In Draft Prep 101 I explained to you the importance of determining your ranking system of each player down to the ones who won’t get drafted usually until the 12th round or later. Each player has value, from Jamaal Charles on down to Rob Bironas, but who has the most value, and which players should you target?
The key is finding players to target below their average draft position, which is truly getting more value for less. Many fantasy owners target key players and only those players, but there are many players who are similar across tiers. What makes one more desirable than another? Sometimes it’s easier to answer that question than others. What I can tell you is that Knowshon Moreno will surprise everyone this year (just like last year), and that Nick Foles will cement himself as one of the top quarterbacks as well.
So, I’ve devised a list to help you with your own rankings. If you’re a first-timer or just someone who hasn’t had any previous success in fantasy, this will be a handy resource. These are my top 10 rankings at each position for 2014:
1. Peyton Manning (DEN) – Statistically this won’t be exactly like last year, but it won’t matter.
2. Aaron Rodgers (GB) – If he doesn’t get hurt things should be fine. A career year for him.
3. Drew Brees (NO) – It doesn’t matter who he’s throwing to, the man will get it done.
Statistically these three have been a step above the rest for the past two seasons, but I think this year we will see a few other quarterbacks approach their status, if not surpass at least one of them. We are in a passing league, and more than ever before we have strong quarterbacks who can get the ball to their running backs out in space and let them do the bulk of the work.
4. Nick Foles (PHI) – He showed just a glimpse last year of how special he could be.
5. Tony Romo (DAL) – The defense hasn’t improved, so you do the math.
6. Matthew Stafford (DET) – He has Calvin Johnson.
7. Colin Kaepernick (SF) – Kaep was kept in the pocket too much last season. He has to improve on his showings against Seattle, but he’s older and wiser now.
8. Andy Dalton (CIN) – Dalton was a top 5 quarterback last season, and expect him to keep it coming.
9. Tom Brady (NE) – Statistically he wasn’t at his best last season, but he’s Tom Brady, and having Gronk back will benefit everyone.
10. Robert Griffin III (WAS) – I’ll go out on a limb with this one. RGIII has a huge bounce back campaign.
1. Jamaal Charles (KC) – The passing game in KC will never be dynamic, but Charles makes it all work. He is the team.
2. LeSean McCoy (PHI) – He works well in that offense, and Sproles will have minimal impact.
3. Matt Forte (CHI) – Last year was feast or famine with Forte, but second year in that Trestman offense will do wonders for him.
4. Adrian Peterson (MIN) – Well, he is still Adrian Peterson, but he has become injury prone.
5. Eddie Lacy (GB) – That offense is no longer one-dimensional, and it’s because of Lacy. He will be a fantasy mainstay.
6. Doug Martin (TB) – I’m all in on Martin this year. The injury setback makes him more intense, and he takes on the full workload in Tampa Bay.
7. DeMarco Murray (DAL) – Romo will learn to throw it to his running backs more, and Murray has been spectacular when he’s been on the field.
8. Montee Ball (DEN) – He’s no Knowshon Moreno but he’s still playing with Peyton Manning, and Manning makes his running backs look good.
9. Marshawn Lynch (SEA) – That offense is still not a juggernaut through the air, so Lynch will be doing his pounding as usual on the ground.
10. Giovani Bernard (CIN) – Probably one of the most dynamic playmakers in the league last year, even on limited touches. With more touches this year the sky’s the limit.
1. Calvin Johnson (DET) – Well, he is Calvin Johnson, after all. Barring injury he will still be #1.
2. Damaryius Thomas (DEN) – Without Eric Decker, Thomas will still carry his share of the load this season. Look for a career year from the big man catching passes from a legend.
3. Brandon Marshall (CHI) – Jeffery coming of age is a plus for Marshall as he will get less double coverages this season. Watch out.
4. A.J. Green (CIN) – He is still the primary target in that offense, and he will get his grabs.
5. Dez Bryant (DAL) – Anticipate Dallas being behind a lot, and Bryant catches more passes than anyone else when trailing.
6. Alshon Jeffery (CHI) – Jeffery coming of age benefits everyone, including Jeffery. He will be in beast mode this season.
7. Jordy Nelson (GB) – I’m not as high on Nelson as a lot of other fantasy writers. I see Rodgers spreading the wealth around a lot and I don’t think that bodes well for Nelson’s top 5 fantasy value.
8. Julio Jones (ATL) – If he’s healthy all year he could well be top 3, but I’m concerned about his injury history.
9. Antonio Brown (PIT) – I’m not sold on Roethlisberger having a great year, but who else does he have to throw it to, and Brown has sure hands.
10. Pierre Garcon (WAS) – I believe in RGIII this year, and Garcon is still his main weapon.
1. Rob Gronkowski (NE) – I’m betting on Gronk staying healthy this season, if for no other reason than it makes your fourth round pickup of him look phenomenal in fantasy. He remains the best wide receiver in football when healthy.
2. Jimmy Graham (NO) – His petulant attitude won’t fly with defenses, and Seattle’s made him look like a poor imitation of himself. Other teams will catch on. He isn’t a first-rounder.
3. Julius Thomas (DEN) – Losing Decker will help the big man get more passes thrown his way, and he had a plethora of them anyway even with Decker around last season. Look for him to have another great year.
4. Vernon Davis (SF) – Kaepernick will blossom this year, and so will Davis, with a full receiving complement that will take the defensive pressure off of the tight end.
5. Greg Olsen (CAR) – Who else does Cam Newton have to throw the ball to in that offense?
6. Jason Witten (DAL) – He’s always been Romo’s security blanket, and that won’t stop this season.
7. Kyle Rudolph (MIN) – Cassel has proven reliant on Rudolph, and he will pick up some of the slack from the rest of the passing game, which won’t be great.
8. Jordan Cameron (CLE) – Hoyer likes Cameron, but with Gordon out for who knows how long, Cameron will have to face some double teams that will hurt his fantasy value.
9. Dennis Pitta (BAL) – Pitta will be a pleasant surprise this season. If you can get him in the 7th round I would pull the trigger. Has the potential to be top 5 if given the chance in that Ravens offense.
10. Zach Ertz (PHI) – Tough choice between him and Reed (WAS), but Ertz wins out because of the health factor (Reed’s issues coming back from concussion last season) and because of the dynamic offense in Philadelphia.
*Note about kickers. I’ve said it before, and I’ll probably say it until the end of the world. In the end, kickers are not all that different. If you get one of the top 10 you might have a statistical advantage on paper, but kickers don’t exist on just paper.
1. Stephen Gostkowski (NE) – That offense isn’t built to put up a ton of points each week, but they can move the ball between the 20s. This benefits Gostkowski.
2. Matt Prater (DEN) – Putting up so many points helps Prater get field goal chances and extra points.
3. Mason Crosby (GB)
4. Dan Bailey (DAL)
5. Justin Tucker (BAL)
6. Steven Hauschka (SEA)
7. Robbie Gould (CHI)
8. Nick Folk (NYJ)
9. Phil Dawson (SF)
10. Nick Novak (SD)
*Remember: defenses can be hit-or-miss. Even the best defenses don’t always get the best matchups, and even the worst defenses can have a good game. Keep that in mind when picking your defense, not just the rankings. I always suggest picking your defense second to last in the draft for just this reason. Once you get past the top three, anyway.
1. Seattle Seahawks
2. San Francisco 49ers
3. Carolina Panthers
4. Denver Broncos
5. Cincinnati Bengals
6. Kansas City Chiefs
7. Arizona Cardinals
8. St. Louis Rams
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
10. New England Patriots
The Fantasy Ace