It really is getting closer to football season. I’ve already gotten emails from two sites that I currently use to play Fantasy Football asking me to renew the league. I finished an experts draft earlier this week, and we here at RotoExperts are planning our Fantasy Football draft kit. Keep following along and keep up-to-date with Fantasy player news and implications.
Jake Ballard, TE, NEP
Originally I was going to write about Aaron Hernandez and how he would be the tight end to own in New England as Rob Gronkowski is recovering from back surgery. It is unclear if Gronk will be ready for Week 1, but Fantasy owners who do draft him should be sure to have a backup just in case. With Tom Brady desperately searching for someone to throw the ball to, Ballard may be worth grabbing in the late rounds… just in case. Granted, he only had 604 yards and four touchdowns in 2011, but if Gronk starts the season on a PUP list, someone needs to play the position. It doesn’t appear that Tim Tebow will be playing tight end (although who knows?) so Ballard will start.
Rashard Mendenhall, RB, ARI
The Cardinals have said that Mendenhall will be their No. 1 back. Part of this is because there is a relationship between him and Coach Bruce Arians. The pair worked together when Mendenhall was in Pittsburgh and did well. Arians was in Pittsburgh from 2007 to 2011 as the offensive coordinator. Aside from Mendenhall’s rookie year, he had seasons of 1,108 rushing yards, 1,274 rushing yards and 928 rushing yards under Arians. He also scored 29 touchdowns in those three years combined. Look for Mendenhall to have a bounce back year. He’ll fall in drafts because owners remember his 2012 campaign. However, remember that he was also nine months removed from ACL surgery. This season, he’ll have the starting gig and his knee will be fully healed. Draft him as your RB1 in a year where the running back position is very shallow.
Vernon Davis, TE, SF
While the number of receptions was less with Colin Kaepernick than it was with Alex Smith, Davis looks poised to have a big season. With Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham injured, Davis has even been practicing with the wide receivers. He’s said that he’ll play wherever he is asked to play. If Davis can get WR eligibility while maintaining his tight end status, his Fantasy value gets a huge boost. As it is, he’s a TE1 who will be catching passes more than blocking this year. Keep him in mind on draft day as some Fantasy owners will remember the end of last season and undervalue him.
Ryan Broyles, WR, DET
While Broyles did tear his ACL in the first week of December, he’s already back and practicing in full in Detroit. With only Nate Burleson ahead of him on the depth chart, Broyles is a popular breakout candidate this year. Last season, he showed that he has the talent to be a WR2, especially in the Lions’ offense, where all Matthew Stafford does is throw the ball. In the game before Broyles was injured, he had 126 yards and a touchdown. Because he’s coming off injury, he may fall on draft day. However, he’s worth a shot at being drafted as a WR3, with potential to give you WR2 numbers.
Dennis Pitta, TE, BAL
In 2012, Pitta had 61 catches for 669 yards and seven touchdowns. Now that Anquan Boldin is in San Francisco, look for Joe Flacco to lean on his tight end even more than last year. Reports from the offseason practices say that Pitta has been Flacco’s favorite target. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Baltimore’s receiving corps consists of deep target Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones and other guys that all have failed to eclipse 10 receptions in a season. The tight end position is going to be tough this year, which makes Pitta a sneaky TE1. He’s not going to go early, so if you miss out on the top guys that fly off the board, look to grab Pitta.
Tavon Austin, WR, STL
While it’s hard to recommend taking a rookie to be your WR2 or WR3, Austin looks to be a solid receiver for Fantasy purposes. Sure, he still has Sam Bradford throwing to him, but he’s reportedly looked good in the offseason, catching everything thrown his way and even lining up at the running back position. He’s going to be a Percy Harvin-esque player, who will help Fantasy owners this season. “Hybrid” players usually are hit or miss, but Austin should be drafted to be in your lineup.
LaVon Brazill, WR, IND
Brazill has been suspended four games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Prior to this he was looking like a promising potential sleeper for 2013. After a slow rookie season, Brazill was poised to step up behind Reggie Wayne. The Colts were likely looking to him to take over for Wayne, and now reports are saying that Brazill’s roster spot is in danger. While its unknown if that’s true, owners in redraft leagues can safely ignore Brazill on draft day. Dynasty league owners may want to still consider adding Brazill to their roster in the hope that he will take Wayne’s spot down the line, however, be aware that sometimes guys who have trouble staying clean… continue to have trouble staying clean.