Steven Lourie

Aug 212014
 

QB Matt Stafford (Detroit)

Stafford, the first overall pick in 2009, struggled in his first 2 years in the NFL, missing 19 games and completing 54.5% of his passes for an average of 5.92 YPA, 19 touchdowns, and 21 interceptions. However, he’s played all 48 games over the past 3 seasons, completing 60.6% of his passes for an average of 7.24 YPA, 90 touchdowns, and 52 interceptions. He’s also been better than his numbers, as he had 46 passes dropped in 2011 (most in the NFL), 49 passes dropped in 2012 (2nd most in the NFL), and 59 passes dropped in 2013 (most in the NFL). Now he gets Golden Tate and Eric Ebron added into the mix, which turns their receiving corps from a weakness into a strength. He’s an underrated fantasy asset.

4725 passing yards, 33 passing touchdowns, 16 interceptions, 100 rushing yards, 1 rushing touchdown (305 pts standard)

RB Reggie Bush (Detroit)

The Lions are planning on scaling back Bush’s role as a runner, as new offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi comes over from the Sean Payton coaching tree in New Orleans and plans to use Bush as they did with Darren Sproles in New Orleans. Sproles caught an average of 77 passes over the past 3 seasons. Reggie Bush has caught an average of 44 over the past 3 seasons and could catch 60 passes this season. At the same time, he could see his carries drop down from 223 to the 140-160 range, as he goes into his age 29 season.

160 carries for 720 yards, 4 total touchdowns, 60 catches for 540 yards (150 pts standard)

RB Joique Bell (Detroit)

Any loss in carries by Bush will be the benefit of Joique Bell, which Bush has said publicly he is fine with. The Lions have been a pass happy, 3-wide receiver team over the past 3 seasons, averaging 680 pass attempts over the past 3 seasons. Now they will be more of a traditional offense. They used their first round pick on Eric Ebron, which means they’ll use more two-tight end sets (though they obviously still have the ability to throw out of two-tight end sets). They signed a traditional fullback in Jed Collins, who comes with Lombardi over New Orleans. They also gave a 3-year, 9.3 million dollar extension to restricted free agent Joique Bell, who figures to lead the team in carries in their new more traditional offense. The 5-11 220 pounder is their best traditional runner.

Bell doesn’t have as many breakaway runs as Bush, but he had 65 first downs on 219 touches last season, while Bush had 68 first downs on 277 touches. The Lions could easily be getting a steal with that 3-year deal. Over the past 2 seasons, Bell has been one of the more important backup running backs in the NFL. Last season, he played 562 snaps, 23rd most in the NFL among running backs. In the past 2 seasons, he’s averaged 4.29 yards per carry, while serving as a valuable goal line back (11 touchdowns) and receiver out of the backfield (105 catches).

200 carries for 860 yards, 8 total touchdowns, 60 catches for 500 yards (184 pts standard)

WR Calvin Johnson (Detroit)

Johnson had a “down year” in 2013 with 84 catches for 1492 yards and 12 touchdowns, his lowest catch and yardage totals since 2010. That was really only because he missed 2 games with injury (after playing all 16 games in the previous 2 seasons). Last season was actually the best season of Johnson’s career in terms of yards per route run, as he averaged 2.72 yards per route run. He’s averaged 2.55 yards per route run over the past 3 seasons since Stafford broke out as a starter. He’s the #1 wide receiver in fantasy football and real football.

95 catches for 1650 yards and 14 touchdowns (249 pts standard)

WR Golden Tate (Detroit)

The Lions signed Golden Tate to a 5-year, 31 million dollar deal with 13.25 million guaranteed this off-season. Golden Tate has never had a 1000 yard season, but he’s been stuck on a run heavy team in Seattle, since being drafted in the 2nd round in 2010. He caught 45 passes on 65 attempts (69.2%) for 688 yards and 7 touchdowns on 378 routes run (1.80 yards per route run) in 2012. In 2013, he caught 64 passes on 93 attempts (68.8%) for 898 yards and 5 touchdowns on 447 routes run (2.01 yards per route run). Tate will see plenty of single coverage opposite Calvin Johnson and could run 500-600 routes in a pass heavier offense. He won’t see any downgrade in terms of his quarterback’s passing ability going from Russell Wilson and Matt Stafford and he could easily have 1000 receiving yards.

74 catches for 1020 yards and 8 touchdowns (150 pts standard)

Aug 212014
 

QB Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay)

Over the past 5 seasons, Rodgers has played 71 games (only missing 2 games combined from 2009-2012) and completed 66.5% of his passes for an average of 8.40 YPA, 159 touchdowns, and 38 interceptions, a QB rating of 108.2. He’s also rushed for 1308 yards and 14 touchdowns on 266 carries, an average of 4.92 YPC. He missed 8 games with injury last season, but as long as he’s on the field (and his injury history is pretty limited), Aaron Rodgers is one of the best quarterbacks in the game, if not the best. I prefer him in fantasy to Peyton Manning, both in terms of value at their respective ADP and overall, because he adds value as a runner.

4450 passing yards, 38 passing touchdowns, 9 interceptions, 200 rushing yards, 2 rushing touchdowns (344 pts standard)

RB Eddie Lacy (Green Bay)

In 2013, Lacy rushed for 1178 yards and 11 touchdowns on 284 attempts, an average of 4.15 YPC. He also added 35 catches for 257 yards, en route to winning Offensive Rookie of the Year. That YPC doesn’t seem terribly impressive, but he consistently carried the load, got positive yardage, and moved the chains. He had 73 first downs on 319 targets, including 61 first downs on 284 carries. He was 5th among running backs in rushing first downs.

On top of that, he played his best football when Aaron Rodgers was out of the lineup, helping to carry this team. He rushed for 666 yards and 7 touchdowns on 151 carries, an average of 4.41 YPC, and added 21 catches for 164 yards in the 8 games Rodgers missed. In their other 8 games, he rushed for 512 yards and 4 touchdowns on 133 carries, an average of 3.85 YPC, and added 14 catches for 103 yards. Going into his 2nd year in the league, Lacy could be even better, after playing most of his rookie year through an ankle injury. A full season of Aaron Rodgers will give him more running room and touchdown opportunities and if he runs like he did when Rodgers was out last year, he’ll give the Packers an incredibly potent balanced offense and be a top-5 running back in fantasy football.

300 carries for 1320 yards, 13 total touchdowns, 40 catches for 300 yards (240 pts standard)

WR Jordy Nelson (Green Bay)

Last season, Nelson caught 85 passes on 120 targets (70.8%) for 1314 yards and 8 touchdowns on 645 routes run, an average of 2.04 yards per route run. He was outstanding in the 8 games that Rodgers played last season, catching 49 passes on 67 targets (73.1%) for 810 yards and 8 touchdowns on 327 routes run, an average of 2.48 yards per route run. However, he was still alright when Rodgers was out of the lineup, catching 36 passes on 53 targets (67.9%) for 504 yards and a touchdown on 318 routes run, an average of 1.54 yards per route run. Last year was a career high for him in catches and yards and he should have another strong year this year. One issue is that, he may see fewer targets this season because Randall Cobb is coming back from injury.

82 catches for 1280 yards and 9 touchdowns (182 pts standard)

WR Randall Cobb (Green Bay)

Cobb had a breakout year in 2012, catching 80 passes on 102 targets (78.4%) for 954 yards and 8 touchdowns on 422 routes run, an average of 2.26 yards per route run. He was Pro Football Focus’ #11 ranked wide receiver that season. He looked on his way to a similar season in 2013, but injuries derailed that, limiting him to 6 games. He caught 31 passes on 40 targets (77.5%) for 433 yards and 4 touchdowns on 209 routes run, an average of 2.07 yards per route run. Going into his contract year this year, without much of an injury history, he should have another year similar to 2012.

80 catches for 950 yards and 8 touchdowns (153 pts standard)

WR Jarrett Boykin (Green Bay)

Jarrett Boykin stepped up in Cobb’s absence, catching 49 passes on 75 targets (65.3%) for 681 yards on 410 routes run, an average of 1.66 yards per route run. Boykin was a 2012 7th round pick and only played 96 snaps as a rookie. He’s a marginal talent that Aaron Rodgers makes look better than he is and he’s only their #3 target at best. That being said, James Jones is gone so Boykin will probably replace him and his production. He had 59 catches on 88 targets (67.0%) for 817 yards on 527 routes run (1.55 yards per route run) and 3 touchdowns last season. There’s some late round appeal with him, particularly if either Nelson or Cobb get hurt this season.

50 catches for 700 yards and 6 touchdowns (106 pts standard)

Aug 172014
 

RB Doug Martin (Tampa Bay)

Doug Martin, a 2012 1st round pick, had a great rookie year, rushing for 1454 yards and 11 touchdowns on 319 carries, 4.56 YPC, and adding 49 catches for 472 yards and another score. His sophomore season was about the opposite. Martin lasted 6 games before going down for the season with a shoulder injury and in those 6 games, he rushed for 456 yards and a touchdown on 127 carries, 3.59 YPA, and added just 12 catches for 66 yards.

Martin should be healthier this season and he should bounce back somewhat as a runner, but he has an injury history dating back to his collegiate days and he’s still a one year wonder in terms of being a proven NFL running back. Martin’s 2012 seems out of reach for him at the moment, especially given how bad the Buccaneers’ run blocking could be this season. The Buccaneers have also mentioned on multiple occasions that they want to use more of a committee in the backfield. 3rd round rookie Charles Sims could be done for the season, but Mike James and Bobby Rainey could still siphon off carries.

240 carries for 1030 yards, 8 total touchdowns, 41 catches for 340 yards (185 pts standard)

WR Vincent Jackson (Tampa Bay)

Vincent Jackson is the only proven pass catcher the Buccaneers have. Over the past 6 seasons, he’s caught 351 passes for 6227 yards and 43 touchdowns on 624 targets (56.3%) and 2835 routes run, an average of 2.20 yards per route run. He’s a deep threat and not a consistent volume receiver, but he’s one of the better wide receivers in the league. The one minor concern is that he’s going into his age 31 season, but that’s probably not a problem yet.

70 catches for 1180 yards and 7 touchdowns (160 pts standard)

WR Mike Evans (Tampa Bay)

Evans is really talented, but he’s a raw rookie who doesn’t even turn 21 until the end of August. Rookie wide receivers tend to struggle anyway, even first round talents.  Since 2005, 31 receivers have gone in the 1st round. They’ve averaged 41 catches for 558 yards and 3 touchdowns per season. Larry Fitzgerald and Calvin Johnson were top-3 picks and they had 58/780/8 and 48/756/4 respectively as rookies. Let someone else overdraft him.

50 catches for 750 yards and 6 touchdowns (111 pts standard)

TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins (Tampa Bay)

I mentioned wide receivers struggle as rookie. The same isn’t necessarily true for tight ends, but Seferian-Jenkins is a mere 2nd round rookie and won’t necessarily even start as the Buccaneers have yet to give him the starting job over Brandon Myers. That should remind you to temper your expectations for him in his rookie year because Myers isn’t very good.

45 catches for 600 yards and 4 touchdowns (84 pts standard)

Aug 172014
 

QB Matt Ryan (Atlanta)

Last season, Matt Ryan had his worst quarterback rating since 2009, but a quarterback rating of 89.6 is still really solid and most of his statistical decline can be attributed to the decline of his supporting cast. He completed 67.4% of his passes for an average of 6.94 YPA, 26 touchdowns, and 17 interceptions. For his career, he’s completed 63.7% of his passes for an average of 7.14 YPA, 153 touchdowns, and 77 interceptions. He’s one of the better quarterbacks in the league and with his offensive supporting cast likely to be much better this season, he should once again lead one of the NFL’s more explosive and dangerous offenses. He’s a QB1.

4725 passing yards, 31 passing touchdowns, 15 interceptions, 80 rushing yards, 1 rushing touchdown (297 pts standard)

RB Steven Jackson (Atlanta)

Last season, Steven Jackson was limited to 157 carries in 12 games and rushed for just 543 yards and 6 touchdowns, a pathetic average of 3.46 yards per carry. Jackson probably won’t be better or healthier this season. Of the top-25 all-time leading rushers who have played in the last decade, the average one has his last 1000 yard season in his age 30 season at 2602 carrier carries. And after players have their drop off, they average just 169 carries per season at 3.52 yards per carry and just 5 touchdowns, so they’re really a non-factor as a back. Jackson has rushed for 10,678 yards (20th all-time), but Jackson is going into his age 31 season with 2553 career carries, so what happened last season is no surprise and should be seen as the beginning of a very swift end.

160 carries for 640 yards, 6 total touchdowns, 30 catches for 210 yards (121 pts standard)

RB Devonta Freeman (Atlanta)

The Falcons drafted Devonta Freeman in the 4th round, realizing they needed help at running back. He has a good chance to open the see as the primary backup to Jackson and have a significant role from the start. And if Jackson continues to struggle or gets hurt, that role will grow. If I had to guess, he’ll lead Falcon running backs in yards from scrimmage this season. That being said, while there are a lot of people who will vouch for Freeman as another running back who will prove to be a steal in the mid rounds, he’s still just a 4th round rookie and could easily struggle this season.

150 carries for 620 yards, 4 total touchdowns, 35 catches for 280 yards (114 pts standard)

WR Julio Jones (Atlanta)

Jones, the 6th overall pick in 2011, showed himself as one of the best young wide receivers in the game in his first 2 seasons in the league. In 2011 and 2012 combined, he caught 133 passes on 218 targets (61.0%) for 2157 yards and 18 touchdowns on 1035 routes run, an average of 2.08 yards per route run. He looked on his way to a breakout year in his 3rd year in the league (a common breakout year for wide receivers) in 2013, catching 41 passes on 57 targets (71.9%) for 580 yards and 2 touchdowns on 212 routes run, an average of 2.74 yards per route run, best in the NFL among eligible receivers.

However, he broke his foot 5 games into the season and missed the rest of the year, killing his chance at that breakout year. He has a troubling injury history, particularly with his foot, dating back to his collegiate days. The good news is that reports out of training camp are really promising and he’s only going into his age 25 season. If he can stay healthy, he could absolutely dominate the NFL this season and make life much easier for Matt Ryan. Just for fun, his stats in 2013 extrapolate to 131 catches for 1856 yards and 6 touchdowns over 16 games. He won’t reach that level of production, but I wouldn’t be shocked at all if he led the NFL in receiving if he stays healthy.

90 catches for 1500 yards and 12 touchdowns (222 pts standard)

WR Roddy White (Atlanta)

White missed 3 games and was severely limited for most of last season with leg problems, catching 20 passes for 209 yards and a touchdown in the first 8 games he played last season. Those 3 games were the first games he missed in his career and last season was the first season since the 2nd season of his career in 2006 that he had fewer than 1000 yards. The once reliably solid wide receiver no longer is. He did finish last season on a tear, catching 43 passes for 502 yards and 2 touchdowns in the final 5 games of the season once he got healthy, which could be promising for 2014.

However, his age and the fact that he’s coming off of a serious injury plagued down season are both concerns. Even the average top-20 receiver (in terms of yardage all-time) has his last 1000 yard season at age 34-35, averages 48 catches for 594 yards and 3 touchdowns for 2 more seasons after age 34-35, and is done playing by age 36-37. White isn’t quite there right now, but he’s at the point in his career where is age is becoming a concern, going into his age 33 season. White’s 9,436 career receiving yards are “only” 45th all-time. White will still probably have a better year than last year if I had to put money on it, both in terms of production and efficiency, but his best days are behind him.

64 catches for 840 yards and 6 touchdowns (120 pts standard)

WR Harry Douglas (Atlanta)

With Tony Gonzalez gone, the Falcons will once again use a bunch of three-wide receiver sets this season. They’ll do a better job of that this year because White and Jones are healthier, allowing Harry Douglas to move back to his natural role on the slot as the Falcons’ 3rd receiver. Douglas caught 85 passes for 1067 yards and 2 touchdowns last season, but he showed himself to be overstretched as a number #1 receiver. His production was largely a result of volume and having Matt Ryan under center, as he averaged 1.66 yards per route run, dropped 9 passes, and had 7 interceptions on passes thrown to him. He’s a much better fit as the 3rd receiver. I don’t expect much fantasy production from him.

48 catches for 680 yards and 4 touchdowns (92 pts standard)

Aug 172014
 

QB Cam Newton (Carolina)

In 3 years in the league, Newton has completed 59.8% for an average of 7.66 YPA, 64 touchdowns, and 42 interceptions, while rushing for 2032 yards and 28 touchdowns on 364 attempts, an average of 5.58 YPC. He’s gotten slightly better in quarterback rating in each of the three seasons he’s been in the league. He could easily have his worst statistical year this season though. The Panthers lost their best two offensive lineman and every wide receiver who caught a pass for them last season. They didn’t add a ton of talent to replace those guys and Newton missed most of the off-season with an ankle problem. That ankle problem might not hurt them on the field this season, but missing all that practice time could hurt his chemistry with his new supporting cast, especially early in the season. He’s a low end QB1 because of his running ability.

3250 passing yards, 22 passing touchdowns, 15 interceptions, 620 rushing yards, 7 rushing touchdowns (292 pts standard)

RB DeAngelo Williams (Carolina)

DeAngelo Williams will probably be the lead back again. Williams has had an impressive career, averaging 4.84 yards per carry over 1370 career carries. However, he’s now going into his age 31 season and has averaged just 4.22 yards per carry over those 2 seasons combined. He’s clearly declining and could decline even more this season. He’s also only gone over 200 carries 3 times in 8 seasons (including last season) and doesn’t offer much in the passing game, with 173 catches in 111 career games, including just 39 over the past 2 seasons combined.

180 carries for 720 yards, 5 total touchdowns, 22 catches for 180 yards (120 pts standard)

RB Jonathan Stewart (Carolina)

Williams has had some issues with injuries in his career, but Jonathan Stewart has had even bigger problems with injuries. He only missed 2 games in his first 4 seasons combined, but he was consistently playing through injuries and it appears to have caught up with him over the past 2 seasons, as he’s missed a combined 17 games and carried the ball just a combined 141 times over those past 2 seasons. He’s also been limited to 3.66 yards per carry over the past 2 seasons. He’s a talented player when healthy, averaging 4.64 yards per carry for his career, despite his struggles over the last 2 seasons, but he’s rarely healthy. He’s also only gone over 200 carries in a season once in 6 years in the league and he’s only caught 105 passes in 77 games.

120 carries for 490 yards, 3 total touchdowns, 15 catches for 100 yards (77 pts standard)

RB Mike Tolbert (Carolina)

The Panthers’ best back might be fullback Mike Tolbert, who led Panther backs with 606 snaps played last season. He only averaged 3.57 yards per carry (361 rushing yards on 101 carries), but that’s partially because he was doing a lot of the dirty work and short yardage running. He picked up 2.02 yards per carry after contact and 31 first downs on 101 carries. He also was their best pass catching running back, catching 27 passes (which led Panther running backs) for 184 yards and 2 touchdowns.

90 carries for 360 yards, 5 total touchdowns, 25 catches for 200 yards (86 pts standard)

WR Kelvin Benjamin (Carolina)

Kelvin Benjamin could be forced into the #1 wide receiver role. Benjamin certainly has talent, but he’s very raw, as he only played two seasons of college football and only had one season where he had meaningful production. Rookie wide receivers tend to struggle anyway, even first round talents.  Since 2005, 31 receivers have gone in the 1st round. They’ve averaged 41 catches for 558 yards and 3 touchdowns per season. Larry Fitzgerald and Calvin Johnson were top-3 picks and they had 58/780/8 and 48/756/4 respectively as rookies.

Benjamin is rawer than most wide receivers drafted in the first round and was a very late first round pick. He could exceed those averages in terms of pure numbers because of the size of his role and the caliber of quarterback he has throwing to him, but he probably won’t play well or be that efficient. He showed himself to be incredibly athletic and physical both in college and at the combine (6-5 240 4.61 40), but he’s purely a deep threat at this point in his football career.

42 catches for 700 yards and 6 touchdowns (106 pts standard)

WR Jerricho Cotchery (Carolina)

Cotchery was a very good wide receiver with the Jets from 2007-2009, grading out above average in all 3 seasons, catching a combined 210 passes for 2809 yards and 10 touchdowns. However, he struggled mightily in 2010, catching 41 passes for 433 yards and 2 touchdowns. He ended up in Pittsburgh, where he played just a combined 553 snaps in 2011-2012. However, in 2013, he got a bigger role and caught 46 passes on 74 attempts (62.2%) for 607 yards and 10 touchdowns on 440 routes run, an average of 1.38 yards per route run. He’ll be starter in Carolina, but only out of necessity. Going into his age 32 season, he’s a low upside pick at the end of fantasy drafts.

50 catches for 650 yards and 5 touchdowns (95 pts standard)

TE Greg Olsen (Carolina)

Last season, Olsen caught 73 passes on 102 attempts (71.6%) for 816 yards and 6 touchdowns on 482 routes run, an average of 1.69 yards per route run. He lead them in receptions, yards, and touchdowns last season and will almost definitely do so again this season with Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell, Ted Ginn and company all gone. He could easily surpass last season’s production. He’s an underrated fantasy asset at a weak tight end position.

78 catches for 900 yards and 8 touchdowns (138 pts standard)

Aug 172014
 

QB Drew Brees (New Orleans)

Since joining the Saints in 2006 and uniting with Sean Payton, he’s completed 67.3% of his passes for an average of 7.76 YPA, 283 touchdowns and 124 interceptions. He’s going into his age 35 season, but he’s shown no signs of decline. Last season, he completed 68.6% of his passes for an average of 7.94 YPA, 39 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. Like Brady and Manning before him, Brees is another quarterback who could remain dominant into his mid-30s.

5200 passing yards, 41 passing touchdowns, 17 interceptions, 40 rushing yards, 1 rushing touchdown (348 pts standard)

RB Pierre Thomas (New Orleans)

Thomas only averaged 3.73 yards per carry last season (549 yards on 147 carries), but he also averaged 2.20 yards per carry after contact and broke 43 tackles on 224 carries, giving him the 18th best elusive rating at his position among eligible players. On top of that, he’s averaged 4.56 yards per carry for his career and he caught 77 passes for 513 yards last season. He’s going into his age 30 season and he’s only maxed out at 147 carries in a season (twice), but he’ll still have a significant role as a passing down back, especially with Darren Sproles gone.

120 carries for 520 yards, 5 total touchdowns, 75 catches for 600 yards

RB Mark Ingram (New Orleans)

Ingram was a first round pick in 2011, but he’s been a bust thus far in his career. He’s had just 356 carries in 3 seasons, averaging 4.11 yards per carry (1462 yards) and scoring 11 touchdowns. He’s missed 11 games in 3 seasons and has shown nothing as a pass catcher, only catching 24 passes for 143 yards in his career. He’ll compete with Khiry Robinson for the primary running down back role this season.

100 carries for 420 yards, 4 total touchdowns, 11 catches for 90 yards (75 pts standard)

RB Khiry Robinson (New Orleans)

Robinson, meanwhile, saw 76 snaps as an undrafted rookie and rushed for 224 yards and a touchdown on 54 carries, an average of 4.15 yards per carry. He doesn’t offer anything on passing downs either. The coaching staff really likes him though so, right now, I’d say that he’s the favorite to be their lead back right now. He flashed in the post-season, rushing for 102 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries, an average of 4.86 yards per carry. I don’t see any New Orleans running back getting more than 150 carries though. Thomas is valuable in PPR, but other than that, it’s a fantasy wasteland.

140 carries for 620 yards, 5 total touchdowns, 10 catches for 80 yards (100 pts standard)

WR Marques Colston (New Orleans)

Marques Colston remains as the #1 wide receiver. He showed statistical decline last season, catching 75 passes for 943 yards and 5 touchdowns. It tied a career low for touchdowns and it was only the 2nd season of his 8-year career in which he went under 1000 yards, with the other season being a season in which he played just 11 games. However, he was still really efficient, catching 70.1% of his targets and averaging 1.77 yards per route run. He’s going into his age 31 season, he should have another solid season and probably lead Saint wide receivers in catches and yards.

70 catches for 1010 yards and 8 touchdowns (149 pts standard)

WR Brandin Cooks (New Orleans)

Rookie wide receivers rarely do anything. Since 2005, 31 receivers have gone in the 1st round. They’ve averaged 41 catches for 558 yards and 3 touchdowns per season. Larry Fitzgerald and Calvin Johnson were top-3 picks and they had 58/780/8 and 48/756/4 respectively as rookies. If Cooks can end up winning a starting job or a significant role, he could surpass those numbers, not because he’s more talented than the average 1st round wide receiver (or Johnson or Fitzgerald obviously), but because of the situation he was drafted into with Drew Brees throwing him the football. He’ll still be overdrafted though.

42 catches for 750 yards and 6 touchdowns (111 pts standard)

WR Kenny Stills (New Orleans)

Stills is competing with Cooks for the starting job. He probably won’t win it, but he’ll still have a significant role. The 2013 5th round pick struggled as a rookie. He caught 32 of his 46 targets (69.6%) for 641 yards and 5 touchdowns, but he did so on 496 routes run, an average of 1.29 yards per route run. He was purely a deep threat. That being said, rookie wide receivers almost always struggle, as I mentioned earlier, and he definitely flashed at times, so he could be improved in his 2nd year in the league.

45 catches for 700 yards and 5 touchdowns (100 pts standard)

TE Jimmy Graham (New Orleans)

Jimmy Graham is listed as a tight end, but he’s the Saints’ de facto #1 receiver. In 4 seasons in the league since being drafted in the 3rd round in 2010, he’s caught 301 passes for 3863 yards and 41 touchdowns on 454 targets (66.3%) and 1758 routes run, an average of 2.20 yards per route run. Rob Gronkowski is a significant better blocker and a more well-rounded tight end, but he has a significant injury history so Graham is the best pass catching tight end in the league. He’s easily the top tight end this year and a first round pick in fantasy, given the lack of depth at the tight end position.

91 catches for 1210 yards and 12 touchdowns (193 pts standard)

Aug 172014
 

QB Eli Manning (NY Giants)

From 2009-2012, Eli Manning completed 61.5% of his passes for an average of 7.80 YPA, 113 touchdowns, and 70 interceptions. However, last year, he struggled mightily, grading out 30th out of 42 eligible, completing 57.5% of his passes for an average of 6.93 YPA, 18 touchdowns, and 27 interceptions. That could just be a down year, but he’s also going into his age 33 season, so it’s a serious concern. There’s not much to get excited about here from a fantasy perspective.

3750 passing yards, 22 passing touchdowns, 18 interceptions, 40 rushing yards, 0 rushing touchdowns (206 pts standard)

RB Rashad Jennings (NY Giants)

Jennings was impressive last season, taking the starting job away from the struggling Darren McFadden mid-season in Oakland. He rushed for 733 yards and 6 touchdowns on 163 carries, an average of 4.50 YPC, and also added 36 catches for 292 yards. The issue is that he’s a one year wonder. He didn’t play a snap in 2011 thanks to injuries and then rushed for 283 yards and 2 touchdowns on 101 carries in 2012, 2.80 YPC.

In his career, he’s rushed for 1677 yards and 13 touchdowns on 387 carries (4.33 YPC), catching 97 passes for 746 yards. He’s never played all 16 games in a season and has only played 53 out of a possible 80 games in 5 seasons in the league since being drafted in the 7th round in 2009. He’s also already going into his age 29 season, after being 24 years old when he was drafted. The Giants are counting on him to be a” bell cow” feature back, but there are no guarantees obviously. He’s a borderline RB2/RB3 purely on volume.

220 carries for 950 yards, 6 total touchdowns, 38 catches for 280 yards (159 pts standard)

RB Andre Williams (NY Giants) Jennings is unproven as a feature back so Williams has some late round upside. He was only a 4th round pick because he’s purely an inside the tackles runner and I don’t expect big things from him as a rookie, but he could steal the goal line carries and he’s pretty locked into the #2 back role right now, with David Wilson retiring.

80 carries for 330 yards, 4 total touchdowns, 8 catches for 60 yards (63 pts standard)

WR Victor Cruz (NY Giants)

Victor Cruz remains as the #1 wide receiver and an every down player. He also moves to the slot in 3-wide receiver sets. The undrafted free agent from the University of Massachusetts in 2010, Cruz didn’t play a snap as a rookie. Over the past 3 seasons though, he’s caught 241 passes on 376 attempts (64.1%) for 3626 yards and 23 touchdowns on 1541 routes run, an average of 2.35 yards per route run. He had a down year last year, catching 73 passes for 998 yards and 4 touchdowns as the whole passing offense took a step back. I expect him to be closer to that than the 84 catches for 1314 yards and 10 touchdowns per season he averaged from 2011-2012 because I don’t have huge expectations for this whole passing offense, but he’s still a WR2.

84 catches for 1060 yards and 7 touchdowns (148 pts standard)

WR Reuben Randle (NY Giants)

A 2012 2nd round pick, Randle has caught 60 of 108 targets (55.6%) for 909 yards and 9 touchdowns on 580 routes run in his career in 2 seasons, an average of 1.57 yards per route run. The Giants will be hoping for a 3rd year breakout year from him. He’s expected to be the #2 wide receiver and should get a fair amount of targets as the Giants don’t have anything at tight end. Something comparable to the 56 catches for 896 yards that Hakeem Nicks had last season, plus more touchdowns, is pretty reasonable for Randle. He’s a solid bench player in fantasy.

61 catches for 800 yards and 6 touchdowns (116 pts standard)

WR Odell Beckham (NY Giants)

I hate rookie wide receivers in fantasy. They’re always over-drafted because of their name and that’s true of Odell Beckham as well. Since 2005, 31 receivers have gone in the 1st round. They’ve averaged 41 catches for 558 yards and 3 touchdowns per season. Larry Fitzgerald and Calvin Johnson were top-3 picks and they had 58/780/8 and 48/756/4 respectively as rookies. Beckham will only be the #3 wide receiver as a rookie.

41 catches for 550 yards and 4 touchdowns (79 pts standard)

Aug 172014
 

QB Tony Romo (Dallas)

Romo is once again coming off of a very strong season, completing 63.9% of his passes for an average of 7.16 YPA, 31 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions, a QB rating of 96.7. For his career, he completes 64.6% of his passes for an average of 7.83 YPA, 208 touchdowns, and 101 interceptions. The concern with Romo isn’t a lack of clutch (whatever that means). It’s that he’s going into his age 34 season coming off of a significant back injury with his YPA declining in every season since 2011 (8.02 YPA, 7.57 YPA, 7.16 YPA) and his completion percentage declining in every season since 2010 (69.5%, 66.3%, 65.6%, 63.9%).

4325 passing yards, 28 passing touchdowns, 15 interceptions, 50 rushing yards, 0 rushing touchdowns (260 pts standard)

RB DeMarco Murray (Dallas)

DeMarco Murray had the best season of his career in 2013, rushing for 1121 yards and 9 touchdowns on 217 attempts, an average of 5.17 YPC. He also added 53 catches for 350 yards and a touchdown through the air. I’m skeptical whether or not he can repeat that kind of season, given his injury history. He’s been banged up dating back to college, even missing 2 games last season, and missing a combined 11 games in 3 seasons in the league. He’s never played more than 14 games in a season and the 270 touches he had last season blew his previous career high of 196 out of the water.

200 carries for 960 yards, 7 total touchdowns, 45 catches for 360 yards (174 pts standard)

RB Lance Dunbar (Dallas)     

If Murray misses time, it’ll be a bigger role for Lance Dunbar, who could have a significant role either way. Scott Linehan, coming in from Detroit to essentially coordinate their offesne, sees Dunbar as someone who can be a Reggie Bush/Darren Sproles/Danny Woodhead type weapon so he’ll have a significant role on passing downs and make Murray largely a two-down running back. He won’t see a lot of carries unless Murray gets hurt, but he could see 40-50 catches.

100 carries for 450 yards, 4 total touchdowns, 40 catches for 350 yards (104 pts standard)

WR Dez Bryant (Dallas)

Dez Bryant has come into his own over the past two seasons, averaging 2.11 yards per route run and catching 185 passes for 2615 yards and 25 touchdowns in the past two seasons combined, while not missing a single game. I expect more of the same from him this season, as easily the top wide receiver in an explosive pass offense.

90 catches for 1200 yards and 11 touchdowns (186 pts standard)

WR Terrance Williams (Dallas)

The heavy favorite to be the #2 wide receiver is Terrence Williams, who was 2nd on the team in snaps played by a wide receiver last season with 700, ahead of the injury plagued Miles Austin, who is now gone. The 3rd round rookie caught 44 passes on 72 targets (61.1%) for 736 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns on 490 routes run, an average of 1.50 yards per route run, which isn’t great. Still, he has upside and he could easily be better in his 2nd year in the league considering rookie wide receivers rarely do anything.

51 catches for 770 yards and 5 touchdowns (107 pts standard)

TE Jason Witten (Dallas)

Jason Witten remains one of the best and most reliable tight ends in the NFL. Since being drafted in the 3rd round in 2003, he’s missed one game, missing one as a rookie when he broke his jaw. He played in the opener in 2012 less than 3 weeks after rupturing his spleen and needing to sign a waiver to get onto the field. Excluding his rookie year, he’s always been between 64 and 110 catches 754 and 1152 yards and 1 and 7 touchdowns. He is once again a solid TE1.

80 catches for 900 yards and 5 touchdowns (120 pts standard)

Aug 172014
 

QB Robert Griffin (Washington)

As a rookie, Griffin completed 65.6% of his passes for an average of 8.14 YPA, 20 touchdowns, and 5 interceptions, while rushing for 815 yards and 7 touchdowns on 120 carries (6.79 YPC). Last season, he completed 60.1% of his passes for an average of 7.02 YPA, 16 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions, while rushing for 489 yards and no touchdowns on 86 carries (5.69 YPC). This was all before being shut down for the season with 3 weeks to go. The good news is he should bounce back this season. Most of his struggles last season were the result of the torn ACL he suffered in January of 2013. He was able to make it back for week 1, but it clearly limited him. Even Tom Brady struggled, by his standards, in his first year back from his torn ACL and Griffin is much more reliant on his legs and had less time to recover (Brady’s injury was in September). He’s a great bounce back candidate.

3750 passing yards, 24 passing touchdowns, 10 interceptions, 450 rushing yards, 3 touchdowns (289 pts standard)

RB Alfred Morris (Washington)

Morris rushed for 1613 yards and 13 touchdowns on 335 carries as a 6th round rookie in 2012, an average of 4.81 YPC. In 2013, he rushed for 1275 yards and 7 touchdowns on 276 carries, an average of 4.62 YPC. That’s obviously not a bad season, but he wasn’t as good as he was as a rookie. The good news is that he should find more running space with a healthy Robert Griffin functioning as a dual option at quarterback. The bad news is that Jay Gruden is coming in as head coach and wants to open up the passing offense. Morris has caught 20 passes in 2 seasons. Gruden is on record saying that he wants to give passing down back Roy Helu more snaps.

Last season, Helu played 547 snaps while Morris played 611 snaps. Morris will have a role similar to BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who had 472 snaps in Cincinnati, as opposed to 627 snaps for passing down back Giovani Bernard. BJGE still had 220 carries last season and Morris is much more talented than him, while Helu is not as talented as Bernard. It could be a more even split in snaps and Morris could still see 240-260 carries this season, including all the goal line carries, and average a high YPC, but Helu will have a bigger role than last season.

250 carries for 1180 yards, 10 total touchdowns, 15 catches for 100 yards (188 pts standard)

RB Roy Helu (Washington)

As I mentioned, Roy Helu should have a bigger role this season, both in terms of carries and catches. He’s only averaged 4.26 yards per carry in 3 seasons in the league, but he’s caught 87 passes for 675 yards and a touchdown. He won’t do a ton of damage as a runner, but he could catch 40-50 passes. He has more value in PPR leagues than regular leagues.

100 carries for 420 yards, 4 total touchdowns, 40 catches for 320 yards (98 pts standard)

WR Pierre Garcon (Washington)

Garcon missed 6 games and was limited in others in 2012, in the first year of a 5-year, 42.5 million dollar deal that was highly speculative when he signed it because he had never had a 1000 yard season in four years with the Colts, three with Peyton Manning. However, Garcon still flashed in 2012 on 403 snaps, grading out well above average and catching 44 passes for 633 yards and 4 touchdowns on 215 routes run, an average of 2.94 yards per route run that was 2nd best in the NFL. Given that he did that with a bad foot, it was very promising for 2013.

He wasn’t quite as efficient in 2013, but that’s to be expected considering he had significantly more playing time and his quarterback play was significantly worse. He was still really good, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 26th ranked wide receiver. He caught 113 catches on 174 targets (64.9%) for 1346 yards and 5 touchdowns on 615 routes run, an average of 2.19 yards per route run, 12th in the NFL. He was largely a volume receiver, catching primarily underneath targets, with only 25 catches 10+ yards downfield, and finishing 2nd in the NFL in targets. He won’t get as many targets this season with DeSean Jackson coming in and Jordan Reed back healthy, but he should have more room to work with and better quarterback play.

88 catches for 1090 yards and 5 touchdowns (139 pts standard)

WR DeSean Jackson (Washington)

DeSean Jackson had a career year last year, catching 82 passes for 1332 yards and 9 touchdowns, all either career highs or tying career highs. The Eagles still cut him though, in favor of re-signing Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper. He’s highly unlikely to match those numbers now that he’s out of Chip Kelly’s system. He could easily be 3rd on the Redskins in catches, serving primarily as a deep decoy while Pierre Garcon and Jordan Reed eat up underneath catches. Stay away for fantasy purposes.

60 catches for 960 yards and 6 touchdowns (132 pts standard)

TE Jordan Reed (Washington)

Reed, a 3rd round rookie last season, missed 7 games with concussions, but still caught 45 passes on 60 attempts (75.0%) for 499 yards and 4 touchdowns on 228 routes run, an average of 2.19 yards per route run, 3rd in the NFL. If he stays healthy, he could have a breakout year in 2014. He won’t get a ton of targets with Garcon and Jackson also on the team, but there will be plenty of room for him to work in and he should have quarterback play this season.

68 catches for 790 yards and 6 touchdowns (115 pts standard)

Aug 172014
 

QB Nick Foles (Philadelphia)

Foles broke into the lineup because of a Vick injury (what else) and took the starting job and ran with it, completing 64.0% of his passes for an average of 9.12 YPA, 27 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. He led the league in QB rating at 119.2, ahead of even Peyton Manning, and finished with the 3rd best QB rating season all time. I don’t expect him to be that efficient again. He definitely won’t throw an interception on just 0.6% of his passes again (2 interceptions on 317 attempts). Opponents also now have a full season of tape of Chip Kelly’s offense, so they won’t catch opponents off guard as much, though part of what makes Kelly so great is his ability to adapt. Foles also lost DeSean Jackson, though they’ll attempt to replace him with Jeremy Maclin, Darren Sproles, Jordan Matthews, and a bigger year from Zach Ertz. Foles is still a QB1.

4000 passing yards, 32 passing touchdowns, 12 interceptions, 300 rushing yards, 3 rushing touchdowns (312 pts standard)

RB LeSean McCoy (Philadelphia)

Last season, McCoy rushed for 1607 yards and 9 touchdowns on 314 attempts, an average of 5.12 yards per attempt, and caught 52 passes on 539 yards and 2 touchdowns. He broke 75 tackles on 366 touches and averaged 2.38 yards per carry after contact, giving him the 9th best elusive rating in the NFL. There’s obviously no guarantee he continues that kind of success. It’s hard to repeat that at any position, especially at running back, especially when you’re a 5-10 198 pounder who had 366 touches (391 including post-season). However, he’s safely a top-3 running back in fantasy this year.

280 carries for 1340 yards, 12 total touchdowns, 50 catches for 450 yards (251 pts standard)

RB Darren Sproles (Philadelphia)

Darren Sproles is a “running back.” I put running back in quotations because he’s had 291 catches to 238 carries over the past 4 seasons combined and he wasn’t brought to Philadelphia to help in the running game. He’ll backup feature back LeSean McCoy, but McCoy played 890 snaps last season and his backup played 199 snaps, including 75 carries. Sproles will help out as a versatile weapon in the passing game and often play at the same time as McCoy, lining up in the other side of the backfield and in the slot primarily. I expect 6-8 touches per game from him.

50 carries for 240 yards, 4 total touchdowns, 50 catches for 400 yards (88 pts standard)

WR Jeremy Maclin (Philadelphia)

The most promising wide receiver for the Eagles is Jeremy Maclin. Maclin missed all of last season with a torn ACL. Maclin is actually a more versatile player as compared to Riley Cooper and even DeSean Jackson and I think he can be a strong fit in Chip Kelly’s offense, though he’s yet to play for Kelly in a regular season game. Injuries have been the problem for Maclin throughout his career as the 2009 1st round pick has missed 21 games in 5 years in his career, including all of last season and has only once played all 16 games. He’s averaged 1.57 yards per route run throughout his career. The 2009 1st round pick could have the best season of his career in 2014 if he can stay healthy.

70 catches for 1050 yards and 7 touchdowns (147 pts standard)

WR Riley Cooper (Philadelphia)

A year ago, Cooper was the Eagles 4th receiver and had 46 catches for 679 catches and 5 touchdowns in the first 3 years of his career. He struggled to start the 2013 season as well, catching 8 passes for 93 yards and a touchdown in his first 5 games in a starting role, before breaking out down the stretch. He had only played 1054 snaps before last season and graded out below average in each of his first 3 seasons in the league. He’s a great fit for the Eagles’ offense and Chip Kelly could easily continue to get the most out of him, but he’s a one-year wonder and he could struggle without Jackson opposite him. He’s certainly not the coverage changing receiver that Jackson was.

55 catches for 820 yards and 5 touchdowns (112 pts standard)

WR Jordan Matthews (Philadelphia)

I hate rookie wide receivers in fantasy. Since 2005, 31 receivers have gone in the 1st round. They’ve averaged 41 catches for 558 yards and 3 touchdowns per season. Larry Fitzgerald and Calvin Johnson were top-3 picks and they had 58/780/8 and 48/756/4 respectively as rookies. Matthews wasn’t even a 1st round pick. He’ll be the Eagles’ primary slot receiver this year, which was a big role last season, but he’ll cede snaps to both Darren Sproles and to more two-tight end sets, so he won’t play as much as slot man Jason Avant did in 2013. He’s only worth a look in deep leagues.

45 catches for 550 yards and 4 touchdowns (79 pts standard)

TE Zach Ertz (Philadelphia)

Zach Ertz impressed in limited action as a rookie and will be counted on to help replace DeSean Jackson’s production. Ertz caught 36 passes on 55 attempts (65.5%) for 469 yards and 4 touchdowns on 243 routes run, an impressive 1.93 yards per route run. Going into his 2nd year in the league, the 6-5 250 pound Stanford product will have a bigger role and be used all over the formation. The 2013 2nd round pick could have a breakout year.

50 catches for 680 yards and 6 touchdowns (104 pts standard)

TE Brent Celek (Philadelphia)

Brent Celek caught 32 passes on 47 attempts (68.1%) for 502 yards and 6 touchdowns on 319 routes run last season, an average of 1.59 yards per route run. He could have a bigger role in the passing game this season with Jackson gone, but Ertz is the Philadelphia tight end to own. Celek is a much better blocker than pass catcher.

40 catches for 550 yards and 4 touchdowns (79 pts standard)

Aug 172014
 

QB Joe Flacco (Baltimore)

Joe Flacco was pretty consistently a slightly above average quarterback in the first 5 seasons of his career from 2008-2012. His QB rating had always fallen between 80.3 and 93.6. His completion percentages had always fallen between 57.6% and 63.1%. His YPAs had always fallen between 6.66 and 7.41. His touchdowns had always fallen between 20 and 25 (with the exception of his rookie year) and his interceptions had always fallen between 10 and 12.

He then had a fantastic post-season in 2012, en route to that Super Bowl, completing 57.9% of his passes for an average of 9.05 YPA, 11 touchdowns, and no interceptions. He followed that up with the worst season of his career in 2013, completing 59.7% of his passes for an average of 6.37 YPA, 19 touchdowns, and 22 interceptions, easily a career worst QB rating of 73.1. Part of it was his fault but he really didn’t have much help. The Ravens made some changes around him so there’s some bounce back potential, but he’s still just a QB2.

3700 passing yards, 22 passing touchdowns, 14 interceptions, 100 rushing yards, 1 rushing touchdown (224 pts standard)

RB Ray Rice (Baltimore)

From 2009-2012, Rice averaged 277 carries for 1267 yards and 8 touchdowns and 70 catches for 610 yards and 2 touchdowns per season, an average of 4.57 yards per carry. However, in 2013, he rushed for 660 yards and 4 touchdowns on 214 carries (3.08 YPC) and caught 58 passes for 321 yards. He broke just 13 tackles on 272 touches and averaged 1.52 yards per carry after contact, giving him easily the league’s worst elusive rating.

Rice isn’t over the hill, only going into his age 27 season and his struggles last year are being attributed to overwork over the previous 4 seasons (1387 touches), a nagging hip injury, and him being overweight. He says the hip injury is behind him and he’s slimmed down this off-season and he’s been looking better in practice so a bounce back year isn’t out of the question, especially with a better offensive line and a new offensive system in place. Hurting his chances at a bounce back year is a two game suspension he’ll face to start the season, after assaulting his now wife this off-season.

180 carries for 720 yards, 5 total touchdowns, 40 catches for 300 yards (132 pts standard)

RB Bernard Pierce (Baltimore)

The player who can take the most advantage of Rice’s potential suspension is Bernard Pierce. Pierce, a 2012 3rd round pick, proved to be very valuable as a rookie en route to a Super Bowl victory, totaling 734 yards and a touchdown on 140 carries across the regular season and post-season, an average of 5.24 yards per carry. However, thanks to the blocking, an injury of his own, and his own struggles, Pierce averaged just 2.87 yards per carry last season and was unable to take advantage of a struggling Rice. He had a better elusive though so more of his struggles can be attributed to the blocking. Healthier, in a new system in his 3rd year in the league, Pierce could have a bounce back year. If he impresses as the lead back in Rice’s absence, he could remain in that role.

160 carries for 670 yards, 5 total touchdowns, 22 catches for 130 yards (110 pts standard)

RB Lorenzo Taliaferro (Baltimore)

The Ravens are going to give both Rice and Pierce the opportunity to bounce back this season, but 4th round rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro is still worth monitoring in all leagues and drafting as a late round flier in deep leagues. At the very least, he’ll see action early in the season when Rice is suspended. He’s the definition of a deep sleeper.

90 carries for 380 yards, 3 total touchdowns, 15 catches for 110 yards (67 pts standard)

WR Torrey Smith (Baltimore)

Smith appeared to have a breakout year last season in his 3rd year in the league after being drafted in the 2nd round in 2011, catching 65 passes for 1128 yards and 4 touchdowns, but he’s a fairly incomplete volume wide receiver who wasn’t as good as his stats suggested last season. He only caught 51.2% of his targets (65 catches on 127 targets) and only caught 39 passes on balls that went 10 or fewer yards through the air, 71st most in the NFL. He’s pretty much just a deep threat who was overstretched last season. He’ll catch more passes in the Ravens’ new west coast offense under Gary Kubiak, but he’s not an ideal fit for the offense because of his limited route running ability. It’s possible he develops more this season, only going into his age 25 season.

71 catches for 1050 yards and 6 touchdowns (141 pts standard)

TE Dennis Pitta (Baltimore)

Pitta missed 12 games with a hip problem last off-season and was limited upon his return. Still, he caught 20 passes for 169 yards and a touchdown in 4 games, which extrapolates to 80 catches for 716 yards and 4 touchdowns over 16 games. He did that on 128 routes run, an average of 1.32 yards per route run. He caught a lot of passes in those 4 games, but showed little explosiveness. Now he should be completely healthy and he’s going into a system under Gary Kubiak that benefits tight ends. The Ravens obviously believe in him, giving him a 5-year, 32.5 million dollar deal ahead of free agency this off-season. He’s never had more than 61 catches for 669 yards and 7 touchdowns in a season, which he did in 2012, when he averaged 1.69 yards per route run, but I see him exceeding that this season.

65 catches for 760 yards and 6 touchdowns (112 pts standard)

Aug 172014
 

QB Ben Roethlisberger (Pittsburgh)

Roethlisberger’s 2013 season was right in line with his career averages as he completed 64.2% of his passes for an average of 7.30 YPA, 28 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions, a QB rating of 92.0. In his career, he completes 63.3% of his passes for an average of 7.85 YPA, 219 touchdowns, and 122 interceptions, a QB rating of 92.6. He takes fewer shots downfield now under offensive coordinator Todd Haley, which has lowered his YPA, but he completes a higher percentage of his passes and has a better touchdown to interception ratio. One thing Roethlisberger did last season that was unusual is play all 16 games, something he had only done once in his career prior. He’s missed 17 games in 10 seasons and will probably miss a game or two with some sort of injury this season, as his playing style leads him to take a lot of hits.

Projection: 3800 passing yards, 27 passing touchdowns, 12 interceptions, 120 rushing yards, 1 rushing touchdown (254 pts standard)

RB Le’Veon Bell (Pittsburgh)

Le’Veon Bell, a 2013 2nd round pick, returns as the starter. He only rushed 860 yards and 8 touchdowns on 244 carries last season, an average of 3.52 YPC, but he broke tackles (46 broken tackles on 289 touches), got yards after contact (2.11 YPC after contact), and moved the chains (48 rushing first downs, 14th in the NFL). He also added 45 catches for 399 yards through the air. He missed 3 games and struggled through an injury at times, but now he’s going into his 2nd year in the league and he should be healthier. He rushed for 578 yards and 5 touchdowns on 164 carries (3.52 YPC) and caught 28 passes for 252 yards in his final 8 games. The issue is LeGarrette Blount is now around to steal carries, especially near the goal line.

240 carries for 960 yards, 7 total touchdowns, 55 catches for 480 yards (186 pts standard)

RB LeGarrette Blount (Pittsburgh)

LeGarrette Blount is a big name after what he did to the Colts in the playoffs, rushing for 166 yards and 4 touchdowns. However, people forget he had just 6 yards on 5 carries the following week in a loss in Denver. Blount averaged 5.19 yards per carry last season, including playoffs, on a combined 182 carries, but he was also available for a late round pick and a minimal salary the off-season prior, after averaging 4.14 yards per carry on 225 carries in 2011 and 2012 combined. His career average of 4.68 yards per carry is pretty solid, but he offers nothing as a pass catcher (23 career catches), pass protector, has minimal special teams experience (17 career returns), fumbles often (9 fumbles on 579 career carries) and has a history of discipline problems. He’ll get touches in Pittsburgh, especially around the goal line, but he’ll probably need a Bell injury to be relevant outside of deep leagues.

140 carries for 630 yards, 6 total touchdowns, 5 catches for 40 yards (103 pts standard)

WR Antonio Brown (Pittsburgh)

Because of their off-season losses at wide receiver, Antonio Brown could have even more targets this year than he did last year, when he was targeted 159 times, 4th most among wide receivers in the NFL. He caught 110 of those targets (69.2%) for 1498 yards and 8 touchdowns and averaged 2.37 yards per route run. The only player who had more receiving yards than him last season was Josh Gordon, who is currently expected to be suspended for the entire 2014 season.

Now fully out of the shadow of guys like Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes, and Mike Wallace, Brown, 2010 6th round pick, is quietly one of the best wide receivers in the game. He’s caught 245 passes for 3394 yards and 15 touchdowns over the past 3 seasons combined and now he’s coming off of the best season of his career. He’s an excellent route runner and a perfect fit for Todd Haley’s system.

102 catches for 1440 yards and 7 touchdowns (186 pts standard)

TE Heath Miller (Pittsburgh)

Heath Miller could be 2nd on the team in targets. Miller was limited to 58 catches for 593 yards and a touchdown last season as he missed 2 games and was limited in others after tearing his ACL towards the end of the 2012 season. That should be behind him now and he was better towards the end of last season, as he caught 34 passes for 325 yards in his final 8 games. That extrapolates to 68 catches for 650 yards over 16 games. From 2009-2012, he averaged 60 catches for 687 yards and 5 touchdowns per season and he could easily have a year similar, if not better, than that this season as the Steelers’ 2nd option.

63 catches for 670 yards and 5 touchdowns (97 pts standard)

Aug 172014
 

RB Ben Tate (Cleveland)

Ben Tate was drafted in the 2nd round in 2010 by the Texans to be the starting running back, but broke his ankle in the pre-season, which opened the door for Arian Foster to emerge as one of the best running backs in the NFL. Upon his return from that injury, Tate impressed as his backup, averaging 5.09 YPC on 240 carries in 2011 and 2012 and got his shot to be the starter in 2013 when Arian Foster went down with a season ending back injury.

Unfortunately, the injury bug reared its head for Tate again as he broke several ribs. He only missed 2 games, the final two of the season, but was definitely hampered by the injury as he averaged just 4.26 yards per carry on 181 carries. Tate clearly has the talent and toughness to be a lead back in the NFL, but he’s also missed 24 of 64 possible regular season games in his career thus far and is coming off of an injury plagued season. Staying healthy will be the key to him potentially having a breakout year.

200 carries for 840 yards, 6 total touchdowns, 30 catches for 220 yards (142 pts standard)

RB Terrance West (Cleveland)

West is a good value pick after the top running backs go. Ben Tate’s injury history is well documented and West is reportedly just a notch behind Tate in the coaching staff’s eyes anyway and could easily see a bunch of carries on a run heavy offense anyway. The 3rd round rookie could end up being a steal in the mid rounds.

160 carries for 700 yards, 6 total touchdowns, 24 catches for 180 yards (124 pts standard)

WR Andrew Hawkins (Cleveland)

Hawkins has flashed in 3 seasons with the Bengals since coming to them as an undrafted free agent in 2011, averaging 1.66 yards per route run in his career. However, he’s only run 598 routes in his career and caught 86 passes for 995 yards and 4 touchdowns. In the only season he got significant playing time, 2012, he caught 51 passes for 533 yards and 4 touchdowns on 384 routes run, 1.39 yards per route run. The Browns are hoping he’s a budding talent that was just buried on the depth chart in Cincinnati, giving him a 4-year, 13.6 million deal this off-season, but that might be wishful thinking. He’s their best wide receiver only by default, and doesn’t have a ton of fantasy value.

62 catches for 740 yards and 4 touchdowns (98 pts standard)

TE Jordan Cameron (Cleveland)

The only Browns pass catcher that does have fantasy value is tight end Jordan Cameron, who should lead the Browns in all receiving categories this season. However, he might not match the 80 catches for 917 yards and 7 touchdowns he had last season as the Browns won’t pass 681 times again this season. They could have 150-200 fewer passing attempts this season and Cameron only averaged 1.47 yards per route run last season. He could be more efficient this season, but I don’t see him having more than the 109 targets he had last season, 3rd in the NFL.

64 catches for 800 yards and 8 touchdowns (128 pts standard)

Aug 172014
 

QB Andy Dalton (Cincinnati)

Andy Dalton will be a better real quarterback than fantasy quarterback this year with the Bengals going to a more run heavy offense. The Bengals had 33 passing touchdowns to 14 rushing touchdowns last season, which won’t happen again, and Dalton might not get over 500 attempts. He’s a QB2 with limited upside.

3500 passing yards, 26 passing touchdowns, 16 interceptions, 220 rushing yards, 2 rushing touchdowns (246 pts standard)

RB Giovani Bernard (Cincinnati)

Under new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, the Bengals are going to be more run heavy. This is great news for Giovani Bernard. Bernard only had 170 carries as a rookie in 2013, rushing for 695 yards and 5 touchdowns, an average of 4.09 yards per carry, but he also caught 56 passes for 514 yards and another 3 touchdowns. Bernard might not have quite as many catches this season, but there will be more opportunity for him to carry the ball in his 2nd year in the league. He’s the lead back and could have 300+ touches.

Darren McFadden, a running back with a similar style skill set, but less career success, was great under Hue Jackson, rushing for 1771 yards on 336 carries, an average of 5.27 YPA, catching 66 passes for 661 yards and scoring 15 times total in 20 games from 2010-2011 under offensive coordinator and eventual head coach Hue Jackson. Bernard profiled similar to Ray Rice coming out of college and Rice had a similar rookie year, rushing for 454 yards on 107 carries and catching 33 passes for 273 yards. Rice didn’t break out until his 2nd year in the league, when he rushed for 1339 yards and 7 touchdowns on 254 carries and caught 78 passes for 702 yards and another touchdown, after he had a full year in an NFL training system to add weight. Bernard could have a similar year in his 2nd year in the league.

250 carries for 1100 yards, 10 total touchdowns, 50 catches for 450 yards (215 pts standard)

RB Jeremy Hill (Cincinnati)

Bernard will see a bunch of touches, but so will 2nd round rookie Jeremy Hill. They used a high pick on him and reports have been very favorable about him this off-season. Hill is a talented 6-1 235 pounder and will serve as an upgraded complement to Bernard, as compared to BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Hill won’t have the 224 touches that BJGE had last season, but he’ll see enough action to make a fantasy impact.

180 carries for 750 yards, 7 total touchdowns, 18 catches for 150 yards (132 pts standard)

WR AJ Green (Cincinnati)

Green has averaged 2.25 yards per route run in his career. He’s only caught 59.0% of his career targets and had 26 drops, 19 penalties, and 22 interceptions when thrown to throughout his career, so he has some issues that don’t show up on a traditional stat sheet, but he’s still one of the better wide receivers in the game. He could see less production this year though in a more run heavy offense, but he’ll still be Dalton’s preferred target.

90 catches for 1250 yards and 10 touchdowns (185 pts standard)

TE Tyler Eifert (Cincinnati)

With Marvin Jones missing at least the first month of the season with injury, Tyler Eifert will be the Bengals’ #2 receiving option. The 2013 1st round pick is a better all-around player than Jermaine Gresham and could supplant him as the starting tight end. Either way, they will run a lot of two-tight end sets this season so Eifert will be on the field a lot. I expect him to finish 2nd on this team in receiving yards.

49 catches for 700 yards and 5 touchdowns (100 pts standard)

Aug 172014
 

QB Jake Locker (Tennessee)

Injuries have sidetracked the former 8th overall pick’s career. He’s played in just 23 games in 3 seasons, working as a backup to veteran Matt Hasselbeck as a rookie and then missing a combined 14 games over the past 2 seasons with a variety of injuries. Last year, he suffered a hip injury after 4 starts, wasn’t the same upon his return, and then suffered a season ending foot injury 3 starts after his return from the first injury. In 2012, it was his shoulder. He seems really brittle. There are few QB2s with more upside though. In his career, he has 563 pass attempts, about a season’s worth, and he has 3974 passing yards, 22 touchdowns, 15 interceptions and he’s rushed for another 502 yards and 4 scores. Those are low end QB1 numbers if he can stay healthy. He’s also coming off the best season of his career statistically and he gets quarterback guru Ken Whisenhunt as his head coach.

3600 passing yards, 20 passing touchdowns, 14 interceptions, 280 rushing yards, 2 rushing touchdowns (236 pts standard)

RB Bishop Sankey (Tennessee)

Sankey doesn’t have ideal size at 5-9 209, but he ran a 4.49 40 and he runs harder than his size. He showed the ability to carry the load at Washington, with 677 touches over his final 2 seasons combined, but he doesn’t even turn 22 until September so his legs should be pretty fresh. He has three down ability and some considered him the top running back in the draft class. The Titans obviously did, making him the first running back off the board. Sankey should get the opportunity to be the feature back immediately in Tennessee because they don’t have much else at the running back position.

230 carries for 970 yards, 7 total touchdowns, 35 catches for 300 yards (169 pts standard)

RB Shonn Greene (Tennessee)

Shonn Greene, who had 77 carries last season, remains in the backup role, now behind Sankey. He’s only a backup caliber running back. He’s averaged just 4.14 YPC on 899 career carries and offers nothing on passing downs, with just 71 catches in 72 career games. He’s not going to get any better going into his age 29 season. He could see more playing time behind Sankey than he did behind Johnson, but his only value is as a handcuff for Sankey.

110 carries for 440 yards, 4 total touchdowns, 10 catches for 80 yards (76 pts standard)

RB Dexter McCluster (Tennessee)

The Titans brought McCluster in from Kansas City to play the Danny Woodhead role in Ken Whisenhunt’s offense. Woodhead had 106 carries for 429 yards, 76 catches for 605 yards, and 8 total touchdowns last season. McCluster isn’t as good and won’t play as big of a role, but if he even has half of Woodhead’s 2013 production, he’s worth rostering in PPR leagues.

50 carries for 220 yards, 3 total touchdowns, 40 catches for 320 yards (72 pts standard)

WR Kendall Wright (Tennessee)

Kendall Wright had a breakout year last year, catching 94 passes for 1079 yards, but he only scored twice. He’s an underrated fantasy asset because he should score more touchdowns this season. He’s the #1 option in an offense that could be better this season with potentially a full season of Jake Locker under center and Wright is going into his 3rd in the league and the 2012 1st round pick could be even better than last season.

78 catches for 1110 yards and 6 touchdowns (147 pts standard)

WR Justin Hunter (Tennessee)

One player the Titans are hoping can step up this season is Justin Hunter, a 2013 2nd round pick. Hunter played 340 snaps as a rookie and was pretty ordinary. He caught 18 passes for 354 yards and 4 touchdowns on 212 routes run, an average of 1.67 yards per route run. That’s a solid average, though he only caught 18 of 41 targets (43.9%) and had 5 drops. Rookie receivers don’t usually do much anyway though and Hunter was regarded as really raw coming out of the University of Tennessee. Going only into his age 23 season, the height, weight, speed freak (6-4, 196, 4.44 40) could become a contributor in 3-wide receiver sets.

42 catches for 650 yards and 5 touchdowns (95 pts standard)

WR Nate Washington (Tennessee)

Nate Washington continued his solid play last season, catching 58 passes for 919 yards and 3 touchdowns on 558 routes run, an average of 1.65 yards per route run. Over the past 3 seasons, Washington has caught 178 passes for 2688 yards and 14 touchdowns and averaged 1.62 yards per route run. However, there’s not much upside with him as he heads into his age 31 season with two young receivers in Wright and Hunter continuing to get better around him.

51 catches for 760 yards and 4 touchdowns (100 pts standard)

TE Delanie Walker (Tennessee)

The Titans signed Delanie Walker from the 49ers on a 4-year, 17.5 million dollar deal last off-season, hoping that Walker, who had never caught 30 passes in a season before last year, would become a better receiver with more playing time in Tennessee as the starting tight end. He was a backup to Vernon Davis in San Francisco. Walker was more productive, catching 60 passes for 571 yards and 6 touchdowns, but he wasn’t that efficient, averaging just 1.19 yards per route run. I expect more of the same from him this season. He’s a bye week filler at tight end only.

55 catches for 570 yards and 4 touchdowns (81 pts standard)

Aug 172014
 

RB Toby Gerhart (Jacksonville)

The Jaguars signed former Vikings backup running back Toby Gerhart to be their starting running back and the Jaguars are talking him up as a 300+ carry three-down back. The 2010 2nd round pick clearly has some talent, averaging 4.73 YPC on 276 carries (1305 rushing yards and 5 touchdowns) in 4 years in the league. However, he has limited action, with an average of 69 carries per season. He has played the majority of his snaps in passing situations, meaning, when he does carry the ball, he’s doing it against a defensive front that’s not expecting the run.

The 6-0 231 pounder has caught 77 passes in his career, which is solid, but unspectacular. He has some three down potential, but he’s a serious projection to that role. The Jaguars are expected to pound the rock with Gerhart to take the pressure off of their passing game, though that plan is best executed when leading, which the Jaguars probably won’t be doing a lot of this season. He’ll be an RB2 on volume, but it’s hard to get excited about him, especially on such a poor offense.

250 carries for 1050 yards, 7 total touchdowns, 40 catches for 300 yards (177 pts standard)

WR Cecil Shorts (Jacksonville)

With Blackmon likely out for the season, Cecil Shorts will remain as the #1 receiver. Shorts showed potential in 2012, when he caught 55 passes for 979 yards and 7 touchdowns on 423 routes run, an impressive average of 2.31 yards per route run. He seemed poised for a breakout year in 2013 in a bigger role. However, Shorts didn’t live up to expectations and showed himself to pretty much just be a complementary receiver who needs someone opposite him to take the pressure off of him. He caught 66 passes on 117 targets (56.4%) for 777 yards and 3 touchdowns on 472 routes run in 2013, an average of 1.65 yards per route run. He’s also never played more than 14 games in a season in the 3 seasons he’s been in the league, showing a tendency to get injured, and is dealing with hamstring problems in training camp.

58 catches for 750 yards and 4 touchdowns (99 pts standard)

WR Marqise Lee (Jacksonville)

There’s been buzz about Marqise Lee this off-season, but I don’t trust rookie wide receivers, especially not ones who play in passing offenses like Jacksonville’s. Since 2005, 31 receivers have gone in the 1st round. They’ve averaged 41 catches for 558 yards and 3 touchdowns per season. Larry Fitzgerald and Calvin Johnson were top-3 picks and they had 58/780/8 and 48/756/4 respectively as rookies. Lee wasn’t even good enough to go in the 2nd round. He should struggle out of the gate.

45 catches for 620 yards and 4 touchdowns (86 pts standard)

Aug 172014
 

RB Arian Foster (Houston)

Foster was off to a strong start to last season, rushing for 542 yards and a touchdown on 121 carries, an average of 4.48 YPC. He finished 23rd among eligible running backs last season despite playing just 334 snaps, before going down with injury. Foster was breaking down before the injury though, largely as a result of the 1115 touches he had in the previous 3 seasons. His YPC went down from 4.94 YPC in 2010 to 4.40 YPC in 2011 to 4.06 YPC in 2012. Now coming off of a significant back injury and going into his age 28 season, he could continue breaking down. At the same time, he could also continue playing well, like he was last season, now that’s he’s had some time to rest and rebuild. My bet would be that he continues breaking down, after seeing him deal with more injuries in training camp, but there’s bounce back potential here.

240 carries for 1010 yards, 7 total touchdowns, 38 catches for 260 yards (169 pts standard)

WR Andre Johnson (Houston)

Johnson missed valuable time with a new quarterback and head coach thanks to an off-season holdout. He’s also going into his age 33 season, which makes that holdout even more concerning. Johnson’s 12,661 yards are 17th all-time and he could easily be Hall-of-Fame bound when it’s all said and done. However, even the average top-20 receiver (in terms of yardage all-time) has his last 1000 yard season at age 34-35, averages 48 catches for 594 yards and 3 touchdowns for 2 more seasons after age 34-35, and is done playing by age 36-37. Johnson isn’t quite there right now, but he’s at the point in his career where is age is becoming a concern. Couple that with poor quarterback play and the fact that he’s never been a big touchdown guy and you have someone who you should let be someone else’s problem in the early part of the draft.

88 catches for 1210 yards and 6 touchdowns (157 pts standard)

WR DeAndre Hopkins (Houston)

Any production Johnson loses this season should be the gain of 2nd year wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who was the 26th pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. Hopkins was working as the #1 receiver in Johnson’s absence, becoming better acquainted with the new offensive system and the new quarterback. Hopkins had a decent rookie year, catching 52 passes for 802 yards and 2 touchdowns. Since 2005, 31 receivers have gone in the 1st round. They’ve averaged 41 catches for 558 yards and 3 touchdowns per season. Larry Fitzgerald and Calvin Johnson were top-3 picks and they had 58/780/8 and 48/756/4 lines respectively as rookies, both inferior to Hopkins’ rookie year. Wide receivers usually take a year or so to get adjusted to the NFL and Hopkins could make a leap in his 2nd year in the league in 2014. Reports on him this off-season have been very promising.

59 catches for 930 yards and 5 touchdowns (123 pts standard)

TE Garrett Graham (Houston)

With the injury prone and aging Owen Daniels gone, Garrett Graham will once again be the #1 tight end. He rose to this role last season after Daniels went down for the season week 5. He caught caught 49 passes for 545 yards and 5 touchdowns last season and I expect more of the same from him this season. He’s a weak TE2.

48 catches for 590 yards and 4 touchdowns (83 pts standard)

Aug 172014
 

QB Andrew Luck (Indianapolis)

In 2012, Luck relied on close victories against bad opponents, rather than his own strong play to win games, as he completed 54.1% of his passes for an average of 6.98 YPA, 23 touchdowns, and 18 interceptions. In 2013, he became a much improved quarterback, completing 60.2% of his passes for an average of 6.71 YPA, 23 touchdowns, and 9 interceptions. He also improved as a runner going from 255 yards and 5 touchdowns on 62 carries in 2012 (4.11 YPA) to 377 yards and 4 touchdowns on 63 carries in 2013 (5.98 YPA). He could be even better in his 3rd year in the league in 2014.

4150 passing yards, 28 passing touchdowns, 14 interceptions, 300 rushing yards, 2 rushing touchdowns (292 pts standard)

RB Trent Richardson (Indianapolis)

Trent Richardson’s struggles last season are well documented. The 3rd pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, Richardson averaged 2.92 yards per carry and scored 3 touchdowns on 157 carries in 14 games with the Colts. However, he averaged 1.90 yards per carry after contact and broke 47 tackles on 185 touches (he also added 28 catches for 265 yards and a touchdown), giving him the 10th highest elusive rating in the NFL. Richardson rushed for 3.56 yards per carry in 2012, but he ranked 16th in elusive rating, breaking 59 tackles on 318 touches and averaging 2.09 yards per carry after contact. In 2013 with the Browns, he rushed for 3.39 yards per carry. However, he rushed for 2.42 yards after contact and broke 16 tackles on 38 touches.

Much of Richardson’s struggles last season had to do with the Colts’ offensive line and he ran better than his numbers suggested. However, much of it also had to do with Richardson himself. Richardson showed poor vision and burst, which is part of why there were so few “blocked” yards from him to pick up. He wasn’t hitting the hole hard enough or in the right location, two things he’s had issues with since being drafted. On top of that, the Colts offensive line won’t be much better this season. Richardson will know the playbook better and the feature back role is his for the taking, but he’s a risky RB2.

220 carries for 840 yards, 7 total touchdowns, 30 catches for 220 yards (148 pts standard)

RB Ahmad Bradshaw (Indianapolis)

Bradshaw rushed for 186 yards and 2 touchdowns on 41 carries in 3 games last season before going down with a serious neck injury. Bradshaw is now going into his age 28 season, which is like 33 for running backs, with a significant injury history, missing 19 games with various injuries over the past 3 seasons and being limited in many others. However, he’s a tough running back who has averaged 4.59 yards per carry on 962 career carries and he’s only behind Trent Richardson on the depth chart. He’s not a bad late round flier, especially for Richardson owners.

100 carries for 400 yards, 3 total touchdowns, 20 catches for 150 yards (73 pts standard)

WR TY Hilton (Indianapolis)

One positive of Reggie Wayne’s injury last season was that it allowed TY Hilton to have a breakout year as the #1 receiver in his absence. Hilton caught 82 passes for 1083 yards and 5 touchdowns on 533 routes run, an average of 2.03 yards per route run. He graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 29th ranked wide receiver. He’s no longer just a deep threat reliant on big plays to make an impact, as he was as a rookie when he caught 50 passes for 861 yards and 7 touchdowns on 479 routes run, an average of 1.80 yards per routes. Now going into his 3rd year in the league, a common breakout year for wide receivers, Hilton could be even better. The 2012 3rd round pick is going into only his age 25 season. He was dominant in the post-season, catching 17 passes for 327 yards and 2 touchdowns in 2 games. He’ll once again be the Colts’ #1 receiver in 2014.

79 catches for 1120 yards and 7 touchdowns (154 pts standard)

WR Reggie Wayne (Indianapolis)

Wayne was the Colts’ most reliable player prior to his injury, not missing a game since his rookie season in 2001 and catching 1006 passes for 13,566 yards and 80 touchdowns in his career. Those 13,566 career yards are 11th all-time and he could easily be Hall-of-Fame bound when it’s all said and done, but he’s going into his age 36 season now and coming off of that serious injury. Even the average top-20 receiver (in terms of yardage all-time) has his last 1000 yard season at age 34-35, averages 48 catches for 594 yards and 3 touchdowns for 2 more seasons after age 34-35, and is done playing by age 36-37. Wayne showed some signs of decline last season and there’s no guarantee that he can be anything close to what the Colts are used to from him this year. Let someone else overdraft him. Hilton is the Colts receiver you want.

58 catches for 720 yards and 5 touchdowns (102 pts standard)

WR Hakeem Nicks (Indianapolis)

The Colts signed Hakeem Nicks to a one-year deal this off-season. Nicks, a 2009 1st round pick, looked like one of the best young receivers in the NFL from 2009-2011. He averaged 2.30 yards per route run in 2009 on 344 routes run and 2.32 yards per route run in 2010 on 453 routes run. In 2011, he “only” averaged 2.08 yards per route run on 572 routes run, thanks to the development of Victor Cruz opposite him, but he was still a big part of the Giants’ Super Bowl team. His development seems to have stagnated over the past 2 seasons though thanks to a variety of lower body injuries and he’s never played all 16 games in a season, missing 10 games over the past 5 seasons and being limited in many others.

Nicks averaged 1.74 yards per route run on 398 routes run in 2012 and 1.70 yards per route run on 527 routes run in 2013. Last year was especially bad as he didn’t score all season and struggled with his chemistry with Eli Manning. 7 passes thrown to him were picked off and Manning’s quarterback rating when throwing to him was 57.0, 7th worst among eligible wide receivers. All that being said, he still has plenty of talent, which still flashes, and even his down years weren’t awful. He’s only going into his age 26 season, so he could be an asset for the Colts in the passing game. Off-season reports haven’t been great though and he’ll be the Colts’ #3 receiver as long as Wayne is healthy, so he’s only a late round flier.

45 catches for 600 yards and 4 touchdowns (84 pts standard)

TE Dwayne Allen (Indianapolis)

Allen missed almost all of last season with a hip injury. That was a bigger loss than most people realize because of how good Allen was as a rookie in 2012. The 2012 3rd round pick only caught 45 passes for 521 yards and 3 touchdowns, but he did so on 64 targets, meaning he caught 70.3% of targets, and on 368 routes run, meaning he averaged 1.42 yards per route run. Where he really excelled was as a blocker, both a run and pass blocker, but he has a great overall game. Essentially a younger version of Heath Miller, Allen could see more pass snaps and more production than he did as a rookie.

44 catches for 550 yards and 5 touchdowns (85 pts standard)

TE Coby Fleener (Indianapolis)

In Allen’s absence, Coby Fleener led Colts’ tight ends in snaps played with 834. Fleener was a 2nd round pick in 2012, going before Allen, but he’s not nearly as good as Allen, especially as a blocker. Fleener caught 52 passes for 608 yards and 4 touchdowns on 482 routes run, an average of 1.26 yards per route run. He caught 52 of 84 targets (61.9%) and only dropped one pass all season. He’ll slide in as the #2 tight end this season, but there will still be pass catching opportunities.

42 catches for 530 yards and 4 touchdowns (77 pts standard)

Aug 172014
 

QB EJ Manuel (Buffalo)

Manuel looked like a reach as a rookie. Ignore the injuries (several lower body injuries limited him to 706 snaps in 10 games), Manuel really struggled on the field completing 58.8% of his passes for an average of 6.44 YPA, 11 touchdowns, and 9 interceptions and even struggled, efficiency wise, as a runner, even though that’s supposed to be an added bonus he offers teams. He rushed for just 186 yards and 2 touchdowns on 35 carries, a pathetic 3.51 YPC. He could be better in his 2nd year in the league, but so far his career is not off to a great start. He’s a QB2 with upside only because of his running ability and his first round draft status.

3500 passing yards, 18 passing touchdowns, 16 interceptions, 350 rushing yards, 3 rushing touchdowns (233 pts standard)

RB CJ Spiller (Buffalo)

CJ Spiller, the 9th overall pick in 2010, was supposed to have a huge breakout year last year as the feature back in Buffalo’s run heavy offense. He was very impressive in 2012, averaging 6.01 yards per carry on 207 carries, rushing for 1244 yards and 6 touchdowns. He also added 43 catches for 459 yards and 2 touchdowns. However, Spiller only played 394 snaps last season for two reasons. The first reason was injury. He only missed 1 game with injury, but he was limited in others. He had single digit carries in 3 games and showed serious inconsistency, with 5 games in which he had 23 rushing yards or fewer. He averaged 4.62 yards per carry, rushing for 933 yards and 2 touchdowns on 202 carries, but inconsistency was a serious problem. He also only had 33 catches for 185 yards.

That leads into the second reason why he played so few snaps, which was his struggles on passing downs. He wasn’t awful as a pass catcher, but he was as a pass protector. Spiller could have better health in 2014, which will help him as a rusher and help him play more snaps. He could also bounce back as a pass catcher. The pass protection is the bigger issue though. 300+ touches are his for the taking in this run heavy offense and he could be incredibly efficient, but there’s no guarantee he takes them.

230 carries for 1060 yards, 6 total touchdowns, 35 catches for 300 yards (172 pts standard)

RB Fred Jackson (Buffalo)

Jackson has defied father time before, doing so just last year, rushing for 890 yards and 9 touchdowns on 206 attempts, while adding 47 catches for 387 yards and another touchdown, and it helps that he got a late start to his career, with just 1394 touches in his career. However, he’s still very old for a running back, going into his age 33 season, and he’s a year removed from a 2-year stretch in which he missed 10 games and a 2012 season in which he rushed for 3.80 YPC on 115 carries. He’s the #2 back on a run heavy offense behind a shaky starter, but his arrow is trending down and Spiller’s is trending up. Jackson could face pressure from Bryce Brown and Anthony Dixon for the #2 role as well.

160 carries for 660 yards, 6 total touchdowns, 35 catches for 280 yards (130 pts standard)

WR Sammy Watkins (Buffalo)

I hate rookie wide receivers in fantasy. They’re always over-drafted because of their name and that’s true of Sammy Watkins as well. Since 2005, 31 receivers have gone in the 1st round. They’ve averaged 41 catches for 558 yards and 3 touchdowns per season. Larry Fitzgerald and Calvin Johnson were top-3 picks and they had 58/780/8 and 48/756/4 respectively as rookies. Watkins also has to deal with poor quarterback play. I don’t expect an AJ Green or Julio Jones type season from Watkins as a rookie.

45 catches for 650 yards and 5 touchdowns (95 pts standard)

WR Robert Woods (Buffalo)

Woods was a 2nd round pick in 2013 and caught 40 passes for 587 yards and 3 touchdowns. He averaged 1.21 yards per route run on 484 routes run and caught 40 of 81 targets, 49.4%. He graded out slightly below average on Pro Football Focus, grading out 79th, but he could be better in his 2nd year in the league.

42 catches for 620 yards and 4 touchdowns (86 pts standard)

WR Mike Williams (Buffalo)

Williams has shown he can be a very solid receiver when he has a fire lit under him. Williams had strong years in 2010 (65/964/11) and 2012 (63/996/9). However, in 2011, he had just 65 catches for 771 yards and 3 touchdowns and reportedly displaying a very poor work ethic. In 2013, he had 22 catches for 216 yards and 2 touchdowns in just 6 games before going down with injury. After his injury, he reportedly incurred 200K in fines for a variety of activity detrimental to the team, including missing meetings.

He has a history of this type of behavior, not just in 2011 and 2013, but dating back to his collegiate days at the Syracuse University, when he was kicked off the team, ironically by head coach Doug Marrone, who is now head coach of the Bills. Williams also has a myriad of minor off the field incidents over the past calendar year, which are concerning when you put everything together. All of that makes up why he was traded to the Bills for a 6th round pick, but this could serve as the wake-up call he needs to continue alternating bad years with strong years. His quarterback play could hold him back though.

35 catches for 550 yards and 4 touchdowns (79 pts standard)

TE Scott Chandler (Buffalo)

Scott Chandler was the Bills’ leading receiver last season, catching 53 passes for 655 yards and 2 touchdowns. However, the Bills can spread it around more this season with Watkins and Williams coming in and Woods going into his 2nd year in the league. Chandler isn’t going to see a ton of targets on this run heavy offense and he doesn’t have good quarterback play. He could score more than twice this season, but he’s only a bye week filler at tight end either way and he doesn’t have much upside.

51 catches for 590 yards and 4 touchdowns (83 pts standard)

Aug 162014
 

QB Ryan Tannehill (Miami)

Ryan Tannehill showed improvement from his rookie year, when he completed 58.3% of his passes for an average of 6.81 YPA, 12 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions, a QB rating of 76.1. In 2013, he completed 60.4% of his passes for an average of 6.66 YPA, 24 touchdowns and 17 interceptions, a QB rating of 81.7. He also improved on the ground as the mobile Tannehill rushed for 238 yards and a touchdown on 40 carries, an average of 5.95 YPA, after rushing for 211 yards and 2 touchdowns on 49 carries as a rookie, an average of 4.31 YPA. He’s not a fantasy football factor yet though. He’s a mid-level QB2.

3800 passing yards, 20 passing touchdowns, 15 interceptions, 380 rushing yards, 3 rushing touchdowns (258 pts standard)

RB Lamar Miller (Miami)

Lamar Miller is currently the front runner to be the starter for the 2nd straight season. Miller, a 2012 4th round pick, rushed for 709 yards and 2 touchdowns on 177 carries last season, an average of 4.01 yards per carry. In 2 seasons in the league, Miller has averaged 4.21 yards per carry, showing why he fell to the 4th round in the first place. I don’t expect him to be much better this season. The Dolphins brought in Knowshon Moreno this off-season to compete with him for the starting job, but injuries prevented him from doing that.

210 carries for 880 yards, 6 total touchdowns, 30 catches for 220 yards (146 pts standard)

RB Knowshon Moreno (Miami)

Knowshon Moreno had over 1500 yards from scrimmage last season (1038 rushing and 548 receiving), but was still available about 3 weeks into free agency. There were reasons for that. As much production as Moreno had last year, much of it was the product of Peyton Manning. Moreno rarely faced stacked boxes and, much more often than not, was running against boxes of 6 or fewer defenders. In spite of that, he actually just rushed for 4.31 yards per carry, which isn’t a spectacular average. He’s a talented pass catcher and pass protector, but he’s an average runner at best. He also missed 20 games from 2010-2012 and had just 426 touches over those 3 seasons. Now he’s dealing with a bad knee that caused him to miss most of the off-season. He’ll be Miller’s backup and a passing down specialist.

100 carries for 420 yards, 3 total touchdowns, 20 catches for 180 yards (78 pts standard)

WR Mike Wallace (Miami)

Wallace didn’t really pan out in his first year in Miami. Wallace caught a career high 73 passes, but only for 930 yards. His 5 touchdowns were the smallest total of his 5-year career, as was his 12.7 yards per catch. This kind of disappointment shouldn’t be surprising from him. It’s always concerned me when a guy is obviously just chasing money. Wallace held out long into training camp going in 2012, rather than playing out the final year of his rookie deal and, as a result, he had a poor year by his standards in 2012, with 64 catches for 836 yards and 8 touchdowns despite a career high in targets. It was obvious when he went into that holdout that a down year like that was a possibility, but he didn’t seem to care. He was part of the reason why the Steelers missed the playoffs.

And then he chased the money and went to Miami, a team with a young quarterback that had made the playoffs just once in the previous 11 seasons. It was very possible he’d just coast once he had the money and it seems like he did. He’s a one trick pony anyway. He’s got great speed, but he’s still not a good route runner and the NFL has caught on to him over the past few seasons. It’s very possible the 1257 yards he had in his breakout 2010 season will be his career best when his career is all said and done. Some are saying that a new offensive coordinator, with Bill Lazor taking over from Mike Sherman, will help Wallace, but I’m skeptical.

60 catches for 950 yards and 7 touchdowns (137 pts standard)

WR Brian Hartline (Miami)

With Wallace disappointing last year, Brian Hartline led the Dolphins in receiving yards for the 2nd straight season. He’s put up pretty identical 74/1083/1 and 76/1016/4 seasons over the past 2 seasons, since the 2009 4th round pick broke out in 2012. He’s not an explosive athlete, a touchdown threat, or a deep threat, but he knows how to get open and Tannehill is obviously comfortable throwing to him. There’s a good chance he leads them in receiving for the 3rd straight season. He’s averaged 1.84 yards per route run over the past 2 seasons.

72 catches for 990 yards and 5 touchdowns (129 pts standard)

TE Charles Clay (Miami)

Clay broke out last season in his 3rd year in the league. Clay caught 69 passes for 759 yards and 6 touchdowns on 458 routes run, an average of 1.62 yards per route run. Clay is still a one year wonder, after playing a combined 744 snaps in his first 2 years in the league and catching a combined 34 passes, but he could have another solid season as a pass catcher this season.

62 catches for 720 yards and 5 touchdowns (102 pts standard)

Aug 162014
 

RB Chris Johnson (NY Jets)

Last year Johnson significantly declined in efficiency, averaging just 3.86 yards per carry, including just 1.84 yards per carry after contact and ranked 3rd worst in the NFL in elusive rating. He should become more efficient this season as he’ll see a smaller workload, splitting carries with power back Chris Ivory (probably in the neighborhood of 180-220 carries). He could also be healthier after dealing with significant knee problems all last season. However, he’s also going into his age 29 season with 2014 career touches so he’s not getting any better any time soon. Injury problems could become commonplace for him and there’s already some concern about a potentially arthritic knee. He’s on the decline and the Jets’ run blocking is significantly worse than the Titans. He shouldn’t be highly drafted anymore.

210 carries for 860 yards, 5 total touchdowns, 35 catches for 280 yards (144 pts standard)

RB Chris Ivory (NY Jets)

Chris Ivory probably won’t have 182 carries like he had last season and he’s useless on passing downs with 5 career catches, but he’ll still play a big role as a between the tackles power back and he’s averaged 4.89 yards per carry for his career, including 4.56 yards per carry last season. He’ll get all the short yardage and goal line looks. The issue is the Jets won’t be around the goal line very often.

160 carries for 720 yards, 5 total touchdowns, 5 catches for 40 yards (106 pts standard)

WR Eric Decker (NY Jets)

Eric Decker is going to get a massive downgrade at the quarterback position going from Peyton Manning to Geno Smith/Michael Vick. The last time he played with a quarterback other than Peyton Manning, he averaged just 1.28 yards per route run. That was in 2011 with the combination of Tim Tebow and Kyle Orton, which is comparable to what Decker will be dealing with in New York. Decker will also see more of the defense’s attention and, even though he’ll be the #1 receiver, he might not necessarily get more targets, simply because the Jets don’t pass as much as the Broncos do. Decker has had 120 and 135 targets over the past 2 seasons respectively, an average of 127.5 targets per season. That would have been 26.6% of the Jets’ 480 pass attempts last season.

That being said, it’s unfair to suggest that he’ll just go back to his 2011 level of production, when he caught 44 passes for 612 yards and 8 touchdowns. While much of his increased production since then is due to the arrival of Peyton Manning, he’s still an improved player over when he was in his 2nd year in the league in 2011, after being drafted in the 3rd round in 2010. After averaging 86 catches for 1176 yards and 11 touchdowns over the past 2 seasons, Decker will probably have between 60-70 catches for 800-900 yards and 6-8 touchdowns next season.

67 catches for 820 yards and 6 touchdowns (118 pts standard)

WR Jeremy Kerley (NY Jets)

Jeremy Kerley was the Jets’ leading receiver last season with 43 catches for 523 yards and 3 touchdowns. Kerley had that production in 12 games and in 2012 he led the team with 56 catches for 827 yards and 2 touchdowns in 16 games. Kerley has averaged 1.77 yards per route run over the past 2 seasons, despite poor quarterback play. There’s not much upside here though, as Kerley is the #2 receiver on one of the worst passing offenses in the league.

48 catches for 700 yards and 4 touchdowns (94 pts standard)

Aug 162014
 

QB Tom Brady (New England)

Tom Brady arguably had the worst statistical season of his career last season, completing 60.5% of his passes (lowest since 2003), for an average of 6.92 YPA (lowest since 2003), 25 touchdowns (lowest in a full season since 2006), and 11 interceptions, a QB rating of 87.3. That QB rating was the 4th worst of his career and the lowest since 2003, when the NFL’s rules didn’t favor the quarterback nearly as much as they do now. Those numbers were all significant declines from 2010-2012, when he completed 64.7% of his passes for an average of 8.02 YPA, 109 touchdowns, and 24 interceptions, a QB rating of 104.6. Part of the issue was Brady’s lack of supporting cast offensively though, which should be much better this season, with Rob Gronkowski, Sebastian Vollmer, Shane Vereen, and Danny Amendola all likely to be healthier than they were last season. He’s going into his age 37 season, which is a concern, but he’s not a bad mid-tier QB1 at all.

4525 passing yards, 33 passing touchdowns, 12 interceptions, 80 rushing yards, 2 touchdowns (309 pts standard)

RB Stevan Ridley (New England)

Stevan Ridley had a breakout year in 2012 as the 2011 3rd round pick rushed for 1263 yards and 12 touchdowns on 290 carries (4.36 YPC). He was off to an equally good start in the 2013 season, rushing for 562 yards and 7 touchdowns on 131 carries (4.29 YPC) through 9 games. However, he lost a fumble in 3 straight weeks (4 total on the season) and got benched against Denver. The rest of the way, he had just 66 carries for 280 yards and 2 touchdowns (4.24 YPC) in 7 games, including playoffs. LeGarrette Blount is gone, leaving 4th round rookie James White as the only real threat to take away significant carries. Ridley will be on a short leash, but he has some nice buy-low value on one of the better offenses in the league.

220 carries for 970 yards, 10 total touchdowns, 12 catches for 80 yards (165 pts standard)

RB Shane Vereen (New England)

Vereen won’t be a threat for real carries, even if Ridley is benched for fumbling again. However, he’s a real threat in the passing game, catching 47 passes for 427 yards and 3 touchdowns on 66 targets on 200 routes run, an average of 2.14 yards per route run that was 2nd only to Darren Sproles among running backs. He did that all in 8 games and could have a big season this year as a receiver.

80 carries for 380 yards, 6 total touchdowns, 75 catches for 600 yards (134 pts standard)

RB James White (New England)

White is only a 4th round rookie, but he’s the primary backup for both the early down role behind Ridley (who fumbles a lot) and Shane Vereen (who missed 8 games with injury last season). He’s not great at anything, but he’s drawn a lot of praise this off-season as a well-rounded back who can step into either role. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he finished 2nd on the team in carries and catches by a running back. There’s late round upside appeal with him.

120 carries for 540 yards, 4 total touchdowns, 22 catches for 160 yards (94 pts standard)

WR Julian Edelman (New England)

Julian Edelman caught 105 passes for 1056 yards and 6 touchdowns last season and was even better in the 2nd half of the season, catching 57 passes for 592 yards and 4 touchdowns, once he and Brady mastered their chemistry. He also caught 16 passes for 173 yards and a touchdown on 22 targets in two post-season games. However, he’s a one-year wonder who had 69 catches in the previous 4 seasons, while missing a combined 16 games over those 4 seasons. The Patriots also will have the ability to spread it out more this season with Brandon LaFell coming in and Rob Gronkowski, Shane Vereen, and Danny Amendola all presumably going to be healthier than they were last season.

83 catches for 880 yards and 5 touchdowns (118 pts standard)

WR Danny Amendola (New England)

Another guy who should have better health this season is Danny Amendola. Amendola caught just 54 passes for 633 yards and 2 touchdowns last season, which obviously was a disappointment for the Patriots. He only missed 4 games, but he was limited all season with a groin injury. When healthy, he can be a great wide receiver. He averaged 2.04 yards per route run with the Rams in 2012 despite having Sam Bradford at quarterback. The issue is he’s never been able to stay healthy. He’s missed a combined 24 games over the past 3 seasons, not excluding the other games he’s been limited with injury. However, if I had to bet on it, I’d bet on him being more productive this season than last. He’s once again having a strong off-season (like he did last off-season) and he seems to be over that groin issue.

64 catches for 760 yards and 4 touchdowns (100 pts standard)

WR Brandon LaFell (New England)

He caught 167 passes for 2385 yards and 13 touchdowns in 4 seasons, proving to be a marginal receiver at best, averaging 1.36 yards per route run, including just 1.18 yards per route run last season. He’s a solid blocker and a big body at 6-2 211, but he lacks explosiveness. There’s some talk they could line him up at tight end on occasions, the way they did with Aaron Hernandez and Brady has a history of getting the most out of subpar athletes before so he’s worth monitoring, but I don’t expect huge numbers from him.

41 catches for 540 yards and 4 touchdowns (78 pts standard)

WR Aaron Dobson (New England)

There was some optimism for a breakout year for Dobson in 2014. The 2013 2nd round pick caught 37 passes for 519 yards and 4 touchdowns last season. The average first round pick rookie wide receiver averages 41 catches for 558 yards and 3 touchdowns per season. Dobson was able to post comparable numbers despite missing 4 games and despite being a 2nd round pick. It’s a testament to Dobson’s athleticism and upside and Tom Brady’s ability to get the most out of his receivers. He averaged 1.65 yards per route run. He had a serious issue with drops, dropping 9 passes to those 37 catches and only caught 37 of 71 targets (52.1%), but he definitely flashed. However, he’s missed most of the off-season with a foot problem. Even if he plays all 16 games, he could be behind the 8-ball and behind Brandon LaFell on the depth chart all season.

42 catches for 640 yards and 4 touchdowns (88 pts standard)

TE Rob Gronkowski (New England)

When Gronk returns, how close to 100% he is, and if he gets re-injured are all serious questions going into this season, but Gronkowski has caught 184 passes for 2709 yards and 32 touchdowns over his last 34 games, which is 87 catches for 1275 yards and 15 touchdowns over 16 games. Even 75-80% of that production makes him worth an early round pick in a thin year for tight ends. He’s currently reportedly 50/50 for week 1. He’s my pick to lead this bunch in yards and touchdowns.

71 catches for 1020 yards and 10 touchdowns (162 pts standard)

Aug 162014
 

RB Darren McFadden (Oakland)

McFadden was benched last season for Rashad Jennings mid-season for general incompetence, as he finished the season averaging 3.34 yards per carry. In 2012, he averaged 3.27 yards per carry. He has never been able to live up to his billing as the 4th overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft and was never able to live up to his huge 2010 season, in which he rushed for 1157 yards and 7 touchdowns on 223 carries (5.19 yards per carry) and added 47 catches for another 501 yards and 3 scores. In 3 seasons since, he’s played a total of 29 games out of 48 and rushed for just 1700 yards and 11 touchdowns on 446 carries (3.81 yards per carry). Even with the big 2010 season, he’s never played more than 13 games in a season or had more than 223 carries or 270 touches. McFadden supporters always seem to make excuses for him, blaming the blocking scheme, and the lack of supporting talent, or injuries, but at a certain point he needs to be written off as a bust. He’ll split carries with Maurice Jones-Drew this season.

RB Maurice Jones-Drew (Oakland)

Maurice Jones-Drew might not be much better. MJD has seen a steep fall from his 2011 season, in which he led the NFL with 1606 rushing yards. That season, he averaged 4.68 yards per carry on 343 carries, added 43 catches for 374 yards, and scored 11 times. He did all of that on an otherwise abysmal offense during Blaine Gabbert’s rookie year, which makes it all the more impressive. However, after a 1084 touch workload from 2009-2011, MJD cracked in 2012, managing just 84 carries in 6 games, though he did average 4.81 yards per carry.

2013 was arguably worse as he averaged just 3.43 yards per carry on 234 carries, scored just 5 times on 277 touches, and had just 5 touches go for 20+ yards. MJD’s rough 2013 season could be largely the result of the complete lack of offensive talent, and thus running room, around him in Jacksonville. However, he averaged just 2.21 yards after contact, broke just 26 tackles, and graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 2nd worst running back in terms of pure running grade. Now going into his age 29 season with 2139 career touches, he’s unlikely to get more explosive going into 2014. He also won’t get much more running room in Oakland. You don’t really want either Oakland running back.

WR Andre Holmes (Oakland)

Andre Holmes is a former undrafted free agent, going undrafted in 2011. However, he had a strong finish to last season, catching 22 passes for 366 yards and a touchdown in his final 5 games. That’s 70 catches for 1171 yards and 3 touchdowns over 16 games. He’s currently the 73rd receiver off the board on average, while Jones is going 60th and Streater is going 79th. I’d rather have Holmes at his current ADP. He’s worth a late round pick as a high upside sleeper.

52 catches for 800 yards and 6 touchdowns (116 pts standard)

WR Rod Streater (Oakland)

Streater, a 2012 undrafted free agent, has had two solid seasons in the NFL, averaging 1.69 yards per route run, despite poor quarterback play, including 1.80 yards per carry last season. Now heading into his 3rd season in the NFL, he could have his best year yet in terms of efficiency. However, all 3 Oakland wide receivers could cannibalize each other’s production and make it so none of them are startable.

59 catches for 740 yards and 4 touchdowns (98 pts standard)

WR James Jones (Oakland)

The Raiders’ big off-season addition at wide receiver was James Jones. Jones isn’t as good as the 14 touchdowns he caught in 2012 would suggest. That rate of 14 touchdowns on 64 catches was unsustainable and he proved that last season when he caught just 3 touchdowns on 59 catches. In his career, he has 37 touchdowns on 310 catches. He’s never put up big numbers despite playing most of his career with either Aaron Rodgers or Brett Favre. He’s averaged 1.49 yards per route run in his career, which is pretty mediocre, though his 33 catches for 427 yards and a touchdown in 8 games without Aaron Rodgers last season should give Raiders fans some hope that he can produce with sub-par quarterback play this season. Still, he’s only an average receiver at best and has seen some work with the 2nd team this off-season. There’s not much upside here, as he goes into his age 30 season.

48 catches for 700 yards and 4 touchdowns (94 pts standard)

Aug 162014
 

QB Alex Smith (Kansas City)

Smith was never really on the fantasy football radar as a starter, but the arrow is trending downward for him. He lost arguably his best 3 offensive linemen this off-season and the receiving corps wasn’t fixed. He’ll have a tougher schedule this season and have more injuries around him, after the Chiefs were the healthiest team in the NFL last season. Dwayne Bowe, Smith’s best wide receiver, is already out for the opener with a suspension. Reach higher with your QB2.

3450 passing yards, 20 passing touchdowns, 14 interceptions, 250 rushing yards, 2 rushing touchdowns (227 pts standard)

RB Jamaal Charles (Kansas City)

Last season, Charles averaged 4.97 yards per carry on 259 yards, rushing for 1287 yards and 12 touchdowns, in addition leading the team in receiving with 70 catches for 693 yards and 7 touchdowns. In 2012, on a bad team and a year removed from a torn ACL, he averaged 5.29 yards per carry on 285 carries, rushing for 1509 yards and 5 touchdowns, a season that would have gotten much more recognition if the Chiefs had been better and if Adrian Peterson and Peyton Manning hadn’t had more impressive comeback seasons. There’s an argument to be made that he’s the best running back in football. His 5.58 career yards per carry are the highest all-time by a modern era running back (1960-today). Jim Brown comes in 2nd and even the legendary Brown averaged “just” 5.22 yards per carry.

Charles will probably never be a 300+ carry back under Andy Reid, but the Chiefs pass to the running back enough to make up for it. There are some concerns here though. I already mentioned the Chiefs’ declining offensive line in front of him. It’s also just very tough to count on your star running back to do everything on offense. The 5-10 200 pound back now has 649 touches in 2 seasons back from that torn ACL and he could be wearing out a little bit going into his age 28 season. Injuries are always a concern with running backs though and there are few safer top-3 running backs than Charles.

250 carries for 1300 yards, 12 total touchdowns, 61 catches for 540 yards (256 pts standard)

WR Dwayne Bowe (Kansas City)

Dwayne Bowe was supposed to have the best season of his career last year. Bowe has always been able to put up big numbers, catching 415 passes for 5728 yards and 39 touchdowns in 88 games in his career before last season, despite playing with the likes of Brodie Croyle, Damon Huard, Tyler Thigpen, Matt Cassel, Tyler Palko, Kyle Orton, and Brady Quinn at quarterback. However, last year with Smith, arguably the best quarterback he’s ever played with, he managed just 57 passes for 673 yards and 5 touchdowns. He and Smith showed terrible chemistry and Bowe looked out of shape after getting a big off-season contract. There’s been talk that he could bounce back this year, but off-season reports have been mixed, he’s going into his age 30 season, and he’s going to miss the opener with a suspension. I don’t expect much more from him this season.

61 catches for 760 yards and 7 touchdowns (118 pts standard)

Aug 162014
 

QB Philip Rivers (San Diego)

After posting QB ratings of 100+ for 3 straight seasons from 2008-2010, Rivers saw his QB rating drop into the 80s in both 2011 and 2012. There were rumors of injuries and age, going into his age 32 season, was also seen as a factor. Aging, with just 2 years left on his deal, there was talk that the Chargers could draft a quarterback of the future behind Rivers. He wasn’t supposed to improve going into 2013. Instead, Rivers found the fountain of youth in 2013, completing 69.5% of his passes for an average of 8.23 YPA, 32 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions, a QB rating of 105.5, tying his career high. The additions of Keenan Allen, Danny Woodhead, and King Dunlap around him really helped, as did the additions of Mike McCoy and Ken Whisenhunt as head coach and offensive coordinator respectively. Whisenhunt is gone and it’ll be hard for Rivers to match the best season of his career at age 33. He’s also a better quarterback in real life than fantasy because the Chargers run a lot, but he’s still a borderline QB1.

4250 passing yards, 30 passing touchdowns, 13 interceptions, 50 rushing yards and 0 rushing touchdowns (269 pts standard)

RB Ryan Mathews (San Diego)

Ryan Mathews will continue being the lead back. Mathews was the 12th pick of the 2010 NFL Draft after the Chargers traded up for him. He had a disappointing first 3 years in the league, struggling to stay on the field (missing 10 games in 3 seasons) and totaling 564 carries from 2010-2012. However, he finally put it all together in 2013, rushing for 1255 yards and 6 touchdowns on 285 carries (4.40 yards per carry) and playing all 16 games. He didn’t contribute much in the passing game (26 catches), but he’s shown pass catching ability in the past (50 catches in 2011). Mathews could have another solid season in 2014, but he could just as easily get hurt.

240 carries for 1060 yards, 7 total touchdowns, 37 catches for 270 yards (175 pts standard)

RB Donald Brown (San Diego)

The Chargers did sign insurance for Mathews in the form of Donald Brown. Donald Brown has never had more than 150 touches in a season since being drafted in the 1st round in 2009. He averages 4.31 yards per carry for his career and he’s a liability on passing downs as he doesn’t offer much as a pass catcher or pass protector. He had a strong contract year, averaging 5.26 yards per carry, catching 27 passes for 214 yards and scoring a total of 7 times. He graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 20th ranked running back and ranked 1st in elusive rating. That being said, that was on only 102 carries and 379 total snaps and, given his history, it’s a major leap to suggest he could be a consistently successful lead back if needed. He’s probably best off in this backup role, which is what he’ll be in San Diego. He should still carries from Danny Woodhead (429 yards on 106 carries) and could make a couple starts in the absence of Mathews is he gets hurt.

110 carries for 480 yards, 4 total touchdowns, 15 catches for 110 yards (83 pts standard)

RB Danny Woodhead (San Diego)

Neither Brown nor Mathews showed much as a pass catcher last season, but that’s fine because the Chargers have Danny Woodhead as a pass catching specialist. He caught 76 passes last season on 302 routes run for 609 receiving yards, an average of 2.02 yards per route run. He was Darren Sproles 2.0 for the Chargers, a big part of their short, quick throw offense, something they and Philip Rivers had been missing badly since Sproles left. He’s not much of a rusher though. Woodhead had 106 carries last season, a career high, but only rushed for 4.05 yards per carry. Brown will eat into his carries.

70 carries for 300 yards, 4 total touchdowns, 65 catches for 550 yards (109 pts standard)

WR Keenan Allen (San Diego)

Even though he didn’t play at all week 1 and didn’t move into the starting lineup until week 4, Allen still caught 71 passes for 1046 yards and 8 touchdowns as a rookie. Rookie wide receivers aren’t supposed to get it this quickly. Since 2005, 31 receivers have gone in the 1st round. They’ve averaged 41 catches for 558 yards and 3 touchdowns per season. Allen blew those numbers out of the water and he was a 3rd round pick. Allen continued this strong play into the post-season, where he caught 8 passes for 163 yards and 2 touchdowns in 2 games.

Allen did all of this despite “only” running 510 pass snaps and seeing the bulk of the defense’s attention as a #1 wide receiver as a rookie. He averaged 2.06 yards per route run. And it wasn’t like the Chargers were forcing him the ball. Allen’s 101 targets were 31st in the NFL (he caught 70.3% of them) and Philip Rivers had a 118.1 QB rating throwing to Allen. He doesn’t have massive upside like AJ Green or Julio Jones, who were productive as rookies, but he could have a career similar to Marques Colston or Anquan Boldin, who were also productive as rookies, and he should be even more productive this season simply by virtue of the fact that he’ll play more this season. An extra 50 routes run should be another 100 yards.

82 catches for 1160 yards and 10 touchdowns (176 pts standard)

TE Antonio Gates (San Diego)

Antonio Gates turned in a vintage season last year, catching 77 passes for 872 yards and 4 touchdowns, his highest receiving total since 2009 and played all 16 games, something else he hadn’t done since 2009. However, now he heads into his age 34 season and his 2012 season in which he caught 49 passes for 538 yards and 7 touchdowns is still fairly recent and relevant. He also missed 10 games from 2010-2012 and caught just 24 passes for 223 yards and 1 touchdown in the Chargers’ final 8 games of the season, including playoffs.

48 catches for 600 yards and 5 touchdowns (90 pts standard)

TE Lardarius Green (San Diego)

If Gates starts to show his age more, it’ll probably be more snaps for Ladarius Green, a 2012 4th round pick and Gates’ heir apparent. Green only ran 141 routes last season, but impressed, catching 17 passes for 376 yards and 3 touchdowns, an average of 2.67 yards per route run. There’s a lot of off-season buzz around him so he’s worth a late round flier in deeper leagues.

32 catches for 540 yards and 5 touchdowns (84 pts standard)