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One of the most difficult things to do in fantasy football is separate the players who are going to boom this season and those that are going to bust. When you are evaluating players like Peyton Manning, Matt Forte and Calvin Johnson the verdict is pretty easy. When you are researching guys like Chad Henne, Knowshon Moreno and Miles Austin the answer is possibly even easier.
But what happens when you’re evaluating players who could go either way? That is where you need strong opinions backed by a couple of decades of fantasy football experience and a splash of advanced statistical analysis.
It’s a little thing I like to call: Boom Or Bust
Robert Griffin III – QB – Redskins
Boom – RGIII will be two years removed from his torn ACL which will allow him to regain most of his rushing prowess that he showed in his rookie campaign. RGIII went from 7 rushing TD’s in 2012 to 0 in 2013. He’ll likely fall somewhere in between this year which obviously improves his fantasy value. Also, the Redskins upgraded their WR corps this offseason with the additions of DeSean Jackson, Andre Roberts and fourth round draft pick Ryan Grant. He also has a head coach and offensive coordinator who have not given up as Mike & Kyle Shanahan did a year ago.
Bust – Griffin isn’t and was never a prolific passer. He ran a very watered down read-option offense that took defenses by surprise the first time they saw it. But nobody was fooled in year two and won’t be in 2014 either. Griffin showed that he just isn’t built to sustain the impact of running the football as much as he did in his rookie season. The Redskins offensive line graded out as one of the worst in football in 2013 and has made no improvements heading into this season. RGIII will be running for his life once again in 2014.
Projected Output: 301-483 (62.3%), 3,442 Yards, 21 TD’s, 14 INT Passing
80-466 Yards, 3 TD’s Rushing
Verdict – BUST. Even at his best RGIII is not a heavy volume passer nor is he an elite runner the way Michael Vick or Cam Newton are. The offense will be better but the offensive line is still subpar. The Redskins just aren’t going to be a prominent passing team in 2014.
Ben Tate – RB – Browns
Boom – Tate is going to the best situation possible in Cleveland this year. Browns offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan will employ a replica of the cut-back running system that Tate ran in Houston. This system has made susperstars out of players like Orlandis Gary, Mike Anderson, Arian Foster and Alfred Morris. Tate has averaged 4.7 yards per carry in his career and should see the bulk of the carries in Cleveland this year. The Browns will lean heavily on the running game this season because of their inexperience at QB and lack of impact receiving options without Josh Gordon. He has solid hands and can catch the ball out of the backfield with the best of them.
Bust – Tate has only started nine games in his three year career and has been limited by nagging injuries in each one of them. The Browns offensive line is strong on the left side and weak on the right. Tate is guaranteed just $2.5 million this season and is easily tossed out after this season should he not come through. The Browns used their third round pick on Terrence West who is also a very dynamic cut-back runner and will challenge Tate for the RB1 role in training camp.
Projected Output: 14 Games, 249-1095 Yards, 7 TD’s Rushing
42-218 Yards, 1 TD Receiving
Verdict – BOOM. Yeah Ben Tate is a very talented runner who has landed in the perfect system for his skills. Also, he is going to get a ton of opportunities to run the ball in Cleveland this year as the offense will center on the running game. As long as he is healthy, Tate is going to produce at a RB2 level in 2014.
Victor Cruz – WR – New York Giants
Boom – Victor Cruz is a beloved character in the New York sports scene. He captured many fans and hearts with his big play flashes and his endzone salsa dances. Without Hakeem Nicks this year, Cruz is without question the number one receiving option for the Giants. Over the past three seasons Cruz has averaged 80 catches, 1208 yards and 7.6 TD’s. Even in his down season in 2013 he still finished just two yards shy of 1000 in only 13 games. At 28 years old Cruz is very much still in the prime of his career.
Bust – Which Eli Manning shows up in 2014? The guy who has lead the Giants to two Super Bowl victories or the guy who has looked like he had forgotten how to play football the past two seasons. Cruz relies on his downfield speed quite a bit as he just doesn’t have the size to be a legitimate red zone TD threat. The Giants have lost two of their best offensive linemen in the past two seasons and are incredibly thin along the O-line.
Projected Output: 16 Games, 84-1150 Yards, 8 TD’s Receiving
Verdict – BOOM. Cruz is just too good to be a disappointment at any level. He has elite speed, good hands and great after the catch ability. His season will ride heavily upon how Eli Manning and the Giants offense adapt to new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo. But with his raw skill and motivation to succeed it will be hard to keep Victor Cruz down another year.