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RB: Eddie Lacy, Toby Gerhart, Shane Vereen, Bernard Pierce, Dexter McCluster
WR: Jordy Nelson, Keenan Allen, Golden Tate, Rueben Randle, Marqise Lee, Jeremy Kerley, Aaron Dobson
TE: Jordan Reed, Delanie Walker
PK: Steve Hauschka
TD: Carolina Panthers
Make no mistake about it: this team is about strength at the running back position. And we think it will be a legitimate contender. Somewhere Emmitt Smith is smiling.
Nonetheless, we'd be remiss if we didn't at least mention the relative lack of strength at quarterback and receiver. These are usually survivable weaknesses, but we'd feel better if we knew you were committed to zealously scouring the waiver wire for this year's emergent players at QB and WR. Getting a breakout player at one or both of those positions would take your already-good team to the next level.
Players we particularly like on this team include Shane Vereen, Toby Gerhart, Delanie Walker, Steve Hauschka, and the Panthers defense. We have all these guys ranked ahead of where they are typically being drafted.Bottom line:
- With great inseason management, we think you have about a 80 percent chance of making the playoffs.
- With good inseason management, we think you have about a 70 percent chance of making the playoffs.
- With average inseason management, we think you have a 57 percent chance of making the playoffs.
In any event, we wish you the best of luck. Here's hoping all your weeks are like week 8 of 2013:Colin Kaepernick vs. JAX: 164 passing yards, 54 rushing yards, 3 TD
Jordy Nelson vs. MIN: 123 receiving yards, 2 TD
Golden Tate vs. STL: 93 receiving yards, 2 TD
Eddie Lacy vs. MIN: 112 combined yards, 1 TD
We have Colin Kaepernick rated #11 among quarterbacks, which makes him a viable starter if not an exciting one. And we're not crazy about Jake Locker (ranked #27 among quarterbacks) as a backup. If Kaepernick turns in the season we expect, this position won't ruin you, but it probably won't be a strength either. And if things go wrong, it could be a long year at QB.
Incidentally, Locker has what we project as a neutral matchup (HOU) during Kaepernick's bye.RB Summary:
Nice work here. We like both your starting running backs, as our projections indicate that they give you a combined 1.5 point-per-game advantage over an average opponent in this league. Our projections have Eddie Lacy ranked fifth and Toby Gerhart ranked at #15.
Your bench also looks good. Shane Vereen looks great as a third running back; he's a likely flex starter. We also very much approve of the selection of Bernard Pierce, and not just as insurance for Toby Gerhart. He's a fine fourth running back in his own right.
Dexter McCluster is a solid depth pick.
A quick note about the same-team Lacy/Jordy Nelson duo you've got here. Though the effect is probably negligible, this kind of pairing is likely to make your team more (not less) consistent than a comparable-scoring different-team pair. See this article (which was written before the 2008 season) for more discussion.WR Summary:
Depth is a serious concern, but we do like your starting group, particularly Keenan Allen as a second receiver. We figure them at a combined 1.1 points per game better than an average opponent in this league. Jordy Nelson is our #6 ranked receiver, and we have Allen at #13.
Your bench doesn't look quite as strong. We see Golden Tate as an average third receiver. Rueben Randle is a weak WR4.
Though some teams will probably be content to roster as few as four players here, it was not a bad idea to take a few extras because you're not particularly strong overall at the position. Of your remaining guys, we like Marqise Lee the best, but you should keep the one you think has the best chance of putting up starter numbers. The rest might be considered expendable if you find you need roster space elsewhere.TE Summary:
Jordan Reed is just OK as a starting tight end (we have him ranked #10). So the selection of Delanie Walker, who we see as a solid backup, was wise.Kicker Summary:
With Steve Hauschka, you should be above average at the position.Defense Summary:
We think the Panthers are the #2 defense in the league, at about 1.0 points per game above average.
Is this a dynasty team? Click here to find out how it might look for 2015 season.
Schedule AnalysisGreen means GO (good matchup), red means STOP (bad matchup). Main starters highlighted At the bottom of the table, the Relative Strength row shows you how strong we project your team to be, relative to your usual strength, in that week. This accounts for byes and matchups.
- Please note that the Relative strength numbers above account for both byes and matchups.
- Remember that you might have starters on bye in a given week, but still have a high relative strength. This could occur because of favorable matchups, or it might be because you are projected to be missing less production than an average opponent will (your opponents have to deal with byes too).
- Week 8 presents serious bye week issues for you: Colin Kaepernick, Shane Vereen, and Rueben Randle are off.
- Week 9 presents serious bye week issues for you: Jake Locker, Eddie Lacy, Dexter McCluster, Jordy Nelson, Golden Tate, and Delanie Walker are off.
- Toby Gerhart, Bernard Pierce, Jeremy Kerley, and Marqise Lee are out in week 11, but your opponent will likely have comparable issues with byes.
- In weeks 4, 5, 6, 7, 10, and 12 you'll probably be better off than your opponent, as far as byes are concerned.
Potential Free AgentsListed in order of preference. We don't know exactly who is available in your league, but here is a list of players who might be available and could be upgrades over some of your depth players, listed in order of preference. Your players are listed in red for comparison. Players who might not mesh well with the bye weeks of your key players are grayed out.
QB: Joe Flacco (11), Geno Smith (11), Carson Palmer (4), Shaun Hill (4), Eli Manning (8), Josh McCown (4), EJ Manuel (9), Jake Locker (9), Johnny Manziel (4), Ryan Mallett (10). RB: Chris Ivory (11), Jonathan Stewart (12), Ahmad Bradshaw (), Darren McFadden (11), Andre Williams (8), Darren Sproles (7), LeGarrette Blount (10), Roy Helu (5), Isaiah Crowell (4), Jonathan Grimes (10), Donald Brown (10), Lance Dunbar (11), Tre Mason (4), Dexter McCluster (9). WR: Markus Wheaton (12), Rod Streater (5), Brian Hartline (4), Tavon Austin (4), James Jones (5), Mike Evans (7), Kenny Stills (5), Steve Smith (11), Miles Austin (4), Dwayne Bowe (4), Jarrett Boykin (9), Rueben Randle (8), Wes Welker (4), Doug Baldwin (4), Harry Douglas (9), Hakeem Nicks (10), Kenny Britt (4), Jerricho Cotchery (12), Malcom Floyd (10). We have all these players rated ahead of Marqise Lee, Jeremy Kerley, and Aaron Dobson. TE: Zach Ertz (7), Vernon Davis (8), Jordan Reed (10), Dennis Pitta (11), Tyler Eifert (4), Martellus Bennett (9), Antonio Gates (10), Charles Clay (9), Delanie Walker (9), Travis Kelce (6). PK: we don't necessarily recommend any roster moves here. TD: we don't necessarily recommend any roster moves here.
Projections and Player Summaries
Colin Kaepernick - Colin Kaepernick was the 49ers' second-round pick in 2011. He didn't play much as a rookie, but he filled in when Alex Smith was injured midway through the 2012 season, and he played himself into the permanent starting role. Over the past two seasons, Kaepernick has led the 49ers to two NFC Championship appearances and one Super Bowl appearance. Kaepernick is an accurate passer with a good arm, but his fantasy production has been limited by the 49ers' run-heavy style of offense. Kaepernick himself is an excellent runner (941 rushing yards over the past two seasons), but he won't be a top-tier fantasy QB until the 49ers attempt closer to 500 passes (rather than the meager 417 they attempted last season). Expect him to be a worthwhile fantasy starter, but near the bottom of that range.
Jake Locker - Optimism with Jake Locker hinges on his health. The 25-year-old has started just 18 games over the past two seasons and he wasn't always fully healthy when he was on the field last year. Before suffering his first setback last season, Locker was playing well within the Titans offense. That play wasn't leading to big numbers, but his potential was apparent. New head coach Ken Whisenhunt hasn't brought in anyone who should immediately replace Locker, so his presence should only help the quarterback when he is healthy. Combine that with Justin Hunter and Kendall Wright's development at the receiver position and Locker could have a productive season. Of course, he needs to stay healthy which seems unlikely at this stage.
Toby Gerhart - Life as Adrian Peterson's backup is officially over for Toby Gerhart. He gets a fresh start in Jacksonville to be the all purpose back in coach Gus Bradley's 2nd year. The Jaguars and coach Bradley are more or less cleaning up the mess that they were left with two years ago and trying to give the team an identity. That identity is going to start with running the football and Gerhart is going to see a lot of touches right out of the gate. If you look at his 4 years in Minnesota as a total, he had some really nice production with 276 carries for 1,305 rushing yards and 5 touchdowns. He also was very good in the passing game putting up 77 receptions, 600 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns. He should see a big workload in Jacksonville and should have no problems with wear and tear as he has a lot of miles left after serving as Adrian Peterson's backup for the past 4 years.
Eddie Lacy - Last year's stats really feel like a floor for Lacy as he heads into this season as the top back for the Packers. Last season's offensive rookie of the year has a lot of upside, and the Packers have already committed to getting him the ball more this year. With a full season as the top back in Green Bay, 325 or even 350 touches could easily be possible for Lacy this season. Lacy is big enough to stay in for goal line carries as well, making him an excellent candidate for 10 or more touchdowns as well.
Dexter McCluster - While the Titans didn't give Dexter McCluster a huge contract in free agency, they did appear to overpay him to make sure that he signed on in Tennessee. McCluster should feature prominently on special teams, but his contract suggests he will also be used a lot on offense. Unless Bishop Sankey establishes himself as the third down back, that role should be McCluster's. That should be the floor of his expectations.
Bernard Pierce - Bernard Pierce entered 2013 with expectations as high as any backup rusher in the NFL. He, like his teammate ahead of him on the depth chart, struggled mightily. Pierce also had offseason shoulder surgery. He has been cleared for training camp, but any shoulder issue for a running back is far from insignificant. If healthy, Pierce could excel in Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak's one-cut zone blocking system, as he was compared by some to Arian Foster coming out of college. Pierce's success is tied to both his health and that of Ray Rice. Both backs have the potential but need to bounce back from a bad 2013. Pierce will begin the season as the lead back due to Rice's two-game suspension. If successful in Kubiak's new scheme, this could be a full-blown committee approach when Rice returns.
Shane Vereen - Vereen had some injury issues in 2013, and is still dealing with a wrist fracture that - according to ESPN Boston - is still healing. The hope is he will be ready for training camp. Vereen is a serious threat to steal plenty of carries from current starter Stevan Ridley and has the ability to both run through the tackles and catch balls out of the backfield. For now we expect him to split carries but he'll make up a lot of yards receiving. Vereen could also take over if need be full time. For now we see him as a solid RB2 whose combined yardage will make fantasy owners very happy.
Keenan Allen - Keenan Allen fell to the third round of last year's draft based on his relatively poor stopwatch speed, a questionable drug test result at the combine and some concerns about his knee. Once he got on the field, though, he put those concerns to rest. While he lacks the sustained speed of a classic deep threat, Allen is a surprisingly savvy route-runner for a young receiver, and he has excellent quickness into and out of his cuts. He is a smooth athlete with terrific body control and hands, all of which made him the Chargers' best receiver by far last season, and provide reasons for optimism heading into 2014. Allen made a number of big plays in big situations as a rookie, and finished as the #17 fantasy WR despite not playing much early in the season. Given that he'll start from the outset of the 2014 season, you can reasonably expect Allen to at least roughly match last year's numbers, if not improve on them, and you can feel good drafting him as a solid fantasy WR2.
Aaron Dobson - Back in April, Gil Brandt of NFL.com commented that he felt second-year receiver Aaron Dobson had "some special stuff about him," citing his ability to beat the press and ability to make fantastic catches as some of the reasons. We have to agree that his upside is tremendous. Dobson led all New England's rookie receivers in receiving yards despite getting slowed down by a foot injury which required offseason surgery. The team is going to use more three-wide sets, but we expect Dobson to still get a lot of targets out of the "X" position, where it is expected he will end up. Because the team is going to spread things out, though, we have to limit our expectations. Keep him in mind as late round pick with upside and know that you may have some issues guessing how many targets he will get, though we may get more clarity in training camp.
Jeremy Kerley - In a season when everyone in the passing offense was either hurt or just plain bad, Kerley ended up being the only consistent player for quarterback Geno Smith which, given the 43 catches and 523 yards is saying something awful about the state of last season's Jets offense. This year he will have help in the form of Eric Decker and several rookies which should actually make him more effective again. If he can stay healthy, Kerley could be bye/injury/emergency WR with some upside. He formed a good rapport with Geno Smith last season, but there are so many other weapons it's hard to imagine him getting enough looks to be more.
Marqise Lee - Marqise Lee may have slipped out of the first round of the draft but he still landed in a very good spot with the Jaguars as far as playing time goes. He will be counted on early and often to make plays for the Jaguars and his second round selection and 39th overall pick should not scare away anyone. At USC he had incredible production over his first two seasons catching 191 passes for 2,864 yards and 25 touchdowns in 25 games. Last year was a different story as he struggled all season long and had his production reduced dramatically only catching 50 passes for 673 yards and 2 touchdowns in 10 total games. Regardless his college career as a whole has shown that he has a knack for finding the endzone and that is exactly what the Jaguars offense has been lacking for some time now. Lee draws similar comparisons to Victor Cruz with his size and stature and play on the field. Look for him to hit the ground running to start the season as he has a lot to prove after not being selected in the first round. Something very similar happened to Keenan Allen last year as he slipped into the third round and proved it on the field that he should have been a first round selection.
Jordy Nelson - Nelson is the Packers best wide receiver. It also helps that he's a big play threat. With Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb both back at full strength, Nelson should see plenty of opportunities to improve on his stats from last season. The Packers are thin at wide receiver for their first time in a while, and until one of the younger guys can get experience, Nelson is going to have to carry the load. Look for top 10 fantasy performance from him this year.
Rueben Randle - Rueben Randle has a lot to prove entering 2014, but the offensive scheme change argues for optimism. Last year Randle and QB Eli Manning were often on different pages, as Kevin Gilbride's offense asked Randle to run option routes and correctly read the defense. New OC Ben McAdoo runs a West Coast offense that will take the guess work out of Randle's hands. That's essential to Randle's fantasy outlook particularly with the Giants addition of Odell Beckham with the 12th pick in the NFL draft. At 6'3", 210 lbs. Randle gives Eli Manning a big target; something that neither Beckham nor Victor Cruz offer. And last year's six touchdowns (best on the team) are a testament to his ability in the red zone. Yet, his catch rate (41 catches in 80 targets) must improve and that's not solely to blame on last year's option routes. Randle has top 20 fantasy upside, but the risks are too high to pay that price on draft day.
Golden Tate - Tate has never been a guy who lights it up. He helped the Seahawks make the playoffs last season, but Tate disappeared when Seattle needed him the most. Down the stretch, Tate posted five consecutive games with fewer than 10 fantasy points. In Detroit Tate won't be the top receiver but he could benefit from defenses giving full attention to Calvin Johnson in a pass happy offense. He has low-end WR2 upside, but could also end up being too inconsistent to keep in your lineup every week.
Jordan Reed - Jordan Reed wasn't projected to make much of an impact in his rookie season, but injuries and Reed's own tenacity changed that equation. Reed caught 45 passes for 499 yard and three touchdowns in nine games, before suffering a concussion that cost him the final six games of the season. Fully cleared from the concussion, the sky is the limit for Reed in Jay Gruden's new offense. He finished as a top 20 fantasy TE in half a season, and will be better used in Gruden's offense as both a move tight end and a pure deep threat. Reed finished third only to Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham in yards per route run (2.19). Unless you draft a tight end very early, Reed should be on your short list as a likely breakout.
Delanie Walker - Delanie Walker will be 30 years of age before the start of the upcoming season. He is coming off the best season of his career, but that is primarily because it was the first year when he entered the season atop the depth chart. Walker had six touchdowns, 571 yards and 60 receptions last season. With a developing Justin Hunter and Kendall Wright, Walker could see some of those receptions disappear next season, but he will still carry value because of his toughness in the middle of the field and ability in the redzone.
Steve Hauschka - Clint Gresham is back for a fifth season as the long snapper. Back for a seventh year is punter is Jon Ryan, who also serves as the holder. Potential free agent kicker Steve Hauschka was re-signed to a 3-year deal in March. He comes off his best year yet in 2013, when he hit 33 of 35 (94.3%) on field goals and added 44 extra points. The Seahawks ranked 7th in attempted kicking points last year for their first top ten finish since 2007.
Carolina Panthers - Concerns over the Panthers secondary were largely muted in 2013 due to the incredible play of their front seven. A defensive line with Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy coming off the edge and rookie Star Lotuleilei manning the middle caused all kinds of problems for opposing quarterbacks. Luke Kuechly continues to be one of the bright young stars at MLB while Thomas Davis proved to be a worthy (if underrated) complement. Once again the secondary looks to be a major area of concern, with the team losing it's two best players from that unit. They brought in several cheap alternatives with the hope that once again their front seven can make them look better than they are. The only real concern with this unit is that the secondary is so bad that the pass rush doesn't have time to get home.