Category Archives: Team Previews
As we know intimately here at the Dr’s Office, hitting on a depth player is one of the best feelings in fantasy. Whether it was a middle round pick who supplanted a starter, or a late round flier who steps up due to injury, there’s a handful of these occurrences seemingly every week. When it happens before the season starts… that’s when it can be confusing.
Jaguars list Keelan Cole and Donte Moncrief as their starters
For a time it seemed as though 2017 fourth round pick Dede Westbrook was carving out a nice little role for himself, but when the preseason games rolled around he didn’t do enough to claim one of the starting roles. With Marquise Lee down for the season, it seems as though last years playoff hero Keelan Cole (ADP 130) will be asked to slot in opposite former Colts third round pick Donte Moncrief (ADP 200). Both options are fantastic value considering where they are going, but Cole may be one of the drafts best sleeper picks at this point. With the proven rapport with Bortles and recent fantasy results, the 14th round is still too late.
DeVante Parker may not be ready for the season opener
This one is an ongoing situation that bears observation, but the talented youngster still has to prove that he’s more than just combine measurables. A quick look at his Player Profiler page shows the story of a player who hasn’t figured out how to play the position against NFL caliber defenses. His target shares are average between the 20s but he struggles to gain separation (98th among qualified WRs) and doesn’t factor into red zone plays enough to be a difference maker. With the lingering finger issue, Parker could be ready for week 1 and I’d be fading him hard. With Amendola and/or Albert Wilson inhabiting the slot and chewing up a good portion of Landry’s vacated targets, and Kenny Stills presence in the red zone, Parker is going to have a tough time overcoming these deficiencies. .
New England Backfield is still a mess
While the colors may look different, this Patriots Backfield is the same difficult to analyze painting of an NFL backfield every season. Between additions (Jeremy Hill, Sony Michel) and departures (Mike Gillislee, Brandon Bolden), there seems to be a never ending carousel of backs in the drivers seat. According to the Patriots depth chart, both James White and Rex Burkhead are listed as starters, further muddying the waters if you were trying to cash in on New England’s odd but excellent running back usage. In PPR leagues, James White’s value at an ADP of around 120 is excellent value.
With Edelman missing 4 games due to suspension and a litany of wide receiver issues, injuries, and departures, White should factor in heavily early on. Still, it’s Burkhead who figures to make the most of his increased usage as he’ll dominate red zone touches and should see a healthy amount of work on the ground. Both are great values despite the concerns over who will see the most touches.
Carlos Hyde listed as Cleveland Browns starting RB
Much like Frank Gore before him, former 49ers running back Carlos Hyde continues to get disrespected in the fantasy world, as his ADP of 75 is outrageous considering how well he’s played to this point in his career. Many would point to the crowded backfield and presence of Duke Johnson as reasons why he can’t repeat as a top 20 back, but I’d tell you they are wrong. The Browns are a much improved offensive unit and Hyde looked fantastic in his limited action in the preseason. With Chubb figuring as the future of the franchise, there’s no reason for Cleveland to not pound the rock with Hyde. I don’t anticipate him pushing into the top 10, but he’s one of the easiest targets in the 8th round to justify.
Derrick Henry listed atop the RB depth chart in Tennessee
While all the attention was paid to the off season signing of former Patriot Dion Lewis, Henry quietly went about his job, continuing to work towards a larger work load in 2018. While we don’t expect him to handle much of the passing downs, the truth is that he’s the better runner of the two, despite what the experts would have you think. Dion Lewis’ season last year was a bit of an aberration, and continued health concerns and the lack of a track record for high touch totals means Henry should be involved from week 1.
LeGarrette Blount to start over Kerryon Johnson in Week 1
We take this one with a grain of salt, but it’s hardly surprising to see the recently acquired veteran starting at the pole over the exciting rookie. Johnson looked like the most talented back on the roster all preseason, so we don’t think it will be long before he’s seeing meaningful touches, but Blount should be the primary goal line back. If Johnson can vulture some touches inside the 20s or some of the passing downs, he figures to be a much better option long term than any other back on the Lions roster.
In a pair of rookie QB related decisions in the AFC East yesterday, the New York Jets confirmed that first round pick Sam Darnold will start for Gang Green on Sunday while his counterpart in Buffalo, Josh Allen, will not.
While it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise given how well Darnold has commanded the Jets offense, there’s still the stench of failed rookie quarterbacks in New York that could have easily seen Josh McCown back under center. As a fantasy commodity, Darnold is an interesting case, as he’s seemed willing and able to sling the ball around. While we’d expect a slow start to his career in terms of fantasy production, in deep formats and keeper leagues he’s worth a late round pick.
Meanwhile, the New York team no one wants to admit exists has elected to start last years interception meme Nathan Peterman over rookie Josh Allen. While you may remember the five interceptions in one half of football, the truth is that Allen’s big arm isn’t enough to support a winning football club. That’s not to suggest Peterman is much better an option, but in the face of ruining your rookies confidence, I’d make a similar move. With the raw arm strength, Allen is an intriguing prospect, but he’s still some time away from figuring out the efficiency problems that’s plagued him since college. There’s little fantasy upside for the rookie at this point.
In what ended up being a pretty milquetoast preseason game, the Colts vs Ravens game featured several off season story lines that we’ve had our eye on all along.
The most important of those being whether Andrew Luck can return to form following an injury filled two year stretch that has seen his value go from a top 3 QB to a middle round prayer. In limited action, Luck failed to impress as his 6 for 13 line with only 50 yards and one INT was hardly reminiscent of the gun slinger he was early in his career. Still, seeing him on the field is encouraging nonetheless.
Catching passes primarily from last years starter Jacoby Brissett, the receiving corps was paced by the tight ends as Eric Ebron secured the highest catch total (4) and Jack Doyle brought in his two receptions for 32 yards. The landscape for the Colts will surely look different when the season starts, but this is a TE position battle that may be one to monitor if Ebron can eat enough into Doyles production to keep him from being fantasy relevant.
The Colts run game wasn’t very impressive, but the Ravens’ Kenneth Dixon flashed the talent that has many wondering how much of a leash Alex Collins will have. His 5.3 yards per carry mark (32 yards on only 6 carries) and team leading 3 receptions for 24 yards is the kind of production that had many targeting Dixon last year in drafts. While Collins job is secure for now, Dixon is a name to watch if he continues to play with the kind of burst and efficiency we saw last night.
Aside from Dixon, the passing game was a color by numbers performance as 14 Colts players secured at least one pass. While John Brown has remained the buzziest player in Ravens practices, it appears that percentage share is going to be an issue for any Raven’s receivers. Consider the value when drafting a Ravens’ receiver as you’ll likely see inconsistent production regardless of who you draft.
Russell Wilson got an extended look as he attempted 21 passes in preseason game #2, completing 13 of them for 193 yards. Secure in his role as a top 5 fantasy QB going into 2018, there’s little to be concern about despite only 1 rushing attempt.
The running back battle that was skewed with a Rashaad Penny injury seems to be centered firmly on Chris Carson as he took his 9 carries for 34 yards, a 3.8 yard per carry mark. While the sentiment is that he’ll be the starter come week one, he’ll need to improve slightly on his efficiency if he’s going to hold off the first round pick.
The receiving game looked a bit off as well as the Seahawks continue to play without injured WR Doug Baldwin. While he was seen doing sprints, it’s likely going to be a showcase for the depth receivers as guys like Jaron Brown try to ingratiate themselves to Wilson and the offensive coaches. Taking 2 receptions for 74 yards certainly doesn’t hurt his case for being a starter, especially considering how cheap he can be had on draft day (likely for free as a waiver add).
Still, it was the Chargers in the end who won the game on the effort of it’s run game. Not one signal caller ended the game with more than 8 passing attempts, as each Geno Smith and Philip Rivers only threw one incomplete pass. Instead it was Detrez Newsome who put on a clinic with 78 yards on 19 carries. While it was certainly impressive, there’s no real threat to Melvin Gordon’s starting gig as he turned his 10 rushes into 35 yards and a TD.
Despite his continued poor efficiency, Melvin Gordon made good in the passing game with 2 receptions for 18 yards. It’ll be something to consider at the end of the first as Gordon has put up decent receiving numbers despite being pegged as a standard league only option.
While the rest of the receiving game was surpressed due to the lack of attempts, it’s interesting to see Virgil Green excelling, as this Chargers offense should continue to use it’s TE’s in the passing game. With Hunter Henry out for the year, Green could be a late round target with plenty of value in redraft leagues.
The story line for both of these teams has been somewhat consistent as the focus on first year starter Mitch Trubisky and free agent price Case Keenum has dominated for each team.
Mitch Trubisky continued to look improved as he completed nearly 65% of his passes for 90 yards and a TD and INT a piece. It wasn’t a world beater stat line for sure, but against a stout Bronco’s defense and without is top wide out Allen Robinson, it was a solid showing for the young QB.
Likewise, both Trey Burton and Anthony Miller looked the part as they each were used early in roles that should see them succeed. Burton’s 4 catches for 45 yards and a TD is the kind of stat line that has fantasy owners buzzing about his potential. While Miller didn’t see the endzone on any of his three catches, the young slot receiver should continue to see his usage upped as the season approaches.
On the other side of the field, Trubiski’s counterpart Case Keenum was efficient as well, throwing only 13 passes for 78 total yards. Still, the lack of depth at QB shows how secure his job is in Denver, as Chad Kelly is a solid depth piece at best and Paxton Lynch is no lock to make it to the season on a roster.
The receiving game was a bit underwhelming as the offense spread the ball around to 16 different players, no one seeing more than Emmanuel Sanders 3 for 27. Demaryius Thomas’ wrist injury opens up space for buzzy youngster Courtland Sutton to impress. While he only had the one catch for a 16 yard TD, he’s a player to target in the later rounds.
Neither teams rushing game was impressive, though, as Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen’s roles are secured in the bears offense, and Royce Freeman continues to be the back most used on rushing downs. It’ll be a question as to how much use Freeman will get across three downs with Booker still there to leach passing downs, but he’s distanced himself from some of the other rookie backs as he inches ever closer to the starting job in Denver.
It was a busy weekend with NFL action featuring several story lines that may or may not make your life easy as you prepare for your drafts. As we continue to inch towards D-day, we’ll continue to review the position battles and injury updates to help you navigate the potential pitfalls.
Tampa Bay vs Tennesee Titans
Suspended Jameis Winston showed why he’s still the best quarterback on the roster with his 13 for 18 performance, putting up a stout 226 yards and 2 TDs. DeSean Jackson and Mike Evans both saw down the field targets as their 4 combined cathes went for over 100 yards.
On a more concerning note, rookie running back Ronald Jones continues to lose ground to incumbent starter Peyton Barber as he managed only 2 yards on 4 carries. It’s been a bit of a slow start to his NFL career as he continues to make headlines for a lack of pass protection and efficiency. Peyton Barber is seeming like a more consistent weapon in the backfield. At their current ADP, you should be targeting Barber in redraft leagues.
On the other side of the football, Mariota wasn’t asked to do as much, but his 80 yards on 4 completions wasn’t too shabby.
In the absence of Corey Davis and Rishard Matthews, it was Taywan Taylor that garnered all the attention as he took his 4 receptions for 95 yards and a TD. If Matthews is forced to miss time, Taylor could be a nice deep sleeper target, or waiver wire add if you drafted early.
Unfortunately, not much headway was made in the running game as both Dion Lewis and Derrick Henry were ineffectual again with neither one doing much on the ground. While it’s mostly a blip on the radar, it’s a backfield I have highlighted as one to avoid. Aside from Lewis in PPR leagues, this backfield is one that I’m not keen to take a chance on at their current ADPs.
Things in New England haven’t gotten much better for a team riding the waves of a turbulent off season with the news that free agent wide out Jordan Matthews has been released.
A hamstring injury recently suffered by the mercurial receiver was deemed “significant” and the Patriots deemed it was time to move on. With lingering injury issues to Malcom Mitchell (knee) and Kenny Britt (hamstring), it’s likely the Patriots consider adding depth to aid a group that’s already without Julian Edelman for four games.
Veteran Eric Decker was recently worked out by the team, and has to be considered one of the better bets as his skill set works with how Brady operates, but it’s a situation to monitor.
In the meantime, the value on Chris Hogan should be bumped slightly as only he and Gronkowski return as reliable passing game targets among the receivers and tight ends group. Rex Burkhead and James White could see a bump in value as well due to their proficiency catching the ball from other areas outside of the backfield.
As usual, the Patriots will go into the preseason with questions fantasy owners would love to have answered.
Every year we examine the NFL’s most volatile committees in hopes that we can navigate the potential mine field and find the guys that will eventually rise to the top. Of course, this is one of those articles that must be taken with a grain of salt as many of these turn out to be black holes for fantasy contributors, but if you’re stuck drafting from a committee, this should help you decide where to turn.
New England Patriots
It wouldn’t be a committee report without the Patriots firmly at the top of the list. Of course, this year it’s a different look as the Pats selected Sony Michel in the first round (something the Patriots mostly never do). Also present on the roster are pass catching specialist James White, Rex Burkhead, Mike Gillisleee, and Jeremy Hill.
Current ADP rankings show that Pats backs are being selected in this order: Sony Michel (52nd), Rex Burkhead (81st), James White (148th), Jeremy Hill (204th), Mike Gillislee (UN).
The best value may belong to James White in the 15th round. With his 90 targets last year, his value is equal to that of a decent WR3, yet he’s being selected in the “flier rounds” as teams look to fill in the bottom of their benches. Burkhead has shown promise before, but his role is so undefined that I’m loath to put a pick towards him in the 9th round.
This is the kind of committee that won’t be resolved at all this year, so over paying for a back like Sony Michel could be a sure fire way to torpedo your draft. I won’t suggest he won’t be valuable in fantasy terms, but understanding how the Patriots operate leads me to believe that ball control and inexperience should prohibit him from turning in a top 20 season in 2018.
Another team that’s been devoid of a true number one for a decade or more, the Lions did little to clear up it’s perennial committee by signing LeGarette Blount and drafting Kerryon Johnson to further muddy the future. With Theo Riddick and Ameer Abdullah still floating around, it’s going to be difficult for anyone to separate themselves from the pack in this backfield.
Current ADP draft data shows the following selection information: Kerryon Johnson (78th), LeGarette Blount (111th), Ameer Abdullah (114th), Theo Riddick (UN)
What concerns me is that Detroit has typically been a pass first team, and I don’t expect them to pound the ball with any great frequency this year either. The last time a Lions team had more than 400 attempts as a team was in 2014, and Reggie Bush and Joique Bell had about a 60/40 split.
Considering the consistency of this committee, expecting anything more than 200 carries for either Johnson or Blount is a pipe dream. My prediction is that Blount leads the team in carries with around 170, while Johnson sees 150 and Riddick/Abdullah/Zenner combine for around 30. If Riddick wasn’t as capable a passing down back, one could make an argument for Johnson to contribute in other ways, but as currently constituted, I’m not touching this backfield.
In typical Cleveland fashion, the Browns front office drafted Nick Chubb despite the hefty contract handed out in free agency to Carlos Hyde. Already on the roster is pass catching back Duke Johnson, who figures to remain involved as well. So what does this mean for the fantasy prospects of each back above? It means we have no real idea.
Here is the ADP data for the Cleveland backfield: Carlos Hyde (68th), Nick Chubb (93rd), Duke Johnson (123rd).
The ADP values above represent how difficult it is to value these Cleveland running backs. Of course, part of the problem is that the fantasy community is so in love with rookie running backs that it’s ignoring how much value Carlos Hyde has as a starter. Chubb, on the other hand, doesn’t factor into the passing game, and his draft profile suggests that a lack of game breaking skills and inability to break tackles makes him a distant second in terms of attempts.
What this does mean, is that Carlos Hyde is being seriously undervalued in the 7th round. Of the teams roughly 380 carries, I expect him to handle 240 or so, with Chubb and Johnson splitting the remaining 140. The passing game should shift mostly to Johnson, but don’t discount Hyde’s ability to play in the passing game either; he should have a healthy number of targets, even if Duke Johnson leads the way in the category.
The Dolphins don’t want to be a committee, but this time every year we seem to have the same conversation. Is the guy they picked really the guy to draft? Kenyan Drake had a nice little run at the end of the season, getting three games in with more than 15 rushes and a healthy dose of targets in the passing game. Unfortunately for him, the team brought in veteran Frank Gore and rookie Kalen Ballage to make his RB2 status look worse and worse by the day.
The draft values for these guys look as follows: Kenyan Drake (45th), Kalen Ballage (172), and Frank Gore (177th).
You may think, looking at those numbers, that Drake is a safe bet, but in my gut it feels that these two other backs are here for a reason. With no real track record prior to week 12, the success he had may be no more than a mirage. With two games against Buffalo, a game against New England, and one against Denver, it seems he may have benefited from mediocre opponents. Gore should be given a healthy portion of touches; just enough to hurt Drake’s prospects but not enough to make him draftable.
The more intriguing guy is Kalen Ballage. Miami has enjoyed using it’s backs in the passing game for years and while many of Jarvis Landry’s targets should go to Parker/Amendola/Stills, he stands out as the most capable pass catcher of the trio. If he can pass block, and it sounds like he won’t have a problem, he could see a larger time share than we expect. At 45th overall, I’m not touching Drake without some kind of assurance from HC Adam Gase on his usage. At this point, I’m willing to take a flyer on Ballage, but not much more.
Green Bay Packers
This is a pass first team, so trying to target the running back to own is like trying to decide which warm bottle of water to take quench your thirst with. It’s been years now since Eddie Lacy was a top tier fantasy back, and every year someone else has inhabited the collective minds of fantasy football, and every year we seem to be wrong. Last year it was Ty Montgomery who was the draft season darling; I cautioned you against using a high pick on him. He proved me right.
This year, it’s Jamal Williams who has the “inside track” to the bulk of the carries, but what does that even mean in this offense?
Here are the draft positions for this particular backfield: Jamaal Williams (87th), Aaron Jones (91st), Ty Montgomery (101nd).
Green Bay, not surprisingly, doesn’t run the ball as often as it’s opponents. Of it’s 386 attempts, only 326 of them went to the running backs groups. Ty Montgomery isn’t likely to have more than 40-60 attempts, but that still only leaves around 250-275 rushes for two backs that had, at one point in 2017, held the starter role for this team.
While Williams will have the first stab at the job thanks to Aaron Jones’ suspension, it’s important to note that he was uninspiring with the touches he did get. His 556 yards on 153 carries was good for an underwhelming 3.6 yards per carry. While it was in a smaller sample size, Aaron Jones 5.5 yards per carry looked a lot better from a fantasy perspective.
Drafting any of these backs is a crap shoot, but my breakdown is thus: target Montgomery as a late round flier in PPR leagues, and target Jones in the 9-11th round as a stash. His 2 game suspension shouldn’t prohibit him from wining the job as he was the best suited for 3 downs last year.
The Eagles haven’t had a legit lead back since it shipped LeSean McCoy out years ago during the Chip Kelley debacle. Instead, they’ve been one of the most predictable committees in the NFL. Since McCoy’s final season in Philly (2014), the highest attempts total was DeMarco Murray’s 193 the season after. Since then, it’s been names like Ryan Matthews and LeGarrette Blount leading the committee.
While it’s unlikely to change dramatically in 2018, the addition of Jay Ajayi may clear things up a little bit. We do expect Darren Sproles to handle a lot of the passing downs when healthy, but of the remaining backs, Ajayi represents the teams best chance at stability with Corey Clement and Wendell Smallwood not profiling as a three down back.
A quick at the draft positions for these backs looks like this: Jay Ajayi (32nd), Corey Clement (114th), Darren Sproles (UN)
Still, expecting Ajayi to have 200+ carries is a bit optimistic. It’s hard to qualify head coach Doug Pederson’s track record with running backs because Jamal Charles was hurt every year but one when he was the OC in Kansas City, but when he played, the Chiefs gave the football to Charles a lot. Could that be a sign of things to come with Ajayi representing the best talent he’s had to work with in Philly?
I’d argue at his current draft position, Ajayi is far more stable than some of the rookie backs ahead of him. I don’t expect an RB1 finish, but he’s a solid candidate for RB2 numbers. Likewise, I’m not touching Clement unless it’s as a cuff in deep leagues. Sproles offers a little value in PPR formats, but his health and age don’t inspire confidence that he’ll finish the year healthy.
The Big Finish
While these backs will cost you far less draft capital than some of their contemporaries, it’s important to stay grounded. Overvaluing players because of the research your doing now can cost you big time if you hold on to them too long. These are the perfect players to throw darts at because you can drop them pretty quick. As always, adjust your rankings accordingly (maybe with a few of these guys highlighted), and happy drafting!
4. Green Bay Packers
The only thing this team is missing to be in the top three is a viable run game, but the mere presence of the best quarter back in the league helps elevate the entire passing game. Add to his arsenal an elite red zone weapon in tight end Jimmy Graham, and you have a recipe for success for one of the leagues best passing attacks.
Players Worth Drafting: Davante Adams (ADP 22), Aaron Rodgers (ADP 23), Jimmy Graham (ADP 61), Randall Cobb (ADP 88), Jamaal Williams (ADP 105), Aaron Jones (ADP 124), Ty Montgomery (ADP 131)
The real question becomes “is there anyone who can handle the rushing duties?” It feels like forever ago that Eddie Lacy was a first round pick, and after last years three back committee failed to churn out more than a spot start here and there, the hunt is on as all three return in some capacity. While Aaron Jones looked more impressive in his opportunities, it looks like Williams will get the first crack at the job.
Deep Sleeper: Last year I tore into the idea that Ty Montgomery was a viable three down back, and following an injury, it seemed that I was right. Still, neither Jamaal Williams nor Aaron Jones did enough to erase the memories of Montgomery shredding defenses in the passing game. When healthy, and by all accounts he is, he’ll handle the passing downs, and in the 15th round, he’s got far too high a ceiling to not be a target.
3. New England Patriots
Yes, I’m concerned about the Patriots ability to return to the Super Bowl given the on going off season drama, but I’m not concerned about the elite players turning in elite fantasy seasons. Tom Brady may take a bit of a step back this year due to age and unfamiliar pieces, but even a Tom Brady at 90% is better than most in a league that values decision making and smarts. It’s the run game that could potentially produce the biggest surprises in New England this year.
Players Worth Drafting: Rob Gronkowski (ADP 19), Tom Brady (ADP 31), Sony Michel (ADP 51), Chris Hogan (ADP 69), Julian Edelman (ADP 80), Rex Burkhead (ADP 114), James White (ADP 145), Jordan Matthews (ADP 188)
With 1st round back Sony Michel the first NE back coming off the board, it sure seems like the public believes the Patriots are going to do what every other NFL franchise does when it drafts a player that high. I’ll go out on a limb and say that, while Michel is a nice player, it’s Rex Burkhead that’s the Patriot to own at running back. His versatility and rapport with Brady is undeniable, and with less time to prepare thanks to his off season hold out, Brady will need to lean on Hogan and Burkhead to get the offense going.
Deep Sleeper: I may be a bit higher on Jordan Matthews than most, but I see a low risk pick that has the chance to start the season as the top slot option in a passing attack that targets it’s slot receivers at a higher rate than most of the league. With Edelman missing 4 games and over a year removed from playing football, there’s a very good chance that this is Matthews best chance to showcase his skills.
2. Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles are a team on the rise. With a capable backup quarter back, even a delay in the return of franchise QB Carson Wentz isn’t a death sentence for the elite players this roster boasts. Zach Ertz is a no doubt TE in any format, as he continues to be the top target in the red zone. Alshon Jeffrey and Nelson Agholor return as a fantasic complimentary duo, with both players a threat to his 800-1000 yards.
Players Worth Drafting: Zach Ertz (ADP 32), Jay Ajayi (ADP 43), Alshon Jeffrey (ADP 46), Carson Wentz (ADP 53), Nelson Agholor (ADP 117), Corey Clement (ADP 181)
Targeting a running back here could get tricky. You may be tempted to jump early at Ajayi after he posted some pretty impressive numbers in an Eagles uniform. I’d caution against it. While he certainly has the skills, he’s in an unenviable position of being type cast in the early down role with Darren Sproles handling the passing downs and Corey Clement chewing into red zone touches.
Deep Sleeper: Currently falling into the “undrafted” category, Darren Sproles returns as the primary pass catcher for the Eagles. While the diminutive scat-back certainly has the injury history to make one squeamish, he also has the skills to haul in 50+ balls from the waiver wire.
1. Minnesota Vikings
It may surprise you to see the Vikings here, but after paying big money to bring in Kirk Cousins, the offense in Minnesota now features a top 20 player at every counting position, and several top 10 candidates. Kirk Cousins’ big arm should only help Diggs close the game with Thielen (if not pass him) and a Dalvin Cook/Latavius Murray backfield should scare defensive coordinators who want to abandon the box to stop the down the field passing.
Players Worth Drafting: Dalvin Cook (ADP 14), Adam Thielen (ADP 25), Stefon Diggs (ADP 35), Kirk Cousins (ADP 76), Kyle Rudolph (ADP 84), Latavius Murray (ADP 155)
You may be wondering why Cook is being valued as high as he is after only playing 4 games as a rookie before suffering a big time injury. The truth is that, while he could certainly return a different player, it’s expected he’ll return healthy and continue to receive a three down workload. In those 4 games he averaged over 5 receptions and 100 combined yards, further supporting Minnesota’s intentions to use him even on passing downs.
Deep Sleeper: Allow me to talk out of the other side of my mouth for a moment and plug Latavius Murray as one of my favorite deep sleepers of the year. With Cook’s return imminent, his draft value continues to fall, making the former Raider a fantastic value given how well he played in Cooks absence last year. I’ve sung his praises in years past, and the freak athleticism he possesses should help him see the field regardless of Cooks’ effectiveness upon his return.
9. Houston Texans
The Texan’s playoff hopes were dashed the moment the team announced budding superstar Deshaun Watson would miss the remainder of the 2017 season with a non-contact ACL tear. What we were witnessing up until that point was nothing sort of miraculous, and the lack of a larger sample size has led many pundits to argue the pro’s and con’s a little more loudly than for some other players.
Players Worth Drafting: DeAndre Hopkins (ADP 8), Deshaun Watson (ADP 45), Lamar Miller (ADP 73), Will Fuller (ADP 79), D’Onta Foreman (ADP 115)
While DeAndre Hopkins is one of the safest bets in any league format, predicting how much regression to expect for Watson is the hardest thing to do. As others have been so quick to point out, Watson’s 2017 pace had him finishing with just under 500 attempts, which when accounting for regression should scare those who are willing to draft him early. The same can be said for Will Fuller who’s ceiling may be sky high, but his bust weeks could be more numerous than other guys in his draft area.
Deep Sleeper: One of my favorite sleepers last year, D’Onta Foreman was hit with the injury bug as well, rupturing his achilles to end his season. While he certainly flashed at times, his usage remained inconsistent despite Lamar Miller’s numerous ailments. I expect that at some point this season Foreman should gain at least a split in the carries, if not a larger time share than that. Blessed with three down talent, he’s one opportunity away from stealing the full time gig.
8. New Orleans Saints
A perennial powerhouse when it comes to churning out fantasy studs, New Orleans looks poised to do so again this year with 2nd year back Alvin Kamara ready to take a larger portion of the offense on, especially in the absence of Ingram who will serve a suspension to start the year. As always, this team goes as far as Drew Brees takes them, and the consistency remains despite his advanced age.
Players Worth Drafting: Alvin Kamara (ADP 6), Michael Thomas (ADP 16), Mark Ingram (ADP 57), Drew Brees (ADP 75), Ted Ginn Jr. (ADP 156), Cameron Meredith (ADP 168), Ben Watson (ADP 182)
Still one of my favorite fantasy commodities, Michael Thomas should return as a fantasy stud, even with Cameron Meredith brought in to bolster this offense. Expecting this team to run the football as much as it did last year would be a bit foolish given the explosiveness this team features in the passing game. Expect a bit of a down turn in Ingram’s usage when he returns from his suspension.
Deep Sleeper: Before the season, I was hyper critical of Ted Ginn’s one dimensional game, and while he was successful last year, Cameron Meredith was brought in to provide a more traditional number two option in the passing game. While his health will certainly be in question, the talent that had him one of the trendier picks prior to his season ending injury in 2017 remains. With an elite QB throwing him the football, he’s a safe bet to out perform his ADP.
7. Pittsburgh Steelers
Is it any surprise that, despite the issues with depth, a team featuring two of the top five players on the planet would finish as a top 10 ranked fantasy juggernaut? We all know what Bell and Brown bring to the table, and Ben Roethlisberger should continue to be boring but reliable. It’s the rest of the offense that presents the biggest risk as well as opportunity.
Players Worth Drafting: Le’Veon Bell (ADP 1), Antonio Brown (ADP 5), Juju Smith-Schuster (ADP 44), Ben Roethlisberger (ADP 89), Vance McDonald (ADP 169), James Washington (ADP 192)
with Bell threatening to hold out for much of the preseason, the question becomes how quickly will he hit the ground running? I doubt there will be much of an impact; this team and it’s offense hasn’t changed much in the last few years, and Bell’s talent trumps any other circumstance. The passing game does have a huge hole at tight end, though, with neither Jesse James or Vance McDonald being worth drafting in almost any format.
Deep Sleeper: This roster consists of a mostly top-heavy spread of talent, so choosing a deep sleeper is difficult. If you’re like me, and the issues surrounding Bell concern you, it’s not hard to see the value in his backup; James Conner. Already, rumblings about how well Conner has looked in off season programs have been surfacing, so either the Steelers are trying to motivate Bell or their preparing for life without him. Either way, any back with the kind of volume a Pittsburgh back has is worth a flier in case Conner sees extended time on the field.
6. Kansas City Chiefs
A breakout year across the board, the Chiefs cut bait with former first overall pick Alex Smith and instead are going to roll with Pat Mahomes as their young gunslinger of the future. Gifted with a monster arm, Mahomes may be better suited for this offense than his predecessor, especially given the addition of Sammy Watkins.
Players Worth Drafting: Kareem Hunt (ADP 10), Travis Kelce (ADP 26), Tyreek Hill (ADP 27), Sammy Watkins (ADP 74), Patrick Mahomes (ADP 113)
With so much speed and so many weapons, it’d be important to caution anyone about over drafting Kareem Hunt. Despite his massive numbers in his rookie year, consistency was never a given, and with Spencer Ware returning to the fold and Charcandarick West still on the squad, it’ll be difficult for Hunt to return with the volume he had last year. Getting a piece of the Chiefs offense may seem like a good idea, but only at the right price.
Deep Sleeper: The fact that Spencer Ware isn’t on anyone’s radar this off season speaks to the impressive nature of Kareen Hunts 2017 season. What it doesn’t account for is that Ware looked might impressive himself when he had the starting gig down the stretch in 2016. What should start as some kind of committee, there’s no way to discount the player that Ware is. While I doubt Hunt falters enough for Ware to take over 100%, any struggle should give Ware time on the field. Should he prove himself, Ware would be a steal in that offense.
5. Carolina Panthers
So I’m man enough to admit that I was wrong about Christian McCaffrey when I tried to talk folks out of drafting him. What I’m not wrong about is the effect C.J. Anderson’s arrival will have on his rushing statistics. When the team brought him in to replace the departed James Stewart, it signaled that McCaffrey would not inherit the first and second downs like many expected.
Players Worth Drafting: Christian McCaffrey (ADP 20), Greg Olsen (ADP 54), Cam Newton (ADP 60), Devin Funchess (ADP 81), C.J. Anderson (ADP 138), D.J. Moore (ADP 146)
Cam Newton, however, should benefit from the additional weapons. Both Anderson’s ability to refocus opposing defenses and D.J. Moore providing a potential #1 WR should make Cam an even safer bet this year to finish as a top five quarterback. I’m bullish on all three of them to far outperform their price on draft day, while less so on McCaffrey and Olsen.
Deep Sleeper: As mentioned above, I believe in the talent that D.J. Moore has, and there’s a reason why Carolina traded up to get him. With Funchess not really possessing the elite receiver profile, he’ll have opportunities early and often to steal a larger portion of targets than most of his fellow rookie receivers.