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.
|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|
|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|
|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|
|104||Greg Olsen||Carolina Panthers||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
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
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:
Whiz is pleased with starter Shonn Greene ( http://t.co/FOntfFjmCM ) . And you're still taking Bishop Sankey in the fourth round?— Mike Clay (@MikeClayNFL) August 25, 2014
John Paulsen of 4for4.com is less concerned:
Seeing a lot of hand-wringing about Bishop Sankey. Keep the faith. They didn’t make him #1 RB off the board to back up Shonn Greene.— John Paulsen (@4for4_John) August 25, 2014
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.
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.