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Doug Orth | Archive | Email |
Staff Writer


Top 150 Big Board, PPR: Version 1.0
Preseason Matchup Analysis
8/12/14

PPR | .5 PPR | Non-PPR

A d v e r t i s e m e n t

Seven seasons ago, the Big Boards were born. (Oh, how we have grown over the years…) For the sentimental types or the readers who want to take a stroll down memory lane and relive some of the great names from fantasy’s past, here is the very first one.

Thankfully, a lot has changed since 2008. One thing that has not changed, however, is my desire to be the most prepared owner in the draft room. Hopefully, that desire comes out in my projections and articles throughout the course of the year. While I can’t speak to the success that everyone else has because of the Big Boards, I know I can speak to my own.

We are about 2-3 weeks away from the time I bear down to select my money-league teams, but many owners already have participated in at least a couple of drafts already and I am no different. My first draft of consequence occurred last Thursday when I took part in The Huddle Expert Auction. I’m not a fan of early drafting at all, but I will also not complain about free practice against industry experts at any point of the preseason using the method of drafting I will be utilizing for some of my big-money leagues. It’s another advantage I’ll have over the rest of my competition in a couple of weeks and, just as importantly, yours truly has guided FF Today to back-to-back titles (and four straight championship game appearances) in the aforementioned auction league. However, we’ll revisit that success when I submit my annual “The Art of the Auction” sometime in the next week.

Loyal readers already know my stance on the importance of value when it comes to drafting, but most fantasy analysts fail to quantify it. As it relates to my Big Boards, I define "value" using the VORP (Value Over Replacement Player) concept for a two-RB, two-WR league, which essentially allows me to compare apples and oranges. At QB and TE, the value reflects the standard deviation from the 12th-ranked player at the position – the last starting-caliber player at the position. At RB and WR, the value reflects the standard deviation from the 24th-ranked player. As I have mentioned many times over the years, "value" in drafting is key. Need has to outweigh value on occasion, but for the most part, it can't hurt to take the best player left on the board. Understanding the delicate balance of realizing a player is too good to pass up and knowing exactly when the last spot in your likely Week 1 starting lineup needs to be filled often separates the great drafters from the very good ones.

Beyond using “value” to ease the process of setting up a draft board, analyzing the playoff matchups and common sense has to enter into the conversation as well. A perfect example of the latter is Jimmy Graham, whose PPR value should make him a top-five player on all three boards. While Graham certainly brings a huge advantage to his fantasy teams almost every week, no number cannot account for the economic principle of “opportunity cost” – the loss of potential gain from other alternatives when one alternative is chosen – in real-time when owners pass on an elite running back to draft Graham. A simple number value also cannot account for the drastic falloff in value at running back after the established top options are drafted, usually by the end of the first round. Smart drafting also involves supply versus demand. Every year, there are not nearly enough quality running backs to occupy 24 starting spots in 12-team leagues.

Before I get to the boards, I would like to remind readers about a few key points:

1) They are not going to look like many other draft boards you see. My method of evaluating fantasy players relies heavily on projected consistency and matchups, not overall fantasy point total projections. All too often, fantasy owners and even the so-called "experts" get hung up by the final numbers. Don't get me wrong, I want all my players to have 300+ points at the end of the season. But as the old saying goes, "It's not about the destination, it's about the journey"; if my RB1 gives me seven spectacular performances along with six duds during the regular season, there's a fairly decent chance I may end up 7-6. I don’t want that and neither should you.

2) I will push a player down my board if feel he is a health risk or if I simply don’t/can’t trust him. If you take the time to break down each position I provide below, you will notice that I don’t follow the point totals or averages to a tee. (Think of the average and value I provide for each player as a starting point for my rankings.) Outside of trust issues, I will push a player down my board – despite a higher average or overall point total – if I believe he will simply be less consistent throughout the season or if his playoff schedule appears treacherous.

3) Much like the past two seasons, I want to provide readers with a clear risk sign. If a player is a moderate risk – be it due to holdout, injury, off-field, etc. – you will see a next his name. If I feel a player is a severe risk, you will see a next to his name. While I feel like I have accounted for each player’s “risk” with their spot on the Big Board, you may be more or less inclined to deal with that risk than I am. This is just another way of helping you take a look at the board and quickly identifying which players stand a good chance to frustrate you at some point this season.

Without a doubt, my main focus this year is set up a Big Board that reduces risk for as long as possible while also drafting for upside as soon as the most dependable players are off the board.

Note: At least for this first set of Big Boards, I have chosen to stop at 150 players. Next week, I will add the kickers and defenses while also expanding the number of ranked players. In the final set of Big Boards in two weeks, I will add even more players.

Let’s revisit the color-coding system before we start:

Red – A very difficult matchup. For lower-level players, a red matchup means they should not be used in fantasy that week. For a second- or third-tier player, drop your expectations for them at least one grade that week (i.e. from WR2 to WR3). For elite players, expect them to perform one level lower than their usual status (i.e. RB1 performs like a RB2).

Yellow – Keep expectations fairly low in this matchup. For lower-level players, a yellow matchup is a borderline start at best. For a second- or third-tier player, they can probably overcome the matchup if things fall right. For the elite players, expect slightly better than average production.

White – Basically, this matchup is one that could go either way. In some cases, I just don’t feel like I have a good feel yet for this defense. Generally speaking, these matchups are winnable matchups for all levels of players.

Green – It doesn’t get much better than this. For non-elite players, the stage is basically set for said player to exploit the matchup. For the elite player, this matchup should produce special numbers..

Key:
OVR – Overall Rank
PR – Position Rank
FPts – Fantasy points scored
FPts/ G – Fantasy points/game
Value - Read *** below

***In addition to discussing value above, there is one other note regarding the numbers in the “value” column: numbers that are bolded reflect positive values while the italicized numbers are essentially negative. (For the more statistically-inclined, the former values are on the right side of the bell curve while the latter values are on the left side.)

Here is the scoring system that I used to rank the players in the PPR format:

One final note: Over the next two weeks, I will be “quality controlling” my projections (basically double-checking my numbers, such as not having one defense projected to intercept 40 passes while another has just five), so this week’s Big Boards may look dramatically different – particularly at the bottom – in two weeks than they currently do. As with all things that are worth doing, this process takes time and needs to be constantly revised as more information about depth charts and injuries becomes available. What I can assure you is that my final set of Big Boards will be the most comprehensive draft-day tool anyone in your league will have at their disposal.

Last but not least, I’m going to try something a little bit different this year in regards to the write-ups. Instead of writing a lot about a handful of players located in various parts of the Big Boards, I will instead write a quick-hitting summary about the top 50 this week (I’ll be following the order of the players listed on the PPR Big Board) and spend most of my time over the next two weeks discussing the players outside of that range – the players whose values have a chance to change dramatically based on preseason action.

Let’s get to work:

 PPR Big Board - Top 150
OVR PR Pos Player Risk Tm Age Value FPts/G FPts 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16
1 1 RB Adrian Peterson MIN 29 5.80 21.5 322.5
2 2 RB Matt Forte CHI 28 5.94 21.7 325.5
3 3 RB LeSean McCoy PHI 26 4.88 20.2 303.0
4 4 RB Jamaal Charles KC 27 5.19 20.6 309.5
5 1 WR Calvin Johnson DET 28 4.22 21.1 316.0
6 2 WR Demaryius Thomas DEN 26 3.54 20.1 301.5
7 1 TE Jimmy Graham NO 27 6.39 20.6 308.5
8 3 WR Dez Bryant DAL 25 3.63 20.2 303.5
9 5 RB Eddie Lacy GB 24 2.67 17.1 239.0
10 6 RB Montee Ball DEN 23 2.50 16.8 252.5
11 7 RB Giovani Bernard CIN 22 2.62 17.0 255.0
12 1 QB Peyton Manning DEN 38 3.90 28.1 421.6
13 4 WR Julio Jones ATL 25 3.23 19.7 295.0
14 5 WR Brandon Marshall CHI 30 2.76 19.0 285.0
15 6 WR A.J. Green CIN 26 2.19 18.2 273.0
16 8 RB DeMarco Murray DAL 26 3.32 18.0 234.0
17 9 RB Arian Foster HOU 28 3.61 18.4 276.0
18 10 RB LeVeon Bell PIT 22 1.41 15.3 229.5
19 11 RB Marshawn Lynch SEA 28 1.27 15.1 226.5
20 7 WR Jordy Nelson GB 29 1.91 17.8 267.0
21 8 WR Antonio Brown PIT 26 1.79 17.6 264.5
22 12 RB Zac Stacy STL 23 1.56 15.5 232.5
23 13 RB Reggie Bush DET 29 2.10 16.3 211.5
24 14 RB Toby Gerhart JAC 27 1.98 16.1 225.5
25 15 RB Andre Ellington ARI 25 1.98 16.1 241.5
26 9 WR Roddy White ATL 32 1.98 17.9 268.5
27 10 WR Alshon Jeffery CHI 24 1.44 17.1 257.0
28 16 RB C.J. Spiller BUF 27 1.33 15.2 212.5
29 2 QB Drew Brees NO 35 2.03 25.5 382.0
30 3 QB Aaron Rodgers GB 30 1.90 25.3 379.3
31 11 WR Randall Cobb GB 24 2.17 18.2 272.5
32 17 RB Alfred Morris WAS 25 0.09 13.2 197.5
33 18 RB Bishop Sankey TEN 21 1.41 15.3 229.5
34 2 TE Rob Gronkowski NE 25 3.36 16.3 195.5
35 12 WR Victor Cruz NYG 27 1.30 16.9 254.0
36 13 WR Larry Fitzgerald ARI 31 1.79 17.6 264.5
37 19 RB Doug Martin TB 25 0.42 13.9 208.5
38 14 WR Pierre Garcon WAS 28 1.25 16.9 253.0
39 3 TE Julius Thomas DEN 26 2.88 15.6 218.5
40 15 WR Wes Welker DEN 33 0.90 16.4 245.5
41 16 WR Andre Johnson HOU 33 1.08 16.6 249.5
42 17 WR Cordarrelle Patterson MIN 23 0.54 15.9 238.0
43 18 WR Michael Floyd ARI 24 0.40 15.7 235.0
44 19 WR Keenan Allen SD 22 0.05 15.2 227.5
45 20 WR Vincent Jackson TB 31 0.12 14.9 224.0
46 21 WR Torrey Smith BAL 25 0.35 14.6 219.0
47 4 QB Andrew Luck IND 24 1.34 24.5 367.4
48 5 QB Matthew Stafford DET 26 0.99 24.0 359.8
49 22 WR T.Y. Hilton IND 24 0.42 15.7 235.5
50 20 RB Trent Richardson IND 24 0.92 14.6 219.0
51 21 RB Joique Bell DET 28 0.00 13.3 199.5
52 22 RB Shane Vereen NE 25 1.43 15.3 168.5
53 23 RB Pierre Thomas NO 29 0.85 12.1 181.5
54 23 WR Percy Harvin SEA 26 1.05 16.6 199.0
55 24 WR Kendall Wright TEN 24 0.52 14.4 215.5
56 25 WR Mike Wallace MIA 28 0.31 15.5 233.0
57 24 RB Rashad Jennings NYG 29 0.45 12.7 190.0
58 25 RB Lamar Miller MIA 23 0.99 11.9 178.5
59 26 WR Reggie Wayne IND 35 0.42 14.5 217.5
60 27 WR Emmanuel Sanders DEN 27 0.02 15.1 227.0
61 28 WR Michael Crabtree SF 26 0.00 15.1 226.5
62 4 TE Kyle Rudolph MIN 24 2.29 14.8 221.5
63 26 RB Frank Gore SF 31 1.74 10.8 162.5
64 6 QB Nick Foles PHI 25 1.24 24.3 365.2
65 7 QB Tom Brady NE 37 1.22 24.3 364.7
66 5 TE Vernon Davis SF 30 1.11 13.1 196.5
67 6 TE Jordan Cameron CLE 26 0.90 12.8 192.0
68 27 RB Ray Rice BAL 27 0.02 13.3 172.5
69 28 RB Steven Jackson ATL 31 0.78 12.2 183.0
70 29 RB Ryan Mathews SD 26 1.53 11.1 156.0
71 30 RB Terrance West CLE 23 2.17 10.2 153.5
72 29 WR Marques Colston NO 31 0.78 14.0 210.0
73 30 WR Brandin Cooks NO 20 1.84 12.5 187.5
74 31 WR DeSean Jackson WAS 27 1.98 12.3 184.5
75 8 QB Robert Griffin III WAS 24 1.16 24.2 339.3
76 9 QB Colin Kaepernick SF 26 1.32 24.5 367.0
77 7 TE Jordan Reed WAS 24 2.42 15.0 179.5
78 31 RB Chris Johnson NYJ 28 0.80 12.2 182.5
79 32 RB Ben Tate CLE 26 1.44 11.3 146.5
80 33 RB Jeremy Hill CIN 21 3.23 8.7 131.0
81 34 RB Fred Jackson BUF 33 1.49 11.2 145.5
82 32 WR Sammy Watkins BUF 21 1.15 13.5 202.0
83 35 RB Danny Woodhead SD 29 1.67 10.9 164.0
84 36 RB Darren Sproles PHI 31 2.24 10.1 152.0
85 37 RB Bernard Pierce BAL 24 3.35 8.6 128.5
86 10 QB Jay Cutler CHI 31 0.37 23.1 346.7
87 11 QB Matt Ryan ATL 29 0.34 23.1 346.2
88 8 TE Greg Olsen CAR 29 0.78 12.6 189.5
89 9 TE Dennis Pitta BAL 29 0.73 12.6 188.5
90 10 TE Jason Witten DAL 32 0.71 12.5 188.0
91 12 QB Cam Newton CAR 25 0.00 22.6 338.9
92 33 WR Anquan Boldin SF 33 1.67 12.7 191.0
93 34 WR Golden Tate DET 26 1.70 12.7 190.5
94 35 WR Julian Edelman NE 28 1.13 13.5 189.0
95 36 WR Jeremy Maclin PHI 26 1.44 13.1 196.0
96 37 WR DeAndre Hopkins HOU 22 1.79 12.6 188.5
97 11 TE Zach Ertz PHI 23 0.09 11.7 175.0
98 38 RB Lance Dunbar DAL 24 2.28 10.1 131.0
99 39 RB Stevan Ridley NE 25 2.17 10.2 133.0
100 38 WR Cecil Shorts JAC 26 1.16 13.5 175.0
101 39 WR Eric Decker NYJ 27 2.12 12.1 181.5
102 40 WR Rueben Randle NYG 23 1.86 12.5 187.0
103 13 QB Tony Romo DAL 34 0.34 23.1 346.2
104 41 WR Mike Evans TB 21 1.44 13.1 196.0
105 42 WR Justin Hunter TEN 23 2.52 11.5 161.5
106 43 WR Terrance Williams DAL 24 3.16 10.6 159.5
107 44 WR Danny Amendola NE 28 1.52 13.0 142.5
108 40 RB Maurice Jones-Drew OAK 29 2.26 10.1 151.5
109 41 RB Devonta Freeman ATL 22 2.62 9.6 144.0
110 42 RB Andre Williams NYG 22 4.36 7.1 107.0
111 14 QB Ben Roethlisberger PIT 32 1.56 20.4 305.8
112 43 RB Khiry Robinson NO 24 3.56 8.3 124.0
113 12 TE Charles Clay MIA 25 0.00 11.5 173.0
114 44 RB Darren McFadden OAK 27 2.51 9.8 117.0
115 45 WR Kelvin Benjamin CAR 23 2.10 12.1 182.0
116 15 QB Russell Wilson SEA 23 1.34 20.7 310.4
117 45 RB Carlos Hyde SF 22 5.96 4.9 73.0
118 46 RB Christine Michael SEA 23 5.80 5.1 76.5
119 16 QB Philip Rivers SD 32 0.99 21.2 318.0
120 46 WR Tavon Austin STL 23 2.17 12.0 180.5
121 47 WR Greg Jennings MIN 30 3.46 10.2 153.0
122 13 TE Martellus Bennett CHI 27 1.04 10.1 151.0
123 14 TE Delanie Walker TEN 30 1.44 9.5 142.5
124 17 QB Ryan Tannehill MIA 26 1.81 20.0 300.5
125 47 RB Dexter McCluster TEN 26 3.32 8.6 120.5
126 48 RB Jonathan Stewart CAR 27 3.29 8.7 112.5
127 48 WR Dwayne Bowe KC 29 2.07 12.2 182.5
128 49 WR Kenny Britt STL 25 3.12 10.7 139.0
129 50 WR Markus Wheaton PIT 23 2.71 11.3 169.0
130 49 RB James White NE 22 4.12 7.5 112.0
131 50 RB Mike Tolbert CAR 28 4.12 7.5 112.0
132 18 QB Andy Dalton CIN 26 2.04 19.7 295.6
133 15 TE Ladarius Green SD 24 2.22 8.4 126.0
134 16 TE Antonio Gates SD 34 1.08 10.0 150.0
135 51 WR Jordan Matthews PHI 21 4.10 9.3 139.5
136 52 WR Doug Baldwin SEA 25 2.88 11.0 165.5
137 53 WR Kenny Stills NO 22 3.09 10.7 161.0
138 54 WR Jarrett Boykin GB 24 3.58 10.0 150.5
139 51 RB DeAngelo Williams CAR 31 3.11 8.9 133.5
140 52 RB Charles Sims TB 23 4.05 7.6 113.5
141 53 RB Knowshon Moreno MIA 27 3.07 9.0 125.5
142 17 TE Garrett Graham HOU 28 2.00 8.7 104.5
143 18 TE Dwayne Allen IND 24 2.05 8.6 129.5
144 55 WR Brian Hartline MIA 27 2.83 11.1 166.5
145 54 RB Chris Ivory NYJ 26 5.22 5.9 71.0
146 55 RB Roy Helu WAS 25 4.31 7.2 108.0
147 56 RB Ronnie Hillman DEN 22 5.80 5.1 76.5
148 57 RB Mark Ingram NO 24 4.68 6.7 73.5
149 19 QB Carson Palmer ARI 34 2.06 19.7 295.2
150 19 TE Heath Miller PIT 31 0.47 10.9 163.0

Top 15

Peterson – As I have stated a time or two this summer, the marriage between new OC Norv Turner and the freakiest running back in recent memory is a fascinating one, even for a back entering his age-29 season. “All Day” should be in line for a career high in receiving, which only makes him more attractive considering he has rushed for at least 1,266 yards and 10 touchdowns (his totals last year) in all but one season.

Forte – There’s not much to dislike about Forte, who led the league in red-zone touches last year. Given the likelihood that he’ll push 70 catches again and the fact has no discernable vulture to steal goal-line scores from him anymore, the 28-year-old could easily lead all backs in scoring.

McCoy – Perhaps the most elusive back in the game, McCoy may be also be the scariest matchup during the fantasy playoffs. While Darren Sproles isn’t exactly a threat to his workload, the reason he sits below AP and Forte is because the ex-Saint will probably steal just enough touches to keep him from topping the list.

Charles – As long as Charles plays, he will produce (right, Todd Haley?). However, it is going to be a tall order for the best back in fantasy from a season ago to duplicate his numbers from last year against the NFC West and AFC East behind an offensive line that lost a lot of talent in free agency.

Calvin Johnson – It is a scary thought that “Megatron” could be primed for his best fantasy season yet considering defenses will now have to account for other receivers besides him. He has strong competition for the top spot at his position to be sure and a sometimes-balky knee, but few players strike fear into opposing fantasy owners more than Johnson.

Demaryius Thomas – Decker’s departure to the Jets means Manning has one fewer red-zone mouth to feed in Denver. Thomas probably has the most challenging schedule of all the elite receivers, but he also has the best quarterback in the game throwing him the ball.

Graham – No other player offers the weekly advantage Graham does at tight end, as indicated by his “value” above. However, he falls to the middle of the first round on the list because he plays a position that usually requires only one starter. (If this explanation isn’t clear, imagine what his value would be in a league that required two starters at tight end…)

Bryant – The case could easily be made that Bryant will need to post 1,500 yards and 15 TDs if the Cowboys have any hope of winning a handful of the shootouts they figure to be involved in this season. One problem: if Romo’s back doesn’t hold up, it is Brandon Weeden to the rescue.

Lacy – If Lacy could promise his owners a full 16 games, he would belong in the mix with the top four running backs. With that said, there is potential for a letdown here since there is reason to question his durability (going back to college) and the fact the Packers’ offense is still built around Rodgers.

Ball – While his early August appendectomy isn’t exactly cause for long-term concern, it is enough reason to believe he might get off to a slow start. Although Ronnie Hillman has been drawing rave reviews in camp, if Ball somehow proves he is in game-ready shape before the start of the season, don’t hesitate to snap him up earlier than this; Denver is all-in for this season and didn’t just decide to ignore the running back position because it has Manning.

Bernard – The first of many all-purpose backs that are dynamic threats in between the 20s whose upside will be capped somewhat because they will either get vultured at the goal line or spelled on a regular basis by a power back. Still, as one of a few players capable of pushing 70 receptions and 300 touches, he warrants a pick near the turn. (Think of him as the new pre-2013 Forte in fantasy.)

Manning – While Decker’s departure might be good for Demaryius Thomas’ fantasy upside, it robs Manning of one very good red-zone threat against a very difficult schedule. While any Manning-led team will do most of their damage through the air, it is unreasonable to think he will push 5,000-plus yards AND 50 touchdowns again this year.

Jones – The No. 1 receiver in fantasy at the time of his season-ending injury last season, Jones won’t have the benefit of being the only healthy stud at his position on his team this time around. His twice-repaired foot is the main reason he is out of the first-round mix, but the risk here may very well be worth the reward considering he belongs in the conversation with Johnson, Bryant and Demaryius Thomas.

Marshall – As Cutler’s favorite target in HC Marc Trestman’s offense, the only significant downside to Marshall is that he will have some down games because Jeffery has emerged as such a dominant force.

Green – The Bengals’ most dynamic playmaker should be in the first-round mix based on talent, but he carries a bit of risk since new OC Hue Jackson figures to dial down the high number of pass plays Cincinnati called under former play-caller Jay Gruden. His fantasy playoff schedule is also another downer as Cleveland (Joe Haden) and Denver (Aqib Talib) await.

16-50

Once we get out of the top 15, we get into a group of potentially-elite players that carry at least one potentially serious question mark.

Murray – Apparently, all it took was one 14-game season from Murray to get owners all excited about Murray, who has missed 11 games over his first three seasons. There is little doubt he will be productive when he is on the field, but his upright running style does not do him any favors in that regard.

Foster – Few owners would be all that concerned about Foster were it not for the fact that he is returning from season-ending back surgery and now dealing with what is thought to be a recurring hamstring injury. However, it could be argued that nobody outside the top 15 could provide a bigger payoff to a risk-taking owner than Foster…or provide more weekly concern.

Le’Veon Bell – The second-year back lost a bit of luster the day the Steelers added LeGarrette Blount to the backfield, although the former Patriot really doesn’t do anything better on the football field better than Bell. Still, expect Blount to steal 5-8 carries per game, which should be enough to cap Bell’s fantasy ceiling.

Lynch – America’s fascination with the next big thing (Christine Michael) has actually caused “Beast Mode” to go a bit underappreciated. With that said, if Michael steals even 50 carries over the course of the season from Lynch, he goes from a pretty solid mid-range RB1 to a low-end one.

Nelson – Although he enjoyed his best statistical season in 2011, Nelson may have been at his best last season, consistently delivering double-digit fantasy totals despite being without good buddy Rodgers for half the season. With James Jones gone and Rodgers unlikely to miss such significant time again in 2014, he’s a good bet to improve on last season’s numbers (1,314 yards and eight TDs).

Brown – It could be argued that no receiver in PPR formats was as consistent as Brown, who posted double-digit fantasy totals in every week last season. While no one should question his ability to get open, owners do have a right to question whether or not he can repeat his 66.7-percent catch rate or six touchdowns of 30-plus yards.

Stacy – As the centerpiece of a St. Louis offense that improved its offensive line, Stacy would seem to deserve a higher ranking. However, I find it difficult to throw all my support behind him because of his schedule and the fact that his best asset at this point is dependability; backups Benny Cunningham and Tre Mason are more explosive.

Bush – The emergence of Joique Bell makes Bush slightly less attractive than he was at this time last year, but not so much than he can’t be a very low-end RB1 or top-notch RB2. He’s essentially an older Gio Bernard with more durability questions and less opportunity to approach 300 touches.

Gerhart – Stuck behind Peterson for his entire pro career, Gerhart falls into the one situation that probably gives him the best shot at a massive workload. There may not be a lot of sizzle (elusiveness) to his game to get fantasy owners excited, but the steak (volume) he figures to provide should make him a consistent RB2.

Ellington – Despite HC Bruce Arians’ assertions that he is a “bellcow”, it just doesn’t seem all that likely that he’ll go from a player that didn’t receive more than 15 carries in any game last year to a back that consistently gets 20. With that said, Ellington probably doesn’t need much more than 250 touches to push 1,500 total yards.

White – The 32-year-old White missed games for the first time in his nine-year career and was dogged by a high ankle sprain and hamstring pull throughout the first two months, but proved he had plenty left in the tank when he finally got healthy. With the Falcons’ defense still a big question mark, it should come as no surprise if he returns to his 90-catch, 1,300-yard ways.

Jeffery – About the only thing keeping Jeffery from ranking inside the top 15 is the fact that his consistency may suffer since Cutler leans a bit more on Marshall. Still, it’s a small knock for a player that posted a pair of 200-yard receiving games a season ago and showed the ability to almost singlehandedly win fantasy weeks by himself on a few occasions.

Spiller – Plagued by an early ankle injury, Spiller really could never get on track in OC Nathaniel Hackett’s up-tempo offense. Although he burned a lot of owners who spent a first-round pick on the player Hackett claimed he would run until “he threw up”, Spiller has plenty of motivation (contract year) and a clean bill of health behind an underrated offensive line in a run-heavy attack.

Brees – The Saints may be committed to running the ball more often this season, but Brees hasn’t finished with fewer than 5,000 yards passing or 39 touchdowns in any of his last three seasons and now has a new toy in Cooks. Although he might fall a bit off the lofty standards he has set recently, HC Sean Payton’s aggressiveness figures to make him a very safe bet to be a top-three quarterback yet again.

Rodgers – While it seems unlikely the Packers will meet their stated goal of 75 plays per game, it bodes well for Rodgers that HC Mike McCarthy wants his team to pick up the pace. Despite missing nearly half the season last year, Rodgers isn’t exactly a health risk and makes the game look as easy as any quarterback in the game today.

Cobb – The early reports coming out of camp regarding Cobb are reason for concern for a player coming off a broken leg in 2013. With that said, the fourth-year wideout was on pace for 100 catches before his injury and could lead the league in catches if he can rediscover his pre-injury form.

Morris – The unquestioned starter in Washington, Morris should go about a round higher in standard leagues. Although he has proven that he can catch the ball, new HC Jay Gruden is under the belief that he lacks “natural hands”. At any rate, Morris is a strong bet to come close to the 276 carries he managed a season ago and has significant touchdown-scoring upside in an offense that should be much-improved in 2014.

Sankey – The Titans may be making the rookie work really hard to earn the top spot on the depth chart, but Shonn Greene is a poor bet to keep the job or stay healthy for very long. Tennessee has one of the best offensive lines in football, so Sankey should be a solid RB2 despite the fact Greene may steal goal-line work from him in the early going.

Gronkowski – If only the Patriots’ tight end was a surefire bet to play even 12 games, he would warrant an early second-round pick. However, most fantasy owners can’t afford to take that chance in the first 30 picks of a draft, which is the only reason why he finds himself on the outside looking in.

Cruz – After beginning the season with a three-score effort, Cruz visited the end zone only one more time the rest of the season as Eli Manning became a turnover machine and the offensive line fell apart. Although the line may not be markedly better in 2014, new OC Ben McAdoo’s West Coast offense should be perfect for the lightning-quick Cruz; 100 receptions is not out of the question.

Fitzgerald – The end of Fitzgerald’s reign as Arizona’s top receiver may be coming soon, but his ability to score 10 times and post 82 catches for 954 yards despite being hampered by a hamstring injury proves he is still more than capable of serving as a fantasy top-end WR2 or low-end WR1. He’ll continue to see more action out of the slot, where he poses significant mismatch potential.

Martin – Perhaps no back’s workload has been discussed more this offseason than Martin, who missed 10 games last year with a torn labrum. While the amount of talent in the Bucs’ backfield and likely drop in touches is a small concern for his fantasy outlook, the bigger issue may end up being an offensive line that could potentially get manhandled.

Garcon – It is entirely possible that Garcon’s production will fall off due to the addition of DeSean Jackson and the emergence of Reed, but it is also just as likely that whatever targets and receptions he loses will be made up for by more visits to the end zone.

Julius Thomas – There is no doubt that “Orange Julius” will have a tougher road to fantasy stardom this year than he did during his breakout 2013 campaign. Likewise, there is little doubt that Decker’s departure to New York frees up a lot more red-zone opportunities for a player who scored on eight of his 14 catches inside the 20 last season.

Welker – The “slot machine” was something of a red-zone revelation last season before two concussions slowed the 50-555-9 line he recorded through the first half of 2013. Although the chances of another concussion should concern fantasy owners, it is impossible to ignore just how much Welker can dominate on a regular basis in PPR formats.

Andre Johnson – After sitting out most of the offseason while deciding whether or not he wanted to continue playing in Houston, Johnson quickly suffered a hamstring injury early in camp. As great as Johnson is, he is a potentially unhappy 33-year-old receiver depending on Ryan Fitzpatrick to keep his fantasy stock afloat; in other words, his arrow is pointing down.

Patterson – On the other end of the spectrum is Patterson, who became a fantasy playoff darling late last season after former OC Bill Musgrave decided to let the kid play. Turner, the new play-caller, wasted no time upon his arrival to start diagramming plays for the second-year stud and, as a result, the only question will be how quickly he can adjust to being the focus of defensive coordinators on passing downs.

Floyd – It’s not hard to build a case that Floyd will become the most feared receiver in Arizona by season’s end – if he’s not there already – and put up numbers similar to those posted by Alshon Jeffery last year. Like Jeffery, however, his consistency may be a bit hit-or-miss because a healthy Fitzgerald figures to remain Palmer’s go-to receiver for at least one more season.

Allen – The 2013 third-round pick took advantage of a number of injuries in San Diego as a rookie and went from the Chargers No. 4 receiver in September to Rivers’ go-to guy in October. While his figures to be plenty productive again in his second season, perhaps no top-flight faces a more difficult schedule than Allen.

Vincent Jackson – The senior member of “The Dunkaneers”, Jackson continued to post solid WR2 numbers last season despite the fact that he had relatively little help around him. Mike Evans’ arrival will probably clip his numbers just a bit, but few receivers present the physical mismatch that Jackson does at 6-5 and 230 pounds.

Torrey Smith – As the unquestioned top receiver in Baltimore and playing in the same role that made stars out of Andre Johnson and Rod Smith in new OC Gary Kubiak’s offense, Torrey Smith is a solid bet to set career highs in receptions and yards while also possibly matching the eight touchdowns he scored in 2012.

Luck – The Manning-Brees-Rodgers trio is waiting for a fourth quarterback to join the fraternity and it is hard not to like Luck, who has a ridiculous amount of receiving talent at his disposal. The only question is whether or not second-year OC Pep Hamilton will truly embrace his newfound “score-first” mentality this year as opposed to stubbornly sticking with the run game like he did as a rookie play-caller in 2013.

Stafford – Although his owners last season got burned, Stafford’s inability to recapture his 2011 fantasy form can be blamed to a large degree on bad mechanics and the lack of another receiver to take coverage away from Calvin Johnson. While Eric Ebron shouldn’t be expected to have a significant rookie-year impact, Stafford should reap the benefits of having Golden Tate as his second option.

Hilton – Assuming the Colts stick to using a high percentage of two tight end personnel and don’t treat Hilton as strictly a slot receiver anymore, the sky is the limit for the third-year product from Florida International. If he becomes a full-time player, the week-to-week inconsistency that has dogged Hilton should become a thing of the past.

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Doug Orth has written for FF Today since 2006 and has been featured in USA Today’s Fantasy Football Preview magazine since 2010. He has hosted USA Today’s hour-long, pre-kickoff fantasy football internet chat every Sunday over the past two seasons and appears as a guest analyst before and during the season on Sirius XM’s “Fantasy Drive” as well as 106.7 The Fan (WJFK – Washington, D.C). Doug is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.