videoThe Cincinnati Bengals are going to score a touchdown at Lambeau Field this week. This might sound crazy, but I actually believe they will score several. Lunacy! The Bengals are an obvious mess so far, having scored nary a touchdown in two games and punting aside offensive coordinator Ken Zampese for quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor last week. However, this isn’t a terrible offense. Quarterback Andy Dalton, for all we can say about him, is actually competent, wide receiver A.J. Green is among the best in the game and hopefully this is the week rookie running back Joe Mixon -- or someone in the backfield -- gets a real chance. The Packers beat the struggling offense that is the Seahawks in Week 1 and then watched Matt Ryan and the excellent Falcons move up and down and up and down the field on them last Sunday night. The truth is the Bengals aren’t much to look at so far, but as ESPN’s Bill Barnwell notes, it’s darn tough to get into the red zone that often and fail to come away with touchdowns. In fact, it would be historic.
video Chicago Bears running back Jordan Howard and Tennessee Titans option DeMarco Murray were top-20 selections in ESPN ADP this season, and nothing seemed wrong with that a few weeks ago, as they finished second and third, respectively, in rushing yards in 2016. However, after two weeks of the 2017 season, things aren’t going so well. They’re not exactly piling on the rushing yards. Howard and Murray have combined to rush for 128 yards during four individual games, averaging just 2.9 yards per carry.

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Week 3 fantasy football flex rankings 

September, 20, 2017
Sep 20
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videoWe’re moving the flex rankings up to Wednesdays to give fantasy owners a bit more time to digest and help with decision-making. For updates later in the week, take a look at our main rankings pages, as they are constantly updated through Saturday, with the Thursday players removed after that game and more players added. You don’t need to finalize rosters on Wednesdays, but in case you’re interested, here they are for your consumption, and as always these are PPR! It’s Week 3, so let’s all flex! 1. Antonio Brown, WR, Steelers: Wasn’t a home run in Week 2 against the Vikings, but it’s still double-digit PPR points. That will work.

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videoThe end-of-season rankings have returned to the ESPN Fantasy pages, back by popular demand! Each Tuesday, you’ll find one man’s opinion on essentially what his rankings would be if we all were able to re-draft and play out the rest of the schedule. Of course, we cannot do that, but it’s nice to dream about starting over, and perhaps this aids some fantasy owners in making trades or deciding which free agents to add and otherwise ignore. And by the way, these rankings are ESPN PPR scoring.

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Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY SportsWill Devin Funchess step up as a fantasy option with Greg Olsen sidelined due to injury?
The tight end position seemed to offer several distinct classes of high-end talent entering this season. The Patriots' Rob Gronkowski, Redskins' Jordan Reed and Bengals' Tyler Eifert fit on one side of the debate as terrific players we can't really count on for a full season of games or, perhaps even close to it. Then there was the Panthers' Greg Olsen, Chiefs' Travis Kelce and Titans' Delanie Walker, also standout performers but more likely to stay healthy and offer fantasy owners the luxury of not needing a backup. Then on Sunday one of them got hurt.

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OBJJoe Robbins/Getty ImagesOdell Beckham Jr. could well be back in action in Week 2, but the uncertainty may linger all weekend long.
The sprained ankle still hampering Odell Beckham Jr. remains a big problem for fantasy owners, but even more so because of the timing of his team’s game. Sure, players get hurt. Players are questionable each and every week. When players are hurt and questionable and aren’t scheduled to appear in the Sunday 1 p.m. ET games, it becomes more difficult for fantasy owners to prepare. In Week 1 the Giants were the Sunday night game. In Week 2 they are the Monday night game. Yep, now things are worse for planning purposes because, as of this writing, it seems like Beckham is going to once again be the dreaded game-time decision, which is an obvious issue.

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Week 2 fantasy football flex rankings 

September, 14, 2017
Sep 14
12:41
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GordonMark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY SportsMelvin Gordon looked good in Week 1.
One week down, 16 more to go! There’s surely a long way to go for this season, and let’s just say not everyone is so prone to overreacting after one week, including this writer. Some of the players ranked nicely below did not perform so awesome in Week 1, and some of the players not ranked nicely – or perhaps not ranked at all – did produce big numbers already. Let’s see more. We spent literally months constructing our season rankings, and sure, we shouldn’t be blind to things that have changed and should be willing to react, but don’t simply punt aside players that can still be valuable. It’s Week 2, so let’s all flex! 1. Antonio Brown, WR, Steelers: Even when the other Steelers around him weren’t great, he was great. It is a tougher matchup, but he’s so consistent that it’s tough to ever be concerned.

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video The New England Patriots and New Orleans Saints enter Sunday’s game seeking their first victories, and most people would probably admit to being shocked -- shocked! -- if the defending Super Bowl champs were to start 0-2. For fantasy purposes, it’s not all that relevant. There will be numbers in this game, and you won’t want to rely on the defenses. The Patriots will certainly move the football, but so will the Saints. Drew Brees threw for 291 yards in Monday’s loss at Minnesota, and he should top that against a Patriots secondary that was shredded by the Chiefs’ Alex Smith.

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Terrance WestDavid Kohl/USA TODAY SportsTerrance West looks like the man in the Ravens backfield, and a breakout season could follow.
Rushing for 1,000 yards in an NFL season might seem like no big deal -- long-time veterans Frank Gore and LeGarrette Blount were among those to achieve the mark last season -- but it’s recently become tough for veteran players to join the club for the first time. Of the 12 running backs who crossed the 1,000-yard threshold last season, seven had done it previously (including Gore and Blount). Two more (Ezekiel Elliott, Jordan Howard) passed the mark as rookies in 2016 and two others (David Johnson, Jay Ajayi) were in Year 2 in 2016. That left Saints veteran Mark Ingram as the only longtime vet to achieve the mark for the first time -- the 2011 first-round pick finally broke through in his sixth season. We saw the same trend in previous seasons. In 2015, sixth-year RB Chris Ivory, then of the New York Jets, managed to stay healthy long enough to rush for 1,070 yards, good for fifth in the NFL. In 2014, Justin Forsett was the surprise veteran to break through for the first time (at age 29), and Lamar Miller also accomplished the feat that year, in his third season. This history got me wondering whether there was any room for current veteran running backs -- third season or beyond -- to really emerge in 2017.

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video It was bad enough for fantasy players that Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson, the first pick in most ESPN live drafts, scored a mere 13.1 points in PPR formats at Detroit on Sunday, one of his worst statistical performances since becoming the team’s starter during the 2015 campaign. Then the news got worse. Johnson left prematurely after hurting his wrist after a third-quarter reception and ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported it could cost the 25-year-old star several weeks or perhaps even half the regular season or more.

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AP Photo/Mark Zaleski, FileChristian McCaffrey has a chance to be a fantasy star, but will he bust loose in his first NFL game?
Eight running backs were chosen in the first three rounds of the most recent NFL draft, and one of them debuted Thursday night with considerably more fanfare than when he was originally drafted. The Kansas City Chiefs rocked the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots in the first game of the 2017 regular season, and Kareem Hunt, selected No. 86 overall, looked the part of fantastic fantasy asset with his 246 total yards and three touchdowns, and he was able to do that because starter Spencer Ware wrecked his knee and presented the opportunity. A year ago, there was merely one rookie running back fantasy owners relied on in Week 1. Dallas Cowboys star Ezekiel Elliott definitely proved to be worth it, but the only other rookie running back to even make our rankings that opening week was Derrick Henry of the Tennessee Titans. Few owned eventual breakouts Jordan Howard or Rob Kelley. This year is obviously different, and that’s one of the bigger fantasy themes of the weekend, as we pay extra-close attention to the first-year running backs who have yet to succeed or fail -- so most of us can, obviously, overreact. In each case, there’s enough to believe the rookies we did rank at running back could be awesome and great weekly fantasy options, but it’s also easy to see how things could go awry. Of course, after the historic performance by Hunt, now everyone will expect every rookie to go nuts. I’ll go one by one, if you don’t mind.

  • Carolina opens at San Francisco, and we all

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Timothy T. Ludwig/USA TODAY SportsLeSean McCoy was a top-10 flex player last season despite missed time. If he's healthy, he's someone to start in all leagues, every week.
Welcome to the 2017 fantasy football season and the return of the top-100 (plus) flex rankings! I’m Eric, and I’ll be your host in this forum yet again, as we combine the best of the running backs, wide receivers and tight ends into one tidy, reasonable package to aid those of you with some tough flex decisions -- and even easy ones. Scoring is point-per-reception, and day of publication is every Thursday (a day earlier Thanksgiving week), so make sure you pay attention to the news every Friday, because injury updates could absolutely adjust things. And, hey, have fun! This is a game. Enjoy it. And no matter how the players are ranked below, trust your gut and make your own decisions. 1. Le'Veon Bell, RB, Steelers: I flipped the order for the top guys in season rankings, but this isn’t about the season. It’s about Sunday. Bell gets the slight nod.

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Tom Pennington/Getty ImagesEzekiel Elliott will play in Week 1 against the Giants before starting his suspension.
What a weird Week 1 of the 2017 fantasy football season this is going to be. Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott is actually going to be in the lineup but everyone on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Miami Dolphins will not be. Yep, just the way it was all planned.

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videoFantasy owners really can’t accuse the Indianapolis Colts of being dishonest about the unfortunate situation with Andrew Luck and his troublesome throwing shoulder. On Monday the Colts made it official the star quarterback would not start Week 1, news which shouldn’t have surprised anyone, since we’ve been discussing it as likely for more than a month.

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videoSome fantasy analysts will tell you if you’re not finishing first in your league, then it might as well be last. The premise is understandable, that one should do whatever it takes to win, and if that means taking a few chances with draft picks or trades that might not pan out and could reduce your team to rubble before Halloween, then so be it. The win is the thing. The thing is, in the myriad drafts I’ve already taken part in, whether they counted or not, I’ve been cautious. It showed in my oft-misinterpreted “Do Not Draft” article, as I avoided risky players with early picks, and it shows here as I detail some of the players consistently showing up on my many teams. Really, what better way to establish a list of players whom I like or am targeting than to check my many teams and find repeat names? I’ve drafted first, last and in between and while my favorite spot is definitely first, because securing the safe, reliable Arizona running back David Johnson and then grabbing the best available at the Round 2/3 turn is optimal, I also have had no issues picking last in the first round and eagerly snatching up a pair of the best available there, which tends to be a pair of wide receivers detailed below. Whatever the case, thank you for following along this busy August as we examined the many tiers of the big three positions -- and many have changed, so check out the constantly updated Insider Cheat Sheet -- as well as draft strategy, players to avoid based on their current values, many breakouts and the preseason weekend wraps. It’s a lot. And now, it’s about time for the games to count. I’ve still got a few drafts to go, and here are players that I’ll likely keep targeting, based on my patterns over the past month.

Quarterback

Kirk Cousins, Jameis Winston, Matthew Stafford, Philip Rivers, Carson Wentz Well, I’m clearly not going to budge on my directive to avoid quarterbacks in the early rounds, and it seems I’ve really been waiting a while. Why not? There’s tremendous depth and these first three fellows specifically could easily end up as top-10 fantasy quarterbacks. Two of them actually did last season. For some reason, people don’t expect repeat performances. For leagues that start two quarterbacks, my strategy this season has been not to reach for a top guy early, but to insure I’m getting two of the top 15 options, even if neither is considered a definite top-10 guy, and Wentz and Rivers fit the mold.

Running back

Melvin Gordon, Christian McCaffrey, Kareem Hunt, Isaiah Crowell, Bilal Powell, Danny Woodhead, Rob Kelley, Terrance West, Mike Gillislee, Tevin Coleman, Duke Johnson Jr., Thomas Rawls, Jacquizz Rodgers, Marlon Mack, Chris Carson, De'Angelo Henderson OK, so that’s a lot of names. First of all, and perhaps subliminally, I do have some level of concern for most every top-10 running back in ESPN ADP other than David Johnson, LeSean McCoy and Gordon. With Le’Veon Bell, it’s more injuries, more suspensions and this ill-timed holdout (as if there is ever a good time). Devonta Freeman just got really rich, and his backup might be as good as he is. Jay Ajayi had nearly half his 2017 rushing yards in three games. DeMarco Murray was awful two seasons ago. Jordan Howard doesn’t catch passes. Todd Gurley, well, I don’t need to tell you. I’d still draft all of them, but what I keep doing is avoiding them and taking wide receivers. Gordon is a notable exception. After that, I find it odd how the pass-catching options are slipping in drafts since pretty much all these drafts for me have been PPR versions. Two years ago, Woodhead was a top-five PPR option, and he’s capable of duplicating the performance. He’s also capable of missing many games, but the risk in Round 7 is hardly the same as it is if Ajayi or Gurley struggle. Powell will catch 70 passes for the Jets. McCaffrey could do this for Carolina. And Johnson should see improvement as well, even as I do like Crowell. Those who have followed my work for years know I’m generally not the one recommending rookies, but talent and opportunity have collided for a slew of these guys. The minute the Chiefs drafted Hunt, I was basically all in because I didn’t think Spencer Ware was good enough to hold him off. That situation changed this weekend, but I’ve got shares of Hunt everywhere and was willing to reach a few rounds. Now I’ll really need to reach and it might still be worth it. Frankly, I doubt I’ve ever ranked five rookie running backs among my top 20 at the position, but I’m doing it. And later on I like these sleeper rookies in Indianapolis, Seattle and Denver.
Mike EvansKelley L Cox-USA TODAY SportsMike Evans has averaged nearly 80 catches and 1,200 yards receiving in his first three seasons, to go along with 27 TD catches.

Wide receiver

Mike Evans, Michael Thomas, Brandin Cooks, Terrelle Pryor Sr., Demaryius Thomas, Michael Crabtree, Golden Tate, Tyrell Williams, Pierre Garcon, DeVante Parker, Rishard Matthews, Zay Jones, Ted Ginn Jr., John Brown The recent Odell Beckham Jr. injury situation has me actually pondering Evans as the No. 2 wide receiver, but since I’ve been somewhat alone on having Evans in my top five overall, I’ve still been getting him. I’ve also got Michael Thomas in my top 10. A few of my teams have started with this combination, and I’m all for it. With the Julian Edelman injury, I’ve since moved Cooks into that territory, as well. Don’t enter any draft saying you have to go running back or receiver first and then reverse after that or a tight end in Round -- go best available flex option, whether it’s RB or WR, for seven or more rounds until you need to get a QB or TE. With Crabtree, Tate, Williams, Garcon and -- until recently -- Parker, the reason I’ve been getting them on my teams is because their value has been misinterpreted. Some believe Crabtree can’t be a top-20 wide receiver alongside Amari Cooper. Um, OK, but Crabtree has scored more fantasy points than his younger, supposedly better teammate both seasons. Tate catches a ton of Stafford passes and will again. Mike Williams isn’t suiting up for Rivers anytime soon, meaning Tyrell Williams gets huge opportunity again. I believe Brian Hoyer and the 49ers can have a reasonable pass offense -- shocking! -- and Garcon isn’t done yet as a key statistical provider. With Parker, his stock has risen quickly with Jay Cutler, but it is warranted. Later on in drafts, I seem to be ending up receivers like Matthews and Ginn that nobody else likes, which is fine. Yes, the Titans brought in Eric Decker and drafted a rookie, and Matthews is way under the radar, but proven and healthy. And Ginn won’t match the production Cooks enjoyed with Drew Brees, but if he can control the drops somewhat, he can be valuable. With Arizona’s John Brown, he just has to stay healthy. In a general sense, I’ve been avoiding the rookie wide receivers unless it’s late in a standard league or later in a deeper format, but I do think Buffalo’s Jones has a wonderful opportunity. And while it’s not at the same level because of the quarterback, Cooper Kupp and ArDarius Stewart could start for the Rams and Jets, respectively. And as we saw with last season’s Browns, as Pryor topped 1,000 receiving yards, even teams with quarterback dysfunction can generate relevant wide receivers.

Tight end

Zach Ertz, Hunter Henry, Jack Doyle, Cameron Brate Nothing against Travis Kelce or Greg Olsen, healthy and reliable options at a position with many question marks, but I’m always waiting at this position. Ertz in Round 10 is tremendous value, and Henry and Doyle should emerge this season. As for Brate, it’s hard to find many rookie tight ends that really aid fantasy owners over the years, and O.J. Howard might have a really bright future, but Brate is this year’s guy.

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