“Cut to the Chase” Mega WRs: Schedule Analysis
Do-it-all Wide Receivers are the new golden calf of the fantasy football world, especially in Dynasty formats. The creme de la creme players at this position are not going anywhere and risk a smaller amount of injury, due to fairly recent NFL rules. These days, the league is favoring big passing numbers and has protected them via rules and marketing.(Who’s Megatron? Your grandma might know.)
The 2014 season should see 3-4 Wideouts be drafted in the first round and maybe 5-6 in Dynasty startups. This is quite a trend when looking at the perhaps one who was drafted first round in 2009 leagues. The game is changing and WRs are the cornerstone of both fantasy and reality.
Taking a look at this year’s schedule, we’ll see a fairly back-heavy array of ‘must see’ games. As far as what I call premium wideouts, look no further than seeing Julio Jones and the Falcons re-establish themselves versus AJ Green and the Cincinnati Bengals in week two. Not precisely what most of the public will be watching for, but as a fantasy owner with either of those blue chip players on your roster, you will be glued to the stat line and/or every play on both sides of the ball.
A fantasy owner’s duties include drafting a roster and submitting a lineup on a weekly basis. Understanding that there are players that will rotate depending on matchups and players that one can not take out, regardless of prior performance or trend. The latter in the WR category include: (In redraft value order) Detroit’s Calvin ‘Megatron’ Johnson, Denver’s Demaryius Thomas, the aforementioned Green, Dallas’ Dez Bryant, the Bears’ duo of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, and Atlanta’s Jones. Looking at their strength of schedule alone, you will find that out of the players listed, AJ Green and Cincinnati had the easiest at 23 and Denver’s Thomas had the second hardest overall.
Julio Jones will undoubtedly be the ace receiver in Atlanta after seeing how the passing game withered and died without him. His broken foot in week five unfortunately WAS the Falcons’ season. After having 100 yard games in three of his five weeks, he was lost and was shown to be irreplaceable. If Jones is healthy (no concerns otherwise), he should have no reason why he can’t return to his 2012 form (79 rec/1198 yds/10 tds). Tony Gonzalez’s retirement means even more targets will be distributed between himself, Roddy White and Harry Douglas.
***ATL*** 1.NO 2.@CIN 3.TB 4.@MIN 5.@NYG
Jones’ 2014 starts off stiff against three of the top ten pass defenses in his first five games. Julio tends to elevate his game in primetime games, but getting nailed with the likes of the Saints, Vikings and the Giants’ vaunted secondaries will show a lot about how JJ will fair the rest of the season. If his numbers are fantasy relevant by the end of the first five games, look for Jones to be in running for the top WRs by week 11 when the schedule gets rough for Atlanta’s receiving corps again.
***ATL*** 6.CHI 7.@BAL 8. DET 9.BYE 10.@TB
Smooth sailing expected for Jones and company in the Falcons’ receiving corps. Detroit at home will yield BIG numbers. Chicago’s gambling habits in week six should produce some opportunities at enormous yardage plays. The Bears make plays, but they get exposed when Tillman and company get frisky with QB rushes and baiting interceptions. Look for Ryan to be sharp and sling during this stretch.
***ATL*** 11.@CAR 12.CLE 13.ARI 14.@GB 15.PIT 16.@NO 17.CAR
The Falcons’ week nine bye will come just in time to recoup their legs and expand playbooks for the likes of the Panthers on the road and the Browns back at home for week 12. Both deal with extremely talented secondaries and will likely pit Jones against the likes of Antoine Cason and All-world Joe Haden. These games might not be as tough as advertised coming off their bye week so soon when Cleveland has an early bye and Carolina gets their off week after their tilt with the Falcons. Both defenses could be banged up and/or looking for answers against a streaking Matt Ryan and what can be a great passing game. A couple easy weeks against Arizona and Green Bay before ramping up for an incredibly tough last three weeks against some top-tier secondaries. Jones’ telling game will be how exposed he can make either Keenan Lewis or Champ Bailey look from one snap to the next.
Overall, it’s a pretty tough secondary schedule for Jones and the Falcons. That’s what happens when you deal with the Panthers and Saints twice a year, respectively. We’ll see if the Saints defensive backfield will rotate and give Bailey the rest he needs. Jones should be around a top ten producer at WR, regardless, the middle of his schedule and how nuts he can produce will be the meat of his numbers.This schedule will do him no favors.
2014 Julio Jones prediction: 75 Rec. 1055 Yds. 8 Tds.
Jay Cutler has two of the best wideouts in the game now. Brandon Marshall, his favorite will get the ball when Cutler is healthy and in the game. Alshon Jeffery, mirrors Marshall as a freak athlete, is an inch shorter, 15 lbs. lighter and six years younger. If you thought Marshall was dangerous before, think again. The concept of double teaming either is out the window after Marshall went for 1295 and 12 TDs while Jeffery banged out the yardage at 1421 and 7 Tds.
***CHI*** 1.BUF 2.@SF 3.@NYJ 4.GB 5.@CAR
The Bears start out against some incredibly stiff secondaries with Buffalo at home, San Francisco and Carolina on the road. Getting through this opening stretch with their continued confidence from ‘13 will be tough for Marshall and Jeffery garnering coverage from the likes of stellar sophomore Stephon Gilmore, Leodis McKelvin, Chris Culliver and Antoine Cason. Remember that these corners are backed by excellent safeties and incredibly mobile outside linebackers. The sum of the whole be on point against the Bears after last years’ outrageous numbers.
***CHI*** 6.@ATL 7.MIA 8.@NE 9.BYE 10.@GB 11.MIN 12.TB 13.@DET 14.DAL 15.NO 16.DET 17.@MIN
Cutler, Jeffery and Marshall will have another stat-fest in 2014. There are no hardcore stopping secondaries to put a halt to their party on their path to more Pro Bowls this year. Past week five, the Bears play one top ten secondary and six of the worst secondaries in the NFL including dismal Vikings twice.
After taking a closer look at the Bears schedule, you are going to want to scoop Cutler, Marshall and Jeffery at a premium. This offense under Marc Trestman is geared to absolutely explode again this year.
2014 Brandon Marshall prediction: 105 Rec. 1375 Yds. 11 TDs.
2014 Alshon Jeffery prediction: 85 Rec. 1350 Yds. 8 TDs.
Cincinnati’s AJ Green has become for many, the best fantasy option outside of Megatron. He has 195 catches, 1350 yards and 22 TDs over the past two seasons. While he is great enough to free up players like Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu, Green’s production could possibly drop due to a renewed regime interest in Giovani Bernard and the running game. New OC Hue Jackson loves the run, but should fully utilize Green in the redzone.
***CIN*** 1.@BAL 2.ATL 3.TEN 4.BYE 5.@NE 6.CAR 7.@IND 8.BAL 9.JAX
Green’s secondary schedule is back loaded with talent and coaching prowess, leaving a weak and explicit opportunity for Andy Dalton and the Bengals passing game to flourish until their week ten matchup against Cleveland. Green’s lone test should come against Carolina with Cason and their elite safeties in Roman Harper, Thomas DeCoud and Charles Godfrey. Otherwise Green, Jones and Sanu should have outrageous value by mid-season.
***CIN*** 10.CLE 11.@NO 12.@HOU 13.@TB 14.PIT 15.@CLE 16.DEN 17.@PIT
The end of Cincinnati reads like a meat grinder for their passing game. Look for Jackson and the offense to gear up the run game and hammer away, staying away from the six of eight opponents that were ranked in the top ten best pass defenses.Johnathan Jackson and Kareem Jackson will be especially challenging on the road in Houston as well as two battles with CB Ike Jackson and those nasty Pittsburgh safeties.
Trading Green by week ten is not a bad play, by then his best ‘14 fantasy days should be behind him. He will continue to get targets, mostly redzone, but nothing like the offensive explosion we’ll witness in the first half. This season will be defined by what he can find through the latter end of the schedule.
2014 AJ Green prediction: 91 Rec. 1255 Rec Yds. 11 TDs.
Dez Bryant’s new found maturity will be tested, he is now the veteran ace wideout on this Cowboys receiving staff. Obviously one of the most talented pass catchers in the NFL, Bryant has found a way to convey that to actual stats. The only way the Cowboys make the playoffs is if Romo can make the most of Bryant’s talents and Terrence Williams can contribute enough to take enough pressure off their ace WR and Pro Bowl Tight End Jason Witten. DeMarco Murray will find a way into the reception category, but the receivers will make this team. 2014 is the year we find out how good Dez really is.
***DAL*** 1.SF 2.@TEN 3.@STL 4.NO 5.HOU 6.@SEA 7.NYG
Dallas’ passing game will truly be tested by the majority of their first seven games. Facing the three best passing defenses from 2013 will take center stage in planning playbooks for Jason Garrett and Tony Romo. Dez Bryant will most certainly be facing a hearty rotation against the Niners at home before some fair tests on the road at Tennessee and St. Louis. The string of New Orleans, Houston, Seattle’s Richard Sherman and the Giants will be one of the longest streaks against top rated pass defenses any team faces all year.
***DAL*** 8.WAS 9.ARI 10.@JAX 11.BYE 12.@NYG 13.PHI 14.@CHI 15.@PHI 16.IND 17.@WAS
The Cowboys should be able to pick up a bit of steam on the passing side of the ball before finding the bye. If Bryant and Williams haven’t lost their swagger by then, look out. The Giants are pretty much the only real legitimate pass defense threat they have on their way to some outstanding pass numbers. Chicago’s Peanut Tillman should put up a fight, but Bryant should find plenty of redzone targets, picking on Chicago’s LB corps on his way to lighting up the second half.
2014 Dez Bryant prediction: 96 Rec. 1350 Rec. Yds. 11 TDs.
Peyton Manning’s focal point, Demaryius Thomas, is the hardest working premium wideout in the game. Last year Thomas caught a career high 14 touchdowns and should have no problem duplicating that in 2014.
***DEN*** 1.IND 2.KC 3.@SEA 4.BYE 5.ARI 6.@NYJ 7.SF 8.SD
At a distance, the Broncos schedule looks incredibly tough (No.2) overall. In reality, this is a team that is based around Peyton Manning and passing the football. The entire season sends only four top ten pass defenses at Manning, Thomas, Welker and company. The first half includes a stop in Seattle with Richard Sherman, besides that test, five of their first seven games are against the worst pass defenses. Thomas should thrive throughout, but especially in the Mile High air (6/8 are home games).
***DEN*** 9.@NE 10.@OAK 11.@STL 12.MIA 13.@KC 14.BUF 15.@SD 16.@CIN 17.OAK
Demaryius Thomas will have to hit the road the second half and face an All-Pro Leon Hall in Cincinnati and the anti-vertical rotation of Buffalo’s corners and safeties. These two games might be Thomas’ toughest tests all year. Kansas City knowingly has lightened the load, dropping Pro Bowler Brandon Flowers for football (cap) reasons and Oakland’s DJ Hayden is solid, but doesn’t match the threat that will be a top three WR in fantasy in number 88.
2014 Demaryius Thomas prediction: 98 Rec. 1475 Rec Yds. 13 TDs
Calvin ‘Megatron’ Johnson is the best receiver in football, in his prime and faces a mediocre-at-best schedule in 2014. The best thing about being a Lions fan this year is knowing that if your best player can stay healthy and his newly added sidekick Golden Tate can deflect just enough coverage, Johnson will be able to set some records against an incredibly weak secondary lineup of opponents.
***DET*** 1.NYG 2.@CAR 3.GB 4.@NYJ 5.BUF 6.@MIN 7.NO
The Lions first seven games is a mish-mash of tough and easy secondaries. After a tough game against Carolina on the road, Green Bay at home and the Jets on the road will feel like a vacation. Buffalo’s interchangeable corners and safeties will blanket Johnson and Tate before the Lions ramp up the stat machine in Minnesota against the second worst secondary from last year. After their week New Orleans and their cagey vets get out-of-town, the rest of the season is wide open for some incredible stats.
***DET*** 8.@ATL 9.BYE 10.MIA 11.@ARI 12.@NE 13.CHI 14.TB 15.MIN 16.@CHI 17.@GB
On top of their deceptively easy schedule, the Lions have the luxury of playing two of the worst secondaries in the NFL (Vikings and Green Bay), twice. Calvin Johnson should be able to put up a couple 150+ Receiving yard games and a bucket of touchdowns during the last half of the season that includes their week nine bye. Stafford to Megatron should hopefully be enough to get to the playoffs, both fantasy and reality. A record year? Only time will tell.
2014 Calvin Johnson prediction: 97 Rec. 1625 Rec Yds. 14 TDs.
Looking at the best receivers in the game, it’s easy to see why their teams playbooks revolve around them and opposing teams’ defensive coordinators scheme to stop them. 2014 looks to continue the trend of eye-popping numbers for the NFL’s top tier of wideouts.
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