23. Oakland Raiders
It must be nice for Jason Campbell to go into a season knowing full-well that he will be the starter. Campbell has had high expectations for years now, both in Washington and in Oakland but has never played to those expectations. You have to imagine he doesn’t have many chances left. The pieces are in place around him to be successful, so this season will be on Campbell to prove he can be a starting quarterback. Don’t draft him, but keep an eye on him as the season progresses. Darren McFadden is the unquestioned star of this offense, but injuries in each of his first three seasons have kept him from becoming a full-fledged star in the league. This season is the season for him to prove to can carry the load and stay healthy. If he does, he could do what Arian Foster and Chris Johnson have done before him. But just to be safe, handcuff him with Michael Bush. Jacoby Ford could have a DeSean Jackson-like breakout this season with his 4.28 speed. Is this finally the year for Darrius Heyward-Bey? Ha, good one. Louis Murphy will miss the beginning of the season with a hamstring injury, but is a decent receiver when healthy. Kevin Boss was brought in to replace Zach Miller, but Boss is more a blocking tight end, so if you draft him, it’ll be for his TD potential. He has never had a 100-yard game in his four year career.
Who you should have: Darren McFadden, Jacoby Ford, Kevin Boss, Louis Murphy
Sleeper: Jason Campbell
22. San Francisco 49ers
I’m not sure how many people thought Alex Smith would be still be penciled in as the opening day for the 49ers in 2011, but alas, there he is. The 49ers went out and drafted Colin Kaepernick in the second round, but as his transitions from the pistol offense to the west coast, Smith won’t have to worry about him for some time. Smith holds no value as a fantasy quarterback, as his leash is too short and his potential not high enough. Frank Gore is a star when healthy, but he has not played a full season since 2006. However, when healthy Gore averages 114 yards per game and 4.7 per carry. If you are going to take a chance on Gore, make sure to handcuff him with Anthony Dixon and/or Kendall Hunter. We’re still waiting for Michael Crabtree to break out. He has shown flashes in his first two seasons, but still has issues with drops (only caught 54% of passes thrown in his direction in 2010), injuries, and inconsistent quarterback play. Josh Morgan is tough to bring down and has some number one receiver qualities in him. Keep an eye on him if Crabtree’s foot injury lingers. Braylon Edwards is so frustratingly inconsistent that it’s difficult to for me to tell you to draft him, but definitely another to keep an eye on if Crabtree’s injury hangs around. Vernon Davis is Vernon Davis. Draft him.
Who you should have: Frank Gore, Michael Crabtree, Josh Morgan, Braylon Edwards, Vernon Davis
Sleeper: Anthony Dixon
21. Chicago Bears
The Bears Jay Cutler depresses me. Why isn’t he an elite quarterback? He should be. He has the tools. But he is reckless. He has an arm and like a rookie, thinks he can use it to throw the ball anywhere. 79 INT’s in only 4 full seasons say that maybe it’s time for him to become a little less reckless. However, the 104 TD’s say that there is some positive to him if you can look passed the frustration. If you draft Cutler, just be aware that you will have to face the ups-and-downs of what he is. However, if you miss out on a top-tier quarterback, Cutler isn’t a horrible option. Quietly, Matt Forte finished 10th among all running backs for total yards in 2010. He also had over 500 yards receiving. Forte can be valuable in many different ways, but the Bears also have Chester Taylor and brought in Marion Barber who will eat up goal line carries and crush Forte’s value. If you value touchdowns, don’t be afraid to grab Barber as a late low risk/high reward pick. If you feel it necessary to draft Johnny Knox, just remember you are getting a DeSean Jackson without as much upside. Knox will have his big games, but will also have his games where he disappears. Roy Williams is in Chicago, but I can’t imagine him being any less frustrating than he was in Dallas. Earl Bennett is a serviceable third receiver, and nothing more. Don’t be suckered into the tale that is Devin Hester. He was a flashy return man but has done nothing as a receiver to deserve a draft selection from you. With Williams in the mix, Hester will be relegated to fourth WR duties.
Who you should have: Jay Cutler, Matt Forte, Johnny Knox, Roy Williams, Earl Bennett, CHI D/ST
Sleeper: Marion Barber
20. Arizona Cardinals
The question in the desert is Kevin Kolb. The Cardinals believed in him and went out and got him to be the unquestioned starter. Right now, the thing Kolb is known most for is being the backup of Michael Vick and Donovan McNabb. Where this hype came from, I really don’t know. But Kolb has the tools to be a quarterback in the league and we’ll finally find out if he can put it all together. Kolb is not worthy of starting position on your team yet, but drafting him as a high upside backup isn’t out of the question. Kolb’s favorite target will of course be Larry Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald is a star and should be treated in your league as such. Regardless of how you feel about Kolb, he is definitely an upgrade over Derek Anderson or John Skelton, so Fitzgerald’s productivity will return to elite status. The question is behind Fitzgerald, where Early Doucet figures to be the second receiver. Doucet is only 25 and having an excellent camp so far, so he might be somebody you want to take a good look at. The Cardinals brought in Todd Heap to shore up the tight end position, and a change of scenery might be just what Heap needs to revitalize his career. Beanie Wells leads the rushing attack (kind of), but he has been plagued with injuries in his first two seasons. If you draft Wells, make sure to handcuff him with rookie Ryan Williams, who has the ability to carry the load and will jump into the role if Wells falters. UPDATE: Ryan Williams suffered a season ending knee injury last night, so Beanie Wells now holds expanded value. Draft accordingly.
Who you should have: Kevin Kolb, Beanie Wells, Larry Fitzgerald, Early Doucet, Todd Heap
Sleeper: Ryan Williams
19. Denver Broncos
Ugh, how close the Dolphins were to landing Kyle Orton. As such, Orton remains in Denver and will be the very-deserving starter. Whatever you want to say about Tim Tebow, Orton led a passing-attack which ranked 7th in the NFL in 2010. In 8 of his 13 starts, Orton passed for over 250 yards and threw for 2 TD’s or more in six games. There is no reason Orton should be in a QB battle and would be a good starting quarterback for your team if you miss out of the top-tier guys. Brandon Lloyd came out of nowhere last season to rack up 1,448 yards and 11 TD’s. He is a stud and should be valued as such. We’re still waiting for Eddie Royal to break out, but in the slot last season, Royal moved the chains and was a valuable player. Keep an eye out for Eric Decker to win the spot that Jabar Gaffney vacated. I would stay away from the rushing attack, which ranked 26th last season in a pass-happy system. Bringing in John Fox means a platoon, which could mean even less carries for Knowshon Moreno. The Broncos also brought in Willis McGahee to poach goal line carries (Ray Rice owners know what I’m talking about), so you are probably just better off just staying away from that whole mess. The defense added Von Miller and Rahim Moore in the draft to help, but I wouldn’t touch that unit until they prove they have gotten better.
Who you should have: Kyle Orton, Brandon Lloyd, Eddie Royal
Sleeper: Eric Decker
18. Minnesota Vikings
To shore up a passing attack that ranked 26th in 2010, the Vikings drafted Christian Ponder and brought in Donovan McNabb to transition. They did lose Sidney Rice, but still have plenty of weapons to help on the outside. McNabb is no longer the superstar he once was, but in a west coast system, he will be better than he was in Washington. I wouldn’t base your team around McNabb, but he can be of some service as a plug-n-play guy. Adrian Peterson is obviously the star of this offense and is the picture of consistency. All Day is only running back to be in the top 5 each of the past four years. He has nobody challenging him for carries and his fumbling problems are in the past (only one last season). Peterson is a solid first selection and you should feel grateful to have him. With the departure of Rice, Percy Harvin is the number one guy in Minnesota. He is a versatile guy who will catch passes, return kicks and occasionally run the ball as well. Just remember if you draft him, you will probably lose a game or two because of his migraine problem. As for the other reciever, right now it is listed as Bernard Berrian, but he has done nothing in recent years when given an opportunity. Watch for Greg Camarillo, Michael Jenkins and Devin Aromashodu all to fight for catches in this offense. It’s tough to project who will come out of that mix as the starter across from Harvin, but I’d put my money on Jenkins. Visanthe Shiancoe caught 11 TD’s in 2009, before managing only 2 in 2010. Watch out for rookie Kyle Rudolph to steal some snaps from Shiancoe this season.
Who you should have: Donovan McNabb, Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin, Michael Jenkins, Bernard Berrian, Visanthe Shiancoe
Sleepers: Greg Camarillo, Kyle Rudolph
17. Kansas City Chiefs
What do you do when you have the 30th ranked passing attack in the NFL? You find new targets to throw the ball to, that’s what. The Chiefs went out and got undervalued receiver Steve Breaston and used their first round selection on big Pittsburgh WR Jon Baldwin to give Matt Cassel some new toys to play with. What do you do when have the top ranked rushing attack? You do nothing, that’s what. Jamaal Charles came out of nowhere in 2010 to be the fantasy MVP with double-digit points in 12 of his 16 contests and averaging a ridiculous 6.4 yards per carry. The question is, how will he follow that up? Odds are, he will regress a little because of his size and the fact that he is a home-run hitter. Either way, with Thomas Jones aging quickly, Charles will probably regain some of the TD’s he lost to Jones in 2010 and will be a solid first-round selection in any draft. Dwayne Bowe had a monster 2010, scoring 15 TD’s. However, Cassel had an easy schedule to feast on early in the season, and when it got harder towards the end of the season, Bowe’s production went down. He is still a top 20 receiver, but expecting 15 TD’s again is unrealistic. The biggest question is Cassel, and the passing game will live and die in his hands.
Who you should have: Jamaal Charles, Dwayne Bowe, Steve Breaston, Tony Moeaki
Sleeper: Jon Baldwin
16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Everybody’s favorite sleeper pick this season, Josh Freeman is coming into his own and is poised to break out in a big way in 2011. The biggest question mark is who he is going to throw to. After Mike Williams dropped into the fourth round of 2010 draft, nobody expected much out of him. All he did was score 11 TD’s and produce the best rookie receiver fantasy season since Randy Moss in 1998. He has developed a lot of chemistry with Freeman and they should be a fun combination to watch for years. On the other side, Arrelious Benn will be back after missing most of last season with a torn ACL. He will be ready for week 1 and is anxious prove Williams isn’t the only fantasy stud from the 2010 draft. If you were lucky enough to grab LeGarrette Blount off the waiver wire last season (and I was), you enjoyed a huge second half of 2010. Blount will be the feature back in a young and exciting Tampa offense.
Who you should have: Josh Freeman, LeGarrette Blount, Mike Williams, Kellen Winslow
Sleeper: Arrelious Benn
Check back soon for numbers 15-1!