Four Downs: Big day for NFC East QBs 

September, 21, 2014
Sep 21
9:43
PM ET
Nick Foles, Kirk CousinsGetty Images, AP PhotoNick Foles and Kirk Cousins combined for 752 passing yards and six touchdowns Sunday.
NFC East quarterbacks put on quite the statistical show Sunday afternoon, with an exciting shootout that wasn't decided until the final minutes in Philadelphia, a massive comeback by the Dallas Cowboys, and the two-time Super Bowl champion quarterback who leads the New York Giants looking considerably better than he had in a while. On a day when several big-name quarterbacks either in the draft-day top 10 or close to it disappointed, perhaps it's time to rethink how this division's signal-callers changed their fantasy value.

Let's start with Nick Foles and Kirk Cousins, who provided two of the signature performances of the day. Foles leads a balanced Philadelphia Eagles attack, but for the second time in three weeks, backup Mark Sanchez was throwing on the sideline, ready to play, as Foles received punishment from opposing defenders and appeared too injured to continue. Alas, he continued, and now has produced three consecutive and significant comebacks, eclipsing 300 passing yards each time. Foles was historic and terrific last season -- only two interceptions -- and so far he has certainly been successful, but with the Eagles losing offensive linemen left and right, and Foles being thrown around like a rag doll, it begs the question of whether he'll be able to last all 16 games. The Eagles' defense looks awful, leading to early deficits.

Week 3 flex rankings 

September, 18, 2014
Sep 18
12:34
PM ET

Well, this has been another fun week so far, eh? Injuries and suspensions and, oh my, all that depth you once had after the draft is suddenly not so special anymore. And here's some more good news: Bye weeks start in Week 4! So that's right, the decisions might become easier because you'll have fewer options at your disposal, but ultimately the bye weeks make roster decisions less satisfying, especially in the flex position, because there aren't enough strong options. Regardless, welcome to Week 3 as we combine the top running backs, wide receivers and tight ends and try to make sense of things. That might be the toughest part.

Best of luck to all in Week 3 and beyond!

1. LeSean McCoy, RB, Eagles: Some believe the emergence of his backup is hurting McCoy's value, but he's actually seeing more touches per game than he was last year. It's early. You certainly can't trust the other top-three running backs from draft day right now!

2. DeMarco Murray, RB, Cowboys: Surprise! Hey, nobody said he wasn't good at football. He's really good. We just worried about health and some foolishly believed this franchise's dreadful defense would mean no running game. Silly people!

3. Arian Foster, RB, Texans: So far, so good, but he's also seeing a ton of touches, so look for that to be kept in check in the coming weeks.

[+] EnlargeMarshawn Lynch
Otto Greule Jr/Getty ImagesMarshawn Lynch hopes to put up big numbers against a Broncos defense that allowed 133 yards rushing to the Chiefs in Week 2.
4. Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seahawks: Don’t fret about the measly six rushing attempts in Week 2. The back problem doesn't appear to be a big deal.

5. Giovani Bernard, RB, Bengals: Yep, this is a list for standard formats. He's pretty good in PPR, too.

6. Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions: Still dominant after all these years.

7. Matt Forte, RB, Bears: Slow start, but a good time to trade for him.

8. Eddie Lacy, RB, Packers: Also a slow start and a good time to acquire. Remember, last year Lacy did little the first two weeks, and he ended up fine.

9. Alfred Morris, RB, Redskins: Doesn't matter to him who's playing quarterback.

10. Jordy Nelson, WR, Packers: People are whining I haven't ranked him well enough. He's 10th!

11. Brandon Marshall, WR, Bears: Too many people missed out on his three-touchdown game, but blame the Bears, not analysts. It was risky because it was a night game.

12. C.J. Spiller, RB, Bills: Nobody said he couldn't thrive on returns. We're just worried it gets him hurt.

13. Dez Bryant, WR, Cowboys

14. Zac Stacy, RB, Rams

15. Le'Veon Bell, RB, Steelers

16. Antonio Brown, WR, Steelers: Picking up where he left off last season. Who covers him is largely irrelevant.

17. Julio Jones, WR, Falcons

18. Jimmy Graham, TE, Saints

19. Montee Ball, RB, Broncos: Has 40 touches in two weeks. No worries here. Not a great matchup this week, but you can't sit him.

20. Demaryius Thomas, WR, Broncos

21. Knile Davis, RB, Chiefs: This obviously presumes Jamaal Charles can't suit up, which seemed a given a few days ago, but apparently isn't. Just make sure, because if Charles plays, you won't play Davis.

22. Andre Ellington, RB, Cardinals: Has a new backup running back thanks to Jonathan Dwyer getting deactivated by the team, but it doesn't really matter to Ellington.

23. Julian Edelman, WR, Patriots: I think another 100-reception season is pending.

24. Randall Cobb, WR, Packers

25. Stevan Ridley, RB, Patriots: I think a 1,000-yard season is pending.

[+] EnlargeDarren Sproles
AP Photo/Michael PerezDarren Sproles' 37 standard fantasy points are the most he's ever scored in consecutive games in his career.
26. Darren Sproles, RB, Eagles: Love the guy, but it's not a bad time to float his name out there in trade talks. He can't keep things up to this level.

27. Andre Johnson, WR, Texans

28. Alshon Jeffery, WR, Bears

29. Rashad Jennings, RB, Giants: Will he be the lone bright spot on this offense? I think there's upside.

30. Vincent Jackson, WR, Buccaneers: Don't give up on this talented guy. Big games coming.

31. Frank Gore, RB, 49ers

32. Roddy White, WR, Falcons

33. Julius Thomas, TE, Broncos

34. Jeremy Maclin, WR, Eagles: Still healthy and on pace for big enough numbers.

35. Chris Johnson, RB, Jets

36. Joique Bell, RB, Lions: Neither Lions running back did much last week. That should change.

37. Mike Wallace, WR, Dolphins: There's little question this guy has game. Dolphins are enjoying this.

38. Pierre Garcon, WR, Redskins

39. Pierre Thomas, RB, Saints

40. Marques Colston, WR, Saints: I'm surprised how people are giving up on him. Saints are headed home. It will get a lot better.

41. Reggie Wayne, WR, Colts

42. Keenan Allen, WR, Chargers

43. Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Vikings

44. Reggie Bush, RB, Lions

45. Percy Harvin, WR, Seahawks: One target in Week 2. One. I still think people are overrating him some.

46. Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Broncos

47. Lamar Miller, RB, Dolphins: No Knowshon Moreno for a while, but something tells me Miller won't really emerge as special.

48. Sammy Watkins, WR, Bills: The key for trusting rookies in fantasy is if they're consistent. It's still possible with Watkins.

49. Golden Tate, WR, Lions

50. Bernard Pierce, RB, Ravens: His many carries and yards in Week 2 changed his narrative quickly.

51. Doug Martin, RB, Buccaneers: He needs a game like Pierce had in Week 2. I'm skeptical.

[+] EnlargeBradshaw
AP Photo/AJ MastAhmad Bradshaw not only has 10 catches already, but has more yards receiving (96) than rushing (85) thus far.
52. Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, Colts: OK, I trust he can keep playing well more than I do his colleague, you know, the one the Colts traded a first-round pick for.

53. Eric Decker, WR, Jets

54. Michael Floyd, WR, Cardinals

55. Khiry Robinson, RB, Saints: Mark Ingram is out a month and Robinson should get the touches. I think he's a must-own in this offense.

56. Greg Olsen, TE, Panthers

57. Michael Crabtree, WR, 49ers

58. Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots

59. Wes Welker, WR, Broncos: Welcome back! Now go face the Seahawks.

60. Shane Vereen, RB, Patriots: Way too much preseason love for him.

61. Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals

62. Kendall Wright, WR, Titans

63. Fred Jackson, RB, Bills

64. DeSean Jackson, WR, Redskins: Couldn't have more motivation for this game. But the Eagles will be prepared for him.

65. Matt Asiata, RB, Vikings: Well, it's his job now. I don't own Adrian Peterson in any leagues but man, what a drag, eh? Asiata isn't going to replace his numbers.

66. Chris Ivory, RB, Jets

67. Steve Smith, WR, Ravens

68. Brandin Cooks, WR, Saints

69. Victor Cruz, WR, Giants: I dropped my laptop while typing his analysis.

70. Steven Jackson, RB, Falcons: His owners want to cut him, but he's not struggling. He's just not getting a ton of touches. Be patient.

71. Bobby Rainey, RB, Buccaneers: I like him better than Martin, but not sure the Bucs agree.

72. Anquan Boldin, WR, 49ers

73. Trent Richardson, RB, Colts

74. Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Panthers

75. Donald Brown, RB, Chargers: Ryan Mathews is out a while and Brown should get 15 touches, at least.

76. Toby Gerhart, RB, Jaguars: Hasn't shown much so far, but the Jaguars can't be this bad every game.

77. Terrance West, RB, Browns

78. Torrey Smith, WR, Ravens

79. Danny Woodhead, RB, Chargers

80. Darren McFadden, RB, Raiders: Yes, he's still in the league. And he's the highest-ranking Raider, though I thought about putting Mark van Eeghen in.

81. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Texans

82. T.Y. Hilton, WR, Colts

83. Terrance Williams, WR, Cowboys

84. Shonn Greene, RB, Titans: OK, so he will not get the football when the Titans trail. We get it.

[+] EnlargeJeremy Hill
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesJeremy Hill's touches may fluctuate each week, but he's shown he can be productive.
85. Jeremy Hill, RB, Bengals: Can't be assured the Bengals will have a big lead every week, but what if Hill splits the touches in close games? Bernard owners won't be pleased.

86. Dennis Pitta, TE, Ravens

87. Justin Hunter, WR, Titans: Everything you thought about him being a sleeper can still come true, so try to be patient.

88. Dwayne Bowe, WR, Chiefs

89. Greg Jennings, WR, Vikings

90. Zach Ertz, TE, Eagles

91. DeAngelo Williams, RB, Panthers: Might not play again this week, but if you're relying on him, wow.

92. James Jones, WR, Raiders

93. Andrew Hawkins, WR, Browns: Still think the Browns’ offense is a joke?

94. Mohamed Sanu, WR, Bengals: I did not rank A.J. Green because I think he will not play, but if he does, he'd be among my top-10 wide receivers. Just so you know.

95. Antonio Gates, TE, Chargers

96. Martellus Bennett, TE, Bears

97. Brian Quick, WR, Rams

98. Riley Cooper, WR, Eagles

99. Vernon Davis, TE, 49ers

100. Justin Forsett, RB, Ravens

Others: Bishop Sankey, RB, Titans; Markus Wheaton, WR, Steelers; Jonathan Stewart, RB, Panthers; Stepfan Taylor, RB, Cardinals; Isaiah Crowell, RB, Browns; Jerick McKinnon, RB, Vikings; Miles Austin, WR, Browns; Rueben Randle, WR, Giants; Mike Evans, WR, Buccaneers; Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Raiders; Carlos Hyde, RB, 49ers; LeGarrette Blount, RB, Steelers.

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Week 3 ranks reactions: Believe in Brady? 

September, 17, 2014
Sep 17
4:09
PM ET

Tom BradyAP Photo/Lynne SladkyTom Brady has two single-digit fantasy performances to open the season.
The Tom Brady fans/apologists swore that the New England Patriots quarterback was far from done after a disappointing 2013 season, that all he needed was better pass protection and his full corps of weapons at his disposal. I'm neither a fan nor apologist, just objective analyst, and I agreed that Brady was a tad underrated in drafts. The skills remain. Patriots management felt so confident about the offensive line that Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins was shipped off to Tampa Bay for a reserve tight end Brady has targeted four times so far, while starting tight end Rob Gronkowski has certainly been at Brady's disposal for roughly half the snaps and leads the team in targets so far. No excuses, right?

Well, Brady has delivered a pair of uninspiring nine-point fantasy efforts the first two weeks, and there's no need to rehash the metrics, for he's played every bit as poorly as it appears. For perspective, 100 players/defenses have more points so far, including 28 quarterbacks. Derek Anderson and Kirk Cousins achieved 18 points in one game each. It's pretty clear that this Sunday, Brady's performance at home against the lowly Oakland Raiders will be a significant turning point for his value. Rock Oakland's world for 25 fantasy points and Brady looks reliable again, trustworthy, capable of supplying top-10 numbers. Disappoint with another single-digit effort and, well, many are going to wonder whether he's even worth owning anymore.


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2014 rankings update: Peterson situation 

September, 17, 2014
Sep 17
1:39
PM ET

Adrian PetersonJeff Curry/USA TODAY SportsIt is still unknown when or if Adrian Peterson will play again this season.
The obvious risk in cutting Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson in a fantasy league at this point is that he does suit up and play again this season, and based on the ridiculousness I've seen in the past few weeks, with constant altering of decisions based on reacting to external reactions, I say it's 50-50 he does play again. Fantasy owners need to separate their views on off-field situations -- real-life things that really matter -- and think about value and potential playing time and upside. On Monday, I was pretty skeptical that Peterson would play in Week 3. When I awoke Wednesday, that decision was seemingly clarified. Would it surprise me if Peterson plays in a month? Not one bit.

So it is that Tuesday's end-of-season rankings get the rare Wednesday update because Peterson's situation is so critical in every fantasy league, it warrants attention. Again, don't confuse matters. Separate all the legal and moral issues and focus on one thing: Will this person play again this season? Will it be soon? We know he's a special player on the field. I originally dropped Peterson from No. 3 overall to No. 13 for the Tuesday blog entry, a weekly staple, because I was concerned he would miss more time than the Vikings -- or the NFL, I suppose -- was originally letting on. These are hot button issues and everyone seems to have an opinion now, and as we've seen those external opinions drove the change in decision. There's a court hearing in early October and you bet this situation could change again by then.

Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles was originally a top-three overall pick just like Peterson, and brings similar upside. And he has a high ankle sprain. My feeling is that Charles misses roughly a month of playing time, so I dropped him in the rankings to barely RB2 status. I was going to do this with Peterson. I'm not remotely comparing the reasons they are missing games, but to the point at hand for a fantasy column, I could see each playing in a month. However, I do think the situation with Peterson is more dire, and public perception and demand will force him to miss more time, perhaps all of it. I dropped Peterson to No. 40 for running backs. I suppose this is similar for ranking purposes to what's going on with Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon. He should be playing in the second half of the season and he's an obvious difference-maker. For now I'm hedging on Peterson because as we've seen, no decision is really final, and this player could play at any point.

I did rank Peterson better than his teammates Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon, though, again not by much. I don't think Asiata is a great option and he's shown this, really. Sure, he caught a touchdown pass and if the Vikings get a goal-line run, he's the man, but his yards per carry show he's not special. McKinnon could be but at this time -- and I doubt anything changed for him this week -- the Vikings appear willing to go nearly exclusively with Asiata as the running back, mixing in McKinnon and awesome wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson as well. I don't think Patterson becomes the main running back. I agree with most people that McKinnon has far more upside than Asiata should one of them get 20 touches per game, but there's little evidence that's pending. So add Asiata for this week, but he didn't approach my top-20 running backs. Good luck with your teams and more important with your lives.

Here are all of this week's end-of-season rankings, including the rest of the positions and their analysis from Tuesday.


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Backfield breakdown entering Week 3 

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16
4:12
PM ET

New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram enters Week 3 fourth at his position in standard scoring with 34 points and alone at the top of the NFL with three rushing touchdowns, yet he won't be adding to those totals for a month after breaking a hand Sunday.

All injuries are a shame and we saw more impactful ones than this in recent days, but for the former Heisman Trophy winner and first-round pick, the first three seasons of his NFL career weren't exactly filled with stardom and he was finally showing major promise. I would have assuredly sold high, for both durability and performance-based reasons -- hey, let's be realistic -- and while the latter hasn't shown up yet, the former clearly has. Still, even with bench space at a premium, try to keep Ingram owned in standard formats.


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videoThere was limited movement in the end-of-season rankings after Week 1, because little had changed. It was, after all, only one game. There weren't many major performances or injuries, but of course, that was anything but the case in Week 2. As a result of the many injuries, you'll see some of the top names from draft day slipped in the rankings, because while all players are risks to some degree, when you know a player is hurting, it has to change perceptions and value. We'll discuss the risers and fallers by position, but let this be a reminder that average draft position is meaningless at this point, even if you drafted a week ago. You've already acquired the players, but now it's about winning games.


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Four Downs: Injuries dominate Week 2 

September, 14, 2014
Sep 14
10:54
PM ET

Robert Griffin III, A.J. Green, Jamaal Charles Getty Images, AP PhotosRobert Griffin III, A.J. Green, Jamaal Charles were among the big names injured Sunday.
The unfortunate NFL stories leading up to Sunday's game were basically about anything but the action on the field -- Adrian Peterson, Ray Rice, Greg Hardy -- so it wasn't surprising the theme of Sunday afternoon was again barely about the players regaling us with gaudy statistics. This time, it's about important injuries. The most valuable fantasy option to leave early was surely Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green, bolting with a toe injury and a big, costly zero for fantasy owners. Miami Dolphins running back Knowshon Moreno, one of the surprise stars of Week 1, and suddenly trusted for a road tilt in Buffalo, suffered a dislocated elbow after one rushing attempt for 4 measly yards. And then there is the Washington football team, or what's left of it.


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Week 2 flex rankings 

September, 11, 2014
Sep 11
11:39
AM ET

It's amazing how one week of games can alter so many opinions. Your second-rounder from August might not be among your top options for a flex position this week because of injury or a tough Week 1. Perhaps he's not even on your roster anymore! But for the players who are still upstanding or just standing members of your fantasy rosters, the Thursday flex rankings are here to help. You should know the drill by now: We combine the top running backs, wide receivers and tight ends to form a top-100 list, though it remains one man's opinion and it's recommended that you make your own decisions.

Best of luck to all in Week 2 and beyond!


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NFC East teams affect Week 2 rankings 

September, 10, 2014
Sep 10
4:06
PM ET

How bad is most of the NFC East and what does it mean for fantasy football owners? Well, it certainly wasn't pretty for the Washington Redskins, Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants in Week 1, as they looked just terrible on both sides of the ball in losing their openers. It's one game, so nobody should go dropping valuable players, but unless these division foes are facing each other, is it a big deal for us? The Week 2 staff rankings seem to show the concern we have about the three seemingly awful teams, none of which is facing each other this weekend.


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Backfield breakdown entering Week 2 

September, 9, 2014
Sep 9
2:04
PM ET

Ravens/BengalsMitch Stringer/USA TODAY SportsBernard Pierce failed to take advantage of his opportunity in Week 1 against the Bengals.

While injuries could potentially leave a few starting running backs unable to play in Week 2 (Ben Tate, Doug Martin), clearly one of the situations to watch will be Thursday night, when the Baltimore Ravens meet the rival Pittsburgh Steelers. I predicted last week that journeyman Justin Forsett would see plenty of opportunities with the Ravens the first two weeks because Bernard Pierce struggled to stay on the field in 2013, and when he was out there, he rarely did something positive. And now, obviously, the entire situation moving forward for this organization has radically changed.


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2014 ranks update: Don't overreact 

September, 9, 2014
Sep 9
1:28
PM ET

Welcome to the first installment of the 2014 end-of-season rankings! This has been one of our Tuesday staples in this space the past few seasons as these looking-ahead rankings tend to generate much discussion, which is definitely a good thing. Agree, disagree, whatever the case -- the goal here is to rank the players at each position as if you were drafting today and aiming to evaluate and quantify value for the rest of the season. This helps with potential trades, free-agent pickups and long-term decision-making if you need to make room on the bench for a new player. Plus, it's entertainment. Don't forget that part of the game, too.

We go position-by-position in this space, and as always, it's still one man's opinion, but as you've seen at ESPN Fantasy, we have many opinions! Also, don't confuse these with the Week 2 rankings because they're totally separate. The individual and staff rankings for the pending week are produced each Wednesday. Note that the "previous" ranks by position below are actually the preseason staff version, which certainly differed from my own, but that's OK. The point is, don't presume that a player has dropped from his previous rank because of something that occurred in Week 1 or any perceived slight; it's just how I viewed the player weeks ago. From here on out, the "previous" column will be from the prior end-of-season rankings!


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Four Downs: Knowshon steals the show 

September, 7, 2014
Sep 7
10:30
PM ET
MorenoSteve Mitchell/USA TODAY SportsKnowshon Moreno, a top-5 back in 2013, is being selected at No. 34 among RBs in ESPN live drafts.
Ask most fantasy football owners what they thought of running back Knowshon Moreno entering this season, and chances are they would spend more time discussing the team Moreno played for the past season and his unfortunate departure than breaking down his place on his new team. But Moreno, the former, one-year Denver Broncos star embroiled in a summer-long playing time battle with Lamar Miller for touches in the Miami Dolphins' backfield, opened the season Sunday with a terrific performance against the New England Patriots, and in doing so, he earned definite appreciation from the few owners who activated him. Moreno, barely sought after this summer by NFL organizations and coming off knee surgery, was active in only 18.5 percent of ESPN standard leagues. That's less than 34 other running backs.

Moreno wasn't Miami's starter, but he sure was the finisher, as he accumulated 19 standard fantasy points on 134 rushing yards and a late touchdown and shredded the Patriots' defense between the tackles, which is something Miller isn't great at. Oddly enough, Moreno did not catch a pass (that was a strength of his last season), but he did earn 24 of the team's 38 rushing attempts, with Miller receiving 11. The past season, with the security of playing with Peyton Manning and with defenses seeming to pay little attention to him, Moreno reached 20 standard fantasy points four times, but only once did he actually reach triple digits in rushing yards (that was against the Patriots as well).

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Week 1 flex rankings 

September, 4, 2014
Sep 4
11:17
AM ET

Let's start flexing! Welcome to the 2014 version of the flex rankings, and yes, they look pretty much like the ones from past seasons. As always, we combine the top running backs, wide receivers and tight ends into one tidy package, with numerous decent leftovers since there are few injuries and no bye weeks as of yet. Sure, the top-100 list below is simply one man's opinion, and we urge you to make your own decisions, not rely solely on this list, but we aim to inform and entertain. Will you use a running back or wide receiver in your flex spot? It doesn't matter which position it is. It could be a tight end (in fact, I can't recall so many tight ends in my top 100 before, so it might be). Use your best option!

Best of luck to all in Week 1, and we'll be with you for the duration of the season in this very spot and on this very day.


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Welcome to Wednesday, also known in the ESPN Fantasy department as rankings day! For the next four months of Wednesdays, this is where you'll find the staff rankings leading up to the pending weekend, which starts on Thursday night and continues through most of Sunday and then Monday night. I'll be blogging on Wednesdays with my reaction to my rankings and perhaps the staff rankings, looking for themes I, and perhaps you as well, find interesting. Here is the link to the Week 1 rankings and yes, on Thursdays in this space the top-100 flex rankings will be revealed. Starting next week, I'll be producing end-of-season rankings, as well. So, here we go!


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Separating tight ends into tiers 

August, 29, 2014
Aug 29
10:49
AM ET

As we finish up "tier week" in the KaraBlog and realize there will be no more quiet NFL weekends until February -- and this is a good thing -- it's worth pointing out that the tight end position is just a little bit different. In ESPN standard leagues, it's probably not necessary to draft a second tight end, so that's 10 or 12 teams, one tight end each, and some pretty good ones available in free agency. We can tier the position, but it kind of comes down to whether you want to spend a first-rounder on the best tight end, select one of the reliable ones in the middle rounds, or wait until the end.

So let's break it down, and remember that these are my rankings and mine alone; the results will and should differ from my colleagues and those of the dear readers -- make your own rankings and tiers! -- and while this is a game we play for various reasons and all want to win, it still remains about the fun. Enjoy yourselves and have a great weekend!


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