Eric Olinger and I decided to have a fun little exercise over the span of a week or so, we decided to play psychologist to one another and play the old game word association. At its core, one of us says a single word and the other would then describe the first thing, or thought, that comes to mind. Some of our answers were expected, others weren’t. As fun as associating the words was, it was just as fun to come up with words which I wanted to hear Eric come up with an association for. In the end, I pronounce him a mentally healthy fantasy football expert. Hopefully he, and you, will feel the same about my own prognosis. Let’s delve into the psyches of two of DLF’s Senior Writers:
Eric Olinger: The first player I think of when I see the word “regress” is Adrian Peterson. Rushing for 2,097 yards doesn’t leave much room for improvement. A decline is inevitable, even for a bionic cyborg like Peterson. Ever since Chris Johnson eclipsed the 2,000 yard mark, he has been called a disappointment even though he has been among the league leaders in rushing each year since. Now that the bar is set so high, unrealistic expectations are going to follow Peterson and anything less than 1,800 yards will unfortunately be considered a failure by many.
TheFFGhost: Reliable is a word that completely describes Drew Brees. I can’t think of a season where this guy isn’t putting up monster numbers and he shows absolutely no signs of slowing down. He as been able to post these numbers with weapons that aren’t as prolific as say a Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers. It seems to go without saying the Brees is always in the top three quarterbacks year in and year out with 5,000 yards passing per year now becoming expected from him while many other quarterbacks can’t even approach those numbers.
Eric Olinger: I believe “disappointment” is synonymous with Aaron Hernandez. With the tight end position in dynasty leagues, you had a distinct advantage if you had Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski, or Jimmy Graham and to a lesser extent, Jason Witten. Those first three guys are young, dominant forces on the league’s most efficient passing teams. Barring something completely unforeseen, we won’t ever see Aaron Hernandez on a football field again.
A close second is Michael Crabtree’s Achilles injury. Crabtree was tearing the league up after Colin Kaepernick took the reigns in San Francisco and now he’s dealing with one of the most difficult injuries to return from. It’s not impossible for a wide receiver to come back and play effectively after tearing an Achilles – Demaryius Thomas did it. I’m just concerned the Niners might rush him back and he re-injures it. Too many people were talking eight month recovery before the surgery even took place. That’s a little scary to me.
TheFFGhost: Owners who have been holding CJ Spiller since he came into the league will very likely, finally, get the full payoff they’ve been waiting and hoping for. Thus far he has always had to start each season as the number two back in Buffalo. However, now, coming into his fifth season in the league he is finally “the man.” We’ve seen tantalizing glimpses of what Spiller can do with the lead back role for several games in a row, but he has never been the lead back for a full season. For this reason alone, I expect a huge bump in his production and the ultimate payoff for those who have believed in him so long.
Eric Olinger: One of the best values in all of fantasy football continues to be Mike Williams in Tampa Bay. He’s consistent and a perfect complement to Vincent Jackson. Even though Josh Freeman has been beaten to death this off-season, he’s still a good NFL quarterback able to get the ball to his playmakers. He’s the perfect WR3 available at WR4 prices.
TheFFGhost: The first thing that comes to mind is secret weapon, of which I think we are starting to see several players develop or transform into these kind of players. These secret weapons are highly versatile and at the same time highly speculative in terms of fantasy football production. The first generation of these players to make significant fantasy impacts were the Darren Sproles/Dexter McCluster/Danny Woodhead scatback types, Graham/Hernandez “Joker” type of tight ends and Percy Harvin/Randall Cobb hybrid wide receiver types where the player had an assigned position, but also functioned as a player who could player one or more additional positions as well. Lately we are seeing a second generation of these players emerge which include Shane Vereen, Denard Robinson and Tavon Austin, These players are being deemed as movable chess pieces or even offensive weapons, but whatever you call them, there is no doubt they are very literally, and figuratively, their team’s secret weapons.
Eric Olinger: Quarterbacks. All of them. There are so many really excellent fantasy quarterbacks available now, it doesn’t make much sense to reach for the top guys any longer. With the read-option quarterbacks racking up points with their legs, we have a surplus at the position. Right now the top 12 quarterbacks being drafted, according to ADP data, are Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck, Cam Newton, Brees, RG3, Kaepernick, Russell Wilson, Matt Ryan, Brady, Matt Stafford, Peyton Manning and Tony Romo. That means guys like Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger are being drafted as backups and underrated players like Andy Dalton are available beyond that. It just doesn’t make sense to reach for a quarterback this year.
TheFFGhost: There isn’t a single player more at a crossroads in their career than Sam Bradford. Bradford has long suffered from the circumstances he found himself in due to no fault of his own. He had a new Offensive Coordinator for every one of his first three seasons and he constantly lacked high end player makers around him. This season he finally has some stability with his first returning Offensive Coordinator in Brian Schottenheimer and he has been surrounded with a lot of weapons, namely four wide receivers drafted in the last two years and a tight end who oozes potential. If Bradford can’t take that next step this season, I think the Rams will have to accept they need to move on from the Bradford era, especially with two more first round picks next season.
Eric Olinger: The closest thing the NFL has to a prodigy has to be Andrew Luck. To have teams “Suck for Luck” and then have to walk into a franchise and replace one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game is unheard of. To do it effectively is out of this world. The Colts were expected to be cellar dwellers last season but made the playoffs. Now he is reunited with his college offensive coordinator. The sky is the limit for Luck.
TheFFGhost: I feel the biggest contender for breakout player of the year is Alshon Jeffery. He seemed to really “get” the game at several points last season. He is a big target who will compliment Brandon Marshall perfectly. Due in part to his grasp of the game and due to the fact that Chicago desperately needs to integrate him into their offense more completely, I think you’ll see Jeffery be a top 50 receiver this season and a true, legit WR2. Face it, Marshall isn’t getting any younger – Jeffery is the future in Chicago.
Eric Olinger: Darren Sproles is as unconventional as they come. He’s a running back who won’t rush for 700 yards, he’ll be drafted in the low RB2 range, but will produce RB1 numbers in PPR leagues because of his exceptional receiving skills. He’s basically a wide receiver who lines up in the backfield. It doesn’t get more unconventional than that.
TheFFGhost: The player I’m all-in for is fairly well documented, I was on the Danny Amendola hype train years ago. It’s a bit of an unconventional answer, but I own him in roughly 80% of all my leagues. Simply put, he is a PPR monster who has constantly gone underdrafted for quite a while. Now that he is on the New England roster, he is seeing a decent bump in ADP value. He has gone underdrafted for the past two years due to the tag of being injury prone, but in actuality, his injuries have been very much of the fluke variety and do not impact his mobility, which is incredibly important to note.
Eric Olinger: The player I’m most worried about is Colin Kaepernick. As a 49ers fan, I love what he brings in terms of versatility and excitement. What worries me is his tunnel vision and dependency on Michael Crabtree. Crabtree was targeted nearly 3:1 to the next closest receiver after Kaepernick took over. Hopefully not having Crabtree will force him to use all receivers on the field and this will only help his long term development as a passer because his legs bring such a dangerous weapon to the quarterback position.
TheFFGhost: The player I’m looking to sell at this point is Brian Quick. His hype right now is about as high as it is possibly going to get. I’m not saying it’s super high right now as it is, but I’m not convinced it is going to go any higher. The reason for selling is I honestly do not feel as if he is the answer (long term or short term) in St. Louis. The addition of two rookie wide receivers in the draft shows the Rams haven’t found what they are looking for thus far. Add to that the fact that it appears as if the starting wide receiver corps at this point is Chris Givens, Tavon Austin and Austin Pettis and it shows you just how underwhelmed the Rams staff is with Quick.