This is the first portion of my two-part Fantasy Football Rankings series for the month of July. During training camp, I'll put out regular Top 150s that react to injury information and significant depth chart movement. For now, the rankings are most influenced by talent and positional value. If you've read my rankings before, you know I bump down quarterbacks because they play the most replaceable position in fantasy. I place special value on non-quarterbacks I believe will be week-to-week difference makers in head-to-head fantasy matchups.
I designate "rounds" in groups of twelve to provide a general idea of where I believe players should begin to be considered for selection in a standard 12-team draft. Although these rankings are primarily geared toward non-PPR drafting, you will find frequent references in the writeups to players who should be bumped up or down in PPR drafts.
I'll release players ranked 101-200 early next week.
1. LeSean McCoy -- Chip Kelly's 2013 Eagles ranked fourth in the league in rushing attempts on a team that finished 13th in offensive plays per game. Kelly's offseason focus has been on increasing tempo, firing off more plays, and in turn more rushing volume. I essentially consider McCoy, Adrian Peterson, and Jamaal Charles interchangeable atop fantasy drafts, but lean in Shady's direction based on a combination of youth (26 years old), versatility, and overall offensive effectiveness. Among those three backs, I see McCoy as the best bet to avoid significant drop off.
2. Jamaal Charles -- Charles is 27, statistically speaking the peak age for NFL running backs. Charles has fewer career carries (1,043) than both Peterson (2,033) and McCoy (1,149), and plays on a running back-centric team where alternative weapons aren't a concern. Andy Reid's 2013 offense was the only in football whose tailback led the team in every receiving category. Kansas City did lose three key offensive linemen in free agency, and some regression can be expected off of Charles' career-best year. Charles drafters should handcuff him with Knile Davis.
3. Adrian Peterson -- Peterson presents the most risk among fantasy's top backs at age 29 on a team already considering life post-A.D., using a third-round pick on measurables freak Jerick McKinnon. But Peterson remains the best pure runner in football on a Norv Turner team that will stay committed to its run game, either to mask Matt Cassel's flaws or break in rookie Teddy Bridgewater. Even if his skills have begun to erode, Peterson can compensate with volume. In fantasy points per game, Peterson has never ranked worse than sixth among running backs.
4. Matt Forte -- Forte shouldn't be entirely left out of the top-three discussion, although he turns 29 late in the season and isn't quite on McCoy, Peterson, or Charles' level in terms of sheer running ability. He certainly could wind up a top-three PPR scorer as a versatile, slashing bellcow whom coach Marc Trestman fed the third most carries and second most targets among running backs last year. Forte is a "safe" top-five pick who's lasted 16 games in four of his six NFL seasons.
5. Eddie Lacy -- With Aaron Rodgers healthy, the Packers theoretically won't have to lean on Lacy as heavily as they did in his rookie year. "FatEd" put Green Bay's offense on his back during Rodgers' seven missed games. The Packers didn't forget about him with Rodgers in the lineup, however, letting Lacy touch the rock an average of 25.6 times over Rodgers' final full six games. Even if Lacy's 284 regular season carries suffer regression, he has room to grow in YPC average (4.15) and receptions (35). In such a high-powered offense, Lacy should also improve on his 11 touchdowns. He's a 24-year-old three-down back on a team that will often be in scoring position.
6. Jimmy Graham -- Fantasy football's premier difference maker regardless of position, 27-year-old Graham leads the NFL in touchdown catches (36) over the past three seasons despite playing about half of those games at less than 100 percent. Graham is healthy now and should be well rested after "holding out" of OTAs and minicamp. Let's say you were facing a fantasy leaguer starting Martellus Bennett last year, while you trotted out Graham. On a per-game average, you would've been starting your head-to-head fantasy matchup with a seven-point edge. A top-ten fantasy tight end, Bennett averaged 6.6 fantasy points per game. Jimmy averaged 13.6.
7. Calvin Johnson -- Although we can't expect new OC Joe Lombardi to mimic outgoing playcaller Scott Linehan's pass-obsessed ways, Lombardi does hail from pass-heavy New Orleans, and isn't taking the air out of the ball. Look for Lombardi to continue to funnel offense through the league's top receiver, and increase Megatron's usage in the slot, creating matchup problems. Golden Tate and Eric Ebron's presences should help increase Calvin's efficiency, and Lombardi's quarterback coaching history should make Matthew Stafford better. I'm not shying from Megatron as the WR1.
8. Dez Bryant -- Scott Linehan coached Randy Moss in Minnesota, Torry Holt in St. Louis, Calvin Johnson in Detroit, and now gets Dez Bryant. In a contract year at the prime age of 25, no less. Whereas Jason Garrett and Bill Callahan's Cowboys offense frequently struggled to prevent defensive coverage from making Bryant disappear in 2013 games, Linehan knows how to free up and feed No. 1 wideouts. Over the last half-decade, Linehan's Lions offenses finished sixth, third, first, first, and fifth in the NFL in pass attempts. Combine a pass-heavy offensive scheme with arguably the NFL's least-talented defense, and the pass catchers on that team should eat.
9. Demaryius Thomas -- I would have no problem with a fantasy prognosticator slotting Dez or Demaryius as this year's top wideout, ahead of Megatron. I believe it's a three-horse race. Still ascending at age 26, Thomas is the most talented wide receiver with whom Peyton Manning has ever played, and could see his touchdown total rise for a fifth consecutive season post-Eric Decker. Thomas is a dominant run-after-catch wideout with deep speed and red-zone chops. His quarterback is the best in the game. I'm not betting against Thomas leading the NFL in receiving.
10. Julio Jones -- You probably know the stat by now: Jones shredded the NFL before last year's Week 5 foot fracture with a statistical pace of 131 catches and 1,856 yards through five games. Now officially recurring -- he broke the same foot before the 2011 Combine -- the injury is Julio's lone cause for 2014 concern. He's a complete receiver at age 25, in a pass-first offense with a franchise quarterback on a team that plays in a dome with a suspect defense. Tony Gonzalez's retirement frees up 120 targets. Jones' ceiling is similar to Calvin, Dez, and Demaryius. His floor isn't as high.
11. A.J. Green -- Green finished fourth and fourth in wideout scoring during his final two seasons with ex-OC Jay Gruden. The 2014 Bengals' offense will offer less aerial volume after ranking 12th in pass attempts last year, but new OC Hue Jackson is a reliable talent identifier and maximizer, and will continue to pepper Green with targets as the focal point of his passing attack. Expect decreased roles for Jermaine Gresham and Mohamed Sanu, while Green's stays steady. Green is a durable, reliably elite WR1, even if he lacks the upside of Calvin, Demaryius, Dez, and Julio.
12. DeMarco Murray -- Moe Williams caught 65 passes as Scott Linehan's lead back on the 2003 Vikings. Steven Jackson caught 90 for Linehan's 2006 Rams. On Linehan's watch, Jahvid Best hauled in 58 passes for the 2010 Lions. Joique Bell caught 105 balls under Linehan over the past two seasons. Reggie Bush had 54 in 14 games last year. I'm cherrypicking, admittedly, but the point is Linehan likes to involve running backs in his passing offense. The pass game is arguably Murray's greatest strength. If Murray stays healthy -- a feat he accomplished for the most part last year -- I think he's a lock to finish as a top-eight standard-scoring back, and will have a chance to be the PPR RB1.
13. Rob Gronkowski -- In Gronk's six full games played last season, his 16-week pace was 99-1,494-11. He's rehabbing a double-knee-ligament tear, but is healthier than he was last offseason, when infections in his surgically repaired forearm continually set back his recovery. At age 25, Gronk is arguably the most dominant skill-position player in football whenever on the field. Perhaps we should project him to miss time, but he'll be a fantasy week winner when he plays. Gronkowski could miss 3-4 games and I still think he'd be worth selecting with a top-15 pick.
14. Jordy Nelson -- Nelson's 2013 nine-game splits with Aaron Rodgers put him on pace for 140 targets, 94 catches, 1,559 yards, and 12 touchdowns, which would've ranked 14th, seventh, second, and third among NFL wide receivers. Keep in mind some of those games were played without Randall Cobb, but this year Green Bay is losing the "move" tight end wrinkle from its offense, creating more opportunity for wideouts. Nelson is 29 and in a contract year, and should gobble up most of the red-zone looks James Jones and Jermichael Finley left behind.
15. Marshawn Lynch -- The Seahawks have downplayed the RBBC hinted at by OC Darrell Bevell during OTAs, but red flags remain on Lynch's 2014 outlook. Christine Michael is too talented to stay plastered to the bench, and Lynch is a volume-dependent fantasy commodity who isn't fed generously in the passing game, and has reached 4.3 YPC in just one of his seven NFL seasons. Playoffs included, 28-year-old Lynch has a league-high 1,002 rushing attempts on his tires over the past three years. His production will take a sizable hit should Michael steal 50 or so carries.
16. Montee Ball -- Knowshon Moreno faced six or fewer defenders "in the box" on 80% of his 2013 runs, parlaying them into a top-five fantasy back finish despite inferior running ability to Ball. Although Ball isn't as adept in the passing game, he could easily surpass Knowshon's 241 carries. The perceived risk with Ball is the unknown; he isn't "proven" as a 16-game feature back. (Neither was Moreno before last year, of course.) Ball's 2013 YPC of 4.66 bested Eddie Lacy (4.15), Giovani Bernard (4.09), Zac Stacy (3.89), and Le'Veon Bell (3.52). He's ready to take the reins.
17. Le'Veon Bell -- I didn't like Bell on college tape, but I understand his real-life NFL value much better after one year. He's big enough to block edge rushers in pass protection. He's an excellent receiver. Bell's YPC average may never be prolific, but he's a chain-moving offense sustainer and excels in short-yardage situations. For the first time in a long time, Pittsburgh has continuity on the offensive line, and a running back capable of handling heavy workloads. LeGarrette Blount is only expected to see 5-8 carries per game. Still only 22 years old, the arrow is pointing up on Le'Veon.
18. Arian Foster -- Prior to his year-ending back injury, Foster's 16-game pace through six weeks was 1,904 total yards with 59 receptions and a 4.54 YPC average -- his best per-carry clip since 2010. Even if Foster's health has become increasingly shaky going on age 28, there's plenty of juice left in his legs, and new coach Bill O'Brien promises to feature Foster in the passing game. Due to QB woes, Foster will be the centerpiece of O'Brien's offense. Foster's injury risk is the only reason he isn't a projected fantasy first-rounder. I think he's a value pick anywhere in round two.
19. Julius Thomas -- Tight end isn't deep. It's the thinnest, top-heaviest, and ultimately weakest position in fantasy, with Graham, Orange Julius, and Rob Gronkowski clearly atop the mountain, and a potentially significant drop off thereafter. With Eric Decker's 136 targets and 11 TD catches removed from Denver's offense, 26-year-old Julius has room to grow all across the stat sheet. With his opportunity on the rise, I see Thomas as a 15-touchdown candidate in his contract year.
20. Brandon Marshall -- In Marshall's four seasons with Jay Cutler at quarterback, he's finished ninth, 11th, second, and fifth in wideout points. Even if the upside becomes more limited as Alshon Jeffery ascends, Marshall is a durable, high-floor WR1 still squarely in his prime at age 30. Expect Marshall to continue to lead Chicago in targets and catches, but begin ceding touchdowns to athletically gifted Jeffery. I don't think Marshall is a great bet to score 10-plus TDs again.
21. Keenan Allen -- As a 21-year-old rookie, Allen didn't begin playing regularly until Week 3. His season took off in Week 4, and over the ensuing 15 weeks -- including playoffs -- Allen posted a combined 76-1,179-10 receiving line, which would've placed him 12th among fantasy wideouts in per-game scoring. Allen is in obvious ascent, and he's now established as Philip Rivers' clear-cut No. 1 target. He'd offer legitimate first-round scoring upside if the Chargers threw the ball more. As is, I still think Allen will dominate targets and be a sneaky candidate for 100 receptions.
22. Alshon Jeffery -- Despite the narrative that Jay Cutler clearly "prefers" throwing to Marshall, Marshall averaged just over 10 targets per game last year regardless of his starting quarterback. It was Jeffery's targets that dipped, going from nine per game with Cutler to just over ten with Josh McCown. The Bears threw more in McCown's starts, of course, which impacts targets. Jeffery may have a hard time repeating last year's 1,421 receiving yards, but has lots of room for growth in the TD column (7). At 6-foot-3, 216 with long arms (33") and huge hands (10 1/4"), Jeffery is going to be a double-digit touchdown scorer. He turned 24 this offseason.
23. Randall Cobb -- It's just a three-game sample, but notable nonetheless: Cobb's Weeks 1-3 box scores with a healthy Aaron Rodgers put him on pace for 112 catches, 1,547 yards, and 11 touchdowns. This was after Rodgers spent the 2013 offseason predicting 100 receptions for Cobb. A versatile, high-volume weapon in an elite offense entering a contract season at age 24, Cobb should be a PPR owner's dream while flirting with WR1 production in standard leagues.
24. Peyton Manning -- The question isn't whether 38-year-old Manning will statistically regress, it's to what extent. Emmanuel Sanders is a downgrade from Eric Decker, and Denver's strength of schedule goes from the NFL's easiest in 2013 to a slate projected as second toughest, including the NFC West. Peyton remains my overall QB1, but Rodgers and Brees aren't far behind, if we're drafting with projection in mind rather than last year's stats. Now that the Broncos have a true feature-runner type in Montee Ball, after parting with spread-type back Knowshon Moreno, I also think it's conceivable Peyton loses pass attempts while OC Adam Gase dials up more runs.
25. Aaron Rodgers -- In the five seasons Rodgers has played at least 15 games, he's finished second, first, second, second, and second in quarterback scoring. He missed seven 2013 games with a fractured collarbone, but can't be considered injury prone after missing just two combined the previous half-decade. Annually supplemented by rushing stats, I see Rodgers as this year's biggest threat to Peyton Manning atop all fantasy QBs. A balanced, Eddie Lacy-driven attack theoretically curbs Rodgers' box-score upside, but the offense projects as a juggernaut. At age 30 behind an improved offensive line, I think Rodgers may be poised for his best-ever NFL season.
26. Zac Stacy -- OC Brian Schottenheimer is on record as opening St. Louis' running back job to competition, although Stacy should be viewed as the heavy favorite. Taking over as the Rams' workhorse over last season's final 12 games, Stacy rushed 249 times for 960 yards with eight touchdowns, numbers that work out to 332-1,292-11 across a 16-start season. He's much more adept in the passing game than rookie Tre Mason, who struggled mightily as a pass blocker at Auburn and finished his college career with just 19 receptions. I'm also not entirely sold Mason will beat out Benny Cunningham for No. 2 back work after Cunningham quietly led the NFL in yards per carry (5.55) among rushers with at least 45 totes. Additionally, St. Louis sounds committed to a truly run-devoted offense this season, after finishing 2013 a middling 17th in rushing attempts.
27. Drew Brees -- As a wait-on-quarterback proponent, I generally don't believe in using high picks on fantasy's most replaceable position. I do believe a fair case can be made for doing so, however, as quarterbacks like Brees present minimal risk, whereas virtually every NFL running back is at annual risk of injury. In mock drafts, I find my teams look substantially better on paper when I avoid early-round signal callers, loading up at other positions and drafting value-pick QBs in the middle to late rounds. Even so, there is a point at which I could not pass on Brees, who's finished second, first, first, third, second, and first in quarterback scoring over the past six years, with no signs of slowing down in an aggressive attack coached by a true offensive mastermind.
28. Doug Martin -- New Bucs coach Lovie Smith is an ardent run-game believer. OC Jeff Tedford has promised a ground-based offense in Tampa. Martin is the Bucs' best back, although he was not drafted by the new regime, which did select Charles Sims with a top-70 pick. With Mike James also on the roster coming off a 4.92 YPC season while Martin managed 3.59 behind the same line before getting hurt, there are legitimate committee concerns in the Buccaneers' backfield. The Bucs have talked up Sims as a passing-down back. If I'm using a high fantasy pick on a running back, I generally want him to catch passes. I think there is some bust potential with Martin, who must also contend with a revamped offensive line and major question marks at both guard spots.
29. Andre Johnson -- Johnson is entering his age-33 season, but coming off one where he ranked third in the league in receptions (109), seventh in receiving yards (1,407), and tied for sixth in 20-plus-yard catches, all despite a Matt Schaub-Case Keenum QB carousel. Quarterback remains problematic in Houston, but I don't envision Bill O'Brien forgetting about his best offensive player. And, as seemingly is usual, Johnson has room for growth in the touchdown column (5). It isn't that Johnson is a poor red-zone receiver; it's that Gary Kubiak's offenses never featured him there, instead handing off to Arian Foster or throwing to tight ends. The system is changing, and that could be good for Johnson's scoring stock. I'm not yet worried about a training-camp holdout.
30. C.J. Spiller -- Statistically speaking, 27 is the peak age for NFL running backs. Spiller enters his age-27 campaign in a contract year, healthy, and under a coaching staff that should have a better handle on how to utilize him after last year's disappointment. Despite essentially playing on one leg in 2013, Spiller averaged 4.62 YPC and improved to 5.10 YPC in the season's second half. Working against Spiller is a lack of goal-line involvement and deep backfield that added Bryce Brown. Working in Spiller's fantasy favor is his truly special run talent, restored health, Buffalo's devotion to the NFL's most voluminous run game, and a perception of fragility that lowers his draft-day cost. This season, I'll be feeling pretty good if I secure Spiller as my RB2.
31. Antonio Brown -- Brown is a somewhat unique, exception-to-the-rule fantasy star in that he's undersized (5'10/186), speed-deficient (4.56), and dependent on volume, having scored just 15 touchdowns through 261 career catches. For comparison, Demaryius Thomas has 30 TDs on 240 grabs. I might envision Brown as a candidate to regress if I saw reason to believe he might lose volume, but I don't. The Steelers are breaking in a first-time No. 2 receiver in Markus Wheaton, and new slot man Lance Moore (5'9/182) is even smaller than Brown. Entering his age-26 season, there's every reason to believe Brown can continue to flirt with the NFL lead in receptions.
32. Toby Gerhart -- Although the Jaguars are commonly billed as Seahawks imitators, I think their offensive blueprint is Thomas Dimitroff's Falcons. They'll be a run-based team (Gerhart, Michael Turner) that transitions to building around talented young receivers Allen Robinson (Julio Jones) and Marqise Lee (Roddy White). Jags GM Dave Caldwell hails from Atlanta, where Dimitroff's first order of business was to sign Turner and provide young quarterback Matt Ryan with a sustaining, foundation run game. The Jags hope to sit their young QB (Blake Bortles) for most of 2014, but I still think they want to pound the rock. In his first Falcons season, Turner handled a league-high 376 carries. Think what you want about Gerhart's talent; he's got volume steadfastly on his side.
33. Pierre Garcon -- Washington's addition of DeSean Jackson will cut into his league-high target (182) and catch (113) totals, but 28-year-old Garcon has lots of room for growth in the yards-per-reception (11.9) and touchdown (5) departments. It's conceivable that D-Jax's attention-drawing presence will help Garcon in both of the latter categories, offsetting a volume dip. The Redskins' quarterback play should improve with RG3's health restored and Jay Gruden as coach. Gruden turned Andy Dalton into a viable high-volume passer in Cincinnati. Griffin is a far superior talent.
34. Larry Fitzgerald -- Fitz isn't the sexy pick Michael Floyd is this year, but the future HOFer remains the centerpiece of Arizona's passing attack. Each of Bruce Arians' last two offenses have ripped off 600-plus pass attempts, and more can be expected in '14 as the Cards' defense takes a step back after the losses of LBs Daryl Washington and Karlos Dansby, in addition to FS Tyrann Mathieu's ACL/LCL recovery. Fitzgerald saw 135 targets last season, 18th most among wideouts. Playing the same high-volume slot role under Arians in 2012, Reggie Wayne was targeted an AFC-high 195 times. I don't think it's crazy to project Fitzgerald for an uptick in usage. And even if Fitz has lost some long speed, he remains a red-zone dominator, coming off a ten-TD season.
35. Roddy White -- Many drafters are scared off by White's combination of advancing age (32) and recent injuries. He's a virtual lock to be a value pick. Shaking off his knee and ankle ailments late last season, White racked up 43 catches for 502 yards and two scores over Atlanta's final five games, good for a beastly 138-1,607-7 extrapolation. The guy can still ball. A route-running maven in a receiver-friendly offense who could remain productive into his mid-30s a la Reggie Wayne, I think White is set up to return second- or third-round value in re-draft leagues. He'll benefit from a bad Atlanta defense and the 120-target void created by Tony Gonzalez's retirement.
36. Giovani Bernard -- The Jeremy Hill pick took air out of his sophomore breakout balloon, but I still think Gio ends up as a high-end RB2 in standard leagues and borderline RB1 in PPR. New OC Hue Jackson will increase Cincinnati's team rushing attempts, and Bernard will remain the club's primary passing-down back. After catching 56 passes as a rookie, Gio could push for 70 receptions in year two. I just don't envision Bernard getting enough all-purpose touches to become the next Ray Rice. He's in a backfield committee and will get vultured at the goal line by Hill.
37. Torrey Smith -- It seems folks are sleeping on Smith this year, because I keep getting him in drafts, often in the fifth round and even recently in the sixth. New No. 2 receiver Steve Smith is 35, and arguably less of a threat for target volume than temporarily-demoted Marlon Brown. Dennis Pitta, 29, is coming off a severe hip injury. 25 and ascending, Torrey will play the heavy-usage No. 1 wideout role in Gary Kubiak's offense. Granted Andre Johnson is better than Smith, but here's a stat to keep in mind: During Johnson's last four healthy seasons under Kubiak, he ranked second, sixth, first, and second among NFL receivers in targets. That will be Torrey's role, on the heels of finishing as the WR22 as a 24-year-old, and now entering a contract year. Yes, please.
38. Jordan Cameron -- Cameron's regression stat to be aware of is last year's 118 targets -- third most among tight ends -- in a tight end-friendly Norv Turner offense that led the NFL in pass attempts. Norv has been replaced by run-minded Kyle Shanahan. Still, Cameron is a 26-year-old basketball athlete who will be the focal point of Shanahan's passing attack following Josh Gordon's suspension. The arrow is pointing up on Cameron as a player. He's my TE4, behind Jimmy Graham, Julius Thomas, and Rob Gronkowski. I have Cameron comfortably ahead of Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis.
39. Matthew Stafford -- Still only 26, Stafford enters his sixth NFL season as my fantasy QB4, behind Peyton, Rodgers, and Brees. He can be acquired two to three rounds after the top three in average drafts, making Stafford something of a value-pick possibility for owners willing to select quarterbacks early. New Lions coach Jim Caldwell and OC Joe Lombardi are QB gurus, having previously tutored Manning and Brees, respectively. They are also pass-first minds who won't scale back Stafford's volume significantly. Golden Tate is a monster upgrade on Kris Durham, and rookie Eric Ebron gives Detroit serious playmaking ability down the seams. Calvin Johnson is Megatron. With improved coaching and weapons, I expect Stafford's efficiency to spike in 2014.
40. Bishop Sankey -- I watched four games of Sankey before the draft and didn't like him much. I thought he went down on first contact too often, and his short-area burst underwhelmed. I didn't think his running ability differed much from Vick Ballard. But his opportunity is impossible to ignore behind a talented Tennessee offensive line, and running backs like Sankey with standout combos of measurables and college production have a high NFL hit rate. Perhaps Sankey won't clear 4.0 YPC as a rookie, but neither did Zac Stacy and Le'Veon Bell. I see Sankey as a serious candidate for 17-22 touches per game. I'm not reaching for him, but I expect him to become a quality RB2.
41. Alfred Morris -- The concerns on Morris aren't rooted in his 2012-2013 fantasy-point dip -- his sophomore on-field performance was just as good as his rookie-year play -- it's the fact that the Redskins' offense has changed. Gone are run-game gurus Mike and Kyle Shanahan, replaced by pass-first mind Jay Gruden. Morris has struggled in the pass game throughout his college and pro careers, failing to exceed 15 receptions in any of the past six years. Roy Helu has 136 catches over that span, and consistently replaced Morris in passing scenarios under the Shanahans. I'm not sure Morris is a great fit for Washington's new offense. Gruden's 2013 tailback distribution in Cincinnati suggests Morris may be ticketed for a Green-Ellis role, while some combination of Helu, Chris Thompson, and/or rookie Lache Seastrunk becomes Gruden's new Giovani Bernard.
42. Victor Cruz -- Cruz posted three-year statistical lows across the board last season as New York's "broken" offense crumbled without a dangerous perimeter threat to free up its dynamic slot receiver. New OC Ben McAdoo has scrapped Kevin Gilbride's vertical scheme and replaced it with a quick-hitting, Packers-style attack that will get the ball out of Eli Manning's hands quickly, theoretically masking pass-blocking deficiencies and making the team less reliant on a dominant "X" receiver to clear space. Cruz doesn't get the benefit of playing with Aaron Rodgers, of course, but is ticketed for the high-volume Randall Cobb role, which should get him back around 90 receptions. Cruz may not go deep as often, but should capitalize on the higher-percentage routes. Still only 27, Cruz is a pretty safe bet for a bounce-back year. I'd feel good with Cruz as my WR2.
43. Michael Crabtree -- Give Crabtree a momentary pass for last year's Achilles'-wrecked season. Including playoffs the season before, Crabtree piled up 61 catches for 880 yards and eight touchdowns across ten Colin Kaepernick starts, numbers that extrapolate to 98-1,408-13 over a full 16-game schedule. That pace would've made him a top-four fantasy wideout over the course of last year. Expecting that level of production in 2014 is unrealistic on a run-first team with better weapons, but should still pique fantasy interest. Additionally, multiple beat writers have predicted the 49ers will throw more this year, and a defensive step back is likely minus Navorro Bowman and Aldon Smith. Not yet 27 and in a contract season, Crabtree offers value at his late-fourth-round ADP.
44. Vincent Jackson -- V-Jax finished as last year's fantasy WR14 on the strength of the sixth most targets among NFL wide receivers and the second most yards (1,224) of his career, on a bad Buccaneers team. I happen to believe the Bucs will be much better this year, which could depress passing under run-oriented new coach Lovie Smith. Tampa Bay is also much stronger at the skill positions, with No. 7 overall pick Mike Evans now flanking Jackson, Austin Seferian-Jenkins at tight end, and Doug Martin healthy. This team will be far less reliant on V-Jax to carry its offense on a weekly basis. Beware of last year's stats and downgrade Jackson further in PPR.
45. Marques Colston -- Colston's ADP still feels the sting of last year's sluggish first half, as he's currently lasting until round seven. Ostensibly forgotten is his white-hot second half. Colston returned from a midseason knee injury to post a 61-761-5 line over the last ten games, playoffs included. It's a 98-catch, 1,213-yard, eight-score 16-game pace. Colston may seem over the hill, but he just turned 31. Also, there is arguably more opportunity in New Orleans this year, as rookie Brandin Cooks alone can't replace Darren Sproles and Lance Moore's 108 combined catches. Colston should resume steady annual WR2 production at the draft-day cost of a WR3.
46. Joique Bell -- Perhaps the highest-impact fallout from Detroit's offseason coaching change is the removal of OC Scott Linehan in favor of ex-Saints QBs coach Joe Lombardi, whose history with Sean Payton hints at a strong willingness to utilize running back committees. After the Lions signed him to a three-year extension, my expectation is that versatile 28-year-old Bell will play a combination of the Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram roles, leading Detroit in carries while staying very active in the passing game. Despite sharing the Lions' 2013 backfield with Reggie Bush, Bell finished as the fantasy RB17 on the strength of eight TDs and a Chris Ivoryish running style. Bell should remain Detroit's primary red-zone runner, and has 50-plus catches in back-to-back years.
47. Reggie Bush -- In PPR, I'd swap Bell and Bush in these rankings. Lombardi knows Bush well, having spent four seasons with him in New Orleans. Bush averaged 4.68 receptions per game on those teams, good for a 75-reception extrapolation over a full season. Although he may disappoint in the scoring and rushing categories, Bush can compensate with generous passing-game usage. At age 29, I consider Bush a high-ceiling PPR RB2 and respectable RB2 in standard leagues.
48. Andre Ellington -- I have Ellington ranked where I probably won't get him, but also right where I'm willing to take him. I think he'll disappoint top-three-round drafters because he won't get the volume Bruce Arians has jokingly promised, and his per-play effectiveness is a lock to decline on heavier workloads. Coming off a rookie season where Ellington saw only three carries inside the five-yard line, he'll continue to cede goal-line work to Jonathan Dwyer or Stepfan Taylor, and is an injury risk if banged too often inside. Ellington also plays in the run-stingy NFC West. The ceiling here seems intriguing, but there is a lot of risk that I'd ultimately rather let my opponents deal with.
49. Ryan Mathews -- Mathews deserves credit for turning in the healthiest, most complete season of his NFL career in 2013. There are reasons for 2014 concern. Mathews wore down late last year, and the Chargers added running backs in free agency (Donald Brown) and the draft (Marion Grice), likely in an effort to reduce Mathews' early-season workload in hopes of keeping him fresh. Mathews has gained nearly ten pounds, an approach that tends to end poorly for running backs. Oft-used role-player back Danny Woodhead returns. Mathews is a talented, 26-year-old tailback on a run-first team and in a contract year. But I think the Chargers are going to use a committee.
50. Shane Vereen -- Making ten appearances including playoffs last season, Vereen piled up 761 all-purpose yards and seven TDs, good for a 1,218-yard, 11.2-score pace over 16. 25 years old and entering a contract season, Vereen's outlook should be viewed independently of Stevan Ridley's, as they essentially play different positions with wholly dissimilar roles. Vereen's usage is more stable week to week as New England's passing-game back, while Ridley will be used most often to kill the clock. Vereen has a chance to flirt with low-end RB1 numbers in PPR leagues. He crammed 54 receptions into ten games last season, good for an 86.4-reception extrapolation.
51. Rueben Randle -- A classic third-year receiver breakout candidate, Randle will become a full-time player under new OC Ben McAdoo, who is emphasizing a quick-hitting pass offense and three-wideout base. Randle can beat man coverage and is an accomplished post-catch weapon, having earned 31% of his career yards after the reception. For comparison, Brandon Marshall's YAC rate is 23% over that span. Anquan Boldin's is 34%. Under ex-Packers assistant McAdoo, Randle will play the Jordy Nelson "Z" position, with Victor Cruz mimicking Randall Cobb, and Odell Beckham in the Greg Jennings role. In hindsight, Randle's to-date inconsistencies were to be expected. Having just turned 23, Randle is younger than rookie receivers Kelvin Benjamin, John Brown, Shaq Evans, Kevin Norwood, Ryan Grant, Devin Street, and Jared Abbrederis.
52. Mike Wallace -- Glowing OTA reports understandably elicit eyerolls from fantasy owners, but in Wallace's case I tend to believe the "hype." In addition to Lamar Miller, ex-Dolphins OC Mike Sherman sucked the air out of Wallace's 2013 balloon, sticking him on the right side of the formation and making him run isolation routes, which meant lots of time "clearing out" for Charles Clay, Brian Hartline, and Brandon Gibson/Rishard Matthews, who all combined for 216 receptions while Wallace managed 73 and a career-low five TDs. New OC Bill Lazor hails from Philadelphia, where last year Chip Kelly oversaw a career year from DeSean Jackson, who is a smaller version of Wallace. Lazor intends to make a habit of getting Wallace the ball, as opposed to using him to create space for others to get the ball. Wallace has a good chance at a big season.
53. Jeremy Maclin -- Maclin has something of a boom-or-bust outlook as the Eagles' primary replacement for DeSean Jackson (fantasy WR10 in '14), albeit one who's coming off an ACL tear and has more competition for targets with second-rounder Jordan Matthews joining the equation, and second-year TE Zach Ertz ascending. The Eagles won't ask Maclin to do the heavylifting D-Jax did last year. That said, Maclin would only need to match about 75% of Jackson's 2013 stats to return rock-solid WR2 stats. Still only 26, Maclin is a compelling contract-year breakout pick.
54. Jordan Reed -- The worries on Reed are not performance related. Aaron Hernandez lite, he was on pace for 80 catches, 888 yards, and six TDs -- top-seven TE1 stats as a rookie -- before suffering a year-ending concussion nine games in. The Shanahans used Reed in the Shannon Sharpe role, peppering him with nearly seven targets per game as the underneath complement to Pierre Garcon. Gone are the Shanahans, replaced by ex-Bengals OC Jay Gruden, whose Cincy offenses never oversaw a tight end who reached 750 yards. In addition, Reed has suffered no fewer than four concussions between his college and NFL careers. The 24-year-old is a high-ceiling TE1 with red-light risk. If you draft Reed, a TE2 is recommended. I am intrigued by Reed's TD upside in a pass-catching corps otherwise comprised of relatively size-deficient personnel. DeSean Jackson is 5'10/169. Andre Roberts is 5'11/195. Garcon is 6'0/210. Reed is 6'3/236.
55. Percy Harvin -- Due to injury, the only exposures to Harvin in Seattle we have so far are three games (one regular season, two playoffs) where he failed to play 50% of the offensive snaps in each, and totaled five catches on seven targets. We're not sure yet whether a healthy Harvin will be an every-down player, though his usage in Seattle's return game suggests he probably won't. Coach Pete Carroll also made it very clear last year the Seahawks wouldn't scheme specifically to feed Harvin. Beat writers were even skeptical Harvin would clear 1,000 receiving yards. Harvin is amazing with the football in his hands. But could be a limited-snap player on a run-committed team that isn't necessarily funneling offense through him pay off at a round-four ADP?
56. Michael Floyd -- Floyd is an increasingly popular third-year receiver breakout candidate, and I'm generally on board with him as a WR2. I'm just not as bullish on Floyd as other fantasy analysts, who are projecting him to overtake Larry Fitzgerald as the Cardinals' top wideout in 2014. I'm also skeptical Arizona's offense, with 34-year-old Carson Palmer at the controls in the defensive-stingy NFC West, is capable of supporting two true frontline fantasy receivers. Andre Ellington is ticketed for a bigger role in Bruce Arians' passing game, and Arians seems to believe Ted Ginn and rookie John Brown will offer more than outgoing Andre Roberts. Still only 24, Floyd most certainly has long-term WR1 upside. I think he's another year away from getting there. I think his targets will dip slightly in 2014, and his consistency will continue to frustrate fantasy owners. It wasn't often last year that Floyd entered a week and you felt confident starting him.
57. Stevan Ridley -- In between two fumbling-induced benchings, Ridley shredded the NFL for a combined 95-441-7 line in Weeks 4-11 last season, averaging 4.64 YPC and playing like every bit the back who finished as fantasy's RB10 the year before. Now entering the final season of his rookie deal, 25-year-old Ridley gets one last crack at New England's lead back role with Shane Vereen as the passing-game complement. The "risk" on Ridley is baked into his mid-sixth-round ADP, which works to reduce that same "risk." The touchdown-scoring ceiling remains enticing in an annual top-eight offense where Ridley projects as the primary between-the-tackles, goal-line, and clock-killing back. Over the past two seasons, including playoffs, Ridley has 21 TDs in the 25 games where he's handled at least 12 carries. Simply put, he will score a lot if he doesn't fumble.
58. Cam Newton -- I'm concerned about Carolina's offensive line -- which lost LT Jordan Gross and LG Travelle Wharton to retirement -- but not quite as worried about the pass-catching corps. There's a good case to be made that Jerricho Cotchery upgrades on 35-year-old Steve Smith at this stage of Smitty's career, while Kelvin Benjamin obviously offers a higher ceiling than Brandon LaFell. Greg Olsen gives the unit stability. All three are legitimate red-zone threats, particularly 6-foot-5 Benjamin. Cotchery is coming off a ten-TD year. A top-five QB1 in each of his first three NFL seasons with mammoth week-to-week rushing upside, it's conceivable Newton may put more on his own plate this year in order to offset his teammates' deficiencies. I'm not willing to draft Cam with Peyton, Rodgers, and Brees, but he'll stay on my radar at the fifth-/sixth-round turn.
59. Frank Gore -- Gore is a lock to open the season as San Francisco's bellcow running back. How long he'll keep that role remains to be seen. The 49ers themselves have prepared for post-Gore life, using a second-round pick on Carlos Hyde to supplement change-of-pace Kendall Hunter and wild card Marcus Lattimore. Gore turned 31 in May and has 956 carries over the last three years, including playoffs. Over his final ten 2013-14 games, Gore managed 592 yards and three scores on 162 runs (3.65 YPC). He hit 100 rushing yards once in the final 13. I wouldn't feel terrible opening the season with Gore as my RB2, but I'd certainly view him as a short-term fix.
60. DeSean Jackson -- Jackson's 82-1,332-9 line in his lone season under Chip Kelly deviates significantly from his typical production. D-Jax's career averages in his other five seasons are 54.8 receptions, 957 receiving yards, and 4.6 receiving scores. New Redskins coach Jay Gruden has a West Coast background, and runs an offense more similar Andy Reid's than Kelly's. Pierre Garcon and Jordan Reed also command targets to a much greater extent than the likes of Riley Cooper, Brent Celek, and Jason Avant did last year. One Skins beat writer recently suggested Jackson could finish third on the team in catches. Based on his early fifth-round ADP and virtually inevitable regression, I'd be quite comfortable letting someone else draft Jackson this August.
61. Rashad Jennings -- There is a lot of competition in New York's backfield, creating risk for owners looking to secure Jennings as an RB2. New York used a fourth-round pick on workhorse prospect Andre Williams. Peyton Hillis returns as a goal-line threat, while 2012 first-rounder David Wilson is a wild card. Even Michael Cox is an interesting youngster. Jennings does have traits that will appeal to coach Tom Coughlin -- he's ball secure, gets what's blocked, and can pass protect -- but Jennings' job security is fragile as a 29-year-old career journeyman. Still, Jennings is clearly atop the Giants' running back totem pole with a chance at 16-20 touches per game.
62. Lamar Miller -- I conducted a June Twitter poll asking followers to project the Dolphins' Week 1 starting tailback. (This was before news of Knowshon Moreno's knee surgery.) 33 said Miller, 17 Moreno. NFL.com's Marc Sessler chimed in, saying he recently "talked with" first-year OC Bill Lazor, who "spoke positively of Miller and talked about wanting his RBs in space more," which Sessler opined "suits Lamar." I'm on board with all of that. Lazor's track record consists extensively of run-based offenses, including his 2013 stay with Chip Kelly's Eagles, who led the NFL in rushing yards and ranked fourth in rushing attempts. Conversely, the '13 Fins ranked 26th and 29th in those categories. Under Lazor, the '14 Fins will play fast, and be run committed. Miller is an all-but-locked-in starting running back, and his current draft cost is a seventh-round pick.
63. Trent Richardson -- Richardson's ADP has already climbed into the early fifth round, which probably means it'll flirt with round four by the time training camp gets rolling. We're going to hear lots of positive reports on him out of Indianapolis. I still think the sixth round feels most right, and wouldn't be willing to gamble much higher. (And this is coming from a T-Rich Dynasty owner.) Barring dramatic and sudden offseason improvement, I think Richardson will have a hard time beating out Ahmad Bradshaw for regular early-down carries, and there is also some risk of a three-headed monster involving Vick Ballard. If the Colts play spread offense to highlight a deep pass-catching corps, it's conceivable no Indy back will prove a reliable weekly fantasy option.
64. Matt Ryan -- Ryan deserves a pass for last year's QB15 finish, considering he was without Julio Jones for 11 games and had a healthy Roddy White for six. I view 29-year-old Ryan as the best bounce-back quarterback bet in all of 2014 fantasy. A top-eight quarterback scorer in three of his last four seasons, Ryan has lost nothing off his fastball, plays indoors, and benefits from OC Dirk Koetter's pass-first offense. Ryan should capitalize statistically on a porous defense that has already lost three-down LB Sean Weatherspoon (Achilles') for the year. Expect lots of Falcons shootouts this season, lots of TD dances for Julio and Roddy, and top-five QB flirtation from Ryan.
65. Tony Romo -- Already an annual QB1, Romo has finished top ten in per-game quarterback scoring in each of the past five seasons. This year, he'll be among the primary beneficiaries of pass-happy new OC Scott Linehan, who runs an up-tempo offense that ranked sixth, third, first, first, and fifth in the NFL in pass attempts over the past half-decade in Detroit. (Dallas ranked 13th, ninth, 12th, third, and 14th over that stretch.) Romo plays indoors and on a team with a bad defense, plus passing-game weapons, and one of the league's top offensive lines. Recurring back injuries keep Romo behind Matt Ryan, but their outlooks are similar assuming health cooperates.
66. Vernon Davis -- Davis' fifth-round ADP is likely a textbook case of fantasy owners grasping at last year's stats. Touchdown dependent to the extreme, Davis borderline-miraculously turned the 60th-most receptions in football into the third most receiving scores. I'm not saying he'll stop being a big-time red-zone threat, but Davis could easily still sport that description on a five-touchdown regression. And his target totals with Michael Crabtree back from injury paint a troubling picture. They were 5, 3, 7, 3, 5 in Crabtree's regular season appearances, and 7, 4, 3 in the postseason.
67. Jay Cutler -- Combine Cutler and Josh McCown's stats from Marc Trestman's first season as Bears coach, and they work out to the fantasy QB5. McCown is out of the picture, while Cutler is entering his second year with the Quarterback Whisperer. There were strong indications Cutler was making strides before last year's injuries. He first went down in Week 7, and his 16-game pace over the first month and a half was a 32:16 TD-to-INT ratio with 4,347 passing yards, good for top-seven quarterback stats. Cutler is surrounded by touchdown scorers in Brandon Marshall (6'5/229), Alshon Jeffery (6'3/216), Martellus Bennett (6'6/259), and Marquess Wilson (6'3/207). Matt Forte is an awfully good receiver, too. Perhaps Cutler is simply a chronic underachiever, and his durability remains a concern. But the table is otherwise set for a monster year. At fantasy football's most replaceable position, I want my quarterback to offer lots of upside. Cutler has it.
68. Andrew Luck -- The Colts have personnel to play wide-open spread offense with T.Y. Hilton, Reggie Wayne, Hakeem Nicks, Da'Rick Rogers, and Donte Moncrief at wideout, and Coby Fleener and a healthy Dwayne Allen at tight end. They also brought in ex-Panthers OC and Browns head coach Rob Chudzinski as an offensive assistant. A Norv Turner disciple, Chud is a passing-game proponent with vertical leanings. Cam Newton -- a similar player to Luck, albeit with inferior passing skills -- ranked fourth and fourth in fantasy QB scoring during his first two NFL seasons with Chudzinski as Carolina's offensive coordinator. If Indianapolis does a better job of game planning to feature the pass, 24-year-old Luck's fantasy production could take off.
69. Wes Welker -- It's difficult to get behind Welker at his mid-fourth-round ADP. The 33-year-old suffered two concussions in 2013, and his next could conceivably end his career. The Broncos are aware the end is nigh, spending a $15 million contract on slot-man-of-the-future Emmanuel Sanders and a second-round pick on Cody Latimer. They also re-signed Andre Caldwell, before giving premium UDFA signing bonuses to rookie WRs Isaiah Burse ($12,500) and Bennie Fowler ($7,000). Welker's 2013 production was touchdown dependent to the extreme, parlaying eight-year lows in both catches and yards into ten TDs. Even with Peyton Manning under center, that is an unsustainable scoring rate for a 5-foot-9, 185-pound slot receiver who never hit double-digit scores in six years with Tom Brady. I'm thinking Welker is much more likely to bust than boom.
70. Nick Foles -- Foles' efficiency was otherworldly in his first season as a starter, and he didn't even win the Eagles' quarterback job out of camp. He led the NFL in touchdown rate (TDs/pass attempts, 8.5%), YPA (8.5), yards per completion (14.2), and QB rating (119.2). Foles compiled a 27:2 TD-to-INT ratio and was even sprinkled into Chip Kelly's run game, rushing for three scores and averaging 22 rushing yards per start. Those supplementary numbers add up. Now DeSean Jackson-less, can Foles maintain his efficiency for 16 games? If he does, he'll have no problem finishing as a top-five fantasy quarterback. He still plays in a run-based offense that last year ranked 27th in pass attempts. If his efficiency wanes, Foles will be a middling to low-end QB1.
71. Jeremy Hill -- Hill is another candidate to continue to rise in my rankings. The Bengals have already penciled him into BenJarvus Green-Ellis' old role, which last year consisted of 220 carries and goal-line work. Cincinnati's team rushing volume will increase under power-run proponent Hue Jackson, who coaxed second- and seventh-place fantasy back finishes in per-game scoring out of Darren McFadden in 2010 and 2011. Hill is the Bengals' top power back. I think he's an Offensive ROY sleeper who could end up with more 2014 rushing attempts than Giovani Bernard.
72. Cordarrelle Patterson -- Despite Julio Jones-ish size and speed, Patterson was utilized as a gadget player in 2013, instead starring on kickoff returns. Then-OC Bill Musgrave began using Patterson in a Harvinian role down the stretch, and the rookie responded with top-four wideout stats over the final five weeks, behind only Eric Decker, Josh Gordon, and Alshon Jeffery. Route-running limitations forced Musgrave to feed Patterson 65% of his targets within ten yards of the line of scrimmage, while 31% came on passes thrown behind the line. Will Patterson become a classic Norv Turner vertical wideout in the Gordon or Vincent Jackson mold? Is Turner willing to manufacture touches for Patterson over the course of a full year? Or is Patterson a suped-up Jacoby Jones? There are too many question marks on Patterson to justify his early fifth-round ADP.
73. Dennis Pitta -- Owen Daniels ranked 7th, fifth, 18th, and 5th among NFL tight ends in targets in his last four healthy seasons under Gary Kubiak in Houston. Now calling plays in Baltimore, the "move" tight end is a high-volume piece in Kubiak's scheme. Recovered from last August's scary hip injury, 29-year-old Pitta should be a steady if unspectacular fantasy TE1, with heightened appeal in PPR leagues. I think Pitta is better than Daniels, and Torrey Smith doesn't command the ball quite like Andre Johnson. Pitta has the look of a value pick at his mid-eighth-round ADP.
74. Robert Griffin III -- Through two NFL seasons, 24-year-old Griffin has finished as the QB5 and QB12 in points per game, a fine start even if his 2013 stats regressed coming off reconstructive knee surgery. This season, RG3 is armed with the best supporting cast of his career (Pierre Garcon, DeSean Jackson, Jordan Reed) in addition to Washington's hire of pass-first coach Jay Gruden. Whereas Gruden allowed inferior talent Andy Dalton to rank ninth in pass attempts per game last year, Griffin ranked 16th. Causes for pause are learning a new offense and Griffin's somewhat running-dependent fantasy stock, but ultimately he offers an enticingly high ceiling for a middle-round, lower-end QB1 pick. RG3's volume is rising and he's got better pieces around him.
75. Golden Tate -- Even if the addition of Tate proves to have more real-life than fantasy impact (see Matthew Stafford), I think he has a chance at WR2/3 stats as the second fiddle to Megatron. Rookie TEs like Eric Ebron often struggle, and the only other Lions pass catchers who command targets play running back. Moving from the Super Bowl champs to Motown, 26-year-old Tate is going from a team that last year ranked 31st in pass attempts, to a Lions club that could easily finish top five. Tate combines sure hands with elite after-catch ability, and his usage could rise by 25 targets. The Lions want Tate to be heavily involved on offense, refusing to let him return punts.
76. Terrance Williams -- I see Williams as a James Jones-ish talent; a player with enough strengths to operate effectively as a No. 3 NFL receiver, but who may struggle to ever establish himself as a quality No. 2. Why Williams offers 2014 breakout potential is primarily based on his opportunity. New playcaller Scott Linehan's track record suggests Dallas' team pass attempts will rise, while one of the league's worst defenses may force them to. Turning 25 in September, Williams finished his rookie year with a 44-736-5 receiving line on 74 targets and 68.3% of the snaps. If his snap rate increases into the 80s, Williams should flirt with or surpass 100 targets.
77. Steven Jackson -- S-Jax carries virtually every late-career breakdown red flag into 2014. He'll be 31 when the season starts. He missed four games due to injury last year, and averaged career worsts in both yards per carry (3.46) and yards per catch (5.8). Jackson's 2,552 rushing attempts are most among active players, and 365 more than runner-up Frank Gore. In fourth-round pick Devonta Freeman, the Falcons drafted a back they seem to believe is Jackson's successor. I still think S-Jax is worth a seventh-round stab as the Week 1 starting running back in a high-scoring offense. There is an outside chance Jackson could offer stable RB2 value for most of the season.
78. Tom Brady -- In the seven 2013 games Brady played with Rob Gronkowski in the lineup, he averaged 315 passing yards and threw 13 touchdown passes. In nine games without Gronk, Brady's per-game yardage average dropped to 237 with 12 scoring tosses. His fantasy points-per-week average with Gronk would've placed Brady fourth among quarterbacks. His average without Gronkowski would've come in 24th. Brady's value has become strongly tied to Gronk's availability. If Gronkowski can finally turn in a healthy season, Brady could be quite the 2014 value pick.
79. Jason Witten -- Typically a low-ceiling, high-floor middle-round pick, Witten may offer more upside this year than meets the eye. Dallas is unsettled in the pass-catching corps behind Dez Bryant, and new playcaller Scott Linehan is going to have to air it out. Plodding Brandon Pettigrew averaged 77 catches per year in Linehan's 2010-2011 offenses, while Detroit's 2013 tight ends combined for a 68-739-9 line. That's no great shakes, but indicates strong tight end involvement in Linehan's offenses considering how poor the Lions' were. Witten is beginning to fade at age 32, but he's still light years better than Detroit's tight ends. He will continue to be a high-volume target.
80. Bernard Pierce -- Pierce fell victim to a discouraging sophomore slump, but his production slip is built into his eighth-round ADP. I see him as a value pick beginning in round seven, with some potential to become a viable sixth- or even fifth-round fantasy selection based on camp reports and preseason performance. While new OC Gary Kubiak installs a run-heavy zone-blocking scheme, Ray Rice will open the year on a multi-game suspension, and fourth-round pick Lorenzo Taliaferro has encountered off-field trouble of his own. If Pierce capitalizes on his anticipated early-season opportunity, Kubiak may have no choice but to ride him as Baltimore's feature back the rest of the way.
81. Kendall Wright -- After Wright's 94-catch breakout, I dubbed him "Randall Cobb South." I stand by that evaluation; 24-year-old Wright is a playmaking slot receiver with a knack for finding soft spots in zones, and enough quickness to defeat man coverage inside. Unlike Cobb, Wright plays in a suspect offense with an inaccurate quarterback. It should also be noted that Wright's 2013 spike in volume came in large part after Jake Locker's injury, as then-OC Dowell Loggains implemented a spread offense to suit Ryan Fitzpatrick's comfort zone. 58.5% of Wright's catches, 59.5% of his yards, and 64% of his targets came in Fitzpatrick's nine starts. Wright still had an 89-999-2 16-game pace in Locker's seven starts, although he would've lost 24 targets off last year's total (139). Now under a new coaching staff where he may lose volume, volume-dependent Wright is a fairly unattractive standard-league pick. He should remain a quality WR3 in PPR.
82. Terrance West -- I'm tempted to rank West higher based on my projection that he will pass Ben Tate no later than Week 5, quite possibly en route to bellcow work in a run-based offense heavy on zone-blocking concepts. I may move him up as camp progresses. With a current ADP of the late seventh, a touch earlier in the round is a savvy place to secure this year's premier small-school rookie. The Browns traded up to draft West, who's built like a MACK truck at 5-foot-9, 225, with 4.54 speed and an explosive 10-foot broad jump. West is also functional in the passing game. On college tape, he flashed open-field jump cuts that remind of ex-Kyle Shanahan pupil Alfred Morris.
83. Ben Tate -- I feel comfortable ranking West and Tate close together because I honestly don't know which one of them will lead Cleveland in touches. West is higher for reasons stated above, but I'm not sleeping on his more expensive teammate. Tate is familiar with new OC Kyle Shanahan's offense -- having played in the same scheme under Gary Kubiak -- and will get the first crack at lead-back work. Tate's alarming injury history and lack of truly special talent suggest his leash may not be long. I do want a piece of the Browns' backfield in fantasy this year because they're going to pound the rock, likely in an efficient manner. Considering current Average Draft Positions, however, I'd rather take my chances with West in round seven than Tate in the fifth.
84. Eric Decker -- The quarterback downgrade from Peyton Manning to Geno Smith is enormous, and Decker is entering an AFC East where he'll face Darrelle Revis, Stephon Gilmore, and Brent Grimes each twice a year. But this will also be Decker's first career exposure to legit No. 1-wideout usage, and the 27-year-old has always been a touchdown scorer, posting eight TDs with Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow under center in 2011, and 16 over his final 22 college games, with now-CFLer Adam Weber at the controls. If Geno builds on his impressive final month of 2013, Decker drafters could have a WR2/3 steal. His draft-day price tag is a mere eighth-round pick.
85. T.Y. Hilton -- Hilton is one of my favorite NFL players, but I don't believe OC Pep Hamilton sees him as an every-down wideout. Whereas Hilton played just 42 snaps per game with Reggie Wayne healthy in the first half of 2013, Hilton's per-week average jumped to 55 in the ensuing 11 weeks, including playoffs. Hilton averaged 9.8 targets per game without Wayne, as opposed to 7.9 with him. Add Dwayne Allen's healthy return and Hakeem Nicks, and Hilton will likely transition from a featured weapon into a situational deep threat/punt returner. There are too many mouths to feed in Indianapolis now for Hilton to repeat the volume he saw over last season's final 11 games.
86. Aaron Dobson -- New England's complex offense and a recurring foot injury were to blame for Dobson's largely quiet rookie season. He still intermittently flashed playmaking ability, dropping a 5-130-2 line on the Steelers in Week 9, and catching four or more passes in five of his first six starts. 23 in July, Dobson offers the highest ceiling in New England's otherwise rag-tag wideout corps, at 6-foot-3, 210 with 4.37 wheels and one year under his belt with OC Josh McDaniels. The foot injury required surgery and remains an obstacle. But I'd love to draft Dobson as my WR4.
87. DeAndre Hopkins -- My best guess on Hopkins is a 2014 step forward followed by a big 2015 leap. (This assumes Andre Johnson isn't traded, of course, and I don't think he will be.) Still only 22, Hopkins is learning a new system in a run-heavy offense under a coaching staff that did not draft him. Johnson figures to command No. 1 receiver targets for one more year. And quarterback is a major question mark in Houston this season. I think Hopkins will finish in the WR26-32 range.
88. Chris Johnson -- 2014 CJ?K truthers presumably subscribe to the theory that less work will result in more long runs, because at surface level his outlook is bleak. Since signing his megadeal after the 2010 season, Johnson's overall fantasy back finishes of 16, 12, and 9 have been buoyed to the extreme by volume, something he'll lose in New York sharing carries with Chris Ivory. Ivory is also very likely to vulture goal-line work. OC Marty Mornhinweg would probably like to utilize Johnson in the passing game, but he's always been a liability there, at one point in his Titans career even losing passing-down duties to Javon Ringer. Now in his age-29 season, Johnson is a dicey RB2/flex with diminishing upside. Can Rex Ryan inspire him to run hard consistently again?
89. Dwayne Bowe -- The reasons for pessimism on Bowe are many. He played 15-of-16 games in 2013 with checkdown specialist Alex Smith, and managed five-year lows in catches (57) and yards (673). Bowe ranked 34th among wideouts in targets (103) as Smith preferred peppering tailbacks/fullbacks (143), tight ends (74), and Dexter McCluster (83) with footballs. The reasons for optimism are 30-year-old Bowe's improved endurance after working with a nutritionist and personal trainer this offseason, in addition to his fast finish as Kansas City's defense lagged down the stretch. Bowe compiled a 39-521-4 stat line over the Chiefs' final eight games, which works out to a 78-1,042-8 extrapolation over 16. Those numbers would have made him the fantasy WR18 overall. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle, however. I see Bowe as a shaky WR3.
90. Sammy Watkins -- There are a lot of things to like about Watkins as a player. There aren't many things to like about his 2014 projection. His current ADP is the middle of round seven. He's a rookie wide receiver. His quarterback, E.J. Manuel, looked like a player who isn't long for a starting job during his first year. The Bills have the run-heaviest offense in football. And they're not without mouths to feed, having added Mike Williams and Tony Moeaki to Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin, and Scott Chandler. My plan is to let someone else deal with Watkins this year, and perhaps target him in 2015, when I think he'll probably be a much better draft value.
91. Kyle Rudolph -- New Vikings OC Norv Turner's offense is historically tight end-friendly, facilitating the best years of Jay Novacek, Randy McMichael, Jordan Cameron, and Antonio Gates' careers. Though vertical in nature, the system relies on tight ends as high-volume safety valves in the middle of the field. Under Turner last season, Cameron ranked third among NFL tight ends in targets (118). The 2014 Vikings will run more than the 2013 Browns, but Rudolph's outlook remains enticing. Still only 24 years old, Rudolph is a far more polished pass catcher than Cordarrelle Patterson, and vastly superior red-zone presence to aging Greg Jennings (5'11/197). Rudolph is a smart bet to lead Minnesota in receiving TDs, and a sleeper to lead them in catches.
92. Zach Ertz -- 23 years old and coming off a promising 36-469-4 rookie campaign, Ertz was limited to 41% of Philadelphia's 2013 offensive snaps while superior blocker Brent Celek played 77%. The pendulum will likely swing toward Ertz this year. Ertz's ascent began in the second half of last season, as he posted a 25-290-5 receiving line across the final nine games, playoffs included, as opposed to 14-201-0 over the initial seven. Ertz's overall-slow rookie year was to be expected; rookie tight ends generally struggle. Good ones also generally take year-two leaps. There are still a lot of mouths to feed in Philly, but Ertz's opportunity arrow is pointing up with DeSean Jackson and Jason Avant's 202 combined targets removed from Chip Kelly's offense.
93. Greg Olsen – Some folks are promoting Olsen as a value pick and blowup candidate because the Panthers "have no receivers," but recent performance suggests Jerricho Cotchery could actually be an upgrade on fading 35-year-old Steve Smith, while rookie Kelvin Benjamin obviously offers a higher ceiling than Brandon LaFell. Carolina's wideouts aren't worse than last year, and there are reasons to believe they might be better, particularly in the red zone with Cotchery and Benjamin both coming off double-digit TD seasons. (Smith and LaFell combined for nine scores in 31 games last year.) If I draft a middle-round tight end, it probably won't be Olsen.
94. Brandin Cooks -- The departures of Lance Moore and Darren Sproles leave a 143-target, 108-catch void in Sean Payton's offense. My guess is the Saints traded up for Cooks because they believe he can be the primary filler for those holes. I expect Kenny Stills' clear-out role to not change much, and Cooks to handle a lot of volume right away. He's a better player than Tavon Austin under a more creative offensive coach. I think 75 catches are within reach.
95. Ben Roethlisberger -- Annually undersold in drafts but typically a starting-caliber QB1, Big Ben has finished his first two seasons under OC Todd Haley 11th and 10th among quarterbacks in per-game scoring. He was last year's QB8 overall. Pittsburgh's weapons should improve with more-dynamic Markus Wheaton succeeding Emmanuel Sanders opposite 100-catch guy Antonio Brown, while a healthy Heath Miller will lift the red-zone offense. Haley's promised commitment to increased no-huddle usage is a big plus for Roethlisberger. Utilizing it more in the second half of last season, Big Ben logged a 20:7 TD-to-INT ratio across the final nine games, and was the No. 4 fantasy quarterback during that span. Roethlisberger is a quality, if lower-end fantasy starter.
96. Philip Rivers -- Rivers finished 2013 as the No. 6 fantasy quarterback and was an every-bit-deserving winner of NFL Comeback Player of the Year. Rejuvenated in first-year coach Mike McCoy's quick-hitting pass offense, Rivers played as comfortably in the pocket as he has since 2010, leading the NFL in completion rate (69.5) despite losing Danario Alexander (ACL) and Malcom Floyd (neck) to year-ending injuries. The concern is that McCoy's run-heavy late-season approach is a sign of things to come, which would limit Rivers' upside and attempts. Including the playoffs, Rivers threw the football 30-plus times in just one of San Diego's final six games. The Chargers reinforced their run-game devotion by signing Donald Brown and drafting Marion Grice.
97. Reggie Wayne -- Wayne tore his right ACL last October. He promises to be ready for camp, but is a 35-year-old possession receiver in an increasingly crowded pass-catching corps. How many snaps will the Colts' coaching staff allow him to handle? Dwayne Allen is healthy, T.Y. Hilton is broken out, GM Ryan Grigson took a one-year flier on Hakeem Nicks, and Donte Moncrief slipped to Indianapolis in the third round of May's draft. It's hard to imagine the Colts continuing to rely on a player with Wayne's age and recent medical flags to carry their passing offense. It could become very apparent early in the season that Wayne is better suited for a complementary role.
98. Danny Amendola -- Amendola flopped in the Wes Welker role last year, tearing adductor tendons in his groin during the preseason, and aggravating them in Week 1. He was concussed in October and wound up missing four games. The maladies only served to confirm the injury-prone narrative surrounding Amendola, and are deeply baked into his late tenth-round ADP. There are reasons to believe he could be a value pick. The cost has plummeted by about seven rounds, and his healthy, quiet offseason should be viewed as a good thing. If the Pats had their druthers, I think Amendola would see more targets and catch more passes than Julian Edelman this year.
99. Kelvin Benjamin -- As a redshirt sophomore at Florida State last season, Benjamin caught 54 passes for 1,011 yards (18.7 YPR) and 15 TDs from Heisman winner Jameis Winston. He has generated Alshon Jeffery comparisons for his high-pointing ability, but dropped too many passes in college, and recently weighed in at a tight end-ish 245 pounds. A boom-or-bust prospect with too many Big Mike Williams similarities for comfort, Benjamin's re-draft appeal is tied directly to his opportunity. He's been markered into the "X" receiver role in OC Mike Shula's offense, although no Panthers receiver hit 750 yards last year. If that holds in 2014, Benjamin will have to score an awful lot of touchdowns to warrant usefulness in fantasy leagues.
100. Heath Miller -- Miller returned from his December 2012 triple-knee ligament tear in Week 3 last year to start every game left in Pittsburgh's season. He finished with a 58-593-1 stat line. Although Miller was dragging his leg at times, he's going to be much closer to 100% now in the same offense that produced his top-four fantasy tight end ranking from the season before. With Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery gone -- replaced by underwhelming veteran Lance Moore and relative unknown Markus Wheaton -- Miller is right back in the TE1 conversation. A glance at Pittsburgh's diminutive wideout corps suggests Miller (6'5/256) could have a particularly big red-zone year. Antonio Brown is 5-foot-10 1/8. Moore is 5-foot-9 1/4. Wheaton is 5-foot-11.
As mentioned in the introduction to this column, I'll have writeups on players ranked 101-200 early next week.