Fantasy Football Strategy, Advice, and Commentary
By: Nick Caron — August 11, 2014 @ 1:42 am
Russell Wilson has been a low-end QB1 the last two seasons… yes he has.
QB Russell Wilson
(2013 QB Rank—#8, 16.0 FPts/G)
Only two years removed from upsetting free agency acquisition Matt Flynn for the starting job in Seattle, Russell Wilson is now a Super Bowl winner and is one of the most secure players in the entire league at his position. Wilson’s combination of speed and mistake-free football has also made him a top-10 fantasy quarterback over that two-year span. This is very impressive, considering that Wilson’s Seahawks have run the ball more times and passed the ball fewer times than any team in the NFL since he took over behind center. This sounds ugly on the surface, but the coaching staff in Seattle continues to insist that the team will see a greater balance in its offense in 2014, which could mean great things for Wilson’s fantasy outlook. Wide receivers Golden Tate and Sidney Rice did leave in the offseason, but they will not likely be missed if (and I mean if…) Percy Harvin is able to stay on the field. Harvin is the kind of dynamic playmaker who could give Wilson the kind of target that he has not had so far in his NFL career, one who can turn the short passes into big gains. Wilson is currently only being drafted as a borderline top-12 quarterback in many leagues, which combined with the fact that he could pass the ball upwards of 100 more times in 2014 than he did in 2013, means that he could represent one of the highest upsides and safest downsides of all fantasy quarterbacks this season.
RB Marshawn Lynch
(2013 RB Rank—#4, 14.0 FPts/G)
An offseason contract holdout – which occurred during the same time that he made news for the unique way he parks his Ferrari, mind you – has some skeptics questioning Marshawn Lynch’s commitment to playing football, but there haven’t been many backs as consistent as “Beast Mode” since he arrived in Seattle back in 2010. In each of his past three seasons, Lynch has surpassed 1,200 yards on the ground while scoring double-digit touchdowns in each of those seasons. Combine that with the fact that he has only lost five fumbles over that span and you have a player who most would believe is very safe in his role within the Seahawks’ Super Bowl-winning offense. That might not be the case, however, as reports from camp have been that the team is looking to find ways to get 2013 second-round draft pick Christine Michael on the field more often this season. If there is one area where Lynch has not been superb, it has been in the pass-catching department. His 36 receptions in 2013 were his highest total since 2008 and he had failed to reach even 30 receptions during between those years. Still, Lynch has to be considered one of the safest bets to be a top-10 running back this season. Seattle does seem committed on passing the ball more often, but that could still mean 275-plus touches for Lynch.
RB Christine Michael
(2013 RB Rank—#112, 0.4 FPts/G)
Training camp standout Christine Michael has been a hot name this offseason, particularly in dynasty leagues where he is being drafted as the perceived long-term ball-carrier for Seattle once Marshawn Lynch eventually slows down. Michael possesses a unique combination of size and strength, but still has the burst to break into the secondary when given a chance. His bruising running style has been compared to the likes of Adrian Peterson and of course his teammate, Lynch, which makes sense as to why the Seahawks used a second-round pick on him in 2013. While Michael is unlikely to see substantial enough carries on his own to warrant a weekly starting position on your fantasy roster, his situation makes him enticing as a RB5 or RB6 late in drafts, even in redraft leagues. If Lynch gets hurt at some point during the season, Michael could instantly become a top-10 fantasy back in this Seattle offense. That seems unlikely given that Lynch has only missed one game during his entire tenure in Seattle, but the tremendous number of carries that he has taken during that span doesn’t necessarily bode well for long-term health.
WR Percy Harvin
(2013 WR Rank—#169, 0.1 FPts/G)
Perhaps no player in the entire league is more polarizing for the 2014 fantasy football season than wide receiver Percy Harvin. Harvin, who was Seattle’s headline-grabbing offseason acquisition prior to the 2013 season, came very close to never playing a snap for the entire season. He joined the team already injured, but would then see setback after setback before finally getting on the field in Week 11 against his former team, the Minnesota Vikings. Harvin would make one catch for 17 yards before coming off the field again. Harvin would not see the field again until the postseason when he played against New Orleans, making three catches for 21 yards. Another injury would keep him out of an extremely important NFC championship game against the 49ers, but he did finally get back out there in the Super Bowl. Harvin made only one catch for five yards in the big game, but added 45 yards on two carries and made one of the highlight plays of the game with a kick return touchdown. Harvin’s playmaking abilities are unquestioned at this point, but his inability to stay on the field has some experts saying that they would not even bother drafting him. While the risk is certainly involved, Harvin could also be the kind of player who wins an owner his league if he is able to kick the injury bug and stay on the field. Reports in Seattle say that the team is hoping to target Harvin over 100 times, so the opportunities should be there if he can stay healthy. This is the ultimate risk/reward proposition.
WR Doug Baldwin
(2013 WR Rank—#38, 6.3 FPts/G)
As a reliable, but uninspiring receiver, Doug Baldwin became one of Wilson’s favorite targets in 2013 when he caught 50 passes for 778 yards and five touchdowns. While Golden Tate is now gone, a healthy Percy Harvin would mean even less attention going Baldwin’s way this season. Of course, Harvin not seeing the field could also work in Baldwin’s favor in terms of total number of targets. Those targets wouldn’t be quite as high quality given that the defense would be able to focus on him a bit more, but an increase in total targets is always a good thing to see. It’d be hard to expect Baldwin to suddenly become a fantasy force, but a 65-catch season is not out of the question, especially if the Seahawks do live up to their statements of becoming a more balanced offensive attack.
TE Zach Miller
(2013 TE Rank—#22, 3.9 FPts/G)
While he was third on the team in total targets in 2013, tight end Zach Miller represents about as exciting of fantasy prospects as a box of rocks. He made just 33 receptions a season for only 387 yards. While he did make five touchdown receptions, Miller’s 20 total touchdowns in seven seasons shows us that he is not exactly Rob Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham when it comes to being a red-zone threat at the tight end position. Worse yet, Miller will compete with Like Willson for snaps at the position. While Miller is certainly a better blocker, Willson is younger, a better athlete and a more dynamic pass-catcher. Miller is unlikely to be drafted in most fantasy leagues, but could be utilized from time-to-time in bye weeks when the Seahawks are playing against a particularly vulnerable defense.
By: Sal Marcoccio — August 8, 2014 @ 9:35 am
Smith’s strong finish in 2013 isn’t enough for fantasy owners to make him a QB1.
QB Geno Smith
(2013 QB Rank—#20, 15.9 FPts/G)
Geno Smith showed the typical rookie growing pains for most of his first season in the league. He finished the season barely eclipsing 3,000 yards and throwing for only 12 touchdowns against 21 interceptions. Buried in that abyss, however, was the young field general leading the way to impressive wins at Atlanta and at home against the rival Patriots, where he played very well. Perhaps more importantly for his 2014 prospects, Smith finished the year strong, leading the Jets to a 3-1 record in his last four games. During that four-week span, Smith threw for 790 yards with four touchdown passes and only two interceptions. He also rushed for 186 yards and three more touchdowns, making him a borderline QB1 candidate down the stretch. Reports from training camp have been mostly positive and his “battle” with Michael Vick for the starting job hasn’t been a fair fight as the second-year player has received about 75 percent of the snaps with the first unit. The team added some weapons to help with Smith’s development, most notably former Bronco Eric Decker. Smith was more of a pocket passer at West Virginia who was reluctant to leave the pocket despite his above-average athleticism. The team encouraged him to run more as the season progressed and Smith gained confidence tucking the ball away and taking off and it became a valuable weapon for the team. Smith finished the season with 366 yards and six touchdowns on the ground, despite not running much until the last quarter of the season. Smith should make some improvements as a passer and if he continues to run the ball, he isn’t such a terrible option for your backup quarterback spot late in the draft.
QB Michael Vick
(2013 QB Rank—#38, 18.0 FPts/G)
Michael Vick was signed this offseason under the guise of competing for the Jets’ starting quarterback job. From the beginning, however, he’s been resigned to the fact that the job is most likely Geno Smith’s to lose. Vick is still one of the better running QBs in the league, despite his advanced age. Outside of 2010 he has never been able to put up big numbers in the passing game. Vick will likely only see the field if Smith gets injured or if he struggles and the team is losing. He’s a guy to keep an eye on for a quick waiver wire claim should the Jets call his number, but right now he shouldn’t be listed on your draft board.
RB Chris Johnson
(2013 RB Rank—#9, 12.6 FPts/G)
Chris Johnson, the artist formerly known as CJ2K, wore out his welcome in Tennessee and was unceremoniously shown the door this offseason. The New York Jets, an offense that was in serious need of adding some playmakers, quickly pounced on him and brought him into the fold. Johnson blamed last season’s “struggles” on a torn meniscus that he suffered in Week 3 and played through for the remainder of the season. Despite the injury, he still put up 1,422 total yards and 10 touchdowns making him a top-10 fantasy running back in 2013. Reports indicate that his role with the Jets varies, ranging from a “change of pace back” to a “committee back” and a back who gets “all the carries he can handle.” The truth is likely that Johnson will lead all running backs in touches but Chris Ivory and even Bilal Powell will see significant touches as well to help keep him fresh. Johnson has at times lined up at receiver during training camp and his abilities in the passing game will exploited in offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinwig’s west coast scheme. His knee is no longer considered a concern after offseason surgery. He has already participated in contact drills and was reported to look like the “Chris Johnson of old.” Fantasy owners need to remember, though, that he is now the old Chris Johnson, which is a very different thing. He’s worth taking a chance on as your RB3, but given the talk of RBBC, he could see some down weeks if you have to start him on a regular basis.
RB Chris Ivory
(2013 RB Rank—#37, 6.4 FPts/G)
Chris Ivory was last offseason’s big acquisition at the running back position. After a slow start, due to suffering a hamstring injury during training camp, Ivory showed to be a capable feature back. In Week 6 and Week 9, the Jets upset two of the league’s top teams, the Patriots and the Saints. Ivory gained 243 yards with a touchdown during that hot streak. Following Week 9, he was an important part of the Jets’ offense, but his lack of usage in the passing game and the Jets lack of scoring opportunities limited his fantasy value. This season the offense should be much improved and Ivory could see more goal-line opportunities but the presence of Chris Johnson will put a serious cap on his fantasy value. Ivory could be a decent mid- to late-round stash, whose value could rise with a Johnson injury, but otherwise he doesn’t pack much bang for your buck.
WR Eric Decker
(2013 WR Rank—#8, 12.2 FPts/G)
No player’s value likely dropped more than Eric Decker’s this offseason. Switching from Peyton Manning to Geno Smith at quarterback will do that. On the positive side, Decker will no longer compete with Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker and Julius Thomas for targets in the passing game. On the negative side, Decker will no longer have Thomas, Welker and Thomas drawing attention away from him. Decker’s detractors will likely call him a product of Manning; however, he is a solid wide receiver in his own right. As a second-year player he managed to put up a 44-612-8 stat line despite playing mostly with Tim Tebow under center. Looking a bit deeper, during the first four weeks of that season Decker caught 20 passes for 270 yards and four touchdowns when Kyle Orton was at quarterback. That put him on pace for an 80-1,080-16 stat line over a full season. Decker will likely not reach 16 touchdowns in 2014 but 80 receptions and 1,000 yards are reachable goals with even a minimal jump from Smith during his sophomore season. The fact that Decker should be the focus of opposing defenses does present its problems and the team will need third-year WR Stephen Hill to step up his game and help create space underneath by drawing coverage deep.
WR Jeremy Kerley
(2013 WR Rank—#63, 6.0 FPts/G)
Jeremy Kerley could be the biggest beneficiary of the Jets offseason acquisition of Eric Decker. Stretched as a “go to” wide receiver, Kerley still performed admirably and the passing game looked much better when he was on the field last season than when he missed time. Ideally, Kerley will man the slot for the Jets where his quickness, sharp route running and sure hands works the best. In PPR leagues, Kerley could be a draft-day bargain in the late rounds as he has the trust of his quarterback and the passing game should be more effective than last season where he lead the team with 523 yards receiving on 43 catches, despite only playing 12 games.
WR Stephen Hill
(2013 WR Rank—#103, 3.4 FPts/G)
Entering his third season, it’s hard to consider Stephen Hill anything more than a bust so far. His lack of production stands out further when he’s compared to the two other physical freaks that came out of Georgia Tech, Calvin Johnson and Demaryius Thomas. Hill burst on the scene in his first NFL game with five receptions for 89 yards with two scores, but the highlights have been few and far between since. His poor 2013 is blamed on a sore knee that did not allow him to cut, and reports out of training camp have been “outstanding.” Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinwhig has gushed about him and he could be on the verge of taking a big leap. Hill’s struggles have been largely based on health, but he has also displayed questionable hands. Some key drops in big situations have soured many Jet fans on Hill, but at 6’5” (he reportedly grew an inch this offseason) and 215 lbs. with impressive speed, if he can stay healthy and limit his miscues the sky could be the limit. In deep leagues, a late-round flier could wind up paying dividends.
TE Jeff Cumberland
(2013 TE Rank—#26, 5.3 FPts/G)
The Jets drafted rookie tight end Jace Amaro in the second round of the NFL draft, after resigning incumbent Jeff Cumberland to a three-year, $5.7 million contract. All reports from camp indicate that Amaro has looked lost while adjusting to the pro game, meaning Cumberland is likely to hold onto his starting spot at the beginning of the season. That does not mean he should be on your fantasy roster. At 6’4” and 260 lbs., Cumberland has surprising timed speed and the team feels that he could take the next step into becoming a matchup nightmare. It’s a long shot that it will happen though, as despite his decent 40 time when he was a prospect, Cumberland appears to lumber when on the field and he hasn’t shown reliable hands. The team also has last preseason’s star with the Patriots, Zach Sudfeld on the roster further complicating things. One would need to be in a fairly deep league to even consider Cumberland – or any Jet tight end – on draft day.
By: Jake Gordon — @ 8:59 am
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick
(2013 QB Rank—#23, 19.9 FPts/G)
The Texans’ decision to not draft a quarterback with the top overall selection in this year’s NFL Draft has defined their offseason. Instead of talking about potential and talent at the quarterback position, fantasy owners are left reading words like “stopgap” and “game manager.” Fitzpatrick was unable to carry fantasy appeal after a strong start to the 2011 season as a member of the Bills and he failed to inspire in 11 contests as a replacement to Jake Locker in 2013. Interceptions have long plagued him and new head coach Bill O’Brien will certainly try to help his starting quarterback mitigate those errors this year. Throwing to future Hall of Famer Andre Johnson and emerging playmaker DeAndre Hopkins will give the nine-year veteran signal caller his best group of targets as a pro. That might not be enough to make him worthy of QB1 status but he should be a readily available plug-and-play option for a team that should do well in the field position game.
The Texans will make University of Houston alum Case Keenum the second-stringer to open the season after letting go of T.J. Yates prior to training camp. If Keenum starts, the entire offense will take a hit in terms of production. Rookie fourth-rounder Tom Savage has the size and arm to be developed into a quality pocket passer but should not be a factor into the team’s plans for another couple of years.
Arian Foster’s 2nd-round ADP comes with a boatload of risk.
RB Arian Foster
(2013 RB Rank—#44, 10.6 FPts/G)
In terms of volume and schedule alone, Arian Foster offers as much fantasy potential as any other running back in 2014. After all, how many lead running backs under the age of 30 with no competition for carries in a run-heavy offense are there in the NFL? Foster’s 4.5 yard per carry average in 2013 and pass-catching abilities serve as further reminders that he was a top-three fantasy pick as recently as 2012. Of course, few need reminding of the injury risk attached to the upside of this plow horse. A back injury kept him out eight weeks last season and his medical file contains calf, knee and hamstring injuries. He is probably the poster child for injury risk at this point. Training camp has just opened and Foster has already missed practices with an apparent hamstring tweak. Houston is placing plenty of confidence in Foster this year with Andre Brown serving as his primary backup and an injury risk himself. Brown will steal a few series each game but the Texans offense will lean heavily on the franchise’s all-time leading rusher. In standard 10-team formats, Foster is an unnecessary risk in the first round. On the contrary, the deeper the league, the more valuable his upside becomes and owners will have to gamble on high-caliber guys.
RB Andre Brown
(2013 RB Rank—#49, 9.7 FPts/G)
Every fantasy owner’s pre-draft checklist should include the name of Arian Foster’s backup. Ben Tate is gone and Andre Brown is in. How much stock you put into Brown is a personal choice but at some point this season he will likely give fantasy owners a short term jolt of production. During his time with the Giants, he proved to be capable of running inside or outside, as well as receiving. He also proved to be unlucky in breaking his left leg twice. Anytime a running back suffers a major injury to the same leg you have to wonder how likely he will bounce back, as well as the likelihood of recurring issues in the same leg. After dealing with injuries, Brown has changed up his routine in an effort to prevent injury but that won’t change the fact that he won’t get enough carries to be useful unless Foster is sidelined. As a result, he is purely a handcuff.
RB Alfred Blue
(2013 RB Rank—N/A)
Alfred Blue, Houston’s 2014 sixth-round draft pick, is a big physical back with plenty of promise at the pro level. He’s competing with Andre Brown and Dennis Johnson to provide depth at the running back position. He was buried on the depth chart at Louisiana State and comes into the NFL with less miles on the tires than other rookie running backs. That being said, some scouts questions his durability since he has never shown to be a plow horse. He won’t be expected to carry the load just yet and is not likely to pass Brown out of the gate. He has made a favorable early impression at camp, however, and with two oft-injured players above him on the depth chart, Blue may become a deep sleeper for the 2014 fantasy season.
WR Andre Johnson
(2013 WR Rank—#12, 10.7 FPts/G)
Andre Johnson padded his Hall of Fame credentials with another productive campaign in 2013. His 109 receptions trailed only Pierre Garcon and Antonio Brown for the league lead. His days of being a steadfast fantasy producer are now dependent on Ryan Fitzpatrick’s decision making and arm, however. It went over so well with Johnson that he decided to hold out in hopes of forcing a trade. Since then, Johnson has reported and stated his desire to remain a Texan for the rest of his career. In 2013, Houston placed in the top ten of the NFL regular season for both passing attempts and completions – a feat that isn’t likely to happen with Fitzpatrick under center. Less targets and yards and a budding player in DeAndre Hopkins will lower Johnson’s ceiling. Adding to the negative vibes is a slight hamstring issue popping up early in training camp and his old age – he just turned 33 years old. Did I mention Fitzpatrick is his quarterback? Good. At best, he finds the end zone just enough to be a solid WR2 in most formats, but he likely won’t come at that cost due to his name value.
WR DeAndre Hopkins
(2013 WR Rank—#50, 5.8 FPts/G)
One of last year’s most hyped players during the preseason, DeAndre Hopkins failed to live up to expectations. Still young and developing, Hopkins is on the rise in fantasy drafts once again. With Andre Johnson still a major threat, Hopkins should make less mental errors in his second season and thrive in man-to-man situations. But the question remains, how many balls will he see in this offense? The good news is that new QB Ryan Fitzpatrick got a little more time to develop chemistry with the Clemson product during Johnson’s holdout. The bad news is that Johnson ended his holdout and Hopkins’ target projection limits his ability to truly breakout. His time in the spotlight on the fantasy stage will come, for now he is still the third option behind two franchise icons.
WR DeVier Posey
(2013 WR Rank—#123, 1.7 FPts/G)
After Hopkins, the Texans are short on talent at the wide receiver position. Keshawn Martin, DeVier Posey, Alan Bonner and Travis Labhart are in camp and at least one, if not two of them are not likely to make the final roster. All are fairly young with Posey being the biggest target. Labhart is a bit small but could make the team working out of the slot. None should make a fantasy impact this year, though.
TE Garrett Graham
(2013 TE Rank—#16, 7.0 FPts/G)
Part of the garbage that was taken to the curb last year included longtime fantasy tease Owen Daniels, who was released in March and subsequently signed by the Ravens. Houston is likely to use more than one guy at the position in the new offensive scheme but Garrett Graham will man the “Move TE” role that offers the most fantasy potential. Graham’s elevation on the depth chart comes on the heels of a promising 2013 campaign. During a four-game stretch between Weeks 11 and 14, Daniels was thrown to 47 times, catching about half of them and scoring twice. An increase in playing time and a conservative offense should yield over 100 targets, making him a nice value to owners in deeper leagues. Behind Graham are two young and rather large targets, Ryan Griffin and rookie C.J. Fiedorowicz. Both players stand 6’6” tall and weigh over 250 lbs., making them ripe for short-yardage packages.
By: Mike Krueger — August 7, 2014 @ 1:57 am
Player Projections, Rankings & Cheatsheets
Change Log – 8/7/14
- Wes Welker (-5) – Love Welker in his swan song season in Denver but initial TD total was too high.
- Emmanuel Sanders (+7) – Don’t think he’ll duplicate Decker’s numbers but you can’t deny the opportunity is there.
- Dwayne Bowe (+6) – Weak secondary, tough schedule, means the Chiefs will be playing from behind a lot this season. Bowe is widely undervalued.
- Aaron Dobson (–7) – Spending too much time in the trainers room.
- Mychal Rivera (+10) – Moves back into the starting role with Ausberry (knee) out.
- Jace Amaro (-13) – Predictably, the rookie TE is struggling picking up all his responsibilities at the NFL level.
By: Colby Cavaliere — August 5, 2014 @ 11:23 pm
QB Joe Flacco
(2013 QB Rank—#18, 18.2 FPts/G)
The more Joe Flacco throws the ball, the less effective he becomes. In Flacco’s first three seasons in the NFL, he had less than 500 pass attempts and completed 62 percent of his throws. In the last three seasons, where Flacco has surpassed 500 pass attempts, his completion percentage has dipped to a very mediocre 58.7 percent. When your fantasy quarterback gets worse the more he throws, it’s time to consider other options. In 2013 Flacco was a middling QB2. Having to learn and adjust to a new offensive scheme that will favor the run, expect Flacco to again be a low-tier QB2 with little upside. With only a shadow of a running game, a powerless offensive line (48 sacks allowed) and Torrey Smith as the only major threat out wide, Flacco tried to carry the Ravens on his shoulders and failed. His 19-22 touchdown to interception ratio was the worst of his six-year career. During the offseason the Ravens committed resources to shoring up their putrid offense, trading for a new starting center and signing veterans Owen Daniels and Steve Smith. With the addition of new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak, expect Flacco to play a much more composed, conservative game, which might do wonders for his team’s offensive consistency, but ultimately won’t do much for your fantasy team.
A forgettable 2013 plus a two-game suspension has Rice’s value at an all-time low.
RB Ray Rice
(2013 RB Rank—#30 8.1 FPts/G)
Is Ray Rice the latest example of just how quickly high-volume, aging running backs can take a rapid statistical decline or is he simply a veteran runner coming off a down season? Hampered by an early-season leg injury and increased bulk, Rice looked nothing like the dynamic dual threat runner from just two seasons ago. Once considered a RB1 lock, Rice dashed the hopes of his fantasy owners last season with a 3.1 yards-per-carry average and only four touchdowns. Any positive offseason news concerning his health and conditioning was erased when he was arrested and subsequently suspended for two games because of a domestic violence incident. Marred by an ugly arrest and coming off a car wreck of a season, it’s hard to be optimistic about Rice returning to fantasy dominance, but don’t totally write off Rice as a fantasy asset in 2014.
Because of workload, competition and the two-game suspension, the days of Rice going for 1,800 total yards and 10+ touchdowns are likely gone. But remember, the Ravens running game was an abomination last season, not just Rice, and new coordinator Gary Kubiak knows a little something about moving the ball on the ground. The NFL is about talent and Ravens brass clearly thinks Rice has enough of it left, as they had all the reason in the world to cut him these last several months. Look for a rebound, as Rice tries to rectify a ghastly season and bring some positive results to his name and to his franchise. Be aware of his value and risk. Draft Rice as a low-tier RB2 or upper-tier RB3.
RB Bernard Pierce
(2013 RB Rank—#52, 4.1 FPts/G)
After a dazzling rookie year in 2012 that saw him begin to siphon work away from Pro Bowl teammate Ray Rice, Bernard Pierce was dreadful in 2013. Leading the league in lowest yards-per-carry average (2.9 ypc, min. 150 carries), Pierce couldn’t take advantage of Rice’s struggles, and provided little to no value to fantasy owners who handcuffed him to Rice. Despite playing in all 16 games, Pierce was hobbled by weekly lower leg injuries, and to compound his foot and ankle woes, he underwent major shoulder surgery in the offseason. Maybe the Ravens offensive line and running scheme was really as dreadful as it seemed or perhaps Pierce is merely a one-dimensional runner with limited potential. Well, we’re about to find out. With his running back competition dwindling due to arrests and suspensions, Pierce will get an early opportunity to fill out a meaningful offensive role when he starts the first two games of the season in place of Rice. Locked into an early season starter’s workload will give fantasy owners the look they need to determine if retuning to the zone blocking scheme he ran so successfully at Temple can bring him back into fantasy prominence. Even if he can return to his 2012 form early on, his upside remains capped by the presence of Rice and his limited role in the passing game (only 19 receptions in his college career and 27 in two NFL seasons), making him a RB4 with questionable prospects.
WR Torrey Smith
(2013 WR Rank—#22, 8.6 FPts/G)
The lone bright spot on offense for the Ravens in 2013 was the continued growth and development of Torrey Smith. Posting career highs in targets, catches and yards, Smith demonstrated an improved polish to his game by expanding his route tree and ability to read defensive coverage. The fact that he was able to provide WR2 numbers on an offense that was as poor as the Ravens is impressive alone. He was able to maintain an elite 17.4 yards-per-catch average, despite the additional defensive attention. His ability to get open deep saved him from his mediocre touchdown total at four. Because he and Joe Flacco connect so well on the deep ball, Smith is always a good bet for a monster game or two through the year, but he lacks the refinement and physical tools that made Andre Johnson a stud in this version of the Gary Kubiak offense. Look for Smith’s development to continue as he learns from the team’s other veteran pass catchers. As his role adjusts in the new offense and he takes on more routes closer to the line of scrimmage, expect his catch total and touchdowns to rise slightly, but his yardage total to dip. His talent, offensive system and responsibilities mean Smith should be a good bet to continue to provide lower-tier WR2 or upper-tier WR3 value.
WR Steve Smith
(2013 WR Rank–#43, 6.6 FPts/G)
Quietly one of the best receivers of his generation, 35-year-old Steve Smith comes to Baltimore not with a chip on his shoulder, but the whole darn block! Whether you believe the Carolina Panthers cut Smith because they were tired of his attitude or his declining game, the Ravens get the brash, no-nonsense veteran receiver they lost when they traded away Anquan Boldin last season. Smith will surely bring an edge to the Ravens offense, but quite simply, he won’t bring much to your fantasy team. While both he and Boldin fight for the football with the same reckless abandon, Boldin relies on exceptional body control and his 6’1’’ frame to fight defenders for the ball, while Smith’s game has been predicated on quickness, which has been sapped by age as he’s two years older than Boldin. In receiver-starved Carolina last year, Smith failed to record a single game over 74 yards last season and has found the end zone more than four times only once in the last four seasons. Don’t expect a Boldin-like career resurgence from Smith, and don’t rely on Smith as anything more than a WR4/5 for your fantasy team.
TE Dennis Pitta
(2013 TE Rank—#53, 5.7 FPts/G)
On his way to joining the ranks of the league’s elite pass catching tight ends, finishing in the top 10 in targets and catches in 2012, Dennis Pitta suffered a severe hip injury last offseason. The injury and subsequent surgery cost him the first 13 weeks of the season, but as a testament to his talent and importance to the Ravens offense, he was targeted a team-high 11 times and scored a touchdown in his first game back. With health on his side, a fresh new contract and an offense that figures to feature him in multiple formations and routes, Pitta is primed to continue his breakout. His speed and size make him as much of a weapon down the seam as a touchdown threat in the red zone. Flanked by Torrey Smith and Steve Smith on the outside, Pitta should have the space to work and could potentially lead the team in targets. At the very least Pitta is positioned to set career highs in catches, yards and touchdowns, and could provide some monster value as a reliable low-end TE1 with top-five upside.
By: Sal Marcoccio — August 1, 2014 @ 10:56 am
Is Eli Manning inline for a bounce-back season with new OC Ben McAdoo?
QB Eli Manning
(2013 QB Rank—#21, 15.5 FPts/G)
Eli Manning is coming off of his worst season since the early years of his career when he was still learning how to play the position. He only threw for 18 touchdown passes while accruing an unbelievable 27 interceptions. Manning has never been a great fantasy asset, but his steady production and ability to put together 16-game seasons on a yearly basis has always made him a safe bet to finish as a borderline fantasy QB1. There are many reasons that could have led to such a poor 2013 including a porous offensive line (Manning was sacked a career-high 39 times), an ankle injury suffered during the season and the offensive game plan being stale. The line issues were addressed through free agency and the draft while Manning had offseason surgery to clean up his ankle. Furthermore, former Packer quarterback coach Ben McAdoo replaced the only offensive coordinator that Eli has ever known, Kevin Gilbride. There’s hope for the younger Manning to turn things back around, as the Giants will be one of the offenses that will seek to emulate the “fast” up-tempo game-plans now in vogue. McAdoo is also installing a more west-coast style offense that will use short screens and slants, as opposed to Gilbride’s vertical-based offense. The offensive line will not have to hold its blocks as long and wide receivers Victor Cruz, Reuben Randle and Odell Beckham are great fits for the new offense. Manning will forever be linked to Philip Rivers due to the draft day trade between New York and San Diego that swapped the duo. Rivers, who also looked to be in a downslide, thrived last season under a new quick hitting/timing based offense and the hope is that Manning will do the same. Manning is a nice target for those that like to wait and use a QBBC approach in redraft leagues.
RB Rashad Jennings
(2013 RB Rank—#22, 9.2 FPts/G)
Career backup Rashad Jennings was able to parlay a nice run in 2013 with the Oakland Raiders into a decent NFL payday this offseason. Jennings was able to rush for 733 yards with six touchdowns and caught 36 balls for another 292 yards last season. He looked the part after taking over the starting running back positions in Week 10 following a Darren McFadden injury. General manager Jerry Reese has referred to the veteran as a “bellcow type” and head coach Tom Coughlin is impressed by his versatility. Jennings is the type of solid grinder that Coughlin prefers and his pass blocking and ball protection should parlay into Jennings seeing the field quite a bit in 2014. Jennings has never handled more than 163 carries in a season, however. While some people may see that as him having a “little tread off his tires,” there have also been hints that the Giants may not see him as a true workhorse. There have been reports that we could see a three-headed RBBC in New York to help keep Jennings fresh by limiting his workload. Fantasy owners should look at his 4.5 yard per carry average from last season and Coughlin’s track record of having little patience for mistakes and feel confident that they can rely of Jennings for RB2 results in 2014, but also need to face the reality that his upside could be limited. In a west-coast offense, Jennings’ ability to block and catch well sets him apart from his competition and that should make him an attractive option in PPR leagues.
RB David Wilson
(2013 RB Rank—#92, 4.3 FPts/G)
David Wilson had a disappointing season in 2013, culminating with a serious neck injury that threatened his future as a football player. All things considered, getting clearance to play football in 2014 following neck surgery is a major boon for Wilson’s fantasy owners. Wilson is now getting snaps with the second unit and should earn a change-of-pace role as long as he stays healthy. Prior to his injury, Wilson was still a disappointment and often found himself in head coach Tom Coughlin’s doghouse as a result of his penchant for fumbling and his issues with pass protections. Wilson is one of the most explosive players in the league, combining above-average speed and surprising power in his compact frame, but will need to earn his playing time in order to exploit his gifts. Learning to better protect Eli Manning alone would create a tremendous opportunity for him, as his skillset is otherwise well suited to contribute as a pass catcher in the newly implemented west-coast scheme the team will employ. Wilson’s speed, agility and power would be deadly on screens and in the flat. Wilson received clearance on July 21 to take part in contact drills, but Giant fans and fantasy owners will be holding their breath every time he lowers his head and takes a hit. In fact he has already suffered a “stinger” in training camp, making his future that much cloudier. Wilson has the ability to easily surpass Rashad Jennings on the depth chart, but an early-season role of 6-8 carries a game is likely a best case scenario at this point. From there, health and the trust of the coaching staff will the only things holding him back. Sadly, both of those things could be tough for Wilson to obtain.
RB Andre Williams
(2013 RB Rank—N/A)
Andre Williams led the nation in rushing yards as a Boston College Eagle last season. His size and running style is very reminiscent of former Giant Brandon Jacobs. Williams lacks any real wiggle, but has very impressive straight-line speed for his size and is tough to bring down once he gets momentum. Camp reports indicate that he has seen work with the first-team unit during goal-line drills, which makes Andre the Giant an interesting late-round flier in redraft leagues. While he doesn’t have pass-catching ability, he could punch in some touchdowns early in the season and earn some first and second down work. An injury to Rashad Jennings or David Wilson could open the door further to an expanded role that the big back may not let close behind him.
WR Victor Cruz
(2013 WR Rank—#28, 8.8 FPts/G)
Victor Cruz’s numbers dropped across the board in 2013 and he failed to even reach 75 receptions, 1,000 yards or five touchdowns. After bursting on the scene as an unheralded second-year player in 2012 (82-1,536-9), it’s been a steady decline for Cruz. The optimist can look at last season as a total disaster for the passing game as a whole, which was addressed by the team hiring a new more innovative offensive coordinator. The pessimist may state that opposing defenses have learned the way to shut Cruz down and that Eli Manning is in the decline phase of his career. The truth, as usual, is likely somewhere in the middle. Cruz had some good fortune during the 2012 season and took advantage of a few busted plays, which led to some big yardage plays for him. While Hakeem Nicks missed time and was ineffective last season, Cruz saw a lot of bracket coverage. Cruz should see more time in the slot this season, a place where he has shown to be effective. The reports from camp so far have been very positive. The New York offense will be modeled after Green Bay’s and beat reporters are speculating that Cruz will fill the “Randle Cobb role.” Based on that Cruz could be up among the league leaders in receptions at season’s end. Cruz has a powerful frame and is blessed with quickness that is generally seen in smaller packages. If this offense clicks Cruz should become a high-volume producer, as the most talented pass catcher on the team, which makes him a strong candidate to outperform his current ADP.
WR Rueben Randle
(2013 WR Rank—#45, 6.1 FPts/G)
Reuben Randle scored six touchdowns in limited action last season, but still had to endure an offseason where his value was constantly questioned. General manager Jerry Reese failed to endorse him as a capable starting wide receiver and former offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride implied that the team was never sold on his abilities. The apparent slights by the organization seemed to be further borne out when the team spent the No. 12 overall pick on wide receiver Odell Beckham, despite more pressing needs. Reports about Randle from OTAs and from training camp have all been nothing but positive, however. The new offense is thought to be a better fit for his skillset and should allow him to rely more on his physical gifts to get open rather than requiring him to make the proper read. Last season Randle and Eli Manning weren’t always on the same page, and the hope is that Randle will be more effective this season in the new offense. At 6’2” he’s the tallest of the wide receivers and he should see significant action. With the team having no discernible tight end, Randle could be the team’s top red zone target.
WR Odell Beckham Jr.
(2013 WR Rank—N/A)
A hamstring strain kept rookie Odell Beckham out of almost all of the offseason activities and all of training camp thus far. This, of course, has not sat well with bristly head coach Tom Coughlin and could put Beckham behind Jerrell Jernigen on the team’s depth chart for the start of the season. For those in redraft leagues, Beckham is probably not even worth a roster spot at this point. Even if he does manage to get himself completely healthy, the thought is that his role as a rookie will be mostly as a field stretcher running clearing routes in order to allow quick hit strikes to Victor Cruz and Reuben Randle underneath. The team did spend an early first-round pick on him, though, and he was considered to be the best route runner in the draft. His role could grow once he proves that he can beat press coverage and be an effective target for his quarterback. It’s also worth noting that the Giants base offense will consist of three receiver sets so once Beckham moves past Jernigen he should see the field consistently. Owners swinging for the fences with their late-round picks can consider the youngster in the last couple of rounds, but if you are an impatient type or want to play it safer you are likely better off passing on him.
TE Adrien Robinson
(2013 TE Rank—N/A)
Early offseason speculation had third-year player Adrien Robinson as the starter at the tight end position. He performed poorly in OTAs, however, and now finds himself buried on the depth chart behind uninspiring competition such as Larry Donnell, Kellen Davis, Xavier Gamble and Daniel Fells. When he was drafted, Robinson was referred to as the “JPP of tight ends” in reference to teammate Jason Pierre-Paul’s freakish athletic ability. Obviously, with zero career receptions, Robinson has not lived up to the hype. Even though the Giants are no longer employing Kevin Gilbride’s offensive system, it should be noted that in the past the Giants offense has made “stars” out of marginal talents like Jake Ballard and Kevin Boss at tight end position, so there could be value here. The problem is, as of right now, special team blocker Larry Donnell sits atop the depth chart. If Robinson starts to make some noise in camp and preseason games he could make an interesting late-round flier.
By: Jake Gordon — @ 2:27 am
Josh McCown and Lovie Smith: A match made in fantasy heaven? Don’t think so.
QB Josh McCown
(2013 QB Rank—#30, 19.5 FPts/G)
After cutting ties with Josh Freeman, the Bucs allowed 2013 second-round selection Mike Glennon to get his feet wet. Glennon was up to the task for the most part; however the passing game needed a jolt. The new regime in Tampa Bay felt that veteran leadership would not only help kickstart a putrid passing attack but also provide a solid foundation of leadership to change the culture of the team. The team moved quickly to sign an affordable stopgap in Josh McCown during free agency. Handpicked by the new head coaching staff, McCown was anointed the starter as soon as the ink touched the paper on his new deal. He steps into a situation that could yield quality fantasy stats so long as the McCown of seasons past doesn’t show up. During parts of nine seasons with five different teams prior to 2013, McCown was a turnover machine, throwing 44 interceptions against only 37 touchdowns. He was hardly a sure thing as a backup let alone a starter. The Bears took a chance on him and let quarterback guru Marc Trestman figure out how to minimize the turnovers. It worked and when Jay Cutler got hurt the same guy who couldn’t stick with a team stepped right in and caused a small quarterback controversy. Did McCown grow enough as a NFL passer under Trestman to be a reliable quarterback for a team full of hope? If Lovie Smith couldn’t get enough out of Cutler, his chances with McCown can’t be too good. That’s where new offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford enters the picture. Tedford should have plenty of room to create an offense that allows its big receivers Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans to work down the field and make plays in the vertical passing game. At the same time, McCown will also reap the benefits from using the running backs in the short passing game. The net result should be a quality fantasy QB2 with upside to start some weeks depending on matchups.
If McCown’s 2014 makes his 2013 success look like a fluke, then the Bucs would be forced to give Glennon another shot. Though the leash will be long for McCown, the news surrounding Glennon has been positive. If given the opportunity in 2014, he would have a similar fantasy ceiling as McCown. He represents the better long-term option for the Bucs but doesn’t have a clear-cut route to the starting job anytime soon, making him a more of a speculation play in dynasty formats.
RB Doug Martin
(2013 RB Rank—#55, 9.7 FPts/G)
After Doug Martin burst onto the scene as a rookie in 2012, he was the center of fantasy owners’ teams. A true feature back, the young Buc was unable to live up to lofty expectations before losing last year’s second half to a shoulder injury. As one of only five running backs to tote the rock more than 300 times in 2012 preceding the injury, you can bet Tampa Bay felt a need to reduce Martin’s workload. In fact, new offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford told reporters over the offseason that he didn’t feel one running back could carry the load in today’s NFL. Accordingly, the Buccaneers added dynamic playmaker Charles Sims in this year’s draft to improve the quality of depth behind Martin. The result will be a dip below the 300-carry threshold in a newly-formed RBBC , but Martin’s production in the passing game should continue to provide a slight boost even if he loses a few targets. His touchdown totals may not reach double-digits either considering the competition for carries as well as the ability for Josh McCown to throw a jump ball to one of several big targets. For these reasons, the Muscle Hamster becomes a far better RB2 than RB1 in the fantasy realm. As always, keep a close eye on the new offense during the preseason to gain further insight into Tampa Bay’s RBBC.
RB Charles Sims
(2013 RB Rank—N/A)
With plans on running the ball heavily in 2014, Tampa Bay made a concerted effort to add depth to the backfield and was able to land Charles Sims in the third round. Tampa Bay’s new offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford recruited Sims as a college transfer and he is definitely a fan. Tedford’s track record of helping smaller, explosive runners find success should aid in Sims’ ability to be fantasy relevant as early as this year. His fantasy value hinges on opportunity, however, and until we see more from this offensive unit it will be hard to nail down Sims’ exact worth in redraft leagues. If things go well in his first pro season, he could have a Giovanni Bernard type of impact as primarily a third-down option with a few series mixed in throughout the course of the game. Concerns over his durability make projecting much more unwise.
RB Mike James
(2013 RB Rank—#76, 4.8 FPts/G)
Second-year players Bobby Rainey and Mike James are in a battle to help backup Doug Martin. The winner will join rookie Charles Sims on the short end of a timeshare. James is the better runner and had a stellar performance last year in Week 9 against the stingy Seattle defense. In that game, James ran for 158 yards and added two catches. If James can out perform Rainey and prove that he is fully recovered from an ankle injury that slowed him earlier this offseason, he could once again give fantasy owners a brief window of production if Martin were to miss time.
WR Vincent Jackson
(2013 WR Rank—#14, 10.3 FPts/G)
One of the bright spots on Tampa Bay’s offense a year ago was Vincent Jackson. Following his rocky departure from San Diego, Jackson reminded everyone why he is one of the most talented pass-catchers in the NFL by posting one of the best seasons of his career when the rest of the offense seemingly fell flat on its face. Jackson produced in double coverage with a rookie quarterback last season. His yardage totals should stay well above the 1,000-yard plateau in an improved passing game. The Bucs top receiver also received 26 percent of his team’s targets in 2013 but that number is likely to go down with the return of Doug Martin and addition of newcomers Charles Sims and Mike Evans. Based in a run-heavy scheme, Jackson’s fantasy value is marred by inconsistent weekly production. Nevertheless, he won’t be far behind the top dogs as a solid WR2 in all formats even with the addition of talented rookie Evans.
WR Mike Evans
(2013 WR Rank—N/A)
It is hard not to think about the early fantasy impacts of Calvin Johnson, Julio Jones and even Cordarrelle Patterson when forecasting Bucs rookie wideout Mike Evans. First-round talents offer plenty of potential. Fantasy owners need to keep in mind, though, Evans will likely be the third-best option in the passing game on a team that ranked dead last in passing a year ago. A similar player to Vincent Jackson, Evans will make it tough for defenses to defend both sides of the field, especially near the goal where his huge 6’5” frame can block out smaller defenders. The competition for targets will also make him disappear some weeks as long as Tampa Bay is employing a run-orientated offense, however. He should get a chance to contribute early, but counting on the rookie from Texas A&M to be anything more than a WR3 would be unwise.
WR Chris Owusu
(2013 WR Rank—#159, 2.8 FPts/G)
The dropoff in talent at the wide receiver position is significant on Tampa’s roster as former undrafted free agent Chris Owusu will battle veteran Louis Murphy and rookie Robert Herron for playing time behind the starting duo of Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans. A productive mini camp has coaches optimistic about Owusu’s chances of securing the job and he is the favorite heading into training camp. Murphy is turning into a career backup but his experience could help him earn a roster spot. Meanwhile, Herron was team’s sixth-round draft choice this season out of Wyoming. He could be a potential fit in the slot and should be a factor in the return game. Regardless of how the final depth chart takes shape the fantasy value dries up after Evans.
TE Brandon Myers
(2013 TE Rank—#19, 5.1 FPts/G)
Brandon Myers was an afterthought in the Giants passing game after being brought in to add some offensive punch from the tight end position. Now with his third team in three seasons, Myers is likely to continue to be a mediocre fantasy option in even during bye weeks. Unless you play in a crazy deep two TE league, Myers and incumbent starter Tim Wright will be waiver wire fodder again in 2014. The Buccaneers also spent a second-round draft choice on the upside of Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Surgery to repair a stress fracture in his foot prevented Seferian-Jenkins from being able to participate in OTAs. The 6’6” rookie has the mold of a former basketball player and if he isn’t named the starter from Week 1, he should gain playing time as the season progresses. With the sum of the parts seemingly greater than any one player, it is quite possible that the team ends up using a committee approach at the tight end position in 2014.
By: Mike Krueger — July 31, 2014 @ 12:38 am
« Newer Posts
Player Projections, Rankings & Cheatsheets
Change Log – 7/31/14
- Kirk Cousins (+6) – Really like Cousins to succeed should he find himself in a starting role.
- Christine Michael (+7) – Didn’t increase his projections but the upside value is tremendous and warrants a move up in the rankings.
- Ronnie Hillman (+13) – He’s been running with the two’s enough. Time to flip-flop him and Anderson.
- C.J. Anderson (-13) – Slight adjustment as Rice receives only two-game suspension.
- Carlos Hyde (+9) – Loss of Kendall Hunter (ACL) improves Hyde’s chances of making an impact.
- David Wilson (-10) – Suffered a stinger and will be held out for a few days. Not good for someone coming off a serious neck injury.
- Antonio Brown (+1) – Back to back 100-catch seasons?
- Victor Cruz (+3) – Cruz is shaping up to be a target monster in the Giants new offense.
- Cecil Shorts (-7) – Shorts has battled nagging hamstring and calf issues the entire offseason.
- Ace Sanders (–15) – Will miss the first four games.
- Robert Housler (-11) – Lost his starting job to John Carlson and doesn’t fit Arians’ offense well.
- Jace Amaro (-6) – Predictably, the rookie TE is struggling picking up all his responsibilities at the NFL level.
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