This week (and a few days next week) is the most crucial time fantasy football drafts in 2012.
Friends against friends, co-workers against co-workers, strangers against strangers—regardless of the type of draft you are involved in, there is an inherent stress that sits in the pit of your stomach leading up to your draft time. My following series of articles will hopefully assist you in those moments when you have nine seconds left for your pick and you are scrambling to make a decision.
The second segment of this series will be a focus on what you can pick up in the mid to late rounds of your draft to fill in those last few roster spots and bench positions.
The draft this year has a lot of depth to it, especially with receivers. What's important is detecting which of these late-round picks show great promise, and those who will blind you with past greatness that has faded away.
People are really down this year on Philip Rivers. The guy has been a fantasy stud for years and because of one off year, he has been downgraded to the lower part of top 10 QBs in the league.
Hence why he will be a steal whenever you grab him (I saw him go in the 11th round last night, which was the 109th overall pick). A down year for Rivers? He threw for more than 4,600 passing yards and 27 touchdowns. His receiving crew may not be as great as it has been in the past, but Rivers will show naysayers what he has in 2012.
2011 Stats: 366-of-582 passing, 4,624 passing yards, 27 TD, 20 INT
Remember, Reggie Wayne didn't die. He's just in Indianapolis without Peyton Manning throwing him the ball.
He survived the hammer that the Colts' upper management placed on the team's starters after the 2011 season. It was thought that Wayne's veteran status would be of assistance to the rebuild of the team and provide first overall pick Andrew Luck a source to throw to.
At the beginning of the preseason, it had appeared that Luck and Austin Collie had formed a great connection on the field, and that Collie would be the receiver to own in Indianapolis. However, Collie continued his streak of misfortune and suffered yet again another concussion, making him all but damaged goods.
On a team full of rookies, Wayne now has been propelled to be the best (and most reliable) target on field for his quarterback, and he should see a significant amount of looks throughout the season.
2011 Stats: 75 receptions, 960 yards, 4 TD
This guy's stock value rises on a daily basis. Jahvid Best was in line to be the Lions' lead back, but he has been plagued by concussion symptoms and is now on the PUP list.
Mikel Leshoure, the other featured back in the Lions' offense, is suspended for the first three games of the season. These two scenarios have pushed Smith up front to show off his stuff and thrive as the lead back in the Lions' offense. Smith is also a threat for receptions, scoring on three of them in 2011.
2011 Stats: 72 attempts, 356 yards, 4 TD, 22 receptions, 179 yards, 3 rec TD
This one is a no-brainer. The Chargers lost Vincent Jackson in the offseason, Vincent Brown broke his ankle in the preseason and a soft breeze would break Ryan Mathews (who is currently injured).
The offense will be heavily relying on the passing game. Antonio Gates will still get his yards and touchdowns, but Malcom Floyd should out-perform Robert Meachem at wide receiver.
Floyd's numbers have been steady the past couple of years in his role with the team, but he really came on at the end of last season. That showed that he has the capabilities to step up and be a weapon for San Diego this season.
He is on the downward side of his career at 30 years of age, but the opportunity is there. Not to mention that Philip Rivers will want to prove wrong those who criticize his abilities.
2011 Stats: 43 receptions, 856 yards, 5 TD
The 2011 Packers had a running game of mediocrity between James Starks and Ryan Grant (combined for 1,137 rushing yards and three touchdowns).
The blame could be placed on the fact that Aaron Rodgers is a stud at quarterback and has a plethora of receivers to throw to. But the real blame is that James Starks isn't worthy of a starting role and Ryan Grant never returned to his pre-injury self.
Enter Cedric Benson, who has topped 1,000 rushing yards and six touchdowns in each of the last three seasons.
Benson gives the Packers the final piece of their offense that will make them practically unstoppable. Some may be cautious to give him a starting role, but most should accept Benson with open arms for a bye week/injury replacement running back.
2011 Stats: 273 attempts, 1,063 rushing yards, 6 TD
The one thing to say about Joe Flacco is that he is a reliable starter.
Flacco has played in every game starting from Week 1 of his rookie year and has taken his team to the playoffs in each of those seasons. Outside of his rookie season, Flacco has had at least 3,600 passing yards and 20 touchdowns as a starter.
These numbers don't stack up against the likes of Rodgers, Brees or Brady, but Flacco is a solid tier-two quarterback and a nice QB to have on your bench for bye week/injury. Flacco will still be on the board when drafters are taking Alex Smith, Andy Dalton or Sam Bradford (maybe even Mark Sanchez, if you are a stubborn New York fan).
2011 Stats: 312-of-542 passing, 3,610 passing yards, 20 TD, 12 INT
No one is going out and saying that Justin Blackmon will be an instant fantasy stud. What needs to be noted is that, outside of Maurice Jones-Drew (who is currently holding out), there is nothing going on in the Jaguars' offense.
As noted in my article on 2012 fantasy busts, Laurent Robinson won't be a real threat at wide receiver, giving Blackmon control of his own destiny. Blaine Gabbert has a long ways to go in development, but Blackmon can do his best to help with his growth into a starting QB role. Blackmon's stock will be lower than expected due to his off-the-field antics, which could turn him into a steal in the later rounds.
2011 Stats (college): 121 receptions, 1,522 receiving yards, 18 TD
Donald Brown should not be your RB1 or RB2 on your team. The Colts, as of recent years, have not been known for their rushing game.
They had Peyton Manning.
When they didn't have Peyton Manning, they gave the reins to Curtis Painter for far too long, which made any Colts' offensive option damaged goods in 2011.
For 2012, we have the first overall pick, Andrew Luck, at the helm, with a relatively young group of guys to work with. Luck won't be as ready to air the ball out as Peyton had been in the past, so Brown's numbers can expect to take a decent jump (he did give Andrew Luck a TD on his first pass in preseason). Brown is also pretty fast and can get open to grab a few receptions, so he will be a bit desirable in a PPR league.
2011 Stats: 134 attempts, 645 rushing yards, 5 TD
What a disappointment Mike Williams was in 2011. Coming off a rookie campaign of 11 touchdowns and just less than 1,000 receiving yards, Williams' numbers were down about 200 yards and eight touchdowns in 2011 (same amount of receptions, mind you).
Williams was drafted high in 2011 fantasy leagues, only to leave his owners debating to start him on a weekly basis. Williams is determined to bounce back in 2012, but now he will be fighting for looks with newcomer Vincent Jackson.
Jackson being there, however, can be a good thing for Williams, as he frequently requires a double-team. Williams was blanketed at times last season and he saw the effects.
Thus far in preseason, Jackson and Josh Freeman have been struggling with chemistry, so Williams could reap early benefits.
2011 Stats: 65 receptions, 771 receiving yards, 3 TD
Josh Freeman may be working on a trend. He had a subpar rookie season in 2009, dazzled owners in 2010 and fizzled out in 2011.
So, given that track record, shouldn't he rebound in 2012?
The fact is that Freeman has a better group of guys to work with in 2012. Vincent Jackson is a beast, and if they can finally figure out their on-field chemistry, he should be Freeman's go-to guy. Mike Williams is more than determined to return to his rookie-year form, and they brought in a veteran at tight end in Dallas Clark (still, no one should expect Colts-era numbers).
The Bucs also have improved their offensive line, but the loss of Davin Joseph does complicate things there. Freeman has all the tools necessary to return to his 25 touchdown/six interception line of 2010.
Freeman's added bonus is that he can run, providing four scores in 2011.
2011 Stats: 346-of-551 passing, 3,592 passing yards, 16 TD, 22 INT, 55 attempts, 238 rushing yards, 4 TD
The reason why he is considered a bonus is that Garcon will be on everyone's radar because of his numbers from being on the Colts and having played with Peyton Manning.
I just think he is undervalued as a receiver on the Redskins. He was one of the few who remained statistically intact while working with Curtis Painter in 2011 (actually putting up his best career year to date). He will share looks with a number of receivers, but Pierre Garcon is going to emerge as the star receiver in Washington. He has appeared to be a favorite of RGIII in the preseason, and one has to expect that chemistry to carry over into the regular season.
2011 Stats: 70 receptions, 947 receiving yards, 6 TD