Moving up the Depth Chart in 2014

By Marcella Surra
Marcella Surra

Last season, Rashad Jennings played second fiddle to Raiders RB Darren McFadden. Lucky for him, McFadden’s injury-riddled season meant a lot more playing time for Jennings and an opportunity to showcase his abilities and consistency. It’s no wonder the Giants noticed him. At the age of 29, after years of playing back-up running back, Jennings is finally getting a chance to be a true starter. Earlier this year, the New York Giants signed Jennings to a four-year deal worth $14 million.

If you know the Giants, and you know coach Tom Coughlin, then you know that, for all their confidence in Eli Manning, they still really love to run the ball. If you’re playing fantasy football, then you know that whoever the Giants designate as their starting running back will consistently get carries and fantasy points. However, last season, for the first time in ages, from almost the very beginning of Week 1, it was almost impossible to determine who would be the starter. Between Andre Brown, Brandon Jacobs, David Wilson, and Peyton Hillis, it was a game of musical chairs.

Although Wilson and Hillis are still on the roster, Jennings is at the top of the depth chart and looks to have Coughlin’s stamp of approval. "I think he's very consistent… He has a great attitude. The more you looked the better you liked. First and second down, he's outstanding. Coming out of the backfield, he can catch the ball. He's a good screen runner. Can he go the distance? Boom, there he goes 80 (yards). You can see that. I just think he's a good football player that will be a very, very solid and impactful guy in our offense,” said Coughlin. This season, things should go back to normal with RB Rashad Jennings as the starter.

Another player to keep your eye on is Denver Broncos RB Monte Ball. The exit of Knowshon Moreno to the Miami Dolphins left the door wide open for RB Montee Ball to take over as starting running back for the Denver Broncos. With Peyton Manning at the helm, Denver is most certainly a pass-first offense. However, in order to open up the passing game, offenses need to keep defenses on their toes with a good running game. Case in point, last season, despite Manning’s brilliant passing efforts, Knowshon Moreno still managed to put up 1,038 running yards and scored 10 TDs. As Denver’s new running back, there is nothing to stop Ball from putting up similar numbers.

According to Peyton Manning, “I think he has the work ethic, I think he has the mental capabilities to handle the workload, and I look forward to having a full offseason with him.” With the starting job and Manning’s endorsement, 23 year-old ball looks to make a big splash in 2014.

Last year, San Diego Chargers WR Keenan Allen was named Offensive Rookie of the Year by the Pro Football Writers of America by showing of his great route running ability and sure hands. With 1,046 receiving yards and 8 TDs, Allen earned the confidence of his team and coach. This season, the Chargers have placed Allen at the top of the depth chart. Clearly, they expect big things of him. However, in order to match or exceed the success he found last season, he’ll need to work a lot harder and play much smarter.

According to Chargers head coach Mike McCoy, “When you’re a young player and had the success he did; now he’s got a bulls-eye on his back.” McCoy also went on to say, “Now when you get matched up with the best corners in the league you have to be at your best every week because they’re going to know where you are.”

Although Keenan faces the danger of a sophomore slump, he is definitely a player that can have explosive fantasy value. He’s clearly the best talent the Chargers have at wide receiver. Philip Rivers will be throwing plenty of passes his way for abundant looks and touches. Also, McCoy believes in him, so Allen looks to be a big part of the Chargers 2014 offensive strategy as their WR1, which means consistent fantasy football numbers for fantasy football managers.

Another wide receiver to look out for is former Packers WR James Jones who signed to a three-year, $11.3 million contract with the Raiders. With former Houston Texans QB Matt Schaub as the Raiders starting quarterback, Jones’ potential for fantasy points have definitely improved. Although Schaub’s injury problems last season stunted his numbers, in 2012, he put up 4,008 passing yards and 22 TDs. With Jones’ ability to win contested catches and stretch the field, he’s in a position to be Schaub’s go-to wide receiver.
As a third-string wide receiver in 2012, James Jones was able to score an astounding 14 TDs. Jones proved that, if given the opportunity, he could be best in show. Now, after years of backing up Packer’s wide receivers, he’s finally the top dog. With his looks and touches increased exponentially, Jones is someone to keep in mind during this season’s fantasy football draft. In terms of fantasy football, he definitely has the potential of a WR1 with Matt Schaub as his quarterback, but is definitely worthy of a WR2.

RB Rashad Jennings, RB Monte Ball, RB Keenan Allen, and RB James Jones have paid their dues. They put in years of effort, sweat, and blood. They’ve proven they have the talent and ability to succeed as starters. Now is the time for them to shine. For fantasy football managers, their status change on the depth chart means more looks and touches, which equals points. It’s time to for fantasy football owners to cash in.