With the NFL season just around the corner, that also means the all-important fantasy football season is upon you. You will spend hours studying film, you will read up on numerous advice from "experts", and you will try and come up with the wittiest team name for your team that hopefully doesn't finish last in your league (because nobody wants to be the guy that has to sit in on the SAT again... seriously, one of my buddies' leagues did that).
You're also a huge Maryland football fan so you are obviously going to draft a couple of former Terps in hopes that they help you bring home that $100 grand prize. So, we've decided to help you look like the GM of the Year with our Fantasy Football Guide, as it pertains to former Terps.
The Quality Picks
Vernon Davis, TE, San Francisco 49ers
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
Last season's fantasy stats: 26 catches (50 targets), 245 yards, two touchdowns, 30 total fantasy points (via ESPN)
Why you should draft him: Davis had a dismal year last fantasy season racking up only 30 points all year. He suffered a back injury early in the year which could have played a large part in his reduced production compared to the previous year when he scored 13 touchdowns. Last season was the worst of his career, but Davis is one of only three proven pass catchers on the 49ers along with Anquan Bolden and fellow Terp, Torrey Smith, and is also in a contract year. This points to him having a much more productive season, as long as he can stay healthy.
Why you should not draft him: Davis is coming off the worst year of his career, involving two DNPs (for the first time since 2007) caused by a back injury that nagged at him all season long. He is on the wrong side of 30 years old and back injuries have a tendency to never completely go away. Unless you are playing in a 30-person league, there are plenty of other tight ends ranked higher than him.
Bottom Line: Despite a tough season last year, Davis should be given the benefit of the doubt, considering his career track record. He's worth a pick in the later rounds, possibly as your second tight end off the board.
Nick Novak, K, San Diego Chargers
Orlando Ramirez-USA Today Sports
Last season's fantasy stats: 40 XPM, 23/26 FGM, 112 total fantasy points (via ESPN)
Why you should draft him: Kicking is a fleeting position in the NFL, but Novak has been able to stick in the league and with the Chargers, as of late. Last season, he finished 21st in ESPN's fantasy rankings for kickers which is average, but that was considered a down year for Novak. In 2013, he finished sixth in ESPN's fantasy rankings, averaging 9.6 fantasy points per game. San Diego is also home to good weather and an above average offense which means Novak will get the chance to score plenty of points for your team this year.
Why you should not draft him: Kicking is a fleeting position in the NFL and often the time between when a kicker peaks (2013) and flames out is not that long. Last year, Novak only hit 70 percent of his field goal attempts of 40+ yards, which is where kickers make their fantasy owners the happiest. Kickers don't go until the very end of fantasy drafts usually, and Novak isn't a top 10 fantasy kicker, so pick up someone else.
Bottom Line: Kicking is a fleeting position in the NFL which means that a kicker thought to have a good year could have a terrible year and vice versa. Novak isn't worth wasting a pick on him in your draft, but definitely worth having as a backup, if you have the space on your bench.
Torrey Smith, WR, San Francisco 49ers
Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports
Last season's fantasy stats: 49 receptions (92 targets), 767 yards, 11 touchdowns, 137 total fantasy points (via ESPN)
Why you should draft him: Smith got off to a brutal start to last year fantasy wise, catching only six balls for 85 yards (no TDs), but finished the rest of the year strong. He's projected to rack up 118 fantasy points this year by ESPN and should prove to be a dynamic tandem with Bolden. Between Smith, Bolden and Davis, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick will have to throw the ball to someone and Smith is by far the best deep-ball threat. He's capable of consistently delivering 10+ point performances based off of his speed alone.
Why you should not draft him: Despite his production last year after a slow start, Smith finds himself on a new team this year with the 49ers. The 49ers scored 13 fewer touchdowns than the Ravens last year which means Smith could see less touchdowns himself this season. He also has tallied less than 50 receptions in three out of his four seasons in the league, something that points to lessened fantasy value. If you are playing in a PPR league, Smith does not have much value.
Bottom Line: Smith is going to be a great option for Kaepernick in San Francisco and seeing as how the 49ers will most likely be a passing heavy team this year, Smith will get his touches. He may not be as valuable in a PPR league, but in a standard league, he is definitely worth a pick in the middle to late rounds due to his home run play potential.
The Diamond in the Rough
Stefon Diggs, WR, Minnesota Vikings
Andrew Weber-USA Today Sports
Last year's fantasy stats: N/A
Why you should draft him: This. This. Also This. Diggs wasn't selected until late in the draft but should hold plenty of value as the Vikings potential starting slot receiver as well as their potential punt returner. Diggs has gone from trying to make the team to trying to secure a starting spot. He has big play capability both as a receiver and a punt returner, something he's shown so far this preseason. He may not be a burner speed wise, but he is gifted athletically and could contribute right away in Minnesota.
Why you should not draft him: Despite an excellent start to the pre-season, Diggs is still a rookie that was taken in the fifth round by a team that already had Cordarrelle Patterson (a first-round pick in 2013), Jarius Wright and just signed Mike Wallace this off-season. That has Diggs on the outside looking in as it concerns a starting spot, and on top of that, Minnesota favors to be a run-first offense with Adrian Peterson back and an inexperienced quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater at the helm.
Bottom Line: Despite being a rookie, Diggs holds great value with his punt returning skills and has seen his share of passes this preseason as a receiver. He may not be a top 100 fantasy receiver at the moment, however as a Maryland fan, you certainly know what he is capable of. Whether you draft him or hope he goes undrafted and pick him up as a free agent, there is value to be had in having him on your roster.
The Deep Sleepers
Shaun Hill, QB, Minnesota Vikings
Bruce Kluckhohn-USA Today Sports
Last year's fantasy stats: 1,657 passing yards, 8 TD's, 7 INT's, 1 rushing TD, 105.3 total fantasy points (Fox Sports)
Why you should draft him: Hill has been in the NFL for 14 seasons, mainly as a steady backup. Last season he put up respectable numbers in St. Louis after Sam Bradford went down for the season with an ACL tear. The former Maryland QB has proven he can step up when his name is called and put up solid numbers. Bridgewater has gotten injured in the past, although he shouldn't be labeled as injury prone. Nonetheless, Hill is a serviceable NFL quarterback.
Why you should not draft him: Realistically, there is no logical reason why Hill should be drafted when it comes to building a winning fantasy team. Despite being a great backup, there are 32 starting quarterbacks in the league, all of whom will put up more numbers than a backup quarterback. Should he even become the starter, Minnesota is a run heavy team to begin with who would run the ball even more with Hill under center.
Bottom Line: Don't waste a draft pick on him. However, should you play in a large league, should Bridgewater go down, and should you have plenty of weapons elsewhere on your roster, pick up the former Maryland signal caller later in the season.
Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
Bill Streicher-USA Today Sports
Last year's fantasy stats: 3 catches, 33 yards
Why you should draft him: Heyward-Bey, despite being in the conversation for one of the all-time NFL busts, and despite having only three catches last year while playing in all 16 games, is still a 6'2" receiver with good speed who has lasted seven years in the league. Pittsburgh liked him enough to sign him to another one-year contract after last season and the Steelers figure to have a high-power offense this season. Assuming he makes the roster and becomes the number four receiver, he has the potential to put up decent numbers off the bench and score a touchdown here and there.
Why you should not draft him: He is a starting wide receiver... on the all-time NFL bust team. He managed only three catches last season despite being active in every game, and assuming he makes the Steelers roster, he is still slated to be the fourth, most likely fifth string receiver this year. Heyward-Bey was at one time a decent bench option in fantasy football, but that time has come and gone.
Bottom Line: Unless your team is stacked and you're simply looking to fill your roster spot with a Terp, Heyward-Bey is best left alone in the free agent pool. If however, one of Pittsburgh's receivers goes down with an injury, it may be worth it to think long and hard about picking him up as a free agent to be a backup for your squad.
The Long Shots
Deon Long, WR, Tennessee Titans
Brian Spurlock-USA Today Sports
Last year's fantasy stats: N/A
Why you should draft him: Assuming he makes the Titans' active roster, which in itself is a long shot, Long could be a surprise kick returner for the Titans as he has been working on that during training camp. You should also draft him because he went to Maryland and you have an open roster spot.
Why you should not draft him: Even if Long makes the Titans' active roster, it is unlikely he will get much burn as the Titans have a handful of veterans who would play before the undrafted rookie. Even if he does get any playing time, it would most likely come at kick returner which is a mostly futile position in the fantasy football world.
Bottom Line: If you have a roster spot open and are a Deon Long fan, pick him up. Realistically though, he won't be on many people's fantasy rosters this season.