Fantasy Football 2014: Fantasy Mock Draft Breakdown and Round-by-Round Analysis
With training camp in full swing and the NFL season just over a month away, it’s time to get serious about your fantasy football draft preparation.
And there’s no better way to hone your team-building strategy than through mock drafts.
You’ve done your homework. You’ve studied the expert player rankings and projections. You’re on top of all the recent and relevant league news.
Now, the next step toward draft dominance is putting your skills to the test in a live draft setting.
As a primer, the following 12-team, standard-league mock-draft breakdown provides a round-by-round analysis, examining the strategy and reasoning behind each of my selections, while also taking a look at the best and worst value picks in each round.
Each team’s roster includes the following positions:
QB, RB1, RB2, WR1, WR2, TE, Flex RB/WR/TE, D/ST, K, Bench (six total spots)
Join me as I build my team. Then, give it a try yourself and use the comments section to discuss your mock drafting results and strategy.
Note: The following mock draft was completed in late July on FantasyFootballCalculator.com. All references to ADP (average draft position) and positional rankings data derived from the site.
Round 1 (Calvin Johnson, WR)
1. LeSean McCoy, RB1
2. Adrian Peterson, RB2
3. Jamaal Charles, RB3
4. Matt Forte, RB4
5. Marshawn Lynch, RB5
6. Calvin Johnson, WR1
7. Eddie Lacy, RB6
8. LeVeon Bell, RB7
9. Demaryius Thomas, WR2
10. Jimmy Graham, TE1
11. Dez Bryant, WR3
12. Montee Ball, RB8
My Pick: Calvin Johnson, WR1
Drafting with the sixth overall pick, I selected Calvin Johnson to anchor my wide receiver corps. Outside of the top four running backs, Megatron is as safe a pick as there is in fantasy. He’s finished first, first and third at the position each of the past three seasons.
Though Johnson’s touchdown totals have fluctuated wildly over that span (16, five and 12), his receiving yardage totals are consistently elite—he’s finished first, first and third (sound familiar?) in total receiving yards among all pass-catchers since 2011.
Therefore, Megatron doesn’t need to score much to be dominant—a fact that sets him apart from the pack.
The Detroit Lions offense may be loaded with weapons, but Johnson is the centerpiece. At age 28, he’s still in the prime of his prime and no other receiver can quite match his upside or reliability.
Worst-Value Pick: Marshawn Lynch, RB5
For the most part, there were no major surprises to kick things off. The most debatable pick came at No. 5 with Marshawn Lynch.
“Beast Mode” has been nothing short of a stone-cold stud over the past three seasons. However, the recent news of Lynch’s plan to holdout of the Seattle Seahawks' training camp in hopes of receiving a new contract makes him a questionable first-round pick at the moment.
If the holdout drags on, there are always potential conditioning concerns in these scenarios. But, possibly of greater importance, his absence in camp gives backup running back and highly touted breakout candidate Christine Michael center stage this offseason to practice with the starting team and further impress his coaches.
Best-Value Pick: Jimmy Graham, TE1
On the flip side, a nice value pick came on the back end of the round with Jimmy Graham. The fifth-year tight end is only improving as a receiver, and he’s a no-brainer pick at this spot.
Graham’s value did take the slightest of hits recently on the news that fellow freak Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots is fully cleared for camp. Still a bona fide first-round value, Graham suddenly has a little more competition at the top of the tight end ranks.
Round 2 (DeMarco Murray, RB)
13. Arian Foster, RB9
14. Peyton Manning, QB1
15. Alfred Morris, RB10
16. Drew Brees, QB2
17. A.J. Green, WR4
18. Brandon Marshall, WR5
19. DeMarco Murray, RB11
20. Julio Jones, WR6
21. Aaron Rodgers, QB3
22. Giovani Bernard, RB12
23. Doug Martin, RB13
24. Jordy Nelson, WR7
My Pick: DeMarco Murray, RB11
After securing the top wideout in the game in Round 1, I was thrilled to nab 2013 breakout running back DeMarco Murray of the Dallas Cowboys with my second pick.
The stars seem to be aligning for Murray to have another tremendous season, and I have him valued as a top-five fantasy RB for 2014.
The biggest knock on Murray is his propensity for injury—his 14 games played last year were the most in his three-year career. While the 26-year-old is certainly not risk free, he’s in the healthiest stretch of his career, and it’s difficult to find a running back without at least a few question marks or blemishes after the top guys go off the board.
Murray finished eighth among fantasy running backs last season, despite receiving an average of just 15 rushing attempts per game. His touch rate should rise in 2014, as Cowboys’ new offensive coordinator Scott Linehan plans to “lean on” on the running game, as he noted on CBS Radio’s 105.3 The Fan [KRLD-FM].
In the final year of his rookie deal, Murray has every incentive to stay on the field and put together another great season.
Worst-Value Pick: Alfred Morris, RB10
There were not any egregious selections made in Round 2. Taking Alfred Morris with the 15th overall pick, however, could be a bit of a reach.
The Washington Redskins collapsed as a whole last year, sending head coach Mike Shanahan packing, along with his notoriously productive zone-blocking run scheme. Morris thrived as the workhorse in this system, totaling nearly 3,000 rushing yards in two seasons.
Now, Morris loses Shanahan for new pass-happy head coach Jay Gruden. A particularly poor pass-catcher out of the backfield, Morris could see his workload dip in 2014. He’s still a viable low-end RB1 but makes for a more suitable value in the third round.
Best-Value Pick: Jordy Nelson, WR7
One of the most underrated wide receivers in the league, Jordy Nelson is a solid steal at the end of Round 2.
At the halfway point of the 2013 season, Nelson clocked in as the No. 2 overall wide receiver in fantasy. When quarterback Aaron Rodgers went down in Week 9, Nelson’s production understandably waned, though he still managed to finish with a career high in receiving yards (1,314).
Now, Rodgers is healthy and Nelson is his top target. A formidable run game led by second-year beast Eddie Lacy should draw more defensive attention away from the passing game, making Rodgers to Nelson a deadly connection in 2014.
Round 3 (C.J. Spiller, RB)
25. Antonio Brown, WR8
26. Alshon Jeffery, WR9
27. Zac Stacy, RB14
28. Andre Ellington, RB15
29. Julius Thomas, TE2
30. C.J. Spiller, RB16
31. Randall Cobb, WR10
32. Keenan Allen, WR11
33. Vincent Jackson, WR12
34. Rob Gronkowski, TE3
35. Matthew Stafford, QB4
36. Larry Fitzgerald, WR13
My Pick: C.J. Spiller, RB16
Swinging for the fences, I pulled the trigger on C.J. Spiller as my second running back. After securing two of my top six overall players with Johnson and Murray, I viewed Spiller as a luxury pick, capable of winning leagues in 2014.
After a transcendent 2012 season, Spiller was a top-five draft pick last season. Following a high-ankle sprain in Week 4, the 26-year-old struggled to stay on the field for much of the season. However, when he was healthy, he reminded everyone just how special he can be.
Now, with many owners nervous about Spiller’s bust potential, the fantasy market has corrected itself and Spiller’s price is much more palatable.
Rostering a player with the enormous upside of Spiller in the third round is a move that can separate a contender from a champion. Sure, there is risk involved, which is why Spiller is also one of the most important players to handcuff this season (spoiler alert: see Round 9).
Worst-Value Pick: Matthew Stafford, QB4
Matthew Stafford has enormous upside given his arsenal of receiving weapons and perennially high volume of pass attempts. He’s undoubtedly capable of a top-three fantasy quarterback season and worthy of an early-round pick.
That being said, Stafford is not consistent enough on a week-to-week basis to earn his own tier as the fourth overall quarterback off the board. The position is simply too deep this year to justify burning such a premium pick on any QB outside the “Big Three” of Manning, Brees and Rodgers.
Best-Value Pick: Rob Gronkowski, TE3
One of the most controversial players in fantasy, Gronkowski is similar to Spiller—a high-risk, high-reward player of the highest order, capable of altering the game’s entire landscape.
Beginning camp off the PUP (physically unable to perform) list, it seems Gronk has recovered well from his season-ending knee injury suffered last December.
If he can avoid any setbacks, look for the 25-year-old (younger than both Jimmy Graham, 27, and Julius Thomas, 26) to continue his rise up the ADP charts.
Round 4 (Victor Cruz, WR)
37. Toby Gerhart, RB17
38. Reggie Bush, RB18
39. Rashad Jennings, RB19
40. Bishop Sankey, RB20
41. Pierre Garcon, WR14
42. Cordarrelle Patterson, WR15
43. Victor Cruz, WR16
44. Ryan Mathews, RB21
45. Andre Johnson, WR17
46. Wes Welker, WR18
47. Percy Harvin, WR19
48. Roddy White, WR20
My Pick: Victor Cruz, WR16
Cue the salsa music. To start alongside Megatron, I selected Victor Cruz as my No. 2 wide receiver.
Following the New York Giants’ embarrassing self-combustion in 2013, the devalued Cruz makes for a sneaky pick in the fourth round. We’re now two full seasons removed from his breakout, top-five fantasy WR campaign, but the upside is still there.
This offseason, the G-Men brought in offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo, formerly of the Green Bay Packers, to revitalize a unit that clearly lost its way last season. McAdoo’s up-tempo, quick-release scheme will help quarterback Eli Manning get rid of the ball more quickly and reduce his interception and sack rate, benefitting Cruz along the way.
This new system should allow Cruz to flex his big-play ability once again and return to low-end WR1 status.
Worst Value Pick: Wes Welker, WR18
Welker’s precipitous decline in 2013 was masked by his remarkably high touchdown rate to start the year. After racking up nine scores over the first eight games, Welker only found the end zone one more time over the second half of the season.
Welker ended up with his worst statistical year in targets (110), receptions (73) and receiving yards (778) since his 2006 season with the Miami Dolphins. This drop-off was due, in part, to Welker suffering two concussions in 2013, the latter of which caused him to miss the final three games of the year.
Head injuries are a compounding issue, and another incident could result in significant missed time for one of the NFL’s all-time great slot receivers. At his current ADP, Welker is too much of a gamble to invest an early-round pick.
Best Value Pick: Roddy White, WR20
Like the Giants, the Atlanta Falcons had a disastrous season that included injuries to the team’s two top wideouts, Julio Jones and Roddy White.
Once healthy, White averaged 8.5 receptions and more than 100 receiving yards over final five weeks of the season, reminding owners why they drafted him as a surefire stud just a few months earlier.
Prior to 2013, White put together six straight seasons of WR1 numbers, never missing a single game during that span.
Now, after one down year playing through injury, should we really relegate White to low-end WR2 status?
Clearly, the Falcons still think White has some juice left in his 32-year-old legs:
With camp about to begin, Falcons are giving WR Roddy White a 4-year extension that ties him to ATL for next five seasons, per sources.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) July 24, 2014
Falcons WR Roddy White's new four-year deal with ATL is worth up to $30 million, including $18 million the next two seasons, per source.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) July 24, 2014
Round 5 (Jordan Cameron, TE)
49. Shane Vereen, RB22
50. Andrew Luck, QB5
51. Frank Gore, RB23
52. Michael Crabtree, WR21
53. DeSean Jackson, WR22
54. Jordan Cameron, TE4
55. Chris Johnson, RB24
56. Jeremy Maclin, WR23
57. Torrey Smith, WR24
58. Trent Richardson, RB25
59. Ben Tate, RB26
60. Joique Bell, RB27
My Pick: Jordan Cameron, TE 4
Feeling as though I’d locked down two solid starters at running back and wide receiver, I felt good taking a chance here on one of my favorite upside players this year, tight end Jordan Cameron of the Cleveland Browns.
Cameron had his NFL coming out party in 2013, though his best production came over the first half of the season (596 yards and six touchdowns). Due to Cleveland’s turnstile of mediocre quarterbacks throughout the year, Cameron’s production understandably ebbed and flowed.
The former fourth-round pick had a particularly good rapport with quarterback Brian Hoyer, amassing four touchdowns over Hoyer’s two-game span as the starter. And it would appear Hoyer has the inside track on the Browns’ starting gig this year.
Browns player: "we're all expecting Hoyer to start" week 1. Feeling in locker room is Pettine will announce WELL BEFORE 3rd preseason game— bob holtzman (@BobHoltzmanESPN) July 25, 2014
A benefactor of troubled teammate Josh Gordon’s unfortunate downfall, Cameron is in line to be Hoyer’s “No. 1 read in the passing game,” according to Tony Grossi of ESPN Cleveland. Grossi expects that if Cameron remains healthy, as he did for the majority of 2013, “he will lead the team in receptions, yards and touchdown catches.”
Worst Value Pick: Jeremy Maclin, WR23
After missing all of 2013 with a knee injury, Jeremy Maclin returns to the field as one of the starting receivers in head coach Chip Kelly’s high-octane offense. The upside is there for Maclin to exceed his single-season career-high of 70 receptions and 964 yards from 2010.
However, Maclin’s low floor makes him a risky selection as a low-end WR2. His long resume of injuries is a concern, and it would seem the Philadelphia Eagles would agree, as evidenced by Maclin receiving just a one-year contract with the team back in February.
Also, there’s the potential for Maclin to get lost at times in this offense with the new pass-catching additions of Darren Sproles and rookie Jordan Mathews, not to mention the emergence of tight end Zach Ertz.
Maclin is best suited as a WR3 in 2014, making his current draft position too pricey.
Best Value Pick: Joique Bell, RB27
Joique Bell quietly had a top-20 fantasy running back season in 2013. Proving to be a solid, all-around talent, Bell excelled as a between-the-tackles bruiser, a goal-line rusher and a prolific receiver out of the backfield.
To reward his breakout season, the Detroit Lions and its new regime signed Bell to a lucrative three-year contract.
With offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi coming over from the New Orleans Saints, expect to see Bell take on an expanded role in the offense, with teammate Reggie Bush moving primarily into a change-of-pace role.
Bell makes for a high-end flex option with RB2 upside in 2014.
Round 6 (Michael Floyd, WR)
61. Mike Wallace, WR25
62. T.Y Hilton, WR26
63. Steven Jackson, RB28
64. Vernon Davis, TE5
65. Nick Foles, QB6
66. Pierre Thomas, RB29
67. Michael Floyd, WR27
68. Ray Rice, RB30
69. Emmanuel Sanders, WR28
70. Terrance Williams, WR29
71. Jason Witten, TE6
72. Robert Griffin III, QB7
My Pick: Michael Floyd, WR27
A top breakout candidate for 2014, Michael Floyd makes for an immense value this late in the draft. A viable WR2 option, Floyd has the chance to be a game-changer at the price of a flex option.
Arizona Cardinals beat writer Kent Somers lauded Floyd’s offseason performance in a June report for azcentral.com, expecting the third-year wideout’s role to continue to grow after leading the team in receiving yards last season.
Floyd is a physical deep threat receiver with WR1 potential.
Worst-Value Pick: Vernon Davis, TE5
Vernon Davis totaled an extraordinary 13 touchdowns in 2013 after averaging six scores over the three previous seasons, exemplifying just how volatile a statistic receiving TDs can be. The odds are that Davis will see a regression to the mean with his scoring rate in 2014, especially considering his drop in targets following Michael Crabtree’s return to the starting lineup last year.
Best-Value Pick: Robert Griffin III, QB7
Finally back in top physical condition and surrounded with high-caliber receiving weapons, Robert Griffin III is posed for a return to his tremendous rookie-season fantasy value. Under a new coaching regime, Griffin should be able to put his harrowing sophomore season behind him. His fantasy ceiling is as high as any player in the league, but owners should roster a decent backup option as insurance.
Round 7 (Stevan Ridley, RB)
73. Khiry Robinson, RB31
74. Julian Edelman, WR30
75. Tom Brady, QB8
76. Darren Sproles, RB32
77. Marques Colston, WR31
78. Stevan Ridley, RB33
79. Lamar Miller, RB34
80. Maurice Jones-Drew, RB35
81. Golden Tate, WR32
82. Terrance West, RB36
83. Bernard Pierce, RB37
84. Tony Romo, QB9
My Pick: Stevan Ridley, RB33
With plenty of starting quarterback value still on the board, I went after a guy in Stevan Ridley who was drafted as high-end, second-round pick just a year ago.
Following a stellar 2012 season (1,263 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns), Ridley continuously fumbled his way into New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick’s doghouse in 2013. Despite a disappointing year, the 25-year-old still managed a top-30 fantasy RB season.
There’s still hope for 2014. The Pats let late-season standout LeGarrette Blount walk in the offseason, a player who often stepped into the starting role when Ridley was sent to the bench. New England drafted a small but promising back in James White, but it’s unlikely he will get the opportunity to lead the backfield from the get-go.
There’s no question that Ridley can be a workhorse back. He’s done it before. If he can just hold on to the ball, there a chance he can return low-end RB1 value as a seventh-round selection.
Worst Value Pick: Khiry Robinson, RB31
A promising New Orleans Saints player headed into his sophomore campaign, running back Khiry Robinson could very well be the future of the team’s backfield—keyword: future.
Coming off his best season as a pro, Saints’ lead back Pierre Thomas received a new three-year deal this offseason. Meanwhile, in the final year of his rookie deal, the Saints may give former first-round pick Mark Ingram one last chance to prove himself before letting him walk in 2015.
As of now, Robinson is buried in the team’s depth chart. There’s certainly a chance he blows past the competition and returns decent value this year, but Robinson’s floor in this crowded Saints backfield is far too low to burn a mid-round pick.
Best Value Pick: Marques Colston, WR31
Speaking of the Saints, quarterback Drew Brees has a pair of exciting young wide receiver prospects in second-year deep threat Kenny Stills and dynamic rookie Brandin Cooks. Both trendy sleeper picks for 2014, Stills and Cooks remain firmly behind Marques Colston, the top wideout in the NFL’s second-most prolific passing offense.
Battling a nagging foot injury through much of 2013, Colston recently stated that he is completely recovered headed into camp.
#saints WR Marques Colston says, unlike last year, he has no foot issues. 'Feels completely different ... no restrictions.'— Ramon Antonio Vargas (@RVargasAdvocate) June 11, 2014
Round 8 (Matt Ryan, QB)
85. Kendall Wright, WR33
86. Sammy Watkins, WR34
87. Colin Kaepernick, QB10
88. Brandin Cooks, WR35
89. Cam Newton, QB11
90. Greg Olsen, TE7
91. Matt Ryan, QB12
92. Reggie Wayne, WR36
93. Dennis Pitta, TE8
94. Eric Decker, WR37
95. Seattle Seahawks, DEF1
96. Jordan Reed, TE9
My Pick: Matt Ryan, QB12
With a roster full of high-upside skill position players, it was finally time to find my quarterback. There’s a group of guys going in the middle rounds whom I value similarly, so I felt comfortable waiting until every other team drafted its starter before making my move.
Matt Ryan may not be the most exciting name among fantasy QBs. He doesn’t have the flashy playmaking ability of RG III or Kaepernick, nor the mystical upside of Nick Foles.
What Ryan does bring to the table is piece of mind for fantasy owners as one of the safest, most reliable quarterbacks in football.
He’s finished top-five in passing yards and completion percentage each of the past two seasons, recording seven 300-plus-yard games both years. Despite injuries to his top-two wide receivers last year, he still topped 4,500 yards and had a career-high 651 passing attempts.
The Atlanta Falcons are a pass-first offense, and with receivers Jones and White now healthy, Ryan can be one of the more productive passers in the league.
Worst Value Pick: Seattle Seahawks, DEF1
Projecting fantasy defenses can be a foolhardy exercise, except in the case of the Seattle Seahawks. The reigning Super Bowl squad should be a top-notch unit again in 2014.
Still, to reach into the mid rounds for any defense is an unnecessary risk when there is so much high-upside talent still on the table. For example, Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron went in the eighth round of drafts a year ago—finding the next version of those players will win leagues, not defenses.
Best Value Pick: Cam Newton, QB11
Three pro seasons, three top-four finishes among fantasy quarterbacks. Yes, Cam Newton has had a hellish offseason, losing his entire wide receiver corps and undergoing ankle surgery in March, but neither issue should have significant impact on his fantasy production.
Newton didn’t exactly have the murderer’s row of pass-catchers last season. His top wideout, Steve Smith, finished outside the top-40 fantasy WRs. And the rest were a collection of low-level bye week fill-ins.
It’s hard to argue that the level of talent Newton will work with this season is in any way worse than last year.
As for Cam’s ankle, it sounds like he’s good to go.
Gettleman: Cam Newton has been fully cleared.— Joe Person (@josephperson) July 24, 2014
Surely he will have to ease his way back into playing shape, and it will be worth monitoring if Newton’s surgery hinders his running ability headed in to the late preseason. But if he’s back to full speed in time for Week 1, expecting a precipitous drop-off in production is unwarrented.
Between Ryan, Newton and Kaepernick all falling this far, there’s every reason to wait on quarterback in fantasy drafts this year.
Round 9 (Fred Jackson, RB)
97. David Wilson, RB38
98. Riley Cooper, WR38
99. Danny Woodhead, RB39
100. Christine Michael, RB40
101. Darren McFadden, RB41
102. Fred Jackson, RB42
103. Philip Rivers, QB13
104. Cecil Shorts, WR39
105. Devonta Freeman, RB43
106. Dwayne Bowe, WR40
107. Jeremy Hill, RB44
108. Kyle Rudolph, TE10
My Pick: Fred Jackson, RB42
Selecting Fred Jackson was an easy choice here. After taking on the risk of Spiller in Round 3, Jackson makes for a vital insurance policy.
Though he is now ancient in running back years at 33, Jackson still managed a top-ten fantasy RB season in 2013—a feat that few other backup backs can boast.
It’s possible the Buffalo Bills will scale back Jackson’s workload this season, however, if Spiller goes down, FJax is the only proven commodity on the roster. And if he can ward off Father Time for another year, Jackson could easily return flex value regardless of Spiller’s health.
Worst-Value Pick: Darren McFadden, RB41
Most fantasy owners are done with Darren McFadden.
He’s averaged fewer than ten games played over the past three seasons. When he has played, he’s mostly performed poorly, averaging a menial 3.3 yards per rushing attempt each of the last two years.
Now, McFadden faces greater competition for touches from veteran Maurice Jones-Drew and intriguing backup Latavius Murray. There are simply too many other good options still on the board to waste a pick on McFadden in the ninth round.
Best-Value Pick: David Wilson, RB38
All cleared for training camp, David Wilson is suddenly interesting again for fantasy. As long as he can stay on the field, Wilson is a dangerous weapon with game-breaking ability.
He instantly moves into the No. 2 RB role behind starter Rashad Jennings. Both backs have their fair share of injury woes, and an injury to either player could vault the other’s value significantly.
At just 23 years old, Wilson still may have a promising career ahead of him. Barring an offseason setback, he’s one of the highest-upside running backs going in the later rounds.
Round 10 (Marvin Jones, WR)
109. Mike Evans, WR41
110. Carolina Panthers, DEF2
111. Jay Cutler, QB14
112. Danny Amendola, WR42
113. Hakeem Nicks, WR43
114. Knowshon Moreno, RB45
115. Marvin Jones, WR44
116. Russell Wilson, QB15
117. Rueben Randle, WR45
119. Tavon Austin, WR46
120. San Francisco 49ers, DEF3
My Pick: Marvin Jones, WR44
As the NFL grows more and more pass happy, the later rounds of fantasy are now filled with substantial wide receiver value. At this point in the draft, there are still plenty of available players in starting roles with significant opportunity to succeed.
Looking for the guys most likely to provide real fantasy value, I grabbed third-year Cincinnati Bengals receiver Marvin Jones as my fourth option at the position. Following a ten-touchdown sophomore season, Jones is positioned to assume a full-time starting role alongside teammate A.J. Green.
Jones played on less than half of the team’s snaps in 2013 and still managed a top-25 fantasy WR season. With a current ADP of WR50, Jones is a massive bargain with WR2 upside.
Worst-Value Pick: Danny Amendola, WR42
The true worst picks of the round go to those reaching for defenses. However, to avoid redundancy, Danny Amendola also makes for subpar selection.
Like McFadden, Amendola is tough to trust. He’s been through three consecutive injury-plagued seasons, missing 50 percent of his games over that span. And even when healthy, he’s never topped 700 receiving yards or three touchdowns in a season.
At best, he’s the fourth receiving option on the Patriots after Gronkowski, Julian Edelman and Shane Vereen. But there’s no guarantee he’ll even end up ahead of guys like Aaron Dobson or Brandon LaFell when it all shakes out.
Best-Value Pick: Jay Cutler, QB14
Surrounded by two of the most productive wide receivers in the NFL, one of the top pass-catching running backs and “the Quarterback Whisperer” Marc Trestman as head coach, Jay Cutler is in an incredible position to be a stud fantasy QB in 2014.
The opportunity is not the question with Cutler; it’s whether or not he can seize it. The ninth-year veteran has not topped 3,100 passing yards or 20 touchdowns since 2010 and has battled several injuries over that time.
Still, given the elite weaponry at his disposal, Cutler is well worth a late-round gamble.
Round 11 (Jarrett Boykin, WR)
121. DeAngelo Williams, RB46
122. Zach Ertz, TE12
123. DeAndre Hopkins, WR47
124. Kenny Stills, WR48
125. Anquan Boldin, WR49
126. Jarrett Boykin, WR50
127. Carlos Hyde, RB47
128. Knile Davis, RB48
129. LeGarrette Blount, RB49
130. Kelvin Benjamin, WR51
131. Ben Roethlisberger, QB16
132. Johnny Manziel, QB17
My Pick: Jarrett Boykin, WR50
Similarly to my choice of Jones in the previous round, drafting Jarrett Boykin is all about potential. The fifth wide receiver on my roster, it’s unlikely I will ever need to call upon his services. But should my WR corps be decimated by injury, Boykin is the kind of lottery-ticket wide receiver who could help salvage a season.
Though he sits as the third wide receiver in the Green Bay Packers offense, Boykin is one injury to either teammate Jordy Nelson or Randall Cobb from immediately earning top-20 WR status. And even in his current role, Boykin is likely to pull off some big games here and there.
Worst-Value Pick: Johnny Manziel, QB17
From this point on, few picks can really be considered poor choices. Unless you’re looking to select a backup kicker, just about any pick is justifiable. And drafting Johnny Manziel is no different.
Given his playmaking nature, Manziel has serious potential for fantasy. But considering he’s currently working as the backup to teammate Brian Hoyer on a team with limited receiving talent, taking Manziel over a player like Andy Dalton (the No. 5 fantasy QB in 2013) may be a slight reach.
Best-Value Pick: Anquan Boldin, WR49
The No. 15 fantasy wide receiver from last season, Anquan Boldin is going off the board in deep-sleeper territory this season. His production did not decline when teammate Michael Crabtree returned from injury last year, so there’s little reason to expect Boldin to suddenly fade into fantasy irrelevancy.
He’s a decent flex option coming at a phenomenal discount.
Round 12 (Lance Dunbar, RB)
133. Tre Mason, RB50
134. Jordan Mathews, WR52
135. Denver Broncos, DEF4
136. Ladarius Green, TE13
137. New England Patriots, DEF5
138. St. Louis Rams, DEF6
139. Lance Dunbar, RB51
140. Andy Dalton, QB18
141. Charles Clay, TE14
142. Martellus Bennett, TE15
143. Aaron Dobson, WR53
144. Steve Smith, WR54
My Pick: Lance Dunbar, RB51
No complicated strategy here—Lance Dunbar is the most likely successor to Murray, my lead running back, so this pick helps lock down that backfield. Dunbar is a talent pass-catcher, making him a valuable handcuff in the Cowboys’ pass-heavy offense under OC Linehan.
Worst Value Pick: Steve Smith, WR54
Once again, it’s hard to criticize any pick at this point. Steve Smith might have the lowest ceiling of any player drafted in this round, so he’ll have to take the worst value honors here. Headed into his 14th pro season, Smith’s production should be fairly forgettable as a possession receiver in a limited role on a new team. However, he may be worth a start in Week 4, when he faces the Carolina Panthers.
Steve Smith to WFNZ on possibly facing the Panthers next season. "There's going to be blood and guts everywhere" pic.twitter.com/wWctzao04d— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) March 13, 2014
Best Value Pick: Martellus Bennett, TE15
The No. 10 tight end from 2013, Bennett still has plenty of room to grow in head coach Trestman’s high-octane offense. With so much defensive attention directed toward “Monsters of the Midway” Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, quarterback Cutler should have no problem finding the 6’6” Bennett open on frequent occasion.
Round 13 (Stephen Gostowski, K)
145. Matt Prater, K1
146. Arizona Cardinals, DEF7
147. James Jones, WR55
148. Justin Hunter, WR56
149. Cincinnati Bengals, DEF8
150. Stephen Gostkowski, K2
151. Jonathan Stewart, RB52
152. Eli Manning, QB19
153. Andre Brown, RB53
154. Markus Wheaton, WR57
155. Justin Tucker, K3
156. Houston Texans, DEF9
My Pick: Stephen Gostowski, K2
Whereas streaming defenses and playing the weekly matchups can be an effective strategy for fantasy, streaming kickers is much more of a crapshoot. Taking a kicker anywhere except the last round is generally frowned upon, but Stephen Gostowski is the one guy worth the reach. He’s finished in the top two at the position each of the last three years. No other NFL kicker has even finished in the top five each year during that same span.
Worst-Value Pick: Jonathan Stewart, RB52
Already sidelined with a pulled hamstring, Jonathan Stewart is another player not worth the headache of ownership. He hasn’t had a 100-plus-yard rushing performance in 31 games played since 2010. His rushing attempts have declined five straight seasons. Just. Stay. Away.
Best-Value Pick: Justin Hunter, WR56
A freakish athlete possessing a raw but dangerous skill set, Justin Hunter is another late-round wide receiver deserving of a flier. If he can impress his coaches this offseason and earn an expanded role, he could be one of the best value picks in fantasy.
Round 14 (Doug Baldwin, WR)
157. Ahmad Bradshaw, RB54
158. Odell Beckham Jr., WR58
159. Kansas City Chiefs, DEF10
160. Greg Jennings, WR59
161. Josh McCown, QB20
162. Carson Palmer, QB21
163. Doug Baldwin, WR60
164. Heath Miller, TE16
165. Mark Ingram, RB55
166. Antonio Gates, TE17
167. Steven Hauschka, K4
168. Ryan Tannehill, QB22
My Pick: Doug Baldwin, WR60
Even before the news broke recently of Seattle wide receiver Sidney Rice’s early retirement, Doug Baldwin was already in line to assume starting wideout duties in 2014. Though the Seahawks are a run-first team, quarterback Russell Wilson is an accurate deep passer who takes a decent amount of shots downfield. As my team’s sixth wide receiver, Baldwin is expendable if he does not pan out.
Worst-Value Pick: Josh McCown, QB20
Entering his 13th pro season, Josh McCown has never started a full season in his career. He threw his career-high 408 passing attempts a decade and five teams ago. His success last year was a product of the system and his surrounding talent, and things just aren’t the same in Tampa Bay. While there are no wrong picks at this point, there are safer backup QB options with just as much upside.
Best-Value Pick: Ahamd Bradshaw, RB54
Following teammate Vick Ballard’s devastating Achilles injury suffered in training camp, Ahmad Bradshaw stands alone as the only real threat to supplant Trent Richardson as the Indianapolis Colts’ primary rusher in 2014. Cleared for practice following a season-ending neck injury sustained early last season, the 28-year-old is finally back on the field. As long as Bradshaw stays upright, Richardon’s job is not safe.
Round 15 (Philadelphia Eagles, DEF)
169. Roy Helu, RB56
170. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, DEF11
171. Mason Crosby, K5
172. Dan Bailey, K6
173. Phil Dawson, K7
174. Philadelphia Eagles, DEF12
175. Adam Vinatieri, K8
176. Greg Zuerlein, K9
177. Alex Henery, K10
178. Matt Bryant, K11
179. Dwayne Allen, TE18
180. Blair Walsh, K12
My Pick: Philadelphia Eagles, DEF12
I’m not interested in reaching for a defense this year, so I’m streaming the best matchups from the start. And in Week 1, the Eagles take on the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars.
I expect the Jags to be a much better squad this year, but not right away. Either rookie Blake Bortles or perennially mediocre Chad Henne will be playing on the road in Philly in the season opener. And with top WR Cecil Shorts already banged up, the team may have to start a couple of rookies at wide receiver.
This game is a pick-six sanctuary and a tasty streaming option to begin the season.
Best-Value Pick: Dwayne Allen, TE18
After missing nearly all of 2013 with a hip injury, Dwayne Allen is back to full health and ready to resume starting tight end duties for the Colts. Listed ahead of Coby Fleener on the team’s depth chart, Allen will be prominently featured in offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton’s offense, according to a report from Kevin Bowen of the team’s official website. With Andrew Luck at quarterback, Allen could return top-ten TE value.
Worst-Value Pick: N/A
There were no bad value picks in the final round.
|Running Backs:||DeMarco Murray, C.J. Spiller, Joique Bell, Stevan Ridley, Fred Jackson, Lance Dunbar|
|Wide Receivers:||Calvin Johnson, Victor Cruz, Michael Floyd, Marvin Jones, Jarrett Boykin, Doug Baldwin|
|Tight End:||Jordan Cameron|
All statistics courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com, unless otherwise indicated. All contract-related information courtesy of Spotrac.com. All depth-chart related information courtesy of Ourlads.com. All fantasy scoring information courtesy of ESPN standard leagues.
James Paradis is a fantasy football featured columnist for Bleacher Report. Be sure to check out his entire archive on fantasy strategy and analysis.