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Burning Questions and Ridiculous Predictions

After months of waiting through a lengthy lockout, the fantasy football season is only hours away now. Most owners have now drafted their teams and are waiting in suspense to find out exactly the true worth of their teams. Even with free agency, training camp and the preseason over, there is still somehow an avalanche of important fantasy news coming out in the final days leading to the epic New Orleans Saints/Green Bay Packers showdown Thursday night.   

Let’s take a look at some of the biggest topics in fantasy football as we inch closer to the start of the season. I mentioned before the avalanche of news coming out in the last couple days. Unfortunately, most of the news has been negative, especially for all the owners who spent a high-draft pick on any of the Indianapolis Colts skill position players.

Year of the Injured Quarterback

The consensus average draft position for the top quarterbacks this summer was
Michael Vick
,
Aaron Rodgers,
Tom Brady,
Drew Brees,
Philip Rivers and then
Peyton Manning. With recent doomsday reports having Manning missing the first month of the season, we could be dealing with a situation where two out of the Top 6 elite quarterbacks will miss significant time this year. Anyone who doubts that Vick will miss any time this season didn’t see how weak the Philadelphia Eagles’ offensive line still looks even after a busy offseason. Vick’s going to be running for his life all season long, which means the chances of him getting injured and missing time are still very high.

If we’re going to go really negative and pessimistic, let’s not forget Rodgers has suffered a concerning number of concussions in his career, including two last year. It’s not unreasonable to think that because of Rodgers’ injury history, playing two games against Julius Peppers and two games against Ndamukong Suh, he might miss some time this year as well. If we’re going to ask these kind of questions when considering
Austin Collie’s
draft value, we can do the same for Rodgers.

If half of these quarterbacks miss significant time, the effects on the fantasy landscape would be immense and far reaching. The team least affected by their star quarterback going down would be the Green Bay Packers.
Matt Flynn
has proven to be one of the best backup quarterbacks in the NFL.
Greg Jennings and
Jermichael Finley may take a dip in value but they’ll still produce, at least until Finley gets hurt.

On the other hand, all of the Colts skill players take a major hit: Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, Austin Colie and especially players like Joseph Addai and Pierre Garcon, who are only fantasy football starters because they’re connected to Manning. I would certainly hope that owners who drafted Manning at a bargain price, spent a high pick on a capable backup due to the precariousness of Manning’s health issues.

Ironically, the owners who will be most affected by Manning’s injury may not be his actual owners but instead all of the owners of Colts’ skill players. If the rumors are true and Manning misses a month of action, this could put owners, who invested in an early Colts pick, in a deep hole after the first month of the season.

Who will be this year’s Ray Rice/Arian Foster RB from out of nowhere?

I’m going to go with
Tim Hightower
for this one. He was drafted past the eighth round for most of the summer and was even being taken in the 11th round in mid-August. He’s had an exceptional preseason, and Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan seems fully committed to running him as his primary back. Longtime gamers know that Shanahan has made stars out of lesser players than Hightower, whose a great every down back, especially as a catcher in third down situations.   

I’m not predicting that Hightower will come close to matching Rice and Foster’s elite production but he will certainly far exceed his embarrassingly low draft position. I would look for consistent RB2 production for the majority of the season. If he can stop fumbling the football, he has a good chance of holding off
Roy Helu
for at least this season.


Who will be this year’s Stevie Johnson Waiver Wire WR Wonder?

Every year, a wide receiver emerges from the waiver wire and becomes a starting WR2 for the rest of the year. Past receiving waiver wire wonders include Steve Johnson, Lance Moore, Marques Colston and Wes Welker. My prediction for this year’s best receiving waiver wire wonder is
Earl Bennett
of the Chicago Bears, still available in many leagues.

Bears’ offensive coordinator Mike Martz has already designated Bennett as the Bears slot receiver, a position that made one year wonder Mike Furrey famous many years ago in another Martz offense. Martz has also talked about
expanding
Bennett’s role in the offense so all of the signs coming out of Chicago have been positive.

This has been a bad preseason for almost all of the Bears receivers. Roy Williams is looking like a bust before the first game has even been played, continuing to drop passes and losing Jay Cutler’s trust. If Williams does end up being a bust in Chicago and if you pair that up with his all-time bust performance in Dallas, Williams has a very good chance of being inducted into the prestigious Fantasy Football Hall of Fame Busts.

Devin Hester has been hurt for most of the preseason but when he’s played, he’s been nearly non-existent. Johnny Knox has more talent than Hester or Williams but he’s been buried on the depth chart behind the undeserving Williams for now. In the last two preseason games, Bennett has been the Bears leading receiver, highlighted by a six-catch, 89-yard performance last week. Cutler and Bennett have a trust, built back from their days together at Vanderbilt, and that trust is starting to finally show on the stat sheet.

At this early point, I give Bennett a lot more value than the following receivers drafted before him: Michael Crabtree, Greg Little, Devin Hester, Roy Williams, Devery Henderson and quite a few others. Owners should be running to their waiver wires to see if Bennett is still available.

Who will be this year’s Biggest Bust?

I’m calling a tie between Peyton Manning and
Greg Jennings
. I’m going on the presumption that Manning misses at least a month of the season. You have to figure that Manning won’t immediately be stellar when he returns so owners will basically be getting Manning for half the season. We’re talking about a player that owners spent a third- or fourth-round pick on. Even with a solid backup, Manning owners still have a wasted early pick, which they could’ve used on another elite player.

I’ve written
too much
about Jennings on this site. Needless to say, if you have a receiver whose drafted fifth or sixth overall at his position and he doesn’t produce, you’ve got yourself a first class bust here. No one ever wants to root for other players to get hurt but Jennings’ owners better be secretly hoping that Jermichael Finley stays true to form and doesn’t play a full season. If Finley somehow does stay healthy, Jennings’ owners could be in for a long season.

Thanks for reading and enjoy Opening Weekend!

Good Hunting!

Ed Bonfanti

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