2015 NFL DFS Cheat Sheet – Quick Synopsis of Each Team Heading into Week 1
The NFL season is finally here! Let’s start making some lineups. But wait, he’s playing where?
A lot of people know about Jimmy Graham heading out west to the Seattle Seahawks and LeSean McCoy moving within the AFC East to the Buffalo Bills, but what about all the other skill players who could provide great value? How about the latest injuries in preseason and noteworthy acquisitions on the OL or defensive side?
Here, I will give you a quick synopsis of the changes to each team from last season from a fantasy perspective.
*If I put a college in parenthesis after a player’s name, that means he’s a rookie and went to that school
Arizona Cardinals – Carson Palmer is back healthy with what should be an improved offensive line this year. Andre Ellington is still the primary RB, but they did draft David Johnson (Northern Iowa) who is expected to have some kind of a role in the Cardinals backfield. It’s unclear how much at this time, but he does provide a good balance of power, speed and pass-catching skills.
Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and John Brown are once again your WRs, although Floyd (dislocated fingers) may not be ready to go Week 1. If he isn’t, his return should be soon. Ted Ginn is gone, but that should hardly be any kind of a factor. Tight end is the primary change with the departures of John Carlson and Rob Housler with Jermaine Gresham coming in. Despite Palmer as an upgrade over Andy Dalton, with the other three WRs of the Cardinals all playing at least a decent role in the passing game, I can’t see Gresham being any more effective in Arizona than he was in Cincinnati.
Atlanta Falcons – Matt Ryan is back with his weapons in Julio Jones and Roddy White. White is dealing with an elbow issue, and his status for Week 1 is a bit uncertain. Like Floyd, if not ready by Week 1, it should be in the near future. There are some changed though. Harry Douglas is gone, and our possible No. 3 WRs are Leonard Hankerson (comes over from the Redskins) and Justin Hardy (rookie East Carolina). Hardy has NFL star written all over him, especially in a bit of a pass-heavy offense indoors, but how much action will he get and how great can his numbers be behind Julio and Roddy? If Roddy has another banged up season and Hardy gets moved up to No. 2 – great value play. Also, Jacob Tamme is now the No. 1 TE. By no means should we see Tony Gonzalez numbers, but we should see improved TE production for Atlanta.
The bigger change comes at RB. Steven Jackson and Jacquizz Rodgers are gone. We now look at Devonta Freeman (on everyone’s sleeper radar last year) and Tevin Coleman (Indiana). Coleman was an absolute stud for the Hoosiers (ran for 2,000 yards averaging 7.5 yards per carry on a losing team). He only saw a little bit of action in the last two preseason games after coming back from injury while Freeman missed all of preseason with a hamstring injury (questionable Week 1). Coleman has won the starting job for now, but if Freeman is healthy, who knows if they split time. My guess is we’ll see somewhere in the 66/33 range to start the year when both guys are healthy and see if one of them becomes the clear guy after a month or two. If Freeman does not play Week 1, Coleman is definitely in play with the Falcons projected to score 26 points.
Baltimore Ravens – Joe Flacco returns. Like most of last season, Justin Forsett should be the primary RB. Bernard Pierce is gone and Lorenzo Taliaferro is injured with an MCL sprain. Steve Smith returns at WR, but Torrey Smith and Owen Daniels are gone. The No. 2 WR will eventually be Breshad Perriman (UCF), but he’s been sidelined with a sprained MCL. Until then, we are looking at Kamar Aiken and Marlon Brown for the next man up. It would make sense for Aiken to be the guy, and it looks like most depth charts have Aiken slotted as the No. 2 guy. With the two of Baltimore’s top three pass catchers from last season are gone, Aiken should be a sneaky pick early on.
With Owen Daniels gone, we are looking at Maxx Williams (Minnesota) and Crockett Gilmore. Williams has amazing potential but Gilmore is the No. 1 TE right now. Baltimore runs a lot of two TE sets, and it would make sense to see the same here. I’d expect both TEs to be average at best in terms of fantasy production as long as both are in the game.
Buffalo Bills – Rex Ryan is the man in charge and we have a lot of changes here. Tyrod Taylor is the QB (yes, you read that correctly as he beat out Matt Cassell and E.J. Manuel). Taylor was the backup in Baltimore the last four years and barely saw any action as Flacco never seems to get hurt or be in a blowout type game. Taylor played college ball at Virginia Tech and has fantastic running ability. This won’t be a situation where you should expect 100 yards rushing from him, but five rushes for 4-5 rushes for 40-50 yards is right up his alley. The Bills are only 2.5-point underdogs to the Colts Week 1 with a 46 over/under. While the Colts aren’t the greatest defensive team, it does suggest that Taylor can put up some points in general. He’s undoubtedly in play to start the season.
RB is littered with injuries, but first let it be known that Fred Jackson has been released and C.J. Spiller is gone. LeSean McCoy is the starting RB, although he might be limited Week 1 as he gets over a hamstring injury. Karlos Williams (Florida State), Anthony Dixon and Bryce Brown (yes, he’s still attached to Shady somehow) are the backups.
Percy Harvin joins the Bills at WR, and he will be other outside guy opposite of Sammy Watkins. Yes, Harvin is now playing outside WR and not exclusively as a slot man or specialist. Robert Woods has been demoted to the No. 3 WR. Also, Scott Chandler is gone, and Charles Clay is your new starting TE. Given that Miami was fairly pass-heavy last season and Clay was one of the main targets, I can’t see Clay matching his 2014 numbers.
Carolina Panthers – Cam Newton is the QB again, but one of the biggest injury notes of the offseason is Kelvin Benjamin tearing his ACL and will be out for the 2015 season. This is a tough situation to diagnose. Most would think we should now look at Devin Funchess (Michigan) and Jerricho Cotchery as your top two WRs. Remember last season, Benjamin and Greg Olsen led the Panthers in receiving with 1,008 yards receiving each. Cotchery was next at 580 yards and you have to go down to No. 4 WR (now No. 3) Corey Brown with 296 for the next guy.
However, if you look at the Panthers depth chart, we can see Brown and Ted Ginn are the top two WRs. This is a bit hard to believe given that Brown and Ginn are both Z-type WRs on the outside who are mostly deep threats, but that’s the situation. Both guys should be seen as GPP plays as neither guy really come off as an X WR who can do a bit of everything like Benjamin.
Greg Olsen is back at TE and should lead the Panthers once again in receiving. He could get a slight bump without Benjamin, but I wouldn’t expect a huge one given how involved he already is in the offense.
Meanwhile, at RB, DeAngelo Williams is gone and Jonathan Stewart is now the lone featured back in Carolina, much like he was toward the end of last season.
Chicago Bears – John Fox is the new head coach and brings offensive coordinator Adam Gase with him. Jay Cutler and Matt Forte is the QB and RB respectively. Martellus Bennett is also the man at TE.
The change comes at WR. Brandon Marshall has left, which bumps Alshon Jeffery to the No. 1 guy. The Bears drafted Kevin White (West Virginia), but he will be out most or all the season with a fractured shin (on the PUP). The next two WRs are Eddie Royal and Marquess Wilson. Royal comes over from the Chargers and we saw a bit of Wilson at the end of last season with Chicago. Even though Wilson is built more to be an outside WR with Royal a smaller guy for the slot, depth charts have Royal pegged as the No. 2, so it’s a bit in the air how the snap percentages will work out. There isn’t a lot of room for Jeffery’s production to increase, so I would expect solid numbers from Royal and/or Wilson until White is healthy. I would lean toward Royal for Week 1, but it is a bit risky without really seeing any meaningful game action. At least they are both near minimum salary for Week 1.
Cincinnati Bengals – Team looks almost idential to last season. RB is the same with Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard leading the charge. Some people are very high on Hill, but that’s still a shaky RB situation to me in terms of snaps. It won’t be 50/50, but it could be more like 70/30 instead of 90/10 like some others think.
Andy Dalton is still the QB and A.J. Green will be his main target again. Marvin Jones has secured the No. 2 WR spot and could be seen as a sneaky value play. The one change is that Jermaine Gresham is gone at TE and Tyler Eifert will be the main guy (missed 2014 season). This guy was amazing at Notre Dame and caught 59 balls for 445 yards his rookie season, but keep in mind he was the No. 2 TE that year with Gresham still here. Eifert has the potential to put up Travis Kelce or Greg Olsen type numbers at TE and is one of my favorite sleepers for the 2015 season. He is very affordable on FanDuel and DraftKings.
Cleveland Browns – Surprise surprise, we have a new QB in Cleveland. It’s Josh McCown. Johnny Manziel is the backup, although he did look great in his two preseason games and looked much better from a fundamental stand point under center (while displaying his mobility). Still, we can certainly expect McCown taking the snaps Week 1.
There are two RBs in the conversation. The No. 1 guy should be Isaiah Crowell, who did see a majority of the carries in the second half of last season. The other guy is Duke Johnson (Miami), who was just cleared to play after his concussion. The Browns may have to add another RB to the roster before the start of the season, but either way, Crowell looks to provide great value out of the gate (beside the tough matchup with the Jets Week 1).
WR is a different look. Andrew Hawkins the new No. 1 WR with Brian Hartline as the new No. 2 on the outside. Taylor Gabriel is the No. 3 with newly acquired Dwayne Bowe, who was expected to be the new No. 1, will only get minimal action to start the season. As usual, the Browns WR situation doesn’t look very appealing, but they do have a solid offensive line and should play like it was in the beginning of last season with Alex Mack healthy again at center. It is possible we will see Hawkins and Hartline get near the 1,000 yard mark, but I’d expect all the Browns WRs to contribute a little bit and none will be a fantasy breakout star.
TE is different with Jordan Cameron gone. Gary Barnidge and Jim Dray, who were on the team last year, will be filling that void. Barnidge will likely start, but it’s hard imagining any of them being a viable fantasy play until we see how the distribution of snaps work out.
Dallas Cowboys – No changes from the QB, WR and TE perspective. Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, Jason Witten lead the way.
DeMarco Murray is gone and we look at Joseph Randle, Darren McFadden and the very recently acquired Christine Michael. It’s already been reported that Michael won’t play in Week 1, and it’s likely he’ll be the No. 3 back anyways. Some people have thought that Randle will be the main back and some feel it’ll be split between him and McFadden. I think it’s going to be split time. When McFadden is healthy, he is an absolute stud. Let’s not also forget how bad Oakland’s OL has been, and I could see him crushing behind the Dallas OL. But still, split carries are a real possibility, and this is a bit of a wait-and-see for Week 1.
Detroit Lions – Very similar situation to Dallas. It’s all the same with QB, WR and TE with Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson (now healthy), Golden Tate, Eric Ebron and Brandon Pettigrew.
Reggie Bush is gone at RB, and Ameer Abdullah (Nebraska) takes his place. Joique Bell and Theo Riddick are back. Keeping this simple – I expect Abdullah to play a very similar role to Bush in terms of number of carries and should be involved in the passing game. But given how much buzz he already has in the football world, he’s not going to be a stud or 20-plus carry guy in his first year like some people think. There will still be some balance between the RBs and remember Detroit will still throw a lot to Calvin and Tate.
Denver Broncos – The losses are Montee Ball (cut), Wes Welker and Julius Thomas. C.J. Anderson leads the backfield as he did at the end of last season. Peyton Manning is your QB with the same primary weapons at WR in Demariyus Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. Replacing Welker will likely be Cody Latimer, who has shown great improvement since being drafted by the Broncos last year. Although Andre Caldwell is also still on the roster and could be in the mix for the No. 3 spot as well. As for Julius Thomas’ replacement, Denver brings in Owen Daniels to replace him. Given that Daniels has been in run-heavy schemes with the Houston Texans and Baltimore Ravens his whole career, this year could be a solid bump for Daniels. Granted Denver might be a little more balanced on offense with Gary Kubiak as the head coach now, but I still expect Denver to be in the top 10 in pass percentage.
Also of note, the Broncos added Evan Gathis to the OL, which will help the blocking in both the run and pass game.
Green Bay Packers – Everything is mostly the same (isn’t it always with the Packers?) with the exception of the torn ACL to Jordy Nelson. This should give a huge bump to Davante Adams. However, Jarrett Boykin is gone, and Green Bay has brought in their former WR James Jones to play in the slot. While Jones should fill that spot nitce, he is a risky GPP play at best. Richard Rodgers is the TE again, but Andrew Quarless is also there, and there’s no reason to think they would see more than low and even targets between them like last season.
Houston Texans – A lot to get to here. Brian Hoyer is your QB, who beat out Ryan Mallett and Tom Savage. Arian Foster is back, but he is out until minimum late September (could easily be longer). Alfred Blue is the likely replacement until he returns, and he should be a very reasonable cheap option for the time being.
Andre Johnson is gone, but we welcome in three new WRs – Cecil Shorts III, Jalen Strong (Arizona State) and Nate Washington. Shorts III should be the No. 2 on the outside. Strong will likely get a fair amount of snaps and see a combination of snaps on the outside and in the slot. Washington should also get a fair amount of action in the slot. DeAndre Hopkins is still the No. 1 WR and Garrett Graham is your No. 1 TE. With how much Bill O’Brien likes to run the football, despite struggling to do so in preseason, it’s hard to imagine any real value out there from the Texans WRs or TE. Given that Shorts III had some great games when healthty with an inconsistent Jacksonville offense, he might be a bit undervalued, but it isn’t much.
Indianapolis Colts – Quite a few changes here as well. While Andrew Luck will still have his No. 1 option T.Y. Hilton to throw to, he has the luxury of Andre Johnson as his other outside WR. While some people believe Johnson is declining because of age, Johnson has been stuck in a bad QB and pass percentage situation in Houston for the last couple years. Now he walks into one of the most ideal situations in all of the NFL. I’d expect a minimum of 1,000 yards and 10 TDs from Johnson. With Reggie Wayne and Hakeen Nicks both gone, Donte Moncrief is the primary slot guy with Phillip Dorsett (Miami) also likely go get some action as a rookie. Dwyane Allen and Coby Fleener are your TEs once again.
At RB, Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw are gone. Here comes Frank Gore, who continues to be Mr. Durable and lands himself the starting gig in Indy. I still expect the Colts to primarily be a passing offense, but Gore will certainly help in short yardage situations and be better than what the Colts have had to work with the last few seasons. I think 1,000 yards is a bit much, but a little shy of that with 8 TDs is reasonable. Josh Robinson (Mississippi State) is the backup.
Jacksonville Jaguars – Despite not too many changes, the Jaguars are my pick to have the most improved offense in the NFL. Blake Bortles is back for his second season with what should be a much improved OL. Allen Robinson is now healthy, and he was by far the best WR at the end of last season for jacksonville averaging nine targets a game. Another popular target for Bortles will be the newly acquired Julius Thomas at TE, but since Thomas will be sidelined for at least the first three weeks of the season with a finger injury, Bortles says Robinson will need to step up in the red zone (Kevin Parta of NFL.com). But even when Thomas returns, both guys will be used heavily with Bortles. With Cecil Shorts gone, Allen Hurns is the clear No. 2 WR, who played a fairly solid role for Bortles down the stretch as well. Marquise Lee will be the guy in the slot and could also be decent if he can stay healthy. Ultimately, Jacksonville will be throwing quite a bit with Bortles and trailing in a good chunk of their games, but I expect this to be a fairly prominent passing attack with Robinson, Thomas and Hurns all having better-than-expected seasons.
Dernard Robinson and Toby Gerhart return at RB, but Jacksonville will be starting T.J. Yeldon (Alabama) in the backfield. If the Jags are fortunate, Yeldon doesn’t need OL dominance that he had with the Crimson Tide to be successful.
Kansas City Chiefs – Alex Smith and Jamal Charles will be your QB and RB once again. Dwyane Bowe has departed, and Jeremy Maclin comes in as the new No. 1. Maclin clearly won’t be as good in the Chiefs run-heavy scheme that didn’t feature one TD in 2014 by a WR (seriously), but Maclin should easily be the No. 1 target in Kansas City and will find the end zone a few times. Donnie Avery is gone, Albert Wilson is the No. 2 WR on the outside with De’Anthony Thomas and Jason Avant playing in the slot. Wilson could be a little bit underpriced, but his ceiling is clearly on the low side. Anthony Fasano is gone, so it will be the Travis Kelce show at TE, and he should be one of Smith’s main options yet again.
Miami Dolphins – This is the year for the Dolphins to get into the playoffs. Ryan Tannehill and Lamar Miller will lead QB and RB again, and I’m expecting big years from both guys. However, we see significant change at WR and TE. Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline, Brandon Gibson and Charles Clay are all gone. The No. 1 WR will be Jarvis Landry, who is a rising start and should eclipse 1,000 yards this season. The No. 2 is Greg Jennings, who will be more of a possession-type WR and be a bit of a safety net. The slot guy is Kenny Stills. Rishard Matthews and DeVante Parker (Louisville) are other talented WRs who could see some action. The TE is Jordan Cameron, who should see similar production that Clay had in Miami last season. Landry is definitely a viable DFS option out of the gate with Cameron as a bit of an under-the-radar play, but I expect all the other guys to divide up the rest of the production too evenly.
Minnesota Vikings – Teddy Bridgewater is the man under center, and Adrian Peterson is now back from his suspension as the main running back. This is an OL that didn’t have its best stuff last season, and it will need to play better if Peterson is going to have a significant year like most are accustomed to.
Mike Wallace joins Charles Johnson as the two outside WRs. If Johnson can develop into a legit go-to guy for Bridgewater, I like this combo. However, both of these guys are similar to be in that they are deep threats but average route runners. While Johnson should improve some being a full-time starter, I don’t expect outstanding numbers from either guy. Jarius Wright will be the No. 3 WR with Cordarelle Patterson as the other guy who will see the field.
One guy who does return, but expecting improved production is Kyle Rudolph. Rudolph has only played 17 games over the last two seasons, and he still has one of the highest ceilings of all TEs in the NFL. The Vikings love utilizing play action to the TEs, especially with a QB like Bridgewater. Rudolph is someone to jump on before his price comes up.
New England Patriots – Unless you’ve seriously been living under a rock, you’ll know Tom Brady is no longer suspended and will play Week 1. He’ll be firing passes to a healthy Rob Gronkowski at TE.
What you may not know is how hectic the RB and WR situation is. LaGarrette Blount is the starting RB, but he will be suspended for the first game. But out of no where a few days ago, Jonas Gray was cut. Furthermore, Steven Ridley and Shane Vereen are no longer on the team. This leaves RBs Brandon Bolden, James White, Dion Lewis and Travaris Cadet. When Blount returns, I’d expect Blount to be the full time goal line back, and he should get some early down work. James White and Brandon Bolden are your two guys battling it out for playing time otherwise, but I do not expect Blount to be a 20-plus carry guy. Bill Belicheck will likely rotate his backs based on the situation. As for Week 1, that still isn’t clear (it’s the Patriots, go figure), but I’d look for a balanced dose of White and Bolden. Blount is a safer solid bet when he returns, but the other guys are risky at best.
As for WR – everyone returns but Julian Edelman hasn’t practiced in a month, yet it still looks like he will play Week 1. Again, classic Pats. Also, Brandon LaFell went on the reserve/PUP list. Without LaFell, this should be a good bump for Danny Amendola, who really came on strong at the end of last season. Aaron Dobson is still on the roster and may see the field as well.
New Orleans Saints – Drew Brees and Mark Ingram are back, but there are several changes after that.
C.J. Spiller comes in as the second back, who will likely play a similar role to Reggie Bush and Darren Sproles in the past, but Spiller will miss Week 1 with a knee injury. Pierre Thomas is gone, but Khiry Robinson is back to be the No. 3 guy.
Jimmy Graham is gone at TE. This means we have Ben Watson and Josh Hill as the TEs stepping up in his absence. Watson is the No. 1 TE, but Hill should be involved some in the passing game. Either way, for now, both TEs are off the fantasy radar.
At WR, Kenny Stills, Travaris Cadet and Robert Meachem are all gone. Brandin Cooks is the No. 1 guy, and he should see even greater production than he did before his injury last season without Graham. Marquess Colston will be the No. 2 with Brandon Coleman and Nick Toon as the other WRs coming in on three and four WR sets. Again, look for a huge year from Cooks and even a better year from Colston with the absence of Graham and the other WRs.
New York Giants – Eli Manning is back again at QB. Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams are the RBs, but they also add Shane Vereen. Look for Jennings to be the main back, but Vereen should come in a fair amount on passing downs. Jennings is a bit underpriced given that he wasn’t healthy for most of last season and was only used on a limited basis at the end of the year, but not by much.
As for the WRs, it’s Odell Beckham, Victor Cruz and Ruben Randle. Although Cruz is dealing with a calf issue that will sideline him the first few weeks. In the meantime, like last season, Randle will be the No. 2 with Preston Parker as the No. 3. Larry Donnell will be the No. 1 TE with Daniel Fells getting in on the action as well.
From a fantasy perspective, we should see similar results to last season from the Giants. If Jennings stays healthy, he could get close to 1,000 yards. With I don’t expect Beckham to be on the same insane terror as last season, especially when Cruz returns, but he will certainly still be a top 10 WR.
New York Jets – Todd Bowels is the new man in charge, who was the Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator last season. Geno Smith was in line to be the starting QB, but is out for several weeks with a broken jaw thanks to former teammate Ikemefuna Enemkpali. Therefore, Ryan Fitzpatrick is your starter.
Chris Ivory will lead the rushing game again, but Chris Johnson is gone. Therefore, it’s only Bilal Bowell, Zac Stacy and Steven Ridley behind him. With a new head coach and a new offensive coordinator in Todd Gailey, we’ll see how they approach the RB workload, but I’m projecting that Ivory is more of a workhorse back and gets a lot of the touches.
At WR, Brandon Marshall is the new No. 1 guy with Eric Decker as the other outside WR. This is much improved from what the Jets have had in the past and having Fitzpatrick throwing to them for now may not be a bad thing either. Percy Harvin is gone, so it’ll be Jeremy Kerley as the slot guy, and Jeff Cumberland will be the No. 1 TE.
Oakland Raiders – Derek Carr is the QB again and since Darren McFadden is gone along with Maurice Jones-Drew (retirement), Latavius Murray will be the clear No. 1 guy at RB like he was at the end of last season.
At WR, we have two new guys on the outside – Amari Cooper (Alabama) and Michael Crabtree. This bumps Andre Holmes back to the No. 3 spot along with Rod Streater. Michael Rivera returns as the No. 1 TE
The Raiders offense should be a bit better with new WRs and an RB with high upside, but I don’t think will see drastic improvement. Murray will get close to 1,000 yards and Cooper will only get to about 800. Carr isn’t the issue, but I still question this OL and defense to make this team function at a solid level.
Philadelphia Eagles – My pick to win the Super Bowl. There are changes everywhere.
Sam Bradford is the QB, and I think he will have an outstanding season in Chip Kelly’s scheme. DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews are your RBs. Bradford will hit 4,000 yards and 35 TDs while both RBs eclipse the 1,000 yard mark. Murray will certainly be the No. 1 guy, but Kelly loves rotating his RBs and both will get their touches.
With Jeremy Maclin gone, Jordan Mathews moves into the No. 1 WR spot and Nelson Agholor (USC) has secured the No. 2 spot. Both WRs are very undervalued and both should hit the 1,000-yard mark. Kelly’s system is essentially a plug-in play at WR. Riley Cooper is the No. 3 guy and Zach Ertz will be the starting TE.
Pittsburgh Steelers – Ben Roethlisberger leads the way under center and will have his main guy Antonio Brown back. Martavis Bryant will be the No. 2, but he is suspended the first four games. Look for Markus Wheaton to have a big impact until he returns. Darrius Heyward-Bey is your new guy in the slot to replace Lance Moore. Heath Miller returns at TE.
Le’Veon Bell is back to lead the backfield, but he is suspended the first two games. Therefore, it’ll be DeAngelo Williams leading the way until he returns with Dri Archer backing him up. Given how poor the Steelers rushing game has looked without Bell and that Maurkice Pouncey is out for the first couple months of the season, don’t look for much from Williams while Bell is out. This is more of a bump for the Steelers passing attack and Wheaton in particular.
San Diego Chargers – Phillip Rivers returns at QB and gets his primary man Keenan Allen back. Eddie Royal is gone, so enter Stevie Johnson as the slot man. Malcom Floyd is still the No. 2 on the outside. Antonio Gates is suspended the first four games, so Ladarius Green gets a bump in his absence. However, Green is being evaluated for a concussion. If he can’t play Week 1, David Johnson (former Steelers TE, not the Cardinals RB) is the next man in line.
The backfield sees the biggest change with Ryan Mathews leaving and the Chargers drafting Melvin Gordon (Wisconsin). Donald Brown, Danny Woodhead and Brandon Oliver are all behind him. Given that Gordon is a rookie and they have a healthy backfield, San Diego probably won’t rush Gordon 20-plus times out of the gate, but the workload should increase as the year progresses. Look for the Chargers to run the ball a little bit more this year too.
San Francisco 49ers – Colin Kaepernick is your QB again, and he will have Anquan Boldin as well as Vernon David to throw to, but we have a lot of changes outside of that. Michael Crabtree, Stevie Johnson and Brandon Lloyd are all gone, who will be replaced by Torrey Smith on the outside with Quinton Patton moving up to the primary slot guy.
As for the rushing game, Frank Gore is gone, so Carlos Hyde moves up to the primary RB and Reggie Bush comes in to be the pass-catching/change of pace back.
Despite most people not liking San Francisco (and for good reason), look for Kaepernick to have better-than-expected fantasy numbers by likely having to throw more and running really bad in terms of TDs last season both throwing and rushing the ball. Hyde should also eclipse the 1,000 mark even with Bush’s arrival.
Seattle Seahawks – Everything is the same with Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse being your starters at QB, RB and WRs respectively.
However, the one big change is the acquisition of Jimmy Graham. Graham will be good I’m sure, but remember Graham was a very popular option in the red zone for New Orleans and often didn’t have a running game to depend on in the red zone. Seattle loves utilizing goal-line packages in the red zone with Lynch, and Pete Carroll is obsessed with finding matchups rather than necessarily just using a go-to guy (not to mention Wilson spreads the ball). Essentially, Graham is a little bit overpriced given how many looks he will get on a game-to-game basis, particularly in the red-zone, but he will still likely be a top-five TE.
St. Louis Rams – The new QB is Nick Foles, who should see his typical numbers in Philly go down fairly significantly given the Rams’ run-heavy scheme and that they have the same WRs in Kenny Britt, Brian Quick and Stedman Bailey. Jared Cook is also back at TE.
RB is interesting. The Rams drafted Todd Gurley (Georgia), but he won’t play at least the first three weeks. Furthermore, he may not get a significant amount of touches when he does return. However, in the last 15 years of watching college football, I’m not sure if I’ve watched a more impressive running back than Gurley. He reminds me a lot of what Adrian Peterson looked like at Oklahoma, except a better pass catcher. I expect Gurley to be one of the best RBs in the NFL in the near future, but that likely won’t happen this year. But if Gurley gets all the touches later in the year, look out.
In the meantime, Tre Mason is the lead back, but he still battling a hamstring injury and hasn’t practiced this week. If he can’t go this week, Benny Cunningham is the next guy in line. Mason should be the main guy though if healthy and without Gurley in the mix.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Jameis Winston (Florida State) is your QB. His RBs are Doug Martin and Charles Sims, although I expect a bigger and better year from Martin as the lead back. Tampa’s OL should be improved, and Martin has not been healthy the last two seasons. Plus, Lovie Smith wants to be balanced on offense.
WR and TE is the exact same with Mike Evans, Vincent Jackson, Louis Murphy and Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Evans is battling a hamstring issue heading into Week 1, which gives a solid bump to Jackson and Murphy.
Tennessee Titans – The other rookie QB Marcus Mariota is the guy under center. Nate Washington is gone, so the Titans depth chart goes Kendall Wright, Harry Douglas, Justin Hunter and Dorial Green-Beckham at WR. TE is still Delanie Walker. Tennessee is the toughest situation to figure out in terms of pass catchers. I also don’t trust QBs coming out of up-tempo no-huddle systems where they are taught to make quick instant decisions and read defenses differently as opposed to QBs coming out of pro style offenses. This has me very concerned on how productive Mariota and the WRs can be.
David Cobb (Minnesota) was supposed to be one of the main RBs, but he is now on the IR/designated to return list with a calf injury. Bishop Sankey will be the No. 1 guy, but the Titans acquired Terrance West to go with Dexter McCluster, and all three guys are expected to see action.
I wouldn’t go after anyone on the Titans for now. This roster is still a couple years away from being competitive.
Washington Redskins – Feeding off what I said about QBs coming out of up-tempo no-huddle systems – Kirk Cousins has beat out Robert Griffin III for the starting job under center. Cousins has had some huge games passing the ball for the Skins, and he plays in a division that has really weak secondaries. The INTs are of little concern, and the Washington offense was actually 10th in points per play last season and better than that when Cousins was QB.
Alfred Morris is the main RB again, but backing him up will be Matt Jones (Florida, no not the former Arkansas converted to a Jags WR) with Roy Helu gone. Santana Moss is gone, which should have no consequence to the WR production. DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon and Andre Roberts are your WRs with Jordan Reed serving as the main TE. Garcon and Reed are undervalued heading into this season as Cousins will be throwing a lot in games, and Jackson isn’t exactly a high PPR guy.
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