Steven Jackson, RB, ATL
Since his sophomore 2005 season, Jackson had over 1,000 rushing yards every year and at least four touchdowns on the ground. He’s added at least 270 receiving yards as well. And that was all in St. Louis, Now he heads to Atlanta, where Matt Ryan will certainly get him the ball both on the ground and in the air. He’s going to be their workhorse back, which is what he wanted. Jackson, aside from looking to be the primary back on a team, wanted to join a team that could compete for the Super Bowl. Atlanta was lacking a running game, and now they have one with Jackson. He’ll get the ball and he’ll get in the end zone. Jackson’s career touchdown record is 16 in one season (in 2006, 13 rushing, three receiving). Sure, Jacquizz Rodgers is still in the picture, but the gig is Jackson’s. He should be considered an RB1 for 2013. He’ll likely fall to the middle or end of the first round – don’t be afraid to grab him if you can.
Rashard Mendenhall, RB, ARI
At only 26 years old at the start of the 2013 season, Mendenhall still has some juice left in the tank. Now going on 20 months removed from ACL surgery, there shouldn’t be anything to slow him down. Well, except for the pesky details like a struggling offense in Arizona. Or a guy like Ryan Williams who will compete for touches as well. Mendenhall proved that, when healthy, he could be a RB1. However, last season will still leave a bad taste in Fantasy owner’s mouths. Looking back to his previous three seasons in Pittsburgh, he had over 1,000 rushing yards in two of those three seasons – the third cut short by his ACL injury. He ended that year with 928 rushing yards (so 1,000 yards was certainly within his realm). Look for him to break 1,000 again with Arizona and potentially have double-digit touchdowns. This is all assuming he is healthy and wins the starting job. As the offseason continues, monitor reports coming out of Arizona. If Mendenhall is their guy, don’t be afraid to draft him as your RB1.
Danny Woodhead, RB, SD
The rumor mill had us believing that Woodhead would remain with New England. Well, the Patriots didn’t re-sign him, and the Chargers decided they wanted him. Look for Woodhead to take on a mix of the 2011 Mike Tolbert role as the goal-line and short yardage back who can catch the ball and the 2010 Darren Sproles role of a running back who lines up out wide to catch short passes. In PPR leagues, Woodhead has RB3 value. In 2011, Tolbert had 490 rushing yards, eight touchdowns, 54 receptions, 433 receiving yards and two receiving touchdowns, and in 2010, Sproles had 270 rushing yards, 59 receptions, 520 receiving yards and two TDs. Woodhead will likely put up numbers along the lines of Sproles moreso than Tolbert. The guy who sees a downgrade from the Woodhead signing is Ryan Mathews. This is proof that the Chargers don’t trust Mathews to be their No. 1 guy. Although, after the year he had in 2012, do you blame them? He’s too fragile to carry the load himself as the primary back. He – and the team – did better when Tolbert and Sproles were there, so it’s no wonder they looked to find another back to help Mathews out. Mathews drops to low RB2 status.
Those two names typically don’t appear together, but Green Bay has given up on Jennings and divisional rival Minnesota is desperate for a receiver now that Percy Harvin is gone. It appears that Jennings will step into Harvin’s role, but it remains to be seen if he can play it as well as Harvin did. The first step is to stay healthy. His past two seasons were either cut short or compromised by injury. His previous three seasons were great – each over 1,100 receiving yards, over 65 receptions and at least four touchdowns (nine in one season, 12 in the other). He also had Aaron Rodgers throwing to him. Enter Christian Ponder. Clearly there is a downgrade at QB. Instead of Jordy Nelson or Randall Cobb flanking him, Jennings will see Simpson. This will result in more coverage of Jennings and a harder throw for Ponder to make. While Jennings may be capable of 1,000-plus yard seasons, he isn’t going to find it in Minnesota. Assuming he can stay healthy, he’s worth a look as a low WR2/high WR3. You can draft him on potential, but you have to look at the team and his surroundings. Minnesota also recently added Matt Cassel to provide a backup for Ponder. Don’t even think of drafting either QB, and don’t think that Cassel will help Jennings’ cause.
Tony Gonzalez, TE, ATL
Well, so much for retirement. Gonzalez has channeled his inner Brett Favre and has decided to return to Atlanta for another season. His numbers over the past two years have been pretty consistent, and even though he is getting older, there is reason to believe his numbers will remain about the same in 2013. They may take a slight dip; however, Matt Ryan is going to throw him the ball, especially in the red zone. Look for Gonzalez to have about 75 receptions, 850 receiving yards and five touchdowns. He will definitely be a Top 10 tight end and he will likely flirt with Top Five numbers as well. Draft him as a TE1 and enjoy another year before he decides to retire again.
Martellus Bennett, TE, CHI
Welcome to Chicago, Martellus Bennett, where tight ends go to die. Well, at least they did in the Mike Martz era. There has been a change in the regime in Chicago, but they didn’t have a top tier tight end to work with. Now that Bennett is there, expect him to become Jay Cutler’s No. 2 target (behind Brandon Marshall). Sure, Alshon Jeffery will get his share as well, but as long as they let Cutler throw the ball, expect Bennett to be the beneficiary. Marshall will see double coverages, and Bennett will end up being open. He showed that he had potential to be a top TE in New York and he’ll likely be given that opportunity in Chicago. The addition of Bennett gives Cutler’s Fantasy value a boost. Draft Bennett as a sneaky TE1, as he may be overlooked given his inconsistent 2012 numbers and the past success of tight ends in Chicago.
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