Well the NFL Season is right around the corner and The Dr. is in the house! I apologize for my late arrival, but the world around us never ceases. Alas, here we are!
To ease us into the new Fantasy year, we’ll come back with 3 quick hits ( a veritable Fantasy 3 and out, if you will ).
1) Ezekial Elliot, worth the hype?
I wrote this article last year when the Todd Gurley train was a-rolling. I still feel very much the same way about rookie RB’s. Let them be the other guys mistake! Now, I conceed that Elliot is in a fantastic position to provide hefty fantasy dividends, and I’ll also admit that he looks like he’ll be a solid NFL pro at some point, but for every Gurley or Peterson, there are more still of the Bishop Sankey/Felix Jones’ of the world.
2) Suspensions Galore!
One of the most difficult things to gauge is how a player is impacted by a suspension (or even injuries). The offseason so two elite Fantasy players in Tom Brady and Le’Veon Bell find themselves with 4 games suspensions, and leave drafters wondering what their value is. Truthfully, I think both players will provide elite fantasy production down the stretch, and their draft positions will likely reflect that. You’ll have to go earlier than you probably would like to get them, so make sure you’re prepared with a good plan to suppliment their numbers in the middle rounds, otherwise skip on them all together.
3) The continued fall of the RB.
Last year we saw more leagues than ever load up on QB and WR early and take swings at middling RB’s in the hopes that they turned into gold. I was one of the unlucky ones who retained Bell’s services and felt the egg as it hit my face simultanious to his knee injury. Owners of Eddie Lacy, Jamaal Charles, DeMarco Murray, and other top of the draft RB’s who didn’t live up to expectations can attest to that now. Remember, RB is no longer the easiest position to draft, there’s too many committees and offenses that run through the air. Your best bet? Draft elite WR’s first, they’ve shown to be more consistent over the past few years.
In the world of fantasy, we all want to be the best. I find myself checking to see how my teams members are scoring against the other elite of the world, and it’s a warm and fuzzy feeling to see my guys excel. Obviously there are week to week fluctuations, but in the end, only one can be crowned the best at his position.
QB: Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts – At only 25 years old, it’s impressive to see the poise and talent that Luck brings to every NFL game. At at time when the Tom Brady’s and Peyton Manning’s of the world are entering the twinkling twilight of their careers, Luck hasn’t even entered his statistical prime. Still, after throwing for 4700 yards and 40 TD’s, it’s hard to imagine him being any better. Then he got new weapons to offset his already elite talent. Andre Johnson and Frank Gore may not be top 10’s anymore, but Luck certainly won’t regress with them added to the roster. I fully expect Luck to repeat his numbers, if not improve on them.
Runner Up: Aaron Rodgers – He has the same tools as Luck, but still has a bit of an injury history and Green Bay can be a more balanced attack with Eddie Lacy in the backfield. Still elite, Rodgers will push Luck at the top of the totem pole for a few more years.
RB: Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers – Mike Tomlin loves a balanced offense, and Bell is a rare blend of speed and power. Playing all three downs, Bell will be the focal point for the offense going into the year despite missing time due to a suspension. Like Luck above, Bell has already established himself as elite despite only being 23. The difference this year is that from his first snap to his last, he’ll be a top option in a powerful Pittsburgh offense. Between his use in the passing game and his dominance on the ground, expect a few huge weeks and numbers that come close to last year even minus the two game suspension.
Runner Up: DeMarco Murray – Many will list Murray over Bell, and you wouldn’t be wrong to do so. This is a 1A, 1B situation, but I dock Murray a bit being in a new location running behind a line that couldn’t open up quality lanes for another elite back in LeSean McCoy the year before. He’ll be used a lot, but my concern is that he won’t duplicate the health or the numbers after a stellar year in Dallas.
WR: Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos – As steady as they come, being the number one option for Peyton Manning doesn’t hurt either. I’ll argue that as Manning’s skills regress, his smarts become his strength and he’d be stupid to not rely on the elite talent he’s got in Thomas. With the offense shifting a bit (no Welker or Julius Thomas) Demaryuis will be called upon to do even more, and he’ll be up to the challenge. As a WR, he’ll pace the league and I’d be surprised if he didn’t push the single season TD record for WRs.
Runner Up: Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers – Consistency is a boon in the world of fantasy football, and Brown finished at the top of the list for WR’s last year. As great as Brown is, he’s still relying on Ben Roethlisburger to remain elite and for Le’Veon bell to not shift the balance to a run first team. A lock to be top 3 WR, you can’t go wrong with Brown either way.
TE: Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots – The big gifted TE in New England had to prove he could stay healthy after a rash of injuries in consecutive years. All he did was return and pace the leagues TE’s with 1,100 yards and 12 TD’s. If you account for a few rough weeks during the first few weeks of the season as Brady acclimated himself and Gronkowski returned to form, it’s not hard to imagine Gronk putting up a full year similar to his second half numbers. As a TE there is no other weapon in the league like Gronkowski and he should continute to be Brady’s primary target, especially in the red zone.
Runner up: Greg Olson – TE is a murky position going into the season. Antonio Gates continues to perform like a young stud, but the wheels will fall off soon and Ledarius Green is waiting in the wings. Jimmy Graham has pushed Gronk for the top spot in the past has left NO and gone to Seattle, where there’s no garuntee Wilson will use his as judiciously as Brees did. That leaves Olson who showed flashes and remained consistent throughout for fantasy owners. A healthy Cam Newton should see Olson’s numbers improve slightly while the other two mentioned should decline.
Our previous exercise continues as we look at our teams in the middle. You may not agree with all of my rankings, but each of these teams pair good to great fantasy options with other question marks on offense.
23. Kansas City Chiefs
I know what you’re thinking, “they have Jamaal Charles!” That alone does not elevate this team higher on my list. Alex Smith is a fine game manager, but his deep ball is lacking and if the numbers from the WR’s last season indicate anything, this team doesn’t have a lick of consistency. Jeremy Maclin is an upgrade over Dwayne Bowe, but even this is speculative as Maclin could be the next WR to disappear from relevance. Travis Kelce has elite talent but had several brutal weeks to go with his successful ones. Worth drafting: Jamaal Charles is going to go in the first round, for good reason, but to expect 16 healthy games is unrealistic, Knile Davis is a fine handcuff. Travis Kelce finished near the top of TE’s but had some really bad weeks; draft with cautious optimism that he can be even better. Alex Smith is a QB2 or bench depth at best; he’ll never be a top 10 QB.
22. Oakland Raiders
Young, skilled, and unpredictable. This team could very well surprise and finish with several high profile fantasy heroes. Derek Carr showed flashes of brilliance last year, and the addition-by-subtraction move to let Darren McFadden go means the talented Latavius Murray will get the start in the backfield. Add Amari Cooper into the mix and you have the makings of a solid offensive team. Worth Drafting: Latavius Murray is a popular pick to elevate his game, especially after reports indicated they’ll be tailoring the offense to Murray’s strengths. Cooper will likely be valued a little high on draft day so you may be disappointed in year one. Carr showed he has what it takes to make it in the NFL, I expect him to elevate his game even more.
21. Minnesotta Vikings
There’s a lot of distraction with the Adrian Peterson saga still unfolding, but I’m operating under the assumption that he starts in week one for the Vikes. Even still, expect them to ease him back into the line up, lightening the load early. Teddy Bridgwater is in the same boat as Carr; a ton of talent but still has to prove how to use it. His WR’s are a bit of a question mark. Charles Johnson seems like he might be a breakout candidate, but Mike Wallace is an over the top receiver with little upside compared to his contemporaries. I’d love for Kyle Rudolph to bring it all together, as he has elite TE talent, but can’t stay on the field. Worth Drafting: Adrian Peterson could still be the AP of old, and many will bet that he is. At worst he’s still a RB1. Bridgewater has to do it with less weapons than the other youngsters in the league, so I figure he’ll struggle to find his stride early, but could suprise; a good upside QB 2 with no threat to his job. Maybe I just don’t like Mike Wallace, but I don’t think he’s as much of a difference maker going forward as I think they’ll look to involve Johnson and Patterson a bit more, both of whom are worth a look later in drafts. Kyle Rudolph will be less expensive than he has been in the past, I’d bet on the production if healthy.
20. Carolina Panthers
Cam Newton is only 26 years old, so the feeling that he’s past his prime is just wrong. He’s matured and should be healthy heading into the year. Top 5 finish isn’t out of the question, but a conservative view has him around 10 in my rankings. Jonathan Stewart has the pieces, but the health elludes him. He’ll be good when he’s on the field but I’d rather go elsewhere in the first 3 rounds. Kelvin Benjamin should benefit the most from Newton’s presence, and should be a top 10WR target. Worth Drafting: Newton and Benjamin need each other for success, as the other pieces are lacking. Stewart is a fine back but I’d bet it’s more probable than not that he misses time. Cotchery in PPR leagues could be worth a look in the middle rounds, or a late flier in non-PPR.
19. San Fransisco 49ers
Every year there’s a QB that I think is going to elevate to the top teir. Last year it was Ben Roethlisber, this year it’s Colin Kaepernick. He struggle last year trying to adjust to a pocket passing role. In the off season he’s worked tirelessly to improve his efficiency and I expect hiim to see a spike in fantasy production. Carlos Hyde will likely get drafted far to early, and I caution against over hyping a player that has never been a full time starter. Adding Torrey Smith means more room for Vernon Davis and Anquan Boldin to run. Both should continue to see good production, and Smith should benefit from Kaep’s strong arm down the feild. Worth Drafting: My bold prediction is Kaepernick finishes inside the top 10 at his position. Boldin is a machine and should produce, and Vernon Davis will bounce back. Carlos Hyde will look good for stretches but I don’t want him as my RB1.
18. New England Patriots
At this time, Brady is expected to miss 4 games, meaning a quarter of the season will feature backup Jimmy Garoppolo. Despite that the experts think he’s still the best QB in the division, I sense a down tick in production for each of New Englands big guns. Edeleman relies on Brady’s accuracy and LaFell is usually a later option. Can Garoppolo read the D like Brady and involve all of his weapons? Brady could beat his suspension which would likely rank this offense higher. Worth Drafting: Tom Brady has a chip on his shoulder, if you can survive 4 weeks with a backup QB, he’s worth a pick. I don’t draft a Patriots RB ever, for reason that should be obvious. Blount is not an elite NFL running back. Gronk shouldn’t see too much of a dip in production, but LaFell and Edeleman may struggle for a few weeks.
17. Cincinnatti Bengals
Andy Dalton has been the most frustrating of NFL quarterbacks in terms of fantasy. He produces for a time, then he kills you for a time. AJ Green is a stud, even if his numbers took a hit with Dalton’s struggles last year. The big question is does the team invest in surprise starter Jeremy Hill or does it go back to Gio Bernard? Worth Drafting: Dalton has shown he can be a low end QB starter, but you’re asking a lot from a player that struggled at times. A.J. Green is a safe pick, he’s as elite as any in the league. Despite Jeremy Hill’s success on the field, he put up similar numbers to Gio Bernard when he started, I feel a committee coming on.
16. New Orleans Saints
If you’re convinced Mark Ingram finally hit his stride, that could spell disaster for Drew Brees as he’s tumbling down draft boards with managements admittance that they’d like to balance the offense. No more will Brees attempt 650 passes, and this hurts them across the board. Brandin Cooks is a great WR and should do well taking over for Colston as the #1, but Ingram is the big question mark. An underwhelming start to his career was instantly wiped out of the minds of fantsy owners after a solid, if unspectacular year. Worth Drafting: Despite the reports, I’m not convinced Ingram can carry the load, and if Brees falls due to the buzz, I wouldn’t hesitate to draft him in the 3rd or 4th round. Ingram isn’t going to hit a lot of home runs but he should avg around 4 YPC and have a handful of TD’s. The fear is injuries or regression. Cooks is a stud in the making, and Brees will be looking to him often. Colston is another player who may fall beyond their value in your draft. PS. Josh Hill is not Jimmy Graham, so don’t mistake the two come draft day.
15. Baltimore Ravens
When Torrey Smith left, I was worried that Flacco lost his deep threat, but Breshad Perriman could prove to be an even better reciever than Smith. Steve Smith Sr. will likely prove his doubters wrong, and Justin Forsett finally provides stability in the backfield even with Taliefaro lurking in the wings. Worth Drafting: As always, Flacco takes a hit due to the scheme Baltimore runs, but his up weeks are great, solid back up or QB 2 in two quartback leagues. In ways that I don’t with other backs, I believe Forsett can run the football well enough to be a fantasy contributor. Steve Smith will be good again, and Perriman should be one of the rookies to perform in the top 20 of his position.
14. Arizona Cardinals
The team didn’t replace Ellington in the draft, meaning they think he can still perform. Maybe they’re not ready to say that a healthy Carson Palmer will make things different across the board. The stable of WR’s in Arizona are deep and talented, and they should create mismatches across the field. Worth Drafting: Palmer when healthy has the tools around him to be a top 15QB. Fitzgerald is a safe bet to be a top 10 WR and between Michael Floyd and John Brown, defenses will have a hard time adjusting. All of these players will be in play come draft day. Andre Ellington will either play well or be pushed out by the talented David Johnson, who I’d look at as a sleeper in the late rounds. Either way, there should be more consistency the backfield to open up the passing game.
13. Philadelphia Eagles
I personally think all things being equal, Sam Bradford is a superior quarterback to Nick Foles. Add in DeMarco Murray and you have the makings of a good to great offense. Jordan Matthews is only 22 but has big play ability and Chip Kelly has excelled with speedy talented players. The biggest boon for this team was the addition of DeMarco Murray. If LeSean McCoy’s troubles were less about running lanes and more about the runner, Murray should be in for another good year with a ton of touches. Worth Drafting: DeMarco Murray is still a top 5 back, and in Chip Kelly’s offense has a chance to finish at the top of the league again. Bradford will be a sexy pick on draft day, but try to maximize value at the QB position and he may not be that guy. Cooper should continue to see targets on intermediate routes and Matthews was a beast as a 21 year old, but Nelson Agholor could eat into his touches just a bit. Speaking of Agholor, he’s a quality sleeper candidate on a good offensive team. Look at him later in drafts.
Lets now take a look at my WAAAAY too early RB rankings.
- Marshawn Lynch
- Jamaal Charles
- Adrian Peterson
- DeMarco Murray
- Le’Veon Bell
- Eddie Lacy
- Arian Foster
- CJ Anderson
- LeSean McCoy
- Lamar Miller
- Jonathan Stewart
- Alfred Morris
- Mark Ingram
- Jeremy Hill
- Latavius Murray
- Melvin Gordon
- Joique Bell
- Darren McFadden
- Justin Forsett
- Frank Gore
- Andre Ellington
- Isaiah Crowell
- Giovanni Bernard
- Carlos Hyde
- Rashad Jennings
- Todd Gurley
- Doug Miller
- LeGarrette Blount
- TJ Yeldon
- Bishop Sankey
- Chris Ivory
- Reggie Bush
- Devonta Freeman
- Shane Vereen
- Ryan Mathews
- CJ Spiller
- Stevan Ridley
- DeAngelo Williams
- Tevin Coleman
- Tre Mason
- Joseph Randle
- Khiry Robinson
- Montee Ball
- Andre Williams
- Zac Stacy
- Alfred Blue
- Ameer Abdullah
- Jonas Gray
- David Johnson
- Knile Davis
- Lamar Miller – After it was apparent that Miller had lost his job to Knowshon Moreno prior to the 2014 season, fantasy owners soured on the often over valued Miller. He rewarded his owners with a solid, consistent fantasy year. Confident in his starting position and with new weapons in the Miami offense, Miller should have more room to run.
- Latavius Murray – The Raiders coaching staff has been vocal in the off season that they want to taylor the run game to Murray’s strengths and use him as a way to protect their young upstart QB in Derek Carr. Murray could be a middle round workhorse.
- Jonathan Stewart – The once crowded backfield in Carolina has shed it’s dead weight and the onus will be on Stewart to tote the rock. When he’s played a larger role, Stewart has been an elite fantasy option in the past.
- DeMarco Murray – If you’re looking at a RB to regress significantly, there’s no better candidate than Murry. Whether you point to the Dallas O-Line for his success or at LeSean McCoys inability to churn out yards despite toting the ball 340 times, there’s so many questions and not a lot of answers.
- Darren McFadden – The man tasked to replaced Murray, McFadden has begrudgingly been moved up many draft boards, but his injury history doesn’t bode well with the fact that Dallas likes to use their RB’s. Joseph Randle ran the ball well in limited exposure last year, so I’d worry that McFadden won’t finish the year in the top spot.
- Jeremy Hill – The excitement around Jeremy Hill had in part to do with how easily he fished the starting gig from Giovanni Bernard. Still, the numbers don’t bear out that he’s worth where he’s being drafted. In fact, his numbers look similar to Bernards when set side by side, don’t expect him to have an outrageous amount of touches.
Would you rather is a weekly Fantasy Football article that will run up until Week 1 of the 2015 NFL Regular Season where we look at Pro’s and Con’s involved with Draft Day decisions.
The ghost of DeMarco Murray looms large as the Dallas Cowboys prepare for life without him. Not only was Murray’s impact out of the backfield, his ability to catch passes made him an elite offensive weapon, and the 57 catches on 64 targets will have to be filtered elsewhere. Therein lies the problem: Who after Dez Bryant should I target in drafts?
There’s two obvious choices: WR’s Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley. There’s obvious differences between the two players as well; Williams is a much larger target and has more endzone punch due to his size. His *140 fantasy points ranks XX but he seemed to fade a bit down the stretch as the Cowboys relied mostly upon Dez Bryant and Jason Witten outside the numbers.
Beasley is a diminutive WR, more in the Wes Welker slot receiver mold. Rarely used in the first half of the season (below average fantasy impact between week 2 and 12 according to Rotoworld statistics) he came on strong as the season finished putting up 58 of his 86 points* from week 12-16.
As always, understanding your league format will be tantamount to a solid draft. If you’re drafting in a PPR league Beasley becomes a much more attractive player at his current ADP, if not (and you believe that Williams can provide the same scoring punch as last year) then Williams would be your guy.
I owned Williams in leagues last year and can say his lack of consistency was frustrating. His upside has to be tempered with the fact that he does not have breakway speed and he’s often times the third or fourth redzone target after Bryant, Witten, and whoever laces up in the backfield.
Beasley is intriguing at his current ADP and especially in PPR leagues. With as high powered and offense as Dallas has, and with as often as Romo will throw it, my guess is a lot of those short passes to Murray will go Beasley’s way in the slot. With the success that teams like Pittsburgh, New England and Denver have had with diminuitive slot guys, it’s a safe bet that Beasley will outperform his ADP (assuming he’s healthy). I have serious doubts that Williams will.
Tell us what you think in the comments below to provide your own feedback on the matter.
*fantasy points calculated for PPR league 1pt/rec