The rankings below reflect standard scoring redraft leagues where the league consists of 10-14 teams. They’ll be updated each month up until the season begins. The reason for lower quarterback and tight end ranks, clearly, is because the list attempts to tackle the issue of value. Because the quarterback position is so deep, for instance, there’s less of a need to reach in order to get a specific quarterback. In addition, Robert Griffin III has be omitted from the list until more is known about his timetable for return.
1. Adrian Peterson, RB1
The top rusher from 2012 deserves to be the top pick in every fantasy draft, no matter the format. Even if (and when) the Vikings lose Percy Harvin, I expect Peterson to keep up his monstrous pace. While we shouldn’t expect another 2,000-yard season, we should certainly expect a top-5 running back yardage finish.
2. CJ Spiller, RB2
Spiller’s 6 yards per carry average catapulted him to the seventh best fantasy running back in 2012. Carrying the ball just 207 times, Spiller has plenty of opportunity for even better numbers under a new Bills’ regime, and a chance to become one of the best studs in fake football. Click here for a deeper analysis of my CJ Spiller ranking.
3. Doug Martin, RB3
Though his numbers were skewed by a couple of incredible performances during Week 8 and Week 9, The Muscle Hamster is in fine opportunity to receive a high volume of carries in an up and coming Tampa Bay offense. Remember, Martin and the Bucs lost Pro Bowl guards Davin Joseph and Carl Nicks to season-ending injuries halfway through last season. With those big bodies back in the lineup, Martin should have plenty of holes to run through in 2013.
4. Jamaal Charles, RB4
Despite playing with one of the worst offenses in the NFL in 2012, Jamaal Charles proved, once again, that he’s a top talent at running back in the NFL. New head coach Andy Reid has made fantasy studs out of his pass-catching running backs in the past, and Jamaal Charles’ abilities should allow him to be a must play in both standard and PPR formats.
5. Marshawn Lynch, RB5
Lynch quietly had another great season in 2012 on one of the younger teams in the league. He, contrary to what we’d think, will only be 27 this year and will be set to see a high number of touches in the Seahawks’ offense. In 2012, Lynch ranked 4th in fantasy points per snap played at running back, and I’d expect that to be no different in 2013.
6. Calvin Johnson, WR1
Calvin Johnson’s near 2,000-yard receiving season was spectacular, but what’s more incredible is that he only scored five touchdowns all season long. Of the top-5 fantasy receivers, he was the only one without double-digit scores. The fact that there’s such room for improvement in Megatron’s statistical game should make any fantasy owner salivate. And if you’re in a snake draft, it may even be advantageous to take Megatron earlier. Click here to find out why.
7. Arian Foster, RB6
While ranking the second best fantasy running back in 2012 at the seven spot may seem low, Foster’s 460 touch season is a frightening thing to think about. Chad Parsons at ProFootballFocus.com broke down the historical significance of a 425-plus touch season, and for Foster owners, the 2013 campaign doesn’t look as promising as the 2012 one did. Foster should still hold plenty of value, but his upside isn’t as great as the other guys listed above.
8. Ray Rice, RB7
Chad Scott talked through why he didn’t like Rice in 2013, and I tend to agree. The Baltimore back still deserves a first round choice, but with the emergence of Bernard Pierce in the backfield and the playoff run the Ravens have endured, Rice’s numbers could dip slightly in 2013. Otherwise, he’d be a top-5 selection.
9. LeSean McCoy, RB8
The way Chip Kelly will transition his offense into the NFL is still a slight mystery, but LeSean McCoy will surely be a big part of it. The recent news that Bryce Brown will take some of the load off McCoy will cause Shady’s attractiveness in 2013 to take a bit of a hit, but we know what the University of Pittsburgh running back is capable of. And that makes him a worthwhile selection in the first round.
10. Trent Richardson, RB9
It was ugly, but Trent Richardson did what he had to in order to be a top-10 fantasy running back option during his rookie season. His 3.6 yards per carry average is a bit disheartening, but the Browns offense has to revolve around Richardson in order to have any sort of success.
11. Alfred Morris, RB10
Not many predicted such a great rookie performance by the Redskins running back, but Alfred Morris finished as one of the best in the fake sport last season. Even if RGIII isn’t healthy entering 2013, I’d feel comfortable having Alfie as my RB1 as long as I paired him with a proven RB2. Be sure to devalue him a bit in PPR leagues, as he caught just 11 passes during his rookie season.
12. Rob Gronkowski, TE1
The reason I stayed away from Gronkowski in 2012 was because of his incredible reliance on touchdowns in 2011. After seeing him play with Brady in 2012, I think it’s safe to say that touchdowns are simply part of his game. While I’m not a huge advocate of drafting players who play tight end or quarterback early, Gronkowski is an exception. He, and potentially Jimmy Graham, are by far the best at their position. If your league has a tight end spot (no flex), Gronk should be an early to mid second round choice.
13. AJ Green, WR2
The second wide receiver off the board should be AJ Green. While he slowed down towards the end of the season, he’s still one of the best red zone targets in the NFL and will always be a candidate to score double-digit touchdowns. If Andy Dalton progresses and works on his deep ball passing, AJ Green could compete with Calvin Johnson as the best fantasy receiver in 2013.
14. Matt Forte, RB11
After not missing a single game through the first three years of his career, Forte has now missed four over his last two. He was quiet last year, and again, had plenty of touchdowns stolen from his goal line back. A new coaching staff could be exactly what the Bears’ runner needs, as head coach Marc Trestman has a passing mind. Forte certainly excels in the short passing game. He should be a solid low-end RB1 in a PPR format.
15. Steven Jackson, RB12
Jackson moves up in the rankings with his signing in Atlanta. To me, there may not have been a better location for him to go. Rather than spit out stats on this page, take a look as to why I feel SJax could crack the top-10 at running back this season here.
16. Maurice Jones-Drew, RB13
We tend to forget that Maurice Jones-Drew led the NFL in rushing two seasons ago, finishing as a top-3 fantasy running back. His injury set him back in 2012, as he played only 6 games and rushed for just over 400 yards. He’s only going to be 28 years-old next season, and we have to remember that he was in a running back-by-committee system during the early stages of his career. I expect Jones-Drew to bounce back nicely in 2013.
17. Stevan Ridley, RB14
Ridley had a nice season for New England after the departure of BenJarvus Green-Ellis. He finished fifth in fantasy points per snap, and that’s including the anomalous Andre Brown. There’s not a whole lot of competition in New England, but it’ll be important to keep tabs on Danny Woodhead’s contract situation and Shane Vereen’s potential 2013 usage.
18. Chris Johnson, RB15
He’s still going to be a huge gamble in 2013, but at least you won’t have to use a first-round choice on the once 2,000-yard rusher. Johnson still put up 1,400 yards from scrimmage for the fifth straight season last year, and he’s proven to be one of the most durable backs in the league. Again, if he can get it together between the ears, he could easily be a top-10 fantasy back.
19. Darren McFadden, RB16
The words “no more zone blocking scheme” should make any DMC hopeful smile. After a miserable 2012 campaign, McFadden is reportedly going to be the focus in Greg Olson’s power-running offense. Could we see a 2010-like Darren McFadden in 2013? It may be worthwhile to take a leap at the end of the second round for the once fantasy stud.
20. Brandon Marshall, WR3
Marshall’s first year reunited with Jay Cutler went very well, as he hauled in 118 catches for over 1,500 yards and 11 touchdowns. With Marc Trestman as the new head coach, the volume of passes in that offense could actually increase, making Marshall a great value in the second round of redraft leagues. In a PPR league, B-Marsh could potentially sneak into the end of the first.
21. Demaryius Thomas, WR4
His 138 targets ranked ninth among receivers, but his 201 standard fantasy points ranked fifth. Demaryius Thomas shined with Peyton Manning at quarterback in 2012, and with another year under his belt, he could break loose next season on a hungry Denver team. There’s little reason for him to escape the second round of your draft. I’m not concerned with the Wes Welker acquisition, as Welker’s slot presence will hinder Eric Decker’s value more. Thomas is the traditional top target that Denver won’t be able to work without.
22. DeMarco Murray, RB17
You’d be taking a slight gamble with DeMarco Murray next season, but the Cowboys’ running back has shown that he’s capable of being a top fantasy player. When he was healthy in 2012, he recorded a top-20 fantasy points per game average. Durability is certainly a question mark for Murray, as is the Cowboys’ offensive line, but America’s team will be scoring a lot of points in 2013.
23. Julio Jones, WR5
There may be no other receiver in the game with Julio Jones’ skill set. And with Roddy White on the other side of the field, Jones can garner some fantastic match ups. Perfect, right? Well, unfortunately, this brings a lower volume of passes thrown Jones’ way. Julio has shown signs of inconsistency in fantasy because of this unpredictable volume, sharing looks from quarterback Matt Ryan with Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez. Jones ranked 16th in receiver targets in 2012, and as long as Roddy is still there, this rank shouldn’t change much.
24. Dez Bryant, WR6
From Week 10 on, no receiver in fantasy football was better than Dez Bryant. After being such a fake football disappointment throughout his short career, Dez finally showed us why we all have overvalued him in year’s past. We’ve only seen Dez play at this consistently high level for half a season, causing him to fall on this list, but it shouldn’t surprise anyone if Bryant ends up ranked higher than any receiver in 2013.
25. Percy Harvin, WR7
He was a double-digit fantasy scorer in nearly every game he played last season, and is one of the few wide receivers you can count on from a consistency basis. Imagining Percy Harvin with an accurate Russell Wilson should make any fantasy owner excited. Though the Seahawks are balanced on offense, Harvin’s signing in Seattle will make him the top option in the Seahawks’ passing attack. Sidney Rice can stretch the field, and Harvin should be able to use his versatility underneath to make big plays in 2013.
26. Reggie Bush, RB18
With Bush now in Detroit, there’s an honest chance that he could become the every down back, taking duties from the plodding Mikel Leshoure. And even if Leshoure still sees goal line touches, Bush’s receiving presence in Detroit’s offense could be fantasy worthy enough. The now ex-Dolphin has seen three 50-plus reception seasons over the course of his career, including 78 over the two seasons he spent in a middling Miami offense. When you factor in Matthew Stafford’s 727 attempts and Detroit running back Joique Bell’s 65 receiving targets in 2012, Bush is a candidate for 60 receptions in 2013. And don’t let his injury woes get in the way of drafting him, either. Bush missed just one game over the last two years as the lead back in Miami.
27. Jimmy Graham, TE2
As I mentioned before, I’m not a firm believer in drafting tight ends or quarterbacks early. But like Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham is an exception to the rule. He had his share of injuries in 2012, but was still able to finish as the top fantasy tight end. I’d expect his average draft position to be in the second round in 2013, resulting in me not owning him in many leagues. I think, however, that given the rest of the competition at tight end, there’s more value at the top of the position than there’s ever been.
28. Vincent Jackson, WR8
It was as if Vincent Jackson had been playing with Josh Freeman for years. Clearly the number one guy in Tampa Bay, Jackson should continue to see a high volume of passes thrown his way next season. Mike Williams is a great number two wideout to stretch the field for Tampa Bay, alleviating some pressure off of Jackson. V-Jax finished fifth in receiving yards in 2012, and I’d feel confident thinking he can be a top-10 fantasy wideout in 2013.
29. Andre Johnson, WR9
He’s never been much of a touchdown scorer, but Andre Johnson sure gets a high number of yards each year. His four scores made up just over thirteen percent of his fantasy point total last season, which was the lowest touchdown reliance of all top-30 wide receivers. Considering that obvious room for improvement, the Texans’ stud should be a top wide receiver in 2013.
30. Victor Cruz, WR10
Cruz finished the 2012 season with just two 70-plus yard performances over his final nine games. If Eli Manning can bounce back, and if Hakeem Nicks can stay away from the hospital, Cruz should have no problem being a top fantasy option next season. One important thing to note with Cruz, however, is that his big play ability was lacking in 2012. He finished with 444 fewer receiving yards than he had in 2011, but had four more receptions and one more touchdown. Assuming Nicks is healthy, Cruz should increase his yards per reception average in 2013.
31. Frank Gore, RB19
Not many fantasy owners – including myself – gave Frank Gore a chance in 2012. But after another great season, Gore continues to be a worthwhile selection as he approaches the dreaded running back age of 30. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick can really open up the San Francisco offense, and soon to be second-year back LaMichael James can add a nice dimension to the 49ers backfield. Gore’s quantity may decrease in 2013, but he should still be a solid RB2.
32. Roddy White, WR11
Julio Jones’ emergence has pushed Roddy White down the fantasy rankings, but White’s reliability should make any fantasy owner smile. He had four or more receptions in all but two games in 2012, and he was still a top-10 receiver in terms of targets. He’s not a sexy selection anymore, but he certainly is a player who can give you the week-to-week consistency you need to win fantasy championships. I like White as a low-end WR1 option this season, and he could slip in drafts simply due to his overall unattractive upside.
33. Randall Cobb, WR12
Fantasy footballers are hoping Randall Cobb can be the next superstar in this new, pass-heavy NFL. As Keith Black pointed out, Cobb could be a player who rises because of what he did for fantasy teams in 2012. A late round draft choice, Cobb finished as a top-20 receiver last season with the Packers, and had the highest fantasy point per snap rate in the league at receiver. Because of his lower expectations, owners may think a little higher of him than his numbers actually indicate. I do love Randall Cobb as a player, and think that he’s going to have a great 2013 season, but he shouldn’t be selected before the third round.
34. Ryan Mathews, RB20
Was there a more miserable fantasy performer in 2012 than Ryan Mathews? According to Rotoworld’s Pat Daugherty, probably not. Daugherty points out several discouraging statistics about Ryan Mathews’ 2012 campaign in his article “What Went Wrong: Ryan Mathews“, including the fact that Matthews had zero 100-yard rushing performances during the season. There’s reason for some optimism, however. Norv Turner is gone, and there’s not that much competition at the position in San Diego. The signing of Danny Woodhead shouldn’t make that much of an impact, as Mathews saw the field very rarely on third downs last season. He’s shown to be fantasy worthy at points during his short career, making him a possible upside pick, but, of course, be prepared for disappointment. It’s Ryan Mathews.
35. Michael Crabtree, WR13
Colin Kaepernick was able to do it; he’s made Michael Crabtree a top receiver in fantasy football. After a disappointing start to his NFL career with Alex Smith, Crabtree became one of the most reliable receivers down the stretch last season. If the 49ers magic can continue (which it should) into 2013, Crabtree could easily sneak into the top-10 at the receiver position.
36. Jordy Nelson, WR14
His breakout 2011 season was followed up by an injury-filled one in 2012, but with Greg Jennings is out of Green Bay, making Nelson Aaron Rodgers’ probable top target next season. If he stays healthy, there’s no reason for us to assume he can’t be a fantasy playmaker, especially considering his 216 fantasy points in 2011 were second only to Calvin Johnson. If he drops to Round 5 in a 12-team league draft, consider yourself fortunate for selecting him for his upside.
37. David Wilson, RB21
With the release of Ahmad Bradshaw, David Wilson is expected to be the guy in New York. But before we get overly excited, we must remember that there’s another back, Andre Brown, who has shown that he has the talent to carry the rock. I’ve already seen Wilson go in the late-second round of a few mock drafts, and that’s entirely too high for a player who has yet to carry the ball more than 15 times in an NFL game. He could end up being great, but you have to play the risk vs. reward game in fantasy football, especially in the early rounds of your draft. I’ll view him as a low-end RB2 until we see more in the pre-season.
38. Pierre Garcon, WR15
It’s a shame the Redskins’ receiver got hurt early on in the season, because quite honestly, Pierre Garcon could’ve finished as a top-10 wideout. Given his 2012 stats, a healthy Garcon could have finished with over 80 catches, 1,200 yards and eight touchdowns. Robert Griffin III’s knee injury may cause Garcon to drop in drafts, but he could be a great value for fantasy teams next season.
39. Darren Sproles, RB22
Sproles only received 48 carries in 2012, which was 39 fewer than he had in 2011. That, in the end, was the difference in his value from 2011 to 2012. With Sean Payton back, I’d expect Sproles to be a little more involved in the offense. He’s still a great PPR back, and should be a solid low-end RB2 in standard leagues.
40. Reggie Wayne, WR16
The veteran Colts’ wideout was dead to many entering 2012, but he proved us all wrong as he caught over 100 passes for 1,355 yards and five scores. I worry about the Colts passing attack in 2013 though, as offensive coordinator Bruce Arians left for the head coaching job in Arizona. New coordinator Pep Hamilton has already stressed the importance of a balanced offense, so we should expect Andrew Luck’s 627 pass attempts to decrease in 2013. A decrease in pass attempts means less opportunity for a guy like Reggie Wayne.
41. Steve Smith, WR17
The Carolina wideout has rejuvenated his career over the last two seasons with Cam Newton throwing him the ball. After two sub-1,000-yard seasons in 2009 and 2010, Smith has bounced back over the last two years with 2,568 receiving yards. He’s going to be 34 years-old next year, but he still doesn’t look like he’s lost a step. I love Smith next year as a value pick, as many fantasy owners will be falsely afraid of his aging body. For more on Smith, take a look at my article “Finding Value: Is Steve Smith Underrated?” on ProFootballFocus.com.
42. Drew Brees, QB1
The first quarterback off the board in 2013 should be Drew Brees. He throws the ball more than anyone not named Matthew Stafford, and he’s a lot better than Matthew Stafford. He’s consistently been a top quarterback since moving to New Orleans, and I’d expect him to finish as a top-5 one again in 2013. So why the low rank? Well, given the abundance of signal callers and my overall stance on quarterbacks, this is where I see Brees’ value. He’ll surely go in the first or second round in most drafts, but if he were to dip to the third, there could be honest value.
43. Aaron Rodgers, QB2
As I wrote about at ProFootballFocus.com, Aaron Rodgers 2012 campaign was much more inconsistent than many realize. He was either a stud, finishing at the top of his position in a given week, or he wasn’t even usable, finishing outside of the top-12. Part of this is due to the rotating wide receiving group in Green Bay; Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson couldn’t stay on the field. But part of it is also because the rest of the position has caught up from a fantasy perspective, devaluing the top-notch passers. Rodgers will go in the first couple of rounds, but as usual, I’ll be waiting.
44. Marques Colston, WR18
In 2012, Marques Colston had just three 100-plus yard performances in the 16 games he played. With tight end Jimmy Graham hobbling, it would’ve been nice to see Colston step up and be a top fantasy option. Instead, quarterback Drew Brees continued to spread the ball around, causing Colston’s value to dip. He’ll be another solid option in 2013, but as always, Marques Colston will never be the consistent player we want him to be given the offense he’s in.
45. Cam Newton, QB3
Though the schedule was easier, Newton scorched the fantasy stat sheet over the second half of 2012, setting himself up for a nice 2013 season. The Panthers need to address the talent around him, as Brandon Lafell didn’t serve as the best number two option in the offense. Cam’s rapport with Steve Smith and Greg Olsen looked better as the season progressed though, and Cam’s abilities create a potential top fantasy quarterback. He’s just not there yet.
46. Hakeem Nicks, WR19
Nicks has yet to play a full season in the NFL, and that’s frightening when you’d have to use a fourth or fifth round pick on him. When healthy, however, Nicks is one of the best receivers in fantasy. If you’re selecting him in next year’s draft, it may be beneficial to pair him with an early round stud, and be sure to have a backup plan; an injury is inevitable.
47. Vick Ballard, RB23
As I mentioned before, new offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton wants a more balanced offense in Indianpolis. No player may benefit from that more than Vick Ballard. He’s not the best running back in the world, but neither is BenJarvus Green-Ellis; a player who finished 19th at running back this past year. Considering that Vick Ballard scored just three times in 2012 and still finished as a top-30 running back, I like him as a reliable running back next season. Don’t think that you’re getting a stud out of Ballard, but think of his abilities in a young Colts offense similar to what we saw out of BenJarvus Green-Ellis or Shonn Greene this past season, as long as he continues to be fed the ball.
48. Dwayne Bowe, WR20
Bowe often gets overlooked in fantasy drafts because of the situation he plays in, even though he scored 15 touchdowns just two seasons ago. He’s a talent, but evidently a head case as well, which is always a concern. But with Alex Smith in town, Bowe could have a moderately good quarterback throwing him the ball, making him plenty fantasy relevant. The Chiefs are now fairly invested with both, and Andy Reid hasn’t – arguably – had a wide receiver in his offense like Bowe since Terrell Owens played in Philly. And remember, Owens, aside from the drama he created, was a stud. I love Bowe as a solid wideout pick who could slip in drafts.
49. Antonio Brown, WR21
I’ll be honest when I say that Antonio Brown is my favorite NFL player, but to be unbiased, Brown put together a strong end to his injury-ridden 2012 season. He was the 11th best fantasy wideout over the final four weeks of the season, posting touchdowns in each game. His knock is often that he doesn’t get into the end zone, but with Mike Wallace leaving Pittsburgh, Brown could be set for more red zone targets. We should be aware that he’s going to get more targeted coverage, but he’s become Ben Roethlisberger’s favorite receiver in the Steelers offense. I love Antonio Brown as a WR2 this season, especially in a PPR format.
50. Danny Amendola, WR22
The Amendola signing in New England could bring great fantasy value, however, we have to be cognizant to the fact that Amendola’s style of play doesn’t allow him to stay on the field very much. Over the last two seasons, Amendola has played just 12 games, and even though his numbers look fine stretched out over a 16-game season, we shouldn’t expect him to play a 16-game season. His ceiling is high, considering he’ll be playing with Tom Brady, and he brings an additional deep ball skill set that Welker didn’t have. Because of his injury-risk, Amendola is a low-end WR2.
51. Wes Welker, WR23
It’s probably not fair for me to judge so quickly, but I’m nervous about the passing distribution in Denver next season. Welker should be the clear number two receiver behind Demaryius Thomas, but Eric Decker is still a solid wideout option for quarterback Peyton Manning. And though many want to think both Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen will see a huge dip in targets, they’ll still be relevant. Considering the red zone threats in Denver, too, Welker shouldn’t see the end zone more than he typically has in the past – which isn’t a ton for a top wideout. He’s typically needed targets to be effective, and I’m not sure he gets as many as we want him to in 2013.
52. BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB24
As I mentioned before, The Law Firm is no special running back, but he was fantasy significant in 2012 because of his absurd 278 carries. Green-Ellis feasted on poor defenses last year, and was unable to do much against top ones. It’s what you’d expect from a running back who ranked 23rd among starting running backs in Pro Football Focus’ elusive running back ratings. The Bengals may go after another back this off-season, which would surely push Green-Ellis down on this list, but for now, let’s leave him as a low-end RB2.
53. Lamar Miller, RB25
He’s the opposite of a BenJarvus Green-Ellis, I suppose. Lamar Miller could be the top back in Miami next season with the departure of Reggie Bush, and although he had some struggles during his rookie season, his talent is attractive. The reason I have him ranked here is because of upside, as Miller’s 4.4 speed is something all fantasy owners love in players. Miller is a player whose rank will fluctuate a lot as the season approaches.
54. Larry Fitzgerald, WR24
He’s clearly one of the best in the business at his position, but the quarterback situation in Arizona should scare anyone. If and when they address it, Fitz will move on this list. New head coach Bruce Arians runs a pass-first offense, and as Denny Carter of The Fake Football wrote, this could bode well for Fitzgerald. I’m not going to trust him until I see more out of the quarterback position in Arizona, though. Drew Stanton just won’t cut it.
55. Torrey Smith, WR25
Smith’s big play ability makes him attractive in the fantasy space, but it’s time that we all see the truth: Torrey Smith hasn’t proven to be a startable top fantasy receiver yet. His up-and-down week-to-week play makes fantasy owners’ heads spin, and his 99 receptions over his first two seasons in the league – as a starter – are nothing to get excited about either. Over the last two seasons combined, Smith has just 1,696 yards receiving. And in 2012, ten of his sixteen games resulted in single-digit fantasy performances. Until we see more, we have to value Smith where he belongs, even with Anquan Boldin out of the picture.
56. Greg Jennings, WR26
I’m not excited – at all, actually – to see Jennings in Minnesota, but he’s the clear number one guy there. Kyle Rudolph should be able to take a lot of middle-of-the-field coverage, and Jennings can play his traditional top target role. It’s Christian Ponder, though, and not Aaron Rodgers. The aging (though he’s still just 29) Jennings should be germane to fake football because of the quantity of targets he could potentially see, but don’t get excited. Wide receiver is deep enough to pass on him.
57. Aaron Hernandez, TE3
Hernandez is in a tier of his own at tight end, as he’s not quite at the same level as Gronk and Graham, but the rest of the field is definitely not as valuable. His ankle limited his play in 2012, and now his durability is a concern. He’s yet to complete an entire season, causing a lack of trust among fantasy owners. This ranking has nothing to do with his talent, as I think he’s one of the best in the league at what he does, but given the inherent demand of the tight end position and Hernandez’s health, I’m more than likely not going to own him next season unless he falls to round six or seven.
58. Jonathan Stewart, RB26
He’s been disappointing, but with the likely departure of DeAngelo Williams post-June 1st, Jonathan Stewart could finally be the guy in Carolina. He had his opportunities in 2012 and didn’t perform at a high level, but his likely 6th round ADP could hold value considering his possible workload in 2013. If I’m going running back-heavy in drafts next season, I’m looking to snag Stewart for immense upside.
59. Jason Witten, TE4
Tony Romo’s security blanket ranks as my fourth best tight end. Witten is someone you can always trust, missing zero games over the last six seasons. He had 110 receptions for over 1,000 yards last season, and yet, scored just three times. Witten is a player that, as I ponder this list over the upcoming months, could easily jump due to dependability and talent.
60. James Jones, WR27
No receiver scored more times than Jones did in 2012, as the Packers receiver hit the end zone 14 times. The 14 scores accounted for over 53% of his fantasy total last season, which was the highest reliance on touchdowns in the NFL at receiver. Historically, players who score double-digit touchdowns fail at doing it again the next season. Perhaps I’m a bit down on Jones in 2013, but even with a bigger defined role in the Packers offense, I like other receivers more than Jones next year.
61. Stevie Johnson, WR28
A snapshot of Stevie Johnson’s short career shows low-end WR2 consistency. He’s posted no less than 1,004 yards receiving since becoming a starter, and he’s never had more than 1,073 in a season. His 23 touchdowns over the last three seasons are above average, but Johnson’s becoming more known for his on-the-field antics rather than his actual playmaking and fantasy ability. If the new coaching staff starts to shift him around and force feed him the ball, Johnson’s numbers should rise. Otherwise, if there’s no indication of that happening, keep Johnson as a top WR3.
62. Tony Gonzalez, TE5
Who isn’t happy to see Gonzo coming back next season? From my article, The Curious Case of Tony Gonzalez: “He entered the league in 1997 and was the 19th best fantasy option at tight end during his rookie campaign. He never looked back. Gonzalez, in his next 15 seasons, finished as a top-10 tight end in all but one. He finished as a top-3 option ten different times. There was a stretch – between 1999 and 2004 – where Tony Gonzalez was either the best or second best tight end each year. In fact, between 1999 and 2009, Gonzo finished 7th once, 5th once and 1st through 3rd at tight end in every other season.” Drafting him should be a safe bet.
63. Mike Wallace, WR29
Mike Wallace didn’t look like Mike Wallace in 2012. It actually started at the tail-end of 2011, as Antonio Brown emerged as Roethlisberger’s top target. Since, Wallace has lacked his big play ability, and now, he’s no longer going to play in Pittsburgh. While he started to really show toughness through the middle of the field in the early stages of 2011, he completely lacked that same toughness in 2012. Key dropped passes were common for Wallace last season. He was, as many like to say, a one-trick pony. Perhaps a new situation will bring back the Mike Wallace that created great fantasy value. The Dolphins are clearly all in.
64. Peyton Manning, QB4
Surprisingly, given my stance on quarterbacks, I was higher than most regarding Peyton Manning entering 2012. He surpassed even my expectations, and I’ve learned that we should just never doubt football greatness. With the addition of Welker, Manning should have no problem putting up solid fantasy numbers. However, he’s clearly lost some arm strength, and the competitive quarterback class has made him, to me, a non-elite starter in a 12-team league. I like Peyton as the fourth best quarterback option – barely – in 2013.
65. Rashard Mendenhall, RB27
Mendenhall will be reuniting with former Steelers’ offensive coordinator, Bruce Arians, in Arizona next season, and it seems as though he could take the featured back role from injury-prone Ryan Williams. Mendenhall still isn’t past his prime running back years – he’s only 25 – and has seen success under Arians. In 2010, the now ex-Steelers back posted 1,273 yards rushing and 13 scores on the ground. Arians is a fan of a one true back system, and if it were up to me, Mendenhall would be my guy. Man, the running back position is thin.
66. Tom Brady, QB5
Tom Brady never threw more than 28 touchdowns without Wes Welker. With Welker, he’s never thrown less than 28 touchdowns. Now that Welker is gone, should we be worried? Potentially, but we should still expect Number 12 to be a top fantasy signal caller. If he creates a nice rapport with Danny Amendola early, Brady shouldn’t lose a step in fake football.
67. Miles Austin, WR30
The Cowboys’ receiver may not be in Dallas next year, but assuming he is, I like him as a top-end WR3 in most league formats. He’s had injury issues over the last couple of seasons, and is slowly becoming less explosive. And with the emergence of Dez Bryant and the dependable play of Jason Witten, Miles Austin is no longer the must-have in fantasy that he used to be.
68. Matt Ryan, QB6
As I wrote in my book, 2012 was Matt Ryan’s boom or bust year. He certainly played well, throwing for 3 or more touchdowns in seven of his sixteen games. When you have Roddy White and Julio Jones, you should be expected to throw 30 touchdowns in a season. I think Ryan is one of the safest quarterback picks for next season.
69. Colin Kaepernick, QB7
We all saw what Colin Kaepernick is capable of this season, and the fact that he’s started only a handful of games is unbelievable. After taking Alex Smith’s job, Kaepernick didn’t have a single game under 14 standard fantasy points. There’s no quarterback in 2013 with more upside, but clearly, upside is always associated with risk.
70. Andre Brown, RB28
Before Andre Brown went down with a season-ending injury in 2012, he had put together five straight games with a touchdown. He relied on touchdowns for his fantasy value more than any other back in the NFL, and it looks as though this could continue into 2013. I think Brown has talent, but not necessarily at the same level as David Wilson. And, of course, the Giants used a first round choice on Wilson, showing that they have faith in his ability. Brown could be a very interesting flex play this season, though, as he continues to get the Giants’ goal line work.
71. Matthew Stafford, QB8
When you throw the ball 727 times, you’re going to be a fantasy starter. The crazy part about Stafford’s 2012 season isn’t that he threw more than anyone in the league, but rather it’s the fact that he threw just 20 touchdowns. For some perspective, Russell Wilson threw the ball 393 times in 2012 for 26 touchdowns. Matthew Stafford is a great value in 2013, as he could slip in some leagues to a late-round quarterback selection. I’d highly doubt he throws just 20 touchdowns next year.
72. Cecil Shorts, WR31
If we stretched Shorts’ numbers with Gabbert and Henne over an entire season, the result is fairly similar. He’d score more touchdowns with Henne, but let’s not exaggerate the impact the quarterback situation in Jacksonville has on Shorts’ value. His big play skills make him a fantasy asset, as his yards per pass route ranked 10th in the NFL among receivers. Shorts is falling to the seventh and eighth round in current mock drafts, which to me, is a potential steal.
73. Josh Gordon, WR32
New Browns head coach Rob Chudzinski loves big plays on offense. Is there a better fit for Josh Gordon? The rookie receiver was arguably the riskiest play at receiver throughout 2012, catching just a pass or two each game. But in plenty of those games, Gordon would catch a 50-yard bomb for a touchdown. He had just five games with four or more receptions last year, which will surely turn off many fantasy owners. However, each of those games came after the Browns’ Week 10 bye, showing that Gordon slowly evolved within the offense and became more comfortable. I think he has great potential to be a WR2 by the end of the season, especially if the Browns can figure out their quarterback situation.
74. T.Y. Hilton, WR33
As Keith Black wrote, “In the last seven games of the year, Hilton hit the 100-yard mark three times, and scored six total touchdowns in four different weeks.” Pretty incredible for a rookie receiver catching passes from a rookie quarterback. Hilton’s 17.2 yards per reception was fifth among starting receivers in 2012, and he ended up ranking as the best fantasy rookie receiver in the league. Without offensive coordinator Bruce Arians though, I’m a bit skeptical if the big plays can continue for Hilton.
75. Isaiah Pead, RB29
Jeff Fisher is no stranger to sub-200 pound running backs, and that’s what he’s got in second-year Isaiah Pead. After barely getting off the bench during his rookie season, Pead has an opportunity to compete for the Rams starting job in 2013 with the departure of Steven Jackson. And while Daryl Richardson could be an early favorite, I like Pead’s potential; he has more upside than Richardson does. Keep an eye out on this battle, as Pead could shoot up this board fast.
76. Lance Moore, WR34
The Saints wideout had more opportunity in 2012, but like all receivers there, he fell victim to Drew Brees’ offensive spread. It seems as though Moore is a bit underrated, as he’s often been a double-digit round selection in fantasy drafts. But he quietly posted over 1,000 yards and six scores in 15 games this past season, scoring double-digit fantasy points in seven of those games. He’s a great guy to have on your bench for a bye week fill, but upside-wise, we kind of know what to expect from the Saints’ receiver.
77. Eric Decker, WR35
To me, no player took a bigger free agency hit than Eric Decker. After hauling in 85 catches for 1,064 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2012, Decker now faces a probable third wide receiver spot on the Broncos’ depth chart. Wes Welker will become the number two option in Denver, and though Decker should still get plenty of end zone opportunities, relying on him may not be worthwhile given the depth of the wide receiver position. This ranking is a pessimistic one, but there are plenty of better high-upside pass catchers out there.
78. Mike Williams, WR36
As I wrote last month, Mike Williams was one of the most underrated fantasy options in the sport last season. He scored nine times, and was just four yards away from a 1,000-yard season. He’s been good thus far over his career, and the main differentiation with him from season-to-season has been touchdown receptions. Actually, over his first three years, Williams has posted reception totals of 65, 65 and 63. I think we should expect 64 next season.
79. Mikel Leshoure, RB30
As I noted in the Reggie Bush description, Leshoure should still see goal line work, making him a worthwhile flex choice. If we get more information on the time split in Detroit, Leshoure could move up. I see this spot as his floor with Bush in town, even though he’s one of the more uninteresting backs in the league.
80. Fred Jackson, RB31
Jackson will stil be part of the Bills’ offense in 2013, but his durability and age has to be a concern. CJ Spiller showed us all what he can do as a featured back, and while Spiller’s body may not be able to endure 300-plus carries, we should expect more than the 207 he got last year. Jackson, in turn, should see less action. I think there’s still value here as a potential handcuff or bench player.
81. Shane Vereen, RB32
The departure of Danny Woodhead to San Diego is good news for Vereen, who snuck up on fantasy owners last season with a couple of double-digit fantasy performances. New England writers are already speculating that Vereen’s touches will boost in 2013, and it makes sense considering his 6.4 yards per carry average (including playoffs). Vereen has a lot of upside in a high-powered New England offense.
82. Justin Blackmon, WR37
I’m not thrilled to have two Jaguar receivers in the top-100, but Blackmon slowly heated up towards the end of 2012. In his final four games, the rookie receiver averaged over 6 catches per game, scored twice, and never had less than 57 yards receiving. If Blackmon and Shorts were receivers on a team with a better quarterback option, I’d probably like Blackmon more. But when you have unreliable passers, you have to bank on the big play. That’s where Cecil Shorts comes in handy.
83. DeSean Jackson, WR38
Eagles are going to be further down on this list than they should be simply due to ambiguity. How will Chip Kelly’s offense translate to the NFL? Well, according to Denny Carter of The Fake Football, DeSean Jackson shouldn’t be dead to you just yet. Take a look at his article to see why DeSean Jackson is an intriguing option in 2013.
84. Jeremy Maclin, WR39
Should we be that excited about Jeremy Maclin’s potential in 2013 because Michael Vick is back? After all, you could make the argument that he did better with Nick Foles under center. In 2012, Maclin posted five double-digit fantasy performances, but also scored three or fewer points in six games. But, once again, the Eagles offense has so many question marks right now with Chip Kelly being there, making Maclin a bench guy. Both he and DeSean Jackson will shift in these rankings once we see them in action.
85. Danario Alexander, WR40
One of the more questioned players in fantasy next season will be Danario Alexander. After failing to produce – partially due to injury – in St. Louis over the first two seasons of his career, DX came out of nowhere halfway through 2012 in becoming one of the better fantasy wideout options down the stretch. He posted a goose egg in Week 15, ruining the dreams of many fantasy owners, but aside from that game, Alexander was an incredibly solid option. The reason he dropped low on this list is, again, because of his past. He has the knees of a 56 year-old man, which is not something I want in a wide receiver. He clearly has a lot of upside though.
86. Dennis Pitta, TE6
Anquan Boldin’s departure is going to help Dennis Pitta tremendously. Though Pitta’s 2012 was inconsistent, as Chad Scott points out, Pitta’s fantasy impact increased dramatically when Jim Caldwell took over the Ravens’ offensive play-calling duties. According to RotoViz.com, Pitta’s ceiling could be that of a 2009 Antonio Gates, which saw almost 80 catches for over 1,150 yards and 8 scores. Not bad for a late-round pick.
87. Daryl Richardson, RB33
As I mentioned before, I like Pead as the higher-upside choice in St. Louis next year. But as Richardson showed, he can be the guy, too. In 2012, Richardson rushed for a 4.8 yards per carry average (better than starting running back Steven Jackson’s average), en route to 475 yards on the ground. Though the sample size is small, some believe Jeff Fisher’s use of Richardson was because he favors the back out of Abilene Christian. Both he and Pead make this list until a decision is final. We should also be ready for a potential time share.
88. Kyle Rudolph, TE7
The final top-100 tight end, Rudolph broke out in 2012 with 9 scores on 53 catches. Without a middle-of-the-field threat, and with Percy Harvin out of Minnesota, Rudolph has an opportunity to take his game to the next level. Looking at RotoViz.com‘s Similarity Scores, Rudolph’s ceiling looks to be fairly low, so make your choice wisely. Don’t reach for the tight end.
89. Bryce Brown, RB34
Brown’s explosiveness came through when he subbed in for LeSean McCoy, scoring 53 standard fantasy points in his first two games as a starter. His talents fell back to Earth soon after, but fans were able to see how talented he is. Because of his good showing, we’re told that the Eagles will try more of a committee system next year, eating into LeSean McCoys workload. Brown, even though a number two back on his own team, has value next year.
90. Jacquizz Rodgers, RB35
Rodgers could’ve had more opportunity in the top-notch Falcons’ offense next year, but he really didn’t show the kind of running ability when given the opportunity in 2012. According to Rotoworld’s Nick Mensio, “Rodgers is best suited for a third-down and change-of-pace role. He’s a poor man’s Darren Sproles.” That explains why they went and signed Steven Jackson over the off-season.
91. Mark Ingram, RB36
Through his first two seasons in New Orleans, Mark Ingram has rushed 278 times for 1,076 yards and ten touchdowns. Unfortunately, the Saints just don’t use him the way fantasy owners want him to be used. While Chris Ivory should be gone, Pierre Thomas is still there, and Darren Sproles lines up in the backfield plenty as well. The platoon devalues Ingram from a fantasy standpoint, but his potential still makes him draftable in most league formats.
92. Brian Quick, WR41
Danny Amendola is out of St. Louis, and the Rams signed athletic tight end Jared Cook. Though Cook could be a bigger red zone threat than Quick, I expect the second-year wideout to become Sam Bradford’s go-to target in the Rams young offense. RotoViz.com has a fairly high ceiling for Quick, comparing him to a 2002 version of Jerry Porter. That year, Porter started just 13 games and scored 9 times.
93. Kendall Wright, WR42
During his rookie season, Kendall Wright posted just 626 yards and 4 touchdowns. A positive, however, is that he caught 64 passes on 95 targets. We should never expect a lot from rookie receivers, and though many believe third-year receivers are the ones who break out, second-year guys are actually the ones who do. I don’t think Wright is going to go for 1,000 yards and 10 scores, but a 900-yard, 6 touchdown season shouldn’t be out of the question.
94. Denarius Moore, WR43
There was a point in 2012 where everyone wanted a piece of Denarius Moore. From Weeks 2 to 10, Moore posted 6 or more fantasy points each week, including four instances of double-digit performances. His fall off over the second half of the season could be a warning sign of what’s to come in 2013, but it could also be an opportunity for fantasy owners to obtain a worthwhile receiver late in their drafts.
95. Bernard Pierce, RB37
Last season, Bernard Pierce slowly created a bigger role in the Ravens offense for himself. Being just a rookie, Pierce rushed 108 times for 532 yards in the regular season, and added another 39 carries for 202 yards on the ground in the post-season. Not only is he a solid handcuff for Ray Rice, but could serve as a nice flex option throughout the season. I expect him to see around 7 or 8 carries per contest next year, which you can’t say about a lot of backs.
96. Danny Woodhead, RB38
He’s not an every down back, but Woodhead has flex potential in the Chargers offense. Remember, Ronnie Brown caught 49 passes last season, which should be Danny Woodhead in 2013. As noted previously, Ryan Mathews doesn’t play third downs, so Woodhead’s value could come if the Chargers fall behind in games.
97. Ben Tate, RB39
He’s the obvious handcuff to Arian Foster each season, and though his 2012 was disappointing, he’s still an every-once-and-a-while flex option in fake football. Foster’s attempts are rising, and although he’s young, a healthy Tate should dig into Foster’s workload. Get Tate as an RB4 or 5 on your team, and hope Foster goes down.
98. Russell Wilson, QB9
From Week 8 on, only Cam Newton and Drew Brees were better fantasy options than Russell Wilson. The Seahawks let Wilson loose after seeing he caught on with the offense, and he instantly became effective in fantasy. The main reason I don’t have him ranked higher is because I’m unsure he can keep up his passing touchdown pace, and some of his totals were shifted by his 39-point performance against Buffalo. He should continue to be successful, but the team won’t always need his arm to win.
99. Andrew Luck, QB10
Luck threw the ball more than all but four quarterbacks in 2012, but with the change in offensive coordinators, we could see that number fall in 2013. His completion percentage is a little worrisome, but that should only get better with time. Considering the youth of the Colts offense, Luck should be a starting quarterback in fantasy for many years to come.
100. Mohamed Sanu, WR44
Prior to Mohamed Sanu’s season-ending injury in 2012, he scored four touchdowns in three games. The Bengals have an obvious hole to fill on the other side of stud wideout AJ Green, and Sanu looks to be that guy. According to Marvin Lewis, Sanu is actually ahead of where Chad Johnson was at this stage in his career. As a late-round flier, Sanu could become low-end WR2 by the end of the season.
Notables off the list: Eli Manning, Tony Romo, Ben Roethlisberger, Michael Vick, Philip Rivers, Josh Freeman, Joe Flacco, Ryan Williams, DeAngelo Williams Bernard Pierce, Knowshon Moreno, Shonn Greene, Bilal Powell, Mike Goodson, Michael Turner, Cedric Benson, Daniel Thomas, Sidney Rice, Kenny Britt, Brian Hartline, Golden Tate, Emmanuel Sanders, Chris Givens, Vincent Brown, Alshon Jeffrey, Anquan Boldin, Michael Floyd, Andre Roberts, Owen Daniels, Greg Olsen, Kyle Rudolph, Jermaine Gresham, Vernon Davis, Martellus Bennett, Antonio Gates