Saturday, August 13, 2011

Fantasy Preview: Top 5 by Position

Nearly midway through the month of August, the first week of preseason will be in the books once the Jets and Texans face-off on ESPN this Monday.

What does this mean, exactly? Well, this is usually about the time that us fans hold our annual Fantasy Football drafts. Here is a look at the top five fantasy players, sorted by position of course.


1. Tom Brady, New England Patriots

An off-year for Brady? Nearly 4,000 yards passing and a league-leading 36 touchdown tosses. The 11-year veteran threw just four interceptions a year ago, posting an NFL-high 111.0 QB rating in 16 starts.

The addition of veteran wideout Chad Ochocinco only adds a deep-threat and will continue to allow Brady to open up the vertical passing game for Belichick's Pats. If you're in a keeper league and you had Brady last year, don't hesitate to assign him as a keeper.

2. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

Brees threw a career-high 22 interceptions in 2010, but his efficiency did not take a hit as he led the league with a second-straight league-leading completion percentage (68.1).

Despite dual-threat running back Reggie Bush leaving town for Miami this off-season, Brees will have plenty of options to spread the ball to, meaning Brees' disappointing campaign last year, which ended with an early playoff exit, very well may have been just a freak incident.

3. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

Rodgers has a target on his back this year as defending champion, but his offensive production isn't likely to take a hit as a result. With the return of Jermichael Finley, a top 10 TE, and Ryan Grant, a top 20 running back, Rodgers' offense has more options than ever. With two of the game's top receivers (Driver and Jennings) to his disposal, in addition to the underrated Jordy Nelson, I would expect to see Rodgers toss 30 touchdowns for the second time in his professional career.
If he's healthy this season, he has the potential to take over the No. 1 spot as top fantasy quarterback after the year is complete.

4. Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles

Vick's career turnaround was miraculous in several different ways, but I think the biggest surprise of his 2010 season was his sudden spike in passing accuracy and efficiency. Before his jail sentence, Vick never completed more than 56.4 percent of his passes. In his 11 starts last season he completed a career-high 62.6 percent of his 372 attempts.

Both his 3,018 yards and 21 touchdowns were career-highs as well. Vick isn't just a threat to run the ball anymore, he's a threat to pass the ball with great precision. With new weapons in Philly–veteran RB Ronnie Brown and former Giant receiver Steve Smith–Vick will continue to flourish as a passer.

5. Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts

Peyton's neck surgery this off-season really worries me, especially considering he has yet to practice for the Colts. It wont be enough to knock him out of the top five in fantasy quarterbacks, but the fact that Indianapolis hasn't done much to help Manning out in terms of adding offensive weapons also worries me.

The return of Pro Bowl tight end Dallas Clark will surely benefit Manning, but past that this appears to be the same old offense in Indy. There must be others out there that are concerned for the 35-year old Manning, right?

Just missed: Tony Romo, Phillip Rivers, Matt Schaub

Running back

1. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings

I don't think there's any question that AP is still the top dog when it comes to fantasy backs. In fact, I would still call him the No. 1 overall fantasy player. The only guy close to knocking him off the thrown is Tennessee's Chris Johnson, who is two years removed from becoming the sixth player in history to break 2,000 rushing yards.

But Peterson is the definition of a workhorse, breaking 1,200 yards and double-digit touchdown totals in all four of his NFL seasons. His career-low in yards (1,298) was this past season, but he did happen to miss a game. Nearly 6,000 yards and 52 touchdowns over four seasons is more than enough for him to keep his spot atop the rankings.

2. Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans

Johnson continues his training camp holdout, still vying for that big-time contract, which is overdue. He is lined up to make just $800,000 this season and still has two years left on his current contract. With Tennessee holding strong, it looks like this situation could get a little messy.

Johnson has a reputation as one of the most electrifying players in the game and a threat to score every time he touches the ball, whether that's running the ball or catching a pass out of the backfield. The three-time Pro Bowler has averaged 5.0 yards per carry and put up 34 rushing touchdowns in his three seasons. Expect a 1,500-plus yard season with 10-12 touchdowns this year–if he hits the field, of course.

3. Arian Foster, Houston Texans

Foster broke out on to the scene in week one of last season after setting a Houston franchise record 231 yard game, his three rushing touchdowns against the Colts that game was also a team record. The All Pro finished his second year with a league-leading 1,616 yards and 16 touchdowns.

With a top-tier passing attack to complement the team's ground game, I would expect another top five performance out of him in 2011 though he may not top last season in terms of yardage.
4. Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs

In addition to Johnson in Tennessee, Charles is one of the fastest players in the league and is also a well-known overall electrifying player. He ran for 1,467 yards in '10, good enough for second-most in the NFL, with a 6.4 yards per carry average on his 230 attempts.

His five rushing touchdowns are not so impressive, but to his defense veteran running back Thomas Jones took six of those away from him. Once Jones is gone, Charles will get a heavier workload and the touchdown total will likely surpass 10 for the first time in his three-year career. Charles is only just getting started in this league.

5. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars

Lately it has looked like MJD's production has been slowly dropping, and while that may be so (went from 12 and 15 TDs in '08 and '09 to just five last year), I don't think his lack of touchdowns will stay down for long.

The injury and questions surrounding veteran quarterback David Garrard may actually benefit the two-time Pro Bowler. If head coach Jack Del Rio has to rely on rookie Blaine Gabbert, Jones-Drew's use and production–particularly in the red zone–will undoubtably rise this season.

Just missed: Steven Jackson, Rashard Mendenhall, Michael Turner

Wide receiver

1. Roddy White, Atlanta Falcons

The drafting of former Alabama wideout Julio Jones in this year's draft may take some targets away from Matty Ice's favorite receiver, but it has the potential to increase his production at the same time. Before, White received all the attention from defensive backs, but now defensive coordinators will have to pay attention to Jones as well, which may allow White to get open more often.

He already led the league in receptions (115) last year, racking up nearly 1,400 yards and 10 touchdowns. Turning 30 in November, White is the most talented wideout in the game and will have yet another productive season with Atlanta in 2011.

2. Andre Johnson, Houston Texans

Johnson has one of the league's best combinations: size, speed and athleticism. He's a freak of nature. Once one of the league's most underrated and under-appreciated wideouts, Johnson now attracts the attention of opposing defenses, and leaves defensive backs shaking in their cleats. With a top 10 quarterback throwing him passes, and a top three running back keeping defenses honest, Johnson is a scoring threat every time a pass is thrown his way.

He has yet to break out of the single digits when it comes to hauling in touchdowns, but I think all that will change this season.

3. Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals

Any rumors that were once surrounding Fitzgerald's unhappiness in Arizona have officially been shattered upon the arrival of quarterback Kevin Kolb. Fitz seems happier than he was when the Cards had borderline Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner under center a couple years back.

Fitz, the five-time Pro Bowler, saw his touchdown total in 2010 drop below double-digts (six) for the first time since the 2006 season due to a lack of consistent quarterback play. Now that he has a true No. 1 quarterback, expect his acrobatic touchdown receptions to return as he will likely be in his 2008 form (96 Rec., 1,431 yards, 12 TDs).

4. Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis Colts

Much like CJ2K (Chris Johnson), Wayne is currently battling the Colts for a new contract. The only difference is that Wayne is a proven vet who opted not to holdout and reported to camp. Wayne was one of two wideouts to rack in over 100 receptions last season (111) as he converted those catches in to nearly 1,400 yards.

His touchdown total took a hit (six), but as long as Indianapolis gets a solid campaign from Hall of Fame quarterback Manning, Wayne's numbers will be top five in the league once again.
5. Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions

Calvin, A.K.A. Megatron caught just 77 balls for 1,120 yards last season, but if Matthew Stafford can stay healthy for the entire season we could see more targets coming Johnson's way–especially in the red zone.

Johnson has an extraordinary combination of size and speed, which makes him very tough to cover. His great hands in traffic allows him to catch passes over the middle and turn them in to big gains. I think this is the year C.J. breaks out for 15 touchdown catches and goes to the Pro Bowl for the second consecutive season.

Just missed: Dwayne Bowe, Mike Wallace, Greg Jennings

Tight end

1. Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys

Witten was 2010's most productive tight end with 94 receptions (most among tight ends, third-most among all receivers) as he topped 1,000 yards for the third time in his career. His career-high nine touchdown catches put the 29-year old on the NFC Pro Bowl roster for the seventh consecutive season (received the honor seven of his eight seasons).

Witten is one tough cookie, catching balls over the middle and barreling over defenders is the norm for the 257-pound end. The return of top 10 quarterback Tony Romo may turn Witten in to a 100-catch player this season.

2. Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers

Gates battled a nagging toe injury throughout most of the 2010 season, missing six games total (most in his eight-year career). As a result, Gates caught just 50 passes, though his production was still up. For the third time in his career, Gates caught 10 touchdowns and averaged 15.6 yards per catch (782 yards).

A healthy Gates is a dangerous weapon, especially when he has a guy of Phillip Rivers caliber throwing him passes. Wideouts Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd will return to the team, benefiting Gates' overall production (defenses will not be keying in on just Gates).

3. Vernon Davis, San Francisco 49ers

I don't necessarily agree with San Fran's decision to bring back quarterback Alex Smith, but this will allow Colin Kaepernick to develop in to the quarterback that Jim Harbuagh and the Niners' front office are looking for.

This may not benefit Davis too much in 2011, but it will have an effect on his production in the long run. For now, expect Davis' production to continue at a steady pace. Davis hasn't missed a game in three years, and I would like to believe that this is the year he finally breaks 1,000 yards receiving and could possibly catch 10 touchdowns as well.

4. Dallas Clark, Indianapolis Colts

Clark is back! After sustaining a wrist injury last October and undergoing season-ending surgery to repair it, Clark will be back in Indy's lineup and as healthy as ever this coming season. Clark racked up 347 yards and three touchdowns in his six 2010 games, putting up a career-low 9.4 yards per catch average.

The only thing that could possibly slow Clark's 2011 production is the questions that continue to swirl around Colts camp involving Manning. We'll see how it all plays out in the South this year.
5. Jermichael Finley, Green Bay Packers

Finley is yet another tight end that sustained an injury in 2010 and missed a majority of the season. Finley was projected for a breakout season last year, but managed just 21 receptions for 301 yards and one touchdown in his five games.

Aaron Rodgers will welcome Finley back in to Green Bay's lineup with open arms this year as everyone expects to finally see a breakout year from Finley in his fourth professional season.

Just missed: Owen Daniels, Chris Cooley, Marcedes Lewis


1. Stephen Gostkowski, Pats
2. Robbie Gould, Bears
3. Nate Kaeding, Chargers
4. Mason Crosby, Packers
5. Neil Rackers, Texans

Just missed: Nick Folk, Matt Bryant, Josh Brown


1. Green Bay Packers
2. New York Jets
3. Philadelphia Eagles
4. Pittsburgh Steelers
5. Baltimore Ravens

Just missed: Patriots, Bears, Giants

**Photos borrowed from Google, no copyright infringement intended**

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