Every year there is a player who surprises fantasy football team owners. Last year, it was players such as Tom Brady, Tony Romo, Randy Moss and rookie Adrian Peterson who scored loads of points, yet they were not drafted in the first two rounds in most leagues. Many who selected Romo in the late rounds ended up winning the jackpot in their leagues. I am one of those guys.
Here is a list of my surprises and busts for NFC teams this coming season:
Surprise: Marion Barber. It may be difficult to say Barber is a surprise player, but keep in mind that he has never rushed for more than 1000 yards. He will this year. And he should score double-digit touchdowns again.
Bust: Sam Hurd. He is likely to win the third receiver slot for the Cowboys, but he is not likely to make much of a fantasy impact. Pick Patrick Crayton if you need a backup receiver because Crayton has a lot on his mind for this coming season.
Surprise: Kevin Boss. He proved he can play. Eli Manning and his coach prefer short passing plays. Boss should get a lot of looks and might contend as a top-5 tight end for fantasy points.
Bust: Eli Manning. He has never been a great fantasy producer, but his Super Bowl win may trick some into drafting him as a starting QB. Don’t. He’s a backup in fantasy leagues. He won’t throw more than 20 touchdowns and he may end up throwing double-digit interceptions.
Surprise: DeSean Jackson. He is undersized and that’s the biggest factor he will have to overcome in the NFL. But already the Eagles have injury problems at wide receiver. Jackson is going to have to step in and perform, and he may get a lot of playing time. He very well could score enough to make an impact in your fantasy league.
Bust: Kevin Curtis. I don’t see Curtis matching his 6 TDs and 1100 yards this season, mainly because I think he is going to battle injuries all year.
Surprise: Colt Brennan. If you have a keeper league, store him on your bench and see what happens. Yeah, I know, he has done well in the preseason, but no one gave this guy a chance because he played for Hawaii, and he looked horrible in the bowl game. But, he could be the text Tony Romo coming off the bench.
Bust: Jason Campbell. He really struggles in the red zone, and that is when a quarterback needs to be his best. Don’t be surprised to see Colt Brennan in 2008 because it is doubtful the Redskins win more than 6 games this year.
Surprise: Tim Hightower. The Richmond Spider football player is getting a lot of attention this preseason. He might share some carries with aging Edgerrin James.
Bust: Matt Leinart. He won’t even start the season and it looks like what early on appeared to be a promising player has fizzled. Stay clear of Leinart.
Surprise: Isaac Bruce. The guy still has some legs left in him and if the 49ers can find someone to play quarterback, Bruce will be the top receiver on this team. He should be good for 1000 yards and 7 touchdowns.
Bust: Vernon Davis. His 52 catches and 500 yard season was not impressive at all. Davis isn’t likely to move past those numbers and he is not a top 10 tight end.
Surprise: Maurice Morris. He will probably get the bulk of the carries in Seattle, a team that some are predicting is Super Bowl caliber. Morris started six games for the Seahawks in 2007.
Bust: Julius Jones. Those of you who think Julius Jones on a new team will be the running back Bill Parcels thought he would be (he skipped over Stephen Jackson to take him), think again. He is having an awful preseason and the Seahawks are going to regret picking up this kid.
Surprise: Marc Bulger. I think he rebounds to his 2006 numbers. Yes, it is a risky pick, but if Drew Bennett can turn into the receiver the Rams banked on, then Bulger has him and Tory Holt as targets. A newly signed Steven Jackson, if healthy, opens up that offense, too.
Bust: Randy McMichael. The Rams were really hoping McMichael was going to be the key target for Bulger, especially when the offensive line was struck with injuries. But McMichael only scored 3 touchdowns and didn’t break 500 yards. I don’t think Bulger sees him on the field.
Surprise: Michael Turner. He finally gets his shot to start and I don’t think Turner will disappoint. Break-away speed and talent, it should not have taken this long for his opportunity to start.
Bust: Matt Ryan. First, let me clarify that I do think Ryan will eventually be a good quarterback in the NFL, and if you have a keeper league, go ahead and take him. But he is likely to start for the Falcons, and he isn’t going to produce the fantasy points a starter should. It is just rare for a rookie quarterback to perform at a top tier fantasy level. Maybe in two years he will.
Surprise: Jonathan Stewart. The kid is huge and the Panthers might use him the way the Cowboys used Marion Barber early on—goal line back. If that happens, Stewart could score double-digit touchdowns in his rookie season. He will get on the field, and if he breaks away like he is this preseason, the Panthers will become the newest dual back offense.
Bust: Jake Delhomme. I don’t think he will make it past the third game and the Panthers may see Matt Moore as the starter, which could turn into a really tough year for the Panthers because Moore just is not ready to run an offense yet. Delhomme’s days are numbered and they have been for two years.
Surprise: Drew Brees had a real slow start last season. But, like Bulger, I think he rebounds and comes out of the gates tossing touchdowns. Don’t be afraid to draft this guy. In a real close second, I think Robert Meachem actually might be better than Marcus Colston. Either of those guys should be solid picks. That means a good year for Brees no matter what.
Bust: Jeremy Shockey. I don’t think the Saints make him better. I am not even sure he will fully recover from his leg injury. A change of atmosphere is not going to mend his character flaws, and the Saints will quickly find out the poison Shockey brings. They will avoid swallowing it.
Tampa Bay Bucs
Surprise: Earnest Graham. He will come on strong in 2008 and show the Bucs that they can rely on him for an entire season as a main back.
Bust: Jeff Garcia. No one thought the Bucs would be in the playoffs last year, but somehow they did it. Jeff Garcia is a mid-level guy with very little fantasy impact. He only threw 13 touchdowns last year. That won’t cut it. He’s a back up.
Surprise: Marty Booker. He had his best seasons as a Bear, and they brought him back to help a very weak wide receiving corps. Booker will lead the team in catches and touchdowns.
Bust: Kyle Orton and anyone else who tries to quarterback the Bears. Enough said.
Surprise: Kevin Smith. The Central Florida rookie won the starting spot, and lately it hasn’t been a stretch to say some rookie running backs can make an immediate impact for fantasy owners. Smith is speedy and tough, and the Lions would love nothing more than to finally have a top back. He just happens to be wearing No. 34, too.
Bust: Calvin Johnson. It is just a trend in Detroit: they have this fascination with drafting wide receivers and few pan out. Sure, Roy Williams fits, but history tells us Johnson will not. He may be a keeper league pick, but I’ve seen some people pick him quick as if he is the next Randy Moss or Terrell Owens. He’s not. Not this year at least.
Surprise: Aaron Rodgers. I was impressed with how Rodgers came into Dallas and almost beat that team when Brett Favre went down. He was calm and made some terrific passes. I think he is ready, and he can put up Favre-like numbers with that offense.
Bust: Ryan Grant. I think the Packers may have rushed judgment on this guy. It’s tough extending a contract to a running back who has yet to run more than 1000 yards in a season. Sure, he looked real good at times, but so did Julius Jones a few years ago. What happened to him?
Surprise: Chester Taylor. We know Adrian Peterson is great, but people forget that Taylor nearly hit the 1000 yard mark, too. Taylor should be starting for a team, but the Vikings know he is valuable. He’s a perfect fit in fantasy leagues when you have the WR-RB option.
Bust: Bernard Berrian. The Vikings are really going to struggle at the quarterback position, and that means few touchdown attempts for their new top receiver, Bernard Berrian. I don’t see him getting more than 6 touchdowns.