Well, with the season only a week away and my own fantasy drafts done, it’s time I shared my predictions and thoughts on the upcoming fantasy football season. Keep in mind, that fantasy and actual football are different. I may not like a player for the reasons of winning football games, but they could still rack up a ton of fantasy points. If you want to read about the actual NFL season, check out Part I , Part II and Part III of my NFL preview.
I feel like I have some knowledge to share here since I won both of my fantasy drafts last year. Never mind that I needed a bunch of luck to do it, that’s not important. Sure I knew Le’Ron McLain and Pierre Thomas would be my starting running backs for the finals, didn’t any of you guys predict that at the beginning of the season?
I always think that fantasy leagues depend on 3 things; find a few blue chip players, avoid players who will make you drink heavily and unearth a few gems. Each category is about managing risk. Blue chip players ensure top-level performance for your early picks. Avoiding busts means that you won’t waste a pick on a player who has numbers below expectations and finding some gems is about searching for upside with low-cost selections like late round picks and waiver wire pickups.
The Shaquille O’Neal group – blue chippers
Every position in fantasy has a first tier. These players may not have a better season than second-tier players, but they carry less risk. They are less likely to have an off year or just tank down the stretch. You have to pick a tier 1 player before picking someone with more risk. Here are my first tier players.
1. Drew Brees – he almost set the NFL record for most yardage in a single season and has healthier weapons this year and a full year of Pierre Thomas. He’s a shoe in for a killer season.
2. Tom Brady – Heeee’s Baaa-aack! He’s the best QB in the league and he has Moss and Welker to throw to.
3. Peyton Manning – He won’t put up the same numbers as Brees and Brady, but he’s automatic for 4000 yds and 25-30 TDs. He also makes awesome commercials
Andre Johnson, Randy Moss and Larry Fitzgerald – There’s not much to differentiate the 3 and you can’t go wrong with any of them. Sign yourself up for a guarantee of 90 catches, 1300 yards and 10-15 TD’s.
1. Adrian Peterson – All Day is going to dominate all season. Now that he has Favre to make defenses back off a bit, he might actually do better than last year.
2. Matt Forte – Another back to tore up last season and will benefit from having a competent QB who backs up defenses crowding the box and gives him more goal line chances.
3. Maurice Jones-Drew – with Fred Taylor gone he gets all the touches, and he was already a good fantasy back.
4. Steven Jackson – They’ve got a rebuilt line and he’s dominated before along with playing in a weak defensive division.
5. LaDanian Tomlinson – I’m sure a lot of people will disagree with this pick. He’s healthy, he’s been a dominant back for years, he plays on the team with the best passing game in the league and Norv Turner loves to give goal-line touches to his feature backs.
The Pamela Anderson group – yup, big-time busts
There are just some players you need to avoid. If you can get them really late in the draft or quite cheap in an auction, that’s fine. Don’t overpay or your season is done.
1. Brandon Marshall – he may be a top 5 talent at the receiver position, but he’s a certified headcase and clearly doesn’t want to be with the Broncos. Punting it away from the ball boy is all class.
2. Michael Turner – For starters, he could be this years victim of the Curse of 370. He’s only been a top back for one year, and now the Falcons have Tony Gonzalez to take away some of his red zone TDs. That said, he’s only a bust if you take him in the top 5 like most experts are suggesting you do.
3. Kellen Winslow Jr. – He’s talented but he’s inconsistent and his obvious off-field issues could cause him to miss games. If he flushes his career any further down the toilet, he’ll be playing in the CFL with Pacman Jones.
4. Kurt Warner – Ageless Kurt is one big hit away from missing 8-10 games. He’s absolutely fantastic when he’s healthy, but he hasn’t proven to be durable during his career.
5. Brian Westbrook – Mr. Everything for the Eagles over the last 5 years, his fantasy value will drop due to his inevitable 3-4 games missed to injury and the fact that the Eagles have more weapons now in DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Lesean McCoy and Mike Vick all stealing yards and TDs from him.
The Catfish group – bottom feeding
If you want to win, you need to be able to make the most of the late rounds in the draft and the waiver wire. In keeper leagues, this is even more important because many leagues force you to give up that round of draft pick next year to keep the player. 2 years ago I got Wes Welker in the 14th round and Ryan Grant off waivers and last year I got Pierre Thomas off of waivers. That’s way more value for the pick than getting Reggie Bush in the 2nd round.
In order to make the most of the late rounds and waiver wire, it’s important to identify players who have the chance to shine. Whether it’s from being newly inserted in the starter role, playing behind an injury-prone starter or just showing flashes of greatness during limited playing time last year.
Here are the players I think have the best chance to make a fantasy leap next year:
Anthony Gonzalez, WR Colts – he was good to begin with and now he’s a starter on the Colts offense. He will be good for 60-70 catches, 1000 yards and 6-7 TDs.
Domenik Hixon , WR Giants – sometimes we overcomplicate things. He was the Giants leading receiver last year and now he’s their clear #1 going into the season. He’ll get enough targets to at least be a #3 receiver on any team.
LeSean McCoy, RB Eagles – he’s a versatile running back that is a homerun threat going to the Eagles. Sound like the heir apparent to anyone? Not only that, but every fantasy team needs a “Le” or “De” name to be complete. I have DeSean Jacskon this year, so I’m set.
Miles Austin, WR Cowboys – he was great with limited playing time last year as a deep threat and catching some tough balls over the middle. This year he’s set to win the #2 wide receiver job with Tony Romo throwing to him. Worth a late-round flyer.
Jerome Harrison, RB Browns – could be this year’s Leon Washington. Not only that, but Jamal Lewis’ time as a starter could be just about up.
Jerious Norwood, RB Falcons – figures to see several touches a game anyway, but is just waiting for the Curse of 370 to catch up to Turner.
Eddie Royal, WR Broncos – He was dynamite last year as an undersized, underneath receiver with great YAC. Now he’s got Wes Welker’s former offensive coordinator as his head coach and Brandon Marshall is AWOL. I think he’ll get a ton of targets.
Matt Schaub – QB Texans – This is all about health. He’s a top 6 or 7 fantasy QB when healthy, so he’s a perfect #2 since there’s no risk.
Cedric Benson, RB Bengals – he’s the starting RB, he has to get enough action to be someone’s #3 back on their roster. Although, whoever picks him in your draft should be forced to cry and talk about how nobody believed in them.
Julius Jones, RB Seahawks – another starting RB that gets overlooked. With all the attention on the passing game, he could rack up a lot of yards and goal-line TDs.
Shonn Greene, RB Jets – he’s behind an aging Thomas Jones and is getting rave reviews from the coaching staff. He’s less likely than the others to blow up but has a chance and is valuable in leagues that give bonuses for rookies.
Clinton Portis, RB Redskins – while he’s not a big time sleeper, he can be had in the 2nd or 3rd round in most drafts, which is phenomenal value. He’s only 28, is a near automatic 1300 yds and 10 TDs and knows how to take criticism from a legend.
Well, that wraps up the season preview from me. Let’s get ready for next Thursday’s kick-off!
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