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Fantasy Football 2016: Updated Rankings and Advice for Team Names

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistAugust 23, 2016

Steelers WR Antonio Brown
Steelers WR Antonio BrownAssociated Press

We've reached the halfway point of the 2016 NFL preseason, which means, well, not that much.

Week 3 will answer most of our biggest questions, as starters will get their most extended action. Hints at the winners of battles at quarterback and running back will provide the most intrigue, especially given the fantasy implications.

But what if your league is drafting this week? Before all of that?

Well, um, sorry to hear it. But in the meantime, here are some pre-Week 3 rankings to get you through your draft and some rules to live by.  

       

QB

RankPlayerTeam
1Cam NewtonCAR
2Aaron RodgersGB
3Andrew LuckIND
4Ben RoethlisbergerPIT
5Russell WilsonSEA
6Drew BreesNO
7Carson PalmerARI
8Tom BradyNE
9Eli ManningNYG
10Tyrod TaylorBUF
11Philip RiversSD
12Tony RomoDAL
13Blake BortlesJAX
14Derek CarrOAK
15Marcus MariotaTEN
16Jameis WinstonTB
17Andy DaltonCIN
18Kirk CousinsWAS
19Matt RyanATL
20Robert Griffin IIICLE

The Rule: Wait It Out

You might be tempted to take Cam Newton. After all, what other quarterback doubles as his team's goal-line running back? Newton has had at least 500 rushing yards and five scores in each of his five NFL seasons and is the reigning MVP; there's a lot to love here.

But value matters. Newton's 2015 season stands out as a sore-thumb outlier, in part because it was a historically great year and in part because we'd never seen him play like that before. Newton nearly doubled his touchdown passing total from 2014 and literally doubled his rushing touchdowns.

A regression to the mean is inevitable.

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This isn't meant as a rebuke of Newton, who is great, but as a representative sample of a quarterback position that's largely fungible within its top eight.

If I had to bet, I'd pick Newton to be the top-scoring QB this year. Do I feel great about it? Absolutely not. There isn't enough of a difference between him and Drew Brees to offer much of a concern in waiting a few rounds.

      

RB

RankingPlayerTeam
1Adrian PetersonMIN
2Todd GurleyLA
3Le'Veon BellPIT
4Ezekiel ElliottDAL
5David JohnsonARI
6Thomas RawlsSEA
7Devonta FreemanATL
8Jamaal CharlesKC
9Lamar MillerHOU
10Doug MartinTB
11LeSean McCoyBUF
12Latavius MurrayOAK
13Eddie LacyGB
14Mark IngramNO
15Carlos HydeSF
16DeMarco MurrayTEN
17Jonathan StewartCAR
18Jeremy LangfordCHI
19Matt JonesWAS
20Jeremy HillCIN
21C.J. AndersonDEN
22Ryan MathewsPHI
23Jay AjayiMIA
24Matt ForteNYJ
25Melvin GordonSD
26James WhiteNE
27Duke JohnsonCLE
28Danny WoodheadSD
29DeAngelo WilliamsPIT
30Frank GoreIND

The Rule: Do Not Go RB-RB

For years, this was the preferred draft strategy. Get your star running backs early and build your roster around them. The class of pass-catchers was always deeper, and we've all shaved years off our lives reading way too much into preseason gossip over dudes who wind up rushing for 38 career yards.

That time has passed.

Going running back-running back is now the surefire way to destruction. Not even the guys at the top are bankable. Adrian Peterson is 31 years old. He's breaking down sooner or later. Todd Gurley rushed for 100 yards once in his final eight games. Le'Veon Bell is suspended for three games and coming off an injury. Ezekiel Elliott has zero career carries.

And those are the good ones.

The chances are high that I walk out of the first three rounds with just one running back, which leads us to...

      

WR

RankingPlayerTeam
1Antonio BrownPIT
2Odell Beckham Jr.NYG
3Julio JonesATL
4Dez BryantDAL
5DeAndre HopkinsHOU
6Jordy NelsonGB
7A.J. GreenCIN
8Allen RobinsonJAC
9Mike EvansTB
10Amari CooperOAK
11Brandon MarshallNYJ
12Demaryius ThomasDEN
13Alshon JefferyCHI
14Brandin CooksNO
15Sammy WatkinsBUF
16T.Y. HiltonIND
17Julian EdelmanNE
18Jarvis LandryMIA
19Keenan AllenSD
21Golden TateDET
22Kelvin BenjaminCAR
23Randall CobbGB
24Doug BaldwinSEA
25Eric DeckerNYJ
26Larry FitzgeraldARI
27Jeremy MaclinKC
28Josh GordonCLE
29Michael FloydARI
30Emmanuel SandersDEN

The Rule: If You Can Get Away with Going WR-WR, Do It

This mostly applies to those who are sitting near the top of the draft in snake formats. The ideal team could see you begin with an Antonio Brown-Jordy Nelson core, before adding a falling Doug Martin or Jamaal Charles on the turnaround.

There are some years where it's better to be toward the middle of the first round. This is not one. Brown is a points-per-reception godsend who is one of the most reliable performers in the league using standard settings.

Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger has tunnel vision in his direction, and for good reason. There is no better player in the league at getting open.

Even if you can't get the top pick, beginning with Odell Beckham or Julio Jones isn't so bad. As long as there is a second top-eight or top-nine receiver hanging around in the second, WR-WR is the way to go.

      

TE

RankingRankingTeam
1Rob GronkowskiNE
2Jordan ReedWAS
3Greg OlsenCAR
4Travis KelceKC
5Delanie WalkerTEN
6Tyler EifertCIN
7Coby FleenerNO
8Gary BarnidgeCLE
9Zach ErtzPHI
10Jimmy GrahamSEA
11Antonio GatesSD
12Julius ThomasJAC
13Zach MillerCHI
14Eric EbronDET
15Martellus BennettNE

The Rule: Don't Go Gronking in the First Round; in the Second Though...

Rob Gronkowski is the best tight end in football. Assuming he's healthy, he's good for 1,000 yards and 10-plus touchdowns at a position where you'd be thrilled with 70 percent of that action. Jordan Reed and Greg Olsen had stellar seasons, but consistency matters; Gronk is the only tight end worth drafting in the first four or five rounds.

Just don't throw your first-round eggs in his basket.

We have no idea how Jimmy Garoppolo will perform in Tom Brady's stead. He could be a Brady clone, a solid Matt Cassel placeholder or an abject Ryan Mallett. Gronk is good enough that he'll still have value regardless of Garoppolo's performance, but those four weeks matter when it comes to playoff positioning.

Also keep in mind that you have one tight end, two running backs and two receivers. Again, these things matter. Reed and Olsen will be available rounds later and replicate 85 percent of Gronk's value. Gary Barnidge will be available seven or eight rounds later and could get to 75 percent.

       

DEF

RankingTeam
1Seattle Seahawks
2Carolina Panthers
3Denver Broncos
4Houston Texans
5Cincinnati Bengals
6Kansas City Chiefs
7Arizona Cardinals
8New York Jets
9New England Patriots
10Green Bay Packers
11Buffalo Bills
12Oakland Raiders
13Minnesota Vikings
14Jacksonville Jaguars
15Los Angeles Rams

K

RankingPlayerTeam
1Stephen GostkowskiNE
2Dan BaileyDAL
3Steven HauschkaSEA
4Justin TuckerBAL
5Mason CrosbyGB
6Adam VinatieriIND
7Chandler CatanzaroARI
8Blair WalshMIN
9Graham GanoCAR
10Josh BrownNYG
11Matt PraterDET
12Cairo SantosKC
13Chris BoswellPIT
14Brandon McManusDEN
15Robbie GouldCHI

The Rule: Do Not Draft These Positions Until the Last 2 Rounds

I repeat: Do not draft these positions until the last two rounds. Thank you.  

      

Team Names

  • And Hurns to You, Allen Robinson
  • Abdullah Oblongata
  • Fat Bottomed Gurleys
  • Edward Forte-Hands
  • Make AmariCarr Great Again
  • Almost Jameis
  • Le’Veon a Prayer
  • Drinkin' Fortes
  • Dez'd & Confused
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