It is never too early to start looking at 2014 fantasy football players.  What I usually like to do is take one player from each team before the off-season starts that I feel either has great potential for 2014 or that there are some questions surrounding his value.  I then make a conclusion if his fantasy outlook is increasing, decreasing or staying the same in terms of their ADP (Average Draft Position) from 2013.  I listed the players in alphabetical order by the team that they played for in 2013.  Part I covers the Arizona Cardinals to Kansas City Chiefs.  Part II will cover the Miami Dolphins to the Washington Redskins.

Arizona Cardinals RB Andre Ellington – Ellington made a major impact as a rookie, tallying 652 yards rushing on only 118 carries, catching 39 passes for 371 yards and scoring four touchdowns.   He was the 24th ranked fantasy back in standard leagues, despite having 157 total touches.  Even if veteran RB Rashard Mendenhall is back in 2014, expect Ellington to have a bigger impact in his second season.  He is going to be a RB2 with tremendous upside.   Fantasy Outlook: Increasing

Atlanta Falcons WR Julio Jones – We all know what Jones can do when he is healthy, in 2012 he had 79 receptions for 1,198 yards and 10 receiving touchdowns.  That made him the ninth ranked fantasy receiver in standard leagues.   He was off to a monster start in 2013 with 41 receptions for 580 yards and two touchdowns in five games, before he was lost for the season with a fractured foot.  Jones has a history of foot problems, as he needed a surgery to repair his fractured foot in 2011 after the NFL Combine.   Jones has unmistakable talent, but his ability to stay healthy makes him a question mark in 2013.  My expectation is that I will have him ranked as a low WR1 to a high WR2.   Fantasy Outlook: Decreasing

Life's short. If trends continue, Rice may not be elite for long.

Baltimore Ravens RB Ray Rice has been a perennial first round pick for many seasons, but that is going to change after a disappointing 2013 season.

Baltimore Ravens RB Ray Rice – He should be back with the Ravens in 2014, as he is owed only $4 million in 2014 and last year was his first disastrous season with the club.   Rice had 214 carries, but tallied only 680 yards rushing.  He also had 58 receptions, but only for 321 yards and only four total touchdowns.  This coming from a player that had ranked in the Top 6 among fantasy backs in three of his last four seasons.  Rice blamed his struggles on a hip injury; I also think his offensive line was an issue.  The hiring of offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak could rejuvenate his career.  My anticipation is that Rice will come in lighter and quicker next season and the Ravens should have an improved offensive line.  He should have a bounce back season.   He should be a nice buy low RB2 in 2014 as he is likely going to be in a committee with RB Bernard Pierce. Fantasy Outlook: Decreasing

Buffalo Bills RB CJ Spiller – I drastically overvalued Spiller in 2013.  I had him projected as the second fantasy running back.  He finished the season with just 1,118 yards from scrimmage and only two total touchdowns.  That made him the 27th ranked fantasy running back.   The good news is that Spiller is only 27 years old and that RB Fred Jackson is turning 33 years old this year.  If Spiller can avoid the injuries that plagued him in 2013, he should be a bounce back candidate and have good value.  That said, I cannot see ranking him higher than a RB2 given the disappointing season he had this year.  Fantasy Outlook:  Decreasing

Carolina Panthers RB DeAngelo Williams – If the Carolina Panthers want to contend for Super Bowls, they need to replace their old and slow players.  Williams is going to enter 2014 as the favorite to start, but he is 31-years old and had only 1,176 yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns.  The bottom line is that the Panthers have one of the five worst skill position cores in the NFL and they are relying on an elite defense and QB Cam Newton to win games.   Williams was the 22nd ranked fantasy running back, but given his age and lack of upside, I would not want to own him in 2014.  His stock is going to be relatively unchanged this year, because there were not any expectations for him last year.  Fantasy Outlook:  Unchanged

Chicago Bears RB Matt Forte – Forte surprised me this year, I knew the Bears were going to be better under new head coach Marc Trestman.  However, I did not foresee Forte being healthy enough to tally 289 rushing attempts and 74 receptions.  The result was 1,933 yards from scrimmage, 12 touchdowns and the third ranked fantasy back.   He is probably safe for one more year, as he turns 29 years old this year, but still has only 1,551 career carries.  Given how the Bears used him on offense, he has to be a RB1 in 2014, but it will be interesting to see if he can maintain the durability he showed in 2013.   Fantasy Outlook: Increasing

Cincinnati Bengals QB Andy Dalton – I think Dalton is going to be one of the biggest fantasy steals in 2014.  He is not going to be receiving a new contract this offseason coming off his third disappointing playoff campaign.  Furthermore, most people think that he is a terrible player, even though he was the sixth ranked fantasy quarterback in 2013.  Players tend to over perform in contract years and nobody playing fantasy should care about what he does in the NFL playoffs.  The only question is how does the departure of offensive coordinator Jay Gruden impact Dalton.  My prediction is the impact should be minimal; I look for Dalton to have another big regular season and outperform his ADP in 2014.  Fantasy Outlook: Increasing

Cleveland Browns TE Jordan Cameron – One of the reasons that people were so high on Cameron in the preseason was the tight end friendly offense run by Rob Chudzinski and offensive coordinator Norv Turner.   Cameron responded with 80 receptions for 917 yards and seven receiving touchdowns.  Now that those two are history, it remains to be seen how involved the tight end will be in the new offense.  The good news for Cameron is that the Browns did not hire someone like Mike Martz, who hates tight ends.  They hired Kyle Shanahan as the offensive coordinator, who runs a tight end friendly West Coast Offense.  I would expect Cameron to figure prominently into the Browns offense in 2014.  Fantasy Outlook: Increasing

Dallas Cowboys TE Jason Witten – Witten has been a pretty consistent tight end for the Cowboys, he has finished inside the Top 8 among fantasy tight ends in standard leagues all but one season since 2004, which was all the way back in 2006.   However, this was his lowest season for receptions (73) and yards (851) since 2006.  The only thing that saved his fantasy value was eight receiving touchdowns, which was the second highest total of his career.  At 32 years old, it is fair to question if he is on the downswing of his NFL career.   I think he should still be one of the Top 10 tight ends taken off the board, but I would hesitate to take him in the first five rounds.  His play seemed to slip a little this year.   Fantasy Outlook: Decreasing

Denver Broncos RB Montee Ball – Ball could have been a star this year, but fumbling problems and pass protection problems kept him out of the lineup.  I think that is something he can improve on in his second year and he did show flashes of being a solid runner, finishing his rookie season with 120 rushes for 559 yards and four rushing touchdowns.  He is going to be off the radar compared to some of the other rookie running backs, which means that he could be a steal in the mid to late rounds of fantasy drafts.   RB Knowshon Moreno is a free agent this year, it will be interesting to see if the Broncos bring him back after he tallied 1,039 rushing yards and 13 total touchdowns or if they turn over the keys to their running game to Ball.  Fantasy Outlook: Increasing

Detroit Lions RB Reggie Bush – Bush benefited from playing in a system that ran the ball only a third of the time and utilized short passes to running backs in lieu of the running game.  Bush tallied 1,512 yards from scrimmage and seven touchdowns in his first season with the Lions.  He also turns 29 years old this season, but the good news is that he has only 1,190 career rushing attempts.  I think new head coach Jim Caldwell is going to want to utilize him, but the uncertainty of a new role and his age make him a low RB1 to high RB2 for 2014.  Fantasy Outlook: Unchanged

Aaron Rodgers

I do not think it makes sense to draft Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers in the first or second round given the improved running game, his injury this year and the abundance of great fantasy quarterbacks.

Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers – There are a couple issues with Rodgers.  First, he is 30 years old, is coming off a season where he missed seven games with injury and he plays behind a porous offensive line.  I do not want to say he is an injury risk because of one season, but if the Packers do not improve their pass protection, it is a fair question to ask.   Second, the Packers finally have a running game and RB Eddie Lacy is likely to be a Top 5 fantasy back in 2014.  That may limit Rodgers’ passing attempts. My feeling is that there are so many good fantasy quarterbacks available, that drafting Rodgers in the first or second round was never justified and now it is just plain ludicrous. I would rather stock up on running backs and receivers in the first four rounds and take a quarterback in the fifth round or later than I would using that high of a pick that has some fantasy concerns.  Fantasy Outlook: Decreasing

Houston Texans RB Arian Foster – Foster is at a crossroads in is career.  He turns 28 years old in August and had 1,115 rushes/receptions from 2010 to 2012, before breaking down in 2013 with injuries.  He played only eight games and tallied 121 rushes for 542 yards and one rushing touchdown to go along with 22 receptions for 183 yards and another score.  It remains to be seen how he fits into new head coach Bill O’Brien’s new offense or if he will even be healthy enough to help the Texans coming off a back surgery.  Foster should still be fantasy relevant in 2014, but I would have a hard time ranking him above a RB3.  He definitely is not going to be going in the first round like he has in recent seasons.   Fantasy Outlook: Decreasing

Indianapolis Colts RB Trent Richardson – Richardson was a high second round pick in most fantasy leagues this year and when he was traded to Indianapolis, fantasy owners rejoiced at the prospects of him teaming up with QB Andrew Luck to form a dangerous one-two punch.  That never materialized, as Richardson finished with 563 yards rushing and three rushing touchdowns.  He fell behind RB Donald Brown on the depth chart and failed to top 70 yards rushing in any game this season. The good news is that Brown is a free agent and the Colts gave up a first round pick for Richardson.  They will give Richardson every chance to win this job.  Hopefully the reports are good out of Indy and Richardson could be a steal in the middle rounds.  This is a big year for Richardson, he is another bad season from playing is way out of the NFL. Fantasy Outlook: Decreasing

Jacksonville Jaguars WR Ace Sanders – The Jacksonville Jaguars offense was terrible at times in 2013, but one player that emerged was Sanders.  He finished the season with 51 receptions for 484 yards and one touchdown. It remains to be seen if WR Justin Blackmon will be able to gain reinstatement for the beginning of the 2014 season and if the Jaguars are able to add a talented quarterback in free agency or the draft, Sanders could have some sleeper appeal.  He probably is not going to be worth a pick in redraft leagues, but he is definitely someone to keep an eye on this off-season.  Fantasy Outlook: Increasing

Kansas City Chiefs QB Alex Smith – I have mocked him repeatedly as being nothing more than a game manager that is allergic to his wide receivers and relies too much on dump offs to his running backs and short passes to his tight ends. In Smith’s last six starts, including the Wild Card Round, the Chiefs averaged 36.3 points per game and Smith had 18 passing touchdowns to just three interceptions in those games. Considering this was his first year in this system it remains to be seen what happens in 2014.  There are two schools of thought on that.  One is that his hot finish will carry over into next season and he could emerge as an elite fantasy option.  The other is that teams will have an entire off-season to study the dink and dunk offense of the Chiefs and make adjustments in 2014. I think it is probably somewhere in between.  I do not view Smith as a fantasy QB1, but I do not think he is a QB3 either.  The Chiefs offense is exciting and Smith is going to be a viable QB2 in 2014 with QB1 potential in the right matchups.   Fantasy Outlook: Increasing

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