Footballguys has more than 10 staff members ranking the players for your dynasty leagues. One of the biggest strengths of our staff is that we have a diverse group of thinkers who approach fantasy football from every conceivable angle and background and apply their experience and knowledge to the task in their own unique way. This leads to a lot of diversity in rankings, which in turn leads to a diversity of perspectives about players' futures and how to evaluate them.
We asked our dynasty rankers to explain their metholodogy in creating dynasty rankings and give their reasons for some of their rankings that fall far away from the norm. Here are the results:
I have always believed that dynasty rankings are more art than science. There is simply no way you can come up with a formula to rank players over a period of a few years. Furthermore, every position requires a different methodology, largely because a player's age significantly affects each position differently. Obviously things like talent, opportunity, surrounding talent, and the stability and philosophy of the coaching staff apply to all positions, but age and shelf life vary greatly among positions.
In my opinion, talent is far and away the most important factor in dynasty rankings. I would much rather take a chance on talent than pass on it for a player with a better opportunity or a middling talent that has been productive in the past. I generally will be much more patient with a young, talented player simply because a talented player with upside that reaches his potential is much more valuable than other players that reach their potential. The bottom line to me is that talented players with upside can turn into the studs and studs win championships.
It is difficult to explain philosophy in great detail in a collaborative article because of space limitations. I could easily write five pages on age alone. Briefly, in terms of differentiating between positions, I am generally much more patient with young wide receivers than young players at any other position. Wide receivers often take longer to develop than other positions for several reasons, such as learning how to run routes, adjusting to tougher competition, and learning a more complex offense. I have a similar philosophy for tight ends, but to a lesser degree. I am less likely to be patient with a young running back unless he is talented and stuck playing behind a great player. Quarterback is the one position where age is a low priority. I have no reservations ranking a quarterback in his mid-30s in the top ten or even higher in some instances.
I have been playing in dynasty leagues for almost 15 years now. I've generally had the attitude that youth is more valuable than proven veterans, but there's certainly a fine line within that context. When valuing players for trade value and original drafts, I look for a combination of youth and blue chip talent. You must try hard to look beyond one season or one half season wonders who might have overachieved based on their situation only.
For quarterbacks, the youth portion is often overstated in my opinion, especially since many quarterbacks and star well into their 30s. You should be careful to overvalue quarterbacks who have only starred in a single season, as they often find themselves brought down a notch or three in their following seasons. Defenses sometimes get a better feel for how to slow down a quarterback. This is one position where I look for solid veterans.
Running backs is an area where youth is served. I worry less about the skill set than about the situation, keeping the true stud blue chip players always at the top of my mind. No matter how talented a running back is, it's highly doubtful they will play a valuable role on your roster after the age of 30. Wide receivers can more frequently star 2-3 seasons longer than a RB, but you must be more patient with them. As for tight ends, I love to find guys who have an excellent quarterback without too many great wide receivers.
How I build my Dynasty rankings is a process, that’s for sure. I use some math and numbers, but I also rely on my gut, too. For example, I use a big spreadsheet for all the players and give a 3-4 year outlook where I weight Year 1 more than Year 2, Year 2 more than Year 3, and Year 3 more than Year 4. I look at all the major factors – talent, opportunity, supporting cast, contract concerns, injury history – and try and put a number on both “talent” and “opportunity” over that four year period. That begs several questions – why just four years, and why the present over the future? Those are great questions, and it is part of the reason we are writing this piece. Year 1 matters most because it impacts your Dynasty (or Keeper) team the most right away. Even if a prospect has future value, present value matters more today since once today is done, you cannot ever recoup that value. To say it another way, future value is unrealized potential. Sure a player may become the next Aaron Rodgers, Adrian Peterson or Calvin Johnson, but what are those odds, and how long do you have to wait for that to happen? More importantly, how much time are you willing to invest in that player to wait for that to happen – if it ever happens at all?
With so many things that can happen to not just an individual player in the space of a few years, but also to his surroundings (either signing with a new team, getting a new coach, or new players around him) – looking more than 3-4 years out to predict performance is almost impossible. The only thing that you can predict in 3-4 years is that the player himself will age accordingly, so that is a factor to the evaluation process, but I do not weigh it nearly as heavily as some others who do Dynasty rankings. Surely I would want a player in his early 20s over a player over 30 if all other factors are equal, but I use age as more of a tiebreaker than as a big metric for Dynasty rankings. An older veteran who has proven his worth in the NFL has intrinsic value over an unproven prospect that allegedly has big upside. I am not saying that you shouldn’t hold a player with potential, not at all. I think you absolutely should. What I am saying is that you need balance on your Dynasty fantasy team, and I usually like to use what I call the “one-third rule”. Here you give one-third of your roster to players that you’re your starters today, one-third for prospects, and one-third for backups for this season. For me, that represents a good mixture of future vs. present. Too much prospecting will tank your team in a hurry, while no prospecting or investing in rookies or younger players with upside will leave your team barren before you know it.
The good news for me is it is like having multiple sources to compare against one another, and that makes me think about which answer is either more correct, or (usually) is the best choice somewhere in the middle? Using some formulas and stats to rank players gives me a starting point to compare against my “from the gut” list. Then I can take both of those lists and merge the two, deciding all by myself where I would rank players against one another. After all that is done, I will look at some other rankings and sources to see if I missed anyone I should have accounted for, or if I am way off from many other people on a particular player. At that point, I have to make one of two decisions: Do I bring my rankings more in line with the consensus, or am I happy with my counter-ranking and can I make a strong case to explain and defend that non-standard ranking? With either answer, I know my rankings have improved.
My rankings are never, ever done. They constantly evolve over time. That said, I try not to grossly overreact to recent news. Some news cannot be overlooked (such as a major injury or a terrible off-the-field issue), but for the most part I will take a few games for a great or a terrible performance to balance out. I try and temper my reaction just a little before I declare a huge breakout or a bust during the season, so waiting 2-4 weeks to alter rankings makes the most sense for me.
I would define my methodology as one that starts in April with historical data and then is molded by evaluations and extenuating circumstances throughout the year. I start with a spreadsheet that is based on historcial career arc of each position. I plug in each player's performance to this point in their career and the spreadsheet spits out how many fantasy points that player should score for the next five seasons of their career.
*This is probably a good point to mention that I use the next five years as the window for a quarterback, four for receivers and tight ends, and three for a running backs.*
Anyway, that original number computed is altered before my first set of rankings to reflect changes in circumstances, changes in role, or changes in teams. I generally try to limit the type of information that I let affect my rankings this early in the summer because it's difficult to sift through team-talk. Most of my changes at this point are based on facts or opinions that I really trust.
For rookies, this obviously doesn't work because they have no past performance. I lean heavily on the predraft evaluations of some of our experts here at Footballguys when it comes to a player's skill level. Then once they're drafted I combine that skill evaluation with the opportunity the team that has drafted them should present. To put them in the spreadsheet with a numerical value, I look at players from the past with similar skill and opportunity and use the numbers from early in their career as a starting point.
When it comes to ranking in Dynasty formats there are so many things that come into play such as age, injury, position, situation, coaching changes, and who that team has drafted this year and in past years. I like to meet somewhere in the middle and not over value younger players and undervalue the older players as it is about finding a steady balance of talent and age.
Another useful tool that I like to use when valuing my dynasty rankings is looking at the previous year's player stats and drawing my own conclusions on how things will play out going forward for that particular player. Often times players coming off of a bad year can also rebound the following and vice-versa with players coming off a good year and regress. A lot of times dynasty rankings come down to just taking a stance on a player and either believing in his ability or not.
For starters, the single most important philosophical underpinning behind my rankings is always that difference-makers win championships. Typically, to make the playoffs, you're going to need for your team to pass some certain VBD threshold. Once in the playoffs, the small sample sizes involved mean anything can (and probably will) happen, but even there, the more VBD your roster produces, the luckier you will find yourself to be. This means that when I'm ranking someone, youth, talent, and stability mean absolutely nothing if they aren't accompanied by difference-making potential. Additionally, each point of VBD is more valuable than the point before it- a 200 VBD season is worth more than a pair of 100 VBD seasons, which are in turn worth more than a quartet of 50 VBD seasons. Theoretically, it's possible to reach a level of VBD overkill where you already have more than you'd need, and you're best off shifting some of that VBD out of the current season and into future seasons. In practice, especially given the random nature of the fantasy playoffs, such situations will be exceedingly rare. These two beliefs (difference-makers win championships, and each point of VBD is more valuable than the point before) manifest themselves in the common rule of thumb that, in big trades, whoever winds up with the best player generally "wins". One difference maker, one big-time VBD monster, is worth more than a bunch of decent players who aren't going to get you any closer to that minimum VBD threshold. Obviously exceptions exist, but as a quick rule of thumb, it serves well.
So that's the bedrock foundation of my rankings. I want to acquire difference-makers at any costs, with the many solid-but-unspectacular players in the league serving only as placeholders, roster filler, or bargaining chips in pursuit of my goal. You'll find that I'm extremely uninterested in the guys who are reliable low-end TE1s or QB1s, simply because in practice they are nothing more than liabilities, guaranteed weaknesses against the teams that possess honest difference-makers at the position. You'll find that 90% of my outliers will be traced to this very simple, overriding belief. It's not that I fundamentally disagree with other rankers about who guys like Owen Daniels or Eli Manning are; instead, it's that I agree, I just disagree on how valuable that is. I feel that if I'm forced to start one of these players, I'm already playing from a position of weakness. I will only acquire a weak starter if I'm in a position of desperation, and even then, I will endeavor to acquire whichever weak starter I can get most cheaply. I'm not going to pay a premium to buy QB12 if QB14 is available for cheaper, because both guys are band-aids in the short term and liabilities in the long term.
In terms of team-building philosophy, I'm a big believer in trading short-term pain for long-term rewards. Psychology has repeatedly demonstrated that humans are terrible at balancing immediate costs against delayed gains. We have cognitive biases- flaws in our mental software- which make our immediate needs seem much more compelling than our future needs. This is something I always strive to be aware of in myself, something which I am constantly correcting for. Since most of the people I play against are also human beings, it's also something I strive to be constantly aware of in others. It is a faulty heuristic that I aim to exploit whenever possible. As such, you'll notice that players who figure to provide limited immediate returns will feature much higher in my rankings than in most, especially if I judge those players to potentially be some of those elusive "difference-makers" I'm always working to acquire.
At the beginning of last offseason, I retooled my entire approach to dynasty rankings and player valuation. I built a historical database at each skill position looking at trends, probability, and age decline. Finally, specific annual statistical projections did not make a ton of sense when putting together dynasty rankings and long-term value boards. All of this came together in the form of yet another excel sheet. My rankings are based upon projecting a player's floor and ceiling, compared to historical baselines for the position, for the upcoming three seasons. The other step involves weighing the value of each of those seasons as well as the future productive seasons based on positional shelf life. The ratio of seasonal values are discounted some the farther out in the future the values go to give additional value to younger players (accounting for market value) but not enough to completely cast off older, yet productive guys. All of that produces auction values for each season as well as a weighted overall number. When there are players in a tightly-formed tier, upside and productive years remaining break those ties.
Overall, this method pushes low-upside veterans down the board and high upside youngsters up the board compared to a majority of other rankings. Updating player values, creating an overall draft board, and evaluating absolute value for a dynasty trade are a breeze with this setup. As an overarching approach, I will take a stand on young, talented players more than most. The further down a depth chart a dynasty owner goes, the more upside is king. A microcosm of my team-building approach is encapsulated by my response to those wondering about the risk involved with young players busting – what if they do not bust?
Dynasty leagues are all about roster management and acquiring elite players. Most dynasty owners use a 2-4 year dynasty forecast, a dynasty window, to evaluate one player versus another. The longer the window, the more the owner likes younger players. These players offer great potential, but there is always the risk of busting.
I tend to gravitate toward a balanced approach. I like established starters, especially at the wide receiver and tight end positions, and look for value to fill out my bench. This is the roster management piece. Wherever I have an aging veteran, I like to have a high-upside player at the same position on my bench. When relying on a young, up-and-comer, I like to have a high-floor player as the reserve. For example, in a league with Peyton Manning as my quarterback, Ryan Tannehill makes a great QB2. On the flip side, if I have Robert Griffin III as my starter, a quarterback like Eli Manning provides a great balance. Also, one thing to always remember in dynasty leagues: the bottom one-third of your bench should be players with upside, ones you would feel comfortable starting if the right situation fell into place.
Elite players will provide a points-per-game advantage over the competition. For this reason, fantasy owners are encouraged to make quantity-for-quality trades to acquire elite players. Last year, in a PPR format, the top performer at each of the skill positions, outscored player 12 at the same position by five to six points per game. Having two or three elite players on a dynasty team gives a huge advantage to an owner.
I've been doing dynasty rankings for a long time, and let me tell you, there is no one size fits all approach. No fantasy player ever makes the same set of dynasty rankings twice, at least no honest one. One thing I always do is start every iteration of dynasty rankings from scratch. I don't want to be influenced by my previous set of rankings. Context is everything, and changes in what we know about a player can cause your view of him to do a 180, so there's no reason to stay attached to past rankings.
I generally look at things through a 3-5 year window, with emphasis on whether a player in the upslope, prime, or downslope of their expected career arcs to forecast value in future years. Current year value can make up 100% of a players dynasty value, and it can also be less than ten percent. It depends on where a player is at his career arc, how much he can contribute, and how scarce that contribution is at the moment.
Positional scarcity is also a big factor. I tend to downgrade quarterbacks in overall rankings because it is the easiest position to fix via trade. Running backs with any sort of potential are very difficult to find on the waiver wire, so even a glimmer may push a young third-string back up my dynasty rankings. Ceiling is very important to me in dynasty rankings. Players with a limited ceiling because of talent and opportunity will never rise too much or too quickly in my rankings because they tend to not make a difference when it comes making your team a playoff and championship unit.
Draft pedigree starts to mean less and less from the moment the players enter their first training camp, and by year three of a player's career, it might as well not exist. Another factor I consider is whether a player is being used correctly and in the amount they deserve. I will stubbornly keep a player of limited current use high in my rankings if I think he is being criminally underused by his team. Likewise, I won't bump a player up too much if I think his stay as a starter will be short because his team has overestimated his value.
The eye test is and always will be the biggest factor in my rankings. Talent creates opportunity. Once I see a player flash the "it factor", I won't back off until there is clear evidence that a player has lost "it", or that "it" was an illusion in hindsight. There is no one correct approach to dynasty rankings, and you should be able to learn something from every expert in this piece. Any set of rankings will change wildly based on league settings, or even just your roster composition and whether you are in a championship window or rebuild. Value is in the eye of the beholder, and perhaps that's why those of us that have been playing dynasty leagues for over a decade love them so much.
Adam Harstad Outliers
QB Eli Manning, NYG (Staff Avg: 13.9 / Harstad Ranking: 18)
Eli Manning has a lot of things going for him. He's a good quarterback with unshakeable job security. If I were ranking quarterbacks based on my confidence that they'd still be starting in five seasons, Eli Manning would rank very high on the list. He's also got some great weapons in the passing game, and he's an iron man who hasn't missed a game since he first earned the starting job in 2004. There's really only one problem with Eli Manning as a fantasy quarterback, and that's that he sucks as a fantasy quarterback. His year-end stats always look respectable because he never misses time, but that is deceiving: if you have a quarterback who misses time, you don't take a zero for those weeks. Instead, you start your backup and score some lower (but still respectable) point total. A better measure of quarterbacks than "total points" is "points per game", because it shows how much of a difference-maker a quarterback is when he's in your starting lineup. By that measure, Eli Manning has been terrible. He's only finished higher than 12th one time in the past seven years, meaning if Eli Manning's your starting quarterback, odds are good that you've got the worst starting quarterback in your league and you're giving up an advantage to every team you face. He's a fantasy backup, and unlike a lot of the other fantasy backups, he lacks the elite difference-maker upside I'm trying so desperately to acquire. Eli's a guy who is decent to own as an insurance policy, but if you're starting him more than once or twice a year, you've got problems. I'd much rather give those one or two starts a year to a guy like Ryan Tannehill, Josh Freeman, or Mike Vick- someone who won't perform much worse than Eli Manning when I'm forced to press him into service, but who has the potential to blow Eli Manning away if things break right.
RB Roy Helu, WAS (Staff Avg: 29.3 / Harstad Ranking: 39)
As everyone should know, the reason running backs are the most valuable commodities is positional scarcity; there are only so many good ones to go around, so the demand far outstrips the supply. This means that once we get past the top 25 or so, we're left picking the bones of deeply flawed players hoping to find a little bit of meat that someone else missed. By the mid-to-late 30s, I find that the most appealing prospects tend to be the backups in favorable situations, guys who are an injury away from major fantasy relevance. Some might call these guys the "handcuffs", but I don't believe in handcuffing unless my team is very shallow. I will just as gladly roster someone else's "handcuffs", and not just for the purposes of ransoming them to the other owner. Guys like Mikel LeShoure, Knile Davis, and Kendall Hunter have two paths to fantasy relevance. An injury to the starter ahead of them gives them immediate short-term relevance that lasts only until the starter returns. Often overlooked, though, is the potential for them to leave the team in coming seasons and earn a job elsewhere. Players like Chester Taylor and Lamont Jordan had more value in dynasty than simple handcuffs because things broke well for them in free agency. With that said, my high ranking of Helu is easy to explain: he performed well enough in 2011 for me to be confident in him if something happens to Morris, and he's young enough where there's still an outside possibility of him earning a job of his own at some point. Obviously Washington was comfortable enough with him that they didn't spend any free agency money or any draft picks higher than a 6th rounder at the position last season. He's a dice roll, but positional scarcity means you sometimes have to roll the dice at the position, and Helu seems like as decent of a gamble as most of the other traditional mid-range handcuffs.
WR Michael Crabtree, SF (Staff Avg: 27.1 / Harstad Ranking: 14)
Remember that part in my methodology where I'll gladly trade short-term pain for long-term rewards? That's Michael Crabtree in a nutshell. By the end of last season, I was convinced that Crabtree could be a major difference-maker in San Francisco. His injury doesn't change that belief. Achilles injuries are not as scary as they were a decade ago, as we've seen major advancements in surgical techniques, as well as some very impressive recent recoveries. In general, I have a lot of faith in the power of modern medicine. It's possible that Crabtree never returns to his pre-injury form, but if he does, then history will probably show that this was the last chance to acquire a cornerstone player for a fraction of his worth, mostly because people are focusing too much on the costs they face this season and not enough at the potential windfall they'll reap in 2014 and beyond. In fact, I think Crabtree shows a lot of similarities to the receiver I have ranked immediately after him, Tavon Austin. Both are players who are unlikely to provide any value this season- Crabtree because of injury, and Austin because rookies generally take a while to adapt to the pro game. Both players have a risk of never living up to the expectations people had of them - Crabtree because of the nature of his injury, and Austin because of the bust rate of top-10 draft picks. And yet both are players who I would argue deserve to be valued highly, because the payoff if they reach expectations is huge. I will gladly pass on a raft of decent players in my quest to acquire a potential difference-maker.
TE Owen Daniels, HOU (Staff Avg: 16.1 / Harstad Ranking: 25)
Owen Daniels has amassed 44 VBD in his entire career. That total is a little bit unfair, because he was in the midst of a true difference-making season in 2009 when he got injured (on pace for another 65 VBD). Still, that season was pretty demonstrably an outlier; for the rest of his career, Daniels has simply been a very consistent, reliable low-end TE1. As I mentioned in my methodology, I don't have much use for low-end TE1s. I especially don't have much use for them when they're on the wrong side of 30 and playing in an offense that appears to be in decline. I wouldn't be surprised to see Owen Daniels produce another couple of years of startable TE production, but I also think that you could get very nearly the same amount of production from a younger player with better upside for a fraction of the price. At this point, Owen Daniels is sort of the Eli Manning of tight ends, only with shorter expectations for his remaining career. It's a shame, because I love him as a player and have owned him for years in my leagues. I just don't love him as a fantasy asset anymore.
Steve Holloway Outliers
QB Chad Henne, JAX (Staff Avg: 40.9 / Holloway Ranking: 30)
Chad Henne's completion percentage reached a career low of 53.7% last year, almost six points below his career average. Even with that career low completion percentage, he continued to be more productive than Blaine Gabbert. Henne registered a 6.8 ypa, almost a yard higher than Gabbert's 6.0. Henne should benefit from the new coaching staff which shouldn’t give Gabbert a built-in advantage due to his high draft slot. I expect Henne to take advantage of this year’s fair competition during the off-season and win the starting job. His production over the 2013 season or lack thereof will determine if his starting opportunity only lasts through this season or beyond.
RB David Wilson, NYG (Staff Avg: 12.2 / Holloway Ranking: 17)
David Wilson fumbled early in 2012 and got in Coach Coughlin's dog house. He later made a lot of plays on special teams and wound up rushing for 358 yards, with a very nice 5.0 ypc in limited duty. Down the stretch, he got more opportunities in the base offense and had 43 carries in the last four games and rushed for 258 yards. Most are expecting him to take over the primary running back duties this year for the Giants, but that seems like quite a jump from the limited use he saw his rookie season. I think that he will be productive, but anticipate him sharing the backfield with Andre Brown this season.
WR Demaryius Thomas, DEN (Staff Avg: 6.8 / Holloway Ranking: 12)
The good news is that last year for the first time in his career, Demaryius Thomas played in all 16 games. He had a huge season catching 94 passes for 1,442 yards and 10 TDs. Peyton Manning looked often for Thomas, who led the team with 141 targets. Since the Broncos have added Wes Welker, I expect that Thomas' targets will be reduced somewhat. Another factor is the long-term consideration on what direction Denver will go once Peyton Manning retires? Manning enters 2013, his 15th season at the age of 37. I expect him to have one of his best seasons in 2013, but he will undoubtedly retire after another year or two. Meanwhile, with Denver having three very good wide receivers, Thomas might have had his career season for receptions, yardage and TDs last year. He is a talented player and will continue to be effective, but should have less targets and subsequently less opportunity for production in 2013.
TE Martellus Bennett, CHI (Staff Avg: 14.3 / Holloway Ranking: 21)
Martellus Bennett spent several seasons in Dallas and generally underperformed. Last year, he played as a one-year rental for the New York Giants and played well catching a career high 55 passes for 626 yards and 5 TDs. He parlayed that success into a four year $20.4 Million contract with $5.22 Million guaranteed, but the guaranteed money was all up front and this year's salary. The Bears are expected to have a high flying offense, but I see Bennett as the fourth best option behind Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, and Matt Forte. The team has indicated that Bennett will be used down the field on seam routes, but he also could be called on to block, particularly early on as Chicago is expected to continue to struggle with pass protection.
Chad Parsons Outliers
QB Philip Rivers, SD (Staff Avg: 19.9 / Parsons Ranking: 31)
It is rare to see Philip Rivers outside the top-25 in quarterback rankings of any sort, but that is the case for my dynasty rankings. I am an aggressive ranker by nature, churning the younger potential over the ho-hum veterans. Rivers plain does not excite me in the slightest going forward. His efficiency has been in decline for four straight seasons. For a quarterback to have a higher ceiling in my projections, he must fall into at least one of these two categories: an elite pocket passer a la Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and the like or add significant rushing production like Cam Newton, Robert Griffin III, and Andrew Luck. Rivers less than 300 rushing yards over the past five seasons combined, so he needs to rival Manning and Brady through the air. Rivers has always relied on his boldness to go downfield and hang in the pocket despite taking big hits. Having Vincent Jackson and Antonio Gates in their prime for prior seasons did not hurt either.
Rivers will be 32 years old this season, which is not ancient for a quarterback, but old enough that it requires a discount for those not putting up Drew Brees numbers on an annual basis anymore. Vincent Jackson moved on to Tampa Bay and Antonio Gates is just a shell of his former Hall-of-Fame self. Outside of Gates, the weapons in San Diego are tenuous at best. The wide receivers are a walking injury report. We know what the league thinks of Danario Alexander’s ability to stay healthy by the low tender and no other team signing him away from San Diego. Regardless of the moderate sleeper buzz, Vincent Brown remains an undersized, slow pass-catcher with less than 25 career receptions. Malcom Floyd was great behind Vincent Jackson, but failed to impress on over 800 snaps in 2012 and has missed 18 games over the past five seasons. Finally, Keenan Allen fell to the third round of this year’s draft after being talked about as a first rounder early in the process, amidst injury concerns. That is hardly a group that will elevate the declining Philip Rivers back to his low-ceiling heights of 2008-2010. With the depth and youth of the quarterback position, my projection of Rivers' upside in the QB10-12 range for the next two-to-three years is nothing resembling a difference-maker.
RB Lamar Miller, MIA (Staff Avg: 24.2 / Parsons Ranking: 7)
The top-shelf dynasty running backs are getting old quick. The established backs are leaving their prime like Adrian Peterson, Marshawn Lynch, Chris Johnson, and Arian Foster. Even Jamaal Charles, Ray Rice and C.J. Spiller will be close to 27 years old by the end of 2013. It is a young man's position and there are few potential studs I am actually bullish on achieving a high level of status in the coming 12-24 months. The obvious ones are Trent Richardson and Doug Martin as they were top-12 performers as rookies in 2012. It is interesting to note that Martin will turn 25 years old when the 2013 season finishes up, older than many would assume as a second-year player. Outside of those two backs, David Wilson and Lamar Miller are the next in line on my young-and-talented board to potential jump way up on everyone else's rankings to match mine. Miller was talked about as a second round pick prior to the NFL draft, but fell due to injury concerns into round four.
Like Wilson, Miller's situation looked gloomy to the glass-half-empty crowd with Reggie Bush as the starter and Daniel Thomas, a second-round pick in his own right, entering his sophomore campaign. Fast forward 12 months and Reggie Bush is in Detroit and Thomas logged another underwhelming season. Miami has done nothing but back Miller as the lead back and only addressed the position with a fifth-round selection of Mike Gillislee, a player I was not a fan of throughout the draft process. Miller was efficient in his limited opportunities as a rookie and looks to have a long leash heading into 2013. Miller is an example of betting on talent over situation. Miller was regularly selected after running backs landing in better situations like Ronnie Hillman and Isaiah Pead in rookie drafts a year ago. Now Miller has pushed himself to the forefront of his previously muddy backfield, while Hillman and Pead remain question marks. Considering the lack of running back options entering their prime productive window at the present time, Miller finds himself in my top-10. The potential reward of having a 22-year-old lead back in dynasty is well worth the risk that he fails to take advantage of this opportunity.
WR Calvin Johnson, DET (Staff Avg: 1.6 / Parsons Ranking: 5)
The elephant in the room when looking at my set of dynasty rankings is Calvin Johnson. Occasionally A.J. Green or Julio Jones makes an appearance over Megatron in someone’s rankings; rarely do you see Johnson fall all the way to fifth. I have Green, Jones, Dez Bryant, and Demaryius Thomas over Johnson. Calvin Johnson is the one player that poses a problem to my valuation system of estimating his floor and ceiling. Does he have a ceiling? Simply putting WR1 as his ceiling puts him on par with the other elite receivers in a given ceiling. One can definitely argue that Johnson is capable of truly historic production that the others simply cannot match. I am willing to accept that possibly. That said projecting record-level production for anyone, even Calvin Johnson, is not something I am looking to incorporate into my valuation.
Back to the quintet of stud receivers in the top tier of my rankings, Johnson is more than two years older than the next oldest of the bunch, Demaryius Thomas. They are all elite talents with similar upside and floors in the near-term. The difference when splitting hairs in the model comes down to three factors. First, the other four receivers are on a similar career path to Johnson. Through his third season, Johnson had one season with more than 16 points-per-game (PPG) in PPR scoring with a high of 17.7. A.J. Green surpassed Johnson's high mark in just his second season with 18.9 PPG in 2012. Dez Bryant hit 19.4 PPG in his third season. Demaryius Thomas, through an Achilles injury, emerged with 18.6 PPG this past year. Julio Jones logged 15.2 and 16.4 PPG in his first two NFL seasons. Calvin Johnson has since emerged with back-to-back seasons of greater than 21 PPG in his fifth and sixth seasons. The other four have shown a similar dominant early career track.
The big question for me with Johnson comes down to what happens in two-to-three years? The immortal Megatron will be around the age of 30, where market value, regardless of production, starts to chip away like a hastily-painted garage door. Most owners imagine keeping dynasty cogs like Calvin Johnson for a decade, but a declining market value decreases a team's flexibility as the years pass. A few examples, while not exact, about the decline of an older receiver: Andre Johnson was a locked down first-round startup pick until he hit 30 years old. Then he faded to the third and now the fourth round. Larry Fitzgerald is staring at 30 when the season starts and his previous rock solid top-15 startup value has started peeling paint to the tune of top-25 to top-30 level. Roddy White has fallen from top-15 in his late 20s to the third round and now the fourth round like similarly-aged Andre Johnson. Could Calvin Johnson retain his value more than the above names? Possibly, but that is not something I will bet on. When Johnson hits age 30, the quartet of other studs will be 27-to-28 years old and generally unaffected by that factor of market decline for receivers. This is a clearly defined tier of five studs, dropping off drastically to WR6. Add to all the factors above that Johnson's average draft position (ADP) is as a top-5 dynasty commodity, where the other four are in the late first to mid-second round range, makes Johnson a tad overvalued by comparison.
TE Coby Fleener, IND (Staff Avg: 15 / Parsons Ranking: 9)
To start, I do not understand the dramatic shift in market value from 2012 to now for Coby Fleener. He has fallen from the eighth round range in startup drafts a year ago to basically an afterthought in round 14. What actually happened over the past 12 months? The Colts offense is very much a malleable form in the passing game. Reggie Wayne has a year or two left tops, I am not optimistic that T.Y. Hilton progresses to the point of being a target magnet, and the rest of the receivers are question marks. Those reasons equal optimism elsewhere among the skills positions. Fleener and Dwayne Allen were both drafted last year and tight ends are definitely a patience play progressing to fantasy starter status. Penalizing Fleener via a six round drop in ADP makes no sense.
The only tight ends I have above Fleener at the moment are young high producers (Graham, Gronkowski, Hernandez), the oldies but goodies (Witten, Gonzalez), and three I am more optimistic about than most (Rudolph, Olsen, Vernon Davis). I have a hard time pushing Pitta, Finley, Cook, or Martellus Bennett, while in the same tier of absolute value, over Fleener within that tier. Back to the Indianapolis passing attack, there are many targets up for grabs in the coming two-to-three seasons. For tight ends over the past two seasons, tight ends with more than 100 targets, and especially 120 targets, is a very strong predictor to finish in the top-12. Specifically, 86% of the tight ends with more than 120 targets since 2011 finished in the top-6 and 56% of tight ends with 100-120 targets were top-6. The results for those with double-digit targets drop off a statistical cliff. Opportunity is very important. With Wayne on the decline and with the assumption that Hilton does not develop into a 150-target-per-season type receiver, there is upside for the taking for Fleener and Allen to be key pieces paired with a high-level quarterback. Fleener was very active in the red zone with nearly 20% of his targets coming inside the 20-yard-line as a rookie. Wayne has been used less and less in the red zone over the past four seasons with middling efficiency. Hilton does not fit that mold. Fleener is the logical benefactor when more red zone targets become available sooner rather than later. Athletically, Dwayne Allen is below-average and adding in draft position, Fleener has the edge between the two teammates in terms of potential ceiling. The optimism for both of their involvement in the offense going forward lands Allen in the top-18 at tight end and Fleener just inside the top-10.
Jeff Tefertiller Outliers
QB Matthew Stafford, DET (Staff Avg: 7.9 / Tefertiller Ranking: 13)
Admittedly, I am down on Matthew Stafford for the upcoming season. There are a couple of reasons why. First of all, he finished as QB10 last year even with 727 pass attempts, a 10% increase over the 2011 season. This production came with little running game and now Detroit added Reggie Bush. I would not want to rely on Stafford as a fantasy starter. The wheels could come off quickly.
RB Kendall Hunter, SF (Staff Avg: 48.5 / Tefertiller Ranking: 25)
Kendall Hunter is a player who has flashed potential to be a fantasy starter. He has two things working against him: playing behind Frank Gore and coming off an Achilles injury, but the talent is there and the opportunity may present itself. My ranking for Hunter assumes he will be back for week one, as he has asserted. Gore has a large number of career carries and could slow down soon. If Gore misses time, Hunter, not James or Lattimore, will be the starter. Hunter runs well between the tackles and is strong in pass protection.
WR Kenny Britt (Staff Avg: 34.9 / Tefertiller Ranking: 48)
Yes, the reports out of Tennessee Titans camp have been positive for Kenny Britt. The positives are there: he is still young and has been a play maker throughout his young career when healthy. But, this is his last season under contract with Tennessee and the Titans selected Justin Hunter in April's NFL Draft. And, do not forget the knee injuries on both knees. In a contract year, Britt will compete for targets with last year's sensation Kendall Wright, Hunter, Nate Washington, and new tight end Delanie Walker. Add in Britt's off-the-field history, and there is simply too much risk to rank highly.
TE Jared Cook, STL (Staff Avg: 10 / Tefertiller Ranking: 19)
Many are high on the prospects of Jared Cook after he signed with the St. Louis Rams this offseason. While Sam Bradford is a huge upgrade over Jake Locker, Cook is not consistent enough to make a jump into the fantasy starter range, much less elite starter as some of my colleagues have him. Last season, Cook was targeted 72 times, a number similar to what he will see in St. Louis. But, Cook only hauled in 44 of those passes. He caught 49 of 81 targets in 2011. Even if the targets go up 10%, it is difficult for me to see him catching 65-70 passes, something you need from a fantasy starter.
James Brimacombe Outliers
QB Mark Sanchez, NYJ (Staff Avg: 41.3 / Brimacombe Ranking: 34)
My dynasty ranking for Sanchez is really on the border of being too low or too high as I have him just outside the top 32. The Jets obviously drafted Geno Smith as Sanchez replacement but the question remains will that happen this year or next year? At only 26 years old Sanchez still holds some hope to putting up similar numbers as to what he did in 2011 (3474 passing yards and 32 total TDs). The Jets offense just wasn't very good in 2012 and Sanchez took the heat for it. The NFL still only has 32 starting quarterbacks each year and with Sanchez age and ability he may find a home in 2014 as a starter and with some much better offensive weapons.
RB Shane Vereen, NE (Staff Avg: 40.5 / Brimacombe Ranking: 31)
Vereen was being undervalued in the dynasty community the past couple of months and now with all the tight end worries and lack of experience WRs in New England there is starting to be a shift in how people see Vereen and Ridley's value. The one thing we know is that the Patriots like an up tempo type of offense and want to keep the game moving, they also let Danny Woodhead go this offseason and will need a suitable replacement. As the Patriots offense continues to shift the time to buy Vereen is now.
WR Cecil Shorts, JAX (Staff Avg: 39.6 / Brimacombe Ranking: 21)
Shorts finished the season playing in 14 games, and adding 55 receptions, 979 yards, and 7 touchdowns. With the suspension to Blackmon, Shorts will be counted on even more early on, and the most interesting part is who will be the starting quarterback week one? If it is Henne, you may want to invest a little more into Shorts, as the connection between the two is there. Henne targeted Shorts 60 times (523 yards and 4 touchdowns) in the last 6 games of the season and looks for him whenever he is in trouble. As a dynasty option Shorts has so much upside and even if Jacksonville bombs once again in 2013, he will still put up solid fantasy number and then should have a suitable starting QB in 2014 and going forward. The idea of what Shorts can do with a top level QB is intriguing and if you want to own him in your dynasty league you will have to try to buy him a year early before his value even increases more.
TE Brandon Pettigrew, DET (Staff Avg: 17.1 / Brimacombe Ranking: 10)
Pettigrew now has 4 years of NFL experience under his belt and 4 years marked with inconsistency. In 2010 and 2011 he ranked as the 12th and 11th best TE and last year took a bit of a nose dive ranking in as the 21st TE. He is still only 27 years old and plays in an offense that saw Matthew Stafford attempt 727 passes in 2012. I think Pettigrew has the ability to get back to that 2011 season and put up comparable numbers to his 83/777/5 statline.
Heath Cummings Outliers
QB Andy Dalton, CIN (Staff Avg: 16.7 / Cummings Ranking: 6)
Because of the instant success of Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson and Cam Newton it's easy to forget that historically most great quarterbacks have taken time to grow into that role (more on that here). In two seasons, Andy Dalton has shown marked improvement and the Bengals front office has done everything in their power to make sure that continues in the future. Dalton has arguably the #1 dynasty receiver in A.J. Green, a stable of young receivers with upside, and a pair of rookies that figure to help in the passing game right away. Those rookies, Tyler Eifert and Giovanni Bernard, add a level of athleticism to their respective positions that the Bengals simply haven't had in Dalton's two years with the team. Dalton may not have elite upside, but of the next tier of quarterbacks he has the best situation. With the talent he has around him, it's very difficult to see how he's not at least a low-level QB1 for the next several years.
RB Chris Johnson, TEN (Staff Avg: 14.5 / Cummings Ranking: 8)
Johnson has had some terrible stretches over the past couple of years but he's not had anywhere close to a terrible year. With the things that are being written about him you'd think he's finished far worse than RB16 at least once in his career, but the fact is that's been his floor. Considering the line play Johnson has had to deal with the past two seasons, and the far from clear offensive game plan the team has had, that floor is actually pretty impressive. Both of those problems have been addressed in the offseason with the Titans spending freely for help on the line and committing to a more cohesive plan. Johnson is entering the most dynamic year of a running back's career, and I expect him to put up top five numbers in 2013. He may not have more that 3-4 good years left, but I wouldn't bet on any running back for much longer than that.
WR Mike Williams, TB (Staff Avg: 36.9 / Cummings Ranking: 9)
I find it baffling that Williams ranking and ADP are as low as they are. His sophomore slump was epic in comparison to his first and third year, but as I discussed a previous article, he's much more likely to mirror years one and three in the future. I think a lot of people are scared off by Vincent Jackson, but Jackson(30) is four years older than Williams, and Williams was the more productive receiver in the second half of 2012. The fact that Williams may be playing for a new contract in 2013 only heightens my expectations. The great thing about this receiver is that he can be had for a WR3 or lower price tag right now. Betting on Williams before 2012 would have been the brilliant play, but even now he's a great bargain.
TE Jermaine Gresham, CIN (Staff Avg: 17.9 / Cummings Ranking: 24)
Jermaine Gresham's days of being a productive player in the NFL are nowhere close to over, but his time as a TE1 almost certainly is. Tyler Eifert will take away targets in 2013, if not Gresham's starting job. Beyond 2013 it would be a shock if Eifert wasn't a featured part of the offense with Gresham either in a different city or relegated to TE2 status on his own team. Gresham just doesn't fit into what I would want as a TE2 on my dynasty roster as it's difficult to project him as a starter on your squad this year or in the future. I'd much rather fill the roster with players that have the talent to have one last gasp at greatness (Antonio Gates) or have the potential to one day turn into your TE1 (Eifert).
Jeff Pasquino Outliers
QB Cam Newton, CAR (Staff Avg: 3.1 / Pasquino Ranking: 9)
There are several reasons why I am not very high on Cam Newton's fantasy prospects. First, he has just one real target in Steve Smith, as the Panthers seem to have a perennial hunt for a second (and third) wide receiver. Greg Olsen is a solid tight end, but at some point a quarterback needs more than just two options. Next, Newton plays for a team that loves to run the ball, and while that does help Newton when he decides to tuck it and run himself, both Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams are not known to be strong receivers. Newton had under 4,000 yards passing and just 19 touchdown passes last year - so too much of his fantasy worth relies on his rushing numbers (741 yards and eight scores in 2012). With the strength of the division lying elsewhere, Newton has an uphill battle every week just to post a solid fantasy starter score. The team wants him to reduce his rushing overall and get further away from a read/option offense, which is one of the core values in picking Newton for fantasy upside. Long term, Newton is the quarterback for the Panthers for at least this year and next (he is signed through 2014) but if his rushing numbers start to diminish, which is what the coaching staff seems to be hinting at by trying to get away from a read/option offense, then his fantasy value plummets. Newton has an amazing outlook for some Dynasty owners, who see him as a Top 3 quarterback going forward. I just do not share that viewpoint, but if I owned Newton I would be looking to trade him for another Top 5 prospect now that I liked more if I could get a Top 3 valuation.
RB Trent Richardson, CLE (Staff Avg: 2.6 / Pasquino Ranking: 7)
I get that Trent Richardson is a great running back, but I just cannot get past the idea of tying my first pick to a Cleveland Brown. I know that sounds harsh, but if I am going to take a running back in Round 1, he better have a good shot at double-digit touchdowns, and I just do not see that coming from Richardson this season with Cleveland still learning how to put their young offense together. Long term in Keeper and Dynasty leagues, I can see it better - but running backs don't last forever, and Richardson has already had some injury problems and the coaching staff has been stockpiling backup tailbacks “just in case”. That does not really reassure me on his long term prospects. Having been a Richardson owner, I was happy to trade him away this past year to someone else who had a much higher valuation on his long term outlook than I did. I can see the Browns having problems yet again in 2013, so if Cleveland struggles for another year or two I would not hesitate to trade Richardson away.
WR Randall Cobb, GB (Staff Avg: 11 / Pasquino Ranking: 25)
Green Bay is a tough team to gauge this year. They drafted two running backs (Eddie Lacy, Jonathan Franklin) and let Greg Jennings leave in free agency to Minnesota. So the questions are these: will they run the ball more, or will the passing game continue to be the dominant part of the offense? If so, then who will get the bulk of the workload? Will it be Jordy Nelson, who racked up over 1,200 yards and 15 scores in 2011, but lost significant time to injury last year? Or will it be James Jones, who had 14 TDs last year despite only 64 catches? Or could it be Randall Cobb, the offseason favorite to emerge as the new Greg Jennings after Cobb pulled in 80 catches, eight scores and over 1,000 rushing and passing yards combined last year? I believe that the pecking order will be Nelson, then Cobb, and then Jones in a passing game that will see an overall slight downgrade as the Packers build a rushing attack with the two new rookies, but only time will tell. The longer term outlook for Cobb does have more upside with James Jones only under contract for this year, so in 2014 Cobb and Nelson are your likely 1-2 punch at wideout for Green Bay. By that time, however, the Packers may be transitioning towards more of a balanced offense. Rodgers is still a stud quarterback and he is the leader of one of the top passing games in the league right now, but the questions of who will be his favorite target in 2014 and beyond is still up for debate. I would be hesitant to go “all in” on Cobb as my Dynasty WR1, which is where a lot of Dynasty rankers have him right now. I would feel much better about several more proven players for my top wideout, as I think there is still much to be seen about Cobb and his long term value and role in the Packer offense.
TE Brent Celek, PHI (Staff Avg: 29.9 / Pasquino Ranking: 14)
Brent Celek remains the top tight end in Philadelphia in a new offense designed by Chip Kelly. Kelly will want to use 2-3 tight ends at any given time, which is why he both added James Casey and also drafted Zach Ertz. Celek will see plenty of snaps and is already learning the new offense at a rapid pace. Celek has been a Top 10 fantasy tight end twice in his career, so he is a solid TE2 option with TE1 upside, especially in PPR leagues. Celek is just 28 years old and is under contract with the Eagles through 2016, so once he gets his feet wet and shows how he can emerge once again as a Top 10-12 tight end option, Celek’s value will rise once again. He is available right now on the cheap because of uncertainty, which is creating a great buying opportunity. Do not be scared off by Philadelphia’s adding Zach Ertz – the NFL is moving towards two tight ends in their offense, and Chip Kelly will use all the weapons he has effectively. I am a buyer long term on Celek, especially for as cheap as he costs to acquire right now.
Dave Baker Outliers
QB Colin Kaepernick, SF (Staff Avg: 8.4 / Baker Ranking: 11)
There's an awful lot to like about Kaepernick. He looked very good in the regular season and spectacular in the playoffs. He's running abilities, as evidenced by his 181 rushing yards against the Packers in the playoffs, rivals those of any other quarterback in the league. I think he represents excellent value in both the short term and long term. However, it seems I don't have him ranked quite as high as some of footballguys brethren. I personally would like to see a little more before moving him into the top 10, especially on a team with a great defense and run happy on offense. I'm also not enthralled with the long or short term value of their receiving corps, even after Crabtree returns from injury. I like Kaepernick a ton, but before moving him into the upper echelon, I'd like a few more questions about him answered.
RB Daniel Thomas, MIA (Staff Avg: 59.6 / Baker Ranking: 29)
The former secound draft pick had issues last year, no doubt about it. Namely, those issues revolved around his health and a bad case of fumble-itis. The general given around Miami is that the starting spot is Lamar Miller's to lose in 2013. While all that might be true, Thomas is still only 25 years old and I still believe he has talent. In an area where I emphasis youth, having Thomas ranked in the top 40 as opposed to closer to 50-70 is not far fetched in my opinion. His five career fumbles are a worry, but often guys get over that hump, and with Lamar Miller still relatively unproven and if Thomas can remain healthy, his dynasty value is better than most think.
WR Roddy White, ATL (Staff Avg: 14.5 / Baker Ranking: 13)
It was assumed last year with Julio Jones on the upswing that White might no longer be a top 10 wide receiver. That was proven not to be the case as White finished with 92 receptions and 1,351 receiving yards, adding 7 touchdowns. White's play and possibility for longevity reminds me of players such as Rod Smith, Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison. None of them have or had blazing speed or size, but excelled with savvy and technique. It would come as no shock to me if White remains in the top 10 for another 3 seasons, and that's good enough to keep him high in my dynasty rankings.
TE Antonio Gates, SD (Staff Avg: 19.9 / Baker Ranking: 16)
Once the undisputed number 1 tight end in fantasy circles, Gates has seen his numbers diminish in the last few seasons. At 33 years old, the common sentiment is that he's almost done and will never again be a top guy at his position. I happen to believe, though, that he's got few more seasons of success and at a position where you're either top 10 or you might as well be 20, that presents value for Gates even in dynasty leagues. I see a rebound year for Gates and Rivers, and he should remain the team's number one target.
Jason Wood Outliers
QB Matt Ryan, ATL (Staff Avg: 5.7 / Wood Ranking: 3)
What's not to like about Matt Ryan? He transitioned to a pass happy offense with ease, is in his prime, and is surrounded by an offensive supporting cast that affords him plenty of opportunity. To me Ryan is in that sweet spot of proven ability combined with a long time horizon of future success if he stays healthy. He's durable, had developed better pocket awareness, and is entering that point of his career where he'll have total command of the offense including making all those nuanced adjustments in the huddle and at the line of scrimmage that only comes with being in the same system for multiple years. He's easily one of the four or five quarterbacks I would build a fledgling dynasty team around.
RB Ben Tate, HOU (Staff Avg: 38.9 / Wood Ranking: 52)
I'm probably being a little harsh towards Tate particularly given the very real possibility that Arian Foster needs to be given more rest during the regular season. But I don't ascribe a ton of value to Tate for several reasons. One, I think the Kubiak zone-blocking system does a LOT for the running backs on the roster, and doubt whether Tate has the requisite skill level to flourish as a feature back if he departs in free agency. Two, Tate has dealt with injuries already in his career and I can count on my hands the number of backup RBs with his pedigree that end up as fantasy stars in future years. It's certainly not impossible, but I'm generally going to ascribe value to younger backups that high higher ceilings.
WR DeSean Jackson, PHI (Staff Avg: 35.7 / Wood Ranking: 21)
Jackson is only 27 years old and has a new lease on life thanks to Chip Kelly. I see his consensus ranking in the low 30s and think he's one of the perfect targets for dynasty owners to go out and acquire now, before we see the havok he wrecks on opposing defenses this year under Kelly. Let's not forget that he's the only player to go to the Pro Bowl as both a receiver and returner in the same year, and his skill set -- most notably his speed and change of direction -- will play perfectly as the new focal point of the passing attack.
TE Tony Gonzalez, ATL (Staff Avg: 17.4 / Wood Ranking: 7)
I have Gonzalez ranked seventh among tight ends for dynasty purposes, which probably seems high to most given he's almost certainly retiring after this season. But to my mind the value he brings this year, and the likely price you can acquire him for as a result, warrants the ranking. I think of dynasty rankings in terms of the way I might think of valuing a company in terms of discounted future cash flows. While Gonzalez will yield me zero in Years N+1 and beyond, his value in Year N is high enough to supersede many other TEs on the board. Generally I put a tremendous amount of value in the immediate year, some value in the following two years, and next to no value beyond that (outside of the way I think of quarterbacks.)
Anthony Borbely Outliers
QB Michael Vick, PHI (Staff Avg: 25.9 / Borbely Ranking: 18)
If you look at the majority of dynasty quarterbacks ranked anywhere from the mid-QB2 group and down, most of them have upside that is representative of their ranking. They are basically backup fantasy quarterbacks with a handful of young ones mixed in. But Vick, who is the consensus QB25 at the time of this writing, has posted strong QB1 numbers in the past and that differentiates him from the other quarterbacks in that range. That is the main reason I have Vick ranked higher than most of my peers.
RB DeMarco Murray, DAL (Staff Avg: 14.2 / Borbely Ranking: 9)
Murray is a talented, three-down running back on a team with a potent offense and he has little competition for carries. The problem with Murray is that he has not been able to stay on the field and even when he played last year, he was not effective. But I am not going to put an injury-plagued label on Murray just yet and will let his talent and situation dictate my ranking. I believe the injury issues are the only reason for the difference in my ranking of Murray compared to those of my peers.
WR Eric Decker, DEN (Staff Avg: 30.7 / Borbely Ranking: 21)
I realize the Broncos signed Wes Welker and that he will cut into the targets of Decker and the other Broncos receivers. But I find it difficult to believe that Decker will fall off enough to justify his consensus WR32 ranking in dynasty. Decker is an excellent route runner and with a precision quarterback like Manning, Decker will always get his fair share of targets. Even with Welker there, Decker should still be a borderline top-20 wide receiver with upside going forward.
TE Jermichael Finley, GB (Staff Avg: 11.9 / Borbely Ranking: 4)
With Finley, the key word is upside and a limited number of elite tight ends. I realize Finley has underachieved and at times appears to be going through the motions. But when you look at the talent level of the tight ends, it is basically Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski, and everyone else. Finley is as talented as any of the other tight ends and plays in arguably the most potent passing game in the league. I consider talent the most important single factor in dynasty rankings and that is the biggest reason for my high ranking of Finley.
Sigmund Bloom Outliers
QB Sam Bradford, STL (Staff Avg: 17.2 / Bloom Ranking: 13)
Bradford is at the center of what could be a perfect storm. He has a legit left tackle in Jake Long, tons of speed in Tavon Austin, Chris Givens, and Jared Cook, and Cook also teams up with Brian Quick to give Bradford big targets. The Rams also draft Stedman Bailey, who was #8 overall pick Austin's partner in a high-powered pass offense in West Virginia. As fellow staffer Matt Waldman put it on the second night of the draft, "It's like St. Louis is trying to rebuild the Oklahoma offense around Bradford". Bradford is only 25, and he showed a lot of qualities that make quarterbacks truly great in his rookie year. It has been a while since 2010, but Bradford was surrounded by terrible offensive line play and targets. That has changed now, so his fantasy value is likely to follow.
RB Ryan Mathews, SD (Staff Avg: 24.1 / Bloom Ranking: 36)
I don't think that we need to see much more from Mathews to know that it is time to move on in dynasty. The new regime in San Diego has no investment in him, and they seem to love Danny Woodhead, who fits in an offense with a piecemeal offensive line and lots of catchup football a lot better than Mathews does. There has been buzz this offseason from long-time beat writer Kevin Acee that Mathews is "is frequently out at places that serve plentiful alcohol and occasionally are host to unsavory behavior, even at times and dates that show questionable judgment". There have been moments when Mathews looks like a player worthy of the #12 overall pick in the 2010 draft, but only moments, and those moments are going to dwindle in number until he's just another player that we say "what could he have been?" about.
WR Wes Welker, DEN (Staff Avg: 30 / Bloom Ranking: 41)
Welker redefined the slot receiver position as one that could be the centerpiece of a pass offense in New England, but he won't be the centerpiece of the Broncos pass offense. It's arguable that New England wouldn't have relied on him to the extent that they did last year if Aaron Hernandez had stayed healthy. Julian Edelman was getting playing time over Welker before Hernandez's injury. The Broncos are going to be playing from ahead a lot, so that will likely take the edge off of the number of pass attempts. Welker isn't going to catch 120 or even 100 balls again. If he can grab 90, he'll be a solid WR2, but that's it. If he is more of a 70-80 catch receiver, he's a WR3 in PPR leagues, and one on the decline. Beliefs about Welker's value in fantasy leagues are about to get a big adjustment - down.
TE Dwayne Allen, IND (Staff Avg: 14 / Bloom Ranking: 7)
What else can Allen do to earn the trust of dynasty owners? He was a quick study, showing that he can be on the field in just about any formation and situation as a rookie, due to his blocking prowess and size. Allen showed all of us that he is much more athletic than his measureables indicated coming out of Clemson, which surely is not lost on Andrew Luck and new offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton. I keep hearing worries about Coby Fleener overtaking Allen in the target pecking order. Allen was clearly better than Fleener as a rookie, why will that change this year, or next year, or the next after that. Last year showed us that Luck won't force the ball Fleener just because they went to college together. Allen is a talented player set up to be a top target in an offense built around one of the best young quarterbacks the league has ever seen. Don't overthink this one.
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