With a lot of Fantasy Football Drafts taking place this weekend, people are truly ready for some football. This weekend's games will tell us a lot about each team and about each player's fantasy outlook, as they are basically dress rehearsals for the upcoming season. So get your cheat sheets ready, rank your players, and prepare to draft! Here are Olie's Fantasy Predictions, based on my top secret and highly coveted Super Spreadsheets. Let the games begin!
- Peyton Manning #1 - Your league might not draft quarterbacks early, but Peyton ought to be the first one taken, whatever round you choose to pull the trigger in. He had a season for the records last year, and all signs point toward a repeat. His total TD numbers will come down a bit, but he will still lead all QBs in fantasy points. Let him lead you to victory.
- Top Tier - There's a big difference between the Tier 1 & Tier 2 QBs this year. Peyton, Brees, Rodgers; those guys are solid must-pick-earlies. But after that, there's a dropoff and a lesser need to grab your guy right away. Brady, Romo, Stafford, Luck, even Foles; these signal-callers are on the same level, a platform much lower than the Top Three and not much higher than the boys below.
- Cutler - If you miss out on the Top Three and if you choose to wait while the Tier 2 guys get scooped up, Jay Cutler might just be your man. He should be available for a long while and could end up as the bargain of the draft. He's poised to have a excellent year, throw 30 TDs, and surprise a lot of people with his fantasy relevance.
- Runner runner - On my list, I've got the athletic QBs way down & grouped together. Cam, RG3, DangeRuss, Kaep; all these guys will score TDs in the high 20s, but won't lead you to a championship single-handedly. Unless your league gives more points for rushing touchdowns than it does for passing, I wouldn't draft someone from this group as my starter.
- Losers - It's pretty easy to spot the QBs that shouldn't be on your roster; they play on bad teams. Sounds stupidly simple, and it is. The Raiders, Jaguars, Browns, Texans, Bucs, Bills, Rams, Titans, Giants; these teams aren't winning a ton of games this year and their QBs won't score a ton of points, so do yourself a favor and pick someone else.
- Charles - Jamaal went insane last year, scoring 19 total TDs. Unheard of, and not something he's even come close to doing before. The most he's ever scored in a season until last year was 8, which he did two years running. That's more his number, and even if you think he has a great year that's no more than 10 or 12. Don't pick him expecting magic.
- Da Bears - Don't sleep on Chicago this year. More specifically, don't sleep on Matt Forte. He had a career year last year, but has surprisingly excellent stats in previous years as well. He's 28, perfectly healthy, a very important cog in Chicago's high-octane offense, and catches the ball superbly out of the backfield. He could match Cutler as an incredible draft bargain.
- He's back! - Having had Arian Foster on my roster last year, I understand your frustration with the once fantasy stud. After posting 18, 12, and then 17 TDs, he gave us 2 last season. Not good. But there's some reason to be hopeful. He's back healthy, he's still the #1, Ben Tate is gone, and they'll be relying heavily on him to lead this team. Gary Kubiak is elsewhere, and that gives me some doubts, but I believe Foster has a bounce-back year.
- Has-been heaven - Stay clear of the names of the past. Some RBs just aren't as relevant as they were only 1 or 2 years back, so don't get caught up in the fame. Spiller, Rice, Ridley, Stephen Jackson, Chris Johnson, Trent Richardson; they've all been near the top of the list at one time or other, but now they're no more than 2nd or 3rd RBs.
- DMC & MJD - I've been burned so many times by Darren McFadden and/or Maurice Jones-Drew that I've completely lost count. Now these guys are on the same team and it finally seems OK to say just avoid them altogether. Either of them could have a nice season; they're both still very talented. But the Raiders aren't going anywhere and neither will your fantasy team if you rely on this duo.
- Megatron - Calvin Johnson was banged up a lot last year and still scored 12 TDs. The year before that he played all sixteen games and only scored 5. Go figure. If you wanna take a gamble on someone, I geuss Megatron is as safe a bet as any, as he always seems to be relevant and able to score points in some capacity. Don't be scared to take him as the #1 WR.
- Tier 2 - But also understand that he's not entirely in a world all his own. I have Calvin as the top WR on my board, but there are some others who aren't far behind. D. Thomas, Dez, B. Marsh, A.J., Julio; these are all premier receivers who can single-handedly win you fantasy games. If you can't get Megatron, don't worry, there are others almost just as good.
- Mile High Salute - Last year Peyton's WRs were D. Thomas, Welker, and Decker. That worked out pretty nicely. This year, Decker is gone and Emmanuel Sanders replaces him. Feel confident in drafting any of Peyon's Three, with Sanders at the bottom but not forgotten. Manning is going to throw TDs; it might as well be to your player.
- What's cookin' - If anyone has had a draft-boosting training camp & preseason it's been Brandin Cooks. He seems to already have a connection with Brees in New Orleans and could see instant fantasy stats. I'm not saying pick him as your #1 WR, but don't forget about him in the later rounds when you're looking for talent; he could lead Saints WRs in TDs.
- Moving down - Don't get too excited about some of the new names in new places; they weren't upgrades. Hakeem Nicks, Steve Smith, Golden Tate, James Jones; these guys are good but they're not elite options, despite the excitement of a new location. The're #3 or #4 guys, no more than that, so don't overspend.
- All alone - Jimmy Graham is the one and only TE you need to even think about in early rounds. Guys like Orange Julius & Gronk (if he's healthy) will have nice seasons too, but no one will even come close to scoring 12ish TDs and getting 12ish hundred yards.
- Raven - I think Dennis Pitta could have a big year with Baltimore. He's got the talent, he just needs to stay healthy. This season he has Gary Kubiak as his OC, and Kub believes in the basics. Pitta could be a part of a much-improved offense, see a lot of over-the-middle deep routes, and get a ton of attention in the red zone.
- Hidden gems - As you make your way down the list of fantasy relevant TEs, there's not too much to get excited about. After the first few superstars you have a bunch of mediocrity. But there are a couple buy-low options; Charles Clay, Zach Ertz, and Martellus Bennett. Those guys won't blow your mind, but they will provide you with cheap TDs.
- Rookie - If you're looking to have some fun, pick rookie TE Eric Ebron. The Lions will score a good many points this year and some could float Ebron's way. If Megatron is double-covered in the endzone, Stafford might like a big athletic beast to catch a few TDs. Now, there's some risk, he's an unproven rook after all, but it might be worth a shot.
- Avoid the Chargers - Antonio Gates used to be fantasy gold, but those days are gone. His trainee-in-waiting is Ladarius Green, who has some talent to keep an eye on. But for now, both will battle for touches, both will score a few, but neither will be a wonderful pick.
- Old Reliable - Look no further than the veterans for those unromantic but necessary fantasy points via kicker. Prater & Gostkowski have been mainstays and there's no reason that should change this year. Other vets like Dawson, Crosby, Bryant; these older guys can still kick it and should be drafted with confidence.
- Too many TDs - Kickers like Graham (NO), Gould (Chi), and Henery (Phi) would be more highly ranked than they are if their teams would just stop scoring touchdowns! As it is, they'll get a ton of extra points, but not as many field goals as you'd imagine, which is bad. This makes that middling fantasy starters, not worth picking until very very late.
- Freesey - With David Akers gone, Nate Freese steps up. The Lions score points in bunches, but just how well Freese will do on your fantasy squad is anyone's guess. Just like with Ebron, if you're feeling lucky roll the dice later on this kicker, surprise your league, and maybe ride his leg all the way to a championship.
- Sea Bass - He's had a great career, but Sebastian Janokowski's day in the sun is over. The Raiders are just a bad team, and they don't get near the endzone often enough to draft their kicker. He'll still get a few FGs, but he might have the least extra points of any kicker this year.
- Don't overpay - There are no kickers that blow everyone else away. There are also none that will sink you. I'm not saying draft Caleb Sturgis as your starting kicker, but don't overpay for one of the top guys either. Kickers can wait; some free agent might end up leading the league.
- Da Bears - Two years ago Chicago scored 10 defensive TDs. Last year they were pathetic. So which year do they emulate this season? My guess in the latter. I think they've officially transitioned into being an offensive team, letting Cutler win games instead of their LBs. I don't even have the Bears on my board, and you shouldn't either.
- Sleeper hold - If you're looking for a sleeper defense, look no further than Arizona. They might not be the first group that comes to mind when you think about smash-mouth football, but this defense will score you some points. If you miss out on the big boys (San Fran, Seattle, Carolina) you could do much worse than the Cardinals.
- Altitude attitude - Denver should have a much-improved defensive squad this year. With a lot of new names but with the same DC, these guys should be solid, if not incredibly stingy. Again, not a defense I'd jump out and take in the early rounds, but one to keep an eye on as the draft rolls along and the big boys disappear.
- NFC East - Some defenses shouldn't even be drafted as backups, and most of them seem to be in the same division. Philadelphia, Washington, Dallas; these Ds should be avoided at all cost. Makes you wonder about Eli and his fantasy potential, with six games vs bad defenses, but even that might not be enough to get him drafted, at least not as a starter.
- Draft early - Unlike kickers, there is a big difference between the top defenses and the bottom ones. Don't be hesitant to take the team you want earlier than others do, or to jump on the bandwagon when defenses start to be selected. Get one of the big dogs early and you won't be disappointed.
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