We are on the back stretch of the preseason and the most serious
fantasy owners will almost certainly use the next week-plus to
cram anywhere from five to 40 or so drafts into a 10-day window.
The inevitable major preseason injuries have happened, providing
significant boosts to the fantasy stocks of a mid-round player
like Davante Adams or a late-round flyer like rookie Devin Funchess.
We know as much as we are going to know until the season starts
(at least until the next news blurb we read from a beat writer
throws into question everything we thought we knew about the team
Before I get to the boards, I would like to remind readers about
two key points:
1) I doubt you will find another draft board like this one and
further doubt you will find a similar set of rankings anywhere
else. The standard the industry uses to measure accuracy among
analysts is overall scoring, but I am more concerned with projected
consistency and matchups. Consistency tends to lead to big fantasy
numbers at the end of the season and championships while inconsistency
and bad matchups at the wrong time usually lead to frustration.
Someday, I hope the industry catches on to my way of thinking.
Until then, I’ll try to win as many titles as possible and
help you do the same.
2 ) Much like the past three seasons, I want to provide readers
with a clear risk sign. If a player is a moderate risk –
be it due to injury, off-field, etc. – you will see a
next his name. If I feel a player is a severe risk, you will see
next to his name. While I feel like I have accounted for each
player’s “risk” with their spot on the Big Board,
you may be more or less inclined to deal with that risk than I
am. This is just another way of helping you take a look at the
board and quickly identifying which players stand a good chance
to frustrate you at some point this season.
As I have done in previous years, I have taken the additional
step on the final set of Big Boards to designate players to their
“fantasy position”. Keep in mind that just because
there may be 12 teams in your league, it doesn’t mean there
are 12 players worthy of being designated as a QB1, RB1, WR1 or
QB1/RB1/WR1/TE1 – A player
I am comfortable starting every week, regardless of matchup.
1/2, 2/3, 3/4 (All positions) –
A player that can occasionally post numbers with a player in the
tier above him, but is usually either too inconsistent to be considered
in that tier or has a poor track record of staying healthy.
QB2/TE2 – A bye-week or matchup-based
quarterback or tight end.
RB2/WR2 – A back or receiver
that can post RB1/WR1 numbers with high upside, but has an obvious
flaw that makes him less consistent than a RB1 or WR1.
RB3/WR3 - Usually is an inconsistent
“splash” player that can win his fantasy team with
a huge performance, but is best utilized when the matchup is right.
RB4/WR4 – Usually a steady,
lower-upside option that can be spot-started and used as a bye-week
fill-in. In some cases, he is a high-upside player blocked by
two top-level players in front of him.
RB5/WR5 – Usually a “handcuff”,
but a player who is on the roster generally to keep the ship from
sinking due to injury.
RB6/WR6 – Extreme longshots
due to any number of factors, but with enough talent to be viable
at some point in fantasy.
I have taken the additional step this year of adding color to
the “Pos” column below; it is my hope taking this
step will further enhance an owner’s ability to delineate
where one tier ends (regardless of position) and where another
one begins, essentially using the same concept NFL teams do with
a horizontal board during the NFL Draft. (Although it is not a
perfect example, here
is the kind of thing I am talking about in case the term “horizontal
board” is unfamiliar to you.) The change of colors from
blue to white don’t necessarily represent rounds here, but
Let’s revisit the color-coding system before we start:
Red – A very difficult matchup.
For lower-level players, a red matchup means they should not be
used in fantasy that week. For a second- or third-tier player,
drop your expectations for them at least one grade that week (i.e.
from WR2 to WR3). For elite players, expect them to perform one
level lower than their usual status (i.e. RB1 performs like a
Yellow – Keep expectations
fairly low in this matchup. For lower-level players, a yellow
matchup is a borderline start at best. For a second- or third-tier
player, they can probably overcome the matchup if things fall
right. For the elite players, expect slightly better than average
White – Basically, this matchup
is one that could go either way. In some cases, I just don’t
feel like I have a good feel yet for this defense. Generally speaking,
these matchups are winnable matchups for all levels of players.
Green – It doesn’t
get much better than this. For non-elite players, the stage is
basically set for said player to exploit the matchup. For the
elite player, this matchup should produce special numbers..
OVR – Overall Rank
PR – Position Rank
FPts – Fantasy points scored
FPts/ G – Fantasy points/game
Success score (SSI) – The sum of several position-specific
attributes that I feel are important to fantasy production, weighted
and scored. A perfect score is 1000, but it may help to move the
decimal point one spot to the left and think of each score as a
percentage. It may also help to think of the final score as the
likelihood that player will produce at the level I have projected
him if his current environment stays roughly the same as it is now.
Here is the scoring
system that I used to rank the players in the non-PPR format:
Perhaps no playerís fantasy stock has skyrocketed more over
the last two or so weeks than Chris Ivoryís. Earlier this
summer, he was going in the sixth- to eighth-round area in a number
of drafts; now, heís in the fourth- or fifth-round area. Sometimes,
the preseason is little more than eye candy for owners just wanting
to like a player. Other times (albeit less frequently), it serves
more of as a market correction on a player whose stock was far too
low to begin with. In this case, I think it is the latter. In standard
scoring, Ivory finished as a top-20 back last year despite fewer
than 200 carries and limited involvement in the passing game (18
catches). Letís recall that Ivory achieved that status despite
losing significant snaps to Chris Johnson late in the season, presumably
because then-OC Marty Mornhinweg and ex-HC Rex Ryan were worried
about his violent running style resulting in injury. Itís
a fair point, but one that seems a bit counterintuitive for a team
that didnít trust its passing attack and a coach that is synonymous
Why will 2015 be any different? The first reason is new OC Chan
Gailey can usually put together a reasonable efficient offense
and give fantasy owners at least one worthwhile fantasy back.
Gailey uses a lot of spread concepts in his offense and has the
personnel to make coordinators think twice about loading the box
against the Jets this year. The second reason is Ivory is one
of the leagueís most difficult runners to tackle; he has
finished top-three in each of the past three seasons in Pro Football
Focusí Elusive Rating (which is designed to measure a runnerís
ability independent of his blockers) ó first in 2012, third
in 2013 and third again in 2014. Only Adrian Peterson, Marshawn
Lynch, and Eddie Lacy have forced more missed tackles on a per-touch
basis than Ivory the past two years. A third reason is because
Gailey seems willing to do something with Ivory that no other
play-caller has Ė use him more often in the passing game.
Even a slight increase in receptions Ė perhaps in the 30s
Ė and something approaching 225 carries should be the goal
for Ivory, who just happens to be in a contract year and in an
offense run by one of the weakest-armed quarterbacks in the league
(Ryan Fitzpatrick). Bilal Powell should see the bulk of third-down
work, but Ivory has proven he is head-and-shoulders above the
competition for early-down snaps.
While Ivoryís stock has shot up, it sure didnít take
long for the air to go out of Melvin Gordonís fantasy balloon.
The No. 15 overall pick didnít help himself much with a
slow preseason Ė part of which can be credited to an ankle
injury and the fact that he is still learning what the appropriate
amount of patience (waiting for a hole to develop) is at the pro
level. We also already knew he was a work in progress when it
comes to the passing game. The problem (and I acknowledge it may
just be perception) is that it seems San Diego has steadily moved
away from wanting to be more a balanced offense willing to live
with whatever big play Gordon can provide to a team that wants
to lock the rookie into an early-down role only and ride Philip
Riversí right arm. Gordonís fantasy stock hasnít
taken quite the tumble that Joseph Randleís has, but a player
that was considered an early third-round pick a month or so ago
is now usually available in the late-fourth or early-fifth round
There is a cluster of three backs from Nos. 107-109 I strongly
advise owners to consider in all leagues: David Johnson, Knile
Davis and Matt Jones. Iíve already said enough lately about
Jones, who I would make a play for in any keeper or dynasty league.
Johnson is intriguing because Ellington is such a notable injury
risk. Sure, the rookie isnít going to be nearly as valuable
in standard scoring as he would be in PPR if Ellington was forced
to miss multiple weeks, but heíd be the next in line (and
quite likely) to take on Ellingtonís quasi-featured role.
Davis is essentially the more expensive version of James Starks
for fantasy purposes. While the public has been quick to jump
all over Ronnie Hillman taking significant early-season work from
C.J. Anderson, they have been mum when it comes to the fact Packers
HC Mike McCarthy and Chiefs OC Doug Pederson have both publicly
stated they intend on giving Lacy and Jamaal Charles more rest.
Davis, like Starks, is no threat to the incumbent. However, owners
seem to believe once a workhorse, always a workhorse when it comes
to Lacy and Charles. Iíd be stunned if owners arenít
able to get a sneaky early-season flex option if they are able
to draft Davis.
I touched a bit on the Cowboysí running back situation
in my PPR Big Board analysis a couple of days ago, but wanted
to drive home the point again with the final player I have listed.
Denver appears to be on the verge of releasing Montee Ball, which
would be a dramatic turn of events for a player that was considered
a first-round fantasy pick last summer. I canít seem to
shake the feeling that Ball isnít going to end up in Dallas
if he is released over the weekend. Slim as those odds might be,
I think it is worth investing a last-round pick in him for that
very reason. Itís hard to say I expect a player that late
could be the key to your fantasy season, but can anyone really
say with any certainty if a struggling Ball still isnít
better than what Dallas has in Randle and/or Darren McFadden?
Doug Orth has written for FF
Today since 2006 and been featured in USA Today’s Fantasy
Football Preview magazine since 2010. He hosted USA Today’s
hour-long, pre-kickoff fantasy football internet chat every Sunday
in 2012-13 and appears as a guest analyst on a number of national
sports radio shows, including Sirius XM’s “Fantasy Drive”.
Doug is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.