Fantasy Football 2013: Man Crush List
Here We Go!
Michael Fabiano has a fantasy football "man crush" list, so why can't I? I'm not an award-winning columnist. I don't work for ESPN. The only way I will ever appear on a major sports network is if I successfully streak across my beloved Doak Campbell Stadium come the 2013 college football season. However, I am a reigning league champion with a boyish enthusiasm for all things fantasy, so why not give it a go? Here's my fantasy football man crush lineup for 2013!
Quarterback: Big Ben Roethlisberger
Big Ben, Big Ben...viewers and analysts alike are sleeping on the Steelers this offseason and I love it. Before his injury during the Kansas City game in 2012, Big Ben was averaging 17.5 points per game, and that was mostly without a true running game to keep opposing defenses honest. While it certainly isn't Aaron Rodgers-type productivity, 17.5 points a week is sure to keep your team in great shape; if Big Ben had finished 2012 at the same pace, he would have finished just short of Matt Ryan and ended at No. 8 at his position. The Steelers offense line will improve in 2013, and Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders will prove to be useful targets. The best part? He'll come cheap. In my most recent mock draft, I picked up Big Ben in the ninth round. With a solid backup QB on your roster like Matt Schaub or Eli Manning, I would recommend Big Ben to anyone drafting this year, especially if you like to wait on quarterbacks like myself.
Running Back 1: Doug Martin
In 2012, I drafted Adrian Peterson in the 3rd round and drafted Doug Martin, the Muscle Hamster himself, in the 11th. I finished the season with the number 1 and 2 running backs in fantasy football which no one, not even myself, saw coming. Last season, Martin burst out of the gate with some really breathtaking performances against Minnesota, Oakland, and Atlanta; I'm expecting more of those games to come in 2013. While a few may argue that Martin flew under the radar last year and will be the focus of opposing defenses this year, I wholeheartedly disagree. The receiving tandem of Mike Williams and Vincent Jackson will pose as threats down the field, so focusing solely on Martin will be tough work. Having spent a full season in the NFL, the Muscle Hamster will now have a better idea of what to expect in 2013; he had a few forgettable games in 2012 like a 33-yard effort against the Redskins and a mere 16 rushing yards against an awful Saints defense, which will not happen again this year. A healthy Carl Nicks will also do him some favors. Martin especially displayed a very clean injury history last season, which allows his spot in your lineup to minimize your risk and amplify your reward. This Ray Rice clone has the potential to go straight to the top this year; if you can nab him at #5 overall, take him. You won't regret it.
Running Back 2: Darren Sproles
I really wavered who I would prefer in my #2 RB spot on this list, but between Sproles and the injury-riddled knees of Matt Forte, I've gotta go Sproles. Darren Sproles quietly puts together season after season of fantasy excellence, and as long as he's healthy and Drew Brees is throwing him the ball you can expect more of the same. Although the running back turned 30 last month (an age usually drawing a running back's expiration date), Sproles isn't a prototypical running back. In his second year with the New Orleans Saints, he gained 1,577 all-purpose yards and earned 8 touchdowns, a 2-point conversion, and absolutely zero fumbles. Sproles went five games without a carry due to a hand surgery, but before and after that period he enjoyed an excellent season. He averaged around 14.7 points a game before the surgery (higher than Marshawn Lynch finished the season with). When the Saints began giving him carries again in Week 14, he averaged 15.75 points a game. No running back ended the 2012 season with a higher average except for Adrian Peterson. I don't expect Sproles to miss as much time in 2013, and the return of head coach Sean Payton can only assist his output.
Wide Receiver 1: Randall Cobb
Out of all the names on this list, I will profess my love for Randall most of all. There is not one single thing he cannot do. Kickoff returns, punt returns, deep routes, slot passes, running plays; anything he does will net you big fantasy points, especially if your league rewards players with returns. Listen to these 2012 totals: 1,256 yards in returns, 132 rushing yards, 10 total touchdowns, and 954 receiving yards, good for best on his team. Which, by the way, is the Green Bay Packers. With the departure of Greg Jennings to the Minnesota Vikings via free agency, Cobb will be the No. 1 receiver for fantasy superstar QB Aaron Rodgers.
At the end of the day, I can't stress enough how much you need him on your team. The absurd excellence he showcased in 2012 is sumptuous: his 2,342 all-purpose yards; his 13.2 yards-per-carry average; his soft hands and deft play in the slot. Cobb is a player much like Percy Harvin, who should always have the ball in his hands. I expect big things from Randall Cobb in 2013, and you should too.
Wide Receiver 2: Danario Alexander
After season after season of injuries and knee surgeries, we finally know what a healthy Danario Alexander looks like. Once the San Diego Charges picked him up in Week 8 of last season and put the ball in his hands, he emerged as the No. 1 receiver they'd been waiting for. If you managed to get him off the waiver wires, you enjoyed a treat; when he started grabbing passes in Week 9 against Kansas City, Alexander would end the season with 7 touchdowns and averaged about 11.6 points a game, putting him just shy of the fantasy excellence we saw from Demaryius Thomas. If he stays healthy, Phillip Rivers will get him the ball and allow for some light to shine on the dark, dark void that is the Chargers offense.
Tight End: Vernon Davis
Vernon Davis enjoyed a notable degree of success with Alex Smith, who is now the starting quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs. Replacing him is NFC Champion Colin Kaepernick, who hardly managed to give him a look during the 2012 regular season. Before the Alex Smith concussion in Week 10, Davis averaged about 44.9 yards per game with 4 touchdowns; after Kaepernick started in Week 11, Davis' output decreased to about 20.6 yards per game and 1 touchdown. This is why people will sleep on him come draft day. Now that Kaepernick is the established starter for the 49ers, he and Davis have come to develop an excellent rapport, as evidenced by his excellent postseason play (about 85 yards per game with a touchdown) - not to mention their nude photo experience, which I'm sure made their relationship even stronger. If you can grab him in rounds 4-7, get him. While everyone else focuses on a stellar Jimmy Graham, an injury-plagued Rob Gronkowski, and an aging Tony Gonzalez, you can savor the thought of red-zone looks, incredible yards-per-game averages, and a field without No. 1 WR Michael Crabtree.
D/ST: Houston Texans
You may be wondering, "Sam, how in the world can a unit that finished 6th in fantasy points and ranked third in total defense get any better?!" Well, disembodied voice on the Internet, let me tell you. JJ Watt is the best defensive player in the NFL right now. His sack, TFL, and passes batted totals will reflect his dominance again in 2013. The return of a healthy Brian Cushing will wreck havoc on opposing offenses, and the veteran presence of free agent pickup Ed Reed will help a lackluster secondary that ranked 16th last year. Finishing with 5 touchdowns in 2012, I could certainly see a polished Texans D putting around 7 balls in the end zone this year. The big names on this roster are too juicy to pass up; catch them if you can.
Like 'em? Hate 'em? Comment below and share your thoughts on my picks!