The Elusive Late Round Running Back

No question about it – it feels soooo good when you hit on a Late Round Running Back (aka LRRB – not to be confused with ROUSs).   You not only set yourself up for great success during the fantasy season, but you are also the envy/scorn of your entire league. The challenge, of course, is actually locking down an LRRB.  You see, LRRBs are not very easy to find…over the last three years, there have only been an average of five per year.  The great thing about LRRBs is that they are low-risk high-reward commodities – so you can get them by the bushel!  You aren’t spending a high draft pick on these guys, but if you hit, they can deliver just like a high draft pick.  Which makes it worth your while to investigate your options before your draft….So let’s get started…

Identifying an LRRB

Before we start looking for an LRRB, we need to know what an LRRB looks like.

  1. LRRBs are drafted late: For most sane fantasy owners, RB37+ are your backup RB’s backup so let’s start there (we are operating in a 12-team league, so RB37 is theoretically drafted after all 12 teams have three RBs each).
  2. LRRBs score a lot of points: LRRBs must end the season as though they were a starting RB, meaning they rank as a top 24 RB.

Everything in this article is taken from two sources (available to all, thanks to the Internets):

  • ADP Data: From FantasyFootballCalculator.com, based on 12-team standard league data.
  • Stats: From KFFL.com, points calculated using standard Yahoo! Scoring.
  • Extra Credit: For those interested in revising data to fit your league’s scoring, all this data is available in spreadsheet form via Box.net.

LRRBs of Seasons Past

Before looking at the present, let’s look to the past and identify recent LRRBs.   The three charts below each represents a different year, and each shows a total of 70 RBs: all the drafted RBs, plus the top scoring undrafted RBs.

A quick way to read these charts: the further to the right the RB falls – the later he was drafted; the higher the RB’s bar rises, the more points he scored. Below are a few points to help you orient yourself….

  • Y-Axis is points scored for each RB.
  • X-Axis is RB ADP.
  • The first vertical dotted line separates RB37+ from the pack, aka The Land of LRRBs.
  • RBs that went undrafted are listed to the right of the second vertical dotted line.
  • The dotted horizontal line represents points scored by RB24 by season’s end.  Consider any RB whose bar breaks through that horizontal dotted line a starting RB.
  • The red bars represent LRRBs – remember, LRRBs were drafted at RB37+ and finished as an RB24 or better.  Below each chart each LRRBs name is shown.

2012 RBs

  1. CJ Spiller – 40th RB selected – 212 points (7th highest)
  2. Mikel LeShoure – 43rd RB selected – 149 points (20th highest)
  3. Alfred Morris – 48th RB selected – 241 points (5th highest)
  4. Danny Woodhead – Undrafted RB – 117 points (24th highest)

2011 RBs

  1. Jonathan Stewart – 37th RB selected – 147 points (24th highest)
  2. Michael Bush – 40th RB selected – 186 points (10th highest)
  3. Willis McGahee – 42nd RB selected – 151 points (21st highest)
  4. Darren Sproles – 44th RB selected – 191 points (7th highest)

2010 RBs

  1. LaDainian Tomlinson – 37th RB selected – 164 points (17th highest)
  2. Thomas Jones – 38th RB selected – 136 points (23rd highest)
  3. Fred Jackson – 41st RB selected – 152 points (21st highest)
  4. Darren McFadden – 42nd RB selected – 220 points (5th highest)
  5. Peyton Hillis – 60th RB selected – 234 points (3rd highest)
  6. Benjarvus Green-Ellis – Undrafted RB – 187 points (15th highest)
  7. Michael Tolbert – Undrafted RB – 157 points (19th highest)

Okay, so now what?  Well, let’s start by identifying some similarities between these LRRBs.  Two trends common to 10 of the 15 LRRBs are (1) going to new team or (2) getting a new HC or OC:

  • Going to a new team: (Sproles, McGahee, Hillis, Tomlinson, Jones)
    • With the exception of Hillis, most of these vets saw some form of success with their previous team – and continued to find success at their new location.
  • New OC or HC: (Woodhead, Stewart, Bush, McFadden,  Jackson)
    • While the players changing teams obviously got new coaches, these LRRBs did too, but stayed on the same team.

Some additional trends common to several LRRBs:

  • Third Year RBs: (Spiller, Hillis, McFadden, Green-Ellis, Tolbert)
    • None of these third-year RBs had fantasy-relevant success in their first two seasons.
  • Strong Offense: (LeShoure, Woodhead, Tolbert, Sproles, Green-Ellis)
    • These RBs benefitted from a high-scoring offense.
  • Rookies: (Morris)
    • Suprisingly, not a lot of Rookie RBs are LRRBs.  Reason being, Rookie RBs are sexy, and starting Rookie RBs are especially sexy and that means a high ADP (LRRB Kryptonite).   Albert Morris was the lone rookie on this list, mainly because no one knew he would start until late in the preseason (typical preseason Shananigans).

Certainly I am not about to declare that any and all RBs who fit these categories will produce big numbers for you this year – but it certainly is a good place to begin looking…

The Candidates

So now that we have an idea of WHAT to look for.  Let’s figure out WHO we should be looking at:

RB37+Looking at the two most common traits of past LRRBs, it turns out that only a handful of our 2013 LRRB candidates are on a new team or has a new coach (excluding rookies).  That being the case, let’s start with LRRB candidate #1 (in no particular order), a newcomer to the west coast…

  • Danny Woodhead –  At the very least, Woodhead should beat out Ronnie Brown as third-down back, while at best he could be involved in some early down work particularly in the event that Ryan Mathews goes down due to an(other) injury.  In other words, Woodhead should have the opportunity to succeed in San Diego.  Last year, Brown finished the season about where Woodhead’s current ADP is today, and I expect Woodhead to improve on Brown’s 2012 stats.   Now, I don’t think the Chargers have a very good team this year, but I do believe they will improve from last year – which should help Woodhead’s numbers.
  • Ryan Williams – Williams is not on a new team, but he has a new coach.  Additionally, Williams is a third-year RB (he missed his entire first year) , so he fits two traits common to LRRBs of seasons past.  And like Woodhead, Williams is battling an incumbent for playing time.  Rashard Mendenhall was signed by the Cardinals and is familiar with Coach Arians and his offense.  In fact, Mendenhall had two 1,000 yard seasons and one 900 yard season in just four years under Arians.  Sounds like a tough challenge for Williams, so why is he on the list?!  Well, I owned Williams last year, and while I wouldn’t say I was impressed with him, I was intrigued.  I mean it’s hard to love any RB that was running behind that abysmal o-line last year.  He certainly has talent – his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield and make a plays in the open field is really what I like best about him.  So Williams might be more of a PPR-special, but this situation is certainly worth monitoring over the summer.  If Williams or his role in the offense doesn’t develop in training camp as much as I think it might, it might be worth taking a look at Mendenhall a few rounds earlier particularly considering the success he’s had with Arians.
  • Shane Vereen – Vereen fits two of the above categories: he is a third year RB, and he plays on a potent offense.  Another Glover Quin, Shane Vereenreason to like him is that Danny Woodhead is no longer on the team, and Woodhead was an LRRB just last year.  In fact if you combined Vereen’s and Woodhead’s points from last year (both played similar roles on the offense), you would get the 12th highest scoring RB.  As a Ridley owner last year, I took notice of Vereen’s skill set.  I was worried every time Vereen was on the field, waiting for Belichick to make the switch after every game.  With Woodhead gone, this could be Vereen’s year.
  • Ben Tate – Like Vereen, Tate is a third year back playing second fiddle.  The Texans are a run-heavy team, and everyone knows that Arian Foster has had a lot (like a LOT) of carries over the past three seasons.  Tate was supposed to have a larger role last year but struggled with injuries all season.  In a twist of fate, Tate has been the healthy Texans RB this offseason, while Foster has been out, resting his calf.  The Ben Tate drum has been beating for a while now, making it hard to differentiate between the hype and the potential.  Even with those beating drums, I would be more than happy having Tate as my backup RB’s backup.
  • Zac Stacy/Isaiah Pead – I liken this situation to the Redskins situation last year – no one knew what the heck was going on!  No one knew Albert Morris this time last year, perhaps one of these RBs could be this year’s Morris.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying the Rams will be able to run with as much success as the Redskins, but the opportunity for someone is there.  Whoever wins will benefit from an offense that reloaded big-time in the offseason.  It’s worth noting that Pead had a chance last year to take the starting gig, but couldn’t do it. Pead is also suspended for Game 1 of this year’s regular season, so in terms of ADP, I am giving the edge to Stacy.  Hopefully the Rams RB situation won’t be as murky as we get closer to our fantasy drafts.

The Verdict….

While it sure helps to draft an LRRB – it is by no means a necessary ingredient for a successful season.  And remember, the search for LRRBs does not end at the draft, it is a season long endeavor: over the last three years, one LRRB each year came from the waiver wire. So good luck, and keep your eyes peeled for that elusive late round running back!

Fast Forward 3 Years

fast_forwardTime sure flies when you aren’t spending every waking second writing a blog!  I can’t believe its been 3 years since I was working on this site, literally every day, all day long leading up to the 2010 fantasy football season.  I know many folks found the info helpful in their quest for glory.  Sadly, for me I finished the ROFFL in dead last.  Let’s hope that my re-entry into the blogosphere does not result in a similar result!

So my apologies for the hiatus, but I am back, temporarily at least.  There should be a new article up in the next few days – we will see if I lost my touch.

Player Rankings and Draft Strategy

Well time is flying.   Not only has the second week of the preseason shoved off, but my ROFFL Draft in AC is just 8 days away!  It’s go time in Fantasy Football Nation!  Games are underway, and that makes such a difference for evaluating fantasy prospects, after spending months speculating about names and staring at stats.  Watching preseason games and seeing players in action is a necessary step in your draft preparation.  Not only is it important to have your player rankings assembled, but you should also have some sort of strategy for how to attack your draft.    This column will include bits of both.

This year, I see two main decisions that need to be made when developing a draft strategy and conveniently enough, they cover the four player positions in this post.

  • WRs vs. RBs – As I will detail a little later, workhorse RBs are becoming scarce creatures.  As is the case with Giant Pandas and Snow Leopards (other scare creatures) workhorse RBs are becoming more rare and therefore more valuable.  So if you are near the top of your draft and have the option of selecting one of these endangered creatures opt for the workhorse RB over the elite QB or Giant Panda.  In comparison to this thin upper crust of elite RBs, I count about 20 WRs who have top value (Tiers 1 & 2) before the value at that position drops significantly.  While a handful of teams still employ a designated lead RB, more teams using the running back by committee model means more RBs have value (though not as high as the workhorse RBs).   While there are more RBs with value than in years past, that does not mean there are more RBs of value than there are WRs of value.  As you will see in the player rankings below, the quality of RBs begin to thin out well before the quality of WR thins out, so don’t get caught with your pants down and without RB depth if your draft is entering Tier 5 of RBs as detailed below.  Bulk up on RBs in the middle of the draft and complete your WR collection towards the end. 
  • TE vs. QB – These two positions are not in direct competition with one another as the WR/RB above.  TE and QB are both similarly deep positions, meaning you may be able to wait to draft these positions while loading up at other positions.  While waiting is an option for these positions, you could also not wait and grab a top-tier TE or QB.  As shown in a previous post (ADP vs. Actuals), unlike WRs and RBs, the top drafted TEs and QBs usually end up being highest scoring players at that position by season’s end.  It is easier to predict success at the TE and QB position than at the WR or RB position; meaning that an early investment in TE/QB tends to pay off its investor.

And finally, remember you aren’t going to be able to win your league on draft day.  It won’t happen.  So if you leave draft day without your ideal team do not despair – there are many weeks in the season to fine tune your team.  It’s called the waiver wire.  At the beginning of the season and near the end are key times to make acquisitions on the waiver wire.

  • At the beginning of the season is where you find the players and defenses who can make a real difference on your team, that for whatever reason, no one knew about in the preseason.  I am talking about Mike-Sims Walker, Mario Manningham, Sidney Rice….and a little later, players like Mendenhall (Week 4) and Miles Austin (Week 5) popped up on the fantasy radar.  As you can see, last year at least, it is WRs who enter the season under the radar and only when the season starts make themselves known to fantasy nation.  So if you leave the draft thin at WRs keep your eyes on the waiver wire.
  • At the end of the season is when many RBs begin to break down….and one of those RBs that break down could be yours!  You never know.  So do not hesitate to pull the trigger when a waiver wire RB gains steam.  At the end of last season we saw Jamaal Charles, Justin Forsett, Arian Foster and Jerome Harrison gain most of their value and take many teams to the fantasy playoffs if not the championship game.  Towards the end of the season is when you make that playoff push and having a RB on a hot streak is a nice asset to have in your pocket.

So while you can still add significant parts to your team after the draft – that does not mean you can mail in your draft.  Just because you can’t win your league at the draft, does not mean you can’t lose your league during the draft, because you can do that.  Keep doing your homework during the season (ie check in to sdubsports) and your team will continue to improve.

One word about my rankers, they do have a PPR bias….On with the gunslingers….

A healthy QB is the best QB. An average of 14 QBs started all 16 games over the last four years.  Those QBs averaged 3800+ yards passing and 24 TDs.  The importance of this is that QBs with those kind of stats are your fantasy starters.  If you are looking at a QB with those stats, you are looking at a QB that will start a minimum of 15 games.  Over the last four years, a QB who has missed two or more stats has thrown 3500+ yards only once.  If you think you are drafting a 3800+ yard QB, you are drafting a QB that will start every game during the season and, as such, the backup QB should be considered an expendable position.  If you wait to draft a QB, which likely lowers the odds of you landing a 3800+ yard passer, then it would be wise to draft more than one QB, thereby raising your odds that one of them will become an elite QB.  Again, in my ADP vs. Actuals column, you will see that it is possible to draft solid QB later in the draft.  Drafting multiple late round QBs improves those chances.

One QB per Tier:

  • Aaron Rodgers – This is my consensus #1 QB.  I have a tough time with this too because he is a potential keeper for my team (did you vote yet?).  He has a favorable schedule against the pass and has an impressive variety of pass catchers.  Donald Driver is the veteran.  Greg Jennings has come into his own these past few seasons.  I expect James Jones and Jordy Nelson to make the leap this year.  And Jermichael Finley made the leap last year.  Combine this with several injured RBs already in preseason, an improved offensive line and I expect big things from this QB.  Did I mention he also ran for five TDs last year?
  • Philip Rivers – I am liking him more and more.  The holdout of Vincent Jackson worried me a bit, but he looked good in his preseason debut and word from camp is that he is developing good chemistry with the WRs on the roster.  He still has Antonio Gates, still has Darren Sproles, and Ryan Mathews looks to be a legitimate RB.  Toss this in with an easy AFC West schedule, and Rivers could well be an undervalued QB.
  • Joe Flacco – His yardage and TD total increased from his first year to his second year, and if you believe Rex Ryan on Hard Knocks, just maintaining rookie year totals is difficult enough to do.  So consider these improvements (700 more yards and 7 more TDs) as a resounding success.  Word is, is that he was badly bruised for much of last season which slowed his fast start to the season.  Through the first six games, he had 11 TDs and averaged 279 yards per game.  Then he got hurt.  He is healthy now, and has two new WRs and two rookie TEs.  If you consider Anquan Boldin a 1,000+ yard and 5+ TD WR, then Flacco has 4,000+ yards passing and 25+ TDs.  That sounds good to me.
  • Matthew Stafford – Stafford did not get to finish his rookie year due to injury, but if he had he easily would have finished the year as the top rookie passer.  This year, he still has his main weapon, Calvin Johnson, he also has three new ones: Nate Burleson, Tony Scheffler and Jahvid Best.  This should translate to more plays in the passing game.  Playing in a dome always helps QB stats and the Lions figure to be down for many games this year, meaning many opportunities to pass the ball.
  • Josh Freeman – I have a feeling about Freeman.  He made some plays in the rains of Miami last week (4-4 and a TD) and like to Stafford looks to make a leap in his second year in the league.  Like Stafford, Freeman has some added help on the offensive side of the football, the difference is that Freeman’s new impact players are rookies: Arrelious Benn and Mike WilliamsKellen Winslow returns and if his knees hold up will be a virtual lock to finish the season as a top TE.  The running game, behind Carnell Williams, was also effective in his first preseason action.  Freeman’s schedule is very passer friendly, particularly in the fantasy playoffs.  A lot of positives for Tier 5.

Red Flags on Blue Chips

  • Ben Roethlisberger – As soon as Big Ben comes off the board there will likely be much commotion in your draft room.  He is a tough bird to pin.  He will likely miss only four games, but that is a quarter of the season.  If you expect him to repeat his personal best season last year (despite rumors in Pitt of emphasizing the run more this year) that translates to about 3300 yards and 20 TDs.  That would be his ceiling.  Unfortunately his schedule does not facilitate such a scenario: five of his final six games (Weeks 11-15) are against elite pass defenses.  Combine the loss of his top WR (Santonio Holmes), his top lineman and Rashard Mendenhall’s first year as starter, I would be wary of this QB.

Rise of the RBBC. If you haven’t heard by now – teams are using the Running Back by Committee.  Last year, only eight RBs logged 250+ rushing attempts.  Compare this to four years ago, when there were 17 RBs with 250+ rushing attempts.  This scarcity creates value and the top RBs should be the first players drafted in your league.

One RB per Tier:

  • Ryan Mathews – I was skeptical of the hype, but he delivered big time against Chicago (not a cream puff defense).  After this first preseason preview, I made the sacrilegious move of bumping him into the elite seven (ahead of Steven Jackson).  Unlike Jackson, Mathews does not have an injury history.  Unlike Jackson, Mathews plays for an elite offense.  Both RBs have a fun AFC West/NFC West schedule.  Both players also catch the ball, though Jackson will undoubtedly surpass Mathews in this category.  Add it up, and Mathews could be a very valuable fantasy investment for years to come.
  • Ryan Grant – I am starting to get worried about Grant.  He was concussed in his first preseason game.  Last season was his best season yet and perhaps more is to come, but the reliance on the pass (and his average receiving skills) along with these early injuries cause me some concern.
  • Michael BushDarren McFadden cannot stay healthy and I don’t put much stock in Michael Bennett.  Bush was a projected first round pick prior to breaking his leg at Louisville, so the skill set is there.  I did not like what I saw from Jason Campbell in his first preseason action, but at the same time it was better than having Jamarcus Russell back there, which will only help the running game.  Bush is a big back with power, but he can also be a receiver out of the backfield.  Potential City.
  • CJ Spiller – Believe it or not, I liked him prior to his Thursday night breakout.  By now he is absolutely shooting up draft boards.  He looked good in his first game and better in his second.  Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch should be healthy at or near the beginning of the regular season, but Spiller clearly has skill.  And skill does not sit, especially after the entire nation has seen it.   He will make Buffalo a better team and will not be held back as much as I first thought by a team that lacks surrounding talent.
  • Bernard ScottCedric Benson has two problems.  A penchant for legal trouble and a talented RB behind him.  The way I see it, his days are numbered and the countdown begins in 2010.  I fully expect Benson to be the starter, but this year I expect more of a time share than last year.  The Bengals are adding weapons to the passing game which will only help the running game.  Don’t draft Scott expecting him to start, draft him for the Jamaal Charles factor.
  • Kareem Huggins – Huggins was a last-minute add and took my ranker to one over my scheduled 62 RBs.  I included him for three reasons: (1) Derrick Ward looks terrible, (2) Carnell Williams has a long history of injury and (3) he has been a star in training camp.  He will be featured in the next preseason game, so keep your eye out for him.  I think Tampa Bay could be an underrated team going into 2010.

Red Flags on Blue Chips

  • Kevin Smith – I have this sneaking suspicion that Kevin Smith will play a role in fantasy football this year.  Comeback player of the Year?  He was decent when he was healthy last year (especially in PPR leagues) while on a bad team with a rookie QB.  Unfortunately an injury ended that and a new first round pick by the name of Jahvid Best is stealing all the headlines in Detroit.  Most people, including myself expected Smith to open the season on the PUP List, but I think he will eventually see some preseason action.  While I still think Best will have a bigger role on the offense, I still see Smith getting playing time on an offense that could be significantly improved from last year.
  • Leon Washington – This red flag is in the form of a broken leg.  While I also expected Washington to open the year on the PUP list, he is said to be slated for playing time this weekend.  I love Justin Forsett, but Washington has been getting lots of love from Coach Carroll.  Perhaps it is lip service, but I don’t think so.  He said Washington had more speed than Forsett and was a bigger home run threat.  When both players are of a similar size, why would you play the one of lesser talent – in this case Forsett.  The Seahawks have a dream schedule against the run: 6 bottom tier run defenses, and only one game against an elite run defense.  So someone in this backfield is in for a good season.

Loading up. What do you do with teams with several good WRs.  Is it safe to draft them both or are you exposing yourself to undue risk?  Over the last four years, an average of five teams per year had two players (WRs or TEs) with 1,000 yards receiving in the same season.  Last season was the bumper crop: seven teams had two players with 1,000+ yards receiving.  Those teams were San Diego, Pittsburgh, New England, Indianapolis, Green Bay, Dallas and Arizona.  Dallas, Indy and San Diego had a TE  in that group reach the pinnacle.  What is common to these teams is a studly QB.  Six of those seven teams had a 4,000-yard QB and the other had Kurt Warner.  So if you are interested in two WRs on the same team, or interested in a team’s #2 WR the first thing to look at is the QB.  If the QB is capable of throwing 4,000 yards, that is a good first check.  Otherwise, consider your other options.

Another way to identify a top WR is if you can confidently identify a top QB.  Over the last four years, 26 QBs have thrown for 4,000+ yards.  Over that time, those QBs have produced 38 1,000+ yard WRs (and for additional 1,000+ yard TEs).  Over those four years, only two out of the 26 QBs failed to produce a 1,000+ yard WR.  Those are good odds.   If you feel confident in a QB, you may as well be confident in his top target, because the odds are, they will both have successful seasons.  So don’t hesitate to either double dip in a team’s WR corp or use the WR-QB same team combo either.

One WR per Tier:

  • Greg Jennings – I bumped Jennings up after the first preseason game.  Last year, he was the victim of the offensive line not giving Aaron Rodgers enough time.  This year should be different.  The development of the other receiving options will also force the defense to cover more thereby  increasing the possibility of Jennings getting open and making plays.  Rodgers is a shoe-in for a solid season, so expect Jennings to follow suit in 2010.
  • Michael Crabtree – Crabtree surprised me last year.  Consider that he averaged 56.8 yards receiving per game – more than Hakeem Nicks (56.4), Percy Harvin (52.7) and Jeremy Maclin (50.8), his fellow rookie wideouts.  Now, consider that Crabtree missed all of training camp and much of the beginning of the season and still outperformed them.  With very little preparation going into the season, he still outdelivered these unquestionably talented players.  As long as San Francisco continues to get him the ball, expect that a full offseason, a full training camp and opening the season as the starter to yield a much improved second year in the league.
  • Jermey Maclin – Unike Crabtree, there is no question what type of offense Philadelphia has: they pass the football.  Maclin played very well last season and while defenses pay attention to the speed to Desean Jackson, Maclin will have more room to make plays.  The Philadelphia schedule is anti-run and pro-pass which could be beneficial to his fantasy potential.
  • Legedu Naanee – I liked him last year in his limited role and now it looks like he will open the season as a starting WR.  His chemistry is improving with Philip Rivers as proven by his TD reception last week.  While Malcolm Floyd is the deep threat, I see Naanee as a chain mover and a PPR Beast.  Could be a very valuable late round addition to your fantasy team.
  • Davone Bess – Similar to Naanee, Bess is PPR Beast.  Last year he had 76 catches.  Surprised?  It looks like Brian Hartline will open the year as the starter opposite Brandon Marshall, but Bess should still have a role as a slot receiver.  I expect his reception total to drop from last year, but with the presence of Marshall, I also expect there to be more room to make yards after the catch.
  • Kevin WalterJacoby Jones gets all the love this year.  Despite recently signing an extension with the Texas, Water being pushed by Jones for that #2 role opposite Andre Johnson.  Walter averages 60 catches a year and that might very well be the ceiling for him.  But all the love to Jones, means Walter will drop in many drafts and he could be a sound investment in a pass-heavy offense.
  • Dexter McCluster – I was optimistic about McCluster but didn’t know exactly how they would use the rookie and whether or not he could deliver on all of the hype.  Well if the first game is any indication, KC is looking to get him the ball whenever they can.  And McCluster will deliver.  As the season progresses, I expect him to get better and better.  Similar to how the Vikings got Percy Harvin the ball last year (while Harvin is a larger WR) I expect McCluster to be used in a similar manner and produce similar results.

Red Flags on Blue Chips

  • Wes Welker – Well he did it.  Last night, Welker defied all odds and played in a game and caught two balls.  I was skeptical of the Patriots and thought they would tease Fantasy Nation with Welker’s recovering and then stash him on the PUP List to start of the season, but that paranoia seems to be only that, paranoia.  He may not be 100% back, but he is back.  Keep an eye on how well he moves because he could be a valuable steal if his health is fully back.
  • Santonio Holmes – Word from Jets camp is that he is outplaying the field.  I was never a believer of him in Pittsburgh, but his stats are impressive.  The Jets are more of a run first team, and Holmes is suspended for the first four games.  A new team/offense and a four-game suspension makes a 1,000+ yard season extremely difficult and I expect it to take him some time to get up to game speed after a four-game layoff, but as the fantasy playoffs approach, Holmes could prove a wise late-round investment for fantasy owners.
  • Vincent Jackson – This guy worries me.  I dropped him all the way to #34, and even then I am not 100% confident I would take him.  Three game suspension, animosity with the team, a team that is known for taking a hard stance with its players, combined with WRs in camp who are making his absence forgettable.  Sounds to me like San Diego Management is going to win this standoff.   Maybe a WR4 with upside.

Tight End. Just two tiers here.  I think the position is that deep.  I think the top-tier is far and away better than the second, and there may even be a Tier 1A and Tier 1B with a significant difference in their end of year stats, but I would be confident every week with a Tier 1 TE on my fantasy roster.

One TE per Tier:

  • Vernon Davis – I love this guy.  He has incredible speed and incredible size.  He is Megatron XL.  His potential was revealed last year, and I don’t think that was a fluke.  If the 49ers want to succeed this year, they are going to have to tap into the potential of Megatron XL in 2010.
  • Chris Cooley – I love me some Redskins but I was not sure what the deal with Cooley was until their game last week.  It looks like he is (1) fully recovered from his broken ankle and (2) a favorite target of Donovan McNabb.  His success may have been a game plan thing, so monitor his production the coming weeks, but Cooley looks like his old self, which is a consistent fantasy producer.

Red Flags on Blue Chips

  • Owen Daniels – A great start to 2009 was ended by an injury which is threatening the start of 2010.  Houston is lavishing praise on all of its TEs not named Owen Daniels.  James Casey and Garrett Graham are getting positive press while the only press for Daniels is an expectation to be ready by Week 1.  Not ready to start and contribute, just ready.  The fact that his contract has not been renewed is another red flag.  I can see the Texans playing their younger TEs more in order to kickstart the future.  I am waiting on Daniels and if he is there late, I may grab him, but I am definitely grabbing (for the first time ever) a backup TE for insurance.

Thats it!  One week till the ROFFL Draft.  Good luck boys!

Keeper Derby – Test your Skills

You will be mine. Ohh yes.

One of the challenges of being in a keeper league is predicting which players the other owners in your league will keep.  Only after you determine which players each team is keeping, can you know who will be available for you to draft.  In my keeper league, the ROFFL, each owner keeps two players.  The first two rounds are devoted to announcing our keepers, and then the re-draft begins in Round 3.

So, this is where I outsource the labor or predicting each team’s keepers to the online masses.  A few items to keep in mind when predicting keepers….

  1. The listed team names are fake (to protect the innocent, and mock them too).
  2. The top five keeper options are listed – select TWO for each team.
  3. The ROFFL is a PPR league that also awards 6 Points for ALL touchdowns.  (Further details can be found here.)
  4. The 14 polls are in draft order.  After all the keepers are announced, Team Nerd will pick first,  then Team Creep, and so on.

Consider this your community service and do my fellow ROFFL-ers a favor by helping them with their keeper selections.  Believe me, we need your help.  Thanks and hope you enjoy!

If you made it this far – thank you and good karma to you.

Targets & Red Zone Opportunities

A Red Zone Target

I love me some stats.  What more reasonable way is there to further cloud your judgement, than with a superfluous amount of statistics to consider?  Count me in.  Some stats are harder to track down than others, and so I thought I would share some of my plunder with ye, my faithful readers.  Below you can find two links to two excel files I saved on the box.net file sharing site:

Targets

2009 Red Zone Opportunities

The first file, Targets, is an excel spreadsheet with three tabs.  The first tab has 2009 Targets for WRs, RBs and TEs.  Also included are receptions, yards, TDs, and catch percentage.  For comparison, right next to this data I also included the same stats from 2008, with the final column showing a percent change in targets over the last two years.  The next two tabs contain targets for 2008 and 2007 with the same three positions.   I highlighted positions a different color for easy reference.  You can quickly see that the TEs with 100+ targets was higher in 2009 than either of the past two years.  Nine TEs had 100+ targets.  Of those TEs, only Tony Gonzalez had fewer targets than the year prior.  He has had the most targets among TEs for the past three years.

The second file, 2009 Red Zone Opportunities, contains a week by week look at each team’s and individual players’ red zone opportunities.  The first four tabs show each team’s tendency to rely on the QB, RB, WR and TE positions in the Red Zone.  For example, the first tab shows that Green Bay relied on their QB 107 times in the red zone last year, 41% more than in 2008.  You can also see how this breaks down week by week.  Something that I call the “Favre factor” can be seen on most of these tabs when you compare the change year-to-year between the Jets and the Vikings.  In 2009, the Vikings relied on their QB 92% more in the red zone than they did in 2008, while the Jets relied on their QB 49% less than they did the year prior.  Each position has these team totals.  After that, the individual players’ chances in the red zone are shown, by position.  Again, focusing on Brett Favre, he was relied upon in the red zone 89 times last year with the Vikings.  In 2008, with the Jets, he had 88 opportunities.  So despite the swing between his two team’s totals, Favre’s totals are pretty consistent.  And as you can imagine, his impact on his teams extends to other positions.  Peterson saw 28% more red zone opportunities with Favre behind center, and the Viking WRs and TEs saw similar big increases as well.  If Favre were to retire I would expect all of those numbers to drop to the pre-Favrian levels.

There are lots of ways to look at and sort this data, but I will leave that to you.  You can download both excel files and go nuts.  These files are also be available in the blue box.net widget on the right side of this site.

The McNabb-Shanahan Debut

Thanks to NFL Network, I watched much of the Redskins’ first preseason game.  Does anyone ever watch a full preseason game?  I mean outside of NFL Coaches and Reporters.  Actually, I feel like reporters are skimmers.  Anyway, what I saw was good.  Granted, the Buffalo Bills were the opponent, but the Redskins offense looked good in their forty-something to something in the teens victory.

Some of my observations:

  • McNabb looked sharp.  The ball comes out quick and with velocity.  He still has some wheels.
  • The offensive line looked good.  There is some debate just how good the Bills defensive line is without Aaron Schobel, but Trent Williams took care of business in his first game action.
  • Bobby Wade, Joey Galloway and Roydell Williams?  Ughhhh….someone has got to step up!  Devin Thomas physically looks like a great receiver, but I still haven’t seen it on the field.  Rumor is that he will start the next week.  He better show up.
  • Cooley is back.  I don’t know what the strategy was in terms of getting Cooley early action, and then the season starts he will split time with Fred Davis (he did catch a nice TD pass later in the game), but Cooley was McNabb’s go-to target.  And Cooley came through.
  • Portis looked decent, but his two backups Keiland Williams and particularly Ryan Torain looked better.  They were going against backups, but Torain looked like a player.  Knowing Shanahan’s penchant to swap backs and his past history working with Torain – he could be someone to keep an eye on once the season begins.  His biggest problem has been staying healthy.
  • I like what I saw from Haynesworth.
  • Brandon Banks looked good in special teams.  That kid has wheels
  • And finally Rex Grossman – I will admit, he looked good.  I was a doubter – still a doubter, but less of a doubter.  He will see action during the regular season (McNabb’s track record of staying healthy) and after seeing his command of that offense, I feel a little better about him being behind center.  I know, it was against scrubs – just let me have my piece of mind.

Next week’s battle against the Ravens will be a better gauge of where this team sits.  But they looked good so far.  Long Live Shanahan!

Preseason Week 1 Player Ranker

Happy NFL Preseason!  Today marks the official start of Week 1 of the 2010 NFL Preseason.  My very own Redskins are playing on Friday night.  I will not be at home, but I will be recording it, thanks to the NFL Network.   I do have a life people.  Well, I do this Friday at least.  Anyway, I am hoping now that I have the NFL Network, I will be able to see some more preseason action.  In year’s past my exposure has been limited, but very valuable.  In fact, for the last two years watching preseason football the night before my ROFFL Draft has influenced me to make some very important decisions.  Two years ago, I watched rookie Steve Slaton run all over the Cowboys defense the night before my draft.  Nabbed him in the 11th round.  Last year, I saw (or heard) Aaron Rodgers throw for 6 TDs that same night before my ROFFL Draft.  He became my #1 pick (after keepers).  Both picks paid off handsomely.  So to those who say preseason does not matter – I point to those examples.  I am excited for the preseason games to begin (the first halves of them, at least) and will be making adjustments to these rankers based on what happens.

Defense and Kickers were excluded – who drafts them anyway?  So, on with the Golden-Armed QBs……

QBs I like more than you

  • Alex Smith – I like his schedule.  I think Crabtree and Davis are only going to improve.  I like his offensive line.  I like Frank Gore and his ability to run behind an improved line and catch the ball from the backfield.  I just need to see Alex Smith take full advantage of all these weapons.  If he is able to do so, a potential breakaway year is in the making.
  • Matt Cassel – I like that Charlie Weis (from Cassel’s Patriot days) is calling the plays.  I like Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones.  I like the improved offensive line (he took 42 sacks last year).  I would like to think that Bowe is maturing and will step up this year.  I liked Chambers’ performance last year.  I like McCluster and Urban chances in this offense.
  • Josh Freeman – I like his schedule – particularly his playoff schedule.  I like Mike Williams, Arrelious Benn and Sammie Stroughter.  I like that Carnell Williams is healthy and hoping that Derrick Ward will improve.  I just have a gut feeling about Freeman.

QBs I hate more than you

  • Kevin Kolb – With my luck I will end up with Kolb on all my teams.  His “big” games as a starter last year were against the Chiefs and Saints.  Forgive me if I am less than impressed.  I recall hearing rumors last year, that Reid put Kolb in during those games to inflate his stats and make the decision to draft him look good.  Well, now is the true test of that draft pick.  I am not a fan of McCoy (see below).  DeSean Jackson worries me.  I just don’t see an Aaron Rodgers coming out of Philly this year.
  • Ben Roethlisberger – I don’t like his schedule.  I don’t like his offensive line.  I don’t like Mendenhall.  Ward is aging, Wallace is young.  And did I mention he is suspended the first four games of the season?

QB Leftovers

  • Jay Cutler – Everything I hear out of Chicago is so positive, it is maddening!  I need to see some proof in my pudding.  He was so highly thought of last year but opened the season with four picks against the Pack.  All fantasy owners knew their year was over at that moment.  But Cutler persevered and delivered a semi-decent season.  Now Martz is in town and Cutler has another year of experience with his WRs.   Stay tuned.
  • Joe Flacco – The Ravens brass gave Flacco so many toys this offseason: two new WRs and two rookie TEs.  Ray Rice and Willis McGahee are still in the backfield.  On top of the offensive improvements, the Ravens secondary is falling apart, which could lead to some high scoring games.  I am intrigued.  Last year, he came out of the gate strong, but he has a tough schedule in 2010, starting off at the Jets.
  • Carson Palmer – Remember when Palmer was a Top 5 QB for several straight years?  What happened to that guy?  Like Flacco, the Bengals brass are lining up new toys for Palmer: TO, Antonio Bryant and rookie TE Jermaine Gresham.  It would appear as though the Bengals are interested in passing the ball more.  The Hall of Fame Game didn’t reveal much, hopefully we will see more in some later preseason games.

RBs I like more than you

  • Ray Rice – Yup, you read correctly, numero uno.  The new weapons in the passing game should allow Rice more room to run.  I like that he catches.  It is very rare for an RB to finish #1 in fantasy football for two years in a row.  It hasn’t happened since 2007, so why shouldn’t it be Rice?
  • Pierre Thomas – Outside of Reggie Bush, Lynell Hamilton was the prime candidate to steal touches from Thomas.  Unfortunately (for Hamilton), Hamilton is out for the year.  Thomas has looked excellent in camp so far and he plays for a potent offense.  It’s time he makes his mark.
  • Steve Slaton – As you read above, I feel a certain kinship with Slaton after his rookie year.  Last year was disappointing, but I blame the Houston coaches more than Slaton.  An undiagnosed neck injury led to his fumbling issues last year and ultimately his benching.  But when he was on the field he was dangerous.  And despite missing the last five games, he still finished third on the team in receptions.  Slaton must beat out Arian Foster and Ben Tate, the latter which has not been getting good camp reviews, before his draft value officially returns.
  • Carnell Williams – Derrick Ward did not take the starting RB job as some predicted last year.  Williams took that role and enters this season healthy.  He could be a solid find late in your draft.

RBs I hate more than you

  • Rashard Mendenhall – For the second half of the season, Mendenhall had as many games with less than 40 yards rushing as games with 90+ yards rushing (three each).  I was never sold on him last year, and nothing has changed in 2010.  Unless you count the four-game suspension of Big Ben, the loss of Santonio Holmes and their best O-Linemen Willie Colon.  There may be a renewed emphasis on the run in Pittsburgh, but I am not sold that will translate to a successful running game.
  • LeSean McCoy – McCoy is an example of a player who did not look good last preseason and I avoided in my drafts.  He did not become Bryan Westbrook 2.0.  This year, the Eagles have a difficult schedule against the run this year and a new QB behind center.  I anticipate that McCoy’s value will come more from his receptions than his rushing, which may be okay for PPR league.  But I am still cautious.
  • Montario Hardesty – I will have to see how Hardesty looks.  Reports in OTAs were all super positive.  However, current depth charts place him fourth, behind Harrison, Davis and Jennings.  Depth Charts are often used as motivational tools and not always indicative of the true pecking order.  My judgment of Hardesty at this point is speculative and preseason action will greatly affect my evaluation of his fantasy prospects.

RB Leftovers

  • Jonathan Stewart – The younger half of the duel RB threat in Carolina.  He is still hobbled and will likely miss the first preseason game but indications are that the injury is minor.  DeAngelo Williams is 27 while Stewart is four years younger.  Williams is also entering a contract year – and my interpretation of that is that there is a chance next year Williams will be released and Stewart will carry the load next year.  Speculation – but the contract status is interesting especially in keeper leagues.
  • Knowshon Moreno – I want to like Moreno.  He is young, he catches out of the backfield and had a decent first year in the league.  But his recent hamstring injury is concerning.  Denver signed two RBs after his injury.  The Fargas signing is the biggest red flag – he was an underrated RB last year.  Denver also has less offensive firepower than last year, and their O-Line is still waiting for Ryan Clady to be at full health.  Monitor Moreno’s status.
  • Marion Barber – Two months ago it was Felix, Felix, Felix.  Then Barber came into camp fully healthy, in shape, and weighing less than Jones (who was once the smaller of the two backs).  The three RBs in Dallas may cancel each other out during the season, but we can say for sure that Barber is healthy and has delivered in the past, particularly near the goal line.
  • Thomas Jones – What does a career season get you?  Traded to KC.  Jones has been running with the first team all during training camp, ahead of Jamaal Charles.  Curiosity in KC…stay tuned.

WRs I like more than you

  • Calvin Johnson – I am an unabashed Megatron lover.  Going on three years now.  The Lions are on board too, surrounding him with more talent hoping to draw the defense’s attention from their #1 weapon.  I think it will work.  And we know the Lions are going to be behind and throwing.  I can’t wait for the uber-highlights.
  • Greg Jennings – Last season’s funk seemed to be attributed to the O-Line’s problem protecting Rodgers.  Rodgers did not have enough time for Jennings to get open/finish his routes.  I am optimistic that with the improved O-line and continued development of James Jones, Jermichael Finley and Jordy Nelson – that Jennings will have more opportunities to make big plays.
  • Michael Crabtree – I was flat-out shocked how effective Crabtree was last season.  Not only was he a rookie WR (rare for them to succeed) but he held out of training camp and then several games of the regular season.  But still, he was a weapon.  I am excited to see him with a full offseason and training camp under his belt.  90 receptions would not shock me.
  • Terrell Owens – I was not excited when he moved to Buffalo, but I am excited by his move to Cincinnati.  He is on a team with a reality show friend (Ochocinco), a (once) solid QB and a team with strong leadership.  His role is clear – let’s see if he can deliver.

WRs I hate more than you

  • Sidney Rice – I am down on Brett Favre.  I think I might be an ageist.  Favre can’t possibly be as good in 2010 as he was in 2009, right?  Rice’s hip injury also seems worrisome.  He has yet to practice and rumors are that he is dogging his rehab because he is unhappy with his contract.  Red Flags….
  • Desean Jackson – My main concern is that Jackson only caught 62 balls.  When six TDs from the year prior were for 45+ yards, I am skeptical that last year’s stats can be repeated.  His new QB threw the two longest TDs to him last year: 64 and 71 yards – so that could be something.  But he is not a red zone target, and his small stature make injury a constant concern.
  • Devin Thomas – I am Skins fan, but I don’t see success for Thomas yet.  I could be wrong, and then soon after would feel embarrassed.  But Thomas has been a constant disappointment for Redskin Nation.  Let’s see how things look in preseason, but I am not as hopeful as others.
  • Antonio Bryant – I was high on him during OTAs, I thought he was a great sleeper candidate.  But this injury is nagging and he hasn’t even been practicing in pads yet.  The TO signing does not help.  His draft value has taken a big hit in the past three weeks.

WR Leftovers

  • Johnny Knox – He surprised everyone with his play last year, but this year the word is out.  He has looked good in camp and with Mike Martz in town, one of the Bears WRs are going to have a very good year.  Knox has the speed and trust of Cutler to achieve it.
  • Vincent Jackson – Such a good year last year.  The offense was on track to improve – but V-Jax not only got himself suspended, he also insisted on holding out for a new contract.  As a fantasy owner, what are we supposed to do with a guy like this?  At this point, all we can do is monitor the situation.  If it ends up only being a three-game suspension, then the damage is not that great.  Unfortunately at this point, signs point to a longer period away from the field.

TEs I like more than you

  • Vernon Davis – Last year, Davis had more TDs than any other TE, and yet he only had 13 Red Zone opportunities (tied for tenth among TEs).  He not only made the most of his opportunities, but he also scored six TDs from 20+ yards, which is incredible for a TE.  Long TDs = speed.  Speed and size are hard to stop.  Alex Smith’s first start as a QB in Week 7 resulted in three TD passes to Davis.  I believe last year was just the beginning.
  • Jermichael Finley – Another out-of-nowhere TE from last year.  Finley and Davis are great examples of waiting to draft a TE and still finding a gem.  After his return to action in Week 11 last year, no TE had more red zone opportunities than Finley (15).  In fact, among WRs, only Brandon Marshall had more.
  • John Carlson – Big things were expected last year from Carlson after an impressive rookie year.  Unfortunately these high expectations were not met.  Carlson was asked to stay on the line and protect the QB resulting in less of a presence in the passing game.  This year, Seattle drafted a blocking TE (Anthony McCoy) and signed another (Chris Baker), which should allow Carlson more opportunities to make plays.  Additionally, his QB called him “this year’s fantasy sleeper.”  You know Hasselbeck does not want to eat his words.

TEs I hate more than you

  • Owen Daniels – Daniels was off to such a good start last year, but was injured in Week 8.  He has yet to practice this year due to that injury.  On top of that, the Texans have been saying good things about second year TE James Casey.  If that isn’t enough they also drafted two TEs in this year’s draft.  And if that isn’t enough the Texans have so far refused to extend Daniels’ contract beyond this year.  I don’t know about you, but all of that worries me.
  • Visanthe Shiancoe – I will just come out and say it, I don’t trust the Vikings.  Favre not making up his mind (or has he….), the incredible year he had, the pressure to repeat that performance.  It just seems like too much.  Shiancoe is talented but his value relies heavily on TD receptions.  You may say that Vernon Davis is dependent on TDs too, but Davis had 20 more receptions than Shiancoe, so he has a more consistent value being more involved in his offense.

TE Leftovers

  • Tony Gonzalez – Who has led TEs in targets for the last three years?  If you said Tony Gonzalez, you would be correct!  His receptions and TDs may have dropped off after his move to Atlanta but he is still a focal point of the offense, particularly in the red zone.  This year, Atlanta is looking to pass more downfield, which could improve Gonzalez’s numbers.
  • Jason Witten – Another important cog in his team’s offense is Witten.  People may complain of his down year last year, but he still caught 90+ balls and was targeted over 120+ times for (at least) the third straight season.  His problem was the red zone and Dallas has already said they are looking to involve him more in that area.  I look for his numbers to improve despite the addition of Dez Bryant.
  • Greg Olsen – Fantasy Nation is afraid of what Mike Martz will do to Greg Olsen’s value.  Olsen had the second most red zone targets among TEs and 100+ targets last year.  Olsen has stated that he is comfortable in this offense and not worried about a drop in his production.  My advice is to follow the Bears offense this offseason and see for yourself.

On that note….what will you be watching closely during the preseason?


Reaching for the Championship

This is the first of what could be many posts by the illustrious Captain of Bankruptcy, bypremier.  You can join his growing family of followers on his blog bypremier.blogspot.com.  Big thanks to him for this great piece.

You know it’s coming. Every draft it happens at least a dozen times. That’s right…one of your league members (usually the same two or three guys) just has to do it. It makes you mad. It makes you scream…REACH!!! But don’t be a hater, that’s the only way to get the guy that you love and just have to have. Who are we talking about here? Usually it’s the over-hyped sleeper or the experts’ pick for breakout star of the year or the number one rated defense. Because let’s be honest, they aren’t falling to you late in the draft. So in order to get that guy, you have to go and grab him at least two rounds too early. But I’m not trying to be a hypocrite.  I’m not calling people names. I do it. I know you do it too. Don’t pretend like you don’t. Otherwise, you might as well just auto-draft based on Yahoo! Pre-draft rankings. And that’s no fun. Seriously, what would a draft be without people reaching for players?

So who are the guys this year? Well, let’s first take a look at last year’s reaches.

  1. Steve Slaton – Everyone’s prediction to be the breakout running back. Slaton finished strong at the end of the 2008 season. He was blessed with fantastic speed and pass catching ability on a high powered offense. He was going to be the next dual threat out of the backfield. I recall Slaton going as early as #4 last year (higher than Chris Johnson in some drafts). How’d that work out for you? I’ll let sdubsports answer that one?
    Verdict: Not worth the reach around.
  2. Pierre Thomas – The other breakout running back that everyone predicted. Also finished strong at the end of 2008, albeit with Reggie Bush missing time during that stretch. Another dual threat that
    was ranked higher in PPR leagues. He was going as early as late second round (went in the late first round in the ROFFL). Thomas finished as an inconsistent, middle of the pack running back, lost precious goal line touches to the likes of Mike Bell and Lynell Hamilton, and Reggie Bush was relatively healthy. Pierre didn’t really perform up to expectations until the playoffs, which didn’t help anybody who drafted him.
    Verdict: Not worth the reach around in non-keeper leagues.  Possibly worth the reach around in keeper leagues.
  3. Matt Schaub – Last year’s overhyped breakout fantasy QB. Even though he was never healthy for a full season in his career, everyone predicted last year was going to be the year. And they were right. He completed 396 passes, threw for 4,770 yards, with 29 TD’s and finished as a top five fantasy QB.
    Verdict: Well worth the reach around.
  4. Devin Hester – Everyone thought it was finally Hester’s time. He finally got the big armed QB in Jay Cutler who could best utilize his breakaway speed. Plus, there wasn’t exactly any real competition within the WR ranks of the Chicago Bears. So people drafted him as a WR2 with the hopes that he could break out and be a #1 fantasy WR. And while he had his moments, he was still only a WR4 finishing with 57 catches, 757 yards, and only 3 TD’s.
    Verdict: Not worth the reach around.
  5. Percy Harvin – The new face of the fantasy wildcat option. He was going to catch the ball, run the ball, return the ball…maybe even throw the ball. An all-purpose offensive talent that was going to be given many different touches, Harvin went in the mid-rounds, which is arguably a bit early for a rookie WR with an undefined role, not to mention the issues and question marks he had coming out of college. But in the end, Harvin flashed enough potential to justify his drafting as a WR3. And in keeper leagues, he could be one of this year’s breakout wide receivers.
    Verdict: Worth the reach around (even more so in keeper leagues).
  6. Pittsburgh Defense – Another reason why you never take defenses too early. Ranked #1 in all the pre-draft rankings, the Pittsburgh Defense was coming off a Super Bowl winning season. Thus, people were quick to take them as early as the mid-rounds. But what happened? Troy Polamalu got injured, their corners were weak, and they didn’t even finish in the top 10 of fantasy defenses.
    Verdict: Not worth the reach around.
  7. New York Giants Defense – Another highly ranked defense that was coming off the board way too early. In my draft (the world-famous ROFFL), somebody took the Giants defense in a fit of rage after seeing his desired pick of the aforementioned Steelers Defense get taken right before him. It was an impulse pick, and one a fantasy football veteran should never make. So what happened? Suddenly, the Giants couldn’t rush the passer anymore, and their secondary was consistently beaten and failed to garner any turnovers. In the end, they let up over 45 points on three occasions. You know where you could find that type of production… on the waiver wire.
    Verdict: Not even worth reaching for the remote.
  8. Knowshon Moreno – Last year’s hyped rookie running back. There is one every year. From Cadillac Williams and Ronnie Brown, to Ryan Matthew and Jahvid Best. Moreno came onto a team that was expected to run the ball often. A team with no clear-cut #1 RB in the depth chart (Correll Buckhalter and Peyton Hillis anyone?). So everyone expect Moreno to be a stud and be infinitely more valuable in keeper leagues. Well, he did show some flashes of brilliance. But in the end, he was involved in a true RBBC and missed some time due to injury.
    Verdict: Arguably worth the reach in keeper leagues, not so much in non-keeper leagues.
  9. Donald Brown – The running back who was supposed to benefit from playing with Peyton Manning. Joseph Addai looked like he lost a step. Brown was expected to come in and cause a time share right off the bat, and was expected to eventually supplant Addai by the second half of the season. What happened? Addai had a phenomenal bounce back year. Brown had trouble picking up the blitzes.
    Verdict: Worth the reach in deep keeper leagues, not even close in any other format.
  10. Anthony Gonzalez – The successor to Marvin Harrison. Great hands. Perfect system. Perfect quarterback. Everything looked to be in place for A-Gonz to have a breakout season. I’m talking about 80 catches, 1200 yards, and 8 TD’s. And who knows, maybe it would have happened if he didn’t suffer a terrible knee injury in week one. A brutal reminder of why fantasy football can be so cruel and heartbreaking.
    Verdict: Sadly, an injury ruined what could have been something well worth the reach around.
  11. Eddie Royal – Ah, my boy Eddie. He was supposed to be Wes Welker-lite. Brandon Marshall was supposed to be a season long headache that went the way of T.O. during his last season in Philly. Kyle Orton was supposed to have a weak arm, so the offense would be tailored for quick hits and short yardage passes….perfect for Eddie Royal’s skills. So what happened? B-Marsh was a model citizen and caught 100 passes. Denver was a share the ball offensive juggernaut, and Eddie often got lost in the shuffle.
    Verdict: He wasn’t even worth drafting, let alone the reach.

Being generous, my tally is four out of eleven reaches being worth it. Now let’s take a look at this year’s reaches.  (ADP provided by Fantasy Football Calculator)

2010 Reaches:

  1. Kevin Kolb: ADP 64.3 (Fifth round in 12 team leagues).
    Has any incumbent QB ever stepped into a better situation than Kolb? He plays for a team that is consistently among the highest passing teams in the league. He’s surrounded by weapons galore (Desean, Maclin, McCoy, and Celek). Heck, he’s so impressive that the Eagles got rid of their pro-bowl QB and traded him within their own division! So Kolb is a lock top 8 fantasy QB, right? People (namely, me) are predicting he’ll be the next Aaron Rodgers. All I know is if you want Kolb as your starting fantasy QB, you better be prepared to reach for him a couple of rounds early.
    Verdict: You’ll have to grab him as early as round five in deep leagues.  Will finish the season with McNabb-esque stats, so will be drafted right around where his value will end up.
  2. Devin Aromashodu: ADP 84.7 (Seventh round in 12 team leagues).
    This much we know for sure. A Chicago Bear receiver will break out this year. He just has to. Martz takes over as offensive coordinator. Cutler has one more year under his belt. Somebody has to break out. It’s either Devin Aromashodu…or the next guy: (Sidenote: Why does nobody think it’ll be Devin Hester? I’ve seen him be the third Chicago Bears WR drafted in some leagues…just wondering aloud).
  3. Johnny Knox: ADP 100.5 (Eighth round in 12 team leagues).
    Meet the next guy. My money is on Johnny to be the guy. The reports out of camp are fantastic. Cutler loves him. Martz loves him. Momma Knox loves him too. And so have fantasy drafters. Knox has taken over as the darling of the WR breakout core as Devin has fallen back to the pack.
    Verdict: Aromashodu will go in the seventh round, Knox will go as early as round five.  Knox will be worth the reach, Aromashodu will be worth it as a WR3.
  4. Dez Bryant: ADP 71.1 (Fifth round in 12 team leagues).
    This year’s rookie WR dreamboat will do what Larry Fitzgerald and Calvin Johnson failed to do. And that’s be a breakout rookie WR the likes that haven’t been seen since Randy Moss set the fantasy world ablaze. This future #1 WR finds himself in a high-octane offense, with a stud QB (Tony Romo), and another stud WR opposite him to take the pressure off (Miles Austin).
    Verdict: He was going as early as round five in some leagues, but his recent ankle injury has him dropping into the sixth round or later.  Still too early for a Rookie WR, they never pan out.  Let someone else reach.
  5. Ryan Matthews: ADP 20.6 (Second round in 12 team leagues).
    This year’s stud rookie running back that is going to set the fantasy world on fire. A future keeper who you need to take early to reap the benefits for years to come. Replacing the legend Tomlinson, Matthews finds himself in the best situation: High powered offense with skill players surrounding him at every position (unless of course V-Jax holds out). So expectations are high: Matthews will run 300 times, catch a ton of passes, and is receiving raves in training camp.
    Verdict: Going as early as the end of the first round.  Ahead of veterans and proven RBs such as Ryan Grant, Jamaal Charles and Cedric Benson.  But in keeper leagues, well worth the reach.
  6. Jermichael Finley: ADP 55.1 (Fourth round in 12 team leagues).
    A TE in a WR’s body. You saw him blow up towards the end of last season. Throw in the fact that he plays with the #1 fantasy QB and is expected to take on some of the workload/targets that went to Donald Driver.
    Verdict: As early as the fourth round.  In some drafts, I’ve seen him taken off the board in the second or third round.  But TE is a deep position.  I’d rather have Zach Miller three rounds later.
  7. New York Jets Defense: ADP 88.7 (Seventh round in 12 team leagues).
    This year’s pick for must have defensive unit. You just know somebody is going to take them before they take a backup RB or QB…or even a starting TE. I mean, the Jets have Revis…i.e. the best cover corner since Deion. They traded for Cromartie. Kris Jenkins is back to clog up the middle. Teams will be lucky to score 10 points on this unit. Or so they think.
    Verdict: Going as early as the sixth round in some leagues.  Ridiculous!  No way are the Jets that much more valuable than the fifth defense that you could draft in the later rounds.
  8. Calvin Johnson: ADP 14.5 (Second round in 12 team leagues).
    Everyone is predicting big things. For the Detroit Lions. For Matthew Stafford. And they all point to a bust out season for the man they call ‘Megatron’. We all know Calvin is one of the most talented receivers out there. But so far, he’s yet to put together a complete season.
    Verdict: In some leagues, Calvin is going as early as the end of the first round (second WR taken after Andre Johnson).  In standard and keeper leagues, I’d be okay with that.  But in PPR leagues, I just don’t see how he tops 90 catches like other PPR Monsters.
  9. Michael Crabtree: ADP 41.7 (Third round in 12 team leagues).
    If you extrapolate his numbers from last year, over a full season…that’s 70 catches, 909 yards, and 3 TD’s…as a rookie. With another season under his belt, and big expectations for the 49ers in general, you can see why people are jumping on Crabtree as a low-end WR1. If you throw in the common belief that Vernon Davis regresses, Alex Smith puts together another good year, and the 49ers face a weak NFC West division, then you better be ready to take Crabtree before you get that 2nd RB.
    Verdict: You’ll have to take him before you draft a RB2 or make him your WR1, but he may be well worth it.
  10. Felix Jones: ADP 53.9 (Fourth round in 12 team leagues).
    After his impressive playoff performance (and Marion Barbers’ downslide), people were jumping on the Felix bandwagon. They thought he was going to break 50 yard TD’s, catch passes from Tony Romo, and be the main ball carrier out of the Dallas big 3 (Barber and Choice). Then Barber showed up at camp in the best shape of his life and at a minimum, looks to be headed for goal line duty.
    Verdict: Potential makes you want to reach, but you might be better letting this one pass, unless you’re in a keeper league.
  11. Jahvid Best: ADP 48.7 (Fourth round in 12 team leagues).
    The third rookie RB drafted is going way higher than the first one. People fully expect to see him take off with the high-flying Lions offense. And don’t even get me started on Best running on that turf. Best could show flashes of Chris Johnson’s breakaway speed. Best could catch a ton of passes out of the backfield. And if Kevin Smith starts the season on the PUP list…even better.
    Verdict: Could be better than Ryan Mathews, but could also see a RBBC situation without the goal line carries.  Will be exciting to watch, but may be frustrating to own.  Only worth the reach in keeper leagues.

So I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of reaching. Thanks for reading and start to stretch for all those reaches you’ll be making come draft day.

ADP vs. Actual

Average Draft Position (ADP) and Value are intertwined in fantasy football.  The easy way to look at ADP is as a benchmark for when to draft your players.  You don’t want to draft a player in the 4th round when ADP says you could have had him in the 6th.  You can find better value for that pick in the 4th round.  Another way to look at ADP is that it can provide some direction on which position is most reliable in terms of providing high value to a your ADP.

And this question, is what this post is all about…finding how to get the most value from your draft picks.

Below are several charts broken out by position.  On the X-Axis of each chart, is the ADP for that position.  For example “1” refers to the first player taken at that position, while “20” is the 20th player taken at that position.   The Y-Axis measures the year-ending fantasy point totals for each player. In each chart, there are blue bars and orange bars.  The blue bars are the top “X” players drafted according to ADP.  For QBs, I showed the top 25.  After the blue bars, the orange bars are the highest point scorers after that last ADP listed.  The player may have an ADP of 26 or 100; the point is, they were available after all the players represented by the blue bars were selected.

All of this data is collected from ESPN.  I collected the ADP data on 8/27/09 (right before my ROFFL Draft) and the fantasy points are taken from the ESPN Fantasy site.  Full disclosure, the inspiration for these charts came while reading the ESPN Fantasy Football Magazine (which I reviewed, here).  They have similar, smaller charts to what is shown below.   I am simply finishing their work.  You’re welcome, Christopher Harris.

These charts can be hard to read because of their size.  If you are having trouble, you can click on the images to enlarge them (I recommend opening them to a new window or tab, if you can).  You can also download the files to your computer.  I have them saved on the file sharing site box.net:

  • You can access the Powerpoint file with all the charts here
  • And the Excel spread sheet with player names and their ADPs is available here

Both files can also be accessed using the blue box.net widget on the right side of my page.  If there are no more questions….let us begin!

Quarterbacks

First up are the gunslingers.  Above, are the Blue and Orange Bars, as promised.  A few things should be immediately apparent:

  • There are two dropoffs in Fantasy Value: after ADP 16 and after ADP 20.
  • There were no sleepers in the QBs after ADP 16.
  • The top four QBs (according to ADP) all scored over 250 points.
  • Five of the top seven QBs (according to ADP) all scored over 250 points.
  • After the top seven QBs, every third QB scored over 250 points (up until ADP 16).

So what do those observations mean?  There are two clear ways to connect these dots.

  1. Last year, selecting an elite QB was a pretty safe bet.  The only QB in the top seven to not exceed 250 points was Kurt Warner at ADP 5.  He was getting banged up by the end of the season and is now retired.
  2. It is difficult to find a reliable QB after the elite QBs are gone.  After that top seven, only three more exceeded 250 fantasy points (Matt Schaub, QB ADP 10; Ben Roethlisberger, QB ADP 13; Brett Favre, QB ADP 16).  And only three QBs after a QB ADP of 16 reached even 200 fantasy points.  Not good odds.

If last year is any indication of what will happen this year – your chances for success are greater if you can grab an elite QB.  If you are unable to do so, it might be wise to invest in two or three mid level QBs with hopes that one of them will exceed their ADP.

Running Backs

Next are the workhorses.  While the elite QBs generally lived up to their ADP status, the elite RBs are far less reliable.  Of the top ten RBs (according to last year’s RB ADP) only five of them scored 175+ points by season’s end.  That’s a 50% success rate.  That may seem low, but Compared to anywhere else on this chart, that 50% success mark is pretty good for RBs.

If you wanted an elite RB, you needed a top pick.  Of the six RBs who scored 200+ points, four were among the top ten in RB ADP.  The RBs that fell outside the top ten, but still earned elite (200+ fantasy points) status were Thomas Jones (RB ADP of 18) and Ray Rice (ADP of 30 among RBs).  Ray Rice doesn’t figure to fall outside the top ten again this year – but Thomas Jones may fall lower than his ADP from last year.

After the 34th selected RB (Cedric Benson) there was a dearth of quality RBs.  Ultimately, only four RBs drafted after Benson scored 150+ fantasy points (Fred Jackson, RB ADP 44; Rashard Mendenhall, RB ADP47; Ricky Williams, RB ADP 49; and Jamaal Charles, post 50 ADP)  Translation – it was difficult to find a reliable RB after Benson was drafted.

Difficult though it may have been, there was some value outside the top 50 RBs – shown in orange.  The top RB listed here is Jamaal Charles, followed by Jerome Harrison, Cadillac Williams, Justin Forsett and Laurence Maroney.  Here, you see the value in the waiver wire RB.  Whether it is injury, ineffectiveness or a trade, RBs can explode in the middle of the season and bring instant fantasy value to your squad.  No where was that more evident last year than with Jamaal Charles and Jerome Harrison.

The three strategies emanating from this chart seem to be:

  1. If you are able to draft an elite RB, don’t hesitate – do it.
  2. Draft RBs in bunches particularly up until about the 35th ADP for RBs.  If last year is any indication, your odds of success in that range is higher than if you draft RBs in bunches after the 35 RB ADP.
  3. Keep your eye on the waiver wire during the season.  There is value there – let 2009 be a lesson that you don’t forget!

Wide Receivers


The Divas of the Gridiron.  This is the most difficult eye chart in this post.  If you are able, I recommend that you click on the chart and open it in a new window or tab.

WRs are not as sure-fire as QBs, but they seem to be more reliable than RBs.  The top three WRs all scored 150+ points.  And ten of the top twenty WRs scored 150+ points.  After that, the bottom fell out of the WR position.  Only three other WRs scored 150+ fantasy points (Steve Smith (NYG) WR ADP 54; Miles Austin, WR ADP 60; and Sidney Rice, post WR ADP 60).

As you can see, after that 20th WR is taken, it was a difficult task finding a WR who scored more than 150+, 125+ or even 100+ fantasy points.  In fact, a fair percentage of the WRs with 100+ pts were found after that 60th WR was drafted.

26 WRs with an ADP of 60 or better had 100+ points.  20 of these 100+ WRs were taken within the first 30 WRs, leaving only six to be drafted between WR ADP of 30 and 60.  There were six additional WRs drafted after that 60 WR ADP mark who scored 100+ points (one not shown: Austin Collie). This means your odds were best grabbing a WR early or getting lucky on the waiver wire.

Some WR strategy to take from this chart…

  1. If you want a stud WR you are going to have to commit a high draft pick.  Last year, stud WRs were hard to come by after the first 20 were off the board.  I expect this pattern to be similar in 2010.
  2. If you want more than one stud WR – it would be wise to load up early.  Pickings get slim after that magic number 20.
  3. Keep your eye on the waiver wire – particularly early on in the season.  Mike Sims-Walker, Mario Manningham and Sidney Rice all started the season with a bang, despite having a WR ADP outside the top 60.

Tight Ends

The glorified linemen.  Finally, a chart you can read without a magnifying lens.   If you consider 100+ fantasy points the standard for a successful TE, then there were ten successful TEs last year.  The top four TEs and six of the top eight (according to TE ADP) were all successes.  At least last year, drafting a TE early was an easy way to net yourself a successful TE.

However, if you consider an elite TE must score 125+ points, a different story is revealed.  Two of those elite TEs fell outside the top 15 TE ADP (Vernon Davis an Brent Celek).  Antonio Gates and Dallas Clark had ADPs of three and four respectively among TEs – so they lived up to their pre-draft status as elite TEs.  Last year, it was equally possible to grab an elite TE by drafting one early, as it was by waiting.

In between these two 125+ point spikes (TE ADP 5-15), your odds were equal in terms of whether you would drafted a 100+ point TE or a TE who scored under 80 points.

This year, the TE position is deeper than last year.  The two arguments for how to approach such a deep position are:

  1. Grab an elite TE.
  2. Wait to draft a TE and still find yourself with someone you can rely on.

Looking at last year’s ADP vs. Actual seems to give credence to both of these arguments.

  • The top four TEs drafted all had 100+ points, and two of them had 150+ points.
  • TEs with ADP of 14 and 15 had 100+ points, and two TEs with ADP higher than 15 had 125+ points.

While taking a TE early is the safe and reliable move, don’t feel compelled to draft a TE early just because there is a run at the position and the big names start disappearing.  As this chart shows, there is TE value to be had later in the draft.

Kickers

The Non-Football Football Players.  Oddly enough, this blue and orange chart goes against everything I believe in, and is basically fantasy football blasphemy.  So have at it.  The conventional wisdom is that there is no difference between the kicker chosen first and the kicker chosen last.  This is something I have come to believe, so much so that for the last three years, I have not drafted a kicker in my leagues.  Instead I draft an extra position player and as the season gets closer, I drop someone for a kicker on the waiver wire.  This chart, however, shows that there is value in drafting a Kicker early.  Hmm.

The top four Kickers drafted last year ended up being the highest scoring players at the position.  And five of the top six drafted kickers ended up being in the top five at the position.  Mason Crosby had an ADP of five and scored 128 points, one point shy of Jay Feely and Matt Prater (both drafted outside the top twelve kickers) with 129 points.

While there was clearly value in drafting an early kicker, there was also value in waiting and taking players off of the waiver wire.  The top three kickers represented by orange bars all scored 125+ points.  Another thing to keep in mind, is that once the season begins, kickers are often considered to be expendable during their bye weeks.  I was able to find Nate Kaeding last year on the waiver wire, and he ended up being the highest scoring kicker.  For kickers, at least, it is not just about the draft.

This chart shows that there might be something to what those knuckleheads in your league do each year – drafting a kicker in the tenth round.  Apparently last year, they knew something we didn’t.   Be that as it may, I am waiting one more year until I abandon reason and start drafting kickers.  Let’s see if this chart is a trend or an aberration.  Call me skeptical.

Defense

The other half of football.  Last year was a great example of why it is smart to wait to draft a defense.  The top two drafted defenses last year were Pittsburgh and the NY Giants and neither one of them lived up to their ADP Value.  Both the Giants and Steelers were victim to defensive injuries which contributed to their lower than expected value.   In fact, of the top five defenses that were drafted, only one of them actually ended the year as a top five defense in fantasy value (Baltimore).

The top scoring defense was San Francisco and they were drafted outside the top 15 defenses.   For whatever reason, the general public failed to pick up on strong defenses such as the 49ers, the Packers and the Saints.  Because of this, it might be wise to wait on selecting your defense.  Streaming defenses week to week is an approach that many have used in the past and allows you to use that early draft pick you might use on a defense on a position player.

The fact that the highly touted defenses last year failed, while the unheralded ones succeeded – this year, you should consider waiting before pulling the trigger on that defense.

…..and in Conclusion

There is plenty reason to be skeptical of these charts.

  1. They only represent one year – last year.
  2. Your league may have different scoring than the standard ESPN scoring.
  3. Your league owners are twice as smart (or maybe twice as dumb) as the general public and they are far better (or far worse) drafters than what the ESPN ADP represents.

My response is that those are all sound objections, but there is a solution.  You can customize these charts to reflect your league history and your league scoring.  Simply assign an ADP to each player based on where they were drafted and record their final fantasy point total.  And voila – instant ADP vs. Actual Charts, hand-built to reflect your league’s history.  It’s a beautiful solution and I intend to do this for the ROFFL and am curious to see if any different trends emerge.  Feel free to share some insight if you end up trying this yourself.  Maybe you will discover that your league is terrible at picking Kickers!

Players with new Zip Codes

TGIF!  Back with fantasy football content!  Today, we look at some players who swapped team colors in the offseason.  Use these snapshots as a starting point and incorporate future news you hear when evaluating these players for your draft.

Next to each player, there is a chart showing their stats from last year as well as how players at that position did last year on the new team.  There is also a comparison of players at key positions between the two teams.  There is a lot of reference to strength of schedule.  Below, is a link to a useful strength of schedule excel file to use as reference.  This file is also available in the box.net widget on the right side of this site.  If you need an explanation of how to read the document, there is one available in a post from last week.

Strength of Schedule

QBs

Before we get into this year’s changes at the QB position, let’s look at some changes that happened during the 2009 offseason and what was the end result of those changes.  The first three QBs on this list had a sort of twisted relationship in that they all ended up on new team’s because of the other.  The two you expected to do well (Cutler &  Cassel) did not, and the one no one paid attention to (Orton), had a decent season on his new team.

  • Jay Cutler: Cutler did not live up to his Denver stats while in Chicago.  He threw about the same number of TDs, but 1,000 yards less passing and 10 Ints more.  [Fail]
  • Matt Cassel: Cassel’s stats also took a hit after he left New England.  Completion percentage, yards and TDs were all down in KC.[Fail]
  • Kyle Orton: Orton slightly improved his mediocre numbers in Denver thanks to a big play WR. [Pass]
  • Brett Favre: Favre surprised everyone by the success he had in Minnesota last year.  He had more yards and TDs last year than he had in any season for more than a decade. [Pass]

Jason Campbell

Washington –> Oakland

Other players at his position:

  • Campbell is the #1 QB, ahead of Bruce Gradkowski, Charlie Frye and Kyle Boller.

s.dub.sports verdict:

  • Campbell should be considered a solid backup QB with upside.
  • Each of the last four seasons, Campbell’s passing TDs, passing yards and completion percentage have all gone up.  And this year, Oakland has a great schedule in terms of passing yards allowed by their 2010 opponents.  His new WR corp is arguably better than what he had in Washington.  He trades two good TEs (Cooley/Davis) for another (Miller) and the RBs in Oakland are anticipating big things in 2010.  Based on all of that, I would not be surprised if Campbell surpasses his 2009 stats.  Unfortunately, the one stat which may not change is sacks.  Campbell holds onto the ball too long, and Oakland had problems protecting their QB last year.  Oakland drafted two new linemen, so perhaps improvement is on the way.  Surprising Fact:  JC’s stats from last year were very similar to Donovan McNabb’s (scroll down)….

Jake Delhomme

Carolina –> Cleveland

Other players at this position:

  • Delhomme is the #1 QB, ahead of Seneca Wallace and Colt McCoy.

s.dub.sports verdict:

  • Pending a preseason breakout – Delhomme is not someone to consider drafting in the majority of leagues.
  • The talent in Cleveland is far less than what Delhomme had in Carolina, and we all know what happened in Carolina.  The fantasy allure of Delhomme in Cleveland is that a new location will help him shake whatever funk has followed him for the last two seasons.  But the fact is, Delhomme has only passed for 25+ TDs once in his career.  So even if he does shake that funk – we aren’t talking starter numbers.  Delhomme’s playing time (and therefore fantasy value) may also be limited.  Cleveland ran a lot of Wildcat formations last year using Josh Cribbs.  Seneca Wallace joins the club this year and could be used in similar situations.  On top of that, the Browns may want to see their rookie QB Colt McCoy at some point this season.  Lame duck.

Byron Leftwich

Tampa Bay –> Pittsburgh

Other players at this position:

  • Byron Leftwich is expected to start at QB while Ben Roethlisberger is suspended for the first four to six games of the season.  Dennis Dixon could also be in the mix with Roethlisberger out.

s.dub.sports verdict:

  • Leftwich’s only value is going to be the first few weeks of the season.  He should go undrafted in most leagues, unless fantasy owners have some esoteric QB rotation strategy to open the season.
  • The Steelers were hoping for a return to run-first football behind Mendenhall.  The loss of their best lineman, Willie Colon, may make that hope more difficult.  The Steelers’ O-Line was not a strong point to begin with, and now with Colon’s injury, Leftwich’s (lack of) mobility may be of some concern.  Last year, Steeler QBs were taken down 47 times.  The rookie Center Pouncey will help – but the loss of Colon is big.  Did I also mention their top WR left in the offseason, too?  Assuming Roethlisberger returns after four weeks, that gives Leftwich four games and they aren’t that bad.  He faces two bottom pass defense and visits his club from last year (revenge?) Tampa.  (Update: The Steelers signed Flozell Adams, which will help give Leftwich more time in the pocket).

Donovan McNabb

Philadelphia –> Washington

Other players at this position:

  • McNabb enters the season as the unquestioned starter, ahead of Rex Grossman and Colt Brennan

s.dub.sports verdict:

  • If you have McNabb as your starting QB, it would be in your best interest to also have a strong backup QB.
  • New team and new coach.  What are we to make of McNabb?  One thing that has not changed (unless it’s for the worse) is McNabb’s tendency to get injured.  He has only started all 16 games twice in the last seven years and visiting teams have made a living off sacking Redskin QBs over the last few years.   On paper, at least, the Skins have significantly improved their O-Line.  So perhaps, McNabb will have an advantage past Redskin QBs did not have: time to throw.  The #1 question for the Redskins is who are their playmakers?  Malcolm Kelly and Devin Thomas are both entering their third season and need to step up behind Santana Moss.  Chris Cooley is healthy and Fred Davis had a solid year filling in at TE, but how will they work together?  And then there is the battle between three RBs, each five years past their prime.  If McNabb is able to take advantage of all these pieces, then 4,000 yards and 25 TDs are not out of the realm of possibility.

RB

There were not a lot of RBs to change states last year.  And those that did had minimal impact on their new team.  Should we expect similar results in 2010?

  • Derrick Ward: Ward did not even meet half his yardage or reception total from his breakout year in New York. [Fail]
  • Fred Taylor: Taylor was injured early on last season and was a non-factor as a Patriot. [Fail]

Leon Washington

New York Jets –> Seattle

Other players at his position:

  • It is still unclear who, among Washington, Justin Forsett and Julius Jones, will be the lead the RB in Seattle.

s.dub.sports verdict:

  • Until Washington’s health status is better known, it is difficult to say where his fantasy value lies.
  • Health is the #1 question for Leon. He only played in seven games last season with the Jets before breaking his leg.  Seattle is hopeful that he will be ready to go by training camp.  It was surprising that Seattle traded for Washington because he is a spitting image of Forsett.  Coach Carroll raved about Forsett in the offseason, but he also praised Washington saying that he has more speed and is the bigger home run threat.  The main source of value in the Seattle backfield last year came from the 100+ balls caught by RBs.  Catching the ball out of the backfield is a strength of Washington’s and something to expect Seattle to take advantage of this year.  Washington’s presence in Seattle is going to limit the fantasy value of all Seattle RBs, which is supremely frustrating considering their favorable schedule against the run.  With Washington in the backfield, none of the backs will have a consistent fantasy value.  With Washington sidelined by injury, Forsett may, at least, have an opportunity to emerge.

Mike Bell

New Orleans –> Philadelphia

Other players at his position:

  • Mike Bell is expected to enter the season as the backup to LeSean McCoy.

s.dub.sports verdict:

  • Bell is worth a late draft choice as he is likely to steal TDs and is an immediate backup RB.
  • Last year, Bell proved to be a valuable backup to the oft injured Pierre Thomas.  Bell was the bigger back and received many goal line and short yardage chances.  In Philly, Bell retains that ‘big back’ role being 25 pounds  heavier than McCoy and will likely be used in similar situations.  Bell’s weakness is pass catching.  In the New Orleans pass-happy offense, he only hauled in four balls.  Philadelphia is also a pass-first offense, but given Bell’s history, I would not expect his reception total to increase.  Bad news for Bell: Philadelphia has a difficult schedule against the run and may rely more on the pass than normal, especially since they have a good schedule against the pass.

Larry Johnson

Cincinnati –> Washington

Other players at his position:

  • Clinton Portis is expected to get the majority of carries, with LJ and Willie Parker sharing the rest.

s.dub.sports verdict:

  • If the Shanahan RB Carousel comes to DC, LJ is worth drafting.  Early indications are that Portis will get first crack at running – but it would not surprise me in the least if LJ gets a significant number of carries.
  • Like Philly, Washington has a bad schedule against the run in 2010.  And like Philly, Washington’s schedule against the pass is much more friendly which may dictate their approach to certain games.  Shanahan has been known to create successful RBs from your off the shelf no-name players.  But the Redskins also signed Donovan McNabb who ran a successful west coast pass offense in Philadelphia for 12 seasons.  Whether Washington becomes a pass first or run first offense, LJ has the talent to succeed in both systems.  The only question is, will Shanahan be able to motivate him enough to achieve success.  Cincinnati traded for LJ during the second half of last season and he averaged over a full yard more per rush in Cincy than he did in the seven games he was with KC – so clearly he still has something in the tank.

Thomas Jones

New York Jets –> Kansas City

Other players at his position:

  • Jamaal Charles is expected to be the starter in KC, but it is still unclear what role Thomas Jones will have in the KC offense.

s.dub.sports verdict:

  • TJ’s exact split in workload with Jamaal Charles is still TBA, but he is still worth a spot on your fantasy team because of his track record of success at RB and Charles’ lack of a track record at RB.
  • Last year, the fantasy community and beyond clamored for the Chiefs to drop LJ and play his backup Jamaal Charles more often.  The Chiefs listened and Charles delivered big time.  So what is Charles’ reward?  A new RB (TJ) comes to KC, carrying an active streak of five straight 1100+ yard rushing seasons on his resume.  Believe it or not, the Chiefs had a strong running game last year (despite LJ’s three yard per carry average), racking up the 11th most rushing yards in the league.  This year, the Chiefs have a great schedule against the run, half of their games being against bottom tier rush defenses.  This offseason, the Chiefs drafted an offensive lineman and added another in free agency.  The new offensive line, plus the favorable schedule combined with the addition of TJ means that the running game in KC could be better than people expect.

Chester Taylor

Minnesota –> Chicago

Other players at his position:

  • Matt Forte is penciled in as the starter in Chicago.  Taylor remains teammates with Adrian Peterson – but not THE Adrian Peterson.

s.dub.sports verdict:

  • If the Bears are willing to pay Taylor $7 Million this year – you should be willing to draft him to your fantasy team.
  • Chester Taylor is an intriguing pick this year.  Public expectation is that Forte will return to his rookie year success under Martz’s tutelage.  But the truth is, Chester Taylor has similar skills and dimensions as Forte.  Forte is slightly bigger, but both backs have proven that they are able to carry a full season’s workload.  Both also have good hands, which is in important trait in a Mike Martz offense.  The signing of Chester Taylor could be to provide a capable player to spell Matt Forte, or Taylor could be Forte’s replacement if Forte starts the year with similarly poor results as last season.  Unfortunately for both backs, Chicago has a difficult schedule against the run this year.  Three of their first four games and two of their final three games (in the fantasy playoffs) are against top run defenses.

LaDainian Tomlinson

San Diego –> New York Jets

Other players at his position:

  • Shonn Greene is expected to be the Jet’s lead back.  The Jets also drafted USC RB Joe McKnight as replacement to Leon Washington.

s.dub.sports verdict:

  • It’s a sad day when a former #1 Fantasy Player is no longer a fantasy starter and is someone to target only later in your draft after you already have two (or preferably more) starting RBs.
  • This signing is one of the bigger head scratchers of the offseason.  The Jets released a player (Thomas Jones) with a very similar skill set and who had much better 2009 production.  LDT’s YPC was a full yard less than Thomas Jones’, and Tomlinson’s strength – catching passes out of the backfield – is not something the Jets did last year.  Last year, Greene did not start a single regular season game, but he was chosen as the Week 1 starter for 2010.  The other RB on the Jets is rookie Joe McKnight – not an RB you would want to depend on. Tomlinson, however, has proven that he can play all season long.  And very likely will get his share of touches on this run first offense, but it is still to be determined just how many carries.  Tune in to Hard Knocks this summer to see how this situation develops for the Jets!

WR

Directly below are four fantasy-noteworthy WRs who changed teams going into 2009.  Two of these players are also on this year’s list.  That, dear readers, is a red flag.  As you can see from the below summaries, these four WRs did not meet with a lot of success in their first year with the new club.  Hopefully history will not repeat itself with 2010’s crop of itinerant receivers.

  • TJ Houshmandzadeh: Housh’s  streak of three straight 90+ catch season was snapped last year in Seattle.  He ended up with 79. [Fail]
  • TO: In eight of his previous nine seasons, prior to landing in Buffalo, TO had 65+ catches, 1,000+ yards receiving and 9+ TDs.  Last season: 55/829/5. [Fail, Fail, Fail]
  • Torry Holt: Last year, heading into Jacksonville, eight of Holt’s previous nine seasons featured 80+ catches, 1,100+ yards receiving and 4+ TDs.  Last season: 51/722/0. [Fail, Fail, Fail]
  • Nate Washington: Washington went from big play third receiver in Pitt to being signed by Tennessee as their #1 WR.  In Tennessee, he essentially matched his stats from Pitt – when he was a #3 WR.  [Fail]

Antonio Bryant & Terrell Owens

Tampa Bay –> Cincinnati
Buffalo –> Cincinnati

Other players at their position:

  • Ochocinco remains the top WR.  Training camp will determine who is #2 and who is #3.

s.dub.sports verdict:

  • Bryant looked like a solid sleeper candidate until the TO signing.  Now my allegiance is shifting to the man with the popcorn.
  • Last year’s owners of TO and AB will not forget being burned, which means this duo may end up sliding down some draft boards.  By drafting a pass catching TE in the first round, and signing two high profile WRs, Cincy is sending signals to the league that they are interested in passing the ball more than they have in years past.  Not long ago, Carson Palmer was a Top 5 QB year after year.  Then he got a few injuries and when he healed, the team traded his #2 WR (TJ Housh) and suddenly everyone is casting Palmer as a has-been.  Has-been QB tangled up with a couple of has-been WRs.  Sounds like a perfect recipe for a fantasy sleeper.  Unfortunately for both WRs, they face a difficult schedule filled with seven elite pass defenses.

Anquan Boldin

Arizona –> Baltimore

Other players at his position:

  • Boldin is the top WR in Baltimore.

s.dub.sports verdict:

  • People are hesitant to proclaim that Boldin is a strong fantasy option this year.  Not me, I peg him as a very solid WR2 with upside.
  • The Ravens have been craving a receiver like Boldin and he could not have arrived at a better time.  Flacco is entering his third year as starter, and Ray Rice is quickly becoming the team’s playmaker.  With Mason and Stallworth on the field, defenses will not be able to double up on Boldin.  The rap on Boldin is that he is not healthy.  Last year he only missed one game, but the two prior seasons he missed five games each season.  Despite that, he still caught 70+ balls, 850+ yards and 9+ TDs in both of those injury-shortened seasons.  His seven seasons in the league have produced five 1,000 yard seasons.  I like the fit in Baltimore, but  I don’t like Baltimore’s schedule, particularly early on.  Six of the Raven’s games are against top passing defenses.

Nate Burleson

Seattle –> Detroit

Other players at his position:

  • Detroit is hoping they finally found a capable receiver to start opposite Megatron.

s.dub.sports verdict:

  • Burleson is right around that cusp between starter and benchwarmer.  I would be much more comfortable if he was my WR4 than my WR3.
  • That is not to say Burleson is without value – he has value.  That value is making Megatron a better WR.  He may not be a world-beater, but Burleson is capable enough to force the defense to cover him, and open things up for Megatron.  The only question is how long Burleson can stay on the field.  He has a history of missing games due to injury.  He has missed four or fewer games in a season only one time.  Looking at Burleson’s stats from last year, you may not think it, but he just broke the bank when he signed with Detroit.  After posting only 800 yards receiving in Seattle, Detroit guaranteed Burleson $11 Million of a 5-year $25 Million contract.  While last year’s stats look pedestrian, it was actually Burleson’s second best season in terms of receptions and yards.  Seven years in the league and only a single 1,000 yard season – back in 2004 with the Vikings.  But then again – guess who his OC back in 2004 was?  Answer: his current OC in Detroit, Scott Linehan.  Hmmm….

Santonio Holmes

Pittsburgh –> New York Jets

Other players at his position:

  • Holmes starts the first four games of the season under suspension.  Once he comes back, he will likely be eased into a starting role, but we won’t know for sure until closer to, or even into the regular season.

s.dub.sports verdict:

  • If you draft Holmes you will be rolling the dice.  I would not take him before I locked up two other WRs
  • In a pass-happy league, the Jets remain very committed to the run.  Last year, they ran the ball over 200 times more than they threw it.  The team with the closest disparity to the Jets were the Panthers, who ran the ball 60 more times than they passed it.  So the Jets REALLY like to run the ball.  Despite that, the Jets seem to have an abundance of pass catchers: Tomlinson, Keller, Edwards, Cotchery and Holmes.  However, only one player caught 50+ balls (Cotchery, 57) last year.  Being suspended for his first four games as a Jet doesn’t bode well for Holmes reaching that mark.  Reports are that Holmes is learning to play all three receiver positions.  He only played split end (X) while in Pittsburgh.  This is important because it may take him some time to learn his new role, particularly if he is missing games and practices due to his suspension.  When he returns, he may not jump into the starting lineup, but rather ease into playing time.  Unfortunately the Jets’ first three games are against bottom tier pass defenses.  Holmes will miss those three cupcake games.  Two weeks after his return, the Jets have a bye (Week 6).  It may be during this bye week that the offense learns to take advantage of him and he gains comfort and trust in what he is being asked to do.  Meaning his impact may not be fully realized until Week 7.  It will be interesting to see how fantasy owners approach Holmes and Big Ben in the draft.  Both solid fantasy options, but both suspended to open the season.  But if you take the risk and make the playoffs with Holmes on your roster, he could be your secret weapon for the playoff run.

Torry Holt

Jacksonville –> New England

Other players at his position:

  • New England has a lot of WRs.  It is unclear where Holt will play, but it is doubtful he plays himself ahead of Moss or Welker.

s.dub.sports verdict:

  • I would only consider drafting Holt to my bench if he and Brady develop some mystical Super Bowl chemistry.
  • It is clear that Holt is not the same player he was just three years ago.  He has not aged as gracefully as, say, Randy Moss has.  In these past two years, Holt has not topped 800 yards or caught more than 3 TDs.  Additionally, he only started in 12 games last year and was clearly outplayed by Mike Sims-Walker.  This season, the Patriots are simply stacked at WR, it is a little unclear why they made the move to acquire Holt.  WRs on the team include Moss, Welker, Julian Edelman, Brandon Tate, Sam Aiken, David Patten and rookie Taylor Price.  Including Holt, that makes 8 WRs.  This move smells a lot like when they signed Joey Galloway last year.  The hope then was that Galloway would capture the #3 WR role behind Welker and Moss.  He finished the year with 67 receiving yards. No thanks.

Brandon Marshall

Denver –> Miami

Players at his position:

  • Brandon Marshall is the top receiver in Miami

s.dub.sports verdict:

  • I am comfortable drafting Marshall as my WR1 in any size league.
  • Despite running the ball so well last year (3rd most rushes, 4th most rushing yards) the Dolphins actually passed the ball slightly more than they ran it.  This without having a clear #1 WR, which they now have in Marshall.  So I expect that disparity between pass and rush to grow this year in favor of passing.  To kick start that passing attack, Marshall will certainly be asking for the ball as often as possible.  This is because he is working on a three season streak of 100+ catches, 1,100+ receiving yards and 6+ TDs.  Bad news for Marshall: Miami has never had a 100-catch receiver and only seven receivers in franchise history have exceeded 1,100 yards receiving.  So if this streak continues, Marshall will also be rewriting Miami receiving history.  Working against that history is the schedule.  Particularly their opening slate of games.  Five of their first eight games are against elite pass defenses.   The defenses are easier until Week 14 – aka the first week of Fantasy Playoffs.  This will be Marshall’s second stay on Revis Island – and will force Marshall owners to make a difficult decision with their fantasy championship hopes on the line.   The big unknown in the Miami-Marshall experiment is Chad Henne.  He is still a young QB, but at the end of last year he showed off his big arm throwing for 300+ yards in three of his final five games.  If the chemistry between Henne and Marshall develops, Miami could have an interesting offense.

Donte Stallworth

[Suspension/Cleveland] –>Baltimore

Other players at his position:

  • Donte will probably be the #3 WR in Baltimore.  Once training camp opens, the depth chart will be more clear.

s.dub.sports verdict:

  • Stallworth is not a fantasy starter, and unless something happens in the preseason, I would not draft him to my bench either.
  • Stallworth returns to the field after being suspended by the league for all of last year.  He said the time away from the game gave him time to think, and one fantasy relevant realization he had during his time away was that he was disappointed with his career.  He never had a 1,000 yard season and he put in a lot of work this offseason in order to change that.  I want to believe that Stallworth will hit his 1,000 yard goal, but I don’t think it will happen this year.  His offseason work and new desire will help keep him on the field but Mason and Boldin will see the majority of catches (not to mention 70+ catches from Rice).  If something happens to Boldin (a possibility) or Mason (less likely) Stallworth could be the one to benefit.  However, the more likely scenario is that Stallworth gets  injured.   He has only started 13 or more games once in his career, limiting his seasons with 50+ catches to a single season.

TE

Last year, Tony Gonzalez was the big TE to change cities.  Now, I am so used to seeing him as a Falcon, its hard to remember he spent 12 years withering away in KC.

  • Tony Gonzalez: He did not top 1,000 yards receiving, but he did catch 80 balls. [Pass]
  • Kellen Winslow: An excellent 2007 was followed by a clunker in 2008 and Winslow was sent packing to Tampa.  He fared well with a mix of QBs leading the Bucs in receptions.  [Pass]

Tony Scheffler

Denver –> Detroit

Other players at his position:

  • Detroit traded for Scheffler despite drafting TE Brandon Pettigrew in the first round last year.  Going into training camp, Scheffler is supposed to be the better fantasy bet.

s.dub.sports verdict:

  • Scheffler was a marginal fantasy TE last year as the lone TE in Denver.  I would pass on him this year, unless something remarkable happens in preseason.
  • Scheffler shares the TE role with Pettigrew who looked good last year before ending the year on the IR.   Word on the street is the Pettigrew will play the blocking TE, while Scheffler will run routes.  Pettigrew was a good pass catcher last year – which makes me question the word on the street.  Let’s just say that Scheffler does not have to compete for looks from Pettigrew – he will have to compete for looks from a whole slew of weapons the Lions picked up during the offseason.  Megatron remains, but the Lions added WR Nate Burleson and drafted pass-catching RB Jahvid Best.  Scheffler has yet to reach 50 catches in a season and I don’t see it happening during his first year in Detroit.

Ben Watson

New England –> Cleveland

Other players at his position:

  • Watson is the #1 TE in Cleveland.

s.dub.sports verdict:

  • I can count the number of Cleveland players I would draft on one hand (actually it doesn’t take that many fingers).  Ben Watson does not make the hand.
  • While in New England, Watson never developed into a reliable fantasy option.  He would have big games but follow them up with duds.  Cleveland gave him a $12 Million contract and that was not for his ability to block.  The signing is a bit of a shock because towards the end of last season, Cleveland’s rookie TE Evan Moore was getting involved in the offense more and more.  I guess that will be put on hold.  Regardless of which TE is used the most – last year’s TEs in Cleveland did not combine for enough stats to warrant fantasy consideration.


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Each day this week, we will profile some players who changed team this offseason and are expected to have an impact on Fantasy Nation in 2010.  Today, QBs with new zip codes are under the microscope.

Jason Campbell

Washington à Oakland

Other players at his position:

  • Campbell is the #1 QB, ahead of Bruce Gradkowski, Charlie Frye and Kyle Boller.

Outlook:

  • Oakland has a great schedule in terms of passing yards allowed by their 2010 opponents, particularly in the beginning of the year.  They only face one top passing defense (Denver, twice) in the regular season.
  • Despite being traded to the black hole, all is not dark and gloomy for Jason Campbell.  His new WR corp is arguably better than what he had in Washington.  He trades two good TEs (Cooley/Davis) for another (Miller).  The RB situation might also be an improvement for Campbell.  Bush and McFadden are two young backs and having a competent QB in Oakland will only help improve the running game.
  • Unfortunately, the one aspect which may not change is sacks.  Campbell holds onto the ball too long, and Oakland had problems protecting their QB last year.  Oakland drafted two new linemen, so perhaps improvement is on the way.
  • It may be surprising to note how similar JC’s stats were last year to those of McNabb’s.

s.dub.sports verdict:

  • I would not be surprised if Campbell exceeds his stats from last year.  The schedule is favorable and he has more weapons in Oakland than he did in DC (though it kills me to admit that).  The only question mark is can he learn the offense well enough to take advantage of the surrounding talent once the season begins.  I would rank him as a QB1 in very, very deep leagues – but in most leagues he is a QB2.

Jake Delhomme

Carolina à Cleveland

Other players at this position:

  • Delhomme is the #1 QB, ahead of Seneca Wallace and Colt McCoy.  Rumors are that he may share snaps with Wallace.  Additionally, Josh Cribbs has some history being used in Wildcat Formations and could cut into the time Delhomme spends on the field

Outlook:

  • Cleveland has a brutal 2010 schedule against the pass.  Three of their first four games are against top pass defenses, as are all three of their fantasy playoff games.
  • Even if Delhomme lasts the full season, his playing time (and therefore fantasy value) may be limited.  Cleveland did not have much of a passing game last year, but their running game was surprisingly healthy.  Josh Cribbs made plays out of the Wildcat last year and will likely continue in that role.  This year, Seneca Wallace joins the mix of potential Wildcat participants and may even spell Delhomme for non-Wildcat purposes.  Even if Delhomme is not benched for performance at some point this season, the Browns may elect to inject Colt McCoy into the AFC North fire.

s.dub.sports verdict:

  • As bad as Delhomme was last year, he did have offensive playmakers on the field with him, not to mention an offensive scheme he was familiar with.  (Which Matt Moore was able to utilize.)  In Cleveland, Delhomme’s surrounding talent has taken a hit.  I do not see Delhomme finishing the year as a starter.  Expect Delhomme to be benched at some point this season (after the Week 8 by??)  and stats similar, if not worse than last season.

Byron Leftwich

Tampa Bay à Pittsburgh

Other players at this position:

  • Byron Leftwich is expected to start at QB while Ben Roethlisberger is suspended for the first four to six games of the season.  Dennis Dixon could also be in the mix with Roethlisberger out.

Outlook:

  • The Steelers first two games are against teams in the bottom quarter of pass defense while the next two games are against teams in the top quarter of pass defense.  The week after that is a bye.  If the league believes that Roethlisberger has done his time, they may allow him back on the field after Week 4, giving him the bye week to prepare for his return.
  • Leftwich is not a mobil QB and could be under pressure behind a Steelers line which gave up 47 sacks last season.  The line should, however, be improved with the selection of center Maurkice Pouncey.  Dixon has more mobility than Leftwich and this may have a factor into deciding who starts the season.
  • The Steelers are expected to have a balanced offense despite the loss of Santonio Holmes.  Hines Ward and Mike Wallae are reliable receivers and Heath Miller is heavily involved  in the passing game.  Mendenhall had a storng season last year and will only be helped with the addition of sixth round pick Jonathan Dwyer.  All of these components should help Leftwich keep the Steelers on course while Roetherlisberger is contemplating the errs of his ways…

s.dub.sports verdict:

  • Leftwich’s only value is going to be the first few weeks of the season.  He should go undrafted in most leagues unless owners have some esoteric QB rotation strategy for the beginning of the season.

Donovan McNabb

Philadelphia à Washington

Other players at this position:

  • McNabb enters the season as the unquestioned starter, ahead of Rex Grossman and Colt Brennan

Outlook:

  • Washington only faces two top pass defenses this season: Green Bay and Tampa Bay.
  • It is debatable if McNabb had more talent in Philadelphia or in Washington.  The Shanahan regime is hoping to reignite the offense much atrophied under Zorn.  The real questions on the Washington offense this year will be who steps up behind Moss and what does a running game that features three former pro bowl running backs look like?  If the answer to those questions are positive in nature, expect McNabb to have a good year.
  • The single constant worry with McNabb is health.  He has only started all 16 games twice in the last seven years.  His health will be tested in Washington where sacking Redskin QBs is a favorite hobby of visiting teams.

s.dub.sports verdict:

  • Kelly and Thomas are both entering the third season in the league and are due to make their presence in the league known.  Cooley is healthy and Davis had a solid year filling in at TE.  Washington also drafted a tackle fourth overall in the draft which should help McNabb stay on two feet.  The pieces are there and I expect McNabb will be able to take advantage of them.  If all of that happens, 4,000 yards and 25 TDs are not out of the realm of possibility.

Today, our profile of this offseason’s movers takes us to the Land of RBs.  There are still a lot of questions regarding the exact roles in which many of these RBs will play on their new offenses.  Use these snapshots as a starting point and incorporate future news you hear about these players when evaluating them for your draft.  Odds are there will be a lot of changes by the time it is draft day.

Leon Washington

New York Jets à Seattle

Other players at his position:

  • With Lendale White surprisingly released from camp, Washington, Justin Forsett and Julius Jones lead the RBs on the roster

Outlook:

  • Health is the #1 question for Leon. He only played in seven games last season with the Jets before breaking his leg.  The team is hopeful that Washington will be ready to go by training camp.  The fact that Seattle released White may be an indication that they believe Washington’s progress is good.  But my feeling is that he will e limited in the beginning, and could even start the seasons on the PUP list.
  • Last year, Seattle RBs caught over 100 passes, the majority being caught by Jones and Forestt.  Catching the ball is a strength of Washington and something to expect Seattle to take advantage of this year.
  • It was surprising that Seatte traded for Washington because he is a very similar player to Forsett.  They are both slightly undersized RBs, but are known for making plays when given the opportunity.  Washington was never really given a moment to shine in New YOr, while Fosett had his moments last year, but the coaching staff continued to rely on Julius Jones despite him being the less effective RB.  So the question is this season, how will the new coaching staff break up touches between the two players?

s.dub.sports verdict:

  • Because Washington has a similar skill set as Forsett, I anticipate that Seattle will start the season with Washington on the PUP list.  This will give Washington the time to properly recover from his broken leg and after six games, Forsett (who has never carried a full RB workload) may be wearing down and in need of some help running the ball.  Regardless of this prediction, Forsett is the RB with the highest fantasy value in Seattle.

Mike Bell

New Orleans à Philadelphia

Other players at his position:

  • Mike Bell is expected to enter the season as the backup to LeSean McCoy.

Outlook:

  • Philadelphia’s schedule  is dead last in rushing yards allowed to RBs by their 2010 opponent’s.  Philly has always been pass oriented offense.  This year’s schedule may make that more apparent, particularly so because they have a good schedule against the pass.
  • Last year, Bell was surrounded by Super Bowl talent at all positions.  He proved to be valuable backup to the oft injured Pierre Thomas.  Bell was the bigger back and received many goal line chances.  In Philly, he retains that ‘big back’ roe being 25 pounds  heavier than McCoy and will likely see more goal line and short yardage carries than McCoy.
  • Bell’s weakness is pass catching.  In the New Orleans pass-happy offense, he only hauled in four balls.  Philly will also be a pass first offense, so when he is on the field it will likely be during the running downs.  And the defense may also pick up on that fact as well.

s.dub.sports verdict:

  • Bell could be McCoy’s TD vulture this year and if McCoy is injured, the team will be able to plug Bell in as the every down back.  Bell is worth a late draft choice after you already have first and second RBs.  He is likely to steal TDs and is an immediate backup RB.

Larry Johnson

Cincinnati à Washington

Other players at his position:

  • Clinton Portis is expected to get the majority of carries, with LJ and Willie Parker sharing the rest.  The Redskins also remain interested in Brian Westbrook, making him a possible fourth member of this 2005 All-Pro backfield.

Outlook

  • It is hard to tell which direction the Redskins’ offense will take in 2010.  Shanahan has been known to create successful RBs from your off the shelf no-name players.  But the Redskins also signed Donovan McNabb who ran a successful west coast pass offense in Philadelphia for 12 seasons.  Whether the offense take a run first or a pass first approach will not be determined until later this summer.
  • Like Philly, Washington has a bad schedule against the run in 2010.  Like Philly, their schedule against the pass is much more friendly and may dictate their approach to certain games.
  • Whether Washington becomes a pass first or run first offense, LJ has the talent to succeed in both systems.  The talent is there without question.  The only question is, will Shanahan be able to motivate him enough to achieve those results.  Cincinnati traded for LJ during the last half of last season and he averaged over a full yard more per rush in Cincy than he did in the seven game he was with Kansas City – so clearly he still has something in the tank.

s.dub.sports verdict:

  • Either Parker of LJ will end up being cut before the season begins.  My money is on Parker.  However, that does not necessarily mean more opportunities for LJ.  I believe Portis wants to remind the rest of the league of his talent.  And I think Shanahan will tap into that desire and motivate Portis to produce just that type of season.  (You must recognize, I am a Skins homer).  In the end, LJ is no more than a fantasy backup, unless something develops later this summer.

Thomas Jones

New York Jets à Kansas City

Other players at his position:

  • Jamaal Charles is expected to be the starter in KC, and it is still unclear what role Thomas Jones will have in the KC offense.

Outlook

  • Last year, the fantasy community and beyond clamored for the Chiefs to drop LJ and play his backup Jamaal Charles more often.  The Chiefs listened and Charles delivered big time.  So what is Charles’ reward?  A new backup comes to KC carrying an active streak of five straight 1100+ yard rushing seasons on his resume.  How will the Chiefs divide the carries between these two players is a big question going into the summer.
  • The Chiefs have a great schedule against the run this year.  Last season, they had the 11th highest team rushing total…and that includes Larry Johnson’s disastrous seven game stint with the team when he averaged under three yards a carry.  Charles is now the lead back and showed incredible ability at the end of last year, but the question remains how will he handle a full 16 games as the starter.  With Johns – there is no question he can handle the full season.  The is team is committed to the run and Thomas Jones is an excellent back to provide Charles relief.
  • Jones comes to KC after having his best season ever in terms of both total rushing yards and rushing TDs.  He has great hands, but the Jets did not throw to their RBs last year.  The Chiefs do throw to their backs, so expect the Chiefs to test TJ’s hands again this season.

s.dub.sports verdict:

Jamaal Charles set the bar so, so high at the end of last year, that whtere is no way he can maintain such levels.  Unfortunately for Charles, the Chiefs have a Week 4 bye.  It would have been much better for him, to have a bye later in the year, after the hits have accumulated.  Instead, the Chiefs have 12 straight games to finish the year.  Charles will not be starting all of those games – which means that Jones will.  If the Chiefs are smart – even when Charles starts, they will still use Jones so that Charles does not become spent.  Jones is not a fantasy starter, but is worth a bench spot because  he will get touches each game and will get the start if anything happens to Charles.

Chester Taylor

Minnesota à Chicago

Other players at his position

  • Matt Forte is the starter in Chicago.  Taylor remains teammates with Adrian Peterson – but not THE Adrian Peterson.

Outlook:

  • Chicago has a difficult schedule against the run this year.  Two of their first three games are against top run defenses (at Dallas, vs. Green Bay, vs. NY Jets).   The open and end of the fantasy season could be difficult for the Chicago RBs.
  • Chester Taylor is another backup with similar skills and dimesions as the incumbent.  Forte is slightly bigger, but both baks are proven to be able to carry a full season’s workload.  Both also have good hands which is in important trait in a Mike Martz offense.
  • Matt Forte struggled last season after a phenomenal rookie debut.  The signing of Chester Taylor could be to provide a capable player to spell Matt Forte, or Taylor could be the replacement for Forte if Forte starts the year with similarly poor results as last season.

s.dub.sports verdict:

  • Chester Taylor is an intriguing pick this year.  I expect the situation will at least begin similar to how Taylor was used in Minnesota.  Both players get their touches, but Forte will get the majority.  Continue to monitor the situation in Chicago, as Tayor is worth a late round flier in your draft.  If Forte shows any signs of struggle, Taylor’s value will rise.

LaDainian Tomlinson

San Diego à New York Jets

Other players at his position:

  • Shonn Greene is expected to be the Jet’s lead back.  The Jets also drafted USC RB Joe McKnight as replacement to Leon Washington.

Outlook:

  • The signing of Tomlinson was a questionable move for the Jets.  They released a player with a very similar skill set (Thomas Jones) but much better 2009 production and then signed Tomlinson.  So what o the Jets think Tomlinson can bring to the table?  His YPC was a full yard less than Thomas Jones, and Tomlinson’s strength – catching passes out of the backfield – is not something the Jets did last year.
  • The Jets ran the ball more than any team last year, and gained more yards on the gound than any team last year.  But the Jets traded away the player who accumulated the majority of those stats. The offensive line remains (minus Alan Faneca) as do the other offensive weapons.  It is now the responsibility of the new RBs to take advantage of the surrounding talent as Thomas Jones did last year.
  • One immediate explanation of the signing of Tomlinson is to become a receiving RB.  Greene was anointed the starter, but did not catch a single pass last year, which is something Tomlinson excels at.  But looking at the team stats, you realize that the Jets did not throw to their RBs last year.  Jones is a successful receiving RB but only caught ten balls.  So it appears that LDT’s role may simply be to spell Greene.

s.dub.sports verdict:

  • This signing is one of the bigger head scratchers this offseason.  Tomlinson has the big New York name, but his production has taken a nosedive.  Last year, Greene did not start a single regular season game, but he was chose as the Week 1 starter for 2010.  The other RB on the team is rookie Joe McKnight – not an RB you would want to depend on. Tomlinson, however, has proven that he can play all season long.  And very likely will get his share of touches on this run first offense, but it is still to be determined just how many carries.  The former #1 Fantasy Player is no longer a fantasy starter and is someone to target later in your draft after you already have two starting RBs.  Tune in to Hard Knocks this summer to see how this situation develops for the Jets!

TGIF!  Back with fantasy football content!  Today, we look at some WRs and a lone TE who swapped team colors in the offseason.  To put things in perspective, below are some WRs and TEs who changed area codes last year:

  • TJ Houshmandzadeh: his streak of three straight 90+ catch season was snapped last year in Seattle.  He ended up with 79. [Fail]
  • TO: In eight of his previous nine seasons prior to landing in Buffalo, TO had 65+ catches, 1,000+ yards receiving and 9+ TDs.  Last season: 55/829/5. [Fail, Fail, Fail]
  • Torry Holt: This guy is also mentioned in today’s column…is that a bad sign?  Last year, heading into Jacksonville, eight of Holt’s previous nine seasons featured 80+ catches, 1,100+ yards receiving and 4+ TDs.  Last season: 51/722/0. [Faill, Fail, Fail]
  • Nate Washington: Washington went from big play third receiver in Pitt to being signed by Tennessee to be their #1 WR.  He essentially matches his stats in Pitt, which is not what you want from your #1 and was not the fantasy starter many hoped he would be.  [Fail]
  • Tony Gonzalez: He did not top 1,000 yards receiving, but he did catch 80 balls. [Pass]
  • Kellen Winslow: An excellent 2007 was followed by a clunker in 2008 and Winslow was sent packing to Tampa.  He fared well with the Bucs with a mix of QBs leading the team in receptions.  [Pass]

I am no scientist, but the TEs seem to adjust a little better than WRs.  Let’s take a look at some of this year’s crop.

Antonio Bryant

Tampa Bay à Cincinnati

Other players at his position:

  • Bryant is set to start opposite Chad Ochocinco.

Outlook:

  • Three of the Bengals’ first five games are against top pass defenses (Baltimore, Carolina & Tampa).  The Tampa game is the last game before the Bengals’ bye and should be a game that Bryant is primed to show up his former team.
  • Bryant had a breakout season two years ago with Tampa: 83 receptions for 1,248 yards and 7 TDs.  As a result, he was drafted high in a lot of fantasy leagues last year, but didn’t deliver even half of those totals.  Owners will not forget being burned (or not forget how glad they were not to draft him) and Bryant may end up sliding down some draft boards.
  • The Bengals didn’t just sign Bryant, they SIGNED him.  They gave him a 4-year $28 Million contract.  So they are expecting big things from him.  So far, reports out of camp are good.  Palmer has been impressed and he has been lining up all over the field.  The Bengals are looking to add some wrinkles to their once great passing game.

s.dub.sports verdict

  • Not long ago, Carson Palmer was a Top 5 QB year after year.  Then he got a few injuries and when he healed, the team traded his #2 WR (TJ Housh) and suddenly everyone is casting Palmer as a has-been.  Has-been QB tangled up with a has-been WR.  Sounds like a perfect recipe for a fantasy sleeper.  I don’t think Bryant will outshine Ochocinco, but I do think he will make people forget what a terrible year he had last season.  Count me as a believer.  I beg him as a low WR2 to WR3 status.

Anquan Boldin

Arizona à Baltimore

Other players at his position:

  • Boldin finally provides the Ravens with that big target at WR they have been searching for over the past few years.  He will start most likely opposite Derrick Mason.

Outlook:

  • I don’t like Baltimore’s schedule, particularly early on.  Seven of the Raven’s games are against top passing defenses.  They open the season with two road games against two of those top pass defenses (Jets & Bengals).  But the fantasy leagues are won at the end of the season and that is where the schedule gets better (at Houston, New Orleans, at Cleveland).
  • The rap on Bolding is that he is not healthy.  Last year he only missed one game. The two prior seasons he missed five games each season.  Despite that, he still caught 70+ balls, 850+ yards and 9+ TDs in oth of those injury-shortened seasons.  His seven seasons in the league have produced five 1,000 yard season.
  • Last year, Mason was the #1 WR and had very similar stats to what Bolding produced in Arizona, just more TDs: 73-1028-7

s.dub.sports verdict:

  • The Ravens have been craving a receiver like Bolding and he could not have come at a better time.  Flaco is entering his thir year as starter, and Ray Rice is quickly becoming a playmaker.  Mason and Stallworth on the field means that defenses will not be able to double up on Boldin.  I like the fit in Baltimore.  Bodling is at the very least a strong WR2 with plenty of upside.

Nate Burleson

Seattle à Detroit

Other players at his position:

  • Detroit is hoping they finally found a capable receiver to line up opposite of Megatron

Outlook:

  • Here is another WR who you wouldn’t think just broke the bank.  After posting a pedestrian 800 yards in Seattle, Detroit guaranteed Burleson $11 Million of a 5-year $25 Million contract.  Let’s see if he lives up to that paycheck.
  • While last year looks pedestrian, it was actually Burleson’s second best season in terms of receptions and yards.  Seven years in the league and only a single 1,000 yard season – back in 2004 with the Vikings.  But then again – guess who is OC back in Minnesota?  His current OC in Detroit, Scott Linehan.  Hmmm….
  • Burleson has a bad history of missing games.  Last year, he missed four starters, he has only missed four or fewer games in a season one time: during his thousand yard campaign in 2004.
  • All of the sudden Detroit has a lot of weapons on offense.  And most of them are new to the team (Burlseon, Best Scheffler).  Thewer is a lot of hype around this team – but that does not mean everyone on the offense will deliver great fantasy numbers.  This offense revolves around Megatron, and what balls are left will be parceled out among the other offenseive players.  I don’t anticipate Burlseon will be given more oil than the other cogs in this Lions offensive machine.

s.dub.sports verdict:

  • Burleson has value – that value is making Megatron a better WR.  I don’t anticipate Burlseon will surpass his numbers from last year, ut he will force the defense to cover him, opening things up for Megatron.  At best, Burleson is a WR3, but the more likely scenario is that he will be drafted to your bench.

Santonio Holmes

Pittsburgh à New York Jets

Other players at his position:

  • Holmes starts the first four games of the season under suspension.  Once he comes back, he will likely be eased into a starting role, but we won’t know for sure until closer to or even into the regular season.

Outlook:

  • Holmes started at least 13 games each of the last three season and racked up at least 50 catches, 800+ yards and 5+ TDs in each of those years…
  • …however, Holmes is suspended the first four games of this season.  Fortunately two of those games are against top pass defenses.
  • Reports are that Holmes is learning to play all three receiver positions.  He only played split end (X) while in Pittsburgh.  This is important because it may take him some time to learn his new roles, particularly if he is missing games and practices due to his suspension.  When he returns, he may not jump into the starting lineup, but rather ease into playing time.
  • Two weeks after his return, the Jets have a bye.  It may be during this period that the offense is able to learn to take advantage of him and he gains comfort and trust in what he is being asked to do.  The game after their bye is Green Bay  (a top pass defense) but their next two games are against teams in the bottom quarter of pass defense (Detroit, Cleveland).  This might be the time period (Weeks 9& 10) when Holmes finally gets comfortable in his new surroundings and fantasy owners are rewarded.
  • In a pass-happy league, the Jets remain very committed to the run.  Last year, they ran the ball over 200 times more than they threw it.  The team with the closest disparity to the Jets were the Panthers, who ran the ball 60 more times than they passed it.  So the Jets REALLY like to run the ball.  Despite that the Jets seem to have an abundance of pass catchers: Tomlinson, Keller, Edwards Cotchery and Holmes.  Only one player caught 50+ balls (Cotchery, 57) last year.  Being suspended for his first four games as a Jet doesn’t bode well for Holmes reaching that pinnacle.

s.dub.sports verdict:

  • Oh Santonio – you have a great season and then you screw it up by getting suspended to start the next year.  What are fantasy owners supposed to do with that?  With that suspension, Holmes is too great a risk to invest a high draft pick in.  At the very best, you could draft him after already drafting two SOLID WRs.  He is not an option for the first four games and it may take him a while after that to become fully acclimated with the new offense.  I am skeptical that even once Holmes is comfortable he will have a fantasy impact.  But if you take the risk and make the playoffs with Holmes on your roster, he could be your secret weapon for the playoff run.

Torry Holt

Jacksonville à New England

Other players at his position:

  • New England has a lot of WRs.  It is unclear where Holt will play, ut it is doubtful he plays himself ahead of Moss or Welker.

Outlook

  • New England has a difficult schedule against the pass.  Their first three games and their final two games (in the fantasy playoffs) are against top pass defenses.  And in between, they have two more games against top pass defenses, bringing the total to seven games.
  • Torry “Big Game” Holt has not been earning his nickname as of late.  Combining his stats fro the past two years do not equally his all pro 2003 season.  In these past two years, Holt has not topped 800 yards or caught more than 3 TDs.  Additionally, he only started in 12 games last year.
  • The Patriots are simply stacked at WR, it is a little unclear why they made the move to acquire Holt.  WRs on the team are Moss, Welker, Julian Edelman, Brandon Tate, Sam Aiken, David Patten an rookie Taylor Price.  Including Holt, that makes 8 WRs.  This move smells a lot like when they signed Joey Galloway last year.  The hope then was that he would capture the #3 WR role behind Welker and Moss.  He finished the year with 67 receiving yards.  And did I mention he is now on the Redsksin.  Yeah.  Go team.

s.dub.sports verdict:

  • It is clear that Holt is not the same player he was just three years ago.  Brady and Holt [conjur??] sounded up like a great pairing, but Holt has not aged as gracefully as, say, Randy Moss has.  Last season, he was clearly outplayed by Mike Sims-Walker.  This year, he will be lucky to stay on the Patriots roster going into the regular season.  I would not bother using a draft pick on him unless he suddenly discovers the fountain of youth during training camp.

Brandon Marshall

Denver à Miami

Players at his position:

  • Brandon Marshall is the top receiver in Miami

Outlook:

  • Miami faces seven opponents who feature top pass defenses.  Two of their first three games and two of their final three (in the fantasy playoffs) fall into this category.  Additionally, Marshall will find himself on Revis Island twice this year (Week 3 and *shudder* Week 14, the first week of the fantasy playoffs.  Talk about having to make a difficult decision).
  • Despite running the ball so well last year (3rd most rushes, 4th most rushing yards) the Dolphins actually passed the ball slightly more than they ran it.  This without having a clear #1 WR.  Which they now have in Marshall – so I expect that disparity to grow this year.
  • The WRs caught nearly 200 balls last year – they just didn’t catch many TDs.  But none of them had the size Marshall does, he has been an excellent red-zone target in Denver.  Something Miami had not had, but will enjoy using this season.
  • Marshall is working on a three season streak of 100+ catches, 1,100+ receiving yards and 6+ TDs.  Bad news for Marshall: Miami has never had a 100-catch receiver and only seven receivers in franchise history have exceeded 1,100 yards receiving.  So if this streak continues, Marshall will also be rewriting Miami receiving history.
  • One of the big unknowns in the Miami-Brandon Marshall experiment is Chad Henne.  He is still a young QB, but at the end of last year he showed off his big arm throwing for 300+ yards in three of his final five games.  The threat of the running game will be there and the defense will have to respect that – if the chemistry between Henne and Marshall develops, Miami could have an interesting offense.

s.dub.sports verdict:

  • Brandon Marshall has been a model citizen in Miami!  Maybe it is all about the Benjamins.  He is currently nursing a similar injury (hip) to what he had last summer.  But this time he is not punting balls in practice (at least not yet).  If Marshall keeps his wits about him, and Henne can continue to grow into a big league QB, the sky is the limit for Marshall.  Going into Training Camp, Marshall is a WR1 for most fantasy teams.

Donte Stallworth

[Suspension/Cleveland] à Baltimore

Other players at his position:

  • Donte will probably play as the #3 WR in Baltimore.  Once training camp opens, the depth chart will be more clear.

Outlook:

  • Stallworth returns to the field after being suspended by the league for all of last year.  He was convicted of hitting a man and killing him while driving drunk.  His jail time was light compared to his punishment by the league.  He has said the tie away frm the game gave him time to think and one fantasy relevant realization he ha during his time away was that he was disappointed with his career.  He neer had a 1,000 yard season and he put in a lot of work this offseason in order to change that.
  • The biggest complaint with past Stallworth owners (I am one of them) is that he has the talent, but he never stays healthy.  He has only starter 13 or more games once in his career, limiting his seasons with 50+ catches to a single season.
  • Overnight, Baltimore is stacked on offense.  Ray Rice came into his own last year and this past offseason, Baltimore signed two big name WRs: both listed in this column (PS, 1,000 yard receiver Derrick Mason is still on the team too).  They also added two rookie TEs in the draft.  Outside Ray Rice, there is not one player who sticks out and must be accounted for, every player is capable of making the big play whichi will not only be challenging to the opposing defense but also for Baltimore QB Joe Flacco!

s.dub.sports verdict:

  • I want to believe that Stallworth will hit his 1,000 yard goal, but I don’t think it will happen this year.  His offseason work and new desire will help keep him on the field but Mason and Bodling will see the majority of catches (not to mention 70+ catches from Rice).  If something happens to Boldin (a possibility) or Mason (less likely) Stallworth could be the one to benefit.  But as of now, he should not be drafted to start for your fantasy teams.

Tony Scheffler

Denver à Detroit