Fantasy Football 2014: 1st-Round Mock Draft and Updated Player Rankings

Scott PolacekFeatured ColumnistAugust 19, 2014

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles (9) hands off to running back LeSean McCoy as Eagles warm up for an NFL preseason football game against the Chicago Bears on Friday, Aug. 8, 2014, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

Everyone who plays fantasy football seems to think they are the perfect Internet general manager, but the reality is that only one person can walk away with the title and bragging rights in each league.

Putting in a bit of early research before draft day could make the difference between a championship and a lot of frustrating Sundays.

With that in mind, here is a look at a first-round mock draft and updated player rankings. There may be a slight discrepancy between the two charts, as factors such as positional depth (there are far fewer productive tight ends than quarterbacks or running backs) and positional importance (still, most running backs will touch the ball far more often than a tight end) are taken into consideration.

*All fantasy scoring and stats from the 2013 season courtesy of ESPN.com standard league scoring.

Fantasy Football 1st-Round Mock Draft (12-team league)
PickPlayerTeamPosition
1LeSean McCoyPhiladelphia EaglesRB
2Matt ForteChicago BearsRB
3Jamaal CharlesKansas City ChiefsRB
4Peyton ManningDenver BroncosQB
5Adrian PetersonMinnesota VikingsRB
6Jimmy GrahamNew Orleans SaintsTE
7Aaron RodgersGreen Bay PackersQB
8Drew BreesNew Orleans SaintsQB
9Marshawn LynchSeattle SeahawksRB
10Calvin JohnsonDetroit LionsWR
11Eddie LacyGreen Bay PackersRB
12Montee BallDenver BroncosRB
Fantasy Football Top-30 Player Rankings
RankPlayerTeamPosition
1LeSean McCoyPhiladelphia EaglesRB
2Matt ForteChicago BearsRB
3Jamaal CharlesKansas City ChiefsRB
4Peyton ManningDenver BroncosQB
5Adrian PetersonMinnesota VikingsRB
6Aaron RodgersGreen Bay PackersQB
7Drew BreesNew Orleans SaintsQB
8Jimmy GrahamNew Orleans SaintsTE
9Calvin JohnsonDetroit LionsWR
10Marshawn LynchSeattle SeahawksRB
11Eddie LacyGreen Bay PackersRB
12Montee BallDenver BroncosRB
13Arian FosterHouston TexansRB
14A.J. GreenCincinnati BengalsWR
15DeMarco MurrayDallas CowboysRB
16Doug MartinTampa Bay BuccaneersRB
17Demaryius ThomasDenver BroncosWR
18Zac StacySt. Louis RamsRB
19Brandon MarshallChicago BearsWR
20Le'Veon BellPittsburgh SteelersRB
21Julius ThomasDenver BroncosTE
22Dez BryantDallas CowboysWR
23Alshon JefferyChicago BearsWR
24Alfred MorrisWashington RedskinsRB
25Julio JonesAtlanta FalconsWR
26Giovani BernardCincinnati BengalsRB
27Matthew StaffordDetroit LionsQB
28Larry FitzgeraldArizona CardinalsWR
29Rob GronkowskiNew England PatriotsTE
30Victor CruzNew York GiantsWR

Even as the passing game becomes more important every year, running backs clearly matter in fantasy football.

Matt Rourke/Associated Press

LeSean McCoy is the top choice here for a number of reasons. The Philadelphia Eagles operate in Chip Kelly’s up-tempo offense, which means more offensive plays. It’s not too simplistic to equate more plays with more yards and more touchdowns, especially for the best player in that system.

McCoy tallied 1,607 rushing yards and 539 receiving yards a year ago and was an absolute workhorse in Kelly’s offense with 314 carries. All that came with Bryce Brown on the roster, and he’s in Buffalo now. Darren Sproles may cut into the receptions total, but McCoy will once again dominate on the ground.

He also doesn’t seem too worried about his recent toe issues, via Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com:

“I felt like if it was hurting too much, I would shut it down. But I warmed up today, it felt good. In this league, you have to learn to play through some pain. My track record since I have been here, I don't miss a lot of games of practices.”

Outside of McCoy, we are buying into the Matt Forte hype.

He ran for 1,339 yards and nine touchdowns and mixed in 594 yards and three touchdowns in the air last season. He also received an impressive 76.9 percent of the Chicago Bears’ carries in the red zone, which is music to the ears of fantasy owners.

However, the most enticing part about Forte is the number of weapons surrounding him in the Chicago offense. The Bears scored more points than anyone in the league except the Denver Broncos in 2013 and bring back all 11 starters. With Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Santonio Holmes and Martellus Bennett catching passes, opponents won’t have the luxury of stuffing the box against Forte.

That means plenty of room to operate for one of the league’s best backs.

Colin E. Braley/Associated Press

Forte is ahead of Jamaal Charles because of those weapons and the law of averages. Charles posted an astounding 19 touchdowns a year ago, but his previous career high before that was eight. Look for him to come back down to earth a bit, even if he is still a fantasy stud.

Adrian Peterson will once again produce, but he’s not a top-three back here because he has missed time down the stretch two of the past three years (fantasy playoff season) and has more than 2,000 carries at 29 years old. What’s more, the quarterback situation is far from elite, even if Teddy Bridgewater does manage to beat out Matt Cassel for the job.

Teams will completely gear up against the run when facing Minnesota, which will limit Peterson enough to put him below the likes of McCoy, Forte and Charles.

Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press

Montee Ball is the sleeper of the group solely because of his position in the mighty Broncos attack.

Knowshon Moreno finished fifth among all running backs last year (ahead of Peterson), but he is no longer in Denver. That means Ball will assume the heavy workload and goal-line carries that come with the Broncos' lethal offense.

Much like the situation with Forte, opponents won’t be able to focus on the run when Peyton Manning is throwing to Julius Thomas, Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker all afternoon. All those weapons also result in second-half leads, which will be when Denver bleeds the clock by turning the reins over to Ball and the running game.

Speaking of Denver, Manning is still the best quarterback, even if he regresses a bit from the ridiculous 55 touchdowns he threw in 2013. All those weapons we just mentioned are at his disposal, and he finished 58 fantasy points ahead of Drew Brees last year.

There’s not going to be that large of a slide. 

NFL on ESPN noted that it’s been business as usual for No. 18 in the preseason:

Outside of the traditional quarterbacks and running backs, don’t be afraid to take Jimmy Graham in the first round. He tallied 1,215 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns in 2013, lines up all over the field and has Brees throwing him the ball. It’s like having an extra wide receiver at a thin tight end position.

That lack of positional depth is important here.

Rob Gronkowski is coming off a serious injury, Vernon Davis is in a run-first offense and turned 30 years old and Jordan Cameron’s quarterback situation is far from set. Julius Thomas is worth some consideration as a Manning target, but Graham is the one tight end who could be worth a first-round pick. 

You can always grab those sleeper quarterbacks and running backs later.

 

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