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2010 Year In Review – AFC & NFC North
Preseason Schedule Analysis

Divisions: East | North | South | West

It’s never easy for a person to admit their mistakes. It’s even harder to do so in front of a national audience. But admitting – and learning from – one’s mistakes is a vital part to growing and becoming a better person and, for the purposes of this four-part series of articles, a better fantasy prognosticator.

There are many fantasy “experts” that would not dare do what I am about to do, which is look back at their projections from late August or early September of last season and revisit their triumphs as well as their regrets. (And yes, I was as shockingly off on some of my projections just about as often as I was right on the mark.) But I believe this is a useful exercise for all parties involved and perhaps will give even more credence to my belief in the PSAs. At the very least, it should allow each of us to see just how much faith I should have in my ability to “predict the schedule” and how much trust I deserve from each of you when I do so.

After much debate on how I should go about deciding whether or not I projected a player accurately, I finally settled on the system that I explain over the next few paragraphs. It didn’t make much sense to stack up my 15-game forecasts against the player’s actual 16-game numbers and with the number of teams that have essentially taken Week 17 off recently (if not most of December), it seemed prudent to measure each player on their points-per-game average. The next step was deciding how to measure accuracy. Again, a simple hit-miss system was too rigid, so I added two more categories to analyze the accuracy of my projections.

Hit: my projection was within +/- 1 FPPG (fantasy point per game)
On-Target: my projection was within +/- 1.1 and 3 FPPG
Off-Target: my projection was within +/- 3.1 and 5 FPPG
Miss: my projection missed by more than 5 FPPG

Before we dive into the heart of this walk down memory lane, I want to explain two more areas I decided to address: 1) the percentage listed next to the “hit”, “on-target”. “off-target” and “miss” and 2) the names listed after the percentage. The percentage is simply a reflection of how much each of those four standards fit into the accuracy “pie” while the names reflect the players who actually fell into that category. (So, for example, Pittsburgh ended up with five greens out of a possible 14 – seven PPR and seven non-PPR projections – so I ended up “hitting” on 35.8% of my projections for the Steelers.) Finally, I will hand myself a grade at the end of each “team report”, with weight on that grade being given to the quality of player. For example, a miss on a player like Aaron Rodgers would send my grade down much more than a miss on Andre Caldwell. Conversely, a hit on Rodgers would skyrocket my grade much more than a hit on Caldwell.

Explanations of column headers below:

PPR Margin – The difference (plus or minus) between a player’s actual FPPG and the FPPG I projected for him prior to the start of the 2010 season in PPR leagues.

NPPR Margin – The difference (plus or minus) between a player’s actual FPPG and the FPPG I projected for him prior to the start of the 2010 season in non-PPR leagues.

Actual PPR – The amount of FPPG a player scored during the 2010 season in PPR leagues.

Actual NPPR – The amount of FPPG a player scored during the 2010 season in non-PPR leagues.

PPR Avg – The FPPG average I projected for the player prior to the start of the 2010 season in PPR leagues.

NPPR Avg – The FPPG average I projected for the player prior to the start of the 2010 season in non-PPR leagues.

 Color Codes

AFC North

 Baltimore Ravens
Pos Player PPR Margin NPPR Margin Actual PPR Actual NPPR PPR Avg NPPR Avg
QB Joe Flacco -1.2 -1.2 17.6 17.6 18.8 18.8
RB Ray Rice -5 -4.9 17.3 13.4 22.3 18.3
RB Willis McGahee -0.3 -0.3 5.9 5.3 6.2 5.6
RB Le'Ron McClain -1.3 -1.6 2.9 1.5 4.2 3.1
WR Anquan Boldin -4.1 -2.7 11.7 7.9 15.8 10.6
WR Derrick Mason -2.8 -1.7 11.5 7.6 14.3 9.3
WR Donte' Stallworth -2.6 -2.1 1.8 1.2 4.4 3.3
TE Todd Heap 2 1.8 10 6.9 8 5.1

Hits – (12.5%) McGahee. I expected McGahee to be phased out over the course of the year and not to be much of a factor in the passing game. I was right on both accounts, but I don’t see much of a chance for him to wear a Ravens’ jersey again in 2011.

On-Target – (68.8%) Flacco, McClain, Mason, Stallworth, Heap; Boldin (non-PPR). It wasn’t hard to project an increase in fantasy value from Year 2 to Year 3 for Flacco considering the Ravens added Boldin and OC Cam Cameron was willing to trust him more as the offensive centerpiece. Likewise, Mason was due for a slight decrease in production since he would be losing WR1 status on his team. Heap seemed unlikely to turn in his best FPPG since 2006 because the Ravens added two rookie TEs, but it remained clear that Flacco trusts Heap when the team gets down into scoring territory. His 15.0 YPC from last season is a definite outlier, but it should be noted that Heap has scored 11 times over the last two seasons (all from Flacco), so another low-end fantasy TE1 year or two may not be out of the question for the injury-prone 31-year-old Heap.

Off-Target – (18.7%) Rice; Boldin (PPR). As funny as it sounds, I scored two yellows on Rice for the very same reason I nailed McGahee: I expected Rice to assume the feature-back role no later than midseason. In a sense, he did – but the Ravens’ offensive line failed to cooperate as Rice managed a pedestrian 4.0 YPC. With the 5.3 YPC he sported in 2009 and the 308 carries he posted in 2010, Rice would have nudged out Arian Foster for the rushing title and likely scored more than six total TDs. Boldin was a tough call from the time he landed in Baltimore. Would he dominate or simply add a physical dimension to the Ravens’ passing game and little more? If you owned him through the Ravens’ Week 8 bye, your answer may have been the former. However, defenses consciously started taking Boldin out of the game with steady double teams and/or 1 ½ defenders (safety over the top which allows a CB to gamble a bit more) from that point on, so his owners likely ended 2011 with a bad taste in their mouth.

Misses – (0%) None.

Not included – Mark Clayton. The injury-prone Raven was dealt to the Rams at about the same time of day that I submitted my final Big Board, so I will allow myself a pass on him.

Grade: B+ As a whole, I expected the Ravens’ offense to be a bit more dynamic than it actually ended up being in 2010. However, I did a good job at handicapping Flacco’s final numbers as well as how much the presence of Boldin would affect Mason’s bottom line. The presence of so much blue on the chart above means I should earn a pretty respectable grade, but my three yellows came on Boldin and Rice, which brings that grade down a bit. Still, with no red to speak of, a solid grade is in order.

 Cincinnati Bengals
Pos Player PPR Margin NPPR Margin Actual PPR Actual NPPR PPR Avg NPPR Avg
QB Carson Palmer -1.4 -1.4 17.1 17.1 18.5 18.5
RB Cedric Benson -0.6 -0.6 12.2 11.1 12.8 11.7
RB Bernard Scott -5.4 -4.1 3.1 2.6 8.5 6.7
RB Brian Leonard 1.3 0.8 4.2 2.3 2.9 1.5
WR Chad Ochocinco -2.4 -2.2 12.4 7.7 14.8 9.9
WR Terrell Owens 1.3 1 16 10.9 14.7 9.9
WR Jordan Shipley 2.9 1.9 8.7 5.2 5.8 3.3
WR Andre Caldwell -2.3 -1.6 3.8 2.3 6.1 3.9
TE Jermaine Gresham 0.5 -0.4 8.1 4.7 7.6 5.1

Hits – (33.3%) Benson, Gresham; Leonard, Owens (both non-PPR). I haven’t been a Benson fan from the time he arrived in the Queen City, so it’s fair to say that I find it almost laughable that a team moving to the West Coast offense (which actually originated in Cincinnati when Bill Walsh was an assistant there in the late 1970s) would ask a bruising RB with questionable hands to be its bellcow. Still, in regards to last season, a more difficult schedule plus a greater emphasis on the passing game figured to wreck the plans some fantasy owners had in making Benson their top RB. The Bengals have never employed a TE like Gresham – which obviously made it difficult to project his rookie-year numbers – but he’s just getting started, folks. The new offense figures to make him a passing-game centerpiece (along with A.J. Green) and may put him into darkhorse consideration for a Pro Bowl berth in the next year or two. Ochocinco basically conceded from the day Owens signed in Cincy that his buddy would be the top WR in town. Unfortunately, the duo’s inability to run disciplined routes on a consistent basis probably contributed greatly to Palmer’s “trade me or I’ll retire” stance.

On-Target – (55.6%) Palmer, Ochocinco, Shipley, Caldwell; Leonard, Owens (both PPR). Say what you will about Palmer, but it amazes me for a QB who supposedly has nothing left in his arm could still pass for 26 TDs and 2+ TDs in eight of his first 10 games. Many of his INTs last season could easily be blamed on Ocho and Owens not running the right route. But for those of you who think I’m putting up a stubborn defense that Palmer is still a top QB, you would be wrong. Palmer was never on the level of a Brady or Manning and is simply a QB who went from very good to merely average following injuries to his knee and right elbow. It didn’t seem likely that Ochocinco would get embarrassed by Owens considering the former had been in the same offense as Palmer every year each player has been a pro, but that is exactly what happened in 2010. Ochocinco has gone from being a breath of fresh air for a franchise that needed it early in his career to a declining veteran more interested in self-promotion. I was pleased that I landed a pair of blues on Shipley since he actually commanded more attention from Palmer than I expected. Shipley’s role was in the slot from Day 1, which was expected. Look for his stock to rise dramatically over the next year or two – still out of the slot – even with the bright future the team should enjoy with Green and Gresham.

Off-Target – (5.55%) Scott (non-PPR). Given what seemed to be an obvious transition to a passing offense last season, it seemed only logical that the explosive, pass-catching Scott would see more action than he did in his rookie season. (After all, the team has compared his explosiveness to Tennessee’s Chris Johnson.) Instead, he actually saw fewer touches despite playing three more games than he did in 2009 because of the coaching staff’s stance that Scott cannot handle a heavier load.

Miss – (5.55%) Scott (PPR). Read above.

Grade: A- As much as it hurts my pride to see any yellow or red, the fact that it happened with Scott is a bit more palatable for me. Predicting Benson to have a down year (when most were expecting a career year) with the addition of Owens was very much a feather in my cap, as was forecasting the kind of impact Gresham would have on the Bengals’ offense. It’s also fair to say that I did a good job with Owens as well.

 Cleveland Browns
Pos Player PPR Margin NPPR Margin Actual PPR Actual NPPR PPR Avg NPPR Avg
QB Jake Delhomme -1.8 -1.8 6.1 6.1 7.9 7.9
QB Seneca Wallace 4.4 4.4 6.1 6.1 1.7 1.7
QB Colt McCoy 8.8 8.8 12.6 12.6 3.8 3.8
RB Peyton Hillis 10 8.4 18.4 15.2 8.4 6.8
WR Josh Cribbs -5.7 -5.2 4.3 2.3 10 7.5
WR Mohamed Massaquoi -4 -2.6 6.3 4 10.3 6.6
WR Brian Robiskie -1.3 -0.7 5.6 3.5 6.9 4.2
TE Ben Watson 3.5 1.6 10.1 5.9 6.6 4.3

Hit – (6.25%) Robiskie (non-PPR). Nothing to see here. Robiskie showed some flashes near the end of the season, but he will need to take a huge jump in his third season if he is going to start ahead of Massaquoi, Cribbs or 2011 second-rounder Greg Little.

On-Target – (31.25%) Delhomme; Robiskie (PPR), Massaquoi, Watson (both non-PPR). The only player of note here was Watson, since Delhomme was just about as awful as most fantasy owners expected. Despite showing incredible athleticism as a New England Patriot, Watson was allowed to leave in large part because of his inconsistent hands. For better or worse, that assessment qualified him to be one of the better passing-game options in Cleveland.

Off-Target – (25%) Wallace; Massaquoi, Watson (both PPR). The talent is there with Massaquoi, but one has to wonder if can take the next step or not. In a perfect world (at least in Cleveland’s mind), Little becomes the lead receiver quickly and allows Massaquoi to slide into more of a WR2 role because the third-year WR seems to be one of those receivers who carry an offense for short bursts but not for long stretches. If Little can take some attention away from Massaquoi, the Browns may have a shot at sporting one fantasy WR3 in 12-team leagues sooner than later.

Misses – (37.5%) McCoy, Hillis, Cribbs. In my defense, I did speak to the haunting feeling that Jerome Harrison wasn’t going to be “the man” following the late preseason injury to 2010 second-rounder Montario Hardesty in my last Big Board submission right before the start of the season. Still, knowing how much then-HC Eric Mangini could not wrap his mind around Harrison as a full-time back, it would have been logical to give Hillis more of a bump since he has been nothing but productive every time he’s received a chance at legitimate playing time since his college days. If team president Mike Holmgren didn’t think McCoy was much more than backup material after drafting him last year, why would I give the rookie any more credit than Holmgren did? To my credit, I did predict that he would get some starts despite Holmgren’s assessment, so all was not lost. And finally, I expected Cribbs to emerge as a poor man’s Percy Harvin with no clear-cut top receiver on this team last year, but the extra touches he received out of the “Wildcat” or on reverses in 2009 seemed to go by the wayside in 2010.

Not included – Mike Bell and Harrison. Much like Randy Moss in last week’s article, Harrison was a player almost no one expected to be traded following Hardesty’s injury. If anything, he seemed more likely to get benched than dealt considering his relationship with Mangini.

Grade: D My attempt to forecast the 2010 Browns was almost pathetic. Granted, any team foolish enough to believe Delhomme was still a starting-caliber QB – especially with this supporting cast – was going to be difficult to predict. Throw in Hardesty’s late season-ending injury, Harrison’s in-season trade and Watson’s emergence after leaving pass-happy New England and you have the recipe for a very poor grade here. I’ll spare myself a failing grade because I did tally a combined six greens and blues, but the only fantasy-relevant player among them was Watson. Then again, the only Cleveland player worth owning in most leagues last year was Hillis, who the team felt was going to be little more than a short-yardage back just before the start of the season.

 Pittsburgh Steelers
Pos Player PPR Margin NPPR Margin Actual PPR Actual NPPR PPR Avg NPPR Avg
QB Ben Roethlisberger 1.9 1.9 20.5 20.5 18.6 18.6
RB Rashard Mendenhall -0.4 0.5 15.1 13.9 15.5 13.4
RB Isaac Redman -0.8 -1.1 3.2 2.7 4 3.8
WR Hines Ward -5.2 -3.3 10.1 6.6 15.3 9.9
WR Mike Wallace 1.1 1.8 15.6 11.6 14.5 9.8
WR Emmanuel Sanders 0.3 0.1 5.8 3.8 5.5 3.7
TE Heath Miller -2.9 -2.2 7.4 4.5 10.3 6.7

Hits – (35.8%) Mendenhall, Sanders; Redman (PPR). There was little doubt Mendenhall would see a significant workload during Roethlisberger’s four-game suspension to open the season. Thankfully, my 15-game prediction of 1,215 rushing yards was almost spot-on because Mendenhall enjoyed a few more red-zone opportunities than I forecasted last summer. Mendenhall isn’t ever likely to turn into a 40-catch back, but assuming his Twitter account doesn’t land him in any more trouble, he figures to remain one of the few 300-carry runners who is a very solid fantasy RB1 in 12-team leagues. Pittsburgh is starting to become a haven for useful WR3s. A few years ago, it was Nate Washington and, in 2009, it was Wallace. Last year, Sanders served notice that may be ready to take on more of Ward’s catches as the vet’s career begins to wind down.

On-Target – (50%) Roethlisberger, Wallace, Miller; Redman (non-PPR). I thought my 11-game projection (2,390-17-9) was fairly optimistic, but Roethlisberger threw more often and more effectively than I would have thought for a player coming off suspension. Still, when a forecaster can hit at least one category (passing yards or TDs in this case), it stands to reason the final projection will look pretty good. I was among Wallace’s biggest supporters last summer, but even I was surprised at how quickly he has evolved into a receiver (as opposed to just a speed merchant). Ward may push him one last time for the team lead in all the receiving categories, but there is little doubt Wallace is here to stay. With his ridiculous speed, defenders must play off of him, which should allow him to evolve as a possession receiver going forward and boost his reception numbers over the next few years. In PPR leagues, Miller averaged 3.3 FPPG more with Roethlisberger under center than he did with Dennis Dixon, Byron Leftwich or Charlie Batch. What this may suggest going forward is that a good TE like Miller doesn’t automatically benefit just because a young or weaker-armed QB is in the lineup. I’d feel safe in saying until further notice: Big Ben helps make Miller fantasy relevant more than Miller’s talent does.

Off-Target – (7.1%) Ward (non-PPR). Through Week 7, my projections for Ward looked to be pretty solid. However, consecutive three-catch performances that yielded a total of 25 yards and a score over the next two weeks plus the concussion he suffered early against New England in Week 10 pretty much began the passing of the WR1 torch from Ward to Wallace. Obviously, it’s too early to write Ward off in fantasy, but considering his age and style of play, it may be time to move him back to fantasy WR3 territory.

Miss – (7.1%) Ward (PPR). Read above.

Not included – Leftwich. After some debate, I chose not to include Leftwich in the grading process. Not only did he get injured right before my final Big Board was released, but he was never going to be anything more than a four-game fill-in for Roethlisberger anyway, so owners pinning their hopes on him last September needed to be pretty desperate to put him in their lineups.

Grade: A Registering a yellow and red on one of the Steelers’ top-drafted fantasy players last summer keeps this from being one of my best-ever team forecasts, but when you consider that I was able to predict just about every other player within 20 fantasy points of their final total, I think a good grade is in order.

NFC North

 Chicago Bears
Pos Player PPR Margin NPPR Margin Actual PPR Actual NPPR PPR Avg NPPR Avg
QB Jay Cutler -4 -4 16.9 16.9 20.9 20.9
RB Matt Forte 1.4 1.5 16.4 13.5 15 12
RB Chester Taylor -3.5 -2.8 4.9 3.7 8.4 6.5
WR Devin Hester -5.9 -4.4 7.2 4.5 13.1 8.9
WR Johnny Knox -3.2 -1.7 11 7.9 14.2 9.6
WR Devin Aromashodu -9.4 -6.1 1.8 1.1 11.2 7.2
WR Earl Bennett 3.2 1.9 8.6 5.3 5.4 3.4
TE Brandon Manumaleuna -0.2 0.1 1 0.6 1.2 0.5
TE Greg Olsen 0.5 0.3 6.8 4.4 6.3 4.1

Hits – (22.2%) Manumaleuna, Olsen. If we’ve learned anything over the years about OC Mike Martz, it’s that every TE will perform like Ernie Conwell (the starting TE on the Super Bowl-winning Rams team for Martz’s first offense in 1999). He’s had some talented ones of late (Vernon Davis, Olsen), but he just seems to refuse to change his offensive approach to his most skilled receiver, even when that receiver is a tight end.

On-Target – (27.8%) Forte; Taylor, Knox, Bennett (the last three in non-PPR). For most of the season, my projection for Forte appeared lofty thanks in large part to one of the worst stretches I have seen an entire offensive line play in recent memory. Then, starting in Week 10, OL coach Mike Tice found the right combination – which included moving seventh-round rookie J’Marcus Webb into the starting lineup at RT and former first-round LT Chris Williams to LG – giving Martz the ammunition to lean on Forte a bit more. Despite the vast improvement Tice received from his charges, the o-line was still atrocious at moving the defense in the red zone. Despite entering the season as Forte’s supposed equal in terms of projected touches, Taylor quickly showed fantasy owners one of the reasons Minnesota was fine with letting him go – he’s never been a special back. Knox’s hype grew exponentially throughout the summer and while he was the team’s best WR, he just didn’t receive the number of opportunities we have come to expect from a WR playing the Torry Holt role in Martz’s offense.

Off-Target – (33.3%) Cutler; Taylor, Knox, Bennett (the last three in PPR); Hester (non-PPR). Without question, Cutler defied logic last season. We have grown accustomed to Martz QBs who see their fantasy numbers (passing yards, TDs) skyrocket, with the drawback being the QB taking more sacks and committing more turnovers as a result of the OC’s downfield passing game. While Cutler did take a lot of sacks, the 2010 version of the enigmatic QB recorded his lowest passing yardage total and second-lowest TD and INT totals since becoming a full-time starter in 2007. With the buzz Knox and Aromashodu generated last offseason, it was too easy to write off Bennett. Cutler’s former college teammate is never going to wow fantasy owners or his coaches with any one skill, but he’s going to enjoy a long NFL career simply because he can get open and catch the ball. Martz has admitted as much and will make Bennett more of a priority in 2011.

Misses – (16.7%) Aromashodu; Hester (PPR). Along with Knox, the hype machine was working overtime for Aromashodu early last summer. Unfortunately, for all of us who drafted him in at least one league, we found out the Bears’ coaching staff had no faith in him as a blocker or route runner – the latter of which is a big no-no in a Martz offense. All we heard about Hester last season was how the Bears were convinced he was going to end up as a full-time WR even though most fans knew that Chicago would be forced to scrap that plan in order to save him for the return game on a more regular basis. As often happens, that move came well after the start of the season. Including the playoffs, Hester did not see more than three receptions from Week 13 on – expect more of the same this season.

Grade: C There’s not a lot to be proud of with my Bears’ 2010 forecast. Recording two greens on Olsen and two blues on Forte was a positive, but two much yellow and red on Cutler and Chicago’s receiving corps means the grade must suffer a bit.

 Detroit Lions
Pos Player PPR Margin NPPR Margin Actual PPR Actual NPPR PPR Avg NPPR Avg
QB Matthew Stafford 3 3 20.2 20.2 17.2 17.2
RB Jahvid Best -1.5 -2.6 13.1 9.4 14.6 12
RB Kevin Smith 0.8 -0.1 6 4.1 5.2 4.2
WR Calvin Johnson -1.4 -1.1 16.5 11.5 17.9 12.6
WR Nate Burleson -0.6 -0.7 11.3 7 11.9 7.7
WR Bryant Johnson -0.3 -0.5 2.8 1.5 3.1 2
TE Brandon Pettigrew 5.3 3.2 10.5 6 5.2 2.8
TE Tony Scheffler -3.1 -2.9 5.8 2.9 8.9 5.8

Hits – (37.5%) Smith, Burleson, Bryant Johnson. I’m quite sure I was one of the few who felt Burleson still had WR3 potential in 12-team PPR leagues entering last season. But can the 29-year-old continue to carry that moniker at least one more year with all the offensive weapons Stafford is collecting at his disposal? That is a tough question. Still, one thing is guaranteed for the ex-Viking and Seahawk wideout: as long as he is starting opposite Calvin Johnson and “Megatron” is healthy, Burleson is going to see single coverage all day long.

On-Target – (43.75%) Stafford, Best, Calvin Johnson; Scheffler (non-PPR). Whether he is brittle or just a victim of some bad luck, Stafford has quickly earned the “injury-prone” tag. Considering Detroit did not address its offensive line until late in the draft, it might be safe to say owners will be pushing their luck if they count on him for more than eight games in 2011. However, with the cupboard full of talented playmakers now, one could easily say no QB enters the upcoming season with such a high fantasy ceiling or as low of a floor as Stafford. Best came on like gangbusters and became an afterthought just as quickly once he suffered dual turf toe injuries. When healthy, it is very possible he has the talent to play like a top fantasy RB1, but with his injury history dating back to college, he may need to be treated as a high-upside RB2. With two injury-shortened seasons in his first three seasons, Calvin Johnson was still drafted quite high due to his incredible talent. After turning in another 16-game season with 12 receiving scores, it is possible that he is just scratching the surface at age 25. Detroit is quietly assembling an offensive juggernaut, so even though he will continue to be the center of attention for the defense every week, it is possible that he is ready to have a historic season simply because teams will not be able to swarm him anymore without paying for it.

Off-Target – (12.5%) Scheffler (PPR); Pettigrew (non-PPR). After being hailed as Detroit’s version of Dallas Clark, I was disappointed by the lack of opportunity Scheffler received after Week 4 (when he suffered a concussion). Other injuries followed and combined with the surprising health of Pettigrew, the revolving door at QB and below-average offensive line, it became easier for the Lions to throw the ball up for “Megatron” or dump it off to Pettigrew.

Miss – (6.25%) Pettigrew (PPR). Because I invested so much hope in Scheffler, I was too late in realizing how quickly Pettigrew earned the trust of his QBs. Still, entering the 2010 season, I wasn’t going to place a lot of faith in a player coming off ACL surgery competing against a receiving TE like Scheffler. Pettigrew will maintain value going forward because he is a strong blocker and an able short-range receiver (think Heath Miller), so it is highly possible with all the weapons Detroit now possesses, he can maintain low-end TE1 value going forward.

Grade: B+ Although I recorded two blues on Calvin Johnson, it says a lot about the talented WR that he posted a 77-1,120-12 line with three different QBs throwing him the ball. Once again, I feel confident had Stafford managed to play even eight games, my optimistic projection would have been nearly perfect. With my only two undesirable results coming on two TEs that were either drafted late or not drafted at all, my most egregious error was probably forecasting that Stafford would not miss some time due to injury. Beyond that “oversight”, posting blues and greens on Best, Calvin Johnson and Burleson leave me feeling pretty good about this team forecast.

 Green Bay Packers
Pos Player PPR Margin NPPR Margin Actual PPR Actual NPPR PPR Avg NPPR Avg
QB Aaron Rodgers -3.6 -3.6 24 24 27.6 27.6
RB Ryan Grant -9.7 -7.9 4.5 4.5 14.2 12.4
RB James Starks 1.1 2 4.5 3.9 3.4 1.9
RB Brandon Jackson 5 4.1 10.7 8 5.7 3.9
WR Greg Jennings 1 1 17.2 12.4 16.2 11.4
WR Donald Driver -3.9 -2.7 8.6 5.4 12.5 8.1
WR James Jones 3 1.6 9.1 6.1 6.1 4.5
WR Jordy Nelson 0.7 0.7 6.8 4.4 6.1 3.7
TE Jermichael Finley -6 -4.8 11.4 7.2 17.4 12

Hits – (22.2%) Jennings, Nelson. If we didn’t know any better, we could be fooled into thinking that Jennings treats the first half of the season as his exhibition games. Over his last three Septembers, Jennings has averaged 18 catches for 345 yards and three scores. When you compare that to November (44-717-6) and December (39-708-4), one must wonder if he can be viewed as fantasy WR1 material if he takes nearly half the season to “warm up”. It doesn’t take a genius to see, however, that he is worth trading for at the midway point of the season and fully capable of putting a fantasy team on his back when he does get rolling.

On-Target – (27.8%) Starks, Jones; Driver (non-PPR). One has to wonder how much Driver’s rapid fall from grace was due to injury (quad) and how much was because of age (turned 36 shortly before the team’s Super Bowl victory). It’s only natural fantasy owners innately gravitate toward age as the culprit for any decline when a WR is in his mid-30s, but owners should be forewarned that Driver has a history of proving people wrong. As long as he is starting in this offense, he is at least a mid-range fantasy WR3. But much like I advised on 30-something RBs last week, if you select Driver this year and he gets off to a fast start, don’t be afraid to play it safe and deal him to another owner for another WR who is younger and has a better shot at staying healthy.

Off-Target – (33.3%) Rodgers, Jackson; Driver (PPR); Finley (non-PPR). As I’ll allude to in just a bit, the loss of Grant and Finley threw a monkey wrench into the team Rodgers’ owners thought he would be leading for the majority of last season. I have every confidence Rodgers would have matched or even exceeded my lofty expectations had he been able to throw to the mismatch that is Finley all season long. Jackson’s role obviously grew in Grant’s absence while Starks’ slow recovery turned him into an afterthought in most leagues before he made his presence felt in Week 13.

Misses – (16.7%) Grant; Finley (PPR). Sometimes, injuries happen to the players that you consider among the most durable (Grant) and, other times; a player can’t avoid an injury no matter how much time he devotes to his craft in the offseason (Finley). I’m confident that my forecasts for both players would have been pretty accurate had either player came close to finishing the season, but I certainly wasn’t going to predict Grant going down halfway through Week 1 and Finley wrapping up his season almost a month later when he has the talent and opportunity to become the best fantasy TE in the game.

Grade: B- Injuries riddled this team in 2010, which makes their Super Bowl run all the more incredible. Grant’s early injury turned the offense into an even more pass-happy team than it already was while Finley’s injury probably thwarted any chance Rodgers had of meeting my expectations. Because I did log four greens in the Packers’ receiving corps, I’m willing to move my grade into an acceptable range while still acknowledging the plethora of yellow and red on the chart above.

 Minnesota Vikings
Pos Player PPR Margin NPPR Margin Actual PPR Actual NPPR PPR Avg NPPR Avg
QB Brett Favre -7.3 -7.3 9.2 9.2 16.5 16.5
RB Adrian Peterson -2.9 -2.1 18.4 16.1 21.3 18.2
RB Toby Gerhart 0.9 0.4 4.7 3.7 3.8 3.3
WR Percy Harvin -1.1 -2.3 14.5 8.4 15.6 10.7
WR Sidney Rice 1.7 1.5 9.5 6.7 7.8 5.2
WR Bernard Berrian -7.1 -5.2 3.7 1.8 10.8 7
WR Greg Camarillo -1.7 -0.7 3.1 1.9 4.8 2.6
TE Visanthe Shiancoe -3.3 -2.7 7 4.1 10.3 6.8

Hits – (18.75%) Gerhart; Harvin (PPR); Camarillo (non-PPR). Gerhart turned out to be what we expected him to be entering the 2010 season – a physical back who would be see most of his time only when Peterson needed a rest or sidelined by injury. Three games in the rookie’s regular season really saved this projection, but this is pretty much what we should expect from Gerhart as long as Peterson is in his prime and healthy.

On-Target – (50%) Peterson, Harvin, Rice; Camarillo (PPR); Shiancoe (non-PPR). While it could be argued that Peterson enjoyed another stellar season (namely one fumble all year after entering the season with 20 fumbles – 13 lost – in his first three seasons combined), fantasy owners may need to begin revising their expectations for Peterson’s fantasy ceiling in the short term. The Vikings’ line (particularly the left side) isn’t what it is used to be, the defense started to fall off last season and the offensive staff under then-interim HC Leslie Frazier didn’t run him as much as Brad Childress did. Admittedly, that last part may change in 2011 with a rookie QB likely to be starting Week 1, but the other two observations are likely to stick, at least for a little while. I projected Harvin to play 14 games and that is exactly what he played. I was a bit optimistic on his YPC in my 2010 projection (which lead to the sizable gap between my PPR and non-PPR forecast for him), but otherwise, I couldn’t have judged his impact minus Rice much better. His role will only continue to grow, especially if Rice leaves via free agency. No one will argue that Rice was going to be a difficult projection in 2010. Ultimately, he missed 10 games as opposed to the five I projected.

Off-Target – (6.25%) Shiancoe (PPR). Along with the sinking ship that became the Vikings’ offense in 2010, perhaps no one fell to earth more than Shiancoe after a nice two-year run as the team’s favorite option in the red zone. Favre did wonders for his value in 2009, so with everyone’s favorite gunslinger out and the draft’s top all-around TE (Kyle Rudolph) now in the fold, Shiancoe may be taking his farewell tour as a Viking in 2011.

Misses – (25%) Favre, Berrian. Despite my best intentions to tell the world that I thought Favre had no chance to repeat 2009 in large part due to his ankle injury entering the season, it turns I didn’t even come close to estimating how quickly he’d fall from his perch. While Harvin figured to be the biggest beneficiary in fantasy from the Vikes during Rice’s prolonged absence, it only seemed right that Berrian would help pick up the deep-ball slack. Instead, he showed next to nothing and may be lucky just to be on Minnesota’s roster in 2011.

Grade: B The fact that I registered mostly blues (and one green with Harvin) with many of the Vikings’ highest-drafted players should warrant a pretty fair grade. I warned readers last summer that Favre wasn’t going to be a QB1 in fantasy, so I feel good that I trusted my instinct with him as opposed to chasing his 2009 numbers. Berrian was a bad miss, but I can live with a late-round miss on a player that should not have been drafted as anything more than a high-upside WR4.

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Doug Orth has written for FF Today since 2006, appeared in USA Today’s Fantasy Football Preview magazine in each of the last two seasons and served as a weekly fantasy football analyst for 106.7 The Fan in Washington, D.C. this past season. He is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. You can also follow him on Twitter.