Top NFL fantasy tandems
Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall could be good fantasy values as teammates again
Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz combined for 158 catches, 2,728 yards and 16 TDs
With Robert Meachem gone, Jimmy Graham will likely get more targets this season
There are fewer high-risk, high-reward decisions a fantasy football owner can make than doubling down on multiple players from one team. But as a gambling sort, I'm a wholehearted believer in the practice. The risks are many, as an injury to one of the participants could kill the point-accruing ability of both (see Peyton Manning-Reggie Wayne, circa 2011), a good defensive opponent could stymie key players for an entire week and during byes, instead of replacing just one cog in your juggernaut, you're in need of two. But the joy of seeing your live scoring point total rise like the price ticker on a gas gauge when Tom Brady hits Rob Gronkowski on a 40-yard TD pass outweighs those risks. However, you have to draft correctly and be lucky at the same time. Here are my top-10 tandems to draft for the 2012 season.
Who are yours? Let me know on Twitter (@SI_DavidSabino). From now until the champagne is popped celebrating your fantasy football title, I'll be happy to answer your questions, field your comments or even take any suggestions you might have for players or topics you want to read about.
10. Peyton Manning and Demaryius Thomas, Broncos: My favorite breakout candidate of 2012 and perhaps the biggest comeback story in NFL history are teaming up at Mile High in what could be one of the most explosive passing offenses in recent history. Of course, Manning also might not be fully healed and unable to get the ball downfield to the speedy third-year man who will be going through the first true NFL training camp of his career. Throw Eric Decker into the mix and this has the potential to be unfair to opposing defenses having to come into altitude to play the Broncos.
9. Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall, Bears: A trip down Memory Lane awaits the former Denver teammates, both reunited in Chicago. They'll be under the tutelage of Mike Tice, and even more important, Jeremy Bates, who was Cutler's position coach when he and Marshall became household names (in fantasy households). Neither is very highly sought in this year's drafts (both are going off the board around 10th to 15th at their respective positions), so getting both after establishing a stable of running backs should be no problem.
8. Arian Foster and Andre Johnson, Texans: The faces of the Houston franchise are fantasy point machines when healthy; however, both have experienced injury issues the past few seasons and should be considered risky propositions. If both are at the top of their games, you can throw Matt Schaub in the middle rounds to create a triumvirate that potentially blows the doors off your opponents. All of this, of course, is provided you can land one of the top-3 picks in your draft to nab Foster.
7. Drew Brees and Darren Sproles, Saints: Who needs a running game when you have Sproles, the league's premier receiver out of the backfield and a PPR legend since arriving on the Mississippi Delta? Sproles gained 1,313 yards and scored nine touchdowns from scrimmage last year, with 710 yards and seven TDs coming on 87 throws from Brees. The presence of last year's first-round pick, Mark Ingram, and all-purpose backup Pierre Thomas keeps this twosome from going any higher on this list but anyone who ends up with them will be glad they did.
6. Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz, Giants: Having trouble deciding which of the defending Super Bowl Champion's receivers to go after? Why not both? As long as Eli Manning is running the offense, Nicks and Cruz will be well fed with targets and scoring opportunities, just as they were last year when the two combined for 158 catches, 2,728 yards and 16 TDs. The losses of Mario Manningham and Kevin Boss will just mean more balls to go around on the outside.
5. Aaron Rodgers and Greg Jennings, Packers: Universally seen as the league's top quarterback, and in many circles, as the best overall player, Rodgers is blessed with a lot of receiving weapons. None of them is more dangerous than Jennings, who, in his seventh season, will be looking to bounce back from an injury-marred 2011, when he failed to reach 1,000 yards and scored just seven times. But he's healthy again and should be available for you in the third round if you're lucky enough to take Rodgers in the first round.
4. Cam Newton and Steve Smith, Panthers: A realistic pairing that you can possibly create without involving your first-round pick, Carolina's explosive pitch-catch combo are two of the league's most physical gifted individuals. Newton's ability to score touchdowns on the ground himself makes him a top-10 overall pick in my estimation. And when he throws you can be sure most of the time the speedy and physical Smith will be the target, as he was 129 times last season. Some questionable defenses in Tampa and New Orleans makes this pair one to covet..
3. Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson, Lions: It's possible that Motown's most successful enterprise of late has just scratched the surface of what they can do, given that Johnson has yet to have a strong running game or a high-quality running mate on the outside. The only thing keeping them from being tops on the list are Stafford's spotty injury history (and not the bad luck that has hit almost every player appearing on the cover of EA's John Madden Football video game). Rub some garlic on Megatron and draft him without concern.
2. Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, Patriots: Tom Terrific and Gronk will be hard-pressed to repeat their ridiculous 2011, in which Gronkowski became the premier tight end in the league and maybe his generation. However, the arrival of Brandon Lloyd, the maturation of Aaron Hernandez and Bill Belichick's habit of game-planning plays that defenses least expect, call for a reduction in productivity, which still should equate to a 1,000-yard, 12-TD season for Gronkowski and be a boon to Brady's yardage and TD totals.
1. Drew Brees and Jimmy Graham, Saints: Like New England's Brady and Gronkowski last season, the Saints' top two players form a virtually unstoppable combination that is only getting better. Brees is coming off the best passing yardage season in NFL history, and with a defense depleted by league suspensions, the Saints will be involved in plenty of shootouts. And although Gronkowski was last season's top tight end, Graham, the ex-basketball player who is still learning the position, was just 17 yards and six TDs behind Gronk for the finest season by a TE in NFL history. And coincidentally, six TDs are the exact number that were caught by Robert Meachem, now with the Chargers; those catches are more than likely going Graham's way this year.