Real football games are won in the trenches. The violent clash between offensive line and defensive line determine whether or not the offensive playmakers achieve success. In fantasy football, it is the playmakers who win championships.
Perhaps the most difficult decision you will face on draft day is whether to take a stud quarterback or running back with your first pick. While it would be very tempting to have a Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady leading your team, I would advise that you pass on quarterbacks with your first pick and nab that stud wide receiver or running back.
It may be virtually impossible for you to pass up Drew Brees to take a stud running back; however, I advise that you do so. Defending Super Bowl champions typically struggle. This doesn’t mean that Brees himself will struggle; however, it’s certainly within the realm of possibility. If the Saints struggle like most defending champions do, then that means some vital components aren’t producing. Since the Saints rely mostly on their offense to win games, a Saints struggle would more than likely mean that Brees is struggling as well. Get the star running backs while you can!
I understand there are sleepers at the running back and wide receiver positions. I understand that some of you may consider Rashard Mendenhall or Jamaal Charles to be excellent sleepers at the running back position. Can those sleepers put up the type of numbers an Adrian Peterson puts up? Highly unlikely!
There are, however, sleepers at the quarterback position who can put up the same numbers as elite quarterbacks. Last season, ten currently active fantasy quarterbacks passed for 4,000 or more yards. The lowest yard total and touchdown total of those ten were both posted by Eli Manning (4,021 yards and 27 TD). Of the quarterbacks who failed to reach those numbers, I would recommend Carson Palmer, Joe Flacco and Chad Henne as the best sleepers at the quarterback position.
Playing quarterback for the Cincinnati Bengals is no picnic; it’s especially frustrating when you have two massive egos in Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco that may potentially collide. However, those two massive egos can pad Carson Palmer’s stats and make him the elite fantasy quarterback he was once regarded as.
Flacco has a cannon arm and is a good pocket passer. He passed for 3,613 yards and 21 touchdowns last season, despite the lack of a true number one wide receiver. With all due respect to Derrick Mason, his best days are behind him.
Nevertheless, Mason should have a good season and less pressure on him, as the Ravens acquired former Cardinals wide receive Anquan Boldin. Boldin had good numbers last season with 84 receptions and 1,024 yards; unfortunately, his one touchdown severely hindered his fantasy value. With no Larry Fitzgerald to steal the show in Baltimore, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Boldin regain elite status as a fantasy wideout. Look for Boldin to be Flacco’s go-to guy this season, thus boosting Flacco’s fantasy numbers and value. Also helping Flacco’s cause is what should be a suffocating Ravens defense. If the Ravens force turnovers, Flacco will get the ball quickly and have many opportunities to make plays throughout the course of a game.
The Miami Dolphins went through years of torture to find a suitable successor to Dan Marino. Henne is no Marino; however, he has a big arm and can make big plays. Henne has two excellent running backs in Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams to keep defenses guessing. The Dolphins have a solid young receiving core which will be made better by the presence of superstar wideout Brandon Marshall. Marshall was fourth in the NFL in receptions last season. In addition to having two excellent running backs and a superstar wideout to complement the younger wideouts, Henne also has one of the best offensive lines in the NFL.
Despite the lack of a number one wideout and an injured Brown, Henne finished strong at the end of the 2009 season. From weeks 13 through 17, Henne averaged 273 yards passing per game. In those five weeks, he delivered three 300-yard games, including a career-high 349 yards against the Tennessee Titans in a thrilling 27-24 defeat. In two games against the New York Jets (who were the number-one ranked defense in the NFL), Henne compiled a 111.4 passer rating.
Henne has demonstrated that he can make the big plays for the Dolphins and make those plays against tough defenses. Equipped with a great playmaker in Marshall, Henne could conceivably put up big numbers this year. The only question I have about Henne is how many passing attempts he will have. The reality is that Brown has struggled with injuries over the years and Williams is in the final years of his career. The Dolphins acquired Marshall for a reason; I believe they will give Henne plenty of opportunities to throw the football this season.
I highly recommend that you draft the stud running backs and wideouts you need early in the draft. Save the quarterbacks for later. It wouldn’t hurt to get an Eli Manning or a Jay Cutler when you can, but you could conceivably get a Joe Flacco or a Carson Palmer after several rounds; you can likely draft Henne as a mid-to-late sleeper while others are looking for their running backs and wideouts. Don’t waste your first or second pick on a quarterback. Very few can put up Peterson-like numbers; many can put up Eli-like numbers.