Having just jumped from the fantasy baseball blog over here to the one for fantasy football and that it’s already the middle of August, I feel like there’s so much to talk about and such a short amount of time to do it in. I want to talk about the importance of mock drafts, ADP rankings, and potential draft strategies, but since training camp is well underway and preseason games are going on, I think it’s important to talk about specific players, some well-known and some sleepers, who you should be monitoring and looking to draft. Some don’t require more than a few choice words while others need to be discussed in a little more depth, but the one thing they all have in common is that they stand a very good chance at helping you to your league championship this year.
Tom Brady, NE – I know, right? Leading with a no-brainer like Brady? Is this an article for beginners? But I’ve done a ton of mock drafts over the last month or so and aside from the fact that people are wisely waiting on the position in general, the lack of respect Brady is seeing is uncanny. The guy loses his two tight ends and Wes Welker and suddenly he’s no longer the top three gunslinger he used to be? Come on. Danny Amendola is actually, in my opinion, a step up from Welker because he is more than just a possession receiver. He’s a deep threat and a solid red zone target as well. The number two wide receiver job battle between Kembrell Thomkins and Aaron Dobson should yield a quality target and tight end Jake Ballard has good hands, can run routes and can also pass-block. Add in Shane Vereen catching passes out of the backfield and Brady’s got four legit targets from which to choose. If people want to undervalue him, let them. If he slips to the late fourth/early fifth, make the move. You won’t be sorry.
Andy Dalton, CIN – As far as back-up quarterbacks go, Dalton should be more than just on your radar as another year together with A.J. Green and Jermaine Gresham can only be a good thing. Their familiarity should result in growth, better timing and just a general knowledge of tendencies and nuances; all of which spell fantasy success. Mohamed Sanu should suit up as a solid replacement for Andrew Hawkins and throw in a new pass-catching back like Giovani Bernard to complement the ground game and you’ve got fantastic potential. Even if it’s just for one week when you have a bye issue, he could end up being a difference-maker that week.
LaMichael James, SF – Every time he touched the ball last year, you just got the feeling that he was going to break for a 60-yard touchdown run. He’s that explosive out of the backfield. With Frank Gore turning 30 years old, the 49ers are going to want to spell him as much as they can to keep him fresh and it should be James, not Kendall Hunter, who gets the complementary work. Obviously, you use your fourth or even fifth round pick on Gore, but then make your move around the eighth or ninth and land James as well. You should be locked into a sound running game then and, if it’s a keeper league, James’ value is going to be huge.
BenJarvis Green-Ellis, CIN – I just did a mock draft earlier today and the Law Firm slipped to the ninth round. Are you serious? Listen, I know that he’s not the be-all, end-all of running backs, but he’s the starter for the Bengals and there’s no reason to think otherwise right now. Yes, Giovani Bernard is there and he’s got tremendous skills. But his strong suit is catching passes and running in space while Green-Ellis is the between-the-tackles, north and south runner. Not to mention the goal-line work. And Bernard, in case you haven’t noticed, is pretty undersized for the NFL and those hits he’s taking are going to add up quickly. Marvin Lewis would be crazy to dismiss the Firm and so would you. He won’t cost you a high draft pick, but he is sure capable of playing like one.
Vincent Brown, SD – With Danario Alexander out for the season and Malcom Floyd banged up, Brown has a huge chance to shine this season after missing virtually all of last year due to injury. But if you look back to the second half of the season the year before, you’ll see that he has the talent to be both a deep threat and a possession guy, has great hands, runs strong routes and is more than capable of shouldering the load as the number one wideout. He and Antonio Gates should see the majority of targets and he should also see plenty of red zone looks.
Ryan Broyles, DET – The big question is who will be the number two receiver in Detroit this year and while Nate Burleson may be listed as such on the depth chart, the guys to watch here is Broyles. Burleson has had a few moments in his career, but he’s never taken his game to that next level; you know, the one that puts him into that must-start category. Broyles emerged as a legitimate threat last year in the wake of the Titus Young fiasco and should be a solid target for Matthew Stafford once again. Obviously, this is Calvin Johnson’s team, but at some point, the Lions are going to have to spread it out a little and Broyles can be both a deep threat and a strong red zone target. He should make for a solid WR3 with the potential of stepping up as a WR2 if he starts seeing a steady increase in targets.
Mohamed Sanu, CIN – The Bengals are another team in search of a number two receiver to complement their stud, A.J. Green, and thoughts are straying away from Andrew Hawkins who has been a colossal disappointment in that role. Sanu was pretty quiet last year until the conscious decision was made to get him more involved in the offense and after the Bengals’ bye week, he was a force in the red zone with four touchdown grabs over a four-game span. Unfortunately, he was unable to build any further as he suffered a broken foot and was lost for the remainder of the season. This season, we can expect Dalton to get Sanu involved a lot earlier and the tandem of him and Green should prove to be a nightmare for opposing defensive backs.
Rob Housler, ARI – While Carson Palmer may not be the ultimate savior of Arizona, he’s certainly an upgrade to the garbage that’s been under center for the Cardinals in years past. And one thing that Palmer does well is lean on his tight ends as we saw last year with the way he utilized Brandon Myers who we will get to in just a moment. Though he didn’t get into the endzone last year, Housler saw a decent number of targets throughout the season which speaks volumes for his ability to come down with the catch. Palmer was the reason Myers ranked amongst the top tight ends in targets last season and he should do the same for Housler as well. And best of all is that you can sit and wait until much later in your draft to get him. We’re talking small investment for a big reward.
Brandon Myers, NYG – While he may not have Palmer getting him the ball this season, Myers heads to New York where Eli Manning is notorious for utilizing his tight end in the red zone. Martellus Bennett caught five touchdowns passes from Eli last year and saw a strong number of targets throughout the year, despite a fairly high number of drops. Myers has much better hands and can be a huge force both in the possession game and in the red zone. Most people will overlook him, assuming that Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks will see the majority of targets and while Myers may not see the same percentage of looks as the receivers, he’ll still rank amongst the top at his position in targets.
Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over a decade on a variety of web sites. You can find his personal musings on RotobuzzGuy.com and for questions, thoughts or comments, you can follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy or email him at email@example.com.