With the NFL lockout now over, fantasy football preparations are kicking into high gear. While there are some players whose situations remain unsettled, there are some players who we know what their situation is and what they bring to the table.
Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota
Let’s be honest here – is there any other running back who has been more consistent than Peterson? He has been Top 5 in fantasy points among running backs each of the last five seasons. Peterson has not had a season of less than 10 touchdowns since he broke into the league in 2007. Despite suffering an injury last season, Peterson still amassed 1,298 rushing yards, 12 rushing touchdowns, 341 receiving yards, and a receiving touchdown, despite missing two games. Even with the possibility of playing with a rookie quarterback in Christian Ponder, Peterson still has the ability to break through a defense who decides to stack eight in the box. Peterson never has had much at the quarterback position, outside of Brett Farve. This season should not be any different.
Roddy White, WR, Atlanta
What Peterson is to running backs, White is to wide receivers. In the last four seasons, White has not had a season of less than 83 catches, 1,153 yards and six touchdowns. And he has had double-digit touchdowns each of the past two seasons, (11 in 2009, 10 in 2010). Coming off a 115-catch season, and being the most targeted wide receiver of 2010, White returns to an Atlanta offensive that promises to be just as explosive as last season, with Matt Ryan leading the crew. The presence of rookie Julio Jones may take some targets away from White, but when push comes to shove, Ryan will be looking for No. 84.
Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego
Having played all 16 games each of the past five seasons, and posting 4,000-plus yards the past three, and leading the NFL in passing yards with 4,710 yards last season, Rivers has become the prototypical steady quarterback. And he did all this last season with not many weapons at his disposal. Vincent Jackson held out the first 10 games of last season, and the man himself, Antonio Gates, missed the second half of the season. With Gates back and healthy, and Jackson (hopefully) returning to San Diego, Rivers is primed for yet another season of 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns.
Chris Johnson, RB, Tennessee
Three seasons, a 5.0 yards per carry for his career, and no less than nine touchdowns in any single season, Johnson has to be the second lock at running back behind Peterson. We all remember his 2,006-yard mega season of 2009, then he “regressed” to “only” 1,364 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2010. Johnson is facing the same situation as Peterson, but with Johnson’s speed, he can easily elude any tackler, making him very tough to defend as well. A season of 1,500 yards and 10 touchdowns is always a possibility with this guy.
Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis
Really, is anyone worried about Manning missing games this season? The guy can miss all of training camp, and we all know he’ll be right there taking snaps from Jeff Saturday when the Colts take on Houston Week 1. Manning wound up with 4,700 yards and 33 touchdowns despite losing two of his favorite targets, Austin Collie and Dallas Clark. Having Collie and Clark back and healthy, along with Reggie Wayne and Pierre Garcon, as well as an improved and younger offensive line, and having never missed a regular season in his entire career, there’s no doubting the older Manning brother.
So, there are five locks for this season, but of course, where there are locks, there is the opposite end of the spectrum, the crocks.
Chris ‘Beanie’ Wells RB, Arizona
A surprising rookie season made Wells a pretty popular sleeper pick for many fantasy players in 2010. Unfortunately for those owners, Wells never woke up. Instead, he was hobbled by a nagging knee injury from the preseason and an allergic reaction. Now with Tim Hightower still in the mix, and more importantly, rookie Ryan Williams in the mix, who the Cardinals drafted in the second round, Wells could very well have yet another unpopular season in Arizona. Williams was a guy who Arizona had in their Top 15 on their draft board, so the value was tremendous in Arizona’s eyes. And with the Cardinals offensive line not the greatest, things could add up to be another miserable year in the desert for the Ohio State product.
Knowshon Moreno, RB, Denver
This is mostly based on Denver being able to sign DeAngelo Williams. If they do, I have a hard time believing Moreno will be able to succeed from a fantasy perspective. He disappointed a lot of owners last season with his injury, and just had a tough time finding the end zone. This year could be even worse for Moreno. Even if Williams isn’t there, Tim Tebow could very well be the starter at quarterback, and he could easily take away some red zone scores. Tough road ahead for Moreno.
Michael Crabtree, WR, San Francisco
Ah, the old story of the man who has all the talent in the world but just doesn’t want to put the work in to keep up and improve. Reports have come out saying Crabtree did not want to participate in 49ers’ player organized workouts, especially with Alex Smith at quarterback. Well, it’s looking like Smith will return to San Francisco as the starting quarterback. At best, this guy is a WR3 in fantasy, but he could very well be the third receiving option on his own team, behind running back Frank Gore and tight end Vernon Davis.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB, New England
This is really just a matter of how messy the running back situation is now in New England. The Patriots already had Danny Woodhead along with Green-Ellis, and in April, the Patriots drafted two running backs in the second (Shane Vereen) and third (Stevan Ridley) rounds. So, yards-wise, Green-Ellis may still be the top guy, but 13 touchdowns may be out of reach for this season.
Dwayne Bowe, WR, Kansas City
Bowe was a tale of three seasons in 2010. From Weeks 1-5 (with a bye in Week 4), Bowe amassed only nine catches for 152 yards and one touchdown. Bowe’s next seven games went like this: 49 catches, 733 yards, 13 touchdowns, including five games of at least two touchdowns. After that, Bowe came crashing down to Earth with 14 catches, 277 yards, one touchdown, including a complete shutout in Week 13 against Denver and just one catch for three yards against San Diego in Week 14. His total ended up being very good with 72 catches, 1,162 yards and 15 touchdowns, ranking him second among receivers in standard scoring. But this season, he does not have the NFC West to feast on, as he did last year. Matt Cassel struggled against tougher defenses, and the Chiefs run the ball much more than they pass. So while Bowe may not have a terrible season, do not expect 15 touchdowns again.