Hey buddy. Don’t jump! It’s all going to be OK. The lockout is over and there’s going to be fantasy football this year. Whew, that was a close one. I don’t know about you guys, but the prospect of no fantasy football was going to make for a pretty miserable fall and winter. I was seriously trying to figure out whose site was going to be hosting fantasy Canadian football. The downside to the long lockout is a lot of folks have neglected their research to this point. Honestly, I’m a little lazy, and who is going to put forth that much effort when there’s no guarantee of a single down being played?
Don’t stress on it. I’ve got some guys that you really need to pay attention to. It all comes down to two types of players. Crocks, like the shoes, you need to avoid. They are nowhere near as valuable as their average draft position suggests. In other words, if you get a chance at these guys, pass. Clear? Locks, on the other hand, are guys that I don’t mind reaching for a round or two early. These guys are going to outperform their draft position and can potentially get that bare spot on your mantle some trophy action come December. That is the goal right?
So without any further mumblings I present the answers to everyone’s question, “Who do I really need to draft?” Your preseason “Crocks & Locks.”
LeSean McCoy, RB, Philadelphia
That’s right. I’ve got a guy on my Crock list that ESPN has ranked as their No. 8 overall player. He is on a team with arguably the most productive fantasy quarterback in the league, Michael Vick. Vick could outrun McCoy if need be. Ok maybe that was a little bit of a stretch, but what I’m getting at is Vick is taking away from McCoy’s value with both his arm and his feet. McCoy had nine touchdowns last year, seven of them rushing. Is that really what you’re looking for in a first-round running back – a guy with seven rushing touchdowns? New England’s BenJarvus Green-Ellis had 13. “Shady?” That namesake seems like the perfect fit for him this year.
Peyton Hillis, RB, Cleveland
Believe me, I rode this guy just as hard as the Browns did last year. It makes it that much tougher to have him on this list, but you have to look at a couple of things. First, Montario Hardesty will be back in the mix this year. You can ask any Browns coach, and they’ll tell you that Hardesty had the job sewn up last year before his injury. With Hardesty healthy, Hillis is looking at significantly less carries. Second, look at Hillis’ performance towards the end of the season. In six out of his last eight games he failed to eclipse 100 yards rushing, and only scored a touchdown in one of those. Granted in that one game he scored three, but we’re talking about the time of year when you’re trying to make a push for the playoffs. Do you really want to waste an early draft pick on a guy that’s riding the pine for 25 minutes a game? His last three games he averaged just over 10 carries a game. It’s going to be a little hard to produce if that average takes a cut.
Austin Collie, WR, Indianapolis
Wow, you talk about a guy that knows how to hit. Wait, he knows how to get hit. This guy goes over the middle, finds the middle linebacker, and proceeds to take his route right at him. He had three concussions in one season. This guy is lucky he’s not trying to find the wheelchair-accessible ramp at Lucas Oil Stadium. Injuries aside, this kid can play when he is healthy. Still, there’s no guarantee that he’s going to play all 16 games, and I just don’t know if he’s worth the gamble to justify where he’s being taken. Don’t forget the Dallas Clark is going to be back and healthy this year too. No offense, but I’ll let someone else take a flier on the walking wounded.
Michael Vick, QB, Philadelphia
No, I’m not just going to rag on the Eagles the whole time. I really would not mind having Vick on my fantasy teams, but I don’t want to have to take him with my second pick. I love Vick’s peripherals, and he will get tons of red zone opportunities, but you can get better value in the second round and pick up Drew Brees, Phillip Rivers or Peyton Manning (who may slip even farther due to this recent injury news) who are going at least one round later. The drop off from Vick to one of these quarterbacks is nowhere near the hit you would take by passing on a stud running back or wide receiver in Round 2.
Darren McFadden, RB, Oakland
Yep, I’m putting an Oakland Raider as a lock. I watched this guy his whole college career when my Mississippi Rebels had to play the Alabama Razorbacks and dreaded every minute of it. No one could stop him. He finally showed some flashes of that again last year. He’s surrounded by a young offense that is only going to get better, provided Al Davis doesn’t do anything ignorant like get out of bed in the morning. McFadden is going to be a stud this year, and you are not going to want to pass him up. Last year McFadden was tied for third in yards per carry among running backs who had at least 100 carries. If you take out the Pittsburgh and Miami games it gets downright scary. Write it down – McFadden outperforms Maurice Jones-Drew this year in terms of fantasy points. In the words of Terrell Owens, “Get your popcorn ready.”
Mike Williams, WR, Tampa Bay
There are tons of analysts who say that a wide receiver’s third year is his breakout year. We’re not going to have to wait that long for “the other Mike Williams.” He had 964 yards and 11 touchdowns as a rookie. Not to mention that four of his games were against New Orleans and Carolina, who were fourth and 10th respectively in yards allowed to wide receivers. Josh Freeman got a lot of valuable experience last season. LeGarrette Blount will provide enough run support to keep the opposing defense honest. Both of these factors mean you can get ready to see another big year from Williams.
Roddy White, WR, Atlanta (The Best WR in the NFL?)
Beast. That’s the only word to describe the way White played last year. Sorry Johnson & Johnson (Andre & Calvin), I’m bypassing you two for White! He is in a perfect situation for 2011 and I would argue he’s the best wide receiver option in fantasy football. Matt Ryan is making his case as an elite quarterback, and they have Michael Turner to pound the defense. Also, the Falcons just added Julio Jones to play opposite of White. That last piece of the puzzle is really what White has missed the last couple of years. Let’s be honest –Michael Jenkins wasn’t scaring any cornerbacks. Draft White and you’re instantly ahead of the game at the wide receiver position.
Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta
So you want to wait a couple of rounds into the draft to take your starting quarterback? I want argue with you when you can get this kind of talent in the middle of the sixth round. That’s a lot of depth you can stockpile in those early rounds. This is a guy that is going to sling the rock close to 600 times this year. That is going to equate to massive amounts of yardage. Not to mention, he has the aforementioned Roddy White, who will catch anything within a two-block radius. Ryan’s touchdown numbers have increased every year he’s been in the league, and there is no reason that trend is going to stop this season.