Athlon Sports looks at the sleepers and busts at the quarterback, running back, wide receiver and tight end positions this week. These are the players we think you can wait on and still get solid production from and the players we think have an average draft position (ADP) that is too high for what you will get in return.
First up, are the tight ends. There are five elite fantasy players at the position — Antonio Gates, Jason Witten, Dallas Clark, Jermichael Finley and Vernon Davis. But what do you do if you pass (or miss) on them? Well, if you keep on waiting, here are eight that could serve you well.
See more of Athlon Sports value players, overvalued players and top rookies in our Best Bets story
Jermaine Gresham, Cincinnati
Gresham performed quite well as a rookie, especially considering the circumstances. He missed his final year of college ball with a knee injury. He joined a crowd of pass-catchers in Cincinnati. Yet, he showed enough to earn 10 targets in his first game out and ranked 12th among TEs for the season in 15 games. Unfortunately, 2011 still presents a crowd, if a slightly different one. A new QB also figures to complete fewer passes than Carson Palmer, though a big TE will be an attractive target.
Tony Moeaki, Kansas City
The Chiefs couldn’t have asked for a whole lot more from Moeaki in his rookie season, but it was a bit curious they didn’t give him a chance to do more. He did rank second on the team in targets but sat 60 behind Dwayne Bowe. That left him just 15th in the league among TEs on a team that desperately needed receiving help. Moeaki showed terrific hands, catching 64.3 percent of targets even while Matt Cassel completed just 58.2 percent. We’ll see if the new offense features him more.
Jared Cook, Tennessee
The difference between Cook and New Orleans' Jimmy Graham is that the latter is part of a much better offense. Cook’s talent has been obvious since college, but he has been slow to adapt to the pros. He finally broke through a bit with 24 catches over the final six weeks of 2010. Since then, new OC Chris Palmer has referred to Cook as a “special” talent and worries only that he’ll use the TE “too much.” QB is a question in Tennessee, but Marcedes Lewis’ 2010 level of production could be within reach.
Lance Kendricks, St. Louis
Kendricks entered college as a WR with enough speed that he carried the ball seven times for 102 yards as a junior at Wisconsin. He just kept growing, though, and is now generating buzz as a “move” TE for Josh McDaniels’ new offense. In McDaniels’ five years running offenses, only one TE has topped 36 catches. Ben Watson caught 49 with the Patriots in 2006 and was on pace for 48 in 2007. That could be Kendricks’ 2011 ceiling, but he also could become a favorite target of Sam Bradford, along with WR Danny Amendola, as the two consistently healthy options he's been able to work with in camp.
Visanthe Shiancoe, Minnesota
Shiancoe isn’t likely to have another 2009. Brett Favre rode into town with his proven record of pumping up TEs in the red zone and delivered career highs for “Shank” in receptions and TDs. The upshot without Favre is that Shiancoe can build a bit more yardage with catches between the 20s. He averaged at least 1.2 more yards per catch in each of his other three Vikings seasons. He could also be important in a diluted receiving group. Still, betting on 50 receptions seems unwise.
Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota
According to many scouts, Rudolph was a first-round talent who likely slipped to 43rd overall because of a serious hamstring tear in college. The pre-draft checks apparently showed him 100 percent recovered, though. The prevailing thought is that the Vikings will run a lot of two tight end sets considering Percy Harvin is the only real threat at WR.
Kevin Boss, Oakland
Boss has finished top-18 for three straight years in both PPR and non-PPR. Boss also hasn’t finished higher than 13th, settling most often around 16th. However, he does replace Zach Miller in Oakland and he was a go-to target for the Raiders. Was Boss not utilized to his fullest potential in New York? Can he step in and replace Miller without skipping a beat? He might be worth a look to figure it out.
Fred Davis, Washington
If Chris Cooley can't stay healthy then Davis is worth a look. He's a big target at 6-4, 258 pounds and might have some open field to work with considering Santana Moss returned to the team and the Redskins have Jabar Gaffney, Donte Stallworth and Anthony Armstrong to draw attention from the receiver spot.
Greg Olsen, Carolina
A rookie QB, only one dependable receiver on the outside and a solid backfield can easily translate into an offense that will look to the tight end position. Add in that the Panthers traded for Olsen to pair with also newly acquired Jeremy Shockey, and it makes for a sneaky play late in your draft. Both played for new Carolina offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski when he was the tight ends coach and OC at the University of Miami. The tight end will be a major play in this offense, and if we were betting men, we would go with the younger Olsen as the one to breakout.
Jimmy Graham, New Orleans
Graham sits here not because we think he is going to fall flat on his face. He sits as a bust because he's being drafted as a fifth-round player and we project him as an eighth-round player. So just don't reach for him. One might say that Graham hasn’t proven anything over a full season yet. What he did do was catch five TD passes last season, including four in the final three games, despite ranking just 37th at the position in targets. Graham saw six teammates catch more passes than he did, but only two beat him in TDs. Altogether, Saints TEs scored 10 times, a number not out of reach for Graham this season. Sean Payton conceded that Graham’s emergence led to the release of Jeremy Shockey.
Marcedes Lewis, Jacksonville
He got his money this offseason and, like Graham, it's not so much that he's a bust as much as it is his ADP has him going as a seventh rounder and we say ninth. Might be splitting hairs. The magnitude of Lewis’ breakout probably surprised everyone. Many around the team said the guy was poised to explode, though, and it seems all he needed was a chance. He drew 16 more targets last year than in any previous season. He saw nine red zone targets compared with zero in 2009. Lewis’ 66 percent catch rate was the best of his career but only one percentage point ahead of his 2007 mark. He simply got more looks as a receiver, spent less time blocking and delivered.
Owen Daniels, Houston
All reports have him completely healthy, but you can't overlook 13 missed games the last two seasons with weapons like Andre Johnson and Arian Foster around him to perhaps limit his looks. Daniels got in seven full games before his 2009 ACL tear. He was on pace for 89 catches over a whole season. He finally made it all the way back from that and related ailments for the final four games last year. His 22 catches in that stretch project to 88 for a full season. Matt Schaub has attempted the third-most passes in the league the past two years. That reception total is doable. Daniels was also on pace for 11 TDs in 2009 and has consistently averaged more than 12 yards per catch.
These are the fantasy players or positions from each of the 32 NFL teams that we are going to either avoid altogether, or for the most part, make them a late, late pick in our drafts.
Todd Heap, TE
The tight end class is one of the deepest it’s ever been, and Heap is on the back end of it. He still has momentary flashes of greatness, but we would rather play for the upside at this position. WAIT UNTIL: 19th RD
John Abraham, DL
The addition of Ray Edwards as the other bookend on the Falcons’ line and Kroy Biermann being in the rotation means, Abraham, the 12-year veteran, may not get enough snaps to warrant being a top IDP defensive lineman. WAIT UNTIL: 20th RD
Ed Dickson, TE
No Derrick Mason. No Todd Heap. And the Ravens sign Vonta Leach to clear the way for more ground and pound (or at least dump offs) with Ray Rice. It’s probably a year too early for Dickson to be thrown into the fold as the team’s starting TE, and he may perform as such. WAIT UNTIL: 19th RD
Chan Gailey seemingly has no use for the position. Not counting Tony Gonzalez's 10-score, 1,058-yard season in 1998, a player he inherited during his prime, the tight end position has combined for 1,884 yards and 21 TDs over eight seasons and five different teams under Gailey's tutelage. That averages out to three scores and 269 yards per season. The tight ends combined for 187 yards and one score last season. WAIT UNTIL: NEVER
THE PASSING GAME
In keeper leagues, rookie quarterback Cam Newton and rising star David Gettis have plenty of value. But in 2011, look for DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart to be the only dependable Panther fantasy options. WAIT UNTIL: 20th RD
Marion Barber, RB
Barber has played the “big back” role before and did not do much with it in Dallas. Yes, he will steal a few TDs around the goal line because Forté has trouble knocking it in, but that’s about all you can expect: a mini TD vulture. WAIT UNTIL: NEVER
Cincinnati went from the 12th-rated fantasy defense to the 27th in one year. The Bengals registered zero kick return TDs, tied for 27th in sacks and then used their top two picks at WR and QB. WAIT UNTIL: NEVER
Brian Robiskie’s had trouble adjusting to NFL schemes, and Mohamed Massaquoi has underachieved since high school. Rookie Greg Little has plenty of upside, but he’s still catching passes from Colt McCoy. WAIT UNTIL: 20th RD
BACKUP TIGHT END
Jason Witten hasn’t missed a start since 2006, and in the last four seasons, the backups have combined for 957 yards and eight scores. Witten does that in a season. Martellus Bennett is not worth a look. WAIT UNTIL: NEVER
John Fox is a run-first head coach, and the tight end was never a staple of his offenses in his nine years in Carolina. The position eclipsed 700 yards only once and never went past six TDs in a season. WAIT UNTIL: NEVER
Nate Burleson, WR
With Titus Young joining the fantasy ranks, and Jahvid Best, Brandon Pettigrew and Calvin Johnson combining to command high target totals, Burleson’s time on fantasy rosters may be ending. WAIT UNTIL: 19th RD
Donald Driver, WR
With Jordy Nelson and James Jones stepping up, Jermichael Finley returning and Randall Cobb joining the offense, the 36-year-old Driver’s value is greatly diminished after his worst season in Green Bay since 2001. WAIT UNTIL: 17th RD
Owen Daniels, TE
Simply put: Daniels has failed to stay healthy the last two seasons, missing 13 games over that span. In what may be the deepest year ever for tight ends, Daniels is only worth a mid-to-late-round flier as a backup. WAIT UNTIL: 11th RD
Austin Collie, WR
When healthy, Collie has proven to be a fantastic fantasy option. Yet, his role is still working the middle of the field, and one more concussion could end his career. Select at your own risk. WAIT UNTIL: 8th RD
David Garrard, QB
His 53-to-38 TD-to-INT ratio over the last three years prompted the Jags to select Blaine Gabbert in the first round. Garrard averaged under 200 yards passing per game in 2010. WAIT UNTIL: 19th RD
Matt Cassel, QB
Cassel tossed 27 passing scores last year but is a longshot to repeat that total. Coordinator Charlie Weis is gone, and doubts remain about Cassel's ability to be an elite quarterback. WAIT UNTIL: 16th RD
Anthony Fasano, TE
Despite career highs in targets (60), catches (39) and yards (528) last season, where does he fit in this season? He has rookie Charles Clay to compete with, as well as Brandon Marshall, Davone Bess and Reggie Bush in the passing game. WAIT UNTIL: NEVER
Whether it is Donovan McNabb or rookie Christian Ponder, no Vikings passer is worth drafting. The offense still runs through Adrian Peterson, and the offensive line might have trouble protecting the passer. WAIT UNTIL: 19th RD
Danny Woodhead, RB/WR
The cult hero of Foxboro will be hard-pressed to repeat his 2010 production with two elite tight ends, Wes Welker, two rookie RBs and BenJarvus Green-Ellis heavily involved in the offense. WAIT UNTIL: 12th RD
Chris Ivory, RB
With the Saints drafting Mark Ingram, who will likely step into the starting role, Pierre Thomas returning from injury and the acquisition of Darren Sproles, it doesn’t seem like there will be enough touches for Ivory to be relevant WAIT UNTIL: NEVER
New York Giants Osi Umenyiora, DL
He reports after camp has started, then goes straight to surgery on his knee and with two weeks left until the season starts we hear he "may" be available for Week 1. Then it's reported he could miss the first three weeks. The problem here is that in IDP leagues, elite DLs are hard to find. So this is a tough call on Osi. You could still draft him where you normally would, figure out how to support yourself the first three weeks and then again in Week 7 (the Giants' bye) or you could avoid the situation altogether. We advise finding someone else with more upside than the multiple knee-surgeried Umenyiora. WAIT UNTIL: 20th RD
New York Jets Darrelle Revis, DB
Quarterbacks avoid Revis, and so will we. The NFL’s best cornerback went from the No. 33-ranked DB in IDP leagues in 2009 to No. 172 in this scoring format in 2010. With QBs shying away from him, Revis is not able to produce numbers worthy of being on your roster. WAIT UNTIL: NEVER
Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR
Oakland could field a good fantasy offense in 2011, but Heyward-Bey won’t be a big part of it. Jason Campbell will look to Jacoby Ford, Louis Murphy and the tight end TBD as his primary pass-catchers. WAIT UNTIL: NEVER
Brent Celek, TE
The Eagles’ offense under Michael Vick rarely features the tight end. One year removed from a stellar 2009 season, Celek saw 34 fewer targets in 2010. WAIT UNTIL: 20th RD
Hines Ward, WR
Despite being one of the best all-around players of this generation, Ward is clearly in decline after his worst season in a decade. Look for Emmanuel Sanders to start stealing his targets. WAIT UNTIL: 16th RD
Patrick Crayton, WR
After scoring at least four TDs in four straight seasons with the Cowboys, Crayton managed only one score (on just 28 catches) in his first season on a talented, and for most of the season a Vincent Jackson-less San Diego offense. WAIT UNTIL: 20th RD
Justin Forsett, RB
He was given the chance to carry the load in 2010 (36 carries in Weeks 3 and 4) and failed to secure the job, prompting a trade for Marshawn Lynch. Pete Carroll will ride his new workhorse in 2011. WAIT UNTIL: 13th RD
Alex Smith, QB
Not even Jim Harbaugh’s Midas touch will be good enough to land Smith on any fantasy roster. He has never topped 3,000 yards or 20 TDs in a season, and he has more career INTs (53) than TDs (51). WAIT UNTIL: 18th RD
There’s a lot of quality talent there for Sam Bradford, but it’s a total crapshoot as to who will be the featured receiver. Danny Amendola is the safest bet but the least talented. WAIT UNTIL: 13th RD
Arrelious Benn, WR
Benn has plenty of talent in his 6'1", 220-pound frame, but he caught only 25 passes in 15 games last season. A reconstructed knee will put his breakout campaign on hold for a year. And Dez Briscoe's performance in camp might make the Bucs' coaches think they don't have to rush Benn back ASAP. WAIT UNTIL: 14th RD
Unrealized potential, lack of talent, off-the-field transgressions and a questionable quarterback situation make Tennessee’s receivers a tough sell for anyone looking for help in 2011. WAIT UNTIL: 9th RD
ANYONE ON OFFENSE
The QB situation is dire; Santana Moss’ value has plummeted without Donovan McNabb; and the stable of running backs is uninspiring and inconsistent. WAIT UNTIL: 8th RD
Athlon Sports has come up with plenty of value players, overvalued players and top rookies in our Best Bets story, but here we highlight a few of them. Here are a number of players we like with good values, some we like that currently are overvalued and some we think our just valued way too high for the 2011 season.
The number in parenthesis is the player’s current MyFantasyLeague.com ADP based on 378 drafts in 12-team, PPR leagues. After their current ADP is their position in the Athlon Top 280 Rankings.
Organized alphabetically by position.
VALUES — PLAYERS WE HAVE RANKED AHEAD OF WHERE THEIR CURRENT ADP HAS THEM.
Sam Bradford, QB, STL (83) Athlon Top 280 Rank: 76
Josh McDaniels made Kyle Orton a fantasy beast through the first half of last season. What can he do with a No. 1 pick and upgraded receiver group?
Anthony Dixon, RB, SF (220) Athlon Top 280 Rank: 132
Even when Frank Gore is healthy, Dixon could see some goal line work. He’ll be more valuable after Gore’s inevitable injury. Rookie Kendall Hunter (161) is also in the mix. Keep an eye on this handcuff as camp goes along.
Marshawn Lynch, RB, SEA (71)Athlon Top 280 Rank: 45
It seems odd to say given the blocking issues of last year, but Lynch might play behind the best O-line of his career in 2011.
Isaac Redman, RB, PIT (303)Athlon Top 280 Rank: 153
Rashard Mendenhall was very good last year, especially late. He also absorbed plenty of hits. Should he go down, Redman will be in line for a lot of work.
Javon Ringer, RB, TEN (209) Athlon Top 280 Rank: 115
If Chris Johnson stays healthy once again, Ringer is a nonentity. Luck figures to put Johnson down at some point, though. Rookie Jamie Harper (328) could easily slide into the role as CJ’s handcuff, so keep an eye on both of these backs, particularly if CJ's holdout extends deep into the preseason.
Ben Tate, RB, HOU (177) Athlon Top 280 Rank: 177
Anyone starting a draft with Arian Foster must grab the guy who would have battled him for the job last year. Tate’s speed-size combo is nice.
Beanie Wells, RB, ARI (91)Athlon Top 280 Rank: 75
Last year makes it easy to forget that Wells averaged 4.5 yards per carry as a rookie. Rookie Ryan Williams (94) will need time to develop into the No. 1 back, giving Wells a shot.
Danario Alexander, WR, STL (168) Athlon Top 280 Rank: 161
We know the oft-injured Alexander can’t be counted on for a full season. Most of us can find lineup room for a few games of a high-ceiling WR in a needy offense, though.
Emmanuel Arceneaux, WR, MIN (no ADP)Athlon Top 280 Rank: NR
Arceneaux brings a good speed-size combo with him from the CFL, where he tallied 1,972 yards and 12 TDs over the past two seasons. The signings of Devin Aromashodu (361) and Michael Jenkins (no ADP) might push him out, but it’s worth keeping an eye on.
Ramses Barden, WR, NYG (no ADP)Athlon Top 280 Rank: NR
The GM called Barden out this spring as a guy who must “step up.” If he does, he’ll be among the league’s largest targets. If he doesn’t, oh well. Also keep an eye on Victor Cruz (no ADP) in New York. Someone will have to replace the targets the recently departed Steve Smith left when he moved over to Philadelphia.
Deion Branch, WR, NE (121)Athlon Top 280 Rank: 107
His totals from 11 games with the Pats last year project to 70-1,030-7 over a full season. It would take less than that to make Branch a solid WR3. Chad Ochocinco might dip into the already dilluted target pool that is the Patriots.
Dezmon Briscoe, WR, TB (333)Athlon Top 280 Rank: 277
As positive as the Arrelious Benn (146) reports have been, there’s always a chance that things could go wrong. Briscoe would stand to benefit most if that came about.
Riley Cooper, WR, PHI (no ADP)Athlon Top 280 Rank: NR
Being 6'3" and 222 pounds as a receiver makes you noteworthy as soon as you make a roster. Cooper could grab a few TDs as a red zone target. The addition of Steve Smith may hurt Cooper's 2011 potential.
Marcus Easley, WR, BUF (287)Athlon Top 280 Rank: NR
Easley drew strong reviews with his speed last year and has been deemed a “beast” by teammate Steve Johnson. Another deep threat never hurts.
Andy Fantuz, WR, CHI (320)Athlon Top 280 Rank: NR
Most think the Bears need to add a big WR. Perhaps they already have their guy. The 6'4" Fantuz caught 87 balls for 1,380 yards in the CFL last year. Roy Williams (232) signing with Chicago might be the big receiver Mike Martz, already familiar with Williams when they were in Detroit together, was looking for. But like, Arceneaux, Fantuz is another CFL vet to keep an eye on.
Jacoby Ford, WR, OAK (105) Athlon Top 280 Rank: 92
Ford showed he was more than a speed guy through increased use late last year. Now he could be the No. 1 under an offensive coach who believes in him strongly.
David Gettis, WR, CAR (275)Athlon Top 280 Rank: 209
His big game came out of nowhere last year, but that was the book on him in college, too. Perhaps Cam Newton can hit him deep a bit more often. The addition of Legedu Naanne may not be good news for Gettis, however.
Jason Hill, WR, JAC (254)Athlon Top 280 Rank: 248
Potential has far outweighed production so far, but Hill might never have enjoyed a better opportunity than this year. What do you lose in a late-round flier for a player that is listed as a starter?
Jacoby Jones, WR, HOU (217)Athlon Top 280 Rank: 190
Jones saw more targets, but the big plays and TDs didn’t follow. That just lowers the risk on a 2011 bet.
Emmanuel Sanders, WR, PIT (133)Athlon Top 280 Rank: 123
Hines Ward isn’t dead just yet, but he’s a lot closer to it than most NFL wideouts. Sanders will only eat further into his work as long as the foot is healed.
Jordan Shipley, WR, CIN (174)Athlon Top 280 Rank: 122
As a rookie, Shipley was clearly the most reliable wideout for Carson Palmer. He could present surprise PPR value.
Brandon Tate, WR, NE (208)Athlon Top 280 Rank: NR
So he never approached the ceiling envisioned after the Randy Moss trade. It was Tate’s first full season. Let’s give the speedster another chance. Also take into account he is a return man for the Patriots and still their only deep threat with experience.
Golden Tate, WR, SEA (210)Athlon Top 280 Rank: 169
Pete Carroll has talked several times about Tate as a candidate for a big step forward in 2011. The big-play ability could translate that step to fantasy. He adds value in leagues with return yard points, too.
Blair White, WR, IND (274)Athlon Top 280 Rank: 191
Who knows how much more Austin Collie’s head can take? If another shot knocks him out this season, we already know White can step in.
Jared Cook, TE, TEN (142)Athlon Top 280 Rank: 126
When the new OC’s biggest worry is that he’ll use a player “too much,” a potential breakout is nigh.
Ed Dickson, TE, BAL (251)Athlon Top 280 Rank: NR
Although we are a little bit wary, Baltimore seems antsy to find Dickson more work. He could be a TD-maker.
Evan Moore, TE, CLE (no ADP)Athlon Top 280 Rank: NR
Cleveland needs reliable pass-catchers. Moore has looked the part in limited duty. He could surprise if Ben Watson’s injury propensity reappears.
PLAYERS WE LIKE ... BUT THEIR CURRENT ADP IS A LITTLE HIGHER COMPARED TO OUR TOP 280 BOARD.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, BUF (138)Athlon Top 280 Rank: 146
Marcell Dareus won’t suddenly turn the defense around. That’ll mean plenty more playing from behind and numbers for a QB starting the whole year.
Matthew Stafford, QB, DET (86) Athlon Top 280 Rank: 89
There’s plenty of fantasy love for Stafford, but you won’t often find him drafted to start. A healthy season should put him well into the starter category.
Montario Hardesty, RB, CLE (124) Athlon Top 280 Rank: 130
The coach who drafted him is gone, but the GM and team president aren’t. At the least, a healthy Hardesty will share the load and should be drafted after Round 10. The key word is health - something Hardesty has still not attained during training camp.
Davone Bess, WR, MIA (106)Athlon Top 280 Rank: 118
Bess ranked 19th in the league in WR targets last year and finished among the position’s top 25 in PPR. There’s room for a possession guy at WR4.
Eric Decker, WR, DEN (203)Athlon Top 280 Rank: 208
Injury kept Decker from making an impact as a rookie, but he was about as reliable of a receiver as college football had before that. Although not working under a pass-happy coach, Decker and Eddie Royal may find themselves battling for the No. 2 spot in an offense that doesn't go to the tight end. So whichever player wins the battle may be worth a shot.
Mario Manningham, WR, NYG (75)Athlon Top 280 Rank: 90
Steve Smith is gone, and Manningham produced even before his injury last year. The deep threat won’t go away. His ranking will shoot up very soon.
Mike Thomas, WR, JAC (84) Athlon Top 280 Rank: 91
Perhaps if he weren’t so short, Thomas wouldn’t be overlooked so often. One of the NFL’s most reliable sets of hands is the No. 1 wideout.
Jermaine Gresham, TE, CIN (136)Athlon Top 280 Rank: 141
Gresham gets buried at a deep position, but the Bengals head into 2011 with a very young offense and no clear No. 1. Why not the athletic TE?
Dustin Keller, TE, NYJ (130)Athlon Top 280 Rank: 140
The team kept going to Keller even after his early-season fantasy value petered out. If Mark Sanchez grows, Keller’s catch rate and other stats should, too. The addition of Plaxico Burress and Derrick Mason doesn't give off positive vibes that Keller will be high in the progression tree.
Tony Moeaki, TE, KC (154)Athlon Top 280 Rank: 188
All that was missing from his rookie season was more opportunities. A few more targets, particularly in the red zone, would propel a guy drafted as a low backup.
OVERVALUED — PLAYERS WHO WE HAVE RANKED LOWER THAN THEIR CURRENT ADP.
Josh Freeman, QB, TB (70)Athlon Top 280 Rank: 87
Outside of a five-TD blowup against the Seahawks last year, Freeman never topped two scores in a game. That’s not fantasy-starter material.
Michael Vick, QB, PHI (15)Athlon Top 280 Rank: 26
They’re not going to tame his running style, and the hits will pile up as he gets older. It’s hard to imagine Vick playing better than he did last year.
Peyton Hillis, RB, CLE (24)Athlon Top 280 Rank: 42
Fantasy folks are split on Hillis in 2011. The stubborn ones who draft him in Round 2 could end up with week-to-week lineup frustration.
C.J. Spiller, RB, BUF (76)Athlon Top 280 Rank: 85
The thinking goes: He was drafted in the top 10 for a reason. Head coach Chan Gailey admits the folly. Spiller has to be better, but fantasy value will be limited.
Pierre Garçon, WR, IND (69)Athlon Top 280 Rank: 78
Any pass-catcher is valuable with Peyton Manning at the controls. What happens to Garçon if Austin Collie and Dallas Clark stick around, though?
Percy Harvin, WR, MIN (60)Athlon Top 280 Rank: 73
Folks aren’t going wild for Harvin, but one has to wonder if he can deliver consistent enough receptions or score enough to be a fantasy starter. And does he have to assume the role of No. 1 receiver as opposed to being a moveable piece?
Brandon Lloyd, WR, DEN (50)Athlon Top 280 Rank: 67
Lloyd has had one good year in eight NFL seasons, and now the architect of that campaign is gone. It’s tough to count on a repeat.
Robert Meachem, WR, NO (143)Athlon Top 280 Rank: 192
He hasn’t delivered on first-round promise yet, but Meachem heads into a contract year with an ankle he says feels better than it has in a while.
Jimmy Graham, TE, NO (67)Athlon Top 280 Rank: 100
Graham collected four TDs over the final three games last year and played well enough to get Jeremy Shockey booted. He could be the Saints’ top red zone option, but middle of Round 5 is way too soon.
PLAYERS WE'RE NOT PARTICULARLY WILD ABOUT BUT THEIR CURRENT ADP MAKES THEM A GOOD VALUE COMPARED TO OUR BIG BOARD.
Cedric Benson, RB, CIN (65)Athlon Top 280 Rank: 61
A guy like Benson has to score more than seven TDs. Last year was the first time he reached that number or started more than 13 games.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB, NE (81)Athlon Top 280 Rank: 64
BJGE was the first Patriots RB since 2004 to draw 50 percent of the team’s carries in a season. Drafting two RBs indicates that history won’t repeat.
James Starks, RB, GB (88)Athlon Top 280 Rank: 71
Packers coaches have spoken highly of him, but Starks has yet to show any reason to think he’s better than Ryan Grant. Don’t jump before Round 9.
Ryan Torain, RB, WAS (97)Athlon Top 280 Rank: 93
Confused fantasy owners will lean toward the most known entity. Roy Helu brings more talent than Torain, though, and probably fewer injuries.
Athlon's second college fantasy mock draft is in the books. Check out where the top players went.
The 2011 college football season is less than 40 days away and many fantasy drafts will start over the next month. To help prepare for your upcoming fantasy draft, Athlon Sports has completed its second mock draft of the offseason. Click here to check out the results from the first college fantasy draft.
We take a look at the pros and cons of the eight new head coaches for the 2011 NFL season and what it all means for your fantasy football teams this season.
Ron Rivera Pros: Rivera has spent his entire NFL career either playing or coaching defense. He is well versed in both 4-3 schemes (DC of the Chicago Bears from 2004-2006) and 3-4 schemes (DC of the San Diego Chargers 2008-2010). He should be a positive influence on the Panthers’ 4-3 scheme and help young defenders like Charles Johnson and Charles Godfrey be more effective. Cons: If Rivera ever decides to switch personnel permanently, it would be horrible for the fantasy value of young linemen like Johnson and Everette Brown, who would move to LB. Final Analysis: Rivera brought in former Browns OC Rob Chudzinski as offensive coordinator, which should have a positive impact on the offense. Chud has a relationship with Jeremy Shockey via the University of Miami, so it will be interesting to see how Carolina’s new TE performs. The biggest X-Factor in the Panthers’ offensive attack is No. 1 overall pick Cam Newton.
Pat Shurmur Pros: Shurmur is an excellent offensive mind who comes from the Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg school of developing quarterbacks. He should be very good for the development of Colt McCoy. Cons: He’s not the most well known coach, and may not swing a big stick so to speak. His biggest threat is that coaching legend Mike Holmgren is his boss. Final Analysis:Overall Shurmur should be good for guys like McCoy, Greg Little, Mohamed Massaquoi and even Brian Robiskie as he’ll open up the offense quite a bit. His tendency to let his QBs air it out deep at least three or four times a game will help open things up for RBs Peyton Hillis and Montario Hardesty.
Jason Garrett Pros:The Cowboys went 5–3 under Garrett and finished the season ranked 7th overall in total offense. Garrett is a phenomenal offensive mind and will be great for the development of young players like Dez Bryant, Miles Austin and Jason Witten. Don’t sleep on 2011 third-rounder DeMarco Murray as Marion Barber is gone. The fact that Garrett already has a relationship with Tony Romo bodes well for the signal-caller. Cons: There are really no cons to this hire from a fantasy perspective, as the Cowboys’ offense has only improved since Garrett took over as OC in 2007. Final Analysis: The fact that Garrett is a known commodity already in Dallas means he’ll keep continuity on offense that should allow for only improvement across the board from a statistical perspective. On defense, he’s brought in Rob Ryan to run his 3-4.
John Fox Pros: Fox is known for pounding the rock on offense and forcing the run game down the respective throats of his opponents. So, in theory, his hiring should be phenomenal for the fantasy value of Knowshon Moreno. Cons: Some say Fox has a bit of a tendency to ignore the passing game, but that should actually be a positive for Tim Tebow, whose strength is making things happen with his legs anyway. But, this probably negatively affects Brandon Lloyd, Eddie Royal and Demaryius Thomas a bit. Final Analysis: Overall, the change to Fox is very good from a fantasy perspective, because it flat out gives the Broncos a real identity on offense. They will pound the ball, and there may even be opportunities for Tebow, Moreno and another rusher to have a big year. Despite Fox’s favoritism towards the run, teams have to pass in today’s NFL, so Lloyd should still be a solid WR2/WR3.
Leslie Frazier Pros:Frazier led the Vikings to a 3–3 record as interim head coach to finish out 2010. The decision to retain him means that the Vikings will remain in a 4-3 defense, which is great news for Jared Allen, who will not be moved to outside linebacker — a la Mario Williams in Houston. Cons: There’s a chance that the passing game may suffer a bit, as Frazier is more defense-focused than his predecessor Brad Childress. He’s also enamored with rookie first-rounder Christian Ponder, who many believe was a reach and may battle Donovan McNabb for the starting nod. Final Analysis: Frazier is a solid coach who should be a great leader in Minnesota. He comes from the Mike Tomlin and Raheem Morris coaching tree, which is an indicator that success is right around the corner. He should let new OC Bill Musgrave (formerly Atlanta Falcons QB coach) have complete autonomy on offense.
Hue Jackson Pros:Jackson is one of the brightest offensive minds in the NFL and has been one of the most underrated offensive coaches since 2001, when he started as the Redskins RBs coach. He’s helped to mold players like Chad Ochocinco, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Roddy White, Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, Darren McFadden and Zach Miller into elite fantasy options. Cons:I’m not really sure I can find a negative about Jackson. He may be the best hire from a fantasy perspective this offseason. Final Analysis: This is a phenomenal move for the Raiders’ offensive skill position players, as Jackson knows exactly what he’s doing when it comes to running an offense. He may not turn out to be the best real-life head coach, but his presence as front man should help the likes of Darren McFadden, Jason Campbell, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Louis Murphy.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ers
Jim Harbaugh Pros: Harbaugh is the highest-profile hire of the 2011 offseason, but it remains to be seen how his style will translate into the NFL. His offense features a fullback and a mobile QB who can make specific throws. It’s a no-brainer that this is a positive for Vernon Davis and Frank Gore, but this could even work well for Alex Smith’s fantasy value. Cons: This may not be the greatest move for WRs Michael Crabtree and Josh Morgan, as the run will probably be the primary focus in Harbaugh’s attack. Final Analysis: Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman will make a positive impact on the 49ers offense. Alex Smith will return as the team’s starter despite Colin Kaepernick being drafted in the second round. Smith should be a good fit for Harbaugh’s style.
Mike Munchak Pros: A Hall of Famer and Pro Bowl offensive lineman who has actually been a coach in the Titans organization since 1994 when they were still the Houston Oilers, Munchak is ready for this move and should favor a similar style to that of predecessor Jeff Fisher. Word is that this coaching regime is very high on second-year WR Damian Williams. Cons: Munchak is an offensive guy who knows how to keep a QB protected and open up running lanes for his backs. There isn’t much here for fantasy owners to worry about. Final Analysis: Look for Munchak to maybe allow new OC Chris Palmer (a former NFL head coach in Cleveland for two seasons) quite a bit of freedom to run the offense, and for Palmer to help rookie QB Jake Locker blossom in the future. The Titans should stay a run-first attack, but maybe open things up a little bit more for WRs Kenny Britt and Damian Williams.
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR HIRES
• Mike Miller – Arizona Cardinals
• Rob Chudzinski – Carolina Panthers
• Jay Gruden – Cincinnati Bengals
• John Garrett – Dallas Cowboys
• Bill Muir – Kansas City Chiefs
• Brian Daboll – Miami Dolphins
• Bill Musgrave – Minnesota Vikings
• Bill O’Brien – New England Patriots
• Al Saunders – Oakland Raiders
• Greg Roman – San Francisco 49ers
• Darrell Bevell – Seattle Seahawks
• Josh McDaniels – St. Louis Rams
• Chris Palmer – Tennessee Titans
We posed the question to those who write about the 32 NFL teams: Which player’s fantasy value, positively or negatively, is affected the most thanks to the lockout? Read what the NFC writers said before making that draft pick.
ARIZONA » “The lockout probably affects rookie running back Ryan Williams the most. In a normal training camp and preseason, Williams likely would have had enough time and touches to state his case as the team’s No. 1 back. But with a truncated offseason, it will be tougher for him to pick up the offense and develop as quickly as the Cardinals might have liked.”
— Scott Bordow, Arizona Republic
ATLANTA » “Running back Jacquizz Rodgers figures to play a Reggie Bush-like role in the Falcons’ offense, but the learning curve will be steep for him. Pass protection duties are much more sophisticated at the NFL level. Consequently, I expect the Falcons to ease him into the nickel passing game until he becomes more familiar with pass protections.”
— Jeff Duncan, New Orleans Times-Picayune
CAROLINA » “Wide receiver David Gettis has quietly become an underrated receiver in the NFC South. He started much of his rookie year in 2010, and although he was supposed to be a possession receiver, he had an 88-yard touchdown catch and finished in the top five last season among all NFL rookie wide receivers in both yards and receptions. Gettis and QB Cam Newton might be a fine combination down the road. Because the Panthers have less time to put together a team than normal and Gettis has a year under his belt, the lockout may impact him more positively since it may have cemented his starting position.”
— Scott Fowler, Charlotte Observer
CHICAGO » “Since the offseason would have been a great time for offensive line coach Mike Tice to have begun the process of figuring out who his best five players are, that lack of practice time has to hurt quarterback Jay Cutler, who must have better protection than he did last season if he is to realize his potential. Tice will eventually figure out the right formula, and the Bears should be better up front, but it will take some time.”
— Bobby LeGere, Daily Herald
DALLAS » “Every offseason, Tony Romo finds something to work on. This offseason, he was on his own in improving his game. He would have been better served having Jason Garrett’s and Wade Wilson’s coaching, especially since he missed 10 games with a broken left clavicle last season. Romo wasn’t on the field long enough to get to know his new weapon, Dez Bryant, and he could have used the offseason for that, too.”
— Charean Williams, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
DETROIT » “The Lions surprised some by going on the offensive with their Day 2 draft picks — receiver Titus Young and running back Mikel Leshoure. But it remains to be seen how quickly the rookies can pick up Linehan’s scheme and step into ready-made roles as key contributors. To their credit, both unsigned rookies showed up to player-organized workouts in Detroit in the spring, and Young also traveled to Atlanta to work out with Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson on his own, too.”
— John Niyo, Detroit News
GREEN BAY » “Running back James Starks might’ve upped his chances of an expanded role with a full offseason. Instead, he’s entering Year 2 in the NFL and still hasn’t taken part in full OTAs or minicamps. After missing his senior year at Buffalo with a shoulder injury, a hamstring issue hampered him after he was drafted in April 2010, and he then tore the hamstring on the eve of training camp. After his late-season run, Starks could’ve used a full-fledged offseason to make a big jump. It’s still possible, but it’s a taller order now.”
— Jason Wilde, ESPNMilwaukee.com
NEW ORLEANS » “The lisfranc injury Chris Ivory suffered in the regular-season finale against Tampa Bay could not have come at a worse time. The lockout forced him to rehab without the supervision of Saints doctors. Further, he could have used a full offseason with the coaching staff to become more familiar with Sean Payton’s complex system. The injury and lockout definitely were a setback to the promising start to his career.”
— Jeff Duncan, New Orleans Times-Picayune
N.Y. GIANTS » “I think running back Ahmad Bradshaw is going to be positively affected by this lockout for a couple of reasons. First, he’s had surgery on both his feet and his ankles in the last year-and-a-half, and now he’s had a long time to just rest. Sure, he’s worked out, but without all the usual offseason on-field stuff, his weary bones and ligaments weren’t under the pressure and strain they’re usually under. Plus, the biggest casualty of the lockout is likely to be the timing of NFL passing games. The Giants, in that case, will be more likely to rely on the run — and on Bradshaw — especially early. On the other side, I can see Mario Manningham being hurt a bit. He was developing into a very good receiver, but he still needed work on his timing and his routes. With a full offseason of work with Eli Manning, he could’ve been dangerous in 2011. He still might be, but he missed some valuable growing and learning time in the spring and early summer.”
— Ralph Vacchiano, New York Daily News
PHILADELPHIA » “Tight end Brent Celek wound up blocking more than ever in 2010 as the Eagles struggled to adjust to effective blitzes — Celek’s numbers were down 34 receptions and 460 yards from his 2009 totals. The idea this offseason was to shore up the offensive line and, with better reads and reactions from Michael Vick, free up Celek a bit more often. The lockout deprived the team of much of the time needed to make those adjustments and for Vick and Celek to develop a better rapport. So Celek won’t necessarily be any less productive than last season, but his chances of making a big jump back to his previous numbers were curtailed.”
— Phil Sheridan, Philadelphia Inquirer
ST. LOUIS » “I would say the three drafted rookies, but particularly tight end Lance Kendricks. He was a second-round pick, which means he would at least compete for a starting job. That may not be possible now.”
— Jim Thomas, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
SAN FRANCISCO » “After taking a step back in his sophomore season, wide receiver Michael Crabtree needed a solid offseason, especially with new coach Jim Harbaugh taking over and installing a new offense. The lockout killed that plan, and to make matters worse, Crabtree has been limited in workouts after aggravating his surgically repaired left foot. He underwent surgery in 2009, before the 49ers drafted him, to repair a stress fracture in that foot.”
— Eric Gilmore, Bay Area NFL Correspondent
*SEATTLE » “Matt Hasselbeck should benefit the most from the lockout, allowing him to get healthy after a challenging 2010 season that was plagued by injuries. This assumes, of course, that he is still with the team this fall.”
— Dan Raley, Freelance Writer *Editor's Note: Hasselbeck will quarterback the Tennessee Titans this fall
TAMPA BAY » “LeGarrette Blount, from this standpoint: He wasn’t a regular at the offseason workouts called by quarterback Josh Freeman. You have to wonder if his work habits will be as good after a stellar rookie season.”
— Rick Stroud, St. Petersburg Times
WASHINGTON » Receiver Anthony Armstrong forced his way into the starting lineup by Week 5 last season and finished his rookie season with 871 yards. With little depth behind him, including three draft picks, Armstrong is one of few receivers that actually know the Redskins’ playbook. Because there was no offseason program, he’ll have a huge advantage entering training camp and should immediately build on a strong first season.
— Rich Campbell, Washington Times
We posed the question to those who write about the 32 NFL teams: Which player’s fantasy value, positively or negatively, is affected the most thanks to the lockout? Read what the AFC writers said before making that draft pick.
BALTIMORE » “I think quarterback Joe Flacco used his time productively. He organized throwing sessions in Arizona and Maryland and has tutored rookie wide receivers Torrey Smith and Tandon Doss on the details of the Ravens’ playbook.”
— Aaron Wilson, Carroll County Times
BUFFALO » “Lee Evans was hurt. Sitting idle all offseason didn’t help wash away the sour taste of last season, nor was he able to get on the same page with QB Ryan Fitzpatrick.”
— Leo Roth, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
CINCINNATI » “Andy Dalton. The Bengals expect this kid to be their starting quarterback, but the lockout is going to stunt the first-year growth of him and every other rookie. He’s going to get the ball sooner or later, but his preparation time has been hurt.”
— Kevin Goheen, Freelance Writer
CLEVELAND » “There are three or four teams who were hurt most by the lockout. Those teams either had new coaches, new systems or young quarterbacks who needed offseason work with their teammates. The Browns hit the trifecta. They have a new coach, a new offensive system and a young quarterback in Colt McCoy. Instead of getting a solid, consistent offseason of work, McCoy conducted sporadic ‘camps’ with teammates during the lockout. If any one player in the league could be hurt by the lockout, it would be Colt McCoy as he tries to master starting in the NFL while learning a new offense.”
— Pat McManamon, Fox Sports Ohio
DENVER »“That’s easy. Tim Tebow and only Tim Tebow. Learning a new system is always difficult on a young quarterback, and figured to be especially tough for Tebow, who never took a snap under center in Florida’s spread offense before spending most of last season on the Broncos’ bench. All he has to do now is prove to a bunch of coaches he barely knows that he deserves to start over Kyle Orton. And if he gets the nod, he’ll have to prove he deserves to keep the job. His off-the-charts running ability will make him tantalizing on draft day, but any way you slice it, he’s a considerable risk.”
— Jim Armstrong, Denver Post
HOUSTON » “Arian Foster’s numbers could be affected, depending on how his offseason went. Andre Johnson should remain a top fantasy receiver, regardless, but his early numbers could be down to whatever degree QB-WR timing is bothered by the lack of OTAs and minicamp. Johnson didn’t work with Matt Schaub during the summer, but expect the Texans’ QB to find ways to get the ball to the best player on the field. Schaub’s numbers might take the biggest hit, though not just because of the lockout. Presumably with a better defense, the Texans shouldn’t have to come from behind as often and might rely more on their rushing attack. In the last two seasons, only Peyton Manning and Drew Brees have more pass attempts than Schaub.”
— Jerome Solomon, Houston Chronicle
INDIANAPOLIS » “It would not appear to be a factor with the Colts. Austin Collie is coming off a head injury, Dallas Clark a wrist. Pierre Garçon is inconsistent. Reggie Wayne wants a new contract, is in the final year of this one, and is ticked off the Colts ignored him in the playoff game. Anthony Gonzalez got hurt, too, and is in a contract year. Joseph Addai likely returns to the Colts, but probably on a one-year deal, and he doesn’t get enough touches to put up monster fantasy numbers. The Colts spread everything around so much, it’s difficult to say the lockout will hurt any of these guys.”
— Phil Wilson, Indianapolis Star
JACKSONVILLE » “Blaine Gabbert’s fantasy value will go down due to an abbreviated offseason. Although David Garrard has been exceedingly helpful with the rookie, Gabbert is young — he left Missouri after his junior season — and hasn’t been able to work with Jaguars coaches yet. All they got was a series of meetings on the Friday during the draft during the lockout’s brief recess. Gabbert is the quarterback of the future but will have a tough time cracking the lineup early in the 2011 season.”
— Tania Ganguli, Florida Times-Union
KANSAS CITY » “Jamaal Charles has shown himself to be one of the NFL’s best young rushers, but coaches have spent the past two seasons wondering about the back’s focus. How will he deal with being a star? How will he respond to getting a multi-year contract in 2010? Now, it’s how will he spend his time during the lockout? Charles broke out two seasons ago after an offseason spent in the weight room, determined to pass Larry Johnson on the depth chart. Now that Charles is the man in Kansas City, is the hunger still there? The Chiefs sure hope so, but without coaches to monitor Charles’ workouts and practices, there’s simply no way to know.”
— Kent Babb, Kansas City Star
MIAMI » “Chad Henne’s value increased most during the lockout, simply because it gave the Dolphins less time to acquire, and integrate, another option as their starting quarterback. Still, tread lightly. Henne has yet to prove he can be a valuable option as a fantasy QB.”
— Ethan Skolnick, Palm Beach Post
NEW ENGLAND » “Aaron Hernandez underwent offseason hip surgery, and because of the lockout he hasn’t been able to do his rehab under the watchful eye of the Pats’ medical staff and hasn’t had the time in the film room and the work with Tom Brady that he needs. The Florida product had 34 catches in his first eight NFL games, but then the injury coupled with an apparent difficulty against zone defenses led to a decline in his numbers over the second half of the season (11 grabs in six games).”
— Shalise Manza Young, Boston Globe
N.Y. JETS » “Joe McKnight would have certainly benefited from offseason workouts to find his niche in the offense. After a disappointing rookie season, the versatile running back is out to prove that his 158-yard performance in the regular-season finale against the Bills was not a fluke. The coaches hope to utilize McKnight’s pass-catching skills in 2011, but the team’s crowded backfield that also includes rookie Bilal Powell raises questions about McKnight’s role in his second season.”
— Manish Mehta, New York Daily News
OAKLAND » “The lockout cost quarterback Jason Campbell a chance to solidify the progress he made late last season. He missed out on countless hours at OTAs and minicamps and in classroom work with head coach Hue Jackson and new offensive coordinator Al Saunders.”
— Eric Gilmore, Bay Area NFL Correspondent
PITTSBURGH » “I like the defense, perennially one of the top ones in fantasy football, as a whole to gain from the lockout. The work stoppage wiped out all of the offseason practices, but a veteran defense that played through January last season needed rest much more than it did OTAs.”
— Scott Brown, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
SAN DIEGO » “Probably Antonio Gates, in a positive sense. He has more time to recover from the torn plantar fascia. That has got to be a good thing.”
— Bernie Wilson, Associated Press
TENNESSEE » “The lockout has had an overall adverse effect on the Tennessee Titans from the top on down, starting with new head coach Mike Munchak. With Jeff Fisher's departure in February and Munchak's ascension to the throne, the new head coach assembled his staff just before the lockout was about to hit. The timing meant that the majority of Titans players have had zero time to learn the new offensive or defensive systems or even meet with their position coaches, definitely putting Munchak behind the proverbial eight-ball as he assumes command.”
— Terry McCormick, TitanInsider.com