A plan that may not be all that crazy
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Remember the 1999 Rams?
Kurt Warner. Marshall Faulk. Isaac Bruce. Torry Holt.
Greatest Show on Turf.
Twelve times they scored 30-plus points as Warner whipped 43 TD passes, Faulk amassed an insane 2,429 yards from scrimmage, and Bruce and Holt combined for 1,953 receiving yards and 18 TDs.
I remember writing a column near the end of the season about how amazing it would have been to have the foresight to put them all on one fantasy team. The odds of winning your league's championship would have been close to 100 percent.
Normally, combining too many players from one team for fantasy purposes is frowned upon and discouraged.
But find the right team with the right players and it can work.
While no NFL team figures to explode like those Rams did, there is one set of receivers that has a great chance to carry a fantasy team week in and week out with consistent, high-scoring results: Green Bay's.
James Jones made a brash prediction in June, saying that he, Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson could all put together 1,000-yard seasons.
So is it worth combining two or three of them on one fantasy team, even with Cobb (triceps) and Nelson (knee) slightly banged up?
Well, after the top 10 receivers are taken, the players from 11th on down each come with question marks and likely won't give fantasy owners top-end production on a regular basis.
So how's this for a plan: Get one of the top 10, then snare Cobb early in the fourth round (his average draft position (ADP) according to ESPN.com is 36th). Jones' ADP is 60, while Nelson's is 67, so grab one or both of them in the sixth and/or seventh rounds.
Some of you may consider this blasphemy fantasy-wise (and others of you are cringing about the though of taking two or (gasp!) three Packers WRs. But I'm telling you this might just work because it's a full-proof way to consistent, solid results.
As we know, ranking the receivers in preseason is always one big crapshoot, and I always look back at my rankings after 4-5 weeks wondering how I went so wrong. So at the risk of ruining six players' careers, here are a half-dozen I'm high on at the moment ...
1. Danny Amendola, Patriots. Originally I had him 16th in the WR rankings, but dropped him to 20th as he's apparently dealing with some sort of foot ailment. I'm sure the always-forthcoming Bill Belichick will tell us exactly what the situation is soon enough. Amendola, who was with the Rams in his first four seasons, has yet to top 700 receiving yards or 3 TDs. But he steps into the Wes Welker role on the normally high-flying Patriots, so an 80-catch, 1,100-yard season seems entirely possible. The question is, do you trust the brittle Amendola to stay healthy for 16 games?
2. Cecil Shorts, Jaguars. Not a household name yet, Shorts put together a nice campaign last season, especially after Week 6 when he went over 100 yards four times and caugh 5 TD passes. Jacksonville doesn't figure to set the world on fire, but QB Blaine Gabbert has looked serviceable in the preseason -- and that's all the talented Shorts needs to become the next standout WR.
3. T.Y. Hilton, Colts. Here's one player I don't think I can jinx. In his second year out of Florida International, Hilton caught 50 passes for 861 yards and 8 scores in 2012. An Indianapolis Star reporter called Hilton "a star in the making" and there's reason to believe he could out-point Reggie Wayne.
4. Kenbrell Thompkins, Patriots. Fair warning: Every year I take a flier on a guy and rank him 15-20 spots ahead of most analysts, only to see him flop. This year, my apologies to Thompkins, who is now destined to have a 25-catch, 300-yard, 2-TD season. But in all seriousness, Tom Brady lost Aaron Hernandez, Brandon Lloyd and Wes Welker, and Rob Gronkowski is probably out until Week 3. Thompkins is an undrafted rookie out of Cincinnati who caught 8 passes for 116 yards in New England's third preseason game. For now, he's starting in Lloyd's old spot, and if Brady continues to have confidence in him, a big season is entirely possible.
5. Golden Tate, Seahawks. Ever year, Tate's numbers rise, going from 227 to 382 to 688. Now he's in a contract year, with a more-seasoned Russell Wilson at quarterback. Tate should be a nice third receiver for any fantasy team.
6. Tavon Austin, Rams. The eighth pick of this year's draft, Austin has a chance to be the next Percy Harvin. Watch for St. Louis to be very creative in getting their 5-foot-7, 174-pound burner the ball. He figures to score multiple ways and with some good fortune could flirt with 7, 8 or even 9 TDs.
Extra point: As you are filling out your roster in the late rounds, why not take a chance on Bears second-year receiver Alshon Jeffery? He flashed some big-time ability in 2012, but he also missed six games with hand and knee injuries. Now healthy he's wowed teammates, coaches and media members in camp. If it translates to the regular season, Jeffery would be a great bye-week play with potential to move into WR3 territory.
Big names who will disappoint:
Dallas' Miles Austin, Miami's Mike Wallace, Minnesota's Greg Jennings and Kansas City's Dwayne Bowe have bust potential written all over them.
If your league has a TE position and you miss the boat on the top five of Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski, Vernon Davis, Jason Witten and Tony Gonzalez, you might as well wait until deep into the draft and go with your gut.
Jermichael Finley is my sleeper call of the year, only because of the tight ends from No. 6 on, he has the best chance to find the end zone on a consistent basis. Your league-mates will be snarfing up Greg Olsen, Kyle Rudolph and Antonio Gates in the middle rounds, so let them, then take a chance on Finley later on.
John Dietz ranks the wide receivers
Player, team Projected Projected Comment
Cream of the crop
1. Calvin Johnson, Lions 1,600-1,825 10-14 No way he scores just 5 TDs again
2. Dez Bryant, Cowboys 1,325-1,500 10-13 Last 10 games: 56-1,004-10!
Still rock solid
3. Andre Johnson, Texans 1,425-1,550 7-8 Last 7 games: 66-1,001-2!
4. B. Marshall, BEARS 1,250-1,425 8-11 Avg. 4 yrs. w/Cutler: 106-1,305-8.5
5. De. Thomas, Broncos 1,300-1,350 8-10 Seven 100-yard games in 2012
6. A.J. Green, Bengals 1,200-1,375 9-11 18 TDs in two seasons
7. Julio Jones, Falcons 1,200-1,325 9-10 Slightly disappointing in 2011
8. Victor Cruz, Giants 1,125-1,250 8-10 168 catches last two seasons
9. Roddy White, Falcons 1,175-1,300 8-9 6 straight 80-catch, 1,150-yd years
10. Larry Fitzgerald, Cards 1,175-1,275 7-9 Arrival of Carson Palmer huge
11. Randall Cobb, Packers 1,075-1,175 8-12 Slotting GB receivers no easy task
12. Vincent Jackson, Bucs 1,175-1,275 7-9 Bucs' early schedule looks sweet
13. Marq. Colston, Saints 1,100-1,225 8-10 7-plus TDs in all but 1 of 7 seasons
A notch below ... but no worries yet
14. Reggie Wayne, Colts 1,225-1,300 5-7 Only 15 TDs from 2010-12
15. Cecil Shorts, Jaguars 1,075-1,175 7-8 Fantastic talent on bad team
16. James Jones, Packers 875-1,050 8-12 14 TDs on just 64 catches in 2012
17. Eric Decker, Broncos 1,000-1,050 8-10 Will Welker sap his value?
18. T.Y. Hilton, Colts 950-1,125 6-9 Next superstar?
19. Danny Amendola, Pats 1,175-1,300 5-8 Pats being quiet about injury
20. Jordy Nelson, Packers 1,000-1,175 6-9 Will he be ready for Week 1?
21. D. Jackson, Eagles 925-1,100 6-8 Only 6 TDs from 2011-12
22. Steve Smith, Panthers 1,100-1,250 5-7 41 TDs last 7 years
23. Antonio Brown, Steelers 1,000-1,200 6-7 Scored in last four games
24. Pierre Garcon, Redskins 950-1,100 6-8 5 TDs in just 10 games last year
25. Greg Jennings, Vikings 925-1,050 6-8 Tough to trust QB Ponder
26. Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs 1,000-1,125 5-7 Alex Smith's weak arm a concern
27. Stevie Johnson, Bills 950-1,000 5-7 Hopefully QB Manuel returns fast
28. Wes Welker, Broncos 925-1,075 6-8 Lots of targets in Denver
29. Hakeem Nicks, Giants 875-1,050 5-8 Do you trust him to stay healthy?
30. Mike Wallace, Dolphins 900-1,000 5-8 QB situation scary
31. Golden Tate, Seahawks 850-1,000 6-8 Big breakout potential here
32. Kenb. Thompkins, Pats 700-1,100 4-8 Love the potential; don't reach
Now you're reaching
33. Anquan Boldin, Niners 900-1,000 5-7 Avg. just 927 yards last 6 years
34. Torrey Smith, Ravens 825-950 6-8 Offense could struggle
35. Mike Williams, Bucs 825-1,000 6-7 TDs last three yrs: 11-3-9
36. Lance Moore, Saints 800-900 6-8 Has solid 22 TDs from 2010-12
37. Miles Austin, Cowboys 775-975 5-7 How much gas left in the tank?
38. Tavon Austin, Rams 675-775* 4-6 Could be next Percy Harvin
39. Sidney Rice, Seahawks 750-900 6-7 Safe pick here as your 4th WR
40. Alshon Jeffery, BEARS 725-850 5-7 Most impressive player in camp
41. Chris Givens, Rams 700-875 5-6 2nd-year man could blossom
42. Josh Gordon, Browns 700-850 4-6 Suspended first two games
43. Michael Floyd, Cardinals 675-825 3-7 Had 86 targets last season
44. Kenny Britt, Titans 675-850 3-6 So much potential being wasted
45. Brandon LaFell, Panthers 650-775 3-6 Hasn't been very impressive
46. Nate Washington, Titans 700-825 4-5 Solid veteran might surprise
47. DeAndre Hopkins, Texans 600-825 3-6 Concussion could cost him Week 1
48. Greg Little, Browns 700-800 3-5 Hot start possible with Gordon out
49. Justin Blackmon, Jags 550-775 4-5 Suspended 4 games; worth stashing
50. Malcolm Floyd, Chargers 600-725 3-5 3 TDs last 7 games he played
The next 12: Vincent Brown, Chargers; Brian Hartline, Dolphins; Emmanuel Sanders, Steelers; Kendall Wright, Titans; Mohamed Sanu, Bengals; Santana Moss, Redskins; Jacoby Jones, Ravens; Cordarrell Patterson, Vikings; Santonio Holmes, Jets; Denarius Moore, Raiders; Nate Burleson, Lions; Darrius Heyward-Bey, Colts
* 300-plus rushing yards likely
John Dietz ranks the tight ends
Player, team Projected Projected Comment
Cream of the crop
1. Jimmy Graham, Saints 1,050-1,250 10-12 184 catches last two seasons
2. Rob Gronkowski, Pats 975-1,175 10-12 Likely will miss first 2 gms (back)
3. Vernon Davis, Niners 800-1,050 7-10 Chemistry with Kaepernick solid
4. Jason Witten, Cowboys 925-1,050 4-7 Avg. last 6 years: 92-1,018-5.0
5. Tony Gonzalez, Falcons 800-875 6-8 Between 6-10 TDs last 5 years
6. Jerm. Finley, Packers 700-825 4-7 Gutsy call here
7. Greg Olsen, Panthers 700-800 4-5 Career numbers in 2012 (69-843)
8. Kyle Rudolph, Vikings 600-700 4-7 No way he gets 9 TDs again
9. Owen Daniels, Texans 625-725 4-6 TDs last four yrs.: 5-2-3-6
10. Brandon Myers, Giants 625-725 4-6 Manning will find him
The next 5: Fred Davis, Redskins; Antonio Gates, Chargers; Brandon Pettigrew, Lions; Martellus Bennett, BEARS; Jordan Cameron, Browns
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