2. The odds of Peyton Manning matching or eclipsing last season’s tallies with passing yards (5,477) and TD passes (55) are astronomically long, factoring in the Broncos’ difficult schedule (Patriots, Jets, Colts, Bengals, six outings against the AFC West and four against the NFC West — the NFL’s toughest division).
That aside, Peyton’s still no worse than the No. 7 overall pick — even if your league awards only four points per touchdown pass.
3. Eddie Lacy (1,435 total yards, 11 TDs) logged 17 or more touches 11 times last season — a superb number for a rookie back in a pass-first offense. Year 2 could yield a bump in touchdowns.
4. Matt Forte (1,933 total yards) is easily the biggest "risk" of the top-5 assets, since University of Arizona tailback Ka’Deem Carey (2,058 total yards, 20 TDs for 2013) could potentially cut into the fantasy star’s overall touches in 2014.
Of course, of his last seven games — including a 157-yard, three-TD explosion against the Packers in Week 17 — Forte (363 touches last year) racked up 100-plus total yards six times.
5. It’s weird how Lacy stands as a consensus top-7 choice in standard-scoring and PPR drafts … and yet, Le’Veon Bell (1,259 total yards, eight TDs in 13 games as a rookie) gets universally acknowledged as a Round 2 selection.
Of his final 11 outings, Bell notched 98 total yards and/or one TD nine times.
6. Marshawn Lynch has averaged 1,592 total yards and 13 TDs over the last three seasons, with yearly tallies of 329 touches. Eventually, that kind of absurd workload catches up to backs in their late 20s.
One prime example: Heading into his age-28 season (2007), the Chiefs’ Larry Johnson had just completed back-to-back campaigns of 2,000 total yards and 40 total touchdowns. After that, he would never accrue more than 800 total yards or five TDs in a season.
Plus, Seattle backups Christine Michael and Robert Turbin are seemingly poised for substantial carries, and that transition may stealthily take shape this year.
7. Injury riskArian Foster (725 total yards, two TDs) is a reluctant pick at 21st overall; but heading into his age-28 season, the Texans dynamo has one major stat in his favor:
Against Grade-A defenses like the Seahawks, 49ers and Rams last year (three straight weeks) — before going down with a substantial back injury — Foster notched 487 total yards and one TD.
8. Alshon Jeffery (89 catches, 1,421 yards, seven TDs) stands as the highest-ranking WR2 in the countdown.
But let’s hold off on deifying him as a shoo-in for double-digit touchdowns — like Knowshon Moreno from last year.
2. On paper, the Panthers’ wideout corps of Kelvin Benjamin (Round 1 draft pick), Jason Avant, Jerricho Cotchery, Tavarres King and Tiquan Underwood looks skittish. But in respect to the fantasy prowess of QB Cam Newton (3,964 total yards, 30 TDs last season) … does that really matter?
After all, Newton still has Greg Olsen at tight end, and last year’s receivers (including Steve Smith — 64 catches, 745 yards, four TDs) were OK, at best.
My sole reasoning for downgrading Newton outside the top 25? Given his offseason ankle surgery, he’s likely not a good bet to match or eclipse his three-year average of rushing TDs (9.3).
3. It should be a crime to steal Andy Dalton (4,293 yards passing, 35 total TDs) in Round 11.
Of his first 11 games last year, the Bengals QB accounted for 290 total yards and/or multiple touchdowns nine times. And of his final four regular-season outings, Dalton averaged 287 yards passing and 3.3 TDs.
It’s the preseason, granted. But against the Jets last week, Dalton earned a perfect QB rating of 158.3 — completing 8 of 8 passes for one TD.
In case you forgot: Last season, Dalton enjoyed top-8 numbers for passing attempts, completions, passing yards, passing TDs and total touchdowns.
4. The oft-injured Rob Gronkowski has only played in 18 of 32 regular-season games over the last two seasons. That’s a lot of time missed for a potential Round 3 pick in 12-team leagues.
It also helps that memories of Tate’s 102-yard, three-TD demolition of the Patriots (last December) remains fresh in the mind.
2. Titans tailback Bishop Sankey draws the highest ranking of any rookie playmaker — the dual result of his immense talent (LeSean McCoy clone) … and Tennessee needing a full-time, home-run back to replace the departed Chris Johnson (now with the Jets).
3. Speaking of the Titans … wide receiver Kendall Wright (94 catches, 1,079 yards, two TDs) is an easy Round 5 pick for PPR leagues. But Wright (93 targets in his final 10 outings) will have to sing for his proverbial supper in standard-scoring leagues (Rounds 7-8).
4. Last season, Bears quarterbacks Jay Cutler (2,621 yards passing, 19 TDs in 11 starts) and Josh McCown combined for 4,450 yards passing and 32 TDs.
So, there’s a chance that both Cutler and McCown (now the starter in Tampa Bay) are being undervalued for this countdown.
5. Let’s take the positive from Steven Jackson’s injury-plagued first year with the Falcons (734 total yards, seven TDs): In his final six games, Jackson logged 16 or more touches in each outing … and collected six total touchdowns in that span.
6. We’ll be shocked if Mike Wallace (73 catches, 930 yards, five TDs last year) doesn’t rebound for 85 catches and/or 1,000 yards with the Dolphins. He posted seven outings of double- digit targets … and scored four times in the final six games.
7 I would reluctantly take Ray Rice (981 total yards, four TDs last year) in Round 6 in standard-scoring and PPR drafts — preferably as a RB4.
On the field, Rice (suspended for Weeks 1 and 2) has earned the right to escape criticism from one bad season. Off the field, he’ll undoubtedly walk a straight-and-narrow path, given that high-profile transgression with his then-girlfriend/now-wife in Vegas.
Of course, any Rice owner should feel obligated to handcuff Bernard Pierce in the following round … and that’s where things get dicey for me.
Here’s a good news/bad news proposition: Of his two games of 20-plus touches last year, Pierce scored one touchdown each time. However, he averaged only 64 total yards per outing.
2. At 6-foot-4, 200 pounds, the supremely athletic Justin Hunter (18 catches, 354 yards as a rookie) won’t encounter many physical clones when running patterns — especially with Kendall Wright (94 catches, 1,079 yards last year), versatile back Dexter McCluster and rookie rusher Bishop Sankey commanding the lion’s share of defensive attention.
Hunter should also be a dynamic red-zone force — easily eclipsing his four TDs from last year.
Check out this disparity: From Weeks 10-14, spanning five games, Hunter tallied two 100-yard efforts, two TDs and three outings of six-plus targets. That’s a substantial upgrade from Weeks 3 -9 … when Hunter didn’t collect four or more targets in a game.
Jay Clemons, the 2008 Fantasy Football Writer of the Year (Fantasy Sports Writers Assoication), can be reached via Twitter, day or night, at @FOX_JayClemons.