|Raiders running back Latavius Murray fends off Bills cornerback Aaron Williams. | Image Source: nypost.com|
As you read this, hopefully you are basking in the glow of a fantasy football title. Maybe Marshawn Lynch’s epic run against the Cardinals boosted you to glory, or as a New Yorker, you received a double treat when Odell Beckham Jr. delivered his latest highlight reel against the Rams to become the centerpiece of your fantasy championship team.
Hopefully you’re not one of those frustrated, disgusted owners who saw a superstar such as Andrew Luck or Jamaal Charles disappoint in Week 16, when it mattered most. No matter what side of victory or defeat you fell on, though, it’s time to start thinking ahead to next season. This is especially true if you play in a keeper or dynasty format.
Knowledge is power in fantasy football. It’s essential to stay updated on the latest news and moves in keeper and dynasty leagues, but in yearly formats, you’ll be more prepared for next season than your opponents if you stay ahead of them in terms of your information intake and advance preparation.
Major breakout stars such as Beckham and Le’Veon Bell are obvious anchor keepers and will be prime picks in yearly leagues. But we already have an early eye on rising stars who may not be obvious locks as keepers and should also be considered smart value picks in yearly formats next season.
One such performer to consider is Oakland RB Latavius Murray. A big back with blazing speed, he’s a unique talent who can be a focal point of the Raiders offense as they look to the future with Derek Carr needing a viable backfield mate. He had a big breakout 112-yard outing against the Chiefs in November and has torn off 25-yard runs in each of his past two outings. Murray has flashed a lot of promise and is a certain fantasy RB2 with high upside for 2015.
Zach Ertz, TE, Eagles
He had a monster breakout game in Week 16, catching 15 passes for 115 yards. He suffered through bouts of inconsistency this year, but appears poised to rise to become one of the better performers at a thin position in 2015.
Devonta Freeman, RB, Falcons
He has watched and waited for much of his rookie year, but showed us his nifty moves and speed with a 31-yard TD run against the Saints. Freeman is versatile and has the potential to be a high-level RB2 next year.
Carlos Hyde, RB, 49ers
Frank Gore appears destined to leave via free agency, and Hyde looked like he had much more burst and authority every time he touched the ball this year. A physical ballcarrier who runs with a lot of spark and determination, he’ll show what he has learned under Gore to make a serious fantasy impact next year.
Marqise Lee, WR, Jaguars
QB Blake Bortles may start to show more signs of progress next year. Lee has some real big-play ability and the two will be a promising connection for years to come. You’ll see Lee begin to exhibit his downfield gears and yardage-after-the-catch abilities more often next season.
Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seahawks
He has showed no apparent signs of slowing down, as we expected. But the Seahawks may keep him and start to mix him in with their younger talents, or he may land elsewhere and not produce quite as well.
Mark Ingram, RB, Saints
He finally started to show signs of being a viable starter this year, but he could leave New Orleans via free agency. A change of scenery could set back him from the progress he has made in the Saints offense.
Josh Gordon, WR, Browns
How long Johnny Manziel will take to become a respectable QB is highly questionable. Gordon has dealt with off-field issues, and there where whispers about his conditioning and effort when he returned. Other keepers who are more stable should get preference.
Matthew Stafford, QB, Lions
His unreliability this year was quite maddening. Even with the addition of Golden Tate, inconsistency was still an issue.
Brandon Marshall, WR, Bears
He has played at admirably high levels for nearly a decade. But he seems to be more of an injury risk recently, and Alshon Jeffery looks ready to surpass him as Chicago’s clear No. 1 WR.
Jonathan Bunge is an avid football fan. Follow him on Twitter to get the latest updates in football, including statistics for next year.