A list of the top players to draft for the 2014 fantasy football season in PPR leagues.
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. Jamaal Charles (KC)
|Rushing Stats||Receiving Stats|
|2014 Projections||View Jamaal Charles's 2014 projected stats.|
Always a fantasy stud when healthy, Charles' value managed to take a dramatic leap forward last season thanks to new Chiefs coach Andy Reid, who handed Charles the consistent goal-line duty he's always been missing. While he's always been known for his pure speed and elite cutting ability, Charles had – perhaps for fear of brittleness – been largely sheltered from duty near the end zone before last year. But in 2013, the Chiefs handed Charles the ball 15 times inside the five-yard line – matching his total in that category from the prior four seasons combined. He also saw 18 pass targets inside the red zone, which was more than double his total from any previous campaign. The result: 19 total touchdowns from a guy who had previously totaled 24 in five seasons. All that short-yardage usage may have contributed to Charles' career-low 5.0 YPC, but his fantasy owners certainly didn't mind. Indeed, they had to be quite happy with his newfound toughness – including 39 broken tackles, fourth-most in the NFL. Owners in PPR leagues minded even less, as Charles spectacularly totaled 70 catches on a ridiculous 104 targets last year after never grabbing more than 45 passes in a season before. Although Charles did suffer a concussion in last year's playoffs, that's sure to be long cleared up by the time this season kicks off, and Charles doesn't have a history of head injuries. Yes, concussions can develop into recurring issues, but that's a fear with every NFL player. That aside, Charles is fully healthy and now two quality seasons removed from the torn ACL that limited him to two games in 2011. The Chiefs have a quality backup in Knile Davis, but that shouldn't have much of an effect on Charles. As long as he remains healthy, he'll remain Kansas City's featured back, meaning he'll see the vast majority of Alex Smith's handoffs and backfield passes. Another run at 2,000 total yards is in the cards – and with his newfound goal-line duties, Charles has a very good chance to be fantasy's most valuable back.
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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2013 PPR Position Rankings
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