Well, after a long summer of training camps and fantasy drafts “go time” is almost here, as the preseason has concluded and on Wednesday night the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants will play the first game of the 2012 NFL season.
That also means that another season of fantasy football will soon be underway. As we look ahead to another exciting and maddening season of fantasy action the IDP staff writers here at Fantasy Sharks have assembled to give their takes on a number of questions, from breakout stars to busts, with a Super Bowl prediction thrown in for good measure.
Numbers in parentheses denote that players’ ranking in Fantasy Sharks current IDP Rankings.
1) Studs in the Making: Name one Player at Each Position Outside Your Top 20 Who Could Crack the Top 10.
DL: Ahtyba Rubin – DT, CLE (28): A lot of this recommendation depends on your scoring system, but the 26-year-old has posted over 80 total tackles two years running and boosted his sack total from two in 2010 to five a year ago. Rubin also flies a bit under the radar in leagues that combine DE and DT, but he more than makes up for a lack of sizzle with plenty of steak.
LB: Luke Kuechly – WLB, CAR (23): The rookie led all of college football with 191 tackles last year and has looked positively outstanding in the preseason. Believe me, Kuechly has all the makings of an IDP stud for years to come, and it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to see him finish in the Top 10 as a rookie.
DB: Alterraun Verner – CB, TEN (44): Verner racked up over 100 tackles in 2010 as a starter, posting a top 20 IDP finish. This is admittedly something of a reach, but with the uncertainty at safety Verner could flirt with the century mark again this year.
This is really tough as each of the guys I would’ve gone for here I’ve actually gone for (B.Spikes, D.Butler, J.Byrd etc., etc.) and put my money where my mouth is, ranking them in the Top 20 already.
DL: Chandler Jones – DL, NEP: All of a sudden I’ve gone from the only person ranking Jones to having a boatload of company. You’d better join them as this particular ship is well and truly under sail.
DB: Earl Thomas – S, SEA: There are only four free safeties worth owning and starting in FF. This guy is on the verge of joining Byrd in the top tier despite playing alongside Kam Chancellor.
Steve Sheiner: DL:
Mark Anderson – DE, BUF (24): Call this a hunch, but Anderson has the luxury of lining up opposite Super Mario this season. While many consider Anderson to be just a pass-rush specialist (as he’s been in the past), HC Chan Gailey says Anderson is “competing to play every snap”, and his four-year, $19.5 million contract reflects that. With Mario Williams drawing regular double teams, Anderson should see double-digit sacks while easily eclipsing his career high in tackles.
LB: Perry Riley – ILB, WAS (33): A longshot perhaps, but when Riley finally supplanted Rocky McIntosh in Week 10 last year, he seized the opportunity and never let it go. Riley averaged 8.5 total tackles per game during the final eight weeks. And while his upside may be restricted by the presence of London Fletcher, keep in mind that LFB is no spring chicken and Riley can make plays. He’s a great value and an even better gamble as a LB3 that could easily outperform that ranking.
DB: Jordan Babineaux – SS, TEN (28): Babs finally finds himself free of Chris Hope’s shadow and slides into the starting strong safety role. He’s not a big name thumper like Bernard Pollard or Eric Berry, but he totaled nearly 100 total tackles in just 14 games a year ago and should exceed those numbers in 2012. While not considered among the elite DBs, he should have the opportunity to improve on his Top 20 finish from a year ago.
DB: Darian Stewart – SS, STL (24): Can play either safety position and really came on last season once he was inserted into the line up. He has the size and athleticism to be effective in coverage and is able to play in the box comfortably. He will hold off all competition for the SS position and post excellent fantasy numbers this season.
LB: Donald Butler – ILB, SDC (26): Butler was outstanding in his rookie season as a two-down linebacker and figures to be on the field for all three-downs in 2012. That equals Top 10 fantasy production for the kid as he brings solid tackling skills and big play potential to the middle of the Chargers defense.
DL: Robert Quinn, DE – STL (24): Quinn had a decent rookie season fantasy-wise, putting up five sacks and 20 solo tackles as he acclimated himself to the NFL. I’m looking for a breakout fantasy campaign in 2012 for Quinn as he lines up opposite Chris Long to make up one of the leagues best bookend DE duos. Quinn possesses superb athletic abilities, is a big play threat as well as an above average pass rushing threat.