Fantasy Football Strategy, Advice, and Commentary
By: Jake Gordon — July 16, 2014 @ 1:52 pm
Weapons returning from injury could help Luck be a relative bargain on draft day.
QB Andrew Luck
(2013 QB Rank—#7, 21.6 FPts/G)
The No. 1 overall pick of the 2012 draft has two productive fantasy seasons under his belt. Many prognosticators have placed him in the second tier of signal callers with improvements on the offensive side of the ball and a healthier stable of pass-catchers. Luck grew as a passer by cutting his interception total in half while increasing his completion percentage despite the fact injuries depleted the team’s receiving options for most of the year. He has showed durability in starting every game for the Colts since joining the league while also being a smart and effective runner when forced out of the pocket.
To help their franchise quarterback take the next step, the Colts improved their depth at the WR position by adding Hakeem Nicks through free agency and selecting Donte Moncrief through the draft. Additionally, injured TE Dwayne Allen’s return to the starting lineup will give OC Pep Hamilton even more flexibility along the offensive front. For these reasons, Luck is poised for his best season yet and could be a relative bargain on draft day for bullish fantasy owners who wish to stay ahead of the curve.
RB Trent Richardson
(2013 RB Rank—#34, 7.0 FPts/G)
Raise your hand if you got burned by Trent Richardson last year. Like you, Colts general manager Ryan Grigson offered up a first-round draft pick for a player who stumbled and bumbled his way to a miniscule 3.0 yards per carry. His rookie season provides hope of a rebound, but how realistic are his chances when he looked so bad running the ball and is now coming off a shoulder surgery too? The risk adverse will pass on T-Rich at every turn this year but fantasy owners could be wrong on a guy who looked like one of the few three down running backs only two years ago. He was limited in OTAs following shoulder surgery that saw him gain weight, yet should be cleared for more contact as the preseason progresses.
When Richardson is running well, he is physical and willing to take on defenders. He has been getting reps with the first team and should see the bulk of the workload ahead of Ahmad Bradshaw and Vick Ballard. Without seeing him in full contact fantasy owners should still be cautious in drafting him on upside alone. Few running backs being taken outside the top 50 overall have as much upside with touches and touchdown potential than the third overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft, though.
RB Ahmad Bradshaw
(2013 RB Rank—#73, 11.6 FPts/G)
Indianapolis brought in Ahmad Bradshaw last season to add to the competition at the running back position and push Donald Brown. Three games into the 2013 season and Bradshaw was paying dividends for fantasy owners reaching pay dirt twice. On par with his recent past, injuries prevented him from playing in 16 games for the third straight season. He has had foot issues for years but can still be effective with limited carries, which is why the team re-signed him to a one-year pact for the 2014 season. Bradshaw will give the Colts a decent option to spell Trent Richardson and will handle the primary backup duties until Vick Ballard proves he is healthy enough to handle an expended role. Of course that role greatly minimizes his fantasy value this season but as long as he remains second on the depth chart he has value as a handcuff to Richardson investors.
RB Vick Ballard
(2013 RB Rank—#116, 5.8 FPts/G)
Vick Ballard had a promising rookie campaign but an ACL tear cost him most of 2013. He’ll start the year behind Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw as he continues to work his way back from injury. By the time mid-season rolls around he could be in the mix for playing time, especially if the running game is as stagnant as it was last season. In redraft and dynasty leagues alike, Ballard remains a wait-and-see player who needs others to falter to become fantasy relevant.
WR T.Y. Hilton
(2013 WR Rank—#19, 8.7 FPts/G)
T.Y. Hilton saw his target total grow by more than 50 percent in 2013 and there is room for improvement considering Darrius Heyward-Bey opened the season as the starter for almost two months. Part of Hilton’s success can be attributed to the fact that he is able to play in the slot and work underneath while also using his speed to fly past defenders from the outside. A minor foot injury during OTAs does not appear to have slowed him down heading into training camp. As a Swiss army knife for Andrew Luck, Hilton figures to be the most productive fantasy wideout on the Colts in 2014. He will ultimately lose some targets to a healthy Reggie Wayne and Hakeem Nicks, but will also benefit from their presence as defenses are forced to cover the entire field. That being said he shouldn’t be projected as a surefire WR1 for fantasy purposes. Instead, he becomes a great WR3 in shallow leagues while being a steady WR2 in deeper formats.
WR Reggie Wayne
(2013 RB Rank—#69, 9.0 FPts/G)
Just when Reggie Wayne started to prove he still had something left in the tank in 2012, he showed why aging receivers carry an inherent risk by missing all but seven games after sustaining a torn ACL in 2013. He was held out of OTAs but should be ready to go once training camp opens. As long as he is healthy he will continue to be a common target for Andrew Luck but his days of being a consistent fantasy starter are over. Part of this can be attributed to a continued decline in red zone opportunities. Wayne hasn’t scored more than six touchdowns since 2009 and the addition of Hakeem Nicks isn’t going to help. Furthermore, a healthy Dwayne Allen should allow the Colts’ two TE sets be more successful. With less looks and limited red zone upside, Wayne’s fantasy value is and should be at its lowest point in years.
WR Hakeem Nicks
(2013 WR Rank—#51, 6.0 FPts/G)
Indianapolis signed Hakeem Nicks to a one-year deal in March with hopes that his disappointing 2013 season and hunger to land a larger payday will help elevate the passing game. Nicks would seem to have the inside track to start opposite Reggie Wayne depending on where T.Y. Hilton lines up, but Wayne turns 36 in November and only played in seven games last season. Nicks is 10 years younger and has shown the ability to be a dynamic threat both down the field and in the red zone when healthy. As Andrew Luck continues to mature and Hilton garners more attention from opposing defenses Nicks has enough upside to be worth a look after the top 50 wideouts are taken on draft day.
If injuries continue to hamper Nicks’ career, the Colts will turn to its young tandem of Da’Rick Rogers and Donte Moncrief. Rogers enters his second year trying to build off a late-season surge that saw him become more productive than Darrius Heyward-Bey. Indy had an eye toward the future when selecting Moncrief in the third round this year. His size and athleticism should give him a chance to be fantasy relevant in the future but he is not likely to see the field much in 2014.
TE Coby Fleener
(2013 TE Rank—#15, 5.3 FPts/G)
Coby Fleener had a prime opportunity to elevate his fantasy game in 2013 after a hip injury to Dwayne Allen in team’s opening game made him Indianapolis’ best option at the position. As a result, Fleener finished the season as the team’s second-best player in the passing game. These ranks are a bit deceiving, however, considering the injuries and changes on offense throughout the year. Although Fleener was able to increase his totals across the board, they barely surpassed Dwayne Allen’s 2012 output and there are more mouths to feed in 2014. An opportunity like last season could repeat itself; if not, Fleener will waiver wire fodder in most fantasy leagues.
TE Dwayne Allen
(2013 TE Rank—#70, 8.0 FPts/G)
A promising rookie campaign in 2012 allowed Dwayne Allen to emerge as the team’s most productive fantasy tight end. Coming into last year, Allen was expected to be a big part of Andrew Luck’s success. That script was rewritten, however, after Allen sustained a hip injury in Indianapolis’ season opener. Allen was healthy enough to get back on the field for the team’s mini camps and should make a full recovery by the time the 2014 season kicks off. Consequently, the hype surrounding Allen’s use in the offense is building and fantasy owners should keep a keen eye on his progress during training camp. Could Allen find himself in a situation like Denver’s Julius Thomas a season ago and break free from an expected glut on the team’s depth chart to become a dynamic threat in high scoring offense? While it is unlikely that he’ll be drafted among the top 10 at the position in fantasy drafts, it may be worth a late-round pick to find out.
By: Colby Cavaliere — July 14, 2014 @ 10:53 pm
WR Cordarrelle Patterson is the Vikings player of intrigue for fantasy owners.
QB Matt Cassel
(2013 QB Rank–33, 16.2 FPts/G)
There is perhaps no more schizophrenic position in the NFL than quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings. Since 2000, the Vikings have had a whopping 15 different players make a start at quarterback. 2013 was no different, as three players, Matt Cassel, Christian Ponder and Josh Freeman took rides on the quarterback merry-go-round. The result? An ugly 6-10 record, an 18-19 touchdown-to-interception ratio and a yet another attempt at a long-term answer by drafting Teddy Bridgewater late in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft. Because there is a great chance that more than one quarterback will be under center again in 2014, until one guy emerges by playing well and winning, this is a fantasy situation to avoid. But watch closely, as there are a few reasons why the quarterback position in Minnesota won’t be a total black hole and may actually provide some solid QB2 possibilities.
With the re-signing of Cassel and the drafting of Bridgewater, the Vikings have seemed to move on from their last first-round quarterback, Ponder. Despite starting 16 games in 2012 and “leading” his team to the playoffs, Ponder has neither shown the physical tools or technical savvy to be anything more than a decent back-up. With Ponder relegated to No. 3 duties or perhaps off the team altogether by the start the season, put your focus on Cassel and Bridgewater. The skill position talent in running back Adrian Peterson and pass catchers Greg Jennings, Cordarrelle Patterson, and Kyle Rudolph, combined with the offensive coaching philosophy and pedigree of new offensive coordinator Norv Turner, are enough to make Cassel and Bridgewater intriguing options. Based on offseason work, it seems Cassel will open the season as the starter. Cassel has experience and the support of his coaches and teammates and will have a legitimate chance to hold off Bridgewater if he plays well. Unfortunately for him, that’s a giant-sized IF. New lava-tempered head coach Mike Zimmer will look to make his mark and won’t drag his feet before making a change at the position like former Head Coach Lesile Frasier was guilty of doing. Bridgewater went from darling to dud in the offseason, falling all the way to the end of the first round in the draft. He has the leadership and decision-making to be successful, but the biggest knocks on Bridgewater were physical; he doesn’t offer much more than Cassel. Also, the Vikings will play all home games outside for the next two years, further limiting any late-season upside from Bridgewater in 2014. Only super desperate 12-team leagues will have to consider a Vikings quarterback this season, but in deeper leagues some QB2 value could be unearthed from this icy Minnesota wasteland.
RB Adrian Peterson
(2013 RB Rank–6, 15.0 FPts/G)
Statistically speaking, 2013 was the second-worst year in Adrian Peterson’s brilliant 7-year career. Coming off a mind-blowing 2,000-plus yard season in 2012, some slide was expected going into 2013. The falloff may have been steeper than some fantasy owners expected, as injuries bothered Peterson for a good part of the year, causing him to miss two starts and undergo offseason groin surgery. Hobbled, and again the only major threat on offense, he still managed to rip off 1,266 yards and 11 total touchdowns. Despite the mileage on his tires, Peterson still remains one of the few elite backs in the league capable of winning fantasy games by himself, even if he isn’t the automatic first running back taken. One of the few dents in his armor (to go along with his ball security issues – 31 career fumbles) is his role in the passing game. He had a career-high 43 catches for 436 yards in 2009 but has come nowhere near those numbers in two of the last three seasons. His underwhelming 5.5 yards-per-catch has put him well behind his elite peers. That may change drastically in 2014. With creative play-caller Norv Tuner now in the fold and back-up Toby Gerhart off to Jacksonville, expect Peterson to flirt with 40-plus catches once again as a true 3-down workhorse. With improved quarterback play and the continued development of second-year wide-out Cordarrelle Paterson, the offense should be more fluid and consistent, giving Peterson the running lanes to make big plays as a runner and receiver.
One final thing to consider if you have the enviable task of picking the first running back off the board; Peterson is coming off his third straight offseason surgery (ACL, sports hernia, groin). While he has proven to defy the physical limitations of mere mortals, father time still remains undefeated. Peterson is 29, with over 2,000 career carries, many of which have been of the minor car accident variety. The demise of Peterson is going to be swift and sudden, and it may be sooner rather than later. For owners who like to protect their investments with handcuffs, Peterson really doesn’t have one. Jamaal Charles, Matt Forte, and to a lesser extent LeSean McCoy, all have back-ups to target as potentially valuable handcuffs. With Gerhart gone, only a raw third-round rookie and fringe roster runner back up Peterson.
RB Matt Asiata
(2013 RB Rank–70, 18.0 FPts/G)
Matt Asiata’s three-touchdown Week 15 and 100-yard effort in Week 17 undoubtedly saved some fantasy seasons. While he was heroic in Peterson’s two-game absence and he takes the back-up reins from departed Toby Gerhart, Asiata lacks the physical and instinctive tools necessary to be a long-term handcuff for Peterson. The full-back/running back hybrid gets what’s blocked and is effective on the goal line, but fantasy owners would be hard-pressed to count on Asiata for more than a temporary fill-in.
RB Jerick McKinnon
(2013 RB Rank–NA)
Jerick McKinnon, the raw third-round pick from Georgia Southern makes up for what he lacks in experience at the running back position with eye-popping strength, speed and quickness. The 5’8’’ running back played defensive back, option quarterback and tailback during his time in college and is still adjusting to the position he’s been running at so far this offseason. Expect McKinnon to be sprinkled in from time to time to give Peterson a break early in the year, but baring serious injury, he may not have a defined role this season. His physical gifts give him high upside, and if he continues to work on and improve in the nuances of pass protection and pro running schemes, McKinnon could surpass Asiata for the top back-up spot and take the majority of carries in any potential committee situation.
WR Cordarrelle Patterson
(2013 WR Rank–38, 6.5 FPts/G)
Cordarrelle Patterson might be poised to take the biggest leap of any receiver in 2014. Oozing with talent and upside, he was electric every time he touched the ball, whether it was through the air, on the ground or in the return game (scoring 9 times). After being virtually ignored on offense for the first 10 weeks, Patterson emerged in Weeks 11-17, racking up 27 catches and 10 rushing attempts. He still suffered from inconsistency issues down the stretch, going over 35 yards receiving only once in the final 5 games. Hamstrung with a limited route tree , the Vikings gave Patterson 12 rushing attempts ( second-best among all wide receivers) to go along with numerous bubble screens. This late-season creativity hints at what’s to come this year.
The Vikings’ quarterback situation can only get better, and Norv Turner has a long history of developing big-play wide receivers. Look for Patterson to get involved in the offense through screens, quick hitches and slants, and deep sideline routes. The emphasis on getting him the ball means he could approach 80 catches and nearly double-digit touchdown totals (he led the team in red zone targets last season). Be wary though, as he will be limited by mediocre quarterback play and inexperience. Patterson is a hot name this offseason, so don’t be tempted to overdraft him. He’s going to suffer from streaky, inconsistent play but could ultimately put up WR2 numbers when it’s all said and done.
WR Greg Jennings
(2013 WR Rank–39, 7.0 FPts/G)
Coming in right behind his more-hyped teammate in the 2013 rankings was former Packer Greg Jennings. The savvy 8-year veteran put up a solid 68-804-4 line for a Vikings team that seemed to be running in sand at times in 2013. Jennings should benefit from the increased attention teammate Cordarrelle Patterson should receive and having Matt Cassel behind center. Jennings was more effective under the improved accuracy of Cassel, posting nearly half his season totals in the quarterback’s six starts. So while he was a borderline WR3 at times last season, what value can Jennings bring to fantasy owners in 2014? While the emergence of Patterson led to some of Jennings’ best games late last season, it also means Jennings could take a back seat to Patterson in the weekly game plan. Throw in the healthy return of Kyle Rudolph, and Jennings could find himself fighting for catches in what should be a run-heavy offense. Last year’s Cleveland Browns, who feature a similar scheme and pass catchers, only got 41 catches from their third option (Greg Little). Jennings is certainly better than that other Greg, but don’t expect his numbers to differ much from 2013. His situation should limit him to a bench-warming WR4/5 status.
TE Kyle Rudolph
(2013 TE Rank–36, 6.2 FPts/G)
Where Norv Turner goes, the fantasy owner looking for a break-out tight end follows. From Jay Novacek in the‘90s, Antonio Gates in ‘00s and Jordan Cameron last year, Turner has quite a knack for featuring tight ends in his offensive system. Will Kyle Rudolph be the next in line to make the leap? Prior to his 2013 mid-season broken foot, Rudolph was on pace for career highs in receptions and yardage, totals that would have put him in the low-end TE1 conversation. In a fantasy position that lacks consistency outside the top tier, Rudolph has the physical traits and work ethic to massively improve on his 2013 ranking. While not as athletic as some former Turner tight ends, Rudolph is a monster in the red zone, and reports out of offseason workouts have him working extensively on his route running and discipline. With Turner calling plays, the threat of Adrian Peterson in the backfield, and Cordarelle Patterson out wide, Rudolph should easily double his totals from 2013, making him a solid TE1 for owners who miss out on a member of the top 5.
By: Sal Marcoccio — July 11, 2014 @ 1:10 pm
Caution. The reasons for Tom Brady’s fantasy flop last season are still in place.
QB Tom Brady
(2013 QB Rank—#12, 21.7 FPts/G)
From a fantasy football perspective, 2013 was Tom Brady’s worst season since the era when he was known as a “game manager.” He finished as QB12 in the final rankings, however, there were 16 better quarterbacks, including Josh McCown, Alex Smith and Sam Bradford, based off of fantasy points per game. It’s easy to blame his decline solely on the fact that he was without his top weapon Rob Gronkowski for most of the season and was forced to lean on mostly young and inexperienced pass catchers. Or maybe the 36-year-old veteran is facing his football mortality. Brady had his lowest yardage and touchdown totals since 2006 and struggled with his deep passing and general accuracy as well. To his credit, Brady spent time this offseason working with private quarterback coach Tom House to correct the accuracy and deep ball issues that plagued him last season. Combine that offseason work with a healthy Gronkowski and Danny Amendola, and the expected growth of Aaron Dobson, then a bounce-back season isn’t out of the question. Brady will be 37, however, to start the season and we all know that Father Time is undefeated. Let one of your league-mates reach for Tommy Boy based on his name recognition, and grab better value at the position a few rounds later.
RB Stevan Ridley
(2013 RB Rank—#26, 9.0 FPts/G)
There are worse things than relying on the whims of Bill Belichick for fantasy production from your starting running back. Those things include an IRS audit, root canal surgery and Lincoln Tunnel traffic. Steven Ridley is an efficient runner with excellent vision who could be a perfect fit for the New England offense, but he often found himself in Belichick’s doghouse whenever he put the ball on the ground in 2013. Coming off a season where he rushed for 1,263 yards and 12 touchdowns, Ridley was a major disappointment last season. Ridley finished the season with only 773 yards rushing and seven touchdowns, despite averaging virtually the same yards per carry that he did in 2012 when he spent more time on the bench than he did the year before. Ridley is often spelled on passing downs by Shane Vereen, but last year he started losing early down carries to Brandon Bolden and LeGarrette Blount as well. With the departure of Blount, Ridley should get a reprieve as the most talented “big” back on the roster and could end up as a draft day steal. The team only added another scatback-type runner in the draft in James White, giving Ridley an opportunity to regain the trust of his coaching staff and assume the power back role. If Ridley is available in the middle rounds of your draft, because of a poor 2013, the potential reward should outweigh the risk of him losing carries again this season.
RB Shane Vereen
(2013 RB Rank—#43, 10.9 FPts/G)
Injuries cost Shane Vereen the 2013 breakout season that many had predicted for him. In eight games, Vereen rushed for only 208 yards, but caught 47 balls for 427 yards and scored four total touchdowns. As those numbers indicate, Vereen is a valuable commodity in PPR leagues. He could be an important part of your fantasy team in standard formats as well this season. ESPN”s respected beat reporter Mike Reiss expects Vereen to lead all New England running backs in snaps this season. Vereen is already an integral part of the Patriot passing game with the ability to run inside efficiently despite his smallish frame. He may be asked to do so more this season if Steven Ridley finds his way back into Bill Belichick’s doghouse again this season since the team is currently short on other legitimate options. Vereen has seen his share of injuries throughout his career and reportedly the fractured wrist that he suffered in 2013 is still not 100 percent healed, but when healthy, he should be a consistent RB2/3 with upside.
WR Julian Edelman
(2013 WR Rank—#18, 8.9 FPts/G)
At the start of the 2013 season, Tom Brady was without his top-five pass catchers from 2012 due to injury, free agency and criminal activity. The Patriots then lost prized free agent acquisition Danny Amendola to a groin tear during their opening week contest, further depleting the depth chart. Brady was forced to rely on a handful of rookie wide receivers and journeymen-type tight ends to pick up the slack. Unheralded veteran Julian Edelman then stepped up and caught 105 balls on the season. The former college quarterback was a reliable target for Tom Terrific, but lacked the playmaking ability to keep the offense moving at the levels it was used to achieving since 2007. Edelman managed a meager 10.1 yards per reception and only found the end zone six times. Given those poor metrics, it’s hard to imagine that the team can’t make better use of the 151 targets that went Edelman’s way last season. With that said however, Brady lobbied hard for the Pats to bring the free agent Edelman back this offseason and the team did resign him after he flirted with Houston and San Francisco. In PPR leagues, Edelman could still be a reliable WR3 but with Amendola and Rob Gronkowski healthy and with Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins a little more seasoned, it’s possible his receptions could be cut in half in 2014. Buyers beware.
WR Danny Amendola
(2013 WR Rank—#60, 6.3 FPts/G)
Danny Amendola was signed by the Patriots last offseason immediately following Wes Welker’s signing with the Denver Broncos. Many fantasy footballers not only saw Amendola as a replacement for Welker but also felt that he was a younger and faster version of the man known as “the slot machine.“ Amendola suffered a serious tear of the groin during the opening week contest against Buffalo. He only played in 12 games and was hampered by the injury all season causing him to be a major disappointment to the team and to fantasy owners. He’s now fully healthy and is expected to be a starting outside wide receiver for the team, despite some earlier offseason reports calling him a candidate to be released. Amendola was the star of the 2012 offseason and by all reports he has looked good once again at OTAs this offseason. Amendola offers a pretty similar skill set to Julian Edelman and it will be interesting to see how the team employs what basically amounts to two slot wide receivers in their 2014 offense. Amendola has a reputation of being “injury prone” and last season will not put that perception to rest. In PPR leagues, however, there is potential to use that perception to get some nice draft value for a player that could very well have caught the 105 balls that went to Edelman last season if not for his Week 1 injury.
WR Aaron Dobson
(2013 WR Rank—#59, 6.9 FPts/G)
Aaron Dobson ended his rookie season with only 37 receptions for 519 yards and four touchdowns, but showed some deep ball skills that could lead to a very nice 2014 season. In Week 9 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Dobson put up 130 yards and two scores. A foot injury in the next game caused him to miss the next four weeks halting any momentum he was establishing. At 6’3” and 200 pounds, Dobson is a big target, which is otherwise missing at the wide receiver position for the team. He underwent offseason foot surgery and missed OTAs, including valuable time with Tom Brady, but is expected to be healthy for camp and should open the season as a starting wide-out for the team. Dobson is a second-year breakout candidate as the only player on the team with his skill set. The former Marshall product features 4.4 speed with a big frame, the quickness to gain separation and the hands to make spectacular catches downfield.
WR Kenbrell Thompkins
(2013 WR Rank—#65, 6.4 FPts/G)
WR Brandon LaFell
(2013 WR Rank—#49, 6.3 FPts/G)
At this point I couldn’t recommend drafting either Kenbrell Thompkins or Brandon LaFell in most leagues. Given the injury histories of Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman and the upside that both would possess in this offense, though, fantasy football players need to keep each of them on their radars. Thompkins was all the rage last offseason after an impressive training camp and preseason, but struggled in typical rookie fashion once the games became real. LaFell was signed to a three-year $11 million contract by the Patriots this offseason after a mostly disappointing early career with the Carolina Panthers. The range of possibilities for each of these wide receivers is wide, from winning a starting role to not making the team at all. Therefore, neither amount to anything more than a late-round flier in deep leagues at this point, but that could change when more news out of training camp becomes available.
TE Rob Gronkowski
(2013 TE Rank—#17, 11.9 FPts/G)
Rob Gronkowski has been tagged with the dreaded “injury pone” label by many fantasy football players. At closer look, though, Gronkowski has suffered a series of fluky unrelated injuries. His back may be of some concern, but the broken arm on an extra-point block attempt (and the subsequent re-break) and the ACL/MCL tear caused by a hit to the knee are injuries that any player could have suffered. All reports indicate that Gronkowski will be available for Week 1 and his ADP should climb as more positive news comes out during training camp. On a points per game basis, Gronk still proved to be the second-best tight end in the league last season, and when he’s healthy, he’s by far Tom Brady’s most trusted and most effective weapon in the passing game. Gronkowski has averaged nearly a touchdown per game over his 50-game career (0.84), and while the tight end position has become deeper in recent years, he’s still one of the true difference makers in fantasy football based on his value relative to his position.
By: Nick Caron — July 10, 2014 @ 1:17 pm
QB Sam Bradford
(2013 QB Rank—#30, 7.1 FPts/G)
2013 was supposed to be a breakout season for former top overall NFL Draft pick Sam Bradford, but injury concerns prevented that, as Bradford would miss nine games of a disappointing season for the Rams franchise. Bradford’s season wasn’t completely lost, however, as he actually produced the best fantasy numbers of his career during his short stint. Bradford threw 14 touchdowns in his seven games while eclipsing the 200-yard passing mark in all but one contest – a blowout win over the Texans wherein he also threw three touchdown passes. The Rams didn’t make any significant improvements to their passing offense over the offseason, but this is a make-or-break season for the young signal-caller. If the quarterback doesn’t make significant strides to not only play well but also stay healthy, St. Louis could be looking for a new quarterback in 2015, especially since head coach Jeff Fisher has no strong ties to Bradford. This should light a fire under Bradford, but fantasy owners should still stay cautious as there isn’t a lot to love in this passing game. St. Louis figures to run the ball heavily in 2014, which limits Bradford’s upside to that of only a QB2 in most leagues.
Zac Stacy started twelve games in 2013, racking up 250 carries.
RB Zac Stacy
(2013 RB Rank—#17, 9.4 FPts/G)
Considering how the season ended for rookie Zac Stacy, it’s almost baffling that St. Louis took as long as they did to finally give him the starting gig. It seemed as if the coaching staff was set on giving every other player an opportunity before finally conceding the job to Stacy in Week 5. From that point on, Stacy was a top-10 fantasy running back, contributing both in rushing yardage as well as touchdowns. Stacy touched the ball 14 or more times in every game once he became “the guy” and rewarded his fantasy owners with the kind of consistency that typically only comes with elite-level running backs. Stacy has a chance to break into that category this season as he heads into training camp as the clear favorite to take the vast majority of carries. Head coach Jeff Fisher has also publicly proclaimed his trust in Stacy, even indicating that he should be in line to take at least 70 percent of the carries out of the St. Louis backfield. It has been a long time since a St. Louis player outside of Steven Jackson has been a fantasy force, but Stacy appears to have a good shot at doing that again in 2014. He will likely be an early second-round pick in most drafts and could even slip into the bottom end of the first round if there are any preseason setbacks for any of the backs ahead of him.
RB Tre Mason
(2013 RB Rank—N/A)
Rookie running back Tre Mason still has to beat out Benny Cunningham to be the “handcuff” for Zac Stacy owners, but the explosive young playmaker has the ability to be a very nice complementary back in this St. Louis offense. Mason is small in stature at only 5’8″, which could mean that he is not suited to be an every-down back, but he is already a reliable pass protector, a valuable asset for a team like St. Louis with injury concerns at the quarterback position. Look for Mason to primarily play on third down when his blocking abilities can be most utilized and his pass-catching skills can shine in times of need. Don’t expect Mason to be the next Darren Sproles, but he could provide a decent number of pass receptions this season, which may lead to him being on some PPR fantasy radars by the end of the season.
RB Tavon Austin
(2013 WR Rank—#54, 5.1 FPts/G)
Wide receiver Tavon Austin was expected to be one of the top fantasy rookies of the 2013 season and while he lived up to his billing as a human highlight reel on some occasions, his tremendous inconsistency made him frustrating, if not impossible to own in fantasy. Austin had three games where he scored a combined 62 fantasy points, but proceeded to compile just 19 total points in his other 13 starts. The silver lining in this whole situation is that while Austin struggled to stay involved in the offense in his rookie season, he actually enjoyed some of his best games of the season while Sam Bradford was behind center. Austin had just four games where he caught five or more passes in 2013, and all four of them came with Bradford throwing him the ball. Austin is a boom-or-bust type option who is more than likely to be frustrating to own again, but a full offseason of working with Bradford and a year in the offense under his belt could make Austin an enticing late-round selection.
WR Kenny Britt
(2013 WR Rank—#148, 0.3 FPts/G)
The troubled career of Kenny Britt continues in St. Louis as the former Titan looks to rekindle what was once a promising career. Britt, who had one of the brightest futures at the wide receiver position, is now fighting for a roster spot amongst a group of mediocre pass-catchers who have never really produced much on the field. Although former Titans head coach Jeff Fisher has apparently renewed his vows on the Britt marriage, that doesn’t mean that fantasy owners should trust him. Britt’s past success may give him a leg up for an opportunity to get playing time early, but an ugly off-field history and a tremendous lack of concentration on the field makes him only worth a flier at the end of your draft.
WR Chris Givens
(2013 WR Rank—#82, 3.1 FPts/G)
There was reason to believe that Chris Givens could be a breakout fantasy producer heading into the 2013 season. After a nice 100-yard performance in Week 2 against the Falcons, all signs pointed to that happening. Unfortunately that’s about when the wheels started to come off. From that point on, Givens failed to reach even 60 yards receiving in a single game and would even fail to catch more than two passes in any of his final seven games. While he could benefit from Sam Bradford being the quarterback, Givens’ upside is limited in that he is part of a crowded group of underachieving receivers, all of whom are young. Worse yet, Givens’ big claim to fantasy relevance was that he was such a good deep ball receiver back in 2012. With Kenny Britt now rostered, Givens’ opportunities to go deep may be even more limited, leading him to be even less important on draft day. Givens falls into the “do not draft, but keep an eye on him” category. If he can win one of the starting spots in this offense, he could have some value down the road. It’s just hard to trust that it will happen, though, given the situation.
TE Jared Cook
(2013 TE Rank—#11, 5.5 FPts/G)
When Jeff Fisher acquired his former Tennessee draft pick Jared Cook, fantasy owners began to raise their eyebrows about the size and speed combination of this incredible athlete. After one game in a Rams uniform, that attention turned from curiosity to full-blown love. Cook’s seven receptions for 141 yards and two touchdowns were an incredible show, especially considering that he was close to catching a third score in that same game. Like most of the rest of the St. Louis offense, though, Cook struggled to remain relevant and would catch only three more touchdowns throughout the remainder of the season. While his athleticism remains unchanged, Cook’s ability to create separation has caused problems and his hands just don’t seem to be up to par with the rest of his physical talents. Cook is being drafted in a wide variety of positions, entirely depending on the confidence that owners have that an additional year in the St. Louis offense will make him more comfortable and lead to bigger numbers. Shockingly enough, Cook might be the player in this pass offense who has the best chance at a breakout season. But in order to do that, Cook is going to have to translate his “training camp warrior” persona into some on-field production. He finished as the No. 11 fantasy tight end a year ago and is likely to finish somewhere around there. Given the lack of proven assets at the tight end position going into this season, Cook has as good of a chance as any to finish in the top five at his position. Draft with low expectations and don’t hesitate to move on if things don’t look good after a few games.
By: Jake Gordon — July 7, 2014 @ 10:52 am
Chad Henne has thrown 55 TDs and 62 INTs during his six-year career.
QB Chad Henne
(2013 QB Rank—#22, 14.8 FPts/G)
If you have ever had to put Chad Henne into your fantasy lineup, you probably did so while crossing your fingers. As he keeps the seat warm for rookie Blake Bortles, Henne is rather boring in the fantasy game. Coming off a career-best 503 passing attempts, Henne barely maintained a 60 percent completion rate en route to a pedestrian 3,241 passing yards. If that wasn’t enough to drive away fantasy owners, he made sure to throw more interceptions than touchdowns. In fact, Henne has never thrown more touchdowns than interceptions in a single season during his six-year career. Most of the Jags’ receiving corps have been banged up this preseason, not to mention they’re inexperienced. At best, Henne will find some level of chemistry with his younger wideouts, keep the chains moving and limit his turnovers to allow the offense to be fantasy relevant. Unless you play in a cavernous league that starts two quarterbacks, you are better off hoping Henne is good enough to make somebody besides Toby Gerhart fantasy relevant before relinquishing the job to Bortles permanently.
QB Blake Bortles
(2013 QB Rank—N/A)
The first quarterback off the board in the 2014 draft, Blake Bortles is the future of the Jaguars. Several teams liked his strong arm and decision-making but his natural ability to elude defenders under pressure made him look more NFL-ready than others in his class. Jacksonville has set up a great environment for Bortles to thrive so long as the infusion of younger talent develops under head coach Gus Bradley. It may take another year or two, however, before the fantasy promise translates into production on the field. Chad Henne has proven to be a capable signal caller and barring injury, he should lead the Jags offense into the middle of the season while the rookie works on his craft. Bortles will likely have more value toward the middle to end of the regular season if Henne doesn’t find enough W’s. Keep him in mind as a midseason upside pickup.
RB Toby Gerhart
(2013 RB Rank—#63, 1.1 FPts/G)
The Jaguars needed to become younger on offense and increase optimism amongst an offensive unit that ranked second to last in total rushing yards during the 2013 regular season. Thus, the Jags parted ways with longtime face of the franchise Maurice Jones-Drew after injuries slowed his effectiveness in recent years. To replace one of the most popular players on the team, they turned to a guy trying to shake the shadow of an NFL great. In Toby Gerhart, Jacksonville gets a young, motivated running back that has watched and learned from the best pure running back in today’s game for the past four seasons. When given the opportunity, he has shown that he can be a productive runner between the tackles as well as in passing situations. Now he gets an opportunity to handle a full workload for a team that needs to lean on the run if it expects to stay competitive within the division. Considering that only 11 running backs toted the rock at least 250 times in 2013 after 14 surpassed that mark in 2012, Gerhart immediately becomes a rare commodity. Gerhart stands to see his draft day price increase each week leading up to the season opener so be careful not to overvalue him if the hype runs out of control. The offense has nowhere to go but up in 2014 and Gerhart will be leading the charge for fantasy owners.
RB Jordan Todman
(2013 RB Rank—#58, 3.9 FPts/G)
Jacksonville brought Jordan Todman into the fold to provide depth at the position knowing they were not going to keep Rashard Jennings following the 2012 season. In his third season as a pro, Todman finally earned the chance to show what he could do during Jacksonville’s Week 15 contest against the Bills. In that game, he set personal bests in carries (25) and rushing yards (109) while also snatching four catches for 44 yards. He will battle Denard Robinson to be the team’s primary backup to Toby Gerhart, but he will ultimately find himself short on touches to have enough value to be rostered as anything other than a handcuff for Gerhart owners.
RB Denard Robinson
(2013 WR Rank—#145, 0.6 FPts/G)
Denard Robinson remains third on the depth chart trying to carve out a role on a team needing playmakers. Recently, general manager Dave Caldwell shed light on a hand injury that Robinson has been dealing with since playing for Michigan. Nerve damage to his throwing hand made it hard to keep his hand opened fully. Through rehabilitation he has been able to regain flexibility and comes into his second training camp with renewed confidence. The Jaguars drafted Robinson in the second round a year ago knowing about the nerve damage, so they obviously believe he is capable of developing into a productive piece of the offense. A strong camp would allow Jacksonville’s coaching staff to use Robinson’s athleticism in screens and option packages, yet his fantasy value remains limited until he proves himself.
WR Cecil Shorts
(2013 WR Rank—#46, 7.4 FPts/G)
Cecil Shorts enters 2014 as the most successful fantasy wideout on the team. He also will try to help fans and fantasy owners forget the frustration of Justin Blackmon. Yet a calf injury for the second consecutive preseason has kept Jacksonville’s top receiver sidelined for most of mini-camp practices. A return during training camp is likely, however, past shoulder and concussion injuries added to the negative perception around Jacksonville’s lack of passing game will keep Shorts’ 2014 projections at bay. Despite the inherent injury risks, Shorts represents a player entering a contract year who should consistently see balls thrown his way. Last year, he saw double-digit targets in nine of his 13 games. That trend should continue, making him a stronger value in deeper PPR leagues.
WR Marqise Lee
(2013 WR Rank—N/A)
Yet another receiver who has been slowed down by injury this offseason is rookie Marquis Lee. His ankle injury should be behind him in time for training camp to start and that’s where his early value will begin to take shape. The second rounder out of USC saw his stock drop as a senior heading into the draft because of injury and an uptick in dropped passes. He will need to overcome both of those issues during the preseason to reward the Jaguars and fantasy owners. When healthy, Lee demonstrates the ability to be an explosive down field threat, as well as with reverses and plays after the catch. He is in the mix to start opposite Cecil Shorts along with Ace Sanders and fellow rookie Allen Robinson. Robinson is a little behind the others right now because of injuries as well but Jacksonville is hoping to see both players develop into a duo akin to the days of Keenan McCardell and Jimmy Smith.
WR Ace Sanders
(2013 WR Rank—#86, 3.7 FPts/G)
Ace Sanders heads into 2014 with only one season under his belt; however that makes him more experienced than most of his competition. A hamstring injury kept him out of OTAs but he is expected to be back on the field during training camp. The 5’7” receiver out of South Carolina will probably end up in the slot and handle punt returning duties giving him a chance to make plays, but preventing him from making much of a fantasy impact this season. Nonetheless, at this position, injuries are abundant and there are clear battles to be won and lost. Fantasy owners should monitor the situation during the preseason.
TE Marcedes Lewis
(2013 TE Rank—#28, 6.0 FPts/G)
It seems like forever and a day since Marcedes Lewis’ magical 10-touchdown season in 2010. He just hasn’t been able to reach that level of production since and now finds himself entering his ninth season in the league. Lewis hasn’t logged a game with over 70 yards receiving since Week 17 of 2012 and another league average year is probable. The trends suggest more decline is possible, especially with the injection of youth and an offense that is likely to focus on the ground game. Even as a matchup play it will be tough to trust Lewis as a consistent fantasy option. His backup, Clay Harbor, does not provide any significant fantasy upside.
By: Colby Cavaliere — July 5, 2014 @ 1:35 pm
QB Aaron Rodgers
(2013 QB Rank—#26, 23.0 FPts/G)
It’s strange to look at quarterback rankings from 2013 and see a double-digit number next to Aaron Rodgers’s name. He still finished tied for fourth in FPts/G. A broken collarbone sunk his stats and nearly the Packers’ season before he came back in heroic fashion to save their season in week 17 against Chicago. Rodgers has remained at the top of nearly every important fantasy quarterback stat for the past six years and he’s always in the running for first quarterback off the board. Will Rodgers pick right up where he left off and continue to make Green Bay’s offense a fantasy factory?
Let’s not be silly, if Rodgers is your starting quarterback, your roster will be in great hands. Coaches and players lie, but numbers usually don’t. If Rodgers had played the full season, he would have finished 2013 with roughly 4,500 yards, 30 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Those numbers would have put him in the low end of the top 10 and approached his career starter lows.
There are a few factors to consider before making that all-important quarterback selection, though. First, the emergence of Eddie Lacy. The rookie runner carried the ball 285 times and 11 scores last year and proved to be the reliable and efficient running back the Packers have been looking for since Ryan Grant in 2009. Grant’s numbers from that year are eerily similar to those of Lacy last year: 1,100 yards with 11 touchdowns. Rodgers in 2009: 4,400-30-7, very close to his 16-game projection for 2013. Another factor to consider is the change in player personnel. In consecutive offseasons Rodgers has lost familiar veteran pass catchers in Greg Jennings, James Jones and Jermichael Finley. Their talent will be easy to replace, as Rodgers makes the players around him better. Working with younger receivers in Randall Cobb and Jarrett Boykin and a potential rookie tight end could affect his consistency, especially early in the year. The bottom line here is that Rodgers is one of the league’s best, but baring major injury to the running back corps, he won’t be asked to carry this team like in 2011 and 2012. Expect numbers to be closer to that of mere mortals, but still good enough to make him a top QB1 selection.
A fantasy step-forward from Eddie Lacy will be difficult if Rodgers remains healthy.
RB Eddie Lacy
(2013 RB Rank—#7, 14.0 FPts/G)
In 2013, Eddie Lacy rumbled his way into the fantasy scene and into the record books for one of the NFL’s most storied franchises. Great things were expected from the first-round rookie, and despite a very slow start – 51 yards in 15 carries after three games – he nearly single handedly kept the Packers season alive when Aaron Rodgers missed time with a broken collarbone. His nearly 1400 yard, 11 touchdown season was much needed given the team’s instability. Lacy finished as a top-10 back in just his first year, during which he had 10 games of 20+ carries, and was the sole offensive threat for most of those contests. As a true 3-down, goal line back on an elite offensive team, Lacy should maintain a grip on RB1 status. For fantasy owners looking for a vast improvement in his numbers, though, they might want to think again.
What Lacy excels at is far more important on the field than in a fantasy box score. He was an elite pass-blocker and ball handler last season with only one fumble. There has been chatter that the Green Bay staff wants to lessen the running load on Lacy during the upcoming season. Lightening the load might be a good idea, as Lacy suffered a severe concussion early in the year and played with an ankle injury down the stretch. He wasn’t the most explosive back last year with only nine carries of 15+ yards. He gained yardage mostly with pile-moving leg drive and nimble feet at and near the line of scrimmage. His volume of carries was leveraged against a decent, but nothing-special 4.1 yards-per-carry average.
The return of Rodgers should open up the offense and allow Lacy some bigger running lanes, but at the same time, result in fewer carries. Injury aside, rushing yardage totals should be very close to where they were in 2013. What will elevate Lacy into the top five or relegate him to fringe RB1 status are his touchdown totals. With Rodgers at the helm full-time, more scoring chances should be available. However, Mike McCarthy has always been comfortable allowing Rodgers to throw inside the red zone and that philosophy won’t change especially with Randall Cobb coming back from his leg injury. Expect Lacy’s 2014 numbers to be close to his career highs, but not quite good enough to carry your fantasy roster alone.
RB James Starks
(2013 RB Rank—#46, 6.3 FPts/G)
During his four-year career with the Packers, James Starks has been a playoff hero, a training room resident and on-the-roster bubble. In the early offseason of 2013, he was nearly cut or traded away following the drafting of rookies Eddie Lacy and Jonathan Franklin. This year, he signed a new contract and plays a valuable back-up role on a playoff team. What happened? Well for one, Starks stayed relatively healthy. Playing in a career-high 13 games, Starks amassed nearly 500 yards and three touchdowns playing second fiddle to Lacy. Secondly, he capitalized on the struggles and subsequent injuries to rookie Jonathan Franklin and DuJuan Harris, and showed why lack of health and not talent has held him back from his true potential. Sporting an explosive 5.5 yard-per-carry average, Starks is back on the fantasy map, but unfortunately, barring a long-term injury to Lacy, is no more than a deep roster stash or handcuff. With coaching-staff-favorite Harris healthy, Rodgers back in the fold and Lacy dominating carries, don’t expect much from Starks in 2014. Maybe that’s what fantasy owners should have done all along with Starks. though. You can, however, hope for surprising value at some point in the season.
RB DuJuan Harris
(2013 RB Rank—N/A)
Despite missing all of 2013 with a knee injury, the 5’8’’ scatback from Troy gives the Packers an offensive element they hoped to get from Jonathan Franklin before he was released this offseason with a career-ending neck injury. His familiarity with the system and loss of Franklin allow Harris to stay on the roster and earn a handful of touches. Should Lacy miss an extended amount of time, Harris would likely be part of a three-headed committee and could warrant a look by a needy owner.
WR Jordy Nelson
(2013 WR Rank—#11, 11.2 FPts/G)
“White Chocolate” was once again a sweet treat for fantasy owners in 2013. The king of the sideline toe tap combines elite body control, precise route running and deceptive speed to be considered a perennial top pick at wide receiver. Even without Aaron Rodgers for a long stretch of the season, Nelson was able to improve on his No. 11 ranking from 2012, while setting career highs in catches (85) and yards (1,314). With the loss of Greg Jennings and James Jones, Nelson remains Rodgers’ most familiar and reliable target. Nelson’s effective back-shoulder fade and ability to take short screens long distances make him a consistent fantasy wide receiver fixture, as long as Rodgers is throwing him the ball, which may not for long. Nelson is entering the last year of his contract and remains in negotiations for an extension. Constantly fighting and clawing for respect since drafted out of Kansas State, Nelson isn’t likely to see a spike in production due to contract motivations. He could expect Rodgers to throw him the ball for 16 games. Nelson racked up four of his five, 100-yard games and seven of his eight touchdowns with Rodgers behind center. While the outside receiver in the Packers West Coast system doesn’t usually flirt with extremely high catch totals, Nelson is a strong bet to approach his career-high 15 touchdown total from 2011. With the return of a healthy Randall Cobb and a more balanced offensive attack, Nelson’s yardage and catch totals could dip slightly, with an uptick in touchdowns. Because he does more with less – with the second-lowest number of targets for a receiver in the top 15 – and plays with one of the league’s best quarterbacks, Nelson could give you WR1 value at a WR2 price.
WR Randall Cobb
(2013 WR Rank—#61, 12.5 FPts/G)
Coming off an 80-954-8 line in 2012, Randall Cobb was poised to enter 2013 as a serious threat among the upper tier of fantasy wide receivers. He was on his way, combining for a ridiculous 22 targets, 16 catches, 236 yards and two touchdowns in the season’s first two weeks. He cooled slightly over the next several weeks before suffering a broken leg in Week 6. He returned in heroic fashion with teammate Aaron Rodgers in Week 17 to net two scores to beat the Bears.
Once again, Cobb enters a season with big expectations. With the changing of the guard out wide, the Packers will count on Cobb more than ever to be a reliable target for Rodgers. Can fantasy owners once again put their trust in Cobb to approach WR1 numbers in an era when the wide receiver position is at its deepest in history? Because of his mastery in the slot, ability to use his quickness to get separation and role in the offense, Cobb certainly should be among the league leaders in targets in 2014.
What separates tiers of receivers are their ability and opportunity to score touchdowns. When it comes to touchdowns, bigger is usually better. Those 6’2’’+, 210 pound receivers are able to use their frames to do something Cobb can’t: outmuscle defensive backs for jump balls, slants and curls in the red zone. In his three years, Cobb has proven to be able to do something very few receivers his size haven’t been able to do: score in or very near the red zone. Eight of his 13 career touchdowns receptions have come from 22 yards or less. This is a better rate than similarly-sized Victor Cruz and very close to that of mighty mite Wes Welker, whose last 14 touchdowns were from inside the red zone. Play calling, ability and an elite quarterback mean that Cobb should be able to record double-digit touchdowns, and that combined with catch totals that should be in excess of 80. Cobb is someone you can draft as a WR2 but who could end up out-producing your WR1.
WR Jarrett Boykin
(2013 WR Rank #55—7.2 FPts/G)
Aaron Rodgers is one of those rare quarterbacks who make the receivers around him better. Fantasy owners should then keep a keen eye on the fight for the No. 3 receiver in the Green Bay offense, as the winner of this battle could provide some sneaky WR3 play in 2014. Returning to fight for this role is Jarrett Boykin. Because of injury, Boykin was forced into just eight starts last year and played well in his 16 total games with 49 catches, 689 yards and three scores, especially since all of this production came from Week 6 on. His three, 100-yard games, and four games of 10+ targets signify that coaches were comfortable enough making him a significant part of the game plan at certain times. Should Boykin hold off second-round rookie Devante Adams and lock down the No. 3 role, he could benefit from the loss of James Jones and Jermichael Finley, and put up numbers that would make him a late-round or waiver-wire steal.
WR Davante Adams
(2013 WR Rank—N/A)
Davante Adams, the 6’1’’ rookie from Fresno State, makes up for his lack of experience with superior natural ability. He led the nation in catches and receiving touchdowns as a red-shirt sophomore. While he isn’t a burner, he fits the mold of receivers that the Packers have been able to develop over the last several seasons. Watch the opportunities he gets in camp and preseason games. If he is able to impart a measure of confidence with his coaches and quarterback, Adams could push for serious playing time in the middle part of the year, making him a waiver-wire pick to watch.
TE Andrew Quarless
(2013 TE Rank—#40, 3.3 FPts/G)
The tight position in Green Bay was a fantasy wasteland after the loss of Jermichael Finley in Week 7. Barring his miraculous return, there probably won’t be a TE1 or TE2 to emerge from this logjam position in 2014.
Typically counted on as a quality blocker at the edge or attack, Andrew Quarless was pressed into receiver duty because of the serious neck injury suffered by Finley. As you can see by his No. 40 final ranking, he didn’t exactly burn up the stat sheet. His familiarity with the system and new contract give him a leg up in the battle with second-year man Brandon Bostick and rookie third-round pick Richard Rodgers. His injury history – an ACL tear in 2012 and missing all offseason work thus far in 2014 – and athletic limitations don’t make him a very attractive fantasy option.
Bostik, the former college wide receiver, offers athletic upside, but broke his foot late last year and is still working his way back into condition.
Rodgers, the third-round pick from Cal, averaged a wide-receiver-like 15.5 yards-per-catch and is in his final season with the Golden Bears. He offers the best glimmer of hope for fantasy owners. Recent reports indicate that he has been playing well in OTAs. Should he prove to be a capable blocker, he could emerge from the pack as the starter and might be worth keeping an eye on.
By: Sal Marcoccio — July 3, 2014 @ 1:23 pm
Foles’ performance in 2013 means he won’t last past Round 6 in your fantasy draft.
QB Nick Foles
(2013 QB Rank—#17, 22.5 FPts/G)
As a tall, slow and lumbering pocket passer, Nick Foles didn’t fit the part of a quarterback that would thrive in the Chip Kelly system, but after he took over for an injured Michael Vick, he certainly proved otherwise. It turned out that Kelly’s system didn’t necessarily need an athletic quarterback that could take off and gain yards with his legs, as was the case at Oregon, but could be mastered by a smart, accurate and tough quarterback as well. Surprisingly, Foles did do enough with his legs to end the season with 225 yards and three scores on the ground. More impressively, Foles put up 2,891 passing yards with 27 touchdowns against only two interceptions. Foles accomplished that in basically 12 games, as he threw a mere four passes while replacing Vick in Week 4. The second-year quarterback finished eighth in completion percentage (64.0), first in yards per attempt (9.12), and first in quarterback rating (119.2). Foles’ miraculous season ended with him winning the Pro Bowl MVP, and left fantasy owners salivating over what he may do with a full offseason of preparation as a starter and with 16 starts potentially awaiting him in 2014. On a points per game basis, Foles was the sixth-best quarterback in fantasy football last season and it’s easy to argue that he has room for improvement. Although he loses his offense’s top receiving weapon from last season in Desean Jackson, he gains veteran Jeremy Maclin – who returns from an offseason ACL tear – in addition to rookie Jordan Matthews and former Saints running back Darren Sproles. Foles could potentially end up being overdrafted in upcoming drafts, but it’s hard not to like his chances of finishing as a top-five fantasy quarterback.
RB LeSean McCoy
(2013 RB Rank— #2, 17.5 FPts/G)
LeSean McCoy thrived in the Chip Kelly offense, rushing for 1,607 yards and nine touchdowns while adding 52 receptions for 540 yards and another two scores through the air. The Eagles finished 13th in plays from scrimmage with their fast-paced offense and will look to speed things up again in 2014. McCoy was a major part of that offense with 314 carries and 52 receptions. There has been some talk of lessening McCoy’s load a bit this season, but it’s hard to see a major dip especially if the team does manage to run more plays this season than it did last season. McCoy is one of the more exciting players in the league with the ball in his hands and his ability to stop and change directions with unbelievable cuts and jukes is reminiscent of the great Barry Sanders. McCoy’s production initially declined when the team made the switch at quarterback from Michael Vick to Nick Foles, but it quickly rounded back into form after a few weeks. McCoy will turn 26 this month, so he’s really just entering the peak of his prime years. McCoy is a player to seriously consider as early as the No. 1 overall pick in fantasy drafts this season.
RB Chris Polk
(2013 RB Rank—#75, 5.7 FPts/G)
Chris Polk started the season ranked third on the running back depth chart, but passed Bryce Brown while averaging an impressive 6.5 yards per carry in his limited action. Polk is one of the most valuable handcuffs in fantasy football since he has the talent to thrive and will see plenty of carries in an offense that finished fourth in rushing attempts in 2013. Polk’s shoulder issues, which caused him to go undrafted out of Washington, should be resolved after a surgery in the offseason. The team seems confident enough in his health that they shipped off Brown in a draft day trade. At 5’11” and 222 pounds, Polk is a power back that rarely fumbles and can grind out yards inside. It would likely require a LeSean McCoy injury for Polk to have any value – outside of handcuff value – in all but the deepest of leagues. If the McCoy owner leaves him on the waiver wire, though, Polk could be a difference maker in fantasy leagues should an opportunity arise.
RB Darren Sproles
(2013 RB Rank—#35, 7.1 FPts/G)
When Darren Sproles was released by the New Orleans Saints in a cost-cutting move, it was hard to imagine that he could possibly maintain his value at age 31 in any other setting. Luckily for him and his owners, he probably landed in the second-best location for his fantasy value. In standard leagues, Sproles is probably not worth the price that his name recognition will cost you, but in PPR leagues, he should have another productive season as the Eagles look to him to help fill the void left when Desean Jackson was released. Sproles may not see the 70+ receptions that were commonplace during his three years with New Orleans, but 60 receptions is likely a solid baseline to use when projecting his 2014 season. While LeSean McCoy is healthy, Sproles will likely be used in the backup running back role, seeing a handful of carries per game. If McCoy was to go down, though, it’s unlikely Sproles’ role would increase. He’d likely still be a change of pace back to Chris Polk.
WR Jeremy Maclin
(2013 WR Rank—N/A)
Jeremy Maclin tore his ACL in late July last offseason, forcing him to miss the entire 2013 season. He signed a one-year deal in February to stay with Philadelphia where he can likely build up his market value in the Eagles’ high-flying offense. He has reportedly looked fantastic in OTAs and is expected to be 100 percent for training camp. Maclin has averaged 860 yards over the course of the four NFL seasons, but he has never surpassed 1,000 yards in a season. There’s a very good chance that will change this season, as Maclin is likely to be the main beneficiary of Desean Jackson’s departure. He should lead the team in targets. Maclin isn’t the prototypical WR1 type at only 6’0”, 198 lbs., but he has enough speed and direction to find open spaces and make things happen after the catch in the complex Chip Kelly passing attack. Like Jackson did in 2013, Maclin should have a career year with this offense.
WR Riley Cooper
(2013 WR Rank—#24, 8.3 FPts/G)
Riley Cooper made headlines during the last offseason as a result of being caught on tape using a racial slur. To his and his teammates credit he was able to move past it quickly and rewarded his teammates faith in him by helping the Eagles reach the postseason as their second-best wide receiver. On the way, he put up a 47-833-8 stat-line and was an integral part of the rushing attack as well due to his skills as a blocker. Cooper, who isn’t known for his blazing speed was able to average 17.8 yards per reception due to his strong frame (6’3”, 222 lbs.) and the trust of his quarterback, Nick Foles, who wasn’t afraid to put the ball up where Cooper could go up and fight for it. This season may be a little tougher for Cooper without Desean Jackson’s downfield speed drawing safety coverage. The team was impressed enough with Cooper’s game, though, to sign him to a five-year $25 million contract this offseason. He should also see himself in the starting lineup once again. With Jackson’s departure and with a full season of Foles throwing him the ball, Cooper could be in for an even bigger season in 2014.
WR Jordan Matthews
(2013 WR Rank—N/A)
The Eagles selected Vanderbilt wide receiver Jordan Matthews with the 42nd overall pick in the NFL Draft. Based on some reports, he has already looked like the best wide receiver on the roster and is slated to start the season in the slot and possibly push Riley Cooper on the outside. Matthews is the all-time leader in catches and yards in the Southeastern Conference history, despite playing for a team that wasn’t known for its prolific passing attack. It’s always a risky proposition to draft a rookie wide out in redraft leagues, but Matthews surely has some sleeper appeal based on his talent and situation. The majority of his fantasy value is likely to come later in the season once he becomes familiar with Chip Kelly’s offense.
TE Zach Ertz
(2013 TE Rank—#20, 4.7 FPts/G)
The tight end position is one of the more difficult transitions from the college ranks into the professional game. Zach Ertz didn’t put up eye-popping numbers (36-469-4), but he showed enough promise on the field that the big leap could be in store during his sophomore campaign. His position coach recently compared him to Hall of Famers Shannon Sharpe and Ozzie Newsome, and while that may be too heavy praise for the youngster, Ertz has the size and athleticism to make plays on Sundays. Many of the Philadelphia beat writers have cited Ertz as a big part of the team’s plans to replace Desean Jackson’s production. A TE1 fantasy season should be in store for Ertz in 2014.
WR Brent Celek
(2013 TE Rank—#14, 5.4 FPts/G)
There was a time when Brent Celek paid dividends to owners who waited before selecting a tight end in fantasy drafts. Those days are no more, however. Celek was reduced to the role of a blocking tight end last season in the Chip Kelly offense and that is not expected to change in 2014.
By: Nick Caron — July 2, 2014 @ 12:39 am
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MJD and a long injury history has McFadden’s fantasy value at a career low.
QB Matt Schaub
(2013 QB Rank—#34, 6.1 FPts/G)
It took just one season for the Houston Texans to fall the way from vying for the top seed in the AFC playoffs to picking No. 1 overall in the NFL Draft. Although the team went through a number of changes, the lack of quality quarterback play seemed to be the biggest problem that the team faced. A horrendous start to the season from Matt Schaub led to the formerly-considered “franchise” quarterback being benched after Week 6. Although Schaub would see some playing time again in a few spot starts, it was clear that his time in Houston had passed and it was time for both parties to go their separate ways. Schaub now finds himself in an equally terrible situation, but this time he will be without his safety blanket Andre Johnson. Instead Schaub will be working with a hodgepodge group of receivers that he has no chemistry with, on a team that is unlikely to be competitive in many games. Schaub may become a bye week fill-in, but he is unlikely to be drafted in most fantasy leagues and should not be trusted until he can prove that his days of touchdown streaks to the opposing team are behind him.
RB Maurice Jones-Drew
(2013 RB Rank—#19, 8.3 FPts/G)
It seems like only yesterday that Maurice Jones-Drew was a lock to be a top-five fantasy draft choice in every league throughout the country, but his days of averaging over 1,500 total yards and 12 touchdowns per season appear to be a thing of the past. Like his quarterback Schaub, Jones-Drew now finds himself across the country, stuck in an uninspiring offense that appears to be set on rekindling past glory of past-their-prime players. Worse yet, Jones-Drew joins a crowded backfield that features fellow former first-round fantasy pick Darren McFadden and second-year speedster Latavius Murray. While Jones-Drew appears to have the upper hand on winning the starting job in Oakland, a running-back-by-committee approach seems very feasible. Even if Jones-Drew does earn the full-time starting gig, it will be in an offense that is likely to be among the very worst in the league, so don’t expect another double-digit touchdown season. Jones-Drew is a high-end RB3 for the time being, with RB2 upside and a significant downside that makes him a risk even late in drafts.
RB Darren McFadden
(2013 RB Rank—#45, 5.7 FPts/G)
How many times are fantasy owners going to get bit by the Darren McFadden bug before we finally all get together and decide we’ve had enough? Don’t look for the trend to end anytime soon as McFadden is still being drafted in the top-10 rounds of most fantasy drafts so far this off-season. There’s no question that the talent is there, but McFadden just doesn’t seem to have the determination to be great anymore and his offensive line certainly hasn’t helped matters. Over the past three seasons, McFadden has played in just 26 games while averaging only 3.8 yards per carry and scoring 11 touchdowns. While his price tag on draft day is at an all-time low, McFadden still represents a significant risk with little upside. It would take an injury to Jones-Drew, a suddenly productive offense and a shockingly healthy McFadden for him to ever return to the fantasy glory he once had, if only for a short while. Nonetheless, McFadden is still worth a late-round flier. Don’t expect much from him, though, or you’re likely going to be let down…again.
RB Latavius Murray
(2013 RB Rank—N/A)
The ankle injury that ended the rookie season of former Central Florida running back Latavius Murray leaves fantasy owners scratching their heads as we look forward to the 2014 season. Murray, a monstrous running back who stands 6’3” and weighs around 230 lbs, is the kind of physically-imposing talent that could make opposing defenses shake in their boots. Better yet, his sub-4.40 40-speed makes him an astonishingly gifted athlete with tremendous upside. Unfortunately the coaching staff in Oakland does not seem to have a whole lot of confidence in this second-year tailback. Murray will start the year third on the depth chart behind Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden and will likely remain the low man on the totem pole until the inevitable injury to one of his veteran backfield companions. At that point, Murray could see more playing time and if he can live up to the hype, could be a decent fantasy asset down the stretch. He is currently being drafted as an RB4 or RB5 in most leagues, but possesses much more upside than most of the other players being drafted around or below him.
WR James Jones
(2013 WR Rank—#45, 5.7 FPts/G)
It’s not often that a player leads the entire NFL in receiving touchdowns and then proceeds to be the third receiver drafted from that team in fantasy leagues the following season, but that’s what happened to James Jones in 2013. Jones’ impending regression was obvious to most who follow the game, but even they could not have predicted that he would finish the season with just three touchdowns in the fast-paced Green Bay offense. Jones joins a cast of new faces in the Oakland offense that has yet to gel, but still possesses the talent to be a quality fantasy asset, especially if he does secure one of the starting receiver spots in Oakland. With Schaub behind center instead of Aaron Rodgers, don’t expect to ever see Jones reproduce the numbers he did back in 2012, but this could be a decent bounce-back season for him nevertheless.
WR Denarius Moore
(2013 WR Rank—#41, 5.9 FPts/G)
Moments of brilliance from wide receiver Denarius Moore have been overshadowed by long droughts that have led fantasy owners—and the Raiders—to rethink their commitment to the highly-touted young pass-catcher. Moore has had some incredibly fast starts to his past two seasons including nearly 1,100 yards and nine touchdowns during Weeks 1 through 8 in 2013 and 2014, but has followed them up by some disastrous second-half stats: just 348 yards and three touchdowns. Moore has been the team’s primary deep threat over the past few seasons, but will now compete for those looks with free-agency acquisition Jones, as well as Rod Streater. There is little reason to believe that having a new quarterback behind center named Schaub is going to lead to a sudden surge of consistency from Moore, so drafting him as anything other than a late-round flyer is ill-advised.
WR Rod Streater
(2013 WR Rank—#35, 6.5 FPts/G)
While it was Denarius Moore who had the hype heading into 2013, it was actually second-year receiver Rod Streater who ended up being the most productive receiver wearing silver and black. Streater was surprisingly consistent, locking up at least 40 yards in all but two games while leading the team with 99 targets. Unfortunately, it’s unclear where Streater sits on the depth chart at this time, but it’s safe to assume that he will have more competition for targets now that Jones is in town. Streater will go undrafted in many leagues but could find himself back on fantasy rosters as a bye-week fill-in or if one of the other two receivers goes down with an injury.
TE Mychal Rivera
(2013 TE Rank—#23, 3.8 FPts/G)
Now entering his second year in the league, Mychal Rivera should have the inside track on being the best fantasy tight end in Oakland. Unfortunately, that doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s going to see the field very often. Early training camp reports indicate that Rivera is working from behind David Ausberry at Raiders OTA’s, likely showing us that the Raiders are more interested in their tight ends being extra blockers than they are with them being dynamic pass-catchers. Rivera’s 38 receptions for 407 yards and four touchdowns, most of which came in the second half of the season, go to show that he could be a fantasy option if given the opportunity. Not only that, but with Schaub behind center—the guy who made both Owen Daniels and Joel Dreessen into fantasy names—there does to be at least a chance that Rivera could end up on some fantasy rosters by the end of the season. For now, though, we need to wait and see what happens with the Oakland offense. So far, it’s unproven and expected to be among the worst in the league. Furthermore, Rivera isn’t even the starter at his position. Avoid him on draft day, but pay attention to the target distribution throughout the season.
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