Chris Wesseling

Offseason Low Down

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Top 30 Keepers for 2011

Tuesday, March 01, 2011




15. Jonathan Stewart, Panthers (36, 39): Stewart is ranked as if DeAngelo Williams, the best running back on the market, will not return to Carolina. In nine starts with Williams sidelined the past two seasons, Stewart has averaged 111.3 yards on 19.8 carries (5.6 yards per attempt).

14. Roddy White, Falcons (24, 23): White has finished sixth, seventh, and third the past three years among wide receivers, averaging 96 receptions, 1,308 yards, and 9.3 TDs. He's ranked as the third receiver here.

13. Matt Forte, Bears (17, 3): Forte may not be the top-five back he was projected to be after a strong rookie season, but we now know his second-year struggles were all knee injury and offensive line. Forte is fifth in the league in yards from scrimmage the past three years, trailing only Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson, Maurice Jones-Drew and Steven Jackson.

12. Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers (14): Coach Mike Tomlin once said he'd run Willie Paker until the wheels came off, and he's taking the same approach with Mendenhall. The second-year starter finished seventh in fantasy points, showing his best burst of the season in the AFC Championship Game and the Super Bowl. The lone missing ingredient for top-tier fantasy success is an uptick in receptions. With Mewelde Moore expected to leave, that could change in 2011.

11. Darren McFadden, Raiders (NR, 48): McFadden led the NFL with 14 carries of 20-plus yards, ranked fourth in rushing yards per game, was second only to Arian Foster is yards from scrimmage per game, and finished first among all backs in yards per reception. On the flip side, he's still never played more than 13 games in a season.

10. Calvin Johnson, Lions (16, 12): Keeper leaguers have to love a QB-proof wide receiver. Johnson now owns two of the franchise's three seasons with at least 75 receptions, 1,100 yards and 10 touchdowns -- and he's done it under six different quarterbacks, including the likes of Dan Orlovsky, Daunte Culpepper, and Drew Stanton.

9. Andre Johnson, Texans (7, 9): If not for a nearly season-long ankle injury, costing him three full games, Johnson would have become the first receiver in NFL history with three consecutive 1,500-yard seasons. He's led the NFL in receiving yards per game in three of the past four seasons. The fourth season was actually his career-high in receiving yards.

8. Aaron Rodgers, Packers (11, 31): Rodgers' fantasy finishes the past three seasons: third, first, and second. Rodgers matched Drew Brees and Peyton Manning in 2010 despite missing one game and his top receiving threat for the majority of the season. The Super Bowl MVP played his best ball of the season after a Week 15 concussion, throwing up a passer rating north of 110 the rest of the way.

7. LeSean McCoy, Eagles: It's no real shocker that McCoy filled Brian Westbrook's wide shoes as an elite fantasy option in PPR leagues. The big surprise was the Michael Vick effect, allowing McCoy to excel as the best back in the NFL facing a "loaded box" in short-yardage and obvious run situations. McCoy finished in the top four in rushing yards, touchdowns and attempts per first down in those situations while also excelling at running out the clock. The good times will roll in 2011 with Vick back under center.

6. Ray Rice, Ravens (4): With little help from his front line or passing attack, Rice finished third in the NFL in yards from scrimmage while playing through an early-season knee injury. From a fantasy standpoint, Rice figures to benefit greatly from the inevitable release of Willis McGahee. Keep in mind that Rice averaged 22.5 TDs in his final two seasons at Rutgers. There's no question he can excel as a goal-line back.

5. Jamaal Charles, Chiefs (10): The Chiefs are talking up Dexter McCluster as a third-down specialist, and Thomas Jones remains a threat at the goal-line. It just doesn't matter. As one of the uniquely talented backs in the league, Charles is too good to keep off the field. He finished fourth in fantasy points last year, and he's going to touch the ball on a more consistent basis in 2011.

4. Arian Foster, Texans: Let's dispense with the alleged concerns right out of the box. Ben Tate isn't a threat to Foster's job after the breakout star led the league in rushing yards, touchdowns, yards from scrimmage, and first downs. The recent knee scope couldn't be more minor, keeping him sidelined just three weeks. Coach Gary Kubiak and zone-blocking O-Line guru Rick Dennison return for at least one more season, leaving all the ingredients in place for a repeat performance.

3. Chris Johnson, Titans (1, 5): The bar is set unreasonably high when 1,600 yards, a dozen TDs, and a fifth-place fantasy finish are widely seen as a disappointing season. CJ2K has averaged a robust 120 yards and 0.8 TDs per game since entering the league. New coordinator Chris Palmer promises a run-heavy attack, targeting a 35:30 per game run-to-pass ratio in 2011. Barring injury, Johnson's floor is 1,500 total yards and 10 TDs.

2. Adrian Peterson, Vikings (2, 1): Consistency and reliability. Peterson has been a top-two Rotoworld keeper and a top-three fantasy performer every year he's been in the league. He's never had a season under double-digit TDs or 100 total yards per game.

1. Michael Vick, Eagles: It's not just that you get a quarterback and a running back in one package. Or that he averaged five more points per week than any other player. Or even that he put the trophy on the mantle for fantasy owners in 2010. It's also that his situation remains virtually unchanged for 2011, with DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Shady McCoy, and Brent Celek at his disposal. The combination of QB talent and offensive weapons is unparalleled.

Follow Chris Wesseling on Twitter.


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Chris Wesseling is a senior football editor and Dynasty league analyst for Rotoworld.com. The 2011 NFL season marks his fifth year with Rotoworld and his third year contributing to NBCSports.com. He can be found on Twitter @ChrisWesseling.
Email :Chris Wesseling



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