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2012 Fantasy Football Prep 101: Sleepers and Busts

Sleepers by definition are typically players that outperform their generally perceived value. Now some people think that sleepers are players that few people have heard of and might be fantasy football relevant.  I would call those type of players deep sleepers and in a league of 10 to 12 teams deep sleepers do not usually need to be considered until they “wake up”.  That being said here are my sleepers for the 2012 fantasy football season.

SLEEPERS

Brandon Pettigrew: He very well could be the Rob Gronkowski, or at the very least, Jimmy Graham of this season. He is on a pass first team with a top quarterback. He has a top flight wideout beside him to take some of the attention of the defense and he has received increased redzone looks.

John Skelton: He should beat out a very pathetic looking Kevin Kolb to become the starter in Arizona. That being the case he will have an outstanding wideout to throw to in Larry Fitzgerald. Last year the Cardinal quarterbacks threw for nearly 4000 yards and 21 touchdowns. Building off the experience from last year he should be able to improve those TD numbers and cut down on the INTs.

Greg Little: Brandon Weeden is an unknown quantity. What is known is that he should be throwing the majority of his passes to Little. With the addition of a legitimate running back in Trent Richardson the passing game should be better than last year when Peyton Hillis was hurt for much of the year.

Cedric Benson: The Green Bay Packers signed the veteran running back. Normally someone signed this late in the preseason is just roster fodder or battling for a backup spot. Not in this case. Alex Green is coming off a knee injury and James Starks has yet to show that he can be a starter in the NFL. I think Benson will push Starks and eventually take the starting job. In the very least he will get the majority of goalline carries something that the Packers were unwilling to give to Starks last year.

Kyle Rudolph: Another tight end on the sleeper list. Why? Well because tight ends were fantasy gold last year if you were lucky enough to have one of the top ones. I think that Mr. Rudolph has a chance to join the low end of those top tight ends. This is because his quarterback, Ponder, needs a safety blanket like Rudolph to throw to. I expect Rudolph to get a lot of redzone looks this season.

Antonio Brown: I know many of you are thinking how can Brown be considered a sleeper. He had over 1000 yards last season, but only 2 touchdowns. I expect that number to go up, dramatically. This should be especially the case considering his chief competition for touchdowns has been a hold-out for much of training camp.

Robert Meachem: He has Phillip Rivers as his quarterback. There is no established #1 receiver in San Diego and I think that Meachem will end up being Rivers primary target all season.

Doug Martin: Tampa Bay is ready to make a change. They are tired of Blount, especially the fumbles, and will look to give Martin a chance to prove himself. I think Martin takes that chance and runs with it. 1000 yards and 8 TDs is not out of the question if Blount is completely out of the picture. That might not happen so 700 yards and 5 TD might be more what happens. Still worth a late round flyer.

Tim Hightower: Looked like he would be the man last year for the Redskins and then he got hurt. He is still recovering from that injury but I believe come the 1st week of the season Hightower will be the starter and primary goalline back. The only concern is the injury and the potential of RG3 of stealing goalline plunges.

Willis McGahee: McGahee had a decent season last year losing opportunities to the likes of Knowshon Moreno, Lance Ball and Tim Tebow. He now has a legitimate threat in quarterback Peyton Manning to take eyes off of him. This could be the chance McGahee has been waiting for.

A bust by definition is a player that under performs compared to common expectations. That being the case here are my fantasy football busts for the 2012 season.

BUSTS

Torrey Smith: Smith will get the majority of the defensive game planning geared towards him in pass defense. With Boldin showing his age defenses will key on Smith. Couple this with Ray Rice in the the backfield and I do not see Smith having a season close to last year. Expect a big regression.

Matt Forte: Forte got paid. Last year Chris Johnson got paid and look what happened. The biggest concern looking at Forte is the addition of Michael Bush to the Bears’ roster. Bush will steal carries especially around the goalline. This will diminish Forte’s value immensely.

James Starks: The addition of Cedric Benson to the Packers’ roster says two things. One, that the Packers’ running backs are not very healthy right now. Two, that the Packers’ are not convinced Starks can handle the load. Last year Starks was less than impressive in a shared backfield. I think he is looking at sharing a backfield again if not losing out entirely and becoming a backup.

Andre Johnson: He will get his yards if he stays healthy but he has yet to have a season with double digit touchdowns. People continually place him in the upper class of receivers but unless you are in a league the really rewards receptions and receiving yards over scoring he just does not justify that status.  Additionally he is coming off an injury that might slow him down this year.

Maurice Jones-Drew: Two words HOLD OUT. Hold outs rarely turn out for NFL players. This is especially the case for NFL running backs. IF he plays this year he will be a shadow of his 2011 self. I would stay away from any hold out player. The longer the hold out the farther away I would stay.

Percy Harvin: Migraines! Plain and simple he will miss games. Everyone sees him as this tremendous value as a deep threat and return man but his inability to stay healthy combined with a run first offense led by Christian Ponder means that his value is less than many other receivers that might not be household names.

Tim Tebow: Tebow-mania aside his have very little fantasy value. You do not get points for having a quality locker room guy on your squad. People he is a backup quarterback. If somehow he is able to unseat Sanchez this is about what you can expect maybe 1800 yards and 10 passing touchdowns, 600 yards and 5 touchdowns rushing. If that sounds good to you go ahead and snatch that up. He reminds me a lot of the next player on the list, Mike Vick.

Mike Vick: Another player that continually gets overvalued. Vick had career seasons in 2011 and 2010. He passed for a career high in yards in 2011. In 2010 he passed for a career high in touchdowns  and rushed for a career high in touchdowns.  Based on his 2010 season people were expecting more. They shouldn’t have. Prior to joining the Eagles, Vick had never passed for over 3000 yards or over 20 touchdowns. Now many would point to running ability as the counter to his lower passing numbers.  The yardage is nice but aside from 2002, 2006 and 2010 he has not rushed for more than 3 touchdowns in a season. The 9 he had in 2010 was a career high which was previously 8 in 2002 when he was a much younger man.

Mike Wallace: Same thing as MJD, he is a HOLD OUT! In his absence Antonio Brown has asserted himself as a go to receiver. It may be just my perception but players that hold out seem to get hurt and have sub par years. I could be wrong.

LaGarrette Blount: He is on his last legs in Tampa Bay. They may give him the chance to start the season as the #1 but I feel that he will be solidly outproduced by Martin.

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2012 Fantasy Football Prep 101: Tight Ends

Rob Gronkowski is a fantasy stud. Here we see his audition for the movie Magic Mike. I think this may need to be the new trophy of shame for lowest scoring team replacing the Tweeder pic.

As we proceed with the Fantasy Football Preview for 2012 we now will look at tight ends. Tight Ends are typically an afterthought in many fantasy football leagues. In most leagues teams do not have a specific slot for starting a tight end. Instead the tight end is considered a wide receiver. In leagues like that only the highest performing tight ends have any value. In the Pabst and Blatz Fantasy Football League we do have a slot for a starting tight end. We also allow tight ends to be started in the wide receiver category. Needless to say tight ends have quite a bit more value in a league like ours than in a typical league. Still last year anyone that was lucky enough to have Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski, and Aaron Hernandez was happy in any league format. As with the previous previews and predictions it is important to take a look at how the players scored the year before. Now in the Pabst and Blatz Fantasy Football League tight ends score 1 point for every 25 yards receiving and 6 points for any touchdown scored. They can also get 1 point for every 25 yards rushing and every 50 yards passing, 2 points for a conversion, and 3 points for a passing touchdown. Those things rarely happen so they were not included in this analysis. Below is how the tight ends in the NFL scored last year in our scoring system:

Rob Gronkowski had an unbelievable season last year. And I mean unbelievable.

Like I am looking at the stats right now and I still don’t believe that they are not the result of a season on Madden or Super Tecmo Bowl (The greatest sports game ever! I will get into this in another post). The really silly thing is the year Aaron Hernandez had being on the same team as Gronkowski. Combined the Patriot tight ends had over 2200 yards and 24 touchdowns for 173 fantasy points. Flat out unbelievable. Imagine if that was one player. What is almost equally unbelievable was the season that Jimmy Graham had. Two tight ends over 1300 yards and double digit touchdowns. These elite tight ends might need serious early round, like 1st round, consideration. Last years biggest disappointment was Jermichael Finley. Many thought that he would be the dominate tight end of the 2011 season, but he was plagued by drops all season. It was evident that as the season progressed Aaron Rodgers possessed less and less confidence in Finley. Old man river Tony Gonzalez had a great season which I personally thought surprising. Antonio Gates almost made it through a season, he played in 13 games, which was equally surprising. Let’s look at some projections for the 2012 season. Here are some of my own devising:

Now I know what you are all thinking…..How does Aaron Hernandez project out ahead of Rob Gronkowski. The thought is that if last years numbers were more evenly split and if teams focus on Gronkowski then Hernandez will benefit though in the end they will have similar numbers. Call me crazy. Anywho here we see that there are 5 tiers of tight ends. Tier 1 is made up of last year’s elites. All three, Gronkowski, Hernandez, and Graham could easily repeat the success as last year. Well with the exception of Gronkowski who should not be able to totally repeat the previous year, who could. These three tight ends should garner early round consideration, maybe even 1st round. I would say that the high end for these player should be the 2nd round. The tier 2 player should get consideration in the 4th to 6th rounds. The tier 3 players should be available in the later middle rounds like rounds 9 through 11. After the top three tiers there is really no reason to draft a tight end the players in the 4th and 5th tiers should be available in free agency and can be picked up as needed or as they become fantasy relevant.

The cream of the crop are the same as last year. The two Patriot tight ends could have interchangeable stats next year. Either one could have a special year or they could simply split last year’s stats and each have a fine year. Jimmy Graham is exciting mostly because unlike Gronkowski he doesn’t have a Hernandez to steal his looks. Of course the downside to that is that defenses will be able to key on him in a way that they cannot afford to key on Hernandez and Gronkowski. Jermichael Finley and Vernon Davis are in the 2nd tier and should have solid season with the potential of something special developing.

Watch out: Antonio Gates is always a crap shoot as to whether he will make it through a season uninjured. If he does he could have a special year. Expect him to play in a maximum of 14 games. Tony Gonzalez is really getting up there in age. With Julio Jones, Roddy White and the running game all competing for yards he may be the one left out. Brent Celek plays on a team with Mike Vick and LeSean McCoy both of whom will be doing the majority of the scoring in the redzone which will take away from Celek’s value.

Keep an eye on: The most intriguing and potentially exciting tight ends are Brandon Pettigrew and Jermaine Gresham. Both of these young tight ends could have an exceptional year in 2012. Pettigrew is on a pass first team and could get more redzone looks this year. Gresham is the safety blanket for a 2nd year quarterback and should also get more redzone looks.

Rookies: I don’t see any rookie tight ends at this point that are worth considering taking more than a late round flyer on. Stay with established starters.

Handcuffs: Are you kidding? Well if you are lucky enough to pull it off go ahead and handcuff Hernandez and Gronkowski.

TOP 10

#1 Rob Gronkowski The Gronkster should have another monster year this year but I cannot see him even coming close to 17 touchdowns but he very well should top 1000 yards and possibly double digit touchdowns. 

#2 Jimmy Graham Graham had a season that was nearly identical to Gronkowski’s last year, aside from the touchdowns. I think he has the best chance of repeating his success from the previous season. The downside is that he could be looking at a lot of defense keying on him.

#3 Aaron Hernandez Hernandez is poised to have Gronkowski’s 2011. If teams forget about him he is going to make them pay.

#4 Jermichael Finley Couldn’t hold on to the ball last year. If he can earn Rodgers’ trust again he will have a great year. If he can’t he will have a season similar to last year.

#5 Antonio Gates The man. Well at least he was before injuries got the best of him. Still Phillip Rivers loves to throw the ball and if Gates can stay of the injured list he should get a large amount of looks.

#6 Vernon Davis If the Niners were smart they would throw the ball to Davis alot. Last year they were not as smart as they have been in the past. I hope the figure it out this year. In the picture Davis is doing his best Gladiator impersonation “Are you not entertained?!”

#7 Brandon Pettigrew If Matt Stafford stays healthy Pettigrew will have a great year. Matt Stafford rarely stays healthy. Last year was the exception. 

#8 Jason Witten Consistent performer that relies on Romo staying healthy. Witten year in and year out is a top fantasy tight end.

#9 Tony Gonzalez Old Man River. He is old. Somehow last year he was a top performer at the tight end position. Matty Ice likes to throw the ball and maybe he’ll remember to throw some Tony’s way.

#10 Jermaine Gresham Gresham is intriguing for a couple of reasons. Mostly because he had a good year in 2011 and Andy Dalton and the rest of the offense should be better. Still there is always the concern of the sophomore slump for Dalton which would affect Gresham’s value.

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