We are living in a sports world where one’s fantasy team is just as important as their hometown one. It is a time where you can’t watch a single game without constant interruptions of scoring notifications and fantasy updates. It’s 2015, and fantasy football is king. While we all know what Andrew Luck and Calvin Johnson can produce in their offensive systems, for the first time since I started playing fantasy football, every team in the league has added a brand new skilled position player who could make or break a line up.
That is why I have put together the list of new faces in new places, and how I predict them to do in their new uniforms. While they may not bring their team to a Super Bowl, they could cash you a check in Week 17, which for most people is more important.
Buffalo Bills – LeSean McCoy
We have heard many times that Rex Ryan has a desire to “get after” the opponent through running the ball, and I expect more of that this season with LeSean McCoy in town. The 27-year old enters his 7th season in the league, his first outside of Philadelphia, and is coming off back-to-back seasons with other 300 carries. He has rushed for over 1,000 yards in four separate seasons and has never averaged less than 4.1 yards per carry. He will have to be the focal point of an offense that does have some deep threats in Sammy Watkins, Percy Harvin and Robert Woods, but still doesn’t have anyone to throw the ball. Matt Cassel and his career 59% completion rate will take the snaps and likely hand the ball off to McCoy well over 300 times this season. If they are going to have any success, it’s got to be on the ground. He should get his share of catches this season as well.
Miami Dolphins – Kenny Stills / Gregg Jennings / Jordan Cameron
This is as good of a year to take a chance with Ryan Tannehill as ever after his general manager brought him three new targets in Kenny Stills, Gregg Jennings and Jordan Cameron. Stills is entering his third year in the league and already has 1,572 yards and 8 touchdowns on his resume, while Jennings enters his 10th season and has piled up 1,564 yards and 10 scores in his last two years. Tannehill will have reliable targets in those two wide receivers, but the newest teammate that should make his eyes light up brighter, is tight end Jordan Cameron. With Charles Clay leaving to Buffalo, the Dolphins needed to have a big body in the red zone and short passing situations and they got that, and more, in Cameron. Clay was dependable, and pulled in 31 first downs last season, but he is not Jordan Cameron, who had 7 touchdowns and 917 yards just two seasons ago. With the quarterback situation a mess in Cleveland, and a pile of injuries, he played in just 10 games last season. I expect all three to make a difference, but none more than Cameron. Once Rob Gronkowksi, Jimmy Graham, Greg Olson and Travis Kelce are off the board, Cameron is the next best pick.
New England Patriots – Scott Chandler
The New England Patriots loved the two tight end set when Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez were pulling in catches a few years ago, but they have struggled to replace Hernandez since he went behind bars. That is until they welcomed 6’7”, 260 pound Scott Chandler to the line up. He has 17 touchdowns in his last four seasons, and while that number is not eye-popping, look at the mess of quarterbacks he had throwing him the ball. Chandler has accounted for over 25 first downs each season, and a body his size running a crossing route with Gronk in the end zone could be horrific for defensive backs and linebackers. No one knows how to utilize their receivers like Tom Brady, and in a two tight end set, both big men are valuable. He won’t come near Gronk’s numbers, but he will score more than he ever has. He isn’t a top tier tight end, but as the season goes on I can see him being a good flex play in certain match ups.
New York Jets – Brandon Marshall
Poor Brandon Marshall. He has all the talent in the world, and never an elite quarterback to showcase it. Playing for his fourth team in 10 seasons, B-Marsh is going to be asked to make miracles on offense. He is coming off his first less-than 1,000-yard season since his rookie campaign, but even still he pulled in 8 touchdowns. The man knows how to get open and if there were ever a season to take a Jet’s offensive player and expect a positive return, this is it. He has five seasons of 100 catches or more, so he can handle the bulk of the load. Regardless of quarterback, Marshall will see a lot of targets and I expect some good numbers from him.
Denver Broncos – Owen Daniels
Tight end was an immediate need in the Broncos offense once Julius Thomas left for Jacksonville, and they filled it nicely. Owen Daniels is not Julius Thomas by any means, but he fills the void well. Last season he pulled in 48 of his 79 targets for 4 touchdowns and 527 yards, and while he has never been a big scoring tight end, he has never had a Peyton Manning throwing him the ball either. Last season Joe Flacco handed the ball off to the three headed running attach in Baltimore, and the seasons before when he was in Houston, Arian Foster and Andre Johnson got the bulk of the red zone touches, so Daniels will finally be in a location where the quarterback doesn’t play favorites and throws to the open man. Julius Thomas had 149 targets the last two seasons and scored 24 touchdowns. Daniels won’t get that many looks, but there is no reason to think he can’t hit 10 scores. He is a valuable mid tier tight end.
Kansas City Chiefs – Jeremy Maclin
The Chiefs scored 18 touchdowns through the air last season, and zero of them were to the wide receivers. That will change this season as Jeremy Maclin moves to KC. The 6th year veteran has got better every year and is primed for a break out campaign. Last season he matched a career high with 10 touchdowns and set a career best with 1,318 yards. There is no way the Chiefs keep their own receiver out of the end zone again. He is too good and gets too much space in his routes. He may not be an elite receiver, but he is on his way. Take a chance on a Chiefs receiver, but only if it’s Maclin!
Oakland Raiders – Amari Cooper
Derek Carr showed flashes of being a solid quarterback last season, but he just never put it together for all four quarters. One way for this to happen is to give him a wide receiver that can come up with big plays. Likely the AFC Rookie of the Year when the season is done, Amari Cooper will throw on the black and gold and remind fans in the area there are other professional teams in town aside from the Golden State Warriors. He isn’t big (6’1”, 211 lbs.), but he has 4.42 speed and can make defenders miss. He led the country last season with 26 forced missed tackles and 124 catches. He may not be a top tier receiver yet, but he is someone worth keeping an eye on as the rounds go further into the draft.
San Diego Chargers – Melvin Gordan
The Chargers need something new to happen in their offense. Malcom Floyd, Keenan Allen and Antonio Gates are good players, but the team is missing that one superstar to really take the team to the next level. Melvin Gordan could be that guy. He will likely play behind Brandon Oliver to begin the season, but don’t expect that to last long. Oliver showed flashes of brilliance last season, but they were just that, flashes. Gordan should be the first rookie selected in any fantasy draft this season because he can be a big play threat and will also be a monster on the goal line. Last year starting running backs in San Diego averaged 22 rushes per game. If Gordan can get those touches, he should break 100 yards more often than not.
Baltimore Ravens – Breshad Perriman
It appears once again that the running back position is up for grabs in Baltimore, with Justin Forsett starting and Lorenzo Taliferro right on his heels. Steve Smith is still going to be the number one receiver, but he needs someone to compliment on the other side, and that man is rookie Breshad Perriman. He is lightning quick (running the 40 in 4.24) and at 6’2” he can pull down most end zone balls. He will be asked to replace Torrey Smith, the speedster who was sent up the numbers for big play situations. Smith pulled in 11 touchdowns last season and there is no reason to think Perriman won’t match, or exceed that amount. With Amari Cooper being the big named rookie, you can likely get Perriman in a later round and look back mid-year with a smile knowing you got a steal in the draft.
Cincinnati Bengals – N/A
The Bengals return with the same quarterback, the same running backs and the same top 5 wide receivers. For a team who can’t get out of it’s own way in the playoffs, they should have made some moves to shake things up. AJ Green is the obvious stud here in fantasy and Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu are quality picks, but in terms of new editions to the roster, there really isn’t much here to discuss.
Cleveland Browns – Dwayne Bowe / Brian Hartline
Dwayne Bowe had 754 yards receiving last season on 60 catches, but failed to find the end zone in Kansas City. Brian Hartline pulled in 2,099 yards in 2012 and 2013 combined, but last season recorded just 474 yards. Both players should have a change in fortune in Cleveland. Last year in Tampa Bay, Josh McCown threw 11 touchdowns in 11 games. Neither guy will put up crazy numbers, but they will score more often than they are use to. I still don’t trust this offense, but without a strong feature back, they will be playing from behind often, meaning Bowe and Hartline will be picking up big chunks of yards late in the game as their opponents play safe coverage. Bowe has a higher fantasy upside, but both guys should be available later in the draft.
Pittsburgh Steelers – DeAngelo Williams
Markus Wheaton and Antonio Brown return as the featured receivers, and Le’Veon Bell as the star back, but the new edition of DeAngelo Williams isn’t a bad pick up in the last few rounds either. Bell is suspended to begin the season, so Williams will start the first three games. You will not get nearly the same production out of him as you will with Bell, but he is going to need to carry the ball in Pittsburgh for them to have a good start. In week one they play New England, who is having a hard time fielding a secondary, so expect him to get a lot of carries to open up the deep routes. He isn’t a long-term solution, but he is a solid flex player in the first few weeks.
Houston Texans – Cecil Shorts III
Andre Johnson is no longer a Texan, but Cecil Shorts III is. He had such a troubling time in Jacksonville last year where he showed signs of being a good receiver, but injuries and an inconsistent offense kept him grounded. DeAndre Hopkins is the top receiver of the bunch in Houston for Brian Hoyer, but Shorts III will get plenty of touches. Last year he averaged 6.8 targets per game but he still only scored 12 times in four seasons. Houston will once again be run heavy, but when they pass, Shorts III will be a target. He isn’t a top tier, or even second tier option, but in the late rounds, he could be someone just good enough to stash on your bench and hold until he finds his role in this offense.
Indianapolis Colts – Andre Johnson / Frank Gore
Did anyone smile bigger this off-season than Andrew Luck? As if T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief, Dwayne Allen, Colby Fleener and Daniel Herron were not enough weapons, team management made sure he had a complete arsenal by adding Andre Johnson and Frank Gore to the group. Johnson has scored just 3.5 times per season over the last four years after averaging over 8 the four years before. Much of that problem was due to the quarterback issues in Houston. In the past 4 seasons, he has ranked just 42nd in touchdowns, but 10th in targets, meaning he is getting the throws, but not the scores. He will get plenty of balls thrown his way this season. Hilton is the deep threat, and will be covered as such. Johnson will be open much more than when he was the only target in Houston for 8 seasons. Gore is the all-time leader rusher in 49er’s history and for the first time in his career, he puts on a different jersey. He has not missed a start in four seasons and even at 32-years old, he should be a workhorse on this team. He will get a lot of scoring changes. Colts running backs only had 6 touchdowns last season but that will change with Gore.
Jacksonville Jaguars – Julius Thomas
You can’t run away from selecting a Jaguar fast enough. If fact, you couldn’t run away faster if you were a Jaguar. Thomas is getting $24 million in guaranteed cash to move from Peyton Manning’s offense to Blake Bortles’, which should make for a long season for the former Broncos’ stud who scored 12 touchdowns in each of the past two seasons. He isn’t a top five tight end in this offense, and he might not even be a top-ten. In a deep league, he does provide that opportunity for one big game here and there, but consistently, it’s going to be frustrating to have him on your roster.
Tennessee Titans – Harry Douglas
Keep an eye on how the receivers are going off the board, and don’t let Harry Douglas land on anyone’s draft que. Last season he had a few big moments for the Falcons, but playing behind Roddy White and Julio Jones, he didn’t get his share of bright moments. He did pull in 85 catches for 1,067 yards on 133 targets in 2013, but he also only had 8 touchdowns in 6 seasons in Atlanta. Quarterback Marcus Mariota is going to spread the ball around, and he will need to in his rookie campaign. Justin Hunter and Kendall Wright are good, young talent and should provide secondary options for Mariota, but I have a feeling his favorite target will be Douglas.
Follow Pat on Twitter @_PatSullivan_
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