Our initial 2015 fantasy football projections were released June 1 (Draft Buddy coming soon!). 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.
- Since we put together our initial projections, two potentially key news items out of Denver. One, LT Ryan Clady tore his ACL and is out for the season. Two, Emmanuel Sanders claims, “my goal is really to try to get a 1,000 yards,” describing the new, more balanced offense under HC Gary Kubiak. Both indicate we should temper our expectations with Denver, starting with Peyton Manning. We have a 20% decline in touchdowns from his 3-year average, but perhaps not enough in the yardage, current projections 410-600-4,900.
- C.J. Anderson vs. Montee Ball, who do you like? We think Anderson did more than enough (and Ball has done little) to give him the benefit of the doubt he will lead the team in carries, even under a new coaching staff. That said, he has the lowest projected carries at 225 (tied with Frank Gore) of our Top 15 running backs. It is the receptions that push him up the rankings, at 45 on almost 60 targets, which makes some sense with the departure of and lack of decent replacement for Julius Thomas. Recognizing Ball can carve out a good role for himself, he is projected for 155 carries.
- Regardless of Sanders’ comment above, with such a big gap between Demaryius Thomas and Sanders relative to the rest of the receivers, it is difficult to not project them each with similar targets, receptions and yards as last season. Keep in mind the Broncos did reel it in somewhat the second half of 2014 to compensate for Manning’s at the time unknown torn quad muscle injury.
- On one hand, sure, lets lower expectations and adjust these projections down, either increasing the run to pass mix, reducing the total number of offensive plays, or both. On the other hand, wouldn’t you still rank Manning and company fairly high based on talent and their ability to put up points when they need to relative to other teams? We’re going to leave the projections as-is for now, but schedule further analysis and discussion soon.
Kansas City Chiefs
- Holy conservative offense Batman. While the wide receivers were beyond awful last season, Alex Smith is still going to gravitate to keeping a high pass completion percentage and minimizing turnovers. This no-risk style makes him even a sketchy start in a great matchup. We don’t see the addition of Jeremy Maclin radically altering the expected output from Smith.
- How amazing is Jamaal Charles to keep a 5.0+ yards per carry given the limitations of the passing game? That YPC on 250 carries, plus 50 receptions project him the top RB for fantasy football in 2015.
- Maclin had an amazing year in 2014 coming off a completely missed 2013 season. He’s a good receiver, but is never going to feel like a WR1 on a team at only 6’0”, 198 lb. We’ve pegged him at closer to an 80-1,000-6 receiver in this offense than the near 1,400 yards, 10 TD he scored last season.
- Seriously, Jason Avant is the Chiefs’ WR2? Not impressed.
- If someone is going to challenge to be in the same top TE tier as Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham’s name will come up first, but why not Travis Kelce? Why didn’t the Chiefs use him more last season? We have 7-10% gains in targets, receptions and yardage, and there is potential there for more.
- We weren’t the only ones impressed with Derek Carr’s under the radar rookie season, were we? Thought he looked pretty good, especially considering what he was working with, and it’s the Raiders. Now they’ve added Michael Crabtree and rookie Amari Cooper. That’s got to help. Still a sub-4,000 yard passer but a lot of attempts gets him close plus 24 TD.
- Having jettisoned Darren McFadden and failed reclamation project Maurice Jones-Drew, maybe the Raiders found a RB they can count on in Latavius Murray. It feels like we might be too bullish out of the gate here on Murray at over 1,100 yards, but one things the Raiders have done well in recent years is run the ball, and the depth chart isn’t nearly as crowded. Backup Roy Helu will primarily catch passes, making him a decent late round pick in PPR leagues.
- Historically Dave has been pro-Crabtree and I’ve been anti-Crabtree. Things might be changing. Dave projected declines across the board for Crabs while I wonder if the change of scenery allows him to finally showcase some skills stifled under the 49ers conservative offense and sporadic play of Colin Kaepernick. Projecting rookies is never easy, even for a bona fide Day 1 starter like Cooper. How Cooper performs will be a major influence on Crabtree’s results.
San Diego Chargers
- Philip Rivers is pretty darn consistent. Consistently good at that, and it doesn’t seem to matter too much what specific players are doing around him. If one guy falls off, then he utilizes someone else. Think Antonio Gates in 2013 only scoring 4 TD, and Malcom Floyd out most of the year… here comes Keenan Allen and Danny Woodhead. Last season Allen slumped and the running game fell on hard times… Floyd returned and use Gates more in the red zone. Not expecting a drop-off based on age just yet, so pencil in another Rivers year with 30 TD.
- Melvin Gordon. He’s the clear starter who should garner most of the rushing carries on the season, making him worthy of a relatively high draft pick even with the rookie risk factored in. Still, we don’t want to hand out 1,000 yard rushing seasons willy-nilly. How about 900 on 200 carries, 6 TD? Woodhead had a career year in 2013 so lets not target that. More like half.
- Which Keenan Allen can we expect in 2015? The impressive 2013 rookie, or the middle of the road 2014 sophomore? We are thinking closer to 2013. A sophomore slump is very common. Allen’s catch rate dropped 5% in 2014 from 2013, but bump that up and he’s back at an 80-1,000-6 season with potential for more if the targets go up. Gates has indicated he shouldn’t be utilized between the 20s as much, and the other receivers – Floyd, Stevie Johnson – are not a threat to steal targets from Allen. If anything, they are on the downsides of their respective careers.
- Gates may want less work to help him stay healthy, but will the Chargers coaching staff comply? It depends on Ladarius Green; it depends on the circumstances at the time. I’d feel more comfortable drafting Gates based on projections of about 80 targets, instead of closer to the 100 he’s averaged the last three years.