NFL fans have a lot to be thankful for this time of year.
For now, at least, there is labor peace—and that means there is playoff football.
So while the turmoil brews on the horizon, football fans can focus in on what should be a fantastic slate of NFL playoff games.
In hoping that there will indeed be football next year—it’s just too hard to think about the alternative—fantasy owners can start prepping for fantasy drafts next summer by keeping an eye on some intriguing prospects through the course of the postseason.
Matt Cassel, Chiefs
Charlie Weis is leaving for the University of Florida after this season, so Cassel will be without his offensive coordinator next year. Weis helped Cassel and the Chiefs offense blossom this year, so it will be interesting to see how his absence will affect the offense next year.
But first, let’s see how the pressure of a home playoff game against Baltimore’s defense—a little overrated for sure, but still fearsome—affects Cassel and Co.
Mark Sanchez, Jets
As a rookie in the playoffs last year, the reins came off a little bit for Sanchez. 2010 was supposed to be his breakout fantasy season with all the weapons around him on offense: LaDainian Tomlinson, Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards, Dustin Keller and Shonn Greene.
But this season had its ups and downs, leaving Sanchez’s fantasy value heading into next season in flux. Another good playoff run could bolster his stock heading into the offseason.
James Starks, Packers
He continues to get more and more work in the Packers offense, and there is no holding back now. Green Bay has to put all of its cards on the table to make a run at the Super Bowl, a run that would take them on the road through the course of the NFC playoffs.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Patriots
Danny Woodhead gets most of the attention, but the Law Firm gets a great deal of work and has the potential to turn in some serious fantasy value next year. Keep an eye on how the Pats use him this postseason, as he could become the next Corey Dillon in this offense.
Donald Brown, Colts
The torch should have been passed to Brown this season while Joseph Addai nursed some injuries, but Brown battled ailments of his own. Disturbingly enough for fantasy owners, he has battled injuries now for the better part of his two seasons in the league.
This is his chance to steal a little bit of the thunder from Addai in the spotlight. Doing so would generate serious fantasy buzz for Brown heading into an offseason where he could be handed the job outright.
Blair White, Colts
Another Colts receiver out of nowhere with suddenly ascending fantasy stock. Go figure, right?
Peyton Manning can turn just about anyone off the street into a fantasy gem, so this is not too big of a surprise. White played admirably in place of the oft-concussed Austin Collie this year. Sadly, Collie’s concussions may prevent him from playing football anytime soon—if ever again—so White could have the opportunity to step into a major role in a pass-happy offense this offseason.
Mike Williams, Seahawks
Comeback player of the year? Probably not, but Williams’ story is nothing short of remarkable. It is nice to see a player come back from the ridicule he suffered, though it was deserved for the most part, during the first few years of his nearly-absent NFL career.
Jimmy Graham, Saints
The next Tony Gonzalez. We all have heard these types of comparisons before, and 9.9 times out of 10 it never pans out. Believe this one.
Most NFL fans will get their first look at Graham this weekend, but I have been blessed to watch him all season. This guy played one—ONE—full season of college football at Miami, and now he is starting in a pass-happy offense with a tight end-friendly quarterback. The connection between Drew Brees and Graham could be one reminiscent of Brees to Antonio Gates.
Tony Moeaki, Chiefs
He started the season with a bang but fizzled as it went along. Chalk that one up to the rookie learning curve. Moeaki is going to need to become a consistent passing threat in this offense in order for it to continue succeeding on par with this season. The experience he gained this season and now in the playoffs will help toward that end.