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Fantasy Football

2010 Fantasy Football just around the  Corner!

Get all The fan latest NFL news, scores, stats, fantasy analysis, and mock drafts as well as the best NFL writers and photos from around the web right here right now.

Fantasy Draft Kit Breakouts #1

The following are projections for who will be this year’s breakout fantasy football stars. Not all are sleepers, with some being decently high picks, but nearly everyone on this list I project to score much higher than their current mock-draft and magazine ADP (average draft position), and dare I say, could be close to foolproof — or at least closer to U2 than Air Supply, at least.

Kevin Kolb, Eagles: Critics will point to the poor Kansas City defense in Week 3’s big performance, but his first start against the Saints one week earlier, he passed for nearly 400 yards. Plus, he’s had three years to soak up the Eagles’ complex system and has plenty of offensive support around him.

Alex Smith, 49ers: Smith Version 2.0 was a nothing short of a revelation last year, starting 10 games and ending up with 2,350 yards and 18 TD passes. After coming off the scrap heap, Smith is still only 26 and is at the controls of a potent offense (with an upgraded line and WR core) ready to explode. A quality fantasy back up on draft day who could replace your drafted mid-round starter by year’s end.

Chad Henne, Dolphins: The University of Michigan’s all-time leading passer didn’t get a lot of chances to show his arm off last season (2,878 yards, 12 TDs, 14 INTs), but settled in late last year with 300-yard games in three of his last five outings. Now entering his third year, a season of starts under his belt and with new blue-chip WR Brandon Marshall, Henne is another draft day backup who will come cheap and pay dividends.

Running back
Beanie Wells, Cardinals: After fighting off some early season injuries, Wells finished 2009 with six TDs in his last eight games. The powerful Wells is a great late third to early fifth-round pick who will make a fine RB2 this season as the goal-line back in AZ, with more every-down upside than fellow back Tim Hightower has to offer. With the passing game likely regressing, coach Ken Whisenhunt should return to his pound the ball, Steelers roots.

Ryan Mathews, Chargers: Picked as high in mocks as mid-way through the second round, Mathews should be worth it. Rookies can be tough to gauge, but he’s entering the best possible setup from day one. Mathews has a top-notch passing game to take the pressure off, has a solid offensive line and a capable backup in Darren Sproles. And unlike most first-round fantasy rookies, he doesn’t have to be the savior on a bad team. Mathews makes for a great RB2 and a decent RB1 for those who like to roll the dice. An easy preseason target for Rookie of the Year.

LeSean McCoy, Eagles: A better fit as an every down back than Brian Westbrook was with more size (5-11, 210), McCoy can also catch the ball (40 grabs as a rookie). He’ll be the lead back for the Eagles with an uninspiring cast of Mike Bell, Leonard Weaver and Charles Scott posing as an unthreatening group of backups should coach Andy Reid try the committee approach. McCoy will be a value in the fourth to early sixth round and would make for a fine RB2 in a starting lineup.

Jahvid Best, Lions: Because of injury concerns and the sad-sack team that drafted him, Best could go as late as the sixth round but will make a good RB2 and great RB3 in any fantasy lineup. The Lions will be sure to get him the ball as much as possible in an emerging offense with Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson. Incumbent Kevin Smith was uninspiring even before his ACL injury last year and is not a threat. Best might have just given the Lions their “triplets.”

Laurence Maroney, Patriots: A still young (25) tailback coming off a nine-touchdown season (off starting only part-time due to injury) on a potential juggernaut offense? Yes, please. Oh, and the best part is he’ll be blue-light special cheap in the sixth to eighth rounds with no serious in-team competition (Sammy Morris, ha!). Undervalued because of his fantasy-tease history, but it’s now or never for Maroney and he showed signs last season that the light might finally have turned on for good.

Wide receiver
Michael Crabtree, 49ers: In only 11 games following a lengthy holdout, Crabtree grabbed 48 passes for 625 yards and two scores essentially coming in cold off the street. Imagine what he could do with a whole offseason under his belt. Now with a reliable running mate in Ted Ginn Jr. (better suited in San Fran as a No. 2), a good running game and one of the best young tight ends in the game with Vernon Davis, the 49ers are on the rise. Also, did I mention what poses as passable defense in the NFC West? Not much, which means plenty of fantasy scoring within the division. A fourth or fifth-rounder who would make a nice WR2 or great WR3 in your lineup.

Mike Wallace, Steelers: Ready to ascend into the lead receiver role thanks to Santonio Holmes being shipped out this offseason. Wallace impressed as a rookie with 756 yards and six scores, averaging almost 20 yards a catch, and that was as a third wheel. Now in the starting lineup and with the venerable Hines Ward showing him the ropes, Wallace should be a good WR3 for any lineup despite being had in the sixth to eighth rounds.

Devin Hester, Bears: Still a work in progress, Hester should emerge from a crowded receiver stable to finally be the fantasy star he’s always shown flashes of. New offensive mastermind Mike Martz will have the Bears throwing early and often and by all accounts, loves Hester’s big-play potential. The Bears’ leading receiver from 2009 should thrive in Martz’s offense and will come cheap on draft day in the ninth round or lower filling the WR3 or 4 role in your lineup.

Devin Thomas, Redskins: Since fellow receiver Santana Moss has done nothing but break fantasy hearts in his post-Jets career, the third-year Thomas has a chance to be the lead receiver in D.C. by year’s end. At 6-2, 215, he has size and speed and gets to catch passes from perennial all-pro Donovan McNabb in new coach and offensive whiz Mike Shanahan‘s West Coast (how about Beltway) offense. Thomas will be dirt cheap in the double-digit rounds and makes for a nice flier thanks to his upgraded coach, quarterback and offensive system.

Tight end
Jermichael Finley, Packers: Once he grabbed the starting spot last season mid-way through the year, he never let go. Entering his third season, Finley grabbed 55 passes for 676 and 5 TDs last fall. Playing in an explosive passing game led by Aaron Rodgers and a cadre of good receivers with a solid running attack as well, the upside is massive for Finley.

Fantasy Draft Kit Sleepers #2

Last season, some great performers slipped through the cracks of many drafts. Miles Austin, Sidney Rice, Vernon Davis, Brent Celek and Mike Sims-Walker were all late-round picks – some were even waiver pickups. The owners that took these players were likely in the mix for league championships last season.

Here is my pre-training camp list of the best sleeper candidates for 2010;

Mike Wallace, WR – Pittsburgh:
The Steelers trade of WR Santonio Holmes to the Jets has opened a spot for Wallace to become their #1 wideout. Sure, Hines Ward remains, but he is becoming more of a possession receiver. The Steelers drafted Holmes with the idea of him becoming their deep threat of the future. Now that job falls to Wallace, who led the NFL in 2009 in yards per catch with 19.4. The sophomore receiver will be hurt by QB Ben Roethlisberger’s 4-game suspension, but after that, he should make plenty of noise. Wallace reminds me a lot of Austin, with speed to burn and good hands. Pittsburgh has a third-place schedule, so they should put up some good numbers up against some inferior opponents.

Chad Henne, QB – Miami:
The Dolphins will abandon the Wildcat offense. And why not? They actually have a #1 receiver to throw to downfield, with the off-season acquisition of WR Brandon Marshall from the Broncos. Secondary receivers like Davone Bess, Greg Camarillo and Brian Hartline can contribute as well, but Marshall will make everyone better. Henne will get every opportunity to succeed and I think he has all the tools to become a great NFL quarterback in 2010. The Dolphins will still trail in many games, but that will give Henne more chances to air out the ball. Draft Henne as a #2 QB or as a bye-week replacement and hope he shines.

Justin Forsett, RB – Seattle:
LenDale White’s shocking release from the Seahawks opened the door for Forsett. Last season, he was one of the best performers in the second half, averaging over 10 points per game after week 8. He may open the season in a RBBC with Julius Jones and Leon Washington, but I think he can overcome that to become a bona fide NFL starter. Forsett is a dual rushing/receiving threat in the mold of Brian Westbrook. If he can earn the chance to get 20 touches per game, he could be a fantasy star.

Ben Tate, RB – Houston:
You will hear a lot about other rookie RBs like Ryan Matthews, Jahvid Best and C.J. Spiller – but Tate could be the best rookie in 2010. He will fly under the radar because he was picked in the second round, but Texans’ coach Gary Kubiak has a lot on the line this season. Kubiak has had a carousel at RB during his tenure in Houston, and the pressure is on him to get to the playoffs. Tate is Kubiak’s pick and despite what you may hear to the contrary, Kubiak wants to install the big back from Auburn as his main runner. The Texans’ have a great passing offense but need a running game. If given the chance, Tate has the opportunity to run on many defenses thinking pass rather than run. Tate’s physical presence makes him a great candidate for double-digit TDs as well.

Devin Aromashodu, WR – Chicago:
Many Fantasy sources will name Aromashodu as a sleeper – so his stock may rise before your draft. But, considering his late-season surge in 2009 (averaging over 13 points per game weeks 14-17) and that passing guru Mike Martz has taken over the Bears’ offense, Aromashodu must be mentioned. There is no sure-fire, #1 WR in Chicago, so whoever assumes that role has the chance to put up some big numbers. Keep an eye on the training camp competition at WR with the Bears this summer – and remember Aromashodu’s name.

Early Doucet, WR – Arizona:
Like Wallace, this young wideout has the chance to earn a starting gig with a good offense. Doucet’s name may not be highly regarded, but with Anquan Boldin traded to the Ravens, Doucet could be a name we hear a lot of in 2010. He didn’t do much in the regular season in 2009, but he had 14 catches for 145 yards and 2 TDs in the Cardinals’ two playoff games. Many fantasy owners may assume that WR Steve Breaston will take Boldin’s starting position, but Breaston is likely headed to the slot receiver position, leaving Doucet as the receiver opposite perennial All-Pro Larry Fitzgerald. With Fitz attracting double-coverage, Doucet will have the chance to get wide open downfield. Don’t be concerned about QB Matt Leinart taking over for the retired Kurt Warner. Doucet doesn’t need his QB to be great – he just needs to get the ball. Look for Doucet in the later rounds of your draft and hope he shines.

Cadillac Williams, RB – Tampa Bay:
Surprisingly enough, Williams rebounded from a patella tendon knee injury in 2008 and became the Bucs’ starting tailback last year. He had over 1,000 combined rushing/receiving yards and 7 total TDs. Williams has remained low on the Fantasy radar screen this offseason, but he is injury-free. Tampa will not be a strong team this year, but any starting RB is worth a late draft pick. Williams and Derrick Ward will battle it out for starting duties, but the inside track belongs to the Cadillac. Williams will likely be a mid-to-late round pick, an excellent spot for a decent RB3 on your fantasy squad.

Malcom Floyd, WR – San Diego:
The Chargers are in a tough spot. They are a Super Bowl contender, but their best WR, restricted free agent Vincent Jackson, is involved in a nasty contract dispute. It’s difficult to say when or if the dispute will end (Jackson has threatened to hold out into November). In the meantime, the lanky Floyd has an opportunity to be San Diego’s top downfield target if Jackson holds out. Floyd had only 1 TD in 2009, but he amassed 776 yards receiving. QB Philip Rivers loves to throw deep so if Floyd is his best option, his numbers could skyrocket.

Devin Thomas, WR – Washington:
The third pro season for wide receivers is a usually a big one. Thomas was the ‘Skins second round pick in 2008 and he has all the tools to be a great NFL receiver. Unfortunately, he has fizzled his in first two seasons and last year recorded 25 catches for 325 yards and 3 TDs in 14 games. The recent changes in Washington could help Thomas in a huge way. Donovan McNabb comes over from the Eagles to give Washington an established QB and new head coach Mike Shanahan is considered an offensive genius. So, Thomas will have a great opportunity to establish himself as a pro. Considering Santana Moss’ potential scandal with HGH, Thomas may be the best WR on the team when the season opens. He is a great late-round flier to take a chance on in 2010.

Matt Jones, WR – Cincinnati:
Many people have forgotten about Jones. He was the Jaguars’ top receiver in 2008 (761 yards in 12 games), but was suspended for drug violations in 2009. Even after being eligible to sign with an NFL team, Jones was passed over by the league and sat out last year. Reportedly, this has shocked Jones into taking his career seriously, and he reported to the Bengals in great shape. Jones will have to contend with Chad Ochocinco and Antonio Bryant for catches, but Jones is a pure sleeper – he’s a disgraced former first round pick trying to reestablish his career. Cincinnati loves reclamation projects, and perhaps they can find lightning in a bottle again with Jones. Keep an eye on Jones as a last-round flier in your leagues in 2010.

Fantasy Draft Kit Busts #3

Every season there are NFL players who are not able to repeat their solid performances from the prior season.

Whether it be because of injury, suspension or a new player being added to the team, you cannot just look at last season’s rankings and expect a player to duplicate the same performance the following season.

Each season, the Maniaxs identify a list of 10 players that are not going to be desirable fantasy players a year after finishing high in the rankings. All 2009 fantasy rankings for this article are from www.profootballreference.com.

1) RB Thomas Jones (Kansas City Chiefs) – He rushed for 1,402 yards and scored 14 rushing touchdowns in 2009, which put him sixth among running backs and 11th among all fantasy players. That was with the New York Jets, and when they saw Shonn Greene dominate the 2009 postseason with 54 rushes for 304 yards and two rushing touchdowns, they released Jones, and he signed with the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Chiefs already have a young emerging star in RB Jamaal Charles, who had 1,120 yards rushing and seven rushing touchdowns in 2009. They also added Mississippi RB Dexter McCluster in the second round, who should see a lot of time in the slot and in the backfield on third down. I just cannot see Jones duplicating his 2009 season, unless Charles goes down with an injury. He will probably finish in the high 30s to low 40s among fantasy running backs and is a late round choice as a fourth or fifth running back or handcuff to Charles.

2) RB Ricky Williams (Miami Dolphins) – Ricky Williams had a great 2009 season, rushing for 1,121 yards and 11 rushing touchdowns. He also added 35 receptions for 264 yards and two receiving touchdowns. He did not start seeing significant action until starting RB Ronnie Brown was lost for the season, and Brown is coming back and will be taking carries away from Williams.

Williams is also going to be 33 years old and has 2,164 career carries. Even though he is in great shape, I do not expect him to have another season where he ranks seventh among fantasy running backs. Expect him to finish in the mid 20s or high 30s with a reduced workload now that Brown is back and ready to carry the ball. The only good thing is that Brown is injury-prone, so Williams may put up bigger numbers in the second half of the season, similar to what he did in 2009.

3) RB Matt Forte (Chicago Bears) – This is a situation where a struggling player is just not receiving much help from his franchise. In 2008, as a rookie he rushed for 1,238 yards, caught 63 passes for 477 yards and scored 12 touchdowns, which put him at fourth among fantasy running backs. In 2009, he struggled behind a weak offensive line and had only 929 yards rushing, 57 receptions for 471 yards and four touchdowns, which put him at 18th.

The Bears have not added a noteworthy offensive lineman this offseason, and they also signed RB Chester Taylor to take away carries. I have Forte ranked 25th, but I would be more surprised if he finished 15th than 35th. I have very little confidence in him having a rebound season; I think he will continue down the path of fantasy bust.

4) QB Ben Roethlisberger (Pittsburgh Steelers) – This is an easy one seeing as he has been slapped with a six-game suspension that may be reduced to four games with good behavior. He finished ninth among fantasy quarterbacks last year, with 4,328 yards passing, 26 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

He also has a tough schedule coming back where he has two games against the Cincinnati Bengals, Baltimore, the New York Jets and Carolina Panthers—all tough pass defenses from last season. I cannot see him duplicating that success missing even four games against that schedule. I have him ranked 20th among all fantasy quarterbacks.

5) QB Kyle Orton (Denver Broncos) – It is not a good sign when the franchise not only trades for QB Brady Quinn but also drafts Florida rookie QB Tim Tebow in the first round. It is pretty much a sign that Orton does not fit into the long-term future of the Broncos.

Orton had 3,802 yards passing, 21 touchdowns, 12 picks and an 86.3 QB rating, but I just cannot see him duplicating those numbers this year. He will be lucky to be starting by Week Eight, much less finish 16th among fantasy quarterbacks like he did in 2009.

6) WR Santonio Holmes (New York Jets) – This is a similar problem to Big Ben; he is being tagged with a four-game suspension to start 2010.  Good luck being the 15th-ranked receiver for a second year in a row with a quarter of the season lost.

He also is in an inferior passing offense; the one he left in Pittsburgh finished ninth in passing yards and tied for seventh in passing touchdowns. The one he is joining was 31st in passing yards gained and 29th in touchdown throws. I expect better with QB Mark Sanchez entering his second year, but it is not going to be as good as Pittsburgh, and Holmes is at a real disadvantage with that suspension. I expect him to finish in the low 30s to high 40s among fantasy receivers.

7) RB Fred Jackson (Buffalo Bills) – He was a very serviceable running back last year, rushing for 1,062 yards and two touchdowns, as well as catching 46 passes for 371 yards and two touchdowns. That put him at 15th among fantasy running backs. A crowded backfield that also had RB Marshawn Lynch just became even more crowded when the Bills selected RB C.J. Spiller with the ninth pick in the NFL draft.

That is always bad news when a team spends a top-10 pick at the same position as another player, especially at running back, where rookies tend to be ready to contribute in their first year. I think Jackson falls back to the mid 30s as Spiller takes away a lot of touches, especially later in the season when the Bills will need Spiller to sell tickets with a last-place team.

8) RB Steve Slaton (Houston Texans) – People might be surprised to see him on my list, but I do not know if people realized that as bad as last year seemed, he still finished 33rd among fantasy running backs and 62nd among all players. I put him on the list because of his strong 2008 showing, when he was sixth among all running backs, and the fact that even though he struggled in 2009, he was injured for a number of games. In 11 games, he still had 437 yards rushing, 417 yards receiving and seven touchdowns.

I do not expect a bounce-back though. The Texans drafted Auburn RB Ben Tate in the second round, and it was not to be an understudy to Slaton. I think the Texans are of the opinion that at 5’10” and 195 lbs., Slaton is just too small to be the every-down running back, and Tate is being brought to Houston to be the starter, whereas Slaton will be used as a change of pace and third down back.

I have Slaton ranked 41st this year, and depending on what happens in Houston, I would not be surprised if he slipped further. I think his rookie year was an abnormality; I do not expect him to ever approach those numbers again.

9) QB Jason Campbell (Oakland Raiders) – Campbell finally looked like he was starting to figure out the quarterback position in Washington last year, and he had 3,618 yards, 20 touchdowns and 15 interceptions, ranking 14th among fantasy quarterbacks. Once the Skins acquired QB Donovan McNabb, there really was no reason to keep Campbell, and a change of scenery might not have been a bad thing.

That said, the Black Hole in Oakland was not what the doctor ordered. He is very light on receivers and only has TE Zach Miller as a proven target to throw the ball to. I would be very surprised if he does much better than the 20s this year among fantasy quarterbacks. This player just cannot catch a break.

10) RB Willis McGahee (Baltimore Ravens) – Remember in 2008 when Titans RB Chris Johnson and LenDale White split carries in Tennessee? Johnson had 1,228 rushing yards and nine touchdowns, and White had 773 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns, finishing 19th among fantasy running backs. It just did not materialize in 2009 with White having only 222 yards rushing and two touchdowns, finishing 77th among fantasy running backs.

McGahee has the exact same problem; he had only 544 yards rushing last year but scored 14 touchdowns as the backup to starting RB Ray Rice, who like Johnson was in his first year as a starter. I just cannot see McGahee finishing 25th among fantasy running backs for a second straight year; I have him at 35th right now and would not be surprised if he fell down into the 40s or 50s. He turns 29 this year, and the Ravens are going to make sure Rice receives the majority of the touches with McGahee fighting for the scraps.


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