Fantasy Football: Rashad Jennings and 10 No-Names to Build Your Team Around
Yes, I realize that Maurice Jones-Drew still plays for Jacksonville. Yes, I realize that he is going in first rounds and considered to be one of the best backs available.
Rashad Jennings stepped in for MJD late in the season when he went down with knee issues. Now, Jones-Drew is coming back from major surgery, and it is expected that Jennings may have earned himself some more touches.
Jennings compiled two 100-yard rushing games last season including in Week 17 when he had his highest scoring game of the season.
Jones-Drew is still by all means the stud of the Jaguars running game and should be drafted as such. However, the trend we've seen in the past is that running backs can break down very quickly.
If the knee surgery has caused him to lose any kind of speed or explosiveness, we may be seeing a heavier dose of Jennings.
Don't reach for Jennings too early, he will be available late in drafts. Make sure to keep an eye on Jones-Drew for the rest of the preseason and early in the year.
Any signs of concern could mean big things for Jennings owners.
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It isn't often that I get the chance to suggest a third string running back as a guy that could potentially change your fantasy team's season.
Mike Goodson stepped in for DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart last season putting up some pretty impressive numbers while doing so.
Williams and Stewart both have a long history of injuries. The tendency to get hurt doesn't ever really leave a player, especially at the running back position where you know you are going to get hit just about every time you touch the ball.
Goodson also proved to be a valuable asset in the receiving game so those of you in PPR leagues should be paying extra attention to the former fourth round pick.
The most important factor to remember is that Carolina is going to be running the ball. Their quarterback position is far from solidified so expect these backs to get a ton of touches this season. Which is just another reason to think that we may see plenty of Goodson.
Again, same as Jennings, don't go drafting Goodson expecting him to be the kind of guy to lead your team from day one.
If Williams and Stewart's reputations continue to follow them, then you can expect to see Goodson on the field by the middle of the year.
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The tight end position can be one of the more frustrating on your squad. Unless you are sitting pretty with Antonio Gates, you have a lot of questions about your tight end.
Well Jimmy Graham may just be the next guy to help put you at ease.
He sat in the shadow of fellow Hurricane Jeremy Shockey for the early part of the season. It wasn't until week nine that we really got to see how Graham could be worked into the offense.
Over the second half of the season Graham complied 26 receptions, 307 yards, 5 TDs. The most important note to remember is that Graham, the former collegiate basketball player, was looked to in the red zone frequently.
Now coming into his first year as the expected started, the expectations should be higher for Graham. He is in an offense that is going to be throwing the ball all over the field as they always have. It is clear that he has the physical attributes to be successful in the NFL.
While others are spending those high picks on the likes of Dallas Clark, Jason Witten, and Vernon Davis you can be waiting on Graham who could finish in the top five tight ends by seasons end.
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Coming off an impressive rookie campaign Emmanuel Sanders proved that he was ready to play at the NFL level.
Antwaan Randle El was originally slated to be the Steelers number three wide out going into last year, but as the year went on the Southern Methodist product stepped into the role.
While the "sophomore slump" theory could apply here, I wouldn't expect it.
Hines Ward is another year older and it is clear that he isn't going to have too many more routes in him. Mike Wallace has moved up to become the number one option in the Steelers passing game, but on a team that was once known for its hard nosed running game, the latest versions haven't been shy about throwing the ball down field.
Roethlisberger has a big arm and the ability to put together some very big plays. This will match up well with the speedy Sanders who we saw get his fair share of chances.
Sanders is an excellent sleeper candidate to grab at the wide receiver position that could turn out to be a very nice number two option.
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One half of the best young tight end duo in the league, "Gronk" became one of Tom Brady's favorite red zone targets last season.
Gronkowski started the season slow while fellow rookie tight end Aaron Hernandez impressed with his big play ability. Then after a three touchdown performance in Pittsburgh, Gronkowski's skill set began to shine.
At 6'6, 265 lbs, he is going to be a load for anyone to handle down by the end zone.
While the Patriots have been known for frustrating fantasy owners by mixing up their targets, it is clear that Gronkowski will have a chance to catch plenty of touchdowns. He complied ten in his rookie year and there is no doubt that Brady will pass up the chance to feed him again this year.
As I mentioned earlier with Jimmy Graham, tight ends can be a very frustrating position. The most important thing you want out of your tight end? Catch touchdowns.
Like the lanky Graham, you know that Gronkowski is going to get plenty of chances on a team that has no hesitation throwing the ball and putting up points.
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It is hard to call a starting quarterback a "no-name", but in Ryan Fitzpatrick's case not enough people known his name.
Being the starting quarterback for the lowly Buffalo Bills may not be as bad as it sounds in the fantasy football world. Fitzpatrick put up a more than respectable 3,000 yard, 23 passing TD season.
The Harvard graduate has shown that he has the ability to consistently put up quality performances week in and week out.
That is what you should be looking for out of your starting quarterback. Especially in leagues that have two quarterbacks, you should be considering Fitzpatrick as a great draft low option.
If there is one thing that we can guarantee about Fitzpatrick's upcoming 2011 campaign is he that he is going to have plenty of chances. The Bills aren't considerably better and will likely be behind in most of their games.
Expect the Bills to turn him loose and as long as you don't receive negative points for interceptions, enjoy the stats.
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An Oakland Raider you can build your team around not named Darren McFadden?
His name is Jacoby Ford. I'm sure some of you may already know the name, but for those who don't Ford's speed makes him a potential number one option at wide receiver.
The Raiders use Ford in a variety ways from running deep routes to the return game which makes his value only higher.
With another year under his belt, Ford is expected to have just as big of a role in the Raiders' offense if not bigger in 2011. He has amazing pure speed that could make him a big play machine if Oakland can continue to figure out ways to get the ball in his hands.
He is ranked relatively low considering that he is the number one option on the team. Granted Oakland's quarterback situation isn't ideal, Ford is talented enough to shine through.
With his ranking being around guys like Santana Moss, Pierre Garcon, and Mike Thomas, don't hesitate to channel your inner Al Davis on draft day and go with the pure speed of Jacoby Ford.
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Ryan Mathews was one of the most popular rookie selections heading into the 2010 fantasy football season. After a lot of early disappoint and injuries sidelines the young back, Mike Tolbert took over.
Tolbert was listed as the team's full back, but had no issues looking like a running back as he compiled 720 yards on the ground along with six rushing touchdowns.
Now again, Mathews is healthy and being labeled as the starter early. It is important to remember that the Chargers are likely to be cautious with Mathews this season. He has yet to prove that he can be an NFL back and stay healthy.
With Tolbert already likely getting carries around the goal line, I would have no issues with taking him at your draft and expecting production.
Never hesitate to grab a back that you know is going to get looks at the end zone.
Grab Tolbert for value and enjoy the scores. If Mathews goes down, enjoy a top flight fantasy back.
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Jordy Nelson's role in the Packers' passing game has slowly developed over the course of his young career. With Donald Driver taking a backseat due to his age, Nelson is now in position to be a main target in an already impressive Packers' offense.
Any wide receiver that has shown flashes of talent and is matched up with an elite quarterback like Aaron Rodgers deserves a spot on your team.
Nelson has shown that he can be a big time target for the Packers including some impressive performances during their Super Bowl run.
He hasn't quite developed into the touchdown threat that you would expect from a 6'3 wide out. However, with another year in the system and Driver's role continuing to decrease I would expect to see his looks in the red zone increase.
Nelson is another guy that is going far too low considering he could be the number two receiving option on one of the best passing games in the league.
He won't out play Jennings, but he could provide you with a break out year if he can pick up where he left off in the playoffs.
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When is Fred Jackson going to get some love?
Jackson has been producing solid numbers for the past few years even as Marshawn Lynch's back up. Now CJ Spiller arrives in Buffalo and many expected Jackson to once again fall back out of the spotlight.
Well he answered those doubts with a solid season of 861 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns.
Jackson is once again facing questions of his value as many expect Spiller to take over a bigger role in the Bills offense.
Do not sleep on Fred Jackson.
He is going to be the guy that is getting the runs between the tackles and he will be the guy getting the chances to put the ball in the end zone.
Spiller has excellent receiving abilities, but Jackson is no slouch in the passing game either.
Don't go buying the hype on the explosive Spiller. He is a good athlete, but for fantasy value he just isn't there yet. Grab Jackson in the middle of the draft when everyone else is undervaluing him. He will give great consistent production.
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Remember the beginning of this article where I told you that owning the back up to a running back with knee issues isn't a bad idea?
The same rule applies for James Starks.
Ryan Grant is coming off a very serious knee surgery that could leave the door open for Starks to get some touches early on in the season. He stepped up big time for the Packers during the postseason and there are no doubts that he can get the job done as a starter.
As with Jordy Nelson, Starks has the potential to be a feature player on a very good offense. In a league where running back duos are becoming commonplace, it never hurts to have a guy like Starks who you know can put up fantasy points.
He will lack the early season value. It will be very important to track Grant's progress throughout camp and the preseason.
As with Jones-Drew, the Panthers backs, and Mathews if Grant can't perform up to standards Green Bay will turn to Starks.
I'd recommend being the lucky one that gets to grab him.