Team: Kelkowski Don’t Play By No Dyna Rules – Ian Kulkowski/Jay Kelly
2014 Record: 7-6, 7th pick, defeated in the first round of the playoffs
Draft – TJ Yeldon (RB), Devin Funchess (WR), Randy Gregory (DE), Danny Shelton (DT), Ty Montgomery (WR)
Free Agency – Sam Bradford (QB), Cullen Jenkins (DT), Jay Ratliff (DE)
Trade – Jason Witten (TE), Doug Baldwin (WR)
Free Agency – Joseph Randle (RB), Delanie Walker (TE)
Trade – Stevie Johnson (WR)
Kelkowski clocked in as the third highest scorers and the third highest potential scorers in 2014, a feat achieved on the back of a fearsome trident at both RB and WR. First up were Arian Foster, Former Heisman Trophy Winner Mark Ingram Jnr, and DeMarco Murray. Foster is now out for probably the first 6 weeks of the season minimum and while Alfred Blue is also on the roster, the drop in quality is something similar as from Tony Romo to Blake Bortles. FHTWMIJ Is still fit and raring to go at New Orleans but CJ Spiller has come in and will take some of the carries away from him. Meanwhile DeMarco Murray is one of the most intriguing players of the season due to his move to the Eagles. While he’s likely to remain very effective, he will surely see a reduction in carries too as he shares the work with Ryan Matthews and Darren Sproles. All told, the running backs are looking likely to regress from their dominant position in 2014.
At receiver, they put out Calvin Johnson, Randall Cobb and Jeremy Maclin, who can be expected to improve, repeat and regress from last season respectively. All told that’s a wash, but I’d be concerned if Johnson missed any more time, while Maclin only has one healthy, truly productive season on which to base predictions so how far he regresses is unknown. That said, he does have Alex Smith to take advantage of his pace down the sidelines.
Beyond that, there’s little depth at WR. Doug Baldwin is in an offence which might look to get more aerial, but has Jimmy Graham and Tyler Lockett to get past now. Devin Funchess could be in a position to try to emulate Kelvin Benjamin but he’s a converted tight end still learning the role; calling 1000 yards optimistic would be an understatement.
At tight end, Julius Thomas’ performance may shed some light on the long held debate about who is better, Peyton Manning or Blake Bortles, while Jason Witten has been an incredible player for many years but his powers must surely be waning.
The defence is pretty similar to the Bombermen’s, with strength at DE but a lack at DT and a decent balance at LB and CB, and unmatched depth at safety. That said, the Jason Pierre-Paul injury hurts. He had 12.5 sacks last year but you can probably count the number he’ll get this year on the fingers of one… oh. Anyway, if JPP doesn’t like it he can give me the finger. Sorry. That was quite tortured. To be fair, the injury could motivate him to come back with a chip on his shoulder and everyone knows when JPP is in the mood there are fireworks.
Now, just as a palate cleanser, let’s head back to AWE. Kelkowski were the closest thing the league had to a 9 win team in 2014, clocking in at a win expectation of 8.59. They had the greatest likelihood of hitting 8 wins, at 78.1% so definitely merited their place in the playoffs. If anything, these stats suggest they should be looking to move up, not down, but that, of course, doesn’t take into account any of the factors laid out above.
It’s tough to get repeat performances in the NFL. Too many players will have a career year and then regress back to the mean. If everything goes right for Kelkowski they are title contenders, but I just don’t see Foster/Blue, FHTWMIJ, Murray and Maclin all hitting the heights of 2014. In fact, I don’t see any of them doing so. This will still be a strong team who will be in with a shout come the end of the season.
6-7, though that could just as easily be 8-5. Tim is a strong Division and someone ends up being the fall guy. At the end of the day, I think there were one or two too many career years in 2014 for the numbers to repeat, but there’s enough strength here that a playoff spot wouldn’t surprise me either. The problem with predictions in these previews is that they really need to tally and I can’t just say 8-5 about everyone.