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The wasteland of NFL news is upon us. Performances at organized team activities have been overblown, free agency has dried up, and now we wait for the endless Bounty-gate details to go away and for training camp to start. Where does one now turn during the doldrums of the football offseason? Fantasy magazines are hitting the store shelves, online mock draft rooms are filling up, and quickly the hype of this year’s “can’t miss” candidates will begin to gain steam. Expert articles on a multitude of websites will drive the price of some of your favorite potential sleepers into the stratosphere where you, the ultimate value seeker, doesn’t dare dabble.
It was only last year Vick was boasting a first-round average draft position and some lost souls were even considering him as the top overall pick. Remember, Vick had reached his optimum potential in Andy Reid’s offense and nothing was going to stop him! The naysayers spoke of his fragility then puffed out their chests with glee when Vick was roughed up by the New York Giants in Week 3, then shut down and knocked out in Week 10 by the Arizona Cardinals. In the first half of the season, Vick was a QB6 but that wasn’t even close to giving his owners the production they sought in drafts. In 2012, Vick is looking like a bargain, leading the second tier of quarterbacks about three or four rounds after the Big 5 go off the board (Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Brees, Cam Newton, Matthew Stafford). The wide recievers are now happy (DeSean Jackson) and healthy (Jeremy Maclin), and a strong finish in 2011 will give value seeking owners hope for a bounceback year.
RB - Peyton Hillis, Kansas City
And with those three words, Jamaal Charles dynasty owners are now finished with my article. For those of you that remain, Hillis may be my post-hype darling. Very few foresaw Hills’ 2011 epic collapse. Sure, you may have predicted a poor season, but that poor? While there were many that didn’t buy into the hype, there were plenty that did and surrendered a second-round pick to have Hillis on their roster. If owners had to do it all over again, they would choose to have Hillis hit on their girlfriends or wives instead of dealing with the dramedy that was the 2011 Cleveland Browns. Now, Hillis finds himself in Kansas City, where the Chiefs are geared to lean on the run and have the great Charles returning from his ACL tear. Conventional wisdom suggests that the Chiefs will ease Charles into the season, and perhaps look to a time share reminiscent of 2009 when Charles’ counterpart in the backfield, Thomas Jones, rushed more than 300 times for 1,402 yards and 14 touchdowns. Now, that’s not to say I’m predicting a similar monster season from Hillis, but with an average draft position in the 10th and 11th rounds, he’s more than worth that price.
Sorry, I really didn’t want to have two Eagles in here, but Jackson is shaping up to be a solid post-hype special so far. Yes, he’s boom-or-bust on almost every level, but let’s not forget, those booms are truly dominant. Jackson finished as a Top 5 receiver in 2009, then a Top 14 in 2010. His well-documented crying for a new contract destroyed any chance to reward those that spent an early third-rounder on him to be their WR1. I’m not going to lie, now that he’s paid and making rap records I do have some reservations about him, but someone as talented as he is, in that Eagles offense, being drafted as a WR3 is screaming for someone to get a heck of a bargain.
TE - Jermichael Finley, Green Bay
A funny thing happened during the Packers’ offensive explosion in 2011: Finley, the next transcendent tight end, lacked the hands and eventually the trust of his star quarterback. The promise Finley had shown in a brief 2010 stint before succumbing to a season-ending injury in Week 5 never came to fruition in 2011. Absent a Week 3 performance against the Chicago Bears, Finley’s season was largely uneventful, leaving owners struggling to come to terms with their top tight end selection. In hindsight, Finley finished with a respectable 767 yards and eight touchdowns, which is nothing to sneeze at even if he failed to separate himself from the rest of the second tier tight end pack. Coming in at a TE5 in this year’s drafts, he has as much potential as anybody to dethrone Rob Gronkowski as the king of the tight ends.
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