Evan Silva

Draft Analysis

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Top 20 Recommended Targets

Thursday, August 25, 2011


Fantasy leaguers should enter drafts with an aggressive approach. You've tracked offseason player movement, read camp reports, and watched exhibition games (or at least counted on us to do it for you). The heavy lifting is done, and now's the time to pick your league-winning roster. It's cliché by now, but trust your gut and don't worry about drafting a player you've targeted a round or two early if necessary.

These are the players we'll be targeting on draft day. They've been signed off on by Gregg Rosenthal, Chris Wesseling, Adam Levitan, and myself. (Or at least two of us.) You obviously won't be able to draft every one of them. But you've done well if you've got about eight.

Based on Average Draft Position, an impressive preseason showing, and/or training camp developments that spiked their value, these are our top-20 fantasy players to pursue in 2011 drafts.

1. Raiders RB Darren McFadden - Hue Jackson is the biggest McFadden supporter in the building, and as offensive coordinator last year gave DMC 18 or more touches in 10 of 13 games. Now head coach, Jackson will feature McFadden as his workhorse and offensive centerpiece. "This past year he had a tremendous season," Jackson said as camp opened. "I'm expecting him to just build on that." McFadden's 11 games of 114 or more total yards last season bettered Chris Johnson (8), Ray Rice (8), and Adrian Peterson (6). And McFadden missed three weeks.

2. Chargers WR Vincent Jackson - Rejuvenated after a holdout-ruined 2010 season, V-Jax is lighting up the preseason with acrobatic catches. Jackson has lined up in the slot and both outside positions, hauling in five of his seven targets for 117 yards (23.4 average). "Vincent Jackson being here at the start ... it's big," said coach Norv Turner after San Diego's exhibition opener. "He's one of the best big-play receivers in the league." Jackson is worth a second-round pick in standard scoring leagues and is likely headed for the best PPR season of his career.

3. Cowboys WR Dez Bryant - Ex-NFL scout Bryan Broaddus calls Bryant as a "sandlot player" whose lone obstacle is "the mental part." Bryant will be the freelancing complement to technical mavens Miles Austin and Jason Witten, creating physical mismatches in the vertical passing game while often drawing opponents' No. 2 corners and frequent single coverage. Bryant won't contend for the NFL lead in catches -- he has a long way to go in terms of route running and system comprehension -- but Vincent Jackson 2008-2009 yard and TD numbers are within reach.

4. Saints RB Mark Ingram - Ingram won't lead the league in carries, and he may not even reach 250 all-purpose touches in a three-way committee with Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles. But Ingram will get an awful lot of scoring chances. Through two preseason games, Thomas hasn't played a single snap inside the opposing 20-yard line. Ingram has scored touchdowns from one and 14 yards out while operating as the Saints' primary red-zone back. As the designated rushing touchdown scorer in an offense that moves the chains at will, Ingram has 15-TD upside.

5. Vikings WR Percy Harvin - Brad Childress miscast Harvin as an outside receiver last season, resulting in only one game over 65 receiving yards in the first five weeks. Moved to the slot after the Randy Moss trade (and, later, Sidney Rice's return), Harvin exploded for an 80-yard average from late October on -- 1,285 yards if extrapolated over 16 weeks. Donovan McNabb has compared Harvin to DeSean Jackson, saying "there's no reason (Harvin) can't be a perennial Pro Bowler ... with over 1,000 yards receiving, 90-100 catches." Harvin hasn't had a migraine in eight months and will stay in the slot this season between Bernard Berrian and Michael Jenkins.

6. Falcons QB Matt Ryan - The point guard for what projects as a more up-tempo Atlanta attack, Ryan comes with Wesseling's approval as a dark-horse candidate to lead the league in touchdown passes. "The playcalling is going to be aggressive," described Roddy White of the new-look offense, patterned after Green Bay and New Orleans. OC Mike Mularkey has captained a short passing game to this point in Ryan's career, mostly because his pass catchers were predominantly of a possession variety. NFL-ready rookie Julio Jones and revitalized slot receiver Harry Douglas have broadened Mularkey's horizons. Ryan is a steal in the sixth round of drafts.

7. Cowboys RB Felix Jones - With Tashard Choice and brittle rookie DeMarco Murray nursing bum hamstrings for all of training camp, Jones hasn't just established himself as the lead back in a committee. He's an every-down back. "Ideally, you want to have a bell cow," coach Jason Garrett said this week. "I think (Jones) has proven that he's able to do that, over the last half of last year into the start of this training camp. He's playing awfully well." Jones has been in for every snap Dallas has taken inside the opposing 10-yard line during the preseason. His carry total and touchdowns will spike this season, and Jones only costs a mid to late fourth-round pick.

8. Lions QB Matthew Stafford - The Lions were a top-three team in pass attempts last season, and their philosophy will remain decidedly pass-heavy. Through two exhibition games, the Detroit first-team offense has been in the shotgun and/or no-huddle on 17-of-31 snaps (nearly 55 percent) with nine runs out of a pro-style set and just five traditional pass plays. This is a shotgun-spread offense, and Stafford has extremely high-quality pass catchers at receiver, tight end, and tailback. Health is obviously Stafford's biggest obstacle, but he's due for some good luck.


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Evan Silva is a senior football editor for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter .
Email :Evan Silva



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