Eric Decker’s 2014 Fantasy Outlook

 

Eric Decker was a big part of the Denver Broncos’ run to the Super Bowl last season, catching 87 passes for 1,288 yards and 11 touchdowns. It was his second season of catching for over 1,000 yards and double-digit touchdowns, and as a result he was the eighth highest scoring fantasy wide receiver in 2013.

Following the season’s conclusion, Decker became an unrestricted free agent. He eventually signed a five-year, $36.25 million contract with the New York Jets, and so will be switching Denver for New Jersey in 2014. That means instead of having Peyton Manning throwing to him, he’ll have Geno Smith – or possibly Michael Vick.

Despite the obvious decrease in quarterback quality, Eric Decker is automatically the number one receiver on the Jets’ depth chart, going in front of David Nelson, Stephen Hill, and Jeremy Kerley. Even if the Jets draft any wide receivers, then the already-established Decker will be ahead of them by default.

There are question marks over the head of Decker, as to if he can be a true number-one receiver and isn’t just a product of Peyton Manning’s system. He was a part of perhaps the greatest offense in history, and certainly the highest scoring, which may be a reason for Eric Decker’s productive year. However, he did have to share a lot of touches with the likes of Knowshon Moreno, Wes Welker, Julius Thomas, and Denver’s top receiver Demaryius Thomas, and emerged from that group with the second most yards, and the third most receiving touchdowns – which proves that he was a valuable weapon for Manning to throw to.

Next season, Decker should see an increased workload in green and white as either Smith or Vick’s number-one target. Both quarterbacks don’t possess the arm or footballing talent of Peyton Manning – though it should be noted that Geno Smith is only entering his second year in the NFL – but they shouldn’t have trouble finding Decker, and as a sure-handed player, should be able to trust him to make catches. Not only is he a physical receiver, but he should provide New York with a deep threat.

Although Decker has lined up alongside Peyton Manning for the past two years, he did have to deal with Tim Tebow throwing to him in 2011. In that season he had 612 yards and caught eight touchdowns – which is better than the 512 yards and three touchdowns that the Jets’ leading receiver, Jeremy Kerley, managed to amass last year.

It is unlikely that Eric Decker will improve upon, or even replicate his 2013 showing. But as one of the Jets’ best offensive players, he should be a sound addition for any fantasy team as the second or third wide receiver – or a bench player for depth at the very worst.

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Rookie Gems: Ka’Deem Carey

Position: Running Back

College: University of Arizona

Age: 21 (30/10/92)

Height: 5’10”

Height: 5’10”

Weight: 196 lbs

Statistics courtesy of ESPN.

 

The next rookie I’m going to evaluate in the ‘Rookie Gems’ series is the University of Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey. The running back has had a couple of productive seasons with the Wildcats and, if he finds the right system, could be a late-round steal and a productive fantasy back in 2014.

Carey is a three down running back who concluded his college career with 16 straight 100-yard games. He is durable and doesn’t seem to mind contact, and his cutback ability makes him an elusive runner. One problem with his game is that he isn’t really a breakaway player. He officially ran a 4.70 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, which isn’t very good. Ka’Deem Carey is more likely to move the chains than to hit a home run. However, he does have impressive traits, which are featured on his game tape below.

ESPN’s Christopher Harris rated Ka’Deem Carey as the draft’s best ‘all-around’ running back prospect, and compares Carey to Giovanni Bernard and Ahmad Bradshaw. Although I think that Ryan Lownes’ comparison of Ka’Deem Carey to the St. Louis Rams’ Zac Stacy is more accurate.

One big question mark over Carey’s head is his demeanour, following the opening game suspension he received last season. Taking a player who has had off-the-field problems in the past is always a risk. In spite of that suspension, Carey put up some good numbers in 2013, rushing for 1,885 yards, with 19 touchdowns – even if it fell short of his previous campaign, in which he rushed for 44 yards more, with an additional four touchdowns. His play in both 2012 and 2013 resulted in two consensus All-American honours.

If Ka’Deem Carey lands with a team where he should be able to see a decent amount of playing time, then he may well be worth drafting late on. I would expect him to be a waiver pickup if he starts to produce in 2014, but there will probably be players out there willing to take a gamble on Carey in fantasy drafts, who will be hoping that he pans out.

Projected Fantasy Draft Top 10 – Part 2

Click here for Part 1.

 

#5 – LeSean McCoy (Philadelphia Eagles, RB)

LeSean McCoy - Top 10

Under Chip Kelly, LeSean McCoy ran for over 1,600 yards last season and was the most valuable fantasy back behind Jamaal Charles. At the young age of 25, McCoy still has plenty left in the tank, as well as five years of experience behind him. The Eagles are a young, improving team, and even though Nick Foles played well towards the end of last season, they will be looking to McCoy to take pressure off the quarterback. ‘Shady’ should rack up a lot of fantasy points for his owners.

 

#4 – Calvin Johnson (Detroit Lions, WR)

Calvin Johnson - Top 10

After breaking the record for the most receiving yards in a single season in 2012, Calvin Johnson fell short of repeating that feat in 2013, although he only played in 14 games. He may not have been as productive as his fantasy owners would have anticipated last year, although he managed to grab 12 touchdowns – seven better than his total the year before. Megatron will be entering his eighth season in the NFL, but he has showed no signs of slowing down and should easily be selected in the top-10 of every fantasy football draft.

 

#3 – Adrian Peterson (Minnesota Vikings, RB)

Adrian Peterson - Top 10

Although his 2013 wasn’t anywhere near as impressive as his 2012 season, Adrian Peterson still put up solid numbers with 1,266 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns in 14 games. He played though some of the season with a nagging groin injury, and had to deal with the death of his son part-way through the campaign. Peterson has the potential to do better than last year and has undoubtable talent, but age and workload may begin to take their toll on the former first-round pick. However, he should be a sound investment as a high-first round pick in any draft – his value just depends on whether or not he stays healthy throughout the season.

 

#2 – Peyton Manning (Denver Broncos, QB)

Peyton Manning - Top 10

Peyton Manning had one of the greatest seasons any player has ever had last year, yet a second Super Bowl ring still eluded him. He had talent and depth surrounding him all over the offense. Although Manning is aging and the Broncos look likely to lose both Knowshon Moreno and Eric Decker in free agency, the former Colt will almost certainly provide better fantasy value than any other quarterback in the game next season.

 

#1 – Jamaal Charles (Kansas City Chiefs, RB)

Jamaal Charles - Top 10

The number-one fantasy back in 2013 could well have a repeat performance in 2014. His dual-threat ability saw him rack up over 100 yards of total yardage per game, in addition to 19 touchdowns last term. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him go as one of the top three selections in every fantasy draft this summer.

 

Images of Jamaal Charles and Peyton Manning by Jeffrey Beall via Creative Commons. Images of Calvin Johnson and Adrian Peterson by Mike Morbeck, and image of LeSean McCoy by Matthew Straubmuller via Creative Commons.

Fantasy Football – Adding excitement to your Sunday

Fantasy Football Party

 

On the surface, fantasy football appears to be just another game. Some people create teams, draft players, then don’t log in for the remainder of the season – others don’t event turn up for the draft. But not everyone is a casual player, some take it very seriously.

I would place myself somewhere in the middle of casual and serious. But what is most important to me is that playing fantasy football is fun. Since I began playing the game, it has given watching the NFL an added edge.

It has meant that my focus is not solely on the team I support and results related to them, but I have great interest in other games, simply because one or more of my fantasy players may be playing in it.

Fantasy football has also helped develop my knowledge of the game. It gives me impetus to keep up with many players and their stats, so that I can analyse the performance of my own fantasy team and others, and make changes and transactions where necessary.

Now I love Sunday evenings when NFL season is on, and even if fantasy football didn’t exist, I would love it all the same. But it is hard to deny that fantasy football makes Sundays, as well as Thursday and Monday nights that bit more exciting by offering up another level of competition.

As most games in the NFL calendar are played on a Sunday, it creates a whole evening of entertainment. I have the games on the television, fantasy football open on the laptop so that I can track the current performance of my players, food and drink on the table, usually nachos and beer, and a little low-risk, high-reward bet place with whichever bookmaker is offering the best odds that week; not that I am promoting gambling, of course.

If you don’t already play fantasy football and you’re an NFL fan, I urge you to give the game a go. It may appear to be a silly, little game, but I can assure you it is much more than that. If you don’t believe me, just ask Greg Jennings.

 

Image by Ryan Harvey via Creative Commons.

Projected fantasy draft top 10 – Part 1

Each draft is different. Different owners, different perspectives – different players selected in different positions. But that doesn’t stop people predicting who will go where. A lot could still change between now and the beginning of fantasy football drafts. Teams will sign and draft players, and injuries could always happen, but it is always exciting to guess what is going to happen. Here is my projected fantasy draft top 10.

#10 – A.J. Green (Cincinatti Bengals, WR)

A.J. Green - Top 10

It was a toss-up between A.J. Green and Demariyaus Thomas for the last spot on this list – but I chose to go with green. Even with the emergence of Jermaine Gresham, Marvin Jones, Tyler Eifert and Geovani Bernard, A.J. Green is still quarterback Andy Dalton’s go-to guy. Green amassed over 1,400 yards last season, and grabbed 11 touchdowns in his third campaign. The receiver will be entering his fourth year, and has showed no signs of slowing down.

#9 – Eddie Lacy (Green Bay Packers, RB)

2014 Pro Bowl

Eddie Lacy may be a surprise inclusion on this list, but with the Packers wanting to increase his workload in 2014, he could be a very profitable fantasy draft pick in his sophomore season. He also has no real competition in the backfield, so that should only work in Lacy’s favour. He was impressive last season, though was helped out by injuries to Aaron Rodgers, Randall Cobb and Jermichael Finley. With Rodgers and Cobb more than likely returning to the Packers’ lineup, Eddie Lacy may also be relied upon in the passing game.

#8 – Josh Gordon (Cleveland Browns, WR)

Josh Gordon - Top 10

Last season was more than a breakout year for Josh Gordon, who managed to accumulate over 2,000 all-purpose yards in 2013, despite inconsistent quarterback play.  Gordon, who has been known for his off-the-field troubles, will likely be playing with a rookie quarterback next season, after the Browns cut both Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell. As the leading receiver for Cleveland, he will most likely be used as a safety blanket, which could benefit his fantasy numbers.

#7 – Drew Bree (New Orleans Saints, QB)

Drew Brees - Top 10

With the loss of Darren Sproles and Lance Moore, Drew Brees will have less offensive firepower surrounding him in 2014. However, this does not alter his status as an elite quarterback, and Brees is helped by still having Marques Colston, and his number-one target Jimmy Graham to throw to, as well as dual-threat running back Pierre Thomas, who recently re-signed with the Saints. He should still be a top-drawer starter.

#6 – Jimmy Graham (New Orleans Saints, TE)

Jimmy Graham - Top 10

Much like with Drew Brees, the departures of Lance Moore and Darren Sproles will have an effect on the Saints’ Jimmy Graham – though it is more likely to be positive for his fantasy owners as Graham should see an increased workload in 2014. He is among the most dominant players in the league, and is expected to continue that dominance into the new season – even in spite of the recent franchise tag controversy.

A.J. Green image by emeybee, via Creative Commons; Eddie Lacy by Sgt. Kyle Richardson, public copyright authorised by the US federal government; Josh Gordon by Erik Drost via Creative Commons; Drew Brees by dbking via Creative Commons; and Jimmy Graham by Jeffrey Beall via Creative Commons.

Rookie Gems: Charles Sims

Rookie players may not be sought after players in fantasy football drafts. It would be extremely rare to find a rookie drafted in the first couple of rounds, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be of value to a fantasy team. Rookies can come with a lot of hype surrounding them, but that hype isn’t carried into fantasy drafts the same as it is into the real thing. This is because rookies don’t have the same kind of expectation that established players do, and therefore, present less of a risk to fantasy owners. Nevertheless, rookie players can often be important pieces of the puzzle, and be the difference between make and break.

Take Eddie Lacy, for example. Last year was his rookie season, and he ran for 1,178 yards and 11 touchdowns, racking up plenty of fantasy points for his owners. He is obviously a good player, but his significant playing time was helped by injuries to players in the Packers’ passing game. The same could be said for Alfred Morris. 2012 was his rookie year and he amassed 1,613 yards and 13 touchdowns. As a fifth-round pick, expectations for Morris would have already been low, but he would have been a wise pick up on waivers for those who didn’t draft him in the first place – I imagine he wasn’t selected in many leagues’ drafts.

There may be players in this year’s draft that will follow in the footsteps of players like Lacy and Morris, and one of those might be West Virginia 23-year-old running back Charles Sims. Now his fantasy value will largely depend on which team drafts him, what role gets in the team, his workload, and the scheme – but his performance at the Senior Bowl where he was described as the ‘top running back’ has earned him some plaudits. NFL analyst Matthew Berry has ‘his eye on’ Sims, and acknowledged him as a “three down back” who “can both run between the tackles and catch the ball” – so if he has an advanced role in a team, he could become a valuable asset for any fantasy football team.

Charles Sims’ playing style has been compared to that of Matt Forte – who was fantasy’s second-best running back last year’, and has the potential to be a steal. It isn’t recommended to use an early pick on any rookie, but Sims may be a good, low-risk pick up in the later rounds.