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Pads cracking, helmets smashing, coaches yelling – football season has finally returned.
For your team, I Pitta the Fool, the dawn of a new season brings renewed optimism and another chance.
Last year didn’t go exactly as planned. Dismantled by injuries and Trent Richardson’s unbearable suckiness, ‘Fool’ was essentially the Houston Texans of your hometown league. Week in and week out, you fielded a ragtag group of boobs that were steamrolled regularly by the competition. If only you would’ve gone the extra dollar on Peyton Manning in August. Damn that Derek. Damn him. His undercutting ranked right up there with the time he ‘borrowed’ your Sega CD copy of Bill Walsh College Football only to trade it for five packs of Gobstoppers and a gallon of Mountain Dew.
Vengeance will be yours.
Ohhh yes, vengeance will be yours.
[Smack talk season is back at Yahoo Sports: Sign up and play free Fantasy Football!]
With training camps in full swing many in the fantasy community are prepping for the single greatest event of the year – draft day. It’s bigger than birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas and even National Doughnut Day. Cheat sheets are being compiled. Highlighters are brightening deep sleepers. Work is being shirked. Every aspiring fantasy player is after one thing and one thing only, bragging rights.
To assist you in your quest for domination, below are six undervalued commodities garnering little respect worth going the extra mile to acquire. Here is this year’s All-Rodney Dangerfield Team:
Tony Romo, Dal, QB (Yahoo ADP: 86.9, Calculator ADP: 99.1, Mean: 93.0)
It’s rather amazing how the passer’s well-documented late-game meltdowns and mishaps, which generally have little to no impact on his actual fantasy worth, have influenced his ADP. It’s the only explanation why he continues to get passed over in early drafts. For those who choose to exercise patience at QB this year, the ‘tarnished’ star is THE player to target. He’s a true king of consistency, a slinger who’s finished inside the position’s top-10 every year since 2007 (excluding his injury-shortened 2010). Unlike this time last year, his back is in tiptop shape. He participated in offseason activities almost uninhibitedly, a great sign. With Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and emerging talent Terrance Williams to chuck the rock to and a strong ground game spearheaded by DeMarco Murray to help ease pressure, he should be stupendous, particularly in garbage time. Already down Sean Lee (AGAIN!), the ‘Boys’ defense is sure to institute an open-door policy forcing Romo to play from behind often. Square dance with the Cowboy. He could establish career bests in several categories.
Fearless Forecast: 4,855 passing yards, 32 passing touchdowns, 12 interceptions, 56 rushing yards, 1 rushing touchdown
Toby Gerhart, Jac, RB (Yahoo ADP: 74.6, Calculator ADP: 34.9, Mean: 54.7)
Many will consider him overvalued, but Jacksonville’s battering ram is ready to bust through castle gates, defensive lines. Stereotypes about the rusher are not applicable. He’s a three-down workhorse who, in an expanded role, could resemble vintage Steven Jackson. Recall in six career starts with the Vikings he averaged 4.5 yards per carry and 91.3 total yards per game. And during his four-year residence in Minnesota, he also gained 59.7 percent of his yards after contact. Stoutly built, tender-handed, excellent in pass protection and an effective inside runner, he is slated to shoulder an obscene load. Coaches and Jags insiders have reiterated the organization’s desire to feed him 20-25 touches per game. The club’s inexperience at WR outside an already hamstrung Cecil Shorts is unsettling, but it should be much improved defensively, which lends to a heavy dose of Gerhart. It’s conceivable you could land the league leader in carries somewhere in Rounds 4-6 in Yahoo leagues.
Fearless Forecast: 284 carries, 1,172 rushing yards, 41 receptions, 335 receiving yards, 7 total touchdowns
Andre Ellington, Ari, RB (Yahoo ADP: 39.4, Calculator ADP: 29.7, Mean: 34.5)
Bulked up, sans much competition and primed to tote the load, Ellington should be at the top of your breakout list. It’s unlikely he’ll tally the 25-30 touches per game Bruce Arians, with tongue firmly planted in cheek, declared in May, but 15-20 grips seem like a foregone conclusion with several of those coming via the pass. The NFC West is awfully tough, but the Cardinals do boast the 13th-friendliest schedule for fantasy RBs. That combined with Ellington’s stunning versatility and open-field explosiveness arrow to a possible RB1 campaign. In terms of style and substance, he is very Jamaal Charles-like. His league-leading 47.9 breakaway percentage and 0.32 fantasy points per snap (Ranked No. 15 among all positions) tallied last year offer much confidence. Throw in one of the league’s best defenses to keep games close and an improved offensive line, and he should be a points-gushing oasis in the desert.
Fearless Forecast: 239 attempts, 1,092 rushing yards, 54 receptions, 528 receiving yards, 8 total touchdowns
Victor Cruz, NYG, WR (Yahoo ADP: 38.5, Calculator ADP: 38.0, Mean: 38.3)
Largely due to a terrible o-line, inconsistent ground game, Hakeem Nicks’ utter lack of effort and Eli Manning’s penchant for hitting cornerbacks in the chest, the Giants were miniaturized last season. Cruz was no exception. Despite once again leading the team in targets, receptions and yards, the slot machine cranked out only a marginal return. Whether PPR or standard, he ranked outside the WR top-20 in per game output. But now that Kevin Gilbride and his uninventive offense are elsewhere, optimism is on the rise under offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo. In the newly installed Green Bay-styled scheme, Cruz is expected to satisfy the Randall Cobb role, meaning, as the Newark Star-Ledger recently projected, 100 catches aren’t out of the question. Because Rueben Randle and Odell Beckham remain question marks and sans a suitable tight end, the former All-Pro should command upwards of 150 targets. He’s a whale of a deal in Round 4 or 5.
Fearless Forecast: 94 receptions, 1,298 receiving yards, 9 touchdowns
Eric Decker, NYJ, WR (Yahoo ADP: 91.3, Calculator ADP: 88.0, Mean: 89.6)
Admittedly, going from Peyton Manning to Geno Smith is akin to trading in a Rolls Royce for a banged-up grocery getter sporting a slashed tire. But as Josh Gordon exhibited with a rotation of awful at QB last year, top-notch fantasy production can emerge from the unlikeliest location. The Jets will continue to emphasize the run, but it’s not a stretch to think Decker will hog targets, particularly near the goal-line. One of the league’s finest red-zone receivers, he very well could cash double-digit touchdowns for the third-straight year. Asinine? Not at all. Outside Decker, the Jets have no dependable options. Jeremy Kerley, Stephen Hill, Jacoby Ford, Shaquelle Evans and Jace Amaro don’t exactly heighten the senses. Someone has to catch the ball. If Geno can channel the passer that finished top-five in fantasy scoring Week 14-Week 17, it’s conceivable Decker leaves investors very much in the black.
Fearless Forecast: 80 receptions, 986 receiving yards, 9 touchdowns
Kyle Rudolph, Min, TE (Yahoo ADP: 81.0, Calculator ADP: 94.9, Mean: 87.9)
Jay Novacek. Antonio Gates. Jordan Cameron. Norv Turner has quite the record for developing quality tight ends. Rudolph, his latest pupil, will likely establish himself among the game’s premier talents. As the Star-Tribune reported just before training camp, “all signs point” to a breakthrough campaign for the 24-year-old. In three years, he’s never exceeded 55 receptions for 500 yards in a season, but, as shown two years ago, he is one of the better goal-line weapons at the position. Though questions about Matt Cassel and Teddy Bridgewater loom, Minnesota’s offense is more than just Adrian Peterson. Cordarrelle Patterson is poised to explode and veterans Greg Jennings and Jerome Simpson are still useful weapons. His yardage total may not make owners overly giddy, but his projected consistency in TDs certainly will.
Fearless Forecast: 64 receptions, 689 receiving yards, 8 touchdowns
EQUALLY DISRESPECTED MENTIONS
Terrance West, Cle, RB (Mean ADP: 101.4) – In recent years, numerous rookie RBs have proven invaluable (e.g. Doug Martin, Alfred Morris, Le’Veon Bell, Zac Stacy, etc.), joining the RB1 and RB2 classes. West is the next in line. Already killing it in Browns camp, the FCS product, who rumbled his way to an unthinkable 2,509 rush yards and 41 touchdowns last year at Towson, has favorable odds of supplanting Ben Tate as the timeshare leader in short order. In pads, he resembles a kegerator, but don’t be fooled by his girthy build. Quick, nimble and extremely powerful, he is a perfect fit for Kyle Shanahan’s zone-blocking scheme. Stardom is only a matter of time.
Carlos Hyde, SF, RB (Mean ADP: 121.6) – Kendall Hunter’s season-ending knee shredding paves the way for Hyde to be the heir apparent to Frank Gore. Marcus Lattimore, still fighting his way back from a pair of catastrophic leg injuries suffered in college, is nowhere close to 100 percent and may never be. The Ohio St. product is a throwback bruiser reminiscent to Gore. He’s brutalizing between the tackles, solid in pass pro and a better-than-advertised receiver. In a highly competitive Big Ten conference last year, he averaged a sick 7.1 yards per carry. The veteran has repeatedly proven skeptics wrong, but eventually Father Time will get the best of him. It’s inevitable. Bank on the youngster starting at least 3-5 games this year finishing with high-end RB2 totals during that span.
James White, NE, RB (Under 1% drafted) – Stevan Ridley, who apparently didn’t undergo a hands transplant during the offseason, fumbled Sunday. Hello White. Boots on the ground at Pats camp have spoken highly of the Wisky product. He’s displayed superb receiving skills, cutting ability and deceptive power. Originally thought to be the crutch for Shane Vereen, many are starting to believe he could play the ‘big back’ role if the Riddler’s ball security issues continue to plague him. Keep a close eye on him in preseason play.
Andrew Hawkins, Cle, WR (Under 1% drafted) – Easily the best receiver thus far in Browns camp, the slippery underneath weapon could be a poor man’s Cobb or Wes Welker. At his previous stop in Cincinnati, Baby Hawk displayed brilliant flashes at times, showcasing ridiculous burst and shiftiness in the open-field. Brian Hoyer, Johnny Manziel, Tim Couch, it doesn’t matter. Hawkins is sure to rack 120-plus targets and 75-85 receptions in an excitable campaign, particularly for the PPR-minded.
DeAndre Hopkins, Hou, WR (Mean ADP: 109.7) – Bar trivia time. How many snaps did Hopkins play last year? PUT DOWN YOUR DEVICES! The answer: 1,015. That was the eighth-most among WRs. Though people in Houston want to forget last year’s disaster, the experience Hopkins gained was invaluable. When targeted, he flashed sticky mitts. On 91 looks (52 catches), he dropped only one pass. Mike Wallace he is not. With a short-armed QB, Ryan Fitzpatrick, at the helm and defenses focused on containing Andre Johnson, he should thrive. He needs to get nastier after the catch, but a top-30 effort in PPR is attainable.
Cody Latimer, Den, WR (Under 1% drafted) – Barely on the radar in early drafts, the rookie may have more Keenan Allen-upside than any other first-year WR this year. At 6-foot-3 and 215-pounds, he sports the height and yoked frame needed to break press and gain separation. At the Combine he out-benched several lineman jacking 225 pounds 23 times. Oh, and he also ran a 4.38 40-yard dash just days removed from foot surgery. Crazy. Already making splashy plays in camp, it may not be long before he overtakes a tepid Emmanuel Sanders on the depth-chart and becomes a Peyton red-zone favorite.
Want to bull rush Brad? Follow him on Twitter @YahooNoise. Also check out "The Noise' along with colleagues Andy Behrens and Brandon Funston for another season of 'Fantasy Football Live' Tuesday-Thursday at 6:30 PM ET starting July 29 on NBC Sports Network.