No longer elite, Steven Jackson will disappoint in 2011.
Get ‘Em & Forget ‘Em NFC West
The news on the labor front and a possible end to this tedious lockout seem optimistic and urgent. Therefore, there’s no better time to continue to hunt for the best values in upcoming fantasy drafts for 2011. Remember, drafting is not only about getting who you want, but also getting the right guys for the best value.
This time around I’ll be scouring the NFC West for the best value, as well as recommendations of which players to avoid drafting at any cost. Without further ado, here’s one NFC West player to target, as well as one to avoid in upcoming drafts.
Despite the likes of Max Hall, Derek Anderson, and John Skelton throwing to him last year (I think Neil Lomax even engineered a series or two), Fitzgerald still managed a respectable 90 catches for 1100+ yards and 6 TD’s. He also battled through a troublesome knee injury. Now fully healthy, there’s no arguing his skill set, work ethic, and run after the catch ability are second to none.
He’s currently being selected outside of the top five at his position behind younger, unproven guys. Assuming a decent upgrade at the QB position (i.e., Kevin Kolb or Kyle Orton) and another 100 catch, 1400 yard campaign seems likely for the eighth-year wonder. At the prime age of 28 and entering a contract year, getting Fitz anytime past the second round should be considered a gift from the fantasy gods.
Talk about a regression from a solid rookie season. Beanie saw a 400-yard drop in his rushing yards, his yards per carry plummeted from 4.5 to 3.4, and his TD total dropped from 7 to 2. Granted, he played on a pathetic offense and his oft-injured knee didn't help matters; however, I don’t see there being any reason to even waste a pick on the third-year back. Tim Hightower is still around as a veteran presence to leech carries, and the versatile, sturdy rookie Ryan Williams was drafted in the second round. Not too many teams are spending second-round picks on running backs they don’t intend on playing heavily. Hello Ryan, goodbye Beanie. Or should I say good riddance?
I want you to do yourself a favor and target this guy somewhere around the 12th round or later in a typical 12-man draft this summer—especially if you are in a PPR league. I know his 8.1 yards per reception and 3 TD’s from 2010 aren’t setting the fantasy world ablaze; however, there is some serious fantasy upside in this 5’11” slot stalwart.
You can’t ignore his 85 catches last year, nor can you ignore the man who will be calling the plays in 2011 for the Rams: Josh McDaniels. McDaniels may have tanked as the “man” in Denver, but his offensive mind and play-calling skills are unquestioned. Remember, he’s part of the reason Wes Welker became a household name.
This offense is on the rise with a strong-armed, confident QB at the helm and a new play caller in town. Furthermore, Amendola is the only returning Ram receiver with any semblance of health and consistency (Donnie Avery coming off surgery, and Danario Alexander’s been under the knife more than Joan Rivers). I expect 100 catches this season from Amendola and it doesn’t seem too far-fetched to think he at least doubles his TD total. If that’s the case, he’ll be an absolute steal as a 4/5 WR for you.
Few backs have been as solid and dominant as Jackson over the past five seasons. Believe me, as someone who mistakenly dealt S-Jax before his epic 2006 campaign (2300 total yards, 16 TD’s, 90 catches), I know just how unworldly he can be. However, there’s no denying his kamikaze rushing style has left him tattered and prone to injury. While I don’t believe he’ll completely fall off the fantasy map in 2011, I see plenty of reasons to avoid drafting him—especially if you are thinking he’ll be your RB No.1.
As mentioned earlier, Josh McDaniels’ tenure as offensive coordinator means passing, passing and more passing. This bodes well for Jackson’s reception totals, but not his rushing. Furthermore, the bruising former Beaver has amassed a resounding 907 carries over the past three seasons and has missed 6 games during the same time span.
Eventually 300 + carry seasons will wreak havoc on a running back. What’s the last potential harbinger of a downslide in 2011? How about his sub 4.0 ypc average in 2010 (3.8) and his mediocre 10 TD’s the past two years. Am I avoiding Jackson completely in 2011? No, but I am not going to take him in the first two rounds, nor am I going to rely upon him to be a true No. 1 RB anymore.
Plenty of naysayers will be concerned with his uptick in age (28 in May), as well as his season-ending hip injury in 2010. I’ll be the first to admit expecting a full 16 game slate from Gore is probably unrealistic; yet, I still feel there are numerous reasons to hope this pass-catching dynamo slips to you in the second round.
First, other than last season, he’s started at least 14 games since become the man in 2006. Secondly, the hip injury he suffered last year was fluky, and didn’t require surgery. Also, he’s entering the uber-important contract year. Don’t forget he’s averaged 50 catches a season over the last five campaigns with a respectable eight total TD average over the same span.
Perhaps most importantly this year the value and draft position for Gore seem to be in perfect harmony. Picking at the tail-end of a 12-man draft (slots 10-12) would allow you to target a big time WR such as Calvin Johnson or Roddy White and feel fairly certain Gore will be back on the turn. Gore will remain the centerpiece of the offense even with a new coaching staff; he will get you second-round value and if he manages to finally put together a full season he will conceivably battle for a top-five finish and carry many owners to the postseason.
I know, I know—plenty of third receivers in the NFL finally “get it” and some sort of route-running, work ethic epiphany occurs boosting them to stardom. Recent examples of this widely held fantasy belief are Sidney Rice and Steve Smith (NYG) in 2009. However, I don’t see Crabtree fitting the mold, nor do I understand why many owners still see this brooding, immature receiver as a fantasy starter. Crabtree will not have what Rice, Smith, and other third-year WR breakouts typically have: a steady veteran QB who recognizes his talent. Crabtree will most likely be receiving balls from Alex Smith—and their relationship is strained at best.
Even though Crabtree has shown flashes over his first two seasons, I can’t ignore his whopping 10 games last year where he accumulated five points or less in standard leagues. While he did receive 101 targets, it is clear this offense will go through Frank Gore first, Vernon Davis second, and everyone else next. Could Crabtree breakout in 2011? Possibly, but I’m not buying it and will take a wait and see approach—as in I’ll wait to draft him until I see him prove it on an NFL field.
This endorsement is as much about the distinct emphasis Seattle has placed on improving their offensive line as it is about Lynch’s talent. Seattle brought in Tom Cable to revamp and coach up the O-line a year after offensive line guru Alex Gibbs abruptly retired. Russel Okong, the would-be left tackle of the future, should be healthy and happy in year two. Couple that with the return of injured center Max Unger and rookies John Carpenter and John Moffitt (First team AP All-America) and Seattle’s commitment to improving their putrid 31st rushing rank from 2010 seems legit.
Let’s not forget that Marshawn Lynch was able to be productive at times behind a so-so offensive front in Buffalo. Furthermore, the young back is only 25 years old and will be playing for a new contract in Seattle or elsewhere in 2012. His career yards per carry hovers around 4.0, so all Lynch needs is 250 carries and he should crack 1,000 yards on the ground. With the return of Matt Hasselbeck in the air, and a crop of younger receivers, Lynch could be the focal point of Seattle’s offense. Taking him as a RB 3/4 in the middle rounds sounds about right.
“Big” Mike Williams, or BMW, is not to be confused with the much more talented and draftable Mike Williams from Tampa Bay. Sure, Williams’ comeback story with his former college coach Pete Carroll in 2010 was heartwarming and helpful to a handful of fantasy squadrons. However, I just can’t dismiss several doubts about BMW. First, in 16 regular season games last year he caught two balls or less in a whopping 6 of them.
Furthermore, 22 of his 65 catches came in two games against the Cardinals—an amazing 34 percent of his total! Yes, he does get to play Arizona twice again in 2011, but I’m a real skeptic about his schizophrenic statistics.
If that weren’t enough to dissuade you, lest we forget this guy spent the previous three years as a forgotten man discarded in 2007 by the Oakland Raiders of all teams. Couple that with the aforementioned QB questions in Seattle and I have a hard time envisioning Seattle’s version of Mike Williams as a WR No. 3 or even No. 4 for my fantasy team. I’ll pass on what could certainly have been a one-year fluke and take my chances with more proven vets or younger wideouts with a much higher ceiling.