowe had a monstrous 2010 campaign, finishing the season with 72 receptions for 1,162 yards and 15 touchdowns—the most in the league and the most by a wide receiver since Randy Moss’s 23 in 2007. However, he was held in check in Weeks 14 and 15 (three receptions for 56 yards), costing his fantasy owners at the wrong time. He finished as the second-ranked fantasy wide receiver behind Brandon Lloyd, and the question is whether the talented Bowe has put his litany of issues behind him and is ready to be a consistent producer for the Chiefs. Since he stayed clear of trouble last year, he deserves the benefit of the doubt, but expecting a repeat of his 2010 season isn’t realistic. He’s not a major yards producer, so he relies on touchdowns to pad his fantasy point total, and he is unlikely to approach his 2010 touchdown total this season. It’s also worth noting that Bowe really slowed down starting in Week 14, catching just 14 passes for 277 yards and one touchdown over the next six games, including the Chiefs’ wild-card loss to the Ravens. That stretch included three games where Bowe failed to notch a single fantasy point. He’s a WR2 heading into 2011.

WR Steve Breaston
Having signed with Kansas City in the offseason, Breaston will be reunited with his former offensive coordinator, Todd Haley, in Kansas City. Breaston’s signing gives quarterback Matt Cassel another offensive weapon, and it’s worth noting that Breaston enjoyed a career year in 2008 with Haley calling the plays, as he caught 77 passes for 1,003 yards and three touchdowns. However, that was in a pass-happy Cardinals offense with Breaston as the third receiving option and defenses focused on shutting down Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. In Kansas City, Breaston figures to battle rookie first-round pick Jonathan Baldwin for a starting position, a battle he will likely win. However, it’s far more likely that he will finish the season with little more than 700 yards and 2 or 3 touchdowns—as he has done over the past two seasons—than replicate his career year of 2008. He is worth taking a flier on in larger leagues but is waiver wire material in leagues with smaller rosters.

WR Jonathan Baldwin
When the Chiefs used a first-round pick on Baldwin in April, his fantasy prospects for the upcoming season looked promising. With the inconsistent Dwayne Bowe opposite him and the team’s receiving depth chart looking mighty thin, Baldwin had a clear path to a starting spot, with the potential for plenty of targets if Bowe put up another dud season similar to 2009. That was before the team added free agent Steve Breaston to the mix. While Baldwin still has a chance to relegate Breaston to the slot receiver role, look for the rookie to finish behind both Bowe and Breaston in the target parade. Since the Chiefs like to run, Baldwin isn’t likely to produce much as a rookie. He’s worth owning in dynasty leagues but isn’t worthy of a roster spot in redraft formats.

WR Dexter McCluster
What a difference a year makes. Last season, the Chiefs drafted McCluster in an attempt to add some playmaking ability to their offense, and he was expected to contribute as a runner, a slot receiver, and a wildcard on gadget plays. However, his performance was underwhelming, as he caught just 21 passes for 209 yards and a score and rushed 18 times for 71 yards. Looks like the naysayers were right when they chided the Chiefs for using a second-round pick on a diminutive player who timed out at 4.58 in the 40 at the combine. This season, Steve Breaston figures to occupy the slot position and Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones will handle the team’s rushing chores. Unless he wins the return job, McCluster isn’t even likely to dress on game day, and the 2010 supposition that McCluster could become a Wes Welker clone can be relegated to history’s dustbins.

TE Tony Moeaki
You’ve seen it, we’ve all seen it: Moeaki’s phenomenal touchdown catch that made the NFL Network’s top five receptions of 2010. That shows his athletic side, and it seemed likely that the 2010 third-round pick would improve on his solid production as a rookie (47 receptions for 556 yards and three touchdowns). However, a mysterious knee injury kept him out of the early part of training camp and the Chiefs have not disclosed what held him back—that has to be a concern. Provided he is healthy, look for him to improve his production in all areas. He has an outside chance to become a fantasy starter in 2011. That will hinge on his ability to increase his touchdown numbers and become more of an option in the red zone. However, with the team adding another large target in Jonathan Baldwin and already having Dwayne Bowe as an option near the goal line, Moeaki will likely struggle to increase his touchdown count to the 7-8 range. He is a TE2 with upside for 2011 and a great prospect in dynasty leagues.

Player Outlooks – Denver Broncos

By: — August 16, 2011 @ 9:49 am

QB Kyle Orton
Where is the love in Denver for Orton? The Broncos acquired him from the Bears prior to the 2009 season and he rewarded them with a career year. He continued that in 2010 before his season was derailed by injuries. The Broncos have thanked Orton by using a 2010 first-round pick on Tim Tebow, acquiring Brady Quinn as competition, and putting Orton on the trade block as soon as the lockout ended. Denver fans have thanked him by booing him during training camp practices. With trade talks having calmed down, it really isn’t a surprise that Orton is listed first on the team’s depth chart. Tebow proved at the end of last season that, while he is a capable playmaker with his legs, he isn’t ready to contribute at the NFL level as a passer. In addition, Orton is the perfect fit for new head coach John Fox, who wants to establish the team’s running game, avoid turnovers on offense, and play solid defense. While Orton might be the perfect fit for Fox, he’s not the perfect fit for your fantasy squad. With quarterback-friendly Josh McDaniels no longer leading the offense and Fox’s rushing mentality now in town, Orton is a fantasy backup with almost no chance of attaining the 21 fantasy points per game he posted in 2010. And we haven’t even mentioned that he’s in the final year of his contract and wants to test the free agent market, giving the Broncos plenty of reason to give Tebow a shot as soon as the season heads south, which seems imminent.

QB Tim Tebow
While the thought of Tebow running the Broncos offense was an intriguing one, it turns out he was too far behind the curve in the passing game for that to happen in 2011—at least for opening day. The Broncos couldn’t get market value for Kyle Orton, who it now appears will open the season as the starter. His contract is up at season’s end, however, so there is a strong possibility Tebow will start if Orton struggles or the team falls out of playoff contention. Tebow was highly productive in three starts at the end of last season, averaging 28.8 points per game mostly because his running ability—he gained 227 yards and six touchdowns on 43 carries over the course of the season. That makes him a solid prospect in dynasty formats. He is waiver wire material in redraft leagues but worth adding as a fantasy backup if he somehow ends up in the starting lineup.

RB Knowshon Moreno
Figuring out Moreno’s fantasy value is a tricky proposition in 2011. The waters are muddy and navigating them is no easy task. On the plus side, John Fox is now in town and he loves to run the ball, so that should mean more touches for Moreno. Unfortunately, Fox also loves to use a committee approach at running back, and the Broncos acquired Willis McGahee to fill the backup role. He’s far superior to the backups Moreno has had over the first two years of his career. The offense should be more productive with Kyle Orton under center than with Tim Tebow, but how long that will be the case is anybody’s guess, with Orton in a contract year and the fans clamoring for Tebow to start. Tebow vultured six touchdowns last season, and the team will possibility feature him in short-yardage situations, even if he opens the season as a backup. Finally, after two years in the league, it seems pretty clear that Moreno doesn’t have the talent level to support his having been taken with the 12th pick in the 2009 draft. He’s likely going to be drafted as an RB2, but he is best suited as a fantasy backup, so don’t reach for him on draft day.

RB Willis McGahee
With a large salary pending for 2011, McGahee was let go by the Ravens in a move that surprised nobody. Having struck out in their attempts to sign free agent DeAngelo Williams, the Broncos signed McGahee to backup disappointing 2009 first-round pick Knowshon Moreno. While there are whispers that McGahee has a chance to carve out a large role in Denver, that seems unlikely. He will turn 30 during the season and is on the downside of his career. While Moreno will probably never be mentioned as one of the league’s top backs, the bottom line is that he is more explosive and has more upside than the aging McGahee. Consider McGahee a worthy handcuff, but he is unlikely to be even a decent flex option as long as Moreno stays healthy.

WR Brandon Lloyd
Even though it was his eighth year in the league, Lloyd seemed to come out of nowhere last season to catch 77 passes for 1,448 yards and 11 touchdowns and become the leading fantasy wide receiver. Suffice it to say, you could have made a bungle in Vegas on that bet. Just don’t make that same bet in 2011. Josh McDaniels took his pass-happy offense to St. Louis and has been replaced by John Fox, a coach who favors running the ball, so Lloyd isn’t likely to approach the targets he had in 2010. Throw in Denver’s quarterback issues—with Tim Tebow breathing down the neck of likely starter Kyle Orton—and the fact that Lloyd was regarded as a bust prior to 2010, and it seems pretty clear that Lloyd shouldn’t be drafted as a WR1. That being said, it wouldn’t be fair to completely disregard his marvelous 2010 season, and he is the Broncos’ top wide receiver with no threat of competition. Draft him as a mid-tier to high-end WR2.

WR Eddie Royal
After Royal burst onto the scene as a rookie in 2008 with 91 receptions for 980 yards and five scores, the sky seemed to be the limit. Well, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but he did seem ready to be a consistent performer for years to come. The wheels fell off in 2009, however, then he enjoyed a somewhat resurgent 2010 season. By resurgent, I mean 59 receptions for 627 yards and three touchdowns. In 2011, Royal will battle Eric Decker for a starting spot opposite Brandon Lloyd, but he is clearly not the front-runner due to his lack of size—head coach John Fox likes his receivers to be solid blockers. That makes Royal a candidate for mostly slot work in an offense that will pass far less than it did last season. In addition, 2010 first-round pick Demaryius Thomas will come of the physically unable to perform list and challenge for playing time by midseason. You see where this is going, right? Don’t go thinking Royal is ready to recreate his rookie magic because it ain’t gonna happen.

WR Eric Decker
There’s a new sheriff in town who likes to run the ball and Decker’s got more size than the diminutive Eddie Royal. That means he’s got a leg up on earning a starting spot—there’s just no telling what he’ll be able to do with it if he does earn it. Decker enters 2011 coming off a subpar rookie campaign where he caught just six passes for 106 yards and a score. The Broncos aren’t going to throw it a lot, Decker doesn’t have a history of production, and Demaryius Thomas will challenge for playing time when he returns from injury around midseason. Decker’s going to need to earn a starting spot coming out of the preseason and be productive early in order to hold off Thomas. That’s a lot to ask. He’s waiver wire material in redraft leagues.

WR Demaryius Thomas
Thomas has a pile of potential and eventually he figures to become the Broncos’ top wide receiver. It’s just not going to happen in 2011. The 2010 first-round pick suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon at the end of last season and will open 2011 on the physically unable to perform list. Thomas saw limited action as a rookie, playing in ten games, starting two, and catching 22 passes for 283 yards and a pair of scores. At 6’3” and 224 pounds, he possesses very good size and also has excellent speed, making him a great prospect for keeper leagues. For redraft leagues, he’s not worth drafting.

TE Daniel Fells
With a pair of rookies and the underwhelming Richard Quinn on the roster, the Broncos brought in Fells and Dante Rosario to keep the tight end position warm for the 2011 season. Bank on Fells earning the starting nod. While he is hardly a dynamic performer, he’s far more consistent that Rosario, and that figures to earn him the starting spot. He’s coming off a career year in 2010 with the Rams, where he caught 41 passes for 391 yards and a pair of scores. But don’t rely on him earning enough playing time to replicate that success in 2011.

TE Dante Rosario
We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again: Looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane. Don’t expect that to change as he enters his fifth year in the league.

TE Julius Thomas
The Broncos used a fourth-round pick in this year’s draft to acquire Thomas. He is an athletic player who played basketball at Portland State, but his adjustment to the NFL will take some time given his lack of football experience. That’s why the Broncos signed a pair of veterans in Daniel Fells and Dante Rosario to man the tight end position in 2011. And that’s why Thomas is only worth considering in dynasty leagues.

TE Richard Quinn
The Broncos used a second-round pick in 2009 to acquire Quinn, and it’s safe to say the rest of the league laughed as they blew such a high pick on a blocking tight end. In two years, he has caught one pass for nine yards. They’re laughing even more now. Don’t make your fantasy colleagues laugh at you for having Quinn on your roster.

Projections & Rankings Update – 8/15

By: — August 15, 2011 @ 3:34 am
Filed under: Forecast

Player Projections, Rankings & Cheatsheets
Change Log – 8/15


  • Matt Ryan (+1) may have the best wide receiver tandem in the league.

Running Backs

Wide Receivers

  • Dez Bryant (+4) gets pushed into the 1000-yard receiver club. Every time I update the Rankings, he’s moving higher. At this rate, he’ll be my #1 WR by September 1st.
  • This undisclosed illness business with Jeremy Maclin (-3) is worrisome. His Week 1 status is in question.
  • Lance Moore (+5) is becoming everybody’s sleeper, value play, and man-crush. I’m on board.
  • Lee Evans’ (+1) move to Baltimore is only a marginal increase in his fantasy value… it likely benefits Boldin and Rice more than Evans himself.
  • Legedu Naanee (+64) has a chance at a starting receiver role due to the ACL injury to David Gettis (dropped).

Tight Ends

  • Antonio Gates (-100 yds) remains my #1 TE but ongoing talk of him being on a snap count is eroding my confidence in him.
  • Greg Olsen (+6) is clearly going to be a main weapon in this offense, especially considering the lack of quality wide receivers.


Player Outlooks – New Orleans Saints

By: — August 12, 2011 @ 9:00 pm

QB Drew Brees
Last season, Brees wasn’t the same quarterback he was in 2008 and 2009, but he still produced another solid fantasy season, averaging 22.7 fantasy points per game in standard scoring leagues. He wasn’t as impressive in leagues that penalize interceptions, however, as he threw a career-high 22 picks. That can be blamed on two factors: the performance of the team’s receivers, and the situation at running back. Both Robert Meachem and Devery Henderson struggled last season, and injuries decimated the running back depth chart, with an undrafted rookie earning significant playing time. The rushing attack was addressed with the addition of Mark Ingram, and the team’s wide receivers should perform better in 2011, although lead receiver Marques Colston’s recovery from a knee injury remains a concern. No matter, as Brees and the Saints spread the ball around and Brees produces consistently, averaging 4,586 passing yards and 31 touchdown passes over the last five years. Hopefully he can cut down on those drive-killing interceptions in 2011. He’s a top-three fantasy quarterback, and that’s pretty much guaranteed if the past is any indication. He’s finished third, second, first, third, and second over the past five years.

RB Mark Ingram
After watching their rushing attack crash back to earth in 2010, the Saints addressed the issue by moving up in the first round of the draft to select Ingram. He was very productive in college at Alabama, helping lead the Tide to a National Championship and winning the Heisman Trophy in the process. He has been compared to Emmitt Smith as a tough, physical runner who lacks breakaway speed. In New Orleans, he joins a crowded backfield and figures to be part of a committee—along with Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles—given head coach Sean Payton’s preference for sharing the workload in the backfield. That limits his upside. However, he should get the short-yardage work with Thomas struggling in that area, and he will probably also be the team’s closer if he can avoid fumbling. He’s a RB3 entering the season, but one with upside if he can win the starting job outright, or if the brittle Thomas gets injured once again.

RB Pierre Thomas
When healthy, Thomas has been a productive running back ever since making the team as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2007. While he doesn’t excel in any one facet of the game, he is better than average in several areas, save for short-yardage work, where he has struggled. The issue for Thomas is that he hasn’t been healthy enough, playing in just 35 games over the past three seasons. With the Saints having determined that Thomas can’t stay healthy for an entire season as the lead back (and with plenty of evidence to support that conclusion), they traded up in the first round of the draft to acquire Mark Ingram. Ingram’s presence doesn’t exactly spell doom for Thomas’ fantasy value, considering that Thomas has averaged a healthy 10.8 fantasy points per game in two- and three-player committees, when he’s been in the lineup. However, it clearly limits his upside, and his injury history has to be a concern. Being a part of the Saints’ great offense increases his appeal and makes Thomas an RB3, though one with limited upside given Ingram’s presence.

RB Darren Sproles
Having traded Reggie Bush to the Miami Dolphins, the Saints acquired former Charger running back Darren Sproles to fill Bush’s role in the New Orleans offense. Sproles joins a revamped backfield that includes Pierre Thomas, rookie first-round pick Mark Ingram, and second-year player Chris Ivory. While Sproles is a dynamic player, he isn’t Bush’s equal. Furthermore, the Saints gave a long-term contract to Lance Moore, who essentially subbed in for Bush in the passing game when he was injured. That will limit Sproles’ touches on passing downs. In addition, Ingram and Thomas will get nearly all the work on running downs. Add it all up and it doesn’t seem likely that Sproles will earn enough touches to have much fantasy value in 2011. He is waiver wire material unless those above him on the depth chart get injured.

WR Marques Colston
Despite battling the injury bug, it was another good year for Colston in 2010 as the Saints top wide receiver hauled in 84 passes for 1,022 yards and seven touchdowns. Removing an injury-shortened year in 2008, he has averaged 1,084 yards and 8.8 touchdowns per season, numbers that scream WR1 for fantasy purposes. But don’t be hasty. Colston is coming off microfracture surgery on his right knee, and reports indicate that he has had three surgeries on that knee over the past year. He also previously had microfracture surgery on his left knee. That’s a lot of surgeries for a player who, while very talented, does not possess outstanding speed. On the plus side, you don’t need outstanding speed to be a great red zone threat, and Colston is clearly head coach Sean Payton’s preferred option in that area of the field, although talented second-year tight end Jimmy Graham could poach some of that work. Despite the injury history, you can comfortably use Colston as your WR2, but be wary of having him as your top wide receiver.

WR Robert Meachem
Meachem is arguably the most gifted of the Saints wide receivers, but he remains an enigma to both the coaching staff and his fantasy owners. Coming off a solid second half of the 2009 season, where he caught 37 passes for 524 yards and seven touchdowns over the final nine games of the season, Meachem was expected to become a great compliment to Marques Colston in the Saints’ starting lineup. However, an ankle injury and the inconsistency that has plagued him for his entire career were the defining issues of his season, as he caught just 44 passes for 638 yards and five touchdowns. Entering his fifth year in the league, Meachem remains a player capable of breaking out, but at this point that’s hardly likely. Draft him as a backup and hope he surprises.

WR Lance Moore
After several years of yanking Moore in and out of the lineup, the Saints finally seem committed to him, signing him to a long-term contract extension this offseason. Despite having modest speed and being on the small side, Moore was productive when called upon, often subbing in for Reggie Bush when he was out with an injury. Moore burst onto the scene in 2008, catching 79 passes for 928 yards and ten touchdowns, before becoming a non-factor in 2009. In 2010, he bounced back with 66 receptions for 763 yards and eight touchdowns. Clearly, Moore’s career has had its ups and downs, but he figures to get consistent work in 2011. Marques Colston is coming off another knee surgery, Devery Henderson is best suited as a deep threat, and Robert Meachem has never been able to fulfill his potential. That leaves the steady Moore often picking up the pieces. Consider him a solid fantasy backup in 2011, but one who will become starter worthy if injuries strike the Saints’ other receivers.

WR Devery Henderson
Despite his blazing speed, Henderson has caught just nine touchdown passes over the past four seasons, even though he has played 16 games in every one of those years. He doesn’t catch a lot of passes either, with a career-high 51 in 2009 while never topping 34 in any other season. He also doesn’t like going over the middle, so he’s not going to take a crossing pattern to the house. With Lance Moore having signed a long-term contract extension, there’s a good chance that Henderson will be fourth on the depth chart in 2011. The Saints are tight against the cap, so it won’t be a surprise if they decide against paying $2.25 million to a player so low on the depth chart. Henderson is recommended only in the deepest of leagues.

TE Jimmy Graham
With Jeremy Shockey having been released and David Thomas clearly suited to a backup role, the path has been cleared for Graham to assume the starting tight end spot in 2011. The Saints used a third-round pick last season to acquire the raw yet talented Graham, but he rarely saw the field early in his rookie year. However, he got more use beginning at midseason and quickly developed into another weapon in the Saints’ high-powered offense, particularly as an option in the red zone. By season’s end, Graham had caught 31 passes for 456 yards and five touchdowns, with four of those scores coming in his final three games. He has good size and outstanding speed for a tight end, which gives him a high ceiling. Look for him to finish the 2011 season as a lower-tier TE1.

TE David Thomas
Thomas gets the job done when he gets an opportunity, but the Saints have determined that he fits them best as a backup. He played behind Jeremy Shockey for a number of years and now sits behind talented second-year player Jimmy Graham. He isn’t worth drafting in redraft leagues, but he gets a mention here because he figures to produce if Graham goes down.

Projections & Rankings Update – 8/11

By: — August 11, 2011 @ 11:03 am
Filed under: Forecast

Player Projections, Rankings & Cheatsheets
Change Log – 8/11


Running Backs

Wide Receivers

Tight Ends

  • Julius Thomas (#38) enters the rankings as he continues to impress in Denver’s camp. Daniel Fells (#36) is currently the starter.

Projections & Rankings Update – 8/9

By: — August 10, 2011 @ 2:08 am
Filed under: Forecast

Player Projections, Rankings & Cheatsheets
Change Log – 8/9

Running Backs

  • Mikel Leshoure dropped from the list due to Achilles injury. Tough break for the rookie.
  • Jahvid Best (+5) moves up but not as much as you might think. Can’t envision the Lions giving him more than 220 carries this year.
  • Ricky Williams (+27) improves his fantasy stock after landing in Baltimore to back up Ray Rice.

Player Outlooks – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

By: — @ 1:29 am

QB Josh Freeman
The fantasy world seems to be banking on Matt Ryan as the next stud quarterback, but the smart money is riding on the Buccaneers’ Josh Freeman. While Ryan’s Falcons may have better overall talent at the skill positions, Freeman’s Bucs use a more pass-based offense and Freeman is a far more capable rusher. He made huge strides in his second season in the league, throwing for nearly 3,500 yards with 25 touchdowns and just six interceptions. In addition, he finished second to Michael Vick in rushing yards for quarterbacks with 364, but he inexplicably failed to find the end zone. Expect even more improvement in 2011, and if you’re still not convinced of Freeman’s fantasy potential, consider that he has stayed healthy (25 consecutive starts) and is a remarkably consistent fantasy producer for such a young player (only one sub-14-point game in 2010). Don’t be late to the Freeman parade. This guy’s going to be value on draft day—bank on it.

RB LeGarrette Blount
Undrafted and then cast aside by the Tennessee Titans, Blount signed with Tampa Bay and became a revelation at running back partway through the 2010 season. He started out as Cadillac Williams’ backup, ascended to the starter’s role, and made teams regret passing on him as he gained 977 rushing yards and scored five touchdowns over the final 11 games of the season. Blount’s checkered past scared teams away from drafting him, but he displayed excellent athleticism for a 250-pound runner, as he had a number of highlight reel runs. He is getting a lot of love in the fantasy world, but there are some red flags. His maturity level is one of them, as is the fact that many running backs with fresh legs look good over the latter part of a season. In addition, he contributes almost nothing to the passing game, leaving the field in those situations. Despite earning significant playing time, he caught just five passes last season. There’s a lot to like about Blount, but he’s not a player you want to reach for—and certainly not a good option in PPR leagues.

RB Kregg Lumpkin
With the departure of Cadillac Williams to the Rams, there is a significant void at the backup running back spot behind LeGarrette Blount. Even though Lumpkin has done little during his time in Green Bay and Tampa Bay, the Bucs like his hard-running, one-cut style. When your lead back has the checkered history that Blount has and your team is on the verge of making a playoff run, a proven backup is generally in order, and unfortunately Lumpkin doesn’t fit the bill. He might be Blount’s backup at the moment, but that moment doesn’t seem to be a lasting one.

RB Earnest Graham
While Graham is campaigning to be LeGarrette Blount’s backup and has been productive in the past when given a steady dose of playing time, the Bucs seem to have cast him in the lead fullback/emergency backup role. Look no further than the miniscule 64 touches they have given him over the past two years combined. If your league drafts early and you’re looking to grab Blount’s handcuff, don’t bank on Graham’s nabbing that role.

WR Mike Williams
Williams overcame the baggage he accumulated in college to have an outstanding rookie season in Tampa. He dropped to the fourth round of last year’s rookie draft as teams cast a wary eye on his problems at Syracuse. The Bucs took a chance on him, however, and he was easily the most productive rookie receiver in 2010. Williams quickly ascended to the top wide receiver role in Tampa, catching 65 passes for 964 yards and 11 touchdowns. That production was good enough to finish as the 11th-ranked fantasy wide receiver. Williams may have his skeptics, but he figures to remain highly productive if he can stay out of trouble. He has solid size at 6’1” and 220 pounds to go along with good hands, excellent speed, and the ability to adjust in the air for the ball. Throw in the fact that he’s the top wideout on an up-and-coming Bucs offense, and Williams makes for an outstanding prospect in dynasty leagues. While another 11-touchdown season may not be in the cards, he figures to top 1,000 yards and ranks as a mid-tier WR2 with upside in 2011.

WR Arrelious Benn
Benn enters this year coming off a disappointing rookie season that was cut short when he suffered a torn ACL in Week 16. The Bucs’ second-round pick last season struggled for most of the year as he watched fellow rookie Mike Williams emerge as the team’s No. 1 wide receiver. Reports indicate that Benn’s rehabilitation is ahead of schedule and that he is the favorite to start opposite Williams. While that bodes for well for his fantasy prospects, the bottom line is that most players struggle in the year following an ACL injury, particularly when the injury occurs late in the season. In addition, he is now clearly a distant fourth in the team’s pecking order in terms of getting touches, behind Williams, tight end Kellen Winslow, and running back LeGarrette Blount. Benn makes for a decent dynasty prospect but is waiver wire material in redraft leagues.

WR Sammie Stroughter
Stroughter played reasonably well as a rookie in 2009, only to watch the Bucs use their 2010 second- and fourth-round picks on wide receivers Arrelious Benn and Mike Williams. That should have told us all we need to know about Stroughter. If your team doesn’t think you’re good enough, your fantasy prospects can’t be all that great. He won a spot in the starting lineup last season as Benn struggled out of the gate, but he just as quickly lost it. Stroughter is destined to be a slot receiver, he’s been injured at the conclusion of each of his years in the league, he’s not likely to get many looks, and there’s no reason to have him on your fantasy roster.

TE Kellen Winslow
On the plus side, Winslow has stayed healthy for the past two years, playing 16 games each season. While he is a productive tight end when healthy, the odds of him fulfilling his immense potential after seven seasons in the league are remote. He enters 2011 coming off a solid yet unspectacular 2010 campaign where he caught 66 passes for 730 yards and five touchdowns. Winslow’s fantasy prospects are brighter since he’ll be playing in an improved Tampa Bay offense, but he remains a bit of an enigma in the red zone despite his size and athleticism, as he’s failed to top five touchdown passes in any season. With a plethora of mid-tier tight ends available, there is definitely no reason to reach for Winslow.

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