With fantasy season just around the corner, it never hurts to take a look as which teams as a whole can really help your imaginary one. With that, I offer you my first annual Fantasy Football power rankings. I will take a look today at numbers 32-16, and I will make sure to get to 15-1 as soon as possible.
Remember, these are FANTASY power rankings. In no way am I predicting the way the actual NFL season will pan out.
Click here for part 2.
32. Cincinnati Bengals
There just is not much to get excited for this season on the Bengals roster. It all starts with the quarterback, and unfortunately for the Bengals, right now it is a competition between journeyman Bruce Gradkowski, and rookie Andy Dalton, neither of whom you will see flying off the shelves at your draft. Cedric Benson did rush for over 1,000 yards last season, but his per-carry average of 3.5 ranked last among the NFL’s top 36 rushers. In his last two seasons, Benson has 667 carries, so you have to wonder how much he has left in his legs. A.J. Green hops right into the number 1 role in Cincinnati, but it’s tough to imagine Gradkowski or Dalton stringing together enough consistent games to make him valuable. Add that in with the fact that he missed an entire summers worth of training, and it equals Green not being a fantasy asset.
Who you should have: Cedric Benson
Sleeper: Andy Dalton
31. Washington Redskins
Washington’s quarterback situation is even more dire than Cincinnati’s. It will be Rex Grossman and John Beck fighting for snaps on this team, and that does not bode well for anybody who has to catch balls from them. Santana Moss is back in D.C. and will be the number one receiver for the team. At 32 years old, he set a career high in receptions last season (93). He isn’t an end-zone guy and isn’t really a big-play receiver anymore, but he’ll still be good for 1,000 yards and should be drafted in all formats. Anthony Armstrong had a decent season (44 receptions, 871 yards, 3 TD’s), but he will lose some targets to rookie Leonard Hankerson, as well as Donte Stallworth and Jabar Gaffney this year. Chris Cooley will be out at least four weeks, and only has 6 TD’s in his past three seasons. Keep an eye out for Fred Davis down in the red zone. As for the backfield, as with any Mike Shanahan system, it’s really your best guess. Tim Hightower is currently at the top of the depth chart, but Ryan Torian, Keiland Williams and rookie Roy Helu will all be fighting for touches. Hightower is really the only one worthy of being drafted, and that shouldn’t be more than a late-round selection.
Who you should have: Santana Moss, Tim Hightower, Chris Cooley
Sleeper: Fred Davis
30. Seattle Seahawks
I’m sorry, I have not been a fan of Tarvaris Jackson since he joined the league, which makes his move to Seattle less than exciting for me. Jackson is a gifted runner (and he will need those legs with the line Seattle is putting in front of him), but does not have the decision-making skills or leadership to be an elite quarterback in the NFL. However, the Seahawks do have some talent around him that may help. Sidney Rice missed part of 2010 because of a hip injury, but if he can return to his 2009 form, he will be a force to reckoned with. Mike Williams showed flashes of brilliance last season, and will be the teams possession receiver with the addition of Rice. Zach Miller was brought in as well, but it concerns me that he had a mediocre season with Jason Campbell as his quarterback in Oakland, and Jackson certainly is not a step up. Marshawn Lynch will lead a running game that finished 31st in the league in 2010. Do not be fooled by the one spectacular play Lynch had in the playoffs last season, he is an average runner at best and should not be drafted until late. The running game will not be helped by a poor offensive line, especially if Russell Okung’s injury is serious.
Who you should have: Sidney Rice, Mike Williams, Zach Miller
Sleeper: Golden Tate
29. Cleveland Browns
There isn’t much to be excited about in Cleveland. The only reason they aren’t even lower on this list is because I have faith in Colt McCoy and I believe if you put some weapons around him, he could be a good starting quarterback in this league. He may be a little small and not have the best arm strength out there, but they said the same things about Drew Brees. Peyton Hillis is only 25 years old, coming off a huge year, but I have concerns, as he started to wear down towards the end of the year, scoring no TD’s in his final five games (not to mention the dreaded Madden curse). None of the receivers get me very excited. Joshua Cribbs is a gimmick player who you can’t depend on week-to-week for production. Brian Robiskie is listed as the number one and may catch a bunch of short passes in the new West Coast system to make him valuable in PPR leagues, but not enough to say he is a must-have. Mohamed Massaquoi may be the best of the bunch. Ben Watson set career highs in catches (68) and yards (763) last season, but isn’t featured in the red zone as much as you’d like a tight end to be. With the check down option in full swing in Cleveland though, Watson will get plenty of opportunities.
Who you should have: Peyton Hillis, Mohamed Massaquoi, Ben Watson
Sleepers: Greg Little, Colt McCoy
28. Carolina Panthers
As it’s been with the Panthers since the draft, all the hype surrounding this team is because of Cam Newton. Sorry fantasy owners, but as sexy as he looks, Newton won’t hold much in fantasy value this season. He came from a simplistic offense, and will need to learn how to read pro-style defenses before he does anything of note. It will be a growing season for Newton, and that doesn’t bode well for fantasy owners. Steve Smith is still the man in Carolina, despite coming off his worst season as a pro (46 rec, 554 yards, 2 TD’s). The fact that he remains in Carolina speaks to the faith he has in Newton. I don’t believe Smith will get back to his Pro Bowl ways right away, but he is worthy of a draft pick based on his skills alone. Jeremy Shockey and Greg Olsen were both brought in to help out the passing attack. Both grossly underpeformed in New Orleans and Chicago respectively, but they will get a chance to resurrect their careers in Carolina. The rest of the receiving core is a mess, so we won’t even go there. As for the backfield, it’s going to be a logjam with the return of DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and Mike Goodson. Good luck picking a winner there. This offense ranked dead last in 2010, so I don’t have high hopes for 2011 either.
Who you should have: Steve Smith, Jeremy Shockey, DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart
Sleeper: Legedu Naanee
27. Jacksonville Jaguars
MJD. That’s what Jacksonville means to most fantasy owners. He’ll be a scary pick this year though. Coming off a season in which he managed only one 100 yard game in his first seven, then rattled off six straight 100 yard games, followed by a knee injury that caused him to miss the fantasy playoffs, we really have no idea what to expect from MJD. If you spend the first-round pick he is commanding on him, you expect about 1,500 yards and 10 or more TD’s. If he stays healthy, that’s probably what you’ll get. If not, well then you probably won’t be seeing your fantasy playoffs. Don’t be afraid to handcuff Rashad Jennings, who could be a starter for plenty of teams in the league and should be drafted regardless of MJD’s status. As for the rest of the team, there is already a quarterback controversy brewing between David Garrard and Blaine Gabbert, neither of whom you’d want to draft at the moment. The Jags are trying to make 5’8 Mike Thomas the number one receiver, which has me a little weary. Keep an eye out for Jason Hill, who never got a chance in San Francisco, but will come into the season as the number two and could make some noise. Mercedes Lewis had a breakout year in 2010 (58 rec, 700 yards, 10 TD’s) and should be a starter in all leagues.
Who you should have: Maurice Jones-Drew, Rashad Jennings, Mike Thomas, Mercedes Lewis
Sleepers: Rashad Jennings, Jason Hill
26. Buffalo Bills
We all love the nice kid, the underdog, and that’s why we love Ryan Fitzpatrick. Through the first 8 games of 2010, he looked like a fantasy asset, completing 60 percent of his throws, for 18 TD’s and only 9 INT’s. Then he tailed off, throwing more INT’s than TD’s in his final five games and averaging just over 200 yards passing. With a bad offensive line, Fitzpatrick is average at best, but don’t pin your fantasy hopes on him as your starter. Keep your eye on C.J. Spiller. After a disastrous rookie campaign, Spiller is back and ready to prove he isn’t a bust. Marshawn Lynch is gone and even though Fred Jackson is still there, Buffalo is committed to Spiller and will use him in the running and passing game. He has 4.34 speed and could have a Jamaal Charles-like breakout. I don’t see Steve Johnson repeating his success from last year, especially now that Lee Evans is gone and people know who Johnson is. With Donald Jones, David Nelson and Roscoe Parrish competing for the other spots, teams will be able to focus plenty of attention on Johnson. He isn’t a bad option, but do not overpay for him either.
Who you should have: C.J Spiller, Fred Jackson, Steve Johnson
Sleepers: Donald Jones, David Nelson
25. Tennessee Titans
As with the Jaguars above them, you hear the Titans and you think of one player, Chris Johnson. Johnson single-handily won me my fantasy league in 2009, so I will always have a soft-spot for him in my heart. Last season, Johnson had a “down” year, only rushing for 1,364 yards and 11 TD’s. He is a beast and has the ability to destroy any defense in any given week. With Arian Foster and Adrian Peterson, there is no reason Johnson should get passed the third pick of your draft and should seriously be considered for the top pick. The only question mark is the offensive line, but Johnson has the skills to make any line look good. (Right now, Johnson is holding out for a larger contract, but if he is on the field, he is a force, no doubt about it.) Matt Hasselbeck was brought in to make the transition to Jake Locker in 2012 smooth, but I can’t imagine Hasselbeck holding too much fantasy value this season. At best, he will be a good plug-n-play guy for when your starter has a bye. Kenny Britt finished fourth in the NFL in yards-per-catch in 2010 and caught 9 TD’s. He is the Titans red zone threat at 6’3 and should be owned in all formats. Nate Washington will be lining up on the other side and is consistently average. He won’t win you a league, but is a good guy to have on your bench, just in case.
Who you should have: Chris Johnson, Kenny Britt, Nate Washington
Sleeper: Damian Williams
24. Miami Dolphins
Sorry Dolphins fans, but this team just does not hold a whole lot of fantasy value. The reason? It’s simple, it’s the quarterback. Until we know what Chad Henne will do, it’s impossible to project this offense scoring a lot of points. Henne was my sleeper going into last season, and that didn’t work out all too well. However, with a new offensive coordinator and a chip on his shoulder, maybe this is season Henne finally turns it around. Brandon Marshall is still a beast on the outside and even in his “down” year in 2010, he still managed 1,014 yards and 86 receptions. He should be owned in all formats but especially in PPR leagues. Davone Bess is in my opinion, the most underrated receiver in the NFL and the reason most Miami fans do not pine for Wes Welker to return. Bess is good for between 8-10 receptions per game which puts him near the top in PPR leagues. He will make some nice runs after catches as well. He has great hands and does not drop the ball often. Brian Hartline is a question mark and the reason the Dolphins brought in Clyde Gates for speed. You could draft Hartline, but only as a bench player in the late rounds. Anthony Fasano is a solid, if unspectacular tight end who gives you exactly what you’d expect week-to-week. Daniel Thomas figures to get the bulk of carries in the backfield, behind a questionable at best offensive line. Reggie Bush will get touches all over the field, but probably not enough to be a solid fantasy contributor. The defense is constantly getting better, and many of them just coming into their primes now. Will more than likely be a top 5 unit.
Who you should have: Brandon Marshall, Davone Bess, Daniel Thomas, MIA D/ST
Sleepers: Daniel Thomas, Clyde Gates