All righty then. It appears that the NFL lockout is in its final days, and we’re going to get an uninterrupted 2011 NFL regular season. That’s tremendous news for football players, and Fantasy players alike. What would we ever do without our fix? Of course, I am from Cleveland originally, so it would have been addition by subtraction for me.
That’s neither here nor there. I am re-visiting and re-working my position rankings from May. Not much has changed, as we have really only watched the players taking part in personal workouts with teammates and other members of the league. However, there have been glowing reports from beat writers on certain newcomers, others might be heading out of town once the free agency period starts, etc. So the rankings below are tweaked slightly. Check back again in a few weeks, as I’ll re-work the rankings again. Movement from last rankings indicated by (+) or (-).
2011 Fantasy Football position rankings (May) – Quarterbacks | Running Backs | Wide Receivers | Rookies
- Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay – There is no change at the top spot, as Rodgers sits atop the rankings after his Super Bowl winning season.
- Drew Brees, New Orleans – The running game will be stronger, which actually benefits the passing game. The expected loss of RB Reggie Bush might give Brees one less reliable target, however.
- Philip Rivers, San Diego (+) – After thinking about this for a bit, Rivers slides up one spot. He was amazing last season with a cast of nobodies at times. I expect another huge season, especially if his receiver corps can stay healthy.
- Peyton Manning, Indianapolis (-) – Manning has really done nothing to drop in the rankings, even if ever so slightly. However, the targets Rivers has makes him slightly higher.
- Tom Brady, New England – Brady will be off the board before the end of Round 3, and then that’s it for the elite level fantasy quarterbacks. Some will argue Michael Vick is also elite, but I’ll argue with them any day of the week.
- Matt Ryan, Atlanta (+) – Ryan is right on the cusp of being fantasy elite, although some might lop him in with the Top 5 already. He has WR Roddy White at his disposal, and will now have rookie stud WR Julio Jones.
- Michael Vick, Philadelphia (-) – The thinking here is that Vick might not be as hungry to prove his doubters wrong, although he is still trying to repair his tarnished image. NFL defenses won’t be as surprised by Vick the second time around.
- Tony Romo, Dallas – Romo is a bona fide No. 1 fantasy QB, although he certainly isn’t of the caliber of those mentioned above. Romo has a top fantasy TE in Jason Witten, and he’ll be helped tremendously if WR Dez Bryant can stay healthy and keep his head on straight.
- Matt Schaub, Houston – Schaub has a stud running game to open things up, and he has a top WR in Andre Johnson. Enough said.
- Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh – Teammate James Harrison might not be drafting Big Ben for his fantasy team any time soon, but he remains a solid low-end QB1, especially with emerging WR Mike Wallace on the wing.
- Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay – Savvy fantasy owners would be wise to nab one of the top QBs on this list, and then squirrel away Freeman for prime matchups when their stud has a difficult game, and as their bye-week replacement.
- Matthew Stafford, Detroit – The Lions are not only piecing together a studly defense, but they are putting some big-time talent around Stafford. WR Titus Young is another nice target, along with big-timer WR Calvin Johnson.
- Kevin Kolb, Philadelphia (+) – Kolb is currently listed with the Eagles, although it is fully expected that he’ll be moved at the right price. Arizona is likely to try and send the Eagles CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie for Kolb, although they might need a draft pick or two to sweeten the deal. The Eagles want a starter and a pick, at the minimum. San Francisco and Seattle are also possible landing spots.
- Joe Flacco, Baltimore (-) – Flacco is a decent QB2, but he plays a difficult schedule, especially when you consider he has to contend with the Steelers twice. Also, if you plan to make the fantasy playoffs, you’ll be in good shape with Flacco facing the Browns on the road in Week 13, and then the Colts at home in Week 14. But a Sunday night game against the Chargers on the road makes the road to a fantasy championship difficult.
- Sam Bradford, St. Louis (+) – Bradford is a fantasy player on the rise, and he should have WR Mark Clayton (knee) back from injury. The Rams are also expected to be a big player in free agency, potentially adding another big-name wideout to go along with Clayton and WR Donnie Avery.
- Matt Cassel, Kansas City (-) – The Chiefs are another team that is likely to add to their receiving corps, as WR Dwayne Bowe can’t do it all by himself (or can he?). Cassel could use another reliable target to offset a strong running game.
- Jay Cutler, Chicago (-) – Cutler is a fabulous fantasy QB – in leagues which do not penalize turnovers. In formats which give negative points for interceptions, fumbles and leaving games early due to questionable injuries and lack of heart, Cutler is simply mediocre by fantasy standards.
- Eli Manning, NY Giants (-) – Manning is in the same boat as Cutler (above). If he could limit his throws to those wearing helmets with ‘NY’, he’d be fine. He whistles too many passes to opposing defenders, and he faces a brutal schedule in the always tough NFC East. Bump him up if your league rewards extra points for dopey faces during a game.
- Mark Sanchez, N.Y. Jets – Sanchez was a fantasy stud at times last season, and a complete waste of time in other games. There is a lot of uncertainty, as it is likely WR Braylon Edwards does not return.
- Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buffalo (+) – Fitzpatrick scoots up the rankings into low-end QB2 territory simply by default. Too much uncertainty surrounding Cincinnati’s Carson Palmer, Denver’s Kyle Orton might not start, and we don’t know where Donovan McNabb will be playing. Fitzpatrick did a lot with little last season, and he should be decent enough again.
- Kyle Orton, Denver (-) – Orton ‘should’ be the starter in Denver next season, but one fantasy writer’s opinion might mean diddly. Tim Tebow might very well be the starter for head coach John Fox, but that doesn’t bode well for fantasy owners. Re-visit this one again in August.
- David Garrard, Jacksonville – Garrard will be looking over his shoulder and trying to protect what’s his in J-ville. The Jaguars likely will use Garrard as their starter while No. 1 pick Blaine Gabbert looks on studiously, but expect Garrard’s leash to be a lot shorter this year as opposed to others.
- Colt McCoy, Cleveland (+) – McCoy seems like he is maturing in leaps and bounds, has the respect of many teammates who attended his players-only workout in Austin, Tex. during the lockout, and is taking charge. If WR Greg Little can give him another NFL-caliber target, WR Brian Robiskie can continue his ascent, and WR Mohamed Massaquoi can be adequate, McCoy might be decent every now and again when the matchup is right.
- Donovan McNabb, Washington (-) – Where, oh where, will Donnie land? It is highly unlikely he’ll be in DC to start the season, but will he land in a spot where he gets a chance to start? Miami? San Francisco? Seattle? Tennessee? This is another one to check back in on August. However, he still has something left in the tank, and now he’ll have a chip on his shoulder, too.
- Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco (+) – Kaepernick has shown unusual leadership, and amazing zing, during players-only workouts, outshining incumbent QB Alex Smith at his own workouts. Some will argue Minnesota’s Christian Ponder or Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton should be the top fantasy rookie QB, but Kaepernick is a deep sleeper on the move.
The best of the rest
- Chad Henne, Miami
- Tim Tebow, Denver (+)
- Matt Hasselbeck, Seattle (-)
- Carson Palmer, Cincinnati (-)
- Jason Campbell, Oakland (-)
- Alex Smith, San Francisco (-)
- Christian Ponder, Minnesota (-)
- Charlie Whitehurst, Seattle
- Andy Dalton, Cincinnati
- John Beck, Washington (+)
- Cam Newton/Jimmy Clausen, Carolina (-)
- Jake Locker, Tennessee (+)
- Vince Young, UFA (+)
- Marc Bulger, Baltimore (-)
- Seneca Wallace, Cleveland (-)