Which teams have some sleeper defenses? Can any player challenge Adrian Peterson as the No. 1 overall pick in drafts? Our fantasy experts Michael Beller and Brian Flood discuss in this week's fantasy roundtable.
1. Let's begin this final preseason roundtable with a position that gets neglected in fantasy leagues. Which defense could jump from the middle of the pack to the elite this year?
Beller: Tampa Bay seriously upgraded its secondary, adding Darrelle Revis, Dashon Goldson and Jonathan Banks. The Bucs allowed a ridiculous 4,758 passing yards last year, a number that should come way down this season. They did lose leading sackman Michael Bennett, but an improved secondary could help Da'Quan Bowers and Adrian Clayborn get after the quarterback more than they did last season. Their division won't do them any favors, but they match up with the AFC East and NFC West, which could feature a total of five very favorable games. And hey, if nothing else, they play the Jets in Week 1, making them a great stream option.
Flood: In all my leagues, I plan to just pickup whichever defense is playing the Jets each week. But if that's not your style, the St. Louis Rams are my sleeper. The Rams should take things to the next level, at least defensively, in Jeff Fisher's second season at the helm. The Rams quietly tied the Broncos for the league lead with 52 sacks last season. Chris Long and Robert Quinn should combine for 20-plus sacks alone and second-year DB Janoris Jenkins will find paydirt a few times. Cortland Finnegan helps bring a tough-guy mentality that Fisher has loved since their time together in Tennessee. As an added bonus, for leagues that include special teams production, dynamic rookie Tavon Austin will be handling punt return duty.
2. You can only invest in one of these wide receiver lottery tickets: Ryan Broyles, Rueben Randle or Mohamed Sanu. Which one and why?
Beller: I like all three of these guys at their draft-day prices, but if I can only have one I want Randle. He may be the third wide receiver, but he'll be lining up outside opposite Hakeem Nicks, with Victor Cruz in the slot. He'd also be due for an uptick in targets should either Nicks or Cruz, two guys who haven't necessarily been the most durable over the years, go down with an injury. Of these three, he's in the best environment. Broyles admitted over the weekend that his surgically repaired knee is still giving him trouble, and he'll likely be on the sideline when the Detroit offense first takes the field on Sunday. Sanu flashed red-zone skills last year before suffering his foot injury, but his ceiling is more "solid bye-week play" than "potential regular starter." Randle is the man here.
Flood: Rueben Randle, because Eli Manning doesn't care about the depth chart, he only cares if a receiver can get open and catch. In 2011 when Victor Cruz emerged with an unexpected 82 catches for 1,536 yards, Hakeem Nicks was coming off a career year and many people even preferred Mario Manningham to Cruz. This year, Randle is technically the third option, but Cruz and Nicks are both already nursing injuries. Not too many people around the Giants would be surprised if Randle turns into Eli's most durable and reliable option.
3. There's near unanimous agreement that Adrian Peterson will repeat as the No. 1 player in fantasy this year. Make a case for someone to steal the crown.
Beller: The season doesn't start for another two days, so I guess I have one more chance this preseason to profess my love for Jamaal Charles. The argument for him ascending to the very peak of fantasy football is simple. He's already proven himself to be a yardage beast. He averages 5.8 yards per carry over his career and about 2.5 catches per game. Andy Reid and Alex Smith represent a huge upgrade in coach and quarterback. A large part of the reason Charles scored just six touchdowns last year was because the Chiefs were last in the league with 211 points scored. The Cardinals, who were second-to-last, scored 250. Reid brings the West Coast offense to Kansas City, a system perfectly suited to Charles' skill set. The injury worries are overstated. Remember, he tore his ACL by accidentally stepping on a yard marker. In his four other seasons, he has missed all of one game. Everything is in place for him to have a career year. He could definitely reach 2,000 total yards and 13 to 15 touchdowns.
Flood: The Browns have a new offensive coordinator and the he's been around the block. Norv Tuner has been an NFL offensive coordinator or head coach every season since 1991. And the man has a knack for turning his running backs into elite fantasy studs. Here is a quick rundown of events under Norv's tutelage:
- 1991: Emmitt Smith kicks off a fantasy career among the best ever
- 1999: Stephen Davis ran for 1,405 yards
- 2001: LaDainian Tomlinson starts a seven-year run of being a fantasy star
- 2002: Ricky Williams had 1,853 yards on a whopping 383 carries
- 2006: Frank Gore's best season results in 1,695 yards with 61 receptions
If you didn't already love Trent Richardson, I hope you do now.