As my own personal draft week kicks off, I’ve made note of guys I’m owning in my early leagues/mocks more often than not, and those who I seem to like more than the competition.
Below are the players I want on my rosters this year, to the point that I’ll likely reach to own them in more than one place. You’ll see some big name players below, but not any overly obvious… I really want to spend more time discussing Dez Bryant, for example, but I don’t really love him any more than the next guy so there isn’t much point expressing it here. Plus, I’ve already covered the subject.
Quarterbacks I’m Targeting
Matthew Stafford – Detroit’s offense was anamolyously bad last year. With all those pass attemps (and yards) the team should have scored many more touchdowns. Of course, when it is system-wide that fact is likely indicative of a larger problem, but Matthew Stafford simply can’t put the ball in the air upwards of 700 times again without throwing for more than 20 scores. With Calvin Johnson returning, Ryan Broyles turning in a strong camp and Reggie Bush representing a far more versatile option at Tailback than anyone on the roster last year, the passing numbers should look good in Detroit again. Stafford has led the league in pass attempts in consecutive seasons and has averaged more than 5000 yards over that same span, if the TDs climb to the 30ish range you’ll be happy to own Stafford at his current ADP – just one year removed from a top four campaign. I’ll be letting the eager-leaguers go in on QB early and waiting for great value in Stafford rounds later.
Michael Vick – the caveats with Vick are well known and I won’t be drafting him anywhere as a starter… except, you know, in that 14 team league where I did… but the upside is too much to ignore. We tend to think of QB as a position that needs a week in/week out guarantee, and perhaps we should, but if I can get Vick on the roster and capitalize on the big weeks he’ll almost assuredly post in Chip Kelly’s offense then I am happy to have him. If I were to tell you there was a Running Back who could be drafted outside of starter’s ADP and was a lock to start 6-10 games and post potentially great numbers while on the field, you’d draft him. So why not think about doing the same with the Eagles QB?
Jay Cutler – I’ve been in this zone before. Just last season, in fact, but I can’t quit Cutler. This year, in a decidedly pass heavy attack that will include a number of cheap passing yards via the Running Back, Cutler has a legitimate chance to return to Denver-era numbers. The offensive line should improve, Alshon Jeffery (see below) looks to be developing and Martellus Bennett is an upgrade as a pass catcher at TE. He hasn’t finished inside the QB top 12 since 2009 but you could do worse on the bench than a guy in a pass heavy system who’ll see his share of 300 yard games this year.
Running Backs I’m Targeting
Trent Richardson – Relative to the expectations and judged on the yards per carry numbers Richardson’s rookie year stunk. Still, he was the 9th leading scorer at his position. There are no guarantees that he’ll be healthier on a week-to-week basis this season or that he’ll improve upon his 3.6 YPC from 2012, but, he showed us that he can break a tackle near the endzone and given the presumed improvement of the Browns offense under Norv Turner and as the young team grows together he should have equal opportunities to score. Add that and a projected 325-50 touches and Richardson doesn’t have to be better in the real game to be great in the fake one.
Steven Jackson – speaking of not having to be good in the real game to be a viable fantasy assett, Michael Turner was disgraceful in 2012. He was tough to watch and most objective observers would suggest that he hurt the Falcons (relative to a league average RB) rather than helped them. He still scored 10 touchdowns (a feat he accomplished every season while in Atlanta) and ranked as the 17th best back. Steven Jackson still has some juice left in the tank and plugs into the same system that made Turner ownable last year. At his current ADP (around 15 overall according to fantasyfootballcalculator.com) Jackson is a safe pick by virtue of the system alone.
Chris Johnson – I won’t overdo it on Johnson twice in one week but with him you’re getting a player with very real low-end RB1 potential in the mid-late second round. The line is better this year and although the player is the same he’s just being held up to an unenviable standard because of one stellar season.
Montee Ball – The preseason reports have hardly been glowing but with Ronnie Hillman having difficulty hanging onto the ball and Knowshon Moreno made of glass, Ball might win the lead spot in a timeshare by default. He’s likely to cede 3rd down work until he improves as a pass protector (though, it should be noted that he graded out better than both Hillman and Moreno at this via ProFootballFocus in the team’s 3rd preseason game) but should wind up with the lion’s share of touches and some goal line work as well.
Wide Receivers I’m Targeting
Vincent Jackson – he finished as the 6th highest scoring receiver last year and is being drafted as the 12th. Nothing about Jackson’s situation has gotten worse. In fact, very little has changed. So, I’ll take the discount and enjoy.
Miles Austin – Outside of 2010 when he played in just ten games Austin has never finished outside of the WR top 30. He is a consistent week to week option in a solid offense and with a QB who is not afraid to throw him the ball. Make no mistake that this is now Dez Bryant’s offense as far as the receivers are concerned, but there is plenty of volume to go around.
Alshon Jeffery – For the first two weeks of the preseason all Jay Cutler wanted to do was throw the ball to Brandon Marshall and as such, it was pretty much an extension of 2012. Then came game three when the ball got spread around and Jeffery showed us what he could do with it. A number of Cutler’s passes were thrown behind him or were otherwise imperfect and yet Jeffery not only made the catches, he was able to turn them into YAC opportunities. Of course, we’re talking about a small sample in one preseason game here but Jeffery looks to be maturing as a receiving threat. Appearing in just 10 games Jeffery saw 48 targets last year but this year assuming good health you can safely expect that number to almost double and watch his yards/scores climb along with it.
Kenbrell Thompkins – Thompkins, a kid with a checkered past and a limited resume, has taken the Patriots offseason by storm. By virtue of playing with Tom Brady he’s both an interesting commodity and firmly planted on the radar. As a result, I’ll likely have to reach to own Thompkins anywhere, but, it’s worth the gamble. Assuming you’re taking Thompkins in round nine or later you’re likely drafting him as a non-starter, and at that stage, I’ll be taking the risk and hoping he fulfills the early season promise. Let’s say he approaches Brandon Lloyd’s numbers from 2012.. they were unimpressive from Lloyd, but, for a guy being drafted as a WR4 or deeper they’ll pay the fantasy bills.
Kenny Stills – Looking at the challenges that New Orleans seems to be running into in revamping their defense, and knowing that they are a pass first offense anyhow, you can expect Drew Brees to continue to air it out. With the loss of Joe Morgan for the season, there are targets up for grabs and with 4.4 speed Stills seems to be the most logical candidate. He’ll be a boom or bust guy from week to week but he costs next to nothing and can contribute from your fantasy bench if you pick the right weeks to play him.
Tight Ends I’m Targeting
Jermichael Finley – the camp reports are glowing and the talent is omnipresent.. could this be the year for Finley. The praise has been rolling in non-stop and Aaron Rodgers and the Packers’ offense can support multiple start-worthy fantasy assets. Finley presents a matchup nightmare for defenses that are already spread thin against Green Bay. If he has truly developed as a pass blocker (which has been said) and can avoid the drops that have plagued him (lets choose to ignore the one in Green Bay’s most recent game) he’ll be an easy top-10 candidate.
Jordan Cameron – it has been thoroughly discussed here, and elsewhere, all offseason but let me reiterate my interest in Cameron. Guys like Owen Daniels et. al are proven options that can be had around his ADP, sure, but none of them boast Cameron’s upside and athleticism.
Zach Sudfeld – I’ve waited long enough on TE in certain drafts this season that Sudfeld has become a draftable option. I’ll say this: if there is debate, you want to be ahead of the curve/not scrambling to add him after his breakout performance. The preseason fumbles have been a concern but he’s putting himself in the position to put the ball on the ground by catching it in the first place. Sudfeld gives McDaniels and the Patriots the option of keeping their TE-centric attack in place while Gronkowski heals and even when he returns. He’s sufficiently athletic to think that he can play a Hernandez-like role for New England even when Gronk is in the lineup.
Who did I miss/who is on your draft day radar this year? Anyone you’d like to talk me out of? Share your thoughts, below.