The preseason ended yesterday, and I have spent the last week and a half of new teacher orientation and faculty meetings compiling my final player lists for the coming NFL season. I'm going to post them all here instead of breaking them up like I have in the past, so the explanations will be short and sweet. Hope you enjoy.
Top 24 Quarterbacks:
1. Aaron Rodgers: The consensus top quarterback is pretty much spot on. This defense hasn't improved enough to change anything.
2. Drew Brees: Opposing offenses have been quite successful against the Saints starting defense, and Drew Brees has been perfectly capable of keeping up.
3. Tom Brady: The team with the most improved defense and the least loss of coaching staff should have the greatest defensive improvement; sorry Brady.
4. Matthew Stafford: Still a bit of an injury concern, but he still has Megatron, too. Stafford should play well this year if he stays healthy.
5. Cam Newton: His passing has been a bit off this preseason (some of his stats are misrepresentations from poor PI calls by replacement refs), but he can still run. He should score good fantasy points, but Steve Smith needs to return to action quickly.
6. Matt Ryan: He has been my 6th quarterback forever. It is tough to argue with that receiving corps.
7. Tony Romo: He has been up and down, but he is still a consistent performer. Hopefully he stays healthy for his fantasy owners.
8. Peyton Manning: Old Man Manning looked mediocre until the third preseason game. He made me glad to have drafted Decker, that's for sure. We still don't know how well he will play outside.
9. Philip Rivers: Rivers was pushing for elite status as a top-5 quarterback before the 2011 season. Life has certainly gone downhill since then, but he is still a top-10 fantasy quarterback...even with a questionable group of receivers.
10. Eli Manning: Little Manning throws too many intercepts and gives up too many fumbles. That is a fact, not an opinion. 2011 will be the best of his career (that was an opinion).
11. Jay Cutler: Cutler just misses my top-10 because of the Bears offensive line. He could be great, but he could just keep being mediocre.
12. Russell Wilson: I was on the bandwagon after the first preseason game, even though I wasn't sure who would win the starting job. If he busts, grab Flynn off waivers.
13. Ben Roethlisberger: I don't know if Big Ben's ankles can hold up if this offensive line doesn't improve. He isn't a starter in most leagues.
14. Michael Vick: The two preseason games (7 passes, 1 sack, 1 rush) don't give us any confidence about his health. He is a bust waiting to happen.
15. Robert Griffin III: He hasn't been spectacular by any means, but those 40-50 rushing yards per game can make almost any QB look good (see: Tebow, Tim) in fantasy.
16. Andrew Luck: Luck has potential above this ranking and a floor far below it. I'm not drafting a rookie as a starter. (His first preseason game was eerily similar to Ryan Leaf's)
17. Joe Flacco: Flacco could never have made this list without Torrey Smith. If only that guy could catch the ball more consistently... He still seems to be open on every play.
18. Ryan Fitzpatrick: He is average.
19. Matt Schaub: Slightly above average, but we haven't seen him play in a while. The Texans have an extremely weak receiving group behind Andre Johnson.
20. Alex Smith: This is assuming he plays as well as he did last season.
21. Andy Dalton: Dalton has looked really subpar this preseason. Say what you will, but he just hasn't looked sharp in the face of pressure. It doesn't help that A.J. Green is their only good receiver.
22. Josh Freeman: He has fallen from 11th in my older rankings because of a lackluster preseason. The Bucs offense just doesn't look good, but he definitely has potential. He could get towards the top-10, but it is seeming less and less likely.
23. Matt Cassel: He is coming off injury and Bowe just ended a lengthy holdout. Things don't look good in KC for the passing game.
24. Jake Locker: I am really low on Locker. I don't know how he manages to throw for so few yards while still getting touchdowns. (Notice that Palmer fell off this list entirely, that's how bad he looks...I hope he proves me wrong)
1. Arian Foster: None of the other backs have done anything to change my mind, so here is Foster.
2. Ray Rice: Rice is still great, even though he hasn't played much this preseason. He is PPR gold, and is as durable as they come.
3. LeSean McCoy: I am extremely dubious about this pick. McCoy has all the signs of a player who is going to take a serious step backwards (1,400 total yards and 11 total touchdowns, IMO). Hopefully he will embrace the challenges of this season and excel.
4. Ryan Mathews: It is fine that other people hate him, but a clavicle injury is nothing to worry about usually. This should be one of those times.
5. Darren McFadden: Quite possibly the most talented and injury-prone back in the NFL. Bravo, Run-DMC. This ranking assumes he is injured in week 12.
6. Chris Johnson: The Titans offensive line looks rough. He could have a good or bad year, but I think he can do it on pure volume.
7. Maurice Jones-Drew: If he holds out past the first game (meaning he misses two or more games) then I would drop him past Matt Forte and Marshawn Lynch. Rashad Jennings is a top-10 RB on volume in MJD's absence.
8. Matt Forte: The fact that he got his big contract should ease any fears about lingering injury concerns. He would have played under the franchise tag.
9. Marshawn Lynch: I'm not a Lynch fan, but it is becoming less and less likely that he will be suspended without a conviction. He drops far if he is suspended.
10. Steven Jackson: The offense looks a bit better than 2011. This should be good news for Jackson.
11. Michael Turner: Turner will ride a strong early season to the 11th running back spot overall. This is a product of injury resistance rather than talent, but it still counts in fantasy...kind of.
12. Fred Jackson: Fred Jackson is the kind of player I don't want on my team, but I also don't want to face in a head-to-head matchup. He has amazing potential for an old guy, but there are so many unknowns that his value has an expiration date; whether it is this season or next.
13. Adrian Peterson: He might not be right for the first few weeks, but he will come on strong late in the year. He is a great goal-line back.
14. DeMarco Murray: I saw nothing from him this preseason. The Cowboys have this magical ability to get really excited about their backup running back to watch him flop soon after becoming the starter. The list in the last few years is compelling.
15. Reggie Bush: He looked bad between the tackles this preseason. I'm banking on Tannehill not being as awful as he looked after being named the starter all season.
16. Shonn Greene: The Jets offensive line is bad or Greene is bad; take your pick. Either way, he is going to get carries.
17. Donald Brown: I can see 1,200 yards and 8 total touchdowns, but those are pretty mediocre numbers. He will have good and bad games.
18. Jamaal Charles: Peyton Hillis looked good enough this preseason to warrant a 40% share of touches. The Chiefs offense isn't good enough to get these guys close to the goal line frequently. He could have good yardage with a bad touchdown total.
19. BenJarvus Green-Ellis: I don't know why everyone says the RB position is low on talent. I think they are confusing low talent with low volume. You just can't have 30 great running backs because there are only 32 teams. BJGE should be good this season, and I'd rather own him than play against him. The issue is the Bengals offensive line.
20. Darren Sproles: Sproles has great potential and is top-10 in either PPR or leagues that reward kick return points. The only issue is his lack of rushing touchdowns. His touchdown:yards ratio for receiving was too high for most running backs.
21. Trent Richardson: I didn't forget about Richardson. He is a rookie runner with the worst starting quarterback in the NFL this year who is coming off a knee surgery that might require him to miss the start of the season. I don't know if the Browns will let him play after week 13.
22. DeAngelo WIlliams: He could be higher, but he could also get hurt to suffer a reduction in touchdown runs. His floor is really low, but his ceiling is top-5 if both Cam and Stewart go out in week 1 (let's hope that doesn't happen).
23. Doug Martin: This kid has showed some potential, but the Bucs are bad. He will probably suffer the same fate that Blount did last season.
24. Ahmad Bradshaw: We really didn't see much of Bradshaw this preseason. He is probably the biggest wildcard of them all, and could be a top-10 back if he has a featured role this season.
1. Calvin Johnson: The man in his own tier. Only worry here regards triple teams.
2. Larry Fitzgerald: I don't think he deserves this spot because of his receivers, but he gets it because he is possibly the only talented player on the Cardinals roster.
3. Andre Johnson: This is again based on the fact that he is the only truly viable receiver on this team. If this position has so much depth, why don't I like the top receivers?
4. Greg Jennings: Either Jennings or Nelson should be in the top-5. As long as Greg can avoid more head and leg injuries, I like his odds.
5. Julio Jones: This bandwagon is loaded, and I'll admit that I wasn't convinced after the first preseason performance. The rest of them locked it up for me, though.
6. Dez Bryant: Miles Austin and Jason Witten are trying to recover from injuries. This should give Dez a nice head start...especially since his curfew is midnight.
7. Roddy White: White should be consistent and put up around 10 points per game. He will have some bigger ones, but he should decline a little from his historic fantasy levels.
8. Marques Colston: Colston is consistently good, but not necessarily consistent throughout the season. I like his odds this season in a Saints offense with fewer distractions from his targets.
9. Brandon Marshall: There is plenty to love about Marshall, but he and Cutler are not known for their amazing touchdown prowess.
10. Jordy Nelson: There is such great chemistry between Nelson and Rodgers that he could repeat his touchdown performance from last year. I think 11 scores is more reasonable, though.
11. Hakeem Nicks: Nicks faced a tough injury that has kept him off the field for much of training camp. He is the best Giants receiver.
12. Wes Welker: Welker should regress towards his average of 1,100 yards and 6 touchdowns this year. 2011 was a crazy year.
13. Eric Decker: The potential for the Manning-Decker connection was shown during their single quarter of play together in the third week of the preseason. Decker runs amazing routes.
14. Percy Harvin: There is always someone catching passes on any offense (except for the 2011 Jaguars), but I think his 200 rushing yards will be what put him in this position.
15. A.J. Green: I honestly don't think Andy Dalton can get him the ball this season, and I worry about him having to do too much in the offense early in the year. Just based on the preseason.
16. Torrey Smith: Smith could easily be the surprise top-10 or even top-5 guy this year. He just needs to catch the ball better.
17. Steve Smith: I worry that the foot infection will slow him down early in the year, and that Cam Newton will be more like the Cam Newton from the final 8 games of the 2011 season.
18. Vincent Jackson: I don't think his consistency will improve this season, and Freeman has looked pretty awful this offseason.
19. Dwayne Bowe: He isn't sharp yet, and he may not come back to form this season. He was running his breaks upright in his one preseason appearance rather than in his hips.
20. Pierre Garcon: This is all dependent on RG3. I would rather own Pierre Garcon at the price you can pay for him than pass on him.
21. Victor Cruz: I had to squeeze him onto this list, but I just don't think the touchdowns are going to be there this season. I hope he proves me wrong.
22. Reggie Wayne: Andrew Luck has to throw to someone, but there is no way to really know who it will be. Collie gets hurt too often, so it should be Wayne.
23. Brandon Lloyd: I am sick of this guy being a top-15 WR pick. He isn't stealing from Gronk, Hernandez, or Welker. If not, where do his yards and touchdowns come from?
24. Sidney Rice: Barring injury, he could be much higher. I like him this season.
1. Jimmy Graham: He is a top red-zone target who can run with the ball. Win-win situation.
2. Aaron Hernandez: Sorry Gronkowski; Hernandez beats you on rushing yards.
3. Rob Gronkowski: This man scores more than one touchdown per one-hundred yards. That is phenomenal at any position...especially when you break 1,200 yards.
4. Antonio Gates: He looks healthy and we know Rivers needs to throw the ball to someone.
5. Brandon Pettigrew: At some point I have to believe that receptions will turn into yards. He needs to find a little more open space to explode.
6. Jermichael Finley: He is struggling with drops, but he plays for the Packers and should be on the field plenty.
7. Jason Witten: The word is that he is trying to be back for week one. I think he will be fully healthy by week 4.
8. Tony Gonzalez: You have to love the production over time, but he isn't elite anymore. He could get nice red-zone looks, though, with defenses focusing on Turner, Jones, and White at the goal line.
9. Greg Olsen: 800 yards and 7 touchdowns is plenty for a tight end. Buy him low.
10. Vernon Davis: I love his talent on any team except for the 49ers. There are at least 5 players vying for the same 3,000 yards and 18 touchdowns from Alex Smith.
11. Jared Cook: He has the physical skills, and Locker looks for him (even if the connection is seriously lacking).
12. Jermaine Gresham, Dustin Keller, and Brent Celek: So this is actually three different players, but they are all equal to me. None of them have much upside, but they should score ~100 points each. Enjoy.
Fred Davis does not belong on this list, even after the Cooley release.