It is time.
Time for all of us fantasy football, self-proclaimed geniuses, to wake up and pour through all of the data and gut feelings to put down in writing who our favorite sleepers are for the upcoming season. Below, you will find some of our best and brightest laying down their bets and picking the players that could make or break a season. If one or two of these guys pay off, you should be dancing your way to the playoffs. And if they turn out to be duds, at least you have time to run corrective measures on the waiver wire!
RS – Ryan Setterlof | CZ – Chris Ziza | AI – Adam Inman | TS – Thomas Schriner
RS – Jay Cutler (CHI/9): This is the year that Jay Cutler finishes as a top 10 quarterback in fantasy football. Last season Cutler played in only 11 games (a few he didn’t finish) and was still able to put up 19 touchdowns and 2,600 yards. His backup quarterback, Josh McCown, had 13 touchdowns and over 1,800 yards. Combine the stats of the two quarterbacks for the Bears last year and you have over 30 touchdowns and 4,400 yards. As a team, Chicago threw the ball 579 times, which was the 10th most in the league. The Bears were in the first year of Marc Trestman’s offense and should be more productive in the second year. The Bears also play in the NFC North, a division full of high power offenses that usually produce high scoring games. Chicago likes to throw the ball and they have the talent to put up some great stats. The Bears have two top 10 wide receivers in Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. These giant receivers combined with Martellus Bennett will give Cutler huge red zone targets to use in 2014. The Bears also use Matt Forte a ton out of the backfield in the passing game. The biggest knock on Cutler is his ability to stay healthy and play (and finish) in all 16 games. He only has one season with over 4,000 yards passing, but he is on a team that is full of talent at all the skill positions. All the pieces are in place for Cutler to have his best statistical season of his career. Wait on drafting a quarterback early and take Cutler while you load up on talent at the other positions in the early rounds.
CZ – Carson Palmer (ARI/20): The thirty-four-year-old Arizona Cardinals quarterback who is entering his twelfth year in the NFL has been going in the 19th round in 12-team fantasy football drafts this year. Being drafted behind the likes of Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater and Alex Smith, his lack of respect is just a pure crime to the game that I love. But luckily for you, this allows you to grab a solid quarterback on the cheap.
Last year, Palmer’s first with the Cardinals, he threw for 4,274 yards and twenty-four touchdowns. While that isn’t significant compared to QB1’s, that is the second year in a row that he has thrown for at least 4,000 yards making Palmer an ideal backup that you can obtain for very little draft day cost.
Having an above-average offensive supporting cast lead by superstar wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and running back Andre Ellington coupled with an opposing defensive schedule which has a few cupcake defenses sprinkled in throughout the year, Palmer will be an ideal backup quarterback for your fantasy squad if your starting quarterback goes down, someone you can spot-start to get an advantage or you are in need of a bye-week replacement. And the cost of all of this? I very late round pick.
AI – Cam Newton (CAR/12): Most people are unaware that Cam Newton has never finished outside the top 5 in standard scoring leagues. What happened, did the departure of a clearly over the hill Steve Smith and a blocking WR in Brandon LaFell really hurt his value that much? I don’t know if his value has taken a hit because Carolina is a defense oriented team, or if his former owners are simply taking him for granted. This off season saw him be paired with a WR in Kelvin Benjamin that is a perfect fit for Cam’s throwing style. Cam has a huge arm but struggles with accuracy and Kelvin Benjamin has a monstrous catch radius. The Panthers also brought in red zone specialist Jericho Cotchery who scored more TD’s last year then Smith and LaFell Combined. Carolina’s defense also took a significant step backward with the loss of stud defensive backs Captain Munnerlyn and Mike Mitchell, there is also the potential for legal issues surrounding DE Greg Hardy and his recent assault conviction. All those things tell me that the Panthers are more likely to roll out an average unit then the shutdown unit they depended on last season; meaning whether River Boat Ron likes it or not, contract year QB Cam Newton will have to be the engine that drives this ship if they are to attempt a repeat of last year’s magic.
TS – Ben Roethlisberger (PIT/12): Honestly, I don’t feel extremely comfortable with this pick but the data suggests otherwise. He finished the year ahead of Jay Cutler, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan and Robert Griffin III and they are all getting drafted ahead of him in 2014. While it’s completely logical to see them go ahead of Ben, you gotta ask yourself, is that what I should do?
If you find yourself to able to get Manning, Brees or Rodgers hanging back till the very end could be the wisest decision you ever made.
Ben Roethlisberger was a fantasy machine in the second half of 2013 after the coaches instituted a quicker pace, no huddle attack. According to stats at MyFantasyLeague.com, Ben was the 24th best QB from weeks 1-7. From week 8 on, he was the 4th best. He has great value as the 17th QB off the board on average.