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Fantasy football 32 Q's & A's: AFC

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Ryan Fowler

Ryan Fowler has spent the past 10 years covering and talking sports on TV and radio, in newspapers and on the web. He joined FOXSports.com as lead Fantasy Sports Editor and also acts as Digital Content Manager at WhatIfSports.com. Follow him on Twitter. Listen to his FOX Sports Team Report Podcasts on SoundCloud and iTunes

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This time of year, the questions surrounding football, both in reality and fantasy worlds, only come in one sensation: burning.

This makes me really uncomfortable.

Be it talcum powder, salves, creams or John Madden breaking down a door – BOOM! – all I want is for those queries to experience some relief as soon as possible.

As a fantasy football owner, you may encounter similar symptoms in the coming weeks. Along with the burning questions, cold sweats, panic attacks, and choking are common.

To avoid becoming the next fantasy football draft day casualty, please consume the following information with a glass of water, but please don’t call me in the morning. Twitter is acceptable: @FOXSportsFowler.

AFC East


New England

Question: I’m tired of hearing about Rob Gronkowski. What are your thoughts on Brandon Lloyd this season?
Answer: I’m a fan and in favor of taking him as a middle of the pack WR1.

The last time Tom Brady had a deep threat that could – wait for the buzz phrase – stretch the field was 2009. With a diet version of Randy Moss that season, Brady connected with him 83 times for 1,264 yards with 13 touchdowns. In 2007, Brady and Moss racked up 1,493 yards with 23 touchdowns.

Is Lloyd Randy Moss? Fantasy owners are still trying to figure out if his 2010 season in Denver (1,448 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns) was an aberration or something we can expect in the right system. Remember, he posted those numbers with Kyle Orton – now he has Brady.

My only reservation remains how stacked the passing game is with Welker, Gronk, Hernandez and Gaffney splintering targets. The good news is during the Brady-Moss years, Welker still managed to catch over 100 balls for over 1,000 yards both seasons.

NY Jets


Question: Who will be the leading receiver for the Jets?
Answer: Trick question. The answer depends on who the quarterback is the majority of the season. If Mark Sanchez holds on to his gig, I believe Dustin Keller leads the team in receiving yards again. If Tim Tebow moves up the depth chart, all bets are off on whom to pick at the top target. Santonio Holmes isn’t a WR1 and should be considered a middle-tier WR2.  Rookie Stephen Hill has a great opportunity to sneak up on the fantasy world this season because of the Jets' lack of depth at the position.

Fantasy Draft Guide

Need help with your fantasy football draft? Our experts provide a helpful fantasy football draft guide that includes rankings, stats, mock drafts, and downloadable cheat sheets.

Miami


Question: Does Chad Johnson possess any sleeper value in 2012?
Answer: Editor's Update Pending. 

This team is fantasy poison at the moment.  Right after they named David Garrard the top quarterback in camp, he underwent knee surgery.  Talk about bad omens.  Reggie Bush is a No. 2 fantasy back, but his stock is falling in many circles because of first-year head coach Joe Philbin's Green Bay-pass-happy ties.  Fellow running back, Daniel Thomas, is intriguing if he can stay healthy in 2012, but no earlier than the final few rounds.  The top two receivers remain Davone Bess and Brian Hartline.  I can barely contain my Ben Stein-esque enthusiasm.

Buffalo


Question: Is tight end Scott Chandler worth a look in deeper fantasy leagues.
Answer: Buffalo head coach Chan Gailey thinks so. Because of the chemistry he shares with Ryan Fitzpatrick, Gailey believes Chandler could improve on his stats from a season ago: 38 receptions for 389 yards with six touchdowns.

The truth is he scored four of those touchdowns the first two weeks and went his final seven games without visiting the end zone. That’s the bad news.

The good news is he caught nearly every ball thrown his direction finishing 38-46. He also finished among the league leaders in red zone target efficiency. Chandler was targeted 13 times in the red zone, caught nine balls with those six touchdowns.

He’s worthy of a look and pick in deeper leagues.


AFC North


Baltimore

Question: Is Joe Flacco QB1 worthy?
Answer: The short answer is: no. The FOXSports.com fantasy department ranked him 17th among quarterbacks behind the likes of Jay Cutler, RG3 and even Josh Freeman, who many believe will bounce back in 2012.

The final eight weeks of the season, Flacco failed to reach 300 passing yards in a game. He only eclipsed 250 yards passing twice during that same stretch (vs. CIN/STL). His 57.6 completion percentage ranked 26th last season behind, wait for it, Rex Grossman and Tarvaris Jackson. The trickle down effect also impacts the fantasy value of Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith, both of which, I’m avoiding until late in drafts.

Pittsburgh

Question: What do we make of Isaac Redman at running back?
Answer: You may remember the Steelers lost Rashard Mendenhall for the playoffs after he tore his ACL in the regular season finale against Cleveland. Mendenhall believes he’ll be ready by October or November - PUP list is more likely. The next three guys on the depth chart are Redman, Jonathan Dwyer and John Clay. Here are their rushing stats the last two seasons:

Pittsburgh Rushing Stats 2010-11

 
Player Attempts Yards
Isaac Redman 162 726
Jon Dwyer 27 151
John Clay 10 41

 

So, let’s assume, at the very least, Redman earns the bulk of the carries the first half of the season. He averaged 4.4 yards per rush last season and carved up the porous Cleveland rush defense after Mendenhall left in Week 17, but there’s another variable to consider. Ben Roethlisberger still has Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and Heath Miller to throw to in an offense now led by Todd Haley. The popular sentiment among fantasy scribes is that Big Ben could be in for a huge passing season.

I rank Redman as a middle-tier RB2 for now.

Cincinnati

Question: Outside of A.J. Green, who is Andy Dalton going to be the ball to?
Answer: As of Wednesday (July 25) afternoon, rookie Mohamed Sanu was deemed the second wide receiver on the Bengals’ depth chart. This is not to say Jordan Shipley (returning from ACL/MCL tear) couldn’t bump him in the weeks to come, but what fantasy owners should take away from this is the fact Andy Dalton doesn’t have a full cupboard in the passing game. It’s very young, very raw outside of Green – who is also still learning.

With the depth chart in mind, I’m targeting tight end Jermaine Gresham as Dalton’s second favorite target in 2012. He caught 15 balls for 174 yards with at touchdown in the final three games of the season (one playoff). His six scores finished within the top 10 among tight ends.

Cleveland

Question: Brandon Weeden’s top target in the Browns’ passing game will be who?
Answer: All signs point to Greg Little being the top option in the Browns’ passing attack. I use “attack” in the loosest way possible. Out of 121 targets, by far the team leader, Little caught 61 balls. However, he dropped 14 (according to Pro Football Focus), second-most in the NFL behind Roddy White.

The Brownies did draft Josh Gordon in the supplemental draft. Most believe at 6-foot-4, the former Baylor wide receiver could work his way into the starting lineup opposite little. Owners should also pay attention to the tight ends in camp, Ben Watson and Evan Moore caught six touchdowns with over 700 receiving yards combined last season.  Jordan Cameron (6-foot-5, 220 pounds) is also receiving a lot of preseason hype.


AFC South


Indianapolis

Question: Should we buy into Reggie Wayne this season?
Answer: Yes, but as a WR2.

Wayne turns 34 years old this November. So, the former top-tier fantasy receiver turns cagey veteran brought back to ease rookie Andrew Luck through what could be a bumpy freshman NFL season. What some owners may not know is that since 2002, Wayne has never missed a game (160 games played). Granted, his trips to the end zone have been on the decline the last three seasons.

Reggie Wayne's Stats 2009-11

 
Season Games Receptions Yards Touchdowns
2011 16 75 960 4
2010 16 111 1355 6
2009 16 100 1264 10

 

Let’s be fair, Curtis Painter, Dan Orlovsky and, for two games, Kerry Collins didn’t do anything to help his fantasy value in 2011. In fact, the quarterback trio actually targeted Pierre Garcon, now with Washington, more times than Wayne (134-131). It marked the first time since 2006 that Wayne was out-targeted. That season Marvin Harrison led the Colts with 147.

I feel comfortable speculating that a) the Colts will be playing from behind often this season and b) the coaching staff will want to test drive the arm they drafted first overall. This plays right into the hands of Wayne as the top target in 2012. Outside of tight end Coby Fleener, who Luck played with at Stanford, I truly believe Wayne will be Luck’s security blanket, eclipse 1,000 receiving yards and score eight or more touchdowns this season.

Houston

Question: We know all about Arian Foster. What about the Texans’ passing game this season?
Answer: The Houston Chronicle’s Lance Zierlein pointed out in a recent blog post that Kevin Walter’s (Houston’s WR2) receiving numbers have declined each of the last four seasons. He’s also about to turn 31 years old. Behind him on the depth chart are two rookie wide outs – DeVier Posey and Keshawn Martin – who could bump him out of the starting lineup. Clearly, this offense is run-heavy and defenses are going to see a steady diet of Arian Foster, Andre Johnson and Ben Tate.

So, my advice is to target Owen Daniels in fantasy drafts. Fellow tight end Joel Dreessen is now in Denver. Dreessen had fantasy owners pulling their hair out on Sundays last season (you know somebody who texted or yelled out “Dreessen?! Where’s Daniels?!”) because he cut into Daniels’ piece of the fantasy pie. He finished with 28 receptions for 353 yards and six touchdowns compared to Daniels 677 yards and three scores. It’s Daniels’ show in 2012 and I expect him to finish the season as one of the top scoring tight ends.

Tennessee

Question: How long before Jake Locker starts for the Titans?
Answer: Before Week 4.

Fantasy Draft Guide

Need help with your fantasy football draft? Our experts provide a helpful fantasy football draft guide that includes rankings, stats, mock drafts, and downloadable cheat sheets.

As Titans’ camp opened this week, Matt Hasselbeck remained the incumbent atop the QB depth chart. He also turns 37 years old this season. The 14-year veteran played through injury to appear in every game last season, but it wasn’t pretty. He finished with over 3,500 yards with 18 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. In limited action, Locker finished 34-66 for 542 yards with four touchdowns (plus one rush TD) and no picks.

Kenny Britt could be on the verge of another suspension, which would allow rookie Kendall Wright to start opposite of Nate Washington with Chris Johnson in the backfield and Jared Cook at tight end. With the Patriots, Chargers, Lions, and Texans on the schedule the first four weeks, it could get ugly for the Titans early. It’s time for Tennessee to hand over the gig to Locker and see what the future holds.

Jacksonville

Question: Can we trust the Jacksonville passing game with Blaine Gabbert behind center?
Answer: No, but it doesn’t mean Justin Blackmon, Laurent Robinson and Marcedes Lewis are void of fantasy value if selected in the right round.

One other wrinkle in this analysis is Maurice Jones-Drew’s status. He’s holding out for a better contract and the Jags’ owner just came out and said he’s not getting a new deal. So, we’re currently at a stalemate.

With no MJD, more pressure is placed on Gabbert to move the chains through the air. Speaking of pressure, the team added Chad Henne in the offseason who is lingering second on the depth chart. If Gabbert starts slow, Henne takes over – no question. Until then, he’s getting paid $4 million to hold a clipboard.

I think Blackmon and Robinson are worthy of low-end WR2 / flex play draft status. I’d take Robinson ahead of Blackmon only because of the experience factor and the fantasy impact he made with the Cowboys last season.


AFC West


San Diego

Question: With Vincent Jackson now in Tampa Bay, what do we make of Philip Rivers’ targets?
Answer: For some owners it was Marion Barber, for others Brandon Jacobs.  Back in the day, it may have been Isaac Bruce. They are those fantasy players that, no matter the draft strategy, wind up on your final roster annually.

The past few seasons, Malcom Floyd has been that player on my rosters. If he could only stay healthy what could have been? He’s missed nine games the last two seasons. Still, he managed to eclipse 100 receiving yards in four different games last season with five touchdowns. He’s a low-end WR2.

Robert Meachem lines up opposite of Floyd in the starting lineup. The former target of Drew Brees’ looks to fill V-Jax’s shoes, but I’m not convinced he’s a sure bet and draft-worthy before the 10th round. Meachem averaged six touchdowns his final three seasons in New Orleans. He’s a middle-tier WR2

Eddie Royal and Vincent Brown will fight for WR3 playing time. Royal is now four years removed from his spectacular rookie season where he racked up 980 receiving yards and five touchdowns. I like Royal as a bench WR with the possibility of emerging as a reliable flex play. Brown is a WR3/4 at the moment.

Ol’ reliable remains Antonio Gates (64 recs / 778 yards / 7 TDs in 2011). If he can stay on the field (foot issues the last few seasons – says he’s healthy now), he remains a top five fantasy tight end and a target Rivers’ trusts. Is it just me or do you think it takes a lot to earn Rivers’ trust? I thought so.

Kansas City

Question: What’s the risk versus reward of investing in Jamaal Charles?
Answer: The reward could be a top five fantasy running back. Charles was a top tier running back in drafts this time last year after compiling 1,935 total yards with eight touchdowns in 2010. Unfortunately, he tore his ACL in Week 2 at Detroit. The silver lining is he’s had plenty of time to recover. Plus, pass-happy Todd Haley is now in Pittsburgh and Romeo Crennel, who dealt with a heavy rushing game in Cleveland, is now head coach.

Risk: It’s hard to judge a player returning from a severe knee injury in camp and preseason games. There is also Peyton Hillis lingering on the depth chart. Kansas City signed him in the offseason after he fell out of favor with the Browns’ front office.  He could vulture goal line carries

Verdict: I value Charles as a middle-tier RB1. Compared to Matt Forte, Adrian Peterson and Fred Jackson, who also missed portions of last season due to injury, Charles has benefited from a lengthy rehab.

Denver

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Question: Who will finish with more touchdowns at season’s end: Demaryius Thomas or Jacob Tamme?
Answer: Jacob Tamme.

In 2010 with the Colts, Tamme and Peyton Manning connected 67 times (93 targets) for 631 yards and four touchdowns. The chemistry already exists, which could only be stunted by fellow tight end, Joel Dreessen, cutting into Tamme’s targets.

Thomas remains a work-in-progress wide receiver. He recorded 75 receiving yards or more in four games last season (played in 11) with four touchdowns. Can we trust him as a WR1? I’m not sure the answer is a no-brainer just because Manning is behind center. Eric Decker is on the field, too. Decker, and not Thomas, could become Manning’s next Pierre Garcon or Austin Collie.  We have to wait and see if Thomas can be his next Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne.  I'm not sold ...yet.

Oakland

Question: Who will be Carson Palmer’s most popular target in the passing game?
Answer: Once Carson Palmer took over at quarterback for the Raiders last season, there was a panic among fantasy owners that he wasn’t throwing towards Darrius Heyward-Bey. Chalk it up to learning the offense on the fly in the middle of a season, the trend didn’t continue. DHB led all Raiders’ receivers in targets the final six weeks of the season with 60 (10 per game average). Heyward-Bey is a middle-to-low-tier WR2.

With that said, I wouldn’t pass up a chance to draft Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford (depending on league scoring) somewhere between the 10th-15th rounds.

Send me your fantasy football questions: @FOXSportsFowler.

Tagged: Bills, Bears, Bengals, Browns, Broncos, Titans, Colts, Chiefs, Raiders, Rams, Dolphins, Patriots, Saints, Jets, 49ers, Seahawks, Buccaneers, Redskins, Jaguars, Ravens, Steelers, Chargers, Texans, Chad Johnson, Reggie Wayne, Peyton Manning, Isaac Bruce, Randy Moss, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Matt Hasselbeck, Carson Palmer, Andre Johnson, Chris Johnson, Brandon Lloyd, Antonio Gates, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, Vincent Jackson, Joel Dreessen, Brandon Jacobs, Dan Orlovsky, Nate Washington, Tarvaris Jackson, Reggie Bush, Owen Daniels, Brandon Marshall, Fred Jackson, Laurent Robinson, Scott Chandler, Matt Moore, Joe Flacco, Rashard Mendenhall, Chris Johnson, Eddie Royal, Matt Forte, Chad Henne, Pierre Garcon, Jacob Tamme, Jamaal Charles, Arian Foster, Evan Moore, Rob Gronkowski, Demaryius Thomas, Antonio Brown, Ben Tate, Tim Tebow, Isaac Redman, A.J. Green, Blaine Gabbert, Jake Locker, Andy Dalton, Daniel Thomas, Vincent Brown, Greg Little, Denarius Moore, John Clay, Brandon Weeden, Justin Blackmon, Andrew Luck, Stephen Hill

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