1. SB Nation's 2014Fantasy Football Draft Guide Presented by

  2. Overall Rankings

    A year ago, almost everyone in fantasy football had the same advice: Get two running backs. At the extreme, ESPN's Matthew Berry had a top 14 that was all running backs. With the possible exception of Calvin Johnson, the first pick in every first round of every 10-team league of 2013 had "RB" next to his name.

    This year, it's more complicated. In the SB Nation consensus rankings, only half of the top 10 are running backs - there are also three wide receivers, a tight end and a quarterback. On top of that, two of our seven rankers don't even go running back first overall.

    In short, 2014 draft strategies are far more interesting and diverse than their 2013 counterparts. RB/RB? QB/WR? I don't know, TE/TE? Theoretically, they're all on the table, and most of them have strong justifications.

    Below, each ranker has given a bit of an explanation on early draft strategy. The first two rounds will ultimately dictate where your draft goes, what picks you make later. Come into your draft with an idea of what you want.

    And be ready to ditch that entirely. Because as much as we all have our strategies, our plans, everyone else does, too, and we can't possibly hope to guess what theirs are. Be flexible. Your strategy isn't handed down in stone tablets.

    Rank Daniel Kelley Dan Ciarrocchi Alex Welch John Daigle Kenneth Arthur Scott Kaliska Mike Gallagher
    1 Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs LeSean McCoy, RB, Eagles Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs Peyton Manning, QB, Broncos Peyton Manning, QB, Broncos Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs LeSean McCoy, RB, Eagles
    2 Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs LeSean McCoy, RB, Eagles LeSean McCoy, RB, Eagles Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs LeSean McCoy, RB, Eagles Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs
    3 LeSean McCoy, RB, Eagles Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings Matt Forte, RB, Bears LeSean McCoy, RB, Eagles Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings
    4 Matt Forte, RB, Bears Matt Forte, RB, Bears Matt Forte, RB, Bears Drew Brees, QB, Saints Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions Matt Forte, RB, Bears Matt Forte, RB, Bears
    5 Eddie Lacy, RB, Packers Eddie Lacy, RB, Packers Jimmy Graham, TE, Saints Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings Eddie Lacy, RB, Packers Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions
    6 Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions Jimmy Graham, TE, Saints Eddie Lacy, RB, Packers Jimmy Graham, TE, Saints Drew Brees, QB, Saints Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions Jimmy Graham, TE, Saints
    7 Peyton Manning, QB, Broncos Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers Demaryius Thomas, WR, Broncos Eddie Lacy, RB, Packers
    8 Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seahawks Montee Ball, RB, Broncos Dez Bryant, WR, Cowboys Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings AJ Green, WR, Bengals Jimmy Graham, TE, Saints DeMarco Murray, RB, Cowboys
    9 Demaryius Thomas, WR, Broncos Le'Veon Bell, RB, Steelers DeMarco Murray, RB, Cowboys Brandon Marshall, WR, Bears Demaryius Thomas, WR, Broncos Dez Bryant, WR, Cowboys Montee Ball, RB, Broncos
    10 Jimmy Graham, TE, Saints Demaryius Thomas, WR, Broncos Montee Ball, RB, Broncos Demaryius Thomas, WR, Broncos Marshawn Lynch, RB, Saints DeMarco Murray, RB, Cowboys Dez Bryant, WR, Cowboys
    11 Alfred Morris, RB, Washington Peyton Manning, QB, Broncos Demaryius Thomas, WR, Broncos Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs Jimmy Graham, TE, Saints Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seahawks DeMaryius Thomas, WR, Broncos
    12 A.J. Green, WR, Bengals Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seahawks Julio Jones, WR, Falcons Eddie Lacy, RB, Packers DeMarco Murray, RB, Cowboys Montee Ball, RB, Broncos Julio Jones, WR, Falcons
    13 Dez Bryant, WR, Cowboys A.J. Green, WR, Bengals Peyton Manning, QB, Broncos Andrew Luck, QB, Colts Matt Forte, RB, Bears A.J. Green, WR, Bengals Brandon Marshall, WR, Bears
    14 Le'Veon Bell, RB, Steelers Dez Bryant, WR, Cowboys Brandon Marshall, WR, Bears Dez Bryant, WR, Cowboys Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots Arian Foster, RB, Texans Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seahawks
    15 Zac Stacy, RB, Rams Zac Stacy, RB, Rams AJ Green, WR, Bengals DeMarco Murray, RB, Cowboys Tom Brady, QB, Patriots Brandon Marshall, WR, Bears Peyton Manning, QB, Broncos
  3. Positional Rankings - QB

    Few things are more satisfying for fantasy owners than plugging in a reliable option at quarterback and watching the points pile up. And as the league becomes more pass-happy by the minute, there will be no shortage of signal callers to fill that slot.

    The question is -- how do they stack up? There’s a top-three consensus among the SB Nation fantasy staff, with Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers, but then things get polarizing. Cam Newton has been ranked as high as No. 4, but as low as No. 10, and Tom Brady placed between No. 5 and No. 14 overall.

    But while it would be nice to find a quarterback that will beat down the competition, what’s important is just finding one that won’t let you lose weekly matchups. With quarterbacks, there just isn’t as big of a disparity between the top tier and lesser tiers compared to a position like running back or tight end. So finding one in the later rounds that can hold its own while Peyton Manning throws a fistful of touchdowns can allow you to stock up on premium RB talent while the opposition scrambles to round out its roster.

    Before figuring out how to do that, have a look at how we would rank the fantasy QBs before camping out in your draft-day war room. If you think we got anything wrong, let us know in the comments.

    Rank Daniel Kelley Dan Ciarrocchi Alex Welch John Daigle Kenneth Arthur Scott Kaliska Mike Gallagher
    1 Peyton Manning Peyton Manning Peyton Manning Peyton Manning Peyton Manning Peyton Manning Peyton Manning
    2 Drew Brees Aaron Rodgers Aaron Rodgers Drew Brees Drew Brees Aaron Rodgers Aaron Rodgers
    3 Aaron Rodgers Drew Brees Drew Brees Aaron Rodgers Aaron Rodgers Drew Brees Drew Brees
    4 Cam Newton Matthew Stafford Matthew Stafford Andrew Luck Tom Brady Matthew Stafford Matt Stafford
    5 Matthew Stafford Andrew Luck Andrew Luck Colin Kaepernick Philip Rivers Andrew Luck Cam Newton
    6 Andrew Luck Matt Ryan Cam Newton Matthew Stafford Matt Stafford Nick Foles Andrew Luck
    7 Tom Brady Robert Griffin III Nick Foles Cam Newton Russell Wilson Robert Griffin III Matt Ryan
    8 Colin Kaepernick Nick Foles Robert Griffin III Robert Griffin Colin Kaepernick Cam Newton Nick Foles
    9 Tony Romo Tony Romo Matt Ryan Philip Rivers Cam Newton Matt Ryan Tony Romo
    10 Nick Foles Cam Newton Colin Kaepernick Russell Wilson Ben Roethlisberger Tom Brady Tom Brady
    11 Robert Griffin III Jay Cutler Tom Brady Tom Brady Matt Ryan Colin Kaepernick Jay Cutler
    12 Russell Wilson Philip Rivers Jay Cutler Jay Cutler Andrew Luck Tony Romo Russell Wilson
    13 Philip Rivers Tom Brady Tony Romo Nick Foles Andy Dalton Jay Cutler Robert Griffin III
    14 Matt Ryan Colin Kaepernick Philip Rivers Matt Ryan Tony Romo Russell Wilson Colin Kaepernick
    15 Jay Cutler Russell Wilson Andy Dalton Ben Roethlisberger Robert Griffin III Philip Rivers Andy Dalton
  4. Positional Rankings - RB

    The top of standard running back rankings are volatile from year to year. Adrian Peterson has consistently been one of the highest selected running backs each season for quite some time (excluding 2012 when he was coming off a major knee injury), but the rest of the top five seems to change frequently. This year isn't much different.

    Peterson is still in the mix, but he's not the No. 1 target owners are going after in 2014. Eddie Lacy managed to crack our top five after just one season in the league. But after watching last year's season play out, you shouldn't be too surprised with who we think are the best running backs to target.

    The list gets more interesting the farther down you look. C.J. Spiller was the No. 6 running back taken on average in 2013, according to My Fantasy League. He comes in at No. 18 for us. Andre Ellington has gone from a back few owners drafted as a rookie to No. 16 here. Some analysts value him as a Round 2-3 pick. We're not buying quite that high.

    There shouldn't be too many surprises in the mix. Let's take a look at our top 50 running backs for the 2014 season.

    Rank Daniel Kelley Dan Ciarrocchi Alex Welch John Daigle Kenneth Arthur Scott Kaliska Mike Gallagher
    1 Jamaal Charles LeSean McCoy Jamaal Charles LeSean McCoy Jamaal Charles Jamaal Charles LeSean McCoy
    2 Adrian Peterson Jamaal Charles LeSean McCoy Matt Forte LeSean McCoy LeSean McCoy Jamaal Charles
    3 LeSean McCoy Adrian Peterson Adrian Peterson Adrian Peterson Adrian Peterson Adrian Peterson Adrian Peterson
    4 Matt Forte Matt Forte Matt Forte Jamaal Charles Marshawn Lynch Matt Forte Matt Forte
    5 Eddie Lacy Eddie Lacy Eddie Lacy Eddie Lacy DeMarco Murray Eddie Lacy Eddie Lacy
    6 Marshawn Lynch Montee Ball DeMarco Murray DeMarco Murray Matt Forte Marshawn Lynch DeMarco Murray
    7 Alfred Morris Le'Veon Bell Montee Ball Le'Veon Bell Alfred Morris DeMarco Murray Montee Ball
    8 Le'Veon Bell Marshawn Lynch Le'Veon Bell Andre Ellington Arian Foster Montee Ball Marshawn Lynch
    9 Zac Stacy Zac Stacy Arian Foster Monte Ball Doug Martin Arian Foster Zac Stacy
    10 Arian Foster Alfred Morris Marshawn Lynch Giovani Bernard Eddie Lacy Le'Veon Bell Doug Martin
    11 Montee Ball Gio Bernard Giovani Bernard Doug Martin Le'Veon Bell Giovani Bernard Giovani Bernard
    12 Doug Martin Arian Foster Zac Stacy Rashad Jennings Reggie Bush Doug Martin Le'Veon Bell
    13 Ryan Mathews Demarco Murray Doug Martin Arian Foster Ryan Mathews Zac Stacy C.J. Spiller
    14 Andre Ellington Doug Martin Alfred Morris Toby Gerhart Frank Gore Alfred Morris Arian Foster
    15 Ben Tate Andre Ellington Andre Ellington Marshawn Lynch Ben Tate Andre Ellington Andre Ellington
  5. Positional Rankings - RB PPR

    Standard scoring has remained the constant throughout fantasy leagues for a reason. Most of the time, one quarterback, two running backs, three wide receivers and a lone tight end are stressful enough, give or take a few irrationally confident selections. Furthermore, there are enough steady leagues nowadays to pick your poison, the peers you choose to compete with or the skill your heart desires. They’re not going away anytime soon, and with each one having a personality of its own, well, why should they?

    But sometimes, that’s just not good enough.

    Sometimes, you don’t want to settle for A Christmas Story or Jingle All the Way on the holidays, no matter what TBS is trying to tell you. Only Bad Santa or Die Hard will suffice, and that’s why sometimes, your run-of-the-mill scoring needs a tweak, if only a small one. And though the future might have other things in store (the rare 2-QB lineup, for instance), the present points directly to points per reception as our guiding light.

    It’s no secret that PPR leagues have caught steam in recent years. In fact, the only reason we even mention checking scoring systems beforehand anymore is because somewhere, the PPR lurks. It’s become common enough to recognize as a household vignette, but has yet to reach water-on-Earth proportions.

    As with any position, there have been notable changes this offseason. Pierre Thomas, for example, could easily fly up draft boards with Darren Sproles no longer around to steal potential receptions. But Sproles will be learning a new system in Philadelphia that’s sure to feature a number of players, including a true workhorse back in front of him (no offense to Mark Ingram and his 12 yards per game).

    Meanwhile, the San Diego Chargers added Donald Brown to an already loaded backfield, assuredly taking touches from Danny Woodhead. And if it’s an increased role you seek, at least Andre Ellington, Rashad Jennings and Maurice Jones-Drew have only heightened their opportunity. Unless, of course, you don’t want that and simply prefer sandwiches. Then here’s Knowshon Moreno. Take him. No, really.

    Either way, with the same amount, if not more of homework needed to properly assert yourself into PPR leagues, there’s something here for everyone.

    Rank Daniel Kelley Dan Ciarrocchi Alex Welch John Daigle Kenneth Arthur Scott Kaliska Mike Gallagher
    1 Jamaal Charles LeSean McCoy Jamaal Charles LeSean McCoy Jamaal Charles Jamaal Charles Jamaal Charles
    2 Adrian Peterson Jamaal Charles LeSean McCoy Matt Forte LeSean McCoy LeSean McCoy Matt Forte
    3 LeSean McCoy Matt Forte Matt Forte Jamaal Charles DeMarco Murray Matt Forte LeSean McCoy
    4 Matt Forte Adrian Peterson Adrian Peterson Adrian Peterson Matt Forte Adrian Peterson Eddie Lacy
    5 Eddie Lacy Eddie Lacy DeMarco Murray DeMarco Murray Adrian Peterson Eddie Lacy Adrian Peterson
    6 Marshawn Lynch Montee Ball Eddie Lacy Eddie Lacy Marshawn Lynch Montee Ball DeMarco Murray
    7 Le'Veon Bell Gio Bernard Montee Ball Andre Ellington Arian Foster DeMarco Murray Giovani Bernard
    8 Montee Ball Le'Veon Bell Giovani Bernard Le'Veon Bell Doug Martin Marshawn Lynch Montee Ball
    9 Zac Stacy DeMarco Murray Le'Veon Bell Giovani Bernard Le'Veon Bell Arian Foster Doug Martin
    10 Arian Foster Arian Foster Arian Foster Doug Martin Reggie Bush Giovani Bernard Zac Stacy
    11 Alfred Morris Marshawn Lynch Andre Ellington Montee Ball Eddie Lacy Le'Veon Bell C.J. Spiller
    12 Doug Martin Reggie Bush Marshawn Lynch Arian Foster Alfred Morris Reggie Bush Marshawn Lynch
    13 Andre Ellington Andre Ellington Shane Vereen Rashad Jennings Ray Rice Doug Martin Andre Ellington
    14 C.J. Spiller Zac Stacy CJ Spiller Joique Bell Ryan Mathews Andre Ellington Shane Vereen
    15 Ben Tate Alfred Morris Doug Martin C.J. Spiller Frank Gore Zac Stacy Arian Foster
  6. Positional Rankings - WR

    In Week 5 of last season, I had a decision to make. My league started three receivers (no flex), and I had to pick from a group of six: Josh Gordon, Cecil Shorts, Tavon Austin, T.Y. Hilton, Alshon Jeffery and Rueben Randle.

    I'll save you the time of going back and looking, but around this point of the season, these six were all considered roughly equal. They obviously delineated from one another as the season progressed, but for me, this was basically flipping a coin.

    I chose Gordon, Shorts and Austin. They did okay as a group -- 22 points for Gordon, 13 for Shorts, three for Austin. Yes, Austin was awful, but a 38-point total for wide receivers is at least acceptable.

    Meanwhile, my bench lit it up. Jeffery had 27 points, Hilton had 26, and Randle had 21. And I lost my matchup that week by less than a single point.

    I tell that story in part to vent (because less than a point, argh), but also to illustrate part of the problem with standard fantasy wide receivers. We all know there are a lot of productive wide receivers in the league right now. On its surface, the fact that there are so many productive wide receivers -- Randle, Jeffery and Gordon were all taken outside of the top 30 at the position last year -- seems to mean you can wait on the position. After all, the guys I had were largely scrap-heap finds.

    On the other hand, if you neglect a frontline wide receiver, as I did a year ago, you run other risks.

    A whole horde of sleeper wide receivers are likely to yield many positives, guys like Jeffery and Gordon from 2013. But the first few weeks of the season will be spent wondering which ones are hitting and which are not. Hilton's 26 points came after four or fewer points in three of his first four games. Randle put up 10 in Week 1, then five total in Weeks 2-4. Jeffery had scored 20 in Week 4, sure, but he had not topped five before that; how was I to know he had become the Next Big Thing?

    You can (and likely will) find some monsters at wide receiver late in the draft. But doing so will require you to be right twice: You'll have to identify the guys in the preseason, and then you'll have to trust your judgment enough to use those guys from the jump.

    In many ways, sleepers are the key to fantasy success. That's always going to be true. But with wide receiver -- heck, with any position -- you need studs like Demaryius Thomas and Calvin Johnson to rely on before you start going full-sleeper mode.

    Rank Daniel Kelley Dan Ciarrocchi Alex Welch John Daigle Kenneth Arthur Scott Kaliska Mike Gallagher
    1 Calvin Johnson Calvin Johnson Calvin Johnson Calvin Johnson Calvin Johnson Calvin Johnson Calvin Johnson
    2 Demaryius Thomas Demaryius Thomas Dez Bryant Brandon Marshall A.J. Green Demaryius Thomas Dez Bryant
    3 A.J. Green A.J. Green Demaryius Thomas Demaryius Thomas Demaryius Thomas Dez Bryant Demaryius Thomas
    4 Dez Bryant Dez Bryant Julio Jones Dez Bryant Julio Jones A.J. Green Julio Jones
    5 Brandon Marshall Julio Jones Brandon Marshall Jordy Nelson Antonio Brown Brandon Marshall Brandon Marshall
    6 Antonio Brown Brandon Marshall A.J. Green A.J. Green Brandon Marshall Julio Jones A.J. Green
    7 Jordy Nelson Jordy Nelson Jordy Nelson Antonio Brown Dez Bryant Alshon Jeffery Alshon Jeffery
    8 Andre Johnson Alshon Jeffery Alshon Jeffery Julio Jones Alshon Jeffery Antonio Brown Andre Johnson
    9 Larry Fitzgerald Antonio Brown Antonio Brown Randall Cobb Andre Johnson Jordy Nelson Keenan Allen
    10 Alshon Jeffery Vincent Jackson Randall Cobb Alshon Jeffery Jordy Nelson Randall Cobb Jordy Nelson
    11 Keenan Allen Randall Cobb Andre Jonhson Victor Cruz DeSean Jackson Pierre Garcon Randall Cobb
    12 Victor Cruz Pierre Garcon Keenan Allen Michael Crabtree Larry Fitzgerald Keenan Allen Antonio Brown
    13 Wes Welker Victor Cruz Larry Fitzgerald Andre Johnson Marques Colston Vincent Jackson Torrey Smith
    14 DeSean Jackson Keenan Allen Roddy White Keenan Allen Vincent Jackson Andre Johnson Percy Harvin
    15 Vincent Jackson Larry Fitzgerald Pierre Garcon T.Y. Hilton Emmanuel Sanders Larry Fitzgerald Pierre Garcon
  7. Positional Rankings - WR PPR

    The addition of points-per-reception (PPR) in fantasy football can change the value of almost every player in some capacity. Those pass-happy teams willing to throw the ball generally lead to more players having a bigger impact in PPR leagues. It’s clear the NFL has become a passing league and that trend doesn't appear to be a fad, with quarterbacks consistently clearing the 4,000-yard plateau. In fact, only four players rushed for more first downs than the top 11 receivers moved the sticks in 2013 (LeSean McCoy, Matt Forte, Jamaal Charles and Marshawn Lynch).

    It’s important to identify which teams are passing more and who is getting the targets. In the past couple years, the stat tracking has grown by leaps and bounds with not only targets per game, but things like average depth of target, as well.

    As for our rankings, all seven writers ranked Calvin Johnson at No.1. Demaryius Thomas ended up the consensus No. 2, with Dez Bryant, Brandon Marshall and A.J. Green also in the next tier.

    The injury histories of Jordy Nelson and Julio Jones caused their positioning to fluctuate. Both guys easily could become the top option in PPR leagues for their high-scoring, pass-heavy offenses. Antonio Brown was also ranked as a WR1 by everyone, which is hardly a surprise after his breakout 2013. Alshon Jeffery consistently ranked in the 8-12 range while Andre Johnson was in the 7-12 range in all but one of the rankings.

    As for the players changing teams, DeSean Jackson’s projections vary from 11-24, Eric Decker came in around 26-31 in six of the seven rankings (38 in the other) and Emmanuel Sanders had a huge variance with one ranking coming in at 17 and another not including him at all in the top 50.

    Rookies Sammy Watkins leads the pack as the top rookie receiver -- he’s also been lights out in camp -- with Mike Evans, Brandin Cooks and Kelvin Benjamin also sneaking in on the back end of most rankings.

    Rank Daniel Kelley Dan Ciarrocchi Alex Welch John Daigle Kenneth Arthur Scott Kaliska Mike Gallagher
    1 Calvin Johnson Calvin Johnson Calvin Johnson Calvin Johnson Calvin Johnson Calvin Johnson Calvin Johnson
    2 Demaryius Thomas Demaryius Thomas Dez Bryant Brandon Marshall AJ Green Demaryius Thomas Dez Bryant
    3 A.J. Green A.J. Green Demaryius Thomas Demaryius Thomas Demaryius Thomas Dez Bryant Demaryius Thomas
    4 Dez Bryant Dez Bryant Julio Jones Dez Bryant Julio Jones A.J. Green Brandon Marshall
    5 Brandon Marshall Brandon Marshall AJ Green Jordy Nelson Antonio Brown Brandon Marshall Julio Jones
    6 Antonio Brown Julio Jones Brandon Marshall Antonio Brown Brandon Marshall Julio Jones A.J. Green
    7 Andre Johnson Jordy Nelson Jordy Nelson A.J. Green Dez Bryant Antonio Brown Andre Johnson
    8 Wes Welker Antonio Brown Antonio Brown Randall Cobb Alshon Jeffery Alshon Jeffery Keenan Allen
    9 Jordy Nelson Alshon Jeffery Alshon Jeffery Michael Crabtree Andre Johnson Jordy Nelson Alshon Jeffery
    10 Alshon Jeffery Vincent Jackson Randall Cobb Andre Johnson Jordy Nelson Pierre Garcon Randall Cobb
    11 Larry Fitzgerald Pierre Garcon Keenan Allen Julio Jones DeSean Jackson Randall Cobb Antonio Brown
    12 Victor Cruz Keenan Allen Andre Johnson Alshon Jeffery Larry Fitzgerald Andre Johnson Percy Harvin
    13 DeSean Jackson Randall Cobb Pierre Garcon Keenan Allen Pierre Garcon Vincent Jackson Pierre Garcon
    14 Julio Jones Victor Cruz Roddy White Victor Cruz Vincent Jackson Keenan Allen Roddy White
    15 Keenan Allen Roddy White Larry Fitzgerald T.Y. Hilton Marques Colston Wes Welker Larry Fitzgerald
  8. Positional Rankings - TE

    The passing game explosion of the last few years just seems to keep on going, and tight ends are responsible for much of the expansion. Ten years ago, teams were averaging 4.1 touchdown passes to tight ends. Now they're throwing 7.4 touchdowns to the tight end position. That's some serious growth and has resulted in tight ends factoring into fantasy drafts in higher rounds than ever before.

    In the rankings compiled by our writers, we see that Jimmy Graham, Julius Thomas and Rob Gronkowski lead the rankings. Graham and Gronk have been the first tight ends taken in most drafts the last few years, but Thomas has jumped into the fray. His ascent has come on of being a part of the Broncos offensive juggernaut. One of the forerunners of the new breed of tight ends, Antonio Gates is found within the top ten of only two writers. It seems as though his days as a fantasy starter are on their last legs. Especially with Ladarius Green stealing away targets. Zach Ertz climbs the rankings as he enters his sophomore season. He may benefit from the departure of DeSean Jackson to Washington.

    One of the few off season transactions involving the position was the signing of Owen Daniels by the Baltimore Ravens. Daniels brings some added firepower to the Ravens passing game but will play second fiddle to Dennis Pitta at the position. I'm keeping an eye on Mychal Rivera of the Oakland Raiders. He had a decent rookie season with the revolving door at quarterback. Matt Schaub is not much of an upgrade but he always looked for his tight ends in the Houston passing game. Another hidden talent is Travis Kelce of the Kansas City Chiefs. He missed pretty much all of his rookie season but I think Andy Reid will make good use of him in his second season.

    Rank Daniel Kelley Dan Ciarrocchi Alex Welch John Daigle Kenneth Arthur Scott Kaliska Mike Gallagher
    1 Jimmy Graham Jimmy Graham Jimmy Graham Jimmy Graham Jimmy Graham Jimmy Graham Jimmy Graham
    2 Julius Thomas Julius Thomas Rob Gronkowski Julius Thomas Rob Gronkowski Julius Thomas Julius Thomas
    3 Vernon Davis Rob Gronkowski Julius Thomas Rob Gronkowski Jordan Cameron Rob Gronkowski Rob Gronkowski
    4 Rob Gronkowski Jordan Cameron Jason witten Kyle Rudolph Vernon Davis Vernon Davis Vernon Davis
    5 Jason Witten Vernon Davis Jordan Cameron Vernon Davis Julius Thomas Jordan Cameron Jordan Cameron
    6 Jordan Cameron Jordan Reed Jordan Reed Greg Olsen Jason Witten Jason Witten Jason Witten
    7 Greg Olsen Greg Olsen Greg Olsen Jason Witten Greg Olsen Greg Olsen Jordan Reed
    8 Dennis Pitta Dennis Pitta Vernon Davis Jordan Reed Martellus Bennett Dennis Pitta Dennis Pitta
    9 Charles Clay Kyle Rudolph Dennis Pitta Jordan Cameron Charles Clay Jordan Reed Greg Olsen
    10 Jordan Reed Jason Witten Kyle Rudolph Antonio Gates Antonio Gates Kyle Rudolph Kyle Rudolph
    11 Antonio Gates Martellus Bennett Zach Ertz Zach Ertz Dennis Pitta Martellus Bennett Martellus Bennett
    12 Coby Fleener Charles Clay Martellus Bennett Martellus Bennett Coby Fleener Zach Ertz Charles Clay
    13 Ladarius Green Ladarius Green Charles Clay Dennis Pitta Tyler Eifert Charles Clay Eric Ebron
    14 Kyle Rudolph Zach Ertz Heath Miller Dwayne Allen Eric Ebron Ladarius Green Ladarius Green
    15 Dwayne Allen Heath Miller Delanie Walker Jared Cook Jared Cook Delanie Walker Delaine Walker
  9. Positional Rankings - D/ST

    What are you even doing here?

    Oh, I see. You signed up for a fantasy football league that's set in 2005 and you have "team defense" as a category. Good call, cowboy. That's something that totally makes sense, especially if you're still using the standard point-scoring system where a sack is worth two points and an interception is worth three, or thereabouts. Because that makes a lot of sense.

    One of your offensive players scores a touchdown as an individual, it's worth six points. But your entire defense gets together and combines for maybe 12-18 interceptions for the whole season (and it's usually a game-changing play, by the way) and it's worth half of that. A sack, which could happen 30-40 times per season, isn't worth much less, apparently.

    Basically, if you're still playing in a league with standard team defense, and standard point scoring for those accomplishments, you might as well be starting Daunte Culpepper at quarterback and Larry Johnson at running back. And if you are incorporating individual defensive players, I would still have to ask the same question you asked your mom 50 times in a row: "Why?"

    There is no governing fantasy football body that says you have to incorporate defense at all. Fantasy football, like Arena Football, is an offensive sport. Utilizing and emphasizing offensive performances in fantasy football, and ignoring defenses other than when they stop those skill players, is perfectly acceptable. In fantasy football, you're not even playing against the person you're matched up with that week. You can't play defense. And if there's no defense in fantasy football, then why should there be any "defense" in fantasy football?

    That being said, I'm tasked with telling you about defenses as you prepare for fantasy football! Which is fine, because I absolutely love talking about football and defenses. As a lifelong fan of the Seattle Seahawks, there couldn't be a better time for me to tell you about defenses. With teams loading up more and more on offense, specifically in the passing game, several teams focused (just as the Seahawks have been doing for four years) on defense this offseason. Specifically in the secondary.

    Team defenses are often quite volatile year-to-year, which can make them difficult to predict even if you only have a finite number of 32 to choose from. Still, we will try to predict them anyway.

    A survey of seven fantasy football writers at SB Nation had several things in common, and a few opinions that were not so kosher. One thing that all seven writers did agree on: Seattle is the best defense for fantasy football, because they're the best defense in the NFL. Last season, the Seahawks allowed the fewest points and yards in the league while forcing the most turnovers and interceptions, finishing eighth in sacks. Though they lost about a half-dozen key players on that side of the ball, they retained the most important players.

    Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas were signed to long-term extensions, and Michael Bennett signed a new large contract to keep him off the free agent market after a breakout season. Along with safety Kam Chancellor and corner Byron Maxwell, the secondary will once again be the best in the NFL, but the pass rush with Bennett, Cliff Avril and free agent signee Kevin Williams could be getting only better. They key will be third-year LB/DE Bruce Irvin and whether he can take his game to that next level that fans and coaches have been waiting for since being selected in the first round.

    After the top team, things start to get a little more murky.

    Five of seven writers had the Carolina Panthers as the second-best defense, while two others went with the San Francisco 49ers. However, I was the only person who didn't think the 49ers defense was going to be that great, and it's not just because I'd be fine with sending them to live with all the lawyers at the bottom of the ocean. San Francisco has lost safety Donte Whitner to free agency, their second straight season losing a Pro Bowl safety, and linebacker NaVorro Bowman will be out for a significant portion of the season because of a shredded knee. Bowman was the best player on the defense last year.

    When looking at defenses for fantasy purposes (let's not forget that Football Outsiders advanced metric, DVOA, had the Niners ranked only 13th on defense) you want to see things like sacks and interceptions. Top pass rusher Aldon Smith is facing a possible suspension, and San Francisco's secondary is the weakest unit on their defense. Specifically, the cornerbacks.

    The 49ers defense should still be very good, but I don't see it as "top five good" and maybe not top 10, either. Not right now.

    Meanwhile, the Panthers have arguably the best defensive line in football (depending on the future of Greg Hardy) and the best middle linebacker in football, reigning Defensive Player of the Year Luke Kuechly. That feels a lot more safe to me. It should be enough to keep Carolina competitive in what could be the best or second-best division in football. In addition to what the Panthers have going on, the New Orleans Saints were much-improved on defense under Rob Ryan last season, and may have made the biggest move of the offseason when they signed safety Jairus Byrd. The Saints are improving, but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers may be the most improved team in football.

    Out is Greg Schiano, possibly the worst coach in the league last season, and in comes two head coaches. Lovie Smith may have been the best coach without a job last year, but he takes over the Bucs and his new defensive coordinator is former Minnesota Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier. Though Tampa lost Darrelle Revis after just one season, they added a young Pro Bowl corner in Alterraun Verner. He is probably the better value of the two.

    They also added Michael Johnson from the Cincinnati Bengals and Clinton McDonald from the Seahawks. If young players like Mark Barron and Johnthan Banks step up, it could compete against Seattle's back four as the top secondary in the league. Wrap all of that around All-Pro linebacker Lavonte David, who some would say was the real Defensive Player of the Year last season, and the Buccaneers could return to the playoffs before the Atlanta Falcons do.

    A great sleeper pick could be the Houston Texans. They had a lot of injured players last season, but the most important addition is of course top overall pick Jadeveon Clowney. Playing alongside J.J. Watt, the best defensive player in football on most days, could get really ridiculous. As a team, the Texans had fewer interceptions last year (seven) than Sherman did by himself. Only two teams had fewer sacks. But if a few key players, like Brian Cushing, can stay healthy, they might surprise some people.

    And anyone that gets two games against the Jaguars and Titans is a good bet to make a few big plays on defense.

    Rank Daniel Kelley Dan Ciarrocchi Alex Welch John Daigle Kenneth Arthur Scott Kaliska Mike Gallagher
    1 Seattle Seahawks Seattle Seahawks Seattle Seahawks Seattle Seahawks Seattle Seahawks Seattle Seahawks Seattle Seahawks
    2 Carolina Panthers San Francisco 49ers Carolina Panthers Carolina Panthers Carolina Panthers San Francisco 49ers Carolina Panthers
    3 San Francisco 49ers Carolina Panthers San Francisco 49ers Buffalo Bills Tampa Bay Buccaneers Carolina Panthers San Francisco 49ers
    4 Arizona Cardinals Cincinnati Bengals Kansas City Chiefs St. Louis Rams Arizona Cardinals St. Louis Rams Cincinnati Bengals
    5 Denver Broncos Denver Broncos Cincinnati Bengals New England Patriots New Orleans Saints Cincinnati Bengals Kansas City Chiefs
    6 St. Louis Rams St. Louis Rams St. Louis Rams Philadelphia Eagles Cincinnati Bengals Denver Broncos St. Louis Rams
    7 Kansas City Chiefs Kansas City Chiefs Tampa Bay Buccaneers Detroit Lions Baltimore Ravens Arizona Cardinals Tampa Bay Buccaneers
    8 Cincinnati Bengals New England Patriots New England Patriots New York Jets Denver Broncos New England Patriots Denver Broncos
    9 New England Patriots Arizona Cardinals New Orleans Saints New York Giants Pittsburgh Steelers Kansas City Chiefs Arizona Cardinals
    10 Buffalo Bills New Orleans Saints Cleveland Browns Kansas City Chiefs Kansas City Chiefs Tampa Bay Buccaneers New England Patriots
    11 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Houston Texans Arizona Cardinals Cincinnati Bengals Buffalo Bills Cleveland Browns New Orleans Saints
    12 Houston Texans Cleveland Browns Denver Broncos San Francisco 49ers Houston Texans Baltimore Ravens Cleveland Browns
    13 Cleveland Browns Tampa Bay Buccaneers Baltimore Ravens Baltimore Ravens New York Jets Houston Texans Houston Texans
    14 Baltimore Ravens Pittsburgh Steelers Pittsburgh Steelers Chicago Bears San Francisco 49ers New Orleans Saints Baltimore Ravens
    15 New Orleans Saints Baltimore Ravens Houston Texans New Orleans Saints Cleveland Browns Pittsburgh Steelers Pittsburgh Steelers
  10. Sleepers

    Every season, fantasy football features the usual list of notable names. Lately, that includes Adrian Peterson, Peyton Manning, Calvin Johnson, and so many more. You have to nail your early picks, but fantasy football championships are won or lost in the middle and late rounds of the draft. Sleepers can be an overused phrase, but every year there are players who will surprise everybody. A sleeper can be a complete unknown bursting out, or it could a mid-round pick putting together first or second round production. We went through the big four positions to find the best sleepers.


    Ben RoethlisbergerPittsburgh Steelers

    The Steelers finished strong with a 6-3 record down the stretch, and they did so by being a more aggressive, fast-paced offense. It propelled Roethlisberger to one of the quietest 4,200-yard and 28-touchdown seasons ever recorded. In the final nine games of the year, Roethlisberger put up the fourth-most fantasy points among quarterbacks, behind only Nick Foles, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees.

    So now, Roethlisberger can be had in the 11th round? That's only good enough for a current rank of QB16 despite his strong finish and capable crop of receivers going into the new season. He's a great argument for proponents of the late-round QB draft strategy, and he's a guy who will give you production at a bargain in 2014. Sign me up.

    Geno SmithNew York Jets

    I know. It's difficult to believe that a player who threw just 12 touchdowns to 21 interceptions a season ago could be in the mix for sleeper, but I'll confidently place Smith in this category. With a strong finish to his rookie season, further encouragement arises from reports indicating he's looked steady in camp this summer. The addition of Eric Decker enhances a non-existent receiving core from 2013, and if rookie tight end Jace Amaro can ascend the steep learning curve of learning a pro offense, there's a lot to like here.

    This is nice and all, but what strikes me as most intriguing are Smith's splits. Smith was really, really good when the Jets won, but really, really bad when they lost. As is the case when weighing two different perspectives, the truth usually lies somewhere in the middle. With Smith, that's likely the case as well, but if his god-awful games become merely average ones then he's looking at top-12 potential over the course of a season.

    You could use the same reasoning to describe an adverse scenario, but to me, I'd rather gamble on his upside than avoid him for the downside. He is a young quarterback with more weapons and another year under his belt. But mostly, it would be because he's not even being drafted in most leagues. Why not take a last-round flier on him?

    Running Backs

    Andre WilliamsNew York Giants

    If you go back to the weeks leading up to the Giants preseason opener, you would rarely see Williams getting selected in mock drafts. Even though he's gaining some tractions after rushing for 48 yards and a touchdown on seven carries, he's still the RB50 (pick 12.09) in mock drafts.

    Let's not get carried away by his first performance of the preseason against the Buffalo Bills' second-string defense. Rashad Jennings is still a valuable starter. However, with the recent news of David Wilson being shut down for 2014 (and possibly his career), Williams' value increases.

    Williams is a one-trick pony, but he's good at the only trick he knows. Tom Coughlin likes his power running backs. Despite the talk of using a three-receiver base, the Giants showed plenty of power runs in the preseason opener. Williams is best suited for that type of work.

    After Tiki Barber finished his time in New York, Coughlin began working with a running back by committee. Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward each saw a sizable amount of carries in 2007 and 2008. Ahmad Bradshaw eventually took over to split time with Jacobs. If Coughlin has two reliable backs, he'll utilize them.

    Jennings should remain in control of the lead duties, but Williams is going to get his chances each week. If you're grabbing him when your draft is getting into double-digit rounds, you're getting a great value.

    James StarksGreen Bay Packers

    Starks was incredibly efficient in limited action last season. According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), he averaged 0.46 points per opportunity (PPO) on 99 total touches. Jamaal Charles finished with a PPO of 0.47, in case you need a reference. Starks also ranked fourth among qualifying running backs in yards after contact per attempt.

    Eddie Lacy is clearly the workhorse in the Packers backfield. He's a first-round pick in most leagues. But if he were to miss any time, Starks would instantly enter the RB2 range.

    Lacy had six carries from the 1-yard line. Another notable stat from PFF, Lacy finished sixth overall among running backs in opportunity-adjusted touchdowns (oTD). The Packers put their starting running back in position to score often.

    Starks doesn't hold much value in his current situation, but he remains a top handcuff.

    Wide Receivers

    Danny AmendolaNew England Patriots

    Amendola was the 16th wide receiver off the board in fantasy last year. He "rewarded" his owners with just 70 fantasy points, only two touchdowns and four games missed due to injury. So perhaps he's not the Wes Welker clone he was touted as. That said, he now ranks 49th in our wide receiver rankings for the season. We ... all knew he was an injury risk, yeah? That wasn't a surprise, even when we took him 16th? Amendola's upside is exactly what it was last year. There's risk, sure, but there's also big reward.

    Andrew HawkinsCleveland Browns

    Hawkins never really came into his own in Cincinnati. Now he's a Cleveland Brown, and ought to have more chances. With Josh Gordon's looming suspension and the always-present injury concerns for Miles Austin and Nate Burleson, Hawkins has a route to being Cleveland's No. 1. At the least, he could easily be the team's slot/possession receiver, and could offer big value in PPR leagues, even if he doesn't have big-play pedigree.

    Tight Ends

    Kyle RudolphMinnesota Vikings

    Admittedly, I love Rudolph more than you. But quite honestly, when the perfect storm hits, I’ll be damned if I’m missing out.

    During his tenure as Chargers head coach, Norv Turner specifically featured the tight end in his Air Coryell offense. I mean, he had the benefit of working with Antonio Gates, so it really wasn’t all that hard; nevertheless, Gates finished with fewer than 700 yards only once during that six-year span and scored at least seven touchdowns each season. Of course, you’ve also heard of Jordan Cameron, whom Turner helped surpass 900 yards just last year. Because of this, Rudolph seems like the clear benefactor of a fruitful uptick in production. In fact, when it’s all said and done, that nine-touchdown 2012 might even be considered child’s play.

    C.J. FiedorowiczHouston Texans

    Last season, the Texans lined up with only one tight end 63 percent of the time. Their remaining snaps featured dual sets, whether the backfield was empty or not. That being said, Bill O’Brien is an obvious advocate of the two-tight end formation, so much so that reaching 70 percent isn’t out of the realm of possibility. That leaves opportunities for Ryan Griffin, but more importantly, rookie C.J. Fiedorowicz.

    Whether you can correctly spell his name or not (and trust me, I’ve been copying and pasting ever since the first mention), the 6'5, 265-pound Fiedorowicz has been reportedly turning heads in practice, with some having gone so far as to tout his hands as the best in camp. The rookie must simply capitalize on the snaps he receives in order to reach his lowly but opportunistic value.

  11. Busts

    Anybody who has ever played fantasy football has drafted a player that did not turn out the way they anticipated. A bust can happen for a variety of reasons. It can be a player who just turns out to be not nearly as good as some expected. It can also be a player who deals with injuries. Some busts are predictable, and others catch you completely off guard. We took a look around the league and figured out some players at each position that would not surprise us if they struggled this season.


    Tom BradyNew England Patriots

    His name still carries clout, and his sixth-round ADP reflects that. But the reasons for that baffle me, as Brady averaged the 13th-most points per game among quarterbacks in 2013. With a paltry group of pass catchers at his disposal, we saw New England transform its identity to a power running team at the expense of Brady's fantasy numbers.

    In 2014, not much has been done to upgrade Brady's arsenal. Rob Gronkowski will likely be back early in the year after suffering a torn ACL, but his effectiveness is an unknown. Aaron Dobson just started running in July, and Danny Amendola's discouraging injury history can't allow anyone to assume he'll be a vital cog for long.

    Brady is still one of the great talents of the game, but we learned in 2013 that the stat sheet won't always reflect that. There's still a chance Gronk bolsters the offense and Brady makes a fantasy comeback, but it's not a risk worth taking in round six over quarterbacks like Cam Newton and Matt Ryan, and guys in much later rounds like Tony Romo and Jay Cutler. Let Brady be someone else's headache this year.

    Nick FolesPhiladelphia Eagles

    We've heard this stat ad nauseam, and when it's this impressive, it's deserved. Say it with me -- 27 touchdowns and two interceptions. That's an unheard of ratio, and it's one that gave Nick Foles the third-highest fantasy point average per game among quarterbacks in 2013. He was as efficient as it gets at the position, and with ample weapons and an offensive guru like Chip Kelly holding the clipboard, Foles is likely to have another nice season.

    So why predict he'll be a bust?

    Well, regardless of who you have calling the plays, a 27:2 TD/INT ratio is so rare. That's not something I'd expect Peyton Manning, Drew Brees or Willie Beamen to replicate, let alone Foles. Of course, that doesn't mean he can't be a great fantasy quarterback; it's just that the outliers are reason for concern. Foles' third-highest points average drops to ninth when his seven-touchdown performance versus the Oakland Raiders is removed from the equation. That also doesn't account for adjusting his interception rate to something a little more expected. The league as a whole threw one every 22 pass attempts. Nick Foles threw a pick every 158 attempts, and with a regression to the mean a near certainty, he's closer to a fringe QB1/QB2 than a top-three option. Suddenly, Foles' outlook appears mortal. I'd still like to have Foles in my lineup, but as the sixth quarterback off of the board? I'd prefer to bolster other positions first.

    Running Backs

    Knowshon MorenoMiami Dolphins

    Moreno turned out to be a great value pick for fantasy owners in 2013. That payoff won't repeat this season, as he's in a much worse scenario with the Dolphins.

    The majority of Moreno's value last season derived from playing in the league's best offense. Opposing defenses focused on Peyton Manning and Denver's passing game, leaving Moreno plenty of room to run.

    According to Pro Football Focus, Moreno faced a nickel or dime defense on 83 percent of his carries. He basically took the yardage he was given. Moreno only averaged 2.03 yards after contact per carry, one of the worst marks for running backs with over 150 carries.

    Moreno underwent a knee scope earlier this summer, and he's not even taking contact at this point. He's coming off surgery and joining a new team, where he likely won't even see game reps until the end of preseason. That's not a situation you would expect someone of Moreno's talent to thrive in.

    His ADP of pick 10.03 in mock drafts eliminates most risk, because you're not investing much in him at that point in your draft. But with Lamar Miller looking like the superior runner and Daniel Thomas in the mix as well, I can't see Moreno getting many opportunities to make a real impact for your lineup.

    Ryan MathewsSan Diego Chargers

    When he's healthy, he can produce. Mathews' 2013 campaign was proof of that, as he finally played all 16 games and rushed for a career-high 1,255 yards. How should you value him coming off that kind of season?

    If the Chargers were rolling with the same depth chart as last season, I'd feel better about Mathews' outlook. However, they brought in Donald Brown, who is now the only running back under contract past 2014.

    Brown thrived with added competition in Indianapolis last season. He averaged 0.49 points per opportunity, ranking second among all running backs with at least 100 carries. He averaged 3.28 yards after contact per carry. He's going to be a factor in San Diego.

    Danny Woodhead has his same role in the Chargers offense, and he'll be utilized often in passing situations. Mathews' does not get much of a boost in PPR leagues, so owners should factor that in as well.

    Per PFF, Mathews finished with a 6.2 opportunity-adjusted touchdowns (oTD) in 2013. This stat basically goes beyond simple red-zone data and examines where the play touched the ball and what the average rate of scoring would be from that point. Mathews took 15 carries from inside the 10-yard line, while Woodhead had 11 attempts. Ronnie Brown only saw four from that range.

    Mathews fumbled at the 1-yard line in his first preseason game. Head coach Mike McCoy said he's going to keep feeding Mathews despite that mistake, something Norv Turner wouldn't have done last season. While Mathews is a better red zone threat than Woodhead, the newly acquired Brown will eat into those touches as well.

    With Mathews' ADP currently valued at pick 4.04, he might be going a bit too high for a player working out of a three-headed backfield. It all depends on his usage. I expect five to six touchdowns and right around 1,000 yards, shades under last year's mark. His prior injury woes are something to consider as well.

    Wide Receivers

    Cordarrelle PattersonMinnesota Vikings

    I'm not necessarily predicting any of these players to be busts; I just wish to acknowledge the possibility. I love Patterson as much as anyone, but, after finishing as the No. 32 receiver a year ago, I've seen him ranked as high as the mid-teens heading into 2014, and that is expecting a lot out of the second-year player. He's going to have Matt Cassel or Teddy Bridgewater or Christian Ponder throwing to him, and the team still has Adrian Peterson, Kyle Rudolph, Greg Jennings, Jerome Simpson and Jarius Wright to contend for touches. Patterson could be great, but he's no sure thing.

    Jordy NelsonGreen Bay Packers

    Barring injury, it's hard to envision Nelson falling far down the list of wide receivers. But he finished 11th at the position last year, in large part because he was the only one of the Packers' big four pass catchers -- Nelson, Cobb, James Jones and Jermichael Finley -- who stayed healthy all year. That meant that, even without Aaron Rodgers always around, Nelson could get regular touches, leading to his eight touchdowns and career-high 1,314 yards. If the Packers stay healthy in 2014, there might not be quite as many looks going Nelson's way. He's still high-end, but there's a chance he falls off this year.

    Tight Ends

    Vernon DavisSan Francisco 49ers

    Through the first 11 games of the season, Davis accumulated 42 receptions, 705 yards and 10 touchdowns for San Francisco. Then Michael Crabtree returned to the lineup and Davis caught 15 passes over his final seven games (including playoffs). Five of those went for scores, but to guarantee his high value using only touchdowns seems more volatile than anything. Fortunately, TEs are being universally mirror-imaged for a reason. Despite the cause for concern, it will take an even larger fall from grace for Davis to finish below the next tier.

    Rob GronkowskiNew England Patriots

    Gronk’s upside is indisputable. In fact, in his second season, he led the league with 17 touchdowns, to go along with 1,300 yards. But that was two seasons ago, and the fact he’s played in only 18 games since simply can’t be tossed aside. You know what you’re getting into when calling his name on draft day -- whether it’s his mass production or how much more fluid the NE offense appears when he’s not on the sidelines -- but with a current ADP that’s only trending up, going as high as the first tight end taken in some cases, his floor on your return might be even more worrisome.

  12. Rookies

    Rookies are always a difficult subject in the world of fantasy football. On one hand, fantasy football owners welcome new talent for their rosters. Everyone wants to take pride in drafting the next big NFL playmaker. The NFL Combine, the NFL Draft, and training camps can stir up all sorts of speculation and excitement for prospective fantasy owners. On the other hand, the reality is that we're dealing with the unknown.

    Fantasy football itself is about projecting outcomes for any player, but rookies are a different breed. Until an NFL rookie takes his first steps onto the field, on the big stage, we're working off of collegiate accomplishments, situation and opportunity. With that said, let's take a look at the rookies with the the most potential heading in the 2014 NFL season.

    Bishop SankeyTennessee Titans, Running Back

    Sankey tops this list primarily due to his presumed role as RB1 in Tennessee. Shonn Greene and Dexter McCluster are Sankey's biggest competition. Few would suggest Sankey will reach the production of Chris Johnson in his prime, but Sankey is a premium rookie prospect for fantasy owners simply because of his expected workload.

    Mike EvansTampa Bay Buccaneers, Wide Receiver

    Sammy Watkins may deserve to be No. 2 on this list, but the reality is that Evans has a much more reliable quarterback situation. Josh McCown is coming off a productive season in Chicago, and while it's hard to suggest he's the long-term answer in Tampa Bay, he's proven he can consistently get the ball to his receivers.

    Sammy WatkinsBuffalo Bills, Wide Receiver

    Watkins is a great talent who is entering questionable circumstances. Quarterback E.J. Manuel will need to prove he can be more consistent before Watkins can really break out. That said, Watkins may be the most desirable wide receiver in Dynasty Leagues. For the purposes of standard leagues, he's a high-upside prospect that could pay off even in his rookie season.

    Fantasy football is a game full of speculation and perception. It's part of what makes it so thrilling. It's difficult enough to know which running back will break out in a new backfield tandem or whether a new wide receiver will perform well or simply enable the other team's wideout to see less double coverage. When rookies are entered into the mix, it becomes a more intriguing puzzle. Rookies have thrived in the NFL in recent years due to more college programs employing pro-style offenses, and NFL coaches have higher expectations from their new players more than ever.

    In fantasy football, one could argue that the expectations are higher as well. Quarterbacks are seeing success early. Running backs are jumping at the opportunity to ignite a career that they're lucky to see last more than a few years. Even tight ends are getting more early playing time now that many teams emphasize the passing game.

    But where does that leave us in 2014? Let's take a look at each skill position, and consider which rookies are the most poised to become a fantasy asset for your roster.

    Rookie Rankings

    Rank Quarterback Runningback Wide Receiver Tight End
    1 Johnny Manziel Bishop Sankey Mike Evans Eric Ebron
    2 Teddy Bridgewater Carlos Hyde Sammy Watkins Jace Amaro
    3 Blake Bortles Terrance West Kelvin Benjamin Troy Niklas
    4 Derek Carr Jeremy Hill Brandin Cooks Austin Seferian-Jenkins
    5 Zach Mettenberger Devonta Freeman Odell Beckham, Jr. Richard Rodgers
  13. Bye Week Implications

    Drafting the perfect fantasy football team is a complex process. Paying attention to bye weeks isn't the most important factor to your strategy, but it's certainly something to keep an eye on.

    Owners shouldn't avoid players solely based on their bye weeks lining up. Demaryius Thomas and A.J. Green are both on a bye in Week 4. That shouldn't stop you from acquiring both if you can. However, owners need to have a plan in place to fill in spots for their stars on bye.

    But filling in your starting lineup isn't the only benefit to monitoring bye weeks. Statistics from prior years show that there are benefits to starting players coming off bye weeks. As Tristan Cockcroft of ESPN noted last year, quarterbacks see an 8 percent increase in production following a bye week. Running backs score 3.2 percent more points, and wide receivers score 6.2 percent more. These three positions enjoy even greater production playing at home after bye weeks. That's something to keep in mind from week to week.

    Here we'll look at each bye week during the 2014 season and list some key players who will be off.

    Week 4: Bengals, Broncos, Browns, Cardinals, Rams, Seahawks

    Quarterbacks: Peyton Manning, Russell Wilson, Andy Dalton, Carson Palmer
    Running backs: Montee Ball, Marshawn Lynch, Giovani Bernard, Zac Stacy, Andre Ellington, Ben Tate
    Wide receivers: Demaryius Thomas, A.J. Green, Larry Fitzgerald, Wes Welker, Michael Floyd, Percy Harvin
    Tight ends: Julius Thomas, Jordan Cameron

    Week 5: Dolphins, Raiders

    Quarterbacks: Ryan Tannehill
    Running backs: Lamar Miller, Maurice Jones-Drew, Darren McFadden
    Wide receivers: Mike Wallace
    Tight ends: Charles Clay

    Week 6: Chiefs, Saints

    Quarterbacks: Drew Brees, Alex Smith
    Running backs: Jamaal Charles, Pierre Thomas
    Wide receivers: Marques Colston, Dwayne Bowe
    Tight ends: Jimmy Graham

    Week 7: Buccaneers, Eagles

    Quarterbacks: Nick Foles
    Running backs: LeSean McCoy, Doug Martin
    Wide receivers: Vincent Jackson, Jeremy Maclin
    Tight ends: Zach Ertz

    Week 8: 49ers, Giants

    Quarterbacks: Colin Kaepernick, Eli Manning
    Running backs: Rashad Jennings, Frank Gore
    Wide receivers: Victor Cruz, Michael Crabtree, Rueben Randle
    Tight ends: Vernon Davis

    Week 9: Bears, Bills, Falcons, Lions, Packers, Titans

    Quarterbacks: Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford, Matt Ryan, Jay Cutler
    Running backs: Matt Forte, Eddie Lacy, C.J. Spiller, Reggie Bush, Joique Bell, Bishop Sankey, Steven Jackson
    Wide receivers: Calvin Johnson, Julio Jones, Brandon Marshall, Jordy Nelson, Alshon Jeffery, Randall Cobb, Roddy White, Kendall Wright
    Tight ends: Martellus Bennett, Delanie Walker

    Week 10: Chargers, Colts, Patriots, Ravens, Texans, Vikings

    Quarterbacks: Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Tom Brady, Philip Rivers
    Running backs: Adrian Peterson, Arian Foster, Alfred Morris, Ryan Mathews, Shane Vereen
    Wide receivers: Keenan Allen, Andre Johnson, Pierre Garcon, Cordarrelle Patterson, DeSean Jackson, T.Y. Hilton, Julian Edelman
    Tight ends: Rob Gronkowski, Jordan Reed, Kyle Rudolph

    Week 11: Cowboys, Jaguars, Jets, Ravens

    Quarterbacks: Tony Romo
    Running backs: DeMarco Murray, Toby Gerhart, Chris Johnson, Ray Rice
    Wide receivers: Dez Bryant, Torrey Smith, Eric Decker
    Tight ends: Jason Witten, Dennis Pitta

    Week 12: Panthers, Steelers

    Quarterbacks: Cam Newton, Ben Roethlisberger
    Running backs: Le'Veon Bell
    Wide receivers: Antonio Brown
    Tight ends: Greg Olsen

  14. Biggest Off-Season Transactions

    The 2014 offseason was loaded with team transactions. A few NFL teams are barely recognizable when compared to their 2013 starting roster. Others simply gained extra pieces that may or may not have a large role in the regular season. Free agency tends to rattle our expectations of the player who was moved as well as the other skill players on the roster.

    In fantasy football, there were former fantasy studs we hope can reclaim their glory days as they move into a new situation. There are running backs who are going from fantasy handcuffs to leading their new backfield. Simply put, there are a lot of players who have shown potential and are now in more ideal circumstances. Of course, there is always the risk of a player losing his edge as he makes the transition to a new team.

    There is quite a bit to digest from the past five months of offseason activity. Let's take a look at 15 of the more notable transactions. We'll focus on the main four offensive skill positions in no particular order.

    Steve Smith, WR, Baltimore Ravens

    Since trading Anquan Boldin in 2013, the Ravens have been on shaky ground regarding their wide receiving corps. Steve Smith is 35 years old. The signing arguably hurt the Carolina Panthers more than it helped the Ravens. This move was more about getting a more established veteran on the field and in the locker room. Expectations are low, but if Smith can offer a fraction of what Boldin did in 2012, he's worth a late-round grab.

    Ben Tate, RB, Cleveland Browns

    The Browns needed an answer for their backfield after trading Trent Richardson during the 2013 regular season. Ben Tate is a talented back, but he hasn't proven he's durable yet. Terrance West could make a run for the starting running back position. At the very least, the two could split carries. He's a great value if he can be drafted as a flex and could prove to be a solid RB2 if he leads the depth chart.

    Andrew Hawkins, WR, Cleveland Browns

    Hawkins was acquired by the Browns after three seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals. He spent the beginning of 2013 dealing with an ankle injury. If healthy, Hawkins can be a great weapon for the Browns. He's a quick, shifty receiver with great awareness and hands. With Josh Gordon likely out for the season, the Browns will need to find ways to distribute the ball effectively. Hawkins is a great sleeper pick, especially in PPR leagues.

    Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Denver Broncos

    Sanders finished his 2013 with the Pittsburgh Steelers with 67 catches for 740 yards and six touchdowns. He now has Peyton Manning throwing him the ball, but he's sharing the field with a lot of talent. You could do worse than draft Sanders as a WR3 in most formats, but he's a steal if you can grab him for your bench and wait out a week or two of the regular season.

    Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Houston Texans

    Fitzpatrick has been named the starting quarterback for the Texans in 2014. He showed flashes of fantasy relevance during his time with the Buffalo Bills. With Houston, it's likely he'll be more of a game manager. He has Andre Johnson as a receiver, but Fitzpatrick doesn't offer much more upside than Matt Schaub did. Fitzpatrick will be more of a plug-and-play option depending on his weekly matchup. He'll likely be floating on your waiver wire on a weekly basis.