Tom Brady (New England Patriots)
Ryan Fitzpatrick (Buffalo Bills)
Mark Sanchez (New York Jets)
Matt Moore (Miami Dolphins)
Tim Tebow (New York Jets)
Brady won’t be the first quarterback off the board, but he’ll certainly be within the Top Five. With 5,235 passing yards in 2011, he had a career-best season in yardage. His 39 touchdown passes and only 12 interceptions certainly helped Fantasy owners. Icing on the cake was the three rushing touchdowns and the 11 games with over 300 yards. In fact, there was only one game all season where Brady threw for just one touchdown and didn’t score a rushing touchdown (but he did have 321 yards). In every other game, he threw for at least two touchdowns (or as many as four in two separate games) or he threw for one and ran in at least one himself. There’s no doubt he’s a top QB option for 2012.
You could argue Sanchez is a better pick than Fitzpatrick. Either way, the drop-off from Brady to the rest of the pack is significant. Let’s compare figures:
Sanchez: 3,474 yards, 26 TDs, 18 INTs, 103 rushing yards, six rushing TDs
Fitzpatrick: 3,832 yards, 24 TDs, 23 INTs, 215 rushing yards, 0 rushing TDs
Sanchez will give you more in the touchdown category – at least he did before Tebow entered the picture. The reason Fitzpatrick is ranked higher than Sanchez on this list is because Fitzpatrick has the starting job. Through ups and downs last season, Fitzpatrick was at the helm. The Bills added Vince Young to be his backup. Surely no one thinks that Young is going to be the starter. However, the Jets acquired Tebow, who arguably is a starting quarterback. Granted, the job still belongs to Sanchez, but don’t be surprised if Tebow ends up being the starter partway through the season. We saw this happen in Denver last year. New York fans may not be the same as the Denver fans (in that they were calling for Tebow to start), but that doesn’t mean that he won’t be given the opportunity should Sanchez falter. Fitzpatrick remains a solid QB2 or backup, while Sanchez is a risky QB2, and Tebow is a late-round flier for when he does get called up to play.
Moore will likely be the Week 1 starter; however, he is still competing with David Garrard for the job. Just think about that. Moore can’t be assured the starting job over someone who hasn’t played a snap since 2010 and in the meantime, had back surgery and has a history of back problems. Leave Moore alone on draft day – and beyond.
Fred Jackson (Buffalo Bills)
Reggie Bush (Miami Dolphins)
C.J. Spiller (Buffalo Bills)
Shonn Greene (New York Jets)
Stevan Ridley (New England Patriots)
Jackson missed the end of last season because of a broken leg. He’s been medically cleared and has been practicing. He should be fine for Week 1 and have no lingering effects. Before he was injured in 2011, he was on his way to a monster season. In 10 games, he already had more rushing yards than he did in 2010 (934) and more receiving yards than he had in any other season (442). He had six rushing touchdowns (again, more than in any other season) and six games with over 100 rushing yards. He should be able to pick up where he left off, and Fantasy owners should draft him with confidence as a RB1. The only concern is Spiller, who stepped in once Jackson went down. In the last six games of the season, Spiller had 446 rushing yards, three rushing touchdowns, 187 receiving yards and two receiving touchdowns. He’s not likely going to take Jackson’s job away, but don’t be surprised if the two end up splitting carries as the season wears on. Spiller is worth RB2 consideration.
While Bush had a career season seemingly out of nowhere, Fantasy owners can’t expect the same numbers in 2012. He played 15 games, which was impressive in itself. He cracked 1,000 rushing yards, had six rushing touchdowns, nearly 300 receiving yards and a receiving touchdown. However, Bush isn’t built to be an every-down, between-the-tackles back. Rather, he’s the type of back that works best as a receiving, pass-catching back. With Daniel Thomas healthy, that’s likely where Bush will end up. He’s a RB2 with Thomas sharing carries with him.
When the Jets went to a “ground and pound” offense last year, Greene benefitted. However, for someone who was the primary back, only putting up 1,054 rushing yards, 211 receiving yards and six touchdowns isn’t that impressive. He’s not really a pass-catching back, and he didn’t look very quick last year. With Tebow in the picture now, some of the goal-line carries may end up going to Tebow. Also, if Tebow runs the wildcat, Greene will be left out of the offensive plays. He’s a decent RB2, if for no other reason than that he’s likely going to receive most of the carries for the Jets.
In case you didn’t see Brady’s numbers above, just know that New England is a pass-first offense and any running back isn’t going to be extremely helpful to your Fantasy team. Ridley is a high RB3, at best, but don’t expect big games from him. He will likely be sharing carries with Shane Vereen (who is still vying for the starting role), but should get the goal line work. Danny Woodhead and Joseph Addai are still in the mix as well, so the whole New England backfield is a situation to avoid until either the team picks one starter to go with, or you’re desperate near the end of your draft.
Wes Welker (New England Patriots)
Brandon Lloyd (New England Patriots)
Santonio Holmes (New York Jets)
Stevie Johnson (Buffalo Bills)
Brian Hartline (Miami Dolphins)
While Welker is the clear top option out of this group, it is arguable to put his teammate just behind him. Welker is still looking for a contract after his career-best season. He had 1,569 receiving yards and nine touchdowns in a pass-friendly offense that also featured two of the best tight ends in the league. While the argument may be there that there are only so many passes being thrown per game, Welker will surely continue to be one of Brady’s top options. He’s not the tallest, the fastest or the strongest guy on the field, but he’s one of the best playmakers out there. Draft him as a WR1. Teammate Lloyd is a newcomer to the Patriots, after following OC Josh McDaniels to New England, and he reportedly has picked up the offense and has worked well with Brady in the offseason. While you shouldn’t expect numbers near his 2010 season (1,448 yards, 11 TDs), he should fare better in 2012 than he did in 2011 (966 yards, five touchdowns). Draft him as a low WR1 with potential to have a breakout-type year.
For the Jets, Holmes was a disappointment to Fantasy owners that drafted him as a WR1 last season. His eight touchdowns helped, but the career-low yards (654) were tough to handle. He didn’t have a 100-plus yard game OR a multi-touchdown game all season. He is the No. 1 receiver for the Jets with very little competition (rookie Stephen Hill is already missing minicamps with a hamstring injury), but with the potential for Tebow to be at the helm, Holmes’ value lies as a low WR2 pick.
Johnson had groin surgery in the offseason, but looks to be ready for Week 1. He was inconsistent for Fantasy owners last season, and you can expect much of the same in 2012. He did break 1,000 yards and had seven touchdowns on the season, but the Bills’ offense struggled and Johnson didn’t exactly help. With David Nelson taking receptions away and the emergence of TE Scott Chandler in the red zone, Johnson’s value is in the low WR2 range.
It’s hard to find a receiver to recommend drafting in Miami. Hartline is listed as the No. 1 wideout in Miami with Chad Ochocinco as the No. 2. Neither are Fantasy options at this point. Hartline is the best bet, although he is still battling a calf injury. Take a very late round flier in case he ends up being worthwhile, but don’t count on a breakout season from him.
Rob Gronkowski (New England Patriots)
Aaron Hernandez (New England Patriots)
Dustin Keller (New York Jets)
Scott Chandler (Buffalo Bills)
Anthony Fasano (Miami Dolphins)
It’s no secret that Gronkowski was the best tight end in the league last season, and he will likely be the first TE off the board on draft day this year. With numbers that were better than most wide receivers, all signs point to Gronk having a similar season as 2011. He had 18 total touchdowns, and while that number may drop, he’s still Brady’s top target in the red zone. The ankle injury he sustained (and had surgery on) appears to have healed and he should be fine for Week 1. With his size and ability, he did prove to be matchup-proof. However, with an offseason to prepare, other teams may try to find a way to defend against him. This just paves the way for Hernandez. With “only” 79 receptions, 910 yards and seven touchdowns, Hernandez is No. 2 on the depth chart in New England. Yet those kinds of numbers make him a top Fantasy tight end regardless of what the depth chart shows. Draft him as a TE1 with confidence.
For the Jets, Keller had the most yards in his career (815) but with only five touchdowns in a run-first offense, he’s merely a TE2. He is entering a contract year, but Fantasy owners need to look at the offense rather than the motivation. Keller just doesn’t get the targets, especially in the red zone, that other tight ends get. He’ll be a decent option if you end up with him on draft day, but don’t jump too early on what may be perceived as potential after last season.
Chandler is a tight end that can get you one point one week and then 10 points the next. His strength is in the red zone, and if he doesn’t catch a TD pass (which he did six times last year), he’s not going to rack up yards or catches for you. He’s a bye-week fill-in, at best, with the hope that you catch him on a week where he finds pay dirt.
Fasano is a blocking tight end more than a receiving tight end, and Fantasy owners shouldn’t hold out hope that his five touchdowns and 451 yards might lead to more this season. The Dolphins drafted rookie Michael Egnew, likely as Fasano’s replacement. For now, leave both alone on draft day, but don’t be surprised if Egnew is starting by mid-season.
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