Twenty-five ways to a better draft (cont.)
13. Get in on the fun in Denver. Peyton Manning looked a little rusty but enough like his 40-touchdown self early in the preseason to have fantasy drafters feeling he's back to form. Not only does a healthy Manning mean huge numbers for Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, but also quality contributions from the likes of Andre Caldwell, Jacob Tamme, Joel Dreessen, Willis McGahee and Ronnie Hillman. Or you can make a bold statement and draft No. 18 himself.
14. Clearly the better Manning to take this season and beyond is Eli. It's amazing how someone who comes from such a prominent football family, was a top overall draft pick and plays in the world's biggest media market can sneak up on everyone in the discussion for the era's best quarterback, but "Little Brother" is making a charge. Helping him out considerably is perhaps the league's best young receiving duo in Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks. Sprinkle in some Rueben Randle and Marcellus Bennett with Ahmad Bradshaw and David Wilson in the backfield, and Manning's Giants could become an offensive juggernaut similar to Peyton's in Indy. As it is, Eli narrowly missed becoming a 5,000-yard passer last season.
15. He may not or may not be able to unseat Mark Sanchez at quarterback, but Tim Tebow is the Jets' best runner. In what seems to be a marriage made in (you know where all of you devout Tebowmaniacs) the NFL's most polarizing player has joined forces with the NFL's resident Wildcat expert, offensive coordinator Tony Sparano. The two of them will do wonders around the goal line together, but barring a shocking decline by Sanchez, Tebow will bring little to the fantasy table unless he gains running back eligibility. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for plodding starting halfback, Shonn Greene, who is at a crossroads. If he can't make it in Sparano's attack -- and early returns indicate that he's struggling -- then he's of little use in fantasy or to the Jets.
16. From 2006 through 2009 Georgia Tech averaged the fourth-fewest passing yards per game of all FBS teams, yet they will have two of fantasy football's top producing receivers. Megatron is a given, but since Peyton Manning's receivers have always been Pro Bowl regulars, Demaryius Thomas, one of Calvin Johnson's offseason training buddies, will join him in Honolulu. It'll take some time for another member of the Rambling Wreck family, Stephen Hill, to get there.
17. Sticking with the Mile High theme, it's a tossup when it comes to best reunion, and both involve former Broncos. The first takes place in Chicago, where Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall are playing together for the first time since 2008, when Marshall had 1,265 receiving yards and six of Cutler's 25 touchdowns. The other is in Foxborough, where Josh McDaniels is back in the fold as the Patriots offensive coordinator and Tom Brady's personal tutor, reprising his role from 2007, when they collaborated for the greatest touchdown-producing season in NFL history. McDaniel brought with him Brandon Lloyd, a journeyman who became an offensive force under McDaniels' tutelage with the 2010 Broncos. His presence gives Brady the outside threat he's lacked since Randy Moss' implosion.
18. Returning to sea level, Miami is the subject of this year's Hard Knocks, offering an inside view of Joe Philbin's first camp as an NFL head coach. The Dolphins promise to be a little more dynamic on offense with Aaron Rodgers' ex-coach at the helm, which could mean better fortunes for Davone Bess and (if he can get back on the field) Brian Hartline, who Philbin raved about during OTAs. For the first time, I'm pretty high on Reggie Bush, who should be among the league's busiest backs. Also, keep an eye on former Hurricane Lamar Miller, who like many products of the U, is a threat to score every time he touches the ball.
19. I completely whiffed on the Bucs last year but I'm sticking with them again, with Doug Martin on board for Greg Schiano and offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan, late of two Super Bowl wins with the Giants. Most people see Josh Freeman as someone who'll bring down Vincent Jackson, but it's really the opposite. Jackson is exactly the kind of leader Freeman needs to help him become a quality quarterback, and Sullivan is exactly the coach to help bring the best out of this offense. I draft VJax and Martin in the early rounds, and take a chance on LeGarrette Blount and Mike Williams later on with Freeman a solid backup/bye week replacement for one of the top guys.
20. Don't be tempted to take one of the trio of old receivers -- Randy Moss, Terrell Owens or Plaxico Burress. At this point in their careers you're better off using the pick on the next Victor Cruz or the next Jimmy Graham than on a graybeard with a checkered past who will likely find himself on the sidelines as much as he's on the field. Chad Johnson was originally part of this item but it's unlikely he'll ever have an NFL helmet on again.
21. Cam Newton and Andy Dalton showed that rookie quarterbacks can produce in the NFL, especially when their teams have nowhere else to turn. That's why it's a good play to take Robert Griffin III or Andrew Luck as your QB2 -- not that you bank your whole season on a rookie -- but they'll have a better chance to generate quality trade value than someone like Carson Palmer, Ryan Fitzpatrick or even Matt Schaub.
22. Fantasy kickers are usually hit-and miss. All you can ask for is someone who plays: a) with an offense that will score ample points; b) with a defense that keeps games close in a competitive division; and c) in a favorable kicking environment. David Akers set the gold standard last year, and his counterpart across the Bay, Sebastian Janikowski also fits the mold.
23. Green is a good color for defense. The Packers, Jets and Eagles should all be start-worthy on a weekly basis. Red, white, and blue aren't bad either as the Patriots, Giants, Texans and Bills all should be among the league's highest scoring fantasy D's.
24. Players who worry me (and those comparable who I'd rather now have)
Greg Jennings, Packers (Jordy Nelson, Packers)
Trent Richardson, Browns (Fred Jackson, Bills)
Michael Vick, Eagles (Matt Ryan, Falcons)
Frank Gore, 49ers (Willis McGahee, Broncos)
Ryan Mathews, Chargers (Chris Johnson, Titans)
25. Remember that drafting is just part of the fun. Be active and manipulate your team throughout the year to get it where you want and need it to be. There's virtually zero chance that everything you think will happen, actually will. Anything can happen on every given Sunday and that's what has made fantasy football the wild success that it has become.
David Sabino will be answering your fantasy football questions all season. Follow him on Twitter @SI_DavidSabino and send in your requests.
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