Fantasy Football Preview : WTFIT?
We’ve put training camps in the rear-view mirror and Week 1 of the regular season is dead ahead, meaning we’ve entered the glorious time on the calendar when legions of football fans relent to the gambling gene in their DNA strands that demand attention. It’s fantasy draft season, and if you are like most not named Bartleby, you aren’t spending hours listening to Josh Zerkle on the Punte podcast or Matt Berry on the Worldwide Leader’s Fantasy Focus, you aren’t hitting the local newsstand to load up on rags from RotoWorld or ProFootballWeekly or Fanball, you aren’t following guys like Gregg Rosenthal or Sigmund Bloom or Bryan Douglass on Twitter, and you aren’t dedicating hours upon hours of you day to football.
Don’t sweat… I’ve got your back.
If you are like 90% of the fantasy football-playing public you will be there in the midst of your draft and someone will call out the name of a guy who (a) apparently plays professional football for a living, and (b) you’ve never heard of in your life. With that in mind, we’re happy to present the first annual Gunaxin Fantasy Football WTFIT list… so when names you don’t know hit the board on draft day, you won’t be the dumb-ass asking, “Who the fuck is that?”
On a Cold Day in Hell ~ Deep Sleepers in Deep-Ass Leagues
All reports out of the mean streets of Boston (like this one from WEEI) suggest the Pats are set to roll out two rookies with a ton of potential at tight end, both making fans of the Patriots (and in fantasy leagues) forget Alge Crumpler’s fat ass is even on the roster. Hernandez appears to have the edge in terms of starting honors but Gronkowski has earned the support of the locals. He plays with a mean streak, but Hernandez is the more offensively gifted of the two. Both are getting a ton of work in the preseason… only time will tell if that translates to work with Tom Brady in games that matter.
Robinson comes into the top spot on the Rams’ receiver depth chart thanks to the fall of Donnie Avery (torn ACL). All reports before Avery’s fall suggested Robinson wasn’t showing much of anything in preseason workouts and few anticipated he would be in a role of influence, including the Rams. With a rebuilt offensive line and a new arm of the future working as the arm of today, there is hope the Rams will find a way to compete in the hopeless NFC West. Robinson’s move to WR1 doesn’t do much to support those dreams.
Every rusher in the league has a backup, even the best. Chris Johnson’s backup is a former collegiate great and many are starting to wonder if the world’s favorite fantasy draft pick doesn’t need a running mate. Ringer is to CJ as Darren Sproles has been to LaDainian Tomlinson before free agency broke up the San Diego duo… he’s undersized, quick, strong in picking up yards after the catch, and powerful. There’s no doubting Chris Johnson has the entire NFL world in his hands, but we think Ringer might be a bit underrated… Jeff Fisher is no dummy, and you would think he wants to keep Johnson as healthy, wealthy, and wise as humanly possible. That would put a few carries in the hands of Ringer. We’ll see if he can do anything with ‘em.
McCluster is the ultimate rookie debate not named Tebow this season. At Ole Miss he was as potent out of the offensive backfield as he was as a receiver, and all indications suggest the Chiefs are going to use him in a similar role at the professional level. It could mark a revolution… McCluster, one of the only players you’ll find eligible at two positions in fantasy leagues this season, is part of the new school where it pays to do everything well, and the Chiefs could certainly use some kind of playmaker. McCluster has the athletic gifts to be all kinds of playmaker… but he’s a rookie, and kids rarely take off without a hitch at this level.
Someone has to backup Jay Cutler. Someone is also supposed to protect him up front, and that offensive line, the crew tasked with those protection duties, is undeniably shitty. Cutler’s pending fall to injury seems almost as certain as his 20 pending interceptions, and that’s going to put one of these nobodies on the field. Neither has given reason for hope. It’s a nightmare.
Desperate Times, Desperate Measures ~ Deep Sleepers in Not-So-Deep Leagues
With Anquan Boldin finally realizing his dreams of being supremely rich in Baltimore, the doors are open in Arizona for a secondary receiver to join Larry Fitzgerald on what has been one of the most lucrative offenses in recent NFL history. That’s where the train comes off the tracks… because the Arizona Cardinals didn’t just lose Boldin. They also lost Kurt Warner and now it appears they want to lose Matt Leinart (apparently he’s so inept the Card would rather opt for guy who couldn’t make the grade over Brady Quinn). That leaves any and all receivers in the desert without a quarterback, and if in case you hadn’t heard, it’s hard to be a receiver in this game when you don’t have a quarterback.
Many in the fantasy world were quick to overrate Greg Camarillo after the ‘Fins sent his ass packing to Minnesota in exchange for Benny Sapp… they missed the target. The receivers gaining hope and opportunity out of this deal won’t be working with Brett Favre. They’ll be working with Chad Henne in South Beach. Bess is an absolute burner, raised in the pass-first-pass-often environment of the University of Hawaii, and while Brandon Marshall is the top playmaking target on the roster now, Bess has the game to match him in terms of acrobatics and highlights. Hartline is a cheap-man’s Wes Welker… not just because he’s white, but because… yeah, it’s because he’s white. Neither will find a home in most fantasy leagues, and we have no idea if that’s good or bad at this point. We just know they’ll be playing.
Dixon, selected by the Niners in the sixth round of his year’s NFL Draft, has been vaulted to primary backup status following the unexpected retirement of Glen Coffee… but the hype started earlier after Dixon impressed reporters during early training camp sessions and followed with strong performances in preseason action. Dixon certainly has the game to contribute at this level but the Niners recently signed veteran rusher Brian Westbrook to join the cause, and that leaves us wondering if Dixon really is secured as the sleeper from the list of names looking to work behind Frank Gore.
Huggins has become the talk of NFL sleeper cells, working hard to impress coaches looking for answers – any answers at all – in Tampa. He’s a powerful kid out of football powerhouse more commonly referred to as Hofstra, and while few recognized his presence early in training camp, many are coming in droves to add him to rosters in late rounds of fantasy drafts. The hope was all but solidified as a success following the recent release of Derrick Ward, suggesting recent rumors naming Huggins as the primary backup for Cadillac Williams are probably true. The Bucs won’t be giving Caddy 30 carries a game, and they certainly aren’t expected to pass worth a shit either… leaving Huggins as one of the most attractive sleeper targets on the fantasy market today.
When the man working behind center, the one with two Super Bowl rings on his fingers, is found working behind some college hunny in the shitter at the local drink-and-barf, you know things aren’t going your way. That scenario is going to keep Ben Roethlisberger off the field for at least four weeks (and possibly as many as six), and that leaves the Steelers looking for the man to start in his place. Byron Leftwich was signed to fill the role but all preseason notes suggest Dennis Dixon, the former Heisman hopeful out of Oregon (the one who was set to challenge USC before the game destroyed his leg) now hoping to show in prove while the the main man is serving his penance. Reports are mixed following a couple of up-and-down outings in preseason games, but we have to say this… of the QB options behind Ben, Dixon is the only one you’d want to wager on in fantasy leagues. You know what those other options (Leftwich or Charlie Batch) have been and will be. Dixon is the unknown commodity and now is the time to see if he can play in this league. We won’t bet the fantasy roster on it… but we’ll bet he gets the opportunity to prove us wrong.
Dare to Dream~ Potential Playmakers
(The plan was to list Hardesty as the last guy on the list… the top man who might be the man. That gift was robbed from us by a torn ACL and thus he will not influence as hoped. Still… we’d like to offer up the nugget rather than throw it to waste.)
If there is one name on this list you should know, it should be Garrett Hartley… but you won’t find Peter King waxing his poetic knob to a kicker. And it’s not that he’ll be doing it for a rusher out of Cleveland either, but when it comes to worthwhile gambles, it is damn hard to suggest Hardesty couldn’t be the king of the crop. His value has dropped a bit after a recent knee injury has pushed him out of the lineup for preseason games, but the man working to compete with Hardesty for the starting job – Jerome Harrison – has been as awful as ever. It seems certain this second-round rookie out of Tennessee is going to be getting 20+ carries per game this season, and if he can seize the opportunity, there could be fantasy owners singing his praises.
(Now go out and encourage some dumbass in your league to draft him.)
Had to get one kicker on the list, and no, he’s not a sleeper. He’s working for the defending Super Bowl champs in a high-scoring offense that does their business in the comforts of an indoor stadium. He’s going as one of the top kickers in all leagues, but he is, for all intents and purposes, an unknown with limited NFL experience.
Gresham isn’t finding work in fantasy leagues as a starting tight end, and that could be justified. He’ll be working with a top-rate quarterback in Carson Palmer, and the offensive line is as strong as most in the league (so the need for additional blocking from the TE is limited), but two veteran receivers with a ton of ego and a ton of expectation are expecting passes to come their way… and they will. Gresham is a rook coming off a final season as a Sooner lost to injury, and while he showcased a rather high level of capability as an offensive weapon, we’ll have to see if he can do it in the NFL before he gets a definitive nod on any fantasy rosters.
The jokes based off the name flow (just check our recent podcast with Mike Gogel from MastersOfNone, Josh Zerkel from WithLeather and KissingSuzyKolber, and yours truly) but there is no joke in Naanee’s game. Beat reporters rave about his work in preseason practic sessions, he’s shown well in preseason games, and all signs suggest he will be the second option for an offense looking to put Philip Rivers’ arm on display. In 12-team leagues he’s going late in most drafts, but there are more than a few suggesting he is capable of producing WR2 numbers against a pathetic schedule.
If you follow target numbers through preseason workouts you know the Bears are spreading the wealth through three talented-yet-underrated options, and while most believe Devin Hester is the man at the top, there’s been more than enough evidence suggesting Aromashodu could be the most valuable option of the three in fantasy leagues. Last season Aromashodu wasn’t used in six games and he failed to earn a single target in four others. He used four games, only FOUR, to post 298 yards on 24 catches with four touchdowns. Hester barely doubled that with more than twice as many targets, and he came up one touchdown short of our boy. Most of the touchdowns will belong to tight end Greg Olsen anyway. We think most of the yards will end up with Aromashodu.
So there ya’ go. Happy hunting.