Week 2 flex rankings 

September, 11, 2014
Sep 11

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!

NFC East teams affect Week 2 rankings 

September, 10, 2014
Sep 10

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

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

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
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

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

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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Separating wide receivers into tiers 

August, 28, 2014
Aug 28

The wide receiver position is seriously deep this season, which isn't really a surprise but more a continuation from past years. However, because running back is shallow in comparison, you might find those who make their living catching the football slide in drafts. Hey, that's fine with me. After all, while I'm not assuming the flex position on all my teams will routinely be filled by a wide receiver, it's kind of irrelevant. Go with the best guy from week to week.

As we continue with "tier week" in this blog space, you'll likely find larger concentrations of wide receivers clumped together, for it's easier to find similarities at this position, or rather not much separates them. At running back, you just feel in your gut this guy is better than that. Often there are statistics to prove it from the past, one situation trumps another, but at wide receiver, that's not always the case.

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Separating running backs into tiers 

August, 27, 2014
Aug 27
Kansas City ChiefsScott Boehm/AP ImagesAdept at rushing and receiving, Jamaal Charles is the paragon of running back fantasy value.
Running backs are no longer the lifeblood for fantasy football owners, but that doesn't mean you should be ignoring them, either. My first round is made up entirely of running backs, but there are certainly different levels of excitement in securing members of that crew. We call them tiers, and as noted in Tuesday's quarterback listings, a tiered system aids those participating in drafts and auctions to better gauge the depth at a certain position, and helping to analyze when an owner needs to act or when patience is warranted.

Let's get right to the rankings and remember these are mine and mine alone, considerably different from the staff lists and those of my compatriots.

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Separating quarterbacks into tiers 

August, 26, 2014
Aug 26

One of the reasons I tend to clump positions together in my rankings is because I use a tiered system to evaluate potential fantasy helpers. In other words, if several players offer similar value, they often become entangled in a tier and it's easier to figure out in the hustle and bustle of a draft or auction if there's a need to choose the last option from a certain tier, or simply wait for the next one to begin.

For example, you'll see below I view three quarterbacks as a top tier, and I rank them consecutively, but after that I see a considerable drop-off to another trio of passers. Do you react when a tier is nearing the end and potentially overpay, or exercise patience for the next one? And sometimes the drop from one tier to the next is extreme, out of the ordinary. These are draft-day dilemmas many of us deal with.

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Wes Welker, D.J. Swearinger, Jeff TarpinianAP Photo/Jack DempseyWes Welker suffered yet another concussion Saturday after this hit from D.J. Swearinger.
It's difficult to say for sure if Denver Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker will be available for Week 1 of the regular season after he suffered yet another concussion during the team's game with the Houston Texans on Saturday. However, fantasy owners dismissing the two concussions Welker suffered during the 2013 season -- and the three missed contests during our playoff time because of them -- got another reminder that there's danger lurking here. I admit my original ranking of Welker among the top 20 wide receivers didn't show enough caution, but now reality has struck again and we all must be concerned. Welker swiftly slides out of my top 20 wide receivers and his teammate Emmanuel Sanders gets a boost to the point I'd simply choose him first, though not quite in the same spot.

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Team-by-team running back outlook 

August, 21, 2014
Aug 21

In a general sense, I find the popular fantasy football strategy of handcuffing running backs to be largely overrated. Sure, several key running backs will get injured this season, and someone's going to replace them on their NFL teams, in theory, but seldom do we see a future star lurking who provides immediate fantasy, um, gratification. The more popular handcuffs heading into last season were Ben Tate, Andre Brown, Giovani Bernard and Bernard Pierce, and Bernard was the only one who really helped fantasy owners a great deal.

Looking at the accompanying chart, it's clear there are some very different situations. In fact, the days of natural handcuffing, as it were, are somewhat in the rearview mirror. Last season, only two players topped the 300-carry mark. In 2010, seven running backs achieved this. The Arizona Cardinals and Cincinnati Bengals have two smallish starters who can catch passes and some bigger folks to handle the goal-line stuff. Teams such as the Buffalo Bills, Detroit Lions and Miami Dolphins already have several fantasy-relevant running backs who figure to share the touches.

In the past, I've ranked the top handcuffing situations, but it's tough to find 10 that really matter -- the term doesn't fit several teams, and, let's face it, I'd prefer to go team by team with relevant thoughts. I can't imagine that's a problem!

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Manning-CharlesGetty ImagesYou can own Peyton Manning and Jamaal Charles in an auction league, but it will cost you a lot.
Fantasy football auctions can be a blast, but they can also overwhelm newcomers who aren't quite prepared for the quick pace or the constant adjustments needed during the process. Even now, after dozens of auctions to stock fantasy teams over the years in several sports, I still make the occasional mistake of either vastly overpaying for a player "I just gotta have" or letting another go too cheap because I didn't realize I actually had the funds to afford him or just added up the funds wrong. It happens to all of us.

Experience and proper planning are critical to constructing consistently strong auction teams -- and it is worth it! -- but ultimately just like a job interview, the more experienced one is, the better off you'll likely be. How does one gain this experience? Well, whether you're a seasoned veteran in the art of auction drafts or a newbie, we're here to help! Really, auction or draft day should be a fun experience, the signature day of the fantasy season for most, so making it worthwhile is paramount.

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Weekend wrap: Hakeem Nicks gains value 

August, 18, 2014
Aug 18

Hakeem NicksBrian Spurlock/USA TODAY SportsFour of Hakeem Nicks' five catches against his former team were for first downs.
Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Hakeem Nicks doesn't seem like the most well-liked fantasy option for this season, as he is appearing outside the top 40 at his position in ESPN ADP, and it's easy to understand why. For one, Nicks really burned fantasy owners who made him a top-10 wide receiver two seasons ago, and those who invested last year were rewarded with nary a touchdown catch. That's right, he was the only one of the top 75 wide receivers in ESPN standard scoring who didn't score, though he ended up 32nd in receiving yards and really wasn't so bad. Plus, he managed to participate in 15 games, tying a career best. It doesn’t necessarily prove he's durable, but hey, 15 games work for us!

Nicks was the story in Saturday's 27-26 loss to the New York Giants -- the Giants scored all their points in the meaningless fourth quarter -- with five receptions for 53 yards. It should have been a greater performance, but his silly taunting penalty erased a long gain. Nicks and quarterback Andrew Luck were certainly clicking, and while the receiver admitted that proving a point to his old team was a motivating factor, fantasy owners should be paying attention for potential value. After all, when I see the Colts offense, I see a unit that doesn't figure to boast a strong running game -- I'm not believing in Trent Richardson -- and while Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton figure to start, neither is a lock for stardom. All three wide receivers should matter.

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