Image courtesy of Icon SMI

 

A typical fantasy football league consists of 12 teams nine starters (QB, two RBs, three WRs, TE, K, D) and anywhere from five to seven bench players. If you go with the latter bench allotment, you’re looking at 16 roster spots or 192 draft picks. By that definition, any sleeper should have an average draft position about 180 or lower.

 

Arizona Cardinals WR Early Doucet sports an ADP of 263 according to Mock Draft Central. That would make him the eleventh pick of the 21st round and somewhere around the 85th WR taken. That would make him a WR7 in 12-team leagues, or most likely not on a roster.

 

I feel he has the upside to warrant taking a chance on him much earlier in fantasy drafts. For starters, he showed big play potential in last year’s playoffs combining for 14 catches for 145 yards and 2 TDs in the Cardinals’ win over Green Bay and loss to the Saints.

 

Not only that, but Anquan Boldin has moved on to Baltimore, meaning Doucet should have a bigger role in the offense. Obviously Larry Fitzgerald will be the primary target and Breaston will likely continue to be the deep threat. Doucet should see a big bump in targets working the slot.

 

Life would be better for all of the Cardinal WRs if Kurt Warner hadn’t hung up his cleats, but I feel Leinart will be solid. He’s had time to mature and learn the offense under one of the best QBs to ever play.

 

They have some solid match-up against the Rams twice, the Seahawks twice, the Raiders (he won’t have to face Asomugha), Bucs, and Chiefs. Their schedule helps his cause.

 

I’m not saying you should count on him as a WR4 even, but he could put up those kind of numbers. I’m just saying I would take a chance on him over some of the players who on average have gone before him in drafts. I’m talking about guys like Chansi Stuckey, Michael Jenkins, Armanti Edwards, Torry Holt, Troy Williamson, Sam Hurd, Juaquin Iglesias, Damian Williams etc.

 

Prediction:  65 catches, 800 yards, 4 TDs

 

What are your thoughts on Early Doucet?

 

Click here to enter the Best Fantasy Football Team Name Contest for a chance to win some fabulous prizes.

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?

249
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.

With the Brett Favre saga finally over, Bernard Berrian gets a bump in value.  Berrian had a solid year with 48 catches for 964 yards and 7 TDs despite playing with the likes of Gus Frerotte and Tavaris Jackson.  With Favre he should surpass the 1000 yard mark he’s been hovering around the past two seasons.  Berrian has averaged 6 TDs a year over the past three seasons, a number that could also increase with #4 on board.  Even if Favre did go down, Sage Rosenfels would be an adequate replacement.  Berrian is going in the 7th round in fantasy drafts, though he’ll likely begin to creep up the draft board with his new QB.  I would roll with Berrian as a WR3.  I expect him to catch 65 passes for 1100 yards and 7 TDs.
 
Devin Hester is another speedy WR that got a shiny, new Quarterback this year.  Even though he annoyed Jay Cutler recently, I think Hester could have a real nice year.  With another year at WR under his belt, he should be more comfortable.  Having a QB with a big arm to take advantage of his speed should also help.  He was spotty at best last year with just three games with over 70 receiving yards.  He had six games with less than 30 yards.  You would think he would have rushing numbers to increase his value, but he ran just six times for 61 yards.  He had 11 return TDs in his first two years, but failed to reach paydirt last year.  He isn’t slated to do any returns this year, so don’t expect any bonus scores.  Having him concentrate full-time on his WR duties should help him stay focused and healthy, but it also takes away what comes naturally for Hester.  I expect him to be more consistent with Cutler, but I still don’t think I would want to rely on him as a WR3.  He’s going in the 7th round in fantasy drafts.  I’m expecting 55 catches for 850 yards and 6 TDs.

Steve Breaston is another speedy WR that is being counted on in 2009.  Only he’s the third WR on his team, which means, barring injury, that I would want him as a WR4 at best.  He had a great year catching 77 passes for 1006 yards and 3 TDs.  He was very inconsistent with eight games with 77+ yards and eight games with fewer 55 yards (five with fewer than 40 yards).  He only added 3 TDs.  The Cardinals are going to balance their offense more this year with the addition of first round pick Beanie Wells.  Unless Boldin or Fitz get hurt or Boldin is miraculously traded, Breaston’s fantasy value takes a hit in 2009.  He is going around the ninth round of fantasy drafts, which is a bit early for my tastes.  I’m expecting around 55 catches for 825 yards and 4 TDs.

super-bowl-2009

I wrap the Super Bowl comparison up with a look at the Special Teams.  Since their are three different battles (Kicking, Returning, Coverage) I’ll do a tale-of-the-tape for each matchup.

First up, let’s take a look at the Kickers.  Neil Rackers and Jeff Reed were nearly identical in the regular season.  Rackers had 119 points to Reed’s 117.  Rackers made 25 of 28 FGs (89.3%) to Reed’s 27 of 31 (87.1%).  Racker’s long was 54.  Reed’s 53.  This one is too close to call.

Advantage:  Even

Next up we’ll take a look at the Punters.  Pittsburgh had an average of 39.8 yards per punt between Mitch Berger and Paul Ernster.  They dropped 23 inside the 20.  They had a net of 36.7 yards per punt.  Mitch Berger has handled the punting in the playoffs.  Arizona had an average of 41.8 yards per punt between Dirk Johnson and Ben Graham.  They dropped 20 inside the 20, and had a net of 35.5 yards per punt.  Ben Graham has handled the punting in the playoffs.  Considering Arizona is punting it farther and still getting less yards per punt, as well as having fewer Inside the 20 punts, I’ll give Pittsburgh a slight edge.

Advantage:  Pittsburgh

On to the return game.  Arizona averaged 21.7 yards per Kick Return during the regular season with a TD.  J.J. Arrington wast Arizona’s top KR with 923 yards on 36 returns (25.6) and a 93 yard TD.  Steve Breaston added 667 yards on 33 returns (20.2).  Pittsburgh averaged 20.3 yards per Kick Return.  They didn’t really have a standout KR. 

Advantage:  Arizona

Arizona had 33 punt returns for 237 yards (7.2 yards per punt return).  Breaston was their Punt Returner.  Pittsburgh had 41 punt returns for 247 yards (6.0).  Mewelde Moore had six returns, but Santonio Holmes was their primary Punt Returner.  He took one to the house against San Diego in the Divisional Round.  I’ll give Pittsburgh a slight edge over Breaston.

Advantage:  Pittsburgh

Finally, let’s take a look at kick coverage.  Pittsburgh was tops in the league at Kick Return coverage allowing just 19.1 yards per Kickoff.  Arizona is 30th at 25.0.  They have also allowed a KR TD.  The same story applies to Punt Returns.  Pittsburgh is fourth with just 6.2 yards per punt return allowed.  Arizona is 30th and more than double that mark at 13.1 yards per punt return.  They allowed a PR TD as well.

Advantage:  Pittsburgh 

Overall Special Teams
Advantage:  Pittsburgh

There were some unusual heroes on Sunday.  There always are.  Let’s take a look at them and see if they are worthy of your fantasy rosters.

QB
Matt Schaub -  Schaub finally had a decent game, although I’m miffed Andre Johnson didn’t factor in more.  The Good News for Schaub is he had his bye week and has soft matchups vs. Miami, Detroit, Cincinnati, and Minnesota coming up in Weeks 6-9.  If your QB goes on bye that week, he could be a nice plug-and-play.  The Bad News is the Texans aren’t doing so hot and he could find himself out of a job.  Until that happens though, he has some value.
Ruling:  Get ‘em

RBs

Deuce McAllister - With the start Reggie Bush is having and the emergence of Pierre Thomas, many put Deuce out to pasture.  It appears that may have been premature.  There is still some fight left in Deuce.  The Saints are a better team when he they have Deuce going so look for them to continue to give him work.
Ruling:  Get ‘em.

Fred Jackson – Fred ran for 46 yards on 7 carries (6.6 ypc) and a score while adding three receptions for 9 yards.  The bulk of his yardage came on his 22 yard TD run.  While his numbers look decent in the boxscore, I don’t see him as much of a threat to Lynch.
Ruling: Get ‘em.

WRs
Lance Moore – I expected Robert Meachem to get more work with Colston and Shockey out, which he did, but Lance Moore was truly the biggest beneficiary.  He snagged 7 passes for 101 yards and 2 TDs. 
Ruling: Get ‘em.

Steve Breaston – Credit Cage Matcher Awesome for calling Breaston early.  He exploded for 9 catches for 122 yards.  While he may have a hold on the #3 WR spot in the desert, this game is the exception and not the norm.
Ruling: Don’t Sweat ‘em.

TE
Zach Miller – He got off to a slow start with 58 yards through three weeks.  He exploded for 95 and a score vs. the Chargers.  He finished strong last year with JaMarcus (8 catches for 84 yards in Week 17).  Perhaps they are finally on the same page.  With bye week season in full swing, he makes an interesting selection.  The beauty is with Oakland going on bye next week, you probably won’t have any competition for him if he’s available and you can make due without him.
Ruling:  Don’t Sweat ‘em.

There you have it.  I hope I provided you some good info while you make your fantasy team waiver wire adjustments.


Partner of USA TODAY Sports Digital Properties