There’s not a lot of discussion about Arizona Cardinals tight end Rob Housler. But there should be.
Housler is 6'5" and ran a 4.46-second 40-yard dash at the 2011 NFL Combine. Last year he started in nine games and caught 45 passes for 417 yards. That’s not bad considering how ineffective Arizona's passing game was last season.
With Carson Palmer at quarterback, we can expect an even bigger year from Housler. Last season we saw Palmer turn an unknown in Brandon Myers into someone who caught 79 passes for 806 yards.
Housler’s size and speed could lead toward a breakout year. Bruce Arians’ offense will allow him to get downfield and use his abilities to make plays. Housler is someone to take late in drafts and could turn into a major steal.
Steven Jackson is the main man in Atlanta, there’s no questioning that. He’ll see the majority of the carries and will be involved in the passing game.
Having said that, you shouldn’t dismiss Jacquizz Rodgers. Last year, Rodgers produced 763 rushing and receiving yards. He also caught 53 passes, which goes a long way in PPR leagues.
The worst-case scenario for Rodgers is that the Falcons rely on Jackson for nearly everything and he hardly sees the field. But given Jackson’s age and workload over his 10-year career, it’s not crazy to think Rodgers will spell the 30-year-old often in 2013.
Rodgers is one of the few backup running backs who actually has value. He has a lot more value in PPR leagues since he doesn’t score many touchdowns.
Last year, Brandon LaFell produced career highs in receptions (44), yards (677) and touchdowns (four). Those aren’t the sexiest numbers, but there’s reason to believe that they will improve in 2013.
LaFell is locked in as the receiver opposite of Steve Smith in the Carolina Panthers' starting lineup. This is the last year of his rookie contract, and he needs to give the Panthers a reason to stick around.
We saw some of LaFell’s potential last year, especially in the middle of the season. In five games from Week 7 to Week 12 he averaged 67 yards a game and scored three times.
If he can have more games like those, he’d be a 900- to 1,100-yard receiver, kind of like Mike Williams in Tampa Bay. LaFell is someone you can select really late in drafts. He’s worth a flier.
The Chicago Bears selected Alshon Jeffery in the second round last year, but he wasn’t able to put together an impressive rookie season. That’s because he was halted by a fractured right hand and a knee scope.
"I say, 'Hey bro, this is how you take care of your body.' So he's eating right. Got a chef. Seeing a chiropractor. Getting massages. Studying film. Working out hard. I can't say enough about what he put in."
There should be plenty of opportunity for Jeffery under Marc Trestman’s pass-happy system. He’ll start outside of Marshall with Earl Bennett in the slot.
Tony Romo is underappreciated in the fantasy football community. The past two seasons he’s finished eighth and seventh amongst quarterbacks. Yet so far in drafts, he’s being selected as the 11th quarterback.
Last year, Romo threw for over 4,900 yards and had 28 touchdowns. If he can come close to those numbers again in 2013, then you’re getting amazing value. And with Dez Bryant, Miles Austin and Jason Witten to throw to, it’s hard to see why he won’t get close to that.
Last year was disappointing for Brandon Pettigrew. He had drastically lower numbers from his previous two seasons and was very inconsistent.
Even though last season was a disappointment, we can’t forget what Pettigrew has done in the past. In 2011, he caught 83 passes for 777 yards and five touchdowns. In PPR leagues, those are pretty good numbers. Especially when you consider how cheap you can get Pettigrew.
Lions beat writer Chris McCosky predicts that Pettigrew is “going to have a big year” in 2013. I have to agree with him. If he can stay healthy, he’ll be worth a late-round selection.
Green Bay Packers
Last year, James Jones was a fantasy steal. There weren’t a lot of expectations on him and he ended up finishing in the top 20 for wide receivers.
The reason Jones was able to finish as a top-20 receiver is because he led the NFL in touchdown receptions with 14. Before last year the most touchdowns Jones had in a season was seven.
Take away the touchdowns and you have a guy who finished 44th in receiving yards with 784. That number is likely to stay the same since Jones is still the third option behind Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. He’ll even lose some targets (and touchdowns) to tight end Jermichael Finley.
Jones is being selected in the sixth and seventh rounds in fantasy drafts. That’s too high for a guy whose production is based on scoring touchdowns.
There are reasons to be skeptical about Greg Jennings this year. He’s in a run-first offense and has a quarterback who fell short of 3,000 passing yards a year ago.
Even with that working against Jennings, there’s reason to believe he’ll improve his numbers in Minnesota. He’s a reliable veteran and will be the No. 1 target in that offense.
When he’s healthy, he’s capable of having a 1,000-yard season. He also scores touchdowns at a fairly high rate.
New Orleans Saints
Last year Lance Moore posted a career high in receiving yards and yards per catch. He became a useful weapon for Drew Brees.
Heading into 2013, not much has changed for Moore. He remains a starting receiver outside of Marques Colston in a high-powered, pass-happy offense. Any time you can get a starting receiver in an offense where the quarterback throws for 5,000 yards you go and get him.
Lance Moore can be drafted near the ninth round in most drafts. That’s not bad for a guy who can produce around 60 receptions and 1,000 yards.
New York Giants
It wasn’t that long ago when Eli Manning threw for over 4,900 yards and had 29 touchdowns in a season (2011). Last year, he fell way short of that, almost 1,000 yards short.
If his main receiver, Hakeem Nicks, can remain healthy, expect to see a number somewhere in between that with 28 or more touchdowns. Manning has an arsenal of weapons at his disposal.
Manning is the 13th quarterback off the board currently. He’s worthy of being a QB1 in fantasy this year.
DeSean Jackson has been an up-and-down fantasy football player during his NFL career. Just when you think he’s ready to have a big season he comes up with 700 yards and two touchdowns.
The reason to be excited about Jackson for 2013 is the addition of Chip Kelly. He knows how to utilize fast players like Jackson.
Don’t expect an All-Pro season from the sixth-year wideout, but expect more than what you’ve seen in previous years. I predict a career high in receptions and yards for Jackson in 2013.
San Francisco 49ers
Last year, Anquan Boldin played a big role in the Baltimore Ravens’ Super Bowl run. His performance in the playoffs gave Baltimore the edge in its games.
Now Boldin has joined the San Francisco 49ers, and he has taken on a big role. At first, he was supposed to be a guy who complemented Michael Crabtree. But with Crabtree out for most of the season, Boldin has to step up.
Other than Boldin, there’s not a lot of experience in the Niners receiving corps. A.J. Jenkins was a first-round pick a year ago, but he hasn’t shown anything to support that selection.
Colin Kaepernick is a talented quarterback who will need to throw the ball to somebody. That somebody will likely end up being Boldin.
The Seahawks featured receiver this year was supposed to be offseason acquisition Percy Harvin. But during training camp Harvin injured his hip and is now out for most of the season.
The receiver who will benefit from Harvin's injury the most is Golden Tate. Tate is athletic enough to fill the role that was going to be Harvin's in the slot.
Last year was a career year for Tate and it was the first year he had with Russell Wilson. Give them another year with each other and they should continue to post high numbers.
St. Louis Rams
We all know St. Louis Rams rookie Tavon Austin. He was the eighth overall selection in this year’s draft and is an exciting young player. But he’s not the only playmaker on the Rams receiving corps.
Chris Givens is a fourth-round pick from a year ago. During his rookie year he caught 42 passes for 698 yards and three touchdowns. He should improve on those numbers in 2013.
We already saw what Givens could do in the first preseason game. He caught three passes for 82 yards and a touchdown. It was a solid performance in the time he was on the field.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Mike Williams surprised a lot of people during his rookie season in 2010. He caught 65 passes for 964 yards and 11 touchdowns. The productive season made people expect big things from him the next year, but he disappointed.
In 2011, Williams caught the same number of passes (65) but for 193 less yards and eight less touchdowns.
Last year, Williams went back to being productive. He fell just four yards shy of 1,000 and caught nine touchdowns. These up-and-down performances seem to be making people cautious about Williams in 2013, but that shouldn’t be the case.
Williams has benefited from the arrival of Vincent Jackson. It leaves him with better opportunities. You can get Williams as late as the ninth round in a lot of drafts. At that price he’s an absolute steal.
There’s not a lot of talk about Fred Davis this year, which is kind of surprising. When he’s healthy, he can be a big target for Robert Griffin.
Davis likely won’t be a touchdown threat. In the seven games he played last year, he didn’t catch a single touchdown. Mostly because the Redskins elected to run the ball when they got near the goal line.
What Davis can bring, however, are receptions and yards. The Redskins didn’t do much to upgrade their receiving corps this offseason. Pierre Garcon is going to get a lot of attention, but outside of him there isn’t much.
Davis is worth a gamble at the end of your fantasy drafts, especially in leagues where you can start more than one tight end.