Tuesday, July 28, 2015

2015 NFL Fantasy Football Rookie Rankings

With our fantasy football drafts approaching, it is time to look at the rookies who have a chance to make an impact on the fantasy football landscape in 2015. These are the relevant rookies at the core skill positions and their projected draft round in standard 12-team fantasy football leagues. There was a time that we would avoid all rookie QBs and WRs that came into the league. However, the game has changed at the collegiate and professional level in ways that allow talented QBs to step under center and talented WRs to line up and be productive immediately. Now, it is still very hit-and-miss so do not reach and grab rookies too high or you could be looking up at the rest of the league quickly.

2014 was a BANNER year for rookie wide receivers and a mediocre year for rookie quarterbacks and running backs. This season, the crop of running backs is the deepest it has been in years and the crop of wide receivers is bountiful once again, though I can't imagine them collectively exceeding last year's bumper crop. Who from this year's draft class will be the key players on your run to your fantasy league championship? Below is the consensus review from MFS for the new crop of NFL rookies.



Quarterbacks

1. Jameis Winston (TB). Famous Jameis is scheduled to take the field as the starting QB for Tampa this season and has the potential to post good numbers in his weaker matchups. Oh, he is going to make a lot of mistakes, but is startable in Bye weeks or a few matchups this season making him a decent QB2 or QB3. With big targets like WR Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans and TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, feel free to spend a 12th or 13th round big on the rookie.

2. Marcus Mariota (TENN). Unlike Winston, Mariota will be competing for the starting QB position in Tennessee and has far inferior weapons at wideout. He will post better running numbers that Winston but will be a longshot to match his passing yards and TDs. If I draft Mariota, I do so as my last non-kicker selection.

3. Bryce Petty (NYJ).While current QB, Geno Smith, has made a mockery of the QB position in New York, the Jets will go with veteran, Ryan Fitzpatrick, long before giving Petty a shot. Petty had a nice career at Baylor, but will only see the playing field in mop-up time at best this season.

4. Garrett Grayson (NO). Grayson seemed to be a reach in the 3rd round for New Orleans this year, especially since he only takes the field after a Drew Brees injury, and will not get drafted in anything but the deepest of leagues or those that are hosted near the Colorado St campus. Grayson's trajectory will be to study under Brees for 2-3 years before getting a legitimate chance to get much playing time.

5. Sean Mannion (STL). Even though St. Louis will be starting fragile Nick Foles this season, Mannion has backups Austin Davis and Case Keenum in front of him so the odds of him getting any playing time this year is pretty much nil. He had a nice career at Oregon St so he can easily move up the depth chart this season in advance of 2016, but he should not be considered in any format this season.


Running Backs

1. Melvin Gordon (SD). Todd Gurley was the first running back selected this year but Gordon will easily be the most productive. He was a beast in college and arrives to a Chargers team that needs a workhorse back. Gordon is just that back, though he will not be a factor in the receiving game as RB Danny Woodhead will dominate backfield receptions, so you can downgrade Gordon in PPR leagues. However, there is no reason to expect him to last past the 3rd round in standard leagues.

2. Tevin Coleman (ATL). Like Gordon, Coleman arrives in an ideal situation. Atlanta has a solid aerial assault, which opens up the run game, they have a desire to be a better balanced team and they need a franchise running back. Coleman has been overlooked since he played at Indiana, but he is a game-breaker. He joins the team after they released Steven Jackson and his primary competition is last year's heir apparent, Devonta Freeman, who did little with his opportunity. I believe that the Falcons will break camp with a shared backfield and commit to Coleman more and more as the season wears on. So, I believe his ideal draft position should be in the 6th round.

3. T.J. Yeldon (JAX). Yeldo is another player coming into a great situation. The Jags pictured Toby Gerhart being their savior last season and he was an unmitigated Bust. They did catch a surprise with QB-turned-WR-turned RB Denard Robinson but they don't believe that he would last long in the NFL as a full-time back. So, Yeldon has a low bar to surpass to get on the field productively. He just came up short of three consecutive 1000-yard seasons at Alabama so the Jags like his production. The question is whether or not the Jags start off with a committee approach before committing a full load to Yeldon or not. I would grab him as the next running back after Coleman.

4. Todd Gurley (STL). Todd Gurley is projected to be the best running back over the course of his career from this draft. However, unless you are in a Keeper League, that is of no immediate concern to redraft players. Gurley is coming off a torn ACL and there is no guarantee that he will avoid the PUP list. At the very least, it is expected that RB Tre Mason will begin the season as the Rams lead back. The Rams liked what they saw in Mason but expect Gurley's overall size and power to provide them with a franchise back. It is a mystery on when his NFL career will start and how involved he will be when he does get on the field. Don't reach for Gurley with so many new backs coming into the league. I won't jump before the 9th round unless it is one of my last drafts and the reports out of the Rams' training camp are ravening about Gurley.

5. Ameer Abdullah (DET). Abdullah joins a full backfield in Detroit, but one that has injury tendencies. Also, the incumbent running backs have not had a long history of success. RB Joique Bell assumed the RB1 position for the first time last year. He did deliver over 1200 total yards but Detroit was still high enough on Abdullah to bring him aboard. Notre Dame graduate, Theo Riddick, did his best Reggie Bush impression last season and figured to keep that position this season. Abdullah fits between these two styles. He is solid enough to run between the tackles and a good enough route-runner to snag his share of passes. He will get limited playing time initially, but I am certain that his load will increase as the season wears on. This is another back that I will be looking at around the 9th round.

6. David Cobb (TENN). The Titans 2014 running back savior, Bishop Sankey, underwhelmed enough that Shonn Greene was extremely active in the Titans gameplan, which is not a vote of confidence for Sankey. I expect him to get another shot at showing his collegiate skills before involving Cobb more. It will be difficult for either back to be overly productive this season as the Titans' offensive line is not stellar and they are guaranteed to have youth under center and an inability to stretch the field with the passing game so many teams will stack the box. I would have no problem taking a shot on Cobb in the 12th round and sticking him on the bench.

7. David Johnson (AZ). Much like Cobb, David Johnson fell into a nice situation. The Cardinals have not been able to keep a solid running back healthy for quite some time, much like their QB. RB1 Andre Ellington was having a nice campaign in 2014 before succumbing to injury. After him, the depth chart is unimpressive so the 6'1" 224lb Northern Iowa graduate will see some workload this season. The question for him will be "when" and "why". He will be useful if as an injury replacement. If not, he won't see more than 10 Touches per game. Personally, I skip over Taylor and grab Johnson as my Ellington handcuff in the 12th round.

8. Jay Ajayi (MIA). Ajayi's draft stock took a major hit due to his surgically repaired knee and fell all the way to the 5th round. It was unexpected for Ajayi since he was coming off a season where he rushed for over 1800 yards and added 500 receiving yards as whipped cream. Needless to say, the 6'0" 221lb Boise St grad arrives to the NFL was a considerable chip on his shoulder. The Dolphins finally witnessed RB1 Lamar Miller have a season like they expected, rushing for over 1000 yards and average over 5ypc. So, Miller is the undisputed workhorse for the Dolphins, but Ajayi is a Must-draft handcuff in the 12th round.


Wide Receivers

1. Amari Cooper (OAK). Cooper was a flat-out stud for Alabama and had a Heisman-worthy year in 2014 with 124 catches for 1727 yards. His selection put a smile on second-year QB Derek Carr's face as the Raiders has very little talent at wide receiver last season. The Raiders did add WR Michael Crabtree via free agency but Cooper is the horse that Carr will ride since he knows that he is his meal ticket. This could be a formidable combination for years to come, folks. There are many talented, established receivers in the league, but Cooper will fly off the board before many of them. I would be shocked if he was still available in the 6th round.

2. Kevin White (CHI). I fully expected Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery to roam the hallowed sidelines of Soldier Field for many years. However, Marshall found it impossible to keep quiet about the ineptitude of the Chicago front office and the extremely poor play of QB Jay Cutler and found himself shipped off to the Jets. The Bears front office is still inept and Cutler will still be slinging the ball carelessly all over the field this season, but someone has to replace Marshall and Kevin White was selected to do just that. No doubt that Jeffery is The Go-To receiver for the Bears, but he will see an awful lot of double coverage. White displayed great speed while playing for West Virginia and will find himself in Cutler's good graces as long as he doesn't suffer from the rookie yips and drop too many passes. If so, all he will see is The Smirk. White has the talent to exceed in Chicago, but they will also be implementing a new offense so I would not grab White before the 8th round.

3. Breshad Perriman (BAL). Perriman was drafted to replace Torrey Smith. After Smith stole a huge contract after a mediocre 49 catches for 767 yards last season, I would expect Perriman to equal that total for far less cash and be positioned as a much better long-term investment. He does have a bad case of the Drops, so any owner hopes that he corrects that at the pro level, which is a big reach. However, Flacco's other options are limited; aging WR Steve Smith, underwhelming WR Malcolm Brown (double-check***) and fellow rookie TE Maxx Williams so they opportunity is there for Perriman to top Smith's numbers in his inaugural season. I can see snagging Perriman in the 9th round.

4. Nelson Agholor (PHL). Agholor may not be in a position like Perriman (positioned to be the new WR1), but he may end up scoring more points due to the Chip Kelly offense. Agholor will step in as Jeremy Maclin's replacement, but Jordan Matthews in the new WR1. However, the Eagles will have a new QB under center so it is unknown who Sam Bradford will bond with best. Agholor is a skilled kick returner as well so the possibility of adding return TD points is there if your scoring system awards the player as well as the ST position. I can certainly see Agholor going just after Perriman in the 9th round.

5. DeVante Parker (MIA). Parker provides an interesting conundrum for the drafting community, which has been demonstrated by the wild swings in his ADP. Parker is coming off foot surgery. The word is that he will be ready for week 1 but will miss training camp and pre-season, which is far from good for a rookie. The Miami receiving corps strike no fear into opposing defensive coordinators and Parker is too talented to sit for too long, but expect him to start behind WRs Greg Jennings, Kenny Stills and Jarvis Landry, not to mention TE Jordan Cameron. Stills was the deep threat at Louisville, but Stills is an established deep threat so Parker's best shot at real playing time will come at the expense of Jennings. Personally, I wouldn't draft Jennings in the deepest of leagues as his best days are behind him and Parker will be supplanting in by week 4. That being said, I wouldn't reach for him before the 10th round.

6. Dorial Green-Beckham (TENN). The Titans have mediocre receivers and a rookie QB. DGB has million dollar talent and a 5-cent head. He was an absolute beast at Missouri before getting bounced out. He definitely could make your season, but he won't kill you in the 11th round, so you can take him as a WR5.

7. Devin Funchess (CAR). Carolina has had a hard time with the WR2 since their Super Bowl. They scored nicely with 2014 number 1 pick, WR Kelvin Benjamin. He through double-teams, he would bring in passes. So, the Panthers thought, why not try to find lightning-in-a-bottle twice and drafted QB-convert, Devin Funchess. Funchess has a similar speed to Benjamin, but not as much speed. However, with his size, he could find himself getting a fair share of Targets, including in the end zone. He is worth looking at in the 12th round.

8. Jaelen Strong (HOU). If only Houston could put a solid QB under center, they would be Super Bowl contenders. They could have the best defense in the league this year and have one of the game's best running backs. But, they are very weak at QB and are just OK at WR. I love DeAndre Hopkins, and he is the uncontested WR1, but oft-injured Cecil Shorts is WR2. Strong can help make a bad QB look mediocre with his abilities, but I would not expect much consistency from Houston's receiving corps this year. Maybe take a flier on him in round 13 if you need another WR.

9. Phillip Dorsett (IND). Dorsett can flat out giddy-up. He may not be a polished receiver, but he can get down the field. Unfortunately, the Colts are well too stocked at the position to count on Dorsett for much outside of the return game. However, it would not be a surprise to see the Colts understand how to better utilize his speed on offense as the season wears on and some of their receivers wear down. Unless you are in a deep league (16+ players per team), I would not recommend drafting him but to be ready to bounce on the waiver wire if he starts taking more offensive snaps.


Tight Ends

1. Maxx Williams (BAL). There is nothing to be excited about at the TE position in this rookie class outside of Maxx. Baltimore has always used their tight ends extensively in their offensive gameplan and are building plays around Maxx's big hands and athleticism. The only other TE on the roster to worry about is Dennis Pitta and he has been waylaid with injuries the past few seasons so expect Williams to start right away. Tight end is a deep position in the NFL so I wouldn't look his way until the 10th or 11th round.

2. Clive Walford (OAK). Incumbent TE Mychal Rivera has a stronghold on the position going into the position, but keep your eye on Walford. He can block and catch the ball, which gets a TE2 onto the field more often than being one-dimensional. He is not worth drafting, but make note of the number of snaps he is on the field for as each week passes.

3. MyCole Pruitt (MINN). Another TE in the "watch only" category is yourCole, MyCole Pruitt. TE1 Kyle Rudolph has had a helluva time staying healthy so Pruitt is one injury away from the playing field.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Season-Long Cash Leagues at MFS easy on himself and only needed to score points for Touchdowns. TD scoring only is what you will find here so you won’t have to worry about drafting any idiot kickers. TD points vary with the distant of the touchdown. Full configuration settings are found here. League Average leagues - 10-team Live Draft head-to-head league resembles the Traditional league but an additional starting RB/WR swing position is added and the scoring system matches the standard except for ranges for the kicking and defensive statistics. The twist in this league is you will receive 2 decisions per week; one versus your H2H opponent and one versus the League Average (average score of the starting lineups for that week). This league type awards higher-scoring teams more than standard H2H. Full configuration settings are found here. Bye Week Rollover leagues - 10-team Live Draft head-to-head league resembles the Traditional league but an additional starting RB/WR swing position is added and the scoring system matches the standard except for ranges for the kicking and defensive statistics. The twist in this league is you will be able to choose players the week before they are on Bye and determine if you want their points for that week to also carry-over to their Bye week, thus locking in two weeks (good or bad). Full configuration settings are found here. In-game change leagues - 10-team Live Draft head-to-head league resembles the Traditional league but an additional starting RB/WR swing position is added and the scoring system matches the standard except for ranges for the kicking and defensive statistics. The twist in this league is you will be able to change players at the half. This helps if you have a player that is hurt or underperforming. Of course, the first half is locked in already and you will only be able to replace the second half with another player’s half that is currently open (either first or second half). Full configuration settings are found here. Total Point leagues - 10-team Live Draft Total Point league resembles the Traditional league but an additional starting RB/WR swing position is added and the scoring system matches the standard except for ranges for the kicking and defensive statistics. The twist in this league is that the standings are based off of the total points accumulated over the course of the season by your starting lineup. This league truly awards the highest scoring team. This league runs a full 17-week season and has no playoffs. Full configuration settings are found here. 4-week Frenzy leagues - 10-team Live Draft Total Point league that runs for 4 weeks. These will be staggered throughout the year for those looking for a shorter-term league that requires more skill than luck to win. The league set-up resembles the Traditional league but an additional starting RB/WR swing position is added and the scoring system matches the standard except for ranges for the kicking and defensive statistics. The leagues that will start in week 1 will end in week 4, when the Bye weeks begin. Leagues that are fully immersed in Bye weeks will have the Bye Week Rollover feature added to their league configuration. Full configuration settings for leagues starting in week 1 are found here.

Daily/Weekly fantasy football leagues get the most press nowadays but they are still FAR in the minority of desired games that fantasy football participants like playing. Granted, we will be offering DFS leagues, but there is no reason to worry about those games right now since they will not start until September 13th. Long before then, the majority of people playing fantasy football will be registering their season-long private fantasy football leagues and joining their season-long public fantasy football leagues.

Maximum Fantasy Sports has the most robust customizable league options available in the industry which helps us retain our devoted customer base. For those wanting to take advantage of our unique features but don’t have enough people for a private Commissioner League or prefer to play for higher stakes, we have created numerous public fantasy football leagues that utilize these options. Once our DFS leagues are released for 2015, we will also incorporate similar settings that make sense for these league types. Our 2015 public fantasy football leagues are listed below and come in a range of entry fees/payouts ranging from free to $250 per person. Payout amounts differ with the entry fees but will always be 90% of the total pot collected. Playoffs begin in week 14 and also feature a Toilet Bowl for all Head-to-Head leagues.
  • Traditional leagues (available in Live Draft and Autodraft) – 10-team head-to-head league featuring the most widely-accepted positions and scoring system: 1 QB, 2 RBs, 3 WR/TE, 1 TE, 1 D, 1 K. Full configuration settings are found here.
    • Traditional 2-Week leagues – this league is identical to the Traditional Live Draft league except that 4 teams make the playoffs and each matchup runs for 2 weeks each with the highest combined points winning. Full configuration settings are found here.
  • PPR leagues – 10-team Live Draft head-to-head league resembles the Traditional league but an additional starting RB/WR swing position is added and the scoring system awards a point per reception and RB/WR TDs drop to 4 points each with bonuses awarded (extra 1 or 2 points) for longer TDs. Full configuration settings are found here.
  • TD Only leagues – 10-team Live Draft head-to-head is a big departure from Traditional fantasy leagues and harken back to the days of scoring on paper when the Commissioner made life easy on himself and only needed to score points for Touchdowns. TD scoring only is what you will find here so you won’t have to worry about drafting any idiot kickers. TD points vary with the distant of the touchdown. Full configuration settings are found here.
  • League Average leagues - 10-team Live Draft head-to-head league resembles the Traditional league but an additional starting RB/WR swing position is added and the scoring system matches the standard except for ranges for the kicking and defensive statistics. The twist in this league is you will receive 2 decisions per week; one versus your H2H opponent and one versus the League Average (average score of the starting lineups for that week). This league type awards higher-scoring teams more than standard H2H. Full configuration settings are found here.
  • Bye Week Rollover leagues - 10-team Live Draft head-to-head league resembles the Traditional league but an additional starting RB/WR swing position is added and the scoring system matches the standard except for ranges for the kicking and defensive statistics. The twist in this league is you will be able to choose players the week before they are on Bye and determine if you want their points for that week to also carry-over to their Bye week, thus locking in two weeks (good or bad). Full configuration settings are found here.
  • In-game change leagues - 10-team Live Draft head-to-head league resembles the Traditional league but an additional starting RB/WR swing position is added and the scoring system matches the standard except for ranges for the kicking and defensive statistics. The twist in this league is you will be able to change players at the half. This helps if you have a player that is hurt or underperforming. Of course, the first half is locked in already and you will only be able to replace the second half with another player’s half that is currently open (either first or second half). Full configuration settings are found here.
  • Total Point leagues - 10-team Live Draft Total Point league resembles the Traditional league but an additional starting RB/WR swing position is added and the scoring system matches the standard except for ranges for the kicking and defensive statistics. The twist in this league is that the standings are based off of the total points accumulated over the course of the season by your starting lineup. This league truly awards the highest scoring team. This league runs a full 17-week season and has no playoffs. Full configuration settings are found here.
  • 4-week Frenzy leagues - 10-team Live Draft Total Point league that runs for 4 weeks. These will be staggered throughout the year for those looking for a shorter-term league that requires more skill than luck to win. The league set-up resembles the Traditional league but an additional starting RB/WR swing position is added and the scoring system matches the standard except for ranges for the kicking and defensive statistics. The leagues that will start in week 1 will end in week 4, when the Bye weeks begin. Leagues that are fully immersed in Bye weeks will have the Bye Week Rollover feature added to their league configuration. Full configuration settings for leagues starting in week 1 are found here

Thursday, June 4, 2015

AFC South Off-season Changes

Indianapolis Colts:  

The Colts are another team with too many wide receivers and most of them are startable on any team. However, that didn’t stop them from using their first round draft pick on ANOTHER receiver. After watching their defense get battered by quality offenses last year, one would have thought that all top picks would be spent of defense, but the Colts don’t roll that way. WR Philip Dorsett is a flat-out burner from Miami with 4.33 speed in the 40-yard dash, but how much will he factor into the gameplan this year with so many other options? Sure, they did go defense with their next 4 picks; CB D’Joun Smith from Florida Atlantic, DE Henry Anderson from Stanford and S Clayton Geathers from Central Florida, as well as LB Amarlo Herrea from Georgia, but these guys are going to have to outperform their draft location to justify taking another WR, albeit a very talented one, with their first pick.

The Colts did grab a veteran pass-catcher in Andre Johnson to help bring their talented youngsters up-to-speed in the NFL. He should help educate Dorsett and Donte Moncrief and make them better receivers for the foreseeable future. They added WR Vincert Brown from San Diego in free agency to further complicate matters. I have always thought that Brown is underrated but he sure can’t stay healthy to prove me right. After failing to find a complementary running game to go with their aerial assault, the Colts turned to free agency and brought in veteran back, Frank Gore. Most teams do rely on 30+ year old running backs, but the Colts hope that having Daniel “Boom” Herron and a healthy Vick Ballard will help shoulder the load and keep Gore fresh throughout the season.  I do like the addition of LB Trent Cole from Philly via free agency as well.

Fantasy starters: QB Andrew Luck, RB Frank Gore, WR T.Y. Hilton, WR Andre Johnson
Fantasy bench: TE Dwayne Allen, TE Coby Fleener, RB Daniel Herron
Fantasy Sleeper:
WR Philip Dorsett

 

Tennessee Titans:  

The Titans were in an enviable spot in the draft due to an unenviable position with their roster this year. It sounds like they were offered multiple trades that could have benefited them in many more positions that the 2nd pick, but they turned them all down and decided that QB Marcus Mariota was their Franchise QB. This could be a decision that either catapults them back to respectability or further dooms them for years to come. If the trade rumors were true, they must have been high school sweetheart in love with Mariota to roll the dice like they are.  To further demonstrate their love, they used their 2nd round pick on a WR gamble in the name of Dorial Green-Beckham. He is HUGE but troubled and unseasoned. His ceiling is tremendous but could easily be bounced out of the league in no time as well. You can safely say that Titans ownership is a group of risk-takers! The remaining 7 picks were scattered across most positions as a testimony to how poor the talent is on this team. After another under-achieving year of running backs, they make have actually found a Sleeper in RB David Cobb from Minnesota in the 5th round. He is the anti-Chris Johnson; not very fast but gets a lot of yards after contact. Expect him to be used in short-yardage situations at first as RB Bishop Sankey will get one last opportunity to impress.

In free agency, the Titans didn’t overwhelm, but I do like the addition of WR Harry Douglas from Atlanta. I think his speed in the slot will help Mariota a lot and will complement WR Kendall Wright nicely. They also added WR Hakeem Nicks but he has been on a steady decline since his breakout rookie season. On the defensive side of the ball, they smartly added LB Brian Arakpo from Washington. It was a smart move as their current linebackers are lost and it is a way to keep him busy learning a new playbook instead of entertaining ideas of more terrible commercials.

Fantasy starters: WR Kendall Wright, TE Delanie Walker
Fantasy bench: QB Marcus Mariota, RB Bishop Sankey, WR Dorial Green-Beckham, WR Harry Douglas
Fantasy Sleeper:
RB David Cobb

 

Houston Texans:  

Can J.J Watt QB as well as play TE and be the most dominant defensive player in the league? The Texans may be hoping so since they cannot get a quality signal caller under center. Bill O’Brien seriously has to choose between Ryan Mallett, Brian Hoyer and Tom Savage to start the year. Looks like another year of giving the ball to Arian Foster 350 times!
It is going to be odd to see the Texans on the field but WR Andre Johnson playing for a division foe. Based on the outlook for this offense, I am happy for him. He deserves a shot at a Super Bowl. WR DeAndre Hopkins proved to be a worthy running mate last year and inherits the #1 WR spot. To help him out, the Texans added WR Cecil Shorts III and Nate Washington, but, more importantly, they picked up WR Jaelen Strong from Arizona St in the 3rd round. This kid can play and is a bit sturdier than Hopkins to pair them up nicely. Before him, the Texans filled two glaring holes by drafting CB Kevin Johnson from Wake Forest and LB Benardrick McKinney from Mississippi St.

As far as defense goes, it has a shot at being the top unit in the AFC. Aside from JJ and the draft picks, they could have a healthy Jadeveon Clowney (remember last year’s number 1 draft pick?) and added DT Vince Wilfork in free agency, plus S Rahim Moore from Denver.

Fantasy starters: RB Arian Foster, WR DeAndre Hopkins, Houston D
Fantasy bench: RB Alfred Blue, WR Jaelen Strong
Fantasy Sleeper:
TE Garrett Graham

Jacksonville Jaguars:

When you are the Jaguars, bad luck follows you. After scoring with their 1st round draft pick in DE Dante Fowler Jr, he promptly blew out his ACL in his first practice. This was clearly one area that needed addressed on the Jags D. Fortunately, they got a bit of a steal in the 6th round by nabbing DT Michael Bennett from Ohio State. Not much of a consolation prize at this point but he will contribute this season. On offense, they needed to upgrade their backfield after RB Toby Gerhart turned out to be an absolute bust. WR/RB Denard Robinson ended up filling in nicely last year, but they needed to think longer term. So, they grabbed Gamecock G A.J. Cann in the 3rd round to help block for RB T.J. Yeldon, who they grabbed in the 2nd round from Alabama. Yeldon doesn’t blow your socks off as an all-around back, but they needed help and they are hoping he provides it.

They nabbed a few later WR picks to add to their current stable of mediocre wideouts. No team in the league has a group of Nos 3-5 WRs like the Jaguars do. How they will be able to separate them and call any of them their #1 and #2 is beyond me. I do know that new free agent acquisition TE Julius Thomas will definitely be THE Go-To target.

Fantasy starters: TE Julius Thomas
Fantasy bench: RB T.J. Yeldon, RB Denard Robinson, WR Allen Hurns
Fantasy Sleeper: WR Marquis Lee


Wednesday, June 3, 2015

NFC South Off-season Changes

New Orleans Saints:  

We are watching the Saints completely remake their offense. After finally finding a running game last year, they are moving towards making that their primary focus and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that unless you have QB Drew Brees in a Keeper league. They came to the realization that they cannot win consistently by throwing the ball 40 times a game. They also realized that they had one of the worst defenses in the league and they realized it before the draft and executed a plan to address that. Well, they did after drafting T Andrus Peat from Stanford with the first pick.

With their second 1st round pick, acquired from Seattle in the Jimmy Graham trade that also brought in C Max Unger, the Saints grabbed LB Stephone Anthony. His draft position may be a bit early but he will pair up nicely with their 2nd round pick; LB Hau’oli Kikaha from Washington, who lead the NCAA in sacks last season. Surprisingly, they grabbed QB Garrett Grayson from Colorado St in the 3rd round. With a number of quality QBs on the board for later rounds, this was definitely too high and no one seems confident that Grayson can grow into Brees’ replacement, though he has at least two years to learn. The following four picks were all made to bolster the defense and were all solid picks; CB P.J. Williams from Florida St, LB Davis Tull from Chattanooga, DT Tyeler Davidson from Fresno St and CB Damain Swann from Georgia. In addition to all of these defensive draft picks, the Saints added CB Brandon Browner from New England via free agency.

After losing Jimmy Graham, WR Kenny Stills and RB Pierre Thomas via trade and free agency in the off-season, they stayed pat in those positions except for RB. The picked up C.J. Spiller from Buffalo. Spiller has proven to be one of the highest hyped players year in and year out and one of the most disappointing ones. With Mark Ingram slated to be the workhorse, Spiller will be counted on to fill the old Reggie Bush role and, if he stays healthy, will be a game-changer for this offense. Josh Hill will never be Jimmy Graham, but he will drastically see an uptick in Targets this season.

Fantasy starters: QB Drew Brees, RB Mark Ingram, WR Brandin Cooks
Fantasy bench: RB C.J. Spiller, WR Marques Colston
Fantasy Sleeper: TE Josh Hill

Tampa Bay Buccaneers:  

The Bucs earned the first pick in this year’s draft after greatly underperforming last season. Much of their issues could be attributed to incompetency at the QB position and on the entire defense. The decided that they would roll the dice on QB Jameis Winston and hope it solves their QB riddle. Winston has many questions about maturity and whether or not he is mentally able to handle being the first pick in the draft and the face of the franchise. He definitely has the physical tools to succeed and has great weapons at the wide receiver position in Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans. That didn’t stop them from using their 5th and 6th round picks on additional WRs though; Kenny Bell from Nebraska and Kaelin Clay from Utah. Clay will be remembered for his brain fart against Oregon where he dropped the ball before crossing the goal line and it was returned for a TD by Oregon, resulting in a 14-point swing in the first half, which cost yours truly a nice 1st-half Utah wager.

While the offense is rounding into shape, the defense still has a long way to go. The Bucs added DE Henry Melton via free agency from Dallas and DB Chris Conte from Chicago, both who played under coach Lovie Smith when he was with the Bears. Neither figure to add that much to that unit though. One area to watch is what Tampa will do with their running game. Will they fully commit to Charles Sims or will Doug Martin have a chance to win his starting job back?

Fantasy starters: WR Vincent Jackson, WR Mike Evans
Fantasy bench: QB Jameis Winston, RB Charles Sims, RB Bobby Rainey
Fantasy Sleeper: TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins

Atlanta Falcons:  

Atlanta had two clear Needs going into the draft; upgrade their defense and upgrade their running game and they did both. They wisely focused on defense first and grabbed LB Vic Beasley from Clemson. Much like WR Kevin White falling to the Bears with their first pick, the Falcons hand was laid out in front of them due to the troubles associated with Randy Gregory and Shane Ray. Beasley will start immediately for them as should 2nd round pick CB Jalen Collins from LSU. The draft played out perfectly for the Falcons as RB Tevin Coleman fell to them in the 3rd round. As a Big Ten guy, I will tell you that Coleman’s 2014 stats (2026 yards and 15 TDs) were even more impressive than they look as QB Nate Sudfeld was lost for the season and the Hoosiers were a one-trick offense and Coleman still churned out big numbers even though he was the focal point of every defense. He will solve their current RB quandary.

The Falcons really only lost WR Harry Douglas to free agency but they quickly replaced him in the draft with their 4th pick; WR Justin Hardy from East Carolina. With Coleman, their offense will jump right back in as one of the tops in the league; provided their WRs actually stay healthy for a season. Their defense won’t be good, but it will be better. As shown last year, this division is prime for the taking by any team that can win half of their games. That should be Atlanta this season.

Fantasy starters: QB Matt Ryan, RB Tevin Coleman, WR Julio Jones WR Roddy White
Fantasy bench: RB Devonta Freeman
Fantasy Sleeper: WR Justin Hardy

Carolina Panthers:  

The Panthers had little opportunity to improve themselves via the draft since they only had five picks available to them after trading two away to St. Louis to move up in the 2nd round. Unfortunately, they didn’t draft any real difference makers. Their defense declined last season and they will be fortunate to play up to that level. They drafted LB Shaq Thompson from Washington with their 1st round pick which seemed like a reach since he is a bit undersized. Aside from the Cam-to-Kelvin connection, there is nothing scary about their offense. They have been unable to sustain a consistent running game for the past few years due to injury. With their 2nd round pick, they grabbed WR Devin Funchess from Michigan. Funchess is almost a Benjamin close as he goes 6’4” 232 lbs. They have big WRs but they need some speed out of the slot since Cam seems to be under constant pressure. They added T Daryl Williams from Oklahoma in the 4th round in hopes that he can work himself into the starting lineup soon and help out.

The Panthers dipped a toe into free agency and appeared to have the philosophy that experience and wisdom shall prevail. They added Blind Side T Michael Oher for the offensive line and Charles “Peanut” Tillman for the secondary. Needless to say, both have been stars in their prime, but they are a bit past that. Don’t get me wrong, I admire both players, but I do not see them providing much benefit to either unit at this time in their careers. The Panthers did lose RB DeAngelo Williams in free agency so they added RB Cameron Artis-Payne from Auburn with their last pick (round 5). He becomes the immediate handcuff to china doll RB Johnathan Stewart.

Fantasy starters: QB Cam Newton, RB Jonathan Stewart, WR Kelvin Benjamin, TE Greg Olsen
Fantasy bench: WR Devin Funchess
Fantasy Sleeper:
RB Cameron Artis-Payne


Sunday, May 17, 2015

AFC West Off-season Changes

Denver Broncos:  

The Broncos caught a piece of bad luck, ala Jacksonville, already by losing 3rd round pick TE Jeff Hauerman for the year with a torn ACL. He was inked in as a replace for TE Julius Thomas. The Broncos are deep at WR but Peyton Manning loves throwing to his tight ends. They did sign TE Owen Daniels after he spent a year in Baltimore, which surprised no one since it must be a separate contract that has him permanently tethered to coach Gary Kubiak. He has been a bit injury-prone as he ages but he is the best that Peyton will have for now.
The Broncos did pull a shocker with their 1st round pick by selecting marijuana fan DE Shane Ray from Missouri. If his lack of intelligence during the days leading up to the draft was temporary insanity, this was a huge steal and will bolster the Broncos solid pass rush this year. The Broncos focused much more on the run last year than they did in any year with Peyton and it proved successful. So, to help that aspect and to help keep Peyton off his aged back, they added OT Ty Sambrailo from Colorado St and C Max Garcia from Florida.

Fantasy starters: QB Peyton Manning, RB C.J. Anderson, WR Demarius Thomas, WR Emmanual Sanders
Fantasy bench: RB Montee Ball, TE Owen Daniels, Denver D
Fantasy Sleeper: WR Cody Latimer


San Diego Chargers:  

I liked the Chargers choice of RB Ryan Mathews in 2010 but I didn’t expect him to have the issues he has had staying healthy. As a Big Ten guy, I really like their choice this year of RB Melvin Gordon from Wisconsin. They may not have needed to trade up to get him, but there was no reason to take any chances when you know that he will be The Man in their backfield. He doesn’t catch a lot of passes so Danny Woodhead will see his normal workload. I don’t understand the Chargers management’s interest in moving to LA, but these guys don’t become billionaires by caring about more than how they can squeeze the most dollars from the lil’ guy.
While the talk of moving prompted QB Philip Rivers to voice his displeasure, ownership made the right decision to not trade him. I expect a lot of improvement on that side of the ball this year with Gordon toting the rock. On defense, they still have some work to do, but adding LB Denzel Perryman from Miami was a solid step in the right direction. Additions of CB Craig Mager and LB Kyle Emanuel with the next 2 picks were decent and showed that San Diego is not so into itself that it couldn’t find San Marcos, TX and Fargo ND on a map.

Fantasy starters: QB Philip Rivers, RB Melvin Gordon, WR Keenan Allen, TE Antonio Gates
Fantasy bench: WR Malcom Floyd
Fantasy Sleeper: TE Ladarius Green


Kansas City Chiefs:

The Chiefs had the most laughable group of WRs outside of Cleveland in the league last year. Yes, they had zero TD receptions but they still had more talent than Cleveland did. However, it was time to start anew there. They started by adding WR Jeremy Maclin in free agency. That is an infinite improvement over their flaccid group from last year but they also added WR Chris Conley from Georgia in the 3rd round. I like his chances to make a major contribution in 2015 due to his size.  At 6’2” 213, he is the anti-Maclin. With those pieces in place and a solid running game, they turned to defense and nicely plugged holes. Getting CB Marcus Peters from Washington was a top-notch selection. He is aggressive, but if that can be reined in and aligned with the NFL’s garbage rules to allow WRs have free roam, he has great upside. That aggressiveness may have played a big part in his early dismissal from Washington but I think he grows up and into his role this season.

Fantasy starters: RB Jamaal Charles, WR Jeremy Maclin
Fantasy bench: QB Alex Smith, RB Knile Davis, TE Travis Kelce
Fantasy Sleeper: WR Chris Conley


Oakland Raiders:

After looking like they may end up winless last season, the Raiders put together a nice ending stretch that gave them a bit of spark heading into 2015. Landing stud WR Amari Cooper with their first pick only fanned that spark into a nice fire. QB Derek Carr seemed to “get it” late last season and having Cooper to throw to will accelerate his progression into a true NFL QB. After years of laughable 1st round picks on wide receivers, the Raiders struck gold with this one. After that, the Raiders used their remaining nine picks on positions across the board. There are no real standouts in the group, but they sure did favor the three major Florida universities as five of those nine picks came from those schools.
If RB Latavius Murray proves that he can carry the load for a full season, the offense will be greatly improved. In addition to Cooper, the Raiders picked up WR Michael Crabtree. On defense, the Raiders spent some money on LBs Malcolm Smith and Curtis Lofton as well as DT Dan Williams. The Raiders are definitely a team on the rise and will not be the laughingstock that they have been for a number of years.

Fantasy starters: RB Latavius Murray, WR Amari Cooper
Fantasy bench: QB Derek Carr

Fantasy Sleeper: WR Chris Conley

NFC West Off-season Changes

Seattle Seahawks:  

The Seahawks were very quiet for much of the opening night of the draft since they did not have a pick until the end of the second round. Where did their 1st round pick go, you ask? Well, they traded it with their center, Max Unger, for a little known player named Jimmy Graham (more on him later). Much of their draft was spent on defensive players as they have lost a bit the past few years via free agency. The three defensive linemen that they nabbed all look solid, particularly 2nd round pick, Frank Clark from Michigan. The most notable draftee, in my opinion, was WR Tyler Lockett from Kansas State. He is a playmaker and will find a home returning kicks and working the slot right away for Seattle.

Non-draft moves of note include adding DB Will Blackmon from Jacksonville. Funny thing, Seattle cut him 2 years ago when he wasn’t good enough to make the team out of training camp. With Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman roaming the secondary, lessor DBs tend to look a little better. After talk of retirement, RB Marshawn Lynch is back to inflict lots of pain on opposing defenses, when given the ball. Fans are hoping that QB Russell Wilson’s contract differences don’t carry over to this season especially since he has a brand new toy in Jimmy Graham. I did like the way TE Luke Willson played down the stretch last year, but Jimmy Graham immediately makes a massive difference on this team. He is now THE big play threat that the Seahawks have been lacking.

Fantasy starters: QB Russell Wilson, RB Marshawn Lynch, WR Jordy Nelson, TE Jimmy Graham, Seattle D
Fantasy bench: WR Doug Baldwin
Fantasy Sleeper: WR Tyler Lockett

Arizona Cardinals:

After damn near starting a different QB every game last year due to injuries, the Cardinals focused on protecting their QB and helping out their run game by drafting OT D.J. Humphries from Florida with their first pick after they picked up G Mike Lupati in free agency. After that, they addressed the defensive line by adding defensive linemen with three of their next four picks, DE Markus Golden from Missouri being the top choice with their 2nd pick.

They are rolling the dice that their current crop of RBs stays healthy or hope that their 3rd round pick, RB David Johnson from Northern Iowa, is ready for the pro game. For a smallish guy myself, ya gotta like a player like J.J. Nelson getting drafted. Granted, he has 4.3 speed, but he is listed at 5’10” 160lbs! It will be entertaining to see opposing defenses try to locate him when he is on the loose. I certainly hope that the Cardinals can stay healthy this year. My favorite receiver, Larry Fitzgerald, isn’t getting any younger. Also, it would be nice to see WR Michael Floyd deliver on his potential. He was supposed to take a step forward towards All-Pro last year but the injuries at QB put a lid on his season.

Fantasy starters: RB Andre Ellington, WR Larry Fitzgerald, WR Michael Floyd, Arizona D
Fantasy bench: WR John Brown
Fantasy Sleeper: RB David Johnson

St. Louis Rams:

Truthfully, I was shocked when the Rams took RB Todd Gurley with their first pick in the draft. I though Tre’ Mason was fabulous last year and I don’t think Zac Stacy was a one-year wonder. I felt that improving their offensive line and getting one of the many excellent receivers available via the draft should have been a focus. Granted, Gurley is a beast once back to form but how long will it be before you can ride him? With their defense, they are ready to take a step forward and make the playoffs this year. I am not sure how you do that with the receivers they have on their roster. Speaking of their defense, they upgraded even further by adding DT Nick Fairly from Detroit.

Now, they did grab three O-linemen with their next four choices following Gurley so they did bolster that unit. However, I still think Devante Parker would have been the best 1st round pick for them. They did add local WR Bud Sasser in the 6th round to a middling group of receivers that includes Kenny Britt, Chris Givens, Stedman Bailey, Tavon Austin and Brian Quick. No Go-to guy in the mix. Throwing to them is no longer QB Sam Bradford, though he threw zero game-time passes to them last season and played for less than half of 2013. Assuming the starting QB position for 2015 is a somewhat less brittle Nick Foles. It will be interesting to see what he can do outside of Chip Kelly’s offense with a group of WR3s.

Fantasy starters: RB Tre’ Mason (until Todd Gurley is The Man, then him), Rams D
Fantasy bench: QB Nick Foles, WR: Kenny Britt, Chris Givens, Stedman Bailey, Tavon Austin and Brian Quick (watch pre-season and see if Foles gels with anyone in particular)
Fantasy Sleeper: TE Jared Cook

San Francisco 49ers:  

The Niners blew up last year, fired their head coach and turned over a lot of players in hopes of rebuilding a winning attitude. That turnover includes the retirement of LBs Patrick Willis and Chris Borland. With the defense needing more work than the offense, the Niners used their first three picks of that side of the ball. They grabbed DE Arik Armstead from Oregon, S Jaquiski Tartt from Samford and LB Eli Harold from Virginia. All have promise but have not fully delivered on it yet so it will take some time for them to come around to the NFL game. For the offense, they used the following three picks on TE Blake Bell from Oklahoma to transition into Vernon Davis’ successor, WR DeAndre Smelter from Georgia Tech (WRs don’t grow their game quickly at Georgia Tech due to their style of offense but he has talent) and RB Mike Davis from South Carolina to provide depth after the loss of RB Frank Gore.

The Niners are hoping that free agent acquisition, DT Darnell Dockett, can turn back the clock to his Arizona glory days after missing all of the 2014 season with a torn ACL. On the offensive side of the ball, they overpaid for WR Torrey Smith to become their new #1 WR. Maybe he will put together a consistent year on the left coast since it escaped him in Baltimore. They are also hoping RB Reggie Bush has something left after making little difference in Detroit last season while dealing with ankle issues. This offense has all the makings of being a complete wreck this season.

Fantasy starters: QB Colin Kaepernick, RB Carlos Hyde, WR Anquan Boldin, WR Torrey Smith
Fantasy bench: RB Reggie Bush, TE Vernon Davis
Fantasy Sleeper: TE Blake Bell


NFC North Off-season Changes


Green Bay Packers:

The Packers didn't need to do much on offense so they concentrated on their defensive weaknesses; grabbing S Damarious Randall from Arizona St and CB Quinten Rollins from Miami, OH with their first two picks. Both are talented and have high ceilings, especially the athletic Rollins who is a basketball convert and has great footwork and leaping ability. With their 4th selection, they got a solid pick in the form of LB Jake Ryan from Michigan. He will contribute right away. They added depth on offense by choosing WR Ty Montgomery from Stanford. With WR Randall Cobb hitting paydirt with a new 4-year $40 million dollar contract, replacing him in the return game is a fine idea and Montgomery is the player that can do that, as well as assume the WR4 position.

With their 5th pick, the Packers grabbed QB Brett Hundley. Hundley was grouped in with 5 other QBs that many thought would go in the 2nd or 3rd round. Getting him in the 5th round is an absolute steal. If they can groom him like they did Rodgers over a few seasons, he could be ready to contribute as a starter. He is far from polished so this is the best situation for him to begin his NFL career. In a few years, if Rodgers is healthy and going strong, he should hope for a Matt Flynn situation to get an opportunity to jump ship and lead a different team…but let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.

Fantasy starters: QB Aaron Rodgers, RB Eddie Lacy, WR Jordy Nelson, WR Randall Cobb
Fantasy bench: WR Devante Adams, Green Bay D
Fantasy Sleeper: WR Ty Montgomery

Minnesota Vikings:

The Vikings played hardball with RB Adrian Peterson and seem to be able to keep him for 2015. With him in place, the Vikings felt pretty good with their offense under QB Teddy Bridgewater after acquiring WR Mike Wallace. Due to that comfort level, the Vikings used their first three picks on defense. They drafted CB Trae Waynes in the 1st round from Michigan St followed by LB Eric Kendricks from UCLA. Those two players will start immediately. 3rd round pick Danielle Hunter from LSU is a bit unseasoned but will grow into his DE position. With double picks in rounds 5-7, the Vikings we also able to fortify their offensive line by grabbing tackle T.J. Clemmings from Pittsburgh in the 4th round. He is a steal if his foot problems don’t persist. They also added TE MyCole Pruittin the 5th round from Southern Illinois, T Tyrus Thompson in the 6th round from Oklahoma and T Austin Shepherd from Alabama in the 7th round. These guys are space-eaters and provide excellent depth with a good chance to get plenty of playing time early in their careers.

Aside from the top offensive position players listed, the Vikings are deep and young with RBs Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata and WRs Charles Johnson, Cordarrelle Patterson (maybe a return to glory after cracking under the pressure last year), Jarius Wright and rookie Stefon Diggs. This is definitely a team on the rise with a good chance to make the playoffs this season.

Fantasy starters: RB Adrian Peterson, WR Mike Wallace, Vikings D
Fantasy bench: QB Teddy Bridgewater, WR Charles Johnson, TE Kyle Rudolph
Fantasy Sleeper: WR Cordarrelle Patterson

Detroit Lions:

The Lions need help on the line on each side of the ball and only addressed one of them, the offensive line. They acquired C Manny Ramirez from Denver in a draft day trade and picked G Laken Tomlinson from Duke with their 1st round pick. They also added a mountain of a man in T Corey Robinson in the 7th round from South Carolina for additional depth. Their defensive line took a big hit in the off-season with the loss of Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley in free agency. To replace them, they only used one of their draft picks; 4th round pick Gabe Wright from Auburn. Fortunately, they were able to sign DT Haloti Ngata away from Baltimore to anchor their defense. 3rd round pick Alex Carter from Stanford should provide some help in their secondary down the road.

Offensively, Detroit lost RB Reggie Bush in free agency but added RB Ameer Abdullah from Nebraska. This kid can flat-out shake-and-bake and will be the perfect complement to incumbent Joique Bell. Other than that, they are solid at QB and WR. The second boost to the offense will be if TE Eric Ebron can actually deliver this year. Though he was a rookie last season, many of us expected him to be a larger part of the offense last year and only managed 25 catches and 1 TD.

Fantasy starters: QB Matthew Stafford, RB Joique Bell, WR Calvin Johnson, WR Golden Tate
Fantasy bench: RB Ameer Abdullah, Detroit D
Fantasy Sleeper: TE Eric Ebron

Chicago Bears:

As a Bears fan, I was sickened by the “defense” that they put on the field last year. It was legendarily bad; low on talent, high on age and littered with players whose IQs did not exceed the number on their jersey (see LaMarr Houston). However, after the Jets grabbed DE Leonard Williams, I knew the Bears would pick WR Kevin White from West Virginia. Don’t get me wrong, this kid is a game-breaker and will be the perfect running mate for WR Alshon Jeffery. However, it looks like 2015 will be another season of the offense needing to put up 30 or more to have a chance to win. After watching his post-draft interviews, White is going to be a complete reversal of WR Brandon Marshall’s bitterness. The kid is elated to be in Chicago. I certainly hope his attitude spreads. Of course, it will run up against the immovable force in QB Jay Cutler’s stoic fa├žade and undoubtedly fail. Cutler’s face shows the same amount of excitement that I displayed when hearing about Chicago being home to President Obama’s library.

With the remainder of their picks, which were not large enough in number to make up for the deficiencies on this team, the Bears got a quality player in each round that will make an impact. 2nd round pick DT Eddie Goldman from Florida St will fit nicely into the Bears new 3-4 defense and help stuff the run. Their offensive line and defensive secondary have been sore spots for years and 3rd round pick Hroniss Grasu from Oregon and 5th round pick S Adrian Amos from Penn St will provide some necessary depth. 4th round pick RB Jeremy Langford from Michigan St seems like more of a “best player available” pick than a need, but I like the kid a lot. If Matt Forte ends up being a contract distraction, it will be nice having Langford ready to plug in.

The Bears have a new coaching staff, again, and are switching to a new defensive scheme. It certainly can’t be worse than last year. They have lost a few long-term players in Charles Tillman and Lance Briggs but added Antrel Rolle from the New York Giants and LB Pernell McPhee from Baltimore through free agency to replace them. So, the unit has to perform better, right?

Fantasy starters: QB Jay Cutler, RB Matt Forte, WR Alshon Jeffery, WR Kevin White, TE Martellus Bennett
Fantasy bench: WR Eddie Royal
Fantasy Sleeper: WR Marquess Wilson