With one preseason game already in the books, we are now in full football swing here at Fake Teams. Each week the staff here will be preparing work on a position throughout the week. Positional rankings and notes on players, consensus rankings, sleepers and busts, ADP analysis, and much more content to look forward to during the preseason. Brad Duffendack posted his QB rankings on Monday, with a blurb on each player here. Without further ado let’s take a look at who some of the staff members see as sleepers and busts, starting with my own.
Sleeper- Sam Bradford
A guy who has played sporadically throughout his career due to injuries, is only being held back by himself. The skills that he possess as a passer are still there, and he has his best receiving core since being drafted by the Rams arguably this season. Tavon Austin will be entering his second year in the league, and showed the explosiveness he has when getting the ball on short routes. If Bradford can continue to work on getting the ball out quick to his weapons, he will benefit greatly in his statline, along with staying healthy. The newest addition of Kenny Britt could be a spark down the field as well. Chris Givens was that guy for Bradford two seasons ago, but now he has a physical freak in Britt. The questions that go with Britt are the same that go for Bradford with injury concerns.
Last season, Sam Bradford played in only seven games, but still managed to score 119 fantasy points in standard scoring leagues. Extrapolating that over an entire 16 game season, and you have 272 fantasy points in the end. That would have put him only 12 points behind the number ten QB last season. I don’t believe that Bradford will be able to post 2 TD’s a game like last season, but he should see an uptick in yards, as his receiving core has always been young, so the extra seasoning should do wonders to make this an enticing pick. I am not worried about Zac Stacy, as when Bradford was the QB, Stacy never carried the ball more than 18 times. The bulk of his carries came when Bradford got hurt, as he averaged 22 carries per game in that span.
Sam Bradford is my pick sleeper pick, as he is being drafted outside of starting QB range, well outside at that, and gives owners a player that should breakout finally in a big way for St. Louis in 2014. I like what the Rams have put together with the receiving options, from Britt and Austin, to Jared Cook as the tight end, and they will be an exciting team to watch for sure.
Sleeper- Geno Smith
Did you know that Geno Smith had five games during the season where he scored 20 fantasy points or more? This may seem surprising when you think about the year Geno had leading the Jets as best he could. The problem with Geno Smith last year was his inconsistency. He had more games last season of 4 fantasy points or less last year then he did 20+ games at six. Within those six poor games, he had two games of negative points. So why am I saying that Geno Smith is a sleeper pick going into the 2014? I believe that Geno Smith has a chance to find himself as a top 15 option, with a small chance of cracking the top 10 QB’s at the end of the season.
Diving into the reasons why Smith has the potential to breakout this year, let us take a look at his newly acquired WR Eric Decker. Over the last three seasons, Eric Decker has shown to have natural athletic ability, and an advanced ability to run routes. His precision route running made him a favorite target among Peyton Manning in the redzone. Over those two seasons with Manning, Decker scored 24 total TD’s, which is double the amount that Geno Smith threw for last season. Decker is an immediate upgrade over what was in town last year in the hurt Santonio Holmes or Jeremy Kerley.
The other additions to Geno Smith disposal are not as significant to his value as Eric Decker is, but they still help. Chris Johnson is a RB who can catch the ball, and still make a play or two with the ball. His straight ahead speed may not be what it once was, but he still has a little bit of power and shiftiness, to make himself useful in the passing game. If Johnson could catch the ball close to 50 times, that would be much more effective than what Bilal Powell was able to contribute last season. The last addition to the Jets receiving core was Jace Amaro. I am not one who likes rookie tight ends because of the steep learning curve they have in learning blocking techniques, along with route running. Rarely does a rookie TE breakout into a useful fantasy option, but Amaro doesn’t need to turn into one to make Geno successful. Zach Sudfeld and Kellen Winslow were the top two guys for Smith last year from the positon, so it isn’t inconceivable to think that Jace Amaro can be an immediate upgrade over those two.
With the highs and lows of Geno Smith last year, he showed that he does have the potential to still become a start worthy candidate midway through the season. This is a bench and evaluate guy, so if he looks like the guy who struggled last season, you don’t need to hesitate in dropping him. If Smith shows signs of improvement, then enjoy what could be the surprise top 10 QB of 2014 like Andy Dalton last season.
Bust- Nick Foles
I would have picked Jay Cutler to go here, but he is not being drafted as a starter, hence can’t qualify as a bust pick. Enter Nick Foles who had a year that no one could have foreseen coming. When you pass for 2,891 yards and throw 27 TD’s to 2 INT’s, you did something right. So why am I picking Nick Foles to be a bust this season? It is because what you did in the past does not count towards what your value in 2014 is. He lost DeSean Jackson as his top receiver, and is being replaced by Jeremy Maclin. Maclin is still a good guy to have as an option to throw to, but nobody can make up for the speed and quickness that Jackson brings to a team. The ACL injury that held Maclin out all of last season also worries me as not everyone can be like Adrian Peterson or Jamaal Charles and come back as strong as before. Almost all players who suffer that injury have a period of adjustment that can last a half season, to a full season.
Another reason Nick Foles is listed here is because of the Chip Kelly offense that will be run again. We have yet to see how teams will react to the new style of offense Kelly ran last year, as most coaches are able to gameplan schemes away. Think about the types of offenses that have been run over the years. Most are very successful in the first year as no one knows how to defend it. The game film on it is limited, and hard to make solid conclusions on. Now there has been an entire year of it, and like with the Zone Read in Washington last year, this offense should see a hit to the production they had last season.
Nick Foles may still be an ok option to have at QB, but in today’s fantasy leagues, Ok is not what you want to have with so many good to elite QB options available to you.
Sleeper- Jake Locker
Although he has struggled to stay healthy and his play has been erratic at times, I believe Jake Locker offers a lot of upside heading into the 2014 season. Locker basically played in 6 games a year ago before getting injured early on in game 7 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. He certainly made the most of the games in which he did play, accounting for 10 touchdowns. Two of these scores were rushing touchdowns and he also added 155 yards on the ground. Despite the health concerns, Locker showed QB2 potential when on the field a season ago.
Locker has a new head coach in place this year as the Titans brought in Ken Whisenhunt, who has a proven track record working with quarterbacks. He had a vital role in the development of Ben Roethlisberger, helped take Kurt Warner to the Cardinals' first Super Bowl, and got a bounce back year out of Philip Rivers in 2013 as the Chargers offensive coordinator.
While a bit unproven, I like some of the pieces in the Titans offense. Receiver Kendall Wright had a nice breakout season in 2013, catching 94 balls for over 1,000. He has proven to be a reliable target working underneath while finding cracks in the defense. Locker has always had a nice rapport with veteran receiver Nate Washington. He will return for his tenth NFL season. Tight end Delanie Walker really started to flash, catching 31 passes in the last 6 games in 2013. I also love the potential of Justin Hunter. He had limited opportunities a year ago but he has the freak athleticism that any quarterback would love to work with and is one of the favorites to break out among the fantasy community. Tennessee also brought in rookie running back Bishop Sankey, who caught 61 passes in his final two seasons at Washington and is a threat catching passes out of the backfield.
The Titans have also invested heavily in the offensive line over the past two offseasons, bringing in two highly touted prospects in the first round in Chance Warmack and Taylor Lewan. They also brought in one of the better guards in the league in Andy Levitre, and with steady veteran Michael Roos on Locker's blind side, the Titans should have a top 10 offensive line in all of football. While I like Locker's prospects as a passer for 2014, his rushing ability just adds to his sleeper appeal. I would not recommend reaching for him, but Locker is the kind of guy that has been going undrafted in most leagues. You can grab him extremely late and he has the ability to return great value if he can stay on the field.
Bust- Josh McCown
Heading into the 2013 season, McCown was a journeyman who spent his 10 year career with five different teams. He had a 37-44 TD to INT ratio and never started more than 13 games in a season, certainly not anything I would be too excited about. McCown seemed to rejuvenate his career during the 2013 season with Chicago, throwing for 13 touchdowns and just one interception. While those are stats that would be impressive for any quarterback, let's not get too carried away. Last year in Chicago, McCown was surrounded by arguably the best wide receiver duo in all of football. He had an established superstar who many would consider a top 5 wideout in all of football in Brandon Marshall as well as an emerging young talent in Alshon Jeffery. He also had one of the best receiving backs in the league in Matt Forte and a giant target to work the middle of defenses in Martellus Bennett.
Many people have compared the duo he had last year in Chicago to the big targets he now has in Tampa Bay. While I can understand the similarities that are there, Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans are not the same caliber players as Marshall and Jeffery. I would put Jackson a step below Marshall, and we all know how long it takes for wide receivers to adjust to the NFL game. While there are a few exceptions, even elite receivers like Calvin Johnson and Dez Bryant couldn't pass the 800 yard plateau as rookies.
Another factor working against McCown this season is new offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford. Tedford has spent the past decade as coach of the Cal Golden Bears where he loved to run the football. During his time there, he ran the football on 54% of all plays, a very high mark even in the collegiate game. The Bucs have former first rounder Doug Martin coming back from injury and also spent an early third round pick this year on running back Charles Sims. I would expect both players to be heavily involved in the gameplan right out of the gate. Let's also not forget that 2013 third round pick Mike Glennon is coming off of an impressive rookie season where he showed many positive signs and ultimately ending with a TD-INT ratio of 19-9. If McCown struggles early, I wouldn't be surprised to see the coaching staff give Glennon a shot. I have heard many people endorse McCown as a high upside QB2 in 2014. I just don't see it. I think it is absolutely crazy to consider McCown as anything more than a low-end QB2 with everything considered.
Sleeper- Johnny Manziel
How creative, I know. If I had to pick one guy to break through his projections, I would actually pick Geno Smith here, but Robert sold him to you already. Johnny Football is a sleeper in name only because everybody you're going to draft with knows exactly who he is, but they probably don't know what he can do this season. Manziel probably won't come close to what Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III did on the ground in their rookie years, but he should be able to provide some bonus points on the ground.
An underrated aspect of Kyle Shanahan's offense is the emphasis on play-action. When his teams establish the run, they make defenses pay, and having a dual-threat quarterback will likely make defenses panic. The Browns have a excellent offensive line as well as two backs in Ben Tate and Terrance West who are familiar with a zone blocking scheme, so I think the run game should be functional. In RGIII's rookie year, he threw to an over-the-hill Santana Moss, Josh Morgan, and one-trick-pony Aldrick Robinson. Why can't Manziel have success with Miles Austin and Andrew Hawkins?
Bust- Colin Kaepernick
I want to be clear I love the player here, but I think that of the players being drafted in the top 12, the three passers most likely to finish outside the top 12 are Kap, Brady, and RGIII. I think the San Francisco offense will be fine this year, and I'm even buying into Michael Crabtree. But the 49ers still run the ball, and that won't change. Kap is better in real football than he is in fantasy.
Check back tomorrow as the consensus QB rankings will be posted on Friday morning, then the staff will move into the RB position. Who are your QB sleeper and bust picks, let us know in the comments section below.