Our site's number one goal is simple — to give you valuable fantasy football advice in an entertaining way. Our other important goal is to get your grandma to learn how to use the internet and start her own fantasy football team. So many fantasy football websites are stat-based and don't stress the ultimate purpose of playing fantasy football — which is to have a good time with your friends/family.
In the 2011 season, Matthew Stafford entered the group of fantasy elite QBs when he tallied 5,038 passing yards, 41 TDs and 16 INTs. It was only his 3rd year in the league and he joined the top tier of fantasy QBs that included Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Tom Brady. Fantasy experts saw a young QB with a rocket of an arm, an offense who passes more than anybody, along with the best WR in the NFL, Calvin Johnson, and decided to anoint Stafford as the next big thing at the QB position and a player who would produce fantasy greatness for years to come.
The following year Stafford set the NFL record for passing attempts but his TDs fell dramatically from 41 to 20. We heard a lot of stories about how many times Lions players were tackled inside the 5 yard-line and even at the 1 yard-line and we heard that his 20 TD season was a fluke. He’d be projected as a top 6 QB once again. Well, two more years have passed since Matthew Stafford’s 41 TD outburst in 2011 and in that time frame eleven different QBs have thrown 30 TD passes….none of them are named Matthew Stafford. In 2013, he fell just short with 29 TDs but then followed that up this season with an abysmal 22 TD passes. I think it’s safe to say that the last three years are not all flukes, but that Stafford was just too hyped after 2011. Year after year fantasy owners have been spending a relatively high draft pick (ADP round 3-5) on Stafford and coming away disappointed while chasing what may be the real fluke, 2011’s stats.
In 2014, Stafford bottomed out setting his low mark in passing yards in 4 years and his 22 TDs ranked 14th at the position, one above rookie Derek Carr. Heading into the season, experts and fantasy players were once again expecting Stafford to produce, with a 4th round ADP (46th pick overall) so the question is….what happened?
Coming Into the Season
Joe Lombardi took over as offensive coordinator for the Lions this season replacing Scott Linehan who was released when Jim Schwartz was replaced by Jim Caldwell as the Lions head coach. Linehan had done a decent job developing Stafford since he joined the staff in 2009 including the career year in 2011, but the Lions opted to go another direction and clear house upon the firing of Schwartz. They brought in former Saints QBs coach Joe Lombardi, a Sean Payton disciple to run the offense. Lombardi’s recognition as an OC candidate came to fruition while Sean Payton was suspended following the bountygate scandal. The Saints didn't suffer on offense and many believed Lombardi was the reason. Stafford had all the tools for Lombardi to mold Stafford into the next Drew Brees, a comparison that started popping up upon Lombardi's hiring.
Golden Tate was added to bookend Calvin Johnson on the outside, and as it turned out to complement him in the slot. Having played in a conservative offense in Seattle, it was unknown how good Tate would be but one thing was for sure, he was better than the man he’d be replacing in Nate Burleson and/or Kris Durham. In addition, the Lions used their first round pick on Eric Ebron, a physical specimen with great hands at tight end. These changes once again had everyone aboard the Stafford hype train.
2014: Week 1- A Match Made in Heaven
Stafford’s first week in Joe Lombardi’s offense could not have been scripted any better. On the first drive of the game, Stafford found Calvin Johnson all alone for a 67-yard touchdown down the right sideline. He was all by himself, with nobody within 20 yards of him. On the second drive, he’d catch a 16-yard TD pass and was almost just as open. Stafford finished with 346 yards and 2 TDs passing, a rushing TD, and 0 turnovers in an easy 35-14 victory. The success of the high flying offense was a great start for the Stafford/Lombardi relationship and the Brees comparisons were all over the media. Little did they know, the Giants were just that bad of a defense.
2014: Weeks 2-11 – Calvin’s injury + Tate’s Emergence = Stafford Mediocrity
Over the next 10 games the Lions would go 6-4. They found themselves in a race for the division lead, but it was due to their top ranked defense, not their quarterback. Stafford had only 11 TDs and 10 INTs during this stretch, while only throwing for 300+ yards once. His top performances (2 passing TDs each game) came against the Jets, Saints and Falcons….and the way those defenses were playing, should those even count as good games?
Calvin Johnson sustained an ankle injury in week 3 against Green Bay. He played the next 2 weeks as a decoy combining for only 3 catches and 19 yards. The Lions decided to shut him down for the next 3 weeks. Basically five weeks were played without Calvin Johnson, a scene all too familiar to Lions fans. Stafford didn’t actually have his worst weeks without Calvin, but his improvement in the new offense had to be put on hold while they waited for Calvin to get healthy.
The one positive to come out of the injury was Stafford’s new found chemistry with breakout WR Golden Tate. Tate basically put up Calvin-like numbers during this stretch. In the five games that Calvin was either a decoy or out, Tate had four 100 yard games (three over 134 yds) and surpassed seven receptions in each game. He made two game winning TD catch and runs, one against the Saints and the second against the Falcons. This chemistry would carry through the rest of the season even when Calvin returned and Tate became a dynamic number two option,a mismatch against #2 CBs who could take it to the house on any play.
2014: Weeks 12-17 – Finally!
After a brutal 10 week stretch and back to back 0 TD weeks heading into week 12, Stafford was written off for good as a fantasy option. However, something clicked against the Bears that week that stuck for the remainder of the season. Sure, the Bears are one of the worst defenses in the league, but Stafford looked absolutely incredible on Thanksgiving Day throwing for 390 yards and 2 TDs on 34/45. In the final 5 weeks Stafford threw for 9 TDs and only 2 INTs while the Lions finished winning 4 of their last 5. He had his first two 3 TDs games and had two 300+ yards outings during this time. His most impressive game was actually a loss where he had 217 yards 3 TDs 0 INTs at GB in week 17 to end the season. Sure, Aaron Rodgers out dueled him but putting up those numbers in Green Bay in December is something that only a guy like Rodgers does.
Stafford may be undervalued next season and I believe he will improve significantly. I’m going to give him one more try as long as his ADP puts him in the middle rounds. He finished the season red hot and started realizing Joe Lombardi’s vision on offense. His chemistry with Golden Tate is tremendous for his prospects of breaking out next season. Calvin Johnson is still as good as he always was and if he could ever stay on the field we could see something really special.
However, I don't mean top 5 QB when I say really special. For one, the Lions defense is elite. If they can retain Ndomukong Suh next season, then it will remain elite. In addition, the running game is much improved. Joique Bell has settled into the Lions work-horse back and was able to close out games by picking up late first downs and eating clock. The team no longer needs to rely on Stafford’s arm to win games. This formula was successful and will not be changing if the defense remains intact. Keep an eye on Suh’s status because if the defense gets worse it will really help Stafford’s fantasy value.
Stafford will enter year two with confidence in Joe Lombardi’s system. Lombardi was quoted as saying “Looking back, I kind of tried to drop maybe some responsibilities on him that maybe a quarterback like Drew didn’t get until four years into the system in New Orleans. “We asked a lot of him and he responded...” Stafford will have another year under his belt throwing balls to Golden Tate and while Eric Ebron did very little (as almost all rookie TEs do), we can expect a significant improvement in his game. I do think Stafford will reach 4500 yds and 30 TDs next season. In a way too early mock draft on NFL.com he was the 14th QB off the board in the 12th round. Getting Stafford at that value is highway robbery. I anticipate his value improving the offseason and would target him as the 10th QB starting in round 8.
He entered 2014 as a sleeper, but quickly energized the Browns' running game and entered the realm of fantasy relevance as a talented back with considerable upside especially around the goal line. While there were plenty of somewhat high peaks accompanied by somewhat lower valleys, Cleveland Browns rookie running back Isaiah Crowell remained in the fantasy spotlight as a high quality flex option throughout 2014, and his 2015 value is something worth monitoring this offseason.
How he got to where he is now
As a 22-year-old rookie coming in to Cleveland, Crowell signed with the Browns as an undrafted free agent and was immediately given a $10,000 signing bonus. Scouts were wary of his discipline issues while in college. For example, Crowell was arrested on a weapons charge just before his sophomore season at Georgia which led to his dismissal from the perennial Division I powerhouse and his eventual enrollment at Alabama State just a month later. He bounced back while at Alabama State though, rushing for 30 touchdowns in two seasons and despised 1,000 yards rushing during his senior year.
He was no doubt a talented college player, and he proved his game could translate into the NFL during his rookie year. In his first season, he averaged a very solid 4.1 yards per carry, which was higher than teammates Terrance West (3.9 YPC) and now former teammate Ben Tate (3.1 YPC).
But Crowell's lack of touches early on curbed his fantasy upside. While he managed 11 carries twice in the team's first four games, it was clear the Browns' coaching staff was committed to offseason acquisition Ben Tate, a guy we will talk about later in this article.
So because he didn't see the majority of the carries (that distinction would eventually belong to Terrance West who had 171 total on the season), Crowell ended up with only 607 rushing yards. He rushed just 148 total times in 2014, a little over nine carries per game. Between him, Tate and West, the Browns were among the most run happy teams in the NFL.
While his yardage numbers didn't set hair on fire, Crowell made his fantasy money around the goal line which was a place the Cleveland coaching staff trusted him the most. He finished with a team-high eight rushing touchdowns, twice as money as both West and Tate.
Offensive line hot start and late fizzle
With a front that included Pro Bowlers Alex Mack and Joe Thomas, the Browns were all the rage through the first four games of the season and it looked like Crowell could benefit from that. Starting quarterback Brian Hoyer sure did, as the Browns' offensive line allowed the fewest quarterback pressures through five games, giving Hoyer the kind of protection usually reserved for the great quarterbacks such as Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tom Brady and most recently, Tony Romo.
The good protection Hoyer enjoyed paid dividends for his stats. His zero interceptions in the first three games of the season and tacked up a three touchdown, 297 yard performance against Tennessee in Week 4. It only took Tate until Week 2 to record his first 100 yard game against the Tennessee Titans. The Browns went 2-2 in those first four games, but never lost a game by more than a field goal. Overall, it looked like things were trending upward.
But then misfortune occurred. Pro Bowl center Mack broke his leg in the team's Week 6 victory over Pittsburgh, which ended his season. The loss was a huge blow to an offensive line that had just played its best game of the year in a 31-10 victory over Pittsburgh. Coincidentally, Crowell rushed for 77 yards on just 11 carries (7.0 YPC) and a touchdown in that game. Other than his 88 yard outing against Atlanta, it was Crowell's the highest YPC average performance of the season.
No sooner when Mack left did Crowell's numbers start to dip. They lost an ugly game against Jacksonville, where fill in center John Greco struggled in his first ever start at the position after shifting over from guard. Hoyer felt the difference too, as he was sacked three times after being virtually untouched through the first quarter of the season. He finished just 16-for-41 for 215 yards in that loss. The rushing game also suffered, as Crowell turned in his worst performance of the season up until that point, rushing for just 18 yards on seven carries (2.6 YPC).
The Browns quickly rebounded and rattled off three straight victories, but the schedule was a bit softer against bad defenses like Oakland and Tampa Bay. Plus, the running game wasn't a factor in the victories since the Browns averaged 1.8 yards per carry as a team in that stretch. With those numbers coming against a bad Oakland Raiders rush defense and a Gerald McCoyless Tampa Bay D, you would've liked to have seen better stats from Crowell in that stretch. No doubt the injury to Mack played a key role. That said, the Browns averaged 23 points per game through nine weeks, which is something to be respected.
Making them eat Crow
Crowell slowly won over the coaches trust as the season went along. By Week 9, he started to see a consistent uptick in carries and eventually became the team's starting running back. He averaged 12 carries per game over the last eight weeks of the season, but remained a boom or bust candidate due to his inability to break big plays which zapped his yardage potential.
His fantasy value also suffered from the committee style attack employed by coach Mike Pettine, which led to inconsistent carry totals as the Browns rode the hot hand between he and West. Sometimes West would end up with more carries even if Crowell was the starter going in, as was the case in Week 12 against the Falcons where Crowell rushed 12 times for 88 yards while West saw 15 carries for 48 yards. Despite Crowell's better numbers, the Browns were committed to running a committee style system which left production at the running back spot very erratic at times.
To top it off, he battled a hip injury throughout the later part of the season which constantly kept his starting status in doubt.
Taters gonna Tate
While the competition between two running backs is enough to pose a consistency problem from a fantasy standpoint, it was even more muddled at one time during the 2014 season. The Browns signed former Texans running back Ben Tate in the offseason in hopes of finding a feature back after former their once coveted Top 5 draft pick in Trent Richardson didn't pan out, but the result was more of the same.
Tate started out well enough, averaging 6.2 yards per carry in his first two games, but quickly fell back to earth after that. From Weeks 4-8, Tate rushed for just 90 yards over five games. It all came to a head after a noticeably poor showing against Houston in Week 8, where Tate couldn't find a way into the positive net yardage category and ended with a pathetic -9 yards on four carries. He was released shortly after.
So with Tate gone, that's 119 more carries available to split between West and Crowell, assuming they don't go out and grab a running back in a talented pool of rookies come draft time. So while we can't say for sure if Crowell will have a chance to see a significantly higher amount of carries in 2015, there will be more opportunities for carries next season now that he proved his worth as a rookie.
Departure of Shanahan
After Norv Turner left in 2013, the Browns brought in Kyle Shanahan from Washington. The change in style was immediately noticeable. Turner was a pass enthusiast and the Browns ended up leading the league in pass attempts that season with 681. The results were good for wide receiver Josh Gordon, who ended up winning the receiving title, but the Browns didn't exactly light the world on fire and missed the playoffs for the 11th straight season.
Under his zone blocking run scheme, Shanahan recommitted the Browns to the ground game in 2014 and Cleveland ended up ranking sixth in rushing attempts with 477 total carries for the season. But the poor finish by the team and eventual 7-9 record led to Shanahan getting canned as well. So now the Browns are looking at their sixth offensive coordinator in six years. Former Rams, Bears and Lions coordinator Mike Martz interviewed with the team most recently, but there has been no official word on who will replace Shanahan just yet.
Uncertainty at quarterback
Brian Hoyer was the clear cut starter heading into 2014, but eventually regressed to the point where rookie Johnny Manziel started to see action. If Manziel's expected to take the reins in 2015, it could mean much more inconsistent play while he goes through growing pains as a young player. This could force the Browns into a bit of a rebuilding mode, which could also zap Crowell's value.
There is considerable sleeper potential for Crowell in 2015. The Browns still have a very talented offensive line and the absence of Ben Tate should provide more opportunities for carries as long as Cleveland doesn't try to add more RBs through the draft and/or free agency. But while it looks like he's weathered his past discipline problems that drained his value in college, there's always the possibility he messes up again. Also, inconsistencies at the quarterback position and some uncertainty at the offensive coordinator spot still leaves the possibility of fantasy upside for Crowell as a work in progress. But he's definitely an above average in the talent department.
View Erik Drost's Flickr page here.
As I have gotten older the NFL Draft has become a a passion of mine. While some may not see a point in trying to project how these college players will perform at the NFL, I find the entire process fascinating. While it is pretty easy to identify the top players in the draft, finding the hidden gems can jettison any team from a borderline playoff team to a perennial Super Bowl contender.
While I do not have the resources of some draft "experts" I do feel like I have a pretty good idea of what it takes traits it takes to succeed at the NFL level.
Like any draft, the most high-profile players are the quarterbacks, and this year the cream of the crop have plenty of story lines that can be talked about come draft time. Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Marcus Mariota and the rest of the Oregon offense blew away the competition this season on the way to a Pac-12 title, and a matchup on Jan. 12 against Cardale "12 Gague" Jones and the Buckeyes from Ohio State for the National Title.
Mariota was absurd this season from an efficiency stand point, totaling a TD:INT ratio of 38:2 with one game still to be played. Mariota definitely has the size (6'4, 230 lbs) and speed (4.4 forty) that has the potential to drive opposing defensive coordinators crazy as they try to game plan for the athletic specimen.
Mariota is not the only quarterback in this draft that has made a name for himself, although Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston's has started to make more of a name for himself due to his off-the-field antics rather than his play on the field. Winston has battled his immaturity issues with a myriad of off-the-field incidents as well as battled inconsistencies throughout his redshirt sophomore season. Although some people find some of the antics performed by Winston to be major red flags, I think that these issues can be worked through as he gets older.
Going into the 2014 college football season, there was a lot of hype around UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley, and his potential to fight to be the first quarterback selected in next years draft. However, Hundley did not have the season that many expected from him.
After the two tiers of quarterbacks come off the board I feel like GM's are going to have a hard time finding many options that would have the potential to come in and contribute on an NFL offense in the near future. While there are some options with the name recognition such as Bryce Petty or Kevin Hogan, I am not sold on either of their ability to translate their skills that made them successful at the college level, onto the pro game.
So now that we have finished the 2014-15 college football season underclassmen will be forced to make a decision in the next two days as to whether or not they are going to declare for the upcoming draft. While it is difficult to predict at the moment who will decide to declare and who will decide to go back to school, I feel like the logical thing for several underclassmen (Jones, Mariota) to make them self eligible due to the lack of depth in this years quarterback class.
So of the quarterbacks that have declared, or that I expect to declare this is how I would rank them at the current time:
1. Jameis Winston QB/Florida State
Year: RS Sophomore
- · Experience in Pro Style Offense
- · Premier Arm Strength
- · Exceptional Accuracy/Ball Placement
- · Stands Tall in the Pocket
- · Athleticism to Make Plays Outside the Pocket
- · Consistent Footwork
- · Still Room to Grow Mentally/Physically
- · Knows Where Check Down is
- · Keeps Eyes Downfield
- Anticipates throws exceptionally well
- · Off-Field Concerns
- · Weight Gain
- · Mechanics worsened as year progresses
- · Elongated throwing Motion
- Increase in Interceptions
- "What the Hell" Throws
Grade: Top 3 Pick
2. Marcus Mariota QB/University of Oregon
Year: RS Junior
- · Prototypical Size
- · Adequate Arm
- · Plus Athleticism
- · Ability to throw on the Run
- · Pocket Movement
- Ability to make plays with his legs
- · Ball Placement could use work
- · Needs to let Routes Progress Longer
- · System QB???
- o Screen Passes
- o Throws too a lot of space
- · Inconsistent Footwork
- · Touch Needs Improvement
- · Learn how to Slide
- Throws with a weak base far too often
Grade: 1st Round
I'm sure that there are a lot of you that will argue that Mariota is the better quarterback prospect than Winston. While Mariota has elite upside, with the ability to make plays with his arm and legs, I give the edge to Winston because of his experience in a pro-style offense. The fact that Winston has the experience in the pro-style system, and has the experience to recognize when to make checks at the line. While Winston does have a couple of moments each game that makes me scratch my head, I still feel like his overall game and ability to anticipate throws and drive the ball downfield makes me give Winston the edge.
3. Brett Hundley QB/UCLA
Weight: 227 lbs
Year: RS Junior
- · Prototypical Size
- When in a rhythm, ball comes out effortlessly
- YAC routes Ball Placement
- · Short/Intermediate Accuracy
- · Short/Compact Delivery
- · Good Touch to Intermediate Areas
- Average Arm Strength
- · Deep Ball Inconsistent
- · Needs to Keep Eyes Downfield w/Pressure
- · Lack of Plays Under Center
- · Average Arm Strength
- Lack of Snaps Under Center
Grade: Late 1st/2nd Round
After Winston and Mariota come off the board I have a feeling it's going to be a little while before we hear another quarterback come off the board. UCLA's Brett Hundley entered the season as a contender for the no. 1 overall pick, but after failing to regress, and battling terrible offensive line play Hundley was unable to take the next step in his development. With Ohio State's Cardale Jones deciding to return to school for his junior season, Hundley is now in prime position to be the third QB off the board.
Hundley has the prototypical frame, but has a tendency to drop his eyes with pressure. Hundley possesses an NFL caliber arm that would be best suited for a west-coast offensive system that relies on timing receivers being able to make plays after the catch. While I would not want to start Hundley from day 1, I could definitely see Hundley make his NFL-debut at some point during his rookie season. I would expect a team to trade back into the bottom half of the first round to draft Hundley, and ensure the fifth year option that is in all rookie contracts.
4. Garret Grayson QB/Colorado State
Weight: 220 lbs
Class: RS Senior
- Good size
- Stands Tall in Pocket
- Quick Release
- Ability to Evade Pressure in Pocket
- Good Accuracy in Short/Intermediate Area of Field
- Willing to Throw into Tight Windows
- Needs to Sit an Learn Behind Veteran
- Average Arm Strength
- Level of Competition
- Lack of Experience in Pro-Style Offense
- Stares Down Primary Read
Grade: Round 3
5. Bryce Petty QB/Baylor University
Weight: 230 lbs
Class: RS Senior
- Plus Size
- Gets Rid of Ball Quickly
- Exceptional Accuracy on Short/Intermediate/YAC routes
- Ball Placement Good
- Underrated Arm Strength
- Experienced Starter
- Ability to Prove Self at Senior Bowl
- No Experience Running Pro System
- Footwork is major question mark
- Not Going to Extend Plays Outside the Pocket
- Leaves a lot of Plays on the Field on Deep Routes
Grade: Day 3
- Chris Bonner QB/CSU-Pueblo
Bonner is a massive individual standing at 6'7", weighing in at a stout 235 lbs. With this frame, and rocket arm Bonner has a chance to increase his pre-draft buzz with some strong individual work outs. Bonner has good feet, and stays square to the line of scrimmage in his drop. Bonner possesses plenty of arm strength, and an effortless release. By no means is Bonner ready to step in and run an NFL offense, but I could definitely see him ending up as a day 3 selection if he is able to impress in workouts.
- Sean Mannion QB/Oregon State
Standing at 6'5" the former Beavers quarterback has the look of a typical pro-style quarterback in the NFL, and is going to get a chance to prove himself after accepting an invite to play at the Reese's Senior Bowl. Mansion possesses a strong arm, but his accuracy and touch need a lot of work. Mansion also has an elongated throwing motion, which paired with his tendency to lock on to his primary read could make for a recipe for disaster at the next level. I would say he tops out at a day 3 selection come April.
Photo credit to Kathy Vitulano on Flickr
Daily Fantasy leagues have taken the world by storm. Fantasy sports’ newest revelation allows you to risk very little money to win huge prizes day after day in the sports world….and what’s even better is that somehow this is all legal! We at fantasy football helpers are excited to be newly affiliated with the best daily fantasy site out there, Draft Kings. So when we talk about Daily Fantasy we’re talking about Draft Kings!
There is no bigger opportunity to risk little and win BIG then in everyone’s favorite game, Fantasy Football. This week I am wagering $5 in a contest where first place takes home $25,000!!! Sure you’ll have to beat about 65,000 other people to win that top prize but hey, somebody is going to win it, and we’re good at this game aren’t we? So for you daily fantasy players out there I’d like to give you my recommendations on who the must start players are this week along with some value picks.
If you’re not familiar with Draftkings daily fantasy football, Draftkings assigns each player with a dollar value and allows you a salary cap of $60,000 to create your preferred team. Each team consists of a QB, 2 RBS, 3 WRs, a TE, a flex and a Defense. PPR scoring is used and rewards are given for 300 yards passing and 100 yards rushing/receiving. This week there are only four teams playing so while many people will be grabbing a lot of the same players, it is impossible to build an all-star squad under the salary cap. Therefore, selecting the right stars along with the right sleepers/value picks (i.e. Danny Amendola last week) are vital to winning a top prize.
If you don’t have a Draft Kings account you can click the ad that should be on the right of the page to sign up. If you, like us here at Fantasy Football Helpers and plan on signing up, please do so this way since this will help us!
Without further ado here are my recommendations for this playoff round:
QB – Recommended Start
· Andrew Luck at New England ($8200) – We’re making this selection over Tom Brady ($8500), Russell Wilson ($8000), and Aaron Rodgers ($7800). There is only one quarterback here that will need to throw the football regardless of game flow and that is Andrew Luck. Any of the other three QBs could defer to their RBs to control the game and we would not be surprised. Aaron Rodgers is the other QB who probably will have to do a good amount of throwing but I’d like to stay away from him since he’s banged up coming into a matchup in Seattle. And if you think Tom Brady is immune to a sub-par performance then just think back to the last Colts game when Jonas Gray ran 40+ times for 200+ yards. We’d expect Indianapolis to be playing from behind meaning a lot of throwing will be in store for Luck against a defense that allowed 4 TDs just last week to Joe Flacco. Luck struggled against the Patriots earlier in the season but his TE Dwayne Allen was missing in that game. The Patriots struggle against athletic TEs and against passes in the middle of the field so having a healthy Allen should make a huge impact. In addition, the Colts had not yet unleashed Daniel Herron who is not only clearly their best RB, but is also a significant factor in the passing game. Expect Luck to pass for over 300 yards and at least 2 TDs along with more stats via the run. We’ll need more than that to get our first prize but at only $8200, with that kind of floor I’d say we’re off to a great start.
QB Value Pick
· Aaron Rodgers ($7800)– Eddie Lacy is banged up and Green Bay should be coming from behind in the second half. Aaron Rodgers costing the least just sounds crazy. He’s a great value despite the matchup at Seattle. He is my second choice and a selection of Rodgers will allow you to go big at the other positions. I’d expect about 250 yards 2 TDs and 1 turnover but when you talk about a guy like Rodgers, despite injury, the upside is unlimited.
· Marshawn Lynch ($7600) – Lynch costs the most at the RB position but it’s a pick you have to make. Green Bay ranks 23rd in rushing yards against on the season and DeMarco Murray (23 carries 123 yds 1 TD) didn’t have a problem in last week’s game. In week 1, Lynch rumbled his way to 110 yards and 2 TDs in a 36-16 win over the Packers. I’d expect a similar gameplan from Seattle with similar results. Lynch is a must start.
RB Value Pick
· LeGarrette Blount ($4500) – Guessing the Patriots flavor of the day at RB is always a dangerous game but we’re going for the top prize here so it’s worth the risk. As I had mentioned earlier, Jonas Gray went for 40 carries over 200 yards and FOUR TDs in the last game against the Colts. His alarm clock failed to go off, the Patriots signed LeGarrette Blount and Gray has yet to play significant snaps since his breakout game. I expect the Patriots to deploy the same ground attack to keep Andrew Luck off the field with Blount stepping into the Jonas Gray role. For $4500 you could be getting 100+ and 2 TDs.
· Julian Edelman ($7200) – Edelman is the 3rd most expensive WR at $7200 behind Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson. Edelman however may be the most safe for a 15+ point performance and has huge upside. The Colts ranked 30th in the NFL against short passes which are defined as passes that travel up to 15 yards through the air. Edelman is amongst the NFL’s best at getting open in the short game. Vontae Davis should mostly be on Branon LaFell leaving Edelman, Gronk and Amendola to rack up the numbers in the passing game. Edelman has 23 catches for 303 yards and 2 TDs receiving in the last 3 games and is a PPR juggernaut. Oh, and maybe he’ll even pass for a TD since he had one of those last week! I don’t really think that but it just shows you that the Patriots like to call Edelman’s number a whole lot lately. Ignore the Packers WRs this week and go Edelman for your top WR spot.
WR Value Pick:
· Donte Moncrief ($3500)– The WR value pick is where the league is won. Last week it was Danny Amendola. You will have to select one of these guys and getting this right separates you from the pack. Revis should be on Hilton much of the time and Browner on Wayne/Nicks leaving Moncrief 1 on 1 with either a nickel corner or even a safety. With the Colts expected to trail much of the game I’d expect the Colts to use Moncrief on more snaps than usual. All it will take is one connection for a score for this selection to be worth the gamble.
Rob Gronkowski ($7800) – You need to select Gronk in order to win this…seriously. He’s that good and the Colts are THAT bad (ranked 27th) against the TE. Gronk is on an absolute tear with TDs in 4 straight games and he had 71 yards and a TD in the previous meeting against the Colts. Enough said. Pick Gronk. I’m not even going to list a value TE to make you think about not picking him.
I hope you all enjoyed these recommendations and I hope you all join me in playing. So little to enter and so much to win! I wish you all a 2nd place finish…b/c I of course would like to finish first. Good Luck.
Editor's note: This is the first of several articles where we will analyze what lessons we learned based on data from the 2014 NFL season and use that data to help us draft better fantasy football teams in the future.
When it comes to drafting a fantasy football team, the running back position is the backbone and the core of what will eventually be (hopefully) a quality fantasy team. After 2014, that lesson remains true and continues to grow even more important.
The running back position is so important and yet it's also unpredictable. Over the past three seasons, the top running backs have been Adrian Peterson, LeSean McCoy and DeMarco Murray. All of those running backs weren't listed in the top 3 heading into their respective drafts in 2012, 2013 and 2014. They all ranked in the 8-10 range depending on which site you looked at. It's because of this unpredictability that makes it so vital to draft several running backs and adopt a quantity over quality philosophy. This is perhaps the best way to ensure you'll hit on at least one running back.
This is the one position you must value over all the others, since running backs are often the most consistently productive players in fantasy.It makes sense really. I mean think about it. Even the best wide receivers can go an entire game without catching a pass. Several factors like gameflow, a decent cornerback covering them, an inaccurate quarterback, drops and just plain old changing up the game plan to exploit other matchups can all work against a wide receivers production on any given week. Quarterbacks are perhaps the second most consistent but you only need one of those in most standard leagues, so drafting a quality one is only one click away. Plus quarterbacks, like running backs, have the ball in their hands on every play.
The great thing about drafting quality running backs is that they will always see production. You can't defend a handoff (unless you're Jadeveon Clowney of course.
As far as the quarterback position goes, unless you're drafting a rock (guys like Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson) who will be a weekly starter and likely matchup proof, then opting to draft several running backs is one of the biggest keys for your success in fantasy football. Stockpile those guys like they're nuclear warheads and your fantasy team just entered the Cold War.
More reasons to draft running backs
In addition to their value as a whole, the running back position is often the hardest to find sleepers in late in the draft. While there were some in 2014 (Jeremy Hill, Le'Veon Bell, Ahmad Bradshaw and Mark Ingram to name a few), a lot of those running backs were either not starters going in and benefited from a stroke of luck. For example, Cincinnati Bengals starter Giovani Bernard went down with an injury early in the season and Hill eventually succeeded him and played so well he eventually found himself in the starting role for the remainder of the season. Hill finished with 1,124 yards, averaged 5.1 yards per carry and scored nine touchdowns. Fantastic rookie numbers for an RB. He also benefited from Bengals OC Hue Jackson's run-heavy scheme.
Bradshaw had a similar situation, although instead of an injury giving him the fantasy edge, it was lackluster play by starter Trent Richardson. Richardson struggled behind an below average offensive line, averaging just 3.3 yards per carry which eventually led to him getting benched for Bradshaw. Bradshaw played a key role in the receiving game for Indy, catching 38 passes for 300 yards and six touchdowns. Bradshaw may go down as one of the best ADP bargains of 2014, as he was drafted near the tail end of each 12-team fantasy draft on average in 2014.
Another big reason to draft running backs is because they're versatile. Guys like Matt Forte, LeSean McCoy, Jamaal Charles, Ahmad Bradshaw, and several others I'm sure I missed all contributed in the receiving game as well as the passing game. I know, McCoy had a down year, but traditionally he's been a solid receiving back.
As time has continued to show, never neglect the running back position in fantasy football. It's the most important, and if you don't have them, you're likely to struggle with consistent point totals from week to week.
Shhhhhhhh. I’m about to reveal something that only a small percentage of football fans, both NFL and fantasy football fans know. Minnesota Vikings rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater, finished his 2014 campaign on one of the all-time best runs by a rookie QB. Because of their record at the time (4-7), most people stopped paying attention to the Vikings from an NFL standpoint, and fantasy owners who were gearing up for the playoffs already had a reliable starting QB, so they ignored the end of the season statistical barrage that will be referred to as Teddy Time later in the article.
It obviously wasn't all smooth sailing so I’d like to further analyze Bridgewater’s season and answer the question that should be on your mind. What happened?
Coming Into the Season
In 2012 as a sophomore Teddy Bridgewater punched his ticket into the NFL throwing for 27 TDs vs. 8 INTs, his season culminating as the Sugar Bowl MVP in a victory over Florida. He remained in school for 2013 and capped off his storied career with a 31/4 TD/INT ratio. He was the 3rd QB selected in the 2014 draft behind Blake Bortles and Johnny Manziel. A concern over Bridgewater’s arm strength knocked him down to third on the totem pole, but the Vikings thought enough of him to trade 2nd and 4th round picks to Seattle in order to select him with the last pick in round one. In hindsight, the slip to the end of round 1 was the best thing that could’ve happened for Teddy, as he is clearly comfortable in Minnesota and is standing firmly at the head of the 2014 QB class after disastrous seasons by Bortles and Manziel.
2014: Weeks 1-2 – Holding a clipboard
Despite being the favorite to start heading into the season, Bridgewater lost a camp battle to Matt Cassel that lasted all the way until the last preseason game. Neither QB met the expectations of head coach Mike Zimmer and Offensive Coordinator/QB Guru Norv Turner, so they decided that winning was the top priority and they’d stick with the veteran Cassel.
2014: Weeks 3-4 – Season debut, first start and injury
After Cassel went down with a foot injury, Bridgewater was inserted into the lineup mid-way through week 3’s game against the Saints. With the Adrian Peterson child abuse story having just popped up, and with breakout candidate TE Kyle Rudolph going down with a significant injury, the Vikings season was in shambles. All eyes were on Bridgewater to salvage any hope for the future of the Vikings franchise. Taking over for Cassel, Bridgewater struggled in his first action against the Saints. However, his first start of the season resulted in a 41-28 rout over the Atlanta Falcons, a game in which Bridgewater threw for 319 yards and ran for a crucial TD, without committing a turnover. Bridgewater led several long drives and consistently hooked up with Jarius Wright (132 yds) setting up three Matt Asista goal line plunges. Things were finally looking up for the Vikings. The Vikings' balloon was deflated however when it was revealed that Bridgewater suffered a potentially severe ankle injury during the game.
2014: Weeks 6-11 – The low point, followed by steady improvements
Bridgewater’s ankle recovered quicker than expected and he only missed one game. However, his next two games, both Vikings losses, were anything but smooth as he was sacked 13 times against the Lions and Bills while throwing only 1 TD vs. 5 INTs. It was apparent that the rust from the injury was there and the game was moving too fast for Bridgewater during these losses. He looked indecisive and took too many sacks against the ferocious pass rushes that these two teams brought to the table.
He’d settle down and show steady improvements in the next three weeks against lesser defenses (TB, Washington, Chicago), going 2-1 as a starter and throwing 3 TDs vs. 1 INT, but there were still two huge elephants in the room when viewing the Vikings' offense. One was that Bridgewater was checking down time after time so despite the winning record against the Bucs, Skins, and Bears, fans were left scratching their heads asking themselves when Norv Turner’s offense would become even remotely explosive. The other elephant in the room was the play of young, speedy WR Cordarelle Patterson. Patterson had a fine rookie campaign (627 total yds, 7 TDs) and was the NFL’s preseason fantasy football darling at the WR position, with experts placing him amongst the top 15 for 2014. The coaching staff did their best to feature Patterson early in the season but he was an utter disappointment in Turner’s offense. Patterson struggled with route running, effort, and dropped passes. He became less and less featured in the offense over time. His poor play opened the door for another athletic freak at WR, Charles Johnson. Eventually Johnson would take over for Patterson as Patterson became a pure part time player.
2014: Weeks 12-17 - Teddy Time
The turning point of Bridgewater’s season actually came in a 24-21 loss to the Green Bay Packers. Nobody had given the Vikings a prayer to be alive in that game and Teddy went toe to toe with Aaron Rodgers, even executing a 4th quarter drive to bring the team to within three points with four minutes to go. He finished the game with 210 yards and 2 TDs, his first multiple TD game.
The emergence of Charles Johnson gave Bridgewater a legitimate big play, down field threat. From the Green Bay game forward, the cast of receivers including Johnson, Greg Jennings and slot man Jarius Wright was a balanced, dangerous crew. Each player had a defined important role. They had their dynamic #1 WR in Johnson who excelled on intermediate and deep balls (56 yard TD on go route vs. NYJ), along with a short-intermediate pass receiver and pro’s pro in Jennings (4 TDs in last 6 gms) and the speedy sneaky slot receiver Jarius Wright (2 TD last 6 gms). Bridgewater looked comfortable slinging the ball to this trio, winning 3 of his last 5 games and averaging 246 yds and 1.6. He’d finished the season with 4 multiple TD games in his last 6 and completed 68%+ in each of his last 5 games. The offense produced 30+ points 3 times bringing fantasy value not only to Bridgewater but to players at all positions on the Vikings offense.
To go into further detail, during the last 5 weeks (Teddy Time) the following accolades that Bridgewater racked up were not only impressive for a rookie but for any quarterback:
· *Second highest completion percentage (Behind Romo)
*First rookie ever to complete over 70% of passes in four straight games
*Eighth highest passer rating
*Seventh highest yards per attempt
*Pro Football Focus’ second-highest graded quarterback (Behind Rodgers)
You may not have realized, but Teddy Bridgewater’s 64.4% completion rate on the season was the 3rd best ALL TIME by a rookie behind Ben Roethlisberger and Robert Griffin III. Norv Turner gained more confidence in his young QB, and dialed up deeper passes once Bridgewater started to trust his offensive line and his WRs. If you don’t catch my drift, his five game streak of greatness to end the season went unnoticed but was truly special. With another year to work with Turner and his WRs, Bridgewater is sure to be undervalued and I’m pegging him as the breakout QB of 2015. He finished with a 14 TDs and 12 INTs in 13 games. Maybe it’s a coincidence but he also had this same TD/INT ratio in his first year starting at Louisville…the next season he finished with 27 TDs/8 INTs. Take what you want from that. A QB with this level of elite accuracy in a Norv Turner offense cannot be ignored. Turner will allow Bridgewater to air it out starting in week 1 and a huge breakout could be on the horizon. At minimum he will be a solid high end QB2, one that I would go out of my way to draft in the later rounds. Those who like to wait on QB would be wise to pair him with another mid-level QB and play matchups. Think of him as next year’s Ryan Tannehill.