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Opportunity- and Health-Neutral Rankings. Plus Top-20 By Floor

I'm reprising this exercise from last year because I think it's useful to identify potential breakouts and upside plays.

There are essentially four variables that determine a player's value: (1) Health; (2) Skills; (3) Team Context; and (4) Role. Of the four, (1) and (4) are most subject to dramatic change, so I've eliminated them for the purposes of these rankings.

In the first table, I assume every player were guaranteed 16 games. In the second, I've ranked the top-20 QB, RB, WR and TE irrespective of roles, i.e., assuming everyone had an equal number of basic opportunities. For QBs, that's 550 passing attempts, for RBs, that's 250 carries, for WRs and TEs, that's 130 targets. (I'm assuming a full PPR format.)

Health-Neutral Rankings

RankQBRBWR*TE
1Pat MahomesTodd GurleyDeAndre HopkinsTravis Kelce
2Deshaun WatsonSaquon BarkleyOdell BeckhamGeorge Kittle
3Aaron RodgersEzekiel ElliottJulio JonesZach Ertz
4Cam NewtonAlvin KamaraJuju Smith-SchusterRob Gronkowski
5Andrew LuckChristian McCaffreyDavante AdamsO.J. Howard
6Baker MayfieldMelvin GordonAntonio BrownEvan Engram
7Russell WilsonDavid JohnsonMichael ThomasHunter Henry
8Matt RyanLe'Veon BellMike EvansJared Cook
9Carson WentzDamien WilliamsA.J. GreenVance McDonald
10Kyler MurrayJoe MixonAdam ThielenDavid Njoku
11Dak PrescottDalvin CookT.Y. HiltonGreg Olsen
12Lamar JacksonJames ConnerKeenan AllenDelanie Walker
13Mitch TrubiskyNick ChubbStefon DiggsMark Andrews
14Josh AllenDevonta FreemanAmari CooperAustin Hooper
15Marcus MariotaAaron JonesSammy WatkinsJimmy Graham
16Jared GoffLeonard FournetteKenny GolladayJack Doyle
17Jameis WinstonKenyan DrakeBrandin CooksKyle Rudolph
18Jimmy GaroppoloDerrick HenryRobert WoodsEric Ebron
19Kirk CousinsSony MichelMike WilliamsTrey Burton
20Ben RoethlisbergerMarlon MackAlshon JefferyJordan Reed

*posted pre-Tyreek Hill news. Move Hill to No. 9.

Several players see significant boosts: all the running QBs and Aaron Rodgers move up from their actual rankings. At RB, Todd Gurley shoots up from No. 13 to the top overall spot, while Devonta Freeman goes from No. 18 to No. 14. Sony Michel jumps to No. 19 from No. 24 too.

At WR, Odell Beckham checks in at No. 2 (from 6), while A.J. Green moves up fives spots to No. 9. Sammy Watkins and Alshon Jeffery also see significant boosts.

Finally at TE, Rob Gronkowski (in the unlikely event he plays), Hunter Henry and Greg Olsen see spikes.

Let's take a look at the Opportunity-Neutral Ranks. These eliminate not only health (you can't have opportunities without it), but also the hard-to-predict whims of coaches and coordinators:

Opportunity-Neutral Rankings

RankQBRBWRTE
1Pat MahomesAlvin KamaraOdell BeckhamTravis Kelce
2Deshaun WatsonSaquon BarkleyTyreek HillGeorge Kittle
3Russell WilsonChristian McCaffreyDeAndre HopkinsO.J. Howard
4Cam NewtonTodd GurleyMike EvansRob Gronkowski
5Lamar JacksonMelvin GordonJulio JonesEvan Engram
6Kyler MurrayEzekiel ElliottJuju Smith-SchusterZach Ertz
7Josh AllenDamien WilliamsT.Y. HiltonHunter Henry
8Aaron RodgersDavid JohnsonSammy WatkinsDavid Njoku
9Baker MayfieldJoe MixonDavante AdamsDallas Goedert
10Andrew LuckDalvin CookA.J. GreenJared Cook
11Dak PrescottAaron JonesMike WilliamsVance McDonald
12Carson WentzLe'Veon BellMichael ThomasMark Andrews
13Mitch TrubiskyDevonta FreemanTyler LockettGerald Everett
14Matt RyanKenyan DrakeAmari CooperEric Ebron
15Marcus MariotaJames ConnerBrandin CooksTrey Burton
16Jared GoffDarrell HendersonAdam ThielenGreg Olsen
17Philip RiversNick ChubbD.J. MooreJimmy Graham
18Drew BreesJaylen SamuelsCalvin RidleyJordan Reed
19Jimmy GaroppoloDavid MontgomeryRobby AndersonChris Herndon*
20Ben RoethlisbergerCarlos HydeJosh GordonDelanie Walker

*suspended four games

At QB, Russell Wilson, who's held down by his run-heavy scheme, moves to No. 3. In fact, all the running QBs see major boosts, with Lamar Jackson, Kyler Murray and Josh Allen all cracking the top six. All three would be monsters if they saw the same number of passing attempts as their more stationary counterparts.

At RB, Alvin Kamara checks in at the top spot. Give him the same number of carries as the workload heavyweights in a top offense, and he could have a season for the ages. Incidentally, Kamara is 5-10, 215, so it's not inconceivable the Saints would lean on him more and make Latavius Murray into more of a traditional backup. Todd Gurley also shoots up, as does his backup, Darrell Henderson who would be a monster with a full workload should Gurley never regain full health. (Note, I didn't rank pass-catching specialists like Tarik Cohen or James White – obviously, they would be huge with 250 carries, but it's so unlikely that would ever happen, I omitted them. One could argue Henderson is in that category, but he's 5-8, 208 (fairly stout) and had 200-plus carries last year in college.) Backups in top offenses like Jaylen Samuels and Carlos Hyde also cracked the top 20.

At WR, Beckham takes the top spot. He's behind five receivers on the actual cheat sheet only due to health concerns and the guaranteed massive workload of players like Davante Adams and DeAndre Hopkins. Take away Beckham's risk and their added opportunities, he's the top player now that he's paired with Baker Mayfield. Take away Tyreek Hill's suspension risk and give him as many targets as Hopkins, and I'm taking Hill ahead of him too. Sammy Watkins, Mike Williams, Tyler Lockett, D.J. Moore, Calvin Ridley, Robby Anderson and Josh Gordon (assuming he's re-instated) all crack the top-20 over volume guys like Stefon Diggs and Keenan Allen.

At TE, I put Rob Gronkowski at No. 4 – he'd still be great if he plays, but O.J. Howard is in his prime and might have as much upside at this stage given the same number of opportunities.  Gerald Everett makes an appearance as does the Jets Chris Herndon, but it's nearly impossible Herndon sees that many looks, given his four-game suspension.

Finally, just to show the flip side of this exercise, I did a quick top-20 highest floor players. Floor drafting makes sense only in the early rounds, so I didn't bother ranking tight ends beyond the top five:

Floor-Only Rankings

RankQBRBWR*TE
1Pat MahomesEzekiel ElliottDeAndre HopkinsTravis Kelce
2Baker MayfieldSaquon BarkleyDavante AdamsZach Ertz
3Andrew LuckChristian McCaffreyMichael ThomasGeorge Kittle
4Matt RyanAlvin KamaraJuju Smith-SchusterO.J. Howard
5Cam NewtonNick ChubbJulio JonesEvan Engram
6Russell WilsonJoe MixonMike EvansN/A
7Deshaun WatsonLe'Veon BellAdam ThielenN/A
8Dak PrescottDavid JohnsonKeenan AllenN/A
9Jared GoffDamien WilliamsAntonio BrownN/A
10Aaron RodgersMelvin GordonT.Y. HiltonN/A
11Carson WentzDerrick HenryOdell BeckhamN/A
12Mitch TrubiskyJames ConnerStefon DiggsN/A
13Philip RiversDalvin CookAmari CooperN/A
14Ben RoethlisbergerMarlon MackBrandin CooksN/A
15Drew BreesJosh JacobsRobert WoodsN/A
16Jimmy GaroppoloAaron JonesKenny GolladayN/A
17Kirk CousinsLeonard FournetteJarvis LandryN/A
18Derek CarrTodd GurleyA.J. GreenN/A
19Tom BradyKenyan DrakeTyler BoydN/A
20Matthew StaffordDevonta FreemanMike WilliamsN/A

*posted pre-Tyreek Hill news. Move Hill to No. 11.

This shuffles the deck quite a bit. Gone are the running QBs like Jackson, Murray and Allen, to be replaced by codgers like Philip Rivers, Drew Brees and Tom Brady. Even Derek Carr and Matthew Stafford show their ugly mugs. For QBs, the usefulness in this exercise is solely for QB-flex or 2-QB leagues where floor actually matters. Baker Mayfield shoots all the way up to No. 2. If he was that good last year as a rookie with terrible rceivers, it's hard to see him failing even if Beckham gets hurt.

For RB, Ezekiel Elliott checks in at the top spot. Now that he catches passes too, there's almost no way he can fail barring injury, and he's never been hurt yet. Nick Chubb and Derrick Henry also see spikes for their projected heavy usage and clean bills of health. Todd Gurley, unsurprisingly, falls to 18th. While Gurley might never be himself, his situation and workload floor should he remain even somewhat healthy make him less risky than speculative backs you'd draft later. Finally, rookie Josh Jacobs shows up at 15 due to his draft pedigree and guaranteed role.

At WR, Michael Thomas and Davante Adams get boosts, while Beckham gets crushed all the way to 11 as he's missed 16 games the last two years. Volume guys like Jarvis Landry and Stefon Diggs get bumped up.

At TE, there's no one with any kind of floor after the top five, so I didn't waste time parsing between Eric Ebron and Greg Olsen. In any event, by the time you contemplate drafting that tier, floor should be the least of your worries.