Fantasy Football 2012: Calvin Johnson Headlines Friday's Preseason Revelations
Here are a few fantasy revelations off Friday night's preseason action.
Perhaps I'll find time to discuss the under-the-radar proficiency of Stephfon Green, William Powell, Lonyae Miller or Rishard Matthews some other time:
1. I won't feel any pity for fantasy drafters who pass on Calvin Johnson after the No. 5 pick
The fantasy universe didn't need Calvin to pull down five catches for 111 yards and one touchdown against the Ravens to clinch the No. 1 spot, amongst receivers. But maybe, just maybe Johnson saw a rainy August night in Baltimore as a golden opportunity to remind skeptical GMs of the following factoids:
**Including the playoffs, Johnson averaged double-digit fantasy points (standard-scoring leagues) against 10 of 11 NFL teams last season, with the Panthers being the lone exception.
**Calvin passed the PPR-elite threshold of six catches, 100 yards and/or one touchdown 14 times last season—tops among all NFL receivers.
**Johnson led the NFL with eight games of 100-plus receiving yards last season. In fact, for three of the Lions' final four games—including the playoff loss to New Orleans—he amassed a ridiculous 200 yards.
Bottom line: As a major proponent of targeting tailbacks early and often in standard-scoring leagues, I will absolutely not pass on Calvin after The Big Four of LeSean McCoy, Arian Foster, Ray Rice, Aaron Rodgers in any draft. I may be a rushing snob in the fantasy realm...but I'm not an idiot, either.
When creating a roster foundation, always start with the super-sized, cat-quick, high-leaping wunderkind who's just entering his prime as an NFL receiver.
2. I was neither positively nor negatively swayed by Chris Johnson's two-TD outing against the Bucs
The lightning-fast Johnson could rush for 200 yards on 17 carries or 17 yards on 200 carries in a preseason game, and it wouldn't be breaking news in my household. I'm already on record for projecting 1,700 total yards for Johnson this season, and no August performance—good or bad—can put a major dent into that proclamation.
I will say this, though: His second touchdown—an inside-outside job—was an absolute gem...worthy of his 2009 highlight reel.
3. It really doesn't matter if rookie Ryan Tannehill is the Dolphins' opening-day starting QB
The above statement isn't some passive-aggressive condemnation of Tannehill's immense potential or fellow QB competitors at training camp (Matt Moore and the injured David Garrard).
By all accounts, Tannehill will be a fine real-world and fantasy asset down the line, perhaps someone in the Tony Romo mold of passing success.
But for this season, all bets are off.
For starters, Tannehill (100 yards passing, zero TD, zero INT on Friday night) will be ignored in most 12-team drafts across North America, minus the pocket of fantasy GMs who are biased toward the Miami Dolphins, Texas A&M football or Lauren Tannehill (the QB's now-famous wife).
Even if Tannehill was ready to be a top-25 contributor among quarterbacks, there are no Miami receivers worth coveting in standard-scoring leagues.
Yes, Davone Bess (206 catches since 2009) has enjoyed modest success as a PPR asset, but the rest of the lot (Legedu Naanee, Brian Hartline, Marlon Moore, Julius Pruitt, Roberto Wallace) are either too inconsistent or too inexperienced to garner consistent attention with 10-, 12- or 14-team leagues.
And before you say that someone has to catch balls from Tannehill this season...allow me to use the receiving corps of the 2011 Jaguars as Exhibit A:
Mike Thomas—44 catches
Jarett Dillard—29 catches
Jason Hill—25 catches
Chastin West—13 catches
4. Blaine Gabbert was never as bad as advertised
It's remarkable what an incumbent starting quarterback can accomplish in the NFL...when given the time, expertise and tools to succeed in his second season.
On Friday night against the Saints, Gabbert completed 13-of-16 passes for 112 yards and two touchdowns, including a 16-yard scoring strike to Justin Blackmon, who is an obvious physical upgrade for the Jaguars at receiver.
In two August games, Gabbert has 174 passing yards, three touchdowns, zero interceptions and (ta-da!) zero sacks, suggesting his "Happy Feet" problems of last season may have dissipated—thanks to the arrival of Blackmon (232 catches, 3,204 yards, 38 TD in 2010-11 with Oklahoma State), receiver Laurent Robinson (11 TD last year with Dallas) and head coach and noted passing guru Mike Mularkey.
And don't forget about the re-emergence of tailback Rashad Jennings, who missed all of last season to a knee injury and currently serves as the go-to rusher amid Maurice Jones-Drew's contract-related absence from training camp.
Bottom line: I just had to shake my head at all the derogatory comments lobbed in Gabbert's direction last season. Yes, he wasn't ready to start as a rookie, and yes, Andy Dalton had a far greater rookie campaign with the Bengals. But it makes no sense to produce definitive judgments about first-year quarterbacks playing on lousy clubs.
If that were the case 28 years ago, Cleveland QB Paul McDonald would have been ranked ahead of Denver's John Elway in fantasy magazines previewing the 1984 NFL season.
Jay Clemons can be reached on Twitter, day or night, at @ATL_JayClemons.
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