The busiest period of fantasy football league drafting activity is the two weeks leading up to the regular season kickoff and we are officially there. The regular season kicks off on Thursday September 4th so all drafts should be completed prior to that date. Last blog, I gave you my top five overall players/ picks so let’s take a look at the top five of every position per the Real Mr. Fantasy's rankings. Disagree? Send me your thoughts in the comments sections; I’d love to hear what you think.
Okay, I'm going to give you what I call the "Big 3" and frankly there is not enough difference between any of these guys to warrant calling one being better than the other -- so I'm using the alphabetical approach.
1. Aaron Rodgers – well, his first name starts with “A” so he's 1A. Great O line, great offense, and skill players. He’s back from last year's injury and looking excellent.
2. Drew Brees - (from Westlake High School in Austin, TX, which is near and dear to my heart) His offense is pure fireworks with great receivers and the best scoring tight end in football. His running backs are nothing special as they are basically the dreaded (in fantasy football circles) running back by committee (RBC) so, though they are collectively good for the Saints, they are hard to count on for your fantasy teams.
3. Peyton Manning- whatcha done for me lately, Payton? I mean, sure, a record-setting 55 touchdowns last year was nice, but ... Actually, I look for Payton to be Payton. That means 40-50 TDs in the pinball-machine Denver offense. With his skill players, O line, coaching approach, etc., they’re hard to stop.
The 1, 2, 3 QBs are really 1A, 1B and 1C – or, in my alphabet of first names, 1A, 1D and 1P. They’re interchangeable and if you pick any of the three you will be drafting arguably the best QB in fantasy.
From here we go into the second tier QBs – and this is where the arguing really begins.
4. Matthew Stafford - Detroit Lions by way of Highland Park High School in Dallas, TX. (Yeah, I know I'm a homer for players with a Texas link – or, as I call it, Six Degrees of Davey Crockett). Stafford has a cannon arm, an aggressive new Offensive Coordinator who, previous to this year, was Drew Brees' OC in New Orleans. Stafford is also throwing to WR Calvin Johnson a.k.a., Megatron. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Stafford finish the season in the top three as I expect big, BIG offensive numbers from the Lions this year.
5. Tony Romo - I know you're thinking - that I REALLY AM a homer AND outta my mind. You would be right in both cases but hear me out. Tony is going to be Dallas' best defense this year. Their D was woefully inadequate last year. They lost several key players to free agency and several more to season-ending injuries. Tony will be forced to win (or, sadly for my Cowboys, probably lose) games with scores in the 30s at least and most probably in the 40s. Bad news for my Boys’ win/loss record but good news for any fantasy offense that relies on Romo. With superstar WR Dez Bryant, solid RB Murray, TE Witten and one of the top two or three O lines in football, they’ll put up the points. Plus, you can probably get Tony a LOT lower in the draft than the four QBs listed above.
Okay, we went over the top overall players last week and I still hold to the fact that four and arguably the first five picks in most drafts are going to be these backs. On reflection, I’ve shifted my rankings on these dudes a tiny bit. Here’s the latest -- and see last week's blog here for more detail.
1. LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia.
2. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota
3. Eddie Lacey, Green Bay
4. Jamal Charles, Kansas City.
5. Matt Forte, Chicago.
The top five players at any position are hard to rank 1 - 5 when each player is outstanding and could arguably BE the top player at his position by season's end. This is absolutely true for the wide out position.
1. Demaryious Thomas - I'm buying a little more into the Denver system and its top receiver than the other top receivers and their systems, though it’s very, very close. Peyton is throwing to Thomas and another favorite target, Eric Decker, has departed for greener logos with the New York Jets. As such, Thomas’ numbers should bump up a bit from last season's 92 catches, 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns. He has the right system, QB, O line, running back, etc. He's my number one before the first kickoff.
2. Calvin Johnson - the same logic used for Thomas applies to Megatron: the right system, QB, O line and a complimentary running game all make him almost the co-number one receiver (1A, if you will) in 2014. As with Thomas, I expect Johnson to top his last year stats of 84 catches 1,492 yards, and 12 TDs.
3. Dez Bryant – As above, Tony Romo is my number 5 QB for 2014 and his primary target/ BFF is Mr. Bryant. Assuming that Tony holds up the entire year, health-wise, I would expect Dez to have a monster season. I love the Dallas O line with three first-rounders anchoring Tony's protection, so he should have time to toss a bunch of big plays to Bryant. I expect he'll surpass last year's TD total of 13. An additional note: if something should happen to Mr. Romo, Dez's old college QB, Brandon Weeden, is the back-up and they have a good rapport from their days together at Oklahoma State.
4. Brandon Marshall - the Chicago receiver gets the nod here because of the system, QB, O line and other weapons on the team. Alshon Jefferies is a great number two receiver, and when you throw in my number 5 running back, Matt Forte, to the offensive power, Marshall’s in a good spot for big production.
5. A.J. Green - this guy has been a phenom since he and QB Andy Dalton were drafted by the Bengals four seasons ago. He's been Andy's big, fast, go-to guy -- accumulating 29 TDs and 3,800 yards in his first three seasons. Their new OC, Hue Jackson, is rumored to be a little more of a run-first guy than his predecessor, Jay Gruden. That being said, I still expect another hearty year for Mr. Green.
Are they tight ends? Or do they really just qualify as really big and fast receivers that further complicate the lives of D coordinators? The answer is both.
1. Jimmy Graham - with his skill set (fast, big, elusive, great hands) in a New Orleans system that has Drew Brees throwing the ball, he's clear-cut in my mind as to the top TE for fantasy. He ain't much on blocking -- and nobody cares.
2. Julius Thomas - no relation to Demaryious Thomas other than he's in the same great Denver system in Denver with Peyton Manning throwing him the ball...nuff said.
3. Rob Gronkowski - He says he'll be ready for week one after having suffered a major knee injury late last season. Questions are, though: is he completely healed and can he stay that way? If the answers to both of those questions are Yes then I think he ranks 2A on this list along with Thomas. The New England offense seems to hinge on his health so ya know Mr. Brady's praying for a healthy Gronk.
Well, there you have it my top players at the "skill" positions. Picking the top player at any position is easy, but ranking them 1-5 is an argument that will not be settled until the end of the season.
Next week we'll talk sleepers and rookies and drill down a little deeper into who's who below the top level folks I have listed above.
Comments, questions, disagreements? Ask/ comment/ complain - I'm ready for your questions and even more ready for the season!