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Doug Orth | Archive | Email |
Staff Writer

Top 200 Big Board, PPR: Version 2.0
Preseason Matchup Analysis

PPR | 0.5 PPR | Non-PPR

A d v e r t i s e m e n t

Five Big Boards in five days. No one to my knowledge as ever tried to accomplish such a feat. Perhaps after doing it this year, maybe I’ll wish I hadn’t.

All kidding aside, 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 they cover).

While I will provide the bulk of my analysis this week into this article, I will add any insights that I think are particularly helpful to owners in standard, half-point, TFC and FFPC leagues in those respective Big Boards as the week progresses.

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 a 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 TE1.

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 tiers.

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 RB2).

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 production.

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 PPR format:

 PPR Big Board - Top 200 (175+25)
OVR PR Pos Player Risk Tm Age SSI FPts/G FPts 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16
1 1 RB1 Adrian Peterson MIN 30 908.0 22.4 89.5
2 1 WR1 Antonio Brown PIT 27 901.7 22.6 90.5
3 2 RB1 Le’Veon Bell PIT 23 918.1 19.5 39.0
4 3 RB1 C.J. Anderson DEN 24 898.6 21.8 87.0
5 4 RB1 Marshawn Lynch SEA 29 896.1 19.5 78.0
6 2 WR1 Demaryius Thomas DEN 27 903.2 21.0 84.0
7 5 RB1 Eddie Lacy GB 25 866.7 17.8 71.0
8 6 RB1 Jamaal Charles KC 28 889.9 19.9 79.5
9 3 WR1 Julio Jones ATL 26 894.4 24.6 98.5
10 4 WR1 Randall Cobb GB 25 799.6 22.4 89.5
11 5 WR1 Dez Bryant DAL 26 899.2 21.8 87.0
12 6 WR1 Odell Beckham Jr. NYG 22 906.4 22.9 91.5
13 1 TE1 Rob Gronkowski NE 26 905.0 18.0 72.0
14 7 WR1 Calvin Johnson DET 29 883.5 19.8 79.0
15 8 WR1 A.J. Green CIN 27 850.4 17.9 71.5
16 7 RB1 Justin Forsett BAL 29 847.2 17.8 71.0
17 1 QB1 Andrew Luck IND 25 896.5 27.2 108.6
18 8 RB1/2 DeMarco Murray PHI 27 807.4 17.6 70.5
19 9 RB1/2 Matt Forte CHI 29 881.6 18.6 74.5
20 10 RB1/2 Jeremy Hill CIN 22 848.9 19.6 78.5
21 8 WR1/2 Alshon Jeffery CHI 25 839.5 18.0 72.0
22 9 WR1/2 Brandin Cooks NO 21 754.6 18.5 74.0
23 11 RB1/2 Frank Gore IND 32 806.1 16.4 65.5
24 12 RB1/2 Mark Ingram NO 25 764.5 17.3 69.0
25 10 WR1/2 Jordan Matthews PHI 23 779.0 17.0 68.0
26 13 RB1/2 Lamar Miller MIA 24 800.4 12.5 50.0
27 2 QB1 Aaron Rodgers GB 31 886.4 26.7 106.9
28 14 RB1/2 LeSean McCoy BUF 27 800.2 16.9 67.5
29 2 TE1 Jimmy Graham SEA 28 867.7 15.1 60.5
30 11 WR1/2 T.Y. Hilton IND 25 757.0 15.4 61.5
31 12 WR1/2 Andre Johnson IND 34 749.0 15.3 61.0
32 13 WR1/2 Brandon Marshall NYJ 31 792.3 17.5 70.0
33 15 RB2 Chris Ivory NYJ 27 673.6 15.3 61.0
34 14 WR2 DeAndre Hopkins HOU 23 837.4 18.0 72.0
35 15 WR2 Amari Cooper OAK 21 775.7 15.5 62.0
36 16 WR2 Jarvis Landry MIA 22 760.9 15.3 61.0
37 17 WR2 Davante Adams GB 22 818.6 18.1 72.5
38 18 WR2 Mike Evans TB 22 835.8 15.3 61.0
39 16 RB2 Latavius Murray OAK 25 740.4 13.6 54.5
40 17 RB2 Ameer Abdullah DET 22 794.2 16.6 66.5
41 19 WR2 Keenan Allen SD 23 748.8 16.5 66.0
42 3 TE1 Greg Olsen CAR 30 800.5 15.6 62.5
43 18 RB2 C.J. Spiller NO 28 775.3 14.3 57.0
44 19 RB2 Melvin Gordon SD 22 802.7 13.5 54.0
45 20 WR2 Julian Edelman NE 29 742.2 13.6 54.5
46 21 WR2 Emmanuel Sanders DEN 28 722.5 12.8 51.0
47 4 TE1 Travis Kelce KC 25 804.2 14.5 58.0
48 20 RB2 Alfred Morris WAS 26 783.5 11.6 46.5
49 21 RB2 Carlos Hyde SF 23 680.7 9.3 37.0
50 3 QB1 Russell Wilson SEA 23 820.3 26.8 107.0
51 22 WR2/3 Golden Tate DET 27 683.4 11.5 46.0
52 22 RB2/3 Todd Gurley STL 21 804.3 9.8 19.5
53 23 RB3 T.J. Yeldon JAC 21 734.6 12.1 48.5
54 4 QB1 Drew Brees NO 36 865.1 26.0 103.8
55 24 RB2/3 Arian Foster HOU 29 780.0 0.0 0.0
56 23 WR2/3 Allen Robinson JAC 22 738.4 15.3 61.0
57 5 QB1 Peyton Manning DEN 39 872.4 23.5 94.1
58 24 WR2/3 Anquan Boldin SF 34 703.3 15.8 63.0
59 25 RB2/3 Doug Martin TB 26 706.8 12.0 48.0
60 26 RB2/3 Andre Ellington ARI 26 714.9 13.4 53.5
61 25 WR2/3 Charles Johnson MIN 26 703.6 14.0 56.0
62 6 QB1 Ben Roethlisberger PIT 33 873.3 20.1 80.4
63 27 RB3 Danny Woodhead SD 30 705.4 13.6 54.5
64 26 WR3 Sammy Watkins BUF 22 738.9 12.5 50.0
65 28 RB3 Rashad Jennings NYG 30 613.2 12.6 50.5
66 29 RB3 Joseph Randle DAL 23 756.8 13.1 52.5
67 30 RB3 Jonathan Stewart CAR 28 744.0 11.9 47.5
68 27 WR3 Jeremy Maclin KC 27 671.9 11.8 47.0
69 28 WR3 Steve Smith BAL 36 717.3 15.8 63.0
70 29 WR3 Mike Wallace MIN 29 725.5 14.5 58.0
71 30 WR3 DeSean Jackson WAS 28 671.5 13.4 53.5
72 5 TE1 Tyler Eifert CIN 24 764.5 13.4 53.5
73 31 RB3 LeGarrette Blount NE 28 658.6 13.0 39.0
74 32 RB3 Joique Bell DET 29 638.8 10.9 43.5
75 30 WR3 Vincent Jackson TB 32 725.7 13.8 55.0
76 31 WR3 Nelson Agholor PHI 22 676.2 10.8 43.0
77 7 QB1 Matt Ryan ATL 30 841.9 22.7 90.6
78 33 RB3 Shane Vereen NYG 26 635.4 12.5 50.0
79 6 TE1 Martellus Bennett CHI 28 721.2 10.5 42.0
80 33 WR4 Steve Johnson SD 29 712.2 13.6 54.5
81 34 WR Pierre Garcon WAS 29 716.1 13.0 52.0
82 8 QB1 Philip Rivers SD 33 846.1 20.2 80.8
83 9 QB1 Matthew Stafford DET 27 807.9 19.9 79.4
84 35 WR4 John Brown ARI 25 719.8 14.1 56.5
85 36 WR4 Eric Decker NYJ 28 688.9 12.0 48.0
86 37 WR4 Eddie Royal CHI 29 664.6 14.8 59.0
87 34 RB3 Giovani Bernard CIN 23 654.8 8.9 35.5
88 38 WR4 Kendall Wright TEN 25 706.4 14.9 59.5
89 35 RB3 Ryan Mathews PHI 27 614.8 8.6 34.5
90 36 RB3 Reggie Bush SF 30 621.0 11.6 46.5
91 39 WR4 Martavis Bryant PIT 23 588.9 0.0 0.0
92 40 WR4 Larry Fitzgerald ARI 32 680.3 12.8 51.0
93 7 TE1/2 Jordan Cameron MIA 27 707.1 12.9 51.5
94 10 QB1 Eli Manning NYG 34 868.2 21.4 85.4
95 11 QB1 Tony Romo DAL 35 785.3 22.8 91.3
96 37 RB4 Tre Mason STL 22 637.9 11.4 45.5
97 38 RB4 Duke Johnson CLE 21 685.7 12.6 50.5
98 12 QB1/2 Teddy Bridgewater MIN 22 802.1 22.4 89.7
99 13 QB1/2 Sam Bradford PHI 27 758.6 18.6 74.5
100 39 RB4 Ronnie Hillman DEN 23 580.3 3.5 14.0
101 41 WR4 Roddy White ATL 33 694.6 14.8 59.0
102 42 WR4 Brian Quick STL 26 636.9 11.9 47.5
103 43 WR4 Devin Funchess CAR 21 612.7 13.3 53.0
104 44 WR4 Markus Wheaton PIT 24 570.4 12.5 50.0
105 14 QB1/2 Ryan Tannehill MIA 27 804.2 18.7 74.8
106 15 QB1/2 Tom Brady NE 38 736.9 0.0 0.0
107 45 WR4 DeVante Parker MIA 22 563.8 6.3 25.0
108 8 TE1/2 Vernon Davis SF 31 776.6 14.0 56.0
109 9 TE1/2 Kyle Rudolph MIN 25 745.1 13.0 52.0
110 40 RB4 Knile Davis KC 23 648.2 8.1 32.5
111 41 RB4 Alfred Blue HOU 24 620.7 13.8 55.0
112 42 RB4 David Johnson ARI 23 590.7 8.1 32.5
113 46 WR4 Rueben Randle NYG 24 705.8 14.5 58.0
114 16 QB2 Cam Newton CAR 26 820.2 20.4 81.4
115 10 TE1/2 Antonio Gates SD 35 625.8 0.0 0.0
116 11 TE1/2 Jason Witten DAL 33 682.6 10.8 43.0
117 43 RB4 Isaiah Crowell CLE 22 679.3 7.5 30.0
118 44 RB4 Tevin Coleman ATL 22 617.6 9.9 39.5
119 47 WR5 Brandon LaFell NE 28 641.6 11.0 44.0
120 12 TE1/2 Delanie Walker TEN 31 703.4 10.0 40.0
121 48 WR5 Michael Floyd ARI 25 653.5 11.5 34.5
122 45 RB5 Devonta Freeman ATL 23 621.5 10.5 42.0
123 46 RB5 Bishop Sankey TEN 22 672.6 6.8 27.0
124 47 RB5 Darren McFadden DAL 28 503.7 6.1 24.5
125 48 RB5 James White NE 23 539.0 7.6 30.5
126 17 QB2 Carson Palmer ARI 35 808.1 20.2 80.8
127 49 RB5 Andre Williams NYG 23 466.4 5.0 20.0
128 50 RB5 David Cobb TEN 22 588.4 9.4 37.5
129 49 WR5 Michael Crabtree OAK 27 624.8 12.0 48.0
130 50 WR5 Terrance Williams DAL 25 618.0 11.3 45.0
131 51 WR5 Marques Colston NO 32 607.6 10.5 42.0
132 18 QB2 Andy Dalton CIN 27 690.8 19.1 76.2
133 19 QB2 Colin Kaepernick SF 27 787.5 21.3 85.1
134 51 RB5 Matt Jones WAS 22 592.1 8.8 35.0
135 52 RB5 Charles Sims TB 24 535.1 4.5 18.0
136 13 TE2 Dwayne Allen IND 25 580.8 8.9 35.5
137 14 TE2 Owen Daniels DEN 32 596.8 10.3 41.0
138 15 TE2 Julius Thomas JAC 27 659.7 6.0 6.0
139 52 WR5 Torrey Smith SF 26 616.0 10.6 42.5
140 53 WR5 Breshad Perriman BAL 21 633.9 8.0 32.0
141 53 RB5 Cameron Artis-Payne CAR 25 510.9 1.5 6.0
142 16 TE2 Zach Ertz PHI 24 685.4 6.8 27.0
143 54 RB5 Roy Helu OAK 26 608.4 8.3 33.0
144 55 RB5 Karlos Williams BUF 22 542.6 5.6 22.5
145 54 WR5 Brandon Coleman NO 23 545.7 11.9 47.5
146 17 TE2 Heath Miller PIT 32 590.7 10.4 41.5
147 18 TE2 Josh Hill NO 25 648.8 7.1 28.5
148 20 QB2 Jay Cutler CHI 32 699.1 18.6 74.2
149 56 RB5 Darren Sproles PHI 32 598.1 6.8 27.0
150 57 RB5 Lance Dunbar DAL 25 565.4 6.9 27.5
151 55 WR5 Doug Baldwin SEA 26 581.9 10.3 41.0
152 56 WR5 Dwayne Bowe CLE 30 536.4 8.9 35.5
153 57 WR5 Allen Hurns JAC 23 592.4 10.9 43.5
154 58 WR5 Marvin Jones CIN 25 535.6 7.9 31.5
155 58 RB5 Denard Robinson JAC 24 546.4 4.0 16.0
156 19 TE2 Scott Chandler NE 30 611.8 6.6 26.5
157 59 WR5 Victor Cruz NYG 28 584.5 6.6 26.5
158 60 WR5 Leonard Hankerson ATL 26 490.4 8.3 33.0
159 21 QB2 Ryan Fitzpatrick NYJ 32 592.3 17.4 69.7
160 22 QB2 Alex Smith KC 31 693.3 17.1 68.4
161 23 QB2 Derek Carr OAK 24 736.4 18.2 72.6
162 20 TE2 Richard Rodgers GB 23 518.8 8.8 35.0
163 59 RB5 Khiry Robinson NO 25 537.7 1.9 7.5
164 61 WR6 Jerricho Cotchery CAR 32 399.7 7.3 29.0
165 24 QB2 Joe Flacco BAL 30 758.3 18.8 75.2
166 60 RB5 James Starks GB 29 576.3 7.5 30.0
167 61 RB5 Chris Polk HOU 25 632.9 8.0 32.0
168 62 WR6 Kenny Stills MIA 23 495.5 4.9 19.5
169 63 WR6 Donte Moncrief IND 22 545.1 6.8 27.0
170 21 TE2 Jared Cook STL 28 656.9 10.0 40.0
171 22 TE2 Austin Seferian-Jenkins TB 22 663.4 7.3 29.0
172 23 TE2 Coby Fleener IND 26 585.1 8.3 33.0
173 24 TE2 Eric Ebron DET 22 610.9 8.1 32.5
174 64 WR6 Tavon Austin STL 24 616.8 9.4 37.5
175 25 TE2 Charles Clay BUF 26 636.0 8.6 34.5
176 62 RB5 Jonas Gray NE 25 503.5 6.3 25.0
177 65 WR6 Kenny Britt STL 26 588.7 9.8 39.0
178 66 WR6 Marquess Wilson CHI 22 451.4 5.5 22.0
179 67 WR6 Ty Montgomery GB 22 615.4 6.3 25.0
180 63 RB5 Lorenzo Taliaferro BAL 23 486.6 5.9 23.5
181 64 RB5 DeAngelo Williams PIT 32 478.2 5.0 20.0
182 25 QB2 Marcus Mariota TEN 21 767.5 19.7 78.9
183 65 RB5 Mike Tolbert CAR 29 534.8 6.6 26.5
184 66 RB5 Jerick McKinnon MIN 23 685.3 6.6 26.5
185 25 TE2 Larry Donnell NYG 26 641.6 8.9 35.5
186 26 TE2 Clive Walford OAK 23 585.2 8.0 32.0
187 68 WR6 Phillip Dorsett IND 22 513.6 6.5 26.0
188 26 QB2 Jameis Winston TB 21 761.2 17.2 68.6
189 69 WR6 Jeff Janis GB 24 435.8 3.4 13.5
190 67 RB5 Terrance West CLE 24 531.1 2.8 11.0
191 27 TE2 Ben Watson NO 34 577.6 6.6 26.5
192 28 TE2 Jordan Reed WAS 25 458.9 7.9 31.5
193 68 RB5 Theo Riddick DET 24 432.3 2.4 9.5
194 29 TE2 MyCole Pruitt MIN 23 502.8 3.0 12.0
195 30 TE2 Ladarius Green SD 25 574.2 9.1 36.5
196 27 QB2 Blake Bortles JAC 23 623.0 15.8 63.0
197 70 WR6 Cole Beasley DAL 26 456.6 6.9 27.5
198 71 WR6 Josh Huff PHI 23 496.7 7.9 31.5
199 31 TE2 Virgil Green DEN 27 559.2 6.8 27.0
200 72 WR6 Tyler Lockett SEA 22 465.0 5.9 23.5

Top 25:

In any given year, there are roughly 15 players I consider as fantasy blue-chippers. As is the case in college recruiting, just because a player is designated as a five-star athlete, it does not guarantee superstardom. That is pretty much the case in fantasy football as well. This year, I’m going to say there are almost 17. What does that mean? (I’m glad you asked.) I think the first 15 on my board above are generally recognized as the top 15 by most, although perhaps in a different order than many have them. The 16th player is Andrew Luck, whose only potential “fantasy weakness” at this point seems to be a front office that doesn’t appear all that inclined to make sure their franchise quarterback has the best protection money can buy. I don’t think any of us question that Luck is a near-lock to produce at a top-three level at his position, so long as he just stays healthy. The reason he ranks at the bottom of the blue-chip category is because he plays at a position that has more viable starting options than most 12-team leagues have starting vacancies.

The “almost” represents Justin Forsett, who I am starting to embrace again as a surefire fantasy RB1. Earlier this offseason, it seemed logical that the 29-year-old journeyman (30 in October) would be a near-lock for RB1 status as the latest player to benefit from all the receptions that backs usually get in a Marc Trestman offense. Then, I saw Lorenzo Taliaferro shed weight and play very well this preseason. Then, I saw Taliaferro get hurt (MCL sprain). An improved Taliaferro represents (or at least did) about the only realistic competition Forsett had for meaningful carries in this offense since rookie Javorius “Buck” Allen is more of a passing-down back. Fitzgerald Toussaint and Terrence Magee are emergency depth, assuming either one or both even make the team. Forsett (40 runs of 10-plus yards) ranked second in the league last year behind DeMarco Murray (45) and led the NFL with 17 runs of 20-plus yards. He did this despite recording only 235 carries, which seems like a more than realistic number for him to achieve again this season. Even if his 5.4 YPC drops by a half-yard behind one of the league’s best run-blocking lines this season, the lack of viable receiving options and likely boost in receptions that Forsett is likely to see should easily keep last year’s surprise breakout star firmly in the RB1 discussion.

The story of August was the season-ending injury to Packers WR Jordy Nelson. I recognize the fantasy community isn’t going to like any receiver breaking into the group of five most have identified as the top wideouts (Antonio Brown, Demaryius Thomas, Julio Jones, Dez Bryant and Odell Beckham Jr., but I believe Nelson’s injury is probably going to give Randall Cobb the 20 or so extra targets he needs to move from a player going in the middle of the second round to one that forces his way into the top five receivers. Admittedly, it’s not a bold prediction to suggest a receiver could move from eighth place in 2014 to a fourth-place finish in 2015 as a result of his transition from option 1B to the clear top target. Another reason Cobb’s owners can feel confident is because he is so efficient; last season, the fourth-year Kentucky product finished in a tie for 20th among wide receivers with 127 targets, yet finished in a tie for eighth with Beckham with 91 catches. Even more impressive, Cobb caught a remarkable 71.6 percent of his targets, which actually lowered his career average to 73.7 percent. (In other words, his catch rate is sustainable.) Now for the most impressive part: while Beckham was turning heads with his otherworldly production (91-1,305-12), Cobb did pretty much the same thing on three fewer targets (91-1,287-12). There is plenty of reason to believe Beckham won’t be able to match last year’s production (such as his injury history, any improvement over last year from Rueben Randle, the return of Victor Cruz and/or the addition of Shane Vereen); on the other hand, Cobb has a clear path to more targets and access to perhaps the best quarterback in the game.

Without question, I am more conflicted about DeMarco Murray than any other player in the top 25. I love his age, the talent, the scheme and the potential of any back with his skill in a Chip Kelly offense. I cannot stand last season’s workload, his track record for durability or the threat of Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles stealing anywhere from 8-15 touches per game when everyone is healthy. Kelly’s devotion to sports science suggests to me that if any coach can manage their way around a back coming off a high-usage season or Murray’s injury history, it would be Kelly. Although the Eagles have been one of the healthier teams in the league since he arrived, Kelly’s approach (obviously) doesn’t eliminate injuries and there is significantly more evidence to suggest that Murray isn’t going to last the season than there is that Kelly can keep him on the field for all 16 games. When I can simultaneously make a case how the same player can be a top-five overall pick and not be worth a pick in the first three rounds, it probably means he belongs somewhere in the middle of the second round as a high-upside second option on a fantasy team.


Want to talk about another proven running back with even more volatility than Murray? I offer you LeSean McCoy, who is probably the odds-on favorite to lead the league in carries if he suits up 16 times this season. So what’s the problem? I don’t like talking about “if” any of my top three picks in any draft can stay healthy as if it is something I should I need to pray for each night. I documented his offseason/preseason injury and offensive line woes under the TFC Big Board last week, so I’ll give that side of the argument a rest. On the other hand, I believe one personnel move is all it would take for the ex-Eagle to post another McCoy-like season. While the thought of Tyrod Taylor as the Bills’ starting quarterback this season probably doesn’t excite the masses (especially as it relates to the passing attack), is it really all that difficult to imagine watching him run read-option 5-8 times a game for a play-caller who utilized it so often at times in San Francisco? I don’t think it is a stretch at all and, in fact, I think I would recommend it as a way to accentuate the strengths of Taylor and McCoy. The thought of roughly 300 carries for an elusive back like McCoy in an offense that can cause linebackers to hesitate for a split-second sounds like a recipe for fantasy success to me. The problem with that logic is that Buffalo probably has a short leash on Taylor despite naming him the starter and hasn’t really given any indication that it will attempt to execute the plan I laid out during the preseason. Of course, this all assumes the hamstring Buffalo is “cautiously optimistic” about will heal in time for McCoy to play in the opener.

As we progress through five Big Boards in five days, I’m going to write a time or two about underrated New York Jets’ offense. (Yes, you read that right.) Although the rankings at the end of each year wouldn’t suggest it, OC Chan Gailey has consistently coaxed production out of teams and players that have often not been productive for any other team and/or play-caller. (The names of Kordell Stewart, Tyler Thigpen, C.J. Spiller and Steve Johnson come immediately to mind, although I expect the last two will remove themselves from this list in 2015.) Brandon Marshall has been productive just about everywhere he has been and he’s generally been a target monster at each stop. To that end, the 31-year-old had seen no fewer than 141 targets in any year since his rookie season in 2006 prior to last year’s injury-shortened campaign when finished with 106. Marshall is a No. 1 option yet again in New York, although it appears owners may be scared off a bit by his age, last year’s injury or the fact he will have to catch passes from Ryan Fitzpatrick or Geno Smith all season. If owners want to use age and the way the 2014 season ended against Marshall, that’s fine. Just understand that the five-time Pro Bowler has finished inside the PPR top 12 at his position every year in which he has played at least 15 games since 2007 and will be playing for Gailey, who memorably force-fed Johnson the ball during their time together in Buffalo (with Fitzpatrick at quarterback, no less). The other point to consider is this: Marshall might as well be this generation’s Tim Brown. During his enshrinement ceremony in July, Brown rattled off the 19 quarterbacks he caught passes from during his NFL career with Rich Gannon being, by far, the most accomplished. It could be said that Marshall hasn’t been any more fortunate since Jay Cutler, Chad Henne and Kyle Orton represent the best of Marshall’s former signal-callers. The point? Don’t knock Marshall because of his quarterback situation; he’s been there and done that.

In a PPR format, I cannot tell you how much I like Jarvis Landry. His skill is being somewhat diminished by the number of short routes he runs in the Miami offense, but that is about the only complaint anyone can make about a player capable of 100 catches and 10 touchdowns. So why do I have him ranked at the end of the third round? Call it what you will, but I’d be surprised if rookie DeVante Parker hasn’t formed a bond with Ryan Tannehill that is every bit as strong as the quarterback’s current bond with Landry by the end of the season. It is that fear that will cause me to hesitate on Landry in my drafts over the next 1 ½ weeks. Let’s not forget that Parker reminds many of A.J. Green and, while I don’t think he’s quite at that level, I don’t think the comparison is that far off. How long will it take Parker to find his form after missing the preseason? Four weeks? All season? It is a question Landry’s owners need to consider. The main thing working in Landry’s favor is that he is currently Tannehill’s No. 1 option and sometimes nothing else matters, regardless of the talent the rest of the supporting cast has.


Making the always-smooth transition from a heavy emphasis on teams that play in the east to a Midwest team that plays in the NFC East, the Cowboys could be on the verge of screwing up what was already a mind-boggling situation to begin with. I had no issue with letting DeMarco Murray walk after running him into the ground last season because Dallas was certain to find a viable replacement in free agency and/or the draft. Right? Right?? Other than sharing the same first and last initials and a lengthy injury history, Darren McFadden and Murray don’t have much else in common. Murray can operate fine behind man- or zone-blocking schemes (the Cowboys utilize both) while McFadden has consistently struggled behind the latter during the rare time in his career he’s actually been healthy enough to play. Joseph Randle was expected to be the starter all offseason, but Yahoo’s Charles Robinson reported over the weekend that Dallas believes McFadden is the “best of the bunch” and the backfield will “be a committee in the purest NFL form”. The news of a committee isn’t particularly shocking since Dallas has stuck to that story for most of the summer, but the idea that McFadden is the apple of the Cowboys’ eye is. I maintain Dallas is hoping that another team parts ways with a younger running back with some upside at final cuts (Montee Ball, Ka’Deem Carey or even UDFA Thomas Rawls could all be considered upgrades). The fact the Cowboys are not interested in any backs “at this point” (such as the recently-released Fred Jackson) is an indication to me they don’t have nearly as much confidence in their backfield as they say they do. Redraft, keeper and dynasty owners alike need to be glued to the TV and/or internet at final cuts; the odds are strong Dallas’ leading rusher for 2015 isn’t on the roster yet.

Consider me impressed by the Chiefs’ willingness (I’ll call it that as opposed to suggesting they need to do it) to get Jeremy Maclin involved early and often this preseason. Maclin’s 9.9 YPC on 11 receptions is about what I would expect on a team quarterbacked by Alex Smith, but his involvement in the red zone is encouraging. I can’t say my overall impression of his fantasy ceiling for this year has changed all that much because HC Andy Reid’s offenses have almost always been balanced (as it relates to the difference in catches between the top two wide receivers on the team), but I’ll admit that I’m more open to reconsider Maclin as a solid WR3 than I was a month ago. If the preseason is any indication, then my current four-game projection of 19-220-1 for the former Eagle is probably a pretty good estimate for the pace he should keep this season (76 receptions and 880 yards) while four touchdowns might end up being a tad low. Even if the on-pace projection is spot-on, I’ll strongly consider a player with those numbers to be worthy of a sixth-round pick.

Returning to my Big Apple discussion a few paragraphs ago, Eric Decker has essentially become a forgotten man. Two years ago, he was a product of Peyton Manning. Last year, he “overachieved” his way to 74 catches, 962 yards and five touchdowns despite suffering from poor quarterbacking, poor scheme and the fact he was about the only Jets’ receiver worth guarding on a regular basis. (Maybe he’s just a really good receiver?) He might be getting a slight upgrade in quarterback play in 2015, but I don’t think there is any doubt about the potential impact Gailey’s offense can have on his fantasy stock or the fact that Marshall will attract all the attention Decker was receiving a season ago. Consider for a second that Ryan Fitzpatrick was at least partially responsible for helping two receivers finish among the top 30 PPR receivers last year in a run-heavy offense in Houston and it doesn’t seem so far-fetched that he could do the same thing in New York in his second tour of duty under Gailey. For a player with 70-catch and 6-8 touchdown upside, Decker’s early-10th round ADP makes him a bargain.


The fact there hasn’t been a hint of contract extension talks between Washington and Alfred Morris suggests the team already has a pretty good idea rookie Matt Jones is the future at running back in D.C. The real question then becomes how soon will the future arrive? Jones offers the Redskins something in the passing game Morris just doesn’t have and similar physicality as a runner, so one has to wonder how long they’ll stick with Morris if their season goes south yet again. Jones is almost certain to get more than the 82 offensive touches then-backup Roy Helu saw last year, so will Washington’s renewed emphasis on the ground game leave Morris and Jones with enough volume so that both players can be relevant in fantasy? Or worse yet, will Jones steal just enough work to make Morris a fringe fantasy starter but not enough to make himself a regular flex option? Regardless of what happens, the rookie’s all-around skills are worth stashing in all leagues; Morris has yet to miss a game after piling 876 regular-season carries in his first three NFL seasons, so it’s not too hard to imagine he’s “due” for a multi-game absence at some point in the near future.

While Fred Jackson’s release on Monday was due in part to give the respected veteran more time to find another employer, Buffalo also presumably made the move in part because it likes what it has in rookie Karlos Williams, who is still reportedly recovering from an emergency undisclosed operation. Prior to that injury, I was impressed with what I saw of the rookie in the first week of the preseason, particularly the burst he showed on his two catches against the Panthers. At 6-1 and 230 pounds, Williams makes a ton of sense as a battering ram to use whenever LeSean McCoy needs a rest or is forced to miss time in the Bills’ run-heavy attack. Anthony Dixon may be listed as the next man up at the moment, but he is mostly a career special-teamer that showed very little when he got his chance at some extended playing time last year. It would not surprise me in the least if Buffalo ends up placing Williams in the same role it envisioned for Jackson. In fact, that is exactly what I expect to happen and why I have rated where I do.


For all intents and purposes, each of my five Big Boards this week will be a top 175 followed by a list of 25 players I believe are on the verge of, at the very least, being somewhat useful fantasy properties. They range from the players that could be an emergency flex option (such as Mike Tolbert, who would probably share carries with Cameron Artis-Payne and keep his role as a third-down back in the event of an injury to Jonathan Stewart) to those that could have sneaky immediate value (Jonas Gray) and also includes a handful of supremely-talent athletes batting for third-receiver roles on highly-explosive offenses that figure to sabotage each other’s value when both are healthy (Ty Montgomery and Jeff Janis).

Assuming Fred Jackson doesn’t resurface in New England (a distinct possibility given how often HC Bill Belichick has spoken in glowing terms about him), LeGarrette Blount would seem to be a lock for early-down work. The thing about the Patriots is that we aren’t really ever quite sure about their backfield and this preseason has been an extension of that. Blount was playing well into the fourth quarter of New England’s Preseason Week 3 win over Carolina after Jonas Gray got the start. Gray did very little, as did passing-down back Brandon Bolden. James White, who leads all Patriots’ running backs in snaps this preseason, was only out on the field for two plays in the same game. Dion Lewis looked spry for the second straight week in limited action and appears to be White’s main challenger to replace Shane Vereen since Travaris Cadet has been unable to get on the field due to injury. Bolden has significant value to New England as a key special-teams contributor. While the Blount-Gray switch-a-roo smells like a typical Belichiick mind game, can we be sure that is all it is? What if Gray tears up Pittsburgh on Opening Night during Blount’s one-game suspension? Is White being rested because Belichick and OC Josh McDaniels know he’s “the guy” or is Lewis being groomed for that pass-catching role now that he is healthy? The point to all of this is that I have to rank Blount as a late sixth-rounder because he has the potential to be a 1,000-yard rusher and score 10 times in this offense. White is ranked where he is because could be the new Vereen. But are we even all that sure the Patriots aren’t rolling with Gray and Lewis come Week 2? None of these questions are ones we’ll get definite answers for because we are dealing with Belichick. Making matters worse, the committee will probably reduce the winner(s) of this backfield into an inconsistent flex option at best.

Jordan Reed gets a mention here because he is essentially the last man standing at his position, but his spot on the Big Board might as well read “Washington tight end” because I believe Derek Carrier, who was acquired on Aug. 21 from San Francisco, will eventually become the starter. Since I cannot predict how long Reed will stay healthy in 2015 and because he has significant upside when he isn’t injured, I’m not going to insert Carrier’s name. But the same durability issues that led HC Jay Gruden to demote Reed in favor of Niles Paul about a month ago figure to rear their ugly head yet again at some point this season and, when they do, Carrier will be waiting. The product of Beloit (Wis.) College often appeared to be the second-best tight end in San Francisco last year, so I don’t doubt he will be a more-than-serviceable player if/when he gets the nod. I hesitate to go so far as to say he will be fantasy-viable this season, but he’s a capable receiver in an offense that is willing to involve the tight end.

Next: Non-PPR Big Board | 0.5 PPR Big Board

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.