Booms And Busts
By Jeff Tefertiller
June 22nd, 2010

Every year, there are players and teams that do the unexpected. Some boom while others bust. We have almost come to expect the unexpected. Injuries and player performance cause situations to change at a moment’s notice. How many thought Chris Johnson would be so impressive while Marshawn Lynch would finish the season outside of the Top 48 fantasy ball carriers? It would have been a crazy thought to predict Jason Snelling finishing ahead of Larry Johnson or Justin Forsett outpacing Reggie Bush and LeSean McCoy. Anyone thinking that the 2010 season will closely mirror 2009 will be in for a rude awakening. Change is inevitable. Those that can predict and prepare for the change will have a huge advantage.

As we quickly approach the July 4th weekend, this is a great time to talk about which players and situations will boom and which will flat out bust.

Quarterbacks

Booms

  • Chad Henne has plenty of upside in 2010. He is entering year two as a starter, when many young passers take a step in their development. The Dolphins have given their quarterback a new toy. Marshall's strong season propelled Denver quarterback Kyle Orton to QB16. Henne is a much better passer than Orton and could see his upside approach the Top 10 in the very near future.

  • Jason Campbell was a victim of the constant changes in Washington. The Redskins could not go a year without making changes to their coaching staff. Too bad, the team did not feel the same urgency to upgrade the wide receiving corps during Campbell's tenure. In Oakland, he gets arguably a better group of weapons and could flourish. Campbell has finished as QB15 each of the last two seasons and could top that this year.

  • Matt Moore was able to produce big numbers down the stretch after replacing the ineffective Jake Delhomme. Coach Fox does not like playing rookies so Jimmy Clausen is not a threat to Moore this year. Steve Smith is poised for a monster season with the change of quarterback to Moore. These two should team up for some monster games in 2010. The strong Carolina running game will open up throwing lanes for Moore. He had an impressive eight touchdowns with no interceptions in the last four games of the season, averaging over 200 passing yards a contest. This is good fantasy production.

  • Josh Freeman only played in ten games as a rookie. He struggled at times but still gave fantasy owners hope for the future. Like many rookies, consistency was lacking. Freeman had two big games early in the season giving his owners at least 24 points both times. He followed that up with a two-game stretch throwing no scores and eight picks. This is the nature of rookies, but Freeman has talent. There are a couple of reasons for optimism going into year two. Expect marked improvement with an offseason as the starting quarterback. Freeman saw few reps as the starter last year with Byron Leftwich and Josh Johnson competing for the starting gig. This left Freeman to get only the scraps. Also, the Buccaneers upgraded the wide receiver position. Gone is Antonio Bryant. The new starting wideouts should be rookies Mike Williams and Arrelious Benn. Both are superior talents to the level Bryant played last season. Freeman has a chance to boom onto the scene and be a viable fantasy option.

  • Busts

  • Matt Schaub has played in all sixteen games as a starter just once in three years. In each of the other two, he tallied just eleven starts. This is not a good sign. While Schaub did have a great 2009 season, there is way too much risk taking him at his current ADP (Average Draft Position), the sixth quarterback off the board. There is more risk than just from injury. Schaub benefited from the poor play, and injury, of running back Steve Slaton. The lack of a running back led to Schaub throwing a whopping 583 passes in 2009. The drafting of Ben Tate and the late-season emergence of Arian Foster should help the Texans have a more balanced run attack.

  • After QB16 and QB19 finishes in his first two seasons as a professional, Matt Ryan is now being drafted as the QB9 off the board. This just smells of a bust. Ryan is extremely talented, but the Falcons are a running team. They will want to pound Michael Turner and the ground game as often as possible. Also making it difficult for Ryan to be a Top 10 fantasy option is the lack of a legitimate WR2. Roddy White is a very good starting wideout, but the Falcons have little else.

  • Eli Manning has been very consistent the last four seasons, finishing between QB10 and QB14 each season. Last year, he was able to throw more in the red zone with the injuries and ineffectiveness of the Giants' two running backs. An ADP of QB8 is too high with both Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw back healthy. Manning makes a great fantasy backup quarterback, or part of a committee, but a poor bet if drafted as a fantasy starter.

  • Kevin Kolb is a very good quarterback prospect that is now getting his chance to be "the guy" in Philadelphia. An ADP of QB12 is a bit ambitious for such an unproven passer. The Eagles have a great young nucleus of talent so Kolb will have good weapons to target. Considering the experienced McNabb finished as QB12 last year, it is reasonable to expect Kolb may need a season or two to get up to that level.

  • Running Backs

    Booms

  • Justin Forsett has been effective and productive when given the opportunity so far in his young career. He adds speed to an otherwise slow and plodding offense. Julius Jones is the only running back battling with Forsett to be the starter. Forsett is a much better option. He is being drafted as a very low-end fourth fantasy back, which is a great place in the draft to swing for the fences. Forsett has Top 10 upside in the Pete Carroll offense.

  • Fred Jackson proved he was for real last season. He lit it up the first three games of the season while replacing the suspended Marshawn Lynch. Many had high hopes for Jackson until the Bills drafted C.J. Spiller in April's NFL Draft. Jackson is an every-down back while Spiller is not ... at least not at this stage in his career. Expect Jackson to be a viable fantasy starter once again, and at a great price once again.

  • Michael Bush has a great chance to start for the Oakland Raiders this season. Justin Fargas has departed, leaving just Bush and Darren McFadden remaining in the Raider backfield. Bush is a big, physical runner while McFadden has proven inconsistent and injury-prone. Bush has a chance for 1,200 total yards and his share of touchdowns this season. Any injury to McFadden could bump these numbers up even higher.

  • Busts

  • Shonn Greene showed flashes of greatness last season. The issue is that he is being drafted as the tenth running back off the board after a whopping 109 regular season carries. That is asking way too much. Greene was able to take advantage of defenses that Thomas Jones softened up. This season, those opponents will be keying on him. In addition, Greene needs to shore up his fumbling issues and improve his conditioning in order to get the 300 carries needed to warrant the draft status. This is a huge bust situation. Greene is talented, but can he be the bell cow the Jets are seeking?

  • Steven Jackson is such a great NFL running back. He is a big back that can run like a deer. Jackson has only played all sixteen games once in his six seasons as a pro. Because of this, he has only placed in the Top10 fantasy rushers twice. Fantasy owners drafting him as an elite back are asking for trouble with the injury risk he brings. Also, the Rams are still building an offensive line to open up holes. There is way too much risk, and the threat of a big bust campaign is a possibility.

  • Tim Hightower outplayed Chris Wells last season, but Wells is still garnering big expectations for the coming year. Many expect Hightower to start this season with Wells getting most of the carries. But, let's remember that, no matter how strong Wells has looked in small doses, he is a far cry from a gimme as a RB1. Hightower is a versatile back who is a good receiver out of the backfield. It will be Hightower, and not Wells, who is prominently used in the wide-open Cardinal passing game.

  • Ronnie Brown was producing at quite the clip before sustaining the rough Lisfranc injury last season. He has yet to resume practicing at full strength this offseason. Brown is a back that has found it difficult to remain healthy for an entire season and this year should be no different. Fantasy owners should run scared at the idea of relying on Brown after the foot injury. It may take him quite a while to get up to speed and the risk of setback is large with this type of injury.

  • Wide Receivers

    Booms

  • Mike Sims-Walker is poised to break out. Torry Holt and his 103 targets are now in New England. There is really no threat to Sims-Walker's hold on the primary receiver job in Jacksonville. He started the season on fire before faltering down the stretch, with the help of quarterback David Garrard. The big receiver was still able to finish as WR24 last year, just seven fantasy points behind the 20th best fantasy receiver. With expected improvement, Sims-Walker is a strong bet to be a Top 12-15 fantasy option this season. The Jaguars threw for almost 3,600 yards last season. Expecting 1,200 yards and six or eight touchdowns is not asking too much.

  • Mike Wallace finished as WR28 his rookie year. He was a surprise to many. Wallace is very fast and was able to get open with ease. Now that Santonio Holmes is a Jet, Wallace will see a stark increase in pass targets. He will replace Holmes in the starting lineup. No way can Wallace reproduce Holmes' 1,248 yards from a year ago, but a 1,000-yard season is well within reason. Holmes was targeted a whopping 138 times in 2009. Someone has to pick up the slack. With an ADP of WR27, just one spot ahead of last year's finish, Wallace is a great wideout to gamble on to finish in the Top 15. Add in the injury risk of fellow starting wide receiver Hines Ward, and the upside is immense in the pass-happy Steelers offense. It is a shock that players like Jeremy Maclin and Dwayne Bowe are being taken higher.

  • Steve Breaston and Early Doucet will be given increased targets with Anquan Boldin now in Baltimore. Opposing defenses will key on Larry Fitzgerald, allowing more room to roam for the young duo. First of all, it would be foolish to expect similar numbers with Matt Leinart under center that the veteran Kurt Warner provided. Leinart is not in the same stratosphere as Warner in many areas of the game. But, the loss of Boldin and Warner has led many fantasy owners to undervalue the remaining Cardinal pass catchers. Breaston eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark in 2008, only to come up short last season. He is being drafted as WR33 off the board in fantasy leagues. Since Breaston was WR28 in 2008, with both Boldin and Fitzgerald finishing as Top 7 fantasy wide receivers, there is little doubt that he can be a Top 20 fantasy option with Boldin now departed. In fact, Arizona brought in Andre Roberts specifically to relieve Breaston of his return duties so that Breaston can concentrate on the receiver position. With only 31 regular season catches over two years, how can we expect Doucet to emerge? He impressed in the playoffs against a pair of strong defenses in Green Bay and New Orleans. In those two games, Doucet caught 14 balls for 145 yards and two touchdowns. He was able to make plays after the catch. Doucet's strong showing allowed the Cardinals to trade Boldin. He has an ADP of WR69, drafted player 189 overall. Doucet has a chance to become a fantasy starter with a late round pick. The Arizona offense will look to get the ball to Breaston and Doucet with defenses focused on Fitzgerald. Each has a good chance to be an every-week fantasy starter.

  • Busts

  • Calvin Johnson has enjoyed one strong season out of his three in the league. I am a huge fan of the athletic marvel. Few players have his size and speed, with the ability to make plays. But, with a selection in the middle of the second round, fantasy owners need more from the pick. It is difficult to stomach taking Johnson this high after a WR21 finish. So much has to go right in order for the young wideout to top his draft status. Matt Stafford must remain healthy. Johnson's numbers took a nosedive when Daunte Culpepper entered the lineup. Also, Johnson has to be durable. He seems to be nicked up often. The addition of Nate Burleson, and drafting of Jahvid Best, could result in fewer pass targets. Johnson is a beast and could be elite again this season. But, there are safer options, who are more likely to be elite, further down the draft.

  • Marques Colston has finished as WR13 and WR35 the past two seasons, respectively. So, why would he be drafted as WR11? Many are still remembering his rookie year with the elite fantasy season. But, things have changed in New Orleans. The Saints now have a cache of weapons at Drew Brees' disposal. Robert Meachem emerged last year. Lance Moore is now healthy. Even the drafting of tight end Jimmy Graham could impact Colston's red zone chances. He seems more likely to finish outside of the Top 20 than to be a Top 8 fantasy receiver again. Also, with Colston there is always the injury concern after last year's microfracture surgery.

  • The Baltimore Ravens threw the ball only 508 times last season. The Ravens like to run the ball, totaling 418 rushing attempts. As long as the offense is effective on the ground, there is no need to throw more. The club acquired Anquan Boldin via trade before the NFL Draft. Last year, neither Boldin (in the high-powered Arizona Cardinal offense) nor Derrick Mason was able to produce numbers equal to Boldin's current ADP - WR14. Now, with the pair sharing targets, expect fantasy disappointment from both ... especially Boldin. He is being drafted almost six rounds ahead of Mason. He is the one to target of the Raven pair. While quarterback Joe Flacco could throw the ball more, it is unlikely to be enough to warrant the draft pick. Boldin is a candidate to bust in a huge way.

  • Vincent Jackson is a huge risk this year for fantasy owners. He is being drafted as the tenth wide receiver in fantasy drafts. After finishing as WR10 last season, what's the worry? There are two reasons fantasy owners should not risk this high of a selection on the very athletic Jackson. First of all, Jackson's off the field troubles have him in line for a one or two game suspension from the NFL. This should be enough to knock Jackson down a few spots. There is not enough upside to overcome missing a couple of games. Secondly, and most importantly, Jackson is threatening to hold out for the first ten games of the season. He wants a new contract and did not sign his restricted free agent tender. The fear of a suspension paired with a potential holdout should be enough to warrant a potential bust. Fantasy owners cannot say they did not see this coming. There are several other viable wide receivers with similar ADPs that selecting Jackson is taking undue risk.

  • Tight Ends

    Booms

  • Heath Miller is a steal in fantasy drafts this season. How can he slide all of the way down to TE14, behind Greg Olsen and Zach Miller? The departure of Santonio Holmes should mean even more pass targets for the big tight end. Miller finished as TE9 last year and could sneak into the Top 6 in 2010. For those thinking Miller has no chance, he was only eight fantasy points away from tying for TE5 in 2009. This could be his career year. Both Pittsburgh passers, Ben Roethlisberger and Byron Leftwich, love throwing to the tight end. The Roethlisberger suspension should not affect Miller's fantasy potential.

  • Due to poor offensive line play last year, John Carlson was asked to stay in and block often, but still finished as TE11 for fantasy football. With the drafting of tackle Russell Okung, Carlson is expected to get back to being a threat in the passing game. He has an ADP of TE16. In 2008, the former Notre Dame star was TE7. So, after finishing as TE7 and TE11 in consecutive seasons, Carlson is now being drafted as TE16. This is a great BOOM opportunity for fantasy owners, especially with an increased role in the air attack.

  • Fred Davis looked awesome after replacing the injured Chris Cooley last year. Cooley went down in week seven. Davis picked up the slack in grand fashion. He finished as TE16 in 2009, but is being drafted as TE22. The Redskins are looking for ways to get both of their tight ends on the field at the same time. After the strong showing by Davis last year, Washington is experimenting with splitting Cooley out wide, leaving Davis at tight end. The team has a huge void at wide receiver opposite Santana Moss. Davis has huge upside and could surprise with another very good season if he gets the opportunity.

  • Shawn Nelson had his rookie season limited by a concussion. Before the injury, Nelson flashed very good athletic ability, showcased by the diving touchdown score in week one against the New England Patriots. Nelson is capable of making the big play after the catch and could surprise in year two. It takes young tight ends a couple of years to transition to the NFL. Currently, Nelson is not even drafted among the top thirty fantasy tight ends, behind such notables as Anthony Fasano, Marcedes Lewis, and even Joseph Kowalewski. The new Buffalo head coach Chan Gailey is an offensive guru and will know how to get the ball in the hands of his play makers. The void at the receiver position across from Lee Evans should only help Nelson.

  • Busts

  • Most will shudder at the thought of Dallas Clark being a "bust". He has been a top fantasy tight end for some time. But, being taken at the top of the fourth round, as the first tight end off the board, is a little too much to ask from Peyton Manning's buddy. Clark has been able to remain healthy the past two seasons, but has fallen short of being the top tight end. To risk such an early pick on Clark is a huge gamble on a player that has yet to prove he belongs at the top spot. Let's look back at Clark's last four seasons. In 2006, he caught 30 passes for 367 yards and four touchdowns. In 2007, his numbers jumped to 58 receptions for 616 yards and 11 scores. In 2008, Clark had 77 catches for 848 yards and six touchdowns. Then, last year, Clark's numbers JUMPED to 100 receptions for 1,106 yards and ten scoring grabs. The 2009 season looks like an aberration. Considering that it takes an early fourth round pick to gamble on Clark repeating the monster season, it is much preferable to wait on tight end options not coming off a career year.

  • Surprisingly, Dustin Keller is being drafted as the 15th tight end off the board after a TE20 finish in 2009. What has changed to increase expectations? Nothing. In fact, the addition of Santonio Holmes might be enough to lower hopes for Keller being a viable fantasy asset. The Jets do not throw the ball often enough to keep the wide receivers well-fed, much less Keller, too. If New York does pass more frequently, it will be down the field to the play-making wideouts. The tight end position is forgotten, other than to break open holes for Shonn Greene and the running game. This is not the year to expect much from the athletic Keller. He has the ability to become a very good pass-catching tight end option, but the Jet offense is not in position to enable fantasy expectations from its tight end.

  • Greg Olsen is a huge bust risk when drafted as TE13. The addition of Mike Martz as the offensive coordinator in Chicago is not a good thing for Olsen fantasy owners. The Martz offense has never had a tight end catch more than 38 passes in a season. It will be difficult for Olsen to eclipse his draft status with those numbers. In 2008, the ultra-athletic Vernon Davis finished a disappointing TE26 with only 31 receptions. This is the same Davis that finished as the top tight end the year after Martz left town. What a difference a year makes. This should make Olsen owners nervous. The offensive scheme is working against Olsen for fantasy purposes. Martz will ask the athletic Olsen to stay in and block instead of going out on pass patterns. Olsen is a huge bust risk this season. It is better to let someone else draft the former Miami Hurricane.

  • Please feel free to email me at tefertiller@footballguys.com with any questions or comments. Also, I am on Twitter, so feel free to ask me questions there.