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Fantasy Sports Fantasy Football

Predicting The Top 15 Fantasy Football Players Of 2014

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Top 15 2014 Fantasy Football Rankings

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Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

When it was all said and done, the MVP of the 2013 fantasy football season was definitely Peyton Manning. After seeing him throw for seven touchdowns in Week 1, there was no hiding the fact that he was going to have a monster season. I'm sure many of the owners who drafted Manning this season won their fantasy leagues this year.

While Manning's dominating season might make fantasy players want to buck the trend of drafting running backs early, players might want to think again. The quarterback position is still as deep as ever with Manning headlining the elite group of quarterbacks, a rising group of quarterbacks from the same 2012 draft class that just completed their sophomore seasons, and the occasional under-the-radar sleepers that emerge every year at the position such as Nick Foles this season. With so many good quarterbacks to choose from, it's still better to hold off on drafting a quarterback early, no matter how tempting a great player like Peyton Manning is.

Of course, drafting a running back in the first round still isn't a guarantee of success. Many of this season's biggest busts came from first-round running backs, including the likes of Trent Richardson, C.J. Spiller and Ray Rice. But still, this just means that bankable, trustworthy running backs are hard to come by and therefore, those running backs who you can plug into your lineups without thought week in and week out should be taken immediately.

With the NFL gradually trending towards becoming a passing league, more and more wide receiver options are becoming available. With every team in the league throwing the ball so often, there should always be some wide receiver who gets drafted late or goes undrafted who breaks out in a big way. We should expect there to be an Alshon Jeffery every year at the wide receiver position, and therefore fantasy players need to stock up on players at the wide receiver position, especially late in the draft in order to have a chance to strike it rich with a breakout player.

The increase in passing in the NFL has also increased the number of good tight ends available for fantasy purposes. Although an elite guy like Rob Gronkowski will have injury concerns, there are still plenty of good fantasy replacements behind him that will undoubtedly be of use in fantasy in 2014.

With all of this in mind, let's take an early look at how the 2014 fantasy football season shapes up. Here are the top 15 players ranked for next season. (Hint: there are a lot of running backs and NO quarterbacks)

Percy Chao is a writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @PercyChao, "Like" him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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15. RB Arian Foster

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Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

An injury risk headed into 2013, Arian Foster will still have that label going into 2014. However, he is only a year removed from being a consistent and capable fantasy running back and with Ben Tate likely leaving the Houston Texans via free agency, Foster will have the chance to regain form. Certainly, with the injury risk comes some of the highest upside a fantasy owner can expect from a player.

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14. RB Alfred Morris

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Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

The waiver wire darling of 2012, Alfred Morris was not as good as last year, but still decent. Part of the problems stemmed from the internal conflict of the Washington Redskins, especially between Robert Griffin III, Mike Shanahan and the Redskins' ownership. With a new regime coming in led by new head coach Jay Gruden, Morris should be able to build on an okay 2013 campaign.

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13. WR Josh Gordon

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David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Josh Gordon finished the season as the No. 1 wide receiver in fantasy, despite being suspended for the first two games of the season. Even though he is still raw and certainly can improve, the combination of size, speed and physical strength makes Gordon difficult to cover. Gordon also certainly benefits from the Cleveland Browns' lack of running game and quarterbacks, who like to throw the deep ball. There really should be no concerns about Gordon next year given just how talented and effortless he makes things look on the field.

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12. RB Zac Stacy

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Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

As one of the waiver wire stars this year, Zac Stacy appears to have emerged as the primary running back for the St. Louis Rams. A tough runner, Stacy put up impressive numbers, even against tough run defenses like the Seahawks. Going into next season, Stacy should be the starter on Day 1 of training camp and should be able to lead the way for an up-and-coming Rams team.

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11. RB DeMarco Murray

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Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Labeled as somebody who is injury-prone, DeMarco Murray only missed a couple of games for the Dallas Cowboys this season. When he did play, for the most part Murray got the job done, scoring nine touchdowns. With how good the Cowboys offense is, he should continue to get many goal-line looks, and with every-down backs rare these days, a guy like Murray is definitely worth owning.

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10. RB Doug Martin

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Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

This is where things get tricky. After the first few relatively safe picks of a fantasy draft, fantasy players have to look at players who come with some risk attached to them. Doug Martin, following an impressive 2012 rookie season, was merely average in 2013 in the games he played before getting hurt. However, Mike James and Bobby Rainey were able to have success running the ball with Martin sidelined, and with Martin coming back healthy next season, there should be no reason why the Tampa Bay Buccaneers can't continue to run the ball effectively with someone as talented as Martin.

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9. RB Le'Veon Bell

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Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

Another rookie, Le'Veon Bell missed the first three weeks of the season with a mid-foot sprain. After coming back to the lineup, Bell was able to revitalize a non-existent Pittsburgh Steelers running game. After the Steelers started the season 0-3 without Bell, the team finished as one of the hottest teams down the stretch of the season. Unfortunately for the Steelers, the bad start would cost them a postseason berth. But with an every-down back like Bell, the Steelers should carry their momentum into next season with Bell leading the way on offense.

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8. RB Eddie Lacy

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Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

As a Rookie of the Year candidate, Eddie Lacy was a tough tackle in 2013 and played an integral part in keeping the Green Bay Packers alive in the playoff hunt without Aaron Rodgers for much of the second half of the season. Lacy is the best running back the Packers have had in a very long time, and the team should continue to find a way to keep feeding him the ball. As part of a dynamic offense, Lacy should have no trouble putting up numbers next season.

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7. WR Calvin Johnson

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Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Although he struggled with a lingering knee issue and missed two games for that reason, Calvin Johnson still put up monster stat lines for the Detroit Lions. In Week 8, Megatron racked up 329 receiving yards, the second-most receiving yards in a single game in NFL history. Performances like that are the reason why Johnson is still the best wide receiver in the game and should still be drafted as such.

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6. TE Jimmy Graham

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Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

In 2013, Jimmy Graham had a monster season for the New Orleans Saints, catching 16 touchdowns and was far and away the best tight end in terms of fantasy points scored. In fact, Graham would have been the fourth highest scorer at the wide receiver position this year. The fact that he is so good and that he is clearly the best at his position makes this tight end so valuable and so worth a first-round draft pick.

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5. RB Adrian Peterson

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Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Although he didn't rush for 2,000 yards again like he had promised, Adrian Peterson still had a decent season running the football. Even though he is getting older and plays for a very poor Minnesota Vikings team, Peterson is a once-in-a-generation player that can not be ignored. No matter what the circumstances are, Peterson has proved that he can produce and that no one should ever doubt him.

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4. RB Marshawn Lynch

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Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

As an integral part of the Seattle Seahawks' success this season, Marshawn Lynch was the core of the Seahawks' offensive game plan every week. With a stingy defense, the Seahawks continued to use a run-heavy game plan every week, having the least pass attempts in the NFL this season. With all of the success the Seahawks had this season, there should be no reason for them to change the offensive formula, meaning that Lynch will continue to get steady touches every week.

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3. RB Matt Forte

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Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

The emergence of Chicago Bears head coach Marc Trestman allowed the Bears' offense to flourish. Trestman was able to catapult the Bears' passing game to the top of the NFL with skill players at every offensive position. He also allowed Matt Forte to play nearly every down instead of taking him out in favor of Michael Bush, especially in goal-line situations. Trestman should continue to have offensive success in the Windy City and thus Forte can be trusted to get fantasy owners double-digit points every week.

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2. RB LeSean McCoy

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Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

After a relatively fluky 2012 season in which he only rushed for two touchdowns, LeSean McCoy was able to regain his previous form and join Charles as the two elite running backs, who could have monster games week in and week out. Year two of the spread, hurry-up offense with Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly should be even better than the first, with McCoy at the centerpiece of all of the offensive success.

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1. RB Jamaal Charles

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Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

If it wasn't for Manning, Jamaal Charles would definitely have been able to stake a claim to the best player in fantasy football this year. Leading all running backs in points scored, Charles put up legendary performances for those in the fantasy playoffs including a legendary 215 total yards and five touchdown performance in Week 15. With new Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid allowing Charles to play at the goal line unlike previous seasons, there should be no reason to worry about Charles' fantasy production.