In Jimbo's forth installment of WEEK IN REVIEW he talks talks about what he's seeing in training camp and preseason games.
Week in Review: Sips from the Fountain of Youth
Success can often be fleeting in the NFL. The very moment one believes he has found a formula for it is the moment it slips away.
Mike Martz’ once-vaunted offensive schemes have since become relics after bouncing around the NFC North for a few years. Talk of the certainty of Peyton Manning breaking Favre and Marino’s passing records has hushedsignificantly after Manning spent a year out of the game. Chad Johnson switched teams, married, and changed his name, and declared a renewed dedication for the game this offseason, only to have it all fall apart two short weeks into the preseason. He’s now unemployed. Nick Collins, a former Pro Bowler and Super Bowl hero, watched his future in football evaporate after a neck injury in 2011.
Football is a fickle game, but it is the nature of the game for new talent to take the place of the old. With young talent so plentiful this season, it’s as good a time as ever for fantasy owners to ditch their old player allegiances.
Rumblings in Indianapolis
After winning the AFC South for seven of the nine seasons previous to 2011, the Colts thought they had it all figured out. On May 23rd, Peyton underwent neck surgery. Repeated setbacks slowed his recovery and by the time the season started, Kerry Collins would be signed and named the interim starter of the team. The season was a disaster. Collins and his eventual replacement Curtis Painter were slaughtered by opposing defenses and the Colts barely managed a 2-14 record.
The dust from the disaster hardly settled over the offseason; the Colts would give head coach Jim Caldwell the boot and send off former greats like Dallas Clark, Joseph Addai and Gary Brackett. Quarterback Andrew Luck, the second overall pick of the draft, and new head coach Chuck Pagano, a talented former defensive coordinator, are among the main building blocks of the new era of Colts football.
The new-look Colts have impressed in early preseason action. Andrew Luck has appeared composed, athletic and physically ready for an NFL career. Rookie tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen appear to be strong, fast, dependable targets. Reggie Wayne appears to be as dependable as ever. Running back Donald Brown has locked down the starting job with two strong preseason performances.
Strangely enough, you could land any of these guys in your fantasy league without hearing a peep from your buddies. The Colts are under the radar, if they’re on it at all.
Andrew Luck is an accurate, athletic and cerebral quarterback with a pro-ready body and an array of good weapons at his disposal. Despite being regarded as one of the most advanced rookies to enter the NFL since Peyton Manning, Luck hardly registers as a prospect to most fantasy owners.
Coby Fleener is a 6’6 monster tight end with a well-developed rapport with Luck from their time together at Stanford.
Reggie Wayne has surpassed 1,000 yards seven times in his career and only barely missed that mark in 2011, due largely to Curtis Painter.
Donald Brown churned out 4.8 yards per carry last year while splitting carries with Joseph Addai and took his first preseason touch for a 63-yard touchdown.
Dwayne Allen is another intimidatingly large and athletic talent at tight end and a 2011 recipient of the John Mackey Award for the college football’s most outstanding tight end.
Luck, Wayne, Fleener and Brown will all be available later in fantasy drafts than similarly talented players on other teams. Allen likely won’t be drafted at all. Wayne is ranked by most of the web around 30th among WR’s, behind some WR2’s like Torrey Smith, Jeremy Maclin and Jordy Nelson and will absolutely be Luck’s primary read on most passes. Fleener is ranked around 15th, behind the likes of Owen Daniels and Jacob Tamme, who both fizzled badly in 2011. Donald Brown has no real competition for the RB1 spot and is consistently ranked behind Doug Martin, Shonn Greene and other underwhelming RB’s who you would likely draft with a reluctant sigh.
The only downside here comes from news on Sunday that the injury that caused Austin Collie to leave the fieldmay be yet another concussion. After missing nearly the entire 2011 season to concussions, Collie’s career, let alone his season, is in significant danger. Concussions are no longer to be underestimated or taken lightly, and Collie’s history in that department dims his prospects for the season. Projected as Luck’s #2 target this season, Collie will be out of the picture for the foreseeable future, opening the door for the oft-injured but speedy Donnie Avery or Lavon Brazill, who has been earning first-team reps thanks to a strong training camp. Brazill looks to have the edge to fill the vacancy.
If WR and TE are positions you don’t care to prioritize in your draft, take solace in the fact that solid weapons will be available late in Wayne and Fleener. Both have extremely strong potential this year, especially considering the polish that Luck has shown in early preseason.
The Year of the Discount Quarterback
If I told you two years ago that a guy who tossed for 4,200 yards and 29 touchdowns and had three elite options at receiver was ranked 11th among quarterbacks before your fantasy draft, you would have scoffed. In the pass-heavy game of a young decade, quarterbacks are not held for a premium. Fantasy studs like Matt Ryan, Tony Romo, Philip Rivers and Matt Schaub are tumbling down to the third, fourth and fifth rounds of many drafts, simply because there are a bevy of available quarterbacks who will likely put up historically fantastic numbers this season.
It’s not history that matters to fantasy players, however. Points matter. Injuries matter. Consistency matters. Maximizing value from every spot on your roster matters. While quarterbacks are going cheap, don’t let historical figures be your guide. Take heed of a few quarterbacks slipping in fantasy drafts with high fantasy value this year.
Despite blowing up the fantasy world last year, Cam Newton has seldom been a first round pick. For a deceptively fast and cannon-armed dual threat like Newton to slip to the 2nd round is unbelievable enough, but itmay be even stranger that unproven prospects and recovering victims of major knee injuries have regularly been selected before him. Jamaal Charles, DeMarco Murray and Adrian Peterson have all been top fantasy targets this offseason, despite their inherent instability. Cam Newton was an atomic bomb that blew away the fantasy landscape last year; would you pass on him to roll the dice on a running back with an iffy ACL?
Notoriously ugly and gamble-prone Jay Cutler hasn’t been a sexy fantasy name for a few seasons, but an improved supporting cast has given his fantasy prospects a major boost. Taking a look at his options last season, Devin Hester’s route awareness can only be described as hazy and both Johnny Knox and Earl Bennett missed significant time to injury. This year, physical targets like Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery will compete for deep balls unlike any option that Cutler has ever had as a Bear. Mike Tice will also tone down the seven-step drops that left Cutler out to dry last season under Mike Martz. Cutler is poised to make the biggest fantasy leap this year of any quarterback on the draft board, yet he’s often left available until the fifth and sixth round.
Matt Schaub is another sleeper with strong, late-round value. Although his 2011 campaign was curtailed by a painful Lisfranc injury, Schaub’s prospects are excellent for 2012. Schaub will be surrounded by a stable of capable weapons, including fantasy monsters Arian Foster and Andre Johnson. Both Johnson and Foster missed time last year due to injury, but both are strong and healthy coming into 2012. Early preseason has boded well for Schaub’s foot as well; the 31-year-old vet has performed well on rollout passes and has been exceptionallyaccurate in the action he’s seen. An 11-14, 1TD outing against San Francisco last weekend was a strong sign of his full recovery. Schaub also will be playing for a renewed contract this year, further adding to his motivation. Should Schaub’s early success sustain itself, there will be a rather large payday for both the quarterback and his fantasy owners who were able to scoop him up well after Romo, Rivers, Ryan and other of his contemporaries were off the board.
Value, value, value
If you’re a guy who drafts the same player every year because you “f****** love that guy”, it’s time to mix up the game plan. This season is rich with fresh prospects and breakout candidates bouncing back from relatively minor injuries. Jay Cutler and Matt Schaub are undervalued QB’s with feasible 4,000+ yard, 30+ TD potential and are available as late as the sixth round in some drafts. The entire Colts offensive roster is primed for a strong 2012 showing and yet hardly any player on that team is registering on fantasy radar.
Do yourself a favor and break routine. Draft for value in your upcoming drafts and don’t be afraid to reach just alittle bit for breakout candidates like these guys. Relatively humble bets will turn into big money once the regular season rolls around.
By Jimbo Slice