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updated: 12/23/2010 12:24 PM

Fantasy football tips for 2011

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  • Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick likely will be a first-round pick in many fantasy football drafts next season. He leads the NFL in fantasy scoring this year.

      Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick likely will be a first-round pick in many fantasy football drafts next season. He leads the NFL in fantasy scoring this year.
    Associated Press

 
 

Merry Christmas, everybody!

As we get set to wrap up another exciting season, I thought this would be a perfect time to look forward to next season (assuming there is one).

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A few years ago, I remember someone saying they went to their draft with fantasy leaders from the second half of the season. They figured whomever was hot at the end of one year would keep it up the following season.

And if memory serves, this person did quite well the next year.

So Santa Dietz has arrived to do the same here. This is a clip-and-save column, for sure as I will identify the top 5 players at each major position over the last seven weeks.

Quarterbacks

1. Michael Vick (21 TDs, 5 INTs, 255 fantasy points)

2. Tom Brady (19 TDs, zero INTs, 213 points)

3. Matt Schaub (12 TDs, 5 INTs, 159 points)

4. Drew Brees (15 TDs, 8 INTs, 157 points)

5. Jon Kitna (12 TDs, 6 INTs, 155 points)

Other players who are hot: Joe Flacco (6th), Matt Cassel (7th)

Missing big names: Aaron Rodgers (8th), Philip Rivers (10th), Peyton Manning (11th)

Lessons learned: What stands out to you most about the top five? To me it's that only Brady and Brees were in most people's preseason top five.

I'm normally a big believer in waiting until the middle rounds to grab your quarterback because the gap between the second- and third-ranked QBs and those at around 9-12 usually isn't a big one.

And after the draft, you could have grabbed Vick, Kitna or Cassel as a free agent.

As for 2011, I can see justifying Vick as a early first-round pick because, with his running prowess, he has a chance to far outscore other QBs. His health will always be an issue because of his mobility, however, which means his owners will need a suitable backup.

Running backs

1. Arian Foster (913 yards from scrimmage, 7 TDs, 134 fantasy points)

2. Peyton Hillis (945 YFS, 7 TDs, 134 points)

3. Michael Turner (681 YFS, 8 TDs, 126 points)

4. Maurice Jones-Drew (843 YFS, 4 TDs, 115 points)

5. Fred Jackson (697 YFS, 6 TDs, 112 points)

Others who are hot: LeSean McCoy (7th), Knowshon Moreno (10th), Ahmad Bradshaw (11th)

Missing big names: Chris Johnson (12th), Adrian Peterson (13th), Steven Jackson (17th)

Lessons learned: With this group, I think it's the players listed just under the top five you should really pay attention to. McCoy (22 years old), Moreno (23) and Bradshaw (24) are all young and have little wear on their tires.

They are backs who were mostly lumped into the 20-30 range in preseason rankings. If you see any at 15 or below next year, remember how they are finishing the 2010 campaign and grab them while your opponents are forgetting about them.

Wide receivers

1. Dwayne Bowe (584 yards, 8 TDs, 115 fantasy points)

2. Greg Jennings (555 yards, 7 TDs, 110 points)

3. Mike Wallace (651 yards, 4 TDs, 105 points)

4. Andre Johnson (622 yards, 5 TDs, 101 points)

5. DeSean Jackson (629 yards, 3 TDs, 99 points)

Other players who are hot: Deion Branch (6th), Calvin Johnson (7th), Santonio Holmes (8th), Reggie Wayne (9th), Marques Colston (10th), Jacoby Ford (11th), Steve Johnson (12th), Wes Welker (13th), Brandon Lloyd (14th), Roddy White (15th)

Lessons learned: This is an interesting mix, isn't it? Sprinkled in among the big names (Bowe, Jennings and Johnson) sit players such as Mike Wallace, Deion Branch, Santonio Holmes and Jacoby Ford. Let's take a quick look at those four for next year:

• Wallace is a legit top-12 guy next season. He has four 100-yard games over the last seven weeks, and Ben Roethlisberger loves this speedster. Keep an eye on his ranking by other experts, and if it's lower than you expect, pounce at the appropriate time and you'll have a nice WR1.

• Branch has never been a fantasy superstar (his 6 TDs this season are a career high) so this may be some sort of abberation. But if Branch stays in New England (his contract will likely have to be re-done), he's a viable WR3 next year. I wouldn't reach on him too early simply based on this sensational finish.

• With Holmes, who seems to be about a 5-7 TD guy, I'd be careful. The biggest thing holding the fifth-year pro back is his quarterback, Mark Sanchez. To me, he's a low-end WR2 or high-end WR3.

• How about that Jacoby Ford? The rookie out of Clemson has a 71-yard rush for a TD and receptions of 47 and 52 yards in his last six games. Plus, he's a monster in the return game. I'd grab him as fifth wideout next season with the understanding that this late-season surge could be a mirage -- or it could be the beginning of a nice career for one of the fastest players in the league.

My teams:

Inserting Vincent Jackson (35 points) into my lineup 30 minutes before kickoff enabled me to advance to the title game in my regular league. Matt Schaub (26 points) also helped out in a 117-90 victory. In my unit league, Matt Ryan, LeGarrette Blount and Cedric Benson paved the way to an easy 77-35 victory over a team with Tom Brady, Darren McFadden and Adrian Peterson.

Way to go:

I just want to say congratulations to all of you who made your title games. It's a big week, so if you have questions, please feel free to e-mail me. And let's hope I nail all of these good and bad bets ...

Good bets

• Cowboys RB Felix Jones at Arizona. There's every reason to believe in Jones (104.3 yards from scrimmage last six) this week against a wretched Cardinals squad.

• Bills WR Steve Johnson vs. New England. With no other receiving threats left in Buffalo, Johnson has cooled off over the last month, but he'll be worth a play against a Patriots team that gives up plenty of yards through the air.

• Redskins QB Rex Grossman at Jacksonville. If you're desperate, why not? After a 4-TD game against Dallas, the ex-Bear figures to throw at least 2 against a squad that has allowed 26 TDs through the air.

• Jaguars QB David Garrard vs. Washington. Garrard's thrown 7 TD passes in his last three home games, and this week he'll absolutely abuse the Redskins' excuse for a secondary.

• Colts WR Pierre Garcon at Oakland. With Austin Collie (concussion) out for the season, watch for Garcon to continue his late-season surge.

• Bucs QB Josh Freeman and WR Mike Williams vs. Seattle. The Seahawks (32 ppg allowed last eight) can't stop anybody, so watch for Tampa to approach their season-high point total (38).

• Patriots RB Danny Woodhead at Buffalo. I love Woodhead as a flex play this week. He's good for 80 yards from scrimmage and a TD.

Bad bets

• Browns RB Peyton Hillis vs. Baltimore. Cleveland's workhorse has been limping this week and is facing a Ravens team determined not to let him repeat his 144-yard effort against them in Week 3. "A blind cat will find a meal every once in a while," said Ravens LB Ray Lewis on the team's website. "It won't happen again."

• Bears RB Matt Forte and WR Johnny Knox vs. Jets. Knox will be stranded on Revis Island, and Forte will find it tough against the league's fourth-best run defense.

• Vikings RB Adrian Peterson at Philadelphia. I'm sure some semifinalists were left with their mouths agape when -- about 90 minutes before kickoff -- they heard Peterson wouldn't play against the Bears on Monday night. AP is said to be ready to go this week, but Minnesota plays in the 7 p.m. Sunday night game, so you might be playing with fire again. Try to have a backup plan. (For what it's worth, I have him and he will be in my lineup. If he sits, I will flex Robert Meachem in on the Monday night game.)

• Falcons QB Matt Ryan vs. New Orleans. It's tempting to see this as a potential shootout, but the Saints have given up a league-low 10 passing TDs. Watch for a 24-20 final.

• Giants QB Eli Manning at Green Bay. Don't get star-struck by the 4-TD game Manning posted against the Eagles. At Lambeau, he's up against the league's third-best pass defense and one that's give up just 14 scores through the air.

• Jets WR Santonio Holmes at Chicago. Again, I don't trust Mark Sanchez.

• Panthers RB Jonathan Stewart at Pittsburgh. This is the week Stewart (115.0 rush yards last four) gets stopped cold.

• Bengals RB Cedric Benson vs. San Diego. Hopefully you used Benson (150 yards, TD) last week. He's going back to Bad Benson vs. Chargers.

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