Fantasy Football 2014: Early Preseason Sleepers and Flex Rankings

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Fantasy Football 2014: Early Preseason Sleepers and Flex Rankings
Jim Mone/Associated Press

NFL training camps are officially underway, and the preseason will be here before we know it. At this time of year, fantasy enthusiasts will be making final preparations for impending drafts, and closely watching preseason action is a big part of that process.

Even though starters won't be playing a full 60 minutes at this time of year, we're still able to get a better grasp on how many players—both veterans and rookies—are adjusting to new coaching or schemes.

It also gives us a glimpse of how previously injured players—Reggie Wayne, Doug Martin and more—are looking after rehabbing for an extended period of time.

As we prepare to take in as much information as possible over the preseason, let's kick things off by listing updated flex rankings—players used in the flex position on fantasy rosters—and some sleepers to keep a keen eye on.

 

Flex Rankings

Matt Rourke/Associated Press

2014 Preseason Flex Rankings
Rank Player Position Team
1 Adrian Peterson RB Minnesota Vikings
2 LeSean McCoy RB Philadelphia Eagles
3 Jamaal Charles RB Kansas City Chiefs
4 Matt Forte RB Chicago Bears
5 Calvin Johnson WR Detroit Lions
6 Eddie Lacy RB Green Bay Packers
7 Demaryius Thomas WR Denver Broncos
8 Dez Bryant WR Dallas Cowboys
9 Jimmy Graham TE New Orleans Saints
10 Marshawn Lynch RB Seattle Seahawks
11 A.J. Green WR Cincinnati Bengals
12 Arian Foster RB Houston Texans
13 DeMarco Murray RB Dallas Cowboys
14 Montee Ball RB Denver Broncos
15 Brandon Marshall WR Chicago Bears
16 Julio Jones WR Atlanta Falcons
17 Giovani Bernard RB Cincinnati Bengals
18 Le'Veon Bell RB Pittsburgh Steelers
19 Doug Martin RB Tampa Bay Buccaneers
20 Antonio Brown WR Pittsburgh Steelers

Sean O'Donnell's Rankings

Adrian Peterson, LeSean McCoy and Jamaal Charles should be the de facto top-three selections in fantasy drafts this year. Each of these running backs put together stellar seasons in 2013 and should have no trouble reproducing those performances.

Matt Forte may be a slight surprise at No. 4 overall; however, he's absolutely flourished in Marc Trestman's system, putting up 1,933 yards from scrimmage and 12 total touchdowns last season. His value increases further in PPR leagues due to his career-high 74 receptions.

Forte is looking to continue his blistering pace this season despite his age (he's 28), according to a tweet from Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune:

Another surprise on the list could be Seattle's Marshawn Lynch at No. 10 overall.

Yes, he's one of the most feared runners in the NFL, but due to his current contract dispute, he's difficult to trust at this point of the year. John Clayton of ESPN reported Lynch's holdout may be a short one:

Although, it's difficult to trust a disgruntled player, and with such a deep backfield in Seattle, there are simply too many questions surrounding Lynch to warrant a higher ranking.

Don't sleep on Cincinnati Bengals running back Giovani Bernard this year.

As a rookie, Bernard put up some solid numbers despite the bulk of the work going to BenJarvus Green-Ellis. In 2013, he carried 170 times for 695 yards and five touchdowns while adding 56 receptions for 514 yards and three scores.

With the run-oriented Hue Jackson now taking the reins as offensive coordinator, expect Bernard's workload to increase significantly.

 

Preseason Sleepers

Eric Gay/Associated Press

2014 Preseason Sleepers
Player Position Team
DeAndre Hopkins WR Houston Texans
Rueben Randle WR New York Giants
Christine Michael RB Seattle Seahawks
Marvin Jones WR Cincinnati Bengals
Kenny Stills WR New Orleans Saints
Ahmad Bradshaw RB Indianapolis Colts
Jarrett Boykin WR Green Bay Packers
Carlos Hyde RB San Francisco 49ers
Markus Wheaton WR Pittsburgh Steelers
Jordan Matthews WR Philadelphia Eagles

Seahawks running back Christine Michael is one to keep an eye on throughout the preseason. A very talented runner, he's looking to work his way up the depth chart. During Lynch's holdout, he'll get a chance to shine, and he could benefit greatly from the opportunity.

Michael has a great chance to share some carries with Lynch this season, according to Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times:

We all know the story with Michael. Limited to just 79 yards on 18 carries, fourth on the team, while working behind Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin a year ago, but entering camp with a chance to earn a much larger role this season. His play in the spring did nothing to quell the idea he will get regular carries this season. The only question is how many.

Pete Carroll is already seeing improvement in the second-year back, via a tweet from the Seahawks' official Twitter account:

Ahmad Bradshaw may be a notable name; however, his 2014 fantasy football ranking certainly doesn't reflect that—he's ranked No. 145 overall on NFL.com.

Well, that's a big mistake considering the unfortunate season-ending injury to Vick Ballard:

Now, Bradshaw finds himself in line to split carries with the underachieving Trent Richardson.

In 14 games with Indianapolis last season, Richardson carried 157 times for 458 yards—an average of 2.9 yards per carry—and three scores. While Bradshaw only played in three games, he rushed 41 times for 186 yards—an average of 4.5 yards per carry—and two scores.

If Bradshaw can remain healthy this season—something he's struggled with throughout his career—and Richardson continues to struggle through the preseason, he could be one of the biggest steals of the draft.

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