Blount, Wayne still hold value
1. Reggie Wayne has WR2 value in most formats
Particularly in light of Austin Collie's potential fourth concussion in less than two years, Reggie Wayne will provide WR2 production this year in 12-team leagues.
Even if he's among the slowest No. 1 wideouts in the league, Wayne should bounce back from last year's total of 75 catches, 960 yards and four scores. His game never had anything to do with explosiveness - precision and reliability are what made Wayne stand out to begin with - and his ability to post last year's numbers despite dealing with Curtis Painter, Dan Orlovsky and Kerry Collins shows that any decline in his strengths are negligible.
It would surprise if first overall pick Andrew Luck doesn't breeze past 3,500 yards - at least 3,600 yards is a realistic expectation. When the question of who will be on the receiving end of that yardage comes up, it becomes apparent that there just isn't enough competition for targets to stop Wayne from reaching 1,100 yards with relative ease if he plays 16 games.
Collie can't be expected to play more than eight games, and the rookie tight end duo of Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener probably won't combine for more than 800 or so yards. Rookie wideouts T.Y. Hilton and Lavon Brazill will be lucky to post more than 800 yards combined, too. Meanwhile, offensive coordinator Bruce Arians' backfields combined to average just 413 yards receiving per year in his five years calling plays in Pittsburgh.
If you're looking for an off-the-bench running back with flex upside, target Peyton Hillis rather than Michael Bush. There are two reasons for this.
First, the Chiefs will run the ball more than Chicago. Jay Cutler is a much better quarterback than Matt Cassel, and the Bears have additional incentive to throw due to playing in a division with potential 5,000-yard passers in Aaron Rodgers and Matt Stafford. With the below-average Cassel and one of the league's best on-paper offensive lines, meanwhile, the Chiefs likely will run an offense similar to their 2010 attack when Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones combined for 475 carries. The Bears, on the other hand, probably won't look much different than they did a year ago when their top three runners combined for just 396 carries.
The second reason is Bush likely won't catch as many passes as he did in Oakland; Matt Forte is the better receiving back. Bush's receiving skills are a fairly crucial component of his fantasy appeal because he showed more explosiveness as a receiver in 2011 (11.3 yards per catch) than as a runner (3.8 yards per carry). But Bush needed Darren McFadden on the sideline in order to post 418 yards receiving last season, and if Forte is healthy Bush won't have anywhere near as many targets as he did last year. Forte is one of the best receiving backs in the league, so Bush can't keep up there.
3. LeGarrette Blount still has flex upside in non-PPR
Although he likely won't see many passing-down snaps, LeGarrette Blount still should have flex or RB3 upside in 12-team leagues. He's still a skilled runner, and he plays for a team that figures to be among the most run heavy in the NFL.
First-round pick Doug Martin is certainly the player to target in the Tampa Bay backfield, but look for the Buccaneers to make room in the offense for both Martin and Blount. Think of platoons like Charlie Garner-Tyrone Wheatley and Chris Johnson-LenDale White as the blueprint.
New coach Greg Schiano was a hard-line enthusiast of throwback football at Rutgers, complementing aggressive defense with a commitment to running out of traditional formations. His Rutgers offenses averaged 36.6 run plays per game the last three years compared to just 29.6 passes, and you can be certain Schiano will take note of how much more productive Josh Freeman was throwing 474 passes in 2010 (25 touchdowns, six interceptions) compared to 551 in 2011 (16 touchdowns, 22 interceptions).
The Buccaneers split 326 carries between Blount and Cadillac Williams in 2010, but between Schiano's greater affinity for the run and the upgrade Martin presents over Williams, look for Martin and Blount to combine for nearly 450 carries, and for Blount to notch 800 yards on the ground.
4. Isaiah Pead should raise Steven Jackson's fantasy value
It's not as counterintuitive as one might think. Although it's understandable to look at St. Louis' second-round selection of Pead as a threat to Jackson's workload or job security, Pead's rookie year impact should actually help Jackson's fantasy numbers, at least outside of PPR leagues.
The gist of it is this: Pead will improve the St. Louis offense but rarely at the expense of Jackson's workload, particularly red-zone work. Pead, in other words, will make the Rams better between the 20-yard lines, bringing the Rams into the red zone more often and making a higher percentage of Jackson's touches within 20 yards of the end zone.
Cadillac Williams and Jerious Norwood combined for 111 carries and 14 catches last year. They converted those touches into just 422 yards rushing and 93 yards receiving, however, averaging 3.8 yards per carry and 6.6 yards per catch. Look for Pead to get a similar workload but with much better production - something close to 560 yards rushing and 120 yards receiving. That improvement in field position might be enough to get Jackson double-digit touchdowns for the first time since 2006.
5. Watch out for Damian Williams in deep leagues
In light of Kenny Britt's July arthroscopic knee surgery and enduring commitment to stunningly poor judgment, first-round pick Kendall Wright is understandably getting a fair amount of buzz as a wide receiver sleeper in what could be a potent Tennessee offense. But Damian Williams might be just as good a target and seems to have almost zero hype at the moment.
Williams can't match Wright's explosiveness, but he's significantly bigger at 6-foot-1, 199, and has a sizeable experience advantage over Wright as he heads into his third year in the league. Although he missed a game last year, Williams finished with 45 catches for 592 yards and five scores in 2011, with 399 of those yards coming in the last eight games.
Williams' role and skill level seem to be on the upswing, and the likely decline in Nate Washington's numbers should be absorbed by Williams as much as Wright.
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