May 9, 2010
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.