14. New York Giants
It may come as a surprise to many, but I feel that this roster could be even higher on this list if I was convinced the O-Line had improved. I love the addition of Nate Solder, but it remains to be seen if the Giants can give Eli Manning enough time to find his receivers. It helps getting Beckham back. Between the passing game and Saquon Barkley’s arrival, this offense should keep defensive coordinators guessing and give the Giants plenty of plays to run to keep Eli on his feet.
Players Worth Drafting: Saquon Barkley (ADP 7), Odell Beckham Jr (ADP 12), Evan Engram (ADP 65), Sterling Shepard (ADP 121)
While it may seem like we’re overvaluing Barkley, the truth is that he fits the mold of a 3 down back, and despite Jonathan Stewart’s presence on the roster, I expect Barkley to have a massive number of touches. Just knowing he’ll see 275 rushes (or more) will mean more space to run for Eli’s three biggest weapons. While there may not be enough balls going to receivers to support all these weapons, the fact remains that Big Blue should be much improved over last year.
Deep Sleeper: It may be the first act of his swan song, but the Eli Manning should be inline for one of his best seasons in years. Don’t expect outrageous volume; my guess is that the Giants will opt to rush a bit more than pass, but he’s got the weapons to far outpace the projections that have him sitting just outside the draft able tier of QBs. If you need to pull the trigger on a super late QB, Manning is one I’d be comfortable taking.
13. Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers are one of those teams that churn out reliable fantasy starters without despite never really feeling like an elite NFL team. Despite Philip Rivers still being disrespected by the fantasy community, it’s clear that owners trust the production of the two biggest stars in Melvin Gordon and Keenan Allen. Of course, aside from volume, both players represent major concerns that may dissuade you from selecting them at their position near the top of your draft.
Players Worth Drafting: Melvin Gordon (ADP 13), Keenan Allen (ADP 15), Philip Rivers (ADP 125), Mike Williams (ADP 165)
Gordon is an interesting case in that he’ll have tons of volume (roughly 20 touches per game) but he’s not exactly taking the top off with a career yard per carry mark of under 4. Whether or not that’s a product of the system, the signs are there for regression should the volume change at all. Keenan Allen on the other hand represents one of the highest ceilings in the league despite feeling like an injury risk every time he steps on the field. Drafting a Charger takes guts, and while the reward can be great (both are considered top 12 in their respective positions) the risk is equally as jarring.
Deep Sleeper: It’s hardly a secret, but Mike Williams is popping up everywhere as a potential 2nd year breakout candidate. Thanks to his injury issues that kept him from turning into a fantasy stud last year, you have a limited window to grab the elite talent in a later round. If you happen to get him, understand that he’s a WR1 waiting to happen.
12. Cleveland Browns
Cleveland’s 1 – 31 record over the last two seasons may scare you away from drafting their players, but I’d argue that most of these guys are undervalued for that very reason. Josh Gordon and Jarvis Landry are both top 25 threats, even in the same offense, and Duke Johnson remains under rated especially in PPR formats. The only major concerns I have are with Carlos Hyde and Nick Chubb cannibalizing each other’s touches.
Players Worth Drafting: Josh Gordon (ADP 37), Jarvis Landry (ADP 55), Duke Johnson (ADP 78), Nick Chubb (ADP 111), Carlos Hyde (ADP 120), David Njoku (ADP 139), Tyrod Taylor (ADP 149)
Njoku may find himself the odd man out this year in the passing game with so many elite options for Tyrod Taylor to attack with. Josh Gordon has been heavily targetted (9-11 targets per game since 2012) and should continue to see the bulk of the targets, but don’t count out Landry for another 100 reception season. Don’t shy away from Taylor either; Baker Mayfield is going to hold a clipboard this year.
Deep Sleeper: Tyrod Taylor may have had a down year last year, but his weapons improved exponentially compared to what he had to work with in Cleveland. While his ADP has him available near the end of your draft, there’s a real chance for him to finish as a QB1 this year.
11. Atlanta Falcons
The Super Bowl hangover was a strong one for Atlanta who went from record setters to barely watchable in the matter of a few months. Still, even this much of a drop feels like an overreaction as the Falcons still boast some of the most complete play makers in all of football. Expecting Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and Devonta Freeman to repeat as middle of the pack performers would be a sure fire way to miss out on a discount for this years Atlanta studs.
Players Worth Drafting: Julio Jones (ADP 9), Devonta Freeman (ADP 21), Tevin Coleman (ADP 83), Matt Ryan (ADP 119), Calvin Ridley (ADP 132), Mohamed Sanu (ADP 152)
Obviously Jones is still being targetted early, but still overlooked is his usage in the end zone. Not much has to improve for him to go from a top 10 WR to a top 3, which I expect to be the case this year. Outside of Jones, the Falcons are universally underrated, especially veteran QB Matt Ryan. While I won’t predict a return to the 2016 numbers that saw him win a regular season MVP, I will be bold enough to predict a return to the top 10 in his position. A perfect “wait on a QB” candidate, he’ll help you build out a stabled of position players without costing you much in production.
Deep Sleeper: Mohamed Sanu may not be a sexy name, but he’s been an above average 2nd option in this Atlanta offense for years, and the arrival of Calvin Ridley shouldn’t completely torpedo his usage. If anything, there’s more evidence that rookie receivers aren’t fantasy studs right away, so don’t expect Sanu to fade into the background. He’s a 16-18 round option who could put up WR30 numbers if Atlanta returns to it’s high flying ways.
10. Detroit Lions
It helps that Detroit loves to the throw the football, and I don’t see the addition of Kerryon Johnson or LeGarrette Blount changing that. I expect another 600 attempt season out of Stafford, as well as positive performances out of Tate and Jones, both of whom should hit the 1,000 yard mark this year. The rushing game exists to compliment this potent passing attack, so expect experimentation early on as the coaching staff tries to meld the deep stable of backs into a cohesive unit, so don’t expect too much too soon.
Players Worth Drafting: Golden Tate (ADP 49), Marvin Jones (ADP 62), Kerryon Johnson (ADP 93), Matthew Stafford (ADP 107), LeGarrette Blount (ADP 148), Kenny Golladay (ADP 151), Theo Riddick (ADP 158)
In fact, the rushing game may be ugly all season long. LeGarrette Blount was brought in to be a goal line guy, so while TD’s may be a boon, there’s no telling what the rest of the group will siphon away. Theo Riddick is the safest of the group in PPR leagues, but Kerryon Johnson could be a guy who increases his workload slowly until he’s a fantasy star.
Deep Sleeper: Luke Willson was an under the radar signing for a team that’s been looking for it’s red zone, pass catching TE for years. His athletic ability profiles him as a top tier receiving threat, even if his limited exposure in Seattle would seem to show otherwise. With Kenny Golladay the popular late round pick in this offense, I expect to be able to add Willson off waivers or in the really late rounds in deep leagues, which is exactly the kind of value I look for from a guy with his pedigree.
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).
Eli Manning, QB – NYG: Currently ranked 186th by Fantasy Pro’s consensus rankings, Eli Manning appears to be little more than an afterthought going into his 14th professional season. Part of the problem for fantasy owners is that, at 37, his performance last year is as easily attributed to his age, as it is to the circumstances surrounding the Giants roster upheaval. I’d say they’re wrong.
This offseason, the Giants have tried adding help to both the backfield and the offensive line, two maligned personnel groups that managed to cost Manning valuable time in the pocket. With a stronger run game, a healthy wide receiver corps, and a cleaner jersey thanks to a capable left tackle, Manning should have a much more favorable fantasy season. Do I expect him to finish in the top 5? Hell no, he is 37 after all, but 4,000 yards and 28 TD’s is a reasonable expectation, and one that will give you excellent value in the 19th round of your draft.
Derek Carr, QB – OAK: With all of the noise surrounding the Oakland Raiders and it’s young stud quarterback going into last season, it’s no surprise that the team seemed to shrink from the pressure. Carr turned in some duds early on and suffered a broken vertibrae midway through the season, Amari Cooper showed up for a handful of games at best, and the run game was a mess when Marshawn Lynch got dinged up. This year, expectations should be more in line with what this team is capable of; a wildcard playoff run and maybe a round or two in the playoffs.
With a shiny new weapon in Jordy Nelson, and a likely bounce back candidate himself in Amari Cooper, Carr should turn in a season much closer to what we saw from him in 2016. If he competes hard and reaches his ceiling, he’s a top 10 fantasy QB without a doubt.
Matt Ryan, QB – ATL: The Super Bowl hangover strikes again, as 2016’s break out star and MVP Matt Ryan turned in a stinker after being drafted far earlier than necessary in drafts last year. Ryan finished 15th amongst quarterbacks last year, which was shockingly worse than Blake Bortles, Jared Goff, and Case Keenum.
Still, the Atlanta offense remains one of the most high powered in the league, and Ryan still owns the keys to the car. With Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu being one of the rangier WR duo’s in the league, and two pass catching backs in Coleman and Freeman still on the roster, it’d be a surprise to me if he didn’t bounce back in a big way. His floor is around the QB12 mark, but with his ranking sitting around the 12th round, I’m all in on Matty Ice.
Honorable Mentions: A revamped offense in Cleveland means Tyrod Taylor has the best receiver corps he’s ever had the privilage of throwing to. In the 18th round (ranked 175) he’s a steal. Likewise, Jameis Winston managed to play himself out of the position’s top 10 rankings thanks to a down year. Expect the Winston to Evans magic to resume early as he finishes in the top 10 again.
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.
Eli Manning – New York Giants | ADP 127 – QB 16| Manning had a down season last year finishing as the 19th best QB, but in true Giants fashion, this offseason was about bulking up his receiving corps by adding former Bear / Jet Brandon Marshall. With the backfield in flux, Manning is going to be asked to throw it and throw it a ton. Prediction: 4,600 yards – 33 TDs – 16 INT
Joe Flacco – Baltimore Ravens | ADP 179 – QB24 | I was vocal in my support of Joe Flacco from a sleeper perspective even before they added Jeremy Maclin and Danny Woodhead to his cache of weapons. With a favorable schedule and the commitment of his front office, Flacco can be expected to approach career numbers. Prediction: 4,300 yards – 25 TDs – 11 INT
Carson Wentz – Philadelphia Eagles | ADP 128 – QB 18| Coming off the board in the 13th round, second year QB Carson Wentz already proved he can operate an NFL offense. Give him a bonafide #1 WR in Alshon Jefferey and a balanced running attack featuring bruiser LeGarette Blount, and Wentz is primed to take the leap. Prediction: 4,200 yards – 28 TDs – 13 INT
Honorable Mention: Sam Bradford, Min (ADP 170+)
The Quarterback position is arguably the easiest position to navigate during your pre-draft research. After all, save for injury, we’re reasonably certain that the top 10 QB’s are going to perform somewhere near our expectations. But when waiting on a QB like every good fantasy guide tells us, who should we target in those middle rounds, and who should we avoid.
Using the consensus rankings at Fantasypros.com I’ve highlighted three quarterbacks who might far out produce their draft positions and three to avoid.
Derek Carr – QB,
Las Vegas Oakland Raiders
If you cringed at the mention of the Raiders signal caller due to his leg injury suffered at the conclusion of last season, then you’re one of the reasons the talented QB has slid into round 8-10 following what can only be described as a breakout season. With a talented cast of receivers and Beast Mode in the backfield, a now-healthy Carr looks to build on a 2016 that saw him finish as the QB10 despite missing the final week of the season.
Tyrod Taylor – QB, Buffalo Bills
His name doesn’t inspire confidence like you’d expect out of a guy who finished as QB7 in standard ESPN scoring, but the truth is that Taylor in the 11th round is a steal. Buffalo could have added a QB in the offseason or at the draft; but they didn’t. What they did do was add weapons to an offense that is already returning the ultra-talented Sammy Watkins to the fold after a lost season in 2016. While he’ll likely only throw for 3,200 – 3,500 yards, his ability to put another 400+ on the ground really rewards owners. Draft him after round 10 with confidence.
Eli Manning – QB, New York Giants
Okay, stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but Eli is poised to bounce back after an awful 2016 that saw him finish with a paltry 199 fantasy points (12.5 per week). It didn’t help that the offense was a dysfunctional mess while OBJ worked out his personal problems on the field and a new system failed to maximize on the wealth of talent lining up on offense. Still, the Giants are committed to winning through the air, and adding talent at WR in the draft only helps to alleviate the pressure of throwing to Beckham Jr. every other attempt. You’ll still have to deal with the gunslingers disease (15-18 INT) but I’ll go out on a limb and say he’ll throw for 4,200 yards or more and 28 TDs or better.
Ben Roethlisberger – QB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Before I say something stupid, I’ll preface this by saying I do like Big Ben as a QB. He’s the ultimate competitor and does what he can to help his team win. Unfortunately that’ll continue to hamper his ability to stay on the field. At 35, and recently considering retirement, the odds are greater that he falls off the proverbial cliff rather than treads water. Still, he’s being drafted ahead of guys like Mariota, Dalton, and Taylor, who all offer a modicum of safety when compared to the aging QB.
Carson Palmer – QB, Arizona Cardinals
While I will continue to root for Palmer the QB, it will be from a distance as I won’t be adding him to any of my rosters. Its fate that the wheels are bound to come off for the aging gun slinger. His WR core is nearing retirement age (L. Fitzgerald) hasn’t proven themselves (J. Brown) or are gone (M. Floyd) and Bruce Arians is committed to putting the rock in David Johnson’s hands as often as he can. This amounts to a rough year for owners.
Ryan Tannehill – QB, Miami Dolphins
I once felt that Tannehill was the best value amongst QB’s. That was before Matt Moore became a better starting option for the dreadful Dolphins last year. Could the former college WR bounce back? Sure, but I wouldn’t bet on it. Instead, I would avoid him altogether and let him be someone else’s’ headache this year.
Of course, every year there’s a surprise from each tier, and I implore you to use as much of your own research to reach conclusions of who to draft and when, but when in doubt; hold off on Quarterbacks. Don’t get caught up in the inevitable early round runs that may hamstring you when it comes to filling in your position players.
In preperation for my personal position rankings, I’ll be taking a look at the top of the list at each offensive fantasy position.
- Cam Newton – Newton was a Fantasy stud last year, owning the feild with his arm as well as his legs. Adding a top teir WR back into the fold with the returning Kelvin Benjamin
will mean good things for Super Cam this year.
- Aaron Rodgers – His 60% completion percentage was his career low as a starter, and much of that can be attributed to a lackluster run game and losing his number 1 receiver in Jordy Nelson for the entire year. He still managed nearly 4,000 yards and 30+ TDs in 15 games. If Nelson is ready to go and Lacy is even remotely the player he has been in the past, expect a return to greatness.
- Russell Wilson – If you believe the loss of Marshawn Lynch will make this offense a bit too one dimensional, then you’d be wrong. When he’s called on to make plays, all Wilson does is produce. He may not break records, but his ability to add 500-800 yards on the ground make him elite in terms of Fantasy.
- Drew Brees – A model of consistency, Brees again led the league in yards while completing nearly 70% of his passes. Another year with animproving O-line and 4 capable receivers means Brees can be counted on again to win Fantasy games.
- Andrew Luck – It’s not secret that Luck struggled mightily last year, missing significant time due to a plethora of injuries. Still, Luck has the goods – and the weapons – to produce at a high level. If they can keep him healthy, theres no reason to believe he’ll return to the elite signal caller we know he is.
- Ben Roethlisberger – The ceiling was raised a few years ago, and with Antonio Brown lining up to catch passes, you can’t expect too sharp a decline even as father time inches up behind Big Ben. He’s fallen a bit on my list with the news that Bryant will miss the entire season and his saftey blank in Le’Veon Bell will miss 4 games, and he may fall farther still.
- Carson Palmer – Old age seems to be an antiquated reason to skip on NFL QB’s in your fantasy leagues as Carson Palmer returns to the top 10 as a 36 year old. He’s got three fantasic receivers, a very good line, and a running game to help take off the pressure. Did we mention he takes care of the football? He may not be a flashy name, but he’ll get the job done.
- Philip Rivers – Rivers seems to never get the love that he deserves, but in the end he’ll throw the ball a ton which will mitigate any issues that may surround this offense. They’ll likely continue to easy Melvin Gordon into a larger roll, so expect games with 35+ attempts early on.
- Blake Bortles – I hear that we shouldn’t expect a repeat of the fantastic year we saw out of Bortles last year. I disagree. Hurns and Robinson are both great weapons and adding a successful down hill running in Chris Ivory will free up some plays over the middle. His legs can help him add another 250+ yards to what will likely be a 4,000 yard 30 TD campaign.
- Eli Manning – I’ll preface my inclusion in my top ten by saying I don’t really like Eli Manning. Not in the least, but he manages to find a way to put up fantasy numbers even while he’s managing ways to lose real NFL games. OBJ is Elite, Cruz (even at 50% of what he was) will attract some of the defense, and the kid they drafted, Sterling Shephard should give him more weapons to work with.
Missed the Cut
Tom Brady (his supension moved him from the top 10), Matt Ryan (so much hate for no reason. Has a top 3 WR catching the football), David Carr (close, but not there yet. Another up year in Oakland and he’ll be tough to deny), Tony Romo (he’s Eli Manning if Eli Manning got hurt every year. He’ll put up massive numbers when he’s healthy… which is likely less than 12 games).