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ESPN The Magazine 2014 Fantasy Football Guide

ESPN The Magazine is for the NEXT generation of sports fans who want to stay on top of the athletes, teams, topics and upcoming events in their own sports world. The Magazine celebrates not only sports, but the cultures and lifestyles that are an integral part of them - all with ESPN's unique personality and authority.

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access_time10 min.

GO AHEAD. TAKE A GOOD WHIFF. LEAN IN, BURY YOUR NOSE. You smell that? It’s fantasy football, my friend, and it’s here. Everyone has his own official start to the fantasy football season, and for me, it’s the first time I crack open a magazine. Yeah, there’s a ton of stuff online and, no doubt, I’ll hit for some mock drafts and the latest updates, but really, there’s nothing quite like holding a magazine. Feel the weight, bend back the pages, roll it up and smack your buddy in the face when he tries to draft a player that’s already been taken. That may seem extreme, but it rarely happens a second time. Just saying. Ever since the Super Bowl ended, we here at ESPN Fantasy HQ have been re-watching game film,…

access_time18 min.
truths be told

STAY AWAY FROM RUNNING BACKS IN THE FIRST ROUND THE DEFYING TRUTH Let’s face it, 2013 was a gruesome year for first-round running backs. Arian Foster, Ray Rice, Doug Martin, C.J. Spiller and Trent Richardson were consensus top-10 picks, and by any measure, each was a disaster. Yes, if you were fortunate enough to draft Jamaal Charles or our cover boy, LeSean McCoy, your season worked out fine. But odds are that if you used your first-rounder on a back last season, you were unimpressed. That opens a whole bag of questions: Why would a right-thinking fantasy football owner do it again in 2014? Isn’t the strategy of selecting RBs very early in your draft a product of the “old” NFL? Haven’t we recently seen players at other positions—like Peyton Manning, Calvin…

access_time4 min.
welcome to the show, rook

KIPER’S TOP 10 FANTASY IMPACT ROOKIES 1 BISHOP SANKEY TITANS RB Chris Johnson had 279 carries last season. His backup, Shonn Greene? Seventy-seven at just 3.8 yards a pop—and he’s coming off knee surgery. With CJ2K now a Jet, the Titans had Week 1 in mind when they made Sankey the first back drafted; he should be ready for 200-plus carries. 2 BRANDIN COOKS SAINTS WR The Saints moved up to No. 20 overall for Cooks, a clear indication they covet what the 5-foot-10 burner can do immediately. The losses of WR Lance Moore and RB Darren Sproles (108 catches combined in ’13) will allow Cooks to soak up targets in the slot and on underneath throws—70-plus catches is realistic. 3 SAMMY WATKINS BILLS WR Buffalo gave up a first-and a fourth-rounder to give EJ Manuel…

access_time1 min.
sleepers & busts

If you’re only looking for sleepers in the double-digit rounds and dodging busts early on, you’re doing it all wrong. So to help you identify those hidden values and land mines in everyround, I’ve divided my list of undervalued and overvalued players into four tiers, defined by varying levels of expectation. That’s how Philip Rivers, even after a terrific 2013, can still be a sleeper and why the already-cratering Maurice Jones-Drew can still bust with the worst of them. —CHRISTOPHER HARRIS…

access_time3 min.
more mixed reviews …

MATTHEW BERRY ESPN.COM SENIOR FANTASY ANALYST SLEEPER KYLE RUDOLPH VIKINGS TE Norv Turner has made a fantasy star out of a lot of tight ends—Jay Novacek in the ’90s, Jordan Cameron last year and some guy named Antonio Gates for a few seasons in San Diego. Now in Minnesota, he gets the 6-foot-6 Rudolph, who scored 12 touchdowns in his first two seasons but disappeared last season. Norv will change that, vaulting Rudolph into the top 10 this season. BUST DEMARCO MURRAY COWBOYS RB If you thought the Cowboys threw a lot last year, wait ’til you see Scott Linehan’s plans. The Cowboys’ passing-game coordinator is coming off a five-year stint in Detroit, where the Lions threw more passes (3,258) than any other NFL offense. Also, it’s worth noting: Just because Murray missed only two…

access_time8 min.
agree to disagree

IN EVERY FANTASY DRAFT, there’s that guy … the one who reaches a bit too far, the one who prompts group groans, the one who tees up classic barbs like “Is this 2007?” or “Does he come with both ACLs?” But we all know who that guy wants to be: the one with the gut feeling, the one who inspires the room to say, “Great pick, I wanted him!” So who will you be? To help out, we drew up a list of four swing players who could make or break your draft. And for good measure, we asked seven experts to rank and analyze each of them. Because there’s a fine line between being that guy and being the man. NICK FOLES RANKING RANGE QB NO. 7-11 JIM MCCORMICK NO. 7 QB Losing…