25. Arizona Cardinals
Similar to Dallas, this top heavy roster has failed to produce beyond it’s run game and Larry Fitzgerald for years. Both Johnson and Fitzgerald are fairly safe bets, but who else on the roster can you trust. Newly signed QB Sam Bradford has never wowed me, but his efficiency may help support a 2nd QB if he can stay healthy. That, of course is the million dollar question… can he stay healthy?
Players worth Drafting: David Johnson (ADP 3), Larry Fitzgerald (ADP 33), Christian Kirk (ADP 182)
In ESPN mock drafts neither Bradford or Rosen are being selected with any regularity, further muddying the waters beyond the two players being selected early. Kirk is a buzzy rookie, but the rest of the roster seems to be off of the radar. Of course, if Bradford gets hurt, Rosen could be a sneaky waiver add; his profile certainly looks like that of an NFL starter.
Deep Sleeper: While Kirk was my first choice, the buzz surrounding him is loud enough now that Ricky-Seals Jones is currently being overlooked as a potential breakout candidate. A WR in college, Jones certainly profiles as a pass catching TE, and only his ability to pass block can keep him from seeing meaningful snaps in the passing game.
24. Washington Redskins
Like many of the teams in this range, turnover at the most important position in football, the quarter back position, could mean any number of things. Will Alex Smith continue to throw the ball down field after reinventing himself in Kansas City last year? Can the post hype potential of guys like Josh Doctson finally be realized?
Worth Drafting: Derrius Guice (ADP 40), Jordan Reed (ADP 85), Chris Thompson (ADP 99), Jamison Crowder (ADP 100), Alex Smith (ADP 129), Josh Doctson (ADP 137), Paul Richardson (ADP 174)
It was a strange season for Washington last year. Despite the heroic efforts of Kirk Cousins, the offense never really found a rhythm, and the ADP data suggests that no one really knows who will emerge as a top 25 WR. Alex Smith has made a career out of making the safe play, so expecting a return to last years gun slinging ways is a bit pre-mature, but Jordan Reed may be the biggest beneficiary if he can stay healthy. Odds are he won’t, but Smith tends to turn TE’s into elite fantasy options, and Reed has the talent to be a top 5 TE this season.
Deep Sleeper: While Alex Smith will have to gain some chemistry with his new team, 2nd string TE Vernon Davis is already intimately familiar with the former first overall pick. I expect Davis to have a healthy amount of snaps in this offense, and while he’s been mostly quiet since leaving San Fransisco, the TE is still a great athlete and he’s turned in his best seasons with Smith at the helm. For just about nothing, he has Top 15 potential (at the TE position).
23. San Fransisco 49ers
One of the busiest teams in the last year and a half, the 49ers went out and got what they consider a cornerstone pairing with Jerick McKinnon in the backfield to go with QB Jimmy Garoppolo. While the defense is expected to be better, this offense should continue to evolve into the high flying machine that Kyle Shanahan tends to put together.
Players Worth Drafting: Jerick McKinnon (ADP 28), Pierre Garcon (ADP 71), Jimmy Garoppolo (ADP 104), Marquise Goodwin (ADP 106), George Kittle (ADP 164), Matt Brieda (ADP 186)
Expecting the passing game to be any kind of consistent may be asking a bit too much. While Garoppolo figures to be a very good QB, the stable of receivers isn’t highlighted by any big names, and Jimmy G is just as likely to adopt the Tom Brady method of finding who’s open rather than forcing it to one or two guys. Garcon is a safe bet for consistent targets, but beyond him, there’s no guarantees for season long success.
Deep Sleeper: George Kittle seemed to fade a bit when Garoppolo came into the offense, but a few decent weeks at the end of the season rejuvenated the breakout rumors. With another season in this offense, the young TE is expected to see the bulk of the snaps at the position, and with a passing game orchestrated by Shanahan, we could see a big year at a relatively inexpensive price tag for the 2nd year TE.
22. Jacksonville Jaguars
After turning in a dominant season, riding the strength of it’s rushing game and defense, the Jaguars return in 2018 featuring many of the same strengths and weaknesses. Beyond the obvious stud in Leonard Fournette, this is a team that could warrant it’s own article with all of the moving parts. As always, the Jags figure to surprise in a few more areas this year.
Players Worth Drafting: Leonard Fournette (ADP 11), Marqise Lee (ADP 118), Austin Sefarian-Jenkins (ADP 166)
The list of players being drafted, as noted above, may seem smaller than one would like, but part of the problem is that beyond Lee, the passing game features a handful of guys who have little on their resume. With the mercurial Blake Bortles set to start under center again, it’s always a question of who outside the top guy can he support? I’m a fan of Keelan Cole, if only because he helped me secure a championship, but there’s a lot of middling talent on this team that could be both fantastic or awful.
Deep Sleeper: Austin Sefarian-Jenkins is one of my favorite picks to bounce back this year. After failing spectacularly to cash in on the hype, it was learned he was struggling with some kind of alcohol or drug abuse and he set about getting clean. Recently, he explained that, now sober, he’s in the best place he’s been in years and he’s ready to bring it full circle. I’m willing to give the guy a 2nd chance, as his talent excites me.
21. Tennessee Titans
When the season started last year, many fantasy pundits, myself included, had several Titans queued up as breakout candidates. Unfortunately, despite a playoff birth, most of this teams fantasy studs took a step back, hamstringing teams that relied heavily on players like the recently retired DeMarco Murray and 3rd year QB Marcus Mariota. With a new coaching staff looking to rejuvenate a team with plenty of talent, there’s optimism that this year could be the breakout last year should have ben
Players Worth Drafting: Derrick Henry (ADP 47), Delanie Walker (ADP 63), Dion Lewis (ADP 70), Corey Davis (ADP 77), Rishard Matthews (ADP 140), Marcus Mariotta (ADP 141)
Knowing how much talent Mariota has around him, it’d be a shock to see him continue the trend of regression. Corey Davis is no longer dinged up and Rishard Matthews continues to be an underrated workhorse. Throw in that the coaching staff is now better suited to pull the most out of him and the run game has a two headed monster that’s above average in all aspects of the game, and Mariota is one of the hottest break out commodities in Fantasy.
Deep Sleeper: This team has invested heavily in weapons for Mariota, and none were as successful out of college as 2017 first round pick Corey Davis. Unfortunately for him, the season started off poorly and injuries limited him to just 9 starts and 34 receptions. The talent is certainly there, and a full offseason should work wonders for the teams top receiving threat. While not a traditional “deep” sleeper, his value is a potential top 15 WR is something that can’t be overlooked.
20. Seattle Seahawks
A team in turmoil, the Seahawks had one real bright spot in 2017, and that would be Russell Wilson. There’s no doubting the former 2nd round pick any longer as he’s proven to be one of the leagues top QB’s, both in real life and in fantasy. Where the team lacked any continuity was in the run game. Porous offensive line play combined with a lackluster running back group (Chris Carson not withstanding) led to a season of “run for your life” stats that didn’t translate to success elsewhere. Improved O-line (even if just slightly) and a shiny new convertible in the backfield in Rashaad Penny, and one can be optimistic that there’s some new life in Seattle in 2018.
Players Worth Drafting: Doug Baldwin (ADP 34), Rashaad Penny (ADP 39), Russell wilson (ADP 50), Chris Carson (ADP 167), Tyler Lockett (ADP 170)
Whether you believe Penny is a true three down back or not, the truth is that his handling of 1st and 2nd down should provide some protection from Wilson, who no longer has Jimmy Graham to throw to. Doug Baldwin is the real deal in the slot, and Tyler Lockett has some upside, but this offense may have a handful of late round picks that turn into fantasy gold.
Deep Sleeper: The aforementioned Rashaad Penny is garnering much of the buzz in the backfield, but Chris Carson may offer the best value of any Seattle back. Prior to his injury, he was more effective than anyone else on the roster, and seems to have recovered well from the injury that ended his year. With Pete Carroll promising a return to smash mouth ground and pound football, Carson could be a fine sleeper if Penny isn’t all he’s been advertised (which is always a concern with rookie running backs).
Winning your league takes understanding the value’s at each of the tiers. Everyone get’s to pick a few high end starters in those early rounds, but what you do here, in rounds 4-10 can mean the difference between playoff hopeful and championship contender. (PPR ADP Data supplied by Fantasypros.com)
- Doug Baldwin, WR – SEA
- T.Y. Hilton, WR – IND
- Zach Ertz, TE – PHI
- Derrick Henry, RB – TEN
- Stefon Diggs, WR – MIN
- Amari Cooper, WR – OAK
- Kenyan Drake, RB – MIA
- Josh Gordon, WR – CLE
- Jay Ajayi, RB – PHI
- Alex Collins, RB – BAL
Player I Love: I’m aiming to get a piece of that Minnesota offense, and Diggs is the player I’m targeting. With Cousin’s big arm, Diggs could have a monster year.
Player I Hate: Kenyan Drake had a nice little finish to 2017, and it looked for a moment like he may be a breakout candidate for 2018. Then Miami added Frank Gore and Kalen Ballage to the stable. Neither guy projects as a 3 down workhorse, but in the fourth round, they inhibit Drake from being a true stud.
- Rashad Penny, RB – SEA
- Allen Robinson, WR – CHI
- Larry Fitzgerald, WR – ARI
- Deshaun Watson, QB – HOU
- Juju Smith-Schuster, WR – PIT
- Derrius Guice, RB – WAS
- Demaryius Thomas, WR – DEN
- Mark Ingram, RB – NO
- Brandin Cooks, WR – LAR
- Russell Wilson, QB – SEA
Player I Love: The fifth round features two rookie RB’s that I love as Penny and Guice figure to act as feature backs for two teams that will likely run the ball a lot. Both have the talent and the opportunity to be top 15 backs.
Player I Hate: Mark Ingram has been polarizing among fantasy owners in his brief time in the NFL thanks to injury concerns and lack of work, but with Kamara emerging and the four game suspension keeping him out for 25% of the fantasy season, there’s no chance I take Ingram this early in drafts.
- Jarvis Landry, WR – CLE
- Alshon Jeffrey, WR – PHI
- Golden Tate, WR – DET
- Lamar Miller, RB – HOU
- Jimmy Graham, TE – GB
- Tom Brady, QB – NE
- Sony Michel, RB – NE
- Evan Engram, TE – NYG
- Greg Olsen, TE – CAR
- Ronald Jones, RB – TB
Player I love: I’ve heard a lot of talk about Jimmy Graham as a potential bust, and I imagine it has to do with Green Bay’s history of not really using it’s tight ends. I’d argue it’s because Rodgers never had a weapon like Graham. I expect him and Adams to both put together top 5 seasons at their positions.
Player I Hate: Maybe it’s because I’m still bitter about the super bowl, but Tom Brady is 40 years old and has never had an off season like this one. On the field, he’ll likely win 12 games, but for your fantasy team he may hold you back as inconsistency should plague the Patriots this year.
- Carson Wentz, QB – PHI
- Marvin Jones, WR – DET
- Cam Newton, QB – CAR
- Dion Lewis, RB – TEN
- Drew Brees, QB – NO
- Delanie Walker, TE – TEN
- Kyle Rudolph, TE – MIN
- Tevin Coleman, RB – ATL
- Kirk Cousins, QB – MIN
- Michael Crabtree, WR – BAL
Player I love: Marvin Jones Jr is being ranked currently as the WR25 after finishing 11th at the position last year. Matt Stafford still likes to sling the ball, and Jones has proven that he’s the most reliable down the field target in the offense. 1,000 yards and 8 TDs is a safe floor.
Player I Hate: Dion Lewis is a fantastic satellite back, but for some reason he’s being drafted based on his 2017 season in which the then-Patriot finished as a RB1. Now, he’s playing second fiddle to a superior back in Derrick Henry, and yet folks expect him to put up 1,000 + combined yards again. Don’t bet on it.
- Corey Davis, WR – TEN
- Will Fuller, WR – HOU
- Sammy Watkins, WR – KC
- Devin Funchess, WR – CAR
- Marshawn Lynch, RB – OAK
- Carlos Hyde, RB – CLE
- Chris Hogan, WR – NE
- Julien Edelman, WR – NE
- Marlon Mack, RB – IND
- Robert Woods, WR – LAR
Player I Love: I have to give a whole lot of love to the two wide outs at the top of the round as Corey Davis and Will Fuller both have the potential to be top 20 WR’s. With Davis entering the year finally healthy and Fuller being reunited with Watson (whom he scored a ton of points with), neither guy is getting the respect they deserve.
Player I Hate: Marshawn Lynch may go down in history as one of the most entertaining backs of his generation, but the writing is on the wall for the aging back. With plenty of miles on his wheels, the Raiders brought in former Buc’s back Doug Martin to compete for the job. While both guys lack any excitement, Lynch’s time as a bell cow back is over.
- Jordan Reed, TE – WAS
- Tarik Cohen, RB – CHI
- Matthew Stafford, QB – DET
- Royce Freeman, RB – DEN
- Kerryon Johnson, RB – DET
- Emmanuel Sanders, WR – DEN
- Jimmy Garoppolo, QB – SF
- Pierre Garcon, WR – SF
- Isaiah Crowell, RB – NYJ
- Chris Thompson, RB – WAS
Player I Love: Pierre Garcon may not be a threat to break the top 10 at WR, but in PPR leagues especially, his ability to get open from the slot will mean a ton of targets for the veteran. His 67 targets through 8 games may be a bit on the high end, but 120 total targets are within reach.
Player I Hate: This one is a bit of a stretch as these middle round picks aren’t make or break, but Jordan Reed is still being drafted as a top 10 TE despite missing 14 games over the last two seasons. As an injury risk, drafting Reed is precarious at best, and should be avoided if at all possible.
- Cooper Kupp, WR – LAR
- Devante Parker, WR – MIA
- Andrew Luck, QB – IND
- Trey Burton, TE – CHI
- Jamison Crowder, WR – WAS
- Jordy Nelson, WR – OAK
- Marquise Goodwin, WR – SF
- Duke Johnson, RB – CLE
- Rex Burkhead, RB – NE
- Randall Cobb, WR – GB
Player I Love: Devante Parker has flashed before, but with the issues under center last year seriously disappointed fantasy owners who invested in him. I say ignore the feelings of discomfort and bet on his talent. With all the targets up for grabs, and Tannehill back under center, Parker could see 40-60 more targets this year.
Player I Hate: Jordy Nelson was once the cream of the NFL crop when it came to high end fantasy receivers. Now he’ll be a third option at best in an offense that struggled last year to find traction in it’s passing game. With Cooper and Bryant miles ahead of Nelson in terms of athletic ability and talent, it’ll be tough sledding for the 33 year old vet.
Every year I run an article where I examine the what I consider to the be the most rewarding same team pairings in fantasy football. The idea, if you’re not familiar, is that by adding high tier quarterbacks with elite wide receivers or running backs you give yourself a larger share of the available points. Of course, this works best with high scoring offenses.
Last year I missed the mark a little bit with my go to; Derek Carr and Amari Cooper, as both disappointed. Luckily I planned well enough that it didn’t impact me too much (I won the league after all), but the same risks exist for any strategy as some guys just don’t show up.
But this year presents a different challenge, as the number of elite quarterbacks have dropped precipitously and the number of sure fire fantasy studs is at a questionable level. Let’s begin:
Earl Round Pairs ( Most Difficult To Manage)
Aaron Rodgers and Devante Adams: Adams is finally getting the respect he deserves, ranking 7th among wide receivers. Pairing the #7 WR with the #1 QB is a healthy strategy regardless of what team they play for, but getting extra point for yards and touchdowns shared has this pairing at the top of list. Still, it’ll cost you two of your first four picks to assemble this pairing.
Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown: While the jury seems to be out on Roethlisberger every year in the off season, Big Ben grinds his way to a top ten finish at the position. What’s NEVER a question is how good Brown will be when he’s on the field. The easy answer is that Brown is the safest pick in fantasy, but it will require you have a top 3 or 4 pick.
Drew Brees and Michael Thomas: Despite still playing at a high level, Brees has sort of slipped behind Thomas and Alvin Kamara as the top targets in the New Orleans offense. That in no way diminishes his ability to produce in fantasy, and I’d argue is a better option than both Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady, but that’s a different article all together. Getting Michael Thomas, though, is the hard part. His ADP of 15 will mean drafting 1-5 will preclude you from drafting him unless you get lucky. If you do get lucky, a 6th or 7th round pick will land you Brees, who’s ADP of 69 is criminally low.
Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski: Draft Brady at your own risk, but if you’re confident that the off season malaise in New England won’t affect Brady’s ability to perform then have at it. The truth is that Rob Gronkowski could set records this year as the only reliable pair of hands left for Brady to chuck it up to. Sure, Edelman will be back in 4 games and Hogan has shown he can play with Brady, but Gronk should see the end zone 10-15 times this year on top of a ton of yards. Grabbing him in the 3rd round to pair with Brady in the 7th gives plenty of time to add skill players besides.
Middle Round Pairs (Easier To Coordinate)
Russell Wilson and Doug Baldwin: This one isn’t as impactful in terms of fantasy because Wilson tends to supplement his passing stats with his legs. Unfortunately for this exercise, his rushing statistics can’t be taken into account. Still, Doug Baldwin is one of the leagues best slot receivers, and as a 4th round pick has a lot of value regardless. Without Jimmy Graham in the red one, he may even see a few more looks there. This one may not be the sexiest pair on the list, but they may be the most effective.
Carson Wentz and Zach Ertz: It may seem strange to see another WR/TE combo, but the fact is Wentz and Ertz seem to share a brain in the red zone, meaning a ton of points are up for grabs between the two of them. While Alshon Jeffrey may be the #1 wide out on the team’s depth chart, the true number one is Ertz. if you miss out on Gronk but you want a stud tight end, pair a 4th round Ertz with a 7th round Wentz and reap the benefits.
Kirk Cousins and Stefon Diggs: Wait, you say. This should be Thielen and Cousins! I’m here to tell you, not so fast. Now, I can see a scenario like in Denver years back with multiple 1,000 yard receivers, but the guy I’m targeting is Diggs in the late 4th round. He was excellent last year even though he wasn’t the top target for the Case Keenum led Vikings. Now, he has Cousins tossing the ball to him. A classic gunslinger, Cousins’ game best fits the strengths Diggs brings to the table. This is one of the least expensive pairings you can get as a 4th and a 10th gets you both players.
Matt Ryan and Julio Jones: You may have to spend a 2nd round pick on Jones, but the wait on Ryan is a bit longer than the other QB’s on this list. As the QB13, he’s being drafted in the 11th round, and I’d argue his value is sky high this year as a bounce back candidate. If you’re like me, and you see more value in grabbing high end skill players to pair with the later round QB, Matt Ryan is a slam dunk. Have him and Julio, and you’ll reap the rewards for all those yards.
Odell Beckham and Eli Manning: If you’re nervous about drafting either of these guys, I’d say you’re hardly alone. Beckham is an otherworldly talent when he’s right, but the combination of recent injury woes and an inability to stay level headed means he may fall towards the end of the first round. What I will say is that if you manage Beckham, Manning is a wonderful pairing if you waited a bit long on your QB. In the 16th round of drafts (current ADP is 152) Manning presents a conundrum. He was awful last year but much of it could be logically blamed on the terrible circumstances around him. With healthy weapons, an upgraded offensive line, and an elite RB to draw the attention, and Manning could be a surprise top 15 QB this year.
Philip Rivers and Keenan Allen: Allen proved last year that when he’s healthy, he’s every bit the stud we thought he was. Rivers remains one of the most under appreciated QB’s in fantasy, and his ADP of 112 presents tons of value. Without Hunter Henry, even more weight will be given to Allen, meaning these two could hook up for a ton of points.
Honorable Mentions: Derek Carr and Amari Cooper (a new coach could help get these two back on track). Jared Goff and Brandin Cooks (it’s a new look for Goff, but Cooks could be his go to early and often). Jameis Winston and Mike Evans (This requires a bounce back year for both, but not guaranteed). Marcus Mariota and Corey Davis (There’s so much talent between these two, it’s hard to imagine both of them laying duds this year).
With the excitement and surprise of the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft in the rearview, it’s finally time to start looking into the impact and fallout of the skill position players taken early in the draft.
As I say every year around this time; be mindful when drafting rookies… for every Ezekiel Elliot there’s two or three Bishop Sankeys torpedoing your squad. Do your research and don’t committ to the rookie class too heavily (a mistake I’ve made myself).
Impact listings are in order of their draft position
1. Mitchell Trubisky – QB, Chicago Bears: If the Bears are smart (and there’s been precious little in past seasons to suggest that they are) Trubisky will be nothing more than a first round clipboard holder for a year or two. With Mike Glennon on the roster and lowered expectations, there’s no scenario that Trubisky starts or plays meaningful football this year. Don’t Draft
2. Leonard Fournette – RB, Jacksonville Jaguars: Following the failed Yeldon/Ivory experiment (they combined for 4 TD’s and 904 yards) the Jaguars got aggressive and selected the first RB off the board. Touted as an Adrian Peterson clone, his size and speed make him and intriguing pick for a team looking to get more balanced. If you believe he played hurt last year and has more to offer even than he did, this could be a day one fantasy asset, assuming you don’t have to draft him too early. Draft: Middle Rounds
3. Corey Davis – WR, Tennessee Titans: This team was in drastic need of a top end wideout to pair with Marcus Mariota, and they think they got him at the 5th spot in the draft in Davis. A sizable reciever at 6’3″ and 210 lbs I expect Mariota to look his way early and often. If he can improve on his drops (16 across his college career), his route running ability and verticle speed should make him a decent NFL player. Draft: Late Rounds
4. Mike Williams – WR, Los Angeles Chargers: Arguably the top receiver in the draft, Williams is now the new face of the LA Chargers as they make the move from San Diego. While he’ll be battling Travis Benjamin and Keenan Allen for snaps, it’s only a matter of time before he sits atop the depth chart. Temper early season expectations, but don’t be surprised if he’s looking like a fantasy stud sooner rather than later. Draft: Middle Rounds
5. Christian McCaffrey – RB, Carolina Panthers: A Jack of all trades, McCaffrey is a perfect fit for a Carolina Panthers team desperate for some spark other than from the helmet to helmet shots Cam Newton takes when he runs the football. McCaffrey provides that being a fantastic options to line up in the slot or next to Newton as a flexible starter who can run the ball and catch it out of the backfield. If your league awards points for return yards he’ll be even more helpful. Draft: Late Rounds
6. John Ross – WR, Cincinnati Bengals: While laking the size of his contemporaries, the speedy Ross will line up opposite A.J. Green and should be in line for plenty of looks thanks to doubleteams and defensive schemes that will be forced to focus elsewhere. His production will likely be boom or bust in year one, so he’s probably more of a matchups play. Serious risk of being a bust if drafted too early though as the Bengals offense can become one dimensional at times when A.J. Green is right. Draft: Late Rounds
7. Patrick Mahomes – QB, Kansas City Chiefs: The same argument made against drafting Trubisky should be in play here as well; Alex Smith is still the starter of this playoff caliber team. The advantage is I believe Mahomes tracks to have a better NFL career than Trubisky, and his destination with the Chiefs is more enviable in the long run. Still, he’s no more than a dynasty stash. Don’t Draft
8. DeShaun Watson – QB, Houston Texans: If any of the three first round QB’s have a chance to play meaningful minutes this year, it’s Watson. Bill O’Brien has some work to do in rehabilitating his image with young quarter backs, but this Texans team will expect to win this year, and if Savage and Wheedon (Assuming both are on the roster by pre-season) there’s a reasonable chance Watson will find himself under center before long. Draft: Last round flyer
9 O.J. Howard – TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: One of the best TE in the draft, Howard will likely be the best pass catching TE on a team who often times trots two of them on the field together. With another year under his belt, Winston could be looking Howards way often, and with Mike Evans the only other real red zone threat, Howard could find a nice number of TD’s be years end. Draft: Late Rounds
10. Evan Engram – TE, NY Giants: The Giants have a lot of pass catchers after adding Brandon Marshall in the offseason, but Engram is by far the best TE on the roster. He’ll find immediate playing time but will likely have to be evaluated week to week based on matchups. I predict plenty of 100 yard, 2 TD weeks followed by 5 yards on 1 target. Draft: Late Rounds
11. David Njoku – TE, Cleveland Browns: The biggest knock against Njoku is that he’ll be playing for the Cleveland Browns. Maybe it’s not fair to expect a rough start for the athletic TE, but without consistency at the QB position, it’s a crap shoot to expect more than below-average fantasy statistics. IF the Browns add a QB via trade (Kirk Cousins for example) then I’d bump Njoku up on my board, but as of right now, he’s a dynasty/keeper pick but not in redrafts. Draft: Late Rounds (Keeper/Dynasty only).