July 28 11am: Rachel And The Kings
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Former Tight end for the Denver Broncos, Houston Texans, and Seatle Seahawks.
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With countless fantasy football drafts looming ahead, people are furiously pondering over what to do with their first four to five picks, and rightfully so. However, it can be said that fantasy titles are won in the latter portion of drafts with “sleeper” players that far exceed expectations. Last year, many people who took a chance on guys like Alfred Morris, Randall Cobb, and/or Russell Wilson in rounds 9-16 won their league championships. Getting early-round production from later-round talent can give you a key edge over your opponents on your way to fantasy football glory. Here are 10 such players that can provide you with such an advantage in 2013:
1. Shane Vereen (RB, New England Patriots)
-When you look at the current New England Patriots offense, it’s amazing Tom Brady is still there! Many of Brady’s favorite receiving options have left via free agency (Wes Welker, Danny Woodhead) or prison (Aaron Hernandez) plus Rob Gronkowski just can’t stay out of the infirmary. What on earth are the Patriots going to do without all of these playmaking weapons??? Enter Shane Vereen. Considered the favorite to replace Woodhead as the change-of-pace back, the 3rd-year California product is far more versatile than his predecessor. Throughout OTA’s and training camp, the Patriots have practiced lining up Vereen in multiple spots including slot receiver and outside receiver. He is the quintessential Brady/Belichick mismatch toy and is predicted to get “a lot of touches” according to Peter King of Sports Illustrated. Although most of those opportunities figure to be in the passing game, do not count Vereen out as a candidate for quality backfield duty. If Stevan Ridley’s fumble problems persist, Vereen will get more carries than many expect…and may even wind up starting eventually. He boasts enormous potential as an RB2 in PPR leagues and a decent flex/RB4 option in standard formats. Start targeting Vereen in as early as the eighth round.
2. Jared Cook (TE, St. Louis Rams)
-Cook was the highest-priced tight end in 2013 free agency (contract worth up to $35.1 million) and is expected to be a key weapon for Sam Bradford in what could be a make-or-break season for the 2008 Heisman winner. Like Vereen, Cook is extraordinarily versatile as he can line up on the line, out wide, and even in the backfield. Reports out of training camp have been glowingly positive. NFL insider Ian Rapoport of NFL Network noted that he and Bradford were “connecting endlessly” and Peter King said that he has “not seen a better offensive weapon” than Cook all summer long. With defenses expected to key in on uber-explosive rookie WR Tavon Austin, Cook should find himself in one-on-one situations regularly, where his speed and large frame (6-5, 248) can give him a tremendous advantage. You could get a rather huge bargain by taking him in rounds 10-13.
3. Ronnie Hillman (RB, Denver Broncos)
-The Broncos backfield situation is still pretty muddy and none of Denver’s running backs should be looked at until the eighth round or so. That said, the most impressive RB in the Mile High this summer has been Ronnie Hillman. The speedy runner worked his rear end off during the offseason. He added 15 pounds of muscle to his upper body without compromising the explosiveness and impeccable change-of-direction abilities that are at the lynchpin of his game. Most important, Hillman has dramatically improved his pass protection skills, a crucial trait for running backs in a Peyton Manning offense. Although he will probably lose carries to rookie Montee Ball in red zone and short-yardage situations, he might get the lion’s share of touches given Ball’s poor showing in blitz pickup thus far. Moreover, the Broncos plan to run an up-tempo offense this year and Hillman is the better suited of the two for such a system. He gives you a better chance than most other running backs at hitting the fantasy home run (i.e.: 80-yard touchdown) thus consider him a bye-week option with tremendous upside.
4. Michael Floyd (WR, Arizona Cardinals)
-In his rookie season, Michael Floyd posted 45 receptions for 562 yards and two scores, a decent stat-line given the Cardinals anemic QB play in 2012. In 2013, he will be catching passes from Carson Palmer, who threw for 4,000+ yards and 20+ touchdowns last year despite a mediocre crop of receivers in Oakland. Floyd’s huge size (6-2, 220) and strength give him a remarkable gift to catch 50/50 balls, particularly in the red zone. With new head coach Bruce Arians employing a dynamic aerial attack, and defenses expected to double Larry Fitzgerald often, Floyd is well positioned to break out this year. Consider his ceiling around 850 yards and 5-7 touchdowns, and you can get him in the 11th round or later.
5. Vincent Brown (WR, San Diego Chargers)
-With Danario Alexander lost for the season with a torn ACL, Vincent Brown has emerged as one of fantasy’s biggest sleepers in 2013. Coming into the league in 2011, Brown was touted as one of the best route-running WR prospects in modern memory. QB Philip Rivers recently described the 3rd-year former San Diego State Aztec as “everything you’d want in a wide receiver” and new Chargers head coach Mike McCoy (who was previously the offensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos) sees Eric Decker potential in him. If Brown is able to stay healthy, he might wind up in the top 20 at his position in fantasy points since the Chargers should be playing from behind a lot. He possesses HUGE WR3 upside and is worth a shot in the double-digit rounds.
6. Josh Gordon (WR, Cleveland Browns)
-Norv Turner, whose system is predicated on a solid ground game and throwing the ball deep, is now the offensive coordinator in Cleveland. Despite the Browns offensive woes in 2012, Josh Gordon emerged as one of the NFL’s better vertical threats as he totaled 805 yards and five touchdowns (four of which came from 21+ yards out). Now with Turner calling the shots, Gordon will be called upon to step up even more in order to prevent defenses from stacking the box to contain RB Trent Richardson. He has been flashing his promise in preseason thus far, putting up 99 yards on 5 receptions (19.8 avg.). Playing in what should be a much-improved pass offense, the lightning quick Gordon has enormous WR2 upside. However, he has several off-the-field issues, as he will be suspended for the first two weeks of the regular season for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. That aside, Gordon’s super high fantasy ceiling is too much to ignore and he is totally worth a late-round flier.
7. Chris Ivory (RB, New York Jets)
-Yes Virginia, there is a New York Jet on this list. During draft week, the Jets acquired Ivory, who is expected to replace the departed Shonn Greene, in a trade with the Saints. As horrendous as this run-first offense was last season, Greene still finished 15th in fantasy points among running backs. Ivory is way more athletic than Greene given his speed, elusiveness, and ability to powerfully burst through the hole. That said, his thunderous running style is highly conducive to injury and he was battling a hamstring ailment during the first few weeks of training camp. Still, Ivory’s talent gives him serious potential to be a top-12 fantasy running back if healthy. I consider him an RB4 with RB2 upside and you should think about drafting this intriguing runner in as early as the seventh round.
8. Michael Vick (QB, Philadelphia Eagles)
-We all know what Michael Vick is capable of doing for fantasy owners. Just look at his stellar 2010 performance. Since he has regressed substantially the last few years, he is considered as an upper-tier QB2 headed into 2013. But so far this preseason, he is performing like the QB1 fantasyland expected him to be in 2011 and 2012. Operating in Chip Kelly’s patented “track meet” offense, Vick has been nearly flawless through two exhibition contests. He has completed 13 out of 15 passes for 199 yards and a touchdown, well enough for a 113.1 passer rating.
Kelly’s system is the PERFECT fit for mobile quarterbacks like Vick. Since this up-tempo scheme contains various concepts that are somewhat foreign to NFL defenses, Vick just might return to the elite tier of fantasy quarterbacks. He recently told reporters that working with Kelly made him “fall in love with [football] again” and he looks more comfortable throwing the ball than ever. If you take a relatively unproven fantasy commodity at QB like Colin Kaepernick or Russell Wilson, you are highly encouraged to draft Vick as your QB2. Should Kaepernick or Wilson underperform, Chip Kelly and Michael Vick can help save your fantasy season…and propel you to a championship.
9. St. Louis Rams (Defense/Special Teams)
-In 2012, the Rams tied for the NFL lead in sacks with 52 and returned four interceptions and one fumble for touchdowns. The core of that defensive unit returns this season plus they now have the super-elusive Tavon Austin returning kicks! Do not be the person who drafts a defense in the latter single-digit rounds. You will be MUCH better off loading up on skill position players and waiting until round 14 or so to select a D/ST with massive upside. The Rams had the ninth highest fantasy point total among D/ST’s last year, and they could be a top-five (or top-three) unit in 2013.
10. Coby Fleener (TE, Indianapolis Colts)
The Colts didn’t just draft Andrew Luck in 2012. They also selected Coby Fleener, one of his favorite targets from college. At Stanford, he caught 96 passes from Luck for 18 touchdowns and 1,543 yards. Fantasy expectations were rather high for Fleener last year, but he disappointed, hauling in a mere 26 receptions for 281 yards and two scores. However, the Colts offense mainly ran 11 personnel sets (1 running back, 1 tight end, 3 wide receivers) last season, a scheme that de-emphasizes the tight end position. In 2013, Pep Hamilton, who coached Luck and Fleener in Palo Alto, will be calling the plays for the Colts. Hamilton prefers more of the TE-friendly 12 personnel sets (1 RB, 2 TE, 2 WR), thus Fleener should see the field way more often. He put on a dazzling training camp performance, making countless “wow” plays and appearing “a lot more explosive and confident” to Hamilton than ever before. Fleener is a high-end TE2 with intriguing TE1 upside, and is worth a shot in the final three rounds of your draft.
Andy with Jarrad and Joe from the band Baywood. They guys are in town to play the Denver Post's 2013 Underground Music Showcase July 18 - 21. (Photo by Dominic Bond)
Gotta Go, Gotta Go
The Colorado Rockies have no choice but to get out of the box quick as the second half of the season begins on Friday. It's a 10-game home stand with not very good teams. (Cubs, Marlins and Brewers) In that week and a half the Rox also have to nail down the pitching rotation. Or do they? We know one through four. Yes, I'm including Juan Nicasio because he doesn't want to go back to the minors again. It's the 5 guy that could take the Rockies to the playoffs, but it's got to be figured out soon. You can skip the 5th starter on days off but you also have to line up the rotation just right, otherwise your rolling out one of your guys on a day less of rest.
So here goes - when it comes time for the fifth spot...READ MORE
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