Football season is right around the corner and that also means that another season is about to get into full swing—fantasy football.
All of the draft magazines came out months ago and many leagues have already drafted, whether it is a 20-year keeper league or a first-year public ESPN.com league.
I do not claim to be an expert (although I placed first and second in my two leagues last season), but I wanted to put my opinions on who will have good and bad years this season.
I will use ESPN.com's rankings as a guide to see where each player is ranked and will pick one bust and one bargain from every ten players, as well as predict their stats.
BUST: (92) Felix Jones (Projected stats: 375 yards rushing, 3 TD; 100 yards receiving, 0 TD)
If you're drafting a backup running back this high he is either a touchdown vulture or a backup to an injury prone player. Jones qualifies for the latter.
Jones does back up the injury-prone Marion Barber, but my main problem with him is that he has another very talented running back behind him on the depth chart in Tashard Choice. I believe that Choice will get more carries than Jones should Barber go down. He is more of an every-down back than Jones.
Also, Jones is injury-prone as well, so it is risky taking him here for that reason.
BARGAIN: (92) Donald Brown (Projected stats: 1,200 yards rushing, 10 TD; 350 yards receiving, 1 TD)
Brown is another one of those players who is backing up an injury-prone back. Joseph Addai missed four games last year and wasn't good in the 12 that he played. I don't just like Brown because I believe Addai will get hurt, but I believe Brown could overtake Addai anyway even if healthy. Expect Brown to put up those number even with Addai healthy.
Other busts: Laveranues Coles (91), Eli Manning (95)
Other bargains: Lance Moore (93), Greg Olsen (98)
BUST: (85) Earnest Graham (Projected stats: 400 yards rushing, 3 TD; 100 yards receiving, 0 TD)
Graham is coming off of serious injury and will probably end up being second on the depth chart to Derrick Ward when the Bucs open the season. Graham was pretty terrible in most of the games he played last year, having a 3.3 ypc average or worse in six of 10 games. Ward comes over from the Giants healthy
and he is just better than Graham.
Also, there is no guarantee that Graham can stay healthy throughout the year.
Cadillac Williams is still around to get some carries as well.
BARGAIN: (83) Anthony Gonzalez (Projected stats: 1,100 yards receiving, 10 TD)
We all know Peyton Manning has always liked to spread the love around to all of his receivers. Now Gonzalez gets to get more of that love, moving into the number two receiver spot permanently. Gonzalez is a great possession receiver with great hands and will catch a lot of balls and touchdowns this year.
If Manning continues to be his normal self, Gonzalez will put up some of the best numbers of any number two receivers in the league.
Other Busts: Ben Roethlisberger (81)
Other Bargains: Carson Palmer (86), Torry Holt (90)
BUST: Chris Wells (Projected stats: 450 yards rushing, 4 TD; 100 yards receiving, 0 TD)
Wells has battled injuries his whole football career and, as a rookie, he is already battling them again. He's been bothered by ankle injuries in training camp. That is not a good sign for the season.
Also, Tim Hightower will probably get the goal-line carries again, so Wells will not get a high amount of TDs either. Hightower will probably even get the starting nod over Wells.
I'm betting that he won't make it through the season healthy and that Hightower will get the starting job. Those are pretty safe bets, though.
BARGAIN: Santonio Holmes (Projected stats: 1,150 yards, 7 TD)
Holmes was a popular sleeper going into last season and did not produce like many thought. This year is the year he finally is a good fantasy receiver.
The playoffs of last year were a very promising sign, with Holmes getting a lot of looks from Roethlisberger and making big plays after the catch. He should continue to break big plays for touchdowns, especially with Nate Washington gone to Tennessee.
Look for him to be better than Hines Ward stats-wise this year and maybe Roethlisberger can have a bounceback year like he did in 2007.
Other Busts: Jay Cutler (76), Kevin Walter (80)
Other Bargains: Eddie Royal (74), Cedric Benson (75), Santana Moss (73)
BUST: (70) Matt Cassell (Projected stats: 3,350 yards, 19 TD, 14 INT)
Cassell has a lot of bad things going for him. He switches from the Randy Moss and Wes Welker to Dwayne Bowe and Mark Bradley. He doesn't have the offensive guru in Josh McDaniels to coach him. He also does not have the offensive line that the Patriots had. All of these things spell trouble.
There haven't been many QBs who go to a worse situation and play better, and Cassel is no different. He will not be as effectively as he was for the Pats, and will not throw as much period. He is the 11th-ranked QB in these rankings, which is just insane.
BARGAIN: (61) Bernard Berrian (Projected stats: 1,200 yards, 9 TD)
Brett Favre's arrival in Minnesota helps Bernard Berrian more than anybody else on the Vikings. Berrian is one of the top deep threats in the league, and if Favre can still do one thing, it is throw the deep ball.
Berrian is also the man in Minnesota. Who else is Favre going to throw to? Sidney Rice? Percy Harvin? Berrian is the only proven receiver there and should be Favre's favorite target.
Other Busts: Reggie Bush (66)
Other Bargains: DeSean Jackson (65), Ray Rice (69)
BUST: (54) Matt Ryan (Projected stats: 3,400 yards, 18 TD, 14 INT)
First of all, I'm not saying Ryan will have a necessarily bad season, he will just not be the eighth-ranked quarterback. His stats should be around the same as last year, with a slight improvement in touchdowns. Ryan wasn't a top flight fantasy quarterback last year either, though.
Do not take him this high. You'll regret it. He is a backup quarterback in a fantasy league that has 12 or fewer.
BARGAIN: (55) Vincent Jackson (Projected stats: 1,350 yards, 12 TD)
This is the year Jackson really breaks out. He has steadily improved over the past few seasons and he will finally turn into Philip Rivers's favorite target this year. They formed a great chemistry as the season went on last year near the end of the season and in the postseason, and should continue to be dynamic QB-WR tandem.
Jackson only had 59 catches last year and still went for over 1,000 yards last year. I have to think he'll get more like 70-75 catches this year and he'll add a lot of yards with those catches. His 6'5", 230-pound frame makes him a red zone threat as well, so he should get many touchdowns this year.
Other Busts: Willie Parker (51)
Other Bargains: Chad Ochocinco (57), Larry Johnson (53)
BUST: (46) Joseph Addai (Projected stats: 550 yards rushing, 3 TD; 200 yards receiving, 1 TD)
Addai was a first round pick last year so you could also make an argument that he is a very good value in the fifth round here.
The only problem I have with him is that I don't think he will be healthy for the entire season and that Donald Brown is just better. Addai was horrible last year, only getting 3.5 yards per carry.
Even when healthy, I don't think Addai is a great player in fantasy.
BARGAIN: (43) Derrick Ward (Projected stats: 1,350 yards rushing, 14 TD; 270 yards receiving, 1 TD)
Ward is my pick to be this year's Michael Turner. He was great backing up Brandon Jacobs last year, rushing for over 1,000 yards. I think it is obvious he will get more yards than that and will definitely score more than two touchdowns.
He is a powerful back who will get more carries near the goal line than last year with Brandon Jacobs, who is one of the best, if not the best, goal-line back in the league. Earnest Graham might steal two or three touchdowns from him, but with the Buccaneers' quarterback situation, he will still get 20 carries per game and have many opportunities to score touchdowns.
Other Busts: Jonathan Stewart (49)
Other Bargains: T.J. Houshmandzadeh (44), Roy Williams (41), Braylon Edwards (48)
BUST: (36) Brandon Marshall (???)
Brandon Marshall is a big question mark for me, and probably everybody. He has been feuding with the Broncos management and may perhaps be traded. The way the Broncos handled the Cutler situation tells me that they aren't going to put up with another guy like that.
I wouldn't be surprised if they kept Marshall out of games like the Eagles did with Terrell Owens a few years ago.
If Marshall does end up with the Broncos, he doesn't seem like he is going to cooperate with the offense. He and Kyle Orton will take a while to develop chemistry without playing preseason games.
Eddie Royal is the Broncos wide receiver to draft.
BARGAIN: (33) Marques Colston (Projected stats: 1,400 yards, 12 TD)
Colston is in the best passing offense in the league this year. He missed seven games last year, but when he did play, he was very good. He had double digit fantasy points in six of nine games, and now that he has had the whole offseason to become completely healthy, he will become one of the top fantasy wide receivers in the league.
I might take Colston as the number five receiver overall behind Andre and Calvin Johnson, Randy Moss, and Larry Fitzgerald. I actually think he will put up better stats than Andre Johnson. If he stays healthy, look for him to have a top five fantasy season.
Other Busts: Thomas Jones (31), Marshawn Lynch (37)
Other Bargains: Ryan Grant (35), Darren McFadden (40)
BUST: (27) Ronnie Brown (Projected stats: 1,000 yards rushing, 6 TD; 200 yards receiving, 1 TD)
Brown is ranked way too high at 27. He only had 916 yards rushing last year while playing every game. He had 10 touchdowns, but four of them came in one game. No way that is happening again. Brown has never been a touchdown back and you can expect somewhere in the five-six range like he has gotten his entire career.
BARGAIN: (25) Kevin Smith (Projected stats: 1,300 yards rushing, 11 TD; 350 yards receiving, 1 TD)
I don't think the Lions will have a great season, but I really like Kevin Smith (along with Calvin Johnson). He rushed for almost 1,000 yards, despite not being the feature back until the season was about half-done.
Smith also has a nose for the end zone. He scored eight touchdowns in the Lions 0-16 season. He is a back who is capable of taking a pounding and will carry the load for the offense this year, perhaps getting 300 carries. I believe he will get a lot of carries and have the numbers to go with them.
Other Busts: Pierre Thomas (29)
Other Bargains: Brian Westbrook (21), Reggie Wayne (24)
BARGAIN: (15) Steve Slaton (Projected stats: 1,000 yards rushing, 7 TD; 370 yards receiving, 1 TD)
I really liked Slaton last year. He single-handedly helped my team make the playoffs with his 30-point Monday Night outburst against the Jags. The main reason I don't like him this year is that he will not be able to hold up under the same workload because he is so small.
The other reason I do not like Slaton is that the Texans will be one of the best passing offenses in the league. I don't think he will get as many carries and will not put up as many yards. He will still be an okay back, just not a second-round, or even third-round, back.
BUST: (12) Brandon Jacobs (projected stats: 1,450 yards rushing, 22 TD; 80 yards receiving, 1 TD)
Jacobs should be drafted in the first round of leagues this year. First of all, Derrick Ward, who had 182 carries last season, is gone. Ahmad Bradshaw will not be getting 182 carries. Jacobs will have to take more of the workload and will get into the end zone more.
I predict that Jacobs will lead the league in touchdowns this year and will be up there in yards. If you are sitting there with the number 12 or 13 pick, and Jacobs is there, pick him up as fast as you can.
Other Busts: None
Other Bargains: Randy Moss, Calvin Johnson
BUST: (2) Michael Turner (Projected stats: 1,250 yards rushing, 11 TD; 80 yards receiving, 0 TD)
I know it has been tossed around by about every fantasy football analyst out there, but the fact remains: the curse of 370 is very, very real. Turner had 376 carries last year.
I am really down on the Falcons as a team, but with Tony Gonzalez arriving, they will pass a little but more. I don't think he will get anywhere close to the 370 number this year. Jerious Norwood will get some more carries after only getting 98 last year.
Don't pick him at number two and definitely not at number one.
BARGAIN: (8) DeAngelo Williams (Projected stats: 1,600 yards rushing, 16 TD; 200 yards receiving, 1 TD)
I do not believe Williams's second half was a fluke and there is no reason to. He breaks tackles and runs away from people with the best of them and breaks a ridiculous amounts of long runs.
There is also a very good chance Williams could get a larger amount of carries with the health issues with Jonathan Stewart, which are very real. I think Stewart is good, but he will have nagging injuries all year long, opening the door for Williams.
I don't think Williams will quite do what he did over the last half of the season this year, but he'll get pretty darn close.
Other Busts: Chris Johnson (7), Steven Jackson (5)
Other Bargains: LaDainian Tomlinson (7)