Monday, November 30, 2015 • 10:55

Fantasy football: guys I like

August 14, 2013

Cam Newton—He's big, he apparently loves scoring touchdowns, and he's only getting better. Plus, he's more durable than some of his other read-option contemporaries, which is nice if you prefer not to have to decide between Brandon Weeden and Chad Henne to start for you in week six.

Colin Kaepernick—Same thing as with Newton, plus he's on a much, much better team. He probably won't be used as a battering-ram around the goal line like Newton is, but he's accurate, he's got lots of weapons around him, and he kind of looks like the scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz, with arms and legs all akimbo, when he runs down the field. That's always good for a chuckle or two throughout the season.

Russell Wilson—For one reason, and one reason only: his Twitter handle is "DangeRussWilson." And also because he's good at football.

Jake Locker—This is definitely conjecture, but I think Locker has a breakout season. His offensive line is vastly improved, he's got one of the most dangerous running backs in the game on his team, and he's got the ability to run himself when things get sticky. I think he could be something like a mix between a poor man's Ben Roethlisberger and Andrew Luck.

Running Back

CJ Spiller—The 11-year-old version of me hates me for picking anyone on the Buffalo Bills, but the 32-year-old me saw how electrifying Spiller can be. My wife drafted Spiller in both of her leagues last season, and I take immense pride in the fact that she did so after specifically (yet very nicely) forbidding me to help her with her draft preparation. It's safe to say she knows a great player when she sees one, and Spiller is a great player.

Steven Jackson—Dude is hungry. After toiling on some spectacularly terrible Rams teams for the last nine years, he's got an excellent opportunity to contribute to a very dangerous Falcons team that came up just short of making it to the Super Bowl last year. If he does even half as well around the goal line as his predecessor, Michael Turner, did, he's in for a phenomenal fantasy season.

Darren Sproles—I know it's hard to see him behind all those gigantic linemen, but trust me, he gets the ball a lot. He's not all that effective as a runner, but the Saints (especially when Sean Payton is running things) love to toss him the ball in the open field. He doesn't often disappoint, either. If your league gives points (or fractions of points) for receptions, Sproles is a great candidate to wind up in the top ten by the end of the year.

Ryan Williams—He's got one of those names that can be hard to place, but that might only last for a few more weeks. He's currently behind Rashard Mendenhall on the Arizona depth chart, but I don't buy that Mendy will be A) healthy or B) effective for very long. I could be way off, I know. But Williams had a lot of people impressed last year before he went down with a knee injury that ended his season. He's still having some trouble with the knee this year, so keep an eye on that situation. But Mendenhall is also having trouble with his knee, so if Williams doesn't have any setbacks, he could be worth a late-round flier.

Wide Receiver

Brandon Marshall—I like him a little more than some of the other guys around him, especially Julio Jones and Dez Bryant, for a couple reasons. First, Marshall's rapport with Jay Cutler is undeniable; when Cutler is under pressure, which seems to happen as soon as he steps out of bed in the morning, his first thought is to find Marshall. And second, the Bears really don't have any other outstanding options. In terms of receivers, I'd take Calvin Johnson first, then Marshall second, then everybody else after that.

Marques Colston—He's had some trouble with nagging injuries, but, much like Cutler and Marshall, he has a bond with his quarterback that isn't easily broken. The Saints should look much more like the 2011 version that ran up and down the field on pretty much everybody, and I think it's a safe bet that Colston plays a starring role.

Anquan Boldin—You never know exactly what you'll get when a player goes to a new team, but after watching what Boldin did for the Ravens in the playoffs last season, and especially in light of the injury woes plaguing the San Francisco receiving corps, I think the Niners will try to get this guy the ball as often as they can. He's big, he runs great routes, and he's a dangerous weapon around the goal line. My wife drafted him last year too, and now we can't help but see that Boldin's football pants are way shorter than everybody else's. It's like he's wearing spandex bike shorts. And then he scores touchdowns.

Jason Avant—Another guy you'll need to dig deep to find, but with a season-ending injury to Jeremy Maclin, not to mention all the issues going on with Riley Cooper, I think Avant steps up to take the No. 2 receiver spot for the Eagles. He's performed well when called upon in the past, and with a new offensive system designed to speed up the tempo of the game, I think Avant and his experience create a safety valve for whoever ends up at quarterback in Philadelphia.

Tight Ends

Tony Gonzalez—He's old and reliable. If you want to have a guy you can put in the lineup and forget about, this is your guy. He won't be flashy, but by season's end, you'll be glad you have him.

Antonio Gates—I keep hearing from inside sources that are definitely not my pastor sharing second-hand what he just read in some other newspaper that Gates is in the best shape of his life, that he's dropped a bunch of weight and that he's got a burst of speed like he's 20 years old again. Finally freed from the shackles of Norv and finally healthy again, I think Gates can be an elite tight end again, especially in light of San Diego's injuries at wide receiver.

Jordan Cameron—Supposedly the next big thing in tight ending (if that's a phrase), Cameron is the heir apparent to the lineage that includes Gates, Gronkowski and Graham. Even though his last name doesn't start with a "G," he's got the physical attributes to be a legitimate weapon for a Browns team sorely in need of firepower. Norv Turner turned out to not be such a great head coach in San Diego, but he's always proven to be an excellent offensive coordinator, so hopes are high in Cleveland. That just feels weird to say.

Defense & Kicker

Seriously, don't bother analyzing these. It's totally a crapshoot as to which defense or kicker will be in the top ten in any given year. Some players like to choose these positions by matchup (meaning that you start a defense that's facing a bad offense this week, or a kicker facing a defense that gives up field goals but not touchdowns, that sort of thing), and I think it can work. Just take the best available at the end of the draft and be prepared to swap them out in a given week. Or spend a ninth round draft pick on a kicker and prepare to be mocked by everyone in your league.

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