Eric Karabell Football: Fantasy NFL

Drew Brees and Jimmy GrahamEzra Shaw/Getty ImagesThinking of benching Drew Brees or Jimmy Graham in Week 15? Think again. They face the Bears.
The rampant complaining about Drew Brees and the underachieving New Orleans Saints seems a bit misplaced in the fantasy football world because, after all, this remains a productive group of fantasy football performers. What has happened recently is not unlike what happens to plenty of other options; when the team faces a favorable matchup, we get outstanding statistics. In tougher matchups, the team struggles. And then every so often something a bit unexplainable occurs, such as in Week 14 when the Saints’ offense, at home against a miserable Carolina Panthers defense, couldn’t do much with it.

This week, however, the Saints meet the Chicago Bears.
Tony RomoTim Heitman/USA TODAY SportsDespite Tony Romo's poor performance in Week 13, he should remain a fantasy starter.
The Dallas Cowboys and Chicago Bears might have laid the proverbial eggs -- turkey eggs, of course -- on Thanksgiving, but this is not the week to start abandoning strong fantasy options. Rip on quarterbacks Tony Romo and Jay Cutler all you like for their proclivity to throw footballs to the other team, for a lack of January success, off-field nonsense or whatever, but track record is important and these are top-10 quarterbacks. And perhaps most importantly on Thursday night these guys will be throwing plenty against each other’s weak defenses and piling up the fantasy points, bringing others along for the ride.

I’m certainly not the fantasy owner/analyst who recommends blindly sticking with the players who got you this far, because it implies that one ignores valuable information that doesn’t allow one’s top lineup to be represented. In other words, consider all possibilities, but don’t simply activate someone solely due to season numbers. In the case of Romo and Cutler, that’s not the overriding factor.

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Four Downs: Consider Crowell an RB2 

November, 23, 2014
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Scott Cunningham/Getty ImagesIsaiah Crowell carried the ball 12 times for 88 yards and two touchdowns in Week 12.
When Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon achieved top fantasy status at his position last season, he and tight end Jordan Cameron were basically the lone Browns players worth relying on. The forgettable tandem of Jason Campbell and Brandon Weeden split quarterbacking duties after Brian Hoyer went down with injury, and the team’s leading rusher with 377 yards on a sad 2.7 yards per carry was the currently unemployed Willis McGahee. The current Browns are deep and considerably more talented on offense, and as Gordon made his 2014 season debut with an impressive eight receptions for 120 yards in Sunday’s 26-24 win over the Atlanta Falcons, it was running back Isaiah Crowell who led the team in fantasy points with 20.

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Backfield breakdown entering Week 8 

October, 21, 2014
Oct 21
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The running back hero in the first New England Patriots game after the Stevan Ridley season-ending knee injury was obviously Shane Vereen. He scored 23 fantasy points, which led all NFL running backs in Week 7.

Vereen did most of his statistical damage with two touchdown receptions, the first early on when the New York Jets simply failed to cover him on what became a 49-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady. Otherwise, Vereen seemed ordinary but certainly busy, rushing 11 times for 43 yards, one of them a 17-yarder. Vereen is a good player, but it was another Patriots running back who piqued my interest and perhaps yours as well

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Summer Snapshot: Oakland Raiders 

July, 1, 2014
Jul 1
11:21
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Summer is here, and the NFL preseason games will be underway before you know it. As teams train and hold camps, let’s analyze what fantasy owners should be looking for in the next few months. Join the conversation on Twitter: #FantasySnapshot

What’s new? Well, the last time an Oakland Raiders team won more games than it lost was the 2002 season, which is a really long time ago. Hall of Famer Jerry Rice was on that Super Bowl team! So these Raiders would like the "something new" to be a nine-win season, at the least. It doesn't seem likely based on the talent and personnel at hand, though it appears to have been upgraded this spring with veteran options. Former Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub, Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew and Green Bay Packers wide receiver James Jones get perhaps their final opportunities to start, as Terrelle Pryor, Rashad Jennings and Jacoby Ford have moved on, but the fantasy value for the new fellows seems muted, if not barely existent. The franchise quarterback was drafted, so the main story around this franchise will be about when Derek Carr finally sees opportunity.

Something to prove:


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Summer Snapshot: Cincinnati Bengals 

June, 24, 2014
Jun 24
11:27
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Summer is here, and the NFL preseason games will be underway before you know it. As teams train and hold camps, let's analyze what fantasy owners should be looking for in the next few months. Join the conversation on Twitter: #FantasySnapshot

What's new? Well, the Bengals franchise and their starting quarterback seem to be a bit too much-maligned from a real and fantasy aspect. After all, this team won 11 games and the division title last season and has qualified for the playoffs three consecutive seasons and quarterback Andy Dalton, for all his faults, did end up as the No. 6 overall fantasy performer last season and fifth at his position. Is that enough? Can he and the team do it again? Certainly these questions are debatable. Each coordinator has bolted the Queen City for a head -coaching job, with the Jay Gruden offense now in the hands of former Oakland Raiders head coach Hue Jackson and the Mike Zimmer defense being managed by Paul Guenther. There are repercussions in each case, as Jackson figures to run a quicker-tempo offense that should help everyone, while Guenther's defense is likely still top-10 for fantasy owners. Oh, and the Bengals added a notable quarterback and seemingly impactful running back in the draft to cause some fuss, too.

Something to prove:


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Summer is here, and the NFL preseason games will be underway before you know it. As teams train and hold camps, let's analyze what fantasy owners should be looking for in the next few months. Join the conversation on Twitter: #FantasySnapshot

What's new? Well, much like the rival Seattle Seahawks, who topped the 49ers to get to the Super Bowl, the spring was about contract situations and making key players happy. For San Francisco, that meant a brand new historic deal for quarterback Colin Kaepernick, one that was pretty controversial since it featured the most guaranteed money for anyone in the sport, and it will surely affect others. Whether Kaepernick, with his 23 career starts, is really worth that type of investment is quite another issue. Coach Jim Harbaugh is still waiting for his money, which couldn't possibly be an issue moving ahead, right? As for actual changes to personnel, the 49ers' draft looked like a clear win, and fantasy owners will want to become interested in running back Carlos Hyde, and soon.

Something to prove:


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Summer Snapshot: St. Louis Rams 

June, 17, 2014
Jun 17
12:22
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Summer is here, and the NFL preseason games will be underway before you know it. As teams train and hold camps, let's analyze what fantasy owners should be looking for in the next few months. Join the conversation on Twitter: #FantasySnapshot

What's new? Well, it might seem like the biggest offseason storyline for this franchise after its eventful draft, but it's really been about quarterback Sam Bradford and left tackle Jake Long rehabilitating from serious knee injuries. Bradford appears well on pace for preseason action, while Long's outlook for Week 1 is a bit more problematic. The Rams need these guys, but relying on a quarterback and his key blocker is nothing new for NFL teams. For the Rams, however, it's tough to see them succeeding in the league's toughest division without Bradford and Long. The Rams acquired several new faces through the draft, but generally on defense.

Something to prove:

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Summer Snapshot: Arizona Cardinals 

June, 17, 2014
Jun 17
12:22
PM ET

Summer is here, and the NFL preseason games will be underway before you know it. As teams train and hold camps, let’s analyze what fantasy owners should be looking for in the next few months. Join the conversation on Twitter: #FantasySnapshot

What’s new? Well, Year 1 of the Bruce Arians experience went well, as the Arizona Cardinals won 10 games, only the second time the franchise achieved that total since the mid-1970s. It wasn’t good enough for the playoffs, however, and key losses on defense could prevent a repeat. On offense, the main loss is hardly a critical one, as leading rusher Rashard Mendenhall unexpectedly retired at 26 years old to pursue life, love or whatever isn’t linebackers diving at his knees. In theory, that should vault second-year jitterbug Andre Ellington into clear RB2 territory, but the Cardinals seem intent on some kind of timeshare with a larger fellow. After all, Mendenhall was pretty ordinary last year -- except for the eight rushing touchdowns -- as he averaged a paltry 3.2 yards per carry, and still Ellington never saw 20 touches in a game. So what’s new for the running back situation is Stepfan Taylor and Jonathan Dwyer appear firmly in play for attention, whether fantasy owners like it or not (and they certainly do not).

Something to prove:


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Summer Snapshot: Seattle Seahawks 

June, 17, 2014
Jun 17
12:22
PM ET

Summer is here, and the NFL preseason games will be underway before you know it. As teams train and hold camps, let's analyze what fantasy owners should be looking for in the next few months. Join the conversation on Twitter: #FantasySnapshot

What's new? Well, this is the first summer anyone could call the Seahawks defending Super Bowl champs, and that's indeed a very new and good thing. Of course, with January and February success come greater expectations moving ahead and salary increases for many, and as we've seen in past seasons, the champs rarely thrive the following campaign. The Seahawks rewarded coach Pete Carroll with a terrific new deal, kept critical pieces of the top defense in Richard Sherman and others happy with their checkbook and the wide receiver corps should be deeper, presuming health for a certain lightning rod of talent. What's also new is the potential for a running back committee … OK, maybe not a true committee, but everyone seems to agree Christine Michael is a future star in this league, so watch out, Marshawn Lynch owners.

Something to prove:


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Summer Snapshot: New Orleans Saints 

June, 12, 2014
Jun 12
11:24
AM ET
Summer is here, and the NFL preseason games will be underway before you know it. As teams train and hold camps, let’s analyze what fantasy owners should be looking for in the next few months. Join the conversation on Twitter: #FantasySnapshot

What’s new? Well, Drew Brees is still here, but a few of his weapons are new. Since nobody seems too concerned about Brees dropping off statistically anytime soon -- he owns four of the seven 5,000-yards passing season all-time and should add to it -- that creates opportunity for others. Darren Sproles is an Eagle and Lance Moore a Steeler, meaning the Nos. 4 and 5 fellows in terms of receptions are gone. Then again, this doesn’t seem to be much of a problem. The Saints chose a wide receiver in the first round of the draft, and depth at running back was already strong.

Something to prove:

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Summer Snapshot: Carolina Panthers 

June, 12, 2014
Jun 12
11:05
AM ET

Summer is here, and the NFL preseason games will be underway before you know it. As teams train and hold camps, let's analyze what fantasy owners should be looking for in the next few months. Join the conversation on Twitter: #FantasySnapshot

What’s new? Well, on the surface it’s hard to find too many franchises that had a more challenging offseason. The quarterback underwent significant ankle surgery, his best offensive tackle retired and good luck trying to name the wide receivers now that longtime franchise producer Steve Smith was sent packing and ended up in Baltimore (get ready for that Week 4 clash!), and the other options landed elsewhere. Then again, Cam Newton is expected to be ready for July training camp, in plenty of time for the regular season, and the organization doesn't believe he has lost a step. Newton's former left tackle Jordan Gross has ample time to relax, and there remains concern about who steps up, but Newton isn't exactly the prototype pocket passer to start with. And wide receiver, well, it's really not so bad, after all.

Something to prove:


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Summer is here, and the NFL preseason games will be underway before you know it. As teams train and hold camps, let's analyze what fantasy owners should be looking for in the next few months. Join the conversation on Twitter: #FantasySnapshot

What’s new? Well, start with the organization’s future quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater, secured by a new coaching staff with the last selection of Round 1. Mike Zimmer will run things as head coach while Norv Turner handles the offense, and really, when you throw in arguably the best running back in the game and an electric wide receiver entering his second campaign, that should be enough to inspire the masses. Expectations shouldn’t necessarily be sky-high this very season, but they could be relatively soon. After all, the running back isn’t getting any younger (as if any of us are).

Something to prove:


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Summer Snapshot: Chicago Bears 

June, 10, 2014
Jun 10
1:16
PM ET

Summer is here, and the NFL preseason games will be underway before you know it. As teams train and hold camps, let's analyze what fantasy owners should be looking for in the next few months. Join the conversation on Twitter: #FantasySnapshot

What's new? Well, Bears quarterbacks were pretty good last season, ending up fifth in the league in passing yards, tied for fifth in touchdown passes and sixth in passer rating. But one of them is gone. Older veteran Josh McCown watched the Bears back up the Brinks truck to make the younger Jay Cutler happy, and then McCown bolted to Tampa Bay to play for his former coach, Lovie Smith. Now it's all about Cutler. Other than that, the Bears, like the division-rival Packers, seemed a lot more concerned with upgrading the defense.

Something to prove:


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2013 TE review, early 2014 rankings 

January, 21, 2014
Jan 21
8:38
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Though owning New England Patriots star Rob Gronkowski during the 2013 season tested many a frustrated fantasy owner, this was generally a productive position that was tough to complain about. Tight end scoring has never been higher, with 3,768 standard fantasy points from the position this past season, and for those in standard leagues, it wasn't terribly difficult to find a reasonable option. Let's discuss some of those reasonable options here. We've recapped/previewed quarterback, running back and wide receiver already, so with the Super Bowl on the horizon, let's finish up our position write-ups with tight end.

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Jimmy Graham
Chris Graythen/Getty ImagesJimmy Graham scored a full 55 (standard) fantasy points more than the next highest-scoring tight end.
Tight end Most Valuable Player: New Orleans Saints star Jimmy Graham seemed on his way to breaking the all-time mark at the position for touchdowns and fantasy points in a season, but ultimately fell just short. Graham scored 211 standard points, 22 behind Gronkowski's 2011 record, and scored 16 touchdowns, one off what Gronk achieved that season. Still, no wide receiver scored as many as 16 touchdowns this past season. Graham was spectacular and consistent, scoring in double digits for standard formats in 12 of 16 weeks. While the Denver Broncos' Julius Thomas and Cleveland Browns' Jordan Cameron were certainly superior values based on draft position, Graham was in a class by himself, outscoring No. 2 tight end Vernon Davis of the San Francisco 49ers by 55 points; for perspective, Graham was the No. 9 flex option for the season, as only five running backs and three wide receivers outscored him. Even if you had to use a second-round pick to get him, Graham is the position MVP.


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