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QB Matthew Stafford
Yet again, Matthew Stafford stands at a crossroads in his career. Is he really an elite NFL quarterback or just a guy who throws the ball to Calvin Johnson all the time. Can his competitive nature really take his team to the next level or is he just a guy who piles up the stats with nothing to show for it. This could be the season that he finally silences the critics. No matter what the outcome though, fantasy owners will be happy with the results. Stafford is a guy who likes to throw and throw and throw. With a stud like Calvin Johnson catching the ball and Reggie Bush finally getting the running game on track, Stafford will definitely put up solid numbers. But the addition of Golden Tate finally gives Stafford another weapon with some real experience. And rookie tight end Eric Ebron will make a nice complement to Brandon Pettigrew. Look for Stafford to mentally make a shift this season, setting him up for the next several seasons as the captain of Detroit's offense.
QB Andrew Luck
Andrew Luck is entering his third year in the league and second with the same coaching staff led by head coach Chuck Pagano and offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton. Luck amassed 4,374 yards passing in his rookie season, only to drop his yardage totals down to 3,822 with the same number of touchdown passes (23). Interestingly enough, he finished higher in fantasy rankings last year compared to 2012. Luck adds a rushing threat to his arsenal, rushing for 9 touchdowns in his first two years in the league. If he can put it all together and accumulate more passing touchdowns, he'll be near the top among fantasy quarterbacks. It is definitely possible for Luck to take the next step forward this year and become one of the elite quarterbacks in the league. The Colts will have a strong mix of talent in the receiving game for the 2014 season. The trio of wide receivers, Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton and Hakeem Nicks will handle the majority of the load. There's also the combination of Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener at tight end, who will provide additional weapons. The blueprint is in place for Luck to continue to rise to fame. He has always been a consistent and capable quarterback from a fantasy perspective with little to no risk. If there is any one quarterback in the league that is capable of taking his game to another level, it's Andrew Luck. The Colts have a bye in week 10, with five other teams. From a drafting standpoint, his bye week concern is moderate.
QB Tom Brady
Tom Brady had a rough 2013 - well still great for almost anyone else, but rough for him and the Patriots in general. Still, Brady was able to produce some amazing stats given he was missing almost all of his big weapons for most of the year. This year, the receivers who were inexperienced are less so and the Patriots are hoping Danny Amendola can stay healthy, and Julian Edelman can stay productive. Even if one or more of those things go wrong, Brady has proven he can be extremely effective despite that. On the plus side, Rob Gronkowski has been cleared for full practice and appears to be as healthy as he has ever been. This is great news for Brady and the offense as Gronk is clearly Brady's favorite weapon. We know that Brady's closer to the end of of his career than the beginning but Brady has a few more years left of productivity. We don't expect a huge dropoff this season, but he's not the top dog amongst fantasy quarterbacks anymore.
QB Nick Foles
QB Matt Ryan
Matt Ryan improved steadily as a passer from 2010-2012, going from 3,705 yards passing with 28 TDs and just nine interceptions thrown during 2010 to 4,177 yards passing, 29 TDs and 12 interceptions thrown in 2011 and finishing 2012 with 4,719 yards passing, with 32 TDs and 14 interceptions thrown. However, during the 2013 season Ryan hit a plateau in his numbers (even though he attempted a career-high 651 passes and completed a career-high 439 passes) with 439/651 for 4,515 yards passing, 26 TDs and 17 interceptions. His yardage and TD numbers dipped enough to bounce him down to #10 among all fantasy passers last year after finishing sixth among all fantasy quarterbacks during 2012. A major part of Ryan's (and the Falcons') struggles during last year's 4-12 disaster of a season was due to the early loss of #1 wide receiver Julio Jones (lost after week five, 2013 due to injury). Jones had over 100 yards in three of the five games he appeared in last season, and 99 yards receiving in a fourth, before going down to a fractured foot (the second time he's broken the foot in the same place). During the first five games of the season - with Jones in the lineup - Ryan threw for over 300 yards three times, over 400 yards once, and he connected for two TDs per game (10 over the first five contests) with just three total interceptions during that span of time. After Jones went down, Ryan had over 300 yards passing in just three other contests all year, no games over 400, and threw 14 of his 17 interceptions during the final two-thirds of the season.
Compounding the woes at wide receiver, veteran Roddy White only managed 93 targets for 63/711/3 receiving over parts of 13 games last season - he was hampered for a long stretch of the season with a high ankle sprain and pulled hamstring and didn't really recover top form until late in the year. With his top two threats at wide receiver absent for long stretches of the season, it is small wonder that Ryan's numbers regressed during 2013.
Ryan's been among the top-ten fantasy quarterbacks for four straight seasons, though, playing in all 16 games for the past four years - Ryan's durability hasn't been an issue at all thus far in his pro career. Ryan is just now entering the prime years of his career at 29 years of age. He is the linchpin of the Atlanta offense - Ryan handled 651 of the 659 passes attempted during regular-season by the Falcon's last year. With both Jones and White on the mend, the 2014 campaign looks bright for Ryan and his fantasy owners, though his fantasy owners or those considering drafting him will want to monitor Jones' and White's recoveries during training camp. Harry Douglas is a solid #3 wide receiver, and proved last season he can step into the starting lineup and produce respectable numbers (132 targets for 85/1,067/2 receiving in relief of Jones and White last year) - but there is no denying that Douglas is not the same level of threat as Jones at this level.
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