Peyton Manning – There’s no reason to shy away from picking Manning as your starter after what he accomplished last season. Even if his numbers drop off this season, last season’s were off the charts so I see him as a top 3 guy. He’s lost Decker but Julius Thomas is going to be more experienced and he’ll have a younger, livelier RB this season. I like him to finish in the top 10, easily.
Montee Ball – Mr. Ball seemed to come along nicely at the end of last season and we know the Manning-effect for RBs will assure productivity from his position. I think it’s safe to say we can draft Ball at the value Moreno held at the end of last season. Moreno didn’t surprise me last season and you should not worry about Ball or his fumbling issues of last season; he was drafted for this role and he’s more talented. Montee Ball will be an every week starter in both Standard and PPR League formats.
Demaryius Thomas – This is another star whose numbers don’t look to dip too much; in fact I see a chance for a those numbers to rise. Keep in mind that when I talk about numbers dipping I mean significantly, and in this case when I say rise I don’t mean by much. Decker being gone is the reason I think that’s a possibility; while I like the idea of Emmanuel Sanders, he’s not the same man. Sanders looks to have some value but I feel like they’ll be working Latimer in and letting ‘the Thomas’s’ and Welker do the heavy lifting. Thomas is a mega PPR league stud though I’m not sure he can improve too much on 92 receptions after 94 the previous season.
Wes Welker – Last season Welker had a dip in receptions and yardage but scored 10 TDs for the first time in his career. He finished as a high end WR3 and is being drafted as a low end WR2 which makes sense; I don’t feel like Sanders is going to be as big of a part of this offense as Decker was. That might mean that Welker is going to get a bigger share of the targets this season and we know he can handle them, he’s a regular PPR league stud. I even feel like some of those targets may come in the red zone since Decker took his 10 TDs with him to New York and Welker is pretty shifty down in the red zone. To be clear I’m not saying that Welker is going to have 10 more TDs this year than last. He may be worth the high draft value but that depends on who you have as a WR1, in my opinion.
Emmanuel Sanders – Like I was saying, while I like the idea of Emmanuel Sanders he’s 4 inches shorter than Decker and playing in a new system. While the reports at the moment are that Sanders fits the scheme, he’s never played with Manning and the system he runs and Denver drafting Cody Latimer are reasons I’m hesitant to draft him, he was selected in the second round and has as much experience as Sanders when it comes to playing with this QB. He still has a chance at career bests this season but we need to remember that sometimes guys just can’t put it together on the field. When Manning has had communication issues with WRs during the game we all see the mistake; it happens and I’m sure that Manning didn’t think it would happen or they wouldn’t be putting the WRs in that kind of situation. We still don’t know whether this is going to work but I am still willing to wager a pick to have him as my WR4 because he’s playing in this system; if Latimer gets a chance you never know what might happen. Then there’s the chance that Latimer learns the playbook this season in playing behind Welker and Sanders the way Ball did behind Moreno last season and breaks out next season; Manning wants to play forever, anyway.
Julius Thomas – Orange Julius should top last season’s numbers and I feel comfortable about saying that because last season was the first time he was able to get one the field. I’ve always liked this guy and mentioned him late last preseason when I realized they were in fact going to have him for the start of the season. One thing that must be said is that he has had injury issues throughout his career and you should draft a back-up if you’re planning on taking advantage of him being more prepared for this season. Make sure you have someone to play for you if and when Thomas2 goes down.
Alex Smith – Smith looked great in the second half of last season and I feel like there’s a good chance for him to sustain that through the majority of this season for three reasons.1) It’s his second season in a new system
3) Dwayne Bowe
I don’t love Smith as a starter but won’t be impossible considering the talent around him is sufficient enough for Andy Reid to make due. Alex Smith is a mid-range QB2 with upside and it shouldn’t be too hard to believe because ‘experts’ pinned Kevin Kolb to break out when Donovan McNabb left Philly; Smith is an interesting back-up and you may be able to benefit from a few good match ups, if nothing else.
Jamaal Charles – Charles should get right back to what he was doing last season. He signed a contract extension and last season we saw the offense run through him. I expect him to be a huge part of the offense but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a dip in production considering Smith’s progression through last season and Andy Reid’s love of all things passing. If KC does pass more this season we shouldn’t see too much of a drop off for Charles either. Brian Westbrook was always worth RB1 value and I expect Charles to follow up last year’s #1 finish with a top 5 this season, easily.
Dwayne Bowe – Bowe has come back this season ready to play. In the case that you hadn’t heard, Mr. Bowe came into camp at 212 pounds after playing around 222-225 since entering the league and hired a nutritionist for the off-season. I feel like maybe Bowe was impressed by Reid and enjoyed playing on a good team because he seems committed to being a better player. I like him but I still feel like WR2 is his ceiling. If Smith locks on to Bowe he has loads of upside in an Andy Reid offense where he’s the #1 WR (maybe the #2 target).
Donnie Avery – I don’t expect Avery to hold much value this season, he may have a few more 12 point games but I feel like Travis Kelce is in line for a great season and Avery is going to be a filler. Don’t look too hard at Avery during your draft this season because although its his second season in the system and he could prove to be more productive, the fact that Jenkins is even challenging for the position seems like a red flag. The idea of having Avery is already annoying me and I can’t see myself drafting him.
Travis Kelce – Kelce is in a pass-happy offense that doesn’t utilize a 3rd WR a whole lot. In fact they use the HB and TE, instead; Kelce was drafted to play in this offense and has a chance to make an impact this season after sitting out his rookie campaign. I’m not ‘expecting’ fireworks but keep an eye out for him as a mid-range TE2. I like the dude, I feel like he’s more talented than Celek and we saw Celek have a great season under Reid: 76/971/8. That season Celek finished 3rd amongst TEs in PPR League scoring, something like that is definitely not out of the question. I don’t know why others think he’s a breakout candidate but I just shared why I think so.
Matt Schaub – Schaub has been named the starter but many don’t expect him to make it through the season. I can understand that, it makes perfect sense; this guy failed in an offense he already knew even though he had better players around him. I don’t know whether to ‘expect’ Carr to replace Schaub but I do know I’m avoiding Schaub and most of this passing game.
Maurice Jones-Drew – MJD is currently the starter, and I say currently because it’s a strange situation in the Oakland backfield having two men so talented. MJD proved he can produce at the end of last season averaging close to 15 PPR league points per game in the final 8 games and I feel like the reason it took a while was the injury. He’s a year older and no doubt needs a chip on his shoulder to really make an impact this season but he has that chip, it’s bigger than ever, and now he’s playing at home. I still won’t expect a miracle but he’s being drafted in the RB4 range and unless you’re dealing with an injury RB4 doesn’t play a lot of the time. MJD might be worth that risk, he still knows what he’s doing and adds value with his pass catching abilities.
Darren McFadden – McFadden is not the starter this season but I do think he can’t earn it; I just have trouble believing he’ll make it through the season unscathed. McFadden has loads of upside if he can stay on the field and MJD will no doubt run with that chip on his shoulder, which means something; a chip on his shoulder is what made MJD what he is now. On the bright-side they’re different RBs and both have the ability to catch the ball so it’s all a matter of game-plan, which will be somewhat run heavy if Dennis Allen wants to have a shot winning. Schaub, to me, is a sign that they do plan to run a healthy amount and McFadden should have value in this RBBC. Being drafted as the RB4/5 type there isn’t much risk unless you’d rather use the roster spot for an unproven upside guy; wink, wink – McFadden is somewhat proven and an upside guy – wink, wink. Happy Drafting …
James Jones – Jones was brought in to be the #1WR this season so I don’t think it’s very likely that he doesn’t take the job. Jones isn’t amazingly talented but what I find troubling is his tendency to drop the ball; in fact, he had talent around him to get him open and when Aaron Rodgers put it in his hands he would drop it. Matt Schaub is not Aaron Rodgers (obviously) not even close so I can’t let that go. Rodgers was great at putting the ball where it needed to be, Schaub is great at putting the ball in the opponents hands for a game winning pick 6; I don’t know if I’ve ever even seen Schaub throw a back-shoulder pass. Jones may carry WR4 value but I wouldn’t try to stretch that value so if I draft him it will probably have to be as a WR6 like everyone else. If he’s there, I may consider it; every draft is different but with his habit of dropping the ball I can’t see him as more than a standard league, big play guy rather than a PPR league dude.
Andre Holmes – Holmes is a guy I want to make an impact more than I expect him to, this season; I really don’t believe in Schaub but he did enough to keep another Andre, Andre Johnson relevant for a few seasons. Holmes has great size and last season he showed great athleticism to go along with that. Right now the new QB sees Holmes as a guy that can stretch the field; I’m hoping that’s not the extent of it because I feel like he can be huge with any QB once he’s ready. As of now I’m not looking at Holmes as a draft pick, just a watch-list guy.
David Ausberry – Ausberry is the favorite to win the starting job this season and that does say a little bit. Rivera looked okay in limited action last season while Ausberry was out with injury and this man is faster, and a better blocker which means he comes off of the field less often. Schaub is coming from an offense that featured the TE a decent amount and while that may have more to do with Gary Kubiak, I can’t imagine that Schaub didn’t learn how valuable a TE can be. Ausberry is an interesting sleeper you should treat like a low-end TE2 hoping we see some of the magic we saw from Julius Thomas last season.
Philip Rivers – Rivers finished #4 last in overall points after a bounce-back season. There’s no reason to believe Rivers won’t repeat last season’s success, everyone is returning plus Malcom Floyd, and Gates, the only one with a chance for a drop off, has a talented back-up in Ladarius Green so … Rivers will have targets; oh yes, he will have targets.
Ryan Mathews – Mathews had a nice showing last season finishing 17th among PPR League RBs. He surprised me played substantially in 14 games and averaged 14.73 points in those contests. It’s almost hard to believe that he wasn’t injured but he also was almost non-existent in the pass game until week 13. San Diego has a good thing going and they’re probably not going to fuss with it too much. I still see Mathews having a shot to improve upon his numbers if San Diego gets to play with the lead this season. I just have a hard time believing that will happen when they’re playing against Peyton Manning and the KC defense twice this season; once they’re down the run game needs Danny Woodhead. Mathews averaged 19.64 carries last season but averaged 26.75 through the last 4 games when San Diego was trying to keep Manning off of the field and/or playing with the lead. That’s only 16.8 carries per game through the first 10 games (that he was healthy). Which Ryan Mathews are we getting this season? Is he going to be 19 carry guy? 26? 16? Or maybe even the injury plagued Ryan Mathews? I’m drafting him as a low-end RB2 if he’s there and hoping for upside because I think his workload might increase this season. I’m not sure we can count on him to get extra production from the pass game because of Woodhead so that makes his PPR league value hard to figure.
Danny Woodhead – Woodhead is a guy I couldn’t bring myself to recommend as much as I liked him last season then I ended up riding him through the end of the season as a starter. He was brought in to do exactly what he ended up doing, which was to be the check-down guy. I see him repeating last season’s performance though it obviously won’t be exactly the same. Woodhead was and is under-valued and that’s great because it means you can sneak away with him a little bit later in the draft; RB3 value is almost certain but there’s upside if the team needs to move the ball without moving the clock. I think Woodhead is a great candidate for 60 receptions after finishing with 76 catches last season; keep him high on your draft watch list so you don’t forget about him. Woodhead finished 12th in PPR League points amongst RBs last season and averaged 16 points per game that ended with 10+ touches.
Keenan Allen – Allen is my friend; he’s another one of the guys who led my injury riddled team to the last game of the season and I need to buy his jersey for that, at least. Allen has a great chance to increase his receptions this season considering he’s starting the season as the #1 WR and has been working on becoming more of a deep threat. He more than likely won’t be used as a deep threat but if he pulls it off a couple of times, teams will have to defend that facet of his game, making it easier to get open on every other route. The beautiful thing about that is that Allen is already a great route runner and may have improved a little bit. I love this dude as a WR2 and I’m hoping everyone took that first season for granted because I already feel like he’s going to slip. He’s a consistent PPR League WR with upside.
Malcom Floyd – Floyd is the Chargers deep threat and we know Rivers can occasionally hit the deep guy because he did it with Vincent Jackson once upon a time. I’m not expecting much from Floyd but he should probably be on someone’s roster as a flier. I like for my back-up WRs to put something up consistently, Floyd isn’t being picked in the majority of the drafts so far and that means he’s worth the risk, he has the chance to put up 6-9 points regularly with some spikes. He’s never had a 1000 yard season and has only broken 800 yards twice; he’s also only surpassed 55 receptions once, and has only broken 40 receptions twice in his 9 year career. Some might blame that on Vincent Jackson but now he’s competing for targets with Keenan Allen; Allen has already proven himself. He’s a weekly lotto ticket who will probably sit on your bench most of the season. That being said, he has a shot at career highs this year, the odds are just not in his favor.
Antonio Gates – As much as I like Antonio Gates as a football player, he’s 34, and Ladarius Green is coming up behind him quickly. There’s talk of 2-TE sets but which one do you think Gates will be blocker or route runner? Will there be enough targets for him and Green after Allen and Woodhead? I only assume Woodhead will be involved again because of his recent contract extension, of course. While I was high on Gates last season I can’t draft him as my starter even after he finished last season as the #9 TE, I’m jumping ship before it sinks. I see him having trouble finishing the top 15 if the offense gets Green involved.
Ladarius Green – I suppose you’d expect a bunch of me trying to convince you to draft Green but the truth is that neither one of these guy is a safe starter. This passing game is coming into this season over-hauled and unpredictable; the guys I feel comfortable with are those whose rolls we saw defined last season; that means Mathews, Woodhead and Allen. Green is a great pick to make as your #2 even if you reach a little bit. Just get a semi-productive TE or a true TE1 first or you’re going to be hoping someone steps up on another team if things go bad.