Fantasy football Roundtable: Who should be avoided early in drafts?
August is here, and with that comes football. Which players should be avoided in the early rounds of drafts? Should owners prefer Bilal Powell over Chris Ivory? Our fantasy experts Michael Beller and Eric Mack discuss that and more in this week's fantasy roundtable.
1. We know at least one or two of the seemingly safe first-round picks will go bust. Who are you avoiding early?
Beller: I really don't trust LeSean McCoy in the first round. I just think there's way too much uncertainty with Philly's offense. Who's the quarterback? Will Chip Kelly's offense translate to the NFL? What's the trickle-down impact of Jeremy Maclin's injury? On top of all that, his injury troubles in 2012 opened the door for Bryce Brown, and both will have a role in the offense. Your first-round pick has to be a foundation setter, and McCoy just isn't that guy for me this year.
I'm also a bit uncomfortable with Trent Richardson. In his case, I think he could end up being done in by an anemic offense in Cleveland. The good news is he's really the only show in town, so the volume would be there. I'm not avoiding him, per se; if he's there for me with the 14th or 15th pick, I'll take him. I'm just not as high on him as a lot of people in the industry.
Mack: Fantasy owners should be wary of Jamaal Charles and C.J. Spiller. Sure, they have the potential to be as good as any back, but keep in mind that they are part of subpar offenses and have disappointed fantasy owners before. Their yards per carry look enticing, but can they sustain those numbers when opposing defenses gear up to stop them? They might be most successful at picking up garbage-time numbers like they did a year ago.
Charles and Spiller will both keep their teams in games, and also hold the attention of defensive coordinators. They are going to be good players, but with their supporting casts, they won't be as good as 15-touchdown candidates like Adrian Peterson, Doug Martin, Arian Foster, Marshawn Lynch and Ray Rice.
2. Bilal Powell tops the first Jets' depth chart of the preseason, ahead of Chris Ivory. Should fantasy owners start leaning in the same direction?
Beller: I think at this point, fantasy owners have to take the Jets at their word. By all accounts, Powell earned his spot on the top of the depth chart by impressing his coaches in the first two weeks of training camp. He had a decent showing in limited duty last season, running for 437 yards and four scores on 110 carries, adding 17 catches and 140 yards through the air. Whoever wins the job will have decent sleeper potential, and I wrote earlier this week that I liked Ivory for the role. With this news, Powell should slide ahead of him on draft boards. Understand that the situation is fluid, though.
Mack: This position battle is getting headlines right now because it's New York, but frankly, my SI.com Top 300 rankings already listed Ivory as a backup running back in fantasy. Powell deserves to get a bump, particularly in relation to Mike Goodson, but he won't be anything more than a reserve fantasy option if he were to start for the Jets. More likely, Powell merely takes a chunk out of Ivory's expectations, which means both will have decent value in the mid- to late- rounds.
3. A.J. Green vs. Brandon Marshall vs. Dez Bryant. Who ya got, and why?
Beller: All three are great, they'll all have huge seasons, and I'd be very happy with any as my top receiver. I rank them Marshall, Green, Bryant, though they come in at Nos. 12, 13 and 14 on my overall board. I like Marshall best because I believe the Bears have a very good chance to field one of the best offenses in the league under Marc Trestman. Of course, if that is going to happen then Marshall's ridiculous 194 targets from a year ago will have to come down, but that doesn't mean he won't be able to match last year's numbers. Despite Marshall's big year, the Bears' passing offense was inefficient in 2012, evidenced by Jay Cutler's 7.0 yards per attempt. As the offense around him improves, Marshall will get more opportunities, and perhaps face less pressure than he did a season ago.
Mack: My rankings go just like that in the SI.com Top 300. Green, who's entering his third year in the league, has been the most consistent over the past two years. It tends to be Year 3 where receivers take the biggest leap in production. Just ask Bryant owners from a year ago -- he catapulted into the conversation of the elite class of wide receiver. No one is on Calvin Johnson's level, but Green can join him this year with continued improvement from third-year quarterback Andy Dalton. Marshall is third in my book, with Julio Jones fourth and Bryant fifth. Bryant is just a bit more injury prone and less consistent than the others.
4. Many fantasy owners appear comfortable with waiting on a quarterback early. For those who go that route, whom should they target?
Beller: The quarterback position goes 11 deep in my opinion, so I am one of those owners happy to bide my time before grabbing a signal caller. While I'd be happy with Tony Romo, I think you can steal Tom Brady late in a number of leagues. My favorite target is Matthew Stafford. Just two years ago, he had 5,038 yards, 41 touchdowns and 7.6 yards per attempt. He has been downgraded because of an up-and-down 2012 season, and that seems a bit reactionary to me. He still has the best receiver on the planet at his disposal, and now he'll have Reggie Bush in the backfield with him, as well. Not only does that help legitimize Detroit's running game, it gives Stafford one of the best pass-catching backs in the league. Ryan Broyles is healthy and a legitimate breakout candidate, and even secondary options like Brandon Pettigrew and Nate Burleson have their redeeming qualities. Stafford is a top-seven quarterback in my eyes, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him finish the year ranked behind just Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Cam Newton and Peyton Manning.
Mack: Here is the thing with strategizing at the quarterback position: You might have to zig when everyone zags. If no one has picked at quarterback by Round 4, you have to open the bubble wrap on the position. If everyone is taking quarterbacks early in a one-quarterback format, you have to wait a bit. Matt Ryan is my choice there, particularly because he has not one but two elite producers at wide receiver. If some quarterback goes off the board in Round 2 or 3, my advice is to be the last one to pick a quarterback. Tony Romo is everyone's least favorite quarterback, but he can be just as productive as anyone. If you are talking about those drafted as fantasy backups, Eli Manning, Jay Cutler and Carson Palmer are potential favorites.