This is a series on my 2013 outlook of players you would want to have on your Paper Pigskin team (fantasy football). I'll be organizing them by division. What you'll find here are my views based on years of playing experience and countless hours of geeking out researching stats, trends, and articles. I'll advise where to reach and whose hype not to believe.
Green Bay Packers 253 passing ypg 106 rushing ypg (posted August 26, 2013)
QB: Aaron Rodgers is the most efficient play maker in the league. Last season he threw a touchdown pass for every 110 yards and was only intercepted eight times compared to 39 touchdowns. Rodgers should be one of the first two quarterback selected always. The Packers play at a deliberate pace on offense, if not for this, Rodgers' Paper Pigskin production would be threw the roof. His lack of negative points resulting from interceptions and his running ability is what keeps him on the same level as a 5,000 yard passer. The legitimate threat of a rushing attack in Green Bay will open up more opportunities for big plays.
RB: It's been a while since this team had a running back that moves piles of defenders as well as display elusiveness. Eddie Lacy is in line for the top spot in this backfield, and with his skill set in this high powered offense, there's certainly potential to be a stud. He'll be used on early downs and to grind out the clock in fourth quarters. There are sexier names being drafted ahead of him but remember it's all about opportunities in this game, Lacy should be drafted in RB2 territory.
WR: Randall Cobb was probably one of the best draft values last season, he wasn't drafted in most leagues and became an every week starter in PPR leagues. Now that Greg Jennings is completely out of the loop, Cobb is good for over 100 targets and maybe more yards. He's going off draft boards early in the third round, a few picks earlier than he should; he's not the only pass catcher on this team whose role will increase. James Jones' fantasy numbers were directly tied to his TD receptions, don't expect 14 again this season. Jones ran a lot of go routes and received red zone looks partly because those players usually designated for those roles were injured. Jones will likely see an increase intermediate routes which will result in a higher catch percentage and more yards, he's worthy of WR3 value. Jordy Nelson was hampered by nagging injuries most of last season that limited his output. Rodgers will be looking to throw it deep to Nelson often. Nelson is an WR2 with WR1 upside.
TE: Jermichael Finley is one of the most athletic at his position but has had a tendency to drop simple passes which resulted in his quarterback not trusting him in the red zone. Finley reportedly is entering this season with more focus and has been doing a better job of holding on to balls. If Rodgers can regain faith in Finley, look for him to flirt with that second tier.
Defense: This is a middle of the pack defense whose strength is pressuring quarterbacks. They lose leadership in the secondary with Woodson no longer present.
Detroit Lions 308 passing ypg 101 rushing ypg (posted August 20, 2013)
QB: No other quarterback had as many pass attempts as Matthew Stafford's 727 last season, he threw the ball 57 more times than Drew Brees and 100 more than the 5th most in this category, Andrew Luck. Stafford was just shy of 5,000 yards, Only Brees threw for more. All of these spectacular numbers, you would expect him to be no worst than the 3rd QB picked in drafts but this isn't the case; maybe its the 20/17 TD to interception rate. We're only a season removed from him throwing 41 touchdowns; some probable causes for last year's low TD numbers in the sections below. Detroit will continue to be a high volume passing team, the touchdowns will return. Let league mates take Brees, Rodgers, and Manning while you reap comparable benefits out of a player 2 rounds later.
RB: Reggie Bush is set to have a breakout season in Detroit. The possibilities are endless for him as a receiver out of the backfield. The coaching staff plans to feature Bush heavily in the passing game, there are few linebackers that can cover him one on one. As a rookie, Bush caught 88 passes on 119 targets from a QB that threw 554 passes. If the Lions come anywhere close to that ratio, we can possibly see a 100 catch/1000 yard receiving season from Bush. Bush will also have plenty of space to break long runs due to defense playing far off the line of scrimmage to account for the passing threats. This has the makings of a Marshall Faulk in his prime type of season if the coaching staff stays true to their word. He's going off the board in 4th round in standard leagues which is a steal. He has top five upside in PPR leagues; he should be a 2nd rounder at worst. Mikel Leshoure was the main RB last season, Joique Bell caught 50 passes. The former is a plodder that will probably vulture TDs from Bush and the latter is the most likely candidate to get game action should Bush misses any time.
WR: Calvin Johnson should be the first wide receiver drafted. The only decision is if you want to be the person to use your first draft pick on him. You likely won't get the chance to make that choice if you draft in the bottom half. As great of a Paper Pigskin season that Megatron had, it could have been better if it weren't for him being tackled eight times inside the five yard line. Ryan Broyles, Nate Burleson and Patrick Edwards will be responsible for keeping defenses honest. Stafford will pass so much that one of these guys besides Johnson must have some value. Broyles is the likely candidate, having shown flashes in the past, he is excellent from the slot and worthy of a late round flier.
TE: Brandon Pettigrew has had issues with dropped passes, many of them coming in the end zone which attributes to some of Stafford's low TD count. He is in the best shape of his career but reports from camp is that he still has butter fingers. Broyles and Bush might take away some of the short targets Pettigrew is used to getting. This player is a TE2.
Defense: There's top talent at every level of this defense, especially in the trenches, but they haven't been able to put it together.
Kicker: High-powered offense. Dome stadium. David Akers
Chicago Bears 187 passing ypg 123 rushing ypg (posted August 14, 2013)
QB: Coach Marc Trestman had two stints as a coordinator in the NFL where his teams in San Francisco and Oakland featured high powered passing games. He designed quick passing plays for his offenses that emphasized efficiency. If Jay Cutler buys in on trying to be more efficient instead of taking risks, this team should fall in line and light up the score board like Trestman's other teams. Cutler's stats with the Bears include more turnovers than touchdowns. He's among one of the last quarterbacks drafted, if things go according to plan he can be a pleasant surprise for those brave enough to put him on a Paper Pigskin roster.
RB: Expect Matt Forte to have a huge year catching passes out of the backfield similar to Ricky Watters and Charlie Garner. In this style of offense, the lead back catches a lot of swing and screen passes. Matt Forte should be one of the highest scoring players in PPR leagues. Michael Bush will get opportunities at the goal line as well as spelling Forte to keep him fresh, he should be one of the first actual backups selected.
WR: Brandon Marshall is a beast, he accounted for half of Chicago's receiving yards. Even if the ball is distributed more to other players, it will only benefit Marshall because he'll have more room to dominate defensive backfields. He was the NFL's best receiver on paper for most of last season. Consider yourself lucky if he's still available in the middle of the 2nd round. Alshon Jeffery is a name on most breakout lists due to big plays he made at the end of the season, however there will only be crumbs left after Marshall and Forte gets fed.
TE: Martellus Bennett owners will be happy with his portion of leftovers. He's a play maker at this position that should be able to take advantage of the attention given to Marshall. Don't hesitate to click the draft button by his name after your other skill position starters are set.
Defense: Elite! Big plays! Don't expect 10 TD's out of them. Last year's offense often put them in bad positions yet they were still able to keep points off of the board. Urlacher is no longer present and injuries in the secondary might hurt them but they will still be one of the top defenses to have.
Minnesota Vikings 172 passing ypg 165 rushing ypg
QB: Christian Ponder completed 62% of his passes last season, but wasn't much of a down field threat as defenses continued to load eight in the box to stop the run. He has to do better, or he might not have a starting job.
RB: If you are lucky enough to have the first pick in your Paper Pigskin draft, it'll be pretty difficult to look beyond All Day for your selection. Peterson has set goals to improve on his 2,097 yard rushing season; he wants 2500. This is good to know. What you also need to know is... there were six previous times that a running back reached 2000 yards, not a single one of them got as much as 1500 the next season. He's the consensus #1 pick, rarely does that person finish #1. Just something to think about if you believe this is a slam dunk choice.
WR: Greg Jennings will be 30 years old this season, he hasn't played a full 16 games since 2010. He also has Christian Ponder as his quarterback. On a positive note, Percy Harvin was on pace for 110 receptions and 1200 yards with the same quarterback. His average draft position puts him in the 7th round, which is a fair spot to take a gamble on him. Keep an eye on rookie Cordarrelle Patterson, he's low on the depth chart because of his rawness but will be able to showcase his talent as the main return guy.
TE: Kyle Rudolph had nine touchdowns last season, however only three games with over five receptions and only five games with more than 50 yards (67 was the most in OT, the first game of the season). All that to say his scoring is heavily td dependent.
Kicker: Blair Walsh was the top guy in the NFL last season, a perfect 10-10 from over 50 yards. Plays in a dome.