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As the season approaches and we all start getting our fantasy draft materials in order, it's important to know which guys are for real and which guys are, for lack of a better word, fakes.
Last season, if you managed to grab DeAngelo Williams or Matt Cassell, you were handsomely rewarded for not only your insight but for your good waiver wire work as well.
This season will be no different; one will need to be astute when making a decision on who will become a fantasy stud and who may fall a bit flat.
Below are ten guys who need to either be off your list or quickly added to it before the first draft pick is done.
Some are likely to be no-brainers while others may not even be on your radar—this last point means that you may find a couple of these guys on waivers post-draft.
In some cases, the projected stats may look tempting (as is the case with Kurt Warner), but you would need to be confident that he will be healthy for the whole year.
Either way, it's a discussion that is worth having and, one that I know, will spark a little debate.
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
People like to give the kid a bad rap because he's not you-know-who, but the truth of the matter is, at this stage, he may be better than that other guy.
Rodgers went into last season with spotlights beaming brightly on him, fans and media alike were ready to pounce on him and dissect every throw he made, and he handled the situation with class and professionalism the whole way.
He never once complained about the fairness, or lack thereof, of being compared to one of the greatest quarterbacks in Green Bay history.
Sure, he stumbled a bit, but that was to be expected in his first full season at the helm; even so, he managed to tally 4,038 yards, 28 touchdowns (against 13 interceptions), and scramble free for 207 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Not bad for a guy who was passed on by 23 other NFL teams in the 2005 NFL Draft.
He is criticized a bit for some tough Green Bay losses towards the end of the season, but even with that, he delivered 15 touchdown passes in the final seven games—the talent is there.
A more mature Rodgers will enter this season, one that has likely learned from his mistakes of 2008, and he will be ready to solidify his place in the realm of the elite.
2009 Projection: 318 completions, 3,880 yards, 30 touchdowns Stock Falling
Kurt Warner, Arizona Cardinals
By now it is possible that some are wondering when Warner will get the respect he deserves? The answer to that question is "not this year".
Take that miraculous 2008 season and file it under "won't happen again". Here are the facts, Kurt Warner is 38-years old and he has never been healthy in consecutive seasons. Period.
Prior to last year's run to the Super Bowl, Warner's record as a Cardinals starter was 8-18. Even more, his TD:INT ratio was 44:31—hardly impressive.
Todd Haley, the pass-happy offensive coordinator is now in Kansas City, leaving Warner with the more conservative Ken Whisenhunt approach—an approach that looks to run-first and control the clock.
Warner may surprise again, and no doubt he will still be solid, just don't count on him duplicating last season's numbers.
2009 Projection: 305 completions, 3,660 yards, 26 touchdowns (if healthy)
Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
Go ahead and place your bets for Matt Ryan having a sophomore slump this season; you are guaranteed to make someone in your fantasy league very happy by doing so.
Ryan may have stumbled a bit down the stretch, but like Aaron Rodgers, no one should have expected him to be completely perfect in his first full year at the helm.
This season he has a new tight end in Tony Gonzalez and a lot of game experience to draw from; he will correct a lot of the mistakes he made through poor decision-making last year and that will make his approach to the game even better.
He will have to prove himself all over again as the Falcons enter the year with one of the toughest schedules in the league, coupled with the pressure of attaining back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in franchise history.
Ryan will come into 2009 with a target on his back as teams now know what the Falcons offense can do with him at the wheel; they, nor he, are likely to sneak up on any teams this year.
He will have to prove that he can handle being the man all over again—then again, that's nothing new.
2009 Projection: 314 completions, 3,768 yards, 22 touchdowns
Bernard Berrian, Minnesota Vikings
Berrian is a bit of a conundrum. He has the ability to stretch the field and make the big play, but he is prone to stretches where the yards are scarce and the scoring non-existent.
That said, the addition of a certain no. 4, who shall not be named, and a speedy, young rookie by the name of Percy Harvin, could spell a major break-out season for Berrian in 2009.
Last season, in 13 starts, he totaled 48 receptions for 964 yards (20.1 ypc)—putting that into perspective, Anquan Boldin had nearly twice the receptions (89) and only 74 more yards (1,038 for 11.7 ypc) than Berrian.
Add to that, Boldin had a Pro Bowl caliber quarterback (where Berrian suffered through a carousel of mediocrity) and it's impossible not to see how the sky could be the limit for him this year.
2009 Projection: 64 receptions, 1,038 yards, 6-8 touchdowns
Roy Williams, Dallas Cowboys
Say what you will about the presence of Terrell Owen's stifling ego and Tony Romo's inconsistency/injury, it still comes down to one thing when speaking about Roy Williams: 2006.
That's the season Roy broke free for 1,310 receiving yards and 7 touchdowns—he was a Pro Bowl selection that season as well.
However, since that time, he has been vanilla.
Some apologists say that Roy never had great quarterback play in Detroit and a bad foot kept him down last season, I say this about the former: Calvin Johnson had the same quarterback's in Detroit and did fine; and this about the latter: uh-huh, yeah. Excuses, excuses.
Here's the thing, Williams' is not a no. 1 receiver. He may look like a no. 1 and act like a no. 1, but he's just a no. 2 in disguise.
He will be good for 800 yards and 5-6 touchdowns. Period. If he has to miss time due to injury, which history says he is likely to do, expect a bit less.
800 yards is nothing to scoff at but when your last no. 1 was a 1,000 yard staple who was a near-lock for double-digit scores, this hardly seems applaud-worthy.
Time will tell what Williams is truly made of but don't bet on big numbers from him, that would be a mistake.
2009 Projections: 62 receptions, 874 yards, 5-6 touchdowns Potential Sleeper:
Harry Douglas, Atlanta Falcons
Putting his recent troubles aside, Douglas is in the perfect position to do some quality damage in the slot this season.
Last year, with limited-receptions, Douglas totaled 320 receiving yards and a touchdown—included in that were two games where he caught for 90+ yards.
He will benefit exponentially from the attention that most teams will likely pay to teammates Roddy White, Michael Turner, and Tony Gonzalez.
His lone competition is Michael Jenkins. Jenkins is in line to get more of the playing time, but is by no means irreplaceable.
The Falcons have shown great confidence in Douglas thus far and have been willing to fit him into the offense whenever and wherever possible (he had 12 rushing attempts and played some special teams as a returner)—they have faith in his ability and won't hesitate to play him over Jenkins if the scheme fits.
Playing time will be the key to Douglas' success and, if he gets that, he will produce.2009 Projection: 38 receptions, 533 yards, 2-4 TD's (keeper candidate)
Pierre Thomas, New Orleans Saints
Reggie Bush may be the best thing since sliced bread but the Saints of 2009 would be wise to rely on Thomas for all the manly work.
Now that Deuce is no longer on the loose in the Big Easy, Thomas should have the job all to himself and, unlike Reggie, he's better suited for running it between the tackles.
This will be a win-win situation for the Saints if the former no. 2 pick is able to stay healthy this season.
Bush will be free to do what he does best, run and catch in space, while Thomas does the dirty work of gaining the hard yards.
The Saints won't run it much with Brees at the helm but Thomas has proven that he can make the most of his opportunities (6 of his 9 scores came in the final six games)—no reason to believe the same won't be true this season as well.
2009 Projection: 189 carries, 870 yards, 6 touchdowns Stock Falling
Brian Westbrook, Philadelphia Eagles
It may be premature to say that Westbrook's career in Philly is coming to an end, but the writing is clearly on the wall for the, soon to be, 30-year old Brian Westbrook.
He has never been one to stay healthy and his recent ankle surgery will likely place him a little behind the eight ball where readiness for the 2009 season is concerned.
Last year marked Westbrook's first, as a full-time starter, that he was unable to reach the 1,000 yard rushing mark (936 yards) and the Eagles drafting of LeSean McCoy says that they may be prepared to look toward the future.
Westbrook will get his carries, no doubt, but he is no longer an elite back and should not be rated as such.
2009 Projection: 200 carries, 705 yards, 5 touchdowns
Donald Brown, Indianapolis Colts
Donald Brown will be the beneficiary of Joseph Addai's inability to stay healthy—something he hasn't been able to do since becoming the featured back in 2007.
Brown is just the type of player that Bill Polian loves; he's hard-working, unassuming, and devoted to making whatever team he is on better.
Further, there is no question as to his ability to carry the load (in his final season at UConn, he had 367 carries for 2,000+ yards—a 5.7 ypc average) if he is called upon to do so.
Addai will likely be the guy to look towards early for a majority of the carries, but Brown will have ample opportunities to make his presence felt.
Some doubt the rookie will log much time due to his newbie status, but lest they be reminded that Addai came into a similar situation as a rookie; all he did was dual-back his way to a Super Bowl Championship with the Colts in 2006.
Will Brown do the same? We'll have to wait and see; but the possibility of him flourishing is high and it's a train worth buying an early ticket to catch.
2009 Projection: 160 carries, 640 yards, 6 touchdowns
Fantasy Wild Card (Possible Keeper Alert)
Bernard Scott, RB, Cincinatti Bengals Somehow, don't know how or why but, the Bengals tend to end up with a lot of guys who aren't afraid of a little trouble; Scott is no exception.
He was drafted in the sixth-round out of Abilene Christian and has a lot of potential. He's quick, he's elusive, has great hands, and has the talent to become a success if he can keep his head on straight.
It's not likely that he will play a major role this year but he has impressed so far and may very well be the future in Cincinnati.
As of now, the Bengals could break camp with their RB depth chart set at: Cedric Benson, Brian Leonard, and Bernard Scott; the potential for some minor impact this season is definitely there for Scott.
Keep an eye on this kid, he could be something.
2009 Projection: 45 carries, 247 yards, 2 touchdowns