Every year around late July and August, millions of crazed fantasy football fans around the country start getting real excited. It's a great time of year. We have training camp and preseason games, reports of who's dazzling and who's injured, and everyone thinks they know exactly who's going to produce crazy stats and who's going to bust. Well I'm here to tell you they're wrong.
There are a bunch of great fantasy football websites and everyone has their favorite for which layout and advice they like best. All these sites (there are tons of them) come up with rankings for how well players will do in the upcoming season. They all disagree and most people have one or two they trust most. While we can all agree on some players, there are a few that have a very wide range of predictions.
What I've done is gone through and looked at the current rankings and projections for four major fantasy sites and am here to tell you exactly who is being most overrated and who is being most underrated prior to this upcoming season. Feel free to believe either them or me, but I'm the one who's right. Let's take a look:
Tony Romo (DAL), Average Rank - QB11 (ESPN - QB13, NFL - QB11, Yahoo! - QB10, Eisenberg (CBS) - QB8, Richard (CBS) - QB11)
Romo is 34 years old. He's recently had a well-documented bad back. A large part of what has made Romo a pretty good QB is his maneuverability in and around the pocket. With both age and back problems, that athleticism and special quality is sure to diminish. I think this is the year when he really starts to decline. QB's typically start to fall off a little bit once they get to their mid-30's. His back troubles just compound that fact. After a couple years of chronically under-using DeMarco Murray, Garrett is bound to wise-up at some point and start relying on his workhorse RB. Romo's age and back may even force his hand... His number of pass completions, attempts, completion percentage, yards, and QBR all took a dip last year when compared to 2012. To me, that starts to show that the decline is coming. I could definitely see Romo missing a couple games this year and with a probable increase in Murray's involvement in the offense, Romo's a late-round QB2 at best. He's already being limited or completely skipping out on practices in Cowboys training camp...
Jay Cutler (CHI), Average Rank - QB13 (ESPN - QB15, NFL - QB13, Yahoo! - QB11, Eisenberg (CBS) - QB11, Richard (CBS) - QB13)
The fact of the matter is, the Bears don't throw the ball deep. Last season, Cutler was 16th in vertical attempts per game. Trestman was there last year and I doubt he's going to magically change that this year. Another thing people don't consider enough about Cutler is that he can't seem to stay healthy. He only played 11 games last year. 15 the year before. 10 the year before that. 15 the year before that. In fact, the guy has played all 16 games just three times in his eight year career. He gives you virtually nothing on the ground, too. Forte is in for another huge year on the ground and I think Cutler's attempts are going to take a hit. Low-end QB2.
Nick Foles (PHI), Average Rank - QB9 (ESPN - QB8, NFL - QB10, Yahoo! - QB9, Eisenberg (CBS) - QB12, Richard (CBS) - QB7)
As a Redskins fan, I hate to say it, but this guy led the entire NFL in fantasy points the second half of last season. That's huge. More points than Charles, Rodgers, Brees, everyone. He even outscored Peyton Manning! Yes, he's losing DeSean Jackson and that will hurt, but he's getting Maclin back. And I don't like Chip Kelly, but that man knows how to use a guy like LeSean McCoy in the passing game. Foles is going to improve with a season under his belt. Let's hope Kelly doesn't, too...
Russell Wilson (SEA), Average Rank - QB14 (ESPN - QB10, NFL - QB15, Yahoo! - QB13, Eisenberg (CBS) - QB15, Richard (CBS) - QB18)
The Seahawks run a ton, but so does Russell. This guy ran for 539 yards last year but he only got 1 TD. I'm going to take the over for running TD's from this guy this year. It wouldn't be crazy if he got a couple more... People undervalue the amount of fantasy points he can get on the ground. Also, with Percy Harvin back for the season and at 100%, you can bet not only will Russ throw more this year, but his throws are going to count for more fantasy points than in the past. Wilson is entering his third year and should show marked improvement. He's a low-end QB1.
Eli Manning (NYG), Average Rank - QB22 (ESPN - QB18, NFL - QB27, Yahoo! - QB22, Eisenberg (CBS) - QB23, Richard (CBS) - QB22)
Here's another one I'm not happy to bring up, but Eli Manning is going to finish higher than 22nd in fantasy points amongst QB's. Look, he threw a lot of picks last year (27, to be exact), but that's the most he's ever thrown in any season of his 10-year career. He's probably going to throw less this year (he averages 17 INT's per season). If he comes back down near his average to say 16 or 17 INT's, that's 20-22 more fantasy points. The Giants like to throw deep and you have to think that each one out of every few of those INT's last year is likely to be a deep pass (and potential TD) this year. I think it's likely that his TD's go up this year for that very reason. More TD's + less INT's = better than people are expecting this year. I think Eli will be a viable QB2 this year.
Jamaal Charles (KC), Average Rank - RB2 (ESPN - RB3, NFL - RB2, Yahoo! - RB1, Eisenberg (CBS) - RB1, Richard (CBS) - RB1)
Jamaal Charles is a great RB and should definitely be a top-five overall fantasy pick in just about every league. Maybe this is a bit nit-picky, but I think there are better choices at #1 and #2. The man had 19 TD's last year. 19! What are the odds that happens again this year? Bring that number back down to a more reasonable (though still awesome) 10-12 TD's and you're losing 42-54 points. That's big. Also, the Chiefs offensive line is bound to be much worse this year after losing three starters from last year. Plus, both their projected starting OT's this year are dealing with injury issues. And let's not forget that Charles is less than 200 lbs, has had a major injury only a couple years ago (ACL tear), and has only played all 16 games in half the years of his career. You still have to take him top five, but I think he's being overvalued at #1 or #2.
Eddie Lacy (GB), Average Rank - RB5 (ESPN - RB6, NFL - RB5, Yahoo! - RB4, Eisenberg (CBS) - RB5, Richard (CBS) - RB5)
Eddie Lacy had an amazing rookie year. He's certainly a great RB in the real-life game as well as fantasy, but there's a reason he's being overrated so much coming into this season. Last season, the Packers had to deal with the loss of Aaron Rodgers for seven games. During that time, they leaned heavily on Lacy and he got tons of touches. He'll still be a major part of the offense, but you can't tell me they're going to run as much with a healthy Aaron Rodgers back there slinging passes. Also, people are taking a guy that's only entering his second year and saying he should be a top five overall pick? That's a bold expectation with only one season under his belt. He's an RB1 and someone you should grab in the second half of the first round or first half of the second round if you can, but the expectations being placed on him are a little high, in my opinion.
DeMarco Murray (DAL), Average Rank - RB9 (ESPN - RB10, NFL - RB6, Yahoo! - RB9, Eisenberg (CBS) - RB7, Richard (CBS) - RB11)
This guy is always injured. I'm not trying to take a guy who is consistently injured and make him my lead-back in fantasy. He's never in his entire career played an entire 16-game season. In fact, he's never played more than 14 and averages 12. I don't think a guy that's probably going to play in 12 games is going to be the ninth-best fantasy RB. And on top of that, you know he's not going to be 100% during all of those 12 games... Plus, Jason Garrett has this penchant for making Romo throw the ball one billion times instead of sticking with Murray who's actually a very good RB.
Montee Ball (DEN), Average Rank - RB9 (ESPN - RB13, NFL - RB11, Yahoo! - RB6, Eisenberg (CBS) - RB6, Richard (CBS) - RB7)
Last year, Ball was a rookie. He was in the most potent offense in years. He did virtually nothing. Four TD's?! Less than 600 rushing yards? And based on that, I'm supposed to draft him in the top 10? I don't think so. I understand that he's going to be the lead back this year, but that's only because the better back moved on to another team, not because Ball earned it. I think he'll be a fine back and I'd be fine with him as my RB2. But top 10? Not for me. Besides, you know the Broncos are all about Peyton throwing the ball...
Giovani Bernard (CIN), Average Rank - RB11 (ESPN - RB14, NFL - RB10, Yahoo! - RB11, Eisenberg (CBS) - RB9, Richard (CBS) - RB10)
For starters, Bernard lost his OC. OK, homerism aside, Bernard is going into this year with a new OC. We know how Gruden liked to use Bernard and many are hoping he can do similar things here in Washington with Helu/Thompson/Seastrunk. But that's Gruden's playbook, not Hue Jackson's. Bernard's a fine RB but BGE is still there and still not 30 years old, yet (doesn't it seem like he's been around forever?) and no one knows for sure how Jackson will utilize those two. Also, the Bengals drafted a rookie RB in the second round this year (Jeremy Hill) and you can bet he's going to get some touches. Bernard is by far the smallest of those three backs and will most likely not get any of the goal-line carries that fantasy owners love to see. Combine that with the fact that he's probably in a committee with two other backs and I can't see him being the 11th-best RB in fantasy.
Adrian Peterson (MIN), Average Rank - RB3 (ESPN - RB1, NFL - RB3, Yahoo! - RB3, Eisenberg (CBS) - RB4, Richard (CBS) - RB4)
Why do people continue to sell this guy short? He's the best RB in football. Real lift and fantasy. If I have the #1 pick, as of right now, I'm taking AP. He's superhuman. Over 1,400 total yards and 11 TD's last year in only 14 games and he's still only 29. Two years ago? 2,300 yards and 13 TD's. He's had less than 1,400 total yards only once in his entire seven-year career and that was because of a torn ACL and only playing in 12 games (and he still got 1,100 yards and 13 TD's). He's never had single-digit TD's. Ever. Seven straight years of double-digit TD's (he averages 13 a year)? That's consistency. At the very top of a fantasy draft, you need consistency. Plus, they may have found a QB and with Zimmer has HC, their defense may be good enough to where they can play with a lead and feature Peterson even more. I don't get how he's not top two in every single draft.
Marshawn Lynch (SEA), Average Rank - RB8 (ESPN - RB5, NFL - RB7, Yahoo! - RB7, Eisenberg (CBS) - RB14, Richard (CBS) - RB8)
I think people are overreacting to some negative press about Lynch this year. The holdout... the potential that Seattle has at the position behind him... The shyness... That stuff is irrelevant on Sundays. We're talking about one of the top five RB's in the world (real life and fantasy) who just basically led the offense of his Super Bowl winning team. The Seahawks aren't chomping at the bit to reduce his role or some crazy talk like that. Seattle runs the ball more than just about any other team and Lynch gets more rushing TD's than just about anyone else, too. And that philosophy just won a Super Bowl! They're not going to stop. They're going to give Lynch the ball until he completely falls apart. And though he's had a lot of carries the past few years, he's only 28 and was underused for much of his time in Buffalo earlier in his career. People that pass him over in the first round could be very sorry. Since being a Seahawk the past three full seasons, Lynch averages 1,600 total yards and 13 TD's.
Zac Stacy (STL), Average Rank - RB12 (ESPN - RB9, NFL - RB16, Yahoo! - RB14, Eisenberg (CBS) - RB11, Richard (CBS) - RB12)
From the time Stacy became a starter last year onward, he averaged 20+ carries a game. Even if his carries decrease, he's going to get all the goal-line carries in St. Louis. He's a low-end RB1. Had he played in all 16 games last year, he'd have had nearly 1,300 total yards and nine TD's!
Doug Martin (TB), Average Rank - RB13 (ESPN - RB8, NFL - RB15, Yahoo! - RB17, Eisenberg (CBS) - RB13, Richard (CBS) - RB14)
Here's a guy that was a Pro Bowler two years ago. As a rookie. After going for 1,900+ total yards and 12 TD's. Then, he has one down year last year. Oh wait, that wasn't a down year, he just had an unfortunate injury. The guy was still on pace for 1,400+ yards! So a guy who had one injury and was on his way to have 3,300+ total yards in his first two NFL seasons is no better than the 13th best fantasy RB this coming up season?! Under. Valued. Oh, and don't forget that Lovie Smith is about as traditional as they come and loves to run the ball.
Ben Tate (CLE), Average Rank - RB26 (ESPN - RB16, NFL - RB26, Yahoo! - RB30, Eisenberg (CBS) - RB28, Richard (CBS) - RB29)
The Cleveland Browns had exactly zero RB's last year. None. Their running game did not exist and for whatever reason, they didn't feel the need to have a RB. Ben Tate is the only RB on this roster. The only other guy is a third-round rookie. I'm serious. How can a guy the caliber of Tate, who also happens to be THE ONLY RB ON THE ROSTER be only the 26th best fantasy RB?! That's got to be a joke. And have you seen their QB's? They're going to run the ball. They basically have no choice, especially if Josh Gordon misses any time. I'm not saying he'll have a great average YPC or something, but I am saying they can't throw and have no other RB. He's better than 26th. I think he'll be a mid-level RB2. Plus, he's already worked with Kyle Shanahan before and the Texans even traded up in the second round to get the guy when Kyle was there. He loves him in that ZBS.
Dez Bryant (DAL), Average Rank - WR3 (ESPN - WR4, NFL - WR3, Yahoo! - WR3, Eisenberg (CBS) - WR3, Richard (CBS) - WR4)
See Romo, Tony. Seriously, my confidence is low on Tony Romo in fantasy this year and therefore my confidence is low in Dez Bryant. Of course, low is a relative term. He's still a WR1 and he could still very well be a top five WR. But #3 is too high. The Cowboys have to run the ball more this year, right? I mean, that's been basically their biggest offensive mistake recently and I just can't imagine them being so dumb as to not run the ball more this year. I wouldn't be surprised to see Calvin, A.J., Demaryius, Brandon Marshall, and maybe even Julio Jones and/or Alshon Jeffrey all finish higher than this guy in fantasy this year. Sure, take him in the second round if you want, but taking him in the first or early second might be a mistake.
Keenan Allen (SD), Average Rank - WR15 (ESPN - WR16, NFL - WR14, Yahoo! - WR10, Eisenberg (CBS) - WR17, Richard (CBS) - WR16)
Call it a hunch. I just need to see more before I can put Allen this high. The Chargers had a wild uncharacteristically impressive offense last year. Will that last? Maybe. But maybe not. Antonio Gates is declining and Allen isn't going to sneak-up on anyone as a rookie this year. The coverage is going to be all over him.
Cordarrelle Patterson (MIN), Average Rank - WR20 (ESPN - WR25, NFL - WR17, Yahoo! - WR19, Eisenberg (CBS) - WR18, Richard (CBS) - WR19)
He had 627 total yards last year. That's it. For the 20th best fantasy WR? He's going to need to make quite the jump this year. Sure, he's capable, but what's changed? WR's don't typically have their break-out year their second year. They still don't have a QB (unless Bridgewater turns out to be way better than your average 32nd pick rookie). They're still going to run All Day all day. They brought in Norv Turner and we all know what he loves to do. Run and throw to TE's and RB's. He's definitely great as a return man, but do you want your WR2's saving grace to be returns? Me neither. And same like Allen, he's not sneaking up on people as some rookie this year. Teams are going to kick away from him. He's a WR3.
Mike Wallace (MIA), Average Rank - WR29 (ESPN - WR34, NFL - WR28, Yahoo! - WR28, Eisenberg (CBS) - WR30, Richard (CBS) - WR26)
Trust me, I had him last year. 29 is too high. He's no better than a WR4. He didn't break 1,000 yards and he doesn't get into the end-zone. He's a one-trick pony and nobody on that team can throw the ball deep for him. The Dolphins offense as a whole is just garbage and no defense is going to allow Wallace to get deep likes he wants to/needs to. He's arguably the most overpaid man in the NFL. He'll catch one deep-ball one week and then be shut-out the next two. And TD's? Don't count on 'em.
Eric Decker (NYJ), Average Rank - WR31 (ESPN - WR35, NFL - WR24, Yahoo! - WR33, Eisenberg (CBS) - WR34, Richard (CBS) - WR30)
I think Decker might be this year's Mike Wallace. Have you seen the QB situation in NY? No, thank you. And who else on that offense is the opposing defense supposed to cover? Jeremy Kerley? Stephen Hill? Jeff Cumberland? I'm not inspired. Defenses are going to key in on this guy and he already doesn't have anyone to throw him the ball. It's very difficult to be a good WR with no QB or other WR's or TE's to speak of. Besides, the Jets have a few decent RB's (Ivory, CJ2K, Bilal Powell) and will probably try to run the ball and play defense. Another WR4, at best. Don't let those Peyton Manning numbers fool you...
A.J. Green (CIN), Average Rank - WR4 (ESPN - WR3, NFL - WR4, Yahoo! - WR4, Eisenberg (CBS) - WR5, Richard (CBS) - WR6)
Andy Dalton basically only throws the ball to Green. I know they have a different OC now, but Green led the entire NFL in targets last year and I don't see a lot of guys on that roster taking away targets from him this year. He doesn't get hurt, he gets more targets than anybody in the league, and he catches tons of balls, yards, and TD's. He's entering his prime this year and I think it's going to be his best year yet. He's been a Pro Bowler every single year he's been in the league, he's 6'4", and with Dalton learning a newish offense, he's going to rely on his target security blanket even more. Besides, nobody can cover him. Over his three year career, he's caught more passes than anyone else. I know he's ranked #4, but honestly, he should be #2 or #3. WR1. Take him at the end of the first or early in the second and don't look back. He's going to get 95+ balls, 1,300+ yards, and 10+ TD's. Book it.
Andre Johnson (HOU), Average Rank - WR15 (ESPN - WR11, NFL - WR18, Yahoo! - WR16, Eisenberg (CBS) - WR15, Richard (CBS) - WR14)
Obviously, the Texans were terrible last year. They probably won't be great this year and they don't really have any great QB's. So what? Johnson gets his no matter what. He's proves it time and again. He gets tons of targets (third most in the NFL last year) and will continue to do so. Plus, opposing defenses have to key-in on the run with Arian Foster there. Just look at what he did last year on that terrible, QB-less team: 109 receptions and 1,407 yards. Huge. The TD's were down a little bit, but five isn't terrible and you've got to think he'll probably get a couple more than that this year. He's a little older, but he's still 6'3" and a virtual lock for 80-100 catches and 1,200-1,400 yards. That's better than the 15th WR. Low-end WR1 or high-end WR2.
Torrey Smith (BAL), Average Rank - WR25 (ESPN - WR22, NFL - WR26, Yahoo! - WR24, Eisenberg (CBS) - WR28, Richard (CBS) - WR24)
Torrey Smith used to be the only WR in Baltimore. He is not good enough to be a top-flight fantasy WR while also having opposing defenses smother him and only him. Enter Steve Smith. They've lost Ray Rice for a couple games which means even more targets for Smith in the first couple weeks. He's the best WR on a decent team that throws it deep a lot and has a pretty good QB... and he's 25th? Too low. He's entering his prime and is poised for his best year yet. He's going to get over 1,000 yards and even though his TD's were a little low last year (4 - while being smothered), he had 15 the two years before (including his rookie year). So you can expect a couple more this year. He's a great WR3 or a low-end WR2.
Marques Colston (NO), Average Rank - WR30 (ESPN - WR29, NFL - WR32, Yahoo! - WR31, Eisenberg (CBS) - WR32, Richard (CBS) - WR28)
Colston has slowed down a little bit from where he was a few years ago. But he's still 6'4", still has Drew Brees, and they're still going to need someone to throw to in the red-zone besides Graham. No more Sproles around, either. They've got the young guys Stills and Cooks, but they're short by comparison and probably won't be as effective near the goal-line. Plus, Cooks is a rookie WR and we know how those tend to turn out. I'm thinking Colston is going to have quite a few TD's this year. Just my opinion. He only had five last year in 12 games, but he averages nine a season for his career. That's a pretty big difference.
Reggie Wayne (IND), Average Rank - WR35 (ESPN - WR28, NFL - WR31, Yahoo! - WR35, Eisenberg (CBS) - WR40, Richard (CBS) - WR40)
Here's some facts. Reggie Wayne played seven games last year. Before last year, Wayne hadn't missed a game since his rookie year in '01 (and he still played 13 that year). Had Wayne not gotten hurt last year, he was on pace for 87 receptions, 1,150 yards, and five TD's. Do those look like the stats of the 35th best fantasy WR to you? Me neither. Of course, Wayne could get hurt again. He is 35 years old. But look at his track record. The guy knows how to take care of his body like nobody else. If he gives you even 13 games this year I bet he's a low-end WR3. Luck likes throw to him and you know Luck is going to throw the ball...
Who do you think the most over and underrated fantasy players are this year?
Editor's Note: SB Nation's partner FanDuel is hosting a $100,000 Fantasy Football Contest for Week 1's NFL games. It's only $10 to join and first prize is $10,000. Starts Sunday, September 7th at 1pm ET. Here's the link.