In a pair of rookie QB related decisions in the AFC East yesterday, the New York Jets confirmed that first round pick Sam Darnold will start for Gang Green on Sunday while his counterpart in Buffalo, Josh Allen, will not.
While it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise given how well Darnold has commanded the Jets offense, there’s still the stench of failed rookie quarterbacks in New York that could have easily seen Josh McCown back under center. As a fantasy commodity, Darnold is an interesting case, as he’s seemed willing and able to sling the ball around. While we’d expect a slow start to his career in terms of fantasy production, in deep formats and keeper leagues he’s worth a late round pick.
Meanwhile, the New York team no one wants to admit exists has elected to start last years interception meme Nathan Peterman over rookie Josh Allen. While you may remember the five interceptions in one half of football, the truth is that Allen’s big arm isn’t enough to support a winning football club. That’s not to suggest Peterman is much better an option, but in the face of ruining your rookies confidence, I’d make a similar move. With the raw arm strength, Allen is an intriguing prospect, but he’s still some time away from figuring out the efficiency problems that’s plagued him since college. There’s little fantasy upside for the rookie at this point.
32. New York Jets
It’s low hanging fruit to bash on the listless Jets, but the relative lack of fantasy fire power is hardly a surprise to anyone. Aside from deep sleeper lists and waiver wire conquests, the Jets boast a roster devoid of much except late round fliers.
Worth Drafting: Isaiah Crowell (ADP 102), Robby Anderson (ADP 104), Bilal Powell (ADP 169)
While none of these players should be selected with anything but serious flyer considerations, Powell may offer the most upside in PPR leagues only. Crowell, on the other hand, doesn’t project to work much with the passing game, so it all depends on how you think he’ll be used. I expect this team to pass a lot, similar to how last years team found themselves training early. Anderson could out perform the 11th round price tag, but I expect Quincy Enunwa (undrafted in ESPN leagues at this point) to return to some relevance in terms of offensive workload. Every target he steals from Anderson is a massive hit to his fantasy value.
Deep Sleeper: While Sam Darnold has his work cut out for him behind both Bridgewater and McCown in front of him, it’s only natural that the best QB of the bunch get some consideration. He probably won’t play, but in dynasty leagues he’s worth a late round pick, and as waiver wire fodder he should be on your radar until the team finally names it’s starter.
31. Buffalo Bills
This could be even worse, pending the fallout from LeSean McCoy’s domestic violence accusations. Even if he remains on the team, though, I expect a decline across the board as this team is littered with youth and raw future talents. With the pending media firestorm, I’m out on Buffalo unless it’s dealt with sooner than later.
Worth Drafting: LeSean McCoy (ADP 17), Kelvin Benjamin (ADP 91), Charles Clay (ADP 145)
Obviously McCoy’s inclusion on this is difficult, as the ADP data hasn’t caught up to the fall I’m expecting. If he’s found guilty, he’ll be gone from the league post haste, making this team even worse. Unfortunately for Benjamin and Clay, the prospects working with AJ McCarron and Josh Allen are nebulous at best. While Taylor didn’t have as massive a year statistically as we expected last year, this team should struggle to find consistency.
Deep Sleeper: Zay Jones’ rookie year was a disappointment to those, like me, who had him pegged as a high end rookie option. His 10 starts only yielded 27 receptions and 316 yards; not good enough. Still, the talent is there, and Jones is a downfield threat who may work well with Allen’s monster arm. It’s a long shot, and a player I only look at in the deepest of drafts, but Jones could be a contributor by the end of the season.
30. Baltimore Ravens
A common theme among the teams named to this point are the potential quarterback controversies. While I fully expect Flacco to start when healthy, it’s important to note that Lamar Jackson has the potential to unseat Flacco, especially if he’s awful again this year. To combat that, the Ravens brought in free agent receivers Michael Crabtree and Willie Snead, so expect a bit of an uptick in Baltimore’s overall numbers.
Worth Drafting: Alex Collins (ADP 53), Michael Crabtree (ADP 72), Kenneth Dixon (ADP 180)
One of the more interesting competitions is going to be Collins and Dixon in the Baltimore Backfield. Dixon was labelled as the heir apparent last year before an injury ended his season. Collins was fantastic in relief, giving many the impression that the team had moved on. But even after several off the field issues, Baltimore expects Dixon to be a part of it’s offense. The leash will be short, but this may start as a committee and coaches will likely ride the hot hand.
Deep Sleeper: It’s been a while since Willie Snead has popped up on the fantasy radar, but in Baltimore, he’ll have every opportunity to show the talent that flashed in New Orleans. With John Brown no safe bet to see the field, Snead should be heavily involved in the passing game, and Flacco does love to fling it.
29. Miami Dolphins
A team that maybe deserves a bit more respect than they receive annually, the Dolphin’s roster is a who’s who of mediocre players. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill is back, so it’s possible he and Davante Parker rekindle the magic that made them both trendy picks a few years ago, but I’m not going to go that far just yet. Likewise, the questions in the run game need to be answered before I invest heavily in a run game that’s actually produced some fantasy relevant backs in recent years. While Kenyan Drake has the inside track, don’t count out Frank Gore as he will likely see a healthy dose of carries early on.
Players Worth Drafting: Kenyan Drake (ADP 41), Devante Parker (ADP 91), Kenny Stills (130), Mike Gesicki (ADP 165), Frank Gore (ADP 172), Albert Wilson (ADP 182)
It was a strange development that saw the Dolphins bring in an aging Frank Gore via free agency, and Kalen Ballage in the draft. If the team believed in Drake, then I’d argue that at least one of them would be elsewhere. As a 5th round pick, that scares the hell out of me, and may force me to look elsewhere. That elsewhere, in this offense, are the 160 targets vacated by Jarvis Landry. While Parker will get his, Albert Wilson is a sneaky pick to slide into the slot. If the Dolphins like his game more than Amendola’s he could be a monster producer out of the 19th round.
Deep Sleeper: I should probably stop screaming his name from the rooftops if I want to secure him in the later rounds, but Kalen Ballage is an intriguing player in that he possesses all the skills necessary to become a 3 down back in the league. Possessing impressive speed for his size, and above average hands in the passing game, Ballage could easily see his timeshare expand to a level that supports a roster spot.
28. Denver Broncos
The addition of Case Keenum elevates this team from dead last, to near last. That’s not to say there’s no one worth drafting, because I do like some of the talent on this roster, but the days of Denver popping out top 30 players is in the past. While Demaryius Thomas still possesses the skill to overcome sub-par quarterback play, the question is can Case Keenum’s arm support multiple fantasy receivers in Denver like it did in Minnesota? Given the age of guys like Emmanuel Sanders, and the inexperience at TE and in the backfield, and I’m cautious when drafting a Denver player.
Players Worth Drafting: Demaryius Thomas (ADP 38), Royce Freeman (ADP 58), Emmanuel Sanders (ADP 68), Devontae Booker (ADP 151), Case Keenum (ADP 157)
Case Keenum went from draft bust to hero last year as he brought the Vikings to within one game of the superbowl. Cashing in on that success, he’s slated to take over the starting gig and I’m not so sure that he’s the franchise cornerstone that last years performances convinced Denver he was. If he reverts back to the player he was before, and I’d argue it’s far more likely that he does, then this offense could continue to struggle beyond Demaryious Thomas.
Deep Sleeper: 2nd Round pick Courtland Sutton has a steep hill to climb with fantasy stalwarts ahead of him in Thomas and Sanders. Expect him to be up to the task. With Sanders coming to the end of a sparkling career, Sutton may see enough of the field to warrant a roster spot after a few weeks.
27. Dallas Cowboys
Oh how the mighty have fallen. I’m sure there’s plenty of Dallas fans shaking their head at the ranking, but the bottom line is that aside from Ezekiel Elliott, their roster is middle of the road at best. When you consider the talent that walked out the door in Dez Bryant and Jason Witten, it’s easy to see why this roster doesn’t inspire much confidence in the fantasy community.
Worth Drafting: Ezekiel Elliott (ADP 4), Dak Prescott (ADP 122), Allen Hurns (ADP 128), Michael Gallup (ADP 164)
A whole lot of mediocre pretty accurately describes the Dallas passing game. While the bulk of the offense is going to run through the run game, it’s a burning question as to where the passing game will trend. It’s clear that fantasy players are out of Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley, the two incumbent receivers of note, but I think Hurns isn’t talent enough to be a true number one receiver. At his current cost, he’s a low risk option, but I’d ignore him at any steeper a price.
Deep Sleeper: I doubt it will be this way when drafts come along, but Gallup is the best chance Dallas has to replace Dez Bryant with a player on it’s roster. He’s not as talented as Bryant in his prime, but Gallup has all the tools to eat up a ton of targets. It might not happen right away, but he has #1 written all over him.
26. Indianapolis Colts
It’s amazing how poorly a franchise can manage it’s star players, but the job the Colts did last year with Andrew Luck’s injured shoulder takes the cake. By not properly handling the injury, they set back the franchise years and forced fantasy owners to look elsewhere for production. The Jacoby Brissett experiment wasn’t all bad, but it didn’t produce much in the way of fantasy points.
Worth Drafting: T.Y. Hilton (ADP 31), Andrew Luck (ADP 91), Jack Doyle (ADP 97), Marlon Mack (ADP 98), Jordan Wilkins (ADP 185), Eric Ebron (ADP 191), Nyheim Hines (ADP 193)
It’s got to say something for how important you are as a player when the success of everyone on this list comes down to if you play or not. For Andrew Luck, that scenario is very real, and could affect who and when you draft. With Hilton especially, the cost is so high that any doubt you have that Andrew Luck is healthy should dissuade you from drafting him. With half of his yards in only 2 games, he’s a massive bust candidate with Brissett under center.
Deep Sleeper: Ryan Grant may not be a sexy name, but the disregard may work in your favor if Luck is back on the field. A healthy Luck is a safe bet for 550 attempts and someone other than Hilton is going to get involved. Grant is likely to be that guy as the tight ends and depth receivers aren’t great options.
First and foremost, the allegations are serious and while innocent until proven guilty is basic tenement of Law in this country, we in no way are making light of the situation with this post. Our aim is not to discuss the crime itself of its alleged perpetrators, but instead to dissect the potential fallout in Fantasy terms.
What To Expect
With as much traction as the news has gotten, it wouldn’t surprise me for there to be some kind of discipline early on, so it’s important to monitor the situation accordingly if you’re planning on adding McCoy to your fantasy teams. This kind of thing presents no “best case scenario” if the player is found guilty, as his career should be over at that point.
Of course, even prior to the allegations McCoy’s fantasy standing had begun to wane, as I had him ranked 9th and other outlets even further down. With the allegations swirling, I’ve dropped him to 18th on my list, pending the results of the investigation of course. That leads us to another question, one that may become more important as the season approaches.
Who Else To Target?
A quick glance at the Bills depth chart reveals a real hole at the position behind McCoy. Unlike last year when there was significant buzz on the backups in the system, this year shows that the team had confidence in McCoy to stay on the field.
A) Chris Ivory – At 30 years old and 2 years removed from the only season in which he rushed for 1,000 yards, it seems that Ivory’s best seasons are behind him. His average of 3.4 yards per carry last year in Jacksonville prove he’s no more than a goal line back who’d plod for mediocre numbers. Behind an O-line that’s lost some of its core guys this offseason, Ivory is likely to disappoint even if no one overtakes him on the roster.
B) Tavaris Cadet – The veteran pass catcher and special teams man has never received more than 22 rushes in a single season, and while his ability to play third downs is intriguing considering how involved Bills backs are in the passing game, I don’t think he has the profile to play a large number of downs.
C) Marcus Murphy – I wouldn’t get excited about the diminutive back, but he’s got the tools to help in limited work. At 5’8”, he’s not big enough to be leaned on for between the tackles plays, but his acumen as a pass catcher could see him leapfrog some of these names.
D) Keith Ford – A former five star recruit at Oklahoma, Ford’s collegiate career was marred by team suspensions and a lack of overall work. His scouting profile suggests that he’s lacking vision and elusiveness but his measurable show he can be an NFL back. As intriguing as this is, it’s likely that he’d be a short yardage options while the team works out kinks in his game. As a gamble, he may offer the most upside of any of these backs, but he’d be a waiver wire add at best, assuming he can even make the roster.
E) A Back Not On The Roster – There’s a handful of names ranging from high profile to sneaky upside that have yet to find an NFL home. DeMarco Murray probably fits the profile the best of all the remaining backs, as his ability to play three downs in previous years could be attractive. Likewise, Alfred Morris and Orleans Darkwa have started, and recently, and could provide an upgrade over the current roster. It’d be a long shot to expect Adrian Peterson or Eddie Lacy to sign on there, but they remain free agents as well.
Where there is smoke, there is almost always fire, and with the NFL adopting a zero tolerance policy on domestic violence, there’s a very good chance we’ve seen the last of McCoy in the NFL. If McCoy is no longer available to the Bills, the best case scenario would be a player not currently on the roster. Chris Ivory isn’t the type of player who can replace McCoy, especially given the struggles expected with that offensive line. The rest of the roster features rookies who are too raw or gadget/special teamers who offer little upside.
DeMarco Murray may be a perfect fit, but the timing of any discipline will impact the team’s ability to get a player like that in and acclimated. If the case drags on and McCoy’s punishment arrives during the season, only Chris Ivory has the experience to start for this team. In such a case, Ivory would handle the first and second downs and Cadet would inherit the third down role. Either way, neither player is worth drafting, at least not as a starter.
Of course Keith Ford could surprise us all and show a level of improvement that forces the young back into the conversation. His situation is worth monitoring as he has the size and speed to be a difference maker if the Bills can help him avoid becoming a head down type of runner. As a player on your radar, just remind yourself that he’s a third or fourth option for the Bills at this time, and a lot would have to go right for him to be worth a roster spot.
After 14 productive NFL seasons, veteran wide receiver Anquan Boldin has announced his retirement from football. As frequent fantasy owners of Boldin’s services, Dr. Fantasy wishes him nothing but the best with his humanitarian efforts he’s voiced his interest in pursuing.
What does this mean for your fantasy draft? The truth is not much. Maybe you were targeting Boldin as a late round TD-vulture type flier. You can officially cross him off your list.
While Jordan Matthews heals from his sternum injury, Zay Jones is the trendy target in this offense as Taylor will need someone to throw to. He was productive in his preseason snaps and should see a lot of time on the field early on so there should be little to no gap in acclimation.
Aside from the passing game, LeSean McCoy and Jonathan Williams should both receive a bit of love for what looks like another season at the top of the NFL in terms of attempts. McCoy is a no-brainer in the first round at this point, but Williams is a smart handcuff for owners and should be targeted late in drafts along with Alvin Kamara and Jamaal Williams as potential sleepers.
Joe Mixon, RB – CIN: With only one pre-season week in the books, any and all observation must be taken with a grain of salt, but Mixon certainly impressed in his NFL debut, rushing 6 times for 31 yards and hauling in one reception for 11 more. Mixon’s draft position has been slowly climbing as the hype machine gets louder, but a few more performances like this and the fears surrounding Gio Bernard and Jeremy Hill’s presence on the roster will lose their weight.
Andrew Luck, QB – IND: The news out of Indianapolis is that Luck will be ready “around” the time of the season opener. This situation is sticky at best, considering that Luck is still being drafted as high as the #4 QB. Forecasting a QB’s effectiveness following his return from a lengthy recovery like Luck’s is difficult but I’ve already dropped Luck to #9 on my QB rankings as I anticipate some rust as he works his way back to game shape. If Luck misses any significant time, it could be even worse for owners who invested in him earlier in the preseason on the promises of Jim Irsay and the Colts front office.
Jordan Matthews, WR – BUF: Newly acquired wide out Jordan Matthews found himself injured following his very first Bills practice with what the team is reporting as a chip fracture in his sternum. At this point, he’s been labelled as week to week which makes for a messy situation as Matthews has to still learn the offense and his new role. While he may return from this injury quickly, it’s important to note that Zay Jones could very likely lead the passing game early on, and can be had for next to nothing at the end of drafts. If you’re high on Matthews in the Bills offense, just understand it could be a while before he pays off on the score sheet.
Alfred Morris, RB – DAL: Most (myself included) looked at Darren McFadden as the obvious stand in for Ezekiel Elliott’s 6 game suspension, but after a fine performance from the once-starter Morris, the waters are certainly muddied. I’m not suggestion that a single pre-season game would change the entire outlook on the Dallas backfield, but it’s far from the realm of possibility that Morris at least steals enough carries from McFadden to render either of them a flex starter at best. If I were forced to bet on either of them getting the bulk of the carries for 6 weeks, it’s still on McFadden, but I’d monitor the situation if you’re a Zeke owner who’s keen on snagging his handcuff.
Over the next few days, we’ll publish a series entitled Sparknotes, each article will take a birds eye view into each NFL division and it’s most important fantasy players.
Despite Tom Brady’s four game suspension and two games with third string QB Jacoby Brissett, the Pats managed to run away with the AFC East yet again, with a 14-2 record. The Dolphin’s backed into the playoffs at 10-6 and both the Bills (7-9) and the Jets (5-11) finished on the outside.
New Englad Patriots
Notable Fantasy Stars: Tom Brady (QB2), Rob Gronkowski (TE1), Brandon Cooks (WR16), Julien Edelman (WR25), Mike Gillislee (RB27), James White (RB51)
Synopsis: The Patriots were busier than usual this past offseason, adding to a Superbowl winning roster with Brandin Cooks from New Orleans and Stephane Gilmore from Buffalo. Brady and Gronk continue as the Patriots two “sure things” on offense, but Cooks and Edelman (in PPR formats mostly) offer plenty of fantasy power. The Running back situation is murky at best; between Gillislee and White, NE projects to be one of the more fluid week-to-week RB committees again.
Notable Fantasy Stars: Jay Ajayi (RB9), Ryan Tannehill (QB20), Jarvis Landry (WR22), Julius Thomas (TE20), Devante Parker (WR40)
Synopsis: After a brutal finish to the season, Tannehill returns with the blessings of head coach Adam Gase. He’ll lead a passing attack that returns high-volume slot man Jarvis Landry and the buzzy Devante Parker, in addition to Gase’s former elite TE in Denver, Julius Thomas. In the backfield, Jay Ajayi will start the year no longer buried behind now-retired Arian Foster. Will he continue to dominate in short stretches? Half of his yards came in three games, so look for more conistency out of the second year back.
Notable Fantasy Stars: LeSean McCoy (RB4), Tyrod Taylor (QB11), Sammy Watkins (WR15), Charles Clay (TE26), Zay Jones (WR65), Jonathan Williams (RB69)
Synopsis: Buffalo may not be any closer to unseating New England in real life football, but this team has a wealth of young fantasy studs. McCoy should continue to see a ton of touches, but Jonathan Williams is quietly earning buzz as a deep sleeper thanks to the departure of Mike Gillislee. One assume if Sammy Watkins is healthy, he’ll be dominant, and the addition of Zay Jones in this years draft means less double teams for Watkins and more weapons for Taylor to use.
New York Jets
Notable Fantasy Stars: Bilal Powell (RB29), Josh McCown (QB30), Matt Forte (RB39), Quincy Enunwa (WR62), Robby Anderson (WR68)
Synopsis: Sorry Jets fans, but this is gonna be a long year. A conservative guess would have this team winning 3 games this year, but a byproduct of being behind in most games means that someone is going to score some garbage time points. All signs point to Bilal Powell (assuming he wrangles a larger chunk of touches from Forte) being the breakout fantasy star, but Quincy Enunwa should get a lot of attention from McCown now that Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker are out of town. Robby Anderson is a nice little reciever but likely nothing more than a waiver wire pick up if things go well for him early.
The Quarterback position is arguably the easiest position to navigate during your pre-draft research. After all, save for injury, we’re reasonably certain that the top 10 QB’s are going to perform somewhere near our expectations. But when waiting on a QB like every good fantasy guide tells us, who should we target in those middle rounds, and who should we avoid.
Using the consensus rankings at Fantasypros.com I’ve highlighted three quarterbacks who might far out produce their draft positions and three to avoid.
Derek Carr – QB,
Las Vegas Oakland Raiders
If you cringed at the mention of the Raiders signal caller due to his leg injury suffered at the conclusion of last season, then you’re one of the reasons the talented QB has slid into round 8-10 following what can only be described as a breakout season. With a talented cast of receivers and Beast Mode in the backfield, a now-healthy Carr looks to build on a 2016 that saw him finish as the QB10 despite missing the final week of the season.
Tyrod Taylor – QB, Buffalo Bills
His name doesn’t inspire confidence like you’d expect out of a guy who finished as QB7 in standard ESPN scoring, but the truth is that Taylor in the 11th round is a steal. Buffalo could have added a QB in the offseason or at the draft; but they didn’t. What they did do was add weapons to an offense that is already returning the ultra-talented Sammy Watkins to the fold after a lost season in 2016. While he’ll likely only throw for 3,200 – 3,500 yards, his ability to put another 400+ on the ground really rewards owners. Draft him after round 10 with confidence.
Eli Manning – QB, New York Giants
Okay, stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but Eli is poised to bounce back after an awful 2016 that saw him finish with a paltry 199 fantasy points (12.5 per week). It didn’t help that the offense was a dysfunctional mess while OBJ worked out his personal problems on the field and a new system failed to maximize on the wealth of talent lining up on offense. Still, the Giants are committed to winning through the air, and adding talent at WR in the draft only helps to alleviate the pressure of throwing to Beckham Jr. every other attempt. You’ll still have to deal with the gunslingers disease (15-18 INT) but I’ll go out on a limb and say he’ll throw for 4,200 yards or more and 28 TDs or better.
Ben Roethlisberger – QB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Before I say something stupid, I’ll preface this by saying I do like Big Ben as a QB. He’s the ultimate competitor and does what he can to help his team win. Unfortunately that’ll continue to hamper his ability to stay on the field. At 35, and recently considering retirement, the odds are greater that he falls off the proverbial cliff rather than treads water. Still, he’s being drafted ahead of guys like Mariota, Dalton, and Taylor, who all offer a modicum of safety when compared to the aging QB.
Carson Palmer – QB, Arizona Cardinals
While I will continue to root for Palmer the QB, it will be from a distance as I won’t be adding him to any of my rosters. Its fate that the wheels are bound to come off for the aging gun slinger. His WR core is nearing retirement age (L. Fitzgerald) hasn’t proven themselves (J. Brown) or are gone (M. Floyd) and Bruce Arians is committed to putting the rock in David Johnson’s hands as often as he can. This amounts to a rough year for owners.
Ryan Tannehill – QB, Miami Dolphins
I once felt that Tannehill was the best value amongst QB’s. That was before Matt Moore became a better starting option for the dreadful Dolphins last year. Could the former college WR bounce back? Sure, but I wouldn’t bet on it. Instead, I would avoid him altogether and let him be someone else’s’ headache this year.
Of course, every year there’s a surprise from each tier, and I implore you to use as much of your own research to reach conclusions of who to draft and when, but when in doubt; hold off on Quarterbacks. Don’t get caught up in the inevitable early round runs that may hamstring you when it comes to filling in your position players.
Ranked 32nd overall in my most recent QB rankings, Matt Cassel was poised to spend the season in waiver hell, probably never seeing a starting spot in your league. Now, reports out of Bills mini camps paint Cassel into a corner as he’s been dismal, consistently being outplayed by suplanted starter E.J Manuel.
I’d still caution you against expecting a Bills QB to contribute to a championship roster this year. Manuel does have a bit more upside thanks to his atheltic ability, something that Cassel doesn’t possess at this point in his career, but a history of poor decision making and poor accuracy and efficiency mean Manuel is nothing more than a waiver pick up in case he explodes.
Despite all of this, I expect Cassel to start week 1, and I’d hope you’re smart enough to not draft either of these players in any format.
The frustration is real as fantasy owner when a player you invest heavily in doesn’t return that investment. We see it every year, and subsiquently that players value drops, leaving him falling on draft day. Are you an owner who likes to grab a previously touted player in hopes that he’ll bounce back and pay off in spades in the later rounds? If you are, and I’d gamble most of us are, then keep reading for a list of bounce back candidates.
QB – Robert Griffin III : Injuries that derailed his electric rookie seaon can be pointed to as the cause for the mental issues that have since plauged the outlandishly athletic Griffin in seasons since. It’s gotten so bad that at the conclusion of this last season, Jay Gruden alluded to the fact that he no longer believed in his QB and speculation that he’d be dealt or demoted ran rampant. Fast forward to the post-draft news and we see that RG3 is back again in the drivers seat for the QB job in Washington, and I’m confident that a new Griffin will be taking the field this year. Time to adjust to the game and to his injury history should allow Griffin to return to a semblance of the player we saw his rookie year: a rocket arm, good decision making, and the ability to make something out of nothing. Although he won’t finish as a top 10 QB, I expect him to bounce back as a solid QB2 worth a late round pick if you’re in need.
QB – Sam Bradford : Another highly touted prospect coming out of college, Bradford has shown glimses in his brief career, but a hefty injury history has left him on the scrap heap come draft day as owners have grown weary of the letdown. Shifting from St. Louis to Philadelphia should work wonders for Bradford on the field. He finally has weapons around him and a running game to keep defenses honest. He may be an in vogue pick come draft day, but if he starts the year healthy (and this is always an if with Bradford) I expect a much better year than he’s given in the past.
RB – Doug Martin : A lot of owners watched their ships go down in flames when they invested a top 5 pick in Martin a few years ago. Last year, Tampa Bay was the worst team in the league, securing the #1 overall pick and finally shoring up a QB position that features Mike Glennon as the top guy. I’d argue it’s tough to find running room when your team can’t complete more than 10 passes in a game. Still the top option in Tampa Bay, Martin should find more success after finding himself under 100 fantasy points last year. He could likely be had as a 4th RB, and should far outperform this ranking.
RB – LeSean McCoy : McCoy had 175-180 points in PPR formats last year, but was disappointing in terms of consistency. He touched the ball more than 300 times but struggled to return the top 3 pick spent on him. He’ll likely still be drafted early but has the pedigree and the situation to replicate the 1500-2000 total yard years that we’d become accostumed to out of McCoy.
WR – Larry Fitzgerald : For some, this was just the writing on the wall as Fitzgerald found himself scoring at or under 10 points per week for the first time in his career. The problem was that after Carson Palmer went down, John Skelton and company couldn’t keep the offense clicking, and Fitzgerald suffered. A Healthy Palmer creates more opportunities for Fitzy and inside the 20’s he’s the go to guy, and I expect him to crack to finish inside the top 25 WR’s this year.
WR – Dwayne Bowe : A supremely talented wideout, Bowe has never had a great QB throwing him the football, and that won’t change this coming year. But being a number 1 on an offense that managed to coax good to great seasons out of Josh Gordon, Jordan Cameron and Andrew Hawkins will help Bowe regain some of that swagger he had before Alex Smith got to KC. He won’t challenge for the top spot, but Bowe is an afterthought in leagues but should provide some scoring punch from the bench, for byes and in case of injuries.
TE – Vernon Davis : A freak of nature, Davis has the skills at the TE position to dominate his competition. This wasn’t the case this year as Kaepernick struggled to find consistency. If offseason reports of improved pocket pressence and throwing motion are true, Kaep could bounce back and this would impact Davis the most. Expect the consistency to continue to frustrate, but he’ll jump back in to the top 15 TE’s.
TE – Kyle Rudolph : He may have all the tools to be the best TE in football, but he’s rarely put it all together. Another year of Teddy Bridgewater and the return of AP makes this Minnesotta offense formidible for the first time in a long time. Without a proven #1 wide receiver, a healthy Rudolph could be asked to do more than he has. I think this is the year we finally see Rudolph ascend to an elite TE.
Face it, we all look at our favorite storied franchise with rose colored glasses. Open any local team news resource and it’ll be spelled out plainly through the biased coverage. “Our team rules, your team drools!” But only one team can win the big one, and only so many teams even compete. There’s always a team sliding backwards, so lets examine who’s moving in which direction with this weeks Turnover on Downs.
Oakland Raiders – We’ve been here before, and this team seems to make “positive” strides every year. But for every step forward, there seems to be a Jamarcus Russell sized step backwards. This year feels different. Adding a difference maker to each side of the ball in wideout Amari Cooper and defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. will go a long way towards stabalizing overall balance. More importantly this team cut fat by parting ways with mecurial RB Darren McFadden and moving forward with Latavius Murray. As Derek Carr enters his second year under center, the Raiders look poised to leap frog some of the teams they’ve long been behind.
Buffalo Bills – Another team known for its smoke and mirrors, Buffalo has teased us before, but never to the extent that we’ve seen this offseason. An already elite defense gets a great defensive coach in Rex Ryan, a slight upgrade with Matt Cassell at QB, and a premier RB in LeSean McCoy to be the focal point of a run first team. This team has shades of the Rex Ryan coached Jets teams that made it to the AFC Championship in spite of Mark Sanchez’s obvious short comings. They still play in a division with the Patriots, so in the end it may be a moot point, but this team on paper has improved significantly.
Minnesota Vikings – Teddy Bridgewater should keep pace with his second year counterpart in Oakland thanks to the probably return of Adrian Peterson and an upgraded WR corps that sees Mike Wallace enter a young and exciting receiving group. On defense, youth and talent will be injected through the draft and free agency, the only obstical now is the same as above; a tough division to play in.
Indianapolis Colts – Deflated footballs aside, this team felt the sting of defeat in a lopsided AFC Championship game and decided they were going to load up. Adding Andre Johnson and Frank Gore during free agency and drafting speedy WR Phillip Dorsett makes them the premier offense in the AFC. Bolstering defensive depth through both the draft and free agency will be the biggest question mark going into the year, but Andrew Luck and company should be able to outscore anyone on any given night.
New York Jets – While everyone in the division got a little better, the Jets did very little in the offseason to correct it’s biggest deficiencies. Sure, there formidable front 7 on defense got better with the addition of Leonard Williams, but until they have someone other than Geno Smith or the newly acquired journey man Ryan Fitzpatrick, this team won’t be able to keep up with the Patriots or Dolphins offensively, and Sexy Rexy has a better version of the blueprint in New York. With aging WR’s and no playmakers in the backfield, this could be another long season for the J – E – T – S Jets.
New Orleans Saints – After losing Jimmy Graham and Kenny Stills, this once formidable Saints offense will have to rely on RB Mark Ingram more than ever, and I’d argue that’s a terrifying prospect. Sure, he had a good season last year, but we’ve seen this story before, and I’m not convinced that Josh Hill or Marquese Colston are good enough to step into the shoes vacated by Graham and Stills.
Cleveland Browns – Defensively, this team falls middle of the pack, but they did not make strides on either side of the ball in free agency or the draft to fill the voids that caused them to stumble last year. Quarterback in Orange and Brown is a black hole as the team added 36 year old Josh McCown and sent Johnny Manziel to rehab. Josh Gordon is being replaced at WR1 by Dwayne Bowe, who had a solid season in KC but could’t break the plane in the endzone. Coupled with a few “Meh” receivers and an uncertain log jam at RB, this team could be looking at a top 5 pick.
St. Louis Rams – Nick Foles is still an unknown quantity, but my opinion is that he’s not good enough to carry a team in the NFL. He’ll face a new challenge in St. Louis as the talent around him dips as well. Todd Gurley will be a great player, but he’ll be slowed this season by an ACL injury, and Kenny Britt cannot be counted on to be a number one. This team will probably flirt with .500 early, but they’re trending down until they find a QB that makes sense.