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2012 Fantasy Football Players to Watch: Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Doug Martin, Greg Olsen and More

The word is more than out on Matt Ryan, who is coming off of a year in which he set career bests in passer rating, yards and touchdowns. Additionally, the news swirling around about new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter installing an offense that will ask for Matt Ryan to air out the ball more than ever has contributed to Ryan’s rise up the draft boards. Take it for what it’s worth, but Ryan is leading all quarterbacks in completion percentage (75%), passing yards (549) and passing yard per game (183) through three preseason games. Ryan was being taken at 7.02 just a week ago, If you miss out on the big three and want a shot at Matty Ice, you’re going to have to grab him earlier than you thought.

Julio Jones | WR | Julio Jones (2.04) Aside from possessing the pure skill set that made him the top wide receiver recruit out of high school in 2008, the former first-round pick is flying up draft boards based on his chemistry with the aforementioned Matt Ryan and the new offensive scheme implemented in Atlanta. Through the first three preseason games, Jones has hauled in 13 passes for 240 yards (18.5 avg.) and one touchdown — causing many disruptions for defensive secondaries. If you want a shot at this breakout candidate, look to select Jones in the second or early third round of your upcoming draft.

Doug Martin | RB | Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3.10) Heading into preseason, we knew the rookie ball carrier from Boise State possessed a ton of potential, but had some reservations about his fantasy football value without knowing how he would coexist with LeGarrette Blount in the Buccaneers backfield. Those concerns may be behind us now, as Martin got the start on Friday in Tampa Bay’s third dress rehearsal and took most of the first-team reps. Martin carried the ball 13 times for 54 yards and added three receptions for an additional 12 yards. Last week you could have waited until the fourth round to snag Martin, but it now appears you may need to pull the trigger on Martin in the third if you want him on your squad. Martin is a solid RB2 option in all formats.

Cedric Benson | RB | Green Bay Packers (6.05) Benson went from being unsigned to being the Packers’ top option out of the backfield in just two weeks time. Benson is coming off of three consecutive 1,000 yard seasons, but joins a team that is clearly pass-first which reduces his fantasy football value. In Thursday’s preseason game against his former team, Benson carried the ball six times for 38 yards and added one reception for ten yards. In just a week, Benson’s ADP has risen from the 14th to the sixth round — and while he’s not one of my top targets in fantasy football, he’s an RB1 you could grab late if you decide to go QB/TE early on.

Greg Olsen | TE | Carolina Panthers (11.11) Not exactly the sexiest name in the tight end pool this season, but Olsen’s ADP has jumped almost two full rounds in the last week from 13.10 to 11.11. The hype could be stemming from the 54 passes Olsen reeled in for 540 yards and five touchdowns in 2011— or from the fact he will be transitioning to more of a pass-catching tight end as his blocking duties will be decreased with the addition of Mike Tolbert. If you’re not all-in on Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski or Antonio Gates in the early rounds, Olsen is a fine target anytime after the tenth in 12-team leagues. 

ADP data one month ago, courtesy of

ADP data from today, courtesy of

Written by Alan Harrison for Follow Alan's rants on Twitter @TheFantasyFix .

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