Right Out Of The Gate

Sean O'NeillContributor IJune 17, 2009

NEW YORK - APRIL 25:  NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell poses with with San Francisco 49ers #10 draft pick Michael Crabtree at Radio City Music Hall for the 2009 NFL Draft on April 25, 2009 in New York City  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

While most folks are making an effort staying awake during another 6th inning scoreless snore-fess.  Or trying to guess who's the next steroids right-hander to get called out is, I've been preparing for the up coming fantasy season.

In the past, I've been a bit coy about sharing MY assesments of the player market every year.  Who would take LT #1 over LJ & Alexander in 2006?  Or Adrian Peterson in the 3rd round of 2007?  Or Slaton last season in the 8th round?  The list of player like these is long and distinguish dating back to 1999, my first season in fantasy football. 

So if your putting yourself through the last 3 thrilling innings of groin-itching action, check out these 4 mid-rounders that are on my radar.  These guys should out perform their average draft position.

  Kevin Smith-  Super-sneaky Kevin Smith scored 9 touchdowns last season in addition to the 1,200 total yards he gained (975 rushing).  Enter Matthew Stafford, the #1 selection this past spring.  He could be the next Ryan Leaf or the second coming of Matt Ryan, who knows.  But he has gotta be better than the hefty version of Daunte Culpepper or that Orlovsky kid that ran out of the endzone last season.  With all eyes on Stafford & Calvin Johnson, Mr. Smith shouldn't see 8 in the box very often.  The Lions are still pitiful as a football team, but Smith's production might be a byproduct of teams trying to confuse the rookie signal caller or shutdown the 3rd year phenom.  Throw in out of conference games against New Orleans, Sea, Cle, Cin, Arz & Sf, Smith could play out to be a tremendous #3 or flex option. 

Chris Wells- First off, Beanie now plays in the NFC West.  The defense intolerant NFC West.  I believe teams will adjust to the pass-happy system of the Cards.  Playing a 1st place schedule outside the conference (Indy, Giants, Ten, Min) Arizona will HAVE to run the ball to win games.  The aging Warner will need to keep teams from tearing his head off on all out blitzes, (see week 16 against NE) so he can be around for the post-season.  I would also like to remind you all of the tendency of Superbowl losers to go through some tough times with injuries the next season.  Boldin? Fitzgerald?  Warner?  Who knows, but if the Cards do begin to stink it up in the desert, you'll see more reps for Beanie.

Eddie Royal-  I know that Cutler, Shanahan & perhaps soon Mr. Marshall will join them.  But Marshall's departure makes Eddie a top target in a no doubt pass happy system (either playing from behind ALOT or the play calling of McDaniels).  Furthermore, while Cutler has the goods as far as arm, accuracy, mobility & leadership: he was the main beneficiary of a VERY soft schedule in 2008, and Shannahan's ultimate confidence.  Orton might not be Jay Cutler, but he is a proven cold weather winner & once a star in a "pass happy" Joe Tiller system at Purdue.  I'm sure, whether Marshall comes back or not,  Orton's first read will be his most reliable weapon, lined up in the slot.  Wes Welker all over again.  He better be, or snowballs won't be flying at Raiders in December, Bronco fans will be aiming for McDaniels.

Michael Crabtree-  Yes, he had surgery on a knee.  Yes, he was in a pass happy system with a great quarterback in the defenseless Big 12.  Yes, San Fran's QB situation isn't exactly to notch.  What is there to like about this flyer.  How bout his schedule.  The 6'3" 220lbs WR starts his career against Cards, Seahawks, Vikings, Rams, Falcons, Texans & Indy.  All of which, other than the Vikes, had difficulty stopping the pass.  As for his matchup week 16, during most leagues Superbowls?  Detroit.  Projecting as a #3 or #4 reciever fantasy wise, he could surpass many expectations immediately, regardless of who's pitching it too him.

Other on the radar:  Haseem Nicks, Vincent Jackson, LeShaun McCoy, Kyle Orton, Anthony Gonzalez, DeShaun Jackson, Zach Miller