Kickoff is so close. I have all three of my rosters drafted and ready to roll and by now, most of you should as well. We have already discussed MVPs, breakouts, busts and top rookies to keep an eye on, but what else can we look forward to in the 2014 Fantasy Football Season? Today, The Wayniac Nation Fantasy Report explores FIVE BOLD PREDICTIONS FOR THE 2014 FANTASY SEASON.
5. The Oakland Raiders will produce FIVE fantasy relevant players in 2014.
I know what you’re saying. The Wayniac must have been out for a joyride with Le’Veon Bell. Well, I wasn’t. The Raiders have been virtually fantasy irrelevant since their 2002 Super Bowl season where the were led by former Delaware Fightin’ Blue Hen Rich Gannon. In fact, they haven’t had a winning season in the 11 years since then. This season, they have made some big changes. The Raiders have been led by these award winning quarterbacks over the last 11 years: Kerry Collins, Carson Palmer, Andrew Walter, Daunte Culpepper, JaMarcus Russell, Jason Campbell, Terrelle Pryor and Matt McGloin. Over that same amount of time Darren McFadden and Marcel Reese have the best passer rating out of that whole bunch. Derek Carr is already a huge improvement. This team got bigger and faster in the offseason. Maurice Jones-Drew is a rumbling back who loves the end zone. Now that he doesn’t need to be relied on for every play of the offense like he was on the Jaguars, he and McFadden will have lesser loads and more potent seasons than they have in a long time. Newly acquired James Jones is fast and can spread the field. Now he won’t have Aaron Rodgers chucking him the ball, but he has certainly proved an affinity for the end zone over the past few years. And you can never rule out Sebastian Janikowski. This guy can get you 15 points in a game with three 58-yard field goals. I’m not implying this is a playoff ready team or has elite week-to-week fantasy players on it, but they are vastly improved from last season. Keep them on your radar.
4. Philip Rivers will prove to be the biggest steal of the draft.
No, that doesn’t mean he will be the 2014 Fantasy Football MVP, nor does it mean he will necessarily finish in the Top 5. Looking at the overall average of where most experts have Rivers ranked, he is about the 15th best quarterback. His average draft position is about the 99th pick. This is a steal and if you can lock him down in the eighth to tenth round, you’ve probably built an offensive power house and now have a pretty reliable guy at QB. Rivers has one season in the past five that he has thrown below 4,200 yards. His lowest touchdown total over that same time frame is 26. He has a five-year average of 4,334 yards passing and 29 touchdowns. I’ll take that all day from my ninth round pick. I think Rivers outperforms Colin Kaepernick, Cam Newton, Tony Romo and possibly Nick Foles this season. All of those names have a reasonably higher ADP than Rivers. Yes, Whisenhunt is gone, but Frank Reich takes over as OC. He has a ton of weapons, including the speedy Keenan Allen, three good receiving threats out of the backfield in Ryan Mathews, Danny Woodhead and Donald Brown, and has two monster targets in the red zone in Antonio Gates and Ladarius Green. Rivers is ready for another solid fantasy year.
3. Devonta Freeman will be the top scoring rookie.
I love Mike Evans and in The WN MVP, Breakthrough, Busts and Rookies article, I picked the standout wide receiver from Texas A & M as the top rookie. The more I think about it, and the more I watch his explosiveness, the fourth rounder Devonta Freeman has a huge chance to put up big numbers. The Falcons beefed up their offensive line and Julio Jones and Roddy White are healthy. Steven Jackson is not, and most likely never will be again. Jacquizz Rodgers can not carry the load of a full time back, so that leaves Freeman as the Falcons lead back. This offense is one year removed from being an explosive dynamo. Freeman can be a pretty big cog in that offense if the Falcons return to those heights.
2. Eddie Lacy will finish a Top Three back in fantasy.
Eddie Lacy will do so well this season that you are going to have a hard time not picking him number one overall in 2015. Last year, Aaron Rodgers played a total of nine games. Lacy, without the services of one of the elite QBs in the NFL, still had nearly 1,200 yards on the ground as a rookie while gaining almost 300 more through the air. Rodgers return doesn’t take away from what Lacy can do, it adds to it. Rodgers has never had a premier running back to take the pressure off him and has still always produced. Lacy hasn’t had the chance to have defenses focus on much other than him in his short NFL career and he succeeded in lieu of it. Lacy is going to gain close to 2,00 total yards this season and score 12 to 15 touchdowns. He will enter elite status and, as I said, be a consideration for top overall pick next year.
1. Matthew Stafford is the number one QB in fantasy football in 2014.
Is it crazy talk to put Stafford over Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and quite possibly the all-time greatest quarterback ever, Peyton Manning? Maybe, but then again, maybe not. Manning lost Eric Decker and now, molly-loving, concussion-prone Wes Welker is gone for at least four games pending he doesn’t go off on a Walter White binge. Knowshon Moreno is gone to Miami, leaving an unproven Montee Ball in the backfield. He has great weapons in Julius Thomas and Demaryius Thomas, but this is going to be way more of a control offense than last season. Matthew Stafford has all of the pieces in place. Calvin Johnson is the best receiver in the Milky Way. People hate to admit it, but when healthy, Reggie Bush is one of the best receiving backs the NFL has ever seen. When he isn’t healthy Joique Bell is not much of a downgrade. Eric Ebron with no NFL experience at all is already a better option at tight end than Stafford has ever had and Golden Tate is unquestionably the best wing man Megatron has ever seen. Gone also is Jim Schwartz who could have easily been the worst head coach in the NFL. Pass happy head coach Jim Caldwell and new offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi won’t show any hesitation in putting the Lions’ season in Stafford’s arm. This is a guy who already has a 5,000 yard season under his belt and has a guaranteed 1,500 yards passing to Megatron. The sky’s the limit for Stafford, and if you have him, you may be carrying home that trophy at season’s end.