Big Ben
Like the AFC East this division is split between teams that have established quarterbacks and teams that are hopeful that their young quarterbacks will deliver.
Ben Roethlisberger may be better equipped to deal with the lockout than any quarterback in the league. After all he sat out the first four games last year and stepped in with a three-touchdown performance in his season debut. Despite playing in 12 games he finished with 3200 yards and 17 TDs (5 INTs). Big Ben knows the offense and knows his players. If the lockout drags on, the veteran Steelers could actually be at an advantage. Big Ben is a solid QB1 that you should to be get at a good value.
Joe Flacco had a solid season throwing for 3622 yard and 25 TDs (10 INTs). Unfortunately his number seem to decline at the end of the year. Last year he averaged 169.7 passing yards in Weeks 14-16 and 249 yards in the first 12 games. In 2009 he averaged 210 yards in Weeks 14-16 and 240.1 in the first 12 games. In fantasy championship week, typically week 16, he has averaged 134 yards the past two years. The Ravens added speedster Torrey Smith to help stretch the defenses. He should be a nice compliment to Anquan Boldin. Flacco remains a borderline QB1 and should put up solid numbers once again.
Colt McCoy is back with some experience under his belt. He didn’t light the world on fire, but he didn’t crash and burn either. He completed 60.8 percent of his passes, a number that should rise as he is well-suited for the West Coast Offense the Browns run. They could have added Julio Jones, but opted to trade out of the sixth pick in the draft. They did add Greg Little in the second round, who could end up being one of the best receivers in this class.
Finally we have the Cincinnati Bengals. Carson Palmer is as good as gone. Whether he is traded, retires, or just sits out the year is the question. Andy Dalton was taken in the second round and he has a good chance to open the season as the starter. Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens are also likely to be gone, but Jerome Simpson came on at the end of the year and they added A.J. Green in the draft. With Jordan Shipley and Jermaine Gresham, Dalton has a good chance to be a solid QB2 as a rookie.
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Is Joe Flacco a QB1?

24 August 2010

Image courtesy of Icon SMI


As fantasy drafts are starting to take off across the globe, there are still many questions to be answered. One of them is whether or not Joe Flacco is a legitimate starting fantasy QB. The addition of Anquan Boldin has to at least put him in the conversation, but is it enough.


It appears that Flacco is right on the fringe. Mock Draft Central has him pegged as the 13th QB (91st overall) going off draft boards. I have him one slot higher, and into starting fantasy QB territory at #12 (click to see my 2010 QB rankings). Boldin’s presence has a lot to do with it.


Flacco took major strides in his second season, increasing his numbers across the board. His completion percentage rose from 60.0 to 63.1. His yardage increased from 2971 to 3613. His TDs rose from 14 to 21 while his INTs remained at 12. His passer rating rose from 80.3 to 88.9. The only place where his numbers decreased was in the rushing department as he went from 180 yards and 2 TDs to 56 yards without a score.


He was fairly productive with an aging Derrick Mason as his primary option in the passing game. Ray Rice did his part with 78 catches for 702 yards and Todd Heap turned back the clock with a 53 catch season, but those aren’t numbers to write home about. Aside from Mason, Flacco got very little production from his WRs. Mark Clayton had 34 catches for 480 yards. Kelley Washington also had 34 catches for 431 yards. The rest aren’t worth mentioning, which is like 2008 when Mason (80-1037-5) and Clayton (41-695-3) were the only WRs to top 200 yards.
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The Ravens made a big splash by landing Anquan Boldin, giving third-year QB Joe Flacco one more weapon. Suddenly the offense has as many stars as the defense.


Fantasy Playoffs Schedule:   Favorable
The Ravens take on the Saints at home sandwiched in between road games against the Texans and the Browns. The Ravens offensive players and defense should be among the highest ranked in the fantasy football championship.


Five Star Fantasy Options
Ray Rice – Rice gets the job done on the ground and through the air making him one of the most versatile backs in the game.


Four Star Fantasy Options
Anquan Boldin – It will be interesting to see how he handles switching to a new team. He’s such a force when healthy.


Ravens Defense/Special Teams – Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are a year older, but this unit still gets after it.


Three Star Fantasy Options
Joe Flacco – Flacco threw for 3613 yards, 21 TDs, and 12 INTs. He completed 63.1 percent of his passes for a 88.9 passer rating. With a legitimate #1 WR, his numbers could take off.


Two Star Fantasy Options
Willis McGahee – McGahee excelled in his role last year with 629 total yards (585 rush, 85 receiving) and 14 TDs (12 rush, 2 receiving). He’ll likely be a vulture again, and could see his stock rise if Rice is injured.


Derrick Mason – Is this the year he loses a step? I wouldn’t bet on it.


Todd Heap – Heap can still get it done, as evidence by the 53-593-6 season he turned in last year. Injuries remain a concern. Rookies Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta will likely cut into his production.


One Star Fantasy Options
Le’Ron McClain – If McGehee were to go down, McClain would likely take over red zone duties.


Click here for additional 2010 NFL Team Previews.

Time for another Fourth & 1 Roundtable Debate.   Kurt Turner of came up with this week’s topic.  Click here to see the full article.

This week’s question: What are your top two buy low / sell high candidates headed into week four?

Buy Low
There are a number of good Buy Low options as several stars have yet to score a TD. Running Backs Matt Forte and Steve Slaton are candidates, but prying a Running Back that was selected in the first round away from someone is a tall order.

A player that I would target is Carolina’s Steve Smith, who shockingly is becoming the “other” Steve Smith. He has just 190 yards through three games. What’s worse is 131 of those yards came against Atlanta in Week 2 meaning he has just 59 yards in his other two games. A reason that Smith could be acquired is the horrific play of his Quarterback, Jake Delhomme, who has 7 INTs and 2 Fumbles through three games. His poor play has caused people to question Smith’s value, which opens the door for you to swoop in and nab a WR1 for below market value. Smith is too talented not to come around.

Sell High
Everybody expected Matt Ryan to make a huge leap this year, but it’s the other Sophomore Sensation Joe Flacco that’s lighting up the league. Flacco is seventh in passing yards with 839 and tied for 4th with 6 passing TDs. Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, and Matt Schaub are the only other guys with at least 800 yards passing and 6 TDs. I don’t see a major fall from grace, but I don’t see him keeping up his top five fantasy QB ranking either. His fantasy value will likely never be higher. The weather is fine now, but later in the year when it gets cold and sloppy, the Giants will rely more heavily on their ground game.

Another player I’d consider moving is Mario Manningham. His value is also extremely high as teams scrambled to grab him as a waiver wire gem. There are a few things that will be going against him going further. Hakeem Nicks and Domenik Hixon will be returning from their injuries. They won’t take his starting gig, but they well likely take some of his targets. Also, if you check your calendar it’s October. It’s nice nice, but once the weather gets cold and sloppy the Giants will shy away from the passing game a bit and utilize their powerful rushing attack.

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The season is approaching and the Rotoprofessor has stepped up his game to give you great fantasy football coverage.

Joe Flacco: Sophomore Stud or QB to Avoid?

Joe Flacco became a darling of the league last season, bursting onto the scene as a first round draft choice equipped with a big-time arm.  It’s rare that a rookie quarterback can walk into the NFL and immediately guide his team to a winning record, yet alone the playoffs.  He accomplished that, starting all 16 games en route to an 11-5 record and a wildcard playoff birth.

Before we dub him a great fantasy option this season, we need to be cautious.  First off all, the Ravens clearly protected him in their game plans, limiting him to 428 attempts.  That placed him 19th in the league.

He only managed 2,971 yards and 14 TD.  His strength was managing the game, throwing just 12 interceptions and stepping up to make a play when the team needed it most.

It is obvious that the offense was focused around the running game, however, something that is likely to be repeated in 2009.  When you have Ray Rice (who I profiled recently, so click here to read), Willis McGahee and Le’Ron McClain, do you really blame them?

You also have to take into account the questions surrounding the men on the outside.

Derrick Mason?  Is he retired?  Well, it seemed like it, but he had a change of heart.  While he does have seven seasons of over 1,000 yards, he is now 35-years old and you have to wonder how much he has left in the tank.  As a number two-receiver maybe, but he enters the season as the top receiver for the Ravens.

Mark Clayton? We’ve all heard about the promise and talent, but only once has he posted a season of over 700 yards or score more than three touchdowns.  Until he proves he can do that, he’s going to be surrounded with question marks and shouldn’t be considered a reliable option.

After that, whom else do they have?

  • Kelley Washington (73 career receptions)
  • Demetrius Williams (55 career receptions)
  • Yorman Figures (2 career receptions)

I would be a lot more comfortable with Flacco if he had a big-time, dependable young wide receiver who he could just throw the ball up to and watch him make a play.  Couple that with the Ravens desire to focus on the run and it makes it tough to consider Flacco as a usable fantasy option this season outside of deeper two-quarterback formats.

Even in shallower formats, I’d lean against stashing him as my reserve QB.  While it’s possible that he could post a good week now and then, there’s no guarantee that it’s going to come in the week that you need him.

What do you think?  Is Flacco a QB you’d consider drafting?  How good do you think he’ll be this season?

Is Donnie Avery a Fantasy Starter?

To look at Rams top wide receiver Donnie Avery brings a litany of questions:

  • Will he be able to progress from his rookie season and assume the pressures as the team’s top receiver?
  • Will his QB be able to get him the ball?
  • How will missing the majority of the preseason affect his performance?
  • Will he even be able to take the field for Week 1?

A second round draft pick in 2008, Avery was second on the Rams in 2008 with 53 receptions and 674 yards, trailing just Torry Holt in both categories.  With Holt now calling Jacksonville home, Avery was thought to enter 2009 as the team’s prime target but injuries have derailed those plans a bit.

He had been sidelined since August 7 after suffering a stress fracture in his foot during a scrimmage.  It was questionable if he would recover in time to open the season, but he was in the line-up for Thursday’s final preseason game.

He was only in the game for the first two series and didn’t have a single pass thrown his way, but being able to take the field was a huge victory.  While it is possible that he’s still hindered by the injury for a week or two into the regular season, the fact that he will be able to take the field gives him a chance to be productive.

Marc Bulger has also been limited this preseason, just helping fuel the questions about his potential success in 2009.  Once regarded as one of the elite quarterbacks in the game, he has been mired with injuries only once starting all 16 games in a season.

Last year he did manage to play in 15 games, but still had just 2,720 yards.  Over the past two seasons he’s thrown just 22 touchdowns compared to 28 interceptions.  His completion percentage hasn’t exceeded 58.5% each of the past two years.

Even this preseason, he’s been sidelined with a fractured pinkie.  Considering that the projected second-string quarterback is Kyle Boller, with a career passer rating of 71.9, there is reason to worry that Avery could suffer this season from poor quarterback play.

Will Bulger be healthy?  Can he rediscover his Pro bowl status?  What if Boller is forced into duty?

With that said, let’s take a look at what I would expect from Avery this season:

Receiving – 61 catches, 835 yards, 5 TD

When looking for a wide receiver, you want someone who you can count on.  With Avery, I don’t think you get that.  He proved to be good last season, but he was far from elite.  Throw in the questions about his QB and the fact that the Rams are going to be a team to ride Steven Jackson into the end zone at any time possible, and you get a WR with more questions then answers.

He has upside, however, considering he will be his teams top receiver.  He’s worth getting, but too me I don’t want to be depending on him as one of my top three receivers.  While he could prove worthy of a starting spot, he’d look better on my bench as a #4 who I can reap the benefits from if he outperforms my projections.

What do you think?  Do you think Avery will be a must start fantasy WR option or is he better as your fourth option?

Match-Up: Hester vs. Breaston

While neither Devin Hester (ADP of 95.48) nor Steve Breaston (ADP of 93.81) would be ideal starting WR in most formats, both players could prove valuable to your fantasy roster when all is said and done.  Which player would make the better bench option?  Let’s take a look.

After starting his career as a cornerback and return specialist (returning 11 kicks for TD between 2006 & 2007), the Bears wanted to get his speed on the offensive side of the ball.  In 2007 he began lining up as a wide receiver, though was more of a decoy then a consistent target.

Last season he began to be more integrated into the offensive schemes.  He amassed 51 catches for 655 yards and 3 TD.  Those are solid numbers, especially when you consider that Kyle Orton was his QB, and he enters the 2009 season as a starter for the Bears.

As I’ve said before when discussing Eddie Royal (click here to read), Jay Cutler, who now mans the Bears QB position, completed 55 passes for 20+ yards and 7 for 40+ yards.  Compare that to Orton’s 34 completions of 20+ yards and 3 completions of 40+ yards and you have to like Hester’s potential for the big play a whole lot more.

The difference with Breaston is that you know he is going to be the third receiver on his team, unless an injury or some other situation calls him into duty.  When you play in an offense that boasts Larry Fitzgerald & Anquan Boldin, there’s not much you can do.

Breaston plays the Wes Welker role well, however, picking up 77 catches for 1,006 yards last season.  With Kurt Warner at QB, you know there’s going to be plenty of balls put into the air in Arizona, but can you safely assume he’s going to be able to match what he did last season?

The Cardinals, remember, are a team that didn’t boast much of a rushing attack in 2008.  Edgerrin James was the team’s leading rusher, and he amassed just 514 yards on 133 carries.  It was obvious that the team felt more comfortable putting the ball in the air whenever possible.

Things should change this season, however, after spending their first round pick on Beanie Wells.  You do not select someone like Wells if you do not intend to use him, and do so heavily.

A greater focus on the running game is going to mean less balls going in the air.  Who do you think is going to get less opportunity to make plays?  It’s certainly not going to be your stars, so it would appear unlikely that Breaston can repeat his performance.

So, when it comes to drafting your backup wide receiver and it comes to a decision between these two players, it would appear that Hester has a greater upside in having a big season.  Isn’t that exactly what you’re looking for?  A player with tremendous upside?  I’d make him your selection every time.

What about you?  Which of these two players do you prefer and why?

Photos courtesy of Icon Sports Media, Inc.

Here are some Quarterbacks that have played well in the preseason.  Let’s evaluate them to see if they can translate their preseason production into fantasy worth when the season begins.

Matt Leinart, Arizona Cardinals – Leinart is the preseason leader with 517 passing yards.  He also has completed 61.3% of his passes with 3 TDs to 1 INT.  His passer rating of 97.3 is the 4th best.  If Warner goes down, I think he’ll be ready to finally produce.

Joe Flacco
Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens
- Joe is looking like a decent QB2 this season completing 65.6% of his passes for 470 yards and 1 TD.  He has yet to throw a pick and sports a 94.3 passer rating. 

Matt Hasselbeck, Seattle Seahawks - Hasselbeck continues to have an outstanding preseason completing a ridiculous 71.7% of his passes for 414 yards and 4 TDs.  He has thrown one pick and has a robust passer rating of 111.7.  He’s looking like a solid low-end QB1.

Vince Young, Tennessee Titans - VY solified his backup role with the Titans.  He is 5th in the league with 377 yards.  He has completed 59.6% of his passes with 3 TDs and 3 INTs.  His passer rating is 75.0.  I would not draft Vince Young and only consider picking him up should he play well for a couple games should Kerry Collins go down.

Jay Culter under center
Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears
- Cutler had a nice game in a hostile environment as he returned to Denver.  He has completed 63.6% of his passes for 329 yards and 2 TDs.  His passer rating is solid at 92.0.  He is a low-end QB1 with the potential to move up.

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Luke McCown, Tampa Bay – If McCown can win the starting gig in Tampa Bay he could put up decent numbers.  He has a couple of nice targets in Antonio Bryant and Kellen Winslow, Jr.  Unfortunately he doesn’t have any easy matchups during the bye weeks.  He faces New Orleans in Weeks 11 & 16, although it would be pretty ballsy to use him in the fantasy Super Bowl.  He could possibly be used with Matt Cassel as the Chiefs face Baltimore in Week 11.

Chad Pennington, Miami Dolphins – Pennington could lose even more time to the Wildcat with the addition of Pat White.  Plus, Chad Henne could be breathing down his neck.  After an easy 2008 schedule, the Dolphins have a much more daunting task in ’09.  His best matchup is Week 7 vs. New Orleans.  Kyle Orton, Matt Hasselbeck, and David Garrard are on bye that week.

Shaun Hill, San Francisco 49ers – If Hill can hold off Alex Smith, he could have a solid year with Rookie Michael Crabree and Frank Gore.  Maybe this is the year Vernon Davis finally breaks out.  The Niners play Arizona in Week 1 & 14, St. Louis in Week 4, and Detroit in Week 16.  It would also take cojones to roll with Hill in the fantasy Super Bowl.  In Week 4 though, he could be used to spell Matt Ryan, Donovan McNabb, or Kurt Warner who are on bye. 

Jason Campbell, Washington Redskins – I give him credit for not pulling a Cutler and crying that his team wanted to trade him.  However, his team still wanted to trade him.  Not exactly the ringing endorsement I want for one of my fantasy QBs.  He has weapons in Santana Moss and Chris Cooley.  He has some decent matchups.  St. Louis and Detroit in Weeks 1 & 2, Kansas City in Week 6, Denver in Week 10, and New Orleans in Week 13.  He could fill in for Peyton or Romo in Week 6 or Eli or Schaub in Week 10.

Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens – I like the way he plays, but his thin arsenal took a hit when Derrick Mason retired.  If Todd Heap and L.J. Smith can stay healthy and Mark Clayton can step up, maybe he’ll be  a serviceable backup.  He faces Cleveland in Weeks 3 & 10, Cincy in Weeks 5 & 9, Denver in Week 8, and Detroit in Week 14.  He could fill in for Cutler, Rodgers, Brees, or Philips in Week 5 or Eli or Schaub in Week 10.  I don’t trust the Week 9 bye QBs to be #1 fantasy QBs.

Marc Bulger, St. Louis Rams – I have moved on from think Bulger can do anything.  Still, he may get drafted in some leagues.  He faced Detroit in Week 8 and New Orleans in Week 10 so he could fill in for Palmer, Cassel, Brady, or Big Ben in Week 8 or Eli or Schaub in Week 10.

Kerry Collins, Tennessee Titans – Not much of an option, but he’s a starting QB for what that’s worth.  Arizona in Week 12 and St. Louis in Week 14.  Odds are you won’t use him.

JaMarcus Russell, Oakland Raiders – He’s a Raider so I would avoid him, but if you must he faces the Chiefs in Week 2 & 10 (Eli or Schaub), Denver in Weeks 3 & 15, Cincy in Week 11, and Cleveland in Week 16.

Daunte Culpepper, Detroit Lions – He is throwing it to Calvin Johnson so he’s at least worth a mention.  Will likely cede the starting gig to Matthew Stafford at some point.  The face the Saints in Week 1, St. Louis in Week 8 (Palmer, Cassel, Brady, Big Ben), Cleveland in Week 11, Cincy in Week 13, and Arizona in Week 15.

Brady Quinn/Derek Anderson, Cleveland Browns – I wouldn’t touch Quinn or DA, but if you must they face Denver in Week 2, Cincy in Week 4 (Matt Ryan, McNabb, Warner) & 12, Detroit in Week 11, and Kansas City in Week 15.

Mark Sanchez, New York Jets – I wouldn’t trust Sanchez either, but if you must they face New Orleans in Week 4 (Ryan, McNabb, Warner).  They have a pretty tough schedule.

The Baltimore Ravens have a lot riding on this offseason.  First, they lost Defensive Coordinator Rex Ryan to the Jets.  They may also lose the heart and soul of their Defense if Ray Lewis jumps ship.  The three biggest free agents for the Ravens come on Defense.  I don’t see a scenario where Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, and Bart Scott can all come back.  They’ll still have Ed Reed and several other Defensive standouts, but losing any of these three will be a blow.

Offensively the Ravens are in OK shape.  They seemed to have found their QB in Joe Flacco, which is half the battle.  He’ll be asked to do a little more than babysit their Offense next year, especially if the aforementioned Defensive stars leave.  The Ravens found a diamond in the rough in Le’Ron McClain, who was one of the surprise stars of the NFL last year.  He ran for 900 yards and ten scores.  Willis McGahee battle injuries last year, and could be a cap casualty.  Ray Rice should contribute more in 2009.  Derrick Mason had an outstanding season for the Ravens, but he’s 35.  Mark Clayton showed glimpses of greatness last year.  We’ll see if he can build upon it. 

Defense will be a concern for the Ravens when it comes to free agents.  Don’t look for them to make a big splash this offseason.

**Update:  Chris McAllister was cut.  Terrell Suggs was franchised**

KFFL Free Agent Tracker:

Pos Player Name FA Status Previous Team Current Team
QB Kyle Boller UFA Baltimore Ravens Free Agent
QB Todd Bouman UFA Baltimore Ravens Free Agent
RB P.J. Daniels RFA Baltimore Ravens Free Agent
FB Lorenzo Neal UFA Baltimore Ravens Free Agent
WR Terrance Copper UFA Baltimore Ravens Free Agent
WR Demetrius Williams RFA Baltimore Ravens Free Agent
TE Quinn Sypniewski RFA Baltimore Ravens Free Agent
TE Daniel Wilcox UFA Baltimore Ravens Free Agent
PK Matt Stover UFA Baltimore Ravens Free Agent
P Sam Koch RFA Baltimore Ravens Free Agent
C Jason Brown UFA Baltimore Ravens Free Agent
DL Dwan Edwards UFA Baltimore Ravens Free Agent
DL Terrell Suggs UFA Baltimore Ravens Free Agent
LB Dan Cody UFA Baltimore Ravens Free Agent
LB Ray LewisNew player news! UFA Baltimore Ravens Free Agent
LB Bart Scott UFA Baltimore Ravens Free Agent
CB Corey Ivy UFA Baltimore Ravens Free Agent
CB Derrick Martin RFA Baltimore Ravens Free Agent
SS Dawan Landry RFA Baltimore Ravens Free Agent

Baltimore Ravens Preview

30 August 2008

The Baltimore Ravens brought in John Harbaugh to be their new Head Coach this offseason.  They are still known for their Defense and Harbaugh will have to play up to that strength because he’s limited offensively.

At QB Kyle Boller’s shoulder has eliminated him from the QB competition.  Troy Smith looked to have the starting gig locked down until he was derailed with tonsillitis.  That opens the door for Delaware Rookie Joe Flacco.  I figured Flacco would get the starting job at some point this year, but didn’t anticipate it coming in Week 1, as it appears to be the case.  Whoever mans the offense has a few options at their disposal.  For the ageless Derrick Mason, who caught an amazing 103 catches last year.  He also has the underachieving Mark Clayton and Demetrius Williams.  If Todd Heap can stay healthy he would add a little more firepower.  At Running Back Willis McGahee’s knee has kept him out of action.  He will be limited early on.  Fortunately for the Ravens Rookie Ray Rice has looked excellent in the Preseason, and could have a major role early on.  Life will be a little tougher though without Jonathan Ogden. 

Defensively this team is still led by Ray Lewis and Ed Reed.  They are complimented nicely by Kelly Gregg, Dawan Landry, Bart Scott, Terrell Suggs, Chris McAllister, and Samari Rolle.  They aren’t the dominating Defense they once were, but they still one of the better units in the league.  Age could come into play for the Ravens, as many of the key starters are on the wrong side of 30. 

The Ravens aren’t going to offer any false hope of making the playoffs next year.  If they can get to 6 Wins they should consider it a successful season.  They are just lacking too many weapons on Offense and are too vulnerable on Defense because of their age.  This team could very well win 3 games next season.

Fantasy-wise the Ravens offer very little.  Willis McGahee is worth having, but I don’t have an easy felling about him.  Based on where in the draft you get them, I would rather have Ray Rice on my team.  Derrick Mason is worth having as a third through fifth wideout.  No matter who is quarterbacking this team, Mason makes a nice security blanket.  Todd Heap is worth the risk as a low-end starting TE or high-end backup.  He needs to prove he can stay on the field.  The Defense is still worthy of being one of the top Defenses selected, but don’t be foolish and take them too early.

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