"Hate" is an especially strong word, not one that should be tossed around easily. But I suppose if we're discussing ex-Packers, current Packers, or any person (or pet) who has ever owned a Brett Favre(notes) jersey (including Favre himself), then "hate" is the appropriate term. I'm also willing to use the word with the following 10 players, if we're talking 2011 fantasy projections …
Washington Redskins running backs – Oh, sure, we all have our favorite Mike Shanahan success stories. For you perhaps it's Olandis Gary, for me it's Tatum Bell(notes), and I'm sure there are a few Selvin Young(notes) loyalists out there, too. But this year, I will not go Shanahanning — not unless the price tag is ludicrously friendly. To me, this looks like a low-yield offense with quarterback trouble, a terrible receiving corps, and very little hope. You can have Ryan Torain(notes) (already hurt) and Tim Hightower(notes) (already fumbling). I won't fight you for 'em. Fantasy experts everywhere are tripping over one another to hype Roy Helu(notes), a hyper-athletic rookie back from Nebraska. But let's recall that Helu was a committee back at the collegiate level and he caught only five passes last season. He's facing the usual NFL learning curve, in a crowded backfield. I'll take him if he drops, but I won't be reaching.
LeSean McCoy(notes) – OK, I realize that we've already covered this territory, so I'll get right to the essence of the discussion: In standard-scoring leagues, I'm looking for workload, yards and red zone opportunities. As much as we all like the Eagles offense, let's recognize the fact that Philadelphia's QB actually finished with more rushing TDs than Shady last year (9 to 7), plus we now have Ronnie Brown(notes) to worry about. Sure, it's nice to know that McCoy is capable of breaking off a 20-plus yard run at any time, but I don't want to rely on any player's ability to find the end zone from long distance. All other things being equal, I'd prefer to know that my guy is the primary option inside the 5. With McCoy, that's clearly not the case — and I say that with the full authority of someone who owned McCoy everywhere last season, when he was undervalued. (I've now lost the group of fantasy owners who seem to believe that
I think we all agree that Shady is an early first-round selection in point-per-reception leagues. There's not much debate about that — not from me, not from anyone. But if we're projecting the season ahead, McCoy basically looks like Ray Rice(notes), minus 100 carries. I can't draft LeSean where you're prepared to take him.
Michael Vick(notes) – Earlier this week, Scott Pianowski actually hit all the important points on Vick, so I'm just here to lend support. It's impossible to fully express your opinion on this player through position ranks, unless you slot him at the very top of the QBs. To me, he's a unique fantasy asset with a wide range of possible outcomes. Vick may have the highest ceiling of any quarterback — debatable, since Peyton Manning(notes) and Tom Brady(notes) have already authored historic seasons, playing the full 16 games — but we shouldn't pretend that there's no downside with No. 7.
By the end of the 2010 season, opposing defenses were doing a few things that clearly made Vick uncomfortable and left him limping off the field. In Week 16, for example, the Vikings ran Antoine Winfield(notes) at him from all angles, resulting in plays like this. Vick, for all his ridiculous skill, can still be separated from the football — he fumbled 11 times in 12 games in 2010. You have to assume that defensive coordinators will emphasize the need to punish him when he runs, and they won't be content to let him linger in the pocket, surveying the field while D-Jax outruns coverage. If you were game-planning for Philly, your primary objective would be to get Vince Young(notes) behind center as quickly as possible. Defenders get to take an unusual number of shots at him, because he's rushing 8-12 times per game.
Bottom line: In my current preseason ranks, I've got Vick fourth at his position and 16th overall. It's an attempt to adjust for his injury potential as well as the likelihood of decline from last year's insane per-game production, while also acknowledging his talent and situation. It's not hate, but it's something less than love.
Michael Crabtree(notes) – Hey, look who's missing another preseason. That's a stunner. Crabtree is still tied to Alex Smith, there's a new coaching staff in town, and Braylon Edwards(notes) has entered the picture to compete for targets. There's just nothing I like here. No matter where I've got Crabtree ranked, I'll veer to another roster position when his name sits atop my draft queue.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis(notes) – It's really not hate I feel for BJGE, but indifference. We've learned over the years that Bill Belichick thinks of running backs almost as disposable commodities. There are plenty of rushing stats to be had here, but the coaching staff doesn't care at all who gets them. New England drafted a pair of RBs in the early rounds — Shane Vereen(notes) in Round 2 and power back Stevan Ridley(notes) in Round 3 — so don't be surprised if the new kids take a few touches from Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead(notes). With this backfield, you just can't get too focused on the prior year's numbers.
Matt Cassel(notes) – There's no question that Cassel was an efficient quarterback last season, wringing all the value he possibly could (27 TDs) from a small number of pass attempts (450). But when drafting middle and lower tier QBs, I'll generally chase the high-volume passers, not the guys who direct run-first, run-second offensive attacks. Kansas City attempted only 29.7 throws per game last season, and the offense was a wreck as soon as word leaked that Charlie Weis was skipping town. It should stand to reason that if I'm betting against Dwayne Bowe(notes) repeating his huge year, then I don't think Cassel will be as useful, either.
Marcedes Lewis(notes) – This is a fantastic old-school tight end, an excellent run-blocker and a guy who can lock up opposing edge rushers. There's no question he's a valuable player, and Jacksonville likely won't regret giving him a five-year deal. But in fantasy, you have to be a bit skeptical of a player who catches double-digit TDs on only 58 receptions, especially when he's attached to a low-yield offense. This is another case where you don't want to chase last year's numbers.
Danny Amendola(notes) – At this point, there's no containing the Amendola-is-Wes Welker(notes) meme. It's out there, loosed upon the world. All the fantasy kids are saying it. I'm just going to point out that there was a time (2009) when I made the mistake of thinking that a young, small receiver in a Josh McDaniels offense (Eddie Royal(notes)) could fill the Welker role easily enough (nope, doesn't always work that way — and Royal was coming off a 91-catch season). I'm not going to force the expectation on Amendola, because it's crazy-unfair to him and rather disrespectful to Welker. Of course, Amendola is on the radar for PPR owners, but let's be careful not to pay an expectant price.
Fred Jackson(notes) – I feel compelled to discuss my position rank on Jackson (No. 33), but I don't enjoy badmouthing him. There's a nice backstory here, and he's given us back-to-back solid seasons. Everyone likes Fred Jackson at some level — some of you just really like him in fantasy. For me, he's just a good-not-great back tied to a low-yield offense; the Bills averaged 17.7 points per game last season and 16.1 the year before. We can also assume that Buffalo will get C.J. Spiller(notes) more involved this season, since he was barely a rumor in 2010.
Kenny Britt(notes) – I appreciate the skill set, but I'm terrified of the hamstrings, the off-the-field recklessness, the team context and the new coaching regime. And I have no great enthusiasm for his new QB, either. Britt will need to fall a long way before I'm interested.