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    Fantasy Review (08/04/14)

    John Ewing, Director of Research and Analytics, @johnewing
    By John Ewing
    Reviewing the 2013 fantasy season – fantasy studs and duds. Which position is the safest on draft day?



    The 2014 NFL preseason kicked off on Sunday night. That means it's time to get ready for Fantasy Football and your draft.

    In anticipation of PredictionMachine.com's 2014 NFL Preview, including fantasy football projections and rankings, being released on Wednesday, August 6th, we look back at the 2013 fantasy season.

    Sometimes you have to look back in order to move forward! Recapping the season can tell us which players were fantasy studs and which were fantasy duds. Also, which position is the safest on draft day?

    Note: preseason rankings are a composite from standard ten team leagues on ESPN and Yahoo.

    Quarterbacks

    There was a fair share of disappointing fantasy seasons from signal callers including Eli Manning, Michael Vick, and Josh Freeman. Yet, all of those quarterbacks were ranked outside the top ten in the preseason so their impact in fantasy leagues should have been minimal. Of the top ten preseason quarterbacks, only Aaron Rodgers and Robert Griffin III had truly disappointing fantasy seasons, both due to injury. Given the rules set up to protect quarterbacks and the use of up-tempo passing attacks, quarterback is one of the safest positions on draft day in terms of return relative to draft expectations.

    Fantasy Standout: Andy Dalton

    Cincinnati's quarterback was 16th overall in preseason rankings but produced a top five fantasy season throwing for more than 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns. The Red Rifle earned himself a $115 million contract extension.

    Player Preseason Rank Final Rank
    Aaron Rodgers 1 24
    Drew Brees 2 2
    Peyton Manning 3 1
    Tom Brady 4 13
    Cam Newton 5 3
    Matt Ryan 6 12
    Colin Kaepernick 7 10
    Robert Griffin III 8 19
    Matthew Stafford 9 7
    Russell Wilson 10 8

    Running Backs

    Last year running backs were a minefield. Injuries, ineptitude or both brought ruin upon countless fantasy teams. Only four of the top ten preseason running backs finished the year in the top ten.

    Arian Foster, Doug Martin, C.J. Spiller, Ray Rice and Trent Richardson – it is hard to remember a year when so many first round draft picks were complete busts. Running back by committee has replaced the workhorse back making it that much harder to plan for the position on draft day.

    Fantasy Standout: Eddie Lacy

    The NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year was drafted outside the top 20 among running backs but produced a top ten season with little help from Aaron Rodgers. Lacy will be a high draft pick this year but he will have to prove he is more than a one year wonder.

    Player Preseason Rank Final Rank
    Adrian Peterson 1 8
    Arian Foster 2 44
    Doug Martin 3 57
    Marshawn Lynch 4 4
    C.J. Spiller 5 27
    Ray Rice 6 28
    Jamaal Charles 7 1
    LeSean McCoy 8 2
    Trent Richardson 9 34
    Alfred Morris 10 15

    Wide Receivers

    If the NFL were to be described in two words, one might choose pass-happy. This explains the de-emphasis on running backs and fantasy owners favoring top-tier receivers early in drafts.

    Like quarterback, only two of the top ten preseason wide receivers, Julio Jones and Roddy White, had bad fantasy seasons. If it weren't for injuries, Atlanta's top pass catchers very well could have finished in the top ten.

    The top tier of receivers have proven to be a safe investment at your draft.

    Fantasy Standout: Alshon Jeffery

    Perhaps our best projection last season, we ranked Jeffery as the 29th best receiver in fantasy. ESPN and Yahoo both had the Bears pass catcher ranked outside the top 50 and going undrafted in most leagues. Following our advice you could have taken Jeffery in the last rounds of any draft and finished with a top ten receiver.

    Player Preseason Rank Final Rank
    Calvin Johnson 1 3
    A.J. Green 2 4
    Dez Bryant 3 7
    Brandon Marshall 4 5
    Julio Jones 5 67
    Demaryius Thomas 6 2
    Roddy White 7 56
    Larry Fitzgerald 8 16
    Vincent Jackson 9 14
    Andre Johnson 10 12

    Tight Ends

    Jimmy Graham dominated, Rob Gronkowski was injured and Tony Gonzalez remained immortal. There were few surprises at tight end with the exception of breakout seasons from Julius Thomas and Jordan Cameron.

    Your draft strategy at this position is not likely to change in 2014. Either you get Jimmy Graham early or you wait.

    Fantasy Standout: Julius Thomas

    Thomas went undrafted, 15th in preseason rankings, in many leagues but as part of the highest scoring offense in NFL history, the Broncos tight end proved to be a fantasy stud. Thomas caught 12 touchdowns last season, with so many weapons around Peyton Manning it'll be difficult to repeat that feat this fall.

    Player Preseason Rank Final Rank
    Jimmy Graham 1 1
    Rob Gronkowski 2 16
    Tony Gonzalez 3 4
    Vernon Davis 4 2
    Jason Witten 5 6
    Kyle Rudolph 6 36
    Greg Olsen 7 8
    Owen Daniels 8 38
    Antonio Gates 9 9
    Jermichael Finley 10 37

    Defense

    Seattle's defense won it a Super Bowl, it might have also won you a championship with a defensive best 195 fantasy points. Turnovers and defensive scores help drive defensive fantasy production, but both statistics regress to the mean from year to year. Can the Legion of Boom overcome the backslide and lead the league in interceptions in 2014?

    Fantasy Standout: Kansas City Chiefs

    The Chiefs defense led Kansas City to a 9-0 start. The Chiefs scored a league best seven defensive touchdowns from interceptions and fumbles. Kansas City finished with the second best fantasy defense, not bad for a unit that ranked 13th in the preseason.

    Team Preseason Rank Final Rank
    Seattle Seahawks 1 1
    San Francisco 49ers 2 6
    Houston Texans 3 32
    Chicago Bears 4 19
    Cincinnati Bengals 5 4
    New England Patriots 6 8
    Denver Broncos 7 11
    Pittsburgh Steelers 9 20
    St. Louis Rams 8 7
    Green Bay Packers 10 24

    Kickers

    Kickers are people too! But you are a fool if you draft a kicker before the final round. In fact, I encourage you not to draft a kicker at all. Use the pick on a lottery ticket and claim a kicker off the waiver wire before your first game.

    There is greater volatility in kickers year over year than in any other position. Just look at last year's preseason top ten. It is kicker roulette.

    Fantasy Standout: Adam Vinatieri

    The Colts kicker had his best season in his 19 year career accumulating 139 points. Vinatieri owes his success to fantastic accuracy from deep, 19 of 23 from 40 yards or more. Vinatieri was ranked as the 18th best kicker entering drafts.

    Player Preseason Rank Final Rank
    Stephen Gostkowski 1 1
    Blair Walsh 2 16
    Matt Bryant 3 21
    Justin Tucker 4 4
    Matt Prater 5 2
    Phil Dawson 6 6
    Josh Brown 7 28
    Sebastian Janikowski 8 26
    David Akers 9 29
    Randy Bullock 10 24


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