Much like our updates to the sleeper list, the Dr. is here to tell you who he’s avoiding in drafts this year. Of course, any time we’re suggesting to NOT draft a player, it’s understood that we’re referencing the current cost to acquire said player. All players have value, we’re just trying to help you maximize the value you receiving with each of your picks.
Tom Brady, QB – NE
As a card carrying member of the Tom Brady fan club, it pains me to include him on this list, but it’s important to remain realistic. His late season struggles in the last few years has been well documented, and much of the blame can be assigned on his offensive line. At 41 years old and behind one of the worst offensive lines he’s had in years, Brady is no safe bet to stay healthy all year, and the late season regression he’s seen for years now is a near guarantee. Sure, he’ll win 12 games for his football team, but he’s not as safe a pick as he has been in the past for your fantasy one.
Carson Wentz, QB – PHI
I’m not suggesting Wentz isn’t a good quarterback by including him on this list; I’m merely drawing attention to the fact that he’s being ranked far to high for my liking. While it’s encouraging that he’s returning from his injury so quickly, it’s important to remember that QB’s returning from knee injuries tend to take time to get up to speed. Head coach Doug Pederson went as far as to describe Wentz’s play as “tentative” further reinforcing the idea that he may not be 100%. Expecting the rushing game to return to the levels it did last year isn’t realistic, and neither is expecting him to remain hyper efficient in the face of NFL defenses. Expecting a low end QB1 finish isn’t outrageous, but drafting him at QB5 is expecting him to play at his ceiling; something I’m not confident a QB returning from injury can do.
Jerick McKinnon, RB – SF
When McKinnon was handed a three year contract by San Francisco in the offseason, I was one of the first to declare that McKinnon was set to breakout in a big way. After all, he was playing the lead back role in an up and coming Kyle Shanahan offense. Then, I put the time in to research, and while most of the industry is expecting big things, there’s a well defined group in the community who expect McKinnon to fall flat on his face. While I exist somewhere in between, the truth is that McKinnon has never really shown that he’s got lead back ability. Between losing snaps to Matt Asiata when Adrian Peterson went down, to posting sub 4 yards per carry in limited action over the last two seasons, it appears that we were a bit premature anointing the second coming of Emmett Smith. Expecting him to play all season as a RB1 is a recipe for disaster.
Derrick Henry, RB – TEN
Henry is a back that I personally think has the talent to be a top 10 RB in the league, but Tennessee had the great idea to add elite satellite back Dion Lewis to muddy the waters that had begun to clear when DeMarco Murray left town. Currently being drafted 25th overall, Henry has a steep hill to climb to secure a three down workload, and with a pick in the third round, I’m not sure I’m willing to spend it on a back who’s whole claim to the position was his college production. Henry could prove to be a very useful fantasy asset, but it’ll be only at the expense of Dion Lewis, who’d need to suffer a major injury to open up passing downs for the young Henry.
Tyreek Hill, WR – KC
I’d like to preface this by saying I think Hill is one of the most talented down-the-field receivers in the NFL, but not enough is being made of the situation he’s facing with a first year starter and added weapons suppressing his overall value. Alex Smith may be rightly panned over his career for being a conservative quarterback, but expecting Pat Mahomes to step in and play even close to the season Smith had last year is insane. As an MVP candidate, Smith was one of the most efficient deep ball practitioners last year, and while Mahomes features a monster arm, there are going to be growing pains. While Hill should still be productive, he’s a regression candidate yet he’s being draft as though that’s a fallacy. If he falls a round or two, he’d be worth grabbing, but not as a WR1.
Juju Smith-Schuster, WR – PIT
I’m amazed at how quickly a player went from being un-drafted to being over drafted, but Juju managed it in record time. While he’s a name that I was hoping to target in drafts this year, I’m not touching him at his current price. Being drafted before Brandin Cooks, Josh Gordon, Larry Fitzgerald, and Demaryius Thomas, there’s clearly an unreasonable expectation that the Pittsburgh offense can support both Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell as top 5 players and elevate Juju to anything more than a back-end WR2. The issue with drafting him at 42nd overall, his current ADP, is that you can’t expect him to outperform that position. We say it all the time, never draft a player at their ceiling, unless you’re prepared to be disappointed.
Jimmy Graham, TE – GB
Sure, it wasn’t long ago that Graham was considered one of the two or three best pass catching tight ends in the league. His time in New Orleans saw him secure no less than 85 catches over a four year period from 2010 to 2014, but the wheels came off in his first year with the Seahawks. While he was much better in 2016, the now 31 year old TE looked his age last year, performing admirably in the end zone but failing to record more than 65 receptions for the third straight year. In Green Bay, he’ll likely be asked to play a similar role, featuring mostly in the red zone, with less target share thanks to a deeper wide receiver corps. Expecting a return to the pre-Seahawks form is asinine, yet he’s being drafted 5th at the position, before Greg Olsen, Evan Engram, Kyle Rudolph, and Delanie Walker; all candidates I expect to finish ahead of Graham by seasons end.
Adam Theilen has seen his ADP drop a bit, so he’s no longer a focus on these bust lists, but he’s still being drafted a bit too high for me to like his value. Kenyan Drake was impressive in his limited time last year, but he doesn’t have the pedigree or track record to perform as a top 10 RB over a full season, and Miami’s offseason moves seem to say the same thing. DeShaun Watson has had plenty of time to recover from his major knee injury, but the obvious regression coming seems to be ignored when setting expectations. As the 4th QB off the board, I’m out on Watson.
While you may see the word “beginner” in the title and deem this beneath you, but the truth is that we should always be learning; honing our skills and getting better at the game. The PPR format has exploded in years past, and like any non-standard scoring format, it presents fantasy drafters an extra wrinkle in their quest for greatness.
Of course, it’s important to understand the fundamentals. If you’re a point per reception veteran, skip this section; we’ll see you down below when we highlight some PPR strategies for the 2018 season. For those of you who aren’t familiar, buckle up and we’ll take you on a crash course.
PPR leagues differ from standard leagues in one very easy to understand facet; they award points to any player who records a reception. Whether it’s one full point, or a half a point, a player who has a higher volume of receptions becomes far more valuable than his standard league counter parts.
The first thing one should do is adjust your rankings. If you’re using a fantasy football magazine, or printing them off the internet, make sure you’re using PPR rankings. We always suggest doing the research and ranking your own players, but if you neither have the time nor the desire, ensure you’re not using rankings that don’t address your format.
A great example would be Duke Johnson as he’s primarily an after thought in standard, non-PPR leagues; and for a good reason. His highest single season rushing attempts total was 104 in his rookie year. Last year his 83 carries was good for 55th in the NFL, which we shouldn’t have to tell you isn’t enough volume to warrant much excitement.
In PPR leagues however, his 74 receptions was the 26th highest total in the NFL, and 4th highest among running backs. When you consider that he finished as the 11th highest scoring running back despite his average draft position of 97th overall in PPR leagues last year (data courtesy of Fantasy Football Calculator.com) then it’s painfully clear that recognizing these pass catching backs can be fantasy gold in the right format.
Of course, that’s not to discount how it affects the wide receiver position either. Most of the elite players (regardless of position) are elite in either format. Volume and opportunity trump much of what you can dredge up in an argument, but in those middle rounds there’s plenty of players who have higher floors thanks to a larger share of targets.
Last year, Jarvis Landry was being ranking as the WR27 and was selected with the 78th pick on average. The value there was undeniable, especially considering that his 260 PPR points finished for 5th most at the WR position and 12th overall among skill position players. While his situation may require re-evaluation of his opportunity, the example rings true nonetheless. These players, who many discount because they build their rankings based off of the wrong data, are the targets that will help you win your league.
Players to Target
As always, we’ll use the ADP data compiled over at Fantasy Football Calculator to make our analysis. Finding these PPR gems isn’t as easy as it seems, though. Simply targeting player A because he led the position in receptions last year doesn’t ensure success this year. There is far more subtly when highlighting players to target in the middle and late rounds.
In the early rounds, you’ll ignore PPR vs. Standard debates; Jordan Howard and Melvin Gordon are still elite fantasy commodities even if they don’t catch the ball a ton. It’s in the middle rounds we can start the shopping list.
- Kareem Hunt (ADP 11): Unlike the Gordon/Howard example, Hunt has legitimate regression concerns after a monster rookie season. With Spencer Ware returning and pass catching specialist Charcandarick West still on the roster, there’s going to be fewer opportunities for the game breaker. While he’ll still be valuable, I don’t expect him to factor into the passing game as much this season, damaging his ability to be the top 10 player he’s being projected as.
- Derrick Henry (ADP 36): While Henry has never been the most adept pass catcher, the signing of Dion Lewis pretty much relegates him to a 1st and 2nd down role. Without the benefit of the passing game, Henry’s 200 carries won’t do much to support a RB2 finish, and with his talent, drafters are still betting that he’ll break out. While Lewis certainly is an injury risk, he’s also good enough between the tackles to keep Henry from being elite.
- Jay Ajayi (ADP 45): I really like Ajayi’s talent, but I don’t like his situation in Philly. With Darren Sproles returning, and Corey Clement still on the roster, the idea that he’ll continue to the be the bell cow is a bit misleading. He will likely lead the team in rushes, but his involvement in the passing game will be minimal barring any major injuries.
- Kenyan Drake (ADP 47): There is a lot of buzz after Drake finished 2017 strong, but Frank Gore should eat into his carries, and rookie Kalen Ballage is a far superior pass catching back who should eat targets up early an often. While he’s a safe bet for him to finish at the top of the committee for rushes, like Ajayi, he’ll figure into the scoring far less than his ADP provides for.
- Duke Johnson (ADP 97): Mentioned above, Johnson still figures to make an impact in the passing game, but with Carlos Hyde also a capable pass catcher (88 targets last year were only 5 fewer than Johnson), there’s reason to be concerned that the volume could dip. His ADP is beginning to represent this, but don’t swing early on Johnson and expect 70+ catches again.
- Dion Lewis (ADP 61): I’m not predicting him to completely overtake Henry in the rushing game, but his floor his immensely high. In the 7th round, he’s the kind of back that can secure you 50 receptions and 1,000 total yards without impacting the incumbent start too much. His ceiling is far better than that, creating a wonderful target to return heavily on his investment.
- Chris Thompson (ADP 81): Not to discount the effect that Derrius Guice will have on the Washington Backfield, but Thompson was on pace for 1,200 total yards, 60+ receptions, and 9 TDs last year before missing the final 6 games due to a broken leg. Even given a reasonable amount of regression, he figures to be one of the most valuable 3rd down backs in fantasy.
- Ty Montgomery (ADP 111): He’s not going to impress anyone on the ground, but the converted wide receiver has the pass catching ability to provide plenty of value; especially in the 12th round. Prior to his injury, Montgomery was targeted heavily in the passing game, averaging nearly 8 targets and 6 receptions a game. Expect a return to the third down role for the sure handed Montgomery, and reap the rewards this late in the draft.
- James White (ADP 165): The forgotten man in New England, White continues to fly under the radar despite securing 90 targets and 56 receptions last year in an over crowded backfield. With Sony Michel still a rookie, and Dion Lewis leaving for greener pastures, Tom Brady’s safety blanket is in line for another big year in terms of PPR production. At 165, I’ll take the chance that the 26 year old continues to produce in the passing game for one of the best QB’s of all time.
- Kalen Ballage (ADP 213): I’ll continue beating my drum for Ballage who enters the season firmly behind Kenyan Drake and Frank Gore on the depth chart. But the speedy big man possesses the kind of silky smooth mitts that coaches game plan around, and while Drake was effective down the stretch in 2017, the moves made in the off season scream of available opportunity for the guys they brought in. If he carves out a portions of first and second downs, Ballage could be a monster for basically a waiver wire stab.
- Adam Thielen (ADP 29): With an upgrade at QB, you’d think Thielen is in line for the same kind of statline that saw him win leagues in 2017, but think again. History shows that Cousin’s is a bit of a gunslinger, and while Thielen will probably continue to be a contributor, he’s primed for regression yet being drafted as though he’s regression proof.
- Golden Tate (ADP 48): You may look at the bottom line and suggest that he’s a PPR gold mine; after all he’s recorded 90 receptions for 4 straight years. I’d implore you to dig a little deeper. Aside from the emergence of Marvin Jones, it’s important to note that Tate was wildly inconsistent last year. In 6 games last year, Tate failed to record more than 4 receptions, and in four of those games he had less than 6 PPR point. That amounts to nearly 40% of the season that Tate is a bust player.
- Brandin Cooks (ADP 53): Don’t get me wrong, Cooks is a nice little player. The issue is that with the Rams being a run first team, there’s about 10% or more opportunity lost in targets (550 pass attempts in LA to 600 in New England). Cooks is a deep threat that won’t command the kind of target share that other elite PPR receivers will. With Robert Woods returning as the slot man, Cooks is in line for major regression, especially in the PPR format.
- Jarvis Landry (ADP 59): This isn’t a knock on Landry the player, but expecting the kind of volume that he had in Miami is to ignore the fact that he’s not the most talented receiver on his current team. With Josh Gordon figuring to command the highest percentage of targets, Landry’s expectations should be limited, even if his ADP suggests otherwise.
- Julian Edelman (ADP 69): It pains me to include the New England slot receiver, but the reasons for his inclusion here are fairly straight forward. On top of missing 25% of the season due to suspension, he’s 32 years old and coming off a major knee injury that cost him the entirety of last season. With real competition for the slot position, it’ll be very difficult for Edelman to be more than a spot start, and at his current price, there’s a ton of other guys I’d rather have.
- Cooper Kupp (ADP 94): I was wrong about Kupp last year, and while I think Cooks and Woods eat up a lot of targets, it’s important to note that Kupp quietly led the Rams in targets last year with 94. With a floor around 60 catches and 800 yards (tack on around 5 TDs), and you’re looking at fantastic value in the 10th round.
- Marquise Goodwin (ADP 104): Goodwin looked great in the five games that Garoppolo started, averaging nearly 9 targets a game. With Jimmy G as the every day starter, I expect Goodwin to continue to elevate his game, and a WR2 ceiling (65 receptions, 1,000 yards, and 4 TDs) is well within reach.
- Kenny Stills (ADP 148): Many expect Danny Amendola to fill the role vacated by Jarvis Landry, but I find myself coming back to Stills as the perfect candidate to inherit those targets. Already one of the Dolphins most targeted receivers, his familiarity with the system and quarter back Ryan Tannehill are great catalysts for an increase in production. Perennially Stills has inhabited the 80-100 target mark, so bumping him to 130-150 feels right, and puts him firmly in the break out column on draft day.
- Keelan Cole (ADP 174): I don’t typically get excited about guys with as small a sample size as Cole has, but the 25 year old out of Louisville was impressive when called upon late in the season, and seems to continue to be overlooked with Marqise Lee and Donte Moncreif sitting above him in the depth chart. Neither of those players has done anything over their careers to keep Cole from taking their jobs, and with a solid rapport developing between he and Bortles, he’s a breakout candidate you can have for pennies on the dollar.
- Michael Gallup (ADP 212): I don’t expect Gallup to come out of the gate blazing, but with a mediocre group of receivers ahead of him, he’ll likely carve out a large share of the targets in Dallas. With much of the buzz surrounding him positive, I expect 100+ targets for the rookie, and a floor that most players in the 200’s don’t have.
It’s not always a skill issue, but every year there’s several players that turn into monumental busts. Having one of these guys eating up roster space halfway through the season is demoralizing, but sometimes unavoidable.
Adam Thielen, WR – Minnesotta: It’s funny how fantasy football tends to have fairly predictable ebbs and flows, and after the monster for Thielen (92 catches for 1276 yards) the fantasy community has gone all in on the 27 year old. Currently ranked 11th at his position and 30th overall, I’d argue to exercise caution when selecting Thielen that early.
Between a new quarterback that seemed to favor the long ball (Kirk Cousins) and an OC in John DeFilippo that has shown a commitment to their down field targets (examples; Travis Benjamin, Jordan Matthews, Alshon Jeffrey) the expectation should be that regression is coming. Now, I’m not suggesting that Thielen falls completely off the map, but expect a far less consistent stat line. A more reasonable expectation would be roughly 1,000 yards and 5 TDs; similar to his 2016 numbers.
T.Y. Hilton, WR – Indianapolis: This one certainly feels like low hanging fruit, but Hilton continues to see an ADP of around 33, good for 13th among wide receivers. What’s disconcerting is that Hilton seems to have enough monster games each year to hide the fact that he’s more likely to bust than he is to boom.
With 9 weeks of 50 or fewer yards and 7 weeks with 30 or fewer, the reality is that Hilton is no better than a flex start. Regardless of how confident you may be at identifying when Hilton is set to go off, it’s still a waste of a pick in the fourth round when you can only reasonably rely on Hilton 25% of the time.
Aaron Rodgers, QB – Green Bay: I’d like to preface this portion of the article by saying I believe Rodgers, pound for pound, is still the best signal caller in the NFL. Still, at 34, and returning from a near-season ending injury, he’ll have the most difficult fantasy schedule among all QBs with 7 of his first 11 games coming against the top 10 stingiest defenses in terms of QB scoring.
While Jimmy Graham should help, there’s also a possibility that he’ll get off to a slow start and an aging Rodgers may resume running for his life. A healthy Aaron Rodgers is a valuable fantasy asset, no matter how you look at it, but in the 2nd rounds of drafts, there’s little chance he pays off in terms of the return on that investment.
With the NFL season creeping ever closer, we’ll examine current consensus ADP data provided by Fantasypros.com to discuss the players we love and the players we hate based on where they’re being drafted.
- Theo Riddick, RB – DET
- Davante Parker, WR – MIA
- Cameron Meredith, WR – CHI
- Denver Broncos DST
- Matt Forte, RB – NYJ
- Hunter Henry, TE – LAC
- Samaje Perine, RB – WAS
- Stephon Gostkowski, K – NE
- Matt Stafford, QB – DET
- Kansas City Chiefs DST
Player I Love – Samaje Perine: Okay, so count me firmly seated on the Perine bandwagon, especially if his price stays in the 11th round. At this point, he’s far outperformed anyone else in the Washington backfield, and he’s looked pretty good at times. Even if Rob Kelley gets the start in week 1, it won’t be long before Perine is leading this backfield.
Player I Hate – Hunter Henry: I’m not drafting Henry any sooner than the last three or four rounds, and even then, only in dynasty or keeper formats. I know the buzz surrounding him is that he’s ready to break free from Antonio Gates’ shadow, but until Gates retires or leaves the Chargers, I’m not betting against him. It may be a 50/50 split between the 20’s (which leaves both with nominal value) but it will still be Gates in the red zone which limits Henry’s upside.
- Latavius Murray, RB – MIN
- Corey Davis, WR – TEN
- Thomas Rawls, RB – SEA
- Justin Tucker, K – BAL
- Philip Rivers, QB – LAC
- Seattle Seahawks DST
- Darren McFadden, RB – DAL
- Houston Texans DST
- Corey Coleman, WR – CLE
- Tyrell Williams, WR – LAC
Player I love – Tyrell Williams: Yes, Keenan Allen is “healthy” and the Chargers drafted Mike Williams, but I’m not convinced either or both of those players will be healthy for any length of time. Allen is a time bomb and Williams is dealing with his own issues, and still Williams gets no love following a 1,000 yard season.
Player I Hate – Latavius Murray: It feels sacrilegious to say, but Murray’s done nothing for himself following the big payday he received in Minnesota to win that starting job. All Dalvin Cook has done has been impressive as a rookie, leading to doubts that Murray will find enough running room to be even
- Kenny Britt, WR – CLE
- Rishard Matthews, WR – TEN
- John Brown, WR – ARI
- Matt Bryant, K – ATL
- Eric Ebron, TE – DET
- Arizona Cardinals DST
- Minnesota Vikings DST
- C.J. Prosise, RB – SEA
- Jack Doyle, TE – IND
- New England Patriots DST
Player I love – Kenny Britt: Britt slides into the Cleveland offense replacing the departing Terrelle Pryor and his 141 targets which could mean 70-80 receptions for the former Ram. If Britt maintains his career averages (or somewhere close to the 15 yards per catch) he should produce at least 1,000 yards. Target Britt all day in the 13th round.
Player I Hate – Eric Ebron: How long does a prospect get before the hype turns into hot air? Ebron is not a TE1, yet that’s exactly where he’s being drafted. Instead of leaping on Ebron, wait for a guy like Hooper, or Brate, or even Jason Witten in the later rounds.
- Duke Johnson, RB – CLE
- Mike Wallace, WR – BAL
- James White, RB – NE
- Adam Thielen, WR – MIN
- Jeremy Hill, RB – CIN
- Eli Manning, QB – NYG
- Dan Bailey, K – DAL
- Jacquizz Rodgers, RB – TB
- O. J. Howard, TE – TB
- Marvin Jones, WR – DET
Player I love – Adam Thielen: Not much has changed in Minnesota besides the running game, and still Thielen and his nearly 1,000 yards is being drafted around the 150 mark. One of the best values in all of fantasy football this year, expect Thielen to at least match his numbers if not eclipse them all together.
Player I hate – Jeremy Hill: Joe Mixon is in town and impressive, and Gio Bernard should handle his fair share of passing downs leaving not much for the former early round pick to rely on. Sure, Mixon could stumble, but it seems the writing is on the wall for a player who doesn’t offer much upside at all.
- Jamaal Charles, RB – DEN
- Jamaal Williams, RB – GB
- Jordan Matthews, WR – BUF
- Tyrod Taylor, QB – BUF
- Andy Dalton, QB – CIN
- New York Giants DST
- Sterling Shepard, WR – NYG
- Ted Ginn, WR – NO
- Carson Wentz, QB – PHI
- Jason Witten, TE – DAL
Player I love – Jamaal Williams: It still boggles my mind that an converted WR who played barely enough snaps to be considered a starting RB is being selected in the top 40 picks. Ty Montgomery is NOT the back of the future; Jamaal Williams is. Expect Williams to usurp the role pretty quickly as he’s shown an ability to block, which is important in an offense like Green Bay.
Player I Hate – Jamaal Charles: Sometimes a back hangs on too long, and it appears that this year could be the dud of a swan-song for the one time fantasy stud. If reports out of Denver are to be believed, Charles may not even make the team, much less give Anderson a run for his money at the top of the depth chart. Bookers injury clears space for Denver to keep him on the roster, but he won’t find his way onto mine.
As futile as the exercise may seem this early, identifying sleeper candidates is one of the most important pieces of research you can embark upon. Below we’ll identify three leading candidates for you to keep an eye on before the preaseaon starts.
Adam Thielen – Minnesota Vikings | ADP 106 – WR41 | Despite the efforts of the Vikings to bulk up the backfield after AP left for New Orleans, Sam Bradford was still bought and paid for in order to create some kind of passing game. Diggs is the obvious #1 but Thielen posted borderline WR2 numbers last year despite the turmoil on the field. Expect similar, if not better, for the third year receiver. Prediction: 1000 Receiving Yards, 4 TDs
Travis Benjamin – Los Angeles Chargers |ADP 170+ – WR96 | While Benjamin is likely only being drafted in the deepest formats, his WR96 ranking is criminal considering how likely it is that Keenan Allen misses time. Benjamin is progressing ahead of schedule on his own recovery and by all accounts Mike Williams is well behind the rest of the offense and may take time to mature in the NFL. Prediction: 800 Receiving Yards, 3 TDs
Cole Beasley – Dallas Cowboys | ADP 131 – WR57 | I’ve been on the Cole Beasley train as early as 2014, arguing his value and suggesting he was a better option than Terrence Williams. Still, even after his success, Beasely is being drafted as late as the 14th round as a 5th or 6th WR. In PPR formats he’s rises as his 75-80 receptions is in the top 25 of all WRs, but he’s incredibly underrated so late in drafts. Prediction: 80 Receptions, 925 Receiving Yards, 5 TDs
Honorable Mentions: Robert Woods, LAR (ADP 155), Josh Doctson, Was (ADP 140), Kamar Aiken, Ind (ADP 260)