The Fire Sale: Watch for explosive numbers from the Lions' offense
We're almost there. The preseason is over for all intents and purposes. Here's what we've learned:
• Two weeks ago I said Tim Hightower will be a Top 15 fantasy back. I think I sold him short. The Redskins running game looks tremendous and Hightower is clearly the No. 1 running back. He should have a big year.
• Cam Newton is a money player. He plays his best on the biggest stage, but Newton isn't close to being ready. Ron Rivera should let Jimmy Clausen start the first six games or so before inserting Newton into the lineup. It's a similar approach to how the Eagles handled Donovan McNabb.
• I love what Jason Garrett is doing in Dallas so far. Those fat, overrated, overpaid linemen have been living off the hog for way too long. How these guys keep making the Pro Bowl is beyond me. I'm happy to see Garrett giving the younger linemen an opportunity to play. This is well overdue. You come in out of shape and not ready to work? Take the train.
• Philip Rivers, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers are going to throw for a ton of yards this season. I see these teams going to the air more this year than even they normally do. These three quarterbacks are at the top of their game and it will be a race to the finish to see which one of them leads the NFL in passing yards.
• Speaking of quarterbacks, it's pretty obvious to me that Andrew Luck will be playing in the NFC West next season. The only question is will it be for Seattle or San Francisco?
• The Colts are in big, big trouble if Peyton Manning misses more than a couple of games. Even the defense looks bad when he doesn't play. Also, Donald Brown is the worst running back in the NFL. The absolute worst.
• The following teams will be better than people think: Cleveland, Washington, Denver and St. Louis.
• The following teams will struggle more than people think: Chicago, Baltimore, Kansas City and the Giants.
• Finally, my useless Super Bowl prediction is New Orleans vs. New England, wit the Saints winning it all.
Now, on with the Fire Sale ...
Just look at the weapons Stafford has at his disposal. Jahvid Best, Calvin Johnson, Brandon Pettigrew and the underrated Nate Burleson. Stafford has one of the strongest arms, so if he can stay upright, the Lions will create a lot of big plays.
Stafford and the Lions carved up the Patriots defense and while it's only preseason, we have to take notice of two things: speed and precision. Stafford has been right on the money all summer long. Preseason or not, you can't fake accuracy. The speed of this team is scary, especially the offensive skill players.
Last offseason, people were really riding the Lions bandwagon but it was probably a year too soon. I think 2011 is when this team takes the next step. Look for a lot of fantasy production coming out of the Motor City this year and for Stafford to make the jump to a Top 10 fantasy quarterback in the process.
The guy throws one ugly ball and Tebow will never be a great NFL quarterback. Yet, for fantasy purposes, people may be burying Tebow a bit too soon.
If Tebow gets a chance to play like he did late last season, he's always going to have fantasy value because of his rushing numbers. Kyle Orton is the starting quarterback in Denver and he should be but it's not like the Broncos offensive line is one of the NFL's top units. Orton got hammered last year. Suppose he gets injured, who will be the quarterback in Denver? Brady Quinn? How long will that last?
The quarterback situation in Denver still bears watching. Remember, a lot of fantasy titles are won by waiver wire moves during the season. Should Orton go down, Tebow would be a valuable pickup.
When you look at where Starks is being drafted (Round 9 on average) he represents some solid value, especially considering Grant is still going two or three rounds ahead of him. That's a mistake because while the two may split carries early on, Starks is the player with much more upside.
In the third preseason game, which is supposed to be the dress rehearsal for the regular season, it was Starks who was more impressive. And while the Packers decided to not even give the running game a sniff, Starks did catch five passes. Grant got six carries to Starks' one but the veteran didn't do much with his chances, gaining just 16 yards.
I like the rookie Alex Green down the road but to start the season the running back you want to own in Green Bay is Starks.
The Redskins have a shaky quarterback situation at the moment but Moss is the one player that makes out either way. If it's the stronger-armed John Beck, Moss will make more plays down the field and on deeper routes. If it's Rex Grossman, Moss will catch more balls on shorter routes because Grossman doesn't have a big arm.
We're talking about a clear-cut No. 1 receiver that caught 93 passes last season while playing in a similar situation and he's getting drafted on average in Round 9? Regardless of who the quarterback ends up being, Moss will put up strong fantasy numbers once again. Beck is the favorite to be named the starter and that means Moss' yardage and touchdown totals could go up this season.
The main question in Cleveland is who will Colt McCoy throw the ball to? Shurmur's philosophy is it's meant to be successful regardless of who the receivers are in the offense. Remember how many years the Eagles were trotting out the likes of Greg Lewis? So based purely on the system, there's a chance for a couple of pass catchers to emerge in Cleveland.
Robiskie has good hands, just not a lot of speed. That actually makes him a perfect candidate to catch a bunch of short passes from McCoy and emerge as a fantasy factor in PPR leagues. Robiskie and Greg Little have upside among Browns WRs. Considering Little is a rookie, the bet is Robiskie to be the breakout receiver in Cleveland this year.
The Browns will be much better on offense this season. Make sure you're ahead of the curve and watching this team closely. There will be a lot of Browns players on the waiver wire early in the year, which means some value will come out of Cleveland for fantasy owners.
McCluster is like Devin Hester. Hester is never going to be a great receiver. Yet, when you add up what Hester does as a receiver and return man, he's much more valuable to the Bears than he is to fantasy owners.
Hester will make plays as a return man, running back and receiver. Still, he won't be productive enough at any one position to make a big fantasy splash. If Jamaal Charles gets hurt, McCluster's role in Kansas City's offense will likely increase dramatically, but right now he won't do much for your fantasy team.
Thomas has struggled picking up blitzes in training camp and he's been an absolute train-wreck in three preseason games. Thomas, who had fumbling problems in college, has also put two balls on the ground. One was called back because of a defensive penalty but a running back that can't block, hang onto the ball or find a hole isn't exactly setting himself up for a huge season.
There's no doubt Reggie Bush is the Dolphins back you want out of these two. Thomas may steal a few short touchdowns but overall Bush is going to get a majority of the touches and even if he doesn't gain a ton of yards on the ground, Bush will be a huge factor in the passing game.
The worst part about Thomas is it sounds like he's starting to lose his confidence. That's never a good sign. Perhaps no player has fallen further since early fantasy drafts than Thomas. Don't waste your time on him.
Corners are covering Ochocinco like a blanket. My argument against Roy Williams rekindling his magic with Mike Martz is he simply can create separation anymore. That may be the same thing happen to Ochocinco.
Ochocinco looks like a receiver just trying to make the team rather than a former Pro Bowler. Ever since Ochocinco was traded to New England his draft stock has risen to where he's getting selected around the fourth round. That's a bit insane.
Now, all isn't lost for Ochocinco. He does have Tom Brady throwing him the football and that means he doesn't really need a lot of separation in the first place. However, it's a little concerning that Ochocinco is having trouble getting open against single coverage in the preseason. Sometimes players get old overnight. Time will tell if that's the case with Ochocinco.
Last year at this time, two anointed Super Bowl contenders had question marks surrounding their offensive line. Those two teams, Minnesota and Dallas, not only didn't contend for a Super Bowl, they fired their coaches before the end of the season.
The Ravens aren't headed down a road quite that bad but they may miss the playoffs this season. And by the way, if you want to make changes to your offense, start by replacing Cam Cameron. That guy is one of the single worst playcallers on the planet.
Looking at the fantasy angle, I think the Ravens passing game is going to struggle. The team signed Bryant McKinnie last week and he's already their starting left tackle. When you're filling that spot two weeks before the season starts with a guy who can barely make it through a conditioning test, that raises a huge red flag.
The offense is going to be very inconsistent on a weekly basis outside of Ray Rice (who will catch 90 balls on check downs). Look for Joe Flacco to be under heavy fire all year long. That is, if he doesn't end up in a body bag following the Week 1 matchup with Pittsburgh.