101.71 ppg, 9th best in league
QB 21.68 ppg, 1st
RB 24.03 ppg, 9th
WR/TE 43.66 ppg, 7th
SPEC 12.34 ppg, 10th
It was a case of first to worst (in Tim, it’s almost impossible for a Tim team to be worse than most of the teams in Peter) for Neil Hawke and the Firebirds last season. The inaugural champs didn’t lose it at QB though where Rusty Wilson and Big Phil Rivers are one of the best one-two tandems in the league. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and, barring the ever-present spectre of injury, there’s no reason to think that the Firebirds’ QBs won’t be right up there again this year.
So where did it go so wrong then? Step forward CJ Anderson and Marshawn Lynch. Neil’s two big RB threats going into last season both underwhelmed drastically for one reason or another and left the Firebird’s relying on Chris Johnson’s zimmerframe and Frank Gore’s determination to show the young ‘uns how they do back in the day. This season Lynch is retired and Gore and CJ2K are both yet another year older. The Firebirds have added Lynch’s heir presumptive in Seattle, Thomas Rawls, and traded for Eddy Lacy though. Rawls and Lacy both have question marks over them but it’s good to see Hawke recognise the problem and take big steps to resolve it. If CJ Anderson turns up this year and Ryan Matthews stays healthy this could be a very strong group.
The receivers weren’t quite as bad as the RBs but they still weren’t great. How Julio Jones didn’t get injured from the stress of having to carry this entire offence on his back last year I don’t know. Edelman gave him some help before injury ended his season and Hawke pulled Snead from the waiver wire but after those three there’s really nothing to say. Again though, the Firebirds went hard at fixing this position. Vincent Jackson came in free agency and Markus Wheaton in a trade (albeit for a vastly overinflated price for some reason). With Corey Coleman, Tyler Boyd and, particularly, Tajae Sharpe added in the draft there is a good group of young receivers here who can provide this season and hopefully for a while to come. And at TE? Hawke had Gronk last season and he still has him this season. End of story.
75.81 ppg, 8th best in league
DL 28.22 ppg, 2nd
LB 24.90 ppg, 7th
DB 22.69 ppg, 9th
Along with the Tamworth Two, the Firebirds have the best DT tandem in the league and both Geno Atkins and Ndamukong Suh (eventually) produced the numbers last season and are in a position to do it again this year. Unfortunately for Neil he only had one DE that scored over 51 points last season and none that scored over 100. It’s all change on that front this season with only Charles Johnson back. Brandon Graham moves from LB to DE to provide a clear #1 but Johnson is not the guy to rely on and so Neil is left looking askance at Mario Williams and hoping that he can be bothered to turn up and play in Miami when he couldn’t in Buffalo. To be honest though, if Neil just didn’t play a second DE it still wouldn’t be that much worse than last season.
The Firebirds’ LBs were a weak unit last season with injuries to De’Andre Levy and Alec Ogletree cutting down hugely on their ceiling. Behind those two both Lawrence Timmons and Julius Peppers were solid but Derrick Johnson was the only elite performer. This season both Johnson and Timmons are back and Levy is at least Questionable rather than Out. Ogletree looks healthy, Eric Kendricks moves into year two after a promising rookie season and Mark Barron has been moved from S to LB. Last season’s performance should be the floor for this unit going forward.
The real place that Hawke suffered was at DB though, giving away 16 points a week to the best unit in the league. If you got prizes for having the most players to choose from he would probably do very well as he had a whopping 12 DBs on the roster at the end of the season but sometimes less is more, particularly at CB where the Firebirds had 7 players and only one that scored over 90 points. Neil has trimmed down a little for this season (although he still has 10 DBs) and added Janoris Jenkins at CB who scored well last season, although he is in a new spot this year. Patrick Chung is the only addition at S though where Mark Barron’s loss will hurt.
177.52 ppg, 7th best in league
The Firebirds have strengthened on offence and should be much closer to the middle of the pack this year and with more depth in reserve. On defence, although the LBs got better the DBs got worse and the D line is one injury away from collapse. I think they may still be the worst team in Tim but the performances should be better.
103.81 ppg, 7th best in league
QB 17.17 ppg, 7th
RB 25.09 ppg, 8th
WR/TE 47.47 ppg, 4th
SPEC 14.08 ppg, 4th
Many people’s hot tips for the Owl last season ended up mired in mediocrity as their big guns just didn’t quite fire like many of us thought they would. Despite a poor QB performance it was the RBs that really hurt the most though. Going into the season with round 1 re-draft RB Jeremy Hill and hot rookie Melvin Gordon looked good but, in hindsight, we should have seen that the group was shallow and when Hill and Gordon were less than stellar it left the Bombermen’s ground game plodding. This year they have Gordon and Hill still in place, with appropriately tempered expectations, but superstar-on-the-rise David Johnson to back that up too. Surely another bright young thing can’t flop to the floor like a suffocating salmon at the Bombermen?
I skipped over the QB situation up there but it’s worth looking over again. The Bombermen go into the season with 6 QBs rostered as of today, two more than any other team. It’s a sure sign that they don’t think there are guys there to rely upon. Matt Ryan has consistently underwhelmed now to the point where he can only be seen as a backup and that leaves the Bombermen choosing between Kirk Cousins and RG3; both with huge potential but neither is a sure thing. Cousins should be an improvement over Ryan though and RG3 still has the potential for gold dust. The Bombermen will have to be careful not to fall into the Mangboob trap of tinkering too much though and PLOBbing themselves out of a lot of points.
Despite performing the best of the units mentioned already, the Bombermen’s receivers also have to be classified as a disappointment in 2015. Kelvin Benjamin never saw the field, AJ Green didn’t live up to his usual stellar standards, Brandin Cooks took half a season to get going and Jordan Matthews dropped, tipped and fumbled his ceiling away. With the exception of Matthews, all of those guys should be much better this year and the addition of Eric Decker in free agency brings some week-to-week stability to the unit. With the likes of Ty Montgomery, De’Anthony Thomas and Chris Conley backing up though the Bombermen have to hope that their WRs stay healthy. At TE Greg Olsen keeps on rolling and must be considered the #2 fantasy player at his position going forward.
79.38 ppg, 5th best in league
DL 25.09 ppg, 4th
LB 23.17 ppg, 8th
DB 31.12 ppg, 3rd
Looking at the Bombermen’s defence last season you would probably have had it down as average and that is how they performed. Ben Hendy spent big on the D line in the season, bringing in Aaron Donald and it paid off as the line clawed its way up to 4th in the league by the end of the season. The procurement of Donald was just as well really as there was little to speak of outside him one Cameron Wake went down. This season sees Connor Barwin move down to DE and explosive rookie Noah Spence offers some potential at the same spot. You don’t have to imagine much though to see one injury to Donald leaving this unit producing bottom tier numbers.
The LB group wasn’t so much bad as it was lacking an elite talent. Ryan Shazier was the B-men’s top scoring LB and he was LB26 for the season in terms of production. Barwin, Sean Lee and Clay Matthews offered a solid presence but not much of a ceiling. This year the picture is much the same, if not worse with Barwin’s move to DE. Hendy will need to hope that Willie Young’s sack numbers continue to rise and that Clay Matthews’ move back to OLB kicks up his point ceiling. Sean Lee and Elvis Dumervil are fragile presences to rely on though and there is a question about how long Julius Peppers can reasonably keep going at an elite NFL level.
The defensive backs produced well last season and they’re almost entirely all in place still for this season. You wouldn’t want to bet serious money on a group of corners and safeties producing with any consistency but there’s no reason to think that they will be worse so you have to consider this area the strength of the D.
183.20 ppg, 5th best in league
Barring another clean sweep of disappointment, the Bombermen have to be better on offence this season. On paper their starting lineup is excellent but I am concerned about the depth behind it. The same could be said of the defence except that, DT and DB excluded, I would say the starting lineup is average. If this team is going to challenge they’re going to need their big names to produce and to stay on the field but I worry that the teams around them have strengthened more than Hendy’s men have.
Champions of the Sun
122.17 ppg, best in league
QB 16.52 ppg, 9th
RB 35.13 ppg, 2nd
WR/TE 56.31 ppg, 1st
SPEC 14.21 ppg, 3rd
When you have the best offence in the league, where do you look to improve? Well, the stats would tell you to look at your QBs who averaged out at replacement level for the season. There were a couple of games that Roethlisberger left injured that influences that but Max Cubberley was lucky that Carson Palmer’s poor numbers didn’t come in the regular season as they might have cost him a couple of wins. Will they be better in 2016? Palmer is gone so it really all depends on Ben Roethlisberger’s health. If he plays 16 games then they probably will but if he goes down injured it becomes Joe Flacco or Paxton Lynch calling the shots and things could get ugly.
A triple combination of Latavius Murray, Thomas Rawls and DeAngelo Williams really brought home the bacon for the Champions last season as they scored consistently well through the year to prop up the team. Rawls is gone for the coming season but Murray and the Bell/Williams tandem should still be top performers. Behind them Cubberley would have been hoping Jay Ajayi would provide depth but Arian Foster seems to have taken the starting job in Miami and so he will be relying on the mercurial talents of Shane Vereen or a rookie breakout from Devontae Booker or Keith Marshall to back-up and that’s not ideal.
Breakout seasons from Allen Robinson, Jordan Reed and DeAndre Hopkins led to the Champions’ receivers plowing a furrow through most opposing defences last season, scoring nearly 9 points more per week than the 3rd placed unit. John Brown, Mike Evans, Travis Kelce and the late addition of Eric Decker really reinforced the strength of this group and it’s no surprise that they topped the scoring charts. Cubberley took the somewhat perplexing decision to move Allen Robinson on in the off-season though, ostensibly because he couldn’t afford to renew him, and the loss of Decker also makes this unit weaker. The Champions are gambling on Mike Evans to bounce back and replace Allen Robinson’s production and have also brought in Golden Tate to shore things up. Reed and Kelce are still present at TE in one of the best TE tandems in the league. Expect to see this group fall back to the pack but still be a top producer.
95.05 ppg, best in league
DL 20.68 ppg, 6th
LB 35.89 ppg, 1st
DB 38.48 ppg, 1st
If the offence was the best in the league by a length, the defence was best in the league by a country mile, averaging nearly 12 points per week more than the unit in 2nd. The biggest reason for this was a surprisingly huge production from the DBs. The Champions don’t roster a lot at this position but Reshad Jones and Kurt Coleman were both top 10 safeties and Josh Norman, Adam Jones and Marcus Williams were all top 10 cornerbacks. Every member of that secondary is back this season but the fickle nature of the position means that Cubberley cannot count on that production continuing. Norman is in a new spot, Jones is a year older and Coleman’s supporting cast has diminished. They should still be good but you wouldn’t want to bet on them being the best.
If secondary was the strength of the D then the line was the weakness. Marcell Dareus is a fantasy bust and Robert Quinn played half a season at best, leaving the Champions without their top two earners on the line. Thankfully Cubberley struck gold on the wire with Tom Johnson from Minnesota and a mid-season trade for Olivier Vernon made up for the loss of Quinn. The line should be stronger in 2016. Cubberley drafted three rookie DTs and, although it looks like Tom Johnson will still lead the line into the season, he can hope that by week 9 he may have more options there. At DE though Robert Quinn is back and has been joined by the newly re-classified Khalil Mack. Add Robert Ayers (#8 DE by average weekly points), Olivier Vernon, Calais Campbell, Leonard Williams and a healthy Dante Fowler Jr. to the mix and, frankly, it all looks a bit silly.
In a reverse-Chandler Jones though, the line’s gain is the linebackers’ loss as Khalil Mack’s re-classification leaves the Champions’ #1 LB corps light. Jamie Collins, Navorro Bowman and Anthony Barr are back but Justin Houston may or may not play this year. There is scarily little depth present at this position at the moment and Cubberley will have to look to address that before the season starts otherwise this unit will see a serious drop off.
217.21 ppg, best in league
Although both sides of this team are trending down I still think the Champions will be one of the better teams in the league. Cubberley has leveraged some of his potential to repeat to try and build for longevity a bit through the draft and that will see the team drop to the pack but hopefully stay bobbing near the top, hunting for the playoffs.
Kelkowski Don’t Play By No Dynarules
109.08 ppg, 4th best in league
QB 19.94 ppg, 4th
RB 30.00 ppg, 5th
WR/TE 45.88 ppg, 5th
SPEC 13.25 ppg, 5th
After a slow start to the season that saw Kelkowski start 1-4 they really rallied at the right time and made a strong, late run to the playoffs. Looking at their scores it’s a story of consistency across the board being just top-half in every category. This would seem to tell the tale of an offence with few weaknesses but perhaps lacking in top-end but in fact it was more a case of top-end talent not performing at a top-end level for one reason or another. At RB Mark Ingram only played half a season and Arian Foster managed less than that. DeMarco Murray was trapped in a nightmare and TJ Yeldon was defeated by game script. Despite all of that though they put up good numbers and gave Kelkowski a solid floor every week. This season Murray is in a better spot but Foster a worse. Ingram is still going to be top 5 when fit and TJ Yeldon has gone from being flummoxed by game script to being flummoxed by Chris Ivory. Pretty much status quo at Kelkowski.
QB is a tale of a jaguar. Well, not just a jaguar but El Jaguar. Blake Bortles ascent into the stratosphere of premiere QBs was a thing of beauty and timed to perfection to help Kelkowski as Romo and Kaepernick both finally gave up any pretence of fantasy relevance. This season they have a little more depth behind them but I have my doubts as to whether El Jaguar will get quite the stats he did last year, if only because the Jags may not be losing quite as much, quite as often (I can’t believe I just put that in black and white).
What was a tremendous WR group for Kelkowski in 2014 took a step back last year as Calvin Johnson got older, Julius Thomas went to Jacksonville and Randall Cobb took a step back. Their numbers were saved by Doug Baldwin’s frankly ludicrous second half of 2015 and Ben Watson coming out of leftfield to be a fantasy TE1. This year Megatron and Watson are gone and Kelkowski are relying on Baldwin to continue his form in order to give them a truly top tier WR and Julius Thomas to stay healthy to produce at TE. Unless they do Kelkowski may find themselves lagging behind the field at receiver.
79.66 ppg, 4th best in league
DL 14.82 ppg, 9th
LB 33.81 ppg, 2nd
DB 31.03 ppg, 4th
In drafting Kwon Alexander, Preston Smith and Stephone Anthony, did Kelkowski show themselves as IDP draft geniuses or did they just get lucky? Whichever it was, the trio of rookies produced and, alongside wily vets Brandon Marshall and D’Qwell Jackson, contributed to the 2nd best LB unit in the league. This season they’ve added Jerell Freeman, Dont’a Hightower and Nigel Bradham to strengthen an already powerful unit and should be right up there again.
Kelkowski’s eye for talent seems to apply equally to the secondary too where they had 5 safeties and 3 cornerbacks over 100 points. There has been turnover at CB this off-season but that isn’t necessarily a problem as the position is very volatile. The names Kelkowski have in place offer a lot of potential again and their solid S group from last year is largely intact leaving them with the most strength in depth in the league at this spot.
Where Kelkowski were let down was on the defensive line, a recurring problem for many teams in the league. Everson Griffen did not produce at his 2014 levels and he and Cliff Avril were a pedestrian DE pairing. It was even worse at DT where Malcolm Brown (DT15 but nearly 200 points down on Aaron Donald at #1) was their top scorer. Things look brighter this year with Malik Jackson moving to DT, Jason Pierre Paul having got through an off-season without blowing any more bits of his hands up and Mario Edwards Jr into his second season. The ceiling still looks low on this group but they have a chance to be better than last year.
188.74 ppg, 3rd best in league
Although they added a lot of strength in depth to the defence I don’t actually see the ceiling being raised a long way and I’m concerned about the depth on the offensive side of the ball. Kelkowski aren’t as bad as their first half of 2015 but they aren’t as good as their second half of 2015 either and I think they could end up pretty middle of the pack in Tim.
DynaHard With A Vengeance
115.45 ppg, 2nd best in league
QB 19.08 ppg, 5th
RB 33.91 ppg, 3rd
WR/TE 47.91 ppg, 3rd
SPEC 14.55 ppg, 1st
Embroiled in a two horse race with the Champions of the Sun for the best record in the Dbowl for most of the season, Chris Braithwaite denied the fans the Owl they wanted by choking in the semi-final against the Tamworth Two. DynaHarder were strong all over the roster but it’s at WR where their depth really shone from stars like Antonio Brown and TY Hilton to impact youngsters like Sammy Watkins, Allen Hurns and Tyler Lockett. Their 3rd place finish is perhaps a reflection that a lot of these players are young and a bit inconsistent but more than good enough to put the points up each week. The TE position was a bit of an achilles heel with a bunch of pedestrian options however. Over the summer Chris has engaged “win now” mode, trading away youngsters and picks for Dez Bryant to attempt to move from 3rd to 1st. The Hards have more than enough depth to take the hit though and looks stronger than ever in this department for 2016 although if Martellus Bennett isn’t a big part of the New England offence they may be light at TE again.
A power couple of Jamaal Charles and Todd Gurley made sure that Chris’ RBs held up their end of the bargain too. Jeremy Langford got a welcome boost by Matt Forte’s injury and Alfred Morris proved his usual dependable if unexciting self in Washington. This season the outlook isn’t so rosy. Todd Gurley is still a stud but there are doubts about Jamaal Charles’ role, Jeremy Langford’s competence and Alfred Morris has become a back-up in Dallas, albeit one with a huge ceiling if Ezekiel Elliott goes down. The rest of Chris’ selection consists of questionable rookie picks (Wendell Smallwood, Kenyan Drake) and handcuffs (Charcandrick West and Benny Cunningham). It’s still not difficult to envisage a scenario in which this unit produces at a top level but it’s far from guaranteed.
At QB Chris rode on the back of a good season for Eli Manning for most of the year before making a trade to bring in Tom Brady to prevent the usual post-season choke (not much luck there). Before Brady’s arrival the group was at a low-end QB1 level and that’s probably still where it is. The future looks a little better if Stafford can maintain his form of the second half of last season but Chris may well be looking around again as the trade deadline looms trying to find that extra bit of quality.
83.58 ppg, 2nd best in league
DL 27.43 ppg, 3rd
LB 29.76 ppg, 4th
DB 26.39 ppg, 6th
It was a strong effort all round in 2015 from DynaHarder, led by the D-line where the force of nature that is JJ Watt continued to dominate and Ziggy Ansah’s potential started to pay off with a 14.5 sack season. The line was kept from dominating truly by mediocre options at DT with Brandon Williams and Johnathan Hankins and that situation is the same going into 2016. Ansah and Watt are still present too and Sheard and Ninkovich offer decent depth behind. If I had to pick one unit on any team to perform almost identically to last season it would be Chris Braithwaite’s D-Line.
In 2015 injuries to Kiko Alonso, Terrell Suggs and Jadeveon Clowney left the Hards looking a little thin at LB but a trade for Thomas Davis mid-season took care of that and, ably supported by CJ Mosely and Von Miller, the group started to put up good numbers. Those three are all back this season and Deone Bucannon has been re-designated as an LB, giving Braithwaite an excellent starting four. Jadeveon Clowney has the potential to put up big numbers too but beyond those 5 players there’s little else here. It would take a lot of bad luck to unsettle this group in 2016 though.
DynaHarder’s secondary was run-of-the-mill last season and, for 2016, they’ve lost their top 2 safeties with Walter Thurmond no longer on the roster and Bucannon moved to LB. Chris will be hoping to cover that gap with free agent signing Harrison Smith and Thurmond’s replacement in Philly, Rodney McLeod. Smith has top 10 pedigree but time will tell if McLeod or rookie Keanu Neal can step up. At CB Damarious Randall is coming into his 2nd year in Green Bay after a good first season and you know that teams will throw at Delvin Breaux all day long.
199.03 ppg, 2nd best in league
On both Offence and Defence it looks like more of the same for Chris Braithwaite’s Dyna Hard. Even if his corps of running backs isn’t as robust as last year that’s compensated for by a top-heavy WR unit and a defence that looks as steady as they come as a top-line group. If you were wanting to point to a weakness then you could say that DynaHard may struggle for production at TE week-on-week but, really, they should be able to get by.