Initial thoughts on preliminary 2010 projections

In case you missed it, we put up our initial projections on Friday. It’s really early in the game and there’s a ton of uncertainty, but I thought it would make for an interesting post to submit some of the rankings that I’m most intrigued by and offer some reasoning behind them.

I’m sure anyone looking at these projections has some questions or comments, and if you do on any of these players listed below feel free to chime in and I’ll do my best to address them.

Aaron Rodgers at #1 – I think it’s the right thing to do because of his running ability. That’s an element for fantasy he really has over the other elite players at the position. 115 rushes and 9 rushing TDs over the last two years is nothing to sneeze at. And I feel a heck of a lot better about the OL, which was the only concern for Rodgers in 2009. He did get in a funk last year, but after seeing him work himself out of it, he’s now officially elite in my eyes.

Kevin Kolb at #10 – It was a very tough call between and Jay Cutler for that 9th spot. Cutler got the edge because he’s obviously a more proven commodity, and I do like the emerging receivers here as well as Martz. But ranking Kolb at 10 is still somewhat ballsy, since he’s a first year starter. But as my last post explains, it needs to be done. If you get taxed heavily for INTs and enter your custom scoring, Kolb should come out higher than Cutler. Both will throw picks this year, but Cutler probably a few more.

Joe Flacco at #11 – I’m pretty confident Flacco’s going to be a solid starter this year. Everything is in place for a really nice season – good OL, running game, and improved receiving corps – and Flacco certainly has the talent to light it up if they chose to throw it a lot. They may run a fair amount, but Cam Cameron is more about the passing game. He’s another reason to like Flacco, Cameron is. And this is their third season together.

Chad Henne and Matthew Stafford at 18-19 – This is the kind of ranking for QBs you like, but you’re just not ready to go all in on them. Both have the talent to truly excel and are in good situations, but both are clearly unproven still. But I like both as nice upside-oriented backups.

Jason Campbell at #20 – Hey, what’s another new system to this guy? If they can protect, the Raiders will get things done on offense this year. Campbell’s receiving corps overall is probably better than it was in Washington this year. I especially love Zach Miller, who’s been my guy for a while (you just haven’t heard as much about him because of the poor QB situation). Also like Louis Murphy, who’s clearly better than Malcolm Kelly and Devin Thomas.

Mark Sanchez at #21 – I surprised myself when I rubber stamped this ranking, but our Greg Cosell made a good point about the Jets this year in that they clearly understand that points come out of the passing game and they must move the ball more consistently via the pass to become a championship team. That would explain the addition of WR Santonio Holmes. Sanchez has weapons for sure, and he also runs. It’s a fair spot for him.

Rashard Mendenhall at #6 – He scares me a little still, but you can’t deny he has a ton going for him in terms of youth and ability, and the Steelers should lean on him heavily. What really helps his projections is his receiving production, and his role in the passing game should be expanding. He’s riskier than Michael Turner, but with his receiving, Mendenhall has to be projected higher.

Ryan Mathews at #10 – Shades of Edge James from ’99 when we ranked him #9 overall despite being a rookie. We’ve studied Mathews on film and we’re convinced he’s a quality player whose skills will translate to the NFL really well. And as the workhorse back on a good team, we’re seeing very little downside with those fresh and young legs. 10th at RB seems a bit over the top, but when he’s rushing for 80 yards a game and scoring most weeks, it’s going to see very reasonable.

Montario Hardesty at #21 – Pretty ballsy call, but we’re obviously projecting him to be their workhorse as well. Probably not as much as Mathews, but we like Hardesty’s tools and how he really looks like a starting RB in the NFL. Keep in mind Jerome Harrison put up massive numbers running behind this OL the tail end of 2009, which is encouraging. As for Harrison, also keep in mind he projects best as a situational guy, a fact pounded home by new football czar Mike Holmgren, who traded up into the 2nd round to take Hardesty. Hardesty is the only back on the roster who Holmgren hand-picked. They drafted Hardesty to pound the ball in the running game to protect their QB, and he’s actually a pretty good receiver out of the backfield, so he might not give way a ton to Harrison (who will still be very active, of course).

Jonathan Stewart at #23 – We love the guy of course, but he is still dealing with a foot issue right now, and that’s been problematic for him, plus DeAngelo Williams is fantastic. Stewart will move up a few spots if he’s got a clean bill of health, but while his final numbers could easily reflect a #2 fantasy RB, it’s not a slam dunk that you can do well using him as your #2 all year in this timeshare. Tough call, as always.

Darren McFadden at #29 – That’s actually high for him, for us. But this is the year he’s finally going to get a chance with a legit QB and they should be catering the offense to his strengths more than ever. Not that we’re really high on him, but if he’s ever going to have success, this would be the year.

C.J. Spiller and Jahvid Best at 31 and 33 – Too early to tell, really, on both guys, and Best could actually pass Spiller if things are looking up for him. But the bottom line now is they guys look like upside picks who could also fizzle if not used properly. Kind of like what’s happened to Felix Jones up until the end of last year. We’ll also have to see if Marshawn Lynch is still on the Bill roster, and if Kevin Smith’s going to be ready for the season (he says he will be).

Miles Austin at #8 – I thought about this and while some are concerned about the addition of Dez Bryant, when the bullets are flying for real, I’d say Tony Romo’s going to be looking for his guy, and his guy is Austin, who proved to be a very complete receiver in 2009. He’s not thrilled with his contract situation, which could be a story to watch, but I’m still sold on Austin as a #1 fantasy WR.

Jeremy Maclin at #20 – I really like Maclin this year. I think he’s a more complete receiver than DeSean Jackson, and since he’s bigger and has a lot of experience going over the middle, he could surprise with his catch total as the Eagles move away from being mainly a big-play offense and become more of a traditional west coast offense. I think this bodes very well for Maclin.

Robert Meachem at #21 – This is high, and it may be too high because we’ve yet to see Meachem truly excel as a go-to guy. If he was asked to start on the outside from Day One in New Orleans, as many #1 picks are, he might be considered a bust right now. But the bottom line is he wasn’t, and as the season progressed last year we saw the Saints use him in a number of ways, which tells me they are (finally) getting comfortable with him. He has the tools to do very well, and he’s obviously in a great situation.

Devin Aromashodu at #27 – We’re going all in on this guy because we know they absolutely love him. He has the size they need, so he should start on the outside with Devin Hester. Granted, there are some quality receivers here, but this guy has the best chance to be Cutler’s go-to guy. Cutler loves throwing to guys with bodies around them, and the bigger guys tend to catch those types of passes. Plus, he can run.

Mike Wallace at #48 – I loved what I saw from him last year, but I’m not yet convinced he can be so effective seeing tougher matchups on the outside. I know he definitely has the potential to be a nice #2, but the matchups will be much tougher this year, and his QB is down 4-6 games.

Jermichael Finley at #3 – We just have to do it. We have a major man-crush on this guy and think the sky’s the limit. The guy runs like a wideout, and I loved the chemistry he showed with his QB in 2009. He was also extremely active and productive in the red zone. I envision him being their 2nd option in the passing game this year, and love his upside.

Zach Miller at #8 – I’ve always liked this guy a lot (if you recall, we liked him way too much a couple of years ago), but he’s proven a lot, and now he has a real QB. He will be a major go-to guy.

Jared Cook at #19 – I’m guilty of becoming enamored with athletic freaks, and Cook’s a freak. He probably won’t have a breakout second season like Finley because of his QB, but Vince Young does check down to the TE quite a bit.

I’m sure I missed a few tough or questionable rankings, so feel free to chime in with questions and I’ll try to address them all.

Category: Fantasy Football

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32 Responses

  1. Paul says:

    Thoughts on Calvin Johnson this year? Can he stay healthy? I am debating on keeping him over Ray Rice. My keepers would be Calvin, Andre Johnson, and MJD.

  2. Austin says:

    John any chance you guys have a ppr ranking as well? I realize you can plug in your leagues scoring system but it would be cool to see a Site ppr list done as well since most leagues seem to be going that direction. On that note Shonn Greene is in the 20′s when I plug in our ppr type scoring but he is much higher than that. Would you really drop him into the 20′s at the running back position in a ppr league or will his td’s numbers make up for a lack of catches?

  3. John Hansen says:

    Paul, I’d probably keep Rice over Calvin, less downside. Who knows if he can stay healthy. Seems like the 2 years things got really ugly he got hurt, and the year it got better he was healthy. Probably a coincidence, but something to think about.

    Austin, We’ll do a separate PPR generic top-200 this summer, but a regular cheat sheet can be done using the custom projections, so there’s no reason for us to do a separate one. Like this is a PPR cheat sheet right here

    http://www.fantasyguru.com/football/subscribers/ftdb.php?page=cheatsheet&print=Y&type=Off&week=0&sid=67686&top=0&font=small&dropoff=0.0&incDef=Y&onepage=Y

  4. Tom says:

    All I can say is that I’m glad the guys in my big money league don’t frequent this site. I’m almost always the last guy to grab a QB and you highlighted my targets here: Kolb, Cutler and Flacco…and Jason Campbell is a nice call, too. I probably won’t have the balls to draft him as a backup – especially since I’ll have a low-end starter – but I can see him having the best season of his carreer this year.

    I also see Meachem overtaking Colston as the #1 for the Saints as the season wears on…you think it’s possible or am I making too much of his progress?

    Question on the Raider backfield: Now that the Raiders have begun to make solid football decisions, what’s the possibility of them realizing that McFadden isn’t really a carry-the-load type back and give Michael Bush a real shot?

  5. John Hansen says:

    Looks like the Raiders will be doing the opposite and giving McFadden every chance to excel and put up numbers. That said, Bush’s role should still increase with Fargas out of the mix. But if McFadden flops, then Bush should get more chances.

    Meachem’s been slow off the mark, which is a problem and a concern. However, they did start using him in a variety of ways last year as the season progressed, which is a good sign. Early in the year I asked him to talk about his role and he simply said he’s the deep threat. So early on he wasn’t ready to be a complete receiver, just a role player. And he had been in the league 2 full seasons, so while there’s reason for optimism, there’s also reason for some pessimism.

  6. MI-5 says:

    I got to say I’m a little shocked that you have Maclin over Crabtree. Seems like the fact that he is the clear #1 even in a lesser offence, would more than be offset Jackon hitting Maclin’s production.

    I like Rogers as the #1 QB, I think the correct call.

  7. Paul says:

    John…I’m a little surprised with the praise for Jason Campbell. While anything is an upgrade from Jamarcus Russell (including my great-grandmother), I don’t see Campbell as any great shakes. I understand he’s had to adapt to multiple systems over the years, but he’s really never shown much and once again he’s being asked to learn a new system.

    I’m not convinced that the Raiders have a “real QB” yet. Can you elaborate your thoughts?

  8. Foxboro says:

    John,

    I like the aggressiveness this year with your early rankings. Great calls on Kolb, Mathews, and Finley. What is the deal with Devin Aromashodu? Is he going to be given all the oppurtunities to be Chicago’s number one receiver? If so, you really have to like this guy. Although I can’t stand Mike Martz as an NFL offensive coordinator, the guy does put players in position to score fantasy points. With Cutler at QB and Martz calling the plays if Aromashodu excels and becomes the clear number 1, he’ll be someone that fantasy GMs have to target. Can you give us some insight on the type of player he is? Big guy? Quick? Is he like a Marshall? Or relate his game to another player? I don’t think a lot of people outside of Chicago have seen him play.

  9. PackFan says:

    I’ll take Flacco over Kolb, in part because he’s had a couple of years of seasoning, and because his receiving corp has been improved, and because Ray Rice is in the backfield. Philly has a lot of young guys on offense, and if they get into a funk – whose going to pull them out of it? I might take Kolb as my #2 QB if I have a strong #1 … but I’d be scared to walk into the regular season having to depend on him as my starter.

    Mendenhall also scares me, especially with the turmoil at quarterback and a wideout corp that’s a bit depleted from last year through a trade and an injury. A ballsy move at #6 … I wouldn’t have the stomach to pull the trigger to make this guy my #1 RB – especially after I bought into Forte last season (a different guy I know, but still some question marks that for some reason remind me of this guy).

  10. Kyle says:

    Hey John,

    Baltimore has historically been a run-first team for a number of years. However, do you feel with the emergence of Flacco they will try to tip the scales and build the team around his arm strength moving forward?

    Would you rather have Henne or Stafford in a keeper/dynasty league? Not necessarily this year, but over the next couple years.

    Seems there a bunch of rookies from the last 08 and 09 NFL drafts who will have a chance to really emerge this year (McCoy, Moreno, Mendenhall, Greene, Wells, etc.). However, who do you see as the next big time WR cash cow with the potential to really emerge as an elite star over the next 2-3 years?

    Thanks,
    Kyle

  11. Blake says:

    Looks like the wait for QB until the 6th, 7th round is in full effect this year huh John? Maybe the best year ever to wait on QB, so many great upside options.

    Okay, keeper question…Witten or NYG Steve Smith. In a .5 ppr league and have to give up 13th round pick for each (round they were drafted in, obviously drafted in different years). I’ve always kept Witten in the past because it takes the whole “when to draft a TE” question out of play, but I’ve never had an option like Steve Smith for such a low draft pick.

  12. Austin says:

    John some people like NFL.com’s Mike Lambardi have Ben Tate going for over 1500 yards and winning the rookie of the year but in your rankings you have Slaton having a better year. Do you consider Ben Tate a sleeper or are some people getting a little too high on him?

  13. Stretch says:

    John,

    I was looking at your projections on the worst DSTs. I know you haven’t release your SOS article. But it appears AFC West, NFC West, & NFC South divisions may have the easiest schedule regarding giving up the most fantasy points.

    Thanks for getting out this vital info early.

  14. John Hansen says:

    M-5: Thinking there is they will look to run the ball a ton, and seriously all year this time around, and TE Davis will be very active when they do pass. Crabtree is certainly appealing as the #1, but Maclin should see more targets.

    Fox: Aromashodu has good size and he can run. Certainly not a freak talent, but they are very high on him. Cutler usually likes to throw to a guy with some size, and TE Olsen proved to be too soft last year.

    Paul: Not exactly praise, but the guy stays healthy and puts up decent numbers and their schedule does look good, plus he has some weapons not even counting DHB. As bad as it got last year, he was 14th in total scoring last year, mainly because he played all 16 games and is very serviceable.

    Kyle: Cameron is a guy who likes balance, and I think they will have that this year, which ultimately will help Flacco. I certainly don’t think they will be run-heavy since their strength now is their passing, including Rice’s receiving prowess. Jeremy Maclin, Robert Meachem, Hakeem Nicks, Michael Crabtree, and Devin Aromashodu best fit your description, but I’m not sure any of them other than maybe Crabtree will be the great #1 everyone is looking for.

    Blake: I can’t see Smith falling short in terms of catches, he’s the real deal, so I’d target one of the young and emerging TEs and throw Witten back. As for the QB, I’m thinking a safe play if you’re stuck in the 3rd round say would be one of the studs, nothing wrong with that in this day and age. But ideally, I’d probably hold off as you say.

    Austin: I’m pretty high on Tate. It’s early, but he does have some limitations, so I don’t see that major year. I think a healthy percentage of the rushing load is very doable. What hurts his projection numbers if the receiving, where I’m assuming Slaton will still be a huge factor. Otherwise, Tate would be higher. But I do love the fit for him and the potential.

    Stretch: Working on the *projected* SOS now. Here’s the prelim rankings for the run and the pass.

    Rnk Team Avg. Grade vs. Run
    1 San Fran 85.00
    2 St. Louis 85.19
    3 Kansas City 85.31
    4 Seattle 85.38
    5 San Diego 85.44
    6 Arizona 85.50
    7 Jacksonville 85.56
    8 Atlanta 85.63
    9 Tampa Bay 85.69
    10 Carolina 85.88
    11 Oakland 85.94
    12 Pittsburgh 85.94
    13 Denver 86.00
    14 New Orleans 86.00
    15 Baltimore 86.19
    16 Indianapolis 86.19
    17 Minnesota 86.31
    18 Tennessee 86.31
    19 NY Giants 86.38
    20 Washington 86.38
    21 NY Jets 86.50
    22 Cincinnati 86.63
    23 Dallas 86.63
    24 Houston 86.63
    25 Chicago 86.81
    26 Philadelphia 86.81
    27 Cleveland 86.88
    28 Green Bay 87.00
    29 New England 87.06
    30 Miami 87.13
    31 Detroit 87.19
    32 Buffalo 87.56

    Rnk Team Avg. Grade vs. Pass
    1 Denver 84.75
    2 Oakland 84.88
    3 Tennessee 84.88
    4 Indianopoilis 84.94
    5 NY Giants 84.94
    6 St. Louis 84.94
    7 Washington 84.94
    8 Dallas 85.00
    9 Kansas City 85.00
    10 Philadelphia 85.06
    11 Jacksonville 85.13
    12 San Fran 85.13
    13 Seattle 85.18
    14 San Diego 85.19
    15 Green Bay 85.25
    16 Houston 85.38
    17 New Orleans 85.38
    18 Minnesota 85.44
    19 Arizona 85.50
    20 Carolina 85.50
    21 Chicago 85.63
    22 NY Jets 85.63
    23 Tampa Bay 85.69
    24 Buffalo 85.75
    25 Detroit 85.75
    26 New England 85.81
    27 Atlanta 85.88
    28 Cincinnati 86.00
    29 Cleveland 86.06
    30 Miami 86.06
    31 Pittsburgh 86.13
    32 Baltimore 86.19

  15. Austin says:

    John as usual great stuff! The one guy I think is too low is probably Jahvid Best. The coaching staff seems to be enamored with the guy and I think they will use him in a similar fashion as Ray Rice. That offense has always produced good numbers for running backs if they can stay healthy and I think they want him to be the featured guy as they put a lot of stock in him at the draft. The head coach has been talking about him for months before the draft and they obviously targeted him. He seems like he has an elite type skillset but just needs to stay healthy. I realize the risk because of his injuries but could also see him producing top 10-15 numbers especially in ppr formats. Does he have any chance to be this years Ray Rice? Thanks in advance

  16. Crawdadusa says:

    There seems to be a problem with these features…goes to the home page!!!
    So I still need to see lists before commenting…

  17. Crawdadusa says:

    I was just trying to open all the projections and cheat sheets, keeper and 2010 and was goin back to the home page each time.. Anyone else having the same Problem???

  18. Crawdadusa says:

    Now it is all features on the site…

  19. John Hansen says:

    Austin, Best could be elite, but I’m concerned about his lack of size and the durability issues. He could rise significantly, however. We think he’s more explosive and faster than Spiller, which is high praise indeed.

    Craw, We had a machine that had that issue, and it was an IE browser issue. IE keeps changing things and they make it worse. We ONLY use Firefox here, FYI.

    In IE, go to tools, internet options, advanced, and reset IE to default conditions. If that doesn’t work also restore advanced settings and delete all cookies. That should fix the issue of it preventing you from accessing pw-protected pages.

  20. Burton says:

    John, love that you are getting into player rankings and questions already.

  21. Burton says:

    I see absolutely nothing wrong with Campbell at #20. OAK has some pretty good receivers that he can throw to.

  22. Burton says:

    Alright, I have to verbalize this… To me, B.Cushing just looked like he had used performance enhancing drugs in college. I thought that on draft day last year just by the look of his face. He simply looked pumped up to me. Of course just a personal opinion based on nothing but gut feeling, but his suspension didn’t surprise me. Hopefully my gut feel is wrong as I have nothing against the guy.

  23. Burton says:

    John, please keep A.Rodgers as #1 QB. I love drafting P.Manning after two other QBs go off the board! P.Manning is much safer plan for drafting a QB early. I like the guts putting Rodgers #1 this year (and could easily be the #1 by year end), but I don’t know how many people will buy it when it actually comes time to draft.

  24. Austin says:

    John,

    Thanks again for taking the time to answer questions. For those that don’t have a membership its completely worth it and I hope more people sign up for a fantastic service.

    I love how aggressive you guys project Charles and Gore in a ppr format and wonder if maybe the back issues will project Gore over Sjax after the big 4. Also wondering if you thought about moving Wayne down somewhat this year with his knee issues and his lack of production late last year. Looking forward to some site ppr mock drafts in the coming months too! Sorry for rambling….

  25. John Hansen says:

    Burton, I hear you on Manning, but when we do the projections we have to include the rushing production, and Rodgers has that over Manning in a big way. That’s why Rodgers bested him in 2009 and finished #1 overall.

    Austin, For now, Wayne is just very safe. WR is a tricky position always and looks even worse than usual given all the multiple receiver situations. Wayne has that, but that’s offset by playing with Manning, and he is the unquestioned top guy.

  26. Burton says:

    I didn’t realize Rodgers finished #1 last year overall. I guess checking last year’s final numbers would be a good place to start for this year, or I’ll just keep paying you to keep me in line.

  27. Jay says:

    Hi John,

    Love the blog! I was really intrigued by the initial pre-season rankings. I am in three dynasty leagues, so we recently completed our rookie drafts and I am making trades and picking up free agents right now. With 14 teams carrying 26 players each, you can imagine that you have to dig pretty deep to find players right now — talk about looking for sleepers! So, I am interested in your thoughts on players that are NOT listed with any preseason ranking. Were any of these players missed in the rankings, or do you really not anticipate any playing time this season for them?

    Of them, with the exception of Westbrook, who might stand the best chance of surprising?

    LaGarrette Blount, RB, TEN
    Mike Williams, WR, SEA
    Derrick Williams, WR, DET
    Emanuel Sanders, WR, PIT
    A. Roberts, WR, ARZ
    Damon Briscoe, WR, CIN
    John Skelton, QB, ARZ
    Steve Johnson, WR, BUF
    Brandon Lloyd, WR, DEN
    Laveranues Coles, WR, FA
    Brooks Foster, WR, STL
    Brandon Gibson, WR, STL
    Keenan Burton, WR, STL
    Maurice Stovall, WR, TB (for the moment)
    Ryan Moats, RB, HOU
    Brian Westbrook, RB, FA

    Thanks!

  28. John Hansen says:

    Burton, it’s all in the rushing for Rodgers, but Brees and Manning are a little safer.

    Jay, I’ll address a few I think have a chance.

    Blount – could be the battering ram White was in 2008, and Johnson had over 400 touches last year and might have a contract issue. I do also like Ringer, but Blount would be a better changeup.

    Williams – Might have a chance in the slot, but for now I’m giving the edge to the savvy Northcutt.

    Sanders – Long-term has a chance to be like Wallace last year, but Randle-El and Battle complicate things. Wallace didn’t have to deal with those 2 last year.

    Briscoe – We really like him, a sleeper in 1-2 years.

    Skelton – Love the potential, but he’s raw and has accuracy issues. But he has the tools to be great.

    Johnson – Have liked him a little for a while, might have a chance to play a lot and he has some size and can run a little.

    Gibson – Like him, but Gilyard does hurt for now. Of course, Gibson’s stock could rise if the rookie starts off slow.

    Foster – Talented, but a lost year in 2009 and too many others here for now.

  29. Gene says:

    Very surprised at Kolb being 10. Especially with Stafford and Henne at 18-19. I see those three all about the same. I think you are overvaluing Kolb but 5 or 6 spots.

  30. John Hansen says:

    Gene I’m amazed that you’re amazed, but that’s what makes fantasy fun.

  31. Jay says:

    John,

    Thanks for your insight into my “deep-dish” free agents. I agree with most of your comments — abviously these were the guys that I was focused on, so I think they are the cream of a weak free agent crop.

    I’m not sure I like Briscoe as much as you do — CIN has been a black hole for rookie WRs the last 5 years.

    I really wanted Blount, but missed out on him and settled for Earnest Graham, Harry Douglas and Marcus Easley. Graham is a complete flyer for me with a deep need for a RB, and I really like Douglas’ and Easley’s potential.

    Thanks again for taking the time to respond.

    Jay

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