Fantasy Football Rankings

Our 2011 fantasy football rankings include team information and bye weeks in parentheses. I also include comments here and there to suggest why a player is listed where he is–or why he’s on the list at all. Assuming these are meant to be copied-and-pasted onto a printed cheat sheet, you can either keep the comments or leave them off. Keep them and you’ll have important notes to refer to later in the draft, since most of the notes are about sleepers and late-round selections.

NFL Fantasy Football Quarterback Rankings 2011

Aaron Rodgers tops the list of elite quarterbacks once more. You won’t find much bad you can say about Rodgers, though I suppose the concussion problem might worry some owners. You might think I’m crazy putting Tony Romo ahead of Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, but Romo has Miles Austin, Dez Bryant, and Jason Witten as his targets. Teams could send the fat kid to cover Roy Williams the last couple of seasons, so expect Dez Bryant’s ascension to starter to open up the offense. Tyron Smith should give Romo better protection this year, too.

Make Your Own Fantasy Football Rankings

Make Your Own Fantasy Football Rankings

I downgrade Manning out of the Top 5 because of the neck injury. While he should be fine, none of the quarterbacks in the Top 5 have an injury issue remotely to that level. Every quarterback eventually experiences drop-off–everyone but Peyton Manning. I’m betting this is the year we see a little bit of that, though I could be entirely wrong. Michael Vick was great last year, but either defenses were starting to figure him out at the end of 2010, or he was starting to wear down from the hits. Either way, I don’t necessarily think Michael Vick is going to be the fantasy force he was last year (and I started him in two leagues). Michael Vick stands around 6’0″ and is thin for an NFL quarterback. He takes a lot of hits with his style, which means he’s an injury risk at all times.

1. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers (8)
2. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints (11)
3. Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers (6)
4. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys (5)
5. Tom Brady, New England Patriots (7)
6. Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts (11)
7. Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles (7)
8. Matt Schaub, Houston Texans (11)
9. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers (11)
10. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions (9)
11. Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears (8)
12. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons (8)
13. Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8)
14. Eli Manning, New York Giants (7)
15. Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams (5)
16. Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens (5)
17. Donovan McNabb, Washington Redskins (9)
18. Kevin Kolb, Philadelphia Eagles (6)
19. Marc Sanchez, New York Jets (8)
20. Matt Cassell, Kansas City Chiefs (6)
21. Matt Hasselbeck, Tennessee Titans (6)
22. Colt McCoy, Cleveland Browns (5)
23. Trent Edwards, Buffalo Bills (7)
24. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals (7)
25. Alex Smith, San Francisco 49ers (7)
26. David Garrard, Jacksonville Jaguars (9)
27. Chad Henne, Miami Dolphins (5)
28. Kyle Orton, Denver Broncos (6)
29. Tim Tebow, Denver Broncos (6)
30. Jason Campbell, Oakland Raiders (8)
31. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers (9)
32. Tarvaris Jackson, Seattle Seahawks (6)
33. Vince Young, Philadelphia Eagles (7)
34. Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville Jaguars (9)
35. Rex Grossman/John Beck, Washington Redskins (5)
36. Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers (7)
37. Jake Locker, Tennessee Titans (6)
38. Jon Kitna, Dallas Cowboys (5)

Week 11 is a big week for bye week quarterbacks, with Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, and Matt Schaub off. The bye situation could get critical for teams that don’t plan when drafting this year. Most seasons have one or two weeks with 6 bye teams, but 2011 has four weeks where that happens. From Week 5 to Week 8, teams could see their playoff hopes evaporate, if a wave of byes and injuries hit them at the same time.

NFL Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings 2011

The top 20-25 running backs are pretty solid this year, which is more than the RB crop has offered in recent seasons. For this reason, you can either wait in the 2nd round, knowing a decent second running back option could fall to you in the 3rd round. Another option is to target the running back position hard in all three first rounds, knowing it’s going to then thin out somewhat. Then you can focus heavily on the quarterback and wide receiver positions. That was a key strategy 10 years ago, but due to the glut of decent platoon running backs in the 25-40 spots, I would prefer to add one elite wide receiver in the first three rounds, then target one of the better options among the semi-starter running backs in that part of the draft as my third runner.

Running backs are injured more than any other offensive position, so either build depth with runners in platoon situations, get your star runners’ handcuff RBs, or continue to draft sleepers late in the draft (and add runners aggressively through free agency all years).

1. Arian Foster – Houston Texans (11)
2. Adrian Peterson – Minnesota Vikings (9)
3. Ray Rice – Baltimore Ravens (5)
4. Lesean McCoy – Philadelphia Eagles (7)
5. Chris Johnson – Tennessee Titans (6)
6. Jamaal Charles – Kansas City Chiefs (6)
7. Frank Gore – San Francisco 49ers (7)
8. Rashard Mendenhall – Pittsburgh Steelers (11)
9. Shonn Greene – New York Jets (8)
10. Maurice Jones-Drew – Jacksonville Jaguars (9)
11. Darren McFadden – Oakland Raiders (8)
12. Steven Jackson – St. Louis Rams (5)
13. Peyton Hillis – Cleveland Browns (5)
14. Michael Turner – Atlanta Falcons (8)
15. Knowshon Moreno – Denver Broncos (6)
16. LaGarrette Blount – Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8)
17. Ryan Mathews – San Diego Chargers (6)
18. Ahmad Bradshaw* – New York Giants (7) – Still not signed at time of publication.
19. Matt Forte – Chicago Bears (8)
20. Jahvid Best – Detroit Lions (9)
21. Deangelo Williams – Carolina Panthers (9)
22. Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints (11)
23. Felix Jones – Dallas Cowboys (5)
24. Fred Jackson – Buffalo Bills (7)
25. Joseph Addai – Indianapolis Colts (11)
26. Ryan Grant – Green Bay Packers (8)
27. Cedric Benson – Cincinnati Bengals (7)
28. Daniel Thomas, Miami Dolphins (5)
29. Beanie Wells – Arizona Cardinals (6)
30. Marshawn Lynch – Seattle Seahawks (6)
31. Ryan Torain – Washington Redskins (5)
32. Benjarvus Green-Ellis – New England Patriots (7)
33. James Starks – Green Bay Packers (8)
34. Demarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys (5)
35. Ryan Williams, Arizona Cardinals (6)
36. Jonathan Stewart – Carolina Panthers (9)
37. Michael Bush – Oakland Raiders (8)
38. Bernard Scott – Cincinnati Bengals (7)
39. Reggie Bush – Miami Dolphins (5)
40. Brandon Jacobs – New York Giants (7)
41. Darren Sproles – New Orleans Saints (11)
42. C.J. Spiller – Buffalo Bills (7)
43. Ricky Williams – Baltimore Ravens (5)
44. Ladainian Tomlinson – New York Jets (8)
45. Roy Helu – Washington Redskins (5)
46. Derrick Ward – Houston Texans (11)
47. Pierre Thomas – New Orleans Saints (11)
48. Donald Brown – Indianapolis Colts (11)
49. Thomas Jones – Kansas City Chiefs (6)
50. Evan Royster, Washington Redskins (5)
51. Tashard Choice – Dallas Cowboys (5) – Note: Lonyae Miller or Phillip Tanner might end up as the Cowboys’ 3rd runner. If so, insert here instead. The Boys’ third guy could be important, since Jones and Murray each have injury questions.
52. Ben Tate – Houston Texans (11)
53. Anthony Dixon – San Francisco 49ers (7)
54. Ronnie Brown – Philadelphia Eagles (7)
55. Shane Vereen, New England Patriots (7)
56. Julius Jones – Seattle Seahawks (6)
57. Isaac Redman – Pittsburgh Steelers (11)
58. Jerome Harrison – Cleveland Browns (5)
59. Da’Rel Scott, New York Giants (7)
60. Delone Carter, Indianapolis Colts (11)
61. Alex Green, Green Bay Packers (8)
62. Jason Snelling – Atlanta Falcons (8)
63. Toby Gerhart – Minnesota Vikings (9)
64. Montario Hardesty – Cleveland Browns (5)
65. Jonathan Dwyer – Pittsburgh Steelers (11)
66. Dexter McCluster – Kansas City Chiefs (6)
67. Jacquizz Rogers, Atlanta Falcons (8)
68. Taiwan Jones, Oakland Raiders (8) – 4.29 40 time.
69. Kendall Hunter, San Francisco 49ers (7)
70. Steven Ridley, New England Patriots (7)
71. Bilal Powell, New York Jets (8) – Behind Shonn Greene and Ladainian Tomlinson.
72. Jamie Harper, Tennessee Titans (6) – Only interesting if Chris Johnson holds out significant time.
73. Johnny White, Buffalo Bills (7) – Rookie who converted to RB in the 2010 college season. Only a dynasty option.
74. Anthony Allen, Baltimore Ravens (5) – Behind Ray Rice and Ricky Williams.
75. Baron Batch, Pittsburgh Steelers (11) – Might replace Mewelde Moore
76. Dion Lewis, Philadelphia Eagles (7) – Behind Lesean McCoy and Ronnie Brown.
77. Marion Barber – Chicago Bears (8)
78. Chester Taylor – Chicago Bears* (8)
79. Justin Forsett – Seattle Seahawks (6)
80. Steve Slaton – Houston Texans (11)
81. James Davis – Washington Redskins (5)
82. Tim Hightower – Washington Redskins (5)
83. Carnell Williams – St. Louis Rams (5)

NFL Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Rankings 2011

The wide receiver crop in 2011 strikes me as deep and talented, though volatile. My suggestion is to collect someone like Roddy White or Andre Johnson in the top two rounds and then wait to add your second receiver. If you choose running backs high, keep picking over the WR position in the top ten rounds, or as long as you’re still in the Top 40 or 50 players. Only draft players below the 50-spot as bye week fill-ins and deep sleepers.

Between the #11 and #25 picks, I don’t see a whole lot of difference in the upward potential of the players. If you feel the same when it gets to that part of the list, wait an extra round and select a top player at another position instead.

1. Andre Johnson – Houston Texans (11)
2. Roddy White – Atlanta Falcons (8)
3. Larry Fitzgerald – Arizona Cardinals (6)
4. Calvin Johnson – Detroit Lions (9)
5. Hakeem Nicks (7)
6. Reggie Wayne (11)
7. Vincent Jackson (6)
8. Greg Jennings – Green Bay Packers (8)
9. Desean Jackson – Philadelphia Eagles (7)
10. Dwayne Bowe – Kansas City Chiefs (6)
11. Santonio Holmes – New York Jets (8) – He was Top 15 in only 3/4ths of a season in 2010.
12. Miles Austin – Dallas Cowboys (11)
13. Jeremy Maclin – Philadelphia Eagles (7)
14. Mike Wallace – Pittsburgh Steelers (11)
15. Mike Williams – Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8)
16. Dez Bryant – Dallas Cowboys (5) – He didn’t even know the playbook last year.
17. Brandon Marshall – Miami Dolphins ()
18. Anquan Boldin – Baltimore Ravens ()
19. Kenny Britt – Tennessee Titans () – Check on any suspension news before pulling the trigger.
20. Percy Harvin – Minnesota Vikings () – McNabb did wonders for Santana Moss in 2010.
21. Marques Colston – New Orleans Saints (11)
22. Wes Welker – New England Patriots (7) – Two years removed from the injury, he should be much improved.
23. Chad Ochocinco – New England Patriots (7)
24. Austin Collie – Indianapolis Colts (11) – Collie was #1 in the NFL until he got injured.
25. Brandon Lloyd – Denver Broncos () – They call it a “career year” for a reason.
26. Sidney Rice – Seattle Seahawks ()
27. Santana Moss – Washington Redskins
28. Steve Johnson – Buffalo Bills ()
29. A.J. Green – Cincinnati Bengals ()
30. Steve Smith – Carolina Panthers ()
31. Lance Moore – New Orleans Saints (11)
32. Michael Crabtree – San Francisco 49ers ()
33. Pierre Garcon – Indianapolis Colts (11)
34. Hines Ward – Pittsburgh Steelers (11)
35. Nate Burleon – Detroit Lions ()
36. Johnny Knox – Chicago Bears
37. Mohamed Massaquoi – Cleveland Browns
38. Mike Thomas – Jacksonville Jaguars
39. Davone Bess – Miami Dolphins
40. Malcom Floyd, San Diego Chargers ()
41. Julio Jones – Atlanta Falcons
42. Mike Sims-Walker – St. Louis Rams
43. Donnie Avery – St. Louis Rams
44. Nate Washington – Tennessee Titans
45. Louis Murphy – Oakland Raiders
46. Donald Driver – Green Bay Packers
47. Kevin Walter – Houston Texans
48. Mario Manningham – New York Giants ()
49. Steve Smith – Free Agent Formerly of the New York Giants () – May or may not be ready for start of the regular season. If he resigns with the Giants, move Manningham down 5-10 spots.
50. Stephen Williams – Arizona Cardinals
51. Plaxico Burress – New York Jets
52. Jordan Shipley – Cincinnati Bengals
53. Torrey Smith – Baltimore Ravens
54. Jordy Nelson – Green Bay Packers
55. Robert Meachem – New Orleans Saints
56. Eddie Royal – Denver Broncos
57. Bernard Berrian – Minnesota Vikings
58. Braylon Edwards – San Francisco 49ers
59. Arrelious Benn – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
60. Lee Evans – Buffalo Bills
61. Devid Gettis – Carolina Panthers
62. Roy Williams – Chicago Bears
63. Jason Hill – Jacksonville Jaguars
64. Josh Cribbs – Cleveland Browns
65. Kevin Ogletree – Dallas Cowboys
66. Jacoby Ford – Oakland Raiders
67. Legedu Naanee – Carolina Panthers ()
68. Danny Amendola – St. Louis Rams
69. Devin Hester – Chicago Bears
70. Demaryius Thomas – Denver Broncos* – May go on PUP list.
71. Titus Young – Detroit Lions
72. Harry Douglas – Atlanta Falcons
73. Deion Branch – New England Patriots
74. Derrick Mason – New York Jets
75. Darius Heyard-Bey – Oakland Raiders
76. Donte Stallworth – Washington Redskins
77. Jabar Gaffney – Washington Redskins
78. Leonard Hankerson – Washington Redskins – If you want to take a flier on a rookie, the Skins coaches have talked up Hankerson.

NFL Fantasy Football Tight End Rankings 2011

With 3 of the 6 top-ranked tight ends coming off major injuries sometime in the past two years and Antonio Gates already having foot troubles, this looks like a year to wait a while on drafting a tight end. Another reason to do so is because we’re living through a golden age of tight ends. The Top 12 I consider all solid starters in good situations and that’s not even counting the two Patriots’ tight ends that many publications have as Top 12 options. I prefer to get someone I’m pretty sure is going to be on the field every single play as a starter, though I wouldn’t blame you if you waited a while to draft a tight end, then drafted one of the Patriots’ talented young TEs for their upside potential. Young tight ends like Ed Dickson, Jared Cook, and Jermaine Gresham are better situated this year to make contributions, and each of them has big upside.

Greg Olsen was a disappointment last year, but Mike Martz is a tight end killer, so you can’t really blame Olsen. With rookie Cam Newton throwing the ball in 2011, expect Greg Olsen to get a lot of targets as a dump-off option. I was tempted to list Jermichael Finley #1, because he or Dallas Clark either one could beat Gates when healthy, but it’s hard to place either one over Gates they went on I.R. last year. Jason Witten gets slotted so high because he’s the healthiest tight end in the Top 5 who doesn’t have Alex Smith throwing to him.

1. Antonio Gates – San Diego Chargers (6)
2. Jermichael Finley – Green Bay Packers (8)
3. Jason Witten – Dallas Cowboys (5)
4. Dallas Clark – Indianapolis Colts (11)
5. Vernon Davis – San Francisco 49ers (7)
6. Owen Daniels – Houston Texans (11)
7. Jimmy Graham – New Orleans Saints (11)
8. Brandon Pettigrew – Detroit Lions (9)
9. Zach Miller – Seattle Seahawks (6)
10. Mercedes Lewis – Jacksonville Jaguars (9)
11. Chris Cooley – Washington Redskins (5)
12. Tony Gonzales – Atlanta Falcons (8)
13. Rob Gronkowski – New England Patriots (7)
14. Aaron Hernandez – New England Patriots (7)
15. Ed Dickson – Baltimore Ravens (5)
16. Jared Cook – Tennessee Titans (6)
17. Greg Olsen – Carolina Panthers (9)
18. Todd Heap – Arizona Cardinals (6)
19. Jermaine Gresham – Cincinnati Bengals (7)
20. Kellen Winslow – Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8)
21. Vishanthe Shiancoe – Minnesota Vikings (9)
22. Brent Celek – Philadelphia Eagles (7)
23. Kevin Boss – Oakland Raiders (8) – Boss was always a disappointment in New York (stats-wise), but the Raiders are used to throwing the ball to the tight end. Jason Campbell has thrown to his TE in Washington (Cooley, Davis) and Oakland (Miller).
24. Dustin Keller – New York Jets
25. Lance Kendricks – St. Louis Rams (5) – Sleeper potential all over this one.
26. Kyle Rudolph – Minnesota Vikings (9) – Make sure the rookie high-rounder doesn’t take Shiancoe’s spot. McNabb’s tight end should get a lot of looks, either way.
27. Tony Moeaki – Kansas City Chiefs
28. Ben Watson – Cleveland Browns (5)
29. Heath Miller – Pittsburgh Steelers (11)
30. Jacob Tamme – Indianapolis Colts (11) – If Dallas Clark has any kind of a setback, rush as fast as you can to pick up Jacob Tamme.
31. John Carlson – Seattle Seahawks (6)

It’s time to unveil our fantasy football rankings for 2010. For those new to the game, “fantasy football player rankings” are lists of players, usually by position, ranked according to how successful you expect them to be that year. Different leagues have different scoring systems, so you’ll want to find cheatsheets and projections for your league’s scoring system, or else the rankings won’t be legitimate.

The “Fantasy Football Tips” player rankings for 2010 are designed for high performance leagues, which tend to be the most common fantasy leagues these days. “Performance” means players don’t get points only for touchdowns, so yardage gained passing, receiving and rushing are also valued. “High performance” means that extra emphasis is placed on yardage stats, to try to simulate a player’s real contribution to the game. For instance, it’s common to give players 1 point for each reception, to indicate it’s harder to accumulate receptions in the NFL than carries, and to weight the scoring to where wide receivers and tight ends are more valuable in traditional scoring systems.

Scoring Systems and Player Rankings

If you play in a touchdown-only league, the 2010 player rankings are going to look completely different. If you play in a league where receptions don’t get you point, the player rankings are also going to look different. Players in years past – Wes Welker, for example – got a lot of receptions, but few touchdowns. Welker was great in a receptions league, so-so in a standard performance league and almost useless in a touchdown-only league. Brian Westbrook had a similar profile among running backs.

You’ll notice those players are way down the list in 2010, due to an injury in one case and age (and no team) in the other. In fact, if you’re a fan of the NFL, but you’re new to fantasy football, you’re going to see a lot of strange names at the top of these lists. Players you consider stars might be below a whole slew of lesser known players. That’s because fantasy football is a numbers game – if a player is a good team contributor on a contender, but doesn’t put up the stats, then he’s simply not as good as a lesser known stats monster on a lousy team.

Rookie Mistakes in Fantasy Football

That’s one of the big rookie mistakes in fantasy football: drafting names you know. You go to your first draft and want the security blanket of a roster full of known names. That means you end up with guys like Clinton Portis, Terrell Owens and Isaac Bruce, while some other team was drafting Chris Johnson, Roddy White and Miles Austin last year. That’s the way it goes for newbies.

Another big mistake many people new to fantasy football make is to draft a quarterback high. That’s a natural error, because quarterbacks are, by far, the most important position in the National Football League. That’s just not the case in fantasy football. While it’s nice to have one of those 2-3 quarterbacks that post huge numbers every week, you can win a league without one of those guys. You can’t win a league if your running backs and wide receiving corps are lacking.

But we’re going to feed your expectations about the importance of quarterbacks, but making them our first fantasy football player list. That’s not because we recommend you draft quarterbacks first, but because it’s tradition to list QBs first in virtually every magazine, cheat sheet and player projections list known to man.

Fantasy Football Player Rankings

I’ll post special notes and thoughts at the bottom of each list. You can copy and paste the lists into one document, if you wish. The number in parentheses is the player’s bye week.

Fantasy Quarterback Rankings 2010

  1. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers (10)
  2. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints (10)
  3. Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts (7)
  4. Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers (10)
  5. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys (4)
  6. Matt Schaub, Houston Texans (4)
  7. Tom Brady, New England Patriots (5)
  8. Brett Favre, Minnesota Vikings (4)
  9. Donovan McNabb, Washington Redskins (9)
  10. Kevin Kolb, Philadelphia Eagles (8)
  11. Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears (8)
  12. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons (8)
  13. Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens (8)
  14. Eli Manning, New York Giants (8)
  15. Carson Palmer, Cincinnati Bengals (6)
  16. Matt Leinart, Arizona Cardinals (6)
  17. Chad Henne, Miami Dolphins (5)
  18. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions (7)
  19. Marc Sanchez, New York Jets (7)
  20. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers (5)
  21. Alex Smith, San Francisco 49ers (9)
  22. Matt Cassell, Kansas City Chiefs (4)
  23. Matt Hasselbeck, Seattle Seahawks (5)
  24. Vince Young, Tennessee Titans (9)
  25. David Garrard, Jacksonville Jaguars (9)
  26. Jake Delhomme, Cleveland Browns (8)
  27. Jason Campbell, Oakland Raiders (10)
  28. Matt Moore, Carolina Panthers (6)
  29. Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4)
  30. Kyle Orton, Denver Broncos (9)
  31. Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams (9)
  32. Trent Edwards, Buffalo Bills (6)

Yes, I would rather have rookie Sam Bradford starting for the awful St. Louis Rams franchise, than have to start Trent Edwards. You assume a rookie starting for the Rams is going to suck, but at least he has #1 pick talent and you don’t know how bad he is. Trent Edwards was bad in his 3rd year with T.O., so what makes you think he’ll be any better in 2010? Grab a couple of quarterbacks, before you have that choice in front of you.

Drew Brees – #1 Fantasy QB?

Drew Brees is the natural selection as the #1 QB, but he’s been among the Top 4 QBs for four years running and, Peyton Manning excluded, those streaks tend to come to an end abruptly. Also, the Saints may face a post-Superbowl hangover effect, with the fallout of their drug scandal and cover-up scandal perhaps hanging over the New Orleans locker room in 2010. Drew Brees is a consummate professional, but when you’re playing the odds in football, you know that last year’s #1 is probably not going to be this year’s #1.

Pick Drew Brees if you want. He has the weapons, the history and the Superbowl title. I wouldn’t blame you.

Aaron Rodgers, on the other hand, has a solid receiving corps (Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, Jermichael Finley), an improved offensive line that has to be healthier than last year almost by default, and is coming into his third year as an NFL starter. Aaron Rodger’s first two years were plenty impressive, so if Rodgers can stay on his feet in 2010, he should be coming into his prime years.

Consider dropping Philip Rivers down the list a few spots, if the rumors prove true and Vincent Jackson holds out for significant time this year (rumors are he’s preparing to hold out to Week 10, but those rumors seldom come to fruition). Still, Philip Rivers is one of the best quarterbacks playing on one of the best offenses in football. With Ladainian Tomlinson gone and a rookie RB likely to take significant carries, I’m betting Norv Turner puts the ball in Rivers’ hands more than ever. Even without Jackson, Philip Rivers has shown he can spread it around and get production, so he’s one of the safest bets in 2010 – which is why he’s at #4.

Tony Romo – Fantasy Football Quarterbacks

Tony Romo is higher than his finish last year, but the Cowboys Offense shouldn’t be as 1-dimensional as it was last year. Jerry Jones is insane to have stated Roy Williams is already a starter, but he’s wedded to that stupid trade he made for a guy who’s has one 1,000-yard season in 7 NFL campaigns. Drafting Dez Bryant not only gave the Boys another option at WR in 2010, but it’s also a clear sign that the team is preparing to ditch #11, if he puts up another disappointing year. That’s why Romo goes higher this year: he has more weapons than ever. Miles Austin, Jason Witten, Dez Bryant and Felix Jones should all contribute big games throughout the season. Cowboys’s coaches have labeled Dez Bryant a “football savant”, which is probably going a little too far, but I think the kid is going to make a huge impact.

Tom Brady is slotted lower than you might expect, because I’m still not sure if Wes Welker is going to be ready to contribute in the first half of the season. Randy Moss seems discontented and a year older, while the Patriots hardly seem to have addressed the running back situation that made them predictable and easy-to-gameplan last year. Tom Brady is 2 years removed from his knee injury, so if he’s going to have a huge year, this is it. At the same time, Tom Brady was starting to break down at the end of last year, and I think he’s starting to look like an aging quarterback at 33. Remember, in the two years prior to his knee injury, Tom Brady took the second-most hits of any quarterback in the NFL, due to the pass-happy scheme the New England Patriots have employed over the years. While Brady has more upside than all but a handful of QBs, he’s got question marks for the first time in 10 years.

Donovan McNabb and Kevin Kolb

Donovan McNabb may be back to the days when he didn’t have a legitimate #1 receiver to throw to, but guys like Santana Moss, Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly have also never had a quarterback like McNabb to throw to them, either. Maybe one of the 3rd year Redskins receivers actually turns into a productive NFL player, or perhaps Santana Moss has one elite year left in him. One thing is for certain: McNabb’s going to get the ball to the tight end position. Chris Cooley and Fred Davis should each have games of big production this year, though they may split the opportunities too much for either to be an elite tight end.

I could see placing Kevin Kolb higher than McNabb on this list, given that he’s throwing to McNabb’s receiving corps from last year. Kolb has one of the league’s best stable of passing targets (Desean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and Brent Celek). But despite looking great in his starts last year, Kevin Kolb has yet to prove he can be a star NFL quarterback over the long haul. I think Kevin Kolb is going to be a star, but I know that Donovan McNabb is a proven fantasy football producer.

Fantasy Football QBs Rankings 11-20

After you get out of the Top 10 quarterbacks, there’s no QB on the list I would feel remotely good about going into the season with him as my starter. Several have upside, while others are “steady” veterans. Jay Cutler put up good touchdown stats last year, but his interceptions were awful and he was inconsistent, to say the least. Cutler’s receiving corps isn’t likely to be much better than it was last year, though Mike Martz comes to town to get things going. That means Cutler is going to throw it a lot, and have a lot of receivers out in the routes, if he can stay on his feet and off the trainers table. Expect Matt Forte’s receptions totals to look more like 2008 than 2009, though he’s bound to lose 3rd down production to Chester Taylor.

Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco could bust out as 3rd year quarterbacks, especially in Flacco’s case, with Anquan Boldin in town. But Boldin has had trouble staying healthy throughout his career, and the Ravens are always going to be a run-first team. Matt Ryan missed a couple of games last year, but if he stays healthy in 2009, he might finally be able to take over and take the next step to being an elite quarterback.

Carson Palmer – Bounce Back Year

Carson Palmer is two years away from a major injury and the Bengals have added Antonio Bryant and Jermaine Gresham to the package, so he’s an intriguing backup QB to add. But Palmer hasn’t been a fantasy star for years now, and last year was pretty awful fantasy-wise, despite advancing to the playoffs. I expect that a team can’t make Cedric Benson the centerpiece of the offense two years in a row and Carson Palmer will have to throw it more often, but you’ll have to make that call yourself.

I have Matt Leinart listed higher than many publications do, because he still has Larry Fitzgerald and Steve Breaston to throw to. The Cardinals don’t look like the offensive juggernaut as they have the past few years, but they play in a weak division and Leinart has the full offseason to actually figure things out. Matt Leinart just may not be very good, but with Fitzgerald to target, I’d take my chances on him before anyone lower on the list – save perhaps Roethisberger.

Ben Roethlisberger Fantasy Quarterback

I would have Roethlisberger at least 10 spots higher, it if wasn’t for the 6-game suspension. There’s even a chance that suspension gets dropped to 4 games, by the time the season is underway. But you have to assume Big Ben is going to be out for almost half of your fantasy football regular season, and that’s too much to wait for my tastes. At a point, Ben Roethlisberger becomes a value pick to stash on your bench, but that’s pretty late in the draft for me, because I don’t like stashing players who are going to be definite “Out” plays half the season.

Also, there have been years where the Steelers were run-first and Roethlisberger wasn’t an every-week fantasy starter. Despite the two Superbowls, it wasn’t until the last couple of years that I considered Big Ben a fantasy starting QB. In the six games the Pittsburgh Steelers play without Roethlisberger, I bet they try to establish themselves as a running & defense team with a conservative mindset. By the time Roethlisberger returns, that may be the identity of the team. Sure, he’ll change the equation, but if they’ve had any level of success, it’s the inclination of the Steelers franchise to play football that way. I think there’s a good chance that 2010 is a lost fantasy year for Ben Roethlisberger.

Fantasy Running Back Rankings 2010

  1. Chris Johnson – Tennessee Titans (9)
  2. Ray Rice – Baltimore Ravens (8)
  3. Adrian Peterson – Minnesota Vikings (4)
  4. Maurice Jones-Drew – Jacksonville Jaguars (9)
  5. Frank Gore – San Francisco 49ers (9)
  6. Steven Jackson – St. Louis Rams (9)
  7. Rashard Mendenhall – Pittsburgh Steelers (5)
  8. Jamaal Charles – Kansas City Chiefs (4)
  9. Michael Turner – Atlanta Falcons (8)
  10. Deangelo Williams – Carolina Panthers (6)
  11. Shonn Greene – New York Jets (7)
  12. Knowshon Moreno – Denver Broncos (9)
  13. Lesean McCoy – Philadelphia Eagles (8)
  14. Cedric Benson – Cincinnati Bengals (6)
  15. Beanie Wells – Arizona Cardinals (6)
  16. Ryan Grant – Green Bay Packers (10)
  17. Ryan Mathews – San Diego Chargers (10)
  18. Jonathan Stewart – Carolina Panthers (6)
  19. Matt Forte – Chicago Bears (8)
  20. Pierre Thomas – New Orleans Saints (10)
  21. Joseph Addai – Indianapolis Colts (7)
  22. Jerome Harrison – Cleveland Browns (8)
  23. Ronnie Brown – Miami Dolphins (5)
  24. C.J. Spiller – Buffalo Bills (6)
  25. Felix Jones – Dallas Cowboys (4)
  26. Jahvid Best – Detroit Lions (7)
  27. Brandon Jacobs – New York Giants (8)
  28. Marion Barber – Dallas Cowboys (4)
  29. Fred Jackson – Buffalo Bills (6)
  30. Clinton Portis – Washington Redskins (9)
  31. Justin Forsett – Seattle Seahawks (5)
  32. Laurence Maroney – New England Patriots (5)
  33. Darren Sproles – San Diego Chargers (10)
  34. Reggie Bush – New Orleans Saints (10)
  35. Ahmad Bradshaw – New York Giants (8)
  36. Steve Slaton – Houston Texans (7)
  37. Donald Brown – Indianapolis Colts (7)
  38. Ricky Williams – Miami Dolphins (5)
  39. Darren McFadden – Oakland Raiders (10)
  40. Michael Bush – Oakland Raiders (10)
  41. Chester Taylor – Chicago Bears (8)
  42. Marshawn Lynch – Buffalo Bills (6)
  43. Thomas Jones – Kansas City Chiefs (4)
  44. Tim Hightower – Arizona Cardinals (6)
  45. Kevin Smith – Detroit Lions (7)
  46. Tashard Choice – Dallas Cowboys (4)
  47. Ladainian Tomlinson – New York Jets (7)
  48. Jonathan Dwyer – Pittsburgh Steelers (5)
  49. Ben Tate – Houston Texans (7)
  50. Carnell Williams – Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4)
  51. Mike Bell – Philadelphia Eagles (8)
  52. Willis McGahee – Baltimore Ravens (8)
  53. Larry Johnson – Washington Redskins (9)
  54. Bernard Scott – Cincinnati Bengals (6)
  55. Jason Snelling – Atlanta Falcons (8)
  56. Julius Jones – Seattle Seahawks (5)
  57. Toby Gerhart – Minnesota Vikings (4)
  58. Anthony Dixon – San Francisco 49ers (9)
  59. Derrick Ward – Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4)
  60. Arian Foster – Houston Texans (7)
  61. Montario Hardesty – Cleveland Browns (8)
  62. James Davis – Cleveland Browns (8)
  63. Andre Brown – New York Giants (8)
  64. Willie Parker – Washington Redskins (9)
  65. Brian Westbrook – *Free Agent
  66. James Starks – Green Bay Packers (10)
  67. Dexter McCluster – Kansas City Chiefs (4)

Fantasy Running Backs Top 10

While runners don’t put together two 2,000 yard rushing seasons in a row, it’s hard not to put Chris Johnson #1 on the list. He was THE difference maker in so many leagues last year, that it would be heresy not to put him #1. That being said, Chris Johnson had a lot of carries last year for the Titans, and RBs who get that number of carries usually don’t bounce back the next year to get anywhere near those numbers. Also, there are hints that Chris Johnson may hold out for a new contract, and completely missing training camp is usually a recipe for a running back to get hurt. But just about every NFL runner has some injury concern, if you look closely enough, and Chris Johnson has shown no more propensity to get hurt than any other NFL rusher in his first two seasons.

I place Ray Rice ahead of Adrian Peterson, because he has everything you want in a back, and because Rice has a little less mileage on him that AD (“All Day”). Every time I think of drafting Adrian Peterson, I think back to his college career and all the injury problems he had, which is why he fell a few spots in the NFL Draft. In the pros, Adrian Peterson has been remarkably healthy, and I just wonder if he isn’t due. Meanwhile, Ray Rice has everything you want (good running team, yardage production, reception opportunities, big play ability, touchdowns). Coming into his third year, Ray Rice is a player I would draft in a second.

The rest of the Top 10 RBs don’t exactly thrill me, since you’re dealing with guys on mediocre teams (Jones-Drew, Jackson, Gore, Charles) and guys splitting times with other backs that are going to be heard from (Deangelo Williams, Shonn Greene). Both of those factors means those running backs could be inconsistent, which is not what you want in a 1st round draft pick. Of the remaining top ten, only Rashard Mendenhall is the lone runner on a good team, and his quarterback is out for the first 6 weeks, when fantasy studs tend to gain momentum that carries them through the season. Drafting at the bottom of the 1st round this year could look ugly, unless you have a league that doesn’t penalize you for drafting wide receivers and QBs high – and fantasy football by its very nature tends to do that.

Fantasy RB Rankings 11 through 20

The next ten are guys with maybe a little upside, but who tend to fall into the steady, if unexciting, category. I wonder if Knowshon Moreno isn’t going to have to fight through a head coach (Josh McDaniels) that thinks no players should have consistent stats, for the sake of teamwork. All that stuff McDaniels threw out last year about “everyone is our #1 receiver” sounds great on paper, but on the field usually leads to anemic offense. McDaniels played the Broncos RBs in much the same way, mixing in so many guys that no one ever really got a rhythm.

Lesean McCoy is one with some of the most upside, but that’s only if he stops only looking like Brian Westbrook on the field, and starts playing like classic Brian Westbrook. It’s not that Lesean McCoy was bad last year, but he wasn’t the go-to guy many fantasy owners expected him to be. Maybe the Eagles’ offense has changed, with so many receiving options these days. But with Philly breaking in a new starting quarterback, expect to see them rely on the running back (especially in the passing game) a little more than last year. Also expect a little growth from McCoy, from his rookie to 2nd season.

Shonn Green Fantasy Football 2010

Shonn Greene is the runner I’m most excited about in this group, which is why I have him rated #11. There’s no telling how many carries LT takes from him, but Tomlinson is also a shell of his former self, so I expect to see the Shonn Greene from last years playoffs on most Sundays. Besides, the Jets Defense should keep the team in games and keep the offense on the field a lot, so I expect Shonn Greene to get his fair share of touches in 2010.

Ryan Mathews has a lot of upside, simply given the offense he plays on. But since he’s going to be a rookie on a playoff contender, if you draft Mathews, don’t expect to see him getting a ton of carries immediately. While that may happen, I bet the team relies on Darren Sproles a little more earlier in the season. Jonathan Stewart would be a Top 10 (maybe Top 5) runner if he weren’t splitting time with Deangelo Williams, and it’s remarkable to have a #2 runner at 18 on the list, but remember what the guy did during last year’s fantasy playoffs.

The rest are veteran players with plenty of tread still on the tire. I wouldn’t be thrilled about drafting any of them, but as a #2 runner (hopefully), they should suffice. Beanie Wells showed potential last year, but he seems like a player without the best football smarts, so I don’t exactly trust him to hold onto the ball, handle his blocking assignments and stay out of Ken Whisenhunt’s doghouse.

Fantasy Football Runners 21-30

Some of the running backs in the list from 21 to 30 have more upside than the guys ahead of them, but also have significant question marks associated with them.

Jahvid Best and C.J. Spiller are exciting rookie runners that should be fun to have on the team, but they are also on two of the worst teams in football, so you don’t know what to expect from them. Also, Jahvid Best may have to fight for playing time with Kevin Smith, if he’s back from injury (less likely), while C.J. Spiller is in a completely muddled Bills backfield, along with the likes of Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson. (Marshawn Lynch might be traded to the Seahawks, at this writing. Stay tuned.) You can’t tell me that the Bills and Lions didn’t draft a pair of fast, slightly undersized runners based on Chris Johnson’s huge year last year, though, so expect both teams to give their rookies chances.

Jerome Harrison, Justin Forsett and Felix Jones all fit into the mold of the young veteran RB whose shown bursts of brilliance, but may or may not get the chance they want to be their team’s #1. Felix Jones also fits in among several other backs among this group – Joseph Addai, Brandon Jacobs, Marion Barber, Ronnie Brown – who are good when healthy, but aren’t healthy enough of the time. Despite still having games where they’re productive, if I drafted Clinton Portis or Laurence Maroney at this stage in their careers, I’d be convinced I was in for a long season. Still, they are the presumptive starter on teams that should be competitive, so you would have to draft them at a point.

Fantasy Football Handcuff RBs

Along with the aforementioned Jonathan Stewart, the handcuff runners in 2010 contain a list of promising guys with upside. A handful are going to hit the field due to injuries and become stars, so it’s a matter of finding 1-2 and stashing them on the bench.

Reggie Bush and Ricky Williams still have their games, so they become valuable players as flex starters, if you can get draft them in that role. Don’t reach for guys like that, though. Meanwhile, there’s no telling whether Darren Sproles is going to be only the backup, or the opening day starter for the Chargers. Keep an eye on the situation and move Sproles/Mathews up and down accordingly, but the Chargers traded up to get Ryan Mathews, so you have to assume he’s prominent in San Diego’s plans.

The Raiders claim that Darren McFadden and Michael Bush are going to get equal shots at the job this year, and they’ll start splitting carries. Since the Raiders drafted McFadden so high, I give him the slight edge to start the season as the main man, but it looked to me like (last year) that Michael Bush was the Raiders’ best runner (for what that matters) for significant stretches of the season, and I’m not sure if the Raiders’ dumbass staff isn’t starting to figure that out, too. I’ve always thought Darren McFadden looked too thin and stood too upright to be a long-term solution as a tailback, so this is a pivotal year in his young career. Personally, I’d see if Michael Bush fell into the middle to mid-late rounds, then take a flyer on him, if he does. Wait until McFadden goes and then keep an eye on your draft needs, then draft Bush when you have a draft slot you aren’t desperate for any other needs.

I would place Ben Tate further up the list, but the Arian Foster playoff debacle broke me from trusting Gary Kubiak to keep a solid RB rotation. For those who don’t remember, Gary Kubiak talked Arian Foster up all week leading into Week 15 of last year, then benched the kid after a fumble on his first carry, crushing the hopes of countless fantasy player contenders in 2009. That’s understandable to bench a fumbler, but Kubiak had been playing games with the Texans’ RB rotation all year, and that was the last straw. You have to remember that Gary Kubiak comes from the “Mike Shanahan School of Coaching”, which means you say one thing all week and then do something else entirely different on Sunday. I don’t want any part of the Kubiak bait-and-switch this year, so I put Ben Tate low on the list. If you don’t mind, move Ben Tate 10 spots up the list and draft him a little earlier.

Jonathan Dwyer was forgotten on draft day, but if you draft Rashard Mendenhall, or still think Mendenhall is an injury risk (I.R. two years ago), draft Jonathan Dwyer late and put him on the end of your bench. He’s a classic Steelers type runner and was thought to have high draft potential, before he ran a slow 40 time at the combine. Consider James Starks or Dexter McCluster late in keeper or dynasty leagues, as either could surprise as rookie additions, though neither is likely to be cracking a starting lineup anytime soon. In my opinion, the Packers running back situation has been waiting for someone new to come along for two years, with Ryan Grant okay, but not great, and Brandon Jackson a consistent disappointment, so the drafting of talented James Starks, who was a 2nd round talent before a serious shoulder surgery, in the 6th round just might signal that someone. These usually turn into nothing, but that’s a deep sleeper, if you want one

Fantasy Wide Receiver Rankings 2010

  1. Andre Johnson – Houston Texans (7)
  2. Larry Fitzgerald – Arizona Cardinals (4)
  3. Miles Austin – Dallas Cowboys (4)
  4. Reggie Wayne – Indianapolis Colts (7)
  5. Desean Jackson – Philadelphia Eagles (8)
  6. Roddy White – Atlanta Falcons (4)
  7. Calvin Johnson – Detroit Lions (7)
  8. Brandon Marshall – Miami Dolphins (5)
  9. Randy Moss – New England Patriots (5)
  10. Vincent Jackson – San Diego Chargers (10)
  11. Marques Colston – New Orleans Saints (10)
  12. Sidney Rice – Minnesota Vikings (4)
  13. Anquan Boldin – Baltimore Ravens (8)
  14. Steve Smith – New York Giants (8)
  15. Greg Jennings – Green Bay Packers (10)
  16. Michael Crabtree – San Francisco 49ers (9)
  17. Steve Smith – Carolina Panthers (6)
  18. Hakeem Nicks – New York Giants (8)
  19. Chad Ochocinco – Cincinnati Bengals (6)
  20. Donald Driver – Green Bay Packers (10)
  21. Santonio Holmes – New York Jets (7)
  22. Dwayne Bowe – Kansas City Chiefs (4)
  23. Mike Sims-Walker – Jacksonville Jaguars (9)
  24. Hines Ward – Pittsburgh Steelers (5)
  25. *Wes Welker – New England Patriots (5)
  26. Dez Bryant – Dallas Cowboys (4)
  27. Percy Harvin – Minnesota Vikings (4)
  28. Jeremy Maclin – Philadelphia Eagles (8)
  29. Pierre Garcon – Indianapolis Colts (7)
  30. Robert Meachem – New Orleans Saints (10)
  31. Kenny Britt – Tennessee Titans (9)
  32. Mike Wallace – Pittburgh Steelers (5)
  33. T.J. Houshmandzadeh – Seattle Seahawks (5)
  34. Santana Moss – Washington Redskins (9)
  35. Derrick Mason – Baltimore Ravens (8)
  36. Steve Breaston – Arizona Cardinals (6)
  37. Braylon Edwards – New York Jets (7)
  38. Antonio Bryant – Cincinnati Bengals (6)
  39. Lee Evans – Buffalo Bills (6)
  40. Devin Aromashodu – Chicago Bears (8)
  41. Julian Edelman – New England Patriots (5)
  42. Austin Collie – Indianapolis Colts (7)
  43. Eddie Royal – Denver Broncos (9)
  44. Kevin Walter / Jacoby Jones – Houston Texans (7)
  45. Johnny Knox – Chicago Bears (8)
  46. Jerricho Cotchery – New York Jets (7)
  47. Demaryius Thomas – Denver Broncos (9)
  48. Louis Murphy – Oakland Raiders (10)
  49. Chaz Schilens – Oakland Raiders (10)
  50. Anthony Gonzales – Indianapolis Colts (7)
  51. Mohamed Massaquoi – Cleveland Browns (8)
  52. Devin Hester – Chicago Bears (8)
  53. Mario Manningham – New York Giants (8)
  54. Golden Tate – Seattle Seahawks (5)
  55. Brandon LaFell – Carolina Panthers (6)
  56. Devin Thomas – Washington Redskins (9)
  57. Laurent Robinson – St. Louis Rams (9)
  58. Donnie Avery – St. Louis Rams (9)
  59. Chris Chambers – Kansas City Chiefs (4)
  60. Nate Burleson – Detroit Lions (7)
  61. Devery Henderson – New Orleans Saints (10)
  62. Mardy Gilyard – St. Louis Rams (9)
  63. Taylor Price – New England Patriots (5)
  64. Mike Thomas – Jacksonville Jaguars (9)
  65. Malcolm Floyd – San Diego Chargers (10)
  66. Roy Williams – Dallas Cowboys (4)
  67. Davone Bess – Miami Dolphins (5)
  68. Brian Hartline – Miami Dolphins (5)
  69. Josh Morgan – San Francisco 49ers (9)
  70. Early Doucet – Arizona Cardinals (6)
  71. Dexter McCluster – Kansas City Chiefs (4)
  72. Terrell Owens – Free Agent

I’m adding Terrell Owens to the bottom of the list, so he’ll be handy to note, if he should happen to sign with a team before the draft. If he were listed at #37, he might get lost in the shuffle. Also, I noted the Kevin Walters and Jacoby Jones position battle as one player, because Jacoby Jones has (apparently) impressed in the offseason and now may be challenging to be the starter opposite Andre Johnson in Houston. Those who’ve played fantasy football the last 2-3 years will remember that Kevin Walter has been a serviceable fill-in and borderline starter at times, so having the Texans #2 WR is worth a roster spot.

I place the Houston Texans’ star receiver at the top of the list, because Andre Johnson is in the absolute prime of his career, he’s one of the baddest men in the NFL right now, and he has a solid quarterback throwing him the ball. With Larry Fitzgerald and Desean Jackson losing the quarterbacks they had their best success with, and with players like Reggie Wayne and Randy Moss getting a little bit older, Andre Johnson is the #1 player by process of elimination.

Miles Austin Fantasy Football 2010

I wince at listing Miles Austin so high, but once again, he’s got the fewest question marks beside his name, if you can say that about a guy who wasn’t even a fantasy factor a year ago at this time (he was a trendy sleeper pick, though). Miles Austin has one of the top quarterbacks in the league throwing to him, he’s got other weapons around him to keep the pressure off and he was one of the most productive WRs in the league last year, once he got the start. I’m sure teams are going to double-team Miles Austin and limit his production that way, but the Cowboys are lining him up in the slot in O.T.A.’s, which promises to give him a lot of single coverage and mismatches. Dez Bryant is lining up outside, when Austin is in the slot.

If Kurt Warner was still in Arizona, I’m sure Larry Fitzgerald would still be the #1 WR on this list. It’s a testament to Fitz’s amazing skill set that he’s at #2 with Matt Freaking Leinart throwing him the ball. But if Leinart is ever going to get it and do what it takes to improve his game, it was this offseason. He’s been given the keys to the offense and has had to deal with the sting of sitting the bench while a better quarterback is leading the team for years now, so maybe this is his time. With Anquan Boldin gone, I’m sure the Cardinals are going to feed Fitzgerald the ball, so even if the Cardinals Offense is a pale shadow of its former glory, expect Larry Fitzgerald to produce big numbers.

Reggie Wayne, Roddy White and Brandon Marshall

If you decide to go with Reggie Wayne over Miles Austin, I wouldn’t blame you. Roddy White is one of the least risky picks in the Top 10, if you want a guy who’s done it for a while now and has a situation that should only improve. Calvin Johnson is significantly lower than I had him last year at this time, though I still think Megatron is a mega-talent and, if he and Matthew Stafford can ever get healthy at the same time, the two will make football music together.

I’ve seen Brandon Marshall picked Top 5 by a lot of people this offseason, but I just don’t know if the Dolphins Offense is ever going to be so explosive and pass-happy that Marshall’s numbers will warrant that. Brandon Marshall is undoudtedly one of the most talented receivers in the game, and his appearance has given Chad Henne a boost in the rankings, but I just don’t know if Parcells and Spurano plan on airing it out every down. I know Parcells threw it a lot with Bledsoe in New England, but a lot of Bledsoe’s biggest games were when the Pats were still improving, and so that was sometimes a matter of necessity. I think the Dolphins are going to be in most games, and therefore playing it a little closer to the vest.

Vincent Jackson Holdout – Fantasy Football Concerns

Vincent Jackson would be several spots higher, but I’m concerned at the moment that he might hold out for the first 10 games of the season. Reports right now are that Jackson and Chargers’ starting left tackle, Marcus McNeill, may be making plans to save their money and hold out until after Week 10. In the NFL, if you play the final 6 games of the season, that counts towards another year of eligibility towards free agency, so a holdout of this kind is an extreme, yet not-unheard of, move. The San Diego Chargers GM, A.J. Smith, is known to play hardball with players, so this could get ugly. I’m assuming this is offseason posturing and the two sides get things worked out, but keep an eye on this one, because the last thing you want in a redraft league is to wait on your 3rd or 4th rounder to report in Week 11.

Fantasy Football WR Picks 11-20

All the way down to Pick 20, you’ll notice that these are highly productive or big potential wideouts with few major concerns. A few in the bottom half of that list are a little long in the tooth, which is a concern for any football player. But several players in the early twenties have serious off-the-field concerns (Santonio Holmes, Dwayne Bowe, Wes Welker) that could limit their effectiveness. Both Holmes and Bowe are going to miss time due to suspensions, while Wes Welker is recovering from a season-ending knee injury late last year. While Welker claims to be recovering quicker than expected, you have to wonder about a player whose whole game is based on quickness and cutting ability. What out when drafting all three in 2010.

Most of the wide receivers in the 20s and 30s of the list fit into the high upside or steady veteran categories, though all have a few more questions surrounding them than the higher rated players. Dez Bryant could be a huge factor this year, but he’s a 3rd receiver at the moment. Percy Harvin showed flashes last season, but he’s still the #3 guy in Minnesota. Jeremy Maclin is the Eagles #2 receiver and he had his moments, too, but the Eagles are bringing in a new starting quarterback. Meanwhile, Hines Ward, Santana Moss, Derrick Mason and T.J. Houshmandzadeh are another year older – and Housh is dealing with serious back issues.

I like Mike Wallace to make a big contribution as the Steelers #2 this year, but he’s going to have someone other than Ben Roethslisberger throwing to him for more than 1/3rd of the season. A lot of people are picking Devin Aromashodu to finally give Jay Cutler a #1 target in Mike Martz’s offense, but that’s just speculation for now. Julian Edelman and Taylor Price are intriguing options in New England, if Welker doesn’t get back to his old self quickly, but it’s hard to say where either fits in, since both are being touted. Taylor Price is being given rave reviews at the moment. But that’s what you expect when you get out of the top 30-40 wide receiver draft picks: a lot of potential surrounded by a lot of questions.

A few of the guys listed in the bottom half of our wide receivers list are going to star in 2010. It’s often a crapshoot as to who that will be. Find a system you feel comfortable with (veterans, talented young guys, 3rd year guys) and make that the criterion for your mid-to-late round wide receiver picks. Know that a few talented guys slip right into free agency every year, and be aggressive in the first few weeks of the season pursuing talented wide receivers, whether you had a good WR draft or not. That lets you make up for misses in the bottom half of the draft, or stock up with extra producers to help you fill out that trade proposal for a difference maker.

Fantasy Football Tight End Rankings 2010

  1. Dallas Clark – Indianapolis Colts (7)
  2. Antonio Gates – San Diego Chargers (10)
  3. Vernon Davis – San Francisco 49ers (9)
  4. Brent Celek – Philadelphia Eagles (8)
  5. Jason Witten – Dallas Cowboys (4)
  6. Jermichael Finley – Green Bay Packers (10)
  7. Daniel Owens – Houston Texans (7)
  8. Tony Gonzales – Atlanta Falcons (8)
  9. Chris Cooley – Washington Redskins (9)
  10. Zach Miller – Oakland Raiders (10)
  11. Kellen Winslow – Tampa Bay Bucs (4)
  12. John Carlson – Seattle Seahawks (5)
  13. Visanthe Shiancoe – Minnesota Vikings (4)
  14. Heath Miller – Pittsburgh Steelers (5)
  15. Jermaine Gresham – Cincinnati Bengals (6)
  16. Greg Olsen – Chicago Bears (8)
  17. Fred Davis – Washington Redskins (9)
  18. Jeremy Shockey – New Orleans Saints (10)
  19. Todd Heap – Baltimore Ravens (8)
  20. Brandon Pettigrew – Detroit Lions (7)
  21. Kevin Boss – New York Giants (8)
  22. Tony Scheffler – Detroit Lions (7)
  23. Jared Cooke – Tennessee Titans (9)
  24. Bo Scaife – Tennessee Titans (9)

Besides Jason Witten, if you draft any of the Top 10 tight ends off this list, you won’t have to carry another tight end on the roster until at least Week 7 (barring injury). That allows you to take a chance on another running back or wide receiver, or add a 3rd QB or 2nd Team Defense, if those positions are iffy. That’s something to consider, if your league allows roster flexibility.

Dallas Clark was a freak last year. He tore through defenses for high reception games seemingly all year and, if you played in multiple leagues and didn’t corner the market on Dallas Clark, he probably ripped your fantasy team at some point in 2009. Little should change in 2010, assuming Peyton Manning and Dallas Clark stay healthy.

Antonio Gates remains a trendy pick, though he’s not always a dominant tight end anymore. There were years in there that someone with Antonio Gates against most TEs was like playing with an extra player, but those days are far between these years. Still, I trust to get one more year out of Rivers-to-Gates in a redraft league than I expect Vernon Davis or Brent Celek to repeat last year’s stellar numbers.

Vernon Davis and Brent Celek – Fantasy TEs

That being said, Vernon Davis and Brent Celek became must-have Top 5 tight ends last year, showing they were capable of multiple touchdown games. Davis still has Alex Smith throwing to him, while Celek has Kevin Kolb as his QB. Still, Brent Celek went for 8 receptions and 104 yards when Kevin Kolb started in Week 2 last year, then went for 8 receptions, 104 yards and 1 TD in Week 3, when Kevin Kolb was still starting. That’s not a mistake – Celek had 8/104 both weeks. Those superior numbers are all we have to go on from the Kolb/Celek time together, but those are mighty good looking numbers.

Jason Witten nearly falls out of the Top 5 for the first time in years, and probably would have, if Jermichael Finley didn’t keep having lingering knee issues. Witten’s numbers dropped off somewhat last year, mainly because defenses realized they didn’t have to worry about Roy Williams, and the Cowboys were playing 10-against-11 on offense most of the year last year. (Not really, but opposing defenses put their worst player on Roy Williams, like we used to do with the “fat kid” playing football in the backyard as kids.) The point being, Jason Witten is still only 28 years old, so he shouldn’t be slowing down, therefore you shouldn’t feel bad drafting Witten a little lower, based on last year’s numbers. Touchdown totals are sometimes anomalously off.

The next two players were fantasy studs at times in 2009, but have knee injury concerns. Jermichael Finley’s allowed him to keep playing most of the season, though, as I mentioned, he’s still dealing with issues from it. Owen Daniels was challenging Dallas Clark for #1 tight end, until he went out for the season midway through the campaign – an injury that ultimately cost me one league title (alas). That injury might slow Daniels somewhat, especially early in the year, but he’s still a high-upside player, when the run on tight ends starts.

Chris Cooley and Fred Davis

On the good side, Chris Cooley now has Donovan McNabb throwing to him – clearly the best QB Cooley’s ever played with. McNabb loves tight ends, too. On the bad side, Fred Davis proved to be a capable tight end himself, when Cooley went out for the year in 2009. Cooley and Davis may be McNabb’s two most reliable targets, and the Skins say they’re going to try to utilize both. That could muddle an otherwise dream situation for Chris Cooley (and Fred Davis), so it’s hard to slot these two guys. That’s why Cooley is towards the bottom of the elite/starting tight ends list.

Zach Miller is probably higher than you might imagine he should be, but Zach Miller has put up respectable numbers with absolute trash at quarterback these past few years. Jason Campbell might not be the next Johnny Unitas, but he’s shown (with Cooley and Fred Davis) that he can find a tight end. In fact, Jason Campbell seems to use a tight end as a safety blanket, so I’m predicting a major upswing of production from Zach Miller, who has been a viable starter before. If you get stuck drafting a desperation starter at tight end, you could do a lot worse than Zach Miller.

I’d have Kellen Winslow slotted higher, but this offseason he had his sixth knee surgery of his career. At this point, Kellen Winslow is going to live with chronic knee issues. He’s an absolute warrior, playing through the pain most of the time. But if I have my choice of an elite tight end and an elite tight end with lingering knee issues, I’ll take the former every time.

More Fantasy Football Tight Ends

Once you get past Kellen Winslow, I wouldn’t feel comfortable starting anyone else on the list. There are some solid veterans (Visanthe Shiancoe, Heath Miller, even John Carlson in his 3rd year) or guys with big potential (Jermaine Gresham, Greg Olsen), but I wouldn’t want to start Week 1 with any of them as my main man. If you wouldn’t mind that, I’d suggest you wait to draft tight ends and clean up at the other positions, because you likely see the TE position as a pretty deep one.

Fantasy Football Team Defense Rankings 2010

  1. New York Jets Team Defense (7)
  2. Baltimore Ravens Team Defense (8)
  3. Philadelphia Eagles Team Defense (8)
  4. Minnesota Vikings Team Defense (4)
  5. Green Bay Packers Team Defense (10)
  6. Pittsburgh Steelers Team Defense (5)
  7. New England Patriots Team Defense (5)
  8. New Orleans Saints Team Defense (10)
  9. Dallas Cowboys Team Defense (4)
  10. San Francisco 49ers Team Defense (9)
  11. Cincinnati Bengals Team Defense (6)
  12. Indianapolis Colts Team Defense (7)
  13. Chicago Bears Team Defense (8)
  14. Denver Broncos Team Defense (9)
  15. New York Giants Team Defense (8)
  16. San Diego Chargers Team Defense (10)
  17. Miami Dolphins Team Defense (5)
  18. Arizona Cardinals Team Defense (6)
  19. Carolina Panthers Team Defense (6)
  20. Washington Redskins Team Defense (9)
  21. Atlanta Falcons Team Defense (8)
  22. Tennessee Titans Team Defense (9)
  23. Cleveland Browns Team Defense (8)
  24. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Team Defense (4)
  25. Seattle Seahawks Team Defense (5)
  26. Houston Texans Team Defense (7)
  27. Buffalo Bills Team Defense (6)
  28. Kansas City Chiefs Team Defense (4)
  29. Jacksonville Jaguars Team Defense (9)
  30. Detroit Lions Team Defense (7)
  31. Oakland Raiders Team Defense (10)
  32. St. Louis Rams Team Defense (9)

The Jets Defense was #1 last year in most scoring systems, and only added players (Antonio Cromartie, for one), so it’s only natural to list them #1 again. Don’t run out and be the guy who grabs the Jets Defense five rounds too early, though. Team Defenses have a funny way of panning out, and they are just way too erratic from one year to the next, to go rushing out and selecting one several rounds too early in fantasy football draft.

That probably means you’ll end up missing out on that fun NYJ Def. But if you select wisely, you can wait a while and get one almost as good. The way the NFL works, you might find one better. Who would have thought the Broncos, Bengals and Saints would have had Top 10 defenses last year?

That being said, don’t wait too long to grab a Team D. You don’t want to pick leftovers. I could live with any defense down to the Cowboys as my #1 unit. After that, it gets sketchy. Even the Niners and the Bengals were quality last year. In fact, the Niners were #3 in my main league’s scoring, just behind the Ravens. But I don’t trust them to do it again.

Vikings and Steelers Fantasy Defenses

The Minnesota Vikings have had the most consistent defense over the last several years, and they should be good again. But the Vikings tailed off drastically at the end of the last year in defensive stats, and the Williamses (Pat/Kevin) still have that court case about the NFL drug suspension hanging over their heads. At this rate, they’ll both be retired, by the time it gets settled, but you never know.

The Steelers Defense finished a number of spots down from where I have them rated, but they were within 5 points of the 6 teams ahead of them. Given that they had injuries and a down year altogether, I would still grab the Steelers and take my chances – even with the Roethlisberger suspension.

Green Bay Packers Team Defense

The Green Bay Packers were a Top 5 defense in many formats last year, and you can only expect the unit to get better in Dom Caper’s second year as the defensive coordinator. The Dallas Cowboys unit came on strong in the second half of the season, after Anthony Spencer gave them a second pass-rusher opposite Demarcus Ware. If Spencer continues to improve, the Boys Defense should be elite.

The New England Patriots Defense was a top unit much of the year under certain scoring systems, but they had a ragged end and a number of injuries. I’m a little leery putting them so high, though they finished last year higher than I have them rated this year. I don’t feel bad placer the Broncos lower, because the second half of their season, they fell off a cliff.

Chicago Bears Team Defense

The Chicago Bears were among the league’s ten worst in 2009, but that was before Julius Peppers arrived. Also, Brian Urlacher was injured most of the year, so if Urlacher and Peppers produce the kind of results the Bears Front Office hopes for, the #13 ranking should be more than justified. That’s a backup defense in many leagues, and I think a high upside defense, if Cutler can stop producing so many turnovers. Maybe he’ll feel less pressure, if the defense is performing.

In lieu of drafting the New York Jets Defense in the 5th or 6th round, I suggest you wait until 7-8 defenses are off the board, grab the next one on your list, then turn around in another 3-4 rounds and grab a 2nd one you like. Doubling up on defenses is perfectly legitimate, because their production is so volative from year to year. This strategy works especially well, if you take the time to match schedules between teams beforehand, and select two defenses with a favorable season schedule (easy offenses, that is).

Fantasy Football Player Rankings 2010

That’s the end of our fantasy football player rankings 2010 list for now. We’ll eventually place a “Top 200 Cheatsheet” on our website, while producing auction lists, kickers lists (if you’re stressing out over that), and a comprehensive IDP list. Bookmark “Fantasy Football Tips Dotorg” throughout the summer and we’ll get you fitted out for your 2010 fantasy football drafts.