Yahoo and ESPN fantasy football continue to be dominate within the industry, at least in terms of where people have their leagues, but depending on which one(s) you’re using for your league, your draft(s) can be totally different. That’s because their respective top 200 player rankings — based on the expert consensus of their talented fantasy football staffs — aren’t exactly the same.
Given how much these rankings can influence when certain players get drafted — both in terms of manual and auto picks — you need to be aware of these subtle (and major) differences because it can affect your strategy, especially if you play in leagues on both sites. That sleeper you like might be gone in Round 5 on ESPN, but if Yahoo has him ranked much lower, he could last longer over there.
Here’s looking at the most intriguing disparities through the top 100 (non-PPR).
DOMINATE YOUR DRAFT: Ultimate 2017 fantasy football cheat sheet
2017 ESPN Fantasy Football rankings vs. Yahoo fantasy football rankings
Odell Beckham Jr., WR, Giants (No. 6 on Yahoo, No. 4 on ESPN)
Yahoo is obviously a little more concerned about OBJ’s ankle injury possibly causing him to miss some early time, putting him behind both Antonio Brown and Julio Jones. In some places, Mike Evans is going ahead of Beckham. That elite group of WR1s is close enough where Beckham may slide a little more when we know more.
Jay Ajayi, RB, Dolphins (No. 10 on Yahoo, No. 15 on ESPN)
You get why ESPN might drop Ajayi based on the fact there’s a major QB change in Miami with Jay Cutler. But in a way, Cutler’s ability to better stretch the field than Ryan Tannehill plays better into Ajayi’s power running. Yahoo has Ajayi right, as the fifth RB, while ESPN fades him behind Melvin Gordon, Jordan Howard and DeMarco Murray.
Jordy Nelson, WR, Packers (No. 13 on Yahoo, No. 8 on ESPN)
Nelson came back and was an absolute monster last season, but there is some concern that his age (32) will catch up to him a bit in ’17. Yahoo has kept that fade in mind, making a few RB1s and A.J. Green higher than him. Nelson’s sweet spot overall is somewhere in the middle of those two ranks.
2017 FANTASY FOOTBALL RANKINGS:
Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end | D/ST | Kicker | Top 200
T.Y. Hilton, WR, Colts (No. 22 on Yahoo!, No. 16 on ESPN)
Hilton is coming off a terrific season as a WR1, but that was tied to Andrew Luck to having a healthy, efficient year. It’s fair to drop Hilton a little based on the uncertainty over Luck’s shoulder with the potential of Scott Tolzien starting.
Dalvin Cook, RB, Vikings (No. 24 on Yahoo!, No. 40 on ESPN)
Cook is no longer a rookie secret as in some leagues. In fact, he’s becoming the top rookie RB pick over Leonard Fournette in some drafts. He’s gone from value to reach in a hurry, but he remains the former at ESPN.
Christian McCaffrey, RB, Panthers (No. 27 on Yahoo!, No. 36 in ESPN)
Yahoo is more aggressive with McCaffrey’s massive young upside, even with his role not totally defined. He’s behind Cook but not Joe Mixon on Yahoo, and while lower, he’s ahead of Cook on ESPN. McCaffrey is an incredibly difficult player to rank, but somewhere in the early 30s feels right.
Travis Kelce, TE, Chiefs (No. 30 on Yahoo!, No. 44 on ESPN)
Yahoo expects the trusty Kelce to have a bigger receiving role and maybe score a little more without Jeremy Maclin, but he stills seems too high. ESPN is more in the wheelhouse of where to target him.
Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers (No. 31 on Yahoo!, No. 43 on ESPN)
It’s hard to compare QBs because Yahoo’s default is six points per passing TD while ESPN’s is four. But the note here is that Yahoo still likes Rogers as the top fantasy QB, while ESPN favors Tom Brady coming off the board first. Getting Brady is a little easier on Yahoo in relation to Rodgers.
Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots (No. 35 on Yahoo!, No. 29 on ESPN)
Yahoo is a little concerned about the durability, as fantasy owners should be, but either way both sites have it right that Gronk should not be a second-round luxury pick in either 12- or 14-team leagues.
Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end | D/ST | One from each team
Tyreek Hill, WR, Chiefs (No. 38 on Yahoo!, No. 53 on ESPN)
It seems in general Yahoo is higher on the production of Kansas City’s passing game. Hill is a downright steal where ESPN has him.
Marshawn Lynch, RB, Raiders (No. 40 on Yahoo!, No. 28 on ESPN)
So, ESPN has him as early third-rounder, while Beast Mode goes fourth round for Yahoo. Both are very high given his age and limited passing game usage, even in non PPR.
C.J. Anderson, RB, Broncos (No. 45 on Yahoo!, No. 70 on ESPN)
Whoa. Yahoo is basing its ranking on the fact Anderson is easily Denver’s healthiest veteran back. The Broncos’ offensive line should be better, and although there are committee rumblings, Anderson is still a surefire RB2 early. ESPN has Anderson as the 31st back, behind Adrian Peterson, Paul Perkins and Rob Kelley, so take advantage of that if you’re going “Zero RB”.
Spencer Ware, RB, Chiefs (No. 47 on Yahoo!, No. 62 on ESPN)
On this particular AFC West back, ESPN is right to fade Ware, as it has rising rookie Kareem Hunt still underrated at No. 92. In addition to Ware too high, Yahoo has Hunt too low at No. 116. However you slice it, taking Hunt much later is smarter.
Michael Crabtree, WR, Raiders (No. 49 on Yahoo!, No. 33 on ESPN)
Yahoo also has Amari Cooper a little lower, so ESPN likes Oakland’s top two receivers better as a group. But Yahoo is more on the money with Crabtree, given the presence of legit scoring tight end Jared Cook will cut into Crab more than Coop.
Russell Wilson, QB, Seahawks (No. 54 on Yahoo!, No. 76 on ESPN)
Again, the scoring is a little different, but given Wilson can go back to doing damage rushing when fully healthy, he’s still low on ESPN as the QB5. He’s the QB4 on Yahoo, so both sites are on board for a big rebound season.
DRAFT STRATEGY AND TIERS:
Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end | D/ST
Jimmy Graham, TE, Seahawks (No. 56 on Yahoo!, No. 80 on ESPN)
Graham is a terrific value as the TE5 in the seventh round on ESPN, while you’re going to need to reach to take advantage of Graham’s contract year on Yahoo.
Jordan Reed, TE, Redskins (No. 60 on Yahoo!, No. 41 on ESPN)
Yahoo is much more concerned with the consistent durability risk Reed is. ESPN is very aggressive with him as the TE2. He’s probably better to go in the 50s.
Marcus Mariota, QB, Titans (No. 64 on Yahoo!, No. 123 on ESPN)
Double whoa. Mariota is another difficult player to project because there are questions about his durability and just how much Tennessee will really open up the offense with a much-improved receiving corps. He’s somewhere in the middle as an upside QB1.
Golden Tate, WR, Lions (No. 67 on Yahoo!, No. 38 on ESPN)
ESPN has him as a solid WR2; Yahoo has him as a fringe WR3. Yahoo is closer, but he’s more of a low-end WR2 made for the 50s.
Jameis Winston, QB, Buccaneers (No. 69 on Yahoo!, No. 117 on ESPN)
The bottom line from Mariota and Winston rankings: Yahoo has them has mid-tier QB1s while ESPN has them more as bottom-barrel QB1s.
Tyrell Williams, WR, Chargers (No. 71 on Yahoo!, No. 95 on ESPN)
Williams is in a crowd in Los Angeles, especially with the other Williams (first-round rookie Mike) on track to return in the second month of the season. He’s a reach on Yahoo and maybe too high of a flyer on ESPN.
Bilal Powell, RB, Jets (No. 73 on Yahoo!, No. 47 on ESPN)
Powell can be a steal because of touching the ball often ahead of Matt Forte, even in a low-upside all-around New York offense. But he’s a big-time reach at that ESPN, ranking as a RB2. He’s a much better value as a RB3, even possibly later than Yahoo has him.
Frank Gore, RB, Colts (No. 80 on Yahoo!, No. 52 on ESPN)
There’s no reason to want much of Indy’s offense outside of Hilton with Luck’s status up in the air. Stay away from the backfield in the form of Gore and Robert Turbin, and if you must invest something, go much later than RB2 to go for the Marlon Mack lottery ticket.
Jeremy Maclin, WR, Ravens (No. 81 on Yahoo!, No. 96 on ESPN)
The Ravens’ offense is a mess at the moment, including a banged-up Joe Flacco. But Maclin is being undervalued for his natural big role to be. Yahoo has him in a fine spot.
DOMINATE YOUR DRAFT: Ultimate 2017 fantasy football cheat sheet
Rob Kelley, RB, Redskins (No. 87 on Yahoo!, No. 68 on ESPN)
With Samaje Perine back on track to take over this backfield in the near future, both positions seem a little high. Let someone else make the mistake in either draft for a very low-upside runner.
Zach Ertz, TE, Eagles (No. 91 on Yahoo!, No. 113 on ESPN)
There’s a lot of overdrafting and overranking Alshon Jeffery, while people have forgotten the key role Ertz played as a returning target for Carson Wentz. He just got a boost as a security blanket with the trade of Jordan Matthews. He’s a sweet pick at either ranking.
Pierre Garcon, WR, 49ers (No. 93 on Yahoo!, No. 72 on ESPN)
ESPN has him right on the cusp of WR3, and that may be underrating him. The feeling is that his targets and catches will make him more valuable in PPR, but Garcon is a go-to guy in his favorite offense. You can play the waiting game to steal Garcon on Yahoo.
Eric Decker, WR, Titans (No. 96 on Yahoo!, No. 77 on ESPN)
ESPN has him as the last WR3, while Decker is ranked just ahead of former Titan Kenny Britt(le). But Decker is the slot guy here between Corey Davis and Rishard Matthews, and coming off an injury-marred season, he also needs to worry about Taywan Taylor playing a big role in the passing offense. Feel free to fade Decker deep into 100s.