Thursday, July 24, 2014

Guys Ready for the Next Level, 2014 Edition

There are many types of fantasy football articles out there on the interwebs: sleepers, busts, 2nd year WRs ready to break out, 3rd year WRs ready to break out, expert mock drafts, rookies...the list goes on and on.  You may have even read Matthew Berry's annual manifesto he released yesterday.  It's a long one, but a damn good read in my option.  Well after starting my fantasy football writing season off with the guys I'll let someone else draft, I thought I'd go more positive with this piece and talk about players ready for the next level.  Please take note that these aren't necessarily sleepers I'm going to talk about here, but they kind of fit into that category (however you define a "sleeper").  And they aren't all going to be young guys ready to be superstars in the NFL (as you'll quickly see with the QB I've chosen).  I'm trying to help you win your fantasy league this year, not set you up for 2015 or 2016.

Floyd definitely made the leap to the next level in 2013.
The category I think all of these men do fit into is one that includes players primed to make that jump into the next tier of their respective fantasy football positions.  Some of this is based on talent and growth.  Some of it is simply opportunity.  Some is a combination of those things and others.  However you want to describe it, I've created a fake team of players who I believe are ready to make that next step.  In fact, I could see myself drafting any number of these guys earlier than other owners in my league, and in most cases I moved them up in my last rankings update accordingly.

Last year I featured guys like Andrew Luck and Michael Floyd on this list, but I also had Chris Ivory ready to make a leap in fantasy value.  You win some, you lose some.  Let's see what 2014 has in store!

QB: Josh McCown
I wanted so badly to talk about Russel Wilson here, but I couldn't do it.  You see, Wilson has been just inside of the top-10 fantasy QBs in each of his first two seasons.  But what do I think he'll do this year?  Pretty much the same thing.  Even IF Percy Harvin manages to stay healthy all season (and that's a big "if"), I still don't think Wilson will jump into the top-5 fantasy QBs in 2014.  But a guy I do think is ready for a big boost in fantasy value is Josh McCown.

And what better way to start this list than with a 35 year old QB who has only had 7 NFL starts since 2007?  Well, keep in mind that I'm not saying McCown is ready to be a superstar in this league.  But what I am saying is that he's about to make a huge leap from where his value was in previous seasons.  I mean, had you even heard of Josh McCown before last year?

(And are you sure you're not thinking of Luke McCown right now...?  Oh you don't know that name either?  Let's carry on then...)

So maybe you remember Josh as the starting QB for Arizona a few years back, but that's only if you really pay attention to football.  Otherwise, the guy is a relative unknown.  But he finally finds himself in a good situation for maybe the first time in his career.  He goes to Tampa to play for "new" head coach Lovie Smith, and the Bucs just drafted several offensive weapons for him to work with in his new digs.  Of course we could be looking at another Matt Flynn situation here, but I don't think so.  I'm thinking more along the lines of Rich Gannon, and so is this guy.  Again, not saying he's taking the Bucs to the Super Bowl in his first year.  But if McCown throws for 3000+ yards and 25+ TDs, he could land in the top-20 fantasy QBs this year (and that's exactly what I'm thinking).  He'll probably put up Alex Smith-type numbers and be a solid fantasy QB, which is a lot more than you could have said for him in any other year leading up to this one.  I guarantee that if he goes undrafted in your league, he'll be rostered by Week 3 when the Bucs travel to fantasy QB-friendly Atlanta...

I also considered: Ryan Tannehill
Why he didn't make the team: In his 6 years at Texas A&M and now Miami, Tannehill has worked with the same offensive system under Mike Sherman.  When Sherman was fired earlier this year, the Dolphins brought in Bill Lazor from Philly.  Of course you could look at that as a very positive thing, seeing as how Nick Foles emerged as a star last year in that offense.  But I'm not so sure Tannehill will hit the ground running with the new schemes.  It has me a little gun shy on saying he'll continue to improve and take it to the next level in fantasy value, though it's definitely possible.

RB: Toby Gerhart
I'm not going to give you names like Montee Ball or Andre Ellington here because they're obvious choices.  No one is sleeping on those two, but I think people might not be ready for what Toby is about to bring to the table in Jacksonville.  I'm also now realizing a theme I'm starting here with guys who have sat behind stars for most of their career and finally getting the chance to be "the guy" themselves in new cities.  That doesn't always work out, but I'm thinking it will for McCown and Gerhart.

So why will it work out for Gerhart?  First of all, the coaches in Jacksonville are already proclaiming him the "bell cow" RB for the upcoming season.  So that's a good start.  And why wouldn't they be doing that?  There's no proven threat backing him up at the position, which is another positive box to check.  The former 2nd round pick out of Stanford has a career average yards per carry of 4.7, and he has learned behind one of the best running backs in the league...period.  When he had an opportunity here or there with the Vikings, I feel like he made the most of it.  Now that he'll have a much better opportunity to be the main focus of an offense, I think it gives him RB1 potential in fantasyland.

I also considered: Trent Richardson
Why he didn't make the team: Maybe another name that is too obvious, but he looked downright awful in 2013.  Can he return to his rookie form...or even build on it?  I don't know.  I feel like TRich could have a breakout year, but I also feel like he could average 3 yards/carry and plod along to mediocrity yet again.

RB: Joique Bell

Reggie Bush isn't quite to that dreaded age of 30 for a running back, but he's close.  Detroit was smart and signed Bell to a contract extension this offseason that keeps the Michigander in his home state through the 2016 season.  Bush is also under contract through the same season, so it seems the Lions plan to use both backs at least for a little while longer (or at least until one of them breaks down).  My money would be on Reggie for that, seeing as how he's entering his 9th season and Bell only his 3rd really.  Joique isn't a young spring chicken himself, as he turns 28 in August.  But he has nearly 1000 fewer career rushing attempts than Bush, so he still has a lot of tread on the tires (to keep this car metaphor going...why not?'s Detroit after all).

See, Reggie would be like "It's cooooooooold out here..."
I look for the Lions to continue to utilize both running backs in their pass-heavy offense, but Bell should continue to get the goalline work.  I also wouldn't be surprised to see him end up with more carries than Reggie this year, and ultimately maybe even more fantasy points.  I don't have them currently ranked to reflect that possibility, but they might move closer and closer to each other in my rankings as training camp starts.  Either way, Bell is definitely ready to go from a late round fantasy pick to something much more.

I also considered: Khiry Robinson
Why he didn't make the team: I would say I didn't list him here because of Mark Ingram, but it's really due to Sean Payton.  People who follow fantasy football give Belichick a hard time because of how he utilizes his running backs, but Payton is just as bad (if not worse).  It's always tough to figure out who will get the carries (or receptions) for New Orleans or New England.  That alone has me a little reluctant to dub Khiry Robinson the next Curtis Martin, as Bill Parcells apparently did back in January.

WR: Terrance Williams

Again, big names like Golden Tate and Emmanuel Sanders felt too easy here.  Both of those guys are with new teams with good QBs who will be throwing to them a lot.  I get it.  Everyone gets it.

Instead, I'm sticking with the 2nd year WR trend and trying to repeat last year's big pick, Michael Floyd.  This year I think it's time for Terrance Williams to break the 1000 yard mark and haul in 6 or 7 TDs.  Looking around the league, no one appears to be in a better position than Williams to do just that.  Dallas got rid of Miles Austin in the offseason, which tells me they have plenty of faith in the 2nd year WR out of Baylor.  With new offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, the Cowboys are expected to be pass-happy.  And looking at their defense last year (which again will be without Sean Lee), they might have to be pass-happy if they are to stay in games.   Dez Bryant will get most of the attention from opposing defenses, which should allow for more looks for Williams.

And do we think Dez will get 160 targets again?  Probably not.  I think Williams will get some of those looks now, and he should get well over 100 targets in that offense.  It just feels like the perfect storm for a breakout year for Terrance Williams.  I just hope everyone else isn't thinking the same thing...

I also considered: Kendall Wright
Why he didn't make the team: Another former Baylor Bear, Wright seems primed for that 3rd year WR breakout season.  He had 140 targets in 2013, and he turned that into over 1000 yards receiving...but he only had 2 TDs.  Granted, if he can find the endzone more often this season, he could find himself in that next tier of fantasy WRs.  But that tier is nearly top-10 territory, and I'm not sure I trust Jake Locker enough to help one of his receivers enter that fantasy realm.

WR: Rueben Randle
Hakeem Nicks had at least 100 targets in all of his seasons with the Giants except for his rookie year.  Hakeem Nicks is now with the Indianapolis Colts.  Meanwhile, Rueben Randle still managed 80 targets last year in his sophomore season, and he's now expected to line up opposite Victor Cruz in two-wide sets in 2014.  I'm sure New York will run plenty of three-wide formations as well, but if Randle is the #2 WR then he'll be in those too.  I expect him to slide into the role Nicks played, and rookie Odell Beckham will back-fill Rueben's old slot.  All of that should mean a huge boost in fantasy value for the 3rd year wide receiver, and I like him to easily crack the top-40 WRs this year.

I also considered: Marvin Jones
Why he didn't make the team: While Randle was barely a top-50 WR in 2013, Jones was actually inside the top-25.  A big part of that was his 4-TD performance against the Jets in Week 8, but he also ended up with 10 total TDs on the season.  The problem with me saying he'll take it to the next level is that I'm not sure he'll break the top-20 WRs this year.  I don't even know if he'll break the top-40.  I think he'll probably do the latter, but he's still a young WR who hasn't shown a ton of consistency yet.  I'm not ready to say he'll make an even bigger leap in his third year in the league.

TE: Kyle Rudolph
Ladarius Green is the obvious choice here, and it's the one you'll hear most from fantasy football writers in the months of July and August.  But I'm going in a different direction...

I'm going with the tight end who was on my list of "Guys I'll Let Someone Else Draft" in 2013.  Funny what a difference a year can make because now I'm saying he's ready for the next level.  Rudolph dropped 15 pounds in the offseason and has been working with Larry Fitzgerald's trainer on his receiving skills.  He also has Norv Turner in town calling the plays now, and that's the real story here.  In fact, for a good read on just what Norv can do for tight ends, check out this article over at CBS Sports.

If you don't want to read yet another article, then I'll summarize it for you with one line from it:
"In six of the last seven seasons, Turner's primary tight end has finished as a top-seven Fantasy TE."

Currently I have Rudolph ranked as my #8 TE, and now I'm reconsidering.  I feel like he might need to be right up there in Greg Olsen's territory.  We saw what Jordan Cameron did last year in Norv's offense, and Kyle Rudolph is in a contract year and should be playing his butt off for a new one.

I also considered: Zach Ertz
Why he didn't make the team: You'll hear his name a lot in the next several weeks too, but I think he might still be a year away from a huge season.  Everyone is talking up Ertz, but the Eagles still have Brent Celek under contract through 2016.  I'm sure Philly will find a way to run more two-tight end sets, but I worry about drafting a guy like Ertz, Eifert, Ebron, or even a Ladarius Green.  They all still have solid veterans on the depth chart with them.  Kyle Rudolph?  Not so much...

No defense or kicker on this squad.  Sorry folks.  Position players only.  Hope you enjoyed it!


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

2014 Fantasy Football Rankings v2.1

It's training camp week, and I thought I'd get another rankings update in here before my next article (which should be out by Friday).  I've done a couple of mock drafts, and the QB and WR positions feel much deeper to me than RB (especially after the first couple of rounds), so I've shuffled a few guys around based on that.  I've also moved a few players around near the late 30s and early 40s because that's the projected "keeper line" in my league.  After all, this is my list for my league.  There's still a lot of guesswork going on this early, but hopefully some of this will become more clear in the next couple of weeks.  As usual, I've made some comments next to players who have moved for one reason or another.  And speaking of comments, feel free to voice your opinion below if you feel so inclined.


Redskins Training Camp starts Thursday!

1. Jamaal Charles
2. LeSean McCoy
3. Adrian Peterson
4. Matt Forte
5. Eddie Lacy
6. Marshawn Lynch
7. Jimmy Graham
8. Peyton Manning
9. Arian Foster: I keep moving him up my list.  Man, I hope he's healthy...
10. Montee Ball
11. Le'Veon Bell
12. Giovani Bernard: Moved above Murray mostly based on DeMarco's injury history.
13. DeMarco Murray
14. Calvin Johnson: I'm surprised at myself for lowering Megatron, but RBs just more valuable to me in 1st round.
15. Demaryius Thomas
16. A.J. Green
17. Dez Bryant
18. Drew Brees: Moved him above Rodgers, but moved both down a couple of spots.
19. Aaron Rodgers
20. Zac Stacy
21. Alfred Morris
22. Doug Martin: I had lowered him too much (worried about RB committee), but he'll still get majority of the work.
23. Brandon Marshall
24. Antonio Brown
25. Julio Jones
26. Alshon Jeffery
27. Jordy Nelson
28. Randall Cobb
29. Rob Gronkowski: Says he's going to play in all 16 games.  If so, he belongs another 10-15 spots higher yet...
30. Julius Thomas: Moved him up with Gronk.  Top-3 TEs worth the price like the top-3 QBs.
31. Andre Ellington
32. Toby Gerhart: Has performed well when he's had the chance. He now has the chance (for real this time).
33. C.J. Spiller
34. Rashad Jennings: David Wilson cleared to play, but I'm still moving Jennings up (don't trust Wilson's health).
35. Pierre Garcon: Actually moved him up slightly, along with Allen and VJax.
36. Keenan Allen
37. Vincent Jackson
38. Bishop Sankey: We're now getting into keeper territory in my league, and Sankey is near the top of that list.
39. Shane Vereen: Another good potential keeper. In a contract year, so he could be elsewhere in 2015...
40. Ryan Mathews: Fell a couple of spots...You can read all about it in my "Guys I'll Let Someone Else Draft" piece!
41. Reggie Bush: He also fell pretty far. Joique Bell expected to be a lot more involved in the offense this year.
42. Ben Tate
43. Andre Johnson: Moved these two old timer WRs up a couple of spots.  Can't forget about them...
44. Larry Fitzgerald
45. Victor Cruz: And Cruz came up to this tier with them.  Should be ready for a bounce-back season.
46. Chris Johnson
47. Frank Gore
48. Matthew Stafford: Lowered most QBs quite a bit, so you'll notice a trend here.
49. Trent Richardson
50. Ray Rice
51. Wes Welker: Down slightly to this WR tier. Injuries a growing concern as he ages (and addition of Sanders).
52. DeSean Jackson: He's also down to this tier. I don't want to show too much love to the new R-word.
53. Cordarelle Patterson
54. Torrey Smith
55. Michael Crabtree
56. Percy Harvin
57. Andrew Luck: Another QB moved down the board.  There is just so much quality at this position!
58. Joique Bell
59. Steven Jackson
60. Stevan Ridley
61. Michael Floyd
62. Roddy White
63. Julian Edelman
64. TY Hilton
65. Golden Tate
66. Kendall Wright: Down a couple of spots. Not convinced the TDs will be there.
67. Maurice Jones-Drew: Up slightly, assuming he wins the starting gig in Oakland over Run DMC.
68. Pierre Thomas: Like MJD, another boring pick. But he should get even more work with Sproles gone.
69. Cam Newton: This QB tier fell by default, as I'm devaluing QBs more and more...
70. RGIII: You may have noticed I put Cam over RGIII. Again, don't want to get too excited on a homer pick.
71. Tom Brady
72. Matt Ryan
73. Terrance Williams: I'm probably getting too high on the 2nd year WR, but I can't help myself.
74. Eric Decker
75. Marques Colston
76. Mike Wallace: Moved him and Maclin up to this WR tier.
77. Jeremy Maclin
78. Vernon Davis: He fell pretty far. Currently in holdout mode, and he won't replicate that TD total.
79. Jordan Cameron: I'm moving him just below Davis. In a contract year and no one else to throw to in Cleveland!
80. Greg Olsen: I also think he's worth moving up to this TE tier. Cam has to throw to someone too...
81. Cecil Shorts: After those tight ends, I moved this tier of 4 WRs up a few spots as well.    
82. Emmanuel Sanders
83. Mike Evans
84. Sammy Watkins
85. Fred Jackson: Down to this RB level, but still ahead of next group of QBs. Bryce Brown could eat into his carries.
86. DeAngelo Williams
87. Lamar Miller: Still ahead of Moreno...for now.
88. Knowshon Moreno: He continues to fall, at least until he's on the field in Miami. Then maybe some separation.
89. Nick Foles
90. Russell Wilson
91. Colin Kaepernick: Moved ahead of Romo. He's younger and has a healthier back.
92. Tony Romo
93. Riley Cooper: Was too low on Cooper, especially with Maclin coming off torn ACL.
94. Dwayne Bowe: Moved Bowe and Hopkins up to this tier as well.  Don't feel great about Bowe.
95. DeAndre Hopkins: But I do feel pretty good about Hopkins. Could be ready to break out in year two!
96. Jason Witten
97. Kyle Rudolph: Moved him into Top-100 just behind Witten. Contract year and "Norv factor" both huge.
98. Darren Sproles
99. Khiry Robinson
100.Chris Ivory
101. Bernard Pierce
102. Darren McFadden: Down slightly, assuming MJD gets majority of the work. This is no sure thing though.
103. Jeremy Hill
104. Devonta Freeman
105. Terrance West
106. Reggie Wayne: Lowered based on his non-participation thus far after having a torn ACL at his age.
107. Anquan Boldin
108. Tavon Austin: Moved him up. Lots of guys starting to break out in year 2 (not year 3).
109. Dennis Pitta: With Owen Daniels now on the roster, Pitta no longer the only TE to throw to.
110. Jordan Reed: Four concussions in the last four years has me concerned about him playing 16 games.
111. Danny Woodhead
112. Danny Amendola: Keeping the little Dannys together. Moved Amendola up because injury worth risk after top-100.
113. Marvin Jones
114. Reuben Randle
115. Zach Ertz
116. Martellus Bennett
117. Lance Dunbar: With the new OC and Murray's injury history, Dunbar becomes a top handcuff.
118. Tre Mason: I keep moving the rookie up my list. Every team is going to a committee these days.
119. Carlos Hyde: Speaking of which, I think Hyde could with the backup job in training camp.  We'll see though.
120. Jay Cutler: Moved Cutler and Rivers down to this tier of QBs.  Johnny Football the one to watch in this group though.
121. Philip Rivers
122. Andy Dalton
123. Johnny Manziel
124. Ben Roethlisberger
125. James Jones
126. Kelvin Benjamin
127. Brandin Cooks: Lowered him a bit.  I don't want to get too high on so many rookies.
128. Hakeem Nicks
129. Shonn Greene: I believe in Sankey.  I also believe McCluster will get time too. Greene should get goal line-only work.
130. Stepfan Taylor
131. Andre Brown
132. Kenny Stills
133. Markus Wheaton
134. Andrew Hawkins
135. Justin Hunter
136. Brian Hartline: He and Steve Smith are down for me. Not much exciting about them versus younger guys.
137. Steve Smith
138. Christine Michael: Added to the list with talk of Lynch being overused in recent years.
139. Jonathan Stewart
140. Roy Helu
141. C.J. Anderson
142. Doug Baldwin
143. Brandon LaFell
144. Robert Woods
145. Seahawks DEFENSE
146. 49ers DEFENSE
147. Panthers DEFENSE
148. Bengals DEFENSE
149. Rams DEFENSE
150. Broncos DEFENSE
151. Chiefs DEFENSE
152. Patriots DEFENSE
153. Cardinals DEFENSE
154. Ravens DEFENSE
155. Bucs DEFENSE: Removed the Bills with Alonso out for the year (big blow to that D).
156. Saints DEFENSE
157. Stephen Gostkowski
158. Justin Tucker
159. Dan Bailey
160. Phil Dawson
161. Adam Vinatieri
162. Mason Crosby
163. Nick Novak
164. Matt Bryant
165. Robbie Gould
166. Blair Walsh
167. Shaun Suisham
168. Alex Henery

A few more names (in order, roughly) who didn't quite make the 168 but I will be closely watching in the weeks to come...

Josh McCown
Ryan Tannehill
Alex Smith
Eli Manning
Joe Flacco
Carson Palmer
EJ Manuel
Teddy Bridgewater
David Wilson
Andre Williams
LaGarrette Blount
Mark Ingram
James Starks
Benjarvis Green-Ellis
Dexter McCluster
Charles Sims
Vick Ballard
Jordan Todman
Donald Brown
Michael Bush (FREE AGENT)
Stevie Johnson
Jarrett Boykin
Josh Gordon
Justin Blackmon
Aaron Dobson
Jordan Matthews
Martavis Bryant
Miles Austin
Harry Douglas
Rod Streater
Jerricho Cotchery
Jason Avant

Charles Clay
Delanie Walker
Ladarius Green
Richard Rodgers
Eric Ebron


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Guys I'll Let Someone Else Draft, 2014 Edition

It's that time of year again for training camps, mock drafts...and my first feature article (woohoo!).  After looking at early rankings from ESPN, Yahoo, and others, I always find that I have several players ranked much lower than the “experts”.  So I like to start my string of preseason articles with this list of players who I most likely won't end up with in my fantasy drafts this year.  That isn't to say it'll be impossible...just unlikely.  If it turns out that everyone else also wants to stay away from Percy Havin (maybe his hip or migraines act up in August?), and he slips way down to the later rounds, then maybe I end up with him after all.  But I'm comparing my rankings with the expert preseason rankings as of right now, and Percy is just one of many who I'm not big on in 2014.  But more on that in a minute...

You're an enigma, Josh Gordon.
If you read this article last year, you'll recall some hits and some big whiffs.  While I wasn't touching a tight end like Jermaine Gresham (who now had competition from Tyler Eifert), I also stayed away from guys like Josh Gordon due to his off-field issues.  Of course we all know that Gordon set the league on fire, but seeing how his offseason has gone after that, you can understand why I was shying away from him.  I guess I was just a year ahead of myself with that one.  

You may (or may not) also remember that I didn't want to pay a high price tag for rookie RBs like Montee Ball or Le'Veon Bell.  While Bell had a great year for the Steelers, Ball was in the shadow of Knowshon all season.  Well that's not the case anymore, and you won't find either on this list for 2014 because both are top fantasy RB options (at least based on my preseason ranks).  

But what about this year's rookie RBs?  I feel like a lot of the experts are ranking this crop of backs fairly low.  Maybe some of that is because it's early and we don't know who is going to win training camp battles, but some of it could be due to perceived opportunity or actual talent (or lack thereof).  That being said, I have guys like Tre Mason and Carlos Hyde both ranked well outside of my top-100, but a lot of the experts do too.  I also have rookie WRs like Mike Evans and Sammy Watkins ranked just inside my top-100, but so do most experts.  So I'm having a hard time saying that I won't end up with a rookie (or even two) this year.  Maybe this is the season that I end up drafting some youth.  Who knows?  It all depends on how other people value these guys.  But for now, I'm not featuring the rookies in this list.

Let's start with a guy who has been on my fantasy squad for what feels like forever, and let's go from there.  Feel free to let me know what you think in the comments!

Ryan Mathews
Fool me once, shame on...shame on you.  You fool me...can't get fooled again.

I'm pretty sure I've been a Ryan Mathews owner every year he's been in the league, and it's been pretty frustrating to say the least.  Sure he's had some good years, but he's also had some terrible ones.  I believe last year I got fed up with him about halfway through the season and traded him for Ray Rice.  That didn't work out too well because Mathews had one hell of a 2nd half to his 2013 season.  But who could see that coming with his track record?

I'd be watching a game earlier in the season in which I just needed a handful of fantasy points from him to win a weekly matchup, and he'd get benched for Ronnie Brown like the entire 4th quarter (in a close game!).  Little Danny Woodhead had a solid season last year too, and the Chargers have also added Donald Brown to the mix.  The timeshare kills him.  I just don't see Mathews as a workhorse running back, and that's the way the experts appear to be ranking him.

I'd much rather draft a guy like Toby Gerhart or Rashad Jennings over Mathews, and I'll be reflecting that in my next rankings update.  Sure, those guys are not as proven.  But they also don't have a record of a stellar season followed up by a turd of one.  When it comes down to it on draft day and I'm sitting there staring at Ryan Mathews or anyone else, I'll probably go with my gut and throw the rankings out the window anyway.  I'm most likely just staying away from Mathews altogether in 2014 based on where he'll be going in drafts.

Fred Jackson
How much longer before Father Time catches up with Fred?  I thought it would be last year, but it wasn't.  At age 32, the veteran out of Coe College played in all 16 games and had arguably his best season yet.  But in each of the previous two seasons, he had played just 10 games.  He's effective when healthy, but I just think that'll catch up to him now at age 33.  I think Spiller is primed for a bounce-back season, and the Bills also traded for Bryce Brown in the offseason.  On top of that, it's reported the Bills are hopeful that Brown could grow into a lead back for them.  This makes for a crowded backfield in Buffalo, and I think the writing is on the wall for Fred Jackson.  I currently have him ranked in the 70s, but I could see him falling outside of my top-100 in the next month or so.

Jay Cutler
I feel like every year he gets ranked near the top-10 preseason fantasy QBs, and every year it's the same story.  He doesn't play a full season due to some sort of injury, and he's just flat out mediocre!  Right now I have him as my #15 QB, and I'm sure a lot of people will have him around #10.  I don't see him as a QB1 option, so I can't imagine he'll find his way onto my fantasy squad.  Yahoo currently has him at #11 ahead of guys like Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick, and Andy Behrens even has Cutler ranked at #8!  I think at least a couple of people in my drafts will also think that highly of Cutler.  But not me.  It'll be another year that I won't have Mr. Pouty Face on any of my fantasy teams.

David Wilson or Jermichael Finley
No Way.  Not my player.  Not my problem.

I was a Jermichael Finley owner last year, and I felt bad for the guy when he got lit up and was done for the season.  But I also don't think he's coming back.  I'm pretty worried the same could be said for David Wilson as well.  I think the Giants are thinking that too because they got Rashad Jennings in the offseason, re-signed Peyton Hillis, and they drafted Andre Williams out of Boston College.  That tells me they're prepared for life after David Wilson.  I just hope Wilson is prepared for life after football because neck injuries are scary.  All of that being said, ESPN has David Wilson ranked as a top-40 RB and Finley as a top-25 TE (even though the latter isn't even on a roster as of this writing).  Yahoo is taking a more conservative approach with these two, and so am I.  Even if they show signs of health in training camp, I'm not sure I'll be confident enough to even rank them, much left draft them.

Percy Harvin
Speaking of health issues, here's a guy who has only played 16 games once in his 5 year career.  However, I will say that while he's never eclipsed the 1000-yard receiving mark, he did come close to double-digit touchdowns in each of his first 3 (relatively healthy) seasons with the Vikings.  But 2011 seems like ages ago to me, and I just can't bring myself to rank Percy much higher than a guy like Michael Floyd or TY Hilton.  For now I have him ranked as my #22 wide receiver.  Meanwhile, Yahoo has him at #19 & ESPN #20.  And of course there are plenty of people who will have him well inside their top-20 WRs, but I'll let them take the risk and maybe get the high reward.  I don't think I want to get burned by Harvin.

Reggie Wayne
I almost started to talk about Hakeem Nicks here, but he's going much later in drafts.  I think it's possible I end up with Nicks because he could get lost in the later rounds.  But Reggie Wayne is going much higher than I have him currently ranked (as my #38 WR), and I might even move him down further depending on how he looks in training camp.  Wayne is coming off a torn ACL, and while he has been cleared for practice, the Colts kept him out of OTAs.  Probably a good idea for a guy who will be turning 36 years old in November, but that's exactly what scares me about Wayne's 2014 potential.  I think I'd much rather reach for Hilton a couple of rounds earlier or Nicks a couple of rounds later than draft Reggie where he's going.  For that reason, I don't think he'll end up on any of my squads this year.

I just would like to know if you know what a 'plethora' is...

Ladarius Green OR Antonio Gates
I'm probably staying away from both because I don't know what's going to happen here.  The same could be said for Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen in Indy, who only add to the plethora of receivers they have up there (as I mentioned with Hilton/Wayne/Nicks above).  As for Ladarius Green, he's getting ranked inside some top-10s (TE lists).  But as long as Gates is there too, I can't see it.  I don't think I'll be drafting either unless one gets hurt in the preseason or something like that...

A kicker with a Week 4 bye
I'm looking at you Matt Prater and Steven Hauschka!  Here's the deal.  Both of these guys will be good fantasy kickers, but neither will be on my fantasy roster this year.  I usually don't pay much attention to bye weeks, but when it comes to kickers and defenses, I make an exception.  Week 4 is way too early to be forced to make a decision on waiving a kicker or a rookie receiver with potential.  And if you draft Prater or Hauschka, that's exactly what you could be faced with.  Unless your league settings allow plenty of roster spots (mine doesn't), I'd suggest getting a kicker who has a bye week of 8 or later.  That way, you aren't waiving your kicker in Week 4.  Or worse yet, waiving a guy like Lance Dunbar only to find out that DeMarco Murray blows out his knee against the Saints on Sunday Night Football.  You don't want that on your conscience, do you?  It could ruin the rest of your fantasy season!  Be smart, people.  Don't draft a kicker with an early bye week.  You'll thank me later.

Oh, and if you're reading this and you're in my league?  Feel free to disregard, uh, all of this...


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

2014 Fantasy Football Rankings v2.0

I was walking through the grocery store the other day and found myself cutting through the magazine aisle on my way to find some bread and my wife (in that order).  Usually I don't look twice because I'm not interested in spending $7.95 on material that I can probably find on the internet.  And in the case of sports magazines, most of it is last week's news anyway.  In the case of fantasy sports magazines, the information is going to be even more out of date.  But that's what I saw, and plenty of them.  Out of 10 or so sports mags, I'd say half were dedicated to helping you win your 2014 fantasy football league.  And in a month, those same publications are still going to be on that rack telling you to draft Arian Foster in the 2nd round even though he's struggling with this or that injury that may or may not keep him out of the first few weeks (or possibly the entire season).  I'm not saying that will happen, and I hope it doesn't for Foster's sake.  But you get the idea.

That brings me to my rankings, which I plan to update just a little more frequently than the grocery store magazines.  I started doing them this year much earlier than in 2013, so I'm not exactly sure what version I'm on at this point.  Rather than try to figure out if this is v1.3 or v1.4, I'm just going to roll with v2.0 and we'll go from there.  Matthew Berry released his 100 facts piece last week, and it gave me the kick in the butt I needed to get moving again.  After reading that article and catching up on news from OTAs, I'm actually shaking up my rankings quite a bit.  I also decided to list a few more players by position below my top-168.  These are guys who may find themselves into the rankings in the weeks to come, but time will tell.  All of this will shake out once training camps start, which is only about 3 weeks away now.  Until then, here's what I have for you.  As always, I've made notes next to players who have moved for one reason or another.  I've also made notes next to the guys outside of my top-168.

1. Jamaal Charles
2. LeSean McCoy
3. Adrian Peterson
4. Matt Forte
5. Eddie Lacy
6. Marshawn Lynch: I lowered Beast Mode a couple of spots due to his high usage in recent years versus Forte and Lacy.
7. Jimmy Graham
8. Peyton Manning
9. Calvin Johnson
10. Montee Ball
11. Arian Foster: A bit of a risky pick this high, but all signs are pointing to him being healthy...
12. Le'Veon Bell
13. DeMarco Murray: He probably won't play 16 games either, but in a contract year and should get plenty of work.
14. Giovani Bernard
15. Demaryius Thomas: With Peyton still throwing to him, I think I'd reach a little ahead of Green or Dez.
16. Aaron Rodgers
17. Drew Brees
18. A.J. Green
19. Dez Bryant: Another Cowboy in a contract year, I think he belongs up here with AJ.
20. Zac Stacy
21. Alfred Morris
22. Brandon Marshall
23. Antonio Brown
24. Julio Jones
25. Alshon Jeffery
26. Jordy Nelson
27. Randall Cobb: With James Jones gone, a healthy Cobb should put up WR1 numbers.
28. Andre Ellington: Trending up. Will go even higher if coaches commit to giving him the ball 25 times a game.
29. Doug Martin: Down slightly.  New OC Jeff Tedford says he wants to alternate RBs in Tampa.
30. C.J. Spiller
31. Reggie Bush
32. Julius Thomas: Getting into question marks with these RBs, but JT is a sure thing at the tight end position.
33. Rob Gronkowski: And I just can't help myself with Gronk.  I keep moving him up the list, hoping he's healthy...
34. Ryan Mathews
35. Rashad Jennings: I continue to move Jennings up.  Could be in a great position in New York now.
36. Toby Gerhart: Him too.  Unproven but in a nice spot to be the bell cow RB in Jacksonville.
37. Bishop Sankey
38. Keenan Allen
39. Pierre Garcon
40. Vincent Jackson
41. Matthew Stafford
42. Andrew Luck
43. Shane Vereen
44. Chris Johnson: Moved him down considerably.  I foresee a timeshare if Chris Ivory can stay healthy.
45. Ben Tate: Speaking of health, that has be lowering Tate quite a bit. Plus he's a Brown, which is never good.
46. Frank Gore
47. Larry Fitzgerald
48. Andre Johnson
49. DeSean Jackson
50. Wes Welker
51. Victor Cruz
52. Trent Richardson: Moved him up even more.  Not sure why, but I have a feeling he puts it together again.
53. Ray Rice: Moved him down a little more with a suspension coming down any day now.
54. Cordarelle Patterson: Had him too low in my previous rankings.  Will definitely get even more touches in 2014.
55. Torrey Smith
56. Michael Crabtree
57. Percy Harvin: Had him too low too. Of course his health is a concern, but he has a HUGE ceiling.
58. Joique Bell
59. Steven Jackson
60. Stevan Ridley
61. Michael Floyd: Moved up a couple of spots.  I think it's possible he has a better year than Fitz.
62. Kendall Wright
63. Roddy White: Down a little.  He's tough to trust after owning him in a league last year.
64. Julian Edelman
65. Vernon Davis
67. Cam Newton
68. Tom Brady: Down a couple of spots, but this QB tier is very difficult to rank!
69. Matt Ryan
70. TY Hilton
71. Golden Tate: Hard not to keep moving him up with that offense throwing a million times.
72. Eric Decker
73. Marques Colston
74. Pierre Thomas: Will split carries, but with Sproles gone he could be more involved in passing game.
75. Maurice Jones-Drew
76. Fred Jackson
77. Knowshon Moreno: Got knee scoped and could be out until preseason games start.
78. Nick Foles: I think I had him in the wrong QB tier.  Down to the top of this one.
79. Russell Wilson
80. Tony Romo
81. Colin Kaepernick
82. Mike Wallace
83. Jeremy Maclin
84. Terrance Williams: Up a couple more spots.  Becoming an even sexier mid to late round pick.
85. Cecil Shorts
86. Emmanuel Sanders: I lowered him too much after the draft.  He belongs in the top-100.
87. Mike Evans: And I got a little excited ranking the rookies after the draft. Lowering several a few spots.
88. Sammy Watkins
89. Reggie Wayne
90. DeAngelo Williams: Is Stewart finally healthy?  I'm lowering DWill a bit with that possibility.
91. Lamar Miller: With news of Knowshon's knee, had to move Miller back up considerably.
92. Jordan Cameron
93. Greg Olsen
94. Jason Witten
95. Dennis Pitta
96. Jordan Reed
97. Darren Sproles
98. Khiry Robinson: Not sure what his role will be, but moving up with the hole Sproles leaves in New Orleans.
99. Darren McFadden
100. Chris Ivory
101. Bernard Pierce: Still waiting to hear on Ray's suspension, but Pierce should be early beneficiary.
102. Jeremy Hill: It sounds like The Law Firm is in jeopardy of making the squad. That tells me the Bengals like Hill.
103. Devonta Freeman
104. Terrance West: Another rookie being added to the list.  Could be RB2 behind Ben Tate in Cleveland.
105. Dwayne Bowe: Shuffled the order of this WR tier a little bit (next 5 guys)...
106. Riley Cooper
107. DeAndre Hopkins
108. Anquan Boldin
109. Brandin Cooks
110. Philip Rivers
111. Jay Cutler
112. Danny Woodhead: With Donald Brown now in the mix, I've moved Danny boy down a little.
113. Shonn Greene: Swapped him with Khiry Robinson (above).  Lowering the guy with old knees.
114. Kyle Rudolph
115. Zach Ertz
116. Martellus Bennett: Needed to add another TE to the list to make an even 12 (for a 12-team league).
117. Marvin Jones
118. Reuben Randle
119. James Jones
120. Andy Dalton: Lowered him down to tier with Johnny Football and Big Ben.
121. Johnny Manziel
122. Ben Roethlisberger
123. Tavon Austin
124. Kelvin Benjamin
125. Brian Hartline
126. Steve Smith
127. Danny Amendola
128. Hakeem Nicks
129. Lance Dunbar: Added to the list.  It sounds like the Cowboys want him to be involved in the offense this year.
130. Andre Brown: Lowered him and Stepfan Taylor a bit to this RB tier.
131. Stepfan Taylor
132. Tre Mason
133. Jonathan Stewart: Ranking The Daily Show even though I know this will end in an injury...
134. Kenny Stills
135. Robert Woods
136. Stevie Johnson: Lowered a couple more notches.  He may end up outside the top-168 when it's all said and done.
137. Carlos Hyde
138. Roy Helu
139. C.J. Anderson
140. Markus Wheaton
141. Andrew Hawkins: With Josh Gordon suspended, someone will need to catch balls in Cleveland.
142. Justin Hunter: Added him to the list as a solid #2 WR, albeit for the Titans.
143. Doug Baldwin: I don't trust Harvin to be healthy, and Baldwin should benefit with Golden Tate gone.
144. Brandon LaFell: Could be the new "X" receiver for the Pats, but this could be Dobson or Thompkins again.
145. Seahawks DEFENSE
146. 49ers DEFENSE
147. Panthers DEFENSE
148. Bengals DEFENSE
149. Rams DEFENSE: Moved them a spot ahead of Denver, but both have the dreaded Week 4 bye...
150. Broncos DEFENSE
151. Chiefs DEFENSE
152. Patriots DEFENSE
153. Cardinals DEFENSE: Daryl Washington suspended for 2014 and Honey Badger will miss a few weeks.
154. Ravens DEFENSE
155. Saints DEFENSE
156. Bills DEFENSE
157. Stephen Gostkowski
158. Justin Tucker
159. Dan Bailey
160. Phil Dawson: OK so after my top-3 kickers, I shuffled them up a bit.  But seriously.  Do you care...?
161. Adam Vinatieri
162. Mason Crosby
163. Nick Novak
164. Matt Bryant
165. Robbie Gould
166. Blair Walsh
167. Shaun Suisham
168. Alex Henery

Some more names (in order, roughly) who didn't quite make the 168 but I will be closely watching in the weeks to come...

Josh McCown: I still think he could be your starting fantasy QB if you wait too long to get one.
Ryan Tannehill: Continues to improve, but now he has a new OC to work with.  That scares me.
Alex Smith: Can he replicate last season?  Probably not, so he's outside of my top-168.
Eli Manning: He's on my list because he could be a good Week 4 fill-in for his brother (who I'll own).
Joe Flacco: In 2013, career highs in pass attempts (& INTs)...sub-20 TDs for 1st time since a rookie.
Carson Palmer: Not a great keeper if your league is like mine, but still has good WR options.
EJ Manuel: I'm still holding out hope that he could break out if he stays healthy.
Teddy Bridgewater: If he is the starter Week 1, he might be worth a late-round flier.
Mark Ingram: I think he'll be the odd man out in New Orleans.  But let's wait and see, shall we?
Benjarvis Green-Ellis: Ranked Jeremy Hill for now, assuming BGE is also on outside looking in.
LaGarrette Blount: Could steal some carries from Bell in Pittsburgh, but not sure if he's draftable.
James Starks: The only running back left in Green Bay not named Eddie Lacy.
Isaiah Crowell: Everyone expects West to get the backup role in Cleveland, but I'm not sold yet.
Ronnie Hillman: Same goes for CJ Anderson in Denver.  Montee Ball will need some breaks...
Mike James or Bobby Rainey: If the Bucs do use a committee, then keep an eye on these two.
Vick Ballard or Ahmad Bradshaw: And if TRich struggles, one of these guys could step in (if healthy).
Andre Williams: I'm not considering David Wilson (health), but Williams is an interesting backup.
Donald Brown: I'd consider ranking him if he's to be the "goal line back" in San Diego.
Brandon Bolden: You just never know with Belichick, do you...?
Michael Bush (FREE AGENT): I'd be shocked if he's not on a roster after camps are underway.
Jarrett Boykin: Maybe I'm getting to low on him, but I'm afraid rookie Adams could fill WR3 role.
Josh Gordon: Until we know the length of his suspension, we can't totally rule him out for 2014.
Justin Blackmon: Same with him, though I think his prospects are even worse.
Aaron Dobson or Kenbrell Thompkins: Like I said, either could jump up and replace LaFell.
Odell Beckham: We'll see how the rookie looks in Giants training camp before ranking him.
Jordan Matthews: Same goes for the Eagle rookie.
Martavis Bryant: And a rookie I feel like no one is talking about, he could beat out Wheaton.
Greg Jennings: I feel like he's getting too old to rank, and he rarely has a good game anymore.
Miles Austin: Same could be said for him...AND he's always injured.
Harry Douglas: With Gonzo retired, Douglas might still get quite a few targets in that offense...
Rod Streater: Should be the #2 WR in Oakland, but what kind of fantasy numbers will that get you?
Kenny Britt: Now a Ram, but health always a concern for this perennial sleeper.
Jerricho Cotchery or Jason Avant: One of the veterans will probably stick in Carolina, but who?

Charles Clay: I'm not ready to accept that he'll get 100 targets again with a different OC.
Delanie Walker: Not an amazing season in 2013, but it was his best yet.
Richard Rodgers: The rookie in Green Bay impressed in OTAs and could be the Week 1 starter.
Eric Ebron: This rookie was drafted much higher, but Detroit still has Pettigrew and Fauria...
Jace Amaro: A theme here with rookies.  Yes he's a Jet, but he's worth watching in training camp.
Antonio Gates/Ladarius Green: Which one do you take?  Exactly.
Coby Fleener/Dwayne Allen: Same problem here.  If one gets hurt, then maybe you rank the other.


One more note that I have to throw in here...