Fantasy Football

Fantasy Football 2014: Team Names, Strategy, Cheat Sheet and Rankings

Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson (28) warms up before an NFL preseason football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)
Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press
Timothy RappFeatured ColumnistAugust 21, 2014

There comes a point in every draft when you desperately want someone just to tell you what to do. There are two players who you love equally when it's your turn to pick, and suddenly your mind goes blank, your mouth gets dry and all you can think about is how this pick could dictate your entire season OHMIGOD SOMEONE HELP ME!

Trust me, every expert you've ever read has been there. It's why rankings are so popular, why fantasy football is so addicting, why you are here now. In the end, we all need a little help. 

Below, I've hopefully done my part. I've included my top 50 players. I've broken down my thoughts on draft strategy this season. I've even come up with a few team names (leave your own creative names in the comments so we can all bask in your brilliance). 

If you find yourself in a full panic attack at the draft, just think back to this article, and hopefully it will help. Oh, and take slow, deep breaths. That should help, too.

 

Rankings 

Fantasy Top 50
Draft SlotPlayerTeamPosition
1LeSean McCoyPhiladelphia EaglesRB
2Adrian PetersonMinnesota VikingsRB
3Jamaal CharlesKansas City ChiefsRB
4Matt ForteChicago BearsRB
5Eddie LacyGreen Bay PackersRB
6Jimmy GrahamNew Orleans SaintsTE
7Calvin JohnsonDetroit LionsWR
8Peyton ManningDenver BroncosQB
9Marshawn LynchSeattle SeahawksRB
10Drew BreesNew Orleans SaintsQB
11Aaron RodgersGreen Bay PackersQB
12Doug MartinTampa Bay BuccaneersRB
13Demaryius ThomasDenver BroncosWR
14A.J. GreenCincinnati BengalsWR
15Arian FosterHouston TexansRB
16Zac StacySt. Louis RamsRB
17Dez BryantDallas CowboysWR
18Brandon MarshallChicago BearsWR
19DeMarco MurrayDallas CowboysRB
20Alfred MorrisWashingtonRB
21Julio JonesAtlanta FalconsWR
22Matt StaffordDetroit LionsQB
23Cam NewtonCarolina PanthersQB
24Le'Veon BellPittsburgh SteelersRB
25Jordy NelsonGreen Bay PackersWR
26Montee BallDenver BroncosRB
27Randall CobbGreen Bay PackersWR
28Antonio BrownPittsburgh SteelersWR
29Julius ThomasDenver BroncosTE
30Alshon JefferyChicago BearsWR
31Andre EllingtonArizona CardinalsRB
32Rob GronkowskiNew England PatriotsTE
33Andre JohnsonHouston TexansWR
34Vincent JacksonTampa Bay BuccaneersWR
35Giovani BernardCincinnati BengalsRB
36Victor CruzNew York GiantsWR
37Reggie BushDetroit LionsRB
38Andrew LuckIndianapolis ColtsQB
39Toby GerhartJacksonville JaguarsRB
40Keenan AllenSan Diego ChargersWR
41Ryan MathewsSan Diego ChargersRB
42Vernon DavisSan Francisco 49ersTE
43Wes WelkerDenver BroncosWR
44C.J. SpillerBuffalo BillsRB
45Frank GoreSan Francisco 49ersRB
46Larry FitzgeraldArizona CardinalsWR
47Ray RiceBaltimore RavensRB
48Rashad JenningsNew York GiantsRB
49DeSean JacksonWashingtonWR
50Pierre GarconWashingtonWR

 

Some Thoughts on Strategy

SEATTLE, WA - JANUARY 11:  Quarterback Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints reacts while taking on the Seattle Seahawks during the NFC Divisional Playoff Game at CenturyLink Field on January 11, 2014 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Ge
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

In my preparation for the fantasy season, I do a lot of mock drafts. While I use average draft position heavily when preparing my strategy, I still like to have an idea of how people out in the ether are actually drafting. 

The other night, I decided to try out several strategies before the draft. The first was to generally follow my rankings and go with the player I liked the most rather than follow a strict strategy in a 10-man league. I was picking 10th. Here's how it worked out:

  1. Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints
  2. Demaryius Thomas, WR, Denver Broncos
  3. Andre Ellington, RB, Arizona Cardinals
  4. Le'Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
  5. Victor Cruz, WR, New York Giants
  6. Wes Welker, WR, New England Patriots
  7. Bishop Sankey, RB, Tennessee Titans
  8. Jordan Cameron, TE, Cleveland Browns
  9. Lamar Miller, RB, Miami Dolphins
  10. Eric Decker, WR, New York Jets
  11. Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons
  12. Knowshon Moreno, RB, Miami Dolphins
  13. Zach Ertz, TE, Philadelphia Eagles
  14. Carlos Hyde, RB, San Francisco 49ers
  15. Cleveland Browns D/ST 
  16. Adam Vinatieri, K, Indianapolis Colts

As you might guess, I came away from that draft feeling really good about my team. I came away with an incredibly safe and elite quarterback and wide receiver in the first two rounds, in general my receivers are stacked, I nabbed running backs with some risk but nice upside and getting Jordan Cameron in Round 8 was a steal. 

I also noticed a lot of reaches in this draft, however, so I wouldn't assume I'd be able to select all of these players where I did. And I was worried that ignoring running backs altogether in the first two rounds could actually really bite me in the butt (or elsewhere on my body, I suppose) in a competitive league.

So for my second draft, I decided to go RB/RB no matter what to start. I picked fifth overall and it was another 10-man league:

  1. Eddie Lacy, RB, Green Bay Packers
  2. Doug Martin, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  3. Julius Thomas, TE, Denver Broncos
  4. Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions
  5. DeSean Jackson, WR, Washington
  6. Jeremy Maclin, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
  7. Toby Gerhart, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars
  8. Kendall Wright, WR, Tennessee Titans
  9. Eric Decker, WR, New York Jets
  10. Lamar Miller, RB, Miami Dolphins
  11. Darren McFadden, RB, Oakland Raiders
  12. Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego Chargers
  13. LeGarrette Blount, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
  14. Markus Wheaton, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
  15. New England Patriots D/ST 
  16. Steven Hauschka, K, Seattle Seahawks

I feel great about the first four rounds of this draft. I'm covered at running back with two players who have a great chance of being RB1s this year, I filled a tough position to get consistent value from with a touchdown-machine in Thomas and nabbing Stafford in Round 4 was an absolute steal. 

But without question, my receivers are a major weakness. My whole philosophy in this draft was to fill positions where value was scarce early and then to focus on the depth at quarterback and wide receiver. But there is clearly a point where the wide receiver depth is much better if you are looking for a WR2, not a WR1. Put another way—it isn't wise to wait until the fifth round to select your first wide receiver.

Richard Lipski/Associated Press

I do like this team in general. I have great depth at running back and quarterback, for starters. And no, I didn't intend on taking Decker and Miller again, it just happened because they are intriguing values that fell down the board.

The receivers on this team are troubling, however, so for my third draft I decided I would rotate selecting running backs and wide receivers in the first four rounds and then take the draft from there. This was a little different, as it was a 12-man league. Also, I picked 10th:

  1. Demaryius Thomas, WR, Denver Broncos
  2. Zac Stacy, RB, St. Louis Rams
  3. Victor Cruz, WR, New York Giants
  4. Andre Ellington, RB, Arizona Cardinals
  5. Nick Foles, QB, Philadelphia Eagles
  6. Jeremy Maclin, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
  7. Sammy Watkins, WR, Buffalo Bills
  8. Greg Olsen, TE, Carolina Panthers

OK, OK, this isn't a full draft. I got distracted by something on the television and I was in one of those lobbies where the majority of the folks auto-draft halfway through, so I gave up on this draft. But I got far enough to analyze the strategy. 

For starters, yes, there are a few players I obviously like at their ADPs, Cruz, Ellington and Maclin among them. I didn't love going after Watkins to be my WR3, but at the 82nd pick, I didn't love a lot of the other options on the board so I decided to roll the dice on the rookie. 

Vincent Pugliese/Associated Press

As you can see, for a 12-man league this is a solid if unspectacular core. If I hadn't been following a strict draft strategy here I might have gone with Brees or Aaron Rodgers with my first pick, while in the third round I probably would have rolled the dice on Rob Gronkowski rather than going with Cruz.

Here's the point of this entire exercise—any rigid draft strategy is a bad draft strategy. There are a few guidelines worth following, sure. 

  • If you have a top-five pick in a standard-scoring league, take a running back. In two-quarterback leagues or PPR leagues this isn't a hard-and-fast rule, but in general nabbing one of the top-five running backs is an opportunity you should be hesitant to pass on. 
  • Draft a top-three tight end or wait. Once Jimmy Graham, Thomas and Gronk are off the board, the next tier of players all blend into one another from a value perspective.
  • There is depth at receiver, but you still want to grab one early depending on how the board shakes out. The real depth this year is in the WR2-WR3 range, but you still want a consistent WR1 to start with. They simply aren't on the board after the first 30 picks or so.
  • There is crazy depth at quarterback. If you think Manning, Brees or Rodgers will have another historic year, by all means take them in the first round. But just know that you can also wait on the position this year and get great value on a player later in the draft. I got Stafford at No. 36 in one draft and Foles at No. 58 in another.
  • If you decide to go RB/RB to start, just know that you might be reaching to do so and you're going to be hurting at one of your other positions. If the board falls nicely for you, by all means do it. But being married to that strategy is really risky.

It's all about flexibility, folks.

 

Other Great Fantasy Advice, From B/R's Eric Mack

Read it!

 

Less Than Great Fantasy Advice, From the Hilarious Jenny Slate

People of London, you know what to do. 

 

A Few Creative Team Names

Patric Schneider/Associated Press

Turn Down for Watt: Take a hit song, the NFL's best defensive player in J.J. Watt and smash the two together. What you have left is a great fantasy name.

Mr. Sankey: Feel free to sing the song yourself. Just know that Bishop Sankey will be far more productive than a piece of...um, never mind. 

Dr. Jekyll and Carlos Hyde: Does this make Frank Gore Dr. Jekyll?

Clowney Question, Bro: You not only get to usher the rookie into the league with his own fantasy name, you also get to reference a classic Bryce Harper quote. I mean, everybody wins here, people.

Dawning of the Age of Demaryius: I mean, if you want to go with "Demaryius/Let the Sunshine In," that's also acceptable.

 

Have fantasy questions? Hit me up on Twitter—I'll answer them and make some corny jokes, too. It's more fun than a Cleveland Browns home game in September, when fans will start the "JOH-NNY FOOT-BALL, clap, clap, clap clap clap" chant the moment Brian Hoyer makes a mistake.

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