The guy who should benefit the most out of the DeSean Jackson acquisition is not RG3, but rather TE Jordan Reed. Kyle Roberts discusses RG3 in further detail here. Reed is one of my favorite sleepers this season, and is a prime breakout candidate. Based on the eight games he played in 2013 (taking out a one catch performance in Week 11), Reed’s season would have extrapolated into 88 receptions, 974 yards and 6 touchdowns along with 116 targets. Other than that TD number, those stats would have placed Reed in the top 5 at each of the other statistics last year.
Thus far Reed has been cleared of his concussion, and does not seem to feel any lingering effects of it. With speedsters Desean Jackson and Pierre Garcon working out wide, there is going to be a lot of room in the middle of the field to work with, which means Reed will likely get his number called more often than not. New head coach Jay Gruden brings a pass-oriented offense with him, which means the Redskins will still throw a lot this year after ranking 9th in passing attempts last year.
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If Jordan Reed can stay healthy, which of course is not a guarantee considering his history, he’s got a ton of upside at a position where it is very blah after the first five guys. I’d draft Reed with confidence that he will finish as a top 10 TE at the end of the year, but would consider taking a second tight end late in the draft as some insurance.
With the departure of Desean Jackson to their divisional rivals, there’s a lot of offense left to be divided among the remaining receivers. Jackson had a career year under Chip Kelly, catching 82 passes for 1,332 yards and 9 touchdowns, leading to a top 10 finish at the WR position. Now that he’s gone, who’s going to be the main beneficiary?
The main guy whom I think will benefit from Jackson’s departure is Jeremy Maclin. Maclin, who missed all of 2013 due to a torn ACL during training camp, is back and ready to make a difference for the Eagles. While he hasn’t topped 1,000 yards receiving in his four year career, he did have three consecutive 850+ yard seasons, and caught 22 total touchdowns in that span. Maclin was productive even with Jackson around, and now that Jackson is gone, look for Maclin to produce WR2 numbers this year.
A name that’s been thrown out a lot as a sleeper is rookie WR Jordan Matthews. Matthews, who played all four years at Vanderbilt, has been getting rave reviews early in OTAs and is being projected to produce right away in Chip Kelly’s high octane offense. He is currently the 67th ranked WR over at fantasypros.com, which is something that I have no problem with. Someone who has the route running capabilities and hands that Matthews has should have no problem adjusting to the NFL. While I wouldn’t let the hype train go too far as rookie WRs often struggle in their first year, using a late round pick on Matthews is something I’d highly recommend.
While Dez Bryant had as tumultuous start to his career, it’s been nothing but positives for the young WR out of Oklahoma State University. While he still has his moments on the sideline, he’s matured in the areas that he’s needed to, and has produced on the field. Dez is ranked 10th among wide receivers in receiving yards since he was drafted in 2010, and is 2nd to only Calvin Johnson in touchdown receptions. He’s also only missed 2 games in the past 3 years. As his rookie contract is set to expire, is Dez worth the big money?
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Dez is clearly one of the top 5 WRs in the league at this point and deserves to get paid. The issue from the Cowboys perspective is whether or not they can afford the investment in a position that is seemingly one of the easier positions to fill, when they have so many needs elsewhere. The loss of Sean Lee for the season is really going to hurt an already poor defense, and Tony Romo is not getting any younger. There’s going to be a lot of question marks for the Cowboys franchise over the next few years, we shall see how they answer the one regarding Dez Bryant.
Eli Manning and the New York Giants had a season to forget last year. Manning had his worst season since 2008, throwing for the fewest number of yards, fewest touchdowns, most interceptions and worst completion percentage over that time. This led to a dismal 7-9 season, granted they were only a few games back from sneaking into the playoffs in a weak NFC East.
After a decade of essential knowing and running one system, the Giants changed it all up, hiring former Packers assistant Ben McAdoo as their new offensive coordinator. McAdoo, who hopes to breathe new life into the Giants offense, brings his West Coast style offense with him, something that Manning will need to learn anew.
At age 33, it’s going to be tough for Manning to master a completely new system, but it’s definitely possible. Former NFL MVP Rich Gannon spent his first seven seasons in the NFL being a vagabond, learning various offensive systems. It wasn’t until he went to the Kansas City Chiefs where Paul Hackett and Mike McCarthy taught him the West Coast system. From there, he was able to stay successful in the NFL for another 10 years.
The transition won’t be easy for Manning. The saying goes: “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” but in this case, the old dog will have to learn. Manning was never a great statistical player, but in his two Super Bowl seasons, he was viewed as a clutch performer who always came up big in the 4th quarter. His career completion percentage, 58.5, is well below average for the NFL, and is something the Giants look to turn around.
So what does this mean in terms of fantasy? Expect a slow start out the gates. Even for a veteran quarterback like Manning, it takes time to learn a new system. Just ask Carson Palmer and the Arizona Cardinals. Thus it might make sense to avoid drafting guys like Victor Cruz or Rueben Randle, and then buy-low after a few games. In a season where the depth at WR is so good, there’s no point of using an early pick on Cruz, even if I do believe he’ll finish in a top 20 wide receiver.