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).
While the season still sits firmly on the horizon, fantasy nerds like myself help prop up the early season ADP data by grinding mock drafts despite having very little information to work with. While I’ll still examine each position with the “hidden gem” feature articles later in the summer, we’re going to provide sleeper updates on a monthly basis until the season begins.
Ryan Tannehill, MIA: Don’t confuse his inclusion on this list as a suggestion that the Dolphins are a team on the rise; because they’re not. What he is, though, is a potential top 15 fantasy quarterback available in the last few rounds of your draft. Ignoring last season, Tannehill has finished 13th (2013), 7th (2014), and 15th (2015), and turned in a dud in 2016 as the QB25 (he did miss 3 games). Those aren’t world beater numbers, but considering the relatively easy schedule he’ll face, and his ability to generate surprising yards on the ground (he averages around 200 yards per season) his floor is well above what we may expect from a player being drafted currently in the 21st round of deep drafts. As a bench player, he costs very little draft capital, but provides more upside than the other QB’s being drafted in a similar spot.
Matt Ryan, ATL: A massive drop off from his QB2 finish in 2016, Ryan’s 2017 has scared off potential suitors and saw him drop to the QB16 spot per current consensus ADP data. No longer playing with the pressures of the QB who blew the biggest super bowl lead, Ryan is poised to bounce back. Atlanta returns it’s superstar backfield, still has Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu, and added Calvin Ridley at the draft, marking a very clear focus on surrounding Matty Ice with weapons. A return to the high flying offensive numbers of 2016 may be a stretch, but I’d find it hard to believe if Ryan turns in another dud this year. I fully expect a top 10 QB finish, and one that can be added in the 11th round of your draft.
Ty Montgomery, GB: I know I was derisive of Montgomery last year, but in spite of that, his current ranking (RB59, ADP – 100) is criminally low for a back that many viewed as a top 20 back last year before injuries derailed his season. While he remains an injury risk, a health Montgomery should resume his lead back role in 2018, especially in the passing game. It doesn’t hurt that he’ll be catching passes from the best QB in the game right now. If you need to add depth at the RB position, or punted on early round backs, Montgomery may help bail out a roster.
Marlon Mack, IND: While Mack was a trendy sleeper pick last year behind the aging Frank Gore, his performance over the season left a lot to be desired. In 16 games Mack garnered double digit touches only twice (in week 1 and week 8) otherwise he was an after thought in a terrible Colts offense. Now, he’s in line to be the lead back with Gore leaving for Miami, and the news that he’s fully recovered from surgery to repair a torn labrum he played the season with further cements his “sleeper” status in my mind. Even if Andrew Luck remains on the shelf, in the 8th round of drafts (ADP of 77th overall), Mack provides a solid floor while presenting plenty of upside.
Devante Parker, MIA: Last year, Parker was drafted with the expectation that he’d take a leap into the positions top 20; instead he was saddled with horrendous quarterback play and inconsistent targets following the season ending ACL injury suffered by Ryan Tannehill. While Tannehill doesn’t present much of an upgrade over Jay Cutler and co in terms of real football, he does have a great rapport with Parker. Coupled with a relatively easy schedule, an Parker is a steal at 104 overall.
Cole Beasley, DAL: Another tumultuous offseason for the Cowboys saw franchise corner stone Dez Bryant leave via free agency and Jason Witten retired. Despite the addition of Allen Hurns, the player who stands to gain the most from the absence should be Cole Beasley. After leading the team in targets in 2016, Beasley felt the effects of the Elliott suspension hard as the season saw him finish with only 36 catches on 63 targets. Let’s not forget, though, that the diminutive slot man led the team in targets in 2016 and saw a healthy 75 targets the year before. Expecting 80+ targets shouldn’t be too difficult a prediction considering that Dak Prescott has to throw to somebody and Beasely represents the best option for slot work on a run first team. Basically an afterthought in drafts so far, Beasley can be had for the low low price of nothing.
David Njoku, Cle: Coming out of college Njoku seemed like a lock to contribute right out of the gates, but as we so often find out, rookies are a crap shoot in fantasy. Now, the word is that targets are going to be scarce for the talented tight end, thanks to three very good receivers and two capable pass catching backs on the roster. I’d argue that with Tyrod Taylor’s propensity to scramble with the football, Njoku could be a nice target for owners looking to add TE depth late in drafts. While he likely won’t finish in the top 15 at the position, he’ll probably see a healthy number of targets in the red zone, giving him value regardless.
Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, Jac: One of these days my Sefarian-Jenkins take is going to pay off in spades, and this year looks like it’s the year. Uber talented, Sefarian-Jenkins toiled away on a Jets team that couldn’t get consistency on offense no matter how hard it tried. It was recently revealed that ASJ suffered from substance abuse issues that he’s since sought help for and claims that he’s sober and focused on football for the first time as a pro. Color me intrigued as an involved Sefarian-Jenkins could be a monster in fantasy, especially given the lack of top tier weapons in Jacksonville following Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns departures. A late round target, he’ll cost you next to nothing to acquire but could be a massive piece of a championship run.
Eli Manning, QB – NYG: Currently ranked 186th by Fantasy Pro’s consensus rankings, Eli Manning appears to be little more than an afterthought going into his 14th professional season. Part of the problem for fantasy owners is that, at 37, his performance last year is as easily attributed to his age, as it is to the circumstances surrounding the Giants roster upheaval. I’d say they’re wrong.
This offseason, the Giants have tried adding help to both the backfield and the offensive line, two maligned personnel groups that managed to cost Manning valuable time in the pocket. With a stronger run game, a healthy wide receiver corps, and a cleaner jersey thanks to a capable left tackle, Manning should have a much more favorable fantasy season. Do I expect him to finish in the top 5? Hell no, he is 37 after all, but 4,000 yards and 28 TD’s is a reasonable expectation, and one that will give you excellent value in the 19th round of your draft.
Derek Carr, QB – OAK: With all of the noise surrounding the Oakland Raiders and it’s young stud quarterback going into last season, it’s no surprise that the team seemed to shrink from the pressure. Carr turned in some duds early on and suffered a broken vertibrae midway through the season, Amari Cooper showed up for a handful of games at best, and the run game was a mess when Marshawn Lynch got dinged up. This year, expectations should be more in line with what this team is capable of; a wildcard playoff run and maybe a round or two in the playoffs.
With a shiny new weapon in Jordy Nelson, and a likely bounce back candidate himself in Amari Cooper, Carr should turn in a season much closer to what we saw from him in 2016. If he competes hard and reaches his ceiling, he’s a top 10 fantasy QB without a doubt.
Matt Ryan, QB – ATL: The Super Bowl hangover strikes again, as 2016’s break out star and MVP Matt Ryan turned in a stinker after being drafted far earlier than necessary in drafts last year. Ryan finished 15th amongst quarterbacks last year, which was shockingly worse than Blake Bortles, Jared Goff, and Case Keenum.
Still, the Atlanta offense remains one of the most high powered in the league, and Ryan still owns the keys to the car. With Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu being one of the rangier WR duo’s in the league, and two pass catching backs in Coleman and Freeman still on the roster, it’d be a surprise to me if he didn’t bounce back in a big way. His floor is around the QB12 mark, but with his ranking sitting around the 12th round, I’m all in on Matty Ice.
Honorable Mentions: A revamped offense in Cleveland means Tyrod Taylor has the best receiver corps he’s ever had the privilage of throwing to. In the 18th round (ranked 175) he’s a steal. Likewise, Jameis Winston managed to play himself out of the position’s top 10 rankings thanks to a down year. Expect the Winston to Evans magic to resume early as he finishes in the top 10 again.
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)
The NFC South has produced two Superbowl teams in the last two years, and looks to be a competative division again with four strong football teams. As usual, the South should be strong in the fantasy representation as well, with high flying offenses and high ranking individuals.
Notable Fantasy Stars: Julio Jones (WR2), Matt Ryan (QB4), Devonta Freeman (RB5), Austin Hooper (TE20), Tevin Coleman (RB22), Taylor Gabriel (WR64), Mohamed Sanu (WR75)
Synopsis – Some may be concerned with where this team is mentally after blowing a monster lead in the Superbowl, but I’d argue that the talent trumps any kind of hangover. The offense is led by the triumverate of elite players in Julio Jones, Matt Ryan, and Devonta Freeman, and they all look to offer early round values. Coleman and Sanu are likely to carve out minor fantasy roles with Austin Hooper being the likely breakout candidate following Jacob Tamme’s departure. Expect fireworks in Atlanta again this year.
Notable Fantasy Stars: Greg Olsen (TE3), Cam Newton (QB10), Christian McCaffrey (RB16), Kevlin Benjamin (WR31), Jonathan Stewart (RB34), Devin Funchess (WR72)
Synopsis – Cam Newton suffered a litany of minor injuries and his stats suffered as a result. His expectations have been adjusted but with the addition of Christian McCaffrey, fans are hopeful we’ll see more plays from the pocket and less vicious hits at the end of short runs. A healthy Kelvin Benjamin looks to rebound, and Jonathan Stewart returns to his role as underdog, and figures to excel despite the precipitous drop in the rankings. Ole reliable Greg Olsen returns as my TE3, and could quietly finish as the top TE considering his role in this offense.
New Orleans Saints
Notable Fantasy Stars: Drew Brees (QB3), Michael Thomas (WR8), Mark Ingram (RB18), Willie Snead (WR36), Adrian Peterson (RB40), Ted Ginn (WR56), Coby Fleener (TE14)
Synopsis – It was an interesting offseason by the Saints as they traded former first round WR Brandin Cooks to the Patriots, and signed 32 year old Adrian Peterson to fill out what they hope to be a more balanced offensive attack. Mark Ingram may suffer slightly if AP is more than advertised, but considering the lower number of touches last year, one can expect a RB2 finish regardless. Michael Thomas slides into the WR1 spot but Willie Sneed and Coby Fleener should be the big winner as their targets should rise significantly as Brees is still likely to throw the ball 600 times.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Notable Fantasy Stars: Mike Evans (WR3), Jameis Winston (QB6) ,O.J. Howard (TE17), Cameron Brate (TE22), Doug Martin (RB33), Charles Sims (RB57), DeSean Jackson (WR30)
Synopsis – The Bucs are a tough team to get a handle on, but Mike Evans and Jameis Winston no longer qualify as both guys should finish in the top ten at their positions. Doug Martin and Charles Sims should split time (again) with the Muscle Hamster tackling the early downs and Sims cleaning up the passing situations. Beyond Evans, the Bucs have two young TE’s (OJ Howard is likely the most valuable in a fantasy sense) that should be heavy in the passing game, and DeSean Jackson seems to find his way onto the fantasy radar despite his WR3 ranking.
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).
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?
Would you rather is a weekly Fantasy Football article that will run up until Week 1 of the 2015 NFL Regular Season where we look at Pro’s and Con’s involved with Draft Day decisions.
The scenario is as follows. You play in a standard ESPN league, and Rodgers, Luck, and Wilson (all 300 point QBs) are gone. You don’t trust the old guys in Manning, Brees, or Brady, so you patiently wait and stock up on skill position players. The time comes for you to decided and you’re faced with a decision… who would you rather?
Player A statline from 2014: 4964 Yards / 28 TD / 66% Comp / 266 Total Fantasy Points
Player B statline from 2014: 4045 Yards / 27 TD / 66% Comp / 262 Total Fantasy Points
Player A is a 29 year old vet whose ADP last year was 63, B is a 26 year old up and comer who was drafted 173. It’s reasonable to expect these players to be drafted this year very close to each other but who do you grab. We can infer from the numbers that player B runs the ball more than Player A as is evidenced by a less productive game through the air but similar total points. Player B is near the top of the league in yards but not quite “Elite” in a scoring sense. Who do you bet on keeping up appearances in 2015?
The Big Reveal
Player A is none other than Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan. His elite stable of WR’s were far from healthy last year but he still managed a top 10 QB finish.
Player B is Miami Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill who’s passing numbers don’t jump off he page but his 311 rushing yards were good for 5th among QB’s and 61st in the league overall.
Now, you may be wondering if you can rely on a QB’s running numbers to elevate his overall fantasy game. I say, in the case of a Cam Newton or Colin Kaepernick, you’re hoping the weeks they scamper for 150 and 2 TD’s come at the right time. For a player like Tannehill, his ability to grab 20 – 30 yards here and there give him the ability to make a decent week a little better.
I think a more relevant way to look at both players is their consistency. Both players finished well above average in terms of Fantasy Points per week. Among starters who played in half of their teams games, the average points per week come in at 14.5. Matt Ryan had 9 total weeks above 14, Tannehill had 7. The flip side is that Ryan had two weeks of 10 points or less, and in a 13 game regular season that could be the difference in making the playoffs or watching from the outside in. Tannehill had zero, less than Fantasy point leader Andrew Luck!
Does any of this sway one to draft the largely unproven Ryan Tannehill over Matt Ryan? For me, the question remains what weapons does Miami have? A lot of young, big risk big reward type skill players. Atlanta has two studs who if healthy form one of the most potent duo’s in the league. If (and it’s a big if) both players go in the same round, I’d take Matt Ryan for his consistency over Tannehill and his percieved upside.
What do you think?