The 2013 NFL regular season is in the books, which means all eyes are on the coming NFL playoffs. It also signals the end of the 2013 fantasy football season for the majority of leagues (save for those random leagues that stem into the playoffs).
Whether or not you’re still going strong in some weekly games on fantasy gaming sites, you may want to take a second and reflect on the season that was, in order to see who we all may be after for 2014.
That’s what we’re going to do, at least. I’ve perused some other top-10 lists and after some research, I’ve come down to my own top-10 for next year. Naturally, this top-10 can and probably will change before I’m ready to unleash my final 2014 preseason rankings. But for now, these are my favorites and should be highly touted in fantasy drafts starting this summer:
1. LeSean McCoy, RB, Philadelphia Eagles
Shady is just 25 and is fresh off of a league rushing title (1,607 yards). His dynamic running style, versatility and offense make him a lock for elite production in 2014 again as long as he can stay healthy. Even more encouraging? Six of his nine rushing scores came in the second half of the season – sans Michael Vick. With Nick Foles under center, that factoid bodes well for McCoy going forward.
2. Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
McCoy is a beast, but let’s not forget about Charles, who actually was easily the most consistent fantasy performer not named Peyton Manning. He also had the best game of anyone not named Manning, if you can recall his insane 200+ yard and 5-touchdown outing late in the year. He’ll be in the same offense and will be a machine once again in 2014. Some will say he’s the top fantasy option, and I won’t argue it that much. I prefer McCoy over him slightly, however.
3. Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings
The young guys are rising, but let’s not forget about the “old” man in the corner. Despite missing two full games and half of two more down the stretch, Peterson still finished with over 1,200 rushing yards and 10 scores on the ground. Had Minny been in playoff contention, we would have almost certainly seen a better finish to Peterson’s 2013. All that really means is the soon-to-be 29-year old will bring you the most value since he’s been in the league, as he’s still a legit candidate to reclaim that top spot in fantasy football. If you get him at the third pick or later, consider yourself blessed.
4. Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions
Megatron missed two full games and was reportedly banged up for half the year, yet he put up over 1,400 receiving yards and 12 scores. With him healthy for 2014 and Matthew Stafford still having tunnel vision, Johnson will without a doubt be fantasy’s top WR again in 2014. In fact, he might be even better.
5. Matt Forte, RB, Chicago Bears
I’d love to drink the kool aid and suddenly believe Forte is this 12-touchdown guy we saw this year, but I can’t do it yet. I’m close, though, as his place at #5 in my ranks would suggest. The one thing I do trust, however, is Marc Trestman and his desire to use Forte the way he’s meant to be used. If that continues, Forte will definitely be a must-own fantasy option and might even slowly push his value up over Megatron’s.
6. Doug Martin, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Forget what we saw in 2013. Martin was banged up, his offensive line was in shambles, and he suffered through erratic play at the quarterback position. When he’s back in 2014, he’ll again have a monster workload and his elite talent begs you to draft him in the first round. Talk about value.
7. Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seattle Seahawks
Lynch bores you to death and isn’t as explosive as the guys ahead of him, but he’s actually just about as productive. I’d imagine the solid talent behind him will come to get him eventually, but it’s probably not happening in 2014. With that, Lynch is a pretty safe bet to once again chase 1,200 rushing yards and 10-12 touchdowns.
8. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers
As amazing as Peyton Manning was in 2013, there’s pretty much no way he does that again. Right? That’s my guess, at least. Instead of Manning duplicating that at 38, I’m going to go ahead and predict A-Rod is the best fantasy quarterback in 2014. He has the talent, weapons and a productive running game, so I think he’ll be up to the task. Even so, I value running backs and Calvin Johnson more, so he only makes his way onto my early rankings at the eight spot.
9. Eddie Lacy, RB, Green Bay Packers
Right behind him is Lacy, who was turning into a beast back when Rodgers was still healthy, and ended up with over 1,100 rushing yards and an impressive 11 touchdowns – as a rookie. Five of his 11 touchdowns came down the stretch when Green Bay needed them the most, and he did a lot of his damage whilst banged up. I love his brute running style and see more ceiling to be hit. He’s a top-10 fantasy option going into 2014.
10. Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos
The #1 fantasy option in 2013 can’t be left off the top-10 for 2014, can he? After all, Manning set the record for passing touchdowns (55), passing yards (5,477) and really didn’t seem to lose a step. In addition, he even had some off games, which suggested he could have had an even better season. Throw in his excellent weapons, and it’s not crazy to think Manning could be close to this good again in 2014.
I just don’t think he will be. However, just because I don’t think Manning will top 5,000 yards or throw for 50 touchdowns again doesn’t mean I think he’ll stink. I see regression coming, but I still think Manning will be elite to the tune of 4,000+ passing yards and somewhere between 35-40 passing touchdowns. With that said, I like A-Rod’s upside a little more and I value running backs more than the average fantasy player. At least Manning is in my top-10, Denver fans.
Two things. One, I value the top running backs more than anything. While elite quarterbacks can save or carry your team, I find I win much more often with a deep, balanced team with good depth at the running back position. You still need a top-level quarterback, but with the position getting deeper by the year, having Manning or Rodgers doesn’t mean you’re going to win it all.
With that said, it’s back to the running backs for the two. That’ll mean the top pick will come down to Jamaal Charles or LeSean McCoy. I might flip-flop all summer, but McCoy is the better pure talent and really just seems to be the best running back in the league right now. He’s younger, flashier, and I’m actually a believer in Chip Kelly’s system. That doesn’t mean Charles is chopped liver, though, as the guy picking #2 should be a happy camper.
What else does this way too early top-10 tell us? It tells us you’ll once again get some really nice quarterback falling into the third, fourth, fifth and even sixth rounds of most standard drafts. Guys like Colin Kaepernick, Matt Ryan and Robert Griffin III will plummet down boards because they didn’t meet the hype. The same story is with Adrian Peterson to a degree, as a guy with total #1 overall upside is likely going to be available at the third pick or even later.
In other words, the battle for the top spot will be worth tuning into (especially if you own a top-two pick), but I don’t think (and never do) that the guy who wins that spot dictates how well you can do. But that’s all for another day. Enjoy the off-season and bring it right back here right around summer as we kickoff our preseason fantasy run-through here on Breaking Football.