As I comb through mounds and mounds of data to help me produce projections for the website, I still think back to some of my best fantasy rosters when I went in with a short list of guys I wanted to nab.
Sometimes you just have to follow your gut.
Below is a list of players, strategies and just random thoughts that are buzzing in my head. Part 1 of this series looks at the quarterback position.
Aaron Rodgers, GB/10 - Hard not to love the player or the system. He is being drafted at a level where I doubt I get to roster him, but this feels like a safe situation at quarterback. The Packers running game still looks like a liability so I don't see a reason why Green Bay won't throw the ball a lot.
Drew Brees, NO/6 - My gut tells me Brees is pissed off and wants to put on an offensive show for the league. Remember "Spygate" and how the Patriots responded that season. I sense as fans we are going to see it happen again with this offense. No letting off the gas at all. Four quarters of all out football and looking to crush teams whereover possible. The defensive losses (due to the suspensions) actually could just create even more shootouts. I suspect this offense go nuts this year.
Tom Brady, NE/9 - I know I am likely in the minority here, but I see some roadblocks for the Patriots offense this year. Yes, they have a stacked roster. Nobody is going to argue that point. But here are some things I see that could derail a giant passing effort by Brady:
He is 35 years old. Only three QBs (Warren Moon in 1991, Rich Gannon in 2002, and Kurt Warner in 2008) have thrown for over 4,500 yards at age 35 or older. Averaging the 10 best quarterback performances (from 1960 on) for people 35 years or older yields these stats: 4,314 passing yards and 28 TDs. Everyone is projecting him to crush these numbers. It might be a case of very unrealistic expectations.
The Patriots play some very good defenses (at Baltimore in week 3, at Buffalo in week 4, vs Denver in week 5, at Seattle in week 6, vs NY Jets in week 7, vs Buffalo in week 10, at NY Jets in week 12, vs Houston in week 14, vs San Francisco in week 15)
The offensive line has looked awful in the preseason. They are expecting most of their starters back to start the season, but they may take a few games to get into game shape and to play as unit.
Their top receiver (Wes Welker) is 31 years old.
Individually, maybe these things aren't a big deal. But I suspect one or more of these things derails Brady from achieving the super high expectations from the fantasy world.
Cam Newton, Car/6 - I love his game, but the team went out and got Mike Tolbert so that Cam would not need to consistently dive over the pile on the goal line during the regular season. Cam should be solid as long as Steve Smith remains healthy, but I suspect his rushing TDs come in much closer to 6 or 7 than the 14 he scored last season.
Matthew Stafford, Det/5 - I don't have any confidence that the Lions will be able to run the ball. Stafford should challenge for the league lead in pass attempts if he stays healthy. And when you have Calvin Johnson on your team, you are going to put up ridiculous passing stats with that many attempts.
Michael Vick, Phi/7 - It's hard not to wince a little bit everytime he touches the ball. Dynamic with both his legs and arm, I just can't shake the fact that he never completes a full season (He has played all 16 games just once in 2006). At age 32, he is not a spring chicken anymore either. I am going to let someone else roll the dice with him and his high yards per game played.
Robert Griffin III, Was/10 - I am all aboard the RG3 train. I have seen enough in his preseason games to annoint him a big deal. I was impressed with the way he went through his progressions and his ability to audible at the line of scrimmage. My gut tells me we are watching a special player here. I also like the Redskins commitment in the passing game securing guys like Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan. There may never be another rookie to emerge as explosive as Cam Newton, but if someone was to come close, RG3 would be my bet.
Matt Ryan, Atl/7 - The hype train is going crazy on Matt Ryan, but I have to acknowledge I am onboard as well. He has great weapons at receiver (Julio Jones, Roddy White, and Harry Douglas as well as veteran Tony Gonzalez) and will be now playing in an offense designed to go deep on a much more consistent basis. Aditionally, RB Michael Turner looks like he is running in quicksand. If the preseason is any indication, the Falcons are going to pass often. And with their weapons, I expect Matt Ryan to put up some ridiculous numbers.
Eli Manning, NYG/11 - He has scored over 300 fantasy points the last three years. Almost universally under-appreciated, Eli is among the safest picks to make on draft day near his ADP. He has played every game since he was named the starter in year 2005.
Tony Romo, Dal/5 - I have a bad feeling in Dallas. Both WRs are nicked up and missing the preseason. His star tight end has a hurt spleen. The team found a good WR3 last year for their system (Laurent Robinson) and he left to free agency. Maybe it all comes together like usual, but I am not feeling it for Romo this season.
Philip Rivers, SD/7 - Here is another guy that I am getting a bad vibe about. I can't put an exact finger on things, but I don't like these things about his situation:
He lost his star WR (Vincent Jackson) to free agency.
The WR turning the most heads in the preseason (Vincent Brown) now has a broken ankle and will miss considerable time.
The team acquired WR Robert Meachem in free agency, but he has been slow to catch onto the San Diego system
Rivers didn't seem to have nearly the same zip on the ball last year. He finished with a career worst 20 interceptions.
His superstar TE is 32 years old.
Because of his consistency over the years (even with Vincent Jackson sitting out games), it's hard to bet against Rivers. He has had over 336 fantasy points in each of his last 4 years. But my gut is telling me to do exactly that (avoid him)...or maybe I am just hungry.
Ben Roethlisberger, Pit/4 - He was pretty banged up last year and still managed to finish as the 12th best quarterback despite missing a game. With a run game that looks extremely iffy this year, I expect the Steelers to throw a lot in 2012. Ben's a good option for drafters (like myself) that like to wait on quarterback.
Peyton Manning, Den/7 - Although I admire the comeback and believe he has the rest of the team excited for the year, I suspect Manning is going to struggle with his new offense. We have yet to see him throw deep. He is 36 years old, skipped the entire 2011 season and is coming off of multiple neck surgeries. He will not be on any of my teams this year.
Josh Freeman, TB/5 - Josh regressed last year and watched his TD to interception ratio plummet. But the team added a lot of weapons (Vincent Jackson via free agency and pass catching RB Doug Martin through the draft) that has me believing that he is seriously under-valued in drafts this year. He is just 24 years old and has already had back to back 3,400+ passing yard seasons. With better options in the passing game (and a dynamic RB in Doug Martin), I am looking for Josh Freeman to significantly outplay his average draft position.
Alex Smith, SF/9 - The 49ers added a lot of weapons to their offense (Randy Moss, Mario Manningham, Brandon Jacobs) while bringing back their entire defense. Alex had a career year last year and should be able to improve a little on that with better weapons. But even with his career-best performance in 2011, Alex only finished the year as the 17th best quarterback in the league. My gut tells me that you won't win your fantasy league with him as your QB1 no matter how good the rest of your team is.
Matt Schaub, Hou/8 - In 2009, Matt Schaub finished as the 4th best quarterback. He got hurt last year, but still flashed ridiculous skills against the Saints, Raiders, and Titans. In those three games, he managed 1,085 pasing yards and 7 TDs. He draws a very favorable year-end schedule and should be a consideration in any quarterback by committee.
Jay Cutler, Chi/6 - Although it's easy to get excited with the additions the Bears made on offense (WR Brandon Marshall, WR Alshon Jeffery, and RB Michael Bush), I can't get past the front office's denial that they have among the worst offensive lines in the game. Jay ran for his life last year and my gut suspects we will see more of the same again this year. The added weapons are nice, but it's going to be tough to have successful timing routes when the QB is constantly being pressured. At Jay's ADP, I will let others grab him.
Carson Palmer, Oak/5 - He managed to refind his game with new life from the Raiders, but at 32 with questionable arm-strength, I am looking elsewhere.
Andrew Luck, Ind/8 - He has looked outstanding in the preseason. I don't like his weapons all that much (especially if Collie ends up sitting because of concussions), but it's hard not to get excited about his skill set even as a rookie. At his ADP, he represent significant upside on a team that will likely be required to throw a lot to stay in games.
Jake Locker, Ten/11 - He hasn't looked that great this preseason, but it was enough to relegate 37 year old Matt Hasselbeck to the bench. Locker could be something special in years to come, but I don't see it happening to start the year in 2012. His dynamic wide receiver, Kenny Britt, is likely facing a multi-game suspension from the league. Jake will need him back to effectively move the chains.
Joe Flacco, Bal/8 - He is a great candidate to outplay his ADP, but he still doesn't excite me as a player. His yards per pass attempt, passing TDs, and fantasy points all regressed in 2011. My gut tells me he improves on 2011 numbers, but with limited upside.
Andy Dalton, Cin/8 - His rookie season was over-shadowed by the great year of Cam Newton. At age 25, his best years should be in front of him. My gut tells me that the team needs more weapons (oposite of AJ Green) before Dalton makes a leap to a reliable fantasy starter.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buf/8 - His 2011 was a tale of two seasons. He threw for 15 TDs and 9 interceptions in the first 8 games and then managed only 9 TDs with 14 interceptions in the 2nd half. Although I think Ryan might be between those two extremes this season, it could be difficult to get as many passing attempts this year. The Bills have two very good RBs in Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller. I suspect this offense will be more balanced in 2012 while both of these players are healthy. An improved defense also points to a more balanced attack this season.
Matt Cassel, KC/7 - Matt plays QB on a team that features RBs Jamaal Charles and Peyton Hillis. I have no belief in Cassel or the system to give him enough attempts to be anything more than a desperation play in fantasy.
Sam Bradford, Stl/9 - My gut tells me has lost his way and I don't see him improving enough to matter. The team keeps looking for different WRs. Maybe the answer is getting a new quarterback.
Christian Ponder, Min/11 - I just have a bad feeling regarding the Vikings offense. Their number 2 wide receiver (Jerome Simpson) will start the year suspended. Adrian Peterson is coming back quickly from ACL surgery. Percy Harvin is a huge talent, but teams should be able to double him consistently. Despite all of this craziness in the offense though, Ponder has looked pretty good at times behind center. He managed 7.8 yards per rush attempt last year. He also had a break-through game against the Broncos in week 13 where he put up 381 passing yards and 3 TDs. He is a lottery ticket that could be worthwhile if things fall right. His rushing totals can add significantly to his fantasy totals.
Matt Flynn and Russell Wilson, Sea/11 - Wilson has looked very good this preseason, but I don't see him unseating Flynn to start the year. I know it was with the mighty Green Bay Packers, but Flynn's 480 yards passing and 6 TDs last year against the Lions sold me on his skills. He dropped some passes into very tight spaces on that day. It's a very limited body of work, but I am excited to see him play this year. At his ADP, it's all upside with little to no risk. Either he pans out or you cut him after a few weeks.
Brandon Weeden, Cle/10 - He is over his head playing with bad receivers and a bad team. He probably is better than Colt McCoy, but that is a low bar. Not worth a roster spot to me.
John Skelton and Kevin Kolb, Ari/10 - Playing on a team with a horrible offensive line just got worse as LT Levi Brown appears lost for the season. My gut tells me to just avoid this mess all year long. Both will likely play the position and be lousy.
Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow, NYJ/9 - I couldn't script a bigger failure than this one. It's like we are all just waiting for Sanchez to mess up and have the fans yell for Tebow. And if that circus wasn't enough, all the Jets' wide receivers are banged up right now. I think neither quarterback is rosterable. Tebow could be, if/when Sanchez gets benched.
The Miami Quarterbacks - With a bunch of WR4s and 5s on the roster, it's hard to imagine this group doing anything at all.
The Jacksonville Quarterbacks - Blaine Gabbert has to show me he is not afraid to stand in and throw the ball before I even feign excitement about his NFL career.