Fantasy Football

Breaking down latest risers in fantasy football rankings

If you looked at our rankings a week or two ago and then came back today you may have noticed that things look a little different. Part of that is because a lot can change in a week in the NFL. The other part is because I am now handling the rankings! But updating the rankings due to recent happenings was only the first step. To put my own touch on things, I was a little aggressive with the rankings of players that I think can greatly outlive their ADP this season.

Updating the rankings was a good start, but I wanted to give you all even more. I wanted the rankings to be more interactive than ever before so here is a breakdown of some of the players that might seem a little high in the rankings with an explanation of why they are where they are.

Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions

Just last year Matthew Stafford was a backup QB in fantasy drafts. He only played half the season, but he still did enough to increase his stock as he is now in the back end QB1 (top-12) or right on the outside of that group in many drafts. That is because Stafford was not the same QB last year as in years prior. He was more like the Stafford that brought us fantasy goodness all those years with Calvin Johnson. Last season Stafford led the league with 10.6 air yards per attempt. That was also the highest mark of his career. But Stafford routinely sat above eight air yards per pass for most of his career, that was until 2015. In three of the four years with Jim Bob Cooter as OC, Stafford was below eight. In two of those years he was below seven air yards per pass. That was because the Lions' offense was built around a slot receiver and a pass-catching RB. Now it is built around field-stretchers in Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones and it led to Stafford finishing as the QB4 in fantasy PPG last season. Do not confuse this Stafford with the one of years past.

Gardner Minshew II, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars

Gardner Minshew is my favorite late-round QB this season. Right now, he is the 27th QB off the board with an ADP in the 16th round. But last season he finished as the QB18 in fantasy PPG. Right there you are already getting a discount on Minshew, but he has the upside to finish as a QB1 this season. Last year he rushed for 344 yards, the fifth-most among QBs, and that was in just 14 games and 12 starts. But this season he will play under new OC Jay Gruden, who passed the ball on 60 percent of offensive plays during his five years with Washington. But Gruden has historically made his QBs better fantasy options. The two best fantasy seasons for Andy Dalton and Kirk Cousins were under Gruden. He had them both finishing consistently inside the top 12 and both reached as high as QB5. Lastly, the Jaguars also have lost a lot of key pieces and it is possible they are trailing late and, hey, garbage time points count for fantasy! This is just looking like the perfect storm for Minshew to be a strong fantasy option, even if his team struggles in real life.

Jonathan Taylor, RB, Indianapolis Colts

Jonathan Taylor is starting to climb higher and higher in drafts, going off the board in the third or fourth round of some 12-team leagues. Some may not be willing to pay that high of a price for a player we have never seen do it at the NFL level yet. But do not make that mistake when it comes to Jonathan Taylor. He put-up eye-popping numbers during his tenure at Wisconsin, especially the last two seasons rushing for over 2,000 yards and at least 16 touchdowns in each campaign. The Colts then went out and drafted him in the second round of a season in which they are clearly looking to capitalize with Philip Rivers. Taylor was revered by many as the top rusher in this draft. He will have to compete with Marlon Mack early on, but if Taylor plays as advertised, that competition may not last too long. Additionally, the knock on him in college was his lack of receptions, as he finished his three seasons with just 42 catches. But you know who finished his tenure at Wisconsin with less? Melvin Gordon (22 total catches at Wisconsin), and he went on to have multiple 50-plus catch seasons with Rivers because no QB throws to the RBs more. Taylor may surprise people there by just being on the field with Rivers so much. He has league-winning upside down the stretch and can be this season's Miles Sanders, just with even more rushing upside.

Zack Moss, RB, Buffalo Bills

Despite Devin Singletary having a fine rookie campaign, the Bills went out and drafted Zack Moss in the third round. Since then, basically everything you've heard about the Bills' backs has been bad for Singletary. The Bills are talking Moss up to be this year's version of Frank Gore and that may not sound like much, but Gore did rack up 189 touches last season. He also was getting the valuable touches near the end zone. Gore had 17 touches inside the 10-yard line compared to just four for Singletary. If that role goes to Moss this season it will make him a solid flex option. If the Bills use him in the passing game and on early downs, splitting time like they have mentioned, his upside is much higher, making him an RB to target in round eight or nine.

Marquise Brown, WR, Baltimore Ravens

Marquise Brown is one of my favorite breakout wide receiver picks this year, so I had to give him a boost in the rankings. The truth is, Brown was never healthy at any point last season. He had a screw in his foot that caused him to miss the NFL Scouting Combine, lots of training camp and preseason and a good amount of practice throughout the season. Brown himself said he did not have his usual burst or top speed and that by the end of the season his foot was mangled. He has since had the screw removed and gained 23 pounds of muscle. With that screw out it's possible Brown is just as fast or even faster than last season despite the added weight. We saw flashes of his potential last season, like in Week 1 where he ran just eight routes and finished with 147 yards and two touchdowns. A healthy Brown is so dangerous because of the offense around him. Teams already must load up front against Lamar Jackson, Mark Ingram and that running attack. Plus, they must pay attention to Mark Andrews, too, which means a lot of one-on-one battles for the speedster. Look for him to win a bunch of those and win games for your fantasy football team.

Will Fuller, WR, Houston Texans

To some, Will Fuller may just be an injury-prone WR who has some big games a couple times a year. But after the season you may just be calling him Will Fuller, top-12 fantasy WR. No player has a higher ceiling each time they step on a field, evident by Fuller's near 60-point fantasy game last season. But those big performances may be a little more common this season with DeAndre Hopkins out of town. Hopkins is awesome, but he was a target vacuum gobbling up at least 150 targets each season. More volume for Fuller is a scary proposition. In 11 games with eight or more targets, Fuller has averaged over 21 fantasy PPG. He has the potential to finish as a WR1 this season if he can stay healthy.

CeeDee Lamb, WR, Dallas Cowboys

CeeDee Lamb was viewed by many as the best receiver in this year's draft class. It's easy to not love this landing spot at first, but that should change when you realize Randall Cobb finished as the WR44 last season. Lamb is going off the board as the 38th WR, which to me feels like more than the floor. Lamb is more explosive than Cobb at this point in their careers and has been receiving rave reviews as a red-zone threat. The opportunity is there for him to lead this team in receiving touchdowns. He's someone you should get excited to draft.

You can follow Michael F. Florio on Twitter at @MichaelFFlorio.

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