Every year, the draft order for players is based on their total output from the year before. A lot can change during the course of a few months during the off-season before the following season begins. Players get cut due to salary, trades, free agency, injuries, retirements, etc. These factors are often overlooked when making your draft picks so I thought I would provide some information on players that may make a difference that may have not been on your radar before.
Part 1 – Quarterbacks
The typical QBs will be seen at the top of the draft board. Due to the monster year Manning had last year, he is at the top of the list followed by Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Matthew Stafford and Cam Newton. Of these top five, I see Stafford and Newton dropping off. Stafford is a good QB but throws too many interceptions and though they have Golden Tate to help at the receiver position, Stafford still has to prove he make the right decisions with the ball. The other is Newton, Cam is coming into the season off of surgery AND has absolutely no top receivers to throw to. You will see him running more and possibly scoring on keepers from within five yards but I am betting on their offense not being as strong. They have no deep threat which means defenses will be playing more in the box to stop the run and stop Newton from running for big gains.
The guys I see moving up and becoming productive are Kaepernick, Cutler and Bradford. All have a lot to prove this year. Kaepernick will have a big year if he can prove that he can go through his progressions and check down to the RB/FB when required but hold-out Guard Alex Boone may weaken the offensive line. At the same time, not only will he have a healthy Michael Crabtree from the beginning but he will also have Stevie Johnson and rookie Ellington who looks like he may be the future WR at the slot for the Niners. With all of this and Gore in the backfield backed up by the standout rookie Carlos Hyde, 2014 looks bright for Colin and the Niners (no bias here :)).
Cutler and Bradford need to prove they can stay healthy but both definitely have the WRs to have a good year. Cutler definitely has the edge with two BIG WRs in Marshall and Jeffries as well as TE Bennett. Bradford has a very young receiving group that has a lot to prove on the offensive side. Their defense will be top five and will keep them in the game and give them a lot of chances to score.
Tip to You:
Good backup QBs to Consider either during draft or post-draft pickup:
– If you have Mat Schaub, NEED to have Derek Carr
– Blake Bortles does not have many targets, but he is the starter in Jacksonville and may prove to be a strong player.
– Johnny Manziel looks like a player and will make plays with his arm as well as his feet.
Part 2 – Runningbacks
A few RBs that jump out at me is Arian Foster, Ray Rice, Carlos Hyde(R) and Rashard Jennings. Arian Foster is ranked 9th overall on the ESPN Draft board which is WAY TO HIGH! He is on a team that is rebuilding. QBs Ryan Fitzpatrick and Case Keenum will not big waves and even with Andre Johnson, Houston will see defenses playing the run harder, loading the box and putting pressure the QB. This will require Foster to stay in to block and when he runs, he will not have much room to do so. Also, he continues to fight injuries. His body is breaking down and just like last year, he is fighting back and hamstring issues. Foster is no longer a 1st round pick and should not be considered earlier than 3rd/4th round if not later. Ray Rice has dropped due to poor performances last year as well as having a suspension due to domestic violence. I would not pick him earlier than the late 2nd or 3rd round.
Running backs are always in high demand and we all know that Frank Gore is still a strong runner but is coming to the end of his career. The 49ers have drafted Carlos Hyde, obviously because they do not see Marcus Lattimore getting back to where he needs to be to be a productive back in the NFL…very unfortunate. Also, Hunter was waived after an injury that would have held him out for the entire year and La‘Michael James hurt his elbow and will be rehabbing for the rest of the preseason. Even when James returns, he is not the one for the job. Carlos Hyde looked great in the first preseason game and will take carries from Gore, especially down the stretch to keep Gore fresh.
Last, it looks like Rashaard Jennings has found a starting job and a home with the NY Giants. He should have a breakout year as far as carries, yards and TDs.
Part 3 – Wide Recievers
There are many receivers to choose from. There are your go to WRs from last years that will put up great numbers again as well as those that were injured and coming back healthy or big time rookies that will come in and be impact players. Some players I wish to highlight are Cordarrelle Patterson, Keenan Allen, Jerrel Jernigan and Mike Evans. Cordarrelle Patterson and Keenan Allen are both coming off great years where they finished off strong. Patterson adds the return game to his value so if he returns one for a TD, that will be added points that would not be otherwise available for most WRs. Keenan Allen grew a strong bond very quickly with QB Phillip Rivers. With their connection, I can see Allen’s numbers growing from last year. Both are considered underrated in the draft and should be considered higher than some of the players listed ahead of them. A couple of rookies to look out for are Jerrel Jernigan and Mike Evans. Both are big and fast and are playmakers that will start from day one. If Eli Manning can control the rate of his turnovers and get the ball to Jernigan, you may see a huge breakout year. Jernigan will have a lot of one on one match ups as defenses will be helping against proven top WR on the other side (Victor Cruz).
Part 4 – Tight Ends
Tight Ends are pretty standard and not much to talk about here but I have a few notes on a few TEs. Vernon Davis who is ranked 4th with TEs is in a contract year. He will play hard and expect top dollar. Watch out for drops as he is not the best receiver but his speed is second to none at the TE position. At the same time, we have all seen what Davis does…or does NOT do when he is unhappy. If the contract issue makes him very unhappy, I can see that affecting his production. Eric Ebron (R) showed great hands and blocking during the preseason so far and will most likely outplay Pettigrew for the starting job. Zach Miller (SEA) has come in and although they have Luke Wilson, Miller gives them another receiving option and threat in the middle of the field for Russell Wilson to find down the field. If you miss out on a top TE during the top rounds, consider Miller or Ebron as they will be productive.
Part 3 – Defense
Not much to say here other than any NFC team would be a good choice. All four teams are in the top 7 for Defenses (projected points for 2014). Seahawks is #1, 49ers are #3, Cardinals are #5 and Rams are #7. By far, the strongest division in the entire league. I also feel that there are a few defenses that are ranked higher than they should be like Texans, Browns and Bills. I do not feel that their offenses are in a position to sustain drives regularly and keep their defense off the field and fresh. The defenses will tire by second half and that is when offenses will have their way with them.
Part 4 – Kickers
Kickers are kickers. Remember there is a new rule this year that has pushed the extra point back and is now a 33 yard kick. This should still be easy for 95% of the kickers, it will definitely not be automatic which will lower the number of points a kicker will give you. Picking kickers can be tricky. You need to pick a good one that will move the ball and score, but not at will meaning they will score a lot of TDs. Too many TDs means less field goal opportunities and less overall points.