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Fantasy Land: Football Preview



    A two-time champion in a hardcore keeper league, including some know-it-all media "experts", Adam Boedeker gives his fantasy expertise on a weekly basis.

    The NFL season is just around the corner, which means everyone's production at work goes down and focus shifts to fantasy football, which has taken the country by storm in recent years with the advent of such things as the Red Zone Channel, invented pretty much exclusively for fantasy geeks like you and me.

    With drafts quickly approaching, let's take a look at some of the guys you want to target, and some that you don't. We'll avoid the obvous like, "Hey, draft Aaron Rodgers and Adrian Peterson." Here goes nothing.

    Quarterbacks to target

    Matthew Stafford — Stafford had a down year in 2012 after a breakout season in 2011 that included leading the Detroit Lions to the playoffs, a feat in itself. Last year, he was pretty awful from a fantasy standpoint, even with Calvin Johnson putting up a monster year. Just expect that to change this year with Johnson geared up for an even bigger season, the addition of Reggie Bush in the backfield as a pass-catching option and the emergence of guys like Ryan Broyles. The Highland Park native is set for another big one, and remember, just two years ago he won many leagues for people.

    Carson Palmer — I know what you're saying: "Wait, Carson Palmer is still in the NFL?" Yes, yes he is. Palmer is taking over as the quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals and has weapons to work with, most notably the great, great Larry Fitzgerald who had guys like Kevin Kolb and some other dudes I can't remember throwing him the ball last year. Palmer had a solid year leading an awful team in Oakland without nearly as many weapons at his disposal.

    Running backs to target

    C.J. Spiller — This guy's been climbing the ranks at a frantic pace for a couple of years now, and he should emerge as one of the top options this year. Just draft him and count your money ... I mean, bragging rights.

    Stevan Ridley — We'll get this out of the way: Steer clear of Tom Brady. The Patriots are a running team now, and with the possible loss of Rob Gronkowski for an extended period of time (surgery) and the definite loss of Aaron Hernandez (idiot) along with Wes Welker catching passes from Peyton Manning now, the Patriots will focus even more on the run and they have one of the great young backs in the league to carry the load.

    Wide receivers to target

    Larry Fitzgerald — See above at the Carson Palmer tidbit. Fitzgerald, one of the league's best, actually has a capable NFL quarterback getting the ball to him this year. Remember what Fitzgerald did with another aging, accomplished QB. Not saying Palmer is Kurt Warner, but Palmer is also no John Skelton, or whatever that guy's name was.

    Cecil Shorts — Love, love, love this guy. I personally have him in two keeper leagues at good value and couldn't be happier. He's battled some minor injury issues this off-season but he should be good to go. Speaking of bad QBs, Shorts is in that boat, but he still put up nearly 1,000 yards and nearly double-digit touchdowns despite missing a few games last year. Third-year receivers usually have breakout years, and Shorts should be no different.

    Players to avoid

    In short, look elsewhere than the new option quarterbacks the league has ushered in — guys like Robert Griffin III, Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson. After a year of tearing up NFL defenses, those coordinators have been putting in overtime trying to figure out how to stop these guys. They'll still be good, but you probably shouldn't expect numbers like last year. Plus, RG3 is an injury waiting to happen.