Expectations are high after Young's strong finish last season but while the team's prospects may be looking up, Young's fantasy value should not be viewed as optimistically. For starters, his passing statistics were not too prolific last season as he only averaged 148 yards and threw 11 touchdowns in 13 starts. These numbers are paltry in comparison to stronger fantasy performers. He also had his share of mistakes as he threw more interceptions (12) than touchdowns during those 13 games. While he can be expected to improve a bit on his rookie season, he still is in the middle of the learning process and will make the occasional bad decision that could cost your fantasy team a few crucial points. As of right now, Young cannot be looked at as a viable every-week starter as he is too inconsistent although he could be given consideration on week-to-week matchup basis. He also should not be picked as a strong No. 1 in most fantasy drafts, but he is more viable as a low No. 1 with upside; owners who do this should draft a capable backup.
Entering his third season, there is plenty of hype for Smith in being a potential sleeper. However, he is being drafted as a No. 2 quarterback, when you need something steady at that spot. The quarterback position is one of the most volatile positions this season because you have about five quarterbacks you can count on to produce, but if one of those goes down, your season goes down the drain. You need a good backup plan, and Smith isn't there yet. He has thrown 17 touchdown passes and 27 interceptions in his first two seasons, so he will need to cut down on his mistakes in 2007. The offense is also more geared to the run, so if Smith has a good season, it probably won't be anything spectacular in fantasy - much like a season New York Jets quarterback Chad Pennington would produce. Look for Smith as a No. 3 quarterback and let others reach for him.
After being acquired by the Ravens, McGahee's perceived fantasy stock skyrocketed. While he can be expected to put up respectable numbers, he cannot be projected to be anywhere near the league lead in any category and owners need to be very careful around a prospect like him. For one, he has the habitually injured tag on him, a fantasy owner's skull-and-cross-bones label. The injuries have been a theme of his career up to this point. He didn't make his debut until his second season because he was still recuperating from a knee injury and then last season, he was also forced to miss time because of injuries. The other concern with his status is that he will be playing for a Baltimore Ravens team that has a historically poor passing game. While quarterback Steve McNair is no slouch, he is an elder statesman and cannot be expected to lead a prolific passing attack. Consequently, teams could be concentrating more on stopping the run and forcing the Ravens to beat them with the pass. The Baltimore offensive line is a shell of what it was when running back Jamal Lewis eclipsed the coveted 2,000-yard mark, and expecting the slightly-above-average McGahee to shine without blocking is wishful thinking, at best. His longest career rushing attempt is 57 yards out of 868 career rushes, so he isn't much of an option to break one. McGahee is taken as a low-end No. 1 or high-end No. 2, but he's more serviceable as a low-end No. 2.
"Mo-Jo" comes off a season in which he was arguably THE breakout fantasy star of the year. He ran for 941 yards and 13 touchdowns while also entering the end zone twice on passes and once on returns. He was a potent threat that probably catapulted more than a few fantasy teams to victory with his surprising output. While he isn't expected to completely fall off the map, owners cannot bank on the fact that he will match last season's output. For one, he is no longer a secret weapon and teams will be scheming out ways to stop him. He is a small but thick back, and if teams start keying in on him, he could encounter some difficulties. Fred Taylor, their other running back, also warrants a good amount of touches. The Jaguars may be looking to pass a bit more this season, and it's difficult to expect a back in a timeshare to repeat 16 total touchdowns. Jones-Drew is more of a midlevel No. 2, but he is often drafted as more than that.
Addai finished off his rookie campaign by becoming the first running back to rush for more than 1,000 yards while not starting a single game during the season. Now that the player who was ahead of him on the depth chart, Dominic Rhodes, has signed with the Oakland Raiders, the running back chores lie mostly in Addai's hands. While owners may be excited to see what he can do as the starter, they also need to be wary of the toll that all the new work will take on him. Part of his strength last year derived from the fact that he got frequent rests and was able to conserve his energy. Additionally, not being the starting back meant that teams did not pay as much attention to him when he was in. Running back DeDe Dorsey should spell him, too, to keep him fresh. While playing with quarterback Peyton Manning is beneficial to any running back, Addai will have to prove that he can stand an entire season of full-time NFL work. Taking him as a high-end No. 1 back is a risk; he's better serving fantasy owners as a low-end No. 1, which would allow them to grab a quality No. 2.
Fantasy owners need to be wary about Lee Evans' breakout season being a sign for better things to come. Although he caught 82 balls for 1,292 yards and eight touchdowns, it can also be recognized that 265 of those yards and two of those touchdowns occurred in one game. Without that spectacular performance, his numbers are less impressive. Critics also say that this is the Lee Evans that the Bills expected to see when he entered the league and that his failure to show up until now is a cause for caution until he proves more consistent. Quarterback J.P. Losman will also need to prove that he can get the ball to Evans on a regular basis as it will get more difficult as teams will be keying in on Evans as the Bills' go-to receiver. He also does not have the size of a typical No. 1 receiver; he could struggle against the increased double teams and added contact that comes with being the main offensive threat. He looks more like a strong No. 2 fantasy receiver than a No. 1 option.
Gonzalez gets most of his hype from the fact that he will be lining up alongside quarterback Peyton Manning. The Colts used to run a lot of three-receiver sets and historically, the third receiver in this offense had been productive due to the first two receivers getting more attention and Manning's proficiency at finding the open man. Right now, he is going rather high in fantasy drafts; the issue here is that Gonzalez is a rookie, and first-year receivers do not usually put up big numbers, especially when they are third-string. The Colts run a two-tight end offense, too, which will likely limit how long he's on the field. Gonzalez faces a big challenge in learning the Colts' complicated offense as well as acclimating himself to the experience of playing with Manning, who is known for his constant pre-snap adjustments. He will also need to adapt himself to a league that is faster and smarter than any he has played in so far. He cannot be given any serious fantasy consideration until he shows that he is comfortable in the Colts' system. Even then, he only projects as No. 5 receiver option with upside for fantasy teams.
The Packers wide receiver enters his second year as a very puzzling fantasy selection. While he has shown flashes of talent, including two 100-yard games, he was, for the most part, marginally productive. He was injured in Week 7 and disappeared from the fantasy radar. The injury issue is the first concern with him as he needs to demonstrate that he can stay healthy for an entire NFL season. He also finds himself in a tough situation to excel. The Packers enter the season with the inexperienced Vernand Morency at running back, and teams may recognize the fact that they will have to stop quarterback Brett Favre to win. Favre might be under constant pressure, as evidenced by his last few seasons, could throw more than his fair share of interceptions. Owners have been considering him as a middle-round selection with the objective of starting him as a solid No. 2 receiver or an excellent No. 3 option. That's a mistake, because he's more of a No. 4 with some upside given the general weakness of the Green Bay offense and Jennings' inability to distinguish himself this offseason.
McMichael comes off a very respectable season with the Dolphins after catching 62 passes for 640 yards and three touchdowns, but owners need to be guarded about his potential production with the Rams. Last year, the Rams' tight ends only scored two touchdowns while combining for just less than 300 yards receiving. While McMichael can't be expected to cut his numbers in half, he also will not equal his typical numbers this year. Right now, he is being valued as a top tight end, but his status as overvalued stems particularly from the fact that he finds the end zone very rarely. His three touchdowns are nothing to write home about and the Rams tight ends did not even reach that number. There are many other options in St. Louis. Fantasy owners would like to see at least six touchdowns per season out of the tight end position. While McMichael projects as a solid backup option, he cannot be considered a solid starter.
Winslow (knee) had a huge season in his first real action in the NFL last year. He caught 89 passes for 875 yards but just three touchdowns. Winslow had microfracture surgery on his knee in the offseason, and the surgery kills many careers. He is slated to be ready for the season, but Cleveland also has a history of fabricating injury details. The offense is in flux with a tossup of Charlie Frye and Derek Anderson as the starting quarterback. They acquired Jamal Lewis to be their running back, but he is years removed from being in top form and has a lot of mileage on his legs. Winslow is being selected as a top tight end, when he is really a weak No. 1 because he involves risk. If you select Winslow as your No. 1, be sure you select another No. 1-caliber tight end a couple of rounds later to cover your bases.
Brown is coming off a solid season but his overvalued connotation originates from the fact that he is considered a solid kicker where he should really be a backup fantasy option at best. His point totals have been average, although they have stayed consistent throughout his career, but there are better alternatives out there. His best-case scenario would be that he could be a waiver wire pickup and given playing time for favorable matchups. Running back Shaun Alexander is a prolific touchdown scorer, which has diminished Brown's field goal attempts. If Alexander returns close to form, not much should change. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck also gets in his fair share of scoring throws, so Brown has a tough time seeing action outside extra point attempts. He is best considered as a post-draft signing as selecting him high in a fantasy draft, which is what is usually required to get him, would most likely be a waste of a pick.
Rackers continues to be overvalued because of his spectacular 2005 season. The problem is that his accuracy fell to 75.7 percent last year, as opposed to 95.2 percent in that glorious season. This year, he is a very intriguing case and could go in either direction. Quarterback Matt Leinart has another year of experience under his belt and the team has added help along the offensive line to try to spring Edgerrin James. With these adjustments, they could be poised for a breakout year, which would mean more touchdowns and fewer opportunities for field goals. This makes him a middle-of-the-pack kicking option who definitely should not be one of the first off the board. Additionally, he is in that grey area of kickers since he is not one of the top performers, but also not at the bottom, denoting that there are others who could match his output. He is not a guy that owners should target and he should be picked in the later rounds. In general, fantasy owners seem to select such kickers too early.
In each of the last few seasons, the Bears have entered the league as an overvalued commodity. This is not due to any fault in their makeup or any hidden concern. It relies more in the nature of fantasy football. They will likely churn out their share of fantasy points, but the fact of the matter is that the average defensive fantasy point output can be acquired much later. Consequently, owners will jump on the Bears early in the draft, with visions of them leading the league, when they could have picked another defense much later in the draft and gotten rather comparable output. The Bears defense could also suffer from the incompetence of their offense, which would mean they will be on the field longer and tire a little easier. This would result in some mistakes and points allowed that could be avoided with a more efficient offense. Some personnel changes could affect the unit, too. Return man Devin Hester isn't likely to repeat six touchdowns, even if teams do kick to him, because that's ridiculous output; that negates this unit's value in leagues that count special teams scoring. Drafting any defense so early is a huge risk when other positions are more vital.
The Ravens defense is picked with the same tendency as the Bears in that owners tend to overvalue any good defense. Owners need to realize that when faced with the decision to pick a quality offensive player or a good defense, they need to give more consideration to the offensive player. While the situation will present itself when it is appropriate to pick a defense like the Ravens, it needs to be analyzed thoroughly. Additionally, they lost stalwart linebacker Adalius Thomas to the Patriots. While they may still be expected to rank near the top of the league, owners need to value them like any defense: as a late-round selection. Drafting such a defense in the first half of a draft isn't a smart move.
About Alex Schaefer
Alex Schaefer has been a KFFL contributor since 2007.
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