Fantasy Football Week 2 Rankings: Updated Overview for All PositionsSeptember 10, 2014
For too long in fantasy football, we've been asking the wrong question when we come up with weekly rankings. For years now, fantasy players and analysts alike have been asking, How many points will Player X score this week?
It's a silly question. For all of the research you do, all of the analysis of a player's consistency throughout his season or career and all of the insight you seek on the matchup that player is facing, the end result is always the same.
An arbitrary number—a guess—is slapped down next to the player's name so that fantasy owners have something tangible to compare and contrast when setting their lineups. That number may be a reflection of some serious research, but the number itself is still a guess.
Well, folks, it's time to stop guessing.
Below, I've decided to ask a different question when doing my rankings: How smart is it to start Player X? Based on four different categories—the matchup, a player's fantasy consistency, the offense he plays for and his overall talent—I've graded players on how smart it is to start them, or their "startability."
These aren't projections so much as they are the rough version of a cost-benefit analysis for fantasy owners. This is an attempt to take the guesswork of a projection and instead say, "Based on the evidence at hand, certain players make far more sense to start than others."
Quite simply, how good is the defense that Player X is playing and, just as importantly, how good is it against that player's position?
Is the player regularly worthy of a fantasy start or is he a streaky performer who often leaves owners with little to no points? Is he regularly amongst the best at his position? Does he play every week or is he either often injured or buried on the depth chart? Early in the season, consistency takes previous years into account but as the season wears on, the production from this year is what is considered for a player.
Offenses are judged a bit differently for starters than for backups or second options at a position, and they are also judged differently at each position.
- Quarterback: How many weapons does the quarterback have at his disposal? Is the game plan geared toward the passing game? Does the offensive philosophy fit the player's strengths?
- Running Back: How good is the offensive line? Is the game plan geared toward the running game? Will he get a heavy workload or is he stuck in a "running-back-by-committee" situation? If there is a committee situation, does he have a defined role and does the offense find a way to keep him involved? Will he be utilized in the passing game?
- Wide Receiver and Tight End: How good is the quarterback? Does he have chemistry with the quarterback? Is the game plan geared toward the passing game? How often is he targeted? What is his role in the passing game, and is that role conducive to consistent production?
This is a player's raw talent. The more talented and explosive a player, the more likely he is to overcome a poor surrounding cast or difficult offensive situation. Generally speaking, the higher the player's ability, the higher his fantasy potential or upside will be, though there are certainly exceptions to that rule.
This is determined by combining the four grades above to rank the players. Startability is the measurement of how smart it is to start a player on a given week. It is graded on a curve.
Let's all repeat the mantra of this article one last time. And let's really emphasize the point.
DON'T ASK, HOW MANY POINTS WILL PLAYER X SCORE THIS WEEK? INSTEAD ASK, HOW SMART IS IT TO START PLAYER X?
It may seem like a small difference, but tweaking your philosophy just that little bit will completely change how you approach your lineup, I promise. Okay, let's get to the rankings!
|Week 2 Quarterback Rankings|
|1||Peyton Manning||B- (KC)||A+||A+||A+||A+|
|2||Andrew Luck||A- (PHI)||A||B+||A||A+|
|3||Drew Brees||C (CLE)||A+||A+||A+||A|
|4||Aaron Rodgers||B+ (NYJ)||A||A||A||A|
|5||Tom Brady||A- (MIN)||B||B||B+||A-|
|6||Russell Wilson||B (SD)||A-||B||B||A-|
|7||Robert Griffin III||A+ (JAC)||B-||C+||B+||B+|
|8||Nick Foles||B- (IND)||B+||A||C||B+|
|9||Cam Newton||C- (DET)||A-||B-||A-||B+|
|10||Andy Dalton||A (ATL)||B-||B-||C+||B|
|11||Matt Stafford||D- (CAR)||B+||A-||A-||B|
|12||Matt Ryan||D- (CIN)||B+||B+||B+||B|
|13||Colin Kaepernick||C (CHI)||B-||B||B||B-|
|14||Jake Locker||A+ (DAL)||C||C-||C+||B-|
|15||Tony Romo||D (TEN)||B||B+||B||B-|
|16||Ben Roethlisberger||C+ (BAL)||C+||C+||B-||C+|
|17||Jay Cutler||F (SF)||C+||A-||B-||C+|
|18||Philip Rivers||F (SEA)||B||C+||B-||C+|
|19||Joe Flacco||C (PIT)||C||C-||C+||C|
|20||Alex Smith||C+ (DEN)||C+||D||C||C|
The one thing you'll notice right away with this style of rankings is that there aren't too many surprises at the top, though matchups will elevate or lower certain players. The biggest surprise near the top of these rankings, then, is probably Tom Brady at No. 5.
Let's take a closer look at Brady. The New England Patriots star got off to a slow start, throwing for 249 yards and a touchdown while fumbling twice against the Miami Dolphins. In standard scoring leagues, that was good for just nine fantasy points.
But it shouldn't have come as a huge surprise, either. A year ago, the Dolphins allowed just 12.8 fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks, seventh best in the league. Brady was always bound to start slowly.
But he should bounce back in a major way this week. With his weapons in the passing game healthy—most importantly, Rob Gronkowski and Shane Vereen—Brady has a dream matchup against a Minnesota team that allowed 21.3 fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks a year ago, worst in the NFL.
Meanwhile, tough matchups against the Carolina Panthers and Cincinnati Bengals, respectively, have knocked Matt Stafford and Matt Ryan down the board despite the two starting out on fire in Week 1. In 12-man leagues, each are still viable QB1s, but the smart players in 10-man leagues will recognize the risk each presents this week and will sit them if they have one of the top-10 options listed above.
Oh, and if you were wondering how a player's "offense" ranking might help or hinder him, look no further than Nick Foles, a player I don't think is particularly talented but is a great fit for a fast-paced Philadelphia offense that regularly inflates his stats. You may not love Foles as a player, but you should love him as a quarterback in this scheme. He keeps producing, after all.
|Week 2 Running Back Rankings|
|1||Adrian Peterson||B (NE)||A+||A-||A+||A+|
|2||LeSean McCoy||C (IND)||A+||A+||A+||A+|
|3||Marshawn Lynch||C (SD)||A+||A+||A||A+|
|4||Arian Foster||A+ (OAK)||A||C+||A-||A|
|5||Jamaal Charles||C+ (DEN)||A||B+||A+||A|
|6||Frank Gore||A+ (CHI)||B+||A||C+||A|
|7||Giovani Bernard||A (ATL)||B+||B-||B+||A-|
|8||Montee Ball||B- (KC)||A-||A||B||A-|
|9||Alfred Morris||A- (JAC)||A||B-||B-||A-|
|10||Matt Forte||D (SF)||A||A-||A||B+|
|11||C.J. Spiller||B (MIA)||C+||B||A||B+|
|12||DeMarco Murray||C- (TEN)||B+||B||A-||B+|
|13||Eddie Lacy||D (NYJ)||A-||B+||A-||B|
|14||Chris Johnson||A (GB)||C+||C+||B-||B|
|15||Le'Veon Bell||D+ (BAL)||A-||B-||B+||B|
|16||Doug Martin||B (STL)||B-||C-||B+||B-|
|17||Shane Vereen||B+ (MIN)||C||B||C-||B-|
|18||Andre Ellington||C (NYG)||C+||C||B+||C-|
|19||Knowshon Moreno||C+ (BUF)||B||C||C||C+|
|20||Reggie Bush||F (CAR)||B-||B+||B||C+|
|21||Ryan Mathews||D- (SEA)||B||C+||B||C+|
|22||Pierre Thomas||C+ (CLE)||D+||B||C+||C|
|23||Fred Jackson||B (MIA)||C||C+||C-||C|
|24||Joique Bell||F (CAR)||B-||B-||B-||C|
|25||Darren Sproles||C (IND)||D+||B||C||C-|
|26||Terrance West||B+ (NO)||C-||C-||D||C-|
|27||Zac Stacy||D+ (TB)||C||C||C||C-|
|28||Lamar Miller||C+ (BUF)||D||C-||C+||D+|
|29||Rashad Jennings||F (ARI)||B||C-||D+||D+|
|30||Maurice Jones-Drew||B- (HOU)||C-||D||D||D+|
|31||Justin Forsett||B- (PIT)||D||D+||F||D|
|32||Chris Ivory||A (GB)||D||D+||F||D|
|33||DeAngelo Williams||C- (DET)||C-||D||D||D|
|34||Mark Ingram||C+ (CLE)||D||F||C-||D-|
|35||Danny Woodhead||D- (SEA)||D+||C||D-||D-|
Running Back Notes
No position has become more unpredictable or seen more upheaval in the past year than running back, so the philosophy at the position has essentially remained, "Trust your studs!"
That being said, there might be a few surprises here, Frank Gore tops amongst them. While Gore had a decent start to the season, rushing 16 times for 66 yards, rookie Carlos Hyde was handed seven carries as well, turning them into 50 yards and a score in his impressive debut.
Folks may be concerned that Gore's workload will be lessened this year, and that fear might become the truth eventually. But against a Chicago Bears defense that gave up 22.5 fantasy points to opposing running backs a year ago—second worst in the NFL—and started the season by giving up a total of 25 fantasy points to Buffalo Bills running backs, Gore's matchup this week is too tasty to ignore.
He may be getting up there in years, but Gore will run all over the Bears defense like he's a much younger man.
As you can see, there are a few running backs who were projected to be fantasy studs coming into the season, but I don't really trust them right now. Zac Stacy's status seems to be up in the air in St. Louis, and the Rams aren't exactly world-beaters on offense. It's tough to trust Stacy this week. Same for Rashad Jennings, who faces arguably the league's best run defense in the Arizona Cardinals.
And waiver-wire darling Justin Forsett? Maybe he gets the start this week, maybe he doesn't, but unless you are truly desperate at running back, I don't think you should be starting him.
|Week 2 Wide Receiver Rankings|
|1||Jordy Nelson||A- (NYJ)||A-||A+||A-||A+|
|2||A.J. Green||B- (ATL)||A+||B||A||A+|
|3||Calvin Johnson||D- (CAR)||A+||A||A+||A+|
|4||Demaryius Thomas||C+ (KC)||A||A+||A-||A|
|5||Julio Jones||D+ (CIN)||A-||A-||A||A|
|6||Brandon Marshall||D (SF)||A+||A||B+||A|
|7||Randall Cobb||A- (NYJ)||B+||A-||B-||A-|
|8||Percy Harvin||A- (SD)||B+||C+||B+||A-|
|9||Dez Bryant||D- (TEN)||A||B+||A||A-|
|10||DeSean Jackson||B (JAC)||C+||B-||A-||B+|
|11||Antonio Brown||C- (BAL)||A||B||B-||B+|
|12||Reggie Wayne||A+ (PHI)||B||B+||C||B+|
|13||Vincent Jackson||B- (STL)||B-||C+||B||B|
|14||Alshon Jeffery||D (SF)||A-||B||B||B|
|15||Andre Johnson||B (OAK)||B+||D||B||B|
|16||Pierre Garcon||B (JAC)||B||C+||C+||B-|
|17||Roddy White||C- (CIN)||B||A-||C-||B-|
|18||Larry Fitzgerald||B+ (NYG)||B-||C-||C+||B-|
|19||Julian Edelman||A (MIN)||C||A-||D-||C+|
|20||Emmanuel Sanders||C+ (KC)||C+||A||D||C+|
|21||Jeremy Maclin||B (IND)||C||B||C||C+|
|22||T.Y. Hilton||A+ (PHI)||D+||B-||D+||C|
|23||Kendall Wright||A+ (DAL)||C||C||C-||C|
|24||Michael Floyd||B+ (NYG)||C-||C||C+||C|
|25||Victor Cruz||D+ (ARI)||B||C-||B-||C|
|26||Torrey Smith||C (PIT)||C||B-||C||C-|
|27||Michael Crabtree||C+ (CHI)||C-||C+||C+||C-|
|28||Mike Wallace||B+ (BUF)||D+||C-||C||C-|
|30||Cordarrelle Patterson||D+ (NE)||D+||C||B+||D+|
|31||Hakeem Nicks||A+ (PHI)||D-||C||D||D+|
|32||Justin Hunter||A+ (DAL)||F||D+||C-||D+|
|34||Cecil Shorts||A (WAS)||D+||D||F||D|
|35||Keenan Allen||F (SEA)||B-||B-||C||D|
|36||Golden Tate||D- (CAR)||C-||B||D||D|
|37||DeAndre Hopkins||B (OAK)||D-||D||D+||D|
|38||Riley Cooper||B (IND)||D||C+||F||D+|
|39||Eric Decker||B+ (GB)||C-||F||D||D+|
|40||Kelvin Benjamin||C+ (DET)||D||C-||D-||D+|
|41||Mike Evans||B- (STL)||F||D+||D||D+|
|42||Steve Smith||C (PIT)||D-||C||D-||F|
|43||Markus Wheaton||C- (BAL)||D-||C+||F||F|
|44||Terrance Williams||D- (TEN)||D||B-||D-||F|
|45||Sammy Watkins||D (MIA)||F||D-||C||F|
Wide Receiver Notes
I can hear what you are thinking: How is anyone a safer starting option than Calvin Johnson? Well folks, while Megatron is matchup-proof, it doesn't mean a poor matchup can't affect him at all. While he should be started across the board, a lot of players have a somewhat higher upside this week based on matchups, namely Jordy Nelson and A.J. Green.
Another player I love is Percy Harvin. The Seattle Seahawks made it clear in Week 1 that he was going to be a huge part of their offense, and the San Diego Chargers just gave up a total of 23 fantasy points to the Arizona Cardinals receivers.
With Harvin the top gun in Seattle's passing game, he could score 23 on his own.
As you can see, Victor Cruz terrifies me right now. Combine a really tough matchup against Arizona with the fact that Eli Manning looked dreadful in New York's opener, and Cruz is a player who should really only be considered for your flex this week.
Another player I have lower on this list than you'll see elsewhere is Cordarrelle Patterson. On a weekly basis, his talent means he always has a big upside. But we also still don't really know what we'll consistently get from him, and though he had a great opening week, most of his value came from one long touchdown run. In the passing game, he caught just three passes for 25 yards on five targets.
That worries me. So does a matchup against Darrelle Revis. It's a great sign that the Vikings are finding unique ways to get him the ball, yes, but until he becomes a steadier option in the passing game, he'll remain a risky fantasy option on these rankings.
|Week 2 Tight End Notes|
|1||Jimmy Graham||D+ (CLE)||A+||A+||A+||A+|
|2||Julius Thomas||C (KC)||A||A+||A||A|
|3||Rob Gronkowski||A- (MIN)||A||A||A||A|
|4||Vernon Davis||C+ (CHI)||B+||A-||A-||A-|
|5||Jordan Cameron||B- (NO)||B||B+||B+||B+|
|6||Zach Ertz||B (IND)||C-||B+||B||B|
|7||Jason Witten||D (TEN)||A-||A-||B-||B|
|8||Greg Olsen||C+ (DET)||B-||B||B||B-|
|9||Dennis Pitta||C (PIT)||C+||B||C||C+|
|10||Martellus Bennett||D (SF)||C||B-||C+||C|
|11||Charles Clay||B+ (BUF)||D+||C+||D||C-|
|12||Kyle Rudolph||D+ (NE)||D-||C||C-||D+|
|13||Dwayne Allen||A+ (PHI)||D-||B||D+||D|
|14||Heath Miller||C- (BAL)||F||B-||D-||D-|
|15||Antonio Gates||F (SEA)||D||B||F||F|
Tight End Notes
Seriously, trust your studs. At a leaner position like tight end, players like Jimmy Graham, Julius Thomas, Rob Gronkowski, Vernon Davis and Jordan Cameron should be started every week. Likewise, guys like Jason Witten and Greg Olsen should rarely, if ever, see your bench if they are your top guy.
The player who continues to look as though he'll emerge as a steady TE1 this year is Zach Ertz. After starting the season with three receptions for 77 yards and a touchdown, Ertz rewarded fantasy owners who pegged him for a breakout year.
With DeSean Jackson off to Washington, there are more targets to go around for Ertz than there were a year ago, and he's clearly the superior option in the passing game to Brent Celek. So talented is the big tight end that he could challenge Jeremy Maclin for top billing in the passing game this year on Philly's explosive offense.
He doesn't seem to be a huge risk either. While he started slow a year ago—he was a rookie, after all—Ertz has now posted double-digit fantasy points in four of his last nine games, and he clearly looked like Foles' most dangerous weapon over the middle on Sunday.
Ertz isn't going to be a safe option every week. But against an Indianapolis Colts defense that just allowed Orange Julius to catch seven passes for 104 yards and three touchdowns, Ertz should be started across the board this week.
Defense and Kickers
|1||Arizona Cardinals||New York Giants|
|2||Green Bay Packers||New York Jets|
|3||Miami Dolphins||Buffalo Bills|
|4||Denver Broncos||Kansas City Chiefs|
|5||Seattle Seahawks||San Diego Chargers|
|6||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||St. Louis Rams|
|7||Buffalo Bills||Miami Dolphins|
|8||St. Louis Rams||Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
|9||Carolina Panthers||Detroit Lions|
|10||Houston Texans||Oakland Raiders|
|1||Mason Crosby||Green Bay Packers||New York Jets|
|2||Cody Parkey||Philadelphia Eagles||Indianapolis Colts|
|3||Adam Vinatieri||Indianapolis Colts||Philadelphia Eagles|
|4||Shaun Suisham||Pittsburgh Steelers||Baltimore Ravens|
|5||Justin Tucker||Baltimore Ravens||Pittsburgh Steelers|
|6||Phil Dawson||San Francisco 49ers||Chicago Bears|
|7||Stephen Gostkowski||New England Patriots||Chicago Bears|
|8||Brandon McManus||Denver Broncos||Kansas City Chiefs|
|9||Steven Hauschka||Seattle Seahawks||San Diego Chargers|
|10||Chandler Catanzaro||Arizona Cardinals||New York Giants|
This is a pretty tough weak for the top defenses, as many are facing some tough matchups. While certain units seem almost matchup-proof at this point—we're looking at you, Seattle and Carolina—I wouldn't trust the Niners this week against the Chicago Bears.
Yes, they'll probably force a few Jay Cutler turnovers, but one would guess the Bears will also accumulate plenty of yards and put some points on the board.
If you are streaming defenses, consider Houston. The Texans have a formidable pass rush and will be facing a rookie quarterback in Derek Carr. They just notched 20 fantasy points against a Washington offense that is far more dangerous than Oakland, and even without Jadeveon Clowney, they are a great option this week.
As for kickers, here's what you need to do: Trust consistent kickers who play for teams with good offenses. Yes, it's really that simple.
Hit me up on Twitter—I'll answer your fantasy questions and make some corny jokes too. It's more fun than karate class with Antonio Brown.