Another NFL season lurks right around the corner, and I assume that you're already knee deep in preparing for your upcoming fantasy football draft(s). If not, have no fear, as this draft guide can help accelerate your preparation.
First, in as few words as possible, here's a quick-hits analysis of the different fantasy football positions this year: QB - key; RB - uncertainty; WR - deep; TE - also deep; DEF - normal; K - j/k.
Now to expand on the quick-hits analysis, this year appears to be the year of the quarterback in fantasy football. If you can get your hands on one of the elite quarterback, you should pounce on the opportunity. The difference between the top QB, Aaron Rodgers, and a mid-level QB, let's say Matt Ryan, is staggering. With passing levels at an all time high in the NFL, an elite QB can carry your team in fantasy football.
In looking at running backs this season, you have a few safe, productive players, and the rest facing time shares and/or injury concerns. Unless you can grab one of the elite RBs, it may be worthwhile to draft for quantity and see if you hit a few home runs.
We have an especially deep wide receiver position, with great value deep into the draft. The tight end position also looks to be as deep as ever, and you can get a solid TE later in the draft.
Returning to the draft guide, as per previous years, the rankings have been grouped by position into tiers. Always, always draft with the tier system as your base. I have also included a comprehensive top 150 ranking so you can see where QBs, RBs, WRs, etc. fit amongst each other.
For those new to the tier system, each player in the same tier is expected to be interchangeable for the most part. For example, I expect Tom Brady and Drew Brees to provide similar value this season. Whichever player is listed first within the tier is the player to whom I'd give the slight edge, but again I wouldn't expect the difference to be much.
The tier system becomes especially valuable as you get deeper into the draft. When you're trying to decide whether or not to go with a WR, RB or TE with your fourth round pick, take a look at the players remaining at the time at the highest remaining tier level for each position. Continuing the example, if several players remain in the WR and TE tiers, but only one or two RBs from the top remaining tier are still there, then consider taking the RB, as for your next draft pick, you'll most likely be faced with selecting an RB from a lower tier.
Now keep in mind that you do need to have a grasp on where the players fit overall into the rankings, and as mentioned, I have provided you with a top 150 overall ranking list for this purpose. A QB in the third tier does not have equal value to a TE in the third tier, etc. So in making your draft selections, you should use the tier system as your base, and then cross-check the players against the overall rankings to make sure that the players you are comparing are in the vicinity of the draft slot you're using.
One final important note to keep in mind is that these rankings are based on standard leagues (no points-per-reception, no TD only scoring system, etc.). If your league rules stray away from the norm, that's fine, but just factor that into your rankings.
(Bye weeks for each player are in parentheses, and a few players whom I expect to outperform their draft slots are in bold).
Quarterback TiersTier 1: Aaron Rodgers (10) Tier 2: Tom Brady (9), Drew Brees (6) Tier 3: Matthew Stafford (5), Cam Newton (6),Philip Rivers(7) Tier 4: Eli Manning (7), Tony Romo (5),Michael Vick(7), Peyton Manning (11) Tier 5: Ben Roethlisberger (4), Jay Cutler (6), Matt Schaub (8), Matt Ryan (7), Robert Griffin III (10) Tier 6: Josh Freeman (5), Joe Flacco (8), Sam Bradford (9), Alex Smith (9), Andy Dalton (8), Carson Palmer (5) Tier 7: Andrew Luck (4), Tim Tebow (9), Matt Flynn (11), Matt Cassel (7), Ryan Fitzpatrick (8), Christian Ponder (11), Kevin Kolb (10), Jake Locker (11) Tier 8: Brandon Weeden (10), Mark Sanchez (9), Matt Moore (7)
Analysis: Get your quarterback early if you can! If you can land a QB from one of the top three tiers, that would be ideal. Don't sleep on Philip Rivers - he had one bad season, and now he's dropped on fantasy boards much farther than he should. The QBs in Tier 4 have very high upside, but come with considerable health risk other than Eli Manning. Tucked away at the end of Tier 5 is RGIII, and I do feel that he will have an impact, but I do not see him putting up Cam Newton numbers - at least not this season. The Redskins face a tough schedule, and their O-line has issues. Still, he's listed here in front of some solid QBs.
Running Back TiersTier 1: Arian Foster (8), Ray Rice (8), LeSean McCoy (7),Chris Johnson(11) Tier 2: Maurice Jones-Drew (6), Ryan Matthews (7),Darren McFadden(5) Tier 3: Marshawn Lynch (11), Matt Forte (6),Trent Richardson(10), Jamaal Charles (7), Adrian Peterson (11), Steven Jackson (9), Fred Jackson (8) Tier 4: DeMarco Murray (5), Michael Turner (7), Darren Sproles (6), Frank Gore (9), Ahmad Bradshaw (11) Tier 5: Ben Tate (8), Roy Helu (10), Willis McGahee (7), Reggie Bush (7), Jonathan Stewart (6),Doug Martin(5) Tier 6: Shonn Greene (9), CJ Spiller (8), Isaac Redman (4),Stevan Ridley(9), DeAngelo Williams (6) Tier 7: Toby Gerhart (11), Jahvid Best (5), Beanie Wells (10), James Starks (10), Ryan Williams (10), Mikel Leshoure (5), Michael Bush (6), Mark Ingram (6), Felix Jones (5), BenJarvis Green-Ellis (8), Donald Brown (4), Shane Vereen (9), Peyton Hillis (7) Tier 8: Pierre Thomas (6), David Wilson (11), LaGarrette Blount (5), Kevin Smith (5), Mike Goodson (5), Bernard Scott (8), Ronnie Hillman (7)
Analysis: The top four RBs are all worthy of top overall pick consideration, along with Aaron Rodgers. I think Chris Johnson comes back with a vengeance this season. After Tier 1, I see a very uncertain group of RBs. From Tier 2, MJD's holdout and more importantly, lack of help around him, and Matthews and Run DMC's injury history provide cause for concern. However, in Run DMC's case, if healthy, he's talented enough to lead all RBs in total points. Tier 3 RBs are no sure bets either, although I'm a believer that Richardson, not facing an RB-by-committee, will put up good numbers. I'm not as high on DeMarco Murray and Michael Turner as others may be, and their placement in Tier 4 shows this. Overall, this year the RB position is very uncertain after the top options, and as such, if you do not land the Tier 1 guys, I strongly recommend taking flyers on a few talented, higher risk/reward guys, and also keeping a close eye on the waiver wire as the season goes on.
Wide Receivers TiersTier 1: Calvin Johnson (5) Tier 2: Larry Fitzgerald (10),AJ Green(8), Greg Jennings (10), Andre Johnson (8) Tier 3: Mike Wallace (4),Julio Jones(7), Roddy White (7), Wes Welker (9),Jeremy Maclin(6), Brandon Marshall (7) Tier 4: Jordy Nelson (10), Hakeem Nicks (11), Steve Smith (6),Dez Bryant(5), Miles Austin (5), Marques Colston (6), Victor Cruz (11), Dwayne Bowe (7) Tier 5: Percy Harvin (11), Brandon Lloyd (9), Vincent Jackson (5),Eric Decker(7), Demaryius Thomas (7), Antonio Brown (4), Steve Johnson (8),Pierre Garcon(10),Denarius Moore(5) Tier 6: Robert Meachem (7), Torrey Smith (8), DeSean Jackson (7), Kenny Britt (11), Sidney Rice (11), Santonio Holmes (9), Anquan Boldin (8), Reggie Wayne (4) Tier 7: Mike Williams (5), Lance Moore (6), Michael Crabtree (9), Justin Blackmon (6), Greg Little (10), Leonard Hankerson (10), Doug Baldwin (11), Malcolm Floyd (7), Darius Heyward-Bay (50, Nate Washington (11), Laurent Robinson (6), James Jones (10), Titus Young (5), Santana Moss (10) Tier 8: Nate Burleson (5), Mario Manningham (9), Randy Moss (9), Brian Quick (9), Michael Floyd (10), Danny Amendola (9), Rueben Randle (11), Kendall Wright (11), Brandon LaFell (6), Alshon Jeffrey (6)
Analysis: I'm all in on AJ Green this season. I expect a monster season and a top 3 finish among WRs. I'm also a big fan of Julio Jones, and believe that he'll outperform Roddy White, although they'll be very close. Love those two receivers in their second NFL season. Jeremy Maclin is another WR who will return excellent value for those who draft him. A few other thoughts: Eric Decker over Demaryius Thomas, Dez Bryant over Miles Austin, and I expect Victor Cruz to put up solid numbers, but not the same level he posted last season. Overall, WR is a very deep position, and you will be able to find value deep into the draft.
Tight End TiersTier 1: Rob Gronkowski (9), Jimmy Graham (6) Tier 2: Antonio Gates (7), Vernon Davis (9) Tier 3: Fred Davis (10), Jason Witten (5), Aaron Hernandez (9), Jermaine Gresham (8), Brandon Pettigrew (5), Jermichael Finley (10), Tony Gonzalez (7) Tier 4: Jared Cook (11), Jacob Tamme (7) Tier 5: Coby Fleener (4), Brent Celek (7), Owen Daniels (8), Martellus Bennett (11), Kellen Winslow (11) Tier 6: Greg Olsen (6), Marcedes Lewis (6), Tony Moeaki (7), Kyle Rudolph (11), Heath Miller (4), Dallas Clark (5)
Analysis: I've got Gronkowski and Graham listed as the tier 1 TEs, but you most likely won't find them on my teams based on early draft returns, as they're being selected too high for my taste. I expect both to have great years, but I don't see repeats of last season. Gronk will have only 12 touchdowns this year. Like WR, the TE position is very deep this year. I even like the Tier 4 guys, so you can wait to get value in the later rounds. We're looking at a terrific year for tight ends.
Kicker TiersAre you serious?! No rankings of kickers, ever. Select your kickers LAST.
Analysis: Here are the reasons why you do NOT select kickers anywhere but with the last picks of your draft:
1. The variance between the top kickers and the kickers in the middle of the pack each season is not much (average of only two points a week).
2. If a kicker has an epic season, it will usually be random as to the identity of the kicker (translation: it could be anyone, so don't try to guess who it is at the draft).
So when it comes to selecting your kickers, use your final picks, and just make sure that whoever you select does in fact start the season as the team's field goal kicker, rather than just a kickoff specialist.
Defense/Special Teams TiersTier 1: San Francisco (9) Tier 2: Pittsburgh (4),Seattle(11), Baltimore (8), Chicago (6) Tier 3: Houston (8), Philadelphia (7), New York Jets (9),Buffalo(8) Tier 4: Detroit (5), Kansas City (7), Dallas (5), Atlanta (7), Green Bay (10), Arizona (10), New York Giants (11) Tier 5: Cincinnati (8), St. Louis (9), Miami (7), New England (9), Tennessee (11), Washington (10), Cleveland (10), Denver (7)
Analysis: Probably more than any other position, the importance of defense/special teams depends on your league's point scoring system. In some leagues, defense/special teams make a big impact, and in other leagues, they make minimal impact. Make sure to know how much emphasis your league places on defensive/ST scoring prior to making your selection. San Francisco sits at the top of the tier structure, and otherwise the rankings are self-explanatory.
Conclusion/Final Advice: You've got all the resources you need here to have another championship caliber fantasy football season. Remember not to force any picks - let the draft board come to you. Use the tier system provided here. Even if your rankings differ from those above, that's fine, but abide by your tier system. And while it would be ideal to end up with one of the top QBs, don't force it if the draft doesn't play out that way. Stay true to your rankings, and know your scoring system well. This is key!!! If your league rewards points for each reception, or if your league's scoring system heavily favors touchdown rather than yardage, draft with that in mind. One more piece of advice - on draft day, keep track of what positions each team has drafted. For example, knowing how many teams have already selected a TE can be very helpful - you may be able to hold off on picking one until later if everyone else has already picked one. The last piece of advice, and the most important - make sure to have fun!
Please feel free to email me with any thoughts or questions. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Overall Top 1501. Aaron Rodgers 2. Arian Foster 3. Ray Rice 4. LeSean McCoy 5. Chris Johnson 6. Tom Brady 7. Calvin Johnson 8. Drew Brees 9. Larry Fitzgerald 10. Matthew Stafford 11. Maurice Jones-Drew 12. Cam Newton 13. Ryan Mathews 14. Darren McFadden 15. Andre Johnson 16. Rob Gronkowski 17. AJ Green 18. Phillip Rivers 19. Jimmy Graham 20. Greg Jennings 21. Marshawn Lynch 22. Matt Forte 23. Trent Richardson 24. Mike Wallace 25. Julio Jones 26. Roddy White 27. Jamaal Charles 28. Wes Welker 29. Jeremy Maclin 30. Brandon Marshall 31. Adrian Peterson 32. Jordy Nelson 33. Hakeem Nicks 34. Eli Manning 35. Steven Jackson 36. Fred Jackson 37. Steve Smith (CAR) 38. Dez Bryant 39. Tony Romo 40. Michael Vick 41. Miles Austin 42. Demarco Murray 43. Michael Turner 44. Antonio Gates 45. Peyton Manning 46. Darren Sproles 47. Marques Colston 48. Vernon Davis 49. Victor Cruz 50. Dwayne Bowe 51. Frank Gore 52. Ahmad Bradshaw 53. Percy Harvin 54. Brandon Lloyd 55. Ben Tate 56. Ben Roethlisberger 57. Roy Helu 58. Jay Cutler 59. Vincent Jackson 60. Eric Decker 61. Fred Davis 62. Jason Witten 63. Willis McGahee 64. Reggie Bush 65. Matt Schaub 66. Aaron Hernandez 67. Matt Ryan 68. Demaryius Thomas 69. Jonathan Stewart 70. Doug Martin 71. Antonio Brown 72. Robert Griffin III 73. Steve Johnson 74. Pierre Garcon 75. Denarius Moore 76. Jermaine Gresham 77. Josh Freeman 78. CJ Spiller 79. Isaac Redman 80. Shonn Greene 81. Joe Flacco 82. Stevan Ridley 83. Robert Meachem 84. Torrey Smith 85. Brandon Pettigrew 86. Sam Bradford 87. DeAngelo Williams 88. DeSean Jackson 89. Kenny Britt 90. Alex Smith 91. Sidney Rice 92. Jermichael Finley 93. Andy Dalton 94. Tony Gonzalez 95. Toby Gerhart 96. Jahvid Best 97. Beanie Wells 98. Santonio Holmes 99. Anquan Boldin 100. Carson Palmer 101. James Starks 102. Ryan Williams 103. Reggie Wayne 104. San Francisco 49ers 105. Mikel Leshoure 106. Michael Bush 107. Jared Cook 108. Mark Ingram 109. Mike Williams 110. Andrew Luck 111. Felix Jones 112. Pittsburgh Steelers 113. Lance Moore 114. Michael Crabtree 115. Seattle Seahawks 116. Tim Tebow 117. Jacob Tamme 118. Justin Blackmon 119. BenJarvis Green-Ellis 120. Baltimore Ravens 121. Matt Flynn 122. Matt Cassel 123. Donald Brown 124. Chicago Bears 125. Shane Vereen 126. Greg Little 127. Leonard Hankerson 128. Doug Baldwin 129. Peyton Hillis 130. Ryan Fitzpatrick 131. Kevin Kolb 132. Houston Texans 133. Malcolm Floyd 134. Darius Heyward-Bay 135. Philadelphia Eagles 136. Jake Locker 137. Pierre Thomas 138. David Wilson 139. Nate Washington 140. Laurent Robinson 141. LaGarrette Blount 142. New York Jets 143. James Jones 144. Kevin Smith 145. Titus Young 146. Mike Goodson 147. Buffalo Bills 148. Santana Moss 149. Nate Burleson 150. Mario Manninghan
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