I've been asked repeatedly why Arian Foster is so "low" in my Top 150 rankings. I don't think he's low. I have him as a first-round fantasy pick. But I would draft Adrian Peterson, Doug Martin, C.J. Spiller, LeSean McCoy, Jamaal Charles, Marshawn Lynch, and Trent Richardson ahead of Foster because I think their production all projects as relatively similar, and Foster has more red flags than the lot. This is a player who leads the NFL in touches over the past three seasons, and led the league in 2012 rushing attempts. He's obviously been overworked. His yards-per-carry average has sunk sharply in back-to-back years, and Foster set a career-low in yards per catch last season. Foster suffered a calf strain at late-May OTAs, is now battling back problems, and hasn't practiced in over two months. Draft Foster at your own risk. ... Rookie DeAndre Hopkins has starred since the spring and opened camp with a flurry. He's locked into a starting job. Just be careful about projecting him as a fantasy starter, because Hopkins won't get there without an Andre Johnson injury. The first-round pick will "compete" for targets with Owen Daniels at the first and second levels in a run-heavy offense behind a target monster No. 1 receiver. I think 60 receptions is Hopkins' absolute ceiling, assuming Johnson and Daniels stay healthy. He's a low-upside WR4.
The 2013 Colts are poised for takeoff, and you don't want to be late to the dance. Virtually every skill player looks like a fantasy value pick. Andrew Luck's Average Draft Position is the early- to mid-seventh round. T.Y. Hilton can be had in the late seventh. Coby Fleener is going in the late-13th round, and Dwayne Allen isn't even getting drafted. In new playcaller Pep Hamilton's higher-percentage scheme behind a much-improved line, Luck is capable of engineering a top-five NFL offense. His turnovers will diminish as his efficiency soars. ... Darrius Heyward-Bey's knee scare proved relatively insignificant, but Hilton has outplayed the veteran in camp and is likely to play more snaps. Indianapolis can't afford to leave Hilton's big-play ability and versatility on the bench. I'm going to bump him up a round or two in my next fantasy Top 150. Hilton is an excellent WR3 with WR2 scoring potential. ... In Hamilton's two-tight end offense, the 2013 Colts have a sort of Patriots feel to them, with Fleener in the Gronkowski role and Allen as the Hernandezian flex-mover. Reggie Wayne can be the Welker, and Hilton a speed-slot weapon a la Victor Cruz. Of those tight ends, I prefer Allen as a fantasy prospect because he plays with better short-area quickness than Fleener and will catch more passes. Fleener can stretch the field running the vertical seam. He should average more yards per reception, but Allen could flirt with 75 grabs.
Fantasy talent is limited in Jacksonville, where shoddy QBs and below-average line play will hurt the consistency of skill players. The likeliest skill guy to be consistent is Cecil Shorts, an early-August darling after spending his second straight offseason at Larry Fitzgerald's summer camp. Shorts has a mid-seventh round ADP, which won't get much higher than that because fickle fantasy owners so sweat the quarterbacks. Shorts' savvy route running and run-after-catch skills, combined with large helpings of inevitable catch-up mode can compensate for inefficient passing. Shorts is capable of finishing inside the top-ten NFL receivers in targets. Justin Blackmon is suspended the first four games, and Shorts has already proven the superior wideout. Shorts drafters should hope Chad Henne wins the starting job. ... Maurice Jones-Drew appears to be all systems go at Jaguars camp, following last year's Lisfranc fracture. I hope the Jags give him 30 or so preseason carries because I want to see how much MJD has left. He's 28 1/2 years old now, and has over 1,500 NFL rushing attempts worth of wear on his tires. Jones-Drew plays on a bad team that won't be in position to run a lot. His current second-round ADP is too rich for my taste.
Kansas City Chiefs
Long a stubbornly pass-obsessed coach, Andy Reid is bringing the same approach that led to his Philly demise to Kansas City, with Alex Smith as the point man. I'm not sure how this will end, but my gut tells me badly. A below-average talent whose arm strength limitations regularly result in a maddening unwillingness to pull the trigger on throws most NFL passers routinely make, Smith's lone pro success has come in run-dominated offenses with elite defenses that create favorable down and distance while "hiding" the quarterback by keeping him out of shootouts. Under Reid, shootouts will be the goal. Smith was a role player in San Francisco, but in Kansas City Reid will try turning him into a gunslinger. ... The fantasy beneficiary ought to be Jamaal Charles, whose probable inconsistent run-game usage can be buoyed by a career high in receptions. Smith is a checkdown machine, and dynamic Charles projects as a target magnet. ... The effect on Dwayne Bowe is debatable. While team pass attempts will rise, keep in mind Smith had a terribly limiting effect on Michael Crabtree before Colin Kaepernick took over. Under Reid, will Smith develop the guts to take tight-window chances throwing to Bowe? I'm hopeful, but this is a time-will-tell thing.
In Sunday's Hall of Fame Game, Miami's first-team offense played about ten snaps without either of its starting receivers. To criticize Ryan Tannehill's 2-for-5 passing performance would be silly. But after his first-drive fumble, I was impressed by Lamar Miller's explosive, downhill running and creative movement through traffic, where I previously noticed he stuck out on 2012 tape. Miller finished with two carries, one for 11 yards and the second for 10. Daniel Thomas touched the ball five times, with yardage results of 3, 1, 5, 3, and -6. Miller has the feature back job on lock. The fumble seemed fluky and caused by first-game jitters; Miller didn't fumble once on 94 combined preseason and regular season touches during his rookie year, and was ball secure throughout his college career. ... Offensively, the 2013 Dolphins are built somewhat like the Texans. Tannehill is an outstanding play-action quarterback (read: Matt Schaub), and Miami is a zone-run team just like Houston. Playcaller Mike Sherman has coached with Gary Kubiak before. The pieces are in place for a run-first, play-action offense that would bode well for Miller's fantasy outlook. Perhaps Miami's biggest strength is defense, providing an ideal makeup for a run-heavy, ball-control team.