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WR Mike Evans Draft Profile


By: — April 3, 2014 @ 10:04 am
Filed under: NFL Draft

As we begin the countdown to the NFL Draft starting on May 8, I will spend anywhere from 4-8 hours to break down the strengths and weaknesses of at least the top 20 or so offensive skill-position prospects available in this draft.

Mike Evans

Mike Evans: Vincent Jackson’s frame and Brandon Marshall’s game.

Vitals
College: Texas A&M
Height/Weight: 6’5”/232
Hands: 9 1/2”

Important NFL Combine Numbers
40-Yard Dash: 4.53
Vertical Jump: 37”
Broad Jump: N/A
20-Yard Shuttle: 4.26
3-Cone: 7.08

Background (College Stats)
Evans was a bit more of a basketball phenom in his high-school days, only playing football in his senior year. However, he proved to be a quick study in the Aggies’ spread attack in 2012 after taking a redshirt year, leading Texas A&M with 82 receptions for 1,105 yards (both school freshman records) and five touchdowns. Evans’ catch numbers dropped in 2013, but spiked almost everywhere else, posting a 69-1,394-12 line (breaking former teammate Ryan Swope’s single-season record for receiving yardage) in an offense that saw four receivers record at least 51 catches. Although the first-team All-SEC receiver tore apart Alabama for 279 yards earlier in the year, his finest game came against national champion runner-up Auburn, which he burned for 11 receptions, a school-record 287 yards and four touchdowns. Those games allowed Evans to become the first player in school history to register two 200-yard receiving games in his career. Unfortunately, the Biletnikoff Award finalist ended his college career on a bit of a mixed note. Evans picked up two 15-yard penalties in the first quarter of the Aggies’ thrilling comeback win in the Chick-fil-A Bowl after getting on officials for a lack of a pass interference call in the end zone against Duke CB (and fellow 2014 draft classmate) Ross Cockrell. The second infraction likely was a carryover from the first no-call (as well as continued physical play from Cockrell), suggesting the mean streak Evans uses to his advantage so often can also manifest itself in a negative way as well.

NFL Player Comp(s): Vincent Jackson’s frame and Brandon Marshall’s game

Strengths

  • Highly physical receiver that uses his size and strength well; challenges defenders to tackle him but displays enough elusiveness in the open field to make the first man miss.
  • Large catch radius given his size and wingspan, shows exceptional hands on 50/50 balls and is perhaps the best combination red-zone/deep threat in this draft.
  • Master at the fade-stop and displays great body control as well as an innate ability to time “high-point” throws.
  • Stacks the defender well on deep throws and can catch over either shoulder.
  • Is not the best run-after-catch threat in his class, but has a good stiff-arm and more than enough power to run through or drag tacklers.
  • Gives consistent effort on pass plays whether or not he is the target and is also a willing run blocker who can flatten his defender on occasion.
  • Was often the target for QB Johnny Manziel when plays broke down, making himself an inviting option by using “scramble-drill” techniques and boxing out the defender when necessary.

Weaknesses

  • Could face a long learning curve in learning a NFL offense since Texas A&M did not use a pro-style offense; most of his production came on jump balls, screens, fade-stops or go routes.
  • Rides a fine line between pushing off defender while ball is in the air and creating separation with his size; earned a reputation among SEC coaches that he grabbed cornerbacks during a route to get an extra “boost”.
  • Final college game displayed a bit of an uneven temperament and that a defender (or referee) can rattle him.
  • Allows the ball get into his body a bit too often, mostly on short and intermediate throws.
  • Ends up near the sideline too often before he can make a play on the ball, thereby making a difficult downfield throw even more so for his quarterback.
  • A bit of long-strider and a bit slow coming out of breaks (common for a receiver of his size), which may lend itself to a lot of contested catches in the NFL.

Bottom Line
Some bigger receivers act as if they have been told not to be overly physical because they have always been bigger than all the other kids; Evans has no such problem and actually plays with a bit of mean streak. He should make an immediate impact as a red-zone threat given the pro game’s love for the fade pattern in the scoring area as well as the deep passing game with his size and leaping ability. That’s the good news. The glass-half-empty view would suggest that his college offense may have stunted his growth as a student of the game because so much of the Aggies’ attack was based on Manziel’s ability to create something out of nothing. It’s hardly a fatal flaw, however, since just about any position coach would prefer having a receiver with Evans’ measurables and competitive drive (and teach him how to be a pro receiver) as opposed to taking on a refined route-runner without his unique qualities. Evans is going to be an instant starter in the NFL for the simple fact he is a matchup nightmare all over the field. It is scary to think Evans is a relatively raw 20-year-old who didn’t begin playing football until his senior year of high school. Clemson’s Sammy Watkins may be the better draft prospect in the short term, but no one should be surprised if Evans ends up being every bit as good – if not better – than his esteemed draft classmate once he becomes a more polished receiver.



WR Sammy Watkins Draft Profile


By: — April 1, 2014 @ 6:43 pm
Filed under: NFL Draft

As we begin the countdown to the NFL Draft starting on May 8, I will spend anywhere from 4-8 hours to break down the strengths and weaknesses of at least the top 20 or so offensive skill-position prospects available in this draft.

Sammy Watkins

Watkins leads a pack of talented receivers in the 2014 draft class.

Vitals
College: Clemson
Height/Weight: 6’1”/211
Hands: 9 1/2”

Important NFL Combine Numbers
40-Yard Dash: 4.43
Vertical Jump: 34”
Broad Jump: 10’ 6”
20-Yard Shuttle: 4.34
3-Cone: 6.95

Background (College Stats)
A five-star recruit out of Fort Myers, Fla., Watkins had already broken 11 school freshman records seven games into his college career, including the all-purpose yardage mark previously held by C.J. Spiller. He finished the 2011 season with 82 catches for 1,219 yards and 12 touchdowns, numbers that helped him become only the fourth true freshman to be named an AP first-team All-American, joining Herschel Walker, Marshall Faulk and Adrian Peterson in that select group. In 2012, Watkins was arrested and charged with possession of a controlled substance and simple possession of marijuana – two misdemeanors that were later expunged from his record after he completed pre-trial intervention. Nevertheless, he still served a two-game suspension to open the season as a result. With defenses keying on him following his return, Watkins took a backseat to teammate DeAndre Hopkins (an eventual first-round pick of the Houston Texans) with 57 receptions for 708 yards and three TDs. It proved to be the only significant bump in the road for Watkins, however, as he posted a 101-1,464-12 line in his final season with the Tigers, including an Orange Bowl-record 16 receptions and 227 receiving yards in a 40-35 win over Ohio State. Perhaps the most telling statistic from that game: he gained 202 yards after the catch.

NFL Player Comp(s): Andre Johnson

Strengths

  • Fearless hands-catcher with elite run-after-catch ability.
  • Explosive playmaker in the open field that rarely gets tackled by the first defender.
  • Possesses the initial burst to quickly eliminate cushion, the speed to run by a defender and the power to run him over.
  • Shows exceptional field awareness and has a good sense of when to come back to help out his quarterback.
  • Is able to track the ball well on over-the-shoulder catches and wins the majority of high-point battles with defenders on jump balls.
  • Natural separation skills are enhanced by his ability to change his tempo and manipulate stems.

Weaknesses

  • May struggle as a route-runner initially since Clemson did not employ a pro-style offense and used him primarily as an extension of the running game (on screens and quick hitters) or as a deep threat.
  • Cornerbacks rarely lined up within five yards of line of scrimmage against him, making his ability to consistently defeat physical coverage a bit of an unknown.
  • Charged with a couple of drug-related misdemeanors in 2012 and served a two-game suspension as a result; minor durability concerns.
  • Solid overall build, but average height for a receiver in today’s NFL.
  • Ball security (two fumbles in 2013 and lost four of seven throughout his three-year career).

Bottom Line
Although it doesn’t sound like a big deal, receivers that can actually be called “hands-catchers” are in short supply and those that can create offense with the ball in his hands the way Watkins does are truly a rare breed. Most running backs – much less receivers – don’t read their blocks or make the first defender miss as well as he does, which adds yet another set of unique skills to a prospect that is the clear top option in a draft year in which the receiver position is as loaded as it has been in recent memory. Much like many of the other high-profile receivers to enter the draft since the spread offense took over college football, Watkins may face a bit of a speed bump on his path to superstardom because the Tigers’ offense is based more on tempo and getting players in space and less on systematically breaking down a defense. However, NFL play-callers have gotten better about allowing their new players to do what they do best initially while spoon-feeding them the rest of the offense, so an instant impact cannot be ruled out. Even without factoring his potential impact as a kick and/or punt returner, Watkins will be a very good player in the NFL right away assuming his new team does everything it can to get him out into space. The first-team All-ACC selection isn’t quite the prospect that A.J. Green or Julio Jones was a few years ago, but there are parts of his game that are every bit as good – if not better – than Green or Jones when they declared for the draft (such as his run-after-catch ability).



2014 NFL Mock Draft – Version 1.0


By: — March 11, 2014 @ 9:03 am
Filed under: NFL Draft

NFL DraftAs free agency kicks off, here is my first shot at a mock draft. I always tell people that no one knows anything this time of year, myself included. Even reporters close to teams who get information are likely being fed smokescreens. However, mock drafts are fun and people enjoy them, so here is my best educated guess as of March 11. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to drop me a line on Twitter @thepigskinguy.

1. Houston Texans: Teddy Bridgewater, QB Louisville – Unless the Texans simply don’t like any of the top quarterbacks, this pick will be used to take one. Bridgewater is criticized a lot because he has been pegged as one of the top two picks in this draft for two years. However, there is also a lot to like about him. I have followed Bill O’Brien for a while and Bridgewater has everything he looks for in a quarterback. History suggests teams with the first pick that need a quarterback usually go with the safe choice over upside, so I think when the smoke settles, Houston will opt for Bridgewater over Blake Bortles.

2. St. Louis Rams: Greg Robinson, OT Auburn – The Rams would probably like to trade out of this spot but if they stay, Robinson is a logical selection. He fills a need for St. Louis and Robinson is now the top offensive tackle on many draft boards following his impressive combine.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Jadeveon Clowney, DE South Carolina – Gus Bradley is a defensive minded coach and unless the Jaguars absolutely love one of the quarterbacks in this draft, it will be hard for them to pass up on a prospect like Clowney if he’s still on the board at three.

4. Cleveland Browns: Blake Bortles, QB Central Florida – Everyone on the planet appears to love Brian Hoyer but an organization needs more than him at quarterback if they want to end decades of losing. Bortles still needs some work but he is smart with a big arm. I describe Bortles as a poor man’s Andrew Luck coming out of college and I say that as a compliment considering I expect Luck to be a Top 3 NFL quarterback very soon.

5. Oakland Raiders: Sammy Watkins, WR Clemson – I actually have Watkins as the top overall prospect in this draft. I think he is the one can’t-miss prospect given all the physical attributes Watkins brings to the receiver position. That theory will be tested if he goes to Oakland but Watkins certainly fills a need for the Raiders. Oakland has some decent receivers but no one close to being in Watkins’ class. He will be a game-changer from Day 1.

6. Atlanta Falcons: Khalil Mack, DE Buffalo – Mack dominated in college and while some will point to the fact that he played in the MAC, he had some of his biggest games against top-level competition. I saw Mack play a couple of times against bigger schools and he was a terror coming off the edge. He will instantly help a dormant Falcons’ pass rush.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jake Matthews, OT Texas A&M – The Bucs could go in many different directions but Matthews would be tough to pass up here. Matthews is a devastating run blocker and he has quick feet for a guy his size. The Bucs want to run the football and Matthews will help them solidify their line.

8. Minnesota Vikings: Johnny Manziel, QB Texas A&M – The Vikings re-signed Matt Cassel but they want to add a young quarterback in the draft and Manziel makes sense for Minnesota. A polarizing figure, Manziel will be an easy sell to a fan base that idolizes the quarterback he is often compared to: Fran Tarkenton. While Manziel does run a lot, when he threw from pocket last season he did a much better job of going through his progressions than the year before. Also, like him or not, Manziel ripped Nick Saban’s defense twice and that doesn’t happen often.

9. Buffalo Bills: Mike Evans, WR Texas A&M – The Bills are set on building around EJ Manuel and giving the young quarterback a 6’5 receiver is a great way to help him. Stevie Johnson is slowing down and there aren’t many receivers that can make plays with corners draped all over him like Evans can. Evans, Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin would make an intriguing young trio of receivers in Buffalo.

10. Detroit Lions: Darqueze Dennard, CB Michigan State – A lot of people like Justin Gilbert as the top corner because of his speed but I don’t think it’s close. Dennard was the best cover corner in college football last year. Denard is tough, smart and he would make a great addition to Detroit’s secondary.

11. Tennessee Titans: Anthony Barr, LB UCLA – Barr could easily be a Top 10 selection given his ability and production in college. However, if Barr slips to 11, the Titans will have to strongly consider him. Tennessee can go in a lot of different directions but the Titans are in need of an explosive pass rusher and Barr fits the bill.

12. New York Giants: Taylor Lewan, OT Michigan – Linebacker is a popular pick for the Giants and they certainly need to upgrade at that position. However, the Giants had one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL last season and protecting Eli Manning is the team’s top priority. Lewan was one of the few bright spots on the worst coached team in college football last year once Lane Kiffin was fired.

13. St. Louis Rams: Ha Ha Clinton Dix, S Alabama – When your name is “Ha Ha” you should be drafted in the Top 15 by law. Dix is all over the field. I actually think he is one of the 10 best players in the draft at any position. The Rams safeties are dreadful. Dix would come in and be a huge upgrade to a defense that already has a nasty front seven.

14. Chicago Bears: Timmy Jernigan, DT Florida State – How bad was the Bears’ rush defense last year? Ray Rice gained 131 yards on them. Chicago is one of the easiest teams to project. They badly need a defensive tackle or safety. If the talented Jernigan is on the board, he will be a strong possibility for the Bears.

15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Aaron Donald, DT Pittsburgh – Like Chicago, the Steelers could go safety or defensive tackle here. Receiver is also a possibility but Donald is flying up draft boards. He also represents both value and fills a need for Pittsburgh. The Steelers often take the best player available and at 15, Donald would be that guy on a lot of boards.

16. Dallas Cowboys: Louis Nix, DT Notre Dame – The run on defensive tackles continues. The Cowboys’ defensive line is likely to take another hit when they lose DE Jason Hatcher to free agency, as Jerry Jones’ mismanagement of the salary cap continues to put the team in a bind. Dallas desperately needs a nose tackle and Nix is one of the top ones in this draft. He would be an excellent pick for the Cowboys, which means you can cross him off the list.

17. Baltimore Ravens: Odell Beckham, WR LSU – The Ravens badly need another receiver to complement Torrey Smith and help Joe Flacco. Beckham is a tough receiver that can go inside similar to Anquan Boldin, only with more speed. Beckham is one of the most underrated players in the draft. He has all the skills to be a star NFL receiver.

18. New York Jets: Eric Ebron, TE North Carolina – Geno Smith took a lot of criticism in his first season and much of it was deserved. Still, the Jets had the worst group of receivers and tight ends in the NFL. New York has to go offense with this pick to help its young quarterback. They could take a receiver but Ebron is the top tight end prospect available and would represent great value if he is still on the board at 18.

19. Miami Dolphins: Zach Martin, OT Notre Dame – Martin was excellent during his career at Notre Dame. He dominated as a left tackle and Martin has the versatility to play multiple positions on the line early in his career. Given all the problems the Dolphins have with their offensive line right now, Martin would be an excellent selection for them.

20. Arizona Cardinals: C.J. Mosley, LB Alabama – We are getting to the point in the draft where value matters and while Arizona does need an outside linebacker, Mosley is too good to pass up here even if the position may not be the team’s most pressing need. Mosley would fit in nicely with one of the emerging defensive units in the NFL.

21. Green Bay Packers: Calvin Pryor, S Louisville – The Packers had some of the worst safety play in the NFL last year. If either Pryor or Clinton Dix are on the board at 21, Green Bay will have to strongly consider them to address a major weakness.

22. Philadelphia Eagles: Justin Gilbert, CB Oklahoma State – Gilbert probably won’t last this long but I’m not as high on him as some people. When it comes to corners I think it’s Dennard and everyone else. The Eagles’ secondary was awful last season. They could address it in free agency but either way, corner and safety are both options for Philadelphia at 22.

23. Kansas City Chiefs: Marqise Lee, WR USC – The Chiefs need more gamebreakers on offense and Lee would be a steal this low. Lee is slipping among draftniks but they need to look at his college situation. When you still put up numbers despite playing for the worst coach on the planet, it says a lot. I think Lee is one of the top offensive threats in the draft.

24. Cincinnati Bengals: Kony Ealy, DE Missouri – The Bengals will likely lose Michael Johnson, so Ealy will help Cincinnati upgrade at a vital position. Ealy is a quick edge rusher who is also strong against the run. He can step in and rotate with Carlos Dunlap and Margus Hunt as a rookie.

25. San Diego Chargers: David Yankey, G Stanford – The Chargers showed at the end of last season their offense is at its best when they can run the ball effectively. Yankey is a piledriving run blocker who will instantly upgrade San Diego’s line at a position of need.

26. Cleveland Browns: Brandin Cooks, WR Oregon State – The Browns are picking here because the Colts thought they said “sixth round” pick instead of “first round” pick for Trent Richardson. Cleveland obviously has many needs but Josh Gordon is really the only threat the Browns have at receiver. The explosive Cooks would change that, along with giving Cleveland a dangerous return man.

27. New Orleans Saints: Dee Ford, DE Auburn – I have Ford as a Top 15 player in this draft and will probably move him up as we go along. However, right now this is the area he is projected to go in. Ford dominated last year in the SEC and if he goes to the right team like the Saints, I think he will be a stud in the NFL. I won’t be surprised if someone like the Steelers grab him higher in the draft but if Ford lasts this long, Rob Ryan will love him.

28. Carolina Panthers: Kelvin Benjamin, WR Florida State – If a top receiver is on the board at 28, I have to think the Panthers will pull the trigger. Carolina has the pieces in place to make another Super Bowl run, they just need more weapons in the passing game and help at offensive tackle. The 6’5 Benjamin would give Cam Newton a huge target, especially in the red zone.

29. New England Patriots: Kyle Fuller, CB Virginia Tech – If New England loses Aqib Talib, I like this pick for the Patriots. Fuller is the kind of smart, versatile corner Bill Belichick likes. Watching him in college, I could see Fuller playing for New England, so I’m projecting him to go there over the more popular Jace Amaro pick.

30. San Francisco 49ers: Bradley Roby, CB Ohio State – The 49ers don’t have many weaknesses but one area where they could stand to upgrade is at cornerback, especially after releasing Carlos Rogers. Roby was inconsistent last season but he still possesses a ton of physical ability. Under the right coaching staff, Roby has the tools to be a top-tier NFL corner.

31. Denver Broncos: Ra’Shede Hageman, DL Minnesota – The Broncos could grab an OT here to protect Peyton Manning but with Robert Ayers and Shaun Phillips’ futures both in doubt, defensive line is an area of need as well. Besides, if Hageman lasts this long, the versatile lineman will be one of the top players left on the board.

32. Seattle Seahawks: Jace Amaro, TE Texas Tech – Seattle likes Luke Wilson but Amaro would add another dimension to the Seahawks’ offense. Amaro creates a lot of mismatches with opposing defenses and would give Russell Wilson a legitimate threat at the tight end position. Amaro is coming off a season where he caught 106 passes at Texas Tech.



Top Ten Free Agent Wide Receivers for 2014


By: — February 24, 2014 @ 11:00 pm
Filed under: Free Agents

Updated: March 7th, 2014 @ 9:00 AM

Eric Decker

Decker may want to get paid, but the best fit for him is in Denver.

1. Eric Decker (DEN) – Decker is coming off a huge season for the AFC Champ Broncos and is looking at a lucrative multi-year deal. However, he won’t get No. 1 WR money because he’s a much better secondary option than a stud wideout. He’s a big body who can create space and haul in big catches, but the best fit for him is still in Denver. He might sign with the rival Colts – who like the Ravens and Patriots are in need of experienced receivers, but teams will likely remember that he was shut down Seattle’s defense in the Super Bowl.

The Best Fit: Broncos, Colts, Ravens, Patriots

UPDATE: He’s still looking at a deal just under that of a bona fide WR1 and with the confirmation from GM John Elway that he’ll likely hit the open market, there’s been increasing interest from the Colts.

2. Jeremy Maclin (PHI) – The Eagles would love to bring back both Maclin and Riley Cooper, though it will be difficult to pull that off. The Chiefs’ while a bit cash-strapped themselves, are likely to be able to afford one of the guys hitting the open market and Maclin makes the most sense as he flourished in Andy Reid’s offense in the past and won’t cost a ridiculous amount of money. Maclin is coming off a July 2013 ACL injury and there’s still a chance he stays in Philly — he said as much a couple weeks ago to the Philadelphia Inquirer — but Kansas City seems like the best fit.

The Best Fit: Chiefs, Eagles, Packers

UPDATE: SIGNED. The Eagles and Maclin agreed to a one-year, $5.5 million contract with a max value of $6 million, keeping the talented young receiver with one of the most potent offenses in football. Other teams may have been wary about signing Maclin to a big deal after last season’s major injury, so this is a good fit.

3. Anquan Boldin (SF) – I expected Boldin to sign another one-year deal with a contender – but based on ongoing talks between him and the 49ers, it appears they’ll figure out an extension similar to the three-year deal Reggie Wayne signed with the Colts in 2012 ($17.5 million). Boldin is 33 and surely wants another ring, and the 49ers still have a team capable of pulling it off. He probably won’t be the standout fantasy factor he was in the past, but he’s still a capable of big games and hot streaks.

The Best Fit: 49ers, Ravens, Colts

UPDATE: SIGNED. Boldin got a two-year deal with the 49ers reportedly worth $12 million – about what we expected. Now, the Niners have to deal with Colin Kaepernick.

4. Hakeem Nicks (NYG) – Nicks recently signed with Jay Z’s sports agency firm, so he’ll probably go get paid and find his way out of New York. There’s still some question as to why Nicks couldn’t get it done last season (56-896-0 was a truly disappointing fantasy line), though it’s possible it had to do with coaching. With the Giants’ receiving corps featuring so many young and talented options, Nicks feels like the odd man out. The Patriots have a history of rejuvenating disgruntled players so New England could definitely be a landing spot. but there will be competition for such an accomplished receiver (155-2,244-18 TDs in 2010-11).

The Best Fit: Patriots, Colts, Chiefs

UPDATE: The Ravens have popped up on the rumor mill for Nicks as they have a ton of cap space and need another wideout. He could sign a one-year deal similar to Maclin’s, if only because there are questions about his long-term durability/effectiveness.

5. Golden Tate (SEA) – While Tate has said he’d like to stay with Seattle, the receiving corps is too crowded for the Seahawks to make signing him a priority. And WR/PR guys who combine playmaking ability with consistency – like Tate – make GMs salivate. If the Colts miss out on Decker, they’ll make a play for Tate, although the Chiefs and Jets (who desperately need offensive playmakers) will be knocking on his door.

The Best Fit: Colts, Chiefs, Jets

UPDATE: With Sidney Rice now gone, the Seahawks need to keep Tate, and they’ve announced as much in anticipation of a possible offer prior to the March 11 date. He could still hit the open market, but the fit in Seattle is good.

6. James Jones (GB) – Jones is the wild card of the free agent market and it’s likely his days in Green Bay are over. He’s not really needed there and although Aaron Rodgers has lobbied for him to stay, agent Frank Bauer doesn’t think GM Ted Thompson really wants him back. This has nothing to do with Jones’ play – which has been solid if not superb for the Packers over the past few seasons. His TD production plummeted to just 3 in 2013 (he had 14 TDs in 2012) and it’s likely that he’ll command a big deal if he skips town – maybe a tick below what Nicks would make since he’s a few years older but has considerably less wear and baggage. It’s anybody’s guess where he lands, though it’s clear he’ll be used as a red zone target and as a No. 2/3 WR.

The Best Fit: Panthers, Dolphins, Colts

UPDATE: The New York Giants are reportedly in the mix for Jones, who could make a viable red zone target and worthy replacement for Nicks, who is all but gone. The Giants can’t afford to make a huge splash, so signing Jones to a one-year deal is a distinct possibility.

7. Riley Cooper (PHI) – Cooper broke out in a big way in 2013 (47-835-8 on 83 targets), and while he might be able to land a big contract by leaving Philly, I think he fits in great with Nick Foles and the current Eagles offense. The Eagles don’t ask much of Cooper and that’s a good thing, because he’s not that physically gifted a receiver. If he does leave town, I’m almost positive it’ll be to sign an abnormally large contract with the Jets – because that’s something they would do. If teams don’t overspend, he could end up a pawn on Bill Belichick’s chess board.

The Best Fit: Eagles, Jets, Patriots

UPDATE: SIGNED. Cooper inked a five-year, $25 million deal that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense considering the Eagles had leverage in this situation. But, Cooper will get a fat paycheck and resume No. 3 WR duties with Maclin healthy and back to business.

8. Julian Edelman (NE) – Speaking of Belichick, he’s a shrewd guy, which means he’s not going to show his hand and fawn all over Edelman who bailed Tom Brady and the Patriots out on multiple occasions last season. But, Edelman has yet to hear from his team in regard to a new contract. The best fit for Edelman, who had 105 receptions for 1,056 yards and six TDs (151 targets!!) last season, is clearly New England. But if things so sour in negotiations he could make sense in any of the aforementioned cities.

The Best Fit: Patriots, Jets, Colts

UPDATE: The Texans have emerged as a candidate to land Edelman, who just started discussions with the Pats. It’s entirely possible the New England will add Emmanuel Sanders or another upside-laden receiver into the fray as a No. 1 – and make do with Danny Amendola, Aaron Dobson and company out of the No. 2 and slot.

9. Emmanuel Sanders (PIT) – I apologize if I can’t stop talking about the Patriots, but they really wanted Sanders last offseason and even signed him to an offer sheet before the Steelers matched it. Sanders has amassed 161 catches for 2,030 yards and 11 touchdowns in four seasons with Pittsburgh and he’s full of promise without much downside. He’s fast with good hands and will likely court offers from the Pats, Colts and Chiefs.

The Best Fit: Patriots, Colts, Chiefs

UPDATE: Sanders is probably staying somewhere in the AFC, as both the Patriots and Jets have expressed an interest in adding him. Heading to New England would probably be best for his fantasy value.

10. Andre Roberts (ARI) – Roberts and the Cards haven’t engaged in contract talks yet which means he might be taking off for greener pastures – especially since GM Steve Keim has made a point of saying the Cards have offers on the table for a few other players. The truth is that Roberts doesn’t really add another dimension to the Cards’ offense, but he could be a valuable additional to a few other teams. If Sanders leaves Pittsburgh, the Steelers might want to add Roberts to complement Antonio Brown. The Panthers and Cowboys might also be looking for a steady veteran like Roberts to play a minor role.

The Best Fit: Steelers, Panthers, Cowboys

UPDATE: There’s no news from Arizona regarding resigning Roberts, so I’m betting he skips town in search of a sweeter deal and a better QB.

Honorable mention: Kenny Britt, Danario Alexander, Jacoby Jones, Dexter McCluster, Brandon LaFell



Top Ten Free Agent Running Backs for 2014


By: — February 20, 2014 @ 2:57 pm
Filed under: Free Agents

1. Knowshon Moreno (DEN) – The Broncos know that Moreno will transform his excellent 2013 campaign into a big payday in 2014, and they have the depth at RB to let him go without much of a fight. He finished 2013 with 1,586 total yards (including 548 receiving yards on 60 receptions) and 13 TDs. He’s a complete back and could find a home in Indianapolis or Tennessee if he doesn’t get a new deal in Denver.

The Best Fit: Colts, Broncos, Titans

Ben Tate

Ben Tate will land a starting gig in 2014 but it won’t be in Houston.

2. Ben Tate (HOU) – It’s highly unlikely that the Texans will spend the money necessary to keep Tate slogging through limited use in a backup role, where Arian Foster rules the roost and other fresh talent has been emerging. The Browns are in hot pursuit of Tate, according to ESPN, although that report came out before Gary Kubiak (considered for the OC position) headed to Baltimore to run the Ravens offense. Still, the Browns need an all-purpose back with upside, and Tate makes sense in Cleveland as well as Baltimore – where both Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce have shown glaring inconsistencies.

The Best Fit: Browns, Ravens, Colts

3. Darren McFadden (OAK) – If McFadden re-signs with the Raiders, it won’t be good for his fantasy value. He’s 26 years old and coming off yet another injury-plagued season, so a fresh start in a new environment could mean another chance at success. Unfortunately, Run-DMC will probably ask for way too much money and end up as a late addition in training camp for a non-contender. In a perfect world, he’d go to the Colts and compete for a starting spot in a potent offense, but there’s just no telling where he’ll land.

The Best Fit: Colts, Cardinals, Raiders

4. Andre Brown (NYG) – Both Brown and the Giants are on amicable terms heading into 2014 and could reach a deal to keep the talented back in New Jersey. Brown’s injury issues aren’t that big of a concern and he’s been effective as a lead back when called upon the past two seasons. There’s a chance he signs a lucrative deal elsewhere, but the smart money is on a reunion with the Mara family and another season playing for the Giants.

The Best Fit: Giants, Steelers, Bucs

5. Rashad Jennings (OAK) – If the Raiders don’t bring back McFadden, they’d be smart to sign Jennings to a one- or two-year deal. The 28-year-old (he’ll be 29 in March) played well last season in 15 games and doesn’t have a lot of wear on his body after spending several seasons as Maurice Jones-Drew’s backup in Jacksonville.

The Best Fit: Raiders, Colts, Cowboys

6. Maurice Jones-Drew (JAC) – The Jags seem uninterested in signing MJD, who’s nearly 29 with an odometer that just keeps flipping. He looked worn out last season playing behind a bad offensive line and doesn’t have a shot at a long-term contract on the open market. When somebody signs him, it’ll be an incentive-laden deal that won’t exceed a couple seasons – an offer that makes sense for a team like the Cards, who could use a pass-catching back with experience to transition into the Andre Ellington era.

The Best Fit: Cardinals, Packers, Browns

7. Rashard Mendenhall (ARI) – The once-effective Mendenhall was unimpressive in 2013, rushing for just 687 yards on 217 carries (3.2 YPC) and making little impact in the passing game. In his defense, he’s a grinder, not much of a receiving threat and was best when deployed near the goal line (8 rushing TDs). That’s the kind of job he’ll assume again, either for the Cards or for another team desperate for red zone upside from a big body.

The Best Fit: Bucs, Jaguars, Giants

8. Donald Brown (IND) – Brown may have spent his last day in Indy, where he’s never really gotten the vote of confidence needed to make his mark. He’s still an explosive back with upside in the passing game, but he has to be unhappy with the Colts constant search for a lead back. While the Colts should probably offer him a contract as insurance against the enduring flop that Trent Richardson has become, it’s hard to say if the two sides can come together.

The Best Fit: Colts, Packers, Steelers

9. LeGarrette Blount (NE) – The Pats got a lot out of Blount last season, when the former Buc rejuvenated his career and took over lead back duties after Stevan Ridley fumbled away the job. The Pats will probably offer Blount a couple million bucks for a one-year deal to stick around, which makes sense for both sides. If not, I could see the Dolphins or Jags making a run at him.

The Best Fit: Patriots, Dolphins, Jaguars

10. James Starks (GB) – The Packers have expressed an interest in bringing Starks back after the 27-year-old back had his best season (5.5 yards per carry), albeit with limited touches. Starks has had injury issues but was once a postseason hero for the Packers. If he doesn’t come back to Green Bay, he’d fit in well with the Giants and the Vikings – who will need a capable backup for Adrian Peterson if Toby Gerhart leaves for greener pastures.

The Best Fit: Packers, Giants, Vikings

Honorable mention: Ahmad Bradshaw, Toby Gerhart, Jonathan Dwyer



Top Five Free Agent Tight Ends for 2014


By: — February 17, 2014 @ 9:16 am
Filed under: Free Agents

1. Jimmy Graham (NO) – It’s unlikely that the Saints will let Graham walk in 2014, and we’re probably looking at a landmark contract for a TE – if that’s what we’re still calling him (apparently Drew Brees still is). Recently, Graham – easily the best fantasy TE in the league over the past couple of seasons – brushed off questions about if he should qualify as a TE or WR in contract negotiations. He did express a desire that the Saints not slap him with the franchise tag, a designation that could be applied as soon as today. Even if there’s a serious breakdown and a volatile contract dispute occurs, it’s almost outside the realm of possibility that Graham spends 2014 anywhere but New Orleans.

The Best Fit: Saints, Packers, Steelers

Dennis Pitta

The Ravens have made signing Pitta a top priority.

2. Dennis Pitta (BAL) – The Ravens absolutely love Pitta, who missed 12 games last season following a hip dislocation. Pitta is already best friends with franchise QB Joe Flacco and the tight end’s sharp intermediate routes complement the big-play ability of Torrey Smith. Just last week, it was revealed that Gary Kubiak, the Ravens new OC, has big plans for Pitta in his offense – one that made relevant fantasy contributor out of several TEs in Houston, including Owen Daniels, Joel Dreessen, James Casey and free agent Garrett Graham. GM Ozzie Newsome said re-signing Pitta is a top priority and if a deal cannot be reached, he’s a prime candidate for a franchise tag. The Falcons and Dolphins will make every attempt to woo Pitta if he can’t reach a deal in Baltimore.

The Best Fit: Ravens, Falcons, Dolphins

3. Brandon Pettigrew (DET) – Pettigrew will draw interest from plenty of teams looking for a balanced TE with experience, even if the 28-year-old has underperformed relevant to expectations during his career. According to Pro Football Focus, he played 925 out of 1,158 snaps for the Lions offense last season as the team emphasized Pettigrew’s run-blocking ability and utilized the other skill positions and featured Joseph Fauria near the goal line. While new Lions OC Joe Lombardi seems high on Pettigrew’s fit in the offense as a well-rounded blocker/receiver, I think he’d also do well joining the Falcons, where they need to fill a gaping hole at TE in the wake of HOFer Tony Gonzalez’s retirement.

The Best Fit: Falcons, Lions, Steelers, Packers

4. Jermichael Finley (GB) – Finley had neck fusion surgery this off-season after a scary mid-season injury that put his career in considerable jeopardy. His doctor, neurosurgeon Joseph Maroon (who actually works for the Steelers) believes Finley will make a full recovery within the next 4-8 weeks, although he’s already running routes and catching footballs. The Packers are unlikely to re-sign the veteran TE, who’s still only 26 and was having a solid season in 2013 before bruising his spinal cord in Week 6. The Seahawks could be a player in the courtship of such a talented offensive weapon, and while the Giants have been mentioned as a possible landing spot, they probably don’t have the cap space to land a guy like Finley. Also in the mix are the Jets, who have a glaring need to fill at TE.

The Best Fit: Seahawks, Steelers, Jets

5. Garrett Graham (HOU) – Graham’s career year in 2013 could mean decent money on the free agent market, but he’s not enough of a household name at 32 to make a big splash. The Texans would be wise to offer him a relatively low-cost deal and bring him back – he was a bright spot in an otherwise disappointing season. Another team that could use the services of a TE is the Giants – who might not be able to land a high-profile FA but will be in the mix for a value buy. The G-Men might also be interested in the services of Fred Davis, who’s eager to get targets and reestablish himself as an offensive contributor in the NFL.

The Best Fit: Texans, Giants, Dolphins

Honorable mention: Brandon Myers, Fred Davis



Top Five Free Agent Quarterbacks for 2014


By: — February 13, 2014 @ 10:21 am
Filed under: Free Agents

Michael Vick

With so many teams looking for a QB, Vick will land a starting gig in 2014.

1. Michael Vick (PHI) – Vick is very much still in the conversation as a relevant fantasy asset and effective NFL QB, and the next couple seasons could be productive ones if he lands with the right team. It makes little sense for Vick to resign with the Eagles, since they’ve clearly moved on to the dynamic Nick Foles. That leaves us with a handful of teams still looking for something more than a stopgap. The Browns stand out as a team without much identity outside of Josh Gordon and his freakish abilities, and since there’s already a massive overhaul going on, I like the fit – defensive-minded head coach (Mike Pettine) and all. That’s not to say the Vikings (who also have a new coach in Mike Zimmer) couldn’t use a talented QB to compliment some outstanding skill players.

The Best Fit: Browns, Vikings, Jaguars

2. Josh McCown (CHI) – What a difference a year makes. All but written off before 2013 as a journeyman QB with mediocre arm strength, McCown threw 13 TDs in five starts and won thrice – filling the gap for the Bears while Jay Cutler got healthy. He’s 34 and possibly looking at a multi-year contract with a team desperate for a viable starter. Immediately, the Raiders come to mind – as he could rejuvenate his career a la Rich Gannon in Oakland, a city and organization desperate for a QB with some tangible experience and leadership ability. The Texans could also use McCown’s services as they attempt to close the door on the Matt Schaub Era and forget their disastrous 2013 campaign.

The Best Fit: Raiders, Texans, Jaguars

3. Matt Cassel (MIN) – Things just didn’t work out last season for Cassel in Minnesota, and he’s opted out of his contract (and $3.7 million in 2014) in search of greener pastures and a bigger payday. But is anybody really interested? While it makes little sense for Cassel to resign with the Vikings, it’s still a possibility. And while there aren’t many exciting options in the free agent pool, Cassel has experience and two 10-5 seasons as a starter (New England in 2008, Kansas City in 2010) to his credit. The Raiders, Browns, Texans and Jaguars will all be giving him a call.

The Best Fit: Texans, Vikings, Jaguars

4. Josh Freeman (MIN) – Did I have Josh McCown going to the Raiders? Hold up. This guy would fit right into the dysfunction of Oaktown and the team has already expressed an interest. The Raiders tried to sign Freeman last season after the Bucs released him and offensive coordinator Greg Olsen is apparently a big fan. The Raiders have also indicated they’re not likely to go for a QB in the draft, so Freeman and McCown are probably the top two options available. And while nobody wants to go to the Jaguars, they’re going to have to sign somebody.

The Best Fit: Raiders, Jaguars, Browns

5. Kellen Clemens (STL) – While I’m not pointing any fingers, I tend to think the Jets definitely gave up on Clemens too quickly – a mistake that may have cost them a few wins over the past several seasons. He’s not going to command a big contract in free agency, but he’s a capable stopgap who shows off a decent arm at times. Unfortunately, the Rams season was already in the toilet last year when Sam Bradford went down so the team didn’t ask much of Clemens, who finished with 1,673 passing yards, 8 TDs and 7 INTs over 10 games (nine starts). He’s probably going to end up back in St. Louis holding a clipboard, but there’s a shot he finds a starting gig somewhere else – like Houston or another stint in New Jersey.

The Best Fit: Rams, Texans, Jets

Honorable mention: Matt Flynn, Chad Henne



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


By: — February 11, 2014 @ 9:54 am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Josh Gordon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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