The NFL’s offseason has become a game within itself. Coaching changes, free agency, the draft and OTAs will all be pieces of the 2015 projections puzzle.
But we can already pinpoint players that are rising toward fantasy stardom next season. Three guys and situations worth monitoring:
Jeremy Maclin is an unrestricted free agent and Riley Cooper can’t play. One way or another, impressive Jordan Matthews is going to have a front-line role in Chip Kelly’s 2015 offense. He already flashed difference-making ability as a rookie, going 67-872-8 despite playing just 64.9 percent of the snaps in an exclusive slot role. Even if Maclin is re-signed as expected, Matthews is a great bet to beat out Cooper for the outside role in two-wide sets and then move into the slot for three-wide formations. His arrow is pointing straight up.
We’ve only gotten a brief taste of what Donte Moncrief can do so far, but it’s sweet. When Reggie Wayne sat out in Week 8, Moncrief hit the Steelers for 7-113-1. When given an opportunity for extended snaps against the Redskins in Week 13, he went 3-134-2. Yeah, there were a lot of low points along the way also, but that’s expected when we’re talking about a raw 21-year-old rookie. With Wayne possibly retiring and Hakeem Nicks ticketed for free agency, generational quarterback Andrew Luck will be forced to lean on Moncrief in 2015. It’s an exciting duo.
It’s not as crazy as it sounds to suggest that Marshawn Lynch won’t be back with the Seahawks next season. He turns 29 in April, has increasingly become an off-field headache and most importantly the team can save $7M against the cap by cutting him. Moving on from Lynch would be easier to swallow due to the presence of Christine Michael, a ridiculously explosive back who will be ready to pop off as he enters his third NFL season. Treat yourself to a romantic evening of C-Mike YouTube highlights sometime soon – you won’t regret it.
NBA Pickups of the Week
Tim Hardaway Jr., G/F, Knicks – J.R. Smith is gone and Carmelo Anthony may shut it down after the All-Star Game.
Jusuf Nurkic, C, Nuggets – The thin nature of the blocks category makes them valuable. Nurkic is at an incredible 4.2 block per 48-minute rate.
Rudy Gobert, C, Jazz — Even when Enes Kanter (ankle) returns, Gobert will be worth owning thanks to efficiency and blocks.
Charles Johnson came from off the grid to pass up Cordarrelle Patterson this season, establishing himself as an every-down player. Now it’s time to progress. OC Norv Turner has stated how high he is on this size/speed freak and Johnson will be more explosive as he’s another year removed from the ACL tear and Teddy Bridgewater showed flashes of franchise QB ability. Johnson, who will train with Brandon Marshall this offseason, is an early 2015 breakout candidate.