Fantasy Football Predictions 2014: Bold Projections for Stars on the Rise

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Fantasy Football Predictions 2014: Bold Projections for Stars on the Rise
Nick Wass/Associated Press

Bold fantasy football predictions always get a bad rap.

After all, in the dog days of summer with the season still on the distant horizon, it is rather easy to sit back in the armchair and scoff at any and all hypothetical musings.

Look at last year. Anybody who predicted Andy Dalton and Nick Foles scoring more fantasy points than Tom Brady deserves a medal. Ditto for anyone who thought Keenan Allen, as a rookie, would break into the top 20 scorers.

Yet, a deep dive into the players themselves, the situations and more can surely lead to some surefire bold predictions each offseason, no matter how crazy they may seem. Let's take a stab at a few below.

 

RGIII Regains Top-Five Form

Nick Wass/Associated Press

How quickly and easy it is to forget that as a rookie two seasons ago Robert Griffin III was a top-five scorer.

Things were rough last year, to say the least. The Baylor product rushed back from injury and saw his interception total jump from five as a rookie to 12 last year. As ESPN Stats & Info notes, the regression was plain as day:

Yet things have taken a turn for the better this offseason. Griffin is fully healthy and has a new head coach in Jay Gruden, who just so happens to know how to get the absolute best out of his quarterbacks—he coached the aforementioned Dalton to a top-five scoring performance last year.

"It's a good thing to have two coaches who believe in you," Griffin said, via ESPN's John Keim.

Nick Wass/Associated Press

Consider those shots fired at a former head coach, but also understand that it represents a drastic change in psyche for the young quarterback, who we can very easily forget is just 24 years old.

That alone is a victory in his fantasy comeback story. Gruden's system is another, as a basic extension of the system RGIII ran during his first two years as a pro—sans the high number of designed quarterback runs.

Weapons? RGIII has those, too. Alfred Morris, who last year rumbled for 1,275 yards and seven scores, is still around. But things under Gruden figure to tilt even more toward the aerial attack—where DeSean Jackson (No. 10 scoring wideout last year) and Pierre Garcon (No. 14) await, not to mention a slew of talented tight ends such as Jordan Reed and Logan Paulsen.

In other words, RGIII's 6.08 average draft position makes him a major steal, especially if he stays healthy.

 

DeMarco Murray Attains Top-Five Form

LM Otero/Associated Press

What's that? DeMarco Murray is a bust who can't stay healthy? Dallas just backed up a boatload of cash to Tony Romo's house this offseason, meaning the running game is an afterthought?

Please.

Murray has missed 11 games in three seasons, yes, but it's easy to gloss over the fact that last year was his healthiest and most productive.

Even better, he very quietly was a top-10 producer at his position. The former Oklahoma star also played in fewer games and took fewer handoffs than each of the names on the list in front of him, suggesting an uptick in usage and health will produce a special fantasy season indeed.

Murry is set to get at least half of the above qualifications in his fourth year.

According to ESPN's Todd Archer, Murray is due for more usage:

This will be (DeMarco) Murray's team. He will get the bulk of the work. I'm not ready to pencil Williams in for anything because of his injury history. Dunbar will get third-down tries, but Murray should see a career high in carries this year. He had 217 last year and missed a couple of games. I'd put him at 250 this year.

This meshes well with a statement from new Cowboys offensive play-caller Scott Linehan, who told 105.3 The Fan [KRLD-FM], via Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News, that the running game is the focus next season:

"Things that were done last year in the running game with DeMarco, the running style that was created here is really a good fit. That’s going to be our strength, being able to lean on that running game a little bit more than they have in the past."

All signs point toward Murray breaking through and joining the likes of Jamaal Charles and LeSean McCoy at the very top of the scoring board next offseason.

 

Golden Tate Breaks Into the Top 12

Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

For a wideout with a 7.07 ADP, Golden Tate is easy to overlook.

Perhaps it's the stigma produced from all of his years stuck in a run-first offense. Yet, the snowball effect of improvement the past four years is notable.

Not only has Tate improved each year, that positive force will be met by a sudden pairing with Calvin Johnson and being on the end of darts from Matthew Stafford in the most pass-happy offense in the NFL.

"I'm going to see a lot of single coverage," Tate told Gillian Van Stratt of MLive.com. "I'm probably going to see a lot of No. 2 and No. 3 cornerbacks because everyone's going to be on No. 81 (Calvin Johnson). I'm excited.

Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

If that's not convincing enough to peg Tate as a breakout, ponder (not Christian) this: He ranked as the No. 18 overall wideout in the NFL last year at Pro Football Focus (subscription required).

Of the 17 names in front of him on the list, only one saw fewer than his 93 targets. His superb 7.9 yards per catch after reception average ranked him No. 2 overall, and his 506 yards after the catch ranked him No. 8 overall. He even dropped just three passes overall.

Combine Tate's reliability, his elusiveness, the quantity of his new offense and lesser coverage with defenses focused on Megatron, and he's a lock to explode up the charts.

 

All average draft positions courtesy of FantasyFootballCalculator.com. All scoring info courtesy of ESPN standard leagues.

 

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