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.
I’d like to preface this by saying that every player has some kind of value, but the real issue I take with the following players is the value other fantasy players have assigned to them. As always, take these with a grain of salt, as I’ll likely look at any of them if they fall into a round with appreciable value.
Jimmy Garoppolo, QB – San Fransisco: It sure looked like Jimmy G was the real deal as he lead the listless 49ers to 5 straight wins to close out the season. And it certainly helped his stock that he beat three playoff teams in Jacksonville, Tennessee, and the LA Rams. But has he done enough in his brief time as a starter to warrant being drafted as the 9th QB off the board?
Instead of targeting a QB with 7 career starts and expecting a top 10 finish at the position, it’s a far safer proposition to look at the names directly behind him on the list. Matt Stafford, Matt Ryan, Ben Roethlisberger, and Philip Rivers can all be had, and all offer far more consistent value in my opinion. Do I think Jimmy G is a bust candidate? No, not particularly, but with all the buzz surrounding the former heir to the Tom Brady empire, I’ll let someone else overpay for the unknown commodity.
Tom Brady, QB – New England: This may surprise some, especially being a Patriots fan living in Massachusetts, but the news out of New England has been mostly terrifying, yet Brady is still being drafted as the QB4. Between a lack of off season work, his top target from last year being traded, and his former safety net in Julian Edelman facing a 4 game suspension after missing all of last year with a knee injury, and you have a recipe for disaster if you lob and early round pick at Brady.
Of course, he’ll probably prove me wrong, but there’s no way I’m drafting Brady before Brees, Wentz, or Newton – the next three QB’s on the list. If I can get Brady for a discount, I’m comfortable with his superior talent making up for these things, but in the 5th round I’m drafting skill players and snagging someone else several rounds later.
Dion Lewis, RB – Tennessee: Every year the final running back rankings reveal a few surprises, and Dion Lewis’ 203 points (RB13) was certainly the stand out name to me. But now a member of the Titans, Lewis’s name keeps popping up on watch lists as a name to watch, something I just can’t get behind.
While he’s undoubtedly an electric player when healthy, 2017 was the first time Lewis turned in 16 games in his career, and betting on anything more than 7 games is a crap shoot with the diminutive back. Also against him is his role in the Tennessee offense, as he slides in neatly on the depth chart as the 3rd down back behind elite runner Derrick Henry. Sadly, no team targeted their backs less than the Titans 66 total RB targets. The ceiling is so low in Tennessee with a healthy Henry on the roster that I’m staying away from Lewis at all costs.
Kenyon Drake, RB – Miami: On the surface, Drake seems like a logical name to take the “next step” into fantasy relevance, especially after he dominated the touches for the Dolphins down the stretch, turning 91 touches into 444 yards and 2 TDs from week 13 on. How did the Dolphin front office repay him? By bringing in Frank Gore via free agency and adding Kalen Ballage in the draft.
We’ve seen similar situations before, and I’d argue caution when investing in the Miami backfield. Much like the Spencer Ware/Kareem Hunt situation last year, there is likely very little room for error when it comes to touches for Drake. Of course, staying healthy should see him resume the roll of the top dog, but touches will be limited, and his prospects of turning in a top 20 RB season are slim in my estimation.
T.Y. Hilton, WR – IND: It’s easy to look at the bottom line and say “but Hilton was productive” while ignoring the deficiencies playing in Indianapolis’ offense creates. The news on Andrew Luck has been mostly positive, but it still doesn’t look like he’ll be returning any time soon, yet fantasy drafters haven’t seem to given up on Hilton as an elite WR.
A closer look reveals how inconsistent Hilton was with Jacoby Brissette throwing him the ball. More than half of his yards (966 on the season) came in only three games (505) which in this case can’t be offset by the threat of scoring, as his 4 TDs is about what you can expect for the smaller receiver. If he continues on the pace he’s at, he’s a flex start at best, which is something that you can’t afford out of a 4th round pick.
Tyreek Hill, WR – KC: This one may sound strange, as I was a big fan of Hill’s going into last season, even going out of my way to own him in several leagues, but every year we must re-evaluate each players value and leave the past love in past when ranking players. Hill is currently the 10th WR coming off the board, but presents many of the same problems highlighted above with T.Y. Hilton.
Similarly, his final stat line is a bit of a mirage as the 75 catches for 1,183 yards only represents half of the story. Aside from four big games (552 yards and 3 of his 7 TDs), Hill failed consistently to hit 5 catches or 100 yards. Add to the roster a WR the caliber of Sammy Watkins, and he’s now relying on the big play to score, further damaging his fantasy value. While I can see a similar 100 targets, the effects of additional receiving weapons, an elite run game, and a first year starter are too much to overcome when drafting a player as early as Hill needs to be drafted.
Evan Engram, TE – NYG: Another player I preached judiciously last year, Engram turned in one of the finest fantasy seasons for a rookie TE ever, and is being rewarded for it by being the 5th TE off the board in 2018. As a TE being drafted in the 6th round, you’d like to be relatively sure that his production will remain consistent, but that’s where the problem begins.
Last year, as we all know, was a perfect storm for Engram, as the receiving corps for the Giants was decimated all year, leaving Engram as the only reliable starter capable of catching the ball. Now, he’ll be fighting for targets with a healthy Odell Beckham and Sterling Shephard, and he’ll see far less usage in the red zone as the Giants drafted Saquon Barkley, the best RB prospect for Big Blue in years. Could he surprise, sure, but will be finish as the TE5? Not a chance.
For years it seemed that the elite fantasy running back was going the way of the dodo thanks to backfield committees and an increased reliance on the passing game. That seems to be shifting back slightly with NFL teams hitting on several early round running backs in recent seasons, and using their top guys in the passing game an increasing amount. Still, the offseason presents a handful of roster shakeups that need to be reviewed to understand their impact.
San Fransico 49ers Sign Jerrck McKinnon
The noise from the Jimmy G show drowned out the success that San Fransisco had with their backfield last year, and it’s likely to be the case again this year. With Jerick McKinnon taking over for the departed Carlos Hyde, the question is how much of a workload can we expect the new starter?
Last year he showed flashes of being a well rounded back, capable of running on first down, but in a Kyle Shanahan offense, it could be his pass catching ability that seperates him from the field. While it’s unlikely he challenge for a spot in the top 5, it’s well within reason to expect a top 10 finish with some monster weeks sprinkled in.
Cleveland Browns Sign Carlos Hyde
This signing is a little harder to guage, as Hyde leaves San Fransisco as a workhorse and arrives in a backfield with an established pass catcher in Duke Johnson. You may be surprised to know that Duke Johnson finished 4th in both targets and receptions by a back, so to expect Hyde to step in and syphon large amounts of passing down targets may be a bit of a reach.
It’s more likely that he’ll see early down work and a major roll back on targets, with usage mirroring more closely what Isaiah Crowell experienced. Will he do more with the touches than the mercurial Crowell did? That remains to be seen, but it’s likely that he’ll be drafted off the strength of his 2017 numbers rather than the expectation that he’ll fall out of the top 10 and finish with a good 50 fewer points in 2018.
Tennesse Titans Sign Dion Lewis
I’d forgive you if you thought this signing wasn’t nearly as important as others I could have cited here, but you’d be wrong. This is a match made in heaven as Lewis is one of the NFL’s premier 3rd down backs, and he’s being paired with a two down bruiser that should keep him fresh and on the field.
A high efficiency pass catcher, Lewis has hauled in 80% of targets sent his way in his career, and while New England’s backfield has never been a sure thing, Tennessee is likely to use him in a more consistent and predictable manner. His floor looks something like 45 catches for 400 yards and 4 touch downs, and whatever else he gets on the ground (it won’t be much) but the potential is there in an evolving offense for a 75 target year. Don’t target him in the early rounds, but if you can snag him in the mid to late rounds, he could be a valuable PPR asset.
New England Patriots Sign Jeremy Hill
Sure, we’ve heard this story before, as recently as last season when the Patriots threw a bunch of money into the backfield in the form of Rex Burkhead and Mike Gillislee. Burkhead turned into a fine Patriot, and is likely to split third downs with James White, but no one seemed to capture that early down roll that was left when LeGarrette Blount went to Philly.
In comes a former early round fantasy stud, Jeremy Hill. After averaging 5 yards per carry as a 22 year old rookie, his contributions seemed to wane more each year, culminating in a 2017 that saw him as the third option in the backfield for a team that seemed to miss use it’s backs all year long. Still only 25 years old, Hill has the chance to take over lead back duties in a Patriots backfield that doesn’t feature any other game breakers. Sure, he could just as likely find himself cut before the season starts, but I’d bet he catches on in New England.
Oakland Raiders Sign Doug Martin
Okay, so what if I seem to think the Muscle Hampster is going to have a bounce back year every year. The truth is he’s still an incredibly gifted runner between the tackles, and he’s leaving Tampa Bay where success has been difficult to come by with any consistency from any of that teams star players.
Instead, he finds himself in a backfield competing for early down touches against two uninspiring backs. While Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington both had their moments, neither one has the pedigree that Martin has. He’s shown the ability to bounce back before, and I expect a solid season out of him this year.
Honorable Mentions: Last year I was all in on the Jets as a sneaky source of fantasy contributions.This year, I’ve tempered my expectations, but the signings of Thomas Rawls and Isaiah Crowell mean there will be an open competition for the first two downs. Also in New York, the Giants have added Jonathan Stewart to it’s backfield, likely in an attempt to gain some kind if spark. It’s crowded with Gallman, Perkins, and Darkwa in the wings, but when Stewart is healthy, he’s a fantastic early back.
Every year we spend our fantasy prep time pouring through periodicals and compiling statistics based off of “expert” analysis. And while this information is invaluable, we often times ignore the most important players to a championship team: The Bench.
Finding these hidden gems can be difficult but rewarding when your first and second round picks start experiencing the injuries that come with playing as often as elite NFL players do. We’ll examine who from the bargain barrel section of the drafts can help you when they inevitably enter the fray.
Surest Thing – Mike Wallace: Despite the appearance of a crowded receiver team, Mike Wallace is my surest bet amongst the late round WR picks based on his ADP (around 179!) Simply put, he’s hiding behind an unproven journey man in Kamar Aiken and a 35 year old Steve Smith Sr. and whatever mess at TE they decide to roll out (Maxx is a competent NFL TE but he’s going to eat significant targets away from any of the players already mentioned, nor is Gillmore). If Aiken regresses and/or Smith Sr. misses time with injury, the speedy Wallace should find himself hooking up with the strong armed Flacco more and more often. For a late round pick, he offers the highest ceiling with the lowest floor.
Highest Risk Reward – Devin Funchess: Despite pedestrian numbers in 2015, Funchess showed that he could be a productive player in the NFL, and there are two sides to the coin surrounding the return of Carolina’s “main man” Kelvin Benjamin. The majority of fantasy players expect Benjamin to step back into his #1 role, and you’d be justified, but I expect there’s a decent chance that having extra time to work with Funchess will result in better numbers for a WR being drafted in the 12-14th round. Obviously with Cam Newton, there’s no
garuntee that skill player A performs the same week in and week out, as the play breaks down Cam’s on of the best in the game finding the open man. Still, the reward if he turns into Cam’s saftey blanket far outweighs the risks.
Big Ole’ Bust – Marvin Jones: Maybe it’s low hanging fruit, but Marvin Jones has the easiest road to ruin of any WR in the entire league. For starters, Matthew Stafford is is entering his 8th NFL season, and his attempts have dropped significantly as his mileage piles up. With Golden Tate proving he can carry the mantle, it’s highly unlikely Jones (who has no history in the NFL of carrying an offense) will step in and replace the departing Calvin Johnson. It’s more likely that Stafford adjusts his targets to Tate, Ebron, and Abdullah and Jones is left as the 4th or 5th player in touches.
Bonus – Chris Hogan: It’s easy to overlook the former Bill as he dons the enemies attire with New England this year. Why? Well, Gronkowski, Edeleman, Lewis, and Amendola to name a few. But the truth is that it’s highly unlikely the New England offense stays healthy, and each of the names just mentioned has a lengthy injury history. Hogan is a sure handed blue collar guy who is likely to slide right in and pick up where guys like Lafell fit (when he was productive). He’s being drafted in the final rounds of drafts, so feel free to take a flier on him.