News & Analysis

Jeff Ratcliffe's Initial 2018 Fantasy Football Rankings

Dec 10, 2017; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell (26) hurdles Baltimore Ravens cornerback Brandon Carr (24) during the third quarter at Heinz Field. The Steelers won 39-38. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The best part about fantasy football is the season never ends. Sure, technically speaking, the 2017 NFL regular season is over. But we’re in the thick of the playoffs with the NFL scouting combine just over a month away. Then there’s free agency which spills into the draft. Minicamps and OTAs follow shortly after. Before we know it, the Fourth of July is here and we’re right back into fantasy draft mode.

In other words, it’s never too early to start prepping for next season. Let’s get the 2018 fantasy football season started with our first batch of rankings. The following list is for standard scoring. Of course, this is only the first incarnation of 2018 fantasy football rankings. With so much yet to unfold across the NFL landscape, this list will undergo many changes over the next several months. We’ll give plenty of updates along the way in addition to PPR and overall rankings.

Quarterback

Rk Player Team
1  Aaron Rodgers GB
2  Russell Wilson SEA
3  Andrew Luck IND
4  Tom Brady NE
5  Carson Wentz PHI
6  Deshaun Watson HST
7  Cam Newton CAR
8  Drew Brees NO
9  Matthew Stafford DET
10  Jared Goff LAR
11  Dak Prescott DAL
12  Ben Roethlisberger PIT
13  Jimmy Garoppolo SF
14  Kirk Cousins WAS
15  Jameis Winston TB
16  Philip Rivers LAC
17  Blake Bortles JAX
18  Derek Carr OAK
19  Alex Smith KC?
20  Matt Ryan ATL
21  Marcus Mariota TEN
22  Andy Dalton CIN
23  Ryan Tannehill MIA
24  Case Keenum MIN?
25  Patrick Mahomes KC
26  Mitchell Trubisky CHI
27  Joe Flacco BLT

Despite having his 2017 campaign derailed by injury, Aaron Rodgers again tops the list as the clear top fantasy option. He was tied for second among quarterbacks when his injury occurred in Week 6 and completed an impressive 72.7 percent of his passes. Since 2008, Rodgers has only finished outside the top-two in fantasy scoring three times, and two of those seasons were due to injury.

From there, things get a little tricky. Wilson finished the year as fantasy’s No. 1 signal-caller, but his uninspiring performance in the fantasy playoffs let many owners down. Luck has been a top fantasy quarterback in the past, but his future remains very murky after he missed the entire 2017 season. Brady will be 41 years old next season, but has managed to keep Father Time at bay and finished third among quarterbacks in fantasy scoring this season. Wentz and Watson both had their seasons cut short due to injury, but both players showed electric upside and are dark-horse candidates to lead the position in fantasy scoring next year.

After that point, we have a mini tier of Cam Newton and Drew Brees. Perhaps Newton could be ranked higher given his second-place fantasy finish in 2017, but this just shows how close things are at the top this year. Brees regressed as a fantasy option this past year, but it really wasn’t his fault. The Saints’ potent run game meant they didn’t need to lean on Brees’ arm as much as they have in the past.

Jimmy Garoppolo is going to be one of the most talked-about quarterbacks this offseason, given his impressive end to the season. In five games as a starter, Garoppolo threw for 1,542 yards and six scores. While those numbers won’t earn him a gold jacket any time soon, he had very little in terms of surrounding cast. Most importantly, he looked very comfortable as the starter. Get ready for the hype, because it’s coming. Unfortunately, that will likely mean Garoppolo will be drafted too early in August and September.

There are also a few late-round options to keep an eye on. Winston had a somewhat disappointing 2017 campaign, but he did actually lead all quarterbacks in fantasy scoring over the last five weeks of the season. He’s a potential post-hype sleeper. We’ll also need to keep an eye on what Kansas City does in the offseason. If the Chiefs decide to move on from Alex Smith, then Patrick Mahomes will be a very interesting option. Also, you’ll notice there are several teams without a ranked quarterback. This will obviously change after free agency and the draft play out.

Running back

Rk Player Team
1  Le’Veon Bell PIT
2  Todd Gurley LAR
3  David Johnson ARZ
4  Ezekiel Elliott DAL
5  Kareem Hunt KC
6  Alvin Kamara NO
7  Leonard Fournette JAX
8  Melvin Gordon LAC
9  Dalvin Cook MIN
10  Devonta Freeman ATL
11  Derrick Henry TEN
12  LeSean McCoy BUF
13  Mark Ingram NO
14  Jay Ajayi PHI
15  Jordan Howard CHI
16  Kenyan Drake MIA
17  Joe Mixon CIN
18  Christian McCaffrey CAR
19  C.J. Anderson DEN
20  Carlos Hyde SF
21  Dion Lewis NE
22  Samaje Perine WAS
23  Jamaal Williams GB
24  Tevin Coleman ATL
25  Alex Collins BLT
26  Lamar Miller HST
27  Isaiah Crowell CLV
28  Chris Thompson WAS
29  D’Onta Foreman HST
30  Duke Johnson CLV
31  Rex Burkhead NE
32  Marshawn Lynch OAK
33  Doug Martin TB
34  Tarik Cohen CHI
35  Bilal Powell NYJ
36  Kenneth Dixon BLT
37  Marlon Mack IND
38  Ameer Abdullah DET
39  Wayne Gallman NYG
40  Jonathan Stewart CAR
41  Giovani Bernard CIN
42  James White NE
43  Chris Carson SEA
44  Ty Montgomery GB
45  DeMarco Murray TEN
46  Theo Riddick DET
47  Aaron Jones GB
48  Jerick McKinnon MIN
49  Spencer Ware KC
50 Elijah McGuire NYJ

The likely consensus top-two overall picks top the list at running back. Many fantasy football pundits will have Gurley in the No. 1 spot following his impressive 2017 campaign, however Bell’s massive volume makes him one of the safest options on the board. Ultimately, it’s really splitting hairs between the two right now. Johnson (remember him?) and Elliott are also in the conversation for the No. 1 overall pick, but they’re better bets to go after the top two. But those who don’t get one of the top picks in next year’s drafts will still have an opportunity to score a premium back With Hunt, Kamara, Fournette, Gordon, and Cook each possessing the upside to lead the position in fantasy scoring if things shake out the right way.

Running back may see the most ranking fluctuations during the offseason, as there are a number of situations in flux. A few that stick out include the Colts, Seahawks, Ravens, and Lions. Adrian Peterson is on the wrong side of 30 and owed a massive $17.75 million next season. Frank Gore will enter his age-35 season next year and Marlon Mack doesn’t seem to have the profile of a lead back for Indy. Seattle hasn’t been able to get consistent production out of the backfield since Marshawn Lynch left. Alex Collins performed well for the Ravens, but the team was reportedly very high on Kenneth Dixon. Detroit seems to have soured on Ameer Abdullah and will have a new coaching regime in place.

There are also questions surrounding how teams will use specific backs next year. Tennessee has a feature back in Derrick Henry, but the team has yet to fully unleash him with DeMarco Murray still in house. Likewise, the Eagles have yet to take the reins off Jay Ajayi, but we know from his time in Miami that Ajayi is capable of handling 20-plus touches per game.

Of course, it should also be noted that this is a strong running back class in the draft. Saquon Barkley, Derrius Guice, Nick Chubb, Bryce Love and others will make an impact in 2017 fantasy leagues.

Wide receiver

Rk Player Team
1  Antonio Brown PIT
2  Odell Beckham Jr. NYG
3  DeAndre Hopkins HST
4  Julio Jones ATL
5  Michael Thomas NO
6  Keenan Allen LAC
7  A.J. Green CIN
8  Mike Evans TB
9  Davante Adams GB
10  Brandin Cooks NE
11  Tyreek Hill KC
12  Allen Robinson JAX
13  Dez Bryant DAL
14  T.Y. Hilton IND
15  Adam Thielen MIN
16  Jarvis Landry MIA
17  Doug Baldwin SEA
18  Amari Cooper OAK
19  Alshon Jeffery PHI
20  Josh Gordon CLV
21  Larry Fitzgerald ARZ
22  Stefon Diggs MIN
23  Michael Crabtree OAK
24  Demaryius Thomas DEN
25  Jordy Nelson GB
26  Julian Edelman NE
27  Golden Tate DET
28  Marvin Jones DET
29  JuJu Smith-Schuster PIT
30  Sammy Watkins LAR
31  Devin Funchess CAR
32  Josh Doctson WAS
33  Robert Woods LAR
34  Corey Davis TEN
35  DeVante Parker MIA
36  Pierre Garcon SF
37  Will Fuller HST
38  Kelvin Benjamin BUF
39  Jamison Crowder WAS
40  Cooper Kupp LAR
41  Robby Anderson NYJ
42  Emmanuel Sanders DEN
43  Sterling Shepard NYG
44  Marquise Goodwin SF
45  Chris Hogan NE
46  DeSean Jackson TB
47  Nelson Agholor PHI
48  Martavis Bryant PIT
49  Rishard Matthews TEN
50  Chris Godwin TB
51  Mike Wallace BLT
52  Marqise Lee JAX
53  Corey Coleman CLV
54  Cameron Meredith CHI
55  Mike Williams LAC
56  Mohamed Sanu ATL
57  Randall Cobb GB
58 Ted Ginn NO
59  Kenny Stills MIA
60  Zay Jones BUF
61  Kevin White CHI
62  Dede Westbrook JAX
63  Donte Moncrief IND
64  Paul Richardson SEA
65  Jeremy Maclin BLT

Again, we could easily debate the top two rankings. Beckham has been insanely consistent on a week-to-week basis in his career, but he’s coming off an injury-riddled season and has uncertainty at the quarterback position. Brown is coming off yet another massive season where he led all receivers in yards with 1,533 despite missing the last two weeks of the season. While Beckham’s upside is appealing, Brown is the much safer choice. Bold fantasy drafters may even choose DeAndre Hopkins at the No. 1 spot after the Texans receivers’ bounceback season where he led receivers in touchdowns (13) and finished as the top fantasy receiver.

As Beckham highlights, there are a number of moving parts at wide receiver over the offseason. Perhaps the biggest factor is who will be under center. T.Y. Hilton is a great example. Without Andrew Luck this season, Hilton was a boom-or-bust WR3. If Luck returns and is fully healthy in 2018 Hilton will be back in the borderline WR1 conversation.

Tight end

Rk Player Team
1  Rob Gronkowski NE
2  Travis Kelce KC
3  Zach Ertz PHI
4  Greg Olsen CAR
5  Evan Engram NYG
6  Delanie Walker TEN
7  Hunter Henry LAC
8  Kyle Rudolph MIN
9  Jordan Reed WAS
10  Tyler Eifert CIN
11  Jimmy Graham SEA
12  Jack Doyle IND
13  Charles Clay BUF
14  Eric Ebron DET
15  O.J. Howard TB
16  David Njoku CLV
17  Jared Cook OAK
18  Austin Seferian-Jenkins NYJ
19  Austin Hooper ATL
20  Adam Shaheen CHI
21  C.J. Fiedorowicz HST
22  George Kittle SF
23  Cameron Brate TB
24  Jason Witten DAL
25  Coby Fleener NO
26  Tyler Higbee LAR
27  Jesse James PIT
28  Marcedes Lewis JAX
29  Stephen Anderson HST
30  Jake Butt DEN

Tight end was extremely volatile in 2017 with a number of injuries affecting the position and little consistency from week to week. Gronkowski, Kelce, and Ertz possess massive ceiling/floor combinations and remain atop the position. Engram and Henry both displayed major upside in 2017, and could join the elite tier if things shake out the right way.

There are some late-round options who look to have breakout potential. Howard and Njoku showed a lot of promise in their respective rookie seasons. But to be viable fantasy options, Howard will need to cement his place ahead of Cameron Brate in the pecking order and Njoku will need stability at the quarterback position.

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