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2012 Draft Values

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The bulk of my fantasy drafts are behind me. Now that I have done my research and due diligence in the off-season, I can begin to fill you in on what I’ve learned. There are lots of unexplained value drops this year. I never will understand why some players had such low draft positions in mock drafts. Others I can see why it has happened, but it won’t stay that way for long.

Let’s start with receivers and just maybe together we can come up with some reasoning behind the madness.

Wide Receivers

Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis - Am I the only one not taking crazy pills? The guy has done nothing but make the absolute best of a bad situation. He has gone from having Peyton Manning in his prime (penthouse) to the absolute worst scenario Dan Orlovsky and Curtis Painter (outhouse).

I assure you that Andrew Luck is a much more capable quarterback than both Painter and Orlovsky. Wayne only notched 75 receptions for 960 yards and four touchdowns last season, which is a miracle considering who was throwing the ball. I am not suggesting that Wayne will automatically resume his 2010 form where he notched 111 receptions and 1,355 yards and six touchdowns.

It is a real possibility that he will catch 90-plus balls for 1,200 yards and eight touchdowns, which makes him a pretty solid WR2. His current ranking is any place between 28 and 34 on the different receiver boards that I have seen (standard 12-team format). This ranking has me bewildered because there are now fewer receiving options with the departure of Pierre Garcon. So you can get a WR2 at a WR3 price. I’ll admit at 33 he may not be a spring chicken, but he runs very precise routes. Expect mixed results for Andrew Luck with some flashes of brilliance. Some of the best moments will be having a smart receiver like Wayne who knows how to get open.

I’m buying before the likes of DeSean Jackson, who is currently ranked almost 10 spots higher.

Mike Williams, Tampa Bay - Josh Freeman’s season last year smelled like my gym shorts in high school. Yes, you put them back in the locker after every use all week long and your mom washed them if you remembered to bring them home. That’s a big if... the word ripe comes to mind. All smelly jokes aside, Freeman was awful.

Now I won’t tell you that it’s going to fix itself. I will tell you that the addition of Dallas Clark and Vincent Jackson will get Freeman back in the rhythm of getting rid of the ball much more quickly. These are top-notch receivers, and what they bring to the table is a major coverage draw. That being said, Mike Williams will have the benefit of less double coverage. Williams dropped like a hot rock in the off-season after posting an 11-touchdown season in his rookie campaign.

The combination of the new talent and Williams actually staying in shape this year, helps me believe that the upside is there. He has been ranked all over the place from 36th to 41st receiver overall. I am certain he beats the 65 catches, 875 yards and four touchdowns projected by analysts. I venture to guess that he could get as many as eight touchdowns as the forgotten man. While I’m not saying defenses won’t cover him, I think there will be more single coverage opportunities. He’s a late-round steal with some serious upside.

Speaking of stealing, let’s look at a solid performer who can drop in some drafts ...

Tight End

Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta - While he received his AARP card in the mail this off-season, he hasn’t opened the envelope just yet. If his 2012 campaign is anything close to the 2011 effort, he will rank again inside the Top 5 tight ends in your league. He’s been drafted as late as Pick 140 and as early as Pick 61 in standard 12-team formats.

Somewhere in between Pick 85 and 140 represents a solid pick. Of course, if you get him on the high side, you are essentially stealing him. Matt Ryan is going to air it out this season, early and often. Gonzalez is an essential piece to that puzzle with his size and athleticism. He can post up with the best of them.

There are players that will come out of nowhere. It’s your job to know when. Be on the lookout for a star in the making like our next player.

Running Back - Deep Sleeper

Bryce Brown, Philadelphia - Seventh-round picks don’t matter, right? Think again. Behind every kid given the opportunity to play professional football is a story. I’ll give you the cheap seat view of this story. Brown set the world on fire in high school for Wichita High School East. He was rated as the top high school running back and amassed more than 50 scholarship offers. Watch the movie “Johnny Be Good” with Robert Downey Jr., Anthony Michael Hall and Uma Thurman if there are questions about what people will do to get you to commit to a school when you have serious talent.

The kid was clocked at 4.32 in the 40-yard dash. Enter the media circus and a handler that started a website that charged $9.99 per month to update where Brown would end up. I’m not sure he knew where he’d end up.

He ends up at the University of Tennessee and plays one season as backup to Montario Hardesty. Quickly he loses interest in the program and decides to transfer to Kansas State University to join his brother, who transfers from University of Miami. Coach Derek Dooley won’t let it go and claims Brown is still enrolled at the University of Tennessee. Long story short, he doesn’t do much for Kansas State except leave the team and claim himself eligible for the 2012 NFL Draft.

Allegations of accepting gifts from boosters surface at Kansas State, which are never proven. Looking beyond speculation and all the scorned fans who claim him to be a worthless individual, Brown is a hell of a runner. At nearly 6-foot and 228 pounds, he has the size. He ran a 4.37 40-yard dash on his pro day. You can teach blocking, but you can’t teach vision.

Brown possesses excellent vision, and hands to boot. I am sure you can find video of this kid out there. Do yourself a favor and look at it. I was absolutely blown away with the footage and watched everything I could find. Brown sits third on the depth chart behind Dion Lewis at the present time. I am certain he will be the top backup in Philadelphia, should he pick up the blocking.

If he does, look out. Don’t underestimate a kid with this kind of skill. The tires on Brown are fresh. He had enough to make the Eagles throw a small amount of money at him. The rest of the way it's on him. This isn’t just the dark horse story, folks. It’s the 'Where did this kid come from story?' Andy Reid has been impressed with Brown. Move over Lewis, you are taking up space.

While Brown won’t unseat LeSean McCoy anytime soon, the NFL is full of opportunity. Keep this kid on your radar.

Believe me when I tell you that in every draft there are decent values. The way you win is to get the absolute best value from your picks. Some players that you find after the draft can turn to fantasy gold.

I suspect in keeper/dynasty leagues that you will appreciate a prospect like Bryce Brown. I appreciate him for what he is... all the talent in the world and a chip on his shoulder. He is good enough to play on Sundays.

His hard work and determination will pay dividends sooner rather than later. Folks talk the same way about Ronnie Hillman, who broke Marshall Faulk’s records. It will be interesting to watch them both develop.

There is something to be said about someone who didn’t take the beating that college football dishes out but got the same experience.

Draft day values, dark horses and finding the next big thing are what keeps the wheels in motion for fantasy addicts like myself.

Thanks for the read, folks!

As always, questions/comments/concerns to michaelfsarmento@gmail.com