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.
Players I STRONGLY DISLIKE.
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...