by Russ Bliss (2-28-11)

It's that time of year again. The one where the talk dies down in fantasy and those of us who make our livings doing fantasy football analysis find ourselves with time on our hands. And just like last year, my friend Rick Perkins over at invited several fantasy football website analysts to participate in "roundtable" discussions on various topics pertinent to the 2011 fantasy landscape the next several weeks. In addition to Rick and myself, the other analysts who took part in the first topic are:

Jim Day, FFWhiz

Ryan Lester, Lester's Legends

Derek Lofland, FantasyFootballManiax

Jeff Pasquino, DynastyGuys

Jim Piatt, FanaticFantasyFootball

Matt Schauf, RapidDraft

The first topic up for debate was: Bounceback Player for 2011. In my fantasy football blog I have posted my pick of New York Jets RB Shonn Greene and why I chose him. For everyone's picks and explanations, please check out FFTrader's Roundtable article. But here, I wanted to give my thoughts on the players my fellow fantasy analysts chose.

Rick Perkins: Detroit Lions RB Jahvid Best

" Jahvid Best will be a top 10 fantasy back if he remains healthy. It's apparent to me that the early season turf toe hindered him all year, but I'm not ready to slap the "injury flag" on him just yet.  Yes, he's undersized.  Yes, he could develop as a blocker.  But mark my words, what he did in weeks one and two were no fluke.  What I really like about Best is his supporting cast...(With) Matt Stafford throwing footballs to Brandon Pettigrew and Calvin Johnson, opposing defenses can't pinch down on the perimeter.  And that leaves Best one-on-one in space often enough..."

I wasn't a believer in Best going into 2010, but after those first two games, he showed me enough to be convinced he is an explosive playmaker. Rick is right on with the turf toe injuries bothering Best after that point and making his season come to a crashing halt. I was really surprised by Best's toughness playing thru the injuries as that's something you would have expected a smaller RB to stay on the sideline with and try to let heal for a few weeks. Best was looking like a great fantasy RB before the injuries, and if he stays healthy, Rick could be right about him being a top 10 guy in 2011.  

Jim Day: Carolina Panthers RB Jonathan Stewart

"...The Panthers had the league's worst offense across the board in 2009, which led to some major changes to the coaching staff. They brought in a new Head Coach, Ron Rivera and a new Offensive Coordinator, Rob Chudzinski, so even though they still have issues at the quarterback position, it is reasonable to expect this offense to improve on its awful 2010 season...On the positive side, we did see Stewart bounce back at the end of the year in number of carries and yardage. Through Week Nine Stewart averaged seven carries and 26 yards a game, but in Week's 12-16 he averaged 19 carries and 106 yards per game, although he still only scored once in those five weeks..."

Day's choice of Stewart was one I contemplated myself. Stewart is a proven commodity from prior seasons and pretty much everything that could go wrong for the Panthers did go wrong for them in 2010. With DeAngelo Williams probably going elsewhere in 2011, Stewart should be leaned on heavily by the new coaching staff as the primary focus of their offense.

Ryan Lester: Arizona Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald

"...I knew Kurt Warner's departure would hurt Fitz, but I underestimated the extent of it. Matt Leinart had studied under Warner and I figured he'd at least learn from osmosis. Yeah, he was quickly shown the door. Instead Fitz was left to sink or swim with the likes of Derek Anderson (65.9 passer rating), John Skelton (62.3 passer rating), Max Hall (35.7 passer rating), and Richard Bartel (57.1 passer rating). It's amazing that Larry did as well as he did..."

Fitz was an easy choice, but like I said in my pick of Shonn Greene, I was staying away from a guy who still put up solid numbers, just not the numbers expected from an elite player. Ryan's right that a lot more was expected from Fitz and that with these dismal QB numbers, Fitz just has to be better in 2011 than he was in 2010.

Derek Lofland: Cincinnati Bengals WR Chad Ochocinco

" Many thought that with (Terrell) Owens in the lineup, Ochocinco would be an even more dominant force. Instead, he slipped to 67 receptions for 841 yards and four touchdowns, despite Palmer starting all 16 games. Ochocinco is no longer a youngster, as he turned 33-years old this January. Given his propensity for distractions and his declining numbers, speculation is out there that the Bengals may waive him and his $6 million contract...While he is nearing the end of his career, this player still has talent and is not too old to be a dominant player. He desperately needs a change of scenery by going to a team that can utilize his abilities. Now that Palmer is requesting a trade or threatening to retire, the best thing that could happen to Ochocinco is a release from the disaster that is the Bengals and be allowed to pick the team of his choice..."

I totally agree that Ochocinco is not yet ready to cash it in for a career and is still supremely talented, but like Derek says here: he needs a change of scenery. A happy Chad somewhere else is likely to want to prove he isn't done yet and still has another year or two of playing at a high level.

Jeff Pasquino: Green Bay Packers RB Ryan Grant

" Grant had put together two 1200+ yard rushing seasons in 2008 and 2009 and Green Bay was completely set to ride his back for the 2010 season before his ankle gave out. Grant has been a Top 20 running back two of the three years he's been in the league...That's pretty consistent, and that made him a solid late RB1 candidate in drafts last year. (James) Starks topped the century mark against the Eagles in the first Green Bay playoff contest but really tapered down after that game...Grant will be coming back at full strength (he could have played in the Super Bowl if the Packers had not needed his roster spot) in 2011 and is the likely starter once again. Look for him to lead the running game and help the Packers to established a more balanced offense..."

A gutsy pick by Jeff as many think (myself included) James Starks is the most talented RB on the Packers roster. But can Starks be a feature guy? I've historically been one of the lead cheerleaders on the Grant bandwagon since 2007 when I pegged him as a fantasy football sleeper early in the year, but at best I think Grant and Starks share the load in 2011 bringing down the potential for a real bounceback season by Grant.  

Jim Piatt: Indianapolis Colts WR Austin Collie

"(Peyton) Manning to Collie was a hot combination during the first six weeks of the season, as Collie was targeted 53 times for an average of 8.9 targets per game. Of those targets, Collie hauled in 44 for 503 yards, two weeks before the regular season even hit the half way point. He was on his way to a big season..."

The concussions Collie suffered derailed what was looking likely to be a huge breakout season by Collie in 2010. But the concern about concussions and how the NFL will treat players with that injury going forward looms like a cloud as long term health implications are focused on. I also think Collie has set the bar for himself very high and it's easier to exceed expectations when they are low for a player than when they are high. And providing Collie is healthy heading into 2011, he'll be high on many fantasy football cheat sheets when August rolls around.

Matt Schauf: New Orleans Saints RB Pierre Thomas

"Injury has been the obvious bugaboo for the likely former Saint, but 2010 was the first time that he didn't deliver particularly strong value in the time he was on the field. The traditional numbers alone look pretty impressive: Through his first three seasons, Thomas averaged at least 4.8 yards per carry. He caught 70 passes over 2008 and 2009 and scored 20 total touchdowns in that span...The Saints appear ready to let him walk in free agency, which clearly introduces more uncertainty at this early stage. Leaving New Orleans would take Thomas out of arguably the league's most explosive offense, which hurts his scoring chances, but it could also take him to a team more willing to set him up in a primary role..."

No denying that in 2008 and 2009 that when Thomas was healthy, he was a great fantasy RB. The injuries in 2010 really took away from what should have been his breakout season and now, as Matt says, he could be let go by the Saints to ply his trade elsewhere in 2011. In the right situation, Thomas could be huge, but he needs to get over the injuries that seem to prevent him every year from being a reliable fantasy option.


Feel free to discuss this topic and others in our fantasy football forums