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In this, the most important week in the fantasy football season, the Niners face the unenviable task of traveling to Seattle to take on the hottest team in the NFL.
The Raiders beat the worst team in the NFL while the Niners beat arguably the best. Who was the most valuable for fantasy this week?
What players will be the most reliable in this, the second most important week of the fantasy season?
The Niners will host a Dolphins team that has made strides this year but they are still in the bottom third as far as defense goes.
This week the Raiders get to flaunt their awfulness on national television- but don't flaunt them on your fantasy team.
Can the Raiders help fantasy owners at all this week?
Colin Kapernick has been named the starter this week against the Rams, to the surprise of exactly nobody. How will this affect fantasy owners this week?
After the Raiders could mount no fight whatsoever, the Niners made Drew Brees' life miserable in New Orleans. Who were the big fantasy winners of the day?
The Niners blew out the best defense in the league on Monday. What can they do against the worst?
The Bengals defense hasn't proven to be anything more than mediocre this year. If the Raiders limit mistakes, they can have success.
In Week 11 both Bay Area teams showed why their records accurately reflect their respective levels of success as the Niners demolished Chicago and the Raiders were steamrolled by New Orleans. However, both teams had tight ends who enjoyed success in their respective games.
The Raiders-Saints game this week could be a high scoring affair. Here are the guys you should start in this contest.
The Niners face one of the league's best defenses this week when they host Chicago. Are there any players worth starting?
Even though the Raiders were throttled in Baltimore and the Niners/Rams ended in a disappointing tie, there were some fantasy stars shining this week.
While Baltimore's defense is struggling through injuries this year, it's still potent to give the Raiders fits.
The Niners host the Rams on Sunday in a matchup that promises to be fantasy gold for many of the players.
The Raiders face a tough test against Tampa Bay this Sunday. Which players are best for fantasy teams?
Eight weeks into the season, the Niners have shown themselves to be a fantasy friendly team- at certain positions.
Both Bay Area teams had easy wins this week, with several players standing out for fantasy teams.
The Raiders head on the road to take on the Chiefs in week 8. Which Raiders belong in your fantasy lineup?
The Cardinals will host the Niners on Monday Night Football this week. What fantasy players are worth starting for the Niners in that game?
The Raiders and Niners both eked out wins over their opponents this week, but only one player for either team showed that he is a fantasy stud.
The Jaguar defense ranks 30th against the rush. Will the Raider attack be able to take advantage of their ground superiority?
The Seahawks have been a surprisingly stout defensive team this year and have ridden the wiles of Russell Wilson to several wins. What Niner players are worth starting this week?
This week was disappointing for both the Raiders and Niners. However, some of the players were able to put up good fantasy numbers,
Atlanta ranks 27th in total defense, and are much better against the pass than the run. What does that mean for your fantasy teams this week?
The Niners host the NY Giants this week, who allowed the Browns to put up big fantasy numbers in New York in Week 5. Can the Niners put up good stats as well?
Only the Niners played this week with Oakland on a bye, so who stepped up big for the team and their fantasy owners?
The Niners host the Bills on Sunday, and some Niners are great plays for your fantasy teams.
The Niners turned in a stellar day, especially from the defense while the Raiders got shellacked in Denver. Who were the big fantasy players on the day?
Who will be the surprise fantasy successes this week for the Raiders and Niners?
Which Raiders will help your fantasy team the most against the Broncos on Sunday?
Darrelle Revis won't be there to defend the Niners receivers this week. Will the Niners seek to capitalize on this?
Sunday's results were a huge departure from what was expected, as the Niners were dominated by a gormless Vikings team and the Raiders put up 34 points on a solid Steelers defense, coming back from 10 points down in the fourth quarter to win on a last second field goal. Let's see who helped and hurt your fantasy team this week:
STUD: Carson Palmer. He threw for over 200 yards and three touchdowns with one interception. He was lights-out in the second half and shredded the Steelers secondary with pinpoint accuracy. A showing like this against a top defense instills even more confidence in Palmer going forward.
STUD: Darren McFadden. He opened the Raiders' scoring with a 64 yard off-tackle scamper in the first quarter to answer a Pittsburgh touchdown. He scored another touchdown in the game that was overturned by the replay official. The Raiders were able to open up a few holes for him during the game, and McFadden tallied over 100 yards rushing The offensive line looked cohesive today and that spells good things for McFadden going forward.
STUD: Vernon Davis. He was the only Niner to have a solid fantasy day, tallying 53 receiving yards and a touchdown. He remains the best fantasy tight end in football.
DUD: Niners defense. They could not contain Christian Ponder whatsoever, letting him escape containment and rush for big gains on several occasions. When they got good pressure on him, they blew coverage on the receivers. They recovered two fumbles, but had no sacks or interceptions.
DUD: Frank Gore. He rushed for only 63 yards and lost a fumble. The Vikings defensive line played out of their minds and the Niners were playing from behind all day, not allowing Gore to get his rhythm whatsoever.
DUD: David Akers. He went 2/3 on field goals, and one extra point. If your league penalizes for missed field goals, Akers had a dismal day.
The Niners and Raiders games might both be blowouts, but there are a few players you might target for some under-the-radar production. Here's who might put up some solid numbers this week:
Niners: RB Kendall Hunter. This one has the potential to be a Niners cakewalk, which may lead Jim Harbaugh to rest Frank Gore in the latter part of the game. This leaves Kendall Hunter to pile up the yards and maybe a score. He's a good option in deep leagues or salary cap teams.
Raiders: TE Brandon Myers. After being virtually ignored in the Charger game, Myers was targeted a few times by Carson Palmer against the Dolphins. He may be a good option against a depleted Steelers secondary.
This week, the reeling Raiders host a Steeler team that looked old, slow and vulnerable against the Broncos and then came back to reality with a dominant win over the Jets last week. The Steelers are aging and will likely be without star safety Troy Polamalu, but still have a great defensive line and superb linebackers. For fantasy purposes, here is who you should start and sit this week.
START: Sebastian Janikowski. Fantasy owners should have very little faith in the Raiders offensive players at this point save Carson Palmer, and even he is a poor play this week against Pittsburgh. If the Raiders are going to score at all, they are going to do so with field goals. Janikowski could have a great day for fantasy teams.
He's it. The kicker is the only guy you should start. Here's who you should bench.
SIT: Everyone else. Palmer, Darren McFadden, Denarius Moore, Darrius Heyward-Bey, the lot of them. Sit every Raider skill player you own for this game. If they can't put up numbers against a mediocre unit like the Dolphins defense, they cannot be trusted to do much of anything against Pittsburgh.
Palmer might have an okay game statistically, but the risk is too great if you have any other quarterbacks with even a slightly favorable matchup this week. Palmer could just as easily have two touchdowns as four interceptions. Darren McFadden is a big play threat but the offensive line is not adapting to the zone blocking scheme enough to give him any help. We can hope that the Raiders figure things out and pull off an upset, but there's no reason to risk your fantasy team's success on that.
The Niners have been very fantasy-friendly this year with much of the production coming from an unlikely source- QB Alex Smith, who with his efficient and steady performance thus far has elevated himself into a higher level of fantasy consideration. Let's look at who might be a good play against Minnesota this week.
START: QB Alex Smith: Smith is a top-15 QB in terms of fantasy and is an astonishing second in passer rating with a 115.9, behind only Matt Ryan who has a 117.6 rating. Under the cruel tutelage of
Pai Mei Jim Harbaugh, Smith is finally coming into his own and fulfilling the promise he showed before the Niners took him first overall in 2005. He is a good bet to continue his efficient and successful ways against a Vikings secondary that has struggled to deal with Blaine Gabbert and Andrew Luck thus far this season.
START: RB Frank Gore. He is fifth-ranked amongst running backs in fantasy so far this season and is probably the best draft bargain in football, non-Robert Griffin III division. He should have no trouble against the Vikings front seven and has been carrying the bulk of the load thus far in the running game, alleviating concerns that the other backs on the Niners team would cut into his workload. Start him with full confidence.
START: Michael Crabtree. Obviously, Vernon Davis is the focal point of the Niners' passing attack. Davis is the best fantasy tight end and is, in fact, the eighth best player in all of fantasy football regardless of position. He is obviously a must start but this week I think Crabtree will find himself the target of several passes and may score a touchdown. If you have him, this is the week to play him.
The "Sit" lists are a little more difficult because the Niners have been so good, almost nobody on their team has underperformed. The offense is rolling, the defense is the best in the league, the kicker is the best in the league. Everything is working just like Harbaugh planned. So for this week I'm going to have to forgo a "Sit" list, as anyone whom you'd normally have on a fantasy squad from the Niners is worth playing against Minnesota.
The Bay Area has two teams going in very different directions this NFL season. The Raiders are a team searching for an identity and struggling to finish drives while the Niners look like the best team in football. However, no matter how the teams are doing, in fantasy all that matters are individual stats. Here's who was the beast and who was the least this week.
STUD: Vernon Davis. Davis has done nothing this season to disprove the notion that he, not Rob Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham, is the best tight end in football and fantasy football. On Sunday night he caught two touchdown passes and tallied 73 yards receiving on only seven targets. That is big time. Davis may be a top-1o overall player in fantasy now.
STUD: Alex Smith. Jim Harbaugh's grind it out, play action and short pass offense seems tailor made for Smith. The Niners rarely throw deep, but they do throw a ton of screen, swing and intermediate passes which just so happen to be the ones at which Smith is most accurate and effective. Smith threw for 226 yards and two touchdowns tonight, both to the aforementioned Vernon Davis.
STUD: Carson Palmer. Despite the fact that the Raiders were absolutely slaughtered in Miami, Csrson Palmer played out of his mind. He threw for 373 yards and a touchdown. Considering the Raiders were utterly unable to run the football, that's an astounding total for Palmer. He only completed 50% of his passes and threw his first pick of the year, but the yardage alone is enough to have made it a good fantasy day.
And now the guys better left on your bench.
DUD: Darren McFadden. He simply could not get it going on the ground, rushing for a mere 22 yards. He also was not the focus of many passes, only catching 2 for 19 yards including a key drop near the goal line which would have been an easy touchdown. He is healthy still, but played very poorly today.
DUD: Raiders defense. The unit that looked so stout against San Diego let Miami march right down the field on their first drive and score a touchdown, and then totally collapsed in the second half. They only had one sack and forced no turnovers whatsoever.
DUD: Mario Manningham. The Niners offense just isn't suited to Manningham's strength, which is the deep pass and stretching the field. Manningham only caught three passes for 28 yards and had one rush for 29 yards. If the defenses can ever figure out how to stop the Niners' current game plan, they may try to use the receivers more, but for now Manningham is useless.
This week the Niners take on a high-powered Lions squad led by QB Matthew Stafford and all-world WR Calvin Johnson. The Raiders face a tough road test in Miami, a place where they have not won in a long time. Neither game will be easy, but here are a couple of players who might step it up for fantasy purposes.
San Francisco: Delanie Walker. The Niners love to use multiple tight end sets and the opposing defenses can only do so much. Given a choice between covering Walker and Vernon Davis they will choose Davis. Look for the Niners to try getting Walker a few touches this week.
Oakland: Juron Criner. We saw Criner's big play ability in the preseason and all through training camp. He is listed as questionable for Sunday's game but will most likely play. Look for Oakland to try to use the vertical passing game and get Criner and his game-breaking ability involved.
The Raiders weren't exactly the most fantasy-friendly team on Monday, scoring only one touchdown and giving up 22 points. However, they get Denarius Moore back this week and exhibited strong defensive play against a much better team than what they will face this week.
Here are the Raiders to plug into your lineup this Sunday.
START: Raiders defense. Despite giving up 22 points, the Raider D played out of their minds against San Diego, shutting down the run game completely and holding the Chargers to field goals despite the fact that the Chargers consistently started their drives in Raider territory. Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill threw three picks against Houston last week and if the Raiders shut down Reggie Bush, which is something I foresee happening, he will be forced to take to the air again. The Raiders could grab several turnovers in this game.
START: Carson Palmer. He made all the right reads in Week 1, taking what the defense gave him instead of forcing risky throws. Despite the lack of deep options he still almost threw for 300 yards. The Dolphins secondary was nothing to write home about, and that was before they traded CB Vontae Davis. Palmer could feast upon the Dolphins this week.
START: Darren McFadden. He touched the ball on over half of the Raiders' offensive snaps and is somehow still healthy. If you are in a PPR league McFadden may just be the top player overall, considering how many passes he caught from Palmer on Monday night. He was barely kept out of the end zone by San Diego but look for him to break at least one score on the Dolphins.
And now the Raiders who should populate your bench.
SIT: Denarius Moore. He will probably be the primary WR target, but he hasn't got enough reps with Carson Palmer to be considered reliable just yet.
SIT: Brandon Myers. He wasn't targeted in the offense until late in the game in Week 1, and seems to be an afterthought in the game plan at this point. He had some success when he got in the flow of the game but he cannot be relied upon.
Last week, the Niners not only dominated the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field, but also put up some very fantasy-friendly statistics. Alex Smith put up two touchdowns and no picks, Vernon Davis and Randy Moss each caught a toucbdown pass and Frank Gore tiptoed his way into the end zone to cap an already good hundred-yard rushing effort.
START: Frank Gore. He looked like one of the best backs in football against Green Bay, with a rare combination of power, speed and shiftiness possessed only by the likes of Arian Foster, Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson. If Gore keeps up his current level of play, he may have to be put in that tier. A huge boon for fantasy owners who likely were able to grab him in the third round or later. The Lions defense is solid, but the Niners are a high-volume rushing attack which raises the likelihood that Gore will collect a touchdown.
START: David Akers. Akers tied the record with a 63-yard field goal last week, and is the only man to ever kick it that distance at sea level with a normal human foot. He is arguably the top kicker in fantasy at this point, since the Niners offense is a steady, slightly plodding machine that usually kicks a ton of field goals.
START: Vernon Davis. Like most teams, the Lions have absolutely nobody qualified to cover Davis. He gets overlooked due to the exploits of Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, but Davis is just as talented as they and considerably faster to boot. He is usually good for 80 yards a week and a score, especially now that Jim Harbaugh (a noted tight end-phile) is the coach.
And moving on to the Niners you may want to avoid this week.
SIT: Niners defense. If you have a better matchup (or a backup defense at all) you may wish to give them a start instead. The Niners are very good at stopping the run, which is irrelevant to this game as the Lions almost never run the football. Matt Stafford just throws the ball to Calvin Johnson all day and that usually works. Stafford did throw three picks against the Rams' improved secondary, but he is too talented to do that twice in a row.
SIT: Randy Moss. Green Bay's treatment of Moss was puzzling, as their response to his presence on the field was to ignore him entirely. This led to Moss scoring a touchdown with nobody around him. That's all well and good, but Moss wasn't on the field very often in the Niners' game plan. Until he is on the field for the majority of the offensive snaps, he will have to remain on your bench.
SIT: Mario Manningham. Eventually, Manningham will be a solid option, but if the Niners can run the ball, they will. If they can't run the ball, they will try anyway, and if that fails they will try to run the ball. Don't start any Niner WR until Alex Smith has more passes than Frank Gore has carries.
This week's games were either elating or disheartening, depending on whether you are a Niner or a Raider fan. But even when the teams don't perform the way we'd like, there is glory to be had in how they help our fantasy teams. Let's see how the Bay Area boys did this week.
Frank Gore. He racked up 112 yards on the ground and a touchdown. Those are solid RB2 numbers, which is probably what you drafted Gore to be. He looked explosive and decisive in his runs. His only drawback was his lone reception, which makes him less valuable in PPR (point-per-reception) leagues, but he is clearly the Niners top option right now and has the ability to score at least once in just about every game. The Niners' philosophy of defense and running makes him an ideal option going forward.
Alex Smith. There were a lot of fantasy QBs who had better statistical games, but Smith was calm and efficient against a defense known for causing turnovers. Smith went 20/26 for 211 yards and two touchdowns- one to Vernon Davis and one to Randy Moss. He didn't put up flashy numbers like Matt Ryan or even Robert Griffin III but he made zero mistakes and took what the defense gave him. You can probably expect a lot more games like this from him, making him an ideal fantasy backup.
Carson Palmer. While the Raiders didn't win, Palmer had a great game. Bereft of two top wide receivers, he dinked and dunked it short and over the middle to the tune of 297 yards and a touchdown plus a two point conversion pass. He also did not throw any interceptions, a shock to those of us who watched him closely during preseason. He did not try to force any bad throws and it seemed like every pass was right on the money. Oakland's offense will not be stymied like this every week, and even this week Palmer put up solid fantasy numbers,
Darren McFadden. Despite being close on a few occasions, McFadden could never quite get the ball into the end zone. The Raiders obviously missed Michael Bush in this game, and the defense was keyed in to stop McFadden. If you own him in a PPR league, this will not apply as he caught 13 passes for 86 yards. In a normal league, however, it just wasn't enough.
Mario Manningham. The matchup did not favor his skills and it showed, as he tallied only four catches for 29 yards. As the Niner playbook opens up they will likely try to get the ball in the air more, but Manningham brought nothing to the table this week.
Darrius Heyward-Bey. He played well enough, but the Raiders just didn't take their shots down the field and DHB could not rack up the numbers. When all three top wideouts are healthy, Heyward-Bey will be more of a threat, but Monday night he only caught three passes for 43 yards on five targets. Rod Streater, conversely, was targeted ten times. This is likely due to the Herculean efforts of Quentin Jammer, but the Raiders won't face a lot of cover corners on his level.
Every year on Week 1 there are a few players who went completely unnoticed in fantasy drafts that just go crazy and put up huge point totals. Much of this is due to sheer dumb luck or simply game-planning, getting the ball to the player who will be defended the least effectively. David Clowney of a few years ago pops instantly to mind. The trick to finding consistent sleepers is to identify good matchups where certain players will have a good opportunity to succeed. I have indentified a couple of these for this week from the 49ers and the Raiders.
San Francisco: RB Kendall Hunter. You may have him as a backup handcuff to Frank Gore, but he may be worth a closer look this week. Gore has been looking sharp and explosive, but Jim Harbaugh will want to keep him that way and that means limiting his touches. The Niners are going to try to control the clock and grind this one out, which entails multiple opportunities for Gore's backups, chief of which happens to be Kendall Hunter. I wouldn't be surprised to see fifty yards and a score from Hunter on Sunday.
Oakland: Defense. In the last few years, the Raider defense has been anathema to fantasy owners as they played a useless man scheme and had poor linebacker play. The sack totals weren't enough to offset giving up thirty points on a regular basis. But this year they have massive roster turnover and a brand new defensive scheme. In addition, they face a Charger offense whose key players are either hurt or terrible, and a QB in Philip Rivers who has more picks than a coal mine and appears mentally out of sorts. Their offensive line will not be able to hold up to the Raider pass rush especially with a healthy Matt Shaughnessy and their receivers will have a difficult time against new Raider cornerbacks Ron Bartel and Shawntae Spencer. Also, Norv Turner is still San Diego's head coach. The Raiders' main difficulty will be, as always, covering star TE Antonio Gates but his contributions will not be enough to negate what should be a banner night for the Raiders defensive unit. Feel free to start them with impunity.
It's difficult to get an accurate read on the Raiders from this preseason. Carson Palmer threw some lovely passes but had several of them picked and did not, as I recall, throw a touchdown; Darren McFadden didn't play much, Jacoby Ford was erratic at best and starting center Stefen Wisniewski was injured. What we did see was an offense that much like last year was able to pick up key first downs and move the ball consistently. in addition, when Darren McFadden had the ball in his hands he was as dynamic as he has been since his college days at Arkansas.
So what does that mean for this week against the Chargers? On paper it seems as though San Diego will have difficulty moving the ball. Several of their star offensive players are injured and the healthy ones are not very good. Oakland's offense will have the ball a lot. We don't yet know if Dennis Allen and Greg Knapp will favor a balanced attack or a run heavy or pass heavy offense. Considering Oakland's personnel, they have the ability to do whatever they want so my best guess would be "whatever is working at the time".
So with that, here are your Raiders to start this week:
START: Darren McFadden. If you were fortunate enough to land this guy anywhere past the ninth pick overall, you got a steal. If he is healthy all year (knock on wood) he will contend for top fantasy player overall. There will be a handful of games this year where McFadden should be considered for top overall fantasy player and this is one of them. San Diego used to have a great defense, but it's a shell of what it used to be. Shawne Merriman and Jamal Williams are gone with random scrubs and underachieving top picks replacing them. Promising linebacker Melvin ingram is injured already, although he may play. McFadden could completely embarrass this defense and rack up serious fantasy points.
START: Carson Palmer. He is probably a backup for you, but if your QB is facing a tough matchup (PIT, BAL, SF, CHI) consider starting Palmer. San Diego has exactly one good secondary player, Quentin Jammer, who is hurt and coming off a horrible 2011. I expect Palmer to air it out early and often and try to find the weak links on the Chargers. PROTIP: there are lots of them. Even if Palmer throws a pick or two, he will likely rack up the yardage and throw a few TDs, which should be enough to have a good fantasy score.
START: Darrius Heyward-Bey. Currently, DHB is listed as the number one receiver on the depth chart. He showed good hands and speed during the preseason and has been getting the regular reps with Palmer. I expect at least ten receptions from him on Monday night and possibly a touchdown. He likely fell far in your draft, but is a solid WR3 and possibly WR2 if he continues his steady production from last year.
And now, the Raiders to avoid.
SIT: Denarius Moore. Moore will be a solid threat and a good fantasy starter but not this week. He was injured through most of training camp and simply hasn't had the playing time to get reps and to get in football shape. Darrius Heyward-Bey has, as I predicted, eclipsed him on the pecking order and while Moore may catch a few balls, he is no sure bet to remain healthy or make a serious impact on the game. Keep an eye on his production going forward because he will step it up, but sit him down for this game.
SIT: Jacoby Ford. Ford is a dynamic playmaker who has blazing speed and quickness, but he looked utterly lost this preseason. In the Cowboys game he dropped a couple passes on the opening quarter and couldn't catch a deep pass that resulted in an interception. His best hope is using his speed from the slot to get lost in open spaces in the coverage, but we will need a week to see how the scheme facilitates that outcome for him. Even if he is targeted frequently he needs to prove he can catch the ball and make plays with his athleticism before earing the trust of his fantasy owners.
SIT: Brandon Myers. He's definitely not a fantasy starter and is the clearest option for an upgrade on the entire team. He may catch a few outlet passes and move the chains but he's not in the first, second, or third tier of fantasy tight ends.
So there you have it. Go forth, armed with knowledge, and beat whomever it is you are playing this week.
Normally when previewing a Packers game, especially for fantasy purposes, one assumes that the game will be a shootout. However, this game may be different for a few reasons. Firstly, the Niners have THE best defense in fantasy football. Not only do they rack up sacks, they collect turnovers and do not allow points. They are fantasy gold.
In addition, the last time the Packes faced a really good defense, the Giants in last year's playoffs, they utterly collapsed and that was at Lambeau where this game will be played. Finally, former Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin is now the head coach of the Miami Dolphins.
I expect a brutal, physical game, and that spells fantasy success for the following people:
START: Frank Gore. He is the Niners best rusher at this point, and will be until he gets hurt. He won't play all the snaps, but he will be fresh enough to score at least once and break off a few long runs against a weak Packers defense. That's good enough for a RB2 or Flex.
START: Vernon Davis. He is not quite in the Jimmy Graham/Rob Gronkowski echelon, but he is at least as good as Antonio Gates or Jason Witten at this point and if the Niners' new acquisitions at receiver turn out to be good, Davis will be exploiting favorable matchups all day. He is a solid TE option this season, and we know how Harbaugh loves to use tight ends. Keep in mind, Vernon Davis is faster than any of the Niners' wide receivers and any Packer defender.
START: 49ers defense. Normally you never start a team defense against Green Bay, but this week is an exception. The Niners have had a full offseason to prepare for them, and the Packers have no running game to speak of. The Niners can cause enough turnovers to be a solid option in fantasy even if they give up points, as they showed against the Saints in the playoffs last year.
However, this game does not spell good fortune for the following players:
SIT: Alex Smith. The Packers' strength on defense is their secondary, and while they give up a lot of points they are all ballhawks who usually get one or two interceptions per game. In addition, the Niners will probably grind out the game with a ground attack which leaves few opportunitied for Smith to put up good numbers.
SIT: Randy Moss. While Moss may be a good option later in the year, this isn't the week to start him without seeing what he has in the tank.
This season, Carson Palmer is a great low-round target at quarterback in most fantasy leagues. In a recent 12-team draft, I was able to get him in the eleventh round, at #129 overall. That seems to be about where he is going in the average snake draft, and it means you can either stock the rest of your team and pick him late as your starter or grab a stud QB early and grab him late as a competent backup. However, as mentioned in the previous article, Palmer faces a very difficult slate of pass defenses this year and he shouldn’t be treated as an every-week starter like the Tom Bradys, Drew Breeses, and Aaron Rodgers of the world. For this season, he is a spot starter and here are three weeks in particular where he should ride your bench.
Week 3 @ Pittsburgh Steelers: Pittsburgh had the very best pass defense in football last season, allowing a mere 171.9 yards per game through the air. This will be a serious test for the new-look Raiders and we will see what they can bring to a fight with one of the AFC’s dominant teams. It is possible that the Steelers’ age and the loss of some key cogs (Casey Hampton, James Farrior, Hines Ward, Rashard Mendenhall) and the potential holdout of Mike Wallace will make them more susceptible to defeat. However, they are still the Steelers and they are great until proven otherwise, no matter who is suiting up for them. If this game were played in Oakland, I might be inclined to give Palmer the benefit of the doubt, but this game is in Pittsburgh where the Steelers almost never lose. The opposing team’s locker room at Heinz Field may as well have a sign that reads, "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here."
Week 8 @ Kansas City Chiefs: Not only did the Chiefs have the ninth-best pass defense last year, but they signed former Raiders CB Stanford Routt to "bolster" that unit. What Routt lacks in talent, intelligence, and general effectiveness he makes up for in sheer aggression (which unfortunately for him leads to a lot of illegal contact/pass interference penalties), and he spent last year practicing on a daily basis against Carson Palmer. This game will be played in late October in Kansas City, which means that the field will likely be a muddy mess, unsuitable for a demolition derby much less a professional football game. This game will be ugly, rough, and there will be lots of runs up the middle for no gain. That’s no recipe for success from Palmer.
Week 10 @ Baltimore Ravens: Hide yo kids, hide yo wife. The Ravens were the fourth-best pass defense last year and have for the previous decade been the premier defensive unit in the league, led by LB Ray Lewis and S Ed Reed. They also sport CB Jimmy Smith, LB Terrell Suggs, DT Haloti Ngata, and as if they needed more toughness on the defensive side they drafted studly Alabama LB Courtney Upshaw in the first round back in April. This unit is as close to the 1985 Chicago Bears as we are going to get. Bench all your Raiders for this one, and spend your time alternating between drinking heavily and praying fervently.
Other than those games, Palmer is a pretty good play this season relative to his draft position. In his prime with the Bengals he was a solid fifth-round selection and his skills haven’t diminished considerably since then. He has a solid group of young talented receivers and is primed for a successful season this year and to lead the Raiders toward a playoff berth.
This year is going to be a very difficult one schedule-wise for the Oakland Raiders. They face a number of excellent teams and a number of playoff teams from last year. The schedule is especially difficult when considering the opposing pass defenses. If you average out last year’s ranking for all of the pass defenses the Raiders will face this season, it comes out to a little over 13.6. Of the top ten pass defenses in the league, the Raiders will face six of them, including three of the top four.
That being said, teams can only effectively defend what they have scouted on film and prepared for, and the Raiders have a brand new offensive (and defensive) system that none of the rest of the league has seen them execute as of yet. The league has also not seen Carson Palmer and Darren McFadden play together and may be surprised by how explosive and balanced the Raiders will turn out to be. For fantasy purposes, here are three games wherein Carson Palmer is a good bet to put up serious numbers:
Week 9 vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: As mentioned in the Darren McFadden article, the Bucs are terrible defensively against both the run and the pass. Their best corner, Aqib Talib, is constantly in legal trouble and isn’t really reliable. All their good secondary players got old and retired. They have a shell of a defense, which Is why they drafted S Mark Barron in the first round this year. He is a ballhawk and a terrific player, but the Raiders have a ton of weapons and Barron can only be in one place at a time.
Week 11 vs. New Orleans Saints: We all know about the bounty scandal that sent shockwaves through the league, cost HC Sean Payton a year and may have cost DC Gregg Williams his career. It also implicated a number of defensive players including LB Jonathan Vilma, DE Will Smith, and other players who have moved on to other teams. The Saints were never that good on defense even when they won the Super Bowl, but without their coaching staff and Vilma they’re going to be downright brutal this season. Last year, the Saints ranked 30th against the pass, giving up nearly 260 yards a game through the air. Even Alex Smith was able to pick them apart in the NFC Championship game- while he’s improved as a player, it’s no surprise his best game came against this team. The cupboard is bare in the secondary and in Week 11 Carson Palmer will be able to pick them apart like a vulture cleaning a carcass. Since Drew Brees is still a Saint, that doesn’t guarantee a Raider victory, but in fantasy it doesn’t matter what team wins as long as YOU do.
Week 16 vs. Carolina Panthers: This game is liable to be a shootout, considering the presence of Cam Newton under center for the Panthers. The Panthers have little on either the defensive line or the secondary; their strength is their LB corps. The Raiders would be wise to take their shots deep early and often. That spells good things for Palmer in week 16, championship week for many fantasy leagues. All Raiders except the defensive unit are strong plays in week 16. Ride as many as you can to your league title!
San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore may not be as valued as he once was in fantasy football, but he will be worthy of a fantasy slot in 2012. The bottom line is, the 49ers have consistently been a successful run-first team, and Gore is the lead man.
Gore is best early-middle of the season; last year in Weeks 4 through 8, Gore had a string of 5 games where he broke 100 yards on the ground, and accumulated 634 yards in that period. Another noticeable pattern is that he has had strong games outside the division against unfamiliar opponents.
Week 3 @ Minnesota:
In 2011, the 49ers faced the Eagles, Buccaneers and Lions who came with wide fronts, which Gore ultimately shredded (127, 125 and 141). The Vikings tout a 4-3 defense featuring Jared Allen, who is primarily a pass-rush specialist rather than a known run-stopper. I wouldn't bet against Gore finding lanes and getting to the second level of this depleted Vikings defense.
San Francisco's offense could also be looking to make a statement early in the season, and could try to run up the score on Minnesota if given the chance. This could result in Gore finding the end zone on more than one occasion, while the other backs look to find their niche on offense as the season progresses.
Week 4 @ New York (A):
This is not the same Jets defense from two years ago.
In 2011, the Jets did have a top-5 defense with a top-5 pass defense but their run defense which was once elite has fallen outside the top-10. Last season, the NYJ rush defense allowed an average of 111.1 yards per game, with 17 touchdowns to go with.
The Jets are still rebuilding up front, having used their first round pick on Quinton Coples with the hopes that he can eventually become an efficient outside rusher. In the meantime, Darrelle Revis is their main threat on defense, while no one in the front seven is really noteworthy. David Harris is a solid linebacker in the middle but doesn't have the surrounding support to handle the Niners run game alone.
The creativity of the 49ers run game should cause issues for the Jets defense, especially the youngsters and new role players.
Week 15 @ New England:
The Patriots invested two high picks in the 2012 NFL Draft on linebackers as they remodel their entire defense. The team is built around offense; they were able to make it to the Super Bowl this past season with the second to worst overall defense.
The 49ers on the other hand play a much more physical brand of football than New England; it's a game where they can win by dominating in the trenches. The Pats defense was 17th again the run in 2011, and even through their rough years, San Francisco has been able to consistently move the ball on the ground.
The 49ers are going to want to slow this game down, and they can do that with a methodical run attack which would be headed up by Gore. With the unfamiliarity between the teams, Gore's ability as a shifty runner could surprise and hemorrhage the Patriots run D.
This game also happens to be the Sunday Night Football match-up in Week 15, and as a game between two such teams late in the season, there are potential playoff implications. Big-time players step up on a stage like this, so the 49ers all-time leading rusher could be in for a nice primetime game.
If you plan on having or wind up with Gore on your fantasy roster this upcoming season, these three match-ups could potentially yield the most output. Gore is a versatile, all-purpose player at the tailback position and because all of these teams are susceptible up front, No. 21 could find himself with fair total yardage.
This article is not entitled "Three Weeks In Which You Must Bench Darren McFadden" because in fantasy football you always start your best players, no matter the matchup. These games are merely going to be the toughest matchups for the Raider rushing game, and as such if you have a more attractive matchup on paper with a different running back you may wish to start him instead.
Week 2 vs. Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins were, inexplicably, the third best rush defense in the NFL last season, behind only to the otherworldly 49ers defense and the stalwart Ravens defense (who will be appearing later in this article). This success against the run may have been due in part to the Dolphins’ susceptibility to the pass, as they ranked 25th in that category so teams may not have felt the need to rush very often. The strong numbers against the run certainly did nothing to get the Dolphins many wins, although they did beat the Raiders in Miami last season. This week 2 matchup is also in Miami and as the Raiders usually have trouble on the East Coast, this may be a matchup to avoid for Darren McFadden provided you have another back with an easier matchup.
Week 6 vs. Atlanta Falcons: The Falcons are another team that is strong vs. the rush and weak vs. the pass. They are a team that emulates the Raiders in the sense that they are a ball-control offense that likes to grind out yards on the ground and take shots deep with their two excellent wideouts. They’re really a middle of the pack NFC team that isn’t quite ready to take the next step to Giants or Packers territory. However, their rush defense has been good the last few years led by DE John Abraham, LB Sean Weatherspoon and DT Peria Jerry. Their secondary outside of CB Brent Grimes is middling, and the Raiders may choose to air it out on the Georgia Dome turf.
Week 12 vs. Baltimore Ravens: This may be a game in which you may want to start no Raiders whatsoever, skip watching the game entirely and spend the entire day curled up in the fetal position. The Ravens have the second best rush defense in football to go along with the fourth-best pass defense. Provided the team has made strides under Dennis Allen, they may be able to keep the game close, but it is not a week to be banking on the Raiders to do anything but cause their fans to drink heavily.
Note that all three of these games are away games. Any game played in Oakland is a must-start for McFadden. Provided he remains healthy, he will probably end up with over 1,500 yards rushing. He is the fourth-best running back in the AFC and with a successful season could end up being thought of even more highly. However, as a fantasy owner he is nothing but a tool in your hands, and so you would be wise to avoid being sentimental and use different players during these particular weeks.
This year, as previously discussed, Darren McFadden is a clear first-round fantasy pick. However, there are certain weeks during which he is an absolute must-start player even more so than usual and has an excellent chance to have a huge day for both the Raiders and his fantasy owners. For a few of these games, provided he is healthy and starting, he has a good shot to be considered the #1 overall fantasy option for that week.
Week 9 vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Tampa had the worst rushing defense in football last year, allowing an insane 156 rush yards per game. They chose not to address this directly during the draft, but instead took a best player available approach, selecting defensive players in S Mark Barron and LB LaVonte David in the first and third rounds respectively. Both of those players are good against the run but that is not their primary responsibility. Tampa's failure to stop the run is strange, considering a few years ago the team used both its top selections in the draft on defensive tackles Gerald McCoy and Brian Price. Tampa also has two good young defensive ends in Adrian Clayborn and Da'Quan Bowers, but their primary responsibility is pass rushing. Tampa's weakness against the run is likely a primary cause of Raheem Morris' firing, and it remains to be seen how effective Greg Schiano's staff will be at improving that area of the defense. At this point, without any real turnover in personnel, we can assume that this will be a game during which Darren McFadden has a good opportunity to have a huge game and may be the top overall player in fantasy rankings going in.
Week 13 vs. Cleveland Browns: The Browns ranked 30th in rush defense last year, giving up over 147 rush yards per game, and they did very little to improve themselves in the offseason. They drafted two offensive skill players in the first round of April's NFL Draft. While that was probably the smart move and Trent Richardson at least was clearly the best player available, it also means that Cleveland is unlikely to improve its rush defense considerably. DT Phil Taylor is a massive human being with good potential as a run-stuffer, but the Browns have very little around him in the front seven. Cleveland's strength on defense is in the secondary with CB Joe Haden and S T.J. Ward. McFadden (with the obvious disclaimer If He Is Healthy) is going to go absolutely nuts in Week 13.
Week 16 vs. Carolina Panthers: This game is the most important one of all because it will be during the fantasy playoffs, and may even be the championship week depending on your league's schedule. The Panthers ranked 25th in rush defense last year, giving up just over 130 yards a game on the ground. If McFadden should remain healthy to this point, it means the Raiders are likely in good shape, but the AFC West will be so competitive this year that McFadden will probably get more of a workload than usual to keep the Raiders on the right path. A workhorse back with home-run potential is exactly what you look for in starting a player in the fantasy playoffs.
That being said, the Panthers are the only team on this list that made an effort to bolster its defense by adding an impact player in the front seven in the first round of the draft. The Panthers did so by drafting LB Luke Kuechly out of Boston College, who is a terror against both the run and the pass. By week 16 he should be quite settled in to his role on the team and will likely be a strong candidate for Defensive Rookie of the Year. The defensive line is full of no-names and the only other impact player in the front seven is LB Thomas Davis. The Raider offensive line should have little trouble handling the Panthers defensive line, and McFadden will find holes with ease. It would not surprise me to see McFadden with over 150 yards and a couple of scores in the penultimate week of the season, which if you own him could spell a league championship for you.
On Monday morning I participated in a 10-team public league Yahoo! Fantasy football draft, my first of the season. The game had been open for two days at that point and hundreds of drafts had taken place already. The Average Draft Position (ADP) had enough of a sample size to be reliable, and what it revealed was very interesting from the standpoint of someone interested in drafting Raider players.
The first player I targeted was Darren McFadden. He was ranked 11th overall on the draft board, with an ADP of about 15. I had the fourth pick, so I knew I probably wouldn’t have to reach for him in the first round. I took Ray Rice instead. When my second round pick (#16 overall) rolled around, McFadden was still on the board. He likely wouldn’t have been, except someone drafted Adrian Peterson third overall, which was a monster reach at that point but left McFadden as the highest ranked remaining player at #16. I took McFadden there without hesitation.
Moral of the story: You will not have to draft Darren McFadden anywhere near the top of the first round. As I have previously stated, McFadden is probably worthy of taking anywhere past fifth overall, but this year you can easily get him in the second round. Get a high-floor durable player or even a stud QB or WR in the first and then get DMC with your next pick. There are so many quality RB this year that the normal RB-RB strategy in rounds 1 and 2 doesn’t need to be strictly adhered to.
I then turned my attention to WR, as I usually wait on QB unless one falls to me way late and is too good a deal to pass up. That did not happen, as Rodgers/Brady/Brees all went much higher than they ought. So I waited on that and took a look at the Raider WR. Denarius Moore is usually the first one drafted, ranked as the 30th WR on the board with an average ADP of 81. That’s the beginning of the eighth round. He was available there, but I ended up with Andre Johnson, Wes Welker, and Jordy Nelson as my starting WR. Darrius Heyward-Bey is available very late. He is vastly underrated at an ADP of 112. You can get him in the tenth round and I consider it a steal. At some point the good WR options dry up, usually around round seven, but DHB will be there. If you need a quality third WR on the cheap, you can get him at a superb value.
As faras quarterbacks go, the rankings were even more egregious. Carson Palmer has an ADP of 151, well below that of Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Sam Bradford. He will be available right around the fifteenth round. This is a gross misranking, but it is what it is. If you want Carson Palmer on your team, you can afford to wait a very long time. He isn’t the kind of high-ceiling young stud player that causes fantasy owners to lose their minds and reach wildly beyond ADP. He will drop, and drop, and drop until he is the highest ranking guy left and someone needs a backup QB.
This has nothing to do with his performance level or talent, it has everything to do with the fact that nobody has any idea what the Raider offense is going to be like this year and it makes Palmer a major risk. Take advantage of the situation. Draft RB and WR and TE and DEF and get your QB in the fifteenth round and you will have a stronger team than if you reached early for a QB who may have similar production to Palmer.
The Raider who is ranked the highest in relation to his respective positional peers is Sebastian Janikowski. He is ranked the second fantasy kicker overall, with an ADP of 178. He is behind only Green Bay’s Mason Crosby, who is not a better kicker but plays in such a prolific offense that he gets consistently numerous opportunities to score. Janikowski is the best kicker in the game at long-distance field goals, and most leagues give extra points for kicks over 40 and 50 yards. He is actually the only Raider you will almost certainly have to reach for. Take him in the fourteenth round and don’t think twice about it.
The Raider defense typically isn’t drafted, but it is a new system this year and if the team shows it has a strong defense it may be worth a waiver wire pickup mid-season if your normal defense has a bye week.
One of the more exciting aspects about fantasy football is identifying sleepers before they breakout. It's even more thrilling when those sleepers turn out to be on your favorite team. The 49ers worked hard this offseason toward making their offense more explosive, and the added weapons will make a difference. They will open things up for other players while being able to find a relative level of success for themselves.
The following players are potential late round or free agent steals in the upcoming 2012 fantasy league year.
LaMichael James, RB:
Rookie LaMichael James could quickly become a coveted player in fantasy football leagues in 2012. This is a guy that the 49ers drafted early and would like to get him plenty of touches as a rookie. Frank Gore is someone that's been susceptible to injury, and if the 49ers don't hold on to Anthony Dixon, Brandon Jacobs or both, James should be looking to get some carries.
In PPR leagues and leagues that count return yardage, James might be able to salvage points from all over. And when James does touch the football, he is a threat to score - always. I expect to see him making plays this year for the 49ers.
Randy Moss, WR:
Moss was on my "players to avoid" list but he's really on my "players to avoid until further notice" list. Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area reported that Moss was on track to start opposite Michael Crabtree, and if he does indeed play 16 games at that spot, he could be a great pickup. Not only is Moss a fantasy sleeper on the 49ers, but he could be the biggest sleeper in all of fantasy in 2012.
If Moss is used to correct San Francisco's red zone woes, he could be nearing double-digit touchdowns again - he might even get a fly-sweep or two. This is a future first ballot Hall of Famer who makes it look so easy; if Moss is "all there" in 2012, he is a steal.
Alex Smith, QB:
I have Alex Smith as the top fantasy sleeper at the quarterback position in 2012. This is a player that everyone is going to pass on in the draft, but because he doesn't turn the ball over, Smith is definitely worth a pick. He is proficient with the football, has more weapons, is leading a team that is ascending and will have a lot of opportunities because of the defense supporting him.
Smith can break 4,000 yards and 25+ touchdowns passing, with limited turnovers and rushing yards and touchdowns to go with. Smith is a big-time sleeper in all fantasy leagues this coming season.
Entering the 2012 season, we're discussing fantasy football values. Since most gamers prefer to own their favorite teams players, we're providing information about which ones will be worth a roster spot and which ones will not. The follow analysis covers three 49ers players to avoid or be wary of come this year's fantasy draft.
Frank Gore, RB:
Surprising, I know, especially for a 5-time 1,000-plus yard rusher. Gore is used to tempting fantasy gamers into taking him in the early rounds but not this year, it will be different.
As a continuance of what the 49ers staff did last year, they're going to rest Gore any chance they get. On top of that, the Niners all-time leading rusher is now sharing carries with maybe the league's most crowded backfield. There will also be certain game situations may call for LaMichael James or Brandon Jacobs, taking the ball out of Gore's hands.
And finally, there's also always the injury bug to consider with Gore. This offense should be more of an attack-by-committee, so No. 21's numbers should dilute. I would recommend taking a chance on him in the early-middle rounds, but certainly not as a high as a pick as he once was.
Randy Moss, WR:
For as much positive feedback as we've gotten out of Santa Clara, the fact remains that we just don't know yet. Moss' role and ability within the offense is still being determined - but it is still Randy Moss. He should be better as a late round pick-up, rather than an investment at the WR position.
The odds are Moss proves to be a great flex option but Michael Crabtree will be the guy in San Francisco. Moss should have less targets than a lot of other wide receivers in the league but I wouldn't wait to see if he falls to your league's free agency. He could become a go-to in scoring situations which would boost his value, bit targets, receptions and yards shouldn't be significant enough for him to be a primary receiver in most fantasy leagues.
Mario Manningham, WR:
Like Moss, we don't know yet about Manningham. A lot of people expect Manningham to be the No. 3 slot guy for San Francisco; and if that's the case, why not get Aaron Rodgers' or Drew Brees' slot guy instead.
The only way Manningham could prove to be worthy in leagues is if things with Moss take an unexpected turn for the worst or if there are injuries to the 49ers receiving corps, but however talented, Manningham is not likely going to start as it stands. This is definitely a guy to keep an eye on his free agency though, and if there is a shakeup at the position, an opportunity could open for Manningham to be more of a contributor.
On the Raiders' current depth chart, Denarius Moore and Darrius Heyward-Bey are listed as the top two receivers. Moore has impressed the team enough to be listed as their top overall receiver, and with that comes a fantasy ranking somewhere in the sixth round. I wouldn't take him that high, he's a bit of a reach there. However, Heyward-Bey carries a ninth-round grade. He is an absolute steal anywhere after round seven, so don't worry about taking him before where he is expected to go.
Moore will likely command the defense's attention on passing downs, leading DHB to be matched up against the #2 cornerback. This is a mismatch, and he will be able to use his size and speed to exploit the matchup to his advantage, particularly in a three-wide set with Jacoby Ford also on the field. There is just too much speed there for the defense to account for, and someone is going to get free. Heyward-Bey, while not quite as fast as Ford, is a much bigger target and will be targeted deep early and often.
The difference between this year and last year for the Raiders is Carson Palmer. While Jason Campbell didn't have the inclination or the ability to complete the deep passes, Palmer does. While all three main Raider receivers can be viewed as legitimate deep threats, DHB is the biggest of the bunch and has the best chance to win a jump ball battle. He also has a good chance to become the team's main red zone receiving option.
Consider that last year only six players caught ten or more touchdowns last season, and two of those were tight ends (Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski). There are only a few guys who can be considered legit WR1 on your fantasy team. They are: Calvin Johnson, Andre Johnson, Wes Welker, Steve Smith, Greg Jennings, Larry Fitzgerald and Victor Cruz. There is a longer list of guys who can be WR2, and DHB belongs on that list. Moore does as well, but I don't think he has value where he will have to be taken. I foresee Heyward-Bey being at the forefront of the WR2 crowd, with production similar to Roddy White and Vincent Jackson.
In an auction draft, DHB carries a very low auction value and can be had extremely late for only a few dollars. He will turn out to be the steal of any auction draft.
Prediction: 1,200 yds rec, 8 TD
Positional ranking: 13
As I peruse the experts' 2012 fantasy football rankings, I see that Carson Palmer is ranked smack dab in the middle, lower than such luminaries as Robert Griffin III, Jay Cutler, and Joe Flacco. I can almost guarantee that, barring injury, Palmer will outperform each of those quarterbacks in the upcoming season.
Palmer's low ranking is not due in any way to his outlook for the upcoming season. It is based on a couple factors including his last few years in Cincinnati which were mediocre at best, and the fact that he only played half a season in 2011. Fantasy football always has a 'what have you done for me lately' idiom and Palmer hasn't been elite of late.
Remember, however, that Palmer threw for well over 2600 yards in only half a season and has a vastly better team to work with this year in Oakland. His receivers will have another year of experience and maturity, and he will be working within a system that should allow the offense to flourish. There's no reason not to expect nearly 5500 yards passing and 30 touchdowns.
The things that will ultimately separate Palmer from the elite are 1) that the Raiders are primarily a running-oriented team and 2) copious interceptions. The elite QBs like Brees, Brady, and Rodgers have high TD totals but low INTs. Palmer will throw INTs on a regular basis. Last year he threw 13 TDs and 13 INTs. If you went to public school, that's a 1:1 ratio. I do not expect 30 TD and 30 INT this year, but I do expect more of a 2:1 ratio, meaning 30 TD and 15 INT.
So where should you draft Carson Palmer? The round to target him will vary from draft to draft, because sometimes people will go crazy and there will be three QBs in the first round. In that case, pay attention to the QB rankings and how quickly the QBs are going off the board after that. You may want to target Palmer for rounds 4 or 5. If you have a normal, sensible draft wherein only Rodgers goes round one, you can wait until rounds 6-7 to get Palmer.
In an auction draft, the strategy is a bit different. Palmer will likely only be valued at 2-3 dollars. For some context, Matthew Stafford will be valued somewhere between 16-18 dollars. This is a travesty, as the only thing Stafford can do that Palmer cannot is throw passes to Calvin Johnson. Johnson is on the cover of Madden this year and is certain to have some random misfortune befall him, so avoid them both like the plague. Palmer is a steal in an auction draft and you can wait until nearly the end to get him. I personally value him closer to $8, but he can likely be had for less than $5.
Prediction: 5700 pass yds, 30 TD, 16 INT
Overall QB ranking: 11
Now that we've taken a look at the various fantasy options on the Raiders, let's home in on each individual player covered so far. In this post we will take a look at where Darren McFadden fits into the overall picture in the first round.
In my mind, there are only four running backs who unequivocally deserve to be taken ahead of McFadden. Those are Arian Foster, Ray Rice, Chris Johnson, and LeSean McCoy. One could even make a case for McFadden at the third spot behind Foster and Rice. Johnson will mostly be drafted based on his otherworldly sophomore season, rather than anything he has done recently. Rice and Foster are very safe picks on teams that like to run the ball. Maurice Jones-Drew will also be highly ranked, but I don't believe the Jaguars are good enough offensively for him to keep up his normal high level of production.
McFadden, on the other hand, is the only running back in the group I mentioned whose team offense has significantly improved. He is also one of the last running backs in the upper tier, before you get into the Marshawn Lynches and Steven Jacksons of the world, and those are more suited to be a RB2 than a RB1. McFadden at full strength is a legitimate RB1, and at his best can be the best overall player in fantasy football regardless of position.
Will he remain healthy? Who knows. Maybe. If you draft McFadden it is absolutely imperative that you also draft Mike Goodson later on. The very latest McFadden should be drafted is tenth, and if he had no health concerns the latest he should go is third. This draft is deep enough in running backs (especially with stud rookies like Trent Richardson and horses like Frank Gore available in the third round) that you can afford to take a risk on McFadden early in the first round if you draft there. If you miss out on McFadden, draft Mike Goodson anyway. In the event that McFadden gets hurt, Goodson instantly becomes the hottest trade chip in fantasy football.
My prediction: 1,650 rush yds, 14 TD, 200 rec yds, 4 rec TD
Overall Ranking: 5
The preference of most fantasy football owners is to win games with the help of players from their favorite team. The good news for San Francisco 49ers fans is that their team is now built from a very productive roster. In all three phases of the game, the Niners have value that could become highly sought after in this year's fantasy drafts.
At this point, with rosters still working themselves out, fantasy stock of certain players could still rise or fall. But based off of 2011, and expecting a natural development overall, the following three representatives from the 49ers could be hot commodities in 2012 fantasy leagues.
If you are looking for impact players from the San Francisco 49ers to assist your winning percentage this coming season, look no further.
The Pro Bowl tight end is the favorite weapon of the starting quarterback in San Francisco -- and recently, their chemistry together has been off the charts. Even with the addition of Randy Moss, Davis is the most valuable weapon in the 49ers passing attack entering 2012. And speaking of Moss, his presence alone is going to open the doors to a defensive landscape for Davis to shred like never before. For opposing defenses, Davis will not be the central focus of the offense despite his extreme talent and productivity.
Davis is one of the candidates to be the 49ers leading receiver in 2012, and his ability as a hybrid enables him to be capable of such a feat. Going into next season, we can expect Davis to have more of a featured role in the passing attack, rather than being overused as a blocker. He is so dynamic as a receiver, it would be silly to not utilize him as such. Davis can score the touchdowns, produce the big plays and get major yardage; he will be one of the first tight ends off the board, so target him early if you really want him.
If we're breaking it down value-wise, the 49ers defense and special teams unit might be the most consistent and productive one in fantasy football. This group gets it done on the field, leading in numerous statistical categories from a team and individual standpoint. Both the defense and special teams, separately, are among the best in the entire NFL. Their style and brand of football -- preaching fundamentals and the three phases of the game -- works wonders for them in the win-loss column; the history books as well.
The 49ers defense doesn't get scored on much, they don't allow rushing touchdowns, they get sacks and they led in takeaways; this is everything you want in a fantasy defense. And of course Ted Ginn Jr. makes the return game a threat as he is a top-3 return man in the NFL. He has top-flight speed and can take it to the house on any given return.
For the former first two-time Biletnikoff Award winner in NCAA history, it wasn't an ideal start to his pro career, statistically speaking. But with his first full offseason, a preseason, development with the playbook and another year with Alex Smith, Crabtree has a lot of reasons to finally take his game to the next level in 2012.
Perhaps the biggest deal for Crabtree next season is that he is now surrounded by weapons, and like Davis, won't be the central focus. With the addition of Moss, Crabtree can play the flanker where his natural skill set would be better suited. He had some success at that spot in 2011, and can continue to establish himself at that position. In 15 games in 2011, Crabtree had 74 catches for 874 yards and four touchdowns -- and those numbers are going to go up.
With months to go, things could still change for the 49ers in terms of fantasy value. If Randy Moss pans out to be what the 49ers hoped he'd be, the future Hall of Famer could command a roster spot once again in fantasy. Frank Gore will also no doubt have value, but with the loaded backfield, it's hard to say how much. Gore will obviously get the majority of the carries but until the running back situation shakes out, it will be hard to say what round he goes in.
Then we wonder about rookies like A.J. Jenkins and LaMichael James. Two players who will more than likely go undrafted in the majority of fantasy leagues but may prove to be a good flex as a mid-season free agent pick up. Only time will, but it sure is special to have relevant 49ers players in fantasy football.
Having already covered three Raiders to target early in drafts and three to avoid altogether, now it's time to look at three Raiders who are worth taking a look at in the latter stages of your draft. One of them is a no-brainer but the other two could pay huge dividends given the right set of circumstances.
First, Mike Goodson. Every good fantasy owner is aware of the concept of "handcuffing", that is, drafting the backup to one of your early draft picks in case of injury. That way you get a similar level of production without having to scour the waiver wire for whatever scrubs your league-mates haven't already scooped up. This year, Goodson will be one of the most sought-after handcuffs because not only is Darren McFadden ridiculously injury prone, but the Raiders' rushing offense has been known to produce more than one reliable fantasy player at a time. Even if McFadden remains healthy, Goodson has a shot of being a valuable commodity, as Michael Bush was during his tenure in Oakland. If you draft McFadden, give Goodson a look during the last five rounds of your draft.
Next up is David Ausberry. Yesterday I covered why Brandon Myers should be avoided at all costs. That's assuming he wins the top TE job. If Ausberry wins the job, all bets are off. Ausberry is a vastly superior athlete who is an absolute mismatch for any linebacker who tries to cover him. He has wide receiver speed and good hands. Don't bother with him if your draft takes place before the preseason, but if you draft near the opening weekend and Ausberry has impressed during the exhibition games, he might be worth a flyer as a backup TE in the last round of your draft.
Finally, Sebastian Janikowski. Now I admit it's a tad disingenuous to put him on this list because he is the best player at his position in all of football and therefore does not by any stretch qualify as a sleeper. That being said, he is not the highest ranked fantasy kicker. Stephen Gostkowski has held that role for the last couple seasons due to his role as the kicker for the Patriots. Gostkowski is a good solid kicker who can get you six points a week on extra points alone. Janikowski's low ranking has more to do with his offense than himself, as in the Jamarcus Russell days the offense rarely got close enough to the end zone for even Jano's huge leg to be effective.
At this point, however, the Raider offense is good enough where Janikowski is a legitimate contender for Best Overall Fantasy Kicker. That distinction is sort of like being the Best Looking Old Lady At The Nursing Home, but if your league like most public leagues has bonuses for kicks of 40+ and 50+ yards then Janikowski can easily net you 13-15 points a week. That's good enough for consideration a round or two ahead of where you would usually take a kicker.
When planning your draft strategy, it is a reasonable thing to want to add some Raiders to your squad. In my previous post I mentioned three players who would be good targets early on on the draft. In a later post I will outline some sleepers who might be smart picks late in a draft. But today, I will discuss three players who, although they might help the Raiders this year, probably won't help you.
First, Brandon Myers. He was the primary backup to Kevin Boss at tight end last year, and made some good plays due to his excellent hands. However, he is very slow and not terribly athletic, and might even lose the starting tight end job altogether to David Ausberry. The Raiders have so many weapons on offense that Myers will more often than not be completely overlooked. His only hope is that the defense doesn't bother to cover him and he can get open easily. Even if he does, he won't be able to break away from defenders. There are at least 40 other tight ends who are a better option than Myers, who wouldn't even be worth a third-string TE slot on any fantasy team should any fantasy owner ever draft three tight ends.
Next is Louis Murphy. He has the pure talent and skills to be a big-time receiver as he showed in college, but injury woes and the emergence of three clearly superior receivers above him on the depth chart leave him in a tough position. He is quality depth for the team and nothing more. I expect Juron Criner to be above him on the depth chart before the season is over. It isn't uncommon for teams to have three receivers who are reliable fantasy options- Eli Manning's Giants of 2011 with Nicks/Cruz/Manningham, Peyton's old Colts with Harrison/Wayne/Stokely, Aaron Rodgers' Packers with Jennings/Driver/Nelson, etc. But those teams were all teams that favored the pass primarily, and the Raiders of late have been a running juggernaut. There won't be enough balls to go around for Murphy to have any kind of impact, unless there is an injury. Even if there is, he still won't have enough opportunity to be a fantasy force.
Finally there's Taiwan Jones. This has nothing to do with Jones' talent level; given the right situation he could be a poor man's Chris Johnson. There is one reason that Jones won't be valuable to you this year and his name is Mike Goodson. Not only is Goodson an excellent kick returner, he is also the team's primary backup to McFadden. The tandem of McFadden and Michael Bush last season left little to no carries for Jones, and when he did get carries he suffered injury. Should McFadden yet again have some calamity befall him, Jones will have some value but until then he is someone that shouldn't even he on your radar come draft day.
Last season, the Raiders only had one player who should have been drafted in the first ten rounds of your fantasy draft- Darren McFadden. He was a top-10 fantasy pick and before he went down was playing so well that he was making a case as the top overall player in fantasy. After McFadden went down, the Raider offense changed its identity with the addition of Carson Palmer and McFadden's fantasy stock fell. What does this mean for you as a fantasy player? One thing: McFadden is going to be criminally underrated in drafts this season. Each of the league's top running backs has durability issues- Adrian Peterson is coming off a devastating knee injury, Arian Foster was hurt last year, Rashard Mendenhall tore his ACL only six months ago and Jamaal Charles is also coming back from an ACL tear. What this means is that nearly every first-round running back is a complete question mark and Darren McFadden is as good a gamble as any of them. and maybe a better one because he had a foot injury rather than an ACL or concussion issue. If he falls past pick ten, he is a steal in your draft.
This year, the Raiders have two more players who should be drafted early. The second Raider player to be selected in your draft should be Carson Palmer. As a Raider, he threw for over 2700 yards in half a season, meaning he could easily eclipse 5,000 passing yards and 30 TDs in the 2012 season. Those are Philip Rivers-like numbers, and Rivers is the sort of underrated fantasy player that wins titles. Rivers typically goes in the fourth round, but Palmer can likely be had later than that. If you miss out on the top tier of Rodgers, Brady, Manning, Stafford or Romo, wait until round six and pick up Palmer. He will make you look like a genius and you can use your top five picks on backs and receivers with impunity.
The final premier Raider player to consider early on is Darrius Heyward-Bey. His lack of scoring prowess will prevent him from being considered a true WR1 on your team like Andre Johnson, Calvin Johnson or Mike Wallace, but he will be a solid WR2 or WR3 in the tier of Roddy White, Greg Jennings and Brandon Marshall. Heyward-Bey amassed nearly a thousand yards last season despite playing half of it with Jason Campbell, and I boldly predict he will score at least seven touchdowns in his upcoming campaign. He is clearly the Raiders #1 receiver and with Palmer under center he will finally be treated like it. He shouldn't be in the top ten receivers drafted, but any time after round eight would be a smart time to target him. If there is a run on top WR in, say, the fourth round as there often is, he could be a good value in the sixth or seventh. Don't reach for him, but know that he will probably be underranked due to his previous lack of touchdowns in comparison to similarly skilled receivers.
We do an early fantasy breakdown with projections of potential playmakers in 2012 from the two Bay Area teams. Both the 49ers and Raiders have fantasy worthy skill players that will go high in most fantasy drafts this coming season. For more on the 49ers and Raiders, be sure to stop by Niners Nation and Silver and Black Pride
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