Position Rankings in TD-Heavy Formats
Aug 4, 2014
More articles from Micah Hendrix
This series will focus on touchdown-heavy leagues in a redraft format. It will be broken down into six parts: quarterback, running back, wide receiver/tight end, rookies and dynasty rankings. Rankings will be done using a tier system. Touchdown-heavy leagues require a different set of strategies in order to succeed. Many traditionally strong fantasy players lose significant value when used in a touchdown-heavy format. Thus, values discussed in this five-part series will be mostly non-applicable to other leagues, especially leagues with points per reception formats.
Tier 1: 32-plus touchdowns is a lock, 38-plus touchdowns is possible
Tier 2: 28-plus touchdowns is a lock, 32-plus touchdowns is possible
Tier 3: 24-plus touchdowns is a lock, 28-plus touchdowns is possible
Tier 4: 20-plus touchdowns is all you can count on
Peyton Manning: Manning’s MVP, 56-touchdown performance last season positioned him as not only the No. 1 fantasy quarterback, but the No. 1 fantasy player overall in touchdown-heavy leagues. However, the last time Manning had a career year he proceeded to throw 21 fewer touchdowns the next season (2005). Eric Decker is gone, now running routes for the New York Jets; however, a much improved defense, coupled with the additions of Emmanuel Sanders and Cody Latimer, should offset the loss of Decker, making a production decline unlikely. Expect Manning, coming off his disastrous Super Bowl 48 performance, to be highly motivated to continue to perform at an elite level.
Drew Brees: For the last three seasons Brees has thrown for 40-plus touchdowns. He hasn’t scored less than 30 touchdowns in a season since 2007. Even with Brees aging there is no logical reason to expect a drop in production. He recently said, “If I can play five more years and be 40 years old when I retire, I’m still a young man.” So its clear Brees still feels healthy and confident. Lance Moore is gone, but the addition of Oregon State playmaker Brandin Cooks along with a healthy Marques Colston should open space for Jimmy Graham across the middle, allowing Brees to stretch the field and take shots to players like Cooks and Kenny Stills. Look for Brees to continue his fantasy dominance at the quarterback position for another year.
Aaron Rodgers: Sacks and injuries ruined the 2013 fantasy campaign for Rodgers. Guard Bryan Bulaga is healthy and left tackle David Bakhtiari has had another year to improve; Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson are both healthy, Jarrett Boykin and draft pick Davante Adams look to provide a solid rotation at WR3. Eddie Lacy also enters this year as a consensus top 5 fantasy running back as long as he stays healthy. Overall, Rodgers is in a much better situation to succeed. Look for him to regain the annual 40-plus touchdown form this year and contend for an MVP.
Mathew Stafford: I have made the bold step of moving Stafford into the top tier; however, I believe a simple connecting of the dots leads me to conclude Stafford is primed for the best year of his career. Comparing early careers of our other top tier quarterbacks, historically years 5-7 are where they ascend to elite levels. Stafford is in year 6. But one can’t ignore Stafford’s accuracy issues, caused by sloppy mechanics, have hurt him. The last two years he has regressed in completion percentage since his breakout 2011 campaign. Yet, under the tutelage of new quarterback specialists, head coach Jim Caldwell and offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, Stafford is already making huge mechanical strides to get back to his coveted 60 percent-plus completion rate that produced his only 40-plus touchdown season in 2011. With the additions of Golden Tate and Eric Ebron , a healthy Calvin Johnson , Joique Bell and Reggie Bush , look for Stafford to explode for another 40-plus touchdown season and ascend to an elite level.
Andrew Luck: The Indianapolis Colts and bold general manager Ryan Grigson continue to build around Luck with the additions of Hakeem Nicks , and by drafting two offensive linemen and wide receiver Donte Moncrief . The return of wide receiver Reggie Wayne and tight end Dwayne Allen will give Luck even more passing options. Newly acquired “special assistant to the coach” Rob Chudzinski has many people (myself included) speculating there will be a stronger emphasis on passing this season; a breath of fresh air after watching offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton take the ball out of Luck’s hands with his stubborn run-first play calling. Statistically, Luck improved his completion percentage from 54.1 to 60.2, and chopped his interceptions in half from 18 to nine in Year 2. All arrows this season point to a Luck explosion. By the end of the season he could be knocking on the door to Tier 1.
Ben Roethlisberger: Last season was a dismal one in Pittsburgh. There was a silver lining as the Pittsburgh Steelers finished 6-3 their last nine games, and Roethlisberger turned in three games of more than 350 yards passing and two four-touchdown games during that period. This could be attributed to offensive coordinator Todd Haley relinquishing more control during those nine games creating more no-huddle offense. Roethlisberger himself has since indicated this could be something we see a lot more next season: “I don’t want to call it our base offense, but I think you will be seeing a lot more of it.” I believe the 28 touchdowns Roethlisberger threw for in last year’s mediocre season is his floor. This year, look for Roethlisberger to put up 30-plus touchdowns, benefiting from the offensive system change.
Tom Brady: The 2013 NFL Season was a down one by Brady's standards, only scoring 25 touchdowns. It was the first time since 2009 that Brady had not put up Tier 1 numbers. Spotty offensive line play coupled with injuries and off-the-field issues put him in a situation of playing with his weakest supporting cast in recent memory. Rob Gronkowski looks to be ready for Week 1, Shane Vereen and Danny Amendola are also healthy, and the New England Patriots also added wide receiver Brandon LaFell . Reports have the Patriots shifting to three wide receiver sets spreading out the field. This would make sense with rumblings of the Patriots keeping up to seven wide receivers on the roster. Look for Brady to regain his form in 2014 and throw for 30-plus touchdowns.
Tony Romo: 31, 29, 32: The amount of touchdowns Romo has thrown for since 2010 when his season was cut short due to injury. Throwing 30 touchdowns is now the expectation, and with the addition of offensive coordinator/playcaller Scott Linehan, who set career highs in pass attempts for Matthew Stafford the last two years, look for Romo’s touchdown number to only improve. His offseason is progressing nicely. Romo says his back feels better now than it did at the same time last preseason. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Romo, if healthy, put up Tier 1 numbers based solely on the added volume Linehan’s offensive scheme brings to Dallas.
Robert Griffin III: Last season Andy Dalton came out and finished third in the league in touchdown’s scored with 35. It wasn’t because a light bulb went off in Dalton’s head, he had thrown for 27 the previous year, it was because offensive coordinator Jay Gruden installed a pass-centric offense that saw Dalton throw the ball 79 more times. Fast-forward: Gruden is now the head coach in Washington. They also brought in wide receiver DeSean Jackson . For the first time in over a year, Griffin III is healthy and playing with no brace. Talent was never an issue for Griffin as he showed during his rookie campaign; however, durability and the Shanahans proved to be his greatest hurdles. With the latter gone, look for durability as Griffin’s only concern going into a 2014 season that should see Griffin III return to form.
Russell Wilson: One of the most efficient quarterbacks in the league since he was drafted two years ago, the only thing that keeps Wilson from ascending to the top tiers in touchdown leagues is the run-first system he plays in. For example, in his first two years in the NFL, Wilson has only attempted 800 passes in the regular season. Compare this to high volume passers like Matthew Stafford (727) and Drew Brees (670), who threw that many attempts in one year. Even with these league-lows in attempts, Wilson has been able to produce 31 touchdowns and 27 touchdowns, respectively, the past two years. A healthy Percy Harvin would go a long way in allowing the field to open up for a more aggressive passing game. Either way look for Wilson to put in his 30 touchdowns on the stat sheet again.
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