Welcome to the Ides of March. If you’re buying time until the NFL ramps back up again, you may not be in the minority. It’s never too early to get started with your fantasy forecast for the coming season. Here are a few players you should think about this coming season.
Quarterback – Do: Philip Rivers and Eli Manning. Don’t: Peyton Manning.
Rivers and Eli are entering the last year of their contracts. Both are motivated and have the weapons surrounding them to have impressive years. Neither should really be your number one QB, but having either as your secondary option is a boon to your team. Peyton Manning is set to fall faster than a jet-propelled elevator full of offensive linemen. Age is catching up in a big way and it wouldn’t surprise me if he falls way off this season. He did lose Julius Thomas after all.
Running Back – Do: Whoever Dallas Drafts. Don’t: DeMarco Murray.
No back in history has run as much as Murray did and had anything close to the same level of productivity the next year. Compound that with Murray’s “injury-prone” history, and he could be a flop this year for fantasy owners. While the Dallas Cowboys did acquire Darren McFadden, I am still expecting the rookie running back (who they will draft in the first three rounds this April) to be the starter on day one. If you look at the holes Murray had to run through it’s clear who was making that system work.
Wide Receiver – Do: Andre Johnson. Don’t: Demaryius Thomas
Johnson joined the Indianapolis Colts and has upgraded in every conceivable way. He has a better quarterback, better receiving threats, potentially a better run-game. For a man that was used to always seeing double-teams, this will be a refreshing change of pace to single coverage. Thomas on the other hand has an aging Peyton Manning throwing him the ball. The Broncos are now without Julius Thomas (who signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars) which means Demaryius will no longer be able to work one-on-one on the outside. Expect him to see more double teams and be open far less often.
Tight End – Do: Jimmy Graham. Don’t: Julius Thomas.
A real big pay check does not good fantasy stats make. The fact that Thomas is really the only viable option in Jacksonville doesn’t mean more targets, it means more double coverage. Graham will be the prime option when Russell Wilson scrambles outside the pocket (which he will have to do as the offensive line is suspect). His size and leaping ability will make him as valuable as he was in New Orleans, if not more, as Wilson is less inclined to air it out than Drew Brees.
Kicker – Do: Adam Vinatieri. Don’t: Robbie Gould.
With the Colts looking amazing last year, and poised for an even better season offensively, Vinatieri is poised for another solid fantasy season. The Chicago Bears lost their best receiver, Jay Cutler could be traded, and the team on the whole looks like they will get much worse before they get better. Gould is going to likely go from a top ten fantasy kicker to bottom five.
Defense – Do: Buffalo Bills. Don’t: San Francisco 49ers
The addition of Rex Ryan to the Bills brings with it a defense-first mentality. The Bills should exceed low expectations this year. A slightly schedule will help as well. The 49ers were a top 10 fantasy defense, but there are so many defensive players leaving that there is no possible way for them to play at the same level. Additionally, the offense is looking more and more suspect every year. The proud red and gold are going to be lit up like a Christmas tree this season.