Fantasy Fox: Top 100 playmakers for 2014 season, Vol. III

The Fantasy Fox presents his 3.0 version of the Top 100 Fantasy Playmakers For 2014 -- a countdown that once again doesn't include kickers or defense/special teams ... for the simple reason that no kicker or defense should be a consideration in the first 10 rounds of a standard-scoring, 12-team draft.

QB Cam Newton (far left -- 30 TDs last year), tight end Rob Gronkowski (second from right -- 12 TDs in his last 13 games) and tailbacks Montee Ball (second from left -- heir apparent in Denver) and Matt Forte (far right -- 1,933 total yards) are all top-15 preseason picks at their respective positions.

Bob Donnan/Ron Chenoy/Greg M. Cooper/Brace Hemmelgarn / USA TODAY Sports

Here's our 3.0 version of the Top 100 Fantasy Playmakers For 2014 -- a countdown that once again excludes kickers and defense/special teams ... for the simple reason that no kicker or defense should be a consideration in the first 10 rounds of a 12-team, standard-scoring draft.


1. RB Jamaal Charles, Chiefs
2. RB LeSean McCoy, Eagles
3. RB Adrian Peterson, Vikings
4. RB Matt Forte, Bears
5. QB Peyton Manning, Broncos
6. RB Eddie Lacy, Packers
7. WR Calvin Johnson, Lions
8. TE Jimmy Graham, Saints
9. WR Demaryius Thomas, Broncos
10. QB Drew Brees, Saints
11. RB Doug Martin, Buccaneers
12. RB Le'Veon Bell, Steelers
13. QB Aaron Rodgers, Packers
14. RB Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks
15. RB C.J. Spiller, Bills
16. WR A.J. Green, Bengals
17. RB Zac Stacy, Rams
18. WR Brandon Marshall, Bears
19. RB Alfred Morris, Redskins
20. WR Dez Bryant, Cowboys
21. RB Arian Foster, Texans
22. WR Antonio Brown, Steelers
23. RB Chris Johnson, Jets
24. WR Alshon Jeffery, Bears
25. RB Reggie Bush, Lions


1. It's crazy to expect Jamaal Charles (1,980 total yards) to replicate last year's 19 touchdowns, considering he had only 24 scores from 2008-12. But he's still a viable candidate for double-digit TDs ... and maybe 2,000 yards from scrimmage.

2. The odds of Peyton Manning matching or eclipsing last season's tallies with passing yards (5,477) and TD passes (55) are astronomically long, factoring in the Broncos' difficult schedule (Patriots, Jets, Colts, Bengals, six outings against the AFC West and four against the NFC West -- the NFL's toughest division).

That aside, Peyton's still no worse than the No. 7 overall pick -- even if your league awards only four points per touchdown pass.

3. Eddie Lacy (1,435 total yards, 11 TDs) logged 17 or more touches 11 times last season -- a superb number for a rookie back in a pass-first offense. Year 2 could yield a bump in touchdowns.

4. Matt Forte (1,933 total yards) is easily the biggest "risk" of the top-5 assets, since University of Arizona tailback Ka'Deem Carey (2,058 total yards, 20 TDs for 2013) could potentially cut into the fantasy star's overall touches in 2014.

Of course, of his last seven games -- including a 157-yard, three-TD explosion against the Packers in Week 17 -- Forte (363 touches last year) racked up 100-plus total yards six times.

5. It's weird how Lacy stands as a consensus top-7 choice in standard-scoring and PPR drafts ... and yet, Le'Veon Bell (1,259 total yards, eight TDs in 13 games as a rookie) gets universally acknowledged as a Round 2 selection.

Of his final 11 outings, Bell notched 98 total yards and/or one TD nine times.

6.  Marshawn Lynch has averaged 1,592 total yards and 13 TDs over the last three seasons, with yearly tallies of 329 touches. Eventually, that kind of absurd workload catches up to backs in their late 20s.

One prime example: Heading into his age-28 season (2007), the Chiefs' Larry Johnson had just completed back-to-back campaigns of 2,000 total yards and 40 total touchdowns. After that, he would never accrue more than 800 total yards or five TDs in a season.

Plus, Seattle backups Christine Michael and Robert Turbin are seemingly poised for substantial carries, and that transition may stealthily take shape this year.

7. Injury risk Arian Foster (725 total yards, two TDs) is a reluctant pick at 21st overall; but heading into his age-28 season, the Texans dynamo has one major stat in his favor:

Against Grade-A defenses like the Seahawks, 49ers and Rams last year (three straight weeks) -- before going down with a substantial back injury -- Foster notched 487 total yards and one TD.

8. Alshon Jeffery (89 catches, 1,421 yards, seven TDs) stands as the highest-ranking WR2 in the countdown.

His 2013 highlights include: Two 200-yard games, 11 outings of eight-plus targets (five in double digits) ... and he's a decent bet for 80-90 rushing yards per year.


26. RB DeMarco Murray, Cowboys
27. QB Matthew Stafford, Lions
28. WR Julio Jones, Falcons
29. RB Rashad Jennings, Giants
30. RB Montee Ball, Broncos
31. WR Jordy Nelson, Packers
32. RB Ryan Mathews, Chargers
33. WR Randall Cobb, Packers
34. WR Wes Welker, Broncos
35. QB Robert Griffin III, Redskins
36. RB Giovani Bernard, Bengals
37. WR Keenan Allen, Chargers
38. QB Cam Newton, Panthers
39. WR Vincent Jackson, Buccaneers
40. QB Andy Dalton, Bengals
41. WR Pierre Garcon, Redskins
42. WR T.Y. Hilton, Colts
43. RB Frank Gore, 49ers
44. TE Rob Gronkowski, Patriots
45. TE Julius Thomas, Broncos
46. WR Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals
47. QB Tom Brady, Patriots
48. QB Matt Ryan, Falcons
49. QB Andrew Luck, Colts
50. WR Andre Johnson, Texans


Montee Ball (704 total yards, four TDs on just 140 touches last year) has a clear path to fantasy goodness with the Broncos -- in the neighborhood of 1,200-plus total yards.

But let's hold off on deifying him as a shoo-in for double-digit touchdowns -- like Knowshon Moreno from last year.

2. On paper, the Panthers' wideout corps of Kelvin Benjamin (Round 1 draft pick), Jason Avant, Jerricho Cotchery, Tavarres King and Tiquan Underwood looks skittish. But in respect to the fantasy prowess of QB Cam Newton (3,964 total yards, 30 TDs last season) ... does that really matter?

After all, Newton still has Greg Olsen at tight end, and last year's receivers (including Steve Smith -- 64 catches, 745 yards, four TDs) were OK, at best.

My sole reasoning for downgrading Newton outside the top 25? Given his offseason ankle surgery, he's likely not a good bet to match or eclipse his three-year average of rushing TDs (9.3).

3. It should be a crime to steal Andy Dalton (4,293 yards passing, 35 total TDs) in Round 11.

Of his first 11 games last year, the Bengals QB accounted for 290 total yards and/or multiple touchdowns nine times. And of his final four regular-season outings, Dalton averaged 287 yards passing and 3.3 TDs.

It's the preseason, granted. But against the Jets last week, Dalton earned a perfect QB rating of 158.3 -- completing 8 of 8 passes for one TD.

In case you forgot: Last season, Dalton enjoyed top-8 numbers for passing attempts, completions, passing yards, passing TDs and total touchdowns.

4. The oft-injured Rob Gronkowski has only played in 18 of 32 regular-season games over the last two seasons. That's a lot of time missed for a potential Round 3 pick in 12-team leagues.

Yes, Gronkowski has tallied 12 touchdowns in his last 13 games ... but he's also not a lock for 14, 15 or even 16 games this season.

We love him this year -- as a Round 5 selection.


51. WR Cordarrelle Patterson, Vikings
52. TE Jordan Cameron, Browns
53. RB Bishop Sankey, Titans
54. RB Knowshon Moreno, Dolphins
55. RB Andre Ellington, Cardinals
56. WR Michael Crabtree, 49ers
57. QB Philip Rivers, Chargers
58. RB Stevan Ridley, Patriots
59. WR Eric Decker, Jets
60. RB Ben Tate, Browns
61. RB Ray Rice, Ravens
62. WR DeSean Jackson, Redskins
63. WR Victor Cruz, Giants
64. WR Torrey Smith, Ravens
65. QB Colin Kaepernick, 49ers
66. WR Mike Wallace, Dolphins
67. WR Percy Harvin, Seahawks
68. RB Steven Jackson, Falcons
69. RB Toby Gerhart, Jaguars
70. WR Marques Colston, Saints
71. TE Vernon Davis, 49ers
72. RB Shane Vereen, Patriots
73. QB Jay Cutler, Bears
74. WR Kendall Wright, Titans
75. QB Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers


1. Ben Tate's quality ranking stems from the Browns presumably going without Josh Gordon (NFL's leading receiver last year) for the entire season. They need someone to fill the interminable time gap between Cleveland's first game ... and Johnny Manziel's first pro start.

It also helps that memories of Tate's 102-yard, three-TD demolition of the Patriots (last December) remains fresh in the mind.

2. Titans tailback Bishop Sankey draws the highest ranking of any rookie playmaker -- the dual result of his immense talent (LeSean McCoy clone) ... and Tennessee needing a full-time, home-run back to replace the departed Chris Johnson (now with the Jets).

3. Speaking of the Titans ... wide receiver Kendall Wright (94 catches, 1,079 yards, two TDs) is an easy Round 5 pick for PPR leagues. But Wright (93 targets in his final 10 outings) will have to sing for his proverbial supper in standard-scoring leagues (Rounds 7-8).

4. Last season, Bears quarterbacks Jay Cutler (2,621 yards passing, 19 TDs in 11 starts) and Josh McCown combined for 4,450 yards passing and 32 TDs.

So, there's a chance that both Cutler and McCown (now the starter in Tampa Bay) are being undervalued for this countdown.

5. Let's take the positive from Steven Jackson's injury-plagued first year with the Falcons (734 total yards, seven TDs): In his final six games, Jackson logged 16 or more touches in each outing ... and collected six total touchdowns in that span.

6. We'll be shocked if Mike Wallace (73 catches, 930 yards, five TDs last year) doesn't rebound for 85 catches and/or 1,000 yards with the Dolphins. He posted seven outings of double- digit targets ... and scored four times in the final six games.

7 I would reluctantly take Ray Rice (981 total yards, four TDs last year) in Round 6 in standard-scoring and PPR drafts -- preferably as a RB4.

On the field, Rice (suspended for Weeks 1 and 2) has earned the right to escape criticism from one bad season. Off the field, he'll undoubtedly walk a straight-and-narrow path, given that high-profile transgression with his then-girlfriend/now-wife in Vegas.

Of course, any Rice owner should feel obligated to handcuff Bernard Pierce in the following round ... and that's where things get dicey for me.

Here's a good news/bad news proposition: Of his two games of 20-plus touches last year, Pierce scored one touchdown each time. However, he averaged only 64 total yards per outing.

Also, Pierce isn't a lock for mass touches during the Rice suspension, with rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro lurking in the shadows. Over the weekend, the Coastal Carolina product racked up 69 total yards and one TD.


76. RB Joique Bell, Lions
77. WR Michael Floyd, Cardinals
78. TE Jordan Reed, Redskins
79. WR Julian Edelman, Patriots
80. WR Roddy White, Falcons
81. RB Trent Richardson, Colts
82. WR Anquan Boldin, 49ers
83. QB Nick Foles, Eagles
84. WR Jeremy Maclin, Eagles
85. TE Jason Witten, Cowboys
86. QB Russell Wilson, Seahawks
87. RB Darren McFadden, Raiders
88. WR Riley Cooper, Eagles
89. QB Joe Flacco, Ravens
90. RB Darren Sproles, Eagles
91. WR Reggie Wayne, Colts
92. QB Tony Romo, Cowboys
93. RB Danny Woodhead, Chargers
94. WR Dwayne Bowe, Raiders
95. WR Justin Hunter, Titans
96. RB LeGarrette Blount, Steelers
97. WR Brandin Cooks, Saints
98. QB Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins
99. QB Alex Smith, Chiefs
100. RB Maurice Jones-Drew, Raiders


1. Let's have some perspective on Russell Wilson: Of his 16 regular-season games last year, the Seahawks QB and Super Bowl champion tallied just zero or one touchdown eight times.

2. At 6-foot-4, 200 pounds, the supremely athletic Justin Hunter (18 catches, 354 yards as a rookie) won't encounter many physical clones when running patterns -- especially with Kendall Wright (94 catches, 1,079 yards last year), versatile back Dexter McCluster and rookie rusher Bishop Sankey commanding the lion's share of defensive attention.

Hunter should also be a dynamic red-zone force -- easily eclipsing his four TDs from last year.

Check out this disparity: From Weeks 10-14, spanning five games, Hunter tallied two 100-yard efforts, two TDs and three outings of six-plus targets. That's a substantial upgrade from Weeks 3 -9 ... when Hunter didn't collect four or more targets in a game.

Jay Clemons, the 2008 Fantasy Football Writer of the Year (Fantasy Sports Writers Assoication), can be reached via Twitter, day or night, at @FOX_JayClemons.

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