The 2011 NFL Draft is in the books and while there might not be a football season thanks to the owners’ lockout, fantasy football owners still have to prepare like there will be one.
No sooner did Mel Kiper stop talking then fantasy owners started wondering about the futures of their favorite players. Whether it was the plethora of quarterbacks drafted in the early rounds or the big-play receivers taken in the top 10, whenever a college standout at a skilled position was selected, the fantasy football world took notice.
So which pro players might see their fantasy values rise or fall because of the college kids their NFL teams drafted? Here is a look!
Roddy White, Atlanta Falcons
Do not misunderstand what the arrival of first-round phenom Julio Jones means for White. Your rapid response might be that this could lead to fewer targets, receptions, yards and touchdowns for fantasy football’s best or second-best receiver of 2010.
First off, I think fantasy football owners can live if White “only” catches 100 balls in 2011, compared to the ungodly 115 he snagged in 2010. What Jones’ arrival should do, however, is cut down on the double teams White faces from secondaries and that should open up space downfield for White to make more big plays. White almost transformed into a possession receiver last season, as he only caught a couple passes over 40 yards and none over 50, making him less valuable in distance leagues.
You can make a case that for some teams with certain offenses, having two star receivers does not work fantasy-wise, and Atlanta does run the ball a lot, which limits Matt Ryan’s pass attempts. Atlanta is not like Indianapolis or Green Bay, teams that throw the ball so often that even though the passes are spread around, No. 1 receivers Reggie Wayne and Greg Jennings can still post awesome fantasy numbers.
I would not be surprised if White’s reception total goes down, but I think his yardage will remain the same, because his yards per catch will increase thanks to Jones’ presence. And most rookie receivers do not suddenly emerge as Pro Bowlers in their first year, so White will still be the main man in the red zone, at least for 2011.
White should still be ranked as a top-five pass catcher heading into fantasy drafts in August, although his fantasy value has probably reached its peak.
Reggie Bush, New Orleans Saints
Our favorite Heisman heister knows how to return punts, date a Kardashian and read the writing on the wall. New Orleans drafted running back Mark Ingram in the first round and seemingly seconds later, Bush tweeted to his followers that “it’s been fun, New Orleans.”
If Bush can predict his future correctly that he will not be a Saint in 2011, then I might call on his services to choose the right kicker for my fantasy team next season.
Bush is one of the biggest anomalies in the NFL. He never stays healthy and has never had a 10-TD year or topped the 600-yard-mark in rushing, yet he is integral to New Orleans’ offense, because defenses have to game plan for him and leave other Saints in one-on-one coverage. The Saints offense never works as well when he takes his annual four-game vacations due to leg problems.
The best thing for Bush’s fantasy value would be to move on to another organization. With Ingram, Pierre Thomas, and Chris Ivory, the Saints have almost as many running backs as a female partygoer has Mardi Gras beads. He would be lucky to get 10 touches per game if he stuck around.
If Bush could remain injury-free for a team like the Cincinnati Bengals and be the perfect change-of-pace back to Cedric Benson, or play the same role in Washington with Ryan Torain as the power back, Bush could rack up 1,200-1,300 combined yards and score 9-10 touchdowns, numbers fantasy owners would definitely take.
Carson Palmer, Cincinnati Bengals
Palmer keeps threatening that he will retire if Cincinnati does not trade or release him and the Bengals say neither will happen, so this game of chicken might last longer than a live version of Rush’s “2112.”
Cincinnati made sure it has a backup plan in case Palmer follows through on his threats. Drafting TCU quarterback Andy Dalton early in the second round was a solid stroke. So Palmer’s fantasy value for owners wondering if he is worth holding onto in dynasty leagues is slipping. If he stays with Cincy, he will probably put up mediocre stats. If he retires, he will put up no stats.
How does Dalton’s drafting positively affect Palmer’s fantasy value? Because maybe Cincinnati will be more apt to cave into his demands and trade him away, and if Palmer can end up on a team with a decent receiving corps—San Francisco or Arizona—there is no doubt he can throw for 4,000 yards and 25 touchdowns again.
David Garrard, Jacksonville Jaguars
Jacksonville owner Wayne Weaver and head coach Jack Del Rio read the riot act to Garrard last off-season, saying in no uncertain terms that he had to step up his game or else he was not going to be Jacksonville’s starting quarterback in 2011.
If you look at the numbers, Garrard did step up. He tossed a career-high 23 touchdown passes and ran for a career-best five more scores. But the problems are that Jacksonville failed to make the playoffs and that Garrard turned the ball over a career-worst 20 times (15 interceptions and five fumbles).
Jacksonville traded up and drafted Missouri signal caller Blaine Gabbert with the 10th overall pick. The bell is now tolling for Garrard. This is Weaver’s non-verbal way of telling Garrard to step up his game even higher.
Garrard will almost surely begin the season as the starting QB, unless he decides to trade in his helmet for a microphone and try to become Simon Cowell’s first winner on “X-Factor,” or if Gabbert steals his job before the season, which is highly unlikely since it looks like there will barely be any training camp or preseason games for Gabbert to show his superiority.
Look for Garrard to have a 3,300-yard, 20-TD type of year in his final season as the Jags’ top thrower. Then in 2012-13, he will take his talents to another team.
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