Williams, Ingram, Branch Available

Tampa’s Mike Williams along with Mark Ingram and Deion Branch are still available in a small percentage of fantasy leagues. These three guys are all must owns in all formats.

Analysis: Tampa’s Mike Williams has not been the touchdown machine he was last year, but as of late he has been special. Williams now has back to back eighty plus yard games and he has scored in both contests. Tack on twenty-two targets in those two games and you have yourself a WR2(again) available in ten percent of ESPN and ten percent of CBS leagues.

Mark Ingram is coming off of a thirteen carry, eighty yard performance against the Giants in week twelve. Ingram now has four touchdowns in nine games played this year, that’s pretty good. Ingram is available in seven percent of ESPN and ten percent of CBS leagues. Whether he is a RB3/Flex option or just another depth back… he should be owned.

Deion Branch is another interesting case. I find it hard to believe that a wide out with four touchdowns and 628 receiving yards(22nd among NFL wide outs) is still available in eighteen percent of ESPN leagues and six percent of CBS leagues. There is plenty of talent available on the wire regardless of league format. These three playmakers are just a small sample of what is out there for you.

PPR Help- Darren Sproles

With seven receptions on nine targets last night in Green Bay, Darren Sproles’ fantasy value is on the rise.

Analysis: As much as all the experts want to label the Saints a “balanced offense” they’re not. Forty-nine passes to twenty-one rushes is not balanced.

Mark Ingram was the guy that was supposed to give the Saints “balance” but he only carried the ball thirteen times and did not even register a target let alone a reception in the opener. Pierre Thomas who is a solid receiving back and has a few thirty reception years in his career only managed four catches on five targets. It appears the Saints have a plan for Darren Sproles and that is to get the little athlete out in space and stretch the defense as much as possible. When the Saints used Reggie Bush they did so as a decoy more than anything, this year Sproles is a legit threat. Sproles was on the end of two carries and only put up eighty-two yards from scrimmage but the damage was done in PPR leagues. Sproles is coming off of 59 and 45 reception years with the Chargers and may reach the seventy reception mark this year with the Saints. He is available is some PPR leagues and over half of standard leagues. While he may serve as the second best “bench back” on your squad in standard leagues, his performance Thursday night was impressive. Seventy receptions this year is possible and you can thank the Saints “balance” for those numbers.

NFL Draft Recap: NFC South


No division in the NFL made more of a splash in the draft than the NFC South. Each of the four teams making selections that may have a huge impact. Atlanta with a big move up in the 1st round, New Orleans trading for an additional first round pick, Tampa Bay taking a high risk/high reward pick and of course Carolina picking number one overall.

We start with Atlanta, the elite team in the NFC South. Feeling they are close to an NFC crown, the Falcons traded multiple picks to move up to number six and grab Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones. Jones will provide another big time target for quarterback Matt Ryan and might relieve the double teaming of Roddy White. Atlanta used its fifth round pick to select Oregon State running back Jacquizz Rodgers. Rodgers was highly productive in college and will be a nice change of pace to bruiser Michael Turner. The Falcons addressed defense with a pair of local stars. Georgia linebacker Akeem Dent and South Carolina defensive end Cliff Matthews are both very capable of making the roster.

A year removed from a Super Bowl victory, the Saints were aggressive, trading multiple picks to acquire an additional first round selection. New Orleans first addressed defense with California defensive end Cameron Jordan. Jordan is stout against the run and may push for the starting job at left end. Four picks later, New Orleans took the best running back in the draft, Alabama’s Mark Ingram. Comparisons to Emmitt Smith are valid, Ingram is ideal for 1st and 2nd down between the tackles. If  Reggie Bush’s ego can be soothed, it might make for a lethal combination in the Saints backfield.

Carolina had the number one selection and to no surprise took Auburn  quarterback Cam Newton. Newton is a lightning rod for criticism, but arrives with off the chart combine measurables.  Newton’s Heisman Trophy was well deserved as his passing and rushing numbers are among the best in the history of the game. The Panthers added several late round selections which may surprise. In the 5th round, the Panthers picked Hawaii receiver Kealoha Pilares who is tough and reliable over the middle. In the seventh round, great value in Auburn offensive tackle Lee Ziemba. Ziemba started for four seasons at left tackle, but projects at right tackle at this level.

Tampa Bay had defensive focus atop its draft board. Adrian Clayborn, the best of a great Iowa defensive line, was the Bucs first round  selection. He should start at end immediately. In the second, the Buccaneers took a gamble on Clemson defensive end Da’Quan Bowers. Just a few months ago, Bowers was mentioned by some as a potential  first overall pick. A serious injury scared many, some even removing Bowers from their draft boards. A year ago Tampa hit the jackpot with defensive tackles Gerald McCoy and Brian Price. With 1st and 2nd round selections in successive years on the defensive line, the buccaneers feel they may now have the pass rush to excel in the Tampa Cover 2 defense. If Bowers is healthy, watch out! The Bucs addressed a need at tight end selecting Luke Stocker from Tennessee. Some have compared him to former Vol Jason Witten.

Tomorrow we look at the NFC West

Draft Impact- Mark Ingram

The Saints’ selection of Mark Ingram with the 28th pick of the 2011 NFL Draft was certainly a curveball in the fantasy world.

Analysis: As talented as Pierre Thomas is he hasn’t carried the rock 150 times in a season, ever. He’s a solid option in PPR leagues but he also hasn’t played a full sixteen games in a season either. Enter rookie Chris Ivory last year and you have a solid 225 pound goal line back who on 137 carries averaged 5.2 yards per carry. However, there are two big question marks with Ivory. How well will he recover from surgery to repair his Lisfranc injury and can he get his fumble issues under control (4 fumbles, 2 lost, 137 carries)? We all know Mark Ingram has protected the ball better than anyone in college football in recent memory and his hands are solid for third down passing situations. The questions with Ingram will be how many touches will he be on the end of and where should he go in fantasy drafts? Like many rookies he will go way before he should in fantasy drafts, but on the positive side he should get 160-180 carries and maintain value in PPR leagues.

Projection: He’s not quite a RB3 yet but he should be good for 750 rushing yards, 300 receiving yards and seven scores. His upside will be when Thomas gets injured, so he’s a great back for your bench.

NFL Draft: Running backs

According to the experts, if you are looking for a running back on Thursday, you are out of luck. Not so fast my friend!

At least one team will land a sure-fire, heavy-duty, every down back when the NFL draft commences later this week. Alabama’s Mark Ingram is that man. Detractors point to Ingram’s pedestrian time in the forty, however he was best at the combine in the ten yard burst. Why is this important? Ten yards gets Ingram into the hole and the second level on running plays.

Ingram burst upon the scene during Alabama’s 2009 National Championship run, which ultimately landed him the Heisman Trophy. There was considerable talk about Ingram being a repeat winner, however multiple factors, including injury derailed his efforts. Ingram’s overall numbers may be also been impacted by backup Trent Richardson. Richardson shared some of the work load and enters the 2011 season as arguably the top back in college football and a heavily sought after pro prospect.

While the 2011 class of running backs available is not a deep one, it is by no means bare. A pair of big backs should go off the board on Friday, at some point in the second round. Ilinois’ Mikel Leshoure exploded into the national spotlight in November at Wrigley Field. The 6’0″ 230 pounder rushing for an amazing 330 yards versus Northwestern. Leshoure’s effort was the most in a single game in Ilini history and was also the most by any back in 2010. Leshoure is sturdy enough to be an every down back, but may settle into a committee situation.  Kansas State’s Daniel Thomas is next on my board at the position. Thomas has excellent size, 6’0″ 230 pounds, but a 4.6 forty time may scare some.

Virginia Tech’s Ryan Williams is in a category of his own among the elite running backs in the draft. Williams has some power, but also has game changing ability in terms of athleticism and quickness. Williams doesn’t have game breaking top end speed (4.5 forty) but has more wiggle than the big backs. Williams rushed for nearly 1700 yards in 2009, but was slowed by a hamstring injury much of last season. Had the two seasons had been reversed, we would be talking about Williams as a top ten selection.

Only two other backs seem to be destined for selection on Friday, when rounds two and three take place. Oklahoma’s DeMarco Murray was of the most heralded high school backs in the nation and delivered for the Sooners, setting school records in all-purpose yards and touchdowns in his career. Murray has both size, 5’11” 215 pounds, and speed, sub 4.4 forty at the combine, but is not a bulldozer or a true speed back at OU. Murray could have posted bigger numbers at another school, as Oklahoma spreads it around with so many weapons. Injury concerns also are part of the package when teams consider Murray. Oklahoma State’s Kendall Hunter rounds out the top of the running back list after an explosive career in Stillwater. Of the elite backs under discussion, Hunter most fits the bill of a third down, or situational back. Never count out Cowboy running backs, as Thurman can point to the great successes of his predecessors, Barry Sanders and  Thurman Thomas.

No fullbacks will be drafted before the weekend. As teams at every level from Pop Warner on up move to the spread, traditional fullbacks are a dying breed. One thing is for certain, fullbacks almost never are a part of you fantasy football game plan.

Tomorrow, we will take a look at the receivers and tight ends.