Originally written on The Hazean  |  Last updated 8/1/12
Raiders_vs_eagles_715a

No matter what I say or do, I won’t be able to convince owners who drafted Michael Vick last year that they should take him again this year.

The damage has been done. It’s irreparable. Fantasy owners don’t forget, and they hold grudges. It’s part of our game.

But for the other 11 owners in any given league, Vick and other post-hype players are ripe for the picking. The five post-hype players worth drafting this year, starting with the heartbreak hero himself:

1. Michael Vick, QB, Eagles

I doubt fantasy owners who drafted him last year want anything to do with Vick this season. But that’s their own damn fault.

Vick, touted notably by ESPN’s Matthew Berry as the No. 1 fantasy football prospect among all positions last year, burned fantasy owners badly in 2011. If you wanted him, you had to draft him in the first round. With an injury and inconsistency history like his, it was a recipe for disaster.

From the wreckage comes rebirth, and like a phoenix Vick is due for a comeback campaign in 2012. He’s healthy and the offense is stocked full of weapons. His average draft position is on par, while his fantasy ceiling remains the same. Much better value this year.

2. James Starks, RB, Packers

After a nice 2010 playoff campaign as a rookie, fantasy owners were ready for James Starks to blossom as a week-in-week-out fantasy football starting running back.

Didn’t happen.

The bandwagon is much lighter these days, but Starks has less competition in the backfield with veteran Ryan Grant out of the way. This could be the season he takes three steps forward — one to make up for last year, one to catch up to his rookie year and one to surpass even that.

3. Jonathan Stewart, RB, Panthers

Oh sorry, must have just copied and pasted an old story and forgot to delete this one … Wait, what’s that? … He’s still good, but stuck in the mud in Carolina … OK, it still applies.

Look, for the price you are going to pay to get Stewart (current ADP 8th round) you may as well add him to your fantasy bench. Despite his shortcomings, which are mostly the Panthers’ shortcomings, Stewart is a fantasy championship waiting to happen.

4. Miles Austin, WR, Cowboys

All the talk this offseason — good and bad — has been about the Cowboys’ other top receiver, Dez Bryant. Most of it lately has been bad. It’s not good when the boss won’t even speak to you.

Meanwhile, Austin apparently is in great shape as the Cowboys open camp. If that remains so, he’ll likely rekindle that special fantasy football rapport he had early in his career with Tony Romo.

5. Antonio Gates, TE, Chargers

When you talk fantasy football tight ends, two names gravitate to the top of the list: Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski.

How things have changed.

For years, Gates was the Graham/Gronkowski of fantasy tight ends. Head and shoulders above the rest of the field, Gates was a significant advantage on fantasy rosters.

He’s older now and has battled injuries the last two seasons. But Gates is healthy entering training camp and is the undisputed No. 1 target in the Chargers’ passing offense with Vincent Jackson gone. He might not challenge for the top fantasy tight end title, but Gates could keep it close with Graham and Gronkowski to make a difference for his fantasy owners.

Just missed: Shonn Greene, Tony Romo, Reggie Wayne, Philip Rivers, Santonio Holmes

Here are today’s great reads:

  • Chargers’ running back and fantasy first-rounder Ryan Mathews was injured in a car accident yesterday. I can hear fantasy owners gasping now. [ProFootballTalk]
  • More on the budding Peyton Manning-to-Eric Decker connection that is likely to flourish this season, especially for owners of Decker in PPR leagues. I like this guy, and you can get him at a much cheaper price than you can for Demaryius Thomas, the No. 1 wide receiver in Denver. [Roto Arcade]
  • More on Michael Vick and his shot at fantasy football redemption this season. [CBSSports]

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