Will Percy Harvin Regain His Top-10 WR Status?

By Joe Redemann (@JayArr_FF)

This article is part of TopTeamFantasy’s preseason team preview series. Leading up to the season, the football staff at TopTeamFantasy will help you get ready for fantasy football by answering tough questions about each team. Each article will delve into a specific topic in-depth and explore what its effects will be on your fantasy fortunes for 2014. All of them can be found on our Team Preview Series page, here.

I know it’s in poor taste to quote one’s self in anything, but I just can’t resist in this situation. I sent this tweet out a while back when OTA information started leaking, and New Orleans Saints rookie wide receiver Brandin Cooks was being compared to a one Mr. William Percival Harvin III (also, that’s actually his name).

Now, this is not to say that when he came out of college, Percy Harvin of the Seattle Seahawks was not a highly touted, dynamic talent. In fact, his NFL Combine profile from 2009 highlights his gifts quite well: “Harvin’s speed and elusiveness in the open field makes him a special prospect, whether teams project him as a receiver or running back.” Harvin was such a gifted player that scouts couldn’t decide whether he’d fit best as a joker-type receiver or a lightning-style running back in the mold of Jamaal Charles. The Minnesota Vikings decided to select him as mainly the former, but throughout his career Harvin has been used as a general “playmaker”. Minnesota found ways to manufacture touches for Harvin in a way that not many teams will do for any one skill player: Harvin frequently split out as a receiver, but fielded punts and kicks as well, and was lethal on end-around jet sweeps and occasionally lined up in the backfield like his old days at Florida.

So, why do I mock Harvin, if he’s so supremely gifted? The last lines of his Combine scouting report explain the other half to his story: “Harvin’s durability will be an issue.” There it is, plain and simple. You can be as talented as you want, but if you can’t stay on the field, you won’t contribute in fantasy. This is why I believe Percy Harvin is a waste of space for your fantasy teams in 2014, and we’ll discuss both the pros and cons of selecting him below.

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Does Steven Jackson Still Have It?

By Sean Tenerelli (@Phinphan54)

This article is part of TopTeamFantasy’s preseason team preview series. Leading up to the season, the football staff at TopTeamFantasy will help you get ready for fantasy football by answering tough questions about each team. Each article will delve into a specific topic in-depth and explore what its effects will be on your fantasy fortunes for 2014. All of them can be found on our Team Preview Series page, here.

Often times we as fantasy players fall into the trap of “One More Season”. It’s easy to believe a historically dominant player has one more year left in the tank when we’ve become accustomed to such excellent production. That brings us to the most recent example of such a player, Steven Jackson. He has been a model for consistent production since his sophomore season, only missing the 1,000 yard rushing season once.  That season just happened to be 2013, when he missed 4 games, but largely was ineffective in the ones he suited up for due to a hamstring issue.

The simple fact is that in today’s NFL, workhorse RBs have a limited amount of tread on their tires.  On top of that, teams seem to be more likely to run them until the tires don’t just go bald, but blow out. Clinton Portis, Edgerrin James, Curtis Martin, and Brian Westbrook all seemed to fall apart right before our very eyes.  Unfortunately, many of us fell into the “One More Season” trap with all of these players, and held on for dear life until they were cut, or retired.

So is Steven Jackson’s repetitive 1,000 yard seasons lulling us to sleep at the wheel?  Let’s first take a look at last season:

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Is Zac Stacy a top 10 RB in 2014?

By Russell Shaffer (@RussellShaffer)

This article is part of TopTeamFantasy’s preseason team preview series. Leading up to the season, the football staff at TopTeamFantasy will help you get ready for fantasy football by answering tough questions about each team. Each article will delve into a specific topic in-depth and explore what its effects will be on your fantasy fortunes for 2014. All of them can be found on our Team Preview Series page, here.

I realize I’m a little older than a majority of my fantasy contemporaries, but as someone who came of age in the 90s I’m not ashamed to admit I loved Saved By The Bell. Whether it was Saturday mornings in original rotation or after school through constant reruns, I tried to catch the hijinks of the kids from Bayside High every chance I had.

Even if you never saw the show – and if you didn’t you should check it out on Netflix if you need some sophomoric laughs – I’m confident that the show is enough of a cultural landmark that you’ll at least get my references. The show centered on the exploits of Zach Morris (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) and his group of pals that exaggerated every high school stereotype to hilarious comedic extents. Zach was the charming slacker more interested in scheming his way through life than working for anything, and his Bayside buddies included Slater the jock, Jesse the bookworm, Kelly the cheerleader, Screech the geek and Lisa the fashionista.

The gang got into all sorts of shenanigans that always seemed to careen toward certain catastrophe every episode before somehow smoothly settling in for a happy ending before the bell rung. In more than one episode Zach displayed his musical prowess as the frontman for a pop rock band appropriately known as The Zach Attack.

And if we drop that pesky “h” in Zac we’ve got the perfect backdrop for our examination of one of this season’s most polarizing fantasy draftees.

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After Frank Gore, who’s the San Francisco RB to own?

By A.J. Weinberg (@Fantasy_AJ)

This article is part of TopTeamFantasy’s preseason team preview series. Leading up to the season, the football staff at TopTeamFantasy will help you get ready for fantasy football by answering tough questions about each team. Each article will delve into a specific topic in-depth and explore what its effects will be on your fantasy fortunes for 2014. All of them can be found on our Team Preview Series page, here.

It seems that for years people have been predicting Frank Gore’s end. Yet, he’s reached the 1,000-yard rushing plateau and played a full slate of games each of the past three seasons. In fact, Gore has posted 1000 yards rushing each season he’s played 14 games or more since 2006. Even including that 11 game 2010, Gore has posted at least 1200 total yards in every single season since 2006. It’s an incredible testament to Gore that he has been so productive for the better part of a decade.

If Gore stays healthy and productive, it’s unlikely Carlos Hyde, Marcus Lattimore, or Kendall Hunter will significantly cut into his playing time. Let’s say, though, that 2014 is the year of Gore’s long-prophesied downfall. In this scenario, either through a sharp downturn in performance or an injury, Gore misses a big chunk of the upcoming season. What happens with the 49ers’ ground game and more specifically, who is the running back you’ll want to have on your team? This is the question I’ll be tackling in this 49ers team preview.

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Does Andre Ellington Have What It Takes To Be A Bell Cow RB?

By Russell Shaffer (@RussellShaffer)

This article is part of TopTeamFantasy’s preseason team preview series. Leading up to the season, the football staff at TopTeamFantasy will help you get ready for fantasy football by answering tough questions about each team. Each article will delve into a specific topic in-depth and explore what its effects will be on your fantasy fortunes for 2014. All of them can be found on our Team Preview Series page, here.

The Arizona Cardinals were one of the more surprising teams last season, narrowly missing the playoffs despite a 10-6 record that featured several signature victories.

By all accounts the Cardinals at least tread water this offseason in terms of talent and might have even upgraded their roster in a few key areas. And they’ll need to have at least held serve if they want to compete in the fierce NFC West which has produced the NFC’s Super Bowl representative each of the last two seasons.

The San Francisco 49ers and defending champion Seattle Seahawks have established the blueprint for success within the division – a smothering defense and a ball control offense built on a strong running game.

Arizona has all the pieces to be one of the league’s premier defenses and they believe they have their answer to Marshawn Lynch and Frank Gore in…

Andre Ellington?

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Can We Count on Mike Evans in his Rookie Season?

By A.J. Weinberg (@Fantasy_AJ)

This article is part of TopTeamFantasy’s preseason team preview series. Leading up to the season, the football staff at TopTeamFantasy will help you get ready for fantasy football by answering tough questions about each team. Each article will delve into a specific topic in-depth and explore what its effects will be on your fantasy fortunes for 2014. All of them can be found on our Team Preview Series page, here.

Mike Evans has almost everything you want in a potential stud wide receiver. He was super productive in college, impressed at the combine, and he’s huge. At 6’5”, 231 pounds, Evans has the look of a big and tall receiver that could wreak havoc on opposing secondaries. While most don’t doubt that Evans has tremendous potential moving forward, will he have significant fantasy value in 2014? That’s the question I’ll be addressing here, and I’ll start by looking at his situation in Tampa Bay.

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Can we Expect Any Consistency from the Saints?

By Tyler Dalton (@tylerd91)

This article is part of TopTeamFantasy’s preseason team preview series. Leading up to the season, the football staff at TopTeamFantasy will help you get ready for fantasy football by answering tough questions about each team. Each article will delve into a specific topic in-depth and explore what its effects will be on your fantasy fortunes for 2014. All of them can be found on our Team Preview Series page, here.

Drew Brees is one of the best quarterbacks in the league and it shows in his stats. Three straight years of 5100+ yards and 39+ TDs is extremely impressive. But part of what makes him so special is his willingness to spread the ball around to keep the defense on its toes. Now, we all know about Jimmy Graham. He’s a fantasy stud who’s the focus of the Saints passing attack. However, will anyone else besides Jimmy Graham be a valuable enough target week to week? That’s one of the major questions being asked as we’re getting closer and closer to fantasy drafts and it’s also one of the more difficult to answer. Remember, we’re looking for consistency here. Not the flashy rookie or the boom or bust deep threat, who can you put in the line up every week and not sweat bullets over his number of targets? Let’s start by taking a look at the depth chart.

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Field of Streams: Week 18 Weekday Streamers

By Will Emerson (@WillieMoe)

Welcome back to streaming made easy otherwise known as Field of Streams. Let us get this out of the way, right away, the recommended streamers started the week off a bit rough, with two of Monday’s recommendations allowing 11 hits and, as it should be, not garnering wins. But the proverbial ship was soon righted, as evidenced by the overall numbers. The nine weekday streamers went 4-3, with a 3.58 ERA, a 1.27 WHIP (not too shabby considering there were 22 hits allowed over the first two streams of the week, though) and a nice 9.06 K/9. Now, I am a big fan of K/9 and while I don’t have my official numbers handy (read: I am too lazy to look this up) I think, unofficially, this was the best K/9 week of the season for my streamers. Alright now, settle down, now, I know you are chomping at the bit for next week’s streamers, but you know the drill, standard operating procedure says we look at last weeks Ups, Downs and What Have Yous.

 

UPS
Marcus Stroman, Blue Jays – 7 IP, H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, W
Jacob deGrom, Mets – 7 IP, 5 H, ER, BB, 7 K, W

DOWNS
Ryan Vogelsong, Giants – 3 IP, 11 H, 3 ER, 3 K, L
Jon Niese, Mets – 6 IP, 11 H, 4 ER, 6 K, L

WHAT HAVE YOUS
Shane Greene, Yankees – 5.2 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, BB, 5 K, L
Travis Wood, Cubs – 5 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, BB, 5 K, ND

Okay, did that wet your appetite? Good, let’s dig in, then!

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Is Cam Newton’s slide in ADP warranted?

By Dennis Esser (@coachesser)

Cam Newton’s average draft position slide has more to do with other quarterbacks in the league than it does with his outlook as a fantasy football producer in 2014. The slide also has to do with the fantasy football playing world realizing that The NFL is filled with solid fantasy quarterbacks. There are at least 15 quarterbacks that I consider QB1 material for 2014. The difference between QB4 through QB15 is so minuscule that it makes overpaying for any of them during your fantasy draft comical.

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Who Will Emerge from the Packers’ Pass-Catchers?

By Joe Redemann (@JayArr_FF)

This article is part of TopTeamFantasy’s preseason team preview series. Leading up to the season, the football staff at TopTeamFantasy will help you get ready for fantasy football by answering tough questions about each team. Each article will delve into a specific topic in-depth and explore what its effects will be on your fantasy fortunes for 2014. All of them can be found on our Team Preview Series page, here.

Do you remember that really cheesy car commercial with the cartoon guy named “Mr. Opportunity”? He’d sing the praises of the new line of Hondas, then tap on the inside of your TV screen, and say, “I’m Mr. Opportunity, and I’m knocking.”

That was 2008. In 2014, however, Mr. Opportunity is Aaron Rodgers, only he’s pitching a brand-new line of fantasy opportunity in Titletown, USA.

The Green Bay Packers of 2014 will look mostly the same as the 2013 model, but there are a few major features that will have changed. Most notable, the smooth-running steadier of this offensive dynamo, wide receiver James Jones, has been swapped out in free agency. So too was the tragically burnt-out spark plug, tight end Jermichael Finley, leaving two gaping holes in this mechanism to fill. The 2014 Packers should still handle nicely, and the horsepower will be at maximum capacity if head coach Mike McCarthy has his way. Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson return as the 1-2 options in this offensive engine, but who will step up to fire the open cylinders? Let’s look under the hood and see…

Jarrett Boykin
Let’s give the most senior receiver his due before anyone else. Boykin, in his third year out of Virginia Tech, is tentatively penciled in as the Packers’ third receiver. Since the Pack do opt for quite a few three-wide (or more) sets, this tertiary wideout role is actually quite valuable in the Green Bay offense, as James Jones or Donald Driver over the past few years can tell you. Going back from 2013, the Packers’ third-highest wide receiver target count over the past five years has been 75, 71, 54, 82, and 60. This also doesn’t take into account that injuries have plagued the Green Bay receiving corps, meaning that with a full season of one player, the total WR3 role may account for closer to 80-85 targets a year.

Boykin himself is no slouch, having turned in a 49 catch, 681 yard, and three touchdown season in only eleven games in 2013. He was given meaningful snaps for the first time in Week 5, after Cobb’s injury, and made the most of his opportunity. Now with Jones gone, he won’t have to fight for a starting role; he’ll only have to fight to keep one. Though he was undrafted, Boykin has a very good physical profile as a player (and a highly similar one to Jordy Nelson), and should be an above-average producer if he keeps this role. Extrapolating his work last season to a full 16 games, Boykin was on pace to catch 71 passes for 990 yards and four touchdowns. With only rookies behind him on the depth chart, I could easily see Boykin surpassing these numbers; he has a possible line of 75-80 catches for around 1,000 yards receiving, and five to six touchdowns. Boykin is currently being drafted outside the top 50 wide receivers, but this point total would have put him near the top 25 at the position in 2013.

The Rookie Receivers
We know better. We know better than to get suckered in by the big names and bright lights that we just saw drafted in May, because those players just don’t tend to produce in Year One. Sometimes there’s a special talent that performs from the get-go; we saw that in Keenan Allen last year, and the same with Randy Moss in his rookie season. Yet so much has to go right for them to even get a chance to play meaningful snaps that it’s hardly worth it to invest much in them.

With all that said, should we get excited about 2nd round selection Davante Adams, 5th-round hometown hero Jared Abbrederis, or 7th-rounder Jeff Janis? In short, no. Without an injury to the top three receivers here, Adams just won’t get a shot to play, despite being one of the most polished rookies of the entire 2014 NFL class. Abbrederis figures to feature on special teams this year until something opens up in more of a slot/4th receiver role for him in 2015. Janis, despite his physical prowess, comes from Saginaw Valley State (an NCAA D-II school) and is one of the rawest prospects I’ve seen in a while. His long-term projection is great, especially given the Packers’ track record of developing home-grown receivers, but 2014 is likely to be a redshirt campaign for the big man from the small school.

The Incumbent Tight Ends
It has been a long time since any player at this position other than Jermichael Finley mattered in Titletown (Bubba Franks or Mark Chmura anyone?), but now we are left with a vacuum. Rodgers loves to use his big, experienced move tight end as his third receiving option, but he doesn’t have one anymore. The closest thing remaining is Andrew Quarless, a 6’4″, 252 lb. receiver-first who has never fully panned out. Still, after getting called on to start due to Finley’s terrifying injury against Cleveland in Week 6, Quarless put up a decent 32 catch, 312 yard, and two touchdown line in only 12 games where he saw action. This was a year that saw his yards per reception drop to a career low, but bear in mind that the backup trifecta of Seneca WallaceMatt Flynn, and Scott Tolzien were throwing him the ball most of the season. Could Quarless have some value if he starts? Absolutely. He’s a very unknown quantity, though, and I wouldn’t put my money on him, except as a late-round flier.

The only other possible fantasy option here is Brandon Bostick, who has drawn Finley comparisons before, yet he has shown up to OTA’s overweight and unpracticed. This doesn’t bode well for him, especially when there are two other players vying for his spot from…

The Rookie Tight Ends
I do college scouting. I watched every possible relevant offensive player for this last draft cycle and graded them. I watched Richard Rodgers, and I didn’t see much on tape that wowed me. But let me be the last one to second-guess Packers general manager Ted Thompson or his scouting department. Rodgers and Jermichael had eerily close draft spots (Rodgers at 98th overall in 2014, Finley at 91st overall in 2008) and shockingly similar Combine/ pro day workout numbers. The one thing Finley had on Rodgers as a prospect is more exceptional agility and explosiveness, which may hinder the rookie in Green Bay’s precise offense. However, if the role fits, there may be a chance for some sneaky upside here.

The biggest wildcard of this group, but one that I so desperately want to see succeed, is Colt Lyerla formerly from Oregon. Everyone by now knows Lyerla’s backstory, but what some may not realize is just how great of an athlete and player he is. Lyerla led the NFL Combine for tight ends in the 40 yard dash, the vertical jump, and the broad jump. He’s an extraordinarily explosive player in an offense that will need some extra giddy-up come the cold months of the Upper Midwest. If Lyerla keeps his head on straight and proves his work ethic to the coaches in Green Bay, he is by far the most talented player I’ve mentioned in this article.

Who To Take?
In this case, experience will win easily. Jarrett Boykin is the most seasoned player available to the Packers, and Aaron Rodgers likes his reliability. If things break right, I could see Richard Rodgers or Lyerla stepping up into a role as a useful 4th option in this offense (perhaps as a fantasy bye week fill-in), but failing that, the major targets are there for Boykin to seize and perhaps Quarless to nibble off of. As I mentioned before, Boykin is going around 145th Overall; don’t hesitate to take him twenty picks earlier to ensure you grab his upside, and really, to seize the opportunity in this potent offense.

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