Michael Vick once again is one of the biggest risk/reward players in the draft. His talent and potential seem unlimited, but at this point it’s tough to say when it will all come together. Last year he was a disappointment throwing only 14 TDs and rushing for 3. He had more games where he failed to put up a TD (6) than he had multi-TD games (5). Even in his very productive 2002 season he was a bit of a feast or fathom type of player. But he was well worth it because his good weeks far out weighed the bad ones, and they were usually very good. He’ll most likely improve on last years passing totals, how much is debatable. He’ll likely go in round 2, but be sure to draft a capable 2nd QB as well. Not only is there a risk that he won’t live up to the pick, but injury is always a concern.
Matt Schaub / Ty Detmer – Neither guy has any fantasy value if Vick goes down. Schaub is young and inexperienced and not capable of leading an offense. Detmer is simply a veteran presence to help Vick get a grasp on the offense and would not be a factor.
Warrick Dunn is in the dreaded RBBC, running back by committee with T.J. Duckett. Dunn is still the better fantasy option because of his big play ability in both the running and passing game. His totals last year of 1104 rush, 294 rec., and 9 TDs is about as good as you’ll get though. For his career he has averaged 87 combined yards per game, last year it was 87.5 per game. He is a hit or miss player, but not a bad 3rd RB on your fantasy team. And with Atlanta’s success in the running game last year, there is no reason to believe they’ll change things. T.J. Duckett, the 3rd running option on the team, right behind Dunn and Vick has become little more than a short yardage back and goal line scoring option (but not always, they do use Dunn as well). He’s good for a about 40 yards a game and a score every other. Not a fantasy starter, but a 4th or 5th back in case your in a bind.
Others – Justin Griffin is primarily a blocker who’ll catch the occasional pass, but has no value. Jason White is the top backup for Dunn. He may be a guy that could fill Dunn’s role if he goes down. He was a good running back at Northwestern and his said to have excellent vision and quickness. He would be a waiver wire pickup if Dunn goes down.
Peerless Price, Dez White, Michael Jenkins, Brian Finneran and possibly 1st round draft pick Roddy White are all vying for a starting roll, and none are guaranteed. And none will be a desirable fantasy option as Vick’s main passing targets will be TE Alge Crumpler and Warrick Dunn. If a WR does break out, it will likely be Michael Jenkins. He is a big, fast target for Vick, but more than a 50 catch 800 yard and 4-5 TD performance from him or any of these guys would be a surprise.
Alge Crumpler is becoming one of the top TEs in the game and is shown by his 16.1 ypc last year. If Vick and the passing game does improve, it will likely be because he jumps into the 70 catch range and breaks the 1000 yard mark. He’ll also be there top TD catching option with 8-10 making him a top 5 TE.
Todd Peterson is a backup kicker at best and should not be drafted. Even if the offense improves he still won’t have the opportunities to be among the top dozen or so kickers.
If leading the Panthers to the Super Bowl 2 years ago didn’t prove to you Jake Delhomme was an up and coming player, last year’s season certainly did. With 3800 yards and 29 TDs, he certainly was a good value pick for those who drafted him last year. The loss of a Mushin Muhammad, who put up 1400 yards and 16 TDs would normally hurt, but with Steve Smith coming back, he’ll still have a legitimate number one receiver. Delhomme’s 11 multi-TD games show the consistency he developed towards the end of the season and his value as a fantasy starter. Delhomme should come close to last years numbers, but improving on them will be tough. But none the less he will still be a good fantasy starting QB, and still a good mid-round pick.
Chris Weinke and Rod Rutherford will battle for the back up spot, and neither deserves any fantasy consideration.
Deshaun Foster has seen his doctor more than he has seen the field during his first 3 NFL seasons. Despite the limited playing time, there has not been limited talk about the oft-injured, but talented back. His 174 yard game vs. KC last year gave a glimpse at what he is capable of on the ground, but he has also shown he can make an impact in the passing game. If Foster can stay healthy, he’ll certainly be a capable fantasy starter, and for added incentive he’s in a free agency year. Foster won’t last past the 3rd round.
Stephen Davis will start the year on the PUP list, and will be a backup when he is activated. He is worth a late round flyer, but bouncing back at the age of 31 from a knee injury will be tough. Rookie Eric Shelton is the guy to watch this pre-season. He is a big physical back who could steal carries away in goal line packages as Foster’s propensity for fumbling is well known. He may even win over the backup job, which will certainly increase his fantasy value with Carolina’s injury history at RB. Nick Goings, despite 800 yards and 6 TDs last year will be on a long list before getting the call again this year and shouldn’t be considered.
After a stellar 2003 season, Steve Smith missed almost all of last year. He’ll be looked at to fill some of the void left by Mushin Muhammad, but will get help from 2nd year WR Keary Colbert and newly acquired Rod Gardner. Smith is the top fantasy option at WR, and improving on his 88-1100-7 totals from 2 years ago is reachable, making him an excellent 2nd fantasy WR and possible number one. Colbert and Gardner will compete for the starting job across from Smith, but Colbert is the early favorite having the familiarity in the offense. Gardner, a former 1st round pick and 1000 yard receiver has the ability to push for the job. That said, Colbert is the better bet now to be a contributor to your fantasy team. Both are good late round picks with a chance to out perform their draft position. The addition of Gardner ends the limited fantasy consideration Ricky Proehl had, well if 0 TDs last year already didn’t end it for you.
With the retirement of Freddie Jones, so goes the hope of a fantasy TE in Carolina. Kris Magnum at best is a backup in deeper leagues, but you should probably look elsewhere.
John Kasay only warrants consideration if you decide to carry two kickers. The Panthers will have a good enough offense for Kasay to have some good games if you’re interested in the kicker by committee approach.
New Orleans Saints:
Aaron Brooks has been somewhat of a disappointment for Saint fans, but actually has put up some top 10 fantasy seasons over the past 5 years. Last year was discouraging though with his numbers declining as the rest of the league’s soared. His accuracy has always been a problem, but he can make big plays with his arm. That is why Haslett is looking to simplify the offense for Brooks so he can make plays, not decisions. Still Brooks is a mid round pick (7-8 round), but has top 10 potential. If the team struggles, they could start auditioning for next year early.
Todd Bouman will be the immediate backup to Brooks, some may remember him from his 3 starts in Minnesota in 2001 when he put up some solid numbers. But 108 attempts in 8 years probably tells more about where his talent level is……not that high. Rookie Andrian McPherson will start some chatter with his athleticism, but he struggled in the passing game at Florida St and shouldn’t warrant much thought.
The Saints showed their commitment to Deuce McAllister to the tune of $50 million over the next 8 years. Will he pay them back and be the fantasy stud of 2003, or be just pretty good as he was last year? There is a chance he could slide to the late 1st because of his 2004 season and the hype around some other backs, and you’ll be lucky he did. I would expect closer to the 2100 combined yards of 2003 than last years numbers.
Antwain Smith and Aaron Steckler will compete for the backup role, but if McAllister goes down they’ll split the job. Both should be waiver wire pickups rather than draft picks.
Once again Joe Horn will answer the call for the Saints, even if he decides to leave the cell phone at home. Anything less than another top 10 receiving season will be disappointing. Speaking of disappointing, Donte’ Stallworth has never met all the hype he has received. He has the potential for a breakout year, but buyer beware and make sure you have 2 starters before taking a shot at him.
Not a very strong position for New Orleans. Boo Williams and Ernie Conwell head the list of TEs, but neither warrant fantasy consideration.
John Carney is a backup fantasy kicker for those who like to carry two, but should be on the waiver wire if you need a bye week kicker.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
The son of Bob, Brian Griese may of finally found a home in Tampa Bay under offensive guru John Gruden. After averaging almost 2 TD’s per start and completing nearly 70% of his passes, optimism should be high. Griese could be a mid round steal that puts up top 10 numbers.
Chris Simms will compete with Luke McNown for the backup job. Simms, the better talent has the edge but would be a mediocre option and should not be drafted.
Carnell Williams missed a few days at camp, possibly impacting his playing time. And that would be a shame, because he could probably wrestle the starting job away from Michael Pittman. Pittman, who had a pretty good jail-delayed season, put up 1300 total yards and 10 scores in just 13 games. Though he finished with good numbers, his inconsistency from week to week in the running game led the Bucs to draft Williams. It is a situation that needs to be followed closely, but both guys warrant consideration in the middle rounds. Williams does have the more attractive upside out of the two.
Mike Alstott, once a good backup fantasy back because of his TDs, has lost almost all value and should not be drafted.
Sensational rookie Michael Clayton is back for year 2 and is looking to improve on last year. With Griese having another year in Gruden’s offense, a better year should be in cards for Clayton and he’ll be an excellent #2 fantasy WR. Joey Galloway could be a good late round steal. It’s been awhile since he was a real fantasy producer, but he started to click towards the end of the season with Griese scoring 5 TDs over a 4 game span. Ike Hilliard will be 3rd on the depth chart, but doesn’t have much value unless there is an injury.
Anthony Becht will be the starter and could surprise a bit. Not the top 5 TE end type of surprise, but maybe 400-500 yard 5-6 TD type of surprise, which will make him at least playable. But it’s more of a hunch and you can wait till later in the draft to draft him.
Matt Bryant and Todd France will compete for the kicking duties, but neither should be drafted.