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


Monday, May 11, 2015

NFC East Off-season Changes

Dallas Cowboys:

After decades of being poster children for drug abuse, Dallas was working towards cleaning itself up so it was surprising when they drafted LB Randy Gregory. Gregory cost himself a mint by either being too hooked on weed or too stupid to not smoke weed DURING the NFL Combine. Either way, if Dallas can smack some smarts into the man, getting him with the 60th pick is a bonafide steal. Other big moves include grabbing G La’el Collins after he went undrafted due to the Baton Rouge police wanting to interview him in the murder investigation of his girlfriend. He is not currently a suspect and if he is completely exonerated, this is THE massive steal of 2015 and could be a landmark steal. The remainder of the draft focused on adding more depth to their massive offensive line and shoring up their defense. CB Bryon Jones should be an impact player for them this year. They also added lightning rod DE Greg Hardy in free agency. He will be suspended until week 12, but will be a boost for their defense down the stretch and into the playoffs.

On offense, the biggest story is letting DeMarco Murray go and only adding Darren McFadden to replace him. I truly do not know why they didn’t go after Zac Stacy. He seems like a good fit behind their line and was dirt cheap. Anywhoo, McFadden is made of cupcakes and will be fool’s gold this year. If this unit stays intact, you will want RB Joseph Randle on your team.

Fantasy starters: QB Tony Romo, WR Dez Bryant
Fantasy bench: RB Darren McFadden, WR Terrance Williams, TE Jason Williams, Dallas D/ST
Fantasy Sleeper: RB Joseph Randle

Washington Redskins:

The Redskins didn’t do anything flashy in the off-season other than signing DT Stephen Paea, who had his best year in Chicago last season, and DB Dashon Goldson after 2 disappointing seasons in TB. They added no one else of note through free agency but they did draft individual pieces that will help the team overall (it did need help at all spots). They know they need to run to ball to be successful and Alfred Morris has not really dazzled so they decided to draft OT Brandon Scherff from Iowa in the 1st round to help open holes immediately and expect 5th round pick, G Ari Kouandjio from Alabama to see a lot of time on the field as well this year.

They added a little depth at the RB spot in the 3rd round with the selection of Matt Jones from Florida. He goes 6’2 231 so he can help open holes or get the tough yards that Morris cannot. They added a slot WR in the 4th round in Jamison Crowder from Duke and drafted DE Preston Smith in the 2nd round from Mississippi St. Smith was a run-stopper on a solid Bulldogs’ defense but will be moved to OLB in the Skins’ 3-4 defense.

Fantasy starters: RB Alfred Morris, WR DeSean Jackson
Fantasy bench: QB Robert Griffin III, WR Pierre Garcon, TE Jordan Reed
Fantasy Sleeper: WR Jamison Crowder

Philadelphia Eagles:

I have no idea where to start with this team. Talk about turnover! Goodbye to QB Nick Foles, RB LeSean McCoy and WR Jeremy Maclin and Hello to QB Sam Bradford and RBs DeMarco Murray and Ryan Matthews. Bradford appears to be as fragile as they come but that running back tandem is the best in the league if Mathews can stay healthy himself. The Eagles replaced Maclin with a better receiver at a much lower cost when they drafted Nelson Agholor from USC in the first round. He will light up the return game and provide a very nice compliment to WR Jordan Matthews. He runs a 4.42 in the 40-yard dash, has excellent hands and is a good route-runner.

On defense, the Eagles acquired Kiko Alonso from Buffalo for McCoy. This brings Alonso back under his former college coach. He will definitely help stuff the run if he returns to form following his missed 2014 campaign due to an ACL tear (never a good thing for a space eater). The other key component addressed in this year’s draft by Philly was to work on their leaky secondary. They did in triplicate by drafting S Eric Rowe from Utah in the 2nd round and CBs JaCorey Shepherd and Randall Evans in the 6th round; one from each Big 12 Kansas school. However, there is a good chance that this draft will be remembered in Philly for what Chip Kelly reportedly offered up to get Marcus Mariota. It seems like FAR too much, but even a player or two or a pick or two less seems like too much. If Bradford stays healthy, this team is playoff-bound and the trade offer will be forgotten. Oh yeah, the Eagles signed Tim Tebow as well!

Fantasy starters: RB DeMarco Murray, WR Jordan Matthews, Philly D
Fantasy bench: QB Sam Bradford, RB Ryan Mathews, WR Riley Cooper, TE Zach Ertz
Fantasy Sleeper: WR Nelson Agholor

New York Giants:

The biggest addition for the Giants this season is getting WR Victor Cruz back. If he returns to form, he and WR Odell Beckham Jr are a receiving duo that can make QB Eli Manning appear like a competent NFL QB (see David Tyree). Other than that, their defense is not good and getting older and their running game is a mess. With only six picks in the draft this year, they could not address all areas of need. They did pick up DE George Selvie in free agency. He has one good year out of his seven though and figures not to provide much help to Jason Pierre-Paul.

They drafted OT Ereck Flowers from Miami in hopes of providing some run blocking to get that unit to perform this year. They are banking on RB Rashad Jennings staying healthy and earning the contract he signed last year. Andre Williams proved serviceable in his absence but wasn’t overly impressive. They added PPR stud Shane Vereen from New England to add a dimension sorely lacking in their backfield. Drafting S Landon Collins in the 2nd round from Alabama was a good move because they are woefully devoid of talent in the secondary and Collins is better than anything else that they have in uniform. They added another safety in the 5th round in Mykkele Thompson from Texas. Nice additions but not near enough to cover deficiencies on DL and LB.

Fantasy starters: WR Odell Beckham Jr, WR Victor Cruz
Fantasy bench: QB Eli Manning, RB Rashard Jennings, RB Shane Vereen, TE Larry Donnell
Fantasy Sleeper: None come to mind

AFC North Off-season Changes

Pittsburgh Steelers:

The Steelers have focused more on offense in recent years versus shoring up their aging defense and it caught up with them. Following the “better late than never” adage, they focused on that unit in this year’s draft. They picked up LB Bud Dupree in the first round out of Kentucky. Projected to go much higher, Dupree looks like a steal at the 22nd pick. He runs a 4.56 40-yard dash and has a 42 inch vertical and will make an immediate impact on the outside. With their second pick, they addressed a glaring need at corner with fellow SEC grad CB Senquez Golson from Ole Miss and added Ohio St CB Doran Grant in the 4th round.

The offense didn't need much help but they did add a little depth by adding RB DeAngelo Williams in free agency from Carolina and drafted WR Sammie Coates from Auburn. Coates is an intriguing prospect but joins multiple WRs that have similar skills, which is a bit strange unless they plan on moving one of them via trade.

Fantasy starters: QB Ben Roethlisberger, RB La’Veon Bell, WR Antonio Brown
Fantasy bench: WR Martavis Bryant, WR Markus Wheaton, TE Heath Miller, Pitt D
Fantasy Sleeper: WR Sammie Coates

Baltimore Ravens:

The Ravens surprised on defense last season but were inconsistent on offense. They strengthened their offense in hopes of providing some consistency and added a bit of defense to replace a few defections. After losing Torrey Smith in free agency, the Ravens had to get a top WR somehow. They chose to do it in the draft. In another deep draft of wide receivers, they grabbed Breshad Perriman from Central Florida. He fell into the Ravens’ lap at the 26th pick of the 1st round and they were kicking their heels when they turned his name in as their pick. He is big and has amazing speed (4.29 in the 40-yard dash). He is the type of receiver that QB Joe Flacco NEEDS and the Ravens need to help open the middle of the field. In that middle of the field, Steve Smith Jr should have another productive year. The Ravens normally are solid at TE but all they had at that position going into the draft was TE Dennis Pitta, who is coming off of injury-plagued back-to-back years. They solved this problem by drafting the top-ranked TE Max Williams from Minnesota in the 2nd round.

To patch defensive line holes, the Ravens were able to get DT Carl Davis from Iowa in the 3rd round and DE Za’Darius Smith from Kentucky in the 4th round. One item for the fantasy community to note is that the Ravens did add RB Buck Allen from USC in the 4th round. They did catch lightning-in-a-bottle last season with Justin Forsett, but he is not a true pass-catching back and Allen could easily see running and pass-catching action right away this season.

Fantasy starters: QB Joe Flacco, RB Justin Forsett, WR Breshad Perriman
Fantasy bench: WR Steve Smith Jr, Baltimore D
Fantasy Sleeper: TE Max Williams, RB Javorius “Buck” Allen

Cincinnati Bengals:

The Bengals were solid enough on offense and defense to not have too many areas of focus other than injuries and QB Andy Dalton’s performance in the playoffs. They chose to look to their future and to keep their running game intact and Dalton upright by drafting a pair of offensive linemen with their first 2 picks. OT Cedric Ogbuehi from Texas A&M will be a cornerstone for years to come though he will be worked in slowly later this season since he is coming off an ACL tear. OT Jake Fisher from Oregon will make more of an immediate impact this season.

This team drafts tight ends like the Raiders do wide receivers. This year’s draft further solidified that trait with TE Tyler Kroft from Rutgers in the 3rd round and C.J. Uzomah from Auburn in the 5th round. They still have former 1st round pick TE Tyler Eifert on the roster but he had a poor injury-plagued 2014 campaign and they need some production from this position in 2015. Kroft will get the first shot in that spot.

Fantasy starters: RB Jeremy Hill, WR A.J. Green, Cincy D
Fantasy bench: QB Andy Dalton, RB Giovani Bernard, WR Mohamed Sanu
Fantasy Sleeper: TE Tyler Kroft

Cleveland Browns:

Somehow the Browns excelled in the first half of the 2014 season before they played back down to their talent level. Their offense was far too inept for them to actually vie for a playoff spot and was definitely their focus in the off-season. Too bad they have a clueless front office. They replaced mediocre QB Brian Hoyer with mediocre QB Josh McCown. I expect to see him fail this season, as he did in Tampa last season, followed by Johnny Manziel proving that he is a complete NFL Bust and them finding out that Connor Shaw is their best QB on the team and possibility their QB of the Future. I still think RB Terrance West is their best RB but they drafted Duke Johnson from Miami in the 3rd round to add to the mix with Isiah Crowell and repeating the lead RB confusion of 2014.

The Browns lined up the worst starting receiving corps since the scabs played during the NFL strike in 1987. While it is virtually impossible not to improve that unit, they did not do it convincingly with their free agent signings of Dwayne Bowe and Brian Hartline. With back-to-back crops of amazing wide receivers available in the NFL draft, it is inconceivable that an NFL team could have this poor of a unit. It is so bad that 4th round pick Vince Mayle could easily crack the starting lineup in no time.

The defense is by far the better of the two units on the Browns and did actually get a little better with the addition of DT Danny Shelton from Washington. However, if the defense doesn't outscore the opposing offense, I am not sure how they will win many games this year.

Fantasy starters: Not a soul
Fantasy bench: WR Dwayne Bowe, RB Isaiah Crowell, RB Terrance West
Fantasy Sleeper: RB Duke Johnson


AFC East Off-season Changes

Miami Dolphins:

The Dolphins have made a statement heading into 2015 that they are a team to be reckoned with. After a few years of hedging on QB Ryan Tannehill being The Future, they decided to commit to him for 2015 at over $16 million. They did trade away their top WR and TE but reloaded in those areas as well. They added WR Kenny Stills via trade with New Orleans and picked up WR Greg Jennings (in an indirect throw-in from the Vikings in the Mike Wallace trade) and TE Jordan Cameron via free agency from Cleveland after a disappointing 2014 campaign. The biggest addition to the receiver corps came via the draft where the Dolphins added WR DeVante Parker from Louisville. At 6’ 3”, he is the tallest WR in the group. Kenny Stills is the burner of the group and Jarvis Landry the underneath possession receiver, so Parker will be the whole field threat, including the Red Zone. They also added WR Tony Lippett in the 5th round, as well, for additional depth.

After years of disappointment at the running back position, 2014 saw Lamar Miller finally break out with over 1000 yards and 8 TDs. However, I don’t feel like the Dolphins management are sold on him and will be looking to give 5th round pick Jay Agayi some early season reps and see what he can do and if the concerns about his knee (“bone on bone”) are a valid long-term concern.

The Dolphins D were a middle-of-the-pack defense in 2014, but they are expected to take a big step forward in 2015. They landed the biggest defensive prize in free agency in the form of Ndamukong Suh. They paid a LOT for him, but, if he stays out of trouble, he is definitely a difference maker. The Dolphins also added DT Jordan Phillips from Oklahoma in the 2nd round of the draft. Playing alongside a Suh should boost Phillips’ game since Suh will see constant double-teams.

Fantasy starters: QB Ryan Tannehill, RB Lamar Miller, WR DeVante Parker, WR Kenny Stills, Dolphins D
Fantasy bench: WR Jarvis Landry, WR Greg Jennings, TE Jordan Cameron
Fantasy Sleeper: RB Jay Agayi

New York Jets:

The Jets decided to oust their coach and then proceeded to vastly improve the one area that he took pride in. After giving Rex Ryan his pink slip, the Jets promptly signed CB Darrelle Revis to a monster contract and paired him, once again, with CB Antonio Cromartie, who also signed a very nice contract in free agency. These two will help hide the Jets’ deficiencies at linebacker with their single coverage. Up front, they had the top defensive lineman in Leonard Williams fall into their lap at the 6th pick. The defense may be the most improved unit on either side of the ball in the NFL.

On the offensive side of the ball, they picked up RB Zac Stacy from St. Louis for virtually a plane ticket and oft-injured Stevan Ridley in free agency to add to a crowded, but talented, backfield. At the WR position, they added Brandon Marshall for a low draft pick and drafted WR Devin Smith from Ohio State to line up with carry-over WR Eric Decker. Smith has the speed that the other receivers do not have. While the Jets do not have a QB under contract that scares a defensive with deep accuracy, every team does need a threat to stretch the field a bit. That being said, the key to this team will be at the QB position. Can Geno Smith turn the corner in 2015? If not, the Jets will be quick to bench him in favor of veteran journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick. Adding Bryce Petty via the draft won’t factor much into 2015 but he was a nice value pick in the 4th round for the future.

Fantasy starters: WR Brandon Marshall, Jets D
Fantasy bench: RB Chris Ivory, WR Eric Decker
Fantasy Sleeper: RB Devin Smith, TE Jace Amaro

New England Patriots:

The biggest question right now is what kind of penalty will Tom Brady be looking at for Deflategate? It could be a large fine, but it sure seems like the NFL will be handing down a multi-game suspension. Will it be 2 games or 6? The Under/Over at the offshore sportsbooks puts it at 3.5 games. With the big losses on defense; Vince Wilfork, Brandon Browner and Darrelle Revis, this team was bound to take a step back this year regardless of the suspension. They did get DT Malcom Brown from Texas with the last pick of the 1st round, which was an absolute steal, but the NFL learning curve is steep for a rookie DT. The same thing can be said for 2nd round pick S Jordan Richards from Stanford. Nice pick, but expect to see him get educated on the playing field.

They added zero players on offense that weren’t under contract last season. I expect to see WR Danny Amendola take a step forward this year based on being healthy and finally getting to play a role in the offense after being under contract for two seasons.

Fantasy starters: QB Tom Brady, RB LeGarrett Blount, TE Rob Gronkowski, WR Julian Edelman, WR Brandon LaFell
Fantasy bench: RB Jonas Gray
Fantasy Sleeper: WR Danny Amendola

Buffalo Bills:

The Bills made their biggest splashes in the off-season by signing coach Rex Ryan and trading for RB LeSean McCoy. They had one of the best defenses in the league last season and that should continue under Ryan this season. McCoy is a big improvement over the running back by committee approach of injury-prone running backs that Buffalo has been rolling out the past few years. They also added veteran QB Matt Cassel to replace the veteran QB Kyle Orton after he retired. Ryan will run a QB competition this summer but one would believe that E.J. Manuel would need to greatly outshine Cassel to get the starting nod from Rex Ryan. The Bills have stud WR Sammy Watkins but were lacking a running mate until they brought WR Percy Harvin along in free agency with Ryan from the Jets.

Giving up their first round pick this year in a trade last season to get Watkins limited their high end draft picks and they did little with what they had left though they seemed to favor Florida State grads; taking CB Ronald Darby in the 2nd round, RB Karlos Williams in the 5th round and TE Nick O’Leary in the 6th round. The Bills have been looking for a solid TE option for years and O’Leary could end up filling that role.

Fantasy starters: RB LeSean McCoy, WR Sammy Watkins, TE Charles Clay
Fantasy bench: RB Fred Jackson, WR Percy Harvin
Fantasy Sleeper: TE Nick O’Leary

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Daily Fantasy Sports Expo

Bill will be speaking at the Daily Fantasy Sports Expo being held in Miami, FL August 6-7. He will be talking about different configuration options and games available in the Daily Fantasy Football space in place of the popular Salary Cap games. You can find out more about the Expo at http://fantasysportsexpo.com/.
The event will be at the Miami Beach Convention Center, located at 1901 Convention Center Drive, Miami, FL.  http://goo.gl/pbXVd4