An Early Look at 2013's Top 50 Fantasy Football Player Rankings
It's never too early for fantasy football rankings.
The NFL draft has come and gone, and we are in the calm waters of the offseason with only minicamps to sate the fan appetite until June. Here is a little nibble in the form of fantasy rankings.
These rankings are based on standard scoring systems. Among other things, it means four points per passing touchdown and no points per reception.
It would be helpful to view these rankings as a fantasy football draft board rather than rankings based purely on fantasy scores. If it were the latter, quarterbacks would all be ranked in the top 20, given they tend to outscore most other position players.
Changing the scoring system would shuffle the draft board.
Taking the scoring system and draft board concept into consideration, quarterback value is actually depressed. We have reached an age in fantasy football where there are so many viable fantasy starters that it pays to wait. Do not be surprised when you see just seven quarterbacks in the top 50.
This is a ranking list, after all, and there will be plenty of omissions sure to raise the hackles of their fans.
He should still have a nice season, but he is heading to a run-heavier team that runs fewer plays than his previous one, and there is more competition for targets.
It's not that Gonzalez won't have a good season—he most certainly will be a PPR star once again—but, much like at quarterback, the relative value at tight end is just not there. Gonzo fell just outside the top 50 in these rankings.
He was in the top five in fantasy scoring during the second half of last season, and he should score well again this season. The Seahawks look like they are going to continue building around the run, though, and defenses are bound to catch up to the read-option at least somewhat this year.
See: Russell Wilson
Robert Griffin III
All of the logic applied to Wilson and Kaepernick can be applied to RG3, with the notable addition that he might not be ready for Week 1 given his knee injury. Even if he does make it back on time, it is widely assumed he will run the ball less going forward.
He scored a ton of touchdowns last year, seemingly two at a time. Regression is coming.
There are simply too many good quarterbacks in the fantasy realm.
50. Peyton Manning
The rich get richer in Denver.
Peyton Manning bucked the criticism and worry over his neck fusion surgeries to have another great year, as if he never missed a beat.
The Colt-turned-Bronco had the sixth-best fantasy season at quarterback last season, despite the fact he is not a prime candidate to run the read-option and score points on the ground.
Manning just turned 37, though. We don't know when he will truly start to decline, but he is no longer a top tier quarterback.
49. Matthew Stafford
It was a down season for the Lions in general, and the same could be said about Matthew Stafford's fantasy year.
He still managed a top-10 showing, just ahead of Russell Wilson despite the latter's torrid second half. Stafford nearly eclipsed 5,000 yards throwing again, but he had trouble getting into the end zone at times during 2012.
Touchdowns are finicky, but it is hard to imagine he will throw less than 25 again given that Calvin Johnson was brought down inside the two yard line six times last year.
48. Hakeem Nicks
Yes, Hakeem Nicks is an injury waiting to happen. That is really the only reason why he is ranked this low.
Nicks possesses great talent—he has simply not been able to take full advantage of it because of various ailments. If he can finally stay upright all year, he could crack the top five at his position. It just wouldn't be smart to bet on that.
47. Randall Cobb
The Packers will continue their offensive dominance as long as Aaron Rodgers is in the saddle and operating at a high level.
Randall Cobb will be a part of that success, but recent developments have been a drag to his fantasy stock.
Prior to the NFL draft, Green Bay did not have a reliable running back. DuJuan Harris was the back du jour, and it seemed like Cobb would be spending a significant chunk of time operating out of the backfield, as he did last year at times.
Ted Thompson pilfered Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin in the draft, however, which could mean more running and less time on the field for Cobb than once thought. Cobb's fantasy value is further mitigated assuming Jordy Nelson and James Jones are healthy all year for once.
46. Lamar Miller
Reggie Bush is gone in Miami. The Lamar Miller era officially begins.
The second-year running back has some competition from Daniel Thomas and rookie Mike Gillislee, but he should have no problem winning the starting gig given his upside. The only thing that can really derail him—aside from injury, of course—is a lack of development as a blocker in the backfield.
The upside is too great for you to pass him up as a solid RB2 in standard leagues, though.
45. Mike Wallace
Jeff Ireland made his free-agent splash by signing Mike Wallace to a contract worth nearly twice the annual GDP of Tuvalu.
Despite perceived drop and attitude issues last year, Wallace was a borderline No. 2 fantasy receiver in standard leagues. His offense left plenty to be desired, particularly with Todd Haley's offensive philosophy in Pittsburgh.
Be wary of a huge jump for Wallace in fantasy scoring this year, though. He might be in a more stable situation, but the Dolphins and Ryan Tannehill have a long way to go before you can fully trust any of their players in the fantasy realm.
44. Torrey Smith
Anquan Boldin is gone in Baltimore, leaving Torrey Smith as the primary receiver for the now second-highest paid player in NFL history, Joe Flacco.
43. Reggie Wayne
Despite going through a major regime change and entering the twilight of his career, Reggie Wayne remains one of the league's most consistent receivers.
42. Maurice Jones-Drew
It was a lost season for Maurice Jones-Drew and the Jaguars last year. The foot-injury-that-wouldn't-die wound up knocking him out for the year, helping propel Jacksonville to the No. 2 pick in the NFL draft.
He recently started rehab after surgery this past December, and he should be back to start the year. How effective he will be in the apparent downturn of his career remains to be seen.
If all goes well throughout rehab and the preseason, his ranking will likely rise. For now, this is a good spot.
41. DeMarco Murray
Speaking of injuries, DeMarco Murray might be ranked much higher if he was not made of the same brittle material used to make Ryan Mathews and Darren McFadden.
Murray's injury woes have not quite reached the level of those players, but another injury this year will cement his place in the pantheon of injury-prone backs.
40. Frank Gore
Gore might be getting on in years, but the 49ers have found ways to keep him fresh and fantasy relevant.
San Francisco will run the ball a lot, whether it's via the read-option or a more traditional look. Gore should still get first crack at goal line carries as well. He has another good year or two left in the tank.
39. Reggie Bush
It seems like every year, Reggie Bush cons us into thinking he will have a good fantasy season.
A decent 2011 led to a disappointing 2012, though Miami's offense as a whole was rather putrid in terms of fantasy scoring.
Now he goes to work on the fast track in Detroit, presumably taking over as the starter over Mikel Leshoure, who should clean up in short yardage situations.
Bush has always had the potential to explode, and he is finally in an offense where he can be properly utilized to do so. (Yes, he was a part of the Saints before getting traded to the Dolphins, but he was neither healthy enough nor utilized well enough to make a fantasy impact.)
38. Dwayne Bowe
Anything has to be better than the "Matt Cassel Show" featuring Brady Quinn and Tyler Palko, right?
Dwayne Bowe has been productive in recent years despite having Larry, Moe and Curly at quarterback. His numbers finally fell off a cliff last year due to injury, but he scored 15 touchdowns in one season not too long ago.
Alex Smith might not be a massive upgrade, but he should be a drastic improvement for Bowe and his fantasy output.
37. Stevan Ridley
Cautious optimism can be exercised when it comes to ranking Stevan Ridley. Despite plenty of competition for playing time, he defied the Belichickian odds to have a nice fantasy season.
The Patriots traded for LeGarrette Blount during the draft, a frightful move for Ridley owners. But the odds are long Blount will make the team or be effective if he does.
36. Jordy Nelson
Simply put, Jordy Nelson's 2011 campaign was unsustainable in 2012. He scored the second-most touchdowns that year with 15 to Calvin Johnson's 16, inflating his average draft position last summer.
Injuries played a major part in derailing his year, but a healthy Nelson could be back scoring touchdowns by the handful this year.
James Jones played that role last year, but a healthy Nelson will eat into the former's production.
35. Marques Colston
One of the most consistent performers at receiver the past couple of seasons is also one of the most underrated.
Marques Colston plays with one of the best quarterbacks in the game. He might not be lights out, but there is value in consistency.
34. Michael Crabtree
After years of languishing in a stunted offense with Alex Smith at the helm, Michael Crabtree has finally broken out.
Though Smith was quarterbacking when Crabtree's ascent finally began last year, Colin Kaepernick took it to another level. It might be difficult to trust Crabtree in the long term.
33. Roddy White
Father Time might have a bead on Roddy White, but he is still outrunning the old fox.
White was surprisingly good last season. He actually came in just behind Julio Jones in standard scoring. You would think he would eventually fall off, but it seems betting against him is a bad bet.
Still, there is risk involved.
32. Andre Johnson
Speaking of Father Time, Andre Johnson has found a way to elude the solid form tackler as well.
Despite never reaching double-digit touchdowns receiving, Johnson has been a consistent fantasy scorer. Last season was no different, even after he got off to a slow start.
The Texan managed to eclipse 1,500 yards receiving despite not having a running mate to take some pressure off of him. Rookie DeAndre Hopkins will change that this season.
31. Steven Jackson
It is an Old Man run here with Steven Jackson.
The former Ram might not have landed in a better spot with the Falcons, a team primed for a Super Bowl berth in need of someone to replace Michael Turner.
Despite a heavy workload on those legs through the years, Jackson is still operating at a high level. He seems older than he is at 29, and he is finally on a great offense.
Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez mean teams will not be stacking the box against Jackson, which should lead to a resurgent fantasy year.
30. Larry Fitzgerald
Can he be revived?
Larry Fitzgerald's fantasy career isn't exactly dead, but it had a near death experience no thanks to Kevin Kolb, John Skelton and Ryan Lindley.
The 30-year-old receiver has languished through his prime without a decent quarterback, clearly missing Kurt Warner's magic.
Carson Palmer might not be a huge upgrade, but he knows how to get the ball to his best receivers. Just ask Chad Johnson and Terrell Owens, granted that was some years ago.
29. Darren McFadden
We must be careful what to say about Darren McFadden, lest he sprain something reading this.
The Oakland running back has never been able to parlay his talent into a great fantasy season because he spends so much time on the injury list.
The zone blocking scheme also seemed to hurt McFadden last year, who was ineffective for much of the time he was actually healthy. He averaged less than 3.3 YPC, a dismal number.
Oakland is returning to a power blocking scheme, and McFadden is excited about it. But don't get too excited as a potential fantasy owner—he has never appeared in a full slate of games.
28. Victor Cruz
Expectations were sky high for the salsa-dancing phenom last year, but drops and injuries around him derailed a promising year.
Cruz is set to bounce back, hopefully playing the slot where he did most of his damage in 2011.
27. Matt Forte
The touchdowns have simply not come for Matt Forte over the years. He scored just six last season, no thanks to vulture Michael Bush.
Forte has simply not been able to again reach the heights he did as a rookie, when he finished second in fantasy scoring. He has been a solid fantasy option all that time but not worthy of the first-round status he has gotten most years.
26. Matt Ryan
There are few players—if any—with more weapons at their disposal than Matt Ryan has in Atlanta.
The soon-to-be 28-year-old quarterback is heading into his prime with Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez still playing at high levels, Julio Jones continuing his rise and a better running back to keep defenses honest.
Atlanta should feature a more balanced offense than, say, Detroit's, but Ryan should put up some nice numbers given everything he has at his disposal.
25. Tom Brady
Tom Brady hasn't lacked for weapons either, and he might have gotten a nice upgrade.
Though Wes Welker has been the most productive receiver in the league in recent years, Danny Amendola represents an upgrade if he can stay healthy. Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez have similar injury concerns, but they can help prop Brady up as a top fantasy quarterback
24. Demaryius Thomas
Nobody was happier to see Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning land in Denver than Demaryius Thomas.
His fantasy owners were happy too.
Unlike fellow Georgia Tech alum Calvin Johnson and some other big receivers, Thomas scores a big chunk of points on screen-type plays. The arrival of Wes Welker might mitigate those for Thomas this season, but he should still be the top receiver for the Broncos.
23. Percy Harvin
New scenery. Same explosiveness.
Percy Harvin goes from being a nice fantasy option in Minnesota to a great one in Seattle. The Seahawks will likely not utilize him out of the backfield as much as the Vikings did, however, and the offense will be predicated on the run.
Harvin's game-breaking ability will net him plenty of fantasy points, though.
22. Vincent Jackson
Vincent Jackson proved he could thrive without Philip Rivers last season, putting up a great fantasy football score on the year with Josh Freeman at the helm.
There is little reason to believe he cannot repeat his success this year, barring an injury of course.
21. Alfred Morris
Move over Reuben Droughns. Step Aside, Mike Anderson.
Mike Shanahan has a new unheralded running back to propel to fantasy glory, and his name is Alfred Morris.
The sixth-round wonder out of Florida Atlantic University won the starting gig for the Redskins last year, displaying a perfect aptitude for running in a zone blocking scheme. Can he repeat that success?
20. Cam Newton
What Cam Newton has lacked in team success he has not lacked in fantasy football scoring.
Newton had a bit of a rough start to his 2012 campaign, sparking "sophomore slump" outcries, but he ramped things up and had a torrid second half.
He is better built than some of the other "running" quarterbacks, hence being able to withstand and dish out the punishment more so than Robert Griffin III or Russell Wilson. It is because of his massive, solid frame that the Panthers can utilize him as a goal line back.
This gives him great potential in fantasy football.
19. Chris Johnson
Is Chris Johnson trustworthy once again?
His fantasy career all but dead, the former 2000-yard rusher had a bit of a resurgence last year.
The Titans signed Andy Levitre to bolster the middle of that offensive line, which could go a long way to boosting Johnson in the running game.
18. Rob Gronkowski
Ah, to be a fly on the wall in the life of the Gronk.
Rob Gronkowski would be flirting with a first-round fantasy grade were it not for a broken arm and the complications that have stemmed from surgery.
As it stands, he could miss the entire preseason. Does this mean he is in for a bit of a Belichickian rebuke from his coach?
Even if he is brought along slowly—for punitive purposes or otherwise—Gronkowski is a great bet to score a ton of points. After all, he did outscore all but one tight end last year despite appearing in just 11 games.
17. Jimmy Graham
Who is the one player who outscored Rob Gronkowski at tight end last season? That would be Jimmy Graham.
Despite that fact, last season was viewed as a bit of a disappointment for Graham after drag racing Gronkowski for top scoring honors in 2011.
16. Drew Brees
The man throwing the ball to Jimmy Graham should have another fine season at the helm in New Orleans.
Drew Brees has actually been the top-scoring quarterback in the league over the past two seasons, so you would think he gets more love here.
Part of the reason he is not the top-ranked quarterback here is that New Orleans has theoretically improved its defense. The Saints will not have to try to outgun everyone this year if Rob Ryan has anything to say about it.
More so, putting him second behind the always-dangerous Aaron Rodgers is simply respect for the arsenal Rodgers has at his disposal.
That is not to say Brees doesn't have weapons of his own. Aside from the aforementioned Jimmy Graham and Marques Colston, Brees has a bevy of options between Darren Sproles, Lance Moore, Nick Toon and Kenny Stills.
15. Julio Jones
One of the league's rising stars, Julio Jones is primed for detonation this year.
There is just one thing standing between Jones and a top-3 finish at wide receiver. Alright, more like three things—Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez and Steven Jackson.
But Julio Jones is certainly the most explosive player on the Falcons, so he is ranked the highest of them all.
14. Dez Bryant
Despite the schadenfreude and worry surrounding Dez Bryant and the Cowboys, the third-year receiver had a breakout season in 2012.
He was the highest scoring receiver in the league during the second half of the season, Tony Romo having seemingly figured out to get him the ball more often.
Bryant should continue to get better, making him a top-5 choice at receiver.
13. Brandon Marshall
Chicago reaped the benefits on offense, and the mercurial receiver finally delivered a 1,000-yard season for the Bears, one of the relative few in franchise history.
He also delivered a fantastic fantasy year for his owners.
With Alshon Jeffery coming into his own in his sophomore season, opposing defenses will not be able to key on Marshall as much. Cutler might not force it into his big receiver as much as he did last year, but Marshall should have a little more room to operate.
12. Ray Rice
Part of Ray Rice's fantasy appeal over the years has been the sheer lack of competition for playing time. That is no longer the case.
Bernard Pierce looked better than Rice at times last year—he outperformed him in several metrics, albeit in a limited role—and the Ravens have been stubborn about using Rice at times.
He should still be a great starter, but expecting a huge year from him might be overdoing it.
11. A.J. Green
At one point last season, Green couldn't step onto a field without scoring a touchdown. He scored 10 total touchdowns in nine straight games but wound up with just 11 on the year.
Green is a bit of a one-man show in Cincinnati, with occasional sidekicks like Andrew Hawkins and Mohamed Sanu making appearances.
Andy Dalton's limitations are also a bit of a drag on Green's fantasy stock. You would think Green led all receivers in scoring given his scoring streak. Fourth wasn't bad.
10. Trent Richardson
Trent Richardson had a fine rookie season, particularly in the fantasy realm, but is he primed for a top-5 year in 2013?
The Cleveland running back made a living in the end zone, but he had one of the league's worst YPC thanks to defenses loading up to stop him.
Things haven't improved much for him, but a new regime could boost the offense. If Richardson's touchdowns dry up, he could be one of the bigger disappointments in 2013.
9. Aaron Rodgers
But of course, the best quarterback in the league is tops at his position here.
Aaron Rodgers has been outgunned the past couple of seasons by Drew Brees, but it has been a matter of volume. Rodgers has been the most efficient quarterback in the league.
The Discount Double Check got paid full price this offseason, becoming the highest paid player in NFL history. It is well-deserved for Rodgers, who is ensconced in his prime.
Rodgers has a fantastic arsenal at his disposal, and he's able to score points on the ground, unlike some of his closest fantasy competitors.
8. Calvin Johnson
Who else did you expect at the top of the wide receiver heap?
Despite a dramatic drop-off in fantasy scoring thanks to a drop in touchdowns, Calvin Johnson remained the top fantasy scorer on the season.
Megatron is just coming into his prime, a scary thought for opposing defenses and a delightful one for his fantasy owners. The touchdowns will come back.
7. Marshawn Lynch
The Seahawks have turned into monsters in the NFC West, and Beast Mode has been an integral part of the turnaround.
Marshawn Lynch might not be flashy, but he can sure rumble into that end zone.
Seattle will run the ball plenty in 2013, and Lynch will garner all of the tough carries, even with Robert Turbin and Christine Michael in the fold. He should have a nice fantasy year.
6. Doug Martin
Trent Richardson was the touted rookie heading into last season, but Doug Martin was a pleasant fantasy surprise even if he was clearly second choice among rookies.
Dougie Howser was second only to Adrian Peterson in standard scoring at the running back position—not too shabby for a rookie at all.
He doesn't have much competition for playing time, and he is a true three-down back. He should have another solid year.
5. C.J Spiller
C.J. Spiller started the 2012 season on fire, lapping the league for the first two weeks and scoring another long touchdown in the third against Cleveland before an injury reared its ugly head.
Fred Jackson came back to help spoil the party for Spiller, who still had some great games and finished seventh in fantasy scoring.
Jackson is back to continue playing spoiler, but he might not be able to hold Spiller off for too much playing time if the latter can stay healthy. He is simply too talented.
4. LeSean McCoy
Last season was a dismal one for LeSean McCoy and the Eagles.
Expectations were high for the Philadelphia running back after scoring 21 touchdowns the year before. But a dysfunctional team coupled with a lingering concussion short-circuited his 2012 campaign, and his fantasy owners paid the price.
Andy Reid is gone, and in his place is offensive innovator Chip Kelly. A rebound is in store for McCoy.
3. Arian Foster
One of the most consistent fantasy performers in recent years was an undrafted free agent.
Arian Foster has landed in the top five fantasy scorers for three consecutive seasons. He was fourth in scoring last season despite seeing his YPC drop to 4.1 and his yards per carry after contact to 2.2, near the bottom of the league.
His peripherals have been declining, though, so it could be a bit of a bumpy road.
2. Jamaal Charles
Lost in last year's magic season from Adrian Peterson was the fact that Jamaal Charles had an impressive recovery as well.
The talented running back tore his ACL just three months before Peterson, and he managed over 1,500 yards while averaging 5.3 YPC.
A new regime is in town, and while there is some trepidation about how Andy Reid will utilize Charles, it can't be as bad as the Todd Haley years. Reid did coach Brian Westbrook and LeSean McCoy during some fantastic fantasy seasons.
1. Adrian Peterson
The Purple Jesus had a bewilderingly fantastic season.
Coming back from tearing up his knee just nine months later, Adrian Peterson tore up the NFL. He came nine yards shy of breaking the all-time rushing record, propelling himself to the top of the fantasy heap at running back in the process.
Historically, players who hit the 2,000-yard mark have a severe drop-off the following season. But Peterson is determined to shatter Eric Dickerson's record. Will he buck history and outperform himself?
Perhaps not, but he is a good bet to take with your top pick.