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The Feeding Frenzy: 5 Players to Target in 2012

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Well, the 4th of July is right around the corner, and do you know what that means to me? The end of summer is within reach. NFL training camps will be starting in less than a month, and the second I see a football in the air, summer is over.
 
As we prepare for our fantasy drafts, there are a few guys I’m targeting in my leagues this year. Obviously, I would like to get Calvin Johnson and Arian Foster, but these are players a little bit further down the trough that I’m looking to add to my fantasy roster in 2012.
 
Based on Average Draft Position (ADP) from MyFantasyLeague.com, you can get all five of these players in the sixth round or later, so these are guys I’m not only high on in terms of talent but they also have value on draft day.
 
Note: The ADP information is based on 12-team points-per-reception leagues,

Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta – I’m buying into the Ryan hype with all the talk of Atlanta running a no-huddle offense. I actually think Ryan is better when he’s running a quick, no-huddle attack. In my opinion, that’s when he thrives.

Ryan actually reminds me a little bit of Eli Manning a couple of years ago before he broke out and become an elite fantasy quarterback. If Ryan can progress like Eli did both fantasy owners and Falcons fans will be ecstatic.

I had Ryan as my starter three years ago and the guy sunk me. I lost a bunch of close games and his 11 points a week were one of the main reasons why. I’ve always said Ryan gets better the more he throws the ball, but Mike Smith is a conservative coach at heart. However, this Falcons team is built to pass and take advantage of the rules that currently restrict defensive backs similar to how the Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints and Detroit Lions attack opposing defenses.
 
I’m hoping with Michael Turner on the downside of his career, this is the year Smith worries less about being balanced and relies more on Ryan, Roddy White and Julio Jones to carry the offense. I even like Jacquizz Rodgers to take on a Darren Sproles-like role for the Falcons on passing down, which will also help add to Ryan’s overall numbers.

New offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter took a lot of heat in Jacksonville over the last couple of seasons, but if you look at his resume going back to his college days, his teams have been known for throwing the football. This has especially been the case when Koetter is teamed with a quality quarterback, and I think we can all agree Ryan fits that description.
 
In my opinion, the combination of Turner slowing down and the hiring of Koetter indicates a switch in the Falcons offensive philosophy. Atlanta has thrown the ball quite a bit since Ryan has been there, but they Falcons have also been a power running team.

I see less of the power running and more of the backs getting out in space on screens and swing passes under Koetter. That means more of Rodgers and Jason Snelling being on the field and less of the plodding Turner.

I believe Ryan can finally emerge as an elite fantasy starter if Smith lets the offense become a little more pass-heavy. Last season Ryan finished 11th in total scoring at myfantasyleague.com. If he increases that total by 50 points in 2012 (a possibility if he steals away three or four of Turner’s 11 scores), that would put him just below the Top 5 quarterbacks of last season.
 
Ryan may not quite get into that group, but I can see him coming close this year. That’s not bad for a quarterback you can get in the sixth or seventh round of your draft.

Ryan Williams, RB, Arizona – I had Williams ranked as a Top 15 player coming out of the 2011 draft and I’m still very high on him, despite the fact that he injured his knee in the preseason and never played a down.

I said after he was drafted that once Beanie Wells got injured (a mathematical certainty), Williams would come in and never give up the starting job. We would have had a chance to test that theory if not for Williams’ injury. Now we’re basically back to square one this season.

Wells is talented, but he’s also one of two players in the NFL I feel comfortable guaranteeing won’t play 16 games (keep reading to find out the other). I’ve been saying since he was at Ohio State that Wells can’t play through pain.

Some of Wells’ injuries have been of the serious nature, but he also doesn’t play through pain and return quickly from minor injuries. That goes back to his college days.

I love Williams’ running style. He’s a punishing runner in the Marion Barber mold. Williams actually reminds me of a faster version of Barber. I view Williams as a feature back, and I think that’s what the Cardinals coaching staff is looking for considering all the problems Arizona had with its pass protection last year.

In order to keep their quarterback upright, the Cardinals need to run the football more. While Wells has been productive in spurts, he just hasn’t been a guy the team has been able to rely on over a full season.

We know Wells will go down at some point (again, a mathematical certainty), so if Williams is healthy, I think he’s going to have a big role in the Cardinals offense this season. Williams is currently going on average at the end of Round 12 according to myfantasyleague.com. That’s a steal in my opinion.



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