Fantasy football Week 1 recap and top waiver wire picks

The first Sunday of the football season ended with an improbable comeback by one of the best quarterbacks to ever play in the NFL.

On one leg, even.

How many times do you see an injured player taken to the locker room on a cart and return to the game to lead his team to a win from down 20-0?

Aaron Rodgers did just that, shifting the balance of thousands of fantasy football matchups in the process.

Rodgers had just 13 yards passing when he left the game in the first half, leaving fantasy football owners believing they had just lost (or won) their season-opening contest. But Rodgers returned and finished with 286 yards and three touchdowns in the 24-23 win.

He spread the fantasy points around, connecting on touchdowns with Davante Adams, Geronimo Allison and Randall Cobb. Cobb, nearly left for dead in fantasy leagues before the season, scored the 75-yard winner.

No wide receiver had a bigger day than Tyreek Hill, however. He caught seven passes for 169 yards and two touchdowns. Hill also had a 91-yard punt return for a score on his first touch of the day. His performance helped Patrick Mahomes turn in an awesome debut as the Chiefs new starting QB.

Another quarterback that had a huge day was Ryan Fitzpatrick. He had an unpredictable, outstanding performance against a Saints defense which was very good last season. “Fitzmagic” finished with 417 passing yards, a touchdown pass, 36 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown.

Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson were the beneficiaries of Fitzpatrick’s huge day. Even Chris Godwin caught a touchdown pass.

On the other side of the ball in that game, the trio of Alvin Kamara, Drew Brees and Michael Thomas came up big for fantasy owners. The 48-40 final made for a huge fantasy day.

Thomas caught a league-high 16 passes for 180 yards and a touchdown.

Kamara rushed just eight times for 29 yards and two rushing TDs. He added nine receptions for 112 yards and another score, picking up where he left off last season.

Another running back who eclipsed the century mark in receiving was Melvin Gordon, the workhorse for the Chargers. He gained 166 yards on 24 touches, though he didn’t score.

Kamara and Gordon were expected to do well, but one back who outperformed expectations was James Conner. I suggested him as a start in my start-sit preview and he was outstanding, rushing for 135 yards and two touchdowns. Conner also caught five passes for 57 yards, doing his best impersonation of Le’Veon Bell.

Conner proved he can replace Bell, admittedly based on a short sample size, but the Steelers didn’t win.

The Giants didn’t win either, but Saquon Barkley saved his week with a 68-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter against the Jaguars, a tough defense.

Tight end owners had a tough outing, unless you had Rob Gronkowski or Jared Cook, of course.

Jordan Reed owners were happy as well, alongside owners of George Kittle, Eric Ebron and Kyle Rudolph. But Trey Burton and Jimmy Graham had big expectations entering the season, and had bad openers. Meanwhile David Njoku and Evan Engram are on track for sophomore slumps. Greg Olsen reinjured his foot as well.

Leonard Fournette and Doug Baldwin each suffered injuries that disappointed fantasy owners looking to cash in on their upper-echelon talent. Baldwin apparently has a partially torn MCL, according to ESPN’s Adam Shefter, so it’s uncertain how long he’ll be out.

Kenyan Drake, Alex Collins and Derrick Henry each were set up for feature roles but didn’t pay off.

Kareem Hunt, Sammy Watkins and Travis Kelce were left out of the fun for the Chiefs.

LeSean McCoy is stuck in a bad situation in Buffalo.

On Monday night, Jared Goff and Sam Darnold had solid outings, but Derek Carr and Matt Stafford were duds.

Todd Gurley had a nice performance. No surprise there, but Isaiah Crowell also put up nice numbers for the Jets.

Despite Stafford throwing four interceptions, his three top receivers had good games. Marvin Jones was the worst of the bunch, but he caught four passes for 54 yards. Kenny Golladay led the team with seven catches for 114 yards.

Quincy Enunwa outperformed Robby Anderson and could end up leading the Jets receiving corps.

Cook put up a surprise performance for the Raiders, catching nine passes for 180 yards. His involvement is an encouraging sign. Another bright spot for Oakland was Jalen Richard’s involvement in the passing game. He could prove valuable in ppr leagues.

Top waiver wire picks:

Chris Thompson, RB, Redskins: He’s as efficient as ever, gaining over 120 yards from scrimmage and scoring. Scoop him up if he’s still available.

Phillip Lindsay, RB, Broncos: He actually had more touches than fellow rookie Royce Freeman. Lindsay matched Freeman in the rushing attack, gaining 71 yards on 15 carries, but he added two receptions for 31 yards and a touchdown.

Kenny Golladay, WR, Lions: He could break out in his sophomore season and has already led his team in receptions and yards Monday night.

Kenny Stills, WR, Dolphins: He caught four passes for 106 yards and two touchdowns.

Quincy Enunwa, WR, Jets: His return to the field was a successful one as he caught six passes for 63 yards and a touchdown.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Buccaneers: Fitzmagic is back. Pick him up now and you could be rewarded if the Bucs think they’re better off with him at the helm even when Jameis Winston returns from suspension.

Jared Cook, TE, Raiders: The Raiders receivers had a terrible game, but if that continues maybe Cook becomes a must-own option.

Tyrod Taylor, QB, Browns: In a game that Taylor should have struggled, he came out with a very solid fantasy score. Of course, rushing for 77 yards helps. It’s why mobile QBs are so valuable.

T.J. Yeldon, RB, Jaguars: Monitor the news about Leonard Fournette, who left Sunday’s game with a hamstring injury. If he misses time, Yeldon should be picked up by anyone needing running back help.

Phillip Dorsett, WR, Patriots: He caught all seven of the passes Tom Brady threw to him, gaining 66 yards while Chris Hogan had just one catch as the Patriots No. 1 wideout.

Geronimo Allison, WR, Packers: Adams and Cobb had big games, but Allison was targeted eight times and scored. He’s not owned in many leagues, unlike his teammates.

Will Dissly, TE, Seahawks: Surprisingly he was the most targeted tight end for the Seahawks, hauling in three of the five passes Russell Wilson sent his way for 105 yards and a touchdown.

Andy Dalton, QB, Bengals: Nobody wanted to touch Dalton in fantasy drafts, but he looked decent on Sunday.

Bears defense: Though they fell in gut-wrenching fashion Sunday night, adding Khalil Mack has them scoring points with forced turnovers and sacks.

Case Keenum, QB, Broncos: Though he turned the ball over three times, he threw for 329 yards and three touchdowns. Keenum has three favorable matchups in the next four weeks.

Austin Ekeler, RB, Chargers: If you add him off the waiver wire, keep him on the bench until you see how he’s used in Week 2. Ekeler had 10 touches for L.A. and was involved in the passing game.

Jalen Richard, RB, Raiders: Carr was dumping off to Richard late in the game, but that could be a usual scenario for this Raiders team. He finished Monday’s game with nine receptions, a nice game in ppr leagues.

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.

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: AFC 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 AFC East.

Patriots

Rising

Rex Burkhead, RB—With rookie Sony Michel dealing with an injury early on, Burkhead is starting to look like a nice value. He’s lacked sufficient opportunity in previous years despite his abilities. Burkhead may get his chance now that Dion Lewis has moved on. Burkhead is getting drafted in the seventh round and you can take him as your third back hoping he gives you RB2 numbers.

Falling

Tom Brady, QB—Brady is 41 years old and this could be the year things start to decline quickly. That’s not the main reason I see him as falling in my mind. Brady is getting selected as the fourth quarterback off the board, early in the sixth round on average. That’s too expensive for what I see as a risky pick.

One to watch

Sony Michel, RB—Expectations are high for the rookie, but like I said he’s already dealing with a knee issue. There are a lot of backs in New England so they won’t rush his recovery. Hopefully he’ll come at a discount if owners get anxious about drafting him. With Dion Lewis gone, Michel could fill that void if he can stay on the field.

Dolphins

Rising

Kenyan Drake, RB—Though Frank Gore has taken his talents to South Beach, Drake should win the job over the ancient veteran. Drake rushed for 641 of his 644 yards in the final 10 games of the season on 129 carries last year. He also hauled in 32 passes for 239 yards.

Falling

DeVante Parker, WR—You only get so many chances to prove yourself. Fantasy owners have been waiting for Parker’s breakout season and I’m not sure it will come. He isn’t expensive, getting drafted in the ninth round, but you could do better to take a chance on Robby Anderson, Marquise Goodwin or Allen Hurns in that spot.

One to watch

Kenny Stills, WR—Stills caught one more pass than Parker last season and outgained him 847 yards to 670. Stills also scored six times against Parker’s lone touchdown. Stills has done well in the last two years, hauling in 100 catches for 1,573 yards and 15 touchdowns with very suspect quarterback play.

Bills

Rising

LeSean McCoy, RB—It’s Shady, why is he considered a rising player? It’s because when I think of a rising player, I think of a player that I want on my team after considering all factors, including talent, situation, opportunity and (often most importantly) draft position. McCoy is as consistent as they come and I don’t see that changing, but this year he’s being drafted in the third round. That’s a great spot to take a player with his productivity.

Falling

Kelvin Benjamin, WR—Benjamin caught just 47 passes for 692 yards last season and he’s being drafted pretty late for a No. 1 receiver. I wouldn’t draft him this season, even if he’s around after the 10th round. Benjamin’s quarterback situation isn’t great. He’ll be wishing he was back with Cam Newton despite his comments regarding his former QB last week.

One to watch

Corey Coleman, WR—The trade between the Bills and Browns is bad news for second-year receiver Zay Jones. Coleman has the talent to not only take away targets from Jones, but he could possibly become the No. 1 receiver if Benjamin continues to trend in the wrong direction.

Jets

Rising

Robby Anderson, WR—I think Anderson has the best shot at being the most productive Jet. He’s the clear No. 1 on the team and was just 59 yards shy of a 1,000 yard season last year. He’s clearly a value pick, getting selected in the ninth round on average.

Falling

Bilal Powell, RB—Powell had decent production last season, but he was expected to do a lot more. Now that Isaiah Crowell is in town, it looks like Powell won’t be a big factor for fantasy purposes.

One to watch

Quincy Enunwa, WR—Enunwa missed all of 2017 but had 58 catches for 857 yards and four touchdowns the year before. He’s being drafted in the 13th round so there’s no need to feel anxious about taking a flier on him.

Division previews

AFC North

AFC South

NFC North

NFC South

AFC East

AFC West

NFC East

Early 2018 fantasy football rankings

It’s April so that means the NFL draft is right around the corner. We’ll adjust these rankings immediately after the draft, but here’s an early look at the 2018 fantasy football rankings.

Fantasy football: NFL free agency fallout

Most of the big-name free agents have found a landing spot by now. Aside from a DeMarco Murray here and an Adrian Peterson there, the free agency picture has come into focus. So that means it’s time to start speculating on the possible fantasy football impact.

Here’s a look at who could make the biggest contributions in 2018.

Kirk Cousins, QB, Vikings: The writing was on the wall after it became clear the Vikings weren’t going to retain the quarterbacks on their roster. Cousins now enters a great fantasy situation. He has Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs to throw to, as well as a soon-to-be healthy Dalvin Cook, who can turn a screen pass into a big play. All signs point to a big year for Cousins, who has been able to be productive even when he hasn’t had the best skill players around him.

Jimmy Graham, TE, Packers: Don’t think too hard about this one. Graham still is a TE1, so adding him wouldn’t be a risky move. Although Aaron Rodgers doesn’t usually throw as often to his tight ends, he’ll be able to utilize Graham in the red zone.

Dion Lewis, RB, Titans: The Tennessee backfield has the makings of something special. If Lewis can stay healthy, he can be lightning to Derrick Henry’s thunder. A great receiver out of the backfield, Lewis also can run the ball inside. He offers a nice change of pace to an offense that needed to add weapons. If he plays a good amount of snaps he could turn in low-end RB2, high-end flex numbers. He won’t have to worry about the unpredictability of the Patriots backfield anymore.

Dion Lewis #33 of the New England Patriots carries the ball in the second quarter of the AFC Divisional Playoff game against the Tennessee Titans at Gillette Stadium on January 13, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Allen Robinson, WR, Bears: Chicago is doing a decent job of getting Mitch Trubisky some weapons to work with. Alongside Robinson, they’ve added tight end Trey Burton and speedy wideout Taylor Gabriel. Robinson lost last season due to an ACL injury, but if he returns healthy he could enter the WR2 conversation.

Jerick McKinnon, RB, 49ers: There will be hype around McKinnon as he is physically similar to Devonta Freeman. Freeman had stellar seasons when 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan was the offensive coordinator in Atlanta. With Carlos Hyde gone to Cleveland, McKinnon will be a dual threat for the 49ers. He’s got RB1 potential with a rising offense.

Sammy Watkins, WR, Chiefs: The expectations are going up for Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City and Watkins could benefit. He only had 39 catches with the Rams last season, but eight of those went for touchdowns. He gained 539 yards through the air, which ranked fourth on the team. The yardage could go up for Watkins if he becomes the No. 2 receiver in Kansas City. But that would mean surpassing the numbers of Tyreek Hill or Travis Kelce.

Case Keenum, QB, Broncos: Boy, I don’t know that I’m convinced this was the best move for the Broncos. Keenum did well last season, but we’ve seen quarterbacks have breakout years and bust after a free-agent signing elsewhere. Keenum’s value may stay the same, a streaming option, but at least he’s an upgrade for Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders.

In this Saturday, Dec. 23, 2017, file photo, Minnesota Vikings’ Case Keenum celebrates after an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers in Green Bay, Wis. The Vikings are back in the playoffs after a year’s hiatus with hopes of becoming the first team to ever play a Super Bowl in its home stadium. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer, File)

Carlos Hyde, RB, Browns: Despite some on-the-surface solid moves by Cleveland’s front office, don’t get too hyped up about Hyde joining the Browns. Just hope he stays under the radar enough that you can add him as a third or fourth back to your roster. He’s a good talent, but Duke Johnson will make the receptions out of the backfield and that cuts Hyde’s value.

Allen Hurns, WR, Cowboys: Now this is an interesting situation. The Cowboys are unlikely to keep all of the receivers on their roster right now. It’s still possible Dez Bryant gets cut, but that’s a toss-up at this point. If he goes, Hurns’ value goes way up. If Bryant stays, Hurns will have WR2 upside.

Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Allen Hurns (88) runs upfield after a long pass play against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Ind. (Sam Riche/TNS)

Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Jaguars: He’s turned his career, and life, around and is looking to be a piece of a Super Bowl puzzle. The Jaguars parted ways with long-time starting tight end Marcedes Lewis so it’s Seferian-Jenkins’ time to show what he can do. He’s got the talent, but we’ll see if Blake Bortles can get him good targets.

Donte Moncrief, WR, Jaguars: Bortles also has a new wideout. Moncrief’s 2016 season was supposed to be a breakout year, but injury cut that short. Last year, Andrew Luck never got onto the field, limiting Moncrief’s effectiveness. Bortles came on late last season, and with Robinson and Hurns gone, it’s probable that Moncrief will start alongside Marqise Lee. If he turns into a reliable red zone target, he could be a great late value in drafts.

Jordy Nelson, WR, Raiders: The Raiders were a big disappointment last season and I’m not convinced Jon Gruden, a head coach who hasn’t been on the sideline for many years, is the answer. His Super Bowl win was due in large part to a team Tony Dungy assembled in Tampa Bay. Gruden has a solid QB in Derek Carr, but Nelson won’t be the top target in Oakland. I wouldn’t bet Nelson is as productive as he was when Aaron Rodgers was healthy last season.

Dallas Cowboys cornerback Jourdan Lewis (27) battles Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson (87) for a pass at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on October 8, 2017. (Paul Moseley/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/TNS)

Michael Crabtree, WR, Ravens: When Crabtree went to the Raiders a few years ago he ended up being a very pleasant surprise. He’s scored at least eight touchdowns in three straight years, but you have to lower your expectations as he heads to Baltimore. Though Joe Flacco throws often, his efficiency isn’t great and he doesn’t tend to have a go-to receiver. If Crabtree ends up a WR2, I’d be pleasantly surprised…again.

Sam Bradford, QB, Cardinals: When Larry Fitzgerald decided to come back for another season, I don’t think he had Bradford in mind as his new quarterback. When healthy, Bradford has been very solid. It’s the “healthy” part that you have to worry about. If he can stay upright this season, I wouldn’t mind streaming him on occasion. If he ends up on your roster make sure you have a clear Plan B. Best case scenario is that he is your Plan B.

Danny Amendola, WR, Dolphins: With Jarvis Landry in Cleveland, Amendola can step in as the new possession receiver. Of course, he’ll be more valuable in PPR leagues.

Danny Amendola #80 of the New England Patriots makes a catch over Brian Poole #34 of the Atlanta Falcons during Super Bowl 51 at NRG Stadium on February 5, 2017 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Trey Burton, TE, Bears: Burton is another solid target the Bears grabbed for their young quarterback. Last season Burton was a great fill-in when Zach Ertz was injured. He was targeted just twice per week last season. I’d bet that doubles this year.

Eric Ebron, TE, Colts: It’s surprising to me that he isn’t in the highest tier of tight ends in fantasy. He’s got the ability, but the Lions spread the ball around so much. Now he enters an uncertain quarterback situation and will have to compete with Jack Doyle for targets.

Taylor Gabriel, WR, Bears: He’s a speedy option, and a nice gadget player, but he’s no more than a flex play in any given week.

Isaiah Crowell, RB, Jets: He was supposed to do be a solid option last season, but when your team is as bad as the Browns were, you’ll suffer. Whether he’ll reach RB2 status is a tough call at this point.

Jeremy Hill, RB, Patriots: This is the kind of addition the Patriots usually make work. But has the Belichick/Brady era officially started its inevitable downturn? If Mike Gillislee stays in town, Hill will just be another option for the unpredictable Belichick backfield.

Running back Jeremy Hill #32 of the Cincinnati Bengals leaps into the end zone for a touch down in front of cornerback Josh Norman #24 of the Washington Redskins the first quarter during a preseason game at FedExField on August 27, 2017 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Doug Martin, RB, Raiders: After a great start to his career, we’re at the point of wondering whether or not he’ll outplay an old Marshawn Lynch for snaps.

LeGarrette Blount, RB, Lions: The Lions needed a back who can run between the tackles and they got one. Whether he’ll turn in games like when he was a Patriot or when he was an Eagle remains to be seen.

Paul Richardson, WR, Redskins: Paul Richardson on my fantasy team would make me as excited as having Alex Smith on my team. Both play for Washington now, but with Jamison Crowder and Josh Doctson in the picture, I don’t think Richardson has a huge impact. And if Jordan Reed can stay healthy, that’s another big chunk of targets not going to the new Redskin.

John Brown, WR, Ravens: Brown has a lot of potential, but health has been an issue. He’ll be expected to stretch the field, but I don’t see him as anything more than a possible bye week fill-in.

Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Jets: Bridgewater has done well to at least get himself into position to make a possible comeback. His career and leg were in jeopardy after an injury in 2016’s training camp. Bridgewater will have to show something before he uproots Josh McCown as the starter.

A.J. McCarron, QB, Bills: He’ll have his chance to prove himself, but you’ll want to wait and see if he’s got the ability to be a relevant fantasy player.

NFL Playoff Challenge fantasy football rankings: Super Bowl LII

It’s all come down to this. The Philadelphia Eagles and the New England Patriots are the last teams standing and one of them will be crowned the Super Bowl LII champions on Sunday.

If you’re playing in the NFL.com’s Playoff Challenge, you’ve got one more lineup to set. There are couple of things to consider in this type of competition which I’ll cover as we get to each position.

Here are my rankings for the final game of the season.

Quarterbacks

This is a pretty standard call. If you’ve started Tom Brady since the beginning of the competition, you’ll want to cash in on his quadruple bonus. However, I could see a scenario where you’re close to the top of your group’s standings after starting Nick Foles in the conference championship. If that’s the case you can get double points starting him in the Super Bowl. That’s if you think he’ll stay hot.

1. Tom Brady, Patriots
2. Nick Foles, Eagles

Running backs

I think the Patriots will win it all, and Dion Lewis will have a big role. He lost some touches due to a fumble in the AFC championship, but his skills will make up for that. James White was a huge part of New England’s Super Bowl win last season. He could be a big factor again, which is why I have him ranked second. In either case, the running backs for the Patriots will have to get most of their points through the air against the tough Eagles run defense. The highest ranked Eagle for me is LeGarrette Blount. While Jay Ajayi is the better overall back, I think a touchdown for Blount is more likely if they get down near the goal line.

1. Dion Lewis, Patriots
2. James White, Patriots
3. LeGarrette Blount, Eagles
4. Jay Ajayi, Eagles
5. Rex Burkhead, Patriots
6. Corey Clement, Eagles

Wide receivers

I have Alshon Jeffery ahead of Brandin Cooks because he’s been hot recently. He’s a big target in the red zone. Jeffery’s quarterback is coming off his best playoff game. With Tom Brady having a lot of options, including Rob Gronkowski, it’s likely Jeffery is the highest scoring wideout in the game. The Patriots wide receivers that could lead in fantasy points are Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola. Cooks is more talented, but Amendola has been solid for Brady.

1. Alshon Jeffery, Eagles
2. Brandin Cooks, Patriots
3. Danny Amendola, Patriots
4. Nelson Agholor, Eagles
5. Chris Hogan, Patriots
6. Torrey Smith, Eagles
7. Mack Hollins, Eagles
8. Phillip Dorsett, Patriots
9. Kenny Britt, Patriots

Tight ends

It’s a no-brainer starting Gronkowski, if he’s fully recovered from the concussion he suffered in the conference championship game. Of course, Zach Ertz has been good, but it’s not likely you’ve sat Gronk so far this postseason. You’ll need that multiplier to work in your favor.

1. Rob Gronkowski, Patriots
2. Zach Ertz, Eagles
3. Trey Burton, Eagles
4. Dwayne Allen, Patriots
5. Brent Celek, Eagles
6. Jacob Hollister, Patriots

Defense/Special teams

Nick Foles has played well in stretches and his 27 touchdowns and 2 interceptions in 2013 was no fluke. That said, the Patriots have had two weeks to prepare for the quarterback who has also played poorly in stretches. Odds of the Patriots winning and of Foles turning the ball over have me picking the Patriots to score more fantasy points on defense.

1. Patriots
2. Eagles

Kickers

I’m not expecting a blowout, but I think the Patriots can hold the Eagles out of the end zone more often than not. That would give Jake Elliott more opportunities to kick field goals.

1. Jake Elliott, Eagles
2. Stephen Gostkowski, Patriots

DFS fantasy football rankings: conference championships

There are just two more games remaining in the NFL playoffs, so that’s just two more opportunities to play fantasy football. Here are my DFS fantasy football rankings for the conference championships. There’s not much difference between these and my NFL Playoff Challenge fantasy rankings with the season so close to an end. But there are a few differences and more options ranked here.

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

NFL playoff fantasy football rankings: conference championships

It’s starting to get serious if you’re playing NFL.com’s Playoff Challenge. The players you started in the first round are now due to earn triple points if you’ve kept them in your lineup this whole time. Last week I suggested you start a few top-scoring Saints and Titans, but with the caveat that it would possibly be the end of the line for them. It was indeed the end of the line for the Saints, and in unbelievable fashion.

Here’s a look at my rankings for the conference championships.

Quarterbacks

The Patriots have just been cruising along this whole time, having all the breaks go their way. Now they take on an upstart Jaguars team that needs their defense to score points in order for them to win. If Brady can’t be productive against the Jags’ pass defense, it might be time to start thinking his skills are falling off. I don’t think that happens. If you started him in the first week of the playoffs, you’ll get to multiply this week’s points by three. A lot of people started Drew Brees to begin the Playoff Challenge, but with him no longer available, they should look to Case Keenum, who is favored to make the Super Bowl.

1. Tom Brady, Patriots
2. Case Keenum, Vikings
3. Blake Bortles, Jaguars
4. Nick Foles, Eagles

Running backs

Dion Lewis did it all last weekend, though James White was the running back that scored twice. Lewis is a safer play that can pay off big if he ends up getting in the end zone. He had 24 touches for 141 yards from scrimmage while White had just eight touches, though he scored twice. Someone that I think will have to score in order for his team to advance is Jay Ajayi. He had 19 touches and 98 yards from scrimmage, but things should be tough against the Vikings. For the Vikings, I think Latavius Murray continues to take a big share of carries, especially if Minnesota controls the game.

1. Dion Lewis, Patriots
2. Jay Ajayi, Eagles
3. Latavius Murray, Vikings
4. Leonard Fournette, Jaguars
5. James White, Patriots
6. T.J. Yeldon, Jaguars
7. Jerick McKinnon, Vikings
8. Rex Burkhead, Patriots
9. LeGarrette Blount, Eagles
10. Corey Clement, Eagles
11. Chris Ivory, Jaguars
12. Corey Grant, Jaguars
13. Tommy Bohanon, Jaguars

Wide receivers

Stefon Diggs was the big hero last Sunday, but a big chunk of his numbers came on the winning play. The numbers still count, obviously, but Adam Thielen has been the more consistent receiver for the Vikings. I don’t have Diggs far behind Thielen, though. Brandin Cooks is my third-best receiver this week as I expect the Patriots to find a way to get by the Jags’ defense. Jacksonville, though stout on D, has had some high-scoring affairs this season and they just gave up 42 points to the Steelers.

1. Adam Thielen, Vikings
2. Stefon Diggs, Vikings
3. Brandin Cooks, Patriots
4. Danny Amendola, Patriots
5. Alshon Jeffery, Eagles
6. Chris Hogan, Patriots
7. Marqise Lee, Jaguars
8. Nelson Agholor, Eagles
9. Keelan Cole, Jaguars
10. Jarius Wright, Vikings
11. Allen Hurns, Jaguars
12. Torrey Smith, Eagles
13. Dede Westbrook, Jaguars
14. Laquon Treadwell, Vikings
15. Kenny Britt, Patriots
16. Phillip Dorsett, Patriots

Tight ends

Rob Gronkowski was the easiest call in terms of starting a tight end for the Playoff Challenge. Owners will get rewarded with triple points this week. I’ve got Kyle Rudolph ranked second since he and the Vikings are favored to make the Super Bowl. He had five catches, but just 28 yards in the win over the Saints. Zach Ertz had a disappointing game last weekend, catching three passes for 32 yards. I have him behind Rudolph because I think his season ends in a loss to the Vikings. Of course, if you have a multiplier in play for Ertz, you might want to start him over Rudolph.

1. Rob Gronkowski, Patriots
2. Kyle Rudolph, Vikings
3. Zach Ertz, Eagles
4. Marcedes Lewis, Jaguars
5. Trey Burton, Eagles
6. Dwayne Allen, Patriots
7. Brent Celek, Eagles
8. James O’Shaughnessy, Jaguars

Defense/Special teams

These picks are pretty straight forward. I think the Patriots, who are favored by more than a touchdown, won’t have much trouble against the Jaguars. I’ve ranked the Vikings second since I think they move on.

1. Patriots
2. Vikings
3. Eagles
4. Jaguars

Kickers

If you pick either one of the top two kickers, you’re likely to have a multiplier in play during the Super Bowl.

1. Stephen Gostkowski, Patriots
2. Kai Forbath, Vikings
3. Jake Elliott, Eagles
4. Josh Lambo, Jaguars

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

DFS fantasy football rankings: divisional round

If you’re in a fantasy football playoff league, or are playing the NFL Playoff Challenge on NFL.com, you’ll want to go here for my rankings. If you’re playing daily fantasy, check out my divisional round rankings below. They’ll update as news develops leading up to Saturday’s games.

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