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Pre-NFL Draft 2015 Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Rankings—Demaryius and Dez Elite Red Zone Options

Whether you have number 88 for the Denver Broncos or the Dallas Cowboys - Demaryius Thomas or Dez Bryant - you are setting your fantasy football team up for success. No question they are elite wide receivers.

Whether you have number 88 for the Denver Broncos or the Dallas Cowboys – Demaryius Thomas or Dez Bryant – you are setting your fantasy football team up for success. No question they are elite wide receivers.

With the NFL having morphed into a passing league over the past several seasons, the league is now littered with pass catchers capable of reaching the 1,000 yard plateau.

While that may sound like the beginning of an argument to hold off on drafting the position early in your fantasy draft, that isn’t the case. Not all 1,000 yard receivers are created equal, with the most important distinction being those that are solid red zone options for their teams together with the quality of the offense they play in.

For instance, Dez Bryant led the league in receiving touchdowns last year with 16 as the Cowboys main threat in the red zone while Julian Edelman found the end zone just four times despite catching 92 balls for 972 yards.

This year, there are between eight and 10 players that should be considered elite fantasy options at wide receiver, and it would behoove owners to do what they can to ensure they have at least one of them on their rosters.

Here are our initial 2015 fantasy football wide receiver rankings for redraft leagues, before the NFL Draft.

1. Demaryius Thomas, Broncos

Over the last three years, Thomas has averaged 1,494 yards and 11.7 touchdowns per season. The unproven Cody Latimer takes over for Wes Welker and the team’s other threat in the red zone, tight end Julius Thomas, is no longer in Denver. Expect more opportunities in the red zone for Thomas in 2015.

2. Dez Bryant, Cowboys

The Cowboys superstar has averaged 1,312 yards and 13.7 touchdowns over the past three years. With DeMarco Murray having left town and Jason Witten another year older, Bryant has to see his target count of 136 from a year ago increase.

3. Antonio Brown, Steelers

Brown isn’t the biggest or the fastest receiver in the league but he just might be the most productive. At least he has been over the last two years, accumulating 239 receptions for 3,197 yards and 21 touchdowns over that span. With the development of Martavis Bryant, his target total could take a bit of a hit next season but that’s a minor red flag.

4. A.J. Green, Bengals

Some nagging injuries and a concussion caused Green to put up career worst numbers in 2014 but a bounce back season seems in order for the smooth striding 26-year old Georgia product. Look for another 1,300 yard, double digit touchdown season, and over 160 targets given the massive talent difference between Green and the next talented receiver on the team.

5. Julio Jones, Falcons

Jones is clearly a wonderful talent coming off a monster season with career highs in receptions (104) and yards (1,593), plus six touchdowns. However, it’s hard to move him any higher considering he has found the end zone just eight times in his last 20 games.

6. Calvin Johnson, Lions

Seriously? Calvin at number six? C’mon, man! Let’s face it. People get old, folks. Johnson didn’t look as explosive last season as he did in previous years. Golden Tate deserves some touches, Eric Ebron should add something at tight end. Add it up and this is where Calvin landed. Sorry.

7. Jordy Nelson, Packers

While Nelson had the finest year of his career last season with 98 receptions for 1,519 yards and 13 touchdowns, it seems likely that the Packers spread the wealth around a little more in the passing game in 2015 with second-year player Davante Adams getting a bigger piece of the pie.

8. Odell Beckham Jr., Giants

The catch, 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns in 12 games, the charisma, the swagger. What more can you say? This guy has perennial Pro Bowler written all over him.

9. Alshon Jeffery, Bears

High floor, high ceiling. With Brandon Marshall having been shipped to the Jets, Jeffery is all but guaranteed to reach a new career high in targets in 2015 as the focal point of the Bears passing attack. If quarterback Jay Cutler doesn’t implode, Jeffery should approach 1,300 receiving yards and double digit touchdowns.

10. Randall Cobb, Packers

Buyer beware. I am always more down on Randall Cobb than just about everyone else. And 2015 won’t be any different. From here, the perspective is of a player that probably can’t repeat his 12 touchdown count from a year ago and one unlikely to play 16 games with heavy usage.

11. T.Y. Hilton, Colts

While Hilton is a Smurf, he is also a speed merchant who just might improve upon his 82 reception, 1,345 yard, seven touchdown stat line in the coming season playing opposite Andre Johnson. Johnson’s presence should open things up for Hilton, if only slightly, and a double digit touchdown season could be in order in the Colts high powered offense.

12. Mike Evans, Buccaneers

This dude is the real deal. Despite shoddy quarterback play, he posted 68 receptions for 1,051 yards and 12 touchdowns as a rookie. Evans was clearly the Bucs top pass catching threat and he would be a half dozen spots higher if he were catching passes from a top 10 quarterback.

13. Emmanuel Sanders, Broncos

His production from a year ago (101 receptions, 1,404 yards and nine touchdowns) says that he should be ranked much higher than we have him. But who do you move him ahead of? This dude has fantasy bargain written all over him in 2015.

14. Kelvin Benjamin, Panthers

Speaking frankly, there has to be some concern as to Benjamin’s upside. He caught a woeful 50.3% of his targets last season although he did top 1,000 receiving yards with nine touchdowns. And it’s those touchdowns that get him to this spot in the rankings. He is a candidate to move down depending on how the draft unfolds.

15. DeAndre Hopkins, Texans

Andre Johnson is gone so Hopkins takes over as the Texans leading wide receiver. Oh wait, that happened last season when he produced 1,210 yards and six touchdowns on just 127 targets. We’d have him higher if not for the quarterback issues we expect him to face in 2015.

16. Jordan Matthews, Eagles

While I doubt Matthews will ever be considered an elite receiver, he is the leading receiving option on a solid Eagles offense with (apparently) a new quarterback in Sam Bradford who loves to throw the short and intermediate stuff. Expect 1,000 yards and between seven and nine touchdowns from Matthews in 2015.

17. DeSean Jackson, Redskins

While Djax wasn’t nearly as productive in his first season in Washington as he was in 2013 with the Eagles, he still managed to approach 1,200 receiving yards with six touchdowns despite the Redskins major issues at quarterback. That production is likely his floor in 2015.

18. Sammy Watkins, Bills

It is doubtful that Watkins will ever produce enough to justify the bounty the Bills paid to get him but he did enough last year to warrant mid-tier WR2 status in 2015. And, yes, there is always the chance he busts out despite the woeful quarterback play we expect in Buffalo.

19. Brandin Cooks, New Orleans

Jimmy Graham left town as did Kenny Stills and Marques Colston isn’t too far off from being sent to the scrap heap. Cooks has plenty of playmaking ability and we expect Saints head coach Sean Payton to force feed him the ball in 2015.

20. Brandon Marshall, Bears

This is the point where the question marks start getting pretty plentiful and where Marshall’s slide ends. We expect Ryan Fitzpatrck to start and feed him plenty of targets this season.

21. Keenan Allen, Chargers

While Allen was a bit of a bust last season, we expect him to approach his 1,046 yard, eight touchdown production as a rookie. Antonio Gates is a year older, Eddie Royal is no longer a Charger and hopefully Allen will remain injury free. He should rate as a bargain on draft day.

22. Golden Tate, Lions

Tate was a revelation during his first year in Detroit, reaching career highs in receptions with 99 and yards with 1,331. However, he was aided by injuries to Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush along with the slow development of tight end Eric Ebron. It’s a rock solid bet that he won’t approach the 143 targets he had last season unless Johnson is injured once again in 2015.

23. Julian Edelman, Patriots

If the last two years are the sample size we’re using, then Edelman should be good for close to 100 receptions and 1,000 yards and four to six touchdowns next season. Far more valuable in PPR, Edelman nonetheless rates as a mid to upper tier WR3 in standard scoring 12 team leagues.

24. Andre Johnson, Colts

Johnson departs the Texans for greener pastures in Indianapolis catching passes from Andrew Luck. Ignoring injury shortened seasons, Johnson last year failed to top 1,000 receiving yards for the first time since his rookie season. He would rank a lot lower if not for his touchdown potential as a Colt. This is a player in decline who will turn 34 years of age before opening day.

25. Jeremy Maclin, Chiefs

It’s hard to put Maclin this low coming off his career year last season with 86 receptions for 1,329 yards and 10 touchdowns (all career highs). Yes, folks, the Alex Smith factor is that strong.

26. Martavis Bryant, Steelers

Despite not seeing the field for the first six games of the season, Bryant still managed to finish his rookie season with 26 receptions for 549 yards and eight touchdowns. This guy is a play making machine and should easily shove Markus Wheaton aside as a starter in 2015. He has big upside but is bound to be an inconsistent fantasy option next season.

27. Victor Cruz, Giants

A torn patellar tendon ended his season early last year and Cruz will return to the Giants as the number two option behind Odell Beckham Jr. He should come as a bargain in this year’s drafts.

28. Mike Wallace, Vikings

With Adrian Peterson setting the table in the play option game, maybe Wallace puts together a big season in 2015. Then again, maybe not.

29. Allen Robinson, Jaguars

Without question Robinson is the type of player teams will never be satisfied with as their leading wide receiver. However, he was still solid as a rookie in a pathetic Jaguars offense last season, catching 48 passes for 548 yards and a pair of scores in 10 games before suffering a season-ending broken foot.

30. Michael Floyd, Cardinals

Floyd’s talent level gets him the final spot in the rankings because his production last year sure wasn’t the reason. If the light comes on, look out.

Pre-NFL Draft 2015 Fantasy Football Tight End Rankings—Gronk On Top, And Its Not Close

There is one player standing atop the mountain for fantasy purposes at tight end and that is New England Patriots Rob Gronkowski.

There is one player standing atop the mountain for fantasy purposes at tight end and that is New England Patriots Rob Gronkowski.

The dynamic at tight end for fantasy football players has changed dramatically over the course of just one season.

While Jimmy Graham was the consensus top fantasy tight end last season, there were another three or four options that fantasy owners were salivating over before hitting another tier of players with solid upside potential.

However, in 2015, there is one player standing atop the mountain for fantasy purposes and that is Rob Gronkowski.

You need to make a bit of a trek down the hill before you reach the next tier of four players, none of whom has a chance to supplant Gronk as the number one option provided he remains injury free in 2015.

After that, you might as well ignore the position since there is little to differentiate the third tier of fantasy tight ends. This is a group riddled with some combination of age, injury or other issues that will cause varying levels of concern for fantasy owners.

Here are our initial 2015 fantasy football tight end rankings for redraft leagues, before the NFL Draft.

1. Rob Gronkowski, Patriots

Even if Jimmy Graham remained on the New Orleans Saints, it still would have been Gronk as the top ranked fantasy tight end. Now that Graham is a Seattle Seahawk, the gap between the two widened considerably. Sure, there is injury risk here but the upside is too much to ignore.

2. Jimmy Graham, Seahawks

While Graham’s talent is undeniable, his inability to produce when nicked up coupled with his move to one of the league’s top rushing teams sees his fantasy value tumble in 2015. While he still should find the end zone plenty, it seems unlikely that he will top 1,000 receiving yards.

3. Travis Kelce, Chiefs

Despite their struggles at wide receiver, Kelce was an underutilized option in the Kansas City Chiefs passing attack in 2014, catching 67 of his 87 targets (a completion percentage of 77%) for 862 yards and five touchdowns. Even with Jeremy Maclin now in Kansas City, Kelce is still a sure fire bet for over 100 targets this season.

4. Greg Olsen, Panthers

Olsen posted career highs across the board in 2014 with 84 receptions for 1,008 yards and six touchdowns. While the Panthers will look to fill the hole at wide receiver opposite Kelvin Benjamin, we still see Olsen as a solid, low risk option in 2015.

5. Martellus Bennett, Bears

Bennett reached career highs in all major categories last season with 90 receptions for 926 yards and six touchdowns on 128 receptions. Brandon Marshall left town. If Bennett remains healthy, he will be a top five tight end.

6. Julius Thomas, Jaguars

Incredible stat – Thomas hauled in 12 touchdowns on just 62 targets last season. Let’s go out on a limb and predict 90 targets for him this season in his new home in Jacksonville (his career high is 89). How many fantasy points can we give him? Does a line of 65 receptions for 780 yards and five touchdowns seem fair? Don’t reach for Julius.

7. Zach Ertz, Eagles

This is where things get dicey. As in, at this point in my fantasy auction, I’m waiting on the tight end position. Since Ertz has upside and the Philadelphia Eagles have lost their leading receiver in each of the last two seasons, he gets the nod as the top pick amongst the also-rans at tight end.

8. Jordan Cameron, Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins dumped receivers Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson, leaving them with Jarvis Landry, Kenny Stills and a quite possibly washed up Greg Jennings. If Cameron can stay healthy (a major if), he should put up solid numbers in his first year in Miami.

9. Antonio Gates, Chargers

After hitting pay dirt nine times in his first eight games last season, Gates went five games without scoring while averaging 38.2 yards per game in those contests. Gates will turn 35 in June and the San Diego Chargers are planning to reduce his snap count. Gates is a low ceiling option in 2015.

10. Dwayne Allen, Colts

Allen produced eight touchdowns in 12 games on just 50 targets last season and the Indianapolis Colts did little to address their size issue at wide receiver. With Allen their top receiving option in the red zone in an offense that rates amongst the league best, he should reach TE1 status albeit almost certainly with continued consistency issues.

11. Jason Witten, Cowboys

Witten is another low ceiling option but with Terrence Williams having failed to make major strides last season, Witten should come close to another 90 targets this season as Tony Romo’s security blanket. It’s worth noting that Witten hasn’t missed a game since his rookie season in 2003.

12. Delanie Walker, Titans

Healthy for 15 games, Walker posted career highs in receptions with 63 and yards with 890 while finding the end zone four times. However, he was a boom or bust fantasy option, tallying 50.1 of his 113.0 fantasy points in just three games. Expect another solid season from Walker given the dire state of the Tennessee Titans’s depth chart at wide receiver.

13. Jordan Reed, Redskins

Dude is talented but he can’t stay healthy and we have no idea what to expect out of the Washington Redskins offense in 2015. Reed looks better in the wrapper than he does out of it.

Pre-NFL Draft 2015 Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings—Bell, Lynch and Lacy Hold Down Top 3

Even with a three game suspension looming - which we expect will get reduced to two - Pittsburgh Steelers Le'Veon Bell tops the pre-NFL Draft RB rankings.

Even with a three game suspension looming – which we expect will get reduced to two – Pittsburgh Steelers Le’Veon Bell tops the pre-NFL Draft RB rankings.

There are two competing schools of thought on drafting running backs for fantasy football in today’s NFL.

Some take the Chip Kelly approach who, even though he peddled LeSean McCoy to the Buffalo Bills this offseason, invested big free agent dollars right back into the position signing DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews. The idea is be willing to pay a high price at the position – early round draft picks for fantasy players – so you aren’t left with scraps.

The opposite approach is the old Mike Shanahan post-Terrell Davis, carried over to Gary Kubiak to a degree, philosophy. Give me just about anybody who can follow three simple instructions – run, cut, run – and I will have success in the running game. For fantasy players, this means forgoing the early, somewhat safer but still risky “studs” at RB in favor of other skill positions, and stockpile mid-tier running backs later on. Surely one or more will hit.

While we won’t get into a discussion today about whether you are better to use an early draft pick on Le’Veon Bell or Dez Bryant or Rob Gronkowski, so-called every down backs are a rare breed, and you don’t have to get very far down this list to find players with some potentially significant warts.

Regardless, we’ve got to rank them. Here are running back rankings for 2015 redraft fantasy football leagues, before the NFL Draft.

1. Le’Veon Bell, Steelers

Equally adept as a runner and receiver, Bell surpassed the lofty expectations placed upon him during his second season, emerging as a workhorse back and finishing the season with the 2nd most yards from scrimmage with 2,215 behind DeMarco Murray’s 2,261. Better yet, Bell managed to reach that mark with 76 fewer touches than Murray. He rates as the current consensus top pick in fantasy drafts and we aren’t going to buck that trend Expect his suspension to be reduced from three games to two.

2. Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks

Let’s face it – the Seahawks offensive success hinges on Lynch’s ability to run the ball. While that equation may change slightly in 2015 due to the addition of Jimmy Graham, Lynch will still be the main go-to of this offense when the going gets tough. His rushing yardage, yards-per-carry, receiving yards, yards-per-reception and touchdown totals all increased last season. It doesn’t appear that he is slowing down as he approaches 29 years of age, and backups Robert Turbin and Christine Michael have done precious little to warrant a reduced workload for Marshawn.

3. Eddie Lacy, Packers

While his yardage totals didn’t increase appreciably and his touchdown total only went up by two, Lacy was clearly a far superior back in 2014 than during his rookie season. He looked more explosive while continuing to run hard giving us reason to believe another step forward should be expected in 2015.

4. Adrian Peterson, Vikings

In 2012, AP nearly broke the single season record for most rushing yards a few short months after tearing his ACL. We expect another big season (although not as spectacular) when he returns in 2015 after missing all but one game last season. An angry and motivated AP should return to glory even after passing the age of 30.

5. Jamaal Charles, Chiefs

After accumulating 329 touches and 1,980 total yards in 2013, Charles managed just 1,324 yards on 246 touches last season. Here’s to the notion that head coach Andy Reid will learn from his mistake of not using Charles enough in 2014.

6. Matt Forte, Bears

After being the centerpiece of the Bears offense during former head coach Marc Trestman’s two years with the team, Forte is in line for a major reduction in his workload in 2015. About to turn 30 and entering the final year of his contract, Forte will need to adapt to life under John Fox, who is a big believer in splitting carries at the running back position. Since the Bears have precious little behind Forte, he should still see a healthy workload making him a mid-tier RB1.

7. Arian Foster, Texans

Foster’s injury history negatively impacts his booster club membership amongst fantasy football players since his heyday (just two seasons removed, 2012), but generally far more than it should. When healthy, he averaged the 2nd most fantasy points per game amongst the league’s running backs last season. Foster is a talented dude and the Texans have almost no choice but to rely on him heavily.

8. DeMarco Murray, Eagles

While Murray went to Philadelphia and got paid, he won’t see the opportunity he had in 2014. Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles will see to that. A top five finish at running back will be hard to achieve and injury risk after so many touches last season has to be a concern.

9. LeSean McCoy, Bills

Sorry, Chip Kelly fans, but I’m putting my money down on McCoy proving ole’ Chip was wrong in trading a 27-year old Pro Bowl quality running back. The Bills offensive line is no match for the Eagles but new offensive coordinator Greg Roman knows a thing or two about running the ball, as San Francisco 49ers fans can attest to.

10. Jeremy Hill, Bengals

It would be a shock if Giovani Bernard regains his starting position in 2015 after Hill chalked up 929 rushing yards and six touchdowns over the final nine games of the season. Hill took his opportunity, seized it, and the coaching staff genuinely seems to prefer Hill to Bernard as the main contributor out of the backfield.

11. C.J. Anderson, Broncos

Over his last eight games, Anderson produced like an upper tier RB1 with 1,057 total yards and 10 touchdowns. Of course, he hogged the touches because the Broncos didn’t have any other healthy options, including Peyton Manning and his bum quadriceps. You could easily argue that he should be further up the rankings but a new coaching staff plus the return of Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman increase Anderson’s risk profile.

12. Lamar Miller, Dolphins

Miller reached statistical highs in every major offensive category last season, finishing the season as the 9th ranked fantasy running back with 1,374 total yards and nine touchdowns. However, he was once again underutilized with just 254 touches over the course of the season. If the coaching staff had more faith so would we.

13. Carlos Hyde, 49ers

Out of all of the running backs with breakout potential, Hyde has to rank right near the top, if not at the top. He will replace Frank Gore as the 49ers bell cow runner and would rank higher if not for the presence of Reggie Bush, who signed as a free agent and figures to handle most of the pass receiving out of the backfield.

14. Justin Forsett, Ravens

Ozzie Newsome believes in Forsett and I generally follow the advice of one of the league’s top talent evaluators. Plus, the Ravens have little behind Forsett. While another 1,500 yard season probably isn’t in the cards, Forsett has the look of an upper tier RB2 prior to the league’s rookie draft.

15. Tre Mason, Rams

In just 12 games, Mason racked up 913 total yards and five touchdowns, averaging a very sturdy 10.1 yards per carry. He is the clear cut starter in the Rams backfield and could emerge as a lower tier RB1 if the team’s coaching staff allows him to handle a larger role in the passing game. He caught just 16 receptions as a rookie in 2014.

16. Alfred Morris, Redskins

While not exactly a great fit in head coach Jay Gruden’s offense, Morris was still a solid fantasy play last season with 1,074 rushing yards and eight touchdowns. That production is basically his floor and his upside is much greater if RGIII can somehow stay healthy.

17. Mark Ingram, Saints

In 13 games, Ingram produced 1,109 total yards and nine touchdowns, averaging a nifty 12.7 PPG. While C.J. Spiller was signed in the offseason, he basically takes over the role of the departed Pierre Thomas. It’s also worth noting Khiry Robinson averaged 3.5 carries per game when Ingram was healthy.

18. Joique Bell, Lions

Bell fits in here at the moment but if the Lions add a high draft pick to the running back position, his fantasy ranking will see a big drop. Let’s face it – Bell works hard but his talent level is amongst the worst in the league for projected starting running backs.

19. Frank Gore, Colts

While Gore’s touches and total yards will almost certainly decline in his first year in Indianapolis, his touchdowns figure to improve, making him a decent fantasy option provided he remains healthy at 32 years of age.

20. Jonathan Stewart, Panthers

He’s good when he’s healthy but he’s never healthy enough. And that’s why we’re not allowing ourselves to get too excited by the 738 yards and three touchdowns he posted over the final seven games of last season.

21. Latavius Murray, Raiders

While Murray has obvious natural physical gifts, it’s always a bit disconcerting when a team brings in a pair of veterans to fill out the depth chart. Roy Helu should handle the pass catching role and there is a small chance that Trent Richardson could eat into Murray’s workload, especially in short yardage.

22. Giovani Bernard, Bengals

Despite his struggles last season (three missed games, 4.0 YPC), Bernard still managed to finish 18th in fantasy points amongst the league’s running backs. Which begs the question, why is everyone so down on him? Sure, Jeremy Hill’s strong play as a rookie all but ensures that Bernard will never be a top five fantasy back but this is a dude with amazing big play ability. His floor is 1,000 total yards and 5-6 touchdowns.

23. C.J. Spiller, Saints

Is Spiller washed up at age 27 or was he simply miscast and underutilized during his last couple of years in Buffalo? Who knows, but his upside is limited in 2015 as he is stuck behind Mark Ingram. However, Darren Sproles proved to be a useful fantasy option in Sean Payton’s offense. It stands to reason they signed Spiller to be a somewhat significant contributor to the offense, especially with the receiver departures.

24. Andre Ellington, Cardinals

There are a lot of players to potentially put in this spot, since we are stopping at 24. Teams still without a RB in the first 23 ranked players are the Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys, Jacksonville Jaguars, New England Patriots, New York Giants, New York Jets, San Diego Chargers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tennessee Titans. Clearly, the NFL Draft and training camp battles are going to have a big impact on these rankings between now and late-August.

For number 24, lets start at the top of our alphabetical team list, Arizona. It is very difficult to peg projections for Ellington since it is unclear how the Cardinals plan to use him in 2015. He is currently the top of a thin depth chart, on what should be a potentially explosive offense. However, Bruce Arians is motivated to get a bigger body in there and protect QB Carson Palmer. Ellington’s talent is worthy of this spot, but expect the Cardinals to add to the position in the draft.