The spotlight shines on the AFC East this week in our “7 Questions” series.
1. Will Brandon Lloyd finish as a Top-10 fantasy receiver?
Prepare yourself for some hard-hitting analysis.
Are you ready?
You might want to sit down. Ok, that’s better. Here we go.
Ahem…Tom Brady is better than Kyle Orton.
Whew! I know your head is spinning, but hear me out. With Josh McDaniels as his offensive coordinator and Kyle Orton as his primary quarterback (Tim Tebow threw 82 passes in 4 games), Lloyd finished atop all fantasy receivers in 2010 with 1,448 yards and 11 touchdowns.
The math is there for him to have an insane season: His production with McDaniels + Brady’s production in ’07 with McDaniels + Lloyd’s downfield ability and crazy hands making him a poor man’s Randy Moss = the potential for Lloyd to once again be the #1 receiver in fantasy.
To all this you say…duh. I understand this is probably the 173rd article you’ve read regarding Brandon Lloyd and his potential, but I think it bears repeating because he’s still being drafted like no one’s read anything about him. He’s going in the 6th round as the 17th overall receiver for crying out loud! I personally have him at no.5 behind Megatron, Fitz, Roddy White, and Jennings and even ahead of his teammate Wes Welker. The upside is just too much to pass up and, as such, I plan on drafting Lloyd no later than the third round.
2. Can Reggie Bush repeat his surprising output from last season?
2011 was Bush’s breakout season thanks to him finally hitting holes and no longer tiptoeing at the line of scrimmage. It was the first 1,000 yard season in his 6 year career and he finally played at least 15 games for the first time since his rookie campaign.
That’s all well and good, but I don’t see him doing it again. His run-happy offensive coordinator Brian Daboll is now in Kansas City and the new sheriff in town running the offense is Mike Sherman, a proponent of the West Coast system. Sherman’s last post at OC was in 2007 with the Houston Texans. That year, Houston ranked eleventh in passing offense, chucking the ball 529 times.
Bush has always been known for his receiving skills, but actually registered his worst season in that regard in 2011, posting a career low 20 receiving yards per game. Sherman will most likely increase that with the dinks and dunks that come with the west coast system, but I can easily see that as a detriment to the improvements Bush made handling the ball BEHIND the line of scrimmage last year.
Miami named Ryan Tannehill the starting QB earlier today and, because I don’t think he’s any good, I believe this hurts Bush’s value since defenses will stack the box and force Tanny to beat them.
The change in offensive philosophy, combined with Bush still being a health risk (missed 21 games in his previous 5 seasons before 2011), and the growing pains facing his new rookie quarterback makes Reggie a stay away for me this season.
3. Can Ryan Fitzpatrick finish as a top-10 fantasy quarterback?
It’s fair to say Ryan Fitzpatrick was more of a fantasy surprise than Reggie Bush last year. For a guy who in all likelihood went undrafted in nearly every league, he started the season on a tear of all tears, racking up 1,477 yards and 12 TDs in his first 6 games.
After the bye however, it all went horribly wrong. Fitzy threw just the same number of touchdowns over the final 10 games and added 17 more interceptions.
I remember thinking last year that his stark drop in production was just…plain…weird, and this scholarly thought was backed up this offseason when it came out that he was suffering from two cracked ribs during the final nine games of the season. I may be alone, but I believe the report. Fitzpatrick isn’t a great quarterback, but he’s efficient and he has weapons in Steve Johnson, David Nelson, and two great pass-catching running backs in Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller (more on them later). It didn’t make sense that he all of a sudden forgot how to play football like he made it seem over that stretch.
He still showed signs of promise over the final half of the season, throwing for 250+ yards in 5 games, including a 264 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs performance in week 12 against a Jets secondary that ranked fifth in passing defense.
He barely finished outside the top-10 last season and is currently the 22nd quarterback off the board in most drafts. With his weapons and the flashes of fantasy brilliance he showed last season, I think he has more upside than most quarterbacks going in that range and is worth stashing on your bench if you draft a high-end QB with an injury history like Stafford, Romo, or Vick.
4. Are the Jets still an elite fantasy D/ST?
They finished 7th last year in ESPN standard scoring and I think that’s probably their ceiling this season. Gang Green no longer strikes fear into the heart of opposing offenses, but you can’t deny that they have talent on that side of the ball.
The passing defense will be strong as always, anchored by arguably the best defensive player in the league in Darrelle Revis plus talented young corner Kyle Wilson. Antonio Cromartie might be making the switch to free safety after a disappointing season at cornerback to join hard hitting, but oft-injured new addition LaRon Landry.
To get back to elite status, they must improve the pass rush. The Jets finished 17th in sacks last year, averaging barely over 2 per game. They’re hoping 16th overall pick Quinton Coples and Buffalo Bills bust Aaron Maybin can realize their potential and turn that around.
The Jets are only three years removed from being the #1 defense in the game so the possibility is there, it’s just very unlikely. They deserve to be one of the first 6-8 defenses drafted, but they’re no longer in the upper tier.
5. Will Rob Gronkowski regress?
Of course he will. He broke every tight end record last year! It’s asinine to think he can go for 1,327 yards and 18 TDs every year.
However, that doesn’t mean he can’t still be the #1 tight end in fantasy. Prepare yourself for some math.
For the sake of this argument (and whole numbers), let’s say Gronk drops in production by 227 yards and 5 touchdowns. That puts him at 1,100yds/13tds/188pts on the season. The average of the rest of the top-10 TEs in 2011 was 824/6.7/123pts. That means, even if you decrease Gronk’s output by 20%, he still gives you a 4 point advantage at tight end every week.
Let that sink in and tell me you won’t ignore the erroneous “Gronk’s not worth a second round pick because he can’t possibly repeat!” argument when entering your draft.
6. Does C.J. Spiller’s emergence last season pose a threat to Fred Jackson’s value?
It’s easy to think that Spiller’s 14.8pts/gm from week 12 on was impressive. That is, until you realize that Fred Jackson was averaging nearly 20pts/gm until he broke his leg in week 11.
F-Jax was the pillar of consistency until his freak accident, never scoring less than 9 points in a game and scoring 20+ in half of them. Jackson is back healthy and should reclaim his role as the workhorse in the Bills running game.
Just because he doesn’t affect Fred Jackson’s value doesn’t mean Spiller isn’t valuable himself. His production did not go unnoticed by Chan Gailey and the rest of the Bills’ coaching staff. He will see the field a lot more and will be all over it when he gets on there, lining up almost as frequently at wide receiver as he does at running back.
I think both players are steals at where they are going in mock drafts, F-Jax in the fourth and Spiller in the tenth. I think Jackson is a high end no.1 RB and Spiller is a low-end no.2/elite flex option.
7. Are there any Jets worth drafting?
Mark Sanchez was a serviceable fantasy quarterback at times last season, finishing with double digits in 12 of 16 games and scoring 15+ in eight contests. However, after watching that offense work in the preseason, I am in the camp that believes they are going to have a putrid start to the season and Tebow is going to come in to try and save the day by week 6, making Sanchez undraftable in my eyes. If you want Tebow, you’ll probably have to draft him, but I wouldn’t recommend doing it until one of your last two non-defense/kicker picks.
Shonn Greene is consistently overrated every year and Santonio Holmes is a nutcase, so stay away from them. That was easy.
Dustin Keller, on the other hand, might be an interesting option at tight end. If you miss out on one of the elite 3, then you might as well wait and wait for your tight end this year, as it is crazy deep. I would probably prefer someone with higher upside, like a Jared Cook or Fred Davis, but if you don’t want to draft one until round 14, then you can do worse than a guy who finished in the top-10 in fantasy scoring last season, and tied for sixth in targets, among tight ends.