Rise and fall of fantasy

Fantasy football's biggest movers for 2011

Fantasy football's biggest movers for 2011

We can never get enough fantasy football here at Athlon, and each week we will be discussing topics relating to the world of fantasy football. Two mock drafts have already been conducted.

This week we look at the biggest risers and fallers heading into the 2011 season. For the risers, we looked for a player that was perhaps a mid-to-late round pick or a waiver wire pick up last year that will be shooting up draft boards this season. We purposley left out Arian Foster, Michael Vick, Brandon Lloyd and Peyton Hillis — they were the obvious group of players that came out of left field to surprise us last season.

For the fallers, we looked at players who were top-24 type players a year ago and have certainly seen that high of a ranking fall by the wayside heading into 2011.

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Braden Gall @AthlonBraden on Twitter

RISER — Cincinnati and Green Bay, WRs
I am going to go a bit off the board with these names: the Green Bay Packers and Cincinnati Bengals receiving corps.

Jordy Nelson is the future for a Packers team who may not retain James Jones due to inconsistency, and has an aging Donald Driver. Nelson proved in the Super Bowl that he can be the next great receiver for the Packers. The same issue is taking place in Cincy. I reserve the right to change my mind if Carson Palmer is not retained as the quarterback. But look for Jerome Simpson, Jordan Shipley and tight end Jermaine Gresham to be solid fantasy contributors once Twiddle Dee and Twiddle Dumb move along.

There are a lot of players who had solid first seasons on the field that I will have high on my board next fall. Sam Bradford, Arian Foster (duh!), Brandon Pettigrew and Dez Bryant are guys that should have long, productive careers in the NFL.

FALLER — Randy Moss, WR, Tennessee (ADP of 9 last year, ranked 101 on Athlon Sports big board this year)
I knew that this player was going to be a terrible fantasy play in 2010, but I had no idea it would be this bad. I would like to formally denounce Randy Moss from all fantasy squads — never to return from target purgatory again. His last 100-yard game came in Week 10 of the 2009 season — which was also the last game that he caught more than five passes in a game. He was a dynamic threat (when motivated) for many years, but he is officially finished in my book. Names like Donald Driver, Chad Ochocinco, old Steve Smith, Terrell Owens and, to a lesser extent, Reggie Wayne are all in the same boat — or at least, ticketed for the next scheduled departure.

Steven Lassan @AthlonSteven on Twitter

RISER — Mike Wallace, WR, Pittsburgh (ADP of 73 last year, ranked 26 on Athlon Sports big board this year)
The torch in the Steel City was officially passed from Hines Ward to Mike Wallace last season. Ward will be 35 when the 2011 season kicks off and his receptions dropped from 95 in 2009 to 59 last season. Although Ward can still play at a high level, he’s no longer the go-to option. Wallace picked up the slack from the departure of Santonio Holmes, catching 60 passes for 1,257 yards and 10 scores. Wallace was expected to see a jump in production with the departure of Holmes, but was regarded as a Round 6-8 pick last year. The scary thought for opposing cornerbacks? Wallace will be entering only his third season in 2011.

Fantasy owners can expect Wallace to see a bump in catches next year, especially with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger under center for the full season. While Roethlisberger missed the first four games, Wallace was held to nine receptions. After Roethlisberger returned, Wallace posted six 100-yard games and averaged four catches per game. The emergence of Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown will keep defenses from keying on Wallace, making the third-year player one of the top-10 receivers to have in 2011.

FALLER — Ryan Mathews, RB, San Diego (ADP of 14 last year, ranked 51 on Athlon Sports big board this year)
With the departure of LaDainian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles unlikely to be the every down back, everything appeared to be aligned for rookie Ryan Mathews to emerge as a 1,000-yard rusher in San Diego last year. Injuries limited Mathews to 12 games, but he managed 678 yards and seven touchdowns – a far cry from those expecting him to be a top 10-15 running back last season. Mathews’ ankle injury opened the door for Mike Tolbert to earn his way onto the field, finishing as San Diego’s leading rusher and punching 11 carries into the endzone.

One of the big concerns about Mathews coming out of Fresno State was his ability to stay healthy and those question marks emerged once again after his injury last year. If he can stay healthy, Mathews should threaten 1,000 yards in 2011. However, Tolbert earned his way onto the field last year and won’t be see much of a reduction in carries. Mathews still has significant upside and will eventually become a 200-220 carry back. Expect Mathews to see an increase in carries next season, but don’t expect him to go in the first three rounds of fantasy drafts for 2011.

Nathan Rush

RISER — Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego (ADP of 42 last year, ranked 20 on Athlon Sports big board this year)
Chargers one-man show Philip Rivers may be rising, but he’s still a solid value. Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and sometimes Drew Brees are almost always drafted ahead of Rivers — who has not missed a start (80-for-80) since taking over for Brees in San Diego in 2006. Over the past three years, Rivers’ average season is 4,324 yards, 31 TDs and 11 INTs. And in a division with one of the league’s worst pass defenses (Broncos) and two teams that are likely to fall back to reality in 2011 (Chiefs and Raiders), Rivers’ best statistical season could come this year.

FALLER — Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona (ADP of 20 last year, ranked 28 on Athlon Sports big board this year)
Now Larry Fitzgerald knows what the Iowa Barnstormers receivers felt like in the late 1990s, when Kurt Warner graduated from the Arena League. After catching a combined 35 TDs over three seasons with the buzz-cut bandito under center in Phoenix, Fitz made only six trips to the end zone last season. On the bright side, he did post 90 catches for 1,137 yards. Even without consistent quarterback play, the 6’3”, 218-pounder was able to produce solid fantasy numbers. I say put your money on Fitzgerald and hope the QB situation in Arizona changes — or that No. 11 gets traded to the Colts or Patriots.

Patrick Snow @AthlonSnowman on Twitter 

RISER — Darren McFadden, RB, Oakland (ADP of 111 last year, ranked 17 on Athlon Sports big board this year) 
We all know the Oakland running back Darren McFadden, the former fourth overall draft pick, has elite talent. But after two seasons of average results and lingering injuries, McFadden put together a solid year with 1,157 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. He also had 47 catches for over 500 yards and three more scores. “Run DMC” was drafted in most leagues between the fifth and seventh rounds, so he provided great value in 2010.

Can McFadden do it again? Obviously if you could guarantee he would play 15-16 games, the answer would be more positive. However, I’m skeptical of some of the projections that have him going in next season’s first round. Even though the 5.2 yards per carry were very impressive last year, McFadden still only played 13 games. He also scored five of his seven rushing touchdowns in only two games. While the talent is immense, so is the gamble of taking McFadden in the first round.

FALLER — Brandon Marshall, WR, Miami (ADP of 39 last year, ranked 19 on Athlon Sports big board this year)
Most pundits would say an 86-catch, 1,014-yard season is not much of a fall, but the uber-talented Brandon Marshall only scored three touchdowns after taking his talents to South Beach.

He’s still good in point-per-reception leagues, but you have to wonder about the players around Marshall and which direction his statistics are going. In 2010, Miami receiver Davone Bess had five TD catches and tight end Anthony Fasano had four. Marshall finished last season strong, but there are some definite reservations with the Dolphins’ offense. Can Chad Henne get Marshall the ball enough to return him to a WR1? Where is the Miami running going with Ronnie Brown? Can the Dolphins put up big fantasy numbers in the rugged AFC East? With all of these concerns, I think Marshall has dropped to a solid WR2 instead of his previous elite receiver status.

Corby Yarbrough @AthlonCorby on Twitter

RISERLeGarrette Blount, RB, Tampa Bay (No ADP last year, ranked 30 on Athlon Sports big board this year)
Living in Nashville and being part of a longtime dynasty league, I found myself keeping an eye on LeGarrette Blount from the minute he signed a free agent contract wit the Tennessee Titans. It didn't work out for the former Oregon Duck here in Nashville and he landed in Tampa — where I already had my eye on an up and comer in Kareem Huggins, who had a solid preseason campaign. But as time wore on over the 2010 season, Cadillac Williams underperformed as expected, Huggins ended up getting injured and Blount found himself leading the team in carries — 201 for 1,007 yards and six scores in 13 games.

There are still question marks as to whether Blount can be the man in Tampa, but outside of a free agent signing who is there to contest his spot? Williams cannot be the man. Huggins tore knee ligaments in October and Earnest Graham had just 20 carries last season.

We currently have Blount ranked as the No. 14 RB and the No. 30 overall of our early top 275. And after being our No. 76 RB last season, it's hard to find a bigger riser.

FALLER — Shonn Greene, RB, New York Jets (ADP of 24 last year, ranked 52 on Athlon Sports big board this year)
Shonn Greene came off a fantastic playoff run in 2009, carrying the ball 54 times for 304 yards and six scores as he helped lead the Wild Card Jets to the AFC Championship Game. Those numbers helped make him a top-20 pick in 2010 drafts — PPR or not — and he failed to live up to those expectations.

A 185-carry, 766-yard, two-TD performance over 15 games played in 2010 and a rejuvenated LaDanian Tomlinson in New York certainly hindered the second-year player's sophomore campaign. The Jets played in three more playoff games during the 2010 season and Greene toted the rock 45 times for 198 yards and one TD. L.T. is slated to be back in 2011 and Greene seemingly showed nothing to the Jets coaches that he should be the guy. We have him ranked as the No. 52 overall player and No. 21 overall running back a year after he was ranked as the 14th overall player and ninth overall RB.

As a longtime dynasty player, these numbers scare me for another player as well. James Starks had a spectacular postseason run to help Green Bay win the Super Bowl. It makes me wonder will he become Shonn Greene part deux in 2011 with Ryan Grant healthy again.

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