2014 Fantasy Season in Review- NFC South
The Atlanta Falcons were an interesting fantasy football team this season. They were high hopes coming into the season for wide receiver Julio Jones. Jones performed very well when he was on the field, but injuries seemed to be at every corner. On the other hand, quarterback Matt Ryan was a bit forgotten about in drafts and came out in 2014 as one of the hottest quarterbacks of the early weeks. Unfortunately, he was not able to keep that pace going towards the middle of the year. He did eventually bounce back.
Like Jones, fellow wide out Roddy White also had difficulty with injuries. However, the absence of these two receivers did allow for some good sleeper performances. Devin Hester and Harry Douglas both had some fantasy value this season in deeper leagues. Both were able to perform very well when given the opportunity.
The Carolina Panthers’ 2014 fantasy football season was all about rookie Kelvin Benjamin. Benjamin was the best rookie wide receiver of the year with 73 receptions for 1008 yards and nine touchdowns. He was all fantasy owners were hoping he was going to be and so much more. He is going to be in very high demand during drafts in 2015.
The defense was as good as everyone expected they would be. This was very much helped by the fact that the NFC South was the worst division in the NFL. The Panthers were able to make the playoffs and win the division with a losing record.
There was one other thing that was pretty intriguing and could cause some headache this offseason when fantasy owners prepare for drafts. Jonathan Stewart was the NFL leading rusher over the final weeks of the season. He came in the season as the backup. He really has never given fantasy owners any reason to pay attention to him since his rookie season. Now as a veteran and career backup to DeAngelo Williams, he puts up great numbers for an offense that really needed a big boost from their running game. The Panthers’ backfield is going to be an interesting story to watch this offseason. Who knows whether Stewart will be starting next year.
New Orleans Saints
Before we go into any in depth analysis of the New Orleans Saints one thing must be said: Drew Brees is an absolute fantasy football stud. Brees led the NFL in passing yards and threw 33 touchdown passes. He is always the safest bet for any fantasy owner looking for a sure thing at the quarterback position.
Moving on. Mark Ingram was a pleasant surprise for fantasy owners. Many people drafted him as a second backup and he ended up being a player who fantasy owners could not afford to sit. He ended up finishing the season with just shy of 1000 rushing yards and nine touchdowns. He was able to do this despite only playing in 13 games and only starting in nine games. A mid season injury was a major blow to fantasy owners because when it happen, Ingram was just starting to break out.
The Saints’ defense was not nearly as valuable as they were in 2013. In 2013, the Saints were one of the best teams at creating turnovers. In 2014, that just did not happen and there value was completely shot. This is pretty interesting considering they brought in some top tier players on the defensive side of the ball in order to improve on what they were doing in 2013.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were terrible in 2014. Nobody expected this would not be the case though. The highlight for the team was rookie wide receiver Mark Evans who put up some astonishing numbers in his first season. He managed to catch 68 passes for 1,051 yards and 12 touchdowns. He is going to be listed as a high end number two wide out drafts going into next season.
The rest of the team was pretty unimpressive. Vincent Jackson put up 1000 plus receiving yards, but only found the end zone twice. Doug Martin was hampered by injuries for the beginning of the season and never seemed to get his feet under him. The defense was pitiful. Josh McCown was not worth starting despite being reunited with Lovie Smith who coached him during one of his best seasons in the NFL.
At the end of the day, this is not a team anyone will be relying on to win them a fantasy football championship next season. It does not appear they are going to be able to improve much over the offseason because they are very close to their salary cap.