I'm doing this article a little earlier than I'd like to. I'm about 60 percent of the way through my draft and auction season, and I know some of my opponents love to use my publicly-declared targets against me.
So it goes. It's part of the gig.
The names listed below are the common-share players showing up on my rosters to this point. While the fantasy season has yet to be written, the success or failure of this group will have a large say in how I do.
Maybe you'll agree on many, maybe you're agree on none. That's why we have a game.
The first name is the headliner, the player I have the most shares of. Everyone else is listed in no particular order. To the clipboard:
-- Russell Wilson, QB, Seahawks: He's been a lower-end QB1 in his first two seasons, ranking 11th and 8th in Yahoo scoring despite very modest volume (800 total passes). Imagine what's possible if the Seahawks give Wilson a little more responsibility and volume in 2014.
Obviously Wilson's efficiency cuts down on the attempts, but the team has also kept him somewhat under wraps compared to game plans around the league. But if Wilson gets a full season from Percy Harvin (or even a chunk of a season), it's time to get excited. And Wilson's rushing yardage is a nifty cherry on the sundae, nectar of the gods, a floor-building element.
Wilson currently is the No. 14 quarterback in Yahoo ADP, an absolute steal. He's easily outperformed that in his first two seasons, he's coming off a monster camp, he's entering his third year, Harvin looms. I understand how dominant the Seattle defense can be - that's a volume limiter for Wilson - but can we expect it to play at last year's historic level? Even a modest amount of defensive regression would figure to help Wilson's bottom line. (Angle in a nutshell: value pick with upside, going cheap at QB.)
-- Matt Forte, RB, Bears: My general rule of thumb with the early rounds is "elevator" - take the highest floor you can get. I don't mind using a first-round pick on a running back, I just have to love that back.
Forte applies. He can play on all three downs (and in all game situations), he's tied to an outstanding offensive mind, and he has no one pushing him on the depth chart. The skinny nature of Chicago's offensive tree is a wonderful thing in our fake-football racket. They don't farm many touches to the support guys - this offense is completely driven and dominated by the stars. (Angle in a nutshell: early-round floor pick.)
-- Keenan Allen, WR, Chargers: Much like the Forte selection, I'm not getting any discount with Allen, or pulling a surprise on anyone. I'm taking him in the late second or early third round (or paying a similar price in an auction), which is the going market. But I love that he can run everything in the route tree, I love his connection with Philip Rivers, and I really love getting in on any talented receiver in Year 2 (when the spike is most likely). Allen's floor is last year, his upside is Top 5 at the position. (Angle in a nutshell: established WR entering sophomore season.)
-- Julian Edelman, WR, Patriots: No one expects Edelman to match his 105 catches from last year, me included. But "regression!" isn't the end of the conversation, it's the beginning of one.
Edelman is the wide receiver Tom Brady has the most trust in, and even if Rob Gronkowski and Shane Vereen play most of the season, I expect an easy 75-80 catches from Minitron. I'm not as interested in standard formats - Edelman has a modest touchdown upside - but I love him as a WR3 or WR4 in a PPR format, and that's gettable in many leagues. (Angle in a nutshell: market overcorrection, unbuzzy value pick.)
-- Eric Decker, WR, Jets: Obviously he's leaving a fantastic offense for a pedestrian one, but I don't think Geno Smith is going to be awful. If the Jets can merely coach up Smith to an adequate level, Decker will give us a useful season. And if Smith completely flames out, Michael Vick is a capable backup. (Angle in nutshell: market overcorrection, unbuzzy value pick.)
-- Vincent Jackson, WR, Buccaneers: I don't understand how he slips to the fourth round (or late third round) in some leagues. Jackson's ranked 14th, 6th and 10th in Yahoo scoring the last three years, often producing despite all sorts of team problems around him. Jackson brings a wonderful combination of floor and upside. (Angle in a nutshell: established player who's oddly affordable.).
-- Heath Miller, TE, Steelers: As much as I love Antonio Brown (he was last year's Wallet coverboy), we have to expect Miller to be the team's primary passing target in the red area. Miller wasn't at full throttle at any point in 2013, but let's remember how dynamic he was in the previous season (71-816-8, No. 4 tight end). He's looked very good this summer, locked in with Ben Roethlisberger.
Miller is currently the No. 25 tight end off the board in Yahoo drafts. I didn't do quite that well, but maybe you will. Massive profit potential here. (Angle in a nutshell: unbuzzy veteran discounted off disappointing year.)
-- Kyle Rudolph, TE, Vikings: All I'm asking for is competent play from the Minnesota QBs. I think Matt Cassel can provide that, or Teddy Bridgewater later in the year. And for all the nasty things we've said about Norv Turner as a head coach, we trust him as an offensive coordinator.
-- Mark Ingram, RB, Saints: His story has picked up steam this summer, but Ingram was a useful player in his limited 2013 campaign (note the 4.9 YPC). He's not going to catch the ball much, so you want him in the standard formats. (Angle in a nutshell: post-hype sleeper.)
-- Andrew Hawkins, WR, Browns: I liked him even before the Josh Gordon news came down. Hawkins is one of those lateral-agility wonders who's just about impossible to cover on the shorter routes. He's got a decent chance of catching 70-80 cheap passes, and you'll get him for almost nothing. (Angle in a nutshell: stealth regular on unsexy team.)
-- Greg Olsen, TE, Panthers: Cam Newton has to throw to someone, and while there's something positive to be said on Kelvin Benjamin and Jerricho Cotchery, Olsen is the target he already has a rapport with. We might have seen Olsen's ceiling already, but I don't see what's wrong with making a floor selection around pick 70-85. (His current ADP is costlier than that, and I understand if you want to pass. Obviously every room is different. I snagged him at pick No. 80 in the Friends & Family draft. Angle in a nutshell: target familiarity pick.)
-- Donald Brown, RB, Chargers: He's come a long way from the "Dammit, Donald" days. While Trent Richardson was stumbling to 2.9 yards a carry last year, Brown posted a snappy 5.3 mark. To be fair, those YPC marks don't reflect identical usage or game flow, but they do illustrate how Brown has developed over his five-year career.
I prefer leagues with small or medium benches, to limit the amount of "stash and hope" plays available to an owner. To be fair, that's the type of play Brown is - he probably won't be worth much unless something happens to Ryan Mathews. But I'd be shocked if Mathews plays a full schedule again, and Brown (not Danny Woodhead) figures to be the San Diego starter in the event of a Mathews injury. If I'm in a room where lottery tickets do make sense, Brown is one of my targets. (Angle in a nutshell: lottery ticket, don't trust Mathews pick.)
A few names I'd love to own but I don't yet, mostly a matter of luck and timing: Julio Jones and Roddy White, Andrew Luck, Mike Wallace, Aaron Rodgers, Percy Harvin, Jake Locker, Joique Bell. Hey, you can't own everybody.