I’m going to go over a brief list of fantasy football players who have stock rising or falling, I wanted to touch up briefly on this after the conclusion of 2 of the 3 major transaction periods in the off season(AKA free agency and the draft,cut days are the last part that haven’t happened yet). There are still a lot of things that won’t be cleared up until the end of preseason in terms of players starting or what role they will be in so this is a preemptive look at the fantasy landscape. After looking into what players people seem to high/low on right now I am going to break down who I think is overrated/undervalued at each position.
I got my rankings by averaging out player rankings from ESPN’s ranks(http://espn.go.com/fantasy/football/story/_/page/FFLranks14top200/2014-fantasy-football-rankings-preseason-top-200) Yahoo Sports ranks (http://sports.yahoo.com/news/2014-fantasy-rankings–top-150-204748821.html) and NFL.com’s ranks (http://www.nfl.com/fantasyfootball/rankings#tabset=pr-top).
If there are any good websites to use as a basic guideline for player rankings and such I am more than welcome to suggestions, but these are the three most popular websites for playing fantasy football so I will just use them as a basis of comparison. And now let us get under way with the first installment of a multi-art pre-preseason look at the fantasy football landscape
1. Nick Foles- Last season’s out of nowhere QB was the 10th or 11th best QB(10th or 11th depending on league scoring rules) despiteplaying just 75% of last season(he won the starting job after Michael Vick got hurt…again). He is being ranked in the top 10 of pre-preseason rankings, and this is absurd. 1st there is going to be some regression, Foles is almost guaranteed not to repeat his two interception campaign last year. Second I don’t care how you want to slice it, losing DeSean Jackson is going to hurt Foles production, Jackson opened things up for guys like Jason Avant and RIley Cooper and now the Eagles don’t have any true #1 receivers on their roster. I think Foles is a top 15 QB but I don’t think he sniffs the top 10 next year
2. Phillip Rivers- He is being pegged around the top 15# in these early rankings and it is just too high. I know he had a resurgence last year and returned to the top 10 fantasy QB’s but I don’t see him repeating that going forward. When the Chargers went on their run to the playoffs last year their offensive identity shifted from pass first to run first. The Chargers finished last year with the 6th most rushing attempts in the NFL and in their four game winning streak to sneak into the playoffs they had more rushing attempts than passing attempts every game. That ratio looks like this: Week 14 40:28 Rushing/Passing attempts, Week 15: 44:20 Rushing/Passing attempts, Week 16 37:29 Rushing/Passing attempts and Week 17 36:33 Rushing/Passing attempts. The Chargers are becoming a more run oriented football team with the emergence of Ryan Matthews and they run Danny Woodhead a bit, and on top of that they just signed Donald Brown in the offseason. I think they stick with the run again this season which drops Phillip Rivers into a Top 20 QB and if he fell out of the top 20 I wouldn’t be shocked
3. Tom Brady- He is being ranked around the top 10 QB’s and its just too high. We saw how bad he was without Rob Gronkowski last season, he was frustrating to own, and simply put was not a top 10 play. Gronk is bound to miss some more time this season and the receivers aren’t any better than last year. They are also transitioning into being a more run oriented team, 9th in rushing attempts and rushing yards and 2nd in rushing touchdowns last year. Tom Brady is sure to have his better games but he shouldn’t be your starting QB next year, he would be better suited as a backup or an A-1 QB if you take another similar later round QB
4. Johnny Manziel- He is being ranked in between the top 20 QB’s. I don’t see it this year for him. I’m not going to be one of those people ranting about how Manziel can’t succeed in the NFL or anything because I am not going to pass judgement on him before he plays a single snap in the NFL. I am going to say that you don’t want anything to do with him in fantasy football next year. The potential loss of Josh Gordon is the driving force behind my skepticism on Manziel. Without Gordon though I think the weapons aren’t enough, the only one I would count is Jordan Cameron. Without Josh Gordon I think Manziel will have very similar stats to whoever wins the Jets starting QB job, he is a stay away until he proves it.
5. Cam Newton. He is being ranked as a top 10 QB for next year and why shouldn’t he? He has been fantasy football dynamite since entering the NFL. The reason I have him on this list is because I see a few troubling trends with Newton. First he lost all his receivers from last year. It depends how you feel about Kelvin Benjamin but there aren’t any NFL caliber #1 receivers on that team. Newtons’s passing yards have also been dropping each year since he threw for 4,000 yards in his rookie campaign, dropping by about 200 from 2011 to 2012 and dropping almost 500 yards from 2012 to last year(2013)!! That’s a big flag especially with such crap at receiver. Secondly his rushing totals. His rushing touchdowns have dropped every year since his rookie year(14 to 8 to 6) and he dropped about 150 rushing yards from 2012 to 2013. What made Cam Newton a special fantasy football player was the dual threat, and that he was scoring with his legs. He is an average passer and if his rushing totals aren’t amazing he will drop out of the top 10 next year. Just something to keep an eye on.
Now for the 5 Most Undervalued QB’s
1. Jay Cutler- Rankings have him at about the #15 QB slot and I think he is a surefire top 10 QB. Did you know last year that if you combined Jay Cutler and Josh McCown you got the number 3 # fantasy QB? The Bears were 5th last year in Passing Yards, Passing Touchdowns and Passing yards per game. Alshon Jeffery emerged as a legit #1 receiver in this league to pair with Brandon Marshall who is already a top 10 receiver in the NFL. Marc Trestman wants to throw the ball and he has the weapons to do it, a lot. Their division was all in the bottom 10 in terms of stopping the pass last year and only Green Bay has attempted to address that. I think Cutler, if he can stay healthy is lined up to have a monster year this year
2. Matthew Stafford- He is already being ranked inside the top 10 of fantasy QB’s but I think he could be a top 3 player this year. There are so so many weapons in Detroit, at every position. When you have guys like Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate, Eric Ebron, Brandon Pettigrew along with pass catching backs in Reggie Bush and Joique Bell its an embarrassment of riches. As I mentioned before with Cutler, the NFC North struggled against the pass last year. The Lions were 3rd in Passing Yards/Passing Yards per game last year and were 5th in Passing attempts per game. If Stafford can cut down on those careless interceptions he is set up to have a career year this year.
3. Robert Griffin III- He is being ranked in the top 7 of fantasy QB’s. As I will go into in greater detail later I think the Washington Redskins are going to be boom or bust this year(and I am leaning towards the boom) especially on offense. A fully healthy RG3 with a treasure chest of weapons and new head coach Jay Gruden bodes extremely well for RG3’s fantasy value. Much like how Gruden helped turn Andy Dalton into the #5 fantasy QB last year I think he is going to have similar success with RG3, except the sky is the limit. First RG3 has to be completely healthy or everything I’m writing is meaningless, but he should be by now. Second Jay Gruden spread the ball to a lot of different places with the Bengals and the Redskins have just as many places to spread the ball. They have a suddenly deep receiver corps with DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon and Andre Roberts. They have Jordan Reed at TE and drafted a pass catching running back in Lache Seastrunk, the weapons are there. That on top of RG3’s ability as a dual threat should make him fantasy gold this year.
4. Joe Flacco- Currently ranked outside the top 20 fantasy QB’s. I’m a litte wacko for Flacco! I think there is major bounce back potential here. Last year he, along with the entire Ravens offense was crap, plain and simple, crap. I don’t know what to make of their ground game(aka Ray Rice) but I think Flacco can definitely bounce back. Having a healthy Dennis Pitta is a start, and I think adding Steve Smith will help open things up and take some coverage off of Torrey Smith. The 22 interceptions were an aberration due to Flacco forcing the ball into spots he shouldn’t have when he was trying to muster up some offense. I think that number should come closer to the 10 or 12 interceptions he normally throws a year. I don’t think Flacco is going to be a revelation next year but I certainly expect him to crack the top 20 and be a spot starter, a good back-up or someone to grab in deeper leagues
5. Andy Dalton- Currently ranked outside the top 15 Fantasy QB’s. I know Dalton will regress from his surprise spot as the #5 fantasy QB from last year but I don’t the falloff being this big. I think he is a surefire top 15 play for next season. He still has a lot, I mean a lot of weapons such as AJ Green, Marvin Jones, Mohammed Sanu, Jermaine Gresham, Tyler Eifert and Giovanni Bernard. There has been talk about the Bengals being more run oriented under Hue Jackson calling the offense, but they aren’t going to stop throwing the ball or being effective at it. Dalton should still be good this year.
1. EJ Manuel- Currently being ranked around the #25 spot for QB’s. Manuel showed some flashes last year when healthy. in the 10 games he played he had 6 15+ point performances. He gives you a little bit with his legs and scored two rushing touchdowns towards the end of the year. Buffalo could still be run heavy with CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson, but I think that by drafting Sammy Watkins they want to start to develop their passing game with him and Manuel. Robert Woods was solid last year and Marquis Goodwin gives them a deep threat, its a pretty solid group of receivers for Manuel to work with. I think he could potentially take that step up and be a surprise top 15 play if everything shakes out right.
2. Teddy Bridgewater. Currently being ranked 30th or worse amongst QB’s. Call him a deep deep sleeper, but I could see him being successful. He will have to win the starting job first but Matt Cassell is just a placeholder until he is ready to play. The Vikings have the weapons on offense to help him out. Adrian Peterson has been opening up the play-action for years and hopefully Bridgewater can execute it. Greg Jennings, Cordarrelle Patterson and Kyle Rudolph are all capable pass catchers. As I have written above, the NFC North was bad against the pass last year. He is worth keeping an eye on.