2014 Fantasy Power Rankings — Recap
During the preseason, we ran a series of articles ranking every NFL team by fantasy prowess. The rankings were done based on 2014 projections, and the Oakland Raiders were expected to be the team housing the least amount of fantasy relevance, while the Denver Broncos were expected to lead the charge.
Not everything went according to plan — Jacksonville turned out to be the least fantasy relevant team, and Indianapolis and Pittsburgh were much better than expected — but the preseason rankings weren’t far off from what actually happened.
In fact, only seven of 32 teams finished either 10 spots above or below where we projected, while 10 teams finished either right where they projected or within one place. Let’s take a look at the post-season power rankings.
Teams that finished right where we expected them to
Denver Broncos (1st); Green Bay Packers (7th); Kansas City Chiefs (18th); St. Louis Rams (29th)
The Packers fielded the second best fantasy quarterback, the 12th best fantasy backfield and the second best group of fantasy wideouts. If the Packers had even a decent fantasy tight end, they would have vied for the top spot; no Packers tight end finished in the top 24 in fantasy scoring. Packers games carried 34.3 percent more weight for fantasy players compared to the average team.
Despite some late season struggles from Peyton Manning and a disappointing dip in production from Julius Thomas, the Broncos, as projected, still finished as the most relevant fantasy team. The team was aided by wideouts Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, who edged out the Packers’ Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb as fantasy’s best wideout tandem.
Additionally, any lost fantasy production from Manning or Thomas in the second half of the season was essentially nullified by the emergence of C.J. Anderson, who finished the season as the 11th best fantasy running back. No running back scored more points than Anderson from Week 10 on. He was one of the most elusive running backs in the league this season, notching a PFF “elusive rating” of 70.4, fourth most among qualifying backs.
Near Perfect Predictions
Teams that finished within one place of where we projected
Baltimore Ravens (17th, projected 16th); Buffalo Bills (20th, projected 21st); Cincinnati Bengals (11th, projected 12th); New Orleans Saints (3rd, projected 4th); Philadelphia Eagles (9th, projected 10th); Tampa Bay Buccaneers (28th, projected 27th)
The Eagles finished in the top 10 despite neither of their quarterbacks finishing the season in the top 24. For what it’s worth, both Nick Foles and Mark Sanchez were spot-starters, anyway. Sanchez score 0.45 points per drop back (PPDB), 20th among all quarterbacks, while Foles scored 0.41 PPDB, 24th most.
Zach Ertz failed to live up to lofty expectations, but the Eagles backfield and wide receiving corps — led by LeSean McCoy and Jeremy Maclin, respectively — were both the third best in the league.
The Bengals finished just ahead of where we expected them to, but they got there in a somewhat unexpected fashion. Rookie running back Jeremy Hill was supposed to be the thunder to Giovani Bernard’s lightning, occasionally vulturing touchdowns and being a boom or bust flex option for fantasy owners.
Instead, Hill took over starting duties and ended the season as the 10th best fantasy running back in PPR leagues, rushing for a league high 929 yards over the final nine games of the season. Hill did not see over 50 percent of Cincinnati’s snaps from Weeks 1 through 8, but from Weeks 9-17 Hill was in on over 50 percent of the team’s snaps in all but one game.
And yet, despite losing his status as starter, Bernard still finished as the 16th highest-scoring running back. Bernard and Hill combined to give the Bengals the most fantasy relevant backfield — by far.
Teams that finished within two to five places of where we projected
Dallas Cowboys (6th, projected 3rd); Chicago Bears (4th, projected 2nd); Jacksonville Jaguars (32nd, projected 28th); New England Patriots (8th, projected 5th); New York Jets (26th, projected 31st); San Diego Chargers (12th, projected 14th); Seattle Seahawks (21st, projected 26th); San Francisco 49ers (22nd, projected 19th)
Some may be surprised to learn that the Bears were the third most fantasy-relevant team in 2014, given the fact they benched their starting quarterback in favor of Jimmy Clausen, had injury issues at wide receiver, and were an all around inconsistent team.
However, Cutler was a tail-end QB1 when he was starting, and with Matt Forte powering the backfield Chicago the sixth best rushing attack from a fantasy perspective. The tandem of Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall was ninth best among all teams, and Martellus Bennett was the sixth best tight end. Bears games may have mattered little in reality, but for fantasy purposes their games carried 39.5 percent more weight than the average NFL team.
The Cowboys and Patriots both housed great fantasy talent this year — something that was not overly difficult to predict heading into the season. The Patriots, led by Rob Gronkowski and aided by newcomer Tim Wright, had the most relevant group of fantasy tight ends, while the Cowboys were solid across the board with all four positions (QB, RB, WR, TE) finishing in the top 15.
On the flip side, the Jaguars and Jets were as bad as expected, and the Seahawks and 49ers were as average as predicted. Russell Wilson was better than we projected, as he finished the season as the third best fantasy quarterback. However, the departure of Percy Harvin hurt the Seahawks in the wideout department, and Seattle subsequently offered fantasy owners little when it came to pass catchers this season.
Indianapolis Colts (5th, projected 23rd)
We missed in a big way on the Colts. It was supposed to take Andrew Luck another year or two before he became the fantasy champ, and the team’s tight end duo of Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen was second only to New England’s Rob Gronkowski and Tim Wright. Additionally, Ahmad Bradshaw found new life (before his injury), helping give the Colts the 14th most valuable fantasy backfield.
We also missed on the Steelers. Our preseason power rankings had the Steelers at No. 13, but the team finished at No. 2. Ben Roethlisberger’s back-to-back six touchdown games this season marked one of the most dominant multi-game stretches in recent fantasy history, while Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown finished as fantasy’s top running back and wide receiver this year, respectively.