18 for ’18: Fantasy Football predictions for the 2018 season

You can take many routes to fantasy football success. You can conduct dogged research and statistical analysis. You can watch a lot of preseason action, trusting the eye test over all. Or you can go with your gut. Ideally, your preparation is a well-rounded mix, but there’s a lot to be said for that gut feeling. With the NFL season a week away from kicking off, here are 18 gut predictions for the upcoming fantasy football year.

RELATED: Top 250 overall rankings.

1. David Johnson will rush for 1,000 yards and gain 1,000 yards receiving. I led off with this prediction last year, but things didn’t break the right way, so to speak. Johnson was out after the first game as a result of breaking his wrist. He was the consensus first pick in fantasy last year and an argument could be made that he should still be No. 1. It’s not like he had to deal with an injury to one of his wheels. Recovery from a broken wrist isn’t as dicey as coming back from a torn ACL for example. Johnson possibly could have played at the end of last season had the Cardinals been alive in the playoff picture.

2. Matt Breida will make 50 receptions. Jerick McKinnon was lost for the season Saturday before he had a chance to be featured by Kyle Shanahan’s offense. Last season Carlos Hyde, who hadn’t caught more than 27 passes in a single season in his career, was targeted 87 times and hauled in 59 of those. Shanahan’s offensive philosophy is what made Hyde a passing weapon and it’s what will allow Breida to post a career high in receptions.

3. Saquon Barkley will make it three straight rookies to lead the NFL in rushing yards. Two years ago Ezekiel Elliott was a bit of a surprise selection by the Cowboys, but he turned out to be worth the pick. He led the league with 1,631 yards. Last season when Spencer Ware was injured in preseason, rookie Kareem Hunt shot up draft charts and ended up leading the league with 1,327 yards. It’s Barkley’s turn. We haven’t seen much of him this preseason, but what we did see was outstanding. The Giants have turned into a sneaky pick for some to surprise a lot of people. The passing game should be much improved with a healthy Odell Beckham Jr., helping keep the pressure off of Barkley.

4. Royce Freeman will be the second-highest scoring rookie running back. Freeman has been productive in the preseason and signs point to him carrying it over to the regular season. He averaged 5.6 yards per carry and scored in each of the first three presason games. Freeman has to fend off Devontae Booker who has been a disappointment in his career thus far, despite having ample opportunity. Booker has a career average of 3.6 yards per rush attempt. Freeman will have competition from fellow rookies Kerryon Johnson and Rashaad Penny, but I give Freeman the edge.

5. Sammy Watkins won’t catch more than 60 passes. Eight touchdowns last season hid the fact that Watkins caught just 39 passes for 593 yards. He didn’t miss a lot of action either, playing in 15 games. Tyreek Hill will be the leading wide receiver in Kansas City, and I don’t think it will be close. Travis Kelce will be a red zone target, but Watkins may have some success for the Chiefs. He’ll have to, if fantasy owners will enjoy a productive season out of the fifth-year receiver. If Watkins doesn’t find the end zone on a consistent basis, his workload won’t be enough to be a legitimate starter for you.

6. Marshawn Lynch will eclipse 1,000 yards rushing this season. Jon Gruden wants to run the ball. Lynch has looked better this preseason than he did last year. He rushed more than 200 times last season, proving he could still carry a good load. Lynch broke off a 60-yard score during the preseason, but the play was called back due to penalty. He was running away from the safety in the effort. It’s possible he has a bounce-back year and he won’t have to worry about Doug Martin taking away many touches.

7. Latavius Murray will frustrate Dalvin Cook owners by scoring eight rushing touchdowns. Murray is a solid goal-line back and there’s no reason why the Vikings wouldn’t use him in that role. I think their offense could be outstanding this season, with weapons like Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, not to mention reliable tight end Kyle Rudolph. Cook should lead the team in rushing if he’s the running back he was before tearing his ACL last season, but I see Murray turning into a touchdown vulture this year.

8. Rex Burkhead, though a fantasy expert darling all offseason, won’t finish as a top 24 running back. This could be the year. It could be the year the Patriots finally start to fall off. Tom Brady is 41 and father time has to catch up to him eventually. There’s not a clear standout running back on the team. Burkhead has gotten quality touches as a Patriot, but I’m thinking he ends up outside RB2 status. James White is still a pass-catching expert and I don’t see New England giving Burkhead more than 12 carries a game.

9. Dion Lewis will outscore Derrick Henry in the Tennessee backfield. Lewis, a former teammate of Burkhead, has flashed in previous seasons but finally put it all together last year. He rushed for 896 yards and six touchdowns while catching 32 passes for 214 yards and three more scores. Lewis was especially good in the last part of the season, scoring seven times in the final eight games. I think he takes the lead role in Tennessee this year. Henry had a couple of big games last season, but he averaged just 2.3 yards per carry in his final four games.

Running back Dion Lewis #33 of the Tennessee Titans rushes against M.J. Stewart #36 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the first half of a pre-season game at Nissan Stadium on August 18, 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

10. Keelan Cole is the wide receiver to own for the Jaguars. With Marqise Lee going down, Cole will lead the Jaguars in receiving this season. He has competition in Dede Westbrook and Donte Moncrief, but Cole has been trending in the right direction. He ended last season with 42 receptions and 748 yards. I’d guess he scores more than three touchdowns this year. Cole caught 20 passes for 426 yards and two scores in the final four games of last season. I see him continuing to be productive with the run-first offense.

11. Nelson Agholor will be the wide receiver to score the most fantasy points for the Eagles. I was already thinking this was going to happen before news broke that Alshon Jeffery was going to miss at least two games to start the season. Jeffery has missed games in three of the six seasons in which he’s played. He played in 16 games just twice in his five years with Chicago. Jeffery started off right with Philly, playing in all 16 contests and helping the squad win its first Super Bowl last season. It’s important to note, however, that Agholor actually caught five more passes than Jeffery. Agholor also finished with 768 yards and eight touchdowns, just 21 yards and one touchdown shy of Jeffery’s numbers. If healthy, Agholor should be the most productive wide receiver.

12. Peyton Barber will outscore rookie Ronald Jones in the Buccaneers backfield. Jones is struggling in the passing game with Tampa Bay. He hasn’t been productive in that aspect of the game in his entire football life. Peyton Barber is ahead of him on the depth chart and Jones hasn’t looked good in the preseason. Though Barber won’t be too special, he’ll do better than Jones by virtue of staying on the field, getting more touches than the rookie.

13. Trey Burton will be a top-4 tight end. Once Burton got out of Zach Ertz’s shadow in Philadelphia, fantasy owners everywhere took notice. Whenever Burton filled in for Ertz last season, Burton more than pleasantly surprised. In the Eagles’ 43-35 win over the Rams last year, Burton stepped in to catch five passes for 71 yards and two touchdowns. I think that was a sign of things to come as a starter. He’ll be a nice safety blanket for second-year quarterback Mitch Trubisky as the apparent go-to guy in Chicago.

14. Kenyan Drake will rush the ball 205 times and top 1,000 yards. Last season Drake had to split carries with Jay Ajayi, understandably. Ajayi is a talented back who is now in Philadelphia. Drake rushed the ball 133 times for 644 yards and scored three times. The Dolphins will have 138 carries (the number Ajayi had last year) to dole out this season. Though Frank Gore is now in Miami, I think Drake gets the majority of those carries, giving him at least 200 rushes. He averaged 4.8 yards per carry so he’ll cross the 1,000-yard mark if he stays healthy.

15. John Brown will outperform Michael Crabtree. Brown has had a pretty outstanding training camp and preseason. He’s already connected on a touchdown with Joe Flacco and is looking like he could be the No. 1 wideout in Baltimore. In 2015 he caught 65 passes for 1,003 yards and seven touchdowns. The year before that he scored five times as a rookie. Brown has had a couple of disappointing years related to his health, but he looks great now. Crabtree rejuvenated his career once already, but I don’t know that he’ll be able to do it with the Ravens.

16. Kenny Golladay will double his receptions and touchdowns from last season. Golladay had a decent rookie campaign, catching 28 passes for 477 yards and three touchdowns. Matt Stafford can support two 1,000-yard receivers like he did last season with Marvin Jones and Golden Tate. That could repeat, but Golladay has a shot and digging into some of Jones’ numbers. Also, Eric Ebron and his 86 targets are no longer on the team. Those will be redistributed among the three wideouts.

17. Christian McCaffrey will top 250 touches. The second-year running back had 197 touches last season and gained over 1,000 yards from scrimmage. With Jonathan Stewart now with the Giants, I think McCaffrey takes on a bigger role. He just needs 16 touches per game to get to 250, and his offensive coordinator has talked about getting McCaffrey 25-30 per contest. I don’t think he gets 400 touches, which is what 25 per game would total, but he’ll definitely see more action on the ground this year.

18. Mike Williams will replace Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry as an effective red zone target, catching 6 touchdowns.Williams has already out-muscled a defender for a touchdown in the preseason. Expect to see more of that as the Chargers are in need of a big red zone target after losing Hunter Henry. Gates just rejoined the team but Williams will carve out that role.

Contact Cat Vasquez at 512-445-3677. Email cvasquez@statesman.com. Twitter @AAS_Cat.

Fantasy football position rankings: Defense and special teams

There are just two weekends left before the NFL starts the regular season. Thousands of fantasy football leagues will be drafting soon. Through Saturday I’ll share my rankings for each position. I started with quarterbacks Tuesday, followed by running backs Wednesdaywide receivers Thursday and tight ends Friday. We’ll close out with defense rankings. This year I’ve added tiers to better help you prepare for your draft.

RELATED: Fantasy football rankings: Top 250.

Defense and special teams

Tier 1

Not much has changed for the top two teams in this tier, so they should be very good once again. The Jaguars had the best pass defense in the league and the Vikings gave up the least amount of points. Additions to the defensive backfield and in the trenches can help the Rams take a step forward. The defending Super Bowl champs led the league in rushing yards allowed per game. They’ve had some changes up front, but they should remain solid.

1. Jacksonville Jaguars
2. Minnesota Vikings
3. Los Angeles Rams
4. Philadelphia Eagles

Tier 2

The pass rush of the Chargers is enough to make fantasy owners excited about drafting them in the 11th round. That pass rush coupled with a good defensive backfield is a recipe for creating turnovers. The first surprise in these rankings is the Saints at No. 6. They aren’t the same Saints you’re used to, sacking the quarterback 42 times (tied for 7th in NFL) while making 20 interceptions (3rd) last season.

5. Los Angeles Chargers
6. New Orleans Saints
7. Denver Broncos
8. Houston Texans
9. Baltimore Ravens

Tier 3

The Cardinals have last season’s sack leader in Chandler Jones. He led the league with 17 of the Cardinals’ 37 sacks. They forced 18 fumbles and intercepted 15 passes while allowing 22.6 points per game. The points allowed doesn’t sound outstanding, but the offense was in shambles without David Johnson and Carson Palmer. Johnson is back and Sam Bradford, though an injury risk, should be a decent steward of the offense. That could help the Cardinals’ defense stay fresh for longer.

10. Arizona Cardinals
11. Carolina Panthers
12. New England Patriots
13. Pittsburgh Steelers
14. Atlanta Falcons
15. Chicago Bears
16. Seattle Seahawks

Contact Cat Vasquez at 512-445-3677. Email cvasquez@statesman.com. Twitter @AAS_Cat.

2018 Fantasy Football Rankings: Top 250 Overall

With most fantasy football leagues drafting over the next two weeks, here are my updated top 250 ranked overall players. The widget below is updated frequently so make sure to bookmark this page and return to it as your draft approaches. You can sort through rankings by position by clicking on a position at the top of each row. Rankings are for half-point per reception leagues, splitting the difference between standard and full PPR.

Contact Cat Vasquez at 512-445-3677. Email cvasquez@statesman.com. Twitter @AAS_Cat.

Fantasy football position rankings: Tight ends

There are just two weekends left before the NFL starts the regular season. Thousands of fantasy football leagues will be drafting soon. Through Saturday I’ll share my rankings for each position. I started with quarterbacks Tuesday, followed by running backs Wednesday and wide receivers Thursday. Tight ends are next with defenses to follow. This year I’ve added tiers to better help you prepare for your draft.

RELATED: Fantasy football rankings: Top 250.

Tight ends

Tier 1

No surprise at the top of this tier, but Rob Gronkowski isn’t in a tier of his own anymore. Zach Ertz was outstanding last year, catching 74 passes for 824 yards and eight touchdowns. That made for three straight years of at least 74 receptions and 816 yards for the sixth-year tight end. Ertz has the edge over Travis Kelce for me since the Chiefs will have a new quarterback in Pat Mahomes. Kelce will still have a big year, but I don’t think he tops 1,000 yards like he has in the last two seasons.

1. Rob Gronkowski, NE
2. Zach Ertz, PHI
3. Travis Kelce, KC

Tier 2

I still like Evan Engram even though he’s not the only reliable target in New York anymore. Last season he had to lead the way with Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall and Sterling Shepard all missing time. Engram led the team with 64 receptions and was second on the squad with 722 yards while scoring a team-best six times. Something you rarely see is a rookie tight end having a lot of fantasy production. Engram was able to do that and then some. Also in this group is Jimmy Graham, who could be special if he stays healthy. Aaron Rodgers hasn’t used the tight end effectively but he’s never had a tight end like Graham. I have to also mention Trey Burton, who looks to be a big part of the Bears offense. With a second-year quarterback and a shaky wide receiver corps, Burton should lead the passing attack.

4. Evan Engram, NYG
5. Jimmy Graham, GB
6. Greg Olsen, CAR
7. Trey Burton, CHI

Tier 3

Delanie Walker has been so solid for the last four years, gaining at least 800 yards while catching at least 63 passes in each of those seasons. Someone in this group who I’m high on is Ricky Seals-Jones. I’m out on a bit of an island (pun intended) on this one, but I think he has a lot of upside. He would be nearly free in drafts so you don’t have to draft him as your starter. In 2016, when Sam Bradford played 15 games for the Vikings, Kyle Rudolph caught 83 passes for 840 yards and seven touchdowns. Bradford could help Seals-Jones have that kind of production.

8. Delanie Walker, TEN
9. Kyle Rudolph, MIN
10. Ricky Seals-Jones, ARI
11. Jared Cook, OAK
12. Jordan Reed, WAS

Tier 4

I nearly had Jordan Reed and George Kittle swapped, but the talent of Reed is a little too much to overcome. If he can stay healthy, and it’s always a huge if, then he’s still definitely a TE1. Kittle, depending on his chemistry with Jimmy Garoppolo, could take the next step after a solid rookie season in which he caught 43 passes and gained 515 yards. David Njoku, another second-year tight end, could be productive with Tyrod Taylor tossing him the ball in Cleveland. Also in this tier is Tyler Eifert, who really should be in a higher tier based on talent. Injuries and having to play with Andy Dalton has him as a bye week sub in my opinion.

13. George Kittle, SF
14. David Njoku, CLE
15. O.J. Howard, TB
16. Jack Doyle, IND
17. Benjamin Watson, NO
18. Tyler Eifert, CIN
19. Charles Clay, BUF

Tier 5

There are a lot questions surrounding the Colts offense, mostly due to the play of Andrew Luck, a bad offensive line and the rest of the backfield. But I also think there’s a question of which Colts tight end will be more productive. Eric Ebron has the size and talent you want in a tight end but he just hasn’t delivered. Someone who could surprise in this group is Austin Hooper of the Falcons, but it depends on how successful the offense is. Hooper was the third most targeted receiver for Atlanta last season, but the team added Calvin Ridley in the draft.

20. Eric Ebron, IND
21. Austin Hooper, ATL
22. Cameron Brate, TB
23. Luke Willson, DET
24. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, JAC

Tier 6

For the most part these guys are going to be replacements during bye weeks, but Hayden Hurst could end up having some value. He should start for the Ravens, but I can’t rank a pass catcher from Baltimore very highly.

25. Vance McDonald, PIT
26. Stephen Anderson, HOU
27. Vernon Davis, WAS
28. Hayden Hurst, BAL

Contact Cat Vasquez at 512-445-3677. Email cvasquez@statesman.com. Twitter @AAS_Cat.

Fantasy football position rankings: Wide receivers

There are just two weekends left before the NFL starts the regular season. Thousands of fantasy football leagues will be drafting soon. Through Saturday I’ll share my rankings for each position. I started with quarterbacks Tuesday, followed by running backs Wednesday. Wide receivers are up next with tight ends and defenses to follow. This year I’ve added tiers to better help you prepare for your draft.

RELATED: Fantasy football rankings: Top 250.

Wide receivers

Tier 1

Not a lot to say here. Antonio Brown is at the top of his game and was just a single touchdown shy of scoring at least 10 for four straight years last season. He’s on a streak of five years in a row of gaining more than 1,200 yards. You should draft a consistent, high-scoring, can’t-miss player in the top five and Brown can be that player. Drafting him is like taking a stud running back.

1. Antonio Brown, PIT

Tier 2

With DeShaun Watson returning from injury, the sky is the limit for DeAndre Hopkins. He’s scored 28 touchdowns over the last three seasons, including 13 last year. Hopkins may not match his touchdown figure from last season, but his career average is 7.2 per season. He had just two his rookie year. Another important factor is Hopkins’ durability. He’s missed just one game in his five years. Another player who needs to stay healthy is Odell Beckham Jr. He played in just four games last season after gaining at least 1,300 yards while scoring at least 10 touchdowns in each of his first three seasons.

2. DeAndre Hopkins, HOU
3. Odell Beckham Jr., NYG
4. Julio Jones, ATL

Tier 3

He doesn’t wow you, but Michael Thomas is a consistent contributor with a high minimum expectations. He’s gained at least 1,100 yards in each of his first two seasons. Despite the Saints taking on a run-centered offense last season, Thomas was still a big part of the game plan. He was targeted at least eight times in 14 of 16 games last year and at least five times in every single game. This group also has Keenan Allen and Davante Adams, of the Chargers and Packers. The Chargers offense has found something and Allen is a big part of their success. Adams is the No. 1 receiver for Aaron Rodgers.

5. Michael Thomas, NO
6. Keenan Allen, LAC
7. Davante Adams, GB

Tier 4

The biggest problem with A.J. Green has nothing to do with A.J. Green. It’s his quarterback and the protection his quarterback receives. Despite a bad season for the Bengals last year, Green still gained over 1,000 yards and scored eight touchdowns. He’s farther down the list than usual, but he actually may end up being a value as the eighth receiver off the board. Also in this tier is a pair of Vikings receivers. I think Adam Thielen is the better of the two, but Stefon Diggs also has the potential to be a top-5 receiver. His biggest issue is he hasn’t played an entire season in his three-year career.

8. A.J. Green, CIN
9. Adam Thielen, MIN
10. T.Y. Hilton, IND
11. Stefon Diggs, MIN
12. Mike Evans, TB

Tier 5

Larry Fitzgerald will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but he’s not quite done yet. He’s been great ever since moving to the slot receiver spot. Sam Bradford is the new quarterback for the Cardinals and he’s very accurate on short routes, a strength of Fitzgerald. Someone you shouldn’t forget about in this group is Amari Cooper. He’s had his issues, but the talent is undeniable. Michael Crabtree is gone, but Jordy Nelson is in town now. Cooper should be the No. 1 and I think he bounces back from a 680-yard 2017 season. He’s better than that and he should show it.

13. Larry Fitzgerald, ARI
14. Amari Cooper, OAK
15. Doug Baldwin, SEA
16. Tyreek Hill, KC

Tier 6

I’ve bought in when it comes to JuJu Smith-Schuster. He can make the big play and should assert himself as the second wideout option for the Steelers. Smith-Schuster was targeted at least six times in each of the last seven games last year. In his final three games he had long receptions of 69, 49 and 46 yards. Smith-Schuster’s long reception of the season was a 97-yard score. The Lions receivers are also in this group. Marvin Jones is the big-play receiver while Golden Tate is the possession guy. Matthew Stafford should have a good year throwing to both.

17. JuJu Smith-Schuster, PIT
18. Marvin Jones, DET
19. Golden Tate, DET
20. Demaryius Thomas, DEN

Tier 7

Jarvis Landry has a new home and he should be effective enough to provide value as a WR2. Tyrod Taylor is definitely an upgrade from the quarterbacks Landry had last season in Miami. He caught 112 passes last season but failed to eclipse 1,000 yards. He scored nine times, however, making him a solid receiver for fantasy squads. His new teammate Josh Gordon is also in this tier. It’s a bit risky having him here, but I’ve got faith he’ll start the season. Corey Davis could have a breakout year for the Titans in their new offense.

21. Jarvis Landry, CLE
22. Brandin Cooks, LAR
23. Allen Robinson, CHI
24. Corey Davis, TEN
25. Josh Gordon, CLE

Tier 8

If it looks like Alshon Jeffery will miss time, I’m dropping him out of this tier. It may be safer to take him as a third receiver. Someone I have more confidence in is Marquise Goodwin. He had his most productive weeks last season when Jimmy Garoppolo took over the starting quarterback job. Goodwin isn’t just going deep, utilizing his world class speed. He makes catches in all areas of the field.

26. Alshon Jeffery, PHI
27. Marquise Goodwin, SF
28. Robby Anderson, NYJ
29. Cooper Kupp, LAR
30. Emmanuel Sanders, DEN
31. Chris Hogan, NE

Tier 9

Sammy Watkins leads this tier, but we’re at the point in which the guy on the bottom of the tier could end up being the best of the bunch. Watkins will have to get comfortable with Pat Mahomes. Another receiver who will have to adjust to a new quarterback is Allen Hurns. Dak Prescott needs a good running game and the threat of play action in order to be successful. If the Cowboys look like they did in 2016, Hurns could be a great value as the team’s No. 1 receiver drafted late.

32. Sammy Watkins, KC
33. Pierre Garcon, SF
34. Allen Hurns, DAL
35. Sterling Shepard, NYG
36. Robert Woods, LAR
37. Michael Crabtree, BAL

Tier 10

I really like Kenny Stills where he’s getting drafted. He’s put up solid numbers in two straight years with Jarvis Landry leading the way. Landry’s now in Cleveland and DeVante Parker doesn’t inspire confidence. I think Stills ends up being the top wideout in Miami this season. One other guy to watch is Nelson Agholor, especially if Jeffery doesn’t start the season due to injury.

38. Kenny Stills, MIA
39. Randall Cobb, GB
40. Jamison Crowder, WAS
41. Nelson Agholor, PHI
42. Kelvin Benjamin, BUF
43. Devin Funchess, CAR
44. Will Fuller, HOU
45. DeVante Parker, MIA

Tier 11

If you can get a projected No. 1 receiver in the 13th round of your draft, it would be smart to draft him. People were down on Blake Bortles last season, and rightly so, but he had a strong finish. Marqise Lee is the veteran wide receiver for the Jaguars and you could do worse this late in the draft. I also like John Brown and Mike Williams in this group. Brown could surprise and become the best target in Baltimore if he outperforms Michael Crabtree. Williams can be a red zone target with his size in an effort to replace Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry.

46. Mike Williams, LAC
47. Marqise Lee, JAC
48. D.J. Moore, CAR
49. Jordy Nelson, OAK
50. Kenny Golladay, DET
51. DeSean Jackson, TB
52. Rishard Matthews, TEN
53. Julian Edelman, NE
54. John Brown, BAL

Tier 12

With the Chargers offense expected to pick up where they left off, Tyrell Williams could prove to be a decent flex option. He’s a deep threat that could help you out when the Chargers face a soft defensive backfield. You could also find some production out of Calvin Ridley, the Falcons rookie that had a nice game in the second week of preseason. With Julio Jones taking most of the attention, Ridley and Mohamed Sanu could benefit.

55. Tyrell Williams, LAC
56. Paul Richardson, WAS
57. Josh Doctson, WAS
58. Calvin Ridley, ATL
59. Dede Westbrook, JAC
60. Mohamed Sanu, ATL
61. Chris Godwin, TB
62. Tyler Lockett, SEA
63. Cameron Meredith, NO
64. Ted Ginn, NO
65. Quincy Enunwa, NYJ
66. Donte Moncrief, JAC

Tier 13

This tier has a lot of talent that just needs some things fall in the right way. Martavis Bryant is likely the third option on the Raiders, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he put up a big game every now and then. Same goes for Taywan Taylor, who scored on a quick pass and a long run in the second week of preseason. Christian Kirk looks like he could compete for the No. 2 spot in Arizona behind Larry Fitzgerald.

67. Martavis Bryant, OAK
68. John Ross, CIN
69. Taywan Taylor, TEN
70. Jermaine Kearse, NYJ
71. Cole Beasley, DAL
72. Geronimo Allison, GB
73. Ryan Grant, IND
74. Terrance Williams, DAL
75. Danny Amendola, MIA
76. Albert Wilson, MIA
77. Christian Kirk, ARI
78. Mike Wallace, PHI
79. Michael Gallup, DAL
80. Dante Pettis, SF

Tier 14

I’d love to take a flier on James Washington. The rookie has a real shot to contribute early.

81. Anthony Miller, CHI
82. Chad Williams, ARI
83. Brandon Marshall, SEA
84. Terrelle Pryor, NYJ
85. Keelan Cole, JAC
86. James Washington, PIT

Contact Cat Vasquez at 512-445-3677. Email cvasquez@statesman.com. Twitter @AAS_Cat.

Fantasy football position rankings: Running backs

There are just two weekends left before the NFL starts the regular season. Thousands of fantasy football leagues will be drafting soon. Through Saturday I’ll share my rankings for each position. I started with quarterbacks Tuesday and running backs are next. Wide receivers, tight ends and defenses will follow. This year I’ve added tiers to better help you prepare for your draft.

RELATED: Fantasy football rankings: Top 250.

Running backs

Tier 1

It doesn’t matter much to me if you swap the two ball carriers in this tier, they’ll both score big this season. I just think Bell is the bigger workhorse. He rushed the ball 321 times last year. That’s 34 more attempts than LeSean McCoy who had the second most carries. Some RB1s don’t even get as many touches in a season as Bell had rushes last year. He had more than 400 touches, when you add in his 85 receptions, last season and there’s no reason for that to change.

1. Le’Veon Bell, PIT
2. Todd Gurley, LAR

Tier 2 

If David Johnson finishes the season as the top fantasy-scoring running back I wouldn’t be surprised. He was very close to a 1,000-1,000 season in 2016 and he’s fully recovered from injury. The Cardinals won’t be that good this year so they’ll lean on their best asset. Sam Bradford doesn’t scare anyone, but he’s accurate on short passes and a lot of them could go Johnson’s way. The same could be said for Ezekiel Elliott, who should play all 16 games this year if healthy. In just ten games last season Elliott still had 242 rushing attempts. With a suspect passing game, he may get more targets on short routes to help Dak Prescott out.

3. David Johnson, ARI
4. Ezekiel Elliott, DAL

Tier 3

I nearly had Melvin Gordon in the second tier with Johnson and Elliott based on his workhorse status. He touched the ball nearly 350 times in 2017. Instead I have him topping this group. There are a lot of options here, and I don’t see a lot of drop-off from Gordon to Devonta Freeman and RB12. You’ll notice Alvin Kamara behind Gordon. The Saint was topping rankings earlier in the summer, but I don’t think that’s realistic. He was hyper efficient last season because New Orleans used him perfectly in tandem with Mark Ingram. Also in this group is rookie Saquon Barkley, who could become the third straight rookie to lead the league in rushing if things fall his way.

5. Melvin Gordon, LAC
6. Alvin Kamara, NO
7. Leonard Fournette, JAC
8. Saquon Barkley, NYG
9. Christian McCaffrey, CAR
10. Kareem Hunt, KC
11. Dalvin Cook, MIN
12. Devonta Freeman, ATL

Tier 4

This tier is where things get a little bit complicated. McCoy is coming off of a second straight season of over 1,000 yards rushing while making at least 50 receptions. He’s currently nursing a groin, but it should be noted that he hasn’t been much of an injury risk over the years. He’s missed five games in the last five years. Not bad. Also in this tier is Alex Collins, who could very well end up being the best of the group. He’s expected to be the feature rusher for Baltimore and he nearly topped 1,000 yards rushing on just 212 carries at 4.6 yards per rush last season. Joe Mixon, Jerick McKinnon and Jordan Howard all have similar situations in which they’ll be featured rushers.

13. LeSean McCoy, BUF
14. Joe Mixon, CIN
15. Jerick McKinnon, SF
16. Jordan Howard, CHI
17. Alex Collins, BAL

Tier 5

I think Dion Lewis will be a great value and I see him as finishing with more fantasy points than teammate Derrick Henry. Lewis is getting drafted in the fifth round while Henry is getting taken in the third. I think it’s a bit risky to spend that kind of draft capital on Henry, who merely flashed a few times last season. Henry didn’t average more than 3.1 yards per rush in each of his final four games last year. I’d even rather take a shot on rookie Royce Freeman, who should lead the backfield in Denver. Another solid option in this group is Kenyan Drake, who has a lot of talent that should finally be showcased in Miami.

18. Dion Lewis, TEN
19. Royce Freeman, DEN
20. Jay Ajayi, PHI
21. Kenyan Drake, MIA
22. Lamar Miller, HOU
23. Marshawn Lynch, OAK
24. Rex Burkhead, NE
25. Derrick Henry, TEN

Tier 6

Chris Carson is flying up my best-value list of players. He’s getting drafted in the seventh round, due to expectations that Rashaad Penny will take over the Seahawks’ backfield. That may not be true, however. Carson has played well this preseason and Penny is dealing with a broken finger which will affect his practice time leading up to the season opener. Add to that Penny’s struggles with pass protection and Carson could be the main man for Seattle. Another player I’m high on in this tier is Kerryon Johnson. The rookie can be a big factor in the passing game and has already showed flashes in the preseason.

26. Chris Carson, SEA
27. Tevin Coleman, ATL
28. Mark Ingram, NO
29. Sony Michel, NE
30. Isaiah Crowell, NYJ
31. Kerryon Johnson, DET
32. Robert Kelley, WAS

Tier 7

Here’s where we start to get a mixed bag of rushers who you’ll have to make a call on as it gets closer to your draft. An interesting option in this tier is Carlos Hyde, who should get the most touches in the Cleveland backfield. While Duke Johnson could still be a pass-catching factor, Hyde also has a good pair of hands. It should also be noted that Jarvis Landry, an expert in the short passing game could negate some of the usefulness of Johnson.

33. Rashaad Penny, SEA
34. Tarik Cohen, CHI
35. Carlos Hyde, CLE
36. Duke Johnson, CLE
37. Bilal Powell, NYJ
38. Ty Montgomery, GB
39. Marlon Mack, IND
40. Jamaal Williams, GB
41. Peyton Barber, TB
42. Ronald Jones II, TB

Tier 8

Leading off this eighth tier is one of the most efficient weapons from last season. Chris Thompson only rushed for 294 yards but at 4.6 yards per carry. His value is in his receiving ability. He caught 39 passes for 510 yards and four touchdowns in ten games. That’s 51 yards receiving per game from the running back position, more than Alshon Jeffery, Chris Hogan and Amari Cooper last year. Another value pick in this group could be Latavius Murray. Dalvin Cook played in four games last season, and though he was outstanding, that’s a very small sample size. Murray could still have a major role in the backfield, including possibly the goal-line back.

43. Chris Thompson, WAS
44. Latavius Murray, MIN
45. LeGarrette Blount, DET
46. Corey Clement, PHI
47. James White, NE
48. Frank Gore, MIA
49. C.J. Anderson, CAR
50. Devontae Booker, DEN
51. Giovani Bernard, CIN
52. Spencer Ware, KC
53. Matt Breida, SF

Tier 9

You can hedge your bets with some of these rushers, or look for flex options. I like Jordan Wilkins, but he recently fumbled on the goal line in his second preseason game. That said, he has the look of a feature back and the Colts are in need of someone who can fill Frank Gore’s shoes. Nyheim Hines is good on pass-catching downs, but I like the idea of taking a flier on Wilkins instead.

54. T.J. Yeldon, JAC
55. Nick Chubb, CLE
56. Jordan Wilkins, IND
57. Theo Riddick, DET
58. Nyheim Hines, IND
59. Darren Sproles, PHI
60. Doug Martin, OAK
61. Kenneth Dixon, BAL
62. Aaron Jones, GB
63. Chris Ivory, BUF
64. Jonathan Stewart, NYG
65. C.J. Prosise, SEA
66. D’Onta Foreman, HOU

Contact Cat Vasquez at 512-445-3677. Email cvasquez@statesman.com. Twitter @AAS_Cat.

Fantasy football position rankings: Quarterbacks

There are just two weekends left before the NFL starts the regular season. Thousands of fantasy football leagues will be drafting soon. For the next five days I’ll share my rankings for each position. I’ll start with quarterbacks followed by running backs, wide receivers, tight ends and defenses. This year I’ve added tiers to better help you prepare for your draft.

RELATED: Fantasy football rankings: Top 250.

Quarterbacks

Tier 1

The top tier is reserved for one quarterback alone. Aaron Rodgers is as money as it gets when it comes to consistent high fantasy scoring. The quarterback position is unique in most leagues since you can get a good one late in drafts. Since only 12 start, the difference between No.1 isn’t that far off from No. 12. That’s definitely true when compared to running backs and wide receivers. Since you start anywhere from two to three of each, the highest drafted RB or WR is definitely much better than the 36th one taken off the board. Given that, I wouldn’t take Rodgers before the fourth round.

1. Aaron Rodgers, GB

Tier 2 

This second tier has three quarterbacks with one thing in common. Can you guess what it is? All three are talented runners and that’s a big factor in determining fantasy value for quarterbacks. Most leagues, I might guess all, give one point per ten yards rushing to all runners, even quarterbacks. Even though it’s not a primary way for QBs to score fantasy points, rushing ability adds great value. Wilson is one of the best at using his legs, not only to gain yards but to buy time to make a game-breaking completion.

2. Russell Wilson, SEA
3. Cam Newton, CAR
4. Deshaun Watson, HOU

Tier 3

Drew Brees tops this tier, but like with most tiers, the guy at the bottom could end up on the top. This is definitely the case with this group. Ben Roethlisberger has a good amount of weapons to help him do that. He’s also gotten a little better with his home-road splits. Brees is No. 5 because the Saints will be without Mark Ingram for a few games to start the season and New Orleans may go back to a pass-heavy attack. Brees has great weapons in Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara. Rookie Tre’Quan Smith could even push Ted Ginn for the No. 2 wide receiver spot.

5. Drew Brees, NO
6. Kirk Cousins, MIN
7. Tom Brady, NE
8. Carson Wentz, PHI
9. Matthew Stafford, DET
10. Ben Roethlisberger, PIT

Tier 4

Despite some worrisome play in the preseason, I still have Andrew Luck topping this tier. He still has T.Y. Hilton and he could work out the kinks before the season actually starts. He hasn’t appeared to be limited at all, which is the best sign. It could end up working out in your favor if his average draft position drops a bit. You could get “2016” Luck, who threw for more than 4,000 yards and 31 touchdowns, at a discount price.

11. Andrew Luck, IND
12. Philip Rivers, LAC
13. Matt Ryan, ATL
14. Jared Goff, LAR
15. Dak Prescott, DAL
16. Marcus Mariota, TEN
17. Jimmy Garoppolo, SF

Tier 5

The new Chiefs starter could still be a year or two away from being a reliable QB1, but he’s definitely got the skill set you want in a quarterback. He’s a talented runner and can heave the ball a mile, illustrated by a 69-yard touchdown toss to Tyreek Hill in the second week of preseason. Tuck him away late as a bye week replacement and you could be surprised with a possible QB1.

18. Patrick Mahomes, KC
19. Eli Manning, NYG
20. Alex Smith, WAS
21. Derek Carr, OAK
22. Case Keenum, DEN

Tier 6

I have Taylor this low because I’m still not sure if the Browns will toss out Baker Mayfield to start the year. Mayfield has looked more than competent so I’m waiting until closer to the start of the season before I move Taylor up. If he does ultimately get the nod, you could do a lot worse. He runs well and could end up with targets such as Josh Gordon, Jarvis Landry, David Njoku and Duke Johnson.

23. Tyrod Taylor, CLE
24. Jameis Winston, TB
25. Sam Bradford, ARI
26. Andy Dalton, CIN
27. Lamar Jackson, BAL
28. Blake Bortles, JAC
29. Joe Flacco, BAL
30. Ryan Tannehill, MIA

Contact Cat Vasquez at 512-445-3677. Email cvasquez@statesman.com. Twitter @AAS_Cat.

Updated 2018 fantasy football rankings: Top 250

We’re just a little more than two weeks away from the kickoff of the NFL season so it’s time to strap in for another year of fantasy football. You’ll want to make sure to check the frequently updated rankings at the bottom of the page. Here’s a look at the top 250 fantasy football players for half-point per reception leagues. Rankings by position can be found in the widget at the bottom of the page.

Top 250

1. Le’Veon Bell, PIT, RB—You could go with Todd Gurley here, but truth be told, any one of the top 5 could end up with the best fantasy year. Bell is playing with a franchise tag and will be a free agent after this season. He’ll want to put his best foot forward in order to demand a huge contract from his eventual team.
2. Todd Gurley, LAR, RB
3. David Johnson, ARI, RB
4. Antonio Brown, PIT, WR
5. Ezekiel Elliott, DAL, RB
6. Melvin Gordon, LAC, RB
7. Alvin Kamara, NO, RB
8. Leonard Fournette, JAC, RB
9. DeAndre Hopkins, HOU, WR
10. Saquon Barkley, NYG, RB—Getting a minor injury in the preseason could have been the best thing that happened for him. He’s virtually guaranteed to enter the first week fully healthy after flashing a glimpse of what could be in his first preseason game.
11. Odell Beckham Jr., NYG, WR
12. Julio Jones, ATL, WR
13. Christian McCaffrey, CAR, RB
14. Michael Thomas, NO, WR
15. Kareem Hunt, KC, RB
16. Dalvin Cook, MIN, RB
17. Keenan Allen, LAC, WR
18. A.J. Green, CIN, WR
19. Davante Adams, GB, WR—Jordy Nelson is no longer in Green Bay which opens things up for Adams to take the next step and likely record his first 1,000-yard season. When Aaron Rodgers is the quarterback, you want to have the Packers’ No. 1 receiver on your fantasy squad.
20. Devonta Freeman, ATL, RB
21. Rob Gronkowski, NE, TE
22. Adam Thielen, MIN, WR
23. LeSean McCoy, BUF, RB
24. T.Y. Hilton, IND, WR
25. Joe Mixon, CIN, RB
26. Jerick McKinnon, SF, RB
27. Mike Evans, TB, WR
28. Jordan Howard, CHI, RB
29. Alex Collins, BAL, RB
30. Zach Ertz, PHI, TE
31. Larry Fitzgerald, ARI, WR—He just keeps getting it done year after year. After a third straight season catching at least 100 passes and gaining over 1,000, he gets Sam Bradford as his quarterback. Bradford is extremely accurate on short routes, a Fitzgerald specialty.
32. Travis Kelce, KC, TE
33. Dion Lewis, TEN, RB
34. Aaron Rodgers, GB, QB
35. Stefon Diggs, MIN, WR
36. Amari Cooper, OAK, WR
37. Doug Baldwin, SEA, WR
38. Russell Wilson, SEA, QB
39. Royce Freeman, DEN, RB—I expect Freeman to be the main rusher for the the Broncos. They’ve used him on goal line situations in the preseason and he’s already scored in that role. The presence of Devontae Booker doesn’t make me shy away from the rookie.
40. Jay Ajayi, PHI, RB
41. Tyreek Hill, KC, WR
42. Cam Newton, CAR, QB
43. Demaryius Thomas, DEN, WR
44. JuJu Smith-Schuster, PIT, WR
45. Marvin Jones, DET, WR
46. Kenyan Drake, MIA, RB
47. Brandin Cooks, LAR, WR
48. Lamar Miller, HOU, RB
49. Marshawn Lynch, OAK, RB—I can see why he’s being drafted in the late fifth round of mocks, but he’s looked good in preseason and still put up decent numbers last year. He gained over 1,000 yards from scrimmage and scored seven times. That’s nice from likely your third running back.
50. Jarvis Landry, CLE, WR
51. Deshaun Watson, HOU, QB
52. Golden Tate, DET, WR
53. Allen Robinson, CHI, WR
54. Drew Brees, NO, QB
55. Rex Burkhead, NE, RB
56. Derrick Henry, TEN, RB
57. Evan Engram, NYG, TE
58. Alshon Jeffery, PHI, WR
59. Chris Carson, SEA, RB—Rashaad Penny was all the rage on draft day based on who drafted him. But he hasn’t asserted himself as the No. 1 rusher and is now dealing with a broken finger. Carson can be had in the eighth round and he looks like he’ll start the season as Seattle’s starter.
60. Josh Gordon, CLE, WR
61. Tevin Coleman, ATL, RB
62. Corey Davis, TEN, WR
63. Jimmy Graham, GB, TE
64. Kirk Cousins, MIN, QB
65. Mark Ingram, NO, RB
66. Robby Anderson, NYJ, WR
67. Sony Michel, NE, RB
68. Isaiah Crowell, NYJ, RB
69. Tom Brady, NE, QB
70. Greg Olsen, CAR, TE—In mocks he’s getting drafted at the 60th overall pick. I don’t see that as a value and he’s coming off an injury. The addition of D.J. Moore could take some targets away as well. Take Trey Burton in the eighth round instead of Olsen in the fifth.
71. Carson Wentz, PHI, QB
72. Cooper Kupp, LAR, WR
73. Emmanuel Sanders, DEN, WR
74. Kerryon Johnson, DET, RB
75. Robert Kelley, WAS, RB
76. Marquise Goodwin, SF, WR
77. Matthew Stafford, DET, QB
78. Rashaad Penny, SEA, RB
79. Ben Roethlisberger, PIT, QB—Big Ben is my 10th-ranked quarterback and has many weapons at his disposal. He’s got the best receiver in the game in Antonio Brown, a great sophomore wideout in JuJu Smith-Schuster, a talented rookie in James Washington and arguably the best pass-catching running back in the league.
80. Chris Hogan, NE, WR
81. Trey Burton, CHI, TE
82. Andrew Luck, IND, QB
83. Tarik Cohen, CHI, RB
84. Pierre Garcon, SF, WR
85. Sammy Watkins, KC, WR
86. Carlos Hyde, CLE, RB
87. Delanie Walker, TEN, TE
88. Allen Hurns, DAL, WR
89. Sterling Shepard, NYG, WR—I think Shepard is a great value as he’s being taken in the 10th round. Odell Beckham Jr. is back so Eli Manning will have three solid targets (Beckham Jr., Evan Engram, Shepard), four if you count Barkley. Shepard will be productive and a decent flex play if he stays healthy.
90. Michael Crabtree, BAL, WR
91. Duke Johnson, CLE, RB
92. Bilal Powell, NYJ, RB
93. Robert Woods, LAR, WR
94. Randall Cobb, GB, WR
95. Ty Montgomery, GB, RB
96. Marlon Mack, IND, RB
97. Jamison Crowder, WAS, WR
98. Nelson Agholor, PHI, WR
99. Philip Rivers, LAC, QB
100. Jamaal Williams, GB, RB
101. Kenny Stills, MIA, WR—Stills is another tremendous value (ADP in the 11th round) and could definitely end up as the best WR for the Dolphins. He’s had at least 726 yards and 6 TDs in each of the last two seasons. With Jarvis Landry in Cleveland now, there are a lot of targets unaccounted for.
102. Matt Ryan, ATL, QB
103. Jared Goff, LAR, QB
104. Kelvin Benjamin, BUF, WR
105. Kyle Rudolph, MIN, TE
106. Ricky Seals-Jones, ARI, TE
107. Peyton Barber, TB, RB
108. Jared Cook, OAK, TE
109. Dak Prescott, DAL, QB
110. Ronald Jones II, TB, RB—You may have noticed that three spots above this is Jones’ teammate Peyton Barber. Barber has the inside track so far and Jones hasn’t impressed yet. Jones is getting drafted in the sixth round which is way too high for a running back struggling with pass protection.
111. Chris Thompson, WAS, RB
112. Latavius Murray, MIN, RB
113. Marcus Mariota, TEN, QB
114. Jordan Reed, WAS, TE
115. Jimmy Garoppolo, SF, QB
116. Devin Funchess, CAR, WR
117. Will Fuller, HOU, WR
118. LeGarrette Blount, DET, RB
119. Corey Clement, PHI, RB
120. Patrick Mahomes, KC, QB—Mahomes has a huge arm which was displayed on his 69-yard touchdown pass to Tyreek Hill in his second preseason game. He’ll be a great streaming option if he doesn’t prove to be a weekly fantasy starter for you. Also note that he can run the ball.
121. DeVante Parker, MIA, WR
122. Marqise Lee, JAC, WR
123. Rishard Matthews, TEN, WR
124. George Kittle, SF, TE
125. David Njoku, CLE, TE
126. Eli Manning, NYG, QB
127. James White, NE, RB
128. D.J. Moore, CAR, WR
129. Jordy Nelson, OAK, WR—He’s shaved five years off his age, if you’re to believe reports out of training camp. The 33-year-old isn’t playing with Aaron Rodgers anymore and he’ll be targeted behind Amari Cooper. Martavis Bryant could even take some deep targets away from Nelson.
130. Jacksonville Jaguars, JAC, DST
131. Alex Smith, WAS, QB
132. Derek Carr, OAK, QB
133. Minnesota Vikings, MIN, DST
134. Kenny Golladay, DET, WR
135. Frank Gore, MIA, RB
136. C.J. Anderson, CAR, RB
137. DeSean Jackson, TB, WR
138. Devontae Booker, DEN, RB
139. Los Angeles Rams, LAR, DST—I may have them ranked too low, at this point (make sure to stay up to date by checking the bottom of this page). They’ve added so much defensive talent in the offseason after having a great 2017.
140. O.J. Howard, TB, TE
141. Julian Edelman, NE, WR
142. Giovani Bernard, CIN, RB
143. Spencer Ware, KC, RB
144. Benjamin Watson, NO, TE
145. Philadelphia Eagles, PHI, DST
146. Tyrell Williams, LAC, WR
147. Donte Moncrief, JAC, WR
148. Matt Breida, SF, RB
149. Paul Richardson, WAS, WR
150. Los Angeles Chargers, LAC, DST
151. John Brown, BAL, WR—Don’t be afraid to take a shot on Brown late in your draft. He can fly and has looked healthy in the preseason. Beating out Michael Crabtree as the team’s top target isn’t out of the question.
152. Case Keenum, DEN, QB
153. T.J. Yeldon, JAC, RB
154. Josh Doctson, WAS, WR
155. New Orleans Saints, NO, DST
156. Calvin Ridley, ATL, WR
157. Dede Westbrook, JAC, WR
158. Tyrod Taylor, CLE, QB
159. Nick Chubb, CLE, RB
160. Tyler Eifert, CIN, TE
161. Mike Williams, LAC, WR—I’m high on him as a second-year player to become a productive fantasy receiver. He’s looked good in preseason and his size makes you see how he could be a great red zone target in the absence of Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry.
162. Mohamed Sanu, ATL, WR
163. Jordan Wilkins, IND, RB
164. Chris Godwin, TB, WR
165. Denver Broncos, DEN, DST
166. Justin Tucker, BAL, K
167. Charles Clay, BUF, TE
168. Theo Riddick, DET, RB
169. Eric Ebron, IND, TE
170. Stephen Gostkowski, NE, K
171. Nyheim Hines, IND, RB—He’s too small to be a feature back, but he can catch and that can prove valuable if the Colts need to score a lot due to a poor defense. I’m definitely a bigger fan of Jordan Wilkins, but taking Hines in the 10th round isn’t a bad move.
172. Matt Bryant, ATL, K
173. Jameis Winston, TB, QB
174. Houston Texans, HOU, DST
175. Sam Bradford, ARI, QB
176. Tyler Lockett, SEA, WR
177. Greg Zuerlein, LAR, K
178. Cameron Meredith, NO, WR
179. Darren Sproles, PHI, RB
180. Andy Dalton, CIN, QB—The Bengals should lean on Joe Mixon and A.J. Green to do most of the heavy lifting for this offense. Nothing tells me Dalton will improve too much on last year’s effort, though. The line could be better, but that may not translate to fantasy production for Dalton.
181. Wil Lutz, NO, K
182. Baltimore Ravens, BAL, DST
183. Carolina Panthers, CAR, DST
184. Jack Doyle, IND, TE
185. Jake Elliott, PHI, K
186. Ted Ginn, NO, WR
187. Arizona Cardinals, ARI, DST
188. Quincy Enunwa, NYJ, WR
189. Doug Martin, OAK, RB
190. Martavis Bryant, OAK, WR—It’s amazing the kind of talent you can find in late rounds of fantasy drafts. Bryant isn’t getting selected until the 14th round of mock drafts, but I wouldn’t mind taking a shot on him a round or two earlier. He’s just that good when he’s not being a knucklehead.
191. New England Patriots, NE, DST
192. Kenneth Dixon, BAL, RB
193. Austin Hooper, ATL, TE
194. Pittsburgh Steelers, PIT, DST
195. Cameron Brate, TB, TE
196. Aaron Jones, GB, RB
197. Luke Willson, DET, TE
198. Chris Boswell, PIT, K
199. John Ross, CIN, WR
200. Lamar Jackson, BAL, QB—He’s not the starter…yet. If Joe Flacco starts feeling the pressure he could start forcing matters, which likely won’t end well. If Jackson gets on the field, his running ability gives him value. Even if he doesn’t start, John Harbaugh has hinted that he’ll be on the field.
201. Atlanta Falcons, ATL, DST
202. Chicago Bears, CHI, DST
203. Matt Prater, DET, K
204. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, JAC, TE
205. Chris Ivory, BUF, RB
206. Jonathan Stewart, NYG, RB
207. C.J. Prosise, SEA, RB
208. Taywan Taylor, TEN, WR
209. D’Onta Foreman, HOU, RB
210. Jermaine Kearse, NYJ, WR
211. Vance McDonald, PIT, TE
212. Blake Bortles, JAC, QB
213. Cole Beasley, DAL, WR
214. Seattle Seahawks, SEA, DST
215. Mason Crosby, GB, K
216. Geronimo Allison, GB, WR
217. Dan Bailey, DAL, K
218. Ryan Grant, IND, WR
219. Harrison Butker, KC, K
220. Kansas City Chiefs, KC, DST
221. Terrance Williams, DAL, WR
222. Danny Amendola, MIA, WR
223. Charles Sims, TB, RB
224. Adam Vinatieri, IND, K
225. Albert Wilson, MIA, WR
226. Joe Flacco, BAL, QB
227. Elijah McGuire, NYJ, RB
228. Cincinnati Bengals, CIN, DST
229. Mike Wallace, PHI, WR
230. Michael Gallup, DAL, WR
231. Dante Pettis, SF, WR
232. Stephen Anderson, HOU, TE
233. Vernon Davis, WAS, TE
234. Hayden Hurst, BAL, TE
235. New York Giants, NYG, DST
236. Ryan Tannehill, MIA, QB
237. Anthony Miller, CHI, WR
238. Christian Kirk, ARI, WR
239. Green Bay Packers, GB, DST
240. Chad Williams, ARI, WR
241. Mitch Trubisky, CHI, QB
242. Austin Ekeler, LAC, RB
243. John Kelly, LAR, RB
244. Brandon Marshall, SEA, WR
245. Terrelle Pryor, NYJ, WR
246. Keelan Cole, JAC, WR
247. Corey Grant, JAC, RB
248. Josh Rosen, ARI, QB
249. James Conner, PIT, RB
250. Alfred Morris, SF, RB

Contact Cat Vasquez at 512-445-3677. Email cvasquez@statesman.com. Twitter @AAS_Cat.

 

Fantasy football players rising, falling and ones to watch: NFC East

Fantasy football is just around the corner. Be sure to check back frequently for up-to-date fantasy football rankings. Keep those rankings in mind as we take a look at each division’s players on the rise, on the decline and ones to watch for all 32 teams. Here’s a look at the NFC East.

Cowboys

Rising

Allen Hurns, WR—I don’t think he’ll light the fantasy world on fire, but if you can grab a No. 1 receiver in the ninth round, it could pay off. There are some mock drafts where he’s going as late as the 11th round. Taking Hurns there would be a tremendous value. He had an outstanding second year in the league in 2015—catching 64 passes for 1,031 yards and 10 touchdowns—so he has the ability. He’s missed 11 games in the last two years, however.

Falling

Dak Prescott, QB—It’s hard to make a case for Prescott when he’s lost a big percentage of last year’s targets. Dez Bryant and Jason Witten are no longer options for the third-year quarterback. He has the newly acquired Hurns, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, Tavon Austin and rookie Michael Gallup. It’s a corps that doesn’t excite you. On the bright side, he’ll be available for free in drafts as he’s currently the 20th signal caller getting drafted.

One to watch

Rico Gathers, TE—The former basketball player had a great preseason last year, but a concussion derailed any shot at a breakout. With the job now open, Gathers likely has one more chance to make an impact. Geoff Swaim and Blake Jarwin are also in the mix to replace Witten, but neither has the natural ability as Gathers in my opinion.

Giants

Rising

Eli Manning, QB—Manning had a season to forget last year, but things should be looking up for the 37 year old. He gets Odell Beckham Jr. back and will have help in the backfield with rookie Saquon Barkley taking some pressure off. Barkley’s also a solid receiver out of the backfield. Add to that, Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram, and you have a lot of weapons for Manning. He’s being drafted in the 13th round so you can fill out your team before adding the veteran.

Falling

Jonathan Stewart, RB—Raise your hand if you knew Stewart is a Giant now. Ok, you probably knew he signed a two-year deal with his new team after the Panthers released him. But it probably wouldn’t have mattered if you didn’t since he’s likely to serve solely as backup to Barkley.

One to watch

Sterling Shepard, WR—Outside of missing five games last season, Shepard has been a solid fantasy contributor. He caught 59 passes for 731 yards and two touchdowns after reaching the end zone eight times in his rookie year. If the Giants can get things clicking offensively, Shepard can find himself as a solid flex play.

Redskins

Rising

Jamison Crowder, WR—The presence of Josh Doctson and the addition of Paul Richardson aren’t making me think Crowder takes a step back. He caught 66 passes for 789 yards and three touchdowns last year and is hooking up well with new QB Alex Smith, according to reports. Fantasy owners have gotten the memo, as Crowder is being taken late in the seventh round. A nice spot to find a No. 1 receiver.

Falling

Jordan Reed, TE—Despite a long history of injuries, Reed is still getting drafted as high as the sixth round. That’s too expensive for someone that has yet to play a complete season in five years. Frankly, he’s on my do-not-draft list, given how you can’t trust his health. He’s only played more than 12 games once in his career.

One to watch

Chris Thompson, RB—This is a very interesting player to watch. He was ridiculously efficient in an injury-shortened season last year. He rushed 64 times for 294  yards and two scores. Thompson made his biggest impact catching the ball out of the backfield, hauling in 39 receptions for 510 yards and four more scores. He gained 7.1 yards on average per reception in 2016, but that shot up to 13.1 yards in 10 games last season. Derrius Guice will be the main man on the ground, but Thompson could still be relevant if he carves out a role on passing downs.

Eagles

Rising

Jay Ajayi, RB—Ajayi was having a rough year last season before he was moved to Philadelphia from Miami. With the Dolphins he averaged just 3.4 yards per carry through seven games. With the Eagles, Ajayi rushed for a whopping 5.8 yards per rush in his final seven games of the season. He’ll be running behind one of the best lines in the league and should hold off Corey Clement for most touches out of the backfield. Ajayi is currently being taken in the fourth round of drafts, which isn’t too expensive for a running back of the Super Bowl champions.

Falling

Alshon Jeffery, WR—Jeffery played 16 games for the third time in his six-year career last season. He had a productive fantasy year, but he was very touchdown dependent. He caught just 57 passes for 789 yards. Jeffery’s nine touchdowns made his season. His low reception amount wasn’t from a lack of trying, however. Jeffery was targeted 120 times last year which means he caught less than half the passes that came his way.

One to watch

Nelson Agholor, WR—Since I’m wary of Jeffery, I think Agholor could end up having a better year than last season. He put it all together last year, catching 62 passes for 768 yards and eight touchdowns. I could definitely see him leap-frogging Jeffery as the top wideout for the Eagles since he nearly was last season.

Division previews

AFC North

AFC South

NFC North

NFC South

AFC East

AFC West

Fantasy football players rising, falling and ones to watch: AFC West

Fantasy football is just around the corner. Be sure to check back frequently for up-to-date fantasy football rankings. Keep those rankings in mind as we take a look at each division’s players on the rise, on the decline and ones to watch for all 32 teams. Here’s a look at the AFC West.

Broncos

Rising

Royce Freeman, RB—I’m willing to bet Freeman gets the starting job before too long. He only has to beat out Devontae Booker, who has averaged just 3.6 yards per carry in his career. Freeman is currently being drafted in the fifth round, behind Sony Michel, but I think he ends up being the fourth rookie running back taken after Saquon Barkley, Derrius Guice and Rashaad Penny.

Falling

Devontae Booker, RB—Though Booker could end up being a value—he’s being drafted in the 11th round—Freeman has the ability to take that starting job quickly. Booker isn’t a productive runner, but he does have catching ability. He’s hauled in 61 passes over two years and that may give him his biggest shot to contribute. Booker being named starter in camp just offers you a discount on Freeman.

One to watch

Emmanuel Sanders, WR—Before last season (47 catches, 555 yards, 2TDs), Sanders had three straight 1,000-yard seasons. Last year the quarterback situation in Denver was atrocious. Now that Case Keenum is in town, I’d expect Sanders to be a candidate for a nice bounce-back season.

Chiefs

Rising

Sammy Watkins, WR—Watkins’ value will depend on how well Patrick Mahomes plays. Watkins reportedly injured his hip during practice on Monday, but signs are that it isn’t serious. Despite his seemingly underwhelming play in four seasons, he’s actually scored 25 touchdowns. Watkins is getting drafted in the sixth round, and if this injury knocks him down further, you could find yourself a value.

Falling

Spencer Ware, RB—Kareem Hunt solidified himself as the main rusher for Kansas City as he led the league in rushing last season. Hunt will have to get injured or falter spectacularly if Ware is going to gain fantasy relevance.

One to watch

Patrick Mahomes, QB—The Chiefs believed in Mahomes enough to let Alex Smith leave for Washington. The range of outcomes for Mahomes is pretty wide, however. In college he threw an interception in 21 of his 32 games. His rushing ability could be the x-factor that makes him fantasy relevant.

Raiders

Rising

Amari Cooper, WR—Cooper hit a major regression last season, but he still scored seven touchdowns. Fantasy owners are taking him early in the fourth round, which seems a bit high after a rough season. The targets will still be there, especially with Michael Crabtree in Baltimore.

Falling

Derek Carr, QB—Carr looked like he might enter the elite fantasy QB tier before last season, but he fell into mediocrity, throwing just 22 touchdowns and a career-high 13 interceptions. He lost Crabtree in the offseason, but will have to replicate his play from two years ago if he’s going to help you win in your league. He’s getting drafted behind quarterbacks like Jared Goff, Mahomes and Marcus Mariota.

One to watch

Martavis Bryant, WR—I very much like that Bryant is being drafted in the 12th round. He could end up providing a big return on a small investment. Jordy Nelson isn’t getting younger and he’ll be the main competition for Bryant. Much was made of Jon Gruden’s criticism of Bryant Saturday, but the coach ended his comments expressing confidence in the receiver.

Chargers

Rising

Keenan Allen, WR—Allen finally topped his great rookie season in his fifth year. Injuries have plagued his career, but he finally put it all together in 2017. Allen and the Chargers should continue to put up points this season. Melvin Gordon will get it done on the ground while Allen produces through the air.

Falling

Tight end—With Hunter Henry falling to injury before training camp even started, it looks like there will be a pretty big void to fill at the position. The Chargers may end up luring Antonio Gates out of retirement. If not, Virgil Green will likely start.

One to watch

Mike Williams, WR—Williams is having a great training camp and it looks like he’s itching to be the No. 2 target in Los Angeles. With Hunter Henry going down, Williams could help take pressure off Allen and prove to be a tremendous value. He’s being drafted in the 11th round.

Division previews

AFC North

AFC South

NFC North

NFC South

AFC East

AFC West

NFC East