Fantasy: 4 offenses you should target
Matt Williamson is a former scout for the Cleveland Browns, and spent the last 10 years at ESPN as a scout and co-host of "The Football Today Podcast."
In fantasy football, every player has a price. There's a point in the process for any player who is "draftable" where you eventually turn the card in to add them to your team. Of course, everyone values players differently, and there are many guys that more or less would never end up on your team in 100 tries.
A major determining factor when ranking players for fantasy is the offense they're a part of. Below are four offenses that you should actively pursue. You want to have a part of these units. That doesn't mean you should select players from these offenses for your fantasy teams at a ludicrous position in your draft, but they should be quite favorable for fantasy production.
Green Bay Packers
In Aaron Rodgers we trust. Everything that could have gone wrong last year went wrong for the Packers' offense, and even Rodgers' greatness couldn't overcome it. The offensive line was injured. Eddie Lacy was overweight. The loss of Jordy Nelson was massive. The remaining wide receivers couldn't get open and lacked timing with Rodgers. The Packers had little at the tight end position.
All of those situations look to be rectified now, and this offense is ready to go nuts in 2016. Last year, with no perimeter threat, opposing defenses heavily defended the middle of the field, which had a real negative affect on Randall Cobb and the running game. That will be much tougher to do next season. Cobb, who played much of the year with a shoulder injury, is one of my favorite bounce-back fantasy candidates, and is a third-round target of mine.
This passing game in particular has a chance to be exceptional this season. Andrew Luck was a bad quarterback last year, and he's taken too many chances with the football since entering the NFL. But I still think he's great and will only get greater, and that last year was an anomaly for his career.
The combination of T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief, and Phillip Dorsett is just so enticing, and should provide big plays galore. Indianapolis had pass-catchers that accounted for a lot of targets last year leave the team, and players like Moncrief and Dorsett, and possibly Dwayne Allen, are primed to pick up that slack. The Colts could potentially have the league's worst defense in 2016, and Luck is going to have to throw and throw to keep up on the scoreboard.
But what about that terrible offensive line, you say? Well, the drafting of Ryan Kelly should go a very long way in fixing that, which I understand is a lot of praise for a rookie center. But Kelly looks like the next Nick Mangold, and should be a rock for this organization for years to come. Meanwhile, Indianapolis is more than fine on the left side of the line with Anthony Castonzo and Jack Mewhort, and they now have quite a few players to compete for the duties on the right side.
Even the Colts' running game has appeal, particularly after they took a late-round flyer on Josh Ferguson. Frank Gore has to hit the wall at some point, and it looks like Ferguson, who the team is raving about, is the only one available to take over. Even Gore has decent fantasy value right now.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints' offense is loaded, and should be much better than it was in 2015, when they threw for more yardage than any other team in the league. They did so with average weapons that are much improved now, and a banged-up Drew Brees, who wasn't himself for the first month of the season while playing through a shoulder injury.
Brees is a constant. As is Sean Payton. The offensive line is one of the better ones in the league. New Orleans has added Coby Fleener in free agency - an upgrade over Ben Watson, who had a career year in an extremely tight end-friendly passing game. Brandin Cooks is only getting better and Willie Snead proved to be perfect for the Lance Moore role in this passing game, except Snead is better than Moore.
Then, New Orleans drafted Michael Thomas, who may have a difficult learning curve, but is far more dangerous than Marques Colston, who was running on fumes last year. Lastly, Mark Ingram has really taken his game up a few levels, while also becoming an accomplished receiver. The Saints are going to score points in bunches.
This one might shock you, but this choice is all about Marc Trestman. The Ravens attempted a whopping 676 passes last year, and Trestman's offenses have historically produced big fantasy numbers. The trick here, though, is figuring out who is going to be running and catching the football. Either way, Joe Flacco is a sneaky quarterback for you to draft late who's very likely to put up QB1 stats for your squad.
At his current cost in fantasy drafts, Kenneth Dixon is the running back I'm targeting here. He's exactly what Trestman wants at the position with his skills in the passing game (he is excellent in protection), and has a nose for the end zone. Justin Forsett looks like a very easy player to jump over on the depth chart, and it doesn't take much imagination to see his fantasy production plummeting. Still, even the combination of Forsett and Dixon should be attractive for fantasy owners at their current prices.
We know this offense is going to throw a ton, as they were playing from behind an awful lot last season. But who is going to be hauling in the passes? I can't lie, I'm still very smitten with Breshad Perriman, but I would sure like to see him in the preseason before I pounce. Still, he costs next to nothing, and has immense upside. Kamar Aiken proved himself last year, though; he wasn't a fluke and should be Flacco's go-to guy - well, unless that's Steve Smith. The skill-player roles are murky in Baltimore, without question, but pay close attention. The fantasy payoff could be gigantic.
Others to pursue: Cardinals, Patriots, Steelers