Initial 2012 Rankings Explained

Initial 2012 Rankings Explained

By John Paulsen (Senior Editor), last update Jun 1, 2012

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John was named the Most Accurate Fantasy Football Expert by FantasyPros for the 2010 and 2014 seasons, finished as runner-up in 2011 and 4th in both 2012 and 2015 for a total of five Top 5 seasons in the last six years. Cumulatively, John was the most accurate expert from 2010-15 while also winning the 2011 Fantasy Sports Trade Association award for the most accurate draft rankings. 

Follow John Paulsen on Twitter: @4for4_John.

We've just released the first iteration of our 2012 fantasy football rankings and projections. These will be continuously tweaked throughout the offseason so our subscribers can be confident they are always dealing with up-to-date rankings. 

I thought it would be a good idea to go through our projections and identify a few "out of the box" rankings that may not jibe with the general consensus. Notice the "GC" column on the rankings cheat sheet -- that indicates an average ranking from several other sites, providing a good estimate of a player's general consensus ranking.
By comparing the GC ranking of a player to our rank (Dif), we can identify those players where we differ greatly from the consensus. Here's a look at these players along with an explanation for each ranking. A positive number in parenthesis means we're high on the player, while a negative number means we're relatively low on him.


In nine starts in 2011, Palmer averaged 293 yards, 1.8 TDs and 1.1 INTs -- with no training camp and little time to get to know his receiving corps. That projects to 4,688 yards and nearly 29 TDs. In our first set of projections, we have him slated for 4,547 yards and 23.3 TDs. He has a talented group of WRs, while Darren McFadden and Marcel Reece are also solid weapons in the passing game.
We're not terribly low on Manning, but his neck is enough of a worry that we wouldn't recommend him over solid starters like Philip Rivers or Matt Ryan. He also has to develop a rapport with Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, though he knows Jacob Tamme from their days together with the Colts.
We have Dalton projected for a slight improvement in yards and TDs, but the QB position is so deep with the addition of rookies Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, along with the (hopefully) healthy Peyton Manning, Jay Cutler and Matt Schaub. It may be tough for Dalton to repeat his top 15 finish even though he's a solid QB2 that can be had in the later rounds.


Check out these stats: 331 touches for 1654 total yards and 13 TDs. Those are the numbers that Peyton Hillis produced two seasons ago as the Browns' feature back. Richardson has no competition for touches and the Browns have already said that they're going to make him the focal point of the offense. We're projecting 1,523 total yards and 9.5 TDs.
With Brandon Marshall gone, the Dolphins don't have very many playmakers, so it would make sense that they would lean on Bush after his very solid 2011 campaign. He thrived as the Dolphins' lead back, racking up 1,382 total yards and seven TDs in 15 games. So 1,350 yards and 6.6 TDs seem reasonable, even for a player with his injury history. 
Redman's ranking is more about Rashard Mendenhall than it is about Redman. Mendenhall tore his ACL very late in the season and it usually takes a full year for a RB to get back to his normal self. Redman's YPC (4.4) was solid in 2011 and while he has only caught 27 passes in his career, he did catch two TD passes in 2010. Over the last three seasons, Mendenhall averaged 1,297 total yards and 10.0 TDs, so 1,156 yards and 8.3 TDs for Redman don't seem crazy. We'll monitor the progress of Jonathan Dwyer and Chris Rainey, but for now Redman looks like he'll get the lion's share of the touches.
The Packers may very well add a veteran RB before or during training camp, but for now they seem happy with Starks as the starter and Alex Green, Brandon Saine and John Kuhn as his backups. The Packers typically take a committee approach, but Starks will get first crack at RB touches and if he gets hot, Mike McCarthy won't be afraid to hand him the keys (unlike Bill Belichick in New England). With upgrades on the defensive side in the ball, the Packers should be in position to drain the clock in the second half more often in 2012.


Jones finished WR18 last season, but he missed four games, so his per game average was the 5th-highest in the league. Our projections simply assume that Jones stays healthy in his sophomore season. On the flip side, White is another year older and if Jones plays a full season, White will see a reduction in targets. He's still a solid fantasy pick, but he's looking less like a stud WR and more like a fringe WR1 or strong WR2.
Not long ago, Johnson was the consensus #1 WR. But after an injury-plagued 2011 that featured nine missed games and the 26th-ranked per game average, the soon-to-be 31-year-old has lost some of that luster. If he has a great offseason with no setbacks, we'll start to move him up, but age (and a drop in durability) seem to be catching up to him.
Part of why we're so high on this duo is our general opinion of the Oakland passing game (see Carson Palmer). But Moore was terrific in spots during his rookie season, posting 5-146-1 against the Bills in Week 2, 5-123-2 against the Chargers in Week 10 and a combined 7-195-1 in Weeks 16-17. Injuries have been an issue, so durability is a concern, but Moore has a ton of talent and Palmer has been raving about him the entire offseason. Meanwhile, DHB had a breakout 2011, racking up 64-975-4 despite missing Week 2 and only seeing one total target in Weeks 9-10. Over the final five games, Heyward-Bey averaged 5.8 catches for 91 yards and 0.6 TDs. Draft both and you'll have built-in insurance for your receiving corps.
This is a simple case of there being too many mouths to feed in New England. For Lloyd to live up to his fringe WR2 consensus ranking, the targets are going to have to come from somewhere, so that means one or more of Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez are going to have to see a big drop in looks. The team has also added Jabar Gaffney to complicate matters. Our projection (69-909-6) seems reasonable for the soon-to-be 31-year-old, at least for now.
During the first eight games of 2011, LaFell saw 3.0 targets per game and produced an average of 2.1 receptions for 35 yards and 0.25 TDs. Over the final eight games, he averaged 4.0 targets for 2.4-42-0.13, so there wasn't a big jump in production despite a 33% increase in targets. However his Fantasy Points / Target was 1.42, which ranked #16 out of 119 WRs with at least 30 targets in 2012. He is definitely a candidate for a breakout season if he gets true WR2 targets, and it appears that the Panthers are counting on him as their WR2 this season.


Davis was on pace for 79-1061-4 before serving a four-game suspension for a failed drug test. With those numbers, he would have finished as the TE4 in 2011. Robert Griffin III is going to take off and run far more often than Rex Grossman did, but he should also be an upgrade in the passing department. Griffin is apparently doing a lot of rollouts and bootlegs in OTAs, and those type of misdirection plays often target the TE.
If he can get stronger, Fleener has the potential to become the next Rob Gronkowski. Fleener is 6'6", 260 lbs and ran a 4.51 40-yard dash at his pro day. He averaged 19.6 YPC in college. All of those numbers meet or exceed Gronkowski's measurables/stats at the same time in his career. Plus, he has a built-in rapport with QB Andrew Luck, who also played at Stanford. Rookie TEs don't typically fare that well, but Fleener has landed in a great situation and has the playmaking talent to make a splash.
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