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April 15, 2014

2014 Fantasy Football One-Man Mock Draft: Round 2

Continuing my one-man 2014 fantasy football mock draft, here is how Round 2 of a fantasy football draft would unfold if I were drafting for each team:

2.01 - Doug Martin, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

This should come as no surprise, but the 12 players selected in Round 1 of this mock draft were the top 12 players in my fantasy football cheat sheet. Picking for all 12 teams, which all had a clean slate, that was a certainty.

At the turn for this team, however, I won't be adding my 13th-ranked player, Josh Gordon. While the receiver duo of Dez Bryant, my pick at 1.12, and Gordon would be spectacular, that means my RB1 would be selected with the 36th overall pick (at the earliest). So, I'm going with my next-ranked running back instead.

The Muscle Hamster had a disappointing sophomore campaign as a season-ending injury cut his season short after just six games. Even before the injury, however, Martin was not running the ball well as he averaged a yard less per carry (3.6) than he did as a rookie (4.6 YPC). That said, Adrian Peterson was the only running back to have more YFS than Martin in 2012. Assuming good health in 2014, I expect a bounce-back year (on a per-touch and overall basis) for Martin.

2.02 - Arian Foster, RB, Houston Texans

With A.J. Green being this team's first-round pick, we are confronted with a similar dilemma as the previous team: take Gordon, my highest-ranked player, or take my highest-ranked running back. Instead of waiting (at least) until pick 3.11, I will add this team's RB1 here.

Beginning with plenty of uncertainty last offseason and into training camp, Foster was a risky selection for fantasy owners, but he was getting into a groove before his season was ultimately cut short by injury. In the final three full games that he played, Foster had 82 touches (68 carries and 14 receptions) for 487 yards from scrimmage (341 rushing and 146 receiving).

In the previous three seasons, Foster rushed for 4,264 yards, added 159 receptions for 1,438 yards and scored a total of 47 touchdowns in 45 games. With better health (knock on wood) in 2014, Foster could turn out to be a bargain here even without his pre-2013 level of production.

2.03 - Josh Gordon, WR, Cleveland Browns

As one of Gordon's biggest advocates last year, I expected a breakout season from Gordon as noted in my 2013 bold predictions. But anyone who says they expected him to lead the NFL in receiving yardage as well as wide receivers in fantasy points despite missing the first two games of the season is lying to you.

In his amazing season, Gordon became the first player in NFL history to ever go over 200 receiving yards in back-to-back games, he set the club's single-game receiving record (as Buggin' Out once said, "two times") and ultimately broke the franchise's single-season record as well.

Despite having a new coaching staff and (potentially) a new quarterback, those are mild concerns. Considering Pierre Garcon led the NFL in receptions last year, Gordon should get a ton of targets in Kyle Shanahan's offense and the quarterback situation can't be worse this year. At this point, the biggest concern with Gordon is the potential for a full-year suspension with his next misstep in the league's substance-abuse program.

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2.04 - Demaryius Thomas, WR, Denver Broncos

In his second season with Peyton Manning, DT's numbers were nearly identical to his first season. Thomas had 92 receptions (94 in 2012), 1,430 yards (1,434) and 14 touchdowns (10). With Eric Decker signing a free-agent deal with the Jets, it's possible that Thomas improves upon those numbers in 2014. Either way, another 90/1,400/10 season seems like a lock.

2.05 - Giovani Bernard, RB, Cincinnati Bengals

As a change-of-pace back, Bernard had a productive rookie season and finished inside the top 20 fantasy running backs for the full season in standard-scoring formats. Averaging just shy of 15 touches per game on the season, his carries increased each month — 8.0 per game (Sept.), 9.8 (Oct.), 12.0 (Nov.) and 13.0 (Dec.). Finishing eighth among all running backs in receptions (56), he was an even better option in point-per-reception (PPR) formats.

Going into 2014, Bernard should be ready for his workload to continue its ascension. Last month, coach Marvin Lewis referenced the jump in workload and production that Ray Rice had from his rookie to second season and hopes Bernard "can take those same steps."

2.06 - Zac Stacy, RB, St. Louis Rams

With only one carry in the team's first four games, Stacy was given 250 of them in the final 12. In the final nine games of the season, Stacy had exactly 200 carries for 759 yards (only 3.80 yards per carry), 20 receptions for 96 yards and a total of seven touchdowns.

Like with Bernard, Stacy should get a larger workload in 2014. GM Les Snead was quoted as saying in February that Stacy "should be more productive (in '14) because he should have more carries."

2.07 - Le'Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers

In 13 games as a rookie, Bell got nearly 300 touches (244 carries and 45 receptions) and had 20-plus touches in all but two games. That said, Bell averaged only 3.52 yards per carry on the season. On a positive note, he averaged at least 4.0 YPC in four of his final five games after doing so only twice in his first eight games.

Even though the team added LeGarrette Blount, who was productive for the Patriots down the stretch, Bell is clearly the team's workhorse back.

2.08 - Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons

Before his foot injury landed him on injured reserve, Jones had really taken a huge step forward in 2013. After averaging 73.8 and 74.9 yards per game in his first two seasons, respectively, Jones was averaging a league-high (at the time) 116.0 yards per game in the five games he had played.

At this point, it appears that Jones will be ready for the start of the 2014 season, but Jones' injury involved breaking a screw that had already been inserted into his foot from a previous injury so there is some reason to be a little cautious. If he plays all 16 games in 2014, however, Jones is a bargain here.

2.09 - Brandon Marshall, WR, Chicago Bears

In dynasty leagues, I'd prefer Alshon Jeffery over Marshall, but the opposite is true (slightly) when it comes to redraft leagues for the 2014 season. Considering his chemistry with Jay Cutler, Marshall is likely to lead the team in targets in 2014, but both are excellent options.

2.10 - Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos

Manning, now a five-time league MVP, broke the record for most passing yards (5,477) and passing touchdowns (55) while throwing only 10 interceptions. Not only did he throw multiple touchdowns in all but one game, Manning threw four or more TDs in nine games. (As a comparison, Hall-of-Famer John Elway did that 10 times ... in his whole career.)

2.11 - Alfred Morris, RB, Washington Redskins

While he won't add much at all as a receiver and his numbers overall dropped last season, Alf has averaged 1,444 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns over his first two seasons in the NFL. Even if Washington looks for (finds) an upgrade over Roy Helu in the draft, Morris should not slip beyond this point.

2.12 - Alshon Jeffery, WR, Chicago Bears

The second-year receiver had a breakout season with 89 receptions for 1,421 yards and seven touchdowns in addition to 16 rush attempts for another 105 yards. He finished sixth among wideouts in receiving yards, but if you add his 105 rushing yards to that total, only Cleveland's Josh Gordon had more yards from scrimmage than Jeffery.

[Note: Round 3 will be posted on Wednesday, April 16th.]

- Go back to Round 1

Our early 2014 Fantasy Football rankings:

Keep track of our site's updates: (1) follow us on Twitter, (2) LIKE us on Facebook and/or (3) add us to your Google+ circle

April 14, 2014

2014 Fantasy Football One-Man Mock Draft: Round 1

In the middle of January, I posted an initial one-man fantasy football mock draft for the 2014 season.

With the start of NFL free agency one month behind us and the 2014 NFL Draft less than a month away, it makes sense to post an updated version of the mock. This one-man mock will consist of five rounds and I will post one round per day through Friday.

[Related: 2014 NFL Mock Draft - 2014 NFL Mock Draft Database]

Like with the first version, this mock draft assumes standard scoring (i.e., no point per reception). After the real draft in May, I will post a point-per-reception (PPR) version as well.

Based on what we now as of today, here is how Round 1 of a fantasy football draft would unfold if I were drafting for each team:

1.01 - LeSean McCoy, RB, Philadelphia Eagles

Once again, McCoy would be my first choice if I had the first overall pick in a fantasy draft. While I still prefer McCoy over Jamaal Charles, the difference between these two backs is razor thin. As noted in my fantasy running back rankings, I ranked them 1(a) and 1(b) as opposed to 1 and 2. McCoy led the NFL in rushing yards (1,607), yards from scrimmage (2,146) and touches (366) in Chip Kelly's first season as head coach.


1.02 - Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs

A nice consolation prize for owners selecting second overall, Charles led the league in total touchdowns with 19 — 12 rushing and seven receiving scores. As great as that was for his fantasy owners in 2013, it will be unlikely for Charles to repeat.

If you remember back to 2011, McCoy scored a league-high 20 touchdowns and then followed that up with just five total touchdowns in 2012. I'm not saying he'll score only five times in 2014, but not repeating a 19-TD season is no knock on Charles.

Playing one less game than McCoy as the Chiefs rested their starters in Week 17, Charles set a career high in YFS (1,980) and ranked second only to McCoy. In addition, no other player had as many games with 100-plus YFS than Charles (13) this season.

1.03 - Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings

While Peterson may never rush for 2,000 yards again, he rushed for 1,266 yards in only 14 games last year despite poor quarterback play and facing eight (or more) men in the box. While it's difficult to rely on touchdowns from most players, Purple Jesus has rushed for double-digit touchdowns in all seven years of his career.

Along with Steven Jackson and Frank Gore, Peterson is one of only three running backs on active rosters with 2,000-plus career carries and he just turned 29 years old last year. That said, Peterson seems to defy what should be humanly possible every year.

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1.04 - Matt Forte, RB, Chicago Bears

Forte rushed for 1,339 yards and caught 74 passes for 594 yards, all of which are career highs, and tied his previous career high of 12 total touchdowns last season. One of the league's most complete backs, Forte benefits from having one of league's best tandem of wide receivers on the outside in Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall, both of whom are also good blockers at receiver.

1.05 - Eddie Lacy, RB, Green Bay Packers

Despite slipping to late in the second round of last year's NFL Draft, Lacy had a monster rookie season: 1,178 rushing yards and 11 TDs plus 35 receptions for 257 yards. From Week 5 through their playoff loss, Lacy had 11 games with 20-plus carries as the Packers were committed to the run with or without Aaron Rodgers under center. Provided Rodgers stays healthy for a full 2014 season, I think Lacy's numbers will be even better in Year 2.

1.06 - Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks drafted Christine Michael early in last year's draft, but Lynch should continue to be the team's workhorse back. For a third consecutive season, Lynch rushed for more than 1,200 yards with double-digit touchdowns. Over that three-year span, he has 901 carries for 4,051 yards, 87 catches for 724 yards and a total of 39 touchdowns.

1.07 - Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions

This is where the decisions start to get a little tougher. While I have Megatron ranked seventh overall on my fantasy football cheat sheet, wide receiver is so deep that I'd generally prefer to wait. Because of the depth at the position, there will certainly be bargains later in the draft. That said, I'm going to stick to my board here.

Even though he missed two games last season (and Josh Gordon led the league in receiving), Johnson had 84 receptions for 1,492 yards and 12 touchdowns. In his record-setting campaign in 2012, he had only five touchdowns, but he now was 12-plus receiving touchdowns in three of the past four seasons. Over the past three seasons, Megatron has averaged an absurd line of 101/1,712/11.

1.08 - Jimmy Graham, TE, New Orleans Saints

Graham became the 19th player in NFL history to catch at least 16 touchdown passes and just the second tight end to ever do so. If the first TE to do so, Rob Gronkowski, were not returning from a torn ACL and an injury-plagued season, Graham might be the No. 2 tight end on my board. That said, an offseason of uncertainty about Gronk's health once again boosts Graham's value a bit further. Since his breakout season in 2011, Graham has averaged a line of 90/1,169/12 in those three seasons.

1.09 - DeMarco Murray, RB, Dallas Cowboys

The biggest concern with Murray is his durability and that would make me nervous taking him with the ninth overall pick. That said, he played a career-high 14 games last year, and he has top-five upside if he can stay healthy for a full season.

With a career average of 4.95 YPC, Murray established new career highs of 1,121 rushing yards, 53 receptions for 350 yards and 10 total touchdowns. In the final eight games of the season, Murray had 879 YFS, seven TDs and a 5.5 YPC average. Only four running backs had more YFS in their team's final eight games than Murray.

1.10 - Montee Ball, RB, Denver Broncos

Last season, Knowshon Moreno was a top-five finisher in fantasy points among running backs, but Moreno signed a one-year deal with the Dolphins in free agency. Moreno's departure creates an enormous opportunity for Ball in the league's most explosive offense.

Ball, the Broncos' second-round pick last year, got off to a relatively slow start: 3.26 yards per carry (68 carries for 222 yards) in first 10 games. From Weeks 11 to 16, Ball averaged 6.48 YPC (52 carries for 337 yards). Provided Ball gets the same amount of work that Moreno received last year, he has a shot to finish as a top-five fantasy running back in 2014.

1.11 - A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals

While he may not have the most upside out of the group of receivers immediately following Megatron, Green is the safest among that next tier of stud receivers and he has the ability to dominate opposing defensive backs on any given Sunday.

Through his first three seasons, Green has 260 receptions for 3,833 yards and 29 touchdowns. In a three-year span to start a career, no player has had more receptions than Green (260) and only Randy Moss has more receiving yards (4,163) than Green (3,833). In each of his three seasons, Green's numbers have improved — 65/1,057/7 (2011), 97/1,350/11 (2012) and 98/1,426/11 (2013).

1.12 - Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas Cowboys

Although he saw a year-over-year drop in yardage from 1,382 to 1,233 yards, Bryant set career highs (barely, by one in each case) in receptions (93) and touchdowns (13). Battling a back injury, Bryant still played in all 16 games this season although he got plenty of attention/criticism for the minute or so he missed against the Packers. Despite some (im)maturity concerns, Bryant is one of the most physically-gifted players in the league and should be a lock for another 1,200-yard seasons with double-digit touchdowns.

[Note: We will post Round 2 tomorrow.]

Our early 2014 Fantasy Football rankings:

Keep track of our site's updates: (1) follow us on Twitter, (2) LIKE us on Facebook and/or (3) add us to your Google+ circle

April 13, 2014

2014 NFL Mock Draft (April 13th Update): Clowney Goes First Overall

Based (at least in part) on the (un)availability of Radio City Music Hall in New York City in April, the 2014 NFL Draft will be held a few weeks later than usual (May 8-10) this year.

From now until May 8th, I will make (at least) weekly updates to this mock and include additional rounds as we get closer. Ultimately, the goal will be to make this a full seven-round mock draft.

Follow me on Twitter (@EDSFootball) to keep track of my mock (and all other site) updates.

For a second opinion, check out our 2014 NFL Mock Draft Database for other mocks around the internet.

Without further ado, here is my updated 2014 NFL Mock Draft:

1. Houston Texans (draft history): Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina

Possessing much more talent than last year's record suggests, the Texans were a popular pick to win the division and possibly get to (or even win) Super Bowl XLVIII. Instead, the Texans closed the season with a franchise-worst 14-game losing streak, fired their head coach and benched starting quarterback Matt Schaub, who was traded to the Raiders this offseason.

When asked who the Texans will select with the first overall pick, John McClain of the Houston Chronicle previously tweeted: "Each day I get asked multiple times: Who are Texans drafting? I tell them 1 of the 3 top QBs. Forget about any other position."

Prior to this update, I've had the Texans selecting a signal-caller with the first overall pick. While quarterback clearly remains a position of need for the Texans, it's difficult to ignore the fact that Clowney, the top prospect on our consensus big board, is a much more talented prospect than any quarterback in this year's draft class as well.

So, would it make more sense to take someone like UCF's Blake Bortles at No. 1 and then the best available prospect at No. 33? Or would it make more sense to take the best player in the draft at No. 1 and then the best available quarterback at No. 33?

Viewed as a once-in-a-decade type of defensive line prospect, Clowney is a physical freak who ran an official 4.53 (unofficial 4.47) 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine in February.

Clowney's motivation and effort was questioned by many last season and his on-field production dropped significantly — 23.5 tackles for loss and 13.0 sacks in 2012; only 10.5 TFL and 3.0 sacks in 2013. That said, opposing defenses schemed to slow down Clowney with double and triple teams.

Paired with J.J. Watt, the Defensive Player of the Year in 2012, Clowney should help the Texans get to the quarterback more consistently this year. Only the Bears and Jags had fewer sacks than the Texans last season.

[Related Poll: Vote here on which player the Texans will draft with the first overall pick.]

2. St. Louis Rams (via WAS)(draft history): Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn

With the draft one month away, there is one thing that is certain: St. Louis will attempt to trade down from this slot to acquire additional picks.

If Clowney is off the board, as he is in this edition of my mock, the choice will likely come down to Clemson's Sammy Watkins, the top receiver in the draft, and Robinson, the top offensive tackle in the draft.

Not only is receiver extremely deep, the Rams have used numerous early picks on receivers over the past few seasons. In fact, they have five top-100 selections at the position in their past three drafts including Tavon Austin at No. 8 overall last season.

Meanwhile, Robinson has the upside to be a dominant left (or right) tackle for the next decade. While Jake Long is recovering from a torn ACL, the team re-signed Rodger Saffold only after he failed a physical with the Raiders. Either way, the Rams can move Saffold inside to guard.

Although the Tigers did not throw often, Robinson has all of the physical tools to develop as an elite pass blocker: great size (6-5, 332 pounds), arm length (35 inches) and athleticism (4.92 40-yard dash). And he's one of the biggest (literally) reasons that Auburn led the nation in rushing offense.

His college teammate Avery Young said (via al.com): "Greg's a beast. He's so strong. At the same time, he's so athletic. The only person I know who can do backflips at his size."

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3. Jacksonville Jaguars (draft history): Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida

While the new regime in Jacksonville has the franchise heading in the right direction, they still have a major need at the sport's most important position. With Clowney and Robinson going No. 1 and 2, however, the Jags have their choice of quarterbacks in this year's draft.

Bortles has the prototypical size (6-5, 235), arm strength and mobility that teams covet in a franchise quarterback. The American Athletic Conference's Offensive Player of the Year, Bortles threw for 3,581 yards, 25 touchdowns and nine interceptions while rushing for 272 yards and six touchdowns last year.

4. Cleveland Browns (draft history): Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M

The Browns have several young talented players, but it's been a long time since they've had a franchise quarterback. Since the franchise returned to Cleveland in 1999, the Browns have had a league-leading (or really a league-worst) 20 starting quarterbacks.

Before an ACL injury sidelined him last season, Brian Hoyer played well and he has a shot to be the team's starter in Week 1 even if they draft a quarterback like I'm projecting here.

One of the most exciting, improvisational and polarizing players in college football, Manziel, the first-ever freshman Heisman Trophy winner (in 2012), threw for 3,732 yards, 33 touchdowns and 13 interceptions and ran for another 686 yards and eight touchdowns in 2013.

With the ability to avoid pressure and make plays on the run, Manziel also improved quite a bit as a passer from the pocket in 2013. In addition, Alabama coach Nick Saban called him one of the most competitive players he has ever faced. That said, Manziel will need to learn (a la Russell Wilson) to better avoid hits instead of seeking that extra yard or two.

5. Oakland Raiders (draft history): Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

Possessing numerous needs on their roster, the Raiders could go in a variety of directions including quarterback with this pick. In previous updates, I've had the Raiders selecting Buffalo's Khalil Mack or A&M's Jake Matthews and both of those picks would also make sense here.

With Watkins, however, the Raiders get the clear-cut top receiver prospect in this year's draft class. Bouncing back from a disappointing sophomore campaign, Watkins had 101 catches for 1,464 and 12 touchdowns and closed out his collegiate career with a record-setting performance (16-227-2) in the Orange Bowl.

6. Atlanta Falcons (draft history): Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo

Perhaps the Falcons will be the team that moves up in a trade with the Rams in order to secure a prospect like Clowney. In fact, Clowney is hoping for it.

Whether they do or don't trade up for Clowney, it's clear they need to improve their pass rush. Only two teams — the Bears and Jaguars (31 each) — had fewer sacks last season than the Falcons (32), who were tied with the Texans. The only player on the roster with more than five sacks in 2013 was Osi Umenyiora (7.5 sacks), who will be a free agent after the upcoming season.

One of college football's most productive players ever, Mack is the all-time leader in forced fumbles (16) and is tied for the most tackles for loss (75) in NCAA history. NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah compared Mack to Green Bay's Clay Matthews.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (draft history): Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M

Considering the Bucs have just traded away Mike Williams, Watkins would be a slam-dunk selection if he slips to the Bucs. Even if he doesn't, however, it wouldn't be too surprising to see the Bucs go with another receiver like Evans here.

Even though Vincent Jackson has been highly productive (2,608 yards in his two seasons), he turned 31 years old last month. Interestingly enough, the NFL comparison that Evans most often gets is Jackson.

In his sophomore campaign, Evans had 1,322 yards and 12 touchdowns with a ton of production against Alabama and Auburn. In those two games combined, Evans had 18 catches for 566 yards and five touchdowns. At 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds, Evans would give new quarterback Josh McCown another big target.

8. Minnesota Vikings (draft history): Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville

Despite drafting Christian Ponder in the first round a few years ago and re-signing Matt Cassel to a two-year contract, the Vikings long-term answer at quarterback is not yet on the roster.

Some may question his frame and/or his level of competition while his disappointing Pro Day performance did himself no favors. In addition, ESPN's Chris Mortensen has reported that his private workouts haven't gone so well either. I've seen Bridgewater slipping to the very end of the first round in some mock drafts, and even into the top of the second round. While anything can happen on draft day, it's hard for me seeing that happening.

Not only is Bridgewater a highly accurate passer with the ability to make all of the throws, but he possesses the intelligence, intangibles and leadership you'd want in a franchise quarterback. The most polished quarterback in this year's draft class, Bridgewater remains my top-ranked quarterback prospect even if he isn't the first one off the board in this mock.

9. Buffalo Bills (draft history): Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina

A first team All-ACC selection, Ebron set the conference record for most receiving yards in a season by a tight end this year. In fact, he has been compared to San Francisco's Vernon Davis, who previously held the record, due to his size and athleticism.

10. Detroit Lions (draft history): Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State

Even with two Day 2 picks at corner over the past couple of years, the Lions still ranked 23rd in the NFL in passing defense. Especially considering the Lions have to face the elite passing attacks of Green Bay (Aaron Rodgers, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, etc.) and Chicago (Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, etc.) at least four times per year, you can never have too many cornerbacks.

With excellent size (6-0 1/8, 202 pounds) and speed (4.37 forty), Gilbert has the cover skills and ball skills to make big plays and he also had five kick returns for touchdowns in college as well.

> Continue to picks 11-20 here
> Continue to picks 21-32 here
> Continue to Round 2 here

> Mock Draft Databases: 2014 NFL Mock Draft Database | 2014 NBA Mock Draft Database

> Check out my 2014 NBA mock draft

> Fantasy Football Rankings: Quarterbacks - Running Backs - Wide Receivers - Tight Ends

To keep track of our updates: (1) follow us on Twitter, (2) LIKE us on Facebook and/or (3) add us to your Google+ circle.

April 08, 2014

2014 NFL Mock Draft: The One-Month-To-Go Update

Based (at least in part) on the (un)availability of Radio City Music Hall in New York City in April, the 2014 NFL Draft will be held a few weeks later than usual (May 8-10) this year.

From now until May 8th, I will make (at least) weekly updates to this mock and include additional rounds as we get closer. In fact, the plan is to add both Rounds 2 and 3 later this week. Ultimately, the goal will be a full seven-round mock draft.

Follow me on Twitter (@EDSFootball) to keep track of my mock (and all other site) updates.

For a second opinion, check out our 2014 NFL Mock Draft Database for other mocks around the internet.

Without further ado, here is my updated 2014 NFL Mock Draft:

1. Houston Texans (draft history): Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida

Possessing much more talent than last year's record suggests, the Texans were a popular pick to win the division and possibly get to (or even win) Super Bowl XLVIII. Instead, the Texans closed the season with a franchise-worst 14-game losing streak, fired their head coach and benched starting quarterback Matt Schaub, who was traded to the Raiders this offseason.

When asked who the Texans will select with the first overall pick, John McClain of the Houston Chronicle previously tweeted: "Each day I get asked multiple times: Who are Texans drafting? I tell them 1 of the 3 top QBs. Forget about any other position."

If they so choose, the new coaching staff will have their choice of quarterbacks with whom to begin the next era with the first overall pick in this year's draft.

As tempting as it may be to pair one physical freak, J.J. Watt, with another, Jadeveon Clowney, I agree with McClain that quarterback is going to be the pick. The question remains, however: Which one of the three?

Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater is the most polished quarterback in this class even if his Pro Day did not show it. That said, Bridgewater's slender frame has led to concerns about his ability to hold up to the pounding a quarterback can take.

On the other hand, Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel had a stellar Pro Day performance and his improvisational style made him one of the most exciting players to watch in college football. From a marketing standpoint, Manziel is an in-state kid that would generate large appeal from the team's fan base. With that said, Johnny Football has his own share of concerns: his celebrity persona (although he has said the right things), his ability to win within structure of offense as opposed to relying on athleticism and improvisional skills, etc.

Last but not least, Bortles has the prototypical size (6-5, 235), arm strength and mobility that teams covet in a franchise quarterback. Not only did Bill O'Brien get a firsthand view of Bortles as he led UCF to a win over O'Brien's Penn State team last year, but O'Brien was once part of George O'Leary's staff and that may lead to additional comfort and confidence in selecting Bortles to be the future face of the franchise.

[Related Poll: Vote here on which player the Texans will draft with the first overall pick.]

2. St. Louis Rams (via WAS)(draft history): Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn

With the draft one month away, there is one thing that is certain: St. Louis will attempt to trade down from this slot to acquire additional picks. If the Texans don't select Clowney with the first pick (and he's still available here), that should improve the Rams' chances of moving down to acquire additional picks.

If they are unable to move down, however, it could be a difficult choice between Clowney, the top prospect on our consensus big board, or a prospect like Clemson's Sammy Watkins and Auburn's Greg Robinson, both of whom would fill a greater need for the Rams.

Although Clowney is a once-in-a-decade type of prospect, the Rams had 53 sacks (third in NFL) last year and already have a dynamic duo of Robert Quinn and Chris Long at defensive end.

Not only is receiver extremely deep in this year's draft class, the Rams have used numerous early picks on receivers over the past few seasons. In fact, they have five top-100 selections at the position in their past three drafts including Tavon Austin at No. 8 overall last season.

Meanwhile, Robinson has the upside to be a dominant left (or right) tackle for the next decade. While Jake Long is recovering from a torn ACL, the team re-signed Rodger Saffold only after he failed a physical with the Raiders. Either way, the Rams can move Saffold inside to guard.

Although the Tigers did not throw often, Robinson has all of the physical tools to develop as an elite pass blocker: great size (6-5, 332 pounds), arm length (35 inches) and athleticism (4.92 40-yard dash). And he's one of the biggest (literally) reasons that Auburn led the nation in rushing offense.

His college teammate Avery Young said (via al.com): "Greg's a beast. He's so strong. At the same time, he's so athletic. The only person I know who can do backflips at his size."

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3. Jacksonville Jaguars (draft history): Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina

If Clowney is still on the board at this spot, the Jags could be doing some backflips on their way to handing in their draft card.

Perhaps there would be some debate here for the Jaguars as they really need a franchise quarterback, but I can't see them passing up a talent like Clowney. If so, they could look for someone like Derek Carr or Jimmy Garropolo with their early second-round pick.

Clowney's motivation and effort was questioned by many last season and his on-field production dropped significantly — 23.5 tackles for loss and 13.0 sacks in 2012; only 10.5 TFL and 3.0 sacks in 2013. That said, opposing defenses schemed to slow down Clowney with double and triple teams.

As noted earlier, Clowney is viewed as a once-in-a-decade type of defensive line prospect that is a physical freak who ran an official 4.53 (unofficial 4.47) 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine in February.

The Jags were tied with the Bears for last in the league in sacks (31). Not only did the Jags make some solid moves via free agency, but Clowney would be a major step towards significantly upgrading Gus Bradley's pass rush.

4. Cleveland Browns (draft history): Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M

The Browns have several young talented players, but it's been a long time since they've had a franchise quarterback. Since the franchise returned to Cleveland in 1999, the Browns have had a league-leading (or really a league-worst) 20 starting quarterbacks.

Before an ACL injury sidelined him last season, Brian Hoyer played well and he has a shot to be the team's starter in Week 1 even if they draft a quarterback like I'm projecting here.

One of the most exciting, improvisational and polarizing players in college football, Manziel, the first-ever freshman Heisman Trophy winner (in 2012), threw for 3,732 yards, 33 touchdowns and 13 interceptions and ran for another 686 yards and eight touchdowns in 2013.

With the ability to avoid pressure and make plays on the run, Manziel also improved quite a bit as a passer from the pocket in 2013. In addition, Alabama coach Nick Saban called him one of the most competitive players he has ever faced. That said, Manziel will need to learn (a la Russell Wilson) to better avoid hits instead of seeking that extra yard or two.

5. Oakland Raiders (draft history): Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

Possessing numerous needs on their roster, the Raiders could go in a variety of directions including quarterback with this pick. In previous updates, I've had the Raiders selecting Buffalo's Khalil Mack or A&M's Jake Matthews and both of those picks would also make sense here.

With Watkins, however, the Raiders get the clear-cut top receiver prospect in this year's draft class. Bouncing back from a disappointing sophomore campaign, Watkins had 101 catches for 1,464 and 12 touchdowns and closed out his collegiate career with a record-setting performance (16-227-2) in the Orange Bowl.

6. Atlanta Falcons (draft history): Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo

Perhaps the Falcons will be the team that moves up in a trade with the Rams in order to secure a prospect like Clowney. In fact, Clowney is hoping for it.

Whether they do or don't trade up for Clowney, it's clear they need to improve their pass rush. Only two teams — the Bears and Jaguars (31 each) — had fewer sacks last season than the Falcons (32), who were tied with the Texans. The only player on the roster with more than five sacks in 2013 was Osi Umenyiora (7.5 sacks), who will be a free agent after the upcoming season.

One of college football's most productive players ever, Mack is the all-time leader in forced fumbles (16) and is tied for the most tackles for loss (75) in NCAA history. NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah compared Mack to Green Bay's Clay Matthews.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (draft history): Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M

In my previous update, Watkins slid to the Bucs at No. 7. Considering the Bucs have just traded away Mike Williams, Watkins would be a slam-dunk selection if he does slip to the Bucs. Even if he doesn't, it wouldn't be too surprising to see the Bucs go with another receiver like Evans here.

Even though Vincent Jackson has been highly productive (2,608 yards in his two seasons), he turned 31 years old last month. Interestingly enough, the NFL comparison that Evans most often gets is Jackson.

In his sophomore campaign, Evans had 1,322 yards and 12 touchdowns with a ton of production against Alabama and Auburn. In those two games combined, Evans had 18 catches for 566 yards and five touchdowns. At 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds, Evans would give new quarterback Josh McCown another big target.

8. Minnesota Vikings (draft history): Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville

Despite drafting Christian Ponder in the first round a few years ago and re-signing Matt Cassell to a two-year contract, the Vikings long-term answer at quarterback is not yet on the roster.

Some may question his frame and/or his level of competition while his disappointing Pro Day performance did himself no favors. In some (other) mock drafts, I've seen Bridgewater slipping to the very end of the first round and even into the top of the second round. While anything can happen on draft day, it's hard for me to see that happening.

Not only is Bridgewater a highly accurate passer with the ability to make all of the throws, but he possesses the intelligence, intangibles and leadership you'd want in a franchise quarterback. The most polished quarterback in this year's draft class, Bridgewater remains my top-ranked quarterback prospect even if he isn't the first one off the board in this mock.

9. Buffalo Bills (draft history): Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M

Although I had the Bills selecting UNC tight end Eric Ebron in my previous update, Matthews would be a bigger value for the Bills if he were to slip to this spot. (In my last update, he was off the board before this point.)

Even though Cordy Glenn played extremely well last season, Matthews has the versatility to play either left or right tackle. Technically sound and the son of Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews, he is also an extremely safe pick.

10. Detroit Lions (draft history): Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State

Even with two Day 2 picks at corner over the past couple of years, the Lions still ranked 23rd in the NFL in passing defense. Especially considering the Lions have to face the elite passing attacks of Green Bay (Aaron Rodgers, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, etc.) and Chicago (Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, etc.) at least four times per year, you can never have too many cornerbacks.

With excellent size (6-0 1/8, 202 pounds) and speed (4.37 forty), Gilbert has the cover skills and ball skills to make big plays and he also had five kick returns for touchdowns in college as well.

- Continue to picks 11-20 here
- Continue to picks 21-32 here

- Mock Draft Databases: 2014 NFL Mock Draft Database | 2014 NBA Mock Draft Database

- Check out my 2014 NBA mock draft

- Fantasy football rankings: Quarterbacks - Running Backs - Wide Receivers - Tight Ends

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April 05, 2014

2014 Fantasy Football Rankings: Post-Free Agency Tight End Rankings

Scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason, there was no chance that the Saints would have allowed tight end (or wide receiver?) Jimmy Graham to see free agency.

And they didn't.

Hopefully the two sides will reach a long-term agreement by July 15th, the deadline to do so, but the Saints designated Graham with the franchise tag (list of franchised players). And if they don't reach a long-term deal by April 22nd, Graham can file a grievance saying that he should have been tagged as a receiver instead of tight end.

Graham arguably had the best season of his career even though he fell short of his previous career highs in both receptions and yards. Graham finished the season with 86 catches for 1,215 yards, but he had a career-best 16 touchdowns.

Not only did Graham lead all tight ends in all three categories, but he had nearly 300 yards more than the tight end with the second-most receiving yards (Jordan Cameron, 917). In addition, he led all players, regardless of position, in touchdowns; Denver's Demaryius Thomas was second with 14.

Over the past three seasons combined, Graham has a total of 270 receptions for 3,507 yards and 36 touchdowns; that equates to an average stat line of 90/1,169/12.

A lock for a monster season at a position with only a few studs, Graham is worthy of consideration in Round 1 of fantasy football drafts. In fact, that was the case in both of our early mock drafts so far: pick 1.08 in my one-man mock and pick 1.10 in our latest mock draft.

[Note: We will have two new mock drafts this month including a new one-man mock next week.]

Gronk: Expected to be ready for the start of the 2014 season

As Yogi Berra would say, it's déjà vu all over again.

While the injuries are different, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is coming off a season-ending injury that required surgery for the second year in a row.

One year after a total of five forearm and back surgeries, Gronkowski suffered a torn ACL in early December, but early indications are that he will be ready for the 2014 season opener.

Missing games to start and end last season, Gronk played in only seven games, but he averaged 84.6 yards per game and 15.2 yards per reception, both of which were career highs.

More than anything, Gronkowski is a dominant force in the red zone as he has a total of 43 touchdowns in 50 career games.

Provided he's ready for the start of the 2014 regular season, Gronkowski would even be in the discussion to be the first tight end off the board in re-draft leagues later this year. For now, he's a distant second after Graham.

Orange Julius: Biggest fantasy bargain at TE in 2013

Among tight ends, there was no bigger fantasy bargain than Denver's Julius Thomas, who had an average draft position (ADP) of TE23 and 209th overall in 2013 based on consensus ADP data from FantasyPros.

Despite ranking ninth at the position in targets (89), only two tight ends had more fantasy points than Orange Julius last year: Graham and San Francisco's Vernon Davis.

Of course, Thomas won't be nearly as cheap (or cheap at all) in 2014 after last year's breakout season.

Along with Graham and Davis, he was one of three tight ends with double-digit touchdowns and finished with 65 receptions for 788 yards and 12 touchdowns. Thomas missed two regular-season games, but if you count his three playoff games, he had a total of 83/976/12 over 17 games this season.

Things looking up for Rudolph

While injury cut his season short after Week 9, Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph was a bit of a disappointment in the first half of the season when he did play.

In eight games, Rudolph finished with only 30 receptions for 313 yards and three touchdowns. In half of his eight games, Rudolph had two fantasy points or less.

A number of things could help Rudolph in 2014.

First of all, the team hired Norv Turner as its offensive coordinator and Turner's offenses have long helped tight ends prosper. In addition, it's certainly possible that the team upgrades itself at quarterback by selecting one early in the 2014 NFL Draft (as I currently project in my mock draft).

Over the past two seasons, Rudolph has scored 12 touchdowns in 24 games and could possibly set career highs across the board in 2014.

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Here are my updated fantasy football tight end rankings (standard scoring):

1. Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints
2. Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots
3. Julius Thomas, Denver Broncos
4. Vernon Davis, San Francisco 49ers
5. Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys
6. Jordan Cameron, Cleveland Browns
7. Dennis Pitta, Baltimore Ravens
8. Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers
9. Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins
10. Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings
11. Martellus Bennett, Chicago Bears
12. Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles
13. Delanie Walker, Tennessee Titans
14. Tyler Eifert, Cincinnati Bengals
15. Coby Fleener, Indianapolis Colts
16. Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers
17. Heath Miller, Pittsburgh Steelers
18. Ladarius Green, San Diego Chargers
19. Owen Daniels, Baltimore Ravens
20. Garrett Graham, Houston Texans
21. Joseph Fauria, Detroit Lions
22. Charles Clay, Miami Dolphins
23. Jermichael Finley, Free Agent
24. Jared Cook, St. Louis Rams
25. Tim Wright, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
26. Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs
27. Dwayne Allen, Indianapolis Colts

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2014 Fantasy Football Rankings: Post-Free Agency Wide Receiver Rankings

Exceeding even the expectations from his strongest advocates (like me), Browns receiver Josh Gordon broke out in a huge way in 2013.

Despite a two-game suspension to begin the season, the second-year receiver set a franchise-record with a league-leading 1,646 yards, which more than doubled his rookie season total of 805 yards.

With a 87/1,646/9 line, Gordon led all wide receivers in fantasy points despite a less-than-ideal situation at quarterback and missing two games.

Not only did Gordon have 100-plus yards in exactly half of his 14 games last season, he had at least 67 yards in all but two games in 2013. In addition, he became the first player in NFL history to have back-to-back 200-yard receiving games as he broke the team's single-game receiving record (as Buggin' Out once said, "two times").

With new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan feeding the ball last year to Pierre Garcon, who led the league in receptions (113), I'm comfortable that Gordon will be targeted heavily enough to flourish again as an elite option at receiver. Plus, it would be hard for the team's quarterback situation to get much worse than their three-headed monster last year.

Gordon fantasy owners will hold their collective breath that he keeps his nose clean this year as his next violation of the league's substance-abuse policy would lead to a full-season suspension.

Breakout season for Alshon

Like Gordon, Chicago's Alshon Jeffery was a second-year receiver that broke out in a big way in 2013.

Along with Gordon, Jeffery was one of only two players to record multiple 200-yard receiving games last year and he also set the franchise's single-game record for most receiving yards.

With career highs across the board, Jeffery finished with 89 receptions for 1,421 yards and seven touchdowns and added 105 rushing yards. The only receiver with more yards from scrimmage than Jeffery (1,526) was Gordon (1,734).

Unlike Gordon, Jeffery currently has better pieces around him as the Bears know who will be their everyday starter at quarterback and opposing defenses will focus on slowing down the receiver opposite him, Brandon Marshall, as much as they will focus on Jeffery himself.

Going into the 2014 season, I have Marshall ranked just ahead of Jeffery, but both receivers are stud WR1's in terms of fantasy outlook.

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What can (Antonio) Brown do for you: Consistent production

With 60 Minutes signing a free-agent deal with the Dolphins last offseason, Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown had a breakout season as the team's No. 1 receiver even though he had a 1,100-yard season a few years ago.

Brown became the second receiver in franchise history to finish with triple-digit receptions (110) and was only two shy of the club record (112). Only Gordon had more receiving yards than Brown (1,499), who also scored a career-high eight touchdowns.

Along with Gordon and Jeffery, Brown was one of three receivers to finish with 1,500-plus yards from scrimmage in 2013.

Perhaps the most amazing part of Brown's huge success in 2013 was his consistency. Brown had a minimum of five receptions and 50 yards in all 16 games last season.

Going back to 2000, no other player has done that in all 16 games of a season. From 2000-2013, only one player had 15 such games and that happened in 2001. Garcon had the second-most games (13) with a minimum line of 5/50 last season.

Allen: Only third 1,000-yard rookie in past nine years

In the previous eight years before the 2013 season, only two other players had done what San Diego's Keenan Allen did in 2013.

With the exception of Cincinnati's A.J. Green, New Orleans' Marques Colston and now Allen, no other rookie receiver has reached the 1,000-yard milestone in the past nine seasons.

Allen led the Chargers in receiving across the board with 71 catches for 1,046 yards and eight touchdowns.

Once the calendar turned October, Allen was especially good. In the 14 games played in October through January including the playoffs, Allen had six 100-yard games and scored 10 touchdowns.

As great as Allen's rookie season was, Allen should be even better in 2014.

Edelman: 69/729/5 over his past 8G

In his first four seasons in the NFL, Patriots receiver Julian Edelman had a total of 69 catches for 714 yards and four touchdowns.

Not only did he exceed those numbers in 2013, but he was especially good down the stretch as Tom Brady's most trusted target.

Finishing 10th in the league in targets (151), Edelman's full-year numbers were 105 receptions, which was fourth-most in the NFL, for 1,056 yards and six touchdowns.

In Edelman's final eight games counting both playoff games, he had a minimum of six receptions and 64 yards in every game. During that span, he racked up a stat line of 69/729/5. Purely to illustrate how productive he was over the past half-season, maintaining that pace for a full 16-game season would equate to a stat line of 138/1,458/10!

With Edelman's fantasy value maximized in New England, it's obviously good news that he re-signed with the club.

Here are my updated fantasy football wide receiver rankings (standard scoring) for 2014:

1. Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions
2. A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals
3. Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys
4. Josh Gordon, Cleveland Browns
5. Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos
6. Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons
7. Brandon Marshall, Chicago Bears
8. Alshon Jeffery, Chicago Bears
9. Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers
10. Randall Cobb, Green Bay Packers
11. Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers
12. Pierre Garcon, Washington Redskins
13. Andre Johnson, Houston Texans
14. Roddy White, Atlanta Falcons
15. Keenan Allen, San Diego Chargers
16. Michael Crabtree, San Francisco 49ers
17. Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals
18. Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
19. Percy Harvin, Seattle Seahawks
20. DeSean Jackson, Washington Redskins
21. Victor Cruz, New York Giants
22. Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota Vikings
23. Wes Welker, Denver Broncos
24. Julian Edelman, New England Patriots
25. Torrey Smith, Baltimore Ravens
26. Michael Floyd, Arizona Cardinals
27. Kendall Wright, Tennessee Titans
28. Eric Decker, New York Jets
29. T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts
30. Golden Tate, Detroit Lions
31. Cecil Shorts, Jacksonville Jaguars
32. Marques Colston, New Orleans Saints
33. Mike Wallace, Miami Dolphins
34. Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis Colts
35. Justin Blackmon, Jacksonville Jaguars
36. Jeremy Maclin, Philadelphia Eagles
37. Anquan Boldin, San Francisco 49ers
38. Terrance Williams, Dallas Cowboys
39. Rueben Randle, New York Giants
40. Hakeem Nicks, Indianapolis Colts
41. Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City Chiefs
42. DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans
43. Greg Jennings, Minnesota Vikings
44. Marvin Jones, Cincinnati Bengals
45. Riley Cooper, Philadelphia Eagles
46. Steve Smith, Baltimore Ravens
47. Tavon Austin, St. Louis Rams
48. Steve Johnson, Buffalo Bills
49. Brian Hartline, Miami Dolphins
50. Jarrett Boykin, Green Bay Packers
51. Aaron Dobson, New England Patriots
52. Mike Williams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
53. Danny Amendola, New England Patriots
54. Rod Streater, Oakland Raiders
55. Robert Woods, Buffalo Bills
56. James Jones, Oakland Raiders
57. Justin Hunter, Tennessee Titans
58. Denarius Moore, Oakland Raiders
59. Markus Wheaton, Pittsburgh Steelers
60. Jerrel Jernigan, New York Giants
61. Kenny Stills, New Orleans Saints
62. Kenny Britt, St. Louis Rams
63. Harry Douglas, Atlanta Falcons

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2014 Fantasy Football Rankings: Post-Free Agency Running Back Rankings

A consistently productive back since entering the league as a second-round pick in 2008, Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte had the best season of his career in 2013.

Carrying the ball 289 times, Forte rushed for 1,339 yards and averaged 83.7 yards per game, both of which were career highs, and averaged 4.6 yards per carry, which is the second-highest of his career. In fact, only Philadelphia's LeSean McCoy had more rushing yards than Forte this season.

As one of the league's most versatile and all-around backs, Forte had his best season as a receiver as well.

Forte set career highs in both receptions (74) and receiving yards (594). Catching three touchdowns and rushing for nine scores, Forte tied his previous career high of 12 total touchdowns.

With a talented duo of outside receivers in Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall, Forte has protection from consistent eight-men fronts looking to slow down the run. In addition, both of those receivers are big-bodied wideouts that excel as blockers down the field.

Behind only Jamaal Charles and McCoy, Forte finished third among running backs in fantasy points in standard-scoring formats. He was even better (second) in point-per-reception (PPR) formats.

With so many first-round running backs disappointing in 2013, Forte is one of the safest options among first-round running backs heading into 2014.

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From W5-17: Only McCoy had more rushing yards than Fat Eddie

While the Packers have long been able to beat you through the air, their ground attack has left much to be desired — until this past season, that is.

Rookie running back Eddie Lacy finished with 1,178 rushing yards, which ranked eighth in the NFL, and 11 touchdowns, only two RBs had more.

A concussion sustained on his first carry in Week 2 means that Lacy had only 15 carries in the first four weeks of the season. Lacy missed Week 3 and Green Bay had its bye in Week 4.

From Week 5 through the end of the regular season, only McCoy (1,139) had more rushing yards than Lacy (1,127). Counting their playoff loss, Lacy had 20-plus carries in 11 of his final 14 games last season.

As productive as he was as a workhorse back, Lacy averaged only 4.15 yards per carry this season.

Provided that Aaron Rodgers stays healthy for a full season, however, I expect better numbers from Lacy on a per-carry basis and I wouldn't be surprised if he rushed for double-digit scores once again.

Career-best season and full 16G for Mathews in 2013

Before breaking his clavicle (the first of two times), Chargers running back Ryan Mathews was a top-five pick in many fantasy drafts back in 2012. Unfortunately, that season was a year that Mathews and his fantasy owners would prefer to forget.

Not only did he miss a couple of games to start (and end) that year, Mathews was a disappointment when healthy as he posted career lows of 3.8 yards per carry and only one touchdown in 12 games in 2012.

Justifiably making fantasy owners nervous about his outlook in 2013, Mathews was a much cheaper option on draft day and he delivered for those that gambled on him.

After missing eight games in his first three seasons, Mathews played a full 16-game season for the first time in his four-year career. He rushed for a career-high 1,255 yards, which ranked seventh in the NFL, and scored six touchdowns last season.

Getting off to a relatively slow start, Mathews was one of the league's most dominant runners from Weeks 6 to 17. During that 11-game stretch, Mathews had six 100-yard games. In addition, he was one of only three running backs (McCoy and Lacy were the others) to rush for 1,000-plus yards during that span.

Going into 2014, Mathews' price tag will be much higher than it was last year and plenty of fantasy owners will still be a little hesitant to draft him.

Provided he stays healthy for a second season in a row, Mathews will lead the Chargers in rushing and fantasy points, but the Bolts added Donald Brown in free agency to join Mathews and Danny Woodhead.

Like Mathews, Murray had a career-best season

Like Mathews, Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray has long been associated with the injury-prone tag. While he did not play a full 16 games last year, Murray was still very productive.

Playing a career-high 14 games, Murray eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark (1,124 rushing yards) for the first time in his career. In addition, he set career highs in receptions (53), receiving yards (350) and touchdowns (10).

During a six-game stretch from Week 10 to 16 (team's bye was in Week 11), Murray scored double-digit fantasy points every week and had three games with at least 20 fantasy points.

Only two running backs — McCoy (152.5) and Charles (144.33) — averaged more yards from scrimmage per game than Murray (123.67) during that span. Only Charles (11) had more touchdowns than Murray (seven) over that stretch as well.

There will always be injury risk for Murray, or any running back for that matter, but he could be in store for a monster season provided he maintains good health in 2014.

Here are my updated 2014 fantasy football running back rankings (standard scoring):

1(a). LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles
1(b). Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs
3. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings
4. Matt Forte, Chicago Bears
5. Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers
6. Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks
7. Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
8. DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys
9. Montee Ball, Denver Broncos
10. Arian Foster, Houston Texans
11. Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals
12. Le'Veon Bell, Pittsubrgh Steelers
13. Alfred Morris, Washington Redskins
14. Zac Stacy, St. Louis Rams
15. Reggie Bush, Detroit Lions
16. C.J. Spiller, Buffalo Bills
17. Ryan Mathews, San Diego Chargers
19. Andre Ellington, Arizona Cardinals
18. Shane Vereen, New England Patriots
20. Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers
21. Stevan Ridley, New England Patriots
22. Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens
23. Chris Johnson, Free Agent
24. Ben Tate, Cleveland Browns
25. Toby Gerhart, Jacksonville Jaguars
26. Knowshon Moreno, Miami Dolphins
27. Joique Bell, Detroit Lions
28. Steven Jackson, Atlanta Falcons
29. Trent Richardson, Indianapolis Colts
30. Chris Ivory, New York Jets
31. Danny Woodhead, San Diego Chargers
32. Rashad Jennings, New York Giants
33. Maurice Jones-Drew, Oakland Raiders
34. Fred Jackson, Buffalo Bills
35. Darren McFadden, Oakland Raiders
36. Lamar Miller, Miami Dolphins
37. Darren Sproles, Philadelphia Eagles
38. Khiry Robinson, New Orleans Saints
39. Andre Brown, Free Agent
40. DeAngelo Williams, Carolina Panthers
41. Pierre Thomas, New Orleans Saints
42. Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints
43. LeGarrette Blount, Pittsburgh Steelers
44. Bernard Pierce, Baltimore Ravens
45. David Wilson, New York Giants
46. Marcus Lattimore, San Francisco 49ers
47. Christine Michael, Seattle Seahawks
48. Donald Brown, San Diego Chargers
49. Jordan Todman, Jacksonville Jaguars
50. BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Cincinnati Bengals
51. Jonathan Stewart, Carolina Panthers
52. Shonn Greene, Tennessee Titans
53. Latavius Murray, Oakland Raiders

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2014 Fantasy Football Rankings: Post-Free Agency Quarterback Rankings

It would be hard to discuss the quarterback position without beginning the discussion with Denver's Peyton Manning.

Manning, a (now) five-time league MVP, broke the single-season records last year for both passing yards (5,477) and touchdowns (55) previously held by Drew Brees and Tom Brady, respectively.

As dominant as Manning was with his record-setting full-season numbers, he was remarkably consistent and dominant on a weekly basis. Throwing a touchdown in every game this season, Manning had only one game (excluding the playoffs) with less than two touchdowns. In addition, he had more games (nine) with four or more touchdowns than he had with less than four scores.

Not only did his nine games with four-plus passing scores set a record, but several great quarterbacks barely had that many in their entire careers. As an example, Hall-of-Fame quarterback and currrent Broncos EVP John Elway has a total of 10 such games in his career while Manning had nearly that many last season alone.

Even though there was some risk that Manning (neck) would not have been cleared medically, he passed his physical and all systems are go for 2014.

Surrounded by arguably the most talented group of skill-position players in the league, the Broncos had five different players reach double-digit touchdowns this season: Demaryius Thomas (14), Knowshon Moreno (13), Julius Thomas (12), Eric Decker (11) and Wes Welker (10). While Decker signed with the Jets and Moreno signed with the Dolphins, the Broncos signed Emmanuel Sanders via free agency.

While many (fantasy) championships were likely won by Manning-QB'd teams, I would still prefer to wait to on quarterback in my fantasy league(s).

Foles to be Eagles quarterback for next 1,000 years

Like Manning, Eagles quarterback Nick Foles tied the single-game mark of seven passing touchdowns last season by doing so in Week 9 against the Raiders.

Entering the season as the backup to Michael Vick, Foles did not throw his first pass until Week 4 against the Broncos. That said, coach Chip Kelly joked late last season that Foles will be the team's signal-caller for the next 1,000 years. Either way, Vick signed a one-year deal with the Jets and the starting gig in Philly is clearly Foles' job.

Also in similar fashion to Peyton, Foles threw lots of touchdowns to begin his season without throwing an interception. In fact, Foles did not throw his first interception until Week 14 against the Lions in a weekend that was full of inclement weather around the league. Foles had entered that game with a 19:0 TD-to-INT ratio.

Despite being tied with Cleveland's Jason Campbell in pass attempts (317), Foles finished the season with 27 touchdowns, eighth-most in the NFL, and only two interceptions.

While nobody will confuse Foles for Vick, he did have success running the ball last season. Among quarterbacks, Foles ranked 10th in rush attempts (56) and 12th in rushing yards (225) while also scoring three touchdowns.

The Eagles have re-signed Jeremy Maclin, who missed last season with an ACL tear, and Riley Cooper, who had a breakout season last year. Even though DeSean Jackson is coming off a career-best season, the Eagles released him and will now face him twice per season as Jackson signed with Washington.

Before the Eagles released Jackson, Foles was my clear-cut top fantasy quarterback in the NFC East. With Jackson staying in the division, I'd give the edge to Robert Griffin III. Either way, Foles is a bonafide QB1 for the 2014 season.

An up-and-down season for Brady

It was an up-and-down season for Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. To be more accurate, it was a down-and-up-and-then-back-down season for Brady from a fantasy perspective.

To be fair, Brady began the season without five of the team's leading receivers from 2012.

There were various reasons for their absences (injury, free agency, jail, etc.), but the team's leading returning receiver active for Week 1 of 2013 was Julian Edelman, who had just 235 yards in 2012. Edelman posted a career-best season in 2013 with 105 receptions for 1,056 yards, both of which were team highs in 2013. While Edelman tested free agency, he re-signed with the Patriots.

That said, Brady's production seemed to match the presence (or absence) of tight end Rob Gronkowski.

Beginning with Gronk's third game back, Brady began a six-game stretch with five games of at least 344 passing yards that also included two games with more than 400 yards. The one exception during that span was a 296-yard outing on the road against the Panthers, who had the league's second-ranked overall defense.

In the seven games that Gronkowski was active, Brady averaged 315 passing yards and 1.86 touchdown passes compared to averages of 237.56 yards and 1.33 touchdowns in games he missed.

As Gronk recovers from his ACL injury, he once again enters an offseason with questions about his availability for the start of the season. Early reports indicate that there is a good chance that Gronk will be ready for the start of the season. (And his college beer pong tour continues unimpeded.)

With more concrete evidence that Gronk will be good to go to start the season as we (technically, they) approach training camp, I may move Brady up a couple of spots in my rankings.

Lots of upside for Cutler in Trestman's offense

The answer to the question of whether or not Jay Cutler was the long-term answer at quarterback for the Bears has been answered.

After completing the final year of his previous contract in 2013, Cutler and the Bears agreed to a seven-year deal in early January.

While Josh McCown, who has since signed with the Bucs, played exceptionally well in Marc Trestman's system as Cutler was sidelined with injury, the duo combined to throw for 4,450 yards and 32 touchdowns. Only four teams had more passing yards and passing touchdowns than the Bears last season.

To go along with the well-established chemistry between Cutler and Brandon Marshall, owner of the team's single-season receiving yards record (2012), second-year receiver Alshon Jeffery had a breakout season. Not only did he lead the team in receiving (1,421), but he set the franchise's single-game receiving record and had a pair of 200-yard games this season.

In addition to such a talented duo on the outside, Matt Forte is one of the league's most complete backs and excels as a receiver out of the backfield. Forte finished third among running backs in receptions (74) and set a career high in both catches and receiving yards (594) in the process.

Despite being ranked as my "top" QB2 at No. 13, Cutler certainly has upside in his passer-friendly offense with such talented pass-catchers at his disposal and he's a prime example of why waiting on quarterback is a logical strategy to utilize in fantasy drafts.

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Here are my updated fantasy quarterback rankings for the 2014 season:

1. Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos
2. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
3. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
4. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions
5. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
6. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
7. Tom Brady, New England Patriots
8. Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins
9. Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers
10. Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles
11. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
12. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys
13. Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears
14. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
15. Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers
16. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
17. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals
18. Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins
19. Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs
20. Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals
21. Eli Manning, New York Giants
22. Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens
23. Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams
24. Michael Vick, New York Jets
25. E.J. Manuel, Buffalo Bills
26. Jake Locker, Tennessee Titans
27. Josh McCown, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
28. Brian Hoyer, Cleveland Browns
29. Geno Smith, New York Jets
30. Matt Schaub, Oakland Raiders

More early 2014 Fantasy Football rankings:

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March 29, 2014

2014 NFL Mock Draft: Post-Free Agency Update

Based (at least in part) on the (un)availability of Radio City Music Hall in New York City in April, the 2014 NFL Draft will be held a few weeks later than usual (May 8-10) this year.

From now until May 8th, I will make weekly updates to this mock and include additional rounds as we get closer. Ultimately, the goal will be a full seven-round mock draft.

Follow me on Twitter (@EDSFootball) to keep track of my mock (and all other site) updates.

For a second opinion, check out our 2014 NFL Mock Draft Database for other mocks around the internet.

Without further ado, here is my updated 2014 NFL Mock Draft:

1. Houston Texans (draft history): Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida

Possessing much more talent than last year's record suggests, the Texans were a popular pick to win the division and possibly get to (or even win) the Super Bowl. Instead, the Texans closed the season with a franchise-record 14-game losing streak, fired their head coach and benched starting quarterback Matt Schaub, who was recently traded to the Raiders.

With the first overall pick in this year's draft, the new coaching staff has their choice of quarterbacks with whom to begin the next era if they so choose.

When asked who the Texans will select with the first overall pick, John McClain of the Houston Chronicle previously tweeted: "Each day I get asked multiple times: Who are Texans drafting? I tell them 1 of the 3 top QBs. Forget about any other position."

As tempting as it may be to pair one physical freak, J.J. Watt, with another, Jadeveon Clowney, I agree with McClain that quarterback is going to be the pick. The question remains, however: Which one of the three?

Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater is the most polished quarterback in this class even if his Pro Day did not show it. That said, there are concerns about Bridgewater's slender frame and ability to hold up to the pounding a quarterback can take.

On the other hand, Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel had a stellar Pro Day performance on Thursday and his improvisational style makes him one of the most exciting players to watch. Plus, being an in-state prospect is another positive from a non-football (i.e., marketing) standpoint. With that said, Johnny Football has his own share of concerns: his celebrity persona (although he's saying the right things this offseason), ability to win within structure of offense as opposed to relying on athleticism, lack of height, etc.

Last but not least, Bortles has the prototypical size (6-5, 235), arm strength and mobility that teams covet in a franchise quarterback. Not only did Bill O'Brien get a firsthand view of Bortles as he led UCF to a win over O'Brien's Penn State team last year, but O'Brien was once part of George O'Leary's staff and that may lead to additional comfort and confidence in selecting Bortles to be the future face of the franchise.

[Related Poll: Vote here on which player the Texans will draft with the first overall pick.]

2. St. Louis Rams (via WAS)(draft history): Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn

With the draft more than a month away, there is one thing that is certain: St. Louis will attempt to trade down from this slot to acquire additional picks. In an ideal world, the Rams, who own two top-13 picks, would like to move down a few spots to acquire additional draft picks.

If they are unable to move down, it could be a different choice between Jadeveon Clowney, the top prospect on our consensus big board, Clemson's Sammy Watkins and an offensive tackle like Greg Robinson or Jake Matthews.

Although Clowney is a once-in-a-decade type of prospect, the Rams had 53 sacks (third in NFL) last year and already have a dynamic duo of Robert Quinn and Chris Long at defensive end. Meanwhile, the Rams have used numerous early picks on receivers over the past few seasons. In fact, they have five top-100 selections at the position in their past three drafts including Tavon Austin at No. 8 overall last season.

Meanwhile, Robinson has the upside to be a dominant left (or right) tackle for the next decade. While Jake Long is recovering from a torn ACL, the team re-signed Rodger Saffold only after he failed a physical with the Raiders. Either way, the Rams can move Saffold inside to guard.

Although the Tigers did not throw often, Robinson has all of the physical tools to develop as a pass blocker: elite size (6-5, 332 pounds), arm length (35 inches) and athleticism (4.92 40-yard dash). And one of the biggest (literally) reasons that Auburn led the nation in rushing offense was Robinson.

His college teammate Avery Young said (via al.com): "Greg's a beast. He's so strong. At the same time, he's so athletic. The only person I know who can do backflips at his size."

3. Jacksonville Jaguars (draft history): Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina

If Clowney is still on the board at this spot, the Jags could be doing some backflips themselves.

Perhaps there would be some debate here for the Jaguars as they really need a franchise quarterback, but I can't see them passing up a talent like Clowney. If so, they could look for someone like Jimmy Garropolo with their early second-round pick.

Clowney's motivation and effort was questioned by many last season and his on-field production dropped significantly — 23.5 tackles for loss and 13.0 sacks in 2012; only 10.5 TFL and 3.0 sacks in 2013. That said, opposing defenses schemed to slow down Clowney with double and triple teams.

Viewed as a once-in-a-decade type of defensive line prospect, Clowney is a physical freak that ran an official 4.53 (unofficial 4.47) 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine last month.

The Jags were tied with the Bears for last in the league in sacks (31), but Clowney is a major step towards significantly upgrading Gus Bradley's pass rush to go along with some solid moves via free agency.

4. Cleveland Browns (draft history): Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M

The Browns have several young talented players, but it's been a long time since they've had a franchise quarterback. Since the franchise returned to Cleveland in 1999, the Browns have had a league-leading (or really a league-worst) 20 starting quarterbacks.

Before an ACL injury sidelined him last season, Brian Hoyer played well and he has a shot to be the team's starter in Week 1 even if they draft a quarterback like I'm projecting here.

One of the most exciting, improvisational and polarizing players in college football, Manziel, the first-ever freshman Heisman Trophy winner (in 2012), threw for 3,732 yards, 33 touchdowns and 13 interceptions and ran for another 686 yards and eight touchdowns in 2013.

With the ability to avoid pressure and make plays on the run, Manziel also improved quite a bit as a passer in 2013. In addition, Alabama coach Nick Saban called him one of the most competitive players he has ever faced. That said, Manziel will need to learn (a la Russell Wilson) to better avoid hits instead of seeking that extra yard or two.

5. Oakland Raiders (draft history): Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo

In my pre-free agency update (and most mock updates prior to that), I had the Raiders selecting an offensive tackle. And there certainly is the possibility that they still do so. After losing Jared Veldheer in free agency, they signed Saffold, who then failed his physical. After that, they added tackles Donald Penn and Austin Howard.

Aside from losing Veldheer, the Raiders also lost Lamarr Houston, their leading pass-rusher (6.0 sacks) last season.

One of college football's most productive players ever, Mack is the all-time leader in forced fumbles (16) and is tied for the most tackles for loss (75) in NCAA history. NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah recently compared Mack to Green Bay's Clay Matthews.

6. Atlanta Falcons (draft history): Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M

Perhaps the Falcons will be the team to move up in a trade with the Rams in order to secure a prospect like Clowney. In fact, Clowney is hoping for it.

In previous updates of my mock, I had the Falcons using this pick on Mack, but he's now off the board. The Falcons were tied with the Texans for 29th in the league in sacks so they will look to bolster their pass rush in the draft.

If Clowney and Mack are off the board, Matthews is a tremendous consolation prize. The Falcons are a pass-first team as they ranked third in the league in pass attempts so improving their protection of Matt Ryan should be another top priority for the team.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (draft history): Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

While character concerns dropped Mike Williams in the draft three years ago, there was a report that Williams racked up more than $200,000 in fines for being late to meetings or missing rehab days last year. In addition, Williams was recently stabbed in the leg by his brother.

Even though Vincent Jackson has been highly productive (2,608 yards in his two seasons), he turned 31 years old last month.

With Watkins, the Bucs get the clear-cut top receiver prospect in this year's draft and he's an excellent value at seventh overall. Bouncing back from a disappointing sophomore campaign, Watkins had 101 catches for 1,464 and 12 touchdowns and closed out his collegiate career with a record-setting performance (16-227-2) in the Orange Bowl.

8. Minnesota Vikings (draft history): Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville

Despite drafting Christian Ponder in the first round a few years ago and re-signing Matt Cassell on Saturday to a two-year contract, the Vikings long-term answer at quarterback is most likely not yet on the roster.

While some may question his frame and/or his level of competition, Bridgewater is a highly accurate passer with the ability to make all of the throws and possesses all of the intangibles and leadership you'd want in a franchise quarterback. The most polished quarterback in this year's draft class, Bridgewater remains my top-ranked quarterback prospect even if he isn't the first one off the board in this mock.

9. Buffalo Bills (draft history): Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina

I debated Ebron here with wide receiver Mike Evans, who was my previous choice for the Bills. Ultimately, I expect them to add a big red-zone target for E.J. Manuel.

A first team All-ACC selection, Ebron set the conference record for most receiving yards in a season by a tight end this year. In fact, he has been compared to San Francisco's Vernon Davis, who previously held the record, due to his size and athleticism.

10. Detroit Lions (draft history): Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan

One of the bigger winners at the Scouting Combine, Lewan (6-7, 309) ran the fastest 40-yard dash (4.87) among offensive linemen. In fact, only four offensive linemen have posted faster times since 2006. In addition to his athleticism, Lewan possesses the size (6-foot-7, 309 pounds), length (33 7/8-inch arms) and demeanor to excel as he stays in state to continue his professional career.

- Continue to picks 11-20 here
- Continue to picks 21-32 here

- Mock Draft Databases: 2014 NFL Mock Draft Database | 2014 NBA Mock Draft Database

- Check out my 2014 NBA mock draft

- Fantasy football rankings: Quarterbacks - Running Backs - Wide Receivers - Tight Ends

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March 10, 2014

2014 Fantasy Football Rankings: Pre-Free Agency Tight End Rankings

Scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason, there was no chance that Saints would have allowed tight end (or wide receiver?) Jimmy Graham to see free agency.

And he didn't.

Hopefully the two sides will reach a long-term agreement by July 15th, the deadline to do so, but the Saints designated Graham with the franchise tag (list of franchised players).

Graham arguably had the best season of his career even though he fell short of his previous career highs in both receptions and yards. Graham finished the season with 86 catches for 1,215 yards, but he had a career-best 16 touchdowns.

Not only did Graham lead all tight ends in all three categories, but he had nearly 300 yards more than the tight end with the second-most receiving yards (Jordan Cameron, 917). In addition, he led all players, regardless of position, in touchdowns; Denver's Demaryius Thomas was second with 14.

Over the past three seasons combined, Graham has a total of 270 receptions for 3,507 yards and 36 touchdowns; that equates to an average stat line of 90/1,169/12.

A lock for a monster season at a position with only a few studs, Graham is worthy of consideration in Round 1 of fantasy football drafts. In fact, that was the case in both of our early mock drafts so far: pick 1.08 in my one-man mock and pick 1.10 in our latest mock draft.

Gronk: Expected to be ready for the start of the 2014 season

As Yogi Berra would say, it's déjà vu all over again.

While the injuries are different, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is coming off a season-ending injury that required surgery for the second year in a row.

One year after a total of five forearm and back surgeries, Gronkowski suffered a torn ACL in early December, but early indications are that he will be ready for the season opener.

Missing games to start and end last season, Gronk played in only seven games, but he averaged 84.6 yards per game and 15.2 yards per reception, both of which were career highs.

More than anything, Gronkowski is a dominant force in the red zone as he has a total of 43 touchdowns in 50 career games.

Provided he's ready for the start of the 2014 regular season, Gronkowski would even be in the discussion to be the first tight end off the board in re-draft leagues later this year. For now, he's a distant second after Graham.

Orange Julius: Biggest fantasy bargain at TE in 2013

Among tight ends, there was no bigger fantasy bargain than Denver's Julius Thomas, who had an average draft position (ADP) of TE23 and 209th overall in 2013 based on consensus ADP data from FantasyPros.

Despite ranking ninth at the position in targets (89), only two tight ends had more fantasy points than Orange Julius last year: Graham and San Francisco's Vernon Davis.

Of course, Thomas won't be nearly as cheap (or cheap at all) in 2014 after last year's breakout season.

Along with Graham and Davis, he was one of three tight ends with double-digit touchdowns and finished with 65 receptions for 788 yards and 12 touchdowns. Thomas missed two regular-season games, but if you count his three playoff games, he had a total of 83/976/12 over 17 games this season.

With Eric Decker not expected to re-sign with the Broncos in free agency, there is the potential for more targets for Thomas and the team's other pass-catchers in 2014.

Things looking up for Rudolph

While injury cut his season short after Week 9, Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph was a bit of a disappointment in the first half of the season when he did play.

In eight games, Rudolph finished with only 30 receptions for 313 yards and three touchdowns. In half of his eight games, Rudolph had two fantasy points or less.

A number of things could help Rudolph in 2014.

First of all, the team hired Norv Turner as its offensive coordinator and Turner's offenses have long helped tight ends prosper. In addition, it's certainly possible that the team upgrades itself at quarterback by selecting one early in the 2014 NFL Draft (as I currently project in my mock draft).

Over the past two seasons, Rudolph has scored 12 touchdowns in 24 games and could possibly set career highs across the board in 2014.

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Before NFL free agency officially begins on Tuesday, here are my updated fantasy football tight end rankings:

1. Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints
2. Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots
3. Julius Thomas, Denver Broncos
4. Vernon Davis, San Francisco 49ers
5. Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys
6. Jordan Cameron, Cleveland Browns
7. Dennis Pitta, Baltimore Ravens
8. Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers
9. Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins
10. Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings
11. Martellus Bennett, Chicago Bears
12. Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles
13. Coby Fleener, Indianapolis Colts
14. Delanie Walker, Tennessee Titans
15. Tyler Eifert, Cincinnati Bengals
16. Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers
17. Heath Miller, Pittsburgh Steelers
18. Charles Clay, Miami Dolphins
19. Jared Cook, St. Louis Rams
20. Owen Daniels, Houston Texans
21. Ladarius Green, San Diego Chargers
22. Tim Wright, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
23. Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs
24. Joseph Fauria, Detroit Lions
25. Dwayne Allen, Indianapolis Colts

More early 2014 Fantasy Football rankings:

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2014 Fantasy Football Rankings: Pre-Free Agency Wide Receiver Rankings

Exceeding even the expectations from his strongest advocates (including me), Browns receiver Josh Gordon broke out in a huge way in 2013.

Despite a two-game suspension to begin the season, the second-year receiver set a franchise-record with a league-leading 1,646 yards, which more than doubled his rookie season total of 805 yards.

With a 87/1,646/9 line, Gordon led all wide receivers in fantasy points despite a less-than-ideal situation at quarterback and missing two games.

Not only did Gordon have 100-plus yards in exactly half of his 14 games last season, he had at least 67 yards in all but two games in 2013. In addition, he became the first player in NFL history to have back-to-back 200-yard receiving games as he broke the team's single-game receiving record (as Buggin' Out once said, "two times").

In addition to the new coaching staff in place in Cleveland, Gordon is also likely to have a new quarterback. With new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan feeding the ball last year to Pierre Garcon, who led the league in receptions (113), I'm comfortable Gordon will be targeted heavily enough to flourish again. Plus, it would be hard for the team's quarterback situation to get much worse than their three-headed monster last year.

While those changes don't worry me, owners that draft Gordon will hold their collective breath that he keeps his nose clean this year as his next violation of the league's substance-abuse policy would lead to a full-season suspension.

Breakout season for Alshon

Like Gordon, Chicago's Alshon Jeffery was a second-year receiver that broke out in a big way in 2013.

Along with Gordon, Jeffery was one of only two players to record multiple 200-yard receiving games last year and he also set the franchise's single-game record for most receiving yards.

With career highs across the board, Jeffery finished with 89 receptions for 1,421 yards and seven touchdowns and added 105 rushing yards. The only receiver with more yards from scrimmage than Jeffery (1,526) was Gordon (1,734).

Unlike Gordon, Jeffery currently has better pieces around him as the Bears know who will be their everyday starter at quarterback and opposing defenses will focus on slowing down the receiver opposite him, Brandon Marshall, as much as they will focus on Jeffery himself.

Going into the 2014 season, I have Marshall ranked just ahead of Jeffery, but both receivers are stud WR1's in terms of fantasy outlook.

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What can (Antonio) Brown do for you: Consistent production

With 60 Minutes signing a free-agent deal with the Dolphins last offseason, Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown had a breakout season as the team's No. 1 receiver even though he had a 1,100-yard season a few years ago.

Brown became the second receiver in franchise history to finish with triple-digit receptions (110) and was only two shy of the club record (112). Only Gordon had more receiving yards than Brown (1,499), who also scored a career-high eight touchdowns.

Along with Gordon and Jeffery, Brown was one of three receivers to finish with 1,500-plus yards from scrimmage in 2013.

Perhaps the most amazing part of Brown's huge success in 2013 was his consistency. Brown had a minimum of five receptions and 50 yards in all 16 games last season.

Going back to 2000, no other player has done that in all 16 games of a season. From 2000-2013, only one player had 15 such games and that happened in 2001. Garcon had the second-most games (13) with a minimum line of 5/50 last season.

Allen: Only third 1,000-yard rookie in past nine years

In the previous eight years before the 2013 season, only two other players had done what San Diego's Keenan Allen did in 2013.

With the exception of Cincinnati's A.J. Green, New Orleans' Marques Colston and now Allen, no other rookie receiver has reached the 1,000-yard milestone in the past nine seasons.

Allen led the Chargers in receiving across the board with 71 catches for 1,046 yards and eight touchdowns.

Once the calendar turned October, Allen was especially good. In the 14 games played in October through January including the playoffs, Allen had six 100-yard games and scored 10 touchdowns.

As great as Allen's rookie season was, I expect bigger and better things from him in 2014.

* Complete Fantasy Baseball mock drafts in only five minutes and using the FREE mock draft simulator on our site.

Edelman: 69/729/5 over his past 8G

In his first four seasons in the NFL, Patriots receiver Julian Edelman had a total of 69 catches for 714 yards and four touchdowns.

Not only did he exceed those numbers in 2013, but he was especially good down the stretch as Tom Brady's most trusted target.

Finishing 10th in the league in targets (151), Edelman's full-year numbers were 105 receptions, which was fourth-most in the NFL, for 1,056 yards and six touchdowns.

Among the top 25 leaders in receptions, the only player with a lower yards-per-reception average than Edelman (10.1) was Saints running back Pierre Thomas (6.7). With his modest YPR and low number of touchdowns, Edelman is more productive in point-per-reception (PPR) formats than standard-scoring leagues.

In Edelman's final eight games counting both playoff games, he had a minimum of six receptions and 64 yards in every game. During that span, he racked up a stat line of 69/729/5. Purely to illustrate how productive he's been over the past half-season, maintaining that pace for a full 16-game season would equate to a stat line of 138/1,458/10!

Scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent tomorrow, Edelman's fantasy outlook for 2014 is tied largely to whether or not he re-signs with the Patriots. Per Mike Giardi of CSNNE.com, there is a "strong push" within the organization to re-sign him.

Before the official start of NFL free agency on Tuesday, here are my updated fantasy football wide receiver rankings for 2014:

1. Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions
2. A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals
3. Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys
4. Josh Gordon, Cleveland Browns
5. Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos
6. Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons
7. Brandon Marshall, Chicago Bears
8. Alshon Jeffery, Chicago Bears
9. Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers
10. Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers
11. Pierre Garcon, Washington Redskins
12. Randall Cobb, Green Bay Packers
13. Keenan Allen, San Diego Chargers
14. Andre Johnson, Houston Texans
15. Roddy White, Atlanta Falcons
16. Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals
17. Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
18. DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles
19. Michael Crabtree, San Francisco 49ers
20. Victor Cruz, New York Giants
21. Percy Harvin, Seattle Seahawks
22. Wes Welker, Denver Broncos
23. Torrey Smith, Baltimore Ravens
24. Kendall Wright, Tennessee Titans
25. Michael Floyd, Arizona Cardinals
26. Eric Decker, Denver Broncos
27. T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts
28. Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota Vikings
29. Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis Colts
30. Julian Edelman, New England Patriots
31. Marques Colston, New Orleans Saints
32. Cecil Shorts, Jacksonville Jaguars
33. Mike Wallace, Miami Dolphins
34. Justin Blackmon, Jacksonville Jaguars
35. Rueben Randle, New York Giants
36. Hakeem Nicks, New York Giants
37. Anquan Boldin, San Francisco 49ers
38. Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City Chiefs
39. Terrance Williams, Dallas Cowboys
40. DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans
41. Jeremy Maclin, Philadelphia Eagles
42. Greg Jennings, Minnesota Vikings
43. Marvin Jones, Cincinnati Bengals
44. Tavon Austin, St. Louis Rams
45. Steve Johnson, Buffalo Bills
46. Brian Hartline, Miami Dolphins
47. Mike Williams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
48. Danny Amendola, New England Patriots
49. Jarrett Boykin, Green Bay Packers
50. Aaron Dobson, New England Patriots
51. James Jones, Green Bay Packers
52. Rod Streater, Oakland Raiders
53. Golden Tate, Seattle Seahawks
54. Steve Smith, Carolina Panthers
55. Justin Hunter, Tennessee Titans
56. Robert Woods, Buffalo Bills
57. Emmanuel Sanders, Pittsburgh Steelers
58. Denarius Moore, Oakland Raiders
59. Riley Cooper, Philadelphia Eagles
60. Markus Wheaton, Pittsburgh Steelers
61. Da'Rick Rogers, Indianapolis Colts
62. Kenny Stills, New Orleans Saints
63. Harry Douglas, Atlanta Falcons

More early 2014 Fantasy Football rankings:

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2014 Fantasy Football Rankings: Pre-Free Agency Running Back Rankings

A consistently productive back since entering the league as a second-round pick in 2008, Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte had the best season of his career in 2013.

Carrying the ball 289 times, Forte rushed for 1,339 yards and averaged 83.7 yards per game, both of which are career highs, and averaged 4.6 yards per carry, which is the second-highest of his career. In fact, only Philadelphia's LeSean McCoy had more rushing yards than Forte this season.

As one of the league's most versatile and all-around backs, Forte had his best season as a receiver as well.

Forte set career highs in receptions (74) and receiving yards (594). Catching three touchdowns and rushing for nine scores, Forte tied his previous career high of 12 total touchdowns.

With a talented duo of outside receivers in Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall, Forte has protection from consistent eight-men fronts looking to slow down the run. In addition, both of those receivers are big-bodied wideouts that excel as blockers down the field.

Behind only Jamaal Charles and McCoy, Forte finished third among running backs in fantasy points in standard-scoring formats. He was even better (second) in point-per-reception (PPR) formats.

With so many first-round running backs disappointing in 2013, Forte is one of the safest options among first-round running backs heading into 2014.

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From W5-17: Only McCoy had more rushing yards than Fat Eddie

While the Packers have long been able to beat you through the air, their ground attack has left much to be desired — until this past season, that is.

Rookie running back Eddie Lacy finished with 1,178 rushing yards, which ranked eighth in the NFL, and 11 touchdowns, only two RBs had more.

A concussion sustained on his first carry in Week 2 means that Lacy had only 15 carries in the first four weeks of the season. Lacy missed Week 3 and Green Bay had its bye in Week 4.

From Week 5 through the end of the regular season, only McCoy (1,139) had more rushing yards than Lacy (1,127). Counting their playoff loss, Lacy had 20-plus carries in 11 of his final 14 games last season.

As productive as he was as a workhorse back, Lacy averaged only 4.15 yards per carry this season.

Provided that Aaron Rodgers stays healthy for a full season, however, I expect better numbers from Lacy on a per-carry basis and I wouldn't be surprised if he rushed for double-digit scores once again.

Career-best season and full 16G for Mathews in 2013

Before breaking his clavicle (the first of two times) in 2012, Chargers running back Ryan Mathews was a top-five pick in many fantasy drafts. Unfortunately, that season was a year that Mathews and his fantasy owners would prefer to forget.

Not only did he miss a couple of games to start (and end) that year, Mathews was a disappointment when healthy as he posted career lows of 3.8 yards per carry and only one touchdown in 12 games in 2012.

Justifiably making fantasy owners nervous about his outlook in 2013, Mathews was a much cheaper option on draft day and he delivered for those that gambled on him.

After missing eight games in his first three seasons, Mathews played a full 16-game season for the first time in his four-year career. He rushed for a career-high 1,255 yards, which ranked seventh in the NFL, and scored six touchdowns last season.

Getting off to a relatively slow start, Mathews was one of the league's most dominant runners from Weeks 6 to 17. During that 11-game stretch, Mathews had six 100-yard games. In addition, he was one of only three running backs (McCoy and Lacy were the others) to rush for 1,000-plus yards during that span.

Going into 2014, Mathews' price tag will be much higher than it was last year and plenty of fantasy owners will still be a little hesitant to draft him. I'd start considering Mathews toward the end of Round 2, especially if he's my RB2.

[Related: In our post-SB48 2014 fantasy football mock, Mathews was the last pick of Round 2 (2.12).]

Like Mathews, Murray had a career-best season

Like Mathews, Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray has long been associated with the injury-prone tag. Unlike Mathews, Murray did not play a full 16 games last year, but he was still very productive.

While playing a career-high 14 games, Murray eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark (1,124 rushing yards) for the first time in his career. In addition, he set career highs in receptions (53), receiving yards (350) and touchdowns (10).

During a six-game stretch from Week 10 to 16 (team's bye was in Week 11), Murray scored double-digit fantasy points every week and had three games with at least 20 fantasy points.

Only two running backs — McCoy (152.5) and Charles (144.33) — averaged more yards from scrimmage per game than Murray (123.67) during that span. Only Charles (11) had more touchdowns than Murray (seven) over that stretch as well.

There will always be injury risk for Murray, or any running back for that matter, but he could be in store for a monster season provided he maintains good health in 2014.

Before NFL free agency officially begins on Tuesday, here are my updated 2014 fantasy football running back rankings (standard scoring):

1(a). LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles
1(b). Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs
3. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings
4. Matt Forte, Chicago Bears
5. Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers
6. Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks
7. Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
8. DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys
9. Arian Foster, Houston Texans
10. Le'Veon Bell, Pittsubrgh Steelers
11. Alfred Morris, Washington Redskins
12. Zac Stacy, St. Louis Rams
13. Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals
14. C.J. Spiller, Buffalo Bills
15. Reggie Bush, Detroit Lions
16. Ryan Mathews, San Diego Chargers
17. Shane Vereen, New England Patriots
18. Montee Ball, Denver Broncos
19. Andre Ellington, Arizona Cardinals
20. Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers
21. Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans
22. Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens
23. Knowshon Moreno, Denver Broncos
24. Ben Tate, Houston Texans
25. Stevan Ridley, New England Patriots
26. Steven Jackson, Atlanta Falcons
27. Trent Richardson, Indianapolis Colts
28. Joique Bell, Detroit Lions
29. Danny Woodhead, San Diego Chargers
30. Chris Ivory, New York Jets
31. Andre Brown, New York Giants
32. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars
33. Fred Jackson, Buffalo Bills
34. Lamar Miller, Miami Dolphins
35. Darren McFadden, Oakland Raiders
36. Rashad Jennings, Oakland Raiders
37. LeGarrette Blount, New England Patriots
38. DeAngelo Williams, Carolina Panthers
39. Khiry Robinson, New Orleans Saints
40. Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints
41. Bernard Pierce, Baltimore Ravens
42. David Wilson, New York Giants
43. Donald Brown, Indianapolis Colts
44. Latavius Murray, Oakland Raiders
45. Marcus Lattimore, San Francisco 49ers
46. Jordan Todman, Jacksonville Jaguars
47. Pierre Thomas, New Orleans Saints
48. Christine Michael, Seattle Seahawks
49. Darren Sproles, New Orleans Saints
50. BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Cincinnati Bengals
51. Jonathan Stewart, Carolina Panthers
52. Shonn Greene, Tennessee Titans

More early 2014 Fantasy Football rankings:

Also, check out early 2014 Fantasy Football mock drafts:

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2014 Fantasy Football Rankings: Pre-Free Agency Quarterback Rankings

It would be hard to discuss the quarterback position without beginning the discussion with Peyton Manning.

And before getting into that discussion, I should point out that these early rankings for the 2014 season are just that (early). In other words, there will numerous iterations of my rankings between now and when most fantasy owners start (and complete) their fantasy drafts.

That said, it never hurts to begin looking ahead even if it's early in the process. Plus, in a self-serving way, it prolongs the amount of time that I get to be "not wrong" with my rankings. After all, trying to predict the future can certainly be a humbling experience.

Manning, a five-time league MVP, broke the single-season records for both passing yards (5,477) and touchdowns (55) previously held by Drew Brees and Tom Brady, respectively.

As dominant as Manning was with his record-setting full-season numbers, he was remarkably consistent and dominant on a weekly basis. Throwing a touchdown in every game this season, Manning had only one game (excluding the playoffs) with less than two touchdowns. In addition, he had more games (nine) with four or more touchdowns than he had with one to three scores.

Of course, his nine games with four-plus passing scores set a record, but several great quarterbacks barely had that many in their entire careers. As an example, Hall-of-Fame quarterback and currrent Broncos EVP John Elway has a total of 10 such games in his career and Manning had nearly that many in a season.

Even though there was some risk that Manning (neck) would not have been cleared medically, he has already had and passed his physical this month and all systems are go for 2014.

Surrounded by arguably the most talented group of skill-position players in the league, the Broncos had five different players reach double-digit touchdowns this season: Demaryius Thomas (14), Knowshon Moreno (13), Julius Thomas (12), Eric Decker (11) and Wes Welker (10). Both Decker and Moreno are set to become unrestricted free agents next month.

While many championships were likely won by Manning-QB'd teams, I still prefer to wait to on quarterback in my fantasy league(s). In my early one-man, four-round fantasy football mock draft for 2014, I slotted Manning at the end of Round 2 in a 12-team mock.

[Related: We have completed a new eight-round fantasy football mock draft in February.]

Foles to be Eagles quarterback for next 1,000 years

Like Manning, Eagles quarterback Nick Foles tied the single-game mark of seven passing touchdowns last season by doing so in Week 9 against the Raiders.

Entering the season as the backup to Michael Vick, Foles did not throw his first pass until Week 4 against the Broncos. That said, coach Chip Kelly joked late last season that Foles will be the team's signal-caller for the next 1,000 years.

Also in similar fashion to Peyton, Foles threw lots of touchdowns to begin his season without throwing an interception. In fact, Foles did not throw his first interception until Week 14 against the Lions in a weekend that was full of inclement weather around the league. Foles had entered that game with a 19:0 TD-to-INT ratio.

Despite being tied with Cleveland's Jason Campbell in pass attempts (317), Foles finished the season with 27 touchdowns, eighth-most in the NFL, and only two interceptions.

While nobody will confuse Foles for Vick, he did have success running the ball last season. Among quarterbacks, Foles ranked 10th in rush attempts (56) and 12th in rushing yards (225) while also scoring three touchdowns.

The Eagles have re-signed Jeremy Maclin, who missed last season with an ACL tear, and Riley Cooper, who had a breakout season last year. Stop me if you heard this one before: DeSean Jackson is unhappy with his contract. In a glass-half-full view, that is partly due to the fact that he had the best season of his career last year.

Among the NFC East quarterbacks, it's certainly possible that Foles ends up as the top-scoring fantasy quarterback in 2014. Either way, he's a solid QB1 option going forward.

An up-and-down season for Brady

It was an up-and-down season for Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. To be more accurate, it was a down-and-up-and-then-back-down season for Brady from a fantasy perspective.

To be fair, Brady began the season without five of the team's leading receivers from 2012.

There were various reasons for their absences (injury, free agency, jail, etc.), but the team's leading returning receiver that was active in Week 1 of 2013 was Julian Edelman, who had 235 yards in 2012. Edelman posted a career-best season in 2013 with 105 receptions for 1,056 yards, both of which were team highs in 2013, but he is scheduled to become a free agent.

[Note: Free agency begins on March 11th.]

Brady's production seemed to match the presence (or absence) of tight end Rob Gronkowski.

Beginning with Gronk's third game back, Brady began a six-game stretch with five games of at least 344 passing yards that also included two games with more than 400 yards. The one exception during that span was a 296-yard outing on the road against the Panthers, who had the league's second-ranked overall defense.

In the seven games that Gronkowski was active, Brady averaged 315 passing yards and 1.86 touchdown passes compared to averages of 237.56 yards and 1.33 touchdowns in games he missed.

As Gronk recovers from his ACL injury, he once again enters an offseason of questions around his status and availability for the start of the season. Early reports indicate that there is a good chance that Gronk will be ready for the start of the season. With more concrete evidence of that as we (technically, they) approach training camp, I may move Brady up a couple of spots in my rankings.

Lots of upside for Cutler in Trestman's offense

The answer to the question of whether or not Jay Cutler was the long-term answer at quarterback for the Bears has been answered.

After completing the final year of his previous contract in 2013, Cutler and the Bears agreed to a seven-year deal in early January.

While Josh McCown played exceptionally well in Marc Trestman's system while Cutler was sidelined with injury, the duo combined to throw for 4,450 yards and 32 touchdowns. Only four teams had more passing yards and passing touchdowns than the Bears last season.

To go along with the well-established chemistry between Cutler and Brandon Marshall, owner of the team's single-season receiving yards record (2012), second-year receiver Alshon Jeffery had a breakout season. Not only did he lead the team in receiving (1,421), but he set the franchise's single-game receiving record and had a pair of 200-yard games this season.

In addition to such a talented duo on the outside, Matt Forte is one of the league's most complete backs and excels as a receiver out of the backfield. Forte finished third among running backs in receptions (74) and set a career high in both catches and receiving yards (594) in the process.

Despite being ranked as my "top" QB2 at No. 13, Cutler certainly has upside in his passer-friendly offense with such talented pass-catchers at his disposal and he's a prime example of why waiting on quarterback is such a logical strategy to utilize in fantasy drafts.

* DraftKings: Play Daily Fantasy Sports and get a 100-percent bonus (up to $600) on your initial deposit.

Before the official start of NFL free agency on Tuesday, here are my updated fantasy quarterback rankings for the 2014 season:

1. Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos
2. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
3. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
4. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
5. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions
6. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
7. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
8. Tom Brady, New England Patriots
9. Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles
10. Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins
11. Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers
12. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys
13. Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears
14. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
15. Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers
16. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
17. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals
18. Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins
19. Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs
20. Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals
21. Eli Manning, New York Giants
22. Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens
23. Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles
24. E.J. Manuel, Buffalo Bills
25. Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams
26. Jake Locker, Tennessee Titans
27. Mike Glennon, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
28. Geno Smith, New York Jets
29. Brian Hoyer, Cleveland Browns
30. Terrelle Pryor, Oakland Raiders

More early 2014 Fantasy Football rankings:

Also, check out early 2014 Fantasy Football mock drafts:

Keep track of our site's updates: (1) follow us on Twitter, (2) LIKE us on Facebook and/or (3) add us to your Google+ circle

March 09, 2014

2014 NFL Mock Draft: Pre-Free Agency Update

Based (at least in part) on the (un)availability of Radio City Music Hall in New York City in April, the 2014 NFL Draft will be held a few weeks later than usual (May 8-10) this year.

From now until May 8th, I will make weekly updates to this mock and include additional rounds as we get closer. Ultimately, the goal will be a full seven-round mock draft.

With the start of the NFL free-agency roughly one week away (March 11th), however, team needs for many franchises could change significantly over the next couple of weeks. That said, this mock draft is based on what we know up to this point.

Follow me on Twitter (@EDSFootball) to keep track of my mock (and all other site) updates.

For a second opinion (sort of), check out a collaboration mock I did in early February with Sean Beazley, who picked for AFC teams, while I picked for NFC teams. For even more mocks, check out our 2014 NFL Mock Draft Database.

Without further ado, here is my 2014 NFL Mock Draft:

1. Houston Texans (draft history): Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida

Possessing much more talent than last year's record suggests, the Texans were a popular pick to win the division and possibly get to (or even win) the Super Bowl. Instead, the Texans closed the season with a franchise-record 14-game losing streak, fired their head coach and benched starting quarterback Matt Schaub.

While neither Schaub nor Case Keenum is the long-term answer at quarterback, the good news is head coach Bill O'Brien and the new Texans coaching staff own the top pick, which would allow them to potentially start the next era of the franchise's history with their own guy.

When asked who the Texans will select with the first overall pick, John McClain of the Houston Chronicle previously tweeted: "Each day I get asked multiple times: Who are Texans drafting? I tell them 1 of the 3 top QBs. Forget about any other position."

As tempting as it may be to pair one physical freak, J.J. Watt, with another, Jadeveon Clowney, I agree with McClain that quarterback is going to be the pick. The question remains, however: Which one of the three?

While Teddy Bridgewater is the most polished quarterback in this class and Johnny Manziel may be the most exciting (and polarizing), neither has the upside of Bortles, who possesses the prototypical measurements of the position.

[Related Poll: Vote here on which player the Texans will draft with the first overall pick.]

2. St. Louis Rams (via WAS)(draft history): Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn

With the draft two months away, there is one thing that is certain: St. Louis will attempt to trade down from this slot to acquire additional picks. In an ideal world, the Rams, who own two top-13 picks, would like to move down a few spots and still get one of the top two offensive tackles while acquiring additional draft picks in the process.

If they are unable to move down, it would be hard to pass up on Jadeveon Clowney, the top prospect on our consensus big board, but the Rams had 53 sacks (third in NFL) last year and already have a dynamic duo of Robert Quinn and Chris Long at defensive end.

Meanwhile, Robinson has the upside to be a dominant left tackle for the next decade and it's a position of need for the Rams. Not only is left tackle Jake Long recovering from a torn ACL, but right tackle Rodger Saffold will be an unrestricted free agent on Tuesday.

Although the Tigers did not throw often, Robinson has all of the physical tools to develop as a pass blocker: elite size (6-5, 332 pounds), arm length (35 inches) and athleticism (4.92 40-yard dash). And one of the biggest (literally) reasons that Auburn led the nation in rushing offense was Robinson.

His college teammate Avery Young, brother of Lions DL Willie Young, said (via al.com): "Greg's a beast. He's so strong. At the same time, he's so athletic. The only person I know who can do backflips at his size."

3. Jacksonville Jaguars (draft history): Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina

There would be some debate here for the Jaguars as they really need a franchise quarterback, but I can't see them passing up a talent like Clowney. If so, they could look for someone like Jimmy Garropolo with their early second-round pick.

Not only was Clowney's motivation and effort questioned last season, but his on-field production dropped significantly — 23.5 tackles for loss and 13.0 sacks in 2012; only 10.5 TFL and 3.0 sacks in 2013. That said, opposing defenses schemed to slow down Clowney with double and triple teams.

Viewed as a once-in-a-decade type of defensive line prospect, Clowney is a physical freak that ran an official 4.53 (unofficial 4.47) 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine last month.

The Jags were tied with the Bears for last in the league in sacks (31), but Clowney is a major step towards significantly upgrading Gus Bradley's pass rush.

4. Cleveland Browns (draft history): Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville

The Browns have several young talented players, but it's been a long time since they've had a franchise quarterback. Since the franchise returned to Cleveland in 1999, the Browns have had a league-leading (or really a league-worst) 20 starting quarterbacks.

Even though they (a previous regime -- technically, multiple regimes ago) selected Brandon Weeden in the first round in 2012, he is not in the team's long-term plans. On the other hand, Brian Hoyer played well before an ACL injury sidelined him for the rest of the season and he has a shot to be the team's starter in Week 1 even if they draft a quarterback like I'm projecting here.

While some may question his frame and/or his level of competition, Bridgewater is a highly accurate passer with the ability to make all of the throws and possesses all of the intangibles and leadership you'd want in a franchise quarterback. The most polished quarterback in this year's draft class, Bridgewater remains my top-ranked quarterback prospect even if he isn't the first one off the board.

5. Oakland Raiders (draft history): Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M

Left tackle Jared Veldheer is currently set to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason. Although the Raiders drafted Menelik Watson in the second round last year, Robinson could be the pick especially if the team doesn't re-sign Veldheer.

Matthews, the son of Hall-of-Famer Bruce, was a first-team AP All-American in 2013 one year after sliding over from right tackle to protect Johnny Football.

* DraftKings: Play Daily Fantasy Sports and get a 100-percent bonus (up to $600) on your initial deposit.

6. Atlanta Falcons (draft history): Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo

Perhaps the Falcons will be the team to move up in a trade with the Rams in order to secure a prospect like Clowney. In fact, Clowney is hoping for it.

Whether they do or don't trade up for Clowney, it's clear they need to improve their pass rush. Only two teams — the Bears and Jaguars (31 each) — had fewer sacks last season than the Falcons (32), who were tied with the Texans. The only player on the roster with more than five sacks in 2013 was Osi Umenyiora (7.5 sacks), who will be a free agent after the upcoming season.

One of college football's most productive players ever, Mack is the all-time leader in forced fumbles (16) and is tied for the most tackles for loss (75) in NCAA history. NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah recently compared Mack to Green Bay's Clay Matthews.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (draft history): Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

While character concerns dropped Mike Williams in the draft three years ago, there was a report that Williams racked up more than $200,000 in fines for being late to meetings or missing rehab days last year. Even though Vincent Jackson has been highly productive (2,608 yards in his two seasons), he turned 31 years old last month.

With Watkins, the Bucs get the clear-cut top receiver prospect in this year's draft. Bouncing back from a disappointing sophomore campaign, Watkins had 101 catches for 1,464 and 12 touchdowns and closed out his collegiate career with a record-setting performance (16-227-2) in the Orange Bowl.

8. Minnesota Vikings (draft history): Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M

Despite drafting Christian Ponder in the first round a few years ago and re-signing Matt Cassell on Saturday to a two-year contract, the Vikings long-term answer at quarterback is most likely not yet on the roster.

One of the most exciting, improvisational and polarizing players in college football, Manziel, the first-ever freshman Heisman Trophy winner (in 2012), threw for 3,732 yards, 33 touchdowns and 13 interceptions and ran for another 686 yards and eight touchdowns in 2013.

With the ability to avoid pressure and make plays on the run, Manziel also improved quite a bit as a passer in 2013. In addition, Alabama coach Nick Saban called him one of the most competitive players he has ever faced. That said, Manziel will need to learn (a la Russell Wilson) to better avoid hits instead of seeking that extra yard or two.

9. Buffalo Bills (draft history): Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M

In his sophomore campaign, Evans had 1,322 yards and 12 touchdowns with a ton of production against Alabama and Auburn. In those two games combined, Evans had 18 catches for 566 yards and five touchdowns. A big target (6-foot-5, 225 pounds), Evans has been compared to Vincent Jackson and would give the Bills a big red-zone target.

10. Detroit Lions (draft history): Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State

Even with two Day 2 picks at corner over the past couple of years, you can never have enough talented cornerbacks and the Lions ranked 23rd in the NFL in passing defense.

The first cornerback off the board in my mock, Dennard, the recipient of the Jim Thorpe Award, which is given to the nation's best defensive back, and he was a consensus first-team All-American.

While there was some concern about his long speed, Dennard ran a respectable 4.51 40-yard dash at the Scouting Combine to help alleviate some of those concerns.

- Continue to picks 11-20 here
- Continue to picks 21-32 here

- Mock Draft Databases: 2014 NFL Mock Draft Database | 2014 NBA Mock Draft Database

- Check out my 2014 NBA mock draft

- Fantasy football rankings: Quarterbacks - Running Backs - Wide Receivers - Tight Ends

To keep track of our updates: (1) follow us on Twitter, (2) LIKE us on Facebook and/or (3) add us to your Google+ circle.

Report: Rashard Mendenhall tells teams he's retiring

Running back Rashard Mendenhall played last season for the Cardinals and it appears that will be the final season of his career.

Per ESPN's Adam Schefter, Mendenhall, who was about to be an unrestricted free agent, has been telling teams that he will retire.

In 15 games last season, Mendenhall carried the ball 217 times for 687 yards and eight touchdowns. His average of 3.2 yards per carry was the lowest of his six-year NFL career.

At the NFL Combine, Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians said that Andre Ellington had added 10 pounds and that the Cardinals "want to build our offense around him."

Ellington carried the ball 118 times for 652 yards (5.5 YPC) and three touchdowns and added 39 receptions for 371 yards and a touchdown as a rookie.




Previous 15 Entries

2014 NFL Mock Draft: (March 3rd update) Mar 3, 2014
2014 Fantasy Football Mock Draft (Standard Scoring): Round 8 Feb 18, 2014
2014 Fantasy Football Mock Draft (Standard Scoring): Round 7 Feb 17, 2014
2014 Fantasy Football Mock Draft (Standard Scoring): Round 6 Feb 15, 2014
2014 NFL Mock Draft (Feb. 14th update) Feb 14, 2014
2014 Fantasy Football Mock Draft (Standard Scoring): Round 5 Feb 13, 2014
2014 Fantasy Football Mock Draft (Standard Scoring): Round 4 Feb 12, 2014
2014 Fantasy Football Mock Draft (Standard Scoring): Round 3 Feb 11, 2014
NEW: Initial 2014 Top 150 Fantasy Football Cheat Sheet Feb 10, 2014
2014 NFL Mock Draft: Collaboration, 1.0 Feb 10, 2014
2014 Fantasy Football Mock Draft (Standard Scoring): Round 2 Feb 10, 2014
NEW: 2014 Fantasy Football Mock Draft (Standard Scoring) Feb 9, 2014
Fantasy Football Rankings: Way-too-early 2014 TE Rankings Feb 1, 2014
2014 NFL Mock Draft (Feb. 1st update): Bridgewater still going No. 1 Feb 1, 2014
Super Bowl XLVIII Fantasy Football Rankings Jan 29, 2014





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