Fantasy Football 2014: Positional Rankings and Top Sleepers to Target

Sean ODonnellContributor IIISeptember 1, 2014

DENVER, CO - AUGUST 23:  Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos throws against the Houston Texans during a preseason game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on August 23, 2014 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

It's almost hard to believe the 2014 NFL season's first meaningful game is only days away. With the preseason finally in the books, fantasy football drafts around the world are set to commence. Last-minute preparations are in order.

We've learned a good deal of information throughout all 65 of this year's exhibition games. We know which offenses are clicking, which running backs are primed to receive the bulk of the workload, and which wide receivers appear to be in line for the bulk of their respective teams' targets.

Taking all of this information into consideration, we can compile our final fantasy football rankings before Week 1 of the regular season rolls around. That said, let's take a look at the top 15 players at each position—sans defense and kickers—followed by some sleepers to target in the late rounds of this year's fantasy drafts.

 

Quarterbacks

Morry Gash/Associated Press
2014 Fantasy Football Quarterback Rankings
RankPlayerTeam
1Peyton ManningDenver Broncos
2Drew BreesNew Orleans Saints
3Aaron RodgersGreen Bay Packers
4Matthew StaffordDetroit Lions
5Andrew LuckIndianapolis Colts
6Tom BradyNew England Patriots
7Matt RyanAtlanta Falcons
8Jay CutlerChicago Bears
9Tony RomoDallas Cowboys
10Andy DaltonCincinnati Bengals
11Nick FolesPhiladelphia Eagles
12Philip RiversSan Diego Chargers
13Robert Griffin IIIWashington Redskins
14Cam NewtonCarolina Panthers
15Russell WilsonSeattle Seahawks
Sean O'Donnell's Rankings

This year's quarterback rankings are pretty straightforward. Now that Aaron Rodgers is healthy again, the upper echelon of signal-callers has been restored for the coming season. There are a few surprises, though.

Some fantasy owners may think Andy Dalton's No. 10 ranking is a little high. Not so fast. Last season, Dalton ranked fifth in fantasy points among quarterbacks. With a bevy of young, talented weapons at his disposal, he should be poised for a top-10 performance again in 2014.

Scott Bischoff of New Era Scouting tweeted his take on the quarterback's fantasy value:

One quarterback to be wary of this season is Cam Newton. While he has impressive physical tools, he simply doesn't have enough weapons around him to warrant any kind of confidence this season. A couple of aging veterans and a rookie at the wide receiver positions simply won't do it.

 

Running Backs

Matt Rourke/Associated Press
2014 Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings
RankPlayerTeam
1LeSean McCoyPhiladelphia Eagles
2Jamaal CharlesKansas City Chiefs
3Adrian PetersonMinnesota Vikings
4Eddie LacyGreen Bay Packers
5Matt ForteChicago Bears
6Marshawn LynchSeattle Seahawks
7Giovani BernardCincinnati Bengals
8Montee BallDenver Broncos
9DeMarco MurrayDallas Cowboys
10Andre EllingtonArizona Cardinals
11Doug MartinTampa Bay Buccaneers
12Arian FosterHouston Texans
13Zac StacySt. Louis Rams
14Alfred MorrisWashington Redskins
15Reggie BushDetroit Lions
Sean O'Donnell's Rankings

The top three backs are set in stone this season—in one order or another. Chances are, LeSean McCoy, Jamaal Charles and Adrian Peterson will be the first three ball-carriers selected in your fantasy drafts, as all three reside on offenses that completely revolve around them.

One running back who has been left off the top 15 is Le'Veon Bell. The Pittsburgh Steelers' second-year ball-carrier didn't have an overwhelming rookie season—he averaged just 3.5 yards per carry—and now he's in line to lose touches—including goal-line carries—to LeGarrette Blount.

 

Wide Receivers

Paul Sancya/Associated Press
2014 Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Rankings
RankPlayerTeam
1Calvin JohnsonDetroit Lions
2Demaryius ThomasDenver Broncos
3Dez BryantDallas Cowboys
4A.J. GreenCincinnati Bengals
5Jordy NelsonGreen Bay Packers
6Julio JonesAtlanta Falcons
7Brandon MarshallChicago Bears
8Antonio BrownPittsburgh Steelers
9Alshon JefferyChicago Bears
10Keenan AllenSan Diego Chargers
11Vincent JacksonTampa Bay Buccaneers
12Roddy WhiteAtlanta Falcons
13Randall CobbGreen Bay Packers
14Larry FitzgeraldArizona Cardinals
15Cordarrelle PattersonMinnesota Vikings
Sean O'Donnell's Rankings

There are two receivers who specifically have tremendous value on this list.

Keenan Allen burst onto the scene last season, recording 71 receptions for 1,046 yards and eight touchdowns as the focal point of Mike McCoy's offense led by a resurgent Philip Rivers. With a full season under his belt, the sky is the limit for this second-year receiver.

FantasyGuru.com is high on the receiver:

Don't sleep on Larry Fitzgerald this season. He hasn't reached 1,000 receiving yards in the past two seasons, but he was still able to produce 10 touchdowns last season with Carson Palmer at the helm. Expect more of the same from the veteran in 2014.

 

Tight Ends

NEW ORLEANS, LA - AUGUST 15:  Jimmy Graham #80 of the New Orleans Saints celebrates a touchdown during a preseason game against the Tennessee Titans at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on August 15, 2014 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty
Stacy Revere/Getty Images
2014 Fantasy Football Tight End Rankings
RankPlayerTeam
1Jimmy GrahamNew Orleans Saints
2Julius ThomasDenver Broncos
3Rob GronkowskiNew England Patriots
4Vernon DavisSan Francisco 49ers
5Jordan CameronCleveland Browns
6Kyle RudolphMinnesota Vikings
7Dennis PittaBaltimore Ravens
8Jordan ReedWashington Redskins
9Greg OlsenCarolina Panthers
10Jason WittenDallas Cowboys
11Martellus BennettChicago Bears
12Zach ErtzPhiladelphia Eagles
13Charles ClayMiami Dolphins
14Ladarius GreenSan Diego Chargers
15Antonio GatesSan Diego Chargers
Sean O'Donnell's Rankings

Jimmy Graham remains the one tight end worthy of a first-round selection. However, fantasy owners willing to gamble on Rob Gronkowski in the third round could be heavily rewarded, as he is capable of putting up Graham-like numbers if he can stay healthy.

For those owners who would rather wait on a tight end, there's plenty of talent available in the fifth through eighth rounds. Jordan Cameron figures to be the top target in Cleveland this season, and Greg Olsen figures to see plenty of work in Carolina.

 

Sleepers

LANDOVER, MD - AUGUST 07: Running back James White #28 of the New England Patriots looks on before playing the Washington Redskins during a preseason NFL game at FedExField on August 7, 2014 in Landover, Maryland. The Washington Redskins won, 23-6. (Photo
Patrick Smith/Getty Images
2014 Fantasy Football Top Sleepers
PlayerPos.Team
James WhiteRBNew England Patriots
Travis KelceTEKansas City Chiefs
Markus WheatonWRPittsburgh Steelers
Kenny StillsWRNew Orleans Saints
Jordan MatthewsWRPhiladelphia Eagles
DeAndre HopkinsWRHouston Texans
Jarrett BoykinWRGreen Bay Packers
Marqise LeeWRJacksonville Jaguars
Miles AustinWRCleveland Browns
Heath MillerTEPittsburgh Steelers
Lance DunbarRBDallas Cowboys
John BrownWRArizona Cardinals
Eric EbronTEDetroit Lions
Ahmad BradshawRBIndianapolis Colts
Marvin JonesWRCincinnati Bengals
Sean O'Donnell's Rankings

Each player on this list is certainly worthy of a flier in fantasy drafts; however, New England Patriots running back James White is a great option heading into the regular season. With Stevan Ridley's well-known ball-security issues and Shane Vereen's role as a change-of-pace back, White could potentially see the bulk of the work out of New England's backfield at some point this season.

Mike Clay of Pro Football Focus tweeted his thoughts on White:

Also, watch out for New Orleans Saints wide receiver Kenny Stills. As a rookie in 2013, Stills broke out, showcasing his speed to average 20 yards per reception. He can be expected to see more work this season in a pass-happy offense.

Cincinnati's Marvin Jones makes this list, but he's currently dealing with a foot injury that's likely to keep him out until Week 5. He could be poised for a big season as the team's No. 2 target behind A.J. Green, so snatch him from the waiver wire before he's back in action.

 

All rankings based on fantasy leagues in standard-scoring format.