Fantasy Football 2013: Early-Season Report Card for Top Picks at Each Position

Giancarlo Ferrari-KingFeatured ColumnistSeptember 26, 2013

Fantasy Football 2013: Early-Season Report Card for Top Picks at Each Position

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    Remember that time in high school when a few weeks before your final report cards came out, there were these things sent to your house called progress reports?

    Well, this is kind of like that, except instead of biology and calculus, we're dishing out grades for fantasy football.

    Three weeks into the 2013 fantasy season, most owners have endured all of the crazy ups and downs that this glorious world we call fantasy football has to offer.

    Acting like a teacher with tenure, these grades for the top players at each position consisted of a Starbucks-like blend of each player's current level of fantasy production and his average draft position.

    So without further delay, start the slideshow below and check out the early-season report cards for the top fantasy football picks at each position

     

    *All stats courtesy of ESPN.com unless noted otherwise.

    *All Average Draft Position (ADP) information courtesy of MyFantasyLeague.com

Quarterback

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    Peyton Manning: A+

    With an ADP of 29.4—the third quarterback taken in most fantasy drafts—Denver Broncos QB Peyton Manning has been brilliant through the first three weeks of the season.

    Throwing for 1,143 yards and 12 touchdowns, Manning is currently ranked No. 1 in every major statistical category.

    Watching the 37-year-old fantasy football maestro put up big numbers has been a thrill for all of his fantasy owners.

     

    Philip Rivers: A

    There's no doubt about it: San Diego Chargers QB Philip Rivers has been the most valuable fantasy quarterback through the first three weeks of the season.

    With an ADP of 157, Rivers was selected in the 13th round, if at all, in most fantasy drafts this past summer. Not bad for a guy who is currently the sixth-highest scoring QB in fantasy.

    Throwing for 798 yards, eight touchdowns and completing 70 percent of his passes, Rivers is thriving in new head coach Mike McCoy's offensive system.

     

    Michael Vick: A-

    When Chip Kelly arrived in Philadelphia this past offseason, many Eagles fans were thrilled at the prospect of having one of the most dynamic offensive minds patrolling their sidelines.

    When Michael Vick won the starting QB job, fantasy owners were even happier. Understanding what Kelly could bring to this offense, it was clear that one of the most polarizing individuals to ever play in this league was about to be thrown into a really good situation.

    Fast-forward three weeks into the season and Vick is the second-highest scoring QB in fantasy behind only Peyton Manning.

    Although he struggled against the Kansas City Chiefs last week, the fact remains that Kelly's offense is still going to allow Vick to put up big numbers as long as he can stay healthy.

     

    Aaron Rodgers: A-

    The No.1 QB taken in fantasy drafts for the third straight year, Aaron Rodgers has been, well, Aaron Rodgers through the first three weeks of the season.

    Currently the third-highest scoring QB, aside from his tough game last week in Cincinnati, Rodgers has looked as sharp as a samurai sword this season.

    Throwing for 1,057 yards and eight touchdowns, there's no reason not to think Rodgers won't finish right next to Peyton Manning as one of the top fantasy QBs when the season winds down.

     

    Drew Brees: A-

    Like Rodgers and Manning, New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees has become a must-start every week regardless of his matchup. With an ADP of 18.06, Brees was usually selected right after Rodgers in most fantasy formats.

    Passing for 300 yards in all three of his games this season, Brees is a constant fountain of success in an ever-changing fantasy football world.

    Although he has thrown four interceptions, with six touchdowns and 1,021 yards passing to his name, Brees should have himself another 4,000-yard passing season with a lot of touchdowns for all of his loyal fantasy owners.

Running Back

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    LeSean McCoy: A+

    Another beneficiary of the high-octane Chip Kelly offense, Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy has earned himself top honors at the RB position so far this season.

    The top-scoring fantasy RB, McCoy has rushed for 395 yards and two touchdowns. Averaging 6.4 yards per carry, McCoy is gashing defenses whenever he touches the football.

    Selected as the ninth running back in most drafts heading into the season, McCoy's combination of vision, shiftiness and speed makes him a real threat to finish as the most productive running back in fantasy football at the end of the year.

     

    Joique Bell: A+

    A little known fantasy commodity named Joique Bell has earned his way onto this list—Bell's ADP this summer was 160.32. Serving as Reggie Bush's handcuff in Detroit, Bell has taken advantage of a Week 2 injury and stormed onto the scene.

    What's fascinating about Bell is that aside from being an essential handcuff for Bush owners, Bell has value even when Bush is on the field.

    During the Lions' Week 1 dismantling of the Minnesota Vikings, Bell finished the game with five catches for 65 yards and scored two rushing touchdowns down in the red zone.

    Although he isn't the dynamic talent that Bush is, Bell has earned a place in this Lions offense and should be a tremendous player for fantasy owners all season long.

     

    Jamaal Charles: A

    If you were one of those fantasy owners who missed out on Adrian Peterson this past summer, hopefully you were smart enough to draft Kansas City Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles.

    Charles, who is thriving in head coach Andy Reid's West Coast offense, is currently the second-highest scoring running back only behind LeSean McCoy.

    A dual threat, Charles has racked up 224 yards rushing, 151 yards receiving and three touchdowns.

    With starting QB Alex Smith averaging just 6.37 yards per pass attempt, those short passes means there's a really good chance Charles could catch around 75 passes this season.

    Watching him play, you have to admire this young man's explosiveness and ability to shred defenders in the running game as well as through the air.

    For those who managed to draft Charles, good work; he's going to continue to put up fantastic numbers throughout the year.

     

    Matt Forte: A-

    The fifth-highest scoring running back in fantasy football this season has been Chicago Bears stud Matt Forte.

    Always the productive player—he has never rushed for under 900 yards in his career—Forte is thriving under new head coach Marc Trestman.

    A runner with outstanding vision, Forte is the centerpiece of the Chicago offense. Rushing for 225 yards and catching 18 passes in just three games, if he stays healthy, Forte could end up finishing as a top three RB this season.

    The 11th running back taken in most drafts, it's crazy to think that savvy fantasy owners could have paired Forte with a player like LeSean McCoy.

     

    Adrian Peterson: B+

    The consensus No. 1 overall fantasy running back this past summer was of course, none other than Adrian Peterson.

    Peterson, who nearly ran his way into the record books last season, is the most driven and talented running back to come along in years.

    Oozing with confidence, although he may not be off to an AP-like start, Peterson is still the No. 3 ranked RB in fantasy football.

    Although offensive struggles in the Minnesota passing game have allowed defenses to load up on the box in hopes of stopping Peterson, don't get too concerned. In the end, Peterson's talent will prevail, and his fantasy totals will be sky-high.

Wide Receiver

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    DeSean Jackson: A+

    If you haven't noticed yet, Chip Kelly's offense translates to fantasy football gold.

    Wide receiver DeSean Jackson is off to a molten-hot start. Utilizing his Ducati-like speed, Jackson has been torching opposing defenses every week.

    Outside of his one poor showing against a stout Kansas City Chiefs defense—according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), the Chiefs have the best pass defense in the NFL—Jackson has been putting up serious points for fantasy owners.

    In Kelly's outstanding offensive attack, Jackson, the No. 1 ranked WR in fantasy football, should continue to shine like a Cash Money Records chain circa 1999.

     

    Jordy Nelson: A+

    Were you one of those fantasy owners who were concerned that Aaron Rodgers had too many targets for any Green Bay Packers wide receiver to be consistent? Well, if you weren't and you drafted Jordy Nelson, kudos.

    Showing a fantastic connection with Rodgers, it's no secret that Nelson has thrived during the first three weeks of the 2013 fantasy season.

    Racking up 289 yards and three touchdowns, aside from his elite fantasy production, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Nelson has also graded out as the No. 1 ranked WR in all of football.

    With an ADP of 54.17, Nelson's value is outstanding considering he was usually drafted after guys like Reggie Wayne, Dwayne Bowe and Hakeem Nicks.

     

    Julio Jones: A

    Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones is undoubtedly a special talent.

    Like most NFL WRs, his third NFL season was supposed to be a breakout campaign for Jones.

    With an ADP of 20.16, Jones has lived up to his value. Benefiting from a hobbled Roddy White and his own growth as a player, this young Falcons player has been on a tear so far in 2013.

    Hauling in 27 passes for 373 yards receiving and two touchdowns, Jones leads the NFL in receiving yards and is tied with New England Patriots WR Julian Edelman for receptions.

    Even if White gets healthy, thanks to his youth and game-changing ability, it's clear that this Atlanta offense now belongs to Julio Jones. 

     

    Calvin Johnson: A-

    Like Adrian Peterson at the running back position, Detroit Lions superstar Calvin Johnson was the first WR taken off draft boards this past summer.

    Coming off a record-breaking season in terms of yardage, the man they call Megatron has proven that he's a force to be reckoned with.

    As it stands right now, Johnson is the No. 5 ranked WR in scoring. But that could have changed if he didn't get a touchdown called back Week 1 against the Vikings.

    Honestly, there's not much else to say: This guy is a unique talent who is going to have a monster fantasy season once again.

     

    Wes Welker: A-

    Along with Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos WR Wes Welker is poised to have himself a big year in fantasy.

    Landing in Denver this past offseason, Welker has shown instant chemistry with Peyton Manning.

    Although he's ranked No. 11 in the NFL with 19 receptions, Welker has managed to put up four touchdowns in his first three weeks. With an ADP of 42.10, Welker's value has been fantastic for where he was taken in most drafts.

    With the Denver offense showing no signs of slowing down, there's no doubt that Welker's stock is going to rise again this season.

Tight End

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    Jimmy Graham: A+

    Forget Rob Gronkowski and his injury problems, New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham is the best TE in fantasy football.

    With size, speed and an unparallelled connection with his quarterback Drew Brees, Graham has been pulverizing defenses throughout the first three weeks of the season.

    Racking up 23 receptions to go with 358 yards receiving and four touchdowns, Graham has been outplaying most wide receivers.

    For those who thought his ADP of 20.65 was too high, well you were wrong. Graham has performed incredibly well and provided fantasy owners with a constant, devastating fantasy option they should be able to count on all season long.

     

    Jordan Cameron: A+

    This summer, would you have bet that Cleveland Browns tight end Jordan Cameron would have more receiving yards and touchdowns than Calvin Johnson through the first three weeks of the season?

    The former USC Trojan basketball player has been a tremendous weapon for fantasy football owners so far this season.

    With an ADP of 123.71, Cameron has been the definition of a value pick. Now with Browns WR Josh Gordon back and Trent Richardson sporting an Indianapolis Colts uniform, Cameron should continue to consume targets at a ridiculously high rate.

    Is he the next great tight end or just an early-season wonder? Only time will give us that answer.

     

    Julius Thomas: A+

    Another outstanding value pick, Denver Broncos tight end Julius Thomas has been brilliant this season.

    Four touchdowns, 194 yards receiving and 14 receptions later, Thomas has used his athleticism and connection with Peyton Manning to provide fantasy owners with a huge boost.

    Like Graham and Cameron, Thomas is a former basketball player. The transition to tight end has seemed to work well over the years.

    With a ton of quality options surrounding him in that offense, Thomas may not break the 1,000-yard receiving mark, but thanks to his size and ability to slip past coverage, double-digit touchdowns are a real possibility for the Broncos big man.

     

    Antonio Gates: B+

    This summer there was talk that San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates was done. In bars and fantasy football circles, people said the former Pro Bowl tight end had peaked, and his glory days were well behind him.

    Fast-forward three weeks into the season and Gates has shined in San Diego's new offense. With Phillip Rivers winging the football around, Gates has put together a solid start to the 2013 fantasy season. Ranked as the No. 8 scoring tight end, Gates has accumulated 15 receptions for 228 yards and a touchdown.

    With an ADP of 110.29, Gates was taken after guys like Owen Daniels, Kyle Rudolph and Vernon Davis. As it stands right now, those owners who waited patiently and rolled the dice on Gates are reaping the rewards.

     

    Jared Cook: B

    St. Louis Rams tight end Jared Cook is a unique talent. Peter King of TheMMQB.com called Cook the "single-best player" he saw on his training camp tour this past summer.

    The St. Louis TE indeed got off to a hot start Week 1 against the Arizona Cardinals. Catching seven passes for 144 yards and scoring two touchdowns, Cook showed everyone exactly what King was talking about.

    Sadly, that promise came crashing down in Week 2 when Cook was held to just one catch for 10 yards. After doing a little better in Week 3, finishing with five receptions for 44 yards, it's clear that opposing defenses know they have to slow Cook down if they want to beat the Rams.

    While he currently is the No. 5-ranked tight end in scoring, most of that came from his huge Week 1 performance.

    The talent is there, but can the Rams find a way to consistently get this young man the football?

D/ST

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    Kansas City Chiefs: A+

    It's been a turnaround season for the Kansas City Chiefs not just on offense, but also on the defensive side of the ball.

    With a ton of young playmakers at their disposal, the Chiefs have quickly turned into an elite fantasy football defense.

    Ranked as the No. 1 scoring defense through the first three weeks of the season, there's no reason why this defensive unit should slow down anytime soon.

    Facing off against the New York Giants, Tennessee Titans, Oakland Raiders and Houston Texans in the coming weeks, the Chiefs D/ST is ready to continue racking up the points.

    With an ADP of 201.72 (basically undrafted), it's time to respect this team as a contender.

     

    Seattle Seahawks: A

    The first defense taken in most fantasy drafts, the rugged Seattle Seahawks defense has lived up to expectations so far.

    Bullying teams all over the field, led by a valiant pass rush and a ferocious secondary, everyone knows that the Seahawks are going to continue their trend of scoring points for their fantasy owners.

     

    Tennessee Titans: A

    The 29th defense taken in fantasy drafts this year, the Tennessee Titans have been outstanding so far this season.

    For a D/ST unit that was barely on anyone's radar, the addition of Gregg Williams as a senior assistant coach has really elevated this defense's play early on.

    Still owned in just 6.6 percent of ESPN leagues, if you have the room, it's time to add the Titans defense to your roster.

     

    Dallas Cowboys: A-

    The Dallas Cowboys brought in defensive mastermind Monte Kiffin this past offseason to help revamp their defense.

    The result? The Cowboys have the No. 3 highest scoring defense in fantasy football right now. As they begin to understand the scheme better, the Cowboys have a real chance to finish as a top-10 fantasy defense this year.

     

    Chicago Bears: A-

    It might be a new fantasy season, but it's the same old Chicago Bears D/ST. Like always, these guys create turnovers, get pressure and bully opposing offenses.

    Guys like Julius Peppers, Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings have been leading the charge for this veteran defensive unit.

    As the season rolls on, the Bears D/ST can be counted on for fantastic performances.

Kicker

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    Matt Prater: A+

    Just like the rest of the Denver Broncos, kicker Matt Prater has been a fantasy all-star so far thanks to this aggressive Broncos offense.

    Scoring 37 fantasy points in just three weeks, Prater is putting up wide receiver or running back numbers.

    If he continues to stay on this torrid pace, Prater could end up deciding a few fantasy championships later on this year.

     

    Caleb Sturgis: A+

    Miami Dolphins rookie kicker Caleb Sturgis hasn't missed a field goal this season for his team. Tied with Dan Bailey as the No. 2-ranked kicker in fantasy football, Sturgis has been great for the 3-0 Dolphins.

    With an ADP 211.35, Sturgis has served as a great waiver-wire addition for those who picked him up.

     

    Dan Bailey: A

    Outside of Prater and Sturgis, another kicker who has been scoring a ton of points for fantasy owners this season has been Dallas Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey.

    Bailey, who benefits from playing on a talented Cowboys offense, has racked up 33 fantasy points for his owners.

    A player who should always be in your lineup, Bailey is a sneaky good kicker who has a shot to help fantasy teams win games when they need it most.

     

    Stephen Gostkowski: A-

    The No. 1 kicker drafted this past summer, Stephen Gostkowski has been steady as usual. Scoring 32 fantasy points, there's no doubt that this New England Patriots kicker should finish once again as a top scoring fantasy option.

     

    Garrett Hartley: A-

    New Orleans Saints kicker Garrett Hartley is another player who gets to benefit from playing on a fantastic offense.

    Scoring 30 fantasy points in three weeks, Hartley should continue to produce as long as the New Orleans offense stays hot.