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

By: — February 11, 2014 @ 9:54 am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Josh Gordon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jimmy Graham

Graham is in a class by himself.

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

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

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

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

Here are my initial 2014 fantasy football tight end rankings:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By: — January 28, 2014 @ 10:30 am

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

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

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

LeSean McCoy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

38. Rashad Jennings, Raiders – Ditto.

39. Chris Ivory, Jets – Ditto.

Because It’s Never Too Early: 2014 Quarterback Rankings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moving Up, Moving Down – Week 15, 2013

By: — December 18, 2013 @ 1:18 pm
Filed under: Player Analysis


Moving Up

Kirk Cousins, Redskins
The Redskins are going to do everything possible to put Cousins in a position to succeed since they are desperate to move him in the offseason in order to recoup the draft picks given up in the RGIII trade. He threw for 381 yards and three touchdowns this week and gets to face the sad sack Cowboys defense in Week 16.

Matt Cassel, Vikings
Since taking over as Minnesota’s starter three weeks ago, Cassel has recorded 890 passing yards to go along with five touchdowns and two interceptions. He has averaged 24.3 PPG during that stretch (padded with a rushing touchdown this week), good enough to rank as the 9th best fantasy quarterback over that stretch. If you’re desperate, reach for Cassel, who gets the Bengals this week.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, Titans
With trepidation, I present Ryan Fitzpatrick. No, really. This one’s for the truly desperate (read – if you can’t get Cousins or Cassel, try Fitzpatrick). While Fitzpatrick has been slightly better than Cassel over the last three weeks, he is also the more inconsistent of the two. The Titans get the Jaguars this week but that matchup might not be as juicy as it seems with Jacksonville limiting the Bills to just 168 passing yards last week.

Moving Down

Matthew Stafford

Stafford’s two-game slump came at the wrong time

Matthew Stafford, Lions
In the Lions last two games, Stafford has thrown for 383 yards and one touchdown while completing 47.5% of his passes. Did I mention that he’s thrown nine interceptions in his last four games? This dude’s in a major slump at exactly the wrong time for his fantasy owners.

Matt Ryan, Falcons; Joe Flacco, Ravens
If I have to start these guys this week, I’m checking the wire to see what is available. Ryan faces the 49ers in a tough matchup while Flacco gets an easier job against the Patriots. Unfortunately, he has thrown for multiple touchdowns just once in his last five games and has thrown for more than 251 yards once in his last eight games.

Running Backs

Moving Up

Rashad Jennings, Raiders
Back from a concussion that sidelined him for Week 14, Jennings hit double-digit fantasy points for the sixth consecutive game, gaining 91 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries against the Chiefs. Even though Darren McFadden should return to the lineup this week, Jennings solid play has him entrenched as the team’s starter and he should continue his streak of double digit fantasy performances against a mediocre Chargers run defense in Week 16.

Jordan Todman, Jaguars
Todman has double digit fantasy points in each of the last two weeks and notched his first career 100 rushing yard performance this week against the Bills, carrying the ball 25 times for 109 yards and chipping in four receptions for 44 yards. The Titans 23rd ranked run defense comes to town this week and Maurice Jones-Drew is looking like he will be questionable.

Matt Asiata, Vikings
With Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart out of the lineup due to injury, Asiata got his first career start and managed to score three touchdowns despite gaining just 51 yards on 30 carries. He doesn’t have much wiggle but he can certainly move the pile in short yardage. The Vikings have said they expect AP back this week but that might just be their coaches playing games in advance of their Week 16 matchup in Cincinnati. If AP doesn’t go, Asiata should be a solid option in flex leagues.

Edwin Baker, Browns
While he had 12 touches for 84 yards and a score this week against the Bears, there are no guarantees he will get that usage in Week 16. And with the Jets on tap, Baker makes for a very risky option even as a flex player. He gets the Moving Up treatment but with a major risk warning.

Trent Richardson, Colts
Since the Colts signed former Chiefs running back Shaun Draughn this week in response to Donald Brown’s neck stinger, the writing seems to be on the wall that Brown could miss Week 16. That would move Richardson back into the starting lineup for Indianapolis’ road contest against a sagging Chiefs run defense.

Moving Down

Darren Sproles, Saints
Despite the Saints playing from behind plenty of two of their last three games, Sproles has just 166 yards on 29 touches over that stretch. And he hasn’t found the end zone in eight of his last nine games.

Danny Woodhead, Chargers
With Ryan Mathews on a hot streak, Woodhead has seen his usage decrease slightly. Over the Chargers last three games, Woodhead has 30 touches for 171 yards and a touchdown. At that pace, he is more of a flex option than the low end RB2 he has been for much of 2013.

Wide Receivers

Moving Up

Greg Jennings, Vikings
Coming off his 13 target, 11 reception, 163 yard, one touchdown performance last week against an admittedly less than stellar Eagles secondary, Jennings now has 32 receptions for 420 yards and four touchdowns in the five games that Matt Cassel has started. Don’t run to your calculator. That equates to 13.2 PPG. That caveat is that the Vikings get the Bengals in a road game this week.

Andre Caldwell, Broncos
Wes Welker still isn’t practicing and Caldwell filled in nicely last week against the Chargers, catching six of his 10 targets for 59 yards and a pair of scores.

Jerrel Jernigan, Rueben Randle, Giants
With reports indicating that Victor Cruz will likely be placed on injured reserve this week, there will likely be an open starting position at wide receiver for the Giants. While you might expect that Rueben Randle would fill that role, he was targeted just twice last week while Jernigan had eight looks, catching seven for 67 yards. The Lions porous secondary is on tap this week. Randle is inconsistent but he does have six touchdowns on just 68 targets this season.

Doug Baldwin, Seahawks
Baldwin is coming off a six reception, 71 yard, one touchdown performance against the Giants and has now topped 60 receiving yards in five of his last six games while scoring four touchdowns over that stretch. The Cardinals 17th ranked pass defense is on tap in Week 16.

Moving Down

Victor Cruz, Giants
Got paid and had the worst year of his career (not counting his rookie season in 2010). Expected to be placed on injured reserve, Cruz will finish the season with 73 receptions for 998 yards and just four touchdowns. In fact, those four scores came in just two games. While Cruz is a solid receiver, the Giants will need to think hard about whether they should re-sign Hakeem Nicks, a player with more upside.

Stephen Hill, Jets
Hill had a promising start to the season with 13 receptions for 233 yards and a touchdown in his first three games. However, after suffering a concussion in Week 4 and suffering pain in his surgically repaired left knee, he struggled, catching just 11 passes for 109 yards in his final nine games. With the Jets quarterback situation remaining a mess and Hill showing little progress during his first two years in the league, his dynasty prospects are fading quickly.

Tight Ends

Moving Up

Zach Ertz, Eagles
As the season comes to a close, Ertz has moved to the front of the pile amongst the Eagles tight ends. He is coming off a nine target, six reception, 57 yard, one touchdown performance against the Vikings, giving him double digit fantasy points in three of the past five weeks. Of course, the two games were duds so buyer beware.

Andrew Quarless, Packers
Six receptions for 66 yards and a touchdown in each of the last two weeks.

Marcedes Lewis, Jaguars
Finally healthy, Lewis has nine receptions for 122 yards in his last three games and has scored a touchdown in each contest. With Cecil Shorts headed to injured reserve, he should get enough looks to be fantasy relevant in Week 16.

Moving Down

Antonio Gates, Chargers
The 33-year old Gates has simply run out of gas as the season comes to a close. He has just one touchdown in his last 10 games, including none in his last four. He also hasn’t topped 52 receiving yards in his last five games and is averaging 40.1 receiving yards in his last nine.

Moving Up, Moving Down – Week 14, 2013

By: — December 11, 2013 @ 4:01 pm
Filed under: Player Analysis


Moving Up

Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins
After a pair of 300-yard performances in Weeks 12 and 13, Tannehill turned in a 200-yard, three touchdown performance this week against the Steelers. That gives him 77 fantasy points in his last three games. This dude’s been decent this year considering Miami’s struggles in the run game and along the offensive line… not to mention missing having tight end Dustin Keller for the entire season and third wide receiver Brandon Gibson for much of it.

Moving Down

Tom Brady

Brady’s numbers without Gronk don’t inspire confidence.

Tom Brady, Patriots
In the seven games Rob Gronkowski was in the lineup, Brady averaged 23.3 PPG. In the six games Gronk was out of the lineup, Brady averaged 17.9 PPG. Enough said.

Robert Griffin III, Redskins
Benched? Seriously? Sure, RGIII’s benching has a lot more to do with head coach Mike Shanahan attempting to get himself fired (so he can collect his $7-million salary for 2014) than his actual play, but the truth is that Griffin has been awful in 2013.

Running Backs

Moving Up

Toby Gerhart, Vikings
Duh. With Adrian Peterson in a walking boot and likely out this week, Gerhart will likely step into the starting lineup this week against the Eagles 15th ranked run defense. That is, provided the hamstring pull he suffered at the end of his 15-carry, 89-yard, one-touchdown performance last week against the Ravens doesn’t keep him out of the lineup. Ahh, injuries.

Joique Bell, Lions
Reggie Bush re-aggravated a calf strain prior to the Lions Week 14 matchup against the Eagles and Bell stepped into the fray nicely, with 127 yards and a touchdown on 27 touches. With Bush’s Week 15 availability uncertain, Bell could be called upon to start against the Ravens in a home matchup the Lions must win.

Daniel Thomas, Dolphins
From looking like a third year bust and being a whisker away from being placed on injured reserve, Thomas returned to prominence this week with just the second 100-yard rushing game of his career (the first was in his first game of his career in Week 2 of the 2011 season). After Lamar Miller left the Dolphins Week 14 game against the Steelers with a concussion, Thomas took over and piled up 105 yards and a score on just 16 carries. While Miller is expected back this week, Thomas certainly has earned himself a greater share of the workload going forward.

Shane Vereen, Patriots
Can you say PPR demon? Vereen had three carries for nine yards and a touchdown this week against the Browns but did most of his damage in the passing game with 12 receptions on 17 targets for 153 yards. New England gets a soft Dolphins run defense in Week 15 but Vereen is still a decent bet to hit double-digit fantasy points given that he is averaging 13 PPG since returning to the lineup in Week 11. Somebody has to benefit from the absence of Rob Gronkowski and Vereen will definitely get some of the tight end’s looks.

Bobby Rainey, Bucs
Only when the matchup is sweet, my friends.

Marcel Reece, Raiders
With Darren McFadden and Rashad Jennings out of the lineup (not sure Run-DMC should go first when I mention Raiders running backs), Reese stepped up this week against a very solid Jets run defense, gaining 123 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries while chipping in 38 yards on a pair of receptions. Jennings is expected back this week but McFadden still hasn’t practiced so Reese could shape up as a solid flex play in larger leagues in Week 15.

Moving Down

Zac Stacy, Rams
His run of strong play has slowed down with Stacy racking up just 25 yards and a score on 14 carries this week on the heels of a 19-carry, 72-yard performance in Week 13.

Fred Jackson, Bills
FJax has gone a bit cold of late, failing to find the end zone in four of his last five games. In addition, he is averaging just 54 yards per game over his last four.

Pierre Thomas, Saints
In his last two games, Thomas has 49 yards on 19 touches. Ouch.

Wide Receivers

Moving Up

Josh Gordon, Browns
Gordon has apparently taken up residence as the first wide receiver on the Moving Up list. Should I charge him rent? He will certainly be able to afford it when he signs his next contract. In Gordon’s last four games, he has 36 receptions for 774 yards and five touchdowns. Amazing.

Alshon Jeffery, Bears
Jeffery has apparently taken up residence as the second wide receiver on the Moving Up list. Okay, using the same pun twice is cheesy. Agreed. Jeffery’s touchdown reception in the corner of the end zone this weekend was just sick…, as his play has been during his second year in the league. Remember, the conditions in Chicago on Monday night were not exactly conducive to receiver’s having sticky hands but Jeffery still pulled off that reception. He shapes up as a low end WR1 in 2014… and for the remainder of this season.

Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Patriots
Edelman has 24 receptions for 275 yards and three scores over the last three games with Gronkowski in the lineup. Amendola’s been playing second fiddle to Edelman at wide receiver and while that may continue, he is in line for a bigger workload over the balance of the season.

Anquan Boldin, 49ers
Look who is turning it on with the playoffs just around the corner. No surprise here. Boldin has 27 targets over the past three weeks and has topped 90 yards in every game during that span while scoring two touchdowns. The Bucs and Falcons are up next.

Da’Rick Rogers, LaVon Brazill, Colts
They each scored two touchdowns this week but there probably won’t be enough work for both of them to be productive over the next few weeks. T.Y. Hilton was shut down this week and Darrius Heyward-Bey is in the doghouse so one of these two should be useful.

Moving Down

Victor Cruz, Giants
Just 149 yards over his past three games and no touchdowns over his last nine outings. Maybe the Giants will need to re-sign Hakeem Nicks after all.

Michael Crabtree, 49ers
Crabtree has been just so-so since returning to the lineup, catching 50% of his targets (six of 12) for 108 yards and no touchdowns. While it might be harsh to have him Moving Down after just returning to the lineup, the fact is that fantasy owners probably shouldn’t be relying him until he proves otherwise.

Golden Tate, Seahawks
What can I tell you? When you see this guy on the field, you want to smack him. Losah! And Tate is struggling as the season comes to a close with just 136 receiving yards over his last three games and just one score in his last five.

Tight Ends

Moving Up

Dennis Pitta, Ravens
Pitta returned this week from the hip injury that sidelined him in training camp and was welcomed back warmly by quarterback Joe Flacco. With Anquan Boldin traded and Pitta out of the lineup, Flacco has been without two of his main security blankets for most of the season. He targeted Pitta a whopping 11 times and while the results were mixed (he had six receptions for 48 yards but his fantasy stats looked good due to a touchdown), the target count bodes well for Pitta’s value over the balance of the season.

Brandon Myers, Giants
Touchdowns in three consecutive games to go along with 12 receptions and 126 receiving yards.

Charles Clay, Dolphins
After struggling over a four game stretch from Weeks 7-10, Clay has turned it on over the last four games, catching six or more passes for at least 80 yards in three of those games while chipping in three touchdowns. In each of his last two games, Clay has hauled in seven of his 10 targets, totaling 177 receiving yards and a pair of scores.

Moving Down

Rob Gronkowski, Patriots
Out for the year again. Status for the start of next year in doubt again. Dynasty league value declining again.

Moving Up, Moving Down – Week 13, 2013

By: — December 3, 2013 @ 10:28 pm
Filed under: Player Analysis


Moving Up

Tom Brady

Brady’s coming on at just the right time.

Tom Brady, Patriots
Since I pounded him when he was down, it is only fair that Brady get the Moving Up treatment this week. He threw for 371 yards and a pair of scores against the Texans, giving him a solid 1,443 yards and 10 touchdowns over the Patriots’ last four games. Can you say heating up at just the right time?

Moving Down

Tony Romo, Cowboys
When I go to the stat page and load up the average PPG for quarterbacks over the last three weeks, Romo is sitting as the 28th-ranked QB with 15.5 PPG. Up next are the Chicago Bears and a run defense that is struggling, so don’t expect a big game out of Romo in Week 14.

Running Backs

Moving Up

Donald Brown, Colts
The Colts finally did the obvious, benching Trent Richardson in favor of Brown. While Brown wasn’t spectacular, he was solid with 64 total yards and a score. The matchup this week isn’t great with the Bengals on tap, but you can likely bank on double-digit fantasy points in Weeks 15 and 16 against the Texans and Chiefs.

Adrian Peterson, Vikings
Could AP finally be at 100% after suffering through groin and hamstring injuries as well as having to deal with a tragic personal matter? He ran roughshod over a suspect Bears run defense, chalking up 211 yards on 35 carries. That gives him 357 yards over his past two games, with the Ravens, Eagles and Bengals up next.

C.J. Spiller, Bills
It’s a similar story with C.J. Spiller, who had his best game of the season this week against the Falcons with 157 yards and a score on 17 touches. After a tough matchup against the Bucs, he gets a pair of softies in the Jaguars and Dolphins.

Steven Jackson, Falcons
Another running back seemingly hitting his stride at an opportune time is the Falcons’ Steven Jackson. It took a soft Bills run defense but he finally got untracked this week, totaling 84 yards and a pair of scores on 23 carries. One game doesn’t make a run, mind you.

Rashard Mendenhall, Cardinals
You know what? After looking completely unimpressive in his first nine games as a Cardinal, Mendenhall has looked half decent over the last two weeks. He had 54 yards and a score on 13 carries against the Colts in Week 12 to go along with a 24-yard reception. This week, he looked even better against the Eagles, tallying 76 yards on 18 carries. He gets a soft Rams run defense in Week 14.

Lamar Miller, Dolphins
With Daniel Thomas out of the mix, Miller got the lion’s share of the work this week and the results were, not surprisingly, mixed. Against a stout Jets run defense, he managed just 72 yards on 22 carries. The sledding gets a little easier with the Steelers, Patriots and Bills on tap.

Moving Down

Trent Richardson, Colts
From Browns savior, to Browns retread, to Colts savior, to warming the bench. In a year and a half, no less. That is impressive. Or not impressive. Or maybe astounding. Or maybe just plain sad.

Stevan Ridley, Patriots
Healthy scratch. That makes Ridley a complete gamble with the fantasy playoffs starting up this week. Don’t overthink this one.

Wide Receivers

Moving Up

Josh Gordon, Browns
Moving Up two weeks in a row, and why not? You earn that distinction when you become the first player in NFL history to have consecutive 200-yard receiving performances. Over the past two weeks, Gordon has 24 receptions for 498 yards and three touchdowns. That’s just criminal. His fantasy owners are hoping that he can continue that hot streak over the balance of the season.

Alshon Jeffery, Bears
After a disappointing, injury-plagued rookie campaign, Jeffery has laid waste to any thoughts that he wasn’t worthy of being taken in the second round of the 2012 draft. With his 12-reception, 249-yard, two-touchdown performance this week, he went over the 1000-yard mark and sits at 1,109 with four games to go. Heck, he’s even carried the ball at least once in his last eight games.

Eric Decker, Broncos
After four less-than-stellar performances, in which he totaled just 13 receptions for 170 yards, Decker awoke from his slumber this week and absolutely torched the Chiefs with a number of big plays in crucial situations. And you can bet your bottom dollar that quarterback Peyton Manning took notice. The seemingly forgotten man in the Broncos receiving corps hauled in eight receptions for 174 yards and a nifty four touchdowns. Not bad for a player who is usually the third or fourth option in the Broncos passing attack.

Roddy White, Falcons
I’ve had Roddy penciled in to be Moving Up ever since he returned from an ankle injury, but it has taken him a few weeks to earn it. He did that this week with 10 receptions for 143 yards against the Bills, and he moves into must-start status for the fantasy playoffs.

Michael Floyd, Cardinals
After a pair of 100-yard outings (a combined13 receptions for 297 yards and a score against the Jaguars and Colts), Floyd was solid again this week with five receptions for 99 yards and a touchdown. He isn’t generating a lot of pub and that’s pretty much because he has just four touchdowns on the season. However, he is on pace to finish the season with 1,164 yards and is likely going to be ranked as a solid WR2 in 2014.

Moving Down

Jordy Nelson, Packers
No touchdowns in his last five games and just six receptions for 74 yards in his past two. And there are reports that the Packers are considering shutting quarterback Aaron Rodgers down for the rest of the season.

T.Y. Hilton, Colts
Hilton just isn’t ready for primetime as the Colts’ leading receiver. Since Reggie Wayne was lost for the season, Hilton has had two productive games. A bona fide seven-reception, 121-yard, three-touchdown performance against the Texans and a 130-yard outing against the Rams where he piled up yardage in garbage time. Over the last three games, however, he has 15 receptions for 128 yards. T.Y.’s a little dude and his extensive use might be catching up to him. Opposing defenses certainly have.

Tight Ends

Moving Up

Ladarius Green, Chargers
Mea Culpa. A week late on this one. Green topped 80 yards in Weeks 11 and 12, scoring his first career touchdown in Week 12, so he should have been Moving Up last week. And his two-reception, 45-yard, one-touchdown performance this week against the Bengals would have validated that. With 16 targets over his last three games, Green is a reasonably safe bet during the fantasy playoffs, but his real value is in dynasty leagues. With Antonio Gates slowing down as the season draws to a close, Green is clearly the future at the tight end position in San Diego.

Zach Ertz, Eagles
The Eagles second-round pick in this year’s draft, Ertz’s solid play has effectively nailed James Casey and his three-year, $12-million contract to the bench. After his five-reception, 68-yard, two-touchdown performance this week, Ertz is averaging a healthy 10.7 PPG over his last three weeks with touchdowns in two of those games.

Moving Down

Julius Thomas, Broncos
Inactive in each of the last two games with a knee injury, Thomas will clearly be a roll of the dice, provided he dresses for the Broncos’ home game this week against the Titans.

Moving Up, Moving Down – Week 12, 2013

By: — November 26, 2013 @ 8:09 pm
Filed under: Player Analysis


Moving Up

Matt Flynn, Packers
Flynn took over for an overmatched Scott Tolzien this week and played reasonably well (218 yards and a touchdown in two and a half quarters of playing time) given the conditions. With the Lions and their less then stellar secondary on tap for Thanksgiving Day, Flynn figures to get the start. In fact, he could get several, with no definitive word on when Aaron Rodgers will return to the lineup.

Alex Smith

Andy Reid has decided now is the time to throw the ball down field.

Alex Smith, Chiefs
With the Chiefs suddenly struggling (or just not getting to face subpar quarterbacks every week), Andy Reid has gone pass happy, with Smith attempting 83 passes over the last two weeks. And Smith has been effective in those games, throwing for 524 yards and five touchdowns with just one interception. Up next are three defensive secondaries ranked 24th or lower (Broncos, Redskins, Raiders).

Philip Rivers, Chargers
After a five game run of decent but unspectacular performances, Rivers turned it up a notch this week against the Chiefs, with 392 passing yards and three touchdowns. With Ryan Mathews out, the Chargers figure to turn to the passing offense more, and Rivers seems to be getting hot again at the right time, with 700 passing yards through his last two games. A tough match up against the Bengals awaits, but that is followed by some easy pickings in the form of the Giants, Broncos and Raiders.

Moving Down

Andrew Luck, Colts
Removing some garbage time production during the Rams game in Week 10, Luck has been entirely underwhelming in the Colts’ last three games, with a pair of touchdowns and four interceptions. His fantasy points during that three game stretch were padded with some rushing production (79 yards and a score), but his production through the air when games are in doubt has suffered with Reggie Wayne out of the lineup. Don’t expect that to change over the next three weeks as Indy faces passing defenses ranked eighth or better.

Running Backs

Moving Up

Montee Ball, Ronnie Hillman, C.J. Anderson, Broncos
Knowshon Moreno is in a walking boot with a deep bone bruise, but the truth of the matter is that Ball and Hillman have been injury-prone and unproductive while Anderson clearly isn’t ready for prime time.

Lamar Miller, Dolphins
It’s a similar story for Miller, who figures to see an increased workload with Daniel Thomas likely out for the year with a torn ligament in his ankle. The truth is that with just 95 yards on 29 touches over his last three games, Miller would be Moving Down if not for Thomas’s injury situation.

Danny Woodhead, Chargers
Woodhead is another player who will benefit due to injury, with Ryan Mathews likely out with a hamstring problem. But Woodhead really isn’t built to handle many more touches than the 11.7 per game he currently is getting.

Benny Cunningham, Rams
Because of a Zac Stacy concussion, Cunningham took over as the Rams’ lead back early in the second half against the Bears and finished with the first 100-yard game of his career. While the holes he ran through against an injury-ravaged Chicago defense were large, Cunningham’s 13-carry, 109-yard, one-touchdown performance was impressive nonetheless. He is a must-add in all formats.

Chris Ogbonnaya, Willis McGahee, Browns
A little look-see at the Bears’ upcoming schedule tells us these are the only running backs who you might be able to grab on the wire to exploit Chicago’s defense. Yeah, it was that bad on Sunday.

Moving Down

Stevan Ridley, Patriots
Another day, another fumble. Ridley coughed up his fourth lost fumble of the season this week against the Broncos and spent the rest of the night nailed to the bench. The only saving grace for Ridley is that LeGarrette Blount also fumbled—although that positive is somewhat negated by Brandon Bolden’s strong performance.

Ben Tate, Texans
Benched in favor of 5-foot-7, 195-pound Dennis Johnson. Wow.

With all of the injured players noted above, fantasy owners will have some tough decisions on their hands this week.

Wide Receivers

Moving Up

Antonio Brown, Steelers
When you torch the Browns’ Joe Haden for six receptions, 92 yards and a score, there is no doubt that you’re Moving Up. The score gives Brown a career-high six touchdowns this season, and it might surprise some that he leads the league in receptions with 80. Turns out the Steelers made the right move in deciding to retain Brown over the speedy Mike Wallace.

Josh Gordon, Browns
After his 14-reception, 237-yard, one-touchdown performance this week, Gordon now has 54 receptions for 988 yards and five touchdowns in just nine games. Extrapolating that over 16 games gives you 96 receptions for 1,756 yards and 8.9 touchdowns. Since that’s a lot of numbers in just two sentences, I’ll sum up what it means for fantasy owners: upper-tier WR1 in 2014.

Justin Hunter, Titans
This one’s a lukewarm endorsement since Hunter was targeted once in Week 11 while averaging 6.5 targets in Weeks 10 and 12. However, he looked solid this week against the Raiders, catching all six of his looks for 109 yards and a score. Ryan Fitzpatrick is a check-down artist but he might be receiving marching orders to get Hunter more involved.

Michael Crabtree, 49ers
Likely to be activated and available for the 49ers’ Week 13 matchup against the Rams.

Moving Down

Danny Amendola, Patriots
When Amendola returned to the lineup in Week 5 and was targeted nine times, it appeared that he would be a huge part of New England’s offense. In the five games since then, he has been targeted only 27 times, and since he rarely finds the end zone (eight touchdowns in 49 career games), that isn’t enough to warrant WR3 status.

Cecil Shorts, Jaguars
After finding the end zone seven times in 14 games last season, the big plays have dried up for Shorts, who has just one touchdown in 11 games this season. Worse than that is that he’s gone stone cold with fantasy playoffs approaching, hauling in just 12 receptions for 135 yards in his last three games and failing to find the end zone in his last six.

DeAndre Hopkins, Texans
The rookie first-round pick followed up his one-reception, seven-yard performance against the Raiders with a one-reception, eight-yard performance against the Jaguars. Hey, I guess I can’t say he didn’t improve.

Tight Ends

Moving Up

Rob Gronkowski, Patriots
While his stat line wasn’t outstanding (seven receptions for 90 yards and a touchdown on 10 targets), he looked the Gronk of old. Or a healthy Gronk. You know what I mean. His owners have been waiting, and he seems ready to explode over the last five games of the season.

Jacob Tamme, Broncos
Since Julius Thomas tried to give it a go this week but wasn’t successful, I expect him to be ready next week. But if not, it is worth noting that Tamme was extremely effective this week, catching all five of his targets for 47 yards and a score.

Moving Down

Antonio Gates, Chargers
It appears as though Gates’ 33-year-old legs are wearing down as the season comes to a close. He has just one touchdown in his last seven games and has topped 53 receiving yards just twice during that stretch.

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