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Playoff fantasy football primer: Ranking the top players to draft

Fantasy football's season may be over, but playoff fantasy football is just heating up! Michael Beller provides tips and advice for drafting your team and ranks the top players available.

It may be 2015, but we can’t quite call it a wrap on the 2014 fantasy football season just yet. There’s still one thing left to do before we can fully tie a bow on the season. Yes, there is indeed one more draft to conduct. It’s time for some playoff fantasy football.

• NFL Power Rankings: Wild-card edition | Complete NFL playoff schedule

There are a few different ways to play the playoff version of everyone’s favorite hobby, but all the formats share a few crucial traits.

1. Teams matter more than ever. A.J. Green is an elite WR1 in any regular season fantasy league. But with the underdog Bengals visiting the Colts, a team that beat them by 27 points in the regular season, in the first round, do you really want to be tied to Green for the remainder of the playoffs?

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2. Project the unfolding of the playoff bracket. Point one naturally leads to this one. Nothing is guaranteed, of course, but the Patriots and Seahawks are the favorites in their respective divisions for good reason. Would you rather have three games of Doug Baldwin or one of Calvin Johnson? How about three of LeGarrette Blount or one of Jeremy Hill? Before you can make your playoff rankings, you have to decide how far you think each team will advance.

3. Stacking teammates is critical. If you spread yourself too thin and end up with players from seven or eight different teams, all you’re really doing is guaranteeing that a handful of your players will only play one game. You need to find a team or two to bet on, and then ride those teams’ players. As an example, in a playoff draft conducted earlier this week, I took Marshawn Lynch in the fourth round, Doug Baldwin in the sixth, Steven Hauschka in the seventh and Paul Richardson in the 11th. I also have two Steelers (Ben Roethlisberger, Heath Miller), two Colts (Andrew Luck, Dwayne Allen) and four Lions (Golden Tate, Joique Bell, Matt Prater, Lions D). If Seattle goes to the Super Bowl and one of Pittsburgh or Indianapolis can make it to the AFC Championship Game, I’ll be in great shape.

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4. It would follow, then, that drafting players from certain teams precludes you from going after players that will be in that team’s way. For example, you wouldn’t want to spend high picks on players from the Packers and Cowboys. Yes, both of those teams are legitimate Super Bowl contenders with high-priced fantasy talent, but they’ll also meet in the divisional round if Dallas can knock off Detroit this weekend. You’re restricting your roster by loading up on players from both teams. This necessity becomes even more acute when considering teams that play in the wild-card round. Once you take your first Steeler or Raven, you probably should avoid the other team altogether since one of those teams is for sure only playing one game. It may be unavoidable at certain times, but you should do whatever you can to stay away from teams that will have to follow the same path to get to Glendale.

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5. Kickers matter. So do defenses. In a traditional regular season league, you would rightly draw the derision of your fellow owners for taking a kicker or defense at any point before the final two rounds. Not so in a playoff league. Let’s say you think the Patriots are going to the Super Bowl, and that the Lions are going to lose to the Cowboys in the first round. Whose a more valuable commodity, Stephen Gostkowski or Megatron? It’s a ridiculous question in the regular season that might get you laughed out of the room or exiled from your league. In the playoffs, however, you can make an argument for taking Gostkowski over one of the most dangerous receivers in the league.

6. Pay attention to your leaguemates’ rosters. In general, there are no benches in playoff leagues. Once an owner fills his or her quota at a specific position, he or she will not be taking anyone else from that spot. Knowing who has filled what positions can help you avoid making an unnecessary reach later on in the draft.

With that, let’s turn to the playoff positional rankings.



  1. Tom Brady
  2. Russell Wilson
  3. Aaron Rodgers
  4. Peyton Manning
  5. Tony Romo
  6. Ben Roethlisberger
  7. Andrew Luck
  8. Cam Newton
  9. Andy Dalton
  10. Matthew Stafford
  11. Joe Flacco
  12. Ryan Lindley

Running backs

  1. Marshawn Lynch
  2. C.J. Anderson
  3. DeMarco Murray
  4. Eddie Lacy
  5. Jeremy Hill
  6. LeGarrette Blount
  7. Jonathan Stewart
  8. Shane Vereen
  9. Joique Bell
  10. Justin Forsett
  11. Boom Herron
  12. Gio Bernard
  13. Ronnie Hillman
  14. Le’Veon Bell
  15. James Starks
  16. Robert Turbin
  17. Reggie Bush
  18. Josh Harris
  19. Kerwynn Williams
  20. Joseph Randle
  21. Trent Richardson
  22. Jonas Gray
  23. Dri Archer
  24. DeAngelo Williams
  25. Juwan Thompson

Wide receivers

  1. Demaryius Thomas
  2. Jordy Nelson
  3. Antonio Brown
  4. Dez Bryant
  5. Randall Cobb
  6. Emmanuel Sanders
  7. Julian Edelman
  8. Brandon LaFell
  9. T.Y. Hilton
  10. Calvin Johnson
  11. Doug Baldwin
  12. Kelvin Benjamin
  13. Golden Tate
  14. A.J. Green
  15. Martavis Bryant
  16. Paul Richardson
  17. Torrey Smith
  18. Terrance Williams
  19. Steve Smith
  20. Wes Welker
  21. Davante Adams
  22. Jermaine Kearse
  23. Michael Floyd
  24. Cole Beasley
  25. Danny Amendola
  26. Donte Moncrief
  27. Larry Fitzgerald
  28. Hakeem Nicks
  29. Mohamed Sanu
  30. Reggie Wayne

Tight ends

  1. Rob Gronkowski
  2. Julius Thomas
  3. Coby Fleener
  4. Greg Olsen
  5. Heath Miller
  6. Luke Willson
  7. Jason Witten
  8. Owen Daniels
  9. Dwayne Allen
  10. Andrew Quarless
  11. Tim Wright
  12. Jermaine Gresham
  13. Richard Rodgers
  14. John Carlson
  15. Eric Ebron


  1. Stephen Gostkowski
  2. Steven Hauschka
  3. Mason Crosby
  4. Connor Barth
  5. Dan Bailey
  6. Shuan Suisham
  7. Adam Vinatieri
  8. Graham Gano
  9. Justin Tucker
  10. Mike Nugent
  11. Matt Prater
  12. Chandler Catanzaro


  1. Seattle Seahawks
  2. New England Patriots
  3. Green Bay Packers
  4. Denver Broncos
  5. Carolina Panthers
  6. Pittsburgh Steelers
  7. Dallas Cowboys
  8. Indianapolis Colts
  9. Baltimore Ravens
  10. Detroit Lions
  11. Cincinnati Bengals
  12. Arizona Cardinals