In our quest to provide the most pertinent information and analysis, we will use current ESPN ADP rankings provided as of Friday 8/31. If you draft in a 10 team league, adjust the rounds accordingly, otherwise this will review the ADP values for a 12 team league. We’ve highlighted three players in each round we like at their current ADP, feel free to argue your point of view in the comments section.
As I look out over the fantasy landscape on the eve of Labor Day weekend, I’m amazed at how different things look following the brutal four week stretch we like to call the pre-season. Littering the battle field are high profile injuries, unresolved position battles, and early draft casualties left to rot in no man’s land.
With a large percentage of drafts scheduled for the final weekend before the NFL kicks off the 2018 season, it’s only appropriate that we make one last run at addressing the current ADP data provided by the largest players in the game. By addressing the value’s assigned to each proverbial tier, we can provide you with extra tools in your quest for fantasy dominance.
Round 1 – 3
The early rounds of your draft are simultaneously the most important and the least important picks you can make all day. As we preach gratuitously… you won’t win your league with the picks, but you can certainly lose.
- 1.01 – Le’Veon Bell, RB – PIT
- 1.02 – Todd Gurley, RB – LAR
- 1.03 – David Johnson, RB – ARI
- 1.04 – Ezekiel Elliott, RB – DAL
- 1.05 – Antonio Brown, WR – PIT
- 1.06 – Saquon Barkley, RB – NYG
- 1.07 – Alvin Kamara, RB – NO
- 1.08 – DeAndre Hopkins, WR – HOU
- 1.09 – Odell Beckham, WR – NYG
- 1.10 – Kareem Hunt, RB – KC
- 1.11 – Leonard Fournette, RB – JAC
- 1.12 – Dalvin Cook, RB – MIN
It’s far from a surprise to see the backs dominating the first round; after all, a large number of league champions can point towards a break out back as the catalyst for their wins. Still, I’d consider grabbing a WR at the back end of the first – the value is just too great.
Best Value: Odell Beckham at 1.09 is stealing – his career per game fantasy production is greater than DeAndre Hopkins single best season. He’s as safe a pick in the first as you’ll get.
Worst Value: Dalvin Cook could have a monster year, but with a capable back in Latavius Murray spelling him, and the unknown of returning from a major knee injury means too many question marks for a round 1 pick.
- 2.01 – Julio Jones, WR – ATL
- 2.02 – Melvin Gordon, RB – LAC
- 2.03 – Keenan Allen, WR – LAC
- 2.04 – Christian McCaffrey, RB – CAR
- 2.05 – Michael Thomas, WR – NO
- 2.06 – Devonta Freeman, RB – ATL
- 2.07 – A.J. Green, WR – CIN
- 2.08 – Rob Gronkowski, TE – NE
- 2.09 – Davante Adams, WR – GB
- 2.10 – Mike Evans, WR – TB
- 2.11 – LeSean McCoy, RB – BUF
- 2.12 – Aaron Rodgers, QB – GB
This years second round features even greater value than the first as the top tiers at several positions become available. For years I railed against drafting Rob Gronkowski in the 2nd, but this year may be the exception with the New England offense likely siphoning through him.
Best Value: It wasn’t long ago that Mike Evans was considered a first round talent. The off season issues Tampa has experienced and the lack of help have suppressed his value, but he’s still the same dominant receiver. Draft confidently.
Worst Value: I’m not suggesting LeSean McCoy is washed up, but even ignoring the off field issues, McCoy is a thirty year old back with high mileage and a terrible team around him. There’s been some great articles about fantasy production for backs on bad teams (Like this one at Rotoworld), and this situation screams bust from day one.
- 3.01 – Travis Kelce, TE – KC
- 3.02 – T.Y. Hilton, WR – IND
- 3.03 – Jordan Howard, RB – CHI
- 3.04 – Joe Mixon, RB – CIN
- 3.05 – Jerick McKinnon, RB – SF
- 3.06 – Tyreek Hill, WR – KC
- 3.07 – Stefon Diggs, WR – MIN
- 3.08 – Larry Fitzgerald, WR – ARI
- 3.09 – Tom Brady, QB – NE
- 3.10 – Adam Thielen, WR – MIN
- 3.11 – Zach Ertz, TE – PHI
- 3.12 – Amari Cooper, WR – OAK
You can see in the third the effects of all those backs going early with some pretty fantastic wide receivers falling in the draft. Most of them are excellent values and some could prove to be top 10 at their position. The backs going in the third are the boom or bust guys who have the talent or opportunity to be in the RB1 conversation.
Best Value: Especially in PPR formats, it’s amazing how Larry Fitzgerald continues to be overlooked simply because of his age. While he’s shifted mostly to the slot and runs far shallower routes, he’s still a lot for 90-100 receptions, 1,000+ yards and 5-7 TDs.
Worst Value: I’m a firm believer that drafting a QB early is a poor way to start your draft. You can make a solid argument for Rodgers as an early pick, but this is the year to fade Brady in the first 5 rounds. He’ll win a lot of football games, and he’ll play efficiently despite the lack of weapons, but his last few seasons have shown that he’s no longer the 3rd round asset he was in years past.
Rounds 4 – 8
These rounds are far more important to your fantasy health that the three that came before. While you’re guaranteed to grab a few guys worthy of early picks, these rounds separate the researches from the consensus drafters. With dinged up superstars, rookie running backs, and one dimensional players, there’s as many pitfalls as league winners sprinkled throughout.
- 4.01 – Demaryius Thomas, WR – DEN
- 4.02 – Kenyan Drake, RB – MIA
- 4.03 – Royce Freeman, RB – DEN
- 4.04 – Doug Baldwin, WR – SEA
- 4.05 – Jarvis Landry, WR – CLE
- 4.06 – Derrick Henry, RB – TEN
- 4.07 – Allen Robinson, WR – CHI
- 4.08 – Golden Tate, WR – DET
- 4.09 – Alex Collins, RB – BAL
- 4.10 – Josh Gordon, WR – CLE
- 4.11 – Brandin Cooks, WR – LAR
- 4.12 – Cam Newton, QB – CAR
There’s a handful of players who could crack the top ten at their position in this round, but each features a good deal of risk. While fantasy champions require a great deal of luck, there’s something to be said for minimizing risk. If you’ve drafted your first three rounds well, then a player like Kenyan Drake or Josh Gordon could put you over the top assuming their healthy and resume the kind of production we expect.
Best Value: Fantasy production doesn’t need to be flashy; 75 yards and a TD is the same if it’s on 5 touches or 15 touches, so seeing Alex Collins fall behind players like Freeman (a rookie) and Henry (entrenched in a committee) lends to his value as a potential 3 down bell cow. He’s not exciting, but he gets the job done.
Worst Value: I won’t go so far as to suggest Cooks is a bust candidate, but considering that he’s going to one of the most crowded wide receiver corps in the NFL, and the headlines in LA have been mostly about the relationship that Kupp and Goff have formed, and you can see how this may be a bit too early for a guy competing for targets.
- 5.01 – Greg Olsen, TE – CAR
- 5.02 – Marvin Jones, WR – DET
- 5.03 – Juju Smith-Schuster, WR – PIT
- 5.04 – Deshaun Watson, QB – HOU
- 5.05 – Marshawn Lynch, RB – OAK
- 5.06 – Jimmy Graham, TE – GB
- 5.07 – Russell Wilson, QB – SEA
- 5.08 – Jay Ajayi, RB – PHI
- 5.09 – Lamar Miller, RB – HOU
- 5.10 – Chris Hogan, WR – NE
- 5.11 – Mark Ingram, RB – NO
- 5.12 – Dion Lewis, RB – TEN
Here’s the best example I can give for the ZeroRB crowd as a handful of lead backs are still available in round 5. With enough knowledge and few late round targets still in tact, there’s plenty of value here at a position many think dries up in the first few rounds. The pit fall here is a potential TE run with Olsen and Graham likely to go at some point. Don’t fall into the trap.
Best Value: Can we all agree that Lamar Miller is the only healthy running back in Houston? With the prevailing opinion being that Houston should be a high powered offense with Deshaun Watson back, how is it that we’ve ignored the RB1 numbers Miller put up when the two were playing? He’s not a sexy name, and his time is coming to an end, but for this season, he’s as safe as you get at this point.
Worst Value: Meanwhile, Juju Smith-Schuster continues his meteoric rise to fantasy stardom in spite of a few important details. He’s got two target hogs ahead of him on the depth chart. With Big Ben aging and a rookie in James Washington also in the picture, it’s going to be difficult for Juju to carve out a role large enough to justify taking over other players available at this point in the draft.
- 6.01 – Alshon Jeffrey, WR – PHI
- 6.02 – Delanie Walker, TE – TEN
- 6.03 – Carson Wentz, QB – PHI
- 6.04 – Evan Engram, TE – NYG
- 6.05 – Michael Crabtree, WR – BAL
- 6.06 – Emmanuel Sanders, WR – DEN
- 6.07 – Robert Woods, WR – LAR
- 6.08 – Marquise Goodwin, WR – SF
- 6.09 – Drew Brees, QB – NO
- 6.10 – Jaguars D/ST
- 6.11 – Tevin Coleman, RB – ATL
- 6.12 – Kyle Rudolph, TE – MIN
There’s a lot to like in the 6th round; a defense isn’t one of them. I won’t waste too many words letting you know why you should draft a defense in the 6th round (after all, the Jags were likely a waiver pick up in your league). The wide receiver depth continues to show itself with several high upside picks reside in the middle of the round, as well as some of the less heralded RB2’s in the league.
Best Value: Drafting the top wide out in an offense that figures to improve dramatically in Kyle Shanahan’s second year with San Francisco is a boon in the 6th round, so grab Goodwin if you can. A lot of the buzz in the Bay is centered on RB Jerick McKinnon and Jimmy G’s dating habits, but the real prize is Goodwin at a seriously inexpensive draft position.
Worst Value: Evan Engram was a revelation last year, but not enough focus is being placed on the laundry list of injuries and inefficiencies that made his TE5 finish possible. With Odell Beckham and Sterling Shepard back and healthy and Saquon Barkley likely to require a good number of touches, there’s little chance that Engram repeats the numbers that he put up last season.
- 7.01 – Carlos Hyde, RB – CLE
- 7.02 – Duke Johnson, RB – CLE
- 7.03 – Corey Davis, WR – TEN
- 7.04 – Sammy Watkins, WR – KC
- 7.05 – Rex Burkhead, RB – NE
- 7.06 – Randall Cobb, WR – GB
- 7.07 – Devin Funchess, WR – CAR
- 7.08 – Jordan Reed, TE – WAS
- 7.09 – Isaiah Crowell, RB – NYJ
- 7.10 – Andrew Luck, QB – IND
- 7.11 – Kirk Cousins, QB – MIN
- 7.12 – Ben Roethlisberger, QB – PIT
This is one of my favorite rounds in the draft as there’s really no one here that’s not worth picking in their spot. The hardest part about evaluating it is only choosing three players I like, and finding someone I really don’t like. Suffice it to say, I wouldn’t consider reaching beyond this group of players if it was me picking.
Best Value: It’s been a few years since Andrew Luck has been on the field and been right, but even at less than 100% in 2016 he managed 4200 yards and 31 TD’s in 15 games. After taking his time to rehab and not putting himself in a bad position, Luck appears ready to take back over under center. With his track record, it’s insane value grabbing a potential top 3 QB this late.
Worst Value: This is a bit of a cop out because I don’t necessarily dislike Sammy Watkins, but of all the names on the list here, he’ll have the hardest time reaching his ceiling. With Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, and a very capable backfield, there won’t be as much opportunity for the former first round pick to really light up the scoreboard. He’ll have weeks that he dominates with big plays, but he’s harder to predict than these other players.
- 8.01 – Pierre Garcon, WR – SF
- 8.02 – Julian Edelman, WR – NE
- 8.03 – Will Fuller, WR – HOU
- 8.04 – Chris Thompson, RB – WAS
- 8.05 – Chris Carson, RB – SEA
- 8.06 – Eagles D/ST
- 8.07 – Cooper Kupp, WR – LAR
- 8.08 – Rams D/ST
- 8.09 – Robby Anderson, WR – NYJ
- 8.10 – Tarik Cohen, RB – CHI
- 8.11 – Kerryon Johnson, RB – DET
- 8.12 – Jordy Nelson, WR – OAK
As always, these ADP lists are made with consensus and compiled data, so while we understand that in mock drafts folks draft more loosely, we never advocate drafting a defense this early. With two going on average, there’s a growing trend that I aim to buck. There’s a lot of value still at the RB position so eschew the special teams and build a juggernaut instead.
Best Value: It’s a toss up here but Cooper Kupp is inexplicably being drafted as the third WR off the board from the Rams despite leading the team in targets last year and running as the top target for Jared Goff. Cooks may be better than Watkins, but it won’t be enough to keep Kupp from approaching 100 targets.
Worst Value: Drafting based on the “bottom line” is short sited, and a player like Will Fuller gets a bump because of a handful of crazy Sport Center Top 10 highlights. The truth is that Houston doesn’t throw enough to give him the targets needed to overcome an unsustainable TD percentage and a 55% catch rate. Much like Martavis Bryant, this is a bit of fools gold.
Round 9 – 14
In these rounds, there’s fewer “hate” players as your general drafting a late QB or TE, or taking fliers on roster depth. It’s imperative that you read up on your targets as hitting on a few of these players gives you the kind of depth that provides a playoff and bye week advantage.
- 9.01 – Rashaad Penny, RB – SEA
- 9.02 – Matthew Stafford, QB – DET
- 9.03 – Matt Ryan, QB – ATL
- 9.04 – Stephen Gostkowski, K – NE
- 9.05 – Jack Doyle, TE – IND
- 9.06 – Vikings D/ST
- 9.07 – Sterling Shepard, WR – NYG
- 9.08 – Kelvin Benjamin, WR – BUF
- 9.09 – Greg Zuerlein, K – LAR
- 9.10 – Jamison Crowder, WR – WAS
- 9.11 – Adrian Peterson, RB – WAS
- 9.12 – Jamaal Williams, RB – GB
If there was ever a picture of how ZeroRB should work, it would be this round. Seeing a first round pick in Rashaad Penny and two starters in Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Williams available in the 9th should prove that the depth at RB isn’t as barren as many make it seem. Sure, it requires a great amount of care and planning, but you can win your league with these players.
Best Value: New quarter back Alex Smith may have had a career year throwing the ball down field last year, but he’s proven to be an efficient passer who finds the receiver who gets open. Not many receivers find separation like Jamison Crowder who should be his go to from day one. This is a potential WR2 being drafted as a WR4; that’s some great value!
Worst Value: Thankfully the rest of the round is worth a pick in the 9th so I can sound off on the practice of drafting a kicker in the 9th! DON’T DO IT! Matt Prater, the 10th ranked kicker last season was only 23 points shy of top ranked kicker Stephen Gostkowski’s 169. There’s no need to spend this kind of draft capital on a kicker… ever.
- 10.01 – Trey Burton, TE – CHI
- 10.02 – Ronald Jones, RB – TB
- 10.03 – Jimmy Garoppolo, QB – SF
- 10.04 – Sony Michel, RB – NE
- 10.05 – Nelson Agholor, WR – PHI
- 10.06 – David Njoku, TE – CLE
- 10.07 – James White, RB – NE
- 10.08 – Peyton Barber, RB – TB
- 10.09 – Patrick Mahomes, QB – KC
- 10.10 – Philip Rivers, QB – LAC
- 10.11 – Alex Smith, QB – WAS
- 10.12 – Kenny Stills, WR – MIA
Round 10 could be called the Rodney Dangerfield round due to the number of players who just seem to never get the respect they deserve. Whether it’s Philip Rivers being in the QB 1 conversation nearly every year or Alex Smith who almost won an MVP last season, there’s plenty of names in this area of the draft worth throwing darts at. That doesn’t mean there aren’t some pitfalls.
Best Value: With the injuries at the running back position in New England and the lack of reliable passing game targets, James White is looking more attractive than ever. With excellent passing down abilities and the trust of Tom Brady, he could be a RB2 if the Pats don’t address their current issues. While he won’t be asked to do much more than he has on the ground, he’ll approach the 90 or so targets he seems to get every year.
Worst Value: When the draft concluded, many were proclaiming their love for the rookie running back selected by Tampa Bay, but Ronald Jones hasn’t looked like he deserves the comparisons to Jamaal Charles just yet. While the jury remains out on him in his first season, it’s crazy that he’s being drafted before Peyton Barber who is expected to start. With Charles Sims no longer on the roster, and Jones being awful in the passing game, Barber is a safe pick either way.
- 11.01 – Dak Prescott, QB – DAL
- 11.02 – Josh Doctson, WR – WAS
- 11.03 – Jared Goff, QB – LAR
- 11.04 – Texans D/ST
- 11.05 – Ravens D/ST
- 11.06 – Justin Tucker, K – BAL
- 11.07 – DeVante Parker, WR – MIA
- 11.08 – Allen Hurns, WR – DAL
- 11.09 – Mohamed Sanu, WR – ATL
- 11.10 – Derek Carr, QB – OAK
- 11.11 – Marcus Mariota, QB – TEN
- 11.12 – Marlon Mack, RB – IND
With the depth beginning to dwindle, you may be justified stabbing at a player you like here despite them not showing up on many rankings sheets. Don’t feel bad doing something the “experts” wouldn’t do, the truth is many would do the same thing. Guys like Tucker and the Texans defense are far better values here than the guys taken several rounds ago, but I still don’t advise locking up either this early.
Best Value: Despite being a constant on the “bounce back” lists, Mariota is still being drafted as an afterthought. With a new OC in Matt LaFluer (who turned Goff from an embarrassment to an exciting NFL QB), an improved passing game with a healthy stud in Corey Davis, and a complimentary run game with pass catcher Dion Lewis, there’s little chance he disappoints in this round.
Worst Value: It’s sad when we finally give up on a player we’ve been behind for years, but that’s the case with DeVante Parker and Dr. Fantasy… as I write this brief obituary, I’m reminded of all the talent that he has yet the inability to catch the football or beat out lesser receivers. With all the competition now in the Miami offense, it’s time to give up on Parker as a break out candidate.
- 12.01 – Tyler Eifert, TE – CIN
- 12.02 – Eli Manning, QB – NYG
- 12.03 – Chris Boswell, K – PIT
- 12.04 – Patriots D/ST
- 12.05 – Ty Montgomery, RB – GB
- 12.06 – Keelan Cole, WR – JAC
- 12.07 – Charles Clay, TE – BUF
- 12.08 – Kenny Golladay, WR – DET
- 12.09 – Matt Bryant, K – ATL
- 12.10 – Aaron Jones, RB – GB
- 12.11 – Paul Richardson, WR – WAS
You have now entered the “Dart Throw” zone where you’re drafting sleepers and backups in the hopes to land the next diamond in the rough. Guys like Alvin Kamara (who was likely later in your drafts or undrafted) are the kinds of names you hope to scratch off in what is the fantasy version of a 5 dollar scratch ticket. I’m less inclined to berate someone for a special teams pick, but again, don’t do it.
Best Value: When the Packers needed a running back and Montgomery and Williams were hurt or ineffective, Aaron Jones was a workhorse, averaging 5.5 yards per carry and looking like a true RB1. Now suspended, and sitting behind the vanilla Jamaal Williams, Jones value has plummeted. The talent is still there though, so it’s only the opportunity part that is lacking, and Williams may not be good enough to keep Jones down.
Worst Value: I believe in Tyler Eifert’s talent, but until he proves to me he can stay healthy, I’m not touching him in any round. Coupled with the fact that Marvin Lewis (the greatest destroyer of talent in this current NFL generation) plans on using him as sparingly as possible to preserve him for a playoff run that won’t happen, and I’m even less inclined to draft him.
- 13.01 – Nick Chubb, RB – CLE
- 13.02 – Chargers D/ST
- 13.03 – Benjamin Watson, TE – NO
- 13.04 – Tyler Lockett, WR – SEA
- 13.05 – Calvin Ridley, WR – ATL
- 13.06 – Jared Cook, TE – OAK
- 13.07 – Cameron Meredith, WR – NO
- 13.08 – Danny Amendola, WR – MIA
- 13.09 – LeGarrette Blount, RB – DET
- 13.10 – Latavius Murray, RB – MIN
- 13.11 – Tyrod Taylor, QB – CLE
- 13.12 – Broncos D/ST
This is where the forgotten men come to be drafted, despite there being a lot of value even this late in drafts. First round pick Calvin Ridley may be considered a more marquee name, Tyler Lockett and Danny Amendola should contribute a healthy amount too. If your league is a keeper league, Chubb and Ridley begin to look even more attractive, assuming they’ve fallen this far. Don’t forget to know your format!
Best Value: When the Seahawks gave Tyler Lockett a big contract extension, it was a bit of a head scratcher as he’s only ever flashed in limited action. Still, the extension coupled with the loss of Jimmy Graham and the ongoing injury issues with Rashaad Penny and Doug Baldwin, and Lockett could see a big increase in work as well.
Worst Value: I was a Cameron Meredith fan last year before his injury, and I expected him to make the leap in New Orleans as the number two target for Drew Brees, but this offseason has been a complete bust for the former Bear. With very little rapport with the QB and not much success even against lesser competition, he could be a roster drag that forces you to drop him much earlier than you’d like.
- 14.01 – Michael Gallup, WR – DAL
- 14.02 – Cameron Brate, TE – TB
- 14.03 – George Kittle, TE – SF
- 14.04 – O.J. Howard, TE – TB
- 14.05 – Mike Williams, WR – LAC
- 14.06 – D.J. Moore, WR – CAR
- 14.07 – John Ross, WR – CIN
- 14.08 – Mitchell Trubisky, QB – CHI
- 14.09 – Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, TE – JAC
- 14.10 – Giovani Bernard, RB – CIN
- 14.11 – Courtland Sutton, WR – DEN
- 14.12 – Corey Clement, RB – PHI
If you’re in need of a Tight End, there’s plenty of upside with any one of these guys, but the real value is at the wide receiver position. It’s impossible to hit on every one of these guys, but with so much talent still on the board, these are all low risk options with plenty of high reward upside.
Best Value: Much like Corey Davis several rounds earlier, Mike Williams was once considered one of the best WR prospects in football. Injuries derailed his 2017 season but there’s no excuse for the degree of his fall from grace. With his back healed and only Tyrell Williams to compete with for the #2 spot on the Chargers depth chart, it’s almost a guarantee that he’ll outpace the draft spot.
Worst Value: While I like D.J. Moore as a long term prospect, his 2018 prospects are poor. There’s far too many hurdles to meaningful target shares for me to invest in him in redraft leagues. Already behind Devin Funchess and Greg Olsen, it’s become clear that McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel will out target him as well. In deep formats maybe, but not in the 14th round.
Round 15 and 16
I won’t spell out the 15th and 16th rounds (or beyond) as they tend to be more specific formats that require help in these areas. In standard Redraft leagues, you should be drafting a D/ST and Kicker here. I suggest grabbing whichever is the highest rated on your board in the 15th and grabbing someone to stream in the 16th.
In case you went off script and drafted one or both previously, here’s a list of players I like that are going later than this.
- Anthony Miller, WR – CHI
- DeSean Jackson, WR – TB
- Jeremy Hill, RB – NE
- Jordan Wilkins, RB – IND
- Chris Godwin, WR – TB
- James Washington, WR – PIT
- Tyler Kroft, TE – CIN
- Blake Jarwin, TE – DAL
The story line for both of these teams has been somewhat consistent as the focus on first year starter Mitch Trubisky and free agent price Case Keenum has dominated for each team.
Mitch Trubisky continued to look improved as he completed nearly 65% of his passes for 90 yards and a TD and INT a piece. It wasn’t a world beater stat line for sure, but against a stout Bronco’s defense and without is top wide out Allen Robinson, it was a solid showing for the young QB.
Likewise, both Trey Burton and Anthony Miller looked the part as they each were used early in roles that should see them succeed. Burton’s 4 catches for 45 yards and a TD is the kind of stat line that has fantasy owners buzzing about his potential. While Miller didn’t see the endzone on any of his three catches, the young slot receiver should continue to see his usage upped as the season approaches.
On the other side of the field, Trubiski’s counterpart Case Keenum was efficient as well, throwing only 13 passes for 78 total yards. Still, the lack of depth at QB shows how secure his job is in Denver, as Chad Kelly is a solid depth piece at best and Paxton Lynch is no lock to make it to the season on a roster.
The receiving game was a bit underwhelming as the offense spread the ball around to 16 different players, no one seeing more than Emmanuel Sanders 3 for 27. Demaryius Thomas’ wrist injury opens up space for buzzy youngster Courtland Sutton to impress. While he only had the one catch for a 16 yard TD, he’s a player to target in the later rounds.
Neither teams rushing game was impressive, though, as Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen’s roles are secured in the bears offense, and Royce Freeman continues to be the back most used on rushing downs. It’ll be a question as to how much use Freeman will get across three downs with Booker still there to leach passing downs, but he’s distanced himself from some of the other rookie backs as he inches ever closer to the starting job in Denver.
It seems that lately, all anyone wants to talk about is the incoming class of rookie backs and what their fantasy contributions may be. While I agree that the topic is a hot button debate, there still exists a narrative surrounding second year starter Mitch Trubisky, and what he’s capable of with Matt Nagy as his head coach.
While the offensive Coordinator for Kansas City, Nagy took a career “game manager” in Alex Smith and improved on his down the field passing game. From 2016 to 2017, Smith improved from QB15 (15.5 points per game) to QB3 (19.9 points per game). Using data over at PlayerProfiler.com it’s easy to see the transformation just by looking at the numbers.
- In 2016, Smith was the QB15 with 15.5 points per game. This was a result of a lack of dynamic play calling; he was 21st in attempts (489), 15th in red zone attempts (70), and 26th in deep balls attempted (46).
- In 2017, he was 3rd in points per game at 19.9. He finished 9th in red zone attempts (68), 6th in deep ball attempts (68), and 2nd in deep ball completion percentage at around 45%
Now, this kind of growth can’t be expected to just pop up in Trubisky’s game despite the talk that it will. Trubisky was QB29 in points per game last year, and many of his metrics graded out even more poorly than Smiths’ 2016 season. While I do expect him to creep out of the basement in terms of down the field passing (he was 32nd among qualifying QB’s with on 30 passes over 20 yards last year), it may be a bit extreme to expect this team to pass the ball with enough consistency to produce a player worth starting every week.
Last year the Bears finished 29th in Passing Play Percentage (data provided by teamrankings.com) with 52%. With Jordan Howard a safe bet to collect 275 carries, it’s reasonable to expect Trubisky to have somewhere in the 475 attempts range. Our prediction for a full season is as follows:
- Passing: 470 attempts, 290 completions, 3450 yards, 24 TDs and 15 INTs
- Rushing: 50 rushes, 315 yards, 2 TDs
Overall, the Dr. expects about a QB14 finish, but with any young QB the range of outcomes is somewhat severe. If he regresses with a new scheme, we could be cutting bait with him early. Still, at an average draft day price of about 18th round, he’s likely your back up QB, and if he pans out as we expect him to here, then he’s a steal at that current price.
19. Los Angeles Rams
Following a disappointing 2016, Todd Gurley bounced back in a big way, proving that when given the opportunity, he is one of the best backs in the world. Of course, the Rams surprised across the board, with 2nd year QB Jared Goff taking a massive step forward, and guys like Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp coming up big in the possession game. With a balanced offense and an elite defense, there’s no telling how good this team can be.
Players Worth Drafting: Todd Gurley (ADP 2), Brandin Cooks (ADP 64), Robert Woods (ADP 67), Cooper Kupp (ADP 86), Jared Goff (ADP 127)
This off season saw the Sean McVay led Rams add former first round receiver Brandin Cooks to further bolster the offense. Of course Cooks, who’s been effective in both offenses he’s played in prior to this one, should see a fair share of targets, making both Gurley and Woods regression candidates in terms of targets and yards. Goff should continue to see early QB2 consideration, but it’s unlikely he’ll push into the QB1 territory even with the added weapons; this team is still Gurley’s at the end of the day.
Deep Sleeper: Don’t misconstrue his inclusion as anything other than recognizing the potential. Last season, Tyler Higbee didn’t see enough of the field to be a real difference maker, but 2018 could see more involvement for the Ram’s 2017 second round pick. While this team figures to continue to favor the run game, Cooks’ addition may signal a balancing between the pass and run games, and Higbee offers far pass catching skills than Gerald Everett. As a waiver wire add, he’ll certainly come cheap.
18. Oakland Raiders
What a difference a year makes, as teams who heavily targeted the Oakland Raiders found themselves disappointed as all three of Carr, Cooper, and Marshawn Lynch all severely under performed. With Jon Gruden signed on to coach the team into the future, there are now new questions that need to be answered. Is this team really going to commit heavily to the run game? If so, then why add two potential difference makers to a passing game that only 2 years ago was the toast of the town?
Players Worth Drafting: Amari Cooper (ADP 48), Marshawn Lynch (ADP 56), Jordy Nelson (ADP 94), Derek Carr (ADP 134), Martavis Bryant (ADP 160), Jared Cook (ADP 162), Doug Martin (ADP 177)
When Gruden walked through the doors in Oakland, it hardly hit the frame before in walked Martavis Bryant, Jordy Nelson, and Doug Martin. These three players certainly represent a shifting of philosophy, and incumbent starters have been placed on notice. Still, outside of Carr and Coopers security in this offense, it’s anyone’s best guess as to who’s the next options will be. Does Lynch have enough to hold off the mercurial Muscle Hamster? Can Bryant stay on the field long enough to show why everyone was in love with his talent? Is Jordy Nelson all washed up? Only time can answer these questions.
Deep Sleeper: With so many new faces, it’ll be on players like Jared Cook to help the team transition to it’s new look. With an average of about 5.5 targets per game since 2013, Cook has been an underrated TE commodity for years; one that could be a true breakout candidate in 2018. After starting 16 games for the first time in his career, the veteran is locked in as the starter and a floor of 90 targets and 60 catches is attractive considering he’s routinely being ranked outside of the low end TE2 range.
17. Chicago Bears
It seems strange to list the Bears as a “team on the rise” but the truth is that trusting the process seems to be working well for the Bears. After years of futility, the Bears finally have their QB of the future ready to take the field, and I’m firmly in the camp that supports Tribusky as an above average NFL quarter back. It helps that they added as many weapons as they did with Allen Robinson and Trey Burton arriving as free agents and Anthony Miller, the rookie out of Memphis, arriving in the 2nd round of the 2018 draft.
Players Worth Drafting: Jordan Howard (ADP 29), Allen Robinson (ADP 41), Tarik Cohen (ADP 91), Trey Burton (ADP 112), Mitchell Trubisky (ADP 157), Anthony Miller (ADP 176)3
Of course, having a rushing game that features the complimentary Howard and Cohen doesn’t hurt. With protection, Trubisky should have plenty of opportunities to succeed. Allen Robinson is a true #1, and gives them the best receiving option since Alshon Jeffry, and Trey Burton is still slightly underrated in terms of pass catching ability. We’ve seen this movie before, and the big, sure handed TE seems to be a safety blanket for many young QBs. It may have more to do with a lack of history, but Burton could easily finish as a top 5 Tight End in 2018.
Deep Sleeper: With other rookie WRs receiving more attention, Anthony Miller is flying under the radar in terms of fantasy relevance. With Chicago having a good blend of skill sets, Miller looks as though he’s destined for the slot in this offense. As a complimentary talent to the down the field threat of Robinson, he could be in line for a ton of targets as a rookie, pushing him into the WR3 territory for me.
16. Cincinnati Bengals
Welp, Marvin Lewis is back, and my expectations for the Bengals remains middle of the road. As a regular season team, they seem to always tease, and this year feels no different even from a fantasy perspective. Despite possessing gobs of talent, both A.J. Green and Joe Mixon feature lower floors than the rest of the players around them in drafts; you’re as likely to see a bust season as you are a top 10 season, and much of that comes from a history of misusing it’s best players.
Players Worth Drafting: A.J. Green (ADP 18), Joe Mixon (ADP 36), Tyler Eifert (ADP 135), Giovani Bernard (ADP 147), John Ross (ADP 191)
Outside of the obvious, the Bengals have a handful of players who have yet to put together enough consistency to be more than flier options. Tyler Eifert has plenty of talent, but injuries may threaten to ruin what was once a promising career. Expecting more than bye week production from any one else on this roster (Andy Dalton included) would be to hitch your wagon to a horse with no legs.
Deep Sleeper: In completely contradictory fashion, I’ll cite John Ross as one of my favorite end-of-the-draft sleepers. While there’s a little risk that he’s nothing more than another Bengals receiving bust, selecting that kind of talent in the 20th round or later is just too good to pass up. His 2017 was forgettable, largely due to injury, and he’s a player I’m betting on breaking out in his sophomore season.
15. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Another off season full of controversy has many souring on even the most consistent fantasy performers. With Jameis Winston set to miss the first 3 games of the season, this is an offense that won’t hit it’s stride until weeks into the season, making the prospect of adding a Mike Evans or Ronald Jones in the first 4 – 5 rounds terrifying. While the talent is there, casting Ryan Fitzpatrick as a starting NFL quarterback is a movie I wouldn’t pay to see.
Players Worth Drafting: Mike Evans (ADP 24), Ronald Jones (ADP 59), DeSean Jackson (ADP 110), Jameis Winston (ADP 133), O.J. Howard (ADP 153), Cameron Brate (ADP 163)
It’s important to note that the receiving game suffered the least during Fitzpatrick’s starts in 2017. Both Jackson and Evans performed similarly with him than without him, so that should calm your nerves when selecting either player. It hurts Hward and Brate the most as the gun slinger from Harvard hardly targeted his tight ends. Drafting a player not named Mike Evans is a bit of a risk this year, but one that may pay off as drafters let Bucs slide.
Deep Sleeper: While I don’t expect him to contribute early on, Chris Godwin may have an opportunity for targets as Evans and Jackson both exist mostly as down the field threats. Given his catch rate of about 62%, he’ll only need about 60-80 targets to become fantasy relevant, especially given that he’ll likely only cost a roster spot as a waiver wire guy. With a little luck, he could be pushing a WR3 ceiling, something that’s immensely important from your high value low risk roster spots.
Well folks, it’s July and the fantasy season has crested the horizon. As we prepare to celebrate the day of our independence here in the U.S. it’s also important to note that July is the last month with no NFL football.
Please be sure to remember that here at Dr. Fantasy we ask that you continually adjust your own rankings as the season nears; drafting LeDarius Green as a starting TE only to find out you missed that he was cut only serves to sabotage all the work you’re putting in now. That being said, lets investigate how current ADP data looks for the first three rounds. (PPR ADP data provided by FantasyPros.com)
- Todd Gurley, RB – LAR
- Le’Veon Bell, RB – PIT
- David Johnson, RB – ARI
- Ezekiel Elliott, RB – DAL
- Antonio Brown, WR – PIT
- Alvin Kamara, RB – NO
- DeAndre Hopkins, WR – HOU
- Saquon Barkley, RB – NYG
- Kareem Hunt, RB – KC
- Odell Beckham Jr., WR – NYG
Players I Love: I like most of these guys, but Saquon Barkley and Odell Beckham both have the talent and the volume to project higher than some of the guys going ahead of them. Obviously, Barkley doesn’t have a history in the NFL to draw from, but it’s clear that the Giants selection at #4 overall would have been a QB if they didn’t plan on using Barkley as heavily as anyone else.
Players I Hate: Quick disclaimer, I don’t hate any of these players as real life football players. What I hate is the price I have to pay to get one in my league. Alvin Kamara projects as an elite third down option, but expecting him to feature heavily in the run game, or duplicate the 6+ YPC carry mark is asking too much; expect regression.
Likewise, Hunt’s bottom line looked fantastic, and he certainly passed the eyeball test… at times. Still, the inexplicable slide in the middle of the season showed some chinks in his armor, and he’ll have to fend off a returning Spencer Ware for touches; again, expect some regression.
- Melvin Gordon, RB – LAC
- Leonard Fournette, RB – JAC
- Julio Jones, WR – ATL
- Michael Thomas, WR – NO
- Dalvin Cook, RB – MIN
- Keenan Allen, WR – LAC
- Christian McCaffrey, RB – CAR
- Davante Adams, WR – GB
- A.J. Green, WR – CIN
- Mike Evans, WR – TB
Players I love: There’s a lot of value in the 2nd round this year, but Michael Thomas and Davante Adams are two players who could elevate their games into the top 5 at the position. As the top target in two of the best passing offenses in the league, you’d be getting absolute studs in the 2nd round.
Players I Hate: Dalvin Cook was impressive in limited action last year, but a major knee injury derailed a promising season. Now, it seems drafters are expecting him to step back into the three down role and not miss a beat. A 2nd round price tag is way to high for a player who may not be the same following the injury.
Likewise, Mike Evans has plenty of talent, but is stuck playing for a listless Tampa Bay team that’s already is slated to miss it’s QB for the first three games. While it’s a possibility that he comes out firing, the second round isn’t a great place to take such a risk with guys like Thielen and Hill available in the following round.
- Devonta Freeman, RB – ATL
- LeSean McCoy, RB – BUF
- Rob Gronkowski, TE – NE
- Jerick McKinnon, RB – SF
- Joe Mixon, RB – CIN
- Travis Kelce, TE – KC
- Tyreek Hill, WR – KC
- Jordan Howard, RB – CHI
- Adam Thielen, WR – MIN
- Aaron Rodgers, QB – GB
Players I love: When Jerick McKinnon was brought in to replace Carlos Hyde, my eyes lit up. Recent history has shown us how Kyle Shannahan uses his backs, and McKinnon’s ability to play on passing downs could produce a top 5 RB season.
Jordan Howard’s standing in fantasy circles is a strange one as he’s being drafted as the RB16 this year despite rushing for 1,100 yards and 9 TDs last year. In the third round, the lead back in Chicago is a steal, and if reports out of Chicago are true, and they’re trying to improve on his pass catching, he could be a league winner at 28th overall.
Players I hate:
Rob Gronkowski may still go down as the best tight end of all time, but the time is past for you to reach early to get him. As easy as it is to argue he’s the only trustworthy weapon Brady has left, it’s just as easy to argue that the New England offense is going to look strange this year. With a first round pick invested in the run game, and a strange dynamic evolving with coaching staff and quarterback, there’s no telling how inconsistent the game plan will be. He’s a fantasy starter all day, but not worth drafting before Kelce or Ertz.
2017 Running Back Rankings
Updated June 27th, 2017
Not much changed in the top 10 with only minor changes coming as a result of some consistency research. I’ve added 10 more to the list to even out the rankings as a top 50. We’ll add more next time.
- David Johnson, ARI (E)
- Le’Veon Bell, PIT (E)
- Ezekiel Elliott, DAL (E)
- LeSean McCoy, BUF (E)
- Jordan Howard, CHI (+1)
- Devonta Freeman, ATL (-1)
- Melvin Gordon, LAC (+1)
- DeMarco Murray, TEN (-1)
- Jay Ajayi, MIA (E)
- Todd Gurley, LAR (E)
- Lamar Miller, HOU (E)
- Carlos Hyde, SF (E)
- Leonard Fournette, JAC (E)
- Marshawn Lynch, OAK (+1)
- Isaiah Crowell, CLE (-1)
- C.J. Anderson, DEN (+1)
- Spencer Ware, KC (+2)
- Christian McCaffrey, CAR (-2)
- Mark Ingram, NO (-1)
- Joe Mixon, CIN (+1)
- Ameer Abdullah, DET (+3)
- Eddie Lacy, SEA (-2)
- Frank Gore, IND (+2)
- Tevin Coleman, ATL (-2)
- Ty Montgomery, GB (-2)
- LeGarrette Blount, PHI (+2)
- Dalvin Cook, MIN (-1)
- Mike Gillislee, NE (-1)
- Paul Perkins, NYG (+1)
- Doug Martin, TB (+3)
- Robert Kelley, WAS (E)
- Bilal Powell, NYJ (-3)
- Samaje Perine, WAS (+2)
- Danny Woodhead, BAL (-2)
- Theo Riddick, DET (+2)
- Matt Forte, NYJ (+3)
- Adrian Peterson, NO (+3)
- Latavius Murray, MIN (-2)
- Duke Johnson, CLE (+5)
- Jonathan Stewart, CAR (-6)
- Jeremy Hill, CIN (+5)
- C.J. Prosise, SEA (-1)
- Jamaal Charles, DEN (+2)
- Kenneth Dixon, BAL (-2)
- Terrance West, BAL (+4)
- Derrick Henry, TEN (-8)
- Jamaal Williams, GB (+5)
- Kareem Hunt, KC (-5)
- James White, NE (+2)
- Ryan Mathews, PHI (+6)
A suprising start and all-too-familiar finish for the Minnesota Vikings was only major surprise from a division that’s had clearly defined roles for it’s four teams for the last 5 – 6 years. Green Bay is the class of the division and Minnesota looks like it’s ready to push them, but Detroit and Chicago both look to toil at the bottom of the standings for some time yet.
Green Bay Packers
Notable Fantasy Stars: Aaron Rodgers (QB1), Jordy Nelson (WR6), Martellus Bennett (TE9), Ty Montgomery (RB23), DeVante Adams (WR18), Randall Cobb (WR44)
Synopsis – Aaron Rodgers looks to pace the QB field again this year, and GB finally gave up on the TE experiments and signed big name free agent Martellus Bennett to provide an additional weapon on one of the NFC’s best offenses. Jordy Nelson will be his regular studly self, but DeVante Adams and Ty Montgomery figure to be the middle ground players who may put up better numbers than expected. Unfortunately that means Randall Cobb’s time in the spotlight is likely at an end as he drifts further down the depth chart.
Notable Fantasy Stars: Kyle Rudolph (TE9),Sam Bradford (QB24), Dalvin Cook (RB26), Stefon Diggs (WR28), Latavius Murray (RB36), Adam Thielen (WR46)
Synopsis – Now entrenched as the starter, Sam Bradford returns his top two targets in Kyle Rudolph and Stefon Diggs as Minnesota looks to improve on a disappointing collapse. The addition of Latavius Murray and draft pick Dalvin Cook suggest that the Vikes should have a more balanced offense despite the departure of AP to New Orleans. This team also features one of the better sleeper candidates in Adam Thielen whos’s being drafted as a WR5 but has potential of Minnesota throws the football to approach WR3 numbers.
Notable Fantasy Stars: Eric Ebron (TE12), Matthew Stafford (QB16), Golden Tate (WR24), Ameer Abdullah (RB24), Theo Riddick (RB37), Marvin Jones (WR52)
Synopsis – Detroit figures to be a better fantasy team than real life football club again with Matt Stafford likely to approach 600+ attempts for the 5th time in his career. The duo of Golden Tate and Marvin Jones is going to be difficult to quantify as Stafford tends to lean on one or the other but rarely together; Tate should be the more consistent option despite the lack of TDs. Those will be Eric Ebron’s calling card as this team lacks a true bruiser in the goal line area. Abdullah, if healthy, will carry the bulk of the carries, but Theo Riddick remains one of the best PPR options in all of football.
Notable Fantasy Stars: Jordan Howard (RB6), Mike Glennon (QB27), Mitch Trubisky (QB37), Cameron Meredith (WR42), Kevin White (WR57)
Synopsis – With any bottom feeder team, one must exhibit caution when selecting players. Jordan Howard is the safest bet, and in standard scoring could be a top 5 back this year. Mike Glennon showed flashes in Tampa Bay, but neither Cameron Meredith nor Kevin White can be relied upon as a true number one receiver. If either or are healthy to start the year you can risk a late round pick but temper your expectations.