Draft season is upon us and at Fake Teams we have no shortage of fantasy football coverage. We are committed to providing you the very best rankings, previews and in season advice on the inter webs. That being said, here is my first look at 2014 fantasy football. If you haven't checked out our expert rankings yet click here or here to start. We've also got division by division previews, positional rankings and tons of great analysis right here.
Before I unveil my first take on 2014 let me set some of the ground rules. There are a lot of different ways to draft. Most analysis I read tells you to load up on RBs early due to position scarcity. With so many teams going to the running back by committee (RBBC) approach, if you can find an RB that will touch the ball 300+ times he should perform just based on sheer opportunity. I have drafted that way in previous years and all things being equal I will look to draft that way this year as well. BUT - that is ALL THINGS BEING EQUAL. The NFL has become a pass first league. Rules to protect QBs and WRs have evolved over the past few years such that being locked into a draft strategy by position is a sure fire disaster. I am approaching my drafts this year as BEST PLAYER AVAILABLE. All things being equal between an RB and a WR I will choose the RB. I will also go for RB depth late but more often than not I will employ the best player available approach.
The exception to BEST PLAYER AVAILABLE is the QB position. I find it hard to believe that in a 4 point TD pass, 1 QB league I will draft a QB earlier than the middle of the draft. The QB position is very deep. Once the top 3 are off the board, the next tier is marginally risky and the third tier is basically interchangeable. Now some of you struck lightning in a bottle with the Denver Broncos QB last year but I don't expect that to happen again. I posted why in this column but in short - reversion to the mean, a more difficult schedule and another year older give me pause on spending a high draft pick on him or ANY QB in a fantasy league.
I based my picks on a 1 point PPR league, where QB TDs are worth 4 points because that is the scoring in my traditional "league of record" and my most favorite league I play in. I also posted the ESPN PPR rankings next to my own for comparison to some of the other experts in the field. I was surprised how different some of the player rankings were but - they write for ESPN so who am I to quibble!
Lastly, this is how I would draft. There are safer methods. I want to hit home runs. I draft to win. My draft theory, which I wrote about here, is to fill my rotation and then take shots later in drafts with big play potential guys. So you won't see Ray Rice down below. You won't see Knowshon. You won't see Anquan and you won't see Vernon. What you will get is the 100 players that I believe will help you win your fantasy leagues in 2014.
There are notes on the rankings on the bottom of the page.
|Position Rank||Overall Rank||Player||Team||Bye||vs. ESPN Top PPR|
|QB12||85||Robert Griffin III||WAS||10||47|
The first three RBs are pretty much interchangeable. I like Shady the best because I like the offense. Some sites have Forte in this top tier and I would be hard pressed to disagree. This could be the year Forte makes the leap. As far as Eddie Lacy goes, he carried the Packers during Rodgers absence last year and I think he becomes a bigger part of the passing game. He's going to get the rock a ton and get it a ton at the goal line as well. If you are fortunate enough to get these guys make sure to get their handcuff in the late rounds as well. They are not only great players but they are in productive opportunities.
The next four WRs are also interchangeable. I LOVE the Dallas offense this year so I give Dez the edge over the others. You are not going to go wrong drafting Calvin, Demaryius or Julio here either.
Jimmy Graham is the one guy who scares the heck out of me every time I face him in a head to head matchup. If I can't get him - and I probably won't because I am not willing to draft him ahead of those previously mentioned - I am glad I only have to face him twice per season.
I am higher on Randall Cobb than most. I always have had an affinity for him. Before he got hurt last year the Packers were talking about getting him the ball all over the field. He is going to have a huge PPR year.
I feel good about Keenan Allen in this spot as well. He tore up defenses last year as a rookie so I only think he improves.
Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning - I won't get any of these QBs in the early 3rd round but if they fell there I would be compelled to take them. I am fine with Tony Romo in the 8th or 9th round. More than fine.
I feel like I want to rank Andre Johnson higher and I probably should. I don't believe he plays for the Texans this year. If I had to guess, he ends up on the Patriots. Perfect fit. If he ends up there, gobble him up quickly and give a rankings boost to DeAndre Hopkins as well.
Reggie Bush and Joique Bell are an enigma to me. I think they both will be productive. New Lions OC Joe Lombardi worked with Bush in New Orleans and knows how to use him productively. My problem is that he had some problems with ball security last year. Joique proved he could carry the load either rushing or catching balls out of the backfield. I have to rank them together because the two of them will make one really good RB1. Look at the New Orleans RBs the last three years: Darren Sproles - 71/604/2, 75/667/7, 86/710/7 and Pierre Thomas - 77/513/3, 39/354/1, 50/425/1. Add in the rushing numbers and you could make a compelling case for both of them.
Cam Newton is the one QB who scares me more than any other in the league. It is risky but he is really going to have to carry the load in Carolina this year. That could be great for Cam owners... or it could be disastrous for Cam owners.
Rob Gronkowski is the other match up that terrifies me more than any other. He is a beast when healthy. I cringe at the thought of playing against him but I have to ask myself "at what price" am I willing to draft a player that consistently falls apart on and off the field. Not sure I am willing to spend more than a mid to late 3rd on him with so many TE sleepers this year but if he falls there he is awfully hard to pass up. Mid to late TEs I like include, Jordan Cameron, Dennis Pitta, Kyle Rudolph and Jason Witten.
Jordan Reed is another TE I really like but after reading about his concussion history it gives me pause. If I am drafting Reed, I am making sure I have a TE2 to back him up late like Ladarius Green.
Players I think are going to have big comeback years not mentioned include: Marques Colston, Mike Wallace, Stevan Ridley (oh goodness there is that name again - Stevan Ridley) and Jonathan Stewart.
Players I think continue to drop include: Ray Rice, Steven Jackson and Dwayne Bowe.
Players I am not willing to spend a high price on that others are: Andre Ellington, Doug Martin and Ben Tate
Players I don't understand why they aren't being drafted or ranked higher: Toby Gerhart and Bishop Sankey. They should be drafted based on their volume let alone their talent. They are in situations where they should see the ball a ton.
Player I have the BIGGEST question mark on: Rueben Randle. Randle has a world of talent. He exhibited some enormous performances in his short career but the fact still lies that almost half of Eli Manning's interceptions were targeted at Randle. Giant GM Jerry Reese said that the "jury is still out" on Rueben. Even Victor Cruz suggested before the draft that the Giants should draft a WR - and they did with Odell Beckham, Jr. Reports out of training camp though are that Randle is focused and picking up the simpler offense from new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo. If Randle can keep his head and the Giants offense comes back the way I believe it will he can be a great fantasy asset.
Another questions mark is Golden Tate. I had a Twitter conversation going the other day on Tate and wondered if the lack of production in Detroit from the WR2 was system driven or talent driven? WR2s in Detroit the last five years: 39/461/1, 33/383/4, 73/757/3, 55/625/6, 35/357/1 - hardly awe inspiring. Now with Joe Lombardi in from New Orleans as offensive coordinator will Stafford spread the ball around or continue to force feed Calvin and his RBs? Here are the WR2 stats from New Orleans the last five years: 37/457/2, 65/1041/6, 52/627/8, 66/763/8, 51/804/2 (Robert Meachem also had a 45/722/9 line in 2009) Look at the TDs alone. I think Tate has the chance to be Calvin Johnson's Lance Moore if that makes any sense. I just don't trust it yet.
The flip side on that data is Terrance Williams. I have not ranked Williams because I believe the Dallas offense will mimic Detroit's offense under Scott Linehan over the last five years and feed Dez, the RBs and the TE at the expense of the WR2. I prefer to let someone else draft him.
So there is my first pass at 2014 ranks. These are sure to change as we get through training camp and preseason but we've only got eight more Sundays until we play the games for real...or for fantasy. Time to get started.
As always...please leave a comment below in the comment section. I will answer them personally. Also hit me up on Twitter (@bradcoustan) or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am putting together my first mailbag column of the year as well so looking to tackle all of your fantasy football related questions.