Nick Van Excellent writes a two part piece on who the potential horses are in the NFL. This is the one on some NFC players, the AFL guys will be posted tomorrow...
Potential Stallions of the NFC
When drafting a fantasy team, most managers look for the name brand players on the teams that we know can support multiple players. The thoroughbreds. Aaron Rodgers from the Green Bay Packers is an ideal target who can support 3 wide receivers (Jordy Nelson, Greg Jennings and Randall Cobb) and a tight end (Jermichael Finley) with ease. That GB offense even makes Cedric Benson a viable RB now. And I can name at least 5-10 more teams with a similar breakdown of big name fantasy player whose 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 explosive offensive teams. You 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 – Larry Fitzgerald of the Arizona Cardinals
Potential Stallions – Ryan Williams, Andre Roberts, ARZ defense
Ryan Williams is still coming back from a right knee injury but should provide a bit more wiggle for this run offense. Now that Beanie Wells is on the IR for the next 2 months, he’s got a shot at cementing himself as the starter in this offense. Expectations have to be tempered considering the state of the offensive line right now but he should be rostered. If he starts putting up numbers on a consistent basis, you might have yourself a RB2.
Andre Roberts doesn’t strike the casual observes as a spectacular talent but in his case, workload is the key. Kevin Kolb and John Skelton look for him and that’s what’s important. He’s a starting WR, has 2TDs in 3 games so far, is 2nd on the team in receptions and receiving yards, and is an option for when teams double team or bracket coverage Larry. I’m not saying he’s a starter but he can round out a team nicely and could be in for a potential bye-week start.
The Arizona defense MUST be rostered and started until they start showing signs of weakness or if injuries strike a major contributor. Outside of matchups with ATL and GB on the road, they have a shot at being one of the top scoring defenses in the league. They have a knack for scoring points, blocking kicks and creating pressure from all directions. Do NOT leave them on the waiver wire. Dropping them on their bye week is also not advisable. Try to find someone else you can get rid of for that week and pick up a disposable defense.
Ready for the Glue Factory – Beanie Wells, all the tight ends, Early Doucet, the QB position
I’m well aware Beanie Wells gave the fantasy world one game with 228 yards, a 1000+ yard season and 10 TDs but I have absolutely no confidence in this guy. At all. Reliability is a key component to this fantasy game and the only thing reliable about him is that he’ll be on the trainer’s table, dealing with injury. Despite his talent level, he’s been underwhelming thus far. Let him be someone else’s headache, especially behind one of the more suspect offensive lines in the league.
There was buzz about this tight end group providing more assistance to the pass game but there’s no Arizona TE worth a roster spot right now. Heap’s back to his old tricks of being hurt, and the other options (King, Housler, Dray) have combined for 6 catches for 48 yards in 3 games. No thanks!
Early Doucet had some sneaky value last year but is currently not a big part of the offense right now. He’s a decent slot guy but until he’s utilized more, he needs to be on waivers right now.
Leave Kevin Kolb (or John Skelton) on waivers as well. Kevin will merely be a game manager for this team and if opposing defenses get in his kitchen, he’s definitely prone to making mistakes that could lead to points for the other team. Skelton’s issue is that he’s wildly inaccurate and will throw plenty of picks during the course of the game. His yardage totals and team wins make you THINK he’s a good option but the full boxscore just doesn’t back that up.
Thoroughbred - Marshawn Lynch of the Seattle Seahawks
Potential Stallions – Sidney Rice, Golden Tate, SEA defense
Sidney’s the number 1 receiver on this team and has a ton of talent to get up and catch the ball. But expectations must be tempered in his case as well. The offense hasn’t fully matured and the offense is conservative for the moment. Keep him on fantasy benches until his usage spikes. He’d make a fine bye week option.
Golden Tate, the team leader in receiving yards and touchdowns, is also pine-worthy. There seems to be a desire to get the ball in his hands more by Pete Carroll. A bye-week option on most weeks but there might be the week or two where you might consider him for the flex position due to his big play ability. I understand he was gifted a last second TD on that last-second Hail Mary by the replacement refs, but let’s not forget he roasted the GB coverage for his 1st touchdown with ease.
My goodness, that Seattle defense is beastly! Their combination of personnel packages can matchup with any team in the NFL and dominate. Big corners, a ferocious pass rush, good LBs and a tenacity to get after whoever has the ball should keep them in starting lineups regardless of opponent. Just beware of potential letdowns away from Seattle. That home cooking does wonders!
Ready for the Glue Factory – Braylon Edwards, all SEA tight ends, Russell Wilson
Braylon Edwards looked to have some chemistry with Russell Wilson in August, catching every deep ball and looking rejuvenated. That’s what got him a job and put Terrell Owens on the street. Now that the real games have started, he has 5 total catches for 43 yards? With none of that production coming in the past two games? I’ll pass. He can sit on waivers until injury or production makes it interesting.
The Seattle tight ends (McCoy, Miller and Moore) are an interesting group because they all can play but they all cancel each other out. Considering the conservative nature of the offense, a tight end might seem like an easy choice for a roster spot but these three don’t have the stats or the usage to be considered right now.
Russell Wilson is going to be a successful QB in this league but right now, he’s got to be benched or be on waivers, depending on league depth. He’s got a good arm and some mobility to keep defenses honest but the conservative play calling is doing him no favors and neither are his receivers, considering how much trouble they’re having getting open. The Seahawks will just keep feeding Beast Mode his Skittles and let their defense keep other offenses in check.
Thoroughbred - Steven Jackson of the St. Louis Rams
Potential Stallions – Danny Amendola, Daryl Richardson, Greg Zuerlein
Danny Amendola shouldn’t be on waivers in any league, especially if it’s PPR, but if your fellow managers have been slipping or are too cocky, believing their superstar squad is unbeatable, scoop him up and reap the benefits. He’s Sam Bradford’s most trusted weapon in the passing game and already has a 15 catch game to his credit. He’s a slot guy so he won’t get followed around the field by the defense’s top corner. He’s adept at getting open in zone coverages and can beat teams playing man. He may not go nuts with touchdowns for your team but he will produce. I’ve targeted him in every league I’ve drafted in and he’s paid off in every one.
Daryl Richardson has been referred to as the next Steven Jackson. I’m not ready to make that comparison but what he can be is a handcuff. Steven Jackson’s got toughness by the truckload and he’s built like a pro wrestler but every year he’s injured with some sort of groin/hamstring ailment that saps his already declining speed and turns him into an ordinary guy. At some point, Jeff Fisher is going to have to sprinkle in some youth and speed to give the Rams a chance at sustaining a run game. In 3 games so far, Jackson has 140 yards with 41 carries. In those same 3 games, Richardson has 119 yards with 20 less carries. Get him on your bench and stash him.
Greg Zuerlein. Yes. I know. Who/What is a Greg Zuerlein and why should I care about him? He’s a rookie kicker from Missouri Western State and he sent Josh Brown to the unemployment line. So what’s so special about him? His leg strength and accuracy. The Rams offense tends to stall a bit once past midfield due to a true outside threat and a lack of a tight end who threatens the middle of the field (more on that later). Which gives Zuerlein his opportunity to shine. He’s 5-5 from 40+ yards away with a 56 yarder to his credit already. Accuracy from long range is all you can ask for from your kicker and he could be a low-cost Sebastian Janikowski…all you need to do is go pick him up off of waivers.
Ready for the Glue Factory – Isaiah Pead, Brian Quick, Lance Kendricks
Isaiah Pead was supposed to be the second coming of Chris Johnson and in a way, it’s true. He’s offering up no production either. The Jeff Fisher favorite has got the tools to play the game but until an injury paves the way for him to get some PT, he’s not going to see the field unless it’s a punt return opportunity or both RBs ahead of him are tired and need a blow on 3rd down. Move on from the preseason hype and get yourself someone who can actually contribute.
Brian Quick was also hyped in the offseason as the WR on the outside that the Rams needed to give them a semblance of a passing game on outside the numbers and down the field. Not the case so far. He has no catches so far on the season and doesn’t appear to be ready to crack the starting lineup as of yet. He’s being outpaced by the other Steve Smith and Brandon Gibson. Let him to sit on waivers. Maybe he’ll be a better option next season?
Lance Kendricks has chemistry with Sam Bradford that was forged last season when Amendola was lostt for the season when his arm folded like origami paper. But he’s been frustratingly inconsistent. Last season, he dealt with drops and this season, he’s just not open. It could also be a case of there being more chemistry with other players like the returning Amendola and Brandon Gibson but it’s possible he’s just not making himself available. The new O-coordinator is known for utilizing the TE position and right now the main guy getting utilized is Matthew Mulligan. Leave Kendricks on waivers and try your luck with any other TE. There’s a renaissance at the position. You should be able to find somebody!
Thoroughbred - Vincent Jackson of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Potential Stallions – Doug Martin, Mike Williams, TB defense
Doug Martin may have a plain name but he does not have a plain game. He’s much more polished than LeGarrette Blount as a runner, pass protector and receiver and provides Josh Freeman a solid dump-off option on 3rd downs. He may not have had the early success of someone like Trent Richardson but he’s no schlub. He’s also played against some tough defenses early on but after the bye week, the schedule opens up a little bit so he might be able to pile up the stats for you then. There’s no way to scoop him up off of waivers (only in the shallowest of leagues) so try and see if you can swing a trade for him. He could be a valuable RB2 for you this season.
Mike Williams had a bad season last year. He lost over 200 receiving yards and 6 touchdowns off his rookie season production with exactly the same amount of catches and people were frustrated running him out there because he wasn’t producing like fantasy owners were accustomed. Now that Vincent Jackson’s on the squad, Mike Williams isn’t the focal point of the offense. That would normally mean something bad but in this case, it frees up Mike from double coverage and allows him one-on-one coverage all game long. It’s gotten him 2TDs early on, which has to be seen as a good sign. He had 3TDs all of last year! Snatch him up off of waivers and put him on your bench. He could make a valuable WR4 as the season progress.
The Tampa Bay defense is MUCH improved from a year ago. Last year, they were doormats who quit on their head coach and because of that, let every team run up and down the field as if it was recess at an elementary school. This season, they are hitting people in the mouth, flying to the ball on every play and really moving the pile on victory formations. All jokes aside, this defense could be an interesting plug and play for matchup purposes, depending on opponent. They do give up a lot of yards through the air but outside of the Giants game, they’ve suffocated opposing teams run games and limited scoring. They have 5 picks through 3 games (with one going back to the house for a score) and a good amount of sacks. Give them consideration if your team defense is laying an egg so far.
Ready for the Glue Factory – Josh Freeman, the slot receiver, all tight ends
Josh Freeman is fading as an NFL quarterback. His 2010 season gave fantasy owners hope that he’d be on the rise and a sneaky QB2 going forward but he’s been number 2 ever since. His 2011 season could be chalked up to a lot of circumstances that you could let slide but what’s the excuse for him this season? He’s got one of the better offensive lines in football, a top notch receiving threat in Vincent Jackson, Mike Williams with more focus and an improved run game. Yet through 3 games, he’s got less than 500 yards passing with 4 TDs and 3INTs. Atrocious! Let him sit on the waiver wire and pick yourself up a game manager with better stats than this.
The tight end position is a dead zone in Tampa Bay. No consistent production at all. It’s as if Greg Schiano doesn’t even believe the position is needed for pass catching purposes. Dallas Clark was signed as a free agent to stretch the field. He’s barely stretched his hamstrings considering how few pass routes he’s run. Luke Stocker is mainly a blocker and the guy they try to throw the ball to on play action fakes at the goal line for the 1-yard touchdown. Do not even entertain the idea of picking one of these 2 up for the entire season.
Also missing from the offensive game plan is the slot receiver. Sammie Stroughter was supposed to be the guy last year but he got hurt and then Preston Parker took his job. Now that Parker is out for the season, Stroughter is back in the slot and he has a GRAND total of 1 catch for 14 yards. Woof! Move along from this position on this team. Act like you were never looking and find someone else to add as a potential WR4/flex/bye-week option.
Thoroughbreds - Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin of the Minnesota Vikings
Potential Stallions – Jerome Simpson, Kyle Rudolph, Christian Ponder
Kyle Rudolph is a must-own player in fantasy. Hands down. He’s been talked up the entire preseason and he’s living up to his expectations. No, he’s not the second coming of Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham but he’s rounding into form as a scoring option at the TE position and that’s definitely what you want as a fantasy owner. He has great chemistry with Christian Ponder, is second on the team in both receptions and receiving yards and leads the team with 3 touchdown catches. Hop on the bandwagon! There’s still room. If he’s on waivers, stop reading here, go pick him up and then continue with the rest of the article.
Jerome Simpson, the Flipper Anderson for a new age, is back from suspension and ready to stretch the field for the Vikes going forward. He’s got great speed and can pop the top off a secondary. He finds a way to make plays and turn short passes into long ones. He’s also a pretty good deep threat as evidenced by his work in Cincinnati last year. I think Jerome will burst onto the scene like gangbusters and take the Minnesota offense to a higher height. If he’s on waivers, go snap him up and see what he can do for you from this week going forward. If you’ve stashed him for this long, continue to do so. You might have yourself a WR3/4 all for the price of a late round draft pick.
Christian Ponder is making strides as starter for the Vikings. He’s started the year very accurately from the pocket and even adds an element of the run with his above average athletic ability. You do have to worry that he may try to force some throws but with Adrian Peterson running the rock, he’s got plenty of balance to the offense. His accuracy should continue as long as they keep getting the ball to Percy Harvin in space where he can use his ability to get yards after the catch (226 YAC). Those short catches that turn into long gainers pad the stat totals. Ponder is a borderline QB1 depending on league sizes but is definitely a good QB2 option. Snatch him up with the quickness.
Ready for the Glue Factory- Michael Jenkins, Devin Aromashodu, Toby Gerhart
Michael Jenkins continues to defy the odds. I considered him done years ago in my mind yet he still finds a way to stay employed by a football team. He’s tall, can run a route or two and will pick up the occasional 1st down but there’s no way you should expect anything from him. Ever. He’ll get the occasional game where he’s got some yards and a few catches but it never amounts to anything. There’s no upside here. He’s nothing more than a tease. If you currently own Michael Jenkins, I really have to wonder if you like punishing yourself because there’s no reason to have him on any team.
Devin Aromashodu is a talented guy who I’ve kept an eye on since his days with the Bears. He showed some flashes of talent back then but he, too, is a flop. Not because of a declining skill set. It’s because he’ll never get the opportunities on the field with guys like Michael Jenkins getting snaps and targets ahead of him. It’s a shame but sometimes players get the shaft like this. He’s fourth or fifth on the totem pole and he’ll get a few catches a game but he’s better in real life than in fantasy. Leave him on waivers. He may become interesting if injuries pile up but don’t hold out hope for that.
Toby Gerhart was a sneaky pick for a lot of fantasy owners this season because no one bought the idea of Adrian Peterson being all the way back from a torn up knee. Through 3 games, you would’ve thought Gerhart was coming off the knee injury and that Peterson was healthy! Less than 10 carries a game, limited effect in the pass game and he’s already lost 2 fumbles. I’d consider dumping him if you can snag another option off of the waiver wire. I understand there may be an inclination to stash him due to his potential if Peterson goes down, but you can’t weigh down your roster with players that don’t have a shot at playing.
So there you have it. Five teams that aren't 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!