Longtime readers know I don't get into fantasy football as much millions of other well-meaning Americans. That doesn't stop a steady stream of fantasy-related questions, of course, so I try to have a few (mildly insightful) answers ready to go for such occasions.
When someone has asked for a surprise producer this summer, my go-to answer has been Chicago Bears rookie receiver Alshon Jeffery -- whom general manager Phil Emery has referred to as the best red zone receiver of the 2012 draft. Jeffery looked smooth during training camp practices, caught eight passes for 106 yards in the preseason and appears set to capitalize when attention is paid elsewhere on the Bears' talented offense.
But don't take it from me. During an appearance Tuesday on ESPN 1000, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler said Jeffery "is better than we expected" and expressed about as much confidence in a rookie receiver that you'll hear from a quarterback in Week 1.
"We knew he had great hands," Cutler said. "That was the thing on him, he catches everything, and he did. He's a natural catcher. Big net. You can put it anywhere and he's going to snag it. I think the way he's able to get out of routes, the way he's naturally able to beat press. …
"I think his speed is probably a little bit underrated. He can go get the ball. His jumping ability, being able to time balls and go up and get balls, that's just a natural attribute. A lot of guys have trouble attacking that high point and he does it really well."
Production for rookie wide receivers can be unpredictable, especially in the early part of the season. And don't forget Jeffery will have to share one ball with Brandon Marshall, Earl Bennett, Devin Hester, Matt Forte, Michael Bush and even tight end Kellen Davis. But you asked for a surprise producer, and I'm glad I'm not the only one mentioning Alshon Jeffery.