Specificity will come later.
For now, I’ve pieced together tiered rankings for each of the four fantasy skill positions. The player order in each tier doesn’t indicate ranking; instead, it tells you that I think those guys will finish 2013 with similar numbers.
Tiers are critical in your obsessive mock drafting. If it’s approaching time to take a quarterback, and you see four second tier signal callers still on the board, it’d be wise to take a different route. Scarcity is your master – ranking tiers help you serve said master.
These, like everything in fake football, will change – perhaps wildly – over the next five months.
Tier 1 – Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers
Tier 6 – Jake Locker, Sam Bradford
- I want so badly to bump Stafford into the second tier. He played a lot of the season’s second half with a skeleton crew of pass catchers, as you may or may not know. Tony Scheffler was in the slot and Kris Durham was opposite Calvin Johnson. Both of those facts make me throw up a little bit in my mouth. Some semblance of a running game (Reggie Bush) and the return of Ryan Broyles make the side-arm slinger fantasy’s best bounce-back candidate in 2013.
- Robert Griffin III’s second-tier status is contingent upon good health. He’ll be a third-tier signal caller if he’s put on the PUP list, or if concerning reports surface in July and August. And since we all have the attention spans of a gnat on Ridelin: RGIII was the second highest scoring quarterback in fantasy through nine weeks last season, just nine points behind Aaron Rodgers. He averaged 66.1 rushing yards per game going into Week 10.
- Question Vick’s decision making and laundry list of injuries all you want, but understand this, as Greg Cosell wrote about Chip Kelly’s offensive scheme: “It struck me watching Oregon’s offense that there are two critical elements to the success of Kelly’s offense, an offense whose foundation is the running game despite the spread formations: Manipulating and adding gaps by the use of personnel and formation, and the viability of the quarterback as a running threat. Those who believe otherwise do not understand the conceptual and schematic underpinnings of Kelly’s offense.” Vick, with his 12th round average draft position, is the quintessential late-round quarterback.
Tier 6 – BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Jonathon Stewart, Vick Ballard, Fred Jackson, Shane Vereen, Ryan Mathews
- Those who don’t take Peterson first overall shall be tarred and feathered among fantasy fiends, I understand. I’m not arguing for Martin as the No. 1 selection in 2013, I’m just positing that Muscle Hamster has as good a chance as anyone to stay within shouting distance of AP. Martin was last year’s No. 2 fantasy running back, and now he gets two offensive line maulers who went down with season-ending injuries early in 2012.
- The fourth tier is most likely to draw your disdain. I get it: You hate McFadden. The Raiders are returning to the power run approach that made Run DMC so sexy last preseason, abandoning the zone blocking debacle that made McFadden so horrifyingly ordinary in 2012. I know you’ll pass on him because he’s an injury risk. Remember though, a player is only an injury waiting to happen until he isn’t.
- Sproles’ spot in the fourth tier is contingent on a points per reception league. There’s no better pass catcher out of the backfield, and with Sean Payton back at the helm, I’m all in on Sproles as a top-20 running back.
- I’ve babbled extensively about the reasons I like Forte as a fit in new head coach Marc Trestman’s brand of West Coast offense, and most importantly, Trestman thinks Forte will be just fine in his “pass as run” system designed to replace a portion of the run game with short passes to running backs out of the backfield.
Tier 1 – Calvin Johnson
Tier 7 – Josh Gordon, Kendall Wright, Kenny Britt, Denarius Moore, Jeremy Maclin, Antonio Brown, Vincent Brown
- Megatron gets his very own tier because he outscored every wide receiver last in an incredibly unlucky year. As terrifying as it is, Johnson is a touchdown regression candidate in 2013. Yes please, and thank you.
- Don’t let CBS’s Pete Prisco fool you: Harvin is a legit receiver, not a gimmicky weapon with no downfield catching ability. Even if he stays in Minnesota and has to suffer another season with Christian Ponder, Harvin is a PPR beast, whether in or out of Diva Mode.
- Cardinals’ head coach Bruce Arians aims to rejuvenate Fitzgerald’s career the same way he did with Reggie Wayne in 2012. Fitzgerald won’t have the good fortune of Andrew Luck chucking footballs his way, but I expect Arians to use Fitzgerald in innovative ways that make him more reliable week to week.
Tier 1 – Rob Gronkowski
Tier 2 – Jimmy Graham
Tier 7 – Dwayne Allen, Jacob Tamme, James Casey
- Gronkowski sits by his lonesome at the top for this simple reason: He played 11 games last year and finished second among fantasy tight ends, a meager seven points behind Graham. The Ultimate Bro averaged .44 fantasy points per opportunity, according to Pro Football Focus (Aaron Hernandez and Tony Gonzalez averaged .25). That’s absurd. The douche stands alone.
- I’ve parsed tight end stats to within an inch of their numerical lives this offseason, and Pitta pops up in every analysis. He’s undeniably the leader of the fourth tier, with a chance to overtake Witten in 2013, if these projections are any indication.
- Gates gets a slight bump with the emergence of Danario Alexander and the return of Vincent Brown. Teams won’t be nearly as free to handcuff the aging tight end with bracket coverage, as they did so often in 2012. He’ll hang around low-end TE1 territory, I think. Not bad for someone with an average draft position of 11.11.