With the NFL Lockout nearing an end, it’s time to start putting together your fantasy football big boards and getting ready for your annual drafts. My personal draft is set for August 30th, so all in one day I am going to enjoy the release of the new Madden video game as well as a live fantasy football draft, and I hope you have some big plans for your as well.
As those days grow closer, let’s take a look at players I think could really surprise this season, guys who might be drafted in the later rounds or even go undrafted all together that could be huge for fantasy football owners in 2011.
Quarterback: Tim Tebow, Denver Broncos
Yes, I know, a bit of a homer pick here–but I believe in this guy. Not only do I believe in him in terms of his future, but I think you will see Tebow emerge this season as a legitimate fantasy football starter. Dual threat quarterbacks are always a risk in fantasy leagues, so make sure you have an insurance policy if you are going to select Tebow, but give this guy a shot.
Last season, Tebow scored 11 touchdowns with only three turnovers in very limited action. If he is the starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos–which I highly expect he will be–he can provide a lot in terms of fantasy football production. He is not only a threat to throw for touchdowns, but despite his awkward throwing motion (vastly improved) Tebow rarely makes dumb mistakes, even dating back to his collegiate days where he had a 9:2 TD/INT ratio. There are sure to be bumps in the road, as Tebow is essentially going into his first full year if the Broncos indeed go with him. However, you saw the significant progress made by Sam Bradford last year, and I think Tebow is well on his way to similar success.
Running Back: LeGarrette Blount, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Blount led NFL rookies in rushing last year with 1,007 yards, and he could repeat with another thousand yard campaign this year as the Bucs’ featured back. The Bucs are likely going to part ways with former first round pick Cadillac Williams this offseason, so Blount could see an increase on his 201 carries from last season.
One area where Blount will need to see significant improvement in order to be a huge fantasy back is in the passing game, where he only caught five passes last year. Much of that is due to the fact that Williams was the team’s third down and primary receiving back, but with him out of the picture it could mean even more touches for the sophomore back.
Beware the sophomore slump, but also give Blount serious considerations as a RB2 or RB3/Flex in your fantasy leagues. He just might surprise you, but I don’t think he will be an Arian Foster, by any means.
Wide Receiver: Michael Crabtree, San Francisco 49ers
Crabtree is simply ready to break out this year. Last season, he had 55 catches for 741 yards and six touchdowns, and I realize the 49ers’ quarterback play could be a question this year, but I think Crabtree will be the first or second option in this offense with Vernon Davis. The Niners will likely run quite a bit, so don’t put too much stock into Crabtree early on in your draft, but in the middle to later rounds, make him something of a priority because he could have double-digit touchdowns.
Tight End: Tony Moeaki, Kansas City Chiefs
Moeaki showed last year that he was not your typical rookie, catching 47 passes for 556 yards and three touchdowns. With the Chiefs’ offense being more centered around the run, the tight end becomes a big factor in the passing game when you open up play-action and shorter passing routes to off-set teams loading the box.
I don’t foresee Dwayne Bowe getting 13 touchdowns again this season through the air, and I think Moeaki could steal some of them and have similar numbers in the passing game as he did this past season. He is a definite injury risk dating back to his Iowa days, but if he is healthy, he is a deadly receiving threat.