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.