Thursday, August 23, 2012

Love/Hate Players: 2012

Every year I make a list of players I love and absolutely would want on the majority of my fantasy teams. I also make a list of players I hate. Well, hate is a strong word, but I really really don't like those players. These are players I under almost any circumstance will not draft. So unless Maurice Jones-Drew slips to the late second round, I would not pick him. Knowing players you want and where you can get them is key. For instance, finding a late gem potentially like Antonio Brown has been incredibly hard to predict. In some leagues, he goes higher than Mike Wallace, while in most you can get him somewhere in the seventh round. So while knowing players average draft position (ADP) is good, every draft is different and can throw you off. That is why I always have an idea of my draft position (MDP) to know how early I would select a guy like Brown or Doug Martin without over-drafting or missing out completely.

(Warning, personal life details ahead!) 
Speaking of love, I am back on campus at the University of Illinois. The college life is great. And I'm not talking about the typical college life (despite the fact UofI ranks fourth among party schools). I'm talking about intramural sports, new and authentic relationships, and telling people about Jesus. I mean, a God who loves us unconditionally and wants to repair the brokenness of us and this world? Gimme dat! I also love screaming at our underachieving football team, owning in NBA 2K, and getting krunk on sparkling grape juice. And then there's the usual love of Aaron Rodgers, Timmy Tebow, jamming to T-Swizzle, and oh, that girl Laura I'm dating. I love her lots. But enough of my sappiness, on to the hate.

Well, I try not to actually hate people (I'm not always the best at it). But I do hate some things like injustice, the porn industry, and the fact that Mike Wallace and Eli Manning are still being drafted far too high. Watching Illini sports does not quite bring up hate sentiments, just the usual frustration, anger, and rage. I also cannot stand it when Christians bring a bad name to Christians. Something as simple as the Chick-Fil-A day. How does that show our love to the LGBT community? Why aren't we building friendships and relationships with them like Jesus would? So I apologize to all those who feel like Christians are judgmental and hateful. While we do not agree with some peoples' choices, that does not mean we cannot be friends and respectfully disagree with some topics, like any normal friendship. Phew. One other thing I hate is having Jay Cutler and RGIII as a QB tandem in a league. When someone has Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady and thinks they need Philip Rivers or Ben Roethlisberger as backups instead of a Donald Brown... I really do hate that. Thanks. I'd love to have Cutler and a rookie quarterback. The first and probably only time I could be rooting for the Bears to do well. Similarly, I also hate Jay Cutler's pouty face. Wait, maybe I love it. Because I sure get to see it a lot!

So players that I love are players that I think bring great value for their draft position and well as the outlook for the season. It doesn't mean I think they will be a top five option, but rather that they will have great potential to outperform current expectations that their draft position indicate. So.

Here are the players I LOVE.

Doug Martin (RB, TB, ADP 81.2, MDP 47): Martin is a tremendous bargain this year and looking just as explosive as he was in college. While LeGarrette will still take away carries, I expect Martin to run away with the job. The Tampa Bay coaching staff is tired of Blount's fumble troubles and Martin has been great in training camp so far. He is a rookie so do not expect huge numbers, but I believe he will be a very solid number two back. And for being drafted in the eighth round, you cannot do too much better than him. I'd grab him as early as the fourth, although I would target him around the sixth or seventh for max value.

Ryan Mathews (RB, SD, ADP 36.2, MDP 30): For a guy who started as a borderline first rounder, I love the value Mathews brings now that he is hurt. Huh, you say? Normally drafting a hurt running back is not on the top of people's lists. But, he is a legitimate number one back and assuming he is back early in the season, he's a guy that can carry your team. Before he was hurt, I think he was over-drafted. Now with his injury that should only make him miss one or two games, he becomes a pick that I want.

Michael Vick (QB, PHI, ADP 37.9, MDP 35): Spending too early of a pick on Vick is a very bad thing. Like last year! Remember how Matthew Berry urged you to spend your first overall pick on him no matter what? Well, in theory Vick's 2010 numbers would have been monumental had he played a whole season. But nonetheless I urged viewers to not take a chance. Well, folks, this is the year to take a chance. If you can get Vick in the third or even fourth round, he could be the steal of the draft. Yes, he's very injury prone and very risky, but the benefits outweigh the risk this year. Especially with solid quarterback depth this year, Vick is a great pick if you do not take a quarterback in the first two rounds.

Julio Jones (WR, ATL, ADP 31.4, MDP 30): He's being drafted right where he should be but I simply think Jones will really break out this year. He and Roddy White will team up for one of the best wide receiver duos in the league. His potential is sky-high. Just watch this.

Jacob Tamme (TE, DEN, ADP 118.7, MDP 100): If you miss out on the elite tight ends, he or Jared Cook are both great options. This is the deepest the tight end pool has been in a while. Take advantage. And oh, he has Peyton Manning throwing to him.

Bear Pascoe (TE, NYG, Not drafted): He has got a sweet name.

Darren McFadden (RB, OAK, ADP 22.0, MDP 18): I have never drafted McFadden before for the obvious injury risk. But he, when healthy, is a top five back. In a year where he is being slightly undervalued, I would be willing to take that risk. And like Vick, if he can stay healthy, he can help you win a championship.

Donald Brown (RB, IND, ADP 96.5, MDP 80): Heck this guy is a starting running back being drafted in the ninth round. I'll take that! He looked solid at the end of last season (though his stats were padded a bit by an 80 yard touchdown run) and he's continuing to look good this year. In an offense with NFL-ready Andrew Luck, Brown could very much produce Joseph Addai-like numbers or better.

Brandon Marshall (WR, CHI, ADP 35.4, MDP 30): I think he will be a top five receiver. Normally a fairly risky option, Marshall is reuinted with Jay Cutler. His average numbers with in Denver as a starter? 102 catches, 1237 yards, and 8 touchdowns. And even in Miami his numbers were not too shabby. What's that I'm hearing? Elite. That's what. Bears player or not, he is a great option.

Eric Decker (WR, DEN, ADP 71.2, MDP 60): In an earlier article, I discussed the success of Manning's receivers. Decker is more familiar with the system and routes than Demaryius Thomas so I'll take Decker over him. He's a great late option with top-15 potential.

Greg Little (WR, CLE, ADP 141.9, MDP 120): Little is one of my bigger sleepers as he produced an impressive 61 catches and 709 yards with Colt McCoy throwing to him. Assuming Brandon Weeden is in fact an upgrade, Little may even find the endzone this year and be a productive option.

Philip Rivers (QB, SD, ADP 60.4, MDP 55): After a down year, Rivers has fallen down draft boards to be the 10th quarterback selected. I'll take that! Tremendous value and a pretty low risk pick. I'll target him in all leagues where I miss out on the first round quarterbacks. And you should too.

Jermichael Finley (TE, GB, ADP 63.3, MDP 60): He is being drafted significantly lower than some of the top tier tight ends. While he is inconsistent and injury-prone, he still has all the tools to truly become an elite option. Being drafted lower means less risk and more tight end depth means you could still take a solid backup. Take a chance on him and you will not regret it.

Antonio Brown (WR, PIT, ADP 65.8, MDP 50): My favorite Pittsburgh option this year. This guy had the second most third down catches last year and even outproduced Mike Wallace in the second half. He very quietly put up over 1,000 yards and is still going under the radar. Take him, take him, take him!

Reggie Wayne (WR, IND, ADP 98.5, MDP 85): He is no longer the young stud he was but he is not dead yet. With Luck throwing his way, I expect a big comeback season for Wayne. He has lost a step but not his hands nor his veteran presence. He should be a favorite of Luck and will rebound to fantasy relevance. Just do not expect his top-10 days anymore.

Jimmy Graham (TE, NO, ADP 21.4, MDP 18): Stud. And I think he will outproduce Gronk this year.

A.J. Green (WR, CIN, ADP 28.5, MDP 24): Like Julio Jones, Green is looking to build on his stellar rookie season. Another year under his and Andy Dalton's belt makes him look like a perennial elite receiver. There are really no concerns other than Dalton's sustainability. But hey, even when Calvin Johnson had bad quarterbacks he was a stud. I expect the same of Green no matter who is throwing to him.

Jared Cook (TE, TEN, ADP 126.6, MDP 110): Previously, I mentioned how people descibe Finley as a freak athlete for a tight end. Well, combine numbers show Finley is a baby compared to Cook. If Jake Locker can be solid, Cook will play a big role. Great sleeper and huge potential for Cook.

Steven Jackson (RB, STL, ADP 30.6, MDP 25): This guy is a tank. Rock solid. Declining slightly but still a very predictable and reliable option. Seven consecutive 1,000 yard seasons and about 50 catches each year. I'll take that!

Benjarvus Green-Ellis (RB, CIN, ADP 58.1, MDP 45): I've said enough about him in countless articles. 24 touchdowns in the past two seasons. I love his potential in Cincinnati.

Titus Young (WR, DET, ADP 117.6, MDP 110): With Megatron drawing double teams, Young gets his chance to be the number two option in Detroit. He showcased play-making ability last year with six touchdowns and he can only improve. With a healthy Stafford and hopefully Johnson not being cursed by the Madden cover, Young will be in for a very solid number three wide receiver season.

Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady. These are obvious but if you can Rodgers fourth or Brady sixth, then you are in fantastic shape.


Maurice Jones-Drew (RB, JAC, ADP 9.1, MDP 15): For a guy still holding out, he is going extremely high. Remember Chris Johnson anyone? While the Jags owner claims to not be too concerned, fantasy owners should be. Jones-Drew is coming off a 380 touch season which does not bode well for this season. He will still be the focus of the offense but whenever Blaine Gabbert is your quarterback, your value might actually be hindered. If MJD slips into the second round, he could be well worth it. But first round? I think not.

Andre Johnson (WR, HOU, ADP 14.6, MDP 25): For a guy who has played just 20 games in the past two seasons, I cannot justify taking him that high. Especially when he is going before the likes of Roddy White and Wes Welker. Johnson clearly has elite potential but with Houston a run-first team now, I expect a bit of a decline even if he does manage to stay healthy.

Mike Wallace (WR, PIT, ADP 28.6, MDP 45): Yuck. He had a disappointing second half of last season then has managed to still holdout. Fact is, Antonio Brown was Big Ben's favorite target the last half of the season and Wallace is in my don't touch with a ten-foot pole category. I've mentioned him numerous times this year as a bust and I feel very strongly about it.

Eli Manning (QB, NYG, ADP 28.1, MDP 50): Another guy way overvalued. The Giants threw 60% of the time last year and Eli set a career high in yardage. Yet somehow, he only managed 29 touchdowns. Good, but not third round worthy. I'd rather have Michael Vick, Tony Romo, or Philip Rivers just to name a few. When Manning was drafted as the twelfth quarterback he was a great value. But now, I will not pick in a single league based on where he is going.

Peyton Manning (QB, DEN, ADP 43.8, MDP 55): If Manning were to slip, he could be a great bargain. His ceiling is higher than his brother's and some other quarterbacks. But his preseason struggles have me mildly concerned to go along with him playing 15 outdoor games, four neck surgeries, and a brand new team. The reward of picking him is obvious, but there is a major risk aspect.

Marshawn Lynch (RB, SEA, ADP 18.4, MDP 26): Yeah, he's young. Yeah, he is coming off an incredible second half of the season. But Skittles still raises concerns. His offensive line is shaky and one simply cannot expect another 12 touchdown season. Touchdowns are incredibly hard to predict and Lynch, who has a career yards per carry average of 3.99 is far from safe. He should not platoon with anybody which is nice, but I would still rather take a chance on Adrian Peterson then someone like Lynch.

Demarco Murray (RB, DAL, ADP 22.1, MDP 30): A young stud out of Oklahoma, Murray impressed during his time in Dallas. But that time was very short-lived. So what we have, folks, is another Darren McFadden only less proven. To make matters worse, Murray was even injury prone in college. So that does not bode well for the upcoming season. Murray essentially has three good games under his belt and well, that is it. Murray is ultra-talented and a huge injury risk. Once again, why not just take Adrian Peterson who has a higher ceiling and is clearly more proven than Murray.

Willis McGahee (RB, DEN, ADP 50.2, MDP 70): Another player I will not draft at all this season. He is bad in pass protection, a bad receiver, and 31 years old. In a Manning-led offense, McGahee's skill set just does not fit. And going from a run-heavy Tebow-led offense to Manning means much less opportunities for McGahee to shine.

Washington Running Backs (ADP 63.3 and 150.2): For all I know Terrell Davis might unretire and Mike Shanahan would give him carries. Roy Helu has rock solid potential. Heck, so does Evan Royster. But together, and coached by Shanahan, means headaches.

Shonn Greene (RB, NYJ, ADP 69.5, MDP 75): I really, really dislike this guy. For two years in a row I predicted a breakout campaign. Many agreed with me. Well, I'm sick of him. I don't want him. Goodbye my former love. Maybe I can go all Taylor Swift on you and write an angry song. It's over Shonn. And so, as I now expect after our breakup, Greene will almost surely break-out. Just wait. My forehead vein is already bulging out.

Vincent Jackson (WR, TB, ADP 57.8, MDP 70): He has never caught more than 68 passes in a season. Or double digit touchdowns. Or 1,200 yards. A guy that always seems slightly overrated, Jackson now leaves his comfort of Philip Rivers and goes to run-heavy, Josh Freeman led Tampa Bay. Things do not look good, my friends.

Victor Cruz (WR, NYG, ADP 31.8, MDP 35): I actually think he won't do too bad this year. I just think expectations are far too high. His long touchdowns from last year mean two things. One: He is a real deep threat with big play potential. And two: It will be darn hard to do it again. Keep that in mind as you draft him.

Panthers Running Backs (ADP 68.8, 81.8, 143.7): Jonathan Stewart, DeAngelo Williams, and Mike Tolbert. All solid, fantasy relevant players. If they weren't on the same team. And if Cam Newton was not their quarterback. Don't. Touch. 'Em. 

Stephen Gostowski (K, NE, ADP 105, MDP LAST ROUND): This is a simple concept folks. Very, very simple. Please get it right.

Jahvid Best (RB, DET, ADP not drafted, MDP not drafted): Some people are still taking him. They'll be disappointed when he is never on the field.

Sidney Rice (WR, SEA, ADP 126.7, MDP 150): Think Matt Flynn is Brett Favre? I think not. Rice's only good season came when Favre was throwing him the ball. Hmm...

Friday, August 10, 2012

Draft Prep: Rookies

Trent Richardson (RB, CLE, ADP 30.6, My draft position 40): Richardson will be the first rookie taken in the draft this year and will be the workhorse in Cleveland. He should be getting at least 20 carries a game in a Cleveland offense that should not be as terrible as recent years. And remember how Peyton Hillis had success? Well, Richardson has a chance to really shine assuming his knee problems do not take him out for too long. Richardson has looked like a beast in training camp and might be one the most hyped backs since Adrian Peterson. But with his recent surgery, I would not take Richardson until late third round or fourth.

Doug Martin (RB, TB, ADP 78.4, MDP 47): Martin has looked very explosive in camp and has already have earned himself the majority of carries over LeGarrette Blount. And for where he is being drafted, Martin has the best value of any of the rookies this year. He really has a chance to excel in the run first Tampa offense and an offense where they have lost faith in Blount. While Blount will see the goaline carries, expect Martin to make an impact everywhere else. He is moving up lots of draft boards, but I would still consider taking him as early as the fourth round.

Robert Griffin III (QB, WAS, ADP 81.7, MDP 70): Another guy moving up draft boards is none other than the immensely popular RGIII. After a phenomenal start to his preseason, RGIII looks like the real deal. Unlike Andrew Luck, Griffin has placed into a much better offense with targets like Santana Moss, Pierre Garcon, and Fred Davis. Throw in Leonard Hankerson and Roy Helu and you've got decent talent. But the hype with RGIII is really about what he can do with not only his arms, but also his legs. It would not be unwise to expect somewhere around 500 rushing yards and 5 touchdowns this season. But be careful with RGIII as all rookie quarterbacks will struggle. So have modest expectations with a high ceiling and moderately low basement.

Andrew Luck (QB, IND, ADP 125, MDP 140): Luck is the closest thing to a young Peyton Manning we have seen. But, like Manning, immediate success is far from guaranteed. The Colts' offense is still a year or two away from recovery. Luck does have Reggie Wayne, who people are acting like is dead. He's old, not dead, folks. Do not count him out completely. And he also has a two tight end system including Coby Fleener, his dependable target at Stanford. Luck is worth watching throughout the season, but is worth only a late round pick this year.

Justin Blackmon (WR, JAC, ADP 119.6, MDP 130): As talented as Blackmon is, he has put himself in a major hole this season. After holding out and missing valuable camp time, Blackmon also managed to get a DUI this July. He has not shown any pull away speed to get past coverage. And oh, he has Blaine Gabbert throwing him the ball. Gabbert, who reminds me of Sunshine from Remember the Titans, might actually be worse than Sunshine would be at his current age. Blackmon is draftable, just do not expect too much.

Reuben Randle (WR, NYG, ADP 138.5, MDP 148): He's behind Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz. Those are two pretty good receivers who you know will get the majority of the targets. But Randle is in a high-octane offense that loves to throw the ball. He is worth a late pick with modest potential.

Coby Fleener (TE, IND, ADP 141.4, MDP 130): His chemistry with Andrew Luck is unparalleled for a rookie tandem. Fleener will be a favorite target of Luck and actually has a decent chance to finish in the top ten. The tight end position is deep, but I would rather have Fleener than Brent Celek and Owen Daniels. He can be a nice late round pick.

Michael Floyd (WR, ARI, ADP 144.2, MDP 150): While he does get to play aside Larry Fitzgerald, there are several questions surrounding Floyd. For one, Kevin Kolb's health, and even skills, are a question mark, although it still did not stop Fitz last year. He has been slow to adjust to the game, but if he becomes the unquestioned starter opposite Fitzgerald, then look out fantasy world. But that is a fairly big if for this year. Unless his work ethic picks up, I expect a moderately low impact from his rookie season.

Kendall Wright (WR, TEN, ADP 149.2, MDP 160): There's marginal upside here with Wright. He's behind Kenny Britt and Nate Washington and should see solid time in the slot. But a rookie wide receiver who is third on the depth chart will rarely make a big fantasy impact.

Brian Quick (WR, STL, ADP 150.8, MDP 145): It seems like a long, long, long time ago since the Rams had Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce. Now, Quick from Appalachian State has a chance to become a favorite of Sam Bradford. If Quick can move up the depth chart, he has potential to be a solid number two fantasy receiver. Sam Bradford has not forgotten how to throw the ball and he is a good candidate for a comeback year. So look for Quick late in the draft as a solid sleeper.

Isaiah Pead (RB, STL, ADP Not drafted, MDP Not drafted): I believe Steven Jackson has one more year left in him. But Pead is up and coming and will get some carries this year. For those in dynasty leagues, Pead is a great option.

Ronnie Hillman (RB, DEN, ADP Not drafted, MDP 150): Another lesser known rookie running back, Hillman does have a chance to see significant action. I do not trust old man Willis McGahee or Knowshon Moreno and his ACL, so I like Hillman's chances to play. He is worth a late flier and has potential to be Peyton Manning's Addai.

Brandon Weeden (QB, CLE, ADP Not drafted, MDP Not drafted): The other first round quarterback presents no fantasy value this year. If you get into a situation where you are considering him, boy, do I feel sorry for you. Get out of it fast. Unlike last year when I said Cam Newton would have little fantasy value, I feel pretty confident in saying Weeden will have little fantasy value.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Quarterback Consistency Ratings

Using standard scoring (6 points for all touchdowns, 1 point for 25 passing yards), I have put together a consistency chart from last season. When it comes to fantasy football, consistency is quite possibly the most important factor when it comes to drafting players. There are players like Devery Henderson, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Beanie Wells who can produce monster weeks. Then they follow up with a dud. The main problem with these players is that they are not reliable week to week players. So finding players who can produce on a weekly basis is essential to winning.

The chart (below) is pretty straight forward and does not need too much analysis. But here are a couple of my quick notes from the chart.

  • Aaron Rodgers does have a real argument to be the number one overall pick. Talk about consistent. 
  • While Matt Stafford and Cam Newton are considered elite this year, there is a solid drop-off from Tom Brady and Drew Brees.
  • Of the top 10 last year, Eli Manning and Philip Rivers produced the most duds.
  • Rodgers, Brees, Stafford, and Newton were the only QB's with multiple freak games. None for Brady or Michael Vick.
  • While Vick disappointed, he was not as inconsistent as Matt Ryan, Tony Romo, or Philip Rivers (Although he did miss more games).
  • Ben Roethlisberger really had some duds, but he also flashed freak potential.
  • Of quarterbacks outside of the top 10, Tebow really is a solid option. If he were not a backup in real life, he could make an impact again in the fantasy world. 
  • Peyton Manning is clearly not here. But if we looked any of Manning's previous seasons, I'm pretty sure he'd be near the top. Just a hunch.

So here are the quarterback consistency ratings from last year.

But before you lay your eyes on this graph, I apologize for the sheer ugliness. This is why I am no longer a Computer Science major. This stuff just did not click in my brain. And no friends, for whatever dumb reason, there is no "inset table button". Rather, I had to do the whole shabang in html. Fun, huh? No. Not. At. All. If I ever do a running backs or wide receivers consistency chart, you can bet I'll hire a CS major to help me. Seriously, how the heck does it not line up? I must have spent about 20 minutes just trying to make it line up and this is what I got. Sigh. Enjoy.

* Update. Three hours later and I have figured it out. Brilliant! The chart's columns are lined up!

Freak Stud Great Start Dud
Player > 35 25 20 15 <15Inj/Sit% Great
Rodgers 5 7 3 0 0 1100.00
Brees 4 6 3 2 1 0 81.25
Brady 1 8 4 3 0 0 81.25
Stafford 3     5     3     3     2     0     68.75
Newton 2 7 2 2 3 0     68.75
E.Manning  0 7 3 1 5 0 62.50
Romo 1 5 2 5 2 1 53.33
Ryan 1             4          2          5          4         0             43.75       
Rivers 0 4 2 5 5 0     37.50
Sanchez  0 3 4 3 6 0 43.75
Vick 0 5 2 2 4 3 53.85
Fitzpatrick  0           3         1          5         7         0            25.00      
Big Ben 1 1 2 4 7 1     26.67
Smith 0 0 5 3 8 0 31.25
Flacco        0 2 1 4 9 0 18.75
Dalton 0           2          2          4         8        0            25.00      
Freeman 0 1 2 4 8     1     20.00
Hasselbeck 0 0 5 2 9 0 31.25
Tebow 0 3 1 5 3 4 33.33
Schaub 0          1          4          1          4         6           50.00      

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Draft Prep: Busts

Cam Newton (QB, CAR, ADP 17.2): He certainly has the talent and the offensive line to not be a bust, but his numbers from last year are simply a long shot. If you could grab him in the third or fourth round, he would be more than worth a pick. But going middle of the second round is way too high to justify a pick for Cam. Rushing touchdowns are very hard to predict and there is almost no way Newton comes close to his 2nd in the NFL 14 rushing touchdowns. According to Christopher Harris' research, quarterbacks who score 6 or more rushing touchdowns in a season average only 2.1 the following season. Luckily for Cam, he is no Michael Vick when it comes to injuries. Instead, a more fair comparison is to Dante Culpepper. This a good thing for the huge, athletic freak who does appear to be fairly durable. While I expect Cam's numbers should decline, the main reason for me labeling him a bust is because of where he is being drafted. But with elite upside and not a ton a downside, Cam will not bust quite to the level that Derek Anderson did.

What? I'm not elite?
Matt Schaub (QB, HOU, 90.0): Those who think Schaub still has elite potential are sorely wrong. Houston is a run-first team now making for far less opportunities for Schaub. Not only is he very injury prone, but his elite target Andre Johnson has not been able to stay on the field either.

If everything is okay, then
 why don't you stop holding out?
Maurice Jones-Drew (RB, JAC, 7.7): Still holding out, MJD is definitely someone to keep on eye on. While the Jags have by no means ever been an offensive juggernaut, having Blaine Gabbert does absolute nothing to take pressure off of MJD. Of the top four running backs, he has the most question marks surrounding him. He is still just 27 years old, but his carries are piling up. He had over 380 touches last year and was probably overworked. And with the holdout still going, MJD is setting himself up to disappoint countless owners.

Jamaal Charles (RB, KC, 26.4): Chalres is an immense talent who has averaged 5.8 yards per carry in his career. But questions about his recovery from a torn ACL and Peyton Hillis in the mix make Charles a less than ideal option. Even if he is at full strength, he will surely lose goaline carries to Hillis. And Charles' explosiveness and open-field running depend so much on his ACL that I do not see Charles being his old self.

Fred Jackson (RB, BUF, 35.0): He will be 31 this year and is recovering from a broken leg. Not only that, but C.J. Spiller excelled in his absence which indicates a major timeshare coming. I expect Jackson to receive the majority of carries, but Spiller will take a huge bite into his production. Do not expect anything close to Jackson's first half of last season. While his wife might not be as hesitant about picking him this year, everyone else should have caution in regards to picking him.

Willis McGahee (RB, DEN, 54.1): McGahee's late-career resurgence turned heads last year. But going from a run-heavy, Tebow-led offense to a Peyton Manning offense will render McGahee useless. He is not a great pass-catching back and is mediocre in pass blocking. Expect other Broncos running backs to take reps and for McGahee's age to catch up to him.

Andre Johnson (WR, HOU, 14.4): Really. I'm serious. For a guy who has played just 20 games in the past two seasons, I am not optimistic. The now run-heavy Texans also have a much better defense which means less catch-up for them and less throwing. I would much rather take Roddy White, Greg Jennings, and even Wes Welker. Taking an early second round pick on Johnson would be unwise and way too risky. If you can get him in the third round, well, then he is a potential steal. But don't be fooled by Johnson. He should no longer be looked at as an obvious top two wideout.

Mike Wallace (WR, PIT, 26.6): Of all my bust candidates, this is the one I feel most strong about. He was Big Ben's second favorite target last year and had an abysmal second half. In the last nine games, he had only two with double digit scoring. He is still holding out and it does not appear to be ending any time soon. Wallace does have number one potential, but is much better suited as a number two receiver this year. And if he gets traded, it will likely not help his value in any way. Stay away from him in drafts.

Vincent Jackson (WR, TB, 53.9): This guy could be labeled a bust almost every year. He almost always seems to be labeled as a near-elite receiver but never produces like one. He has never had more than 70 catches or double digit touchdowns. He now switches from Philip Rivers to Josh Freeman throwing him the ball. And Tampa Bay will be a run-oriented team. He will disappoint like usual. That, you can count on.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Draft Prep: Sleepers

Your sleeper picks. They can make or break your team. Instead of taking a more common name like John Kuhn, Matt Cassell, or Nate Burleson, take someone like Isaiah Pead, Antonio Brown, or Jared Cook. People who took a chance on Aaron Rodgers in his first season as a starter had to be pretty darn happy. And people who took Rob Gronkowski or Cam Newton last year, well, they likely earned themselves a playoff spot. And I won't be making any JaMarcus Russell jokes in this because after all, he has been in a deep sleep, or maybe a hibernation since 2009. Heck, he probably slept from 2007 to 2009 too. That would explain a lot.

But anyways, do your research. Target your guys who will be late rounders. Find those backups to the often injured players and take a chance on them. It will be the difference between a five win season and a eight win season. Here are my sleepers for the 2012 season.

Doug Martin (RB, TB, 78.8): Martin represents a great value pick with an opportunity to shatter expectations. It looks like he is winning the running back battle over LeGarrette Blount and his explosiveness is killer. At this point, he should be receiving the majority of carries as Blount slowly disappears. Blount will most likely get goaline carries, but that doesn't detract from Martin's potential to be one the better rookie running backs in recent years. He is definitely worth a pick after the 6th round.

Benjarvus Green-Ellis (RB, CIN, 59.1): Goodbye Cedric Benson. Hello Cedric Benson 2.0. Green-Ellis, who has scored 24 touchdowns in the past two seasons, is the man I want in all my leagues. Now as the featured back in Cincinnati, you can expect numbers on par with Benson, but hopefully more similar to those of former Rudi Johnson. BGE has yet to fumble in his NFL career and he has a knack for the endzone. According to Matthew Berry, since Marvin Lewis became head coach in 2003, the Bengals running backs have averaged 1,124 yards and 8 touchdowns a season. BGE fits the mold of a Lewis running back and if he puts up those average numbers, well you got yourself a very solid, high-end number 2 running back.

Donald Brown (RB, IND, 100.8): He will get carries. He should be the starter. He just plays on last years most abysmal offense. He also is far from proven but now is his shot. He showed off his explosiveness toward the end of last season and is in a position where he can succeed. If Andrew Luck and the Colts' offense puts it together, Brown will be a major component of it.

Mikel Leshoure (RB, DET, 145.2): Injured his entire rookie season, Leshoure can make a splash if often injured Jahvid Best or Kevin Smith go down. And if, or when they do, Leshore may live up to his high potential out of the University of Illinois.

Isaiah Pead (RB, STL, 166.8): Steven Jackson is slowing down and Pead is coming up. While I think Jackson will still be the man all season, Pead will get some carries and spell Jackson. He also has great hands and will be involved with their passing game.

Evan Royster (RB, WSH, Not Drafted): Like I've said before, I don't want to touch the Washington running backs. Royster ended last year with two stellar 100 yard games but still has Roy Helu ahead of him. Probably. Maybe. Who knows? Only Mike Shanahan. If anything happens to Helu, then it will be time to jump on the Royster train.

Eric Decker (WR, DEN, 72.1): I love this guy just a little bit more than Demaryius Thomas. For one, he is more accustomed to an NFL style offense than Thomas and he runs much better, crisper routes. In an offense with Peyton Manning, that means a lot. Decker has HUGE upside with Manning throwing and he could be a monster in PPR leagues. I'd take Decker over Thomas, and other iffy receivers like Dwayne Bowe, Vincent Jackson, and DeSean Jackson.

Antonio Brown (WR, PIT, 70.4): Also being drafted around Decker, Brown had a superb, under the radar season. He had the second most third down catches last year which means Big Ben looked to him regularly in the clutch. He also had 69 catches and 1,108 yards. Talk about a season no one talked about. With Mike Wallace looking iffier, Brown could actually end up being Roethlisberger's top target (In fact, he had more targets than Wallace last season.) For his draft position, Brown will be a steal and a very solid number 2 receiver.

Reggie Wayne (WR, IND, 105.6): Reggie Wayne is no longer the top-10 Wayne we've seen for years. But with Andrew Luck throwing his way, Wayne can hopefully still produce. Even if Luck doesn't meet expectations, he cannot be much worse than Curtis Painter or Dan Orlovsky. Right? Wayne has lost a step but do not count him out yet. For the record, I'd much rather have him then Michael Crabtree, Justin Blackmon, or Randy Moss. Which also isn't saying much...

Greg Little (WR, CLE, 148.8): Little had over 60 catches for 700 yards last year but only found the endzone twice. With "rookie" Brandon Weeden throwing his way, his numbers should improve slightly. He is the most NFL-looking receiver on their team and could quietly produce a solid season. And if Weeden blows people out of the water, then Little will have lots to do with it.

Randall Cobb (WR, GB, 154.5): Cobb is buried in the depth chart of the most fearsome wide receiver corps of the NFL. But he is expected to have an expanded role as Donald Driver's role diminishes. Cobb shows every sign of an elite playmaker and could find himself as the undisputed number three receiver in Green Bay. And with Aaron Rodgers throwing, that makes for a still pretty solid fantasy receiver.

Vincent Brown (WR, SD, Not Drafted): In his four starts last year, Brown showed flashes of potential and great route running. Robert Meachem and Malcom Floyd are by no means durable players and Brown could find himself as one of Rivers' steady targets. You won't likely have to use a draft pick on him so monitor him early and jump on him.

Jacob Tamme (TE, DEN, 114.3): While cleaning my room, I stumbled upon a Jacob Tamme game worn jersey card from Kentucky. Thrilled at my find, I remember how enamored I was with a tight end no kid in Illinois should have ever heard about. But with Tamme teaming up with Manning in Denver, there is great potential for a solid season. Remember when Dallas Clark got injured and Tamme took over? Now Tamme and Manning have time to gel and work together all season. I expect a top 8 season this year.

Fred Davis (TE, WSH, 103.9): With RGIII throwing his way, Davis might finally break out. Chris Cooley is almost completely out of the mix and it is Davis' time to shine. He started to have a breakout season last year till he was suspended the remainder of the season for marijuana charges. This year, take a shot on him as he may even outproduce Jermichael Finley.

Jared Cook (TE, TEN, 127.3): You know how Finley is supposed to be some freak athlete? Well, let's compare his combine numbers to Cook. Finley had a 4.82 40 time and a 27.5 vertical. Cook had a 4.49 time and a 41.0 vertical! Finley looks like a child compared to Cook. If either Matt Hasselbeck or Jake Locker produce, Cook will be in for a stellar season.

Jermaine Gresham (TE, CIN, 144.7): This is a surprisingly deep year for tight ends eh? Last year, Gresham had 56 catches for nearly 600 yards and 6 touchdowns. As he continues to click with Dalton, Gresham should only get better.

Ben Roethlisberger (QB, PIT, ADP 81.2): Not that Big Ben is unknown to many, but this could be a year we he solidly plays himself into the top 10. Last year he was 13th among quarterbacks and this year he is a borderline 12 team league starter. But with Rashard Mendenhall expected to miss most, if not all of the season, expect Ben to passing more. Assuming Mike Wallace mans up and comes back, Ben will have him, emerging Antonio Brown, and Emmanuel Sanders to throw to. Expect Big Ben to sneak into the top 10 this year for quarterbacks.

Michael Vick (QB, PHI, 31.9): Is he really even a sleeper? Well, kind of. After last years fall from fantasy domination, Vick is being a bit undervalued this year. Despite missing three whole games last year, Vick still finished 11th among quarterbacks and had seven 20 point games. And while no one expected him to replicate his 9 rushing touchdowns of 2010, no one expected him to have just 1 either. So expect an increase of rushing touchdowns and hopefully and injury free season. Last year, I said Vick was not worthy of the number one pick Matthew Berry hyped him to be, but this year, he is clearly worth his draft value.

Tim Tebow (QB, NYJ, 137.6): Not too many backup quarterbacks are the 22nd quarterback taken in drafts. But Tebow does have a real shot at eventually taking the starting job in New York. And that's not a credit to Tebow's passing skills, but his running ability, and Mark Sanchez's mediocrity. Tebow is the only NFL quarterback to run for 6 touchdowns in consecutive seasons and has no reason not to do it again. We saw Tebow be a productive fantasy player last year with 15 points or more in 8 of his 12 games. Will we see some more Tebow time this year?