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

Timothy RappFeatured ColumnistAugust 26, 2014

Tennessee Titans running back Bishop Sankey takes a break during NFL football training camp Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
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
RankPlayerTeamPosition
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
12Demaryius ThomasDenver BroncosWR
13Doug MartinTampa Bay BuccaneersWR
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
51Ben TateHouston TexansRB
52Torrey SmithBaltimore RavensWR
53Trent RichardsonIndianapolis ColtsRB
54Jeremy MaclinPhiladelphia EaglesWR
55Michael FloydArizona CardinalsWR
56Robert Griffin IIIWashingtonQB
57Nick FolesPhiladelphia EaglesQB
58Bishop SankeyTennessee TitansRB
59Roddy WhiteAtlanta FalconsWR
60Michael CrabtreeSan Francisco 49ersWR
61T.Y. HiltonIndianapolis ColtsWR
62Jason WittenDallas CowboysTE
63Kendall WrightTennessee TitansWR
64Frank GoreSan Francisco 49ersRB
65Percy HarvinSeattle SeahawksWR
66Emmanuel SandersDenver BroncosWR
67Joique BellDetroit LionsRB
68Chris JohnsonNew York JetsRB
69Cordarrelle PattersonMinnesota VikingsWR
70Shane VereenNew England PatriotsRB
71Marques ColstonNew Orleans SaintsWR
72Eric DeckerNew York JetsWR
73Terrance WilliamsDallas CowboysWR
74Jordan CameronCleveland BrownsTE
75Matt RyanAtlanta FalconsQB
76Golden TateDetroit LionsWR
77Julian EdelmanNew England PatriotsWR
78Reggie WayneIndianapolis ColtsWR
79Stevan RidleyNew England PatriotsRB
80Sammy WatkinsBuffalo BillsWR
81Colin KaepernickSan Francisco 49ersQB
82Chris JohnsonNew York JetsRB
83Mike WallaceMiami DolphinsWR
84Cecil ShortsJacksonville JaguarsWR
85Lamar MillerMiami DolphinsRB
86Fred JacksonBuffalo BillsRB
87Steven JacksonAtlanta FalconsRB
88Anquan BoldinSan Francisco 49ersWR
89Pierre ThomasNew Orleans SaintsRB
90DeAndre HopkinsHouston TexansWR
91Darren McFaddenOakland RaidersRB
92Maurice Jones-DrewOakland RaidersRB
93Darren SprolesPhiladelphia EaglesRB
94DeAngelo WilliamsCarolina PanthersRB
95Knowshon MorenoMiami DolphinsRB
96Riley CooperPhiladelphia EaglesWR
97Russell WilsonSeattle SeahawksQB
98Khiry RobinsonNew Orleans SaintsRB
99Chris IvoryNew York JetsRB
100Danny WoodheadSan Diego ChargersRB
101Mark IngramNew Orleans Saints
102Danny AmendolaNew England PatriotsRB
103Seattle D/ST--
104Greg OlsenCarolina PanthersTE
105Jordan ReedWashingtonTE
106Dennis PittaBaltimore RavensTE
107Tom BradyNew England PatriotsQB
108Tony RomoDallas CowboysQB
109Philip RiversSan Diego ChargersQB
110Jay CutlerChicago BearsQB
111LeGarrette BlountPittsburgh SteelersRB
112Hakeem NicksIndianapolis ColtsWR
113Jeremy HillCincinnati BengalsRB
114Rueben RandleNew York GiantsWR
115Dwayne BoweKansas City ChiefsWR
116Steve SmithBaltimore RavensWR
117Bernard PierceBaltimore RavensRB
118Carlos HydeSan Francisco 49ersRB
119Greg JenningsMinnesota VikingsWR
120Shonn GreeneTennessee TitansRB
121Mike EvansTampa Bay BuccaneersWR
122Tavon AustinSt. Louis RamsWR
123Terrance WestCleveland BrownsRB
124Justin HunterTennessee TitansWR
125Devonta FreemanAtlanta FalconsRB
126Kelvin BenjaminCarolina PanthersWR
127Brandin CooksNew Orleans SaintsWR
128Carolina Panthers D/ST--
129San Francisco 49ers D/ST--
130Denver Broncos D/ST---
131Arizona Cardinals D/ST--
132Cincinnati Bengals D/ST--
133James StarksGreen Bay PackersRB
134Andy DaltonCincinnati BengalsQB
135Ben RoethlisbergerPittsburgh SteelersQB
136St. Louis Rams D/ST--
137Knile DavisKansas City ChiefsRB
138Andre WilliamsNew York GiantsRB
139Jarrett BoykinGreen Bay PackersWR
140Eli ManningNew York GiantsQB
141Markus WheatonPittsburgh SteelersWR
142Kyle RudolphMinnesota VikingsTE
143Kansas City Chiefs D/ST--
144New England Patriots D/ST--
145James JonesOakland RaidersWR
146Jordan TodmanJacksonville JaguarsRB
147Martellus BennettChicago BearsTE
148Charles ClayMiami DolphinsTE
149Jonathan GrimesHouston TexansRB
150Zach ErtzPhiladelphia EaglesTE

 

A Note About These Ranks

GREEN BAY, WI - AUGUST 22:  Quarterback Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers looks to pass during the first quarter of a preseason game against the Oakland Raiders at Lambeau Field on August 22, 2014 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Packers defeated the
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

CLEVELAND, OH - AUGUST 23:  Johnny Manziel #2 of the Cleveland Browns throws a pass during the fourth quarter against the St. Louis Rams at FirstEnergy Stadium on August 23, 2014 in Cleveland, Ohio. St. Louis Rams won the game 33-14.  (Photo by Joe Robbin
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.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - AUGUST 07: Wide receiver Eric Decker #87 of the New York Jets is tackled by defensive back Josh Gordy #27 of the Indianapolis Colts in the first quarter during a preseason game at MetLife Stadium on August 7, 2014 in East Rutherford,
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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