This week starts the time where most leagues are having their draft, so what better time than to have some good ol’ fashioned rankings? This week, I’ll be ranking the four main offensive skill positions: quarterback, running back, wide receiver, and tight end. Kickers need not apply (honestly, I think leagues should abolish the kicker position, and one league that I’m participating in has done just that).

I didn’t go too deep with my rankings. I’m leaving those to the experts. Honestly, I have no idea if Mario Manningham will outperform Laurent Robinson, or vice versa. For the most part, I’ve stuck to the guys who will most likely be fantasy starters during Week 1: 20 QBs, 30 RBs, 40 WRs, and 20 TEs.

Below you’ll find the rankings and a brief explanation of why I thought the way I did.

Quarterbacks

1          Aaron Rodgers, GB

2          Drew Brees, NO

3          Tom Brady, NE

4          Matthew Stafford, DET

5          Eli Manning, NYG

6          Cam Newton, CAR

7          Tony Romo, DAL

8          Michael Vick, PHI

9          Philip Rivers, SD

10        Peyton Manning, DEN

11        Robert Griffin III, WAS

12        Matt Ryan, ATL

13        Ben Roethlisberger, PIT

14        Matt Schaub, HOU

15        Jay Cutler, CHI

16        Andrew Luck, IND

17        Josh Freeman, TB

18        Carson Palmer, OAK

19        Andy Dalton, CIN

20        Alex Smith, SF

As I mentioned in my very first column, Rodgers, Brees, Brady and Stafford should all go in Round 1 after the big three RBs. Eli could creep in at the third round, but I think he’s worth a second round value. I believe that Newton is a fourth rounder going two full rounds earlier than he should. Romo, Rivers, and Peyton are all solid mid-round choices if I decide to load up on RB and WR during the first four or five. If I get Peyton early I’d be looking at a guy like Luck to back him up. I originally had Vick as the 5th QB to be taken off the board, but considering he has to get an X-Ray every game, the injury risk is starting to be too much for the possible benefits he will bring, so I dropped him down to 8th. RG3 is a shot in the dark based on talent and the possibility that he’ll turn in some serious value like Cam Newton did last year. Ryan, Big Ben, Schaub and Cutler are safe, unsexy picks that should net around 15 fantasy points per game but all have a history of injury. I’m higher on Luck than any analyst out there that I know. I think he’ll be extremely solid. Freeman and Palmer are two guys who had bad years last year that I think are going to make a turnaround. They’re more than capable for bye-week fill-ins. Dalton makes the list because if you’re going to buy into AJ Green as a fantasy star, you have to also assign the points to the guy who’s getting him the ball. Smith is a game manager but there are enough weapons around him to get touchdowns.

Running Backs

1          Arian Foster, HOU

2          Ray Rice, BAL

3          LeSean McCoy, PHI

4          Matt Forte, CHI

5          Chris Johnson, TEN

6          Jamaal Charles, KC

7          Adrian Peterson, MIN

8          Marshawn Lynch, SEA

9          DeMarco Murray, DAL

10        Darren McFadden, OAK

11        Maurice Jones-Drew, JAC

12        Ryan Mathews, SD

13        Fred Jackson, BUF

14        Trent Richardson, CLE

15        Steven Jackson, STL

16        Darren Sproles, NO

17        Ahmad Bradshaw, NYG

18        Willis McGahee, DEN

19        Reggie Bush, MIA

20        BenJarvus Green-Ellis, CIN

21        Rashard Jennings, JAC

22        Doug Martin, TB

23        Michael Turner, ATL

24        Frank Gore, SF

25        Donald Brown, IND

26        Ben Tate, HOU

27        Kevin Smith, DET

28        Jonathan Stewart, CAR

29        Shonn Greene, NYJ

30        Beanie Wells, AZ

I don’t really feel comfortable about anybody after the big 3 as my RB1. Anybody else would be a great RB2. I’m higher on guys like McGahee, BJGE, Redman, and Martin than most. Despite how good LeGarrette Blount looked in the first preseason game, I still think Martin will take the starting job in TB before the first game.

I had MJD as the 8th running back off the board because it was possible he’d miss some time due to his holdout. But now that he has demanded a trade through his agent, I’ve dropped him even further to the 12th spot, and Rashard Jennings, who previously wasn’t even in my Top 30, shoots up to number 21, as I expect him to be the Week 1 starter in Jacksonville.

You’ll notice I don’t have anybody from Pittsburgh, Green Bay, New England, or Washington. I have no idea who will be starting in Pittsburgh come Week 1 now that Isaac Redman’s been injured, so it’s best to let it be somebody else’s problem. GB and NE are pass-first teams who have too many mouths to feed before the RBs get their share, and Washington’s RB situation is always maddening because of head coach Mike Shanahan. In Green Bay, there’s also crowd favorite John Kuhn who will steal nearly all goal-line rushing touchdowns. I’d have Roy Helu really high but I can’t play the roulette game with Shanahan anymore. It’s insanity trying to figure him out as to who will get the rock the most.

I’m waiting on Arizona to announce Ryan Williams as the starter, and then I’d vault Williams to 26 and drop Beanie off the top 30.

Wide Receivers

1          Calvin Johnson, DET

2          Larry Fitzgerald, ARI

3          A.J. Green, CIN

4          Roddy White, ATL

5          Greg Jennings, GB

6          Hakeem Nicks, NYG

7          Andre Johnson, HOU

8          Victor Cruz, NYG

9          Julio Jones, ATL

10        Brandon Marshall, CHI

11        Jordy Nelson, GB

12        Brandon Lloyd, NE

13        Steve Smith, CAR

14        Marques Colston, NO

15        Percy Harvin, MIN

16        Dez Bryant, DAL

17        Antonio Brown, PIT

18        Jeremy Maclin, PHI

19        Wes Welker, NE

20        DeSean Jackson, PHI

21        Miles Austin, DAL

22        Vincent Jackson, TB

23        Dwayne Bowe, KC

24        Eric Decker, DEN

25        Steve Johnson, BUF

26        Demaryius Thomas, DEN

27        Mike Wallace, PIT

28        Reggie Wayne, IND

29        Malcom Floyd, SD

30        Pierre Garcon, WAS

31        Torrey Smith, BAL

32        Nate Washington, TEN

33        Denarius Moore, OAK

34        Robert Meachem, SD

35        Santonio Holmes, NYJ

36        Michael Crabtree, SF

37        Justin Blackmon, JAC

38        Lance Moore, NO

39        Anquan Boldin, BAL

40        Greg Little, CLE

As I mentioned last week, this position is crazy deep. I could envision any of the receivers listed 11-20 to have a Top 10 season. Where there’s doubt at the RB position, there’s a veritable smorgasbord of talent at WR.

Notice how low Wes Welker and Mike Wallace are on this list. I have Welker low because I think he’s now fourth on the food chain after Gronkowski, Lloyd, and Hernandez. I have Wallace low because I don’t think he’s going to play. He’s adamant about his contract and the Steelers have already shown that they’re looking at Antonio Brown as the future (hence why Brown is 17 on the list). I really like Percy Harvin to do well (if he stays healthy), and I also think DeSean Jackson is going to be better than where he’s being drafted.

Other interesting choices see Malcolm Floyd drafted before Robert Meachem, and Nate Washington drafted before Kenny Britt (who isn’t on this list at all…he’d be at 41).

No Rams, no Seahawks, and no Dolphins on this list. As I said in last week’s column, I’m staying away from those situations.

Tight Ends

1          Jimmy Graham, NO

2          Rob Gronkowski, NE

3          Antonio Gates, SD

4          Vernon Davis, SF

5          Jermichael Finley, GB

6          Coby Fleener, IND

7          Jacob Tamme, DEN

8          Jared Cook, TEN

9          Aaron Hernandez, NE

10        Tony Gonzalez, ATL

11        Fred Davis, WAS

12        Brandon Pettigrew, DET

13        Martellus Bennett, NYG

14        Jason Witten, DAL

15        Jermaine Gresham, CIN

16        Owen Daniels, HOU

17        Brent Celek, PHI

18        Dustin Keller, NYJ

19        Kyle Rudolph, MIN  

20       Kellen Winslow, SEA

I’ve actually got Graham over Gronk because I think Brees will be looking for Graham more than Brady will be looking for Gronk. The big bold pick is Fleener at 6. I think he’ll be Andrew Luck’s security blanket and I’m making sure I have him on every one of my teams. I’m also going out on a limb with Jared Cook. He’s shown flashes of big things before, and with the uncertainty surrounding Kenny Britt, he’ll be needed in Tennessee.

Game of Thrones Fantasy Team Names

For fans of the fantasy series who want to apply it to their fantasy football team, here are some fun Game of Thrones-based fantasy names. They’re pun-tastic!

  1. Roddy Wight Walkers (credit to Mike Maloney)
  2. Cersei Harvin (my team name in one league)
  3. Melisandre Johnson (my team name in another)
  4. THE KING IN THE AFC/NFC NORTH!
  5. Joe McKnight of the Flowers
  6. Greg Littlefinger
  7. The #1 Seed is Strong
  8. Hines Warg
  9. Rashard Mendenharrenhall
  10. A McCluster Always Pays His Debts

Nobody Wants to Hear About Your Fantasy Team!

Last night, I had my first real draft of the season. Luckily, I had the third pick. Hours before draft-time, it was decided to make quarterback touchdowns worth 6 points rather than the standard 4, so you all know who I had my eye on: Aaron Rodgers.

The guy with the 2nd pick was on Autodraft, so there’s no way that Yahoo! would give him Rodgers. My only obstacle to getting the QB I wanted would have been the guy with the number 1 pick. Thankfully, he actually chose LeSean McCoy with the number 1 pick, and I celebrated as Yahoo! autodrafted and gave the No. 2 guy Arian Foster. I couldn’t hit draft fast enough on Rodgers.

As I had to wait a while for the draft to swing back to me on Round 2, all of the good RB1s got scooped up, so I decided to bolster my WR corps. With the second, third and fourth pick, I went all WR with Victor Cruz, Roddy White, and Marques Colston. I love having Colston as a WR3. I rolled the dice with the higher ceiling in Cruz (over Nicks), and I took the higher floor in White (over Jones).

So Round 5 comes and I find myself without a running back. The available RB1s are Reggie Bush, Frank Gore, Shonn Greene, BenJarvis Green-Ellis, and Roy Helu. Gore and Helu got eliminated because of how crowded their backfields are. Greene got eliminated because I have absolutely no faith in the Jets offense. So now I’m torn between Bush and BJGE. I figured the Law Firm would have more goal-line touches (although Bush got his share last year). I rolled the dice on Bush, hoping he would stay healthy this year and banking on his desire to lead the league in rushing, as he said on Hard Knocks.

By the time it got back to me in Round 6, all of the starting RBs worth a damn were gone. So I decided to scoop up all the talented backups I could in the hopes that one of them would get a chance to start at some point this year. I grabbed the most talented backup, Ben Tate, then went after Rashard Jennings, scooping him up in Round 10, possibly a few rounds earlier than he would have gone, but I wanted to ensure that I had him on my roster. I also picked up Mike Goodson (because counting on McFadden to stay healthy is a risky proposition) and Tim Hightower (who has just as good a chance as Helu or Royster to be a starter, and I got him in the 15th round, so it won’t be any skin off my nose if I drop him). I’m taking the chance that one of these guys will get the opportunity to start, and will contribute. The smart money’s on Jennings with MJD’s holdout, and Tate will get opportunities with or without Foster.

My WR depth is nice with Reggie Wayne as my WR4/Flex. I also have Nate Washington (who I have been targeting in every mock) and a nice lottery ticket in Randall Cobb. My Yahoo draft window crashed, and the computer autodrafted Austin Collie with the final pick, but I’m going to hold onto him as a speculative flyer as more news about his health will come in. If he passes the concussion tests and stays healthy (possible, but unlikely), he could be a nice contributor to my team, or at the very least a good trade chip.

And yes, I have Coby Fleener on my team. And who is my backup quarterback, you ask? Why, I believe in Almighty Tebow!

The most hilarious part of the draft would be the guy who missed the draft and was forced to autodraft at the 8 position. Yahoo! gave him what I like to call the all-injured/all-holdout/all-arrested team. He got every injured guy you could possibly imagine: Ryan Matthews, Andre Johnson, Michael Vick, Kenny Britt, James Starks, and Isaac Redman. He also got the two big holdouts in MJD and Mike Wallace. Finally, he got the guy who can’t seem to stay out of handcuffs, Kenny Britt again. This team has the possibility to win the league, but only if everything breaks this guy’s way. He will have to watch this NFL season with his fingers crossed that Matthews will make it to two carries without getting hurt, that Vick can play a game without having to get an X-Ray, that both MJD and Wallace cave in (looking hopeful on Wallace, not so much on MJD), and that Kenny Britt will figure out that it’s a bad move to sneak into a military base while intoxicated.

Which brings me to my final conclusion, and I’ll scream it from the heavens: do whatever you can to make it to your draft! Do not leave it in the hands of the computer to give you a good team, because they won’t! If you absolutely cannot make the draft, make sure to adjust your pre-rankings. I know for a fact on Yahoo that you can put certain guys on a “don’t draft” list.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter @PocketSeagull!