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QB: Colin Kaepernick, Johnny Manziel
RB: Matt Forte, Ryan Mathews, Maurice Jones-Drew, Mark Ingram
WR: Victor Cruz, Roddy White, Riley Cooper
TE: Antonio Gates, Brent Celek
PK:
TD: Kansas City Chiefs

Overview:

Let's start by remarking that we appreciate your old-school leanings: you have a team marked by strength at the running back position. Because the position is so sought after, a team constructed like this usually has a chance to make the playoffs. But with the quarterback and wide receiver both being less strong, you may need to do something to change the outlook of this team. Your deficiencies are likely to show themselves through the bye weeks, so try to manuever early in improving the quarterback and/or receiver positions before week four.

Keep an eye out for quarterbacks like Nick Foles from last year, Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck from the year before, and Cam Newton the year before that. All were available cheap in August, and all contributed to fantasy championship teams. Similarly, wide receivers like Julian Edelman, Keenan Allen, and Riley Cooper were available after a lot of the drafts last season. Landing some of this year's top waiver players would be a huge help, so pay close attention to increased workloads, targets, injuries, etc.

Players we particularly like on this team include Mark Ingram, Ryan Mathews, and Roddy White. 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 40 percent chance of making the playoffs.
  • With good inseason management, we think you have about a 25 percent chance of making the playoffs.
  • With average inseason management, we think you have a 6 percent chance of making the playoffs.

QB Summary:

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 Johnny Manziel (ranked #28 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, Manziel has what we project as a good matchup (OAK) 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 1.8 point-per-game advantage over an average opponent in this league. Our projections have Matt Forte ranked at #4 and Ryan Mathews ranked 14th.

Your bench also looks good. Maurice Jones-Drew should be a good third running back. Mark Ingram will also be among the best RB4s in the league.

A quick note about the same-team Mathews/Antonio Gates 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:

We like Roddy White as a second WR, but we consider your starting receivers, as a group, to be a little below par. Victor Cruz is our #10 ranked receiver, White is #16, and we have Riley Cooper 35th.

We might suggest adding a bit more depth here. See the end of the report for some suggestions on who to pick up.

TE Summary:

This is a pretty motley crew. We don't see Antonio Gates as a viable starter or Brent Celek as an above average backup. Help is needed.

Kicker Summary:

Don't forget to pick up a kicker before the season starts.

Defense Summary:

The Chiefs are probably not a difference-maker at defense, but they should be OK.

When you don't have an elite defense, one option is a committee approach. That is, try to get two cheap defenses whose schedules fit well together. Here are a few teams who we think may be available and whose schedules fit best with the Chiefs', along with the combined schedule that each would create:

Chiefs   +   Bills   =   CHI | MIA | MIA | HOU | DET | NE | MIN | NYJ | NYJ | BUF | MIA | NYJ | CLE | ARI | OAK | OAK
Chiefs   +   Packers   =   TEN | NYJ | MIA | CHI | MIN | MIA | CAR | STL | NYJ | BUF | PHI | OAK | NE | ATL | OAK | TB
Chiefs   +   Browns   =   TEN | DEN | BAL | NE | TEN | PIT | JAX | OAK | NYJ | BUF | HOU | OAK | BUF | ARI | OAK | PIT


Is this a dynasty team? Click here to find out how it might look for 2015 season.


Schedule Analysis

Green 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.

12345678910111213141516
Colin KaepernickDALCHIARIPHIKCSTLDENSTLNONYGWASSEAOAKSEASD
Johnny ManzielPITNOBALTENPITJAXOAKTBCINHOUATLBUFINDCINCAR
 
Maurice Jones-DrewNYJHOUNEMIASDARICLESEADENSDKCSTLSFKCBUF
Matt ForteBUFSFNYJGBCARATLMIANEGBMINTBDETDALNODET
Mark IngramATLCLEMINDALTBDETGBCARSFCINBALPITCARCHIATL
Ryan MathewsARISEABUFJAXNYJOAKKCDENMIAOAKSTLBALNEDENSF
 
Riley CooperJAXINDWASSFSTLNYGARIHOUCARGBTENDALSEADALWAS
Victor CruzDETARIHOUWASATLPHIDALINDSEASFDALJAXTENWASSTL
Roddy WhiteNOCINTBMINNYGCHIBALDETTBCARCLEARIGBPITNO
 
Brent CelekJAXINDWASSFSTLNYGARIHOUCARGBTENDALSEADALWAS
Antonio GatesARISEABUFJAXNYJOAKKCDENMIAOAKSTLBALNEDENSF
 
Kansas City ChiefsTENDENMIANESFSDSTLNYJBUFSEAOAKDENARIOAKPIT
 
Relative Strength10298100102981001008899981059999999998

Schedule and Matchup Notes:

  • 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 and Victor Cruz are off.
  • Matt Forte and Roddy White are out in week 9, but your opponent will likely have comparable issues with byes.
  • Maurice Jones-Drew is out in week 5, but your opponent will likely have comparable issues with byes.
  • Riley Cooper and Brent Celek are out in week 7, but your opponent will likely have comparable issues with byes.
  • Mark Ingram and Kansas City Chiefs are out in week 6, but your opponent will likely have comparable issues with byes.
  • In weeks 4, 10, 11, and 12 you'll probably be better off than your opponent, as far as byes are concerned.


Potential Free Agents

Listed 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), Carson Palmer (4), Shaun Hill (4), Geno Smith (11), Eli Manning (8), Josh McCown (7), Jake Locker (9), EJ Manuel (9), Johnny Manziel (4), Ryan Mallett (10).

RB: we don't necessarily recommend any roster moves here.

WR: Dwayne Bowe (6), Doug Baldwin (4), Wes Welker (4), Kenny Britt (4), Harry Douglas (9), Jerricho Cotchery (12), Malcom Floyd (10), Andrew Hawkins (4), Marqise Lee (11), Jordan Matthews (7), Jermaine Kearse (4), Robert Woods (9), Danny Amendola (10), Mohamed Sanu (4), John Brown (4), Nate Washington (9), Marvin Jones (4), Donnie Avery (6), Denarius Moore (5).

TE: Zach Ertz (7), Jordan Reed (10), Kyle Rudolph (10), Dennis Pitta (11), Tyler Eifert (4), Martellus Bennett (9), Antonio Gates (10), Delanie Walker (9), Charles Clay (5), Travis Kelce (6), Dwayne Allen (10), Garrett Graham (10), Coby Fleener (10), Heath Miller (12), Jared Cook (4), Timothy Wright (10), Ladarius Green (10), Eric Ebron (9), Mychal Rivera (5). We have all these players rated ahead of Brent Celek.

PK: Nick Novak (10), Blair Walsh (10), Adam Vinatieri (10), Robbie Gould (9), Greg Zuerlein (4), Nate Freese (), Nick Folk (11), Sebastian Janikowski (5), Caleb Sturgis (5), Graham Gano (12), Cody Parkey (7), Shayne Graham (6), Dan Carpenter (9), Shaun Suisham (12), Randy Bullock (10), Chandler Catanzaro (4), Mike Nugent (4), Patrick Murray (7), Josh Brown (8).

TD: San Francisco 49ers (8), Buffalo Bills (9), Kansas City Chiefs (6), Chicago Bears (9), Baltimore Ravens (11), Houston Texans (10), New York Giants (8), Green Bay Packers (9), Cleveland Browns (4), Miami Dolphins (5).


Projections and Player Summaries

PlayerCmpAttYDY/ATDINTRshYDTDFPTRank
Colin Kaepernick28646736107.72511854755386.011
Johnny Manziel20235823506.61516804404243.528

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.

Johnny Manziel - Johnny Manziel was drafted to be this team's starter sooner rather than later. Despite veteran Brian Hoyer winning the job for Week 1, Manziel should have this job at some point in 2014. Manziel's playmaking abilities have been gracing our TV screens over the past two years, particularly in highlight packages leading up the NFL Draft. Manziel is a dynamic athlete who could immediately burst onto the rushing quarterback scene. If he's intelligent enough to keep his body intact, there's no reason to think Manziel could fall significantly short of Robert Griffin III's rookie season. In fact, Manziel's offense will be directed by Kyle Shanahan, who was the coordinator in Washington for Griffin as well. Cleveland is lacking a deep threat wide receiver with Josh Gordon's season-long suspension, but Manziel's ability to make plays outside the pocket - both rushing and passing - could make this a viable offense and could make his weapons better.

PlayerRshYDY/RshTDRecYDTDFPTRank
Matt Forte27512504.58655202237.04
Ryan Mathews26011004.27292052184.514
Maurice Jones-Drew2007954.05252001135.531
Mark Ingram1756603.87201601130.034

Maurice Jones-Drew - After eight years as the face of the Jaguars franchise Maurice Jones-Drew signed with the Oakland Raiders in the offseason. Jones-Drew was a perennial fantasy RB1 for the first 6 years of his career averaging more than 1500 total yards and 12 touchdowns per year. In 2012 he struggled with injuries and played only 6 games and was ineffective in 2013 in a disjointed Jaguars offensive attack. He averaged 3.4 yards per carry in 2013, the first time in his career that he's averaged less than 4.2. In his prime Jones-Drew excelled in the passing game, averaging nearly 50 catches a year from 2008-2011. At 29 years old Jones-Drew is entering the twilight of a typical running back's career but he'll have plenty of opportunities to earn touches in Oakland. His main competition for touches will be the oft-injured Darren McFadden and the unproven Latavius Murray.

Matt Forte - Forte exceeded every expectation possible last season, including his own. No matter what the situation, Forte continued to push on, and proved that he's still one of the most under-rated backs in the league. A repeat of last season seems unlikely, yet the table seems set for Forte to go it again. The threat that Michael Bush would steal goal line carries is now gone, and rookie Ka'Deem Carey certainly won't steal a ton of carries. The offense is a year older and a year more experienced under Marc Trestman. Everyone seems poised to take a step forward, including Forte. With no real competition behind him, if Forte stays healthy, he's going to have a great chance for a top five finish.

Mark Ingram - Mark Ingram has completed three seasons with the Saints and improved somewhat in 2013 to average over 4.0 ypc for the first time in his career. However, he missed 5 games and only managed 78 rushes on the season. For his three years with the team, he has only 356 carries for 1,462 yards and 11 rushing TDs. Ingram did seem to run consistently harder and was slightly more effective last year, particularly down the stretch as he averaged 11 rushes and 62 yards per game the final four games, including the playoffs. The Saints recently declined to exercise their fifth-year option on Ingram, frankly because even if he plays better in 2014, he will not be worth the $5.2 Million that picking up the option would have cost. The Saints will continue to employ a running back by committee (RBBC) this season. The splits were impacted some in 2013 because of Ingram's injuries, but Pierre Thomas led the team with 42% of the running back carries, while Ingram had only 23%, Khiry Robinson 16% and Sproles 15%. In 2012, the split for Ingram, Thomas, Sproles and Ivory was 45%, 30%, 14% and 12%, so Ingram's opportuities fell back considerably last year. Ingram enters the final year of his rookie contract and will be paid $1.39 Million, before becoming a free agent in 2015. He has only 24 career receptions, so his primary usage will continue to be as a rusher in the team's RBBC.

Ryan Mathews - Mathews was the Chargers' first-round pick in 2010, but on the whole has failed to live up to expectations. When he's been healthy, he's generally played well (aside from a few fumbles in important game situations). But he's been in and out of the lineup with all manner of injuries throughout his NFL career. His physical talent is tantalizing: he has excellent power and balance, and deceptive speed for a back his size, and he has put together some impressive fantasy performances for multiple-game stretches. (In 2011, for example, he was the #7 fantasy RB despite playing just 14 games.) On the other hand, between his injuries, inopportune fumbles, and occasional mistakes as a pass-blocker, his fantasy owners in previous seasons have often been left wondering -- why is Mathews on the sideline, his backup in the game, once again? All things considered, Mathews is a high-risk, high-reward fantasy prospect who should be drafted as a high-end RB2, but could realistically finish anywhere from inside the top five to outside the top thirty depending on his ability to stay on the field.

PlayerRshYDTDRecYDY/RecTDFPTRank
Victor Cruz00093125513.58173.510
Roddy White00088112012.77154.016
Riley Cooper0005280015.46116.035

Riley Cooper - You couldn't have written Riley Cooper's story if you were a best-selling novelist. A year ago, Cooper seemed to be on the roster fringe and that was before racially offensive remarks surfaced on the internet. When the Eagles sent Cooper home on leave, it seemed a formality that he would be released. Yet, support from some of his teammates and a torn ACL to starter Jeremy Maclin gave Cooper another chance. Fast forward to a year later and Cooper not only made the most of his second chance, he's now a starter with a new 5-year, $23mm deal including $10mm guaranteed. Only in America. What fantasy owners need to decide is just how good Cooper can be, and if he's consistent enough to trust in weekly lineups. For all his accolades, Cooper only finished as WR24 last season and caught just 47 passes. Will he win as many jump balls as he did last year? If not, he may be overdrafted by fantasy owners hoping for another significant step forward.

Victor Cruz - Victor Cruz' career is going in the wrong direction. After bursting onto the scene in his second year with a 1,536-yard performance, Cruz overtook Hakeem Nicks as the Giants most valuable receiver. In his third season Cruz caught 86 passes for 1,092 yards and 10 touchdowns. Last year, armed with a new contract, Cruz failed to break 1,000 yards and missed the final two games after a knee scope. Fortunately, things are looking up. Ben McAdoo is bringing his up tempo version of the West Coast offense from Green Bay, and Cruz is slated to play the same role that Randall Cobb held with the Packers. Cruz is one of the league's most dangerous inside (slot) receivers and his precise route-running and reliable hands argue for continued success as long as Eli Manning can recapture his accuracy.

Roddy White - Roddy White is the Falcons' #2 wideout despite entering the 2014 season at 32 years of age. Unfortunately, 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. Over the three seasons prior to 2013, White averaged 102 receptions, 1,345 yards receiving, and 8.3 TDs per season, although the reception numbers did decline from 115 to 100 and then 92 during 2010-2012 as Julio Jones came increasingly to the fore as the Falcons' top threat at wide receiver. Together, White and Jones form one of the most-feared tandems of starting wide receivers in the NFL. In addition, now that legendary tight end Tony Gonzalez is in retirement, White and his compatriots at wide receiver - Jones and Harry Douglas - are likely to see even more opportunities to catch the football during the upcoming NFL season as the wide receivers will inherit some of the 120-130 targets and 80-90 receptions that Gonzalez handled annually while with the Falcons.

PlayerRecYDY/RecTDFPTRank
Antonio Gates5864511.1594.514
Brent Celek2224511.1236.537

Brent Celek - Reports of Brent Celek's demise were greatly exaggerated. With Chip Kelly taking over and the team drafting Zach Ertz as well as signing James Casey, many wondered if Celek's time in Philadelphia was numbered. Yet Celek found a role primarily as a chain mover and red zone threat. Celek's receptions were cut in half (32) but he scored six touchdowns. Celek's days as a fantasy relevant tight end are likely over, but he maintains value in real NFL terms, and is an important piece to Nick Foles' success as both a pass protector and the aforementioned red zone role.

Antonio Gates - Antonio Gates has been a top three fantasy tight end for the majority of his 11-year career, but those days appear to be over. While he's still been a worthwhile fantasy starter over the past three years, he's been at the bottom end of that range, and will likely slip into fantasy backup territory this season. While Gates is still among the Chargers' best receivers, and will therefore be on the field for the huge majority of the team's offensive snaps, he no longer accelerates out of his cuts the way he used to -- back when he routinely beat double-teams and was nearly automatic around the goal line. In fact, the Chargers' backup tight end, Ladarius Green, was more of a big-play threat than Gates was last season, and he should continue to improve while Gates, heading in the opposite direction, continues to slow with age. (Green was also the more effective run-blocker last season.) The point is that Gates is no longer the focal point of the passing game, as younger players like Keenan Allen and Ladarius Green are coming into their own, and Gates is therefore likely to be fantasy backup material from here on out.

PlayerSackFRINTTDYd/GPt/GFPTRank
Kansas City Chiefs391017536722.5134.410

Kansas City Chiefs - The Chiefs made a concerted effort to improve their defense heading into 2013 and for the first 9 games it looked like they'd done just that. Tamba Hali and Justin Houston wreaked havoc on the outside while Dontari Poe grew into somewhat of a beast on the inside. Derrick Johnson was his reliable self at middle linebacker and the secondary was buoyed by the surprisingly good play of rookie Marcus Cooper. In the second half of the season the Chiefs saw a much more difficult slate of offenses and largely fell apart. Hali and Houston struggled with injuries and it looked like Poe wore down due to overuse. The secondary was exposed, specifically at safety. The team added another pass rusher in Dee Ford and another corner in Phillip Gaines in the draft. There is hope that Husain Abdullah can step up in the defensive backfield and someone will have the fill the shoes of Brandon Flowers. The other safety, Eric Berry, is a great athlete but he provides much more help against the run than he does over the top against the pass. The pass rush should be outstanding with Hali and Houston healthy but they'll rely on their secondary to cover long enough for them to get to the quarterback. The loss of Sanders Commings and the decline of Sean Smith has made this secondary look ripe for the picking.