Winning a Fantasy title requires a combination of three things: drafting well, keeping an open mind, and making adjustments. Just because you (and by you, I may or may not mean me) thought Pierre Thomas was set for a breakout campaign two months ago doesn’t mean that you need to continue to be wrong. No matter what your preseason ranks looked like, things have changed now and your team could use an upgrade. It’s said all the time: “Fantasy championships are won in the future, not the past.” That’s not to say a player like Andrew Luck, who is likely on a team doing very well in your league, can’t continue to help, but it is to say that what he has already accomplished is a thing of the past. What he did in Week 2 matters as much as what he did in college as far as we are concerned; it is not going to help you for the rest of the season. Sure, there are lessons to be learned, but don’t pay for past production. Case in point? Michael Vick was a Top 5 quarterback, Torrey Smith a Top 10 wide receiver, and Bilal Powell a Top 15 running back at this point last season. If you readjusted your ranks in the middle of the season and based them only on what you had seen through five weeks, you probably ended up with one, if not more, of those players … and missed the Fantasy Football playoffs. Let’s not have that happen again. Worried that re-ranking players is a long and tedious task? That’s why I’m here.
Below are my Top 105 PPR players (included are 14 players that just missed the cut) from this point forward. Stats accumulated early this season have affected the ranks from a learning standpoint, but they are just that, a piece of the puzzle. The number of players ranked is not random: ranked are the Top 17 quarterbacks based on an average 12-team league, where seven quarterbacks are matchup proof and don’t require owning a backup (you can add a strong matchup play for the bye week). Therefore, there are five owners who need to own two quarterbacks and thus 17 owned quarterbacks. Similar logic applies to the tight end position, where six players are must-starts. As for the FLEX ranks, there was a position requirement enforced in an effort to rank the players that are most relevant to you. In order to do this, the Top 24 running backs, 36 wide receivers and 12 RB/WR are ranked, thus giving you a feel for who should be considered “start-worthy” on a weekly basis. To adjust for bye weeks, players that have already received a week off deserve a minor upgrade, as they are going to play more games for the rest of 2014; production of a “replacement” level player was assumed. It’s not fair to simply compare say, 11 weeks of Marshawn Lynch to 10 of Eddie Lacy, as you will not leave Lacy’s spot in your lineup vacant.
But you came here for the ranks, not for the narrative behind them.[table “1253” not found /]
(3) Andrew Luck: There is no option other than loving a late bye that is followed with back-to-back-to-back home games against average to below average pass defenses/rushes. Luck’s deep passing has taken a tremendous step forward (12 completions on 25 attempts as compared to 17 completions on 60 attempts last season) and he is attacking downfield more often (11.6 percent of his throws, up from 10.5 percent in 2013).
(6) Jay Cutler: Would you believe me if I told you the tough part of the schedule is already in the rearview mirror? Starting this weekend with the Falcons, only New England defends the quarterback well from a Fantasy prospective (and even they rank in the bottom 10 in pass rush). To end the Fantasy season, Cutler opposes the dreadful Buccaneers and then faces a quartet of elite quarterbacks that could instigate shootouts (Matthew Stafford twice, Tony Romo, and Drew Brees).
(13) Colin Kaepernick: Injuries to both Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis are limiting his effectiveness through the air, and while he is running more than ever, he isn’t running much in touchdown scoring situations (just seven red zone carries and zero touchdowns). San Francisco ranks second in time of possession this season and appear to be more than content to bleed the clock behind the Frank Gore/Carlos Hyde duo. Through five games, Kaep is performing well above a sustainable level when feeling the pressure, regression that could well result in him falling out of QB1 status.
(15) Andy Dalton: From this point forward he’s going to be better than you might think and is worth a roster spot. During the remainder of the schedule he faces a handful of opponents that rank toward the bottom of the league in yards per pass attempt, a damning deficiency when trying to limit this home run hitting Bengals offense (Dalton ranked second in number of “deep” touchdown passes last season). Marvin Jones figures to help add balance to the passing game, and the increased reliance on the versatile Giovani Bernard will too.
Running Back Notes
(1) Le’Veon Bell: In his last 16 games, Bell has totaled 1,807 yards, catching 62 balls in the process. For reference, just two backs (Matt Forte and Jamaal Charles) had 1,800 yards and 55 catches last season.
(3) DeMarco Murray: There was a 26-year-old running back with health question marks coming off a career-high in rush yards that had 647 total yards and five touchdowns through five weeks last season. His name? The number one overall FLEX player in Fantasy Football 2013: Jamaal Charles. Murray is considerably ahead of that pace with his 794 yards and five scores. Another fun fact: Murray has more touches through five weeks than Aaron Rodgers has pass attempts.
(7) Matt Forte: First we had questions regarding Forte’s ability to score. And then we didn’t. And now we do? Well, over the last calendar year, he has scored in two of his three games against the Packers and just one of his 15 games against the rest of the NFL.
(11) Frank Gore: Last year was just another year for this veteran, as he neared 300 touches and 1,300 yards for the seventh straight season. He had 432 total yards and three touchdowns through five games. The Fantasy world is selling the veteran, yet he sits at 433 total yards and two touchdowns through five games.
(20) C.J. Spiller: His value obviously soars (RB1 status and a Top 30 FLEX play) if Fred Jackson’s leg injury causes him to miss considerable time, but with just two carries of 25-plus yards over his last 12 games, the upside that you associate with his name hasn’t been a reality.
(26) Justin Forsett: Only Marshawn Lynch and DeMarco Murray (minimum 50 carries) average more points per opportunity than Forsett in PPR formats this season.
Wide Receiver Notes
(9) Randall Cobb: He has scored 17 touchdowns in his last 20 games with Aaron Rodgers under center. Subtract games against the Lions from the equation and he’s found paydirt 16 times in his last 16 games.
(12) Vincent Jackson: In his last 16 games with Mike Glennon at quarterback, Jackson has seen the ball thrown his way 160 times. Only three players (Andre Johnson, Pierre Garcon, and A.J. Green) saw that many targets in 2013. That trio averaged 107 catches … Jackson has just 76. Glennon may not be great, but that catch rate is due to increase for a talent like VJax.
(17) T.Y. Hilton: Speaking of the numbers not adding up, Hilton hasn’t scored in his last 13 games (122 targets). Andrew Luck has thrown 400 passes and 24 touchdowns to other receivers over that stretch, a rate that would project Hilton for 7.3 touchdowns.
(18) DeAndre Hopkins: No player in the league has a greater aDOT (average depth of target) and catch percentage than Hopkins. Not too shabby for a receiver playing with a quarterback who ranks outside the Top 10 in completion percentage and yards per attempt.
(30) Brian Quick: Three players rank as Top 6 receivers in terms of WR Rating (the QB Rating resulting on passes thrown to selected receiver) and yards per route run: Julio Jones, Antonio Brown, and Quick.
(32) Rueben Randle: After being used primarily as a field stretcher in his rookie season, Randle has developed into a versatile receiver for Eli Manning. He has been targeted more than Dez Bryant or Alshon Jeffery and caught more passes than Kelvin Benjamin over the last three weeks.
Tight End Notes
(3) Rob Gronkowski: His target rate and aDOT rank right there with his outstanding career norms, but he has hauled in just 54 percent of passes thrown his way (67 percent in 2012-2013).
(8) Heath Miller: Only six tight ends have been targeted more, and with him being on the field for 94 percent of Pittsburgh’s plays, it’s hard to see that trend not continuing. In his last healthy season (2012), Miller caught 71 passes on 101 targets for 816 yards and eight scores despite Ben Roethlisberger missing three games.
(12) Travis Kelce: He has shown nice promise as a receiver, but he is still being asked to block with regularity (47.8 percent of his snaps over the last three weeks). That, combined with the fact that he only plays about half of the offense snaps as it is, puts a lower ceiling on his future production than most would assume.