Fantasy Football 2015: Skill-Position Rankings and Top Sleepers

Jared Johnson@@jaredtjohnson21Featured ColumnistAugust 29, 2015

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) throws during the first half of the NFL football AFC Championship game against the New England Patriots Sunday, Jan. 18, 2015, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Matt Slocum/Associated Press


Projected Top 20 Fantasy Quarterbacks for 2015
RankPlayerTeam
1Andrew LuckIndianapolis Colts
2Aaron RodgersGreen Bay Packers
3Russell WilsonSeattle Seahawks
4Peyton ManningDenver Broncos
5Ben RoethlisbergerPittsburgh Steelers
6Eli ManningNew York Giants
7Drew BreesNew Orleans Saints
8Matt RyanAtlanta Falcons
9Tony RomoDallas Cowboys
10Ryan TannehillMiami Dolphins
11Philip RiversSan Diego Chargers
12Cam NewtonCarolina Panthers
13Tom BradyNew England Patriots
14Matthew StaffordDetroit Lions
15Colin KaepernickSan Francisco 49ers
16Carson PalmerArizona Cardinals
17Joe FlaccoBaltimore Ravens
18Teddy BridgewaterMinnesota Vikings
19Sam BradfordPhiladelphia Eagles
20Jay CutlerChicago Bears
N/A

No offense to kickers or defense and special teams units, but fantasy football is all about the skill-position players.

Not only do quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers and tight ends dominate the first several rounds of drafts and score most of your points, but those positions also represent most of the time and energy spent by team owners on fantasy football.

For that reason, it's important to have your personal rankings at quarterback, running back, wide receiver and tight end nailed down before the draft and available for tweaking during the season as you navigate the trade market and the waiver wire.

Below is a sample top 20 at each of those positions put together by yours truly, along with one possible sleeper at each spot to consider in the later rounds.

Quarterback

Projected Top 20 Fantasy Running Backs for 2015
RankPlayerTeam
1Adrian PetersonMinnesota Vikings
2Eddie LacyGreen Bay Packers
3Le'Veon BellPittsburgh Steelers
4Jamaal CharlesKansas City Chiefs
5Marshawn LynchSeattle Seahawks
6C.J. AndersonDenver Broncos
7Matt ForteChicago Bears
8DeMarco MurrayPhiladelphia Eagles
9LeSean McCoyBuffalo Bills
10Jeremy HillCincinnati Bengals
11Lamar MillerMiami Dolphins
12Alfred MorrisWashington Redskins
13Justin ForsettBaltimore Ravens
14Carlos HydeSan Francisco 49ers
15Frank GoreIndianapolis Colts
16Mark IngramNew Orleans Saints
17Latavius MurrayOakland Raiders
18Melvin GordonSan Diego Chargers
19Andre EllingtonArizona Cardinals
20Jonathan StewartCarolina Panthers
N/A

Sleeper to watch: Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders

The Raiders are almost always an afterthought in any sort of predictive exercise, whether it be a standings forecast or fantasy projections. To some degree, it's valid, as the team has gone 4-12 or worse in three consecutive seasons and its offense has been 24th or worse in points scored in each of those seasons.

However, you'd be foolish to dismiss Derek Carr as a terrible fantasy quarterback for 2015.

The second-year signal-caller's leading receiver won't be Andre Holmes (!) again, because he'll have rookie first-round wideout Amari Cooper and free-agent acquisition Michael Crabtree catching a hefty chunk of his throws.

Oakland's 32nd-ranked running game from last season should be slightly better this year with Latavius Murray taking away carries from the disappointing (and departed) Darren McFadden, but the offense is still more passing-focused.

Feel good about drafting Carr as your No. 2 quarterback, and possibly starting him based on matchups if the Raiders offense starts to click.

Running Back

Duke Johnson was a statistical beast at Miami. Can he carry over some of that success to the NFL?
Duke Johnson was a statistical beast at Miami. Can he carry over some of that success to the NFL?David J. Phillip/Associated Press

Sleeper to watch: Duke Johnson, Cleveland Browns

Terrance West led the Browns in carries last season, but it's anybody's guess who does so in 2015.
Terrance West led the Browns in carries last season, but it's anybody's guess who does so in 2015.David Richard/Associated Press

Like the Raiders, the Browns are rarely given the benefit of the doubt in fantasy discussions. The team rarely has a statistical beast leading its charge.

However, Duke Johnson, a rookie third-round pick, could surprise with a nice fantasy campaign in 2015.

Johnson is a versatile scatback who'll line up all over the field in his rookie year, according to Browns running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery, via ESPN.com. Montgomery also noted Johnson has a shot at Cleveland's lead back spot. In that circumstance, the Browns will still have a three-headed attack in the backfield, with Johnson, Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West.

Projected Top 20 Fantasy Wide Receivers for 2015
RankPlayerTeam
1Antonio BrownPittsburgh Steelers
2Dez BryantDallas Cowboys
3Demaryius ThomasDenver Broncos
4Julio JonesAtlanta Falcons
5Odell Beckham Jr.New York Giants
6Randall CobbGreen Bay Packers
7A.J. GreenCincinnati Bengals
8Calvin JohnsonDetroit Lions
9Alshon JefferyChicago Bears
10T.Y. HiltonIndianapolis Colts
11Mike EvansTampa Bay Buccaneers
12Brandin CooksNew Orleans Saints
13DeAndre HopkinsHouston Texans
14Andre JohnsonIndianapolis Colts
15DeSean JacksonWashington Redskins
16Jarvis LandryMiami Dolphins
17Emmanuel SandersDenver Broncos
18Amari CooperOakland Raiders
19Julian EdelmanNew England Patriots
20Nelson AgholorPhiladelphia Eagles
N/A

Still, it's remarkable that a potential starter on a run-oriented team has an average draft position of 115.3.

Johnson hasn't played in the preseason yet due to a hamstring injury. Keep an eye on what he does in Cleveland's final two exhibition games, starting Saturday night against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Wide Receiver

As he did in 2008, Eddie Royal should help Jay Cutler out with precise route running and dependable hands.
As he did in 2008, Eddie Royal should help Jay Cutler out with precise route running and dependable hands.David Zalubowski/Associated Press/Associated Press

Sleeper to watch: Eddie Royal, Chicago Bears

Eddie Royal's ADP of 132.5 ranks him 51st among all wide receivers. In his rookie (and only) season with Jay Cutler throwing him passes, Royal notched 138.9 fantasy points, good for No. 19 among wideouts. Now, he's reunited with Cutler in Chicago.

'Nuff said.

Projected Top 20 Fantasy Tight Ends for 2015
PickPlayerTeam
1Rob GronkowskiNew England Patriots
2Jimmy GrahamSeattle Seahawks
3Greg OlsenCarolina Panthers
4Travis KelceKansas City Chiefs
5Jason WittenDallas Cowboys
6Martellus BennettChicago Bears
7Zach ErtzPhiladelphia Eagles
8Julius ThomasJacksonville Jaguars
9Jordan CameronMiami Dolphins
10Dwayne AllenIndianapolis Colts
11Antonio GatesSan Diego Chargers
12Delanie WalkerTennessee Titans
13Kyle RudolphMinnesota Vikins
14Josh HillNew Orleans Saints
15Owen DanielsDenver Broncos
16Coby FleenerIndianapolis Colts
17Larry DonnellNew York Giants
18Vernon DavisSan Francisco 49ers
19Heath MillerPittsburgh Steelers
20Tyler EifertCincinnati Bengals
N/A

Well, he probably won't rank that high in 2015, but either way, the 29-year-old Royal is getting overlooked by far too many fantasy owners because he's not a sexy pick. However, he's the clear No. 2 receiver for the Bears after Alshon Jeffery in a solid passing attack, which should warrant at least a 10th-round pick.

Scoop Royal up late in your draft while your opponents foam at the mouth over high-upside players.

Tight End

Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen entered the league together in 2012 and have been an excellent duo at tight end, when healthy.
Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen entered the league together in 2012 and have been an excellent duo at tight end, when healthy.Michael Conroy/Associated Press

Sleeper to watch: Coby Fleener, Indianapolis Colts

It's not every day a 26-year-old who was the No. 6 fantasy player at his position drops out of the top 20 in many preseason rankings without any major circumstantial changes, but that's what has happened to Fleener.

The biggest reason for the drop was because a bulk of his 2014 production came when fellow tight end Dwayne Allen was out for almost four full games with ankle issues during the second half of the season. But are we so sure Allen is going to be completely healthy in 2015? I'm not.

Allen is a better blocker and red-zone threat, but Fleener is more athletic and has been developing chemistry with quarterback Andrew Luck since their days together at Stanford. There's also enough passing attempts to go around in Indianapolis to get both tight ends decent fantasy production.

Don't be scared to take a flier on the Colts' No. 2 tight end. He definitely won't be close to an every-down player with Allen healthy, but when he's on the field, he'll produce for you.

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