Michael Fabiano | Tags: Carson Palmer, Cedric Benson, Chad Ochocinco, Darren Sproles, Donovan McNabb, Felix Jones, Jason Garrett, Jay Gruden, Jeremy Shockey, Jerome Simpson, Jim Schwartz, Jimmy Graham, Joe Webb, John Elway, John Fox, Josh McDaniels, Knowshon Moreno, Kyle Orton, Leslie Frazier, marion barber, Mark Ingram, Marvin Lewis, Matthew Stafford, Mike Brown, Mike Tomlin, Percy Harvin, rashard mendenhall, Ricky Williams, Ronnie Brown, Sean Payton, Tashard Choice, Tim Tebow, Tony Sparano
Based on the current state of things around the NFL, it’s tough to find any news that has major fantasy significance (sigh). So when several coaches and other organizational leaders discussed the state of their teams during the annual Owners Meetings, you can only imagine how quickly I jumped on the information.
Here’s a look at some of the most interesting quotes and what they could mean for fantasy owners in 2011.
“From all our reports and everything, everybody’s been very pleased with his rehab. We don’t anticipate any difficulties going forward. I think everything’s been good.” – Lions coach Jim Schwartz on Matthew Stafford.
Fantasy spin: Stafford has elite talent and could emerge into one of the better draft values in fantasy football. Of course, that’s going to mean that he’ll need to avoid injuries — something he hasn’t been able to do at the NFL level. If he can stay on the field for 14-16 games, I think Stafford could emerge into a No. 1 fantasy quarterback.
“I want him back. I haven’t talked to any other team about him. I have no plans to trade him.” – Bengals owner Mike Brown on Carson Palmer.
Fantasy spin: It’s looking more and more like Palmer won’t be back with the Bengals in 2011 … or ever. If that scenario does come to fruition, the team will have to seriously consider taking a quarterback with the No. 4 overall selection in April’s draft. Regardless, no Palmer would mean more work for Cedric Benson (assuming he’s back with the team). New OC Jay Gruden wants to “pound the football,” so the run will be emphasized.
“I thought he did a really good job handling the workload, and that’s something that a lot of guys can grow into. We talked about how young some of these guys are coming out of college, and a guy like that continues to develop into his body and able to take the pounding and punishment of the NFL that’s required for his position. I thought he handled that well.” –Cowboys coach Jason Garrett on Felix Jones.
Fantasy spin: Jones is clearly the top running back on the depth chart, but he won’t be a featured option. In fact, a committee that includes Marion Barber and/or Tashard Choice remains imminent. Furthermore, Jones’ lack of durability remains a concern regardless of Garrett’s quote. He’s just a high-end flex starter in most leagues.
“I’d say there’s no doubt we’re going to get another back somewhere.” – Broncos coach John Fox on his team’s backfield.
Fantasy spin: Owners shouldn’t take this news as Fox leaning toward a backfield committee — Knowshon Moreno is entrenched as the team’s top runner, and I think he could post career-best numbers in 2011 if he can avoid injuries. It will be interesting to see who the Broncos eventually add as a complement, however.
“When Chad got hurt, Jerome became the No. 1 receiver. I think he can be as good as any receiver in the National Football League. But now, he’s got to keep taking steps to learn and the adjustments you have to do, but he’s got that kind of quality.” — Bengals coach Marvin Lewis on Jerome Simpson.
Fantasy spin: Based on Lewis’ recent negative comments about Chad Ochocinco, and the wideout’s response on Twitter, well, let’s just say that these two aren’t going to be hanging out any time soon. Regardless, Simpson’s value is clearly rising after his late-season statistical success in 2010. Even if Ochocinco remains in Cincinnati, Simpson will be a legitimate fantasy sleeper. He could be worth as much as a middle-round pick.
“We did some things toward the end of the year where we definitely tried to isolate him, and that’s one of the reasons I pulled him off kickoff at times. I wanted to feature him more than we were. I wanted him to be a featured part of our offense.” – Vikings coach Leslie Frazier on Percy Harvin.
Fantasy spin: This is great news for the value of Harvin, who is one of the league’s most versatile playmakers. However, the team’s uncertain quarterback situation is still an issue that needs to be resolved. If the Vikings add a veteran like Donovan McNabb, for example, Harvin could turn into a solid No. 2 fantasy wideout. If the decision is made to go with a rookie or even Joe Webb, then his fantasy value won’t be nearly as high.
“That’s why you draft running backs, to hand them the ball. Wear and tear is part of the game, specifically at that position. You worry about it but it doesn’t dominate your thought … I ain’t been around many backs who don’t want it.” — Steelers coach Mike Tomlin on Rashard Mendenhall.
Fantasy spin: If you were worried about Mendenhall’s carries decreasing after a heavy workload in 2010, you should now set those worries aside. Tomlin is going to give him the football often, so another nice statistical season should be on the horizon. While there is a trend of Super Bowl losing running backs experiencing a drop in numbers the very next year, that won’t keep Mendenhall from being a first-round pick on fantasy draft day.
“We may already have the guy who can pull the trigger and win us a championship someday. We don’t know. We believe in Tim but he’s not there yet.” – Broncos VP of Football Operations John Elway on Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow.
Fantasy spin: Despite the fact that he put up huge fantasy numbers in the final three weeks of last season, Tebow appears to be almost undraftable at this point. That could change if he outperforms Orton during training camp, but right not it looks like the Purdue product is the Broncos quarterback to target. With Josh McDaniels no longer in the mix, however, Orton’s level of statistical success is almost certain to tumble in 2011.
“I think he has got some work to do in regards to the running game. But he has a lot of ability … The future is bright for him.” — Saints coach Sean Payton on Jimmy Graham.
Fantasy spin: With the offseason release of Jeremy Shockey, Graham is now the unquestioned starting tight end for the Saints. He showed major flashes of potential at the end of last season and will no doubt be mentioned among the top fantasy sleepers of 2011. He’s ranked No. 10 at his position on NFL.com.
“We’re going to continue to run the football because that’s my nature. It might not be popular with everybody, but that’s what I like to do.” – Dolphins coach Tony Sparano on the team’s offense.
Fantasy spin: Sparano wouldn’t mention whether Ronnie Brown or Ricky Williams is in his future plans, but at this point it wouldn’t be a surprise if neither returns to South Florida. In fact, there’s been a lot of speculation that the Dolphins will take Alabama’s Mark Ingram in the first round of the draft and add Darren Sproles as a change-of-pace back. Regardless, the eventual starter will see plenty of action for Sparano in 2011.
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