Derek Carr, Raiders QB
Coming out of college, Carr was billed as a potential franchise QB with a gunslinger mentality. He showed very well as a rookie, with over 3,200 yards, 21 TDs and only 12 INTs. Considering the Raiders mediocre offensive talent, that is even more impressive. With a new coaching staff coming in, Oakland has a chance to build the offense around Carr and RB Latavius Murray. Mychal Rivera, James Jones and Andre Holmes are three big receiving targets, but they need to add more talent at the WR position in order for him to take another step forward. He will need to improve his accuracy and decision-making, but Carr has all the tools to eventually be a QB1.
Carlos Hyde, Niners RB
With Frank Gore a free agent this offseason and likely headed out of San Francisco, it is time to ramp up the hype on Hyde. Anyone playing in a dynasty league currently knows that Hyde is already very well thought of. And anyone that watched him run this season knows that he is capable of big things. Hyde ran with power and purpose as a rookie, giving a glimpse into what he will be able to do as a full-time starter in 2015. Hyde is a capable receiver with enough lateral quickness to be more than just a pounder in the running game. At this point, if you are able to grab him in a keeper/dynasty format, consider yourself lucky. He is an RB1 waiting to happen.
Davante Adams, Packers WR
Owners of Adams in a dynasty league are holding a lottery ticket. If unrestricted free agent Randall Cobb leaves town, they hit the jackpot. Adams could easily return Top 25 value next season. He is a big, athletic target known for quality hands. He can be a volume receiver that thrives as a complementary piece to Jordy Nelson’s open field ability. He does not profile similarly to Cobb in many ways, but he can be just as productive. Even with Nelson and Cobb healthy, Adams flashed his playmaking acumen in the Divisional Round matchup versus the Cowboys. If Cobb stays, Adams remains a high upside handcuff, but toils as an inconsistent WR4 because of a lack of targets. That is the tough part about holding onto the ticket. Do you cash it in this offseason before Cobb makes his decision, with the thought that Adams’ value is as a bench player if he is the Packers WR3 for the next three years? Or do you hold onto him and hope for a huge return by way of Fantasy production? I am holding tight because there is too much upside to move him now. Cobb should be one of the most sought after free agents on the market and he just might price himself out of Green Bay.
Tyler Eifert, Bengals TE
After an injury limited Eifert to just one game in 2014, there might be an opportunity to buy him low in your keeper/dynasty league. He flashed at times as a rookie, but was limited because of the presence of the inferior Jermaine Gresham. The stars are aligning for a breakthrough next year, though, with Gresham expected to leave town as a free agent. He will, of course, be limited by inconsistent QB play, but Eifert has the size and athletic ability to overcome that. There is a very real possibility that he emerges as a legitimate TE1 option next season.
Marcus Mariota, Oregon QB
After an extremely productive collegiate career, Mariota will be turning pro. That leaves draftniks to debate his NFL potential in the coming months and compare him to fellow Heisman winner Jameis Winston. With a mediocre showing in the National Championship game last week, Mariota’s stock is currently trending in the wrong direction. A sophomore QB (Cardale Jones) making just his third career start outshined the Oregon Duck. As a prospect, Mariota is an athletic run-first QB with a strong, accurate arm. His style of play reminds us of Colin Kaepernick and Robert Griffin III, both of whom are experiencing a dip in value. Actually, running QBs in general are fading with the exception of Russell Wilson, who seems to have a knack for avoiding big hits. That is going to leave many evaluators questioning Mariota’s true value and potential to be a franchise QB. He needs to improve as a pocket passer in order to succeed in the NFL anywhere close to the way he did in college. It remains to be seen if Mariota’s production was a product of the system, but he will have his work cut out for him running a pro-style offense.
Andre Ellington, Cardinals RB
After an impressive rookie season that saw him gain over 1,000 total yards, Ellington was thrust into a larger role this past season. Needless to say, that did not go well. He gained just 32 more yards despite receiving 90 more touches. His yards per carry fell to 3.3 and he only played 12 games because of injury. Not built like a workhorse back, Ellington is likely to face competition in the form of a large, between the tackles RB. The talent level of said competition will go a long way to determining his value in 2015. Ellington is also not as young as you might think for a third year RB; he will be 26 years old next month. Now is not the time to buy low on him, take a pass instead.
Michael Crabtree, Niners WR
It could have been the offensive game plan in San Francisco, or maybe the QB play, but we need something to point to in regards to Crabtree’s underwhelming season. After a strong rapport with Colin Kaepernick led to Crabtree’s best pro season in 2012, things have been going downhill. Crabs missed most of the 2013 season, but bounced back healthy and was a key part of the Niners playoff run. Expectations were high for him heading into this season as a WR2 with upside for even more. He did not top 85 receiving yards in any game and only hit paydirt four times. His 10.3 yards per catch were easily the lowest of his career. Now a free agent, is there optimism for Crabtree if he can get out of San Fran? Absolutely, he has the talent to be a very reliable possession receiver. He is never going to be the dominant WR1 that many hoped when he left Texas Tech after two ridiculously productive seasons. If you can buy low here it is not a bad gamble, as there is untapped upside remaining. Still, Crabtree must be considered a Fantasy tease until proven otherwise.
Martellus Bennett, Bears TE
We may have seen the best Bennett has to offer as a Fantasy asset. It is not a bad thing, but his ceiling is as a low-end TE1. Ultimately, he is a 5 catch, 60-yard guy with a decent chance of scoring a TD any given week. He is turning 28 years old this offseason and could be the fifth option in the Bears passing attack if Marquess Wilson emerges in 2015. While Bennett feels like a safe option at a volatile position, the lack of upside gives him little appeal in long-term leagues. He should be viewed as a seat warmer for a younger TE that has yet to establish himself as reliable option.