Most football fans would agree that the best part of the preseason is the end. Just like the players, we also learn a few things about the 2012 season before it starts. Let’s take a look at our biggest takeaways from 2012 NFL preseason and their fantasy implications.
New England Patriots
Patriots aren’t going to show too much in preseason but rest assured Brady and his TEs will be up to matchup nightmares in the regular season. Hernandez shined and Gronk will likely haul in some big TD numbers this season. Don’t take too much away from Ridley’s impressive numbers it’s RB by committee per usual in NE and Woodhead and Vareen will take carries consistently too. I have yet to decide who will emerge amongst the WRs in Welker and Lloyd. I love Lloyd’s deep threat and big play potential but also Welker’s consistency. Tough call, I’m leaning on Lloyd though for the long haul.
Buffalo made a huge splash in the offseason to upgrade their defense with Mario Williams and contend for the playoffs. However they have had a lack of consistency on the offensive side of the ball. If Fred Jackson can start the year off in similar fashion to last year and Steve Johnson continue his production at receiver this should help a Buffalo team compete week to week. Fitzpatrick’s development as a starting NFL QB will be critical to continued success and getting looks to a dynamic pass catcher out of the backfield like C.J. Spiller.
New York Jets
Speak of drafting that is one thing you should avoid when looking a NY Jets players. There is really nobody outside of Santonio Holmes that poses much threat offensively. Tebow has value in the red zone but if the preseason is any indicator, zero TDs in three preseason games, then this team could find problems finding the goal line. Buyers beware: when it comes to Jets players, although the defense seems to be a solid group with above average talent.
For Miami the rookie QB ascent means mistakes and unpredictable outcomes. I like Tannehill to find stability in Reggie Bush in the passing and running game. I don’t like any of Miami’s wideout options at least consistently. It appears that Coach Philbin will take his “Hard Knocks” in his first season as head coach.
Baltimore looked like a confident team with something to prove. The defense as usual is staunch and Flacco appears to be in rhythm and on point thus far. Dropping dimes to Boldin and Torrey Smith with check downs to Ray Rice are positives. I expect big things and more production from speedster in Torrey Smith this season. It’s safe to say that I would not hesitate to back up an injury concern QB (Vick, Manning) with a Flacco this season. I like Ray Rice more than Foster actually and if they unleash the offense more this season the way it’s capable of then expect huge things. Oh and keep an eye on kicker Justin Tucker, he’s got 60 yard kicking strength.
Bengals have a nice duo in Dalton and Green that make me think this young pair could be in for big things this season. The injury to Gresham at TE will slow things initially but I like BenJarvis Green-Ellis as a consistent force at RB. Their division is tough on RBs with Ravens and Steelers and Browns have tight coverage corners so temper expectations a little.
Browns didn’t do much to impress. Without Richardson and starting rookie QB in Weeden, it’s hard to say who is going to have any relevant fantasy impact on the Browns. Many predict it’s Greg Little, some say Massaquoi has burner speed and RB Trent Richardson is being drafted in top 3 rounds. This is questionable for a player coming off any knee surgery and with unproven offense and rookie QB. Beware of being a Browns player owner.
The Steelers looked solid most of preseason despite a patch work of options in the backfield and the holdout of top wideout, Mike Wallace. Big Ben continues to produce and Antonio Brown appears to be on the verge of fantasy stardom with his continued reps and targets in the passing game. The running back situation has not stabilized quite yet with Mendenhall and Isaac Redman on the mend. Redman can surely handle the load so we’ll see the shakeout there as season begins.
The Texans have arguably the softest division and fantasy stud running back in Arian Foster. I expect another solid campaign and if WR Andre Johnson can stay healthy then it’s foreseeable that Matt Schaub could be a viable spot starting fantasy quarterback.
Jacksonville has done little to make fans think they will be competitive this season. OK, well Gabbert has made tremendous strides and Blackmon is a beast. I don’t know who else on this offense to really rely on. I love the sleeper upside of Jennings with MJD down for the start of season. However, I don’t know how many games the Jags will be in this season and come the second half of games it could just open up to a passing free for all. This makes me think Blackmon could put up reasonable numbers and outperform other high draft picks.
Jake Locker’s emergence is going to make the Tennessee offense more dynamic. I’m going out on a limb and saying that Kendall Wright might have the biggest rookie fantasy impact this season. I like the chemistry here and if Titans can get better on 1st down they might really have something brewing. CJ will return to form and all Jared Cooke does is catch long passes at TE. He averaged over 10 yards per catch last season. I see passes to Wright, check downs to CJ in open space and Cooke over the middle and a dash of Nate Washington. Once Britt gets back there will be more of a deep threat, but that shouldn’t slow Kendall Wright’s impact.
The Colts will not be a bad team this year. It falls on the shoulders of #1 pick Andrew Luck, but many speculate disaster fantasy wise here and I don’t see it. I like Reggie Wayne’s targets, making him a solid play depending on matchups and once oft injured Austin Collie is in the mix they can be formidable options along with Luck’s college teammate at tight end in Coby Fleener. The running game is being handled by Donald Brown, who stands to have his greatest opportunity to be a contributing starter since entering the NFL.
Are the Raiders for real this season? Oakland has the speed and talented enough defense to be a factor but can they put it together for a full season or at least fend off the injury bug. The most indicative of this assessment would be the status of starting RB Darren McFadden. McFadden has elite talent and will need to stay healthy to return the value expected to fantasy football owners this year. Carson Palmer has been developing better chemistry with Darrius Heyward-Bey and continued it with Demarious Moore. Both are burners and are great homerun threats who are typically feast or famine fantasy studs or duds.
San Diego Chargers
Rivers is poised to bounce back if he can again connect with TE Antonio Gates and find chemistry with new but injured wideout Robert Meachem. I like Malcom Floyd in the passing game and Le’Ron McClain as a surprise feature (this year’s version of Mike Tolbert) to accompany Mathews on his return. It’s tough to battle back from a collar bone fracture so don’t expect much until after a few games from him. It’s worth noting that kicker Nate Kaeding punched a couple of 50 yarders through the uprights too.
All the doubters of Peyton Manning will have to wait. Peyton looks solid. Eric Decker is emerging as the leading target in Denver and Demaryius Thomas also has value at the receiver position. Jacob Tamme is a favorite of Peyton’s from his days in Indy as well. The running game in Denver has always been a mystery. Willis McGahee has the chance to solve that but rookie Ronnie Hillman has such great upside it is tough denying that this could be a committee approach in the mile high city.
Kansas City Chiefs
Jamaal Charles has the homerun potential, just hope he hits it and doesn’t fall inside the 10 or then its Hillis time. Bowe seems like the only wideout option worth picking although McCluster has some value too and might return kicks this season. Bottom line here is that the Chiefs leave much to be desired going into the regular season so temper your expectations accordingly.
If preseason is a sign of things to come then Redskins should be happy. Robert Griffin III’s preseason has featured some efficient passing numbers and he’s looked the part of a #2 overall draft pick every bit of the way. RGIII had a nice TD toss to Santana Moss who appears to be entering the latter stages of his career as a possession receiver. Pierre Garcon is the deep threat and the running back by committee appears to be in full effect with Helu headlining a crew that will probably operate with the hot hand approach.
In Week 3 of the Preseason the Eagles played without Vick due to his injured ribs and showed off a dependable back-up rookie QB in Nick Foles. The fantasy impact upon other Eagles I don’t expect to take as big a hit as last year with this rookie out of Arizona there. Also, McCoy even though didn’t play much should be a shoe in for featured back and top 5 overall RB. Make sure to get that 2nd QB before the late late rounds if you do have Vick. DeSean Jackson should be back to 2010 form and Maclin is a consistent wideout option too.
Will the Cowboys emerge from the NFC East and will Tony Romo win a playoff game? Certainly much rides on his arm and ability to carry an offense that has explosive weapons in Dez Bryant and Miles Austin at wide receiver. Tight end Jason Witten is a warrior and rarely ever misses games despite his internal organ injury. It’s DeMarco Murray’s job in the backfield to handle the load so we’ll see if he can continue the late season success from last year.
New York Giants
For the Giants expect big things from Manning again this year as he’s expected to be a top 5 fantasy QB and with the continued emergence of Victor Cruz and Nicks at wideout he has many aerial options. Martellus Bennett, the new tight end pick up from Dallas, appears to be a good large target as well. The running back situation is more convoluted with Ahmad Bradshaw who will start the season banged up with an injured hand, but rookie David Wilson will be in line to split carries and will have an opportunity to do so from the get go.
It’s shaping up to be a sweet reunion for Marshall and Cutler in Chicago. This season expect big things from this dynamic duo as they reunite from their Denver days to connect on pitch and catch TDs early and often. I like Cutler more than in previous years as he comes into the season in good health and shape. They also have a solid backfield with Michael Bush to help spell newly inked Matt Forte.
The Lions offense rides on the arm of Matthew Stafford. Leading the list of soon to be stars in the NFL with his arm and having a nice deep threat in Calvin Johnson certainly helps. This offense could be even more high octane if there was an established running game. Unfortunately injuries to Javid Best leave Kevin Smith holding down the carries. Titus Young could be on the verge of a breakout campaign opposite Johnson at wide receiver this season along with Pettigrew’s consistency at the tight end position.
Green Bay Packers
Love Rodgers and what he brings consistently to Green Bay and on any given Sunday he can put up video game numbers. Cedric Benson’s emergence in the backfield has been a pleasant surprise. With a strong runner to pound it between the tackles and return to good health for Jennings and Nelson make me believers in the Cheese Head offense. I’m still quizzy about their defense, which has many question marks, but that means more shootouts and more chances to put up points.
The Vikings are a struggling team. The return of Adrian Peterson is critical and if healthy can hopefully lessen the burden on a young QB. Taking Gerhart to handcuff is important as Gerhart has played big in the preseason and Percy Harvin gets some of the most targets of any WR in the league on a team without many playmakers. So those are your relevant fantasy options there.
New Orleans Saints
Can New Orleans survive in the absence of Sean Payton as head coach? Absolutely, when Drew Brees is your quarterback. Brees seems to be destined for another big season and will need to have one to give this team a shot. Lance Moore and Marques Colston highlight this receiving core and Jimmy Graham looks every bit as good as the beast he was last year at tight end. It’s always difficult to say who carry the running load, perhaps Ingram continues to emerge as he pushes past injuries and Sproles will get the value touches in the passing game and gimmick plays. It should be an explosive offense for the Saints again this year.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Buccaneers have got a new running attack and his name is Doug Martin. As the starting running back this guy looks the part and Blount will only vie for backup and goal line vulture scores. Freeman and Vincent Jackson appear to have some chemistry and I expect VJax to put up impressive numbers this season. Expect Bucs to be vastly improved this season thanks to new coaching staff and rededication by Freeman at QB.
Carolina is looking to improve on its success last season and live up to the bold preseason predictions by players that they’ll win the Super Bowl. Cam Newton is a top fantasy running/passing threat and Steve Smith has tremendous potential. Brandon LaFell is a piece that compliments the passing game along with Greg Olsen at tight end. The backfield of J Stewart and DeAngelo Williams is a consistent quandary week to week so draft accordingly.
Write it down, Julio Jones will outperform Roddy White this season. Jones is looking like the real deal and if that dirty bird offense can get moving they will be going places this season. Matt Ryan is supposed to move into the elite category but I am tempering expectations on that for the moment and banking on a solid wide receiving core. That ground game leaves something to be desired too, Michael Turner is showing his age and I like Jacquizz Rodgers to take over sooner than expected.
San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco has high expectations and play in a division in which they are expected to dominate. Vernon Davis and Alex Smith appear to have chemistry and Randy Moss is a viable deep threat to add options to a tough team with a run first approach. Frank Gore headlines a crowded backfield, which could spell trouble for fantasy owners who like the San Fran ground game. It’s evident that San Francisco is the premier defense to own in fantasy though, with a Patrick Willis toughness.
I can’t say I would confidently draft anyone on the Arizona Cardinals offense this season. Larry Fitz is again the only reliable option but who is going to get him the ball? Kolb and Skelton combined for 3 interceptions and a cloud of dust emerged. It’s my guess that Kolb has the most upside but Skelton appears to be named the starter. The trouble is that neither can get out of their own way. If it’s me I’m not drafting anyone in red with a bird on the helmet this year.
Spoiler alert! We have a Russell Wilson sighting and another rookie QB starting this season. This guy has done it all at QB this preseason and earned the job by outperforming Matt Flynn. Take a flier with late round back up potential. Sydney Rice and Lynch appear to be solid plays. Keep tabs on Lynch and his back spasms/issues to see if they persist though. Also, Braylon Edwards has some potential here but should be waiver wire material at best.
St. Louis Rams
St. Louis represents an enigma from a team that appeared on the brink of breaking through 2 seasons ago to one of the more dreadful stories from last season. I like Coach Fischer and his approach will be to hammer Steven Jackson for 3 yards per carry and get Bradford in manageable 3rd down situations. There’s no true wide receiver to rely on in St. Louis but Danny Amendola could be a consistent PPR machine. Isaiah Pead could steal SJax’s job by season’s end so look out for the rookie running back.
Preseason is over, now let the games begin and good luck!