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Because It’s Never Too Early: 2014 Wide Receiver Rankings

By: — February 11, 2014 @ 9:54 am

Never before in the history of the NFL have there been so many wide receivers capable of reaching the 1,000-yard plateau. In fact, over the last four seasons the number of wide receivers that have reached this milestone has gone from 16 to 17 to 19 to 23 in 2013.

What does that mean for fantasy football roster building in 2014? While we all want to have an elite WR1 on our rosters, there simply isn’t any point in reaching for players at the position once the first seven players are off the board.

Elite wideouts continue to put up outstanding production but once you are past the top seven or eight, the point differential begins to drop off at a marginal level. And a quick review of the players on the list below proves that. In fact, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if any player on this list topped 1,000 receiving yards.

How does this translate into strategy for your fantasy football auction or draft? Well, grab an upper tier wide receiver if there is one available early in your draft that you like but using two of your first three picks on the position is foolhardy. One of those picks needs to be for a running back and the other should go towards an elite quarterback, another running back or Jimmy Graham, the top rated fantasy tight end.

Here is the first cut of my fantasy football wide receiver rankings:

1. Calvin Johnson, Lions – Josh Gordon is going to get some love at this spot but not here. While Gordon’s production last season was marginally better, he carries a pile of baggage while Johnson is a golden boy by comparison.

2. Demaryius Thomas, Broncos – Thomas had over 140 targets, 90 receptions and 1,400 receiving yards in each of the last two seasons while scoring 24 touchdowns. If Eric Decker leaves via free agency, Thomas will get even more looks but make no mistake – he gets the second ranking even if Decker returns.

3. A.J. Green, Bengals – After posting 97 receptions for 1,350 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2012, Green went 98 for 1,436 and 11 in 2013 while being targeted 178 times, the third most in the league. If Andy Dalton can improve his deep ball accuracy (a major if, by the way), Green could explode in 2014.

4. Brandon Marshall, Bears – This is where the debates begin. Since I think this isn’t your grandfather’s Brandon Marshall (the bad boy) and I’m close to being all in on the Bears offense in 2014 (yikes), Marshall gets the nod at number four. Since Jay Cutler hasn’t gotten the memo that Alshon Jeffery is dynamite and Marshall is in a contract year, he should post huge numbers in 2014.

5. Dez Bryant, Cowboys – Even though Bryant has topped 90 receptions and over 1,200 receiving yards in each of the last two seasons while scoring 25 touchdowns, you get the feeling he could do even more. With Jason Witten another year older and Miles Austin almost certainly not returning, Bryant just might explode in 2014.

Josh Gordon

Kyle Shanahan’s offensive system will be friendly to Gordon.

6. Josh Gordon, Browns – Speaking of explosions, Gordon certainly exploded in 2013, hauling in 87 receptions for 1,646 yards and nine touchdowns on his way to becoming the top ranked fantasy wide receiver. Why is he at number six for 2014, you ask? Well, let’s see. He’s one misstep away from being suspended for an entire year, the Browns brought in a new coaching staff in the offseason and he will likely be catching passes from a rookie quarterback. Did I mention that the players ranked above him all have longer proven track records?

7. Julio Jones, Falcons – Let the screaming begin. First off, anybody who has seen Jones play can’t deny that he has an amazing skill set. And his production over the first five games of the season proves that (41 receptions for 580 yards and a pair of touchdowns). Unfortunately, he re-fractured the foot he broke in 2011. While he should be healthy to open the season, anytime a player injures the same body part twice, his risk profile gets jacked up a few notches.

8. Jordy Nelson, Packers – This is where the drop of starts. While Nelson is a fabulous receiver, he isn’t elite like the seven players ranked above him. Despite missing Aaron Rodgers for seven games this season, Nelson hauled in 85 of his 127 targets for a career high 1,314 yards with eight touchdowns. With a healthy Rodgers, and Jermichael Finley and James Jones questionable to return to Green Bay, Nelson could be in line for a career year in 2014.

9. Andre Johnson, Texans – Despite subpar quarterback play, Johnson was his usually Pro Bowl worthy self in 2013 with his second consecutive season over 100 receptions (109) and 1,400 yards (1,407). Unfortunately, he totaled just five touchdowns bringing his three-year total to 11. Even though the Texans will likely start a rookie at quarterback in 2014, you can bank on another solid season from the 32-year old Johnson.

10. Antonio Brown, Steelers – After suffering through a high ankle sprain in 2012, Brown put together a career year in 2013 with career highs in receptions (110), yards (1,498) and touchdowns (eight). Nonetheless, he still doesn’t get the respect he deserves but he’s getting it here, sliding in as a top 10 receiver in 2014.

11. Alshon Jeffery, Bears – Mea Culpa. I did not believe in Jeffery entering the season. I do now. In a clear case of a player getting serious about his game, Jeffery showed up to training camp in great shape and became a dominant receiver in his second year in the league. His ability to make leaping catches and catch everything in sight was something to behold as he emerged as the ninth ranked fantasy receiver in 2013 with 89 receptions for 1,421 yards and seven touchdowns. He may fall shy of those numbers in 2014 (Jay Cutler targets Brandon Marshall too much) but he remains a lower tier WR1.

12. Pierre Garcon, Redskins – After Garcon flashed his playmaking ability during an injury marred 2012 campaign, you knew he could be in line for a breakout season in 2013. And sure enough, that’s what happened with Garcon hauling in 113 passes for 1,346 yards, both career highs. Somehow the Redskins explosive playmaker found pay dirt just five times. With no proven threat opposite him, only an injury could derail Garcon in 2014.

13. Michael Crabtree, 49ers – While Crabtree was only mildly productive after returning from a torn Achilles tendon suffered in May, hauling in 34 passes for 487 yards and a touchdown in eight games including the playoffs, a truer picture of his worth lies in his production at the conclusion of the 2012 season. Over the final eight games of that season, Crabtree caught 55 passes for 823 yards and seven touchdowns.

14. Keenan Allen, Chargers – Look no further if you want to find the steal of the 2013 rookie draft. Taken midway through the third round, Allen was an afterthought in the Chargers first three games but came on strong, catching 76 passes for 1,179 yards and 10 touchdowns over San Diego’s final 15 games including the playoffs. While the Chargers will likely look to upgrade the starting spot opposite him, Allen clearly has WR1 potential.

15. Torrey Smith, Ravens – With the Ravens struggling to get consistent production opposite him, Smith had career highs in targets with 137, receptions with 65 and yards with 1,128. Unfortunately, the Ravens speedster hit pay dirt just four times and was neutralized down the stretch, failing to find the end zone in Baltimore’s final four games and totaling just 176 yards. In addition, he topped 100 receiving yards just twice and not once in his last eleven games.

16. Vincent Jackson, Buccaneers – VJax didn’t suffer when Mike Glennon took over at quarterback, reaching a career high in receptions with 78 while hauling in 1,224 yards (the second highest total of his career) with 7 touchdowns. The Bucs offensive struggles at the conclusion of the season (44 points in their last three games) are cause for concern and that limits his upside in 2014.

17. DeSean Jackson, Eagles – After failing to top 1,000 yards in 2011 and 2012, DJax hit the mark in 2013, posting career highs across the board with 82 receptions for 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns. He’s risky and wildly inconsistent (seven games with six or fewer points) but seemed to be a solid fit in Chip Kelly’s offense.

18. Eric Decker, Broncos – Is the grass greener on the other side? Is Decker going to be another in a long line of solid second receivers who flop badly when they move to a new team to become the top dog? Decker’s value is completely up in the air until we see where he lands. If stays in Denver, look for more than 1,000 yards and double digit touchdowns for the third season in a row. If he lands in New York with the Jets and Geno Smith, consider him a low end WR3.

19. Michael Floyd, Cardinals – The yards were there for Floyd in 2013 (1,054) but the touchdowns weren’t (just five). The Cardinals are expecting big things from the former 1st round pick in his third year and a breakout season could be on tap.

20. Randall Cobb, Packers – I’ve never taken to Cobb the way most of the fantasy community has. Is he good? Absolutely. Is he great? Don’t see it. While Jordy Nelson can do it all, Cobb can do most of it. Nelson seems to have earned a greater share of Aaron Rodgers’ trust and the numbers back that up. In the six games that the wide receivers played together this season, Nelson was targeted 64 times to 49 for Cobb.

21. Wes Welker, Broncos – After topping 100 receptions in five of the previous six seasons, Welker stumbled to just 73 receptions in 2013 as a concussion caused him to miss three games and he was no longer his quarterback’s top option. That being said, he may have topped 1,000 yards had he stayed healthy and he scored a whopping 10 touchdowns in 13 games. If Eric Decker walks in free agency, Welker could be an upper tier WR2 in 2014.

22. Kendall Wright, Titans – After struggling as a rookie in 2012, the Titans former first round pick came into his own in 2013, topping 1,000 receiving yards and catching 94 passes. Unfortunately, he struggled to generate many big plays for the second year in a row, catching just two touchdown passes and seeing his yards per reception improve slightly, from 9.8 to 11.5. With Justin Hunter expected to eat into his targets and Wright not a viable option in the red zone, he is clearly a better pick in PPR formats.

23. T.Y. Hilton, Colts – Hilton has speed to burn and was outstanding in the Colts final three games (including two playoff matchups), catching 28 passes for 482 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Unfortunately, a reduction in targets seems likely with both Reggie Wayne and Dwayne Allen returning from injury. Nonetheless, there is breakout potential here.

24. Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals – The 30-year old Fitzgerald failed to top 1,000 receiving yards for the second consecutive season but his high touchdown count (10) kept him as a solid, upper tier WR2 in 2013. With Michael Floyd coming on and Fitzgerald becoming reliant on touchdowns to pad his fantasy stats, he is no longer a threat to reclaim his status as a WR1.

25. Victor Cruz, Giants – Dud or Stud? Productive with Nicks but productive without him if he doesn’t return? Can Eli rebound? There are some question marks here, folks.

26. Percy Harvin, Seahawks – We saw in the Super Bowl just how explosive Harvin can be but can he stay healthy?

27. Roddy White, Falcons – After appearing in 16 games for eight straight seasons, White’s run of solid health came to an end in 2013 as a high ankle sprain caused him to miss three games and limited his effectiveness in several others. His string of six consecutive 1,000-yard seasons also came to an end, as he finished the year with 63 receptions for 711 yards and three touchdowns. While White will be 32 on opening day, he was very productive in the Falcons last five games with 43 receptions for 502 yards and a pair of scores.

28. Julian Edelman, Patriots – Dude’s pretty good. And he can stay healthy. Danny Amendola only qualifies in one of those areas.

29. Hakeem Nicks, Giants – Not expected to return to the Giants, Nicks’ fantasy value largely depends on where he lands and his inability to stay on the field. While Nicks has WR1 talent, his inability to stay healthy limits his upside no matter where he lands.

30. Jeremy Maclin, Eagles – I have serious doubts that he will return to the Eagles but he will have had plenty of time to recover.

31. Cecil Shorts, Jaguars – Despite dealing with a groin injury, questionable quarterback play and missing three games, Shorts still managed to catch 66 passes for 777 yards and three touchdowns playing in the Jaguars sad sack offense. This dude’s better than people give him credit for.

32. Terrence Williams, Cowboys – The Cowboys rookie 3rd round pick was highly productive in limited opportunities, catching 44 of his 74 targets for 736 yards and five touchdowns. He has the size and speed to benefit playing opposite Dez Bryant and look for that to happen with Miles Austin on his way out of Dallas.

33. Marques Colston, Saints – Colston finished just 57 yards shy of topping 1,000 receiving yards for the seventh time in his eight seasons in the league. At 30 years of age, fantasy pundits seem to be souring on him but the last I checked, the Saints have precious little at wide receiver outside of Colston.

34. Steve Johnson, Bills – After becoming the first Bills receiver to top 1,000 receiving yards in three straight seasons, Johnson struggled through an injury plagued 2013 campaign, finishing the year with just 52 receptions for 597 yards and three touchdowns. Just 27 years of age, expected a bounce back year in 2014 although the presence of Robert Woods limits his upside.

35. Mike Wallace, Dolphins – Wallace possesses blazing speed but it meant little in 2013 as he and quarterback Ryan Tannehill couldn’t get the Dolphins deep passing attack in sync. Wallace caught just 51.8% of his targets, finishing with career lows in yards per reception with 12.7 and touchdowns with five.

36. Tavon Austin, Rams – Did Austin get things figured out over the second half of his rookie season? Not really. Have the Rams figured out how to use him? Who knows. Will the return of Sam Bradford lead to bigger things in 2014? Your guess is as good as mine.

37. Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs – A total dud in 2013, Bowe suffered through the worst season of his seven year career as he was never in sync with new quarterback Alex Smith. Expect better results in 2014 but Smith’s cautious approach severely limits Bowe’s upside.

38. Cordarrelle Patterson, Vikings – While Patterson is an exciting playmaker, he remains very much a work in progress as a receiver, topping 50 yards just twice in his rookie season. He could be a player who turns it on the second half of the 2014 season.

39. Greg Jennings, Vikings – I like Jennings. I don’t like the Vikings quarterback situation.

40. Reggie Wayne, Colts – Coming off an ACL injury, Wayne will turn 36 during the 2014 season. He’s a warrior but he’s a warrior on his last legs.

Best of the rest: James Jones, Marvin Jones, Rueben Randle, Golden Tate, Steve Smith, Anquan Boldin, Riley Cooper, Jarrett Boykin, DeAndre Hopkins, Kenny Stills.

Because It’s Never Too Early: 2014 Tight End Rankings

By: — February 4, 2014 @ 10:55 am
Filed under: Forecast

With Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski scoring well over 10 FPts/G, the market for the league’s two elite tight ends has heated up in fantasy drafts over the past two seasons. However, after Graham’s monstrous performance in 2013 and another injury-marred season for Gronkowski, that landscape will change in 2014.

Jimmy Graham

Graham is in a class by himself.

Barring unforeseen circumstances, Graham will be the first tight end off the board in all formats, going as early as the 1st round. In the second tier, expect to see the likes of Julius Thomas, Vernon Davis, Gronkowski and perhaps Jordan Cameron.

Once those players are off the board, fantasy owners can safely sit on their hands and grab a tight end in the later rounds of their drafts. And that is because the next tier of tight ends is separated by a handful of fantasy points.

Last season, the point differential between the fourth highest scoring tight end (Cameron) and the eight-ranked tight end (Greg Olsen) was 16 points. The difference between Olsen and the tenth-ranked tight end (Martellus Bennett) was less than 12 points.

To sum it all up: go big or wait at tight end in 2014.

Here are my initial 2014 fantasy football tight end rankings:

1. Jimmy Graham, Saints – While it was debatable entering the 2013 season whether Graham or Rob Gronkowski should get top billing as the league’s top rated fantasy football tight end, that is no longer the case. Graham’s consistent production and reliability give him a clear edge on the rest of the competition and it’s not even close.

2. Julius Thomas, Broncos – Not even considered a TE1 entering last season, Thomas emerged as a consistent playmaker in the Broncos dynamic passing attack, earning plenty of targets despite the presence of Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Wes Welker. Despite missing two games with a knee injury, Thomas hauled in 65 of his 90 targets for 788 yards and 12 touchdowns. He was also consistent, topping eight or more fantasy points in ten of fourteen games. Better yet, Thomas has room to improve and a 1,000-yard season in 2014 isn’t out of the question.

3. Vernon Davis, 49ers – Davis had a stellar season in 2013, bouncing back from a subpar campaign in 2012. With Michael Crabtree out for eleven games, Davis had a larger role in the 49ers offense with his targets increasing from 61 to 84. He finished the year with 52 receptions for 850 yards and 13 touchdowns, matching his career high set back in 2009. While a dip in touchdowns is likely in 2014, Davis remains a top five option at tight end.

4. Rob Gronkowski, Patriots – Let’s make the same comment regarding Gronk for the third year in a row. He’s a Beast but is he a Beast that can stay healthy? Back surgery caused him to miss the first six weeks of the season and a torn ACL ended his year in Week 14. While he was highly productive when he was available (averaging 11.9 FPts/G), his availability for the opening game of the season is once again in doubt and there are no guarantees that he can make it through the season healthy. High risk, high reward.

5. Jordan Cameron, Browns – Considered in the preseason to be a break out candidate, Cameron didn’t disappoint, hauling in 80 of his 118 targets for 917 yards and seven touchdowns. Unfortunately, he was a tad inconsistent with eight games under seven fantasy points including a four game stretch from Week 9-13 where he caught just 14 passes for 108 yards and no touchdowns. Opposing defenses also focused on shutting him down in the red zone over the final half of the season, holding Cameron to just one touchdown in his last eight games.

6. Dennis Pitta, Ravens – When Gary Kubiak was introduced as the Ravens new offensive coordinator, he announced that Pitta would be a big part of the team’s offense in 2014. That’s pretty significant since Pitta wasn’t even under contract for 2014. A preseason hip injury caused him to miss twelve games last season but he was a stud over the final part of the Ravens Super Bowl winning 2011 campaign, hauling in eight touchdowns in his final twelve games including the playoffs.

7. Jason Witten, Cowboys – While Witten finished the 2013 season as the fifth ranked fantasy tight end with 851 yards and eight touchdowns, he certainly seemed to have lost a step by season’s end. He topped 60 yards just twice between Week 6-16 before finishing strong in Week 17 with a 135-yard performance. He will be 32 years old by opening day.

8. Greg Olsen, Panthers – After producing 843 receiving yards and five touchdowns in 2012, Olsen had 816 receiving yards and six touchdowns in 2013. Let’s give him another 800 plus yards and five to six touchdowns for 2014.

9. Jordan Reed, Redskins – The Redskins 2013 third round pick had a solid rookie season, posting 45 receptions for 499 yards and three touchdowns in nine games before a concussion derailed his season in Week 11. More wide receiver than tight end and not much of a blocker, it remains to be seen how big of a role he will have in new head coach Jay Gruden’s offensive scheme. His history of concussions raises a red flag but the upside is definitely there.

10. Charles Clay, Dolphins – Clay seemingly came out of nowhere to career highs in receptions (69), yards (759) and touchdowns (6) while replacing Dustin Keller, who suffered a season ending injury in the preseason. The 2011 sixth round pick was targeted a healthy 102 times but could see that number drop if Keller is brought back or another tight end is added to the mix.

11. Zach Ertz, Eagles – While Brent Celek posted slightly better numbers by season’s end, it was clear that Ertz was the Eagles most dangerous tight end. The rookie second round pick caught 36 passes for 469 yards and 4 touchdowns but struggled as a blocker. Since Chip Kelly’s offense is run heavy, Ertz will need to hit the weight room if he wants to see the field more in 2014. Bank on that happening.

12. Jared Cook, Rams – While Cook posted career highs across the board in his first season in St. Louis (51 receptions for 671 yards and 5 touchdowns), the simple fact is that he was a major disappointment. His poor route running, lack of understanding of the playbook and questionable hands were on display far too often. His lack of reliability likely caused the Rams to reduce his role in the passing offense. Here’s to hoping the talented Cook puts it all together in 2014. This one’s a clear roll of the dice.

13. Antonio Gates, Chargers – It was a tale of two seasons for the 33-year old Gates in 2013. After posting 32 receptions for 438 yards and a pair of touchdowns during his first five games, he mustered up just 45 receptions for 434 yards and another 2 touchdowns over the final eleven games of the season. He will be worth grabbing as an upper tier TE2 in 2014.

Because It’s Never Too Early: 2014 Running Back Rankings

By: — January 28, 2014 @ 10:30 am

There was a time when you could safely predict which players would finish the season as quality fantasy options at running back. Unfortunately, those days appear to be behind us as running backs struggle to stay on the field and new players emerge every season.

In 2013, several consensus RB1’s suffered through dreadful seasons as they were hit with injuries, were ineffective or some combination of the two. Fantasy owners who gambled on the likes of Arian Foster, Ray Rice or C.J. Spiller saw their fortunes plummet while player such as Knowshon Moreno (considered a 1st round bust), Eddie Lacy (a rookie) and DeMarco Murray (an injury plagued player) emerged as top players at the position.

Expect more of the same in 2014 with several question marks at the position as we enter what proves to be another intriguing offseason.

LeSean McCoy

LeSean McCoy led all running backs with 366 touches in 2013.

1. LeSean McCoy, Eagles – While Jamaal Charles may have been the top rated fantasy running back in 2013, McCoy lands the number one spot in my early 2014 rankings. He topped 2,000 total yards (2,047) for the first time in his career and will have just turned 26 when the season opens. The Eagles run it a lot under Chip Kelly and that should mean close to 400 touches for McCoy once again in 2014.

2. Jamaal Charles, Chiefs – Andy Reid turned over a new leaf in 2013, leaning heavily on Charles as both a runner and receiver. He had 259 carries in just 15 games while catching 70 passes and scoring a career-high 19 times on his way to becoming the top rated fantasy running back. Expect more of the same in 2014 although the Chiefs offensive line is a bit of a concern with left tackle Brandon Albert headed for free agency and unlikely to return.

3. Adrian Peterson, Vikings – A year after nearly breaking the single season record for most rushing yards, Peterson was simply solid in 2013 gaining 1,266 rushing yards and scoring ten touchdowns in 14 games. While that is impressive production, the 28-year old Peterson averaged “just” 4.5 yards per carry, the second lowest average of his seven-year career as he battled a nagging groin injury for a large portion of the season. With Norv Turner bringing his power running, play action offensive philosophy to Minnesota, Peterson is a solid candidate for a bounce-back season in 2014.

4. Matt Forte, Bears – After posting career lows in receptions (44) and yards (340) while averaging just 7.7 yards per reception in 2012, Forte was rejuvenated in his first year in Marc Trestman’s offense. He reached career-highs in rushing yards with 1,341, rushing touchdowns with nine, receptions with 75 and receiving yards with 592. Expect Forte to be used more by the Bears new coaching staff and for him to emerge as a low-end RB1 in 2013.

5. Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks – Lynch put together another solid season in 2013 but he wasn’t the Beast on the ground as his rushing yards dropped from 1,590 to 1,257 and his yards per carry plummeted from 5.0 to a still respectable 4.2. You can certainly lay part of the blame for those numbers on the offensive line’s inability to stay healthy but there is no guarantee that will change next season. Lynch made up some production in the passing game, hauling in 36 receptions (his most since 2008) for 316 yards and two touchdowns (both career-highs).

6. Eddie Lacy, Packers – Green Bay used a second round pick in last year’s draft to acquire Lacy and they were rewarded. He set a franchise rookie record with 1,178 yards despite missing nearly two full games with a concussion and was surprisingly solid as a receiver with 35 receptions on 44 targets for 257 yards. At 5’11” and 230 pounds, Lacy has the ability to be the Packers first true workhorse running back since Ryan Grant. With James Starks likely to leave in free agency, Johnathan Franklin having struggled in his rookie season and DuJuan Harris missing all of 2013 due to injury, look for Lacy to average 20 plus touches once again in 2014.

7. Arian Foster, Texans – Fantasy Football is about finding value throughout your draft or auction and Foster has the potential to bring huge value to your roster in 2014. First off, the FF world is far too down on him. Secondly, he could be in line for a huge workload next season with Ben Tate all but certain to leave in free agency.

8. Le’Veon Bell, Steelers – Head coaches blow smoke all the time but Mike Tomlin’s assertion that he would have taken Bell over Eddie Lacy if he had a re-do of the 2013 rookie draft had a ring of truth to it. While not as physical as Lacy, Bell ran hard during his rookie season, finishing the year with 860 rushing yards and eight touchdowns despite missing the first three games with a foot injury that impacted his effectiveness when he returned to the lineup. He also chipped in 45 receptions for 408 yards. Add it all up and Bell should emerge as a solid RB1 in 2014 with 1,700 total yards and double-digit touchdowns not out of the question.

9. Giovani Bernard, Bengals – You’ve seen this dude play, right? You’ve seen the highlight reel plays, right? You know he’s getting way more touches in 2014, right? Future stud here, folks. Note to Dynasty Leaguers. Overpay now, smile later.

10. C.J. Spiller, Bills – A big play machine in 2012 while averaging 6.0 yards per carry and 10.7 yards per reception while racking up 1,703 total yards and eight touchdowns, Spiller was arguably the biggest fantasy bust of the 2013 season. While he rushed for a respectable 927 yards, he scored just two touchdowns and was completely neutralized as a receiver, catching just 34 passes for a paltry 197 yards and no touchdowns. An ankle injury was the main cause of his disappointing season and a bounce back year in 2014 is expected.

11. DeMarco Murray, Cowboys – Murray was a pleasant surprise in 2013, reaching career highs in games played (14), carries (217), rushing yrds (1,124), rushing touchdowns (nine), receptions (53), receiving yards (348) and receiving touchdowns (one). Okay, the receiving touchdown was piling on but it helped prove a point. Murray was exemplary in 2013. The truth is, the Cowboys should have used him even more than they did. Here’s to hoping they get that figured out in 2014 and that Murray remains (mostly) healthy once again. Let’s face it though; this guy is unlikely to ever play in 16 games in a season.

12. Ray Rice, Ravens – The shine came off Ray Rice quickly in 2013. Expected to be a fantasy stud after averaging 1,877 yards and 9.75 touchdowns during his previous four seasons, Rice’s production plummeted as he battled a strained left hip flexor and a quadriceps injury on his way to a 981 total yards and four touchdowns. With the Ravens expected to address their shortcomings along the offensive line and Rice just 27, a bounce back season seems likely.

13. Doug Martin, Bucs – Martin wasn’t healthy in 2013 (a torn labrum ended his season in Week 6) and he wasn’t effective when he did play, averaging just 3.6 yards per carry and 5.5 yards per reception. After nearly topping 2,000 yards as a rookie in 2012 (he was just 74 yards shy of that plateau), Martin is certainly worth gambling on in 2014. And with the FF world down on the Bucs and Martin, he should come at a deep discount.

14. Alfred Morris, Redskins – While Morris’ production plummeted to 1,275 rushing yards from the 1,613 he put up as a rookie in 2012, it would be foolhardy to blame the Redskins talented rusher. Not known for his pass catching ability (20 receptions in two years), his touches declined from 346 to 285 as the Redskins played from behind in several games. For fantasy purposes, Morris’ value lies in the ability of the Redskins to play with a lead. Let’s face it – nobody is banking on them winning the NFC East in 2014 and that limits Morris’ upside.

15. Ryan Mathews, Chargers – Despite ceding his pass catching duties to Danny Woodhead, Mathews had a solid season in 2013. He rushed for a career-high 1,255 yards with six touchdowns and hit double digit fantasy points in nine of his last ten games, averaging 11.7 FPts for the season. While Woodhead will once again eat up playing time in passing situations, Mathews performance last season ensures that he will approach the 19.4 touches per game he had in 2013. His talent is undeniable and he managed to play in all 16 games for the first time in his four-year career, making him less of a risk on draft day.

16. Zac Stacy, Rams – While Stacy will get plenty of consideration as a RB1 in 2014 given that he ran for 969 yards in 12 games after stepping into a prominent role in Week 5, lowered expectations are in order. The rookie fifth round pick owned the backfield during that stretch of games but that won’t be the case next season. Look for the Rams to add to their stable of running backs given the disappointing seasons of Daryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead and their lack of faith in Benny Cunningham. Cunningham had just 15 touches in six games as a backup to Stacy.

17. Reggie Bush, Lions – Bush was pretty much everything the Lions hoped he would be in 2013 with one caveat. Fumbles. Playing in 14 games, Bush amassed 1,512 total yards with seven touchdowns while adding a second big play element to the lineup (along with Calvin Johnson). Expect more of the same in 2014.

18. Ben Tate, Texans – Destination unknown but we can be pretty sure Tate and Arian Foster won’t both be back in Houston. Frankly speaking, Tate was mostly unimpressive subbing in for Foster this season, totaling 771 rushing yards in 14 games including seven starts. A subpar receiver, he totaled 34 receptions but for only 140 yards. Tate doesn’t look like he will be a value play in 2014.

19. Chris Johnson, Titans – While Johnson may have finished the season as the 9th ranked fantasy running back with 1,077 rushing yards, 345 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns, he is likely to have a new home in 2014. With a large salary cap number and a reduced ability to generate big plays, Johnson will likely be released unless he agrees to a salary reduction, which he has vowed he will not accept. Regardless, he will find a home as a starting running back somewhere in 2014 and figures to be no worse than a mid-tier RB2 wherever he lands.

20. Frank Gore, 49ers – The FF world keeps waiting for Gore to fall off a cliff but he keeps resisting. He finished 2014 as the 13th ranked fantasy running back after finishing 11th in 2012 and 13th in 2011. While there is some concern he will be a cap casualty this offseason, that seems unlikely given the 49ers have a roster worthy of winning the Super Bowl. Look for the youngsters in the San Francisco backfield to eat into his playing time but for Gore to once again finish in RB2 territory in 2014.

21. Shane Vereen, Patriots – Vereen opened the 2013 season on fire, gaining 101 yards on the ground to go along with 58 receiving yards. The only issue was that he broke his wrist in that game causing him to be absent from the lineup until Week 11. When he returned, Vereen looked dynamic but he finished the season with a thud, gaining just 76 yards in his last three regular season games and 126 yards in the Patriots two playoff games. It’s all about usage and Vereen’s usage is inconsistent as is his fantasy production.

22. Knowshon Moreno, Broncos – There might not be a more polarizing fantasy option at running back in 2014 than Moreno. The 2009 1st round pick finished the year with career highs in rushing yards (1,039), rushing touchdowns (10), receptions (60), receiving yards (548) and receiving touchdowns (three) on his way to finishing as the fifth ranked fantasy running back. Next season, 2013 second round pick Montee Ball and the Broncos salary cap situation stand in the way of Moreno replicating that production. While Moreno played too well not to warrant a return invitation, he rates as no more than a low end RB2 with upside in 2014.

23. Stevan Ridley, Patriots – Despite Shane Vereen’s ten-game absence from the lineup, Ridley was a major disappointment in 2013. After posting career highs in 2012 in rushing yards (1,263) and rushing touchdowns (12), Ridley managed just 773 rushing yards and seven touchdowns as fumbling issues caused the team to reduce his role. At this point, Ridley is as likely to open next season in the starting lineup, as he is to be unemployed. Okay, maybe not unemployed but there are no guarantees that he will be in New England to open the season.

24. Montee Ball, Broncos – Denver rode the hot hand at running back in 2013 and that was Knowshon Moreno. It could just as easily be Ball in 2014.

25. Andre Brown, Giants – While Giants struggled mightily for much of the season, Brown’s return from a broken leg in Week 10 helped solidify the team’s offense. In eight games, he amassed 595 total yards and three touchdowns with the Giants winning five of those games (they were 2-6 without Brown). While Brown isn’t flashy, he is effective and 2012 first round pick David Wilson might not play next season.

26. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars – For all the slogging MJD took in 2013, he still finished the season with 1,117 total yards and five touchdowns in 15 games despite playing in the Jaguars putrid offense. Of course, his 3.4 yards per carry average was wholly unimpressive but at least some of that can be laid at the feet of the team’s offensive line. Either way, MJD’s days as a solid RB1 are clearly behind him at the ripe old age of 28.

27. Andre Ellington, Cardinals – Pretty much no clue where to put Ellington since there’s pretty much no clue on how the Cardinals plan to employ him in 2014. Despite being more productive than Rashard Mendenhall, Ellington had 80 fewer touches.

28. Darren Sproles, Saints – After averaging 11.6 and 10.7 PPG in 2012 and 2011, Sproles crashed landed in 2013, finishing the season with just 220 rushing yards, 604 receiving yards and four touchdowns, the lowest totals during his three-year stay in New Orleans. He missed one game with knee and ankle injuries, barely played in another due to a concussion and had three other games with five or fewer touches. Sproles will be 31 years of age on opening day and there has to be at least some concern that the diminutive back is on the downside of his career, particularly given his lack of explosiveness in 2013.

29. Steven Jackson, Falcons – While Sjax has always been a warrior, his years of heavy usage seemed to catch up to him in 2013. In his first year in Atlanta, he missed four games and most of another with a hamstring injury and certainly seemed to be playing hurt when he returned to the lineup. His string of eight consecutive seasons with over 1,000 rushing yards came to an abrupt halt as he finished the season with just 542 yards on the ground. A complete non-factor against the league’s better run defenses, he is no more than a RB3 in 2014 provided he is back in Atlanta.

30. Lamar Miller, Dolphins – Watching Miller run last season, you couldn’t help but feel that he was underutilized by offensive coordinator Mike Sherman. With Sherman out of the picture and former Packers quarterback coach Ben McAdoo taking over that role, Miller is worth taking a shot on in 2014. One major caveat is what the team does to reinforce the offensive line in the offseason.

31. Darren McFadden, Raiders – Some talented players just never seem to put it together and McFadden needs to be lumped into that group. In six years in the league, he has topped 1,000 rushing yards once, he has just one season with ten or more touchdowns, he has never played in 16 games and he has topped 30 receptions just twice. In fact, he’s been such a disappointment that it will be a shock if the Raiders re-sign him, despite being flush with salary cap space and just veteran journeyman Rashad Jennings at running back. End of story.

32. Trent Richardson, Colts – Ditto for Trent Richardson. While he showed some talent and toughness as a rookie with the Browns in 2012, he was a complete non-factor in both Cleveland and Indianapolis in 2013. He topped 60 rushing yards once, averaged 3.0 yards per carry and was usurped on the depth chart by former first round bust Donald Brown.

33. Danny Woodhead, Chargers – Woodhead was solid in 2013, reaching career highs in total yards with 1030, touchdowns with eight and receptions with 76 (on just 87 targets). However, Ryan Mathews came on strong as the season ended and the Chargers figure to be healthier at wide receiver in 2014. That should add up for fewer opportunities for Woodhead next season.

34. DeAngelo Williams, Panthers – Consistent with prior years, it’s best to avoid the Panthers crowded backfield. If you have to go there, Williams is your man.

35. Fred Jackson, Bills – Old Freddie stole the show from C.J. Spiller in 2013, totaling 1,271 yards and a career high 10 touchdowns. Unfortunately, Fjax will be 33 years old when the 2014 season begins and at some point, the Bills have to hand the reins over to Spiller. There will still be a role for Jackson but he rates as a lower end RB3 for next season.

36. BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Bengals – You’ve seen Giovani Bernard play, right? The Law Firm’s days as a number one back are clearly over and it won’t be a huge shock if the Bengals attempt to replace him after he averaged a career-low 3.4 yards per carry in 2013.

37. Donald Brown, Colts – Sorry, folks, I’m not a believer.

38. Rashad Jennings, Raiders – Ditto.

39. Chris Ivory, Jets – Ditto.

Because It’s Never Too Early: 2014 Quarterback Rankings

By: — January 10, 2014 @ 10:21 am
Peyton Manning

Manning’s perfect fantasy storm may carry into another season.

In 2013, it wasn’t hard finding production at the quarterback position with the Broncos Peyton Manning leading the way. Manning set league records for passing yards and touchdowns while scoring the most fantasy points by a quarterback in the modern era, averaging 31.0 FPts/G.

Drew Brees of the Saints was the only other quarterback to top 5,000 passing yards. He threw for 39 touchdowns and averaged 27.3 FPts/G.

While there was plenty of production at the quarterback position, fantasy owners didn’t need to overpay for it given the plethora of options at the position. In fact, if you didn’t land Manning or Brees, you would have been best served by waiting to grab a quarterback in the later rounds.

That is because the next 14 quarterbacks averaged between 20.5 and 23.6 FPts/G. And several of the players in that group were either drafted as backups (Andy Dalton, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger) or not drafted at all (Nick Foles, Sam Bradford, Alex Smith) in several leagues.

That will be an important consideration in building your 2014 fantasy squad. Let’s get on with my initial QB Rankings for next season.

1. Peyton Manning, Broncos – After setting records for most passing yards and passing touchdowns and putting together arguably the best regular season of any quarterback ever, Manning returns to a Broncos squad in 2014 that returns all of its key contributors in the passing game with only running back Knowshon Moreno and wide receiver Eric Decker question marks to return. With three big targets in Demaryius Thomas, Decker and Julius Thomas to go along with the best slot receiver of all-time in Wes Welker, Manning’s embarrassment of riches are, well, an embarrassment.

2. Aaron Rodgers, Packers – While Rodgers is likely the league’s top quarterback, he is no longer the top rated fantasy quarterback. It’s all about the weaponry and Green Bay’s group of receivers no longer stacks up to that of several other teams, which also has resulted in the Packers running the ball more. Rodgers missed Greg Jennings and Jermichael Finley (who may retire) this year and James Jones might very well be the next Packer receiver out the door in 2014.

3. Drew Brees, Saints – Another quarterback who remains productive despite the talent erosion surrounding him is the Saints Drew Brees. Granted, it helps when you have the most dynamic receiving tight end and running back in the league in Jimmy Graham and Darren Sproles. However, Marques Colston is clearly entering the final stages of his career as is Lance Moore and only Kenny Stills looks to have the potential to replace them. Reinforcements are coming and that usually results in a decline in production (see Tom Brady circa 2013).

4. Matt Ryan, Falcons – While the numbers don’t support that Ryan had the finest season of his six-year career, he may just have given his circumstances. Julio Jones and Roddy White, who might have garnered the title as the league’s most dangerous pair of wide receivers on any team in the preseason, combined to miss 14 games with White severely hobbled and not able to top 50 receiving yard in his first eight games. Throw in a key injury to running back Steven Jackson and it is clear Ryan was playing with less than a full deck in 2013. Despite that, he amassed over 4,500 passing yards and 26 touchdowns.

5. Cam Newton, Panthers – Newton become a more proficient passing in 2013, setting career highs in completion percentage (61.7%) and touchdown passes (24). However, both his passing and rushing yardage declined and he scored just six touchdowns after finding the end zone 22 times during his first two years in the league. The truth is that Newton became a better quarterback in 2013 and that hurt his stock as a fantasy quarterback. Given the decline of Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell’s inability to emerge as a go-to threat, Newton carries some risk next season.

6. Colin Kaepernick, 49ers – With Michael Crabtree in the lineup, Kaepernick averaged 21.8 FPts/G. Without him, he averaged, 19.2. And considering Crabtree wasn’t at 100% when he returned in Week 13, that difference could have been much larger if the sample size were greater. You have to figure the 49ers will find a way to re-sign Anquan Boldin and with Crabtree and tight end Vernon Davis, that would give Kaepernick the weapons he lacked in 2013.

7. Andy Dalton, Bengals – Laugh all you want but Dalton has a cast of weapons that several other quarterbacks could only dream of. The Bengals run four-deep at wide receiver, have a pair of solid pass catching tight ends and one of the league’s most explosive young running backs in Giovani Bernard to pair with dependable veteran BenJarvus Green-Ellis, not to mention a solid offensive line. That was enough to propel Dalton to the third place ranking amongst fantasy quarterbacks in just his third year in the league.

8. Nick Foles, Eagles – Foles averaged a whopping 26.1 FPts/G in the ten games he played meaningful snaps. Only Manning and Brees averaged more. While Foles may partially be a product of his environment, the Eagles boast the league’s top rated rushing attack, a solid offensive line and plenty of receiving options at wide receiver and tight end. With Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper likely to return, Foles figures to be a top 10 quarterback in 2014.

9. Matthew Stafford, Lions – After averaging 26.5 FPts/G over his first 12 games, the wheels came off for Stafford, the Lions and his fantasy owners at precisely the wrong time. Over the final four games of the season, Stafford threw for just 822 yards with two touchdowns and five interceptions while averaging a woeful 12.5 FPts/G. He remains a work in progress and his lack of consistency drops him down the fantasy rankings at quarterback.

10. Tony Romo, Cowboys – If there’s one thing consistent about Romo, it is his consistency. Let’s run down his FPt averages since the 2007 season: 23.7, 21.6, 21.5, 21.3, 21.5, 23.0, 21.3. So if you’re looking for between 21 and 23 FPts/G, Romo’s your man. And there’s nothing wrong with grabbing a consistent performer who generally comes as a bargain to be your fantasy quarterback. While Romo is now 33, he hasn’t shown any decline.

11. Tom Brady, Patriots – With an array of rookies, journeymen and free agents added to the Patriots group of receivers as well as key injuries to Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola, Brady struggled for much of 2013. However, he was solid when his weapons were healthy and decent enough in several games when they weren’t. While Brady is no longer the quarterback he was in his prime, he is still a solid fantasy option and expecting a bump in his production in 2014 isn’t far fetched given he should be more familiar with his group of receivers and they will have gained a year of experience in the Patriots offense. The outlook of Gronkowski clouds Brady’s value, which may make him a bargain on draft day.

12. Philip Rivers, Chargers – With the emergence of rookie Kennan Allen, the rejuvenation of tight end Antonio Gates and the addition of running back Danny Woodhead, Rivers had a renaissance season in 2013 at 32 years of age. He threw for the third most yards of his career with 4,478 and the second most touchdowns with 32, on his way to being the sixth highest ranked fantasy quarterback. Expect more of the same in 2014.

13. Andrew Luck, Colts – Luck is another example of quarterback improving on the field but seeing a decline in his fantasy production. The Colts were clearly more of a running team in 2013 with Luck seeing his passing yardage decline from 4,374 yards to 3,830. Not helping matters was the loss of Reggie Wayne, who figures to return next season at 35 years of age.

The best of the rest: Russell Wilson, Robert Griffin III, Ben Roethlisberger, Sam Bradford.

Tuesday Morning Buzz – Week 12, 2013

By: — November 25, 2013 @ 11:36 pm

It was another wild week both in the NFL and for fantasy owners. Here’s a recap of every game in the Tuesday Morning Buzz.

Saints – Falcons
I’ve been talking about Darius Johnson since last year and I’ve mentioned him a couple of times in this column as well. Despite a costly fumble, Johnson caught six passes for 67 yards. He has gone from an afterthought on draft day and a nobody in training camp to a guy making some plays in the NFL. I’ve always thought Johnson could play and, like I’ve been saying since April, he’s a guy to keep an eye on. I swear, Jimmy Graham and Megatron must have a combined 300 fantasy points against me this year. Graham got me again for 100 yards and a score on five receptions. Pierre Thomas has been one of the most underrated players in the NFL for a couple of years. He had another one of his games where he racked up 130 total yards on just 15 touches. Steven Jackson had his best game of the year. The fact that he had 79 total yards and a score tells you what kind of season it’s been for him.

Panthers – Dolphins
I saw I was playing against Mike Wallace this week and figured he would finally have a big game. Wallace proved me right by catching five passes for 127 yards and a touchdown. Not counting Cam Newton, the Panthers ran the ball 21 times for 85 yards. It would take the Miami running backs a month to get to that number. Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas combined for 16 yards on 13 carries. The Dolphins are on their way to being one of the all-time worst rushing teams. I guess that’s why Mike Sherman was so popular at Texas A&M.

Buccaneers – Lions
Mike Glennon continues to play well and deliver for fantasy owners. He threw for 247 yards and two touchdowns, both going to Tiquan Underwood, who had 108 yards receiving. Glennon is showing a lot of promise for both the rest of the season and 2014. Bobby Rainey had only 35 yards on 18 carries after his huge performance last week. It should be noted that the Lions are tough against the run, but things won’t get much easier next week versus Carolina. Nate Burleson made a big impact in his return from an injured forearm. He saw 10 targets and caught seven passes for 77 yards a score.

Bears – Rams
I had a tough fantasy week. I own Zac Stacy in two leagues and after he racked up 87 yards and a score in the first half, he went out with a concussion. Then his backup Benny Cunningham ripped off 109 yards and a score on 13 carries. Now we know how Ray Rice had a big game last week. The Bears have the worst rush defense in the NFL. I’m so sick and tired of seeing that miserable hump Michael Bush in the game. When a team gets in the red zone it should have its best players on the field, not a declining, slow backup. Did you see that touchdown run Matt Forte had called back because of a penalty? Do you think Bush can make a run like that? These coaches overthink too much. It must be because they’re all geniuses. It takes a real genius to keep one of his best two players on the bench inside the red zone. It’s inexcusable and awful coaching.

Jets – Ravens
The Jets’ streak of playing well one week and poorly the next came to a crashing halt Sunday at Baltimore. After feasting on the Bears’ joke of a rush defense last week, Rice went back to his usual 16 carries for 30 yards against the Jets. All is right with the world again. The Jets’ defense got burnt by Joe Flacco, however. Flacco threw for 273 yards and a score, while Jacoby Jones had a 100-yard day and a touchdown. Geno Smith had a miserable game but it’s hard to blame all of the Jets’ offensive failures on him alone. New York’s receivers are so pitiful that their leading pass catcher on the day was Greg Salas. It’s easy to make fun of Geno all the time, but if the Jets want to evaluate a young quarterback, they should try doing so without the worst group of receivers and tight ends in the NFL.

Jaguars – Texans
I can pretty much sum this up by saying the Texans have given up on the season. This was a pitiful effort by Houston all across the board. The lone bright spot was Dennis Johnson running for 74 yards on 13 carries. However, he should already be owned in most leagues as insurance for Ben Tate by now. Maurice Jones-Drew continues to have a strong second half of the season. He finished with 144 total yards and a score. To show how lifeless Houston was on Sunday, Chad Henne had a passer rating of 93.1.

Aaron Rodgers

The Packers need this guy back… and soon.

Vikings – Packers
In probably the weirdest game of the day, the Packers went to their fourth option at quarterback in Matt Flynn and ended up with a tie against Minnesota. Flynn completed 21 of 36 passes for 218 yards and a touchdown. That’s the good news. The bad news is that it was against Minnesota’s Swiss cheese defense. Hopefully for the Packers and fantasy owners like me, Aaron Rodgers will be back soon. Adrian Peterson ran over Green Bay’s defense for 146 yards and a touchdown on 32 carries. The Packers rush defense was so bad on Sunday that Toby Gerhart chipped in with 91 yards on eight carries. With Peterson’s bad hamstring, it would be wise for his owners to grab Gerhart as insurance.

Steelers – Browns
Some were worried about Antonio Brown going up against Joe Haden, but Brown still caught six passes for 92 yards and a touchdown. Brown simply sees too many targets every week, regardless of who is covering him. The guy is a beast. The Browns’ fantasy value took a hit when Brandon Weeden came into the game, but it didn’t bother Josh Gordon. Gordon torched the Steelers for 237 yards and a touchdown on 14 receptions. He caught 14 of his 17 targets. On the other hand, Jordan Cameron saw 10 targets but had only three receptions. That’s what happens when a team has bad quarterback play.

Chargers – Chiefs
In the most entertaining game of the afternoon, San Diego scored late to beat the Chiefs, 41–38. Kansas City has been leaning on its defense this season, but after losing Tamba Hali and Justin Houston, the Chiefs couldn’t stop Philip Rivers and company. Rivers threw for 392 yards and three scores, while Keenan Allen caught nine balls for 124 yards. Jamaal Charles had his usual huge game and the Chargers showed how much they’re struggling on defense by letting Alex Smith throw for 294 yards and three scores. The Chiefs’ defense is reeling and they have the Broncos on deck. I have them in two leagues, and even though they’ve been great, it’s time to start playing matchups.

Cowboys – Giants
The weather and some awful officiating kept the offensive numbers in check for both teams. Tony Romo and Eli Manning did manage to throw two touchdown passes each despite the windy conditions. Dez Bryant saw 16 targets after Dallas spent the bye week trying to get him the ball more. You would think the coaching staff wouldn’t need a bye week to figure out how to get its No. 1 receiver the football. Bryant responded by catching nine passes for 91 yards. Andre Brown ran over the Cowboys for 127 yards on 21 carries, but owners have to hold their breath every time he gets up in hopes that he isn’t injured. The guy is a tremendous player but whenever Brown gets tackled, it looks like he’s out for the year. And given his past injury history, it’s not out of the realm of possibility.

Titans – Raiders
It’s hard to believe, but the Titans are actually the No. 6 seed in the AFC playoffs right now. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for 320 yards and two scores against the pitiful Raiders pass defense. Justin Hunter and Kendall Wright each went over 100 yards, while Delanie Walker had another solid game, catching five balls for 46 yards on nine targets. Matt McGloin played pretty well in only his second start. It’s clear after two games that McGloin likes throwing to Rod Streater. In McGloin’s two starts, Streater has 11 receptions for 177 yards and a touchdown.

Colts – Cardinals
The Cardinals remained red hot by slamming the Colts. Carson Palmer threw for 314 yards and two touchdowns and for the second week in a row Michael Floyd was his favorite receiver. Floyd is on his way to becoming a stud in 2014. The Colts’ high point may end up being their win over Denver. Andrew Luck’s poor pass a few weeks ago, which forced Reggie Wayne to turn awkwardly even though he was wide open, has led to the biggest injury in the NFL. The Indianapolis offense just hasn’t been the same since Wayne got hurt. At the time, after wins over Seattle, San Francisco and Denver, it could have been argued that the Colts were the Super Bowl favorites. Now without Wayne or a running game and with problems on the offensive line, this is a completely different offense. The Colts have been a fantasy disaster in two of their last three games.

Broncos – Patriots
In what will likely be the wildest game of the season, Denver jumped out to a 24-0 lead, only to lose in overtime, 34–31. I can’t see how Stevan Ridley gets another chance to be the lead back in New England. I’m all for second chances, but he’s fumbling so much it’s hurting the Patriots’ ability to win games. Shane Vereen is going to be huge for owners during the playoffs. Dropping Vereen was the biggest mistake some owners made this fantasy season. I was told Danny Amendola and Wes Welker are the same player. I guess those people were right. Neither guy did anything Sunday night. Welker caught four passes for 31 yards and Amendola caught three for 17. Overall, Amendola’s first season in New England has been a miserable failure.

49ers – Redskins
The 49ers needed to get their offense on track and they found the right tonic in the Redskins’ defense. Colin Kaepernick passed for 235 yards and three scores. He had three touchdown passes in his previous four games, so that tells you all you need to know about Washington’s defense. Anquan Boldin caught five passes for 94 yards and two touchdowns. Boldin has now had two good games in a row. Robert Griffin couldn’t get anything going for the Redskins. RG3 only threw for 127 yards, Alfred Morris rushed for 52 yards and Pierre Garcon caught eight balls but was held to just 48 yards. Overall it was a dreadful performance by a Redskins team that’s sinking fast.

Falcons Lose Julio Jones for Remainder of the Season – Fantasy Impact

By: — October 11, 2013 @ 1:50 pm

The Atlanta Falcons have announced that wide receiver Julio Jones will be placed on season ending injured reserve due to an injury to his right foot.

Julio Jones

Fantasy owners will struggle to replace Julio’s production.

Jones suffered the injury during the Falcons 30-28 loss to the New York Jets on Monday night. Jones limped off the field in the 4th quarter before returning to the field to finish the game.

With Roddy White having suffered a high ankle sprain in the preseason, Jones leads the Falcons with 41 receptions for 580 yards and two touchdowns during their disappointing 1-4 start to the season. White suffered a hamstring injury this week, clouding his availability for the next several weeks and leaving the Falcons with a shortage of wide receivers on their roster.

Former Cleveland Browns 2nd round pick Brian Robiskie, the son of Falcons of wide receivers coach Terry Robiskie, was signed to take Jones’ spot on the Falcons roster.

In addition, slot receiver Harry Douglas as well as Kevin Cone and Drew Davis, a pair of second-year former undrafted free agents, will attempt to fill the hole left by Jones’ injury.

There are several veteran free agents that remain unsigned and there is a strong possibility the Falcons will sign one of them over the next week.

The loss of Jones’ is a huge one to the Falcons offense. In his third season, he had developed into the team’s most explosive playmaker on offense and his solid speed opened up space for the team’s other receivers as well as in the running game.

Fantasy Impact

Fantasy owners who had enjoyed watching Jones put together a solid start to the season now have a huge void to fill in their starting line-up. While grabbing Douglas off the waiver wire is a knee jerk reaction, the fact is that Douglas has done little to justify a conclusion that he can even come close to replacing Jones’ production.

While Douglas has put together the odd big game, including a four-reception, 93-yard performance in Week 1, he has never topped 500 receiving yards during his first four years in the league. At 6’0” and 183 pounds, he is not suited to line up outside and is best used in the slot. Look for his targets to go up and he likely becomes a decent WR3 simply based on volume.

Cone and Davis are virtual unknowns. Both have decent size and if you had to gamble on one of them, Cone appears to the favorite, if only because he hauled in a 12-yard touchdown pass this week.

Jones’ owners may want to see if they sign a veteran such as Brandon Lloyd to bolster the position. Alternatively, buying low on White and waiting for him to regain full health is another option.

Another big fantasy loser is quarterback Matt Ryan, who goes from having a trio of Pro Bowl quality receivers in Jones, White and tight end Tony Gonzalez, to a cast of question marks. Until White returns to the lineup (reports have indicated he could miss several weeks), Ryan no longer rates as a QB1 until he proves he can produce with the loss of talent surrounding him.

Tight end Tony Gonzalez sees his fantasy value increase as he comes off a pair of solid outings after a disappointing start to the season. The 17 year veteran has 22 receptions for 256 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 28 targets over his past two games. He rates as a top five tight end over the balance of the season.

At running back, the Falcons will almost certainly lean heavily on Steven Jackson when he returns to the lineup. With the Falcons one a bye in Week 6, SJax could return to the lineup for the Falcons Week 7 home game against the Buccaneers. In his only full game of the season, Jackson produced 122 yards on 16 touches. If he can remain healthy, Jackson rates as a mid to upper tier RB2 over the remainder of the season.

Moving Up, Moving Down – Week 3, 2013

By: — September 25, 2013 @ 10:08 am


Moving Up

Matt Flynn, Raiders
Nothing to get excited about this week, so with Terrelle Pryor possibly out with a concussion, Flynn gets the nod.

Josh Freeman

Josh Freeman’s days in Tampa Bay are numbered.

Mike Glennon, Buccaneers
Out with Josh Freeman and in with Glennon. The coaches want Glennon to start this week so they can have video to work with during the Bucs bye in Week 5. Glennon won’t be a potential fantasy start until Week 6 but his supporting cast is talented enough to provide him value over the second half of the season.

Moving Down

Colin Kaepernick, 49ers
After his sublime performance in Week 1, when he threw for 412 yards and three touchdowns, Kaepernick has hit the skids hard with a pair of sub-200-yard performances and no touchdown passes. We can forgive him for the Week 2 dud against a strong Seahawks defense, but there are no excuses for his getting run over by a shoddy Colts defense. With no Vernon Davis and a group of wide receivers that lack big-play ability, Kaepernick isn’t worth starting unless he gets some yards on the ground.

Brandon Weeden, Browns
Brian Hoyer was pretty awful but the Browns did pick up a win. That likely leaves Weeden on the outside looking in when he returns to the lineup.

Running Backs

Moving Up

DeMarco Murray, Cowboys
One week after getting called out by an ESPN analyst for his inability to make tacklers miss, Murray ran roughshod over the Rams with 203 total yards and a touchdown. That’s the good news. The bad news is that it was his first 100-yard game since Week 1 of last season. Yeah, this is a lukewarm endorsement.

Johnathan Franklin, Packers
Another “good news, bad news” scenario. When James Starks went down, the Packers had no other running backs available other than Franklin, and he looked dynamic with 103 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries plus 23 yards on three receptions. Then he fumbled on a key fourth-down play late in the game, which the Bengals returned for the game-winning touchdown. We don’t know when Eddie Lacy or James Starks will return, but with the Packers on a Week 4 bye, Franklin’s time in the spotlight could be short.

Jason Snelling, Falcons & Joique Bell, Lions
Both player were very competent fill-ins this week and are worthy of RB2 status until they head back to the bench. Grab these guys with the byes starting this week.

Fred Jackson, Bills
Jackson is Moving Up two weeks in a row, this time courtesy of C.J. Spiller’s knee injury. If he can’t go this week, FJax is a low-end RB2.

Brandon Bolden, Patriots
With Shane Vereen out, Bolden looks like New England’s most explosive runner. The Patriots backfield is a fantasy mess, but odds are that Bolden is either on the wire in your league or available for a song.

Bilal Powell, Jets
I’ll be honest. I thought Chris Ivory was going to have his coming-out party this week against a soft Bills run defense, but he went down early with a hamstring injury, leaving Powell to chalk up 149 yards on 27 carries. Powell is clearly an average running back but he could emerge as a workhorse for the next few weeks if Ivory misses time, which seems likely. Only Alex Green is in reserve, which leads us to…..

Moving Down

Chris Ivory, Jets
This guy looks great in a part-time role but has proven to be injury-prone throughout his four-year career. Move on.

Stevan Ridley, Patriots
With just 121 yards on 36 carries, Ridley has been pretty much awful. Full stop. He’s useless as a receiver, with only 10 career receptions through 33 games, so he needs to earn a living as a runner. And there is now competition for touches in the New England backfield.

Trent Richardson, Colts
Just a gentle reminder that coaches don’t just take away a pile of touches from players who played as well as Ahmad Bradshaw did this week.

Wide Receivers

Moving Up

Antonio Brown, Steelers
If you whine, apparently you get rewarded. Brown complained about his targets after only getting nine looks in Week 2. Anyway, he went off against the Bears this week with nine receptions for 196 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the first multi-touchdown game of his career. With the Steelers’ running game in shambles, Brown figures to get plenty of targets going forward.

Cecil Shorts, Jaguars
Speaking of targets… quick—who leads the league in them? It’s Shorts, with 40. Early-season fantasy production can be skewed by touchdowns, and sometimes that is fair, given the offense a player plays in. However, even though Shorts is stuck on a bad Jaguars team, he managed seven touchdowns in 14 games last season.

Josh Gordon, Browns
Back with a bang, Gordon had a whopping 19 targets this week against the Vikings, hauling in ten receptions for 146 yards and a score. He won’t get the Vikings’ porous secondary every week, nor will he likely have another 19 target game, but it’s nice to know he can be productive even when Brian Hoyer is under center.

Donnie Avery, Chiefs
Coming off a career year in 2012 with the Colts, Avery had his coming-out party as a Chief in Week 3, catching all seven of his targets for 141 yards. He showcased his blazing speed, a trait that seems to be absent from the Kansas City offense outside of Jamaal Charles.

Santonio Holmes, Jets
This one’s kind of like beating up on your little brother, but it’s worth noting that Holmes caught five passes for 154 yards and a score this week against the Bills. He’s not a player that anybody loves, but he could be useful as a WR3 the rest of the way, provided he can stay healthy and keep his head screwed on straight.

Nate Washington, Titans
Meets the Titans’ new No. 1 receiver with Kenny Britt now residing in the doghouse. Eight receptions for 131 yards this week.

Ryan Broyles and Patrick Edwards, Lions
Nate Burleson is out with a broken arm. Neither of these guys has done much, but opportunity is knocking.

Moving Down

Steve Smith, Panthers
With just 143 yards and one touchdown on 26 targets, could Father Time be catching up with the 34-year-old Smith? Get off this train before it rolls off the tracks.

Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs
Against a sad sack Eagles secondary, Bowe caught one of his three targets for four yards. Entering the season, there were two trains of thought on Bowe. Either he would thrive as a big receiver in Andy Reid’s West Coast offense or he would struggle with Captain Checkdown, Alex Smith, being under center and reluctant to pass the ball into tight areas. Looks like those who advocated for the latter were correct.

Michael Floyd, Cardinals
After putting up 82 yards in Week 1, Floyd got the hopes up of his owners, who were banking on a breakout season. Since then, he has caught seven of his 13 targets for 71 yards and looks much like the struggling rookie he was last season.

Tight Ends

Moving Up

Jordan Cameron, Browns
Even with Brian Hoyer at quarterback, Cameron was lights out with 66 yards and three touchdowns on six receptions. I don’t own him but if somebody thinks he’s the next coming of Jimmy Graham, I’d be selling high. Note that one of his touchdowns came on a trick play (a fake field goal) and the Browns offense won’t get the sad sack Vikings defense every week.

Charles Clay, Dolphins
Clay didn’t do much this week (four receptions for 40 yards) but he is quietly emerging as a consistent threat in a solid Dolphins offense. He has caught 14 of his 19 targets on the season for a surprising 203 yards.

Moving Down

Kellen Winslow, Jets
The comeback was fun but short-lived. After a three-reception, 16-yard performance in Week 2, Winslow wasn’t even targeted this week. And you all know the state of the Jets’ group of wide receivers.

Colts Acquire Trent Richardson from Browns – Fantasy Impact

By: — September 19, 2013 @ 8:25 am
Trent Richardson

Richardson changes uniforms and gets a nice fantasy value bump.

In one of the most shocking trades in the NFL in years, the Cleveland Browns have traded second year running back Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts.

In return the Browns will receive the Colts 1st round pick in the 2014 draft.

Just one year and two games after using the 3rd overall selection in the 2012 draft to acquire Richardson, the Browns chose to go in a different direction as first year general manager Mike Lombardi continued his remake of the team’s roster. Richardson had quickly emerged as a team leader and the face of the franchise and trading him away so early in the 2013 season is not going to viewed favorably by the team’s rabid fan base.

In Indianapolis, the acquisition of Richardson solidifies a shaky backfield that lost second year player Vick Ballard, the team’s leading rusher as a rookie in 2012, to a season-ending knee injury prior to Week 2. The trade signifies that the team’s management is convinced that a run deep into the playoffs is possible just one year into Andrew Luck‘s reign as the team’s starting quarterback.

Reports indicate that the Browns will bring Willis McGahee to Cleveland for a physical. If signed, he will compete with Chris Ogbonnaya and Bobby Rainey to replace Richardson in the starting line-up.

Fantasy Impact

The Colts entered the season envisioning a backfield led by Ahmad Bradshaw and Vick Ballard.

Two games into the season, it will be led by Richardson with Bradshaw in a supporting role.

Richardson proved to be a true workhorse back as a rookie in 2012, rushing for 950 yards and 11 touchdowns while catching 51 passes for 367 yards and another touchdown despite playing much of the season with injured ribs. Simply put, he has the talent to emerge as a top-five fantasy running back playing in a solid offense and this trade affords him that opportunity.

Assuming the Colts are in the hunt for a playoff spot at season’s end, they will have acquired a franchise running back for a late 1st round pick. Stunning.

In just a week, Bradshaw goes from being in a timeshare with Ballard, to a starter with little proven depth behind him, to a pure handcuff to Richardson. Fantasy owners that acquired him are left with little value just two weeks into the season.

In Cleveland, quarterback Brandon Weeden has been put on notice that anything short of a spectacular finish to the season will cost him his job. It’s also possible, and maybe even likely, that nothing can save Weeden’s job as the team’s starter. Look for the Browns to use their bevy of draft picks to acquire a quarterback in the 2014 draft.

At running back, McGahee is the odds on favorite to assume the starting job but it is fair to question how much he has left to give as he approaches his 32nd birthday. Although he rushed for 731 yards with four touchdowns in just 10 games with Denver last season, he suffered a season-ending knee injury and remained unsigned throughout the preseason. With the Browns offense struggling and having lost its most dynamic playmaker, McGahee rates as low end RB3 or high end RB4 over the balance of the season.

Of course, that is based on his holding off Ogbonnaya and Rainey. Ogbonnaya is a fifth year veteran journeyman will little upside while Rainey is a second year player who has yet to register a carry. The running back situation in Cleveland has very little upside.

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