Fantasy Insider: Fantasy draft rankings

James Morris hails from Rio Rancho, NM and has been playing fantasy sports for just over 15 years. Not only does he write the Bengals fantasy section, but he also does the Miami Dolphins fantasy section. Crossing over, Morris writes the fantasy sections for the Minnesota Timberwolves in the NBA. Just send him an email and he will reply back the same day with your answer. Or, find him on Twitter (Fantasyguy23) and get all your NFL news before it hits the national media. *

We are back boys and girls, and we are kicking off the 2012 NFL season with season 5 of the Cincinnati Bengals Fantasy Football draft preview!

As we all know, the hardest thing about playing fantasy football is navigating the news, info, injuries, waiver wire add/drops, trades and stats to make the best decisions possible. That is where I am come in; I am your silent partner for fantasy football. I will bring you fantasy football news from around the NFL each week, and tell you who to sit and start in your fantasy league. The format doesn't matter; the size doesn't matter; the website doesn't matter; I am the all knowing, all seeing, all telling fantasy football expert!

To start with we are going to take a look at the draft rankings for each position. Typically I rank players with standard scoring formats in mind, but I will throw some PPR information in there when needed. Those in cap leagues can still use the standard and PPR rankings to base their auction or salary decisions off of. So, without further adieu, let's talk some fantasy football!

QUARTERBACKS

1) Aaron Rodgers: Now, while Rodgers comes in as the No. 1 fantasy QB this season, you must understand that he isn't the No. 1 overall pick in fantasy leagues; the first 3-5 picks are normally reserved for RBs. He has only missed one game in his four years in the league, sports one of the most accurate arms in the league, and has the athletic ability and ferociousness on the field to be the first QB off the board.

2) Tom Brady: Brady got bumped out of the top two spots because the Patriots have two amazing TEs and one WR, but no real vertical threat downfield. He does get some help in Brandon Lloyd and Dante' Stallworth, and Brady has proven that he will carry a fantasy team regardless of what we think he has to work with.

3) Cam Newton: Cam I Am has the unique combination of a high football IQ, cannon for an arm, and turbo boosters for legs. I'm not sure he can score 14 rushing TDs again, but 3,500 passing yards, 650 rushing yards, and 30-35 total TDs is well within his reach.

4) Drew Brees: What scares me most about the Saints this season is all the change in the coaching ranks. While OC Pete Carmichael will continue to call the plays on offense, DC Joe Vitt will serve as interim HC and it remains to be seen how the offense will shake out under his control. Brees lost Robert Meachem in free agency, but Brees is a top-tier QB with or without him and I would feel fine with him as my QB1.

5) Matthew Stafford: Stafford has Calvin Johnson to throw to, and that is one fine weapon to have in your arsenal. The problem is, the Lions WR2 is a question mark and I am not excited about Kevin Smith penciled in as the starting RB right now with Jahvid Best still out. That being said, Stafford is an elite QB that can easily throw for 4,500 yards and 30 TDs this year.

6) Michael Vick: Vick enters this season as the unquestionable starter, DeSean Jackson got his money and Jeremy Maclin looks poised to finally do what we've been waiting for him to do. The Eagles have maybe the best offensive line in the league, and I am going to gamble on Vick having one more monster fantasy season left in him. I could see him throwing for 3,700 yards and scoring 30 total TDs this year.

7) Eli Manning: While Hakeem Nicks will be out until the middle of camp, Victor Cruz emerged as a hidden gem last year and rookie Rueben Randle will get every chance to see first-team reps in the meantime. Better yet, the O-line is healthy and I see 4,200-plus passing yards and 30 TDs from him this season.

8) Tony Romo: Romo and Eli Manning are the top two QBs in the second tier of fantasy quarterbacks, but I have him ranked below Eli because the Cowboys lost Laurent Robinson in FA and Dez Bryant has some off-field issues that could be a distraction. That being said, Miles Austin and Bryant make for a great 1-2 combo at WR, and DeMarco Murray can be a very good RB that takes the heat off the passing game. You can interchange Romo and Manning here without missing anything in terms of production on paper.

9) Matt Ryan: New OC Dirk Koetter is a believer in vertical passing and the no-huddle, which play to the strengths of Ryan, Julio Jones and Roddy White. Not only that, but the Falcons have stated repeatedly that they will reduce the workload on Michael Turner. Matty Ice is a value pick at No. 10, and could be worth even more if everything lines up right for him.

10) Peyton Manning: How the mighty have fallen in the Manning family. By all accounts Peyton Manning is 100 percent healthy and looks just as good as he once was. But, that is also without taking a hit from an opposing defensive lineman. His injury risk and change of offense make him a boom-or-bust pick.

*Andy Dalton has drawn comparisons to Drew Brees and even Joe Montana. I'm not so sure that is a good thing because the pressure of trying to live up to that billing is a lot for any person to endure. What I love about Dalton is A.J. Green and the way the coaching staff knows how to use him effectively. Now, this is a fantasy article and I have to be honest and say that Dalton is a QB2 and should be drafted accordingly.

Honorable Mentions: Philip Rivers lost Vincent Jackson and is now looking at Meachem and Malcom Floyd as his top two WRs. I have him as a QB2; Ben Roethlisberger is without Mike Wallace, and Rashard Mendenhall could miss the first half of the season. He is a borderline QB1, but I'd let someone else take the risk; Robert Griffin III is going to go higher than he should due to his hype. His WRs and RBs worry me, and I have him slotted as a top-tier QB2.

RUNNING BACKS

1) Arian Foster: Now we get to the No. 1 player that should be taken in any fantasy draft format. He isn't without risk as the Texans lost veteran RT Eric Winston and RG Mike Brisiel in free agency, but the zone-blocking scheme should guarantee continued success. I would take him No. 1 overall and not look back.

2) Chris Johnson: CJ2K burned fantasy owners last year and he is going to drop in drafts because of it. But not in my draft because I saw that the Titans brought in perennial Pro Bowl LG Steve Hutchinson from Minnesota to beef up the O-line. I look for a big bounce-back year from Johnson this season.

3) LeSean McCoy: As with Vick, the O-line is one of the best in the league, and McCoy got a new contract to boost his ego. The coaching staff has said that he was overworked last year (321 touches in 15 games), but I don't see any way he gets fewer than 15 touches a game and 15-17 total TDs this year.

4) Ryan Mathews: Mike Tolbert left via FA, and Ronnie Brown comes in. We all know Brown and he is well past his prime, which means Mathews is going to see as many carries as his body will allow. Coach Norv Turner plans to give Mathews "everything he can handle" this season and I foresee 1,300 yards and 12 TDs in his future.

5) Ray Rice: Rice did miss some offseason practice time as he waited to sign his franchise tag, but the guy is as consistent as they come with touches. He plays all three downs and handles the goal-line carries, so I have no problems taking him as my RB1 this season.

6) Darren McFadden: The good news for Run DMC owners is that TD vulture Michael Bush left town. The bad news is that Hue Jackson's creative playcalling is now a thing of the past. RBs get injured all the time, but McFadden has been slow to heal thus far in his career. That being said, he is still a difference-maker on the field and this season I could see 1,300 yards and 10 TDs for those brave enough to take him.

7) Matt Forte: Matt Forte is one of the most underrated backs in the NFL in my opinion, but Michael Bush is going to do to his value what McFadden owners are all too familiar with. Those in PPR leagues will want to bump Forte up a spot or two, but standard scoring formats need to keep him right here since his TDs are going to be inconsistent this season.

8) Jamaal Charles: Charles is the only back in NFL history with a career per-carry average of 6.0+ on at least 150 carries. The problem there is that he tore his ACL, which means the speed and cuts he was used to making may never reappear. The addition of Payton Hillis will help take the heat off him more than Thomas Jones did, but coming back from an ACL is never easy and there is plenty of risk there with Hillis around.

9) DeMarco Murray: The only two things that worry me about Murray are his injury history and Felix Jones still hanging around. Owner Jerry Jones has said that Murray is the starter, and given the Cowboys offensive upside, he has enormous fantasy upside. I have him as a low-end RB1, but I could see him leapfrogging Charles before the season is over.

10) Adrian Peterson: Now, let's be honest and say that AP is the quintessential boom-or-bust pick this season. The knee is a major concern for me, but people around him and Vikings players are saying all the right things about him hitting the field in Week 1. There is a real risk here, and I don't see him truly helping teams out until the second half of the season.

  • BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Bernard Scott: Bengals OC Jay Gruden plans to use a "hot hand" approach to The Law Firm and Scott this season, which means the dreaded RBBC (Running Back By Committee) for fantasy owners. I look at Green-Ellis as a flex RB and Scott as a handcuff for Green-Ellis.

Honorable Mentions: Maurice Jones-Drew is still holding out, and the Jaguars brass is talking about how old he is and how he has lost some explosiveness. Rashad Jennings is an interesting flex option should MJD hold out into the season; Steven Jackson is going to be picked higher than he should, and I would let someone else take on the headache. The Rams are going to have a run-heavy, smashmouth style of football this season, so if you get Jackson, make sure you handcuff him with Isaiah Pead.

WIDE RECEIVERS

1) Calvin Johnson: Megatron is the best WR in the NFL, and the race isn't even close. I've seen him going as high as No. 5 right behind Ryan Mathews, and there is nothing wrong with that.

2) Andre Johnson: Andre Johnson has been hampered by unlucky injuries, but he is Matt Schaub's go-to guy in the passing attack. I like him to haul in 90 passes with 1,350 yards and 7-8 TDs.

3) Julio Jones: The Falcons want to limit Michael Turner's carries, and install a more vertical, pass-first mindset on offense. Jones just turned 23 years old and is now the No. 1 WR on the Falcons depth chart, and the kid has the talent to tear up NFL defenses. He is a bit of a sleeper, so don't be caught sleeping on him.

4) Larry Fitzgerald: The main problem I have with Fitzgerald is his QB problems, and that is no small problem when you consider Kevin Kolb has to truly compete with John Skelton for the starting job. Fitzgerald has proven that he can produce at a high level regardless who is under center, but the QB problems still knock him down a peg in my rankings.

5) A.J. Green: Green has the talent to jump into the top 3 for fantasy WR rankings, but it all depends on his QB, Andy Dalton. If Dalton can figure it out and play to the level I think he is capable of, Green could catapult into an elite fantasy WR by season's end.

6) Hakeem Nicks: Nicks is going to drop a little in fantasy drafts because of the broken foot, but I wouldn't let that deter you from taking him as a WR1 in your draft. Victor Cruz isn't going to steal enough targets from him to hurt his fantasy value, and I don't think 1,200 yards and 9 TDs is out of reach.

7) Brandon Lloyd: Tom Brady can make a star out of anyone, and Lloyd is surely glad to be out of St. Louis after racking up just 70 catches for 966 yards and 5 TDs last season. OC Josh McDaniels likes to feature a more vertical passing attack, and he could see Lloyd as a Randy Moss-like weapon for Brady. I wouldn't get too excited, but the last time he played a full season for McDaniels he led the NFL in receiving yards.

8) Steve Smith: Any time a QB is ranked in the top 5, his No. 1 WR should be ranked in the top 10. Enter Steve Smith. Not only is the guy a sure thing for 1,100 yards and 7-8 TDs, but karma is going to bless him after he donated $100,000 to the Aurora, CO shooting victims. Cam Newton is going to make him a top 10 stud.

9) Dez Bryant: Speaking of karma, Dez Bryant owners better hope I am wrong about the "what goes around comes around" philosophy. Look, the kid has the talent to take over games and dominate defenses, but maturity is a huge problem for him. If he does break out this season, he could very well finish with the most TDs of any WR in the NFL.

10) Percy Harvin: Harvin is a versatile WR that can score on offense and special teams. The thing that keeps him off my team is his well-documented injury history. Yes, he played a full season last year, but 5-11 and 184 pounds is fragile at best in the NFL world and Harvin was already carted off the field due to a wrist/hand injury. Harvin is a borderline WR1 in standard scoring formats, and is worth a little more in leagues that count KR/PR return yards and TDs.

  • Brandon Tate and Armon Binns are battling for the starting gig opposite Green, but right now Tate is listed atop the depth chart. I think we will see a rotation of Binns, Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones at the WR3 position throughout the year unless one of them stands out. Binns and Tate are going to be on almost all waiver wires, so leave off drafting them and take a "wait-and-see" approach on them.

Honorable Mentions: WR is a deep position in fantasy football, so guys like Greg Jennings, Demaryius Thomas, Victor Cruz and Wes Welker are still worth high picks. Guys on the borderline for fantasy starter status are Michael Crabtree, Sidney Rice and Reggie Wayne. Stay away from Terrell Owens and let someone else deal with Justin Blackmon.

TIGHT ENDS

1) Rob Gronkowski: Gronk is without question one of the top two players at the TE position, and almost never came off the field last season. I doubt he will repeat the 1,327 receiving yards he racked up last season, but 80 receptions, 1,000 yards and 10-plus TDs is realistic.

2) Jimmy Graham: Graham may be a safer pick at TE than Gronkowski given the fact that he has a better chance at targets given the Saints lack of true depth at WR. I foresee Graham mirroring his 2011 stats, and those are nothing to sneeze at.

3) Antonio Gates: The Chargers are featuring a WR corps of Meachem, Floyd and Vincent Brown, which means Gates will be a big part of the passing game. Gates hasn't played 16 games in the last two years, but he looks healthy now and should be able to hit 75 receptions, 900 yards and 9 TDs.

4) Aaron Hernandez: The Patriots added Lloyd, Jabar Gaffney and Stallworth at WR, which means Hernandez won't see the same amount of targets he did last season. However, I still see him getting the ball thrown his way 5-6 times a game. Once you get past Hernandez, the TE options get sketchy.

5) Jermichael Finley: Over his career, Finley seems to have an intimate relationship with the injury bug. Then there is his inconsistent play and drops that plagued him last season. Physically speaking, Finley is probably the most gifted TE in the league and that gives him the ability to dominate games. With Rodgers throwing the ball to him, Finley is not a bad player to target in round 5.

6) Vernon Davis: Mario Manningham, Randy Moss and A.J. Jenkins are going to take some of the targets, but Davis should still see his fair share every game. Davis is more of a middle-of-the-pack TE, but once you see the run on TEs happen, you better grab one before you end up with Jermaine Gresham or Brandon Pettigrew.

7) Jason Witten: Witten isn't the TE he once was in terms of production, but the departure of Laurent Robinson should give him a small bump in production this season. He could approach 80 catches, 950 receiving yards and 5-6 TDs this season if Tony Romo can get his game right.

8) Fred Davis: If you miss out on the top 5 TEs, Davis isn't a bad option given his importance in the Redskins offense. Chris Cooley is clearly the backup at TE, and Davis isn't going to come off the field enough to make a difference. He won't get as many yards as Witten, but he could go TD-for-TD with him.

9) Jacob Tamme: The best thing Tamme has going for him is Payton Manning throwing the ball his way. With just Thomas and Eric Decker ahead of him for targets, Tamme is going to be a great value pick in the 10th round when he hauls in 75 catches, 800 yards and 6 TDs.

10) Tony Gonzalez: You have to wonder when the 36-year-old TE will hit the production wall, so there is obvious risk in drafting him. Last year he finished with 80 catches for 875 yards and 7 TDs, and I really don't see him doing it again. If he hits 70 receptions, 825 yards and 5 TDs, you should be ecstatic.

  • Jermaine Gresham is not going to rack up the yards like the top-tier TEs, but I could see 600-plus yards and a TD total as high as 7 this season. He is a TE2 in fantasy terms, but the goalline targets could easily bump him up to a TE1.

Honorable Mentions: Once you get out of the top-10 TEs, the cliff is steep. Kyle Rudolph, Dustin Keller, Brent Celek, Greg Olson and Jared Cook are all bunched in the borderline TE1/TE2 bubble. If you waited past the 10th round to draft a TE, you shouldn't be expecting much in terms of production anyhow.

DEFENSE/SPECIAL TEAMS

1) Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles defense enters its second year under Juan Castillo, and with all the talent they have you have to expect them to finish as the top-rated fantasy defense this season. They have no real holes at any position from the line to the secondary.

2) San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers have virtually the exact same defensive unit as last season, and they were dominating last year. Not to mention Ted Ginn Jr. is one of the most dangerous return men in the NFL.

3) Pittsburgh Steelers: Now that LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison are healthy, the pass rush will produce more sacks, more fumbles and more hurried throws. I look for the Steelers to improve off last year's fantasy numbers.

4) Denver Broncos: The Broncos defense has one major advantage going for it: Payton Manning running the offense. With the Broncos playing with the lead for a change, the defense will be allowed to take a few more chances. Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil are going to pin their ears back and rack up the sacks. There is plenty of sleeper value in the Broncos defense this season.

5) Baltimore Ravens: The loss of Terrell Suggs until December and the suspension of Ryan McBean will be major problems for the Ravens defense to overcome. Ray Lewis turned 37, and is showing signs of slowing. The Ravens have enough talent to give you a top 5 fantasy season on defense, but the likelihood of them getting above the Broncos or Steelers in the season's final rankings are slim at best.

6) Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys brought in Brandon Carr and traded up to get CB Morris Claiborne in the draft to shore up their vulnerable secondary. Add a D-line that features the unstoppable DeMarcus Ware, and you have the makings of a defense that can do some fantasy damage. They could get even better in the second half of the season when Claiborne finds his groove with the speed of the NFL game.

7) Houston Texans: The best thing I see about the Texans defense isn't necessarily the players on the field, but rather the teams they play against. They have six matchups against uncertain offenses in the Colts, Jaguars and Titans, and that alone could be fantasy gold. Yes, they lost a great talent in Mario Williams to FA, but Brooks Reed, Conor Barwin and Whitney Mercilus are going to be enough to make up for the loss.

8) Kansas City Chiefs: Romeo Crennel is now the HC and DC, and we all know what a great defensive mind he is. Then the Chiefs spent their first-round pick on Dontari Poe. The kid is freakishly athletic and should start at NT in Week 1. What keeps the Chiefs defense toward the bottom end of the starting fantasy defenses are guys named Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers and Carson Palmer. This defense has talent, but they are going to give up some points this season with tougher divisional games.

9) New York Giants: The Giants are going to get you sacks with a DE rotation of Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora. However, their pass defense ranked 29th last season and they did little to address this problem. They are still a defense worth drafting, but the INTs will be lacking, and the points allowed are going to hurt the fantasy totals.

10) Cincinnati Bengals: The great thing about the Bengals defense is you know what you will get out of them. Rookies Dre Kirkpatrick and Devon Still are expected to play significant roles right away, and Taylor Mays, Jason Allen and Terence Newman will add veteran leadership to a solid defensive unit. The Bengals are a safe value pick in the later rounds of the draft.  

Now, as you may have noticed, I didn't include Kickers in my rankings. The reason for that is there is minimal points difference between the No. 1 K (Sebastian Janikowski/David Akers) and the No. 12 K (Dan Carpenter/Matt Prater). Last season Janikowski racked up 153 fantasy points and Carpenter finished with 128 points. That is a 25-point difference, which comes out to roughly 1.5 points-per-game difference. Even the No. 20 kicker last year had 115 points, so one is just as good as another.

Rarely are weeks won or lost by a single point, and you can get a much better team overall by taking depth while others are taking kickers. Let them burn mid- to late-round picks on them while you grab a kicker with your last pick.

There you have it Bengals fans, your 2012 fantasy football draft rankings are in the books. The WR and RB positions are obviously drafted much deeper than 10 players, so should you need help with your RB2, WR3 or flex picks, just shoot me an email/Facebook/Twitter message and I will guide you to drafting the best team possible. Good luck in your draft, and remember, second place is just the first loser. WHO DEY!

Remember, You can email me, follow me on Twitter, or find me on Facebook to get your fantasy fix and have your questions answered.

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