- Aaron Rodgers, GB
- Russell Wilson, SEA
- Cam Newton, CAR
- Drew Brees, NO
- A quiet yet efficient season has bred this idea that Brees is no longer elite. Expect a return to the top 5, especially with Ingram missing time.
- Carson Wentz, PHI
- Deshaun Watson, HOU
- Tom Brady, NE
- This off season has been difficult for the Patriots as they have faced infighting, suspensions, and denatures. Brady will likely still be elite on the field, but his fantasy prospects take a hit.
- Ben Roethlisberger, PIT
- Kirk Cousins, MIN
- Matthew Stafford, DET
- Philip Rivers, LAC
- Jimmy Garoppolo, SF
- The 5 game stretch to finish the year was impressive, but too many quarter backs have wilted under the pressure after securing the big contract. If reports of Jimmy G’s struggles at camp are correct, caution should be taken.
- Jared Goff, LAR
- Matt Ryan, ATL
- Jameis Winston, TB
- Patrick Mahomes, KC
- The weapons are there in this high powered offense, but the difference between the potential floor and potential ceiling is where the questions begin. As likely as he is a top 10 QB, he’s a bottom tier guy who struggles in his first real action.
- Alex Smith, WAS
- Mitch Trubisky, CHI
- Dak Prescott, DAL
- Marcus Mariota, TEN
- Eli Manning, NYG
- The age is a real concern as Manning turns 38 this year and has tons of mileage on his tires, but his situation has improved immensely. Getting back OBJ and Shephard, receiving better protection, and having an effective run game should have him back in the top 20 conversation.
- Derek Carr, OAK
- Case Keenum, DEN
- Andrew Luck, IND
- This is likely to change as we approach the season and his availability becomes clearer, but for now we have him ranked conservatively, should he start the season on the roster.
- Blake Bortles, JAC
- Andy Dalton, CIN
- Ryan Tannehill, MIA
- Jacoby Brissett, IND
- Joe Flacco, BAL
- I would once have defended Flacco against the haters but I can no longer ignore the writing on the wall. One year older, and an early round addition in Lamar Jackson give Flacco very little room for error.
- Tyrod Taylor, CLE
- Sam Bradford, ARI
- Teddy Bridgewater, NYJ
- Sam Darnold, NYJ
- Josh Rosen, ARI
- Of all the rookie QB’s, Rosen feels like he’s the closest to a starting gig, mainly because Bradford is a safe bet to get injured. If you’re drafting in re-drafts, most of these rookie QB’s aren’t an option, but Rosen may be the best of the bunch.
- Baker Mayfield, CLE
- Nick Foles, PHI
- Josh Allen, BUF
- A.J. McCarron, BUF
- Neither McCarron, nor Allen, excite me much, but it’s likely McCarron’s offense for now. If you need a really deep play – he may be worth a look in the last round of your draft. Ideally he’d be a waiver wire pickup, though.
- Lamar Jackson, BAL
- Josh McCown, NYJ
Every year I run an article where I examine the what I consider to the be the most rewarding same team pairings in fantasy football. The idea, if you’re not familiar, is that by adding high tier quarterbacks with elite wide receivers or running backs you give yourself a larger share of the available points. Of course, this works best with high scoring offenses.
Last year I missed the mark a little bit with my go to; Derek Carr and Amari Cooper, as both disappointed. Luckily I planned well enough that it didn’t impact me too much (I won the league after all), but the same risks exist for any strategy as some guys just don’t show up.
But this year presents a different challenge, as the number of elite quarterbacks have dropped precipitously and the number of sure fire fantasy studs is at a questionable level. Let’s begin:
Earl Round Pairs ( Most Difficult To Manage)
Aaron Rodgers and Devante Adams: Adams is finally getting the respect he deserves, ranking 7th among wide receivers. Pairing the #7 WR with the #1 QB is a healthy strategy regardless of what team they play for, but getting extra point for yards and touchdowns shared has this pairing at the top of list. Still, it’ll cost you two of your first four picks to assemble this pairing.
Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown: While the jury seems to be out on Roethlisberger every year in the off season, Big Ben grinds his way to a top ten finish at the position. What’s NEVER a question is how good Brown will be when he’s on the field. The easy answer is that Brown is the safest pick in fantasy, but it will require you have a top 3 or 4 pick.
Drew Brees and Michael Thomas: Despite still playing at a high level, Brees has sort of slipped behind Thomas and Alvin Kamara as the top targets in the New Orleans offense. That in no way diminishes his ability to produce in fantasy, and I’d argue is a better option than both Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady, but that’s a different article all together. Getting Michael Thomas, though, is the hard part. His ADP of 15 will mean drafting 1-5 will preclude you from drafting him unless you get lucky. If you do get lucky, a 6th or 7th round pick will land you Brees, who’s ADP of 69 is criminally low.
Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski: Draft Brady at your own risk, but if you’re confident that the off season malaise in New England won’t affect Brady’s ability to perform then have at it. The truth is that Rob Gronkowski could set records this year as the only reliable pair of hands left for Brady to chuck it up to. Sure, Edelman will be back in 4 games and Hogan has shown he can play with Brady, but Gronk should see the end zone 10-15 times this year on top of a ton of yards. Grabbing him in the 3rd round to pair with Brady in the 7th gives plenty of time to add skill players besides.
Middle Round Pairs (Easier To Coordinate)
Russell Wilson and Doug Baldwin: This one isn’t as impactful in terms of fantasy because Wilson tends to supplement his passing stats with his legs. Unfortunately for this exercise, his rushing statistics can’t be taken into account. Still, Doug Baldwin is one of the leagues best slot receivers, and as a 4th round pick has a lot of value regardless. Without Jimmy Graham in the red one, he may even see a few more looks there. This one may not be the sexiest pair on the list, but they may be the most effective.
Carson Wentz and Zach Ertz: It may seem strange to see another WR/TE combo, but the fact is Wentz and Ertz seem to share a brain in the red zone, meaning a ton of points are up for grabs between the two of them. While Alshon Jeffrey may be the #1 wide out on the team’s depth chart, the true number one is Ertz. if you miss out on Gronk but you want a stud tight end, pair a 4th round Ertz with a 7th round Wentz and reap the benefits.
Kirk Cousins and Stefon Diggs: Wait, you say. This should be Thielen and Cousins! I’m here to tell you, not so fast. Now, I can see a scenario like in Denver years back with multiple 1,000 yard receivers, but the guy I’m targeting is Diggs in the late 4th round. He was excellent last year even though he wasn’t the top target for the Case Keenum led Vikings. Now, he has Cousins tossing the ball to him. A classic gunslinger, Cousins’ game best fits the strengths Diggs brings to the table. This is one of the least expensive pairings you can get as a 4th and a 10th gets you both players.
Matt Ryan and Julio Jones: You may have to spend a 2nd round pick on Jones, but the wait on Ryan is a bit longer than the other QB’s on this list. As the QB13, he’s being drafted in the 11th round, and I’d argue his value is sky high this year as a bounce back candidate. If you’re like me, and you see more value in grabbing high end skill players to pair with the later round QB, Matt Ryan is a slam dunk. Have him and Julio, and you’ll reap the rewards for all those yards.
Odell Beckham and Eli Manning: If you’re nervous about drafting either of these guys, I’d say you’re hardly alone. Beckham is an otherworldly talent when he’s right, but the combination of recent injury woes and an inability to stay level headed means he may fall towards the end of the first round. What I will say is that if you manage Beckham, Manning is a wonderful pairing if you waited a bit long on your QB. In the 16th round of drafts (current ADP is 152) Manning presents a conundrum. He was awful last year but much of it could be logically blamed on the terrible circumstances around him. With healthy weapons, an upgraded offensive line, and an elite RB to draw the attention, and Manning could be a surprise top 15 QB this year.
Philip Rivers and Keenan Allen: Allen proved last year that when he’s healthy, he’s every bit the stud we thought he was. Rivers remains one of the most under appreciated QB’s in fantasy, and his ADP of 112 presents tons of value. Without Hunter Henry, even more weight will be given to Allen, meaning these two could hook up for a ton of points.
Honorable Mentions: Derek Carr and Amari Cooper (a new coach could help get these two back on track). Jared Goff and Brandin Cooks (it’s a new look for Goff, but Cooks could be his go to early and often). Jameis Winston and Mike Evans (This requires a bounce back year for both, but not guaranteed). Marcus Mariota and Corey Davis (There’s so much talent between these two, it’s hard to imagine both of them laying duds this year).
It’s not always a skill issue, but every year there’s several players that turn into monumental busts. Having one of these guys eating up roster space halfway through the season is demoralizing, but sometimes unavoidable.
Adam Thielen, WR – Minnesotta: It’s funny how fantasy football tends to have fairly predictable ebbs and flows, and after the monster for Thielen (92 catches for 1276 yards) the fantasy community has gone all in on the 27 year old. Currently ranked 11th at his position and 30th overall, I’d argue to exercise caution when selecting Thielen that early.
Between a new quarterback that seemed to favor the long ball (Kirk Cousins) and an OC in John DeFilippo that has shown a commitment to their down field targets (examples; Travis Benjamin, Jordan Matthews, Alshon Jeffrey) the expectation should be that regression is coming. Now, I’m not suggesting that Thielen falls completely off the map, but expect a far less consistent stat line. A more reasonable expectation would be roughly 1,000 yards and 5 TDs; similar to his 2016 numbers.
T.Y. Hilton, WR – Indianapolis: This one certainly feels like low hanging fruit, but Hilton continues to see an ADP of around 33, good for 13th among wide receivers. What’s disconcerting is that Hilton seems to have enough monster games each year to hide the fact that he’s more likely to bust than he is to boom.
With 9 weeks of 50 or fewer yards and 7 weeks with 30 or fewer, the reality is that Hilton is no better than a flex start. Regardless of how confident you may be at identifying when Hilton is set to go off, it’s still a waste of a pick in the fourth round when you can only reasonably rely on Hilton 25% of the time.
Aaron Rodgers, QB – Green Bay: I’d like to preface this portion of the article by saying I believe Rodgers, pound for pound, is still the best signal caller in the NFL. Still, at 34, and returning from a near-season ending injury, he’ll have the most difficult fantasy schedule among all QBs with 7 of his first 11 games coming against the top 10 stingiest defenses in terms of QB scoring.
While Jimmy Graham should help, there’s also a possibility that he’ll get off to a slow start and an aging Rodgers may resume running for his life. A healthy Aaron Rodgers is a valuable fantasy asset, no matter how you look at it, but in the 2nd rounds of drafts, there’s little chance he pays off in terms of the return on that investment.
Over the next few days, we here at Dr. Fantasy will take a closer look at each skill position and where the best value is as you prepare for your drafts.
While plenty of fantasy teams featuring an early QB selection as their starter have gone on to win their leagues, there are more borderline great QB’s available in the middle rounds than ever. Waiting on a QB has never made so much sense as the tiers below will show you.
Elite Tier (1)
- Aaron Rodgers – Green Bay Packers
- Tom Brady – New England Patriots
- Drew Brees – New Orleans Saints
The only question surrounding these three QB’s is where to take them. Rodgers will inevitably go early (round 2) but even Brady and Brees could see selections in the first 40 picks. Waiting even for these guys only makes sense.
Very Good Tier (2)
- Matt Ryan – Atlanta Falcons
- Russell Wilson – Seattle Seahawks
- Kirk Cousins – Washington Redskins
- Jameis Winston – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Marcus Mariota – Tennessee Titans
- Cam Newton – Carolina Panthers
Can Matt Ryan duplicate his 2016 season? I doubt it but he’ll still be very effective with those weapons. Cam Newton scares the hell out of me looking at 2017 as his corp of wide receivers didn’t really improve while the team drafted backs to help ease the pressure of running the football. If Newton finishes as a top 10 QB I’d be surprised.
Decent Tier (3)
- Dak Prescott – Dallas Cowboys
- Derek Carr – Oakland Raiders
- Andrew Luck – Indianapolis Colts
- Philip Rivers – Los Angeles Chargers
- Matthew Stafford – Detroit Lions
- Tyrod Taylor – Buffalo Bills
- Andy Dalton – Cincinnati Bengals
- Ben Roethlisberger – Pittsburgh Steelers
- Eli Manning – New York Giants
- Carson Wentz – Philadelphia Eagles
This is the money maker tier for quarterbacks as most of them can be had in rounds 8 or later. The top of this tier are borderline Tier 2 guys so draft with confidence. The bottom, most importantly Ben Roethlisberger should be viewed as a lower end QB2 as injuries are sure to take a tole on the aging QB. Carson Wentz has a real chance to make a leap this year but Philadelphia figures to continue it’s balanced attack with Blount in the fold. He offers a modest ceiling with a pretty high floor.
Make a Prayer Tier (4)
- Joe Flacco – Baltimore Ravens
- Carson Palmer – Arizona Cardinals
- Sam Bradford – Minnesota Vikings
- Alex Smith – Kansas City Chiefs
- Jay Cutler – Miami Dolphins
- Jared Goff – Los Angeles Rams
Uninspiring? Sure. Cost you much? No. These guys are the back end of your draft, either as an insurance policy on an aging QB or as streaming option for the more adventurous owners. Joe Flacco’s schedule and enhanced weapons (Woodhead+Maclin > Smith+Pitta) make him a really safe streaming option. Jay Cutler may be fine in an offense he’s familiar with, but the gunslinger is being asked to QB a team that’s very likely to run the football a lot, so don’t over draft the un-retired QB hoping for some kind of magic.
Worth a Flyer Tier (5)
- Blake Bortles – Jacksonville Jaguars
- DeShaun Watson – Houston Texans
- Mike Glennon – Chicago Bears
- DeShone Kizer – Cleveland Browns
- Brock Osweiler – Cleveland Browns
- Brian Hoyer – San Fransisco 49ers
- Trevor Siemian – Denver Broncos
- Josh McCown – New York Jets
- Mitchell Trubisky – Chicago Bears
- Chad Henne – Jacksonville Jaguars
- Jimmy Garoppolo – New England Patriots
If you’re drafting one of these guys, then odds are you like em a heck of a lot more than I do. Bortles may lose his job to Chad Henne (who isn’t exactly draftable himself), Trevor Siemian couldn’t lose this job if he tried (and I argue that he has), and Trubisky and Garoppolo are future starters with either not enough weapons to work with or no road to starting in sight.
The age old adage “wait on a QB” is easy to preach this year with so many viable quarterbacking options in the middle rounds. If you do swing early on a Rodgers or Brady, don’t worry but just be aware of what your pick may cost you in the other positions.
Updated 6/26 (numbers in parenthasis are change in ranking from 6/1 rankings)
- Aaron Rodgers, GB (E)
- Tom Brady, NE (E)
- Drew Brees, NO (E)
- Matt Ryan, ATL (E)
- Andrew Luck, IND (E)
- Jameis Winston, TB (E)
- Kirk Cousins, WAS (E)
- Dak Prescott, DAL (+1)
- Russell Wilson, SEA (-1)
- Cam Newton, CAR (E)
- Derek Carr, OAK (+1)
- Tyrod Taylor, BUF (-1)
- Marcus Mariotta, TEN (+2)
- Philip Rivers, LAC (E)
- Ben Roethlisberger, PIT (-2)
- Matthew Stafford, DET (E)
- Andy Dalton, CIN (E)
- Carson Wentz, PHI (+3)
- Eli Manning, NYG (E)
- Blake Bortles, JAC (-2)
- Ryan Tannehill, MIA (-1)
- Joe Flacco, BAL (E)
- Sam Bradford, MIN (+2)
- Carson Palmer, ARI (-1)
- Alex Smith, KC (-1)
- Deshaun Watson, HOU (E)
- Mike Glennon, CHI (+1)
- Paxton Lynch, DEN (+1)
- DeShone Kizer, CLE (-2)
- Cody Kessler, CLE (E)
- Jared Goff, LAR (+1)
- Josh McCown, NYJ (-1)
- Christian Hackenberg, NYJ (+2)
- Brian Hoyer, SF (-1)
- Mitch Trubisky, CHI (+3)
- Tom Savage, HOU (E)
- Trevor Siemian, DEN (-3)
- Patrick Mahomes, KC (+3)
- Jimmy Garoppolo, NE (+8)
- Landry Jones, PIT (+4)
- C.J. Beathard, SF (-1)
- Cardale Jones, BUF (-3)
- AJ McCarron, CIN (E)
- Drew Stanton, ARI (+1)
- Case Keenum, MIN (+1)
- Brock Osweiler, CLE (-9)
- Bryce Petty, NYJ (-5)
A suprising start and all-too-familiar finish for the Minnesota Vikings was only major surprise from a division that’s had clearly defined roles for it’s four teams for the last 5 – 6 years. Green Bay is the class of the division and Minnesota looks like it’s ready to push them, but Detroit and Chicago both look to toil at the bottom of the standings for some time yet.
Green Bay Packers
Notable Fantasy Stars: Aaron Rodgers (QB1), Jordy Nelson (WR6), Martellus Bennett (TE9), Ty Montgomery (RB23), DeVante Adams (WR18), Randall Cobb (WR44)
Synopsis – Aaron Rodgers looks to pace the QB field again this year, and GB finally gave up on the TE experiments and signed big name free agent Martellus Bennett to provide an additional weapon on one of the NFC’s best offenses. Jordy Nelson will be his regular studly self, but DeVante Adams and Ty Montgomery figure to be the middle ground players who may put up better numbers than expected. Unfortunately that means Randall Cobb’s time in the spotlight is likely at an end as he drifts further down the depth chart.
Notable Fantasy Stars: Kyle Rudolph (TE9),Sam Bradford (QB24), Dalvin Cook (RB26), Stefon Diggs (WR28), Latavius Murray (RB36), Adam Thielen (WR46)
Synopsis – Now entrenched as the starter, Sam Bradford returns his top two targets in Kyle Rudolph and Stefon Diggs as Minnesota looks to improve on a disappointing collapse. The addition of Latavius Murray and draft pick Dalvin Cook suggest that the Vikes should have a more balanced offense despite the departure of AP to New Orleans. This team also features one of the better sleeper candidates in Adam Thielen whos’s being drafted as a WR5 but has potential of Minnesota throws the football to approach WR3 numbers.
Notable Fantasy Stars: Eric Ebron (TE12), Matthew Stafford (QB16), Golden Tate (WR24), Ameer Abdullah (RB24), Theo Riddick (RB37), Marvin Jones (WR52)
Synopsis – Detroit figures to be a better fantasy team than real life football club again with Matt Stafford likely to approach 600+ attempts for the 5th time in his career. The duo of Golden Tate and Marvin Jones is going to be difficult to quantify as Stafford tends to lean on one or the other but rarely together; Tate should be the more consistent option despite the lack of TDs. Those will be Eric Ebron’s calling card as this team lacks a true bruiser in the goal line area. Abdullah, if healthy, will carry the bulk of the carries, but Theo Riddick remains one of the best PPR options in all of football.
Notable Fantasy Stars: Jordan Howard (RB6), Mike Glennon (QB27), Mitch Trubisky (QB37), Cameron Meredith (WR42), Kevin White (WR57)
Synopsis – With any bottom feeder team, one must exhibit caution when selecting players. Jordan Howard is the safest bet, and in standard scoring could be a top 5 back this year. Mike Glennon showed flashes in Tampa Bay, but neither Cameron Meredith nor Kevin White can be relied upon as a true number one receiver. If either or are healthy to start the year you can risk a late round pick but temper your expectations.
In preperation for my personal position rankings, I’ll be taking a look at the top of the list at each offensive fantasy position.
- Cam Newton – Newton was a Fantasy stud last year, owning the feild with his arm as well as his legs. Adding a top teir WR back into the fold with the returning Kelvin Benjamin
will mean good things for Super Cam this year.
- Aaron Rodgers – His 60% completion percentage was his career low as a starter, and much of that can be attributed to a lackluster run game and losing his number 1 receiver in Jordy Nelson for the entire year. He still managed nearly 4,000 yards and 30+ TDs in 15 games. If Nelson is ready to go and Lacy is even remotely the player he has been in the past, expect a return to greatness.
- Russell Wilson – If you believe the loss of Marshawn Lynch will make this offense a bit too one dimensional, then you’d be wrong. When he’s called on to make plays, all Wilson does is produce. He may not break records, but his ability to add 500-800 yards on the ground make him elite in terms of Fantasy.
- Drew Brees – A model of consistency, Brees again led the league in yards while completing nearly 70% of his passes. Another year with animproving O-line and 4 capable receivers means Brees can be counted on again to win Fantasy games.
- Andrew Luck – It’s not secret that Luck struggled mightily last year, missing significant time due to a plethora of injuries. Still, Luck has the goods – and the weapons – to produce at a high level. If they can keep him healthy, theres no reason to believe he’ll return to the elite signal caller we know he is.
- Ben Roethlisberger – The ceiling was raised a few years ago, and with Antonio Brown lining up to catch passes, you can’t expect too sharp a decline even as father time inches up behind Big Ben. He’s fallen a bit on my list with the news that Bryant will miss the entire season and his saftey blank in Le’Veon Bell will miss 4 games, and he may fall farther still.
- Carson Palmer – Old age seems to be an antiquated reason to skip on NFL QB’s in your fantasy leagues as Carson Palmer returns to the top 10 as a 36 year old. He’s got three fantasic receivers, a very good line, and a running game to help take off the pressure. Did we mention he takes care of the football? He may not be a flashy name, but he’ll get the job done.
- Philip Rivers – Rivers seems to never get the love that he deserves, but in the end he’ll throw the ball a ton which will mitigate any issues that may surround this offense. They’ll likely continue to easy Melvin Gordon into a larger roll, so expect games with 35+ attempts early on.
- Blake Bortles – I hear that we shouldn’t expect a repeat of the fantastic year we saw out of Bortles last year. I disagree. Hurns and Robinson are both great weapons and adding a successful down hill running in Chris Ivory will free up some plays over the middle. His legs can help him add another 250+ yards to what will likely be a 4,000 yard 30 TD campaign.
- Eli Manning – I’ll preface my inclusion in my top ten by saying I don’t really like Eli Manning. Not in the least, but he manages to find a way to put up fantasy numbers even while he’s managing ways to lose real NFL games. OBJ is Elite, Cruz (even at 50% of what he was) will attract some of the defense, and the kid they drafted, Sterling Shephard should give him more weapons to work with.
Missed the Cut
Tom Brady (his supension moved him from the top 10), Matt Ryan (so much hate for no reason. Has a top 3 WR catching the football), David Carr (close, but not there yet. Another up year in Oakland and he’ll be tough to deny), Tony Romo (he’s Eli Manning if Eli Manning got hurt every year. He’ll put up massive numbers when he’s healthy… which is likely less than 12 games).
In the world of fantasy, we all want to be the best. I find myself checking to see how my teams members are scoring against the other elite of the world, and it’s a warm and fuzzy feeling to see my guys excel. Obviously there are week to week fluctuations, but in the end, only one can be crowned the best at his position.
QB: Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts – At only 25 years old, it’s impressive to see the poise and talent that Luck brings to every NFL game. At at time when the Tom Brady’s and Peyton Manning’s of the world are entering the twinkling twilight of their careers, Luck hasn’t even entered his statistical prime. Still, after throwing for 4700 yards and 40 TD’s, it’s hard to imagine him being any better. Then he got new weapons to offset his already elite talent. Andre Johnson and Frank Gore may not be top 10’s anymore, but Luck certainly won’t regress with them added to the roster. I fully expect Luck to repeat his numbers, if not improve on them.
Runner Up: Aaron Rodgers – He has the same tools as Luck, but still has a bit of an injury history and Green Bay can be a more balanced attack with Eddie Lacy in the backfield. Still elite, Rodgers will push Luck at the top of the totem pole for a few more years.
RB: Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers – Mike Tomlin loves a balanced offense, and Bell is a rare blend of speed and power. Playing all three downs, Bell will be the focal point for the offense going into the year despite missing time due to a suspension. Like Luck above, Bell has already established himself as elite despite only being 23. The difference this year is that from his first snap to his last, he’ll be a top option in a powerful Pittsburgh offense. Between his use in the passing game and his dominance on the ground, expect a few huge weeks and numbers that come close to last year even minus the two game suspension.
Runner Up: DeMarco Murray – Many will list Murray over Bell, and you wouldn’t be wrong to do so. This is a 1A, 1B situation, but I dock Murray a bit being in a new location running behind a line that couldn’t open up quality lanes for another elite back in LeSean McCoy the year before. He’ll be used a lot, but my concern is that he won’t duplicate the health or the numbers after a stellar year in Dallas.
WR: Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos – As steady as they come, being the number one option for Peyton Manning doesn’t hurt either. I’ll argue that as Manning’s skills regress, his smarts become his strength and he’d be stupid to not rely on the elite talent he’s got in Thomas. With the offense shifting a bit (no Welker or Julius Thomas) Demaryuis will be called upon to do even more, and he’ll be up to the challenge. As a WR, he’ll pace the league and I’d be surprised if he didn’t push the single season TD record for WRs.
Runner Up: Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers – Consistency is a boon in the world of fantasy football, and Brown finished at the top of the list for WR’s last year. As great as Brown is, he’s still relying on Ben Roethlisburger to remain elite and for Le’Veon bell to not shift the balance to a run first team. A lock to be top 3 WR, you can’t go wrong with Brown either way.
TE: Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots – The big gifted TE in New England had to prove he could stay healthy after a rash of injuries in consecutive years. All he did was return and pace the leagues TE’s with 1,100 yards and 12 TD’s. If you account for a few rough weeks during the first few weeks of the season as Brady acclimated himself and Gronkowski returned to form, it’s not hard to imagine Gronk putting up a full year similar to his second half numbers. As a TE there is no other weapon in the league like Gronkowski and he should continute to be Brady’s primary target, especially in the red zone.
Runner up: Greg Olson – TE is a murky position going into the season. Antonio Gates continues to perform like a young stud, but the wheels will fall off soon and Ledarius Green is waiting in the wings. Jimmy Graham has pushed Gronk for the top spot in the past has left NO and gone to Seattle, where there’s no garuntee Wilson will use his as judiciously as Brees did. That leaves Olson who showed flashes and remained consistent throughout for fantasy owners. A healthy Cam Newton should see Olson’s numbers improve slightly while the other two mentioned should decline.
Ryan Tannehill quietly put together a borderline top 10 QB season, and Lamar Miller proved he could run the football with some consistency and catch it on occasion in the passing game. The receivers on this team are young and talented, with high volume option in Jarvis Landry and burners in Kenny Stills and Rishard Matthews. Adding Jordan Cameron only makes it harder for defenses to match up when they want to spread you out. Worth Drafting: Ryan Tannehill will likely be valued lower than he should be, as a later QB1 he’s worth it. Lamar Miller may have some competition later in the year from the uber talented Jay Ajayi, expect him to be a workhorse if healthy. Landry should be a good bet for 70+ catches, and Stills could be a weapon for Tannehill over the top. Jordan Cameron, if healthy, will step in and replace Charles Clay’s production very well.
11. San Diego Chargers
Philip Rivers manages every year to put together a top 10 QB season, and expect this year to be no different. Keenan Allen and Malcom Floyd should still see the bulk of the passes, new addition Stevie Johnson has a lot to prove and could be a nice late round WR addition. Despite Ledarius Green’s presence, Antonio Gates went out and killed it last year, and I’ll never again doubt the big mans ability or drive. Worth Drafting: Philip Rivers as always falls just shy of the NFL elite, but is a solid QB if you miss out on the top teir guys. Keenan Allen has the tools to be a WR1 and Michael Floyd will still stretch the field a bit (16.5 YPC last year). Stevie Johnson is a risk/reward player as his pedigree may trick owners into jumping early. Antonio Gates should be himself again this year, and I would caution against Ladarius Green fans against expecting any real fantasy value unless Gates gets hurt. Melvin Gordon could be this years highest scoring rookie… don’t be afraid to draft.
10. Chicago Bears
I know what you’re thinking, “the Bears in the top 10?” They may not be a top 10 NFL team, but we’re talking in terms of fantasy contributions. Jay Cutler may be inconsistent, as is evidenced by his second half slide, but he still has plenty of tools and a big arm. Alshon Jeffery will have an uptick in attempts as Cutler has shown a propensity to seak out his top target despite double teams. Matt Forte is a top 10 RB and top 3 in PPR formats, and Martellus Bennet moves into the top 3 conversation at TE thanks to Jimmy Grahams change of scenery. Worth Drafting: I was high on Jay Cutler last year, and this hasn’t changed. If you look at his first 5 or 6 weeks last year, he had some pretty good numbers that would have been even better if he didn’t turn the ball over. Kevin White is an unknown quantity but he should replace Marshall in the long run with the same kind of build. Jeffry should be a top 10WR and Bennett is a top 3 TE.
9. Atlanta Falcons
Matt Ryan did the best he could with the rash of injuries that clipped the Falcons wings last year, but a healthy squad will make a world of difference. Ryan is a top 10 QB even without his top two targets healthy. Tevin Coleman could push Devonta Freeman but both are talented and whoever makes it out of camp as the #1 should see above average RB numbers. Roddy White is still an every week start even with the top 3 WR in Julio Jones across from him. They have question marks at TE as Toilolo Levine led their active TE’s with 62 points last year (in 1pt PPR). Worth Drafting: Matt Ryan had a few brutal weeks and still managed a top 10 finish, he’ll have a better grasp on this offense and health not withstanding should be a top 10 QB this year as well. Julio Jones has the talent to finish #1, and he’ll likely go in the first 15 picks. Roddy White gets over looked more every year but he’s still a top 20 WR. The real question is Devonta Freeman or Tevin Coleman? I think it’ll be a battle in camp, and both guys should have some fantasy relevance come week 1.
8. New York Giants
The world was against the Giants after a brutal season prior, but Eli Manning still finished top 10 at QB, and Odell Beckham emerged as a top WR threat. With the return of Victor Cruz this offense could have two scary weapons for Eli to use. Rashad Jennings may be a little older than the other top RB’s, but he still averaged 10-11 points per week (depending on your scoring system). Larry Donnell put together an admirable season and the Giants like to use TE’s in the passing game. Worth Drafting: Eli is a safe bet to out perform his numbers last year if he has a healthy WR corps. Beckham will likely be drafted incredibly early, but with Cruz back, he’ll be hard pressed to repeat his second half numbers. Rueben Randle is the real steal here, as his value takes a huge hit with two studs in front of him, but in a passing offense, he should out perform his ADP. Rashad Jennings was fine when he played, but grab Andre Williams late as a handcuff if you need to use Jennings as a RB 1 or 2.
7. Detroit Lions
I hate to say that Matthew Stafford is overrated, because I think he’s an entertaining gun slinger in the Brett Favre mold, but his terrible efficiency actually lowers his ceiling despite as often as he throws the football. That being said, he has two elite WR’s in Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate. Either one can carry the torch if the other isn’t performing. At TE, they have two question marks: is Brandon Pettigrew capable of being used in the passing game and can Eric Ebron be healthy enough to contribute. I think Ebron is the TE the Lions would rather emerge. Joique Bell got a lot of touches last year, but averaged under 4 YPC. His value lies in the passing game, but the Lions served notice in drafting what they think is a 3 down back in Ameer Abdullah. A great talent, he should push Bell for touches early and often. Worth Drafting: Matt Stafford at the right price has enough volume to contribute but he’ll drive you crazy. Calvin Johnson slipping down the ranks only helps the owner who gets him, he’s still the best in the game in my opinion. Golden Tate is a solid second option, and a good one two punch in Bell and Abdullah in the backfield make this a formidable offense. Ebron is the TE to look at with a much higher ceiling.
6. Seattle Seahawks
The beautiful thing about this offense is that it’s predictable and consistent. Russell Wilson will beat you through the air or on the ground, and his ability to run at the right time means he’ll get you a ton of points that other QB’s won’t. Marshawn Lynch is a workhorse unlike any in the league. He’ll touch the ball with greater consistency and efficiency than anyone else. The homeruns aren’t always there, but 4-5YPC and double digit touchdowns make him my #1 back. Doug Baldwin has proven to be a solid #1 for a team that doesn’t throw it that much, his value will reflect that. Beyond him, Jimmy Graham should give Wilson a redzone threat, but no one else is more than a flier. Worth Drafting: This team features three top 5 position options. Russell Wilson ran for 850 yards last year… he’s in my top 3 for QBs. Marshawn Lynch may not have as many 30+ point weeks as a Le’Veon Bell, but his unparralleled consistency (12 weeks above RB average) make him my #1, and Jimmy Graham will likely be the #1 option inside the 20 plus just a tick behind Baldwin elsewhere. Draft all three confidently. Doug Baldwin is a safe WR if he’s available after the top options are off the board.
5. Dallas Cowboys
My value of the Dallas Cowboys is contingent on the offensive line. Darren McFadden’s ability hasn’t been his big question, it’s been his health. If he can stay on the field he’ll benifit greatly from the O-Line that helped DeMarco Murray lead the league in rushing last year. Dez Bryant and Tony Romo have a special connection, allowing both to creep towards the top 5 in their catagories. Cole Beasley should be a good value pick in PPR leagues, and Jason Witten is ageless and productive. Worth Drafting: At their relative ADP’s I’d say nearly all of the offensive weapons are worth a look. Bryant, Romo and McFadden all three will be drafted in the first 4 or 5 rounds. Witten, Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley all have a good chance to produce weekly for this team as well.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers
Who knew Le’Veon Bell would bounce back from a tough rookie year to lead the league in fantasy scoring? We knew he’d be good, but it gave the offense the freedom to throw different looks at the defense. They were rewarded with a career year by Roethlisburger and the emergency of Antonio Brown as a top WR office. Marcus Wheaton will put up solid WR fantasy stats as well, and Heath Miller, although no longer Elite, still has some gas in the tank. Worth Drafting: Ben Roethlisberger may not finish with the totals he had last year, but he’s a good bet to finish at or near a top 5 QB. Le’Veon Bell is going to miss a few games to start the year, but it’s clear he’s the focal point of that offense and he’s young enough to eat up 300+ touches and is a beast in PPR. Antonio Brown is the Marshawn Lynch of the receiving game. Quietly posting 300 or so points in PPR leagues and nearly 15-20 points every week. Bell and Brown are likely first or 2nd round picks. Don’t sleep on Miller either as there is really only 5 or 6 elite TE’s on the board, and after you’re looking at either consistency (miller) or home run weeks.
3. Denver Broncos
This wouldn’t change if Peyton Manning was 50 years old, and that’s because they finally found their RB to compliment their lethal passing game. Peyton is a general, and will use his elite weapons liberaly, and will make mediocre talents look even better. Julius Thomas is gone but anyone that can run routes will look solid in this offense. CJ Anderson as a 3 down back compliments Manning in ways Montee Ball never could, averaging 180+ points in PPR formats over the final 7 weeks (on par with Le’Veon Bell). Worth Drafting: Manning may be falling behind his contemporaries a bit but should still finish in the top 5. Demaryius Thomas looks to be a top 2 WR with Emmanuel Sanders not far behind. CJ Anderson is a bit of an unknown quantity but even if he’s only a quarter of the back he was over the last 7 weeks, he’ll be a top 10 back. Not sure about Virgil Green, but I think we said the same thing about Julius Thomas a few years ago, and Manning turned him into a top option.
2. Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Eddie Lacy… do I need to say more? A high powered offense with consistency and familiarity unlike any squad in the league, they could break records if the schedule shakes out for them. They play through the air, and on the ground, but they give everyone their due which is rare for a team with as many options. Worth Drafting: Aaron Rodgers may have been supplanted by Andrew Luck, but he hasn’t fallen far. All four of the players above will be gone in the first 3 or so rounds, which is scary for opposing defenses. Andrew Quarless is the other player to target, but they’ve never been a heavy TE use team.
1. Indianapolis Colts
AFC Championship withstanding, this is the most outstanding offense in football. A team that is often in shootouts, Indy has a quarterback to compete with them all. Adding Andre Johnson, Frank Gore, and Phillip Dorsett through the draft makes this offense even better than last year. Luck could (and I’d argue should) crest 5k yards and 50 TD’s, contributing to TY Hilton’s continued emergence as a 2nd round WR. Frank Gore has proven he can play forever, and in this Indy offense should contribute on the ground and in the air, and Andre Johnson may have lost a step but as a route runner, the dangerously accurate Luck should have no problem finding him in the soft spots of the defense. Worth Drafting: Andrew Luck will finish the year as the highest scoring player in football, draft him in the first round if you want him, he’s that good. TY Hilton and Andre Johnson should both have 70-80 Receptions with 1100 plus yards, although I expect Johnson to be the bigger red zone threat and higher ADP. Frank Gore may not be a top 5 or even top 10 RB, but expect some huge weeks from the old dog as he will be highighted in the passing game. Even Dwayne Allen, for all his deficiencies, should finish inside the top 10 of the TE ranks.
If you have a problem with any of these rankings, I say good, because debating and conversation is the best way to explain why we feel the way we feel. Tell me where I’m wrong, and who is your Fantasy Elite?
As a veteran Fantasy enthusiasts, I’ve seen several anti-RB draft stratagies sprout and die with a wimper. This years “zeroRB” philosaphy takes the cake in lack of common sense. If your arguement is that running back is a shallow and unpredictable position, that should only strengthen your resolve to grab a RB early and often.
Lets compare ADP data from 2014 for the top 5 picks at QB, RB, and TE.
- Peyton Manning
- Aaron Rodgers
- Drew Brees
- Matthew Stafford
- Andrew Luck
- Calvin Johnson
- Demaryius Thomas
- Dez Bryant
- AJ Green
- Julio Jones
- LeSean McCoy
- Adrian Peterson
- Jamaal Charles
- Eddie Lacy
- Montee Ball
- Marshawn Lynch*
I included Marshawn Lynch because most people were aware of Adrian Peterson’s legal woes and we can’t infer from the single game played his return value.
Examining the statistics:
Of the top 5 QB’s drafted, 4 of them finished in the top 5 at the seasons end. On the surface this seems like a predictable position, but looking at the consistency of Drew Brees and Peyton Manning show that down the stretch neither lived up to the billing. Tony Romo, Tom Brady, Ryan Tannehill, Eli Manning and Matt Ryan and Russell Wilson outperformed all 5 of the names above in playoff weeks.
Of the top 5 WR’s drafted, 2 of the 5 finished at in the top 5 of their position. If you’re playing in a PPR league, the middle of the pack begins to compress and you’re looking at 25 WR’s that all finished around 200 points total. Antonio Brown, Jordy Nelson, and Emmanuel Sanders, the other names in the top 5 could all have been had in the 3nd round. A larger number of the top 20 WR’s were late round or undrafted players, showing that the flux is greatest here.
Of the top 5 RB’s not named Adrian Peterson drafted, 3 finished in the RB top 5 (Marshawn Lynch, Matt Forte, and Eddy Lacy). Beyond DeMarco Murray and Arian Foster, there was difficulty predicting the RB’s 10-20.
Now if you’re argument is that the inconsistency for RB’s like Montee ball and Gio Bernard are your reasons for going with a zero RB stratagy, more power to you. This just means your RB’s come the 4th or 5th round end up looking like CJ Spiller and Ben Tate. I’d argue I’d rather have an underwhelming 9th over all pick in Arian Foster paired with a Julio Jones or Randall Cobb than Dez Bryant and Ben Tate or Bishop Sankey circa 2014