Stud: LeSean McCoy, Running Back
McCoy set the fantasy world ablaze in 2013 with a monster season, amassing 2,238 yards from scrimmage to go along with 11 touchdowns. He’s come back down to earth as of late, but he has been productive nonetheless. McCoy reached double-digit fantasy points in nine of the 12 games he played in last season. He averaged 4.4 yards per carry and finished as a top 20 running back last season, despite carrying the ball only 203 times. Some will shy away from McCoy because of injury risk, but if he stays healthy, you can expect McCoy to finish as a top 5 back in Rex Ryan’s run-first offense.
Dud: Tyrod Taylor, Quarterback
Taylor was one of the NFL’s greatest surprises last season. After serving as a backup in Baltimore for the first four years of his career, Taylor broke out as the starter in Buffalo. One of the NFL’s best dual threat quarterbacks last season, Taylor finished with over 500 yards rushing but only amassed 3,035 yards through the air. Taylor will benefit from a healthy LeSean McCoy and Sammy Watkins, but he has a couple things going against him. First, teams now have a plethora of game film to watch when preparing to play against him. We always hear about the dreaded sophomore slump. This will be Taylor’s fifth year in the league, but last year was more or less his rookie season, since it was the only season in which he got significant playing time. Taylor’s schedule is another factor weighing against him. He plays the Patriots and Jets twice a year, both of which are above-average defenses. The Bills also play every team in the NFC West this season. The Seahawks, Cardinals and Rams are among the NFL’s best defenses. The hype is big on Taylor, but I’m staying away.
Stud: Jarvis Landry, Wide Receiver
I’m one of Landry’s biggest fans. Take what I say about him with a grain of salt, if you wish, but numbers don’t lie. Landry has 195 receptions after two years in the league. How many players have more in their first two seasons? Nobody. Not a soul in NFL’s present or past. In his past 17 games, Landry’s failed to score five fantasy points only once. Scoring five fantasy points is far from impressive, but having a player put up two points or less in a week could seal your fate. With Landry, you know you’re going to get something every week. He continues to be Ryan Tannehill’s favorite target, and will also give you six points for a punt return touchdown here and there. Landry won’t be among fantasy’s best receivers, but you know you’re getting a dependable option week after week if you draft him.
Dud: Jay Ajayi, Running Back
Slipping all the way to the 149th pick in the 2015 NFL draft, Ajayi looked to get touches right out of the gate. Unfortunately, Lamar Miller received the majority of the touches, leaving Ajayi on the bench for the first seven games of the season last year. He was sidelined because of a rib injury and his inability to pick up the blitz and block for his quarterback. Miller signed with Houston this offseason, leaving many to believe Ajayi will be the new starter in Miami. It’s likely he receives the majority of the carries, but Arian Foster will be there to compete for touches as long as he doesn’t become injured again.
New England Patriots
Stud: Tom Brady, Quarterback
Yes, we all know Tom Brady is a stud. We also know he’s suspended for the first quarter of the season. This will cause Brady to fall to the latter rounds of your draft. Although he’ll miss the first four games of the season, Brady will be one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks from Week 5-17. Last season, only Cam Newton had more fantasy points than Brady. There are three certainties in life: Death, taxes and Brady being a fantasy stud. Count on it again this year. But if you draft him, make sure you have a serviceable quarterback for the first four weeks.
Dud: LaGarrette Blount, Running Back
This has nothing to do with Blount’s skill. It has to do with his situation. Each year, fantasy analysts everywhere preach the same message: “Stay away from Patriots running backs.” Plenty of talented backs have gone through New England and succeeded, but it’s so hard to tell which one Belichick will use on a game-to-game basis. As the season goes on, we’ll have a better idea of whom Belichick and the Patriots will use, but for now, it’s too early to predict.
New York Jets
Stud: Brandon Marshall, Wide Receivers
Marshall doesn’t get nearly as much recognition as he deserves. He’s finished with over 1,000 receiving in all of his years but one since 2007. He’s finished with double-digit touchdowns in three of his past four seasons, including a career-high 14 scores last season. Marshall has recently praised the play of quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who signed a one-year deal with the Jets. Marshall has a competent quarterback yet again, which should translate to another 1,000-yard, 10-touchdown year.
Dud: Eric Decker, Wide Receiver
Decker should be a solid flex option, but I don’t expect him to have as good of a season as he did last year. The sixth-year receiver accumulated over 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns last season, but I expect that be the best year of his career when it’s all said and done. The Jets acquired Matt Forte, who has recorded at least 50 receptions in three of the past five seasons. Decker will still be a serviceable option, but don’t expect the gaudy numbers he put up last season.