A fantasy perspective of the 2014 draft
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - We're still around two weeks away from Draft Day and all the trades that go with it, but there are a number of stories that fantasy owners will want to follow during the selection process and the time until training camps begin.

Let's take a quick trip through the NFC to see what fantasy owners should be looking for at the draft and through the remainder of the offseason. Later we will tackle the AFC.

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys - Dallas needs to decide who will start opposite star wideout Dez Bryant. It used to be Miles Austin and he produced solid fantasy points when he was healthy (which wasn't often). Whether that answer is already on the roster in Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley or Dwayne Harris or they need select someone in the draft, the winner of the competition could be a useful WR3.

New York Giants - Rashad Jennings can run the ball if given an opening, but to be a true RB1 he's going to need a better offensive line than what New York showed last season. If the G-Men improve the line we might be inclined to draft Jennings and Eli Manning a bit higher. It wouldn't be a glamorous, headline-catching pick, but it would be effective.

Philadelphia Eagles - The waiving of DeSean Jackson created a gaping hole that must be filled. The team can't depend on Jeremy Maclin or Riley Cooper to stretch defenses and open up the underneath for Eagles running backs and tight ends. As Jackson showed last season, this player has the potential to put up top-10 quality fantasy statistics. They won't get Sammy Watkins or Mike Evans, but if either LSU's Odell Beckham or Oregon State's Brandin Cooks gets the call they could be a big-time fantasy option even as a rookie.

Washington Redskins - Which Robert Griffin III will show up in 2014? The one who ran and threw his way to fantasy stardom as a rookie, or last season's faded version? The addition of the aforementioned Jackson opposite Pierre Garcon should help, but RG3's health is probable the more important factor to watch. We expect the Redskins to go for defensive help at the draft.

NFC North

Chicago Bears - The Bears don't need much on offense. Perhaps a backup running back for Matt Forte, but they will likely concentrate on the other side of the ball, so the draft probably won't change any fantasy values.

Detroit Lions - The Lions will likely target a top receiver to play opposite Calvin Johnson. Megatron owners might not be happy with a reduction in targets, but if they get a guy like Evans from Texas A&M this duo could match the division rival Bears tandem of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey in physical skills.

Green Bay Packers - The Packers and Aaron Rodgers have a need for a tight end to replace Jermichael Finley, but if Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson are healthy the tight end has limited fantasy value. Even in his best season Finley never caught more than 61 balls.

Minnesota Vikings - Adrian Peterson needs better quarterback play to stay a top-five running back. Either Matt Cassel needs to play like he did in New England or the rookie QB the Vikings probably select on Draft Day has to play well in his first season. At this point I don't have faith in either option so despite my great respect for "All Day" his days as a top-five pick could be over.

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons - If the Falcons don't protect Matt Ryan this season, it won't matter that Julio Jones and Roddy White are one of the best pair of receivers in the NFL. Yes, the team needs defensive help too, but if you don't see a top offensive lineman in the first few rounds then drafting Ryan, Jones and White at your fantasy draft could be a very risky option.

Carolina Panthers - The Panthers receiving corps last season was mediocre at best ... and that was with Steve Smith on the roster. With Smith now in Baltimore, Cam Newton's fantasy value has taken a big hit and only a top rookie receiver can help boost the quarterback's value.

New Orleans Saints - Quarterback Drew Brees lost both Darren Sproles and Lance Moore in the offseason. The team has plenty of backs to replace Sproles (they hope), but they need help at receiver. Marques Colston is getting older and less reliable and we're still not sure about Kenny Stills or Nick Toon. Even if they draft a receiver early, he won't pay immediate fantasy dividends as he'll be the No. 3 target behind tight end Jimmy Graham and Colston.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Fantasy owners expect the Bucs to select a top wide receiver in the first round. He (Mike Evans?) could develop into a solid WR2 in his rookie season because he'd be the No. 2 target behind only Vincent Jackson. Tampa doesn't have a good receiving tight end. Of course everything assumes that Josh McCown or Mike Glennon play well.

NFC West

Arizona Cardinals - The Cardinals likely won't draft a fantasy-worthy player, but if they select an offensive lineman that would certainly help Carson Palmer and the offense.

St. Louis Rams - We can't see the Rams selecting another first-round wide receiver after spending the eighth overall pick on Tavon Austin last season, but some protection for Sam Bradford and a guy who could open holes for Zac Stacy would be appreciated by fantasy owners. A selection of Auburn OT Greg Robinson would make Stacy's fantasy owners smile.

San Francisco 49ers - The 49ers aren't likely to use many selections on offense, though they might look for depth behind Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin. Still, no one they draft on the offensive side of the ball will be fantasy worthy in 2014.

Seattle Seahawks - The Super Bowl champions don't need much. Offensive line help to make more holes for Marshawn Lynch and allow Russell Wilson more time in the pocket could be the order of the day.

Next week the AFC.




Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Steve Schwarz at sschwarz@sportsnetwork.com.

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