What to make of the Pats in Fantasy in 2011?
What are some of the takeaways that Fantasy owners should remember when it's time to draft your teams for next season? Our Jamey Eisenberg shares his take on what he's seen to this point in the postseason.
The NFL is a copycat league, and Jets coach Rex Ryan might have found the answer to solving all these dynamic passing attacks. Just drop everyone into coverage.
Through the first two weeks of the playoffs, the Jets have used six defensive backs at times with minimal blitzing against Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. The results were mixed from a statistical standpoint, with Manning passing for 225 yards and one touchdown and Brady getting 299 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. You'd be happy with Brady's 21 Fantasy points in a standard league, but you expect much more from these two passers.
You have to wonder if defensive coordinators around the NFL might go the same route in 2011. Now, most teams don't have the luxury of Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie at cornerback, but we might see more coverage like this as teams try to slow down the elite quarterbacks.
What does this mean for Fantasy owners? Well, not much right now until we get to training camp and find out if any teams will use similar formations. Keep in mind that most offensive coordinators will run the ball against a defense like this, which could help Fantasy running backs next year. Just watch what the Steelers and Rashard Mendenhall do this week against the Jets if Ryan uses a similar defense.
Fantasy owners should still go after the top quarterbacks early, and in our recent mock draft we had six quarterbacks drafted in the first two rounds (Michael Vick, Aaron Rodgers, Manning, Drew Brees, Philip Rivers and Brady) and 10 quarterbacks taken in the first 38 picks (Tony Romo, Matt Schaub, Matt Ryan and Josh Freeman). That will happen a lot in Fantasy drafts in 2011.
On a side note, I also made a recent change in my 2011 rankings at quarterback with Rodgers moving ahead of Vick for the No. 1 spot. I love Vick's upside with his rushing and passing totals, but his contract and injury risk are a slight concern. Rodgers just continues to improve, and he's safer at the top spot. For more on this, click here.
Throughout the playoffs we will monitor players whose Fantasy value is rising or falling as a result of their postseason performance. What happens in the playoffs could determine where a player is drafted in Fantasy leagues in 2011.
Three on the rise ...
Jay Cutler, Chicago
Divisional Round stats: Completed 15 of 28 passes for 274 yards and two touchdowns and had eight carries for 43 yards and two touchdowns against Seattle.
Analysis: Fantasy owners may never trust Cutler as a must-start Fantasy quarterback, and for good reason. He's too inconsistent. Cutler had seven games with at least 22 Fantasy points during the regular season and eight with 15 or less. He also had one 300-yard passing game in the regular season, which was Week 1 against Detroit. Still, it's good to see him post a dominant performance against a weak opponent like Seattle, and if he finishes the playoffs strong, that could help his outlook in 2011. He will likely get drafted as a No. 2 Fantasy option with a mid-round pick, but when he's on his game Cutler can be a solid quarterback in all leagues.
Shonn Greene, New York Jets
Divisional Round stats: Had 17 carries for 76 yards and a touchdown at New England.
Analysis: Here we go again with Greene. Last year, he had a tremendous playoff run with 54 carries for 304 yards and two touchdowns in three playoff games. This year, Greene is at it again with 36 carries for 146 yards and a touchdown against the Colts and Patriots. We'll find out if the Jets plan to keep LaDainian Tomlinson and what role he'll play in 2011, but hopefully Greene can use this playoff run as momentum for next season. He was a tremendous disappointment in 2010, but Fantasy owners can draft him as a No. 3 option this year with the chance for him to have a rebound season. The key will be Tomlinson and if he returns.
James Jones, Green Bay
Divisional Round stats: Had four catches for 75 yards and a touchdown at Atlanta.
Analysis: Jones now has two touchdowns in his past two playoff games, and he's becoming someone Rodgers can trust in big spots. He's a free agent this offseason, but the Packers would be smart to keep him in Green Bay since he's passed Donald Driver as the second-best receiving option behind Greg Jennings. Including the playoffs, Jones closed the season with four touchdowns in his past five games. He also set new career highs during the year in catches, yards and touchdowns and has the potential to be a No 2 Fantasy wide receiver in 2011.
Three on the decline ...
Matt Hasselbeck, Seattle
Divisional Round stats: Completed 26 of 46 passes for 258 yards and three touchdowns at Chicago.
Analysis: Hasselbeck was great in the playoffs with 530 passing yards, seven touchdowns and one interception against the Saints and Bears, but he's set to become a free agent this offseason and might not be a starter again. Hasselbeck was miserable during the season with 3,001 passing yards, 12 touchdowns and 17 interceptions and 60 rushing yards, three touchdowns and five fumbles. He only had three games with more than 19 Fantasy points and five games with 10 points or less. You might consider drafting Hasselbeck as a No. 2 Fantasy quarterback depending on where he plays in 2011, but chances are this was his last hurrah to produce at a high level in the NFL.
Aaron Hernandez, New England
Divisional Round stats: Had one catch for 4 yards against the Jets.
Analysis: A hip injury ruined the end of the season for Hernandez and likely slowed him in his lone playoff appearance, but you have to be concerned if he can become a starting Fantasy tight end in 2011. The ability is there, and he proved it in the regular season with 45 catches for 563 yards and six touchdowns, but the Patriots will continue to rely on Rob Gronkowski as well. And Gronkowski posted better Fantasy stats in 2010 with 42 catches for 546 yards and 10 touchdowns. We love Hernandez's upside, but he's better suited as a No. 2 Fantasy option with a late-round pick. Gronkowski should be considered a No. 1 tight end, and he should be drafted well ahead of Hernandez.
Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta
Divisional Round stats: Had one catch for 7 yards against Green Bay.
Analysis: Gonzalez has hinted at retirement, but we expect him to return in 2011. Still, at 35, you have to wonder how much he has left to offer after a down season with 70 catches for 656 yards and six touchdowns. His catches were the fewest since 2003, and his yardage was the lowest since 1998. We still consider Gonzalez a No. 1 Fantasy tight end when healthy, but he's toward the end of the Top 10 now. Even in the playoffs, Greg Olsen, Heath Miller and Todd Heap outperformed Gonzalez in the divisional round with all three scoring touchdowns. If you still want to draft Gonzalez next year then do so with a late-round pick, but don't reach for him when the run on tight ends start, which is usually around Round 4.
If you've been following this column through the first two weeks of the playoffs you know that my team in the Fantasy Playoff Challenge at CBSSports.com has fallen apart. Losing the Patriots has hurt my roster, and now I'm stuck with two empty spots at tight end and kicker. It's not pretty.
I'm left with two Chicago players in Matt Forte and the Bears, and now I'm going all in on the Packers since I already had Rodgers and Jones. With my final two transactions, I replaced BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Wes Welker with James Starks and Greg Jennings, respectively. I now have 150 points, but I'm down 35 in our CBSSports.com staff group.
Here is my roster for Championship Sunday:
QB – Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay - 80
RB – Matt Forte, Chicago - 47
RB – James Starks, Green Bay - 2
WR – Greg Jennings, Green Bay - 44
WR – James Jones, Green Bay - 21
TE – Rob Gronkowski, New England - 25
K – Shayne Graham, New England - 17
DST - Bears - 29
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