Draft kit | Sleepers | Deep sleepers | Busts | Breakouts | Strategies
Peyton Manning, QB, Broncos: Is it odd seeing Manning on this list? Sure. Yet, is it odd to think that fantasy owners are going to pass on Manning in the first few rounds? No. Manning is far from a first-round bargain ... but it's likely he'll fall precipitously due to his age and missing all of last season, making him a potential steal in the late third or fourth rounds.
Matt Hasselbeck, QB, Titans: Putting Hasselbeck down as a "bargain" is tough, considering that he might not start. But if he does win the job, and I think he will, plus considering the Titans' playoff aspirations, he could be a guy worth grabbing in the final rounds. He'll be good for at least that in spot starts when you need a fantasy win to make your own league's playoffs. The Titans play the Colts in Week 14, and the Packers -- who gave up the most yards in the NFL in 2011 -- in Week 16 (Super Bowl week in most leagues.) Guess what? Hasselbeck won't be sitting on the waiver wire when you want him then.
Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers: Yes, the much-maligned Rivers threw 20 balls that landed in the other team's hands last year. That was negative 40 points you didn't need for your fantasy team. But consider that an anomaly. This is still a guy that can put up 4,500 yards and 30 touchdowns. So much was made of Rivers' "poor" season, that he's libel to drop precipitously in drafts. Vincent Jackson's departure was much ado about nothing, as he was a bit overvalued. Robert Meachem, Eddie Royal and Vincent Brown should be okay. Therefore, if Rivers is there in the fourth or fifth rounds (in a 12-team league), take him.
Tony Romo, QB, Cowboys: Last year, I got Romo in the third round of a 12-team league, and looking back I think that was a bargain. While it's a true axiom that there are plenty of good fantasy quarterbacks to be had in the pass-happy NFL, Romo could easily be a top five guy and currently ranks sixth among NFL.com experts. He threw 31 touchdowns and didn't kill you with interceptions, tossing only 10. His 102.5 passer rating was the highest ever for a team 8-8 or worse. Take Romo early, and only worry about sitting him against Pittsburgh and Baltimore.
Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs: I know some of my colleagues will wait on Charles because he tore his ACL last year. But that was in September. Unlike Rashard Mendenhall and Adrian Peterson, Charles will have had almost a whole calendar year to recover once Week 1 rolls around. Charles was one of the top guys in fantasy in 2010 with 1,935 yards from scrimmage and eight touchdowns. The Peyton Hillis signing would not scare me off a bit. If Charles is sitting there in the second round, you hop all over it.
Fred Jackson, RB, Bills: Jackson is another player whose 2011 campaign ended prematurely to injury. But here's the deal: He didn't need surgery. Jackson was hurt midseason, so he's had plenty of time to recover. Other fantasy owners are going to be scared off by C.J. Spiller's presence, making it feasible that Jackson lasts a round later than he should. Not to mention, there just aren't enough very productive running backs in fantasy to go around.
Brandon Lloyd, WR, Patriots: Lloyd could easily have 1,000 yards and eight touchdowns this season, making him a fantasy bargain. Why? Because he'll probably last into the middle rounds. In fact, there's no reason Lloyd can't exceed those numbers. Yes, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez can chew into wideout production, but this is a team that easily surpassed 5,000 yards passing in 2011. Lloyd himself nearly had a 1,000 yards despite splitting time in Denver and St. Louis last season. Reunited with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, he could come closer to resembling the guy that put up a league-leading 1,448 yards receiving in 2010.
Reggie Wayne, WR, Colts: Wayne was not stellar in 2011, but he wasn't fantasy scrap, either. Wayne's 960 yards were his lowest figure since 2003, but how much of that was attributable to the Curtis Painter show going on in Indy? Andrew Luck is a rookie quarterback with two rookie tight ends in Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen. Wideout Pierre Garcon left town for $20.5 million guaranteed. That leaves Wayne as the best wide receiver on a team that will throw the ball. If he's sitting there in the middle rounds, he could be a good bargain.
Tony Moeaki, TE, Chiefs: Yes the Chiefs signed Kevin Boss. Big whoopee. Some fantasy owners will see that Moeaki didn't catch a pass in 2011 and, for lack of a better word, will take a pass on the Chiefs tight end. This was a guy who Todd Haley thought could catch 80 balls last year before getting hurt prior to the regular season. He'll probably be available come the 10th, 11th round.
Texans defense: Houstons' defense eeked in the fantasy top 10 last season, but in the real world it finished second overall. Forget Mario Williams' departure. He wasn't a great run stopper nor does he have a passion for football. The key cog here is the overweight silver-haired guy: Wade Phillips. Plain and simple, Phillips was the best defensive coordinator in football last season. Look for Houston to be a top five fantasy D playing in a weak division. You might sit them three times ... when they play New England, Green Bay and Detroit. Otherwise, Phillips' unit will be solid, especially with Whitney Mercilus and Jared Crick now in the fold.