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It’s been a funny old offseason in a number of ways:

Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco, Mike Shanahan’s 2005 fantasy revival in Washington, the cadaver of Mike Williams has been resurrected in Seattle, the Buffalo Bills drafted a game-winner, but virtually ignored the two positions everyone knew they needed - quarterback and left tackle (apologies to Ed Wang - you weren’t the tackle they were looking for), Arizona may have struck gold with their undrafted free agents (Stephen Williams and Max Hall) to go with two standout defensive rookies in Dan Williams and Daryl Washington. Albert Haynesworth’s bleep test.

Of course, some things do still stay the same:

The Indianapolis Colts’ running game is still far from elite, the Oakland quarterback looked suspect (names mean little at this point), both the Mannings have an abundance of talent at wide receiver (welcome to the party Mr. Victor Cruz), Jay Cutler has been sacked and intercepted already (get used to that this year), head coach Josh McDaniels is still going to make involving Eddie Royal in the offense a priority - for the second year running, Brandon Marshall has been seen pouting on an exercise bike near the touchline - again ... and another lesson in hardball between player personnel & A.J. Smith in San Diego.

Ah, It’s so good to be back!

So, time to 'fess up ... who drafted Laurence Maroney (53 percent owned) and more importantly, why? Still, seven percent are still clinging on to LenDale White and Julius Jones. I’m attributing those owners to the “weekend warriors” who have yet to log in since draft day. Still, they are at least better off than the 17 percent Montario Hardesty and 12 percent Brian Westbrook owners.

Cut them now and step away from the fantasy roadkill.

So, what are we thinking about this season? Firstly, there seems to be some confusion surrounding tight ends. It’s a deep, deep year for them and there is no reason to own Jeremy Shockey (42 percent), Todd Heap (49 percent) or Brandon Pettigrew (21 percent). Not when Tony Scheffler is only a staggering five percent owned. Jim Schwartz wants to use Scheffler in a Dallas Clark role. Now, Scheffler isn’t Clark, but in an offense that has Calvin Johnson, Jahvid Best and Nate Burleson, he’s certainly more of an option at five percent ownership than 21 percent of people who are essentially picking a blocking tight end who will occasionally catch passes.

Similarly, it’s easy to see why people are liking Heap. That’s some arm Joe Flacco has got coupled with a good running game, Heap is a decent red zone target. However, Cam Cameron has gone on record as saying that he not only expects his two rookie tight ends (Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson) to spell Heap to keep him fresh in his more pass-orientated offense, but that he expects them to contribute. I’m sure Heap will score a few touchdowns - enough to keep the owner happy enough perhaps. The problem is it’ll be a timeshare. Tight end by committee? Ugh - no thanks.

Be wary of the twin tight end sets.

The NFL is a league of trends: running back by committee, wildcat, shotgun, 3-4, more passing, etc. It has to evolve in the constant and ever-changing game of cat-and-mouse that offensive coordinators and defensive coordinators play each season. The uptick of a formation that was in the archives for the past couple of decades and has been dusted off is actually a move by offensive coordinators to combat the prevalence of 3-4 defensive schemes. It’s a base formation that can create mismatches against linebackers and as such is ideal in today’s league. Just don’t be the guy that gets stuck with the in-line blocker. It’s the receiving tight end you want to own.

With no games in the book, here’s a look at players that have been somewhat undervalued around drafts this season with a few words about each.

Player

Position

Team

Percent Owned

Matt Hasselbeck

QB

SEA

19

Josh Freeman

QB

TB

6

Dennis Dixon

QB

PIT

2

 

 

 

 

Leon Washington

RB

NYJ

28

Kareem Huggins

RB

TB

11

Javon Ringer

RB

TEN

4

Peyton Hillis

RB

CLE

3

Anthony Dixon

RB

SF

3

Isaac Redman

RB

PIT

2

 

 

 

 

Mike Williams

WR

TB

33

Mike Williams

WR

SEA

25

Davone Bess

WR

MIA

11

Danny Amendola

WR

STL

11

Legedu Naanee

WR

SD

10

Louis Murphy

WR

OAK

9

Mike Thomas

WR

JAX

5

James Jones

WR

GB

5

Brian Hartline

WR

MIA

3

Brandon Tate

WR

NE

2

Sammie Stroughter

WR

TB

1

Deon Butler

WR

SEA

1

Eric Decker

WR

DEN

1

 

 

 

 

Tony Scheffler

TE

DET

5

Michael Hoomanawanui

TE

STL

1

Tony Moeaki

TE

KC

0

Quarterback

In yet another general trend, an awful lot of Seattle offensive players are being under-utilized, which is a pity as if a healthy - even behind a suspect offensive line, Matt Hasselbeck is still able to move the chains upfield. Two seasons ago he lacked wide receivers. One year ago he couldn’t stay healthy. This season he is hale and hearty and simply cannot move for wide receiver options! Josh Freeman is only six percent owned, but his backup is 11 percent owned, despite the fact that it’s Freeman who is likely starting in Week 1 and definitely starting in Week 2! As for Dennis Dixon being two percent owned? I can somewhat see it, but the guy has prodigious talent even if he’s raw. Let’s hope he fulfils it.

Running back

If Laurence Maroney is worth owning in 56 percent of leagues, then surely Leon Washington is worthy of a bigger share than 28 percent? Kareem Huggins has similar upside as an (now) entrenched RB2 and available to nine out of 10 owners. Interestingly, fantasy managers have decided to handcuff Adrian Peterson with Toby Gerhart in decent numbers yet the handcuffs for Chris Johnson (Javon Ringer) and Frank Gore (Anthony Dixon), 4 percent and 3 percent, respectively, have not been.

Wide receiver

Way to many to list in detail here and I’m sure we’ll get the opportunity to dig deeper as the weeks progress. Suffice to say that not only is it deep (as usual), but again following the NFL trend of a slight passing bias there is more value here than ever before. With the exception of three players on that list, every one of them is a starter at either WR1 or WR2. Those in red lend themselves toward being points per reception friendly.

Regular readers will recognize most of the names as I’ve been passing them on since last year - Sammie Stroughter, Brian Hartline, Deon Butler, Legedu Naanee, James Jones. From being largely unknown but talented players, they have now progressed to being starting and talented players, but who are being undrafted by and large. Now that’s what I call progress!

Tight end

Tony Scheffler has been covered. I’d like to list Aaron Hernandez as ownable, but he’s speculative stash material for now, at least until we have a clearer indication of how the passing splits will be divvied up in New England. Better to take the rookie quarterbacks BFF (Best Friend Forever) in St. Louis, Michael Hoomanawanui. Uh-oh, as he is affectionately known, is already a complete tight end and NFL ready. I’d happily draft him over Todd Heap - the difference? One is owned in 50 percent of leagues, the other in less than one percent and is likely still on your waiver wire. I’m a believer and so should you be. Tony Moeaki is also NFL ready in terms of blocking and receiving. His offensive coordinator (Charlie Weis) is a tight end friendly coach, so let’s just hope that Moeaki’s injuries allow him to be more Visanthe Shiancoe than Kellen Winslow in terms of game day health worries!

And that - as they say - is that!

We’ll be back to the standard format next week, where we’ll pick five or six of the best players available owned in less than 10 percent of leagues and spend a few paragraphs talking about each.

All that is left for me now is to wish you all the best of luck in all your leagues this season.

If you have any questions you’d like answered or have any topics you’d like discussed in depth, then please feel free to contact me at: deeperanddown@gmail.com

James Elvins is a Staff Writer for FantasySharks.

(09/08/10)