Fantasy Football: Final thoughts on the eve of Week 1

      September 4, 2012 @ 21:08:38 PDT

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Week 1 officially kicks off in a matter of mere hours, and I write this while prepping for my final draft for the offseason. Following several productive chats with our insider network, I present you a few last-minute notes that stood out from the late offseason chats.

Quarterback

  • Peyton Manning's ability to throw to his right is hardly anything to worry about, as he completed 7-for-7 for 104 yards and a touchdown toss passing to that side in the third preseason game against the San Francisco 49ers.
  • Michael Vick has been holding onto the ball far too long, leading to being injured twice in 12 preseason snaps. At 32 years old, don't expect him to change his playing style anytime soon.
  • There is nothing to be concerned with regarding Ben Roethlisberger's injured shoulder. He has a vertical tear in his labrum, which isn't nearly as problematic as the horizontal variety.
  • Christian Ponder has improved across the board, most notably in his ability to go four deep in his progressions. He has better arm strength than given credit for and has improved across the board from his rookie year.
  • One sage points out that Andrew Luck is better than Peyton Manning was at this stage of his career. That is a lofty claim but comes from a trusted football mind.
  • It appears as though Baltimore Ravens OC Cam Cameron is finally ready to give Joe Flacco autonomy over the offense and call more pass plays. Cameron trusts Flacco more than ever before and will loosen his grip a bit.

Running back

    Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Atlanta Falcons
  • Jacquizz Rodgers will be more than a third-down back and is a better overall fit for this offense than Michael Turner is. The team is confident in J-Rod as a between-the-tackles runner and will also use him with short passes out of the backfield as an extension of the running game. The entire Atlanta running game may struggle, however. A shift to a single-back set inspired the release of fullback Ovie Mughelli, which has led to Turner being pounded at the second level, thus killing the running game.
  • Expect Miami Dolphins No. 2 Daniel Thomas to have a really good year. Injuries held him back as a rook, but he is healthy and plays behind the fragile Reggie Bush. Thomas is more comfortable and has a better understanding of protection schemes, which will keep him on the field longer. He could be a major touchdown vulture.
  • Jahvid Best stands to see around 50 percent of the RB touches, should he return this season. Mikel Leshoure is the X-factor in this offense, though. Keep an eye on him after he returns from a two-game suspension.
  • Green Bay Packers running back Alex Green (knee) will be limited most if not all year. His best-case scenario role is as the full-time third-down back.
  • Stevan Ridley has become "the guy" the coaching staff expected him to be, but just how much work will he get in this pass-happy offense? It could be a low-yardage, high-touchdown effort from the second-year back in 2012.
  • David Wilson has struggled as a pass protector and will have a hard time getting on the field if they cannot trust him to keep Eli Manning clean. Expect erratic rushing efforts from the big-play rookie.
  • Jamaal Charles (knee) has made a few moves to show you that he still has it, but KC won't overburden him with a heavy workload. His time share with Peyton Hillis will be close to 50-50 in what figures to be a run-heavy offense.
  • The San Diego Chargers' coaching staff will not use kid gloves with Ryan Mathews (clavicle) once he returns to action. If he can't handle the load, they won't change how they call plays.
  • Adrian Peterson (knee) has looked like the AD of old in practice. His cutting has been impressive, and his knee has responded well to contact practices. He is forcing the team's hand to play him in Week 1. It now comes down to the coaches' comfort level with playing him early in the year.
  • Matt Forte should see at least two-thirds of the running back touches, but Michael Bush will be the goal line back. The addition of Brandon Marshall could significantly cut into Forte's reception totals as Jay Cutler's safety blanket.
  • LeSean McCoy will be used more as a receiver than a runner in comparison to last season. They want to give him room to work in open space, so look for an increase in receptions.

Wide receiver

  • Torrey Smith has improved at a rapid pace, primarily his hands and route-running skills. Our insider says he could catch as many as 12 touchdown passes this year.
  • While many fantasy owners have been gaga over Demaryius Thomas, our sources point to Eric Decker as the breakout candidate for this passing game. He spent extra time working with Peyton Manning to get their timing down, and it has shown. Thomas has the athleticism to shine, but it may not happen until later in the year.
  • Miami has little to nothing at wide receiver, although Davone Bess could approach 80 receptions. His numbers were down last year because of Brandon Marshall's presence.
  • Randall Cobb will be a playmaker for the Green Bay Packers' offense, and it is likely to come at Donald Driver's expense. Expect to see screen passes and hand-offs to get the ball into Cobb's hands in space. The Packers have intentionally kept him under wraps in the preseason.
  • Titus Young has been quite the standout for the Detroit Lions, but that doesn't mean he'll overtake Nate Burleson as the No. 2 receiver this season. Young should be good for around 60 receptions, per a source. Burleson shifts into the slot when the team goes three-wide, and that role limits his touchdowns, but he is still a viable option between the 20s.
  • Rueben Randle, WR, New York Giants
  • Victor Cruz's offseason couldn't have gone better. He has shown to be able to shake double coverage while Hakeem Nicks (foot) has been on the mend. It appears last year was anything but a fluke for this up-and-coming star.
  • Mike Williams struggled against double-teams in 2011 but will see much more single coverage with Vincent Jackson drawing multiple defenders. A big rebound could be in store for the third-year Bucs receiver.
  • New York Giants rookie wideout Rueben Randle has made some noise this offseason. He is polished as a route-runner, has good hands, and looks the part - "exactly as advertised" one source said. Randle, who has picked up the offense well, could see significant playing time if Hakeem Nicks (foot) can't stay healthy.
  • Jonathan Baldwin looked beastly early in the offseason, but as soon as the pads went on he all but disappeared. A scribe noted he hasn't given up on the 6-foot-4 monster of a receiver, but there is reason to be concerned here.
  • Eddie Royal and Philip Rivers just seem to click. No. 17 looks for the sure-handed receiver quite often. Royal has been encouraging when he hasn't been slowed with a groin injury. Conversely, Robert Meachem has not been on the same page with Rivers. He doesn't run routes the way Rivers likes and is still the same big-play target with poor hands that you watched in New Orleans.
  • Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall haven't lost a bit of the chemistry they displayed together in Denver. A 100-catch season seems in the cards for the oft-troubled pass-catcher.
  • Rookie Justin Blackmon catches everything thrown his way and will haul it in if he can get a hand on the ball. Fingers crossed, he could be a threat this year.
  • Jeremy Maclin looks great. He has added muscle and is healthy, unlike last offseason. This hard-working playmaker should be a strong fantasy contributor this season.

Tight end

  • Martellus Bennett is the most athletic tight end the G-Men have had since Jeremy Shockey. His ceiling is capped because of the offense and wide receiver talent. Even still, he could be more than just a red zone target.
  • Josh McDaniels doesn't have much of a track record for successfully utilizing tight ends, although he has never had the talent like he does in New England.
  • Veteran tight end Dallas Clark has not been bothered by his past injuries and will be a featured target in the passing game. A quality bounce-back season could be in the making.
  • The Minnesota Vikings may have a weapon in the making with Kyle Rudolph. His offseason performances have been strong, and a depleted receiving corps means Christian Ponder will look his way often.
  • A pair of rookie tight ends will be focal points in the Indianapolis Colts' offense this year. Everyone is familiar with Coby Fleener's history with Andrew Luck at Stanford, but Dwayne Allen will see a lot of work. He is a better blocker - perhaps a better all-around tight end - and could catch nearly as many balls as Fleener the 'tweener.
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About Cory J. Bonini

Cory is KFFL's General Manager. In late 2002, he joined the KFFL staff as a research analyst and has been involved in fantasy sports since 1996. A member of the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, as well as Fantasy Sports Writers Association, Bonini has been featured in print, on radio and on scores of websites. Bonini co-hosted Big Lead Sports on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio from 2011 to 2012.

Bonini was recognized with the 2010 Best Article in Print Award from the FSWA and was a finalist for the same award in 2011. In '11, he finished first overall in the FSWA NFL experts challenge that featured 60 of the industry's best competitors.

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