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Johnny Manziel vs. Bills: Stats, Reaction and Updated 2015 Fantasy Advice

Fantasy Football
August 20, 2015

Johnny Manziel flashed promise in the Cleveland Browns’ preseason opener against the Washington Redskins, and he followed up that performance with a solid showing Thursday night in an 11-10 loss to the Buffalo Bills.

Here’s how the 2014 first-round pick’s stats shook out during the third and fourth quarters:

Recap and Reaction

First-string quarterback Josh McCown totaled 57 yards and two interceptions on 7-of-10 passing during the first half, but Manziel trumped that production on a 14-play, 96-yard drive that culminated with a 21-yard touchdown pass to Shane Wynn.

The NFL’s official Twitter account provided a look at the go-ahead score:

Prior to slinging the touchdown, Manziel used his wheels to roll left and escape Buffalo’s pass rush before firing a strike 37 yards down the field to Darius Jennings, as the NFL Network noted:

Former NFL defensive back Matt Bowen was among those impressed with Manziel’s mechanics on the big pickup:

ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler took note of Manziel’s improved poise in the pocket:

The Bills took an 11-10 lead with just over 90 seconds remaining following an EJ Manuel touchdown pass and two-point conversion, but Manziel couldn’t lead the Browns down the field for a game-winning field-goal attempt.

However, it should be noted a 17-yard pass that came on the heels of a nice scramble in crunch time was nullified by a penalty, per the NFL:

Ultimately, Manziel’s increased level of comfort under center was the biggest positive that emerged from Thursday’s contest. Big plays aside, Manziel picked his spots and delivered balls on time with sufficient accuracy, as his 75 percent completion rate (9-of-12) prior to Cleveland’s last-gasp final drive indicated.

Now the question facing the Browns is whether Manziel has earned a shot at the starting gig.

As CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora opined, head coach Mike Pettine is facing a tough decision entering next week’s clash with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers:

After the second-year quarterback told reporters Tuesday that his primary aim against the Bills was to “do better than last week,” according to ESPN.com’s Pat McManamon, it’s safe to say he achieved his goal.

Fantasy Outlook

Manziel’s fantasy stock is directly tied to his status as a starter, so it’s likely going to be another couple of weeks before owners have clarity on that front.

However, if Manziel is able to eventually eclipse McCown on the Browns’ depth chart, he’ll be an intriguing play to stream against weaker defenses.

The key, though, will be how much value he can offer as a rusher.

Since Cleveland’s go-to receivers are Brian Hartline, Andrew Hawkins and Travis Benjamin, Manziel and the Browns likely won’t be burning opponents with aerial assaults. Therefore, Manziel’s upside as a passer is capped.

Given the team’s absence of legitimate downfield threats, Manziel’s legs could entice owners—particularly if Cleveland turns to him as a primary red-zone option in short-yardage and goal-line situations.

But prospective buyers should beware. The possibility of rushing yards and touchdowns will make aggressive fantasy players salivate, but those tend to be volatile and unpredictable numbers owners can’t count on week-to-week.

Manziel’s raw physical talent will always make him intriguing fantasy fodder, but until he establishes a track record of proficiency in the pocket and is surrounded by more dynamic receivers, he’ll remain a backup option at best.

Read more Fantasy Football news on NerdyFootball.com

Fantasy Football Sleepers 2015: Analyzing Most Underrated Skill Position Players

Fantasy Football
August 20, 2015

Cue the oversized draft boards, the beverages and all the chips and dip you can possibly afford. For many, fantasy draft night approaches, and it is time to show your friends and colleagues that you are the person to beat this year.

In order to do so, you’re going to need to put together a complete draft, with the added knowledge of which players flying under the radar could provide the biggest boost to your roster.

Let’s take a look at the biggest fantasy sleepers at each skill position.

Quarterback

Teddy Bridgewater, Minnesota Vikings

Teddy Bridgewater made an impressive claim to become a talented starting quarterback for the foreseeable future in the NFL.

In just 13 games in his rookie season after relieving Matt Cassel, Bridgewater led the Vikings to a 6-6 record, racking up 2,919 yards and 14 touchdowns in a thinly worn talent pool of targets that was led by the 752 receiving yards of veteran Greg Jennings.

This season, Bridgewater is going to have some new weapons with the return of running back Adrian Peterson and new, explosive wide receiver Mike Wallace. Early on, Bridgewater loves his new situation, according to VikingUpdate.com:

With a now legitimate run game that will at least take some attention off Bridgewater, expect him to put up some big numbers for your fantasy team.

According to ESPN Fantasy Projections, Bridgewater is ranked 18th among quarterbacks and is predicted to record 242.2 points this season, which includes 3,680 yards passing and 23 total touchdowns. But if he continues to show the poise he had as a rookie with some new talent, Bridgewater could sneak his way into your QB1 spot come midseason.

Running Back

Justin Forsett, Baltimore Ravens

Give Justin Forsett a full season of play and look what happens. Playing for his fifth team in seven seasons in 2014, Forsett took full advantage of the Ray Rice debacle in Baltimore, rushing for 1,266 yards despite giving up some carries to Bernard Pierce and Lorenzo Taliaferro.

But all signs have Forsett getting all of the rushing workload in 2015, as Pierce went to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Baltimore’s new No. 1 man has a good chance of hanging around for a little bit in your draft, too.

“All told, Forsett—who has an ADP of 32.88—has the backfield to himself entering 2015 and if he can get anywhere near [Matt] Forte-esque numbers, he will be an unquestionable value in upcoming drafts,” according to Zachary Edwards of Scout.com.

Forsett is projected to put up 966 yards and seven total touchdowns for 175.4 points. And if he is able to establish a rapport with an offensive line that is returning all of its starters for the first time in franchise history, according to Ryan Mink of BaltimoreRavens.com, Forsett will be able to exceed those 966 yards and electrify the league once more.

Wide Receiver

Nelson Agholor, Philadelphia Eagles

There’s three things that are certain in life: death, taxes and an offensive-laden Chip Kelly-coached team.

But with DeSean Jackson’s release a couple of years ago and Jeremy Maclin moving to the Kansas City Chiefs, Kelly’s aerial attack didn’t look too imposing with Jordan Matthews and Riley Cooper as the team’s top receivers.

Thanks to the draft, though, they have a new top man, and his name is Nelson Agholor.

The 20th overall pick in the 2015 draft, Agholor recorded 1,313 yards in his junior season at USC and has immediately impressed Newsday’s Bob Glauber:

Watch Agholor in practice, and you see his talent flash immediately. He has the “it” factor, that indefinable quality that often separates good players from great ones. The burst off the line of scrimmage. The immaculate route-running. The gifted hands.

And those gifted hands are going to see a lot from new quarterback Sam Bradford, as he is projected to put up a solid rookie season of 837 yards and five touchdowns. With new running back DeMarco Murray surely to take a lot of eyes off of Bradford, watch Agholor put up some monster games in 2015.

That being said, don’t expect Odell Beckham Jr. numbers in this rookie season, but there is the possibility that you will be drafting the game’s next marquee receiver.

Tight End

Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

As soon as one of your colleagues takes a tight end, wave goodbye to all of them, as one of the thinnest positions in fantasy will be a mad scramble to address during your draft.

One name that could slip through the cracks and could be a viable option for the position is Tampa Bay’s Austin Seferian-Jenkins.

He struggled in his rookie season last year with just 21 receptions for 221 yards, but there’s a good chance he could be seeing a lot more of the ball in 2015.

Projected to score 81.5 points this season with 587 yards and four touchdowns, preseason signs are pointing for those numbers to be even better.

With a rookie quarterback in Jameis Winston who is going to be searching to create that perfect chemistry with his receivers, Seferian-Jenkins could develop into Winston’s safe option. A big target who can catch the ball in traffic, he’ll be invaluable going over the middle for Winston.

The Tampa Bay Times’ Greg Auman shows what you could expect this season:

Add the fact that big wide receivers like Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson are going to garner a lot of attention, a reliable third or fourth option like Seferian-Jenkins in Tampa Bay can be a fruitful addition to your fantasy team.

Let’s get something straight: These picks might not make you a champion, but these low-risk, high-reward players who can be chosen in a reasonable round will certainly help. So happy drafting, and make sure you don’t lose out to that one player who autodrafts.

Projections and stats courtesy of ESPN.com

Read more Fantasy Football news on NerdyFootball.com

Fantasy Football 2015: RBs Who Can Carry You to Victory

Fantasy Football
August 20, 2015

Even as the NFL increasingly becomes a pass-heavy league, it’s the running backs who still dominate fantasy football drafts. Choosing the right back can mean the difference between winning a (fantasy) title and spending the offseason in regret.

Every year has its top tier of running backs, and 2015 is no different. Deciding among them will have a rippling effect on your fantasy season and, ultimately, whether you’re victorious week after week.

Is Le’Veon Bell’s two-game suspension too high a price to take him first overall?

How about the risk surrounding the 30-year-old Adrian Peterson, who played just one game last year?

Then there are the breakout youngsters such as C.J. Anderson and Jeremy Hill.

And what will a change of scenery mean for last season’s top fantasy back, DeMarco Murray?

We’ll address all of these questions and more in our ranking of the top running backs who can carry your fantasy team to victory.

Our list is based on how well each player performed statistically last year, his projected stats this season and the average predraft ranking among all running backs according to five popular fantasy football sites.

Here’s to a championship for us all!

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Stock Up, Stock Down: How Will Benjamin Injury Impact Panthers Fantasy Values

Fantasy Football
August 20, 2015

The Carolina Panthers have lost wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin for the entire 2015 season to a torn ACL, the team confirmed, via NFL.com’s Chris Wesseling.

How will the loss of Benjamin impact the fantasy value of the rest of the Panthers’ offensive players? How will Cam Netwon’s stock be affected after losing his No. 1 WR? Which other receivers are expected to step up and take the targets that would have otherwise gone to Benjamin?

Watch as Nerdy Football fantasy expert Matt Camp breaks down the fantasy stock of Carolina’s top skill players in the video above.

Read more Fantasy Football news on NerdyFootball.com