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2011 Draft Prep: Sleepers, Breakouts and Busts

Senior Fantasy Writer
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It's the most wonderful time of the year.

OK, it's not Christmas, but I'm still here to give you some gifts for Draft Day: Players who I think will be worth stealing in drafts, others who will get picked but do better than expected, and guys that will disappoint and should be passed on altogether. Finding sleepers, breakouts and busts are what makes the preparation for your league's draft so much fun.

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And it's a must-do. You're behind the curve if you don't dedicate some time to finding these kinds of players. And you can't just throw a dart or pick a name out of a hat and call him a bust or sleeper. You need to put in the time ...

Or, you can just copy our lists. My colleague Jamey Eisenberg has delivered on his sleepers, breakouts and busts, and mine are below. Combined, we're giving you 32 players (no DSTs or kickers!) to chew on before hitting the war room (but not without practicing in our mock draft lobby, though).

Here we go.

Sleepers

Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh
Dave's projection: 43 catches, 601 yards, five touchdowns
Jamey's projection: 36 catches, 680 yards, seven touchdowns
Average Draft Position: No. 161 (Round 14)
Three years ago the Steelers debuted a fast rookie named Mike Wallace. While Santonio Holmes and Hines Ward worked as the team's primary receivers, Wallace split defenses with his incredible speed and took home several long passes from Ben Roethlisberger. With Emmanuel Sanders hurt, Brown has picked up that role and should come away with some big games in 2011. He's already been doing it this preseason. He's a terrific late-round gamble.

Braylon Edwards, WR, San Francisco
Dave's projection: 54 catches, 722 yards, five touchdowns
Jamey's projection: 56 catches, 918 yards, five touchdowns
Average Draft Position: No. 108 (Round 9)
Edwards has a lot to prove and more to gain with a big season. He's playing on a one-year deal in San Francisco, where he's reunited with family friend and Michigan alum Jim Harbaugh. Alex Smith is his quarterback, which is not ideal, but Edwards is already starting ahead of Michael Crabtree and establishing himself as their best sideline threat. Moreover, Edwards was able to pull out 904 yards and seven touchdowns last season with Mark Sanchez as his quarterback, so he could feasibly come close to those numbers in '11 with the Niners. A lot of people don't like him because he's never been the same guy since that magical 2007 season with the Browns, but he represents a safe option to pad your bench. Moreover, there's always the chance he exceeds expectations and becomes relevant while trying to show the rest of the NFL that he can be a No. 1 receiver. That's the kind of low-risk pick worth drafting late.

Tim Hightower, RB, Washington
Dave's projection: 161 carries, 665 yards, six touchdowns; 27 catches, 181 receiving yards
Jamey's projection: 184 carries, 848 yards, six touchdowns; 29 catches, 215 yards, two touchdowns
Average Draft Position: No. 99 (Round 9)
Hightower's Fantasy value was salvaged when the Redskins traded for him in late July, and it took a jump again when Ryan Torain broke his hand. But perhaps it's been Hightower's solid play this preseason that has drawn even more eyeballs to him. He's running very well and with determination, knowing that he can own a big portion of the Redskins' workload on the ground. Torain is injury prone, as evidenced by his broken hand this year and hamstring pull last year, and rookies pretty much make up the rest of the Washington running back depth chart. Hightower is capable of playing on every down and has been money at the goal line -- no one else in Washington can touch him there. He should have ample opportunities to have a career year.

Lance Kendricks, TE, St. Louis
Dave's projection: 38 catches, 482 yards, four touchdowns
Jamey's projection: 43 catches, 488 yards, seven touchdowns
Average Draft Position: Undrafted
This one is for the Fantasy owners in deeper leagues who look for diamonds in the rough. We first took notice of Kendricks when he started working with the Rams' first-team offense in practice. Once he got some playing time with the starters -- and scored -- in the Rams' first preseason game, we were hooked. St. Louis loves the versatility that Kendricks offers: He can block, he can catch, he can line up wide and he can line up as an H-back. But best of all, he has good hands and speed, and those assets are what Sam Bradford will enjoy the most this season. The comparisons to Dallas Clark have been rolling in. Remember his name late in drafts or if you want to take a flier on someone off waivers.

Montario Hardesty, RB, Cleveland
Dave's projection: 105 carries, 419 yards, three touchdowns; two catches, 8 yards
Jamey's projection: 126 carries, 526 yards, five touchdowns; 11 catches, 69 yards
Average Draft Position: No. 154 (Round 13)
I never like touting players with injury histories, but Hardesty is an exception given where he'll get drafted. Peyton Hillis is the main man for the Browns, but he's already been dealing with hamstring and back problems in camp. Odds are he won't get enough touches to repeat his numbers from a year prior. Third-down back Brandon Jackson is also battling a turf toe injury. Meanwhile, the Browns played it smart and brought back Hardesty slowly from his knee rehab this offseason and it's seemed to pay off. He's been running well and cutting quick, showing flashes of what made the Browns love him coming out of college. Now that he's torn and rehabbed both of his ACLs, perhaps there's some hope that he'll stay healthy. If he does, and if Hillis doesn't, there could be a ton of Fantasy appeal.

Andre Roberts, WR, Arizona
Dave's projection: 43 catches, 582 yards, four touchdowns
Jamey's projection: 43 catches, 580 yards, seven touchdowns
Average Draft Position: Undrafted
Larry Fitzgerald is the No. 1 receiver in Arizona. Think fast: Who's No. 2? Todd Heap? Early Doucet? Forget about them -- second-year wideout Andre Roberts is in line for not only a lot of playing time but plenty of targets from Kevin Kolb. The two are already on the same page with the first-team offense and last year Roberts managed to finish second on the team in receiving touchdowns. All right, it was only two touchdowns, but he has at least established himself as a speed receiver who can help the Cardinals move the chains. So long as they don't add another player and all Roberts has to beat out is a banged-up, slow Doucet, he's going to have a shot at some promising totals.

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2010
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Breakouts

Chad Henne, QB, Miami
Dave's projection: 3,182 passing yards, 19 touchdowns, 14 interceptions
Jamey's projection: 3,517 passing yards, 21 touchdowns, 18 interceptions
Average Draft Position: No. 153 (Round 13)
Quit laughing. Just stop it. Look, everyone's looking for the next hot young quarterback, right? The word is out on Matthew Stafford (see below), and Sam Bradford and Kevin Kolb are already targeted by most Fantasy owners. These quarterbacks either have huge, reliable receivers to target 12 times a game or are in pass-heavy offenses. Well, Henne's got both of those factors working for him. Brandon Marshall enters 2011 healthy and with a chip on his shoulder, and the Dolphins upgraded at offensive coordinator with Brian Daboll. Henne also gets an extra boost with Reggie Bush coming to town. Sure, Bush isn't expected to be a Fantasy superstar, but his catch-and-run receptions will pad Henne's passing total. Remember what it did for Drew Brees back in 2006? Henne might top 225 yards every week without breaking a sweat, especially with Daboll trying to play aggressive football. Henne is the late-round sleeper quarterback you should pick up.

Felix Jones, RB, Dallas
Dave's projection: 207 carries, 951 yards, four touchdowns; 36 catches, 325 yards, one touchdown
Jamey's projection: 182 carries, 918 yards, six touchdowns; 31 catches, 271 yards, three touchdowns
Average Draft Position: No. 55 (Round 5)
The getting is good for Jones: His only competition for playing time is a rookie who hurt his hamstring and a three-year veteran who hurt his calf and is reportedly on the trading block. Furthermore, team owner Jerry Jones gave Jones a big vote of confidence, saying that if he runs well that the Cowboys will go to the Super Bowl. There's a lot of pressure on Jones to perform on the field, but the opportunities will be there to make it happen. Jones quietly topped over 1,200 total yards last year but had just two touchdowns. Part of the problem last year was that opponents sized up the Cowboys on both sides of the ball, especially once Tony Romo was hurt, and it forced Jon Kitna to throw a lot. Now, Romo's healthy, as is Jones, and the offensive line is improved. We might finally see some of Jones' potential reached in 2011. Best of all, he's a tremendous draft value -- many Fantasy owners pass on Jones because of his lack of touchdown production. He's a great pick in Round 6.

Mario Manningham, WR, N.Y. Giants
Dave's projection: 75 catches, 1,045 yards, seven touchdowns
Jamey's projection: 67 catches, 1,026 yards, seven touchdowns
Average Draft Position: No. 62 (Round 6)
Poor Eli Manning. He lost two of his trusted targets, Steve Smith and Kevin Boss, to free agency. Smith's in Philly, Boss is in Oakland. Replacing them will be untested players such as Domenik Hixon and Travis Beckum. Luckily, Manning still has Hakeem Nicks and Manningham to target, and the feeling here is that he'll routinely find ways to get the ball in their hands. The word is obviously out on Nicks, but when you tell Fantasy owners that Manningham had nearly 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns last year, most either would say they didn't know or don't think it could happen again. With limited targets for Manning to use, it's very possible that Manningham tops 1,000 yards with a healthy contribution in touchdowns. We think he's good enough to pick as a low-end No. 2 Fantasy receiver.

Lance Moore, WR, New Orleans
Dave's projection: 64 catches, 762 yards, six touchdowns
Jamey's projection: 53 catches, 776 yards, seven touchdowns
Average Draft Position: No. 108 (Round 9)
When Reggie Bush was lost for several weeks last season, we immediately called on owners to take a flier on Moore. He didn't disappoint, finishing with 66 catches for 763 yards and eight touchdowns, including two in his first game replacing Bush (Week 3 vs. the Jets). But Moore did more than just replace Bush -- he became a reliable target for Drew Brees, far more reliable than Robert Meachem. So Moore isn't really impacted by the arrival of Darren Sproles in New Orleans because he's got his own playing time carved out. After all, the Saints signed him to a contract extension. Expect Moore to post a career-high in receiving yards while enjoying his third season with seven or more touchdowns in four years. He's going to be a terrific No. 3 Fantasy wide receiver.

Greg Olsen, TE, Carolina
Dave's projection: 63 catches, 752 yards, six touchdowns
Jamey's projection: 48 catches, 608 yards, eight touchdowns
Average Draft Position: No. 128 (Round 11)
Olsen was freed from Fantasy mediocrity when the Bears traded him to the Panthers. He's since signed a contract extension and has immediately become Carolina's second-best receiving threat behind Steve Smith. More importantly, Olsen represents a sure-handed short- and mid-range target for rookie quarterback Cam Newton to cling to when the going gets tough. From the moment he became the head coach in Carolina, Ron Rivera said he wanted to implement the tight end in his offense. Olsen is the direct beneficiary of that statement. You'll be able to draft Olsen with a pick long after the likes of Jermichael Finley and Owen Daniels are gone, but he could play just as well.

Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit
Dave's projection: 4,004 passing yards, 24 touchdowns, 16 interceptions
Jamey's projection: 3,853 passing yards, 29 touchdowns, 12 interceptions
Average Draft Position: No. 84 (Round 7)
In May, Fantasy owners thought of Stafford as a guy who might be able to put up big stats, but needed to stay healthy. As the weeks went on and it became clear that Stafford's surgically repaired shoulder was fine, owners began to think of Stafford as a blue-chip backup who could be paired with a cheaper starter. But as camp opened and rave reviews poured in on Stafford and his receiving corps, the Fantasy world went bananas. Look, if you took the 2010 stats of Stafford, his backup Shaun Hill and third-stringer Drew Stanton, you would have had 4,001 yards and 26 touchdowns. Can we agree that Stafford would have improved on those numbers had he stayed healthy beyond nine quarters last season? We can -- and that's what Fantasy owners are hoping for this year. Stafford is now a Top-12 Fantasy quarterback, leapfrogging the likes of Eli Manning and in some leagues Josh Freeman. You shouldn't find him past Round 7, and if you're the one drafting him, you might see numbers for a quarterback picked in Rounds 4 or 5.

Busts

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Austin Collie, WR, Indianapolis
Dave's projection: 53 catches, 607 yards, seven touchdowns
Jamey's projection: 72 catches, 1,013 yards, seven touchdowns
Average Draft Position: No. 79 (Round 7)
I hope I'm wrong on this one. I love Collie's game, I love what he does for the Colts offense and I love his potential. But I hate seeing him get carted off the field. That happened twice last season over three serious head injuries. He says he's fine and won't change his game one bit, but neither will opposing defenses. No one can say for sure that he'll absorb contact to his helmet without issue, and so if he can't stay healthy, he can't be a relevant pick on my Fantasy team. Moreover, he's hurt his knee and foot already this summer. The potential is there, but so is the risk -- he's not worth drafting before Round 8 or 9, and I'm afraid someone else in your leagues will roll the dice on him before then. Don't let it be you.

Jermichael Finley, TE, Green Bay
Dave's projection: 61 catches, 784 yards, six touchdowns
Jamey's projection: 67 catches, 922 yards, eight touchdowns
Average Draft Position: No. 55 (Round 5)
Is Jermichael Finley worth drafting? Absolutely he is. Is he worth drafting among the elite tight ends? Probably not. Look, his upside playing in Green Bay is off the charts, but he's taken on two knee ligament problems in each of the last two seasons and just can't be counted on to deliver the Antonio Gates-like stats that we've been expecting. Aaron Rodgers loves throwing to him, but Rodgers also loves throwing to Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, James Jones, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. That's a lot of mouths for Rodgers to feed, and it doesn't even include the run game, which is back this season with Ryan Grant healthy. Don't overhype Finley because he's an amazing receiver on paper -- get him at a good value on Draft Day (Round 6), if at all.

Steve Johnson, WR, Buffalo
Dave's projection: 68 catches, 895 yards, seven touchdowns
Jamey's projection: 62 catches, 1,002 yards, eight touchdowns
Average Draft Position: No. 65 (Round 6)
Antonio Bryant. Kevin Curtis. Mike Furrey. Every year there's a receiver who lands in a primo spot and bangs out tremendous stats, only to falter the following season. In 2011, Johnson is going to be that guy. Johnson had his career year the same time quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick had his, but it didn't stop him from struggling over his final six games. What happened? Defenses figured him out, especially once Lee Evans went on injured reserve. Now Evans is gone from Buffalo, and the team did nothing to replace him. Johnson will be easy for defenses to key in on, and it's going to be a challenge for him to put up 10 touchdowns again in 2011. He'll also play the Jets twice, the Patriots twice and the Eagles, Giants, Chargers and Broncos once each. That's half of his schedule against tough secondaries. Expect a regression from the Bills' charismatic receiver.

Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Pittsburgh
Dave's projection: 274 carries, 1,161 yards, eight touchdowns; 20 catches, 160 yards
Jamey's projection: 284 carries, 1,305 yards, nine touchdowns; 26 carries, 211 yards, one touchdown
Average Draft Position: No. 16 (Round 2)
The odds are against Mendenhall putting up numbers like he did last season by virtue of his 2010 workload. Between the regular season and postseason, Mendenhall had 385 carries and 27 catches. That's 412 total touches for all you non-math majors, and you don't have to know your calculus to realize that's a lot of work. The success rate for running backs that take on less work than that the following season is slim. Tack on the Steelers' already banged-up offensive line and newfound willingness to pass and Mendenhall just isn't a lock to dominate. Here's one last nugget: Mendenhall averaged 102.8 rush yards in the four matchups he had without Ben Roethlisberger and 72.8 rush yards in the 15 games with him (including postseason). So Mendy's big campaign was boosted by those first four games without Roethlisberger -- no such games are expected so long as Big Ben is upright. Let someone else draft Mendenhall in Round 1 or 2.

Sidney Rice, WR, Seattle
Dave's projection: 60 catches, 810 yards, six touchdowns
Jamey's projection: 63 catches, 1,078 yards, five touchdowns
Average Draft Position: No. 83 (Round 7)
The Seahawks rewarded Rice handsomely for his massive 2009 season in Minnesota during Brett Favre's renaissance campaign. Anyone else see anything odd about that? Rice, who tried to land a huge contract in Minnesota before succumbing to major hip surgery last summer, finally got paid by a franchise that actually allowed him to score twice on them in '09. Rice's quarterback is a familiar one in Tarvaris Jackson, but Jackson has never been considered an accurate or reliable passer. Moreover, there's no telling just how motivated Rice is to really go all out now that he's finally gotten paid, and his quarterback situation certainly doesn't help things (Jackson's backup is Charlie Whitehurst). His schedule doesn't do him many favors, either. With an average of 30.3 yards per game in every contest he's been in other than 2009, Rice is just setting up Fantasy owners for disappointment.

Mike Sims-Walker, WR, St. Louis
Dave's projection: 41 catches, 587 yards, five touchdowns
Jamey's projection: 47 catches, 722 yards, eight touchdowns
Average Draft Position: No. 124 (Round 11)
Here's a bold call: Sims-Walker won't even be the best receiver on his own team! Danny Amendola has gained steam as a quality sleeper this season, especially in PPR leagues, and Brandon Gibson has caught the eye of the coaches there. Everyone's looking for the next Brandon Lloyd, who Josh McDaniels rehabbed into a star last season in Denver. McDaniels is in St. Louis now and he was one of the coaches who endorsed signing Sims-Walker, but the fact remains that the receiver is easy to defend. Furthermore, McDaniels will likely make it a point to spread the ball around, limiting Sims-Walker's opportunities. Don't draft him.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Dave at @daverichard and on Facebook .

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Player News
Wes Welker expected to be suspended for Week 1
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/2/2014) Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker will be suspended for Week 1, according to the Denver Post.

Mike Klis initially reported that there was a chance Welker's suspension wouldn't kick in until after Week 1, but issued an update later. While the NFL has yet to officially announce the suspension, the Broncos have been informed of the move. The team is expected to send out a press release confirming the information Tuesday.


Report: Wes Welker may play Week 1
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/2/2014) Update: Welker will be suspended for Week 1, according to the Denver Post. The team is expected to send out a press release shortly.

Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker may play Week 1 against the Colts, according to the Denver Post

Welker is expected to be suspended for four games after reportedly testing positive for amphetamines. The league, however, has not officially announced the suspension. Suspensions are typically announced by Tuesday, according to Pro Football Talk. Since the NFL has yet to announce the move, it's thought Welker could be available for Week 1, but would serve his suspension once the NFL announced the move. 

There are a lot of uncertainties regarding the situation at this time. The club expects Welker to be available, provided he passes concussion protocal, but it remains to be seen how the NFL will handle this suspension. 


Randall Cobb to be tested Week 1
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/2/2014) Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb should be in for a tough test Week 1 against the Seahawks.

Cobb caught just three passes during the preseason, picking up 34 yards and a score. His lack of work shouldn’t be a huge concern, as the Packers offense doesn’t need any fine-tuning. The main thing here is that Cobb is 100 percent healthy after playing in just six games last season due to a leg injury.

His Week 1 production could be dampened by a strong Seahawks DST. Seattle was exceptional against the pass last season, holding opposing wide receivers to just 14.79 Fantasy points per game. That figure was the second-lowest rate in the league. On top of that, Cobb may have to deal with Richard Sherman, who is considered one of the best cornerbacks in the league. Sherman may spend the majority of the game stopping Jordy Nelson, but he could find his way over to Cobb on a few occasions.

Cobb’s versatility makes him a strong candidate to be moved around the Packers’ offense. If Green Bay can create some nice matchups, and Sherman is preoccupied with Nelson, Cobb could be in for a better game than people might expect. 

Despite that, expectations should be tempered. Seattle’s DST was strong last season, and while Green Bay boasts a strong offense, things should be muted Week 1. Cobb is a fine start, considering his upside, but he carries more risk this week due to the matchup.


Jordy Nelson in for a tough test Week 1
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/2/2014) Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson should be in for a difficult test Week 1 against the Seahawks.

Nelson had a quiet preseason, catching just two passes for 19 yards. One of those catches wound up being a touchdown. Despite the lack of action during the preseason, Nelson’s upside with a healthy Aaron Rodgers is well-known among Fantasy owners. That said, he’s going to have to work for everything he gets against Seattle.

The Seahawks rated as the best defense in the league last year. They were strong in every facet of the game. Seattle held opposing wide receivers to just 14.79 Fantasy points per game, the second-lowest figure in the league. To make things even more difficult for Nelson, he’ll likely be covered by Richard Sherman. Sherman, by many counts, is arguably the best corner in the game. 

Still, it’s tough to pass up Nelson’s upside with a healthy Rodgers. The Packers boast an overabundance of weapons, and it’s possible moving Nelson around before the play could put him in a more favorable matchup. Even if Sherman covers him the entire game, Nelson is a good enough receiver to make some noise. While he doesn’t have a great matchup, Week 1 is not the time to take a player as good as Nelson out of your Fantasy lineup. 


Eddie Lacy to have his hands full Week 1
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/2/2014) Packers running back Eddie Lacy will have his hands full Week 1 against the Seahawks.

Lacy is coming off a tremendous rookie season, in which he rushed for nearly 1,200 yards and scored 11 touchdowns. He didn’t get a ton of use during the preseason, but seemed to be in midseason form. Lacy rushed for 61 yards on 11 carries, good for a 5.5 average over two preseason games. He also managed to run in a touchdown.

Though he looked strong in the preseason, Lacy should have a tough time against the Seahawks Week 1. Seattle allowed just 12.32 Fantasy points per game to opposing running backs last season. That was the second-lowest rate in the league. While the Seahawks lost three defensive linemen during the offseason, the club is thought to still have the top-rated Fantasy defense.

In many circles, Lacy was considered a strong Fantasy pick after the elite four running backs were off the board. With that in mind, it’s unlikely he’ll be benched in many leagues Week 1. There are better matchups out there, but Lacy is a tough player to sit. Given Green Bay’s offensive capabilities, he’s still a decent start even against the best Fantasy defenses. 


Aaron Rodgers taking on a tough task Week 1
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/2/2014) Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has his work cut out for him Week 1 against the Seahawks.

Rodgers entered the season as one of the top Fantasy options at quarterback, but will take on the best defense in the league. Last season, Seattle held Fantasy quarterbacks to just 10.89 points per game. That was the lowest rate in the league. The Seahawks DST ranked tops in the league in limiting points and yards last year. On top of that, the team forced the most turnovers.

While Seattle lost three members of the defensive line during the offseason, the club is still expected to have one of NFL’s best defenses. If Seattle struggles to get to Rodgers, that could open things up for the Packers offense.

Given the cost to acquire Rodgers, in a snake or auction draft, he’s probably going to start for most Fantasy teams despite his tough Week 1 matchup. While there are better quarterback options for this week, Rodgers still has a strong potential for dominance. He’s healthy and still has a bevy of weapons at his disposal. It might not be Rodgers best game of the season, but he’s shown that he can put up numbers against even the best defensive clubs.


Percy Harvin looking to start the year on the right foot
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/2/2014) Seahawks wide receiver Percy Harvin is looking at a strong matchup Week 1 against the Packers.

A quiet preseason was a good preseason for Harvin. After missing nearly all of last season due to a hip injury, Harvin was able to play in all but the final game of the preseason. He missed the fourth game due to a personal issue, and not because of an injury. Harvin caught seven balls for 92 yards in August.

The Packers didn’t boast a strong pass defense last season. The team allowed opposing wide receivers to average 22.94 Fantasy points per game. That wasn’t one of the worst rates in the league, but it was below-average. The team attempted to address this during the offseason, taking Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the first round. Despite that, there’s no guarantee the team will perform better in the defensive backfield.

Despite the fact that Harvin is a five-year veteran, there are questions about how he’ll be used with the Seahawks. While Harvin was able to play during the club’s playoff run, it was unclear whether he was actually fully healthy last year. Harvin has shown the ability to be a game-changing wide receiver, so it’s assumed the Seahawks will find ways to get arguably their best playmaker the ball. The club has been been incredibly run-heavy over the past few seasons, but a healthy Harvin could make them more balanced. 


Marshawn Lynch ready to roll Week 1
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/2/2014) Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch is looking to get off to a good start Week 1 against the Packers.

Lynch had an abbreviated preseason, carrying the ball just three times for 16 yards. That’s probably not a bad thing considering his high workload over the past couple years. Lynch also had a brief holdout during the offseason, but reported to camp in shape, and should be ready to roll.

The Packers weren’t particularly strong against the run last season, giving up 19.18 Fantasy points per week to running backs. That was the eighth worst figure in the league. While the team tried to shore up things defensively during the offseason, the loss of B.J. Raji should make it easier for teams to gash the Packers up the middle. 

With that in mind, Lynch should be a strong start. The Seahawks modus operandi the past couple years has been the run game, and that probably won’t change now. There are concerns about Lynch’s workload and lack of preseason reps, but his pedigree and matchup make this a strong start Week 1. 


Russell Wilson ready to shine Week 1?
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/2/2014) Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson begins his post-Super Bowl year with a strong matchup against the Packers Week 1. 

Wilson performed well during the preseason, completing 78.6 percent of his passes. He threw for three touchdowns and zero interceptions. Wilson also managed three rushing touchdowns to cap off a strong preseason.

His ability to put up solid Fantasy numbers should be tested Week 1. The Packers did not boast a great defense against the pass last season. The team allowed quarterbacks to score 20.65 Fantasy points, which was the seventh worst clip in the league. Green Bay has been proactive in resolving the issue, drafting Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the first round, but it’s unclear how much better the team’s defensive backs will perform. 

The bigger question will be whether the Seahawks open up the offense for Wilson this season. With Marshawn Lynch out for much of the preseason, Wilson showed the ability to carry the team with his arm. Now that Lynch is back, the team could opt to get back to conservative play-calling with the franchise quarterback. Wilson has all the makings of a strong matchup here, but could get the short end of the stick if the Seahawks pound Lynch.


Matt Forte should live up to billing in Week 1
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9/2/2014) Bears running back Matt Forte was ranked as a top five Fantasy running back going into the season, and he falls in the top five in both weekly running back rankings from CBSSports.com experts. After setting career highs in rushing yardage, rushing touchdowns, receptions and receiving yardage in 2013, will Forte get this season started off on the right foot in Week 1 against the Bills?

While Buffalo put together a strong defense last season, the team's particular strength was against the pass. Rushers were able to gain 4.4 yards per carry against the Bills, leaving them 23rd in the league in the category. While the Bills did a good job defending against pass-catching backs last season, they now have to play without linebackers Kiko Alonso (season-ending injury) and Nigel Bradham (suspended for Week 1) as well as safety Jairus Byrd (signed with New Orleans).

New defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz's defense was just average defending passes against running backs in Detroit last season. Forte has been excellent against Schwartz, who was the head coach of the Lions from 2009 through 2013. He has rushed for 1,005 yards and averaged 4.74 yards per carry while catching 38 passes for 360 yards in 12 career games against the Lions. Ten of those contests came with Schwartz at the helm, and Forte should be able to continue giving the Bills defensive coordinator nightmares this Sunday.


 
 
 
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