2014 Pre-Preseason Fantasy Football Stock Watch, Rankings Reaction Part 2 Running Backs

I’m going to break down who I think the most undervalued and overvalued Running Backs are in this part of my 4 part Pre-Preseason evaluation.

Overvalued Running Backs

1. LeVeon Bell- Currently being ranked as a top 10 Running Back- I think he is being vaulted a little too high for my liking right now. One of the reasons there were so many flame out running backs in last year’s first round is because we thought young guys starting for their second year would take the leap(Think Trent Richardson, CJ Spiller, Doug Martin) and those are the players we should be most wary of overvaluing. I think LeGarrette Blount is going to share some of the work with Bell, unlike last year I don’t think he will be receiving 90%+ of the carries per game. Don’t get cute and reach for LeVeon Bell as a top 10 running back.

2.Giovanni Bernard- Currently being ranked as a top 12 Running Back. Again, similar to LeVeon Bell, let’s not get cute here. I like Giovanni Bernard, I was all in on him last year and owned him in a lot of leagues, but I think this is a reach for him. The Bengals have a committee of running backs right now after drafting Jeremy Hill to add with Bernard and Benjarvus Greeen-Ellis(there is speculation he may be cut but we will see), so I don’t see Bernard getting an increase in touches from last year. Don’t reach for Giovanni Bernard, he has value but has a much more limited upside this year compared to last.

3. Arian Foster- Currently being ranked as a top 10 Running Back. This has a lot more to do with the situation than the player. The Texans didn’t draft one of the premier QB’s in this year’s draft(which isn’t necessarily a bad thing) and didn’t trade for one so their starting QB going into 2014 looks to be Ryan Fitzpatrick, which is bad for the offense. If their defense doesn’t keep them in games the Texans are in for another year similar to last year, where they are down big and have to keep throwing to catch up. That doesn’t bode well for Arian Foster, who needs a lot of carries to get going. I think he has bounce back potential but isn’t safe enough to be a top 10 running back.

4. Doug Martin- Currently being ranked as a fringe top 10 Running Back. Again this has more to do with the situation than the player. I bought in on Martin during his rookie year(when he was excellent) and stayed away last year as he vaulted into the top 10 players off the board, and became one of many to flame out. If he gets the work like he did his rookie year I have no doubt he can be a top 10 running back but I don’t know if he will get that kind of workload. Mike James played well before he also got hurt and the Bucs drafted Charles Sims in the third round, so there are other capable running backs on the roster who may steal a few carries here and there. On top of that I think Tampa Bay is going to look to be more active in the passing game. They drafted receiver Mike Evans in the first round and pass catching tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins in the second round. I know if things break right for Martin he can be a top 10 running back, but I don’t feel he is a safe bet to land there.

5. Zac Stacy- Currently being ranked as a fringe top 10 running back. Noticing a trend with second year running backs? I think Stacy is a lot safer than LeVeon Bell and Giovanni Bernard but is worth mentioning here as well. I am interested to see if the Rams remain as run heavy as they were last year with the return of Sam Bradford. Part of the reason Stacy was so successful last year was because of the Rams inept passing game and their reliance upon the ground game. Secondly I want to see if or how much of the carries Tre Mason gets in this offense. If Mason gets 25-30% of the carries that would alter Stacy’s value.

Most Undervalued Running Backs

1. Frank Gore- Currently being ranked just outside the top 20 running backs. I know Frank Gore is destined to flame out at some point and stop being the 49ers workhorse, but that wasn’t the case last year as he produced another solid season. I think as long as he is getting the majority of the work he is a clear cut top 15 play. The 49ers are loaded at running back with Kendall Hunter, Marcus Lattimore and Carlos Hyde all wanting to get some run, but Jim Harbaugh didn’t delineate to much into a timeshare last year though. If he keeps that same philosophy and gives Gore the work he should have another productive year.

2. Ryan Matthews- currently being barely inside the top 20 running backs. I don’t get it. As I wrote before about the Chargers, when they went on their 4 game winning streak to sneak into the playoffs they established themselves as a run first offense. with Matthews being the workhorse. During that 4 game stretch Matthews was averaging a whopping 26.75 carries, 118.25 yards and scored 3 touchdowns. He also had 3 100+ yard games before that stretch last year. He emerged as a legit fringe top 10 fantasy running back. I don’t know why he isn’t ranked there or around the top 15 at least, but he isn’t. I know Danny Woodhead ate into his production a bit last year and the Chargers brought in Donald Brown and he might bite into the production as well. But if the Chargers are going to be a run heavy team like I suspect next year there is no reason to shy away from Matthews if he is getting the bulk of the work.

3. Steven Jackson- Currently being ranked outside the top 25 Running Backs. I know he has been ugly the last couple of years but when healthy he should still be good for 1000+ yards, a handful of TD’s and about 300 yards receiving. On top of that there is no one behind him on the depth chart that really poses any threat to creating a timeshare or taking away his starting job. The Falcons have made upgrades to their offensive line after being dominated up front last year. They drafted tackle Jake Matthews in the first round and brought in guard Jon Asamoah from the Chiefs. I suspect that Jackson will be heavily involved in the Falcons offense and should easily crack the top 20 if not making a run at being a top 15 running back.

4. CJ Spiller- Currently ranked just inside the top 20 Running Backs. I know he was one of the guys who flamed out royally last year, but he was hurt most of the year. Obviously Fred Jackson is still a thorn in his side as the two will continue to cannibalize each other’s fantasy value,but this is too low a ranking. If healthy CJ Spiller is an explosive, home-run hitting kind of player, all it takes is that one 70 yard touchdown run for him to win you a week. The Bills are going to continue to run the ball, a lot. They led the league in carries by a large margin(the difference between them and the number 2 team in carries was the difference between the number 2 team and the number 9 team). I do think the Bills are going to throw more this year(I mean they have to right?) and CJ Spiller is more than capable as a receiving back and should have his receiving yards bump up. I think he will be frustrating at times, but should see numbers more similar to his 2012 campaign. That should make him at least a top 15 play, if not a top 12 play.

5. Picks a Patriots running back- Shane Vereen is ranked outside the top 20 and Stevan Ridley is ranked outside the top 25. The Patriots are good at running the ball, and run a lot. They were 9th in rushing attempts and yards last year and were second in rushing touchdowns. The opportunity is going to be there for one of these two players to have a big year next year, especially now that LeGarrette Blount is gone. I am inclined to say its going to be Ridley, since Vereen is used more as a scatback and receiver out of the backfield, but Ridley’s fumbling problem cost him the starting role last year so he has that going against him. Trust your gut and try and snag one of these guys in the later rounds, one, if not both should be a steal.

SLEEPER WATCH

1. Terrance West- Currently being ranked outside the top 40 running backs. I think the Browns are going to have to be ground heavy after probably losing Josh Gordon for the year to suspension. That means a healthy dosage of Ben Tate and probably some work from West. West can also catch the ball out of the backfield which is a plus. If Ben Tate goes down West has a shot at being at top 20 player, even if Tate stays healthy, keep an eye on his usage in Cleveland

2. Toby Gerhart- Currently being ranked as a fringe top 25 player. The job is all his! Albeit a crappy job, but its all his! Gerhart has show flashes that he can be a starting running back in the NFL and how he gets his chance. The Jaguars should run the ball a lot to help out Blake Bortles and that means Gerhart should get a lot of carries. I’m not too worried about Jordan Todman or Storm Johnson behind him on the depth chart he is going get the lion’s share of the carries. I could see him cracking the top 20 if the Jaguars defense holds and keeps games close. Gerhart is going to be a guy who will get a bunch of ugly carries and isn’t sexy but should have some value.

3. Trent Richardson and Ray Rice- Both currently ranked outside of the top 20 running backs. One of these guys is going to bounce back, period. I don’t know which one its going to be, it could be both. Both these guys busted out of last year’s first round spectacularly, but without injury. Richardson is only in his 3rd year in the NFL and was productive in his first year. Chuck Pagano desperately wants to run the ball to take some pressure off Andrew Luck and its not like they kept Donald Brown around to challenge Richardson. I’m more inclined to believe Richardson bounces back from Rice, but he was just so bad last year. As for Rice, its the same deal. It’s still just him and Bernard Pierce in the Ravens backfield. Pierce showed last year that he isn’t capable of handling the starting role so its up to RIce to not look like crap next year. Take a flier on one of these guys, they each have good situations and one could pan out.

World Cup 2014 Predictions

That’s right I watch and follow all kinds of football! Here are my predictions for this year’s world cup(which kicks off tomorrow!) Starting with the finishing places of each group and then predicting through the knockout stages to the final! Lets get started

Group A

1st Brazil

2nd Croatia

3rd Mexico

4th Cameroon

Group B

1st Spain

2nd Netherlands

3rd Chile

4th Australia

Group C

1st. Ivory Coast

2nd Greece

3rd Colombia

4th Japan

Group D

1st Uruguay

2nd England

3rd Italy

4th Costa Rica

Group E

1st France

2nd Ecuador

3rd Switzerland

4th Honduras

Group F

1st Argentina

2nd Bosnia-Herzegovina

3rd Iran

4th Nigeria

Group G

1st Germany

2nd Ghana

3rd Portugal- Ghana is a team, Cristiano Ronaldo is just one player. Though I think how team plays Germany will decide who advances

4th United States(It sucks so much)

Group H

1st Belgium

2nd South Korea

3rd Russia- This could go either way but either Japan or South Korea always makes the second round so I have Russia in third)

4th Algeria

2nd Round Match-Ups

Brazil-Netherlands- Brazil should march on to the quarterfinals easily and take revenge on the Dutch for eliminating them in the last World Cup. The Dutch have a frightful back four and won’t be able to defend the Brazilian attack.

Spain- Croatia- Poor Croatia, they won’t stand a chance as Spain steamrolls past them into the quarterfinals.

Ivory Coast-England- I have Ivory Coast advancing to the quarterfinals off the strong play of some of the most celebrated players in the EPL, Yaya Toure and Didier Drogba will need to come up big for them to advance in what should be a close game.

Uruguay-Greece- The Greeks are always a strong defensive team but the Uruguayan strike force of Luis Suarez and Edison Cavani should prove to be too much for them to handle

France- Bosnia-Herzegovina- I think the whack-a-mole strike force of Oliver Giroud and Karim Benzema shows up and helps France advance into the quarterfinals

Argentina-Ecuador- Argentina, plain and simple

Germany-South Korea- The Germans advance easily

Belgium-Ghana- I am way too excited about this Belgium team to have them lose here, they should win a tough match against a good Ghana team and advance.

Quarterfinals

Brazil-Ivory Coast- The host team gets closer to their goal as Brazil should blow past Ivory Coast.

Spain-Uruguay- I have Spain, but I don’t feel too excited about it. They are overall much better than Uruguay but lack the offensive power to match them if Suarez and Cavani decide to go off.

France- Germany- Germany should be able to get past the French and back into the Semi-Finals. The consistency difference between the French and the Germans will be a big factor

Belgium-Argentina- I went back and forth and back and forth and back and forth on this one. I think both of these teams are capable of winning it all. I picked Belgium to get by Argentina here. The Argentine back four is sub-par and I think Belgium is such a top down quality team that they should be able to advance.

Brazil-Germany- I have Brazil advancing here. This is Germany every year, getting deep into the tournament and then flaming out somewhere, I think it is here.

Belgium-Spain- I have my dark horse Belgium advancing to the finals against Spain. These teams are very equally constructed and I think Belgium can save us from a favorite heavy final of Spain and Brazil.(If I had picked Argentina, which I strongly considered I had them winning this game too).

The Final

Brazil-Belgium- Aaaand Brazil wins the world cup. Its just the most likely scenario. They have a stacked team top down, and the home field advantage should help them immensely. As much as I love Belgium(perhaps irrationally) I don’t realistically see them beating Brazil in Brazil to win the world cup.

Whatever happens I’m sure there will be great games, great goals and tons of excitement. Time to go and enjoy the world’s biggest and best sporting event.

You can follow how accurate or inaccurate my predictions yourself or with the help of this ESPN bracket challenge submission http://games.espn.go.com/world-cup-bracket-predictor/2014/en/entry?entryID=897776

 

Top 30 Fantasy QB’s for 2014 Pre-Preseason Rankings

Included in all my player rankings are player tiers. I think its important to recognize that when you are drafting you should be thinking about where players stack against the rest of the field. When given the choice of a Tier 2 wide receiver or a Tier 3 running back in the 6th round of your draft you are going to want to take the player with more value, I will use a tier system to organize that value to help you stay prepared for your draft. Here are my QB rankings as of now

Tier 1

1. Peyton Manning

2. Aaron Rodgers

3. Drew Brees

Tier 1-A

4. Robert Griffin III

5. Matthew Stafford

6. Andrew Luck

Tier 2

7. Colin Kaepernick

8. Cam Newton

9. Jay Cutler

10. Russell Wilson

11. Matt Ryan

12. Nick Foles

13. Tony Romo

Tier 3

14. Andy Dalton

15. Tom Brady

16. Ben Roethlisberger

17. Joe Flacco

18. Carson Palmer

19. Eli Manning

20. Josh McCown

21. Phillip Rivers

22. EJ Manuel

Tier 4

23. Ryan Tannehill

24. Alex Smith

25. Sam Bradford

26. Jake Locker

27. Michael Vick/Geno Smith

28. Ryan Fitzpatrick

29. Johnny Manziel

30. Matt Cassell

2014 Pre-Preseason Fantasy Football Stock Watch, Rankings Reaction Part 1 Quarterbacks

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.

 

SLEEPER WATCH

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.

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