Category Archives: Sleepers

Can Calvin Ridley Be Elite

CRidleyWe asked the same question of Kansas City Chiefs running back Damien Williams last week, but we shift our attention to a player who has seen both support and been maligned in the fantasy community as of late: Atlanta Falcons second year receiver Calvin Ridley.

Most point to his current ADP as the biggest stumbling block (late 5th – early 6th), coming off the board as a WR2. They say that Atlanta has too many receiving options beyond him for him to see even a marginal uptick in target share in 2019, and I believe that is wrong.

First, we have to analyze how new Head Coach (and former Falcons OC) Dirk Koetter likes to call his offense. In the simplest way, he loves to throw the football. Since 2012, he’s ranked within the top 10 in the league in passing attempts and passing yards, and for two years straight with Tampa Bay, his offenses finished in the top 5. Expecting anything less than 620 or so passing attempts is foolish, and that’s where we start to see the promise.

Of course, there are a lot of capable pass catchers. After all, Mohamed Sanu and Austin Hooper both had about 14% of the target share last year, the same as Ridley. Being only separated by a total of 6 catches, it’s easy to see why some people expect more of the same in 2019. Still, it’s important to really dig deep to understand how both players were utilized in 2018.

Hooper was a year late on his “breakout” as he finally commanded a decent chunk of the offense, but his usage was spotty at best, with nearly 50% of his targets coming over a 4 games stretch, and his output across his 16 game season suggests he’s typically being used as a check down option. We only saw him crest 60 yards three times all season, and his highest total was 77 on 12 targets (9 receptions) against Pittsburgh in week 5.

Sanu, on the other hand, was far more consistent, being targeted 6 or more times in 10 games. Still, with his 94 receptions, he went for 100 once, and until the final two games of the season, saw 9 weeks of fewer than 50 receiving yards.

These are not the caliber of players who should be major obstacles for Calvin Ridley to ascend to the next level in his NFL career.

After all, his 92 targets came across 5 starts (in 16 games) and despite a few lulls in production, had far more impactful weeks than either Sanu or Hooper had. Ridley managed a fantasy score of 14+ points 7 times in 2019, and finished as the WR22 In PPR scoring and WR18 in Standard Scoring. All this while not “starting” a game until week 10.

While projections are never an exact science, we have to believe that Ridley’s upside far outpaces the other receivers on this roster, and while Julio is entrenched as the top target, Ridley shouldn’t be expected to regress in 2019. At his current ADP, he’s in line with what I consider his floor, making him a safe pick. I’ll stop short of suggesting his ceiling is 1,200 and 12, although it may be down the road, but our projections put him around the following:

75 Receptions, 975 Yards, 10 TDS and a WR15 finish.

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Mocking The Alternatives: 2 QB Leagues

We’ve covered a few different league types in our weekly Friday Mock Draft reviews, but this week we’re going to do something a little different. With alternative scoring formats becoming a trend, it’s important that we take the time to look at one of the more popular out-of-the-box formats; the 2 Quarterback leagues.

Of course, if you’ve never drafted in a two quarterback league, you’re in for a surprise, as your traditional “don’t draft a QB early” strategy has to be shelved in the interest of building a contender on draft day. That doesn’t mean I’m advocating taking multiple quarterbacks early; in fact I tend to maintain that I will likely be the last roster to add a starting QB, but adjusting one’s expectations is key.

For the sake of this mock, we randomized our spot in a 10 team league and received the third overall pick. Scoring is PPR and the only roster change is the addition of a 2nd starting QB.

Pick 1.03 – Ezekiel Elliott, RB – DAL

At the third overall pick, I’m not even considering taking a QB. I’m exclusively looking RB in the first 5 picks of the draft this year thanks to the drop off at that position. Kamara (okay…) and Barkley went 1 and 2, so this was an easy decision.

Pick 2.08 – James Conner, RB – PIT

Three quarterbacks went off the board between my two picks, Mahomes, Luck, and DeShaun Watson. One of the best things about these two QB and super flex leagues is that players tend to fall a little further into the second and third, and I can’t pass on the chance to own two of the leagues highest volume runners. I did consider taking one of the available WR’s here (Juju Smith-Schuster and Mike Evans were potential available targets) but the short turn softens the blow at the position and lets me maximize my roster by adding a second top 10 RB with my 2nd round pick.

Pick 3.03 – Juju Smith-Schuster, WR – PIT

It always feels strange selecting two players from the same team back to back, but of the available WR’s (Mike Evans and Antonio Brown were still available) I feel best about Smith-Schuster’s ability to produce consistent WR1 numbers. It’s important to note that three more QB’s were selected during the short turn. It does allow me to bulk up at the skill positions, but I’m looking more and more at the pool of QB’s and the time to pull the trigger on our first signal caller is approaching.

Pick 4.08 – Cam Newton, QB – CAR

The idea that middle of the pack QB’s are still the best value doesn’t entirely go out of the window in a 2 QB league, but making sure you’re not leaving yourself deficient at the position is important to. I’ll wait to pair Newton with a 2nd QB, but I didn’t want to hitch my wagon to Winston or Goff, so Newton it is. A bit of opinion here though… having an early pick seems to be the easiest way to navigate this format, since the short turn from 2nd to 3rd round gave me a great team core, and gives me the ability to come back from this QB pick and still have a decent selection available in the 5th round.

Pick 5.03 – Julian Edelman, WR – NE

There was a moment here when I considered taking a third RB as both Damien Williams and Aaron Jones were available, but knowing I’ll have to invest in a second QB within the next 6 picks meant I was uncomfortable with waiting too long for my second WR. Among the top remaining WRs (Brandin Cooks, Kenny Golladay, Cooper Kupp, and Robert Woods), Edelman represented the safest floor thanks to the PPR format. I don’t expect him to put up too many monster weeks, but he’ll be a safe play from week one to the championship rounds.

Pick 6.08 – Cooper Kupp, WR – LAR

I really wanted to ignore the bye week issue and take one of my favorite breakout candidates in Chris Godwin, but with 66% of my roster already off on week 7, I went with my second option in Cooper Kupp. While I was critical of him a few seasons back, I’m convinced that the connection he and Goff shares is something special. He was his top target for most weeks he was healthy last year, and while Woods and Cooks are still there, Kupps ability to find the end zone on top of that makes him the WR to own in the Rams offense.

Pick 7.03 – Kenyan Drake, RB – MIA

I’ve been singing his praises for the better part of a month, so I won’t dig too deep. His talent, and ability to catch the football, make him a perfect fit for a likely Patriots-esque offense that uses it’s backs on third downs. Available backs like Sony Michel and Philip Lindsay would be solid gets here, but competition in both offenses could cap the ceilings of both players while Drake only has Kalen Ballage to fend off for ownership of all three downs. The QB runs have certainly slowed down as well as Kyler Murray’s selection at the top of the 6th round marks the last one taken. I can feel a run coming.

Pick 8.08 – Mike Williams, WR – LAC

I wasn’t far off as the 7th and 8th rounds saw Winston, Brady, Rivers, Garoppolo, and Lamar Jackson come off the board. That also means potential top 25 WR Mike Williams falls to me at pick 83. I love Williams combination of size, speed, and opportunity. Rivers connected with Williams on 11 TD throws, and Williams managed to put up a stellar season despite not seeing 100 targets. As an ascending player, he’ll likely see an uptick in targets, and could be a real league winner in 2019. The danger, though, is that that the QB position is beginning to thin and I’m not sure I’m going to lose a few targets in the next couple of picks.

Pick 9.03 – Dak Prescott, QB – DAL

In the ninth round, I’ve reached my limit on pushing the position off and decide to take Prescott, who represents one of the better sleeper values at the QB position in my opinion. After a 5 week stretch to start the season saw his value plummet, Prescott turned in a pretty solid conclusion to the 2018 season, going over 20 points 6 times, and scoring less than 15 twice. With Amari Cooper still in the fold, it’s safe to assume that Prescotts second half is far closer to what we can expect.

Pick 10.08 – Latavius Murray, RB – NO

I was tempted to add Hunter Henry here to fill out my starting roster, but I’m not keen on having 6 players from three offenses anchoring my core. So I turned my attention to the running back position, which features a who’s who of committee backs and PPR specialists. While there’s a lack of upside for many of these names, we know how New Orleans likes to work their ground game, and Murray represents legitimate flex upside considering how Mark Ingram managed excellent numbers despite Kamara being the focal point. If Kamara goes down, too, then Murray’s upside skyrockets.

Pick 11.03 – Rashaad Penny, RB – SEA

I’m not jazzed about the available WRs, especially given that I’m moderatly confident I can land a solid player in the rounds to come. What I want to do is add a potential work horse back in Penny who’s rookie season has many convinced he wasn’t worthy of the first round pick the Seahawks spent on him. I’d argue the opposite, and given that Mike Davis is gone, and Carson’s knee was acting up, this may be the cheapest you’ll get a potential lead back. Seattle wants to run the football, and Penny is going to see a healthy number of touches regardless of Carson’s status, but his ceiling is far too high to pass up in favor of bench players like Emmanuel Sanders and James Washington.

Pick 12.08 – Larry Fitzgerald, WR – ARI

He’s not an exciting player at this point in his career, but what manages to do year in and year out is stay healthy and in the game plan. Hakeem Butler and Christian Kirk at the future at the receiver position in Arizona, but Fitzy is going to be heavily involved regardless. With much of his time spent in the slot, he’ll be a solid contributor to Kyler Murray’s development, and as a WR5, I’m more than comfortable adding him to my bench. I could have taken David Njoku here, but there’s some good value at the TE position in the next few rounds, and I’d rather secure a wide out who’s a safe bet for 100 targets in the 12th round.

Pick 13.03 – Vance McDonald, TE – PIT

While McDonald doesn’t really generate much excitement, he’s an interesting case considering over 200 targets vacated the Steelers offense when Antonio Brown and Jesse James left. With McDonald having the starting gig to himself, he’s got potential to be a solid fantasy contributor, although unexciting. We’ll have to pair him with a high upside guy later in the draft though if we’re going to be comfortable with our roster. There are a few interesting names available, notably Ronald Jones Jr, who I’m high on as a bounce back candidate, but with a similar player in Penny on the roster, I’d rather add starters.

Pick 14.08 – Adam Humphries, WR – TEN

If it feels like I’m reaching here, it’s because I am. With only four bench spots left and a plan to add one of each of the skill position players as well as a third QB, I’m going to be reaching on the next few picks. I love the potential with Humphries, given that Chris Davis’ star is slowly waning, and Mariota needs someone to throw to. AJ Brown may steal some targets, but despite the concerns I may have surrounding his ceiling, I’m comfortable with the 80-110 targets I expect him to see in Tennessee.

Pick 15.03 – Delanie Walker, TE – TEN

While many seem to think Walkers days as a fantasy contributor are over, I think he’s the perfect target to pair with a player like Vance McDonald. Walker has only seen fewer than 100 targets one time in his Titans career, and that was his first year on the team when he saw 86. Even if he regresses following his lost 2018. I expect 80+ targets and borderline TE1 numbers. If McDonald stumbles, you could do way worse than Walker as your back up.

Pick 16.08 – Nick Foles, QB – JAC

We’ve ignored the QB position for a good chunk of the draft to this point, but with so many being rostered, it’s wise to consider spending a bench spot on a third QB. Foles is the type of QB I target in 2 QB drafts ever year, as his change of scenery scares off suitors, but the same coaching staff that helped Blake Bortles turn in some decent fantasy outputs should help Foles do the same. He’s a bye week/injury fill in only, but considering that players like Andy Dalton, Joe Flacco, and Josh Rosen are the names he’s being drafted around, I feel pretty good about it.

Pick 17.03 – Damien Harris, RB – NE

I’m not sure how much stock I put in the fact that Harris beat out Josh Jacobs for his college starting gig, but the truth remains that he’s an immensely talented runner, and he was drafted by one of the leagues most innovative offenses in New England. With their 41 year old QB Tom Brady showing signs of decline, the Pats rushed the football nearly 500 times in 2018. With concerns surrounding Sony Michel’s knee, and a willingness to use the best player, there’s a possibility that Harris could be this years surprise breakout. If he doesn’t contribute, he’ll be an easy waiver cut. Very low risk despite the potential for decent reward.

Pick 18.08 – Cleveland Browns DST

I love the Browns as a late round DST… I stream 99% of the time so it’s no sweat off my back if they don’t perform.

Pick 19.03 – Generic Kicker, They’re All The Same

Final Roster

  • QB: Cam Newton, Dak Prescott, Nick Foles
  • RB: Zeke Elliott, James Conner, Kenyan Drake, Latavius Murray, Rashaad Penny, Damien Harris
  • WR: Juju Smith-Schuster, Julian Edelman, Cooper Kupp, Mike Williams, Larry Fitzgerald, Adam Humphries
  • TE: Vance McDonald, Delanie Walker

Final Thoughts

One of the biggest advantages a 2QB league offers is the ability to add a few extra high value pieces. While players like Pat Mahomes and Andrew Luck become far more valuable, seeing ADPs approaching first round valuation, there’s still too much value later in the draft to over draft the QB position. We suggest taking your first QB in the 4-6th round range, but doing it when you have the shorter turn is always a good idea.

The basic advice we offer every year really applies two fold here as well. The rounds may shift forward, but you shouldn’t be among the first ones to draft that QB or TE for your team. With the knowledge that your going to add a third QB and a second TE, try and maximize your value up front. I’d rather have a roster like the one above, with an elite RB group and a versatile, high volume WR group and sacrifice slightly at the other positions than be forced to play catch up in the middle rounds while wiser drafters sit back and build strategically.

Superflex and 2QB leagues are fun, and they do provide you with a few different angles to the draft, but as always, have a plan but be flexible, and don’t let early runs dictate how you draft!

 

 

Finding A Gem – Late Round Running Backs

Living in New England, I have to listen to a popular sports talk radio personality remind us weekly how easily a team can find a solid runner in the late rounds of the draft. Philip Lindsay’s remarkable rookie season further emphasizes this point as he was dominant as an undrafted free agent.

So who can we keep an eye on in 2019 from those late/middle rounds?

Bryce Love – 4th Round Pick, Washington Redskins

Once a popular Heisman pick, the recovering Bryce Love represents what could be one of the steals of the draft. Thanks to an injury that ended his Senior year, Love fell well into the draft, being a 4th round selection for the Washington Redskins. While he does expect to return to the field sometimes during training camp, the question becomes how close to 100% can he be when the season starts?

If, and it’s a big if, Love is healthy, I expect him to slowly steal touches in that offense. While he wasn’t ever really asked to be a pass catcher at Stanford, he was exceptionally productive on the ground, averaging in excess of 7-8 yards per carry for the first three years in college. It’s worth monitoring his health and pre-season production, though, as his talent should help him rise to the top of the depth chart at some point in 2019.

Benny Snell Jr. – 4th Round Pick, Pittsburgh Steelers

When Le’Veon Bell left in the offseason, the Steelers knew they had to add a back to compliment James Conner in the backfield. What Snell brings to the table is a patient running style that features plenty of power as well as a nose for the endzone. While Conner is clearly the front runner in that offense, we saw what a full workload did to him down the stretch last year, and an injury would open the door for the underrated Kentucky product to feature heavily in an offense that loves to feature it’s RBs.

Trayveon Williams – 6th Round Pick, Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals drafted two running backs with the hopes to avoid a let down should either Mixon or Gio Bernard go down again down the stretch. What Williams offers is a solid runner who has excellent pass blocking skills and an ability to score. While Mixon figures to be the early down back, Williams could see some important snaps late in games when the team needs better protection for their QB. I don’t expect him to feature too heavily, but should Mixon find himself injured again, Williams is my pick to step into that lead back role for the Bengals.

Myles Gaskin – 7th Round Pick, Miami Dolphins

Had this still been Adam Gase’s team in 2019, I may not have included Gaskin here, but it’s not. Instead it’s former Patriot staffer Brian Flores looking to overhaul a team that’s struggled to compete in recent years. With a backfield that’s been devoid of stability, it’s likely Kenyan Drakes job to lose, but the track record isn’t great that he’ll hold Gaskin off the field.

What Gaskins lacks in big play ability he makes up for in grit, toughness, and consistency; all traits a Patriots alum would appreciate in a position that’s difficult to evaluate. Kalen Ballage still exists on this roster too, so don’t over draft Gaskin, but as a handcuff to Drake or as a dart throw late, he’s got the kind of upside to help teams compete should he find early downs in his possession.

Nico Evans – Undrafted, Philadelphia Eagles

This is kind of a bonus, and more in response to the success that Philip Lindsay had last year as an undrafted rookie, but Nico Evans shouldn’t be overlooked as a potential contributor just because he went undrafted.

Similarly to Lindsay last year, Evans finished his 2018 season as one of the most productive backs in college football. As the 13th best back in yards (1325) and an excellent 6.5 yards per carry, he profiles as the kind of player who may surprise given a chance in the preseason. While Jordan Howard joins early pick Miles Sanders atop the depth chart, it’d be disingenuous to not watch how Evans performs. With a chip on his shoulder, any playing time could result in this years surprise undrafted back.

Ronald Jones Star Fades, 3rd On Depth Chart

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Tennessee TitansDespite rumblings to the contrary, Ronald Jones defenders pointed out his skill set and draft position as reasons why he’d overcome the issues that plagued his preseason. Now, it’s harder than ever to defend those who spent an early draft pick in early drafts on the rookie running back.

Previously described as a Jamaal Charles clone, Jones struggled in the preseason, only producing 4 yards on 10 carries. In addition to the awful efficiency on the ground, Jones continued to struggle in the passing game, becoming a liability in pass protection.

At this point, Jones is a project who’s only worth drafting with keeper round picks in dynasty and keeper leagues. There’s a chance that his obvious talents force him back into the good graces with Buccaneers coaching staff, but only draft at a serious discount.

Instead, snagging Barber at a still-discounted rate is looking like a great move. As a depth back, he’ll figure into most of the early down work and goal line touches. Jaquizz Rodgers may steal some value in the passing game, but Barber is the back to target in this offense for the foreseeable future.

Final WR Tiers

We’re pushing through into the regular season this week and a lot of you are drafting; it’s time to post our final pre-season tiers for each position. It’s going to be a busy Sunday as we push to publish the remaining positional tiers!

ELITE Tier

  • Antonio Brown
  • DeAndre Hopkins
  • Odell Beckham Jr

This list gets shorter every year, and while there’s still elite wideouts besides these three, the kind of production you can expect here is a level above what the rest of the field offers. As top targets, these three receivers should pace the league in per game targets as well as red zone production. There’s a handful of set it and forget it receivers, but none like this trifecta.

GREAT Tier

  • Julio Jones
  • Michael Thomas
  • Davante Adams
  • A.J. Green
  • Keenan Allen
  • Stefon Diggs
  • Mike Evans
  • Tyreek Hill

The beauty of the wide receiver position this year is that as the game has evolved, the need for a high volume top wide out has forced teams to adopt players like this as their offensive catalyst. Despite the presence of talented receivers and backs, this is as safe a 2nd tier of players in all of fantasy. There’s may be some concern surrounding the last three names, but the talent is just too great to suppress their value.

VERY GOOD Tier

  • T.Y. Hilton
  • Larry Fitzgerald
  • Brandin Cooks
  • Allen Robinson
  • Adam Thielen
  • Demaryius Thomas
  • Josh Gordon
  • Amari Cooper
  • Golden Tate
  • Doug Baldwin
  • Marvin Jones
  • Corey Davis
  • Jamison Crowder
  • Juju Smith-Schuster

The “rainbow” tier as I like to call it, this group of players has some of the largest range of outcomes of any in fantasy. The ceilings are undeniable as several of these players have finished top ten at the position before, but question marks abound that force them further down the list. Still, hitting on a player in this tier is the kind of league winning pick that champions have been making for years. Much like Diggs and Hill last year, there’s a ton of value here if you’re building your team right.

GOOD Tier

  • Randall Cobb
  • Devin Funchess
  • Alshon Jeffery
  • Jarvis Landry
  • Chris Hogan
  • Robert Woods
  • Emmanuel Sanders
  • Marquise Goodwin
  • Jordy Nelson
  • Michael Crabtree
  • Will Fuller
  • Kenny Stills
  • Kelvin Benjamin
  • Cooper Kupp
  • Sammy Watkins
  • Robby Anderson
  • Julian Edelamn
  • Keelan Cole

Before you say that such a large list of “good” players is a cop out, remember that there’s not much separating the top of this tier with the bottom. Each player is a threat to finish any given week as a WR1, but there’s obstacles we expect that will keep them from pushing into the top 10 for the season. I love the names here as depth and flex players, especially the later half of the list thanks to the current ADP on the middle of the wide receiver position. It’s unlikely that these players will be weekly starters, so you can ignore the suspension and minor injury issues many players experience coming out of the pre-season.

BACKUPS and PRAYERS Tier

  • Pierre Garcon
  • Rishard Matthews
  • Mike Williams
  • Allen Hurns
  • Nelson Agholor
  • Tyler Lockett
  • DeSean Jackson
  • Calvin Ridley
  • DeVante Parker
  • Chris Godwin
  • Michael Gallup
  • Sterling Shepard
  • Josh Doctson
  • Dede Westbrook
  • Ted Ginn
  • Anthony Miller

The title of this tier of players is a bit misleading, but the truth is that you want to be selecting from this group of players to fill out your bench depth, not as a weekly starter. There is plenty of value as the wide receiver position continues to feature prominently at the top of the fantasy hierarchy. Grabbing these guys as back end WR3 or WR4 options will set you up for a very solid season.

DEEP DRAFT Tier

  • John Brown
  • John Ross
  • Cameron Meredith
  • D.J. Moore
  • Mohamed Sanu
  • Christian Kirk
  • Corey Coleman
  • Albert Wilson
  • Cole Beasley
  • Danny Amendola
  • Tyrell Williams
  • Antonio Callaway
  • Geronimo Allison
  • Dante Pettis

So you’re looking at drafting in a deep format and you want to know who’s worth throwing a dart or two at in the last few round; well this is the tier for you. While no one here is a lock for fantasy relevance, the talent or the opportunity supports the narrative that there’s a breakout on the horizon. As “wait and see” candidates, the wide receivers offer a ton of value, even on the waivers in standard leagues.

Final TE Tiers

We’re pushing through into the regular season this week and a lot of you are drafting; it’s time to post our final pre-season tiers for each position. It’s going to be a busy Sunday as we push to publish the remaining positional tiers!

ELITE Tier

  • Rob Gronkowski
  • Travis Kelce

You may want to elevate others to this tier, but the truth is outside of these two guys, there’s no one else worth reaching for. Every week they factor as one of their teams highest scoring players, and having one or the other gives you a significant advantage nearly every week.

GREAT Tier

  • Zach Ertz
  • Greg Olsen
  • Jimmy Graham
  • Kyle Rudolph
  • Delanie Walker

While we don’t condone reaching on a TE, these five tight ends are worth grabbing in the middle rounds similarly to the middle tier of wide receivers. With plenty of consistency, either in targets or in the red zone, these guys won’t hurt you to have on your roster. There will be weeks they blow up and weeks they disappear, but the range of outcomes is fairly predictable.

VERY GOOD Tier

  • Trey Burton
  • Evan Engram
  • George Kittle
  • Jordan Reed
  • O.J. Howard
  • Jack Doyle

It’s important to understand that the TE position isn’t likely going to win you a championship, so waiting on a TE will land you a player likely in this tier. There’s some upside for many of them, but either inexperience, a new team, or extensive injury history suppress their value. We suggest understanding that a back up is necessary to offset the potential pitfalls here, but after missing out on the top seven TE’s, these guys are solid options.

GOOD Tier

  • Austin Sefarian-Jenkins
  • Charles Clay
  • David Njoku
  • Mike Gesicki
  • Austin Hooper

It’s a shorter tier than the one before it, mostly because after Hooper, the proverbial cliff is steep and obvious. Starting one of these guys will likely leave a hole in your roster on some weeks, so pair with a player you like that’s still available and pray.

BACKUPS and PRAYERS Tier

  • Eric Ebron
  • Virgil Green
  • Jared Cook
  • Hayden Hurst
  • Tyler Eifert
  • Luke Willson
  • Cameron Brate
  • Vance McDonald
  • Benjamin Watson
  • Nick Vannett

If you’re grabbing a player in this tier, you’d better hope it’s as a backup or depth piece. There’s little upside with these players despite what the experts would have you think. There may have been some buzz recently about the guys in this tier, but a lot needs to happen to make them fantasy relevant. Of course, in keeper leagues or dynasty formats, guys like Hurst, Willson, and Vannett are worth a look as a long term asset.

 

Final RB Tiers

We’re pushing through into the regular season this week and a lot of you are drafting; it’s time to post our final pre-season tiers for each position. It’s going to be a busy Sunday as we push to publish the remaining positional tiers!

ELITE Tier

  • Todd Gurley
  • Ezekiel Elliott
  • David Johnson
  • Le’Veon Bell

You know what you’re getting if you target any of these guys in the first few picks of the draft. All four of these backs are threats for 2,000 total yards, and in PPR leagues they all should finish at or near the top of the positional rankings at seasons end. If you’re concerned about Bell or Johnson due to injury or hold out, you shouldn’t be. Generational talent always finds a way to shine.

GREAT PLAYER Tier

  • Saquon Barkley
  • Melvin Gordon
  • Leonard Fournette
  • Dalvin Cook
  • Alvin Kamara
  • Kareem Hunt
  • Devonta Freeman

There’s a simple euphemism we use when ranking our running backs; opportunity + talent = production. What all of these names have is gobs of both. While they may be missing the outrageous three down usage the names in the “Elite” tier, they all figure to feature heavily as their teams lead back.

VERY GOOD Tier

  • Joe Mixon
  • Jordan Howard
  • Christian McCaffrey
  • Alex Collins
  • Lamar Miller
  • Derrick Henry
  • LeSean McCoy
  • Royce Freeman
  • Kenyan Drake

At this point, you may start fielding questions about players ability to play all three downs. Whether you’re concerned about Jordan Howard in the passing game or Christian McCaffrey on early downs, there are legitimate reasons you may not take these guys ahead of the aforementioned tiered players. If you’re drafting wide outs early, though, these guys do have the kind of ceiling that makes them worth locking up if you’re light at the position.

GOOD Tier

  • Jay Ajayi
  • Mark Ingram
  • Marlon Mack
  • Jamaal Williams
  • Sony Michel
  • Carlos Hyde
  • Tevin Coleman
  • Kerryon Johnson
  • Rex Burkhead
  • Marshawn Lynch
  • Chris Carson
  • Dion Lewis

If you’re hitching your wagon to one of these players as your top back, you’re either gambling on a ZeroRB strategy or you’re in trouble. There’s plenty of value here, and most of these players are available in the middle rounds, but there’s a lot of risk associated. This is where the dinged up, the third down specialists, and the suspended backs reside. Draft for the upside, but have a backup plan if you’re not deep at the position.

BACKUPS and PRAYERS Tier

  • Rashaad Penny
  • Isaiah Crowell
  • Adrian Peterson
  • Alfred Morris
  • Chris Thompson
  • Tarik Cohen
  • Duke Johnson
  • Aaron Jones
  • LeGarrette Blount
  • Matt Brieda
  • Theo Riddick
  • Ronald Jones

I won’t go so far as to say these guys don’t have some upside, but they are your depth and roster pieces if you’ve drafted properly. A lot of these guys fill a roll on their respective teams that may not expand, so using them in your flex spot or on bye’s should be the plan. Of course, there are a few young players and suspended backs who could steal a larger time share, but should be viewed with tempered expectations prior to the season.

DEEP DRAFT Tier

  • Latavius Murray
  • Doug Martin
  • C.J. Anderson
  • Peyton Barber
  • Corey Clement
  • Kalen Ballage
  • Jordan Wilkins
  • Nick Chubb
  • James White
  • Nyheim Hines
  • Jeremy Hill

As a bonus, this tier is a group of backs worth targeting as late round fliers or handcuffs in deeper formats. Much like Alvin Kamara last year, there’s a handful of young backs and backs on new teams who may carve out a larger role once the season starts. It’s more likely they’re waiver adds in standard formats, but for those in keeper leagues or deeper dynasty formats, these are guys to look at.

Labor Day ADP Update!

In our quest to provide the most pertinent information and analysis, we will use current ESPN ADP rankings provided as of Friday 8/31. If you draft in a 10 team league, adjust the rounds accordingly, otherwise this will review the ADP values for a 12 team league. We’ve highlighted three players in each round we like at their current ADP, feel free to argue your point of view in the comments section.

CKuppAs I look out over the fantasy landscape on the eve of Labor Day weekend, I’m amazed at how different things look following the brutal four week stretch we like to call the pre-season. Littering the battle field are high profile injuries, unresolved position battles, and early draft casualties left to rot in no man’s land.

With a large percentage of drafts scheduled for the final weekend before the NFL kicks off the 2018 season, it’s only appropriate that we make one last run at addressing the current ADP data provided by the largest players in the game. By addressing the value’s assigned to each proverbial tier, we can provide you with extra tools in your quest for fantasy dominance.

Round 1 – 3

The early rounds of your draft are simultaneously the most important and the least important picks you can make all day. As we preach gratuitously… you won’t win your league with the picks, but you can certainly lose.

Round 1

  • 1.01 – Le’Veon Bell, RB – PIT
  • 1.02 – Todd Gurley, RB – LAR
  • 1.03 – David Johnson, RB – ARI
  • 1.04 – Ezekiel Elliott, RB – DAL
  • 1.05 – Antonio Brown, WR – PIT
  • 1.06 – Saquon Barkley, RB – NYG
  • 1.07 – Alvin Kamara, RB – NO
  • 1.08 – DeAndre Hopkins, WR – HOU
  • 1.09 – Odell Beckham, WR – NYG
  • 1.10 – Kareem Hunt, RB – KC
  • 1.11 – Leonard Fournette, RB – JAC
  • 1.12 – Dalvin Cook, RB – MIN

It’s far from a surprise to see the backs dominating the first round; after all, a large number of league champions can point towards a break out back as the catalyst for their wins. Still, I’d consider grabbing a WR at the back end of the first – the value is just too great.

Best Value: Odell Beckham at 1.09 is stealing – his career per game fantasy production is greater than DeAndre Hopkins single best season. He’s as safe a pick in the first as you’ll get.

Worst Value: Dalvin Cook could have a monster year, but with a capable back in Latavius Murray spelling him, and the unknown of returning from a major knee injury means too many question marks for a round 1 pick.

Round 2

  • 2.01 – Julio Jones, WR – ATL
  • 2.02 – Melvin Gordon, RB – LAC
  • 2.03 – Keenan Allen, WR – LAC
  • 2.04 – Christian McCaffrey, RB – CAR
  • 2.05 – Michael Thomas, WR – NO
  • 2.06 – Devonta Freeman, RB – ATL
  • 2.07 – A.J. Green, WR – CIN
  • 2.08 – Rob Gronkowski, TE – NE
  • 2.09 – Davante Adams, WR – GB
  • 2.10 – Mike Evans, WR – TB
  • 2.11 – LeSean McCoy, RB – BUF
  • 2.12 – Aaron Rodgers, QB – GB

This years second round features even greater value than the first as the top tiers at several positions become available. For years I railed against drafting Rob Gronkowski in the 2nd, but this year may be the exception with the New England offense likely siphoning through him.

Best Value: It wasn’t long ago that Mike Evans was considered a first round talent. The off season issues Tampa has experienced and the lack of help have suppressed his value, but he’s still the same dominant receiver. Draft confidently.

Worst Value: I’m not suggesting LeSean McCoy is washed up, but even ignoring the off field issues, McCoy is a thirty year old back with high mileage and a terrible team around him. There’s been some great articles about fantasy production for backs on bad teams (Like this one at Rotoworld), and this situation screams bust from day one.

Round 3

  • 3.01 – Travis Kelce, TE – KC
  • 3.02 – T.Y. Hilton, WR – IND
  • 3.03 – Jordan Howard, RB – CHI
  • 3.04 – Joe Mixon, RB – CIN
  • 3.05 – Jerick McKinnon, RB – SF
  • 3.06 – Tyreek Hill, WR – KC
  • 3.07 – Stefon Diggs, WR – MIN
  • 3.08 – Larry Fitzgerald, WR – ARI
  • 3.09 – Tom Brady, QB – NE
  • 3.10 – Adam Thielen, WR – MIN
  • 3.11 – Zach Ertz, TE – PHI
  • 3.12 – Amari Cooper, WR – OAK

You can see in the third the effects of all those backs going early with some pretty fantastic wide receivers falling in the draft. Most of them are excellent values and some could prove to be top 10 at their position. The backs going in the third are the boom or bust guys who have the talent or opportunity to be in the RB1 conversation.

Best Value: Especially in PPR formats, it’s amazing how Larry Fitzgerald continues to be overlooked simply because of his age. While he’s shifted mostly to the slot and runs far shallower routes, he’s still a lot for 90-100 receptions, 1,000+ yards and 5-7 TDs.

Worst Value: I’m a firm believer that drafting a QB early is a poor way to start your draft. You can make a solid argument for Rodgers as an early pick, but this is the year to fade Brady in the first 5 rounds. He’ll win a lot of football games, and he’ll play efficiently despite the lack of weapons, but his last few seasons have shown that he’s no longer the 3rd round asset he was in years past.

Rounds 4 – 8

These rounds are far more important to your fantasy health that the three that came before. While you’re guaranteed to grab a few guys worthy of early picks, these rounds separate the researches from the consensus drafters. With dinged up superstars, rookie running backs, and one dimensional players, there’s as many pitfalls as league winners sprinkled throughout.

Round 4

  • 4.01 – Demaryius Thomas, WR – DEN
  • 4.02 – Kenyan Drake, RB – MIA
  • 4.03 – Royce Freeman, RB – DEN
  • 4.04 – Doug Baldwin, WR – SEA
  • 4.05 – Jarvis Landry, WR – CLE
  • 4.06 – Derrick Henry, RB – TEN
  • 4.07 – Allen Robinson, WR – CHI
  • 4.08 – Golden Tate, WR – DET
  • 4.09 – Alex Collins, RB – BAL
  • 4.10 – Josh Gordon, WR – CLE
  • 4.11 – Brandin Cooks, WR – LAR
  • 4.12 – Cam Newton, QB – CAR

There’s a handful of players who could crack the top ten at their position in this round, but each features a good deal of risk. While fantasy champions require a great deal of luck, there’s something to be said for minimizing risk. If you’ve drafted your first three rounds well, then a player like Kenyan Drake or Josh Gordon could put you over the top assuming their healthy and resume the kind of production we expect.

Best Value: Fantasy production doesn’t need to be flashy; 75 yards and a TD is the same if it’s on 5 touches or 15 touches, so seeing Alex Collins fall behind players like Freeman (a rookie) and Henry (entrenched in a committee) lends to his value as a potential 3 down bell cow. He’s not exciting, but he gets the job done.

Worst Value: I won’t go so far as to suggest Cooks is a bust candidate, but considering that he’s going to one of the most crowded wide receiver corps in the NFL, and the headlines in LA have been mostly about the relationship that Kupp and Goff have formed, and you can see how this may be a bit too early for a guy competing for targets.

Round 5

  • 5.01 – Greg Olsen, TE – CAR
  • 5.02 – Marvin Jones, WR – DET
  • 5.03 – Juju Smith-Schuster, WR – PIT
  • 5.04 – Deshaun Watson, QB – HOU
  • 5.05 – Marshawn Lynch, RB – OAK
  • 5.06 – Jimmy Graham, TE – GB
  • 5.07 – Russell Wilson, QB – SEA
  • 5.08 – Jay Ajayi, RB – PHI
  • 5.09 – Lamar Miller, RB – HOU
  • 5.10 – Chris Hogan, WR – NE
  • 5.11 – Mark Ingram, RB – NO
  • 5.12 – Dion Lewis, RB – TEN

Here’s the best example I can give for the ZeroRB crowd as a handful of lead backs are still available in round 5. With enough knowledge and few late round targets still in tact, there’s plenty of value here at a position many think dries up in the first few rounds. The pit fall here is a potential TE run with Olsen and Graham likely to go at some point. Don’t fall into the trap.

Best Value: Can we all agree that Lamar Miller is the only healthy running back in Houston? With the prevailing opinion being that Houston should be a high powered offense with Deshaun Watson back, how is it that we’ve ignored the RB1 numbers Miller put up when the two were playing? He’s not a sexy name, and his time is coming to an end, but for this season, he’s as safe as you get at this point.

Worst Value: Meanwhile, Juju Smith-Schuster continues his meteoric rise to fantasy stardom in spite of a few important details. He’s got two target hogs ahead of him on the depth chart. With Big Ben aging and a rookie in James Washington also in the picture, it’s going to be difficult for Juju to carve out a role large enough to justify taking over other players available at this point in the draft.

Round 6

  • 6.01 – Alshon Jeffrey, WR – PHI
  • 6.02 – Delanie Walker, TE – TEN
  • 6.03 – Carson Wentz, QB – PHI
  • 6.04 – Evan Engram, TE – NYG
  • 6.05 – Michael Crabtree, WR – BAL
  • 6.06 – Emmanuel Sanders, WR – DEN
  • 6.07 – Robert Woods, WR – LAR
  • 6.08 – Marquise Goodwin, WR – SF
  • 6.09 – Drew Brees, QB – NO
  • 6.10 – Jaguars D/ST
  • 6.11 – Tevin Coleman, RB – ATL
  • 6.12 – Kyle Rudolph, TE – MIN

There’s a lot to like in the 6th round; a defense isn’t one of them. I won’t waste too many words letting you know why you should draft a defense in the 6th round (after all, the Jags were likely a waiver pick up in your league). The wide receiver depth continues to show itself with several high upside picks reside in the middle of the round, as well as some of the less heralded RB2’s in the league.

Best Value: Drafting the top wide out in an offense that figures to improve dramatically in Kyle Shanahan’s second year with San Francisco is a boon in the 6th round, so grab Goodwin if you can. A lot of the buzz in the Bay is centered on RB Jerick McKinnon and Jimmy G’s dating habits, but the real prize is Goodwin at a seriously inexpensive draft position.

Worst Value: Evan Engram was a revelation last year, but not enough focus is being placed on the laundry list of injuries and inefficiencies that made his TE5 finish possible. With Odell Beckham and Sterling Shepard back and healthy and Saquon Barkley likely to require a good number of touches, there’s little chance that Engram repeats the numbers that he put up last season.

Round 7

  • 7.01 – Carlos Hyde, RB – CLE
  • 7.02 – Duke Johnson, RB – CLE
  • 7.03 – Corey Davis, WR – TEN
  • 7.04 – Sammy Watkins, WR – KC
  • 7.05 – Rex Burkhead, RB – NE
  • 7.06 – Randall Cobb, WR – GB
  • 7.07 – Devin Funchess, WR – CAR
  • 7.08 – Jordan Reed, TE – WAS
  • 7.09 – Isaiah Crowell, RB – NYJ
  • 7.10 – Andrew Luck, QB – IND
  • 7.11 – Kirk Cousins, QB – MIN
  • 7.12 – Ben Roethlisberger, QB – PIT

This is one of my favorite rounds in the draft as there’s really no one here that’s not worth picking in their spot. The hardest part about evaluating it is only choosing three players I like, and finding someone I really don’t like. Suffice it to say, I wouldn’t consider reaching beyond this group of players if it was me picking.

Best Value: It’s been a few years since Andrew Luck has been on the field and been right, but even at less than 100% in 2016 he managed 4200 yards and 31 TD’s in 15 games. After taking his time to rehab and not putting himself in a bad position, Luck appears ready to take back over under center. With his track record, it’s insane value grabbing a potential top 3 QB this late.

Worst Value: This is a bit of a cop out because I don’t necessarily dislike Sammy Watkins, but of all the names on the list here, he’ll have the hardest time reaching his ceiling. With Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, and a very capable backfield, there won’t be as much opportunity for the former first round pick to really light up the scoreboard. He’ll have weeks that he dominates with big plays, but he’s harder to predict than these other players.

Round 8

  • 8.01 – Pierre Garcon, WR – SF
  • 8.02 – Julian Edelman, WR – NE
  • 8.03 – Will Fuller, WR – HOU
  • 8.04 – Chris Thompson, RB – WAS
  • 8.05 – Chris Carson, RB – SEA
  • 8.06 – Eagles D/ST 
  • 8.07 – Cooper Kupp, WR – LAR
  • 8.08 – Rams D/ST
  • 8.09 – Robby Anderson, WR – NYJ
  • 8.10 – Tarik Cohen, RB – CHI
  • 8.11 – Kerryon Johnson, RB – DET
  • 8.12 – Jordy Nelson, WR – OAK

As always, these ADP lists are made with consensus and compiled data, so while we understand that in mock drafts folks draft more loosely, we never advocate drafting a defense this early. With two going on average, there’s a growing trend that I aim to buck. There’s a lot of value still at the RB position so eschew the special teams and build a juggernaut instead.

Best Value: It’s a toss up here but Cooper Kupp is inexplicably being drafted as the third WR off the board from the Rams despite leading the team in targets last year and running as the top target for Jared Goff. Cooks may be better than Watkins, but it won’t be enough to keep Kupp from approaching 100 targets.

Worst Value: Drafting based on the “bottom line” is short sited, and a player like Will Fuller gets a bump because of a handful of crazy Sport Center Top 10 highlights. The truth is that Houston doesn’t throw enough to give him the targets needed to overcome an unsustainable TD percentage and a 55% catch rate. Much like Martavis Bryant, this is a bit of fools gold.

Round 9 – 14

In these rounds, there’s fewer “hate” players as your general drafting a late QB or TE, or taking fliers on roster depth. It’s imperative that you read up on your targets as hitting on a few of these players gives you the kind of depth that provides a playoff and bye week advantage.

Round 9 

  • 9.01 – Rashaad Penny, RB – SEA
  • 9.02 – Matthew Stafford, QB – DET
  • 9.03 – Matt Ryan, QB – ATL
  • 9.04 – Stephen Gostkowski, K – NE
  • 9.05 – Jack Doyle, TE – IND
  • 9.06 – Vikings D/ST
  • 9.07 – Sterling Shepard, WR – NYG
  • 9.08 – Kelvin Benjamin, WR – BUF
  • 9.09 – Greg Zuerlein, K – LAR
  • 9.10 – Jamison Crowder, WR – WAS
  • 9.11 – Adrian Peterson, RB – WAS
  • 9.12 – Jamaal Williams, RB – GB

If there was ever a picture of how ZeroRB should work, it would be this round. Seeing a first round pick in Rashaad Penny and two starters in Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Williams available in the 9th should prove that the depth at RB isn’t as barren as many make it seem. Sure, it requires a great amount of care and planning, but you can win your league with these players.

Best Value: New quarter back Alex Smith may have had a career year throwing the ball down field last year, but he’s proven to be an efficient passer who finds the receiver who gets open. Not many receivers find separation like Jamison Crowder who should be his go to from day one. This is a potential WR2 being drafted as a WR4; that’s some great value!

Worst Value: Thankfully the rest of the round is worth a pick in the 9th so I can sound off on the practice of drafting a kicker in the 9th! DON’T DO IT! Matt Prater, the 10th ranked kicker last season was only 23 points shy of top ranked kicker Stephen Gostkowski’s 169. There’s no need to spend this kind of draft capital on a kicker… ever.

Round 10 

  • 10.01 – Trey Burton, TE – CHI
  • 10.02 – Ronald Jones, RB – TB
  • 10.03 – Jimmy Garoppolo, QB – SF
  • 10.04 – Sony Michel, RB – NE
  • 10.05 – Nelson Agholor, WR – PHI
  • 10.06 – David Njoku, TE – CLE
  • 10.07 – James White, RB – NE
  • 10.08 – Peyton Barber, RB – TB
  • 10.09 – Patrick Mahomes, QB – KC
  • 10.10 – Philip Rivers, QB – LAC
  • 10.11 – Alex Smith, QB – WAS
  • 10.12 – Kenny Stills, WR – MIA

Round 10 could be called the Rodney Dangerfield round due to the number of players who just seem to never get the respect they deserve. Whether it’s Philip Rivers being in the QB 1 conversation nearly every year or Alex Smith who almost won an MVP last season, there’s plenty of names in this area of the draft worth throwing darts at. That doesn’t mean there aren’t some pitfalls.

Best Value: With the injuries at the running back position in New England and the lack of reliable passing game targets, James White is looking more attractive than ever. With excellent passing down abilities and the trust of Tom Brady, he could be a RB2 if the Pats don’t address their current issues. While he won’t be asked to do much more than he has on the ground, he’ll approach the 90 or so targets he seems to get every year.

Worst Value:  When the draft concluded, many were proclaiming their love for the rookie running back selected by Tampa Bay, but Ronald Jones hasn’t looked like he deserves the comparisons to Jamaal Charles just yet. While the jury remains out on him in his first season, it’s crazy that he’s being drafted before Peyton Barber who is expected to start. With Charles Sims no longer on the roster, and Jones being awful in the passing game, Barber is a safe pick either way.

Round 11

  • 11.01 – Dak Prescott, QB – DAL
  • 11.02 – Josh Doctson, WR – WAS
  • 11.03 – Jared Goff, QB – LAR
  • 11.04 – Texans D/ST
  • 11.05 – Ravens D/ST
  • 11.06 – Justin Tucker, K – BAL
  • 11.07 – DeVante Parker, WR – MIA
  • 11.08 – Allen Hurns, WR – DAL
  • 11.09 – Mohamed Sanu, WR – ATL
  • 11.10 – Derek Carr, QB – OAK
  • 11.11 – Marcus Mariota, QB – TEN
  • 11.12 – Marlon Mack, RB – IND

With the depth beginning to dwindle, you may be justified stabbing at a player you like here despite them not showing up on many rankings sheets. Don’t feel bad doing something the “experts” wouldn’t do, the truth is many would do the same thing. Guys like Tucker and the Texans defense are far better values here than the guys taken several rounds ago, but I still don’t advise locking up either this early.

Best Value: Despite being a constant on the “bounce back” lists, Mariota is still being drafted as an afterthought. With a new OC in Matt LaFluer (who turned Goff from an embarrassment to an exciting NFL QB), an improved passing game with a healthy stud in Corey Davis, and a complimentary run game with pass catcher Dion Lewis, there’s little chance he disappoints in this round.

Worst Value: It’s sad when we finally give up on a player we’ve been behind for years, but that’s the case with DeVante Parker and Dr. Fantasy… as I write this brief obituary, I’m reminded of all the talent that he has yet the inability to catch the football or beat out lesser receivers. With all the competition now in the Miami offense, it’s time to give up on Parker as a break out candidate.

Round 12 

  • 12.01 – Tyler Eifert, TE – CIN
  • 12.02 – Eli Manning, QB – NYG
  • 12.03 – Chris Boswell, K – PIT
  • 12.04 – Patriots D/ST
  • 12.05 – Ty Montgomery, RB – GB
  • 12.06 – Keelan Cole, WR – JAC
  • 12.07 – Charles Clay, TE – BUF
  • 12.08 – Kenny Golladay, WR – DET
  • 12.09 – Matt Bryant, K – ATL
  • 12.10 – Aaron Jones, RB – GB
  • 12.11 – Paul Richardson, WR – WAS

You have now entered the “Dart Throw” zone where you’re drafting sleepers and backups in the hopes to land the next diamond in the rough. Guys like Alvin Kamara (who was likely later in your drafts or undrafted) are the kinds of names you hope to scratch off in what is the fantasy version of a 5 dollar scratch ticket. I’m less inclined to berate someone for a special teams pick, but again, don’t do it.

Best Value: When the Packers needed a running back and Montgomery and Williams were hurt or ineffective, Aaron Jones was a workhorse, averaging 5.5 yards per carry and looking like a true RB1. Now suspended, and sitting behind the vanilla Jamaal Williams, Jones value has plummeted. The talent is still there though, so it’s only the opportunity part that is lacking, and Williams may not be good enough to keep Jones down.

Worst Value: I believe in Tyler Eifert’s talent, but until he proves to me he can stay healthy, I’m not touching him in any round. Coupled with the fact that Marvin Lewis (the greatest destroyer of talent in this current NFL generation) plans on using him as sparingly as possible to preserve him for a playoff run that won’t happen, and I’m even less inclined to draft him.

Round 13

  • 13.01 – Nick Chubb, RB – CLE
  • 13.02 – Chargers D/ST
  • 13.03 – Benjamin Watson, TE – NO
  • 13.04 – Tyler Lockett, WR – SEA
  • 13.05 – Calvin Ridley, WR – ATL
  • 13.06 – Jared Cook, TE – OAK
  • 13.07 – Cameron Meredith, WR – NO
  • 13.08 – Danny Amendola, WR – MIA
  • 13.09 – LeGarrette Blount, RB – DET
  • 13.10 – Latavius Murray, RB – MIN
  • 13.11 – Tyrod Taylor, QB – CLE
  • 13.12 – Broncos D/ST

This is where the forgotten men come to be drafted, despite there being a lot of value even this late in drafts. First round pick Calvin Ridley may be considered a more marquee name, Tyler Lockett and Danny Amendola should contribute a healthy amount too. If your league is a keeper league, Chubb and Ridley begin to look even more attractive, assuming they’ve fallen this far. Don’t forget to know your format!

Best Value: When the Seahawks gave Tyler Lockett a big contract extension, it was a bit of a head scratcher as he’s only ever flashed in limited action. Still, the extension coupled with the loss of Jimmy Graham and the ongoing injury issues with Rashaad Penny and Doug Baldwin, and Lockett could see a big increase in work as well.

Worst Value: I was a Cameron Meredith fan last year before his injury, and I expected him to make the leap in New Orleans as the number two target for Drew Brees, but this offseason has been a complete bust for the former Bear. With very little rapport with the QB and not much success even against lesser competition, he could be a roster drag that forces you to drop him much earlier than you’d like.

Round 14 

  • 14.01 – Michael Gallup, WR – DAL
  • 14.02 – Cameron Brate, TE – TB
  • 14.03 – George Kittle, TE – SF
  • 14.04 – O.J. Howard, TE – TB
  • 14.05 – Mike Williams, WR – LAC
  • 14.06 – D.J. Moore, WR – CAR
  • 14.07 – John Ross, WR – CIN
  • 14.08 – Mitchell Trubisky, QB – CHI
  • 14.09 – Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, TE – JAC
  • 14.10 – Giovani Bernard, RB – CIN
  • 14.11 – Courtland Sutton, WR – DEN
  • 14.12 – Corey Clement, RB – PHI

If you’re in need of a Tight End, there’s plenty of upside with any one of these guys, but the real value is at the wide receiver position. It’s impossible to hit on every one of these guys, but with so much talent still on the board, these are all low risk options with plenty of high reward upside.

Best Value: Much like Corey Davis several rounds earlier, Mike Williams was once considered one of the best WR prospects in football. Injuries derailed his 2017 season but there’s no excuse for the degree of his fall from grace. With his back healed and only Tyrell Williams to compete with for the #2 spot on the Chargers depth chart, it’s almost a guarantee that he’ll outpace the draft spot.

Worst Value: While I like D.J. Moore as a long term prospect, his 2018 prospects are poor. There’s far too many hurdles to meaningful target shares for me to invest in him in redraft leagues. Already behind Devin Funchess and Greg Olsen, it’s become clear that McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel will out target him as well. In deep formats maybe, but not in the 14th round.

Round 15 and 16

I won’t spell out the 15th and 16th rounds (or beyond) as they tend to be more specific formats that require help in these areas. In standard Redraft leagues, you should be drafting a D/ST and Kicker here. I suggest grabbing whichever is the highest rated on your board in the 15th and grabbing someone to stream in the 16th.

In case you went off script and drafted one or both previously, here’s a list of players I like that are going later than this.

  • Anthony Miller, WR – CHI
  • DeSean Jackson, WR – TB
  • Jeremy Hill, RB – NE
  • Jordan Wilkins, RB – IND
  • Chris Godwin, WR – TB
  • James Washington, WR – PIT
  • Tyler Kroft, TE – CIN
  • Blake Jarwin, TE – DAL 

 

 

Updated Sleeper List!

CGodwinWhile the Dr. typically does his sleeper prognosis earlier in the off season, it is a beneficial exercise to examine who our newest breakout and sleeper candidates are as we approach the final countdown to our drafts. While there’s still a ton of players we like outside of this list, these are some of our favorite late round targets and the reasons why we’re targeting them ourselves.

Quarterbacks

Tyrod Taylor, QB – CLE

It’s a fair concern for drafters that the Browns selected Baker Mayfield first overall in the draft. With as well as he’s playing, it would make sense to expect him to start at some point in 2018. But the fact remains that Hue Jackson has been unmovable in his stance that Taylor is his starting QB. With the chemistry already building between Taylor and his receiving group, especially Jarvis Landry, a hot start could mean less chatter about him being replaced. Being able to add a potential top 15 QB in the 19th round (current ADP data shows him going around pick 183), sure qualifies as a sleeper to the Dr.

Blake Bortles, QB – JAC

We understand why Bortles is considered a bottom of the barrel NFL starter, but the real-world hate has seriously suppressed his value in the fantasy community as well. According to data supplied by the consensus ADP rankings at FantasyFootballCalculator, Bortles is being selected on average with the 204th pick of drafts. As the 29th QB off the board, it may surprise you to know that 2017 was his worst finish as the QB 15; his previous two seasons were as the QB9 in 2016 and the QB3 in 2015. While we expect a similar finish in 2018 thanks to an elite defense and high end run game, being able to select a borderline QB1 in the 21st round is larceny.

Running Backs

Jeremy Hill, RB – NE

I’ve been pounding the Jeremy Hill drum since he was released from the Bengals in the off season. Much to my delight he landed with my hometown Patriots, and has slowly been working himself into the good graces of the coaching staff and fans alike. Currently, both Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead are on the shelves with non-serious injuries, but their absence opens up the door  for Hill who was far more impressive than Mike Gillislee in the teams first preseason action. While it’s unlikely that he’ll receive the massive workload that saw him compile 1,400 rushing yards early in his career in Cincinnati, the chance to be the primary goal line back and work on early downs makes him an intriguing play at 180th overall. His ADP has been climbing steadily, but currently provides incredible value as a flier.

Bilal Powell, RB – NYJ

When Isaiah Crowell was brought in, it was seen by many as a sign that the Jets didn’t believe in Powell as a starting running back. What we’ve seen through the first weeks of the off season is that Powell may have the better chance to start, especially with Crowell experiencing a head injury in the first preseason game. With his role pretty well defined as the third down back, Powell offers excellent value in PPR formats regardless at his current ADP (192nd) but his status with the teams starters means there’s a chance he could provide even more value as the clubs lead back despite Crowell’s presence on the roster. While I doubt he’ll be a full three down back, the needle is pointing up for one of the leagues most underrated backs.

Wide Receivers

Dede Westbrook, WR – JAC

The wide receiver competition in Jacksonville is wide open with the uninspiring Marqise Lee sitting atop a receivers group that has plenty of depth but not a lot of experience. A lot of folks were high on Keelan Cole after his explosive stretch to finish the fantasy season last year, but talk in camp has centered on 2nd year receiver Dede Westbrook. A talented receiver, Westbrook has been turning heads with athletic plays and his growing chemistry with Bortles. I’m not a big believer in Lee, and while I was in love with Cole last year, it’s sounding more and more like Dede is going to be the late round guy to draft.

Chris Godwin, WR – TB

Staying in Florida, Chris Godwin has been turning up on a lot of these sleeper lists, yet he’s still being drafted on average around the 21st round of only the deepest drafts. The Tampa coaching staff has already expressed it’s interest in starting the young receiver opposite Mike Evans as the teams #2 receiver, and with DeSean Jackson running as often as he has out of the slot, I’m beginning to believe it. Working in Godwins favor is that Evans draws as many double teams as he does, opening up the other side of the field for plenty of work. Expect a bit of a delay in his progress, as Fitzpatrick tends to target his #1 receiver an inordinate percentage of plays, but it won’t be long before Godwin is a must start.

Tight End

Mike Gesicki, TE – MIA

It’s nearly a clean sweep for the Florida teams, as the Miami Dolphin’s rookie TE Mike Gesicki pops up on our list.  A lot was made of the high number of targets that are up for grabs in the Dolphin offense after Landry left in the off season, but all the attention has been on the incumbent receivers and the two off season additions in Albert Wilson and Danny Amendola. What I’ve been reading, though, is that Tannehill has begun to target Gesicki as one of his favorite receiving weapons. In the past, his TE usage has fluctuated, much to the dismay of owners, but I expect a flier on Gesicki to offer a sizable return on that late round investment. I don’t expect a top 5 finish like Engram had last year, but a border line TE1 finish is in the conversation

Honerable Mentions: 

Michael Gallup looked good in limited action, and the timing pass that Prescott landed in his hands is a good sign that he’ll be heavily involved in Dallas. Jordan Wilkins has been on and off these lists, but with Mack nursing a hamstring injury, a fine showing could move him up the depth chart and put him within striking distance of lead back duties. Jameis Winston may still feel like a risk, but given his pedigree and obvious ability, he’s more than worth a flier in the 19th round. Make sure you have a starter to pair him with, though, for the first three games. 

 

The Buzz: Friday Edition

CCarsonIt’s football season folks! With the Hall of Fame Game officially behind us, we can confidently welcome you to the heart of draft season, and the most critical time in the preparation process.

Undoubtedly you’ve purchased your magazines or draft kits, and are reviewing the print to find players you’re interested in and players you’re out on. But if we don’t pay close attention to what’s going on in camp, we’ll miss the movers and shakers as they separate themselves from their competition.

Trending Up

Chris Carson| RB – SEAAt this point, the prospect of Rashaad Penny inheriting a three down workload looks slim to none as the team, and it’s beat writers, continue to pound the drum for Chris Carson. Being said to have looked like the “most impressive back” in camp doesn’t mean he’ll be a top 10 RB, but it does lend credence to the idea that he could have far more value than his 16th round ADP would suggest.

Isaiah Crowell | RB – NYJ | Still only 25 years old, it’s strange to me that Isaiah Crowell would be considered an after thought; yet here we are. Currently being drafted around pick 100, Crowell offers a ton of upside for a relatively low risk pick. With a firm grasp on the early down work, and less competition with Elijah McGuire finding himself injured, there’s a relatively high floor for The Crow in 2018.

Marquise Goodwin | WR – SF | Maybe I’m just stubborn, or maybe I’m just a Pierre Garcon truther, but I was surprised to hear that Goodwin has been performing well above expectations as Jimmy Garoppolo’s top target. Reading through the off season hyperbole machines that are the local media can be taxing, but the overwhelming signs are pointing to a monster year for the former Bills cast off. With his blend of speed and route running, Goodwin factors to be a major part of San Francisco’s resurgence in 2018.

Trending Down

Lamar Jackson | QB – BAL | There continues to be this narrative around the fantasy community that Lamar Jackson will be starting sooner rather than later in Baltimore, but after his lackluster performance in Thursday’s Hall of Fame Game, I’m thinking Flacco’s job is safe. He was inefficient, completing only 3 of 10 passes, and did nothing to really excite me with his obvious athleticism. He’s a late round prospect in dynasty leagues, but in redrafts and most keeper formats, he’s not worth drafting.

Doug Baldwin | WR – SEA | It’s not an issue with talent, but with his ongoing injury issues, Baldwin’s prospects of repeating as a WR1 are in jeopardy. As his knee injury lingers, likely costing him all of the preseason, there’s a very real chance Baldwin could stumble out of the gates. At his current draft capital (Rnd 4 as the WR15), he’s a risk that I’m not willing to take without some better assurances.

C.J. Anderson | RB – CAR | This one may feel like I’m grasping at straws here, but the news out of Carolina has been nothing but glowing in terms of Christian McCaffrey and his potential uses. Missing from the headlines is anything to do with newly signed bruiser CJ Anderson. With coach Ron Rivera suggesting he’d like to give McCaffrey 25+ touches per game, it’s becoming clear that they value their 2017 draft pick a little more than drafters are expecting. While I still think Anderson will be involved in the offense, I’m questioning, now, just how heavily.