By Redchair; Sports Editor
It’s fantasy football season! It’s the time where the regular football fan doesn’t really care because it’s preseason and the stars on the team only play one or two possessions. I’ll be honest I usually skip pre-season until the last two weeks of it when rosters have been trimmed and injuries have happened to look for my fantasy football players to draft. No matter if you’re starting fresh with your first draft, you’re continuing on from a keeper league, or you happen to be giving an auction league a try there are things you need to know before drafting. I don’t believe in going into a draft cold and uneducated. Pick up a big name magazine you trust or feel is an easy read for you it’ll come in handy when you’re in your draft and you’re stuck between two players. You’ll also feel a lot more confident. I always go into a draft with a rough outline of what I plan on doing based on the pre-rankings in the league. The real winners of a fantasy football league realize half the work is done before the draft is started. The next part is following through on your draft plan and remaining active in your league. The other have is picking up those waiver wire all-stars before others realize their potential or before their hot streak cools off. Here is some tips I have for the 2012 fantasy football season.
*Breakthrough Player – A player that emerges upon the scene to put up a great amount of points. This player is usually drafted in the middle rounds to post numbers in the top portion of their position or a player who breaks into the elite top five at his position.
*Bust- A player who is drafted in the higher part of your draft that does not live up to their numbers in the past.
*Sleeper – A player who is drafted in the later rounds that makes a significant splash in fantasy football and contributes to your team.
*One-Year Wonder – A player that posts one good season and looks to be on the rise but falls back down to their normal numbers.
*Comeback Player- A player who has a bad season, gets injured, or is believed to be on the decline but happens to post substantial numbers that are more than were predicted.
*Super-Sleeper – A player who is often drafted in the last few rounds or not drafted at all only to contribute a significant amount of fantasy points that was not predicted.
Breakthrough Player: Matt Ryan (Falcons) #11 ESPN/12 Pro Football Weekly
Bust: Matt Flynn (Seahawks) #22 ESPN/13 Pro Football Weekly
Sleeper: Josh Freeman (Buccaneers) #16 ESPN/17 Pro Football Weekly
One-Year Wonder: Cam Newton (Panthers) #5 ESPN/3 Pro Football Weekly
Comeback Player: Phillip Rivers (Chargers) #10 ESPN/9 Pro Football Weekly
Super-sleeper: Brandon Weeden (Browns) #32 ESPN/30 Pro Football Weekly
Matt Ryan always seems to be ranked outside of the top ten for quarterback and that’s fair. In my league last season he finished 8th in points for quarterbacks. In a twelve team league he is a fantasy starter but in smaller leagues he is a bench guy but not this season. Ryan has a top receiver in Roddy White, a serviceable tight end in Tony Gonzalez and he has an emerging top flight receiver in Julio Jones. Each option had at least seven touchdowns last season. Michael Turner at running back is good to have on the ground and will keep the field spread. Many expect Jones to breakout this season and I have to agree with them in his second year. I believe Roddy will continue to produce as will Gonzalez but it’s simple math to explain that if they remain the same and Jones improves that Ryan’s numbers will improve as well. I expect over 4,000 yards passing and he will finally break the 30 touchdown passes in a season.
There has been hype about Matt Flynn after showing glimpses of greatness with the Packers in backup duty. He looks like a nice quarterback and he could produce for the Seahawks in the future but I don’t believe he will this season. I think ESPN’s ranking at 22 is more reasonable than Pro Football Weekly’s ranking. The Seahawks will try and feature Lynch as the first option and he will get fed, but I don’t trust the receiver options the Seahawks have. The injury magnet Sidney Rice and Doug Baldwin as your top options receiving on the team are not what I’d like to see.
My sleeper and comeback player are kind of in same field. Phillip River’s was predicted to be the #2 QB before last season. He struggled and threw 20 interceptions. His top redzone target in Gates was hurt most of the season and his top receiver left in free agency but River’s is a great quarterback that spreads the ball around. His running back Matthews is a pass catcher and Gates should return healthy. The Chargers also signed Meachem to replace Jackson. I trust the combination of Rivers and coach Norv Turner to turn it around and post top 10 numbers if not possibly top 5 numbers. Josh Freeman was overhyped last season to breakout and he failed. He was known for protecting the ball and then threw 22 interceptions to only 16 touchdowns. Even though he is ranked 16 and 17 I believe Freeman might fall even deeper in drafts and because of that I believe he can be a sleeper. He also stole away one of River’s targets and gained a #1 receiving option in Vincent Jackson allowing Mike Williams to have single coverage. The Buccaneers also drafted Doug Martin that should force defenses to focus on the run more than the pass. Don’t forget about Freeman to be more than a bye week flyer. I’d say Peyton Manning is a sleeper but that’s too easy and obvious that is he really a sleeper? Everyone expect a top ten finish out of him anyways. He did miss the entire 2011 season so he will probably win the award for comeback player of the year
The thing about Cam Newton that allowed him to be such a commodity last season wasn’t his touchdown passes (21) it was his touchdown runs (14) that mattered. In most every league a touchdown pass is worth 4 points and a touchdown run is worth 6 points. I do not believe Newton will match his record breaking touchdown runs for a quarterback this season. I don’t believe he will even get double digits in 2012. His passing skills still need to be developed and after teams catered around Steve Smith Cam Newton didn’t do as well in the second half of the season. On the other end of the spectrum I have a hunch that Brandon Weeden will post some relevant fantasy numbers and can be picked up as a free agent. The Browns have a good offensive line starring Joe Thomas and also drafted Trent Richardson to be their leading running back. If the coaching staff gets creative I believe Richardson will have a good year and quietly Weeden is going to have a good year and with the distraction of Richardson in the backfield, Greg Little and Ben Watson can be fantasy options in 2012.
Breakthrough Player: Darren McFadden #11 ESPN/11 Pro Football Weekly
Bust: Willis McGahee #20 ESPN/17 Pro Football Weekly
Sleeper: C.J. Spiller (32/28)/Donald Brown(38/35)/Ryan Williams (52/46)
One-Year Wonder: Beanie Wells (27/24)/ Fred Jackson (14/13)
Comeback Player: Jamaal Charles #9 ESPN/25 Pro Football Weekly
Super-Sleeper: Joe McKnight(72/49)/Keiland Williams(100/NA)/Isiah Pead(59/40)
It’s simple with Darren McFadden, if he can stay healthy for a complete 16 game season he would be considered one of the elite guys. He started off hot last season averaging 5.4 yards per carry and 4 touchdowns through seven games. They need to limit his carries as he has never finished a complete season. Bush is gone and although McFadden’s backups aren’t as good as Bush this is actually a good thing for splitting carries. Bush got a lot of goal line carries. If smart the Raiders limit McFadden but still give him the goal line carries. If smart he might not have as many carries but will still gain more yards receiving and easy carries in the goal line. If all that happens McFadden can finish in the top 5.
If you haven’t heard they have done studies of running backs over 30 that end up declining from there on out. He will be turning 31 this season. Willis McGahee landed himself into a situation where he gained 249 carries last season after Moreno was injured. He only managed 4 touchdowns last season. After signing Peyton Manning to the team many fantasy owners believe they can hit gold with McGahee but I disagree. Other than when Peyton had Edgerrin James, an elite back at the time, most of his running backs are purely serviceable and I also believe the Broncos will rotate guys based on situations.
My comeback player is an easy pick that most will agree with. Jamaal Charles believed to be a break out candidate and was considered a top 5 back last season before tearing his ACL in week 2. Out of all the major injuries that happened last season Charles happened the earliest and I believe has had plenty of time to rehab and from the reports I read he is all ready to go and looks good. The signing of Peyton Hillis scares people off but Charles posted great numbers when he split carries with Thomas Jones. I’m not worried. I expect a top 10 finish from him.
My sleepers and one year wonders seem to go hand in hand. Beanie Wells is the #1 and Ryan Williams is the #2 back in Arizona. Williams was drafted for a reason in 2011 before missing the entire season. Wells is an injury risk and will miss time and miss games. Ryan will steal touches from Wells causing him not to reach double digit touchdowns again. If Wells does suffer a substantial injury Williams could have himself a solid season. Fred Jackson was on his way to a career year in Buffalo before getting hurt. He turns 31 this year and C.J. Spiller, whom was considered a bust, performed last season in Jackson’s absence. Spiller is the more dynamic player and should be the third down back and the leading receiver of the two. I disagree with many who believe Jackson is destined for a 1,000 yard season. They have a good offensive line but defenses figured out the Bill’s quarterback last season and should expect 8 in the box for Jackson. Spiller can line up as a receiver and a punt returner and should gain a lot of yards in 2012. My last sleeper is Donald Brown. He showed flashes last season in Indy that made me believe in him. The Colts should be a lot better compared to last season. The team may be forced into passing a lot when they fall behind in games but Brown is the better pass catcher compared to Delone Carter who struggled last season. Any time you can draft a starting running back in the later rounds I believe that’s a steal.
Joe McKnight and Isiah Pead are both dynamic backs paired with power backs that could both suffer injuries and be out for at least a few weeks. They should gain at least a handful of touch each week as a running back and should also gain yards as returners. These are both hunches picks but what else do you expect for a super sleeper? Keiland Williams I believe could end up as the #1 running back in Detroit. Best is a concussion away from retirement, Leshoure is already going to miss the first two weeks due to suspension and could find himself in the dog house of the coaching staff and Kevin Smith who is believed to start the season is injury prone. Its likely Williams will get a shot and run with it. Pun intended.
Breakthrough Player: Julio Jones #11 ESPN/ 19 Pro Football Weekly
Bust: Vincent Jackson #19 ESPN/ 12 Pro Football Weekly
Sleeper: Pierre Garcon(29/28)/ Demaryius Thomas(24/25)/ Michael Floyd(55/34)
One Year Wonder: Jordy Nelson #13 ESPN/14 Pro Football Weekly
Comeback Player: Jeremy Maclin #22 ESPN/32 Pro Football Weekly
Super Sleeper: Jon Baldwin(51/57)/ Kendall Wright (56/73)
Julio Jones has speed to burn defender but can also jump through the roof and go up and get it. He’s a rare talent. The only concern with Jones is his health and keeping him on the field. He was 41 yards away from posting a 1,000 yard season with 8 touchdowns in his rookie season. He has a good quarterback to get him the ball in Matt Ryan. He has another star wide receiver to keep defenders away from him and a tight end and running back to keep defenses from dropping coverages. He is in the perfect situation to explode this season. A double digit touchdown season and over a thousand yards isn’t a far reach from him and he could easily be in the top ten to fifteen this season.
I’ve never been a huge fan of Vincent Jackson. He’s a big frame with speed but he never posts a high amount of catches. He explodes on favorable matchups and then disappears at times. His play is streaky and he’s going to a worse offense. Unless Freeman bounces back and teams decide to double Mike Williams instead of Jackson he is not going to have 9 touchdown season. Studies have shown also that wide receivers joining new teams often do no perform compared to their previous season. Jordy Nelson is a great wide receiver in the Green Bay Packers dominant offense. I place him in the one year wonder because I do not believe he can repeat his performance of 15 touchdowns ever again in his career. He might not get double digit touchdowns again without an injury to Greg Jennings or Jermichael Finley. That being said I still expect him to increase his catches and be a 1,000 yard receiver with 7 or 8 touchdown catches.
Demaryius Thomas is the #1 option for Peyton Manning. It’s also his third season when receivers tend to take off. The Broncos were known as a running team last season with Tebow and he only caught 32 passes. Insert a pro bowl hall of famer quarterback in Peyton Manning and you should see Thomas match his first two season totals (66 rec, 940 yards, 7 td) in 2012. Pierre Garcon was already tall and fast. He had great seasons with Peyton Manning and still performed in Indy with a horrible quarterback group. Insert the highly touted draft pick Robert Griffin III who can throw the deep ball and also run away from defenders and sparks could happen. After seeing the first preseason game where the two hooked up and Garcon scored a touchdown I was sold. Garcon should be a solid #2 fantasy option. Do you remember the numbers posted with Fitzgerald and Boldin were on the field together? Michael Floyd is a bigger target and more explosive than Boldin. If the quarterback options were better in Arizona then Floyd might be ranked a lot higher. I see him as a solid #3 option.
Jeremy Maclin was ranked as a top 15 wide receiver option last year. With the hype of the “dream team” last season many expected both Maclin and Desean Jackson to have their best seasons yet. Maclin failed to repeat his 2010 numbers and his touchdowns were cut in half. He missed three games with shoulder and hamstring injuries. With an offseason together in camp I believe that the Eagles will start off hot and Maclin could have a career year in reception and could reach his first 1,000 yard season. He might only receive 6-8 touchdowns with an elite back in LeSean McCoy but he should return to a top 15 position. My two super sleepers are based on opportunities and talent. Jon Baldwin is the #2 option in Kansas City and will have his starting quarterback this season. Baldwin also showed up to camp in excellent shape and I believe will have a mini breakout season. Kendall Wright was the top option for RG3 in college. Jake Locker should take over as the quarterback of the Titans and has a big arm. Kenny Britt is the #1 option but has found himself injured throughout his career. Wright could start as the teams slot option receiver and end up as their #1 dead threat option. He might not be a starting fantasy option but he could be guilty of a few explosive weeks.
Breakthrough Player: Brandon Pettigrew #10 ESPN/19 Pro Football Weekly
Bust: Jason Witten #7 ESPN/ 6 Pro Football Weekly
Sleeper: Jacob Tamme #12 ESPN/ 24 Pro Football Weekly
One Year Wonder: Rob Gronkowski #1 ESPN/1 Pro Football Weekly
Comeback Player: Tony Moeaki #31ESPN/20 Pro Football Weekly
Super Sleeper: Lance Kendricks #41 ESPN/33 Pro Football Weekly
For all the football fans who saw my picks I’ll address the major one first. Rob Gronkowski is not going to get 17 touchdowns again. Patriots wide receiver group has improved and they also have a nice group of running backs. The Patriots are known for mixing up their strategies. I can easily see his catches, touchdowns, and yard not repeating itself to last season and probably never again. Brandon Pettigrew I am big on. Did you realize that his numbers last season were 83 receptions, 777 yards, and 5 touchdowns? Stafford had a career year and should continue to post huge numbers at quarterback. With the evolvement of the tight end from last season I could see Pettigrew having around 80 receptions again but posting more yards and more touchdowns. The Lions have a good receiving core and with an offseason program I believe Stafford and Pettigrew will be on the same page.
Jason Witten ruptured his spleen. He is going to miss preseason and possibly a week or two in the regular season. This isn’t an injury where you hurt something but can still do other workout drills. This injury means you do not move or get touched. Witten might be out of game shape and take a few weeks to get into it. The Cowboys offensive line has not looked very good in preseason and Witten might be asked to block more if they continue to struggle. Jacob Tamme and Peyton Manning are a great match. I’d even go as far as calling them a couple. In my mind Tamme is the number #1 red zone target. The only issue is allowing time for Peyton to get back into sync with the speed of the game after missing a year. Lance Kendrick is my supersleeper. He has the talent and ability and is not being challenged for his spot as the #1 tight end on the Rams. The problem is that it’s the Rams though. The offense was horrible last season and there isn’t much hope for improvement. On the bright side the Rams should focus on the run early in the games and Kendricks could be a favorite of Bradfords in checkdowns. The rams are also going to be behind in a lot of games and Kendricks could pick up a lot of garbage yards that fantasy football owners love. With 2011 being the year of the tight end it’s hard to pick a comeback player at this position. That’s why I took the easy way out and picked Tony Moeaki. He’s a pass catching tight end for the Chiefs who missed the entire 2011 season. He’s athletic and the Chiefs also have plenty of other playmakers on the team that will allow Moeaki space to and opportunities to perform. He may not be a starting tight end in a twelve team league but he will be flirting with them.