Fantasy Cheat Sheet 2015: Tight Ends

You have to love how the Tight End position has evolved over the years. Every since Tony Gonzalez hit the scene, former basketball players and big wide receivers have converted into heavy hitters in Fantasy Football. 

I wouldn’t take one in the first round, but here are my Top 20 and where you should look to take them.

1.Rob Gronkowski, NE

Gronk

2014: 1,124 rec yards, 82 catches, 12 TD

Regardless if it’s Brady throwing or if it’s Garoppolo, Gronk will smash. However, he’s not going to be 1st round worthy like he’s projected. Great player but he won’t carry your team enough to give up picking a high end point producing skilled player.

Pick 2nd Round

2. Jimmy Graham, SEA

Graham

2014: 889 rec yards, 85 catches, 10 TDs

Graham was a bit inconsistent last season, partially thanks to Drew Brees and being injured. He’s being downplayed in Seattle, but I think he’s a perfect fit with Russell Wilson. Could be a touchdown machine.

Pick 3rd Round

3. Martellus Bennett, CHI

Bears vs. Vikings

2014: 916 rec yards, 90 catches, 6 TDs

Martysaurus could do big things this season. “Denver-Julius Thomas” big things. He was spread out in the first preseason game like Thomas was in the Gase system, and that makes him dangerous around the end zone. He was targeted nearly as much as Gronk last season and that shouldn’t change.

Pick 4th or 5th Round

4. Greg Olsen, CAR

G-Reg

2014: 1008 rec yards, 84 catches, 6 TDs

Olsen and Benjamin are Cam’s best two offensive options again this year. Olsen seems to be more helpful in between the 20s and that helps for reception and yard points.

Pick 5th Round

5. Travis Kelce, KC

Kelce

2014: 862 rec yards, 67 catches, 5 TDs

Kelce is solid and seems more reliable for Alex Smith than his receivers are. The offense runs through Jamaal Charles but on 3rd down and in the red zone, Kelce is key.

Pick 5th or 6th Round

6. Jason Witten, DAL

Witten

2014: 704 rec yards, 64 catches, 5 TDs

The more unsure we get about the Cowboys running backs, the better I feel about Tony Romo throwing more to Bryant and Witten. Witten isn’t as athletic as he used to be, but he is gets the job done.

Pick 7th Round

7. Jordan Cameron, MIA

Cameron

2014: 424 rec yards, 24 catches, 2 TDs

Cameron dealt with a mess last year in Cleveland. I would expect him to bounce back pretty well with Tannehill at quarterback, who will benefit from having a bigger target in the red zone.

Pick 7th Round

8. Zach Ertz, PHI

Ertz

2014: 702 rec yards, 58 catches, 3 TDs

If the Eagles quarterbacks are going to be any good, they’re going to have to rely heavily on Ertz, who is the best pass catcher they have. He’ll also be valuable as a compliment to pounding the rock with Murray.

Pick 7th Round

9. Delanie Walker, TEN

Delanie

2014: 890 rec yards, 63 catches 4 TDs

A rookie quarterback’s best friend is his tight end, and Delanie Walker is a fast one. Walker missed the first preseason game because he was coming back from a thumb injury, but I expect him to help calm Mariota’s nerves in no time.

Pick 8th Round

10. Kyle Rudolph, MIN

Denver Broncos v Minnesota Vikings

2014: 231 rec yards, 24 catches, 2 TDs

I think Rudolph will be a steal in mid to late rounds because Vikings OC Norv Turner LOVES his tight ends. Rudolph was banged up a bit last season but should play well with a further developed Bridgewater at quarterback.

Has 8th Round Value but you’ll find him available 10th round

11. Julius Thomas, JAX

Julius

2014: 489 rec yards, 43 catches, 12 TDs

Thomas was successful because of Peyton Manning and the Adam Gase offense. Now he’s in Jacksonville where star players can’t stay healthy and longtime Jaguars TE Marcedes Lewis is also there. Thomas won’t get as many looks but has a chance to prove that he’s better than just a system receiver.

Pick 8th Round

12. Dwayne Allen, IND

Dwayne

2014: 395 rec yards, 29 catches, 8 TDs

Coby Fleener is also in Indy, but Dwayne Allen is the better receiver in the end zone. Luck targeted Allen 50 times last season, and I expect that to go up with Gore established in the run game.

Pick 10th Round

13. Owen Daniels, DEN

Daniels

2014: 527 rec yards, 48 catches, 4 TDs

Broncos HC Gary Kubiak always brings his favorite TE along, “old reliable” Owen Daniels. Sometimes Daniels looked very good as a TD threat, and a lot of times he was nowhere to be found. Decent late round backup

Pick 11th Round

14. Larry Donnell, NYG

Donnell

2014: 623 rec yards, 64 catches, 6 TDs

Larry Donnell is dealing with tendonitis in his Achilles but the Giants don’t seem worried about him missing Week 1. He put together some of the best games for tight ends, and sometimes didn’t do much at all. Expect him to be much more consistent in year 2 of the new offensive system.

Pick 11th Round

15. Jordan Reed, WAS

Screen Shot 2015-08-25 at 8.06.06 PM

2014: 465 rec yards, 50 catches

With Niles Paul out for the season, Jordan Reed is the man for Washington. RG-III plays well with TEs, especially in the red zone, and Reed is an excellent weapon when healthy.

Pick 12th Round

16. Antonio Gates, SD

Screen Shot 2015-08-25 at 8.09.40 PM

2014: 821 rec yards, 69 catches, 12 TDs

Even though Gates is missing 4 games for suspension, you aren’t drafting to use him that early in the season anyway. Although Ladarius Green will be getting an audition to start the season, Gates is still one of the best ever at the position and will be an excellent weapon to have in your pocket

Pick Late Rounds

Tyler Eifert, CIN

Eifert

2014: 37 rec yards, 3 catches

Eifert didn’t do anything last year, literally. But now Jermaine Gresham is gone and Eifert is the #1 TE in Cincy, so you have to think production will only go up from here.

Pick Late Rounds

18. Ladarius Green, SD

Ladarius

2014: 226 rec yards, 19 catches

Green is getting a crack at showing he can take over when Antonio Gates is done or hurt (or suspended longer). If Philip Rivers can’t make him worth your while, nobody can.

Pick Late Rounds

19. Josh Hill, NO

Josh Hill

2014: 176 rec yards, 14 catches, 5 TDs

Jimmy Graham’s replacement caught a decent number of touchdowns last year, but is taking reps with the 2nd team so far this preseason. Decent fill in for a back up spot, or an easy drop when you want to add someone better.

Pick Late

20. Heath Miller, PIT

Green Bay Packers v Pittsburgh Steelers

2014: 761 rec yards, 66 catches, 3 TDs

Heath is usually a fill in guy when you need a spot start at TE or someone gets injured. Really it just helps to have him already because Roethlisberger will always have him as a security blanket when he needs one.

Pick Late

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

Also…

Quarterbacks Cheat Sheet

Running Backs Cheat Sheet

Wide Receivers Cheat Sheet

Defenses & Kickers Cheat Sheet

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Sports Crazies: Who Belongs in ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’?

It’s a lovely day, isn’t it?

The early reviews are in on ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ and it sounds like every synonym that applies to “epic”. The post-apocalyptic franchise returns after the last film hit theaters 30 years ago with a new leading man (the VERY MAD Tom Hardy) and a setting that gives zero F-words to the original timeline. However, it’s directed by George Miller, who created this mad world, so any worry of integrity and fears of Hollywood reboots can be set aside.

Mad Max gif

In the REAL WORLD, our professional sports universe is filled with all walks of life. Good guys, bad guys, heroes, cheaters…gentlemen & ladies, scumbags and…I don’t even know.

Here, we are going to focus on the CRAZIES in pro sports. Not necessarily the guys you would qualify as “bad guys”, but more of the unhinged, whacky, screw-loose variety…And Monty Williams.

MLB

Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers

Just one home run away from the 400 club, a 4-time All-Star, an MVP runner-up in 2004, stats comparable to Dave Parker, Al Kaline, and Eddie Murray (according to Baseball Reference)…Adrian Beltre is all of these, but he’s also a ticking time bomb. It’s been thoroughly documented on that Beltre hates when people touch his head, yet his teammates and opponents continue to do it. If you ask me, he is one Elvis Andrus prank away form yelling “BELTRE SMASH!”

Beltre gif

Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals

Bryce Harper is a hot item these days and likely will be for quite a while. He made it into our Mad Men of MLB list a month ago, but the home run “hair flip” keeps the momentum going. Not only is he hitting out of his mind (12 HRs, 31 RBIs, 1.119 OPS in 35 games), he’s challenging umpires to Thunderdome too…Okay not exactly, but bat flips and hair flips will get it done.

Bryce Harper Hair Flip

NBA

Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder

Russell. Is. Crazy.…And he’s crazy good. Had his team made the playoffs, Westbrook could and probably should have been the NBA’s MVP this season. He earned the NBA’s scoring title by averaging 28.1 points per game, recorded 11 triple-doubles, yet none of it mattered to him…

On top of the accolades and establishing himself as not the Robin to Kevin Durant’s “Batman” (he’s more Superman, or a second Batman), he has no regard for his own safety…and it’s entertaining as hell.

Russell Westbrook hits his head

DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings

This description comes from Boogie’s scouting report from Jonathan Wasserman before he was drafted from Kentucky in 2010.

“Cousins’ lack of maturity and mental focus is evident in his negative body language and lack of composure … He tends to lose his head, looking disinterested or frustrated if things don’t go his way. Also does not appear receptive to coaching, tuning out his coaches when they attempt to give him advice on the bench …”

Since then, the 5th overall pick has averaged a double-double with 18.9 points and 12.4 rebounds per game, was named an NBA All-Star this past season, and was a member of last summer’s FIBA Champion Team USA squad….and he’ll also be the “Blaster” to any of his teammates’ “Master”.

Cousins Blaster

…and you don’t want to get in Boogie Blaster’s way.

Cousins Destroy

NFL

Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys

When you get a FOX Sports camera basically dedicated to your every movement on the sidelines, you probably deserve a mention in this post…As the Dallas Cowboys continue the all-time worst PR roster this year, Dez Bryant remains a figure of intrigue while he accepts the team’s franchise tag. Bryant was the center of rumors that seemed to gain steam in the winter regarding a video that was said to have made Ray Rice look like a choir boy. It remained just a rumor though…Bryant hasn’t signed his tender yet but once he does, the Cowboys sidelines will remain much anticipated theater.

Dez Bryant crazy

Martellus Bennett, Chicago Bears

Martellus Bennett is a different kind of cat, to say the least…He’s not demonstrative like Bryant, but he certainly is out there. It’s very cool how in-touch he is with his creative side. He’s into animation, writing children’s stories and challenges his Twitter following to open their imaginations…That odd side doesn’t necessarily translate to the field, but more so off the field in front of the local media. When he was first introduced to Chicago after signing his current contract, he asked to be referred to as “The Black Unicorn”, the “Orange Dinosaur”, and “Martysaurus Rex”…But don’t mistake his fun and soft side as weakness, Rookies…

Martysaurus Slam

NHL

Andrew Shaw, Chicago Blackhawks

Really you could apply this post to EVERYONE in the NHL. Guys pull their teeth out during games just to get comfortable. Fighting is legal. Reporters on the ice get hit with pucks, bleed, and shake it off to keep doing their jobs…

In anticipation of the Western Conference Finals coming up, we’ll go with the scrappiest (and craziest) guy you’ll see on the ice, Andrew Shaw. The 5’11, 23 year-old forward isn’t afraid to mix it up with anyone, anywhere…even from the bench. The fact that he sold his bloody stitches from the last Stanley Cup Finals he won for charity should be enough to qualify him as Fury Road material.

Andrew Shaw crazy

Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins

If the Mad Max franchise has provided anything, it’s a litany of freaks and things of the unimaginable. Fury Road sounds no different, so why not include the NHL’s most impressive circus attraction…Zdeno Chara. Chara is 6’9 without skates and carries a very heavy stick, but apparently the Slovak skater also grew up in a castle that housed history’s most infamous female serial killer. So there’s THAT the next time Chara comes barreling into you on skates.

Zdeno Chara slide

Who else belongs in Mad Max: Fury Road? Going to see the movie this weekend? Lets talk about it on Twitter @Mike_PiFF03.

Seattle vs. New England: Everything BUT Football

I love Super Bowl week.

Media Day, All-Time great commercial countdowns, the constant NFL Films replaying of Super Bowls past, food…

It’s the best.

Once #DeflateGate finally blows over (if it ever does), we’ll see the game itself broken down in every way possible and multiple prop bet odds fluctuating up until Idina Menzel starts belting out our National Anthem. We’ll get trash talking from coast-to-coast and perhaps a gentleman’s bet between Ed Murray and Martin Walsh, the mayors of Seattle and Boston.

We DO however have an epic bet going between Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) and Captain America (Chris Evans)

Pratt vs Evans

I would like to heat up the trash talk between the two regions by widening the scope and digging deeper into more than football. By comparing Seattle and New England (Boston) in categories such as music, TV, movies, other sports, beer, etc, we’ll be able to formulate a prediction for the Sunday’s outcome that’s as logical as an elephant choosing the winner…or a tiger.

That was awesome.

Anywho…

Music

In Seattle…

As part of Dave Grohl’s “Sonic Highways” docu-series following the cool concept of the Foo Fighters’ cross country recording journey for their latest album, Grohl and HBO focused on the Seattle music scene. While the central theme was how bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains almost literally blew up your FM frequencies, helping to create the alternative genre, grunge wasn’t the only calling card for Seattle.

During the post-war era (1945-1975), Seattle produced three of the industry’s all-time great black musicians. Ray Charles recorded his first single and made his television and radio debuts in Seattle. Quincy Jones played as an instrumentalist in Bumps Blackwell’s band. And before he went to England to start recording to eventually gain worldwide fame, Jimi Hendrix was rocking the clubs in Seattle on a nightly basis…In Hip-Hop, most of you know that Macklemore is from Seattle, but did you know Sir Mix A Lot was too? Seattle has also been the hub for current indie music acts, including Sunny Day Real Estate, The Postal Service, Death Cab for Cutie, The Head and the Heart, Fleet Foxes and (one of my favorites) Band of Horses.

In Boston…

I wanted to preface this in the beginning, but we find in a lot of these categories to be “Old School vs. New School” with New England representing a lot of the former. Of course we have to start with the “Bad Boys from Boston”, Aerosmith. Also fondly referred to as “America’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band”, they certainly score big points in this game. Add (the band) Boston, The Cars, and J. Geils Band to the list of bands yours dad (and I) really likes.

But wait, there’s more! While New Edition and Bell Biv Devoe rocked your oversized boom box, Donna Summer had the last dance. Raise your hand if you had a New Kids On The Block lunch box…Marky Mark might have. Add Powerman 5000, American Hi-Fi, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Guster, and The Dear Hunter and you get a pretty good feel for the Boston music scene.

Also Dropkick Murphys, Extreme and Pixies…Oh my!

Who Gets The Edge?

I found myself torn between the two, so I asked a couple of music experts and enthusiasts for their thoughts:

“Both great legacies. I couldn’t possibly pick one over the other, as four of my favorite bands of all time come from each city: Mission of Burma and Morphine (Boston/Cambridge) and Fastbacks and Mudhoney (Seattle). Also Tad makes up for the rise of Candlebox in Seattle, and the Cars make me want to forgive Boston for the existence of Extreme.” – Greg Kot, Chicago Tribune Music Critic 

“Hard to not pick Boston just because I have so many musician friends there, but Seattle is formidable. I will call it a draw.” – Len Kasper, Chicago Cubs Television Broadcaster and musician.

See! Not that easy.

However, I’m a firm believer in quality over quantity and Seattle’s scene from the 90’s and recently is too good to deny. Plus, they don’t have a band like Extreme to worry about canceling out.

TV

Set in Seattle…

When we see Seattle depicted on television, what impressions do we get? Progressive, new age, rainy?

Twin Peaks, Weeds, Grey’s Anatomy, The Killing (aka The show that makes me genuinely afraid of Seattle.) And of course…

Frasier. 

Set in Boston…

There’s a handful of the typical (but still good) “Boston” themed shows. Boston LegalBoston Public, Boston Commons (yeah, I said it.)…Wahlburg is basically a synonym for “Boston” so Wahlburgers is included. Fringe, Leverage, and Rizzoli & Isles too. Ally McBeal is your “Grey’s” equivalent. And then there’s the real Boston heavyweight…

Cheers. 

Who Gets The Edge?

At the end of the day, its Frasier vs. Cheers isn’t it? And there wouldn’t be a Frasier without Cheers. So Boston gets the win here.

Movies

In Seattle…

Yes Chick-Flick lovers, Sleepless in Seattle is a classic. But it’s not Seattle’s only claim to fame in the genre. 10 Things I Hate About You, Love Happens, An Officer and a Gentleman, the upcoming Fifty Shades of Grey film, and Say Anythingare all worthy of getting a spin this Valentine’s Day.

Some of my favorites include This Is Spinal Tap, War Games and 50/50. Add thrillers like Fear, The Hand That Rocks The Cradle and The Ring. And of course we can’t forget Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, Saving Silverman, and Harry and the Hendersons.

In Boston…

There’s a fun spectrum of films that come to mind when you think of films based in Boston.

Gritty action movies: The Equalizer, Boondock Saints, The Town

Sports movies: Fever Pitch, Celtic Pride, and I’ll allow Field of Dreams.

Comedies: Legally Blonde and Ted

Oscar nominated dramas: Good Will Hunting, Mystic River, The Fighter, and The Departed.

Who Has The Edge?

As much as I love 50/50 and War Games, Seattle can’t compete with the heavy hitters that were filmed in Boston. How do you like them apples?

Food

In Seattle…

Visuals are helpful. Warning: you may get hungry.

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In Boston…

Ditto.

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The Edge?

I don’t think you can go wrong getting seafood in either town, but my tastebuds lean toward Boston for the pizza and sweets.

Landmarks/Sights

In Seattle…

Space Needle

The Space Needle

Pike Place Fish Market

Puget Sound view

The Puget Sound

Safeco Field

Safeco Field

Fremont Troll

…and the Freemont Troll. It’s under a bridge. And scary/adorable. 

In Boston…

Mass State House

The Massachusetts State House

Hatch Memorial Shell

The Hatch Memorial Shell

Freedom Trail

The Freedom Trail

Fenway Park

Fenway Park

Cheers Bar

…where everybody knows your name. 

The Edge?

Close call, but how about that view in Seattle? Fenway Park will always have a place in my baseball heart but the Bridge Troll is kind of a deal breaker.

LIGHTNING ROUND!

Starbucks vs. Facebook – Seattle: Both addicting and everywhere, but I don’t have to worry about baby pictures, candy crush invites or internet trolls at any of the 5 Starbucks in a 3 mile radius of my house.

Sports Other Than Football – Boston: Love Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp, Ken Griffey Jr. and Edgar Martinez, but how many championships does the city have outside of the football stadium?

Beer – Boston: The Seattle craft beer scene is definitely a thing. Black Raven, Elysian, Georgetown and Naked City are all notable breweries…but the Boston Beer Co. is America’s original.

The Score: 

Seattle – 3
New England – 5

Sorry, Star-Lord.

Peter Quill

Let us know what you think and other ways your favorite city is better than the other by Tweeting @Mike_PiFF03

Fantasy Football Preview: NFC EAST

The beauty of Fantasy Football is that it forces you to pay attention to the rest of the league, no matter how casual a fan you may be. You could be wearing a Bears jersey at a bar somewhere, but deep down you want them to put on the Patriots game to see who Tom Brady is throwing to on his next 80 yard drive. Very likely, there are plenty of others in the same vicinity with the same concerns. Fantasy Football brings people together like that.

It is that time of year again. Most sports news publications and outlets are releasing their NFL season previews before kickoff, September 4th between the Green Bay Packers and defending champion Seattle Seahawks. What’s more pressing than that? Your league’s Fantasy Draft! Who do you take when Drew Brees and Peyton Manning come off the board? Can Jamaal Charles repeat last year’s performance? Do you really need a second kicker on your Week 1 roster?

With a series of posts over the next week, I hope to help you answer those questions and many more. We’ll take a look, division by division, at the players you may be targeting on each NFL squad. Coast to coast, we’ll evaluate players by past performances and their current situations with various factors: coaching and personnel changes, health, team philosophies, etc.

 

We’ll begin with the NFC East (ESPN’s FAVORITE!)

The division was about as unpredictable as Tony Romo in the 4th quarter in 2013. While the Dallas Cowboys were 8-8 again, the division’s top two teams in 2012 (Redskins and Giants) became the bottom two in 2013. Rising past the mediocrity were the Philadelphia Eagles and first year NFL coach Chip Kelly going from 4th to 1st in the East.

Throw out the records, we’re talking about Fantasy! The NFC East is a fun mix of sure-thing top end picks, players to be weary of, and some you’ll want to take a flyer on. Lets go!

 

Dallas Cowboys

For 3 seasons under coach Jason Garrett, the Cowboys have just been…meh. Finishing 8-8 each of those seasons doesn’t give those faithful to “America’s Ex-Team” more than cautious confidence for 2014. The Cowboys did rank 6th in scoring last year while having to play catch up with a defense that allowed 27.4 points per game, and for Fantasy owners (who don’t have Dallas’ defense) that’s not a bad thing.

 

QB Tony Romo

31 Touchdowns/10 Interceptions, 3,828 passing yards in 2013

Tony Romo had a bounce back year by the numbers last season. He reprised his same 2011 TD/INT ratio and cut the turnovers down significantly from 2012. However, the fear is that his second back surgery may effect the deep ball which became the bread and butter with home run threat Dez Bryant. Romo showed he can keep up with the best (when right), throwing 5 TDs in a shootout with Detroit. He also never threw more than 2 INTs in a game and only did that twice. Former Lions OC Scott Linehan is now the “passing coordinator” in Dallas and that could mean more throwing for Romo. Matthew Stafford averaged 42 passes per game coached by Linehan while Romo threw just 36 per during those 3 years.

Recommendation: Romo is a reliable QB1, a pick you would make late 2nd round or 3rd if you are targeting RBs or skilled players first.

 

RB DeMarco Murray

1,121 rush yards, 9 TD rushing / 53 receptions, 350 rec yards, 1 TD in 2013

The former heir to Adrian Peterson at Oklahoma is looking to make another big stride in 2014. DeMarco Murray ranked 5th among running backs last season averaging 80.1 ypg and 5.2 per carry. Fighting a knee injury in the middle of the season, Murray played 14 games and the Cowboys want to know if he can go the full 16 before extending him. Linehan’s play-calling may help that, as well as Fantasy owners in PPR leagues. With the potential increase in passing for Romo, Murray will be a key target much like Reggie Bush was last season for Detroit. If Bryant is getting the respect he deserves down field, Murray should find opportunities in underneath routes…and softer fronts to run on.

Recommendations: Murray CAN be a strong RB1 but his injury history worries me just as much as it does the Cowboys front office. Take him in the middle rounds unless RBs are flying off the board early and you’re desperate. 

 

WR Dez Bryant

93 rec, 1,233 yards, 13 TD in 2013

Dez…Bryant…The #1 weapon for Tony Romo last season had as much TV time on the sideline as he did on the field (thanks to FOX Producers). Expect that to continue, as the emotional receiver is now being applauded by his owner for fighting with teammates during training camp. But that’s not why you called…Bryant is coming off back-to-back seasons of 90 receptions, 1,200 yards, and 12 touchdowns. He also scored multiple TDs on 3 different occasions (vs. SD, DEN and DET). Granted they were losses but with the Cowboys defense giving up points, Romo trusts Bryant to score in a hurry. This is also a contract year for Bryant, and you know how pro athletes get when they are looking for that next pay bump…

Recommendation: Bryant is a WR1 and should be one of the first 5 WRs off the board. Early round pick. 

 

TE Jason Witten

73 rec, 851 yards, 8 TDs in 2013

There is a reason Jason Witten is 9 time Pro Bowl tight end. He will likely surpass 900 receptions for his career this season and he was Romo’s most reliable target 7 of the past 8 seasons (110 catches in 2012). The Cowboys saw a drop in his production last season. 3 times, he caught over 100 yards but those games seemed to come randomly. 9 out of his 16 starts, Witten didn’t break 60 yards and only 6 times did he make 5 catches or more. Much like the running backs, the Linehan offense is designed to improve those numbers for tight ends too, especially in the red zone. Lions TEs caught 9 touchdowns last season, and Witten should bounce back with the other options demanding coverage.

Recommendation: Witten is definitely a starting Fantasy TE, but you can get him mid-late rounds. The position has evolved to where there are increasing options ahead of him.

 

K Dan Bailey

Yes, kickers are people too. But don’t expect me to spend too much time on them. Dan Bailey is effective when he plays in a dome regularly, his offense was 6th in scoring last year, and he converted 93% of his FGs. He ranked 12th in FGs made but 4th in extra points kicked. Take the points where you can get them.

Recommendation: You know when to take your kicker. He’ll be there for you after your fellow league-mates start taking them too early.

 

Waiver Watch: (Players to keep an eye out for on the wire)

RB Lance Dunbar

WR Terrance Williams

WR Cole Beasley

 

New York Giants

Starting 0-6 last season didn’t help the Giants. Neither did 23 turnovers during that span. The Giants would win their next 4 and finish the season 7-9, but they’ll have their work cut out for them in 2014. Coach Tom Coughlin brought on former Packers QB coach Ben McAdoo to run his offense and hopes that will help right the ship…and Eli Manning

 

QB Eli Manning

18 TD/27 INT, 3,818 passing yards in 2013

There isn’t a nice way to put it. Eli Manning was bad last year. Really bad. The last time he threw nearly as many INTs (25 in 2010), he at least threw 31 TDs and led the Giants to 10 wins. Manning led the league in INTs by 5 (Flacco with 22). In McAdoo’s system, Manning will be expected to get the ball out quicker and lead an up tempo offense that will keep defenses on their heels, much like San Diego and New England to an extent. Manning will be without TE Brandon Meyers and his 47 catches last season, now in Tampa Bay. The total number of receptions in 2013 by the current group of TEs on the roster (Kellen Davis, Larry Donnell, Adrian Robinson, Daniel Fells and Xavier Gimble) is 7.

Recommendation: If you take Eli Manning, take him late. Would be worth taking the flyer on the 3-time Pro Bowler if he can get back to that form. 

 

RB Rashad Jennings

733 rush yards, 6 TDs / 36 receptions, 292 receiving yards 0 TDs in 2013

The Giants look to Rashad Jennings to handle the top of their depth chart at running back. The team’s leading rusher, Andre Brown (492 yards), is now in Houston. David Wilson has unfortunately retired due to neck problems after 2 seasons in the league. And Jennings has never been a full-time feature back for an entire season. In 8 starts though last season, Jennings took over for the oft-injured Darren McFadden and gained over 1,000 yards of total offense from scrimmage.

Recommendation: Since he is the projected starting running back, Jennings is an RB2 that you can take late in your draft.

 

WR Victor Cruz

73 rec, 998 yds, 4 TDs in 2013

A concussion and a knee injury cut Victor Cruz’s season short last year after 14 games. Going into his 5th season with the Giants, the hope is that Cruz can still take it to the house from anywhere on the field. He will be depended on like Jordy Nelson is in the Packers offense. Quick slants, screens, and the likely handful of bombs downfield that put Cruz and his cha-cha dance on the map will be in the game plan to stretch the field. The plays are designed to utilize Cruz’s burning run after-the-catch ability.

Recommendation: Pair Cruz with one of the Top 15 receivers on the board and you could be sitting pretty. He would be a strong value pick in the middle rounds.

 

Waiver Watch:

RB Peyton Hillis (Note: Dealing with injured foot but listed as 2nd RB)

RB Andre Williams

WR Reuben Randle

WR Odell Beckham Jr.

 

Philadelphia Eagles

One of the most improved teams last season will look to stay a step ahead of opposing defenses in year 2 of the Chip Kelly regime. Kelly’s hurry-up offense had the Eagles 2nd in yards per game (417.2), 4th in points (27.6) and winning a division title after finishing last the year before. While the Eagles released a scoring weapon in DeSeasn Jackson, they add two more playmakers in Darren Sproles via trade and Jeremy Maclin returning from injury.

 

QB Nick Foles

27 TD/2 INT, 2,891 passing yards / 221 rush yards, 3 TD in 2013 (13 games)

In 2 seasons, Nick Foles has 16 starts under his belt. He went 1-5 his rookie year and 8-2 in 2013. Foles also led the league in quarterback rating (119.2). The difference? Maybe Chip Kelly. 2014 will really be the judge of that as defensive coordinators across the league try to slow down Foles and his Eagles targets. Both the running backs are dangerous in the passing game, especially after the catch. And the deep threat tandem of Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin will make safeties nervous. However, an emphasis has been made on better protection of the quarterback which seemed to be an issue that plagued Foles’ predecessor, Michael Vick.

Recommendation: Yes, Foles had incredible numbers last season but it was still a limited sample size. Some believe he deserves the next big contract but I’m not sold yet. Draft your running back and maybe an elite pass catcher before drafting Foles.

 

RB LeSean McCoy

1,607 rush yards, 9 TD / 52 rec. 539 rec yards, 2 TD in 2013

2,000 Yards. Rushing…That’s the bar LeSean McCoy has set for himself this season by tweeting Thursday morning, “This is THE YEAR!!!! My potential is #2000yards. Will I reach it? Stepping up my training and signs point to yes.” He broke the 2,000 yard mark combining his rushing and receiving. Why not do it ALL on the ground? Only 6 other running backs have done it before him: Eric Dickerson, Adrian Peterson, Jamal Lewis, Barry Sanders, Terrell Davis, Chris Johnson, and OJ Simpson. The only concern is staying healthy. Last season was the first time McCoy played all 16 games and he led the league in carries (314).

Recommendation: The argument is between McCoy and Jamaal Charles for top running back, but McCoy should be the first to come off the board. I trust the Eagles offense to move the chains and stay on the field more than Kansas City.

 

RB Darren Sproles

220 rush yards, 2 TD / 71 rec. 604 rec yards / 449 return yards in 2013

Darren Sproles joins the Eagles not just as a complimentary back to McCoy, but also a versatile option at Kelly’s disposal. He’ll catch passes out of the backfield, split wide, and take some handoffs as well. Don’t be surprised to see Sproles get significant time on the field with McCoy when the Eagles are in rhythm…or when Kelly is feeling frisky. 2013 was a down year for Sproles and he fell out of favor with Saints head coach Sean Payton. Keep in mind Sproles set the NFL record for all-purpose yards in a season (2,696) in 2011. He has also caught at least 70 passes in each of the last three seasons.

Recommendation: Sproles has described his role with the Eagles as “dangerous” and I believe it. When RB2’s start going, pick him up to at least be your flex, especially if you’re in a PPR league. Should be counted on for return yards too.

 

WRs Riley Cooper & Jeremy Maclin

Cooper: 47 rec, 835 yards, 8 TD / Maclin: DNP in 2013

Riley Cooper started 15 of the 16 games he played last year and saw his production more than triple from the year before. For that, the Eagles rewarded him with a 5-year $25 million contract. Despite his racist remarks before the 2013 season, the Eagles committed to him and not DeSean Jackson. The majority of Cooper’s production came after Foles was named starter, and during the stretch of weeks 6-10. Some expect Cooper to be counted on to make up for Jackson’s 82 receptions and 1,332 yards from 2013, but I would look to Jeremy Maclin first.

Maclin missed 2013 after tearing his ACL. Before then, he was averaging 863.25 yards per season and played in at least 15 games 3 of those 4 seasons. The 6-foot speedster from Mizzou will look to bounce back and has a more proven track record than Cooper to be a #1 receiver for this Eagles squad.

Recommendation: I wouldn’t look to draft either receiver until later rounds. You can’t depend on potential for something more than a WR2 or Flex player. I also trust Maclin for production ahead of Cooper, recognizing the injury history.

 

Waiver Watch:

TE Zach Ertz

TE Brent Celek

K Alex Henery

 

Washington Redskins

While the Eagles went from 4th to 1st in the division, the Washington Redskins did the complete opposite. Redskins were near the bottom in scoring last year and gave up the second most points in the league. Not a recipe for success. Jay Gruden took over the helm in Washington for Mike Shanahan. The Bengals ranked 6th in total offense last season with Gruden’s play calling and 8th in passing.

 

QB Robert Griffin III

16 TD/12 INT, 3,203 passing yards, 489 rush yards in 2013

2013 was messy for RGIII. He was rusty and a lot less mobile following his knee surgery in the offseason before. After constant clashes with Shanahan, Griffin found himself on the bench for the final 3. Gruden has worked on communication with his quarterback in hopes to replicate the offense he had in Cincinnati along with Griffin’s running ability. Griffin will likely see less zone-read called but will be even better in play-action with a healthy knee and his new toy, DeSean Jackson.

Recommendation: I have a hard time deciding how much of 2013 was on RGIII or Shanahan. Griffin came off very immature off the field, which makes me weary of him on the field and with a first time head coach. Not top tier, but the healthy knee gives him value in the middle rounds.

 

RB Alfred Morris

1,275 rush yards, 7 TD in 2013

Alfred Morris has totaled 2,888 rushing yards in his first two seasons and quietly. In his rookie year, his 1,613 yards were overshadowed by the success of his quarterback, yet ranked 2nd in the league. Morris doesn’t catch passes out of the backfield, but he does run hard. Look for Gruden to depend heavily on Morris at the start of the season while the rest of the offense adjusts to his new playbook.

Recommendation: Alfred Morris is a Top 10 running back right now. No Shanahan also means no platooning either. You can take him by round 3.

 

WR Pierre Garçon

113 receptions, 1,346 yards, 5 TDs

While 2013 wasn’t a good year for Washington, it was a great one for Pierre Garçon. He led the league in receptions and targets, and ranked Top 10 in total yards. That’s a heck of an accomplishment considering the direction the NFL is going in, being a passing league. However, that success didn’t translate into points and part of that blame can be put on Griffin. The addition of another 1,300 yard receiver should open things up nicely for Garçon in 2014 though.

Recommendation: The reception numbers should drop a little with Jackson commanding a chunk of the targets. Still a solid WR2 with WR1 potential.

 

WR DeSean Jackson

82 rec, 1,332 rec. yards 9 TD

Jackson had easily his best statistical season receiving last year, yet the Eagles felt it necessary to release him. The backfire may be letting him sign in the division with a chip on his shoulder. Washington couldn’t be happier. Jackson provides speed that they haven’t had in a long time, and a healthy Griffin is going to have downfield choices between him and Garçon.

Recommendation: Much like Garçon, Jackson is a solid WR2 with WR1 upside. The difference will be his returner capabilities, if Gruden chooses to use them.

 

Waiver Watch:

RB Roy Helu

WR Santana Moss

WR Aldrick Robinson

TE Jordan Reed

K Kai Forbath

 

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