There’s one thing that never changes with each new fantasy football season. You want to know which guys are going to blow up and which guys are going to break down. In one way or another, we see fantasy value and eventually production shift due to circumstances surrounding a player. Whether it’s their age, role, offense – what have you – something else usually ties into their own talent and gives you the end result. Usually a lot of that can be seen way in advance and it’s up to use to either buy into it or disregard it.
Last year, for instance, we couldn’t have predicted Adrian Peterson getting suspended for 15 games. We probably could have predicted C.J. Spiller would be fragile and lose carries to Fred Jackson or that Doug Martin’s weak offensive line would clobber his fantasy soul into oblivion. Some things you can see coming, and others you can’t. Let’s focus on what we already do know and how it might negatively impact some would-be fantasy football studs in 2015:
Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints
Brees was in decline in 2014, as he slid from a top-three contender to the sixth spot among fantasy quarterbacks. That’s not a huge deal, but then you take Jimmy Graham and Kenny Stills out of his offense and start switching the system to a more run-heavy approach. Yeah, now I’m scared. The #6 fantasy passer is suddenly in danger of seeing a lot less passes and has two fewer weapons at his disposal. That’s not great news for a36-year old quarterback who relies on volume. That doesn’t mean Brees isn’t worth drafting in 2015, as a severe drop-off could still keep him inside the top-10. To say he’s still the same reliable, weekly elite presence, though, would be a lie.
Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos
Why hate on the #4 fantasy quarterback from a year ago? For several reasons, actually. For one, Manning is 39 years old and looked to be in serious regression down the stretch last year. Not only did he come up lame in Denver’s only playoff game, but he put up just three touchdowns to six picks over the final four regular season games.
It’s possible age is just a number and the real Manning is the guy we saw through the first 12 games of 2014. Perhaps. But add in a new Gary Kubiak offense, a supposed run-balanced offensive attack and the loss of Wes Welker and Julius Thomas, and I’m not doing flips over drafting Manning. It looks as though the fantasy draft community is in agreement, too, as Manning is currently the third fantasy passer off the draft boards at the end of round three. I’d like him to fall even further, personally.
LeSean McCoy, RB, Buffalo Bills
Shady did not enjoy the elite 2014 season everyone was anticpating. Drafted by many as the #1 fantasy option, McCoy disappointed with a slide down to the 12th overall spot among running backs. That still made for a productive season, but Shady struggled due to some issues in Philly’s o-line and only scored five touchdowns. There is legit hope now that he’s in Buffalo, but there’s also serious concern. Not only is McCoy in a new city and new offense, but he’s behind a different offensive line and working with a downgrade in the passing game. Defenses should be able to key in on him and another massive workload could lead to more hits.
Hypothetically, a massive workload combined with Shady’s elite talent could have McCoy once again contending for the top spot among running backs. However, fantasy owners won’t quickly forget McCoy’s down 2014 and the fact that his scenery has changed makes him that much more of a risk.
DeMarco Murray, RB, Philadelphia Eagles
Murray’s situation is easy: he’s always been an injury risk and he just got done leading the NFL in carries in 2014. The cool thing is he also paced the entire league in rushing and showed two things – that he can stay healthy for a full 16-game slate and he can be a total beast. No one is denying either fact, but the likelihood of both keeping up in 2015 isn’t exactly great.
On paper, Murray is a tremendous fit for Chip Kelly’s offense, which bodes well for a one-cut, decisive runner like Murray. Unlike the guy before him, LeSean McCoy, Murray doesn’t dance around and simply goes and gets what is there for him. His main issue will be health, as I love him in this offense, but the risk is pretty obvious. He could be an absolute monster or he could be done by week three. That can be said about a lot of guys, sure, but considering Murray has missed 11 games in his career, it’s something to think about.
Brandon Marshall, WR, New York Jets
We started to see the signs last year, as Marshall caught just 61 balls on over 100 targets and missed three games due to nagging injuries. Even when he was on the field he and Jay Cutler couldn’t connect and at 31 years old, it’s probably fair to say he could slowly be declining. That doesn’t necessarily mean he’s just going to be trash now, but he got traded to the Jets. So, yeah, he’ll probably be trash.
All jokes aside, Marshall isn’t the same player he once was and despite being Gang Green’s #1 threat in the passing game, he doesn’t have a competent passer to get him the ball with any consistency. If he can stay healthy I’m sure he can be a capable WR2 – about the same or better than what we got out of Eric Decker in 2014. But if you’re expecting him to be an elite WR1, you probably have another thing coming.
Jeremy Maclin, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
No Chiefs wide receivers scored any touchdowns in 2014. Zero. Sorry, brah, but those is the facts. Now Maclin, who careered in an awesome system he was perfect for in Philly, is coming over to KC to do what Dwayne Bowe could not. There’s no doubt Maclin is a stud talent that in theory could go nuts in an Andy Reid offense, but there’s also no denying that Alex Smith is immune to effectively throwing the deep ball or scoring loads of touchdowns. If that suddenly changes or Maclin can score 10 times on bubble screens, great. Otherwise, he’s going to be extremely hit or miss and ultimately be an overall disappointment.
Jimmy Graham, TE, Seattle Seahawks
Jimmy Graham was third among tight ends in targets last year (125) and he delivered a solid fantasy season (ranked third) despite “only” scoring 10 touchdowns off of 85 catches. It was a down year for a regressing Saints offense and now Graham is shipped over to Seattle, where they just love their tight ends. False. Luke Willson was the most productive Seattle tight end in 2014 and he caught 22 balls on 40 targets. Yikes. Yeah, Willson is no Graham and we’ll probably see Graham still produce in his new offense, but volume has to come play in here to a large degree. After all, the Seahawks aren’t going to change from a run-heavy offense that has Russell Wilson never topping even 453 pass attempts, to some pass-happy offense where he’s rocketing 600+ passes a year like Brees used to. That’d be as silly as throwing a slant at the goal-line when you have Marshawn Lynch. Oh, wait…
Yeah, perhaps the Seahawks are that dumb, but history suggests they’re not. Instead, they simply traded away a late first rounder and a position of strength (o-line) for a stud tight end that they didn’t have. That’s more about the team than fantasy football, though, and I trust Seattle will use him wisely. Not 100+ targets-wisely, though. Graham should still be a top-10 fantasy tight end, but assuming he’s going to remain a top-two guy just because he’s Jimmy Graham is naive.
Julius Thomas, TE, Jacksonville Jaguars
Thomas has been busy catching touchdowns with the Broncos (24, to be exact) the past two years, and in the process he was a top-seven tight end two years in a row. I fear that run is about to end. Thomas curiously signed with the Jags, who could give him a boatload of money but no assurance that his numbers would continue to be elite. The worst part is we don’t even know for sure what Thomas can do without an elite quarterback, nor do we know who he is with major volume. Thomas was largely used near the red-zone and has thrived off of his athleticism. If Jacksonville doesn’t use him properly or Blake Bortles continues to be “meh”, then he could be in some serious trouble. Considering Thomas scored 12 times in 2014 and still was only the 7th best tight end, there’s some real cause for concern.
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