Darren McFadden(notes) – For investors of Run-DMC it will feel like "Christmas in Hollis" every NFL Sunday. McFadden blossomed last year under new head coach Hue Jackson. With RB star-maker Al Saunders calling the shots on offense this season, he will be even better. Recall that McFadden was the second-best RB in per game average in 2010, netting over 17 point per week. The loss of OG Robert Gallery(notes) smarts, but McFadden’s versatility, explosiveness and newfound aggressiveness should propel him to career heights. It’s criminal that he’s going around pick No. 16 in Yahoo! drafts. By year’s end, he could be the most-coveted RB in virtual pigskin.
Julio Jones(notes) – The adage that rookie wide receivers should be avoided in fantasy at all costs is misguided and outdated. Since 2006, at least one inexperienced wideout has finished inside the position's top-30 in points per game. Mike Williams, for example, checked in at No. 15 last year. Jones, along with A.J. Green(notes), are the most NFL-ready pass catchers from this year’s draft class. Drawing rave reviews from spectators, scouts, experts and teammates in camp, the youngster is poised to maintain the streak. Expected to draw single coverage often with defenses focused on Roddy White(notes) and Tony Gonzalez(notes), Jones has strong odds of posting mid-tier WR2 numbers in 12-teamers. Raise a glass to the real Don Julio.
Peyton Hillis(notes) – Conventional wisdom says owners should never pay for a career year, especially for a possible one-year wonder. But the Madden ’12 coverboy isn’t fantasy's version of Skee-Lo. His bone-displacing running style, superb versatility and entrenched goal-line role arrow to a spectacular follow-up. The Browns have one of the top offensive lines in the league. And with his role expected to expand in Pat Shurmur’s West Coast brand, it’s conceivable his numbers could improve. Critics contend Montario Hardesty(notes) and Brandon Jackson(notes) will wrest away touches. Though the pair might log 10-12 touches in total per game, Hillis is still a strong candidate to finish as a RB1 in 12-teamers, making him a nice value in Round 2.
Kevin Kolb(notes) – Overly cautious “experts” within the fantasy community continue to express trepidation over Kolb. After all, he’s started a whopping seven games in his brief career. But with a talented cast around him and retooled ‘Zona offensive line, he's in a very favorable situation. Throw in the Cardinals’ suspect defense, and he could easily break into the QB top-10 by year’s end. Every year it seems a passer taken after pick 80 flirts with the position’s upper-echelon. This season Kolb (or Sam Bradford(notes)) will be that guy.
Shonn Greene(notes) – The former Iowa standout is the classic post-hype sleeper. Expected to seize the starting reigns last year, he stumbled out of the gate, ceding the catbird seat to LaDainian Tomlinson(notes). However, as LT slowed down the stretch, Greene thrived, averaging a healthy 4.7 yards per carry from Week 16 through the postseason. The Jets’ stellar offensive line and conservative system could lead to huge numbers. If the preseason reports of a 300-carry workload prove true, a 1,350 rushing yard, 10-12 TD campaign is in on the horizon. You’re taking candy from a baby at his current 33.6 Y! ADP.
Danny Amendola(notes) – Naysayers will scream “What about Eddie Royal(notes)?” when discussing Josh McDaniels’ track-record of developing slot receivers. But it’s important to remember that Wes Welker(notes) also emerged from his dink and dunk system. Amendola, a product from Welker-U (Texas Tech), has a similar look. Last year, his yardage and TD total didn’t move the meter, but his 85 receptions were nothing to scoff at. Bradford and McDaniels absolutely love the guy. His precise routes and soft hands will flourish in the Rams’ revamped offense. It wouldn’t be a shock if he hauled in 100 passes for 900-1,000 yards and a handful of TDs. At pick No. 121.3 (ADP), he’s a friggin’ steal.
Delone Carter(notes) – At 5-foot-9, 225-pounds Carter is an absolute brute. Physical between-the-tackles and tenacious in the open-field, he is the closest thing to a complete back the Colts currently have on roster. Joseph Addai(notes), though still effective in the passing game, is about as durable as a pinata. Meanwhile, Donald Brown(notes) is the football equivalent of tofu – terribly bland. Yes, Jim Caldwell will stick with a RBBC, but with a strong camp, Carter could enter Week 1 as the primary goal-line back and fourth-quarter closer. Going undrafted in roughly 92-percent of Yahoo! leagues, the ‘Cuse product could be one of the hottest early-season waiver adds.
Mike Tolbert(notes) – The Tank appears primed to once again obliterate Ryan Mathews’(notes) fantasy value. Expected to be featured heavily, especially on third and passing downs, in Norv Turner’s two-back attack, he will likely earn roughly 12-15 touches per game, including most, if not all, goal-line work. Drafted some 60 picks on average after Mathews, last year’s Bolt from the blue could emerge a back-end RB2 in deeper formats.
Josh Freeman(notes) – It’s time for The Fro to let his Sooouulll Glooowwww!!!. Freeman greatly improved in every major category last season, completing over 61 percent of his passes for 3,451 yards and 25 touchdowns. Most impressively, he threw just six picks, typically a day’s work for Jimmy Clausen(notes). Chip in his overlooked ability to gain extra points on the ground, and he’s a certifiable QB1 in 12-teamers this season. His receiving crops is young, but Mike Williams and Kellen Winslow(notes) are excellent targets. Don’t expect a significant jump in vertical strikes, but if he can cross the chalk a couple times on the ground, he’s destined to turn a profit at his current 83.6 ADP.
Visanthe Shiancoe(notes) – Donovan McNabb’s(notes) history with tight ends can be summarized in a phrase, "force-feed." Last year, the well-traveled QB looked Chris Cooley’s(notes) direction 126 times, the second-highest target total for a TE in the NFL. Minus a viable red-zone threat at wide receiver, the Vikings may lean on Shiancoe near the goal-line. His mammoth frame and reliable hands could lead to double-digit scores. Alongside fellow late-round gem Jared Cook(notes), Shiancoe has the strongest odds of becoming this year’s Marcedes Lewis(notes).
- Hue Jackson