Keep your eyes peeled. Fantasy rosters are solidified during the
middle rounds, and it is the knowledgeable owner capable of noticing
opportunities where others may not who could walk out of his draft
with one of his league's best rosters. Here are six players I think
can be solid contributors on any fantasy team.
Sam Bradford, STL
I get it. Sam Bradford has been a pedestrian quarterback
in his first three seasons in the league. Nothing really stands
out so far--no signature play or signature game. A quarterback
that has only six games of 300-plus yards passing, one who at
one stretch between his first and third years went 19 of 20 games
with one or fewer touchdown passes. Very nondescript career so
far, no doubting that. All that being said, the Rams have tried
to surround their franchise quarterback with the tools necessary
to become a more productive player. Sure, losing Steven Jackson
may be viewed as a setback by some, but St. Louis will help fill
that void with Daryl
Richardson and even rookie receiver Tavon
Fellow receiver Chris Givens battled through inconsistency last
year, but I think Austin's arrival, along with that of tight end
Jared Cook, will help complement Givens' deep speed, while opening
things up on short routes across the middle or dump-offs to the
backs. Bradford's weapons may not be household names, but they
are serviceable enough for the fourth-year quarterback to take
another step up the developmental ladder. Additionally, another
reason I put Bradford on this list is my belief in head coach
Jeff Fisher. It's not that he's some kind of quarterback guru
or offensive mastermind; rather, he simply has a way of usually
getting the most out of his players. Some may shy away from Bradford
based on the tough defensive division he plays in, but keep in
mind that he averaged 242 passing yards in the four games against
San Francisco and Seattle, with three total touchdowns and two
interceptions. Not eye-popping numbers, but he didn't collapse
under that pressure either. Those are good attributes to build
upon a surprising season heading into the 2013 season.
Andy Dalton, CIN
Andy Dalton is another young quarterback who's had a rather
nondescript career so far. The Bengals, though, are looking to
construct an offense that suits the skills of the third-year pro.
And as mentioned above, while it took Bradford three full seasons
to reach six games of 300-plus yards passing, Dalton has already
reached five such games in one fewer season. Having A.J.
Green to throw to certainly doesn't hurt those numbers. And
therein lies the hidden and perhaps unheralded fantasy stock of
Dalton. He orchestrates an offense that boasts numerous players
capable of becoming fantasy studs themselves.
Of course there's Green, but the selections of running back Giovani
Bernard and tight end Tyler Eifert bode well for Dalton's surpassing
last year's numbers. Some have touted how Dalton fizzled to close
out 2012, tossing four touchdowns and five interceptions over
the season's last five games. I truly don't believe in that nonsense
of successful or struggling play spilling over into the next season,
but perhaps it is that stretch of games to end last year--in addition
to the stinker of a playoff game he had--that gives fantasy owners
a bad vibe when it comes to Dalton. I say take those opinions
of others and use 'em to your advantage by snatching Dalton with
a mid-round selection, and give yourself one of the more solid
QB2s in fantasy football.
Big upside makes Tate a perennial mid-draft
Ben Tate, HOU
No mention of mid-round selections is complete without
the obligatory Ben Tate inclusion. I used mid- to late-round selections
on him the last two years, but to no avail. This year, though,
I think things will change. Arian
Foster's injuries have been well-documented everywhere, and
it is Tate who should benefit. Word out of Texans camp is that
Foster's issues have kept him fresh and ready to roll come September.
While that may be true, something has to be said about his absence
from practice since OTAs in May. Meanwhile, the vaunted Houston
running attack and the team's commitment and outright dedication
to rushing the football spells success for whichever running back
gets the majority of carries. That being said, Tate should see
more action this season regardless of how serious (or not) Foster's
Tate's success was essentially nonexistent last season. He never
ran for more than 74 yards and never had more than 12 rushing
attempts. That, and the fact that his only two rushing touchdowns
came in Week 2, may give the misinformed the idea that Tate isn't
worth his bloated ADP. But all the uncertainty surrounding Foster
makes Tate one of the most coveted mid-round selections this season--and
a must for Foster owners.
DeSean Jackson, PHI
Admittedly, I've never been a real big fan of DeSean Jackson.
Even during the height of his fantasy stock in 2009 and 2010 I
had questions about his consistency and maturity. But now I think
his ADP is where it should be; now I think even I would feel okay
with his occupying a spot on my roster. New coach Chip Kelly and
his new-school offensive philosophy has given many fantasy owners
pause, trying to figure out how an offense that worked so successfully
in college can transfer to the NFL. Jackson and his quickness
seem to be a solid match for what Kelly hopes to do, and with
the relative dearth of receiver depth, Jackson's value creeps
up a bit more.
Of course, any talk of Philly's passing game components begins
with Michael Vick and his ability to secure the football while
remaining upright himself. If Vick can somehow direct the offense
efficiently while utilizing the multi-dimensional skill set of
Jackson, perhaps Jackson can recapture the magic of his first
three years, in which he hauled in 17 touchdown passes; if not,
Jackson will continue along the path toward fantasy WR mediocrity.
Chances are, however, 2013 should be closer to the former.
Anquan Boldin, SF
The days of Anquan Boldin being anything more than a solid
WR2 in fantasy football were left in the desert when he bolted
Arizona for Baltimore. Not that his days with the Ravens were
a complete loss; he maintained a high degree of relevance in fantasy
football last year when I thought the wheels would pop off at
any time. He even peppered in a few solid games during his three
years in Baltimoreógames that brought back memories of his exploits
with the Cardinals. Now he hightails it out west to the Niners
and, by default, is handed the top receiver position on the team.
Colin Kaepernick's superior and unique athleticism helps keep
plays active longer than your usual signal-caller, giving crafty,
veteran route-runners like Boldin time and space to find holes
in the secondary. The irony of Boldin is the over-emphasis of
his being a "possession receiver." While that may be
true, he actually averaged more yards per reception during his
three years in Baltimore than he did his last three years in Arizona.
None of that, of course, has anything to do with Boldin's "speed,"
but rather his yards after the catch and physical style of play.
He should find himself at the end of the season with 65-70 receptions
for about 1,000 yards and 4-6 touchdown receptions.
Brandon Myers, NYG
Brandon Myers was the lone bright spot in an Oakland passing
attack that was anything but pretty. Myers had 27 more receptions
than his next closet teammate, and that teammate was running back
Palmer looked to him early and often, and that should be the
case again this year with Eli
Manning tossing him the rock. Myers is no doubt an upgrade
over the recent tight ends that have called the Giants home during
the previous three seasons, including Martellus
Ballard and Kevin
Last season was Myers' best of his career, and he benefited the
most from Oakland's lack of receiving threats. The complementary
players on the Giants should provide the extra space he needs
to be a solid contributor in 2013. And with the hobbling Hakeem
Nicks and Victor Cruz, Myers' opportunity to become more of a
focal point of the passing game may come sooner than anyone expects.
He could be a steal in drafts this year, especially TE-optional
leagues that don't put great emphasis on sleeper TE options.