Eric Karabell Football: NFL

videoIf you think it's tough when your fantasy team loses several players at one position in a given weekend, try being a real team suffering the same fate. I'm guessing it's a bit more problematic. Fantasy owners, however, can generally find intriguing free agents unless it's a really deep league. The NFL is indeed a really deep league. Several players on the waiver wire in most ESPN standard formats moved up quite a bit in the end-of-season rankings this week, either because of opportunity, performance or simply attrition. Perhaps you should check 'em out! Anyway, here are the rankings. As usual, the individual and staff rankings for what should be an awesome Week 8 will be posted Wednesday. Enjoy!

Sometimes the top fantasy football teams are the ones that simply avoid the major injuries and get to use the players they hoped would produce. For many teams, however, shredded knees continue to play a significant role in adjusting and determining fantasy football value, as two potential top-20 running backs and a wide receiver who not too long ago was a top-10 option have unfortunately been removed from consideration just in the past day or two. With a few clicks you can scour the waiver wire and replace these players, but remember, it's far worse for them. With that, we move on to the end-of-season rankings through six interesting weeks, with again some new names -- even unproven ones -- rising because of attrition. It has been a theme this season. The Week 7 staff/individual rankings will be posted Wednesday, and flex rankings Thursday. Enjoy your week!

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Week 6 flex rankings 

October, 9, 2014
Oct 9
Marshawn LynchPatrick Smith/Getty ImagesAfter a big game on Monday night, Marshawn Lynch has a nice matchup against the Cowboys.
Welcome to Week 6 and the flex rankings, as we combine the best of the running backs, wide receivers and tight ends into one tidy top-100 list -- with a few extra names, by the way! -- to aid those of you facing difficult decisions. It's worth noting, whenever you're reading this list, that news will change later in the week, up to and including Sunday morning, so please make sure the players you intend to activate are indeed active. On Wednesday afternoon, a certain Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver was carted off the practice field and as of Thursday morning, I left him active and ranked as a starter, though not as well as I previously had, but there will be updates on him and other players. So keep up with the news!

As always, best of luck to all in Week 6 and beyond!

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Reggie Wayne and T.Y. HiltonAP Photo/Michael ConroyReggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton have practically similar stats, save for Wayne's one TD reception.
It's interesting how people tend to view the four featured wide receivers for this Thursday's hopefully competitive AFC South tilt between the Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans. After all, we've seen nothing but blowouts so far in the first NFL game of the week, which not only hurts from a viewing standpoint, but often affects fantasy in a suboptimal way. (See what colleague Tristan H. Cockcroft has to say about the fantasy impact of the Thursday games.) A team gets way up early and stops throwing. The trailing team stops running. Defenses deliver skewed fantasy results. It's hard to predict, but at least this seems like it should be a good game between contending division rivals. Predicting what wide receivers Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton, DeAndre Hopkins and Andre Johnson will do, however, is a different story.

Two of those fellows are considerably older than the others, realistic Hall of Famers, while the other two also aren't seen as clear top-20 wide receivers. When ranking the foursome for Week 6, I felt better about the Colts' options, mainly because I trust their quarterback quite a lot more -- Andrew Luck enters the week as fantasy's top overall option -- and the Colts are the second-toughest defense to accrue fantasy points against, next to the San Diego Chargers. Yes, schedule has quite a bit to do about projecting. Is Luck more likely to succeed in a short week than bearded wonder Ryan Fitzpatrick? I look at the larger picture, really. Just because Tampa Bay was blown out on a Thursday doesn't mean the Texans will be, too.

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Calvin Johnson Joe Sargent/Getty ImagesCalvin Johnson's recent injury woes may cost him a couple of games, dropping his season rank.
It's safe to say that this season, the top of the rankings has seen more movement and variance from recent years, with injuries and surprising performances throwing fantasy owners for a loop. This week, the top wide receiver is the one moving down in the rankings, but temptation is resisted at tight end. And for how much longer can the top running back keep this up? These are relevant questions to ponder in the end-of-season rankings, as each Tuesday we focus solely on value from this point forward. The Week 6 rankings will be posted Wednesday. Enjoy!

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Week 5 flex rankings 

October, 2, 2014
Oct 2

Marshawn LynchOtto Greule Jr/Getty ImagesMarshawn Lynch is back from bye and ready to produce big numbers on Monday night.
The flex rankings have their collective depth back after a wicked bye week that stole six teams. This week it's merely the Miami Dolphins and Oakland Raiders, not exactly bastions of glorious fantasy talent.

I'm often asked, "Which running back should I play at flex?" My answer generally focuses on "running back." Why is it necessarily from that position? This week, half of the top 20 overall flex options are not running backs. Play your best options, and don't worry about your Week 6 flex option yet. Worry about this week! And really, one shouldn't worry at all. Just make the best decisions you can, don't dwell on them and try to have fun!

Best of luck to all in Week 5 and beyond!

1. DeMarco Murray, RB, Cowboys: It takes some getting used to, but this is the best player in fantasy right now. I know, I know, a few quarterbacks have more fantasy points, but you wouldn't draft Andrew Luck first overall. It's a running back. It's Murray. It's all legit.

2. Le'Veon Bell, RB, Steelers: The Jaguars don't stop the run, usually. Bell is a lot better than what the Jaguars faced in San Diego last week.

3. Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seahawks: All rested from his bye week and ready to resume big numbers. I wonder, wouldn't players prefer bye weeks in November, when they're tired? Doesn't affect how we draft or overall value, though.

4. Giovani Bernard, RB, Bengals

5. Matt Forte, RB, Bears

6. Rashad Jennings, RB, Giants: Might seem a tad generous, but the Falcons really don't stop the run. The Giants should exploit it.

7. Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs: Looked awesome in embarrassing the Patriots on Monday. Just please stay healthy.

8. Antonio Brown, WR, Steelers

9. Jordy Nelson, WR, Packers

10. Julio Jones, WR, Falcons

11. LeSean McCoy, RB, Eagles: You might think the disappointing 1-point fantasy games will continue, but they won't. That said, don't assume he's a top-five flex option moving ahead either. The Eagles have things to adjust. They should fix this.

12. Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions: Terrific talent, but not at 100 percent health. Keep investing.

13. Eddie Lacy, RB, Packers: Forte looked really good in their Week 4 matchup, while Lacy didn't have as much fun, although he did score a touchdown.

14. Demaryius Thomas, WR, Broncos

15. Dez Bryant, WR, Cowboys

16. A.J. Green, WR, Bengals: It should be noted that the Patriots weren't gashed so much by Kansas City wide receivers. But Green will find a way.

17. Jimmy Graham, TE, Saints

18. Julius Thomas, TE, Broncos

19. Alfred Morris, RB, Redskins: Not the best matchup at all against Seattle, but he's a reliable option.

20. Steve Smith, WR, Ravens: No, he is not too old. Not even close, apparently.

[+] EnlargeArian Foster, Charles Woodson, Carlos Rogers, Houston Texans, Oakland Raiders
Ben Margot/Associated PressArian Foster appears to be in better health this week.
21. Arian Foster, RB, Texans: Word is he's healthy, so running away seems unwise. But I'd move him for another top-10 running back, if I was able.

22. Zac Stacy, RB, Rams: The Eagles certainly can be run on with linebacker Mychal Kendricks out.

23. Brandon Marshall, WR, Bears: If the injury scares you, then look elsewhere. But he can still put up numbers.

24. Alshon Jeffery, WR, Bears

25. Frank Gore, RB, 49ers

26. Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Broncos

27. Randall Cobb, WR, Packers

28. Andre Ellington, RB, Cardinals: Will be interesting to see how he's used at Denver. It's about time he gets into the end zone.

29. Victor Cruz, WR, Giants: He's getting into the end zone against the Falcons.

30. Michael Floyd, WR, Cardinals

31. Montee Ball, RB, Broncos

32. Matt Asiata, RB, Vikings: We've spent so much time discussing what appears to be a limited skill set that the volume of usage was lost. The Vikings love him.

33. Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Panthers

34. Jeremy Maclin, WR, Eagles

35. Chris Ivory, RB, Jets: It's pretty clear he's tops on the depth chart. He's a decent play in Week 5, but remember the injury history for later.

36. Andre Johnson, WR, Texans: I'm surprised how quickly people have jumped off his bandwagon. He caught 109 passes last season with lesser quarterbacks.

37. Keenan Allen, WR, Chargers

38. Doug Martin, RB, Buccaneers

39. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Texans

40. Reggie Bush, RB, Lions: Has fewer fantasy points over four games than the two fill-in Browns rookie running backs have in three games. Yet we keep using Bush. I'm reconsidering my decision to some degree, but we know he has game.

[+] EnlargeVincent Jackson
AP Photo/Gene PuskarMaybe Vincent Jackson's game-winning TD will get him more looks going forward.
41. Vincent Jackson, WR, Buccaneers: Similar story. Not producing but should be.

42. Pierre Garcon, WR, Redskins

43. Steven Jackson, RB, Falcons: Can't get too much more consistent (and average). I suppose there's something to be said about that. He doesn't have any 1-point fantasy games.

44. Marques Colston, WR, Saints

45. Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots: You know, he's not getting open as much as he used to. That's a factor in this gigantic mess. Wonder if Tom Brady will ever say that to the media.

46. Percy Harvin, WR, Seahawks

47. Reggie Wayne, WR, Colts

48. Martellus Bennett, TE, Bears

49. Fred Jackson, RB, Bills: He leads the team in receptions. With 19. Thus, the quarterback change. While we can laugh about Kyle Orton all we want, this should help Jackson and the next guy.

50. C.J. Spiller, RB, Bills

51. Ben Tate, RB, Browns: Blogged about him Wednesday, saying he should get most of the backfield touches. Until the next injury.

52. Julian Edelman, WR, Patriots: Don't forget about this guy. He has posted three games of 81 or more yards. Most people just remember the most recent game, when nothing went right.

53. Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, Colts

54. Roddy White, WR, Falcons

55. Bishop Sankey, RB, Titans: Speculative ranking that the Titans finally start giving him more touches. They have to, right?

56. Wes Welker, WR, Broncos

57. Michael Crabtree, WR, 49ers

58. Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Vikings: Criminally underused so far, but there's still time to fix this. Fast.

59. Khiry Robinson, RB, Saints: Looks like he had an awesome Week 4, but most of the yards came on one carry. It just doesn't look like he'll be a star.

60. Brian Quick, WR, Rams: Underrated and probably forgotten coming off the bye week.

61. Jeremy Hill, RB, Bengals: Two Chiefs running backs had big games against the Patriots. Two Bengals ones can as well.

62. Golden Tate, WR, Lions

[+] EnlargeJustin Forsett
Patrick Semansky/AP PhotoJustin Forsett appears to be the safest option of the Ravens running backs.
63. Justin Forsett, RB, Ravens: Catches passes, thus in a week when nobody knows which Ravens running back will get the most touches, he's the safest.

64. DeSean Jackson, WR, Redskins: Good luck against Richard Sherman, fella!

65. Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals

66. Terrance Williams, WR, Cowboys

67. Darrin Reaves, RB, Panthers: Last man standing in the backfield, maybe. It is possible Jonathan Stewart will suit up.

68. Brandin Cooks, WR, Saints

69. T.Y. Hilton, WR, Colts

70. Pierre Thomas, RB, Saints: I'm surprised by the reaction to his usage. Yes, he barely played in Week 4. In Week 3 he scored a touchdown. Why does everyone assume he's out of the picture? He's not remotely out of the picture.

71. Anquan Boldin, WR, 49ers

72. Stevan Ridley, RB, Patriots: He could be out of the picture soon, however. I'd be surprised if rookie James White doesn't get involved soon.

73. Jerick McKinnon, RB, Vikings: Oh, he's in the picture. So why is he ranked poorly? The Vikings had a big lead last week. They love Asiata. I half-expect McKinnon to get eight touches this week.

74. Greg Jennings, WR, Vikings

75. Shonn Greene, RB, Titans

76. Sammy Watkins, WR, Bills

77. Trent Richardson, RB, Colts

78. Greg Olsen, TE, Panthers

79. Kendall Wright, WR, Titans: This is a team that really could use some better quarterback play. Wright has 10 fantasy points in three weeks, but he's so much better than this.

80. Markus Wheaton, WR, Steelers

81. Chris Johnson, RB, Jets

82. Larry Donnell, TE, Giants: Off to a terrific start. And it looks legit.

83. Darren Sproles, RB, Eagles: Man, the narrative on him changed quickly. Don't drop him, though.

[+] EnlargeEric Decker
Al Pereira/New York Jets/Getty ImagesEric Decker has been dealing with injuries but does have a couple touchdowns.
84. Eric Decker, WR, Jets: He's actually scored twice in four games. It hasn't been so bad.

85. Torrey Smith, WR, Ravens: He finally scored, but it's been bad.

86. Eddie Royal, WR, Chargers: Unstoppable! And overrated.

87. Delanie Walker, TE, Titans

88. Shane Vereen, RB, Patriots: It's not the week to expect big things from him.

89. Knile Davis, RB, Chiefs: If you told me Jamaal Charles was out for the season -- he's not! -- then I'd move Davis into the top 10.

90. Allen Hurns, WR, Jaguars

91. Donald Brown, RB, Chargers: Still think he's good? They can't get Ryan Mathews back quickly enough.

92. Bernard Pierce, RB, Ravens: He's not going to be shut out from touches this week.

93. Riley Cooper, WR, Eagles

94. Dwayne Bowe, WR, Chiefs

95. Rueben Randle, WR, Giants

96. Joique Bell, RB, Lions

97. Toby Gerhart, RB, Jaguars

98. Denard Robinson, RB, Jaguars

99. Vernon Davis, TE, 49ers

100. John Brown, WR, Cardinals

Others: Andrew Hawkins, WR, Browns; Jordan Cameron, TE, Browns; LeGarrette Blount, RB, Steelers; Malcom Floyd, WR, Chargers; Terrance West, RB, Browns; Miles Austin, WR, Browns; Andre Williams, RB, Giants; Lorenzo Taliaferro, RB, Ravens; Allen Robinson, WR, Jaguars; Alfred Blue, RB, Texans; Isaiah Crowell, RB, Browns; Jordan Matthews, WR, Eagles; Carlos Hyde, RB, 49ers

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2014 ranks update: Brady, Brees tumble 

September, 30, 2014
Sep 30

BradyDilip Vishwanat/Getty ImagesTom Brady probably belongs on fantasy benches, as he falls to No. 19 in the overall QB rankings.
With one month down and three more to go we have ample evidence at a few positions that changes are warranted at the very top. It doesn't mean that the players leaving the top spots at their respective positions are done helping us, but if they're not providing the significant numbers fantasy owners covet, it's tough to be considered No. 1. How far did we go in the latest version of the end-of-season rankings, as we focus solely on value for the rest of the schedule? Well, read on and see -- and remember, as always, these are not the Week 5 rankings. Those will be posted Wednesday.

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Week 4 flex rankings 

September, 25, 2014
Sep 25

DeMarco Murray, Derrick MorganDon McPeak/USA TODAY SportsDeMarco Murray has opened the season with three straight games of 100 yards and a TD.
The flex rankings look a tad different this Week 4 because so many players are on their bye week, so before you complain that we missed Marshawn Lynch, Michael Floyd and Julius Thomas, remember that the Seattle Seahawks, Denver Broncos, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Arizona Cardinals and St. Louis Rams are on bye this week. Now, back to your regularly scheduled complaining! As always, we do our best with the standard flex rankings but urge you to use all the wonderful material available at ESPN Fantasy -- from blogs and articles to rankings, video and podcasts -- as a guide to your decision-making, not the ultimate answer. And try to have fun!

Best of luck to all in Week 4 and beyond!

1. DeMarco Murray, RB, Cowboys: Can't really argue with the numbers, as only one flex option has more season fantasy points (Seattle's Lynch) and he's on a bye.

2. Le'Veon Bell, RB, Steelers: Impressive performance in embarrassing the Panthers at their place. And he gets the Bucs this week.

3. LeSean McCoy, RB, Eagles: Perhaps a tad too generous, but the running backs who follow have question marks, too.

4. Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions: Jets certainly look like they can be thrown on.

5. Matt Forte, RB, Bears: He's lit up the Packers before. Buy low on this guy.

6. Julio Jones, WR, Falcons

7. Dez Bryant, WR, Cowboys

8. Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs: Sounds like he came close to playing in Week 3, so I'll assume he's ready to put up numbers with a national audience watching.

9. Antonio Brown, WR, Steelers

10. Alfred Morris, RB, Redskins

11. Jordy Nelson, WR, Packers

12. Eddie Lacy, RB, Packers: Another buy-low option. He's too talented to be this average, and last season he thrived versus Chicago.

13. Rashad Jennings, RB, Giants: Seems a bit premature to get this ranking, but there really aren't enough options. And clearly he's not sharing with anyone else.

14. Jimmy Graham, TE, Saints

15. Brandon Marshall, WR, Bears: Really needs the bye week, but it's not coming for a while. Still, the three-touchdown game was proof you can't sit him.

16. Julian Edelman, WR, Patriots: Boy, he and Tom Brady could use some help on the outside.

17. Arian Foster, RB, Texans: No lock to play, so make sure his backup is owned. His backup shows up later. It's a bad sign that Foster can't even get through September unscathed.

18. Alshon Jeffery, WR, Bears

19. Pierre Garcon, WR, Redskins

20. Lamar Miller, RB, Dolphins: Just when you feel like you can trust him … finish that sentence. Be consistent with this opportunity, fella!

21. Andre Johnson, WR, Texans: Kind of a big game for his fantasy value. He's been quiet.

22. Randall Cobb, WR, Packers

23. Jeremy Maclin, WR, Eagles: His owners are really enjoying this. This week will be a test.

24. C.J. Spiller, RB, Bills

25. Fred Jackson, RB, Bills

[+] EnlargeSteve Smith
Maddie Meyer/Getty ImagesSteve Smith has started his Ravens' career with a bang and seems very motivated to face his old Panthers mates this week.
26. Steve Smith, WR, Ravens: He circled this game when the Panthers let him walk. But how much better can Smith really play?

27. Antonio Gates, TE, Chargers: Two words: Jacksonville Jaguars. There's a reason I made Philip Rivers my top QB for the week.

28. Donald Brown, RB, Chargers: He'll definitely get work, but he needs to do a bit more with the touches.

29. Keenan Allen, WR, Chargers: One more week, then you can worry. But you won't have to.

30. Michael Crabtree, WR, 49ers

31. Frank Gore, RB, 49ers

32. Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots

33. Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, Colts: Looks healthy so far, and productive.

34. Darren Sproles, RB, Eagles: We told you not every week was going to be a party for him statistically. You'll just never know in advance.

35. Victor Cruz, WR, Giants

36. Pierre Thomas, RB, Saints

37. Khiry Robinson, RB, Saints

38. Marques Colston, WR, Saints: If he doesn't have a big game against the Cowboys, then I'll stop recommending him.

39. Roddy White, WR, Falcons: Should play this week, and should play well.

40. Mike Wallace, WR, Dolphins: Gets to show another country how great he is this week.

41. Greg Olsen, TE, Panthers

42. Vincent Jackson, WR, Buccaneers: You probably don't care that he puts up numbers every season. And he will this season.

43. Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Vikings: Big sleeper isn't off to great start but again, three weeks and a quarterback change buys him more time.

44. Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Panthers: He doesn't need more time. He's really good now.

45. Stevan Ridley, RB, Patriots: Yes, I think he's the running back to own from this team. Man, the other guy was kind of overrated, no?

46. Martellus Bennett, TE, Bears: Clearly a key cog in the offense. Feel free to trade for him confidently.

47. DeSean Jackson, WR, Redskins: That might have been his best game of the season. Yeah, sorry, I'm not really a fan.

48. Reggie Wayne, WR, Colts

49. Kendall Wright, WR, Titans

50. Chris Ivory, RB, Jets: He really looks good and he probably deserves more touches.

51. Brandin Cooks, WR, Saints

52. Terrance Williams, WR, Cowboys

53. Matt Asiata, RB, Vikings: He gets plenty of touches but he really doesn't deserve more.

54. Doug Martin, RB, Buccaneers: Good luck with this guy. But the Bucs like him and if he's healthy, they clearly intend to use him. Perhaps I shouldn't be so dismissive. He has ability. The team is just a mess.

55. Golden Tate, WR, Lions

[+] EnlargeCecil Shorts
AP Photo/John RaouxCecil Shorts may be in a better position to shine now that he's healthy and has Blake Bortles at QB.
56. Cecil Shorts III, WR, Jaguars: I bet the Jaguars, with rookie Blake Bortles at quarterback, start scoring enough points to matter for fantasy starting this week.

57. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Texans

58. Steven Jackson, RB, Falcons

59. Reggie Bush, RB, Lions

60. Shane Vereen, RB, Patriots

61. Vernon Davis, TE, 49ers: Make sure he plays before you play him, and it's not one of the early games. Ladarius Green and Levine Toilolo are also in late games and likely available if you need protection.

62. Greg Jennings, WR, Vikings

63. Shonn Greene, RB, Titans: One of these weeks he'll get passed on the depth chart, but not yet.

64. Chris Johnson, RB, Jets: He appears to have been passed.

65. Trent Richardson, RB, Colts: He really needs to be passed.

66. Anquan Boldin, WR, 49ers

67. Joique Bell, RB, Lions

68. Delanie Walker, TE, Titans

69. Sammy Watkins, WR, Bills

70. T.Y. Hilton, WR, Colts

71. Darren McFadden, RB, Raiders: Not getting much attention from fantasy owners, but he hasn't looked so bad since getting opportunity. And Miami has struggled against the run.

72. Mike Evans, WR, Buccaneers

73. Bernard Pierce, RB, Ravens: I think if he's healthy he's the main guy. Teams are loyal.

74. Lorenzo Taliaferro, RB, Ravens: But he'll probably do better than Pierce.

75. Markus Wheaton, WR, Steelers

[+] EnlargeBobby Rainey
Jeff Haynes/AP Images for PaniniBobby Rainey has gone from underrated handcuff to potentially overrated time-share guy.
76. Bobby Rainey, RB, Buccaneers: Went from underrated, productive and beloved to largely overrated real fast last Thursday night.

77. Toby Gerhart, RB, Jaguars: I still think there's upside here if you can be patient.

78. Jordan Matthews, WR, Eagles

79. Eric Decker, WR, Jets

80. James Jones, WR, Raiders

81. DeAngelo Williams, RB, Panthers: Not too many running backs left for this team. But you really shouldn't be using him anyway.

82. Torrey Smith, WR, Ravens: Wow, who saw this happening? Averaging two receptions per game.

83. Bishop Sankey, RB, Titans

84. Rueben Randle, WR, Giants

85. Justin Hunter, WR, Titans

86. Eddie Royal, WR, Chargers: If you think he's really good, look up what happened with his statistics last year.

87. Malcom Floyd, WR, Chargers

88. Zach Ertz, TE, Eagles

89. Niles Paul, TE, Redskins

90. Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Raiders

91. Knile Davis, RB, Chiefs: Moves into top-10 running back territory if Charles is deemed inactive. No, really.

92. Alfred Blue, RB, Texans: Wouldn't make my top 10, but top 20. Looks like a solid player.

93. Riley Cooper, WR, Eagles

94. Branden Oliver, RB, Chargers

95. Dwayne Bowe, WR, Chiefs

96. LeGarrette Blount, RB, Steelers

97. Jeremy Kerley, WR, Jets

98. Allen Robinson, WR, Jaguars: The Jacksonville rookie WR you want.

99. Allen Hurns, WR, Jaguars

100. Jason Witten, TE, Cowboys: Finished as the No. 5 tight end last season, and he doesn't look done to me. He's going to get better.

Others: Carlos Hyde, RB, 49ers; James Starks, RB, Packers; Justin Forsett, RB, Ravens; Hakeem Nicks, WR, Colts; Roy Helu, RB, Redskins; Denard Robinson, RB, Jaguars; Charles Clay, TE, Dolphins; Darrin Reaves, RB, Panthers; Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Falcons; Andre Williams, RB, Giants; Daniel Thomas, RB, Dolphins

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2014 ranks update: Buy-low players 

September, 23, 2014
Sep 23

We've now had three weeks to overanalyze our fantasy football options and that generally means more trades and add/drops than usual. Personally, I don't trade just to say I made a trade, but I've indeed looked to move players I view as sell-high options and acquire others than aren't off to such great starts. Hopefully the end-of-season rankings you see below can help in all respects. Remember, these are not the Week 4 rankings, as the staff/individual results will be posted Wednesday.

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Week 3 ranks reactions: Believe in Brady? 

September, 17, 2014
Sep 17

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

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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There 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

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

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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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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