July means summer, barbeques, and enjoying time outside. It also means that NFL training camps start at the end of the month!
With the NFL season right around the corner, fantasy football drafts are already underway. Owners are barreling into an enormous amounts of fantasy football information, trying to make sure they are fully prepared for their draft and the upcoming season.
The most hotly debated topic amongst fantasy football players every year is, of course, player rankings. Fantasy football is a prediction game, and if we all thought the same about the players, it would be a pretty boring game!
Draft Buddy recently rolled out their fantasy football player rankings, prepared by Dave Stringer and Mike MacGregor, for the 2015 NFL season. My job is to analyze those rankings and identify some players that are I feel are currently ranked too high or too low by Dave and Mike.
Got an opinion? Great! Let us know what side of these player rankings you fall on in the comments below, or single out some other players whose rankings you strongly disagree with, and why.
Ranked Too High
Current Rank: QB6
Tannehill has been jumping up fantasy draft boards the last few weeks. He has the offensive weapons around him, but they are not considered studs like other players on teams with quarterbacks projected below Tannehill. I’d rather have Cam Newton, who has a more proven tight end in Greg Olsen and wide receiver in Kelvin Benjamin, or Matt Ryan who has Julio Jones and Roddy White, or Russell Wilson who is a threat with his legs and has Jimmy Graham. Tannehill finished 2014 as QB10, but all those quarterbacks mentioned earlier finished above Tannehill and should do so again in 2015.
Current Rank: QB16
The San Francisco 49ers are going through a major overhaul in 2015. They lost Head Coach Jim Harbaugh, lost veteran starting running back Frank Gore, and their defense has taken a massive hit due to retirements and team changes. The 49ers are going to lean on Kaepernick, who frankly just is not a very good quarterback. In 2014 Kaep finished as QB16. Veteran receivers Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith will try to help Kaepernick, but there aren’t many other threats on this team. I’d rather have Jay Cutler who has Alshon Jeffery and Matt Forte, or Teddy Bridgewater who has Adrian Peterson back and young fast receivers.
Current Rank: RB16
After an underwhelming rookie season, Hyde is in line to become the main workhorse for the San Francisco 49ers. The problem is, I do not think his talent and opportunity match the hype he is receiving. As I stated above with Kaepernick, the 49ers do not have any outstanding threats on offense, so defenses will load the box to stop the run and force Kaepernick to throw to his veteran receivers. Also, the 49ers brought in Reggie Bush to be the main pass catching back, which limits Hyde’s workload. Finally, the 49ers drafted a rookie, Mike Davis, who is capable to step in if Hyde struggles, putting Hyde on a short leash. I feel the bullish predictions attributed to Hyde are a bit overboard. I prefer Mark Ingram, C.J. Spiller, rookie Melvin Gordon and Giovani Bernard, all ranked a tier below, over Hyde.
Current Rank: RB25
Blount changed teams part of the way through the 2014 season and joined the New England Patriots. He was very productive when given the ball, however, with Bill Belichick calling the shots, the running back position will always be a random outcome for the running backs. With Jonas Gray, Brandon Bolden, Travaris Cadet, and James White all threatening to steal carries, Blount may have to split repetitions more than he’d like. I have a hard time putting so much faith into a New England running back. I prefer Chris Ivory, rookie T.J. Yeldon or Joseph Randle all above Blount.
Current Rank: WR25
In 2014, Golden Tate found himself playing opposite the best wide receiver in the game, Calvin Johnson. Or at least, that was the plan going into last season. Through the first 9 games, Calvin Johnson was hobbled and was either limited during play or missed some games. During those games, Tate had 66 catches on 93 targets, 909 yards and three TDs. During the last 7 games when Johnson was healthy, Tate had 33 catches on 51 targets, 422 yards, and one TD. Johnson has had a full offseason to become healthy. Tate’s numbers should not be as bad as the second half of 2014, but will not be near his numbers during the first half of 2014. Proceed with caution when drafting Tate this year. I prefer Keenan Allen, Brandon Marshall and Sammy Watkins over Tate.
[Editor’s note: We actually adjusted Tate’s earlier ranking down to 25th after Tony wrote this article, and now he is ranked below each of the receivers Tony mentions here, but instead of striking this section I decided to leave it and give credit where credit is due – we did have him too high.]
Current Rank: WR60
When the Indianapolis Colts drafted rookie wide receiver Phillip Dorsett in the 2015 NFL Draft, Donte Moncrief’s value took a massive hit. I feel Dorsett will overtake Moncrief on the depth chart and be the Colts’ third wide receiver behind TY Hilton and Andre Johnson. It will be quite the battle during training camp between the two. Dorsett has better physical abilities and is a smaller receiver, which could work well in the slot. Regardless of who wins the camp battle, I see a 50/50 time split between the two receivers which hurts both their stats tremendously. I prefer Eddie Royal, Steve Johnson and Victor Cruz over Moncrief.
Current Rank: TE5
Bennett was a big, popular target for quarterback Jay Cutler in 2014, so much that he vaulted himself into the top five TE last season. However, this offseason, Bennett has been pushing for a new contract from the Chicago Bears, so much that he kept himself out of voluntary OTAs. He did report to the mini camp, but there was still a push for a contract. The Bears have roughly eight tight ends on the team currently, which one might infer they are preparing for a holdout or time without Bennett since they don’t seem likely to offer him a new contract. If Bennett does hold out or is traded to a new team that will pay him, Bennett’s stats might take a hit. It’s worth monitoring in the next few weeks prior to drafts, but Bennett is very risky ranked so high for tight ends currently. I prefer Julius Thomas over Bennett.
Ranked Too Low
Current Rank: QB20
Bridgewater was arguably the best rookie quarterback in 2014. He will take another big step forward in 2015. With elite running back Adrian Peterson back, some pressure is taken off of Bridgewater, allowing him to focus on the receivers that now have some lighter coverage due to Peterson demanding an 8-man box. Bridgewater could end up as a legit QB1 this season finding himself among the Top 12 quarterbacks in the league. I prefer Bridgewater over Sam Bradford, Colin Kaepernick and Carson Palmer.
Current Rank: QB11
Manning must have loved rookie Odell Beckham Jr. finally making his way onto the field because Beckham provided a big, fast, physical receiving option for Manning that was lost when Victor Cruz went out with season ending tendon tear in his knee. With the addition of Shane Vereen at running back and Cruz likely returning from injury, Manning will be passing a lot more in 2015. Manning finished as QB8 in 2014 and should find himself right there again in 2015. With an improved defense, watch out for the Giants to make a deep run this year. I prefer Manning over Ryan Tannehill and Tom Brady, even if Brady’s suspension is cut in half.
Current Rank: RB27
Ivory is a volume running back meaning he receives the majority of the teams rushing attempts. Even with receiving only 56% of the share of the rush attempts last season, Ivory was able to finish as the RB19. Ivory remains the best running back on the New York Jets, even with the additions of Stevan Ridley and Zac Stacy. With Brandon Marshall now in town to help spread the defense out, Ivory should find more holes in defenses. I prefer Ivory over Isaiah Crowell and LeGarrette Blount.
Current Rank: RB42
After staying healthy for all 16 games in 2013, Mathews suffered an MCL sprain in Week 2 in 2014. He pushed his way through the injury to only suffer an ankle injury late in the season. A total of 6 games was not in the plan for Mathews in 2014, who is a very good runner when healthy. He now is backup to the best running back in 2014, DeMarco Murray, both of which have relocated to the Philadelphia Eagles. With Murray having logged a lot of miles in 2014, I expect head coach Chip Kelly to lean heavily on the run and have a balanced attack of Murray and Mathews. If I had to guess, I see a 65/35 workload split, which is more than what Mathews is projected now. The Eagles had the best graded offensive line blocking in 2014, even above the phenomenal Dallas Cowboys, who were second ranked. If Mathews can stay healthy, he could a great flex/RB2 option for fantasy leagues. I prefer Mathews over Bishop Sankey, Charles Sims and Ameer Abdullah.
Current Rank: WR29
I am all-in on Bryant this year. He only played 10 games in 2014 but finished with 26 receptions for 549 yards for an average of 21.1 yards per reception, which was the highest for a wide receiver scoring over 100 fantasy points for the season. With QB Ben Roethlisberger still able to sling the ball and playing opposite the most consistent wide receiver in the game in Antonio Brown, Bryant should excel into legit WR2 numbers this season. Also, rumor has it that Bryant trained in MMA this offseason to help improve his handwork for maneuvering around defenders. Bryant is taking his career seriously and as a fantasy player, I want all the Bryant shares I can get. I prefer Bryant over Julian Edelman, Mike Wallace and Jeremy Maclin.
Current Rank: WR66
In my opinion, Funchess is the most underrated player of the 2015 rookie wide receivers, strongly based on the team/environment he was drafted to. He is now teammates with stud quarterback Cam Newton, sophomore receiver Kelvin Benjamin and veteran tight end Greg Olsen. Funchess provides the Panthers with another tall (6’5”) option at wide receiver opposite Benjamin. If Funchess can grasp this offense quickly (and I believe he can), he has a chance to become Newton’s favorite red zone target. I prefer Funchess over a host of players, including Malcom Floyd, Torrey Smith and Terrance Williams.
Current Rank: TE32
The Oakland Raiders have made all the right moves the past two years to help push their team in the right direction. They have sophomore quarterback Derek Carr who showed promise in 2014 and the best rookie wide receiver in Amari Cooper. They also have a young bruising running back Latavius Murray, but also brought in Roy Helu (sleeper alert) to help with the passing downs. Tight end Rivera received 100 targets in 2014, which was the seventh most among tight ends where he finished as a modest TE17. He should continue to be a target hog in Oakland as rookie tight end Clive Walford learns the NFL game. Rookie tight ends rarely pan out their first year. Assuming he improves his catching abilities, Rivera could be a draft day sleeper for a team waiting on tight ends. I prefer Rivera over Jared Cook, Tyler Eifert and Richard Rodgers.