A list of the top players to draft for the 2014 fantasy football season.
1. Calvin Johnson (DET)
|Receiving Stats||Rushing Stats|
|2014 Projections||View Calvin Johnson's 2014 projected stats.|
The LeBron James of NFL wideouts, Johnson wasn’t the top receiver in the league last year – that title would belong to Josh Gordon, who like Johnson played only 14 games. And Johnson didn’t lead the league in receiving touchdowns – that distinction went to Demaryius Thomas whose quarterback made the NFL record book his autobiography. Instead, Johnson was the league’s No. 3 fantasy wideout in standard leagues and fell all the way to No. 5 in PPR. Moreover, Johnson, who will be 29 in September, underwent a knee scope in January along with an operation on his finger. That’s the bad news. The good? Johnson’s four-year averages are 95 catches for 1564 yards and 11 touchdowns, a career season for just about any other receiver in the league. Even Gordon scored only nine times last year, and no one besides Gordon broke 1.500 yards. At 6-5, 236 and with elite deep speed, Johnson is the most physically gifted receiver in the history of the league. While he lacks an elite quarterback to get him the ball, he has the next best thing – a big-armed, mistake-prone gunslinger in Matt Stafford who will put the team in must-throw situations and keep firing. Moreover, Johnson’s indoor home venue assures good passing conditions in most of his games. The offseason addition of Golden Tate isn’t likely to cut into Johnson’s voluminous opportunities – Stafford finished first, fifth and 17th all-time in single-season passing attempts the last three years. Of some concern are the additions of new head coach Jim Caldwell and offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi who replace Jim Schwartz and Scott Linehan, the duo that permitted Stafford to attempt so many passes the last three years. But Lombardi was Drew Brees’ quarterback coach, and Caldwell was Peyton Manning’s head coach, so unless the Lions defense were to take a quantum leap, we should expect Stafford to be among the league leaders in attempts – and Johnson in targets – no matter who else is on the field.
2. LeSean McCoy (PHI)
|Rushing Stats||Receiving Stats|
|2014 Projections||View LeSean McCoy's 2014 projected stats.|
Aside from Nick Foles, McCoy was perhaps the greatest beneficiary of the Chip Kelly offense last year. He easily posted the best campaign of his career – his first in which he averaged more than 100 rushing yards per game – and with his outstanding pass-catching abilities, he established himself as the top dual-threat back in the league and was particularly golden in PPR formats. Although McCoy has shrugged off Barry Sanders comparisons, it's worth noting that Sanders himself only exceeded McCoy's total of 2,146 yards from scrimmage last season two times. It's also hard to stereotype McCoy as merely an elusive runner – he also showed a lot of power, finishing with a career-high 51 broken tackles last year, second only to Marshawn Lynch . While his role as the Eagles' top runner is not in doubt, there's reason to believe McCoy will take a step back following his first 300-carry season. That reason is Darren Sproles, the super-talented pass-catching back whom the Eagles acquired from the Saints in March. Philadelphia's coaching staff will likely deploy Sproles in the same way New Orleans did, which makes it likely that McCoy will see his pass targets reduced this year. Further, the Eagles will likely be cognizant of potentially overusing McCoy, who hadn't played 16 games in any of the prior three seasons before last year; it's unlikely he hits 300 carries again in 2014. Nonetheless, McCoy went into the offseason 100 percent healthy and has firmly established himself as one of the truly elite running backs in the game. Even if Sproles and third-stringer Chris Polk take a good number of touches from McCoy, the rest they'll afford him may make it worthwhile as he looks to stay healthy and deliver another Pro Bowl campaign as a featured cog in the Eagles' balanced spread attack.
3. Demaryius Thomas (DEN)
|Receiving Stats||Rushing Stats|
|2014 Projections||View Demaryius Thomas's 2014 projected stats.|
There were a lot of mouths to feed in the Denver passing game last year, but nearly every one the table left fat and happy, none more so than Thomas, who led the team with 142 targets (12th) and led all NFL wideouts with 14 touchdowns. At 6-3, 229 and with a 4.38 40, Thomas is one of the league’s size/speed freaks in the Julio Jones/Calvin Johnson mold, who are dangerous anywhere on the field. While Thomas had only four catches of 40-plus (T-17th), he averaged 10.1 YPT (4th among the league’s 37 100-target WR). And while Thomas was only third on his own team in red-zone targets with 19, he converted seven of those for scores. With Eric Decker (136 targets, 23 red-zone, 14 inside-the-10) now in New York and Wes Welker now 33 years old, Thomas should see an even bigger role, both down the field and in the red zone. Should Thomas maintain his current efficiency – and with Peyton Manning under center, he’s not likely to fall off much – we could be looking at a receiving season for the ages. Of course, there will almost certainly be regression in the Denver passing game as a whole – all-time records are not easily repeated – but Thomas’ 2013 line was almost exactly in line with his 2012 one, and now Decker’s out of the picture.
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2014 Positional Rankings
Find out where Andrew Luck, Cam Newton, Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick and other quarterbacks are ranked going into your fantasy draft.
Find out where Arian Foster, Trent Richardson, C.J. Spiller, Darren McFadden and other running backs are ranked going into your fantasy draft.
Find out where A.J. Green, Calvin Johnson, Dez Bryant, Michael Crabtree and other wide receivers are ranked going into your fantasy draft.
Find out where Kyle Rudolph, Rob Gronkowski, Vernon Davis, Antonio Gates and other tight ends are ranked going into your fantasy draft.
Find out where Shaun Suisham, Adam Vinatieri, Blair Walsh, Mason Crosby and other kickers are ranked going into your fantasy draft.