NFL Week 6 Fantasy Mailbag

The Arizona Cardinals are playing like a Madden team on Easy Mode right now. If you started a whole lineup of Cardinals players last weekend, I have a feeling you would have done pretty well…

QB – Carson Palmer: 11/14, 161 pass yards, 3 TD

RB – Chris Johnson: 103 yards

RB – Andre Ellington: 63 yards, 1 TD

WR – Larry Fitzgerald: 5 catches, 58 yards, 1 TD

WR – John Brown: 4 catches, 73 yards, 1 TD

TE – Darren Fells: 2 catches, 25 yards, 1 TD

Flex – David Johnson: 3 carries, 6 yards, 2 TD

DEF – 2 Forced Fumbles, 4 INT, 1 Sack

K – Chandler Catanzaro – 6/6 PAT

I don’t know if the Cardinals will sustain these video game numbers all season, but I don’t see it slowing down this weekend in Pittsburgh. The Steelers have the worst pass defense in the league at this point, so Carson Palmer owners should be pumped. St. Louis boasted the only viable defense Arizona faced and beat them at home, however…

Quick Hits

  • Tonight the Atlanta Falcons take their 5-0 record to the Super Dome, and hope to stay undefeated with the help of Devonta Freeman. In Freeman’s last 3 games, he’s averaging 179.6 yards from scrimmage per game (539 total). He’s also leading the league in touchdowns with 8, 7 over those last 3 games, all on the ground. Freeman faces a Saints defense that is allowing the 3rd most rush yards in the league.

Freeman Week 6

  • In the last 3 weeks, Browns TE Gary Barnidge has recorded 20 receptions for 319 yards and 3 touchdowns. His pass catching total in that time is HALF of his entire career total, and he’s 30. Barnidge’s production has attributed to his quarterback’s incredible run as well. Josh McCown is averaging 384 yards and 2 touchdowns over his last 3 games, but now runs into a buzz saw with Denver coming to town. The Broncos pass defense is tops in the league with the kind of pass rushers that always seem to bring McCown back to Earth. Barnidge will be his best option to survive as the Broncos allowed 60+ receiving yards to Eric Ebron, Travis Kelce and Clive Walford.

Barnidge Week 6

  • The #TomBradyRevengeTour heads to where it all started this weekend. I imagine the Colts had this game circled on their calendar in the preseason, expected it to be Brady’s first game after a 4-game suspension, and would try to settle whatever score they had over a football they thought wasn’t inflated enough…In reality, the Colts are dealing with Wyatt Earp on his rampage in Tombstone. They’ve only won when their franchise quarterback has sat out and Brady is throwing 11 touchdowns and no interceptions coming in with fully inflated footballs. Brady is also throwing to two matchup nightmares in Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman. Edelman is averaging 99.75 yards per game, 8.5 catches, and has 3 touchdowns as well. 

Mail Time!

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I start with Duke Johnson Jr, especially in PPR. Denver is very good against the run, yes, but they are susceptible to pass catching backs. Isaiah Crowell got his numbers last week against Baltimore, but Johnson had as many touches and was the feature back down the stretch. I expect Cleveland to be trailing and throwing. The Duke is their man in that scenario.

Next I lean toward Ronnie Hillman, partially because Ameer Abdullah is in the winless Jim Caldwell’s doghouse for fumble issues. Hillman goes against a horrendous Browns run-defense that is allowing 5 yards per carry. If neither Hillman or CJ Anderson can get it going against Cleveland, I would then recommend looking elsewhere.

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When the Chargers are trailing, Danny Woodhead is getting a majority of the workload from Melvin Gordon. I know you’re fully aware of what the Packers are capable of scoring-wise, so you should expect Woodhead to get plenty of work. I don’t trust Abdullah’s usage at this point in the season like I do Theo Riddick’s.

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As I pointed out earlier, the McCown thing has been fun but he’s in for a rude awakening this weekend. While the Falcons defense is improved, the only decent quarterback they’ve faced is Eli Manning (that was a struggle for me to type). Drew Brees has thrown 335+ yards in 3 of his 4 games and seems to have figured something out with Willie Snead and Ben Watson downfield. Go with the proven player in a better matchup this weekend, Breesus. If McCown can match his production from the past 3 weeks against Denver, then I’ll start to believe in his hype.

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Really aren’t making this easy, are ya?

Hillman is your best option against a bad Cleveland run defense. Already said why I don’t like Abdullah. Golden Tate could burn the Bears secondary, which has improved in coverage recently, but I don’t like Stafford against their pass rush. And Pierre Garcon has a one-way ticket to Revis Island.

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QB: Is Blake Bortles available? He’s probably better than all four in a spot start going up against Houston. Out of the 4 though, at least McCown done something worth writing home about in recent weeks. Tyrod looks doubtful this week, so I would prioritize McCown (1) then Mariota (2).

WR: Already mentioned why I don’t like Pierre this week, and really it’s now or never for Jordan Matthews. In their first meeting, Matthews had 8 catches, 105 yards and 1 TD against Philly. I don’t know if he’ll get the same numbers, but the gameplan is there…as opposed to Garcon vs. a stellar Jets pass D.

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(1) – Breesus.

(2) – Sammy Watkins says he’s planning to return, and I believe him. I would also go with him over Martavis. Shaky quarterback situation, but at least he’s the #1 pass option. Both he and Bryant are taking on tough pass defenses, and Bryant has to work his way into a WR group with Antonio Brown and Michael Vick’s new favorite target, Darius Heyward-Bey.

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Alshon Jeffery is FINALLY getting work in practice, which is encouraging to me. If he plays, he’s a must-start with the way Jay Cutler is playing as of late…If he doesn’t go, Rueben Randle (if healthy) is your next best option. Stevie Johnson becomes even less valuable with Antonio Gates back (and Philip Rivers’ obsession with Gates). And Torrey Smith is currently stuck in the worst offensive dumpster fire in the league.

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Not a great passing matchup for either quarterback at all. I see both quarterbacks having to make more plays with their feet than their arms, but I also see Russell Wilson benefitting more from Marshawn Lynch returning for play-action. That, plus the defensive backs that Cam will be throwing against, gives Cam the slight edge.

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There really isn’t a team in the league who doesn’t have viable fantasy options. I mentioned San Francisco being a dumpster fire, but they do have Carlos Hyde finding life again against a tough Giants defense.

Bad teams also always adjust their identity as the season continues, which allows the emergence of diamonds in the rough. As the Jaguars went on their slow death march a year ago, they committed to running the ball and Denard Robinson became a consistent 100 yard rusher for at least a month. And as team’s with bad defenses consistently have to play from behind, there’s always a wide receiver benefitting from the “catchup” mentality with garbage time targets and yardage.

Players individually are a different story. I gave up on Jonathan Stewart after 3 weeks of no production, and I don’t blame other owners for doing the same with CJ Anderson. When a top half draft pick doesn’t give you much return after the first quarter, you either try to flip him, or relegate him to your bench and wait for him to turn it around.

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RB: Crowell’s game against Denver is way less effective than the Duke’s. That alone has me leaning toward Miller, and I like your thinking. New play-calling and a new attitude can’t hurt Lamar Miller’s usage.

WR/T: I am no longer a James Jones hater like I was for the first 3 weeks of the season. His 5 touchdowns with Rodgers tossing them makes him WR2 value for anyone. Then I go with Tyler Eifert against a Buffalo defense that his given up too much against tight ends this season…If your league gives points for returning yards, Jarvis Landry shoots the top of your group.

Have more lineup questions? Feel free to ask on both Facebook and Twitter! Also, don’t hesitate to post any questions for next week’s Mailbag. Good luck this weekend! 

Fantasy Cheat Sheet 2015: Wide Receivers

As the NFL trends toward more passing and scoring, the receiver position has become more and more valuable. If you play in a PPR league, receivers are as important and some even more than running backs.

There are a handful of WRs who are worth taking before the big producing quarterbacks (Luck & Rodgers), and one who can be as good as any player in the league. Here’s my Top 40 to help you prepare for your upcoming draft. 

1. Antonio Brown, PIT

Antonio

2014: 1,698 receiving yards, 129 catches, 15 TDs, 319 return yards

Brown is probably the best offensive weapon in football. Incredible speed, always has the ball thrown his way, and he scores from everywhere on the field. Has also proven it 2 years in a row

Pick: Middle-Late 1st Round

2. Odell Beckham Jr, NYG

ODB

2014: 1,305 receiving yards, 91 catches, 12 TDs, 171 return

ODB accumulated those numbers playing less games than most starting NFL receivers. Absolute difference maker for fantasy teams and carried some to the playoffs and championship last year.

Pick: Late 1st Round

3. Demaryius Thomas, DEN

Damaryius

2014: 1,619 rec yards, 111 catches, 11 TDs

Manning has a year or two left and he’s going to go out guns blazing. Thomas is his go-to guy with both Julius Thomas and Welker gone. Expect him to get the ball early and often.

Pick: 2nd Round

4. Dez Bryant, DAL

ns_08cowsGIANTS_26

2014: 1,320 rec yards, 88 catches, 16 TDs

Dez is the best in the red zone. Without a designated feature running back, expect Romo to be throwing more than last year and likely throwing to Dez.

Pick 2nd Round

5. Julio Jones, ATL

Julio Jones, Quentin Jammer

2014: 1,593 rec yards, 104 catches, 7 TDs

Julio used to have an annual injury that holds him out for significant time but he held his own pretty well last year. One of the fastest guys on the field, even when injured, and Matt Ryan’s favorite target.

Pick 2nd Round

6. Calvin Johnson, DET

Wild Card Playoffs - Detroit Lions v New Orleans Saints

2014: 1,077 rec yards, 71 catches, 8 TDs

It’s weird ranking Megatron behind multiple guys, but he is getting older and coming off of an injury plagued season. Healed up, he still has the ability to win games by himself, and I trust him the most on the Lions roster.

Pick: Late 2nd Round

7. AJ Green, CIN

AJ

2014: 1,041 rec yards, 69 catches, 6 TDs

Big reason for Andy Dalton’s drop-off was AJ Green’s injury last year. Green is back healthy and will be as solid as ever if Cincinnati sets him up with their running game.

Pick: Late 2nd – Early 3rd 

8. Randall Cobb, GB

Cobb

2014: 1,287 rec yards, 91 catches, 12 TDs, 112 return

Ridiculous how Cobb and Nelson were able to have such high numbers last season, but that’s how it works in the Green Bay system. With Nelson down, Cobb jumps up in value, but by how much? That’ll depend on how the next man up performs?

Pick: 2nd-Early 3rd Round

9. Alshon Jeffery, CHI

NFL: Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings

2014: 1,133 rec yards, 85 catches, 10 TDs

Alshon has a chance to be a superstar with Brandon Marshall gone. He’ll be expected to play a Demaryius Thomas role in the new Bears system that will be set up by the run. Eddie Royal in the slot will also help get Jeffery open. He’s missed time in the preseason due to injury but is expected to be good to go for Week 1.

Pick: 3rd Round

10. TY Hilton, IND

T.Y. Hilton

2014: 1,345 rec yards, 82 catches, 7 TDs

Colts still added a few more weapons for Andrew Luck, but T.Y.’s still the #1 guy. He’s always downfield and, if anything, Andre Johnson will help him get more open.

Pick: 3rd Round

11. Mike Evans, TB

NFL: Preseason-Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Buffalo Bills

2014: 1,051 rec yards, 68 catches, 12 TDs

Jameis Winston looks okay so far this preseason and is a much better quarterback than Josh McCown. All Mike Evans needs is someone who can throw the ball down field and he’ll go get it. 

Pick: 4th Round

12. DeAndre Hopkins, HOU

Hopkins

2014: 1,210 rec yards, 76 catches, 6 TDs

This will be the guy that jumps up people’s draft boards because of Hard Knocks. This time, I think it will be justified because DeAndre is the best player on that offense not named Arian Foster (who is out because of injury). Brian Hoyer was just named the starting QB, and Hopkins should feel better about his consistency. 

Pick: 4th Round

13. Emmanuel Sanders, DEN

San Diego Chargers v Denver Broncos

2014: 1,404 rec yards, 101 catches, 9 TDs

Sanders went under the radar as one of the most productive WRs last year, and he’s going under the radar here too because of the low expectations for Peyton Manning. Just like Randall Cobb a year ago, Sanders gets open when Thomas gets more attention. Could be a really good WR2.

Pick 4th Round

14. Brandin Cooks, NO

Cooks

2014: 550 rec yards, 53 catches, 3 TDs

Cooks started last season as one of the best rookie WRs in a great class…and then got hurt. If Breesus is going to bounce back after an up-and-down season, Cooks will be the key to that. Best athlete on their team.

Pick 4th or 5th Round

15. Jordan Matthews, PHI

Matthews

2014: 872 rec yards, 67 catches, 8 TDs

Philly is trying to sell people on Matthews being a stud, but the truth is that there is nobody better ahead of him. If Jeremy Maclin’s #1 receiver production a year ago is any indication, the Chip Kelly system may pay off big time for owners. 

Pick 5th Round

16. Andre Johnson, IND

Andre

2014: 936 rec yards, 86 catches, 3 TDs

Andre dealt with a really bad quarterback situation in Houston the past few years but also wasn’t getting open in the end zone. With so many weapons demanding coverage for Indy, he will have better opportunities to score. Andrew Luck will see to that.

Pick 6th Round

17. Golden Tate, DET

Golden

2014: 1,331 rec yards, 99 catches, 4 TDs

Based on last year’s production, Tate should ranked higher. A lot of that was thanks to Megatron either being hurt or drawing coverage away from him. I wouldn’t expect the same catch and yardage numbers, but he would make a solid low end WR2/Flex guy.

Pick 6th Round

18. Julian Edelman, NE

Edelman

2014: 972 rec yards, 92 catches, 5 TDs, 299 return

Tom Brady’s favorite receiver will have to step it up if #12 misses any time. Not very consistent but gets a lot of catches for PPR and will pick up those random return yards that make you mad if you sat him. (Personal experience)

Pick 6th or 7th Round

19. Brandon Marshall, NYJ

Brandon Marshall

2014: 721 rec yards, 61 catches, 8 TDs

Brandon Marshall’s starting quarterback just got punched in the face and is out 6-10 weeks with a broken jaw. The Jets don’t have any quarterbacks and Marshall isn’t getting any younger either. I would also be worried about his injuries from last season being a sign that he may miss time again. Still has potential to have big TD games, but I wouldn’t depend on him for yardage.

Pick 7th Round

20. Amari Cooper, OAK

Amari

Rookie

Definitely the best of the rookies in this year’s class. Could give you great value if he plays to his potential right away. Fast and has knack for getting to the end zone.

Pick 7th Round

21. Keenan Allen, SD

Keenan

2014: 783 rec yards, 77 catches, 4 TDs

Allen was one of the most targeted players in the league last year but wasn’t making the catches. He settled in later on, but the Chargers seem like a run heavy team going into the season. With Eddie Royal gone, he’ll definitely get more attention from Rivers (Batman-Woo!)

Pick 7th Round

22. DeSean Jackson, WAS

NFL: Washington Redskins at Philadelphia Eagles

2014: 1,169 rec yards, 56 catches, 6 TDs

I don’t like the Washington offense at all. RG-III is a broken player and that makes DeSean a hit or miss player. He’ll have great games because of speed, but then he’ll be invisible because nobody can get him the ball.

Pick 8th Round

23. Sammy Watkins, BUF

Sammy

2014: 982 rec yards, 65 catches, 6 TDs

Sammy is clearly the best receiver in Buffalo, but the bad trio of quarterbacks battling for the starting spot make you worried as to how consistent his production will be. They are going to run a lot and that may open things up for Sammy. WR isn’t a very valuable position on Rex Ryan teams.

Pick 8th Round

24. Jarvis Landry, MIA

Landry

2014: 758 rec yards, 84 catches, 5 TDs, 1,158 return

Landry was an under-the-radar productive rookie last year and I expect him to play even better in his second year. With Wallace gone, he’ll be much more depended on by Tannehill.

Pick 8th Round

25. Davante Adams, GB

Davante

2014: 446 rec yards, 38 catches, 3 TD

Davante just became a lot more valuable with Jordy being lost for the season. Week 1 will be an audition for him to see if he can fill the role opposite Cobb. He had flashes last season but also dropped some important passes. The best bet is to draft him later and take the risk than pass up on Rodgers’s next best WR.

Pick 8th Round

26. Victor Cruz, NYG

Cruz

2014: 337 yards, 23 catches, 1 TD

With two knee surgeries in as many years and currently a calf injury that is keeping out of the Giants’ 3rd preseason game, Victor Cruz seems like a liability going into the 2015 season. Cruz is confident he’ll be good to go in Week 1 and could put up his old production with defenses paying more attention to Beckham. 

Pick 8th Round

27. Eric Decker, NYJ

Decker

2014: 962 rec yards, 74 catches, 5 TDs

Oddly, I trust Eric Decker more than I do Brandon Marshall in New York. You can see Marshall getting double-teamed and opening things up over the middle and deep for Decker, which is something that works better for Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback…Marshall is going to hate Fitzpatrick.

Pick: 8th Round

28. Jeremy Maclin, KC

Maclin

2014: 1,318 rec yards, 85 catches, 10 TDs

Maclin was one of the best receivers in the league last year. Unfortunately, Alex Smith is his quarterback now. Kansas City WRs didn’t catch a TD pass until the backend of the season. Maclin may improve those numbers reuniting with Andy Reid, so he could be steal here.

Pick 8th Round

29. Roddy White, ATL

Roddy

2014: 921 rec yards, 80 catches, 7 TDs

Roddy is a pass catching machine and sometimes gets to the end zone. His issue in recent years is staying healthy, but should benefit from Julio getting most of the attention.

Pick 9th Round

30. Mike Wallace, MIN

Wallace

2014: 862 rec yards, 67 catches, 10 TD

Wallace is very good at finding the end zone and is the most proven among the Vikings receivers. As Teddy Bridgewater gets more comfortable as an NFL quarterback, I would trust Wallace the most in the group.

Pick 9th Round

31. Steve Smith Sr., BAL

Smith Sr.

2014: 1,065 rec yards, 79 catches, 6 TD

I expect Steve Smith to go way too early in drafts because he’s a name people know. It’s his last season, so he’s going to try to ball out, but that’s only going to work if Joe Flacco can get him the ball. The WR group in Baltimore is pretty thin so if Flacco is playing well, so will Smith Sr.

Pick 9th round

32. Anquan Boldin, SF

Boldin

2014: 1,062 rec yards, 83 catches, 5 TDs

Boldin is a badass and he has good chemistry with Kaepernick. You can expect, the Niners to play a lot of catchup this season because their defense is so depleted, which means Boldin will be getting a lot of targets.

Pick 9th Round

33. John Brown, AZ

NFL: St. Louis Rams at Arizona Cardinals

2014: 696 rec yards, 48 catches, 5 TDs

Among the Cardinals receivers, John Brown is the Home Run player for Carson Palmer to throw to downfield. May be boom or bust if Michael Floyd returns and stays healthy. Theoretically can be open a lot if Larry Fitzgerald and Floyd draw most of the coverage. 

Pick 10th Round

34. Vincent Jackson, TB

VJax

2014: 1002 rec yards, 70 catches, 2 TDs

I always feel like VJax would be a better player on a different team, but he makes due with the quarterbacks throwing to him. If Jameis Winston is able to read defenses quickly, VJax will benefit from it. Mike Evans will be the first option, but the floor isn’t very low on VJax either.

Pick 10th Round

35. Allen Robinson, JAX

ARob

2014: 548 rec yards, 48 catches, 2 TDs

It’s easier to trust Jacksonville RBs than their WRs, but Allen Robinson can be a stud. His problem is staying healthy, as he broke his foot last year after heating up. Blake Bortles can sling it though, so keep an eye on A-Rob late.

Pick 10th Round

36. Eddie Royal, CHI

Royal

2014: 778 rec yards, 62 catches, 7 TDs

I think Eddie Royal is going to surprise a lot of people this year with the Bears. He’s reunited with Jay Cutler, and both players had their best statistical seasons playing together. Royal provides something Cutler hasn’t had in years, which is a true slot receiver. So as Alshon Jeffery is getting covered deep and Martellus Bennett is drawing attention, Royal will be open in the middle.

Pick 10th Round

37. Kendall Wright, TEN

Wright

2014: 715 rec yards, 57 catches, 6 TDs

Kendall Wright has been inconsistent for a long time, and part of that is thanks to bad quarterbacks being in Tennessee. Early reviews though, are that he’s playing well in practice with Marcus Mariota and that’s encouraging. If Mariota transitions well, he should be able to extend plays with his feet and that helps Wright downfield a lot.

Pick 11th Round

38. Stevie Johnson, SD

Stevie

2014: 435 rec yards, 35 catches, 3 TD

Stevie was in a bad situation with San Francisco, as that offense turned out to be a mess. In San Diego, he’ll be depended on a lot more especially with Antonio Gates out for the first 4 weeks. Coaches say that he can average 7+ catches, which could make him a steal this far back.

Pick 11th Round or later

39. Nelson Agholor, PHI

Algohor

Rookie

Agholor is expected to do big things for the Eagles as they selected him in the first round. He’s now taking 1st team reps, and should be a starter Week 1. If Chip Kelly’s weird offense works, Agholor could be big if Jordan Matthews is getting the attention most people expect him to.

Pick 11th round or later

40. Michael Floyd, AZ

Floyd

2014: 841 rec yards, 47 catches, 6 TD

Floyd is returning from a dislocated finger injury but is on track to be ready for Week 1. If he can stay on the field, Floyd can do big things as John Brown takes the top off opposing defenses. Potential steal late in your draft. 

Draft 11th Round or later. 

Do your rankings look different? Let me know on Facebook and Twitter

Also…

Quarterbacks Cheat Sheet

Running Backs Cheat Sheet

Tight Ends Cheat Sheet

Defenses & Kickers Cheat Sheet

Can I Draft My Fantasy Football Team Yet?

Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game Week is the MOST boring period in the sports calendar year. If you can think of another one, I’d be happy to hear it (while I mute Chris Berman on my TV)…

Rather than mope and complain further about a silly game that, for some reason, decides home field advantage in the World Series, I’m going to do something healthier…like look ahead to September 10th when the 2015 NFL season starts (coincidentally, my birthday).

Kelce Ric Flair

Going into my 10th year as a Fantasy commissioner, I may be looking forward to this upcoming season more than most. The wide receiver pool is incredibly deep, running backs are as unpredictable as ever, and Peyton Manning isn’t the end-all, be-all anymore (but is Aaron Rodgers?). More importantly, I’m hungry. My team rebounded from an 0-6 start and went all the way to the championship…and I want my 4th Fantasy Title.

If you were following this site during the Fall last year, then you know that EVERY THURSDAY was Fantasy Mailbag Day. Each week, we recapped the highlights from the previous weekend, looked at trends and match-ups, and answered all your questions from Facebook and Twitter. Thanks to everyone’s participation last year, we’re going to do it again starting in August!

As we get closer to kickoff in September, I’ll release my personal rankings for each position (There are spread sheets, dude. SPREAD. SHEETS.). As for now, I have thoughts and question on my mind that need unloading or else the small part of my brain that stores these things will explode. If you also have thoughts and questions, I’d love to hear them.

Rivers hates his helmet

DeMarco Murray and LeSean McCoy

The two marquee NFC East rival running backs of yesteryear will be suiting up in new uniforms this coming Fall. DeMarco Murray answered questions that he could actually stay healthy for an entire season, earned Offensive Player of the Year honors by picking up 2,261 yards from scrimmage and scored 13 touchdowns all on the ground. The Dallas Cowboys awarded him by letting him walk in free agency…to the arch rival Philadelphia Eagles. Murray had nearly 400 attempts rushing last season and with a mess at the Eagles’ quarterback position, he shouldn’t expect the carries to be cutdown too much. Murray is backed up by Darren Sproles and fellow addition Ryan Matthews, but he should still be getting the rock plenty of times…especially in the red zone.

LeSean McCoy was the league’s leading rusher a year before Murray, still ran for over 1,300 yards, but only scored 5 touchdowns. With an opportunity to upgrade the defense adding Kiko Alonso (and maybe some intel on what would would happen with Murray), Chip Kelly traded McCoy to the Buffalo Bills. Weird accusations from McCoy aside, he may be in a more interesting spot than people realize. New Bills coach Rex Ryan added former Niners offensive coordinator Greg Roman to his staff. If you want to project McCoy’s 2015 season, I recommend looking at how Roman used Frank Gore and the other 49er running backs. McCoy averaged 313 carries the past two seasons while Gore averaged 267 over the last four seasons. The cut in workload could keep McCoy fresher, but so should the depth that includes Fred Jackson and rookie Karlos Williams. The ageless Jackson is used to splitting touches and compliments McCoy well. Williams makes a better change-of-pace back than anything in the crowded backfield.

Breakout Running Backs

The running back position saw a lot of action on last season’s fantasy waiver wire and free agency.  If you did your due diligence though, you made plays on Justin Forsett, CJ Anderson, Jeremy Hill and Lamar Miller that paid off well.

  • On his 5th team and at the age of 29, Forsett had his first full-season workload and led all running backs in yards per carry (5.4). He ranked 5th in rush yards (1,266), and scored 8 touchdowns total. Forsett gained 263 yards on 44 receptions, but that could increase significantly with former Bears head coach Marc Trestman calling plays. Matt Forte broke the record for receptions by a running back last season with 102, and former Raiders running back Charlie Garner caught 91 passes in 2002 with Trestman as OC.
  • Anderson came on late in the season but was on the radar as the Broncos dealt with injuries to Ronnie Hillman and Montee Ball. Starting the last 7 games of the season while Manning was clearly not 100%, Anderson averaged 167 yards from scrimmage per game and scored 10 touchdowns. Assuming he’s earned the starting running back spot after being named to the Pro Bowl, Anderson should benefit more from new head coach Gary Kubiak’s zone running schemes that made Forsett and Arian Foster into Pro Bowlers as well.
  • Like Anderson, Hill saw his carries increase in the second half of the season as he leap frogged Giovani Bernard for playing time following an injury. Hill scored 3 touchdowns through 5 games with limited carries to start the season but then really racked up the yards from Week 8 on, averaging 103 yards per game. Bengals OC Hue Jackson intends on having Hill be the starter again and anticipates he and Bernard becoming a great 1-2 punch.
  • I was happy to see Miller have the season he did in 2014. He set out to be like LeSean McCoy after training with him and preparing for a Chip Kelly-like offense, took over for Knowshon Moreno after Week 2, and never looked back. Miller was Top 10 in both total rush yards and rushing touchdowns for the season, had the longest run of the season at 97 yards, and capped the season off with 170+ yard rushing performance. There isn’t any real threat to take carries from Miller this year other than 5th round draft pick Jay Ajayi from Boise State.

Lamar Miller TD

Any Sophomore Slumps for Receivers?

In 2014, rookie wide receivers were all the rage. 3 rookies recorded 1,000+ yards, Odell Beckham Jr. (1,305), Mike Evans (1,051), and Kelvin Benjamin (1,008). Sammy Watkins was close with 982 yards on 65 catches. Both Beckham and Evans caught 12 touchdown passes, while Benjamin recorded 9 and Martavis Bryant had 8. Also challenging Beckham for the 93 receptions he had in 11 games was Jarvis Landry with 84 for 758 yards.

All six receivers have potential to be stars in 2015, adding excellent depth to a fantasy draft board full of point producing wide receivers. Beckham’s production down the stretch last season may even warrant a first round pick in leagues with more teams. Evans will have a rookie quarterback throwing to him who is, at the very least, better than Josh McCown. Benjamin is still the best target for the Panthers and newly paid Cam Newton, with tight end Greg Olson drawing some coverage away. Another year playing alongside Antonio Brown will help Bryant improve (Ben Roethlisberger can’t throw EVERY pass to Brown, right?), and Landry will benefit from Ryan Tannehill just getting better every year.

Unfortunately, hopes aren’t so high for Watkins as the starting quarterback position is a battle between Matt Cassel and EJ Manuel (yeesh). If Watkins can stay healthy and the run-oriented system softens opposing secondaries, he may have a chance to improve on his numbers from last year…I just wouldn’t bank on it.

Sammy Watikins tackeld

I could go on all day with Fantasy Football thoughts, but I’d like to hear from you. Feel free to comment or Tweet @Mike_PiFF03. And keep a look out for position previews in the upcoming weeks!