With the fireworks largely in the rear view mirror, we turn our attention to the 2020 Wide Receivers group, which can attribute much of it’s intrigue to the many quarter back situations that changed across the NFL landscape. That doesn’t mean there weren’t moves at the position that are worthy of talking about, with one giant move leading the way with head scratching consequences for both teams involved.
DeAndre Hopkins Shipped To The Desert
There aren’t many instances in the modern NFL where a top 3 player in their prime is moved, but here we are. In a trade that makes as little sense today as the day it was made, DeAndre Hopkins was dealt to the Arizona Cardinals for David Johnson (and some draft compensation that we don’t need to even touch on). While there are rumors that Head Coach Bill O’Brien and Hopkins didn’t see eye to eye and this was a culture move, the implications don’t change the fact that the leagues best Wide Reciever was just handed to Kyler Murray as a shiny new weapon.
Hopkins has performed well in the past with a litany of mediocre QB’s, so there shouldn’t be much of a drop off in efficiency. The only question becomes how much of the target share does he maintain with Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk established weapons in this offense?
Mid-Tier Receivers Seeking New Pastures
Beyond DeAndre Hopkins, the names changing teams are what you’d normally expect in the NFL off season. Stefon Diggs adds a new weapon for the emerging Josh Allen in Buffalo, Robby Anderson trades in his wings for fangs in his move to the Panthers, hoping he’ll get better production from his new QB Teddy Bridgewater than he did from the mercurial Sam Darnold, and Emmanual Sanders heads to Mardi Gras as he adds a legit number two receiver behind Michael Thomas in New Orleans.
What these receivers all have in common is that when they’re playing at a high level, they’re a must start, but their previous situations had led to plenty of fantasy frustration as consistency was a problem for each of them.
In addition, it will be interesting to see the kind of impact these guys have on the incumbent #1. Michael Thomas is fairly secure at the top of the pecking order in New Orleans, and Sanders should be productive regardless in the dome. John Brown and D.J. Moore should see a bigger cut of their target shares go to the new comers, though. Brown in particular may see a major loss of targets as Diggs represents a fairly large upgrade at the top of the depth chart.
2020 Early Wide Receiver Rankings
- Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints
- DeAndre Hopkins, Arizona Cardinals
- Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons
- Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs
- Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers
- Kenny Golladay, Detroit Lions
- Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Amari Cooper, Dallas Cowboys
- Kenny Golladay, Detroit Lions
- Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Juju Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh Steelers
- D.J. Moore, Carolina Panthers
- Odell Beckham Jr, Cleveland Brown
- A.J. Brown, Tennessee Titans
- Allen Robinson, Chicago Bears
- Adam Thielen, Minnesotta Vikings
- Courtland Sutton, Denver Broncos
- Cooper Kupp, Los Angeles Rams
- T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts
- D.K. Metcalf, Seattle Seahawks
- Calvin Ridley, Atlanta Falcons
- Julian Edelman, New England Patriots
- Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks
- Keenan Allen, San Diego Chargers
- Jarvis Landry, Cleveland Browns
- DeVante Parker, Miami Dolphins
- Stefon Diggs, Buffalo Bills
- Marquise Brown, Baltimore Ravens
- Brandin Cooks, Houston Texans
- Robert Woods, Los Angeles Rams
- Terry McLaurin, Washington Redskins
- D.J. Chark, Jacksonville Jaguars
- Tyler Boyd, Cincinnati Bengals
- A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals
- Marvin Jones Jr, Detroit Lions
- Will Fuller, Houston Texans
- Emmanual Sanders, New Orleans Saints
- Sterling Shepard, New York Giants
- Deebo Samuel, San Francisco 49ers
- Michael Gallup, Dallas Cowboys
- Jamison Crowder, New York Jets
- John Brown, Buffalo Bills
- Christian Kirk, Arizona Cardinals
- Preston Williams, Miami Dolphins
- CeeDee Lamb, Dallas Cowboys
- Jerry Jeudy, Denver Broncos
- Justin Jefferson, Minnesotta Vikings
- Henry Ruggs, Las Vegas Raiders
- Golden Tate, New York Giants
- Robby Anderson, Carolina Panthers
Week 1 saw a handful of guys we picked go off, most notably Lamar Jackson, although we could have done a bit better. Week ones are always unpredictable, so we’ll take it with a grain of salt. Below are our favorite picks, in the format we’ve established from week 1.
$$$: Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs ($7,500) – Against what we considered a solid defense, and without his top reciever for much of the contest, Mahomes did MVP like things, hanging 300+ yards and three TD’s against the Jaguars. Oakland should provide just as many opportunities for Mahomes to rack up points.
$$: Tom Brady, New England Patriots ($6,500) – Defy father time yet again? Check… Acquire one of this generations best receiving talents (despite off the field issues)? Check… Draw what may amount to the worst team in the NFL? Check. This week against Miami, Brady should once again look like a legit top 5 QB.
$: Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions ($5,200) – If you’re looking for a discount, Stafford may be your man. The emergence of T.J. Hockenson only solidifies what may be one of the best groups of receiving weapons he’s had since the departure of Calvin Johnson. Given that the Chargers can score with the best of them, it’s likely he’ll be called on to attempt quite a few passes on Sunday.
$$$: Saquon Barkley, New York Giants ($9,200) – Any of the top three options available (including Zeke and Kamara) are solid options, but drawing the Buffalo Bills should provide plenty of opportunities for Barkley to improve on the low volume/high efficiency start he had to the season.
$$: Sony Michel, New England Patriots ($6,200) – The Patriots offense drawing the Miami Dolphins is an obvious feather in his cap, but the news that James White will miss week 2 action following the birth of his child leaves the door wide open for Michel to assume a much larger workload than usual. If the Patriots get ahead early, they could pound the ball late.
$: Chris Thompson, Washington Redskins ($3,900) – The news that Derrius Guice has been placed on IR means the backfield will see a solid dose of Chris Thompson, especially on passing downs. It may be too early to tag Dallas as a top offense, but if they’re scoring, it’ll be Thompson, not Peterson, with the big day.
$$$: Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints ($8,000) – Don’t be scared off by the Rams passing defense after one week, this is a high scoring Saints offense with a lot to prove after having their season ended last year against this very Rams team thanks to an egregious call. Thomas is going to see a ton of targets every week, and while we have concerns about Brees lasting all season at the top of the mountain, we’re confident he’ll be good early on.
$$: Robert Woods, Los Angeles Rams ($6,400) – He may have had a disappointing week last week, with only 15 PPR points, but his 13 targets should set your mind at ease regarding his usage. As mentioned above, this weeks match up should produce one of the more exciting games of the week, and Woods should see another healthy dose of targets as Goff may not have time to find his down the field targets with the Saints defense getting after him.
$: D.J. Chark, Jacksonville Jaguars ($4,500) – They say backups throw to backups, and Gardner Minshew certainly looked Chark’s way several times after Foles left the Jaguars week one matchup with an injury. This is an offense that has never really established a top receiver, so there’s as much of a chance that Chark continues his torrid pace against a Houston team that could force Minshew to throw it a lot all game.
$$$: Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs ($7,300) – I’m not super confident in either Kelce or Kittle to perform consistently this week as both draw defenses that aren’t excellent for fantasy purposes for TE’s, but Kelce should be involved heavily regardless thanks to Hills extended absence. Last week it was Watkins, but it could very easily be Kelce with several TD grabs this week.
$$: Evan Engram, New York Giants ($5,200) – There seems to be a curse on the Giants receiving group, and Engram stands to gain as much as Barkley thanks to a passing game that will continue to siphon through his hands. With Shepard entering concussion protocol, we can’t be certain who will line up beside Barkley and Engram this week.
$: Darren Waller, Oakland Raiders ($3,300) – Waller saw a healthy dose of action in week one thanks to the departure of Antonio Brown, so expecting him to be involved in what should be a game of catch up isn’t hard to imagine. Kansas City is going to put up points, and Carr is going to have to use his athletic tight end if they’re going to hope to keep pace.
$$: Patriots D/ST vs. Miami ($3,700) – Could the Pats lay a dud like they did last year against the Detroit Lions? Sure, but this defense looks legit at all three levels, and Miami is fielding a disgruntled J.V. roster. Pats should win handily, and I expect a few turnovers as well.
$: Seahawks D/ST vs. Pittsburgh ($2,900) – Are the Patriots really a top 5 defense this year? Maybe, but there seems to be something wrong with the Pittsburgh offense, and Seattle’s defense isn’t anything to sneeze at either. With their smash mouth, grind you down offense, they’re just as likely to keep that Pittsburgh offense off balance, and hold them to another dud in week 2.
- QB: Matt Stafford
- RB: Sony Michel
- RB: Chris Thompson
- WR: Michael Thomas
- WR: Robert Woods
- WR: D.J. Chark
- TE: Darren Waller
- Flex: Alvin Kamara
- Patriots D/ST
It’s early in the off season, and these rankings will likely take on a different form as we approach the start of the NFL season, but in an effort to map the journey, we’ll take a few days to give you a look at the top of each position and who we think is rising and who we think is falling. If you’re looking for overall rankings, our initial rankings will be posted at the links in the header this week as well.
- DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans – The man they call “Nuke” has one of the most diverse skill sets in the league. He has the kind of speed / size combinations that defenses fear, and his ability to make difficult, timely catches, is second to none. Even double teamed, and with no name backups throwing him the ball, Hopkins is consistently at the top of the wide receiver rankings. He’s the top dog and it’s not even particularly close.
- Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints – Thomas proclaimed that he was uncoverable last year in one of the more memorable moments of the 2019 season, and judging by how often he was open for future hall of famer Drew Brees, it would seem he was correct. The thing that gives Thomas an “elite” label is his consistent production; he seems to put up points nearly every week. While Drew Brees historic career is waning, he and Thomas are still one of the best QB/WR tandems in the entire league.
- Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers – Last year, Adams began to creep into some of the industry experts top 5, but it still felt like his skills were being undersold. He’s be called TD dependent, or feast-or-famine, and any number of other things that would suggest he’s a product of his environment. I’ll tell you that’s just patently wrong. While he certainly gets a boost for being one of the leagues best red zone weapons for a QB who has the ability to find him on any given play, he also benefits from being immensely talented on a pass first team.
- Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons – With the whole world seemingly against Jones as an elite fantasy receiver, he quietly went out there and put to bed the idea that he can’t score touchdowns. We discussed it last year how it was incredibly unlikely he continued to be held out of the endzone, and true to form, we expect another excellent season out of Julio. The emergence of Calvin Ridley as a solid #2 only makes things easier for the uber-talented Julio.
- Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Mike Evans quietly produced one of his finest seasons in the NFL, finishing with more than 1,500 receiving yards and 8 TDs. His 17.7 yards per catch mark was the best of his career, and somehow he still feels overlooked on many rankings lists. Now, Tampa has a competent coaching staff and no foreseeable quarterback controversy, and I expect Evans to pick up right where he left off. While the 1,500 yards is his ceiling, expecting double digit touchdowns could produce top 3 season if the planets align.
- Juju Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh Steelers – With the departure of Antonio Brown, Juju becomes the top target in a passing attack that seems to churn out elite wideouts year in and year. Of course, there’s always the fear that without insulation, Smith-Schuster may fold a bit, but I’m confident that he’ll step up and partially fill the shoes left behind by Brown. I’m not ready to put him in the elite class yet, but the sheer number of targets he can expect should help overcome any growing pains.
- Adam Thielen, Minnesota Vikings – I admit that I was wrong in expecting Thielen to regress. Despite a new offense and quarterback, Thielen hardly missed a beat, compiling a career best stat line, aided by a monster target share that led to 158 targets. There has been nothing to suggest he can expect less than the 25% or so target share he saw last year, so even a slight regression in attempted passes shouldn’t impact his ability to produce. With a solid catch rate of between 65-70% there’s a good chance Thielen sees in excess of 100 catches again in 2019, and another top 10 finish on his resume.
- Antonio Brown, Oakland Raiders – While I’m certainly concerned about his landing spot, I’m not ready to declare him unsuitable for a WR1 spot. It’s certainly obvious that the Raiders have plenty of dysfunction, and the transformation of Amari Cooper was something to behold, but even that Oakland coaching staff has to recognize Brown’s skill as being tantamount to any success. Expect a top 5 finish in targets, but maybe a bit less of an efficient stat line in the end. Selecting Brown any earlier than this is a crap shoot, and I’ll probably avoid him myself, but I won’t suggest that being in Black and Silver will have any impact on how great a receiver Brown is.
- Odell Beckham, Cleveland Browns – Much like Brown, our concerns over OBJ have little to do with his skills and more to do with his specific situation. He’ll immediately leapfrog the receiving corp to become the top option in that Cleveland offense, but it’s fair to admit that Baker Mayfield plays a very different type of football than Eli Manning did. I don’t expect him to spend as much time forcing the football to Odell, and with an elite slot guy in Jarvis Landry, and an excellent red zone weapon in TE David Njoku, I can see Beckham’s bottom line taking a pretty sizable hit. He’ll still finish as a top 10 WR most weeks, but don’t expect him to challenge for the top spot like he’d done in previous seasons.
- Stefon Diggs, Minnesota Vikings – Much like his battery-mate Adam Thielen, Diggs put up a career year in 2019, and that was in spite of nagging injuries that cost him a game and slowed him down late in the year. While we’re concerned about Diggs ability to stay healthy, the track record shows Diggs can expect nearly 10 targets per game (his career average) and that alone is good enough to include him on this list. Given that he and Thielen have been able to coexist as elite fantasy receivers for years, and that Diggs has managed to score 7-9 TDs a year despite not playing a full 16 games yet, and you see how Diggs deserves the lofty place among the top 10. We fully expect another 100 receptions, 1,100 yards, and a potential 10 TDs to help the Minnesota tandem achieve what very few offenses can; two top ten finishes.
We’re officially in the heat of the 2018 season as week one is in the books. As always, there were a few surprises after the dust settled. Below are the Dr’s favorite highlights and stat lines from the games this past week and weekend.
Alvin Kamara, RB – NO
With Mark Ingram out for the first few games and a backfield featuring depth players and castoffs, it’s little wonder that last years rookie sensation turned in one of the weekends best performances. While the numbers on the ground were certainly underwhelming, with 29 yards coming on his eight attempts, he was again a massive factor in the passing game as this one turned into a shootout early on. In ESPN PPR leagues, Kamara’s 43.1 points paced the entire league.
Tyreek Hill, WR – KC
With all the off season focus on the swap at QB from Alex Smith to Patrick Mahomes, there were concerns with Hills volume as his fantasy production comes from his big play ability. That ability was the marquee attraction as his 2 long TD receptions and kick off return TD were proof that he’ll continue to dominate opposing DB’s regardless of who’s throwing the football. Further proof of his monster ability was his outrageous 24.1 yards per catch that helped him pace all wide receivers with 42.3 PPR points.
Michael Thomas, WR – NO
With how well Kamara produced in the passing game, it’s a wonder that Thomas was able to post a career high (and franchise record) 16 receptions on 17 targets for 180 yards. Thomas consistently found ways to get open down field and Brees rewarded him for it. Going forward, Thomas is one of the safest set and forget receivers as he’ll likely garner one of the leagues highest target percentage numbers wire to wire.
Odell Beckham Jr, WR – NYG
Despite drawing arguably the most difficult match up he’ll see all year with Jalen Ramsey opposing him, Beckham returned to dominate the target share, receiving 15 of Eli Mannings 37 attempts (40%). His stat line of 11 catches for 110 yards was encouraging, and it appears as though Odell Beckham has returned as one of the leagues top fantasy options at the wide receiver position.
Adrian Peterson, RB – WAS
When Adrian Peterson was signed following Derrius Guices season ending injury, many speculated as to how much “All Day” had left in the tank. His performance on Sunday should dispel any worries as to how effective he can be even at 33 years old. The 3.6 yards per carry mark wasn’t earth shattering, but it’s clear that after 166 total yards on 28 total touches (and a touch down) that AP will be featured heavily in an offense that looks committed to the run.
Randall Cobb, WR – GB
We could have selected Rodgers himself for this spot on the list, but concerns around any lingering effects of the seemingly-serious knee injury suffered Sunday has us unconvinced of his availability going forward. The same cannot be said for Cobb who dominated from start to finish in a wild game that saw Green Bay recover from a 20-0 deficit at half time. While we should temper expectations regarding the 15+ yards per reception mark, it’s important to note that despite Jimmy Graham and Davante Adams presence, Cobb led the team with 9 receptions (4 more than Adams and Allison who both had 5) and posted 142 yards and 1 TD in week one. Of course, Cobb’s continued success may rely on the health of Rodgers, but he should feature heavily in game plans going forward for the Packers.
Week 1 Duds
Amari Cooper, WR – OAK
While the Denver D may not be lauded as one of the leagues finest anymore (ignoring the pass rush of course) they certainly put a beating on Cooper who managed only 1 catch on 3 targets in a week one loss. While I wasn’t willing to put any stock in the player this year myself, I didn’t completely distance myself from Cooper as a bounce back candidate. With the type of talent he has and a lack of play makers around him that aren’t 33 (Nelson) or tight ends (Cook) it may not be long before Cooper is back in the green, but Week one was one of the leagues worst duds.
Josh Doctson, WR – WAS
Lining up opposite of Patrick Peterson will lead to some frustration, but to secure only a single 11 yard reception despite playing nearly 90% of the offensive snaps is beyond disappointing. While I was more interested in owning shares of Crowder, I understood that Doctson stood to gain the most if Smith continued to throw the deep ball. Hopefully the dud from week one can be put in the rear view mirror, but there’s a chance that Doctson never really performs like the high end receiving talent many expected him to be in the Redskins offense.
LeSean McCoy, RB – BUF
Maybe I’m being too harsh on the lead back in Buffalo, but despite the team taking a beating, McCoy was never really featured in the passing game despite his history as a pass catcher. His 22 total yards on 7 carries and 1 catch was a dismal stat line, and may be the first signs that age and situation are conjoining to destroy any value McCoy has as a premier fantasy running back. While he’ll figure to be used a bit more judiciously going forward, he’s a difficult start at this point unless you’re strapped for options.
We’re pushing through into the regular season this week and a lot of you are drafting; it’s time to post our final pre-season tiers for each position. It’s going to be a busy Sunday as we push to publish the remaining positional tiers!
- Antonio Brown
- DeAndre Hopkins
- Odell Beckham Jr
This list gets shorter every year, and while there’s still elite wideouts besides these three, the kind of production you can expect here is a level above what the rest of the field offers. As top targets, these three receivers should pace the league in per game targets as well as red zone production. There’s a handful of set it and forget it receivers, but none like this trifecta.
- Julio Jones
- Michael Thomas
- Davante Adams
- A.J. Green
- Keenan Allen
- Stefon Diggs
- Mike Evans
- Tyreek Hill
The beauty of the wide receiver position this year is that as the game has evolved, the need for a high volume top wide out has forced teams to adopt players like this as their offensive catalyst. Despite the presence of talented receivers and backs, this is as safe a 2nd tier of players in all of fantasy. There’s may be some concern surrounding the last three names, but the talent is just too great to suppress their value.
VERY GOOD Tier
- T.Y. Hilton
- Larry Fitzgerald
- Brandin Cooks
- Allen Robinson
- Adam Thielen
- Demaryius Thomas
- Josh Gordon
- Amari Cooper
- Golden Tate
- Doug Baldwin
- Marvin Jones
- Corey Davis
- Jamison Crowder
- Juju Smith-Schuster
The “rainbow” tier as I like to call it, this group of players has some of the largest range of outcomes of any in fantasy. The ceilings are undeniable as several of these players have finished top ten at the position before, but question marks abound that force them further down the list. Still, hitting on a player in this tier is the kind of league winning pick that champions have been making for years. Much like Diggs and Hill last year, there’s a ton of value here if you’re building your team right.
- Randall Cobb
- Devin Funchess
- Alshon Jeffery
- Jarvis Landry
- Chris Hogan
- Robert Woods
- Emmanuel Sanders
- Marquise Goodwin
- Jordy Nelson
- Michael Crabtree
- Will Fuller
- Kenny Stills
- Kelvin Benjamin
- Cooper Kupp
- Sammy Watkins
- Robby Anderson
- Julian Edelamn
- Keelan Cole
Before you say that such a large list of “good” players is a cop out, remember that there’s not much separating the top of this tier with the bottom. Each player is a threat to finish any given week as a WR1, but there’s obstacles we expect that will keep them from pushing into the top 10 for the season. I love the names here as depth and flex players, especially the later half of the list thanks to the current ADP on the middle of the wide receiver position. It’s unlikely that these players will be weekly starters, so you can ignore the suspension and minor injury issues many players experience coming out of the pre-season.
BACKUPS and PRAYERS Tier
- Pierre Garcon
- Rishard Matthews
- Mike Williams
- Allen Hurns
- Nelson Agholor
- Tyler Lockett
- DeSean Jackson
- Calvin Ridley
- DeVante Parker
- Chris Godwin
- Michael Gallup
- Sterling Shepard
- Josh Doctson
- Dede Westbrook
- Ted Ginn
- Anthony Miller
The title of this tier of players is a bit misleading, but the truth is that you want to be selecting from this group of players to fill out your bench depth, not as a weekly starter. There is plenty of value as the wide receiver position continues to feature prominently at the top of the fantasy hierarchy. Grabbing these guys as back end WR3 or WR4 options will set you up for a very solid season.
DEEP DRAFT Tier
- John Brown
- John Ross
- Cameron Meredith
- D.J. Moore
- Mohamed Sanu
- Christian Kirk
- Corey Coleman
- Albert Wilson
- Cole Beasley
- Danny Amendola
- Tyrell Williams
- Antonio Callaway
- Geronimo Allison
- Dante Pettis
So you’re looking at drafting in a deep format and you want to know who’s worth throwing a dart or two at in the last few round; well this is the tier for you. While no one here is a lock for fantasy relevance, the talent or the opportunity supports the narrative that there’s a breakout on the horizon. As “wait and see” candidates, the wide receivers offer a ton of value, even on the waivers in standard leagues.
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
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.
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).
The NFC South has produced two Superbowl teams in the last two years, and looks to be a competative division again with four strong football teams. As usual, the South should be strong in the fantasy representation as well, with high flying offenses and high ranking individuals.
Notable Fantasy Stars: Julio Jones (WR2), Matt Ryan (QB4), Devonta Freeman (RB5), Austin Hooper (TE20), Tevin Coleman (RB22), Taylor Gabriel (WR64), Mohamed Sanu (WR75)
Synopsis – Some may be concerned with where this team is mentally after blowing a monster lead in the Superbowl, but I’d argue that the talent trumps any kind of hangover. The offense is led by the triumverate of elite players in Julio Jones, Matt Ryan, and Devonta Freeman, and they all look to offer early round values. Coleman and Sanu are likely to carve out minor fantasy roles with Austin Hooper being the likely breakout candidate following Jacob Tamme’s departure. Expect fireworks in Atlanta again this year.
Notable Fantasy Stars: Greg Olsen (TE3), Cam Newton (QB10), Christian McCaffrey (RB16), Kevlin Benjamin (WR31), Jonathan Stewart (RB34), Devin Funchess (WR72)
Synopsis – Cam Newton suffered a litany of minor injuries and his stats suffered as a result. His expectations have been adjusted but with the addition of Christian McCaffrey, fans are hopeful we’ll see more plays from the pocket and less vicious hits at the end of short runs. A healthy Kelvin Benjamin looks to rebound, and Jonathan Stewart returns to his role as underdog, and figures to excel despite the precipitous drop in the rankings. Ole reliable Greg Olsen returns as my TE3, and could quietly finish as the top TE considering his role in this offense.
New Orleans Saints
Notable Fantasy Stars: Drew Brees (QB3), Michael Thomas (WR8), Mark Ingram (RB18), Willie Snead (WR36), Adrian Peterson (RB40), Ted Ginn (WR56), Coby Fleener (TE14)
Synopsis – It was an interesting offseason by the Saints as they traded former first round WR Brandin Cooks to the Patriots, and signed 32 year old Adrian Peterson to fill out what they hope to be a more balanced offensive attack. Mark Ingram may suffer slightly if AP is more than advertised, but considering the lower number of touches last year, one can expect a RB2 finish regardless. Michael Thomas slides into the WR1 spot but Willie Sneed and Coby Fleener should be the big winner as their targets should rise significantly as Brees is still likely to throw the ball 600 times.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Notable Fantasy Stars: Mike Evans (WR3), Jameis Winston (QB6) ,O.J. Howard (TE17), Cameron Brate (TE22), Doug Martin (RB33), Charles Sims (RB57), DeSean Jackson (WR30)
Synopsis – The Bucs are a tough team to get a handle on, but Mike Evans and Jameis Winston no longer qualify as both guys should finish in the top ten at their positions. Doug Martin and Charles Sims should split time (again) with the Muscle Hamster tackling the early downs and Sims cleaning up the passing situations. Beyond Evans, the Bucs have two young TE’s (OJ Howard is likely the most valuable in a fantasy sense) that should be heavy in the passing game, and DeSean Jackson seems to find his way onto the fantasy radar despite his WR3 ranking.