Those of you who haven't had your fantasy drafts yet are smart. You waited for the first three preseason weeks to play out. You've seen the trends, you know who has been lost to injury and you've added a week or two of research time as you build your fantasy team.
Slow and steady wins the race, as they say.
But hey, every little tidbit of information or morsel of opinion can help when planning a draft strategy, so I'm here to lend my hand as you prepare to pick your team. I'll offer up my top 150 rankings and some deep sleepers for you to target too.
It's everything a smart owner needs to own his or her draft.
|Timothy Rapp's Top 150 Players|
|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|
Yes, you guessed it—with the trade of Tim Wright to the New England Patriots, I think he becomes a fascinating deep sleeper at the tight end position. You can read my more in-depth thoughts on him here, but the general though process is as follows:
- He's a fast, athletic player for his size and isn't much of an in-line blocker, so he could settle nicely into the "move" tight end role that Aaron Hernandez used to fill. That could lead to very nice numbers for Wright.
- The Patriots don't exactly have elite playmakers at wide receiver, so Wright has the chance to carve out a role for himself in this offense.
- If nothing else, he's depth at the position behind a player in Rob Gronkowski who has a hard time avoiding injury. In other words, the worst-case scenario for Wright is that he's a very tantalizing handcuff.
- He finished last year with 54 receptions for 571 yards and five touchdowns, but three of them came in the last four weeks. He was a rookie last year, remember, so he showed solid growth.
- Again, you're drafting him as a late-round TE2, namely in deeper leagues. It's not like this guy is someone you are targeting as a starter.
But hey, you don't have to take my word for it. Albert Breer of NFL.com should convince you:
So there you have it.
There are a few other tight ends I like as deep sleepers, such as Ladarius Green (a freakish athlete who will overtake Antonio Gates soon enough in San Diego), Zach Ertz (though everyone seems keen on him this year, so he isn't coming terribly cheap) and Travis Kelce (though Kansas City's stubborn loyalty to Anthony Fasano could end up being frustrating).
All are players with big-time talent who are essentially waiting for their teams to lean on them heavily. In two-tight end leagues, all should be owned and are high upside TE2s worth rostering in most formats.
At quarterback, I'm not so sure you should be worrying about deep sleepers since there are about 15 players I would feel comfortable starting this season (I'm always a little nervous about players like Philip Rivers, Tony Romo, Colin Kaepernick and Jay Cutler, but each has QB1 potential).
If you think Johnny Manziel will eventually start this year—and honestly, he should—there's your deep sleeper right there. He could give you Robert Griffin III-lite numbers this year.
But beyond that, there isn't much reason to get cute at quarterback.
At running back, well, a whole lot of folks feel like they could end up contributing this season. The first group of players you should be looking at is the crop of rookie runners who likely will start the season as handcuffs:
- Carlos Hyde is a Frank Gore injury away from being an RB2 candidate. Seeing as Gore is 31 and has carried a heavy load for the San Francisco 49ers over the last three years (at least 250 carries in each campaign), Hyde is the handcuff you absolutely want.
- Devonta Freeman is behind Steven Jackson in Atlanta's backfield and is a far more talented runner than Jacquizz Rodgers. Jackson too is 31 and has already battled injuries in camp after battling injuries last season. Freeman is going to be the starter at some point this year.
- Here's how many games Ben Tate has played in the last four years: 40. Here's how many games he's missed: 24. There's a very good chance Terrance West will be called upon in relief of Tate, who simply has durability issues.
- Rashad Jennings is the starter in New York, but the fact that he's earned his first starting gig at the age of 29 should tell you something. With Andre Williams lurking, nabbing the rookie runner to handcuff Williams makes a ton of sense.
If you want really, really deep sleepers at the position, I have two guys for you, both currently third-string players. The first is Bryce Brown of the Buffalo Bills, currently behind C.J. Spiller (injury-prone) and Fred Jackson (33 years old). I've watched a lot of Brown during his stint with the Philadelphia Eagles, and outside of his fumbling tendencies, I've always been impressed.
He's a downhill, one-cut runner with good balance, solid vision and sneaky speed. He's a guy who could absolutely blow up if one of the two guys in front of him (or both) goes down to injury.
The other is Latavius Murray for the Oakland Raiders. Murray is big and fast, and the two players in front of him, Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew, represent a gigantic injury risk and a player in the twilight of his career, respectively. If Murray gets the chance to play, he could be this year's Rashad Jennings but with even more home run hitting potential.
And then there is wide receiver, where every year a few deep sleepers take us all by surprise. John Brown is a name to remember. He's behind Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd in the pecking order for now, but the dynamic rookie could carve out a nice role for himself in the slot.
Just consider the following, from Peter King's weekly MMQB.com column:
John Brown this, John Brown that. John Brown out wide, John Brown in the slot, John Brown at the top of bunch formations. Forget Sammy Watkins, we got John Brown! The 91st pick of the 2014 draft, from that big NFL feeder Pittsburg (Kans.) State, is the hit of Cardinals training camp, forcing his way into first-team dialogue ('I’d say we could use him about 60 percent of the offensive snaps,' coach Bruce Arians said), just a few months after he took the gridiron against Emporia State and Nebraska-Kearney.
Forget about Brandin Cooks for a moment—everybody seems to be in love with him, despite the fact that New Orleans Saints receivers not named Marques Colston traditionally don't produce for fantasy owners in the Sean Payton era—and turn your attention to Kelvin Benjamin instead.
The Carolina Panthers receiver is a big body, a major red-zone threat and, let's be honest, probably the best option in the passing game Cam Newton has outside of Greg Olsen. I think Benjamin could shock everyone and snag 10 touchdowns this season (I'm not saying he will, just that it is his upside). I don't think Cooks will get anywhere close to that number.
Benjamin's catches and yards won't be as high as Cooks, of course, but I'd rather have him as a top option in the passing attack as opposed to Cook, who is one of many mouths Drew Brees has to feed.
Oh, and don't forget about Rueben Randle. The third-year man didn't show huge growth a season ago (41 catches for 611 yards and six touchdowns), but the entire New York Giants offense was a mess. If Eli Manning can limit the turnovers, Randle's going to be the No. 2 receiver in an offense that once was known for airing it out.
With Victor Cruz likely to play in the slot whenever possible and Hakeem Nicks now in Indianapolis, Randle enters the season as New York's top receiver out wide. That should translate to much bigger numbers this year.