Fantasy Football Rankings 2014: Top 25 Big Board at the Start of Training Camp
There are still plenty of weeks before your fantasy football draft, but there are just days before training camp begins and starts adjusting everyone's preseason draft boards. We debut our top 25 fantasy football players here, replete with stats, consensus rankings, projections and analysis.
Those player-by-player stats, industry-wide consensus rankings, personal projections and analysis are the criteria we used to come up with our rankings. These 25 are roughly ordered based on how your early mock drafts will go, with the little fudge factor for how I interpret their individual circumstances—health, supporting cast and projected role. The reasoning is all contained in the player outlook at the end of each slide.
Because there are injuries to evaluate and preseason hype to be had, we reserve the right to adjust these accordingly in the coming weeks. For now, debate away as we enter fantasy football's mock draft season.
25. RB Andre Ellington, Arizona Cardinals
FantasyPros.com consensus rank: No. 29 overall, No. 15 RB
2013 stats: 15 games, 652 yards, three touchdowns; 39 receptions for 371 yards and one TD
2014 projections: 13 games, 230 rush attempts for 1,050 yards, five touchdowns; 55 receptions for 525 yards and two touchdowns
If you get sucked in on OTA hype, Andre Ellington is headed for 350 touches and 2,000 total yards. That is a little outlandish considering his perceived lack of durability and how he needed to be managed as a rookie. Ellington is explosive, though, and will be taking over as the Arizona Cardinals' feature back. He is also going to be heavily used in the passing game. If he was in any other division, we would rank him higher than a late second-round pick. Those defenses he faces in the NFC West are just so tough.
24. RB Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals
FantasyPros.com consensus rank: No. 18 overall, No. 11 RB
2013 stats: 16 games, 695 yards, five touchdowns; 56 receptions for 514 yards and three TDs
2014 projections: 15 games, 265 rush attempts for 1,060 yards and five touchdowns with a 4.0 YPC average; 60 receptions for 525 yards and two TDs
Giovani Bernard is the youngest player in our top 25 and potentially the most explosive, especially if you consider the ball-control offense the Cincinnati Bengals want to move to under offensive coordinator Hue Jackson. Bernard is taking over as the feature back, and if not for the expectation that rookie Jeremy Hill or veteran BenJarvus Green-Ellis will steal goal-line carries, Bernard would be projected as a first-round pick in all fantasy leagues. As it is, he can prove to be a steal in Round 2, particularly in PPR formats.
23. RB Le'Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers
FantasyPros.com consensus rank: No. 16 overall, No. 10 RB
2013 stats: 13 games, 860 yards, eight touchdowns; 45 receptions for 399 yards and no TDs
2014 projections: 14 games, 280 rush attempts for 1,075 yards and eight TDs with a 3.8 YPC average; 50 receptions for 325 yards and zero TDs
If we could be more confident in the Pittsburgh Steelers opening the holes up front, we might be inclined to rank Le'Veon Bell as a first-round pick. As it is, Bell is the feature back for a team that figures to stick to the running game more than most. Bell is a finisher in games and at the goal line, so consider him a good bet to trump these projections and prove to be a great second-round pick in drafts.
22. WR Alshon Jeffery, Chicago Bears
FantasyPros.com consensus rank: No. 20 overall, No. 7 WR
2013 stats: 16 games, 89 receptions for 1,421 yards and seven touchdowns
2014 projections: 16 games, 90 receptions for 1,300 yards and eight touchdowns
Alshon Jeffery was a coup for fantasy owners last year as a middle-round breakout. Now, he is an early-round superstar. His age and usefulness in a pass-friendly offensive scheme make him a budding candidate to be the No. 1 overall fantasy wideout in a few years. If not for the presence of Brandon Marshall, Jeffery would be a double-digit touchdown threat. That might be the only thing that keeps him outside of our top five receivers.
21. WR Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons
FantasyPros.com consensus rank: No. 17 overall, No. 6 WR
2013 stats: Five games, 41 receptions for 580 yards and two touchdowns
2014 projections: 13 games, 80 receptions for 1,300 yards and 10 TDs
Julio Jones is coming off a career-threatening foot surgery, but he has already proved capable of bouncing back from that before to become one of the NFL's most dynamic wide receivers. He has vowed to stay healthy this season, which could leave him on the verge of a huge statistical breakthrough. There is obvious injury risk involved, especially if you were burned by him a year ago, but Jones shouldn't make it out of Round 2 in any fantasy league. Heck, some fantasy analysts even have him as a first-round pick.
20. RB Montee Ball, Denver Broncos
FantasyPros.com consensus rank: No. 11 overall, No. 7 RB
2013 stats: 16 games, 559 yards, four touchdowns; 20 receptions for 145 yards and no TDs
2014 projections: 14 games, 260 rush attempts for 1,100 yards and eight touchdowns with a 4.2 YPC average; 40 receptions for 290 yards and zero TDs
If there is a breakthrough candidate in the first two rounds of fantasy drafts this year, it has to be second-year Denver Broncos running back Montee Ball. He takes over for the departed Knowshon Moreno (signed with the Miami Dolphins) as the feature back in the most prolific offense in NFL history. If Ball stays healthy for a whole season, he is going to smash those modest projections and prove he should have been picked in the first round of all leagues. Heck, you might want to pick him there over the top wide receivers anyway.
19. WR Brandon Marshall, Chicago Bears
FantasyPros.com consensus rank: No. 15 overall, No. 5 WR
2013 stats: 16 games, 100 receptions for 1,295 yards and 12 touchdowns
2014 projections: 15 games, 99 receptions for 1,250 yards and 10 TDs
Brandon Marshall is one of the most consistent forces in fantasy. Even an Alshon Jeffery breakthrough didn't keep Marshall from being a top-five fantasy wideout last season. We should keep him right there and smack dab in the middle of Round 2 in a standard fantasy league. Marc Trestman's offense is receiver-friendly, and a second year in it shouldn't prove to be anything but more of the same here.
18. QB Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
FantasyPros.com consensus rank: No. 27 overall, No. 3 QB
2013 stats: 16 games, 5,162 yards, 39 touchdowns and three rushing TDs
2014 projections: 15 games, 400-of-625 for 4,750 yards and 32 passing TDs
You are going to get grey hair waiting for Father Time to catch up with Drew Brees. He just keeps getting better with age and never misses a game. The New Orleans Saints still boast one of the biggest home-field advantages in football and arguably one of the most pass-happy offensive systems in NFL history. Brees has a nice mix of veteran and youthful targets, which makes him a top-three fantasy quarterback and a great second-round pick.
17. QB Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
FantasyPros.com consensus rank: No. 26 overall, No. 2 QB
2013 stats: Nine games, 2,536 yards, 17 touchdowns and no rushing TDs
2014 projections: 15 games, 340-of-500 for 4,100 yards, 35 passing TDs and two rushing TDs
Unless you play in a two-quarterback league, you shouldn't draft a quarterback with one of your first two picks. Aaron Rodgers might be an exception for you, particularly if he falls into the middle of Round 2. The Green Bay Packers are going to remain a team that relies on Rodgers everywhere on the field, especially the red zone, every week of the season. Rodgers needs to stay healthy, but we will give him a pass for his broken collarbone. He is a rare quarterback worth selecting early.
16. RB Alfred Morris, Washington Redskins
FantasyPros.com consensus rank: No. 24 overall, No. 14 RB
2013 stats: 16 games, 1,275 yards rushing, seven touchdowns; nine receptions for 78 yards
2014 projections: 16 games, 300 rush attempts for 1,200 yards and eight TDs with a 4.0 YPC average; 15 receptions for 100 yards and zero TDs
We just don't understand the lack of first-round love for Alfred Morris. Sure, new head coach Jay Gruden is going to bring more of a pass-happy attack to the Washington Redskins, and there is an increasing faith in picking wide receivers in Round 1, but Alfred Morris hasn't done anything to warrant a lack of faith by fantasy owners. He is a first-round pick who shouldn't be on the board in Round 2, but he will be.
15. WR Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys
FantasyPros.com consensus rank: No. 10 overall, No. 3 WR
2013 stats: 16 games, 93 receptions for 1,233 yards and 13 touchdowns
2014 projections: 16 games, 95 receptions for 1,300 yards and 12 TDs
If you are someone who buys into contract years, you have to get Dez Bryant on your team with one of your first two picks. Bryant is precisely the type of mercurial diva who would go crazy for the almighty dollar. Tens of millions of them. Bryant's numbers should be bolstered by the fact that the Dallas Cowboys have a legendarily bad defense, which should create a lot of shootouts and garbage-time numbers. This is a top-15 pick, if not a top 10.
14. WR Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos
FantasyPros.com consensus rank: No. 9 overall, No. 2 WR
2013 stats: 16 games, 92 receptions for 1,430 yards and 14 touchdowns
2014 projections: 16 games, 100 receptions for 1,400 yards and 12 TDs
Demaryius Thomas became an elite fantasy wide receiver the day Peyton Manning became a Denver Bronco. The two remain in their heydays even if Manning is nearing the end of his Hall of Fame career. Thomas is a physical mismatch for single coverage, and the numerous weapons in Manning's arsenal leaves him one-on-one more than any other elite receiver in fantasy. He might not fall out of Round 1, because he is arguably the safest bet after the top five players are off the board.
13. WR A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals
Age: 25 (turns 26 on July 31)
FantasyPros.com consensus rank: No. 14 overall, No. 4 WR
2013 stats: 16 games, 98 receptions for 1,426 yards and 11 touchdowns
2014 projections: 16 games, 100 receptions for 1,500 yards and 12 TDs
Riddle us old school, or stubborn, but we are one of the few places where you will find just one wide receiver slotted as a first-round pick. The problem is there is just so little statistical difference between options two through five at the position. You don't have to reach in Round 1 for a wideout if a comparable one will be there for your next pick. We go with A.J. Green over others and even give him the same exact projections as our No. 1 wide receiver. Sure, the Cincinnati Bengals might be going to a power running game, but that should open up Green for big plays over the top of drawn-in safeties.
12. RB Arian Foster, Houston Texans
Age: 27 (turns 28 in August)
FantasyPros.com consensus rank: No. 12 overall, No. 8 RB
2013 stats: Eight games, 542 yards rushing, one touchdown; 22 receptions for 183 yards and one TD
2014 projections: 13 games, 250 rush attempts for 1,000 and eight TDs with a 4.0 YPC average; 45 receptions for 400 yards and one TD
The above projections are extremely modest and factor in a lot of injury risk. Bad backs are bad for anyone, especially, well, backs. Arian Foster is one of the best running backs of his generation, and he very clearly is the Houston Texans' No. 1 offensive weapon. Expect him to be used every way imaginable in new head coach Bill O'Brien's offense. Foster's receiving and touchdown numbers will trump the injury risk in making him a first-round pick this summer.
11. RB Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
FantasyPros.com consensus rank: No. 23 overall, No. 13 RB
2013 stats: Six games, 456 yards rushing, one touchdown; 12 receptions for 66 yards
2014 projections: 15 games, 300 rush attempts for 1,200 yards and eight TDs with a 4.0 YPC average; 40 receptions for 280 yards and zero TDs
We clearly are one of the few who believe Doug Martin is going to prove to be closer to his rookie year form than what we saw in 2013. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers figure to be one of the most run-friendly offenses in football when you consider how they can play defense and the additions they made on the offensive line. Martin is going to enjoy a comeback year, if not a career one. He shouldn't fall out of Round 1 in a standard league in our book.
10. RB DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys
FantasyPros.com consensus rank: No. 13 overall, No. 9 RB
2013 stats: 14 games, 1,121 yards, nine touchdowns; 53 receptions for 350 yards and one TD
2014 projections: 15 games, 250 rush attempts for 1,125 yards and eight TDs with a 4.5 YPC average; 45 receptions for 300 yards and one TD
How are the Dallas Cowboys going to work their way back to contention with an aging Tony Romo coming off back surgery? Using their prime-aged back to pound the ball more. The drafting of run-game mauler Zack Martin in Round 1 this May was a signal of that. DeMarco Murray might not be someone you can count on health-wise, but he sure has a high ceiling, particularly in that potent offense that will need to score a lot of points to keep up with an awful defense. Murray has emerged as a top-10 fantasy pick for us.
9. QB Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos
FantasyPros.com consensus rank: No. 19 overall, No. 1 QB
2013 stats: 16 games, 5,477 yards, 55 touchdowns, 10 interceptions and one rushing TD
2014 projections: 16 games, 380-of-565 for 4,600 yards and 40 passing TDs
Peyton Manning has had his doubters. They didn't believe he had the arm strength. He proved them wrong in 2012. They didn't believe he could do it again. He shattered records in 2013. This encore will be tougher at age 38, but even if we slash almost 1,000 passing yards and 15 touchdowns, his numbers still make him the best quarterback on the board. Go ahead and doubt him. He is going to make good on a top-10 pick.
8. TE Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints
FantasyPros.com consensus rank: No. 7 overall, No. 1 TE
2013 stats: 16 games, 86 receptions for 1,215 yards and 16 touchdowns
2014 projections: 15 games, 100 receptions for 1,250 yards and 13 TDs
We tried to be stubborn here, trying to keep a tight end from being projected as a first-round pick, but we decided to relent. Jimmy Graham really isn't a tight end, right? He serves as much as a wideout in the New Orleans Saints' pass-happy offense, and he is smack dab in his prime at age 27. He is no longer in a contract year, having signed his long-term extension this week, but he is healthy and capable of posting career-best numbers across the board. The clear-cut No. 1 tight end won't fall out of the top eight in fantasy drafts, so that's right were we rank him.
7. RB Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers
FantasyPros.com consensus rank: No. 5 overall, No. 5 RB
2013 stats: 15 games, 1,178 yards, 11 touchdowns; 35 receptions for 257 yards
2014 projections: 15 games, 275 rush attempts for 1,100 yards and 10 TDs with a 4.0 YPC average; 40 receptions for 275 yards and one TD
Eddie Lacy took over for the Green Bay Packers when they were without Aaron Rodgers for a large portion of the second half of the season. Rodgers should stay healthy this time around as he has for most of his career, but that doesn't mean Lacy won't remain a productive part of a great Packers offense. Expect Lacy to do the finishing in games even if he doesn't necessarily do the finishing of drives as much as he did a year ago. This is a solid top-10 pick and one of the backs you should take over a wide receiver, quarterback or tight end in Round 1.
6. RB Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks
FantasyPros.com consensus rank: No. 8 overall, No. 6 RB
2013 stats: 16 games, 1,257 yards rushing, 12 touchdowns; 36 receptions for 316 yards and two TDs
2014 projections: 15 games, 280 rush attempts for 1,230 yards and 10 TDs with a 4.4 YPC average; 30 receptions for 250 yards and one TD
The Marshawn Lynch retirement talk is merely posturing by a running back who knows his career is headed for a downswing. That is the reality when you win the Super Bowl at age 27 as a running back. It can be all downhill from there. Still, we don't expect Lynch to slip much, mostly because we are not sold on Christine Michael like some others. Lynch is still Beast Mode for an elite contender that loves to grind the ball on the ground. Be thankful he falls to you outside the top five on draft day.
5. WR Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions
FantasyPros.com consensus rank: No. 6 overall, No. 1 WR
2013 stats: 14 games, 84 receptions for 1,492 yards and 12 touchdowns
2014 projections: 15 games, 110 receptions for 1,500 yards and 12 TDs
Calvin Johnson, aka Megatron because he is all arms and legs, is arguably the most unstoppable force in all of football. He is coming off an injury-plagued year, but you likely cannot tell by looking at his numbers. They were still great. The Detroit Lions' additions to Matthew Stafford's receiving corps shouldn't hurt Megatron as much as open him up for more one-on-one coverage—something he rarely saw in 2013. It didn't matter, Johnson still won. Make him the first wideout off the board and a top-five pick in all leagues.
4. RB Matt Forte, Chicago Bears
FantasyPros.com consensus rank: No. 4 overall, No. 4 RB
2013 stats: 16 games, 1,339 yards rushing, nine touchdowns; 74 receptions for 594 yards and three TDs
2014 projections: 15 games, 275 rush attempts for 1,235 yards and seven TDs with a 4.5 YPC average; 70 receptions for 550 yards and three TDs
Matt Forte is coming off a career year and is a major piece in Marc Trestman's running back-friendly, West Coast offensive system. Forte's numbers weren't all that different from the past five seasons in his career, save for the touchdowns. Trestman used Forte to complete drives more than the past regime, which makes this back one of the best in fantasy. You will love having him fall to you at No. 4, especially in PPR formats.
3. RB Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings
FantasyPros.com consensus rank: No. 3 overall, No. 3 RB
2013 stats: 14 games, 1,266 yards rushing, 10 touchdowns; 29 receptions, 171 yards and one TD
2014 projections: 14 games, 300 rush attempts for 1,380 yards and 11 TDs with a 4.7 YPC average; 35 receptions for 350 yards and one TD
Adrian Peterson is arguably the greatest back of this pass-happy generation, but he is dangerously approaching 30, and there are some question marks about the Minnesota Vikings offense, particularly at the quarterback position. If not for those marks against him, Peterson would be a candidate to be picked No. 1 overall once again. Instead, he is top three.
2. RB LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles
FantasyPros.com consensus rank: No. 2 overall, No. 2 RB
2013 stats: 16 games, 1,607 yards, nine touchdowns; 52 receptions for 539 yards and two TDs
2014 projections: 15 games, 275 rush attempts for 1,250 yards and 10 TDs with a 4.5 YPC average; 50 receptions for 495 yards and three TDs
The NFL's reigning rushing leader has had huge seasons before that have made him a candidate to be the No. 1 overall pick, but we just haven't seen those seasons back-to-back yet. Perhaps this is the year, especially in Chip Kelly's fast-paced, run-heavy attack with the Philadelphia Eagles. McCoy is smack dab in his prime at age 26, and there is only one who should be picked ahead of him in drafts (if any).
1. RB Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs
FantasyPros.com consensus rank: No. 1 overall, No. 1 RB
2013 stats: 15 games, 1,287 yards, 12 touchdowns; 70 receptions for 693 yards and seven TDs
2014 projections: 15 games, 250 rush attempts for 1,200 yards and 10 TDs with a 4.8 YPC average; 65 receptions for 595 yards and five TDs
Jamaal Charles, one of the most explosive players in NFL history, is coming off a career year that saw him become a huge piece of Andy Reid's short passing game. Charles has the right combination of talent, prime age (27) and offensive system to be the No. 1 pick in all fantasy leagues.