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Fantasy Football Week 15 Rankings: Position-by-Position Breakdown

KANSAS CITY, MO - DECEMBER 01:  Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos walks off the field after beating the Kansas City Chiefs on December 1, 2013 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.  Denver beat Kansas City 35-28.  (Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images)
Peter Aiken/Getty Images
Donald WoodFeatured ColumnistDecember 9, 2013

The first round of the fantasy football playoffs was unpredictable, to say the least, and injuries to stars like Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson and New England’s Rob Gronkowski have owners looking ahead to the Week 15 rankings.

Starting the right players this week could be the difference between making the championship in your league and losing in spectacular fashion.

Here are my top 10 rankings at every position to help you make the toughest game-day decisions in such a pivotal portion of the season.

*Based on standard-scoring leagues. Points against stats via ESPN.

 

Quarterback

Week 15 Quarterback Rankings
RankPlayerTeamOpponentProj. points
1Peyton ManningDenver BroncosSan Diego Chargers28
2Drew BreesNew Orleans SaintsSt. Louis Rams24
3Tony RomoDallas CowboysGreen Bay Packers22
4Philip RiversSan Diego ChargersDenver Broncos21
5Andrew LuckIndianapolis ColtsHouston Texans20
6Matthew StaffordDetroit LionsBaltimore Ravens18
7Cam NewtonCarolina PanthersNew York Jets18
8Nick FolesPhiladelphia EaglesMinnesota Vikings17
9Tom BradyNew England PatriotsMiami Dolphins17
10Robert Griffin IIIWashington RedskinsAtlanta Falcons17

 

Quarterback Notes

The cream always rises to the top, and in the second week of fantasy playoffs, the perennial powerhouses like Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Tony Romo will thrive once again and bring owners to the next round.

The top three quarterbacks all have favorable matchups, but they’re not alone. Philip Rivers, Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III all have a chance to make an impact on the sport this week against lackluster defenses.

While talented stars like Matthew Stafford, Tom Brady and Cam Newton are all worth a start this week despite tough games, the biggest sleeper of Week 15 could be Nick Foles. The Eagles square off against the lowly Minnesota Vikings defense that has given up a league-high 20.4 points per game against opposing QBs.

Foles could have a monster fantasy day.

 

Running Back

Week 15 Running Back Rankings
RankPlayerTeamOpponentProj. Points
1Jamaal CharlesKansas City ChiefsOakland Raiders22
2LeSean McCoyPhiladelphia EaglesMinnesota Vikings20
3DeMarco MurrayDallas CowboysGreen Bay Packers19
4Marshawn LynchSeattle SeahawksNew York Giants19
5Knowshon MorenoDenver BroncosSan Diego Chargers18
6Matt ForteChicago BearsCleveland Browns17
7Maurice Jones-DrewJacksonville JaguarsBuffalo Bills15
8Eddie Lacy Green Bay PackersDallas Cowboys15
9Frank GoreSan Francisco 49ersTampa Bay Buccaneers14
10Zac StacySt. Louis RamsNew Orleans Saints12

 

Running Back Notes

The biggest news of the week regarding running backs was the injury to Minnesota Vikings lead back Adrian Peterson and the reported mid-foot strain he suffered, according to Brian Murphy of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Peterson would have been the No. 1-ranked back this week, but the uncertainty surrounding his injury should have owners finding other options. This couldn’t have come at a worse time in the fantasy season.

After big games from both Jamaal Charles and LeSean McCoy, the duo has moved up as the top two backs in Week 15. DeMarco Murray, Marshawn Lynch and Knowshon Moreno all are their respective team’s top back and will capitalize on the favorable matchups and the heavy workloads.

Other breakout candidates to watch will be Matt Forte, Maurice Jones-Drew, Frank Gore and Zac Stacy, but this Sunday’s ultimate sleeper is Eddie Lacy. The Green Bay Packers are taking on a Dallas Cowboys team that gives up the most fantasy points per game to opposing running backs (21.8).

No matter who is under center for Green Bay, fantasy owners should expect big numbers from Lacy.

 

Wide Receiver

Week 15 Wide Receiver Rankings
RankPlayerTeamOpponentProj. points
1Calvin JohnsonDetroit LionsBaltimore Ravens25
2Demaryius ThomasDenver BroncosSan Diego Chargers21
3Josh GordonCleveland BrownsChicago Bears20
4A.J. GreenCincinnati BengalsPittsburgh Steelers18
5Dez BryantDallas CowboysGreen Bay Packers18
6Brandon Marshall Chicago BearsCleveland Browns17
7Antonio BrownPittsburgh SteelersCincinnati Bengals15
8Larry FitzgeraldArizona CardinalsTennessee Titans14
9Andre JohnsonHouston TexansIndianapolis Colts14
10DeSean JacksonPhiladelphia EaglesMinnesota Vikings14

 

Wide Receiver Notes

After watching Mother Nature make her presence felt by skewing the passing numbers in some of the snowiest games football fans will witness this season, order will be restored to the top 10 in Week 15.

Calvin Johnson has once again returned to the No. 1 spot despite only catching three passes for 49 yards last week. The Detroit Lions will face a tough matchup against the Baltimore Ravens, but Megatron will not be held down again.

The majority of the top 10 rankings are comprised of the most reliable stars that fantasy owners have counted on all season. With consistent starters like Demaryius Thomas, Josh Gordon, A.J. Green, Dez Bryant, Antonio Brown, Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Johnson all playing well, the focus has shifted to which underrated players have the best chance to shine.

There is no bigger risk/reward start in Week 15 than DeSean Jackson.

Minnesota’s defense gives up an average of 25 points per game to opposing wide receivers. The great matchup will ease the fantasy owners who have panicked over the last three weeks, as Jackson has seen his catches, yards and touchdown numbers decline.

With the elements not making an impact inside the Vikings’ dome, Eagles quarterback Nick Foles should look to his speedy wide receiver early and often Sunday.

 

Tight End

Week 15 Tight End Rankings
RankPlayerTeamOpponentProj. points
1Jimmy GrahamNew Orleans SaintsSt. Louis Rams20
2Jason WittenDallas CowboysGreen Bay Packers17
3Julius ThomasDenver BroncosSan Diego Chargers17
4Vernon DavisSan Francisco 49ersTampa Bay Buccaneers16
5Tony GonzalezAtlanta FalconsWashington Redskins14
6Greg OlsenCarolina PanthersNew York Jets12
7Martellus BennettChicago BearsCleveland Browns12
8Jordan CameronCleveland BrownsChicago Bears12
9Heath MillerPittsburgh SteelersCincinnati Bengals12
10Antonio GatesSan Diego ChargersDenver Broncos11

 

Tight End Notes

I owned Rob Gronkowski in four leagues. I drafted him in the middle rounds and stashed him on the bench to start the season while he recovered from injuries. As he returned to the Patriots’ lineup, he once again emerged as the top tight end in football, even surpassing Jimmy Graham.

After an injury suffered Sunday that sources fear is a torn ACL and MCL, per Adam Schefter of ESPN, the risk of drafting the New England Patriots star will go down as a bust. Not only does that make Graham the unquestioned No. 1 tight end in the game, but it also creates a frenzy to find a viable replacement.

The majority of the top players at the position will succeed this week, including Jason Witten, Julius Thomas, Vernon Davis and Tony Gonzalez, but there are a few names that could be readily available depending on how your league handles waivers.

PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 08: Chris Clemons #30 of the Miami Dolphins knocks down Heath Miller #83 of the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on December 8, 2013 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Miami won the game 34-28. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

While Greg Olsen and Martellus Bennett are likely owned (both should have solid fantasy outputs Sunday), Jordan Cameron, Heath Miller and Antonio Gates could have been dropped along the way and there for owners to pick up.

The tight end position has been unpredictable all year, and Week 15 will be no exception.

 

Defense/Special Teams

Week 15 Defense/Special Teams Rankings
RankTeamOpponentProj. points
1Seattle SeahawksNew York Giants20
2San Francisco 49ersTampa Bay Buccaneers18
3Kansas City ChiefsOakland Raiders18
4Arizona CardinalsTennessee Titans16
5Cincinnati BengalsPittsburgh Steelers15
6Baltimore RavensDetroit Lions14
7Carolina PanthersNew York Jets14
8Pittsburgh SteelersCincinnati Bengals14
9Tampa Bay BuccaneersSan Francisco 49ers12
10New Orleans SaintsSt. Louis Rams12

 

Defense/Special Teams Notes

There will be no surprises here. If you made it this far in the postseason, you likely have one of the top 10 defense/special teams units in the league and have started them with consistency.

The biggest change, though, comes in the form of the Kansas City Chiefs proving once again that it’s not just the vaunted defense that gets major points. With two return touchdowns, Kansas City helped many fantasy teams upset their first-round opponents.

Owners understand that Seattle, San Francisco, Arizona, Cincinnati and Carolina are all must-starts each week. The highlighted team in this week’s top 10 for defense is the the New Orleans Saints.

NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 8:  Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers is sacked during a game against the New Orleans Saints at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 8, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

The Saints play a St. Louis team failing to find its rhythm. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has New Orleans playing hard-nosed football, and the Rams will be the latest victim that fails to put up big points on the much-improved defense.

 

Kicker

Week 15 Kicker Rankings
RankPlayerTeamOpponentProj. points
1Matt PraterDenver BroncosSan Diego Chargers15
2Steven HauschkaSeattle SeahawksNew York Giants14
3Stephen GostkowskiNew England PatriotsMiami Dolphins13
4Justin TuckerBaltimore RavensDetroit Lions12
5Blair WalshMinnesota VikingsPhiladelphia Eagles12
6Mason CrosbyGreen Bay PackersDallas Cowboys12
7Adam VinatieriIndianapolis ColtsHouston Texans11
8Phil DawsonSan Francisco 49ersTampa Bay Buccaneers10
9Robbie GouldChicago BearsCleveland Browns10
10Ryan SuccopKansas City ChiefsOakland Raiders10

 

Kicker Notes

Matt Prater set the all-time NFL record with his 64-yard field goal Sunday. With his power and accuracy on full display, coupled with the high-powered offense of the Denver Broncos, Prater has made his way to the top of the Week 15 rankings.

Just like your team defense, fantasy owners that have made it this far likely have one of the top kickers in the league. If you don’t and one of the players ranked above is available on waivers, make the move now and enjoy another victory.

 

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