Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Fantasy Football 2011: Over and Undervalued WRs

Now that my draft is over and the league is no longer able to use my published prep against me, it's time to let you all know what I think. Follow this advice to the letter, and you too could finish just out of the money in your league. And with that... on to the analysis!

Overvalued

1) Roddy White. Some call him the best in the game, what with his consistent production, health, quality QB and home dome conditions. And in terms of Actual Footballery, I'd be hard pressed to argue. But the trouble with White is that his situation was already ideal, and his value pretty much has to go down, now that he's got a reasonable #2 (Julio Jones) and even a quality #3 (Harry Douglass, back from injury and looking spry) to add to the mix. So while he's projected at over 1,300 yards and 11 TDs, I think it's more like 1,200 and 8 -- still a clear #1, but not worth the #2 slot overall. Let someone else overpay.

2) Mike Williams (TB). Beware the sophomore slump! Especially when it's attached to a guy with past character issues, for a team that probably overachieved in the passing game last year. Williams is another guy who will get less love from his QB this year as opponents scheme to make others beat them. He'll still get his, but not like last year's 964 and 11. More like 850 and 8.

3) Reggie Wayne. Just like Marin Harrison before him,the end could come without a lot of warning for this Colts #1 WR, especially if Peyton Manning starts slow from injury recovery. I also expect the Colts' ground game to be better this year, because there's little chance of it being worse, and Delone Carter gives them their first good back since the Edge. Add it up, along with possible health for Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon getting more of a clue, and I think you see 1,100 and 6 for Wayne this year, or 250+ yards less than last.

4) Stevie Johnson. Last year's waiver wire gold is projected for big things this year after the 1,073 and 10 that he picked up in 2010... but when you dig into what Buffalo did on offense last year, it was all in fluke game shootouts against terrible teams. This year, with the schedule getting harder, the rest of the team still a mess, and no one bereft of tape for what he and Ryan Fitzpatrick can do to a snoozing defense, the going will be a lot harder. He'll still get some in blowouts, but this duo aren't sneaking up on anyone this year. 850 yards, 6 TDs.

5) Chad Ochocinco. More sideshow than show-stopper now, with all kinds of bad juju coming out of Pats Camp, and a yards per catch and red zone rate that aren't anywhere near the press clippings. He was outperformed by Terrell Owens last year, and while Tom Brady is light years better than Carson Palmer, 31-year-old WRs who don't get separation don't win in any environment. The Pats will continue to pound it close and use the TEs to distraction, and Ocho's route tree isn't all that different from Wes Welker now, so the continuing rollup of press coverage with no long game will continue. Last year's 830 and 4 turn into this year's 750 and 5. Let someone else overpay for that.

Undervalued

1) Vincent Jackson. Take a top 10 talent. Put him in a situation where he's got a top-flight QB, a gifted but injury-prone pass-catching TE, and a running game that can't be trusted. Now, seriously downgrade a division opponent's pass defense, so that two shutdown games a year are now looking like pinball. I like him for 1,300 and 10 this year, and he just might be the best WR in fantasy.

2) Mario Manningham. The key is to not watch his games, because lo, he is maddening; easy drops, lapses in concentration and jaw-dropping mistakes for things like fighting for the ball in traffic. Instead, concentrate on the numbers and situation. Hakeem Nicks will be the #1 and get the attention, but Eli Manning spreads the ball around, and the loss of Steve Smith and Kevin Boss will mean that Manningham will get more touches underneath. He's got remarkable quicks and a growing role in an offense that's going to have many opportunities; pencil him in for an under the radar 1,200 and 12, and similar or better results than Nicks.

3) Brandon Lloyd. The smarts will tell you that he's just had his career year, that he's a 30-year-old guy with attitude issues and a shaky QB/coach situation, and throw last year's 1,450 and 11 under the bridge. But the reality is that, just like VJax, he gets back two games against the Raiders, and that last year's numbers were further degraded by the late-season presence of Tim Tebow, who is not exactly conducive to a #1 WR with a deep threat passing tree. While he won't quite reach last year's heights, he's going to get very close, and that makes him an odd buy-low candidate. Look for 1,300 and 10, and many happy days.

4) Davone Bess. Last year's sneaky sticks-mover looks like your classic third down specialist with a weak QB, but he's more than that. Chad Henne doesn't seem like anyone's idea of a good QB, and he isn't, but he'll be better than last year, if for no other reason than he'll have better luck; there wasn't a single game in 2010 where a defender dropped an INT ball. So with only marginal gains and better luck, the Fish are going have more possessions, which means more chances for Bess... and with the opposition focusing on Reggie Bush and Brandon Marshall in the red zone, I like his chances to strike paydirt more, too. A borderline FA pickup will pay off handsomely, to the tune of 850 yards and 8 TDs.

5) Braylon Edwards. It's hard to remember that this guy was, not too long ago, a legitimate choice for the #1 WR pick after coming off a monstrous 17 TD year for the Browns. Now on his third team in four years, Edwards walks into a situation where the #1 WR (Michael Crabtree) is a head case, the team plays in a division with no defenses, and the QB is embattled and looking for any port in a storm to keep his numbers up. Expect an inordinate number of fly routes and pump and go chances for the Wolverine, and a boom-bust year that winds up as 1,200 yards and 10 TDs, half of which will come in four big games. He's going to be a streaming guy who will sometimes perform as a #1, which is all you can ask for in a late-round grab.

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