Articles By Mark Ross

All taxonomy terms: Detroit Lions, New York Giants, NFC, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/new-york-giants-vs-detroit-lions-game-preview-and-prediction

Two NFC teams looking to bounce back after disappointing seasons will face off tonight when the New York Giants and Detroit Lions open up ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” Week 1 doubleheader. Both the Giants and Lions posted 7-9 records last season and will be introducing new offenses tonight, a process that had mixed results during the preseason.


The all-time series between the two franchises is tied at 20-20-1, but the Giants have won the last three meetings overall and the last five played in Detroit. The most recent matchup came in Week 16 last season, a 23-20 New York victory in overtime. The Giants needed a fourth-quarter interception returned for a touchdown to tie the game before winning it in overtime on a 45-yard field goal by Josh Brown.


New York Giants at Detroit Lions


Kickoff: 7:10 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN

Spread: Detroit -6


Three Things to Watch


1. These are Now Jim Caldwell’s Lions

After going 29-51 in five seasons and making the playoffs just once, Detroit fired Jim Schwartz and replaced him with Caldwell. A longtime Tony Dungy assistant, Caldwell took over the Colts after his friend and mentor retired following the 2008 season, going 24-8 in his first two seasons, including an AFC title as a rookie head coach in ‘09. The bottom fell out in 2011, however, when Peyton Manning was sidelined due to a neck injury, as Indianapolis cratered to an NFL-worst 2-14. The losing would net the Colts their next franchise quarterback in Andrew Luck, but it also cost Caldwell his job. After a two-year stint with Baltimore, highlighted by him taking over as offensive coordinator prior to the Ravens’ Super Bowl run in 2012, Caldwell is getting a second chance as head coach with the Lions. His hiring was received with quite a bit of skepticism and head shaking, so it’s up to Caldwell to show everyone he’s the right man for this job. One way to do so would be to change the general perception of the Lions, a team that was characterized by missed opportunities, a lack of discipline and produced quite a bit of off-field drama during Schwartz’ tenure. A strong showing at home against a team considered to be less talented would certainly serve as a nice opening statement for the Caldwell era in the Motor City.


2. New Season, New Offenses

Not surprisingly, a head coaching change in Detroit means new coordinators. Jim Caldwell brought in Joe Lombardi, who had been New Orleans quarterbacks coach since 2009, to serve as his offensive coordinator. Everyone knows the numbers Drew Brees has put up with the Saints, so Lion fans are no doubt hoping for similar results from Matthew Stafford. Neither the quarterback nor the coordinator lacks for weapons to work with, as Golden Tate and first-round pick Eric Ebron have joined Calvin Johnson, Reggie Bush and Joique Bell. Meanwhile, longtime Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride retired, so quarterback Eli Manning was tasked this offseason with not only getting to know the new guy, but also learning a new offense. Tom Coughlin tabbed Ben McAdoo, quarterbacks coach for the Packers the past two seasons, to lead the overhaul of the Giants’ offense. Considering Gilbride had been in place the past seven seasons, it’s reasonable to expect some sort of learning curve for Manning and the Giants. And this inexperience certainly showed during the preseason. Now that the games count, however, there will be only so much tolerance and patience awarded these two “rookie” offensive coordinators, especially from fan bases eager to see their teams get back to the postseason.


3. The Battle in the Trenches

It may seem cliché, but one of the keys to consistently winning in the NFL is strong play up front. In this respect, Detroit seems to have a clear edge over New York when it comes to both lines. The Lions’ offensive line, young and somewhat inexperienced entering last season, found its stride as the 2013 campaign progressed and returns intact. On the other side of the ball, Detroit could have one of the NFL’s most disruptive defensive lines with last year’s second-round pick Ziggy Ansah and fellow draft classmate Devin Taylor manning the outside and All-Pro Ndamukong Suh and a recommitted and determined Nick Fairley anchoring the middle. Contrast that to the Giants, who are already dealing with a key injury to one of their best offensive linemen and will be fielding a starting unit that’s full of question marks. Defensively, the success of New York’s front four will likely come down to the health and performance of Jason Pierre-Paul. A defensive playmaker on par with a J.J. Watt or Von Miller, Pierre-Paul is looking to regain his 2011 All-Pro form now that he’s a year removed from back surgery. Pierre-Paul’s solitary importance to the Giants’ defense is yet another indicator why Detroit appears to be in much better shape up front, on both sides of the ball, entering this season.


Final Analysis


After starting last season 0-6, New York would obviously love to get the 2014 season started on a positive note. Detroit meanwhile is looking to get the Jim Caldwell era started with a bang. The Giants are just two seasons removed from their most recent Super Bowl title, but this is a team that has struggled to maintain its roster amidst plenty of turnover. Even though the Lions are a team undergoing a coaching change, they don’t lack for Pro Bowl-caliber players on either side of the ball. New York has a championship pedigree and a potential Hall of Fame head coach in Tom Coughlin, but Caldwell has more talent and a clear edge when it comes to the line of scrimmage. The Giants won’t go quietly, but I expect the Lions to make enough plays to give the home fans plenty to cheer for and likewise their new head coach his first victory.


Prediction: Detroit 31, New York Giants 23
New York Giants vs. Detroit Lions Game Preview and Prediction
Post date: Monday, September 8, 2014 - 10:30
All taxonomy terms: AFC, Denver Broncos, Indianapolis Colts, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/indianapolis-colts-vs-denver-broncos-game-preview-and-prediction

Reigning AFC Champion Denver begins its quest for a return trip to the Super Bowl by hosting Indianapolis tonight on NBC. Broncos’ general manager John Elway has retooled the defense in hopes of giving Peyton Manning and the offense more support. Andrew Luck and the Colts are aiming for a second straight AFC South title and are eager to show that they belong among their conference’s elite teams with a strong showing in Sports Authority Field at Mile High, one of the NFL’s toughest road environments.


Luck was victorious in his first head-to-head matchup against Manning, a 39-33 victory in Week 7 last season that spoiled the latter’s Indianapolis homecoming and handed the Denver its first defeat. The Colts’ task figures to be much tougher this time around considering the Broncos went 9-1 at home in 2013 (including playoffs) and outscored opponents by more than 17 points per game.


Indianapolis Colts at Denver Broncos


Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: NBC

Spread: Denver -7.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Denver Gets Defensive?

After the Seahawks manhandled the Broncos on both sides of the ball in Super Bowl XLVIII, general manager John Elway knew he had to make some changes, especially on defense. A flurry of offseason moves resulted in the departure of some key pieces and addition of several new faces, none bigger than defensive end DeMarcus Ware, cornerback Aqib Talib and safety T.J. Ward. The hope is that Ware will pair with Von Miller, who’s returning from a torn ACL suffered in the playoffs, to form one of the league’s most fearsome pass-rushing tandems, while Talib and Ward will not only solidify the secondary, which had its issues last season, but also bring a degree of physicality and a nasty streak that was missing last season. Indianapolis, which put up 39 points and 334 yards on the Broncos last season, figures to be a good test for this revamped defense. Linebacker play could be key, as Denver will be without leading tackler Danny Trevathan, who fractured his knee during training camp and won’t be back until mid-October at the earliest.


2. Indianapolis Changing Its Luck on Offense?

Andrew Luck has been everything advertised and then some since being taken No. 1 overall in the 2012 NFL Draft. Not only as he seamlessly replaced Peyton Manning as the Colts’ franchise quarterback, he’s led his team to the playoffs in each of his first two seasons and set some records of his own along the way. Luck is not the issue as far as this offense goes, which could be even more potent with wide receiver Reggie Wayne and tight end Dwayne Allen both back from injury and wideout Hakeem Nicks added to the mix. No, the question marks lie up front and in the backfield. Luck has been sacked 73 times in his first two seasons and the offensive line’s outlook is cloudy entering 2014. Projected starting left guard Donald Thomas tore his quadriceps in training camp, ending his season, while potential starting center Khaled Holmes has been hampered by an ankle injury. This unit as a whole was pretty banged up during the preseason and has been able to practice together very little. First-round pick Jack Mewhort will be under pressure to perform from the very beginning, as he is slated to replace Thomas at left guard. As far as running back goes, Indianapolis is still waiting on Trent Richardson to play like the All-American he was at Alabama. Last season, Richardson averaged 2.9 yards per carry after being traded from the Browns prior to Week 3. A healthy Ahmad Bradshaw should provide more depth in the backfield, which is vital with last year’s leading rusher Donald Brown now in San Diego. To put it another way, Brown and Luck combined for more than half of the Colts’ rushing yards (914 of 1,743) and two thirds of the team’s rushing touchdowns (10 of 15) in 2013. Luck and the passing game can’t be expected to carry this offense alone, not if Indianapolis wants to be considered a legitimate Super Bowl contender.


3. The Broncos’ New Workhorses

Denver scored an NFL-record 606 points last season, but saw its leading rusher (Knowshon Moreno) and No. 2 wide receiver (Eric Decker) leave via free agency. The offense shouldn’t miss a beat, however, with second-year running back Montee Ball poised to carry the load out of the backfield and former Pittsburgh wideout Emmanuel Sanders a more than capable pass-catcher. Sanders’ early contributions will be even more critical considering Wes Welker, who was already questionable due to a concussion he suffered during the preseason, is suspended for the first four games for a violation of the league’s policy on the use of performance-enhancing drugs. That said, the Broncos would actually prefer to run the ball more this season. Ball was more than effective (4.7 yards per carry) in the limited touches he got as a rookie and the coaching staff is ready to see what he can do with a bigger workload. And even without the services of Welker, it’s not like Peyton Manning lacks for options to throw to. After all, wide receiver Demaryius Thomas and tight end Julius Thomas combined for 157 receptions, 2,208 yards and 26 touchdowns. Another potential scary thought for opposing defenses this season: Denver’s offensive line should be even better with All-Pro left tackle Ryan Clady back from injury. That’s hard to imagine considering last year’s line gave up just 20 sacks and helped pave the way for an offense that piled up more than 450 yards per game. Also don’t forget that Indianapolis will be without its best pass-rusher, as Robert Mathis, who led the NFL with 19.5 sacks, is suspended the first four games for a violation of the league’s substance-abuse policy.


Final Analysis


Andrew Luck holds a 1-0 edge over Peyton Manning, his predecessor in Indianapolis, but that win came at home. This time, Luck and the Colts have to beat Manning and the Broncos on their home turf. Denver dominated opponents at Sports Authority Field at Mile High during the 2013 regular season to the tune of an average score of 40-23. Even without Wes Welker, the Broncos’ offense should be able to move the ball and get into the end zone fairly easily against an Indianapolis defense that will be without its best pass-rusher. In fact, the more intriguing matchup to watch could be Denver’s retooled defense against Luck and the Colts’ offense. With offensive line issues and questions at running back, this is a good barometer game to see if the Broncos’ defense is as championship-caliber as the offense.


Prediction: Denver 38, Indianapolis 27
Indianapolis Colts vs. Denver Broncos Game Preview and Prediction
Post date: Sunday, September 7, 2014 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: Dallas Cowboys, NFC, San Francisco 49ers, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/san-francisco-49ers-vs-dallas-cowboys-game-preview-and-prediction

Two of the NFL’s most successful and recognized franchises face off to open their 2014 seasons, as the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys are set to meet this afternoon on FOX. The 49ers are looking to dethrone the Seahawks in the NFC West and get back to the Super Bowl, while the Cowboys desperately want to end their four-season playoff drought.


Dallas has gone 8-8 in each of the past three seasons and seems far removed from the glory days of the 1990s when the Cowboys won three Super Bowls in a span of four years. The pressure is on head coach Jason Garrett and quarterback Tony Romo to get this team back into the postseason. San Francisco is just two seasons removed from its last trip to the Super Bowl and will have to overcome some key personnel absences early in its quest to get back to the big game and take care of some unfinished business.


This will be the 34th meeting all-time, including playoffs, between these two franchises, which have each won five Super Bowls. Fittingly, the series is tied 16-16-1 with San Francisco holding a 14-11-1 edge in the regular season and Dallas leading 2-5 in the playoffs. The last time these teams met was back in Week 2 of the 2011 season in San Francisco, a game the Cowboys won 27-24 in overtime.


San Francisco 49ers at Dallas Cowboys


Kickoff: 4:25 p.m. ET

TV Channel: FOX

Spread: San Francisco -5


Three Things to Watch


1. San Francisco’s Depleted Defense

The 49ers ranked among the top five defenses in the NFL last season in yards, points, rushing yards and passing yards allowed, as well as turnover differential. While this unit remains largely intact this season, it will be without some key pieces initially. All-Pro linebacker NaVorro Bowman will start this season on the PUP list as he continues his recovery from the horrific knee injury he suffered in the NFC Championship Game loss to Seattle, meaning he will be out at least the first six games. Fellow linebacker Aldon Smith will sit out the first nine games due to a suspension for violating the league’s personal conduct and substance abuse policies. That coupled with the loss of defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey (torn biceps) means three of the expected starters will not be suiting up against Dallas. San Francisco still has All-Pro linebacker Patrick Willis anchoring the unit with plenty of proven talent elsewhere, but this is a defense that won’t be operating at anywhere near full strength. And while the Cowboys have their own issues (i.e., the defense), there are enough playmakers at the skill positions and a solid enough offensive line that the home team could give the visitors fits when it has the ball, especially if the 49ers’ defensive fill-ins struggle early in their new roles.


2. Dallas’ Decimated Defense

San Francisco’s defense may be depleted, but it’s still in far better shape than its counterpart. For starters, the 49ers were a top-five unit last season while the Cowboys gave up the third most yards in NFL history. Even though San Francisco will be missing a couple of All-Pros for this game, there’s still plenty of talent left among the two-deep. Dallas, on the other hand, bid farewell to both their all-time (DeMarcus Ware) and last season’s sack leader (Jason Hatcher) in the offseason, lost their best linebacker (Sean Lee) to a season-ending injury early in training camp, and will be down at least two defensive linemen in Anthony Spencer (knee) and second-round pick DeMarcus Lawrence (broken foot). On top of that, starting cornerback Orlando Scandrick is suspended the first four games for a violation of the league’s policy on the use of performance-enhancing drugs. To put it another way, every level of this defense has already been impacted in a significant way, and remember this was a unit that gave up more than 415 yards and 27 points per game in 2013. Last season was bad enough, but this season could be even worse for the Cowboys’ defense.


3. 49ers’ Offensive Approach

With Dallas’ defense seemingly ripe for the pickings, the question becomes how does San Francisco go about attacking it. The 49ers were extremely effective in running the ball last year, finishing fourth in the NFL in that category, but wound up near the bottom (30th) in passing. Put the two together and you get the 24th-ranked offense in terms of yards and 11th in scoring. Head coach Jim Harbaugh is old school in his approach; so don’t expect much deviation from that. Frank Gore has rushed for more than 1,100 yards in each of the last three seasons and the team has added second-round pick Carlos Hyde to the mix. However, the passing game also will look a little different this season with top wide receiver Michael Crabtreee healthy (although he's officially listed as Questionable with a calf injury) and former Buffalo No. 1 wideout Stevie Johnson joining Anquan Boldin and tight end Vernon Davis as primary targets. If the 49ers want to become even tougher to defend on offense, they need to let quarterback Colin Kaepernick throw the ball more than the 26 attempts he averaged per game last season. With the weapons seemingly in place and the appealing matchup against Dallas’ decimated defense, is this the game San Francisco finally decides to air it out a little more?


Final Analysis


Dallas head coach Jason Garrett enters this season squarely on the hot seat and, unfortunately, things have already gone against him. The NFL’s worst defense last season has been decimated further by offseason changes, injuries and suspensions. While Tony Romo and the Cowboys should be able to put plenty of points on the board, the defense will likely outpace the offense on a consistent basis. And that’s not a good thing. Meanwhile San Francisco has its sights set squarely on knocking Seattle from its perch atop the NFC West and potentially spoiling their archrival’s hopes for a repeat Super Bowl title. The 49ers won’t be at full strength on defense for this one, but they have too much talent on both sides of the ball and should face minimum resistance in AT&T Stadium against the overmatched Cowboys.


Prediction: San Francisco 31, Dallas 23
San Francisco 49ers vs. Dallas Cowboys Game Preview and Prediction
Post date: Sunday, September 7, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-kicker-rankings-week-1

Stephen Gostkowski tops Athlon Sports' Week 1 Fantasy Football Kicker Rankings, but the bigger news lately concerns who won't be stretching out his leg for a while. Denver's Matt Prater, who was second only to Gostkowski in fantasy points last season, has been suspended the first four games of the season for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy. Brandon McManus will be filling in for Prater, and while I have no issue with starting him, it shouldn't be too hard in your league to find a more established option. After all, it's not like fantasy owners hoard kickers on their rosters, right?


Each week during the NFL season, we will rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Web site can give you.


Positional Rankings: QB I RB I WR I TE I DST I K


2014 NFL Week 1 Fantasy Football Rankings — Kickers



1Stephen GostkowskiNEat MIA
2Steven HauschkaSEAvs. GB (Thurs.)
3Justin TuckerBALvs. CIN
4Phil DawsonSFat DAL
5Mason CrosbyGBat SEA (Thurs.)
6Adam VinatieriINDat DEN
7Brandon McManusDENvs. IND
8Nick NovakSDat ARI (Mon.)
9Dan BaileyDALvs. SF
10Robbie GouldCHIvs. BUF
11Blair WalshMINat STL
12Matt BryantATLvs. NO
13Cody ParkeyPHIvs. JAC
14Nick FolkNYJvs. OAK
15Shayne GrahamNOat ATL
16Greg ZuerleinSTLvs. MIN


Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

PATs = 1 point
39 yards and under = 3 points
40-49 yards = 4 points
50-59 yards = 5 points
60+ yards = 6 points

Fantasy Football 2014 Kicker Rankings: Week 1
Post date: Thursday, September 4, 2014 - 10:00
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-defensespecial-teams-rankings-week-1

To the victors go the spoils, which is one reason why Seattle checks in at No. 1 in Athlon Sports' Fantasy Football Defense/Special Teams Rankings? Yes, the defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks get a pretty tough opponent in Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay offense, but Pete Carroll's defense was top dog in the NFL last season, dominated Denver's record-breaking offense in the Super Bowl, and just seems to play at a different level when it's at home in front of the "12th Man."


Each week during the NFL season, we will rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Web site can give you.


Positional Rankings: QB I RB I WR I TE I DST I K


2014 NFL Week 1 Fantasy Football Rankings — Defense/Special Teams

1Seattle Seahawksvs. GB (Thurs.)Hawks always tough at home.
2Carolina Panthersat TBBucs' O-line shaky during preseason.
3Cincinnati Bengalsat BALBengals happy to get Geno Atkins back.
4New England Patriotsat MIAPats' D adds Revis + healthy Mayo, Wilfork.
5Kansas City Chiefsvs. TENPass rush should be effective once again.
6New York Jetsvs. OAKGet first look/crack at rookie QB Carr.
7St. Louis Ramsvs. MINRams' front 7 vs. Peterson will be fun.
8Chicago Bearsvs. BUFBears overhauled D-line w/ Allen, Houston.
9Arizona Cardinalsvs. SD (Mon.)Cardinals' D has holes, but not in secondary.
10Denver Broncosvs. INDWare, Talib, Ward ready to make an impact.
11San Francisco 49ersat DAL49ers' D not at full strength to start.
12Detroit Lionsvs. NYG (Mon.)Eli threw 27 INTs last season.
13Philadelphia Eaglesvs. JACOpportunistic D last season.
14Tampa Bay Buccaneersvs. CARSmith ready to unveil Bucs' Tampa 2.
15Pittsburgh Steelersvs. CLEYouth movement ready to pay off?
16Houston Texansvs. WASWatt and Clowney ready to wreak havoc?

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

0 points allowed = 12 points
1-6 points allowed = 10 points
7-13 points allowed = 8 pts
14-20 points allowed = 6 points
21-27 points allowed = 2 pts
28+ points allowed = 0 points
Safeties = 2 points
Fumbles recovered = 2 points
Interceptions = 2 points
Sacks = 1 point
Defensive/Special Teams TDs = 6 points

Fantasy Football 2014 Defense/Special Teams Rankings: Week 1
Post date: Thursday, September 4, 2014 - 10:00
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-tight-end-rankings-week-1

Jimmy Graham is unquestionably the top choice at his position in Athlon Sports' Week 1 Fantasy Football Tight End Rankings, but chances are the majority of the attention instead will be on a certain Patriot. Rob Gronkowski has already declared himself ready to go Sunday against Miami, but his head coach isn't quite so eager to confirm Gronk's opinion. There's no question that Gronkowski is one of the few tight ends that, when healthy, can match Graham in terms of production and fantasy potential. However, Gronk won't do your team any good if he plays limited snaps. Something to consider before plugging this Patriot into your starting lineup this week.


Each week during the NFL season, we will rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Web site can give you.


Positional Rankings: QB I RB I WR I TE I DST I K


2014 NFL Week 1 Fantasy Football Rankings — Tight Ends

1Jimmy GrahamNOat ATLHas 7 TDs in 8 G vs. Falcons.
2Julius ThomasDENvs. INDWent for 7-110-2 in Week 1 last season.
3Jordan CameronCLEat PITNo. 1 target with Gordon suspended.
4Rob GronkowskiNEat MIAHow much will Gronk play?
5Vernon DavisSFat DALMiddle of field could be wide open vs. DAL.
6Greg OlsenCARat TBOnly experienced target Cam has.
7Dennis PittaBALvs. CINKubiak loves using TEs in passing game.
8Zach ErtzPHIvs. JACIf he gets enough targets, he could break out.
9Jason WittenDALvs. SFNo NaVorro Bowman for 49ers' D.
10Jordan ReedWASat HOULike his QB, needs to stay healthy.
11Kyle RudolphMINat STLTurner's been good for TEs in the past.
12Antonio GatesSDat ARI (Mon.)Ahead of Green on depth chart, for now.
13Martellus BennettCHIvs. BUF 
14Charles ClayMIAvs. NEChance his numbers could rise in new O.
15Heath MillerPITvs. CLEBig Ben's most trusted target.
16Delanie WalkerTENat KC 
17Travis KelceKCvs. TENCould emerge as Chiefs' No. 1 target.
18Ladarius GreenSDat ARI (Mon.)Snap count worth watching early.
19Coby FleenerINDat DENDon't forget Dwayne Allen is back.
20Dwayne AllenINDat DENBack from a hip injury.
21Tyler EifertCINat PIT 
22Jared CookSTLvs. MIN 
23Tim WrightNEat MIABigger role dependent on Gronk's health.
24Eric EbronDETvs. NYG (Mon.)Lions have more established targets.
25Austin Seferian-JenkinsTBvs. CARShould see plenty of action right away.
26Levine ToiloloATLvs. NODoesn't need to be Tony Gonzalez to be effective.

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points

Fantasy Football 2014 Tight End Rankings: Week 1
Post date: Thursday, September 4, 2014 - 10:00
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-wide-receiver-rankings-week-1

Calvin Johnson leads off Athlon Sports' Week 1 Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Rankings, but he's not the only dynamic target who could post big numbers in his season opener. Dez Bryant could be a busy Cowboy if for no other reason the likelihood his team will be playing catchup against the visiting 49ers. Demaryius Thomas also could see plenty of targets coming his way, as Denver hosts Indianapolis on Thursday night and Peyton Manning won't have Wes Welker (suspended) or Eric Decker (now with the Jets) to throw to. And Bryant and Thomas may not be the only ones on these two teams to thrive in Week 1 either. Dallas' Terrance Williams and Denver's Emmanuel Sanders also could benefit based on a combination of matchup (or game situation), offensive philosophy, quarterback play and the fact that their teammates are likely to draw plenty of attention from the opposition.


Each week during the NFL season, we will rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Web site can give you.


Positional Rankings: QB I RB I WR I TE I DST I K


2014 NFL Week 1 Fantasy Football Rankings — Wide Receivers

1Calvin JohnsonDETvs. NYG (Mon.)Megatron thinking Super thoughts this season.
2Demaryius ThomasDENvs. INDNo Decker or Welker? No problem for Thomas.
3Dez BryantDALvs. SFCowboys could be forced to throw a lot.
4Brandon MarshallCHIvs. BUFStill Cutler's favorite target.
5Julio JonesATLvs. NOLooked awfully spry during preseason.
6A.J. GreenCINat BALRavens have held him in check in past.
7Antonio BrownPITvs. CLE 
8Alshon JefferyCHIvs. BUFPlenty of targets for Jeffery and Marshall to thrive.
9Andre JohnsonHOUvs. WASAll comes down to QB play.
10Jordy NelsonGBat SEA (Thurs.)"Legion of Boom" could limit production.
11Randall CobbGBat SEA (Thurs.)Cobb and Harvin on same field should be fun.
12Emmanuel SandersDENvs. INDWes Welker's loss is Sanders' gain.
13Keenan AllenSDat ARI (Mon.)Cardinals have stout secondary.
14Vincent JacksonTBvs. CARJosh McCown likes throwing to tall targets.
15Michael CrabtreeSFat DAL49ers more of a running team under Harbaugh.
16Victor CruzNYGat DET (Mon.)Could get off to slow start in new O.
17Larry FitzgeraldARIvs. SD (Mon.)Don't forget about Fitz just yet.
18Percy HarvinSEAvs. GB (Thurs.)Healthy Harvin ready to explode?
19Cordarrelle PattersonMINat STLHow will Turner use Patterson in new O?
20Pierre GarconWASat HOUHas more experience w/ RG3 than DJax.
21Roddy WhiteATLvs. NOAnother one whose health is paramount to success.
22Marques ColstonNOat ATLSays he as healthy as he's been in some time.
23Michael FloydARIvs. SD (Mon.)is this his year to take over as No. 1 in ARI?
24Torrey SmithBALvs. CINExpecting more versatile role this season.
25Jeremy MaclinPHIvs. JACIf he can stay healthy, he could explode.
26Reggie WayneINDat DENAndrew Luck gets his favorite target back.
27Mike WallaceMIAvs. NEAppears to be a better fit in new O.
28Julian EdelmanNEat MIAGronk may not be much of a factor in Week 1.
29DeSean JacksonWASat HOU 
30Eric DeckerNYJvs. OAKIt's not Denver, but he's still a No. 1 WR.
31Cecil ShortsJACat PHI 
32Kendall WrightTENat KCTitans planning on taking more deep shots.
33T.Y. HiltonINDat DENRole TBD w/ Wayne and Allen both back.
34Golden TateDETvs. NYG (Mon.)DET more of a passing team than SEA ever was.
35Brandin CooksNOat ATLHow soon will rookie make an impact?
36Terrance WilliamsDALvs. SFWill draw less attention in coverage than Bryant.
37Anquan BoldinSFat DAL 
38Riley CooperPHIvs. JAC 
39DeAndre HopkinsHOUvs. WASCan he emerge in his second season?
40Kelvin BenjaminCARat TBRookie could be Cam's go-to target immediately.
41Sammy WatkinsBUFat CHIRib injury hampered him towards end of preseason.
42Greg JenningsMINat STLHas been productive with Cassel at QB.
43Rueben RandleNYGat DET (Mon.) 
44Markus WheatonPITvs. CLEEager to prove himself after injury-plagued '13.
45Danny AmendolaNEat MIACould develop into reliable PPR option.
46James JonesOAKat NYJHis value tied to rookie QB's performance.
47Andrew HawkinsCLEat PITDe facto No. 1 WR w/ Gordon suspended.
48Justin HunterTENat KCEveryone's expecting him to break out in 2014.
49Mike EvansTBvs. CARHow soon will he and McCown click?
50Malcom FloydSDat ARI (Mon.) 
51Kenny BrittSTLvs. MINCan he be a fantasy factor once again?
52Aaron DobsonNEat MIACould emerge as legitimate deep threat for Brady.
53Doug BaldwinSEAvs. GB (Thurs.)Steps in to fill Tate's role as other starting WR.
54Tavon AustinSTLvs. MIN 
55Brian HartlineMIAvs.. NE 
56Hakeem NicksINDat DEN 
57Donnie AveryKCvs. TENAlex Smith won't have Dwayne Bowe vs. Titans.
58Cody LatimerDENvs. INDNo. 3 spot open during Welker's suspension.
59Steve SmithBALvs. CINHow will Rams use him this season?
60Rod StreaterOAKat NYJ 
61Mike WilliamsBUFat CHI 
62Nate WashingtonTENat KC 
63Jarrett BoykinGBat SEA (Thurs.) 
64Mohamed SanuCINat BALMarvin Jones expected to be out until Week 5.

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points

Fantasy Football 2014 Wide Receiver Rankings: Week 1
Post date: Thursday, September 4, 2014 - 10:00
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-running-back-rankings-week-1

Jamaal Charles may not finish the 2014 season as the top running back, but he starts in that spot in Athlon Sports' Week 1 Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings. Charles will have to work with a practically brand-new offensive line and a passing game that doesn't exactly strike fear into the hearts of opposing defenses, but he also has an appealing opening matchup against a Titans' defense that's switching schemes and lacks established playmakers.


Each week during the NFL season, we will rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Web site can give you.


Positional Rankings: QB I RB I WR I TE I DST I K


2014 NFL Week 1 Fantasy Football Rankings — Running Backs

1Jamaal CharlesKCvs. TENTEN making switch from 4-3 to 3-4.
2LeSean McCoyPHIvs. JACBruised thumb should not be an issue.
3Adrian PetersonMINat STLRams' D-line among league's best.
4Marshawn LynchSEAvs. GB (Thurs.)Packers struggled vs. run last season.
5Matt ForteCHIvs. BUF 
6Montee BallDENvs. INDHis time to shine?
7Arian FosterHOUvs. WASIf healthy he could have huge year.
8Eddie LacyGBat SEA (Thurs.) 
9Frank GoreSFat DALMay be "old," but he's consistent.
10DeMarco MurrayDALvs. SFGood time to face 49ers' depleted D.
11Alfred MorrisWASat HOUNeeds to make most of carries.
12Zac StacySTLvs. MIN 
13Giovani BernardCINat BALBengals set to unleash Gio?
14Le'Veon BellPITvs. CLEIs Bell the Steelers' bell-cow?
15Andre EllingtonARIvs. SD (Mon.)How many touches will he get?
16Doug MartinTBvs. CARCould get off to slow start vs. tough D.
17Reggie BushDETvs. NYG (Mon.)How will touches be split w/ Bell?
18Ben TateCLEat PIT 
19Toby GerhartJACat PHIIf anything he should get lots of work.
20Ryan MathewsSDat ARI (Mon.) 
21Shane VereenNEat MIAMore appealing in PPR leagues.
22C.J. SpillerBUFat CHIWill Spiller ever break out?
23Rashad JenningsNYGat DET (Mon.) 
24Steven JacksonATLvs. NOReady to put 2013 behind him?
25Joique BellDETvs. NYG (Mon.)Another appealing PPR option.
26Chris JohnsonNYJvs. OAK 
27Pierre ThomasNOat ATLCould lead all RBs in receptions.
28Bernard PierceBALvs. CINGets 2 games to carry the load.
29Fred JacksonBUFat CHI 
30Trent RichardsonINDat DENNeeds to get off to strong start.
31Stevan RidleyNEat MIABall security a must if he wants carries.
32Knowshon MorenoMIAvs. NEKeep eye on workload spilt w/ Miller.
33Maurice Jones-DrewOAKat NYJNew team = new MJD?
34Shonn GreeneTENat KCHow long until Sankey passes him?
35Lamar MillerMIAvs. NEPecking order to be determined?
36Mark IngramNOat ATL 
37Chris IvoryNYJvs. OAKCJ not a workhorse back anymore.
38Darren SprolesPHIvs. JACSimilar role expected w/ new team.
39DeAngelo WilliamsCARat TBComes down to # of carries.
40Danny WoodheadSDat ARI (Mon.)Should be plenty active in passing game.
41Bishop SankeyTENat KCStarts out behind Greene, but for how long?
42Carlos HydeSFat DALHow much work will he get?
43Jeremy HillCINat BALHe's the thunder to Gio's lightning.
44LeGarrette BlountPITvs. CLEDoes he steal goal-line looks from Bell?
45Khiry RobinsonNOat ATL 
46Ahmad BradshawINDat DENHis use depends on T-Rich's production.
47Darren McFaddenOAKat NYJOne injury away from being a starter.
48Jonathan StewartCARat TB 

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points

Fantasy Football 2014 Running Back Rankings: Week 1
Post date: Thursday, September 4, 2014 - 10:00
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-quarterback-rankings-week-1

Week 1 of the 2014 fantasy football season is here and is there any surprise who leads the first installment of Athlon Sports' weekly Fantasy Football Quarterback Rankings? Peyton Manning was far and away fantasy's No. 1 scorer last season and as long as he stays healthy, he should post big passing numbers once again in 2014. While seven touchdown passes like he did in the 2013 season-opener against Baltimore will be hard to match, Manning should enjoy plenty of success throwing against an Indianapolis defense that has issues in the secondary and will be without its best pass-rusher.


Each week during the NFL season, we will rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Web site can give you.


Positional Rankings: QB I RB I WR I TE I DST I K


2014 NFL Week 1 Fantasy Football Rankings — Quarterbacks


1Peyton ManningDENvs. INDHad 7 TDs in Week 1 last season. Encore?
2Drew BreesNOat ATLBrees ready to test Falcons' young CBs.
3Colin KaepernickSFat DALCK could be in for big day in Big D.
4Nick FolesPHIvs. JACReady to pick up where he left off?
5Andrew LuckINDat DENLuck gets first look at retooled Denver D.
6Aaron RodgersGBat SEA (Thurs.)Tough opening assignment for Packers' O.
7Matthew StaffordDETvs. NYG (Mon.)What will Lions' new O look like?
8Jay CutlerCHIvs. BUF 
9Russell WilsonSEAvs. GB (Thurs.) 
10Tom BradyNEat MIABrady ready to silence doubters.
11Tony RomoDALvs. SF49ers' D not at full strength.
12Matt RyanATLvs. NO 
13Cam NewtonCARat TBWill cracked rib be an issue?
14Philip RiversSDat ARICardinals' D missing key pieces.
15Robert Griffin IIIWASat HOURG3 ready to break out in Gruden's O?
16Carson PalmerARIvs. SD (Mon.)Improved O-line should only help Palmer.
17Ben RoethlisbergerPITvs. CLE 
18Alex SmithKCvs. TENNeeds reliable targets to emerge.
19Jake LockerTENat KCLooked sharp in preseason.
20Shaun HillSTLvs. MINIt's his offense for now.
21Ryan TannehillMIAvs. NE 
22Andy DaltonCINat BALCareer 6:11 TD:INT ratio in 6 G vs. BAL.
23Geno SmithNYJvs. OAKNew weapons = more success in Year 2?
24Joe FlaccoBALvs. CINCan Flacco take next step under Kubiak?
25Eli ManningNYGat DETNew O still a work in progress for G-Men.
26Ryan FitzpatrickHOUvs. WAS 
27Josh McCownTBvs. CARPanther pass rush could be an issue for Bucs.
28Matt CasselMINat STLCould thrive under Turner.

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points

Fantasy Football 2014 Quarterback Rankings: Week 1
Post date: Thursday, September 4, 2014 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: Green Bay Packers, NFC, Seattle Seahawks, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/green-bay-packers-vs-seattle-seahawks-game-preview-and-prediction-2014

The Seattle Seahawks open defense of their Super Bowl crown at home against the Green Bay Packers tonight on NBC to kick off the 2014 NFL regular season. All eyes will be on CenturyLink Field, as the Seahawks take the first step in their attempt to become the first repeat Super Bowl champions since New England in 2003-04. The Packers have won the NFC North each of the past three seasons and enter this season with Super Bowl aspirations of their own.


Pete Carroll’s Seahawks have won 19 of their last 20 games at CenturyLink Field, a stretch that goes back to the last time these two teams met. Seattle defeated Green Bay 14-12 back in Week 3 of the 2012 regular season. Fortunately for Aaron Rodgers and company, there will not be a replacement referee anywhere in sight tonight.


Green Bay Packers at Seattle Seahawks


Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: NBC
Spread: Seattle -6


Three Things to Watch


1.  Seattle’s Super Bowl Hangover?

The Seahawks thoroughly dominated the Broncos 43-8 in Super Bowl XLVIII in February and are a legitimate contender to get back to the big game this season. It’s been more than a decade since a team went back-to-back and only seven teams have ever accomplished the feat (Pittsburgh’s done it twice). Besides history, Seattle also will have to deal with the fac that this is not the same team that won the Lombardi Trophy seven months ago. Five starters and a couple of key reserves from the roster that manhandled the Broncos are gone, including the leading receiver and half of the defensive line. There’s still plenty of talent remaining and some “new” faces who should be immediate contributors, but depth, especially on defense, was one of Seattle’s hallmarks last season. With so much roster turnover and the added expectations of being the defending champions, one can’t help but wonder if it will take a game or two for this team to find its stride. Residing in the NFC West, the toughest division in the NFL, a game or two could be the difference between playing a playoff game at home or on the road. So if Seattle wants to increase its chances of playing in front of its “12th Man,” it can ill afford a flat performance out of the gates, especially against a quality opponent like Green Bay.

2. Green Bay’s re-Packaged Defense

While Green Bay’s offense was statistically superior to Seattle’s last season; there was no contest on the other side of the ball. The Seahawks were No. 1 in the NFL in total, scoring and passing defense, as well as interceptions and turnover differential. Everyone knows about the “Legion of Boom” secondary, but Seattle also was just as effective in rushing the passer and stopping the run. Contrast that to the Packers, who were 25th in the league in total yards allowed and rushing defense and not much better when it came to points and passing yards allowed. Green Bay won a third straight NFC North division title despite going just 8-7-1. Aaron Rodgers’ mid-season collarbone injury had a lot to do with this, but it’s no secret that the defense needs to a better job if the Packers want to be legitimate NFC contenders, let alone beat the Seahawks on the road tonight. The team addressed its defensive deficiencies in the offseason, signing free-agent pass-rush specialist Julius Peppers and using four of its seven draft picks on defenders, highlighted by safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, the No. 21 overall pick out of Alabama. Green Bay also is hoping for a full season from linebacker Clay Matthews and bounce-back campaigns from other key personnel. A strong statement from this beleaguered unit tonight would not only help the offense, which figures to have a tough assignment trying to move the ball against the NFL’s No. 1 defense on its own turf, but also help set the tone moving forward.


3. Dueling All-Purpose Wideouts

When healthy, Randall Cobb and Percy Harvin are among the most dangerous players in the NFL. Not only are both reliable targets in the passing game, they are both explosive return specialists capable of scoring any time they touch the ball. The problem is that both missed more games than they played last season. Cobb broke his leg against Baltimore in Week 6 and didn’t return until the final game of the regular season, while Harvin underwent offseason hip surgery and didn’t appear in a game until Week 17. His biggest contribution came in Seattle’s Super Bowl victory, when he led all rushers with 45 yards (on just two carries) and also took the second half kickoff back 87 yards for a touchdown. The impact Harvin had with those three touches underscores his importance to the Seahawks’ offense, especially now that fellow wide receiver Golden Tate, who was Russell Wilson’s favorite target the past two seasons, is now in Detroit. Meanwhile, a healthy Cobb gives Aaron Rodgers another target with which to attack Seattle’s vaunted secondary. With Cobb, Jordy Nelson, Jarrett Boykin and rookie Davante Adams at wide receiver and running back Eddie Lacy a capable pass-catcher out of the backfield, Rodgers has quality options to throw to, provided his offensive line gives him enough time in the pocket. Whether Cobb or Havin end up returning kickoffs or punts in this game remains to be seen, but the simple fact that they are options in the return game is yet another indicator why both will be a welcome sight on the field tonight for their respective teams.

Final Analysis


Seattle is the defending Super Bowl champions playing at home, where it has been basically unbeatable (17-1, including playoffs) the past two seasons. Green Bay is certainly no slouch of an opponent, having won its division the past three seasons and nearly beating the Seahawks on their home turf the last time these two teams met. While Seattle has a distinct advantage on defense, Aaron Rodgers will show why he’s a perennial MVP candidate by keeping his team in this one. However, Seattle has its own Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback in Russell Wilson, and in the end the young signal-caller will make enough plays to lead the reigning world champions to victory. I expect there to be plenty of penalty calls due to the crackdown on illegal contact and the physical nature of the Seahawks’ “Legion of Boom.” But at least we can take comfort in the fact that tonight, the flags will be thrown by “real” referees.

Prediction: Seattle 27, Green Bay 23
Green Bay Packers vs. Seattle Seahawks Game Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, September 4, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /nfl/5-nfl-teams-could-take-step-back-2014

The Seattle Seahawks may be the defending Super Bowl champions, but parity reigns supreme in the NFL. Don’t believe me? The past five Super Bowls have featured 10 different teams. Last season, 11 teams won 10 or more games, while 12 accomplished this feat in 2012. Only six teams reached the 10-win plateau in both seasons, meaning 17 different teams have posted double-digit victories in the past two years. There’s also this handy graphic from last season.


No matter how you define it, parity appears to be one of the factors that are shaping the league. So in the spirit of the NFL also meaning “Not For Long,” here are five teams that enjoyed success last season that could end up taking a step or two backwards this fall.


Arizona Cardinals

2013 Record: 10-6 (missed playoffs)


Green Bay won the NFC North with an 8-7-1 mark while a 10-6 Arizona team was left out of the playoffs. That’s what happens when you play in the NFC West, the NFL’s toughest division and home to the reigning Super Bowl champions. The Cardinals actually upgraded their offensive line in the offseason, a major need, but it’s what has happened on the other side of the ball that has me concerned about Bruce Arians’ team.


Linebacker Karlos Dansby, the team’s best defender, left as a free agent, while Daryl Washington was suspended for all of 2014 by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for another violation of the league’s substance-abuse policy. John Abraham, another linebacker and the team leader in sacks in 2013, also could end up facing league discipline following another alcohol-related incident over the summer. The biggest blow of all, however, came in the middle of training camp when Pro Bowl defensive end Darnell Dockett tore the ACL in his right knee, ending his season before it started.


Dansby’s loss was going to be hard enough to overcome, but couple that with Dockett’s season-ending injury as well as Washington and Abraham’s off-field woes, and this defense looks considerably different than the one that finished sixth overall in yards allowed last season. Even though the offense may be improved, it doesn’t change the fact that Arizona is working with a short-handed defense, resides in the NFC West and must deal with a schedule that includes crossover games against the AFC West. All of this doesn’t bode well for a team that won 10 games last year and still missed the playoffs.


Related: Arizona Cardinals 2014 Team Preview and Predictions


Carolina Panthers

2013 Record: 12-4 (NFC South champions, lost to San Francisco 23-10 in Divisional Round)


Carolina went from 7-9 in 2012 to 12-4 and NFC South champions last season. The Panthers accomplished this impressive turnaround thanks to the league’s No. 2-ranked defense, an MVP-caliber performance from Cam Newton and an aggressive, risk-taking mindset that started at the top with head coach Ron Rivera. Despite the disappointing home playoff loss to the 49ers to end the season, the Panthers appeared to be a team on the rise. Then the offseason came.


Several key players departed as free agents and stalwart left tackle Jordan Gross retired. Carolina brought in some new faces through both free agency and the draft, but this still remains a team with plenty of question marks. Not a single wide receiver on the roster caught a pass for the Panthers last season, putting a ton of pressure on first-round pick Kelvin Benjamin and the veterans that were added. The offensive line also is in a state of flux and one of the stingiest defenses must replace two starters in the secondary.


There’s still plenty of talent on the roster, starting with Newton and linebacker Luke Kuechly, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, but in many ways this is not the same team that held off New Orleans for the top spot in the division last season. Speaking of the Saints, they should be among the NFC’s top teams yet again, while Atlanta figures to be better if for any other reason expected better health. And don’t forget about Tampa Bay, a team that’s made plenty of changes, starting with new head coach Lovie Smith.


Repeating as division champs was going to be a tough task for Carolina regardless. However, the personnel losses and the likelihood that the NFC South will be much more competitive this season only adds to the challenge that’s facing Rivera’s team. One-year wonder may not be a fair descriptor for the Panthers, but that’s how it could end up looking in the win-loss column.


Related: Carolina Panthers 2014 Team Preview and Predictions


Indianapolis Colts

2013 Record: 11-5 (AFC South champions, lost to New England 43-22 in Divisional Round)


Hear me out. I am not saying that Indianapolis will free-fall to the bottom of its division. Nor am I saying that the Colts won’t win their second straight AFC South crown. What I am saying, however, is that this is not a team without its share of warts and don’t discount the idea that the three other teams in the division won’t all be better this season.


Andrew Luck alone gives Indianapolis an enormous advantage over the rest of the AFC South. He’s proved that he belongs among the elite starting quarterbacks in the NFL and a worthy successor to Peyton Manning’s Colts legacy. Luck (just like Manning) can’t do it alone, however, and even with the healthy return of wide receiver Reggie Wayne and tight end Dwayne Allen, along with the addition of wideout Hakeem Nicks, this offense still has question marks when it comes to running back and the offensive line. Inconsistency has characterized the former position, while injuries have already impacted the latter. Don’t forget Luck was sacked 32 times last season.


Then there’s the defense. The Colts may have won 11 games last season, but the defense gave up 87 points and more than 900 yards in two playoff games. On top of that, Pro Bowl safety Antoine Bethea is now in San Francisco, All-Pro linebacker Robert Mathis is suspended for the first four games, and little impact should be expected from this year’s defensive draft class.


No one’s mistaking Houston, Jacksonville or Tennessee as Super Bowl contenders this season, but the Colts should expect more resistance from their divisional peers. That combined with a tough schedule that includes crossover games against the AFC North as well as matchups with Denver and New England could translate into a few less wins for Luck and company.


Related: Indianapolis Colts 2014 Team Preview and Predictions


Kansas City Chiefs

2013 Record: (11-5, lost to Indianapolis 45-44 in AFC Wild Card)


All Andy Reid did was take a Kansas City team that went 2-14 in 2012 and turn it into an 11-5 playoff participant that featured dynamic playmakers on both sides of the ball. To that end, All-Pro running back Jamaal Charles signed a contract extension in July and the defense features a Pro Bowler on each level. So what’s not to like about the Chiefs this season?


For starters, the offensive line will be practically new, as three starters left in free agency, including left tackle Branden Albert. Eric Fisher, 2013’s No. 1 overall pick, remains, but injuries impacted his rookie campaign and the jury is still out on how effective he will be as a pro. Two other linemen will miss the first four games of the season due to NFL suspensions. With a lack of playmakers at wide receiver, Kansas City relies heavily on Charles and the running game and at best, the offensive line figures to be a work in progress.


The defense is largely intact, but after dominating the opposition the first half of the season, this unit regressed dramatically the rest of the way. The low point to the decline came in the form of the 45 points and 513 yards surrendered to Indianapolis in the one-point Wild Card loss in which Kansas City coughed up a 38-10 lead in the third quarter. Again, there’s plenty of talent in place, but is this unit the one that wreaked havoc early or gave up nearly 30 points per game over the final eight contests?


And last, but certainly not least, there’s the schedule. Last season, Kansas City feasted on the AFC South and NFC East, two of the weaker divisions. This fall, while the AFC East is still top-heavy with New England leading the way, the NFC West is another story entirely. That’s a big reason why the Chiefs are playing the seventh-toughest slate in the league and another reason why I think Reid’s team will be hard-pressed to get back to double-digit wins.


Related: Kansas City Chiefs 2014 Team Preview and Predictions


San Diego Chargers

2013 Record: 9-7 (Lost to Denver 24-17 in AFC Divisional Round)


Mike McCoy snapped San Diego’s three-year playoff drought in his first season at the helm, a turnaround fueled by an impressive bounce-back season from Philip Rivers. With Rivers re-establishing himself as a franchise quarterback and Chuck Pagano overseeing a young and improving defense, the Chargers have the appearance of a team on the upswing.


However, let’s not forget that San Diego needed a four-game winning streak in December and help from some other teams (and perhaps the officials depending on whom you ask) to sneak into the playoffs in the first place. The Chargers can’t count on the same lucky bounces and breaks, if you will, again this season. The defense also isn’t without its weaknesses, particularly stopping the pass and pressuring the quarterback. Remember, San Diego has to play Denver twice and also will face New England this fall.


And besides the Broncos and the Patriots, the Chiefs also have the 49ers, Cardinals, Rams and Seahawks on tap. So not only does San Diego have the privilege of playing the defending Super Bowl champions and the reigning AFC top dog, it also gets the two other teams that played in their respective conference title games, another that won 10 games last season and a team that should boast one of the NFL’s toughest defenses this season. And that doesn’t include the Chiefs (play twice), Ravens or Jets.


Hopefully McCoy and the Chargers enjoyed their honeymoon season, because Year 2 may not produce as many positive results, at least as far as the win column goes.


Related: San Diego Chargers 2014 Team Preview and Predictions
5 NFL Teams That Could Take A Step Back in 2014
Post date: Tuesday, September 2, 2014 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: Big Board, Fantasy Football, rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-big-board-top-280

With the start of the 2014 NFL season quickly approaching, what better time to present the “final” version of Athlon Sports’ Fantasy Football Big Board (Top 280), right? If anything, the goal in the preseason as far as established superstars go is to emerge healthy. Unfortunately that has not been the case, and is a reason why there’s a new No. 1 atop our list.


Adrian Peterson, the last man to rush for 2,000 yards in a season and the league’s best running back, has fittingly claimed the top spot. Everyone is eager to see how new Minnesota offensive coordinator Norv Turner will utilize Peterson, especially in the passing game, but it’s more the fact that both LeSean McCoy (bruised thumb) and Jamaal Charles (bruised foot) were unable to make it out of the preseason unscathed. Honestly, there’s not much separation between these three backs, or even Matt Forté for that matter, but someone has to be No. 1 and we decided to go with the guy who appears to be the healthiest at this point.


Others around the league have not been as fortunate, however. Sam Bradford tore his ACL again, presenting an opportunity for Shaun Hill to start in St. Louis, while Cam Newton (fractured rib) and Wes Welker (concussion) are among those whose conditions should be monitored closely, whether your league has held its draft already or not. Injuries aren’t the only factor at play here either, as suspensions and pending suspensions could impact draft- and roster-related decisions. For example, while everyone is eagerly waiting to hear what ends up happening with Josh Gordon’s appeal, don’t look past the news that Denver kicker Matt Prater has been suspended the first four games of the season. After all, that’s why you won’t see Gordon or Prater’s name listed below. Kickers count too!


2014 Fantasy Football Big Board (Top 280)


1Adrian PetersonMINRBPotential in new O puts him on top for now.
2LeSean McCoyPHIRBWill bruised thumb be an issue?
3Jamaal CharlesKCRBHopefully he won't be moving again soon.
4Matt FortéCHIRB 
5Marshawn LynchSEARB 
6Eddie LacyGBRB 
7Calvin JohnsonDETWR 
8Peyton ManningDENQBAlready getting chippy with opposing defenses.
9Jimmy GrahamNOTE 
10DeMarco MurrayDALRB 
11Doug MartinTBRBCharles Sims' injury could mean more work.
12Arian FosterHOURB 
13Drew BreesNOQBLooked pretty good in preseason debut vs. Colts.
14Aaron RodgersGBQB 
15Demaryius ThomasDENWR 
16Le'Veon BellPITRBSuspension coming?
17A.J. GreenCINWR 
18Dez BryantDALWR 
19Brandon MarshallCHIWR 
20Zac StacySTLRB 
21Julio JonesATLWRFoot looks healed so far.
22Antonio BrownPITWR 
23Jordy NelsonGBWR 
24Montee BallDENRBBack to practice after appendectomy.
25Alshon JefferyCHIWR 
26Andre JohnsonHOUWR 
27Randall CobbGBWR 
28Vincent JacksonTBWR 
29Alfred MorrisWASRB 
30Giovani BernardCINRB 
31Julius ThomasDENTE 
32Reggie BushDETRBBroke off 86-yard TD run vs. Jags on Friday.
33Larry FitzgeraldARIWR 
34Victor CruzNYGWR 
35Rob GronkowskiNETEWeek 1 status still uncertain. Be wary.
36Pierre GarconWASWR 
37Ben TateCLERB 
38Ryan MathewsSDRB 
39Keenan AllenSDWR 
40Matthew StaffordDETQB 
41Roddy WhiteATLWR 
42Frank GoreSFRBToo soon to write "old" man off?
43C.J. SpillerBUFRB 
44Andrew LuckINDQB 
45Percy HarvinSEAWR 
46Andre EllingtonARIRBHis potential is tied to the touches he gets.
47DeSean JacksonWASWR 
48Michael CrabtreeSFWR 
49Torrey SmithBALWRExpecting more versatile role on offense.
50Cordarrelle PattersonMINWR 
51Vernon DavisSFTE 
52Toby GerhartJACRB 
53T.Y. HiltonINDWR 
54Julian EdelmanNEWR 
55Trent RichardsonINDRBColts continue to show patience w/ T-Rich.
56Ray RiceBALRBBruised shoulder be OK after suspension.
57Rashad JenningsNYGRBIf anything he should get plenty of touches.
58Nick FolesPHIQBHas more INTs (3) this preseason than all of '13 (2).
59Cam NewtonCARQBFractured rib cause for concern?
60Robert Griffin IIIWASQBHas not looked good in new offense.
61Michael FloydARIWR 
62Jeremy MaclinPHIWRAppears to have survived injury scare Thursday.
63Chris JohnsonNYJRB 
64Steven JacksonATLRB 
65Joique BellDETRB 
66Shane VereenNERBMost active Patriot back in last preseason game.
67Reggie WayneINDWRLooking good in return from ACL injury.
68Marques ColstonNOWR 
69Kendall WrightTENWRExpect Titans to stretch field more this season.
70Wes WelkerDENWRPreseason concussion not a good start.
71Jason WittenDALTE 
72Stevan RidleyNERBBall security already an issue once more.
73Bishop SankeyTENRBRookie off to somewhat of a slow start.
74Pierre ThomasNORBCould lead RBs in receptions.
75Colin KaepernickSFQB 
76Maurice Jones-DrewOAKRB 
77Golden TateDETWR 
78Sammy WatkinsBUFWRBruised ribs kept him out of last preseason game.
79Emmanuel SandersDENWRRole could increase depending on Welker's status.
80Mike WallaceMIAWRSeems to be better fit for new offense.
81Eric DeckerNYJWRSettling in as Jets' new No. 1 WR.
82Darren SprolesPHIRB 
83Fred JacksonBUFRB 
84DeAngelo WilliamsCARRB 
85Lamar MillerMIARB 
86Khiry RobinsonNORBCompeting more with Ingram than Thomas.
87Danny WoodheadSDRB 
88Cecil ShortsJACWR 
89Riley CooperPHIWR 
90Terrance WilliamsDALWR 
91Anquan BoldinSFWR 
92DeAndre HopkinsHOUWR 
93Knowshon MorenoMIARB 
94Bernard PierceBALRBSuffered concussion, but should be good to go Week 1.
95Shonn GreeneTENRB 
96Jordan CameronCLETE 
97Russell WilsonSEAQB 
98Matt RyanATLQBFalcons' offense has looked good in preseason.
99Tom BradyNEQB 
100Greg OlsenCARTE 
101Dennis PittaBALTE 
102Kyle RudolphMINTE 
104Danny AmendolaNEWR 
105Justin HunterTENWREveryone is expecting a breakout from tall, athletic target.
106Dwayne BoweKCWRSuspended for Week 1.
107Greg JenningsMINWR 
108Darren McFaddenOAKRB 
109Chris IvoryNYJRB 
110Mark IngramNORBCould be interesting sleeper if he's effective early on.
111Christine MichaelSEARB 
112Jeremy HillCINRB 
113Donald BrownSDRB 
114Hakeem NicksINDWR 
115Steve SmithBALWR 
116Tavon AustinSTLWRWill QB change help or hinder Austin?
117Rueben RandleNYGWRCould be Eli's favorite target in red zone.
118Tony RomoDALQBEarly hits not welcome sign for recovering Romo.
119Jay CutlerCHIQB 
120Philip RiversSDQB 
121Ben RoethlisbergerPITQB 
122LeGarrette BlountPITRBSuspension coming?
123Carlos HydeSFRBShould be factor even if Gore remains starter.
124Jarrett BoykinGBWR 
125Brandin CooksNOWRSeems to be only a matter of "when" and not "if."
126Andy DaltonCINQB 
127Carson PalmerARIQB 
128Knile DavisKCRB 
129Roy HeluWASRB 
130Mike EvansTBWR 
131Markus WheatonPITWR 
132James JonesOAKWR 
133Doug BaldwinSEAWR 
134Andrew HawkinsCLEWRJosh Gordon's status still up in the air.
135Kelvin BenjaminCARWRCould emerge as Newton's No. 1 target quickly.
137Terrance WestCLERB 
138James StarksGBRB 
139C.J. AndersonDENRB 
14049ersSFDSTWill injuries lead to issues early on?
143Eli ManningNYGQBSlowly getting comfortable in new offense.
147Jordan ReedWASTE 
148Martellus BennettCHITE 
149Delanie WalkerTENTE 
150Zach ErtzPHITEPopular breakout candidate this season.
151Stephen GostkowskiNEK 
152Steven HauschkaSEAK 
153Justin TuckerBALK 
154Mason CrosbyGBK 
155Phil DawsonSFK 
158Josh McCownTBQB 
159Joe FlaccoBALQB 
160Ryan TannehillMIAQBAccuracy has not been an issue during preseason.
161Nick NovakSDK 
162Dan BaileyDALK 
163Adam VinatieriINDK 
166Alex SmithKCQB 
167Johnny ManzielCLEQBHoyer the starter, for now.
168Jonathan StewartCARRB 
169Andre WilliamsNYGRB 
170Devonta FreemanATLRB 
171Ahmad BradshawINDRB 
172Jordan TodmanJACRB 
173EJ ManuelBUFQB 
174Jake LockerTENQBEarly signs in new offense are promising.
175Geno SmithNYJQB 
176Tre MasonSTLRB 
177Matt SchaubOAKQB 
178Blair WalshMINK 
179Nick FolkNYJK 
180Robbie GouldCHIK 
181Shayne GrahamNOK 
182Matt BryantATLK 
183Alex HeneryPHIK 
185Charles ClayMIATE 
186Antonio GatesSDTEEnough targets for two relevant TEs in SD?
187Ladarius GreenSDTE 
188Heath MillerPITTE 
189Denarius MooreOAKWR 
190Kenny StillsNOWR 
191Brandon LaFellNEWR 
192Rod StreaterOAKWR 
193Marqise LeeJACWR 
195Ryan FitzpatrickHOUQB 
196Chad HenneJACQB 
197Matt CasselMINQB

Did enough to hold off Bridgewater, but for how long?

198Coby FleenerINDTE 
199Eric EbronDETTE 
200Dwayne AllenINDTE 
201Odell Beckham Jr.NYGWRHow far behind is he b/c of hamstring issue?
202Brian HartlineMIAWR 
203Tyler EifertCINTE 
204Brian HoyerCLEQBHe gets the starting nod, but for how long?
205Teddy BridgewaterMINQBHas lived up to his "pro-ready" label thus far.
206Michael VickNYJQB 
207Kenny BrittSTLWR 
208Aaron DobsonNEWR 
209Jerricho CotcheryCARWR 
210Shaun HillSTLQBBradford's injury opens door for Hill to shine.
211Mike WilliamsBUFWR 
212Andre RobertsWASWR 
213Latavius MurrayOAKRB 
214BenJarvus Green-EllisCINRB 
215Bryce BrownBUFRB 
216Dexter McClusterTENRBCould end up being a PPR sleeper.
217Lance DunbarDALRB 
218Owen DanielsBALTE 
219Jared CookSTLTE 
220Austin Seferian-JenkinsTBTE 
221Jace AmaroNYJTE 
222Robert WoodsBUFWR 
223Jerome SimpsonMINWR 
224Kirk CousinsWASQBHas outperformed RG3 in preseason, but does it matter?
225Blake BortlesJACQBJags' future appears in good hands w/ Bortles.
226Ryan GriffinHOUTE 
227Travis KeceKCTECould end up being Chiefs' No. 1 target by season's end.
228Jordan MatthewsPHIWR 
229Jonathan GrimesHOURBHe or Alfred Blue could be a factor this season.
230Jonathan DwyerARIRB 
231Marcel ReeceOAKRB 
232Harry DouglasATLWR 
233Malcom FloydSDWR 
234Marlon BrownBALWR 
235Kenbrell ThompkinsNEWR 
236Robert TurbinSEARB 
237Chris PolkPHIRB 
238Mike TolbertCARRB 
239Ka'Deem CareyCHIRB 
240Brandon BoldenNERB 
241Andre HolmesOAKWR 
242Lance MoorePITWR 
243Nate WashingtonTENWR 
244Jermaine KearseSEAWR 
245Marvin JonesCINWRBroken foot will keep him out until at least Week 5.
247Andrew QuarlessGBTE 
248Garrett GrahamHOUTE 
249Scott ChandlerBUFTE 
250Marcedes LewisJACTE 
254Mohamed SanuCINWRWill get his chance while Jones (foot) is sidelined.
255Santonio HolmesCHIWRLate addition could emerge as reliable No. 3 WR.
256Paul RichardsonSEAWR 
257Davante AdamsGBWR 
258Cody LatimerDENWR 
259Bobby RaineyTBRBSims' injury presents opportunity for Rainey and James.
260Stepfan TaylorARIRB 
261Jacquizz RodgersATLRB 
262Ronnie HillmanDENRBIf Ball falters, Hillman or Anderson could emerge.
263Levine ToiloloATLTE 
264Mychal RiveraOAKTE 
265Jerick McKinnonMINRB 
266Benny CunninghamSTLRB 
267James WhiteNERBRookie looking to overtake Ridley in pecking order.
268Alfred BlueHOURB 
269Joseph RandleDALRB 
270Mike JamesTBRB 
271DuJuan HarrisGBRB 
272Mike GlennonTBQB 
273Mark SanchezPHIQBHas looked very comfortable in Chip Kelly's system.
274Miles AustinCLEWR 
275Stevie JohnsonSFWR 
276Nate BurlesonCLEWR 
277Chris GivensSTLWR 
278Jason AvantCARWR 
279Charles SimsTBRBOut 12-14 weeks (ankle). Stash for later?
280Marcus LattimoreSFRBWill he see the field this season?

Athlon Sports' 2014 Fantasy Football magazine is now available for purchase at newsstands everyone or online. The ultimate draft-day resource, this year's edition features 419 in-depth player reports, informative features, a 20-round mock draft, team-by-team analysis from NFL beat writers and much more. Whether your fantasy league is head-to-head, roto, PPR or IDP, this magazine has all the stats and insight you need to help you get ready for the upcoming season. Click here to purchase you copy today!

Fantasy Football 2014 Big Board
Post date: Monday, August 25, 2014 - 12:45
All taxonomy terms: NFL, News
Path: /nfl/2014-nfc-coordinator-carousel

Similar to the AFC, three head-coaching changes have resulted in some shuffling among the coordinator positions among the NFC's teams. Detroit, Minnesota and Tampa Bay aren't the only NFC teams who will have at least one new coordinator in charge either, as Dallas, the New York Giants, St. Louis and Washington also made a change in this respect. The net result for the NFC is that five former head coaches (Leslie Frazier, Rod Marinelli, Jeff Tedford, Norv Turner and Gregg Williams) have been added to the coordinator ranks, although one of these (Tedford) is a "rookie" when it comes to the NFL.


Related: 2014 AFC Coordinator Carousel


Here is a rundown of the NFC's coordinator changes entering the 2014 season: 


Dallas Cowboys, Defensive Coordinator

NEW: Rod Marinelli

OLD: Monte Kiffin

Marinelli, who was Kiffin’s defensive line coach last season, replaced his boss after the Cowboys finished dead last in the NFL in yards allowed (415.3 ypg). As the Bears’ defensive coordinator from 2010-12, Marinelli led his units to top-10 finishes in both total and scoring defense twice (2010, ’12).


Detroit Lions, Defensive Coordinator

NEW: Teryl Austin

OLD: Gunther Cunningham

Austin has been coaching in the NFL for a decade, but this will be his first season as a coordinator on the pro level. This also will be his third stint working alongside new Lions head coach Jim Caldwell. The first came when Austin was Caldwell’s defensive backs coach at Wake Forest from 1993-95, and they both were on John Harbaugh’s staff in Baltimore the past two seasons.


Detroit Lions, Offensive Coordinator

NEW: Joe Lombardi

OLD: Scott Linehan

The grandson of legendary coach Vince Lombardi, Joe has spent the past seven seasons on Sean Payton’s staff in New Orleans. After starting as an offensive assistant, Lombardi moved to quarterbacks coach in 2009, the season the Saints won the Super Bowl. During his time as quarterbacks coach, Drew Brees set numerous passing records and averaged nearly 5,000 yards and 39 touchdowns per season.


Minnesota Vikings, Defensive Coordinator

NEW: George Edwards

OLD: Alan Williams

Miami’s linebackers coach the past two seasons, Edwards was tabbed by new Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer to help improve the NFL’s most generous (30.0 ppg allowed) defense in 2013. A coaching veteran with more than 20 years of experience on the college and professional levels, Edwards’ resume includes stints as the defensive coordinator for the Florida Gators as well as the Redskins and Bills.


Minnesota Vikings, Offensive Coordinator

NEW: Norv Turner

OLD: Bill Musgrave

After one year in Cleveland, Turner joins Mike Zimmer in Minnesota to oversee one of the NFL’s least productive passing attacks (214.2 ypg, 18 TDs in 2013). A three-time head coach (Washington, Oakland, San Diego), Turner will be working for the ninth different franchise of his career, which began in 1985 as the wide receivers coach for the Los Angeles Rams.


New York Giants, Offensive Coordinator

NEW: Ben McAdoo

OLD: Kevin Gilbride

After seven seasons leading the Giants’ offense, Gilbride retired (much to the delight of the team’s fan base), resulting in McAdoo getting his first shot at being a coordinator on any level. A position coach for Green Bay the past eight seasons, McAdoo first started working with tight ends before moving to quarterbacks coach in 2012.


St. Louis Rams, Defensive Coordinator

NEW: Gregg Williams

OLD: Tim Walton

Williams was initially hired by Rams head coach Jeff Fisher in February 2012 before being suspended indefinitely for his role in the Saints BountyGate scandal. Reinstated last season, Williams is reunited with Fisher. The two worked together from 1994-2000, with Fisher as the head coach and Williams the defensive coordinator of the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Defensive Coordinator

NEW: Leslie Frazier

OLD: Bill Sheridan

Fired after Minnesota went from 10–6 and in the playoffs in 2012 to 5–10–1 last season, Frazier landed on his feet as part of new head coach Lovie Smith’s staff in Tampa Bay. The Vikings’ defensive coordinator from 2007 until he replaced head coach Brad Childress with six games remaining in ‘10, Frazier also has coached for the Eagles, Bengals and Colts.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Offensive Coordinator

NEW: Jeff Tedford

OLD: Mike Sullivan

The head coach at California from 2002-12 (82–57), Tedford will be a rookie NFL coordinator this season. He is known for his track record of developing NFL-caliber quarterbacks, most notably Aaron Rodgers, but he also coached All-Pros Marshawn Lynch and DeSean Jackson, as well as Keenan Allen during his tenure with the Golden Bears.


Washington Redskins, Offensive Coordinator

NEW: Sean McVay

OLD: Kyle Shanahan

The youngest (28) offensive coordinator in the NFL, McVay was not merely retained by new Redskins head coach Jay Gruden; he was promoted. The tight ends coach the past three seasons, McVay had previously worked with Gruden when both were offensive assistants on Jon Gruden’s staff with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2008. McVay has the title of offensive coordinator, but Jay Gruden will call the plays.


(Leslie Frazier photo courtesy of Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Web site,; Norv Turner photo courtesy of Minnesota Vikings' Web site,

2014 NFC Coordinator Carousel
Post date: Tuesday, August 5, 2014 - 14:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL, News
Path: /nfl/2014-afc-coordinator-carousel

Three AFC teams changed head coaches this offseason and two of those hires alone resulted in openings at either offensive or defensive coordinator elsewhere in the conference. That combined with both of Cincinnati's coordinators leaving for head-coaching gigs in the NFC and one other getting another shot at the top are the primary reasons why half of the AFC's 16 teams will have at least one new coordinator this season.


Related: 2014 NFC Coordinator Carousel


Here is a rundown of the coordinator changes in the AFC entering the 2014 season:


Baltimore Ravens, Offensive Coordinator

NEW: Gary Kubiak

OLD: Jim Caldwell

Fired after going 61–64 in eight seasons as the head coach of the Houston Texans, Kubiak returns to the role he filled on Mike Shanahan’s staff in Denver from 1995-2005. During those 11 seasons, the Broncos finished outside of the top 14 in total offense just once.


Buffalo Bills, Defensive Coordinator

NEW: Jim Schwartz

OLD: Mike Pettine

Schwartz was fired by the Lions after making the playoffs just once in five seasons as the head coach. The Titans’ defensive coordinator from 2001-08 before leaving for Detroit, Schwartz will look to mold a young Bills defense into one of the more feared units in the AFC.


Cincinnati Bengals, Defensive Coordinator

NEW: Paul Guenther

OLD: Mike Zimmer

After Zimmer left to become the head coach in Minnesota, Marvin Lewis decided to promote from within to fill the vacancy. Guenther has been on Lewis’ staff since 2005 and previously served as linebackers coach.


Cincinnati Bengals, Offensive Coordinator

NEW: Hue Jackson

OLD: Jay Gruden

Oakland’s head coach in 2011 (8–8), Jackson joined Marvin Lewis’ staff in Cincinnati after the Raiders fired him. The Bengals’ running backs coach last season, Jackson has 27 years of collegiate and NFL coaching experience, including stints as the offensive coordinator for the Redskins, Falcons and Raiders.


Cleveland Browns, Defensive Coordinator

NEW: Jim O’Neil

OLD: Ray Horton

O’Neil has worked with new Browns head coach Mike Pettine in each of the past five seasons. They were both part of Rex Ryan’s staff with the Jets before O’Neil joined Pettine in Buffalo last season as the Bills’ linebackers coach. O’Neil also played for Pettine’s father, Mike Sr., in high school in Pennsylvania.


Cleveland Browns, Offensive Coordinator

NEW: Kyle Shanahan

OLD: Norv Turner

Shanahan served as the Redskins’ offensive coordinator the past four seasons under his father, Mike, before both were fired in December. Before going to Washington, Shanahan served in the same role for the Texans from 2008-09, during which time he was the NFL’s youngest coordinator (28 at the time of promotion).


Houston Texans, Defensive Coordinator

NEW: Romeo Crennel

OLD: Wade Phillips

The former head coach of both the Browns (2001-04) and Chiefs (2011-12), Crennel got his NFL coaching start as the special teams coach of the Giants back in 1981. He has served as the defensive coordinator for three other teams — Patriots, Browns and Chiefs.


Houston Texans, Offensive Coordinator

NEW: Bill O’Brien

OLD: Rick Dennison

The former Penn State head coach and offensive coordinator for the Patriots (2011), O’Brien will oversee the Texans’ offense while also serving as head coach. After leading the Nittany Lions to 15 wins in two seasons, O’Brien will shift his focus to turning around a team that scored the second-fewest points in the NFL last season.


Miami Dolphins, Offensive Coordinator

NEW: Bill Lazor

OLD: Mike Sherman

Virginia’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach from 2010-12, Lazor returned to the NFL as Philadelphia’s quarterbacks coach under Chip Kelly last season. He was an offensive assistant and QBs coach previously with Atlanta, Washington and Seattle, though this will be Lazor’s first stint as a coordinator in the pros.


San Diego Chargers, Offensive Coordinator

NEW: Frank Reich

OLD: Ken Whisenhunt

A quarterback for four different teams over 14 NFL seasons, Reich is getting his first shot at being a coordinator following Whisenhunt’s departure to Tennessee. An assistant coach in Indianapolis and Arizona previously, Reich served as the Chargers’ QBs coach last season.


Tennessee Titans, Offensive Coordinator

NEW: Jason Michael

OLD: Dowell Loggains

An NFL assistant coach for eight of the past nine seasons, Michael worked alongside new Titans head coach Ken Whisenhunt in San Diego as the Chargers’ tight ends coach in 2013.


Tennessee Titans, Defensive Coordinator

NEW: Ray Horton

OLD: Jerry Gray

Horton left the Browns to reunite with new Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt. The two first worked together on Bill Cowher’s staff in Pittsburgh before Whisenhunt hired Horton as his defensive coordinator in Arizona in 2011. Horton’s defenses have ranked 18th or better in the NFL in yards allowed in each of the past three seasons.

2014 AFC Coordinator Carousel
Post date: Tuesday, August 5, 2014 - 14:00
All taxonomy terms: Pro Football Hall of Fame, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/10-young-nfl-stars-headed-hall-fame

On Saturday, Derrick Brooks, Ray Guy, Claude Humphrey, Walter Jones, Andre Reed, Michael Strahan and Aeneas Williams will officially be inducted as the latest members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Their legacies as some of the greatest to ever play in the NFL will be cemented with their addition to the ranks of those forever enshrined in Canton, Ohio.


As far as the present goes, projecting which current superstars will eventually wind up in the Hall of Fame is virtually impossible. But that doesn’t mean it’s not any less entertaining (or potentially controversial) to conduct such an exercise.


With that in mind, limiting the scope to those who were drafted from 2010-12 (this year’s class obviously doesn’t count and one year is too small a sample size for the 2013 group, even for this), here is one football fan’s take on the most likely future Hall of Famers.


Class of 2010:

Jimmy Graham, TE, New Orleans

Unquestionably a tight end, Graham has the opportunity to not only shatter records for his position, but also finish with numbers that compare to some of the most productive wide receivers of all time. A beneficiary of playing in a more pass-oriented league and having a future Hall of Fame quarterback (Drew Brees) throwing to him, Graham is at the forefront of the evolution of the tight end position. A matchup nightmare with his combination of size (6-7, 260), athleticism and explosiveness, Graham is averaging 90 catches, 1,169 yards and 12 touchdowns over his past three seasons. His future in New Orleans secure after signing a four-year contract, the numbers should only continue to pile up for one of the NFL’s most dangerous pass-catchers.


NaVorro Bowman, LB, San Francisco

A first-team All-Pro each of the last three seasons, Bowman teams with fellow potential Hall of Famer Patrick Willis to form the best linebacker tandem in the NFL. A third-round pick from the 2010 draft that also netted the 49ers All-Pro offensive lineman Mike Iupati (see below), Bowman has been a terror since becoming a starter in 2011. He has averaged nearly 122 solo tackles alone over the last three seasons, along with a total of 22 pass breakups, nine sacks, five forced fumbles and three interceptions. One of the most feared defenders in the game, Bowman will take on a new challenge this season as he works hard to return from the serious left knee injury (torn ACL and MCL) he suffered in the NFC Championship Game loss in Seattle. Given his track record, toughness and work ethic, it should only be a matter of time before Bowman returns to his All-Pro form.


Mike Iupati, OL, San Francisco

Offensive linemen can be hard to judge when it comes to Hall of Fame credentials, since their contributions are not easily measured. That said, it’s tough to argue with the resume that Iupati has already put together, headlined by his two Pro Bowls and 2012 All-Pro season. A mainstay at right guard, Iupati has started every game he has played (60 total) thus far and has helped establish the 49ers’ running game as one of the league’s best. Over the past three seasons, San Francisco’s rushing offense has ranked no lower than eighth in the NFL. Everyone knows that head coach Jim Harbaugh loves to run the football and Iupati is a big reason why.


Other names from this class to keep an eye on:

Geno Atkins, DT, Cincinnati

A fourth-round steal, Atkins is a highly productive defensive tackle who has posted 29 sacks in just 57 games.


Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas

Back-to-back 90-catch seasons with totals of 2,615 yards and 25 touchdowns could become the norm for talented wideout that plays for America’s team.


Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England

When healthy, Gronkowski on equal footing with Jimmy Graham as an explosive, dynamic tight end that gives opposing defenses headaches.


Ndamukong Suh, DT, Detroit

Two-time All-Pro really has yet to scratch the surface on his immense talent and potential.


Class of 2011:

Cam Newton, QB, Carolina

After taking the league by storm with his dual-threat abilities upon entering as the No. 1 pick of the 2011 draft, Newton finally put it all together on the field last season. Posting career bests in completion percentage (61.7), touchdown passes (24) and passer rating (88.8), Newton and one of the league’s stingiest defenses powered the Panthers to a 12-4 record and the NFC South division title. The more Newton develops as a passer the more dangerous he will become since he’s already a tremendous threat (5.6 career ypc, 28 TDs) as a rusher. There’s still much more work to do, but Newton has a chance to establish himself as one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the history of the game.


J.J. Watt, DE, Houston

Somewhat unknown as the Texans’ first-round pick (No. 11) in 2011, Watt has become one of the NFL”s most feared players in a short amount of time. The 2012 Defensive Player of the Year, Watt has earned back-to-back Pro Bowl invites and first-team All-Pro honors. A terror off of the edge, Watt has collected 31 sacks over the last two seasons, along with 23 pass breakups and eight forced fumbles. He makes plays consistently despite being the No. 1 target of offensive lines and protection schemes and has a motor that just won’t stop. He’s just 25, but any player that draws comparisons to legends like Reggie White and Bruce Smith is certainly worthy of inclusion in this list.


A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati

A three-time Pro Bowler in as many seasons, Green has become one of the most trusted and productive targets in the NFL. He has put together back-to-back seasons of nearly 100 catches, averaging 1,388 yards and 11 touchdowns during this span. With great hands, elite ball skills, impressive athleticism and more than enough speed, Green is the total package when it comes to wide receiver. Whether it’s moving the chains, catching a pass in traffic, breaking off a long play or coming up big in the red zone, Green does everything required of a No. 1 wide receiver, and then some.


Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta

A broken foot limited Jones to just five games last season, but there’s no mistaking what he means to the Falcons’ offense. Atlanta traded a total of five picks, including two first-rounders, to Cleveland to move up and grab Jones with the sixth pick of the 2011 draft, and even just three seasons in, no one is second-guessing the team. One of the toughest covers in the NFL, Jones is averaging nearly 16 yards per reception and has caught 20 touchdown passes in a little more than two full seasons’ (34 games) worth of action. The broken foot has caused some to worry a little about how soon Jones will be back to Pro Bowl form, but keep in mind that he’s only 25 years old, is a physical specimen at 6-4, 220 and prior to the injury he was averaging a ridiculous 116 yards receiving over the five games he played in last season. Jones has the tools as well as the opportunity as Matt Ryan’s No. 1 target to post Canton-worthy numbers. And as NFL fans, we are the fortunate ones who get to sit back and watch him work towards that lofty goal.


Other names from this class to keep an eye on:

Von Miller, LB, Denver

One of the NFL’s most feared pass-rushers and defensive playmakers, Miller has 35 sacks and 13 forced turnovers in 40 career games. Just needs to stay healthy (coming back from torn ACL) and focused (suspended first six games last season) to fully capitalize on his immense talent and maximize potential.


Richard Sherman, CB, Seattle

Not afraid to speak his mind, Sherman backs it up with his play on the field and reputation of being the NFL’s top cornerback. A first-team All-Pro each of the past two seasons, Sherman has 20 interceptions in 48 career games, despite opponents making a point of not throwing to whomever he’s covering.


Aldon Smith, LB, San Francisco

Pass-rushing specialist has a mind-boggling 42 sacks in 43 games, but the off-the-field stuff is starting to pile up too. If Smith can get (and then keep) his act together, he could finish among the game’s greatest sack masters.


Class of 2012:

Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis

Peyton Manning’s successor in Indianapolis, Luck has been everything advertised since being the first pick of the 2012 draft. All Luck has done in his first two seasons is win 22 games, break the single-season rookie record for passing yards (4,374), earn back-to-back postseason berths, capture a division title and win a playoff game (in his second appearance). Compare that early success to Manning, who didn't win a playoff game until his sixth season (in his fourth attempt). Luck cut his interceptions in half from his rookie (18) to sophomore (9) campaigns while also increasing his completion percentage (from 54.1 to 60.2). Luck has all the tools needed (and then some) to not only be a worthy successor to Manning’s winning legacy in Indy, but also to eventually join No. 18 in Canton.


Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle

Though not as heralded as first-round peers Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III (see below), Wilson is the most accomplished quarterback of the 2012 class to this point. A third-round afterthought due largely to his size (5-11), Wilson seized the starting job in Seattle as a rookie and enters his third season as a Super Bowl champion. Besides the hardware, Wilson also has more wins (24 regular season, 4-1 in playoffs), more TD passes (52) and a better passer rating (100.6) than either Luck or RG3. The doubters silenced, there’s no question Wilson deserves to be mentioned alongside Luck and Griffin when it comes to the 2012 class. There’s also a chance all three could wind up in Canton together too.


Luke Kuechly, LB, Carolina

A tackling machine in college, Kuechly has continued in that vein in his first two pro seasons. The Defensive Rookie of the Year when he led the NFL in total tackles (164), he followed that up by winning Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2013. A Pro Bowler and first-team All-Pro last season, Kuechly piled up a ridiculous 24 tackles in the playoff-clinching win against New Orleans in Week 16. That was just one shy of Brian Urlacher’s 26-tackle performance in 2006, which is the current record for the most stops in a single game (NFL didn’t start counting tackles as an official statistic until 2000). Whether Kuechly can maintain this pace or not remains to be seen, but he’s certainly off to a good start to putting together a Hall of Fame career.


Other names from this class to keep an eye on:

Lavonte David, LB, Tampa Bay

A first-team All-Pro last season, David has posted back-to-back 100-tackle seasons while displaying a nose for the ball (5 INTs in 2013).


Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington
The 2012 Offensive Rookie of the Year, a serious knee injury stumped both RG3’s production and development last season. He still possesses all of the tools, both athletically and personally, to join 2012 draft classmates Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson as candidates for eventual enshrinement in Canton.


Matt Kalil, OL, Minnesota

One of the NFL’s top tackles, Kalil has the added benefit of paving the way for Adrian Peterson, the league’s top running back. Excelling in both run blocking and pass protection, Kalil has the opportunity to assist Peterson in his run to Canton, and vice versa.


Doug Martin, RB, Tampa Bay

One of the league’s most productive players as a rookie, a torn labrum shortened his 2013 campaign to just six games. A threat as both a rusher and receiver, Martin’s presence in the Buccaneers’ offense should allow him the opportunities to return to 2012’s level of production, provided he stays healthy.

10 Young NFL Stars Headed for the Hall of Fame
Post date: Wednesday, July 30, 2014 - 15:00
All taxonomy terms: Big Board, Fantasy Football, rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /early-fantasy-football-2014-big-board-top-280

NFL training camps are in full swing now and even though the games that count are still more than a month away, that doesn’t mean what’s happening on the practice field doesn’t impact fantasy football. For example, injuries have already made their mark, both in a good and bad way, which has resulted in some shuffling on Athlon Sports’ Fantasy Football Big Board (Top 280).


From the “good” standpoint, there has been no more welcome sight in Foxboro, Mass., than a healthy Rob Gronkowski on the field. It’s still early, but Gronk appears to be progressing in his recovery from the torn ACL and MCL he suffered last December. There’s still plenty of risk when it comes to Gronk’s fantasy value, but the potential reward is enough to move him up in our rankings.


Unfortunately, the news has not been as optimistic in other camps. Running backs Vick Ballard (Achilles) and Kendall Hunter (ACL) already have seen their 2014 seasons come to an abrupt end due to season-ending injuries, while several others are dealing with other ailments of varying degrees. Regardless of the severity, these injuries and other happening on or off of the field (such as suspensions or retirements) have a twofold effect as it relates to fantasy. Not only do they potentially change the outlook for teammates on their respective teams, but they also necessitate numerous adjustments to our Big Board. And keep in mind that preseason action has yet to begin. More changes are sure to come.


Early 2014 Fantasy Football Big Board (Top 280)

(Last updated on 7/29/14)


1LeSean McCoyPHIRB 
2Jamaal CharlesKCRBShortest training camp holdout ever?
3Adrian PetersonMINRBSays Vikes' O no longer "predictable."
4Matt FortéCHIRB 
5Calvin JohnsonDETWR 
6Marshawn LynchSEARBHow long will Beast Mode hold out?
7Jimmy GrahamNOTETE and contract status no longer in doubt.
8Demaryius ThomasDENWR 
9Peyton ManningDENQB 
10A.J. GreenCINWR 
11Julio JonesATLWRBeing brought along slowly.
12Eddie LacyGBRB 
13Brandon MarshallCHIWR 
14Dez BryantDALWR 
15Arian FosterHOURBIf healthy, he should see plenty of work.
16Doug MartinTBRB 
17DeMarco MurrayDALRB 
18Zac StacySTLRB 
19Le'Veon BellPITRBCould be big beneficiary of improved O-line.
20Montee BallDENRB 
21Antonio BrownPITWR 
22Jordy NelsonGBWRShort-term future secure with 4-year extension.
23Alshon JefferyCHIWR 
24Andre JohnsonHOUWRAppears to be on board w/ team's direction.
25Vincent JacksonTBWR 
26Randall CobbGBWRReady to prove he's worthy of new deal.
27Alfred MorrisWASRB 
28Giovani BernardCINRB 
29Reggie BushDETRB 
30Ryan MathewsSDRB 
31Drew BreesNOQBWants to play 10 more years.
32Aaron RodgersGBQB 
33Larry FitzgeraldARIWR 
34Victor CruzNYGWR 
35Pierre GarconWASWR 
36Keenan AllenSDWR 
37Roddy WhiteATLWR 
38Wes WelkerDENWR 
39Percy HarvinSEAWR 
40Matthew StaffordDETQB 
41Julius ThomasDENTE 
42Rob GronkowskiNETESo far, so good.
43DeSean JacksonWASWR 
44Michael CrabtreeSFWR 
45T.Y. HiltonINDWR 
46Torrey SmithBALWR 
47Frank GoreSFRBTeam already down one back (Hunter, ACL).
48C.J. SpillerBUFRBSays his ankle is 100 percent.
49Ben TateCLERB 
50Julian EdelmanNEWR 
51Vernon DavisSFTEWants new contract, but he's in camp.
52Jordan CameronCLETE 
53Michael FloydARIWR 
54Cordarrelle PattersonMINWRExpanded role in Turner's O coming?
55Jeremy MaclinPHIWR 
56Andre EllingtonARIRBAdded weight in the offseason.
57Trent RichardsonINDRBPlayed hurt last season. Bounce back coming?
58Chris JohnsonNYJRBReportedly looking "explosive" in camp.
59Ray RiceBALRBDon't forget he will miss the first 2 games.
60Toby GerhartJACRBDon't discount him as an every-down back.
61Steven JacksonATLRB 
62Rashad JenningsNYGRB 
63Reggie WayneINDWRLooking good in his return from ACL tear.
64Marques ColstonNOWR 
65Sammy WatkinsBUFWRHas yet to play a game and already on "Hot Seat."
66Shane VereenNERB 
67Stevan RidleyNERB 
68Joique BellDETRB 
69Andrew LuckINDQB 
70Russell WilsonSEAQB 
71Bishop SankeyTENRB 
72Pierre ThomasNORB 
73Cam NewtonCARQB 
74Robert Griffin IIIWASQBRG3 likes what he's seen from Gruden, new O so far.
75Jason WittenDALTE 
76Greg OlsenCARTE 
77Dennis PittaBALTEHealthy Pitta could be difference-maker for Ravens.
78Jordan ReedWASTE 
79Knowshon MorenoMIARBStarting job may not be his to lose in first place.
80Maurice Jones-DrewOAKRB 
81Darren SprolesPHIRB 
82Fred JacksonBUFRB 
83Nick FolesPHIQB 
84Colin KaepernickSFQBNew contract leaves plenty of room for growth still.
85Matt RyanATLQB 
86Kendall WrightTENWR 
87Mike WallaceMIAWRKnows he needs to better this season.
88Golden TateDETWR 
89Eric DeckerNYJWR 
90Tom BradyNEQBHealthy Gronk could mean return to vintage Brady.
91DeAngelo WilliamsCARRB 
92Danny WoodheadSDRB 
93Lamar MillerMIARBReportedly already ahead of Moreno.
94Emmanuel SandersDENWR 
95Cecil ShortsJACWRExpected to miss 2 weeks b/c of hamstring injury.
96Riley CooperPHIWR 
97Anquan BoldinSFWR 
98Kyle RudolphMINTEPending FA no longer after signing 5-year extension.
99Tony RomoDALQB 
100Philip RiversSDQB 
101Jay CutlerCHIQB 
102Ben RoethlisbergerPITQBOL and WRs both could be better this season.
103Charles ClayMIATE 
104Martellus BennettCHITE 
105Delanie WalkerTENTE 
106Zach ErtzPHITE 
107Heath MillerPITTE 
108Bernard PierceBALRBWill have 2 games to make strong impression.
109Khiry RobinsonNORB 
110David WilsonNYGRBGot medical clearance (neck) to return to field.
111Chris IvoryNYJRBInjured hamstring keeping him out of camp.
112Terrance WilliamsDALWR 
113DeAndre HopkinsHOUWR 
114Antonio GatesSDTE 
115Ladarius GreenSDTE 
117Shonn GreeneTENRBWon't give up starting job w/o a fight.
118Tre MasonSTLRB 
119Darren McFaddenOAKRB 
120Danny AmendolaNEWR 
121Dwayne BoweKCWRReported to camp in great shape.
122Hakeem NicksINDWR 
123Greg JenningsMINWR 
124Steve SmithBALWR 
125James JonesOAKWR 
132Andy DaltonCINQB 
133Eli ManningNYGQB 
126Carson PalmerARIQB 
127Tavon AustinSTLWR 
128Marvin JonesCINWR 
129Rueben RandleNYGWR 
130Justin HunterTENWR 
134Christine MichaelSEARBLynch's holdout increases appeal.
135Mark IngramNORB 
136Jeremy HillCINRBRookie off to good start in camp.
137Andre BrownHOURB 
138Donald BrownSDRB 
139Coby FleenerINDTE 
144Jarrett BoykinGBWR 
145Brandin CooksNOWRLots to like, but still a rookie.
146Eric EbronDETTE 
147Dwayne AllenINDTE 
148BenJarvus Green-EllisCINRB 
149LeGarrette BlountPITRB 
150James StarksGBRB 
151Roy HeluWASRB 
152Mike EvansTBWR 
153Kelvin BenjaminCARWRWill miss some of camp due to a bone bruise.
154Denarius MooreOAKWR 
155Doug BaldwinSEAWR 
156Markus WheatonPITWR 
159Kenny StillsNOWR 
160Aaron DobsonNEWRStill recovering from foot surgery.
161Andrew HawkinsCLEWR 
162Rod StreaterOAKWR 
163Marqise LeeJACWRAce Sanders taking leave of absence for personal reasons.
164Josh McCownTBQB 
165Joe FlaccoBALQB 
166Ryan TannehillMIAQB 
167Johnny ManzielCLEQBNo rookie under more scrutiny than Johnny Football.
172Alex SmithKCQB 
173Sam BradfordSTLQBMay not play in first preseason game as precaution.
174Tyler EifertCINTE 
175Odell Beckham Jr.NYGWROff to sluggish start due to hamstring injury.
176Brian HartlineMIAWR 
177Knile DavisKCRB 
178Latavius MurrayOAKRB 
179C.J. AndersonDENRB 
180Jonathan StewartCARRBCan't seem to shake injury bug.
181Carlos HydeSFRBHunter's (ACL) loss could be Hyde's gain.
182Terrance WestCLERB 
183Jonathan DwyerARIRB 
184Ahmad BradshawINDRBVick Ballard (Achilles) out for season.
185Miles AustinCLEWR 
186Stevie JohnsonSFWR 
187Jerricho CotcheryCARWR 
188Owen DanielsBALTE 
189Jared CookSTLTE 
190Matt PraterDENK 
191Stephen GostkowskiNEK 
192EJ ManuelBUFQB 
193Jake LockerTENQBSays his foot (Lisfranc injury) is completely healed.
194Geno SmithNYJQBThinks he'll be a top 5 QB in 2 years.
195Matt SchaubOAKQB 
196Jordan TodmanJACRB 
197Austin Seferian-JenkinsTBTE 
198Jace AmaroNYJTESustained minor knee injury early in camp.
199Robert WoodsBUFWR 
200Marlon BrownBALWR 
201Jerome SimpsonMINWR 
202Jermichael FinleyFATEIf he signs, he could shoot up rankings.
203Ryan GriffinHOUTE 
204Steven HauschkaSEAK 
205Justin TuckerBALK 
206Phil DawsonSFK 
207Mason CrosbyGBK 
208Dan BaileyDALK 
211Ka'Deem CareyCHIRB 
212Devonta FreemanATLRB 
213Jerick McKinnonMINRB 
214Chris PolkPHIRB 
215Brandon LaFellNEWR 
216Kenny BrittSTLWR 
217Nate BurlesonCLEWR 
218Harry DouglasATLWR 
219Mike WilliamsBUFWR 
220Jermaine KearseSEAWRSidney Rice's retirement creates opportunity.
221Jordan MatthewsPHIWR 
222Andre RobertsWASWR 
223Dexter McClusterTENWR 
224Mohamed SanuCINWR 
225Chris GivensSTLWR 
226Lance MoorePITWR 
229Ryan FitzpatrickHOUQB 
230Chad HenneJACQB 
231Brian HoyerCLEQBHas reportedly taken early lead over Manziel in camp.
232Michael VickNYJQB 
233Teddy BridgewaterMINQB 
234Matt CasselMINQB 
235Garrett GrahamHOUTE 
236Andrew QuarlessGBTE 
237Scott ChandlerBUFTE 
238Marcedes LewisJACTE 
241Alex HeneryPHIK 
242Nick NovakSDK 
243Adam VinatieriINDK 
244Jermaine GreshamCINTE 
245Levine ToiloloATLTE 
246Stepfan TaylorARIRB 
247Mike JamesTBRB 
248Andre WilliamsNYGRB 
249Jacquizz RodgersATLRB 
250Robbie GouldCHIK 
251Shayne GrahamNOK 
252Mike GlennonTBQB 
253Shaun HillSTLQB 
254Kirk CousinsWASQB 
255Blair WalshMINK 
256Matt BryantATLK 
257Marcel ReeceOAKRB 
258Robert TurbinSEARB 
259Bryce BrownBUFRB 
260Mike TolbertCARRB 
261DuJuan HarrisGBRB 
262Brandon BoldenNERB 
263Charles SimsTBRB 
264Marcus LattimoreSFRB49ers taking their time w/ Lattimore.
265Joseph RandleDALRB 
266Jason AvantCARWR 
267Paul RichardsonSEAWR 
268Davante AdamsGBWR 
269Allen RobinsonJACWRMissed parts of OTAs b/c of hamstring injury.
270Cody LatimerDENWR 
271Jarvis LandryMIAWR 
272Kenbrell ThompkinsNEWR 
273Blake BortlesJACQB 
274Brandon PettigrewDETTE 
275Rob HouslerARITE 
276Travis KeceKCTE 
277Mark SanchezPHIQB 
278Lance DunbarDALRB 
279Bobby RaineyTBRBHe and Mike James could battle for roster spot.
280Brandon WeedenDALQB 

Athlon Sports' 2014 Fantasy Football magazine is now available for purchase at newsstands everyone or online. The ultimate draft-day resource, this year's edition features 419 in-depth player reports, informative features, a 20-round mock draft, team-by-team analysis from NFL beat writers and much more. Whether your fantasy league is head-to-head, roto, PPR or IDP, this magazine has all the stats and insight you need to help you get ready for the upcoming season. Click here to purchase you copy today!

Early Fantasy Football 2014 Big Board
Post date: Tuesday, July 29, 2014 - 12:00
All taxonomy terms: Hot Seat, tight ends, wide receivers, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/15-nfl-wide-receivers-and-tight-ends-hot-seat-2014

Twenty-four players went over 1,000 yards receiving in the NFL last season, even though just five caught 100 or more passes. And this group doesn’t include the likes of Julio Jones, Roddy White, Percy Harvin or Rob Gronkowski, who each missed a significant amount of time because of injuries.


With offenses relying and more and more on the passing game, the number of 1,000-yard and 100-catch wide receivers and tight ends will only continue to grow. Subsequently, the pressure for these players to produce in each category will likewise increase.


With that in mind, here are 15 pass-catchers who need to make the most of their targets in 2014:


1. Percy Harvin, Seattle Seahawks

Seattle paid handsomely (three draft picks and a six-year, $67 million contract) for Harvin last March and got a total of three games out of him because of a torn labrum that required hip surgery. That said, the reason the Seahawks willingly give up so much in the first place was evident in the Super Bowl when Harvin returned the second half kickoff 87 yards for a touchdown and led all rushers in the game with 45 yards on just two carries. The hope is that he can offer similar production over the course of an entire season, especially with last year’s No. 1 receiver, Golden Tate, now in Detroit.


2. Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City Chiefs

Everyone knows Kansas City’s offense begins and pretty much ends with Jamaal Charles, but if the Chiefs want to have any semblance of a passing game they need more from Bowe. After catching 81 passes for 1,159 yards in 2011, Bowe’s numbers have declined to just 57 and 673 last season. The 2007 first-round pick is making too much money ($8.8 million base this year, $30 million more through 2017) for that type of production, especially on a team that’s limited on pass-catching options to begin with.


3. Mike Wallace, Miami Dolphins

Similar to Percy Harvin, Wallace also signed a lucrative contract as a free agent last offseason. Unlike Harvin, Wallace doesn’t have an injury to blame for his lack of production (12.7 ypc, just 5 TDs) in 2013. There’s still a bunch of money remaining on Wallace’s five-year, $60 million ($30 million guaranteed) pact, so he’s not going anywhere. Unfortunately, the Dolphins as a team may not either unless Wallace performs more like the No. 1 receiver he’s being paid to be.


4. Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots

Outside of Julian Edelman, the Patriots’ passing game was very much hit-or-miss last season, and the majority of it was “miss.” This is where Gronkowski comes in, who is every bit the matchup nightmare that Jimmy Graham is, when he’s on the field. With just 18 games played over the last two seasons, it may be too much to expect Gronkowski to survive a full season, but there’s no denying his impact when he’s out there. In the last two years, Tom Brady has thrown 33 touchdowns compared to just eight interceptions when Gronk has been on the field. Brady’s 25 touchdown passes in 2013 (Gronk played just seven games), were his fewest in a full season (2008 doesn’t count) since ’06 (24).


5. DeSean Jackson, Washington Redskins

Jackson led the Eagles with 82 catches for 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns last season. So why did Chip Kelly release his most productive target and eat more than $6 million in dead money in the process? Opinions vary on that, but it had to be a pretty good reason, considering the move allowed Jackson to join NFC East rival Washington. Fit and team chemistry are some of the words that have been tossed around in this regard, so it’s on Jackson to show that’s not the case, especially on a team that’s looking to bounce back with a new coaching staff in place.


6. Hakeem Nicks, Indianapolis Colts

This time last year, Nicks was looking to put together a strong season with free agency on the horizon. While he managed to stay relatively healthy, the production just wasn’t there, as Nicks didn’t score a single touchdown despite playing 15 games and catching 56 passes. Nicks signed with Indianapolis in March, but it’s a one-year deal so the 2009 first-round pick better treat this season as an audition or he may find himself in the same situation next year.


7. Danny Amendola, New England Patriots

As important as Rob Gronkowski is to the Patriots’ passing game, Amendola needs to live up to the contract he signed last offseason too. Once again injuries played a major role, limiting Amendola to just 12 games and only six starts. And outside of two 10-catch games, Amendola hauled in a total of 34 passes in his 10 other appearances and scored just two touchdowns. Amendola was signed with the intent of replacing Wes Welker. At this point, there are getting half of the production for basically the same cost (both earning $3 million in base salary this season).


8. Tavon Austin, St. Louis Rams

St. Louis traded up to snag Austin with the eighth pick of the 2013 draft and the expectations were the all-purpose dynamo would be unleashed. This didn’t exactly transpire, however, as Austin failed to make an immediate impact and the Rams struggled with how to use him in their game plans. Progress was made as the season went on, including a two-touchdown (one receiving, one return) breakout against Indianapolis. The hope for this season is that both the player and the team will be on the same page. The Rams have a championship-caliber defense in place; it just needs the offense to do its part.


9. Eric Decker, New York Jets

Decker cashed in on two strong seasons in Denver to the tune of a five-year, $36 million contract with the Jets. Now, it’s just a matter of proving he’s worthy of being paid so well in his first season with his new team. A team that just so happens to be in the media capital of the world. Oh, there’s also no Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker or Julius Thomas to draw attention away from Decker. And do I really need to bring up his quarterback situation?


10. Sammy Watkins, Buffalo Bills

Watkins is in many ways this year’s Tavon Austin. A dynamic, explosive, all-purpose threat that starred in college that a team traded up for in the first round to get. The Bills paid a pretty hefty price (first- and third-round picks in 2015) to move up four spots to land Watkins, so there’s little doubt they have high hopes for the former Clemson All-American. However, as was the case with Austin last season, there’s no guarantee that rookies pay immediate dividends. And having a young wide receiver rely on a young quarterback (and vice versa) only adds to the degree of difficulty.


11. Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina Panthers

Benjamin’s not getting near the attention of Sammy Watkins, but that doesn’t change his situation in Carolina. The Panthers’ first-round pick (No. 28 overall), Benjamin has as much experience with the team as pretty much anyone else in the receiving corps – zero games. The top four wide receivers from last season are no longer on the roster, which means the defending NFC South champions are really hoping that Benjamin literally catches on sooner rather than later.


12. Jeremy Maclin, Philadelphia Eagles

Maclin missed all of last season with a torn ACL, so there are plenty who are eager to see how well he fits in Chip Kelly’s offense. Besides coming back from a serious injury, however, Maclin also will be replacing the departed DeSean Jackson as a starter opposite Riley Cooper. So he needs to not only get rid of the rust pretty quickly, he also needs to grasp Kelly’s complex system. On top of that, Maclin’s signed for just one year, so in essence he’s playing for his next paycheck. No pressure, right?


13. DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans

Houston’s first-round pick (27th overall) last year, Hopkins got off to a strong start as a rookie before struggling to find consistency. After catching 18 passes for 243 yards and a touchdown in his first three games, Hopkins posted just 34 receptions for 559 yards and another score the rest of the way. Included in those final 13 games were three one-catch efforts. Granted quarterback play was a big issue in 2013, but new head coach Bill O’Brien needs Hopkins to make his presence known this season if the Texans’ offense is to rebound. This is especially the case if All-Pro Andre Johnson maintains his stance about not wanting to be a part of the rebuilding effort under O’Brien.


14. Jared Cook, St. Louis Rams

After signing a big contract (five years, $35 million) with St. Louis last offseason, the expectation was that Cook would finally capitalize on the talent and potential he had teased everyone with his previous two seasons in Tennessee. While he did post a career-best 51 catches, the yardage (671) and touchdown (five) totals still leave something to be desired. While Tavon Austin certainly needs to take his game to a new level this fall, it’s not fair for him to shoulder all of the blame. Cook also needs to be accountable, especially since his quarterback is in the same boat.


15. Levine Toilolo, Atlanta Falcons

Toilolo’s inclusion on this list is not due to any fault of his own. Rather it’s because the second-year pro has the unenviable (and pretty much impossible) task of following a legend, future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez. No one really knows what the Falcons have in Toilolo, the 2013 fourth-round pick from Stanford, but they do know what Matt Ryan had in Gonzalez. And that was a consistent, reliable target that averaged 82 receptions and seven touchdowns over his five seasons in Atlanta.


Other Names to Watch

(alphabetical order)


Miles Austin, Cleveland Browns

Josh Gordon’s fate should be known fairly soon, but it’s safe to say he will miss a fair number of games, at minimum. Whether it’s “veteran” Brian Hoyer or Johnny Manziel at quarterback, they will need Austin or Nate Burleson or Andrew Hawkins to give defenses someone else to worry about besides tight end Jordan Cameron.


Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons

There’s no denying the difference-maker Jones is for the Falcons’ offense. Matt Ryan really needs a healthy, explosive Jones if this team wants to get back to its winning ways, especially with Tony Gonzalez now retired.


Steve Smith, Baltimore Ravens

Carolina’s all-time leading receiver heads to the Ravens to provide a productive option at receiver behind Torrey Smith. Hopefully the bulk of the attention Steve Smith generates with his new team will be what takes place on, not off of, the field.


Golden Tate, Detroit Lions

Seattle’s No. 1 receiver the past two seasons doesn’t have to worry about filling that role in Detroit. Still, Calvin Johnson has yet to be paired with a suitable sidekick and the Lions need Tate to be just that, especially given how much he’s being paid (five years, $31 million, $13.25 of it guaranteed).

Markus Wheaton, Pittsburgh Steelers

Antonio Brown is the No. 1 wide receiver and tight end Heath Miller is a favorite target of Ben Roethlisberger, but the Steelers need someone to replace Emmanuel Sanders. The hope is that Wheaton, the team’s third-round pick in 2013, can emerge after a hand injury basically wiped out his rookie season.


(DeSean Jackson photo courtesy of Washington Redskins' Web site,

15 NFL Wide Receivers and Tight Ends on the Hot Seat in 2014
Post date: Saturday, July 26, 2014 - 12:00
All taxonomy terms: Hot Seat, running backs, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/10-nfl-running-backs-hot-seat-2014

For the second straight year, no running back was taken in the first round of the NFL Draft. And in free agency, no ball-carrier signed for more than $10.5 million with a team. No matter how you look at it, the league’s attitude towards running backs has changed, which puts even more of a premium on production.


So when it comes to the running back position, NFL could truly mean “Not For Long,” as there are a number of former high draft picks that face uncertain futures as they enter the final year of their rookie contracts. On the other end of the spectrum, there also are several veteran backs that find themselves on the wrong side of 30 and need to prove they are still capable of getting the job done when the ball is in their hands.


Here are 10 running backs that need to make the most of their opportunities in 2014:


1. Trent Richardson, Indianapolis Colts

The third pick of the 2012 draft still has two years left on his rookie contract, but could be running short on opportunities to prove his worth. Already on his second team, Richardson fared even worse after being traded to the Colts (2.9 ypc) than he did with the Browns (3.5 ypc). With Ahmad Bradshaw (neck) and Vick Ballard (ACL) poised to return from injury, Richardson is certainly no lock to assume the starting job, even if the Colts gave up a first-round pick to get him in the first place.


2. Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints

Richardson isn’t the only former All-American running back that played at Alabama struggling in the NFL either. Ingram, the 2009 Heisman Trophy winner, has yet to enjoy anywhere near the same level of success as a pro. Hampered by injuries, which have limited him to 37 games in his first three seasons, Ingram is averaging just 4.1 yards per carry as a Saint with 11 touchdowns. Darren Sproles is now in Philadelphia, but Ingram is still behind Pierre Thomas on the depth chart and could end up being passed by Khiry Robinson, an undrafted free agent last season, as well. Not exactly an ideal situation for someone who will be a free agent after the season. 


3. Darren McFadden, Oakland Raiders

McFadden will turn 27 prior to the start of the season, yet his career is at a crossroads. The fourth overall pick of the 2008 draft, McFadden has shown glimpses of his all-around ability, but injuries and inconsistency have been the hallmarks of his career to this point. A free agent this past offseason, McFadden ended up signing a one-year deal to return to the Raiders, even though the team signed Maurice Jones-Drew (see below). McFadden better make the most of the touches he gets this fall, or else they may end up being the last he sees in the NFL.


4. Chris Johnson, New York Jets

The Tennessee Titans released Johnson in April, eating the last year of his contract. A 2,000-yard rusher in 2009, Johnson didn’t sit on the market too long, signing a two-year pact with the Jets. Set to turn 29 in September, Johnson has been consistent (six straight 1,000-yard seasons) and durable (only one missed game) in his six seasons, but he’s also shown signs of slowing down. After averaging 5.6 yards per carry in his magical 2009 campaign, he has seen that steadily decline to just 3.9 last season. Johnson believes he’s still capable of carrying the load, which would certainly help take some of the heat off of both his head coach and his quarterback.


5. Stevan Ridley, New England Patriots

Following a breakthrough 1,200-yard campaign in 2012, Ridley seemed primed to establish himself as one of the top running backs in the league. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to build on that success as ball-security issues (four lost fumbles), led to him taking a back seat to LeGarrette Blount, among others. Blount is now in Pittsburgh, but Ridley still has to prove to Bill Belichick that he can take care of the football when it’s in his hands. Not only do the Patriots have other options in the backfield, but Ridley also needs a strong season to help establish his value with free agency on the horizon.


6. Montee Ball, Denver Broncos

Ball is in just his second season and is the unquestioned starter in Denver. However, a lot of responsibility comes with that job, especially on a Super Bowl contender like the Broncos. With Knowshon Moreno in Miami, Ball should more than double his carries (120) from last season while also becoming a key part of the passing attack. Besides the production, however, Ball also has to prove that he’s capable of protecting the most important piece to this team – Peyton Manning. That’s especially the case if the Broncos have any hopes of getting another shot at the Lombardi Trophy in February.


7. Ryan Mathews, San Diego Chargers

Checking in at No. 3 on this same list prior to last season, Mathews answered the bell to the tune of a career-best 1,255 yards rushing. In the playoffs, however, the durability questions arose again when an ankle injury limited his effectiveness in the Divisional Round loss in Denver. A free agent after the season, Mathews is still young enough (27) to cash in. However, it may not be with the Chargers since they signed former Colt Donald Brown to a three-year deal this offseason and just extended Danny Woodhead two more years.


8. DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys

Similar to Mathews, Murray also was pretty high on the hot seat list last season. And like Mathews, Murray responded with a Pro Bowl-caliber season that saw him rush for 1,121 yards. Unfortunately, Murray also has his own durability questions, as he has yet to make it through a full season healthy. Another pending free agent, Murray’s future seems a little more secure considering he’s a year younger and the Cowboys don’t really have a better option right now on their roster. Still, Murray could make his agent’s (and his head coach’s) job a lot easier if he’s able to duplicate last season’s success.


9. Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens

If there is anyone who is ready to put 2013 behind them, it’s probably Rice. Besides seeing his production plummet (from 1,143 yards rushing in 2012 to 660), Rice also must still deal with the judicial system (NFL has suspended him for the first two games) when it comes to his indictment on third-degree aggravated assault stemming from a February incident involving his then-fiancée, now wife. With three more years remaining on his contract, the cost (cap hit/dead money) seems too high for the Ravens to simply cut their losses. But there’s no question that Rice needs to be at his best this season – both on the field and off of it.


10. Steven Jackson, Atlanta Falcons

After signing with Atlanta last offseason, Jackson thought he would finally get another shot to play in the postseason, while the Falcons thought they were solving their rushing woes. Unfortunately, neither goal was realized as Jackson rushed for career-worst 543 yards and the Falcons went from the top seed in the NFC playoffs to a 4-12 afterthought. At 31 years old and with more than 2,500 carries on his resume, the Falcons aren’t asking Jackson to be the workhorse he was earlier in his career. However, they do need more than 3.5 yards per attempt and seven total touchdowns they got from Jackson in 2013, especially if Atlanta wants to get back into the playoff discussion this season.


Other Names to Watch

(alphabetical order)


Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers

Has rushed for more than 1,100 yards in three straight seasons, but he’s 31 years old and a free agent after this year. The 49ers drafted Carlos Hyde in the second round and also have Kendall Hunter, LaMichael James and a rehabbing Marcus Lattimore on the roster.


Fred Jackson, Buffalo Bills

Thrived (890 yards rushing, 10 total TDs) in relief of an injured C.J. Spiller last season. Spiller still appears to be a building block for the future, however, as Jackson is 33 years old and a free agent after this season.


Maurice Jones-Drew, Oakland Raiders

The 2011 rushing champion tested the free agent market and ended up signing a three-year deal (just $1.2 million guaranteed) with Oakland. Are MJD’s best days behind him or can he return to Pro Bowl-caliber form?


Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams, Carolina Panthers

This duo is part of a crowded backfield and each has already restructured their contract to help secure a roster spot. Still, the Panthers need to find a productive running game to help Cam Newton break in a new receiving corps and stay in contention in what figures to be a competitive NFC South.


Ben Tate, Cleveland Browns

After tour of duty as Arian Foster’s backup in Houston, Tate gets his opportunity to carry the load in Cleveland. Contract (two years, only $2.5 million guaranteed) and the presence of rookie Terrance West are two indications that Tate may be on short leash in the Dawg Pound.

10 NFL Running Backs on the Hot Seat in 2014
Post date: Wednesday, July 23, 2014 - 15:30
All taxonomy terms: Hot Seat, quarterbacks, NFL, News
Path: /10-nfl-quarterbacks-hot-seat-2014

Of the 256 players selected in the most recent NFL Draft, 16 of them were quarterbacks. Cleveland, Jacksonville and Minnesota all took quarterbacks in the first round in hopes of landing a franchise signal-caller. Whether any of these rookies start a game (or more) this fall remains to be seen, but at least they don’t have to worry about job security just yet. The same can’t be said for a number of veterans around the league.


Here are 10 quarterbacks under the most pressure in 2014:


1. Jake Locker, Tennessee Titans

When it comes to Locker, it’s really pretty simple. There’s a reason the team didn’t exercise the fifth-year option on his rookie contract. The Titans’ brass still isn’t sure what exactly they have in Locker, who has made just 18 starts the past two seasons because of injuries. Locker has a golden opportunity to show first-year head coach Ken Whisenhunt he’s the long-term answer, but to do so he’ll not only need to stay healthy, he’ll also need to improve his accuracy (57.2 career completion percentage) and decision making (22:15 TD:INT ratio).


2. Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams

The Rams had two shots at drafting Johnny Manziel, but passed on him, a show of confidence in Bradford. This doesn’t mean Bradford is completely off of the hook, however. Even though the Rams appear to have a defense that’s capable of keeping up with the Seahawks and 49ers in the NFC West, it’s the offense’s improvement in 2014 that will likely determine their fate. The No. 1 overall pick of the 2010 draft was off to a great start last season (60.7 completion rate, 14:4 TD:INT ratio) before tearing his ACL in Week 7. Besides continuing to improve his production, Bradford needs to show he can stay healthy, especially with just two years remaining on his six-year, $78 million ($50 million guaranteed) rookie contract.


3. Geno Smith, New York Jets

Smith is just in his second year, so he should be pretty “safe.” However, head coach Rex Ryan needs to win to keep his job and the team also brought in veteran Michael Vick as an insurance policy. Everyone with the Jets wants Smith to succeed and seize the starting job by the throat, but another interception-prone season (21 last season, compared to just 12 TD passes) may be too tough to swallow.


4. Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals

Palmer helped lead the Cardinals to 10 wins last season, but it wasn’t enough to get into the playoffs. The 11-year veteran will turn 35 in December and is entering the last year of his contract. The team drafted Logan Thomas in May, but he’s considered a long-term project. The Cardinals are built to win now so Palmer should be safe, at least this season. But with weapons like Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and Andre Ellington, Palmer better improve on his production (24:22 TD:INT ratio in 2013) if he wants to stick around beyond 2014.


5. Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs

In the past three seasons, Smith has gone 30-9-1 as a starter for the 49ers and Chiefs. While the 2005 No. 1 overall pick hasn’t fully fulfilled his draft status, he has proven he’s capable of winning games consistently. Still, the 30-year-old is in the final year of his contract, despite posting an impressive 23:7 TD:INT ratio last season and performing even better (9:0) in three career playoff games. “Game manager” is a hard label for a quarterback to shed and that looks to be Smith’s challenge as he seeks to sign a contract extension with Kansas City.


6. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals

When it comes to Dalton, it’s a Jekyll and Hyde situation. The second-round pick from the 2011 draft has been extremely solid (30-18 record, 80:49 TD:INT ratio) in the regular season, leading his team to a franchise-first three straight playoff appearances in the process. Once he gets to the postseason, however, it’s been a nightmare, as he’s 0-3 with just one TD pass and six interceptions. Despite this glaring discrepancy, the team showed its faith in Dalton by signing him to a six-year, $115 million contract extension in early August. Just because Dalton got paid, however, it doesn't take any of the pressure off of him to perform. Especially come playoff time. 


7. Matt Schaub, Oakland Raiders

Pretty much whatever could go wrong for Schaub last season did, starting with the NFL-record four consecutive games with an interception returned for a touchdown. An ankle injury just added to his misery, and following Houston’s 2-14 meltdown, the two-time Pro Bowler was traded to Oakland for a sixth-round pick. The Raiders drafted Derek Carr in the second round, but the starting job should belong to Schaub. That said, considering the pay cut he took upon his arrival with his new team, it’s pretty safe to say the 33-year-old is not only playing for his spot with the Raiders, but his professional future.


8. Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins

The good news for Tannehill is that he doubled his TD passes (12 to 24) in his second season as the starter. Unfortunately, the interceptions (13 to 17) also ticked up and he improved in the win column by just one game (7-9 to 8-8). He still has two years to go on in his rookie contract, but Tannehill needs to take another step forward this season if he wants to silence his critics. Of course, a little more support from his offensive line (sacked NFL-high 58 times in 2013) certainly wouldn’t hurt.


9. Josh McCown, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

After thriving (13 TDs, INT) primarily in relief of an injured Jay Cutler last season, McCown finally gets his shot at being the full-time starter. Even with a new head coach (Lovie Smith) and several new faces, expectations are pretty high for the Buccaneers this fall, so McCown will need to maintain his 2013 level of performance if he wants to prolong his starting status. After all, the Bucs still have Sean Glennon on the roster. Besides being more than a decade younger than McCown (35), Glennon (25 in December) fared pretty well as a rookie last season, posting a 19:9 TD:INT ratio in 13 starts.


10. EJ Manuel, Buffalo Bills

Similar to Geno Smith, Manuel is in just his second year in the league. Unlike Smith, Manuel missed six games due to knee injuries and fared a little better (11:9 TD:INT ratio) when he was on the field. Still, Manuel can’t develop as a quarterback if he’s not healthy enough to play. This season could be a critical one in that respect with first-round pick Sammy Watkins and former Tampa Bay wide receiver Mike Williams added to the roster. There are still plenty of analysts and pundits who question the Bills’ decision to take Manuel with the 16th pick of the 2013 draft. It’s now up to Manuel to prove them all wrong.

10 NFL Quarterbacks on the Hot Seat in 2014
Post date: Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - 16:00
All taxonomy terms: coaches, Hot Seat, NFL, News
Path: /nfl-coaches-hot-seat-2014

Fourteen NFL teams have hired a new head coach in the last two offseasons and one of those franchises (Cleveland) doubled their pleasure during this span. With nearly half of the league employing first- or second-year head coaches, “tenure” isn’t exactly a word that’s used to describe this fraternity.


Even with all of the recent turnover at the top, however, that doesn’t mean there aren’t any coaches who are already feeling the pressure with Week 1 still more than six weeks away. These four head coaches need to produce results this fall if they don’t want to become the newest to join the ranks of the unemployed.


1) Jason Garrett, Dallas Cowboys

The pressure’s always on for the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, but that’s especially true for Garrett, who is in the final year of his contract and desperately needs to get his team into the playoffs. In his three and a half seasons at the helm, Garrett has yet to post a winning record over a full season. After going 5-3 when he replaced Wade Phillips (1-7 start) halfway through the 2010 season, Garrett has posted three consecutive .500 campaigns.


While the Cowboys’ four-year postseason drought is no doubt tough for owner/general manager Jerry Jones to stomach, the late collapses have been even more painful for him to endure. In each of the past three seasons, Dallas has had a chance to win the NFC East title. Unfortunately, the Cowboys have gone 0-3 in these games, which is a big reason why Garrett is feeling the heat in Big D.


2) Rex Ryan, New York Jets

Since leading the Jets to back-to-back AFC Championship Game appearances in his first two seasons, Ryan’s team has gone 22-26 and missed the playoffs three straight years. With general manager John Idzik entering just his second season with the Jets, the onus is on Ryan to show Idzik (as well as owner Woody Johnson) he’s still the man for this job.


Ryan did sign a contract extension in January that carries him through at least 2016, but the pact has some interesting language, including verbiage that states the deal isn’t fully guaranteed after the ‘15 season. The contract also features incentives related to postseason success. In other words, the writing in his contract is pretty much the writing on the wall for Ryan this season – make the playoffs or you may not be with the Jets in 2015.


3) Joe Philbin, Miami Dolphins

Philbin had the Dolphins in the AFC Wild Card chase until disappointing back-to-back losses to end the season. So after a two-game improvement (7-9) from his rookie year, why is he on the hot seat?


For one, thanks to an embarrassing bullying scandal that put the team in the national spotlight for all of the wrong reasons, the pressure is on Philbin to show his critics that he is in control of the locker room. The ‘Fins also need to focus on making headlines for what happens on the field, not off of it. And while Philbin survived the Dolphins’ tumultuous offseason, several others did not. With former Tampa Bay executive Dennis Hickey now in place as the general manager, Philbin may as well treat this season like a job interview. And in that respect, hopefully the on-the-field results will provide all the answers to Hickey’s questions.


4) Dennis Allen, Oakland Raiders

Allen’s gone 4-12 in each of his first two seasons in Oakland and let’s face it, no one expects the Raiders to produce a miraculous turnaround this year either. However, these are no longer Al Davis’ Raiders, as son Mark has taken over the reins and empowered general manager Reggie McKenzie to overhaul the roster.


McKenzie was very busy this offseason, using free agency and a couple of trades to bring in a lot of new faces. The Raiders clearly have a long way go before they can be considered legitimate contenders, and with recent draft picks like linebacker Khalil Mack, quarterback Derek Carr and cornerback D.J. Hayden considered a big part of the future, it’s not out of the question that the next change made is at head coach. After all, the Raiders certainly are no strangers to coaching changes — try seven different head coaches since Jon Gruden left after the 2001 season.


Getting warmer?


Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals

Last season, Lewis became the first in coach in Bengals’ history to earn three straight playoff berths. Unfortunately, Lewis is still looking for his first postseason victory (0-5), and even though he’s the winningest coach in franchise history (90-85-1 in 11 seasons), one can’t help but wonder if Lewis has taken this team as far as he can. And despite all of his success in Cincinnati, Lewis’ current contract is set to expire after the 2015 season.


Mike Smith, Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons were decimated by injuries last season, so Smith should get a mulligan for their 4-12 showing, which broke a string of three consecutive 10-win seasons. However, with the NFC South only getting tougher and owner Arthur Blank readying his shiny (and expensive) new stadium in 2017, it wouldn’t hurt Smith to show that 2013 was the exception and not the norm.


Ron Rivera, Carolina Panthers

From coach of the year to the unemployment line? It’s not likely, considering Rivera led the Panthers to an improbable 12-4 record and NFC South title last season, which netted him the AP’s NFL Coach of the Year award. However, after nearly doubling his win total from his first two years (13-19) at the helm, Rivera can’t afford too many steps backward this season in what figures to be a tightly contested division. Fair or not, Rivera has raised the expectation level in Charlotte, which subsequently decreases his margin for error.


Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers

A two-time AFC champion with a Super Bowl ring to his credit, it’s entirely possible that Tomlin directs the Steelers back to the top of the AFC North this season. And should that happen, any questions surrounding his job security would be rendered moot. However, after consecutive 8-8 finishes which resulted in the proud franchise’s first extended playoff drought in more than a decade, Tomlin also knows that his team needs to produce better results in 2014 if he doesn’t want to worry about answering said questions.


Tom Coughlin, New York Giants

Coughlin has won two Super Bowls with the Giants and is among the top 15 head coaches in all-time wins (14th with 158). Even if the Giants fare considerably worse than 7-9 this season, I don’t really see any scenario in which co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch fire Coughlin, who is the third-longest tenured head coach (11 seasons). However, considering the Giants’ steady decline since their 2011 Super Bowl run, I am not ruling out the possibility that Coughlin makes the decision to call it quits after a Hall of Fame-worthy career that covers nearly two decades. If anything, Coughlin, who is signed through the 2015 season, has earned the right to leave on his terms.

NFL Coaches on the Hot Seat in 2014
Post date: Monday, July 21, 2014 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, rookies, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/top-20-fantasy-football-rookies-2014

Entering last season, the two rookies that were widely projected to have the biggest fantasy impact in 2013 were running back Montee Ball and wide receiver Tavon Austin. Their electric debuts didn’t exactly materialize, for different reasons, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t any first-year fantasy standouts either.


Eddie Lacy, Giovani Bernard, Le’Veon Bell and Zac Stacy all finished among the top 20 running backs in fantasy points, while San Diego’s Keenan Allen put up better numbers than the likes of Pro Bowl wide receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Victor Cruz, among many others.


So which members of the 2014 NFL Draft class are the ones to target for your fantasy team this season?


1. Sammy Watkins, WR, Buffalo

No one was really surprised when the Bills traded up to grab Watkins at No. 4 overall. And based on the steep price (two first-round picks, one fourth) the team paid to do so, it’s pretty clear the former Clemson star will be a huge part of the offensive game plan from the start. Watkins was a threat to break off a big play whenever he touched the ball in college, and his all-purpose skills only add to his appeal. The Bills traded away No. 1 wide receiver Stevie Johnson during the draft, so the opportunity is there for Watkins to step in and immediately become quarterback EJ Manuel’s favorite target. 


2. Bishop Sankey, RB, Tennessee

The first running back off of the board, Sankey (above, right) is the beneficiary of an unsettled Titans backfield with Chris Johnson now on the Jets and Shonn Greene coming off of knee surgery, along with the fact the team has a new head coach in Ken Whisenhunt. A workhorse at Washington, Sankey figures to see plenty of touches this fall and should be the first rookie running back drafted.


3. Brandin Cooks, WR, New Orleans

The nation’s best wide receiver lands on a team with a future Hall of Fame quarterback. It could be a match made in fantasy heaven for Cooks, who caught 128 passes last season. While it wouldn’t shock me to see Cooks post the best numbers of any rookie wideout when all is said and done, there’s still the matter of grasping the Saints’ complex passing game and the fact that Drew Brees doesn’t lack for targets with Jimmy Graham, Marques Colston, Kenny Stills and Pierre Thomas around.


4. Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Carolina

The Panthers’ top four wide receivers from last season are gone, so opportunity should not be an issue for Benjamin. A big (6-5, 241) target, Cam Newton should have little trouble finding Benjamin, provided the rookie learns the ins and outs of being an NFL wide receiver.


5. Jeremy Hill, RB, Cincinnati

Giovani Bernard is the Bengals’ top backfield option, but he’s also more of the change-of-pace guy, not the bruising, between-the-tackles rusher. Right now that job belongs to BenJarvus Green-Ellis, but Hill could quickly supplant him. To that end, even though BJGE averaged a paltry 3.4 yards per carry last season, he did have seven rushing touchdowns.


6. Odell Beckham Jr., WR, New York Giants

Hakeem Nicks is now in Indianapolis, so that certainly helps Beckham’s chances of getting on the field early. However, the Giants already have Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle and Jerrel Jernigan at the position, and with a grizzly old veteran like Tom Coughlin as head coach, Beckham will have to earn his playing time. Still, with no established tight end on the roster and Eli Manning at quarterback, there’s much to like about Beckham’s fantasy potential.


7. Mike Evans, WR, Tampa Bay

The jury seems to be out on Evans, but there’s no disputing his production (1,394 yards, 12 TDs at Texas A&M last season) or the fact he’s a large (6-5) target capable of making big plays down the field. In addition, the Buccaneers traded Mike Williams to Buffalo, so the No. 2 job opposite Pro Bowler Vincent Jackson is available.


8. Carlos Hyde, RB, San Francisco

The thinking is that Hyde is the heir apparent to Frank Gore, who has nearly 2,200 carries in his career. However, Gore is only 31 years old and the 49ers have other options in Kendall Hunter, LaMichael James and a rehabbing Marcus Lattimore (see below). The 49ers love to run the ball, but don’t lack for mouths to feed either.


9. Marqise Lee, WR, Jacksonville

A first-round talent according to many scouts, Lee fell in the Jaguars’ lap early in the second. With Justin Blackmon’s future with the team uncertain at best, the only sure thing Jacksonville has at wide receiver is Cecil Shorts. If not for the quarterback situation, Lee would be higher on this list.


10. Johnny Manziel, QB, Cleveland

The No. 1 attraction in the entire draft class, Manziel won’t be handed the starting job by rookie head coach Mike Pettine. However, considering Brian Hoyer has four total career starts under his belt, it may just be a matter of time before Manziel is running the show. His dual-threat ability is obviously appealing, but don’t push Manziel too high up your draft board, unless it’s a keeper/dynasty league.


Related: Does Johnny Manziel Have Any Fantasy Value in 2014?


11. Eric Ebron, TE, Detroit

Although he didn’t play basketball, Ebron fits the Jimmy Graham mold pretty well and he landed with a team that’s fairly pass-happy in its own right. Ebron’s shortcomings as a blocker may actually bolster his fantasy value, especially if the Lions line him up out wide (See: Jimmy Graham).


12. Tre Mason, RB, St. Louis

The Heisman finalist finds himself behind Zac Stacy, another SEC alumnus, in the Rams’ backfield pecking order. Head coach Jeff Fisher seems committed to Stacy, last year’s fifth-round pick who emerged from nowhere to seize the starting job. However, that doesn’t mean history can’t repeat itself this season with Mason. At worst, Mason figures to be a potential flex play or bye week fill-in down the road.


13. Terrance West, RB, Cleveland

The Browns signed Ben Tate as a free agent, but his production has dipped in the past few seasons and he has struggled to stay healthy. Coming from FBS member Towson, West may be somewhat unknown and unheralded, but that could change if he gets enough touches this season.


14. Jace Amaro, TE, New York Jets

Amaro was a pass-catching magnet at Texas Tech, which is something the Jets haven’t had at tight end since Dustin Keller. The question is can Geno Smith find and, more importantly, connect with Amaro?


15. Jordan Matthews, WR, Philadelphia

Plenty to like about the SEC’s all-time leading wide receiver, but it remains to be seen how Chip Kelly will use him in an offense that attempted the sixth-fewest passes last season. Also don’t forget about the additions of Jeremy Maclin (missed last season with torn ACL) and Darren Sproles (via trade with New Orleans).


16. Allen Robinson, WR, Jacksonville

Like Marqise Lee, Robinson immediately bolsters a receiving corps that lacked playmakers. But Robinson is probably behind Lee and Cecil Shorts on the depth chart for a team that finished near the bottom in pass offense last season. A hamstring injury suffered during OTAs only adds to the uncertainty surrounding Robinson’s fantasy potential.


17. Charles Sims, RB, Tampa Bay

Doug Martin should be 100 percent recovered from a torn labrum, which probably limits Sims’ chances. However, new Buccaneers head coach Lovie Smith probably sees some Matt Forté in Sims, who could carve out a role as a receiver out of the backfield.


18. Jerick McKinnon, RB, Minnesota

Toby Gerhart is now in Jacksonville, so the backup job is there for the taking. Just remember who holds the No. 1 job in Minnesota, which is the main reason Gerhart is now a Jaguar.


19. De’Anthony Thomas, RB, Kansas City

Can Thomas be Andy Reid’s new Dexter McCluster? If so, the former Oregon all-purpose dynamo could develop into a fantasy sleeper.


20. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Tampa Bay

Like teammate Mike Evans, Seferian-Jenkins was very productive in college. Unfortunately, Seferian-Jenkins’ path to the Buccaneers’ starting lineup doesn’t seem as clear as Evans’, not with last year’s pleasant surprise, 2013 undrafted free agent Timothy Wright, and a couple of veteran tight ends on the roster.


Others to Watch (alphabetical order):


Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay – Great quarterback, crowded receiving corps.

Dri Archer, RB, Pittsburgh – Special teams weapon could see role as change-of-pace back.

Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Minnesota – May be most pro-ready rookie QB, but Vikings in no rush to throw him out there.

Ka’Deem Carey, RB, Chicago – Open competition to be Matt Forté’s backup.

Shaq Evans, WR, New York Jets – After Eric Decker Jets’ receiving corps is unsettled.

Devonta Freeman, RB, Atlanta – Steven Jackson is not getting any younger.

Nate Freese, K, Detroit – Kickers score points too, especially for an offense like Detroit’s.

T.J. Jones, WR, Detroit – Plenty of targets available for another Lion wide receiver to emerge behind Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate.

Jarvis Landry, WR, Miami – Ryan Tannehill and Mike Wallace weren’t exactly on the same page last season.

Cody Latimer, WR, Denver – Any Denver wide receiver deserves to be mentioned, but Latimer may be more of a 2015 option.

Paul Richardson, WR, Seattle – Golden Tate is gone, while Percy Harvin and Sidney Rice are no strangers to the injury report.

Devin Street, WR, Dallas – Miles Austin’s departure presents an opportunity for a new No. 3 wide receiver to emerge.

Lorenzo Taliaferro, RB, Baltimore – Ravens running backs averaged 3.1 yards per carry last season.


(Bishop Sankey photo courtesy of Tennessee Titans' Web site,; Odell Beckham Jr. photo courtesy of New York Giants' Web site,; Jace Amaro photo courtesy of New York Jets' Web site,; Teddy Bridgewater photo courtesy of Minnesota Vikings' Web site,

Top 20 Fantasy Football Rookies for 2014
Post date: Friday, July 18, 2014 - 12:00
Path: /nfl/2014-nfl-training-camp-dates-and-locations

The Seattle Seahawks won't officially begin defense of their Super Bowl title until Sept. 4 when they host the Green Bay Packers in the opening game of the 2014 NFL regular season. However, the real work begins July 24 with the start of training camp in Renton, Wash.


The Buffalo Bills will be the first team to open training camp in Pittsford, N.Y., on July 18, while the Detroit Lions will be the last of the 32 teams to get things going in Allen Park, Mich., on July 27. Regardless of which team gets back to work first or last, they will all begin their quest towards the same goal - the opportunity to play for the Lombardi Trophy in Glendale, Ariz., on Feb. 1.


Below are the dates and locations for 2014 training camps for all 32 NFL teams:

TeamSiteLocationReport Date
ArizonaUniversity of Phoenix StadiumGlendale, AZ7/25
AtlantaAtlanta Falcons Training FacilityFlowery Branch, GA7/24
BaltimoreUnder Armour Performance CenterOwings Mills, MD7/23
BuffaloSt. John Fisher CollegePittsford, NY7/18
CarolinaWofford CollegeSpartanburg, SC7/24
ChicagoOlivet Nazarene UniversityBourbonnais, IL7/24
CincinnatiPaul Brown StadiumCincinnati, OH7/23
ClevelandCleveland Browns Training FacilityBerea, OH7/25
DallasRiver Ridge Playing FieldsOxnard, CA7/22
DenverPaul D. Bowlen Memorial Broncos CentreDove Valley, CO7/23
DetroitDetroit Lions Training FacilityAllen Park, MI7/27
Green BaySt. Norbert CollegeGreen Bay, WI7/25
HoustonMethodist Training CenterHouston, TX7/25
IndianapolisAnderson UniversityAnderson, IN7/23
JacksonvilleFlorida Blue Health & Wellness Practice FieldsJacksonville, FL7/24
Kansas CityMissouri Western State UniversitySt. Joseph, MO7/23
MiamiMiami Dolphins Training FacilityDavie, FL7/20
MinnesotaMinnesota State University, MankatoMankato, MN7/24
New EnglandGillette StadiumFoxboro, MA7/23
New OrleansThe Greenbrier &White Sulphur Springs, WV &7/24
New Orleans Saints Training FacilityMetairie, LA8/17
New York GiantsTimex Performance CenterEast Rutherford, NJ7/21
New York JetsSUNY CortlandCortland, NY7/23
OaklandNapa Valley MarriottNapa, CA7/24
PhiladelphiaNovaCare ComplexPhiladelphia, PA7/25
PittsburghSaint Vincent CollegeLatrobe, PA7/25
St. LouisRussell Athletic Training CenterEarth City, MO7/24
San DiegoChargers ParkSan Diego, CA7/23
San FranciscoMarie P. DeBartolo Sports CenterSanta Clara, CA7/23
SeattleVirginia Mason Athletic CenterRenton, WA7/24
Tampa BayOne Buccaneer PlaceTampa Bay, FL7/25
TennesseeSaint Thomas Sports ParkNashville, TN7/25
WashingtonBon Secours Training CenterRichmond, VA7/23

Dates and locations subject to change. Information culled from several sources.


Click here to order your Athlon Sports Pro Football 2014 Preview magazine


(Top photo courtesy of Seattle Seahawks Web site,

2014 NFL Training Camp Dates and Locations
Post date: Monday, July 14, 2014 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, IDP, Mock Draft, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/2014-fantasy-football-idp-mock-draft

NFL training camps don't open until later this month, but it's never too early to look ahead to the upcoming season of fantasy football. Twelve Athlon editors and fantasy contributors did just that in early May.


Keep in mind that since this was done more than a month ago, that the picks reflect rosters and teams as they stood then. For example, even though he was not drafted, Atlanta linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (ruptured Achilles) was healthy when this mock draft took place.


Below is a complete breakdown of the 12-team, 20-round IDP mock draft we conducted, along with some analysis of my own. This mock draft also can be found in this year's Fantasy Football Magazine, which also features 419 in-depth player reports including projected stats, a 280-player big board and team-by-team analysis from NFL beat writers. Other content in this year's edition includes a "Who's No. 1?" and Johnny Manziel-centric debate, along with the introduction of a new advanced statistic, Opportunity-adjusted Touchdowns (OTD), courtesy of Pro Football Focus' Mike Clay, who also participated in this mock draft. And if that's not enough, there's also a rundown of potential breakout candidates, injury concerns and fantasy busts from 2013 who may or may not bounce back in '14. 


12-team, 20-round serpentine-style mock draft based on Athlon Sports standard scoring (see below):

Starting lineup: 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 Flex (RB/WR), 1 K, 1 DEF/ST, 1 DL, 1 LB, 1 DB, 1 Flex IDP (DL/LB/DB), 6 bench spots


Round 1
11Jamaal CharlesRBKCDavid
22Adrian PetersonRBMINBrandon FunstonYahoo! Sports
33LeSean McCoyRBPHIJamey
44Matt ForteRBCHIMatt
55Marshawn LynchRBSEANathan RushAthlon Sports
66Eddie LacyRBGBMark RossAthlon Sports
77Calvin JohnsonWRDETCorby YarbroughAthlon Sports
88Doug MartinRBTBSteven LassanAthlon Sports
99DeMarco MurrayRBDALEric MackBleacher Report
1010Peyton ManningQBDENBraden GallAthlon Sports
1111Demaryius ThomasWRDENJohn
1212Jimmy GrahamTENOMike ClayPro Football Focus

Round 1 Analysis: No real surprises here. If I was picking second, I would have gone LeSean McCoy over Adrian Peterson, but that’s just a matter of preference (think McCoy’s upside as a pass-catcher puts him ahead of Peterson). I thought about taking Megatron with the sixth pick, but figured Lacy would be the safer choice as I consider him a true workhorse RB, provided he stays healthy. I also have no issue with Braden being the only one to take a QB, although I certainly didn’t think at the time we wouldn’t see another come off of the board until Round 5.


Round 2     
113Dez BryantWRDALMike Clay
214Le'Veon BellRBPITJohn Hansen
315Zac StacyRBSTLBraden Gall
416Alfred MorrisRBWASEric Mack
517Giovani BernardRBCINSteven Lassan
618A.J. GreenWRCINCorby Yarbrough
719Julio JonesWRATLMark Ross
820Brandon MarshallWRCHINathan Rush
921Jordy NelsonWRGBMatt Schauf
1022Montee BallRBDENJamey Eisenberg
1123Alshon JefferyWRCHIBrandon Funston
1224Arian FosterRBHOUDavid Gonos

Round 2 Analysis: I prefer Giovani Bernard and Montee Ball over Zac Stacy and Alfred Morris, but the real wild card at RB in this round is Arian Foster. Everyone knows what Foster is capable of, when healthy, but he’s coming off of back surgery and will now operate in a different offense under new Texans head coach Bill O’Brien. Combine those factors with the uncertainty at quarterback and it wouldn’t surprise me if Foster continued to slip in the rankings in the coming months.


Round 3     
125Antonio BrownWRPITDavid Gonos
226Randall CobbWRGBBrandon Funston
327Larry FitzgeraldWRARIJamey Eisenberg
428C.J. SpillerRBBUFMatt Schauf
529Chris JohnsonRBNYJNathan Rush
630Keenan AllenWRSDMark Ross
731Rob GronkowskiTENECorby Yarbrough
832Andre JohnsonWRHOUSteven Lassan
933Pierre GarconWRWASEric Mack
1034Reggie BushRBDETBraden Gall
1135Shane VereenRBNEJohn Hansen
1236Andre EllingtonRBARIMike Clay

Round 3 Analysis: The RBs and WRs continue to fly off the board with Rob Gronkowski the only outlier. As tantalizing and tempting a fantasy asset Gronk may be, I most likely won’t end up with him on any of my teams this season. Fourteen missed games over the last two seasons and the severity of his injuries are hard for me to overlook, especially when it comes to using a high draft pick on a TE not named Jimmy Graham. I’m also not expecting big things from Chris Johnson in a Jets uniform. For starters, he’s no lock for an RB1-worthy workload.


Round 4     
137Vincent JacksonWRTBMike Clay
238Julius ThomasTEDENJohn Hansen
339Vernon DavisTESFBraden Gall
440Victor CruzWRNYGEric Mack
541Roddy WhiteWRATLSteven Lassan
642Ryan MathewsRBSDCorby Yarbrough
743Percy HarvinWRSEAMark Ross
844Wes WelkerWRDENNathan Rush
945Joique BellRBDETMatt Schauf
1046Bishop SankeyRBTENJamey Eisenberg
1147Cordarrelle PattersonWRMINBrandon Funston
1248Michael CrabtreeWRSFDavid Gonos

Round 4 Analysis: Four rounds in and Corby finally takes a RB. He could certainly do worse than Ryan Mathews as his RB1, but I would encourage other fantasy GMs to think twice before employing a similar strategy. The top five RBs last season averaged 293.6 fantasy points (Athlon scoring). For nos. 5-10 that average plummets to 221.3. Mathews finished as the No. 12 fantasy RB in 2013 with 197.4 fantasy points. That said, Mathews is certainly safer than Bishop Sankey, who was the first rookie at any position to be taken. Sankey appears to have a great opportunity in Tennessee, but it’s not like highly touted rookies haven’t panned out before, right? Remember Tavon Austin or even Montee Ball last season?


Round 5     
149Aaron RodgersQBGBDavid Gonos
250Rashad JenningsRBNYGBrandon Funston
351Julian EdelmanWRNEJamey Eisenberg
452Michael FloydWRARIMatt Schauf
553Frank GoreRBSFNathan Rush
654Drew BreesQBNOMark Ross
755Ray RiceRBBALCorby Yarbrough
856Ben TateRBCLESteven Lassan
957Andrew LuckQBINDEric Mack
1058T.Y. HiltonWRINDBraden Gall
1159Jeremy MaclinWRPHIJohn Hansen
1260DeSean JacksonWRWASMike Clay

Round 5 Analysis: Forty-nine picks in and we finally have a second quarterback taken! Credit to David for pouncing on Aaron Rodgers with the first pick here. I jumped next with Drew Brees, but Eric was the only other to follow suit (Andrew Luck). Has the general perception on QB value changed? Perhaps, but I still think there’s a clear distinction between the elite and next tier. Although Peyton Manning lapped the field with his record-breaking season, Brees still posted 435.7 fantasy points, which was 81.6 points more than the No. 3 scorer (Andy Dalton). And while 14 QBs averaged 20 or more fantasy points per game, only 10 of those played more than 13 games. Not saying you can’t wait on a QB, just don’t wait too long especially if Rodgers or Brees is still out there.


Round 6     
161Steven JacksonRBATLMike Clay
262Trent RichardsonRBINDJohn Hansen
363Torrey SmithWRBALBraden Gall
464Josh GordonWRCLEEric Mack
565Kendall WrightWRTENSteven Lassan
666Matthew StaffordQBDETCorby Yarbrough
767Knowshon MorenoRBMIAMark Ross
868Cam NewtonQBCARNathan Rush
969Terrance WilliamsWRDALMatt Schauf
1070Golden TateWRDETJamey Eisenberg
1171Toby GerhartRBJACBrandon Funston
1272Maurice Jones-DrewRBOAKDavid Gonos

Round 6 Analysis: A couple of more QBs go, but the proceedings continue to be dominated by RBs and WRs. RBs in particular have really thinned out by this point. I know Knowshon Moreno isn’t in Denver any more, but it’s not like he’s joining a crowded backfield in Miami and the Dolphins invested heavily in overhauling their offensive line. I’m also curious to see what Toby Gerhart does in Jacksonville with his first opportunity to be the top ball-carrier. Probably goes without saying, but Josh Gordon’s draft value will be tied directly to how many games he gets suspended. I for one will be very surprised if it’s no fewer than eight. After that it’s simply a matter of risk tolerance. Depending on how you used your previous picks, I have no issue with someone taking a chance on half a season of Gordon in Round 6.


Round 7     
173Jason WittenTEDALDavid Gonos
274Jordan CameronTECLEBrandon Funston
375Stevan RidleyRBNEJamey Eisenberg
476Robert Griffin IIIQBWASMatt Schauf
577Sammy WatkinsWRBUFNathan Rush
678Darren SprolesRBPHIMark Ross
779Emmanuel SandersWRDENCorby Yarbrough
880DeAngelo WilliamsRBCARSteven Lassan
981Eric DeckerWRNYJEric Mack
1082Carlos HydeRBSFBraden Gall
1183Pierre ThomasRBNOJohn Hansen
1284Marques ColstonWRNOMike Clay

Round 7 Analysis: Two more rookies get their names called in this round. Sammy Watkins looks a lot like this year’s Tavon Austin – a dynamic, all-purpose threat who is expected to become a focal point of the offense right away. However, as has already been mentioned, that didn’t happen with Austin in 2013. Whether history will repeat itself with Watkins remains to be seen, but it wouldn’t surprise me one bit to see his draft value fluctuate dramatically as we get closer to the start of the season. I am more bullish on Watkins as a rookie than Carlos Hyde. Frank Gore’s age and wear and tear notwithstanding, San Francisco doesn’t lack for options in its backfield. Don’t completely ignore Hyde, but don’t forget about Kendall Hunter, LaMichael James or even Marcus Lattimore either.


Round 8     
185Darren McFaddenRBOAKMike Clay
286Colin KaepernickQBSFJohn Hansen
387Brandin CooksWRNOBraden Gall
488Mike WallaceWRMIAEric Mack
589Reggie WayneWRINDSteven Lassan
690Mike EvansWRTBCorby Yarbrough
791Tavon AustinWRSTLMark Ross
892Anquan BoldinWRSFNathan Rush
993J.J. WattDLHOUMatt Schauf
1094Matt RyanQBATLJamey Eisenberg
1195Robert QuinnDLSTLBrandon Funston
1296Danny WoodheadRBSDDavid Gonos

Round 8 Analysis: The QBs continue to trickle out, but we also see the first IDPs taken. Not surprised that J.J. Watt and Robert Quinn are first two to go, but it’s usually pretty difficult for any IDP, but especially a DL, to perform well enough to justify such a lofty draft status. Just be willing to accept potentially less ROI should you consider being one of the first to pull the trigger. Also, count me in the camp that thinks Brandin Cooks could end up with the best fantasy numbers of any rookie wide receiver this season. The Biletnikoff winner appears to be an ideal fit for Drew Brees and the Saints’ passing attack.


Round 9     
197Luke KuechlyLBCARDavid Gonos
298Cecil ShortsWRJACBrandon Funston
399Dennis PittaTEBALJamey Eisenberg
4100Greg OlsenTECARMatt Schauf
5101Antonio GatesTESDNathan Rush
6102Jordan ReedTEWASMark Ross
7103Chandler JonesDLNECorby Yarbrough
8104Kyle RudolphTEMINSteven Lassan
9105Lavonte DavidLBTBEric Mack
10106Khiry RobinsonRBNOBraden Gall
11107Kenny StillsWRNOJohn Hansen
12108Dwayne BoweWRKCMike Clay

Round 9 Analysis: Luke Kuechly is the first LB to be drafted, which makes sense considering the Panthers’ tackling machine is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year. However, similar to Patrick Willis, reputation and accolades don’t necessarily translate to fantasy success. Kuechly’s production is driven primarily by his tackle totals, but that I mean he’s not a lock to generate other plays (sacks, forced fumbles, INTs, etc.). This is just another factor to keep in mind when you put together your draft board. I also really like Saints RB Khiry Robinson as a sleeper this year, as the opportunity is certainly there with Darren Sproles now in Philadelphia.


Round 10     
1109Nick FolesQBPHIMike Clay
2110Marvin JonesWRCINJohn Hansen
3111SeattleDSTSEABraden Gall
4112Tre MasonRBSTLEric Mack
5113Vontaze BurfictLBCINSteven Lassan
6114Jeremy HillRBCINCorby Yarbrough
7115Kiko AlonsoLBBUFMark Ross
8116Tom BradyQBNENathan Rush
9117Fred JacksonRBBUFMatt Schauf
10118Greg HardyDLCARJamey Eisenberg
11119Russell WilsonQBSEABrandon Funston
12120DeAndre HopkinsWRHOUDavid Gonos

Round 10 Analysis: Raise your hand if you pegged Tom Brady for a 10th-round pick. Yeah me neither. Tom Terrific’s numbers have certainly gone in the wrong direction, but track record has to count for something right? Well it’s just a matter of if you think the Patriots’ offense can get back to its past levels of success. Considering the only help Brady got in free agency was the addition of former Carolina WR Brandon LaFell and the uncertainty surrounding Rob Gronkowski, the concerns of this occurring are well warranted. At the least, I would definitely lean Russell Wilson over Brady if both were still on the board. And while hindsight is certainly 20/20, I have some drafter’s remorse over making Kiko Alonso my first IDP taken. While I like Alonso just fine, I think I became smitten too much with his numbers and probably would have been better off taking someone more established like a Paul Poslusnzy or Karlos Dansby instead.


Round 11     
1121Jason Pierre-PaulDLNYGDavid Gonos
2122Bobby WagnerLBSEABrandon Funston
3123Devonta FreemanRBATLJamey Eisenberg
4124Paul PoslusznyLBJACMatt Schauf
5125Patrick PetersonDBARINathan Rush
6126Alec OgletreeLBSTLMark Ross
7127Hakeem NicksWRINDCorby Yarbrough
8128Tony RomoQBDALSteven Lassan
9129Terrance WestRBCLEEric Mack
10130Jordan MatthewsWRPHIBraden Gall
11131Karlos DansbyLBCLEJohn Hansen
12132Derrick JohnsonLBKCMike Clay

Round 11 Analysis: IDPs really coming into focus by this point, including the first DB off the board in Patrick Peterson. While I would not have made the same decision as Nathan, there’s no disputing Peterson’s talent, ability and upside. However, Peterson is a little too reliant on the big plays (turnovers in particular) for my tastes. I prefer a little more consistency when it comes to tackle numbers and across the board production. Also credit to Steven Lassan who was the last one to take a QB and still ended up with Tony Romo. Questions about his back aside, there’s nothing wrong with landing a potential top-10 QB in the 11th round. 


Round 12     
1133Riley CooperWRPHIMike Clay
2134Justin HunterWRTENJohn Hansen
3135Cameron JordanDLNOBraden Gall
4136Earl ThomasDBSEAEric Mack
5137Jay CutlerQBCHISteven Lassan
6138DeMeco RyansLBPHICorby Yarbrough
7139Philip RiversQBSDMark Ross
8140Patrick WillisLBSFNathan Rush
9141Kelvin BenjaminWRCARMatt Schauf
10142Brian CushingLBHOUJamey Eisenberg
11143Eric BerryDBKCBrandon Funston
12144Markus WheatonWRPITDavid Gonos

Round 12 Analysis: Steven backs up his Tony Romo selection with Jay Cutler, another solid move, and I follow suit by taking Philip Rivers as my Drew Brees insurance. As important as RB and WR depth can be, if something happens to your No. 1 QB and you don’t have an adequate Plan B, your fantasy season could be ruined right then and there. Aaron Rodgers owners last season can certainly relate to this strategy.


Round 13     
1145San FranciscoDSTSFDavid Gonos
2146Ladarius GreenTESDBrandon Funston
3147Odell Beckham Jr.WRNYGJamey Eisenberg
4148Danny AmendolaWRNEMatt Schauf
5149Martellus BennettTECHINathan Rush
6150Eric EbronTEDETMark Ross
7151Lamar MillerRBMIACorby Yarbrough
8152Muhammad WilkersonDLNYJSteven Lassan
9153Coby FleenerTEINDEric Mack
10154Mark IngramRBNOBraden Gall
11155Harrison SmithDBMINJohn Hansen
12156James LaurinaitisLBSTLMike Clay
Round 14     
1157Cameron WakeDLMIAMike Clay
2158Rob NinkovichDLNEJohn Hansen
3159Eric ReidDBSFBraden Gall
4160Mario WilliamsDLBUFEric Mack
5161T.J. WardDBDENSteven Lassan
6162Christine MichaelRBSEACorby Yarbrough
7163Eric WeddleDBSDMark Ross
8164Bernard PierceRBBALNathan Rush
9165Dexter McClusterWRTENMatt Schauf
10166DeMarcus WareDLDENJamey Eisenberg
11167Andre BrownRBHOUBrandon Funston
12168David WilsonRBNYGDavid Gonos

Rounds 13 and 14 Analysis: Nearly half of the picks in these two rounds are used on IDPs, as the GMs work towards filling out their starting lineups. I particularly liked the Rob Ninkovich pick by John, as the Patriot is an underappreciated fantasy stud. Capable of playing both LB and DL, Ninkovich was one of five DL-eligible players to finish with more than 100 fantasy points last season. Once again, name recognition carries little, if any, value when it comes to putting together a championship-caliber fantasy team. I also particularly liked the selections of Harrison Smith (13th) and T.J. Ward (14th) from the DB ranks.


Round 15     
1169Mark BarronDBTBDavid Gonos
2170ArizonaDSTARIBrandon Funston
3171Bernard PollardDBTENJamey Eisenberg
4172Jerod MayoLBNEMatt Schauf
5173DenverDSTDENNathan Rush
6174Chris IvoryRBNYJMark Ross
7175Zach ErtzTEPHICorby Yarbrough
8176Lawrence TimmonsLBPITSteven Lassan
9177NaVorro BowmanLBSFEric Mack
10178Johnny ManzielQBCLEBraden Gall
11179Tyler EifertTECINJohn Hansen
12180Morgan BurnettDBGBMike Clay
Round 16     
1181CarolinaDSTCARMike Clay
2182LeGarrette BlountRBPITJohn Hansen
3183Davante AdamsWRGBBraden Gall
4184Andy DaltonQBCINEric Mack
5185CincinnatiDSTCINSteven Lassan
6186St. LouisDSTSTLCorby Yarbrough
7187Marqise LeeWRJACMark Ross
8188Jadeveon ClowneyLBHOUNathan Rush
9189Carson PalmerQBARIMatt Schauf
10190Ben RoethlisbergerQBPITJamey Eisenberg
11191Eli ManningQBNYGBrandon Funston
12192Stevie JohnsonWRSFDavid Gonos

Rounds 15 and 16 Analysis: If he’s able to come back 100 percent from his torn pectoral, Matt has an absolute steal in getting Jerod Mayo in the 15th round. When he’s played 16 games, Mayo has been a fantasy stud. Plenty of risk associated with the NaVorro Bowman selection, as he’s a fairly safe bet to start the season on the PUP list, meaning he will miss the first six games at minimum. And even though he was drafted as a QB2, I wouldn’t have been the one to take Johnny Manziel. Not with Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, Andy Dalton or Carson Palmer still on the board. For every Andrew Luck and Robert Griffn III that has come along there’s been just as many EJ Manuels and Geno Smiths when it comes to rookie quarterbacks.


Round 17     
1193Knile DavisRBKCDavid Gonos
2194Jarrett BoykinWRGBBrandon Funston
3195Daryl SmithLBBALJamey Eisenberg
4196Rueben RandleWRNYGMatt Schauf
5197Steve SmithWRBALNathan Rush
6198Calais CampbellDLARIMark Ross
7199Aaron DobsonWRNECorby Yarbrough
8200Roy HeluRBWASSteven Lassan
9201Isaiah CrowellRBCLEEric Mack
10202Mychal KendricksLBPHIBraden Gall
11203Ryan TannehillQBMIAJohn Hansen
12204Alex SmithQBKCMike Clay
Round 18     
1205Donald BrownRBSDMike Clay
2206Tampa BayDSTTBJohn Hansen
3207Danny TrevathanLBDENBraden Gall
4208Kansas CityDSTKCEric Mack
5209Robert WoodsWRBUFSteven Lassan
6210Chad GreenwayLBMINCorby Yarbrough
7211BuffaloDSTBUFMark Ross
8212Shonn GreeneRBTENNathan Rush
9213New EnglandDSTNEMatt Schauf
10214Rod StreaterWROAKJamey Eisenberg
11215Jerrell FreemanLBINDBrandon Funston
12216Charles JohnsonDLCARDavid Gonos

Rounds 17 and 18 Analysis: At this point in the draft, you are either filling out your starting lineup (except for kicker) or mining for diamonds in the rough. David wisely secured Kansas City’s backfield by grabbing Knile Davis after taking Jamaal Charles No. 1 overall. Jarrett Boykin fared well after Randall Cobb went down with an injury last season and now the No. 3 WR job in Green Bay is his for the taking with James Jones in Oakland. Roy Helu is more of pass-catching threat than Alfred Morris so he could carve out a nice role for himself in Jay Gruden’s offense in Washington. Isaiah Crowell, the undrafted rookie who started his college career at Georgia, seems to be a rather significant reach, but new lead back Ben Tate hasn’t exactly been durable in his career and the only other competition for carries in Cleveland seems to be fellow rookie Terrance West. Stranger things have happened. Among the IDP selections, I really like Danny Trevathan’s chances of breaking out this season with Wesley Woodyard and Shaun Phillips no longer on the Broncos.


Round 19     
1217Josh McCownQBTBDavid Gonos
2218Matt PraterKDENBrandon Funston
3219HoustonDSTHOUJamey Eisenberg
4220Johnathan CyprienDBJACMatt Schauf
5221Stephen GostkowskiKNENathan Rush
6222Justin TuckerKBALMark Ross
7223Antrel RolleDBNYGCorby Yarbrough
8224Andre WilliamsRBNYGSteven Lassan
9225Jonathan StewartRBCAREric Mack
10226Steven HauschkaKSEABraden Gall
11227Phil DawsonKSFJohn Hansen
12228Delanie WalkerTETENMike Clay
Round 20     
1229Mason CrosbyKGBMike Clay
2230Nick RoachLBOAKJohn Hansen
3231Green BayDSTGBBraden Gall
4232Blair WalshKMINEric Mack
5233Dan BaileyKDALSteven Lassan
6234Robbie GouldKCHICorby Yarbrough
7235Ka'Deem CareyRBCHIMark Ross
8236Jurrell CaseyDLTENNathan Rush
9237Shayne GrahamKNOMatt Schauf
10238Adam VinatieriKINDJamey Eisenberg
11239Doug BaldwinWRSEABrandon Funston
12240Matt BryantKATLDavid Gonos

Rounds 19 and 20 Analysis: Finally the kickers come off the board, but we know no one cares about them. The last two rookies taken in this mock draft – Andre Williams (19th) and Ka’Deem Carey (20th) – are certainly worth keeping an eye on once training camps open. Williams could see significant carries sooner rather than later because of David Wilson’s uncertainty regarding his neck injury while Carey has a pretty clear path to serving as Matt Forté’s backup, especially considering he has a similar skill set. Believe it or not, but Delanie Walker was a borderline top-10 fantasy TE last season, while Doug Baldwin probably enters the season as the Seahawks’ No. 2 WR with Golden Tate now in Detroit. Both are very solid picks in the final two rounds of this mock draft.


Positional Breakdown     
2014 Fantasy Football IDP Mock Draft
Post date: Tuesday, July 1, 2014 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: bullpen, chart, closer, Fantasy Baseball, grid, MLB, News
Path: /mlb/2014-fantasy-baseball-closer-grid

The All-Star break will be here in a couple of few weeks, which means the trade winds will start to blow a little stronger. One trade has already taken place, giving a pair of deposed closers a change of scenery. Pittsburgh sent Jason Grilli, an All-Star last season who saved 33 games for the WIld Card Pirates, to the Angels for Ernesto Frieri. The fire-balling Frieri posted 37 saves of his own in 2013, but he has struggled mightily so far this season, to the tune of a 6.39 ERA for his former team. It remains to be seen if a change of scenery will do either enough good for them to become fantasy factors once again, but one thing is clear  — they won't be the last bullpen pieces to switch uniforms between now and the end of July.

TeamCloserSetupWatch List 
ArizonaAddison ReedBrad ZeiglerJoe Thatcher, Oliver Perez
AtlantaCraig KimbrelShae SimmonsJordan Walden, Luis Avilan, David Carpenter (DL)
BaltimoreZach BrittonTommy HunterDarren O'Day, Ryan Webb, Brian Matusz
BostonKoji UeharaJunichi TazawaEdward Mujica, Burke Badenhop, Craig Breslow
Chicago (AL)Zach Putnam*Javy Guerra*Jacob Petricka*, Daniel Webb, Nate Jones (DL)
Chicago (NL)Hector RondonPedro StropNeil Ramirez, Justin Grimm, Kyuji Fujikawa (DL)
CincinnatiAroldis ChapmanJonathan BroxtonSam LeCure, Manny Parra
ClevelandCody AllenBryan ShawScott Atchison, John Axford
ColoradoLaTroy HawkinsAdam OttavinoRex Brothers 
DetroitJoe NathanJoba ChamberlainAl Albuquerque, Phil Coke
HoustonChad QuallsTony SippJoshua Zeid, Jesse Crain (DL)
Kansas CityGreg HollandWade DavisKelvin Herrera, Aaron Crow
Los Angeles (AL)Joe SmithJason GrilliKevin Jepsen 
Los Angeles (NL)Kenley JansenBrian WilsonBrandon League, J.P. Howell, Chris Withrow (DL)
MiamiSteve CishekA.J. RamosMike Dunn 
MilwaukeeFrancisco RodriguezBrandon KintzlerWill Smith, Tyler Thornburg (DL)
MinnesotaGlen PerkinsCasey FienJared Burton 
New York (AL)David RobertsonDellin BetancesAdam Warren, Shawn Kelley
New York (NL)Jenrry MejiaJeurys FamiliaCarlos Torres, Vic Black, Bobby Parnell (DL)
OaklandSean DoolittleLuke GregersonRyan Cook, Dan Otero, Jim Johnson
PhiladelphiaJonathan PapelbonKen GilesJacob Diekman, Antonio Bastardo, Matt Adams (DL)
PittsburghMark MelanconTony WatsonJustin Wilson, Ernesto Frieri
St. LouisTrevor RosenthalJason MotteSeth Maness, Sam Freeman, Kevin Siegrist (DL)
San DiegoHuston StreetJoaquin BenoitAlex Torres, Dale Thayer
San FranciscoSantiago Casilla*Jeremy Affeldt*Jean Machi, Sergio Romo, Javier Lopez
SeattleFernando RodneyDanny FarquharTom Wilhelmsen, Yoervis Medina
Tampa BayJake McGeeJoel PeraltaGrant Balfour, Juan Oviedo
TexasJoakim SoriaJason FrasorNeal Cotts, Alexi Ogando (DL)
TorontoCasey JanssenAaron LoupSergio Santos, Brett Cecil (DL)
WashingtonRafael SorianoTyler ClippardDrew Storen

*The Chicago White Sox and San Francisco are employing a closer-by-committee approach right now.


2014 Fantasy Baseball: Closer Grid
Post date: Monday, June 30, 2014 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL, News
Path: /nfl/top-25-undrafted-free-agents-nfl-over-last-25-years-2014

A total of 256 players heard their names called during the 2014 NFL Draft, but that doesn’t mean they will be the only ones joining the professional ranks. Every team signs a number of undrafted free agents after Mr. Irrelevant is announced at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.

For example, the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks had 21 players on their 53-man roster last season who started their NFL careers as undrafted free agents. There also are several members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame who went undrafted, a number that’s sure to grow in the years to come.

So before you discount the chances of an undrafted free agent (UDFA) from not only making your favorite team’s roster, but having an impact this season, remember that Hall of Famers like Dick “Night Train” Lane and Warren Moon didn’t hear their named called on draft day either. Here is our list of the 25 top UDFAs over the last 25 years (since the 1989 NFL Draft):

1. Kurt Warner, QB, Northern Iowa
He played in three Super Bowls with the Rams and Cardinals and won the league’s MVP twice. He also was MVP of Super Bowl XXXIV when St. Louis defeated the Titans 23-16. Warner holds many postseason records and should make the Hall of Fame.

2. John Randle, DT, Texas A&I
The ferocious Vikings pass-rusher was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2010. Randle totaled 137.5 sacks in his 14 seasons with the Vikings and Seahawks. He made seven Pro Bowls and was elected to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1990s.

3. Antonio Gates, TE, Kent State
The Chargers turned to the basketball court to find Gates, who did not play college football. He’s made eight Pro Bowls in 11 seasons in San Diego, and currently sits 50th all-time in receiving yards (9,193) and is tied for 12th with 87 career touchdown catches. The only tight end with more TD grabs is the recently retired Tony Gonzalez.

4. Wes Welker, WR, Texas Tech
The ultra-quick Welker was initially signed by San Diego following the 2004 draft, but then was cut and landed in Miami. He joined New England in 2007 and proceeded to put up an NFL-leading 672 receptions, along with 7,459 yards and 37 touchdowns, in his six seasons with the Patriots. Welker signed with Denver before last season and proceeded to post a career-high 10 touchdown receptions. Welker is already among the top 25 players all-time in receptions (841, 24th) and top 50 in receiving yards (9,358, 47th).

5. Adam Vinatieri, K, South Dakota State
Some may disagree with having a kicker this high, but Vinatieri’s contributions to elite teams should not be undervalued. He has been a part of four championships with the Patriots and Colts and made a last-second, game-winner in two of those Super Bowls. He’s one of just seven players in NFL history with 2,000 points in their career and currently sits in fifth place with 2,006.

6. Tony Romo, QB, Eastern Illinois
The popular, yet polarizing, Cowboys signal-caller is still building his legacy, but he has already made three Pro Bowls and has 208 touchdown passes in 108 career starts. He has completed nearly 65 percent of his passes and his career passer rating is 95.8, which ranks him fifth all-time.

7. London Fletcher, LB, John Carroll
After 16 highly productive NFL seasons, Fletcher the undersized tackling machine who consistently made plays retired after the 2013 campaign. Whether it was playing for the Rams, Bills or the Redskins, Fletcher exhibited a nose for the football (2,046 career tackles, 23 INTs, 23 forced fumbles) and was a constant in the lineup. He never missed a game in 16 NFL seasons and started every game from the beginning of the 2001 season until his final game this past December.

8. Jeff Saturday, C, North Carolina
The six-time Pro Bowler anchored the Colts' offensive line from 2000-11. During his time snapping to Peyton Manning, Indy won double-digit games nine times and won Super Bowl XLI. After one season in Green Bay, Saturday re-signed with Indianapolis last March so he could officially retire as a member of the team that brought him into the league.

9. Brian Waters, G, North Texas
Waters failed to latch on with the Cowboys during his first year out of college in 1999, but he found a home in Kansas City the next season. The elite blocker made five Pro Bowls with the Chiefs and then a sixth with the Patriots in 2011. After sitting out a season, Waters returned to the field in 2013, playing five games for Dallas, seemingly bringing his career full circle.
10. Rod Smith, WR, Missouri Southern
He played his entire 12-year career in Denver, and Smith’s 849 receptions put him in the top 20 in NFL history. He was a part of two Super Bowl winners with the Broncos and went over 1,000 yards receiving eight times.

11. James Harrison, LB, Kent State
Harrison played 10 seasons (2002, '04-10) in Pittsburgh before switching to AFC North rival Cincinnati last season. The 2008 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Harrison went from undrafted rookie to a playmaking force for the Steelers and helped the franchise win two more Super Bowl titles.

12. Priest Holmes, RB, Texas
The former Ravens and Chiefs runner had a solid career with over 8,000 rushing yards and 94 total touchdowns. Holmes had an amazing three-year run in Kansas City from 2001-03, amassing 4,590 rush yards and 56 TDs on the ground.

13. Arian Foster, RB, Tennessee
Injuries limited the Texans’ star to just eight games last season, but prior to that Foster averaged 1,421 yards rushing from 2010-12. He led the NFL with 1,616 yards in 2010 and also has exhibited a nose for the end zone with 52 total touchdowns in 59 career games.

14. Pat Williams, DT, Texas A&M
The massive run-stuffer took a while to make a mark in the NFL, but he developed into a defensive stalwart for Minnesota. Williams made three straight Pro Bowls from 2006-08 while playing for the Vikings.

15. Jeff Garcia, QB, San Jose State
The four-time Pro Bowler starred in Canada to begin his professional career, and did not play in the NFL until age 29. However, Garcia made his mark by throwing for over 25,000 yards with the 49ers, Browns, Lions, Eagles and Buccaneers.

16. Jake Delhomme, QB, Louisiana-Lafayette
The Bayou native started slow with the Saints, but he found a nice niche with the Panthers from 2003-09. Delhomme passed for over 19,000 yards and 120 TDs during those seven seasons and led Carolina to a Super Bowl appearance in 2003.

17. Jason Peters, T, Arkansas
Initially a tight end in college, Peters went from undrafted rookie to special teams contributor to All-Pro offensive tackle in a relatively short period of time. After signing with Buffalo following the 2004 draft, Peters claimed the starting right tackle job in ’06 and proceeded to reel off five straight Pro Bowl invites (2007-11). Traded to Philadelphia in 2009, Peters has established himself as one of the NFL’s top tackles, as evidenced by his two All-Pro seasons (2011, ’13) and the five-year, $51.3 million extension he signed with the Eagles in February.

18. Bart Scott, LB, Southern Illinois
The entertaining linebacker played on some quality defenses with both the Ravens and Jets, and he made the Pro Bowl in 2006. From 2006-12 with the Ravens, Scott missed just one game and made 108 starts.

19. David Akers, K, Louisville
The reliable kicker led the NFL in scoring in both 2010 and '11. Akers has made 386 career field goals, good for ninth all-time, while connecting on 81 percent of his attempts. He has earned six Pro Bowl invites in his career kicking for the Eagles, 49ers and Lions.

20. Shaun O'Hara, C, Rutgers
The tough interior blocker started his career playing guard for the Browns, but he flourished with the Giants from 2004-10. During that span, O’Hara made three Pro Bowls and was a leader on the Giants' Super Bowl winner in 2008.

21. Wayne Chrebet, WR, Hofstra
The New York fan favorite was a classic underdog story, and he played his entire career with the Jets. Chrebet was especially effective from 1995-2002, when he caught 507 passes and 39 TDs during that eight-year span.

22. Barry Sims, T, Utah
The starting left tackle for two conference championship games and a Super Bowl in 2002, Sims played 12 NFL seasons in the Bay Area. He was a solid blocker in Oakland for nine years before finishing his career in San Francisco.

23. Antonio Pierce, LB, Arizona
He had a fairly short NFL career but was a tackling machine from 2004-08 with the Redskins and Giants. Much like O’Hara, Pierce was an underrated leader for the Super Bowl XLII champions.

24. Cullen Jenkins, DL, Central Michigan
The younger brother of Kris Jenkins started his professional career in NFL Europe before joining the league in 2004. A solid interior defender with the Packers, Eagles and Giants, Cullen has 43.5 career sacks in 141 games (113 starts).

25. Cameron Wake, LB/DE, Penn State
After going undrafted in 2005, Wake turned to the CFL to continue his playing career. Little did he know the league up north would do much more than that. The CFL’s Most Outstanding Rookie of the Year in 2008 and a two-time (2008, ’09) Most Outstanding Defensive Player honoree; Wake parlayed his strong play in Canada into a four-year contract with Miami. After collecting 5.5 sacks in 2009, Wake broke out the following year with 14 sacks. A three-time Pro Bowler (2010, ’12-13), Wake also earned All-Pro honors following his 15-sack 2012 campaign. In 77 career games (62 starts), Wake has recorded 51.5 sacks and nine forced fumbles.

Top 25 Undrafted Free Agents in the NFL over the last 25 Years
Post date: Tuesday, May 13, 2014 - 11:00