Thank you all for joining us here at the Footballguys High Stakes Roundtable – 2012 edition. Let's get right to the first question:
Last season, several quarterbacks were dominant in fantasy, and at least five QBs are pushing for early consideration in many fantasy drafts. Do you believe that this trend will continue this year?
David Dodds: I think the league has caught on that it's far more efficient to throw a lot during the game especially if your quarterback average 7+ yards per attempt and the average running back gets you just 4.2 yards per carry. As long as the current NFL rules stay similar to how they are now, I think we will continue to see massive passing statistics going forward.
Chris Carlson: There is a benefit to having a top 5 QB, but only if you can get them at some value. I never would spend a pick on a QB in the first 4 rounds of a draft, and that is what it will take to acquire any of the 5. Last year I saw many drafts where Brees and Brady could be had after the fourth, but after the historic performances of last year that value will not present itself this year. When you add in the RBBC's which have taken over the NFL, as well as the multitude of injuries that are prevalent for RB's, it is much more important to have an advantage at the RB position than the QB position, which offers startable options every week on the waiver wire. I would much rather be loading up on RBs and WRs during the point of a draft that the stud QBs are going off the board.
Jules McLean: There has always been dominant quarterbacks, for example Kurt Warner, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Daunte Culpepper, Steve McNair, Brett Favre and Trent Green just to name a few. It was just a matter if you wanted to pay for them. With the drop of true three down backs, it makes the QB position last year and this a lot more tempting. Do you want to take a chance on a DeMarco Murray or Ahmad Bradshaw type or do you want o go with a QB who seems more of a sure point producer like Tom Brady or Cam Newton?
Glenn Lowy: I not only believe that the trend that we've seen the past couple years with QBs going earlier will continue this year, but will explode. With fantasy players growing less and less secure with grabbing a RB with their earliest picks outside of the very top options due to the increased likelihood of injury from that position and the growing tendency for NFL teams to move away from the bell cow 3-down back, many players are now looking at other positions including the QB position as a more secure option. Last season's unbelievable production from the top of the QB position should only feed that thought process.
Todd Hunter: I will probably not be taking a quarterback in the first two rounds. The other options there are just too juicy and there are many intriguing options outside the top five QBs. I would much rather have Eli Manning in the 8th round than Cam Newton in the 2nd.
Scott Atkins: Yes, I see the top 4 QBs as elite (Rodgers/Brees/Cam & Brady), and I expect all four of them to be drafted in the first 30 picks with Matt Stafford as the clear #5 not far behind.
Josh Miceli: I have always been from the school of thought that the separation from a tier 1 QB to a second or third tier is far closer than the same in the RB or WR position so I have always waited on a QB. That being said NFL rule changes and high powered offenses led to last year's trend. I'm not sold on Cam yet and Stafford has to stay healthy one more year for me to be a believer but the top 3 are all deserving of 1st or 2nd round consideration in most formats. All that said I will rarely end up with one of those top 5 QBs this year as someone will take them much higher than I would consider it.
John Rozek: I believe people will overreact a little to last year's stats and we'll see the top 5 QBs going in the first 3 rounds with a good chance of 2-3 in the first round. I don't really have any doubts the top 5 will put up great seasons but I see a bit of decline in their stats in 2012. Personally, I still won't be taking any of them with this year unless they fall a couple rounds later than they should. There are a couple QBs I see going several rounds later that will put up solid seasons that will allow me to get better talent at the RB/WR/TE early in the draft and more than make up the difference I'd lose at the QB position.
Do you have any reservations of the Top 5 of Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Cam Newton or Matthew Stafford?
David Dodds: No reservations. I think these are the top-five quarterbacks taken this year. With that said, I doubt I draft any of them as I prefer waiting at quarterback and building out my RB/WR/TE positions first.
Chris Carlson: The only one I have reservations about is Cam Newton. His value last year was heavily dependent on the 14 rushing TD's, and if Carolina wants to preserve him for the long haul they will need to scale back on using him as the goal-line back. Also, he took the NFL by storm early last season, but he will not be sneaking up on anyone this year. In the final 8 games of last year after their week 9 bye he averaged 207 yards per game passing with 10 passing TDs and 8 INTs.
Jules Mclean: I have no reservations about the Top 5 quarterbacks, but I don't think I will own many of them in a league like the FPC where QBs get 4 points per TD. I will tend to wait until the 5th round or later and grab one of my second tier QBs. I prefer to get one of my second tier QBs as opposed to my 3rd tier QB. But, if I get stuck, in my projections the point difference for my 15th ranked QB and my 10th ranked QB is only 15 points. That's point difference, I also like to factor in upside, there are 2-3 QBs in my second tier that I think could break into the Top 5, thus again, I prefer to get one of my second tier guys.
Glenn Lowy: Recent results from the NFFC's early drafts (a format where a QB is awarded 6-points per TD) seem to support this belief as 4 of the 5 QB's you mentioned are regularly going in the first round with the 5th going early 2nd. The FFPC has a less QB friendly system, but I wouldn't be surprised if we see QB's go earlier in those drafts than ever before as well.
Scott Atkins: Not really. In today's NFL, the rules favor the QBs and the WRs, so we will continue to see these QBs exploit that advantage. Cam Newton is the only one of the four that performs with his freakish physical nature, and I don't see defensive lines stepping up anytime soon to challenge his phenomenal league record 14 rushing TDs.
Do the benefits of having a Top 5 quarterback outweigh waiting and going with second or third tier options?
David Dodds: I don't think so. In high-stakes leagues, the talent pool evaporates quickly at the running back, wide receiver, and tight end positions. I will let others grab the elite quarterbacks and go with a serviceable QBBC with upside. Cam Newton was an after-thought last year and did great. Combining two second-tier guys like Peyton Manning, Robert Griffin III, and Ben Roethlisberger (and playing matchups) will likely yield similar results to the elite guys where you play them every week.
Glenn Lowy: I personally don't have many reservations for any of the QBs you mentioned above, though I'm not yet fully convinced of Stafford's ability to stay healthy and do wonder about the effects of the Saints coaching issues on that offense and therefore Brees. However, both are minor concerns. The rise in ADP for all these QB's can be a benefit for those who will still go with the wait on QB approach. As these QBs rise, it will leave the RBs and WRs that those who employ that approach feast on.
Scott Atkins: Aaah, this year's million dollar question for fantasy players everywhere. I say affirmatively wait, no get one, no wait, wait, I'm pretty sure wait! Yes definitely wait, I'm confident you should wait.
Look, I see comparable QBs being taken in the 8th and 9th rounds that are locks for similar production (Eli, Romo, Ryan, Rivers, Peyton (if healthy)) and when you do wait, grab a 2nd QB from the 10th-14th. as there are even more names that "could" break out this season, (Cutler, Griffin, Roth, Freeman). They're just not names you can surely pencil in for 500+ fantasy points like those top options, but they certainly have a ceiling that suggests they can get it done. Having said all that, there are plenty of RBs and WRs that are drafted in the first 3 rounds that for whatever reason don't pan out, so I can see the argument going both ways, IF and only IF you have your eye on a sleeper RB/WR in that draft range that you feel will give you similar production to a 2nd-3rd round pick. (paging Shane Vereen??)
Several high-powered offenses seem to have uncertainty with their ground games. Who are the backs to have in Detroit, New England and New Orleans, and why? Are any of them too confusing to even consider?
Let's start with the Lions.
David Dodds: If I draft any of the backs in Detroit, it would be Jahvid Best. We all know he is a HUGE risk and could be one hit from never playing another snap in the NFL...But with that said, he also has a skill set where he could finish as the best RB for that week (if healthy). Right now his ADP is a bit higher than I probably pay for him. But at the right price, he is a gamble that could yield a huge reward.
Chris Carlson: Detroit smells like a disaster with Best, Leshoure and Kevin Smith all in the mix for a team that is pass first, and all three sporting huge injury red flags. If Best can ever stay healthy he would be a PPR monster, but after seeing the type of hit that knocked him out for the year, I do not trust he will ever get over his concussion issues. There will always be one person in every draft who will take a shot on him in the 6th round or earlier and that is just too early for me to take him.
Glenn Lowy: The Detroit situation will be determined by health. They have three talented backs, all with serious pedigrees and all with serious health issues. However as proven by Kevin Smith last season, if one can gain the role and stay on his feet, there is serious production available here. Jahvid Best is the most talented and has the most upside, but if he puts his helmet on the wrong way, he could concuss himself and be out for the season. Great risk, great reward at this team's RB position, bears watching.
Todd Hunter: Obviously, if Jahvid Best stays healthy, he is the best option in Motown. But I just don't see how that's going to happen. So I would say Mikel Leshoure over Kevin Smith by a nose. Or a knee.
Jules Mclean: The Detroit backfield is a mess. The player I like is Kevin Smith, but can he stay on the field? No way I'm drafting Jahvid Best, just too many concerns with his concussion history. I loved Mikel LeShoure before he got popped for puffin hippy lettuce (twice at that!). Now he looks to get at least a two game suspension. At some point the Lions have to get fed up with all their off-field issues and start cutting players to make a statement (although I doubt they will).
Scott Atkins: Great questions! Call me crazy but I'm still a huge Jahvid Best fan. The head injuries scare me sure, but knee injuries do too, so do groin and ankle injuries. I think you'll see Best settle into his best Darren Sproles impersonation this year, getting him open in space. Forget the pounding up the middle, they'll give that work to Leshoure when he comes back from suspension and Kevin Smith who has seemingly found new wheels, for how long is anyone's guess.
Josh Miceli: Honestly unless Jahvid Best isn't healthy by the pre-season, the answer is no for the Lions. Wait and see who breaks out and they will likely be on the waiver wire at that point even if they were drafted to begin with and dropped by an impatient owner.
John Rozek: The backfield in Detroit is going to be a mess this year. Best has the highest potential of the RBs but he's a huge risk. I like LeShoure as a value pick in the 10th round or later.
Thanks all. Now let's talk about New England.
David Dodds: I think Ridley is the guy. This passing offense looks stellar. I want the back running out the clock and scoring from in-close. Ridley outplayed BenJarvus Green-Ellis before fumbling problems sent him to the bench. With a year under his belt, and now a full offseason, I like his chances. Shane Vereen has a great skill set (and is now healthy), but I seem him more in the third-down / change-of-pace role where he will need to supplant Danny Woodhead (which is not a given).
Chris Carlson: With New England, Belichick uses his RBs as part of specific game plans, and unless you can crack his code they are all dicey starts week to week. If I had to choose one, Vereen does offer the most upside, and if he can stay healthy he could develop into a weekly starter. A Ridley/Vereen pairing is attractive if the cost was 8th and 11th round picks, but I doubt many drafts will offer that value.
Glenn Lowy: There's no reason to even contemplate New England's situation. Even if you think you have it figured out, Belichick will change things up on a dime and throw the whole situation into flux again and again and week to week. From a totally personal viewpoint, I'm hopeful that somehow Steve Ridley ends up the man as I have him rostered on both my dynasty teams. He certainly has the talent, but does he have Belichick's full confidence?
Jules Mclean: In New England the RB I have been targeting in early drafts is Shane Vereen. As someone who watches a lot of Pac 12 (Pac 10 when Vereen was at Cal), I got to see Vereen many times. He was durable at Cal, but suffered a hamstring injury in pre-season his rookie year with the Pats. He never really got on track after that. Many folks are overlooking him. This is a player who had 4069 all-purpose yards and 35 TDs as a Cal Bear and he left after his junior season! Another factor in targeting Vereen is that Stevan Ridley has an ADP 89th overall and Vereen 181th. I can wait almost 100 picks later and possibly get the starting RB.
Todd Hunter: I believe New England will have a true committee, including Vereen, Ridley and Addai, as each seems to have different skill sets anyhow.
Scott Atkins: If you read my previous answer, I'm a big fan of Shane Vereen. Injuries slowed his rookie season to a crawl, but I think we'll see a different Vereen this season. Ridley will compliment him nicely, but let's not forget, this is Brady's team to throw to Welker, Gronk, Lloyd and Hernandez. After that any leftover scraps can go to the RBs.
Josh Miceli: Same answer as for Detroit – pass on all of them for now. Wait and see who breaks out and they will likely be on the waiver wire at that point even if they were drafted to begin with and dropped by an impatient owner.
John Rozek: I'd probably pass on all of the New England RBs, there is just too much risk in who is going to get the carries any given week. If I had to take one, I think Ridley has the best chance at taking the job.
Finally, let's head to the Big Easy and talk about the Saints.
David Dodds: Mark Ingram will get a lot of looks, but I doubt he will be very active in the passing game because of Darren Sproles. In a PPR league like the FFPC (where you also get to count a player's return touchdowns), I would rather have Sproles for at least this season.
Todd Hunter: New Orleans is the softball here with Darren Sproles the obvious choice and Ingram, Thomas and Ivory combining to create a big bowl of yuck.
Glenn Lowy: Of the three, the one with the most obvious RB target is the New Orleans situation. Though Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram's roles will likely intermingle again, Darren Sproles role is well defined and he was extremely productive in that role last season. I see no reason they won't utilize him in the same fashion this season and he won't be as productive.
Chris Carlson: New Orleans is the most attractive of the three situations, as before Ingram got hurt last year the usage week to week was fairly predictable. Ingram's recent surgery throws some uncertainty into the mix, although if he is out for any length of time Ivory would likely inherit a majority of those carries. The fantasy football world seems ready to give up on Ingram, however I would not be surprised at the end of the season to see him having offered the best value of any RB on these three teams.
Jules Mclean: In New Orleans I want Darren Sproles, but he comes with a 2nd round price tag. That means passing up a stud WR, which is hard for me to do. I have no faith in Mark Ingram and his pesky left knee. He might not even be ready for training camp. I'll let someone else roll the dice on him. I will note, if healthy, Ingram could be a solid contributor, but I doubt he will play 16 games. You have to give Pierre Thomas a look with Ingram's health issues. As of June 2, Thomas is listed as the RB1 on the official Saints depth chart. Thomas can be had for an 8th or 9th round pick.
Scott Atkins: Of all three teams you mentioned, in 2012, Darren Sproles will again be the fantasy RB to own. Mark Ingram will see a nice increase in carries and touchdowns, with Pierre Thomas still finding a way to be involved, but during those high powered shootout Saints games, the work will once again come from our little buddy Sproles. Props to the staff and Brees for finally finding the way to keep this kid involved in games. Speed kills and he's one of if not the most elusive backs in the league.
Are any of them too confusing to even consider? As for draft day, the only one to consider top 10 is Darren Sproles. After that, consider Jahvid Best, Mark Ingram and Shane Vereen around the RB30 spot. When you're at the spot in the draft to start taking fliers, I'd throw a dart at Kevin Smith. With an injury to Best, he may be the only viable candidate for touches and in that offense, we've seen what he can do.
Josh Miceli: In New Orleans I think Darren Sproles is the back to own here but after last year he will go vastly overvalued in drafts this year.
John Rozek: In New Orleans, I think both Sproles and Ingram will be viable picks this year in PPR leagues. Based on the early drafts, I see Ingram as a better value Sproles who is going in the 2nd or early 3rd rounds.
Having the best wide receiver (or tight end) in a passing attack can be very valuable. Who fits that description in Oakland?
David Dodds: I think this is a 1 and 1a situation. Both Denarius Moore and Darrius Heyward-Bey look solid to me. Carson Palmer was left for dead, but wow he looks solid as well. I expect these two receivers will compete for top WR team honors all season long. And a lot of their production could be based on how teams attempt to defend them. Both are undervalued in drafts at the moment.
Chris Carlson: I think it is Denarius Moore. After watching his performance in the preseason and especially some of those ridiculous catches versus Buffalo in Week 2 there is little doubt he is very talented. He was primarily used down the field last year (when he was healthy). Carson Palmer has recently indicated they are working on expanding his route package to include shorter routes, which in addition to having an offseason working in the system and with Palmer, should add some more weekly consistency to his fantasy football performance.
Jules Mclean: Full disclosure, I am a huge Tennessee Vols fan, so Denarius Moore is the WR to own from Oakland. You saw for yourself what he could do last year, but have you heard Carson Palmer talk about him? Palmer refers to Moore as their X receiver. That means WR1. GO VOLS!
Glenn Lowy: Going into the draft season, the Oakland receiver to own is Denarius Moore. However, one player I'll be watching in the preseason as a later round flyer is Jacoby Ford. He has the body control to make any catch and is dynamic before and after the catch, he just needs to stay healthy.
Todd Hunter: Even though the Carson Palmer deal was a potential franchise-killer for the Raiders, he actually makes a couple of Oakland receivers draftable again. Darrius Heyward-Bey stands out among the group with Denarius Moore also a possibility on ball skills alone. Apparently, Juron Criner is having a nice off-season, but I think he and Jacoby Ford (who is still a draft favorite for some reason) are at the back of the pack.
Scott Atkins: Denarius Moore showed big game potential. Like all rookies, he disappeared for games, but flashing the potential is what I want from a rookie. Another year of learning the ropes should do this kid very well and lookout, the sky is the limit here.
Josh Miceli: In Oakland I liked the rookie year for Denarius Thomas and if he can stay healthy I expect him to the WR to own there going forward.
John Rozek: In my opinion, Denarius Moore is the best receiver in Oakland and will end up with the best stats this year. He put up some good games last year and will build on a solid rookie season. I also think Heyward-Bey will be worth drafting a couple rounds later.
What about Denver?
David Dodds: I keep flip flopping on this. Eric Decker is a more skilled version of Austin Collie. There is a side of me that believes he could be the top target in Denver. But from what I have heard so far in the OTAs, Demaryius Thomas has been the one getting great separation and appears to be the go to target of Peyton Manning. Thomas is a beast physically and has significant upside. I think their ADPs have it right (Thomas about a round-and-a-half before Decker).
Chris Carlson: I think it will likely vary week to week between Thomas, Decker, and TE Jacob Tamme. While Thomas is obviously the most gifted of the three, Decker could take on an Austin Collie type role and Tamme has the past rapport with Manning. All three will likely provide value where drafted, if I had to pick one I would go with Decker.
Jules Mclean: Demaryius Thomas has the upside in Denver, but I'm not sold on Peyton Manning's arm strength returning. This means Eric Decker is the WR I want in Denver, especially in PPR leagues.
Glenn Lowy: Demaryius Thomas is a physical beast with unlimited potential. However, I think Decker's route running, hands, and style of play works well with Manning's passing style and potentially reduced arm strength.
Todd Hunter: Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker are very nice options with Manning running the show, but I think Decker is the more valuable of the two. Thomas is clearly the more athletic, but apparently Manning has been working quite a bit with Decker and there's just no substitute for that. At tight end, I favor Tamme over Dreessen.
Scott Atkins: I am so excited to see what Peyton Manning brings to the Bronco passing attack, specifically to Eric Decker and Jacob Tamme. I think both of these guys instantly have Top 10 potential at their position with #18 calling the shots.
Josh Miceli: In Denver I think Decker is the guy to own. He was having a career year before Tebow Time took over last year.
John Rozek: In Denver, I think Thomas and Decker will end up will similar total points Decker having more receptions and Thomas getting more TDs. Both of these situations will be ones to watch closely in the preseason.
The NFL is a copycat league, and New England forged the path forward with two big tight ends. Which one is the best value this year, Rob Gronkowski or Aaron Hernandez?
David Dodds: If both are healthy all year, I think we will see both of them a great deal. Gronkowski has a unique set of skills though that make him almost unstoppable near the goal line. It's hard to imagine him ending up with a similar ridiculous touchdown total this year, yet I have a hard time knowing how a defense can stop him. When the year ends, I think catches will be about even, Hernandez will likely have more yards (rushing + receiving) and Gronkowski will have a lot more touchdowns. I have Jimmy Graham as the top tight end this year followed by Gronkowski and then Hernandez. All will come at a hefty price in the FFPC format.
Chris Carlson: From what I've observed at the FFPC (1.5 PPR for TE), Gronkowski is the top tight end, assuming his injury is not worse than currently known. Hernandez is going late 2nd to early 3rd while Gronkowski is going mid to late 1st. Gronk is uncoverable due to his size and will offer consistency week to week, and while I love Hernandez' athletic ability, Brandon Lloyd has the potential to eat into his targets. Additionally Hernandez has battled the occasional injury and at times finds him his way into the doghouse with drops. While Gronk is being drafted appropriately, Hernandez is being overdrafted.
Jules Mclean: I keep seeing Gronk go in the 1st round of all the drafts I've done thus far and I don't get it. For me, I have to see that his ankle is completely healed before I pull the trigger in the first round. I'll wait until the 3rd and take Aaron Hernandez. I've always liked Hernandez more, he's the more dynamic and athletic of the twins, but some costly drops have gotten him into Brady's doghouse several times. He has to concentrate better and earn the trust of Brady in key situations. Right now Hernandez is the New England TE I want to own, that could change by training camp.
Glenn Lowy: Since I believe it's a toss-up on which of these two incredible TE's out-produce the other this season and Hernandez will be going later in drafts, I suppose in my mind that would make Hernandez the better value. I'd love to have either on my teams.
Todd Hunter: Despite having to deal with a somewhat beneath-the-radar ankle injury last year (and into the offseason), Gronkowski remains the top option here. He is a little bit more expensive than Hernandez, but if he is on the field, he will be on the stat sheet. Really, both tight ends remain very valuable, at least until Tom Brady runs off to California or Brazil with his sugar momma.
Scott Atkins: Without a doubt Rob Gronkowski. I just saw Hernandez go in the 2nd round of an FFPC draft, I don't think there's any value in that. Additionally, I don't think I've seen a better tight end ever (not named Jimmy Graham). Hernandez is big and fast as well, but from my perspective, I dispute his hands. I think the game goes a bit faster for him than it does Gronk.
Josh Miceli: Gronkowski is a beast, Aaron Hernandez is a freak. There will be plenty of balls to go around in New England but Hernandez has the best value at this point.
John Rozek: I think both Gronkowski and Hernandez will be number 1 TE producers this year so the best value will come down to where each ends up being drafted. Gronkowski has the highest upside and think he'll be a value pick if falls past the middle of the 2nd round while Hernandez will be a better value pick if he falls to late 5th or later.
Everyone loves the new players that enter the league via the NFL Draft in April. Are there any fantasy values in that mix for this season?
David Dodds: I expect running backs Trent Richardson and Doug Martin to be impressive right out of the gate. They enter situations with limited competition and play a position that is the easiest to transition from the college level. Although quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin will have highlights that will daze us, I suspect they will also make some horrible mistakes.
Chris Carlson: Trent Richardson and Doug Martin are the obvious candidates, however where they will be drafted come August I'm not sure how much “value” they will provide. Not that they will be bad picks, but Richardson has already risen to the mid to early 2nd and Martin into the 4th round. At those levels they are fully valued.
As you mention everyone loves the rookies so they are typically overdrafted every year. Two players I really like are Ronnie Hillman and Isaiah Pead. Hillman is an electric back who, if he can pass protect, could provide excellent value and Pead is an injury to an aging Steven Jackson away from being an every week starter. Two others to monitor this summer are Brian Quick and Chris Givens, both WRs for St. Louis who have a clear path to being starters this year.
Jules Mclean: Clearly Trent Richardson, but everyone except for Jim Brown knows that. I like Doug Martin of the Bucs, LaGarrette Blount can't pass protect and fumbles too much, so I see Martin getting the majority of carries. Miami's LaMar Miller intrigues me and right now you can pick him up with your last pick. He's buried on the depth chart, but that is going to be a very high temp offense, so I think he will get his touches. Plus, Reggie Bush has had his share of injuries and for some reason the Dolphins don't seem too high on last year's rookie Daniel Thomas.
At tight end, Coby Fleener should be plenty active for Indy and in very deep leagues, I'd give a look at their other rookie TE Dwayne Allen. He will see the field a lot because he can block. I'm not so enamored with the WRs that came out, whether because of talent or the team's they went too. I do like Michael Floyd's situation and having a bad QB doesn't scare me away from him.
Glenn Lowy: Doug Martin can be a nice value at the RB position. Tampa's obviously disenchanted with Lagarrette Blount, so much so that they traded up for Martin, and Tampa Bay also improved the surrounding cast. Martin's got the skills and opportunity to be a 3-down back in this offense. At WR, I don't think I'll be going out on a limb by stating that there won't be a repeat of the AJ Green and Julio Jones rookie seasons of last year. Brian Quick though might be heading into the best combination of talent, opportunity, and surrounding cast. There are several other talented rookie receivers that will have an opportunity to make an impact right off the bat this year as big roles are already planned for them by their teams. As a Jets fan, I'm hoping the Megatron comparisons for Stephen Hill are accurate.
Todd Hunter: Let's start with the obvious and work our way down to "say what?" First, Trent Richardson will NOT be a repeat of the Mark Ingram debacle from last year. He is a highly talented runner who will get the ball early and often. If you can grab him in the second round, do it. You won't be disappointed. A little riskier pick would be Doug Martin of Tampa. LeGarrette Blount is still the nominal starter, but remember, nominal ain't phenomenal. (I may copyright that). As for later round guys I like, I think Isaiah Pead could be a nice pick-up, as Steven Jackson isn't getting any younger. I also have to admit I'm intrigued by Alshon Jeffery, even though he reminds me of Mike Williams (the Seattle, not Tampa, version). I could see myself rolling the dice here... and quite possibly crapping out. PS: avoid Justin Blackmon. He is being "over-drafted", as the kids like to say.
Scott Atkins: Richardson is not value where he's going right now. He's already being drafted mid second round so we need to look deeper. Doug Baldwin is going next in drafts and he too is being over drafted from what I've seen. I see guys like Brian Quick, Kendall Wright and Stephen Hill becoming instant producers for their offense. They have the potential to be every week starters this season even with Tebow throwing the ball!
Josh Miceli: I am always leery to answer questions like these as I know my opponents are out there, but the obvious is Trent Richardson and I think he will be a top 10 RB this year for redraft and keeper leagues. I am not too excited about any of the receivers for redrafts as there is a low chance they perform this year. I will be staying away from the circuses in Washington and Indy at the QB position - but I do like Coby Fleener in PPR as the safety outlet for Andrew Luck when the pocket collapses.
John Rozek: I like a few of the RBs that were drafted this year. Richardson fell into a great situation and I think Cleveland will ride him heavily this season. He has the potential to put up a top 5 season. I also like Doug Martin and David Wilson at the RB position. Fleener also has the potential to put up solid numbers if he can learn the offense and stay on the same page as Luck.
A few key injuries struck some high profile players last season, from Jamaal Charles to Rashard Mendenhall and even now to health concerns with Hakeem Nicks. Are there any values as a result of those injuries, or are these players still worth picking for this fantasy campaign? How do you handle injured players in general with your fantasy roster?
David Dodds: I love Isaac Redman this year. With Mendenhall down (and possibly starting the year on the PUP), he has an opportunity to seize the starting RB job. Mendenhall is not signed after this year too so Redman can secure his future in a big way with a strong season. I think the Nicks injury isn't that big of a deal. He should be ready to go by Week 1. Last year's injured players can generally be drafted at a slight discount so many of these players will be on my radar.
Chris Carlson: Nicks will be a screaming value come draft day. You will likely be able to get him 2-3 rounds past where he should go as most players have tired of the constant injuries. I admit I'm a Nicks honk, but if you are willing to deal with the headaches he presents he is worth it. While he's seemingly always Nicked up, once he starts a game he rarely fails to finish the game. You need to have contingency plans in case he is deactivated, but if he's a go you plug and play. Just be prepared for the inevitable 1-2 games missed due to some mysterious lower leg injury. The other value to be had is Darren McFadden, as talented a RB as there is in the league. He gets hurt in odd numbered years, and stays relatively healthy in even numbered years. It's 2012 folks. I adjust my rankings for injured players, but probably not as much as most other players. It's something to be aware of, but not go overboard on.
Jules Mclean: I think there is value in Jamaal Charles and Adrian Peterson (even though he might start the season on the PUP list). I wouldn't touch Mendenhall with a 10 foot pole! Besides not trusting him, I prefer RBs that catch the ball more, his high for a season is 25 receptions, which isn't so bad, but I like at least 35 from my RBs. I handle injuries on an individual basis. Does the player have a history of the same injury (including college career), what is the anticipated rehab time, is it an injury that will affect his speed or ability to cut, is the player serious about rehabbing, what is the mental make-up of a player (is he a gamer and can't wait to get back on the field), etc.
Glenn Lowy: I felt the biggest injury value going into the early draft season was Adrian Peterson. He's a beast, the best RB in the NFL when healthy, and was already doing things on the field only a few months after a severe knee injury that would seem impossible if it weren't Adrian Peterson. However as the hype of his recovery continues, so will his recovery in draft ADP. Kenny Britt will be interesting to watch. Another player coming off a serious knee injury who in contrast to Peterson has had only bad news thus far in his recovery. However, if he falls far enough and can come back healthy, he can be a mid-round difference maker. Serious risk, serious reward. The way I handle injuries is heavily dependent upon league/contest format. I have less concern about risk/reward when playing in an overall contest as I believe a swing for the fences approach is sometimes needed to beat hundreds of players more talented in this game than I am. Last year for my team that finished 2nd overall in the FFPC Main Event, my top two picks were Arian Foster and Maurice Jones-Drew, two players with injury concerns going into that draft. If I hadn't taken that back to back risk and luckily benefited from the resulting reward, I would have finished nowhere near where I did.
Todd Hunter: I haven't played doctor in years, but that's essentially what is being requested here. Obviously, you are dropping injured players down your board, but how far? In many instances, you have to go with your gut (thankfully, I am overqualified there). I would say I trust Jamaal Charles, have completely written off Rashard Mendenhall and I am optimistic on Nicks. In Pittsburgh, that props up Isaac Redman. I think the Steelers will be better off with him in the line-up anyhow and he is slipping to real value areas in early drafts. As for Nicks, foot injuries are very difficult to predict (see Ahmad Bradshaw), but I think he'll be OK. But hey, draft Rueben Randle anyhow, as the Giants always find ways to utilize their #3 receivers regardless of injuries. Also, don't sleep on returning KC TE Tony Moeaki. I imagine he would find that rude.
Scott Atkins: Absolutely. Get ready fans, say hello once again to Isaac Redman! He'll be a steal in the 7th round! As far as how to handle injured players, I simply don't draft them! Wait, that's not true, I do, but I like to see the appropriate time off before I do. I try not to get caught up in rumors or reporters stories too much. They always seem like glowing reviews to me. On field action on game day is where it counts. The type of injury is also important. Take a guy like Michael Bush who broke his leg, it was a clean break and he made a complete recovery. Somebody like Fred Jackson should follow that same path. Other injuries like LeShoure and Ryan Williams were terrible injuries that are very difficult to come back from. These all factor into my decision for slotting my players into my rankings.
Josh Miceli: I would normally say yes but after owning Peyton Manning in two leagues last year I might second guess myself. I think there is definitely value in Jamaal Charles but would steer way clear of Rashard Mendenhall this year. Not only is Todd Haley bringing in a new offense but rumors are he may start the year on the PUP and it's only May. As for an overall strategy, I usually wait until the deep rounds to take a flier on injured players as you are almost guessing at that point anyway. If you use a top 5-7 round pick on an injured player that can be devastating to your success.
John Rozek: An injured player is often a value pick the following year. The key is to ignore the coachspeak during the off season and watch the preseason to see how the player actually looks on the field. Some players recover quicker than others. In general, I'll discount players somewhat that have been consistently injured over their careers and always seem to miss a few games. If I do take a player with an injury history I'd probably take a better backup earlier than normal.
The rosters in the FPC can go pretty deep. Do you feel that your depth is more about covering bye weeks, accumulating roster depth or is it for prospects that could explode like Victor Cruz last year? How do you balance all those different goals?
David Dodds: I am in it to win it. After about 8-10 rounds I am swinging for the fences with guys that could make a significant difference if things fell a certain way. Let someone else draft the old guys like Santana Moss. I want young players without a proven track record (high risk / high reward). I balance things by drafting a solid core (and maybe a couple of strong backups that slid too far) and then going for the homerun guys that could be the difference makers. I generally prefer players in great offenses (Randall Cobb for instance) for these types of picks.
Chris Carlson: I do not look at bye weeks when drafting. And while I rarely encounter a problem, if I do have a bye week issue I'll deal with it when it arises. Of the 10 bench spots drafted I typically allocate 8 spots to accumulating roster depth and 2 to prospects. I balance those goals based on how the team being drafted is constructed. If I feel my starters are strong, I'll allocate a few more spots to prospects, if it's a tougher draft with less value than I will focus on accumulating roster depth.
Jules Mclean: It's all about prospects! I love taking shots at my sleepers! I drafted Victor Cruz all over the place last season (including a draft held in May), he carried me to many league titles. I'm a big risk/reward player. The one exception is if I have a true stud QB, then I will look at a solid bye week filler, knowing I will hopefully only have to play him once.
Glenn Lowy: It's typically a combination. During the bye weeks of course you have to have players that can cover all your positions. However, I try to fill as many reserve roster spots as possible with upside plays. Victor Cruz was another player that helped fuel my run in the FFPC Main Event last year. One player last year that I drafted on the majority of my teams was Cam Newton, sometimes even as a 3rd QB in the cases of where I waited on QB. I typically would never roster a 3rd QB, but I felt Newton's upside was worth the roster slot. Newton, Cruz and C.J. Spiller were all players that weren't valued on draft day but had upside that rewarded my teams as the season progressed.
Todd Hunter: You saved the most important question for last. In high stakes (or high volume) contests like the FPC, it is very important to break the mold, not to "balance... different goals." You should have just one goal -- to win it all. And you will not win by following the ADP or playing it safe. Take some risks. Draft a receiver just because he is fast and is in a traditionally vertical offense. Draft a guy who always seems to be hurt, but is great when healthy. It seems wrong, but do it. Yeah, you may finish last. But you may finish first. And most importantly, this isn't your bar league; you will not win by playing your back-ups, so don't handcuff your own players-- handcuff your opponents'. (IMPORTANT: please note the possessive apostrophe here; missing this could create dire circumstances and, quite possibly, various felonies).
Scott Atkins: First and foremost after my starters are solidified, I look for upside. I have no interest in roster depth if it doesn't provide upside. I rarely pay any attention to bye week situations. I don't want to miss out on the better player to cover a week where I may or may not need a starter. The FPC rules allow you to make the playoffs no matter your record as long as you're scoring points. That's what I try to do every Sunday!
Josh Miceli: Cover bye weeks for positions like quarterback, defense and tight end but go for best available or best value at the running back or wide receiver position regardless of the bye week as there will be a zillion injuries and changes by your starter's bye week anyway.
John Rozek: I'd rather fill out my roster with guys that have the potential to explode or are covering my early round picks. I'm looking for a player that can put me over the top and will worry about bye weeks as they come. There is usually a serviceable player that can be picked up off the waiver for one week to cover a bye week if you're desperate.
As always, feel free to provide comments or suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.