By no means is this a declaration that McCoy is ready to be a starting fantasy QB (at least in most formats). Yet McCoy has earned stellar reviews in camp and submitted a strong showing in Cleveland’s first preseason game against the Packers, going 9-for-10 for 135 yards and a touchdown. Not bad for a player currently trailing David Garrard, Tim Tebow, Matt Hasselbeck, and freaking Chad Henne in drafts, a travesty that should befall no man. The former Longhorn certainly qualifies for sleeper status and is a safe selection for a backup signal caller.
Grant and postseason-star James Starks were projected to battle for the starting nod, but Grant has grabbed the reins on the competition, exhibiting no signs of an ankle injury that sidelined him for the entire 2010 season. In each of his two previous campaigns, Grant crossed the 1,200-yard plateau, and found the end zone 11 times in 2009. The Packers do favor an aerial attack, but the Green Bay offense will facilitate enough touches for Grant to make a fantasy impact. While Starks will see some opportunities, the early indication appears Grant won’t be forced into a split-time situation. Keeping this sentiment in mind, Grant should be drafted higher than Ahmad Bradshaw, Jonathan Stewart, and Ryan Mathews, all backs that operate in a committee system yet presently rank ahead of Grant in early drafts.
Time is running out for Beanie Wells to establish himself in the Arizona offense, and the team’s selection of Williams in the second round of the Draft illustrates the lack of faith in Wells to accomplish this endeavor. Williams has reportedly outperformed Wells in camp, and posted a sound game in an abbreviated appearance in the Cardinal’s win over Oakland last week (four carries, 21 yards; one reception, 23 yards). Don’t expect Williams to explode in the opening weeks, but the Arizona back could come to fruition as a fantasy force by midseason.
Atlanta’s all-in wager to move up the board to draft Julio Jones raised some eyebrows in April, but the early returns seem to validate the Falcons’ gamble. Jones dominated the highlight shows last weekend with his performance in his first preseason game, snagging two balls for 43 yards, as well as a 12-yard rush. With one of the NFL’s best receivers across the field in Roddy White to deflect attention from coverage, as well having the underrated Matt Ryan at the helm of the Atlanta offense, Jones is one of the few rookies capable of making a difference at the receiver position this season. Jones is going behind Kenny Britt, Malcom Floyd and Braylon Edwards, all players Jones should surmount this season.
The tight end talent pool is deep for the 2011 campaign, but that’s no excuse for Graham dropping to the bottom of drafts. In the last eight games of 2010, Graham collected 307 yards and five touchdowns off of 26 receptions, this while splitting time with Jeremy Shockey. Now thrust into the starting role in New Orleans’ pass-happy offense (one that’s notorious for spreading the ball around), Graham has the potential to transform into an elite fantasy contributor.
As noted in last week’s article on Manning, there’s too much risk surrounding the Indianapolis arm to justify this high of a selection. An imperative mantra for fantasy drafts should be to minimize risk in the opening rounds, and a lack of certainty on Manning opposes this ethos. Phillip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger are quarterbacks with better forecasts than Manning, with Matt Schaub and Tony Romo not far behind.
When DeAngelo Williams re-upped with Carolina, Stewart’s fantasy worth took a slight tumble. Granted, both Stewart and Williams amassed 1,100 yards in 2009, but the opposing defenses’ focus will be on the running game with Cam Newton and/or Jimmy Clausen behind center. I still like Stewart as a third back or lower-end second starter, but Stewart shouldn’t be taken in front of Grant, Shonn Greene, Cedric Benson, or even rookie Daniel Thomas.
If there is such thing as a femme fatale in the fantasy football world, Bowe fits the bill. In theory, Bowe had his long-awaited breakout season in 2010 with 72 receptions, 1,162 yards and 15 touchdowns. Yet Bowe was often a source of heartache rather than rhapsody thanks to his hit-or-miss propensity, as the Kansas City receiver posted six games with two receptions or less. I have faith in Matt Cassel, and the additions of Steve Breaston and Jonathan Baldwin should open the field for Bowe, but don’t expect him to duplicate his 15-touchdown performance.
Although 86 receptions would hardly be designated as a disappointment, Welker was still hampered in 2010 in his recovery from an ACL tear in Week 17 of the 2009 season. Now back at full strength, Welker has proclaimed he’s faster than before his injury. Hyperbole aside, New England’s receiver arsenal is loaded, with Chad Ochocinco joining Welker, Deion Branch, Brandon Tate, the fledgling Taylor Price and tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez in the Patriot passing game. While the multitude of multitalented receivers will benefit Tom Brady’s fantasy prognosis, the influx of receivers will dent Welker’s worth. Currently inside the top 15 players at the position, treat Welker like a mid-20s selection.
Gonzalez’s average draft position is seventh among tight ends, which would be fine if it was 2004. Gonzalez’s 2010 stats of 70 receptions, 656 yards and six touchdowns were respectable, but also his lowest production since 1998. With the arrival of Julio Jones, Gonzalez’s targets will undoubtedly decline. As noted above, there’s an excess of efficient tight ends on this year’s fantasy market. Don’t waste a pick on a blast from the past.