Fantasy football owners should not sleep during the summer. While they might be distracted by fantasy baseball leagues or living their lives, the winning owners will be paying attention to the NFL Draft, the Peyton Manning situation and which free agents signs with which new teams.
So which players will shoot up fantasy draft boards this summer? No need to get Mel Kiper on the case. Here is a look:
Mario Manningham, Free Agent (WR)
This Super Bowl hero and Grammy presenter should zoom up the fantasy charts quicker than a Katy Perry single zooms up the Billboard charts.
Manningham had to play third banana to Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz in New York’s aerial attack this past season, but that will probably not be the case next season. He is a free agent and should command starting wide receiver money thanks to his Super Bowl performance.
And Manningham’s past numbers suggest he rightly deserves a couple million per year. He had 1,766 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns between 2009 and 2010 before tailing off to 523 yards and four scores in 2011 due to missing four contests and Cruz’s sudden emergence.
Personally, Manningham is a little too injury-prone and inconsistent for me to bump him up too many notches on my cheat sheets, but if he signs with another team, his value will undoubtedly increase just by him going from a No. 3 WR to a No. 2 and having more passes thrown his way.
Manningham would be a nice addition for the St. Louis Rams, Tennessee Titans or the Cleveland Browns, three teams starving for receivers. Or maybe, just maybe, the team Manningham helped defeat in the Super Bowl, the New England Patriots, could come calling. As long as he stays healthy, Manningham should put up 900 yards and six touchdowns wherever he winds up.
Matt Flynn, Free Agent (QB)
I do not know if fantasy owners have been this excited about a back-up quarterback since Scott Mitchell or Matt Schaub were second-stringers on the verge of becoming starting signal callers.
Flynn has not played much in the NFL, but when he did, he left quite the impression. He first burst onto the fantasy scene in 2010 when he stepped in for a concussed Aaron Rodgers and promptly threw for 251 yards and three touchdowns against the New England Patriots.
But the game that really put Flynn on the map and made him as attractive as Kate Upton to NFL general managers and fantasy owners was when he torched the Detroit Lions for 480 yards and a half-dozen touchdown passes in the last game of the 2011 season.
There are several teams who need quarterbacks, so Flynn will no longer be Rodgers’ clipboard holder. Flynn will be paid top dollar to be a starting quarterback for the Miami Dolphins, Washington Redskins, Seattle Seahawks or someone else. Depending on which team he ends up with, Flynn could be rated a top-15 fantasy QB heading into training camp.
Pierre Garcon, Indianapolis Colts (WR)
Garcon was arguably the only Colt with any fantasy value this past season. While Dallas Clark and Reggie Wayne watched their fantasy values plummet without Peyton Manning around, Garcon’s worth and stats actually improved.
It is pretty remarkable that Garcon had a career-high 70 receptions and 947 yards considering the quarterbacks who were throwing to him. Kerry Collins, Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky are a trio that would be better off starting in the UFL these days than the NFL. Yet Garcon was almost able to have a 1,000-yard season with these subpar passers throwing to him.
With Indianapolis poised to draft Andrew Luck with the No. 1 overall pick in April, the quarterback upgrade should definitely help Garcon, who was inexperienced and a No. 3 option at best when Manning was at the helm. Now he will likely be the go-to-guy in Indy’s revamped offense, and maybe Luck and he turn into the next Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson in the coming years.
Garcon should sneak into the top 20 on fantasy draft boards, especially if he looks like he is clicking with Luck in the preseason.
Isaac Redman, Pittsburgh Steelers (RB)
Redman will be the top running back skyrocketing up fantasy draft lists over the summer. There are three main reasons why.
1. Rashard Mendenhall tore his ACL at the end of this past season and is probably 50-50 at best to be ready by Week 6 of next season. The door is wide open for Redman to be the starting RB now because...
2. Pittsburgh is salary-cap strapped and has never been an organization known for its freewheeling free-agent signings. The Steelers always like to spend their money on their own players and not other teams’, so they will not be spending millions for another runner.
3. The Steelers let offensive coordinator Bruce Arians leave after his contract expired because the front office wants the team to go back to being a run-first, smash mouth offense. More running plays mean more touches for Mr. Redman.
Redman strutted his stuff in his last two games, running for 92 yards and a touchdown against the Cleveland Browns in the regular-season finale and 121 yards against the Denver Broncos in the playoffs. Unless Pittsburgh acquires another starter-type RB in the off-season, Redman’s stock will rise in fantasy markets.