The fantasy football picture continues to get clearer as the NFL’s preseason progresses, and with most drafts likely to occur within the next few weeks, there is no better time to start preparing.
Significant injuries to star players like Houston Texans running back Arian Foster and Carolina Panthers wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin make talent even scarcer, while the ongoing suspension saga involving New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady leaves some question marks with regard to the QB rankings.
There is still time for those situations to get sorted out, but they will lead to some guesswork in terms of determining the value of backups who will now be elevated to more prominent positions.
Although there is a certain amount of luck involved with fantasy football, skill plays a part as well when it comes to picking out the players who are least likely to get injured or bust and the players who are most likely to break out.
With the 2015 regular season coming up fast, here is a look at the latest fantasy rankings for each and every position.
On the heels of a career season that saw him throw for 4,761 yards and score 43 total touchdowns, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck will undoubtedly be a hot commodity in fantasy circles, but not everyone is convinced that he’s the No. 1 signal-caller.
He is locked in a tight battle with Green Bay Packers superstar Aaron Rodgers for that honor, and rightfully so. Rodgers threw from 4,381 yards and scored 40 total touchdowns in 2014, and while his numbers weren’t quite as good as Luck’s, he has been playing at a high level in the NFL for longer.
That is likely why he is a slight favorite to win the league’s MVP award ahead of the Colts gunslinger, according to Jerome Solomon of the Houston Chronicle:
Both quarterbacks have a ton of great weapons, but Luck may have pulled ahead during the offseason thanks to Indy’s big-time additions. The fourth-year passer is well aware of how fortunate he is to have so many options, per Nerdy Football’s Jason Cole:
You look around and we have Andre Johnson, T.Y. Hilton, Frank Gore, Boom Herron, Donte Moncrief, Coby Fleener, Dwayne Allen … all these guys who have had multi-touchdown games, big years, been No. 1 receivers, No. 2 receivers, who are used to getting the ball, which is great. It means they know how to get the ball and what to do with the ball.
In addition to that, Luck has never missed an NFL game and looks to be a more durable player than Rodgers, who had to sit out seven games in 2013.
They are even in many ways, and when two players are on equal footing, it is usually best to go with the guy who is less likely to get hurt. At this point, Luck is that player.
The running back position has plenty of elite talent near the top this season, but it becomes a crapshoot outside the top 10. Because of that, it is extremely important to get a reliable rusher early in your draft this year.
Despite his two-game suspension, Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell is a legitimate option to be taken No. 1 overall. The same goes for Eddie Lacy of the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings veteran Adrian Peterson, but the safest and most logical choice may be Kansas City Chiefs speedster Jamaal Charles.
The 28-year-old Charles is as consistent as they come, having topped 1,000 rushing yards in each of his past five full seasons. He has also scored a total of 33 touchdowns over the past two campaigns combined, which is what sets him apart from many of his counterparts.
Charles is often overlooked, but he is considered one of the top candidates to take home the MVP award in 2015, according to Terez A. Paylor of the Kansas City Star:
Although Charles only rushed for 1,033 yards last season, his workload was lightened due partially to injuries, and he still averaged an impressive five yards per carry.
Along with being much healthier, Charles is confident entering the season because he believes KC’s offensive line has taken a big step forward when compared to 2014, per Paylor:
“It makes me feel good—I feel so comfortable and I’m happy,” Charles said. “I’m so excited to have a line. When you have a line, that gets you excited. That gets you wanting to play. (You) want to stay on the field. You want to give your all.”
Perhaps the most underrated factor working in Charles’ favor is the fact that the Chiefs finally have an outside threat on offense in the form of wide receiver Jeremy Maclin.
Maclin should keep opposing defenses honest and prevent them from stacking the box, which will create even more opportunities for Charles to thrive.
In terms of overall talent and depth, wide receiver may be the most stacked position in fantasy this season. As many as 10 different wideouts could realistically be the top scorer in 2015, but Pittsburgh Steelers superstar Antonio Brown stands out above the crowd currently.
The former sixth-round pick was dominant in 2014 to the tune of 129 catches on 182 targets for 1,698 yards and 13 touchdowns. His overall numbers were great, but his consistency is what truly put him over the top. He posted at least 74 yards in every game and topped 100 yards eight times.
Brown already seems like a supremely motivated player since so many teams passed him over in the 2010 draft, but he has even further motivation in 2015. He is attempting to push the Steelers toward upgrading his contract, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports:
The Steelers and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger boast a dynamic offense with a high volume of passing, so it wouldn’t be particularly surprising to see Brown approach numbers similar to what he put up in 2014.
Fantasy owners shouldn’t fret if they don’t get Brown since Demaryius Thomas of the Denver Broncos, Dallas Cowboys star Dez Bryant and New York Giants sensation Odell Beckham Jr. are all poised for huge years as well. But Brown is the benchmark all others are looking to live up to.
There are few sure things at the tight end position this season, which is why those who are able to secure New England Patriots standout Rob Gronkowski will have a huge advantage over the competition.
Gronk has been an injury risk over the course of his career, as he missed 14 games between the 2012 and 2013 seasons. But he was healthy in 2014, and it showed. Gronkowski dominated from the tight end position to the tune of 82 grabs for 1,124 yards and 12 touchdowns, which are numbers no other tight end came close to matching.
That should be the case once again in 2015 provided Gronkowski remains healthy, which is why fantasy owners will very likely have to invest a first-round pick in order to get him.
For those who are unable to come away with Gronk, Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen is a great consolation prize since he promises to be quarterback Cam Newton’s No. 1 target with Benjamin out for the season. Also, even though Jimmy Graham no longer has the benefit of being part of the New Orleans Saints offense, he should still be productive with the Seattle Seahawks.
There is a lot of uncertainty beyond those players, which is why targeting Gronk in your draft may turn out to be an extremely fruitful plan this year.
Potential Team Names
Bevell‘s Advocate: Does your team boast Seahawks stars like quarterback Russell Wilson, running back Marshawn Lynch or Graham? Show your support for offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell.
Suh-Plex City: Do you have the Miami Dolphins defense and special teams? Are you a fan of WWE Superstar Brock Lesnar? Then why not pay homage to The Beast Incarnate’s latest catchphrase?’
Straight Outta Gronk-ton: Pop culturally relevant names are always a crowd pleaser, and with the N.W.A. biopic “Straight Outta Compton” in theaters, pairing that with the dominant Rob Gronkowski is a winning combination.
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