ABCs of the NFL Offseason — (For Fantasy Owners Only)
Sometimes it’s helpful to go back over the trades, transactions and injury news over the past few months, just to refresh our minds before getting ramped up for the Fantasy Football season. So here’s a quick review of the NFL offseason as training camps begin. Try not to sing the A-B-C song as you go through this.
A – As in Alabama, home of the past two top running back prospects, in Mark Ingram in 2011, and Trent Richardson in 2012. Ingram was like the youngest of nine siblings at the dinner table in New Orleans, just trying to get some scraps. But Richardson will be more like the only child, with as much to eat as he wants in Cleveland. The consensus is that the Browns rookie is a top-15 running back. And he’s trending upwards, with some mock drafters taking him at the end of the first round. I’m not a fan of this plan.
B – As in backup backs, like Michael Bush and Mike Tolbert. Bush leaves the silver and black to play in Chicago, and Tolbert will work as the fullback primarily in Carolina, behind DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. If Matt Forte gets injured this preseason, Bush could be a top-30 Fantasy running back. There’s no longer a threat of him holding out, however.
C – As in Colts Cuarterback (sometimes I have to force it, don’t judge!). Indianapolis let one No. 1 overall pick go in order to bring in a new No. 1 overall pick in Andrew Luck. Luck’s not going to have a rookie season like Cam Newton, Andy Dalton – or Peyton Manning. He’ll have Reggie Wayne to throw to, but it’s not the same as Peyton’s Reggie Wayne. He might find his way in a Fantasy starting lineup during a bye week, but that’s about all you can expect.
D – As in Detroit running backs, like Jahvid Best (concussion), Mikel Leshoure (Achilles’) and Kevin Smith, who is one year removed from a knee injury. Detroit’s running game will consist of these three backs, but LeShoure is the one Fantasy owners have been drafting first. Grabbing either of the other two in the later rounds has good value, too. LeShoure also has a two-game suspension to deal with.
E – As in East Rutherford, where Tim Tebow will now be playing his home games. The Chosen One will be playing some special teams with the Jets, along with getting some Wildcat snaps. He should go undrafted in most leagues, but once again, he could end up being a very good in-season pickup if Mark Sanchez gets hurt/stinky.
F – As in Future Fantasy Freak, like what Robert Griffith III is expected to become because of his arm and legs. Newton’s success in 2011 as the greatest Fantasy rookie quarterback in NFL history has paved the way for RG3 to get drafted in many leagues as a backup. He definitely has more weapons around him in Washington, including two above average tight ends, two decent running backs and newly signed free-agent WR Pierre Garcon.
G – As in BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who moves his “law firm” to Cincinnati, where he’ll share carries with Bernard Scott. I’ve always been a fan of Scott’s, and I think you’ll want him on your team as a late-round pick, with Green-Ellis going off the board in Round 8.
H – As in Holdouts, like what Drew Brees and Matt Forte almost were before signing huge deals. But Maurice Jones-Drew might hold out if he doesn’t get paid what he thinks he’s worth. As a potential first-round Fantasy pick, he could really screw up some drafts, but I don’t expect him to hold out into the season. MJD was the fourth pick in a recent mock draft I participated in, with Forte going 13th overall and then I took Brees 16th overall.
I – As in Injury Bug, like the one that keeps biting Kenny Britt. A torn ACL cost him a breakout third year, and now he’s still dealing with pain which could cost him a few games. Speaking of costing games, he’s also in trouble with the NFL law, since he got arrested against recently on suspicion of a DUI. It’s tough to invest too highly in him, but remember that when he’s healthy, he can score like a top-five WR. He’s capable of a 3-TD, 150-yard game every week. With that said, you can’t commit a starting spot to him.
J – As in Jaguars, Jinxed and Justin Blackmon. Going back several years, Jacksonville just hasn’t had great luck with wide receivers, including Matt Jones and Reggie Williams. Blackmon was arrested for an aggravated DUI in early June and he could face league discipline. He also has to face a bad offense in the huddle, which hurts his value. Grabbing him in the middle rounds seems like a decent investment.
K — As in Knee pain. There are several players still working their way back from injuries, including two top-five picks from one year ago.
- Jamaal Charles, RB, KC: A torn ACL in Week 2 killed the Fantasy chances of nearly everyone that drafted him. Charles also has a new offensive coordinator calling the plays, and a freight train named Peyton Hillis now taking carries away from him. All signs point to avoiding Charles in the first two rounds.
- Adrian Peterson, RB, MIN: All-Day A.P. waited until the end of the season to screw up his knee. He’s optimistic that he’ll be ready for Week 1, but he could land on the PUP list. Fantasy Football owners should be a little more cautious. If you can’t help yourself in Rounds 2 or 3, make sure you grab Toby Gerhart in Round 9 or so.
L – As in Lockout, which there isn’t one this summer, compared to last. That means there are dozens of NFL sophomores that will get a lot more coaching and reps in training camp!
M – As in Manning, specifically, Peyton Manning, who is now playing in Denver, after sitting out a year with a neck injury. After doing some research on his situation, I’ve come to the conclusion that Manning is NOT a top-10 Fantasy QB this season. His move was huge news this NFL offseason, and he was the biggest NFL free agent since Reggie White two decades ago.
N – As in New Niners, like Brandon Jacobs, LaMichael James, Mario Manningham and Randy Moss. Their presence might steal Fantasy value from each other, but there’s no doubt that they make QB Alex Smith an intriguing backup Fantasy QB.
O – As in O-line changes, like what has happened in Houston and Tampa Bay. The Texans O-Line lost a couple starters, which is one of my eight reasons not to take Arian Foster first overall. And the Bucs’ addition of G Carl Nicks, one of the top 10 offensive linemen in the game, should help rookie RB Doug Martin find bigger holes. I ranked the Offensive Lines earlier this summer.
P – And that rhymes with T, and that stands for Trouble! The Chicago Bears traded for WR Brandon Marshall, which reunites him with his old QB in Denver, Jay Cutler. They found a ton of success together five years ago, and their Fantasy values get a nice boost this season.
Q — As in QB freshmen, not just in Indianapolis and Washington, but also in Cleveland and Miami. Brandon Weeden is a 28-year-old rookie in Cleveland, and Ryan Tannehill will be highly scrutinized on HBO’s Hard Knocks in South Florida. Neither is worth anything higher than a QB3 spot in Fantasy play.
R – As in Retired, like LaDainian Tomlinson, after being one of the best Fantasy Football running backs in the past 40 years. He was the unquestioned No. 1 overall Fantasy pick from 2005-08, and no other NFL player has matched him in scoring 300 Fantasy points in five different seasons. His 418 Fantasy-point effort in 2005 is also an NFL high point.
S – As in Starter, something Matt Flynn has been called just twice since joining the NFL five years ago. But now, under Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll, Flynn is handed the keys to 22nd-ranked passing offense from 2011. Early success could make Flynn an early waiver-wire pickup. The Seahawks’ early schedule sets up well for Flynn. Here are the pass defense rankings for Seattle’s 2012 opponents:
- Week 1 – at Arizona (17th)
- Week 2 – Dallas (23rd)
- Week 3 – Green Bay (32nd)
- Week 4 – at St. Louis (7th)
- Week 5 – at Carolina (24th)
- Week 6 – New England (31st)
- Week 7 – at San Francisco (16th)
- Week 8 – at Detroit (22nd)
- Week 9 – Minnesota (26th)
- Average for first nine weeks: 22nd-ranked pass defenses
T – As in Tight Ends Trading Team Jerseys, like Kellen Winslow (Seattle), Martellus Bennett (N.Y. Giants) and Jacob Tamme, who follows Manning to Denver. Bennett moves to Giants Stadium, where he could be a very quiet sleeper tight end, with WR Mario Manningham in San Francisco and Eli Manning looking for an underneath option.
U – As in Unable to Perform, Physically. Steelers RB Rashard Mendenhall will start 2012 on the PUP List, after tearing his ACL on New Year’s Day. That means he’s out for the first six games, which gives Isaac Redman a great chance to take get a firm grip of the starter’s job.
V – As in Vincent Jackson in Tampa Bay, who should make Fantasy owners forget about the horrible season by Josh Freeman and Mike Williams. Jackson is already the second-best wide receiver in Bucs franchise history, behind Keyshawn Johnson. He’s being drafted as a WR2 in most formats in the fifth or sixth rounds.
W – As in Wells or Williams, like Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams. The latter is basically starting his rookie season, one year after many thought he’d be one of the top rookie Fantasy backs in the game. I’d rather roll the dice on this kid late than Charles or Peterson early.
X – As in an Xtra pair of hands, which is what Tom Brady has with Brandon Llloyd on the other end of his passes. Brady has two top-five tight ends and a top-five wide receiver already, but Lloyd could still catch 70 passes, like he did a year ago. He’s a very nice WR2 in Fantasy play, and he’s part of the reason why I don’t think Rob Gronkowski is worth a first- or second-round draft pick.
Y – As in “You gotta love the nickname Muscle Hamster!” That’s what they called Doug Martin in college, and now the rookie running back will be featured in Greg Schiano’s offense with Tampa Bay. Some have compared him to Ray Rice, but let’s dial that down a bit. Target him in Round 3 – at the top of Round 3 in PPR leagues.
Z – As in ZZZZZzzzzzz, Sleepers, like some of the ones I mentioned already, including Alex Smith, Ryan Williams, Martellus Bennett, Jacob Tamme, as well as some players like Steelers RB Chris Rainey and Redskins WR Leonard Hankerson.
You are officially caught up on the NFL offseason! Now you know your A-B-C’s … NO SINGING!