Offseason? What offseason?
The NFL has become a 365-day-a-year sport, as the NFL Scouting Combine, free agency and the NFL Draft will be kicking off to satisfy the appetite of NFL fans across the globe. For fantasy football owners looking to get a head start on their league championship quest for 2014, there are a number of events and stories that need to be monitored in the upcoming months.
Here's a quick look at what you should be keeping tabs on this offseason.
The 2014 NFL Draft, held in New York on May 8-10. If we have learned anything in the last few years, it's that rookies are more capable than ever of making a fantasy impact right out of college. This year's crop of offensive skill position players is quite immense, with the likes of Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater and Blake Bortles (to name just a few) likely to come right in and start for the NFL teams who draft them.
Arian Foster's rehabilitation from his back surgery. The top running back in fantasy football in recent seasons, Foster's excessive workload had a lot to do with his physical breakdown in 2013. He's expected to be ready in plenty of time for training camp after a surgical procedure on his back in November, but can he be the same runner entering his age-28 season? That's one of the biggest questions in fantasy football for 2014.
The status of Knowshon Moreno and Eric Decker in Denver. Moreno and Decker are free agents, and Demaryius Thomas and Julius Thomas are entering contract years. That means the Broncos have some major decisions to make, and any move that leads to Moreno and Decker leaving the Mile High City is almost certain to have a negative effect on their fantasy value. Should Moreno leave, Montee Ball would turn into a serious sleeper candidate.
Which team signs Ben Tate to lead its backfield attack. It's very unlikely that the Houston Texans will retain Tate, meaning the young runner will be in a position to become a much bigger impact maker for fantasy owners. He's been linked to the Cleveland Browns, as GM Michael Lombardi loved him out of Auburn. If Tate lands a featured role, he'll become a prime breakout candidate while also adding depth to the running back spot.
Rob Gronkowski's return from major knee reconstruction. It was bad enough when Gronkowski was coming back from multiple forearm surgeries in addition to a back procedure in 2013, but now he'll have to endure the rigors of rehabbing his reconstructed ACL and MCL. Gronkowski, who has had eight known surgeries during what is a young career, will easily be one of the biggest risk-reward draft selections in fantasy football next season.
Adrian Peterson's return from sports hernia surgery. We all know Peterson is a cyborg, so coming back from a groin procedure shouldn't alter his running reign of terror on opposing defenses. In fact, all reports on his return are positive. Still, fantasy owners should keep in mind that he's entering his age-29 season. He has also missed part of two of the last three campaigns due to various ailments, including two games in 2013.
Julio Jones' return from a broken bone in his foot. Jones was on pace to have a monster season in the stat sheets before suffering a foot ailment back in October that landed him on injured reserve. It appears that he's on track to return this spring, but keep in mind that Jones has now suffered two fractures in the same spot in his foot. If he comes back without setbacks, Jones should be considered a surefire No. 1 fantasy wideout.
Jimmy Graham's contract situation in New Orleans. The Saints are way over the salary cap right now, meaning Graham could be franchised this offseason. He isn't too keen on being tagged, though, so a battle of his contractual situation appears imminent -- and it could turn ugly. With the past history of players holding out of camp and going on to have disappointing seasons, this Graham situation is one fantasy owners should monitor.
The return of Doug Martin from an injured shoulder. One of the biggest disappointments in fantasy football last season, Martin should be back in plenty of time for the start of training camp. With new coach Lovie Smith bringing in a run-based offensive attack, Martin will be in a good position to rebound as long as he's on the field. Barring any setbacks with his shoulder, he figures to be a second-round pick in most 2014 re-drafts.
The status of Chris Johnson with the Tennessee Titans. One of the better running backs in fantasy football over the last decade, the writing could be on the wall for Johnson with the Titans. Reports suggest he's expected to be released, which could boost the value of Shonn Greene. There are plenty of teams in need of a backfield upgrade, but will someone pay a soon-to-be 29-year-old instead of investing in a younger back in the draft?
Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on NFL.com and NFL Network and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. Have a burning question on anything fantasy related? Tweet it to @Michael_Fabiano or send a question via Facebook!