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When Two Is One Too Many – Thomas vs. Decker

By: — August 9, 2012 @ 1:39 pm

In my continuing quest to contribute to your draft-day domination, I will compose a series of blogs over the next few weeks that focus on players that are sure to create some hardship for fantasy owners: players on the same team who play the same position that will likely have a significant fantasy impact. For those of you who regularly read and contribute to the FF Today Forums, consider this short series a distant relative to “Look-Alike Players”. My goal is to create a compelling case for and against each player before handing down a final decision. Let’s get started:

The players in question this week: Wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker

The setup: Full-point PPR; 10 rushing/receiving yards equal one fantasy point; all touchdowns are worth six fantasy points.

Current ADP (courtesy of Fantasy Football Calculator): Thomas – 5.05 Decker – 6.04

What’s at stake: Grabbing the better fantasy WR2 of the two the Denver Broncos have to offer.

Demaryius Thomas

Decker doesn't possess Thomas' natural talent.

The case for Thomas: Raw talent. When Thomas was healthy for the first time in his pro career, it showed. From Week 13 on, Thomas dwarfed all of his teammates in just about every receiving category with Tim Tebow as his quarterback, commanding over 37% of the targets (65 of 175) over the Broncos’ final seven games, including the postseason. New QB Peyton Manning has already admitted to the Denver Post that Thomas “is a guy we’re going to feature” and CB Champ Bailey told the team’s website the 6-3, 228-pound receiver is “on top of” his route running this season. In terms of the S-W-S model (size, weight and speed) the NFL likes to use, fellow Georgia Tech alum Calvin Johnson may be Thomas’ only peer at the receiver position.

The case against Thomas: While one could question the lack of durability tag that I placed on Julio Jones last week, Thomas has a significant injury track record. He has battled a number of injuries – most notably to his hand, head (concussion) and Achilles’– since the pre-draft process in 2010. His lack of durability certainly hasn’t helped his development as an all-around receiver, although Bailey’s comments above suggest that part of his game is coming around.

The case for Decker: Route-running and the Broncos’ plans for him, which include moving him around the formation. While Decker is the same height as Thomas and actually only gives up about 10 pounds, Decker simply knows how to get open – something that was on full display when Kyle Orton ran the team for the first month as he posted a 20-270-4 line to begin last season. While it is never good to put too much stock in early training-camp returns, the consensus seems to be that Manning and Decker have “clicked” and their off-season work together shows on the field. Since Decker seems to be the clear choice for slot duties and the potential exists that Manning may not have the same arm strength he used to – due to his neck surgeries – Decker could easily finish with upwards of 100 receptions given the history Manning has with using that position (Austin Collie, Brandon Stokley).

The case against Decker: Simply put, Decker isn’t all that flashy, which makes it hard for some fantasy owners to buy into him. The 2010 third-rounder also hasn’t exactly dodged the injury bug either over his two-year pro career, although he has missed just two games – both in 2010. And while Denver has big plans for Decker, he’ll have plenty of competition for slot duties with Stokley, Andre Caldwell and Jacob Tamme all likely to get some time there as well.

The verdict: First, let me just say that both players are incredible value at their current ADP. But given the PPR format, I would side with Decker. In non-PPR, it is probably a coin flip. Perhaps it is unfair to cite durability as the main reason to rank one player over another – just as I did last week – but sometimes the best ability is availability. Flash doesn’t always produce cash; fantasy owners must be willing to look at more factors than just talent when ranking players. Sometimes, quarterbacks bond with the unexciting options they can trust and that seems to be the case with Decker. With that said, owners should be thrilled to land either player as a WR2 in a Manning-led offense because there’s very little “bust” potential here. There’s also a very good chance that at least one – if not both – of these players will be considered a fantasy WR1 at this point next season.

Overvalued / Undervalued – Running Backs

By: — August 8, 2012 @ 10:47 am

The running back position in fantasy football has lost a bit of its luster the last few years as the emphasis has shifted to elite quarterbacks and wide receivers in the NFL. However the position is still a requirement in our fantasy football leagues and running backs play an important role in your team’s success. This year there are some notable names slipping to the later rounds and simply being counted on to provide quality numbers despite age, injury and declining skills while others are looking to rebound into stud RB1 territory. Here is a look at a few such players – one’s to target and others to seriously think twice about.


Chris Johnson – Tennessee Titans
Average Draft Position: 1.07

Johnson appears to have benefited from reputation alone. Are people forgetting last season? It was a brutal year – not interrupted by injuries but slowed by Johnson’s apparent apathy and the fact that he is a smallish back running behind a smallish offensive line. So what has changed? Unfortunately not much expect for a slightly better attitude heading into camp. A look at the trends raise huge red flags – in the last three years he has gone from 358 to 316 to 262 carries; from 5.6 to 4.3 to 4.0 yards per carry; and from 14 to 11 to 4 rushing touchdowns. Yup, Johnson is trending exactly the wrong way and is still the fifth back being drafted in mocks this season. The addition of rookie Kendall Wright and the presence of Javon Ringer will certainly limit Johnson’s touches. He was a bust last year and his situation hasn’t improved – late second/early third round is OK for Johnson. Middle of the first round is not.

Matt Forte – Chicago Bears
Average Draft Position: 1.11

There is no denying the talent of Mr. Forte but there are is no shortage of red flags ahead. The screen-happy Mike Martz is gone as offensive coordinator and Forte is coming off an sprained MCL suffered in Week 13 last season. Finally, there is the Bears’ acquisition of Michael Bush who figures to snake goaline opportunities from Forte. Matt is a nice player for sure but to count on him as your first running back pick may be a little overly optimistic. Late second round, early third is OK for Forte but first is just too rich.

Adrian Peterson – Minnesota Vikings
Average Draft Position: 2.07

Don’t be fooled by the videos of AP working out, looking chiseled and shrugging off an injury that should take 12 months to get over. It was only December that AP had reconstructive surgery on three, count ‘em three ligaments in his knee. I guess that Peterson could be the exception to the rule but I am expecting at least mid-season before he is back to full strength. Add in the fact that he is playing on a subpar team and Peterson looks like the biggest risk on the board. Let’s face it – Christian Ponder scares absolutely nobody and Percy Harvin is as big a question mark as Peterson. Let someone else gamble on AP this year in the second round – if he is there late in the third/early in the fourth round then take the gamble.


Shonn Greene – New York Jets
Average Draft Position: 5.06

I know, I know – Greene has been underwhelming but a look at the Jets backfield situation reveals that Greene is a virtual lock for 250-300 touches this season. He finished 17th among fantasy backs last season with LaDainian Tomlinson snaking a portion of his opportunities. This season he is the 23rd RB off the board and he has just Joe McKnight to compete with…? He is durable and is evolving into a decent pass catching back and will be the feature back in a run heavy offense – what’s not to like? He has certainly been underwhelming in the past but with the opportunities he is certain to get, he is a rock solid RB2 and may be worthy of at least a fourth round pick.

Willis McGahee – Denver Broncos
Average Draft Position: 5.11

With all of the noise that Peyton Manning has made in Denver, it is Willis McGahee that has slipped between the fantasy draft cracks. Absolutely nobody is talking about him. Last season he had 1199 yards, 4.8 yards per carry and but only four rushing TDs – something that is bound to change now that the touchdown snake Tim Tebow has left town. Knowshon Moreno isn’t going to threaten his touches; Lance Ball isn’t either and the only other competition for McGahee is Ronnie Hillman – a smallish back that won’t be on the field in the red zone. The Broncos are a far superior offensive team to the one that took the field in 2011 and McGahee, arguably their best and most consistent contributor from last season, figures to benefit from the holes that are bound to be open with the presence of Mr. Manning. McGahee as a RB2 in the fifth is a steal – 1200 yards and 10 scores is value as the 25th RB off the board!

James Starks – Green Bay Packers
Average Draft Position: 6.09

It is not often that you can bank on getting the unquestioned backfield leader of a powerful offense in the sixth round but that is exactly what you get in James Starks. Sure, he hasn’t scored since the first game of the 2011 season and sure he only had 162 touches last year. But entering 2012, Ryan Grant is gone and his competition for carries is Brandon Saine – Brandon who? My guess is that Starks hits 1000 combined yards this season with 6-8 scores. As mentioned, he has no competition and remember – Aaron Rodgers is just one open field hit away from another serious concussion. Green Bay has to run more this season and Starks has to be the beneficiary.

Overvalued / Undervalued – Wide Receivers

By: — August 4, 2012 @ 10:39 pm

The presence of a good stable of wide receivers for your fantasy squad is often overlooked on draft day. Most get caught up in the quarterback and running back bonanzas that inevitably take place. In PPR leagues especially, WRs value a can vary and while some owners like to jump on big names early, they may leave themselves vulnerable at other positions on their roster. There is definite value in the top tier of wide receivers but there are also some elite names that are being chosen way too early. On the flip side there are some quality names that could be available in the middle rounds – ones that could start and produce for your championship winning squad. Let’s take a look…


Greg Jennings – Green Bay Packers
Average Draft Position: 2.11

When choosing a wide receiver in the second round, he had better be an unquestioned #1 on his team. That’s where the problem lies with Mr. Jennings. There is a guy named Jordy Nelson on the Packers – a player that not only out gained Jennings by 300 yards in 2011 but also scored six more touchdowns. There is no doubt that Jennings is an elite talent on an absolutely insane offense but Nelson and Jermichael Finley turn him into a risk that I am unwilling to take in round second round. I love Greg Jennings and would love to have him on my team but I am only willing to spend a third round/early fourth round pick on him which means Jennings will not be on any of my fantasy teams this season.

Wes Welker – New England Patriots
Average Draft Position: 3.06

Welker, like Jennings is certainly an elite talent in the league but at present he is the fifth WR off the board on average. A look at his numbers late in the season throws up a huge red flag for me. During his torrid first eight games last season Welker averaged over eight catches per game, 120 yards and 0.75 touchdowns. The rest of the way he averaged just 6.8 catches, 71 yards and 0.36 touchdowns while garnering nearly the same amount of targets. He failed to record 60 yards receiving in seven of his last eleven games proving the feast or famine rule with Welker. Brandon Lloyd has been added to take some of Welker’s targets and the tight ends still loom and may affect his production. Don’t get me wrong – I love Welker but not at this price as ahead of Brandon Marshall, A.J. Green, Roddy White and Julio Jones.

Kenny Britt – Tennessee Titans
Average Draft Position: 7.07

I am not touching Britt this season. More arrests will lead to more suspensions for sure. There is also his knee issues that haven’t seemed to right themselves quite yet – 2 surgeries on the same knee has me wondering if he will be close to 100% this year. Britt in the 7th round, as a WR2 could offer tremendous value but I can’t help but think that the downside far outweighs the upside. My guess is that Britt will spend more time on the sidelines than the field this season – not exactly a recipe for fantasy success!


Brandon Lloyd – New England Patriots
Average Draft Position: 5.04

Remember when Lloyd was the #1 fantasy receiver with Kyle Orton throwing him the ball? That was only a couple of seasons ago after which he endured some terrible quarterback play (A.J. Feeley and Kellen Clemens included). He is now in the fruitful gardens of Foxboro and has already developed a rapport with Tom Brady – the same Tom Brady that had 5200 yards passing last year. He has a chance to do what Randy Moss and Chad Ochocinco failed to do – become that legitimate deep threat that the Pats have been missing since the hay-day of Mr. Moss. With Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez creating distractions, Lloyd promises to see more open field than he ever has in his pro career. Something else to remember – Josh McDaniel is the offensive coordinator in New England and will be employing a similar system that made Lloyd a stud only a couple of seasons ago. Lloyd finished 25th in fantasy rankings last year and is being taken on average as the 21st WR in mock drafts. My mouth is watering at the prospect of 1100 yards and double-digit scores in the fifth round.

Eric Decker – Denver Broncos
Average Draft Position: 6.05

Decker has the potential to become this year’s Victor Cruz. He has been working with Peyton Manning this off-season and we already know that his route running and ability to hold onto the ball are right up the alley for Mr. Manning. Decker has shown good fantasy chops in the past – only last year he was the #7 fantasy wideout after five weeks, then Tebow took over and the Broncos threw the ball five times per game. Manning himself has already praised the athleticism and hands of Decker and we all know that when you have Peyton’s attention, good things happen. Expect Decker to become Manning’s more talented Austin Collie or Brandon Stokley with more upside. 80-90 catches, 1000 yards and 8-10 touchdowns are likely but the ceiling could be higher.

Robert Meachem – San Diego Chargers
Average Draft Position: 7.07

Meachem comes into the season as the No.1 receiver for Philip Rivers and is being drafted on average in the seventh round – incredible! He has the size, the durability and most of all the chance to break out in a huge way this year. Meachem has Malcolm Floyd and Vincent Brown, not to mention Antonio Gates to compete for catches with – my guess is that Meachem outperforms them all. Look for 120+ targets this year instead of his customary 50. Also expect 1100-1300 yards along with 8-10 touchdowns for San Diego. The #1 receiver in San Diego typically means big numbers which means that Meachem should be in for a big season – not bad in the seventh round.

When Two Is One Too Many – White vs. Jones

By: — August 2, 2012 @ 4:21 pm

In my continuing quest to contribute to your draft-day domination, I will compose a series of blogs over the next few weeks that focus on players that are sure to create some hardship for fantasy owners: players on the same team who play the same position that will likely have a significant fantasy impact. For those of you who regularly read and contribute to the FF Today Forums, consider this short series a distant relative to “Look-Alike Players”. My goal is to create a compelling case for and against each player before handing down a final decision. Let’s get started:

The players in question this week: Wide receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones

The setup: Full-point PPR; 10 rushing/receiving yards equal one fantasy point; all touchdowns are worth six fantasy points.

Current ADP (courtesy of Fantasy Football Calculator): White – 3.07 Jones – 3.04

What’s at stake: Grabbing the better fantasy WR1 of the two the Atlanta Falcons have to offer.

The case for White: Proven consistency. Fantasy owners often chase the shiny new toy when it becomes clear everybody else wants that same toy, often forgetting how much they enjoyed their last favorite toy. White has secured at least 149 targets in each of the four seasons he has played with QB Matt Ryan, finishing first in the NFL in that category each of the last two years after a second-place finish in 2009. While it probably isn’t the worst thing in the world for White or the Falcons if they reduce their reliance on him and place more on Jones’ plate, the high-target total also tells us that Ryan obviously has a strong level of trust with White, something that tends to win out over talent in the short term – or at least until the point where the talent of one receiver is undeniably better than the other receiver.

The case against White: A reduced role and – let’s face it – Jones is just more explosive at this point of their careers. Not that he cares one way or the other about his fantasy stock, but White surprised many when he personally announced that his role would be reduced in new OC Dirk Koetter’s offense. It’s not exactly as if prognosticators didn’t see this eventual passing of the torch coming, but for the player himself to announce it was happening created even more buzz for Jones. White will also turn 31 during the season, meaning he will be a year or two past his athletic prime. Since Jones has already asserted his dominance as a big-play deep threat, does White begin to get boxed into the possession-receiver role of this offense even more?

Julio Jones

Fantasy owners are drooling over Julio Jones.

The case for Jones: Can fantasy owners help but be impressed by how dominant Jones was down the stretch last season? Jones was the second-most productive receiver in PPR leagues during Weeks 14-16 – the fantasy playoffs – last season, which started just two weeks after he returned from his second hamstring-related absence. Consider for a minute the rookie averaged five catches for 98.25 yards and 1.5 touchdowns over the final four games of the regular season and it is no wonder why owners are drooling over him. Jones has reportedly been very impressive during the off-season and the early part of training camp, doing nothing to dispel the notion that he will be anything less than elite in 2012. HC Mike Smith has even went so far to suggest that Jones is a faster version of Terrell Owens, which must be music to his keeper and dynasty league owners since he has been anything but a distraction his entire career.

The case against Jones: Durability. Lost in the meteoric rise of Jones as a top-five fantasy WR is the fact that he hasn’t been a model of health in recent years. Just in the past year-plus, he needed foot surgery during the 2011 off-season and battled hamstring issues for much of his rookie season. During his college days at Alabama, he broke a bone in his hand in 2010 and battled through a knee injury and sports hernia surgery in 2009. Granted, it is a bit nit picky to be downgrading a young receiver for legitimate injuries suffered while playing in a physical, ball-control offense in college and his rookie year in the NFL, but White has yet to miss a game in his seven-year pro career. All the talent and run-after-catch ability in the world isn’t going to help fantasy owners if he can only bring his A-game for half a season.

The verdict: In general, I will always lean toward the more durable and proven commodity in situations like this simply because owners need consistent weekly production from their high draft choices and White has provided that over the years. So while Ryan is obviously comfortable with Jones, it will take a while for that combination to approach the rapport Ryan and White have. However, the line between these two receivers in fantasy is so razor-thin that choosing between them depends on the format. For example, if your league uses non-PPR scoring and/or rewards big plays, then I give the advantage to Jones. In PPR leagues, I would opt for White.

Overvalued / Undervalued – Quarterbacks

By: — July 26, 2012 @ 11:55 pm

Quarterback has become the make or break position in fantasy football over the past couple years. Remember when running backs dominated the first two rounds of most drafts? It wasn’t that long ago. Now we see as many as three QBs going in the first round – but is it justified? In some cases, yes, but there are gems going in the later rounds that can help you win your fantasy championship in December.


Cam Newton – Carolina Panthers
Average Draft Position: 2.10

Cam Newton was an absolute fantasy beast last season – 4000 passing yards, 21 passing TDs and 14, count ‘em 14 rushing scores. The hype is warranted but his selection in the second round may not be. You don’t have to look back too far to conjure up examples of how multi-tooled quarterbacks have fared the year after a breakout season… think Michael Vick and Vince Young. Expect the rushing TDs to decrease – they almost have to with battering ram Mike Tolbert in the fold, snaking those red zone opportunities. That leaves the onus on Newton’s ability to throw the ball in order to appease his high ADP. He is good, not great and his weapons outside of Steve Smith are far from elite. Add in the fact that defenses will have had a full off-season to think about Newton’s attributes and he becomes the riskiest of the top 5 quarterbacks on the board.

Peyton Manning – Denver Broncos
Average Draft Position: 5.12

Manning has become one of the most polarizing players in the world of fantasy this off-season and rightfully so. The future Hall of Famer obviously has the skills, the smarts and the desire to prove his doubters wrong but a fifth round selection is too early. We know his amazing track record of consistency and the fact that he has reportedly looked OK in organized activities, but the negatives far outweigh the positives. There are the four neck surgeries, a new team, a new system and the fact that his weapons are Eric Decker and Demaryuis Thomas instead of Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark and even Marvin Harrison. Manning is the classic risk/reward pick in the fifth round – better to look at Eli, Philip Rivers and even Matt Ryan who are being drafted a round or two after Peyton.

Robert Griffin III – Washington Redskins
Average Draft Position: 8.08

There is no doubting the talent of Griffin and the fact that he will one day be a solid pro. Where the problem lies is in people’s expectations. At present he is being drafted in the eighth round ahead of such names as Ben Roethlisberger, Jay Cutler and Matt Schaub to name a few. Cam Newton set the bar very high last year but people have to realize that Newton’s monumental season was the exception, not the rule. Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Philip Rivers and Aaron Rodgers are all quarterbacks that struggled or were not ready to play in their first season as pros. Griffin has Pierre Garcon, an aging Santana Moss and a troubled Fred Davis in his arsenal. He also has the daunting task of playing the Giants, the Eagles and the Cowboys two times each this year. I have no problem with those who draft Griffin III as a QB2 with upside but to draft him as your starter is an enormous risk – one that I would stay away from.


Ben Roethlisberger

Big Ben is poised to have his best fantasy season to date.

Ben Roethlisberger – Pittsburgh Steelers
Average Draft Position: 8.11

Where is the love for Mr. Roethlisberger? People tend to forget that he has passed for 4000 yards and at least 20 touchdowns in two of the last three seasons – the other season he missed the first four games. There are a few of factors that we need to look at here. First, the Steelers significantly upgraded a glaring weakness on their team in the draft – they picked up two stud offensive linemen that instantly plug a gaping hole. Second, Ben has weapons – Mike Wallace (if and when he signs), Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders strike the fear of God in opposing defensive coordinators. Third, is the injury to Rashard Mendenhall who figures to miss a good chunk of the season – do you trust Isaac Redman? And finally there is new offensive coordinator Todd Haley who, despite a bit of controversy has a chance to re-ignite this offense. Ben is a sure-fire every week fantasy starter and he is the 13th QB off the board. My bet is that he finishes this season in the top 10 and rewarding those who waited until the eighth round to select him.

Jay Cutler – Chicago Bears
Average Draft Position: 9.02

Cutler’s ADP is right behind that of Big Ben’s – behind Robert Griffin III? Amazing! The biggest story for Cutler in 2012 is the Bears’ acquisition of Brandon Marshall. Marshall caught 100 balls in 2008 when Cutler finished top five among fantasy quarterbacks. The Bears also drafted Alshon Jeffrey in the second round this year – needless to say the receiver position has been significantly upgraded. Mike Martz is out as offensive coordinator and Mike Tice is in. This move will allow the Bears to play to Cutler’s strengths – more five step drops instead of seven step drops. Add in the fact that the Bears possess one of the best pass catching running backs in the league (Matt Forte) and that potential shootouts with Green Bay and Detroit loom and one has to look at Cutler as a low-end fantasy starter this year – not the high-end QB2 that he is being drafted as.

Carson Palmer – Oakland Raiders
Average Draft Position: 11.02

Palmer is currently the 16th quarterback being taken in most drafts. Consider that he came off the couch last season more than half way through the year, learned a completely new playbook on the fly and still registered top ten fantasy numbers down the stretch (293 yards per game). Pretty impressive. In 2012 he will have a full training camp under his belt and he will have a rapport with a young and extremely talented group of receivers. His own defense figures to be poor again and he has the benefit of playing against some underwhelming AFC West defenses as well. It all adds up to a better than average year for Mr. Palmer who is certainly worth QB2 consideration with serious upside in the 11th round of your fantasy draft.

Overvalued / Undervalued – Tight Ends

By: — July 20, 2012 @ 1:24 pm

With the NFL season just around the corner, it is time to start thinking about players to target for your winning fantasy team. Tight Ends are arguably the most intriguing position – a Rob Gronkowski or a Jimmy Graham can win your fantasy league while selecting an oft-absent Antonio Gates may leave you with an unenviable seeding heading into the fantasy playoffs come December. Here is a look at some players that appear to be going too early in drafts and those who provide serious value in later rounds.


Jimmy Graham – New Orleans Saints
Average Draft Position: 2.05

You are right, Robert Meachem is gone so Graham should see more balls thrown his way in 2012. He did have 99 catches, 1310 yards and 11 touchdowns last season but step back a minute and take a look at the situation in New Orleans – a complete and utter mess! Drew Brees signed a historic contact and is finally happy but the perennial banged up running back situation will enter 2012 healthy for the time being. Graham is a stud for sure – he is my top tight end – he’s just not worthy of being picked ahead of Larry Fitzgerald… too many question marks for a second rounder. Waiting three rounds for Antonio Gates (5.05), or four rounds for Vernon Davis (6.02), Jermichael Finley (6.04), or Aaron Hernandez (6.06) would be your best move.

Rob Gronkowski – New England Patriots
Average Draft Position: 2.08

I know, I know! Gronkowski was an absolute monster last year but being chosen in the first or second round may be over-optimistic. True he is an elite pass catcher who redefined the role of Tight End with 90 catches, 1327 yards and 17 touchdowns, but 19th overall? He is being drafted ahead of guys like Matthew Stafford, Cam Newton, Andre Johnson and A.J. Green to name a few. And, don’t forget Tom Brady has a new weapon named Brandon Lloyd in the mix this year. If you subscribe to the idea that a Tight End can win you a championship then you’ll need to commit an mid-to-late second round pick on Gronk but something tells me that the quarterback, an elite running back, or WR1 that you miss out on would be more beneficial in guiding you to the promise land.

Jason Witten – Dallas Cowboys
Average Draft Position: 6.11

Witten had his worst season statistically last year with 79 catches, 942 yards and only five scores; in the final eight games he only scored once and fell below 50 yards in five matchups while averaging just 5.8 targets per game. A healthy Miles Austin and a better running game could eat into Witten’s production even more this year. He is being drafted a full round ahead of a healthy Fred Davis who is likely a better option. In the sixth round, Witten is a reach.


Fred Davis – Washington Redskins
Average Draft Position: 8.01

Only a positive drug test prevented Davis from having a great season last year. With a rookie QB and lack of bonafide weapons in DC, there is reason to believe he could be in for another good campaign. He had 59 catches, 796 yards and three scores last year and is projected by many to come close to 1000 yards this season which would rank him in the second tier of NFL TEs. As it sits now, Davis is the eighth or ninth TE off the board when his projections put him fifth. He may not seem like an eighth round pick but when the inevitable run on TEs leaves you scrambling, you could do a whole lot worse than Davis.

Jermaine Gresham – Cincinnati Bengals
Average Draft Position: 10.12

Gresham is an interesting prospect and clearly Andy Dalton’s second option in what should be a better season for the second year pivot. Some are projecting Gresham to be a top 10 Tight End and for good reason. With Jerome Simpson residing in Minnesota, the Bengals options opposite A.J. Green are unproven and lack experience. Gresham is being drafted late in the 10th round, but reaching for him in the eighth or ninth certainly isn’t out of the question after you have your other position players locked up. Gresham is arguably the best Tight End sleeper on the board.

Tony Gonzalez – Atlanta Falcons
Average Draft Position: 10.02

There is not much doubt that Gonzo’s skills are waning but at present he is the 11th Tight End being taken in most drafts. With Atlanta’s apparent commitment to throwing the ball this season, his presence should equate to more opportunities. He had 80 catches, 875 yards and seven touchdowns last year – not far from the numbers that made him a perennial Pro-Bowler in the past. To pick up a starter in the 10th round will certainly be a coup for you. He’s 36, finished in the top five among fantasy Tight Ends last year and he has recorded 80 or more catches in four of the last five seasons.

Greg Olsen – Carolina Panthers
Average Draft Position: 14.01

The Panthers brought in Rob Chudzinski (San Diego) in 2011 to run the offense and to say that he is Tight End friendly is an understatement. Add in the fact that Carolina passed up an opportunity to significantly upgrade their receiving corps in the off-season and you have to think Cam Newton will rely on his Tight End even more this year. Also, Jeremy Shockey has been jettisoned so it will be Gary Barnidge, yes Gary Barnidge that will be Newton’s second Tight End option. Olsen has caught at least 5 TDs in each of the last four seasons and should see increased targets in 2012. You can snatch him up with one of your last picks in the draft and he could realistically be starting for you every week this season.

When Two Is One Too Many – Austin vs. Bryant

By: — July 19, 2012 @ 10:10 pm

In my continuing quest to contribute to your draft-day domination, I will compose a series of blogs over the next few weeks that focus on players that are sure to create some hardship for fantasy owners: players on the same team who play the same position that will likely have a significant fantasy impact. For those of you who regularly read and contribute to the FF Today Forums, consider this short series a distant relative to “Look-Alike Players”. My goal is to create a compelling case for and against each player before handing down a final decision. Let’s get started:

The players in question this week: Wide receivers Miles Austin and Dez Bryant.

The setup: Full-point PPR; 10 rushing/receiving yards equal one fantasy point; all touchdowns are worth six fantasy points.

Current ADP (courtesy of Fantasy Football Calculator): Austin – 5.02; Bryant – 4.06

What’s at stake: Grabbing the better fantasy WR2 of the two the Dallas Cowboys have to offer.

The case for Austin: Of all the Cowboys’ receivers, Austin is certainly the most dependable. By “dependable”, I mean Austin can be counted on to show up each game and be where he is supposed to be (on and off the field). Prior to last year’s injury-marred campaign – which the seventh-year pro admitted happened in part because he wasn’t in the kind of condition he needed to be in following the lockout – Austin had just completed consecutive 16-game seasons; Bryant has yet to play in all 16 games since he became a Cowboy in 2010. T0 his credit, Austin is reportedly in “outstanding shape” this off-season according to Cowboys website writer and former NFL scout Bryan Broaddus. As for his actual ability as a receiver, Austin has very few holes in his game. Austin does a fine job of using his 6-2, 215-pound frame to shield off defenders and is very good once he gets the ball in his hands. Austin is equal parts possession receiver and big-play threat all wrapped up in one package. Were it not for Jason Witten, Austin would easily be considered QB Tony Romo’s favorite target.

The case against Austin: Some may suggest that he lacks durability since he missed six games last year with hamstring injuries and parts of a few other contests, but we’ve already addressed why that probably isn’t a long-term concern for him. Compared to most NFL receivers, Austin is a special talent. Next to Bryant, however, his talent seems rather ordinary – which is really saying something. Despite being the same height (and separated by just three pounds), Bryant is a superior option once the ball is in his hands in part because he runs tougher than some NFL running backs after the catch. (Truth be told, there are very few pro receivers that can match Bryant in that area.) Consider for a second that Bryant has yet to show the league – or his team, for that matter – that he can consistently run more routes than a quick screen or a fly pattern and it seems rather amazing that he is still challenging Austin for the title of the Cowboys’ best fantasy receiver. In short, it seems like everyone knows Austin will eventually become the second option in this offense, but no one seems to have a good idea when that might happen as Bryant continues to struggle off the field.

Bryants work habits have improved but off-field issues remain.

The case for Bryant: Dependability…in one key area. Austin has been in the league three years and dropped a total of four “catchable” balls, according to Pro Football Focus. Question him all you want in other areas of his game, but those numbers suggest that he does what any fan or fantasy owner wants his/her receiver to do when he has an accurate throw come his way – catch it. Bryant’s physical talent is obvious, which is why many have labeled him a disappointment to this point in his career despite posting 108 catches for 1,489 yards and 15 touchdowns over the first two seasons of his NFL career. And up until a recent incident – which we’ll get to in a bit – Bryant was enjoying perhaps his quietest and most positive off-season as a pro, drawing high praise for the improvements he made in terms of his work habits and mental approach (specifically as it related to finally learning how to run consistent routes). Even as he struggles to leave his past in the past, it is clear that he is starting to “get it” in other areas, which means there is hope. Maturity is almost always a gradual process, so the new-found devotion to his craft is definitely a step in the right direction for him.

The case against Bryant: More than anything, his on- and off-the-field demons. On the field, his work ethic and grasp of the complexity of the passing game has been questioned on multiple occasions. Off the field, he just cannot seem to stay out of trouble long enough to build any kind of trust with his team and coaches, the latest of which came this past weekend when he was arrested for allegedly assaulting his mother. (Since both parties have “earned” their reputations as questionable decision makers, we’ll just stop the conversation about this incident right here and let the story play out.) Whether this latest poor decision is his fault or not, he seems to be a magnet for trouble and, from a fantasy perspective, that is obviously a problem for any owner who values as many “safe calls” when setting a lineup as possible. Is this week the week Bryant puts it all together or is it the week he misses the first half of the game because HC Jason Garrett suspended him for being late to a team meeting? Will he be focused on running his dig route at 12 yards or will he be thinking about another pending lawsuit (like the ones he was still dealing with at the end of last season)?

The verdict: Austin. Up until a week ago, my answer to this question would have been Bryant as it appeared his life was starting to move in the right direction, but this most recent incident will almost certainly lead to a multi-game league suspension. If Austin was a clear second receiver in this offense, owners could still justify taking Bryant over him. However, Austin has more than proved he can handle being the main receiver in this passing game, meaning it doesn’t make a lot of sense to wait 2-4 games for Bryant when you could probably get the same production during his absence from Austin.

When Two Is One Too Many – Nicks vs. Cruz

By: — July 12, 2012 @ 1:44 pm

In my continuing quest to contribute to your draft-day domination, I will compose a series of blogs over the next few weeks that focus on players that are sure to create some hardship for fantasy owners: players on the same team who play the same position that will likely have a significant fantasy impact. For those of you who regularly read and contribute to the FF Today Forums, consider this short series a distant relative to “Look-Alike Players”. My goal is to create a compelling case for and against each player before handing down a final decision. Let’s get started:

The players in question this week: Wide receivers Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz.

The setup: Full-point PPR; 10 rushing/receiving yards equal one fantasy point; all touchdowns are worth six fantasy points.

Current ADP (courtesy of Fantasy Football Calculator): Nicks – 4.01; Cruz – 3.09

What’s at stake: Grabbing the better fantasy WR1 of the two the New York Giants have to offer.

The case for Nicks: As the Giants’ top receiver with two 70+ catch seasons under his belt and incredible talent, Nicks represents the safer pick – from a year-to-year consistency standpoint – of the two New York wideouts. Nicks has also been an impact player since his rookie season in 2009 and as he proved throughout the playoffs last season, he can often be virtually unstoppable at times, even when he isn’t healthy. Five of his 11 touchdown receptions last season (including the playoffs) were less than five yards, meaning QB Eli Manning has a great deal of trust in him to make the necessary catch in tight quarters, be it a diving catch on a low throw by the front pylon or a fade pattern near the back of the end zone. With 28 touchdown catches in his first three seasons, Nicks is unquestionably a fantasy WR1 in PPR and non-PPR leagues when he is on the field.

The case against Nicks: Durability. Few will argue that Nicks is not or cannot be an elite fantasy receiver. (In full-point PPR leagues, he has scored less than 10 fantasy points just nine times in 46 career contests, including the playoffs!) The problem is that he almost always seems to be playing in pain and has yet to make it through an entire season. And when owners are trying to build the foundation for their fantasy team in the first few rounds, they want high-scoring players who they can plug into their lineups every week without fail. To further support the durability claim, Nicks is recovering from offseason foot surgery and appears to a question mark for the start of training camp, if not the season opener. This comes after a season in which he battled a string of nagging shoulder, knee and hamstring issues.

The case for Cruz: It’s hard to put into words the leap the former undrafted free agent out of Massachusetts made in his second season. After not catching a single pass in three games during his rookie year, Cruz exploded on the scene in his sophomore campaign with 82 catches for a franchise-best 1,536 yards and nine touchdowns. To put that team record into some perspective, Cruz joined elite company as only the fourth post-merger receiver to go over the 1,500-yard receiving mark in his second season, joining the likes of Jerry Rice and former Rams teammates Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt. While stats can often be deceiving, it’s hard to dispute that Cruz’s 2011 season just landed him alongside the receivers who currently occupy first, third and tenth place on the league’s career receiving yards list. Also working in the favor of Cruz is the success former Giant receiver Steve Smith had in Nicks’ rookie season. Playing the same kind of hybrid outside/slot role that Smith did back then, Cruz averaged over nine targets per game over the final 14 regular-season contests (when he became a bigger part of the offense), less than a target per game less than what Smith averaged during his breakout campaign.

Injury concerns with Nicks point the arrow in Cruz's favor.

The case against Cruz: The questions that any undrafted small-school player who seemingly comes out of nowhere typically gets, such as “Can he do it again?” and “Will he be content resting on his laurels now that he has proven himself on the big stage?”. Was his playoff showing – which was still impressive by all accounts yet slightly disappointing based on the standard he set during the regular season – a sign of things to come when defenses made more of an effort to stop him and let an injured Nicks beat them instead? They are fair questions and ones that we have to let play out, especially in his case since the only true hint he provided us that he was capable of this kind of performance before last season was during a three-touchdown game against the Jets during the 2010 preseason.

The verdict: Cruz. In a perfect world, this would be an apples-to-apples comparison in which we could discuss talent vs. opportunity vs. role. But the fact of the matter is that until Nicks can get healthy and stay that way, fantasy owners would be advised to select a more durable receiver as their top receiver option or hope that Nicks somehow slides in the draft enough to be a fantasy WR2. If injuries were not a consideration,then I would lean slightly towards Nicks. Furthermore, Cruz has locked down his role in the slot, which Smith has already proven can provide a windfall of fantasy points. The truth of the matter is that both players should benefit from the other’s presence – in reality as well as fantasy – since most defenses cannot realistically expect to slow both receivers down for an entire game. Both Nicks and Cruz should be viewed as solid foundation pieces for any fantasy team with top-five upside at their position.

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