By Dustin Brewer and Gavin Muirhead
… I was awoken by the sound of a lawnmower at 8:30 this morning, the smell of fresh cut grass flowing through my central air softly filling my house with the sweet memories of Football. The real football, not that Futbol crap we’ve had to suffer through, but that overpaid and often injured NFL football.
Inspired, HeffeBrew is kicking things off with our Fantasy Football rankings for 2014. We’ve taken notes all off season, had many arguments between ourselves, and even laughed at a few of the other rankings out there. Without further ramblings – Our rankings by position and excluding the obvious “studs”.
1 – Matthew Stafford – I know we just said we were excluding studs, and by definition he is one – but a lot of people discount Stafford, even though he has a huge arsenal around him, and the brains to trick an entire games worth of people to score a TD on the ground. He’s not Peyton Manning, but he is topping our list of “not obvious picks”
2 – Jay Cutler – Last season he had some issues staying on his feet, and Josh McCown stepped in and did some amazing work within Marc Trestman’s system. In 2014, Jay is healthy and has had a full offseason of work with his team and his coaches. The Bears have the system, the talent and a good division to be a major force this year, if they can Protect Jay from himself, the sky is the limit.
3 – Robert Griffin The Third – He’s a freak. He’s had a great offseason. The Redskins have added DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts to the offense, Pierre Garcon is still a major player and Jay Gruden is going to let RG3 be RG3, but, most importantly – no knee brace this season.
4 – Andrew Luck – Even without Reggie Wayne, Luck was a monster last year. Throw in the fact that T.Y. Hilton is coming into his own, and they have had more time to get familiar with each other and the system the run, Andrew is left with a very high ceiling. The colts also have very little faith in their run game, still, which will leave them throwing it all the time. Oh Well.
5 – Tom Brady – What? Tom Brady isn’t a stud? No, he’s not. At least not on the page of Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers. Which is why you will benefit from his ranking at fifth. Currently in mock drafts he is floating somewhere in the 100-110 range, if you need a QB, and want someone who can make gold out of garbage – it’s Touchdown Tom. Sure, he has a shakey TE situation and some kids playing receiver, but that didn’t stop him from driving them all the way to the AFC Championship game last season, only to lose to the Broncos.
6 – Nick Foles – 27 Touchdowns – 2 interceptions. That’s all we’re going to say about that.
7 – Josh McCown – Look closely at the Bears team last season, 2 big guys to catch the ball, a dual threat running back, and Fantasy points all over the place. Now look at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers team for 2014 – Vincent Jackson, Mike Evans, Doug Martin, Lovie Smith putting in a system that Josh knows well – Only good things can come out of this fantasy season for him.
8 – Colin Kaepernick – Even with the 49ers being a “run first” offense, Kap still manages to rack up points using his legs when things break down, or if his giant O-Line opens a big enough hole for him to slink through.. with an upgraded receiving core and more time in the film room, we could see a record year from Colin Kaepernick.
9 – Matt Ryan – Hey, Julio Jones is back, and Harry Douglas is a major player to keep your eye on. Even old man Roddy White is healthy* at the moment. When Matty Ice is comfortable, he shines, and he can only be comfortable when all of his key targets are on the field. As long as the team stays in one piece, we like him at #9.
10 – Russell Wilson – For all the same reasons as Colin Kaepernick above, but Wilson is lower because Marshawn Lynch eats almost everything in that offense. He’s a feast or famine pick, but if you like a solid game manager with breakout potential – Russell is your guy.
1 – Zac Stacy – He emerged at the best of the rest with a strong run last season, looking like young Stephen Jackson with his physical style and ability to move the piles even just running up the middle. If he can stay healthy all year and the Rams O-line can provide holes from him, he’ll easily vault into top tier levels.
2 – Giovani Bernard – There are lots and lots of reasons to like young Gio. He’s fast, he has sure hands that rarely coughed up the ball last year and he works great catching passes out of the backfield and opening up the Bengals offense to play action. A great choice in Keeper leagues or as a viable RB2 or Flex option.
3 – Eddie Lacy – Last year’s Offensive Rookie of the Year is going to come back with a better offensive line and a possibly more cautious Aaron Rodgers under center coming off his collarbone injury. The pass heavy Packers offense is going to make some owners hesitant to get him but he’ll yield consistent numbers week after week as the primary back, only giving up a few carries a week to backup James Stark.
4 – Alfred Morris – We here at HefferBrew are expecting a close to full return to rookie form for Bobby 3 Sticks this year. With the addition of DeSean Jackson to stretch the field, Morris’ greatest asset may be his pass catching. Should Griffin have trouble extending plays early on in the season, look for him to check down to Morris and TE Jordan Reed often. Morris’ elusiveness and downhill speed also make every attempt he gets a potential home run.
5 – Reggie Bush – Who would’ve thought that Reggie Bush would rediscover his prime in Detroit? Last season Bush was a shocking example of consistency and while new coach Jim Caldwell has said they’re looking to get backup RB Joique Bell more touches, Bush showed real strength breaking tackles and getting faster as his runs went on, something he had issues with in his time with the Miami Dolphins.
6 – Le’Veon Bell – Well, he’s about all the Steelers have going for them right now aside from WR Antonio Brown and there’s no guarantee that Ben Roethlisberger can refrain from throwing 3-4 picks a game. The Steelers are going to have to rely on the running game more than ever, something that Bell, entering his second season, is going to deliver on a weekly basis.
7 – Doug Martin – In our mock drafting experiences so far, the Muscle Hamster has been going as high as ninth overall. This boggles our minds. Before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury, Martin wasn’t exactly lighting up the fantasy stat line like he had in his rookie year. By no means are we saying you should take him with your first pick or even your second, but should he fall (in some mocks he’s slid all the way to mid 30s) then, with RBs as valuable as they are fantasy wise, he could be a fantastic steal as the Bucs try to lower his workload to prevent injury, while still giving him the bulk of the carries.
8 – CJ Spiller – He was supposed to be getting the bulk of the carries last season ahead of Fred Jackson but injuries kept CJ from breaking out as many expected after showing signs of something special two years ago. Now, with more mobile QB EJ Manuel entering his second year and a young, talented receiving core, a healthy Spiller will shine though honestly, Freddie Jackson is also a solid backup to draft in the later rounds in case of injury or on the chance he just out runs Spiller with the chances he gets.
9 – DeMarco Murray – Cowboys not named Dez or DeMarco should be avoided at almost all costs. Tony Romo is far too inconsistent to count on anyone else to have more than 1-2 good games a season. When Romo is inevitably banged up in the middle of the year because their offensive line plays like a bunch of marionette puppets, the Cowboys will have to lean on Murray and the running game.
10 – Andre Ellington – Guess who’s still under center in Arizona- none other than Carson ‘Cheetos Fingers’ Palmer. The maddening INT machine that has caused more people to add him one week, only to throw their phones into the wall with frustration the next. Fortunately they have the talented, young Ellington who’s ready to follow a good season last year and cement himself as a RB2 or a Flex option as opposed to a BYE week/injury plug and play.
1 – Julio Jones – Normally he’d be in the elite category but he’s coming off a pretty big foot injury so he’ll likely fall between round 3-6. Should he be healthy and make the plays he was making pre-injury, then pat yourself on the back and enjoy owning the steal of your draft.
2 – Alshon Jeffery – Chicago has two giant WRs; one is named Brandon Marshall and the other is Alshon Jeffery. If you don’t get Brandon, you can take Alshon and enjoy an elite WR2 option that will still get more looks than most other second options.
3 – Vincent Jackson – Josh McCown is well versed in throwing to 6’7″ WRs from his time in Chicago backing up the injured Jay Cutler, now in Tampa Bay with V Jax and rookie Mike Evans, and in an offense he’s already comfortable with (his former Bears coach Lovie Smith is running Tampa Bay now) he should pick up right where he left off. Bolster your bench with Mike Evans as well, the opportunities will be there all year long.
4 – Antonio Brown – Guys, this is Antonio Brown, he’s currently the only WR option that the Steelers have. Big Ben hucks it down field looking his way and hoping that Brown can make something happen. Fortunately, his speed and ability to catch just about anything makes him a consistent weekly play with some games where he goes extra nuts.
5 – Randall Cobb – “But Dustin and Gavin, Jordy Nelson is rated higher than Cobb in just about every preseason ranking, what makes you think Randall will be a better play?” Simply put, Cobb stretches the field while Nelson operates mostly out of the slot. Nelson does have a penchant for big plays but often struggles to stay on the field. With James Jones leaving the team, Cobb is going to likely pick up the extra looks from Rodgers as he similarly can get behind the defense for the big play.
6 – Larry Fitzgerald – Larry will catch footballs. It’s what he does. No matter who’s throwing it his way, even ol’ Cheetos Fingers Palmer.
7 – Jordy Nelson – Yes, we think Cobb will still be the first way Rodgers looks, but Nelson will still pick up extra passes from Jones’ departure and he does have big play potential on every play in a decidedly pass-oriented offense with possibly the best QB in the NFL running it all.
8 – Keenan Allen – We’re going to let this video do the talking as to why you should have Keenan Allen on your team;
9 – Victor Cruz – Hopefully there’s no way Eli Manning has a worse year than last season, it almost seems impossible to top the suckage that was his 2013 campaign. Even in the midst of that awful season from Manning, Victor Cruz was two yards short of 1000 on the year and though the TD production was down (only four for the season) a more consistent season from Eli will increase Cruz’s numbers back towards his breakout rookie year.
10 – Pierre Garcon – DeSean Jackson is a one-trick pony. He can outrun everyone on the field on every down and does. Garcon however already has the chemistry with Bobby 3 Sticks and is a sharper route runner. The fact that Griffin can count on Garcon to bail him out on almost any occasion adds to his value. He’s a solid choice as a WR2 or even a WR1 should you focus early rounds on RBs and an elite QB.
1 – Jimmy Graham – Okay, you caught us. But there aren’t many relevant Tight Ends these days.
2 – Rob Gronkowski – If Gronk can stay healthy, he is easily Tom Brady’s favorite target, especially in the Red Zone. He is also going under a few other players at his position due to his health concerns, but his upside is too much to pass up.
3 – Julius Thomas – After breaking out in a huge way last season with the Broncos, Julius Thomas has proved himself a reliable and explosive target in a pass-happy offensive scheme. His overly talented team will also hold him back slightly, which is why we have him at #3.
4 – Jordan Cameron – He was on fire for the first half of last season, 2nd only to Jimmy Graham, but as the QB situation deteriorated in Cleveland, so did Jordan’s production. There is no doubting he has the skill set to put up points whenever the ball is in his hands, and with Josh Gordon potentially gone this year, he will be leaned on often for the Browns in 2014.
5 – Greg Olsen – A solid producer, and one of the few options Cam Newton has and is comfortable with. The Panthers have a hodgepodge receiving core coming into the 2014 NFL season and when in doubt Cam either tucks and runs, or will look for his security blanket in Greg Olsen.
6 – Zach Ertz – He has the chance to be one of the breakout players of the 2014 Fantasy Football season. The Eagles have shown to be a high flying offense on all fronts, and Nick Foles spreads the ball around quite liberally – last season Nick threw 27 touchdowns and only 2 picks. As a rookie #2 TE, Zach caught 36 passes, for 469 yards, and 4 touchdowns. We’ve already been seeing some two tight end sets coming from Chip Kelly this offseason, which means good things for extra TE looks this year.
7 – Vernon Davis – His ranking here is not a reflection of his skills, but he sometimes finds himself being ignored for entire games by Colin Kaepernick, which is never good for our Fantasy Football scores. He is also in the midst of a contract dispute with the 49ers, so you should keep an eye on that come draft time.
8 – Martellus Bennett – He set career numbers in the 2013 season with 65 catches, and plays in a very friendly offense and division. He also played most of last season injured, and still managed 65 grabs. At 27 years old, healthy, and in the revamped Bears offensive scheme led by Marc Tresman – 2014 could be a huge year for Martellus.
9 – Charles Clay – Hey, a Dolphin made the list – we’re equal opportunity around here. Charles is a natural athlete and can quite literally run people over with the ball in his hands. If he can keep a groove going with Ryan Tannehill, and also keep his hands from turning into butter then he is a great late round pick up and in some leagues you may be able to pull him out of the free agent list.
10 – Ladarius Green – Sitting in the shadow of Antonio Gates for two seasons now, he still managed 17 catches for 376 yards and 3 TD’s in 2013. Now, let’s do some math; Antonio Gates is 34, and is undeniably one of the better tight ends to play the game, Ladarius Green is 24, and has been learning from one of the grand masters of his position for the last two seasons. 2014 will be the year that he takes over for the old dog and showcases what he’s learned.
We wish you all the best of luck in your 2014 Fantasy Football campaigns – Stay tuned for weekly rankings and breakdowns as we get closer to the regular season, and be sure to post your questions in the comments section and we will try to steer you in the right direction.