Fantasy Football 2012: Power Ranking Best Fantasy Options in New York

Dan KuklaCorrespondent IIIJuly 5, 2012

Fantasy Football 2012: Power Ranking Best Fantasy Options in New York

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    New York may not be the center of the fantasy football world, but don't tell that to the reigning Super Bowl champion New York Giants.

    Whether or not you think Eli Manning is an elite quarterback is irrelevant. He earned his second Super Bowl ring in February and lit the fantasy football world on fire along the way. Everyone on the Giants' offense benefited, especially those catching passes from the ELI-te signal caller.

    The New York Jets don't offer the same fantasy buzz, but that just means you can fly away with several draft-day steals from their roster.

    There's no question which team currently rules the Big Apple's football world in both real life and Fantasyland.

    But who exactly are the top-10 individual fantasy options in New York?

    I'm glad you asked.

10. Tim Tebow, QB, Jets

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    Mark Sanchez is the New York Jets starting quarterback, but his backup Tim Tebow offers much more fantasy football intrigue.

    The problem with Sanchez from a fantasy football perspective is that he is just an average quarterback in an extremely deep year for the position. You can argue that "average" label. ESPN probably would, as the "World Wide Leader in Sports" ranks Sanchez well below average at No. 28 among quarterbacks.

    Youngsters like Matthew Stafford and Cam Newton carved out their place in the position's top 10 last year. This bumps former studs like Philip Rivers, Matt Ryan, Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Schaub to the edge of even holding down regular starting roles for fantasy football teams this fall.

    We've seen Sanchez play for three years now. We know what he brings to the table. At best. he is a reliable backup for your fantasy team, and that's without any competition from his real-life backup. Losing red-zone touches to Tebow could sink his value even lower.

    Sanchez finished as the No. 10 scoring QB in 2011. Take away his six rushing touchdowns, however, and he slips to 16th. Tebow could do that and more. You will be able to find quarterbacks at least as good as Sanchez on the waiver wire all season long.

    Tebow, however, brings so much unknown. For now, Rex Ryan casts him in a role similar to the one held by Brad Smith. That may not excite you from a fantasy football perspective, but consider that as Tebow's downside. The possibility of expanding the role is what you're really after here.

    You won't have to spend a high draft pick on Tebow. He may not be drafted at all. Don't worry about his downside. The only reason to spend a late pick here is his upside, which is considerably higher than that of Sanchez.

    Say what you want about Tebow's mechanics. He has always shown a special prowess at the goal line. That will translate into sustainable fantasy value, even with limited touches.

    Tebow's different roles with the Jets could earn him fantasy position eligibility just about anywhere. If he ever does surpass Sanchez as the starting QB and you can still play him somewhere else, that alone is worth a lottery ticket play at the end of your draft.

9. Dustin Keller, TE, Jets

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    Dustin Keller shouldn't be drafted as a starter in standard 10-team leagues, but he can be a serviceable late target in deeper formats.

    Players like Keller are exactly why you want to grab an elite tight end early. His type is also exactly why you can wait on tight ends until the end if you get boxed out.

    The Jets' mess at QB will likely produce plenty of dud weeks for Keller, which is why you'd rather not rely on him as your starter. But Keller still finished 10th in fantasy points at his position last season despite the rise of studs like Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski.

    There isn't much receiving depth on the Jets' roster. Keller led all his teammates in receiving targets in each of the last two seasons. If you need a late grab at TE, Keller is a wise pick.

8. Rueben Randle, WR, Giants

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    The Giants considered Rueben Randle as NFL ready when they drafted him, and he is already impressing at training camp.

    He just so happens to be wearing jersey No. 82, the same number worn by Mario Manningham. Fantasy owners can expect Randle to stake claim to Manningham's former role as the Giant's No. 3 receiver.

    Once Hakeem Nicks is ready to play, Randle will line up out wide on the opposite side. This allows Victor Cruz to stay in the slot where he dominated last season.

    Randle's upside this season is only the third best WR for the Giants. But with Eli Manning throwing the ball, that role is more than worthy of a late grab in fantasy drafts.

    He is a physical player with good leaping ability. That's a skill set that can develop into another red-zone weapon. The Giants threw 413 passes when at least three receivers were on the field last season.

    Randle makes a nice late upside play for your bench in re-draft formats. He holds even more value in keeper and dynasty leagues.

7. David Wilson, RB, Giants

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    The preseason buzz around David Wilson is even more juicy.

    ESPN's Dan Graziano blogged about the rookie's performance in minicamp. His quote from Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride should have all fantasy football owners tuning in:

    I don’t know if we’ve had a guy as explosive, regardless of position, here. That’s kind of exciting to see.

    That's very exciting to see. The Giants need someone to step up and replace Brandon Jacobs. They may need Wilson for even more than that, considering Ahmad Bradshaw's checkered injury history.

    Running backs go down every week in the NFL. Wilson cost New York a first-round pick to back up Bradshaw. He will only cost you a late flier.

    Even if Wilson remains second fiddle in the Giants backfield all season long, the "explosive" rookie shouldn't be left just to keeper and dynasty leagues. He has value and tremendous upside in all fantasy football formats this fall.

6. Santonio Holmes, WR, Jets

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    Santonio Holmes was only valuable as a fantasy football WR when he scored a touchdown last season.

    He did find the end zone eight times. Outside of that, however, he finished with only 51 catches for 654 yards.

    The Jets do lack depth and talent at the receiver position. This makes a repeat in TD production seem reasonable for Holmes. But chasing scores is dangerous in fantasy football. They come and go from week to week and season to season.

    Holmes' low volume of catches and yards is very concerning from a consistency perspective. Even with eight trips to the end zone, he still only finished as the No. 33 fantasy wideout last year. If Tebow carves out any significant role behind center, that will only hurt Holmes more.

    The former Super Bowl savior for the Pittsburgh Steelers is plenty talented. His usage, however, is questionable. Don't draft him as anything more than a flex option.

5. Shonn Greene, RB, Jets

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    Fantasy football owners are still waiting for Shonn Greene to live up to all the hype he generated before his rookie season.

    The feel now is that we will always be waiting. NFL Films guru Greg Cosell explains why, telling Rotoworld.com:

    I think that he's a little bit of a one-speed runner. and I think that's caught up to him a little bit. I think that he's a strong kid. I think he can run downhill. I think he can move the pile because he's got natural strength. But I don't think there's much burst to him. I think he's pretty much of a one-speed runner. And I think those guys eventually struggle.

    Greene finished 2011 as the No. 19 scoring running back in fantasy football. ESPN ranks him as the No. 25 running back for this fall.

    Tim Tebow may vulture some goal-touchdowns. He may also eat into Greene's total carries.

    Greene clearly brings fantasy value as the lead RB in New York's backfield. Just don't let that role fool you into making him a lead back in your backfield.

    Draft Greene as a flex play or backup, and temper your expectations.

4. Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, Giants

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    Ahmad Bradshaw saw his production drop in 2011 as the Giants' air attack took off.

    He only carried the ball 171 times and totaled a meager 659 rushing yards. He remained a viable fantasy football option, however, because he found the end zone 11 times.

    Bradshaw has such a nose for the goal line that he still scored in the Super Bowl even when he tried not to. But as was stated before in this list, touchdowns are a fickle stat in fantasy football.

    Fantasy football owners were burned last year for chasing Michael Vick's nine rushing touchdowns in 2010 as he rushed for just one in 2011. Tampa Bay wideout Mike Williams saw his total of 11 touchdowns in 2010 drop to just three in 2011.

    Bradshaw's current injury situation looks minor and should be the least of your worries if considering investing here. Competition from first-round pick David Wilson and the potential dip in touchdowns make Bradshaw a risky pick as anything more than a flex play or backup.

3. Victor Cruz, WR, Giants

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    Victor Cruz went undrafted in both the NFL and fantasy football leagues everywhere, only to finish the 2011 season as the No. 4 scoring fantasy receiver.

    Arguments abound on both sides of the conversation as to whether or not this performance can be repeated.

    The skeptics say that much of Cruz's production came on fluky plays: short passes that he broke for long scores or blown coverages that won't repeat. Playing mostly in the slot hurts the chances for a repeat of all those big plays, too.

    The optimists point to the fact that Cruz is now entrenched as the Giants No. 2 receiver. This means that he will no longer come off the field for two-receiver sets. And if all those "fluke" plays keep happening, are they really flukes?

    ESPN's rankings hedge a little and place Cruz at No. 10 among receivers.

    He definitely warrants a starting spot in every fantasy football league. Whether or not you can trust him as your top target remains in doubt.

2. Hakeem Nicks, WR, Giants

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    Hakeem Nicks would be the clear choice for No. 1 on this list without his injury history.

    His playoff performance alone (28 catches, 444 yards and four TDs in four games) shows what upside comes with this elite talent. He doesn't bring elite speed, but he is hard to tackle after the catch and dominates the red zone.

    When healthy, Nicks is a fantasy stud and worthy of a second-round pick. But how many healthy games will Nicks play?

    In his three-year pro career, Nicks has battled numerous leg injuries, a shoulder problem and a concussion. He broke a bone in his foot while running a route during minicamp this spring.

    Nicks will definitely make training camp and is expected to be ready for the regular season opener. His fantasy football value from there still depends on how long he can maintain that health.

    If you are willing to gamble, draft Nicks as a low-end WR1 with the upside to finish among the top five receivers. More conservative owners should look elsewhere when finding their top target.

Eli Manning, QB, Giants

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    It's surprising that Eli Manning threw for just under 5,000 yards and 30 touchdowns last year en route to his second Super Bowl victory. It's even more mind boggling that those numbers still landed him outside the top five scoring fantasy quarterbacks.

    Welcome to the new NFL. It is changing how we value quarterbacks in fantasy football forever.

    Securing an elite signal-caller is vital to winning in both fantasy football and real life. Manning usually represents the last option in that category for fantasy purposes on draft day.

    Hakeem Nicks' injury concerns help boost Manning to No. 1 in this power ranking of New York fantasy options. Manning's status as ELI-te makes a great argument for his spot here regardless. The first WR you draft won't often make or break you fantasy season, but now your quarterback almost always does.

    Don't let Manning's name be called during your draft before you already have a quarterback on your roster.