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Christmas in July: 12 Days of Fantasy Football - Day 9

Posted on July 28, 2014 by Anthony Grace

DAY 9:

9 BACKS A SLIPPIN'

 

9 RBs who will take a step backwards
Although the days of drafting running back/running back aren't a necessity or even the luxury they once were only a few short years ago, that strategy may not have been a the best idea even at the time. Every year a number of the top 25 ranked running back from the previous season take a step backwards and out of the top 25 the following season. Over the last 5 fantasy years here are the number of players who changed in the top 25 from one year to the next:

2008-2009: 12
2009-2010: 12
2010-2011: 10
2011-2012: 11
2012-2013: 12

That's over 11 players on average that drop out of the top 25 each year since 2008. The 9 running backs I'll be examining below may not necessarily drop out of the top 25 but will definitely see a decline in production, and fantasy standings, from 2013 to 2014.

9. Eddie Lacy GB
Although he's on this list, I have he most confidence in him still being a solid contributor. It's a rare feat for a running back to finish as a top 10 back both his rookie and sophomore season, only Chris Johnson and Adrian Peterson have accomplished that task over the past 10 years. Lacy was the 7th best back in his 2013 rookie year. If Rodgers stays healthy and keeps the opposing secondaries honest, Lacy could join an elite group, but it will be an uphill battle all of 2014.

8. Ryan Matthews SD
He's been a fantasy roller coaster his 4 years in the NFL. From outside the top 30 running backs in 2010 to inside the top 10 in 2011. From underperforming in 2012 to making his owners elated in 2013. With the way it's been going for Matthews, 2014 should be a downward trend. The Chargers offense went off in 2013, finishing as the 5th best in the league, but that doesn't look like the case in 2014. Losing their offensive coordinator and TEs coach to Tennessee, another year older for both Phillip Rivers and Antonio Gates, and added in Donald Brown into the back field mix. Magic 8 ball, will Ryan Matthews be worth his ADP of 60? *Turns ball over* Outlook not good.

7. Darren Sproles PHI
Sproles going to Philadelphia is an exciting opportunity for the Eagles offense as a whole, and something to make defenses cringe while preparing for the birds in 2014. However Sproles will be behind stud back LeSean McCoy, and this will be the first time in 3 years that Sproles won't at least split carries like he did down in New Orleans. He will be on the field with McCoy, but Chip Kelly will spread the ball around. Sproles is also 31 this year, and if McCoy does go down, Darren is not the kind of back to handle the bulk load so touching the ball more than 120-135 times seems unrealistic.

6. Marshawn Lynch SEA
Lynch had another stellar season in 2013. Finishing as a top 5 back for the 3rd straight year, and leading his Seahawks to a Super Bowl championship. But there's a lot of talk out of Seattle that he will be in the dreaded RBBC (running back by committee) with Christine Michael (who has been turning heads in OTAs and camp). Lynch had 404 total touches in 2013 including the playoffs and has had at least 313 touches each of his 3 years with the Seahawks. Beastmode will still have his beastly moments, but expect a little less from him in 2014.

5. Ray Rice BAL
What a fall Rice has taken over the last 3 seasons. In 2011 he was the consensus 2nd running back off the board and he rewarded owners with 23 points/game. 2012 saw him be selected as back number 2 overall again, and even though he fell to 17 points/game, that is still a respectable number and good enough to finish him as the 4th best back. 2013 saw yet another first round pick being used on Rice, however he really fell off. Putting up only 11 points/game, worse than Lions back up Joique Bell. Rice has a questionable offensive line again, declining major statistics each of the last 3 years, and a potential suspension for his off-the-field issues. Not a Rice fan at all this year.

4. Frank Gore SF
Another man making this list because of Father Time catching up to him. Gore will be 31 when the year kicks off. He has been consistent, racking up 1,000+ yards every year since 2006 (not including his injury season in 2011, but he was on pace to hit 1,000 had he stayed healthy). However San Francisco has a slew of young backs who have been chomping at the bit for time. Kendall Hunter (25), Crakos Hyde (22), Marcus Lattimore (22), and LeMichael James (24) are all waiting in the wings should Gore go down. And the 49ers need to see what they've got should Gore be gone, 2014 could be the year that happens.

3. Maurice Jones-Drew OAK
The backfield in Oakland looks like a homecoming dance at a senior citizens center. You want to watch it for the potential train wreck that very well could be coming, along with a broken hip. MJD joining Darren McFadden in the backfield would be an amazing combo ... In 2011. After a superb stretch from 2008-2011 when he averaged 285 points/year. The last two years has seen MJD fall off. He doesn't have the same cut and speed from before plus he's been injury prone. And maybe the Raiders offense is a small step up from Jacksonville but so is moving from Chernobyl to Detroit.

2. Fred Jackson BUF
Jackson finished 10th among running backs in 2013 after being the 37th back off the board in 2013 drafts. C.J. Spiller has never been the stud he's been drafted to be in the fantasy world (he's only been inside the top 25 running backs 1 time in his career) and Buffalo added another young gun in the back field in Bryce Brown. Jackson is going to be 33 entering 2014. Stay away.

1. Knowshon Moreno MIA
Being brought into town to be the starting back and losing that job from basically day 1 at OTAs is usually a bad sign for the coming year. Moreno may still become the number 1 again but how much confidence should you have in him? His only 1,000 yard season was last year and going from Peyton to Tannehill is like dumping a Victoria Secret model to date a cashier at Abercrombie and Fitch.

Christmas in July: 12 day of Fantasy Football - Day 10

Posted on July 27, 2014 by Anthony Grace

DAY 10:

10 DEFENSES SCORING (100+ POINTS)

10 D/ST that will best serve your team for the long haul:                                                                                        Predicting points for D/ST is one of the most challenging things to do. For starters, we all know how unpredictable touchdowns are for receivers, tight ends, and offenseive position players, so predicting end zone trips for the defenses is even more complicated. Secondly there are a lot of different scoring systems out there from standard leagues, PPR, IDP, passing touchdowns 4 points or 6 points, bonus points for distance scoring, and so on. However I've seen more different ways to score D/ST than any other position in fantasy football. From points and yardage given up (some resulting in negative points, and others not), to points for a sack, safety, and touchdown scoring. Is it 6 total points for a pick 6, or 8 (2 points for the actually INT)? Does return yardage factor in somehow? Either for the individual player or the D/ST as a whole? A lot of options out there so I tried to keep this section as generic and vanilla as possible to cover all different types of D/ST scoring out there. So which D/ST can you count on putting up 100+ points throughout your 2014 season? Here's who I think should be your first looks when it comes time to draft a D/ST (which should be one of the final 2 round, maybe 3rd round from the end if you're absolutely stacked at all other positions).


10. Cleveland Browns
The Browns have not put up 100+ points on D/ST since 2001 when they scored a whopping 118 points. However the atmosphere of the defensive side of the ball has real excitement heading into 2014. Although they lost safety T.J. Ward and LB D'Qwell Jackson, they replaced them with Donte Whitner and Karlos Dansby both of whom had tremendous 2013 campaigns. Cleveland also added Justin Gilbert in the draft to play across from one of the NFL's best corners in Joe Haden. The back end of the Browns D should have plenty of opportunities to pick off opposing quarterbacks and take balls to the house. Draft late or grab them early off the waiver wire.

9. New Orleans Saints
The Saints had the NFL's 4th best defense. They were fantasy football's 28th best scoring D/ST only posting 68 points while scoring 0 touchdowns. Not a fumble recovery, interception, or kick return went to the house for New Orleans. Call me a glass-half-full kinda guy, but I think they stay near the top of defenses in the real game and become more relevant in the fantasy world. They have a scary good secondary adding in top safety free agent Jairus Byrd and an experienced corner in Champ Bailey. Put with the dominant front twosome of Junior Galette and Cameron Jordan (who lead the Saints to the 4th most sacks in 2013 with 49), and Rob Ryan will have a lot of looks to throw at opposing offenses.

Christman in July: 12 day of Fantasy Football - Day 11

Posted on July 27, 2014 by Anthony Grace

DAY 11:

11 WIDE OUTS SCORING (DOUBLE DIGIT TOUCHDOWNS)


It's very rare that 11 or more wide receivers score double digit touchdowns in a single season. The last time 11 wide receivers scored double digit touchdowns was in 1995 and since then 10 wide receivers caught 10+ touchdowns only 4 times 2004, 2007, 2010, and 2013. Even if just 10 wide outs catch 10+ touchdowns it be the first time in the last 20 years it happened in consecutive years, but I'm going all out here and say it will be 11 with double digit end zone trips. Here are the men's hands I leave my fate in for 2014.

11. Michael Floyd ARZ
Floyd showed last year he can be a go to receiver, and with Larry Fitzgerald turning 31 this summer and being on the decline slowly ever since 2008 (although he did have a bounce-back year in 2013). Floyd gained 30 extra targets from 2012 to 2013 while nearly doubling his yardage output and more than doubling his touchdowns (from 2 to 5). The Cardinals will be better in the backfield with Andre Ellington now as the primary ball carrier and also improved their offensive line having Jonathan Cooper coming in for his first season after his rookie year was missed with injury and they stole blind-side protection for Carson Palmer in Jared Veldheer. All signs in the desert point to a break out season from Floyd.

10. Mike Wallace MIA
There is no denying that Wallace was a disappointment in the fantasy world in 2013.  He had a career low 5 touchdowns while barely catching 50% of pass thrown his way (73 receptions on 137 targets). However with the addition of Bill Lazor as offensive coordinator, who learned from Chip Kelly in Philadelphia last year (look at what DeSean Jackson did in his career year of 2013), Wallace will see a lot more creative play calling. He already said he's lining up wide, in the slot, AND in the backfield. The addition of a solid tackle like Brandon Albert and the subtraction of the Incognito/Martin drama will all help Tannehill stay upright longer. That all adds up to Wallace being able to see more open looks and his speed always gives him a chance to take any ball to the house.

9. Michael Crabtree SF
Sure Richard Sherman may have Crabtree's number, but outside of his main rival, Crabtree can score on just about anyone out there. Since his first year in the NFL in 2009 Crabtree has be on the constant upswing. He's seen an increase in targets, receptions, and yards every year before he missed the majority of 2013 with a torn achilles. Had his production continued to increase on the same path he easily would have put up double digit touchdowns. Coming into 2014 the 49ers have one of the best teams in the league, especially offensively. Opposing defenses will need to focus on Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis as well as Crabtree. The additions of Stevie Johnson and drafting speedster Bruce Ellington also show how deep San Francisco's receiver corps is. Outside of division match ups, Crabtree will be able to feast on 6 teams who finished in the bottom 10 vs WRs last year, with 2 of those opponents coming in the fantasy playoffs.

8. Antonio Brown PIT
I'm expecting big things out of Brown this year (as you will see later on in the 12 days segment). Brown was an absolute beast in 2013 when he second in the league in both receptions (110) and yards (1,498), not to mention he scored 8 times (and missed his 9th trip to pay dirt by inches against Miami in a thriller). He will be Ben Roethlisberger's first look in 2014 with both Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery both out of town now (in Denver and Carolina respectively). Oh and the aforementioned departed wideouts combined for 16 touchdown catches last year which will have to go somewhere. Brown has caught 1/3 of his career touchdowns against division opponents, so getting 2 of those 16 touchdowns that left town shouldn't be hard.

7. Julio Jones ATL
Man was this dude on his was to doing something really special in 2013 before he was lost for the season in week 5 with a foot injury. Jones was on pace for 131 receptions, 1,856 yards, and 7 touchdowns. Before 2013, Jones averaged 1,100 yards and 9 touchdowns a year so 10 touchdowns is definitely attainable for Julio. And with the ageless tight end Tony Gonzalez finally ending his Hall of Fame career in the offseason, Matt Ryan will have 115 targets and 8 touchdowns to distribute with Gonzalez gone. Roddy White may snag a few of those end zone balls, but he's been on a slow decline over the past 4 seasons, which means Julio coming back healthy and stronger than ever can only mean a huge year in store for Mr. Jones.

6. A.J. Green CIN
Green has caught 11 touchdowns in each of the last two years, and 2014 should be another generous season for A.J. to get into the end zone. He has become increasingly more targeted from 20th in the league his rookie year, to 6th in 2012, and finished 3rd in the category last season. Green has caught a touchdown in 26 of his 47 career games which is better than one touchdown every other game. He also garnered 27% of Andy Dalton's pass attempts last year, tied with Antonio Brown for 2nd best percentage of looks on this list (Dez Bryant got 29%). And of Andy Dalton's 20 interceptions in 2013, 12 of them were thrown while targeting A.J. So if Dalton can get his accuracy on more on point while looking for Green, just imagine what he can do with more chances with the ball in his hands.

5. Jordy Nelson GB
Nelson has one of the best, if not the best, quarterback in the game throwing him the ball in Aaron Rodgers so Nelson has a leg up in that department over almost everyone on this list. He has averaged 10 touchdowns a season over the past 3 years and that's with him missing 4 games in 2012. Although Randall Cobb is listed as the number 1, and Jarrett Boykin posting an incredible rookie season in 2013, Nelson still has the best rapport with Rodgers on the Packers roster, especially with James Jones gone to Oakland. Let's not forget about the hands Nelson has. Of the top 25 wideouts in respect to targets over the 2013 season, Nelson has the second best catch percentage at 71% of his targets reeled in. If Aaron Rodgers plays all 16 games in 2014, Nelson is bound to pull in double digit touchdowns with little problem.

4. Brandon Marshall CHI
This guy has to be one of my favorite players in the NFL to watch on Sunday's. Everything he does looks so smooth and fluid on the field. He's got speed, size, and hands so what else can you ask for from an elite wide receiver? Marshall has caught 10+ touchdowns in 3 of his last 5 years. The two years he failed to reach double digit end zone were when he played in Miami and away from Jay Cutler. And even with Cutler on the shelf for 5 weeks in 2013, Marshall still hauled in 10 touchdowns from Jay in the 10 games they did play together. With a full season of Marc Trestman's offense under the belts of the Bears, and Jay Cutler primed for another year of throwing close to 35 times a game, expect huge things from Marshall in 2014.

3. Calvin Johnson DET
He's been the best in the business for the last 4 seasons finishing as the best wide receiver twice, 5th once, and 6th the other time. Megatron has caught double digit touchdowns in 3 of those 4 years. In the only year he failed to reach the end zone 10 or more times, 2012, he still finished as the top wide out in the fantasy world while only scoring 5 times. Oh, and that year he was stopped on the 1 yard line 5 times and another 2 times he was stopped inside the 5 yard line, so he very well could have scored 10+ touchdowns in 4 straight years. In fact scoring double digit touchdowns in 3 of 4 years is a rare feat. It's only be done by 7 wide receivers including Johnson since the years 2000. Marvin Harrison (who scored 10+ touchdowns in 7 straight years from 2000-06 and is the only man to score 10+ times in 4 straight years), Terrell Owens (did it twice 01-04; & 06-09), Randy Moss (did it twice; 01-04 & 06-09), Hines Ward (02-05), Torry Holt (03-06), and Larry Fitzgerald (06-09). Elite company for an elite player.

2. Dez Bryant DAL
At FFChamps we got Dez as our to rated receiver and for good reason. Bryant's been a top 20 wide out each of the past 3 years, and top 10 each of the last 2. He can also score from anywhere on the field. Of his 25 com's invited touchdowns from 2012 and 2013, 11 have come from 20+ yards away with a long of 85 yards. Of the remaining 14 scores, 7 have come from inside the 5 yard line. When you're a weapon that can put up points from your own side of the field or grab a jump ball over defensive backs on their goal line, then you're basically unstoppable. Also consider the fact that of his 25 touchdowns the last two seasons, all but 1 of them either got the Cowboys within one score, tied the game, or gave/increased their lead. Not only a touchdown machine, but clutch. And remember what Calvin Johnson has done the past 4 years? Well now his former offensive coordinator is Bryant's new play caller. Things could get real vertical, real fast in big D.

1. Demaryius Thomas DEN
I went back-and-forth on who should be tops on this list between Dez and Demaryius and one thing made Thomas tops in my book. Peyton Manning. Look he may not be Mr. Clutch Postseason, but Manning is by far the best regular season quarterback in the game, and fortunately for us fantasy addicts (Broncos fans may not agree but) that's all we need him for. In his last 10 seasons he's played (not counting his 2011 injured year), Manning has a a wide receiver finish in the top 5 in fantasy points in all but 3 years, and even in those 3 years his top wide out finished no worse than 12th. Thomas is the biggest number one Manning has had the opportunity to throw to (6'3" compared to 6'0" for both Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison). Demaryius has averaged 93 receptions, 1,436 yards, and 12 touchdowns over the past two seasons. He lead the NFL with 14 receiving touchdowns in 2013. With their loss in Super Bowl 48, Manning and Thomas will be looking to stomp on the competition all year again. Thomas is a first round pick who can carry your team in 2014.

Christmas in July: 12 day of Fantasy Football - Day 12

Posted on July 26, 2014 by Anthony Grace

Happy Holidays! Training camps are officially under way as the holiday season approaches! Christmas in July which equals FANTASY FOOTBALL DRAFT SEASON is about to be in full swing! It seems like forever ago that we waltz down the magazine aisle of the grocery store and were able to feast our eyes upon whichever superstar graced the newest fantasy football magazine cover. It feels like longer than a year since we got together with our leaguemates and drank all night while we stuffed ourselves full of pizza and wings. It has been too far gone since we would criticize everyone else's picks while always patting ourselves on the back for having the best draft in the room. But IT's BACCCCKKK!!! 

So with the theme of Christmas in July, may I present a 12 day countdown, or as I like to call it "The 12 Days of Fantasy Football." A slew of different topics and predictions or the upcoming 2014 season! Everything from kickers to the fantasy MVP for 2014. So let's kick off the season right now!

DAY 12:

12 KICKERS KICKING


12 Kicker who should be drafted:
Kickers are people too! They may be the last pick we make (at least the last pick that we should make), and may seem insignificant compared to every other position we fill in fantasy football, but there are always kickers out there that can make more of a difference than others. Kickers who have an elite offense will get tons of give me extra points. Kickers on teams that have a solid offense will get some extra points but also have more field goal opportunities. And yet other kickers are guys who can be trotted out there and have a great shot at hitting 50+ yard field goals on teams with less-than-stellar offensive pieces. The following are the 12 kickers that fit at least one of the previous criteria and all also attempted at least 25 extra points and 25 field goals with a field goal percentage of better than 85%.

12. Nick Folk NJY
Folk is coming of a field goal accuracy of 92%, a career high, and only the second time in his career he's been 90% or better for the season on his field goal attempts (the first was back in 2008). Even with the Jets only scoring 18 points/game in 2013,  3rd worst in the NFL, Folk put up just under 8 points/game which was more than anyone on the Jets other than Geno Smith (12 points/game), Bilal Powell (9 points/game), and Jeremy Kerley (9 points/game). Folk had 7 games in 2013 with at least 3 field goal attempts and was 21/22 in those games.

11. Dan Carpenter BUF
Carpenter put up a career high 128 points last year which was good enough for 10th best among kickers. His 33 mad field goals was also a career high, and the 36 field goal attempts were 2nd most in his career (41 in 2010 was tops). With the addition of rookie phenom Sammy Watkins and if E.J. Manuel can stay healthy, then the Bills should have more opportunities to put up points, which could mean an even bigger year for Carpenter in 2014.

10. Nick Novak SD
Novak had career bests in field goal attempts and makes, as well as extra point attempts and makes in 2013. The Chargers played a lot better on offense last year than many expected, finishing 5th in yards and 12th in points. Novak had 9 games with at least 9 points and never had fewer than 4 points in a game in 2013. He has also averaged 8 points/game against his AFC west foes since he became the Chargers kicker in 2011.

9. Phil Dawson SF
Dawson finished in the top 10 kickers (7th in 2013) for only the second time in the past 10 years. In Cleveland he was 1 for 9 getting into the top 10, in San Francisco he's batting 1.000 getting to the top 10 in year one by the bay. He's on the best offense he's ever been on in his career which helped Dawson put up a career high 136 points in 2013. He had 7 games with double digit points. That's more double digit point games than Jason Witten, Mike Wallace, or Giovani Bernard had.

8. Adam Vinatieri IND
Is this dude ageless or what? He's entering his 15th season in the NFL. He's had 94 or more points in all but two years, and one of those seasons he finished with 89 points while the other he only kicked in 6 games. Last year he had 3 or more field goal attempts in 11 of his 15 games. And his career high of 40 field goal in 2013 may fall in 2014 with such a high octane offense in Indianapolis.

7. Robbie Gould CHI
Another kicker with a high octane offense in front of him. He has scored over 100 points in 7 of his 8 seasons to go along with a field goal accuracy of 83% or better in each of those 8 years all in the Windy City which is impressive. The Bears scored the 2nd most points in the league last year, and Marc Trestman should have his team even more polished and potent heading into 2014. Gould also has 9 of 16 games against teams that finished in the bottom 10 vs kickers in 2013.

6. Mason Crosby GB
Crosby has finished as a top 10 kicker in 6 of his 7 seasons in the NFL, including 3 top 5 finishes. He has averaged 50 extra points attempts a year. And in 2013 he had a career high field goal percentage of 89%. Last year the Packers scored 26 points/game (9th in the NFL), and that was with Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb both missing large chunks of the season. With a fully intact offense in 2014, Crosby will have a chance to pass his career high 137 points which he put up last year.

5. Justin Tucker BAL
Tucker has averaged 8 or more points/game in both of his first two seasons in the league. Of the players to make this list, only Steven Gostkowski and Dan Bailey have had 3 seasons with 8+ points/game, and Tucker has a great chance to join them. He was the only kicker on this list to have 4+ field goal attempts in 4 or more games and was the only kicker to attempt at least 6 field goals in a game, which he connected on all 6 including a 61 yarder to beat the Lions (18-16) single handed ... or footedly.

4. Steven Hauschka SEA
Entering his 4th season in the Pacific Northwest, Hauschka has gotten better every year for the Seahawks. He raised his points/game from 6 to 7 to 9, as well as increasing his field goal accuracy, from 83% to 89% and finally to 94% last season. He had 8 or more points in 12 of 16 games last year, not to mention scoring 11 points in each of Seattle's 3 playoff games as well. Although the NFC west has all 4 teams in the top 8 against kickers, the Seahawks should have an even better offense in 2014 with Percy Harvin ready for his first full season which gives Hauschka a realistic shot of being a top 3 kicker for a second straight year.

3. Dan Bailey DAL
Bailey has been another model of consistency at the kicker position since he entered the league in 2011. He's averaged 8 points/game over his three year career. Over the last two seasons Bailey has attempted at least 1 field goal in 30 games and had an accuracy rate of 100% in 26 of those 30 games. He's been a top 10 kicker in every year (5th, 9th, and 9th respectively) and has never missed an extra point (123/123). New offensive coordinator Scott Linehan will bring a more vertical passing attack to Dallas which will only give Bailey more opportunities to put up points for you at your kicker slot.

2. Steven Gostkowski NE
Gostkowski has been the best kicker in the league since he came into the NFL in 2006. Of his 8 seasons he's finished as a top 5 kicker in 6 of those years and been the top kicker 4 times. The Patriots have been one of the most consistent offenses since Bill Belichick and Tom Brady got together which is great news for Gostkowski. He's averaged 9 points/game of the past 3 seasons, and only had one year where he averaged less than 7 points/game (his rookie seasons he put up 6 per game). He has 8 games vs teams finished in the bottom 10 against opposing kickers, and 2 of those match ups come during fantasy playoffs (week 15 vs Miami and week 16 at the Jets).

1. Matt Prater DEN
Prater had 75 extra point attempts last year which was the most extra point attempts ever. In fact, since 2000 there have only been 5 kickers who attempted 60+ extra points in a season with only one other 70+ year (Gostkowski for New England had 74 in 2007). Prater missed only 1 of his 26 field goal attempts for a field goal percentage of 96% which was tops in the league (not counting Shayne Graham who hit 100% of his attempts but only appeared in 2 games). Denver probably won't score 75 touchdowns again in 2014, but the offense will be just a fast and lethal which means, worse case scenario Prater gets even more field goal attempts which should give him more than his 149 points (3rd most of any kicker in the past 10 years) he had in 2013.

NFL 2014: 10 Biggest Injury Concerns Entering Camp

Posted on July 21, 2014 by David Levin

Injuries are the one thing no team in the NFL can predict. Year after year a star in the league goes down with a significant injury, hurting his team’s chance of making the playoffs and for one reason or another, ruining my fantasy football team’s ability to claim victory.

These players are on the mend or have come back from serious injury. Still, a hit or a missed tackle could mean the difference in them spending a major amount of time on the sideline and not showing off their skills in 2014. Here are 10 players who represent some of the biggest injury concerns heading into this year.

PEYTON MANNING’S NECK

It may be the most important neck in NFL history. Every time Peyton Manning drops back to throw a football, the Broncos bras hold their breath to make sure their franchise quarterback does not go down in a heap on the grass. Manning’s neck checked out fine after the 2013 season, but you have to wonder how long it will be before he can no longer take a beating in this league.

MIKE POUNCEY’S HIP

It is already a concern on South Beach. Mike Pouncey was the one constant on a beleaguered offensive line last season. And the Dolphins saw firsthand what happens when an All Pro center goes down when Pouncey’s brother Maurkice was injured for the Steelers. The Dolphins have four new starters on the offensive line this year. Pouncey is expected to be sidelined for several months while rehabilitating. That is not good news for the Dolphins in their quest to keep quarterback Ryan Tannehill clean and upright.

JAY CUTLER’S GROIN

The Chicago Bears made a decision they hope will not backfire on them. They let Josh McCown walk in free agency and offered Cutler, who has had injury issues in the past – especially last season - a deal expected to eclipse the $17.6 million average the Detroit Lions gave Matthew Stafford in July. It also includes at least $50 million in guaranteed money. McCown outplayed Cutler at times last season, which makes this a huge gamble on the Bears part for 2014.

CAM NEWTON’S ANKLE

According to NFL.com and the Charlotte Observer, Cam Newton's recovery from ankle surgery has gone well by all accounts. With training camp starting this week, we'll get to see how close he is to Full Newton. The Charlotte Observer notes that Newton was throwing to receivers last week in Greensboro, N.C., but he was limited in his mobility. That is to be expected less than four months removed from major surgery, but it's a reminder that this was a major surgery.

DAVID WILSON’S NECK

Wilson suffered a career-threatening injury last season in Week 5 against the Eagles on his lone touchdown score. According to the New York Daily News’s Ralph Vacchiano, Giants owner John Mara stated that “all signs” are still pointing to Wilson being a “go”, and he could very well be ready for the early part of training camp. This is obviously great news, but Vacchiano reminds us that Wilson hasn’t been medically cleared just yet. Therefore, it’s possible he could be ready for the start of camp, and we’ll see how he is eased into things before he joins a deep backfield after the additions of Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams this offseason.

TONY ROMO’S BACK

It is the most expensive back in the NFL and the Dallas Cowboys know if it is troubling Tony Romo, it is troubling the franchise. Romo had his best season in Dallas last year, throwing for 3,800 yards and 31 touchdowns. But two back surgeries in as many years must be a sore spot for the 34-year old, who is still owed $55 in guaranteed money by the franchise. Romo must prove he can be as durable as he has been, even with the injuries.

ROBERT GRIFFIN III’S KNEE

Is it healed properly? You could write a soap opera about the comings and goings of Robert Griffin III’s knee. Truth be told, Griffin probably should have sat out last season to give himself a fair chance to be fully healthy. He pushed out of necessity but hurt himself in the long run. If Griffin is healthy and the receivers are on point, this could be the year Griffin proves he is the next great quarterback.

JULIO JONES’ FOOT

A wide receiver needs a solid set of wheels to move down the field. The former Alabama star is still dealing with the same injury that sidelined him last season. Jones will report on Thursday with the Atlanta Falcons' veterans for training camp. The Falcons hold their first practice on Friday, and it remains to be seen if Jones will be a full participant. After suffering a second foot fracture in 33 months last season, he didn't promise to be ready for training camp, but to be ready for the Falcons' season-opener on Sept. 7 against the New Orleans Saints.

ARIAN FOSTER’S BACK

When he is healthy, Arian Foster is one of the best running backs in the NFL. But it appears every season he encounters a new injury. Last season’s back injury placed him on the shelf and put his career in doubt. Even with him medically cleared to return to action this season, the company has yet to announce if shares will be available this year. Either way, the Texans have already invested heavily in the 27-year-old former Pro Bowler. New head coach Bill O'Brien and a restless fan base are hoping a healthy Foster can yield higher returns in 2014.

AARON RODGERS’ CLAVICAL

Never has a collar bone been so important to the Green Bay Packers. Rodgers missed half a season before returning to the playoffs for the Green and Gold. While he looked like his old self last season, the loss of arguably the best quarterback in the NFL, showed us all how dependent the Packers are on him being on the field. Another injury to his collarbone or to any part of his body could be earth shattering for their playoff chances.

 

2014 Fantasy Football: WR Bye Week Navigation

Posted on July 18, 2014 by Joel Sciabarrasi

Today, let’s take a look at the wide receiver options for when you need that bye week fill-in player.  In my opinion, this year there is a very deep pool at wide receiver.  There will be a lot of players moving up and down the rankings board in the first couple weeks of the season so you will have to be active on the waiver wire to stay ahead of the curve.  As the season reaches its midpoint, more concrete bye week options will become apparent.  Now you don’t want to wait for after that big performance to jump in line for that player.  Use this to find those players ahead of time as a sort of a late-round pick primer.  I do expect some of these players - like Golden Tate, Emmanuel Sanders and Steve Smith to be drafted this season so you may not even have a chance to pick them off the wire.

7. Thou MUST Draft Key Player’s Backup

Posted on July 15, 2014

10 Commandments for Winning at Fantasy Football

This is the seventh in a series of articles geared toward winning at fantasy football. To find more content on useful ways you can win your league, click here

7th Commandment - Thou MUST Draft Key Player's Backup 

In almost all circumstances it makes sense to grab your best players' backups – IF they too are capable players.  We usually refer to these as “Handcuffs”.  There are some that are always obvious, in 2014 we are looking at: Jamaal Charles/Knile Davis, LeSean McCoy/ Darren Sproles/Chris Polk, Matt Forte/KaDeem Carey, Montee Ball/CJ Anderson, Marshawn Lynch/Christine Michael, Arian Foster/Andre Brown, DeMarco Murray/Lance Dunbar/Ryan Williams,  and some that are less obvious – of which we will touch on later.  The reason you backup your Studs is two-fold:

1.  To make sure you have a starter if and when your Stud goes down.  The way you win at Fantasy Football is by having a deep bench and planning for the worst.  Expect your best players to go down at some point, as most players in the league miss some time over the course of the year.  Those of us that are prepared hardly miss a beat and are one step ahead of the competition.

2.  To prevent other owners in your league from benefiting from your misfortunes.  If you draft Jamaal Charles and neflect Knile Davis later in your draft, if Charles goes down, the owner, the one that took Davis will have a tremendous option to insert into his lineup.  It likely would have only cost him a 10th round or later pick and at that price, insuring your 1st rounder is a no-brainer.

This does not hold true for all positions, especially WR's, as taking Calvin Johnson's backup will generally not benefit you very much.  But the point is that if you spend an early-round draft pick on a player, and his backup would flourish if they were the starter, make sure to get him later in the draft. 

This does often apply to QBs, again… as long as his backup is talented. If I were to carry 3 QBs, I'd usually have 2 starters, and my 3rd would be the better backup on the better offense of my other 2.

This insurance policy also does not hold true if your league only has 16 or fewer roster spots, as the waiver wire pool will be deeper, and you will likely be able to acquire starters from there if you had to. This is mainly for leagues that have 18 spots or more.

There is another way this strategy can help your drafting, and that is if you are unsure of 2 players at a certain point in the draft and they are in the same tier.  You can opt for the player with the stronger backup because you can likely get the backup later in the draft cheap.  The combination of the two will be better insurance that you will always have a starter.  People may think that this talented backup will cannibalize the starter, but that is usually not the case.  We are talking about situations where this guy's only role is to give the Stud a breather, but if needed for a few games could excel.

Inside the Champ's Draft Kit we will give you all of the handcuffs you should draft, as well as the handcuffs to avoid.  We will follow up later in the summer with some more of each as well.

The main point is to pay attention to your key players, and if they have a capable backup – someone who you could spot-start if the starter goes down, be sure to get insurance for your team.

 

 

1st Commandment: Know Thy Scoring System

2nd Commandment: Thou Shall Stick To Thy Tiers

3rd Commandment: Thou Shall Avoid Bad Players from Bad Teams

4th Commandment: Thou Shall Draft Players From The Next Great Offenses

5th Commandment: Thou Shall Wait on Thy Quarterback

6th Commandment:Thou Shall Covet Thy Stud Wide Receiver

7th Commandment: Thou Must Draft Thy Stud's Backup

8th Commandment: Thou Shall Not Draft Two Studs From the Same Team

9th Commandment: Thou Shall NOT Draft a Kicker or a Team Defense Too Early

10th Commandment: Thou Shall Start Your Studs

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