The 2009 Fantasy Football season promises to be one of the tougher seasons to prognosticate in some time.
Several factors, ranging from players coming back injuries to guys on new teams and even those that had their teammates leave, will make it challenging for owners to accurately determine their rankings.
Here are just a few examples of players that I am still trying to figure out where they fall when I release my first Cheat Sheet in early July.
Tom Brady (NE)—After a record-setting 50-touchdown 2008 campaign, Brady went down in Week One last year and was lost for the season.
It’s hard to put him ahead of Drew Brees or Peyton Manning, but he’s still an elite quarterback when healthy and will likely fall between Rounds 2-4 in most leagues.
Carson Palmer (CIN)—Like Brady, Palmer’s 2008 season was cut short by injuries. The shoulder appears to be 100 percent, but the offensive line still has question marks.
He did lose his top wideout, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, in free agency. He’s no longer a sure-fire top five fantasy quarterback, but the potential is still there and that makes him a nice mid-round sleeper pick.
Matt Cassel (KC)—He played like a starting fantasy quarterback last season throwing for 3,693 yards and 21 touchdowns.
However, a move from New England to Kansas City leaves a ton of question marks. Cassel is a borderline starting option with a decent amount of upside, likely to be left out in my top 10 though.
Maurice Jones-Drew (JCK)—Fred Taylor is finally out of the picture and it is MJD’s show to run in Jacksonville. He’s never been asked to carry the load, but his nine scores in the team’s final nine games last year gave owners a glimpse of what he’s capable of.
Jones-Drew is a top five pick and there could be a strong argument for him being No. 2 overall behind Adrian Peterson, particularly in PPR formats.
DeAngelo Williams (CAR)—He had a breakout season rushing for 1,515 yards on 273 carries (a 5.5 avg.) and catching 22 passes for 121 yards (a 5.5 avg.) while scoring 20 total touchdowns—18 rushing.
The presence of Jonathan Stewart should be concerning, but not enough to knock him out of the first round. He could fall anywhere after the third pick overall and should deliver with a contract year on the horizon.
Derrick Ward (TB)—After rushing for 1,025 yards on just 182 carries (5.6 ypc) last year with Giants the promise of an increased role in Tampa Bay’s offense is appealing.
The biggest question mark will come with the role of the Bucs’ incumbent running backs—Earnest Graham and Cadillac Williams. Ward could emerge as a decent RB2 if he can increase his scoring output and shoulder the bulk of the load.
Look for him to go between Rounds 6-8 in your draft.
Terrell Owens (BUF)—Once considered fantasy football’s top wideout, Owens slid down the rankings last season after scoring just five times in the Cowboys’ last 11 games.
Now he finds himself in a new home in Buffalo. While the upside is there for him to be a legitimate WR1 once again, you should treat him more like a WR2 on draft day.
Aside from playing with a new QB and in a new system, there is also the weather factor of cold weather home games in Buffalo that need to be considered.
Brandon Marshall (DEN)—The disgruntled receiver is facing a suspension and will now be without Jay Cutler. There is no questioning Marshall’s talent, but the threat of a holdout doesn’t help his cause.
Throw in questions of a hip injury and there is just too much baggage for Marshall to crack the top 10 in my rankings.
TJ Houshmandzadeh (SEA)—Only Wes Welker has had more receptions than Houshmandzadeh over the past few years, but a new team raises some questions. The early indication is that he has developed good rapport with quarterback Matt Hasselbeck.
Expect him to finish as a top 15 wideout once again and draft accordingly.
Tony Gonzalez (ATL)—Gonzalez was productive once again last season and now finds a new home in Atlanta.
He should fall in the draft after guys like Antonio Gates, Jason Witten and Dallas Clark go off the board. However, the Falcons’ system suits him well and Gonzo clearly has the potential to be the top player at the position once again.
Kellen Winslow Jr. (TB)—The Browns got tired of Winslow’s attitude and consistent trip to the infirmary, so the traded him to Tampa Bay.
The Bucs covet the talented playmaker and a change of scenery could be just what the doctor ordered. The quarterback situation is bleak and coupled with his durability questions Winslow should fall.
Don’t hesitate to take him anytime in Round 8 or later, the upside is there.
Greg Olsen (CHI)—Olsen is going to be one of my top sleeper picks heading into the ’09 season.
The arrival of Jay Cutler to the Windy City takes the Bears’ passing attack to another level and Olsen could prove to be his most reliable target.
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