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Fantasy Football 2014: Breaking Down Latest Rankings and Deep Sleepers

CHARLOTTE, NC - AUGUST 17:  Travis Kelce #87 of the Kansas City Chiefs drags Robert Lester #38 and Jason Williams #54 of the Carolina Panthers into the end zone for a touchdown during their game at Bank of America Stadium on August 17, 2014 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Carolina won 28-16.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Grant Halverson/Getty Images
Timothy RappFeatured ColumnistAugust 27, 2014

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.

 

Fantasy Rankings

Timothy Rapp's Top 150 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

 

Deep Sleepers

NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 29:  Tim Wright #81 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers catches a touchdown pass in front of Curtis Lofton #50 of the New Orleans Saints during a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 29, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Phot
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

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.

David Richard/Associated Press

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.

Don Wright/Associated Press

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.

Excited yet?

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.

CHARLOTTE, NC - AUGUST 08:  Kelvin Benjamin #13 of the Carolina Panthers makes a touchdown catch as Stephon Gilmore #24 of the Buffalo Bills defends during their game at Bank of America Stadium on August 8, 2014 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Gr
Grant Halverson/Getty Images

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.

 

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