Burning Questions

I have been buried with other things, namely our player profiles, and I also did manage to squeeze a family vacation in late last month, so I have neglected this blog (again). My contributions here will be sporadic, but I’m going to try to pop on here with random thoughts here and there.

Today’s post isn’t exactly a random because we’re gearing up for the preseason, and I wanted to post up an item that deals with some of the burning questions I have entering camps. I narrowed it down to ten questions, which wasn’t easy, but I’ve added some more at the end that I didn’t delve into in depth.

Here’s what I got for the top 10, though.

Will Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Charles go down as values or busts?

There’s no question fantasy owners need to temper expectations, especially for Peterson, whose injury occurred on 12/24, whereas Charles happened on 9/18, so Charles has three months on AP in terms of his recovery time. Neither will be outright busts if they play most of the season, but for them to go down as values, they’ll have to have almost no issues in training camp and will have to handle practicing in pads with no setbacks. Peterson’s practice time should be limited all summer, so he’s going to be a tough call, barring a miraculous return. The best guess here is that Peterson does not go down as a value and could possibly be a bust, and that Charles will not be a bust and has a chance to be a value. These players are impossible to rank properly before at least camps open.

Can Ryan Mathews deliver?

Mathews has displayed his high-end abilities for two years now, and his good size, quick feet, speed to the perimeter, and smooth receiving skills could easily propel him to a true break-out season. So it simply comes down to his ability to stay on the field, especially with Mike Tolbert gone. You’d think, with two full seasons in the league, that he knows what it takes to play through pain and manage his various injuries, so I’m inclined to believe he will, in fact, deliver.

Will Michael Vick return to 2010 form?

If things go well for Michael Vick this year, he's going to be an incredible value for fantasy

After a stellar 2010 campaign in which he was clearly responding to coaching and was more patient in the pocket and actually looking to throw the ball while going through actual progressions, Vick in 2011 reverted to previous form, and the results weren’t very good. He looked to throw too quickly, and he actually stepped into pressure often, likely because he wasn’t getting a clear picture of the field, and his instinct to move/run took over. However, this off-season, he seems to be taking his work more seriously than ever, and it’s worth noting that, even in 20100, Vick wasn’t seeing many reps with the #1 offense. He is now, and he has all off-season, so the prediction here is that his 2012 performance will resemble his ballistic 2010 showing. He’s never going to be Aaron Rodgers, so all we’re looking for is improved play from last year, and I’m convinced we’ll get it in 2012. I’m actually scheduled to be on a panel with him at the Fantasy Football Fest in Atlantic City, NJ, so I will be grilling him on what happened last year and what he’s doing to get back to ’10 form.

Will Michael Bush destroy Matt Forte’s fantasy value in 2012?

“Destroy” is a strong word, but it’s used here to describe the concerns we have about Bush as it relates to Forte’s fantasy value. For one, Bush has to be considered the favorite to be the goal-line back. Forte has never been a very good goal-line back, and he’s scored only 1 rushing TD per every 48 carries in his career (1013 carries, 21 rushing TDs). Forte scored only 3 TDs last year, yet Marion Barber scored 5 TDs from Weeks Four through Eleven (Barber didn’t have a carry before Week Four), so Barber was the goal-line back. Bush has scored a TD for every 30 carries, so his track record in this area is much better than Forte’s. Bush is also a good blocker and receiver out of the backfield, so he could take away from Forte’s production in the passing game as well. It’s clear the team is concerned with the workload Forte has handled in college (833 carries in four years) and the pros, and they are paying Bush too much money to be just a bit player, so we view Bush as a pretty serious threat to Forte’s production – and that’s assuming Forte is in camp and content.

Will Robert Griffin III produce for fantasy owners?

RGIII’s college tape is spectacular, and many of the positive traits he exhibited translate very well to the NFL, yet predicting Griffin’s level of play in 2012 is still a guess. But it’s an educated guess, and based on his high-end passing skills and the marriage with the Shanahan’s, who can scheme and design an offense with the best of them, the answer to this burning question is yes. Griffin III will have a learning curve that might be a little steeper than some other first-year QBs, but he’s already made great advances in the off-season, and he seems to have the work ethic and discipline needed to make such a difficult transition. One of the big questions is whether or not he can consistently complete short-to-intermediate throws with timing and anticipation, and most of the receivers here are short-to-intermediate receivers. But when in doubt, his sprinter’s speed should result in several long runs, which will augment his fantasy production quite nicely.

How much will the absence of Sean Payton affect the Saint offense?

That is the $1 million question in the Big Easy, isn’t it? There’s no doubt the team and offense will miss its architect, but at least Pete Carmichael has been with Payton in New Orleans since 2006. The offense had two very good games last year with Carmichael calling the plays, and in fact in his first game they put up 62 points, although that was against the lowly Colts. They did also have a poor game and a loss against the Rams. The biggest issue now is that Carmichael has had to operate all off-season without the one player who could make this mandatory transition relatively seamless: QB Drew Brees. Brees will eventually report to the team, but it would have been nice to have him with the club all off-season because the future Hall-of-Famer can be a coach on the field. I think there will be a drop-off, and they may try to run the ball a little more without Payton, but it’s hard to justify a major downgrade for this offense. Perhaps the vibes will be bad this summer and we’ll have to re-evaluate, but for now, the only player who stands out as possibly being hurt is Darren Sproles – since Payton should get a lot of the credit for his utilization and effectiveness – and even that’s a stretch because the pattern’s been set for his usage.

Is this the year Michael Turner falls off a cliff?

There's actually little evidence that Michael Turner will fall off a cliff this year

I understand his role will likely be reduced slightly this year, but for an aging “bigger back” that could actually help him maintain a high level of play all season. I think people bailing on him completely are overreacting because this offense is entrenched in power running, led by Turner. In addition, while I like Jacquizz Rodgers, he’s hardly a great back who commands a lot of carries due to a particularly special running skill set. Turner, too, didn’t carry the load his first four years in the league, so while he has had 300+ carries in three of the last four years, he doesn’t have a ton of tread on his tires. Turner isn’t exactly my kind of pick, and he is slowing down, but he’s been incredibly consistent in Atlanta, and his yards per carry were actually up in 2011, as were his catch total and yards per catch. So we’re not exactly seeing clear evidence that he’s on the precipice of a career implosion. Most likely, we’re going to see 1200+ rushing yards and 10+ TDs again in 2012.

Who will be the Redskins’ Week One starter at RB?

If Mike Shanahan had his way, it would likely be Tim Hightower, but the veteran’s availability is still in question coming off his ACL injury. So it’s Roy Helu, right? I’m not so sure. Despite evidence that suggests he was fine in pass protection, Shanahan apparently wasn’t sold on Helu in that area last year. And while I like Helu and firmly believe he can produce with volume, that doesn’t mean he’s going to be the guy. Keep in mind fellow rookie Evan Royster was pretty good last year, and he actually looked a little more consistent running than Helu did. So the answer is “we don’t know,” which may seem like a copout, but it’s at least notice that assumptions about Helu being the guy cannot be made. In fact, with an ADP of 60, Helu is overvalued. Royster right now is undervalued. I actually spoke to a Redskin insider on 7/6 who believes Royster will be the Week One starter. I can definitely see that because it appears as if Shanahan prefers Helu as a #2 and active complement – and opposed to “the guy.”

Is Doug Martin overvalued or priced just right?

Martin’s typically been a 4th-round pick in a 12-team league, which is clearly a sign that everyone is expecting him to be the guy. We are as well, but Martin actually has to win the job and stave off LeGarrette Blount, who has improved this off-season and should have a role in this backfield. Martin was picked by the new regime, and it was a good pick because he has NFL traits as a runner, and he can be productive as a receiver, so he’s versatile. Although he’s only an unproven rookie, if fantasy players knew for sure he was going to be the lead back he’d probably be a top-30 pick overall. Since he’s not right now, Martin seems to be priced just about right.

Will Dez Bryant finally play up to his potential?

This is a good question because he certainly hasn’t up to this point, yet his production has still been pretty strong. He’s also entering the “magical” third season, so you’d have to think that he’s learned a thing or two about the offense, his QB, and what it takes to play in this league. Speaking of playing, Bryant needs to learn how to better deal with and manage injuries because he hasn’t exactly proven he can handle playing hurt, which is different than playing injured and is something most pros do more than once in their careers. The reports have been positive this off-season, but I still can’t give Bryant a ringing endorsement based on his showing the last two years and his somewhat shaky past. But if we’re seeing more compelling signs of dominance this summer, fantasy players should probably buy the Bryant hype because his physical talents are off-the-charts.

Here are some other key questions to follow this summer:

  • Will Cardinal RB Ryan Williams be given a legit chance to unseat Bean Wells? That might be a moot point if Wells isn’t 100%, and he’s rarely 100%. If healthy the job is Wells to lose, but at this point he could definitely lose it to a healthy Williams, and Williams is very much on track to return from his knee injury.
  • Will Atlanta’s Julio Jones truly bust out? After reviewing some things and talking to some people, I’m now thinking that he will, but it’s still hard for me to rank him over Roddy White.

  • How will the touches be distributed in the Bill backfield? I’m thinking 65-35 for Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller.

  • Can Ronnie Hillman do everything he needs to get on the field? If so, he could easily be productive enough to be a rock solid flex starter. But only if he’s doing all the little things well and isn’t a liability on the field.

  • Will Alex Green be healthy enough to contribute? The Packers may be giving James Starks another chance to be the guy, but they are also betting that Green can play this year. If so, and especially if Starks isn’t exactly standing out, Green will have a role.

  • Who’s the back to have in Indy? It’s certainly Donald Brown right now, and he’s a viable pick later in drafts. But I do have a feeling that Delone Carter could sneak up on a lot of people this year, so his progression is also a big story to me.

  • Can Jonathan Baldwin completely overtake Steve Breaston as a starter on the outside? Baldwin, even if he does, may still not put up good numbers, but if he’s to have anything close to a coming out party, the first step is to earn more snaps over Breaston.

  • What is the Miami backfield going to look like? I think Reggie Bush will revert to his hybrid do-it-all role, which should mean more catches. But if they have no choice but to lean on Bush as a runner again, it’s going to be interesting to see if he can do it again. I still remember Bush swearing to me in 2007 that he can be a lead back, but I’m skeptical.

  • Will the Pats produce a reliable and productive fantasy back? I doubt it, but there’s something to be said for having a guy worth using for only a few weeks at a time, and we could certainly see that here at times. And it’s not like Steven Ridley and Shane Vereen aren’t talented. Both are very viable for depth, but you can’t overpay for either and expect the world.

  • How much will rookie RB David Wilson play for the Giants? It depends on how comfortable the team is with him and how healthy and productive Ahmad Bradshaw is. But I can absolutely see Wilson emerging as a fantasy force at some point this year, maybe even from the get-go.

  • Will the Raider offense explode or implode? You can really make a strong case for both sides here, so the vibes and the preseason performances will have to be monitored closely.
  • What about the Steeler offense? Yeah, what about it? I love Antonio Brown, and I respect the QB a ton, but I’m not feeling good about this team right now. The offense is changing, the #1 RB is out, and the #1 WR is still unhappy. The OL has been repaired, which is definitely good, but right now I’m targeting Brown here and that’s it.
  • Will Randy Moss do anything? I’ve seen several tweets this summer from people who have said things like “call me crazy, but I think Moss is going to have a big year.” Well sirs, you are crazy. Moss is not going to have a big year, not here. The question is whether or not he’s going to be worth owning in fantasy, and I’m not yet sold he will be.
  • Which Ram receiver will step up? As I’ve said for quite some time, when a team doesn’t have a go-to receiver, they will try to find one, and the Rams don’t have a go-to receiver. The two rookies are the guys to watch, obviously, but veteran Steve Smith may be a sleeper as well. And Danny Amendola will get his catches.
  • Will the Titan offense explode? Things look very, very good on paper, but we do have a QB issue that could disrupt things a little. The smart money is on the veteran Matt Hasselbeck to open the season, but the smart money should also be on MY guy Jake Locker getting onto the field. I really hope we’re not disappointed here, but I love the personnel and potential in Tennessee and I’ve have a man-crush on his entire offense since February.
  • How will the Redskin receiving corps shape up? I got some solid info on this recently, and it looks like it will be Santana Moss starting opposite Pierre Garcon, so Moss is going to be bumped up by us next week. Josh Morgan could be a rotational guy along with Leonard Hankerson.

Category: Fantasy Football

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5 Responses

  1. Stretch says:

    John,

    I have another one for you. What about the Bears offense. In my opinion, I don’t think the Bears are going to give M.Forte a long term contract. So he will be a holdout. That’s ashame but I’m not surprise.

    Also, I’m not a fan of new OC M.Tice. Do you think J.Cutler and B.Marshall will be productive with Tice calling the plays?

  2. John Hansen says:

    Yo Stretch! I heard you on NFL Radio like 6-7 weeks ago talking to Polian about the Bears. I was like, I know that guy! That was a good job by you.

    Tice seems really middle-of-the-road, but he certainly likes to run the ball. I was with you on Forte but Schefter I believe reported something positive about an extension, which surprised me. I’ve known Schefter about 10 years and he’s rarely wrong, so we’ll see.

    I think for the most part Tice will let Cutler and Marshall do their thang, which is good. You gotta love how well Cutler has played the last two years. Dude’s been borderline brilliant, and quietly so. As usual, all about the OL here.

  3. Darin says:

    My annual question is always which coaching change will result in the midas touch?

    It was obviously Harbaugh last year. I’m with the pros, Tice doesn’t impress. I do wonder about Schiano and Tampa. Fisher has shown how good he is. Philbin has shown what he can do as OC so it will be interesting to see what happens if he can squeeze another 100 points out of Miami’s offense.

  4. Bill says:

    John,

    What about the Chargers passing game? Can Rivers rebound? Is there a legitimate #1 WR there and it so, who?

  5. John Hansen says:

    We did an extensive article on the coaching changes here that we will update in August
    http://www.fantasyguru.com/football/subscribers/articles/2-28-12coaching.php

    Most feel the Chargers will be better this year, even without Jackson. As for the #1 WR, they probably won’t have one. It’ll be a bit of a WRBC unless there are injuries. The #1 option in the passing game should be clear, though: Antonio Gates.

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