Fantasy Sports

X’s 2015 Fantasy Football Tight End Rankings

For X’s Fantasy QB rankings, click here: https://xmarksthesport.wordpress.com/2015/08/11/xs-2015-fantasy-football-quarterback-rankings/

For X’s Fantasy RB rankings, click here: https://xmarksthesport.wordpress.com/2015/08/18/xs-2015-fantasy-football-running-back-rankings/

For X’s Fantasy WR rankings, click here: https://xmarksthesport.wordpress.com/2015/08/31/xs-2015-fantasy-football-wide-receiver-rankings/

X’s 2015 Fantasy Football Tight End Rankings (9/5/15):

1. Rob Gronkowski, NE

Gronkowski has scored double digit TDs in each of the four seasons in which he has played more than seven games. He scored 8 TDs in his last eight games last year, and ripped off a stretch of ten straight games with over 60 yards (had over 90 yards six times over that span). Gronk is a mild injury risk but he’s easily the best TE in the game right now.

2. Jimmy Graham, SEA

There are concerns about Graham’s fantasy outlook after going from a pass-happy offense in New Orleans to a run-based offense in Seattle. The Seahawks didn’t trade a pro-bowl center and a first round pick to acquire a tight end they didn’t have big plans for. Even if he doesn’t hit the 85+ receptions he has in each of the last four years, he’s still a solid bet to catch 9+ TDs for the fifth straight year.

3. Greg Olsen, CAR

There is one TE in the NFL who can say that he has at least 5 TD catches in every year since 2008. His name is Greg Olsen. Last year, he had his first career 1,000 yard season and set a career high with 84 catches. With Kelvin Benjamin out for the season, Olsen’s role in the offense could expand even more as Cam Newton continues to rely on him as Carolina’s sole reliable target.

4. Martellus Bennett, CHI

Despite playing with the heavily targeted duo of Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall, it was Bennett who led all TEs with 90 receptions in 2014. Last year marked the third straight season in which Bennett set new career highs in receptions and yards, and he also scored a career-high 6 TDs. Now that Brandon Marshall is gone, Bennett could see a few more red zone looks making him that much more valuable.

5. Travis Kelce, KC

Kelce finished last season ranked 23rd among TEs in percentage of snaps played (keep in mind several TEs ranked below him only because they missed games and Kelce didn’t), just behind former teammate Anthony Fasano. Now that Fasano is out of the way, Kelce should see more snaps which of course raises his fantasy ceiling. Kelce has more lost fumbles (3) than TDs (1) in his last eight games, so fantasy owners will hope for improvement in those areas and should see some.

6. Jason Witten, DAL

Thanks to the Cowboys going to a highly run-heavy offense last year, Witten had his worst statistical season since 2006. Despite that, he still managed to rank among the top ten TEs in receptions and receiving yards. Old reliable Witten has one of the highest floors for TEs in fantasy, keeping his stock strong. DeMarco Murray’s departure most likely means more passing from Dallas’ offense, which means good things for Witten’s numbers.

7. Tyler Eifert, CIN

A significant elbow injury cost Eifert all but one game in 2014, but heading into this year he is a breakout candidate. Jermaine Gresham is one of eleven TEs to catch at least 60 passes last year as the Bengals’ go-to TE. Eifert is more athletic than Gresham and should provide Dalton with a more dynamic target at the position. Eifert is said to be having a strong summer, and has a fairly high fantasy ceiling.

8. Delanie Walker, TEN

Due to a struggling run game and an underwhelming WR corps, Walker finished in the top 5 among TEs in targets. It’s possible that neither of those issues will prove to be resolved in Tennessee this year, so Walker should continue to remain a top option for the Titans offense. If so, the upgrade from Locker/Whitehurst/Mettenberger to Mariota means Walker has a shot to improve on last year’s career season.

9. Antonio Gates, SD

While the four-game suspension diminishes Gates’ fantasy value, he remains a top ten option at the shallowest position in fantasy. His 12 TD receptions from last year was more than he had in 2012 and 2013 combined, and was his highest total since 2004. Gates averaged 5.8 catches over his last five games, and even going into his age 35 season, he should remain highly involved in the offense once he returns.

10. Jordan Cameron, MIA

There aren’t many TEs that can be looked at as big play threats, but that is what Cameron was last year as he averaged 17.7 yards per catch. Charles Clay’s 6 targets per game from last year bodes well for Cameron receiving more opportunities to make plays in Miami. Cameron does have a concussion history, so fantasy owners should be aware of that when deciding how much they want to invest in him.

11. Julius Thomas, JAX

Thomas’ high fantasy value over the last two years was based on his 24 TD catches over his last 27 games. He won’t be getting the red zone opportunities in Jacksonville that he had in Denver, so his fantasy stock declines sharply this year. Thomas tends to get banged up (as exemplified by his recent hand surgery) and doesn’t play well through injuries (66 total receiving yards and 0 TD in his last four games while dealing with an ankle sprain), so he is a very risky fantasy asset.

12. Coby Fleener, IND

Fleener enjoyed somewhat of a breakout season last year, finishing among the top eight in TEs in receiving yards (774) and receiving TDs (8). One thing to keep in mind is that 4 of Fleener’s 8 TD catches came in the three games Dwayne Allen missed last year. Allen’s presence and the Colts’ use of three-WR sets lower Fleener’s fantasy ceiling, but if anything were to happen to Allen then Fleener would reemerge as a top ten option.

13. Kyle Rudolph, MIN

Rudolph does not rank this highly on the list because of past production. He has never hit 500 receiving yards in a season and has only played in 17 out of a possible 32 games over the last two years. Rudolph gets placed here solely because he has a mildly high ceiling at a weak fantasy position. Having TE friendly Norv Turner calling plays and a year experience with Teddy Bridgewater, Rudolph has favorable conditions to be productive if he could just stay on the field.

14. Zach Ertz, PHI

Ertz showed tremendous upside in Week 16 of last season by bringing in a franchise record 15 receptions against the Washington Redskins. That one game accounted for more than one fourth of Ertz’ total catches for the season, and he only had one other game with more than 4 receptions. His inability to beat out Brent Celek for a full-time role limits his fantasy value. Undergoing groin surgery during the preseason doesn’t help his case either.

15. Heath Miller, PIT

Miller won’t be the most exciting player to own, but on a weekly basis he’ll at least offer a higher floor than most TEs. His 66 catches last year ranked 7th among TEs, and marked the fifth time in the last six years that he has had over 50 receptions in a season. The only thing thing keeping Miller’s value down is a total lack of red zone production. He only has 6 TDs in his last 38 games, a major drain on his fantasy value.

16. Vernon Davis, SF

It’s hard to imagine that Davis won’t improve on what was an absolutely disastrous 2014 season. Davis is a proven scoring threat, having caught 44 TD passes from 2009 to 2013. It would seem to take a series of unlikely and unfortunate circumstances for Davis to be held to 2 TD like he was last year. As a fantasy owner you can’t bank on a bounce back season from him, but at some point it’s well worth gambling on his ceiling even if it’s not as high as it was in 2013.

17. Jared Cook, STL

A notoriously frustrating asset within the fantasy community, Cook somewhat quietly finished 12th among TEs with 634 yards while reeling in a career-high 52 receptions. With Nick Foles now at the helm in St. Louis, Cook has a legitimate shot to improve on these numbers. Cook is very much hit-or-miss and can be streaky at times, but he can be a serviceable option for a bye week or if your fantasy starter has to miss a couple of weeks.

18. Dwayne Allen, IND

Allen has developed into a strong weapon in the red zone, and has scored 9 TDs in his last thirteen games. One of the problems for him is that he only has 30 receptions over that span, as he is not consistently involved in the offense. Durability is starting to become a problem for Allen as well. He missed three games last year and was limited in others. If you’re playing Allen, you’re just hoping he scores a TD as he did in seven if his first nine game last year.

19. Jordan Reed, WAS

In eleven games last year, Reed had three games with 70+ receiving yards and four games with 7+ catches. If the ranking was based solely on talent and potential, he has shown enough to be much higher on this list. However, he has missed twelve games over his first two seasons and already missed time over the summer with a hamstring issue. His next injury always seems to be around the corner, and his 3 TDs in 20 games isn’t too useful either.

20. Larry Donnell, NYG

Donnell looked like a true breakout candidate through the first four games of last season. He averaged 6.3 catches and 59.0 yards while scoring 4 TDs and was a red hot pickup in fantasy leagues. Then Odell Beckham Jr. came along and not coincidentally Donnell’s production declined. Donnell did not catch a TD over the final six games of the season (Beckham had 9 TD in that span) and failed to reach 30 receiving yards four times in that stretch. He may not be able to produce much with Beckham and (eventually) Victor Cruz around.

21. Charles Clay, BUF

The surprisingly huge investment the Bills made in acquiring Clay (5 years, $38 million with $20 million guaranteed) would suggest major plans for Clay. But once you look at the fact that this is projected to be a run-heavy offense with unproven QBs and solid options at WR, it’s hard to see how Clay would consistently put up good numbers. He’s a versatile player who finished strong last year (218 yards, 1 TD over his final three games), but he is tough to endorse in Buffalo’s offense.

22. Owen Daniels, DEN

Coming off of an injury-curtailed 2013 season, Daniels  put up decent production in Gary Kubiak’s offense last year. Even though he is not the athlete he once was, he is clearly a favorite of Kubiak and will continue to get opportunities based on that alone. Don’t expect Daniels to give the Broncos the same 12 TDs Julius Thomas gave them the last couple of years, but a #1 TE in a Peyton Manning offense has at least some value.

23. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TB

Seferian-Jenkins’ rookie season was marred by injuries, making it tough to gauge his fantasy potential. The injury concerns go back to college, so it’s discouraging that he was only able to play in nine games as a rookie. If he can manage to stay healthy, Seferian-Jenkins is intriguing as a large and athletic target the Buccaneers would love to involve in the offense – even if he will see limited targets behind Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson.

24. Mychal Rivera, OAK

Rivera was one of just six TEs to be targeted 100 times last year. While it’s a given his targets will fall due to the presence of better WRs on Oakland’s roster, it’s clear Derek Carr has a high level of trust in him. That connection should keep Rivera involved in the offense to some degree. The addition of Clive Walford had threatened Rivera’s role, but Walford’s hamstring injury in training camp probably earned Rivera some extra playing time.

25. Eric Ebron, DET

Ebron struggled his way to a 25-catch rookie season. He is still very athletic, and was drafted extremely high for a TE so the Lions have plenty of incentive to try to find more ways to get him involved. Ebron’s hands remain questionable and that’s not likely to change, but the team almost has to be patient with him given their investment. He has had a good summer and will be squarely on the fantasy radar if he can maximize his physical gifts.

26. Richard Rodgers, GB

Plenty of targets in Green Bay (around 150) are up for grabs with Jordy Nelson out. Rodgers could see a handful of those targets, giving a modest boost to his fantasy stock.

27. Crockett Gillmore, BAL

Outside of Steve Smith Sr., Joe Flacco doesn’t have a lot of proven weapons to work with in the passing game. Gillmore is unlikely to match Owen Daniels’ 48 catches from a year ago, but he remains ahead of rookie Maxx Williams and could contribute.

28. Ladarius Green, SD

Green has been a popular sleeper pick in the fantasy community for a couple of years but has never lived up to it. He’ll have a prime opportunity to show his worth while Antonio Gates serves a four-game suspension.

29. Brent Celek, PHI

Against the wishes of many fantasy owners, Celek is locked in as the starting TE for the Eagles. Playing in a full-time role, Celek will stumble into a bit of value. He has 32 catches in each of his seasons in the Chip Kelly offense.

30. Josh Hill, NO

Hill’s 5 TD catches in 2014 were tied for 11th among TEs. The Jimmy Graham trade seemingly opened up a big opportunity for him, but the coaches seem to prefer the less fantasy friendly Benjamin Watson. Hill is worth monitoring, but at the moment he doesn’t project to get many opportunities.

 

 

 

X’s 2015 Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Rankings

For X’s Fantasy QB rankings, click here: https://xmarksthesport.wordpress.com/2015/08/11/xs-2015-fantasy-football-quarterback-rankings/

For X’s Fantasy RB rankings, click here: https://xmarksthesport.wordpress.com/2015/08/18/xs-2015-fantasy-football-running-back-rankings/

For X’s Fantasy TE rankings, click here: https://xmarksthesport.wordpress.com/2015/09/07/xs-2015-fantasy-football-tight-end-rankings/

X’s 2015 Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Rankings (8/30/15):

1. Antonio Brown, PIT

Brown has been the epitome of fantasy football consistency. He is riding an NFL-record 33 straight games with at least 5 catches and at least 50 yards. He had at least 7 catches and 70 yards in each of the final eleven games from a season ago, with six 100+ yard receiving games in that span. Perhaps even more motivated by a huge contract being within reach, Brown is probably the safest non-QB asset in fantasy.

2. Dez Bryant, DAL

Playing in a run-oriented offense last year, Bryant still managed to lead the NFL with a career-high 16 TD catches. Bryant has caught at least 12 TDs in each of the last three seasons, and his 41 total TD receptions over that time frame are the most in the league. The Cowboys no longer have that bell cow RB to turn to, which means Bryant has an even higher ceiling this year.

3. Julio Jones, ATL

Jones finished last year 2nd in the NFL in receiving yards per game, and that was despite playing in multiple games at less than full strength with various hip/oblique/ankle ailments. He showed his fantasy potential in Weeks 14-16 of last year, when he picked up 555 yards over a three-game span. If the Falcons can finally figure out how to maximize him in the red zone (8 TDs in his last 21 games) he will be a fantasy beast.

4. Odell Beckham Jr., NYG

We’ve never seen a wide receiver burst on the scene the way Beckham did last year. After a modest start as he recovered from a hamstring injury, Beckham turned it on in a major way. He tied an NFL record by recording 90+ receiving yards in nine straight games. That dominant stretch included six games with 130+ yards. If his hamstrings hold up, Beckham could overtake the #1 spot in this list.

5. Calvin Johnson, DET

An ankle injury played a large role in Johnson having his least productive year since 2009 (Matthew Stafford’s rookie season). Still, Johnson managed to put up his fifth straight season with 70+ catches and 1,000+ yards – a reminder of how high his floor remains. Three of Megatron’s five 100+ yard games last season came in the final five weeks, and if he can avoid getting nicked again his production should stay at that level.

Jordy Nelson, GB (out for season – torn ACL)

Nelson continues to ascend in one of the league’s most prolific offenses. Last season was the second year in a row in which he set new career highs in receptions and receiving yards. Nelson was a highly consistent scoring threat as well, as he never had back-to-back games without a TD. He projects to be one of the steadiest fantasy assets in the league once again.

6. Demaryius Thomas, DEN

Thomas is the only player in the NFL with at least 1,400 receiving yards in each of the last three seasons. Last year, he obliterated that mark, finishing 2nd in the league with 1,619 yards. He has also recorded over 90 catches and double-digit TDs in each of the last three years. Denver is expected the run the ball more than they have during the Peyton Manning era, but Thomas is too good to be overly impacted by that.

7. A.J. Green, CIN

A problematic toe injury caused Green to have his least productive season as a pro last year. Still, Green’s career lows of 1,041 receiving yards and 6 TDs were useful for fantasy owners. Improved health and Andy Dalton getting more comfortable in Hue Jackson’s offense would certainly help him get back closer to his 2012-2013 level of production. Playing in a run-heavy offense means his ceiling is a little lower than the WRs ranked above him.

8. Mike Evans, TB

Evans is going to be a significant scoring threat each and every week he is out there. Despite mediocre quarterback play, he caught 10 TD passes in the final nine games of his rookie campaign. He set franchise records for most TD catches in a season (12) and most receiving yards over a three-game stretch (458). With a more talented QB who is more willing to toss up jump balls to big targets, Evans is primed for a major impact.

9. T.Y. Hilton, IND

From Week 6 to Week 12 of last season, there was a six-game stretch in which Hilton had four games where he scored a TD and averaged over 23 yards per reception. He is a big play threat, and that was exemplified during that run. He plays with an aggressive QB in Andrew Luck, and his recent contract extension is a clear sign that the team has major plans to continue to take advantage of his explosiveness.

10.  Alshon Jeffery, CHI

Jeffery got hot late last season, catching at least 1 TD pass in all six games from Week 11 to Week 16. He also had 70+ receiving yards in five of those six games. With Brandon Marshall now gone, Jeffery becomes the clear cut #1 WR in this offense. He also has one less big receiver to compete with for red zone targets. Assuming all gets well with his training camp calf injury, Jeffery has a chance to approach the 1,421 yards he put up in 2013.

11. Randall Cobb, GB

When Cobb signed a free agent deal which was larger than Jordy Nelson’s deal, it raised a few eyebrows in the sports world. Now that Nelson is out for the season (ACL) Cobb has a golden opportunity to prove he was worth the investment. Cobb is coming off of his first 1,000+ yard season, and his 12 receiving TDs last year were 1 fewer than his career total heading into last year. He stepped up big in a contract year, but now has to prove he’s a legitimate #1 WR in the NFL.

12. DeAndre Hopkins, HOU

Hopkins’ breakout 1,210 yard season from a year ago came despite having Andre Johnson around. Now that Johnson, who was targeted over 140 times in 2014, is gone Hopkins is locked in as the go-to WR in Houston. Hopkins’ season ended in disappointing fashion with just 43 yards total over his final two games. Blame Case Keenum for that. The Hoyer/Mallett combination should be better for Hopkins than Keenum was.

13. Amari Cooper, OAK

We saw some big seasons from rookie WRs last year (Odell Beckham Jr, Mike Evans, and Kelvin Benjamin immediately come to mind) and Cooper could have that kind of impact in 2015. It is apparent that the Raiders plan to use Cooper in a large variety of ways and will look to force-feed him as much as possible. Expect a very high usage rate here, which will mean only good things for the precision route runner.

14. Jordan Matthews, PHI

In each of Chip Kelly’s two years coaching the Eagles, his offense has produced a 1,300 yard receiver. Stepping into the #1 WR role for the Eagles this year is Matthews. He was overshadowed by bigger names in his draft class, but Matthews is coming off of a solid rookie season in which he had 8 TD receptions. All reports indicate he has looked faster and better in camp, and he should be the next WR to post big numbers in the Kelly system.

Kelvin Benjamin, CAR (out for season – torn ACL)

It took Benjamin no time at all to prove his value to Carolina’s air attack last season. He caught a TD pass in five of his first seven games, immediately establishing himself as the new #1 WR in the Panthers’ offense. Only five players in the league saw more targets than Benjamin did in 2014, and he was relentlessly targeted whether he had broken away from coverage or not. No veteran help was brought in, so he should continue to be a high volume productive receiver.

15. Brandon Marshall, NYJ

Playing under Chan Gailey should be beneficial for Marshall. Gailey had current Chargers WR Steve Johnson in Buffalo from 2010 to 2012, and those just happen to be the only three 1,000 yard seasons of Johnson’s career. Don’t be scared off by Marshall having Ryan Fitzpatrick at QB. DeAndre Hopkins managed to have a breakout year in Houston with Fitzpatrick, and Fitzpatrick had his best seasons in the Gailey offense.

16. Emmanuel Sanders, DEN

It’s hard to put a guy this far down the rankings who is coming off of a season with over 100 catches and over 1,400 yards. However, with Gary Kubiak and his run-oriented offense coming to town we can expect Sanders’ career numbers from last year to decrease in 2015. Just ask him – Sanders says “My goal is really to try to get 1,000 yards to just help this team win ball games.” (source – denverbroncos.com) He can still go well over 1,000 yards with Peyton Manning still at the helm but probably will fall short of another 1,400-yard season.

17. DeSean Jackson, WAS

The quarterback carousel in Washington did not stop Jackson from posting his second straight season with over 1,100 yards. His 20.9 yards per catch was a full 3 yards more than any player in the league with at least 30 receptions, and was his highest average since 2010. The instability at QB isn’t going away any time soon, but Jackson has proven to be capable of big plays and games no matter what happens under center.

18. Andre Johnson, IND

Usually, a 34-year-old player who saw a 468 yard decline in yardage from two years ago to last year (despite only playing one fewer game) would not be ranked this highly. An exception has to be made for Johnson. First of all, Andrew Luck is far and away the best QB Johnson has ever played with. Also keep in mind he had back-to-back seasons in 2012 and 2013 with over 100 receptions and 1,400 yards. Despite playing a complementary role to T.Y. Hilton, Johnson is almost guaranteed to bounce back in the Colts’ offense.

19. Jeremy Maclin, KC

Maclin bounced back from a lost 2013 season by having far and away the best season of his career in 2014. He will now be reunited with his former coach in Philadelphia in Andy Reid. Maclin appears to be better than ever now, but it is worth noting that he never reached 1,000 yards in his previous four years under Reid and only reached 900 yards once. Having the overly cautious Alex Smith at QB could stunt his fantasy value.

20. Brandin Cooks, NO

Getting targets shouldn’t be a problem for Cooks. Before going down with injury last year, he averaged just under 7 targets per game. With Jimmy Graham and Kenny Stills out of the way, that number has a chance to increase even with the Saints projected to throw the ball less often. The only issue is whether Cooks can consistently make plays down the field. His mediocre 10.4 yards per catch last year kept his value down (especially in non-PPR leagues). He’s showing an expanded route tree in the preseason which is a great sign.

21. Keenan Allen, SD

Allen had more catches in his mildly disappointing sophomore season than he did in his impressive rookie season. Opportunities weren’t the issue with Allen in 2014, doing something with those opportunities was the issue. His 10.2 yards per catch ranked outside of the top 100 qualifiers last year after ranking 28th in that category in 2013. The opportunities will once again be there for Allen this year. He is reported to be leaner and quicker in camp this year, so a return to his rookie year form is well within reach.

22. Golden Tate III, DET

We learned last year that Tate has an awfully high ceiling if anything were to happen with Calvin Johnson from an injury perspective. In weeks 4-9 when Johnson was either unavailable or significantly limited, Tate had four games of 110+ yards and in three of those games he went for 130+ yards with a TD. Johnson is fully healthy right now which pushes Tate back to a complementary role in the Lions’ offense. Still, even if Johnson is healthy for all sixteen games Tate is a solid bet for another productive season.

23. Charles Johnson, MIN

We saw the potential of the Norv Turner effect on WRs in 2013 when Josh Gordon led the NFL in receiving yards. Johnson may not be quite as talented as Gordon, but as far as physical tools go he is not too far off. Turner has been a fan of Johnson’s for a while and brought him over from Cleveland when he took the coordinator job in Minnesota. Johnson flashed some potential last year. If you project his numbers from Week 11 to Week 15, he would have 1,136 yards and 6 TDs over a full season. With a clear role and an ascending QB, he is primed to break out.

24. Sammy Watkins, BUF

Watkins only needed two games to have his first career 100-yard performance. From a pure talent perspective, he has more than enough ability to be much higher on this list. Question marks at the quarterback position are the main things keeping his ranking down. Tyrod Taylor could be a major wild card in that factor, and if he emerges as just a decent option, Watkins can get closer to his ceiling. Playing in a run-based offense doesn’t help Watkins either, but his explosiveness can mitigate the impact of having fewer opportunities than some of his peers.

25. Steve Smith Sr., BAL

In his first year in Baltimore, Smith was nothing short of dominant to start the 2014 season. In his first seven games, he had four 100+ yard games, one game under 50 yards, and 4 TDs. In his final nine games, he had no 100+ yards games, six games under 50 yards, and 2 TDs. Smith is the unquestioned #1 target for Joe Flacco this year, but based on last year’s numbers there has to be concern as to whether or not he can carry a passing offense for an entire season at age 36.

26. John Brown, ARI

As a rookie, Brown managed to tie Larry Fitzgerald for the team lead with 103 targets. Fitzgerald is almost exclusively a possession receiver at this stage of his career, while Michael Floyd has become almost a deep ball specialist. Brown, though not necessarily #1 on the depth chart, looks like the team’s most complete receiver with the ability to attack short, medium, and deep. He has added about 10 pounds of muscle from his rookie year. Brown is one of my favorite “risers” who will turn heads this year if Carson Palmer stays healthy.

27. Torrey Smith, SF

On paper, San Francisco appears to be an excellent landing spot for Smith from a fantasy perspective. The 49ers are expected to open up the offense (either by design or by necessity) this year, so Smith should get plenty of deep looks. Colin Kaepernick is known for his big arm, and Smith is easily the best deep threat he has ever had so he may be quite anxious to test his new weapon out. Smith was highly inconsistent last year, but did catch 5 TDs in his final five games.

28. Vincent Jackson, TB

Jackson posted a career-low in yards per catch last year, and his 2 TD catches were his lowest total since his rookie year of 2005. Still, he did put up his third consecutive season with 70+ receptions and 1,000+ yards. Even though he isn’t the downfield threat he once was, he can still be productive. Jackson is now the clear-cut #2 WR in this offense behind Mike Evans, but moving around different formations in Dirk Koetter’s offense should keep him highly involved in the offense.

29. Jarvis Landry, MIA

Landry proved to be a reliable target during the second half of last season, catching at least 5 passes in each of his final nine games. He averaged 6.6 catches over that span, a pace for 105 receptions if projected over a full season. The troublesome part of the equation is that he averaged just 9.0 yards per catch, second worst among WRs. Because he’s not a big play threat, he has to become a big factor in the red zone. He has reportedly showed improvement in that area, which will make him a solid fantasy asset if true.

30. Davante Adams, GB

Adams showed some potential in Week 13 of last season with a 6 reception, 121 yard performance against the Patriots. However, that game was the only time after October that he went over 20 yards. With Jordy Nelson out for the season, the Packers need Adams to grow up in a hurry and help fill some very large shoes. He’ll play a key role in the offense, but it would be too much to expect Nelson or Randall Cobb type of numbers from the second year receiver.

31. Mike Wallace, MIN

Wallace just wrapped up his third consecutive season of less than 1,000 yards, although on the plus side he did tie a career high with 10 TD catches. He still has plenty of speed to burn, but his skill set didn’t mesh well with Ryan Tannehill or with Bill Lazor’s offense. With a fresh start, a better deep ball thrower in Teddy Bridgewater, and a more aggressive play caller in Norv Turner, Wallace has everything in place he could want. He’ll be the #2 WR in this offense but he should still have his share of explosive games.

32. Julian Edelman, NE

Over the last six games regular season games he played in, Edelman averaged 7.8 receptions per game – catching at least 7 passes in five of those six games. He will continue to be heavily involved in the offense, and maybe even see a slight uptick in targets in Brandon LaFell’s mysterious foot injury proves to be a long-term situation. Edelman isn’t a big producer around the goal line, although his 3 receiving TDs over his last six games are encouraging.

33. Anquan Boldin, SF

Boldin’s numbers took a bit of a dip last year, but he still managed to have his second straight season of over 80 catches and over 1,000 yards playing with Colin Kaepernick. Going on age 35, there is no reason to believe Boldin can’t still be productive. The 49ers will probably air the ball out a bit more than usual, and Torrey Smith’s presence outside could help open up the middle of the field for one of the toughest WRs in the game today.

34. Marques Colston, NO

Jimmy Graham, who caught 26 TDs over the last two seasons, is no longer around and someone is going to have to soak up some of those red zone targets. The 6’4” Colston is a candidate to benefit from an increase in red zone opportunities. He only has 10 total TD receptions over the last two years, but even in a more balanced offense he has a golden opportunity to become Drew Brees’ most trusted target around the goal line.

35. Larry Fitzgerald, ARI

It’s clear that when Carson Palmer is under center, Fitzgerald can still be a fantasy asset. Fitzgerald topped the 90-yard mark in three of the six games Palmer managed to start. However, his production falls off of a cliff when Palmer is out. Fitzgerald finished last season by failing to reach 40 yards in each of his last five games. He is still a solid fantasy asset to own, but just keep in mind he becomes nearly unstartable if anything happens to Palmer.

36. Roddy White, ATL

The opportunities will be there for White if he is healthy, the question is just how healthy will he be? After never missing a game from 2005 to 2012, White has missed a pair of games in each of the last two years while playing hobbled in others. Routine knee drainings and minor elbow surgery are mild concerns heading into the 2015 season. All of that said, he caught at least 6 passes in six of his last seven games. White can still produce when his body allows him to.

37. Eric Decker, NYJ

As expected, Decker’s numbers fell last year after leaving Peyton Manning’s Broncos and going to the Jets. Still, a 962 yard and 5 TD season is still impressive given how poor the quarterback play often was for the Jets in 2014. Ryan Fitzpatrick is far from elite, but he should at least stabilize the position to some degree. Decker did finish last season with a 221-yard performance, reminding us of what he is capable of with good QB play. He falls back into a #2 role for this season, but should still get his fair share of looks.

38. Allen Robinson, JAX

If you take away the 1-catch dud in his NFL debut, Robinson averaged 5.2 catches for 60.9 yards last year. Projected over 16 games, that would give you an 83 reception, 974 yard season. There is little reason to believe Robinson won’t lead the Jaguars’ WRs in targets by a wide margin this year. Limited scoring chances due to playing in a still developing offense and the presence of Julius Thomas as a red zone threat put a cap on Robinson’s fantasy potential.

39. Devin Funchess, CAR

Now that Kelvin Benjamin is lost for the season, the Panthers desperately need someone from their WR corps to step up and overachieve. In an ideal role, Funchess would be the guy. He is not as good as Benjamin, so it wouldn’t be fair to expect the same level of production from him. However, Funchess will be placed into the Benjamin role and although not quite as big he is similar in stature. He should be force-fed at times, meaning opportunities should be there.

40. Eddie Royal, CHI

The shin injury to Chicago’s top pick Kevin White ensures that Royal should have a significant role in this offense. Royal is coming off of his best season since his rookie year of 2008 and finished out by going over 80 yards in three of his last five games. He has shown an ability to be productive when given a chance, and he should have a significant chance with little WR depth in Chicago. Royal has 15 TD catches over the last two years despite playing in a complementary role, so he has a knack for finding the end zone.

41. Martavis Bryant, PIT

A four-game suspension puts a damper over what should be a breakout year year for Bryant. He is not an every down player, which means he’ll get a limited number of targets. His value comes from the fact that he is as good of a big play threat as there is in the league. His 21.1 yards per catch would have led the league if he had enough catches to qualify. He managed to scored 8 TDs on just 26 receptions. He’ll be a weekly boom-or-bust option when he returns, but even in a part-time role he can be a difference maker.

42. Kendall Wright, TEN

While it’s difficult to project how the distribution of targets will play out in Tennessee, it’s a safe bet that Wright will end up being the leader in targets. Mediocre QB play and missing a couple of games due to injury led to a 37 reception drop for Wright from 2013 to 2014. Marcus Mariota is an upgrade at the QB position, and Wright’s career highs in yards per reception (12.5) and TDs (6) are encouraging signs. He needs to find a way to create more big plays for his value to increase.

43. Brian Quick, STL

When Austin Davis was at his best last season, Quick posted solid numbers. Over the first four games of last year, Quick averaged 5.3 receptions and 80.5 yards with 3 TDs. That would have been on pace for an 84 reception, 1,288 yard, 12 TD season when projected for 16 games. Foles is not a great QB, but he should stabilize the position more than Davis and Shaun hill did last year. Quick is coming back from a serious shoulder injury, so there is still some question as to whether or not he can fully return to form.

44. Michael Floyd, ARI

Floyd was able to bookend the 2014 season with a pair of 100+ yard games, so he started and ended the season on a high note. In between those performances were five games in which he recorded either 0 or 1 catch. Floyd is a big play receiver who averaged over 19 yards per reception in each of his final four games. He runs a ton of low-percentage vertical routes, which makes him a real high-risk, high-reward option.

45. Percy Harvin, BUF

Joining his fourth team in four years, it has become nearly impossible to project what Harvin’s role in this offense will be. Working against him is the fact that he’s never had a 1,000 yard receiving season (although he did have over 1,300 yards from scrimmage in 2011) and the fact that we know this will be a run-oriented offense. Perhaps working in Harvin’s favor is that his 106 rushing attempts since 2011 suggest that he will touch the ball one way or another. If he can stay reasonably healthy (already dealing with a hip issue), he’s explosive enough to make the most out of even a handful of touches.

46. Markus Wheaton, PIT

Last year was supposed to be the breakout year for Wheaton. It started out promisingly enough (6 receptions, 97 yards in Week 1) but just never materialized. Wheaton has once again been advertised as a breakout candidate, and will have a great chance early on to validate that prediction. With Le’Veon Bell and Martavis Bryant serving early season suspensions, Wheaton will be relied on a little more. We should know early if he is ready to take that next step.

47. Steve Johnson, SD

After being sorely underutilized in San Francisco, Johnson is in position to reemerge back to relevance with the Chargers. San Diego’s passing offense is predicated on lots of intermediate routes, and that is the area of the field in which Johnson does his best work. Eddie Royal saw 90+ targets last year, and most if not all of those targets could end up going to Johnson – especially with Antonio Gates beginning the season with a suspension.

48. Pierre Garcon, WAS

Garcon had one of the best seasons in franchise history in 2013, but after last year’s disappointing campaign 2013 feels like a distant memory. Still, even though it was DeSean Jackson who had the standout year for the Redskins, it was Garcon who once again led the team in targets. There aren’t any indications that the pecking order will change this year, so Garcon should once again get more than enough looks to have a decent season.

49. Victor Cruz, NYG

Cruz had over 100 receiving yards in each of the two games before Odell Beckham Jr. made his debut. However, in the 6+ quarters he did play alongside Beckham, Cruz only had 38 total receiving yards. Of course that is a small sample size, but it raises questions on how productive Cruz can be as second fiddle to Beckham. The bigger question is can Cruz be an effective player coming back from a torn patellar tendon? All of the uncertainty surrounding Cruz makes him a total roll of the dice in fantasy despite his past production.

50. Michael Crabtree, OAK

Crabtree’s 698 receiving yards from 2014 was the lowest total of his career for a full season (at least 12 games) and his 10.3 yards per catch were the worst of his career. It’s tough to judge Crabtree based off of last year because he was returning from an Achilles’ tear (which often takes two years to fully recover from) and he was part of a sinking ship in San Francisco. Now healthier and in a more stable situation, he is in good position to have a bounce back year even though he’ll likely see far fewer targets than Amari Cooper.

51. Nelson Agholor, PHI

Agholor will likely split snaps with blocking WR Riley Cooper and maybe Josh Huff. However, he should get enough snaps in a high-powered offense to get onto the fantasy radar.

52. Terrance Williams, DAL

Williams has shown a ton of playmaking ability, but frustratingly doesn’t get enough opportunities to be a reliable fantasy option.

53. DeVante Parker, MIA

Parker has a ton of potential and may be the most talented WR on the roster, but ongoing issues with his injured foot are troublesome.

54. Allen Hurns, JAX

Hurns has cemented the #2 WR spot for the Jaguars and although inconsistent, does bring big play ability to the table.

55. Kenny Stills, MIA

Stills had a mini-breakout at the end of last year with over 60 yards in four of his last five games. The only question is will there be enough targets left over in Miami for him if/when DeVante Parker returns.

56. Doug Baldwin, SEA

Baldwin is far from an exciting player, but he did catch multiple passes in every game last year and has a relatively high floor for a receiver ranked here.

57. Dwayne Bowe, CLE

Bowe did manage to reach 60 receptions in his infamous 0 TD season last year. Once again, he is the #1 WR in an uninspiring passing offense.

58. Marvin Jones, CIN

Jones is a wild card coming off of a significant foot/ankle injury. When he was healthy in 2013, he showed a nose for the end zone with 10 TD catches.

59. Kenny Britt, STL

Britt’s 48 catches from last year was actually a career high despite poor QB play. With Nick Foles at the helm, he has a shot at his first 50 catch season but not much more than that.

60. Brandon LaFell, NE

Based on his production from last year, LaFell deserves to be higher than this. His foot injury (of which we have no details) makes him a major gamble in fantasy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

X’s 2015 Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings

For X’s Fantasy QB rankings, click here: https://xmarksthesport.wordpress.com/2015/08/11/xs-2015-fantasy-football-quarterback-rankings/

For X’s Fantasy WR rankings, click here: https://xmarksthesport.wordpress.com/2015/08/31/xs-2015-fantasy-football-wide-receiver-rankings/

For X’s Fantasy TE rankings, click here: https://xmarksthesport.wordpress.com/2015/09/07/xs-2015-fantasy-football-tight-end-rankings/

X’s 2015 Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings (8/17/15):

1. Le’Veon Bell, PIT

Starting the season with a two-game suspension takes a little air out of the balloon, but Bell’s fantasy stock remains extremely high. He got the ball a lot last year, finishing 3rd in the league in carries and 2nd among RBs in receptions. Bell had 25+ touches in seven games last year. That kind of workload makes him fantasy gold.

2. Adrian Peterson, MIN

This is an aggressive ranking for a 30-year-old RB coming off of a lost season, but Peterson is the exception to every rule. He did have 21 carries in his only game last year, and there’s no reason to expect for him not to touch the ball a ton. He had double digit rushing TDs in every season before last, and after the much less talented Matt Asiata rumbled for 9 rushing TDs last year, Peterson should be a threat for another 10+ TDs in 2015.

3. Marshawn Lynch, SEA

Last year Lynch set career highs in rushing TDs (13) and receiving TDs (4), and his 17 total TDs were most in the league. His 367 receiving yards were also a career high. Losing Max Unger from his offensive line doesn’t help, and Jimmy Graham could take away a handful of red zone opportunities from him this year. Despite this, Beast Mode remains a great bet for top 5 RB production.

4. Jamaal Charles, KC

Charles is highly efficient. He has averaged 5+ yards per carry in every season he has been in the league and his career average sits at 5.5 yards per rush. His consistency and explosiveness means a moderated workload shouldn’t hold him back. Charles’ 12 receiving TDs since 2013 leads all RBs. He benefits from playing with a QB who likes to throw TDs to non-WRs.

5. Eddie Lacy, GB

Lacy has developed into a strong three-down RB, which is great news for his fantasy outlook. He was one of three RBs last year to pick up 400+ receiving yards, while averaging 10+ yards per catch. That contribution in the passing game along with his rushing workload makes him a strong fantasy commodity. His 9 total TDs over his last eight games is a promising sign of things to come.

6. LeSean McCoy, BUF

McCoy fell short of sky high expectations last year, but he still has a very bright fantasy outlook. He is the only RB to have over 300 carries in each of the last two seasons. Playing under Rex Ryan, he’ll have a shot at making it three seasons in a row with 300+ carries. It may not always be pretty, but he should be a strong volume producer.

7. DeMarco Murray, PHI

Murray will not come close to the massive 449 touches he received last year. He is still the lead RB for a high-potential offense though, and is still playing behind a strong offensive line. Murray is a natural fit in Chip Kelly’s north-south running system, and the reduced touches greatly increase the chances of getting another 16-games season out of him. Even with limited touches, Murray’s stock remains high.

8. Matt Forte, CHI

Forte doesn’t expect a repeat of his record-setting 102-reception season from a year ago, but he should still be heavily involved as a receiver. Even before last year he was averaging 56.8 catches per year for his career, so don’t expect him to disappear from the passing game. His drop from 4.6 yards per carry in 2013 to 3.9 last year is somewhat concerning, but he’s in line for enough carries to overcome some inefficiency.

9. Jeremy Hill, CIN

Hill had five games last year with at least 20 carries. He ran for 100+ yards in each of those games, and went over 140 rushing yards in four of them. As long as the Bengals remain in games, Hill will be a major part of the offense. He finished last year by picking up 395 rushing yards in his final three games. If he picks up where he left off last year, he’ll be a fantasy stud.

10. C.J. Anderson, DEN

Anderson topped 80 rushing yards in six of his final eight games last year after coming out of nowhere to seize the starting job. Gary Kubiak prefers to have a go-to RB, whether it’s Justin Forsett in Baltimore last year or Arian Foster in Houston before that. Kubiak’s workhorse RB preference along with Peyton Manning being willing to throw a little less this year both bode well for Anderson.

11. Justin Forsett, BAL

It was impossible to see Forsett’s breakout 2014 campaign coming. He picked up 1266 yards on the ground after never having a season with even half of that total in his previous six NFL seasons. Marc Trestman says the Ravens will stick with a zone running scheme, which suits Forsett perfectly. He also wants Forsett even more involved in the passing game. There will be plenty of chances to prove last year was not a fluke.

12. Jonathan Stewart, CAR

The golden opportunity has finally arrived for Stewart. In his eighth NFL season, this will be the first year he does not have to share the backfield with DeAngelo Williams. Stewart played four games at the end of last year with out Williams and had two 100 yard rushing performances in that span – his first time hitting the 100 yard rushing mark in a game since 2010. Durability concerns persist (he has missed 20 games in the last three years) but if healthy he should easily get his second career 1,000 yard season.

13. Frank Gore, IND

Old reliable Frank Gore has gone over 1,100 rushing yards in five of the last six NFL seasons. Even going into his age 32 season, he still seems to have a fair amount left in the tank. Gore’s 5 total TDs from last year were the lowest he has ever had in a season in which he played at least 15 games. That was a reflection of the dysfunction the 49ers operated in last year. He should have plenty more opportunities to score in a much better offense and with no competition in the backfield.

14. Lamar Miller, MIA

Miller enters this season as the unquestioned lead back, yet there are still some minor concerns about his workload. He never received 20 carries in any game last year and has only had one game in his career with that many rushing attempts. This won’t be an issue however if Miller can maintain his 5.1 yards per carry from a year ago. He could be in line for an expanded role if he proves he can handle it without wearing down.

15. Latavius Murray, OAK

The Raiders appear ready to feature Murray in their backfield, which should excite fantasy owners. He possesses an ideal combination of size and speed, and that was on display last year when he ran for 112 yards and 2 TDs on just 4 carries against the Chiefs in Week 12. Durability is a legitimate concern here, as he has already suffered a torn ACL and a concussion in his young career. His upside is immense when on the field, and he is worth the risk.

16. Alfred Morris, WAS

Since they entered the league together, Morris has always been a far more effective RB with Robert Griffin III under center. As a result, Morris has seen steady decreases in his yardage in each of the last two seasons after an elite rookie campaign in 2012. His lack of contribution in the passing game and the presence of rookie Matt Jones limit his ceiling. If RGIII can somehow bounce back, Morris will too.

17. Chris Ivory, NYJ

The departure of Chris Johnson should mean good things for Ivory’s fantasy outlook. While he has never been a real feature back, Ivory did receive a career-high 198 rushing attempts last year and caught more passes (18) than he had in his first four NFL seasons combined. With Stevan Ridley coming off of a major knee injury and Bilal Powell best suited as a passing down back, Ivory has a good chance of exceeding 200 carries for the first time. He can be had in most fantasy leagues at a discounted price.

18. Joseph Randle, DAL

To be clear, Randle is not DeMarco Murray. He won’t come close to the massive production Murray provided for the Cowboys last year. Randle did show flashes in limited playing time which suggest he could be an interesting fantasy commodity. He is playing behind an elite offensive line and is the lead back in what should be a highly productive office. If Dallas doesn’t add another RB into the mix, Randle should easily establish himself as the head of this committee.

19. Mark Ingram, NO

Sean Payton said he wants the Saints to be able to score fewer points to win games. That would suggest an increased emphasis on the running game in New Orleans, and trading away Jimmy Graham and Kenny Stills would indicate Payton is serious. This potential change in philosophy can only benefit Ingram, who is coming off of a career year. Ingram finished last season by scoring in three consecutive games for the first time in his career.

20. Andre Ellington, ARI

Operating as a lead back for the first time, Ellington’s yards per carry plummeted from a league best 5.5 in 2013 to a dreadful 3.3 last year (5th worst in the league among qualified players). Less is more for Ellington, as fewer touches this year should keep him fresh and yield a return to his signature explosive form. His lack of goal line work puts a cap on how high his fantasy ceiling can go.

21. Ameer Abdullah, DET

At the very least, Abdullah has pulled even with Joique Bell in the Lions’ backfield pecking order. He is far more explosive than Bell, and with Bell coming off of a mildly disappointing 2014 season it will be hard for the Detroit coaching staff to keep the rookie off the field. Abdullah has the look of a big play threat and even if he is not the Week 1 starter he would be my bet to lead the Lions’ RBs in scrimmage yards this year.

22. Doug Martin, TB

Injuries and ineffectiveness caused Martin to have fewer than 1,000 rushing yards combined in 2013 and 2014. All indications however suggest that he has had his best offseason in years, and looks leaner and quicker. He’s not exactly a favorite of the coaching staff, but the Bucs don’t have a better option for a lead back. So Martin should get the majority of the carries when healthy and hopefully he’ll regain some of his 2012 form.

23. T.J. Yeldon, JAX

Fantasy owners of Yeldon may have to be patient at the beginning of the season, as he may not emerge as the leader of the backfield in Week 1. His coaches are high on him, and his understanding and ability in pass protection will earn him more playing time early. He has the potential to develop into an every down back before the season is over which makes him highly intriguing.

24. Rashad Jennings, NYG

Jennings touched the ball a lot in his first eight games with the Giants (22.5 touches per game). However, he dealt with knee and ankle injuries during the year and sputtered to a forgettable finish over the final four weeks. Jennings has the skill set to be a three-down back, but Shane Vereen’s presence will drastically cut into his passing down work. Jennings will retain the lead back job but the Giants’ backfield has morphed into much more of a committee than last year.

25. LeGarrette Blount, NE

There may not be a fantasy player who will carry more week-to-week value than Blount. The Patriots are very opponent-specific, when it comes to game plans. When they feel like they can punish the other team on the ground, Blount will have high value. When they decide to exploit the other team’s secondary, Blount’s value will fall sharply. Fantasy owners should expect a roller coaster ride, but Blount’s work on early downs and in goal line situations make him a decent fantasy asset.

26. Carlos Hyde, SF

Frank Gore’s departure means Hyde will certainly get more work than the 5.9 carries per game he received last year. Hyde should claim the majority of the early down work. The addition of Reggie Bush and the return of Kendall Hunter limit his fantasy potential. Hyde will look to build off his season best 55 rushing yards he picked up in the last game of his 2014 rookie season.

27. Arian Foster, HOU

Foster will be a complete roll of the dice for fantasy owners this year, but could pay major dividends if all goes well. His groin surgery is expected to keep him out for roughly half of the season, although there is huge variation in his timetable to return. Foster received 20+ carries in nine of the thirteen games he appeared in last year, so we know the Texans will ride him when he’s available. But with this groin surgery being the latest in a litany of soft tissue injuries for him, Foster just simply isn’t reliable.

Note: Arian Foster moved from #41 to #27 as of 9/4 due to more optimistic timetable for his return from groin surgery.

28. Devonta Freeman, ATL

Going back to college, we’ve never really seen Freeman featured in anyone’s backfield. So even though he seems to have the inside track for starting duties in the Falcons’ backfield, it’s tough to envision him getting a large workload. He has flashed good hands in the passing game which helps his case. But he will have to improve on last year’s 3.8 yards per carry to have any real consistent fantasy value.

29. C.J. Spiller, NO

In his three years playing with Drew Brees, Darren Sproles caught 232 passes – averaging 5.3 catches per game. Spiller projects to be the passing down back in the Saints’ offense, and he has a quarterback and a coach who enjoy getting the RBs involved in the passing game. He likely won’t  quite match the receiving numbers Sproles put up in New Orleans, but this was a great spot for him to land in. His recovery from recent arthroscopic knee surgery is worth monitoring.

30. Melvin Gordon III, SD

The Chargers have high hopes for Gordon long-term, but he projects as a RB who might struggle early on with his transition to the NFL. Coaches have noticed that he can be indecisive in the backfield, which may be OK in the Big Ten but not so much in the pros. He has had trouble in pass protection in camp and is sharing the backfield with a third down ace in Danny Woodhead. He can be a special runner but expectations should be tempered in year one.

31. Tre Mason, STL

Last year, Mason went from not playing in the first four games to getting 17+ touches in seven out of of the final twelve games. With highly touted Todd Gurley II still recovering from an ACL tear, the Rams’ backfield will belong to Mason to start the season. Gurley’s eventual return hurts Mason’s overall fantasy value, but Mason will be a solid player to own early on.

32. Isaiah Crowell, CLE

Crowell was part of a committee last year with Terrence West and (at least for a while) Ben Tate, but he scored twice as many rushing TDs (8) as either of the other RBs. The coaching staff’s preference for Crowell inside of the red zone gives him the upper hand in this year’s committee in Cleveland. Ball security has been a concern for him, but if he holds onto the ball he should be the #1 RB for the Browns by a slight margin.

33. Alfred Blue, HOU

Blue was last in the NFL last year in yards per carry for any player who ran the ball at least 100 times. While he should improve on his dismal 3.1 yards per rush from his rookie season, he is doubtful to be an efficient back. The good news here is the Texans will commit to the run no matter who is in the backfield. With Arian Foster out indefinitely, Blue will be a high-volume RB for at least the first month or two of the season.

34. Shane Vereen, NYG 

As he was in New England, Vereen figures to have a larger impact in the passing game than in the running game. Ben McAdoo has suggested that Vereen is not just a third-down RB in his eyes, which suggests he could be on the field with Rashad Jennings or Andre Williams split out wide. Expect Vereen to have more receiving yards than rushing as he’s done in each of the last two seasons.

35. Joique Bell, DET

Bell did run the ball more effectively in the second half of last season than the first, averaging 4.4 yards per carry over his final eight games compared to 3.2 per carry over his first seven. Disappointingly, he didn’t have any 100 yard rushing games (only hitting 90 rushing yards once) and failed to catch 50 passes for the first time since 2011. Ameer Abdullah seems to be rapidly ascending meaning Bell is unlikely to see the 257 touches he got a year ago.

36. Bishop Sankey, TEN

It’s concerning that the first RB taken in the 2014 NFL draft couldn’t distinguish himself from a crowd of uninspiring backs last year. The Titans didn’t invest heavily in the RB position this offseason, but did bring in some fresh blood in David Cobb and Antonio Andrews. The coaches and front office have to be hoping Sankey establishes himself as the lead back this year, and therefore he’ll be given every opportunity. However, there haven’t been any in-game signs to suggest Sankey will make that jump.

37. Giovani Bernard, CIN

Due in large part to the emergence of Jeremy Hill, Bernard saw fewer than 10 carries in three of the Bengals’ final four games last year. He did manage 18 receptions over that same time span. That usage rate is likely a good barometer for what to expect in 2015. Bernard is a big play threat, so he can retain some value as a backup RB if he can get 12-14 touches per game.

38. Todd Gurley II, STL

Still on the mend after finishing his college career with a torn ACL, Gurley is expected to miss at least the first couple of games of the season. It’s anyone’s guess as to when he will make his NFL debut, but expect him to be eased into the mix as the Rams take a cautious approach with their top draft pick. Gurley will be an interesting player to stash for the second half of the season, but do not expect early fantasy dividends.

39. Danny Woodhead, SD

All reports about Woodhead’s recovery from last year’s nasty leg injury have been very positive and he should be good to go. Despite Melvin Gordon III joining the backfield, Woodhead should see a significant amount of snaps. Operating in a similar role in 2013 with the Chargers, Woodhead got 11.4 touches per game. His 76 receptions and 6 receiving TDs were both 2nd among RBs in 2013.

40. Ryan Mathews, PHI

The Eagles will not run DeMarco Murray into the ground the way the Cowboys did. In an effort to keep Murray fresh and available, expect Mathews to manage at least 10-12 carries even in a backup role. Because the Eagles run a fast-paced offense and like to run the ball, Mathews (though fairly injury-prone in his own right) is one of the top handcuffs in all of fantasy.

41. Tevin Coleman, ATL

Coleman only has the unproven Devonta Freeman in front of him, so there should be playing time available for him. He was highly productive in his final year of college and has the look of a constant home run threat. Toe surgery and a hamstring injury in the offseason have brought up durability concerns, so there may be a relatively low cap for his workload.

42. Duke Johnson Jr., CLE

The advantage Johnson has is that the coaching staff in Cleveland has already spent a year having their periodic frustrations with Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell. Working with a clean slate, Johnson is the favorite to be the passing down back and could carve out an even more prominent role. A training camp hamstring injury doesn’t help his early season fantasy stock.

43. Reggie Bush, SF

Nagging injuries and reduced effectiveness caused Bush to see his rushing total drop 709 yards from 2013 to 2014 in just three fewer games. Joining a backfield featuring Carlos Hyde, Bush figures to have a marginal role in the 49ers’ ground game. Bush has caught at least 40 passes in seven of his nine NFL seasons, and his presence in the passing game remains key to his fantasy value.

44. Darren McFadden, DAL

For the first time in his seven years in the league, McFadden played in all sixteen games in 2014. It took a restricted workload (less than 10 carries per game) for him to finally make it through a whole season. He has already dealt with hamstring injuries in training camp, reminding fantasy owners of his history with soft tissue injuries. Moving from Oakland to Dallas brightens his fantasy outlook, but not by a lot.

45. Matt Jones, WAS

Jones announced his presence in a big way with an impressive preseason, and could be in line for a decent amount of regular season work right away. Alfred Morris is a non-factor in the passing games (37 receptions in 48 career games), so there is an immediate path to some playing time for Jones. Given that Morris is in the final year of his rookie deal, and Jones is the pick of the new regime in Washington, Jones could force a bit of a committee situation in the Redskins’ backfield.

Note: Matt Jones replaced David Cobb at #45 due to Cobb going on short-term IR with a calf injury.

46. James White, NE

Over his last 24 games with the Patriots, Shane Vereen averaged 4.1 receptions per game for 36.4 yards while catching 6 TD passes over that span. White is the favorite to take the old Vereen role in the offense, which means his value will be more as a receiver than a runner. He is not as athletic as the departed Vereen, so the numbers mentioned earlier probably represent his absolute ceiling.

47. Denard Robinson, JAX

Surprisingly, Robinson had a three-game stretch from Week 7 to Week 9 last year in which he averaged 19 carries for 109.7 yards. He has proven he can be an effective RB in limited work, and should receive a handful of touches each game as the change of pace back to T.J. Yeldon. Robinson has also proven he can fill in admirably as a short-term lead back if the Jaguars need him to.

48. Chris Johnson, ARI

After spending all summer toiling in free agency, Johnson finally found a landing spot with the Cardinals. While his role in Arizona is largely undefined at this point, he wouldn’t have been brought on board if Bruce Arians was fully comfortable with his backfield. Andre Ellington showed last year he’s not a true “bell cow” RB, so there should be leftover snaps waiting for Johnson assuming he beats out David Johnson for #2 duties.

49. Cameron Artis-Payne, CAR

Despite a productive final year of college in the SEC, Artis-Payne doesn’t stand out as a top end athlete. He is not the most exciting prospect, but he is the favorite for the top backup spot behind Jonathan Stewart. Given Stewart’s propensity for getting nicked up, there is a decent chance Artis-Payne makes at least a start or two this year.

50. DeAngelo Williams, PIT

Williams cracks the top 50 simply because we know he will get two starts at the beginning of the year while Le’Veon Bell serves a suspension. At 32 years old and coming off of the worst season of his career, Williams will only have minimal value in deep leagues as a handcuff once Bell makes his season debut.