The Transaction Counter: Preseason

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Each week, you’ll find on this blog a round-up of the transactions from ‘The League’, showing who’s been dropped, picked up and traded as the fantasy football season takes place. I’ll also include my thoughts and give my analysis on each move.

 

Here’s the roundup of all the roster moves (not that there are many) which have taken place since The League’s fantasy draft.

 

La Linea Lineman (LLL) dropped Josh Gordon (WR, CLE)

La Linea Lineman (LLL) added Zach Ertz (TE, PHI)

This move came after Josh Gordon’s suspension for the entire 2014 season was confirmed by the National Football League. The move makes sense. This is a standard league, not a dynast format, so there is no need to keep Gordon around – even if the owner of this team did use a draft pick on him. To replace Gordon, Zach Ertz was added which is appropriate, as the only tight end on the La Linea Lineman roster before this was Baltimore’s Dennis Pitta. At least there is now depth at the position.

 

Salford Bloggers (SAL) dropped Doug Baldwin (WR, SEA)

Salford Bloggers (SAL) added Andre Williams (RB, NYG)

After analysing my running game, I thought that something needed to be done. Chris Johnson and Bishop Sankey could do well for me, but they are risky picks as the former could well be in decline and will have to compete for carries, and the latter is only entering his rookie season. After a couple of failed attempts to trade for another running back, I decided to go to waivers in search of one and picked up New York Giants rookie Andre Williams. Williams performed reasonably well in the preseason, but faces tough competition for game time from Rashard Jennings. The rookie is more of a flier pick up, as I need better RB depth and he has the potential to be a quality backup – especially if Jennings gets hurt. To make way for Williams, I dropped Doug Baldwin. Baldwin could be a good flex player if he sees plenty of target from Russell Wilson, but because I already own Percy Harvin – who is at the top of the Seahawks’ depth chart – Baldwin was expendable.

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Hoyer named starting quarterback for Browns in Week 1 – Fantasy implications

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In what was probably the most talked about quarterback battle since Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow in 2012, Brian Hoyer has managed to hold off first-round rookie Johnny Manziel and beat him out to take the Browns’ starting quarterback role in Week 1.

Cleveland’s head coach Mike Pettine commented on the matter: “He [Brian Hoyer] was the clear leader from the beginning. We’ve maintained all along that if it was close, I would prefer to go with the more experienced player. Brian has done a great job in the meeting rooms and with his teammates on the practice field and in the locker room.”

If leadership was one of the key elements of Pettine’s decision, then ‘Johnny Football’ will have done himself no favours in Monday night’s 24-23 loss to Washington, when he gestured his middle finger toward the Redskins bench.

It certainly wasn’t a statistics-based call, as Manziel has more passing yards, touchdowns, rushing yards, and a higher quarterback rating than his counterpart through the first two games of the preseason – although it should be noted that Hoyer attempted seven less passes than Manziel, and is yet to have a rushing attempt.

Not only does the decision affect the Browns, but it also has an impact from a fantasy football perspective. The quarterback position this year is so deep, that Hoyer probably won’t be taken in most standard redrafts, but Manziel’s fantasy stock has been faring a little better. According to FantasyPros.com, Manziel has an average draft position (ADP) amongst quarterbacks 11 places higher than Hoyer. Overall, Hoyer’s ADP sees him missing the cut in standard 10, 12 and 14-team leagues, meaning that he will currently be available on waivers for any teams wanting to pick him up.

Hoyer is a backup fantasy football quarterback at best, and that probably only goes for two-quarterback leagues. But the fact that he may not even have the starting job by the time the starting fantasy QB has a bye week doesn’t bode well for his value and suggests that he should only be drafted in the deepest of leagues, if at all.

Although Johnny Football won’t be starting Week 1 – or at least that’s how it appears for now – his upside appears to be much greater than Hoyer’s. The veteran quarterback will probably be reliant on the Browns’ running game, and projects to hand the ball off to Ben Tate and Terrance West a lot. Manziel will probably have the running game as a cushion should he get a first-team opportunity, but the difference between Manziel and Hoyer is that the rookie can scramble and integrate himself into the running game. Hoyer is less mobile, and doesn’t really pose the same threat. With the Cleveland Browns being a run-first team, it isn’t likely that Brian Hoyer will be utilised in a fashion that will allow him to score many fantasy points.

Even though Manziel has a more diverse skill set, he should really be passed on in redraft leagues. It is unlikely that he’ll see enough time as a starter to make a fantasy impact this year, and if Josh Gordon gets a season-long suspension, then his receiving corps becomes diluted. Manziel is someone who should be taken in keeper leagues and dynasty though, because once he’s had a year to acclimatise to the NFL and hopefully, for Cleveland, has Josh Gordon back, Manziel’s stock will grow.

If you’re yet to draft, Hoyer will probably still be on the board when you enter the final round for your draft. Manziel’s ADP may drop slightly between now and the beginning of the regular season, but due to his popularity and potential, it wouldn’t be a surprise to still see him being taken as a late-round selection.

Mock Draft Version 1.0 – Rounds 3 to 16

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For part one with rounds 1 and 2, click here.

 

Round 3

Pick #21 – Brandon Marshall, WR, CHI

Pick #22 – Julio Jones, WR, ATL

Pick #23 – Randall Cobb, WR, GB

Pick #24 – Alfred Morris, RB, WSH

Pick #25 – Jordy Nelson, WR, GB

Pick #26 – Alshon Jeffrey, WR, CHI

Pick #27 – Montee Ball, RB, DEN

Pick #28 – Giovani Bernard, RB, CIN

Pick #29 – Julius Thomas, TE, DEN (My Pick)

Pick #30 – Vincent Jackson, WR, TB

 

Round 4

Pick #31 – C.J. Spiller, RB, BUF

Pick #32 – Antonio Brown, WR, PIT (My Pick)

Pick #33 – Andre Johnson, WR, HOU

Pick #34 – Reggie Bush, RB, DET

Pick #35 – Ben Tate, RB, CLE

Pick #36 – Frank Gore, RB, SF

Pick #37 – Rob Gronkowski, TE, NE

Pick #38 – Matthew Stafford, QB, DET

Pick #39 – Larry Fitzgerald, WR, ARI

Pick #40 – Pierre Garcon, WR, WSH

 

Round 5

Pick #41 – Ryan Mathews, RB, SD

Pick #42 – DeSean Jackson, WR, PHI

Pick #43 – Trent Richardson, RB, IND

Pick #44 – Keenan Allen, WR, SD

Pick #45 – Andrew Luck, QB, IND

Pick #46 – Victor Cruz, WR, NYG

Pick #47 – Wes Welker, WR, DEN

Pick #48 – Roddy White, WR, ATL

Pick #49 – Percy Harvin, WR, SEA (My Pick)

Pick #50 – Chris Johnson, RB, NYJ

 

Round 6

Pick #51 – Ray Rice, RB, BAL

Pick #52 – Andre Ellington, RB, ARI (My Pick)

Pick #53 – Cam Newton, QB, CAR

Pick #54 – Vernon Davies, TE, SF

Pick #55 – Robert Griffin III, QB, WSH

Pick #56 – Steven Jackson, RB, ATL

Pick #57 – Rashad Jennings, RB, NYG

Pick #58 – Shane Vereen, RB, NE

Pick #59 – Nick Foles, QB, PHI

Pick #60 – T.Y. Hilton, WR, IND

 

Round 7

Pick #61 –Michael Crabtree, WR, SF

Pick #62 – Jason Witten, TE, DAL

Pick #63 – Stevan Ridley, RB, NE

Pick #64 – Julian Edelman, WR, NE

Pick #65 – Reggie Wayne, WR, IND

Pick #66 – Torrey Smith, WR, BAL

Pick #67 – Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, MIN

Pick #68 – Joique Bell, RB, DET

Pick #69 – Golden Tate, WR, DET (My Pick)

Pick #70 – Marques Colston, WR, NO

 

Round 8

Pick #71 – Sammy Watkins, WR, BUF

Pick #72 – Michael Floyd, WR, ARI (My Pick)

Pick #73 –Jeremy Maclin, WR, PHI

Pick #74 – Bishop Sankey, RB, TEN

Pick #75 – Russell Wilson, QB, SEA

Pick #76 – Knowshon Moreno, RB, MIA

Pick #77 – Pierre Thomas, RB, NO

Pick #78 – Toby Gerhart, RB, JAC

Pick #79 – Kendall Wright, WR, TEN

Pick #80 – Emmanuel Sanders, WR, DEN

 

Round 9

Pick #81 – Mike Wallace, WR, MIA

Pick #82 – Eric Decker, WR, NYJ

Pick #83 – Jordan Cameron, TE, CLE

Pick #84 – Seahawks D/ST

Pick #85 – Martellus Bennett, TE, CHI

Pick #86 – Cecil Shorts, WR, JAC

Pick #87 – Terrance Williams, WR, DAL

Pick #88 – Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, OAK

Pick #89 – Danny Woodhead, RB, SD (My Pick)

Pick #90 – Dwayne Bowe, WR, KC

 

Round 10

Pick #91 – Danny Amendola, WR, NE

Pick #92 – Chris Ivory, RB, NYJ (My Pick)

Pick #93 – Fred Jackson, RB, BUF

Pick #94 – Josh Gordon, WR, CLE

Pick #95 – Greg Olson, TW, CAR

Pick #96 – Panthers D/ST

Pick #97 – Colin Kaepernick, QB, SF

Pick #98 – Anquan Boldin, WR, SF

Pick #99 – Darren Sproles, RB, PHI

Pick #100 – Matt Ryan, QB, ATL

 

Round 11

Pick #101 – DeAngelo Williams, RB, CAR

Pick #102 – David Wilson, RB, NYG

Pick #103 – Hakeem Nicks, WR, IND

Pick #104 – Bernard Pierce, RB, BAL

Pick #105 – DeAndre Hopkins, WR, HOU

Pick #106 – Riley Cooper, WR, PHI

Pick #107 – Khiry Robinson, RB, NO

Pick #108 – Dennis Pitta, TE, BAL

Pick #109 – Lamar Miller, RB, MIA (My Pick)

Pick #110 – Darren McFadden, RB, OAK

 

Round 12

Pick #111 – Steve Smith, WR, BAL

Pick #112 – Kyle Rudolph, TE, MIN (My Pick)

Pick #113 – Tre Mason, RB, STL

Pick #114 – Shonn Greene, RB, TEN

Pick #115 – Mark Ingram, RB, NO

Pick #116 – Greg Jennings, WR, MIN

Pick #117 – Tom Brady, QB, NE

Pick #118 – James Jones, WR, OAK

Pick #119 – Andre Brown, RB, FA

Pick #120 – Donald Brown, RB, SD

 

Round 13

Pick #121 – Tony Romo, QB, DAL

Pick #122 – Jeremy Hill, RB, CIN

Pick #123 – Andy Dalton, QB, CIN

Pick #124 – Philip Rivers, QB, SD

Pick #125 – Latavius Murray, RB, OAK

Pick #126 – Jay Cutler, QB, CHI

Pick #127 – Justin Hunter, WR, TEN

Pick #128 – LeGarrett Blount, RB, PIT

Pick #129 – Mike Evans, WR, TB (My Pick)

Pick #130 – 49ers D/ST

 

Round 14

Pick #131 – Jordan Reed, TE, WSH

Pick #132 – James Starks, RB, GB (My Pick)

Pick #133 – Ben Roethlisberger, QB, PIT

Pick #134 – Broncos D/ST

Pick #135 Cardinals D/ST

Pick #136 – Johnny Manziel, QB, CLE

Pick #137 – Christine Michael, RB, SEA

Pick #138 – Rams D/ST

Pick #139 – Bengals D/ST

Pick #140 – Knile Davis, RB, KC

 

Round 15

Pick #141 – Chiefs D/ST

Pick #142 – C.J. Anderson, RB, DEN

Pick #143 – Zach Ertz, TE, PHI

Pick #144 – Roy Helu, RB, WSH

Pick #145 – Steven Hauschka, K, SEA

Pick #146 – Jonathan Stewart, RB, CAR

Pick #147 – Rueben Randle, WR, NYG

Pick #148 – Patriots D/ST

Pick #149 – Bills D/ST (My Pick)

Pick #150 – Stephen Gostkowski, K, NE

 

Round 16

Pick #151 – Tavon Austin, WR, STL

Pick #152 – Justin Tucker, K, BAL (My Pick)

Pick #153 – Mason Crosby, K, GB

Pick #154 – Phil Dawson, K, SF

Pick #155 – Nick Novak, K, SD

Pick #156 – Buccaneers D/ST

Pick #157 – Adam Vinatieri, K, IND

Pick #158 – Blair Walsh, K, MIN

Pick #159 – Dan Bailey, K, DAL

Pick #160 – Charles Clay, TE, MIA

 

Takeaways

Mock drafts are valuable, because they allow you to simulate the events of a real draft, and see what mistakes you made and things you can exploit when the actual thing takes place. Here are some of the things I noticed.

1) Don’t pull the trigger on a quarterback too early – I drafted Drew Brees in the second round, and whilst he is a top three quarterback, and almost certainly will finish there in scoring at the position, I don’t think I should have made this pick. With the likes of Tony Romo and Philip Rivers remaining at the start of round 13, I would much prefer to take an elite WR like A.J. Green or Demaryius Thomas in round 2, and wait until much later to draft my starting QB. The depth at the position validates this strategy.

2) I almost caught Ball – One player I am high on this year is Denver Broncos running back Montee Ball. After I enjoyed being Knowshon Moreno’s owner last year, I would feel comfortable taking Ball in the second or the third round this year. In this particular mock draft, Ball actually went in round three, and I had planned to nab him with pick 29. He was taken just two selections earlier, and was actually an autopick after the player had left the draft early. I had to settle for his Denver teammate, Julius Thomas. Not the worst consolation prize.

3) Is there much more value earlier on? – I think that better value could be found towards the end of round 7 and later, than that in rounds 4 to 7. Antonio Brown, Andre Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald, who were all taken in round 4 could be just as productive as Golden Tate, Michael Floyd and Emmanuel Sanders – who were all taken at least three rounds later. There are plenty of other examples, but I suppose that the proof will be in the results.

4) Mr Not-So-Irrelevant? – In this mock draft, Miami Dolphins tight end Charles Clay was taken with the last pick. If this was a real draft, then that selection could prove to be great value. Clay is at the top of the tight end depth chart in Miami, and should see plenty of targets from Ryan Tannehill, after Mike Wallace disappointed last year. While it may be a risk to expect starting tight end production from him in fantasy, Clay will more than likely be a potential flex starter, and should be able to adequately fill in for a starting tight end on a bye week. Last season Clay was the seventh-best fantasy tight end; selecting him last overall in the draft should reflect immense value. Fellow tight ends Jordan Reed, Greg Olson, Dennis Pitta, and Kyle Rudolph were all available late on as well.

5) The sloppy seconds aren’t all that sloppy – So once the draft concluded, I was able to scroll through the list of the players who remained on the board, and there were a lot of good players in there. Even though he had a nightmare season last year, Eli Manning was one player who I was surprised to see go undrafted, and he was joined by the likes of Stevie Johnson, Carson Palmer, Andrew Hawkins, BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Jarrett Boykin on the list of players who managed to go through all 16 rounds without being taken. It is worth noting, however, that in a league with more than ten teams, all of those players would probably be gone by the end of those drafts.

 

My Team

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Round 1 – Eddie Lacy, RB, GB

Really solid pick to open up my draft, and I would be more than happy if Eddie Lacy fell to me in the first round in the real draft. There are only a couple of players I would take over Lacy, and the pick got this mock draft off to a good start.

Round 2 – Drew Brees, QB, NO

I was pleased with Brees right after I drafted him, but when it became apparent that I could’ve waited until much later on to draft a starting quarterback, I realised that I could’ve done much better at number 12.

Round 3 – Julius Thomas, TE, DEN

Like I said earlier on, I was hoping that this pick would be Montee Ball. It wasn’t, but Julius Thomas shouldn’t be looked down on though, because he is still a starting calibre tight end, and will have Peyton Manning throwing to him again. He definitely has third round value.

Round 4 – Antonio Brown, WR, PIT

I wasn’t really happy with Antonio Brown in round 4. He had a great season last year with 1,499 receiving yards and nine touchdowns, but I just can’t see him repeating with similar numbers in 2014. That’s not to say he won’t, but I don’t think he’ll be much better than the likes of Percy Harvin and Golden Tate, who I selected later on in the draft. Having said that, I shared a similar feeling about the other top players left on the board when I made this pick, which is why I went with Brown. I’ll be hoping for someone better when it comes to the real thing though.

Round 5 – Percy Harvin, WR, SEA

This is a classic risk pick – but the huge upside, and former success I myself have enjoyed with Harvin meant that I couldn’t pass on him with my fifth round pick. The talent is there, but Harvin has only once played a full 16-game season, and has never reached the 1,000 yard plateau. His track record isn’t good, but I do have a good feeling about him. He’s the top receiver in Seattle, but there are other threats, so he shouldn’t have to deal with any triple teams, as the Seahawks also have Jermaine Kearse and Doug Baldwin to take the pressure off Harvin. I see this as high-risk, high-reward.

Round 6 – Andre Ellington, RB, ARI

The Percy Harvin pick came at the expense of Andre Ellington. It was between those two, and was a really close call. Fortunately, Ellington was still on the board just three picks later when I was on the clock again, and so I made him my selection. Ellington could be one of the breakout stars of the season, as he steps into the starting role in Arizona.

Round 7 – Golden Tate, WR, DET

My seventh pick was probably one of the best I made in this mock draft – and that was selecting Golden Tate with the sixty-ninth pick. Tate should be Detroit’s second receiver behind Megatron, and whilst the Lions break tight end Ebron into their offense, Tate could see enough targets to make him a WR2 in fantasy.

Round 8 – Michael Floyd, WR, ARI

I’ve always been a Larry Fitzgerald fan, but 2014 could be the year Fitz is unseated as the top receiving threat in Arizona. The man who could do just that is Michael Floyd, and comes at a fraction of the price. Floyd is worth the risk here, and should at least be a serviceable flex player.

Round 9 – Danny Woodhead, RB, SD

Woodhead was one of the surprises of the season last year, as he helped San Diego reach the Playoffs and pick up a postseason win. Although Woodhead is a running back, he gained more yards and touchdowns through the air, than he did on the ground. The problem with Woodhead is going to be guessing which week he’s going to perform well in. But if he was to be in my fantasy team on one of his good weeks, then he would give me a big boost.

Round 10 – Chris Ivory, RB, NYJ

I spent so much time trying to scroll for a better value pick here, that I ran out of time, and Chris Ivory came to me with autopick. I don’t think Ivory will score many fantasy points unless Chris Johnson goes down with an injury at some point. He wasn’t overly productive last season when he was the starting running back in New York.

Round 11 – Lamar Miller, RB, MIA

This pic was particularly pleasing, as I expect Miller to start for the Dolphins, and do a lot better than Knowshon Moreno, who was taken three rounds earlier. If Lamar Miller was still around in round 11 when the real draft takes place, then I will have no trouble taking him – provided there’s no-one obviously better remaining.

Round 12 – Kyle Rudolph, TE, MIN

One good pick was followed by another, as I managed to get Kyle Rudolph in round 12. Rudolph will be playing under Norv Turner this year, who is known for utilising his tight ends. Rudolph is great insurance for me here, because not only would he be able to plug the gap for me when Julius Thomas is on his bye week, but he also has the potential to be used in the flex slot should any of my running backs or wide receivers not be up to scratch.

Round 13 – Mike Evans, WR, TB

This was a flier pick. I don’t expect Mike Evans to produce, but his uncertain ceiling made his selection an intriguing one. He may not catch a lot of balls, but the opportunity is there if he performs well enough – even if he will be across the field from Vincent Jackson.

Round 14 – James Starks, RB, GB

This was the typical handcuff pick. If Eddie Lacy goes down, then I have the option to put James Starks in his place. Other than that, I wouldn’t expect Starks to do much other than warm the bench.

Round 15 – Bills D/ST

With all the top D/STs gone at this point, the top remaining D/ST left was the Bills, so this pick was a no brainer.

Round 16 – Justin Tucker, K, BAL

Again, another best player available pick to fill the empty kicker spot. I would have no complaints if Tucker fell to me in the real thing. I also had my eye on Dan Bailey, but chose to go with Tucker, who finished third in scoring amongst kickers last year.

 

Summary: I would be pretty pleased if I ended up with this roster, because there is depth, and there are some quality players who I could play week in, week out. But the thing I was unhappy with once the mock draft ended and I had evaluated my team, is that I knew it could’ve been better. It is hard to guess what other teams are going to do, and in another draft, the order could be completely different. But doing this mock draft has shown me a couple of things; such as I need to do much more preparation, and that I can wait longer to take a quarterback. If you’re serious about fantasy football, then mock drafting is a worthwhile exercise.

Ray Rice suspended two games; fantasy outlook worse than before

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The NFL today released a statement, saying that Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice has been suspended for the first two games of the season, following his indictment for aggravated assault.

Rice was arrested and charged with simple assault and domestic violence on 15 February after an altercation with his fiancée at the Revel Casino and Hotel in Atlantic City.

In addition to the suspension, the league has also hit the former second round pick with a $58,000 fine.

Rice has already commented on his ban through a statement released by the team. He said: “It is disappointing that I will not be with my teammates for the first two games of the season, but that’s my fault.”

“There are consequences when you make a mistake like that,” Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said. “I stand behind Ray. He’s a heck of a guy.”

Although the suspension covers the Week 1 opener against San Francisco, and their Week 2 matchup on the road to the Dallas Cowboys, Rice is eligible to participate in training camp and all of Baltimore’s preseason games.

The verdict will harm an already fragile fantasy outlook. Coming off the back off of four straight seasons with at least 1,100 rushing yards and at least six touchdowns, the three-time Pro Bowler went into 2013 as a projected top-ten running back, but he largely disappointed.

Missing just one game, Rice managed only 660 yards from 214 carries, giving him a paltry 3.1 yards per carry average. His decline can be attributed to high workload. From 2009 to 2012, Rice had the ball in his hands no fewer than 317 times, and cracks began to show last year, with his carries falling to 214.

In 2013, the Rutgers product was drafted at an average of sixth overall, according to MyFantasyLeague. So far this year Rice is, on average, the seventy-third pick– showing a large decline in his fantasy stock in just under a year.

He may be worth taking a flier on any time after round eight or nine, due to his track history and job security as the lead back in Baltimore, as either a flex player or bench depth. But keep in mind he’ll have to sit for the first two weeks of the season.

My top-five fantasy football sleepers

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So I recently covered the topic of whether or not ex-Vikings running back Toby Gerhart is a ‘fantasy sleeper’. Simply put, a fantasy sleeper is someone whose on-field production exceeds expectation, based on either draft position, or projections prior to the season. There are usually a handful of these sleepers each year, and if you are fortunate enough to have one or more on your team, then it can be as satisfying as it is surprising.

Victor Cruz in 2011, Alfred Morris in 2012, and Julius Thomas in 2013 are all classic examples of players with little to no fantasy expectation before the season started, who then  went on to be fantasy studs. The player’s don’t have to have low projections to be fantasy sleepers though. Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Charles in 2012 are two examples of players who have undeniable talent, but weren’t drafted quite as high as their production reflected because they were both coming off ACL injuries.

The common denominator with fantasy sleepers is value – they can all be categorised as diamonds in the rough. It is probably fair to assume that 2014 will also have its fair share of players, and here are five that I will spring some surprise.

 

1) Andre Ellington – RB, Arizona Cardinals

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A man primed for a breakout year in his sophomore season is Arizona’s 2013 sixth-round pick Andre Ellington. He racked up 652 rushing yards, and 371 yards receiving in his rookie campaign – impressive considering he was the team’s second-string running back behind Rashard Mendenhall. Since the conclusion of the 2013 season Mendenhall has retired, leaving Ellington at the top of the depth chart by default. His competition is fellow second year player Jonathan Dwyer, as well free agent pick-ups Jalen Parmele and Stepfan Taylor, so there should be no doubt’s over Ellington’s status as the number one running back in Arizona.

Ellington is primed to have a big 2014. Not only is he now the top running back on the roster, but Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians suggested that Ellington may touch the ball 30 times a game next season, with ten of those being catches.  If that is more than a mere suggestion, then Ellington will have the opportunity to delight his fantasy owners. He’ll also be running behind an upgraded offensive line that were one of the worst in 2013, and so should benefit from that. Drafting Ellington high would bring with it a risk, and he isn’t a big name. He won’t be playing on a top offense either, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see him fall past round six. For a player who has a chance to crack the top ten at his position, Andre Ellington could be fantastic value.

 

2) Jordan Cameron, TE, Cleveland Browns

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The upcoming season gives Jordan Cameron the chance to cement his place as one of the premiere tight ends in the league. After failing to impress in his first two seasons, Cameron demonstrated some of the potential that led the Cleveland Browns to spend a fourth-round draft pick on him in 2011 by racking up 917 yards and 7 touchdowns. That may not seem all that impressive, but not only did Cameron have to deal with three different starting quarterbacks, he also had to wrestle with NFL receiving yards leader Josh Gordon for targets.

His performance last season should see Cameron have an increased role in Kyle Shanahan’s offense this year, and with the likely absence of Josh Gordon, Cameron will be the Browns’ top pass catcher. Another factor to consider is that the quarterback situation in Cleveland is still unclear. The competition appears to be between Brian Hoyer, and first-round draft pick Johnny Manziel. It is unlikely that Cameron will be playing with a top-end quarterback, which is something that will damage his fantasy stock. However, this may mean he is used as a safety blanket for whoever is under centre, which would be good for his production.

The team that Jordan Cameron is on and the situation he is in doesn’t seem favourable on the surface, and the fact that he is a tight end and not a wide receiver will only hamper his average draft position further. He may not be a pick you want to take in the first couple of rounds, but 2014 will provide Cameron with a great chance to build upon last year. He should be good for at least 1,000 yards, and his size means that he should be an effective red zone target. If he hits his potential, then Jordan Cameron may prove to be sleeper material.

 

3) Golden Tate – WR, Detroit Lions

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It may be a little odd to see the name of the leading receiver for last year’s Super Bowl champions on a list of potential fantasy sleepers. But after Golden Tate switched Seattle for Detroit, his draft stock has declined. The reason – Calvin Johnson. With the signing of Tate, I believe that Detroit have finally found a true complimentary receiver to their 2007 first-round pick. Tate should be able to help take the pressure off Johnson, because defences will also have to account for him as well.

Last year was somewhat of a breakout season for Tate, who recorded career highs with 64 receptions from 98 targets, with 898 receiving yards. Although he didn’t record elite numbers, Golden Tate showcased his ability as a playmaker, has a good yards after catch average. He will also be entering a better passing attack than the one he was a part of in Seattle. The Seahawks had the least pass attempts per game in the league, compared to Detroit, who were ranked fifth in that category. Although he may have to share the ball more with other receivers including Johnson, Eric Ebron, Brandon Pettigrew, Reggie Bush and Theo Riddick, Golden Tate should still see plenty of the ball in Joe Lombardi’s offense.

Because he will have to compete for targets in the Lions’ offense, Golden Tate’s upside may appear to be limited. Fantasy players may also be weary of drafting him too early, as he has never topped 900 yards. This could be good news for someone to look for a bargain to play at WR3 or to use as a flex player depending on draft strategy, as Tate may be available later on than he should. He isn’t really someone you should be relying on as an every-week starter, but if he hits his potential then Tate could be a nice fantasy option.

 

4) Tony Romo, QB, Dallas Cowboys

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Tony Romo is another name you may not expect to see on this list, but here he is. The signal caller for the Cowboys has been a tidy fantasy football option for a few years now, and there isn’t much reason to believe that he won’t be a safe pick in 2014. A hot topic in fantasy football circles this offseason is where quarterbacks should be drafted, with many believing that running backs and wide receivers should take priority. Aside from the elite players like Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers, the general consensus would suggest that most other quarterbacks will come off the board in round seven or later due to the depth of quality quarterbacks – and Tony Romo will probably be in that bracket.

If Romo’s name is available in rounds nine or ten, or he somehow slides even further down the rounds then he could be great value. He has been at the epicentre of some tragic Cowboys meltdowns, and certainly has taken a lot of flak from his own fan base. However, he is a great fantasy quarterback, and consistently puts up big numbers. Although Romo doesn’t scramble as much as other quarterbacks, he does have a great arm. As well as being behind one of the top offensive lines in the NFL, Romo has a host of weapons including Dez Bryant, Terrence Williams and Jason Witten so there is a lot of scope for Romo to have yet another big season.

He is, however, coming off of back surgery, which may put some people off drafting him, although Romo has been quoted as saying that he is “miles ahead” of where he was last year. I think Tony Romo would be a great value pick in rounds five or six, but if you gamble then he may be around even later. He should provide you with some good, if not better QB1 play.

 

5) Hakeem Nicks, WR, Indianapolis Colts

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It has been dismal couple of years for former Super Bowl champion Hakeem Nicks. He didn’t live up to the hype generated in 2010 and 2011, in which the wide receiver put up two consecutive 1,000 yard seasons. His level of play dropped so much last year that rumours began circulating that the Giants were looking into trading him before the trade deadline, but that never materialised and he stayed in New York for the remainder of his contract. Another concern with Nicks is that he has never managed to play a full 16 game season. As well as coming off the back of a season in which he recorded zero touchdowns, there isn’t much to be optimistic about for Nicks.

He does have a ton of natural talent though, and he had showcased it before his star began to fade. The change of scenery that Indianapolis will provide Nicks with could be enough to get his engine going once more. He should see a step-up in quarterback play, going from Eli Manning, who also had a terrible 2013, to Andrew Luck, and will be entering a more pass-heavy offense. If Nicks plays anything like the first round pick that the New York Giants intended him to be in 2009, then he could prove to be a steal.

Currently in ESPN leagues, Nicks’ average draft position is 109 overall, and he is ranked forty-fourth amongst wide receivers. There is great value to be had there, and he could slip into the last few rounds of the draft. Hakeem Nicks may well be worth taking a risk on from round ten, especially with Luck throwing him the ball.

 

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