Fantasy football 2013 draft preview: Explaining changes to Top 300
The SI.com Top 300 has been regularly updated throughout the preseason, but we haven't outlined those changes, but here, we do. An emphasis is placed on the most recent news as the final meaningless preseason games play out, and owners prepare for weekend drafts or Week 1 starting lineups.
1. QB Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins -- He hasn't even needed to play a preseason snap to give fantasy owners confidence in picking him at his modest draft position. No one is surprised at the reports he will be a Week 1 starter, so don't forget he was a top-five fantasy scorer when he was at his peak in his rookie year.
Subsequent decliner: Kirk Cousins remains a potential last-round flier for those that draft RG3. Cousins would give RG3 owners an immediate insurance policy in the event the Redskins made a game-time decision to sit RG3. Don't laugh. It could happen more than once this year, perhaps even in Week 1.
2. RB Daryl Richardson, St. Louis Rams (risen from 97 to 94) -- Here comes a big, fat we told you so from early May magazine mock drafts: Zac Stacy was a fifth-round pick for a reason. <!-- http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/fantasy/news/20130508/fantasy-football-early-mock-drafts-adp/ → The Rams decided to declare Richardson their starter and that includes when Isaiah Pead comes off his Week 1 suspension. Richardson has 1,000-yard potential, even if he won't be a threat for 10 touchdowns as Stacy sucks those up. Richardson is one of the few NFL starting backs that will be on the board after the top 30 fantasy running backs are picked in drafts.
Subsequent decliner: Stacy and Pead are mere late-round fliers or Richardson handcuffs now. The Rams will still use a rotation of their backs with Stacy doing the grunt work and Pead as the third-down option, but Richardson will get the bulk of the carries and have the 1,000-yard potential for fantasy owners.
3. QB E.J. Manuel, Buffalo Bills (risen from 222 to 202) -- It wasn't going to take much for the first-round pick to prove to be the Bills' best option at quarterback right away, particularly when you consider the Bills' rebuilding program and the little competition they had brought in for him. Manuel, though, got off to an impressive two-game start in the preseason before going down with a minor knee injury. The Bills say undrafted free agent rookie Jeff Tuel would be the starter if the season started today, but the fact is it doesn't. Manuel can still get himself cleared for Week 1 against the Pats.
Subsequent decliner: With the quality and depth of the quarterback position, the low-end likes of Ryan Tannehill, Brandon Weeden, Christian Ponder, Jake Locker, Geno Smith, Blaine Gabbert and Terrelle Pryor are less draftable because Manuel just has a higher 2013 ceiling. Kevin Kolb, Tuel and recently signed Matt Leinart are all players to ignore in fantasy, despite the seemingly open opportunity.
Honorable mentions (in addition to those gaining because of the decliners below): RB Bilal Powell, NYJ; WR Riley Cooper, PHI; WR Jason Avant, PHI; TE Jordan Cameron, CLE; TE Zach Sudfeld, NE; WR Michael Floyd, ARI; WR Jon Baldwin, SF; RB Joique Bell, DET; WR Golden Tate, SEA; WR Doug Baldwin, SEA; WR Ben Obomanu, NYJ; WR Kenny Stills, NO; WR Marlon Brown, BAL; TE Anthony Fasano, KC; K Caleb Surgis, MIA; K Dustin Hopkins, BUF; TE Dallas Clark, BAL; RB Brandon Jackson, CLE; RB Chris Ogbonnya, CLE; QB Terrelle Pryor, OAK; WR Preston Parker, NO; WR Nick Toon, NO; and WR Steve Breaston, NO.
1. RB Jonathan Stewart, Carolina Panthers -- (declines from 83 to 164) He just couldn't get his ankle right and now he is starting the season on the PUP list, which rules him out for the first six games at least. At that point, he can only begin to practice with the team, so it might be a couple more weeks after that. Stewart went from a potential fantasy starter to a mere late-round flier now.
Subsequent gainer: DeAngelo Williams is a 30-year-old breakdown candidate at running back, but he will at least get the bulk of the duty while Stewart is down. There was a time Williams was one of fantasy's MVPs. You can get decent return relative to draft position here once again.
2. RB Ronnie Hillman, Denver Broncos -- John Fox and Peyton Manning don't take kindly to backs that give the ball away and Hillman fumbled for two defensive touchdowns this preseason. It sure puts him behind the eight ball in the still-open Broncos starting running back derby. <!—link to http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/fantasy/news/20130826/fantasy-football-running-back-battles-2013/index.html --> Hillman is a mere handcuff pick now that it is apparent he won't win the feature-back role outright.
Subsequent gainer: The Broncos drafted Montee Ball for a reason. They weren't sure of Hillman's ability to carry the load, or Knowshon Moreno's health. Ball should have taken the starting job this preseason and run with it, but he at least has more traction now that Hillman is fumbling it away. Consider Ball the only rookie worth drafting as a fantasy starter right now. <!-- http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/fantasy/news/20130827/fantasy-football-rookies-update/index.html → Moreno is a more viable late-round pick now, too. Heck, he still could still the job, having proven healthy in camp.
3. RB Le'Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers (declined from 65 to 98) -- Steelers fans hopeful for a renewed running back can step back off the ledge. Bell appears to have dodged the dreaded Lisfranc fracture with his mid-foot sprain and has already shed his walking boot. Media reports have him missing six games, but Bell might be able to beat those pessimistic estimations. As it, Bell can no longer be picked as a fantasy starter he was being picked before the injury. He might just be a late-round flier like Stewart now.
Subsequent gainer(s): Everyone is sour on Jonathan Dwyer for what he did, or failed to do, a year ago, but how can they like Isaac Redman any better? Redman is just as sketchy. Heck, recently-acquired Felix Jones might even have a chance to emerge as a starting option for the Steelers in a few weeks. Consider Dwyer, Redman and then Jones -- in that order -- as late-round fliers. They will merely keep the spot lukewarm until Bell is ready.
Dishonorable mentions (in addition to those declining because of the gainers above): WR Jordy Nelson, GB; RB Chris Ivory, NYJ; RB Mikel LeShoure, DET; WR Santonio Holmes, NYJ; TE Tony Moeaki, KC; WR A.J. Jenkins, KC; QB Matt Flynn, OAK; WR Marques Colston, NO; QB Nick Foles, PHI; and K Dan Carpenter, FA.
Do not draft list
You don't want to be the one that gets laughed at endless by your buddies, so we give you the quick-reference guide of names to avoid calling out in drafts now. Some are obvious and already out for the season. Others just aren't worth stashing for the length of time they will be gone or because they might not even make the final cut.
So don't touch these guys (in no particular order):
1. WR Jeremy Maclin, Philadelphia Eagles
2. TE Dennis Pitta, Baltimore Ravens
3. TE Aaron Hernandez, New England Patriots
4. WR Michael Crabtree, San Francisco 49ers
5. RB Marcus Lattimore, San Francisco 49ers
6. WR Percy Harvin, Seattle Seahawks
7. WR Joe Morgan, New Orleans Saints
8. K Connor Barth, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
9. K Lawrence Tynes, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
10. TE Dustin Keller, Miami Dolphins
11. WR Danario Alexander, San Diego Chargers
12. WR Brandon Stokley, Baltimore Ravens
13. WR Austin Collie, San Francisco 49ers
14. QB Kevin Kolb, Buffalo Bills
15. WR Andrew Hawkins, Cincinnati Bengals
16. WR Plaxico Burress, Pittsburgh Steelers
17. WR Titus Young, Free agent
18. RB Dion Lewis, Cleveland Browns
19. RB Montario Hardesty, Cleveland Browns
20. WR Braylon Edwards, New York Jets
21. RB DuJuan Harris, Green Bay Packers
22. RB James Starks, Green Bay Packers