Julio Jones, who had four catches for 61 yards and a touchdown in the Falcons’ preseason opener,has the most receiving yards per game in NFL history. He’s 26 years old, whereas Roddy White is soon to be 34 and has averaged just 816.0 yards over the past two years, as he’s clearly in the decline phase of his career. There’s some concern about Jones’ injury history with his feet, but he has legitimate upside to be the No. 1 fantasy receiver this year. His 9.8 YPT were the second-highest among those who saw at least 145 targets last season.
For some reason, Jones saw just four targets inside the 10 (teammate Harry Douglas was given six), which ranked No. 36 among all wide receivers (behind Jermaine Kearse, Riley Cooper andNate Washington, among others). So if Atlanta starts properly utilizing the 6-foot-3, 220-pound wide receiver in the red zone, a return to double-digit touchdowns should be in store (it’s not like they have a big RB to use at the goal line). And the NFC South should feature a bunch of shootouts. Jones is going to be an absolute monster in 2015. Go get him.
Jamaal Charles has averaged 1,683 yards from scrimmage over the past three seasons (despite missing two games), totaling 39 touchdowns over that span. He averaged just 250 carries over those three years, never once reaching 290 rushing attempts. He’s gotten 5.5 YPC throughout his career and is still just 28 years old and will remain the focal point of Kansas City’s offense. He’s the No. 1 player on my board, however I get the argument for Le’Veon Bell, who’s just 23 and would be the clear choice if not for the two-game suspension (although it would be a stretch to expect him to repeat last year’s success). I’m stating the obvious Charles should be taken early, but why is he not No. 1 on everyone’s board? He totaled 1,324 yards with 14 touchdowns while getting just 206 carries and playing hurt throughout all of last season. That’s pretty impressive for someone who got just 13.7 rushing attempts per game.
Jordan Matthews had 872 receiving yards and eight touchdowns as a rookie, and the Eagles said goodbye to Jeremy Maclin (and his team-high 143 targets) during the offseason. I like Zach Ertz, but he’s questionable to even be ready for Week 1 after suffering a groin injury and was always more of an unknown than Matthews, who will now be the No. 1 target on a team that runs a fast pace offense that averaged the third-most ppg last season despite its cumulative quarterback rating ranking No. 23 in the NFL. I’d be shocked if Matthews wasn’t at least a top-15 fantasy wide receiver in 2015, and his current Yahoo ADP is barely inside the top-50 overall. He’s worthy of a third-round pick.
Mike Evans had 12 touchdown catches on just 68 receptions last year, which is like saying a hitter had an unsustainable .400 BABIP. He averaged just 42.8 yards over his final six games and reached 80 yards in just three games during his rookie campaign (he totaled 458 in three others, to be fair). For someone with so few catches and averaging so few yards down the stretch, it seems a bit crazy his ADP is in the top-30 overall, but Evans passes the eye test, so even though he’ll be competing for targets with Vincent Jackson and Austin Seferian Jenkins, who looks like a breakout candidate, it makes sense. Who knows how good Jameis Winston will be, but it’s safe to expect him to be an upgrade over Tampa Bay’s quarterback play last year. Evans scored all those touchdowns during his rookie campaign despite just five targets inside the 10-yard line. He sure looks like the real deal…One more quick TB note: Doug Martin has been a bum for two years running, but this is still a 26-year-old who totaled 1,926 yards and 12 touchdowns as a rookie three seasons ago. He’s already been declared Tampa Bay’s lead back, yet Martin’s Yahoo ADP is just 106.7
I’m hardly the only one hyping him, but C.J. Anderson totaled 1,057 yards and 10 touchdowns over the final eight games last season. Pro Football Focus graded him as the No. 3 overall running back despite his 510 snaps coming in behind 22 other backs. Anderson forced 44 missed tackles (the seventh-most in the NFL, more than LeSean McCoy and Jamaal Charles) while never fumbling during a rushing attempt. Despite a lack of pedigree (he went undrafted, although he showed plenty of promise in college), Anderson is now the clear lead back for a Denver team that scored the second-most ppg (30.1) in the NFL last season. He’s 24 years old and apparently got into the best shape of his life during the offseason (although he’s now dealing with a minor ankle injury). I worry about Peyton Manning’s health, and it’s always questionable to rely on a running back with so little history, but I’m advocating taking Anderson in the first round of fantasy drafts, even in the top half. CJA has a real chance of finishing as the No. 1 fantasy player in 2015.