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Fantasy Football: Ranking the rookies 08.20.14 at 11:56 am ET
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Drafting rookies in fantasy football can be a very dicey proposition. Rarely do the year-end stats measure up to the preseason hype. In this piece I will be looking at some of the more intriguing rookie prospects for 2014 in terms of redraft value versus long-term value. These are players who, we feel, have a chance to earn substantive playing time in 2014. Obviously, circumstance comes into play, so there is a random nature to rookie breakouts, especially for the running backs, who all are in competition for snaps and carries. Having said that, this is one of the strongest rookie classes I have ever seen in terms of players who can make an immediate impact. You absolutely must be well versed in the top 15 options if you want to dominate your leagues in 2014.

If you’ve missed any of our prior fantasy content, I have indexed it below.

To keep up on any and all changes to our rankings and to access our cheat sheets and rookie scouting reports, check out The Rotobahn, where all of my 2014 content is indexed. I’ll be back later this week with an updated look at our high-value targets. And don’t miss the third episode of the Fantasy Football Hour this Sunday morning on WEEI 93.7. My co-host Jim Hackett and I will get into strategies for different leagues sizes and scoring formats. We’ll also talk with Eagles beat reporter Martin Frank, who spent last week watching the Patriots-Eagles joint practices.

1. Bishop Sankey, RB, Titans

Sankey is the one guy with a fix on a starting job and fantasy value starts with opportunity. Having said that, Sankey is a potential starter for a reason. If you are not familiar with the former University of Washington rusher, read his full scouting report. Sankey will cede some work to veteran Shonn Greene, and that will include a lot of goal-line action. You also have the new offense, which is a mild concern, though we have confidence that new OC Ken Whisenhunt will settle things down. Sankey should have low-end RB2 value in most 12-team formats, though he may be more of a RB3 early on as he gets his feet wet. Draft him accordingly.

2. Terrance West, RB, Browns

Yes, he’s not even starting, but when you do all the math on West, it’s hard not to conclude that he’ll be packing some serious weekly value at some point in 2014. We expect Cleveland to run the ball enough for two backs to work up a good lather. West could end up with some flex appeal in deep leagues even if starter Ben Tate stays healthy. However, if Tate misses time as he’s done most every season, West’s value could explode. There’s also the chance that West could simply steal the gig over time. He’s got enough upside to draft at his current ADP of 94 if you play in a 12-team league with a flex spot. If you’ve never seen the former Towson star play, do yourself a favor and digest his Rotobahn scouting report, and watch the film.

3. Brandin Cooks, WR, Saints

The New Orleans offense is a well-oiled machine, and the Saints should be able to integrate Cooks in seamless fashion as they did with Kenny Stills in 2013. Cooks is an inside-outside option who can even line up in the backfield if you want him to. This is a kid who prides himself on yards after contact. Here’s what he said when we caught him at the combine: “For me, I like taking a short pass and breaking it for a run. Catch a shallow, catch a hitch, catch a slant and make one miss and go.” I think HC Sean Payton agrees. Look for Cooks to play a diverse role in 2014. He’ll be part Darren Sproles, part Lance Moore, and he’ll be more explosive than either one of them. We project WR3 value with WR2 upside. Read Cooks’ full scouting report. This a player who you simply must know for fantasy purposes.

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Fantasy Football: Top 30 tight ends 08.12.14 at 10:57 am ET
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This is the final position rankings article in our summer series. If you want to keep up with all our rankings and updates, head over to rotobahn.com, where you will find all up-to-date rankings and cheat sheets. And, yes, it’s still free.

Today we’ll rank the tight ends and place them into tiers as we did with the other positions. If you missed any of our earlier articles, they are indexed below. Remember, our rankings are based on standard scoring rather than PPR.

The tight ends are insanely deep if you just need a decent option. There is more startable depth than we’ve ever seen before. Having said that, if you are looking to gain an edge at the position, you will want to focus on options from Tier 1 or 2. I’ll get into exactly how I am drafting the position when we release Rotobahn’s 2014 draft plan, and also in my Drafting In Reverse series that will premier next week.

On Sunday, Jim Hackett and I hosted our first Fantasy Football Hour on 93.7. If you missed it, you can listen here. Jim and I will be back with a fresh podcast later this week and we’ll be back on the air next Sunday at 7:30 a.m.  Join us!

Tier 1 (1)

Jimmy Graham, Saints

Yes, he gets his own tier. No offense, Rob Gronkowski fans, but Graham has to be considered a better bet to stay healthy. He’s also going to be harder to double team with all the young talent in New Orleans. Graham’s foot injury from 2013 is a mild concern in terms of re-occurrence, but all other fantasy arrows are pointing decidedly up.

Tier 2 (2-3)

Rob Gronkowski, Patriots
Julius Thomas, Broncos

Gronkowski would be at the top of Tier 1 if his injury history wasn’t so significant. Even with all the surgeries and missed games, he still is the best option at the position on a per-game basis. Thomas is a step down from the top two, but he’s locked into a large role in Peyton Manning‘s offense and that’s huge. Manning made Dallas Clark a star and he made Jacob Tamme relevant. What else do you need to know?

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Read More: 2014 Fantasy Football, Jimmy Graham, Jordan Cameron, Julius Thomas
Fantasy Football: Top 50 running backs 08.06.14 at 12:22 pm ET
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With the exception of the Giants and Bills, teams have not played their first preseason games yet. Nevertheless, running backs already are going down. The losses of Kendall Hunter, Tyler Gaffney, Vick Ballard and David Wilson underscore the volatility of the position and the need to prepare and build depth on your fantasy roster. You can hope for health, if you believe in the power of positive thinking, but you also better be prepared for injuries, because you will almost assuredly have a few.

Last week we took a look at the quarterbacks and a week prior we broke down the receivers. You can link to those two articles below as well as our high-value targets piece from earlier this month.

Today we’€™ll get into the top 50 running backs and how they relate to each other in terms of value to give you a lay of the landscape. If you are looking for a deeper take on a particular player, go to Rotobahn’€™s Top 400.

I’€™ll also be posting my “32 Backfields” article in about 10 days, where I will break down the ground games of all 32 NFL teams. Keep checking WEEI.com and Rotobahn for daily content and tune in this Sunday at 7:30 a.m. on 93.7 FM to hear the first broadcast of WEEI’€™s Fantasy Football Hour with myself and Jim Hackett! If you’ve never heard us before, check us out Wednesday when this week’€™s podcast goes up. Jim and I will breakdown this article in depth and cover some other timely fantasy topics. I’ll be back in this space next week with an in-depth look at the tight ends.

Tier 1 (1-5)

LeSean McCoy, Eagles
Adrian Peterson, Vikings
Jamaal Charles, Chiefs
Eddie Lacy, Packers
Matt Forte, Bears

It’€™s almost impossible to go wrong here. These are the elite options and we project all of them to play in very good offenses with the exception of Charles, who will be running behind a retooled line for a team with a very shaky passing attack. We still expect his talent to win the day, but Charles will have to earn his numbers in 2014. These should be the first five players off the board in all drafts regardless of scoring format. If you have a shot to draft any of them in the six-hole or later, you should jump at the chance.

Tier 2 (6-9)

DeMarco Murray, Cowboys
Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks
Montee Ball, Broncos
Le’€™Veon Bell, Steelers

All four of these backs have two things going for them: talent and the support of a strong offense. They also are multidimensional players who get involved in the passing game. They all are projected as their team’€™s primary goal-line weapon. It’€™s also a young tier, with Lynch being the elder statesman at 28 years old. Lynch and Murray are more proven, as is Bell to some extent. Ball, while not being proven, has no legitimate competition on his roster and plays in an insanely high-octane offense. While some are smelling risk with Ball, just remember that you are buying the Broncos offense and goal-line opportunities and not Montee Ball in a vacuum. The one concern with Ball is his recent appendectomy. It’€™s something to watch, but he projects to be 100 percent for Week 1 at this point. Expect this entire tier to be off the board about halfway through Round 2 of 12-team drafts.

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Read More: 2014 Fantasy Football, Adrian Peterson, Arian Foster, Eddie Lacy
Fantasy Football: Quarterback rankings 07.31.14 at 3:06 pm ET
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Last week we took a look at the top 50 wide receivers. This week we will get into the signal callers and break them down into tiers as we did with the receivers. Jim Hackett and I will get even deeper into the quarterbacks in our weekly podcast that will be posted tomorrow. I am also pleased to announce that Jim and I will be hosting a new show on WEEI 93.7 called “The Fantasy Football Hour.” Our first episode airs Aug. 10 at 7:30 a.m., and we’ll be on every Sunday throughout the NFL season. If you missed my article on high-value targets, give it a read. It points out some nice value opportunities based on average draft position.

2014 features perhaps the deepest group of fantasy quarterbacks I’ve ever seen. For years, Rotobahn has been preaching patience when drafting passers — and never has that approach been more prudent than it is for this season. There simply is no way you can get shut out at the position. Sure, some outcomes are better than others, but you are not taking a big risk by waiting on a quarterback because, quite simply, they will not be depleted unless you are playing in a league that allows teams to start more than one quarterback.

If you are looking for more information on any particular quarterback or player, go to rotobahn.com and check out our top 400. If your player isn’t listed there, you should strongly consider getting him off of your redraft board.

Tier 1 (1)

Peyton Manning, Broncos

Yes, for fantasy purposes he’s all alone. If there is a valid argument for taking an early quarterback, it’s Manning’s scoring gap over second place. Even though I expect a mild statistical regression, there’€™s still Manning and then everybody else. Yes, he lost a very reliable option when Eric Decker signed with the Jets, but the Broncos added Emmanuel Sanders and drafted Cody Latimer. Latimer has a skill set that ultimately could make Denver fans forget about Eric Decker. Check out Latimer’s Rotobahn scouting report if you haven’t already.

Tier 2 (2-3)

Aaron Rodgers, Packers
Drew Brees, Saints

Just about all of Rodgers’ arrows are pointing up. As long as he avoids another season-ending injury, he’s about as safe as it gets as a performer and his receivers are talented and deeply immersed in the Green Bay offense. Brees is the definition of consistency. That’s why he’s an elite option, and that’s why people overdraft him in most leagues. Though he’s showing some signs of age, that should be counter-balanced by the influx of young receivers. We are very high on Kenny Stills, who played 60 percent of the offensive snaps as a rookie, and this year’s first-round selection, Brandin Cooks. This could give Brees the kind of shot in the arm that Manning got from Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker in 2012.

Tier 3 (4-7)

Matt Stafford, Lions
Andrew Luck, Colts
Nick Foles, Eagles
Robert Griffin III, Washington

By my math, you have three very secure options at the top of this tier. Stafford, Luck and Foles all are in very good situations and they’re all big strong-armed passers with quality targets. Griffin also has quality targets, and we like new head coach/offensive coordinator Jay Gruden‘s offense in terms of its flexibility. Griffin is the lottery ticket of the group. He is one of the few players who could outscore everybody, but the injury risks are obvious and real. If you do choose to roll the bones on RGIII, you’ll want to back him up with a strong option, ideally from the next tier.

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Read More: 2014 Fantasy Football, aaron rodgers, Andrew Luck, Drew Brees
Fantasy Football: Top 50 wide receivers 07.23.14 at 1:03 pm ET
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Let’s take a look at the top 50 wide receivers. I’d planned on ranking just the top 36, which would represent the starters in 12-team leagues, but this year’s group is so deep that more players merit a mention. If you are looking for an even deeper take on this year’s receiving class, go to Rotobahn and check out our Top 300, which includes rankings and comments for over 100 receivers.

Just to be clear, these rankings reflect standard or performance scoring rather than PPR (point per reception) scoring. For a PPR take on the receivers, you can check out my 2014 projections.

Tier 1 (1-6)

These are the monsters. They almost always come through and they’re all healthy. These guys aren’t just WR1 fantasy options, they are high-end WR1 options. You can anchor your receiving corps with any of them. In fact, we think the top five all have a solid shot at being No. 1 by season’s end. While we don’t quite see that high a ceiling for Marshall, we love his high floor and consistency. He also has the complete trust of his quarterback. The Jay Cutler-to-Marshall connection dates back to their rookie season as Broncos in 2006.

Tier 2 (7-10)

There’s not much drop-off from the first tier, but you have some smaller receivers and Jeffery has just the single season of greatness. Nelson is on the cusp of Tier 1, but I still have some concerns about him staying healthy and don’t feel that his top end goes quite as high as the options in the elite tier.

Tier 3 (11-14)

Here’s another group that signifies a small drop-off from the prior tier. Arizona’s Floyd and Fitzgerald are on par with Chicago’s Jeffery and Marshall, but we give the Bears duo a bump because we like Cutler a bit better than we do Carson Palmer. Johnson still is elite, but his quarterback is not … and his offense is in a state of flux. Allen has the look of a potential star, but he has a rough schedule in 2014 that features four contests against NFC West teams.

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Fantasy Football 2014: 20 high-value targets 07.17.14 at 11:50 am ET
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Let’s take a look at draft value based on a player’s average draft position. It’s a good way to get a quick feel for where the big values might be in drafts when August rolls around. As we like to do at Rotobahn, we’ll be counting the values down from late selections to the early ones. Jim Hackett and I will get into some of these players in Friday’s podcast, so be sure to check that out. For a look at our take on the top 200 fantasy options for 2014, head on over to Rotobahn.com, where you will also find scouting reports on over 60 rookies and early projections for the upcoming season.

ADP data was obtained at Fantasy Football Calculator.

Andrew Hawkins, WR, Browns — ADP 224

He’s not being drafted at all in smaller leagues, and you can get him very late in large formats, as his ADP indicates. That’s not bad for a player who could be the Browns’ top receiver in 2014. Frankly, if he stays healthy, I can’t see anybody else on the roster outplaying him. In fairness, that speaks to how underrated Hawkins currently is, but it also speaks to how woefully thin Cleveland is at receiver.

Odell Beckham, WR, Giants — ADP 163

Do not wait until 163 to draft this guy. Beckham, for whatever reason, is being ignored in fantasy circles and we think he’s a potential WR3 in 12-team leagues. As we said in his Rotobahn scouting report, Beckham has perhaps the best hands we’ve seen since we scouted Michael Crabtree. He’s also got all the skills you want a receiver to have, including outstanding agility and speed. He should fit right into the Giants offense and could be a fantasy force from Day 1. He’s a steal at his current ADP.

Justin Hunter, WR, Titans — ADP 159

Hunter’s ADP has risen about 10 spots over the last month … and he’ll jump a bit more before most of us draft, but he still projects as a value this season. He should be ready to take a step forward in 2014, and with Kenny Britt now gone, Hunter’s snap totals should more than double. We expect him to be a starter or an in-effect starter. He has a chance to post double-digit scores if things go well in Tennessee. Hunter is by far the most explosive athlete the Titans have on offense. He has WR1 upside in long-term leagues and has the upside to be a WR2 this year. He should be off the board somewhere around the 100 mark in our opinion. He’s a potential steal right now.

Aaron Dobson, WR, Patriots — ADP 138

This could change, and you may pay a bit more for him in this part of the country, but Dobson is a pretty solid WR3 option in 12-team leagues if he’s healthy — and the news on his foot has been positive lately. If he’s starting at split end, he’s worth a pick closer to 100 overall, and he’d still have some upside there due to his touchdown potential.

Marvin Jones, WR, Bengals — ADP 129

As with Hunter, Jones’ ADP has risen a bit this summer and he’ll move up another round, and perhaps more in the coming weeks, but we still like him at that price tag. He’s a much more complete player than he gets credit for, and he should have no problem holding on to the starter’s spot opposite A.J. Green. He looks like a borderline WR3 to us in 12-team leagues with upside to be more.

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Read More: 2014 Fantasy Football, Colin Kaepernick, Eric Decker, Russell Wilson
Fantasy Football: Postseason rankings, strategy 01.02.14 at 10:27 am ET
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The fantasy football season has concluded, but as most of you know, fantasy football lives on with postseason leagues. We’€™re here to help you stack the odds in your favor or at least to avoid doing the opposite.

Playoff leagues can be a lot of fun, and they are completely different than regular-season fantasy football. The key difference is that predicting game outcomes is perhaps the key factor in your team’€™s success. In most situations, you’€™d rather have your player advance than have a big game and lose. That’€™s because once your player’€™s team is finished, so is the player. That means no more points and a big old dead spot in your lineup. For this reason, it is important to project the number of games each team will play.

You may think Philip Rivers is a better quarterback than Colin Kaepernick, but if you think the Chargers are a one-and-done team as I do, and if you think the 49ers have a chance to play four games (the maximum), as I do, then you’€™d be kooky to draft Rivers ahead of Kaepernick.  This is true even if you project Rivers to outscore Kaepernick by a factor of two on a per-game basis. This is how you must think in a playoff draft. Get in that frame of mind — the same frame of mind that makes you want LeGarrette Blount over Jamaal Charles. Yes, really.

Since leagues are different sizes and many use different sets of rules, I am going to keep the rankings somewhat general. The first thing you need to do is to decide how you think the playoff games will go, then follow those predictions. I’ve laid out my current take below, but I won’€™t lie to you, I could flip a few games this week as I continue to think about things and assess the injury situations. Some of these games are very close. Value players accordingly. For example, I think Kaepernick plays twice, but I also think he’€™s the player with the best chance at playing four times. It will take an upset of the Seahawks in Seattle to make that happen, but Frisco probably is the best bet to pull that off at this point.

GAMES PLAYED PROJECTIONS

Broncos, 3 games
Seahawks, 3 games
49ers, 2 games
Eagles, 2 games
Patriots, 2 games
Panthers, 2 games
Colts, 2 games
Bengals, 2 games
Saints, 1 game
Packers, 1 game
Chargers, 1 game
Chiefs, 1 game

If you look at the projections, you might assume that Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson are the players to own. And they certainly are players you’€™d like to have, but a few of the quarterbacks with two projected games played are potentially as or more valuable. I already mentioned Kaepernick, but Tom Brady will have a very good chance at a third game, and I see most of the early round games being competitive. For this, I suggest that you play your own hunches if you have strong ones and if you trust your instincts. That’€™s really what make these postseason leagues so much fun. You get to do more prognostication.

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