Summer is here and for fantasy football players, it’s time to do your homework. Fantasy football is a challenging game based around constant evaluation and all or nothing decisions. Week to week your lineup changes due to injuries and bye weeks. When it comes to injuries plan for the worst, evaluate players carefully and draft the best team possible. Try to make good late round sleeper picks for bench depth, these picks can save your season.
A vital and sometimes ignored key to drafting running backs and quarterbacks is the offensive line. In most fantasy football leagues you’re not drafting offensive lines or offense lineman however; this line can make or break a running backs/quarterbacks season. The offensive line is responsible for opening up holes for running backs to run through and protecting the quarterback long enough so he can read the field and make a play. Although this isn’t the only key to success for your RB & QB but, when debating between a few players to draft, considering the skill of the o-line can certainly help make a decision.
For ranking the offensive line I am using a grouping system instead of specific order as unforeseen personnel and injuries can change before the start of the season.
Elite: Arizona, Carolina, Dallas, New York Jets & Pittsburgh.
Above Average: Cincinnati, Houston, Los Angeles, Minnesota & New England.
Average: Baltimore, Denver, Green Bay, Kansas City, New York Giants, Seattle, Tampa Bay & Washington.
Below Average: Atlanta, Buffalo, Chicago, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Miami, New Orleans, Oakland & Philadelphia.
Poor: Cleveland, Detroit, San Diego, San Francisco & Tennessee.
Here are a few big names that relocated to a new team this offseason. Let’s see how well they fit into their new teams.
DeMarco Murray – Tennessee Titans - RB
After leaving the Cowboys for the Eagles last season, Murray had a terrible season to follow up his league leading 2014 performance. This is a perfect example of a talented player shifting teams and laying a goose egg for a season. However, Murray is onto his third team and he seems to have a bright future. The Titans o-line is poor but has a chance to improve and with some offensive weapons, the Titans might just have enough tools to get some defenders to pay attention to other targets while Murray carries the ball. Murray should be able to bounce back from last year and to his advantage, head coach Mike Mularkey runs the ball a lot.
Matt Forte – New York Jets – RB
Forte has had over 800 rushing yards and 300 receiving yards for eight seasons straight. That’s amazing! He’s one of very few to achieve such success; however, at age 30 and with a new team for the first time in his career, he can be hard to judge. The Jets o-line will be an upgrade for Forte and the Jets have weapons with Marshall and Decker. The Jets will have Forte split some carries with Bilal Powell and Khiry Robinson which should keep him fresh throughout the year. While splitting the workload, I believe Forte will continue to be a productive player. However, I see him more as a RB2 at age 30 with potential to reach a top 10 spot as Chris Ivory did last season for the Jets.
Chris Ivory – Jacksonville Jaguars – RB
Last season Ivory was a top 10 running back playing for the Jets; a team that totaled the 10th highest rushing attempts last season. Now with the Jaguars, Ivory will be splitting time with last year rookie T. J. Yeldon and joins a team with the 3rd lowest rushing attempts in 2015. The Jaguars investment in Ivory would seem to mean he’ll be the starter but, Yeldon is expected to get a decent amount of playing time as well. Given the Jags are a pass heavy team, I’m not so sure Ivory will make a return to the top 10 and I’m looking at Ivory as a low RB2/RB3 option, leaning more towards RB3.
Lamar Miller – Houston Texans – RB
Adrian Foster is no longer a Texan and Houston turned to Lamar Miller to fill the massive void Foster left behind. Miller is only 24 years old and had success over his four seasons in Miami, especially his last two. Houston’s defense is among the best and should keep points of the board giving the ball to the offense. Houston has wide receiver threat DeAndre Hopkins, rookie WR Will Fuller to stretch the field and new arrival QB Brock Osweiler to round out the offense. Miller should get plenty of carries and it’s smart to invest in a young capable running back. I see Miller as a low RB1 with potential to rise.
Brock Osweiler – Houston Texans - QB
Starting 7 games for Denver in Peyton Manning’s absence, Osweiler won 5 games with a QB rating of 86.2, 61.8% pass completion, 10 touchdowns, 6 interceptions and just shy of 2,000 passing yards last season. Not bad numbers but, those seven games were fairly easy matchups and with such a limited sample size it’s hard to figure out Osweiler. It’s also hard to draft him as your starting QB when there are so many established QBs available. If he’s available later on, he’s worth a bench spot as your backup QB; this will give you a few weeks to see how he handles his first full time gig.
Robert Griffin III - Cleveland Browns – QB
RG3’s long injury history is a major concern however, the potential for a dual threat QB working with Hue Jackson is very appealing. Griffin has Gary Barnidge at TE who broke out in his first full season as a starter and there is a very low chance he’ll have an opportunity to throw to Josh Gordon. RG3’s name is nothing more than eye candy at this point. Although he has potential to be very successful as a starter, his injury risk is just as high.
Marvin Jones – Detroit Lions – WR
First off, let me just say there is no replacing Calvin Johnson in Detroit. Stafford has always been a slinger but, I find him to be very inconsistent week to week. Jones was paid as a number 1 option but, I see him more as a number 2. The lions seem to be lining up with two number 2 options (Jones and Golden Tate) and are missing that elite number 1 wide receiver. Stafford has relied on Calvin his entire career and with him retired, it’s up to Jones, Tate, Kerley (WR), Ebron (TE) and Abdullah (RB) to create some chemistry with Stafford and make this work. Until proven otherwise, look at Jones as a WR3 or bench depth.
Travis Benjamin – San Diego Chargers – WR
Benjamin’s move from Cleveland to San Diego this offseason got him the upgrade at quarterback he was looking for. However, Benjamin slides in-between Keenan Allen and Stevie Johnson. Allen and TE Antonio Gates figure to continue as the top targets for QB Phillip Rivers and Johnson is a solid third receiver to have. Benjamin won’t be relied on as he was in Cleveland but, he has potential to put up some numbers. We’ll have to wait and see how the Chargers utilize Benjamin in this offense.
Coby Fleener – New Orleans Saints – TE
Fleener has always been a guy with potential and at times was able to flash how good he can be. Ultimately, he was hot and cold in the Colts offense and split time with Dwayne Allen never reaching his true potential. Now a member of the Saints, a team low on offensive weapons, Fleener should be able to put some fantasy points to be a solid starter as QB Brees likes to sling it and connect with his TE. Just don’t expect Jimmy Graham numbers, I’d say around 800 yards and 5 TDs is within reach here.
Benjamin Watson – Baltimore Ravens – TE
Watson leaves the Saints and joins the Ravens at age 35. Last year he had a career year and it would be a bad idea to expect that again. His age is a risk and Flacco is no Brees but, Offensive Coordinator Marc Trestman looks to the tight end more so than most. Watson would be a good backup to stash on your bench to see how things turn out.
Jared Cook – Green Bay Packers – TE
Give Aaron Rodgers any tight end and he’ll find a way to get him the ball and give him some fantasy value. Jared Cook is a guy who never reached his potential with the Titans and Rams but, his situation in Green Bay could change things. Time will tell and for now Cook is a backup consideration.
Here are some players you may be able to get a few rounds later than normal that can have a big year. In some cases these picks could be starters from the get go, others may be bench depth with potential.
QB Matt Ryan – Atlanta [Starter]
QB David Carr – Oakland [Bench]
QB Marcus Mariota – Tennessee [Bench]
RB Eddie Lacy – Green Bay [Starter]
RB Carlos Hyde – San Francisco [Bench]
RB Jonathan Stewart – Carolina [Starter]
RB Frank Gore – Indianapolis [Bench]
WR Allen Hurns – Jacksonville [Starter/Bench]
WR Michael Crabtree – Oakland [Bench]
WR Dorial Green-Beckham – Tennessee [Bench]
WR Marvin Jones – Detroit [Starter/Bench]
WR Travis Benjamin – San Diego [Bench]
TE Coby Fleener – New Orleans [Starter]
TE Antoni Gates – San Diego [Starter/Bench]
TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins – Tampa Bay [Bench]
TE Benjamin Watson – Baltimore [Bench]
TE Jared Cook – Green Bay [Bench]
TE Jordan Cameron – Miami [Bench]
TE Will Tye – NY Giants [Bench]
As far as Kickers go, grab one, if he fails, drop and replace. Here’s my top 10:
Stephen Gostkowski – New England Patriots
Steven Hauschka – Seattle Seahawks
Graham Gano – Carolina Panther
Brandon McManus – Denver Broncos
Mason Crosby – Green Bay Packers
Justin Tucker – Baltimore Ravens
Dan Bailey – Dallas Cowboys
Chandler Catanzaro – Arizona Cardinals
Adam Vinatieri – Indianapolis Colts
Josh Brown – New York Giants
It is crucial to have a good defense. Your defense usually starts off with 10 points and that number can increase or decrease. A good defense can get you 10 – 20 points on average. A bad defense can get you less than five points on average and the last thing you want from your defense is negative points. If you end up with an ok but not great defense, I suggest drafting two and playing the match-ups or the hot quad from week to week.
Elite: Arizona & Seattle.
Above Average: Denver, Houston, Kansas City, & New York Jets
Average: Buffalo, Carolina, Cincinnati, Los Angeles, Minnesota, New England, & Pittsburgh.
Best of the Rest: Baltimore, Chicago, Green Bay, Jacksonville, Oakland, Philadelphia, & Washington.
Who are your sleepers for this season? Leave a comment and let’s get a conversation started!