Fantasy Football Strategy, Advice, and Commentary
By: Colby Cavaliere — June 20, 2014 @ 11:04 am
Bush should be a PPR star but he may have a hard time duplicating his 2013 season.
QB Matthew Stafford
(2013 QB Rank—#4, 23.0 FPts/G)
Can sixth-year gunslinger Matt Stafford be the quarterback to serve a potential fantasy smorgasbord to owners in 2014? The Detroit Lions have focused their offseason on giving their franchise quarterback the pieces necessary for them to become a top-flight offense, copying the blueprint of the prolific New Orleans Saints. New offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi brings the New Orleans scheme, and Lions brass, led by new head coach Jim Caldwell, have brought in the personnel in rookie tight end Eric Ebron and YAC maven Golden Tate. Stafford has never had a problem amassing impressive box scores, with 14,000-plus yards passing and 96 total TDs over the past three seasons. Drew Brees ascended to fantasy elite status in a similar system, but Stafford currently lacks the mechanics, efficiency and system experience of Brees, so fantasy owners expecting comparable results might be disappointed. That said, count on Stafford to approach another 4,500-yard, 30-plus TD season (a solid bet for top-five numbers), offering a more consistent TD/interception ratio on a game-by-game basis, as he will actually have short-to-intermediate route runners in Ebron and Tate and won’t have to force big plays downfield. Savvy owners will also notice the three-game homestretch at domed Ford Field late in the fantasy season in weeks 13-15.
RB Reggie Bush
(2013 RB Rank—#10, 13.8 FPts/G)
Reggie Bush was everything the Lions hoped he would be when they signed him in the previous offseason. He provided a big-play threat at the running back position—displaying dazzling tackle-breaking ability and sure hands—on his way to 1,000-plus yards rushing and more than 500 yards receiving. Bush stayed relatively healthy, playing in 14 games, but missed parts of others with nagging lower-body injuries. In an effort to keep Bush fresh, the Lions utilized Joique Bell in a similar role. Fantasy owners and Lions coaches soon realized that the fundamentally sound Bell could be trusted as a runner and receiver. With Bell signed to an extension, and a familiar system in the works, expect Bush’s carry numbers to drop but his receptions to rise as he slides into a Darren Sproles type of role in the offense. Bush should shine in PPR leagues, but barring a rash of injuries to the stable of Lions RBs, expect him to have a hard time approaching his top-10 finish of 2013, becoming more of an RB2/3 option.
RB Joique Bell
(2013 RB Rank—#17, 10.5 FPts/G)
Coming off a 2013 performance that included 50 catches, 8 TDs and nearly 1,200 total yards, Joique Bell inked a new three-year, $9.3 million deal this offseason. Bell makes up for his lack of measurables and elite athleticism by being a fundamentally sound and extremely disciplined football player—and on a team with elite passing weapons, sometimes that’s enough to get the job done. Doing work as a runner and receiver, Bell has amassed back-to-back 50-catch seasons as a mostly change-of-pace running back. As the offense morphs into New Orleans North, expect Bell to fill the Pierre Thomas role in the offense. Keep a close eye on Bell’s health as camp approaches—he has missed all offseason minicamps and OTAs with a lingering knee injury. Missing the early install of a new offense could get Bell off to a slow start, but expect him to approach and possibly surpass his ground numbers of 2013 (166-650-3.9), as he remains the Lions’ best between-the-tackles and goal-line runner. With the additions of Eric Ebron and Golden Tate, Bell no longer remains Matt Stafford’s first option in the short-passing game. If Reggie Bush remains healthy for 16 games, don’t be shocked to see a slight dip in Bell’s reception totals. With an uptick in touch totals, however, Bell makes for a decent option as an RB2, with a possibility for more should Bush miss any time.
RB Theo Riddick / RB Mikel Leshoure
(2013 RB Ranks—N/A)
On most teams, fantasy owners wouldn’t be all that concerned with a battle for the No. 3 running back spot. But this offensive scheme has a habit of including as many as three running backs in the game plan, so smart owners would be wise to see who wins the camp battle, and take notes. Theo Riddick, the sixth-round runner from Notre Dame, totaled just 13 touches last season. Mikel Leshoure, the former first-round pick, never worked his way out of the doghouse, totaling just two touches last year after racking up nearly 1,000 total yards and 9 TDs in 2012. At this point, neither RB is worth owning in anything less than the deepest of leagues, but should an injury befall Joique Bell or Reggie Bush, Riddick and Leshoure have the game to come in and potentially be valuable bench players.
WR Calvin Johnson
(2013 WR Rank—#3, 15.8 FPts/G)
Could help finally be on the way for Megatron? Will Golden Tate or Eric Ebron fill the role of Starscream? (You’re welcome, Transformers fans!) Season after season, Calvin Johnson had to shoulder the passing load for a Lions team that was simply unable to find a complementary receiver. The otherworldly Johnson stepped up to do his best superhero impression again last year, racking up an 84-1,489-12 line in only 14 games. So will the addition of Tate and Ebron impact Johnson’s numbers negatively or positively? A look at Johnson’s mates in the top five last year proves that it helps to be the MAN in the passing game. Between Johnson, A.J. Green, Josh Gordon, Demaryius Thomas and Dez Bryant, only Thomas had a teammate finish in the top 20. If Tate continues his solid play, and Ebron is as advertised, expect Johnson’s yardage totals to take a slight dip in 2014, but his catches and touchdown totals could slightly increase with the reduced defensive attention he receives. Any way you slice it, Johnson is a lock for the top five, and the potential top pick at WR.
WR Golden Tate
(2013 WR Rank—#29, 7.7 FPts/G)
Despite having only 64 catches last season, Golden Tate was the eighth-best receiver in terms of yards after catch in 2013. As sure-handed as they come, the former Notre Dame star was also among the league leaders in catch rate. Tate fills some gigantic holes in the Lions’ passing game. He gives Stafford a reliable short-to-intermediate target that has the ability to get yards after the catch, and he also comes with a winning pedigree and experience in big-game situations. When evaluating Tate from a fantasy perspective, it’s important to remember that he is going from being a No. 1 receiver in run-heavy Seattle to a complementary piece in what should be a high-volume passing offense in Detroit. The wide receiver position is as deep as ever, and the fact remains that there are lots of potential mouths to feed, and only one football. Expect Tate’s numbers to be heavily influenced by the use of Ebron. If Ebron develops quickly and forces Lions coaches to make him a must in the weekly game play, Tate’s numbers could stagnate or drop slightly. If Ebron comes along slowly, or one of the running backs succumbs to injury, Tate could be called on regularly and be a real fantasy asset. At this point, consider Tate a WR4/5 and stash him on your bench hoping for more.
TE Eric Ebron
(2013 TE Rank—N/A)
Say hello to the NFL’s newest version of the “move” tight end. At 6’4’’ and 250 pounds, Eric Ebron brings a level of athleticism and field-stretching ability this offense hasn’t seen in quite some time. Although he may have been drafted to play the Jimmy Graham role in Joe Lombardi’s offense, fantasy owners expecting Ebron to even sniff Jimmy Graham numbers will be gravely mistaken. Rookie tight ends tend to struggle even more than rookie wide receivers, and Ebron can no longer rely solely on his elite athleticism. In the Minnesota Vikings’ Harrison Smith, and fellow rookie Ha Ha Clinton-Dix with the Green Bay Packers, Ebron will face off against equally skilled cover safeties and, in some cases, linebackers. This passing offense still flows through Calvin Johnson, so a Jordan Reed line (49-499-3) is a good place to start as far as estimates go. Look for Ebron to be a TE2 early on in the year as he gets used to the NFL game, but because of his unique athletic skills and pass-friendly offense, expect a late-season breakout (à la Zack Ertz from the Eagles) that could make him a lower-tier TE1 option down the stretch.
TE Brandon Pettigrew
(2013 TE Rank—#31, 3.8 FPts/G)
The stone-handed, heavy-footed Pettigrew was brought back solely as a reliable blocker. Since catching 83 passes in 2011, Pettigrew has seen his targets and catches drop each of the last two years. With Golden Tate and rookie Eric Ebron in the fold, and an increased reliance on running back routes out of the backfield, expecting Pettigrew to improve on his No. 31 ranking in 2014 is pure insanity. Unless the Lions’ passing game is beset by injury, Pettigrew shouldn’t be anywhere near your roster.
By: Sal Marcoccio — June 19, 2014 @ 1:08 pm
Tony Romo is expected to be 100% for the start of training camp.
QB Tony Romo
(2013 QB Rank—#10, 24.1 FPts/G)
Tony Romo underwent back surgery to repair a herniated disc in December, but is expected to be 100 percent by the start of training camp. Head Coach Jason Garrett believes Romo is in the prime of his career, but considering the quarterback is now 34 years old, that statement is likely May/June “coach speak.” On the plus side, the Cowboys have hired Scott Linehan as their new passing-game coordinator, a move the veteran Romo is reported to be thrilled with. Under Linehan, the Lions’ Matthew Stafford averaged 4,885 passing yards over the last three seasons, and he never attempted fewer than 630 passes. Contrast that with Romo, who has only surpassed 550 attempts once in his career. Romo is perpetually underrated in fantasy circles and should prove to once again be a boon for owners who wait on drafting a QB. In four of his eight seasons as an NFL starter, he has topped 4,000 yards in passing, and he threw for 3,828 yards with 31 TDs in 15 games last season. If his attempts were to rise significantly under Linehan, Romo could put up a career year even at 34 years of age.
RB DeMarco Murray
(2013 RB Rank—#8, 14.8 FPts/G)
DeMarco Murray is coming off his best season as a professional, but still did not manage to play a full season—an issue that has plagued Murray throughout his three years in the NFL. Last year he did manage a career-high 14 games, and gained almost 1,500 total yards, while finding the end zone 10 times. He also caught 53 balls last season, a number that could increase in Scott Linehan’s offense. Linehan has claimed that he will lean on the running game in Dallas, but his past history speaks otherwise. Still, with recent improvements to the offensive line and a talent like Murray, the Cowboys should have a very effective running game and Murray could be poised to set career highs across the board. As always, health could be an issue for a running back who doesn’t always find himself able to avoid contact due to an upright and violent running style. However, at 6’0” and 220 pounds, and with impressive straight-line speed, Murray can dish out the punishment as well. An owner could do worse than picking Murray somewhere near the Round 1/Round 2 turn in drafts later this summer.
RB Lance Dunbar
(2013 RB Rank—#93, 3.0 FPts/G)
Lance Dunbar only managed to play in nine games last season, but he was impressive before a national television audience on Thanksgiving Day, rushing for 82 yards on 12 carries before leaving the game and missing the rest of the season due to injury. Dunbar has earned rave reviews from new offensive coordinator Scott Linehan this offseason, and beat reporters have touted him as a breakout player to watch in 2014. The 5’8”, 188 pound Dunbar should be an effective weapon in the passing game, especially when you consider that Linehan’s offense in Detroit allowed both Reggie Bush and Joique Bell to thrive while running the ball and catching passes out of the backfield. He’s a must-have handcuff for Murray owners due to Murray’s penchant for injuries, but should also have some fantasy value in his own right, especially in PPR leagues.
WR Dez Bryant
(2013 WR Rank—#5, 12.7 FPts/G)
Scott Linehan is used to working with star wide receivers, having helped guide Randy Moss and Calvin Johnson to great heights while with Minnesota and Detroit respectively. At times last season, it seemed as if Dallas wasn’t willing to force-feed its stud WR the way Linehan has shown he’s willing to do in past stops. In fact, Bryant had eight games last year where he didn’t see double-digit targets. This year Linehan plans to move Bryant around more, making it difficult for opposing teams to cover him, and he has never been afraid to have his quarterback utilize his best weapon, even when the receiver is covered. Combine that with a contract year for Bryant and it’s very reasonable for fantasy owners to expect Bryant’s best season to date in 2014. Bryant is one of the league’s most physically gifted WRs, with a combination of speed and strength not seen in most of his peers. He should be capable of taking over a game, and Linehan is likely to give him the opportunity to do so. Don’t be shocked if Bryant sits atop the WR rankings at the end of the season.
WR Terrance Williams
(2013 WR Rank—#40, 6.9 FPts/G)
Second-year wideout Terrance Williams will be thrust into a starting role in 2014, after a fairly successful rookie season that saw the former Baylor Bear grab 44 balls for 736 yards and 5 TDs. Williams spent some time in the starting lineup last season in place of the oft-injured Miles Austin, and the team saw enough potential in him to release Austin this offseason. Williams will have the benefit of not being the focus of opposing defenses, with Dez Bryant lined up across from him and tight end Jason Witten commanding targets, but of course the flip side of that is the two veterans will generally be Tony Romo’s preferred options almost every time he drops back and scans the field. Nevertheless, the 6’2”, 200 pound Williams flashed some big-play ability (despite sometimes showing questionable hands) and is a breakout candidate under the pass-happy offense of Scott Linehan. Williams will need to show consistency early in the season in order to gain Romo’s trust. If he’s able to do that, there should be enough targets to make him at worst a low-end WR3 for fantasy teams.
WR Cole Beasley
(2013 WR Rank—#94, 3.5 FPts/G)
Diminutive third-year wide receiver Cole Beasley entered the PPR radar midseason in 2013 with a couple of six-catch games, but finished the season with only 39 catches at less than 10 yards per reception, and 2 TDs. Receivers coach Derek Dooley has talked Beasley up this offseason and has said that he expects an expanded role for the former SMU receiver. Being a small (5’8”, 180 pound) white slot WR, Beasley naturally draws plenty of Wes Welker comparisons, but he’s not nearly as quick or strong as the underrated Welker. However, Beasley does run good sharp routes and is sure-handed, so he could carry some PPR value this year as a bye-week filler.
WR Dwayne Harris
(2013 WR Rank—#120, 2.3 FPts/G)
Thus far in his career, Dwayne Harris’ contributions have been mostly limited to his special teams play. He is one of the best return men in the league, but only has 26 receptions in his three-year career. He is competing with Cole Beasley to be the Cowboys’ WR3 this season, and if he wins that job he could have some fantasy value in their high-volume passing attack. He’s probably not worth a draft pick in leagues that don’t award kick return yardage, but could be someone to monitor should injuries strike players in the Dallas passing game. He has big-play potential but lacks the consistency to be a reliable difference maker for your fantasy team.
TE Jason Witten
(2013 TE Rank—#5, 8.3 FPts/G)
Jason Witten turned 32 years old in May, and while he looked as if he had lost a step last season, no player in the league is more trusted by his quarterback. Witten has been a top-six tight end in each of his last four seasons, and with Miles Austin out of the picture and the new offense expected to be even more pass-centric than ever, it would be unwise to bet against that streak continuing in 2014. While he’s never been an athletic specimen on the level of a Tony Gonzalez or Antonio Gates, Witten has been every bit as productive, surpassing 1,000 yards in four NFL seasons. Surprisingly, Witten has never reached double-digit TDs in a season, and the eight he scored last year was the second-highest total of his career. While second-year TE Gavin Escobar’s role is expected to expand, it really should not come at Witten’s expense. Witten knows how to get open, presents a big target for Romo, and has sure hands, so even if he loses yet another step in 2014, his floor is still that of a fantasy starter at the position.
TE Gavin Escobar
(2013 TE Rank—#50, 2.8 FPts/G)
Gavin Escobar had very little production during his rookie season, but that is not uncommon at the tight end position. Reports indicate his role will be expanded in 2014 and he could end up on the fantasy radar. Blocking was an issue for Escobar last season, but Jason Witten has praised his fellow TE’s improvement in that area, and in Scott Linehan’s new offensive system, Escobar’s pass-catching skills are much more needed anyway. Linehan says he is excited to see what the young TE can do, and during the coach’s seasons in Detroit, second- and third-string tight ends like Tony Sheffler and Joseph Fauria were able to make contributions in the passing game behind starter Brandon Pettigrew.
By: Nick Caron — June 17, 2014 @ 11:01 am
Top Chief: Jamaal Charles heads into 2014 as one of fantasy football’s top players.
QB Alex Smith
(2013 QB Rank—#16, 14.9 FPts/G)
Former No. 1 overall draft pick Alex Smith proved that the success he enjoyed during his final years in San Francisco was more than just a product of being on a great team, leading the Kansas City Chiefs to the best record in the league through the first half of the 2013 season. Unfortunately, he and the Chiefs were unable to hold off the eventual AFC champion Denver Broncos in the division, but fantasy owners were pleased at the production they got from their quarterback over the second half of the schedule. Despite the team struggling in the wins column and sitting its starters in Week 17, Smith was able to contribute a total of 17 touchdown passes from Week 11 through Week 16, and whereas previously in his career he had never thrown more than 20 touchdown passes for an entire season, he was able to finish 2013 with a total of 23. His 431 rushing yards were also sixth best among all quarterbacks, making him an underappreciated fantasy asset in the running game. With a more difficult schedule on the horizon in 2014, Kansas City is unlikely to replicate the kind of success it had in 2013, which could mean less wins for the team but perhaps more passing opportunities for Smith, particularly late in games. A reduction in efficiency should also be expected due to the Chiefs strength of schedule, but the potential for more total pass attempts could make Smith a high-end QB2 option with low-end QB1 upside.
RB Jamaal Charles
(2013 RB Rank—#1, 20.8 FPts/G)
Not since the days of Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson have the Chiefs had a fantasy producer anywhere near the level of running back Jamaal Charles. Charles, who was a consensus round 1 pick in 2013, lived up to the hype and then some with a monstrous fantasy season that made him the top-scoring fantasy back in practically all formats. Although he finished third in rushing yards, his 693 receiving yards were nearly 100 yards better than the next best back (Danny Woodhead), and his 19 total touchdowns were five more than that of any other rusher. You will hear whispers about increased opportunities for backup Knile Davis, but Charles will likely shoulder another heavy load in 2014, which makes him one of a few candidates for the No. 1 overall pick in fantasy football drafts this season. Of course, the high number of touches also makes Charles a candidate for injury, but given the lack of true “feature backs” remaining in the league, the potential reward far outweighs the risk of drafting Charles with your top draft pick this season.
RB Knile Davis
(2013 RB Rank—#53, 3.3 FPts/G)
The tremendous season Jamaal Charles had already made the backup running back position in Kansas City an afterthought, but a measly 3.45 YPC average made Knile Davis even more irrelevant in the Kansas City offense. Although he did vulture two touchdowns from Charles earlier in the year, Davis’ only real value in 2013 came in Week 17 when the Chiefs sat their offensive starters, leading to a 27-carry day. He made the most of that opportunity, at least from a fantasy perspective , by rushing for 81 yards and two scores. Davis could see more touches in 2014, but he will remain essentially a non-factor for fantasy purposes unless there is an unfortunate injury to Charles. Even then, Davis is not nearly the talent that Charles is and could still end up sharing carries, most likely with 2014 fourth-round draft pick De’Anthony Thomas. Davis is a handcuff, but not a particularly enticing one until he can prove that he is a more effective runner.
WR Dwayne Bowe
(2013 WR Rank—#47, 5.6 FPts/G)
A disastrous 2013 season for Dwayne Bowe owners is now in the rearview mirror, but those who took a chance on the formerly elite wideout will find it hard to forget the horrendous production they received. Bowe delivered just five touchdown receptions on the season despite having some of the best quarterback play the team has seen in years, and failed to surpass 70 yards in any single game. He led the team with 105 targets, but caught just 57 of those and appeared to be a victim of the age bug, as he seemed slower and perhaps even less motivated than in years past. However, in spite of his disappointing output a year ago, Bowe remains the clear top target in the Kansas City offense. Unfortunately, that also means the team hasn’t invested in other options at the position to help pull away the defense’s attention, which could translate to another frustrating season for Bowe owners. His days as a WR1 are likely over, but the veteran’s savvy still gives him WR2 upside with a WR3/4 price tag. For what it’s worth, Bowe has changed his diet and training routine and reported to the team in the best shape of his career.
WR Donnie Avery
(2013 WR Rank—#64, 4.1 FPts/G)
A few long passes throughout the course of the season made Donnie Avery’s numbers look at least serviceable, as he caught 40 balls for 596 yards on the season, but those stats alone do not tell the story of the 12 games of three or fewer fantasy points that Avery gave fantasy owners. Although he was very clearly the No. 2 option in an uninspiring group of Kansas City wideouts in 2013, his upside is very limited. He and A.J. Jenkins will enter the season in what will likely be an open competition for the spot across from Dwayne Bowe, but Avery doesn’t offer much in the way of fantasy value, especially given his tremendous inconsistency.
WR A.J. Jenkins
(2013 WR Rank—#131, 0.7 FPts/G)
A former first-round draft pick by the San Francisco 49ers in 2012, A.J. Jenkins is now getting a second chance at an NFL career, this time with the Kansas City Chiefs. The team traded for him prior to the 2013 season, but to say they used him sparingly would be an understatement. Jenkins caught just five total passes through the first 16 games of the season before getting a bit more of an opportunity in Week 17 when the Chiefs rested their starters. In that game, Jenkins showed flashes of what made him a first-round NFL draft pick, catching three passes for 67 yards. He will need to mature both on and off the field before he is given an opportunity to start across from Dwayne Bowe, but his potential upside is certainly higher than that of Donnie Avery. Jenkins is not likely to be drafted in most fantasy leagues unless he wins the job outright. Even then, he would be a late-round flyer with a high likelihood of terrible fantasy production.
TE Anthony Fasano
(2013 TE Rank—#42, 2.1 FPts/G)
Anthony Fasano became the Chiefs’ primary tight end in 2013 after a preseason injury sidelined Tony Moeaki. Given the success that Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker had with Alex Smith back in San Francisco, fantasy owners likely expected better from Fasano than the 32 catches for 200 yards and three touchdowns that they got. Surprisingly enough, Fasano wasn’t even the team’s most-targeted tight end in 2013, as Sean McGrath was targeted 40 times compared to Fasano’s 33. Nevertheless, Fasano remains in line to be the team’s top tight end in 2014, more likely due to his ability as a blocker than as a pass catcher. The opportunities for goal line catches are there, as usual, but there’s nothing to suggest that Fasano is suddenly going to emerge as a fantasy star in 2014.
TE Travis Kelce
(2013 TE Rank—#102, 0.0 FPts/G)
Travis Kelce, a third-round draft pick in 2013, was certainly somebody that Chiefs fans had high hopes for this past season, given the relative lack of firepower in the offense. However, an unfortunate knee injury ended up costing Kelce his entire season, derailing what could have been a year with plenty of opportunities for production as a pass catcher. Kelce was a dynamic tight end in his senior season of college at the University of Cincinnati, where he caught 45 passes for 722 yards and eight touchdowns. The chances of Kelce breaking out as an elite fantasy tight end are slim, but he is probably the most likely player in the offense to be fantasy relevant at the position, even though he is also the kind of player who could end up giving his owners practically nothing. Kelce won’t do much work in minicamp but should be active during training camp at the end of July.
By: Dave Stringer — 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.
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.
By: Dave Stringer — 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 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.
By: Dave Stringer — January 10, 2014 @ 10:21 am
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.
By: Thomas Casale — December 31, 2013 @ 8:40 am
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.
Browns – Steelers
The Browns ended a tough season by firing Rob Chudzinski after only one year. I’ve always been a fan of Chudzinski and was surprised he got just one year; but on the other hand, if ownership isn’t happy with a coach, I don’t see waiting to make a move. That’s one of the biggest mistakes in sports. Why wait a year to fire a guy you don’t want to be your coach? Keep an eye on where Chudzinski lands next year as an offensive coordinator. Despite his 4-12 season as a head coach in Cleveland, the guy knows offense and will be a benefit to fantasy owners if he lands with a team that has a decent quarterback.
CJ2K’s future with the Titans is uncertain.
Texans – Titans
Chris Johnson ended the year on a high note, rushing for 127 yards and a score. I like to bust Johnson’s chops because he complains about everything. He makes excuses for his poor play, he throws teammates under the bus and he blames fantasy owners when he has a bad game. However, while Johnson may no longer be in Adrian Peterson’s class, he still has some productive years left in him if he stays motivated. It will be interesting to see where he ends up in 2014. Hopefully it will be with a team that gets him out in space more and utilizes his strengths better than the Titans did the last couple of years.
Redskins – Giants
This game was so dreadful no one even showed up to watch it. There are only a couple of things I can say about this game. I feel sorry for the team that hires Mike Shanahan. I mean, seriously, look at his record since 2006. I say it all the time: football changes, and just because a coach used to be considered good doesn’t mean that’s still the case. Just ask Monte Kiffin. Next year will be huge for Eli Manning. He’s coming off one of the worst seasons a big-time quarterback in his prime has had in my lifetime. One guy Manning may want to throw to more next year is Jerrel Jernigan. He played really well over the final three games. It was weird watching a Giants receiver that actually wanted to be on the field.
Jets – Dolphins
People spend so much time making fun of the Jets it should be recognized what a good job Rex Ryan did this season. The Jets had one of the worst groups of offensive skill position players I can remember, started a rookie quarterback, lost Darrelle Revis and still went 8-8. The Jets have to get more talent on the offensive side of the ball though. They need to draft a Julio Jones/A.J. Green kind of young receiver that can make big plays in the passing game. If New York drafts defense again in the first round, its fans should revolt. Ryan Tannehill has become the latest person to declare his dislike for Mike Sherman. Sherman better be careful. Soon he’ll be hated by more players than Todd Haley.
Lions – Vikings
This was the loser bowl featuring two pathetic coaches waiting to get fired. I would be jumping to get one of these jobs if I were a coach on the market. It’s obvious that Detroit has talent and Jim Schwartz just can’t coach his way out of a paper bag, but don’t sell Leslie Frazier short. He can’t coach worth a darn either. This is the guy who didn’t start using Cordarrelle Patterson until Week 11. The Vikings have talent too, they just need a quarterback. If Minnesota can bring in the right coach and quarterback like the Chiefs did last offseason, I can see them making a big leap in 2014.
Jaguars – Colts
It took offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton some time but it appears he finally realizes that he’s not at Stanford anymore. Hamilton spent much of the year trying to feature a non-existent power running game instead of letting his stud quarterback lead the offense. In college you can do that stuff because Stanford is playing Washington State and Colorado, but in the NFL if you have an elite quarterback the offense has to run through him. After 14 weeks the guy making a lot of money to run an NFL offense finally figured out what the rest of us knew in Week 2. Andrew Luck is now distributing the ball to all his receivers and Indianapolis is using the running game to complement him, not the other way around. If the Jaguars don’t draft a quarterback in Round 1 they should get kicked out of the league.
Ravens – Bengals
It’s funny because the Ravens are one year removed from winning the Super Bowl but I feel they have a lot of work to do this offseason. Marlon Brown was a nice surprise this year but Baltimore has to find more playmakers on offense to help Joe Flacco. Dennis Pitta will be healthy next season but I don’t care what Ray Rice says, he’s two years away from retiring. The Ravens need to accept that Rice is close to done and do something about their running game. I know the line didn’t block anyone but Rice also couldn’t find holes when they were there. Baltimore’s offense is going into an offseason of transition. The Bengals head to the playoffs, and while Marvin Jones stepped up a little this year, I feel like they are one slot receiver away from having a scary offense. If Cincinnati can find one of those quick slot receivers in the draft, its offense will be even better in 2014.
Falcons – Panthers
The last two weeks were the epitome of the Falcons’ miserable season. Atlanta had a chance to beat both playoff-bound San Francisco and Carolina but came up short each time. Tony Gonzalez is gone, but every time I see him I feel like I should be a Vegan. The guy looks 22. Still, the Falcons offense will be much improved in 2014. You saw how much better it looked with just Roddy White healthy. With Julio Jones and White both back next year Matt Ryan will have a big bounceback season. Carolina finished 26th in total offense under Mike Shula, just like I predicted. Thank God for Cam Newton and their defense.
49ers – Cardinals
The Cardinals came up short on Sunday against the hottest team in the league and just missed out on the playoffs, but Year 1 in Arizona under Bruce Arians was a success. The Cardinals have one of the best defenses in the NFL. Now they just have to figure out a way to defend the tight end. Arizona has a strong group of receivers and found a playmaker in the backfield with Andre Ellington. I don’t think the Cardinals can take the next step with Carson Palmer at quarterback but I’m guessing he’ll be the starter again in 2014. However, I also expect them to select a quarterback pretty high in the draft.
Chiefs – Chargers
The Chargers almost inexplicably blew a golden opportunity to get into the playoffs by barely beating the Chiefs’ B-team in overtime. I admit that I thought San Diego would win only three games this year, so I have to tip my hat to Mike McCoy. He did an excellent job in his first season getting a team I still don’t believe has a ton of talent into the playoffs. Knile Davis was a guy I had as a sleeper coming into the draft and then the Chiefs selected him higher than most thought he would go. Davis was once considered a potential second-round pick before injuries and fumbling problems hurt his draft stock in college. However, you saw some of his physical ability on Sunday. If Jamaal Charles were to ever go down in the future, Davis would be a strong fantasy option, assuming he can hang onto the football.
Rams – Seahawks
I bet $100 on Seattle to win the Super Bowl back in May. I’ll win $1,000 if the Seahawks win it all, and while I’m obviously happy they have home field advantage, I don’t think Seattle will get there. My main concern is that Russell Wilson has lost his confidence. If you watch Wilson closely, he’s leaving the pocket when there’s no rush now, he has nervous feet and he isn’t going through his reads like he used to. Seattle has had injuries on the offensive line and Percy Harvin never really played this year. It looks to me like Wilson is regressing a little bit. Watch for this in the playoffs because if Wilson struggles, I would be concerned that it could linger into next season.
Packers – Bears
I no longer have a doubt in my mind that Jay Cutler has a sexual crush on Brandon Marshall. If you could throw a Hail Mary up to any receiver in the NFL, who would it be? The right answer is Megatron but the second receiver is Alshon Jeffery. Very few receivers can go up and get the ball at its highest point like Jeffery. So what does Cutler do on the last play of the game with the Bears’ season on the line? He throws one up to Marshall. As good as Marshall is, Jeffery has a much better chance of going up and making that play. You have to hand it to the Packers. They stayed in it because they have a better coach than the Lions and Bears, got Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb back for the last game and those two made the play that sent Green Bay to the playoffs. A lot of people like the Packers to make a run in the playoffs. I’m not one of them. The 49ers are an awful matchup for Green Bay. It was a great job to get into the postseason but it will be one-and-done when San Fran comes calling next week.
Buccaneers – Saints
I’m always pleased when a jerk gets fired. The first time I saw the Buccaneers attack the line on the victory formation and Greg Schiano said, “We play until the final whistle,” I waited for the day to see him get fired. Go coach high school football, you jerk. I’ve worked in the NFL. Those guys will buy into that crap for about 10 minutes until they get bored with it. That’s the kind of nonsense that may work at Rutgers but it’s not going to work with guys making millions. Trust me, if we think it’s stupid, players think it’s stupid too. I thought Mike Glennon played well for a rookie getting thrown into the fire. Like Minnesota, I don’t believe the Tampa Bay job is a terrible job to get. If Glennon pans out, they have more talent than is reflected by their record.
Bills – Patriots
Man, your rush defense is bad when LeGarrette Blount is running for 189 yards and two scores. The Bills were competitive in Doug Marrone’s first year. Buffalo still needs some more pieces, but I thought Marrone got the most out of his talent. I will be interested to see if the team progresses in his second season. If you draft C.J. Spiller next year, you get what you deserve. Don’t come crying to me when he’s in and out of 10 games with multiple injuries, along with being a game-time decision every week. That soft SOB won’t even be on my draft board.
Broncos – Raiders
Peyton Manning broke every regular-season record but it’s not going to mean anything unless he plays well in the postseason. No player in recent memory has more pressure on him in the playoffs than Manning does this year. Even if the Broncos don’t win it all, he has to play well or the scrutiny on him will be relentless and, to be honest, well-deserved. I know Dennis Allen doesn’t coach for the best organization but he looks to be in way over his head. I don’t think he has any business being an NFL head coach. The guy constantly mismanages the clock, his personnel and game situations. You can’t blame Al Davis for that too.
Eagles – Cowboys
New year, different quarterback, same result for the Cowboys. Boy, I wonder what is the one thing that has been the same over the last 16 years? The players have changed. The coaches have changed. Yet, Dallas only has one playoff win in 16 years. I wonder what could be the real problem there. It’s a mystery. While Jerry Jones continues to count his money and pretend he cares about winning, the Eagles’ investment in Chip Kelly paid off. Kelly utilized all of his offensive weapons and the defense improved just enough to send the Eagles to the playoffs. Meanwhile in Dallas, 2012 Top 10 pick Morris Claiborne is now a nickel corner and last year’s second-round pick, tight end Gavin Escobar, finished the year with nine receptions. Keep up the great work, Jerry. In 20 more years I feel a Super Bowl coming.
By: Thomas Casale — December 24, 2013 @ 9:17 am
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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.
Dolphins – Bills
The Dolphins rewarded fantasy owners playing in their championship games with squat. Miami got shut out and only put up 103 total yards. Fred Jackson had a big game for those who started him. Jackson rushed for 111 yards and a score. C.J. Spiller got one more carry than Jackson but as usual did far less, rushing for just 77 yards. Then again, if you’re still starting Spiller you probably stopped playing after Week 2 and aren’t reading this column, so who cares?
Brees posted a clunker as did many other QBs during Week 16.
Saints – Panthers
Drew Brees really put the screws to fantasy owners last week. After having a subpar game against the Rams, Brees put up a real stinker in Carolina, throwing for just 281 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. I’m not the kind of guy who would have benched Brees in the finals, but if you did, hopefully you replaced him with a better option. Cam Newton didn’t do much either. Newton threw for 181 yards, a touchdown and an interception. For a game that featured two elite fantasy QBs, this one didn’t deliver when its owners needed them the most.
Cowboys – Redskins
Kirk Cousins was a popular start last week but he ended up turning in an average performance. I even thought about playing him over Tom Brady. In the end they each finished with the same amount of points, which wasn’t good for me, so it didn’t matter. The one thing you can hang your hat on with the Dallas defense is that an opposing team’s top receiver will be wide open all game long. Pierre Garcon was targeted 18 times on Sunday, catching 11 passes for 144 yards and a touchdown. DeMarco Murray rewarded his owners by going over 100 total yards and scoring twice.
Buccaneers – Rams
This game wasn’t expected to feature many fantasy studs and it certainly didn’t disappoint. Zac Stacy rushed for 104 yards and a touchdown, as he continues to eat up carries regardless of the opponent. The only other player who made a fantasy splash was Vincent Jackson. Jackson just missed a 100-yard game, catching five passes for 98 yards. Stedman Bailey was one of my top receivers coming out of this year’s draft. I have no idea why it took the Rams’ coaching staff so long to get him on to the field, but Bailey should be on your radar for 2014.
Browns – Jets
Speaking of games that weren’t expected to produce many fantasy stars, this is the epitome of one. With Jordan Cameron out for the Browns, Josh Gordon was probably the only player in this game started in most leagues. Gordon had a solid day, catching six balls for 97 yards. Some owners may have started Chris Ivory, who went over 100 yards on 20 carries but failed to score. The Jets have some of the worst skill position players in recent memory. They can fire their coach and get another quarterback, but if that team doesn’t get new receivers and tight ends, it won’t matter.
Colts – Chiefs
The Chiefs had been living off of their defense and Jamaal Charles, but only one of them showed up on Sunday. Charles racked up 144 total yards and a touchdown. Those numbers are modest after Charles exploded for five touchdowns two weeks ago but it’s still a strong outing overall. However, the Chiefs’ defense was ripped for 23 points and 367 yards and only recorded one sack despite the Colts missing two starting offensive linemen. Donald Brown closed with a big game, proving he should have gotten more touches all along, while Griff Whalen had his second strong fantasy outing in a row.
Vikings – Bengals
The Vikings’ pass defense is atrocious and Andy Dalton took full advantage, throwing for 366 yards and four touchdowns. Dalton has now maxed out his quota for big games in a season, so the Bengals can sit him next week. Adrian Peterson started but only rushed 11 times for 45 yards. Owners who were hoping for a big game out of Peterson in the finals probably wish he had been inactive for the second straight week instead. Cordarrelle Patterson continues to make plays. On Monday when Leslie Frazier gets fired it will be because it took him eight weeks to get Percy Harvin involved in the offense two years ago and 12 weeks to get Patterson involved this year. That’s great coaching.
Broncos – Texans
If you survived the Broncos’ poor offensive output two weeks ago, they made up for it on Sunday. Peyton Manning threw for 400 yards and four touchdowns, while Eric Decker, Demaryius Thomas and Julius Thomas all had big games. I want to thank Demaryius Thomas for showing up on my fantasy team for the Super Bowl. At least someone did. The Texans are a trainwreck. When Andre Johnson starts dropping sure touchdowns, you know the end of a miserable season can’t get here soon enough.
Titans – Jaguars
It was a tough end to the season for Chris Johnson owners. Johnson ran for 90 yards on 20 carries but owners had to watch Shonn Greene ramble for 91 yards and a score on 19 carries as well. The Jaguars give up a ton of points to tight ends. I put an end to that. After losing Rob Gronkowski I started Delanie Walker last week and he did nothing other than drop passes and get overthrown in the end zone. Speaking of doing nothing, Maurice Jones-Drew had to come back just so he could kill the fantasy value of Jordan Todman. MJD was slow and ran nowhere but now he can go on the radio and joke about how he started himself. That was funny five years ago.
Cardinals – Seahawks
If you started anyone in this game other than the Seahawks or Cardinals defenses, you were obviously disappointed. Each team scored only one touchdown and Seattle was held to less than 200 yards of offense. If you were counting on Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch or Larry Fitzgerald in your fantasy championship, hopefully the rest of your team picked up the slack.
Giants – Lions
Reggie Bush owners got a kick in the stones after he was benched for fumbling. Joique Bell was the beneficiary, gaining 154 total yards, catching 10 passes and scoring a touchdown. If you rolled the dice and started Bell as a flex play, it paid off big. Calvin Johnson was another disappointment on Sunday. Megatron was dealing with multiple injuries and finished with just three catches for 43 yards on the day. If you’re sick of watching Jim Schwartz trying to coach, you’re in luck. He could be fired by the time you read this sentence.
Patriots – Ravens
Tom Brady and Shane Vereen helped put the fork in my fantasy season. I knew Brady was going to have a poor game but he was my best option. Vereen screwed owners for the second straight week. He’s one of those guys who can’t be trusted. Take him right off your draft board for next season. He’ll just end up getting injured again. People say you can’t predict injuries. I can. I predicted Beanie Wells would get hurt every year. I predict Darren McFadden will get hurt every year. Vereen will get hurt next season after a couple of games. He’s that guy. Mark it down.
Steelers – Packers
If you started a Pittsburgh receiver other than Antonio Brown, you probably thought he wasn’t playing. Out of Ben Roethlisberger’s 28 pass attempts, Brown saw 13 targets, catching six passes for 105 yards. Emmanuel Sanders did make the most of his two receptions, catching one for a score, but as it has been all season, Brown was a target monster on Sunday. Eddie Lacy might have nailed down Rookie of the Year honors by rushing for 84 yards and two touchdowns. Just think of where the Packers would be right now without Lacy.
Raiders – Chargers
If Lacy doesn’t win Rookie of the Year it will be Keenan Allen. Allen didn’t have one of his best games on Sunday but at least one of his three receptions went for a score. Allen’s poor game wasn’t entirely his fault. Philip Rivers was all over the place with his throws. He badly missed a wide-open Allen coming across the middle for what would have been another touchdown. Ryan Mathews continued his late-season surge by gaining 99 yards and scoring a touchdown. Meanwhile, Rashad Jennings was held in check and stood on the sidelines while that waste of space, Darren McFadden, vultured a touchdown. It was just nice to see McFadden take a hand-off without pulling something. That guy is a real trooper.
Bears – Eagles
The Bears’ run defense is so bad I’m starting to think my fat cousin could gain 100 yards on them. LeSean McCoy ran for 133 yards and two scores but that’s only because he got 18 carries. McCoy could have run for over 300 yards if the Eagles had needed him to. Heck, his backup, Bryce Brown, ran for 115 yards and a touchdown. While McCoy helped owners win a fantasy title, Matt Forte did just the opposite. The Bears got behind early and Forte was a non-factor. He only rushed for 29 yards and did nothing as a receiver. Maybe it’s just me, but I remember Chicago’s offense being a lot better when Jay Cutler was hurt.
Falcons – 49ers
The final game of Fantasy Super Bowl week had some strong performances. Matt Ryan threw for over 300 yards and two touchdowns. Colin Kaepernick had 248 total yards and scored twice. Roddy White rewarded the few owners still starting him by having his best game of the season. White caught 12 balls for 141 yards and a score. Michael Crabtree went over 100 yards, Frank Gore gained 97 yards and scored, Anquan Boldin caught six passes and found the end zone and Tony Gonzalez hauled in eight balls and scored a touchdown. Heck, everyone not named Vernon Davis produced for fantasy owners in this game. It was a great way to end the fantasy season. That is unless you’re in one of the 20 leagues that play into Week 17. If so, see you next Tuesday.
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