10 players I love more than you

More top 10 love/hate: Brandon Funston love | Brad Evans hate | Scott Pianowski hate

These 10 names are the fake football equivalent of this record, this film, and this broadcaster. Here are 10 players I love more than you:

Larry Fitzgerald(notes): Last year, Fitz received a downgrade in the preseason ranks because Arizona’s quarterback situation was dreadful. He opened the 2010 season tied to Derek Anderson(notes), then he briefly transitioned to Max Hall(notes), then to Anderson again, then finally John Skelton(notes). And we shouldn’t forget the immortal Richard Bartel(notes). When you adjust for team context, Fitzgerald’s 90-catch, 6-TD campaign was arguably one of the more impressive we’ve seen from a wide receiver in the fantasy era. This probably shouldn’t surprise us, because Larry Fitzgerald is — without respect to quarterback or system — the best wideout in the NFL. This fact doesn’t always make him the best wideout in fantasy, clearly, but it means that he’s a top-tier option when paired with a credible passer. Most of you probably know that I’m not a hardcore Kolb-ist, but I nonetheless can appreciate the difference between the Cards’ new quarterback and last year’s awful committee. With Kolb at the controls, Fitz should return to his rightful place atop the ranks — not second, not fourth, but first.

Matt Schaub(notes): Much of the fantasy industry wants you to believe that Arian Foster’s(notes) emergence absolutely killed Schaub’s value. But in fact Schaub only attempted nine fewer passes in 2010 than he did the prior season, and he still finished with 24 TDs and 4,370 yards. That’s a terrific year, simply put. Schaub regressed a bit from his 2009 performance, but that’s to be expected when you’re dealing with an all-time season. In ’09, this guy delivered the sixth-highest single-season yardage total in NFL history (4,770). When a player drops off from an unreasonably great year, you don’t need to find reasons to explain the decline. This is a very good quarterback with excellent weapons at his disposal, and his team will put the ball in the air 570 times.

Mark Ingram(notes): If you’re one of those fantasy owners who avoids rookies in all rounds, thinking it’s always too early for a first-year player, then you should just skip ahead to the next blurb. I’m not going to convince you of anything here. In my ranks, I’m looking primarily at a player’s situation and his talent, and I try not to let fantasy dogma get in the way. Ingram is a talented, all-weather back who figures to have a prominent committee role for one of the league’s elite offenses. I’m prepared to draft him well ahead of his current Yahoo! ADP (76.0).

Sam Bradford(notes): As a rookie quarterback playing in an offense that never seemed aggressive enough, Bradford still attempted 590 passes, the third-highest total in the league. Give me that workload in his second season, or something close to it, and I’ll turn an easy profit taking Bradford in the middle or late rounds. He’s now directing a Josh McDaniels offense, don’t forget, and the Rams’ receiving corps has been enhanced.

Darren Sproles(notes): OK, so it may seem a bit odd to list two running backs from the same team here. But when the New Orleans offense is rolling, fantasy stats are available to everyone. If you’re involved in a PPR league, Sproles is looking like a ridiculous steal if selected within 60 picks of his Yahoo! ADP (111.8). Your first order of business when you enter the draft room should be to unearth him from the pre-ranks and send him to your queue.

Austin Collie(notes): We’ve already had the Collie discussion, but it’s worth repeating the essential message: Last season, when all the brand-name members of the Colts’ receiving corps were healthy, Collie was a reception and touchdown machine. He was targeted 54 times through the year’s first six weeks, catching 44 passes and breaking the plane six times. He’s a high-volume receiver in a high-yield offense. The concussion history is a worry, no doubt, but there are red flags attached to every receiver beyond the top-12.

Brandon Jacobs(notes): Well, the experts seem to be over this dude, if his consensus preseason rank is any indication (No. 40 at RB). It’s certainly accurate to say that Ahmad Bradshaw(notes) is the committee chair in New York, but let’s not ignore Jacobs’ 5.6 yards-per-carry and those nine TDs. Jacobs gets a significant downgrade in PPR, sure, but the Yahoo! standard scoring format rewards only yards and points.

Jason Witten(notes): I’ll happily draft Witten in any season in which he’s not ranked as an elite tight end. He’s surpassed 90 receptions and 1,000 yards in three of the past four years, he led his position in both targets (128) and catches (94) last season, and he’s getting Tony Romo(notes) back in 2011. Despite these facts, we’re chasing upside elsewhere and grading Witten as a second-tier talent.

Marques Colston(notes): Knowing that Colston was rehabbing another knee surgery this offseason, I was prepared to downgrade him massively — to the extent that I would likely avoid him altogether. But then he was a full participant at the start of camp, and I revisited my position. (Yes, he’s rested a few days since then, but as of this writing we’ve been given no reason to think the down time is anything more than a reasonable precaution). I think I’ll go ahead and take this year’s injury discount on Colston, a guy who’s averaged 77 catches, 1,048.5 yards and 8 TDs over the past two seasons.

Alex Henery(notes): Look, when you insist on making us call out 10 players, sometimes stuff like this happens. You get a kicker tossed into the mix. Deal with it, gamers. Actually, I think this particular rookie is alarmingly underrated. He’s the most accurate kicker in NCAA history, and he’s now tied to the Eagles’ offense. You can’t really beat that setup.

Andy Behrens has written for ESPN.com, the Chicago Sports Review, NBA.com, the Chicago Reader and various other publications. In all likelihood, Andy owns more Artis Gilmore memorabilia than you. Follow him on Twitter. Send Andy a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Tuesday, Aug 9, 2011