This is my A to Z Guide to the 2015 Fantasy Football Season. These are 26 story lines I’m keeping my eye on as the preseason kicks off and we head into the regular season. These aren’t Earth shattering revelations with the human race hanging in the balance. We won’t have to call in The Avengers to save the day, but if anyone sees Scarlett Johansson running around in that Black Widow outfit, please send her my way. Anyway, this is a fun article to write and I hope you enjoy reading it.
Let’s get to it.
Alshon Jeffery and life without Brandon Marshall
After playing his entire career across from Marshall, Alshon now finds himself in the spotlight. With Adam Gase bringing his offense from Denver to the Windy City, Alshon will be asked to step into the Demaryius Thomas role and the focal point of this offense. Over the second half of last season, he had 47 catches, 570 yards and seven touchdowns. He has all the tools you look for in a WR1, he’s 6’3”, 216 pounds and just turned 25 years old. The arrow is pointing up, with or without Marshall.
Bradford’s troublesome knee
Chip Kelly treats the Eagles like a squad he’s putting together on Madden. He sent then-starter Nick Foles and a second round pick to the Rams for Sam Bradford, a quarterback who has missed 25 games over the last two seasons and only played 16 games twice in the five years he’s been in the league. Kelly has proved he believes in his system more than the players running it and I believe Bradford just wants to be wanted. After playing collegiately at Oklahoma together, DeMarco Murray stated playing with Bradford was one of the main reasons he signed with Philly. He has a very talented team around him with Murray, Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles, Zach Ertz, Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor and a group of interesting role players. If he can stay healthy he has the opportunity to finally live up to his potential.
Calvin Johnson: is he human or not?
For the first time since he was in preschool, Calvin Johnson has an ADP value outside of the first round. Even though he missed three full games and ran decoy in two others, Megatron still caught 71 balls for 1,077 yards and eight touchdowns. People are starting to fear an age induced decline in performance because he turns 30 years old before October. Calvin seems like the type of player who would love nothing more than to shut his doubters up. Tell him he’s not the best and he’s more likely than not to go out and drop 200 yards on you. I’m predicting a top five finish among wide receivers for Megatron.
Dallas’ running back situation
It’s not very often the league leading rusher is allowed to walk in free agency without much of a fight, but it happened in Dallas when DeMarco Murray signed with the division rival Philadelphia Eagles. Everyone thought the Cowboys would be in the market for one of the NFL Draft’s marquee running backs, but they decided against drafting one altogether. Now they enter camp with Joseph Randle and the perennial punchline Darren McFadden atop the depth chart. People look at Randle’s gaudy 6.7 yards per carry average and think it’s a no-brainer handing the reigns over to him, but role players thrust into the spotlight often struggle when counted on in bigger roles. I’ve been very vocal in my support of McFadden in Dallas. I would rather have him at his current price as my RB4 than Randle as my RB2 at his current price – this is all assuming talent isn’t added via trade or free agency.
El Guapo’s hold on the 49ers starting running back job
[inlinead]In case you didn’t know, Carlos Hyde’s Twitter handle is @ElGuapo and the only other E’s I could think of were Eli Manning and Emmanuel Sanders, but I thought this was more important. When Frank Gore, the 49ers all-time leading rusher, was allowed to walk in free agency, it was widely assumed Hyde, the 57th overall selection of the 2014 draft, would immediately take his spot. Then all hell broke loose in San Francisco with firings and retirements. He’s still the runner to own in San Francisco, but this team isn’t the NFC favorite it once was and everything begins and ends with Colin Kaepernick. Hyde has plenty of experience playing with incredibly mobile quarterbacks from his days at Ohio State and has the ability to be an elite player at the position.
This is the star of the show. It’s why we’re here. It’s why you’re reading this. (Thanks, by the way. You da real MVP!) It brings families, high school friends, that weird co-worker who puts ranch dressing on everything and complete strangers together for a common goal; complete annihilation of everything that moves!
I think it’s absolutely amazing that Todd Gurley is being drafted as the RB3 with an ADP of 21.00 coming off a torn ACL in college. Only Le’Veon Bell and Eddie Lacy are being selected ahead of him. Recent reports on Gurley’s knee have been great. He passed his conditioning test and now expects to begin training camp on the active roster with his sights set squarely on being the week one starter. The Rams have a very competent runner in Tre Mason, so they shouldn’t feel pressured into rushing the 21 year old rookie back too soon. He has the look and potential to be the best in the game.
Hilton’s contract situation
T.Y. Hilton has made quite the name for himself since entering the league as the 92nd selection of the 2012 NFL Draft. The 5’9”, 185 pound speedster has been one of the game’s most explosive playmakers, catching deep ball after deep ball from Andrew Luck. Now people are quickly writing him off because the Colts selected Phillip Dorsett with the 29th pick of the first round in this year’s draft. How this shakes out with have big time dynasty ramifications for both wide receivers.
Injuries, injuries and more injuries
Nothing sucks harder than getting a cryptic text message in the middle of the day asking, “Dude! Did you hear about Michael Crabtree?” You immediately start digging through Twitter, Rotoworld and ESPN to find anything you can about the mysterious “leg” injury. If you’re lucky it’s only a sprain. If not, you’re dynasty squad just took a hit and they haven’t even played a snap yet.
Jimmy Graham’s role in Seattle
Over the last four years, Jimmy Graham has averaged 137.75 targets and 11.5 touchdowns per year with Drew Brees and the Saints. No Seahawk has seen more than 98 targets or caught more than seven touchdowns since Russell Wilson took over as the starting quarterback in 2012. While I don’t expect Graham’s targets to continue, I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see him be the first to score double digit touchdowns from the arm of Wilson.
Kelce’s role in Kansas City
The man many have knocking Jimmy Graham out of the top two tight ends in the rankings, Kelce has been referred to as “Baby Gronk” because of his 6’5”, 255 pound frame and ability to look like an unstoppable force once he gets the ball in his hands. Unfortunately, how far can he go with Alex Smith pulling the trigger for the Chiefs? Kelce finished as the TE6 last year but was wildly inconsistent because the Chiefs relentlessly ran the ball when holding a lead. With Jeremy Maclin now in town, he should find a ton of room to operate in the middle of the field.
Le’Veon Bell’s ascension to fantasy football royalty
Currently the only running back among the top 12 in the ADP data, Bell should be in the discussion for dynasty’s overall number one selection because of positional scarcity. After averaging just 3.5 yards per carry as a rookie, he exploded onto the scene last year with 1,361 rushing yards, 4.70 yards per carry and eight touchdowns while adding 83 receptions on 105 targets for 854 yards and three more scores. He was the RB1 of 2014 at 22 years old and should be locked into elite RB1 status for the next 5-6 years.
Martavis Bryant’s hype train
Last year we all took rides on the unstoppable hype trains of Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson only to see them derail. Now, in an eerily familiar way, Martavis Bryant is being hyped as the next big thing. Quite frankly, I bought my ticket on the train last year as a rookie and I am probably as guilty as anyone for fanning the flames. I believe in the deep ball of Ben Roethlisberger and his ability to feed a 6’4”, 211 lbs. freak with 4.42 speed. He caught 26 of his 42 targets for 549 yards and eight touchdowns as a rookie in limited playing time but now finds himself as the starter alongside PPR mega stud, Antonio Brown. If you get the opportunity to buy low before the season, I recommend doing it.
New Orleans’ new look offense
The Jimmy Graham trade was one of the most shocking NFL trades since the Clinton Portis / Champ Bailey trade back in March, 2004. In an effort to improve their run game and allegedly move to a more balanced offense, they acquired center Max Unger from the Seahawks for the All-Pro tight end. They then shipped deep threat wide receiver Kenny Stills to the Dolphins for linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and a third round pick. They re-signed running back Mark Ingram to pound the middle and perennial disappointment C.J. Spiller to be the passing down back. It’s quite the overhaul.
Over the hill running backs
I recently wrote about the amount of running backs 27 and older being drafted in the top 24 of dynasty start-up drafts. Currently there are eight being selected in the first two rounds and history tells us at least a couple aren’t going to make it to the end. It’s especially intriguing when a few of them, Gore, McCoy, Spiller and Murray are playing on new teams and Adrian Peterson only played one game in 2014.
Peterson’s return to the field
Thanks to the 24-hour news cycle, everyone from five to 95 years old knows about Adrian Peterson’s off-the-field woes. Now he’s back and judging from recent pictures, it looks like he spent the entire off-season in the gym. He returns to a much better team than the one he was suspended from. With Teddy Bridgewater looking like the real deal and Mike Wallace, Charles Johnson and Kyle Rudolph giving him legitimate targets downfield, Peterson should have plenty of run lanes on his way to a top five finish.
Queen City Kitties
For those of you not from southwest Ohio, the Queen City is Cincinnati, Ohio. The Bengals are an interesting team. They’ve made four straight trips to the playoffs and four straight one-and-dones. The fact the team even made it to the playoffs last season says an awful lot about the coaching staff and the much maligned Andy Dalton. This team lost their dynamic tight end Tyler Eifert to a dislocated elbow minutes into the first game. Marvin Jones never made it on to the field, and A.J. Green played in a career low 13 games. Finally healthy with a dynamic run game, I’m interested to see what this team can do when firing on all cylinders.
Last year we saw a record breaking three rookie wide receivers go over 1,000 receiving yards, so what are we going to see from this year’s bunch? The most likely candidates to follow in the footsteps of Odell Beckham, Mike Evans and Kelvin Benjamin are Amari Cooper, DeVante Parker and Breshad Perriman. The rookie fever doesn’t stop with the receivers, though. The hype train is full steam ahead with Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon, the top two running backs of this class. We have two rookie quarterbacks, Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston, expected to be week one starters as well. Inevitably, there will be rookies come deep from the rankings to emergeas viable dynasty assets. Now we just need to find where they’re hiding.
As noted above, the 2014 draft class gave us plenty of reasons to celebrate. The truly impressive feat will be to do it again. Every year we put monstrous expectations on a young player after they put up solid numbers in year one only to have them fail to meet our lofty goals. Keenan Allen is a recent example. Even though Beckham, Evans and Benjamin all went over 1,000 yards as rookies, many people are going to be incredibly disappointed if they merely duplicate their impressive debuts. In addition to these three, players like Sammy Watkins, Martavis Bryant, Jordan Matthews, Allen Robinson and John Brown are all being given high expectations for the upcoming season. Truth is, some of us are going to be disappointed.
Tight Ends not named Gronk
[inlinead]The top tier of fantasy tight ends is a lonely tier consisting of one dominant player – Rob Gronkowski. It feels like there are 8-10 players who could finish anywhere from TE2 to TE12 and everywhere in between. As long as I get one of Graham, Kelce, Greg Olsen, Ertz, Eifert, Bennett, Jordan Cameron or Austin Seferian-Jenkins I’m happy.
Unrelenting waves of bad trade offers
Every league has that one guy who sends offers like Mychal Rivera and a 2016 4th for Arian Foster with a message attached saying “Let’s talk.”
There’s no room for ignorance in fantasy football and nothing will end a trade discussion faster than someone insulting the other owner with their first words spoken… or typed.
Well, when I say Vegas what I really mean is legalized gambling and games like FanDuel. Outside of the classic bets you can find in Vegas, FanDuel and others offer a game of skill. No longer do you have to throw down on a game of chance. Now you can put your daily skills to the test in one week games. You can play for pennies or cash in the ol’ 401k and go nuts.
Washington Redskins offense
Once upon a time people debated who was the better prospect, Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III. It seems silly in hindsight but people forget RG3 won rookie of the year honors. Unfortunately, that was pretty much the last thing to go right for him. He’s suffered leg injuries and ineffective play ever since. Now with a mostly quiet offseason and another new offense to learn with Sean McVay taking over coordinator duties, Griffin could be entering a truly make or break year.
This isn’t about cheerleaders. Ok, maybe a little. They’re doing the Lord’s work. What I’m talking about is Sarah Thomas, the league’s first full-time female official, and Jen Welter, the first female coach in the history of the league. Hopefully their hiring leads to many more.
Your fantasy questions
One of my favorite parts of writing for DLF is interacting with the readers through the comments section, Twitter and the DLF forums. I do this because my brain thinks about fantasy football 24/7 and I enjoy communication with other like minds. If you have questions, comments or want to discuss something/anything it’s not hard to find me.
Zillions of lineup decisions
Z’s are hard, but this is true. Whether you tinker all week or set it and forget it, at some point during the season you will find yourself 30-minutes before kickoff banging your head against the wall trying to decide who to put into your flex spot. Is it the running back going against the defense missing their starting middle linebacker or the wide receiver riding a hot streak. There will be mighty triumphs and plenty of second guessing, but fantasy football is the greatest game on Earth!!!
Follow me on Twitter @OlingerIDP.