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Jason Witten’s Spleen and Other Fantasy Busts

Vincent Jackson hopes that Josh Freeman can resurrect his career in Tampa Bay | Photo courtesy Keith Allison/Flickr.com

I’m more excited than Michael Strahan’s dentist. I’m more excited than a 10-year-old girl at a Justin Bieber concert. I’m….well, just plain excited.

Some people think of September as the start of another school year, or the time of year when the weather starts to get cooler and the leaves begin to change.

All September means to me, however, is another fantasy football season.

Instead of the usual sleepers and busts article that you’ve probably seen a million times by now and would most likely be useless by the time you read this, we’re going to focus on the guys who are ready to break out during the 2012 fantasy football season and the guys who might take a step back.

Breakouts

Quarterback: Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons:

Matty Ice has really shown a lot of progress over the past couple years, not just as an NFL quarterback, but as a fantasy quarterback as well. After finishing the 2010 season with career highs in passing yards (3,705) and touchdown passes (28), Ryan had an even better season in 2011, throwing one more touchdown pass, topping the 4,000 yard mark, and having a whole lot of fun with explosive rookie wide-out Julio Jones. Expect Ryan to make sweet music with the ageless wonder Tony Gonzalez, the always consistent Roddy White, and of course Jones in 2012.

Running Back: Donald Brown, Indianapolis Colts:

No you read that right folks; I’m saying the worst team in the league last year, the 2-14 Colts will have a fantasy running back break out in 2012. The Colts offense was abysmal last year, but the combination of Andrew Luck and a plethora of carries for Brown could equal fantasy gold. Brown isn’t big, but he is explosive (he led the NCAA in rushing in 2008 with the University of Connecticut) and after averaging almost five yards per carry in 2011, Brown could be in for a huge season with Luck opening up defenses in 2012.

Wide Receiver: Brandon Marshall, Chicago Bears:

Did anyone even notice that Brandon Marshall somehow finished the 2011 season as a borderline top 10 receiver last year? Despite having the likes of Chad Henne and Matt Moore throwing wounded ducks his way on a regular basis? I didn’t think so. That speaks a lot to the kind of talent Marshall has; he managed 1,200 plus yards with those guys throwing it, and in 2012 he reunites with former Denver Broncos teammate Jay Cutler in an offense with not a whole lot of other receiving options aside from dump-offs to Matt Forte.

Tight End: Fred Davis, Washington Redskins:

Most people are pegging Jared Cook and Jacob Tamme as breakout candidates in 2012. I’ll take the most athletic player 10 times out of 10. Davis is a 6’4’’ 250 pound freak who is straight out of the Vernon Davis, Rob Gronkowski mold. Expect the matchup nightmare to be Robert Griffin III’s security blanket as he puts up (for lack of a better word) stupid numbers this year.

Flakeouts

Quarterback: Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers:

Needless to say Newton had an unbelievable rookie season in 2011. Over 4,000 yards, 20 passing touchdowns, and 14, count em’, 14 rushing touchdowns! But after throwing for at least 350 yards in three of his first four career games, Cam struggled throwing the football in the season final 12 games as defenses seemed to figure him out a little, as he failed to throw for over 300 yards the rest of the season. Newton’s rushing touchdowns saved his lackluster performances through the air and made him a fantasy darling in 2011, but with Mike “I ate all my vegetables” Tolbert taking over as the team’s top goal line option in 2012, I expect Newton’s rushing touchdowns, and fantasy value to decrease in 2012.

Running Back: DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys:

You couldn’t pay me to take this guy. He had his moments (including a 253 yard outburst against a lowly Rams defense), and I’d say he finished the season with an impressive 5.5 yards per carry, but well, he didn’t FINISH the season. Murray’s season ended during week 13 last year, only seven weeks after he was handed the starting job.  If I’m going to take a running back where he’s going, I take someone I know is going to produce and go for the upside later. DeMarco Murray, with an atrocious offensive line and his checkered injury past (even back to his days at Oklahoma) is a huge question mark in 2012. Let someone else take the risk.

Wide Reciever: Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers:

After becoming a staple in the San Diego Chargers offense the last few years, Jackson sought out a free agent contract and got paid big by an aggressive Buccaneers organization. The Bucs needed help at the wide receiver position after a very disappointing 2011 campaign that saw their leading receiver (Mike Williams) tally less than 800 yards receiving. Vincent Jackson might help open up the running game with his ability to have defenses key in on him, but as far as personal statistics go, I don’t believe in quarterback Josh Freeman as much as I do Phillip Rivers enough to make Jackson worth a high draft pick this year.

Tight End: Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys:

I’m down on the whole Cowboys offense this year. I haven’t believed in Tony Romo since he split up with Jessica Simpson (and haven’t believed in her in a while either), Dez Bryant has less freedom than Jerry Sandusky right now, and I already mentioned how I feel about Demarco Murray. On top of that, Witten ruptured his spleen in the preseason. It could be a long season for the Cowboys, in real-life and fantasy.

Shawn Ferris can be reached at sferris@spartans.ut.edu

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