Articles By Athlon Sports

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The 2012 NFL season kicks off in less than two weeks, which means teams will start finalizing their 53-man rosters very soon. Once Week 1 rolls around, however, the focus on job security switches from the players to the head coaches. As is typically the case, several enter the upcoming season on the proverbial "hot seat."

Below is a look at the coaches who really need to win in 2012 or otherwise they may want to start polishing up their resume.

2012 NFL Head Coaches Hot Seat Rankings

1. Norv Turner, San Diego Chargers
After missing the playoffs for a second straight season with a team that many expected to contend for a Super Bowl title, some were surprised that Turner got a reprieve for this season. There’s little doubt that this is Turner’s last stand with the Chargers, who should be able to compete with the now Peyton Manning-led Broncos for AFC West supremacy in 2012. For his career, Turner has a sub-.500 record (107-113-1) in 14 seasons and has only been to the playoffs four times. Two of those appearances have come in his five seasons with the Chargers, but if Turner has any hopes of keeping his job, just making the playoffs may not be enough this season.

2. Andy Reid, Philadelphia Eagles
Reid is the most tenured coach in all of the NFL as he enters his 14th season leading the Eagles. The franchise’s all-time leader in wins (126), Reid has taken the team to the playoffs nine times, won six division titles, one NFC Championship, and an appearance in Super Bowl XXXIX following the 2004 season. However, after signing several marquee free agents, the Eagles’ so-called “Dream Team” stumbled out of the gates in 2011, starting the season 1-4. They never really got any momentum going until the end, when they won four in a row against non-playoff teams, and finished the season a disappointing 8-8. Owner Jeffrey Lurie has not come out and said so publicly, but it’s pretty clear that Reid and the Eagles need to not only make the playoffs this season, but get beyond the first round. Otherwise there will probably be significant changes, starting at the top.

3. Rex Ryan, New York Jets
Last season was the first in three that Ryan did not lead his Jets to the playoffs, although he did get them to just a win away from the Super Bowl in his first two. However, when the team you share the city with has two world championships in the past five seasons, it’s pretty clear that you need to do more than just talk a good game. Ryan seems to have moved on from his annual Super Bowl guarantees, which is a wise move on his part. Besides, if he and the Jets don’t fare better than 8-8 this season, the only guarantee he will need to worry about is one coming from owner Woody Johnson about his job security.

4. Jason Garrett, Dallas Cowboys
Garrett may be entering just his second full season as a head coach, but let’s not kid ourselves here, the Dallas Cowboys aren’t your typical NFL franchise. Garrett has posted a winning record (15-13) in his tenure, but the ‘Boys went 8-8 in 2011, missing the playoffs for the second straight season. Jerry Jones isn’t known for being a patient man and with a potential coaching free agency pool that could include the likes of Super Bowl winners Bill Cowher, Tony Dungy, Brian Billick and Jon Gruden, Garrett can ill afford a slow start or losing season.

5. Leslie Frazier, Minnesota Vikings
Just like Garrett, Frazier has been in charge of the Vikings for only one full season. However, that’s where the similarities end between the two coaches as the Vikings and Cowboys are in two entirely different situations. The Vikings are in complete rebuild mode and no one is expecting them to compete for a playoff spot in 2012. That said, if Frazier isn't even able to improve on last year’s 3-13 dismal showing then no one would be surprised if owner Zygi Wilf goes with someone else to oversee the rebuild in Minnesota.

6. Lovie Smith, Chicago Bears
After starting the 2011 season 7-3, the Bears stumbled miserably down the stretch finishing 1-5 and missing the playoffs. Season-ending injuries to both Jay Cutler and Matt Forte played a significant role behind the team’s collapse. That’s why new general manager Phil Emery addressed the depth at both quarterback and running back as well as added wide receiver Brandon Marshall during the offseason. With these moves and others, Smith and the Bears really have no excuses should they miss the playoffs for the fifth time in the last six seasons. If that happens, Smith’s run in the Windy City could come to an end.

7. Chan Gailey, Buffalo Bills
Like the Bears, the Bills got off to a great start (5-2) last season, before watching it all come apart and finishing a disappointing 6-10. The Bills focused their offseason efforts on upgrading the defense, highlighted by the signing of marquee free agent Mario Williams. If the team doesn’t show signs of taking that next step in 2012 and posts an eighth straight losing season, the first casualty will more than likely be the 60-year-old Gailey.

8. Pat Shurmur, Cleveland Browns
The Browns haven’t been in the playoffs since 2002 and have had two winning seasons in the past 10. No one is expecting them to contend for a playoff spot in 2012, especially since they are in the same division as Baltimore and Pittsburgh, but there’s no reason they can’t win more than four games this season either. The Browns have put together several solid drafts recently, highlighted by this year’s first-round picks Trent Richardson and Brandon Weeden. If Shurmur and his team doesn’t start showing some results on the field, chances are someone else will get the chance to coach the young pups in 2013.

9. Romeo Crennel, Kansas City Chiefs
Injuries devastated the Chiefs early and often last season, but that still wasn’t enough of an excuse for Todd Haley to save his job. Crennel took over, went 2-1 in the final three games, and should get a healthy Jamaal Charles, Eric Berry and other key players back this season. Now it’s up to Crennel to show he’s the right man to lead the Chiefs back to the playoffs. Even though he and general manager Scott Pioli have a relationship that goes back to their days with the Patriots, Crennel’s track record as a head coach (24-40 with Cleveland from 2005-08) isn’t exactly the strongest.

10. Ken Whisenhunt, Arizona Cardinals
Whisenhunt has won two division titles and led the Cardinals to Super Bowl XLIII in his five seasons so far in the desert. The problem is, both playoff appearances and the NFC Championship came with Kurt Warner leading the offense. Since Warner’s retirement, the Cardinals have gone 13-21 and missed the playoffs the last two seasons. To make matters worse for Whisenhunt, Arizona's quarterback situation has been the story of Cardinals' traning camp, mainly how poorly Kevin Kolb, whom the Cardinals invested more than $62 million after trading for him in 2011, has performed. Whether Kolb, backup John Skelton or rookie Ryan Lindley ends up with the starting job remains to be seen, but it's clear that the position could play a significant role in Whisenhunt’s future with the team.

Three More Names to Watch

Gary Kubiak, Houston Texans
Kubiak led the Texans to their first-ever 10-win season, division title, playoff appearance and playoff victory in 2011 and then signed a two-year contract extension that takes him through the 2014 season in June. So why is he even mentioned here, you ask? Because for the first time in franchise history, the Texans are not only expected to make the playoffs, but compete for a spot in the Super Bowl. Kubiak’s never had to coach a team with such high expectations, so what happens if the Texans don’t meet said expectations?

Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints
Yes Payton won’t be coaching this season, so he can’t do anything to “hurt” his resume, if you will. However, given the damage done, not only to Peyton’s reputation and wallet, but also to the Saints’ franchise itself, because of the bounty scandal, you can’t help but wonder if perhaps Payton has already coached his last game for the Saints. He is under contract through the 2015 season, but I have to think should he want out of the Big Easy or vice versa, something can be worked out. Did I mention Payton has a house in Dallas?

Mike Shanahan, Washington Redskins
What’s a coach with 157 career wins (14th all-time) and two Super Bowl titles have to worry about? Perhaps nothing, but Shanahan has gone just 11-21 in his first two seasons in Washington. His contract runs through 2014 and it pays him $7 million a year, but money has never been an issue for Redskins owner Daniel Snyder. Shanahan's best seasons came when he had a quarterback named John Elway on his roster. Will he be able to revisit that success with his new field general, No. 2 overall pick Robert Griffin III? More importantly, will he get enough time to even find out?

— By Mark Ross, published on August 23, 2012

Related NFL Content

Ranking the NFL's Top 10 Head Coaches in 2012
2012 NFL Coaches: Who is the NFC's Best Coach?
2012 NFL Coaches: Who is the AFC's Best Coach?

2012 NFL Quarterbacks: Ranking the Best and Worst Starters

Ranking the NFL’s Best Backup Quarterbacks

The 10 Worst NFL Teams Since Expansion

NFL Quarterbacks Rewrote Record Books in 2011

Miami Dolphins QBs Since Dan Marino: An NFL Horror Story

2012 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis:

AFC East
Buffalo Bills

Miami Dolphins

New England Patriots

New York Jets

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Pittsburgh Steelers


AFC South
Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Tennessee Titans

AFC West
Denver Broncos

Kansas City Chiefs

Oakland Raiders

San Diego Chargers

NFC East
Dallas Cowboys

New York Giants

Philadelphia Eagles

Washington Redskins

NFC North
Chicago Bears

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Minnesota Vikings


NFC South
Atlanta Falcons

Carolina Panthers

New Orleans Saints

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West
Arizona Cardinals

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

St. Louis Rams

Click here to order your Athlon Sports Pro Football 2012 Preview magazine

Teaser:
<p> 10 NFL Coaches on the Hot Seat</p>
Post date: Thursday, August 23, 2012 - 13:16
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-10-biggest-injury-concerns-wide-receiver
Body:

Injuries are certainly a part of football, and fantasy football, for that matter, but when it comes to the latter that doesn't mean you can't or shouldn't be prepared.

Here are the top injury concerns when it comes to wide receiver. These premier pass-catchers also have a history of catching plenty of time on the bench because of injuries.

1. Kenny Britt, Tennessee
After leading the AFC in receiving through two weeks with 271 yards, Britt tore his ACL against the Broncos in Week 3. He needed a second procedure to “clean up” the knee at the end of May. There's also the matter of pending discipline, most likely a suspension of some sort, from the NFL for his most recent off-field transgressions.

2. Andre Johnson, Houston
Missed six games after a Week 4 hamstring injury and then missed three more games after tweaking his other hamstring in Week 13. He also had his knee scoped in May and gave the team and potential fantasy owners a scare early in training camp when he injured his groin.

3. Hakeem Nicks, New York Giants
Coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, but he might be not be ready for the start of the ’12 campaign after breaking a bone in his foot in May.

4. Miles Austin, Dallas
Austin missed two games with a left hamstring issue early and four games later on with a right hamstring problem. And wouldn't you know it, he hurt his hamstring, again, in traning camp. According to the team, the next time you will see Austin on the field is in Week 1 against the New York Giants, hopefully.

5. Sidney Rice, Seattle
Since his breakout 2009 season, he has missed 17 games over the last two years with shoulder and concussion issues.

6. Percy Harvin, Minnesota
Has dealt with durability issues dating back to his days at Florida, but surprisingly has missed only three games in his NFL career. Can he handle increased workload on the ground?

7. Marques Colston, New Orleans
Constantly seems to be dealing with nagging issues. Has missed eight games over the last four years, playing all 16 games only twice.

8. Dez Bryant, Dallas
Bryant has yet to play a full season in his two-year career. He was slowed by a bruised quad last season and left practice earlier this week with a knee injury. An MRI revealed patellar tendinitis in his right knee. He will miss the remaining preseason games, but is expected to be ready to go in Week 1.

9. Malcom Floyd, San Diego
Floyd has played 16 games only once in his seven-year career (2009). He has averaged 9.7 games played in the other six years.

10. Jeremy Maclin, Philadelphia
He missed three games with shoulder and hamstring issues in the middle of last season after suffering significant weight loss from a mysterious preseason illness.

Five More to Watch

Vincent Brown, San Diego
Broke his left ankle in Aug. 18 preseason game, underwent surgery and is expected to be out at least eight weeks. He has not been ruled out for the season, however, and could make a return at some point in the second half.

Austin Collie, Indianapolis
Collie appears to have suffered yet another concussion after taking a hard hit in the Colts' preseason game against Pittsburgh on Aug. 19. It would represent the third concussion for the four-year pro since November 2010. Collie was limited to just nine games in 2010 because of concussions, but he did play in all 16 last season.

Jacoby Ford, Oakland
After playing in all 16 games as a rookie in 2010, Ford missed eight games with a serious foot injury in ’11, and suffered a left foot sprain in the Raiders' second preseason game. It doesn't help that he's only 5-9, 185 pounds.

Denarius Moore, Oakland
Moore was one of the surprise rookies of the 2011 season but did miss three games with a foot and ankle issues.

Demaryius Thomas, Denver
The big fella missed six games as a rookie due to injury and then ruptured his Achilles in February 2011. He recovered quickly enough to play 11 games last season.

— Published on August 23, 2012

Dominate Your Fantasy Football League! Click here for the ultimate online resource for mock drafts, positional rankings, Athlon's Top 250 and more.

You can order your award-winning Athlon Sports NFL Fantasy Football preview magazine here.

Teaser:
<p> Fantasy Football: 10 Biggest Injury Concerns at Wide Receiver</p>
Post date: Thursday, August 23, 2012 - 05:04
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2012-breaking-down-oakland-raiders
Body:

What can the Oakland Raiders do for you this fantasy season? Check out Athlon Sports' team report as we break down the rookies, veteran players to watch and avoid, fantasy playoff schedule and more to help you get ready for the 2012 season.

Inside the Locker Room
with Eric Gilmore, Freelance Writer

Will Darren McFadden ever be able to carry the load for a full season?
The next time McFadden carries the load for a full season will be the first time. In his four NFL seasons, he has never carried more than 223 times. He has missed 19 games in his NFL career with assorted toe, foot and knee injuries. Although ­McFadden has recovered from last year’s Lisfranc injury, it’s hard to believe he’ll be able to stay healthy for an entire season. It’s up to him to prove us wrong.

Carson Palmer was more productive in 10 games last year than any season in Cincinnati. Will he keep up that pace for a full season?
Palmer basically came off the couch to play the final 10 games and start the final nine last season. With the benefit of a full offseason program and training camp, Palmer should be able to put up big numbers again. He will have to learn a new offense that new coordinator Greg Knapp brought with him from Houston — a form of the West Coast scheme with zone blocking. But compared to last year, he’ll have tons of time to master this playbook and become more familiar with his receivers.

Denarius Moore or Darrius Heyward-Bey?
Heyward-Bey had by far the better numbers last year, but Moore has better hands, runs better routes and produces more big plays. Quarterback Carson Palmer has raved about Moore, but he wants him to start catching more short- to mid-range passes to go with his work on deep throws. This is a tough call, especially with a new coaching staff and new offense in place, but Moore gets the nod.

Athlon's Best Bets

Sleeper: Denarius Moore, WR
Deep-Sleeper: Mike Goodson, RB
Overvalued: Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR
Top Rookie: Juron Criner, WR
Bounce-Back: Jacoby Ford, WR
Top IDP: Tyvon Branch, S

2012 Draft Class

3. Tony Bergstrom G 6/5 313 Utah
4. Miles Burris OLB 6/2 246 San Diego State
5. Jack Crawford DE 6/5 274 Penn State
5. Juron Criner WR 6/3 224 Arizona
6. Christo Bilukidi DT 6/5 290 Georgia State
7. Nathan Stupar LB 6/2 241 Penn State

Fantasy Impact: There’s a new front office and coaching staff taking over in Oakland, but their ability to add impact players on draft day was limited by having just one pick in the first three rounds. Tony Bergstrom could play guard or tackle and should upgrade the depth if he does not start in 2012. Juron Criner had a solid career at Arizona and surprisingly slipped to the fifth round. Although Criner could make an impact, playing time at receiver won’t be easy to come by with Darrius Heyward-Bey, Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford returning.

Fantasy Playoff Run: Weeks 14-16 (DEN, KC, at CAR)

There are plenty of weapons on the Oakland roster. And if they can all stay healthy, a fantasy title game in Carolina is very appealing. Facing two division opponents — Denver and Kansas City, both in Oakland — also isn’t a bad way to start the fantasy postseason. All three opponents allowed at least 21 points per game last season.

Dominate Your Fantasy Football League! Click here for the ultimate online resource for mock drafts, positional rankings, Athlon's Top 250 and more.

You can order your award-winning Athlon Sports NFL Fantasy Football preview magazine here.

Teaser:
<p> Fantasy Football 2012: Breaking Down the Oakland Raiders</p>
Post date: Thursday, August 23, 2012 - 05:01
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2012-breaking-down-new-york-giants
Body:

What can the New York Giants do for you this fantasy season? Check out Athlon Sports' team report as we break down the rookies, veteran players to watch and avoid, fantasy playoff schedule and more to help you get ready for the 2012 season.

Inside the Locker Room
with Ralph Vacchiano, New York Daily News

What will the timeshare look like between David Wilson and Ahmad Bradshaw?
Giants GM Jerry Reese said that Bradshaw is still the “lead dog,” but how much he leads depends on his health. He’s got chronic ankle and foot issues and had yet another offseason procedure on his foot, so they have to limit his load. The best guess is Bradshaw will get about two-thirds of the carries and Wilson will get one-third.

Martellus Bennett is dripping with athletic ability, but can he turn into a fantasy weapon for Eli Manning?
Bennett does have tantalizing skills that he’s never quite been able to put together. He should blossom with the pass-happy Giants; just don’t expect him to suddenly be a top-flight tight end. That position is just not a major weapon in Kevin Gilbride’s offense. Judging by past use of tight ends, it would seem a 50-to-55-catch season might be the ceiling. The Giants like their tight ends to block, and they prefer to target their top three wide receivers.

Victor Cruz: One-hit wonder, or can he repeat his breakout season?
All Cruz did was have the greatest single season for a receiver in Giants history (82 catches for 1,536 yards and nine TDs), so it’s hard to imagine he’ll match that his second time around. He had an abnormal number of breaks last year — fumbles that he recovered or were overturned by replays, short catches where he broke a tackle (or the tackler missed) that he turned into a huge gain. If that was luck, then expect a big regression. But if it was skill that caused him to break all those big plays, he might repeat his magical season.

Can Hakeem Nicks parlay his stellar postseason run into consistent fantasy greatness this season?
I’m not sure why anyone would think he’s been inconsistent. He had 76 catches for 1,192 yards and seven touchdowns last season — and that was a down year from the one before (79-1,052-11 in 13 games). He’s one of the most underrated receivers in the game, is on the verge of a Pro Bowl, and has shown both possession and big-play skills. If he stays healthy — which sometimes has been a mild issue — he could easily jump to the next level, which is Calvin Johnson/Larry Fitgerald territory.

Athlon's Best Bets

Sleeper: Martellus Bennett, TE
Deep-Sleeper: Rueben Randle, WR
Overvalued: Ahmad Bradshaw, RB
Top Rookie: David Wilson, RB
Bounce-Back: Jerrel Jernigan, WR
Top IDP: Jason Pierre-Paul, DE

2012 Draft Class

1. David Wilson RB 5-10 206 Virginia Tech
2. Rueben Randle WR 6-4 210 LSU
3. Jayron Hosley CB 5-10 178 Virginia Tech
4. Adrien Robinson TE 6-4 264 Cincinnati
4. Brandon Mosley OL 6-5 314 Auburn
6. Matt McCants OL 6-5 308 UAB
7. Markus Kuhn DT 6-5 299 NC State

Fantasy Impact: With Brandon Jacobs departing for San Francisco, the Giants needed to address the depth behind running back Ahmad Bradshaw. David Wilson likely won’t start, but he will see a handful of carries per game. He should be a handcuff to Bradshaw and one of the top rookie picks in keeper formats. Rueben Randle was a solid pickup in Round 2. He will be the No. 3 receiver in 2012. Tight end Adrien Robinson is a sleeper to watch, especially with Jake Ballard and Travis Beckum sidelined with injuries.

Fantasy Playoff Run: Weeks 14-16 (NO, at ATL, at BAL)

The Saints were in the bottom 13 against QBs, RBs and WRs last season. This figures to be a favorable matchup for the Giants in the first week of the fantasy playoffs. Games at Atlanta and at Baltimore certainly should be a bit more troublesome. The Giants closed strong last season, so you can expect them to put some points on the board down the stretch.

Dominate Your Fantasy Football League! Click here for the ultimate online resource for mock drafts, positional rankings, Athlon's Top 250 and more.

You can order your award-winning Athlon Sports NFL Fantasy Football preview magazine here.

Teaser:
<p> Fantasy Football 2012: Breaking Down the New York Giants</p>
Post date: Thursday, August 23, 2012 - 04:03
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2012-breaking-down-new-york-jets
Body:

What can the New York Jets do for you this fantasy season? Check out Athlon Sports' team report as we break down the rookies, veteran players to watch and avoid, fantasy playoff schedule and more to help you get ready for the 2012 season.

Inside the Locker Room
with Ernie Palladino, Freelance Writer

Will Shonn Greene ever develop into a feature back?
Greene could certainly be a feature back — if he can stay healthy. Rib and ankle injuries led to a subpar performance last year, with just two 100-yard efforts. But if he can stay healthy, Greene has the body and strength to overpower linebackers and run through defensive backs, a la Brandon Jacobs.

What sort of role and how many touches per game will Tim Tebow get in the Jets’ offense?
Offensive coordinator Tony Sparano says he expects backup Tebow to get between 15 and 20 touches per game, but he refuses to say in what capacity. It’s no secret, however, that Sparano wants to return to a ground-based offense, and the Wildcat would be a major part of that. Tebow could be a master in that formation, given his natural bulk, speed, and running ability.

Mark Sanchez set career highs in completions, yards and TDs last year, but the Jets still acquired Tebow. Can Sanchez develop into a 4,000-yard passer?
Don’t expect Sanchez to hit the 4,000-yard mark in passing. His statistics would not have been nearly as high last year had former offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer not decided to throw the ball so much early in the season. With Sparano now calling the plays, the emphasis will now revert to Sanchez managing games, and the increase of run plays will naturally cut down his passing yards. His confidence is also a problem. Unless he turns the mental game around, Sanchez will never become a great passer.

Athlon's Best Bets

Sleeper: Mark Sanchez, QB
Deep-Sleeper: Joe McKnight, RB
Overvalued: Tim Tebow, QB
Top Rookie: Stephen Hill, WR
Bounce-Back: Jeremy Kerley, WR
Top IDP: LaRon Landry, S

2012 Draft Class

1. Quinton Coples DE 6-6 286 North Carolina
2. Stephen Hill WR 6-4 215 Georgia Tech
3. Demario Davis OLB 6-2 235 Arkansas State
6. Josh Bush S 5-11 208 Wake Forest
6. Terrance Ganaway RB 6-0 239 Baylor
6. Robert T. Griffin G 6-6 335 Baylor
7. Antonio Allen S 6-1 210 South Carolina
7. Jordan White WR 6-0 208 Western Michigan

Fantasy Impact: Outside of Santonio Holmes, the Jets do not have any proven threats at receiver. Georgia Tech’s Stephen Hill may not start, but he will see plenty of snaps this season. Hill was a big-play threat in college but played in an option offense, so his route-running and mastery of passing schemes will need work. Terrance Ganaway is a powerful runner and could help the Jets in short-yardage and goal-line situations.

Fantasy Playoff Run: Weeks 14-16 (at JAC, at TEN, SD)

Will it be Tim Tebow or Mark Sanchez under center when the Jets travel to Jacksonville and Nashville? Sanchez was a top-10 fantasy QB last season — the only Jets player in the top 10 in any position. There are some winnable matchups for the Jets in the postseason, but the consistency of all other positions certainly depends on who’s at QB.

Dominate Your Fantasy Football League! Click here for the ultimate online resource for mock drafts, positional rankings, Athlon's Top 250 and more.

You can order your award-winning Athlon Sports NFL Fantasy Football preview magazine here.

Teaser:
<p> Fantasy Football 2012: Breaking Down the New York Jets</p>
Post date: Thursday, August 23, 2012 - 04:02
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-10-biggest-injury-concerns-running-back
Body:

Injuries are certainly a part of football, and fantasy football, for that matter, but when it comes to the latter that doesn't mean you can't or shouldn't be prepared.

Here are the top injury concerns when it comes to running back. These ground-gainers are the eptiome of risk-reward when it comes to weighing potential opportunity versus their respective injury histories.

1. Jahvid Best, Detroit
Diminutive runner isn’t built for NFL workload and has paid the price with concussion problems. He has still yet to be cleared for practice and more than likely will start the season on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list, meaning he will miss at minimum the Lions' first six games. Be VERY wary.

2. Darren McFadden, Oakland
Uber-talent has been brittle his entire pro and college career. Has never played more than 13 games in a season. Electric upside, but almost certain to miss a few games.

3. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota
A completely destroyed knee is scary — even for someone as powerful as Peterson. Due to his violent running style, it is hard to see him ever playing completely injury-free.

4. Trent Richardson, Cleveland
This yearNo. 3 overall pick has yet to see any NFL action as he underwent arthroscopic surgery on Aug. 9 to remove a loose piece of cartilage from his left knee. While it's unrelated to the torn meniscus he suffered in the same knee in January's BCS National Championship game, it's still troubling when someone undergoes mutiple surgeries on the same body part in such a short time span. The team is hopeful Richardson will still make his debut in the Browns' season-opener, but that's the absolute best-case scenario right now.

5. Beanie Wells, Arizona
After his best season, Wells had to have knee surgery in January. Balky knees have been an issue dating back to Ohio State.

6. Mark Ingram, New Orleans
The early May arthroscopic knee surgery was his second in the past three offseasons. He also dealt with foot surgery at the end of last season.

7. Ryan Mathews, San Diego
The third-year pro has yet to play a full season in the NFL and it won't happen this season either. Mathews broke his collar bone on his first carry in the Chargers' first preseason game. It has been projected to be a four- to six-week recovery period, the former allowing him enough time to be ready for Week 1. The six-week range is probably the safer bet, which (hopefully) puts him back in the Bolts' backfield by Week 3.

8. DeMarco Murray, Dallas
Has dealt with serious injuries in each of his last three football seasons — hamstring and dislocated kneecap at Oklahoma and the broken ankle last fall. 

9. Ahmad Bradshaw, New York Giants
Constantly deals with nagging injuries, such as the banged up hand he suffered in a preseason game, but is explosive when in the lineup. A time-share with David Wilson might be the bigger concern.

10. Fred Jackson, Buffalo
Has played only five years and hasn't touched the ball 1,000 times yet. But he is 31 and recovering from a fractured fibula.

Two More to Watch

Reggie Bush, Miami
Last season was only the second time he has topped 10 starts in his six-year career. You have to doubt his ability to stay healthy.

Frank Gore, San Francisco
Played all 16 games last year but missed a total of 10 games in the previous four. Gore is only 29 but is approaching 2,000 career touches.

— Published on August 22, 2012

Dominate Your Fantasy Football League! Click here for the ultimate online resource for mock drafts, positional rankings, Athlon's Top 250 and more.

You can order your award-winning Athlon Sports NFL Fantasy Football preview magazine here.

Teaser:
<p> Fantasy Football: 10 Biggest Injury Concerns at Running Back</p>
Post date: Wednesday, August 22, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2012-breaking-down-new-orleans-saints
Body:

What can the New Orleans Saints do for you this fantasy season? Check out Athlon Sports' team report as we break down the rookies, veteran players to watch and avoid, fantasy playoff schedule and more to help you get ready for the 2012 season.

Inside the Locker Room
with Jeff Duncan, New Orleans Times Picayune

What sort of time share can we expect in the Saints backfield between Mark Ingram, Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas?
The Saints will employ a similar strategy as last season, with all three getting their share of touches weekly. I expect Ingram to win the starting spot with Sproles playing primarily in the nickel packages and two-minute offense. Thomas will share the workload with Ingram, subbing in for a series or two each half. Chris Ivory is also in the mix. He is healthy now and is the club’s best power runner.

Do you expect Jimmy Graham’s numbers to come down across the board?
No. I expect similar numbers. Defenses undoubtedly will concentrate their game-plans on Graham more this season. But it’s very difficult for teams to focus on one Saints perimeter player because they have so many other weapons at their disposal. Moreover, Graham is so talented and such a mismatch for most defenders that Drew Brees often throws to him successfully even when he’s double-covered.

Will Devery Henderson finish as the team’s No. 2 wide receiver?
No. Henderson is on the downside of his career. He might inherit Robert Meachem’s starting spot, but I expect Lance Moore to become the clear No. 2 in terms of production. Henderson’s role has diminished in recent years while Moore’s actually has expanded. In fact, I think there’s a greater chance that one of the team’s stable of young receivers — Adrian Arrington, Joe Morgan or Nick Toon — will overtake Henderson for the third receiver spot than Henderson does of being the No. 2 receiver.

What sort of impact will the offseason drama have on Drew Brees and the prolific Saints offense?
Little if any. As long as Brees is around, the Saints offense will continue to rack up yards and points. The biggest concern is the loss of head coach Sean Payton, a brilliant game-planner and offensive strategist. Offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. and running game coordinator Aaron Kromer are well-versed in the Saints system and proved they could function just fine as play-callers a year ago when Payton went down with a leg injury. But Payton’s loss will be felt during weekly game-plan sessions, where he was a master at identifying opponents’ weaknesses and exploiting them. Still, the Saints have so much talent and Brees is essentially a coach on the field that I can’t see them dropping off much at all. The club’s top four rushers and top five receivers return from a unit that set the NFL record for yards gained in a season.

Athlon's Best Bets

Sleeper: Lance Moore, WR
Deep-Sleeper: Nick Toon, WR
Overvalued: None
Top Rookie: Nick Toon, WR
Bounce-Back: Mark Ingram, RB
Top IDP: Curtis Lofton, LB

2012 Draft Class

3. Akiem Hicks DT 6-5 318 Regina College
4. Nick Toon WR 6-2 215 Wisconsin
5. Corey White S 5-11 206 Samford
6. Andrew Tiller G 6-4 324 Syracuse
7. Marcel Jones T 6-6 320 Nebraska

Fantasy Impact: Thanks to a trade of their first-round pick and losing a second-round selection due to the bounty scandal, the Saints were largely quiet in the draft. Defensive tackle Akiem Hicks has a lot of upside, but he played collegiately in Canada and will have a steep learning curve to contribute in 2012. Marques Colston, Devery Henderson and Lance Moore are set as the top three receivers for quarterback Drew Brees, but Nick Toon could work his way into the mix as the No. 4 receiver. Although he might not make much of an impact in 2012, he could be one to watch in 2013 or 2014.

Fantasy Playoff Run: Weeks 14-16 (at NYG, TB, at DAL)

The Saints should get off to a great start against a Giants team that was in the bottom six against QBs, WRs and TEs and did little to improve its starting defense. The Buccaneers were bottom three against QBs and RBs and middle of the road against WRs and TEs but did go defense with four of the first five draft picks. The game in Dallas for the title game could be a shootout.

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Teaser:
<p> Fantasy Football 2012: Breaking Down the New Orleans Saints</p>
Post date: Wednesday, August 22, 2012 - 05:57
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2012-breaking-down-minnesota-vikings
Body:

What can the Minnesota Vikings do for you this fantasy season? Check out Athlon Sports' team report as we break down the rookies, veteran players to watch and avoid, fantasy playoff schedule and more to help you get ready for the 2012 season.

Inside the Locker Room
with Jeremy Fowler, St. Paul Pioneer Press

Will Adrian Peterson return to full strength for the start of the season and therefore justify using a first-round draft pick to land him?
Peterson’s fantasy risk could keep owners nervous up until the days before the Vikings’ Week 1 opener. Asking Peterson to carry the ball 20 times a game less than nine months removed from a torn ACL would be ambitious. But don’t forget — Peterson is an otherworldly athlete, he’s drawn a line in the sand that he doesn’t plan to miss time and his rehab has gone smoothly by all accounts. If he doesn’t play Week 1, he likely won’t be out long.

How many touches can we expect from Toby Gerhart in 2012?
Even if Peterson returns to full health by Week 1, expect Gerhart to get eight-to-12 touches per game as the Vikings look to protect Peterson’s long-term promise. Gerhart seems to thrive off carries in bulk. If Peterson doesn’t make it back by the season’s start, Gerhart could have solid fantasy value.

Can Kyle Rudolph stay healthy and become a weekly fantasy starter at tight end?
Rudolph caught three touchdown passes in his last six games as a rookie and can become one of the most potent red-zone targets in the NFC North. Float it to the 6'6" Rudolph on a lob, and he’ll use his size and incredible hands to snatch the ball. Question is, can he consistently beat man coverage? And though the Vikings will run plenty of two-tight-end sets, Rudolph will be battling John Carlson for touches. Still, there’s little reason Rudolph shouldn’t break out.

Will Christian Ponder and the passing game be effective enough to create useful fantasy receivers other than Percy Harvin?
The Vikings have made enough improvements to the offensive line and at receiver to rescue a 28th-ranked passing offense to a more respectable level. They won’t challenge New Orleans’ touchdowns-in-seven-seconds-or-less offense, but Ponder will have more ammunition to work with after the Vikings added a potential elite left tackle (Matt Kalil), a viable deep threat (Jerome Simpson) and a talented receiving tight end to pair with Rudolph (Carlson). Let’s be real, though — the offense’s hopes hinge on Ponder’s progression. If he improves his decision-making, he’ll realize his sizable potential.

Which rookie wideout would you target in Minnesota?
The Vikings resisted the temptation to draft a receiver in the late-first or early-second round because they felt confident in Arkansas tandem Jarius Wright and Greg Childs. Despite a skill set suited for the slot (Percy Harvin’s home), Wright looks poised to have the bigger rookie impact than Childs, who is still trying to find his way after a torn patella tendon slowed him in his final two college years. The Vikings move Harvin around enough to make room for Wright, who will be explosive in space. Childs can be a deep threat eventually, but the Vikings have Simpson and Michael Jenkins to bridge the gap in 2012.
Note: Childs tore the patellar tendon in both knees early in training camp and is out for the season.

Athlon's Best Bets

Sleeper: Toby Gerhart, RB
Deep-Sleeper: Kyle Rudolph, TE
Overvalued: None
Top Rookie: Blair Walsh, K
Bounce-Back: Christian Ponder, QB
Top IDP: Jared Allen, DE

2012 Draft Class

1. Matt Kalil T 6-7 295 USC
1. Harrison Smith S 6-2 214 Notre Dame
3. Josh Robinson CB 5-10 199 UCF
4. Jarius Wright WR 5-9 180 Arkansas
4. Rhett Ellison TE 6-5 250 USC
4. Greg Childs WR 6-3 217 Arkansas
5. Robert Blanton S 6-1 200 Notre Dame
6. Blair Walsh K 5-10 192 Georgia
7. Audie Cole LB 6-4 239 NC State
7. Trevor Guyton DE 6-3 280 California

Fantasy Impact: Tackle Matt Kalil will help protect the blindside of quarterback Christian Ponder and open up rushing lanes for Adrian Peterson. Outside of Percy Harvin, the Vikings lack playmakers at receiver. Jarius Wright and Greg Childs will help stretch the field, but neither is likely to sustain fantasy value in 2012.

Fantasy Playoff Run: Weeks 14-16 (CHI, at STL, at HOU)

A start against the Bears should be good news for the WRs and TEs as Chicago was 11th-worst and seventh-worst, respectively, against the positions. The Vikes face a Rams team, now coached by Jeff Fisher, that was already top 10 against QBs and TEs. They play a Texans team in fantasy championship week that was top five against fantasy QBs, RBs and TEs last season and top 10 against receivers.

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Teaser:
<p> Fantasy Football 2012: Breaking Down the Minnesota Vikings</p>
Post date: Wednesday, August 22, 2012 - 05:56
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2012-breaking-down-miami-dolphins
Body:

What can the Miami Dolphins do for you this fantasy season? Check out Athlon Sports' team report as we break down the rookies, veteran players to watch and avoid, fantasy playoff schedule and more to help you get ready for the 2012 season.

Inside the Locker Room
with Ethan Skolnick, Palm Beach Post

Can Reggie Bush build on his first career 1,000-yard season or will Daniel Thomas (or Lamar Miller) steal a big chunk of his touches?
No offensive staff has believed in Bush as an every-down back until the one the Dolphins had last season. Now that staff is gone, and Joe Philbin hasn’t traditionally loaded up one guy with carries. Expect Bush to contribute more as a receiver, but less as a runner.

Is any Dolphins’ pass-catcher worth a fantasy roster spot?
No. Davone Bess is the Dolphins’ most reliable threat, but most of his damage is done horizontally, out of the slot, rather than vertically. Brian Hartline has slightly above-average speed and can tiptoe the sidelines, but more than 600 yards would be a stretch. And Clyde Gates is raw as a deep threat, with a long way to go.

Rank the four potential fantasy contributors at tight end for the Fish.
You know what you’re getting from Anthony Fasano, even though his improvement as a blocker won’t show up on the fantasy scoreboard. Rank Fasano first, though Charles Clay appears to have bigger upside as a receiver and will be on the field plenty. Michael Egnew also showed a feel for route-running in college. It’s not clear what to expect from Les Brown, since he’s so new to the position.

Athlon's Best Bets

Sleeper: Davone Bess, WR
Deep-Sleeper: Clyde Gates, WR
Overvalued: Reggie Bush, RB
Top Rookie: Lamar Miller, RB
Bounce-Back: Daniel Thomas, RB
Top IDP: Karlos Dansby, LB

2012 Draft Class

1. Ryan Tannehill QB 6-4 221 Texas A&M
2. Jonathan Martin T 6-5 312 Stanford
3. Olivier Vernon DE 6-2 261 Miami
3. Michael Egnew TE 6-5 252 Missouri
4. Lamar Miller RB 5-11 210 Miami (Fla.)
5. Josh Kaddu LB 6-3 239 Oregon
6. B.J. Cunningham WR 6-1 211 Michigan State
7. Kheeston Randall DT 6-4 293 Texas
7. Rishard Matthews WR 6-0 212 Nevada

Fantasy Impact: The success or failure of the Dolphins’ 2012 draft will hinge on whether or not Ryan Tannehill emerges as a successful starting quarterback. He should be selected in keeper formats, with his biggest impact likely to come in 2013. Lamar Miller is a big-play threat but is behind Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas for carries.

Fantasy Playoff Run: Weeks 14-16 (at SF, JAC, BUF)

New HC. New OC. New QB. Can Reggie Bush repeat? Deal with all of these scenarios then start the fantasy playoffs against San Francisco’s defense and a Jacksonville defense that ranked in the top seven against QBs, RBs and WRs. The good news: If the Dolphins find a reliable TE they could be worth a play. Jacksonville (30th) and Buffalo (32th) were terrible against fantasy TEs last season.

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Teaser:
<p> Fantasy Football 2012: Breaking Down the Miami Dolphins</p>
Post date: Wednesday, August 22, 2012 - 05:50
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-10-biggest-injury-concerns-quarterback
Body:

Injuries are certainly a part of football, and fantasy football, for that matter, but when it comes to the latter that doesn't mean you can't or shouldn't be prepared.

Here are the top injury concerns when it comes to quarterback. If you decide to draft one of these guys, be sure you add a capable backup at some point.

1. Michael Vick, Philadelphia
Style of play makes him the most injury-prone QB in the league. Played 16 games only once in his career (2006) and has missed seven games over the last two years. It also doesn't help his rep that he's already banged the thumb on this throwing hand in an earlier preaseason game and left Monday's night game against the Patriots after taking a hard shot to his ribs. Fortunately, x-rays came back negative, but if he's taking this much punishment in the preseason, what happens when the games count?

2. Sam Bradford, St. Louis
He had a significant shoulder issue in college, and an ankle injury cost him six of his last 11 games last fall. Needs to prove he can stay healthy.

3. Matt Schaub, Houston 
Major injuries appear to be fluky and unlucky, but the fact remains that he has played no more than 11 games in three of his last five years.

4. Matthew Stafford, Detroit
When healthy, he is as good as any quarterback in the league. Played in every game at Georgia but only 29 of a possible 48 regular-season games since entering the NFL.

5. Matt Cassel, Kansas City
After taking a pounding for the first nine games (and playing better than expected), he suffered an injury to his throwing hand that ended his season. Could this be his last chance in Kansas City?

6. Robert Griffin III, Washington
Missed a huge chunk of his second season at Baylor with a torn ACL, and his style of play lends itself to injuries. Can Mike Shanahan afford to let RG3 run free?

7. Peyton Manning, Denver
After starting 208 straight games, Manning missed all 16 games of the 2011 season. The neck appears to be healthy, but can he still take the big hits?

8. Tony Romo, Dallas
Oft-injured, gutty performer often plays through injury but is constantly banged up. Missed 10 games in 2010 and three games in 2008. Has O-Line improved enough to keep him healthy?

9. Jay Cutler, Chicago
Has taken a beating his entire pro and college career and has bounced back every time, but first major injury (thumb) cost him six games last year.

10. Matt Hasselbeck, Tennessee
Played his first full season since 2007 last year, but  has been replaced by Jake Locker as the Titans' starter. Should Hasselbeck regain the starting job for whatever reason remember this — he turns 37 in September.

— Published on August 21, 2012

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Teaser:
<p> Fantasy Football: 10 Biggest Injury Concerns at Quarterback</p>
Post date: Tuesday, August 21, 2012 - 05:05
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2012-breaking-down-kansas-city-chiefs
Body:

What can the Kansas City Chiefs do for you this fantasy season? Check out Athlon Sports' team report as we break down the rookies, veteran players to watch and avoid, fantasy playoff schedule and more to help you get ready for the 2012 season.

Inside the Locker Room
with Kent Babb, Kansas City Star

How will Romeo Crennel divide the carries between Jamaal Charles and Peyton Hillis? Can they both provide fantasy value?
Assuming Charles is healthy, he’ll get the majority of carries — although he has been at his best with a power rusher splitting part of the load. Particularly with Charles returning from an ACL tear, the Chiefs will be careful with how much responsibility they give him, at least until he proves he has the same agility and breakaway speed he had before the injury. Hillis will be used in short-yardage situations, similar to the way Thomas Jones was used the previous two years. He’ll be a good source of touchdowns, but it’ll be Charles — if he’s healthy — who racks up the yards.

After Dwayne Bowe, who is the next wide receiver to target?
Steve Breaston is a solid receiver, but he’ll lack big plays and touchdowns. A sleeper choice would be second-year wideout Jon Baldwin, who is similar in build and hands to Bowe. He wasn’t dazzling in his rookie season, and the Chiefs will need him to take a step forward in his second year. Breaston is the safer choice, but Baldwin has the higher upside — and, of course, the higher risk.

Does Matt Cassel provide any fantasy value whatsoever?
If he’s at 2010 form, when he rarely threw interceptions, then sure. But Cassel also rarely has 300-yard passing games, even when he’s at his best. He’s a decent (very) late-round quarterback choice or a very good fantasy backup, but Cassel’s ceiling is remarkably low, even with a terrific rush offense and some very good receivers.

Will Tony Moeaki return to his rookie form of 2010 when he caught 47 passes for 556 yards and three scores?
Moeaki is another high-risk, high-reward player. If he’s healthy, he has the potential to be one of the league’s better tight ends. But that’s a huge if — and it has been since his college days. Moeaki has incredible hands and a remarkable ability to get open. The problem with him, and always has been, that he can’t stay healthy. So fantasy owners who take a chance on Moeaki, should probably draft another tight end in the early to mid-rounds, just to avoid the buyer’s remorse when Moeaki again suffers an injury.

Athlon's Best Bets

Sleeper: Tony Moeaki, TE
Deep-Sleeper: Jon Baldwin, WR
Overvalued: None
Top Rookie: Devon Wylie, WR
Bounce-Back: Jamaal Charles, RB
Top IDP: Derrick Johnson, LB

2012 Draft Class

1. Dontari Poe DT 6-3 346 Memphis
2. Jeff Allen G 6-4 306 Illinois
3. Donald Stephenson T 6-6 307 Oklahoma
4. Devon Wylie WR 5-9 186 Fresno State
5. DeQuan Menzie S 6-0 198 Alabama
6. Cyrus Gray RB 5-10 198 Texas A&M
7. Jerome Long DT 6-5 285 San Diego State
7. Junior Hemingway WR 6-1 222 Michigan

Fantasy Impact: The Chiefs’ first three picks were spent upgrading both lines, so there’s not much fantasy value likely to come out of this class. Defensive tackle Dontari Poe can be dominant, but his effort was questioned at Memphis. Jeff Allen played tackle at Illinois but could move inside to guard in the NFL. Devon Wylie will help on special teams and is penciled in as the No. 4 receiver. Running back Cyrus Gray was a solid late-round pickup but faces an uphill battle for playing time.

Fantasy Playoff Run: Weeks 14-16 (at CLE, at OAK, IND)

New offensive coordinator Brian Daboll comes over after coordinating for Miami and Cleveland. He had no top-10 fantasy producers for the Dolphins, and no Browns are on the tip of your tongue over the last five years. If a consistent player does emerge, the Chiefs do get the Raiders and Colts, easy fantasy defenses from a year ago, in the playoffs.

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Teaser:
<p> Fantasy Football 2012: Breaking Down the Kansas City Chiefs</p>
Post date: Tuesday, August 21, 2012 - 05:04
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2012-breaking-down-jacksonville-jaguars
Body:

What can the Jacksonville Jaguars do for you this fantasy season? Check out Athlon Sports' team report as we break down the rookies, veteran players to watch and avoid, fantasy playoff schedule and more to help you get ready for the 2012 season.

Inside the Locker Room
with Tania Ganguli, Florida Times-Union

Is the addition of Justin Blackmon enough to make Blaine Gabbert a viable fantasy player in 2012?
The additions of Blackmon and Laurent Robinson, whom the Jaguars added in free agency, have already made the Jaguars receiving corps several times better than it was last season. It’s all on Gabbert now. Watch Gabbert during the preseason and training camp for signs that he has truly changed.

What are reasonable statistical projections for Blackmon in his first season?
His ceiling could be something like Anquan Boldin’s rookie year. Boldin had 101 catches for 1,377 yards in 2003. The Jaguars see a lot of similarities in the two receivers. The quarterback situation is the biggest thing to watch when it comes to Blackmon’s fantasy production.

Can Maurice Jones-Drew reach the 1,300-yard plateau for the fourth consecutive season?
Nobody motivates himself like Jones-Drew. No matter how good of a season he had in the previous year, he can always find a way to convince himself that he has something to prove. Last season, Jones-Drew came in trying to prove that the surgery he had to repair his 2010 torn meniscus wouldn’t affect his play. This year, coming off an NFL-leading 1,606 yards, his contract situation could be a motivating factor that keeps him at the high level he’s played for the past two seasons. Jones-Drew hasn’t attended the Jaguars’ voluntary offseason workouts in an effort to make known his dissatisfaction with his contract, which has two years left on it. Expect another big season from MJD.

Athlon's Best Bets

Sleeper: Rashad Jennings, RB
Deep-Sleeper: Blaine Gabbert, QB
Overvalued: Laurent Robinson, WR
Top Rookie: Justin Blackmon, WR
Bounce-Back: Marcedes Lewis, TE
Top IDP: Paul Posluszny, LB

2012 Draft Class

1. Justin Blackmon WR 6-1 215 Oklahoma State
2. Andre Branch DE 6-5 258 Clemson
3. Bryan Anger P 6-4 208 California
5. Brandon Marshall LB 6-2 243 Nevada
6. Mike Harris CB 5-10 184 Florida State
7. Jeris Pendleton DT 6-2 328 Ashland

Fantasy Impact: Quarterback Blaine Gabbert had an awful rookie season, but he didn’t have a lot of help in the receiving corps last year. The Jaguars have taken steps to solve that, as they signed Laurent Robinson and selected Justin Blackmon in the first round of the draft. Blackmon should provide some much-needed big-play ability, but his fantasy value will be determined by how quickly Gabbert can improve. The rest of Jacksonville’s draft was met with mixed reviews, but defensive end Andre Branch should spark a pass rush that ranked near the bottom of the NFL last year.

Fantasy Playoff Run: Weeks 14-16 (NYJ, at MIA, NE)

Perhaps Blaine Gabbert and Justin Blackmon will have some sort of chemistry by this point in the season. If so, the Jags get the Dolphins’ ninth-worst fantasy defense against WRs and 13th-worst against QBs, and the Patriots’ 32nd-ranked fantasy defense against WRs and 29th-ranked against QBs in the title game. MJD does have to play two top-10 and a 16th-ranked fantasy defense vs. RBs from a year ago.

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Teaser:
<p> Fantasy Football 2012: Breaking Down the Jacksonville Jaguars</p>
Post date: Tuesday, August 21, 2012 - 05:03
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2012-breaking-down-indianapolis-colts
Body:

What can the Indianapolis Colts do for you this fantasy season? Check out Athlon Sports' team report as we break down the rookies, veteran players to watch and avoid, fantasy playoff schedule and more to help you get ready for the 2012 season.

Inside the Locker Room
with Phil Wilson, Indianapolis Star

Will Andrew Luck top Peyton Manning’s rookie numbers of 3,739 yards, 26 touchdowns and 28 interceptions?
The hunch is Luck won’t surpass Manning’s numbers, but he could eclipse the win total of three. Luck is so unselfish, he won’t be about putting up big numbers, and the Colts will want to run the ball more and play ball control as much as possible to protect an overhauled and learning-on-the-go defense.

How will the new coaching staff decide to use tailbacks Delone Carter, Donald Brown and Vick Ballard?
Expect Carter and Brown to be the tandem for now. Ballard gets a shot if he shows something in camp and one of the other two guys struggles. Brown has never been much of a blocker, so perhaps that opens the door for Ballard to get a few reps eventually.
Is Reggie Wayne’s fantasy career over, or can he bounce back after failing to reach 1,000 yards for the first time since 2003?
Wayne might never get back to the levels taken for granted in past years. Expect decent numbers, but it’s doubtful Luck will throw to him so much that the old statistical levels will come into play. This team must spread the ball around.

Which tight end will get the most targets, Coby Fleener or Dwayne Allen?
The guess will be Fleener because that’s who Luck knows. But seriously, flip a coin on them. Allen could be that guy. You never know which guy will stay healthier, who picks up the offense more quickly, which style will consistently get open more often, etc.

Athlon's Best Bets

Sleeper: Coby Fleener, TE
Deep-Sleeper: Dwayne Allen, TE
Overvalued: None
Top Rookie: Andrew Luck, QB
Bounce-Back: Reggie Wayne, WR
Top IDP: Pat Angerer, LB

2012 Draft Class

1. Andrew Luck QB 6-4 234 Stanford
2. Coby Fleener TE 6-6 247 Stanford
3. Dwayne Allen TE 6-3 255 Clemson
3. T.Y. Hilton WR 5-10 183 FIU
5. Josh Chapman DT 6-1 316 Alabama
5. Vick Ballard RB 5-10 217 Mississippi State
6. LaVon Brazill WR 5-11 191 Ohio
7. Justin Anderson T 6-5 342 Georgia
7. Tim Fugger OLB 6-3 248 Vanderbilt
7. Chandler Harnish QB 6-2 219 Northern Illinois

Fantasy Impact: The Colts surrounded No. 1 overall pick Andrew Luck with plenty of help, including tight ends Coby Fleener (also a Stanford alum) and Dwayne Allen. Both will be valuable safety nets for the rookie quarterback. T.Y. Hilton is a dangerous all-around threat and will slide into the No. 3 receiver role in 2012.

Fantasy Playoff Run: Weeks 14-16 (TEN, at HOU, at KC)

Rookies pepper the Colts’ roster at quarterback, receiver and tight end. Those rookies likely will be producing for a bad team and adjusting to the final games in the longer pro season. This is not a good fantasy situation, but there should be enough garbage points to make a few on this roster worthy of starts come fantasy postseason.

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Teaser:
<p> Fantasy Football 2012: Breaking Down the Indianapolis Colts</p>
Post date: Tuesday, August 21, 2012 - 05:02
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2012-breaking-down-houston-texans
Body:

What can the Houston Texans do for you this fantasy season? Check out Athlon Sports' team report as we break down the rookies, veteran players to watch and avoid, fantasy playoff schedule and more to help you get ready for the 2012 season.

Inside the Locker Room
with Sam Khan

Is Andre Johnson finally nearing the end of his career or is he still worth a first- or second-round selection?
This season will be Johnson’s 10th of his career, but even though he isn’t getting any younger, he’s still among the best receivers in the league — when he’s healthy. If he could be counted on for 16 games, I’d say he’s a first- or second-round pick, but he hasn’t gone for all 16 in three of the last five seasons, including missing nine regular-season games last year. The other factor worth considering: Johnson has never been a high touchdown guy — his highest single-season touchdown reception total is nine. He’s far from done, but injury history suggests passing on him in the first round.

Can Ben Tate be a starting fantasy running back despite not starting at running back on his own team?
If you’re in a league where you can start three running backs, I would say yes, but Tate is not quite to the point where you can make him an automatic start in a two-back league. Should Arian Foster get hurt, then Tate becomes that. Until then, he’s a good flex option or third running back.

How far do injury concerns drop Matt Schaub down draft boards?
A Lisfranc injury — which Schaub suffered in his right foot, ending his 2011 season — is serious, so there will be some concern for fantasy owners, even though Schaub’s offseason progress has been good and he’s expected to be 100 percent for training camp. His potential is great (more than 4,000 passing yards and 25-30 touchdown passes) but only twice since he joined the Texans in 2007 has Schaub appeared in all 16 games.

Athlon's Best Bets

Sleeper: Ben Tate, RB
Deep-Sleeper: DeVier Posey, WR
Overvalued: None
Top Rookie: Randy Bullock, K
Bounce-Back: Andre Johnson, WR
Top IDP: Brian Cushing, LB

2012 Draft Class

1. Whitney Mercilus DE 6-4 261 Illinois
3. DeVier Posey WR 6-2 210 Ohio State
3. Brandon Brooks G 6-5 343 Miami (Ohio)
4. Ben Jones C 6-3 316 Georgia
4. Keshawn Martin WR 5-11 189 Michigan State
4. Jared Crick DT 6-4 279 Nebraska
5. Randy Bullock K 5-9 205 Texas A&M
6. Nick Mondek T 6-5 307 Purdue

Fantasy Impact: Finding a receiver who can complement Andre Johnson has eluded Houston, and the door is open for DeVier Posey to contend for snaps in 2012. Posey should be a fringe pick in keeper formats. Kicker Neil Rackers was not re-signed, leaving Randy Bullock as the favorite to win the job in the preseason. Whitney Mercilus fits the 3-4 scheme as an outside linebacker or rush end and should play immediately on passing downs in 2012.

Fantasy Playoff Run: Weeks 14-16 (at NE, IND, MIN)

The Texans will start the fantasy postseason at New England — their third straight game on the road — and will face a Patriots team that drafted defense with its first six picks after being the fourth-worst fantasy defense against QBs and the worst against WRs. After the game in New England, the Texans return home to face Indianapolis and Minnesota, two of the worst teams in the NFL in 2011.

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Teaser:
<p> Fantasy Football 2012: Breaking Down the Houston Texans</p>
Post date: Tuesday, August 21, 2012 - 05:01
Path: /monthly/2012-fantasy-football-rookie-roundup-quarterbacks
Body:

There's no shortage of draftable rookies from the offensive skill players who had their names called in April. With so many options available, Athlon Sports is here to help you break down this crop of talented rookies in terms of fantasy potential, both for 2012 and beyond.

KEY
Seasonal   Keeper/Dynasty    
A — Solid Draft Pick   1 — Blue Chipper   4 — Potential bye week fill-in
B — Late-round flier   2 — Potential stud   5 —Deep sleeper
C — Waiver wire   3 — Potential starter   UFA — Undrafted free agent

QUARTERBACKS

1. Robert Griffin III, 6-2, 223, Baylor
Drafted by: Washington in the 1st Round, No. 2 overall
Seasonal: B
Keeper/Dynasty: 1

Quarterback play has been an issue in Washington for years, but the Redskins finally can build their offense around a franchise quarterback. Griffin, the 2011 Heisman Trophy winner, possesses tremendous athletic ability, but he is capable of making any throw necessary in the Washington offense. The Redskins surrounded the Baylor product with playmakers this offseason, which should allow him to edge Andrew Luck as the top fantasy rookie quarterback.

2. Andrew Luck, 6-4, 234, Stanford
Drafted by: Indianapolis in the 1st Round, No. 1 overall
Seasonal: B
Keeper/Dynasty: 1

Seemingly everyone regarded Luck as one of the draft’s top quarterback prospects of the last 15 years. His transition to the NFL should be an easy one, due in part to playing in a pro-style attack at Stanford. The biggest downside to Luck as a fantasy prospect in 2012 will be the lack of talent in Indianapolis and a shaky offensive line. The Colts will surround Luck with more playmakers in the coming years, but expectations for his fantasy value should be tempered this season.

3. Brandon Weeden, 6-4, 221, Oklahoma State
Drafted by: Cleveland in the 1st Round, No. 22 overall
Seasonal: C
Keeper/Dynasty: 3

Weeden isn’t a typical rookie quarterback. At 28 years old, he is already older than some starting NFL signal-callers. Weeden may not have a long career, but the age factor should work in his favor, as he is expected to be Cleveland’s starting quarterback. His strong arm and accuracy will be an asset, but the Browns’ receiving corps might be one of the worst in the NFL. Expectations are low for 2012, but Weeden is a solid keeper selection.

4. Ryan Tannehill, 6-4, 221, Texas A&M
Drafted by: Miami in the 1st Round, No. 8 overall
Seasonal: C
Keeper/Dynasty: 3

5. Russell Wilson,  5-11, 204, Wisconsin
Drafted by: Seattle in the 3rd Round, No. 75 overall
Seasonal: C
Keeper/Dynasty: 3

Lacks ideal size, but will have an opportunity to win the starting job this preseason.

6. Brock Osweiler, 6-7, 242, Arizona State
Drafted by: Denver in the 2nd Round, No. 57 overall
Seasonal: C
Keeper/Dynasty: 3

Needs time to develop, but will be learning from one of the best in Peyton Manning.

7. Kirk Cousins, 6-3, 214, Michigan State
Drafted by: Washington in the 4th Round, No. 102 overall
Seasonal: C
Keeper/Dynasty: 3

8. Nick Foles, 6-5, 243, Arizona
Drafted by: Philadelphia in the 3rd Round, No. 88 overall
Seasonal: C
Keeper/Dynasty: 3

9. Ryan Lindley, 6-3, 229, San Diego State
Drafted by: Arizona in the 6th Round, No. 185 overall
Seasonal: C
Keeper/Dynasty: 5

— Originally published in the 2012 Athlon Sports NFL Fantasy Football preview magazine

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Teaser:
<p> 2012 Fantasy Football Rookie Roundup: Quarterbacks</p>
Post date: Monday, August 20, 2012 - 06:05
Path: /fantasy/2012-fantasy-football-rookie-roundup-running-backs
Body:

There's no shortage of draftable rookies from the offensive skill players who had their names called in April. With so many options available, Athlon Sports is here to help you break down this crop of talented rookies in terms of fantasy potential, both for 2012 and beyond.

KEY
Seasonal   Keeper/Dynasty    
A — Solid Draft Pick   1 — Blue Chipper   4 — Potential bye week fill-in
B — Late-round flier   2 — Potential stud   5 —Deep sleeper
C — Waiver wire   3 — Potential starter   UFA — Undrafted free agent

RUNNING BACKS

1. Trent Richardson, 5-9, 228, Alabama
Drafted by: Cleveland in the 1st Round, No. 3 overall
Seasonal: A
Keeper/Dynasty: 1

Richardson easily was the best all-around back in the draft and should be in position to record 200-250 carries in 2012. He brings a good blend of power and speed, which will be valuable in a division in which weather is a factor late in the year. Richardson should be the No. 1 rookie off draft boards this year and has RB1 potential.

2. Doug Martin, 5-9, 223, Boise State
Drafted by: Tampa Bay in the 1st Round, No. 31 overall
Seasonal: A
Keeper/Dynasty: 1

New Bucs coach Greg Schiano wants to build his offense around the rushing attack. LeGarrette Blount has 1,788 yards combined in the last two years, but Martin is expected to emerge as Tampa Bay’s feature back. Martin isn’t flashy, but he brings power and deceptive speed. Expect the Boise State product to lead the team in rushing this season.

3. David Wilson, 5-10, 206, Virginia Tech
Drafted by: New York Giants in the 1st Round, No. 32 overall
Seasonal: A
Keeper/Dynasty: 1

Brandon Jacobs is gone, and Ahmad Bradshaw has struggled to stay healthy throughout his career. Wilson is expected to serve as Bradshaw’s backup this year, but he brings some much-needed speed and explosiveness to the backfield.

4. Isaiah Pead, 5-10, 197, Cincinnati
Drafted by: St. Louis in the 2nd Round, No. 50 overall
Seasonal: B
Keeper/Dynasty: 3

Steven Jackson is one of the league’s most dependable backs, but the Rams have neglected to address the depth behind him. Pead won’t log 20-25 carries per game, but he should be a change-of-pace option while contributing on passing downs and special teams. If you draft Jackson, be sure to swipe Pead as insurance.

5. LaMichael James, 5-8, 194, Oregon
Drafted by: San Francisco in the 2nd Round, No. 61 overall
Seasonal: B
Keeper/Dynasty: 3

James, a big-play machine while at Oregon, won’t be an every-down back, but look for the 49ers to use him in a variety of ways to save Frank Gore some wear and tear.

6. Bernard Pierce, 6-0, 218, Temple
Drafted by: Baltimore in the 3rd Round, No. 84 overall
Seasonal: C
Keeper/Dynasty: 4

Pierce was a workhorse at Temple, recording 663 carries over three seasons. With no backup for Ray Rice on the roster, Pierce should serve as Baltimore’s No. 2 back.

7. Ronnie Hillman, 5-9, 200, San Diego State
Drafted by: Denver in the 3rd Round, No. 67 overall
Seasonal: C
Keeper/Dynasty: 4

8. Chris Rainey, 5-8, 180, Florida
Drafted by: Pittsburgh in the 5th Round, No. 159 overall
Seasonal: C
Keeper/Dynasty: 4

9. Robert Turbin, 5-10, 222, Utah State
Drafted by: Seattle in the 4th Round, No. 106 overall
Seasonal: C
Keeper/Dynasty: 5

10. Lamar Miller, 5-11, 212, Miami (Fla.)
Drafted by: Miami in the 4th Round, No. 97 overall
Seasonal: C
Keeper/Dynasty: 4

— Originally published in the 2012 Athlon Sports NFL Fantasy Football preview magazine

Dominate Your Fantasy Football League! Click here for the ultimate online resource for mock drafts, positional rankings, Athlon's Top 250 and more.

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Teaser:
<p> 2012 Fantasy Football Rookie Roundup: Running Backs</p>
Post date: Monday, August 20, 2012 - 06:04
Path: /fantasy/2012-fantasy-football-rookie-roundup-wide-receivers-tight-ends
Body:

There's no shortage of draftable rookies from the offensive skill players who had their names called in April. With so many options available, Athlon Sports is here to help you break down this crop of talented rookies in terms of fantasy potential, both for 2012 and beyond.

KEY
Seasonal   Keeper/Dynasty    
A — Solid Draft Pick   1 — Blue Chipper   4 — Potential bye week fill-in
B — Late-round flier   2 — Potential stud   5 —Deep sleeper
C — Waiver wire   3 — Potential starter   UFA — Undrafted free agent

WIDE RECEIVERS

1. Justin Blackmon, 6-1, 207, Oklahoma State
Drafted by: Jacksonville in the 1st Round, No. 5 overall
Seasonal: A
Keeper/Dynasty: 1

Blackmon fills a huge void in Jacksonville’s offense. He is true a No. 1 receiver and go-to target for quarterback Blaine Gabbert. During his career at Oklahoma State, Blackmon averaged 14.1 yards per reception and caught 40 touchdown passes. His value is tied with Gabbert’s improvement, but Blackmon should be a WR3 in his rookie year.

2. Michael Floyd, 6-3, 220, Notre Dame
Drafted by: Arizona in the 1st Round, No. 13 overall
Seasonal: A
Keeper/Dynasty: 2

Since trading Anquan Boldin to Baltimore, the Cardinals haven’t found a solid No. 2 to pair with Larry Fitzgerald. Floyd should slide into the starting lineup this season, but his value will hinge on Arizona’s shaky quarterback play.

3. Kendall Wright, 5-10, 196, Baylor
Drafted by: Tennessee in the 1st Round, No. 20 overall
Seasonal: A
Keeper/Dynasty: 2

With Kenny Britt coming off knee surgery, Wright is expected to be a significant contributor this season. He was Robert Griffin’s go-to option at Baylor and should help the Titans stretch the field in 2012.

4. Rueben Randle, 6-4, 210, LSU
Drafted by: New York Giants in the 2nd Round, No. 63 overall
Seasonal: B
Keeper/Dynasty: 3

With Mario Manningham signing with the 49ers, Randle has an opportunity to become the Giants’ No. 3 option. However, his fantasy value could be limited with Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz locked into the top two spots.

5. Stephen Hill, 6-4, 215, Georgia Tech
Drafted by: New York Jets in the 2nd Round, No. 43 overall
Seasonal: B
Keeper/Dynasty: 3

Outside of Santonio Holmes, the Jets have no proven options at receiver. After playing in an option offense at Georgia Tech, Hill will need some time to adjust to NFL passing schemes and to become a better route-runner. He is a big-play threat, but considering the fact that his value will be limited this season, he looks to be a better pick in keeper formats.

6. DeVier Posey, 6-1, 211, Ohio State
Drafted by: Houston in the 3rd Round, No. 68 overall
Seasonal: B
Keeper/Dynasty: 3

Senior year at Ohio State was derailed by suspensions, but has the talent to be a future No. 2 receiver for the Texans.

7. Brian Quick, 6-3, 220, Appalachian State
Drafted by: St. Louis in the 2nd Round, No. 33 overall
Seasonal: B
Keeper/Dynasty: 3

Quick has good size and speed, but he is raw after playing on the FCS level in college.

8. Alshon Jeffery, 6-4, 230, South Carolina
Drafted by: Chicago in the 2nd Round, No. 45 overall
Seasonal: C
Keeper/Dynasty: 2

Was a disappointment in his final year at South Carolina but has the talent to be an eventual No. 1 receiver. Could be a good bargain in keeper formats.

9. Ryan Broyles, 5-10, 192, Oklahoma
Drafted by: Detroit in the 2nd Round, No. 54 overall
Seasonal: C
Keeper/Dynasty: 3

Broyles suffered a torn ACL late in the 2011 season, but his recovery has him on track to play in 2012. Should fit into the slot receiver role for the Lions.

10. T.J. Graham, 5-11, 188, NC State
Drafted by: Buffalo in the 3rd Round, No. 69 overall
Seasonal: C
Keeper/Dynasty: 4

Speedster should help stretch the field while contributing right away on special teams.

11. Joe Adams, 5-11, 179, Arkansas
Drafted by: Carolina in the 4th Round, No. 104 overall
Seasonal: C
Keeper/Dynasty: 3

12. Mohamed Sanu, 6-2, 211, Rutgers
Drafted by: Cincinnati in the 3rd Round, No. 83 overall
Seasonal: C
Keeper/Dynasty: 3

13. Jarius Wright, 5-10, 182, Arkansas
Drafted by: Minnesota in the 4th Round, No. 118 overall
Seasonal: C
Keeper/Dynasty: 3

14. A.J. Jenkins, 6-0, 192, Illinois
Drafted by: San Francisco in the 1st Round, No. 30 overall
Seasonal: C
Keeper/Dynasty: 3

15. Greg Childs, 6-3, 219, Arkansas
Drafted by: Minnesota in the 4th Round, No. 134 overall
Seasonal: C
Keeper/Dynasty: 3

UPDATE: Childs tore the patellar tendon in both knees attempting to catch a pass during an Aug. 4 intra-team scrimmage in training camp. He has been placed on injured reserved and is out for the season.

16. Juron Criner, 6-3, 224, Arizona
Drafted by: Oakland in the 5th Round, No. 168 overall
Seasonal: C
Keeper/Dynasty: 3

17. Nick Toon, 6-2, 215, Wisconsin
Drafted by: New Orleans in the 4th Round, No. 122 overall
Seasonal: C
Keeper/Dynasty: 3

18. T.Y Hilton, 5-10, 183, FIU
Drafted by: Indianapolis in the 3rd Round, No. 92 overall
Seasonal: C
Keeper/Dynasty: 4

19. Marvin Jones, 6-1, 199, California
Drafted by: Cincinnati in the 5th Round, No. 166 overall
Seasonal: C
Keeper/Dynasty: 3

20. Chris Givens, 5-11, 198, Wake Forest
Drafted by: St. Louis in the 4th Round, No. 96 overall
Seasonal: C
Keeper/Dynasty: 3

TIGHT ENDS

1. Coby Fleener, 6-6, 247, Stanford
Drafted by: Indianapolis in the 2nd Round, No. 34 overall
Seasonal: B
Keeper/Dynasty: 2

A young quarterback’s best friend is a playmaker at tight end, and that’s exactly what Fleener brings to the Colts. He played with Andrew Luck at Stanford, and at 6'6", he’s a nightmare matchup for defenses. Fleener should be the top rookie at his position but is likely a TE2 in fantasy drafts.

2. Dwayne Allen, 6-3, 255, Clemson
Drafted by: Indianapolis in the 3rd Round, No. 64 overall
Seasonal: B
Keeper/Dynasty: 3

Allen will struggle as a blocker, but he should help to stretch the middle of the field for Andrew Luck.

3. Orson Charles, 6-2, 251, Georgia
Drafted by: Cincinnati in the 4th Round, No. 116 overall
Seasonal: C
Keeper/Dynasty: 3

Needs another year or two to develop and is behind Jermaine Gresham on the depth chart.

4. Michael Egnew, 6-5, 252, Missouri
Drafted by: Miami in the 3rd Round, No. 78 overall
Seasonal: C
Keeper/Dynasty: 4

Egnew isn’t a strong blocker, but his receiving ability will be a safety net for Miami quarterbacks.

— Originally published in the 2012 Athlon Sports NFL Fantasy Football preview magazine

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You can order your award-winning Athlon Sports NFL Fantasy Football preview magazine here.

Teaser:
<p> 2012 Fantasy Football Rookie Roundup: Wide Receivers &amp; Tight Ends</p>
Post date: Monday, August 20, 2012 - 06:03
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2012-breaking-down-detroit-lions
Body:

What can the Detroit Lions do for you this fantasy season? Check out Athlon Sports' team report as we break down the rookies, veteran players to watch and avoid, fantasy playoff schedule and more to help you get ready for the 2012 season.

Inside the Locker Room
with John Niyo, Detroit News

Will any running back be able to stay healthy and provide fantasy production for Detroit this year, or should we stay away from all Lions’ backs?
It’s buyer beware with the running backs. Assuming Jahvid Best shows no ill effects from contact in preseason, he’s still a home run threat and an elite receiver out of the backfield. But he only made it to Week 6 in 2011, and his rookie year was derailed by turf-toe injuries in Week 2. So the Lions will try to limit his workload, using him in tandem with Mikel Leshoure, who insists he’ll be ready for the regular season coming off a torn Achilles. Leshoure also faces a possible NFL suspension after a pair of drug-related arrests this winter, though, so Kevin Smith figures to share duties as well.

Who will be the Lions’ No. 2 fantasy receiver? Aging veteran Nate Burleson, second-year deep threat Titus Young or rookie slot Ryan Broyles?
Young showed he has the talent to be the No. 2 option with 48 catches and six TDs — four in the last four weeks — as a rookie. If he can avoid the diva behavior, he’s the one who’ll stretch the field and put up the bigger numbers opposite Calvin Johnson. But Burleson’s still good for 50- or 60-plus catches while the Lions groom Broyles — coming off a torn ACL last November — as his likely replacement.

Brandon Pettigrew has increased his catch, yardage and TD totals in each of his three seasons. Can he do it again?
Pettigrew still drops a few too many passes, and with so many other red-zone options — not to mention his talent as a blocking tight end — he’ll probably never completely satisfy fantasy owners.

Athlon's Best Bets

Sleeper: Mikel Leshoure, RB
Deep-Sleeper: Titus Young, WR
Overvalued: Kyle Vanden Bosch, DL
Top Rookie: Ryan Broyles, WR
Bounce-Back: Jahvid Best, RB
Top IDP: Stephen Tulloch, LB

2012 Draft Class

1. Riley Reiff T 6-6 313 Iowa
2. Ryan Broyles WR 5-10 192 Oklahoma
3. Dwight Bentley CB 5-10 182 UL Lafayette
4. Ronnell Lewis DE 6-1 253 Oklahoma
5. Tahir Whitehead LB 6-1 233 Temple
5. Chris Greenwood CB 6-1 193 Albion
6. Jonte Green CB 6-0 184 New Mexico State
7. Travis Lewis LB 6-1 246 Oklahoma

Fantasy Impact: In order for the Lions to make a run at the Super Bowl, they have to keep quarterback Matt Stafford healthy. So it’s really no surprise that Detroit chose to address the offensive line in the first round, selecting Iowa’s Riley Reiff as someone who could play on the left or right side in 2012. Receiver Ryan Broyles suffered a torn ACL late in the 2011 season but is expected to be ready to contribute early in the year. He likely will slide into the slot receiver role.

Fantasy Playoff Run: Weeks 14-16 (at GB, at ARI, ATL)

Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson played 16 games last year and were lights out. Now, Megatron lands on this year’s Madden cover. If he beats the jinx, then the QB-WR duo will face what was a score-at-will pass defense that Green Bay put up last season, an Arizona defense that was eighth-worst against fantasy WRs and a middle-of-the-road Falcons fantasy defense.

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Teaser:
<p> Fantasy Football 2012: Breaking Down the Detroit Lions</p>
Post date: Monday, August 20, 2012 - 06:02
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2012-breaking-down-denver-broncos
Body:

What can the Denver Broncos do for you this fantasy season? Check out Athlon Sports' team report as we break down the rookies, veteran players to watch and avoid, fantasy playoff schedule and more to help you get ready for the 2012 season.

Inside the Locker Room
with Jim Armstrong, Freelance Writer

Is Peyton Manning still Peyton Manning?
Enter at your own risk when it comes to the injury factor, but the fact is, he was Favre-esque from a durability standpoint before his neck issues. Manning began working with his new receivers from his earliest moments in Denver, and he, like everyone else in the organization, believes there is major talent there that went untapped with Tim Tebow under center. The bottom line: Look for 30-plus TD passes.

Can both Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas be week-in, week-out fantasy producers, or is one clearly the top Manning target?
Unfortunately, Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas share a common bond: Both have had injury issues that have kept them from becoming major impact players. Add in Tim Tebow’s throwing issues and it was no surprise that neither put up impressive numbers in 2011. Now for the flip side: Both are big, fast and hungry to make their marks in the NFL. Jot down each as a major sleeper in fantasy drafts. Thomas is the bigger home run threat, and Decker will work the middle of the field.

After coming to Denver with Manning with his first chance as a starter, what do you expect from Jacob Tamme?
It was no coincidence that Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen were signed within hours of each other. The plan is for them to provide a package, with Dreessen doing most of the blocking and Tamme expected to put up significant receiving numbers. Given his history with Manning, there’s no reason to think he won’t catch a ton of TD passes.

Athlon's Best Bets

Sleeper: Eric Decker, WR
Deep-Sleeper: Gerell Robinson, WR
Overvalued: None
Top Rookie: Ronnie Hillman, RB
Bounce-Back: Peyton Manning, QB
Top IDP: D.J. Williams, LB

2012 Draft Class

2. Derek Wolfe DT 6-5 295 Cincinnati
2. Brock Osweiler QB 6-7 242 Arizona State
3. Ronnie Hillman RB 5-10 192 San Diego State
4. Omar Bolden CB 5-10 195 Arizona State
4. Philip Blake C 6-2 311 Baylor
5. Malik Jackson DE 6-6 290 Tennessee
6. Danny Trevathan LB 6-1 232 Kentucky

Fantasy Impact: The Broncos made their biggest acquisition through free agency, signing Peyton Manning to be the team’s starting quarterback. Although Manning will likely start for the next two or three years, Denver selected Brock Osweiler to learn under the future Hall of Famer. Osweiler holds value in long-term keeper leagues and is unlikely to play in 2012. Ronnie Hillman isn’t a three-down back but should be a valuable change-of-pace option to Willis McGahee. Consider Hillman a late-round pick in redraft leagues and a fringe keeper selection.

Fantasy Playoff Run: Weeks 14-16 (at OAK, at BAL, CLE)

The Broncos should score more than the 40 points they did in last year’s three fantasy postseason weeks. The Raiders allowed 46 points in Week 14 alone last season. But it could get a lot tougher after facing Oakland’s 31st-ranked fantasy defense against QBs. Peyton Manning will face off against Baltimore’s top-ranked fantasy defense against QBs and Cleveland’s third-ranked defense against QBs.

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Teaser:
<p> Fantasy Football 2012: Breaking Down the Denver Broncos</p>
Post date: Monday, August 20, 2012 - 06:01
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2012-breaking-down-cleveland-browns
Body:

What can the Cleveland Browns do for you this fantasy season? Check out Athlon Sports' team report as we break down the rookies, veteran players to watch and avoid, fantasy playoff schedule and more to help you get ready for the 2012 season.

Inside the Locker Room
with Pat McManamon, Fox Sports Ohio

Will Trent Richardson be eased into pro competition or will he get the lion’s share of the carries immediately?
Richardson will not ease into anything. The Browns drafted him third overall and traded up to get him to make him their primary running back. Richardson wants to be the primary back, and the Browns will not let him down. The only thing that would keep him from 20 to 25 carries per game is injury.

Can Greg Little blossom into an every-week fantasy receiver?
If he learns to catch the ball and not drop it he could be a very good second or third receiver on a fantasy roster. Little has outstanding skills — size, strength, speed. He can run routes short and long. He just has to translate those skills into the NFL game. His problem last season was 14 drops, which is way too many for a professional. Little did not play at North Carolina his final season due to NCAA issues, so the drops may have been the result of re-adjusting to football. At least the Browns hope it was.

Which tight end is the best to target as a late-round sleeper?
Tough call. Ben Watson is coming off concussions, which is always iffy. And Evan Moore never lived up to the preseason hype he generated. If Watson is healthy, he will be more productive. He is a more well-rounded tight end who is very adept at catching the ball down the seam — the 20-to-25-yard routes that quarterbacks love. But if Moore lives up to expectations, he could be a better value given he could score more touchdowns because he causes matchup issues in the red zone. It’s a very close call, but go with Moore.

Athlon's Best Bets

Sleeper: Greg Little, WR
Deep-Sleeper: Evan Moore, TE
Overvalued: None
Top Rookie: Trent Richardson, RB
Bounce-Back: T.J. Ward, S
Top IDP: D'Qwell Jackson, LB

2012 Draft Class

1. Trent Richardson RB 5-10 228 Alabama
1. Brandon Weeden QB 6-3 221 Oklahoma State
2. Mitchell Schwartz T 6-5 317 California
3. John Hughes DT 6-3 306 Cincinnati
4. Travis Benjamin WR 5-10 175 Miami
4. James-Michael Johnson LB 6-1 240 Nevada
5. Ryan Miller G 6-8 295 Colorado
6. Emmanuel Acho LB 6-2 238 Texas
6. Billy Winn DE 6-3 296 Boise State
7. Trevin Wade CB 5-11 190 Arizona
7. Brad Smelley FB 6-2 233 Alabama

Fantasy Impact: Trent Richardson should be the top rookie fantasy pick for 2012 and has a chance to be one of the top 15 RBs off the board in preseason drafts. At 28 years old, Brandon Weeden has the tools necessary to succeed.

Fantasy Playoff Run: Weeks 14-16 (KC, WAS, at DEN)

All right, Trent Richardson, you played 13 games to lead Alabama to a national title last season; now play three more like that to get us a fantasy championship. Richardson will start the playoffs against teams that were 10th- and 11th-worst against fantasy running backs and a Washington team that was 20th-worst. And none of the three has made dramatic defensive improvements.

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Teaser:
<p> Fantasy Football 2012: Breaking Down the Cleveland Browns</p>
Post date: Monday, August 20, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2012-breaking-down-chicago-bears
Body:

What can the Chicago Bears do for you this fantasy season? Check out Athlon Sports' team report as we break down the rookies, veteran players to watch and avoid, fantasy playoff schedule and more to help you get ready for the 2012 season.

Inside the Locker Room
with Bob LeGere, Daily (Ill.) Herald

Who will be more affected by their season-ending injury last fall, Jay Cutler or Matt Forte?
It’s unlikely that either player will have a problem. Forte came back from his sprained knee and played in the Pro Bowl in February, so his physical status isn’t in question. There are also no indications that Cutler has any lingering problems from his thumb injury. But because he could be susceptible to re-injuring the thumb every time he takes a snap from under center, there’s a slim chance he could be adversely affected.

Brandon Marshall caught 206 passes in two years as a starter with Jay Cutler in Denver. He caught 167 passes in two years in Miami. Which Marshall will owners be drafting in 2012?
Forté has caught over 50 passes in each of his four seasons and was on pace for 70 last season before he was hurt. The Bears want to involve the tight ends more this year, and they still want to utilize Devin Hester. And Earl Bennett will also be involved. So Marshall is more likely to have 80-some catches than 100 or so.

Is there a tight end on this roster worth drafting?
Probably not, even though new offensive coordinator Mike Tice will throw to the tight ends more than his predecessor Mike Martz did in 2011. Kellen Davis led the team with five TD catches last season, and he averaged a respectable 11.4 yards per catch, but he had a total of just 18 receptions.

Athlon's Best Bets

Sleeper: Michael Bush, RB
Deep-Sleeper: Earl Bennett, WR
Overvalued: Matt Forte, RB
Top Rookie: Alshon Jeffery, WR
Bounce-Back: Jay Cutler, QB
Top IDP: Charles Tillman, CB

2012 Draft Class

1. Shea McClellin DE 6-3 260 Boise State
2. Alshon Jeffery WR 6-3 216 South Carolina
3. Brandon Hardin SS 6-3 222 Oregon State
4. Evan Rodriguez TE 6-2 239 Temple
6. Isaiah Frey CB 5-11 190 Nevada
7. Greg McCoy CB 5-10 178 TCU

Fantasy Impact: The wild card of the Bears’ draft is second-round selection Alshon Jeffery. The South Carolina product had a standout sophomore campaign in 2010 but caught only 49 passes in 2011. Jeffery isn’t likely to have much fantasy value in 2012, especially with Chicago’s acquisition of Brandon Marshall. Julius Peppers is entrenched at one end spot, but the Bears needed another player to help get after the quarterback. Shea McClellin should bolster the pass rush off the edge and is a player to monitor in IDP leagues. The Bears lack an elite tight end, which could allow Evan Rodriguez to see playing time right away.

Fantasy Playoff Run: Weeks 14-16 (at MIN, GB, at ARI)

Chicago, please keep Jay Cutler upright. Two games in domes and one at home make for an appetizing postseason schedule. Add in Minnesota’s and Green Bay’s ranks against fantasy QBs (32nd and 28th, respectively), and it gets even more appealing. Green Bay went defense with its first six picks of the draft, and Minnesota added two rookies to its secondary in the first three rounds of the draft.

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Teaser:
<p> Fantasy Football 2012: Breaking Down the Chicago Bears</p>
Post date: Friday, August 17, 2012 - 06:03
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2012-breaking-down-carolina-panthers
Body:

What can the Carolina Panthers do for you this fantasy season? Check out Athlon Sports' team report as we break down the rookies, veteran players to watch and avoid, fantasy playoff schedule and more to help you get ready for the 2012 season.

Inside the Locker Room
with Scott Fowler, Charlotte Observer

What sort of impact does Mike Tolbert have on the Jonathan Stewart-DeAngelo Williams timeshare?
Not nearly as major as Cam Newton’s eye for the end zone does, but it will have some impact. In terms of TDs, Williams (seven) and Stewart (five) combined didn’t have as many as Newton last season if you count only the QB’s rushing TDs (14), much less his passing TDs (21). Ron Rivera says he wants to use Tolbert on occasional carries for short yardage and also to flare out of the backfield for passes (which would affect Stewart far more than Williams, as the Panthers throw a lot more to Stewart). Tolbert’s main job, however, will be blocking. Bottom line: Williams and Stewart will still get the bulk of the carries between the 20s, but the Panthers were so successful with Newton running the ball last season near the goal line, so that probably won’t change much. So Williams and Stewart, with the addition of Tolbert, will be slightly less valuable as fantasy players, but not much. Tolbert’s impact will be felt slightly more by Stewart since he will sometimes be the Panthers’ third-down back.

Is there any chance Cam Newton can duplicate the numbers from his record-setting rookie season?
Absolutely. Probably not in rushing touchdowns — the Panthers don’t really want him running the ball quite as much due to injury concerns. Newton set an all-time record for quarterbacks last season with 14 TDs. But his passing TDs (a modest 21) should go up. So his overall total of 35 TDs is certainly reachable, if he can stay healthy (always a question for a running quarterback).

Who is the No. 2 pass-catching option on this offense?
Greg Olsen. To casual fans, he’s a tight end with limited fantasy appeal (540 yards, five TDs in 2011 while splitting time and numbers with Jeremy Shockey). But Olsen’s hands are fantastic, Shockey is gone and Newton loves him on third down in particular. He could be a value pick for fantasy tight ends.

As for wide receivers, Brandon LaFell is a big-play threat (17 yards per catch last season) but not great over the middle. David Gettis will also be a factor early. For the receivers, it’s still Steve Smith at No.1 and "receiver-by-committee" at No.2.

Athlon's Best Bets

Sleeper: David Gettis, WR
Deep-Sleeper: Joe Adams, WR
Overvalued: Cam Newton, QB
Top Rookie: Luke Kuechly, LB
Bounce-Back: James Anderson, LB
Top IDP: Charles Johnson, DE

2012 Draft Class

1. Luke Kuechly LB 6-3 243 Boston College
2. Amini Silatolu G 6-4 314 Midwestern St. (TX)
4. Frank Alexander DE 6-4 271 Oklahoma
4. Joe Adams WR 5-11 181 Arkansas
5. Josh Norman CB 6-0 190 Coastal Carolina
6. Brad Nortman P 6-2 209 Wisconsin
7. D.J. Campbell S 6-0 200 California

Fantasy Impact: The Panthers focused this year’s draft on upgrading the defense. Linebacker Luke Kuechly is expected to start right away and was one of college football’s leading tacklers throughout his career at Boston College. He should be targeted in IDP leagues as a late-round sleeper. Frank Alexander should help bolster the pass rush but is probably a long-shot to produce value in IDP formats. Joe Adams will immediately help on special teams and should work his way into snaps on offense as a No. 3 or No. 4 receiver.

Fantasy Playoff Run: Weeks 14-16 (ATL, at SD, OAK)

The Panthers’ defense struggled mightily with injuries, and it showed with an emphatic end to the 2012 season — 45 points and 617 yards allowed to New Orleans. Carolina went defense in the first round, fittingly with a linebacker, but that likely won’t help against its three fantasy postseason opponents. As a result, the Panthers offense should put up good numbers trying to keep pace.

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Teaser:
<p> Fantasy Football 2012: Breaking Down the Carolina Panthers</p>
Post date: Friday, August 17, 2012 - 06:01
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2012-breaking-down-buffalo-bills
Body:

What can the Buffalo Bills do for you this fantasy season? Check out Athlon Sports' team report as we break down the rookies, veteran players to watch and avoid, fantasy playoff schedule and more to help you get ready for the 2012 season.

Inside the Locker Room
with Leo Roth, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

At 31, can Fred Jackson return from a broken leg and finish what he started in the first half of 2011?
There’s no reason to believe he can’t. The versatile back suffered a hairline fracture in his fibula against Miami on Nov. 20 and likely would’ve been back for the playoffs had there been playoffs for the awful Bills. Jackson was averaging 137.6 all-purpose yards per game at the time of his injury. The only thing that can prevent him from repeating that kind of production is reduced playing time, a very real possibility with the emergence of C.J. Spiller.

How many touches per game can fans expect from C.J. Spiller?
This isn’t easily answered. Spiller, the ninth overall pick in 2010, saw his carries per game increase from 2.1 per game to 14.3 over the final six games as the starting running back after Jackson’s injury. He responded in kind with 446 yards rushing (5.2 average) while adding 24 catches for 187 yards. Jackson and Spiller combined to average just over 20 touches per game in Chan Gailey’s offense. That’s barely enough work for one back, let alone two.

Ryan Fitzpatrick threw 15 TDs and nine INTs when the Bills went 5–3 in the first half of 2011. He threw nine TDs and 11 INTs while the Bills went 1–7 in the final eight games. Which Fitzpatrick can fans expect in 2012?
Probably the first-half Fitzpatrick now that he’s had a full offseason to heal from the rib injury that undoubtedly affected his play over the final eight games. If it’s the second-half Fitzpatrick that shows up in September, the fans will start calling for new backup QB Vince Young.

Athlon's Best Bets

Sleeper: C.J. Spiller, RB
Deep-Sleeper: David Nelson, WR
Overvalued: Fred Jackson, RB
Top Rookie: Stephon Gilmore, CB
Bounce-Back: Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB
Top IDP: Mario Williams, DE

2012 Draft Class

1. Stephon Gilmore CB 6-0 190 South Carolina
2. Cordy Glenn T 6-5 343 Georgia
3. T.J. Graham WR 6-0 180 NC State
4. Nigel Bradham LB 6-2 240 Florida State
4. Ron Brooks CB 5-10 188 LSU
5. Zebrie Sanders T 6-6 318 Florida State
5. Tank Carder LB 6-3 237 TCU
6. Mark Asper G 6-7 325 Oregon
7. John Potter K 6-2 209 Western Michigan

Fantasy Impact: Upgrading the defense was the offseason’s top priority. After acquiring Mario Williams to bolster the front seven, Buffalo addressed the secondary by selecting Stephon Gilmore in the first round. Receiver T.J. Graham could be a factor on special teams, and his speed will help stretch defenses and help to take the pressure off of Stevie Johnson.

Fantasy Playoff Run: Weeks 14-16 (STL, SEA, at MIA)

It’s hard to say what the Bills will face here as they take on two teams headed by new coaching staffs and a Seattle team that drafted defense with eight of its 10 picks. Plus, who will be consistent for Buffalo? Ryan Fitzpatrick had no receivers inside the top 15 in fantasy production last season. Running back Fred Jackson was on a tear but got injured. Good luck.

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Teaser:
<p> Fantasy Football 2012: Breaking Down the Buffalo Bills</p>
Post date: Friday, August 17, 2012 - 05:59
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2012-best-offensive-lines-help-running-game
Body:

Here’s a revelation for you: Good blocking helps the running game. You already knew that, but how much did you consider it in your drafts last year? Probably not as much as you should have.

ProFootballFocus.com has four years’ worth of ratings for both individual players and whole teams (see chart, below). Among the top 16 teams — or the top half of the NFL — in run-blocking in each of those years, at least 10 have also finished among the top 16 in fantasy scoring for running backs.

The 2011 season produced 10 such teams. In 2009 and ‘10, 11 of the top 16 in PFF run-blocking also ranked top 16 in running back points. In 2008, 13 of the top 16 did.

Conversely, each of the past four seasons has also seen at least 10 of the 16 worst run-blocking teams rank in the bottom 16 in running back scoring.

Top running backs can still overcome poor blocking, as Chris Johnson did in 2010 — but not in 2011 — and mediocre running backs won’t turn stud just because of a few holes (Shonn Greene). It’s undeniable, however, that some talented big guys up front make life easier in the backfield.

With that in mind, which lines will help their runners most?

New England
New England is the only team to rank among the top 10 in run-blocking for each of the four seasons PFF has graded. The Patriots finished second from 2008-10 and then third in 2011. Last year was the only time within that stretch that the team failed to rank among the league’s top eight in fantasy scoring for running backs. Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen will begin with an advantage whenever they step onto the field. And don’t expect the retirement of left tackle Matt Light to hurt. Replacement Nate Solder was rated the team’s best run-blocker as a 2011 rookie right tackle.

New Orleans
The Saints ranked fifth in run-blocking in both 2011 and 2009, and fourth in 2008. They dipped to 16th in 2010, hurt by a down year for star guard Jahri Evans. Other guard Carl Nicks bolted for Tampa and a big free agent contract, but Baltimore free agent Ben Grubbs replaces him. Grubbs ranked eighth and 15th, respectively, among NFL guards in run-blocking the past two seasons, according to PFF.

N.Y. Jets
Right tackle Wayne Hunter took a lot of the blame for the Jets’ decline last year, but every lineman other than center Nick Mangold performed worse than the year before. And yet, the team still managed to rank 12th in run-blocking. Hunter remains the weakest link, but he doesn’t appear to be going anywhere unless Vladimir Ducasse beats him out in camp. Either way, this should remain a solid group. Now the Jets just need a running back to play up to the line’s level.

Philadelphia
The Eagles will miss left tackle Jason Peters. The question is: How much? PFF ranked Demetress Bell 21st among 76 qualifying tackles in run-blocking last year. That came over just seven games, and injury has been the biggest impediment to Bell’s career. He’ll play next to the No. 1 run-blocking guard in the league last year, Evan Mathis. The rest of the group is solid and led by veteran coach Howard Mudd. Most would probably be surprised to find out that the Eagles ranked 14th and ninth in run-blocking the two years preceding Mudd’s arrival. Upside remains with center Jason Kelce and guard Danny Watkins as well.

Jacksonville
The Jags finished each of the past two years among the top 10 and each of the past four among the top 16. Guard Will Rackley needs to improve, and there needs to be much less Guy Whimper. The team didn’t draft a challenger there, so it must feel good about Eben Britton.

Arizona
The Cards boasted the sixth-best run-blocking unit in the league last year, according to PFF, but still felt the need to upgrade. The Cardinals signed guard Adam Snyder to replace Rex Hadnot and drafted Ole Miss tackle Bobby Massie. Massie, a potential steal, could push disappointing left tackle Levi Brown.

— By Matt Schauf, originally published in the 2012 Athlon Sports NFL Fantasy Football preview magazine

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Teaser:
<p> Fantasy Football 2012: Best Offensive Lines to Help the Running Game</p>
Post date: Friday, August 17, 2012 - 05:59
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2012-breaking-down-cincinnati-bengals
Body:

What can the Cincinnati Bengals do for you this fantasy season? Check out Athlon Sports' team report as we break down the rookies, veteran players to watch and avoid, fantasy playoff schedule and more to help you get ready for the 2012 season.

Inside the Locker Room
with Keith Goheen, Freelance Writer

Can BenJarvus Green-Ellis flourish in a full-time workhorse role or will Bernard Scott finally deliver on his big-play potential?
The Bengals won’t ask Green-Ellis to be the prototypical workhorse back, not in the manner that Cedric Benson was used for the past few seasons. Green-Ellis is a better receiver out of the backfield, and the thrust of this offense is going to be through the air. The Bengals are banking on Green-Ellis to continue his production in the red zone and goal-to-go situations. Scott’s role could expand some, but he won’t get enough carries to be overly enticing to fantasy owners.

Who should owners target at wide receiver after A.J. Green has been taken?
The Bengals have several unproven candidates who could be worth a late-round investment. Rookie Mohamed Sanu caught 115 passes as a senior at Rutgers, but the Bengals also like fifth-round pick Marvin Jones. A sleeper choice? Former University of Cincinnati receiver Armon Binns, who spent most of last season on the practice squad.

Can Jermaine Gresham provide more than just touchdowns in this offense?
He started to show some of that last season and, with the lack of a proven No. 2 receiver opposite A.J. Green, Gresham will get more opportunities this season. He took a step forward in his overall game in 2011, but he’s got potential for much greater things.

Athlon's Best Bets

Sleeper: BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB
Deep-Sleeper: Dan Herron, RB
Overvalued: None
Top Rookie: Mohamed Sanu, WR
Bounce-Back: None
Top IDP: Ray Maualuga, LB

2012 Draft Class

1. Dre Kirkpatrick CB 6-1 186 Alabama
1. Kevin Zeitler OG 6-4 314 Wisconsin
2. Devon Still DT 6-5 303 Penn State
3. Mohamed Sanu WR 6-2 211 Rutgers
3. Brandon Thompson DT 6-2 314 Clemson
4. Orson Charles TE 6-2 251 Georgia
5. Shaun Prater CB 5-10 190 Iowa
5. Marvin Jones WR 6-1 199 California
5. George Iloka S 6-4 225 Boise State
6. Dan Herron RB 5-10 213 Ohio State

Fantasy Impact: A.J. Green is set as the Bengals’ No. 1 receiver, but Mohamed Sanu could be the team’s No. 2 or No. 3 option this year. Orson Charles is still developing and will likely be Cincinnati’s No. 2 tight end behind Jermaine Gresham. Marvin Jones is a steady wide receiver and could earn snaps this season.

Fantasy Playoff Run: Weeks 14-16 (DAL, at PHI, at PIT)

This is probably one of the least desirable fantasy postseason schedules. Two of the three games are on the road. Fantasy championship week is at Pittsburgh — second-best against fantasy QBs, WRs and TEs in 2011. It’s not much better the previous week, as Philadelphia was in the top half against the three aforementioned positions as well.

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Teaser:
<p> A fantasy football perspective on the team</p>
Post date: Thursday, August 16, 2012 - 12:45

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