With the NFL Draft just a few weeks away, it’s never too early to think about your own fantasy draft. It’s easy to look at offseason moves and only focus on where the biggest names are headed, i.e. Steven Jackson and Reggie Bush. But it’s also important to take note of who’s still left on the roster once they leave, since those guys will likely get a chance to start as well come September.
Johnny Knox out, Alshon Jeffery in
The Bears have been looking for a reliable No. 2 receiver ever since they landed Brandon Marshall. With Knox retiring and the Devin Hester project no longer an option, Jeffery is on deck as the most likely complement to Marshall.
After a plethora of injuries derailed much of his rookie season, Jeffery started to flash signs of playmaking ability toward the end of 2012. In the Bears final two games, Jeffery was targeted 11 times and caught five passes for 111 of his total 367 yards on the season. It’s always a good fantasy sign when a young player finishes the year off strong.
At 6’3, 215 lbs, Jeffery is load on the outside and with a year of experience under his belt, should instill confidence in Jay Cutler to throw his way more (Jefferey only averaged 4.8 targets a game last season).
Jeffery is now more motivated than ever following a lackluster rookie campaign. In February, he checked in to one of Marshall’s private training facilities in Florida. With the help of a nutritionist, several trainers, and hard work, Jeffery Jeffery cut his weight down from 225 to 219 lbs. Marshall is clearly having a positive effect on him, and Jeffery is the clear-cut No. 2 guy heading into this season barring any significant offseason acquisitions or draft moves.
Green Bay Packers
Greg Jennings out, Randall Cobb in
Cobb proved he was much more than a glorified return man for the Packers last season and is almost certain to take over the slot position with Jennings gone. Sharing time with Jennings, James Jones, Jordy Nelson, and Jermichael Finley, Cobb still caught for 954 yards and 104 catches to go with eight touchdowns. A fantastic sophomore campaign overall.
What’s even more impressive about Cobb last season was his remarkable efficiency. He caught all 9 of his targets in the season opener and 80 of his 104 total targets for the season. With the slot all to himself, He will have even more opportunities to make plays on a high-powered offense headed by one of the best in the league in Aaron Rodgers. He’s a definite No. 2 receiver in any league this year.
New York Giants
Ahmad Bradshaw out, David Wilson/Andre Brown in
David Wilson — Committees they come they go, Monday through Sunday yo. With another group of running backs sent out to greener pastures, there’s a new stable in New York. Wilson is the clear front-runner for the starting spot heading in, but he will need to improve his pass protection and fumbling issues if he expects to stay on the field. Despite that, his explosiveness combined with versatility in the pass and return game could make him a solid No.2 RB option in 2013.
Andre Brown — Brown will likely serve as the team’s short yardage back. Though he burst onto the scene for 113 yards and two touchdowns against a weak Carolina defense last season, Brown took a back seat once Bradshaw returned and was reduced to less than 10 carries a game thereafter. He still managed to score eight touchdowns in 10 games before fracturing his fibula in late November. Now fully healthy, He could very likely end up with 10-12 touchdowns depending on how many chances the Giants get in goal line situations.
St. Louis Rams
Daryl Richardson — Playing behind Jackson last season, Richardson rushed for 475 yards on just 98 attempts, good for 4.8 yards per carry. He also caught 24 balls for 163 yards.
“He (Richardson) proved he could play in this league.” Rams general manager Lee Snead said. Though his production waned once Jackson got healthy, Richardson was a battering ram on a team with a weak offensive line. He’s in line for an increased workload in 2013, however he is by no means a clear-cut starter due to the guy below.
Isaiah Pead — Drafted in the second-round last season, Pead is the more intriguing option. He saw little time as a rookie but showed great promise in a small span. Pead touched the ball just 10 times all season, though half of those carries came in the team’s final game where he rushed for 21 yards on 5 carries. The coaching staff clearly likes Pead’s upside as the more explosive inside runner compared to Richardson, as evidenced by giving him more touches than Richardson in the teams finale last season. ESPN personality Adam Schefter even pegged Pead as his 2013 NFC Breakout player of the year following the combine. As of now, keep Pead a notch ahead of Richardson just for the upside, but expect an evenly split workload at least early on.
Daniel Thomas — Thomas struggled with fumbling issues and an overall lack of production after many thought he’d succeed Bush in Miami. The opposite happened.
Bush emerged as a leader and put together a decent season while Thomas averaged just 3.53 yards per carry, scored only four touchdowns, and struggled to stay on the field health-wise. His offseason progress hasn’t indicated that this will change.
Lamar Miller — Thomas’s value only stands to increase if this guy can’t upend him. As the No. 97 overall pick in last year’s draft, Miller flashed fantastic potential in limited action last season, rushing for 250 yards on just 51 carries.
If he gets the starting gig, Miller will also benefit from a more talented Dolphin offense than in 2012. Sophomore Ryan Tannehill now has a year under his belt and added weapons Mike Wallace and underrated tight end Dustin Keller are potential difference makers as receivers. Miller will be given every chance to start next season and is looking more and more like a mid to late round sleeper.
Matt Cassell out, Alex Smith in
Categorized as a game manager, Smith’s stats have never screamed ‘fantasy juggarnaut.’ At nearly 30 years old, he is what he is at this point, so don’t expect him to transform into a dominant pocket passer with his new team. However, he’s a serviceable fantasy backup that won’t kill you with turnovers, plus there are a few other aspects that make him a worthy draft pick in the late, late rounds.
For one, Andy Reid made no bones about who his guy is. Smith is the starting quarterback heading into camp despite some speculation after the Chiefs signed former Saints backup Chase Daniel.
Though the Kansas City offense had a lot of problems last year, they have a substantial piece in Jaamal Charles who can rack up big chunks of yardage off simple screen passes, something Reid’s offense utilized effectively in Philadelphia with Brian Westbrook and LeSean McCoy. This will be a big help in helping Smith put up passing yards by dinking and dunking.
They also resigned receiver Dwayne Bowe, and while they lack depth at the receiver position, they still have an emerging tight end in Tony Moeaki. So Smith isn’t exactly being thrown to the wolves with nothing to work with i.e. Mark Sanchez.
Smith will also have the added benefit of playing in the softer AFC west, a division with two of the softer defenses in San Diego and Oakland. The Chiefs also have one of the easiest schedules in 2013, with their opponents going 121-135 combined last season. He shouldn’t be drafted higher than the 12th round, but Smith is a much better fantasy option this season based on his situation.