2014 Fantasy Football Draft: The Duds, Your Buds and New Studs
There’s an old saying that next year’s fantasy football draft preparation starts the minute you’re eliminated from the previous year’s contention. That tone really rings imminent as training camp is approaching towards the end of July. While there is still plenty to be worked out, here is an early look at this year’s duds (stay away from), buds (sleeper picks that win you titles), and new studs (breakout 2014 stars).
Arian Foster – There was a time when you’d cringe when an owner grabbed Foster right before your pick. Now you should cheer if somebody drafts him because it means you won’t have to. Foster is returning from a back injury plus new QB Ryan Fitzpatrick and a disgruntled Andre Johnson means defenses will be crowding the box.
Josh McCown – While he’s not ranked very high on the preseason lists, there’s no situation where McCown should be drafted to your fantasy team at all. Last year McCown was a product of Marc Trestman‘s Chicago offense and new TB coach Lovie Smith has been known to ‘get off the bus running’ which could save McCown a couple interceptions actually.
Cam Newton – Not that Newton has ever been surrounded by too much offensive firepower but in the 2014 offseason he’ll lose his top 4 receiving targets from a year ago plus a starting LT. On top of that he’s coming off offseason ankle surgery and a horrible playoff showing that could belittle his confidence (yeah, right.)
Doug Martin – Season ending shoulder injury last year and a more balanced backfield in 2014 could lead to even more reduced productivity for Martin going forward. Lovie Smith loves the running game but he also generally lacks creativity and the ability to adjust a gameplan on the fly, making said running game pretty easy to stop.
Frank Gore – Still a top 15 ranked RB but should be avoided this year as young talent takes over in the San Francisco backfield. 49ers brass are anxious to see what Carlos Hyde, Kendall Hunter, and even Marcus Lattimore can produce moving forward and we could see San Francisco emulate the Miami Heat in how they use Dwyane Wade sparingly during the regular season to rest up for the playoffs.
Your Buds (Sleepers)
Emmanuel Sanders – Caught 67 passes for 740 yards and 6 TD in the disgruntled Pittsburgh offense last season and comes to Denver to take Eric Decker‘s spot. Can play both slot and split end and will likely be Manning’s #2 target once the season gets rolling as Wes Welker is fragile and Julius Thomas is no longer an unknown.
Marquess Wilson – Many of the people in your draft room won’t even know who Wilson is let alone have him on their draft board. Wilson takes over the #3 WR spot in Chicago for Earl Bennett and big things are expected for the 2nd year receiver. The 6’4” Wilson spent the offseason training with Brandon Marshall, a program that worked well for Alshon Jeffrey last season.
Jeremy Maclin – Oh yeah, that guy. Maclin was set to have a breakout year in 2013 in Chip Kelly‘s offense before an ACL injury derailed those hopes. Either way, though, Maclin was able to study the offense for a year and will benefit from DeSean Jackson‘s departure and Nick Foles‘ having an entire offseason as the teams undisputed #1 QB.
Bishop Sankey – He won’t be that big of a sleeper likely being named Tennessee’s starting RB but Sankey is a better option than a lot of your other retreads in this draft slot (McFadden, D. Wilson, Ridley). Although he’ll lose a lot of goal line TD’s to Shonn Greene, running behind Tennessee’s superior OL should allow Sankey well beyond 1,200 yards in his rookie campaign.
Darren Sproles – Stock dropped on the tiny nugget after an ankle sprain in 2013 but he could be a steal for PPR leagues in 2014. A shift to Chip Kelly’s offense and a 50% lineup at wideout could produce in the neighborhood of 100 receptions for a healthy Sproles.
Jay Cutler – Having Jay Cutler in your back pocket could win a lot of fantasy games this season. He’s entering year two of Marc Trestman’s offense and with 4 insane fantasy weapons around him it seems only injury can derail a successful 2014.
Jake Locker – Most fantasy owners know of Locker’s possible 2014 star year but I wouldn’t let him slip too many rounds. Tennessee adds rookie Taylor Lewan as well as Michael Oher to an already stellar offensive line, got rid of disgruntled Kenny Britt and Chris Johnson, added weapons Dexter McCluster and Bishop Sankey, and has a new offensive minded head coach in Ken Whisenhunt. If Locker doesn’t star now he never will.
Randall Cobb – We’ll attribute Cobb being only able to play 38% of the snaps in his career to bad luck instead of brittleness. Either way the wideout is only 23-years-old and is entering the final year of a contract which is always motivation to stay on the field. Cobb showed flashes of brilliance early in 2013 (16 catches, 236 yards, 2 TD in first two games) and will have a lucrative season if healthy in 2014.
Ben Tate – Opposing defenses are licking their chops to get a hit on Johnny Manziel (once he takes the starting reigns) but that overpursuit could just lead to breakaway runs by Tate. The 5th year pro is only 25 years old and is the unquestioned #1 back for the first time in his career. Production would’ve been increased by Josh Gordon not being suspended but Tate should shine nonetheless.
Colin Kaepernick – Kap finished strong last season scoring 20+ fantasy points in 4 of his last 6 starts. Kaepernick’s got his money (6-year, $126 million extension in June) and now it’s time to mature and become a superstar. It’s hard to call Kaepernick a sleeper but it’s also a travesty to see him ranked behind RGIII, Cam Newton, Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck, and even Matthew Stafford.