16 AFC teams, 16 need-to-know nuggets before applying the finishing touches to your fantasy draft board.
Yeah, Andy Dalton did put his owners through some wild weekly stat swings last season, but the Bengals' QB did come in a respectable seventh in the The Huddle's 2013 quarterback consistency ratings with 10 games of 20-plus fantasy points in 16 starts (63 percent). And, moreover, only Peyton Manning (15), Drew Brees (13) and Mathew Stafford (11) had more 20-point performances last season.
For an idea of how much fantasy frustration the Fred Jackson/C.J. Spiller Show has induced over the last four seasons, try to decipher which Bills' RB goes with what 2010-13 stat line: Player A has started 37 games, rushed 713 times for 3,188 yards & 23 TDs and has 151 receptions for 1,261 yards and four scores for a total of 591.9 fantasy points. Player B, meanwhile, has started 31 games, carried 590 times for 3,021 yards and 12 TDs while adding 139 receptions for 1,070 yards and five scores to accumulate 496.1 fantasy points. (Answer: Player A is Jackson and B is Spiller).
So how much regression will the Broncos' Manning see after his record-shattering 2013 season in which he threw for 5,477 yards and 55 TDs? Prior to last season, there had been six previous 5,000-yard passing seasons, with the average player's total decreasing by 403.5 yards the following season. Meanwhile, there had been five seasons of 45 or more TD tosses, and the follow-up campaigns produced an average reduction of 14 TDs per QB. So if Manning's numbers conform with the average, he'll finish 2014 with right around 5,073 yards and 41 TDs. That translates into 421 fantasy points, which would have ranked him second among QBs in each of the past two seasons.
How good was the Browns' Josh Gordon last season? Good enough to pace all fantasy wideouts with 227 points despite missing two games. Good enough that his NFL-best 1,646 receiving yards easily shattered the team's single-season record of 1,289 held by Braylon Edwards. Finally, it was good enough that his average of 18.92 yards per reception ranks third in NFL history among players with 80 or more catches in a season. Only Charley Hennigan (21.29 yards-per-reception in 1961) and Torry Holt (19.94 in '00) have done better.
Keenan Allen's 149-point fantasy debut for the Chargers last season ranks as the ninth-best rookie campaign by a wideout in the last 25 years. It's also the fourth-best rookie fantasy season in the past decade. Not too shabby, considering the third-round pick was the eighth rookie WR drafted, on average, last summer and wasn't even drafted at all in 72.5 percent of leagues.
If it wasn't for Manning's brilliant 2013 campaign, the Chiefs' Jamaal Charles would've been your 2013 NFL and fantasy MVP. The RB accounted for a whopping 36.7 percent of K.C.'s total rushing and receiving yards and scored 36.5 percent of the team's total TDs in finding the end zone 19 times. All three of those figures paced the league. Meanwhile, that all added up to 312 total fantasy points -- another numeral which topped the NFL, at least for non-QBs.
Only 10 NFL running backs have averaged fewer than three yards per carry with 175 or more rushing attempts in a season since the 1970 merger. The latest member of the ignominious group -- and the first since Jonathan Wells of the 2002 expansion Texans -- is Trent Richardson, who averaged 2.99 yards per attempt (188-563) last season for the Colts.
Ryan Tannehill is hoping his third season is a charm as far as receiving some sturdier protection. Over the last two seasons, the Dolphins' QB has been sacked a league-most 93 times -- 10 more than second-place Joe Flacco. And since the merger, only the Cardinals' Jake Plummer (101) was sacked more during his first two seasons as an NFL starter.
There's a new look in the Jaguars' backfield, and for the first time since 2001, someone other than Maurice Jones-Drew or Fred Taylor will lead the franchise in rushing this season. And whether it's Toby Gerhart or some other back, they'll have some sizable fantasy cleats to fill as MJD and Taylor combined for 11 150-point fantasy seasons during the past 12 seasons.
Runnin' Rex Ryan is back for his sixth season coaching the Jets. Since he assumed the reins in 2009, the franchise has compiled the league's most rushing attempts (average of 514.2 per season and third-most rushing yards (2,175.2 per season). Conversely, the Jets have attempted the third-fewest passes (487.6 per season) in the league and have the fewest completions (269.2) and passing yards (2,948.4).
In the up-and-down world of fantasy kickers, the Patriots' Stephen Gostkowski has been a dependable rock over the last three seasons. He's finished among the fantasy top three in each of those three campaigns. No other PK can claim more than one top-three finish in that span. Gostkowski also has topped 140 points in each of those three seasons, while only the Packers' Mason Crosby (twice) has reached that plateau more than once during that period.
Why have the Raiders failed to post a winning season or fielded a dependable fantasy pass-catcher over the last 11 seasons? Look no further than the Silver and Black's ever-spinning quarterback carousel in which no fewer than 21 QBs have attempted a pass for the franchise since the start of the 2003 season. Of those 21 signal-callers, only five have thrown for more TDs than interceptions with the team, just three compiled a passer rating higher than 80, only two have thrown for more than 20 TDs and only one -- Jason Campbell at 11-7 -- has posted a winning record.
We all know Ravens RB Ray Rice didn't come close to living up to his fantasy expectations last season. But upon further review, though, we find that Rice's 2013 season might have a strong case as the most disappointing season put forth by a preseason top-five-ranked back in the last decade. A year ago, Rice had an ADP that ranked fifth among RBs, but he wound up 30th after totaling only 122 fantasy points. That's the biggest ADP-to-final-RB-rank drop (25 spots) we could come up over the last 10 years for a preseason top-five back who played at least 14 games.
Remember when selecting the Steel Curtain was a fashionable fantasy pick as your team defense? Well, most of us remember when MySpace rivaled Facebook at one point, too. In any case, it's a case of no longer. In fact, the Steelers' D has ranked no higher than 26th among fantasy defenses in any of the last three seasons and ranks only above the Jaguars (262) in terms of total fantasy points scored (264) from 2011-13.
Fifteen times since the 1970 merger, an NFL pass-catcher has finished a season with 100 or more receptions but five or fewer TD grabs. Surprisingly, Texans stud wideout Andre Johnson has accounted for 20 percent of those occurrences, including one in each of the past two years. Here's the proof: 109 receptions for 1,407 yards and five TDs in 2013; 112-1,598-4 in '12 and 103-1,147-5 in '06.
The Titans made Bishop Sankey the first RB drafted by selecting the University of Washington standout in the second round with the the 54th overall pick. Correspondingly, Sankey currently owns the highest ADP of any rookie back and the second-highest ADP among all first-year players, trailing only Bills wideout Sammy Watkins. But, beware: Only two of the last 12 RBs (Adrian Peterson in 2007 and Knowshon Moreno in '09) selected first in their draft classes have gone on to lead their rookie RB compatriots in fantasy points that first season, and only Peterson and Trent Richardson ('12) have topped 175 fantasy points as rookies. The list of did-nots includes Giovanni Bernard (2013), Reggie Bush ('06) and Steven Jackson ('04).
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