Featured Pros: Who Will Break Through in 2011?

Posted by andrew on August, 24th 2011

It happens every year: Several players vastly outperform expectations and prove to be the driving forces on fantasy teams who win their league titles.  Call these guys “sleepers”, “breakout players” or whatever you want. We all know they’ll be popping up again this year. It’s just a matter of trying to peg a few of them in advance.

 

Fortunately, we’ve enlisted several top experts to give us their take on who might be the unexpected difference makers this season.

 

Let’s introduce our Featured Pros and hear what they have to say to our pressing questions.

 

 

Featured Pros

 

Ryan Lester – Lester’s Legends

You know Ryan as the founder of the fantasy staple, Lester’s Legends. You may also recognize him from the success he’s had in our weekly accuracy contest. And yet, most impressively, he may not even be the best prognosticator in his own household!

 

Rob Shaw – Bloomberg Sports

Rob Shaw, host of Fourth and Fantasy and analyst for Bloomberg Sports, interprets the analysis and scientific rankings that is the basis for Decision Maker, the Bloomberg Sports innovative start-sit tool.

 

Jason Sarney – Fantasy Phenoms

Jason knows a thing or two about identifying sleepers. His popular column, “Our Boys”, is dedicated to pegging fantasy gems before they hit the big time. Last year he used the space to tout Arian Foster, Jamaal Charles and Hakeem Nicks.

 

Walter Cherepinsky – Walter Football

Walter operates one of the most popular and well respected sites in the industry. Whether you’re interested in fantasy, free agency, the draft, or the history of Emmitt Smith’s distinguished broadcasting career, Walter has you covered.

 

Q&A

 

Q1: These 12 RBs are being drafted as RB3s (ADP between #25 and #36 among RBs). Which ONE has the best chance of putting up top 12 RB numbers and why?

 

Cedric Benson (CIN)
BenJarvus Green-Ellis (NE)
Beanie Wells (ARI)
Daniel Thomas (MIA)
Marshawn Lynch (SEA)
Fred Jackson (BUF)
Joseph Addai (IND)
Mike Tolbert (SD)
Tim Hightower (WAS)
Jonathan Stewart (CAR)
Reggie Bush (MIA)
Pierre Thomas (NO)

 

Ryan Lester – Lester’s Legends

Answer: Beanie Wells (ARI)

Honestly I’m not sure any of this cast of characters has the makings of an RB1, but the one that sticks out in my mind as having the most potential is Beanie Wells.  We know what Benson, Lynch, and Addai can do. New England is too crowded for the Law Firm. Daniel Thomas and Reggie Bush will share with each other. Fred Jackson, J-Stew, Tolbert and PT will also share. Hightower is the lead guy, but Shanahan is nearly impossible to rely on. That brings us to Beanie. The door is wide open following Ryan Williams injury. With an improved passing game, things could open up in the ground game. Beanie is one of the few players in this group with unreached potential and little competition for carries.

 

Rob Shaw – Bloomberg Sports

Answer: BenJarvus Green-Ellis (NE)

The Bloomberg Sports Decision Maker likes BenJarvus Green-Ellis.  While most fantasy pundits will avoid a running back coached by Bill Belichick, our focus is on the statistics.  The numbers that breathe confidence in “The Law Firm” are the 13 total touchdowns and 623 rushing yards in the second half of last season.  The touchdowns we believe are repeatable since the Patriots offense should once again reign as one of the league’s best with Tom Brady under center and Chad Ochocinco joining two rising tight ends in the receiving corps.  The 623 second half yards tell the tale of a running back who was extremely efficient (4.6 yards per carry), when provided with additional carries.  Despite the presence of Danny Woodhead and a couple of rookies added to the mix, we believe that Belichick understands that he has one of the league’s better running backs in his backfield.

 

Jason Sarney – Fantasy Phenoms

Answer: Beanie Wells (ARI)
When looking at this list, the vast majority are heading into this season in tandem situations. NE seems to have four RBs, Miami is uncertain to who the feature back will be, and in New Orleans, there is a massive committee of capable runners. Washington has Mike Shanahan and that always means uncertainty at RB. Indy drafted a young runner to add to Addai and Brown, and Buffalo has C.J. Spiller waiting in the wings. That leaves us with Marshawn Lynch, Mike Tolbert, Jonathan Stewart and Beanie Wells. Tolbert and Stewart are going to fight for carries with Ryan Mathews and DeAngelo Williams, respectively, so I am looking at Wells or Lynch as the guys on this list to have the best chance. With that said, I don’t love either but if I had to choose I would choose Beanie Wells for 2 reasons: 1. Rookie Ryan Williams is lost for the year, so he is a better bet for more carries. And 2. With Kevin Kolb and Larry Fitzgerald, the Cardinals have a more dynamic offense.

 

Walter Cherepinsky – Walter Football

Answer: Tim Hightower (WAS)

Tim Hightower has the best chance of posting top-12 RB numbers in this list. Hightower is the unquestioned starter in Washington, and he’s a perfect fit for Mike Shanahan’s blocking scheme. He also catches passes out of the backfield, so he’ll be on the field every single down. Some like Roy Helu, but he’s had issues with pass protection in training camp, and it’s highly doubtful Shanahan would trust Helu with this deficiency.

 

 

Q2: These 12 WRs are being drafted as WR3s (ADP between #25 and #36 among WRs). Which ONE has the best chance of being a top 12 WR for the season and why?

 

Mario Manningham (NYG)Kenny Britt
Austin Collie (IND)
Kenny Britt (TEN)
Julio Jones (ATL)
Sidney Rice (SEA)
Pierre Garcon (IND)
Malcom Floyd (SD)
Plaxico Burress (NYJ)
Santana Moss (WAS)
A.J. Green (CIN)
Steve Smith (CAR)
Mike Sims-Walker (STL)

 

Ryan Lester – Lester’s Legends

Answer: Kenny Britt (TEN)

Good list.  In PPR leagues I think Mario Manningham stands a chance of picking up the slack for Steve Smith and putting up big numbers. Assuming Kenny Britt has a minimal suspension at best, he would be my choice. He has already shown that he can deliver the goods. The upgrade at quarterback (Matt Hasselbeck) should help. He has the ability to put up yardage and touchdowns. Plaxico could be an option as well, but I’m a little concerned with how he’ll hold up. Sure he looked good the other day, but it was only the preseason. Another nice option is MSW, who should put up big numbers with Sam Bradford slinging him the football.

 

Rob Shaw – Bloomberg Sports

Answer: Kenny Britt (TEN)

While Kenny Britt can’t outrun the law, the Bloomberg Sports Decision Maker believes that he will rack up greater fantasy value than most of his peers.  While the 775 yards and nine touchdowns are only solid, and not spectacular from last season, you have to consider that Britt also missed a quarter of the season.  This season Britt will have an upgrade at quarterback with Matt Hasselbeck moving to Music City.  The only thing that can get in the way of Britt having a big season is if NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is able to suspend the young talent for his behavior during the lockout.

 

Jason Sarney – Fantasy Phenoms

Answer: Sidney Rice (SEA)

Keeping with a process of elimination theme, let’s toss all but Manningham, Collie, Rice, and Floyd. Nothing against the others in this list, but they will not crack the top 12. Starting with Floyd, he has Philip Rivers throwing to him, while having Antonio Gates and Vincent Jackson to compete with for targets. Philip Rivers has the potential to throw for 4500+ yards and 35+ touchdowns, and his WR2 (Floyd) will certainly benefit. Collie has a similar situation with Peyton Manning, but could be lost in the crowd with all of the Colts weapons. Manningham will have a vastly increased workload with the departures of Steve Smith and Kevin Boss. However, Hakeem Nicks is the top dog. Looking at Seattle’s corp. Sidney Rice has the best chance of being a team’s WR1. In standard scoring, Rice’s big-play, and red-zone scoring ability make him the safest bet on this list to exceed expectations. With the Seahawks likely playing from behind, junk fantasy points will be plentiful for Rice.

 

Walter Cherepinsky – Walter Football

Answer: Austin Collie (IND)

I love several receivers in this list, but Austin Collie has the best chance to be a top-12 WR. Collie generated great numbers when he was healthy last year. The two concussions did him in, but he’s been medically cleared. If he can stay healthy, Collie will be a top-12 receiver.

 

 

Q3: There are several of “up and coming” QBs being drafted in the mid to late rounds. Which ONE has the best chance of breaking through as a top 8 QB and why?

 

Matthew Stafford (DET)Matthew Stafford
Sam Bradford (STL)
Kevin Kolb (ATL)
Colt McCoy (CLE)
Mark Sanchez (NYJ)

 

Ryan Lester – Lester’s Legends

Answer: Matthew Stafford (DET)

Assuming he can stay healthy it’s Matthew Stafford. He has a big arm and some nice weapons, including one of the most talented receivers in the league in Calvin Johnson. Any time you have a player the caliber of Megatron, you’re in great shape. I like Sam Bradford as well, but he does not have as good of weapons.

 

Rob Shaw – Bloomberg Sports

Answer: Matthew Stafford (DET)

With talents such as Calvin Johnson and Brandon Pettigrew in the receiving corp for the Detroit Lions, can you imagine the impact they would have if they had an elite quarterback throwing them the ball?  That’s where Matthew Stafford comes in.  The first pick of the 2009 draft has all the talent in the world and has the arm to take full advantage of the young talent.  Considering the backfield is a little thin due to injuries, Stafford will be depended upon to move the ball in the air.  In just three games last season Stafford showed great promise.  We’re banking on the great upside to be reached this season with Stafford hoping to put his injuries behind him.

 

Jason Sarney – Fantasy Phenoms

Answer: Matthew Stafford (DET)

If Sam Bradford had the weapons Matthew Stafford has, I’d go with the Ram. However, a healthy Stafford simply has too many talented skill positioned players to not succeed. I know his health is an issue but I have a feeling things are looking up in the Motor City. I’d love to go with Kolb here, but we need a few weeks to see how the chemistry between him and Fitzgerald will be.

 

Walter Cherepinsky – Walter Football

Answer: Sam Bradford (STL)

Matthew Stafford has the most upside in that bunch, but I don’t trust him to stay healthy. Thus, I’d choose Sam Bradford. Josh McDaniels has transformed duds like Kyle Orton and Matt Cassel into fantasy stars, so I can only imagine what he can do with someone of Bradford’s talent level.

 

 

That wraps up this week’s edition of Featured Pros. I’d like to thank all of the experts for sharing their insight with us! We’ll be sure to check back at the end of the season to see who got their picks right.

 

In the meantime, be sure to follow each expert on Twitter to stay current with their latest updates and articles:

 

Ryan Lester – @LestersLegends

Rob Shaw – @BloombergSports

Jason Sarney – @fantasyphenoms

Walter Cherepinsky – @walterfootball

 

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