Fantasy Football, Week 2 Advise

Fred Jackson has been Marshawn Lynch’s handcuff/semi-relevant platoon-mate for a couple years now, Dominic Rhodes brings better value and more upside to the table.  Years in the pass-happy Indianapolis offense have made Rhodes a competent pass-blocker and receiving back.  Additionally, unlike Jackson, he has shown flashes of deceptive power in his stout, five-nine frame.  While his value would obviously be at its peak during Marshawn Lynch’s three game suspension (assuming it happens), Rhodes can still remain fantasy-relevant as a goal-line or change-of-pace back when Marshawn takes a few snaps off.  The upside here is not enormous, as it is with the next few guys, but the potential exists.

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Take a second look at him in deeper leagues.Miami Dolphins- Pat WhiteFor the first time in a while, a number of Miami players have fantasy relevance.  Granted, none of them have HUGE fantasy relevance (save Ronnie Brown), but there are a number of ownable players.  Pretty much every Miami receiver is a fantasy sleeper this season.  The hyper-talented Ted Ginn made big strides in 2008, and is entering the magical third season.  Greg Camarillo showed Welker-like potential last season.  Davone Bess had a miniaturized breakout rookie season as a solid slot receiver.  Ernest Wilford is still massive, making him an instant red zone threat.  Patrick Turner and Brian Hartline would not have been drafted by the magically-talented Bill Parcells if they didn’t have NFL-level potential (they’re also both big).  All that said, I already wrote up a big-ass article on Pat White’s historic fantasy potential.  Read it here.New England Patriots- Laurence MaroneyEver since Corey Dillon retired, the Patriots’ backfield has been confusing as hell.  In the 2008 season, LaMont Jordan, Kevin Faulk, Sammy Morris, and BenJarvus Green-Ellis all had brief bursts of fantasy relevance.  Completely absent from this is Laurence Maroney.  The twenty-first overall pick in the 2006 draft has already been labeled a bust by Patriots fans, and a total of sixteen games played in the past two seasons, best remembered for an impressive level of inconsistency, left a bitter taste in the mouth of fantasy players.

To top it all off, a combination of effective play from Sammy Morris (4.6 yards per carry in 2007 and 2008) and Kevin Faulk (6.1 ypc, 58 receptions for 486 yards) and the Patriots’ signing of Fred Taylor have put Maroney out-of-mind with anyone who pays attention to the Pats.  Their loss, though.  Maroney is a rare combination of speed and power.  He ran a 4.48 forty on his Pro Day back in 2006, and back when he was actually playing with Dillon, not a game went by when they didn’t talk about how Dillon worked with him during practice, teaching him his brutal, legendary, tackler-stuffing stiff arm.  Maroney was limited in his brief 2008 season because of a shoulder injury (a broken shoulder, to be precise), which made him unable to show any of the power he had in his first two seasons, like here, where he runs head-first into a pile of Titans for a touchdown, or here, where he embarrasses defenders in the infamous 52-7 win over the Redskins.  Just watching plays like this reminds you that Maroney is talented.  Another thing to consider is that, good as New England’s RBs have been, they’re really freaking old.  Morris is 32, Faulk will be 33 in June, and Fred Taylor will be 34 in time for the postseason.  BenJarvus Green-Ellis, despite his fantasy relevance, is not really electrifying.  While Maroney is probably going to end up somewhere in standard ten team leagues…try and make sure he ends up on your team.

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New York Jets- Shonn Greene

It’s entirely possible that by the time the season rolls around, this won’t be a sleeper pick.  But I’m still penciling in Marion Barber’s doppelganger here.   Firstly, check this out.  It’s a highlight reel of Shonn Greene barreling over random shmoes in college.  Granted, he is not going to encounter many five-foot-eight strong safeties like he did in college, but the sheer strength is impressive.  New coach Rex Ryan is smitten with Greene’s power, and Thomas Jones and Leon Washington are on the midnight train to the doghouse.  Greene is bigger than Jones and stronger than Washington, and Ryan “loves the way guys bounce off of him” and “has a poster of him taped over his bed.”  Even if Jones and Washington both stick around, the thoughts of Greene getting a huge load of red zone carries won’t leave my head, and a the chances of a two-back system being set up by the new Jets regime boon Greene’s fantasy potential even more.  A season in the same vein of Marion Barber’s 2006 breakout campaign (654 yards, 14 TDs) is possible…though 14 TDs is unlikely.  But Greene will probably end up infuriating many-a-Thomas Jones-owner with his TD-stealing abilities.

NFC East Breakdown

Dallas Cowboys – Felix Jones

Boy things sure got shaken up in Dallas this off-season. I’m not going to talk about Roy Williams, since he…well…isn’t a sleeper. At first, I considered slotting in Patrick Crayton as my sleeper pick for Dallas, but his regressive production last year and competition from Miles Austin for playing time hinders his value. That said, I am going to choke up on the bat and make my pitch for Felix Jones.

In 5 games in 2008, Jones rushed for 266 yards on 30 attempts (8.9 ypc). Now that he is fully recovered from his toe injury, he is expected to double his touches per game. This will be a crowded backfield with Tashard Choice fighting for carries behind Marion Barber, but word is Jones will receive double digit carries per game next year.Never having more than 9 carries in a game, Jones managed 62, 76, and 96 yards in weeks 1, 3 and 5, respectively.He makes the most of his carries and, in addition to those big yardage games, broke off TDs, as well.

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Something else of note is that Felix Jones will be the focal point of the Cowboys’ version of the Wildcat offense.While the Cowboys may not be planning on using their self-named “Razorback” offense too often, any chance of success cannot be ignored and any chance to give Felix the ball should be taken.Jones will make for a fantastic RB3 or flex player, as well as a decent complement to an RB1 or RB2. Should Barber get injured, however, Jones quickly rises to a lower RB1 in terms of potential.

Fantasyfootballcalculator.com currently has Felix Jones’ ADP at 67, making him the 32nd RB taken overall in 10 team leagues, often landing in the eighth round. Jones has too much upside to be so far down, and he makes a smart pick up in the 7th round, or even late 6th if you’re desperate for RB help.

New York Giants – Ahmad Bradshaw

I’m going over some SoS reports from fftoolbox.com, and there is a lot to like about the Giants passing game. Eli has the 7th best schedule for allowing fantasy points to QBs, while Jacobs and Bradshaw have the 13th most friendly schedule to RBs. The Giants offense has suffered as a whole with the loss of Plaxico Burress. And while Eli Manning has enough talent to keep defenses honest, he does not have the ability to take what he wants the way Phillip Rivers, Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler can.That being said, this could be Ahmad Bradshaw’s year.

Brandon Jacobs is the man in NY, but is yet to make it through a full season as a workhorse.Even so, the offense remains run-first during his absences. Even though Jacobs played in 13 games last season, his backup, Derrick Ward, managed to amass over 1400 yards of total offense as backup last season. With Ward set to be the starter in Tampa Bay, Bradshaw is penciled in as his successor. The Giants, with their run-heavy attack and Jacobs’ shaky history, expressed a lot of confidence in Bradshaw, passing on a RB during the draft until the fourth round. While Bradshaw can be looked at as a handcuff to Brandon Jacobs, he fits the bill as a high-upside player that can be snatched in the mid-late rounds of your draft. If he’s available in the 9th round and you do not have a lot of faith in your RBs, don’t be afraid to pull the trigger on Bradshaw.

Philadelphia Eagles – DeSean Jackson

DeSean Jackson came in and had a solid rookie season for the Eagles, quickly asserting himself as McNabb’s top weapon, and hauling in 62 passes for over 900 yards. Word on the streets is that he has begun truly dedicating himself to football, and is reportedly running faster and is showing a more can-do attitude. He has had a year to adjust to the pros, get more acclimated to the playbook, build chemistry with his quarterback, and improve himself physically.

Despite all this, Jackson has the potential to slip in drafts. As a member of a team that constantly rotates other WRs into the top pass-catching spot, and as somebody who failed to make a splash last postseason, Jackson’s WR2 status and WR1 potential makes him a steal during the middle rounds of the draft.If he’s available, and you are looking for a WR, don’t be afraid to take him over a Hines Ward, Roy Williams, or, contrary to what Steve says, Donald Driver.

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Washington Redskins – Ladell Betts

The Redskins have the 3rd most favorable rushing schedule of all the teams in the NFL, something likely to give a boost to Clinton Portis’ long-time backup, Ladell Betts. Betts has been known for his production as a backup, and has totaled a respectable 4.1 ypc in over 700 carries.A 9-game injury to Portis led to a 1,600 yard season for Betts, underlining his value as a handcuff to Portis owners.

Current word out of Redskins camp is that Coach Zorn has been keeping an eye out on Portis, and has picked up on some fatigue, courtesy of back-to-back 370+ touch seasons. While Portis owners will likely look to handcuff Betts by rounds 11-13, don’t be afraid to allot an open bench spot to Betts if he is available any later, as he is a safe bet to get good trash yardage when the Redskins have favorable matchups. Should Portis go down, Betts instantly becomes RB2 material.