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The NFL season is just around the corner, which means fantasy football season is, too. One indicator of the numbers a player might put up, is looking at his previous season's stats... that can also be a fatal mistake. Here are four guys who I think will improve upon their 2014 seasons, and four guys who I think will take a step back.
QB Ryan Tannehill MIA - The Dolphins have gone all in on Tannehill, surrounding him with a gluttony of receiving talent. Not only will the additions of Greg Jennings, Devante Parker, and Kenny Stills provide a nice boost, but Tannehill seems to be improving every year, in his own right. Depending on the scoring of your league, Tannehill finished right around the 10th ranked QB mark... this year, I think it's closer to 5th.
RB Mark Ingram NO - Ingram finished as (depending on league scoring) the 15th scoring RB last season... a season in which he missed 3 full games, and wasn't involved in the pass game in the games he played. Ingram expects to take on an even bigger role than last season, not only in the running game, but also catching the ball out of the backfield. If he stays healthy, Ingram is a lock for top 10 RB and could very well push for top 5.
WR Marvin Jones CIN - Should be easy for him to improve on his 0 points from 2014, a season ruined by injury. Marvin Jones is a high upside guy that doesn't seem to be getting a lot of love. Sure, he'll be playing second fiddle to AJ Green, but that's not necessarily a bad spot to be. Filling that role last year, Mohamed Sanu posted a top 40 season, and everything that Jones has shown, so far, shows that he is a much greater talent than Sanu. If you're looking for a WR3 or a sneaky bench guy with high upside, Marvin Jones should be able to outperform the investment needed to get him
TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins TB - ASJ only played in 11 games last season, and only managed more than 3 receptions in 2 of them, but he is a physical talent. He has the speed and size (6'5") to be a match up nightmare, as long as his hands cooperate. Also working to his benefit is having a rookie QB with a poor offensive line... two things that should mean a lot of bail-out looks to the tight end position.
QB Cam Newton CAR - This is nothing about the man's personal talent (easily a top 5 FANTASY QB with a decent supporting cast), but more about his surroundings. Carolina's offensive line has been leaking like a sieve, and his top (only) WR is done for the year. He still has Greg Olson, and he still has his legs, but he's going to take a pounding and be forced to make quick throws. If your league docks points for sacks and interceptions, Cam Newton owners could be in for a rude awaking. One saving grace, the Panthers defense should give the offense plenty of opportunities, and I don't see this as a team that will get many big leads and take their foot off the gas.
RB Marshawn Lynch SEA - Not only is Lynch (29) approaching the dreaded age of 30, but he's also coming off of four straight seasons with over 280 carries. With the wear and tear that Lynch has taken throughout his workhorse career, the caveat goes from "if the bottom falls out" to "when the bottom falls out." The Seahawks are well aware of Lynch's heavy load, and I wouldn't be shocked if they try to cut back his carries and "save" his legs for the post season, this is especially true if the Seahawks sign free agent Fred Jackson to spell him. Also worth noting, Jimmy Graham could eat some of his touchdowns and cause a slight uptick in pass attempts.
WR Golden Tate DET - Tate (at least in my league) finished the season as the #10 wide receiver, but don't expect that to be repeated. A lot of Tate's production came when Calvin Johnson was off the field, putting up the 3rd most fantasy points among WR's in the 4 games Megatron missed.... but in the other 12, Tate's production fell to 32nd. As long as Calvin Johnson is on the field, Golden Tate is nothing more than a high WR3 or low WR2.
TE Jimmy Graham SEA - Jimmy Graham's production will be hurt in Seattle, just based on the volume of looks going his way. In New Orleans, he was the apple of Drew Brees' eye in a pass heavy offense. In Seattle, he will be a match up guy used to keep the defense honest in an offense that ran the ball 51.4% of the time last season (2nd most in the NFL). Jimmy will still get his and will still be a top level TE, but his numbers will take good size a hit. Not only will he get less looks, in general, but the Seahawks will give a lot of goal line carries to Marshawn Lynch.