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QB is now the easiest fantasy football position to draft, and the one most fantasy football team owners will look forward to drafting this year. It's so deep that Jay Cutler, equipped with arguably the best pair of WRs and one of the best pass-catching RBs, through no fault of his own (finally), ranks as no better than a borderline back-up.
That isn't so with RBs. The position is finally suffering from a long-predicted dip in value, with a small reliable core of Tier 1 players, almost no one who would qualify as a Tier 2, and then a very large pool of middling talent at Tier 3.
1) Peyton Manning, DEN: See, I told you this would be easy. Always a question of when he'll slow down, but he has the best all-around offense to work with, and may make a star of RB Montee Ball this season.
2) Aaron Rodgers, GB: Some experts are ranking him behind Brees, but the low numbers last year were due to injury and nothing else.
3) Drew Brees, NO: Had a great partnership with RB Darren Sproles, who's gone, but TE Jimmy Graham is more valuable than many WRs, and he benefits from a genius head coach.
4) Matthew Stafford, DET: Another QB with valuable and plentiful targets. He had all that last year, too, and was terribly inconsistent, but a new coach and offensive coordinator could change that.
5) Matt Ryan, ATL: Ranking him a little higher than some, but I'm banking on a rebound season. TE star Tony Gonzalez has retired, but he'll have Julio Jones again, and Jones was on a pace to be the top fantasy WR last season before getting injured.
6) Cam Newton, CAR: Led all QBs in rushing last year, but those rushing yards were down from 741 to 585. Passing yards were down slightly, too, yet he still managed 30 total TDs, and cut his fumbles from 10 to three.
7) Robert Griffin III, WAS: Could easily surpass Cam as the top dual-threat QB, but we need more proof - 489 rushing yards last year, but zero TDs. Still, he should improve on last year's passing line of 16 TDs, 12 INTs, 3,203 yards. New coach and scheme create question marks.
8) Andrew Luck, IND: Maybe the best candidate to break into the Tier 1 group of Manning/Rodgers/Brees. Big bets for 2013 being didn't quite pay off, but 27 total TDs last year against nine INTs, and the prospect for a 4,000-plus yards passing suggest 2014 will be his year.
9) Nick Foles, PHI: Huge second half last year may have propelled many fantasy teams into the postseason. He captains a highly productive offense that lost top WR DeSean Jackson, but regains Jeremy Maclin. Only question mark is experience, but hasn't been a problem yet.
10) Tony Romo, DAL: Only in fantasy football is the NFL team with the worst defense worth an upgrade in value for said team's QB. Romo will throw and throw and throw this year, as he often tries to play catch-up, making him a good bet for 5,000 passing yards.
11) Tom Brady, NE: How the mighty have fallen after a somewhat disastrous (though not really all that bad, numbers-wise) 2013 campaign. Things will be better this year, as a hopefully healthy Rob Gronkowski should help him to 30 TDs or more after 25 last season.
12) Jay Cutler, CHI: All the pieces are in place, as a former Bears coach once infamously said. Cutler has fantastic targets, and his O-line should improve again. He could have his first 4,000-yard season as a Bear, yet double-digit INTs still haunt him, keeping him from a higher rank.
13) Colin Kaepernick, SF: Kaepernick didn't meet lofty expectations that made him a top five QB before last year's draft. His 524 rushing yards and 24 total TDs against eight INTs should grant him a higher rank, but the 49ers are conservative, and he won't be a passing yardage leader.
14) Phillip Rivers, SD: Nice comeback season in 2013 had him looking like a top 10 QB again. He was in the top five in passing yards and TDs, but doesn't have high-quality targets and now leads a run-oriented offense. He could have similar results this year, but I'm betting on regression.
15) Andy Dalton, CIN: His 35 total TDs should make him a fantasy starter, but 20 INTs mitigate the excitement.
16) Russell Wilson, SEA: 26 passing TDs against nine INTS, plus 539 rushing yards give him some value, but passing yards of barely 3,300 last year prove he leads a ground-based offense.
17) Carson Palmer, ARI: After 22 INTs last year, I don't blame you if you think he no longer has a comeback left in him, but could prove to be a bargain back-up if he and offense-minded coach Bruce Arians have cooked up better plans this year.
18) Josh McCown, TAM: The back-up who found stardom in Chicago will lead an offense with some decent weapons at WR, RB and TE.
19) Eli Manning, NYG: Things can't get any worse after 27 INTs last year, and he still managed almost 4,000 yards passing. He's worth a low pick to see if he comes back under a more conservative offensive scheme.
20) Ryan Tannehill, MIA: Looked brilliant in flashes last year with 24 TDs, though he ultimately ended up with 17 INTs. A new offensive coordinator could help.
Sleeper: Johnny Manziel, CLE: He may not even end up as the starter, but he's worth a last-round bet unless some crazed Johnny Football fan in your league takes him earlier.
1) Jamaal Charles, KC: First in rushing TDs and receiving TDs, first in receiving yards and third in rushing yards among all RBs last year, and the Chiefs reportedly are committing to giving their workhorse another heavy load of hand-offs and passes again this year.
2) LeSean McCoy, PHI: The right RB in the right offense. His 1,607 rushing yards led the league last year, and he could get a few more passes above last year's 64 receptions.
3) Adrian Peterson, MIN: Even when nothing goes right for the Vikings, like last year, he still manages double-digit TDs and more than 1,200 rushing yards. He actually may sit out the pre-season, which might make him even more dangerous when the opening bell rings.
4) Matt Forte, CHI: Second in rushing yards and fourth in receiving yards among RBs last year. His 12 total TDs were nice, but he should be able to do better this year.
5) Eddie Lacy, GB: Scary good in his rookie year, placing second in rushing TDs with 11. It would surprise no one if he ended up the top RB by the end of this season.
6) Marshawn Lynch, SEA: He has moved up the rankings since his holdout ended, and though there's a question of how that could affect his play, his 12 TDs and more than 300 rushing attempts last year made him the center of the Super Bowl-winning offense.
7) Zac Stacy, STL: This is where we dip into Tier 3 territory. Stacy had a great run last year in what amounted to a 12-game season, but he and others below either have inexperience, injury concerns, split workloads or all three to degrade their value somewhat
8) Montee Ball, DEN: Having said all that, Ball could have a breakout year now that he is the clear starter in a Peyton Manning-led offense. Still, he has only one 100-yard rushing game to his name so far, and could miss the whole pre-season after an appendectomy.
9) Arian Foster, HOU: Injuries have depleted much of his value, though on the plus side, he no longer has to split work with Ben Tate.
10) Le'Veon Bell, PIT: Showed promise last year, including about 400 yards receiving, though there's some question if newcomer Lagarette Blount will vulture some TDs or get some of his workload.
11) DeMarco Murray, DAL: Very solid 1,121 rushing yards last year and nine TDs should get him a higher ranking, but injuries are a recurring theme, and Dallas will have to throw a ton this year.
12) Giovani Bernard, CIN: His 695 rushing yards sound pedestrian, but his 514 receiving yards put him in the top 10 at the position, and displayed some highlight reel moves and speed.
13) Andre Ellington, ARI: He's the clear starter, and could be a real find, but lacks experience to grant him more than an RB-2 ranking.
14) C.J. Spiller, BUF: Huge disappointment last season for those of us expecting a top-five RB. This year he'll still split work with seemingly unkillable veteran Fred Jackson.
15) Alfred Morris, WAS: Rushing for 1,275 yards sound like it should get you more, but to be a starting fantasy RB today you need receptions, too, and Morris was a non-factor as a receiver.
16) Doug Martin, TB: Returning from an injury that came amid a subpar season, the big question is whether Martin can overcome other Bucs RBs to recapture his rookie year magic.
17) Rashad Jennings, NYG: Had some strong moments as a starter in Oakland last year, and probably found the right fit this year, but lack of starts leaves questions about consistency.
18) Ryan Mathews, SD: He finally made good on some of his promise last year, running for more than 1,200 yards, but fellow RB Danny Woodhead got the bulk of the receptions we had expected Mathews to get, and we likely will see more of the same this year.
19) Frank Gore, SF: Still going strong, Gore had 1,128 rushing yards last year, and remains the perfect weapon for a team that works the clock and grinds out victories.
20) Reggie Bush/Joique Bell, DET: You pretty much have to take both of these guys. Bush had more rushing yards and caught more passes last year, but Bell had more receiving yards, and edged out Bush in total TDs eight to seven.
Sleeper: Ray Rice, BAL, or Trent Richardson, IND: For different reasons, you may not want to touch either of them, but both are coming off such horrible seasons, it is hard to fathom how they couldn't be at least somewhat better this year.
See also: Part 1: The Top 20.
Dan O'Shea is our man in fantasyland. He welcomes your comments.
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Posted on May 22, 2017