Thursday, September 2, 2010

Fantasy Football Sleepers and Fliers


The safest bet in fantasy football is that a handful of undrafted players will emerge as impact players. I can remember picking up Isaac Bruce back in 1995 after he started the season hot. Ron Dayne helped me to a championship when he was running good for the Houston Texans. You don’t know where they’re going to come from, or what position they’re going to play, but those free agent stars will emerge.

This year, there are several intriguing and potential break-out players who are not getting drafted. Some of them are RBs, a few WRs are mixed in there and a couple QBs make the list.

Louis Murphy – WR Oakland
Murphy is a player who many people don’t know. He plays for Oakland which makes him less desirable, but he’s clearly their best WR option. Murphy should benefit from the upgrade at QB with the arrival of Jason Campbell. And don’t believe the hype that Darrius Heyward-Bey is ready to be the Raiders number one WR, he’s not. My advice: Murphy is a good late round pick.

Danny Amendola – WR St. Louis
Amendola was an unknown until two weeks ago when Donnie Avery was lost for the season with a torn ACL. Amendola will take Avery’s spot in the starting line-up, as well as return punts. Amendola returned a punt for a TD in the preseason, and is too valuable to take off special teams. He runs good routes, catches the ball well and he’s fast. Some people call him a poor man’s Wes Welker, not bad company. My advice: Watch Amendola at this point. If you’re in a 16 or 20 team league, he is worth a roster spot now.

Jason Avant – WR Philadelphia
The changes happening in Philadelphia are scaring some fantasy owners away. To them I say, come back…it’s safe to draft Eagles. With Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook now gone in Philadelphia, the Eagles will turn to a new cast of players to lead them. Kevin Kolb will be fine in Philly, in fact he may put up better fantasy numbers than McNabb. As for Avant, he is the Eagles #3 WR, which is a good spot to be in considering how often the Eagles plan to throw the ball. Avant’s numbers have improved over the last three years, and he’s the #1 back-up to DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. My advice: Watch Avant at this time. If you need an injury pick-up or bye week fill-in, Avant may be a good target.

James Jones – WR Green Bay
As the number three WR in Green Bay, Jones will see a lot of single coverage. Jones has shown flashes during his three seasons with the Packers, but he’s stuck behind two pretty good WRs in Greg Jennings and Donald Driver. Jones had a very good reception to TD ratio, scoring every sixth time he touched the ball (32 recs./5TDs). With Driver getting up in age (35), Jones could find himself on the field more than last season. My advice: Jones is the #4 receiving option in Green Bay (Driver, Jennings, Jermichael Finley), but he has more upside than some #2 WRs on some teams. Draft him late in deeper leagues and store him on your bench for now.

Kareem Huggins – RB Tampa Bay
Huggins was off most people’s radar until a couple of weeks ago when news of Derrick Ward’s demise began surfacing. Huggins is now the back-up RB for the Buccaneers, behind only Cadillac Williams. With Williams’ history of knee injuries, Huggins is a great player to keep an eye on. While he’s not a sleeper anymore, he is still going undrafted in many 10 and 12-team leagues. My advice: If you have Williams, make sure you grab Huggins. If Huggins is still available, look at dropping your fifth WR and pick him up.

Lex Hilliard – RB Miami
The second year RB shouldn’t be anywhere near your draft board, but make sure you remember his name once the season starts. Hilliard is currently listed third on the Dolphins depth chart. While that doesn’t sound appealing, consider who he’s playing behind. Ronnie Brown has battled injuries his entire career, in fact he’s played in all 16 games just once during his five year career. The other RB for Miami is Ricky Williams, who at age 33 may not be suited to take on the workload he once could. Hilliard did see some time last year as a rookie, scoring a TD and averaging over 5.5 yards per carry. My advice: if you have Brown and/or Williams, keep tabs on Hilliard. But until one of those RBs gets injured, Hilliard should remain a free agent.

Jason Snelling – RB Atlanta
When Michael Turner suffered a high ankle sprain last year, Snelling stepped in and provided Atlanta’s offense with a durable RB. While his numbers don’t stand out, the back-up RB in Atlanta is always a good option. The Falcons are committed to running the ball and they like a RB that can wear down a defense. Snelling is considered a short yardage RB, and may steal carries from Turner around the goal line. Snelling also caught 30 balls last year, making him an option in the red zone in the passing game as well. My advice: Let Snelling go undrafted. However, if you get a sense that Atlanta is trying to limit Turner’s touches (which may happen), pick-up Snelling and keep him on your bench.

Peyton Hillis – RB Cleveland
Not really a sleeper anymore with news that rookie Montario Hardesty is out for the season with a torn ACL. Jerome Harrison will now be the main RB in Cleveland and he proved last year that he’s serviceable, but not a back built to carry the load for 16 games. With Hillis, Cleveland's running game gains a toughness Harrison can't provide. Hillis’ hard-nosed running style has caught people’s attention this preseason, and may be the team’s best short yardage RB. In Cleveland that usually doesn’t mean much, but with Jake Delhomme at QB, the Browns could have a respectable offense. My advice: Grab Hillis right now. Also, see who the Browns add to their backfield now that Hardesty is done.

Jeremiah Johnson – RB Houston
When I watched the Houston/Dallas preseason game last week one thing was clear, the Texans can run the ball. I was expecting to see good running from Arian Foster, but not necessarily from Johnson. After missing his entire rookie year in 2009, Johnson looks ready to unseat Steve Slaton as Foster’s back-up in Houston. Johnson runs a lot like Foster and could provide the Texans with a nice one-two punch. My advice: keep an eye on Johnson, especially if you have Foster. Also, watch Slaton’s progress. He’s battling a toe injury and has had fumble problems. Slaton’s slide would mean more playing time for Johnson. One more note, Derrick Ward is reportedly visiting the Texans. Watch to see how that plays out before targeting Johnson.

(Update: The Texans cut Johnson after a toe injury shelved him for 3-4 weeks. The Texans also signed Derrick Ward, who provides Houston will a veteran behind Foster and Slaton)

Derek Anderson – QB Arizona
Anderson went from 29 TD passes in 2007 to a guy who looked like he’s never played football before. His last two years in Cleveland were awful, and he needed a change of scenery more than anyone. Anderson has found that opportunity in Arizona and he may be exactly what the Cardinals need. Anderson has a strong arm, good feet and terrible accuracy. Despite his wild tendencies, Anderson still has the ability to make plays. When he had Braylon Edwards in Cleveland, Anderson turned Edwards into a star – connecting on 16 TDs that year. This is good news for Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Breaston and Early Doucet. My advice: Make Anderson your back-up QB, especially if you already have an established starter. If nothing else, Anderson could be good trade bait as the season goes on.

Kyle Orton – QB Denver
There is nothing about Orton that is flashy and that’s why he’s not getting drafted. If you’ve seen any of Denver’s preseason games then you’ve seen a QB playing with a lot of confidence right now. Orton is spreading the ball around to various receivers and has great command of the Broncos offense. Orton threw 21 TDs last year -- the same number as Carson Palmer and Joe Flacco, two guys that are getting drafted in the middle rounds. My advice: Feel very comfortable with Kyle Orton as your back-up QB. He may even find his way into your starting line-up when there’s a favorable match-up.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Wide Receivers: Overvalued/Undervalued



Brandon Marshall – WR Miami
I’m not sold on the Henne to Marshall plan just yet in Miami. Henne begins his first season as Miami’s starter after taking over in game three of 2009. Entering his third NFL season, Henne is hardly a franchise quarterback just yet and that will impact Marshall’s numbers. Henne tossed more than one TD in just two games last year and works in a system that runs the ball first. Marshall is a significant upgrade from what the Dolphins had at WR last year, and he’s a guy who can take Henne to the next level. I expect Marshall to have a frustrating first year in South Beach. My advice: Marshall is a #1 WR, but don’t target him. Let him fall to you at around pick #27 (mid third round).

Chad Ochocinco – WR Cincinnati
Ochocinco is a headline grabber, but not always because of his play. Ochocinco will have to share the spotlight – and the ball – with fellow trash-talker Terrell Owens. The duo is intriguing and should make Cincinnati better. However, what the Owens signing does is limit the number of targets Ochocinco will get this year. Ochocinco’s catches dropped significantly last year compared to other 16 game seasons he’s played. Along with Owens stealing catches, the Bengals look very much like a team built to run. Neither scenario will help Ochocinco recapture his status as a #1 fantasy WR. My advice: Ochocinco is a #2 WR in most leagues. Look for him around #47 (late fourth, early fifth round).

Percy Harvin - WR Minnesota
Harvin was absent from my board until last week. Migraine headaches have kept the Vikings WR off the field most of training camp. His return to the field this week was an encouraging sign, but still not a convincing statement that he will be available every week. Harvin's stock rose when Sindey Rice underwent hip surgery, which will keep him out half of the season. Harvin is going to be an active player in the Vikings offense, but don’t expect him to find the same success that Rice had last year. Harvin’s migraines will be an affliction he deals with the entire season, and just because he looked good in one preseason game doesn’t mean he’s healed. My advice: Harvin is a great player, but as a fantasy owner you don’t want to deal with the uncertainty with him every week. Look for him around #79 (mid sixth round).

Donald Driver – WR Green Bay
Driver is an intriguing pick because he plays in the pass-happy Packer offense. For years Driver has been a reliable target in Green Bay, but time may be catching up with him. Driver finished last season on an unproductive note, and he underwent surgery on both knees in the offseason. While Driver says he feels great, he may not be able to run away from a couple of younger Packers ready to take his spot in the starting line-up. James Jones and Jordy Nelson are both expected to play a significant role in the Packers offense and one could unseat Driver as the starter by season’s end. My bet is on Jones, whom finished with 5 TDs on just 32 catches in 2009. My advice: look for Driver around #74 (early sixth round). Also, take a flier on James Jones with one of your last picks.

Hines Ward – WR Pittsburgh
Ward has been a very reliable fantasy WR over the years. He has been good for at least 6 TDs in each of the last five seasons. Unfortunately, all good things must end. Ward is entering his 14th season with Pittsburgh and this might be his last productive year. The Steelers are going to struggle early this season without Ben Roethlisberger, who is suspended 6 games (maybe 4 games) for violating the league’s conduct policy. Roethlisberger’s absence, along with the Steelers commitment to the run, will impact Ward’s fantasy output this year. Ward is still reliable, but don’t expect the same numbers as 2009. My advice: look for Ward around #61 (early to mid fifth round).

Mike Sims-Walker – WR Jacksonville
Sims-Walker went undrafted last year only to find himself on rosters in nearly every league by the end of the season. He was the free agent WR pick-up of the year after his week two 106 yard/1 TD performance. Sims-Walker ended 2009 with 7 TDs on just 63 catches. While Sims-Walker’s breakout season was a welcomed surprise for fantasy owners last year, don’t expect the same production this year. Jacksonville is a run first team that lacks a QB that will challenge defenses. David Garrard will hurt Sims-Walker’s numbers. My advice: Sims-Walker is not a #1 WR. Defenses won’t be surprised by him this year and Jacksonville lacks an established #2 WR. Look for Sims-Walker around #71 (early sixth round).


DeSean Jackson – WR Philadelphia
If you think Jackson is just a speed WR, you’re not watching enough Eagles games. It is true that Jackson is a burner, but have you noticed his ability to get open? Jackson’s route running has improved and he’s fast becoming Kevin Kolb’s main target. Although he’s small (5’10” 175 lbs.), Jackson is not afraid to go across the middle, or catch a bubble screen. Jackson’s ability to make defenders miss after the catch is what makes him so valuable. He can take a simple 5-yard crossing route and turn it into 50 yards. My advice: Jackson will be superb this season. The change from Donovan McNabb to Kolb at QB may help Jackson’s numbers. Look for Jackson around #16 (early second round).

Miles Austin – WR Dallas
Don’t paint Austin as a one hit wonder. The Dallas WR exploded onto the NFL scene last year in a big way. In week 5, Austin had the fantasy world buzzing with a 10 catch/250 yard/2 TD performance. He would go on to have four more 100 yard games and 11 total TDs in 2009. Watching Austin in the preseason this year, he looks like a guy who has improved his route running. This will make him more valuable to QB Tony Romo, who’s been looking for a reliable target at WR. My advice: Austin is a solid #1 WR. Look for him around #15 (early second round).

Dwayne Bowe – WR Kansas City
It’s hard to look at Bowe as undervalued, especially after last season. Bowe was a huge bust in 2009, making just 47 catches for 589 yards and 4 TDs in 11 games. Bowe was lazy last year, and it showed on the field. This year, Bowe’s approach has been different, and he’s taking steps to improve. Bowe spent part of his offseason in Minnesota training with Larry Fitzgerald, Cris Carter and other top NFL players. The Fitzgerald camp is considered one of the best for NFL players, and success usually follows players once they leave. Bowe will be hurt by the play of QB Matt Cassel and the Chiefs commitment to the run. But Bowe is a big target who will see most of Cassel’s passes. My advice: Bowe is a nice #2 WR. Look for him around pick #53 (mid-late fourth round).

Mike Wallace – WR Pittsburgh
I see a changing of the guard among Steelers WRs this year. After watching Hines Ward lead Pittsburgh in WR fantasy points every year for a decade, this year belongs to Wallace. He is fast, he can catch and in his second year he is running better routes. Wallace made fantasy owners take notice last year with his long TD grabs. While he only had 39 catches, he managed 756 yards and 6 TDs. Wallace is a threat to score every play and will find himself the target of many deep throws. My advice: Wallace is a #2 WR, with the potential to score 8-10 TDs. Look for around #51 (mid fourth round).

Bernard Berrian – WR Minnesota
Berrian never made it to 100% healthy last year, and it showed. Bothered by hamstring injuries, Berrian missed out on becoming Brett Favre’s favorite target. That role went to Sindey Rice, who is now out for half of the year. Berrian will need to play a bigger role in the Vikings offense this season. Berrian has the ability to make big plays and Favre likes to throw the deep ball. While I don’t expect Berrian to match Rice’s output from last year, it’s not out of the question for Berrian to catch 10 TDs. My advice: Berrian is little risk, but has a high reward. Look for him around #76 (mid-late sixth round).

Lee Evans – WR Buffalo
Poor Lee Evans. This guy has spent his entire career in Buffalo with no QB. Still, he manages to score TDs. Last year, Evans caught just 44 balls for 612 yards, but he scored 7 TDs. With Terrell Owens now gone in Buffalo, Evans should get more targets. Evans has always had the ability to get behind defenders and score long TDs. He is under appreciated in the fantasy football world only because he plays for the Bills. My advice: make Evans a part of your team. He is a solid #3 WR, look for him around #58 (early fifth round).

Sunday, August 29, 2010

3rd Cut: The New Top 100


With three preseason games how completed, your draft board should be updated and ready for your draft. Several things have changed since the last Top 100. Questions emerged about Maurice Jones Drew's knee, Aaron Rodgers looked flawless in the Packers final preseason game and Arian Foster looks settled in at the starting running back position in Houston. A couple of rookies have looked great too. Jahvid Best is going to be a playmaker in Detroit and C.J. Spiller looks solid as the starter in Buffalo. There are also a couple of guys new to the list including, Percy Harvin and Zach Miller. With all that said, here is the latest Top 100.

1) Chris Johnson – RB Tennessee
2) Adrian Peterson – RB Minnesota
3) Frank Gore – RB San Francisco
4) Andre Johnson – WR Houston
5) Ray Rice – RB Baltimore
6) Aaron Rodgers – QB Green Bay
7) Maurice Jones Drew – RB Jacksonville
8) Michael Turner – RB Atlanta
9) Drew Brees – QB New Orleans
10) Ryan Mathews – RB San Diego
11) Randy Moss – WR New England
12) Peyton Manning – QB Indianapolis
13) Rashard Mendenhall – RB Pittsburgh
14) Steven Jackson – RB St. Louis
15) Miles Austin – WR Dallas
16) DeSean Jackson – WR Philadelphia
17) Cedric Benson – RB Cincinnati
18) Ryan Grant – RB Green Bay
19) DeAngelo Williams – RB Carolina
20) Shonn Green – RB NY Jets
21) Calvin Johnson – WR Detroit
22) Reggie Wayne – WR Indianapolis
23) Roddy White – WR Atlanta
24) Larry Fitzgerald – WR Arizona
25) Tony Romo – QB Dallas
26) Tom Brady – QB New England
27) Brandon Marshall – WR Miami
28) Matt Schaub – QB Houston
29) Pierre Thomas – RB New Orleans
30) Knowshon Moreno – RB Denver
31) Marques Colston – WR New Orleans
32) Joseph Addai – RB Indianapolis
33) Greg Jennings – WR Green Bay
34) Arian Foster – RB Houston
35) Jamaal Charles — RB Kansas City
36) Anquan Boldin – WR Baltimore
37) Philip Rivers – QB San Diego
38) Jahvid Best – RB Detroit
39) Beanie Wells – RB Arizona
40) Ronnie Brown – RB Miami
41) Steve Smith – WR Carolina
42) Antonio Gates – TE San Diego
43) Jermichael Finley – TE Green Bay
44) Malcom Floyd – WR San Diego
45) Vernon Davis – TE San Francisco
46) Steve Smith – WR New York Giants
47) Chad Ochocinco – WR Cincinnati
48) Jonathan Stewart – RB Carolina
49) Clinton Portis – RB Washington
50) Marion Barber III – RB Dallas
51) Mike Wallace – WR Pittsburgh
52) Dallas Clark – TE Indianapolis
53) Dwayne Bowe – WR Kansas City
54) Brett Favre – QB Minnesota
55) Reggie Bush – RB New Orleans
56) Ricky Williams – RB Miami
57) LeSean McCoy – RB Philadelphia
58) Lee Evans – WR Buffalo
59) Michael Crabtree – WR San Francisco
60) Hakeem Nicks – WR New York Giants
61) Hines Ward – WR Pittsburgh
62) Felix Jones – RB Dallas
63) Kevin Kolb – QB Philadelphia
64) Jay Cutler – QB Chicago
65) CJ Spiller – RB Buffalo
66) Michael Bush – RB Oakland
67) Cadillac Williams – RB Tampa Bay
68) Brandon Jacobs – RB New York Giants
69) Matt Forte – RB Chicago
70) Ahmad Bradshaw – RB New York Giants
71) Mike Sims-Walker – WR Jacksonville
72) Joe Flacco – QB Baltimore
73) Matt Ryan – QB Atlanta
74) Donald Driver – WR Green Bay
75) Terrell Owens – WR Cincinnati
76) Bernard Berrian – WR Minnesota
77) Jeremy Maclin – WR Philadelphia
78) Pierre Garcon - WR Indianapolis
79) Percy Harvin - WR Minnesota
80) Jerome Harrison – RB Cleveland
81) Chester Taylor – RB Chicago
82) Donovan McNabb – QB Washington
83) Devin Hester – WR Chicago
84) Brent Celek – TE Philadelphia
85) Wes Welker – WR New England
86) Eli Manning – QB New York Giants
87) Visanthe Shiancoe – TE Minnesota
88) Jason Witten – TE Dallas
89) Justin Forsett – RB Seattle
90) Donald Brown – RB Indianapolis
91) Steve Breaston – WR Arizona
92) Johnny Knox – WR Chicago
93) Jabar Gaffney – WR Denver
94) Darren Sproles – RB San Diego
95) Thomas Jones – RB Kansas City
96) Tony Gonzalez – TE Atlanta
97) Zach Miller – TE Oakland
98) Santana Moss – WR Washington
99) Robert Meachem – WR New Orleans
100) Dez Bryant – WR Dallas