Football fans across the country are finding ways to get through the long and grueling dog days of summer, be it attending training camp or downloading Madden demos.
Perhaps the best way to get to September is through fantasy football previews. After all, at least part of football’s incredible popularity can be traced to the explosion of fantasy football in recent years, and 2014 will be no different.
With that in mind, let’s dig into a discussion on some of the most underrated skill players who will have breakout 2014 campaigns.
QB Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears
Gone are the days when the Chicago Bears were led by the Monsters of the Midway defense. In fact, if you have any major player on the Chicago offense on your fantasy team, you will likely receive formidable production.
That includes quarterback Jay Cutler.
The Bears were second in the league behind the Denver Broncos in points per game last year, and this will be Cutler’s second season in Marc Trestman’s offense. Some of the credit for 2013 goes to Josh McCown, but Cutler should be much improved with more training under the so-called “quarterback whisperer.”
Cutler posted a career-best passer rating of 89.2 under Trestman last year even though he dealt with injuries throughout the season. More experience under Trestman is far from the only reason Cutler will have his best season in Chicago, though.
The Bears are absolutely loaded with offensive talent. Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery man the outside, Martellus Bennett runs routes down the seam from tight end and Matt Forte checks in at running back.
We are talking about two elite wide receivers who catch the ball in traffic and go up and get it at its highest point. As long as Cutler gets it within the vicinity of Jeffery and Marshall, he is going to rack up passing yards and touchdowns. And Bennett gives him a dangerous third option in the red zone.
Forte is also one of the best pass-catching running backs in all of football and finished third among rushers in receptions last year with 74 and fourth in receiving yards with 594.
With all those weapons, Cutler could turn in an MVP season. At least that’s what Marshall thinks, via Michael C. Wright of ESPN.com:
I don't think anybody would believe it. I don't know why they wouldn't believe it. [But] this is a different person. I don't know this guy. I don't know this new Jay Cutler. Maybe his new name is like Joshua or something. This is a totally different guy. Just call him Joshua Cutler. That's what the 'J' stands for.
RB Montee Ball, Denver Broncos
Montee Ball tallied only 80 fantasy points last year and ranked behind the likes of running backs Lamar Miller, Bobby Rainey and Bilal Powell.
Now that Knowshon Moreno is no longer in Denver, though, Ball has a chance to win the first team spot if he bounces back from his appendectomy. That designation will lead to a heavier workload and goal-line carries in arguably the NFL's most dangerous offense.
Moreno will likely never be mistaken for one of the most talented running backs in the league, but he managed to finish fifth in the position in total fantasy points last year. For context, that was higher than the immortal Adrian Peterson.
There will be plenty of games that the Broncos are ahead in the second half by multiple scores thanks to the prowess of Peyton Manning alone. Like Moreno last year, Ball will get the nod in those situations to eat up chunks of yards and gradually kill the clock. Fantasy owners won’t care whether Ball scores touchdowns in the first quarter of a close game or a blowout in the fourth quarter.
They will care only that he gets those points.
WR Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota Vikings
Cordarrelle Patterson turned some heads with his special teams production last year when he averaged more than 30 yards per kick return and scored twice. If you play in a league that features individual points for kick returns, Patterson may even be worth a look as early as the second round.
However, Patterson will be productive even in standard-scoring leagues.
He will likely be Minnesota’s No. 1 option in the passing game, which should lead to a number of catches based on his position on the depth chart alone. What’s more, the Minnesota Vikings play a number of impressive offenses this season, including the Bears twice, Packers twice, Lions twice, Saints and Patriots. That means they will likely be behind throughout the season.
Cue the passing game.
If and when the Vikings need points fast, it will be Patterson’s speed that makes him such an intriguing option on the deep ball. Perhaps that is what Greg Jennings had in mind when he shared this quote, via Albert Breer of NFL Network and NFL: Around the League:
No pressure or anything, Mr. Patterson.
All 2013 scoring information is courtesy of ESPN standard leagues.
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