Evan Silva

Goal Line Stand

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Silva's July Rankings, 1-100

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Round Five

49. Ryan Mathews -- Mathews deserves credit for turning in the healthiest, most complete season of his NFL career in 2013. There are reasons for 2014 concern. Mathews wore down late last year, and the Chargers added running backs in free agency (Donald Brown) and the draft (Marion Grice), likely in an effort to reduce Mathews' early-season workload in hopes of keeping him fresh. Mathews has gained nearly ten pounds, an approach that tends to end poorly for running backs. Oft-used role-player back Danny Woodhead returns. Mathews is a talented, 26-year-old tailback on a run-first team and in a contract year. But I think the Chargers are going to use a committee.

50. Shane Vereen -- Making ten appearances including playoffs last season, Vereen piled up 761 all-purpose yards and seven TDs, good for a 1,218-yard, 11.2-score pace over 16. 25 years old and entering a contract season, Vereen's outlook should be viewed independently of Stevan Ridley's, as they essentially play different positions with wholly dissimilar roles. Vereen's usage is more stable week to week as New England's passing-game back, while Ridley will be used most often to kill the clock. Vereen has a chance to flirt with low-end RB1 numbers in PPR leagues. He crammed 54 receptions into ten games last season, good for an 86.4-reception extrapolation.

51. Rueben Randle -- A classic third-year receiver breakout candidate, Randle will become a full-time player under new OC Ben McAdoo, who is emphasizing a quick-hitting pass offense and three-wideout base. Randle can beat man coverage and is an accomplished post-catch weapon, having earned 31% of his career yards after the reception. For comparison, Brandon Marshall's YAC rate is 23% over that span. Anquan Boldin's is 34%. Under ex-Packers assistant McAdoo, Randle will play the Jordy Nelson "Z" position, with Victor Cruz mimicking Randall Cobb, and Odell Beckham in the Greg Jennings role. In hindsight, Randle's to-date inconsistencies were to be expected. Having just turned 23, Randle is younger than rookie receivers Kelvin Benjamin, John Brown, Shaq Evans, Kevin Norwood, Ryan Grant, Devin Street, and Jared Abbrederis.

52. Mike Wallace -- Glowing OTA reports understandably elicit eyerolls from fantasy owners, but in Wallace's case I tend to believe the "hype." In addition to Lamar Miller, ex-Dolphins OC Mike Sherman sucked the air out of Wallace's 2013 balloon, sticking him on the right side of the formation and making him run isolation routes, which meant lots of time "clearing out" for Charles Clay, Brian Hartline, and Brandon Gibson/Rishard Matthews, who all combined for 216 receptions while Wallace managed 73 and a career-low five TDs. New OC Bill Lazor hails from Philadelphia, where last year Chip Kelly oversaw a career year from DeSean Jackson, who is a smaller version of Wallace. Lazor intends to make a habit of getting Wallace the ball, as opposed to using him to create space for others to get the ball. Wallace has a good chance at a big season.

53. Jeremy Maclin -- Maclin has something of a boom-or-bust outlook as the Eagles' primary replacement for DeSean Jackson (fantasy WR10 in '14), albeit one who's coming off an ACL tear and has more competition for targets with second-rounder Jordan Matthews joining the equation, and second-year TE Zach Ertz ascending. The Eagles won't ask Maclin to do the heavylifting D-Jax did last year. That said, Maclin would only need to match about 75% of Jackson's 2013 stats to return rock-solid WR2 stats. Still only 26, Maclin is a compelling contract-year breakout pick.

54. Jordan Reed -- The worries on Reed are not performance related. Aaron Hernandez lite, he was on pace for 80 catches, 888 yards, and six TDs -- top-seven TE1 stats as a rookie -- before suffering a year-ending concussion nine games in. The Shanahans used Reed in the Shannon Sharpe role, peppering him with nearly seven targets per game as the underneath complement to Pierre Garcon. Gone are the Shanahans, replaced by ex-Bengals OC Jay Gruden, whose Cincy offenses never oversaw a tight end who reached 750 yards. In addition, Reed has suffered no fewer than four concussions between his college and NFL careers. The 24-year-old is a high-ceiling TE1 with red-light risk. If you draft Reed, a TE2 is recommended. I am intrigued by Reed's TD upside in a pass-catching corps otherwise comprised of relatively size-deficient personnel. DeSean Jackson is 5'10/169. Andre Roberts is 5'11/195. Garcon is 6'0/210. Reed is 6'3/236.

55. Percy Harvin -- Due to injury, the only exposures to Harvin in Seattle we have so far are three games (one regular season, two playoffs) where he failed to play 50% of the offensive snaps in each, and totaled five catches on seven targets. We're not sure yet whether a healthy Harvin will be an every-down player, though his usage in Seattle's return game suggests he probably won't. Coach Pete Carroll also made it very clear last year the Seahawks wouldn't scheme specifically to feed Harvin. Beat writers were even skeptical Harvin would clear 1,000 receiving yards. Harvin is amazing with the football in his hands. But could be a limited-snap player on a run-committed team that isn't necessarily funneling offense through him pay off at a round-four ADP?

56. Michael Floyd -- Floyd is an increasingly popular third-year receiver breakout candidate, and I'm generally on board with him as a WR2. I'm just not as bullish on Floyd as other fantasy analysts, who are projecting him to overtake Larry Fitzgerald as the Cardinals' top wideout in 2014. I'm also skeptical Arizona's offense, with 34-year-old Carson Palmer at the controls in the defensive-stingy NFC West, is capable of supporting two true frontline fantasy receivers. Andre Ellington is ticketed for a bigger role in Bruce Arians' passing game, and Arians seems to believe Ted Ginn and rookie John Brown will offer more than outgoing Andre Roberts. Still only 24, Floyd most certainly has long-term WR1 upside. I think he's another year away from getting there. I think his targets will dip slightly in 2014, and his consistency will continue to frustrate fantasy owners. It wasn't often last year that Floyd entered a week and you felt confident starting him.

57. Stevan Ridley -- In between two fumbling-induced benchings, Ridley shredded the NFL for a combined 95-441-7 line in Weeks 4-11 last season, averaging 4.64 YPC and playing like every bit the back who finished as fantasy's RB10 the year before. Now entering the final season of his rookie deal, 25-year-old Ridley gets one last crack at New England's lead back role with Shane Vereen as the passing-game complement. The "risk" on Ridley is baked into his mid-sixth-round ADP, which works to reduce that same "risk." The touchdown-scoring ceiling remains enticing in an annual top-eight offense where Ridley projects as the primary between-the-tackles, goal-line, and clock-killing back. Over the past two seasons, including playoffs, Ridley has 21 TDs in the 25 games where he's handled at least 12 carries. Simply put, he will score a lot if he doesn't fumble.

58. Cam Newton -- I'm concerned about Carolina's offensive line -- which lost LT Jordan Gross and LG Travelle Wharton to retirement -- but not quite as worried about the pass-catching corps. There's a good case to be made that Jerricho Cotchery upgrades on 35-year-old Steve Smith at this stage of Smitty's career, while Kelvin Benjamin obviously offers a higher ceiling than Brandon LaFell. Greg Olsen gives the unit stability. All three are legitimate red-zone threats, particularly 6-foot-5 Benjamin. Cotchery is coming off a ten-TD year. A top-five QB1 in each of his first three NFL seasons with mammoth week-to-week rushing upside, it's conceivable Newton may put more on his own plate this year in order to offset his teammates' deficiencies. I'm not willing to draft Cam with Peyton, Rodgers, and Brees, but he'll stay on my radar at the fifth-/sixth-round turn.

59. Frank Gore -- Gore is a lock to open the season as San Francisco's bellcow running back. How long he'll keep that role remains to be seen. The 49ers themselves have prepared for post-Gore life, using a second-round pick on Carlos Hyde to supplement change-of-pace Kendall Hunter and wild card Marcus Lattimore. Gore turned 31 in May and has 956 carries over the last three years, including playoffs. Over his final ten 2013-14 games, Gore managed 592 yards and three scores on 162 runs (3.65 YPC). He hit 100 rushing yards once in the final 13. I wouldn't feel terrible opening the season with Gore as my RB2, but I'd certainly view him as a short-term fix.

60. DeSean Jackson -- Jackson's 82-1,332-9 line in his lone season under Chip Kelly deviates significantly from his typical production. D-Jax's career averages in his other five seasons are 54.8 receptions, 957 receiving yards, and 4.6 receiving scores. New Redskins coach Jay Gruden has a West Coast background, and runs an offense more similar Andy Reid's than Kelly's. Pierre Garcon and Jordan Reed also command targets to a much greater extent than the likes of Riley Cooper, Brent Celek, and Jason Avant did last year. One Skins beat writer recently suggested Jackson could finish third on the team in catches. Based on his early fifth-round ADP and virtually inevitable regression, I'd be quite comfortable letting someone else draft Jackson this August.

Round Six

61. Rashad Jennings -- There is a lot of competition in New York's backfield, creating risk for owners looking to secure Jennings as an RB2. New York used a fourth-round pick on workhorse prospect Andre Williams. Peyton Hillis returns as a goal-line threat, while 2012 first-rounder David Wilson is a wild card. Even Michael Cox is an interesting youngster. Jennings does have traits that will appeal to coach Tom Coughlin -- he's ball secure, gets what's blocked, and can pass protect -- but Jennings' job security is fragile as a 29-year-old career journeyman. Still, Jennings is clearly atop the Giants' running back totem pole with a chance at 16-20 touches per game.

62. Lamar Miller -- I conducted a June Twitter poll asking followers to project the Dolphins' Week 1 starting tailback. (This was before news of Knowshon Moreno's knee surgery.) 33 said Miller, 17 Moreno. NFL.com's Marc Sessler chimed in, saying he recently "talked with" first-year OC Bill Lazor, who "spoke positively of Miller and talked about wanting his RBs in space more," which Sessler opined "suits Lamar." I'm on board with all of that. Lazor's track record consists extensively of run-based offenses, including his 2013 stay with Chip Kelly's Eagles, who led the NFL in rushing yards and ranked fourth in rushing attempts. Conversely, the '13 Fins ranked 26th and 29th in those categories. Under Lazor, the '14 Fins will play fast, and be run committed. Miller is an all-but-locked-in starting running back, and his current draft cost is a seventh-round pick.

63. Trent Richardson -- Richardson's ADP has already climbed into the early fifth round, which probably means it'll flirt with round four by the time training camp gets rolling. We're going to hear lots of positive reports on him out of Indianapolis. I still think the sixth round feels most right, and wouldn't be willing to gamble much higher. (And this is coming from a T-Rich Dynasty owner.) Barring dramatic and sudden offseason improvement, I think Richardson will have a hard time beating out Ahmad Bradshaw for regular early-down carries, and there is also some risk of a three-headed monster involving Vick Ballard. If the Colts play spread offense to highlight a deep pass-catching corps, it's conceivable no Indy back will prove a reliable weekly fantasy option.

64. Matt Ryan -- Ryan deserves a pass for last year's QB15 finish, considering he was without Julio Jones for 11 games and had a healthy Roddy White for six. I view 29-year-old Ryan as the best bounce-back quarterback bet in all of 2014 fantasy. A top-eight quarterback scorer in three of his last four seasons, Ryan has lost nothing off his fastball, plays indoors, and benefits from OC Dirk Koetter's pass-first offense. Ryan should capitalize statistically on a porous defense that has already lost three-down LB Sean Weatherspoon (Achilles') for the year. Expect lots of Falcons shootouts this season, lots of TD dances for Julio and Roddy, and top-five QB flirtation from Ryan.

65. Tony Romo -- Already an annual QB1, Romo has finished top ten in per-game quarterback scoring in each of the past five seasons. This year, he'll be among the primary beneficiaries of pass-happy new OC Scott Linehan, who runs an up-tempo offense that ranked sixth, third, first, first, and fifth in the NFL in pass attempts over the past half-decade in Detroit. (Dallas ranked 13th, ninth, 12th, third, and 14th over that stretch.) Romo plays indoors and on a team with a bad defense, plus passing-game weapons, and one of the league's top offensive lines. Recurring back injuries keep Romo behind Matt Ryan, but their outlooks are similar assuming health cooperates.

66. Vernon Davis -- Davis' fifth-round ADP is likely a textbook case of fantasy owners grasping at last year's stats. Touchdown dependent to the extreme, Davis borderline-miraculously turned the 60th-most receptions in football into the third most receiving scores. I'm not saying he'll stop being a big-time red-zone threat, but Davis could easily still sport that description on a five-touchdown regression. And his target totals with Michael Crabtree back from injury paint a troubling picture. They were 5, 3, 7, 3, 5 in Crabtree's regular season appearances, and 7, 4, 3 in the postseason.

67. Jay Cutler -- Combine Cutler and Josh McCown's stats from Marc Trestman's first season as Bears coach, and they work out to the fantasy QB5. McCown is out of the picture, while Cutler is entering his second year with the Quarterback Whisperer. There were strong indications Cutler was making strides before last year's injuries. He first went down in Week 7, and his 16-game pace over the first month and a half was a 32:16 TD-to-INT ratio with 4,347 passing yards, good for top-seven quarterback stats. Cutler is surrounded by touchdown scorers in Brandon Marshall (6'5/229), Alshon Jeffery (6'3/216), Martellus Bennett (6'6/259), and Marquess Wilson (6'3/207). Matt Forte is an awfully good receiver, too. Perhaps Cutler is simply a chronic underachiever, and his durability remains a concern. But the table is otherwise set for a monster year. At fantasy football's most replaceable position, I want my quarterback to offer lots of upside. Cutler has it.

68. Andrew Luck -- The Colts have personnel to play wide-open spread offense with T.Y. Hilton, Reggie Wayne, Hakeem NicksDa'Rick Rogers, and Donte Moncrief at wideout, and Coby Fleener and a healthy Dwayne Allen at tight end. They also brought in ex-Panthers OC and Browns head coach Rob Chudzinski as an offensive assistant. A Norv Turner disciple, Chud is a passing-game proponent with vertical leanings. Cam Newton -- a similar player to Luck, albeit with inferior passing skills -- ranked fourth and fourth in fantasy QB scoring during his first two NFL seasons with Chudzinski as Carolina's offensive coordinator. If Indianapolis does a better job of game planning to feature the pass, 24-year-old Luck's fantasy production could take off.

69. Wes Welker -- It's difficult to get behind Welker at his mid-fourth-round ADP. The 33-year-old suffered two concussions in 2013, and his next could conceivably end his career. The Broncos are aware the end is nigh, spending a $15 million contract on slot-man-of-the-future Emmanuel Sanders and a second-round pick on Cody Latimer. They also re-signed Andre Caldwell, before giving premium UDFA signing bonuses to rookie WRs Isaiah Burse ($12,500) and Bennie Fowler ($7,000). Welker's 2013 production was touchdown dependent to the extreme, parlaying eight-year lows in both catches and yards into ten TDs. Even with Peyton Manning under center, that is an unsustainable scoring rate for a 5-foot-9, 185-pound slot receiver who never hit double-digit scores in six years with Tom Brady. I'm thinking Welker is much more likely to bust than boom.

70. Nick Foles -- Foles' efficiency was otherworldly in his first season as a starter, and he didn't even win the Eagles' quarterback job out of camp. He led the NFL in touchdown rate (TDs/pass attempts, 8.5%), YPA (8.5), yards per completion (14.2), and QB rating (119.2). Foles compiled a 27:2 TD-to-INT ratio and was even sprinkled into Chip Kelly's run game, rushing for three scores and averaging 22 rushing yards per start. Those supplementary numbers add up. Now DeSean Jackson-less, can Foles maintain his efficiency for 16 games? If he does, he'll have no problem finishing as a top-five fantasy quarterback. He still plays in a run-based offense that last year ranked 27th in pass attempts. If his efficiency wanes, Foles will be a middling to low-end QB1.

71. Jeremy Hill -- Hill is another candidate to continue to rise in my rankings. The Bengals have already penciled him into BenJarvus Green-Ellis' old role, which last year consisted of 220 carries and goal-line work. Cincinnati's team rushing volume will increase under power-run proponent Hue Jackson, who coaxed second- and seventh-place fantasy back finishes in per-game scoring out of Darren McFadden in 2010 and 2011. Hill is the Bengals' top power back. I think he's an Offensive ROY sleeper who could end up with more 2014 rushing attempts than Giovani Bernard.

72. Cordarrelle Patterson -- Despite Julio Jones-ish size and speed, Patterson was utilized as a gadget player in 2013, instead starring on kickoff returns. Then-OC Bill Musgrave began using Patterson in a Harvinian role down the stretch, and the rookie responded with top-four wideout stats over the final five weeks, behind only Eric Decker, Josh Gordon, and Alshon Jeffery. Route-running limitations forced Musgrave to feed Patterson 65% of his targets within ten yards of the line of scrimmage, while 31% came on passes thrown behind the line. Will Patterson become a classic Norv Turner vertical wideout in the Gordon or Vincent Jackson mold? Is Turner willing to manufacture touches for Patterson over the course of a full year? Or is Patterson a suped-up Jacoby Jones? There are too many question marks on Patterson to justify his early fifth-round ADP.

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Evan Silva is a senior football editor for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter .
Email :Evan Silva

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