Bears tight end Martellus Bennett posted career-best numbers in 2013, catching 65 passes for 759 yards while matching his career high of five touchdowns. Three of those five scores came in the first two weeks of the season, and he could be on the verge of starting off hot for the third straight season.
Bennett is in danger of getting lost offensively on a week-to-week basis, as there are only so many opportunities to go around for Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Matt Forte and the tight end. He faces a plus matchup in Week 1, with the Bills dealing with a depleted linebacker corps and the loss of free safety Jairus Byrd. While the one thing new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz's defense did well in Detroit last year was defend the tight end, the Bills don't appear to have the personnel to match up with the imposing Bennett.
Bennett falls inside the top 12 in the weekly rankings of both CBSSports.con Fantasy experts, designating him as starter material in standard leagues. We could see a similar line to his opener against the Bengals last season: three receptions, 49 yards and one touchdown.
Of the Saints' top three running backs, Khiry Robinson's role is the most unclear heading into Week 1 at Atlanta, making him a risky choice in Fantasy despite the favorable matchup.
Mark Ingram is expected to start for the Saints and get the largest percentage of the carries. Pierre Thomas, who led all running backs with 77 receptions last season, still figures to play a big role in the passing game. Robinson, who wasn't nearly as effective as Ingram this preseason, averaging just 3.4 yards per carry, could end up being just a change-of-pace option.
If he gets a decent number of touches, he could surprise against a defense that ranked 31st against the run last season, allowing 135.8 yards per game, but that's too big of a gamble for standard 12-team leagues.
Coming off an impressive preseason in which he started three of the Saints' four games and ran 22 times for 156 yards (averaging 7.1 yards per carry), running back Mark Ingram has a chance to make an even bigger impression Week 1 at Atlanta.
The Falcons ranked 31st against the run last season, allowing 135.8 yards per game.
Ingram didn't do much in two games against them then, rushing nine times for 11 yards in the first and nine times for 32 yards in the second, but he picked up his pace later in the year, rushing 44 times for 249 yards in his final four games (including two playoff games) for an average of 5.7 yards per carry.
Beginning his fourth NFL season, Ingram is expected to play his biggest role yet for the Saints. He'll still split carries with Pierre Thomas and Khiry Robinson, but with a strong matchup after a favorable preseason, he's not a bad third running back for Week 1. Jamey Eisenberg and Dave Richard both rank him as a top-30 option in non-PPR leagues.
Alshon Jeffery owners should temper Week 1 expectations
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery enjoyed one of the biggest breakouts of the 2013 season, racking up more than 1,500 total yards and scoring seven touchdowns. As a result, he's been selected in the top 10 at his position in most 2014 Fantasy drafts, placing him in WR1 territory as owners look for a big follow-up. But it's entirely possible his third season may get off to a slow start Sunday when the Bears face the Bills at Soldier Field.
Jeffery feasted on big plays last year, scoring from 45, 46 and 80 yards out, but only one of his touchdowns came over the middle of the field, where the Bills project to be weakest on Sunday. Buffalo was the best team in the league against No. 2 receivers in 2013, per Football Outsiders, thanks to quality cornerback play from Stephen Gilmore and Leodis McKelvin. The latter allowed just two touchdowns all season while breaking up 13 passes, so even if the supremely talented Jeffery gets isolated on the corner, he's no lock to come through with a long score.
Jeffery, who caught just three of his seven TDs on passes from starter Jay Cutler last year, should be primed for another big season. But before Cutler's injury, Jeffery hauled in just one catch in two of his team's first six games. Cutler could favor Brandon Marshall Sunday if he continues to face a soft defense over the middle, potentially leaving Jeffery owners a little disappointed in his Week 1 numbers.
Carrying the ball just three times in two games this preseason games didn't exactly relieve concerns of Pierre Thomas playing a reduced role in the Saints running game this season -- a possibility he acknowledged earlier this preseason -- but he has the right matchup to make a statement Week 1 at Atlanta.
The Falcons were dreadful against the run last season, allowing 135.8 yards per game, second-most in the league. Thomas himself took advantage in the second of the two games the Saints played against them last year, picking up 73 yards on 10 carries and 57 on five catches Week 12 at Atlanta.
That second number should give Fantasy owners hope for this matchup. With Darren Sproles and Lance Moore out of the picture, Thomas should still play a significant role in the passing game. He led all running backs with 77 catches last year and had four catches for 66 yards in one of his two preseason games.
CBSSports.com Fantasy Football analyst Jamey Eisenberg likes Thomas enough with this matchup to rank him 21st among running backs this week. Dave Richard isn't as optimistic, ranking him 37th.
Saints second-year wide receiver Kenny Stills, who suffered a quad injury on his first day of camp and played in just one preseason game (and only briefly) as a result, has a chance to solidify his role in the passing game Week 1 at Atlanta, but only if he's able to take the field.
The Falcons ranked 21st against the pass last season, allowing 243.6 yards per game, and gave up the eighth-most Fantasy points to wide receivers. Stills didn't play a major role in the Saints' two games against them last year but made his presence known in the first, hauling in a 67-yard pass.
With Lance Moore and Darren Sproles out of the picture, Stills figures to get more targets going forward, but if his quad continues to plague him, rookie Brandin Cook could cut into those targets. He's already considered the preferred Fantasy option of the two based on his preseason performance.
With his exact role in question entering the new season, you'll probably want to sit Stills in Fantasy even if he's healthy enough to play.
Brandon Marshall likely to continue TD streak in Week 1
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall put a cap on his 2013 season by scoring touchdowns in each of his last three games. On Sunday against the Bills, he's primed to extend that TD streak to four games.
Marshall is less of a big play threat than fellow starter Alshon Jeffery, but he does plenty of damage in his own right. Half of his 12 touchdowns last season were from within six yards of the end zone. Nine of his touchdowns came on passes from starter Jay Cutler. If the Bears can get to the red zone repeatedly Sunday -- and they can -- Cutler should hook up with Marshall for at least one score.
Marshall had double-digit targets 11 times last season, failing to reach eight targets only once all season. The space should be there over the middle against a depleted Buffalo linebacker corps and a secondary without Jairus Byrd. Marshall snagged half of his 100 receptions in the middle of the field within 20 yards of the line of scrimmage, per Pro Football Focus. Look for him to exploit that same part of the field Sunday en route to a big Fantasy day.
Saints wide receiver Brandin Cooks, who climbed the Fantasy rankings with a strong preseason performance in which he caught nine passes for 101 yards and a touchdown, couldn't ask for a better matchup to begin his career than a visit to Atlanta in Week 1. The Falcons ranked 21st against the pass last season, allowing 243.6 yards per game.
But that doesn't quite capture the full extent of their struggles. They allowed the second-highest passer rating and the fourth-most passing touchdowns. They also surrendered the eight-most Fantasy points to wide receivers.
Cooks is listed behind both Marques Colston and Kenny Stills on the depth chart, but the Saints have said they'll use him in a variety of roles, looking to capitalize on his big-play potential both underneath (filling the Darren Sproles void) and down the field.
Banking on them doing it right out of the gate is risky, which is why neither Jamey Eisenberg nor Dave Richard ranks Cook among the top 30 wide receivers this week, but if you're in the gambling sort of mood, the matchup favors him.
Report: Wes Welker suspended four games for amphetamines
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker has been suspended four games by the league for use of amphentamines, ESPN reports.
Welker is currently recovering from a concussion and appeared to be on track to play in Week 1. However, an appeal filed by Welker has been denied by the league, leaving him ineligible for Denver's first four games. Welker will be eligible to return Week 6 against the Jets.
If you were one of the lucky ones who had Julius Thomas on your Fantasy roster last season, you know the feeling of finding the next great tight end. It's one thing to draft one, it's another to steal one. People stole Thomas last season.
There are already a few tight ends making waves this summer, some more so than others. We're getting a lot of questions about all of them and thought we'd answer them all here.
Just remember this about the elite tight ends in Fantasy: They all have great quarterbacks and play in explosive offenses that are not afraid to throw the ball a ton. Also, they're all matchup nightmares for opposing defenses because of their size, speed and skill set. I would hesitate to label a tight end the next big thing unless they fit all of this criteria.
Ladarius Green, Chargers
Has the size, speed and skill set but it remains to be seen just how much playing time he'll get. He had some nice plays this preseason but got way fewer snaps than Antonio Gates in the third exhibition game. What helps his cause is that he's got a great quarterback in Philip Rivers and is in an offense that will use the no-huddle and pass-happy approach often. And for him to see more snaps, all he needs to do is outperform the likes of Eddie Royal and act as the Chargers' third receiver. The feeling here is that Green will be a big part of the offense. Of all the young tight ends with breakout potential, he has the most.
Eric Ebron, Lions
Before training camp he had all the potential of a low-end No. 1 Fantasy tight end but he struggled in camp and in the preseason. That's not good. There's also the reality that rookie tight ends just don't tend to do well -- exhibit A is Rob Gronkowski, who had 10 touchdowns as a rookie but just 546 yards. Rare is the rookie who destroys defenses on a weekly basis. Ebron is worth a late-round flier in case the preseason was an aberration and he does make a quick transition. Playing time will definitely be there for him and the quarterback factor is in his favor.
Richard Rodgers, Packers
It's beginning to look like Rodgers will begin the season as the Packers' replacement for Jermichael Finley. Watching him play, Rodgers was awful as a blocker but very sharp as a receiver. He'll definitely exploit matchups but who knows just how much he'll play if he can't block. With Aaron Rodgers throwing the ball, he could be very productive on the work he does get. But like Ebron, he's a rookie. We might be a year away from Rodgers being a breakout player.
Travis Kelce, Chiefs
Only once in Andy Reid's career has he fielded a tight end that's had more than six touchdowns and over 900 yards in the same season. That was Brent Celek in 2009, his career year. Kelce has the look of a Rob Gronkowski in that he's a giant on the field. Speed isn't really his thing (it's not Gronk's thing, either), nor is he explosive. He's okay in those areas but his size makes him a potential asset, particularly for checkdown champion Alex Smith. Reid's track record with tight ends, the Chiefs' need for their tight ends to help block (Kelce can do that) and the quarterback situation there are all strikes against Kelce. He's OK to speculate on but don't expect a lot of consistency.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Buccaneers
When the Buccaneers traded Tim Wright to the Pats, all eyes went toward Seferian-Jenkins. He's a big dude with some sharp skills but, like others on this list, is a rookie. He also has Josh McCown as his quarterback and is on a team that might ask its tight ends to block a little more than catch. Also, Jeff Tedford's track record as a play caller doesn't suggest a breakout type of role for ASJ. If we expect 500 yards and five touchdowns then we might not be disappointed.
Timothy Wright, Patriots
When the trade to the Pats went down everyone buzzed about Wright and whether or not he should be owned in Fantasy. The hunch here is that the answer is no -- for now. Wright has reportedly picked up the offense quickly and did some nice things in the Patriots' fourth preseason game (four catches for 43 yards) but seems unlikely to see a ton of playing time right away for New England. They seem to have their receiver rotations set and might not press Wright into action anytime soon. Then again, this is New England and if Tom Brady and Bill Belichick want a guy to play, he's going to play. When's the last time a new veteran in New England came in at some point after the preseason began and did well, or came in at any point and did well? Randy Moss and Wes Welker did. Brandon Lloyd maybe? Danny Amendola wasn't so hot. Wright is a big-time gamble in drafts, not such a gamble off waivers.
Russell Wilson has come out like a house of fire this preseason, totaling 9.2 yards per attempt on 30 of 39 passing (76.9 pct.!) with two passing touchdowns, three rushing touchdowns (and a 6.8 yard rushing average!) with no turnovers.
Yep, that's really good.
You could nitpick Wilson and say things like his receiving corps isn't strong and that the Seahawks will be a run-first team. You could point to the O-line and the pass rush they allowed through three preseason games and be a little bit concerned. But the reality is that Wilson, who has finished as the ninth-ranked QB each of the last two seasons, has seemingly gotten better. Specifically he's perfected the art of extending the play, which in turn leads to more completions and more numbers. With Percy Harvin healthy (for now) and a receiving corps that should create at least one new name in Fantasy circles (my money's on Doug Baldwin), there's plenty to like about him.
But liking him and trusting him are two different things in Fantasy. Liking him is easy. Trusting him is tough to do simply because of his own track record and the depth at the position. Wilson could top 4,000 passing yards and 30 total touchdowns but that's still not enough to roll with the big boys at the position. He also isn't a consistent Fantasy option, certainly not up to par with your typical Top 10 passer. Wilson is just under the .500 mark for games with 20-plus Fantasy points over his career.
But as someone who sees the upside in Wilson, and as someone who likes to play the matchups, here's my game plan for starting the Fantasy season with Wilson as my starter:
Over 32 games he's posted 20-plus Fantasy points 15 times (eight as a rookie, seven last year). Of those 15 occurrences, nine have been at home and six on the road. Of those six on the road, four have come indoors. The Seahawks have played indoors nine times the last two years.
So to fully nerd this up, Wilson has hit 20 Fantasy points 46.9 pct. of the time overall. When he plays at home he has gotten to 20-plus points 56 pct. of the time versus 37.5 pct. when on the road. But in nine career dome games he's made 20 points 44.4 pct. of the time as opposed to getting there 28.6 pct. of the time away and outdoors.
Wilson's home games in 2014 (in order): Packers, Broncos, Cowboys, Raiders, Giants, Cardinals, 49ers (Week 15), Rams (Week 17). Maybe only the home game vs. San Francisco would be a legit worry for Wilson and that's in the thick of the Fantasy postseason. We're fine going with him in the other games. So seven weeks are covered.
Wilson's road games in 2014 (in order): Chargers, Redskins, Rams, Panthers, Chiefs, 49ers, Eagles and Cardinals (Week 16). Two dome games against the Rams and Cards look good and if any of those other matchups become appealing (the Chargers, Redskins and Eagles games specifically) then we'll re-evaluate later. But for now two more weeks are covered.
We're left with Wilson having iffy Fantasy option for eight weeks of the Fantasy season: Weeks 2 (at SD), 4 (bye week), 5 (at WAS), 8 (at CAR), 11 (at KC), 13 (at SF), 14 (at PHI) and 15 (vs. SF). Maybe you'd give him a run in Week 2 at San Diego but we know his track record outdoors. That's your call.
In an effort to find the perfect platoon partner for Wilson we've found three quarterbacks -- Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger and Jake Locker -- with a good enough schedule to replace Wilson on his "iffy" weeks.
The strategy is to draft one of these quarterbacks with Wilson, potentially with back-to-back picks in Rounds 9 and 10 just to lock them up, and play the matchups. The best-case scenario: You take two quarterbacks that develop into Top 10 options and deal off one of them. Worst case? You drive yourself crazy playing matchups -- and losing -- while others in your league who took stud passers steamroll you and the season is over.
The strategy is right for people who don't want to spend an early or middle-round pick on a quarterback and would rather load up on other positions. Is it a bad strategy? Really depends on who you take and how they do before you even get to the quarterbacks.
I'll close with this: Fantasy owners who waited forever for Andy Dalton and Philip Rivers last season sure aren't complaining.
At the start of the offseason Mohamed Sanu told Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson he'd come to training camp "a different player." Sanu did just that.
After getting passed on the depth chart by Marvin Jones late last season, Sanu responded. The 6-2, 210-pounder showed up quicker and faster entering his third season. He had a "monster" camp, per the team's website.
Go back to the second preseason game, and watch Sanu blow by Jets corner Kyle Wilson for a 43-yard touchdown. Sanu beat Wilson so cleanly off the line, he had to slow down and wait for Andy Dalton's throw.
In the third preseason game, Sanu led Cincy with five catches for 70 yards in the first half. His seven targets trailed leader A.J. Green by one. (The starters didn't play in the second half).
With Marvin Jones out until at least Week 5, Sanu is an every-down player.
"Mo’s done a great job," Dalton said of Sanu, who has seven catches for 126 yards and a touchdown in the preseason. "It’s unfortunate Marvin’s out, but Mo has stepped up and played really well. I’ve got a lot of confidence in him, and everybody knows what A.J. (Green) can do, but having another guy like that that’s coming up and making big plays is exactly what we need."
ESPN.com expects Cincy to use Sanu in multiple ways. "In addition to catching, Sanu has been impressive passing and running both on reverses off the edge and out of the backfield as a Wildcat quarterback," the website said.
Sanu has an attractive early-season schedule: at Baltimore (with its banged-up secondary), vs. Atlanta, vs. Tennessee. An increasing number of leagues use an extra flex. In those and other deep leagues -- 14 or more teams -- Sanu is well worth a late-round flier.
Remember Julius Thomas? Of course you do. Nobody really drafted him last season, but then he went bonkers in Week 1 to the tune of 23 Fantasy points. He's the perfect example of how tight end can be kind of a mystery.
So when Jim Nantz, who's called countless football games and actually gets to see all these guys in person, says he's got a couple sleepers, you're probably going to want to at least hear him out. On the Tuesday show, he highlighted two late-round fliers on his own PPR team -- Richard Rodgers of Green Bay and Travis Kelce of Kansas City. He's also buying the Emmanuel Sanders hype, even upping the ante by predicting a 100-catch season.
His team might lack a top-tier WR or even a TE that one of our writers has ranked in the top 15, but there's nice upside for Kelvin Benjamin, and capable TEs are usually readily available off the waiver wire in case his sleepers don't pan out right away. He's been playing Fantasy for more than 10 years, so given his profession, we're not going to question his strategy.
We'll have guest analysts join the show all season long on Fantasy Football Today, which starts a regular Monday through Friday rotation next week.
Two field goals. That’s what the 49ers have to show for Colin Kaepernick’s seven preseason drives.
Time to panic? No. But it will take a while for San Fran’s offensive line to resemble the powerful unit we’ve seen the last couple years. Kaepernick, and by extension Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis, could be in for slow starts this year.
The Chargers hit Kaepernick four times on the first three series in Sunday’s dress rehearsal game.
Two-time Pro Bowl left guard Mike Iupati got beaten badly on the biggest hit, a blindside sack-strip by defensive end Corey Liuget. Iupati does not look fully recovered from the broken left fibula he suffered in the NFC Championship Game.
The rest of the line isn’t rock solid either. Right tackle Anthony Davis (shoulder surgery) is supposed to be ready for Week 1 but hasn’t played yet. Right guard Alex Boone is holding out for a new deal, and there’s been “no movement” on that front, according to the San Jose Mercury News.
Like Jonathan Martin filling in for Davis, Joe Looney has been competent replacing Boone. They’re still downgrades.
Even All-Pro left tackle Joe Staley wasn’t sharp Sunday. He allowed linebacker Melvin Ingram to hit Kaepernick’s arm on an early deep throw, causing an incompletion.
In three preseason games, Kaepernick has hit 12 of 22 passes for 115 yards and no touchdowns with one lost fumble. He's run twice for 13 yards.
The 49ers' ground game hasn't been nearly as bad as the passing game. Rookie Carlos Hyde continued his strong preseason by rushing six times for 38 yards (6.3 ypc) against San Diego. (Frank Gore got one carry).
Fortunately for Kaepernick and his receivers, San Fran opens the regular season against soft defenses: at Dallas, vs. Chicago. And the 49ers' starters get one more chance to establish momentum -- maybe even score a touchdown -- when they visit Houston in Thursday’s preseason finale.
St. Louis Rams quarterback Shaun Hill is a competent backup. He doesn't have nearly the arm strength as Sam Bradford. At 34, Hill is eight years older and immobile.
Saturday night, Bradford tore the ACL in his left knee -- the same injury that ended his 2013 season in Week 7. It's a devastating blow; Bradford seemed fully recovered and was zipping throws in camp and the preseason. He was a solid QB2 who might have flirted with QB1 status.
In camp, Bradford developed a strong chemistry with Kenny Britt. They hooked up for a 36-yard completion on the opening drive Saturday. Britt figured to be targeted on at least a couple bombs in every game this season. In the second preseason game, Bradford hit Brian Quick with a 51-yard strike. Both wideouts lost sleeper appeal Saturday night. Hill simply can't get the ball downfield.
Tavon Austin shouldn't be affected as much. He'll still get his end-arounds, screens and other quick throws designed to get him in space.
If anything, running back Zac Stacy can expect a heavier workload, with Benny Cunningham also in line for more carries. The Rams ranked 17th with 26.6 rushing attempts per game last year. Look for that number to increase as St. Louis leans on its rising defense and the ground game.
Stacy will need the volume, as he'll be staring at stacked boxes like he did last year.
In the past two preseasons, Cam Newton would post modest totals and no one would sweat a thing. He'd still go out when the games counted and put up very good numbers.
Back then he also had a dependable offensive line and wasn't coming off of ankle surgery. This year, the offensive line isn't quite as good and the ankle is healthy enough for him to get on the field, but there looks like there's some tentative movement.
As it turns out, the ankle isn't quite at 100 percent after all. Panthers coach Ron Rivera said after Friday's game at the Patriots that trainers "worked his ankle" once he was taken out of the game.
This was after he left for one play on his final series with the starters when he suffered a back contusion while getting hit on a 7-yard run. X-rays were negative but he was still sore, according to Rivera.
That was one of many hits Newton took as he was sacked three times over 15 dropbacks Friday including twice on the Panthers first drive. His pocket awareness was good but when he had to move around he just didn't seem like his old self. And when he threw the ball he wasn't consistently sharp either, often forcing his targets to adjust to his passes instead of always hitting them perfectly.
Rivera said he's satisfied "for the most part" with where Newton is at in his recovery from offseason ankle surgery but admitted there are still some kinks in Newton's game.
"[I'm] just a little disappointed that our timing and rhythm isn't there yet," Rivera said. "Hopefully we can get that down. We will work on it most certainly because when he gets his rhythm, you can see that he does some really good things. Last week he missed a couple and then all of a sudden he got on fire and did some really good things at the end."
If there's an area where Newton shined, it was throwing to Kelvin Benjamin. The rookie receiver is pretty much the real deal for Carolina, snaring 5 of 6 passes thrown his way for 47 yards, just more than half of the 88 yards Newton threw for on the night. No other Carolina starter had more than 21 yards through the air.
The Panthers recognize just how important Benjamin is for their offense.
"I thought Kelvin did exactly what we needed," Rivera said, "Kelvin stood out."
Last year was the first time in Newton's three seasons he didn't have a receiver top 1,000 yards through the air. In 2011 and 2012 Steve Smith did it both times thanks to a slew of targets (at least 129) and a ridiculously huge receiving average (at least 16 yards per each season). Despite a sub-10 yard average on Friday, Benjamin is sporting a 14.6 average on eight grabs through three games. If he catches 70 passes on, say, at least 129 targets then he'll get over 1,000 yards.
So while Cam's Fantasy outlook is considerably cooled by his O-line, his ankle and the rest of his receiving corps, Benjamin has some serious potential to be an impact Fantasy option as a rookie. Round 8 might be when you'll first consider any Panthers player ... and Benjamin should be the first.
Team naming continues to be the bedrock of Fantasy Football tradition. We've had blog posts this offseason detailing the most popular monikers -- everything from immature puns to Game of Thrones references. But as the mantra goes in creative writing classes "avoid cliches."
In an effort to break out of the ordinary, we asked the viewers of Fantasy Football Today to get creative and tweet us some music-themed team names. We cam up with "Kaepernickelback," "Gerhart of Gold" and "Fly like a Gio6." But all of you certainly outdid us. Here are a few of our favorites:
Most of the time when I draft, I have my way. Picks fall into my lap I am at least "okay" with taking. Sometimes I get steals that really put my roster in a position to dominate.
In our recent 12-team standard league mock draft, I felt like I was drafing with sharks. It became tough to land players I liked, particularly running backs, at spots I wanted them at. I didn't break Rule No. 1 and only took players I really liked, but I came close to taking some players I really just don't like a lot. I also nearly chucked my computer through a window about five times when players in my queue were taken right before I picked!
I thought I could take a look back and see what else I could have done. I had the 10th pick out of 12 teams.
Round 1: Alfred Morris, RB, WAS Once my Top 7 running backs and Calvin Johnson and Jimmy Graham were off the board, I was left with two decisions: Go WR-WR to begin the draft and settle for whatever was left at running back in Rounds 3 and 4, or take the best available rusher and then grab an elite receiver in Round 2. I chose the latter because I knew there would be a stud wideout waiting for me in Round 2 whereas I feared what would have been left at running back in Rounds 3 and 4. Morris still stands out to me as a trustworthy No. 1 Fantasy running back with 1,300-yard, 10-TD potential. I could have also taken:Demaryius Thomas, Giovani Bernard
Round 2: Julio Jones, WR, ATL No-brainer. Top 4 Fantasy receiver, a candidate for 100 catches and 1,500 yards and 10-plus touchdowns. I knew I'd get someone like this at 15th overall. I could have also taken:Le'Veon Bell, Peyton Manning
Round 3: Ryan Mathews, RB, SD This is the first of several picks I struggled with. Literally, my queue had four names in it and they went consecutively before my pick. My thought process switched to taking a player from the position closest to falling off a tier. Besides Mathews, the best RBs left were Bishop Sankey and Shane Vereen. At receiver there was Michael Crabtree, Larry Fitzgerald, Vincent Jackson, Andre Johnson, Pierre Garcon and Keenan Allen. There were more receivers I was OK with taking in Round 4 than running backs, plus the owner at Pick 12 went with two receivers with his first two picks, so I figured one of those first three receivers I listed would make it back to me. That made the decision easy to go with a running back. I bit the bullet and took Mathews. I could have also taken: See above
Round 4: Michael Crabtree, WR, SF Just like Jones in Round 2, I was pumped to get Crabtree in early Round 4. He's in my Top 12 receivers (11th!) and I have him penciled in for a big year. He's the perfect No. 2 receiver to get in Fantasy since he has potential to play better than expectations with Colin Kaepernick. Shane Vereen was tempting -- I'm really warming up to him -- but I wanted to lock up another wideout from one of my first three tiers. I could have also taken: Shane Vereen
Round 5: Ben Tate, RB, CLE As much as I didn't like taking Mathews in Round 3, this one was even more of a struggle. Two players in my queue -- Ray Rice and Emmanuel Sanders -- went within four picks before mine. Rashad Jennings would have been someone I wouldn't have been upset about taking but he went before Rice and Sanders! For whatever reason I couldn't bring myself to taking Vernon Davis in Round 5 and the best receiver left was Torrey Smith. To put Tate in as my flex to begin the season isn't so bad. It's hoping I can count on him to stay there for 16 games that I don't like. I also had to start praying to the Fantasy Gods that Terrance West would make it back to me in Round 7 (I wasn't going to reach for West in Round 6), which was highly unlikely. I could have also taken: Vernon Davis, Torrey Smith, Lamar Miller, Matt Ryan
Round 6: Vernon Davis, TE, SF Don't ask me to explain the logic of passing on Davis in Round 5 but taking him five picks later in Round 6 and feeling good about it. Maybe I just felt like I needed more value from him. Or maybe I knew Tate wasn't going to make it back to me in Round 6 but Davis would. Yeah, that's it. I originally intended to go with Lamar Miller here and bulk up at running back but with my roster in need of a potential difference maker, I couldn't pass up Davis. I could have also taken: Lamar Miller, Colin Kaepernick
Round 7: Fred Jackson, RB, BUF Jackson is a back I've come around on, especially after watching his role develop in Buffalo over last season and this preseason. They use him in dedicated spots including the two-minute offense and at the goal line. Normally I might shoot for him in Round 8, but I knew that I would have one quarterback from Nick Foles, Tom Brady and Tony Romo fall to me in the following round. So I earmarked Round 8 for one of those passers and took the best available running back on my board. I could have also taken:Devonta Freeman
Round 8: Tom Brady, QB, NE I was surprised to see two quarterbacks get picked between my last pick and this pick, but that didn't compare to the feeling of elation of having Brady fall into my lap. This is what I mean by letting a quarterback fall to you in drafts. There was no other direction I would have gone with this pick. I could have also taken:Sammy Watkins, Zach Ertz
Round 9: Reggie Wayne, WR, IND I realized I needed a third receiver. I went to my draft board. Wayne was there. End of thought process. I could have also taken:Justin Hunter, DeAngelo Williams
Round 10: Josh Gordon, WR, CLE I recognized Danny Woodhead as a player who had some "fun" and Christine Michael as a player with some "serious upside." I consider Gordon, at least at the stage of not knowing how long he'll be suspended for, as a potentially fun player with serious upside we've actually seen. The double-digit rounds are for gambles and handcuffs. I could have also taken: Christine Michael, Danny Woodhead
Round 11: Danny Woodhead, RB, SD If there's a player you were going to take and he makes it 15-plus picks back to you the next round, take him. I could have also taken:Robert Turbin
Round 12: Dexter McCluster, RB, TEN Yep, not a PPR league and I still went with Dex. Not a panic pick, just looked for a running back with some upside. If Shonn Greene is hurt and Bishop Sankey doesn't get the promotion we're all counting on, then guess who's leading the running game for the Titans. I could have also taken:Carson Palmer, Tre Mason, Riley Cooper
Round 13: Bobby Rainey, RB, TB Just another lotto ticket. I could have also taken:Jordan Matthews, Roy Helu, Steelers DST
Rounds 14 and 15: Broncos DST and Shayne Graham Broncos DST actually fell to me. Nice!
Final roster: QB: Tom Brady (Round 8) RB: Alfred Morris (1) RB: Ryan Mathews (3) WR: Julio Jones (2) WR: Michael Crabtree (4) FLEX: Ben Tate (5) TE: Vernon Davis (6) K: Shayne Graham (15) DST: Broncos (14) BENCH: Fred Jackson (7) Reggie Wayne (9) Josh Gordon (10) Danny Woodhead (11) Dexter McCluster (12) Bobby Rainey (13)
Had I started WR-WR, my team could have been ...
QB: Tom Brady (8) RB: Ryan Mathews (3) RB: Shane Vereen (4) WR: Demaryius Thomas (1) WR: Julio Jones (2) FLEX: Ben Tate (5) TE: Greg Olsen (9) K: Shayne Graham (15) DST: Steelers (13) BENCH: Lamar Miller (6) Fred Jackson (7) Josh Gordon (10) Danny Woodhead (11) Dexter McCluster (12) Bobby Rainey (14)
And if I had started RB-RB, my team could have been ...
QB: Matt Ryan (5) RB: Alfred Morris (1) RB: Le'Veon Bell (2) WR: Michael Crabtree (3) WR: Andre Johnson (4) FLEX: Lamar Miller (6) TE: Zach Ertz (8) K: Shayne Graham (15) DST: Steelers (13) BENCH: Fred Jackson (7) Reggie Wayne (9) Josh Gordon (10) Danny Woodhead (11) Riley Cooper (12) Roy Helu (14)
Which team do you think is/would have been the best? Answer below in the comment section.
Maybe the biggest complaint we've received this summer is that our mock drafts, while informative, are not realistic. Take one look at our Draft Averages and you'll see three quarterbacks going within the first 13 picks and nine in the Top 60 overall. That, some of you say, is more realistic.
This past weekend I was in Pittsburgh as part of a Fantasy Football event with 93.7 The Fan, the town's best sports talk station. As part of the event, we held a 12-team three-WR standard draft with 12 people who don't write about Fantasy sports for a living. I found the draft results interesting and thought I'd share them with you guys (and please forgive the handwriting, it's not mine ... not that mine is any good).
Some takeaways from this draft:
- Two quarterbacks in the first two rounds -- one in Round 1, one in Round 2. Again, is this realistic? Maybe it is, maybe it's not. You know your league better than me.
But what about eight quarterbacks through the first five rounds? That seems more realistic to "normal" drafts, not like ours where the majority of passers slip into Round 6 and beyond.
- Matt Forte, Doug Martin and Reggie Bush slide, Chris Johnson, Joique Bell and Rashad Jennings rise. Can I explain it? No. That's part of the fun variables of a draft with your pals -- they'll take who they like for the reasons they believe in.
- Doug Baldwin in Round 5. I can't ... I just can't.
- Ben Roethlisberger before Robert Griffin III, Colin Kaepernick, Tony Romo and Jay Cutler. Le'Veon Bell before Montee Ball and DeMarco Murray. Markus Wheaton ahead of Kendall Wright and Emmanuel Sanders. Heath Miller before Zach Ertz. Steelers DST in Round 12. Can ya tell this draft was done with mostly Steelers fans in Pittsburgh?!
Remember that location counts for your drafts.
- Teams taking two DSTs. I'd rather spend one of those roster spots on a sleeper.
- But most of all, owners tend to gravitate toward players they know already and not necessarily the new names, or at least names that don't have as much buzz. Those who are prepared and recognize some sleepers will benefit.
Any other thoughts on this draft? Post them below.