To accompany the initial projections, as we continue to review, research, analyze the projections, and create cheatsheet rankings, we provide the following commentary by division to give some insight into why we have players projected the way we do at this time.
- Matt Cassel is so average to below average, but we just don’t see E.J. Manuel being good enough to take the job away from him, unless it is due to injury. Rex Ryan is setting high expectations early in Buffalo, so backing the veteran is the smart move.
- LeSean McCoy’s points per game were the lowest of his career in 2014 since his rookie season. He had his second most rushing attempts at 312 (vs. 314 in 2013), but he was far less effective than usual with them, and his targets dropped by about 30 off his norm. Here is hoping the Bills ratchet up his role in the passing game. We’ve got 300 carries, 70 targets. Tough to pull his yards per carry higher than 4.2 but that will clearly make a huge difference how much fantasy bang for you buck you get. At any rate, the coaching staff appears very likely to marginalize the remaining backs on the roster. McCoy or bust.
- Sammy Watkins might hit 1,000 yards, who knows what Percy Harvin is going to bring to the table and Robert Woods appears settled as a ho-hum third receiver. As long as the defense performs as Ryan would like, no reason for the passing game to open it up even if they were capable with Cassel or Manuel at the helm. As an aside, if Watkins doesn’t crack 1,000 with some vigor then dynasty owners who picked him last season are going to sour on him.
- The last time the Bills had an exceptionally fantasy relevant tight end? I don’t know, Jay Riemersma? Pete Metzelaars? Maybe best to just go with never, but they aggressively signed Charles Clay which is weird. I’m intrigued and hopeful, but not overly optimistic.
- Ryan Tannehill steadily improved three straight seasons to the point he completed over 66% of his passes and landed in the top 10 in fantasy points at QB last season. And now departed Mike Wallace probably wasn’t the easiest WR to play with. We see the upward trend continuing for Tanny, and who doesn’t love a projection with their QB throwing 600 passes?
- Lamar Miller doesn’t wow us but he gets the job done, and doesn’t seem to have an immediate threat to his primary rushing role from rookie Jay Ajayi. Not many backs get this percentage of the workload, and by many accounts the team is improved, especially on defense. There is room for upside in these numbers.
- The Dolphins can’t afford a sophomore slump from Jarvis Landry. There is dissenting opinion on how good Kenny Stills really is, coming from the Saints and perhaps being a product of the system and QB Drew Brees. I still thought he looked pretty good. Rookie DeVante Parker is currently out due to foot surgery. Jordan Cameron hasn’t been a pillar of health. While we believe the receiving corps is improved overall, there is definitely some risk here.
New England Patriots
- How many games will Tom Brady ultimately be suspended? We have to assume four at this point pending the outcome of the appeal, so roughly a 25% decline across the board is factored into his projections.
- As good as LeGarette Blount has looked at times (mostly versus the Indianapolis Colts), I have a hard time believing Bill Belichick is going to give him enough carries to be a reliable fantasy starter week in and week out. Certainly much harder to support the guys behind him on the depth chart though. Oh, and Blount misses Week 1.
- Each of the main receivers have enough of an NFL career to reference, and not much changing around them, to anticipate major changes in their output. Rob Gronkowski is the lead dog. Julian Edelman the underneath high catch, low TD guy. Dave opened my eyes Brandon LaFell was more effective last season than I thought. Danny Amendola never saw the inside of a trainer’s room he didn’t like.
New York Jets
- There should be some good battles between the Jets and Bills this season as they somewhat mirror one another right now. Strong defense, improved at the offensive skill positions, and haven’t a clue what they are going to get from their quarterback. In the Jets case, looks like the veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick sits and Geno Smith gets another chance to make a good impression.
- We currently have Fitzpatrick projected like the more regular starter. It is anybody’s guess how long the leash will be on Smith, assuming he starts Week 1. Maybe best to split the attempts about 50-50 for the season at this point, but certainly, no recommendation to draft either one.
- It would be nice to see the old Stevan Ridley from 2012 who scored 12 touchdowns, but it doesn’t seem in the cards. The Chris Johnson experiment is one and done, and likely his career. Chris Ivory is the probable starter. He was two shy of 200 carries last season, the first 16-game season of his NFL career. Not a confident projection but tough to allocate more carries elsewhere given Ivory’s projected role.
- Can Brandon Marshall motivate Geno Smith to force feed him the ball like Jay Cutler? Maybe. That could get him to 1,000 yards but a painfully low yards per catch, and touchdowns will be tough to come by. If its bad for Marshall, its likely worse for Eric Decker, even though he’s had a year with Smith. Devin Smith is a burner. Jace Amaro showed some promise but there is such a logjam at tight end after the top guys, no need to reach for him.
- Overall, not a bad group of skill players, but Marshall is on the downside, a decent committee but no world beaters at running back, and we don’t think Smith or Fitzpatrick are capable of elevating these guys for a prolonged period.