Round 4 (37-48)
37. Melvin Gordon
38. Peyton Manning
39. Jonathan Stewart
40. Jordan Matthews
41. Julian Edelman
42. Frank Gore
43. Drew Brees
44. Sammy Watkins
45. Todd Gurley
46. Joique Bell
47. Keenan Allen
48. Latavius Murray
Best Value: Frank Gore (42)
As mentioned in my "Rankings Comparison" article, other fantasy football analysts agree that ESPN is too low on Gore at 42 overall as most other sites have him ranked over full round above.
Why I like Gore:
- Gore has been a model of consistency. In his 10 year career, Gore has only twice failed to run for less than 1,000 yards: once in his rookie year and the other in 2010 when he missed 5 games due to injury.
- Gore comes with no injury concerns. He has played in all 16 games in 4 straight seasons.
- While the offensive line in Indianapolis isn't quite as good as the ones he has had in San Francisco, the offense will be much, much better. While Gore has been the focal point of the offense in his time on the 49ers, the Colts' strong passing attack will take a lot of the pressure off Gore. In addition, a much more efficient offense means that Gore will see a lot of scoring opportunities.
- Gore's touchdown totals in the last 4 years: 8, 8, 9, 4. Last year was an outlier because the 49ers decided to split goal line carries between Gore and rookie Carlos Hyde. Hyde scored 4 touchdowns.
- Gore will have no such competition in Indianapolis. Since Gore is an accomplished pass blocker, I expect him to stay in on passing downs.
- During the 4 years with Jim Harbaugh as head coach of the 49ers, Gore had just 72 receptions in 64 games. In the 5 years preceding Harbaugh, Gore had 255 receptions in 70 games- over 3 times more. Last season, before getting hurt in week 11, RB Ahmad Bradshaw of the Colts had 38 receptions in 9 games which would have put him on pace for 67 receptions for the season (3rd among running backs). Bradshaw also had 6 receiving touchdowns. If Gore stays on the field as often as I think he will, I could see him having a bit of a resurgence in the passing game, similar to the first half of his career.
- Gore is getting up there in age but his strength as a runner has always been his superior vision rather than speed or power. His vision should be as sharp as ever.
I don't expect Gore to get much more than 1,000 rushing yards but I think he approaches double-digit total touchdowns on such a high-powered offense.
Worst Value: Julian Edelman (41), Joique Bell (46), and Latavius Murray (48)
There are a lot of picks that I really don't like in this round.
Where's the upside with this guy? Edelman finished as the 24th ranked receiver in fantasy with 127 points. I just don't see the value in spending a 4th round pick on a receiver who's ceiling is around 130. In addition, Edelman has one of the toughest schedules for receivers in 2014 and he wont have Brady for the first 4 games. Then add the fact that he had issues with concussions late last season and there's just not a lot to be excited about. Edelman is a decent pick in PPR leagues and that's it.
With one of the most favorable schedules for a running back in 2014, Bell managed just 3.9 yards per carry, which was 27th among qualifying running backs. Bell is unspectacular and his role in the offense is legitimately at risk to be reduced this year with rookie RB Ameer Abdullah earning rave reviews in camp and in the preseason. Finally, Bell has been banged up the last couple of years, making it even more likely that his workload will be limited even if he doesn't miss time. In fact, after undergoing knee and Achilles tendon surgeries in January, Bell has yet to practice with the team.
Yeah, I don't get it. The hype is insane on this guy. ESPN actually has him ranked lower than Yahoo and other sites and I still think it's way too high. Such a lofty rank for a former 6th round draft pick with 82 career carries, just one career game of over 100 yards, and a pretty significant injury history (he had two surgeries on his ankle after 2013 and suffered a concussion last season). Murray has proved nothing and I honestly wouldn’t be surprised to see RB Roy Helu take significant work and vulture more than his fair share touchdowns as he did in Washington. And Murray has a tough schedule to boot. Murray could be great but there are still way better choices out there at this price.
Risky Pick: Jonathan Stewart (39) and Todd Gurley (45)
I can see why Stewart might be enticing. As some might point out, once Stewart had the job to himself, only DeMarco Murray had more rushing yards in the last 5 games. But look at the defenses he played in that 5 game stretch: MIN, NO, TB, CLE, ATL. Do you know how those defenses ranked in rushing defense DVOA? 25, 32, 8, 31, 29. Tampa Bay was the only good run defense and Stewart's stat line that game was 22 carries for 75 yards (3.4 YPC). New Orleans, Atlanta, and Cleveland were the 3 worst run defenses in 2014 and Minnesota was in the bottom 10. So yeah, I'm going to take those number with a grain of salt.
But that's not even the main reason why I'm staying far away from Stewart this year. He's proven that he's a pretty good running back when he's healthy. When he's healthy. He just cannot stay healthy. Don’t put your faith in a running back who has missed 20 games due to injury in the last 3 seasons. Even when he plays he's almost always hobbled by something. Don't be blinded by the role. Talent and role don't mean a thing if you can't play. I'm not rolling the dice on this being the year he somehow stays healthy. It's just bad sense.
He's an unproven rookie and he's coming off of an ACL injury that will cost him valuable preseason playing time and possibly the first few games in the regular season. At any rate, he's likely to start slow and I bet the Rams use him cautiously in his first season. It's a smart move considering his injury and because Tre Mason proved competent last year but it's not great for fantasy. And besides that, the Rams' offensive line is really shaky with 4 out of 5 starters replaced by backups and rookies in the off-season.
Safe Pick: Jordan Matthews (40)
- 128 points last season, 24th among wide receivers
- Matthews improved over the course of the season. He scored 35 points before week 9 and 93 points from week 9 on.
- Wide receivers who break out in their rookie year tend to increase production in year 2.
- Best-case scenario, QB Sam Bradford is better than the combination of Nick Foles and Mark Sanchez last year. Worst-case scenario, QB Mark Sanchez takes over due to either poor performance by Bradford or injury. Last year, Sanchez was the QB from week 9 on which is when Matthews was most productive. So worst-case scenario is still improvement.
- Regardless of QB, at 6'3", Matthews is the best red zone threat on the highly efficient Eagles offense.
- WR Jeremy Maclin is gone. He had 85 receptions, 1,318, yards, 10 touchdowns, and 143 targets. Jordan Matthews and rookie WR Nelson Agholor are likely to inherit a majority of that. Since Chip Kelly has been the head coach of the Eagles, the number 1 receiver has been highly productive. That figures to be Matthews this year.