Although it’s still pre-draft in the offseason, we’ve decided to throw out some names that we like and don’t like in fantasy football for 2015. Granted the influx of rookies could dramatically change the fantasy landscape after the draft, but what the hell, it’s April and we’re bored! So here we go with ten players we like and 10 we’d shy away from if the fantasy season started today. For the most part we’re leaving the obvious names off these lists, and looking at players that are probably going to be overvalued or undervalued in FFL drafts. The players for both Eldon Jenson @EJFootball and Ryan Thyer @bignoahd05 are in no particular order.
Ten that @EJFootball Likes:
QB Cam Newton, Panthers
Newton fell down the fantasy rankings last year, finishing as the 15th best QB in standard scoring leagues. But a lot of his inconsistency can be attributed to injuries, as he underwent ankle surgery in the offseason, suffered cracked ribs in the preseason, and was involved in a car accident in December that left him with two cracked vertebrae in his lower back. With a focus on fundamentals this offseason, coupled with a rising star in WR Kelvin Benjamin and a stud TE in Greg Olsen, and playing in a division with some of the worst defenses in the league, I expect a bounce-back season from Cam Newton.
QB Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins
What? A Dolphins QB on a “Players We Like” list? Who’d have thunk it? But there’s more to this kid than meets the eye. He’s consistently improved each of his three years in the league, somehow surviving behind some of the worst offensive lines in the league. The Dolphins are showing a commitment to surrounding Tannehill with weapons, adding WR Kenny Stills (a better fit than Mike Wallace in this offense) and TE Jordan Cameron (a better red zone threat than the departed fan favorite, Charles Clay). Miami is also expected to shore up the offensive line in this year’s draft, with Joe Philbin on record as saying he wants to improve the protection of his star QB. 30 TDs and 4,500 yards may seem like a reach, but it’s merely a 10% improvement over last year’s statistics which is very attainable. That improvement puts Tannehill squarely in the top 10 fantasy QBs.
RB Jeremy Hill, Bengals
Hill was a fantasy favorite as a rookie last year, pounding his way to 1,033 yards and 10 TDs while sharing the backfield with Giovani Bernard. As the season wore on, the coaches used Hill more, and he finished the regular season with three straight 100 yard games and three total TDs. Heading into 2015, expect Hill to be the lead RB in the Bengals backfield. Bernard will continue to relieve him on third downs, but Hill is the short-yardage back, and because he rarely leaves the field in the red zone, he’s a good bet to see double-digit TDs this year.
C.J. Anderson, Broncos
The Broncos had (yet another) crowd at RB to start the season in 2014, but by mid-season it was clear who the best player in the backfield was. Anderson racked up over 700 yards and 8 TDs in the last eight games of the season. The Broncos are expected to focus more on the running game again this year, in hopes of preserving their 400-year-old QB. That points to some monster potential from their sophomore RB.
RB Joique Bell, Lions
This is an easy one. Reggie Bush is gone, leaving this backfield to Bell, and the Lions will exploit this hard-churning guy until he drops. Unless the Lions add a RB early in the draft, Bell is a potential top-5 candidate in both standard and PPR leagues.
WR Brian Hartline, Browns
Kidding! It’s Cleveland for hellsakes.
WR DeAndre Hopkins, Texans
Hopkins has been groomed as Andre Johnson’s replacement, and now that Johnson has moved on to Indianapolis, Hopkins is the clear-cut #1 WR for the Texans. While the QB situation in Houston could be described as muddled at best, this shouldn’t affect Hopkins production in 2015. He’s a legitimate WR1 this season.
WR Alshon Jeffrey, Bears
Another WR with a muddled QB situation (although not because we don’t know who the QB will be, we just don’t know which Jay Cutler is going to show up). Look for more of a run heavy offense in Chicago under new head coach John Fox, but with Brandon Marshall shipped off to New York, Jeffrey should dominate the downfield catches for this team.
WR Mike Evans, Bucs
Notice a pattern here with the WRs? We like the young kids who are stepping into full time roles. And Mike Evans certainly qualifies. It remains to be seen who will be throwing the ball in Tampa, but whoever it is, they “should” be an improvement over Josh McCown. Vincent Jackson isn’t getting any younger, and Evans has already shown a unique talent for snagging end-zone TDs. Expect double-digit TDs in 2015 from this young star.
TE Travis Kelce, Chiefs
Kelce burst onto the scene last year, finishing as the 9th best TE in fantasy scoring in spite of Kansas City’s dearth of passing TDs. Never doubted for his physical size and talent, Kelce seemed to earn Andy Reid’s trust as the season wore on, finishing with 23 catches for 284 yards and TD in the last four games. It’s not a stretch to see “Zeus” becoming a top-5 fantasy TE this season.
TE Delanie Walker, Titans
In spite of finishing with a top-10 ranking in 2014, Walker still seems to be under the radar for most fantasy owners. Whether it be mediocre QB play or an underperforming offense overall, the Titans don’t sport any players that are high on any fantasy rankings. Walker should be the exception, as he’s one of the few TEs to actually be the #1 receiving option for his team. He’ll likely be under the radar yet again, yet produce top-8 numbers, and savvy owners would be smart to draft him late.
Ten that @bignoahd05 likes
QB Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins
Overlooked last year as a decent fantasy option, I only see things getting better for Tannehill for fantasy owners. The rush yards were bonus points last year, and with a more consistent WR corps, I predict a top 10 season.
QB Eli Manning, Giants
EJ and I disagree on this one, but I see Manning as being very good, for fantasy purposes. He will have weapons all over the field, and will be throwing a ton, and I see A LOT of fantasy points. I may not necessarily draft him as my starter, but I would love to get him as my number two QB, and when he plays well, move him to a QB needy team.
RB Carlos Hyde, Niners
Frank Gore is gone, so this is Hyde’s team. The Niners will still pound the ball, which means Hyde should see a ton of touches, and get red-zone carries. With no other real competition at this point at the position (yes I know Bush is there, but really what do you expect out of him?). Hyde is primed for a huge year.
RB Jeremy Hill, Bengals
Hill came on very strong as the season went along last year, took the starting job from Bernard, and never looked back. The Bengals are a run first team, and Hill has the ability to run inside, and still be able to break the long ones. Hill is someone I am looking for in as many leagues as possible this year - I predict a huge year.
TE Travis Kelce, Chiefs
Kelce had a good year in 2014, but the Chiefs have only scratched the surface of what he is capable of doing. With an actual threat on the outside in Jeremy Maclin, and a healthy Jamaar Charles coming out the backfield, expect big things from Kelce in 2015. I agree with EJ, a top five finish at the TE position is what I expect out of Kelce.
WR Brandin Cooks, Saints
Before his injury, Cooks was quietly having a decent season last year. Now throw him back into the mix with Stills gone, Graham gone, and an aging Marques Colston. Cooks should be PPR gold this season, and his speed after catch should result in a lot of big plays.
TE Vernon Davis, Niners
You may laugh at this choice, but two years ago he was great, and last year the offense just ignored him. Coming into this season he has nowhere to go but up – since he already hit complete rock bottom. The Niners have Torrey Smith, which should open things up more for Davis, and I expect the new coaching staff to feed him the ball early and often.
RB Joique Bell, Lions
Bell is another guy primed for a breakout season. Reggie Bush is gone, so Bell should see more carries. He has shown the ability to catch the ball, and is very good in the Lions screen game. He will lose some touches to Theo Riddick, who a lot of analysts see as a break-out player as well. Bell should dominate goal line carries, which in the fantasy world is worth its weight in gold!
RB Stevan Ridley, Jets
A bit of a sleeper here. The Jets have improved the pass game, although not the QB yet, which should take some pressure off the run game. Ridley has shown that he can be successful in the past, and has always had a nose for the end-zone. I am not drafting Ridley as a number one or even number two option at RB, but I want him stashed on my bench in as many leagues as possible in case he does take over carries for Chris Ivory.
WR Chris Matthews, Seahawks
A very deep sleeper here, but the Super Bowl showed that he has the ability to go up and get the ball, and on a team that completely lacks playmakers at WR, Matthews has a chance to carve out a niche here. Wilson likes to throw the deep ball, and the addition of Jimmy Graham will take pressure off the WRs. With no first round pick to take a WR with top end talent, Matthews could quietly have a good season.
And ten that @EJFootball does not like:
QB Drew Brees, Saints
This one should come as no surprise to most, as New Orleans has stunningly purged their roster of two of their best playmakers from last year, WR Kenny Stills and stud TE Jimmy Graham. Brees is simply running out of weapons. While Sean Payton will very likely find a way to produce yards, as he always does, I wouldn’t want to rest my fantasy fortunes on this team. That said, Brees will likely approach 5,000 passing yards once again, but I expect the TD totals to take a dramatic drop. I’m avoiding Brees as a fantasy starter this year.
QB Eli Manning, Giants
Most will see this as a controversial pick, especially with the weapons Manning will have at his disposal in the receiving game. But the fact remains that the G-Men have a horrendous offensive line, and while they are expected to address that in the draft, I don’t see Manning having a ton of time to dissect coverages this year. That said, I’d draft WR Odell Beckham in a heartbeat. But I’ll let someone else deal with the frustration of another inconsistent season from Manning.
RB LeSean McCoy, Bills
Until last year, McCoy has been one of the most versatile and consistent fantasy backs in the league. And then he fell off the Chip Kelly cliff, finding himself underused and even replaced in red zone packages by scamp back Darren Sproles. Now shipped off to Buffalo, where new head coach Rex Ryan spouts a ground-and-pound philosophy, I’m not sure McCoy fits that scheme. Add in Ryan’s propensity to rotate backs, and I expect McCoy to put up similar number to last year, which puts him solidly in RB2 range rather than being the stud you build your team around.
RB Demarco Murray, Eagles
Seems to be a bias against Chip Kelly RBs here, but the fact is, there are simply too many cooks in the running back kitchen in Philadelphia. With Darren Sproles (a Chip favorite) and Ryan Mathews mixed into a spread offense, simple math tends to rule out anyone emerging as a viable RB1 candidate. Tread cautiously here.
RB Frank Gore, Colts
The seemingly ageless Gore ran for over 1100 yards and 5 scores last year, and now he joins a team with an offense centered around QB Andrew Luck and the passing game. While he’ll certainly see less stacked boxes in games, I think Gore will fall victim to reduced volume, as the Colts are likely to rotate Ahmad Bradshaw onto the field a lot. Gore’s forte will likely be the short yardage/goal line carries, and he should excel there, but that isn’t a recipe for fantasy success.
WR Jeremy Maclin, Chiefs
Maclin falls into a category I typically always avoid in fantasy drafts – a WR that switches teams - because WRs typically struggle in their first year in a new offense. In Maclin’s case, he’s going to an offense he’s very familiar with in former Eagles coach Andy Reid’s system. But watching the Chiefs red zone struggles in the passing game last year (not one TD by a WR on the year), I’d let someone else take their chances with Maclin this year.
WR Brandon LaFell, Patriots
I’m avoiding LaFell for the same reasons you are – I’m a Dolphins fan and he’s a Patriot. On the other hand I’d kill to get Rob Gronkowski on my fantasy team. Oh, bad choice of words there, maybe? Huh. Kidding aside, the Patriot’s passing game is one of the more unpredictable, as Tom Brady spreads the wealth around as well as any QB in the league. And that lends to a lot of frustrated fantasy owners. I’m avoiding all Patriot WRs this year.
WRs Brandon Marshall, Jets, Mike Wallace, Vikings, and Andre Johnson, Colts
Simply put, none of these guys will see the same production in 2015 as they had last year.
And ten that @bignoahd05 does not like:
QB Peyton Manning, Broncos
Peyton is a player I am avoiding, based on where he is likely to be drafted. The move to more of a running game will hurt his overall value, and I am not going to waste one of my top 4-5 picks on him from name alone. Expect the numbers for Manning to be decent, but more along the lines of where they were at the end of last season when he infuriated fantasy owners.
QB Joe Flacco, Ravens
Flacco is a fantasy option I want no part of. The Ravens want to run the ball, and Torrey Smith is gone, leaving his best WR as Steve Smith Sr., who will soon qualify for Social Security. I do not even see Flacco as a QB2 at this point, as my question for the Ravens offense is, where are the playmakers for Flacco to throw the ball to?
RB Darren McFadden, Cowboys
This one makes me laugh. I have seen people that have predicted big things for McFadden behind that great Dallas line, and I wonder if people forget what he has done the last couple of years. McFadden cannot stay healthy, and is no longer worthy of being on any fantasy roster. Let someone else take him, and avoid him in ALL your leagues.
RB Alfred Morris, Redskins
Morris is a good RB to have, assuming the Skins are ahead and always in first or second down. But, the Skins will be behind most of the season, and will face a lot of third downs. Morris is completely worthless as a receiver out of the backfield, and that makes him a tough start week to week. He will have good weeks, but if I am drafting a RB in the first couple of rounds, I want someone who can catch the ball, because if you have not noticed – the NFL has become a passing league.
TE Julius Thomas, Jaguars
Thomas is one that I think will depress a lot of owners this year. Never a big yardage guy, he has been completely reliant on touchdowns. How well will that work out for him in the red zone when he goes from Peyton Manning to Blake Bortles?
RB Doug Martin, Bucs
I have never owned Doug Martin in a fantasy league and I NEVER will. This is all you need to know about Martin: He has scored 388 fantasy points in 3 seasons, but just 57 and 67 in the last two. For his career, 22% of his CAREER fantasy points, came in back-to-back games in 2012 (84 points).
WR Percy Harvin, Bills
Harvin has never been a consistently good fantasy option, and that won’t change with the Bills QB and the other new weapons in Buffalo. Let someone else take him on name alone, and laugh when they do.
WR Calvin Johnson, Lions
This one will surely catch some grief because when healthy, Megatron is an ELITE talent with unrivaled skills in the fantasy world. Problem for me is, all the little injuries seem to be catching up to him. In relation to WHERE he is drafted, if I can get Johnson in round three, I am ALL over it. But, if I am drafting him in the first two rounds, I need to prepare myself for him missing a couple of weeks, and I do not want that out of a player taken in the first two rounds of my draft. The first two rounds need to be in there for 16 weeks a year. I am not saying to completely avoid Johnson, but buyer beware if you jump on him in round one.
Cleveland Browns Entire Team
No set QB, a RB by committee, and Dwayne Bowe as your # 1 receiver - you’re headed for fantasy doom if you are starting a Brown until (and if) a RB emerges. This team is a fantasy punch-line right now.
Rashad Jennings, Andre Williams, Shane Vereen are all there - have fun picking one to start each week! Inevitably, whichever one you pick will get five carries, leaving you will be in a bad mood all day while watching the other guys each get 15 touches and a TD!
This article was co-written by Eldon Jenson and Ryan Thyer. Follow them on Twitter @EJFootball and @bignoahd05.
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