Eli Manning Ready to Shine in 2015

Eli

Eli is ready to build off of a very respectable 2014 campaign

Eli Manning wants to limit his turnovers for the upcoming season and his goal is very much in reach. Manning isn’t among the top fantasy keepers, but he had a very successful season, posting a 2.14 to 1 TD/Int ratio and there’s no reason to doubt that can improve upon those numbers and put himself in the conversation for an MVP award.

The Giants offensive unit has been significantly upgraded and will alleviate some stress for QB Eli Manning. New York just recently added pass-catching RB Shane Vereen whose contributions helped the Patriots secure the team’s 4th Super Bowl title. Vereen’s presence in the backfield will provide a safety outlet for Manning to turn to in high-pressure situations.

In addition to adding Vereen, the Giants will also benefit from the return of WR Victor Cruz if he can get healthy. Cruz has proven his ability to create separation and make big plays, as he broke 1,000 receiving yards in 2011 and 2012 (and reached 998 in 2013 in 14 games) and registered 19 total touchdowns. Following surgery to repair a torn patellar tendon, his ability to once again play at an elite level is questionable, but with a strong recovery, he could blow up for another strong year.

Manning will also be able to turn to TE Larry Donnell who could be one of this year’s fantasy sleeper picks. Donnell is not afraid to catch the ball over the middle and can be decent target in the red zone. He flashed signs of that potential during his 3 touchdown performance Week 4 in New York’s road win against the Washington Redskins. With the WR corps calling for most of opposing defenses’ attention, Donnell should benefit from the lack of attention.

The last important piece to Eli Manning’s successful season is the most important player in this offensive unit. Odell Beckham. Beckham exploded for a rookie season campaign that earned him the 2014 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award. The 22-year-old freak athlete went for 1,305 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns on 91 receptions. The stats prove to be very impressive, and even more so since he only played in 12 games, and he broke 100 yards in 7 of them.

With Cruz and Beckham operating in the same system together for the first time, Eli Manning should have little trouble finding open receivers. It’s not out of the question for Manning to keep his interceptions in single digits as he has suggested he can do, so long as his targets stay healthy and focused.

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Cowboys Backfield Running on Empty

Darren

Unless Dallas pulls off a blockbuster trade, they will struggle with Darren McFadden

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is under the impression that his team’s running game will be even better than it was last season. despite the departure of the league’s leading rusher, DeMarco Murray. It might be wishful thinking or something else, but the reality is that the Dallas rushing game is headed for disaster.

The Cowboys elected not to draft a running back in this year’s NFL Draft, failing to find a suitable replacement for DeMarco Murray who crossed divisional lines to play for the Eagles. Now it appears that Dallas will stick with Darren McFadden at the forefront, with Joseph Randle and Lance Dunbar handling backup duties.

McFadden is far from the the list of top fantasy keepers and can’t even be considered in the category of fantasy sleeper picks. His best days are long behind him and even in his prime, he was always terribly fragile. Despite all of this, McFadden sits atop the depth chart in Dallas and his numbers from 2014 prove he has no serious fantasy upside. McFadden rushed for a mediocre 534 yards last season with the Oakland Raiders, adding just 2 touchdowns, and failing to surpass 100 yards in any of his team’s 16 games.

Some of these problems might be alleviated with Dallas’s killer offensive line, as they heavily contributed to DeMarco Murray’s career year comprised of 1,845 yards, 13 touchdowns, and 12 100+ yard games. Murray was very well-protected, which led to 2014 being the first year he was able to participate in all 16 games.

Despite the ability of the Cowboys’ offensive line to increase running back production, I’m skeptical that they are done making moves to help improve their backfield situation. Adrian Peterson is currently still a member of the Vikings, and notably wants out of Minnesota, leaving a late offseason transaction a possibility that could help both sides.

Though the Vikings are currently in a state of commitment to their franchise RB, he has expressed his interest in a trade to the Cowboys, and they are making space for him. According to Yahoo! Sports, Dallas’ QB Tony Romo has agreed to restructure his contract, clearing up nearly $13 million in cap space. Adrian Peterson’s current contract is for 3 years, $46 million, and it would look very strange if Romo’s restructuring was not done in order to free up room for a potential acquisition.

Regardless of whether a deal strikes between the Cowboys and Vikings, it looks very promising that Dallas will make another push for Adrian Peterson.

Despite Rumblings, C.J. Anderson is the Man in Denver

C.J. Anderson

Even with no decent blocking, C.J. Anderson made his mark in the Mile High City

Broncos running back CJ Anderson’s spectacular 2014 season has him sitting atop the depth chart heading into the new year, but according to OC Gary Kubiak, he will have to earn the starting spot all over again. Anderson was certainly one of last season’s top fantasy sleeper picks, but there were reports of conditioning issues towards the end of last season. This may have contributed to his decline in production, but it still seems as though he may be the best man for the job.

Anderson started the 2014 season as the #3 RB behind Ronnie Hillman and Montee Ball, and was given a chance to prove his worth after both backs went down with injuries. Anderson took over as the lead back in week 10, and put up 767 rushing yards and 10 total touchdowns from there on out (8 games). With all 3 backs now healthy heading into training camp, there should be an open competition, but it’s hard to see anyone other than Anderson taking the starting spot.

Though his conditioning toward the end of the season may have put a damper on his strong sophomore season campaign, but his performance in the playoffs showcased his resilience. Anderson’s numbers were average, but there were two plays against Indianapolis he made where he extended drives by fighting through multiple tackles on fourth down. His ability to break tackles, in addition to his agility and cutting ability should secure CJ Anderson his starting role.

Anderson broke 1,000 all purpose yards as a second-year tailback taking over after multiple injuries at the position. With the opportunity to start for an entire season, he should easily break 1,000 rushing yards and at least 8 touchdowns.

Rookie Fantasy Forecast : Kevin White or Amari Cooper?

These top prospects are headed into very different situations

These top rookie prospects are headed into very different situations

College standout WRs Amari Cooper and Kevin White were both top ten picks in this year’s NFL Draft, but which one has the potential to develop into one of the top fantasy keepers for a dynasty leagues? Both receivers were outstanding in college, so you can’t really call them fantasy sleepers picks, but both players are coming into very different team situations. If last year’s NFL trends have any impact on the developments for this season, White should be very productive with the Chicago Bears offense, but Cooper’s chance for instant success with the Raiders will be much more hard to come by.

Cooper had a stellar season with Alabama last year, coming up with 124 receptions for 1,727 yards and 16 touchdowns, but his experience as a professional will be a much taller order. Alabama is a college football powerhouse, whereas the Oakland Raiders have been one of the worst team’s in the league for the past decade. The Raiders ranked dead last in offense last season, posting just 282.2 yards per game.

More specifically, Oakland’s passing attack ranked 28th in passing yards with 3,456 total, and 216 receiving yards per game. Cooper will have to deal with the young and inexperienced QB Derek Carr throwing to him, which might not bode well for his success. Though his first season might be rough, hopefully Amari Cooper and Derek Carr can grow together, and make each other better moving forward. Thankfully for Kevin White, he won’t have to wait to develop as a force in the NFL.

Like Amari Cooper, Kevin White also had an impressive 2014 season at West Virginia, as he racked up 1,447 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns on 109 receptions, and should be able to continue his success at the next level. The Bears did not have the greatest offensive season in 2014, but Kevin White should be able to help QB Jay Cutler get back to form. Chicago was a middle-of-the-pack passing team a season ago, as they ranked 14th in 4,035 total passing yards, at 252.2 yards per game. Kevin White will have big shoes to fill after the departure of Brandon Marshall, but he should not have too much trouble. White will find many open looks with WR Alshon Jeffery commanding the attention of opposing defenses.

Kevin White could certainly be in for a 1,000 yard rookie season, but Amari Cooper might not be so lucky.

Phillip Rivers Looking for the Right Fit

There is rampant speculation that Rivers will not play for San Diego this year

There is rampant speculation that Rivers will not play for San Diego this year

It appears that quarterback Phillip Rivers is ready to call it quits in San Diego even though he made sure to show up for the start of the Chargers offseason workout program on Monday. Rivers is in the final year of his contract and has made it clear that he is open to being traded this season if he can find the right fit.

The 33 year-old QB cut off contract extension negotiations in March and reports have surfaced that the Bolts may try to acquire the #2 overall pick in the draft to get Oregon QB Marcus Mariota.

The writing on the wall is clear and 2015 will be Rivers last season in San Diego, unless of course he ends up somewhere else this year. The Chargers don’t want to pay Rivers and feel that his long-term health is an issue. Many experts believe that a trade with the Titans for the #2 overall pick makes a lot of sense because Rivers would be playing with his ex-Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt.

Trading Rivers to the Titans seems like a no-brainer for the Chargers organization since they will be getting rid of a disgruntled QB who only has a few decent years left in the tank. The reason this trade is not inevitable is because the Titans may see more long-term success drafting Mariota, Leonard Williams or perhaps even Amari Cooper.

Stevan Ridley Ready to Fly with the Jets

Stevan Ridley can be a difference maker for Gang Green

Stevan Ridley can be a difference maker for Gang Green

WRITTEN BY CONNOR O’HALLORAN

Stevan Ridley has yet to fully recover from the knee injury that abruptly ended his 2014 season, but the New York Jets are determined to have him leading their rushing attack coming into the 2015 season.

Ridley and his doctors believe that the former New England running back will be firing on all cylinders when training camp kicks off later this summer. It’s been five months since his knee surgery and many believe that this former fantasy RB stud can lead a crowded New York backfield.

Ridley’s 2014 season was cut short when he tore his ACL and MCL in October playing for the Patriots. His injury dropped his stock in free agency dramatically considering he’s only two years removed from a 1,200 yard, 12 TD season.

Ridley has always had issues with ball security but if he can protect the ball and get back to his old self, he could regain fantasy relevance.

Ridley joins Chris Ivory as the second power-back on the roster. Ridley will need to establish himself in the passing game if he wants to get on the field during third down situations. Ridley has always had success finding the end zone so there is a lot of upside for the Jets.

At 26, Ridley has plenty of good years left in the tank and could end up being the go-to-guy for Gang Green’s backfield this season.

Dancing Days May be Over for Victor Cruz

There are no guarantees that Cruz will be ready for the start of the season

There are no guarantees that Cruz will be ready for the start of the season

Reports are swirling that Victor Cruz may never fully regain the form that made him one of the most explosive players in the NFL before a patellar tendon injury sent him to the sidelines. Cruz is 5 months removed from season-ending surgery and may not be ready for the beginning of the 2015 regular season.

Cruz just started running at the Giants facility last week, but it looks like the Giants are going to ease Cruz back into action to ensure that the receiver doesn’t have a setback. Coach Tom Coughlin has already hinted at the fact that the organization would make sure Cruz was fully healed before he was thrust back into action.

The Giants followed a slow and precise recovery plan with Odell Beckham Jr. last year when he was dealing with an injured hamstring. That plan obviously worked as ODB went on to win the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. During the 2014 season, Beckham missed the entire pre-season and the first four weeks of the year with a hamstring injury.

Cruz thinks that he will back at 100% by May or June, but outside sources say he is not even close to a return to the field.

If Cruz can get back to his old ways, the Giants will have one of the better one-two punches at wide out in the league. But that is far from certain given that Cruz’s success relies on short routes, quick cuts and is coming off one of the worst possible knee injuries.

It will be interesting to see how Cruz progresses through the off-season and if he can ever regain fantasy relevance.

Quick Tips for a Better Fantasy Draft

Get organized before you are on the clock!

Get organized before you are on the clock!

You will always encounter players who have been cramming for the upcoming fantasy draft for weeks now. They are reading every fantasy trade publication, listening to sports radio in the car and watching Baseball Tonight podcasts into the wee hours of the morning. However, all is not lost. With a little bit of common sense and a some sensible research, the average sports fan can be ready for the draft in about 90 minutes.

Fantasy Sports championships are rarely won during the initial fantasy draft, but building a decent fantasy squad NEVER hurts. Here are 3 tips to help smooth out the bumps in this year’s fantasy draft:

Make, borrow or steal a 1-PAGE cheat sheet –

Have a notebook, laminated placard or scrap of paper that has at least 3 players listed that you really want at each position. This takes a little more homework, but it gives you a rough strategy on how to run your draft.

Feel free to stray away if you see a juicy player sitting on the board, but keep the list handy. When those seconds start ticking away, having a cheat sheet could mean the difference between drafting a solid player or another completely wasted pick.

Phones can die, computers can lose signal, magazines are too hard to navigate, one piece of paper is all that you need. Your cheat sheet must limited to ONE-PAGE. There’s nothing more entertaining that watching someone with 2 open magazines and 30 sheets of paper flying around like a sand storm while they are trying to remember the name of that hotshot minor leaguer that’s supposed to set the league on fire.

Don’t be a Charles Barkley!

Sir Charles obviously has no business calling NCAA Men’s college games because he could care less. During the first half of the Kansas vs. Wichita State game, he mentioned that Cliff Alexander was playing pretty good. The only problem is that Cliff Alexander in under investigation by the NCAA and hasn’t stepped foot on basketball court in the nearly a month.

My point is, even if you are a casual player, READ an MLB INJURY REPORT!

It never ceases to amaze me during a fantasy draft when some genius scoops up a player who is injured, suspended or is already done for the year. It takes about 20 minutes for that bit of research and saves you from a wasted pick or being the laughing stock of your fantasy league.

Only draft players you have actually heard of –

This seems like common sense, but many people still feel compelled to roll the dice.

WOW – You found a top-50 ranked pitcher – And he’s still on the board, what a steal!!

Maybe, maybe not? It doesn’t matter how this player slipped under your notice, drafting someone you don’t know is tempting, but not worth the risk. There are 1,200 active players to choose from and it only makes sense to draft someone you have heard of before.

Chip Kelly Turning Eagles into Dead Ducks?

Chip Kelly seems determined to dismantle his 10-win team

Chip Kelly seems determined to dismantle his 10-win Eagles team

Being a standout college football coach rarely translates into success at the professional level. There are notable exceptions of course, but it’s highly unlikely that Chip Kelly will ever be recognized with the likes of Jimmy Johnson or Pete Carroll. The Philadelphia Eagles are suddenly an organization in crisis and no amount of coaching genius (real or imagined) is going to help them recover.

LeSean McCoy is inexplicably in Buffalo, Jeremy Maclin is on his way to Kansas City and Nick Foles suddenly finds himself in a Rams uniform. Maybe coach Kelly’s next masterstroke will be calling on the Phillies to send over Cliff Lee to join his island of “Misfit Toys.”

There is no question that Kelly is doing things “his way,” even though each move seems to put Philly deeper into a hole that seemingly no coach could possibly dig his way out of. He’s scooping up players with serious injury issues (many of them former Oregon Ducks) and tossing away his best players without a second thought. The only ex-factor that might change the equation is DeMarco Murray. Even if Murray signs with the Eagles, there are no guarantees that he can succeed without the Cowboys offensive line.

Kelly started this self-destructive path when the Eagles sent all-star running back LeSean McCoy packing to Buffalo. This inexplicable “trade” was for linebacker Kiko Alonso, a player who has yet to recover from a torn ACL.

Then the Birds chased QB Nick Foles out of town to bring in Sam Bradford, a player who’s had two reconstructive knee surgeries on the same leg in successive seasons. Bradford, who hasn’t played in a regular season game since October of 2013, is now reunited with his offensive coordinator from the Rams, Pat Shurmur.

There is rampant speculation that this is nothing more than a move by Kelly to help Philadelphia trade up and grab Marcus Mariota, a kid with a lot of NFL fantasy potential, but the odds are stacked against the Eagles whether they land the former Ducks quarterback or not.

Josh Gordon – Determined to Throw it All Away

Josh Gordon

Josh Gordon is running out of chances to prove that he can stay clean

Josh Gordon has always let his football career take a back seat to partying and he’s proven it again as he stares in the face of another year-long suspension. Even the NFL has its limit on the behavior of its players and the elite talent of Gordon may not be enough stop him from throwing away his career.

After failing yet another drug test, Brown will be subject to another one-year suspension, according to league sources. This is coming after Gordon just served out a 10 game suspension for the 2014 season. He was actually in the process of serving a year-long suspension, when a new set of drug testing and punishment policies reduced his penalty to only ten games.

It’s clear that Gordon needs some type of help because this pattern of behavior dates back well into his high school playing days. During Gordon’s college years at Baylor, he chose to enter the NFL after he was dismissed for a failed marijuana test. So this begs the question, does he still have any shot to play in the NFL?

Gordon’s future is extremely fuzzy at the moment. In the 5 games that Gordon did participate in, he was nothing but mediocre compared to the unbelievable 2013 season he had. After serving a two-game drug suspension, Gordon led the league with 1,646 yards in only 14 games. It doesn’t look good when you compare those numbers to the 2014 season where he caught just 24 passes for 303 yards in five games. There is still much to be said about Gordon and fellow “bad-boy” teammate Johnny Manziel, and whether or not they can ever produce together.

The difficult part for Gordon is that he will have to stay sober for an entire year in order for Roger Goodell to reinstate him. Goodell is mired in a public relations nightmare with the league and he may show no mercy to a repeat offenders like Gordon. The bottom line is that it’s ultimately up to Gordon if he ever wants to get himself straight enough to play in the NFL again.