Joe Flacco, BAL: Joe Flacco has looked very good through three preseason games. Possessing a rocket arm and great accuracy, Flacco will enjoy a breakout season.
Baltimore wisely traded for Anquan Boldin, one of the most complete receivers in the league. Flacco is currently a mid-round pick who will outperform his average draft position. He should enter 2011 drafts as a second tier fantasy quarterback pushing into the first tier, similar to Philip Rivers.
Although their other prized free agent addition, Donte’ Stallworth, will miss the first half of the season, Baltimore’s veteran receiving corps. returns. Derrick Mason, Todd Heap and Mark Clayton have played with Flacco for the past two seasons and the chemistry continues to improve.
With Baltimore’s dominant offensive line, rushing attack and solid defense, Flacco has it all in place to dominate the NFL starting in 2010.
Flacco has three great possession receivers in Boldin, Mason, and Heap, one of the premiere pass catching in Ray Rice and two speedsters in Clayton and Stallworth. Flacco has the supporting cast and talent to finish the season as a top five fantasy QB.
Flacco made a major leap forward in his sophomore year. In the first quarter of the 2009 season, he was one of the top fantasy QBs in the league. He had some ups and downs, as most young quarterbacks do. However, he looked precise in the playoffs and has had a great offseason. Do not hesitate on Flacco, this may be the only year he’ll be drafted at a discount.
Ben Roethlisberger, PIT: Roethlisberger has been up and down throughout his career. One of the most clutch quarterbacks in the league, Big Ben has fantastic footwork and one of the stronger arms in the league. His scrambling abilities allow him to overcome their mediocre offensive line, break down coverage and hit an open receiver.
Roethlisberger threw for over 4,300 yards last season and 26 touchdowns. Not much is expected out of the passing game during his absence with Byron Leftwich and Dennis Dixon at QB. Starting wide receivers, Hines Ward, and Mike Wallace, and tight end Heath Miller will be excited to have their star back. We should expect them to play with more fire in the second half of the season than the first.
In the second half of the 2009 season, Roethlisberger threw for 2,266 yards (one 500 yard effort), 15 touchdowns (four three touchdown games) and six interceptions (one multi-interception game). Despite the loss of Santonio Holmes, expect a similar effort from Roethlisberger once he returns from suspension.
Suspended for the first five games of the season, Big Ben will be itching to play. His suspension has allowed him to free fall in drafts. This means somebody will be able to land a potential top 10 QB after round 10. Fantasy drafts are about finding value. Roethlisberger represents great value in all 2010 drafts.
Michael Bush, OAK: Although Michael Bush recently suffered a thumb injury, he is not expected to miss any time. Even if, Bush would fall further and would be had at a bigger discount than he is already at. The Raiders do not have a big time wide receiver and will look to play smash-mouth offense to go along with their hard-nosed defensive scheme.
Darren McFadden has failed to reach his potential and not just because he has experienced lingering injuries in his first two seasons. McFadden has the talent to explode, but Bush is a stronger back with a more bruising style than McFadden.
The situation is similar to Dallas with Marion Barber and Felix Jones. Bush should see a majority of the playing time while McFadden spells him to burn the defense. Finding the next RB2 in mid-late round draft picks begins with opportunity.
In three games against the AFC West in which Bush had at least 10 carries, he had 307 rushing yards (almost half of his season total), two touchdowns, four catches for 25 receiving yards.
With more expected carries, Bush could near his career totals of 1,000 rushing yards, six touchdowns, 36 receptions for over 250 yards in 2010 alone. Bush will have the opportunities to start and receive goal line work in Oakland. If he proves to be successful, which he has shown in limited action, he could be a steal.
Ahmad Bradshaw, NYG: The running back in the middle of the draft that could be this year’s Ray Rice. Bradshaw was clearly the better runner for the Giants last season despite battling feet and ankle injuries. Bradshaw had offseason surgery and has looked great in the preseason.
Bradshaw has outperformed his rookie contract and will prove that he deserves the contract Brandon Jacobs wrongfully received. Although the Giants extended Jacobs’ contract prior to last season, talent will win out in this backfield. Bradshaw will start and receive most of the opportunities across the field.
The offensive line is not what it used to be. Jacobs could not run behind the blocking last season because the offensive line could not get the same push it did in 2008. People will look at Jacobs being a vulture, but Bradshaw even proved last season that he is the better goal line back because of his speed, size and agility. Jacobs runs too up right, trying to power and push his way past the stripe.
Bradshaw was more successful last season in all facets of the game. He can also catch the ball out of the backfield. Eli Manning is a smart quarterback and will do his best to avoid turning the ball over, meaning Bradshaw could receive plenty of check down opportunities.
Look for Bradshaw to be the team’s offensive MVP this season, exceeding all expectations. 1,400 total yards and double digit touchdowns are a real possibility for the Giants’ exciting, young, and experienced running back.
LaDainian Tomlinson, NYJ: For the second consecutive year, Tomlinson will look to prove doubters wrong. Last season was unsuccessful. For the first time in his career, he failed to reach 1,000 rushing yards and only caught 20 passes. Tomlinson was ousted by the Chargers, but he has found a home with Rex Ryan’s Jets.
Rex Ryan appears as determined as Tomlinson to prove he still has what it takes to compete at a high level. With the Jets, Tomlinson will receive adequate run blocking, which he did not see with the 2009 Chargers. The Jets boast arguably the most complete offensive line in the league. Tomlinson still has the burst at the line, as seen throughout the preseason, to pick up good yardage on a limited amount of carries.
The fullback is often overlooked in football and fantasy. Tomlinson used to play with one of the best fullbacks in the league in Lorenzo Neal, who was an integral part of Tomlinson’s success. The past two seasons, Tomlinson did not play with an adequate fullback and his play suffered as he slowly declined. Tomlinson will once again play with one of the premiere fullbacks in the game in Tony Richardson, who will help Tomlinson immensely in his comeback story.
Tomlinson will not be relegated to ‘spelling’ starter Shonn Greene. The Jets ran the ball over 600 times last season. The Jets are expected open the passing attack more for Mark Sanchez now that the Jets have upgraded their receiving corps. The Jets are still a run first team. Rex Ryan plays winning football, tough defense with a run-it-down-your-throat mentality.
Let’s assume Shonn Greene receives around 300 carries, which is a lot of carries, there is still around 250 carries left to be divided. Rookie Joe McKnight, who has not proven to be the touted USC prospect many thought he would be, may receive 50 carries. Tomlinson could do a lot of damage with around 200 carries.
Tomlinson is the best pass catching and pass blocking running back on the team, which will be valuable for Mark Sanchez in his sophomore season. Tomlinson proved he is still one of the best red zone players in the league, as he scored 12 rushing touchdowns inside the 20.
Tomlinson could match last year’s totals, except with more receptions, which would make him a steal in the late round drafts as he finished last season a top 25 running back in PPR leagues. There are questions with Shonn Greene’s durability, although any player can get hurt on any given play in the NFL. However, if LaDainian Tomlinson were to become the starter for the Jets, he could quickly vault back into RB1 territory.
Matt Forte, CHI: A consensus top fantasy option last preseason, Forte finished as a top 15 back in most PPR leagues despite a ‘disappointing’ season.
His rushing totals were down, but still averaged the same amount of yards per carry from his outstanding rookie campaign. The yardage total decreased because Forte received 58 less carries as the Bears played from behind often.
Forte makes up for the lack of rushing opportunities due to his receiving abilities. Forte caught 47 balls for 471 yards, only six receptions and yards away from matching his 2008 totals.
Paired with offensive coordinator Mike Martz, Forte should remain a top 15 fantasy running back with top 10 potential because of his receiving abilities. The receivers have one more year of chemistry with QB Jay Cutler.
Although Chester Taylor was signed, he should be used to spell Forte and serve as a veteran presence for the team. Forte is the main back with the most talent on the team. Forte will have plenty of opportunities to surpass his receiving totals. The offensive line should at least be improved from last year, but do not expect the rushing totals to match his rookie totals of 316 carries for 1238 yards and eight touchdowns.
With the offense improved, Forte should see a bump in touchdowns to around six or seven, but reaching his career high 12 total touchdowns appears unlikely. Still, Forte is generally going in rounds five or six, but should perform like a second or third round fantasy option.
Santana Moss, WAS: Santana Moss will be one of the best receivers Donovan McNabb has ever played with. In turn, Donovan McNabb is leaps and bounds better than any quarterback Moss has ever played with. This could be one of the top QB-WR combinations in the 2010 season. Moss is drafted as a middle of the pack WR, but could easily finish as a top 15 WR.
In the past two seasons with QB Jason Campbell, Moss averaged 74.5 receptions, 973 yards and 4.5 touchdowns without missing a single game. There are rumors that McNabb could miss the opening week due to the ankle injury suffered in Game 2 of the preseason, but those are just rumors at this point.
With McNabb, Moss can exceed 80 receptions, 1,000 yards and six touchdowns. McNabb is used to playing with receivers with the same size and skill set as Moss. Moss is still a speedy and agile receiver, who at this point in his career has great vision to go along with his solid hands.
Moss will be the clear cut No. 1 WR on the team and could be had in rounds six or seven in many leagues when owners are drafting No. 2 WRs. He will surely outperform his draft position.
Wes Welker, NE: Wes Welker is quickly moving up draft boards now that he is practicing and playing in preseason after tearing his knee in Week 17 last season. The PPR monster was a third round pick last season and met expectations as he led the league with 123 receptions and second in yards with 1,348.
Arguably the best slot receiver in the game, Welker is displaying the quickness and agility in preseason, which makes him so dangerous. He is the safety blanket for QB Tom Brady as it seems no corner has been able to cover him in the past three seasons.
The major concern is obviously the knee, as most players coming back from the surgery take a year to get back to where they were once at, if they are to reach that peak ever again. Bill Belichick and the Patriots do not provide much injury information. They only provide the bare minimum, which can be a nightmare for owners with Patriot players.
Everyone responds differently to surgery. There seems to be no reason to bet against the mighty Wes Welker, who exceeding all expectations following surgery. He could be a steal in the middle of the rounds if owners decide to pass on his injury concerns.
Welker is the safest bet for over 100 receptions and 1,100 yards if he plays at least 14 games this season. His three year average working with the Patriots: 115 receptions, 1,129 yards and five touchdowns. If he can stay healthy, Welker is a No. 1 fantasy WR drafted among No. 2 fantasy WRs.
Pierre Garcon, IND: Garcon was one of the biggest surprises of the 2009 fantasy season. Garcon took full advantage of Anthony Gonzalez’s season-ending knee injury. Fully entrenched as the No. 3 receiving option, Garcon should easily surpass last season’s totals and could become a top 25 WR.
It is always a benefit to have one of Peyton Manning’s options on a fantasy team as the Colts are easily one of the most consistent offenses in the league each year.
More important than his regular season was his post season. Peyton Manning looked Garcon’s way often and Garcon did not disappoint. He had 21 receptions for 251 yards and two touchdowns. Garcon ran great routes, displayed fantastic hands and the athleticism across the field to be a dominant No. 2 fantasy WR who could be drafted among No. 3 fantasy WRs.
Although Reggie Wayne has never missed a game since his rookie season, his knee started to act up on him in the postseason, which has some people worrisome this season as he seeks a new contract. Garcon would instantly be a No. 1 fantasy WR if the concerns over Reggie Wayne come to fruition.
Santonio Holmes, NYJ: Although Holmes will miss four games due to suspension, he will instantly be the most talented WR on the Jets once he returns. He will serve as both as possession and big play receiver for Mark Sanchez, most likely in the slot. Holmes will play along Braylon Edwards and Jerricho Cotchery, who are both talented receivers in their own.
In 2007, Holmes missed three games and finished with 52 receptions for 942 yards and eight touchdowns. Holmes will be excited to get back on the field again and prove that the Steelers were wrong for trading him. Holmes, like Edwards, is also seeking a new contract. Players always play with a bit of a chip on their shoulder when they are looking to get paid, and Holmes will be no different.
In 12 games, Holmes will be looking to make up for lost time as the former Super Bowl MVP tries to help his team reach the Super Bowl. Look for Holmes to catch 40-50 passes for 600-700 yards and four-five touchdowns with his big play ability. Being drafted after round 10 in most fantasy leagues, Holmes is a healthy option to bet on.
Zach Miller, OAK: Zach Miller is already the Raiders’ best receiving option and offensive player. With abysmal QB play, Miller somehow caught 66 passes for 805 yards and three touchdowns.
Finally equipped with a capable, experienced QB in Jason Campbell, Miller should set career highs in all categories. His three year averages are 55 receptions for 675 yards and two touchdowns. He has improved each year since being drafted only missed one game in that span.
Drafted after round 10 in most leagues, Miller has top five TE potential with 80 receptions for 1,000 yards and six touchdowns a real possibility.
Jason Campbell often looks to his tight ends and has played with two good receiving tight ends in Chris Cooley and Fred Davis in the past.
Miller is a prime reason fantasy owners can wait on a tight end this season. He is an absolute steal for his average draft position.
Chris Cooley, WAS: Like Santana Moss, Donovan McNabb will also be the best QB of Cooley’s career. A two-time Pro Bowl selection, Chris Cooley can be had after round 10 in most drafts and could be a top 10 TE option. Cooley is coming off an under-performing seven game season, the first season Cooley did not play in all 16 games.
Cooley was one of the most consistent tight ends in the league prior to 2009 with mediocre quarterback play. Donovan McNabb helped Brent Celek mightily in his breakout season. Cooley is as talented as Celek and could match Celek’s 76 reception, 971 yard, eight touchdown 2009 season. Cooley has three seasons in his career with at least 66 receptions. In 2008, his last full season, he had 83 receptions for a career high 849 yards. In his six year career, Cooley averages five touchdowns per season.
Chris Cooley should be an early comeback player of the year candidate. He will be the No. 2 receiving option for what should be an improved Redskins offense under Mike Shanahan. Tight ends have had plenty of success under Shanahan. Cooley will easily outperform his draft position in all formats.
About the Author
Written by Brandon Galvin