Some of the best breakout performers in football fantasy leagues are rookies, who we’re not quite sure what we are going to get from. Let’s take a look at who my Top 5 rookie running backs will be for this season.
1. Knoshown Moreno – Denver Broncos
He was ranked #19 on my Top 25 running backs list (click here to view), so naturally he’s going to take the top spot on this list. He was the first back off the board, taken #12 overall, and enters the season with little competition in the backfield. Does anyone really think Correll Buckhalter or LaMont Jordan offer much of a threat to his carries at this point?
Despite Mike Shanahan no longer leading the way, the Broncos have long been a team capable of creating running backs seemingly from nothing. Moreno should be the next in a long line of success stories as he develops into a must use option in all formats. Read more
Last season the Cowboys gave up a hefty bounty to acquire Roy Williams from the Detroit Lions, putting huge expectations on him that he may be able to propel them to the next level. For the entire season he had 36 catches and 430 yards, but after the deal he had just 19 catches for 198 yards and 1 TD in ten games.
That’s a huge disappointment, to say the least. As we approach the 2009 season he enters as the team’s top receiving threat, with Terrell Owens being cut loose in the off season.
There’s a lot of pressure on Tony Romo to succeed, as many pointed to Owens as one of his major problems. The feeling was that he felt obligated to consistently force the ball to TO, detracting from his performance and that of some of the other receivers.
While tight end Jason Witten may be the top receiver for the team, he already had 81 catches and 952 yards in 2008, exactly how much better could he potentially get? The team is going to have to look to get the ball downfield, and Williams has proven in the past to be capable of doing so. Let’s not forget his big 2006 campaign, when he had 82 catches for 1,310 yards. That year he had 24 catches for 20+ yards. Read more
by Matt Soltysiak
Many thought Brett Favre was going to return from retirement for a second straight season and this time join the Minnesota Vikings in their quest for a Super Bowl title. As you now know by now, that isn’t happening. We’re talking about Favre’s comback, however. As far as the Vikings go anything is still possible. Don’t dismiss the team, or more importantly, the players just yet.
Most felt the arrival of Favre in Minnesota would help boost the stock of receivers Bernard Berrian, Sidney Rice, Bobby Wade and Percy Harvin and tight end Visanthe Shiancoe. Just because Favre isn’t going to be under center doesn’t mean some of these guys don’t have the potential for a good season. Berrian’s receptions were down last season (only 48), but his 964 yards and seven touchdowns were career highs.
Last year it looked like Tarvaris Jackson was starting to put things together (finishing with a 95 QB rating and a 9-2 TD to INT ratio). He was injured and did that in only nine games (while throwing just 149 passes). If he can stay healthy for the entire season and progress even a little, it’s not impossible to think Jackson could throw for 3,000 yards with 20 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. As for the running game, it did fine each of the last two seasons so there’s no reason to think it will suffer without Favre. Read more
I’ve already revealed my Top 15 WR (which you can view by clicking here), so let’s take a look at the next ten on my list:
16. Vincent Jackson – San Diego Chargers – Being the top receiver for the team with one of the best QBs in the league surely has its advantages. He has gotten better each year in the league going from 59 yards to 453 yards to 623 yards to last season’s 1,098 yards. I know the team is going to run plenty (with LaDanian Tomlinson & Darren Sproles), and despite aging, Antonio Gates is going to be the prime target in the red zone. Still, it’s likely he takes the next step and becomes a major force in the Chargers offense.
17. T.J. Houshmandzadeh – Seattle Seahawks - He leaves Cincinnati to become the top option for steady QB in Matt Hasselbeck. He’s had over 90 catches in each of the past three seasons and 900 yards or more in each of the past five. He didn’t find the end zone very often last season (just 4 TD), but that was partly due to not having a strong QB throwing him the ball. I’d expect him to score at least 8 TD this season, if not more.
18. Santonio Holmes – Pittsburgh Steelers - The reigning Super Bowl MVP needs to turn it up in the regular seasons. He seems primed to do so, having reportedly added muscle this off-season (you have to love these clichés, no?). Last season he managed just 821 yards and 5 TDs, only twice having 90 yards receiving in a game. The difference is that he’s likely going to be the #1 receiver this year, over an aging Hines Ward, which should allow him to significantly improve on those numbers. He’s a risk, but then again, any receiver at this point in the draft are going to have question marks hanging over their head. He has tremendous upside and is worth the gamble. Read more
by Ryan Lester of Lester’s Legends
Luke McCown, Tampa Bay – If McCown can win the starting gig in Tampa Bay he could put up decent numbers. He has a couple of nice targets in Antonio Bryant and Kellen Winslow, Jr. Unfortunately he doesn’t have any easy matchups during the bye weeks. He faces New Orleans in Weeks 11 & 16, although it would be pretty ballsy to use him in the fantasy Super Bowl. He could possibly be used with Matt Cassel as the Chiefs face Baltimore in Week 11.
Chad Pennington, Miami Dolphins – Pennington could lose even more time to the Wildcat with the addition of Pat White. Plus, Chad Henne could be breathing down his neck. After an easy 2008 schedule, the Dolphins have a much more daunting task in ‘09. His best matchup is Week 7 vs. New Orleans. Kyle Orton, Matt Hasselbeck, and David Garrard are on bye that week.
Shaun Hill, San Francisco 49ers – If Hill can hold off Alex Smith, he could have a solid year with Rookie Michael Crabree and Frank Gore. Maybe this is the year Vernon Davis finally breaks out. The Niners play Arizona in Week 1 & 14, St. Louis in Week 4, and Detroit in Week 16. It would also take cojones to roll with Hill in the fantasy Super Bowl. In Week 4 though, he could be used to spell Matt Ryan, Donovan McNabb, or Kurt Warner who are on bye. Read more
A seventh round draft pick out of Hofstra in 2006, Marques Colston burst onto the scene in his rookie year, picking up 1,038 yards receiving as well as 8 TD. He followed that up in 2007 by catching 98 passes for 1,202 yards and 11 TD, entrenching himself among the leagues best receivers.
His 2008 season, however, was partially derailed by injury. After playing in the team’s opener, he was sidelined for the next five games after tearing ligament in his thumb that had to be corrected via surgery. He came back in Week 7, starting the game, but didn’t register a catch.
He wasn’t shutout the rest of the season, picking up 100 yards receiving games in three of the final nine games, as well as a 99 yard contest. If there were any concerns that he hadn’t returned to form, he scored 4 TDs over the season’s final three weeks.
He enters 2009 as the top receiver for the team with the best QB in the league, though he is coming off surgery on his knee this off-season. It was considered a minor procedure involving “some microfracture techniques”. It certainly is worth noting, though thus far this season he hasn’t shown any ill effects. Read more
by Ryan Lester of Lester’s Legends
So Roger Goodell lifted the ban on Michael Vick. Sorta. He can go to practices, workouts, and meetings, but he can’t play in the first two preseason games. He can play in the last two though before serving a suspension that will last at least five weeks. Vick will have to jump through a few more hoops to show the league that he is walking the straight and narrow. If he can keep his nose clean he could petition the NFL to regain full eligibility.
It’s not all rosy though for Vick. He still needs to catch on with a team, which could be difficult in this economic climate. Teams do not want to alienate their fan base by signing someone that so many feel strongly against. Considering he hasn’t played since 2006 and had questionable Quarterbacking skills then, it may be a tough sell. One thing that works in his favor is the Dolphins’ success with the Wildcat formation. The NFL is a copycat league and if Vick can swallow his pride, he can become the poster boy for that position, assuming he still has his exceptional speed.
Obviously Vick has no fantasy value at this point, but it is worth noting that the man so many love to hate could be coming soon to an NFL training camp.
For more from Ryan Lester, check out Lester’s Legends.
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by Matt Soltysiak
Many experts are ranking Arizona Cardinal wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald as the top player at his position this season. It makes sense if you look at his statistics from last season (96 catches, 1,431 yards and 12 touchdowns), but buyer (or drafter) beware! There’s something that’s being overlooked. He’s on the cover of the new EA Sports Madden football game and history doesn’t bode well for players who hold that honor. Here’s a little history lesson.
Originally John Madden would appear on the cover of the game, but in 2001 players started appearing and then the so called “curse” was born. If someone appeared on the cover their season was doomed. Sounds crazy doesn’t it? Well here are just some examples of players who were spectacular one year, but struggled to live up to the cover’s hype the next.
In 2000 Daunte Culpepper lead the Minnesota Vikings with 33 touchdown passes, but in 2001 when he appeared on the cover of Madden (’02 version) he threw only 13 touchdowns, missed 4 games due to injury and the team had its worst finish since 1984. Culpepper hasn’t been the same since.
Let’s look at Michael Vick. He appeared on the cover of Madden (’04) before the start of the 2003 season. Well that very preseason Michael broke his leg in a preseason game and missed the first 11 games of the season. Life hasn’t been great for Vick since…. Read more
by Matt Soltysiak
As if a 3-13 2007 season wasn’t bad enough, St. Louis went 2-14 last year, leading to plenty of changes for this team. Those departing include Hall of Fame to be (receiver) Torry Holt, another cornerstone of the team in tackle Orlando Pace and quarterback Trent Green retired. Touching down in St. Louis include quarterback Kyle Boller and receiver Ronald Curry.
In the draft the Rams hope they found Pace’s replacement in offensive tackle Jason Smith. In the second round the team took linebacker James Laurinaitis and in the third round added defensive back Bradley Fletcher.
What to watch for in training camp
Does the quarterback have anything left? Bulger enters only his 8th NFL season, but each of the last two season’s his quarterback rating was in the 70′s for the only times in his career and he threw more interceptions than touchdowns, not exactly a winning formula. Health is also a concern as he’s only played a full season once. Read more
by Matt Soltysiak
Mike Holmgren’s going away party was such a festive event. Seattle went 4-12 last season, after going 10-6 and 9-7 in the two previous seasons. Injuries were one of the biggest reasons, especially to quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. The biggest off-season move by the club is the signing of free agent wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh, who gives the receiving corps quite an upgrade.
In the draft the Seahawks focused on defense grabbing linebacker Aaron Curry with their first round pick. Seattle also drafted tackle Max Unger in the second round and receiver Deon Butler in the third.
What to watch for in training camp
Matt Hasselbeck had a horrible season last year, mostly due to injury (in 7 games he threw 5 touchdowns and 7 interceptions). If he can return to good health and get some protection, watch out! Remember, in 2007 he threw for 28 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. See that he’s healthy. Read more