It's somewhat difficult to become bullish on certain fantasy players with Organized Team Activities just barely underway, and depth charts 3 1/2 months from being established. Inevitably, players will swing (sometimes wildly) up and down my monthly Top 150 Rankings as we glean meaningful information from practice and beat writer reports. So this is very much a rough draft. A place to start.
As for criteria, keep in mind I place special value on non-quarterbacks I believe will be week-to-week difference makers in head-to-head fantasy matchups. Non-QBs who can swing scoring with monster box-score stats. Hence my high ranking of elite tight ends Jimmy Graham and Julius Thomas. Still only 26, I expect Thomas to continue his ascent with Eric Decker's 87-1,288-11 removed from Denver's offense. As for Graham? He puts fantasy football teams on his back.
I bump down quarterbacks because they are most replaceable. Almost like a fantasy defense, you can field a championship-caliber squad streaming quarterbacks as matchup plays week to week. Try doing that at other positions and you're liable to end up with zeroes. Would I love to have Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, or Drew Brees on my team? Yes. I'd just rather use my first- and second-round fantasy picks on RB1s and WR1s. Or Graham. Or Thomas.
There are many ways to win in fantasy football. This is how I think it's best to do it.
1. LeSean McCoy -- Centerpiece of NFL's top rushing attack. 26 in July.
2. Adrian Peterson -- Expect heavy volume as Vikings break in rookie QB.
3. Jamaal Charles -- Splitting hairs between McCoy-AP-Charles at the top.
4. Matt Forte -- Slippery all-purpose bellcow runner in top-three offense.
5. Eddie Lacy -- Fat Eddie's TDs should rise with Aaron Rodgers healthy.
6. Marshawn Lynch -- Including playoffs, has 1,002 carries last three years.
7. Jimmy Graham -- Premier difference maker at fantasy's weakest position.
8. Calvin Johnson -- First, first, third in wideout scoring past three seasons.
9. Dez Bryant -- New pass-happy OC Linehan could vault Dez past Calvin.
10. DeMarco Murray -- Perfect fit for wide-open Linehan O. Will crush in PPR.
11. Demaryius Thomas -- Another serious candidate to be 2014's top WR1.
12. Julio Jones -- Expect big bounce-back season for Falcons skill players.
13. A.J. Green -- 14th, fourth, fourth in receiver scoring since entering NFL.
14. Montee Ball -- 4.7 YPC as rookie. Set for 20 touches/game in Peyton O.
15. Le'Veon Bell -- Three-down volume RB with high TD & reception ceilings.
16. Julius Thomas -- Expect Julius' role to further expand post-Eric Decker.
17. Arian Foster -- Good bet to bounce back after injury-shortened season.
18. Zac Stacy -- Bellcow back on St. Louis team committing to run game.
19. Keenan Allen -- Philip Rivers' clear No. 1 target. 100-reception candidate.
20. Jordy Nelson -- My WR7, but top-five upside with Aaron Rodgers healthy.
21. Brandon Marshall -- Jay Cutler continued to force feed Marshall in 2013.
22. Alshon Jeffery -- Room for TD growth after managing 7 in breakout year.
23. Peyton Manning -- Regression likely but still favorite to be 2014's top QB.
24. Aaron Rodgers -- Should be biggest threat to Peyton with health restored.
25. Drew Brees -- Top-two fantasy quarterback in five of his last six seasons.
26. Doug Martin -- Lovie Smith is a run-game believer. Martin is his best back.
27. Andre Johnson -- Going on 33, but enough left to flirt with top-10 WR1 stats.
28. Randall Cobb -- Was on pace for 112/1,547/11 before he got hurt last year.
29. C.J. Spiller -- Game breaker averaged 4.62 YPC despite playing hurt in '13.
30. Antonio Brown -- Fairly volume dependent, but should remain 100-catch guy.
31. Giovani Bernard -- Will get vultured at goal line, but touch total should soar.
32. Rob Gronkowski -- Will rise or fall in these rankings based on health reports.
33. Pierre Garcon -- Receptions will drop but TDs (5) & YPR (11.9) should rise.
34. Larry Fitzgerald -- Has lost upside for various reasons, but still strong WR2.
35. Matthew Stafford -- May lose volume post-Linehan, but should gain efficiency.
36. Ryan Mathews -- Chargers seem intent on limiting usage to keep him fresh.
37. Toby Gerhart -- Has three-down tools. Jags will ride him 'til wheels fall off.
38. Bishop Sankey -- Lackluster tape, but ideal measurables and opportunity.
39. Alfred Morris -- Suspect fit for new coach Jay Gruden's pass-first offense.
40. Torrey Smith -- Will play the Andre Johnson role in Gary Kubiak's system.
41. Roddy White -- Easy bounce-back bet was borderline dominant late in '13.
42. Vincent Jackson -- Josh McCown will love throwing V-Jax 50:50 jump balls.
43. Wes Welker -- Fantasy's No. 16 receiver last season in per-game scoring.
44. Victor Cruz -- Will be ex-Packers assistant Ben McAdoo's Randall Cobb.
45. Marques Colston -- Last ten games of '13 put him on pace for 98/1,213/8.
46. Michael Crabtree -- Contract year. Will reemerge as Niners' No. 1 wideout.
47. Percy Harvin -- Great talent, but volume a concern with run-first Seahawks.
48. Vernon Davis -- TD scorer should continue to hover around 50-55 catches.
49. Jordan Cameron -- Becomes clear focus of pass game post-Josh Gordon.
50. Jordan Reed -- Big breakout candidate with DeSean Jackson clearing out.
51. Joique Bell -- I expect Bell to bypass Reggie Bush as Lions carry leader.
52. Shane Vereen -- Higher ceiling in PPR. In standard, Vereen is an RB2/flex.
53. Reggie Bush -- Expect Sproles role under ex-Saints assistant Joe Lombardi.
54. Frank Gore -- 31 now. Likely to be early-season asset who gradually fades.
55. Andre Ellington -- 5.53 YPC as rookie. Can he hold up as true feature back?
56. Rueben Randle -- I expect Randle to emerge as Giants top outside receiver.
57. DeSean Jackson -- Annual reception average was 55 before Chip Kelly (82).
58. Jeremy Maclin -- Will be Eagles' primary replacement for DeSean Jackson.
59. Golden Tate -- Should be solid WR3 with WR2 ceiling in pass-happy Detroit.
60. Tony Romo -- Plus weapons + Linehan + bad defense = box score success.
61. Dennis Pitta -- Should get lots of volume in Gary Kubiak's TE-friendly offense.
62. Jay Cutler -- Elite supporting cast. Entering year two of Trestman's system.
63. Matt Ryan -- Expect big bounce-back year along with Julio and Roddy White.
64. Cam Newton -- Still locked-in QB1, but weak weapons and line are concerns.
65. Andrew Luck -- Shaky coaching and support make Luck mid- to low-end QB1.
66. Nick Foles -- Is otherworldly '13 efficiency sustainable? Lost DeSean Jackson.
67. Jason Witten -- He's fading in passing game, but Dallas is going to air it out.
68. Trent Richardson -- Worth a sixth-round stab. His opportunity is hard to ignore.
69. Stevan Ridley -- Can reenter RB2 mix by simply not fumbling. Blount gone.
70. Chris Johnson -- Will be lead part of RBBC with Chris Ivory for run-heavy Jets.
71. Mike Wallace -- Hope is ex-PHI assistant Bill Lazor uses Wallace like D-Jax.
72. Michael Floyd -- Ascending third-year receiver with some '14 blowup potential.
73. Sammy Watkins -- Run-first offense & poor QB are concerns for hyped rookie.
74. DeAndre Hopkins -- Arguably better fit for Ryan Fitzpatrick's arm than Andre.
75. Robert Griffin III -- QB11 too conservative? Could take off with pass-first Gruden.
76. Terrance Williams -- James Jones-ish talent. Should settle in as startable WR3.
77. Russell Wilson -- Passable QB1 with upside limited by Seattle run-heavy attack.
78. Steven Jackson -- Littered with breakdown red flags, but worth a mid-round stab.
79. Tom Brady -- Pats becoming power-run team. Gronk's health a big issue here.
80. Rashad Jennings -- Job security a concern with rookie Andre Williams lurking.
81. Ray Rice -- RBBC, health, performance, off-field woes. Let someone else draft.
82. Zach Ertz -- Prime year-two breakout candidate with legit top-five TE1 potential.
83. Dwayne Bowe -- Shaky WR3 bet in Kansas City's running back-centric offense.
84. Eric Decker -- Enormous QB downgrade, but may still push for 7-9 touchdowns.
85. Cordarrelle Patterson -- Boom or bust. His '13 touches had to be manufactured.
86. Julian Edelman -- Overdraft candidate. Pats won't want him at 105 catches again.
87. Kendall Wright -- Volume-dependent slot weapon. Better PPR than standard pick.
88. T.Y. Hilton -- Targets will nosedive with Nicks in Indy, and Wayne and Allen back.
89. Aaron Dobson -- Enticing breakout possibility in muddy Patriots receiver corps.
90. Kyle Rudolph -- Should emerge as rookie Teddy Bridgewater's go-to safety valve.
91. Greg Olsen -- Panthers painfully thin at wideout. Reliable TE1 with capped ceiling.
92. Heath Miller -- Healthy now, Miller should rebound as a low-end fantasy starter.
93. Ben Roethlisberger -- QB11, QB10 in per-game scoring in two years of OC Haley.
94. Philip Rivers -- Chargers increasingly run-based mindset is biggest concern here.
95. Jeremy Hill -- Double-digit TD potential. Will rise if BenJarvus Green-Ellis is cut.
96. Lamar Miller -- Best running talent on Dolphins team that will run far more often.
97. Ben Tate -- Has job security & durability questions.
98. Kelvin Benjamin -- Ideal opportunity as Cam's WR1.
99. Reggie Wayne -- Coming off late-October ACL tear.
100. Marvin Jones -- WR3/flex with playmaking ability.
101. Brandin Cooks -- Better bet than Stills to make noise behind Graham & Colston.
102. Mike Evans -- Consistency, volume are '14 concerns. Eventual elite TD scorer.
103. Martellus Bennett -- Fringe TE1 who can keep owners competitive at tight end.
104. Charles Clay -- See Martellus with less upside. 2013 was likely Clay's ceiling.
105. Chris Ivory -- Will stay involved, but CJ?K signing dealt Ivory a big fantasy blow.
106. Pierre Thomas -- Likely to cede work to Khiry Robinson. Pedestrian RB3/flex.
107. Darren Sproles -- Could flirt with flex value in PPR. Less attractive in standard.
108. Fred Jackson -- 33 1/2 when season starts. Bryce Brown threatens his carries.
109. Bernard Pierce -- Miserable '13 but Ravens tailback job should be up for grabs.
110. Terrance West -- Should get every opportunity to displace Ben Tate in Cleveland.
111. Colin Kaepernick -- Loaded arsenal with Stevie Johnson in SF, Crabtree healthy.
112. James Jones -- Favorite for receptions, yards, TDs in Raiders receiver corps.
113. Anquan Boldin -- Entering age-34 season. More mouths to feed in San Fran.
114. Khiry Robinson -- Saints top pure ball carrier. Could move up this list in camp.
115. Danny Amendola -- From 2013 early-round bust to 2014 late-round value pick?
116. Hakeem Nicks -- Question marks, but chance to revive career with Andrew Luck.
117. Cecil Shorts -- Garbage-time king on improving team, especially at his position.
118. Emmanuel Sanders -- Cody Latimer casts doubt on Sanders' breakout chances.
119. Brian Hartline -- Consistent inability to score touchdowns. Aim higher for WR3s.
120. Jace Amaro -- TE2, but shouldn't take long to become Jets' No. 2 pass catcher.
121. Jermichael Finley -- Health the obvious issue. Will move up or off list altogether.
122. Eric Ebron -- Supreme talent, but incredibly raw. Breakout likely coming in '15.
123. Tyler Eifert -- In an ideal world, he'd emerge as the No. 2 to A.J. Green's No. 1.
124. Delanie Walker -- 2013 stats inflated by Tennessee's on-the-fly spread offense.
125. Ladarius Green -- Freakazoid talent. Needs Chargers to commit to feeding him.
126. Christine Michael -- Legitimately elite running ability. Marshawn Lynch in way.
127. Carlos Hyde -- Unlikely to be 2014 factor before midseason or late in the year.
128. Jonathan Stewart -- I'd rather take a late-round stab on Stewart than DeAngelo.
129. Maurice Jones-Drew -- I expect MJD to emerge as lead runner over McFadden.
130. Danny Woodhead -- More of a PPR pick. Could lose work to Donald Brown.
131. DeAngelo Williams -- Favorite to start, but no chance to be a difference maker.
132. Andre Williams -- Decisive, downhill bellcow back. Coughlin might fall in love.
133. Johnny Manziel -- Upside QB2 definitely has chance to make year-one noise.
134. Alex Smith -- Can flirt with QB1 numbers, but best utilized as matchup play.
135. Andy Dalton -- New OC Hue Jackson plans to turn Dalton into game manager.
136. Mark Ingram -- Part of three-way RBBC with Pierre Thomas, Khiry Robinson.
137. Bryce Brown -- Could offer RB2 stats if C.J. Spiller or Fred Jackson went down.
138. Knowshon Moreno -- Will be exposed as ordinary outside of Broncos offense.
139. Ahmad Bradshaw -- Colts No. 2 RB option behind 2013 bust Trent Richardson.
140. Darren McFadden -- Competing with Jones-Drew for lead back work in Oakland.
141. Lance Dunbar -- Underrated talent behind starter with extensive injury history.
142. Chris Polk -- Would be Chip Kelly's main carrier if LeSean McCoy went down.
143. C.J. Anderson -- Closed last season ahead of Ronnie Hillman on depth chart.
144. Dwayne Allen -- More real-life than fantasy talent. May be useful TE1 streamer.
145. Antonio Gates -- Fading 34-year-old *should* take backseat to Ladarius Green.
146. Roy Helu -- Arguably better fit for Jay Gruden's playing style than Alfred Morris.
147. Greg Jennings -- Slot/Z receiver's game is good match for Bridgewater's arm.
148. Jordan Matthews -- Lots of year-one opportunity in one of NFL's top offenses.
149. Riley Cooper -- Jump-ball specialist lacks consistent weekly role in Eagles O.
150. Devonta Freeman -- Possible heir apparent to Steven Jackson, who's turning 31.
Also Considered: Eli Manning, Ryan Tannehill, Joe Flacco, Sam Bradford, Josh McCown, Jake Locker, Carson Palmer; Kendall Hunter, Dexter McCluster, Shonn Greene, Knile Davis, Robert Turbin, James White, Andre Brown, David Wilson, James Starks, Benny Cunningham, Charles Sims, LeGarrette Blount, Ronnie Hillman, Jacquizz Rodgers, BenJarvus Green-Ellis; Odell Beckham, Mike Williams, Harry Douglas, Kenny Stills, Jerricho Cotchery, Stevie Johnson, Doug Baldwin, Steve Smith, Marlon Brown, Kenny Britt, Marquess Wilson, Justin Hunter, Robert Woods, Andrew Hawkins, Jeremy Kerley, Markus Wheaton, Jarrett Boykin, Cole Beasley, Denarius Moore, Davante Adams, Jarvis Landry, Marqise Lee, Tavon Austin; Jared Cook, Garrett Graham, Coby Fleener, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Levine Toilolo, Gavin Escobar, Travis Kelce, Mychal Rivera, Brandon Bostick.