Take a deep breath friends and fellow fans of football and fantasy football as well, we are back! The “lock-out” is over and the pre-season has been in full swing, practices and all that other good stuff, as the boys of Fall are ready to go.
So it is time for all of us to be ready as well, do our studying and homework because draft time is coming, quicker than we thought.
Let me take a second to welcome you all to my third fantasy football pre-season preview here at CamelClutchBlog.com. As always I will be bringing you my top 20 fantasy football players per position, some players to avoid, and some sleepers that can give you great rewards for little pay. All positions are rated in a Point Per Catch league, with 6 point touchdowns. My list may look different from some you have seen, and remember this is my opinion of who I like, and the PPC chances the outlook on backs and receivers.
The big question everyone has been asking me is “Shark, who is the overall number 1 pick?”, and to be perfectly honest, that’s a fantastic question. With the lockout, and shortage of free-agent time, some players are holding out, some are still unsigned, and many of the players still seem to be off a notch. Big time players like Peyton Manning will not be doing much the remainder of the pre-season, and makes us wonder “is he ready?”. Also there is Chris Johnson with the Titans, who is holding out and looking for a huge contract. Can he actually sit and miss serious game time? Is this the same we had last year with Vincent Jackson? This and many other questions will be touched on in this segment. I will ask some questions and giving the answer to help you and your team this year. So as always sit back, read and relax as we step forward and move towards another great season!
Q: Do I take a QB in the first round? If so is it Mike Vick or Aaron Rodgers?
A: This has been the most popular one I have heard this off-season. We saw many times last year where Aaron Rodgers carried a fantasy team on his back and there is little reason he won’t do it again this season. 32 overall TDs and over 4,000 yards of offense is no joke. In many leagues he was the second overall point scorer. Meanwhile, fantasy players everywhere were falling in love with Mike Vick last season, but can we trust what Vick brings? Last season he did bring 30 overall TDs while missing 4 games, also adding over 3,700 total yards. We know what Vick was once before, but his team is packed with talent, and he is a year wiser in this system.
My answer is yes! You certainly take either of these 2 guys in the first round, but it does depends on where you select. Some say Vick can be the first overall pick, but let’s not dare shoot down a top flight back in favor of any QB.
A: The answer again boils down as to where you draft. Guys like Darren McFadden, despite sharing, can very well be a better choice than perhaps even the third best WR. RB is always the fancy draft pick. It is always hard to pass on a guy who has the chance to see the most possible touches. The top WRs go fast, but even the mediocre RB manages to go even faster.
My answer is touchy, but I always go with the better RB on the board.
Q: What teams or players do I avoid due to the teams situation?
A: New players, new coaches, new systems, it all can be a factor and sometimes seems to scare people more than it should. Does a new offense really hurt Sam Bradford? Can top backs like Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson have big years with new QBs in a new system? Hey, if the hot girl decides to dye her hair dark after having it blonde, does it make her less attractive? Nope, it does not, and should not sour you towards taking chances on players. Every new experience can be shaky, but if it comes to it, you can’t pass on Larry Fitzgerald forever because you fear Kevin Kolb.
My answer, always take a shot at the best player on the board by talent, not by influence.
Q: What rookies do I trust, if any?
A: Last year we were all in love with San Diego RB Ryan Mathews, and as we all saw last season, it did not pan out. Meanwhile those who were patient with Dez Bryant had a nice addition late in the season. Rookies are always a crap-shoot and looking to take one any round before 5 is a drafter looking to try and look smart if it works. However, if you are in a situation where a rookie looks attractive as compared to what is next, here are some ones to think about:
WR Julio Jones of Atlanta: With great speed and size, and getting the luxury of playing along with Roddy White, the youngster out of Alabama can prove to be a nice late addition to any roster. He seems to be learning quickly, and spent pre-camp time working with Matt Ryan. A seventh round pick is not out of the question.
RB Daniel Thomas of Miami: Thomas can rumble, and suddenly is the main back in a system that rushed 475 times last season. Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams are both gone, and the only competition really is Reggie Bush, who we all know is more of a pass catcher than a load carrying RB. Brown should see some action early and if he can handle it, often. Fourth round is possible but only if you are in a desperate situation for a RB.
RB Mark Ingram of New Orleans: Pierre Thomas seems to love the DL, and hardly is safe to not get injured. Reggie Bush is now gone and there should be some playing time for Ingram. Sean Payton is not a run happy coach, but realizes he needs more ball control to help his defense. Ingram can be a bruising back, so goal-line carries are possible. He should not be a top part of the draft pick, maybe after round 8.
K Alex Henery of Philadelphia: No I am not craz. This is real, so read ahead. No he is not an early pick, but be patient with your kicker and the Eagle rookie could pay off nicely. The Eagles loved him so much that not only did they draft him in the fourth round but they also let long time kicker David Akers leave. His foot is a hammer, and with this high power offense he can get lots of chances.
Q: Who is the Number 1 overall pick?
A: It is still a very tough decision, much like years back when it was “Priest Holmes or L. T.?” 3 or 4 players can make a great case for the top spot, but as always, depends on your league. In playing a PPC league my heart has to go to Arian Foster. He was a pure beast last year, catching, running and carrying the load in the red zone. While Chris Johnson plays holdout, and Adrian Peterson works with a new QB, I believe the second year stud Foster should be the top guy. Of course this argument could go on for days.
My answer has to be Arian Foster
Now we go from the questions to the rankings. Here is my top 20 per position come draft day.
1. Arian Foster, Houston Texans: With over 1,600 yards, 66 catches and 18 total TDs, Foster was the main squeeze last year for fantasy owners and the most feared by opponents. He did all that with a knee injury, so what can he do healthy? You shall see.
2. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings: A guy I never owned personally ever, he still is the popular name in the league. His numbers have gone down a bit the last few seasons, but he will be playing with Donovan McNabb who loves to throw screens to RBs. Double-digit TDs can never be wrong.
3. Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans: Big scare with a threat of a hold-out puts him here. So does new QB Matt Hasselbeck. He has great hands as well, and can produce over 2,000 yards. He is hard to pass up, but keep an eye on his decision when to play.
4. Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs: To think, Thomas Jones actually had 15 more carries last year, and saw lots of early goal-line touches. Charles still managed 45 catches and 8 total TDs. Yes it seems like he starts slow, but his reward his huge. This guy has the makings of a fantasy stud. He had 1,467 yards in a time share last season and that speaks for itself.
5. LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles: The player they call “Shady” made a perfect shade over the memory of Brian Westbrook. 78 catches, over 1,000 rushing yards and 9 total TDs are exactly what has been expected of lead backs in Philly. Next year he could be the overall Number 1.
6. Rashard Mendenhall, Pittsburgh Steelers: His TD prowess is to hard to pass up. Yes he does not catch as many passes as any player in front of him here or some behind, but he gets the big yards and gets plenty of chances in close to score.
7. Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens: Just when we thought it was safe for him to be the clutch goal-line guy, boom in comes Ricky Williams. However Rice has the ability to catch 50-70 passes and is tough to bring down in the open field. If the Ravens choose to work him more, he will produce every single thing expected of him.
8. Michael Turner, Atlanta Falcons: Turner was healthy in 2010, and he brought back the big numbers he had 2 seasons ago. 12 TDs and over 1,300 yards is top 10 material, but you wonder how much more he is worth if he catches passes.
9. Ahmad Bradshaw, New York Giants: Let the arguments begin about him not being the goal-line guy, and how you can never trust a New York Giants’ back. I however will put stock in Bradshaw, who caught 47 passes and carried for over 1,200 yards last year, as well as 8 TDs. He is a talented back, and Brandon Jacobs is always a fumble away from the bench.
10. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars: We had to get him in the top 10, but some off-season surgery makes me slightly scared. Despite missing 2 games last year, he still managed over 1,300 yards and 34 catches plus 7 TDs. If Drew can stay healthy he is a value, even at 10.
11. Darren McFadden, Oakland Raiders: The McFadden we expected to see was there last season. He looked fast, sleek and confident as he went for over 1,100 yards, 47 catches and 9 TDs. You may have to deal with an injury or 2, but when he’s on, he is right on.
12. Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers: So many “ifs” and “or’s” with Gore, but the truth is he is a numbers producer. 50 plus catches in each of the last 3 seasons, the ability to ease past 1,000 yards, and 2 seasons ago when healthy punched in 13 TDs. Gore needs this season to prove to be a top tier back and that he can stay healthy. Looking at the QB situation he should get plenty of chances.
13. Stephen Jackson, St. Louis Rams: He managed to play all 16 games last year, and his team is improving. Yes he had under 4 yards per carry but he had 40 plus catches again and over 1,200 yards. As QB Sam Bradford learns the NFL ways, Jackson is a great asset to have.
14. Matt Forte, Chicago Bears: No Forte is not done. He did get off to a slow start, but managed a career high with 4.5 yards per carry, and got himself back over 1,000 yards rushing. He fits well in Mike Martz system, and they should be expected to check down more as WR is always a question mark here.
15. LeGarrette Blount, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: He started just 7 games and early in the season who really knew this guy? All he did was gain 5 yards per carry, over 1,000 yards and 6 TDs. He isn’t the fastest runner, but more than strong enough to clobber would be tacklers. If he can work in the passing game he can be a top 5 back soon.
16. Peyton Hillis, Cleveland Browns: I may get arguments here, but I find him hard to trust. However in the past he has come up with 1,000 yard seasons, and last year a stunning 61 catches. He’s big and strong, has a FB body with decent RB speed. If he can avoid fumbles and a shaky offense, he is quite a steal at 16.
17. Felix Jones, Dallas Cowboys: Marion Barber is gone, so there are more catches and carries for Jones. Tashard Choice is a nice compliment, but Jones has explosive speed in the open field, and also tallied 45 catches last season. He is tough enough for goal-line and fast enough for big break TDs.
18. Knowshon Moreno, Denver Broncos: He will be the lead back, but now goal-line specialist Willis McGahee is here so Moreno may lose some TDs. He does have good hands and good speed, but he needs to prove to be tough to get the juice.
19. BenJarvis Green-Ellis, New England Patriots: Where did he come from? Not to many people care after last season’s performance. Over 1,000 yards and 13 TDs make us all believers now. The Pats no longer have tons of backs sharing the load, so he could have an even better season here in 2011.
20. Mike Tolbert, San Diego Chargers: Signs are pointing towards Ryan Mathews starting the season on the bench with an injury, and with Darren Sproles gone it opens the door for lots of Tolbert. He’s beefy and runs hard and managed 11 TDs last season despite sharing and being in a pass happy offense. That also should not hurt, as Tolbert managed 25 catches last season. This is a super-sleeper pick if Mathews can’t go early. He will steal the show.
Others to consider late: Fred Jackson,Bills, Ryan Torain,Redskins, Cedric Benson,Bengals, DeAngelo Williams,Panthers, Shonn Greene, Jets
Avoid early: Pierre Thomas, Saints, Ryan Mathews, Chargers, Joseph Addai, Colts, Ryan Grant, Packers, Reggie Bush, Dolphins
1. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers: the Super Bowl Champion QB only had a mere 32 TDs last season, and many feel his weapons will only be stronger this year. He runs well too, not like Vick, but knows when to take off and can score on the ground. 40 TDs is not a stretch for the guy who should be the first QB off the board, perhaps in the top 5.
2. Tom Brady, New England Patriots: 37 TDs and 3,900 passing yards is truly MVP material, and now Brady has new weapons to play with. T.J. and Chad Ochocinco are here to prove they were the talent in Cincy, and mixed with young TEs and young WRs, Brady could look close to 40 TDs this season.
3. Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles: Started the season on the bench, then simply took the league by storm. 30 total TD’s over 3,000 passing yards and over 600 rush yards are the makings of a top RB that passes. If he stays healthy and stays smart he can do it all over again. He has weapons all over the field, just has to learn some patience.
4. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints: Hard to imagine 4,300 yards and 33 total TDs could actually be a decline. Brees the last 3 seasons has done it all, and has been a great choice as a fantasy QB. Some of the guys ahead of him are more flashy picks, so Brees has the possibility to slip into the third round.
5. Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers: The numbers get better every year, and he has become a big time QB. Rivers did it last year with half a WR corp and still had huge numbers, imagine where he can be now with everyone in camp and a depleted run game.
6. Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts: A neck injury has many people worried about what Manning can offer this year. When healthy he is the smoothest passer and sharpest player in the league. He will have some main weapons back, and still tallied 4,700 yards last year and over 30 TDs again. Real hard to pass on, but watch his health closely.
7. Matt Schaub, Houston Texans: A healthy Owen Daniels helps, as well as a stud back in Arian Foster, and some WR named Andre Johnson. Schaub can get it down field in a hurry, and has plenty of weapons that can haul it in. He is a consistent 4,000 yard and 20 plus TD guy, so don’t wait too long for him.
8. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons: Better numbers every year, one of the top WRs in Roddy White, plus a great TE and a speedy rookie added to the mix. He did have a rough playoff, but that is all about the learning, and Ryan can very well be headed for the 30 TD club this year.
9. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys: Forget about his injury and remember this stuff: WRs Miles Austin and Dez Bryant, TE Jason Witten and good catching RBs and you will believe again in Romo. Remember when healthy in 2009 he had over 4,000 yards and 27 TDs. He should be plenty valuable if healthy again.
10. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers: Still a consistent winner, but his numbers and health are getting shaky. He missed 4 games in 2010, and for that lost 1,000 pass yards and 9 TDs off of his previous season. He is still plenty good, and hard not to like at 10.
11. Eli Manning, New York Giants: If you don’t lose points for INTs, you should have faith in Manning. His TD numbers go up every year, and although he lost some weapons, he still has Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham out there to go get it. His numbers should be consistent to the past few seasons.
12. Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: When he was drafted all the buzz was about his awkwardness and poor delivery. What did that lead too? A shocking 10-6 record in 2010, 25 TD passes and over 3,400 yards. Oh yeah, and he also ran for over 300. He has found instant success and looks ready to get even better.
13. Matt Cassel, Kansas City Chiefs: Did not look like a fluke last season. 27 TDs and over 3,000 yards looked similar to what he did in New England. Players around him are coming into their own, so Cassel can only get better, although this year the schedule will be tougher.
14. Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens: Once he found the groove with new WRs he looked like what he was expected to be. 26 TDs last season make people believe in Flacco, now if he can only win the real big ones.
15. Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams: They brought in more WR help to add to the speedy bunch he had last year. Bradford learned a lot in his rookie year and in the mold of a Matt Ryan should only get better for an improving Rams team.
16. Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears: His fantasy numbers are not terrible, but some still believe he can bring so much more. Cutler always seems to be a feast or famine type guy, and that does not bode well for him to be your number 1 QB, but he does make a good fantasy back-up.
17. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions: A make or break season for sure. Stafford has the players around him to work with, and in the 3 games he played last year, he managed 6 TDs to just 1 INT. He has only played in 13 of a possible 32 games in his career, which raises many eyebrows, but he does have the talent.
18. David Garrard, Jacksonville Jaguars: It appears that the starting job is still his, at least for this season, so Garrard will come in and do his usual. He has huge games, and rather slow games, so if you draft him, start him wisely. 28 total TDs is a big number, but only 2,700 pass yards make us doubt enough to rate him a fantasy back-up at best.
19. Kyle Orton, Denver Broncos: It appears that he will start and play the majority of the snaps for Denver, at least early. He raced out to a huge start and ended with 20 TDs and 3,600 passing yards, but never gets a drop of respect. You can do worse for sure.
20. Kevin Kolb, Arizona Cardinals: A trade has made him the go to guy in Arizona, and he does have Larry Fitzgerald to throw too. His problem is a lack of a solid running game, and Kolb still isn’t a proven leader, but he does like to throw it often. Last season were his career highs, 1,197 yards passing and 7 TDs, still hard to trust him.
The Rest: At the end go with the likes of Chad Henne, Dolphins, Mark Sanchez, Jets, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bills before you choose to go with aging vets such as Donovan McNabb, Vikings, Matt Hasselbeck, Titans and Alex Smith, 49ers.
Wide Receiver/ Tight End:
1. Roddy White, Atlanta Falcons: Why White over the rest? Well he stays healthy as he played in all 16 games each of the last 3 seasons. He nabbed 115 passes last year, which shows his numbers only go up, and he had double-digit TDs again last year. On a much improving Falcons team, he is the best weapon they have.
2. Andre Johnson, Houston Texans: Even when it seems like he has an off year, he still brings in 86 catches and 8 TDs. He did miss 3 games in 2010, but his injuries are not as dreadful as they were in seasons past. He is a giant, with great strength, and is still just 30 years old.
3. Hakeem Nicks, New York Giants: They need a leader at WR now that Steve Smith is gone, but as you remember, when Smith was the lead guy he caught 117 passes, so it shows that Nicks can get even better than the 79 catches and 11 TDs he had last year. He sure looks like he has what it takes to be a top 5 WR.
4. Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals: A “bad” season by Larry’s standards had him with a mere 90 catches, 1,137 yards and 6 TDs last year. Now he has a possible upgrade at QB. Yes the QB situation is and if, so Larry is here at 4 instead of 3, 2, or 1.
5. Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions: The Lions should be better this season, and this giant talent at WR should produce big numbers. A healthy 6 foot 5 inch body makes him hard to outjump and his strength and speed make him hard to keep up with. Last year’s 12 TDs should only get higher.
6. Greg Jennings, Green Bay Packers: How can everyone be preaching about what happens when players come back? Jennings is a home run hitting receiver who can play it deep, or play it across the middle. Not as many people liked the 12 TDs and 1,200 plus yards as expected perhaps? This guy has got serious game.
7. Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis Colts: Many say he is on the decline, but yet his 111 catches were a career high and he did find the end zone 6 times. He may have lost a step, but even a step short he can play amongst the elite.
8. Miles Austin, Dallas Cowboys: 69 catches with Jon Kitna at QB most of the year is some good production, despite being down a bit from 2009. Now Romo comes back, and Austin should be back on pace with game breaking speed and big frame. He may fall later than expected, so be ready for him.
9. Mike Wallace, Pittsburgh Steelers: Considered by many to be the fastest WR in the league, Wallace had a breakout season in 2010. He took over exactly where Santonio Holes left off, and should see an increase of his 60 catches and 10 TDs. He can fly, and the Steelers love to try that deep pass.
10. DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles: Another true speedster with the ability to get 6 every time he touches the ball. The main drawback is total catches. He had 62 catches in each of his first 2 seasons and was down to 47 catches last season. He needs the ball more, and with it only good things can happen.
11. Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City Chiefs: Woke up from a deep sleep last season to pump out 15 TDs and 72 catches. This is the Bowe we all believe he can and will be, and as the Chiefs grow as a team he will flourish as the team’s top WR.
12. Dallas Clark, Indianapolis Colts: In 2009, when fully healthy, he grabbed 100 passes and double digit TDs. He is Peyton Manning’s go to guy in the red zone too, which speaks for itself. He is the class of the TEs and is worth falling in the top WRs.
13. Vincent Jackson, San Diego Chargers: Now that contract problems and suspensions are behind him, it is time for Jackson to take over the lead for the Chargers. Big, strong and soft hands make him a unique talent, if he can keep his head in the game.
14. Brandon Marshall, Miami Dolphins: Even with a less than stellar QB he still brought it in 2010. Marshall hauled in 86 catches and over 1,000 yards last season, and now a new offensive approach should help him increase his 3 TDs from last season. He is still a tremendous talent, and he is learning the system well here.
15. Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys: Is there enough balls to go around? There usually seems to be for Witten who passed the 90 catch mark again this past season. Witten his a big target and finds the end zone well, but with Romo back he may lose some passes as Dallas looks to play the deep ball. He is still a great option, a TE with WR numbers.
17. Santonio Holmes, New York Jets: Now it is his team to be the leader, and he has the tools to handle it. With new edition Plaxico Burress here he may lose some end zone shots, but he can rack up grabs and yards. Holmes can be a top 10, and this is the season to prove it.
18. Chad Ochocinco, New England Patriots: We saw what Tom Brady did for Randy Moss, now it is time for him to do the same for Ocho. He still had decent numbers during an awful ending in Cincy, and now here he can use all his talents and end his career on a higher note. Expect numbers to increase here.
19. Mike Williams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: As a rookie in an upcoming system he tallied 65 catches for 11 TDs and 964 yards. Now he is ready to get better, as his QB improves. Williams has the tools to be a big star in this league, but should still fall into the middle rounds.
20. Percy Harvin, Minnesota Vikings: Sidney Rice is gone, and so is Brett Favre. Enter a new deep thrower in Donovan McNabb and Harvin being the top weapon and we should see good numbers from Harvin. 72 catches last year and 6 TDs are good numbers, which Harvin can only hope to improve upon.
More good options: Antonio Gates, Chargers, Wes Welker, Patriots, Dez Bryant, Cowboys, Anquan Boldin, Ravnes, Steve Johnson, Bills
Avoid early: Brandon Lloyd, Broncos, Sidney Rice, Seahawks, Michael Crabtree, 49ers
So here are your top 20 per position and some extras. Take it in, and compare notes to what you think. Coming up in the week I will have sleeper picks and draft day strategy for you all. So keep an eye on the site, and get some great advice for your team from the staff at CamelClutchBlog. Thanks for reading!
If you’d like to hear anything else from me on topics or ideas I can be reached at [email protected]