Team: Champions of the Sun – Max Cubberley
2014 Record: 6-7, 5th pick based on head to head.
Draft – Jay Ajayi (RB), MyCole Pruitt (TE), Leonard Williams (DE), Dante Fowler (DE)
Free Agency – Andre Branch (DE), Brandon Flowers (CB)
Trade – John Brown (WR), Roy Helu (RB), Corey Brown (WR), Marcell Dareus (DT)
Free Agency – Cameron Wake (DE), Bruce Irvin (LB),
Trade – DeSean Jackson (WR), Isaiah Crowell (RB), Terrance West (RB), Marqise Lee (WR)
Out of contention for the playoffs after week 12 but with the quality to be in contention, the Champions ended with an AWE of 6.89, nearly a win better than they achieved. 4th top scorers and 5th in potential points and, at an 87% chance of reaching 6 wins, they certainly feel hard done by. Added to this, on paper it doesn’t look like much significant has changed so the expectation will be an improvement in luck and a playoff spot.
Looking a little closer though and that may be a little optimistic. While the QB position is fine, Roethlisberger came into his own last season and has a great unit to work with, the RB position looks a little bare. Yes, the Champions have the best RB in the game at the moment in LeVeon Bell (assuming the two games he’s due to miss don’t cost the Champions vital wins in a competitive league). They are also in the enviable position of having the key Oakland running back situation locked up between Helu and Latavius Murray, but CJ Spiller is not known for his resilience. Granted, he should get some good service in New Orleans but he’ll also be sharing the carries with Former Heisman Trophy Winner Mark Ingram Junior.
The wide receivers certainly look better – DeAndre Hopkins and Mike Evans are an excellent lead duo but Malcolm Floyd and Roddy White’s best days are behind them and it’s dubious as to whether they can put together a meaningful fantasy season. John Brown is an excellent depth addition, but Justin Hunter should be in jail and Percy Harvin is in Buffalo, which is the wide receiver equivalent of solitary.
A good combination of TEs should use up one of the flex slots to cover up the lack of depth elsewhere but it will be interesting to see how these players are permed (hopefully like Kevin Keegan circa 1979).
The defence is really where this team comes into its own. The acquisition of Marcel Dareus has eased fears at DT (after a brief foray into DE), though a short suspension at the start of the season could open up an opportunity when the Champions play the champions in week 1.
Given the depth on defence, you have to ask why the further investment in the draft when limited additions have been made to the, significantly weaker, offence. Still, a suffocating D has won many a Super Bowl; it remains to be seen if it can win a Superb Owl.
There are two questions that will determine exactly how successful this team can be – 1) Can Cubberley pick the right defenders in the right week? Defensive players scoring will peak and trough from one week to the next. Having the depth that the Champions have is great but if Cubberley starts second guessing his line-ups he could end up doing himself out of some points. 2) Can he scare up enough points from an under-resourced running back crew and aging wide receivers to fill out the offensive starters?
8-5 and into the Superb Owl. Might be asking a bit much to take the title but this is a strong team, especially on defence. Work the waiver wire well, make a couple of trades at the right time and this could turn into a great season.