With depth charts still in flux and training camp more than a month away, these rankings are written in the most erasable of pencil. Players will shoot both up and down my draft board as the summer progresses, and as such I will do my best to update the rankings every couple of weeks. I will also have more detailed write-ups on every player as the season draws nearer.
Even though the rankings will change, there are some common themes that will remain throughout the entire draft season.
The first is how I arrive at these 150. The first 100 players are more or less all ranked on projections. These are the players that will make up fantasy starting lineups, so their likely outcome is much more important than their potential outcome on draft day.
As the rankings move into the reserve rounds, the rankings will begin to focus much more on upside.
For example, while I project Mark Ingram to have a better statistical season than Christine Michael, Ingram is the definition of replacement level. There will be plenty of people like him available on the waiver wire all season long, and that means there is no reason to stash him on my bench.
Michael, on the other hand, does not project to have a lot of value as the backup to Marshawn Lynch, but he would be an every-week starter if Lynch were to go down. Late-round, upside players like Michael win fantasy leagues, and I want as many of them as possible on my roster.
The relative lack of value I place on quarterbacks will also remain. I have no problem with Peyton Manning and Drew Brees in the third round, but the difference between their production and the production of the quarterbacks available in the tenth round is not large enough to justify taking Manning or Brees in the first.
Finally, throughout my rankings there will be several players from one position grouped together. These groupings represent tiers, and each player in the tier represents more or less the same level of value. Tiering players like this is very helpful during live drafts because it allows owners to easily identify which positions they can wait on and which positions they need to snap up quickly.
For instance, if all six running backs in a given tier are still available at a pick, an owner can pass on a running back and likely land one of similar value in the next round. Conversely, if only one running back from a given tier is left, the owner needs to snap up that player immediately because it is unlikely a player of his value will come back in the next round.
1. LeSean McCoy – Focal point of run-first offense with exceptional offensive line.
2. Matt Forte – Three-down back on one of the most explosive offenses in the league.
3. Jamaal Charles – Touchdowns will regress, but everything else is repeatable.
4. Adrian Peterson – Clear No. 1 overall upside, but durability a concern at 29.
5. Eddie Lacy – Averaged .2 more yards per carry with Rodgers under center in 2013.
6. Jimmy Graham – Far and away most dominant player at any position.
7. Calvin Johnson – Still No. 1, but Dez and Demaryius are nipping at his heels.
8. Demaryius Thomas – Even higher touchdown ceiling with Decker out of the picture.
9. Dez Bryant – Could see 30% of the targets in a high-volume passing offense.
10. DeMarco Murray – No. 1 overall back upside. Offensive line should be stellar.
11. Le’Veon Bell – Handled 71% of Pittsburgh’s carries in the games he played.
12. Julio Jones – Was on 131-1856 pace before the injury last season.
13. Montee Ball – Passing game role will be the difference between top-12 and top-5.
14. Marshawn Lynch – Has upside, but the wear and tear is too scary to overlook.
15. A.J. Green – Lower volume means he will need to improve efficiency to stay top-5.
16. Brandon Marshall – Still the primary red-zone threat in a high-octane offense.
17. Jordy Nelson – 94-1559-12 pace in nine games with Rodgers last season.
18. Alshon Jeffery – Needs to continue consistency he developed down the stretch.
19. Arian Foster – Health concerns only thing keeping him out of first round.
20. Giovani Bernard – Makes up for few carries with heavy involvement in pass game.
21. Zac Stacy – 332 carry pace over the final 12 games of 2013.
22. Peyton Manning – Too valuable to pass up in the third round.
23. Drew Brees – Has been a top-two fantasy quarterback five of the last six seasons.
24. Julius Thomas – Touchdown reliant, but not be a problem with Decker gone.
25. Andre Ellington – Averaged 13.5 touches over his final eight games last season.
26. Randall Cobb – Last season’s on pace numbers mirrored 2012 breakout.
27. Antonio Brown – Still a high-volume target, but touchdown numbers likely regress.
28. Rob Gronkowski – Injury concerns are the only reason he is this far down.
29. C.J. Spiller – Still averaged 4.6 YPC despite being misused on a bad ankle.
30. Roddy White – In line for a big bounce-back in a pass-heavy offense.
31. Vincent Jackson – May lose targets, but better quarterback play should negate.
32. Rashad Jennings – Underrated back that will carry load behind an improved OL.
33. Reggie Bush – Will lose carries, but has 80-catch upside in OC Lombardi’s offense.
34. Aaron Rodgers – Lack of volume puts him just a step below Manning and Brees.
35. Keenan Allen – Targets dried up some as Chargers became more run oriented.
36. Larry Fitzgerald – Should benefit from Arizona’s offense taking a step forward.
37. Pierre Garcon – No reason to worry about DeSean Jackson siphoning targets.
38. Victor Cruz – Could flourish in the Randall Cobb role.
39. Alfred Morris – Will lose some carries with Jay Gruden at the helm.
40. Toby Gerhart – Not a special runner, but will get a ton of touches.
41. Michael Floyd – Tearing it up at OTAs. Breakout candidate.
42. Percy Harvin – Finally healthy, he will be used all over the field.
43. Michael Crabtree – Targeted on 27% of Kaepernick’s throws down the stretch.
44. Greg Olsen – Only reliable pass catcher on the roster.
45. Ryan Mathews – Carry total should fall with Donald Brown in town.
46. Shane Vereen – Played 47% of Patriots offensive snaps when healthy.
47. Doug Martin – 3.9 career yards per carry average without 251 yard game.
48. Frank Gore – Faltered down the stretch. Talent waiting in the wings.
49. Bishop Sankey – Not a great talent but will have great opportunity.
50. Matt Ryan – Could lead the league in pass attempts in an offense full of weapons.
51. Marques Colston – Was back to his old self down the stretch last season.
52. Wes Welker – Health is a concern. Touchdown numbers sure to regress.
53. Andre Johnson – If he is in Houston, quarterback concerns sink his fantasy value.
54. Golden Tate – Should set a career high in targets in a pass-heavy offense.
55. Trent Richardson – 9.5 YPR last season shows he is still talented in open field.
56. Pierre Thomas – Sproles departure means his passing game role secure.
57. Joique Bell – Will be more involved in offense, but touchdowns a bit fluky.
58. Torrey Smith – Running a larger variety of routes in new offense.
59. Eric Decker – Not a true No. 1, but still a dangerous red-zone threat.
60. Reggie Wayne – Still a target monster last season, health is the only concern.
61. Andrew Luck – Rushing ability underrated – 632-9 through first two seasons.
62. Nick Foles – Third best fantasy point per game quarterback last season.
63. Matthew Stafford – New offense should help him become more efficient.
64. Tony Romo – A good bet to eclipse 650 pass attempts this season.
65. Steven Jackson – Value will be saved by touchdown opportunities.
66. Knowshon Moreno – Needs to get in shape quickly to hold off Lamar Miller.
67. Fred Jackson – Bryce Brown could steal some carries, but will keep goal line role.
68. Ray Rice – Could fall even further depending on the length of his suspension.
69. Mike Wallace – Will be better utilized by new OC Bill Lazor.
70. Cam Newton – Better option in four-point passing-touchdown leagues.
71. Robert Griffin – Reportedly back to his old self during OTAs.
72. Jay Cutler – Has top-five upside, but recent injury history is concerning.
73. Cecil Shorts – Should remain a garbage time accumulator.
74. Dwayne Bowe – 13.3 YPR down the stretch very close to career numbers.
75. DeSean Jackson – Catch rate and touchdown numbers will regress.
76. Rueben Randle – Good bet to lead the Giants in touchdown receptions.
77. Jason Witten – Safe bet to get at least 110 targets for the seventh straight season.
78. Dennis Pitta – Should see an expanded role in new OC Kubiak’s offense.
79. Jordan Cameron – No. 1 option, but offense could throw 200 fewer times.
80. Chris Ivory – He leads the Jets in rushing attempts and should get goal line work.
81. Chris Johnson – Initially change of pace, but will lead if/when Ivory goes down.
82. Danny Woodhead – Donald Brown could steal some passing down work.
83. Stevan Ridley – Huge bounce-back candidate with Blount out of town.
84. Julian Edelman – Should lose around 50 targets with Gronk and Amendola healthy.
85. Terrance Williams – Not the best talent, but huge opportunity.
86. Kendall Wright – Touchdowns will never be there. A better play in PPR formats.
87. Jordan Reed – Injury concern the only reason he is this low. Top-five upside.
88. T.Y. Hilton – Should slip back into early 2013 role with Nicks in town.
89. Vernon Davis – Only 16.5% of the targets after Crabtree returned from injury.
90. Anquan Boldin – Will lose some work to Stevie Johnson.
91. Brian Hartline – Non-zero chance Hartline puts in a Riley Cooper season.
92. James Jones – Hard to trust as No. 1 option in muddled wide receiver corps.
93. Jeremy Hill – Double-digit touchdown upside if he wins “power back” role.
94. Kenny Stills – Averaged 20 yards per reception with a 64% catch rate in 2013.
95. Ben Tate – He will not start 16 games this season.
96. Emmanuel Sanders – Does not have Decker’s touchdown upside.
97. Cordarrelle Patterson – Has to develop as a receiver, but upside is evident.
98. Aaron Dobson – Massive opportunity if his foot cooperates.
99. Marvin Jones – Touchdowns will obviously regress, but has nice role.
100. Jeremy Maclin – Could shoot up the rankings if he proves his health.
101. Lamar Miller – Made a great case to be the starter during OTAs.
102. Terrance West – Question of when, not if, he will take over for Ben Tate.
103. Kyle Rudolph – Red zone threat with a tight-end friendly coach.
104. Tom Brady – Has the upside, but was not the same quarterback last season.
105. Colin Kaepernick – Massive upside if the 49ers decide to open up the offense.
106. Russell Wilson – Same story as Kaepernick. Needs more opportunities to be a star.
107. Ben Roethlisberger – Up-tempo offense should lead to more scoring opportunities.
108. Maurice Jones-Drew – For whatever it is worth, he will win No. 1 RB job in Oakland.
109. Sammy Watkins – Bills will give him every chance to make plays in the open field.
110. Lance Dunbar – Has value now, but will become huge asset if DeMarco goes down.
111. Jarrett Boykin – Concerned Davante Adams could eat into his targets.
112. Rod Streater – Has cemented himself as the No. 2 option in Oakland.
113. DeAndre Hopkins – Offense will limit, but talented enough for #FreeNuk campaign.
114. Doug Baldwin – Good chance to recreate his solid 2013 season.
115. Justin Hunter – Breakout candidate if Tennessee finds consistent quarterback play.
116. Bernard Pierce – Lost in Rice’s season was his horrific 2.9 YPC average.
117. Devonta Freeman – Passing game factor now. Could supplant Jackson this season.
118. Charles Clay – May have reached his ceiling in 2013. Still a solid back-end TE1.
119. Heath Miller – Finally healthy, he will replace Cotchery as primary red-zone threat.
120. Brandin Cooks – Needs to show he can adjust to NFL, but could have big role.
121. Riley Cooper – Biggest regression candidate on the board.
122. Hakeem Nicks – Worth a flier just in case he regains top-ten talent form.
123. Tavon Austin – Could make the jump if Rams figure out how to use him.
124. Andrew Hawkins – Pint-sized playmaker should be given large role.
125. Markus Wheaton – Will be given the first shot to win No. 2 receiver job.
126. Mike Williams – Will not get volume, but should be a red zone target.
127. Zach Ertz – Going to be on the field a lot more in his second year.
128. Dwayne Allen – The number of weapons in Indianapolis limits his upside.
129. DeAngelo Williams – A healthy Jonathan Stewart makes both almost unusable.
130. Darren McFadden – Will be a change of pace back, but could get shot if MJD falters.
131. Charles Sims – Solid all-around back that will be a passing game factor immediately.
132. Danny Amendola – Injury concerns push him down the board, but upside is there.
133. Mike Evans – Huge touchdown upside, but will struggle for targets in run-heavy off.
134. Odell Beckham – Struggled against good competition in college, but has a role.
135. Ahmad Bradshaw – Neck injury a concern. Next in line if Richardson struggles.
136. Roy Helu – Could have bigger role in Gruden’s pass-happy offense.
137. Alex Smith – Rushing ability overlooked – 6th most rushing yards by QB in 2013.
138. Carson Palmer – Arizona’s offense should take a step forward this season.
139. Donald Brown – Next in line if Mathews suffers an injury.
140. Greg Jennings – 88-1018-8 pace in eight games with Matt Cassel last season.
141. Stepfan Taylor – Should beat out Jonathan Dwyer for short-yardage duties.
142. Jonathan Stewart – Reportedly healthy, but meaningless with DeAngelo around.
143. Christine Michael – No opportunity right now, but RB1 upside if Lynch goes down.
144. Ryan Tannehill – Chance Lazor can turn Tannehill into the next Nick Foles.
145. Jordan Matthews – Will play right away. Little talent ahead of him on depth chart.
146. Philip Rivers – Last season’s numbers deceiving. They will run more this season.
147. C.J. Anderson – Should win No. 2 running back duties in Denver.
148. David Wilson – Could be a difference maker if healthy and properly utilized.
149. Johnny Manziel – Rushing potential gives him the most upside of any rookie QB.
150. Darren Sproles – Lost a step last season, but Kelly could revitalize him.
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