RB Marshawn Lynch DOWN
Lynch was arrested again. He’s already been suspended for 3 games in the past so I expect some sort of 2-4 game suspension again for him. He also runs behind a poor offensive line (which is why he averaged just 4.2 YPC last year) and he was pretty mediocre in 2009-2010. Let him be someone else’s problem.
RB Robert Turbin UP
In Marshawn Lynch’s absence, Robert Turbin will be the lead back because Leon Washington is just a change of pace, 3rd down back, and return man. He should be a RB3 or so for a few games to start the season and then from there, you never know. This situation reminds me of 2009 when Lynch was suspended.
A then unknown Fred Jackson had 402 yards from scrimmage in the first 3 games and performed so well that he got carries the rest of the season, finishing the year with 1433 yards from scrimmage. He was also a valuable trade chip after week 3 to unaware fantasy owners. He’s definitely worth a late round pick. He’s got plenty of upside.
WR Michael Floyd DOWN
The 13th overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, Floyd is reportedly struggling with his work ethic and will open Training Camp as the Cardinals’ 4th receiver and may even start the season 4th on the depth chart. He could work his way up the depth chart during the season, but his fantasy value just went from minimal to none.
WR Calvin Johnson DOWN
No news to report here, but my projections were a little high for Calvin Johnson. It’s unlikely that anyone, even Johnson, can repeat what Johnson did last year, especially since his team is unlikely to pass 666 times again, has other weapons, and his quarterback has only once made it through a 16 game slate. Johnson has also had his own injury history, only playing all 16 games once before last year. He’s still my #1 receiver, but don’t buy TOO high with him expecting him to catch 96 passes for 1681 yards and 16 touchdowns again.
WR Titus Young UP
Titus Young is fully expected to win the starting job opposite Calvin Johnson. Titus Young caught 48 passes for 607 yards and 6 touchdowns as a mere rookie last year, despite 84 targets. Incumbent starter, Nate Burleson, caught 73 passes for 757 yards and 3 touchdowns on 110 targets. If Young had Burleson’s 110 targets last year, he would have caught 63 passes for 795 yards and 8 touchdowns if you extrapolate his numbers. In his 2nd year in the league, he should exceed even those numbers, even if his team does pass less than the ridiculous 666 times they passed last year.
WR Nate Burleson DOWN
With Young stepping into the starting lineup, Burleson will be demoted to the #3 receiver. Burleson caught 73 passes for 757 yards and 3 touchdowns on 110 targets last year. If he had Young’s 84 targets, his numbers would have been 56 catches for 578 yards and 2 touchdowns. Another year on the wrong side of 30 and on an offense that won’t pass 666 times again, Burleson has absolutely no fantasy value, except in the deepest of leagues. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Burleson were 4th on the depth chart by the end of the season, as 2nd round pick Ryan Broyles gets healthy.
QB Matt Stafford DOWN
Like with Megatron, nothing new to report here, but my projections were a little high here. He’s unlikely to have 663 passing attempts again and he’s only once played all 16 games. He’s still a one year wonder not quite on the level of Rodgers, Brees, and Brady. He’s still a nice value if you can get him in the 3rd round though.
RB Matt Forte UP
Forte has signed and will not hold out. He was on pace for a career high 2145 yards from scrimmage before getting hurt last year through 11 games and through 8, he was actually on pace for the 2nd most yards from scrimmage of all time. Michael Bush will steal some goal line carries, but when has he not had a back stealing goal line carries from him? Other than that, Bush will be a pure backup who will be lucky to get 1 carry for each of Forte’s 2. He’s a sneaky good value in the end of the 1st, beginning of the 2nd round in a year where good running backs are tough to find.
QB Matt Ryan DOWN
Again, nothing new to report here, but when I was doing Atlanta’s season preview, I got a better feel for the type of season we can expect from Ryan this year. He’ll be asked to throw downfield for often and throw more often overall, which should lead to a career high in yards, but also to a career high in interceptions and a career low in completion percentage. Ryan is one of the least accurate deep throwers in the NFL over his career, completing just 31.9% of his passes that go 20+ yards in the air in his career, including 25% last year. This is opposed to 64.4% on the rest of his throws.
WR Santana Moss UP
Santana Moss has gone from on the roster bubble to potentially a starting receiver. He’s gotten himself in fantastic shape, losing 15 pounds, and has been incredibly impressive in offseason practices so far. At the very least, he’ll be their slot receiver, but given that his competition for the starting job is the marginal Josh Morgan and the unproven Leonard Hankerson, he could definitely begin the year as a starter.
And given that Pierre Garcon has never been a #1 receiver and receivers tend to struggle when changing teams, there’s an outside chance that Moss leads the team in receiving. I wouldn’t predict that because that would require him to have a major bounce back season at age 33, which almost never happens (don’t see Smith, Steve). However, he’s got some value late, especially in PPR leagues. Remember, he did catch 93 balls just 2 years ago.
RB Peyton Hillis DOWN
The Chiefs reportedly want running backs Peyton Hillis and Jamaal Charles to touch the ball a combined 500 times next season, less than I originally projected (going off the 539 times that Charles and Jones touched the ball combined in 2010). However, they’ll still run a ton so Hillis is a decent RB3 depending on the matchup, who pass catches and will get the goal line carries. He’s also got a lot of upside since Charles is coming off a torn ACL.
RB Jamaal Charles UP
I’m moving Hillis down with the news that the Chiefs will try to have their backs touch the ball combined 500 times, but I’m actually moving Charles up because he’s been cleared for the start of Training Camp and should get the majority of the touches. There will be a 60-40 split or so and Charles, who has averaged 6.1 YPC in his career, could get a career high in touches. There’s major upside with him in the 2nd round, provided he stays healthy and plays close to 100% of his 2010 self.
WR Kenny Britt DOWN
There are three numbers that are important for Britt. The first is 12, meaning 12 touchdowns over his last 14 games, to go with 56 catches and 1146 yards, despite generally mediocre quarterbacking (Kerry Collins, Vince Young, Rusty Smith, Matt Hasselbeck). The 2nd number is 8, however, meaning 8 arrests in the last 3 years since entering the league. He’ll almost definitely be suspended after his last one, for DUI. He would have been suspended last season, but Roger Goodell agreed not to suspend guys for what they did during the lockout. He won’t be so lucky this time around.
The 3rd number is 3, meaning 3 knee surgeries in the last 10 months. I’m cutting his originally projected numbers by 25%. He might not miss 4 games, but he could and even if he doesn’t, he’ll be far from 100%. Let him be someone else’s problem, unless you can get him late, in which case he’s a sleeper with nice upside. His current ADP in the 7th round is far too rich, however.
WR Nate Washington UP
Remember, Nate Washington caught 74 passes for 1023 yards and 7 touchdowns in Britt’s absence last year. He won’t quite do that this year because Britt won’t miss as much action as he did last year and because of the presence of rookie receiver Kendall Wright. However, he deserves a stock up after Britt’s latest surgery and arrest.
WR Kendall Wright UP
Kendall Wright gets a stock up too because he’ll start in every game that Britt misses. Remember, though, that rookie receivers rarely do anything. Discounting Julio Jones and AJ Green, since the 2005 NFL Draft, 22 receivers have gone in the 1st round of the NFL Draft. In their rookie years, they have averaged 37 catches for 524 yards and 3 touchdowns.
And this is not a group of busts. This group includes, among others, Dez Bryant, Demaryius Thomas, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Michael Crabtree, Percy Harvin, Hakeem Nicks, Jeremy Maclin, Kenny Britt, Calvin Johnson, Dwayne Bowe, Robert Meachem, Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards, and Roddy White. The leader in rookie production among those 22, strangely Dwayne Bowe, who caught 70 passes for 995 yards and 5 touchdowns in 2007. That just proves how special Julio Jones’ and AJ Green’s rookie years were, but I don’t see that happening for Wright. It’s too improbable. He’s got upside, but only in deep leagues.
QB Cam Newton UP
One of the things I realized while writing my season preview for the Panthers is that a predictable decrease in rushing touchdowns for Newton would lead to not only Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams rushing for more touchdowns, but also Newton throwing for more touchdowns, even if he does have a predictable sophomore slump.
WR Mike Wallace DOWN
Mike Wallace’s holdout could get ugly. Right now, the Steelers won’t agree to negotiate with him until he reports to camp, but he won’t report to camp until they pay him. I don’t expect him to miss any games, at least not at the moment, but an extended holdout could hurt him on the field this season. He risks getting out of shape and more importantly he also misses valuable practice with in new offensive coordinator Todd Haley’s system. Let him be someone else’s problem unless he falls to the point where he’s too good to pass on.
WR Antonio Brown UP
With Mike Wallace trending down, Antonio Brown is trending up. Brown will be the #1 receiver in Wallace’s absence at Training Camp and that could lead to him becoinge a more relied on receiver by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, especially since he figures to have better mastery of their new offensive system.
WR Emmanuel Sanders UP
If Wallace’s hold out goes into the season, Sanders would start, which could make him an instant fantasy factor. He doesn’t have a ton of value, but he’s a nice handcuff for Wallace owners and has some upside in the deepest of leagues.
RB Stevan Ridley UP
Joseph Addai was cut. Move Ridley up slightly.
RB Shane Vereen UP
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