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Team Previews: 19 through 15

19. Los Angeles Rams

Following a disappointing 2016, Todd Gurley bounced back in a big way, proving that when given the opportunity, he is one of the best backs in the world. Of course, the Rams surprised across the board, with 2nd year QB Jared Goff taking a massive step forward, and guys like Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp coming up big in the possession game. With a balanced offense and an elite defense, there’s no telling how good this team can be.

Players Worth Drafting: Todd Gurley (ADP 2), Brandin Cooks (ADP 64), Robert Woods (ADP 67), Cooper Kupp (ADP 86), Jared Goff (ADP 127)

This off season saw the Sean McVay led Rams add former first round receiver Brandin Cooks to further bolster the offense. Of course Cooks, who’s been effective in both offenses he’s played in prior to this one, should see a fair share of targets, making both Gurley and Woods regression candidates in terms of targets and yards. Goff should continue to see early QB2 consideration, but it’s unlikely he’ll push into the QB1 territory even with the added weapons; this team is still Gurley’s at the end of the day.

Deep Sleeper: Don’t misconstrue his inclusion as anything other than recognizing the potential. Last season, Tyler Higbee didn’t see enough of the field to be a real difference maker, but 2018 could see more involvement for the Ram’s 2017 second round pick. While this team figures to continue to favor the run game, Cooks’ addition may signal a balancing between the pass and run games, and Higbee offers far pass catching skills than Gerald Everett. As a waiver wire add, he’ll certainly come cheap.

18. Oakland Raiders

What a difference a year makes, as teams who heavily targeted the Oakland Raiders found themselves disappointed as all three of Carr, Cooper, and Marshawn Lynch all severely under performed. With Jon Gruden signed on to coach the team into the future, there are now new questions that need to be answered. Is this team really going to commit heavily to the run game? If so, then why add two potential difference makers to a passing game that only 2 years ago was the toast of the town?

Players Worth Drafting: Amari Cooper (ADP 48), Marshawn Lynch (ADP 56), Jordy Nelson (ADP 94), Derek Carr (ADP 134), Martavis Bryant (ADP 160), Jared Cook (ADP 162), Doug Martin (ADP 177)

When Gruden walked through the doors in Oakland, it hardly hit the frame before in walked Martavis Bryant, Jordy Nelson, and Doug Martin. These three players certainly represent a shifting of philosophy, and incumbent starters have been placed on notice. Still, outside of Carr and Coopers security in this offense, it’s anyone’s best guess as to who’s the next options will be. Does Lynch have enough to hold off the mercurial Muscle Hamster? Can Bryant stay on the field long enough to show why everyone was in love with his talent? Is Jordy Nelson all washed up? Only time can answer these questions.

Deep Sleeper: With so many new faces, it’ll be on players like Jared Cook to help the team transition to it’s new look. With an average of about 5.5 targets per game since 2013, Cook has been an underrated TE commodity for years; one that could be a true breakout candidate in 2018. After starting 16 games for the first time in his career, the veteran is locked in as the starter and a floor of 90 targets and 60 catches is attractive considering he’s routinely being ranked outside of the low end TE2 range.

17. Chicago Bears

It seems strange to list the Bears as a “team on the rise” but the truth is that trusting the process seems to be working well for the Bears. After years of futility, the Bears finally have their QB of the future ready to take the field, and I’m firmly in the camp that supports Tribusky as an above average NFL quarter back. It helps that they added as many weapons as they did with Allen Robinson and Trey Burton arriving as free agents and Anthony Miller, the rookie out of Memphis, arriving in the 2nd round of the 2018 draft.

Players Worth Drafting: Jordan Howard (ADP 29), Allen Robinson (ADP 41), Tarik Cohen (ADP 91), Trey Burton (ADP 112), Mitchell Trubisky (ADP 157), Anthony Miller (ADP 176)3

Of course, having a rushing game that features the complimentary Howard and Cohen doesn’t hurt. With protection, Trubisky should have plenty of opportunities to succeed. Allen Robinson is a true #1, and gives them the best receiving option since Alshon Jeffry, and Trey Burton is still slightly underrated in terms of pass catching ability. We’ve seen this movie before, and the big, sure handed TE seems to be a safety blanket for many young QBs. It may have more to do with a lack of history, but Burton could easily finish as a top 5 Tight End in 2018.

Deep Sleeper: With other rookie WRs receiving more attention, Anthony Miller is flying under the radar in terms of fantasy relevance. With Chicago having a good blend of skill sets, Miller looks as though he’s destined for the slot in this offense. As a complimentary talent to the down the field threat of Robinson, he could be in line for a ton of targets as a rookie, pushing him into the WR3 territory for me.

16. Cincinnati Bengals

Welp, Marvin Lewis is back, and my expectations for the Bengals remains middle of the road. As a regular season team, they seem to always tease, and this year feels no different even from a fantasy perspective. Despite possessing gobs of talent, both A.J. Green and Joe Mixon feature lower floors than the rest of the players around them in drafts; you’re as likely to see a bust season as you are a top 10 season, and much of that comes from a history of misusing it’s best players.

Players Worth Drafting: A.J. Green (ADP 18), Joe Mixon (ADP 36), Tyler Eifert (ADP 135), Giovani Bernard (ADP 147), John Ross (ADP 191)

Outside of the obvious, the Bengals have a handful of players who have yet to put together enough consistency to be more than flier options. Tyler Eifert has plenty of talent, but injuries may threaten to ruin what was once a promising career. Expecting more than bye week production from any one else on this roster (Andy Dalton included) would be to hitch your wagon to a horse with no legs.

Deep Sleeper: In completely contradictory fashion, I’ll cite John Ross as one of my favorite end-of-the-draft sleepers. While there’s a little risk that he’s nothing more than another Bengals receiving bust, selecting that kind of talent in the 20th round or later is just too good to pass up. His 2017 was forgettable, largely due to injury, and he’s a player I’m betting on breaking out in his sophomore season.

15. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Another off season full of controversy has many souring on even the most consistent fantasy performers. With Jameis Winston set to miss the first 3 games of the season, this is an offense that won’t hit it’s stride until weeks into the season, making the prospect of adding a Mike Evans or Ronald Jones in the first 4 – 5 rounds terrifying. While the talent is there, casting Ryan Fitzpatrick as a starting NFL quarterback is a movie I wouldn’t pay to see.

Players Worth Drafting: Mike Evans (ADP 24), Ronald Jones (ADP 59), DeSean Jackson (ADP 110), Jameis Winston (ADP 133), O.J. Howard (ADP 153), Cameron Brate (ADP 163)

It’s important to note that the receiving game suffered the least during Fitzpatrick’s starts in 2017. Both Jackson and Evans performed similarly with him than without him, so that should calm your nerves when selecting either player. It hurts Hward and Brate the most as the gun slinger from Harvard hardly targeted his tight ends. Drafting a player not named Mike Evans is a bit of a risk this year, but one that may pay off as drafters let Bucs slide.

Deep Sleeper: While I don’t expect him to contribute early on, Chris Godwin may have an opportunity for targets as Evans and Jackson both exist mostly as down the field threats. Given his catch rate of about 62%, he’ll only need about 60-80 targets to become fantasy relevant, especially given that he’ll likely only cost a roster spot as a waiver wire guy. With a little luck, he could be pushing a WR3 ceiling, something that’s immensely important from your high value low risk roster spots.

 

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WR Review

Over the next few days, we here at Dr. Fantasy will take a closer look at each skill position and where the best value is as you prepare for your drafts. 
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The wide receiver position features unparalleled depth this year, and despite the relative safety of the position thanks to the new NFL and how teams tend to spend more time passing these days, there are still pitfalls in each tier that need navigation to draft effectively.

Elite Tier (1)

  • Antonio Brown  – Pittsburgh Steelers
  • Julio Jones – Atlanta Falcons
  • Mike Evans – Tampa Bay
  • Odell Beckham Jr. – New York Giants
  • A.J. Green – Cincinnati Bengals

There are few surprises in the Top tier so we won’t spend too much time dissecting these picks. Despite his obvious skill, OBJ in the first  round requires a bit of caution with the red zone addition of Brandon Marshall. The aging Eli Manning is as volatile a QB as there is in the league and while I fully expect fantastic numbers from Beckham Jr, I would not be surprised if he has a few weeks where he disappears, which could be an issue for a top 5 pick.

Very Good Tier (2)

  • Jordy Nelson – Green Bay Packers
  • Michael Thomas – New Orleans Saints
  • Amari Cooper – Oakland Raiders
  • Doug Baldwin – Seattle Seahawks
  • T. Y. Hilton – Indianapolis Colts
  • Dez Bryant – Dallas Cowboys
  • Alshon Jeffrey – Philadelphia Eagles
  • Brandin Cooks – New England Patriots
  • Allen Robinson – Jacksonville Jaguars

If you miss on one of the elite guys, there’s several fantastic options in this group. Expect to spend a 2nd or 3rd round pick to grab one though. Dez Bryant could be the biggest problem child of the bunch, though, with the difficulty surrounding his early season schedule. He faces a murders row of elite DB’s and while he’ll very likely put up decent numbers, Prescott may be forced to look elsewhere to move the chains. On the other side of the coin is Brandin Cooks who’s stock began rising the moment he became a Patriots. Despite the number of mouths to feed it’s evident through joint practices that Brady is interested in using his new weapon to the fullest of his ability.

Decent Tier (3)

  • DeAndre Hopkins – Houston Texans
  • Sammy Watkins – Los Angeles Rams
  • Demaryius Thomas – Denver Broncos
  • Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers
  • Michael Crabtree – Oakland Raiders
  • Davante Adams – Green Bay Packers
  • Golden Tate – Detroit Lions
  • Tyreek Hill – Kansas City Chiefs
  • Larry Fitzgerald – Arizona Cardinals
  • Terrelle Pryor – Washington Redskins
  • Kelvin Benjamin – Carolina Panthers
  • Stefon Diggs – Minnesotta Vikings
  • Jarvis Landry – Miami Dolphins
  • Julien Edelman – New England Patriots
  • Emmanuel Sanders – Denver Broncos

At the top of the Third Tier are our stud wideouts who drop on boards thanks to poor quarterback play or significant injury history. Michael Crabtree may fall several picks behind Amari Cooper in Oakland, but his rapport with Derek Carr is undeniable and should lead him to another WR15 season. Terrelle Pryor seems to be continually overrated; not because he’s lacking in skill but because he’s leaving an offense where he was the only weapon and joining a Washington team that has many. He’ll likely disappoint if you select him as a WR2 as he’s more suited to the WR3/4 role.

Make a Prayer Tier (4)

  • Martavis Bryant – Pittsburgh Steelers
  • DeSean Jackson – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  • Jamison Crowder – Washington Redskins
  • Willie Snead – New Orleans Saints
  • Eric Decker – Tennessee Titans
  • Jordan Matthews – Buffalo Bills
  • Pierre Garcon – San Francisco 49ers
  • Donte Moncreif – Indianapolis Colts
  • Devante Parker – Miami Dolphins
  • Cameron Meredith – Chicago Bears
  • Kenny Britt – Cleveland
  • Randall Cobb – Green Bay Packers
  • Corey Davis – Tennessee Titans
  • Rishard Matthews – Tennessee Titans
  • Adam Thielen – Minnesota Vikings

Undeniably there are several fantastic athletes in this tier but either quarterback situations or log jammed wide receiver charts mean that you’re taking a bit of a risk by drafting these guys in the first 7 rounds. Eric Decker has been the subject of a lot of fantasy talk as he continues to  recover from off season surgery but the talk out of Tennessee is that Mariota and Decker have shown an immediate chemistry and Decker could emerge from the preseason as his #1 target. Donte Moncrief on the other hand is firmly in my “do not draft” list thanks to the ongoing saga in Indianapolis. At this point, even if Luck does play in the first four weeks, the lack of practice prior to the season means Moncrief fails to live up to his expectations yet again.

Frequent Flier Tier (5)

  • Corey Coleman – Cleveland Browns
  • Jeremy Maclin – Baltimore Ravens
  • John Brown – Arizona Cardinals
  • Mike Wallace – Baltimore Ravens
  • Marvin Jones – Detroit Lions
  • Josh Doctson – Washington Redskins
  • Kevin White – Chicago Bears
  • Sterling Shepard – New York Giants
  • Mike Williams – Los Angeles Chargers
  • Robby Anderson – New York Jets
  • John Ross – Cincinnati Bengals
  • Robert Woods – Los Angeles Rams
  • Taylor Gabriel – Atlanta Falcons
  • Kenny Stills – Miami Dolphins
  • Tyrell Williams – Los Angeles Chargers

While I’m well aware that we may disagree on the ranks of some of these bottom tier guys, the truth is that there’s plenty of upside for each of them, even if it’s far fetched to expect most of them to reach those expectations. Josh Doctson has been a pre-season darling in Washington yet the arrival or Pryor has completely taken the wind out of the sails coming into the season – expect a great value. It’s hard to bump Sterling Shepard too far down my list because the skill is there, but the Giants are OBJ’s team first and Brandon Marshall is going to eat up touches inside the 20 severely limiting Shepards upside in re-draft leagues.

As with any rankings list, I beg you to do your own research. Much of what builds my opinions are the observations of people close to the teams, and as always information available before the season is often times skewed to the positive. Don’t be discouraged if your rankings don’t look like the experts and have fun drafting!

 

Team Rankings 23-13

Our previous exercise continues as we look at our teams in the middle. You may not agree with all of my rankings, but each of these teams pair good to great fantasy options with other question marks on offense.

23. Kansas City Chiefs

I know what you’re thinking, “they have Jamaal Charles!” That alone does not elevate this team higher on my list. Alex Smith is a fine game manager, but his deep ball is lacking and if the numbers from the WR’s last season indicate anything, this team doesn’t have a lick of consistency. Jeremy Maclin is an upgrade over Dwayne Bowe, but even this is speculative as Maclin could be the next WR to disappear from relevance. Travis Kelce has elite talent but had several brutal weeks to go with his successful ones. Worth drafting: Jamaal Charles is going to go in the first round, for good reason, but to expect 16 healthy games is unrealistic, Knile Davis is a fine handcuff. Travis Kelce finished near the top of TE’s but had some really bad weeks; draft with cautious optimism that he can be even better. Alex Smith is a QB2 or bench depth at best; he’ll never be a top 10 QB.

22. Oakland Raiders

Young, skilled, and unpredictable. This team could very well surprise and finish with several high profile fantasy heroes. Derek Carr showed flashes of brilliance last year, and the addition-by-subtraction move to let Darren McFadden go means the talented Latavius Murray will get the start in the backfield. Add Amari Cooper into the mix and you have the makings of a solid offensive team. Worth Drafting: Latavius Murray is a popular pick to elevate his game, especially after reports indicated they’ll be tailoring the offense to Murray’s strengths. Cooper will likely be valued a little high on draft day so you may be disappointed in year one. Carr showed he has what it takes to make it in the NFL, I expect him to elevate his game even more.

21. Minnesotta Vikings

There’s a lot of distraction with the Adrian Peterson saga still unfolding, but I’m operating under the assumption that he starts in week one for the Vikes. Even still, expect them to ease him back into the line up, lightening the load early. Teddy Bridgwater is in the same boat as Carr; a ton of talent but still has to prove how to use it. His WR’s are a bit of a question mark. Charles Johnson seems like he might be a breakout candidate, but Mike Wallace is an over the top receiver with little upside compared to his contemporaries. I’d love for Kyle Rudolph to bring it all together, as he has elite TE talent, but can’t stay on the field. Worth Drafting: Adrian Peterson could still be the AP of old, and many will bet that he is. At worst he’s still a RB1. Bridgewater has to do it with less weapons than the other youngsters in the league, so I figure he’ll struggle to find his stride early, but could suprise; a good upside QB 2 with no threat to his job. Maybe I just don’t like Mike Wallace, but I don’t think he’s as much of a difference maker going forward as I think they’ll look to involve Johnson and Patterson a bit more, both of whom are worth a look later in drafts. Kyle Rudolph will be less expensive than he has been in the past, I’d bet on the production if healthy.

20.  Carolina Panthers

Cam Newton is only 26 years old, so the feeling that he’s past his prime is just wrong. He’s matured and should be healthy heading into the year. Top 5 finish isn’t out of the question, but a conservative view has him around 10 in my rankings. Jonathan Stewart has the pieces, but the health elludes him. He’ll be good when he’s on the field but I’d rather go elsewhere in the first 3 rounds. Kelvin Benjamin should benefit the most from Newton’s presence, and should be a top 10WR target. Worth Drafting: Newton and Benjamin need each other for success, as the other pieces are lacking. Stewart is a fine back but I’d bet it’s more probable than not that he misses time. Cotchery in PPR leagues could be worth a look in the middle rounds, or a late flier in non-PPR.

19. San Fransisco 49ers

Every year there’s a QB that I think is going to elevate to the top teir. Last year it was Ben Roethlisber, this year it’s Colin Kaepernick. He struggle last year trying to adjust to a pocket passing role. In the off season he’s worked tirelessly to improve his efficiency and I expect hiim to see a spike in fantasy production. Carlos Hyde will likely get drafted far to early, and I caution against over hyping a player that has never been a full time starter. Adding Torrey Smith means more room for Vernon Davis and Anquan Boldin to run. Both should continue to see good production, and Smith should benefit from Kaep’s strong arm down the feild. Worth Drafting: My bold prediction is Kaepernick finishes inside the top 10 at his position. Boldin is a machine and should produce, and Vernon Davis will bounce back. Carlos Hyde will look good for stretches but I don’t want him as my RB1.

18. New England Patriots

At this time, Brady is expected to miss 4 games, meaning a quarter of the season will feature backup Jimmy Garoppolo. Despite that the experts think he’s still the best QB in the division, I sense a down tick in production for each of New Englands big guns. Edeleman relies on Brady’s accuracy and LaFell is usually a later option. Can Garoppolo read the D like Brady and involve all of his weapons? Brady could beat his suspension which would likely rank this offense higher. Worth Drafting: Tom Brady has a chip on his shoulder, if you can survive 4 weeks with a backup QB, he’s worth a pick. I don’t draft a Patriots RB ever, for reason that should be obvious. Blount is not an elite NFL running back. Gronk shouldn’t see too much of a dip in production, but LaFell and Edeleman may struggle for a few weeks.

17. Cincinnatti Bengals

Andy Dalton has been the most frustrating of NFL quarterbacks in terms of fantasy. He produces for a time, then he kills you for a time. AJ Green is a stud, even if his numbers took a hit with Dalton’s struggles last year. The big question is does the team invest in surprise starter Jeremy Hill or does it go back to Gio Bernard? Worth Drafting: Dalton has shown he can be a low end QB starter, but you’re asking a lot from a player that struggled at times. A.J. Green is a safe pick, he’s as elite as any in the league. Despite Jeremy Hill’s success on the field, he put up similar numbers to Gio Bernard when he started, I feel a committee coming on.

16. New Orleans Saints

If you’re convinced Mark Ingram finally hit his stride, that could spell disaster for Drew Brees as he’s tumbling down draft boards with managements admittance that they’d like to balance the offense. No more will Brees attempt 650 passes, and this hurts them across the board. Brandin Cooks is a great WR and should do well taking over for Colston as the #1, but Ingram is the big question mark. An underwhelming start to his career was instantly wiped out of the minds of fantsy owners after a solid, if unspectacular year. Worth Drafting: Despite the reports, I’m not convinced Ingram can carry the load, and if Brees falls due to the buzz, I wouldn’t hesitate to draft him in the 3rd or 4th round. Ingram isn’t going to hit a lot of home runs but he should avg around 4 YPC and have a handful of TD’s. The fear is injuries or regression. Cooks is a stud in the making, and Brees will be looking to him often. Colston is another player who may fall beyond their value in your draft. PS. Josh Hill is not Jimmy Graham, so don’t mistake the two come draft day.

15. Baltimore Ravens

When Torrey Smith left, I was worried that Flacco lost his deep threat, but Breshad Perriman could prove to be an even better reciever than Smith. Steve Smith Sr. will likely prove his doubters wrong, and Justin Forsett finally provides stability in the backfield even with Taliefaro lurking in the wings. Worth Drafting: As always, Flacco takes a hit due to the scheme Baltimore runs, but his up weeks are great, solid back up or QB 2 in two quartback leagues. In ways that I don’t with other backs, I believe Forsett can run the football well enough to be a fantasy contributor. Steve Smith will be good again, and Perriman should be one of the rookies to perform in the top 20 of his position.

14. Arizona Cardinals

The team didn’t replace Ellington in the draft, meaning they think he can still perform. Maybe they’re not ready to say that a healthy Carson Palmer will make things different across the board. The stable of WR’s in Arizona are deep and talented, and they should create mismatches across the field. Worth Drafting: Palmer when healthy has the tools around him to be a top 15QB. Fitzgerald is a safe bet to be a top 10 WR and between Michael Floyd and John Brown, defenses will have a hard time adjusting. All of these players will be in play come draft day. Andre Ellington will either play well or be pushed out by the talented David Johnson, who I’d look at as a sleeper in the late rounds. Either way, there should be more consistency the backfield to open up the passing game.

13. Philadelphia Eagles

I personally think all things being equal, Sam Bradford is a superior quarterback to Nick Foles. Add in DeMarco Murray and you have the makings of a good to great offense. Jordan Matthews is only 22 but has big play ability and Chip Kelly has excelled with speedy talented players. The biggest boon for this team was the addition of DeMarco Murray. If LeSean McCoy’s troubles were less about running lanes and more about the runner, Murray should be in for another good year with a ton of touches. Worth Drafting: DeMarco Murray is still a top 5 back, and in Chip Kelly’s offense has a chance to finish at the top of the league again. Bradford will be a sexy pick on draft day, but try to maximize value at the QB position and he may not be that guy. Cooper should continue to see targets on intermediate routes and Matthews was a beast as a 21 year old, but Nelson Agholor could eat into his touches just a bit. Speaking of Agholor, he’s a quality sleeper candidate on a good offensive team. Look at him later in drafts.