With almost every fantasy draft in the books, this week’s column will be a bit different, looking back and highlighting some ramifications from the preseason and of course, more predictions for the upcoming season. Moving forward, look for this column to be regularly posted Monday nights, recapping that week’s action.
But for now, let’s focus on what’s happened in August that made me change my rankings in some sort of significant manner. It’s tough to decipher what’s pure noise (so-and-so is in the best shape of his life), and there’s an argument most performances on the field during preseason games should be ignored, but there were some definite takeaways during August I took seriously - starting with quarterbacks.
Robert Griffin has struggled mightily trying to learn a new offense and questions persist about his ability to be a pocket passer. Of course, patience should be preached considering the transition in systems, and it’s encouraging he claims he’s fully healthy. Washington projects to have a shaky defense, is loaded with offensive weapons and should be in a bunch of shootouts in the NFC East. RG3 has averaged 46.6 rushing yards per game during his career (and that includes coming off major knee surgery and playing with a bulky brace last season), which is more than Cam Newton and Michael Vick, so there’s clear upside, even if he never comes close to repeating the 8.1 YPA mark he got as a rookie with defenses now adjusting to all that play action. However, watching Griffin play a meaningless preseason game in which he displayed a continued inability to properly slide while taking numerous unnecessary hits made me drop him in my rankings, from QB5 to QB13. It’s not as drastic as it seems considering I continue to claim QBs 4-14 are in the same tier essentially, but Griffin is going to get himself seriously hurt if he doesn’t change his style of play. He ended up on zero of my (far too many) teams this year.
Russell Wilson got 10.4 YPA with a 3:0 TD:INT ratio while adding three more scores on the ground during the preseason. Yes, take preseason action with a grain of salt and all that, but Wilson is tied with Peyton Manning for the second-most touchdown passes over the first two seasons of a career (Dan Marino is the leader), and that was while playing for a team that attempted the No. 32 and No. 31 passes over that stretch, respectively. He’s also added 1,028 rushing yards and five scores on the ground. All signs point to Seattle giving Wilson much more responsibility this season and just imagine if Percy Harvin can stay relatively healthy. Wilson looks unstoppable and is a legitimate threat to win the MVP. I’ve moved him up my QB ranks accordingly (I have him No. 9 right now, and even that feels too low). I’d much rather him than Matthew Stafford.
Speaking of disgusting digestion habits, come on, this has to be fake.
I was down on Doug Martin entering August, especially when compared to where some had him ranked. I’ve taken a 180 degree turn since, as multiple injuries to the rest of the Bucs’ backfield combined with him impressing Tampa Bay’s coaching staff with his ability as a receiver has vaulted him up my rankings. The Buccaneers should field a solid defense, upgraded their offensive line by trading for Logan Mankins (Pro Football Focus graded him as the fourth best run blocking guard in all of football last season), and now clearly view Martin as the team’s workhorse back. It’s partially an indictment toward the rest of the RBs in tier two, but I felt comfortable taking Martin in the mid-to-late second round in a few leagues after wanting no part of him entering the preseason. He’s going to see a lot of touches.
I’m fully buying into the Andre Ellington hype, as it sure seems like the Cardinals are going to make him their feature back. I have no idea if he can handle the workload, but with his skills (he had the highest YPC after contact last season, minimum 110 rushing attempts) now combined with what appears to be a real opportunity as a bell cow, he became worthy of a second round pick…I’m irrationally all in on Shane Vereen. He’s highly unlikely to approach 200 carries, but he’s going to be a major part of New England’s offense on a weekly basis. Vereen will prove to be worth a top-20 overall pick in PPR leagues…Speaking of PPR assets, it remains to be seen if Rashad Jennings can stay healthy after becoming a full-time back for the first time in his career at age 29, but he’s going to approach 80 receptions if he’s somehow able to...Pierre Thomas might approach 100…Considering he’s never been able to stay healthy even as a backup, it’s hard to fully trust Ben Tate, but he massively beat out rookie Terrance West this preseason. Again, Tate is injury prone and likely won’t hold up, but as a rare true feature back, he moved into my top-20 fantasy RBs entering the year…Bishop Sankey still has the most upside in Tennessee’s backfield, but the rookie played zero snaps with the team’s first-team offense during preseason games. As in none. He had to be downgraded accordingly.
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Not nearly as much has changed in August in regards to the wide receiver landscape, although there’s the obvious Wes Welker downgrade and Emmanuel Sanders upgrade (also with Eric Decker gone combined with the Welker concussion/suspension, there’s an argument to move Demaryius Thomas to the No. 1 WR spot, but I’ve personally kept him where I’ve had him all along at No. 3)…I’ve fully bought the Justin Hunter hype, moving him way up from where I originally had him. He enters Week 1 as a No. 3 WR on a team that doesn’t exactly scream upside with its passing attack, but Hunter is a beast and should overtake Nate Washington in short order and dominate in the red zone. I’ll say there’s a 50/50 chance he has more fantasy value than teammate Kendall Wright, whose ADP is more than 30 spots higher…Brandin Cooks’ hype has gotten out of control, which I don’t really get. Even if he’s as good as advertised, he enters 2014 on a spread it around Saints offense as the team’s No. 3 option at best, but more realistically, he’s No. 4 or No. 5 when you factor in Pierre Thomas and Kenny Stills (the latter led the NFL in fantasy points per target last year). I predict at least two rookie wide receivers provide more fantasy value than Cooks in 2014.
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There’s been some debate as to whether the loss of Josh Gordon is good or bad for Jordan Cameron’s fantasy value, and while I lean toward it helping, he’s been No. 4 on my TE board both before and after the Gordon decision…One of the bigger movers on my tight end ranks has been Zach Ertz, whom I settled on at No. 6. The Eagles should run an even more uptempo offense during year two under Chip Kelly, and with the loss of DeSean Jackson and now relying on injury-prone Jeremy Maclin, Ertz is going to quickly become a major part of the offense. He’s going to dominate red-zone work…Kyle Rudolph looks like he’s going to go off in a Norv Turner offense, while Heath Miller looks healthier and is a candidate to score double-digit touchdowns…Ladarius Green’s sporadic use with the first-team offense unfortunately means it might take an Antonio Gates injury for him to reach his potential, while Travis Kelce has joined the same conversation. Since Anthony Fasano isn’t Gates, and the Chiefs really lack other options in the passing attack, Kelce has been the biggest mover up tight end draft boards during the preseason. Remember, this guy is 6-5, 260.
MVP: Aaron Rodgers
ROY: Carlos Hyde
DPOY: J.J. Watt
Fantasy MVP: Eddie Lacy
Fantasy LVP: Matthew Stafford
AFC Championship: Patriots over Broncos
NFC Championship: Packers over Seahawks
Super Bowl: Patriots over Packers
Good luck everyone, and I hope you all enjoy much fantasy success this season.
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