How to win a Fantasy Football Championship in 2015: This year’s MUST HAVE players

Philly fans know all too well of newly-acquired corner Byron Maxwell’s Super Bowl guarantee – in the spirit, we are making a guarantee of our own.  While nothing in fantasy sports is a certainty, we feel confident (after conducting extensive research on all relevant factors) that upon taking the advice of this guide, fantasy owners should at least look to make the playoffs (everyone can get unlucky with matchups), though a championship berth is expected.

So, we will break down players to target by position.  For each position, there will be the elite targets, which are the players drafted in the first two rounds, and the value targets, which are the players drafted in the middle to late rounds.  Keep in mind that we are assuming a standard 12 team format in which owners start 1 QB, 2 RBs, 2 WRs, 1 RB/WR, 1 TE, 1 D/ST, and 1 K.

QUARTERBACK: The only position this year more top heavy than quarterback is tight end.  Aaron Rodgers and Andrew Luck make up a tier of their own – the drop off to the next best fantasy quarterback (Ben Roethlisberger in our opinion) is massive.  This is why we recommend actually spending an early pick on either Rodgers or Luck. Quarterbacks do tend to score the most points out of any position in fantasy, and owning one of the elite ones would give owners an incredible advantage when facing opponents.  I’d stay away from the aging Peyton Manning, as although he has great WRs at his disposal, the Broncos have emphasized throughout the offseason how they plan on implementing a more run-oriented approach.  The same thing applies with the Falcons and Matt Ryan.

THE ELITE TARGETS
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers – He is among the most talented quarterbacks in the game – he has it all, whether it is accuracy, arm strength, or intelligence.  He also gets to work with one of the best receiving corps in the league with Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, and Davante Adams.  Rarely does he ever make bad decisions; interceptions aren’t common. He is capable of carrying any fantasy team through thick and thin.

Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts – This rising superstar is finally poised to take the Colts to the promised land. The team certainly geared up in free agency, signed potential hall of famers Andre Johnson (imposing and dominating #1 WR) and Frank Gore (talented power back). Luck did throw a lot of interceptions last year, but he also threw many touchdowns and rushed for a few too. Plus, he’ll only get better, especially with the most talented receiving corps in the NFL.  Andre Johnson, T.Y. Hilton, Philip Dorsett, and Dwayne Allen are all amazing options to throw to.

THE VALUE TARGETS
Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys – Everyone loves to hate on Romo, but the guy always puts up respectable numbers.  He is gifted PFF’s #1 rated pass-blocking offensive line, one that boasts tackles Tyron Smith and Doug Free and guards Zach Martin, La’el Collins, and Travis Frederick.  He has an elite target in Dez Bryant and a reliable one in Jason Witten, and best of all the ‘boys (girls) are now down their best back in DeMarco Murray, meaning they’ll likely want to throw the ball more this year.

Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins – The Texas A&M product quietly had quite a nice season last year; much optimism abounds for the young signal caller amid his fresh 96 million dollar contract.  Many believe that this year will be his breakout year, and why shouldn’t they with all of the talented additions on offense?  Wide receiver Kenny Stills was one of the Saints’ most productive (and impressive) receivers. 2nd year receiver Jarvis Landry showcased great hands and was very reliable last year.  Newly-drafted receiver DeVante Parker has already earned rave reviews, being compared to Keenan Allen.  Then factor in their most underrated addition in tight end Jordan Cameron, who has great size, athleticism, and hands.  He was able to make jaw dropping plays despite the joke of a quarterback situation he was stuck with in Cleveland.  The Dolphins are stacked, boasting one of the league’s best receiving corps.  He makes a great QB2.

RUNNING BACK: Most fantasy experts claim the running back position to be the most important position in fantasy.  They scoff at those who don’t take them in the first round.  The most important thing in fantasy is filling as many slots in your fantasy lineup with quality players as possible.

Running back can constitute as little as 22 percent of your roster.  Many owners who get their running back earlier will find themselves screwed when their player gets injured.  Running back is the most injury prone position.  Drafting a running back is also a lot more of a risky play than it used to be due to the emergence of the run-by-committee approach many coaches are now adopting.  As an example, we’d recommend staying away from Alfred Morris, as Redskins coaches are quite high on rookie Matt Jones.  As the season progresses, the carries might become significantly split.  It doesn’t help either that the league has become more pass-dominant.  Either take one of our elite target backs or wait until the later rounds to get your steals.

ELITE TARGETS:
Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings – What about LeSean McCoy? Horrible offensive line, beyond horrible quarterbacks.  Sure, Rex will run him into the ground.  He’ll probably average 2 yards a pop. Uh, Jamaal Charles (incredulous face)? On an anemic offense, limiting amount of TDs he’d score. Getting up there in age, and talented backup Knile Davis could look to steal some carries.  LeVeon Bell?  Suspended first couple games. These backs, as well as Matt Forte, DeMarco Murray and CJ Anderson are all good options, but all have serious questions attached.

Peterson and Lynch have few questions, and are very safe choices, thus they are in a tier of their own. Now well finally ask: What about Peterson? YES, get him if you can. Minnesota has a solid run-blocking line, and now Peterson finally as a respectable quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater to take the pressure off of him.  He’ll be the unquestionable workhorse – something rare now-a-days.   All contract drama seems to be set aside, the mood is good, and the beast can do his work.

Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks – This bowling ball of a back may be getting up there in age, but he’s showing few signs of slowing down.  He runs behind one of the better run-blocking lines, despite the loss of center Max Unger, and is the centerpiece of a run-oriented offense.  The addition of Jimmy Graham won’t change that.  Expect the ‘hawks to keep at their ball pounding ways, especially after choosing to pass at the 1 yard line! When the ‘hawks are near the goal line, it is very improbable for Lynch’s carries to be vulture. The same cannot be said for McCoy (Fred Jackson), Murray (Matthews?), or other first round backs.

461418789-running-back-marshawn-lynch-of-the-seattle-seahawks.jpg.CROP.rtstory-largeVALUE TARGETS:
Justin Forsett, Baltimore Ravens – Following the mantra “it’s never too late,” this late blooming 29 year old rushed for 1,266 yards on 236 carries, posting an incredible 5.36 YPC and making the pro bowl.  Age is not of concern due to the little tread on his tires – he served as a backup his previous years on the Seahawks, Colts, Texans, and Jaguars.

This guy is tired of sitting on the bench; he’s hungry – something I like in my fantasy players. While only 5’8, the guy his quick and powerful and displays tremendous vision.  He’s not easy to tackle either due to his low center of gravity. He also runs behind PFF’s #4 rated run-blocking line, which consists of stars such as pro bowl guards Marshall Yanda (widely considered the best guard in the game) and Kelechi Osmele (graded as “high quality” by PFF).

The tackles Eugene Monroe and Ricky Wagner also both graded as “good” to “high quality.”  Add in the fact that now Forsett is to be incorporated significantly more in the passing game with new coordinator Marc Trestman in town, and Forsett is a shoe-in to put up RB1 numbers.

Carlos Hyde, San Francisco 49ers – This is another talented back that is finally getting his chance to shine, and with an amazing run-blocking line at that (just ask mauler Mike Iupati!). We don’t view newly acquired Reggie Bush to be too much of a threat  – besides, even when Bush was a major part of the offense in Detroit, Joique Bell still put up solid numbers.

Hyde’s role will likely much more significant than Bell’s in Detroit.  The Niners view him as a three down back and will likely take advantage of his power at the goal line.  Coach Jim Tomsula raved about the back’s tremendous speed, burst, and vision. Don’t miss out on Hyde, who will explode in this run-first offense.

Latavius Murray, Oakland Raiders – Yes, he’s on the Oakland Raiders.  Yes, you feel bad for him, yadda, yadda, yadda. You should feel bad for anyone who passes up on this stud. How does one go about describing his game? He’s a poor man’s LeSean McCoy, Adrian Peterson hybrid. Not bad at all! He has the great vision and ability to cut on a dime that McCoy has and similar straight line speed to Adrian Peterson.

Derek Carr looks promising, and will have Amari Cooper (has earned rave reviews in practice and eye test screams future pro bowler) to throw to this year.  The Raiders offense won’t be nearly as bad as many people think. The offensive line is actually quite solid, having linemen Rodney Hudson (center), Donald Penn (LT), and Gabe Jackson (G) are all graded as “good” by PFF. Also working in Murray’s favor is the fact that he should face little competition for touches – Roy Helu is mediocre and Trent Richardson is a bad joke.

Julius Randle, Dallas Cowboys – Frontrunner for the starting job behind a great line.

Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Lovie Smith apparently is still high on him, making him the starter as of now. If Martin can regain his rookie form, he’ll be the biggest steal of the draft.  The Bucs worked hard in the draft to address the struggling line, and Jameis Winston and Mike Evans can threaten opposing defenses enough to give Martin good space to work with on the ground.

WIDE RECIEVER: This is a weird position this year because while there is a lot of depth, there is only a limited number of players that I can say I’d be totally confident having on my starting lineup. Draft any receiver not on our elite target list at your own peril – if not on the list they have questions surrounding them.  A.J. Green is one of the best receivers in the league, but the Bengals are a run-first team and quite frankly, Andy Dalton sucks. Alshon Jeffery is tempting to put on the elite list, but rookie Kevin White will take some targets and Jay Cutler is far from trustworthy.  He’s a good add late round 2, just not super early. Demaryius Thomas might be talented, but Peyton Manning’s arm strength and accuracy is fading and the Broncos will be shifting more to the run. He’ll be a good WR play, but there are better players to take instead.

ELITE TARGETS
Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers – He is among the safest players to own in fantasy football.  The highest scoring receiver last year, he is immensely talented, incredibly targeted, and perfectly complemented with Ben Roethlisberger throwing him the ball and the talented LeVeon Bell keeping defenses honest on the ground.

Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys – Keep an eye on his contract dispute.  If it gets ugly to the point where he is a serious threat to missing games, do NOT target him.  Assuming the threat subsides, however, make sure to get him early.  He is the clear number one on what will likely now be a much more pass-happy offense with DeMarco Murray gone. Dez’s size, athleticism, and hands are truly special, and are capable of making him get the most receiving yards and touchdowns of any receiver this year.  He’s in the perfect situation to thrive – as long as he doesn’t miss any time.

Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers – If you are the best quarterback’s number one option, life must be good.  While Rodgers is a huge reason of Nelson’s success, the receiver is no scrub.  He runs great routes, has excellent hands, has deceptive speed, and is a master at making spectacular catches, particularly of the on-the sideline kind.  Most importantly, Aaron Rodgers would trust Nelson with his, his wife’s, his kids’, and his dog’s life.  The two have great chemistry.

Odell Beckham Jr, New York Giants – If all is well on the injury front, look out.  While he may be slightly overrated at this point, the numbers do not lie. In the last 10 weeks of last year’s fantasy season, Odell, did not score lower than 9 points.  In that span, he scored above 25 points 4 times.  His numbers may very well regress his sophomore year, but regressing from borderline unfair numbers is OK.  He’s the key cog in New York’s offense, and Eli Manning is a capable enough catalyst to keep the offense running at least respectably.

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Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions – Don’t ever count out Megatron.  He has gotten a bit unlucky with getting tackled at the 1 yard line and injuries, but when totally healthy, he is still the best WR in the NFL.  His hands and athleticism are second to none; he is the perfect redzone target too.  Expect a bounce back campaign.   The strong-armed Stafford hopefully can improve this year and reach his full potential.  If he does, Megatron owners will have hit paydirt.

VALUE TARGETS
Andre Johnson, Indianapolis Colts – Andre Johnson has had many productive fantasy seasons as a Texan with mediocre QB play at best.  Now he’ll play with one of the game’s best QBs. The change of scenery will revamp his career. The Colts’ receiving corps might be a little crowded, but Johnson will certainly get his fair share as Luck’s unquestioned number one option.  He is big in size and has arguably the best hands in the game.  T.Y. Hilton is good but he doesn’t have the intangibles or to be that No. 1 WR.  Plus Johnson is always a surefire redzone threat, so he’ll be sure to get you some TDs.  Snag this underrated old timer; he has WR1 upside.

Breshad Perriman, Baltimore Ravens – This talented rookie out of UCF could not find himself in a better position. He has a solid QB throwing to him in Joe Flacco and will likely be the number one target several games into the season.  Steve Smith Sr. is good but old.  Perriman meanwhile has a tantalizing combination of size and speed, comparing favorably to former Raven Torrey Smith.  He will be a serious contender for the Rookie of the Year accolade.

Brandon Marshall, New York Jets – He’s on the Jets, but if he wasn’t he’d be drafted in the top two rounds.  Talent wise, he’s arguably a top 5 WR. While his situation is not ideal, it actually is not horrible fantasy-wise.  To start, he’s the clear number one, and will be force fed the ball more than a baby with milk.  Per reports, quarterback Geno Smith and Marshall are very close, even living together for a while – they are certainly not lacking in the chemistry department.  Remember Cutler’s chemistry with Marshall.  Honestly, Geno Smith might not even be that much worse than Jay Cutler, and Marshall certainly produced in Miami and Denver with mediocre QB play.  If Geno Smith actually improves, look for Marshall to be a fringe WR1.

Jordan Mathews/Nelson Agholor, Philadelphia Eagles – Chemistry is an underrated factor when it comes to analyzing wideouts. If Mark Sanchez wins the starting job, which isn’t too far fetched based on reports of Sanchez’s mastery of the offense and Bradford’s early struggles, definitely target Mathews.  The two are always on the same page.  If Bradford wins the starting job, I’d prefer taking Nelson Agholor, who is a Jeremy Maclin clone in terms of measurables.  Agholor is ultimately more athletic and will be primarily on the outside, as opposed to Mathews who is expected to take most snaps in the slot.  Remember, Chip’s offense = points.

TIGHT ENDS: Tight end is the most top heavy position, as there is only one player worth targeting early – Rob Gronkowski. He is clearly Tom Brady’s number one target and is a menace in the redzone.  Due to his extensive injury history however, we recommend settling for one of our value players. And no, Jimmy Graham is not in the same tier as Gronkowski.  He is stuck on a run-first Seattle team.  He’ll be good, no doubt, though someone will reach for him, drafting him way too early.  Don’t be that guy.

VALUE TARGETS
Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles – After months training with rookie Ertz, Michael Vick said he could envision him becoming elite.  He said the same thing about McCoy once upon a time. Ertz certainly has the tools to do so.  He has hands of glue, being able to make strong-armed catches.  He has nice size, great quickness, runs good routes, and has exceptional release.  Like Witten, he is great at getting open.  More importantly though he has the right mindset.  Over the summer, he met up with future hall of famer  Tony Gonzalez and trained with offensive line guru Hudson Houck  to work on his blocking to ensure he’d stay on the field all three downs.  He’s hungry, and wants to get you fantasy points.

zach-ertz-nfl-philadelphia-eagles-minicamp-850x560Jordan Cameron, Miami Dolphins – As mentioned earlier, he has a tremendous skill set.  Like many tight end greats, he formerly played basketball.  He is a unique athletic specimen with great hands. Before he was hindered by horrible quarterback play.  This year he’ll be catching the ball from one of the most promising young arms. He’ll be sure to get plenty of redzone looks.

DEFENSE: Draft your defense last.  Get depth players with your later picks.  Jay Ajayi, rookie RB of the Dolphins, is a great example of a late round flier to draft instead of a defense.  Ajayi is a powerful runner, having a style similar to that of Marshawn Lynch.  He is a good stash, as he has a realistic chance of beating out incumbent Lamar Miller for the starting job.  Ameer Abdullah of the Lions is a similar type player to stash.  Anyways, in general it is better to pick new defenses every week based on matchups.

KICKER: Target kickers on high scoring offenses, yet not ones that are too efficient at getting touchdowns.  If possible, kickers for indoor teams are better, because more than half the time they’ll be kicking in favorable conditions, thus increasing the likelihood of them making a field goal.  We like Justin Tucker of the Ravens, Cody Parkey of the Eagles, Matt Bryant of the Falcons, Stephen Gostkowski of the Patriots, and Dan Bailey of the Cowboys.

FINAL NOTE:  Our recommended draft strategy is to acquire a later draft slot and then pick the positions as such: elite WR, elite QB, value RB, value RB, value RB or value WR,, value RB or value WR, value TE, etc. Also, make sure to stay active on the waiver wire.  Hopefully this was helpful.  If you have any questions or want to share your opinion of the material posted, please comment below.

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