Fantasy football five-minute guide: Let SI's expert lead the way
This story originally ran in the Aug. 17, 2015 issue of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. Click here to subscribe.
You can judge most offensive players by the quality of the offense they’re in. Invest heavily in these four teams.
Four players on this, the NFL’s best offense, will be gone within your draft’s first 30 picks: Aaron Rodgers, Eddie Lacy, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. You want one.
Peyton Manning and Demaryius Thomas are set for big seasons again, Emmanuel Sanders is an elite secondary target, and C.J. Anderson legitimizes the run game.
Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown could each be the top player at his position; Big Ben and Martavis Bryant will be strong fantasy starters. Bet on Todd Haley’s attack.
Andrew Luck, T.Y. Hilton and Dwayne Allen have each made significant strides every year. In ’15 they’re joined by fantasy stalwarts Frank Gore and Andre Johnson.
Revival of the fittest
Four down-year players who will return to previous glories.
His lack of sophomore-year production came as a surprise after he was among the leaders in end zone targets as a rookie. With TE Antonio Gates out through Week 4, Allen will climb back atop San Diego’s goal line hierarchy.
With his size and big-play ability, he was supposed to emerge as a top 15 WR last year. Hampered in part by QB Carson Palmer’s injury, Floyd ranked 41st in yards, 85th in catches—but everything that made him a breakout pick last season still holds. His training camp injury (fingers) won’t cost him much time.
A casualty of the QB tumult in D.C. last season, Garcon saw his catches, targets and yards all nearly halved. He’s unlikely to return to the 113-catch, 184-target, 1,346-yard highs he hit in ’13, but he’ll be relevant again.
A top five QB at the start of ’14, he fell out of the QB1 class due to Detroit’s growing reliance on D and Calvin Johnson’s ankle injury. With a healthy Johnson split opposite Golden Tate, plus rookie RB Ameer Abdullah, expect a return to the top tier.
Fact: Not all RB1s are the same. Before nabbing any of these rushing studs, consider their PPR potential.
Forte was hauling in passes—-102 of them in ’14—long before now departed coach Marc Trestman came to Chicago.
All that Bell’s two-game suspension means is that he will likely catch—at a minimum—70 passes instead of 80.
New Orleans RBs have cumulatively led the NFL in catches in seven of the past nine years. Spiller will help keep that going.
A victim of the rotating backfield in New England, he still has 99 catches in his last 24 games—a 66-per-season pace.
Morris set a career high in catches last year—with 17. He’s underrated, but he’s not much of a receiving threat.
Division of labor: Spiller’s role as a receiver in New Orleans means that Ingram will be more of a grinder.
Same story: Gordon will be San Diego’s workhorse, but Danny Woodhead’s presence will curb his PPR value.
Even if Blount owns the Patriots’ backfield, Travaris Cadet will play a vital role as a third-down back.
Oldies? Yes. Goodies? Hmm...
SI plays buy/sell with eight fading fantasy stars
Andre Johnson, WR, Colts—Johnson, 34, has never played with a QB whose skill set remotely approaches Andrew Luck’s.
Frank Gore, RB, Colts—The 32-year-old could roll out of bed and rush for 1,100 yards. Indy’s offense extends his life.
Peyton Manning, QB, Broncos—The price may be high for a 39-year-old, but Peyton has another huge season ahead.
Jason Witten, TE, Cowboys—Even at 33 he’ll play a larger role now that DeMarco Murray is gone. His low price is enticing.
Drew Brees, QB, Saints—Opportunity cost rules in fantasy, and you’re going to have to pay up for Brees, even at 36.
Carson Palmer, QB, Cardinals—Come Week 1, he’ll be 10 months removed from his second ACL surgery. Time to move on from the 35-year-old.
Brandon Marshall, WR, Jets—At 31, he’s now on his fourth team despite supreme talent. And with Geno Smith out six-10 weeks, his stock plummets.
Reggie Bush, RB, 49ers—He could form a dynamic backfield with Carlos Hyde, but at age 30, Bush won’t get the bulk of those touches.
The Justin Case
Solving the mystery: Who’ll be this season’s Justin Forsett, the running back who comes out of nowhere to rush for 1,200 yards?
He could have been the starter for the balance of ’14 if not for a right-ankle injury, which cost him eight games. Doug Martin sits atop the depth chart, but Sims may already have 1A status. Keep a close watch.
The rookie out of Northern Iowa already has Bruce Arians saying he’ll “find a niche quickly,” while RBs coach Stump Mitchell compared Johnson with Matt Forte. Remember, presumed starter Andre Ellington missed four games last year.
Though he began training camp No. 3 on the depth chart, the third-round pick from Miami will have a chance to prove he’s more than just a change-of-pace back. After all, it’s not as if he has to steal carries from Jim Brown and Eric Metcalf.
Every fantasy owner is familiar with Bill Belichick’s RB carousel. Cadet made an impression in ’14 by catching 38 passes in New Orleans; he could find himself this year’s beneficiary of Belichick’s vagaries.