The Pre-Pre-Pre-Season dish on the state of all things fantasy . . .
After building the initial rankings it is always interesting to see the things that jump out at me, and the guys that I personally believe should be ranked higher in the initial FI rankings. Our algorithms and predictive modeling always spit out some anomalies and even though my weight to each player factors in to the final result, our rankings are necessarily independent of one man’s opinion in the interest of objectivity.
So here is what I see for the 2012 landscape:
Antonio Brown (WR, PIT) doesn’t really seem to be on anyone’s radar. His ADP has been quite low in the mocks I have seen, and with a new gun-slinging offense promised by Todd Haley, Brown should be looking at up to 10 targets a game. Brown draws a lot of single coverage because of Mike Wallace’s speed, and with Mendenhall out the Steelers should pass even more early on . . .
Demarco Murray (RB, DAL) is injury prone – that’s the rap. While healthy he will be a near every- down back and perform at a top 7 level – but you have to be prepared with a solid backup when his inevitable injury pops up . . .
Chris Johnson, (RB, TEN) is very likely to be the number one fantasy back this season as he returns to form after a terrible first 8 games of 2011. The entire offense is better, Johnson was a monster for 6 of his last 7 starts last season, and he has come to OTAs and camp possessed. Don’t let him past the first round . . .
Robert Griffin III (QB, WAS) is a rookie, but a rookie of a different type. Rookies proved successful last season with superstar Cam Newton and serviceable Andy Dalton, Christian Ponder, and Jake Locker – - only Gabbert failed and it’s because he is not good, not because he is a rookie. Griffin III will be the best rookie QB since, well, Cam Newton.
Adrian Peterson (RB, MIN), Mike Vick (QB, PHI), and Miles Austin (WR, DAL) are all up for huge comeback years in 2012 and are being drafted below their value. Austin is healthy, Vick is going to have the benefit of OTAs and a full off-season, and Peterson is likely to be ready for week 1 according to all off-season reports so far.
Jerome Simpson (WR, MIN) and Mikel LeShoure (RB, DET) are both getting bypassed in favor of short-term fixes in early drafts and mocks. Simpson has a three game suspension, but will immediately be the Vikes #1 WR when he returns. LeShoure was drafted to be the Lions every-down back before tearing his Achilles last season, and he comes in to 2012 looking healthy and ready to seize the role after his 2 game suspension. These guys like to blaze the weed so they are slight behavior risks . . .
It’s a deep year for QB’s – - - 11 and 12 will be starting Ben Roethlisberger (PIT), Matt Schaub (HOU), Robert Griffin III (WAS), or Jay Cutler (CHI) in a worst case scenario. Figure this in to draft plans knowing quarterbacks like Vick, Romo, and Eli aren’t going until the 4th-6th rounds in mocks . . .
There are more good #1 RB’s than you think, especially in PPR leagues. Darren Sproles (NOS), Jamaal Charles (KCC), and Roy Helu (WAS) have tremendous value in PPR leagues . . .
Arian Foster (RB, HOU) is the clear cut number one pick – or LeSean McCoy (RB, PHI) if you are worried about Foster’s durability . . . Ray Rice (RB, BAL) is an alternative as well . . .
It’s all about the Brandons – Brandon Lloyd (WR, NEP) and Brandon Marshall (WR, CHI) are both in FI’s initial top 12 WR. Lloyd is reunited with coordinator Josh McDaniels in New England, and although it is just shorts and t-shirts Lloyd and Brady had amazing timing and sixth sense during OTAs. Brandon Marshall is reunited with the QB who threw to him over 130 times when they were last together and saw Marshall’s best years that made him a #1 WR. Marshall is clear of legal wrongdoing and will be a bona fide every week start.
Tight Ends Fred Davis (WAS) and Owen Daniels (HOU) are both poised for big years and sit amid FI’s initial top 10. Davis missed the last 4 games of last season on suspension, but is ready to go and a big part of the Redskins plan on offense. He’s likely to end up a top 7 TE as he has shown great talent and production with subpar quarterbacks. Daniels was a victim of circumstance as Andre Johnson was out and that gave defenses the ability to key on Daniels, who subsequently lost Schaub. Daniels is certain to rebound with a top 10 season and is a nice draft day sleeper. Kellen Davis (CHI) is in for a breakout season with Martz gone and Mike Tice running a TE-friendly offense.
Quarterbacks Jay Cutler (CHI) and Ben Roethlisberger (PIT) are going lower than expected in mocks, as low as the 7th round or beyond. Both are adequate starters in 12 team leagues and assets in 14 team leagues or larger. Cutler added Marshall, rookie Alshon Jeffery, and a new offense, while Roethlisberger gets the benefit of being healthy and a new pass-happy coordinator in Todd Haley.
Youth will be served with Trent Richardson (RB, CLE) leading the way amongst the rest of the other first year fantasy rookie stars Alshon Jeffery (WR, CHI), Michael Floyd (WR, ARI), Coby Fleener (TE, IND), David Wilson (RB, NYG), Ronnie Hillman (RB, DEN), Andrew Luck (RB, IND), and Doug Martin (RB, TBB).
Don’t forget to check the site daily for player news, or just check your e-mail for instant insights. Make 2012 a championship year!!!