Fantasy Football Rankings 2013: Position-by-Position Standings

Alessandro Miglio@@AlexMiglioFeatured ColumnistAugust 6, 2013

Fantasy Football Rankings 2013: Position-by-Position Standings

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    The NFL preseason has arrived, and with it fantasy football has kicked into high gear. Excitement is in the air as preparations for a new season ramp up.

    Who are the top fantasy players at each position, barring injury? These rankings are based on standard scoring settings. Click through to find out.


    Statistics courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference and Pro Football Focus (subscription required).


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    1. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

    His spot atop Mount Quarterback is teetering a bit with the latest injury news for starting left tackle Bryan Bulaga, per, but Aaron Rodgers is still the top dog here.

    Rodgers has played with poor offensive lines before, and he has put up huge numbers with incredible efficiency in the process. Last season, Rodgers was sacked 51 times but still managed to light up the league to the tune of nearly 4,300 yards and 39 touchdowns.


    2. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

    The man who beat out Aaron Rodgers in fantasy scoring in each of the past two seasons can't get any love at the top, can he?

    The fact remains that, while Brees is an excellent quarterback with a host of weapons, Rodgers is better. It might not be by much, but it's enough to keep Brees behind him in these rankings.


    3. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers

    Despite a slow start last season, Cam Newton wound up as the fourth-best fantasy quarterback in the league. He's still got his wheels, and he should be more durable than some of his running-quarterback peers at 6'5" and 248 pounds.

    Newton doesn't have the weapons some of his contemporaries at the top have here, but he is his own weapon.


    4. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons

    The Falcons have a host of talent on offense, and they are even better than last season. Tony Gonzalez came back for one last hurrah, Roddy White is as solid as ever, Julio Jones is coming into his own, and Steven Jackson brings the heat out of the backfield now.

    Matt Ryan is going to have himself a fun year playing with all those toys.


    5. Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos

    The rich keep getting richer, as the cliche goes.

    Peyton Manning already had Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, but he had to go and steal Wes Welker from his nemesis Tom Brady. The diminutive receiver gives Manning another fantastic option to work with.

    Assuming health, Manning should have another top-five season.


    6. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions

    Stafford's arsenal remains pretty much the same. What he needs is stability.

    Outside Calvin Johnson last season, no receiver or tight end played more than 800 snaps. All in all, nine were on the field for 250 snaps. In other words, Stafford didn't really have consistency aside from Johnson.

    Granted, having Johnson is huge, but it will be nice for Stafford to get Nate Burleson back healthy. It should also help he won't have someone sabotaging the offense.


    7. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys

    Put away that shocked face. Shut those slackened jaws.

    Did you know Tony Romo has finished in the top 10 in fantasy scoring in his last five healthy seasons? He has finished as high as second, back in 2007, when the only guy in front of him was record-setting Tom Brady.

    Between Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, Miles Austin and DeMarco Murray out of the backfield, Romo has some nice options. He has another top-10 season in store.


    8. Tom Brady, New England Patriots

    This offseason has not been kind to Tom Brady.

    First, he turned 36. There was no evidence he was slowing down with age last season, but every year that ticks off the calendar, he comes closer to an inevitable drop off in performance.

    More importantly, the turnover on offense for the Patriots has been enormous. Welker, his most trusted receiver, is gone. Aaron Hernandez is in jail. Rob Gronkowski has been hammered by injuries and may not be available to start the season.

    Consistency is important when it comes to offensive production, and Brady's arsenal has been overhauled this offseason. That doesn't mean he will have a bad year, but his fantasy owners could be in for a bit of a rude awakening.


    9. Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers

    There is plenty of hype surrounding Colin Kaepernick after his sizzling sophomore season. But is there substance behind it?

    Like Newton, Kaepernick is going to score plenty of points on the ground. But he lacks a serious No. 1 receiver with Michael Crabtree sidelined this season due to an Achilles injury.

    Anquan Boldin should be adequate, but he is well past his prime. Vernon Davis will shoulder a big load at tight end, but who else will step up?

    The 49ers will probably run the ball quite a bit—some of that being with Kaepernick himself, of course, but it could mitigate his value in the fantasy realm.


    10. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks

    This seems low for a guy who lit the NFL on fire during the second half of the 2012 season. But, like the 49ers, the Seahawks are going to be running the ball quite a bit. 

    Like Kaepernick, Wilson lost his top receiver before he even really got him on the field. Percy Harvin's absence means Wilson will be relying on Golden Tate and oft-injured Sidney Rice at wide receiver.

    With Marshawn Lynch, Robert Turbin and Christine Michael in that backfield, Wilson isn't going to need to throw the ball as often as some other quarterbacks. 

Running Back

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    1. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings

    There have been six 2,000-yard rushers in NFL history, including Adrian Peterson. The first five followed that up by averaging 49 percent fewer fantasy points the following season.

    AD has performed miracles before, however. Even if he doesn't crash Eric Dickerson's record, he remains the best running back in football. 


    2. Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs

    People forget just how good of a fantasy back Brian Westbrook was for the Eagles. Andy Reid's old running back had some explosive seasons that were, unfortunately, marred with injuries. It might have been an awful 2012 for Reid, but he gets a fresh start in Kansas City.

    Jamaal Charles is better than any back Reid has had before.

    Peterson had the miracle season, but Charles was no slouch in his comeback year either, rushing for over 1,500 yards despite erratic usage by his coaches. He has always had massive upside, and he will cash in on his potential this season thanks to Reid's offense.


    3. LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles

    He went from 20 touchdowns in 2011 to just five last season, a brutally disappointing campaign for LeSean McCoy and the Eagles all around.

    At least some of that dysfunction is gone, exiled with Andy Reid to the BBQ capital of America, though McCoy wasn't too bad before he was injured last season. McCoy gets Chip Kelly now, who helped unleash some incredible statistical seasons from running backs during his tenure at Oregon.

    It should be a nice bounce-back season for McCoy if he can avoid the dreaded concussion recurrence.


    4. Arian Foster, Houston Texans

    Did you know Arian Foster has garnered 1,115 touches on 2,598 offensive snaps over the past three seasons? That is a lot of mileage in a short span, even if Foster is still relatively young at 26.

    The effects might already be showing with Foster being slowed down by injuries this offseason. Even if he returns to full health, Ben Tate might play a bigger role as the Texans try to keep Foster healthy and fresh for the stretch run. 


    5. C.J. Spiller, Buffalo Bills

    When the 2012 season started, C.J. Spiller looked like he had taken the starting gig in Buffalo and ran with it. He was a fantasy football revelation before an injury and Fred Jackson's untimely return spoiled things.

    Unlike his predecessor, head coach Doug Marrone realizes he has a gold mine in the backfield. He doesn't plan on limiting Spiller—or Jackson, for what it's worth—this coming season, which could lead to a huge year for the explosive back.


    6. Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks

    The Seahawks are going to run the ball. A lot.

    Marshawn Lynch has been a fantastic fantasy option in recent years, so much so that we are all waiting for the other shoe to drop. Will his massive workload make him complacent? Will opposing defenses be able to turn Beast Mode off?

    I don't think so.


    7. Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    It might seem crazy to rank Doug Martin this low, but hear me out.

    Martin scored a ton of fantasy points last season, but what if I told you he did a big chunk of that damage in just two games? He ripped through Oakland and Minnesota for 74.6 standard points. That was 28 percent of his total output for the season.

    The rest of the time, he was averaging a good—but not great—12.7 points per game. His value is predicated on the fact he has no serious competition for playing time.


    8. Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens

    What is this madness? Surely I have made a mistake in ranking Ray Rice this low.

    The truth of the matter is Bernard Pierce actually looked better than Rice late in the 2012 season. He made more people miss and averaged better numbers, albeit in limited duty. 

    Pierce's role should grow in this Baltimore offense, which could give Rice more opportunities for rest than he has in the past. Rice should still put up big numbers, but Pierce is going to start eating away at his production this season.


    9. Trent Richardson, Cleveland Browns

    The Browns don't have much in the way of competition for Trent Richardson. But he had some red flags in his rookie season.

    Most notably, Richardson enters his second season with injury concerns. The heavy workload as a rookie may have taken a toll on his body.

    Then there is his pitiful 3.6 yards-per-carry average. Were it not for his 12 touchdowns, Richardson's rookie season would have been a major fantasy disappointment.


    10. Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans

    Yes, Chris Johnson has burned more fantasy owners than the sun during spring break, but things have changed for the better in Tennessee.

    A big reason for Johnson's fall from fantasy grace after his 2,000-yard season was an offensive line that simply crumbled. Johnson became a tentative runner who found little daylight much of the time, and he became a big liability as a result.

    Well, that offensive line has ostensibly been fixed. The Titans added one of the best guards in the league in Andy Levitre and drafted arguably the best prospect at the position in Chance Warmack.

    At the very least, the excuses are evaporating for Johnson. He has every reason to put up this season; otherwise, he might shut up his supporters forever.

Wide Receiver

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    1. Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions

    The best receiver in the game was tops in fantasy land last season despite only scoring five touchdowns. Megatron is a threat to Jerry Rice records and Autobots alike. 


    2. A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals

    The second-best receiver in the league just cannot catch the top dog, especially given the quarterback comparison. Andy Dalton is a fine starter, of course, but he is not quite Matthew Stafford.

    Green scored a touchdown in nine consecutive games last season, and he is certainly capable of big things. Can he overtake Megatron? 

    Doubtful, but second place isn't bad here.


    3. Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys

    If the second half of the 2012 season is any indication, Dez Bryant is in for a huge season. He was only topped by the best, Calvin Johnson, during the latter half of last year.

    The word around the league is he is having a dominant training camp, per Calvin Watkins of ESPN. His off-field issues appear to be behind him. We might be in for something special out of Dallas, and specifically Bryant, this season.


    4. Brandon Marshall, Chicago Bears

    Brandon Marshall caught 118 passes for 1,508 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. That was before head coach Marc Trestman came to add some jet fuel to the offense.


    5. Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons

    He didn't take that incredible leap some expected out of him last season, but Julio Jones had a great year nonetheless.

    His third year in the league looms, and so does the tantalizing promise he will join his elite peers in the rarefied air at the top of the fantasy realm. The only things keeping him from reaching those heights are injuries and too many mouths to feed in that Atlanta offense. 


    6. Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals

    What a painful few years it has been for Larry Fitzgerald and his fantasy owners. There, there, don't be shy—don't back away from him in fear. Carson Palmer is here to make things all better.


    7. Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos

    It was a breakout season for Demaryius Thomas. It's amazing what a future Hall of Fame quarterback can do for a player's production.

    The only reason he is not in the top five here is because Wes Welker swooped into Denver to steal targets. Thomas has a ton of upside, though.


    8. Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    Vincent Jackson is one of the better receivers in the NFL today. Josh Freeman is underrated as a passer to boot, and the tandem should be even better in their second season playing together.


    9. Victor Cruz, New York Giants

    The salsa dancing wonder had an off year after his incredible 2011 campaign. He suffered from a case of the dropsies, and was forced to play outside—he is much better in the slot—more often because of injuries and inexperience in the Giants wide receiver corp.

    Hakeem Nicks is still battling injuries, but it looks like Rueben Randle has stepped up in his second season with the team. 


    10. Andre Johnson, Houston Texans

    Old man Andre Johnson still has plenty left in the tank, but he finally has serious competition for targets in the Houston offense.

    DeAndre Hopkins joins him, giving opposing defenses something to worry about, but also giving Matt Schaub more options. Still, Johnson should put up some nice numbers, even if he never gets to double-digit touchdowns in a single season.

Tight End

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    1. Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints

    At tight end, there's Jimmy Graham, and there's everyone else.

    With Rob Gronkowski potentially out of the picture for the first six weeks of the season, Graham stands alone in the top tier of fantasy tight ends. Nobody else will come close to matching his production in that New Orleans Saints offense, barring injury of course.


    2. Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta Falcons

    He might be 37 years old, but Tony Gonzalez didn't show any signs of slowing down last season. Expect similar production this year in that high-powered Atlanta attack.


    3. Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys

    The problem with Jason Witten is scoring touchdowns. That has always been his issue in the fantasy realm. He will still get a ton of targets and be a great asset to Tony Romo and the offense, but with guys like Dez Bryant on the roster, Witten will have to settle for celebrating his teammates' touchdowns.


    4. Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings

    Sure, assuming Kyle Rudolph will get into the end zone nine times again is a bit risky. But opposing defenses will have to pick their poison—Adrian Peterson or the Red-Zone Reindeer.

    Rudolph has immense upside, but his value is mitigated by his quarterback. Christian Ponder isn't exactly Tom Brady or Drew Brees. What Rudolph lacks in sheer volume of touches he will make up for in red-zone opportunities, and that is where he will butter your fantasy team's bread.


    5. Vernon Davis, San Francisco 49ers

    The onus falls on Vernon Davis to carry the receiving load for the 49ers after Michael Crabtree's devastating Achilles injury. Is he up to the task?

    Davis had a fantastic postseason, but that followed a horrendous stretch during the end of the fantasy season where he barely showed up. When Colin Kaepernick took over, Davis disappeared from the fantasy landscape, only to emerge as a playoff hero.

    Which version will emerge for the 2013 season?


    6. Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots

    The fantasy prognosis for Rob Gronkowski is murky. Will he be back early, or will he be put on the PUP list to wipe out the first six weeks of his season? That is the big question.

    Even if he is healthy enough to stay off the PUP, he might not be ready to roll for the first few weeks of the season. And how effective will he be once he does get on the field?

    Taking all that into account, it is worth noting Gronkowski finished as the second-best fantasy tight end last season despite missing the final five games. He's pretty good.


    7. Owen Daniels, Houston Texans

    Everyone appears to be sleeping on Owen Daniels. At least it seems that way, with zero buzz surrounding the veteran tight end. 

    Daniels finished as the eighth-best fantasy tight end last season, and the position is wide open after the top couple of guys on this list.


    8. Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers

    The Panthers don't have much in the way of weapons for Cam Newton outside Steve Smith and Greg Olsen. Sure, Brandon LaFell and David Gettis are around, but they haven't lived up to their potential.

    Olsen should see plenty of targets.


    9. Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers 

    He is all but forgotten in San Diego, but Gates still has some juice left if he can stay healthy. The question is whether Philip Rivers has spoiled under Norv Turner.


    10. Brandon Pettigrew, Detroit Lions

    You would think Brandon Pettigrew would get more love, given he is the top tight end in a high-powered offense. But this offseason, he has sunk to the depths of the fantasy football world at his position.


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    1.Stephen Gostkowski, New England Patriots

    Stephen Gostkowski has been one of the best kickers in the league over the past several seasons, and the Patriots should still move the ball into scoring territory plenty, despite the injuries and off-field woes on offense.


    2. Matt Bryant, Atlanta Falcons

    The Falcons will be scoring a lot of points on offense this season, and Matt Bryant will be there to cash in on field goals and extra points.


    3. Blair Walsh, Minnesota Vikings

    Last season's fantasy king at the position could have plenty of field-goal scoring opportunities as drives stall with Christian Ponder under center.


    4. Justin Tucker, Baltimore Ravens

    How tough is it going to be for the Ravens to score touchdowns with offensive skill players dropping like flies nowadays? 


    5. Sebastian Janikowski, Oakland Raiders

    Ever the darling of fantasy kickers, Sebastian Janikowski has actually finished in the top 10 just three times over the past 10 seasons. Still, the Polish-born Janikowski figures to be in the mix with that powerful leg of his.


    6. Greg Zuerlein, St. Louis Rams

    The beginning of last year was fantastic for Greg Zuerlein, but three misses at Miami in Week 6 seemed to derail his season. Still, Legatron can kick it as far as anyone in the NFL, and the Rams offense figures to be better this year.


    7. Matt Prater, Denver Broncos

    The thin air at Mile High Stadium seems like a boon for kickers, and Matt Prater plays there eight times a year.


    8. Dan Bailey, Dallas Cowboys

    The Cowboys offense shouldn't have any problems getting the ball down the field, and Dan Bailey is a pretty good kicker who will be able to capitalize on the scoring opportunities.


    9. Garrett Hartley, New Orleans Saints

    The Saints had a good offensive season in 2012, but they return to their highflying antics with Sean Payton back in the fold. 

    That means plenty of opportunities to score points for Garrett Hartley.


    10. Mike Nugent, Cincinnati Bengals

    The Bengals have a pretty good offense, but it will be interesting to see how many of those drives will stall, giving Nugent a chance to rack up points. 

Defense and Special Teams

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    1. Seattle Seahawks

    That Seattle defense was scary enough before adding Cliff Avril and Antoine Winfield during the offseason. Richard Sherman was already one of the best cornerbacks in the league, and he is just heading into his prime.


    2. Cincinnati Bengals

    The Bengals have one of the more underrated defensive units in the league. They retain all their important pieces—most notably Michael Johnson—and boast the best defensive tackle in the NFL in Geno Atkins. They will make some noise this season.


    3. San Francisco 49ers

    The 49ers have become staples at the top of defensive rankings over the years, and their defensive core has been locked up for the foreseeable future. 

    Linebackers Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman make things tough in the middle while the Smith Bros.—Justin and Aldon—terrify quarterbacks on the outside.

    The biggest issue for the 49ers right now is overcoming injuries, especially having lost one of their top cornerbacks in Chris Culliver for the year due to a knee injury.


    4. Denver Broncos

    Von Miller may or may not miss the first four games of the season, pending appeal of his suspension. Losing him would be a big blow for that defense, but the Broncos have a pretty good unit surrounding the stud pass-rusher.


    5. Houston Texans

    J.J. Watt is the most dominant defender in the NFL, and had one of the best defensive seasons in NFL history last season. He is the engine that runs the Houston defense, which could be very good if other players can manage to stay healthy this season.


    6. Chicago Bears

    The Bears not only lost their leader in Brian Urlacher, but they also lost their defensive-minded coach in Lovie Smith. They still have guys like Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings to produce takeaways, but there could be a bit of a defensive drop-off this season in Chicago.


    7. New England Patriots

    The Patriots have not had a particularly good defense in recent years, but their fantasy scoring hasn't reflected that. They finished third last season thanks to some timely turnovers and return touchdowns.


    8. St. Louis Rams

    Head coach Jeff Fisher has built a young, solid defense. The unit is capable of having some big fantasy days, as it already showed last season at the expense of the Arizona Cardinals.


    9. Cleveland Browns

    The AFC North is loaded defensively, and the Browns are perhaps the best example of that. There is plenty of young talent on that squad, including linebacker Jabaal Sheard and cornerback Joe Haden. 


    10. Green Bay Packers

    Green Bay has some talent on that defense, not the least of which is the young Casey Hayward. Randall Cobb gives the special teams some pizazz to top it all off.