25 Options We Love for the 2014 Fantasy Football Season

Daniel Stack@@stacdemonContributor IIJanuary 24, 2014

25 Options We Love for the 2014 Fantasy Football Season

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    Associated Press

    Sure, the Super Bowl hasn’t even been played yet, but as fantasy owners it’s never too early to start thinking about the 2014 fantasy football season and the must-have players we want to target. While the 25 players listed in this slideshow are not the 25 best players per se, they are the 25 options we should love the most.

    The players mentioned here are, for the most part, titans in the sport, as they have the skills, health and upside to be the most trusted players to fly off draft boards come this summer. Of course you’ll see Jamaal Charles and LeSean McCoy in this slideshow, but also included in this list are players with the most promise. Not included will be any aging players with declining or limited skill sets or players with major injury concerns (read: Arian Foster and Rob Gronkowski).

    So, here are the 25 most appealing options (listed in alphabetical order) we love as we enter the 2014 fantasy football season.

Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    After a successful rookie season that was hampered by an early-season foot injury, Le’Veon Bell made quite the name for himself in Pittsburgh and in fantasy circles for that matter.

    With solid numbers (860 rushing yards and eight touchdowns in 13 games played) across the board and playing on a physical, run-oriented offense, Bell has the chance for even better numbers in 2014 given the fact that he should enter the season fully healthy and at ease in his role.

    Bell has an outside shot to be a first-round pick and possesses the requisite upside that should make you feel comfortable drafting him early.

Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

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    Having put together another banner season in which he continued to churn out ridiculous numbers (5,162 passing yards and 39 touchdowns), Drew Brees will remain a safe and surefire bet for being one of the best quarterbacks to lean on.

    As long as Drew Brees and coach Sean Payton remain together, the Saints will continue to be a high-octane offense, and with the weapons he has, Brees should likely be the second quarterback taken in upcoming drafts.

Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    After being a serviceable receiver in his first three years in the league, Antonio Brown made a monumental leap to becoming a bona fide No. 1 receiver in 2013.

    After posting career highs in receptions (110), receiving yards (1,499) and touchdowns (eight), Brown should once again be a focal point of the Steelers offense. With Ben Roethlisberger slinging him passes, Brown should be in line for another successful season in 2014.

Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys

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    While he can be too boastful or flamboyant for a lot of people’s liking, you can’t deny the impact Dez Bryant has on the football field.

    With his size and skills, Bryant is a game-changer at wide receiver, and as strictly a fantasy football player, do you really care about his sideline antics?

    I didn’t think so. Treat Bryant for what he is: a mega-talented receiver worthy of drafting in the first two rounds.

Reggie Bush, Detroit Lions

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    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    Reggie Bush’s first season with the Lions pretty much went to script, as he fit in with their offense like a glove and had perhaps his best overall season (he had the second-most rushing yards and receiving yards of his career with Detroit).

    Although he had his troubles holding on to the ball, Bush remained a vital playmaker in the Lions offense, and even though sidekick Joique Bell is expected to return, Bush is the back to own in Detroit. With offensive-minded head coach Jim Caldwell at the helm, Bush should remain a high-end running back to trust in fantasy circles.

Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs

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    Jamaal Charles was probably the game's most consistent, exciting running back in 2013, and that doesn’t figure to change much in 2014.

    Charles has been injury free for the last two years, looks as fresh as ever and should, with little doubt, be this year’s No. 1 pick in fantasy drafts.

Matt Forte, Chicago Bears

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    While not as sexy and exciting as others at the position (think: Jamaal Charles and LeSean McCoy), all Matt Forte does is produce at high rate each year.

    In the last six years Forte has rushed for 6,666 yards while also hauling in 341 receptions for additional 2,919 receiving yards.

    When you add up all the multipurpose yards, Forte is as good as it gets (especially in points-per-reception leagues) at the position.

Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints

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    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    As the game's pre-eminent tight end and one who is head-and-shoulders above the rest of the competition, Jimmy Graham has to be considered a legitimate first-round pick.

    His stats are so far better than any other tight end that he should be compared to wide receivers, and when you take in the talent disparity at the tight end position, Graham deserves to be in consideration for being a top-five selection.

    Yeah, he’s that good.

A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals

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    David Kohl/Associated Press

    Few receivers boast the skills that third-year wideout A.J. Green possesses. After three sensational seasons in which he has recorded 260 receptions for 3,833 yards and 29 touchdowns, Green is one of the few receivers who can come close to challenging Calvin Johnson’s supremacy at the position.

    Green is productive, healthy, just about to hit his prime and should no doubt be a second-round draft choice in upcoming drafts.

Josh Gordon, Cleveland Browns

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    2013 was a banner year for Josh Gordon, as he truly burst upon the scene and made himself a household name in fantasy circles.

    With the season he is coming off (1,646 receiving yards and nine touchdowns), Gordon will be a hot commodity on draft day, and at his age and with his evolving skills at receiver he certainly can be considered a low-end first-round pick/high-end second-round pick.

Alshon Jeffery, Chicago Bears

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    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    After showing signs of being a major playmaker in his injury-riddled rookie season, Alshon Jeffery blossomed into a stud in 2014 after posting 89 receptions for 1,421 yards and seven touchdowns.

    Even though Brandon Marshall is technically the No. 1 receiver for the Bears, it is more like Marshall is 1A while Jeffery is 1B. It’s kind of like how the Falcons were when Roddy White and Julio Jones were both on top of their games or when Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison were catching passes from Peyton Manning with the Colts.

    Make no mistake, Jeffery is a stud and one who is worthy of being drafted within the first three rounds this year.

Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    As arguably the best receiver in the entire league, there is no doubt that Calvin Johnson should be targeted in the first round of all drafts as he just continues to amaze year in and year out.

    While some young receivers (Josh Gordon, A.J. Green, etc.) have challenged his supremacy at the position, Johnson will continue to be the torch-bearer and top receiver to target after all the good running backs go off the board.

Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers

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    After a great rookie season, Eddie Lacy enters 2014 as one of the bright, young stars at the running back position.

    After he rushed for 1,178 yards and 11 touchdowns (both highs among rookies), Lacy has the job as Packers lead back all sewn up, and the sky is the limit for this emerging running back. Lacy should definitely be considered a first-round draft pick.

Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks

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    Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

    Have you seen Marshawn Lynch in the playoffs this year? Does he look like a running back that appears to be slowing down?

    While he has taken on a bigger workload of late, Lynch has always shown he can handle the extra tread on the tires and should remain a beast for the foreseeable future.

Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos

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    Granted he does not ride off into the sunset after possibly winning another Super Bowl, Peyton Manning should once again be primed for another huge statistical season in 2014.

    He broke the record for most passing yards (5,477) and touchdowns (55) this past year, and with him having an embarrassment of riches for weapons, there is no reason Manning can’t have another scintillating season. While he’ll be hard-pressed to duplicate the numbers he put up this year, he’ll still be in line to be the top quarterback taken in drafts.

Brandon Marshall, Chicago Bears

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    Ever since his move to Chicago and reunion with Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall has been one of the better and most consistent receivers in the game, and with the Chicago Bears having a loaded offense, Marshall should continue to be a top-level receiver.

    Marshall’s consistency at the position certainly puts him in the top tier, and he's one who could go off the draft boards in Rounds 2 or 3.

Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    Remember Doug Martin, aka “muscle hamster?” I’m sure you do, and it wasn’t too long ago Martin was ripping through NFL defenses en route to a fabulous rookie season in which he rushed for 1,454 yards and 11 touchdowns.

    After a shoulder injury derailed his season after six games played, Martin should come back healthy and amped to prove he is still one of the best running backs in the game. If he is healthy come August, there is no reason why you should not scoop him up in the second round.

Ryan Mathews, San Diego Chargers

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    Al Behrman/Associated Press

    For the first time in his career, Ryan Mathews finally played in all 16 games and showed why he was such a promising prospect coming out of Fresno State in 2010.

    Mathews easily had career highs in rushing attempts (285) and rushing yards (1,255) while recapturing some of his old mojo. While he is not the flashiest player, he can produce for you with plenty of substance.

    Now that he proved he can hold up for a full year, there is the expectation that he will do it again. With Danny Woodhead providing to be the perfect complement, Mathews should not feel burdened to carry the load and once again should be able to put up quality No. 2-running back numbers.

LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles

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    Just a tad behind Jamaal Charles in the running back hierarchy is the Eagles’ explosive back LeSean McCoy.

    And just like Charles, McCoy gives you consistency in spades and has gone back to being an elite force  after an injury-plagued and inconsistent 2012 campaign.

    Playing under Chip Kelly’s high-octane offense should allow McCoy to keep putting up incredible numbers, and McCoy is without a doubt a top-five pick.

DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys

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    Evan Vucci/Associated Press

    After shaking off the injury blues this year and playing in his most games (14) as a pro, DeMarco Murray finally showed how dynamic he can be. The Cowboys fed Murray the ball a lot this past year, and with the success they had running the ball, expect them to give him the ball many more times in 2014.

    While he might miss a game or two here and there, Murray is a great fallback option at running back after Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles, LeSean McCoy, Marshawn Lynch, etc. go off the board.

Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings

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    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    Don’t doubt Adrian Peterson.

    Usually when you do, he proves you wrong. While he didn’t have a standout season (at least by his standards), Peterson is more than a serviceable No. 1 running back. And although he has just opted to undergo surgery to repair his nagging groin injury, Peterson does he best when you doubt him. With plenty of time to recuperate, Peterson should be good to go by training camp.

    While it’s unlikely that he replicates his amazing 2012 season, Peterson should be able to put up numbers in line with his career averages.

Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

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    Matt Ludtke/Associated Press

    While he was sidelined for a good chunk of the 2013 season, there is no reason to think Aaron Rodgers can’t get back to being an elite option at quarterback.

    Prior to 2013, Rodgers has passed for at least 3,900 passing yards and on average 34 touchdowns per year in the five seasons leading up to this season. With Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and company at his disposal, Rodgers should pick up where he left off in 2012 and go back to being a high-end quarterback.

C.J. Spiller, Buffalo Bills

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    Steven Senne/Associated Press

    C.J. Spiller’s 2013 season was derailed by nagging injuries and split workloads, and as a result, a lot of people will sour on him in 2014.

    You shouldn’t, as Spiller showed toward the end of last season he still has that same burst and playmaking ability that made him such a wanted man among fantasy owners coming into the 2013 season. With Fred Jackson turning 33 in February, there is a chance that Spiller will be primed to take over as lead back for the Bills.

    If that comes to fruition, Spiller could end up to be the steal of your fantasy draft.

Zac Stacy, St. Louis Rams

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    Although he will not get the same fanfare as some of his rookie brethren, Zac Stacy did make an indelible impression in his first season with the Rams.

    Although it took him five weeks to cement himself as the bell-cow back for the Rams, Stacy took the job and ran with it, finishing the season with 973 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. Now that he enters the 2014 season as the unquestioned lead back in St. Louis, Stacy will hold a ton a value in drafts. He's someone you can safely pick in Round 2 to be a low-end No.1 running back or, if you are lucky, a high-end No. 2 running back.

Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos

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    While he does have to share the wealth and receiving targets with a few other offensive weapons, Demaryius Thomas is still Peyton Manning’s preferred option in Denver. After all, Thomas’ 143 targets were tops among Broncos receivers.

    Thomas has explosive, game-changing skills at wide receiver, and as long as Manning is (heck, even if he's not) around, Thomas will remain a high-end No.1 receiver for years to come.