Fantasy Football 2014: Updated Rankings and Analysis for Popular Sleeper Targets

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Fantasy Football 2014: Updated Rankings and Analysis for Popular Sleeper Targets
Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

Fantasy football enthusiasts learned quite a bit in the past week or so.

We learned the rookie quarterbacks won't be cracking the starting lineup to start the season. We learned that it's always wise to have your fantasy drafts after the third week of the preseason, with ESPN reporting that Sam Bradford is lost for the season and The Associated Press noting (via Fox Sports) that Cam Newton is in question for Week 1. We learned, once again, that you should never spend anything other than a last-round pick on a kicker after the top player at the position, Matt Prater, was suspended for the first four games.

But there's always more to learn. And so below, I'll pass around my updated rankings along with a look at a few sleepers, with an eye toward the rookies that are popular picks later in drafts. It's a whole lot of fun crammed into one article, folks.

 

Fantasy Rankings

Timothy Rapp's Top 150 Fantasy Players
Rank Player Team Position
1 LeSean McCoy Philadelphia Eagles RB
2 Adrian Peterson Minnesota Vikings RB
3 Jamaal Charles Kansas City Chiefs RB
4 Matt Forte Chicago Bears RB
5 Eddie Lacy Green Bay Packers RB
6 Jimmy Graham New Orleans Saints TE
7 Calvin Johnson Detroit Lions WR
8 Peyton Manning Denver Broncos QB
9 Marshawn Lynch Seattle Seahawks RB
10 Drew Brees New Orleans Saints QB
11 Aaron Rodgers Green Bay Packers QB
12 Demaryius Thomas Denver Broncos WR
13 Doug Martin Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR
14 A.J. Green Cincinnati Bengals WR
15 Arian Foster Houston Texans RB
16 Zac Stacy St. Louis Rams RB
17 Dez Bryant Dallas Cowboys WR
18 Brandon Marshall Chicago Bears WR
19 DeMarco Murray Dallas Cowboys RB
20 Alfred Morris Washington RB
21 Julio Jones Atlanta Falcons WR
22 Matt Stafford Detroit Lions QB
23 Cam Newton Carolina Panthers QB
24 Le'Veon Bell Pittsburgh Steelers RB
25 Jordy Nelson Green Bay Packers WR
26 Montee Ball Denver Broncos RB
27 Randall Cobb Green Bay Packers WR
28 Antonio Brown Pittsburgh Steelers WR
29 Julius Thomas Denver Broncos TE
30 Alshon Jeffery Chicago Bears WR
31 Andre Ellington Arizona Cardinals RB
32 Rob Gronkowski New England Patriots TE
33 Andre Johnson Houston Texans WR
34 Vincent Jackson Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR
35 Giovani Bernard Cincinnati Bengals RB
36 Victor Cruz New York Giants WR
37 Reggie Bush Detroit Lions RB
38 Andrew Luck Indianapolis Colts QB
39 Toby Gerhart Jacksonville Jaguars RB
40 Keenan Allen San Diego Chargers WR
41 Ryan Mathews San Diego Chargers RB
42 Vernon Davis San Francisco 49ers TE
43 Wes Welker Denver Broncos WR
44 C.J. Spiller Buffalo Bills RB
45 Frank Gore San Francisco 49ers RB
46 Larry Fitzgerald Arizona Cardinals WR
47 Ray Rice Baltimore Ravens RB
48 Rashad Jennings New York Giants RB
49 DeSean Jackson Washington WR
50 Pierre Garcon Washington WR
51 Ben Tate Houston Texans RB
52 Torrey Smith Baltimore Ravens WR
53 Trent Richardson Indianapolis Colts RB
54 Jeremy Maclin Philadelphia Eagles WR
55 Michael Floyd Arizona Cardinals WR
56 Robert Griffin III Washington QB
57 Nick Foles Philadelphia Eagles QB
58 Bishop Sankey Tennessee Titans RB
59 Roddy White Atlanta Falcons WR
60 Michael Crabtree San Francisco 49ers WR
61 T.Y. Hilton Indianapolis Colts WR
62 Jason Witten Dallas Cowboys TE
63 Kendall Wright Tennessee Titans WR
64 Frank Gore San Francisco 49ers RB
65 Percy Harvin Seattle Seahawks WR
66 Emmanuel Sanders Denver Broncos WR
67 Joique Bell Detroit Lions RB
68 Chris Johnson New York Jets RB
69 Cordarrelle Patterson Minnesota Vikings WR
70 Shane Vereen New England Patriots RB
71 Marques Colston New Orleans Saints WR
72 Eric Decker New York Jets WR
73 Terrance Williams Dallas Cowboys WR
74 Jordan Cameron Cleveland Browns TE
75 Matt Ryan Atlanta Falcons QB
76 Golden Tate Detroit Lions WR
77 Julian Edelman New England Patriots WR
78 Reggie Wayne Indianapolis Colts WR
79 Stevan Ridley New England Patriots RB
80 Sammy Watkins Buffalo Bills WR
81 Colin Kaepernick San Francisco 49ers QB
82 Chris Johnson New York Jets RB
83 Mike Wallace Miami Dolphins WR
84 Cecil Shorts Jacksonville Jaguars WR
85 Lamar Miller Miami Dolphins RB
86 Fred Jackson Buffalo Bills RB
87 Steven Jackson Atlanta Falcons RB
88 Anquan Boldin San Francisco 49ers WR
89 Pierre Thomas New Orleans Saints RB
90 DeAndre Hopkins Houston Texans WR
91 Darren McFadden Oakland Raiders RB
92 Maurice Jones-Drew Oakland Raiders RB
93 Darren Sproles Philadelphia Eagles RB
94 DeAngelo Williams Carolina Panthers RB
95 Knowshon Moreno Miami Dolphins RB
96 Riley Cooper Philadelphia Eagles WR
97 Russell Wilson Seattle Seahawks QB
98 Khiry Robinson New Orleans Saints RB
99 Chris Ivory New York Jets RB
100 Danny Woodhead San Diego Chargers RB
101 Mark Ingram New Orleans Saints
102 Danny Amendola New England Patriots RB
103 Seattle D/ST - -
104 Greg Olsen Carolina Panthers TE
105 Jordan Reed Washington TE
106 Dennis Pitta Baltimore Ravens TE
107 Tom Brady New England Patriots QB
108 Tony Romo Dallas Cowboys QB
109 Philip Rivers San Diego Chargers QB
110 Jay Cutler Chicago Bears QB
111 LeGarrette Blount Pittsburgh Steelers RB
112 Hakeem Nicks Indianapolis Colts WR
113 Jeremy Hill Cincinnati Bengals RB
114 Rueben Randle New York Giants WR
115 Dwayne Bowe Kansas City Chiefs WR
116 Steve Smith Baltimore Ravens WR
117 Bernard Pierce Baltimore Ravens RB
118 Carlos Hyde San Francisco 49ers RB
119 Greg Jennings Minnesota Vikings WR
120 Shonn Greene Tennessee Titans RB
121 Mike Evans Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR
122 Tavon Austin St. Louis Rams WR
123 Terrance West Cleveland Browns RB
124 Justin Hunter Tennessee Titans WR
125 Devonta Freeman Atlanta Falcons RB
126 Kelvin Benjamin Carolina Panthers WR
127 Brandin Cooks New Orleans Saints WR
128 Carolina Panthers D/ST - -
129 San Francisco 49ers D/ST - -
130 Denver Broncos D/ST -- -
131 Arizona Cardinals D/ST - -
132 Cincinnati Bengals D/ST - -
133 James Starks Green Bay Packers RB
134 Andy Dalton Cincinnati Bengals QB
135 Ben Roethlisberger Pittsburgh Steelers QB
136 St. Louis Rams D/ST - -
137 Knile Davis Kansas City Chiefs RB
138 Andre Williams New York Giants RB
139 Jarrett Boykin Green Bay Packers WR
140 Eli Manning New York Giants QB
141 Markus Wheaton Pittsburgh Steelers WR
142 Kyle Rudolph Minnesota Vikings TE
143 Kansas City Chiefs D/ST - -
144 New England Patriots D/ST - -
145 James Jones Oakland Raiders WR
146 Jordan Todman Jacksonville Jaguars RB
147 Martellus Bennett Chicago Bears TE
148 Charles Clay Miami Dolphins TE
149 Jonathan Grimes Houston Texans RB
150 Zach Ertz Philadelphia Eagles TE

 

A Note About These Ranks

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

A very popular draft strategy and piece of advice this season has been to bypass quarterbacks in the early rounds of your draft. The position is deep, and positions like running back have enough uncertainty to make the top players at QB more valuable than players at other positions.

It's hard to refute that advice, but there is one major caveat in the line of thinking. Essentially, it is this—it is absolutely vital that you nail the first two rounds of your draft. You can't win your league in the first two rounds, but you can lose it. That often means taking players you feel extremely confident in producing this season.

That's why players like Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers are all pretty high in my rankings. I know in my draft that if I have the choice between them and a riskier running back, for instance, I'm going to play it safe. I'd rather take a chance on a running back in the later rounds than to take a chance on one early or who I don't fully trust. 

If you have the chance to take a safe running back, well, by all means you should do it. But if you are on the fence early on, go with the safer player.

 

Evaluating Popular Sleepers

Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The first place people often look for sleepers is amongst the rookies. While this year is no different, there aren't a ton of viable options from the ranks of the first-year players thus far. 

The rookie quarterbacks are off the board for now. Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater, Derek Carr and Blake Bortles have all either been announced as the backup or all indications point toward that happening. A few of them may start at some point this season, but they aren't viable fantasy targets for now.

Besides, of the bunch, only Manziel seems all that appealing, and mostly because of moments like the following, shared by the NFL on Twitter:

When looking at rookie running backs, you are mostly looking at handcuffs. Players like Carlos Hyde, Devonta Freeman, Jeremy Hill and Terrance West should be late-round selections if only because they have the chance to make an impact at some point this season. 

Bishop Sankey has been a popular sleeper choice—and one I've touted—but I'm starting to sour on him a bit. He's had fumbling issues. Shonn Greene has continued to work with the first team in the preseason, not Sankey, which is troubling because Green is pretty dreadful. And he's no longer going to be a bargain at your draft—according to the cumulative average draft position curated by FantasyPros.com, he's the 57th player being selected in fantasy drafts. 

In 10-team leagues, that makes him a sixth-round pick, and he hasn't secured a clear starting role of yet. That's a big price to pay for a player you are drafting to be a flex starter at worst. As you might guess, there is a lot of dissenting opinion about Sankey in the fantasy world. 

Mike Clay of Pro Football Focus Fantasy isn't high on him:

John Paulsen of 4for4.com is less concerned:

If you want Sankey, you're going to have to pay a pretty steep price to land him. Keep in mind that Nick Foles has an ADP of 56, and Michael Floyd has an ADP of 58, according to FantasyPros.com. I'd rather have either of those players over Sankey. 

At wide receiver, the odds are generally stacked against you unearthing a sleeper or huge performer. For every Keenan Allen (71 receptions for 1,046 yards and eight touchdowns), there are 25 Tavon Austins (569 yards from scrimmage, six total touchdowns).

And for every exciting prospect at the position, you can find a very compelling downside.

  • Sammy Watkins has EJ Manuel as his quarterback and, well, Manuel has looked pretty poor this preseason. Again.
  • Brandin Cooks is one of many weapons for Drew Brees in New Orleans, a team that has rarely had a consistent fantasy performer at wide receiver outside of Marques Colston.
  • Jordan Matthews is in a similar position to Cooks with the Philadelphia Eagles, a team with about seven legitimate targets in the passing game.
  • Kelvin Benjamin is going to be reliant on red-zone targets to be a major fantasy producer. Betting on touchdowns is far more dangerous than betting on receptions and yards.
  • Mike Evans is a dangerous downfield and red-zone threat, but he'll lose many of those looks to Vincent Jackson, one of the better deep-ball receivers in the league.

One of these guys may very well bust out. Just don't overpay to find out.

Let's turn away from the rookies to a few players I'm really liking right now. Emmanuel Sanders currently has an ADP of 75 according to FantasyPros, but with Manning leading the dangerous Denver Broncos attack, he could easily end up being a very nice WR2 for your team this year at an incredibly cheap price. 

"Peyton puts it on the money," Sanders told Andrew Mason of Broncos.com. "He takes pride in throwing the perfect football. He takes pride in being perfect all around, in general. He makes my job easy."

And he's making drafting him very easy, too. You should have liked him even before he caught five passes for 128 yards and two touchdowns against the Houston Texans in his preseason debut. You should love him now. He'll carve out a very nice role for himself in Denver's offense.

A round later, Kendall Wright continues to offer owners a great value with an ADP of 84. Remember, in 10-man standard-scoring leagues a season ago, he was four touchdowns away from being a WR2 (with three more touchdowns, he would have been a WR2 in 12-man leagues), and he should only continue to improve in his third season.

Yes, the fact that he has just four catches for 38 yards this preseason is a bit concerning, but after catching 158 passes in his first two seasons, you can bet the targets will come his way soon enough.

We'll finish with one last wide receiver, a position that is just loaded in depth and has some very nice values later in drafts. Eric Decker currently has an ADP of 91, which is pretty amazing for a player who caught 81 passes a year ago for 1,288 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Elsa/Getty Images

Yes, I know, that was in Denver and with arguably the best quarterback to play the game, but it's not as though leaving Denver suddenly changed the fact that Decker is going to be the top option in the New York Jets passing game or that he's an excellent red-zone target. 

If Geno Smith is merely decent this year, well, Decker should still post solid numbers. And in the event that Michael Vick eventually earns the gig, Decker could be in line for even bigger numbers. In the 10th round of 10-man leagues, you should be absolutely salivating if Decker is still on the board. You can do far worse at your flex spot or WR3 slot than Decker.

 

Have fantasy questions? Hit me up on Twitter—I'll answer them and make some corny jokes, too. It's more fun than having Shaun Hill as your starting quarterback.

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