Week 15 wasn't one of the highest scoring weeks for fantasy purposes, but still had some guys that stood out above the rest. As with having some guys who stood out because of their spectacular performance, there were also those who let their owners down. Owners of Aaron Rodgers are not happy with the statline he had, but really he isn't the person to blame for it. Jordy Nelson dropped what would have almost surely been a 90 yard TD. That was really how the outing was for Rodgers, his receivers just dropped the ball more than I had seen from a Packers team in a long time. Last week it was Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, well now this week it was Rodgers.
Because the 2014 season is almost over, I thought I would give you a few guys to keep an eye on in 2015 as either potential breakout candidates, or comeback players who may present value on draft day depending on a few variables.
The goal of this article is to highlight those top guys, and if you can expect some similar performances in the future from them or if it was a flash-in-the-pan. So without rambling on longer in this intro, let's take a look at those who performed well in week 15.
QB - Eli Manning 250 Passing Yards, 3 TD's, 22 Fantasy Points
I talked about Manning in this article last week and said that he should be your go to pick for a guy off the waiver wire to start. That turned out to be a great call against a terrible Washington pass defense who got torched by Odell Beckham Jr. Manning is completely matchup dependent the last two weeks, but with a great receiver, he will always have the potential to put up fantasy games like this. Next year I would have Manning currently ranked around number 15, which isn't good enough to be a starter except in the deepest of leagues.
QB - Tony Romo 265 Passing Yards, 3 TD's, 1 Fumble Lost, 20 Fantasy Points
In what has been a down season for Romo, he puts up a very respectable game on Sunday night to help his fantasy owners out. The biggest reason for Romo having a down year is because of the workload the Cowboys are giving to DeMarco Murray (more on that later). If you have your fantasy playoffs go through week 17, you should be thrilled to be a Romo owner as he gets to play against the Redskins. Going into next year I would have Romo ranked somewhere around my top 10 or 12, and may be a decent option to have a somewhat comeback season.
QB - Alex Smith 297 Passing yards, 2 TD's, 3 Rushes for 17 Yard, 20 Fantasy Points
The offense that Andy Reid is running in Kansas City is good from an actual football standpoint to get wins, but not conducive to a good fantasy QB. Smith wouldn't have been here if it were not for a simple pass to Knile Davis a little bit past the line of scrimmage that he took for a 70 yard TD. Smith is a good option if you are in a 2 QB league, but other than that he was a mediocre bye week fill in. Next year I expect more of the same with him hovering around the top 20 on my draft sheet.
RB - Jeremy Hill 25 Carries for 148 Yards and 2 TD's, 1 Catches for 4 Yards, 26 Fantasy Points
Before the season people were worried that Jeremy Hill was going to cut into Giovanni Bernard's production, but now it looks that switch is flipped. Hill has taken over now as the lead back in Cincinnati, and Bernard has become a change of pace back to him. Hill is a great downfield runner who has surprising quickness and power that is tough for defenses to stop. It is hard to say right now where I would have Hill ranked since I need to watch a little bit more of him to get a good say, but at this moment I would put him somewhere around the top 12, but not much higher than that.
RB - Le'Veon Bell 20 Carries for 47 Yards and 2 TD's, 5 Catches for 72 Yards, 23 Fantasy Points
Well after a terrific performance the last two weeks, Bell had a game that seems to pale in comparison. This now marks his third straight week on this list, and it's hard to see him not back on the list at least once more this year. He is one of, if not the best RB for fantasy purposes with the guy next on the list making his case as well. Next year I will have Bell ranked inside my top 5, and I could easily make the case that he should be the number one overall pick as well.
RB - DeMarco Murray 31 Carries for 81 Yards and 2 TD's, 1 Catches for 3 Yards, 20 Fantasy Points
This is nothing new for Murray as he has been a beast all season long. As I mentioned with Bell above those two are in a class for best fantasy RB right now, and that can even be expanded to include Lynch, Forte, Foster, and Charles. Dallas has played out this season perfectly, which is hard to say with a straight face after watching them throwaway every other season for what seems like 10 years. Murray will not be in Dallas next year, with a certain Texas native taking over his spot. Because the Cowboys know they won't resign Murray, they are trying to run him into the ground because they don't care what he does in the future, they only care about this season. Next year owners will have a tough decision on where to draft Murray with his big workload this year. I would be shocked if Murray ended the season with less than 370 Carries, which has been known as a death sentence to NFL running backs the next season. I would have these guys ranked ahead of Murray next year: Charles, Forte, Bell, and Foster, maybe Lynch and Peterson. I may even have a few receivers ahead of him as well since I know Murray will disappoint next season. If you own him in a Keeper/Dynasty league, I would sell him immediately after the season before there are a plethora of articles talking about the history behind what Murray has done and what it means he will do in the future.
WR - Odell Beckham Jr. 15 Targets, 12 Receptions for 143 Yards and 3 TD's, 30 Fantasy Points
This is one of the most remarkable rookie seasons I have ever seen from a receiver. He is almost averaging 100 yards and a TD per game. I haven't seen a rookie receiver who had raw natural abilities, great hands, and terrific route running skills for a while. I mentioned last week when talking about Hilton that Beckham Jr. may be behind him in the borderline top 10 class, and now I'm willing to say that Beckham Jr. should be viewed as a top 10 WR going into next year's drafts.
WR - Dez Bryant 7 Targets, 6 Receptions for 114 Yards and 3 TD's, 29 Fantasy Points
This was Bryant's third game of over 20 fantasy points in the last five weeks. The other two games were only okay, which goes to show you what kind of receiver that Bryant is. His inconsistency on a week to week basis keeps him from ranking firmly in the top 5, but his numbers will dictate that he should be there. I am one who likes consistency, and because of this Bryant takes a slight hit in my rankings most weeks sitting outside my top 5. Next year Dez will find himself as a borderline top 5 guy, and one who will provide the value you expect out of him.
WR - Demaryius Thomas 11 Targets, 6 Receptions for 123 Yards and 1 TD, 18 Fantasy Points
After Peyton had a terrible game last week, he came back with a decent performance, and one that helped the likes of Demaryius Thomas. As long as Peyton is his QB, Thomas will be in consideration for the top receiver spot each week, and probably the top receiver heading into drafts next year.
TE - Rob Gronkowski 8 Targets, 3 Receptions for 96 Yards and 1 TD, 15 Fantasy Points
Even with only getting 3 receptions in this game, Gronk was able to put up a good game. Gronk has been pulling away from the other Tight Ends each week, and now he has separated himself even further. The only question going into 2015 will be what round do you select Gronk in? I would have Gronkowski currently in my 2nd round of a 12 team league, as it is hard to justify taking him in the first round ahead of some of the stud receivers and backs.
Now a look at a few breakout or comeback players for the 2015 season to keep your eye on:
QB - Derrick Carr: 21st ranked QB going into week 15
Carr has been the second best rookie QB from what I have seen so far this season, but his progression from week 1 to now has been great. I saw a guy in the first few weeks who was tentative in the pocket, and unsure of what reads he should be making. Now that the season is almost over he appears more poised and confident in the pocket, which has led to better performances. I believe the Raiders will draft Amari Cooper next year, and if they do I think Carr will be a guy you can draft as your QB2, and will possibly give you top 12 production when all is said and done.
WR - Vincent Jackson: 31st ranked WR going into week 15
After week fourteen, only three receivers had been targeted more than Jackson so far this season. The average amount of TD's from those three receivers was nine, while Vincent Jackson only had two. It is hard to envision Jackson having that low of a success rate going into next year, and since most people will be wanting to grab Mike Evans in drafts next season, he will come very cheap as a WR3 with tremendous upside.
WR - Charles Johnson: 80th ranked WR going into week 15
My pick for the best QB so far from the rookie class is Teddy Bridgewater. The Vikings offense isn't one to throw the ball a lot, but that is only because they don't want to set Bridgewater up to fail. Going into next season I think they let him throw the ball more often. The main beneficiary of that will be Charles Johnson, who came out of nowhere the last month to prove that he is a legitimate receiver in the NFL with some great potential. Last year the Vikings receiver that everyone, including myself, was raving about was Patterson. Johnson has past Patterson on the depth chart, and has become a starter on the squad. With the extra time he will have with Bridgewater over the offseason, I expect him to be a late round steal next season.
Those are just three of the guys I will be keeping a close eye on, and doing more research on during the offseason. Want thoughts on a specific player? Leave a comment on who it is, and I will respond with my thoughts on that guy's performance and where he stands going forward.