I'm going team-by-team through the NFL in alphabetical order. My observations will be based on a 12-team league. I looked at my cheat sheet from last year and it was alarming how much it has changed in one season. For instance, 13 of the 32 NFL teams will very likely have a new opening day starter at quarterback.
In the next few days, I will attempt to identify the worthwhile fantasy football players each team has. I will not claim to know the contractual situations of each player. If a collective bargaining agreement is reached fairly soon, there will be a frenzied and short free agent period but I suspect most of those players will be fringe players and not fantasy football studs. There will be some exceptions at quarterback. I'm not going to bother with kickers, defense, or special teams. My philosophy for them is to grab one of each with my last picks. I tend to take the best of whomever is left. For kickers, I lean toward ones who play in domes or in Denver. Defenses depend largely on the fantasy scoring system you use and it's really a guessing game. Our league combines defenses and special teams and awards defenses 1 point for each turnover and 3 points for holding an opponent under 200 total yards. We also reward defenses and special teams whatever touchdowns and safeties they score. The Top Five in our league from last year are 1) Patriots, 2) Cardinals, 3) Cowboys, 4) Raiders, and 5) Jets. If you can make any rhyme or reason for that, you should join our league. You'd win.
These are just my opinions and ALL of them are disputable. Now, the teams:
Arizona Cardinals: This is Team 1 that will undoubtedly have a different opening day starter at QB. It was Matt Leinert last year. Rumor has it the Cards are going to sell the farm to acquire Kevin Kolb. We'll have to wait to see if that happens. Kolb and the Eagles figure to have plenty of suitors. If Kolb ends up here, he's probably a good backup option for you. Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower shared running back duties last season. Neither are consistent fantasy performers. If your draft/auction is out of decent RBs, these guys can fill in for your bye weeks. You may catch them on one of their good weeks. Rookie RB Ryan Williams is being hurt by the lockout but keep an eye on him. Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Breaston, and Early Doucet are the main WRs. Fitzgerald is a stud football player but his fantasy value largely depends on his QB. He suffered last year because the Cards had mostly terrible QB play. You're going to pay a premium for him. Breaston and Doucet are 3rd tier bye week WRs. I can't remember the last time I had a Cardinal tight end. They drafted Rob Housler but I think he's a longshot to have a fantasy impact.
Atlanta Falcons: The Falcons are loaded with fantasy studs. QB Matt Ryan has more stud targets than he's ever had but I would still put him as a backup QB option in a 12-team league. The only way he should be a starter is if one or more teams in the league has more than one starter on his team. There are at least 12 better fantasy QBs. Michael Turner is one of the few workhorse RBs and he's a fantasy stud. He's a top ten RB and you'll pay a premium for him. I wouldn't touch any other RB on the team, even for bye week duty. At WR, the Falcons have Roddy White and rookie Julio Jones. White is a fantasy stud and the addition of Jones will help his production. You'll pay a premium. Jones has been inconsistent the last two years at Alabama but he was a superstar his freshman year. He'll benefit from professional coaching and I expect him to do well because the Falcons are counting on him. Michael Jenkins and Harry Douglas are 3rd tier WRs. Jenkins could fill in for a bye but I'd leave Douglas alone. Tight end Tony Gonzales is a top five TE stud. You'll pay a premium for him, too.
Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens are loaded with fantasy talent, too. Joe Flacco is similar to Matt Ryan. He has a lot of weapons but he's still a 2nd tier backup option at QB. Ray Rice and Willis McGahee split carries at RB last year. Rice is a starter and you'll pay a premium for him. McGahee may or may not be back next year but he's a backup, at best. They have Anquan Boldin at WR. He's borderline 1st/2nd tier, when healthy, so he's definitely a starter. Derrick Mason is 37. Rookie Torrey Smith may turn into something but I doubt it happens right away. Todd Heap is a decent fantasy TE. I've had him many times over the years. He's a starter but only because there are too few top tier TEs. Many leagues have eliminated the position for that reason but ours still uses it.
Buffalo Bills: This is Team 2 that will undoubtedly have a new opening day starter, probably Ryan Fitzpatrick. It was Trent Edwards last year. I think the guy can play but he's a backup fantasy QB on his best days. RBs Fred Jackson, Corey McIntyre and C.J. Spiller share the carries in Buffalo. None of them are consistent. Spiller and Jackson are bye duty, at best. If McIntyre does anything special during the season, join the race to pick him up as a free agent. Lee Evans is the only WR worth talking about and he's a 2nd or 3rd WR in a 12-team league. Their TEs aren't worth talking about.
Tomorrow: Panthers, Bears, Bengals, Browns.
61 days until Saints v Packers ... I hope