On almost all of my fantasy football teams through the years, I've given myself an unofficial requirement. If possible, I should keep on roster at least one Michigan State alumnus - something that never really proved difficult thanks to two guys, Plaxico Burress and Derrick Mason.
Problem is, Burress is awaiting trial on charges stemming from an incident in a club where he shot himself in the leg, while Mason told the Baltimore Ravens that he's retiring. So what am I to do this year? That's why I developed this guide to Spartans in the NFL - and how they can help your fantasy football squad.
The guide is broken down into three sections - starters, backups and "avoid"- based on a 12-team league, starting QB, RB, RB, WR, WR, WR, TE, K, D, with standard scoring.
Now that Plaxico's career is shot (pun very much intended) the top Spartan fantasy option is easily Washington's Devin Thomas. Reports from D.C. indicate that Thomas is ready to make a leap in his second year, though he still represents a bit of a leap of faith. On the plus side, he's a magic-maker who could evolve into a low #1 option. On the minus, he'd be a weak #2 or strong #3. Either way, he's a guy well worth having on any roster.
Muhsin Muhammad, on the other hand, is a very consistent fantasy player, something very valuable in my books. He's not a flashy guy, nor a speed burner, but is typically good for 900-1,000 yards and 4-8 touchdowns. Not a bad third option in most leagues.
Normally these are the guys I'd keep on my bench and use to cover byes. But there's no MSU alum this year that meets that criteria. Instead, these are players who might be worth a mid-season free agent pickup, should things go their way. Emphasis on the "might," as you'll see below.
Chris Baker, a tight end on the Patriots roster, is fighting starter Ben Watson for playing time and some reports indicate he might be winning. That said, Baker is more of a blocking tight end, and probably won't pose much of a threat except inside the red zone, where his 5-to-10-yard game can shine.
I'm going out on a limb here and saying Javon Ringer might be a good free agent pickup mid-year, filling the shoes of Tennessee speedster Chris Johnson should he get hurt. As his owners last year can attest, Johnson's a bit injury prone. Ringer, for that matter, is also injury prone, but he's been able to get fully healthy thanks to a long layoff after last season - and that could be trouble for NFL defenses if he gets on the field.
Here's my difficulty with Dave Rayner, a stud kicker with a booming leg: I was always more confident in him from 50 yards than 30 in college, simply because he's got very little accuracy. He's currently fighting for a starting spot in Washington, and could really contribute for your team if a) he starts, b) your league rewards long kicks from 40 or 50+ and c) you don't get penalized for misses.
Here's what you need to know about TE Kellen Davis, a Chicago native now playing for his hometown Bears. Last year, in 16 games, he recorded 0 catches for 0 yards and 0 touchdowns. A big skip if ever I saw one.
While we know that running backs DeAndra Cobb (Jax) and Jehuu Caulcrick (NYJ) could ball in college, they're both reserves deep on the bench behind established starters Maurice Jones-Drew and Thomas Jones, respectively. Neither will likely get much time on the field, though Cobb could see time returning kicks and punts.
It's the same story with MSU's two quarterbacks in the NFL. Brian Hoyer is fighting for third on the depth chart in New England behind Tom Brady and Kevin O'Connell. Ditto in Detroit for Hoyer's collegiate mentor Drew Stanton, a former second-round pick who's stuck behind Daunte Culpepper and #1 overall pick this year Matt Stafford of Georgia. Skip them both.
Overall, it's one of the weakest years in recent memory for Spartan fantasy players. And if you want one on your team, there are pretty much only two options.