We're down to the fifth and final post in this series of my top 100 PPR ranks (check out the bottom of this article for links to picks 1-80). Pick 81 is about where you start drafting non-fantasy-starters. You're either taking some shots on guys that, if things work out, could produce big numbers, or drafting consistent depth.
The only starter most teams will not have at this point is quarterback. If I can get a great QB early, at the right price, I will. If I can't get one of my top 2 or 3 guys, I'll usually end up waiting long enough to get the 10th or 11th QB on my board. I don't have the stomach for true late round QB, and so you'll see all the QBs I'd be fine with at least leading a committee for me in this segment.
81) Johnathan Stewart, Car (5)
I think I might have over-reacted and ended up ranking Stewart too low, even though I am extremely down on him this year. It seems like Stewart has been injured ever since entering the league, but that is only sort of accurate. Carolina has several great goal-line options with Kelvin Benjamin, Mike Tolbert, and Cam Newton. And of course the Panthers are not an especially prolific team on offense either, further blunting Stewart's upside.
Having said all that, you have to love watching the guy play. JStew has a nice opportunity, and excellent ability. Someone will take a chance on Stewart before I do. That person will either end up with a great value or a season long headache.
82) Devonta Freeman, Atl, RB (10)
This is quite possibly just a hangover of my love affair with Freeman coming out of Florida State last year, even though he showed the most (in my humble opinion) of any Atlanta back last year. Freeman is a smaller back, but he has agility and speed. Freeman hits the hole harder than anyone that size should be able to, and despite his agility, seems aware that getting downfield is the goal.
With Kyle Shanahan moving in to the Falcons offensive coordinator role, there will be a big performance from some guy in Atlanta. I think Devonta Freeman is that guy.
83) Latavius Murray, RB, Oak (6)
A big performance last year on Thursday night football was most people's first exposure to Latavius Murray. He had a top notch performance against the Chiefs despite being knocked out of the game early. He showed everyone what his potential was and where he excelled. Murray is an upright speedster that can turn a crease in to a home run.
Murray's other, limited, performances, and his association with the Oakland Raiders, leave much to be desired. It is always hard to determine where the weakness is when you have a questionable running back surrounded by equally questionable talent. Murray's saving grace is that he is likely the best back on the roster. You never want to completely discount a young top 5 pick making a bounce-back, but I think Richardson can, at best, play a serviceable number 2 role.
84) Cam Newton, QB, Car (5),
Newton has been a top contributor to fantasy teams since he entered the league, and he showed us his easy to live with floor last year. The Panthers are slowly addressing their needs and getting some talent around Cam. Kelvin Benjamin had a good rookie year (despite all the ridiculous claims to the contrary). Benjamin has room to improve his skills to add to his other-worldly physical abilities. If Johnathan Stewart can stay healthy and the offensive line does anything except repeat their early season performance from last year, I don't see how Newton doesn't have another great year.
One non-fantasy related comment before we move on from Cam: Both Newton and the Panther's got a deal with Cam's extension. This contract causes no change in Carolina other than ensuring the Panthers have enough at quarterback, at least, to be super bowl contenders for several years to come.
85) Peyton Manning, QB, Den (7),
There is too much going on in Denver for me to feel great about Peyton as a fantasy star this year. Mind you, he is still well within my top 10 QB ranks, but the days of Manning as QB1 are past. Word out of OTAs is that Kubiak is indeed putting his stamp on the Denver offense. This means more running and clock control for the Broncos. Kubiak to Denver is a perfect match for real football Peyton Manning, but it is the beginning of the end for fantasy stud Peyton Manning.
Manning is surrounded by fine talent and would still be a starter for at least twenty other teams in the league. With the offense based on the zone run and play action, Peyton will do less, but still have plenty of room to be very good.
86) Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pit (11),
Roethlisberger (co)lead the league in passing yards last year. The Pittsburgh Steelers has the potential to become one of the NFL's most prolific offenses. Ben is surrounded by talent with Le'Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, Heath Miller et al. The offensive line is still not great, but I'd say that it has been moved from ‘glaring weaknesses' to ‘capable'.
Ben may not have the upside to contend for top overall QB, but he has more than enough to feel comfortable expecting him to finish comfortably inside the top 10.
87) Matt Ryan, QB, Atl (10)
Ryan has a proven to be a safe but not spectacular option in fantasy early in his career. He is steadily in the back half of the top 10 and there is a lot to be said for that. The addition of Kyle Shanahan as offensive coordinator bolsters Ryan's appeal.
The Shanahan (as in Shanahan-Kubiak-Shanahan) offense does a whole lot off of play action. Traditionally, the running game keeps defenses honest, then makes them cheat up to stop the run, then you take your shot deep off play action. Ryan's arm talent and functional mobility are a perfect match for this style of play. I think Ryan does a bit better than he has for the last few years, and Julio Jones really wows the NFL this year, too.
88) Tony Romo, QB, Dal (6)
Tony Romo is the Matt Forte of quarterbacks. He's always drafted later than he should be, and then out performs his draft spot. I don't think Dallas can simply replace everything they lost when DeMarco Murray left town, and I think it falls to Romo (as it always seems to) to make up the difference.
Romo shouldn't have much trouble picking up the slack, playing with the best receiving corps in his division. It would be easy to squeeze that receiving group in to the top 5 in the league. Romo could pilot one of the league's most high flying offenses, and the Cowboys may need him to do so if they can't control the clock and keep their defense off the field like they did last year. Romo will be picked late and over perform again this year.
89) Ryan Tannehill, QB, Mia (5)
Tannehill has shown he's capable of putting up nice fantasy numbers under Bill Lazor. Whether he is a product of the system or a steadily improving QB makes little difference to the fantasy community. He has enough to run the up-tempo, pro-spread offense. He gives you a few extra points rushing the ball, and he has a good arm, even if he had trouble connecting down field with Mike Wallace.
The Dolphins upgraded their pass catchers this offseason, and if Tannehill can improve, or at least not regress, he'll be another good option this year.
90) Tom Brady, QB, NE (4)
For now, Brady is suspended for his first 4 games. If you believe that he will come back guns blazing, or that his suspension will be reduced, take him earlier. I buy that Brady comes back angry, and that he and Belichick want to run up the score, show the league whose boss. I don't think that is any different than any other year in New England, though.
With quarterback, you can easily cobble together a productive committee to cover a few games here or there. If you remember, through 4 games last year, Brady was a has-been, the dynasty was dead, and Patriot fans would return to the old suffering ways of Pats's past. A few months later, Brady's play and some baffling Super Bowl play calling dashed all hope of humbling the franchise people love to hate.
Brady still has enough to put up big points, and the talent around him seems as good as ever (minus the Moss years). Tom has another solid year this year.
91) Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Min (5)
I remember Roger Goodell walking up to the podium to announce the 32nd pick of the 2014 draft. For those that don't remember, the Vikings traded up, one spot above the quarterback needy Texans, to draft who had been the number 1 QB prospect until the last month in the process.
Bridgewater looked absolutely the best player on the field his last couple years at Louisville, and he showed that he had the arm, the head, and the heart to be a great NFL prospect. He was then labeled as too small, not hungry enough, and soft-armed (please remember this is the same draft that saw Johnny Manziel 1.22).
Teddy did more than enough to prove his mettle last season. The Vikings, Norv Turner, and Teddy Bridgewater will be joined by the best running back of this era. The Vikings will move the ball, and be a force to be reckoned with out of the NFC North.
92) Shane Vereen, RB, NYG (11)
I'm betting the Giants take a major step forward this year, and Shane Vereen will have a big role in their improved offensive attack. While Rashad Jennings will likely get first crack at the lead role, Vereen will get on the field at least on some passing downs (Jennings is no 3rd down slouch himself).
I don't know if you want Vereen to get 20 touches a game, but his workload increased every year in New England (save his injury shortened season where he was outpacing his previous year's production). Vereen will help the Giant's win this year, and in PPR, he's going to get you some big games in 2015.
93) Darren Sproles, RB, Phi (8)
Darren Sproles is a delight to watch. He is one of the most dangerous offensive talents in the NFL because he can take it to the house on any play. Sproles and then Woodhead behind him, sparked an NFL arms race for the next gadget, water bug type player. What the league found out is that Woodhead and Sproles are exceptional players, both as receivers and runners out of the backfield.
Darren Sproles will have an opportunity to catch a lot of passes and rack up a lot of yards in Philly this year. The addition of DeMarco Murray and Ryan Matthews only helps Sproles. He'll be freed up to play his specialized role, instead of backing up the RB1.
94) Joe Flacco, QB, Bal (9)
My favorite thing about Joe Flacco is his uncanny resemblance to Cillian Murphy (of 28 Days Later fame). In addition to being a doppelganger to the lead in one of the best movies of all time, Flacco has a cannon for an arm.
Joe hasn't really put together a top flight fantasy season, but he has gone on runs where he was lights out. Flacco seems like the kind of guy that would benefit from the tutelage of Marc Trestman. But, then again, if Steve Smith is undoubtedly your #1 WR, Trestman better be able to work some magic. I would like to state, for the record, that I mean no offense to Mr. Smith.
Flacco is the first guy that can serve at the top of your quarterback by committee if you get too cute and miss out on a solid starter.
95) Phillip Rivers, QB, SDC (10)
For the past few years, Rivers started strong, and then faded down the stretch. Those mid-year slowdowns come on the heels of backfield and receiving corps injuries and the Chargers shifting focus to the run game to supplement. Rivers has the talent to be top flight, but his situation and surrounding cast make him another quarterback your fine with leading your QB stream team.
96) Matthew Stafford, QB, Det (9)
The years of 700 attempts from Stafford appear to be behind us. The Lions backfield looks to be in great shape with the addition of Ameer Abdullah to an already nice combination of Joique Bell and Theo Riddick. The coaching staff in Detroit wants Stafford to still take shots, but take them less frequently.
Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate are a great 1-2 punch outside, and last year the Lions saw fit to draft Eric Ebron in the first round. While Stafford will have no shortage of weapons, I think he has another year of middle of the pack production. He'll be a nice matchup play, but is no longer a set it and forget it QB1.
97) Sam Bradford, QB, Phi (8)
I'm really ranking the starting quarterback for the Eagles here. I believe Bradford is the most talented quarterback on the roster, but he's earned the injury prone tag. Chip Kelly's offense has been hamstrung by mediocre quarterback talent so far in Philadelphia. A healthy Sam Bradford would, no doubt, be the best thing the Eagles have seen under center since Donovan McNabb unceremoniously left town.
The risk and the potential line up nicely for those interested in drafting Bradford. He can be had for a song and could really deliver big this year if his knees hold up.
98) Carson Palmer, QB, Ari (9)
Once Palmer got comfortable with Bruce Arians' system, the Cardinals were real Super Bowl contenders. While Palmer has enough arm and gumption to pilot the ship just how Arians wants, can his frame hold up for 16 games?
Ellington bounces back this year (so say my tea leaves), and he improves the Cardinals' offensive potency. The Cards could surprise everyone again, if Carson can stay upright and intact.
99) Colin Kaepernick, QB, SF (10)
With all the changes in San Francisco this offseason, the Niners need Kaep to have a big season. Kaepernick stayed in the pocket and tried to do more reading the defense in 2014. This really hurt both his production and his team as a whole. Kaepernick is limited as a traditional pocket passer at this stage in his career. If he can get back to the scrambling around, schoolyard style, he could again excel as a fantasy star.
Kaepernick has freakish athletic ability and a huge, durable frame. Anquan Boldin is a veteran receiver that is open even when he's not open. With the addition of Torrey Smith, Kaep has a speedy deep threat he can target while he's running around behind the line, buying time. His ceiling is Cam-Newton-high, the odds of him getting there, well we'll see this season.
100) Jay Ajayi, RB, Mia (5)
I was amazed at Ajayi's fall, and Miami was a great landing spot for him. His slide in the draft was blamed on concerns that his knee won't hold up over the long term. But, in redraft what happens long term is irrelevant.
The Dolphins keep bringing in guys to compete with or replace Lamar Miller. While Miller has fought off all challengers thus far, Ajayi will be too much for him. It may not start out with Jay as the number 1, but Ajayi unseats Lamar as the top dog in Miami this year.