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2010 Draft Prep: Stereotypes you should ignore

by | Senior Fantasy Writer
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Sometimes what you believe isn't always what comes true. There are plenty of misperceptions when it comes to Fantasy Football.

For example, we hear all the time about running backs breaking down at 30, and sure that's happened in the past with guys like Shaun Alexander and Ahman Green falling apart in front of our eyes. They got old fast, and it might have ruined your season.

But what happens when you get someone like Thomas Jones, who ran for 1,402 yards and 14 touchdowns last year at 31. Or Ricky Williams, who had almost 1,400 total yards and 13 touchdowns at 32. And in previous years we've seen Tiki Barber, Curtis Martin and Fred Taylor find new life after 30.

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Just because there are misperceptions about a certain player, that doesn't always mean that's what will happen. We're going to show you here that not all stereotypes are true. Sometimes, when you think you know something about a player, the exact opposite becomes reality.

MISPERCEPTION: Wide receivers need a great quarterback to succeed
REALITY: Great wide receivers can still excel despite mediocre quarterback play
There is plenty of concern over Larry Fitzgerald this season since he goes from Kurt Warner as his starting quarterback to what appears to be Derek Anderson. But Fitzgerald will still play at a high level since great wide receivers can still excel despite mediocre quarterback play. It happens every year.

Steve Smith of Carolina has made a career out of playing well despite not having an outstanding quarterback in Jake Delhomme. Smith has five years with at least 78 catches, four years with at least 1,100 receiving yards and five years with at least seven touchdowns. Imagine what he could have done with a perennial Pro Bowl passer?

Last year, Brandon Marshall goes from Jay Cutler to Kyle Orton, who struggled as a starter in Chicago, but Marshall was better than ever. He had his third-consecutive 100-catch season with 1,120 receiving yards and a career-high 10 touchdowns. Did Orton improve? Maybe. But we think that Marshall is that good, and he just made plays as always.

In 2008, Calvin Johnson had Dan Orlovsky for seven starts, Daunte Culpepper for five starts and Jon Kitna for four starts. He still managed 78 catches, 1,331 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns. The quarterback play obviously did not help Johnson play at a high level. He's an elite receiver, and elite receivers make plays.

Fitzgerald is an elite wide receiver, and he will do well no matter who is throwing him passes. We're talking about a receiver who has averaged 87 catches, 1,178 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns in his six-year career. He has a great schedule this year, and he should see more targets with Anquan Boldin now gone.

And if Anderson is his quarterback, he once connected well with Braylon Edwards in Cleveland in 2007. Edwards caught 80 passes for 1,289 yards and 16 touchdowns that year, so Anderson is capable of making big plays.

Don't worry about Fitzgerald. He's worth drafting as early as Round 2 in all leagues, and that's what his average draft position is at No. 23 overall. He's the No. 4 wide receiver being drafted, and he will once again perform at a high level.

MISPERCEPTION: You can wait to draft a No. 1 tight end with a late-round pick
REALITY: Drafting an elite tight end is more important than a No. 2 wide receiver
There are two types of Fantasy owners when it comes to drafting tight ends: those who draft one early, usually beginning in Round 4, and those who wait for a sleeper with a mid- to late-round pick.

If Vernon Davis plays like he did a year ago, he's as good as an elite receiver. (US Presswire)  
If Vernon Davis plays like he did a year ago, he's as good as an elite receiver. (US Presswire)  
We advise taking an elite tight end early if you miss out on a top-tier second wide receiver. If you take two standout wide receivers in the first three rounds then you can wait on drafting a tight end until later because you'll have greater needs at either running back or quarterback.

But if you start your draft without a quality No. 2 wide receiver and are looking for upside in Round 4 then pull the trigger on a tight end. It will be worth your while to take Dallas Clark instead of Hines Ward or Hakeem Nicks based on what happened last year in standard-scoring leagues. Four tight ends would have finished among the Top 20 wide receivers in Fantasy points.

Vernon Davis had 167 Fantasy points, which would have been No. 9 at wide receiver. Clark would have been right behind him at 163 Fantasy points. Antonio Gates would have been the No. 12 wide receiver with 156 Fantasy points. And Brent Celek had 137 Fantasy points, which would have been better than the No. 18 wide receiver.

Overall, these tight ends finished with more Fantasy points than Steve Smith of Carolina (136), Greg Jennings (133), Anquan Boldin (121) and Calvin Johnson (120). And tight ends are on the rise.

We know Clark, Gates, Davis and Celek are stars, and Jason Witten and Tony Gonzalez are still proven commodities. There's also Jermichael Finley, who is considered the next great tight end in the NFL. All of these tight ends are being drafted by Round 6, with Clark and Gates going in Round 4, Davis and Witten going in Round 5 and Celek, Finley and Gonzalez one round later.

If you find yourself taking a running back in Round 1, a wide receiver in Round 2 and another running back or quarterback in Round 3, then pull the trigger on one of these tight ends if you're looking at that third or fourth tier of wide receivers. You'll end up with a better Fantasy team if these tight ends play at least as well as they did last year.

MISPERCEPTION: Mike Martz is bad for running backs
REALITY: Running backs still post quality stats under Martz
Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz might not get the most out of running backs as Dave Richard recently pointed out since he was done coaching Marshall Faulk in St. Louis. But good running backs still post quality stats under Martz. And that bodes well for Matt Forte.

Let's look at the three main running backs Martz has coached since 2005: Steven Jackson, Kevin Jones and Frank Gore. Tell me you wouldn't take these stats in any Fantasy league.

Jackson had 254 carries for 1,046 yards and eight touchdowns and 43 catches for 320 yards and three touchdowns in 2005. That comes to 203 Fantasy points in a standard-scoring league.

Jones worked with Martz for two seasons in Detroit. In 2006, Jones only played in 12 games due to injury and finished with 181 carries for 689 yards and six touchdowns and 61 catches for 520 yards and two touchdowns. If you project his stats over a full season, he would have finished with 918 rushing yards and eight touchdowns and 81 catches for 693 yards and three touchdowns. That comes to 227 Fantasy points.

In 2007, Jones had 153 carries for 581 yards and eight touchdowns and 32 catches for 197 yards in 13 games. Again, if you project his stats over a full season he would have finished with 751 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns and 39 catches for 242 yards. That comes to 159 Fantasy points.

Martz went to San Francisco in 2008, and Gore had 240 carries for 1,036 rushing yards and six touchdowns and 43 catches for 373 yards and two touchdowns. That comes to 189 Fantasy points.

Factoring in Jones' projected stats and what Jackson and Gore accomplished, the average is 195 Fantasy points in a standard-scoring league. Last year, only seven running backs had more than that total.

Now, does that mean Forte will reach those stats? Probably not since he's sharing carries with Chester Taylor, and the Bears are having issues on the offensive line. But Forte has already posted stats that should have Martz excited.

He had 225 Fantasy points in 2008, and he's among the best receiving backs in the NFL. He led all running backs in receptions in 2008 with 64, and he was Top 5 in targets with 71 last year, his first with quarterback Jay Cutler, and he finished with 57 catches and 144 Fantasy points.

Forte is being drafted at No. 63 overall, which is Round 6 in a 12-team league. He's the No. 25 running back selected, and he will definitely outperform his draft position if he stays healthy. The reality is Martz has proven he can make that happen.

MISPERCEPTION: The starting running back is the best running back
REALITY: Sometimes the backup is the better Fantasy option
Don't always look at the starting running back as the best player to target in the backfield. Sometimes the backup can be just as good if not better.

In 2009, Ricky Williams, Jonathan Stewart, Rashard Mendenhall, Jerome Harrison and Laurence Maroney all opened the season as backup options on the depth chart. But all finished better than the starters.

Now, for all these running backs it took injuries for them to become stars, but you can argue that Williams was on pace with Ronnie Brown and Stewart was right there with DeAngelo Williams. And we were waiting for Mendenhall to pass Willie Parker and Harrison to pass Jamal Lewis when they eventually got their chance. As for Maroney, he got out of the doghouse when Fred Taylor and Sammy Morris got injured, but when you talk Patriots and running backs it still remains a guessing game.

This year, we could see several scenarios where the guy listed as the No. 2 option finishes with more Fantasy points than the starter. We're talking about Arizona (Beanie Wells over Tim Hightower), Buffalo (Fred Jackson over C.J. Spiller), Dallas (Marion Barber over Felix Jones), Indianapolis (Donald Brown over Joseph Addai), Kansas City (Jamaal Charles over Thomas Jones), New England (Maroney over Taylor), New York Giants (Ahmad Bradshaw over Brandon Jacobs) and Seattle (Justin Forsett over Leon Washington).

We also wouldn't be shocked if these scenarios played out as well in Carolina (Stewart over DeAngelo Williams), Chicago (Chester Taylor over Forte), Houston (Steve Slaton over Arian Foster), Miami (Ricky Williams over Ronnie Brown), New Orleans (Reggie Bush over Pierre Thomas), Oakland (Darren McFadden over Michael Bush) and Washington (Larry Johnson over Clinton Portis). Remember, running backs get hurt often, and when there is a capable backup in place, that opportunity is all that's needed.

It's why we've told you on Draft Day that you can take at least one elite running back, a star quarterback or tight end and two stud receivers and then go with depth at running back. There are plenty of running backs by committee, and teams aren't afraid to go with the No. 2 option if he's better. Fantasy owners should take the same approach.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter . You can also follow Jamey at @jameyeisenberg . Do you have a question or a comment for our Fantasy staff? Drop us a line at dmfantasyfootball@cbs.com .

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