Our thoughts on some possible undervalued and overvalued players...
Updated Aug. 15, 2009
Julius Jones, RB
Right before the Seattle’s bye week last year, Julius Jones had put together two consecutive solid games, rushing for 127 yards and one TD vs. SF, and then 140 yards and a TD vs. the Rams.
Unfortunately, if you didn’t spend the next two weeks frantically attempting to sell high on the enigmatic Mr. Jones, you absorbed a crash and burn situation that rivaled the relentless downward spiral of Citibank’s common stock.
Jones closed out the year with 698 yards and 2 TDs, accumulating only 386 yards from October thru December, but he was especially useless in December, recording just six carries for 24 yards as Maurice Morris assumed the starting job.
So why bother with this hapless Seattle slacker? Well, for one thing, pesky Maurice Morris is now in Detroit, and the No. 2 Seattle RB is the plodding and generally unimpressive TJ Duckett. Secondly, the new offensive coordinator Greg Knapp has a flair for generating an effective rushing attack, as demonstrated by his work with the Falcons, 49ers and Raiders in previous years. Jones is currently being selected in the eighth to ninth rounds of fantasy drafts, but could be a pleasant surprise this year.
Nate Washington, WR
It seems like forever since the Titans have actually had a wide receiver who represented any kind of legitimate deep threat. In fact, you may need to go all the way back to 1998, when they signed Yancey Thigpen and then derailed his career by attempting to integrate him into their tediously boring offense.
In 2009, the Titans passing offense will most likely remain monotonously unexciting, but at least they will have Nate Washington to stretch the field when they are feeling slightly froggy. Washington can be found as late as the 15th round in fantasy drafts this year, and should be a good bet to surpass the dawdling Justin Gage as the Titans leading wideout.
Willis McGahee, RB
If you selected McGahee in a 2008 fantasy draft, it was clearly a wasted 1st-2nd round pick that may have helped sabotage your season. As a consequence, it’s perfectly okay to harbor ill-feelings toward the veteran RB. In fact, if you find it therapeutic, feel free to make up you own disdainful nicknames for McGahee.
However, after you run around referring to McGahee as Willis McWashout and Fritter McLollygagger, or even SillyPutty McSuckinstein, and the resentment is cathartically removed from your system, it could be time to give the Ravens RB a second look.
Currently, Ray Rice is the popular choice to assume the primary ballcarrier duties in Baltimore, but this notion could have some flaws. For one thing, Rice is a fine RB, but lacks the size to be a workhorse, and despite his smaller frame, he is not especially fast or elusive. Meanwhile, McGahee has looked solid in camp so far and is comparatively better-suited for frequent carries, when healthy.
While Ray Rice is going in the 7th round, McGahee can be acquired at a more reasonable 10th round spot, and could turn out to be a great value.
Robert Meachem, WR
Robert Meachem is a gifted young receiver who enters his 3rd season, and is now officially running out of excuses. After his selection in the 1st round of the 2007 draft, his rookie season was marred by injury. In his second year, he was relatively healthy, but the Saints were somehow unimpressed with how he used his athleticism to gracefully run to the wrong places on the field.
Entering his 3rd year, the Saints are encouraged by his progress so far, and it appears that Meachem could be on the verge of grasping the concept of proper route running. The former 1st round selection is arguably the Saints receiver with the biggest upside from a talent perspective, and could be a steal in the 15th round of your fantasy draft.
Laurence Maroney, RB
Bill Belichick takes great pride in making the Patriots backfield one of the most ambiguous situations in professional sports, and his RB rotation is truly one of the great achievements in 20th century bureaucracy, because it somehow works.
While it’s probably best to steer clear of the entire mess, it’s just difficult to dismiss the notion that Sammy Morris, Fred Taylor and/or Kevin Faulk appear to be significantly inferior options to a healthy and motivated Laurence Maroney.
That said, some of you would rather chaperone an unruly group of elementary school children at the premiere of "Lawrence of Arabia—The Musical" than draft Laurence Maroney this year. This is perfectly understandable, but it really seems that Maroney is worth a speculative pick in his current 12th round draft position.
Bryant Johnson, WR
The fantasy football world has seemingly been waiting forever for Bryant Johnson to accomplish something notable, but it could be time to just resign ourselves to the fact that it’s not going to happen.
On the bright side, as opposed to last year when he was an alleged starter in the erratic 49er offense, he does look a little better this season as the likely No. 2 receiver playing opposite Calvin Johnson.
Even so, his upside is probably capped at around 50 catches for 600-700 yards and maybe five TDs, and that’s if the potentially more talented rookie Derrick Williams doesn’t decide to start assimilating to his new pro career to usurp the underwhelming Johnson.
Cedric Benson, RB
Despite his modest resurgence last season, it may be best to temper expectations for Cedric Benson. He did finish the year strong with 282 yards against the Browns and the Chiefs, but those run defenses probably should have been classified as charitable organizations under US tax code in 2008.
On the upside, the Bengals seem to have enough confidence in Benson, that they felt they had the luxury of cutting Kenny Watson, but Benson could very well lose time to rookie project Bernard Scott and/or free agent signee Brian Leonard. Scott is a smallish, but instinctive, quick and elusive option for the Bengals who is showing promise so far, and despite Leonard’s fullback job description, he offers the same speed and power as Cedric Benson.
Lastly, and this may amount to nothing significant, but it’s hard to ignore Benson’s offseason rationale for possibly signing with the Texans. To paraphrase, Benson essentially said "I have no problem with signing with a club as a backup runningback in the right situation."
Really, Cedric? That’s the way to articulate your competitive disposition and vocational commitment. Isn’t this kind of like hearing your postman say "It’s my professional pledge to you, that more often than not, I’ll be able to deliver most of your mail," or hearing your building contractor say "Yeah, we are not too bad with foundation, framing and plumbing stuff, but you might get an electrical fire when you turn on the lights."
Joe Flacco/Derrick Mason/Mark Clayton, QB/WR
It’s really tempting to draft Joe Flacco this year. However, while the Ravens second-year quarterback is clearly one of the most talented young passers in the league, it’s getting more difficult to identify who exactly he will be throwing to this year.
Derrick Mason returning is a plus, but we have probably seen the best out of this particular 35 year-old receiver, and waffling around on his retirement decision does not inspire a great deal of confidence.
At the No. 2 receiver spot, the only thing consistent about Mark Clayton is that 1) he will probably be injured the week you need him, and/or 2) the week he fools you into putting him into your lineup, he’ll get you two catches for 19 yards.
To round out the Ravens motley brigade of questionable receivers, there is Demetrius Williams, whose hype always seems to exceed his relevance, followed by Kelley Washington, Justin Harper and then some guy named "Ernie Wheelwright." Ernie Wheelwright is likely on the roster only because the M&T Bank Stadium announcer gets a chuckle when he gets to say his name twice a season.
L.J. Smith/Todd Heap, TE
While we are picking on the Ravens, what better way to ensure the continued irrelevance of a couple aging tight-ends, then by putting them on the same team together? Now, whatever limited productivity we may have expected from Todd Heap and/or LJ Smith this year, divide by two. A perfect scenario of subtraction by addition, it’s almost too awesome!
Over the past two years, LJ Smith and Todd Heap have exhibited roughly the same career trajectory, a 45-degree downslope. Smith seemed to peak in 2005 at 61 catches and 682 yards. Heap also had his best season three years ago, with 75 catches, 855 yards and seven TDs. Over the past two years, both these guys have settled into the vapid 35 catch, 300 range associated with backup fantasy tightends.
Another potential reason to steer clear of these guys is that given their recent injury histories, they could possibly account for more collective downtime than the pork rind vending machine at the Baghdad International Airport.
Reggie Bush, RB
A once-heralded first-round draft pick, whose speed and agility was supposed to leave defenders helplessly grasping at a trail of rocket fumes, Reggie Bush enters his fourth season as just an above-average runningback option in PPR leagues with an injury risk cloud still hovering over him.
Assuming that he is actually recovered from the microfracture surgery on his left knee performed this past December, Bush should remain a useful No. 3 or No. 4 RB option, but there have been some minor setbacks this preseason, where he has been held out for "precautionary" reasons.
Reggie Bush is currently being selected in the fourth round, but Pierre Thomas, the 2007 undrafted free agent who outplayed him last season, figures to assume a larger role in 2009. As such, Bush seems like a risky proposition to spend a fourth-round pick on, especially if his name increasingly becomes synonymous with "soreness and swelling."