Let’s talk fantasy football. As an avid fantasy football player and NFL draft fanatic I’m always interested in how the draft along with other offseason moves affect the value of current fantasy players. I also love projecting the top fantasy rookies. Let’s get right into it.
Larry Johnson-Despite the rumors that coach Herm Edwards is going to reduce his workload, LJ is one of the players that will benefit most from his team’s offseason moves. The general consensus is that the Chiefs had the best draft in the league. The additions of DT Glenn Dorsey and OT Branden Albert will both help Johnson. Obviously, the Chiefs’ weakest link was their offensive line last year, and Albert was one of the most highly touted O-Line prospects behind the Dolphins’ Jake Long. He will make an immediate impact. The addition of Dorsey and CB Brandon Flowers makes the defense much better and will hopefully mean that the Chiefs won’t be so far behind in games that they are forced to throw the ball. In addition, Brodie Croyle has all the tools that it takes to be a successful NFL quarterback, he just needs seasoning. The development of Croyle and WR Dwayne Bowe could mean a big season upcoming for LJ as teams won’t be able to stack eight men in the box on every play.
Donovan McNabb-The Eagles got one of the steals in the draft with WR DeSean Jackson out of Cal in the second round. Projected as a first-round pick, Jackson has explosive playmaking ability which he showed when he clocked a 4.34 40 at the combine. He is also a nice complement to Kevin Curtis. McNabb is coming into his second year off of ACL surgery, and it is a known fact that this is when players begin to return to their previous form. This along with the ever-constant presence of Brian Westbrook and a solid O-Line has McNabb’s value up this year in my book.
Thomas Jones-The Jets had arguably the best offseason of anybody in the league this year. In addition to several key additions on defense, they improved an already stacked young offensive-line with All-Pro guard Alan Faneca out of Pittsburgh. They also added a solid veteran in Damien Woody to go with developing former first-rounders D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold. Jones should see plenty of holes with these monsters in front of him. He also has two very capable receivers lining up next to him in Laveranues Coles and Jerricho Cotchery, so all of the focus won’t be on him. The only real question is at quarterback, where Mangenious will have to pick between the lesser of two evils in the human injury Chad Pennington and the unproven Kellen Clemens. Overall though, I like the outlook for Jones this year.
Vince Young-Does Tennessee just not want to help this man? Last year they reach on RB Chris Henry out of Arizona when they already had capable ball carriers in Chris Brown and Lendale White and they desperately needed a receiver for Vince to throw to. This year they reach on another running back in Chris Johnson when they needed a receiver even more. What gives? Do they really think that Alge Crumpler is the answer to all of their passing woes? I do not like the outlook for Vince despite the fact that he is going to get you somewhere around 5 rushing TD’s a year.
Willie Parker-The Steelers took highly touted RB Rashard Mendenhall out of Illinois in the first round, which raised a lot of eye brows. Parker is a young talented back who despite only scoring two touchdowns last season still managed to rack up 1,316 yards on the ground and 164 through the air. What concerns me most is that Mendenhall and Parker are the same exact player essentially. They are both speed rushers who can break downfield tackles. Why would Pittsburgh take Mendenhall if they had confidence in Parker? For whatever reason unbeknownst to me, they don’t. In addition, the loss of guard Alan Faneca to the Jets is really going to hurt any running back that the Steelers put out there.
And finally, here are my top five rookie fantasy options for this year (Keep in mind this is just for this year, not for keeper leagues):
1-Darren McFadden, Oakland-Run DMC has shown signs that he is capable of being this year’s Adrian Peterson, and the scary part is he’s bigger and faster. The only concern is that teams will be able to stack the box, but he is too talented not to have my top slot.
2-Jonathan Stewart, Carolina-The Panthers improved their offense greatly in the first round, adding Stewart and OT Jeff Otah. If not for a toe injury towards the end of the season, many analysts believed that Stewart was a top ten and maybe even top five pick. The return of a healthy Jake Delhomme and the presence of Steve Smith on the outside mean good things for the rookie in Carolina.
3-DeSean Jackson-As I mentioned earlier, I really like Jackson and the offense that he is coming into. I think it suits him well because he can be the burner downfield and Kevin Curtis can take on a Wes Welker type role of short to intermediate passes that rack up the first downs. Jackson has some very good upside in my opinion. If Donovan McNabb is his old-self, Jackson gets my vote as the top fantasy rookie wideout this year.
4-Devin Thomas, Washington-Thomas quietly put up excellent numbers last season for Michigan State. He led the Big Ten in receiving with 79 catches for 1,260 yards and 8 touchdowns in thirteen games. He is 6’ 2” and can burn with a 4.4 40 time. He is stepping into an offense that needs exactly what he gives them: a downfield threat. The Redskins have one of the better running games in the league with Clinton Portis and a solid O-Line. They also have the very underrated Chris Cooley to go with Santana Moss. They also added another highly regarded rookie receiver in Malcom Kelley, who should take some pressure off of Thomas. If Jason Campbell is able to return the way he was playing before his injury, big things are ahead for Thomas.
5-Rashard Mendenhall, Pittsburgh-The only reason I don’t have him ranked higher is the presence of Willie Parker. The word on the street is that the Steelers are planning on having the two share carries, so don’t expect gaudy numbers from either of them. But, the Steelers took Mendenhall for a reason, and I expect them to utilize him especially because he is fresher and he is a better pass-catcher out of the backfield than Parker is.