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Fantasy Football Rankings Reaction: ESPN

Jamaal Charles tore his ACL in Week 2 last season, but that shouldn't dissuade you from drafting him too much.
Jamaal Charles tore his ACL in Week 2 last season, but that shouldn't dissuade you from drafting him too much.

Everyone researches for his/her fantasy draft a different way. One thing that should always impact your draft strategy is how the platform rankings --ESPN, CBS, Yahoo!, etc-- have their players. Most owners in your league will use these rankings as a barometer for player values and could help determine where a player goes in your draft. What's more, if your league isn't overly competitive, some owners might just use those rankings as their only measuring stick. While this isn't that important for the second half of your draft, it can really help on whether or not you should wait on a player in the first half.

There are a lot of other details as to why this is important, but chances are that if you're actually reading about fantasy football in May, then you take it pretty seriously and I don't need to tell you things you already know.

I did a a few mock drafts and I was almost shocked to see where some of the players were on ESPN's board. Today we're going to show which players seem too low on their board as well as the guys that are too high. I do an unhealthy amount of mock drafts, so you can be sure we'll be addressing a litany of things I learned. I'd suggest ESPN's mock draft rooms because they're the fastest, but we'll address CBS and Yahoo! in due time.

I arranged this list based on how far off I think the rankings are. The guys at the top of the list I wholeheartedly disagree with and the ones at the bottom aren't exactly egregious. I also set the cut off at pick 120 (end of the 10th round in a 12-team league). The sleepers will be another column for another day.

Players that were too low

Adrian Peterson (58)- There is absolutely no way that All Day will go later than the fourth round in any draft. Many owners will be willing to spend a second-round pick. ESPN fell asleep on this one and there's no reason to really elaborate.

Hakeem Nicks (29)- Nicks made it clear in the postseason that he's an elite talent in one of the most potent offenses in the league. The UNC stud averaged seven catches for 111 yards and a TD per game in his four playoff games. During the regular season, Nicks had a "down" year, but he was still able to amount the 12th-most fantasy points in standard leagues. He's a second-round pick to me.

Jamaal Charles (23)- Last year there was a buzz about taking Jamaal Charles at first overall by a few other fantasy folks. As fate would have it, he tore his ACL as he stepped out of bounds at Ford Field during Week 2's contest. Charles will have almost 11 months to get ready, and at 25, owners shouldn't be overly concerned. He vowed to be "the same player he was before the knee injury" and looks to be ready for training camp. He's a guy I'd love to draft in the early-middle part of the second round and it feels like his stock will skyrocket when he takes the field against the Cardinals on August 10th.

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Ryan Mathews (13)- I really, really like Ryan Mathews this year. V-Jax is gone and Mike Tolbert isn't around to vulture the eight TDs he had now that he's in Carolina. San Diego's O is going to use him heavily and the Chargers should be able to put up points this year. Surprisingly, the Chargers have yet to really replace Tolbert by only acquiring Le'Ron McClain and waiting until the seventh round to draft Michigan State back Edwin Baker. Mathews was sizzling from Week 12 to 15 before the Lions shut down the Chargers in Week 16 and he missed Week 17 due to a calf injury. I'm confident he'll be one of the best backs in the league. Some of you guys think I'm a bit crazy, but he's likely to be the fourth back on my board.

Matt Ryan (84)- Matty Ice was on a lot of championship teams with his fantasy playoff production (Week 14-16) of 306 passing yards and 2.7 TDs per game in that span. The Falcons don't figure to be the rushing force we've become accustom to with arguably the best 1-2 tandem at WR with Julio Jones and Roddy White. A full offseason with Julio should only help matters to get them on the same page. What's more, both of those fellows are great red-zone targets and Michael Turner hit the big 3-0 in February. Savvy fantasy owners took advantage of Matthew Stafford in the late-mid rounds and Ryan seems poised to have a similar result. He's one of the reasons why I don't mind waiting on a QB.

Reggie Wayne (115)- Garcon is gone, the Colts lost most of their other weapons as well, and they have the savior Andrew Luck at QB. Furthermore, the Colts D isn't going to stop anyone and it's not like their ground game is going to scare anyone. If one thing is clear, they're going to pass. Luck has a lot to learn, so it's fair to assume that the Colts will like him to stick to his first read on three-step drops and Wayne seems like the kind of player that will spend the extra time with the rookie to help him understand different coverages. Wayne has some serious upside and should easily rebound from being 29th in fantasy points for receivers. He's a WR2 at worst.

Cam Newton (22)- Chances are that I won't be drafting Cam Newton in any 12-team league. Quarterback is pretty deep and the big four of Cam, Brees, Brady and Rodgers will be off the board before 18 in most leagues. Although if I ranked just quarterbacks, Cam would be ranked third behind Rodgers and Brady.

Doug Martin (89)- LeGarrette Blount was ranked at 102 by ESPN, so they certainly feel that Martin is going to knockout the incumbent (that's payback for what Blount did to his Boise State teammate). I covered Martin quite a bit in my Round 1 Recap, so feel free to check that out here. If you're too lazy to click the link, basically Greg Schiano said he sees Martin as a three-down back and Blount got smoked down the stretch last year.

Robert Griffin III (99)- I took a few shots at RG3 in my last column about him, but I was a little surprised to see him at just 99. Even though everyone expected Shanahan to name Griffin as the starter, he did it a little sooner than most of us expected. It shows that he's going to do everything to set up the Heisman winner for success and this is going to be his offense. Griffin does lack weapons and isn't going to be the goal-line back like Cam was last year, so I wouldn't reach for him before 75 or anything.

Players that were too high

Matthew Stafford (12)- What a difference a year makes, right? Last year Stafford was ranked way too low based on how he couldn't stay healthy. He was able to stay healthy and now he's suddenly a first-round pick in 12-team leagues at a deep position? Not sure I get that one. The Lions tied for the 8th fewest rushing TDs and that number seems unsustainable for their powerhouse offense. For what it's worth, in one of my mocks Stafford slipped to 28 (and it was an auto pick).

DeMarco Murray (18)- The Cowboys were second-worst in the league with only five rushing touchdowns despite being 15th in scoring. Murray was all set to win the Waiver Wire Add of the Year Award (it's an actually award, right?), but his numbers took a tumble in his last three games by failing to score in any and averaging just 66 yards on the ground at just 3.4 YPC. Those averages don't include the game where he got hurt and it cost him to miss the rest of the season due to a fractured ankle. That injury isn't likely to linger, but it's not exactly a ringing endorsement to spend a second-round pick on him. I'll take Jamaal Charles, Peterson, or Richardson over him any day of the week.

Marshawn Lynch (15)- Beast Mode was quite a story last year. I can't tell you how many people were asking me on Twitter about cutting Mr. Skittles after his slow start. Personally, I remember offering Lynch to get Daniel Thomas in Week 3 (thank goodness that deal was shot down). Lynch tore it up down the stretch like nobody would have imagined and finished the season with 1,204 yards and 12 scores on the ground. Frankly, I'm just not sold he can repeat that feat and I wouldn't be willing to spend an early second-round pick on him.

Fred Jackson (33)- C.J. Spiller was a revelation last year and was on a lot of fantasy championship teams with 101 yards per game at a ridiculous 7.2 YPC clip in weeks 15 and 16. He also added 5.5 receptions per game and 52 receiving yards in those games. The Bills spent a top-10 pick on Spiller and it's unlikely that they'll relegate him to just a backup role now that the cat is out of the bag. Yes, Fred-Jax was tearing up the league as a top-five back last year, but this is a new year and there's not enough to justify taking him in the third round even though the Bills just signed him to an extension.

Justin Blackmon (106)/ Laurent Robinson (119)- Blaine Gabbert.

Greg Jennings (14)- Jennings wasn't even the best receiver on his own team last year as Jordy Nelson finished as fantasy football's number two wideout. The bottom line is that Aaron Rodger hits the open guy and Jennings won't see a large enough chunk of targets to be the third WR off the board (behind Megatron and Fitzgerald)

Rueben Randle (109) - The Giants are going to be a force and score a lot of points. Unfortunately for Randle, there are two fellows that figure to see a insurmountable target total and make him a tertiary option. If Randle lives up to his 109 ranking, then Eli Manning should be a hell of a lot higher than the 41 ranking ESPN gave him.

Peyton Hillis (69)- Can you really see spending the 69th pick on Peyton Hills? Yeah. Didn't think so.

Thanks for reading!