This is the second installment of the Nick Van Excellent potential horses in the NFL. We covered the NFC on Friday, now Nick dives into the AFC.
Potential Stallions of the AFC
When drafting for a fantasy team, ideally you look for the the flashy brand name players on the teams that we know can support multiple players. The thoroughbreds. Tom Brady from the New England Patriots can support 2 tight ends (Gronkowski and Hernandez), 2 wide receivers (Lloyd and Welker), a running back (Stevan Ridley) and 2 other players (Julian Edelman & Danny Woodhead) on the periphery of fantasy relevance. And I can name at least 5-10 more teams with a similar breakdown: big name player whose team’s offensive identity gets the ball into the hands of many skill position players on a consistent basis. But depending on how your draft shook out, you couldn’t get players from those teams we know can support multiple players. We have to look elsewhere for talent, whether it’s via trade or the waiver wire.
But there are plenty of places to look! There are 32 teams in this league, all of which have SOME talented players who can contribute to your fantasy totals each week. There are plenty of horses out there to choose from! I went digging through the rosters of teams that aren’t known to have a surplus of fantasy options. They may have a player or two who are well-known players with a history of being standouts at their position but these teams aren’t known for going 4-5 wide unless they’re trying to come back from a deficit.
I was able to find a few players who could be of some use to your fantasy team during the course of the season. No one’s bench should be devoid of talent. In some cases, you shouldn’t be sticking with a name brand player as a starter when someone without name value is outproducing that guy. Why be stuck with a Jay Cutler or Josh Freeman at starting QB? Or one of the Mosses (Santana or Randy) as a starting WR ? Is it just because he’s a brand name guy? We can do better as fantasy managers.
So with my help, maybe we can find a potential stallion amongst the nags who are ready for the glue factory. Let’s do this!
Thoroughbred: AJ Green of the Cincinnati Bengals
Potential Stallions: BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Andrew Hawkins, Andy Dalton
BenJarvus has one job to do and that is to score touchdowns. Whatever else you get from him has to be considered gravy. He got 11TDs in New England last year and Cincinnati gave Cedric Benson his pink slip so the Law Firm could give them the same production at a much cheaper salary. He’s not going to bring back memories of Rudi Johnson but he’ll definitely be an RB2 option or if you’re that stacked at RB, a bye-week fill in or injury replacement.
Andrew Hawkins is getting a lot of attention for his talents and deservedly so. He piqued the interest of fantasy owners with his fine showing against the Ravens in Week 1 and once he turned in 2 big plays in consecutive weeks for touchdown, it’s now time to add to him to the roster. He provides the team a combination of Jerome Simpson and Jordan Shipley (big play + slot receiver) in one body. Keep expectations in check considering he is the slot guy and is third or fourth on the pecking order but he’d be a good flex/bye week PPR guy considering the amount of teams your league has.
Andy Dalton is an quality option considering some of the early season struggles of some of the more talented players at QB. He’s put up 300+ yards and 3TDs in back to back games and his schedule isn’t so daunting where he’d be considered just waiver wire material. Give him some run as a possible starter (especially if your team is running Cutler out there), a week by week option or a backup but he should definitely be on somebody’s roster.
Ready for the Glue Factory – Brandon Tate, Armon Binns, Jermaine Gresham
Tate and Binns are both interesting options in real life but they cancel each out as number 2 receivers. Binns has the edge in catches and total yardage but there’s a fluky subtext his production so far. Tate is just a deep threat that they bring in for certain packages and shouldn’t be rostered outside of leagues that reward for return yards. Keep an eye on Binns and if he gets some more produce, then snap him up. But for now let both guys sit on the wire until further notice.
Jermaine Gresham is a fantasy tease. He’s got the height and the talent to be top 10 amongst tight ends but he finds a way to get 5 catches for a decent yardage total and possibly a touchdown. He seems to always get tackled near the 1 yard line. You can find a tight end out there with higher upside and better production than that. Keep an eye on him going forward but don’t expect anything out of this world when it comes to Jermaine.
Thoroughbred: Darren McFadden of the Oakland Raiders
Potential Stallions: Denarius Moore, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Brandon Myers, Carson Palmer
Denarius Moore has shown the most chemistry with Carson Palmer since last season, and even with his injury issues, should definitely be rostered and started. He’s got the skills to pay all types of bills as he proved last year. Once the playbook opens up, we’ll see lots of fantasy scoring as the year goes on. There aren’t too many feared secondaries on Oakland’s schedule going forward.
Same goes for Darrius Heyward-Bey. He turned a corner last season, transforming from a butter-fingered bust to a dependable WR2 with some big play ability. He did just get chin-checked by a Steeler safety in his last game versus the Steelers and may be out a couple of games but if you can stash him for play later in the season, give it a shot.
Brandon Myers has 15 catches for 206 yards, which leads the team. His plain name shouldn’t scare you off in terms of giving him a shot as a backup at the tight end position. He’s getting the opportunity to play, Carson’s getting him the ball and that’s what is important. If Palmer is using him as a checkdown option, be very interested in that bit of information. Roster him as a backup or at the very worst, keep an eye on him for when you may need him down the line.
Carson Palmer won’t be the Carson you remember from Cincinnati but if you look at his stats right now, you’ll notice his attempts are pretty high. That means he’s chucking the ball a lot. And that’s because the Raider defense is ruddy awful right now. Numerous injuries to the secondary have turned them into a black hole (pun intended) so Carson should expect deficits in a lot of the games going forward. With deficits comes the need to throw the ball and because of that, Carson should be on fantasy rosters in some capacity. He could be a starter depending on matchup but for most fantasy owners, he’ll be a bye-week starter or trade commodity for somebody who’s in dire straits.
Ready for the Glue Factory: Mike Goodson, Rod Streater, Derek Hagan, OAK defense
Mike Goodson had a nice catch and run in Week 2 but he’s not going to see any real time on the field with McFadden healthy. He has 4 total rushes on the season. FOUR. Move on from this handcuff and roster someone else who may be of use to you.
Rod Streater was a fantasy darling in late August due to his preseason stats but he’s been no big help since the real games began. Outside of a garbage time TD in Week 1 against San Diego, he’s been outpaced by Derek Hagan, who got signed off the street and is still learning the offense. Keep Streater on the street and look elsewhere. Speaking of Hagan, keep in on the street too. Despite his great college career, he’s become a journeyman and just fills in the cracks on other teams whenever someone gets injured.
The Oakland Defense had sleeper written all over them before the season started considering the talent on the team. Apparently no one woke them up. This secondary is awful, there’s little pass rush and they’ve given up 35 points to the Miami Dolphins. Move along, nothing to see here.
Thoroughbred: Chris Johnson (considering his past 2 season, I’m using this term VERY liberally here!) of Tennessee Titans
Potential Stallions: Jake Locker, Kendall Wright, Jared Cook
Jake Locker almost didn’t make this list considering how bad he was against San Diego. But then the Detroit game happened and I’m back on board. The White Donovan McNabb won’t necessarily wow you with completion percentages but considering the run game is stuck in a rut (to put it mildly), his passing yards, rush yards and touchdowns will have to keep the Titan offense on schedule. He’s elusive enough to avoid the pass rush and turn that into positive rush gains, which will add to his fantasy totals on a weekly basis. He does have a tough matchup versus Houston this upcoming week, so don’t start him there but against everybody else, he’s got a shot at putting up good numbers. Definitely have him on your bench as a potential starter/bye week filler.
Kendall Wright is interesting from the standpoint that he was supposed to just be a fill-in for Kenny Briit until he came back from injury. Not sure if Kendall got the memo but he’s still be productive even with Britt back in the lineup. Locker looks for this guy often enough to keep him on the radar but he’s definitely worth having on a team for the time being. Don’t expect him to be more than a flex for now. Nate Washington hasn’t gotten hurt yet. That’s when he’ll become more valuable!
Jared Cook was a trendy pick to be a breakout TE in many prognosticators’ eyes and it looks like they were spot on. Jared’s proved to be a worthwhile piece of the Titan passing attack so far and has produced in 2 of the 3 games so far. He’s one of the rare TE talents that can take it to the house, big-play style like a wide-out could. So if he’s somehow on waivers or if an antsy manager is looking to move Cook for a slumping veteran, do what you can to acquire him. He’s a matchup nightmare for most teams and should provide starter’s numbers by season’s end.
Ready for the Glue Factory – Javon Ringer, team defense, Rob Bironas
Javon Ringer needs to stay on fantasy waiver wires. I know the temptation is there to be sneaky, picking him up just in case there’s a chance Tennessee bench Chris Johnson to jumpstart that running game…Hold them horses. That Titan line isn’t run blocking well at all, even with Chris Johnson running east and west instead of north and south. Move on and keep scouring for other RB options.
The Titan DEF was a sleeper option as well this offseason but apparently Cortland Finnegan took all the defensive talent with him to St Louis as a free agent. They’re missing their MLB due to injury and they only have 1 interception in 3 games. I expect them to improve as the season goes along but they’re not even a matchup play right now. This team DEF is hands off until midseason, at best!
Rob Bironas is usually a kicker that you can plug into lineups and like the famous phrase says, “Set it and forget it!”. But due to Tennessee’s inconsistency on offense, it might be time to give Bironas the boot. There are plenty of other options out there to invest in rather than rely on someone like Bironas because he has name value. Keep an eye out to acquire someone with more opportunities if you can.
Thoroughbred: Santonio Holmes of the New York Jets
Potential Stallions: Jeremy Kerley, Bilal Powell, Dustin Keller
Jeremy Kerley has a shot at being a productive player on the Jets, if that can be believed right now. Due to the injury and overall ineffectiveness of other members of the pass game outside of Santonio Holmes right now, he’s going to be counted on help move the ball up and down the field. His value in returning punts gives him much more value in return yardage leagues but he can be effective in PPR leagues as well. 3TDs in 3 games is nothing to sneeze at.
Bilal Powell has a shot at being a good back off of your fantasy bench going forward. He’s cutting into Shonn Greene’s carries as is and he seems to have more juice in his legs as well. The Jets are trying to make Joe McKnight into a CB so you know there’s no competition behind him and with Greene’s overall ineffectiveness, Powell’s could be a third down back who could eventually get touches for entire drives. He’s bench material until the Jet run game straightens out but he’s worth a flier if you’ve got the space.
Dustin Keller being here is a roll of the dice but once he’s healthy, he shoots up the pecking order to become Mark Sanchez’s number 2 option in the pass game. The other options they have at tight end now are merely blocking specialists, slow footed big men with no ability for yards after catch like Dustin has. If he’s able to get over this nagging hamstring, he should be able to provide some fantasy production down the line.
Ready for the Glue Factory: Shonn Greene, team defense, Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow
Shonn Greene has his supporters out there but don’t count me as one of them. If you didn’t sell high after his 1st game of the season, maybe you can move him now in a package deal? To me, he doesn’t have what it takes to be the starting running back on this team. For someone his size, he doesn’t punish tacklers and he gets taken down by the lightest of arm tackles. He’s averaged 2.1 yards the past two weeks and with some tough run matchups along the way (HOU, NWE x 2, MIA again, @SEA, ARI), I would definitely look into moving him or dumping him outright. I have no faith in him as a flex player or even a bye-week fill-in. Let someone else believe in a comeback story.
The NY Jets defense is in trouble going forward. They were a passable group in the early going. They put the clamps on the run game and with Revis and Cromartie at corner and Landry and Bell at safety, there weren’t many places to go with the ball. Now that Revis is hurt, it’s not going to be as tough to move the ball on them. Revis was the backbone to the defense and now that he’s down, this defense will be exposed as being old and slow , especially at linebacker, and any replacement corners are going to get picked on mercilessly.
Sanchez and Tebow get lumped in together. The media’s done it all offseason, so why can’t I do it here? Mark has some talent but after 3 years slowly improving in Brian Schottenheimer’s offense, the Jets decided to go in a different direction and run Tony Sparano’s offense, which isn’t the same without a talented back like Reggie Bush in the backfield and a beast at wideout like Brandon Marshall. So the offense has gotten worse and now the looming specter of Tim Tebow hangs over his shoulder after every snap. Definitely no way for a QB to function during a season. Leave him and the Lordly lefty on waivers.
Thoroughbred: Reggie Wayne of the Indianapolis Colts
Potential Stallions: Donnie Avery and T Y Hilton, Andrew Luck, Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen
I don’t know if Austin Collie crossed a black cat’s path, opened an umbrella indoors, broke a mirror or walked under a ladder but due to his chronic bad luck, he’s done for the season and two people stand to benefit. Donnie and T.Y. get any targets that were headed his way and because of that, they belong on your fantasy roster. It wasn’t like Austin was getting double digit targets before his injury but considering the heavy passing nature of the Colts offense already, they should get looks whenever Reggie’s being doubled. Avery is second in receptions and receiving yards and Hilton is a big play threat, averaging 25.6 yards per catch on the young season. Keep these guys on your team and they may be decent flex or bye week options in the weeks to come.
Andrew Luck has a tough job ahead of him, trying to fill Peyton Manning’s shoes but you’ll only need him to fill a roster spot on your team. In keeper leagues, he’s definitely someone to keep a hold on. The absence of a respectable run game and the presence of a talented receiving corps with some speed to it should keep him on fantasy rosters and off of waivers. He may not come error free (already has 4 INT’s) but he’s not going to be just a game manager. He’s going to try and win the game and that comes with major upside. He’s thrown for over 300 yards on the young season and can complement those passing numbers with his underrated wheels.
Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener represent the checkdown options for young Mr. Luck, early in the season. Both come with inconsistencies considering they’re rookies but, in a bye week pinch, they could be just the guys for you. Fleener has a well-documented history with Luck from their Stanford days together so chemistry isn’t an issue for them. Allen’s scored a TD already and will be kept in the loop offensively. I’d definitely go Fleener before Allen if you had to choose one of them but keep both on your watch list just in case.
Ready for the Glue Factory: Donald Brown and the entire run game
This is in reference to the entire running game for the Colts: STAY AWAY. Donald Brown is averaging about 50 yards a game rushing. Mewelde Moore (!!!) is still around and is the third down back. Vick Ballard, a rookie has also been chatted up as a threat to be number 1 RB. All of these options would be helpful in an offense that could actually run the ball, but considering how bad the Indy offensive line is…(It’s offensive!)…I wouldn’t rely on these guys in any capacity. There’s only one week where I’d feel comfortable and that’s week 7 vs. Cleveland. That’s it. That’s all. Count me out of this run game, PERIOD!
Thoroughbreds: Jamaal Charles, Dwayne Bowe of the Kansas City Chiefs
Potential Stallions: Jon Baldwin, Matt Cassel, Shaun Draughn
Jon Baldwin is an good player to target. A frustrated owner might have sent him to the waivers so it’s time for you to go out there and scoop him up for yourself. He’s got some interesting potential as a WR2 on this team and potential as a WR4 for your fantasy team. His snap count is on the rise at the cost of Steve Breaston’s and, now with Dexter McCluster nursing an injury, it stands for him to get some more snaps, targets and potential catches as the season moves forward. There aren’t too many supremely tough matchups out there for him in terms of secondaries and he should start piecing together some good games in short order. Stash him on your bench for now with the intent of starting him If he strings some good performances together.
Matt Cassel had one great season for New England many moons ago but he’s now a game manager for the Chiefs now. He can be a good bye week fill in or at most a QB2 option for your team. With Jamaal Charles back to his old tricks of busting long runs and threatening the front 7 with his speed, Cassel should be able to capitalize on play-action looks as the year progresses. He also has to thank his team’s defense because they give up a lot of points. That puts Cassel in a position where he’s got to throw more than what the offense may call for. And that can benefit you as a fantasy owner down the line. There are some interesting matchups as the season unfolds that Cassel may take advantage of. Keep an eye on him and if you’re not that happy with your backup, give him a rental.
Shaun Draughn wasn’t supposed to be the back that provided the 2nd most value on the Chiefs but through 3 games, that seems to be the case. He’s making the most of his playing time and considering Jamaal Charles isn’t 100 percent just yet, Romeo Crennel can roll Draughn out there to get some production from the RB position and keep the Chiefs moving the ball downfield. He’s not just a power runner. He can get you some catches out of the backfield as well. If you need the RB help, scoop him up and see how he produces over the next couple of weeks. He just might surprise.
Ready for the Glue Factory: Steve Breaston, Peyton Hillis, the tight end position
Steve Breaston was a reliable slot guy for the Chiefs last season. He may have not lit up the box score often but fantasy owners took solace knowing Breaston could get you some decent production, especially in PPR leagues. Now he’s a face on a milk carton. 3 total catches in 3 weeks for 32 total yards? No bueno. He’s losing opportunities to his fellow receivers, Dexter McCluster and the running backs. Cut the cord on this guy and let him sit on waivers until the Chiefs open up the offense and go 4 wide on every down.
Peyton Hillis was supposed to provide the Chiefs with a thunder element to Jamaal Charles’s lightning. He’s familiar with the Brian Daboll offense that turned his efforts into a Madden cover. Now that they were reunited, it’s supposed to feel so good. That hasn’t been the case so far this season. Shaun Draughn has out produced him and now that he’s got an ankle injury, it might be time to look elsewhere for backup RB help. If you own him, bench him or see if you can move him in a package deal for McCluster, because he’ll be more valuable in the long run.
Tony Moeaki and Kevin Boss haven’t been giving Matt Cassel much from the TE slot. Boss’s presence on the roster caps Moeaki’s upside and vice versa. Moeaki was the guy before his ACL injury last season and now he’s coming back with Kevin Boss running as the TE1. Boss seems to be a concussion magnet but he finds a way to get back on the field to block Moeaki from getting some run. Avoid both players until anyone of them shows some consistency.
So there you have it. Six teams that are not just one-trick ponies.
Keep your nose to the grindstone and keep on working to make your team better. This fantasy game is about endurance and preparation and not just sitting back, relying on brand name players to get you a championship. Remember that good players have bad stretches and average players can become superstars. If you have a combination of both, you can win the race with ease. Take it for granted and you’ll be left wondering how you got left at the back of the pack.
Amazing horse sketches by: Jeane Nevarez - check out her blog by clicking here!