We made it. Football is back…Officially. Now that the preseason has started, I’m unveiling my Studs/Sleepers/Busts columns for each position.
These will be my final four Fire Sales of the offseason. I’ll start with quarterbacks and also do running backs, receivers and tight ends. For each position these are the players I have the strongest opinions on heading into the 2015 season.
Here’s a brief clarification of each section in case you’re confused:
Studs – Some of my top picks at each position. I won’t include the most obvious players like Aaron Rodgers and Adrian Peterson. Talking about them is a waste of time. My studs will usually be a tier or two below those elite players unless there’s someone I really want to discuss.
Sleepers – If you’ve followed The Fire Sale over the years you know I have strict rules on what players qualify as “sleepers.” Travis Kelce isn’t a sleeper. He’s a stud. Kelce is being drafted in Round 5 and coming off a year where he caught 67 passes for 862 yards and 5 touchdowns. Jordan Matthews isn’t a sleeper. He’s a stud. If someone wants to give those guys out as sleepers, they’re a year too late.
Busts – Busts are players I think will disappoint or won’t live up to their draft position. Remember though, bust doesn’t mean I think the player is bad. Sometimes it may, but it usually means I think the player won’t live up to where he’s being drafted.
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Now on with The Fire Sale…
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh – Big Ben emerged as a fantasy stud in 2014 by throwing for 4,952 yards and 32 touchdowns. I see no reason why Roethlisberger won’t continue to put up huge numbers this season.
The Steelers have some of the most talented skill position players in the NFL. Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, Markus Wheaton and Le’Veon Bell give the Steelers four explosive playmakers. Bryant, in particular, makes this offense scary because he’s heading into his second season.
I know some people think Big Ben is a little overvalued but I don’t see it. Pittsburgh is loaded on the offensive side of the ball.
The other thing I’ll say about Big Ben is I’ve hammered offensive coordinator Todd Haley in the past and for good reason. However, I also believe coaches can change.
For years, Haley had been a pig-headed control freak. I’ll never forget a time when he coached the Chiefs and they were down by 10 points with 5 minutes to go against San Diego and he was running out the clock. His play-calling was so atrocious I wouldn’t have hired him to coach grade school.
Apparently, Haley has softened though and is listening more to his quarterback. I’ll give Mike Tomlin credit. Big Ben and Haley weren’t getting along (big surprise) but something tells me Tomlin told Haley he had to ease back and give Roethlisberger more control.
I see everything lining up for Big Ben to have another huge year. Pittsburgh’s defense has gotten younger but I still think it’s a year away. Expect the Steelers’ defense to be inconsistent this season and struggle versus the better offenses. That means a lot of high scoring games for Big Ben and Co.
Big Ben will be one of my quarterback targets in re-draft leagues. He’ll also be one of my top options many weeks at DraftKings.
Drew Brees, New Orleans – Human beings overreact to things. It’s in our nature.
Brees lost Jimmy Graham and Kenny Stills, so there’s a tendency to believe that his numbers will suffer. Brees’ numbers are always good. They were good before Graham and they’ll be good after him. Sure, you never want to lose a stud like Graham but quarterbacks like Brees and Brady will just keep on piling up numbers regardless of who they’re throwing to.
I do believe you’ll lose a couple of those short touchdown passes that Brees used to throw to Graham. The Saints might run those in now, but overall, Brees will still have a big fantasy season.
Don’t fall for the reports of his demise. Brees is alive and well.
Eli Manning, New York – Last year, I remember a fantasy writer predicted Eli would be in the running for MVP. He said something ridiculous like, “Book it.” I think that fool may have even named his son Eli. A Cowboys fan naming his son Eli? What’s this world coming to?
I obviously have some kind of infatuation with Manning because I’m going back for more. I don’t know, maybe it’s because he was nice to me when I covered him at the Super Bowl back in 2008, but I have Manning ranked as my No. 7 fantasy quarterback. I’ll be honest, that might be too low.
I’ll say the same thing I said last year: I love Eli when he has time to throw and I love the Giants’ receivers. And that was before Odell Beckham Jr. became who he is now.
I’m not putting all my eggs in Victor Cruz’s basket. Whatever he can give, I’ll take. ODB is one of the top playmakers in the NFL. You won’t see any regression from him and I still think Rueben Randle can be something if he ever learns to run the right route at least 60 percent of the time.
Don’t underestimate the Shane Vereen signing, either. The Giants paid him a lot of money to come in and be a big factor. Offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo wanted a playmaker in his backfield. Vereen is going to catch a ton of balls this season.
Also, don’t forget how Manning ended last year. Over the second half of the season he averaged 309.7 yards and threw three touchdowns in a game three times. McAdoo had never called plays before last season and that was a factor in Eli’s slow start. I thought McAdoo overcompensated for the Giants’ suspect offensive line by being way too conservative in his play calling.
We kept hearing that it takes players all this time to adapt to a new offense. It does? That’s nonsense. It took the players in Philadelphia 10 minutes to get used to Chip Kelly’s offense. These guys are pros and Eli is a two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback. It doesn’t take them 14 months to learn an offense.
Now that McAdoo is more comfortable calling plays, Manning has been in the system for a year and Beckham is one of the most unstoppable receivers in the NFL, look for Eli to have a monster fantasy season. Book it…again.