Updated 8/27: When I draft, I always have a tier sheet handy. I find that organizing players by tiers is far more beneficial than merely ranking players.
I could rank Odell Beckham Jr. over Julio Jones, but it is impossible to truly predict who will finish better between the two of them. Maybe Jones has fifty more yards on the season then ODB, or maybe Beckham has one more touchdown. Who knows; but I do know that both should finish better than a guy like Alshon Jeffery.
Another reason I prefer tier rankings is that a range of outcomes approach is preferable to just this is what a guy will finish with at the end of the season. Jason Witten and Frank Gore have low end RB1 and TE1 numbers the past two years, but their weekly numbers are not going to help you win your weeks for the most part. In essence, you are looking for a player that has a chance to perform at a weekly level that is higher than a mere replacement level player, even if that replacement level player may have decent looking year-end numbers. Which brings me to my final point, fantasy football, in season long leagues, is about winning weeks, so you need to draft a combination of players where some have high ceiling, while some of high floors. That is how you win.
Aaron Rodgers, Packers – He’s as safe a pick as there is in fantasy leagues, but you have to hope this offense comes out of the gate hot and not sputtering like they have done the past few seasons. Jordy Nelson did look a bit slower last year, but he is now two years to fully removed from his knee surgery and this team is full of talented receivers including Randall Cobb, Davante Adams, Ty Montgomery, Martellus Bennett, Lance Kendricks and rookie Malachi Dupre.
Tom Brady, Patriots – PFF’s #1 rated QB from 2016. The loss of saftey valve Julien Edelman hurts, but they added a slew of new weapons this year with addition of Brandin Cooks, Dwayne Allen and Rex Burkhead. Additionally, Gronk is fully healthy coming into the season and Malcolm Mitchell has a year under his belt and flashed big time last season. This team’s running back core is also built for dump offs and big yards after the catch, not grinding runs. If you feel nervous about his age, very easy to handcuff in season long leagues with Jimmy Garoppolo.
Drew Brees, Saints - Locked and loaded as usual, but loss of Cooks and lack of a reliable tight end does hurt a bit. I like the addition of Alvin Kamara as a pass catching back, and Ted Ginn and Brandon Coleman have been playing well in camp. He threw for nearly 5,000 yards and 37 TDs last season, look for that to continue.
Matt Ryan, Falcons – All of their offensive pieces remain and tight end Austin Hooper could develop into a true weapon. The biggest loss was offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan moving on to the 49ers after Ryan had a career year, as his Adjusted Yards/Attempt of 10.1 was the third best of all time behind only Aaron Rodgers in 2011 and Peyton Manning in 2013, finishing the season as the QB1. Matt Ryan’s passer rating was 117.1, which is also the fifth highest mark in NFL history. Per ESPN Stats & Information since 2001, the only team to score more frequently on its drives is the 2007 Patriots, and all this as the Falcons played the toughest schedule of opposing defenses in football. While per PFF, his fantasy points per drop back also skyrocketed to 0.59 after being below the NFL average the prior three seasons. However, there is a reason Ryan was going off the board beyond round 10 last year, and we can probably assume there will be some regression to his mean, but it's hard to best against him after seeing his ceiling and without much change the weapons around him, including a top six offensive line. In fact, after running one of the leagues slower paced offenses last season, averaging 28.29 seconds between plays (23rd in the league) and just 62 plays per game (26th), new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian is going to allow Matt Ryan to check between three or four different plays at the line of scrimmage.
Kirk Cousins, Redskins – Arguably an even better receiving core this year with the additions of Terrelle Pryor and a healthy rookie Josh Doctson to go along with Jordan Reed and Jamison Crowder. He finished as fantasy’s 8th best quarterback last year with 4,917 passing yards (3rd highest) and with a 97.2 passer rating (7th best). Per ESPN's Matt Berry, last season Cousins threw for either 300 yards or 2 touchdowns in 14 games and the Redskins have the 5th most passing yards in the league since head coach Jay Gruden took over the reigns there in 2014. Playing once again for a big contract, Cousins should be a reliable weekly starter.
Russell Wilson, Seahawks – I've officially dropped him a tier after the leagues worst offensive lines just lost their left tackle. While he should be okay playing at home, with all the crowd noise on his side, he could be a disaster at time on the road, like when they played Tampa Bay last year and their defense was sitting in their backfield upon the ball being hiked. All that aside, he showed last year that he can have success as a pocket passer. He will have even better weapons available to him this season with Jimmy Graham and Tyler Lockett both fully healthy and wide receiver Paul Richardson ascending. While this team will still roll through the running backs, and attempts won't increase, what he does with those attempts should be even better. He also has a great floor running the ball. His offensive line though is just brutal.