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.
It was a busy weekend with NFL action featuring several story lines that may or may not make your life easy as you prepare for your drafts. As we continue to inch towards D-day, we’ll continue to review the position battles and injury updates to help you navigate the potential pitfalls.
Tampa Bay vs Tennesee Titans
Suspended Jameis Winston showed why he’s still the best quarterback on the roster with his 13 for 18 performance, putting up a stout 226 yards and 2 TDs. DeSean Jackson and Mike Evans both saw down the field targets as their 4 combined cathes went for over 100 yards.
On a more concerning note, rookie running back Ronald Jones continues to lose ground to incumbent starter Peyton Barber as he managed only 2 yards on 4 carries. It’s been a bit of a slow start to his NFL career as he continues to make headlines for a lack of pass protection and efficiency. Peyton Barber is seeming like a more consistent weapon in the backfield. At their current ADP, you should be targeting Barber in redraft leagues.
On the other side of the football, Mariota wasn’t asked to do as much, but his 80 yards on 4 completions wasn’t too shabby.
In the absence of Corey Davis and Rishard Matthews, it was Taywan Taylor that garnered all the attention as he took his 4 receptions for 95 yards and a TD. If Matthews is forced to miss time, Taylor could be a nice deep sleeper target, or waiver wire add if you drafted early.
Unfortunately, not much headway was made in the running game as both Dion Lewis and Derrick Henry were ineffectual again with neither one doing much on the ground. While it’s mostly a blip on the radar, it’s a backfield I have highlighted as one to avoid. Aside from Lewis in PPR leagues, this backfield is one that I’m not keen to take a chance on at their current ADPs.
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.
Justice has been served like a plate of cold crab legs as the NFL announced it’s suspension of Jameis Winston for an altercation with an Uber driver a few years past. In his stead, Ryan Fitzpatrick will start under center.
Winston should drop down draft boards a bit, as the three games represents about 20% of the season, but what about it’s affect on the skill positions around him?
Mike Evans: Evans played three games with Fitzpatrick in which he threw for more than 20 passes, and he averaged 4.7 catches on 10 targets for 265 total yards and 1 TD. While the efficiency could have improved, the proof is in the pudding. Don’t drop Evans down your board on account of the change under center.
DeSean Jackson: Jackson, on the other hand, was inconsistent but still targeted fairly regularly with two games over 10 targets. It’s safe to say that the wide receiver group is going to be healthy across those three games.
Cameron Brate/OJ Howard: Brate was the forgotten man in the four games that Fitzy played. His four catches in those four games was disappointing, especially when you consider that Howard did see an uptick in production with 100 yards between the two final games. Neither one is exciting for the first two weeks, but the more athletic Howard should produce a bit more for Fitzpatrick.
Running Backs: I firmly believe this is Ronald Jones’ backfield, but don’t expect more than a handful of targets in the passing game as Fitzpatrick only looked his backs way 12 times total over the 4 games he started. Still, he should see a fair amount of touches as the offense looks to remain balanced with the aging QB starting the first three games.
Tampa Bay’s offense sputtered last year, and one would be justified in expecting some of the same this year after the suspension was made official. Expect a bit of a slow start for the running game, and for Winston himself, but draft the wide outs with confidence.
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).
Terrelle Pryor, NYJ: When owners drafted Pryor last year with one of their first 4 picks, they expected performances similar to what he did in Cleveland, if not even better. Instead of the 77 catches for 1,000 yards, they watched as he squandered their faith to the tune of 240 total yards and only 20 catches.
But this year he’s reunited with Josh McCown, one of the several QB’s who were responsible for his big season in Cleveland, and he’s no longer buried on a depth chart bursting with quality wide receivers. With Robby Anderson currently embroiled in off the field issues, Pryor will have every opportunity to success in an offense that will have to throw often to try and stay in games.
John Brown, BAL: This one might feel like a bit of a reach given the player’s recent history and the team he’s signed with, but the truth is it was never a talent issue with Brown. When he hit the 1,000 yard mark in 2015, he was anointed as one of the up and coming superstars, only to watch as his stock plummeted due to poor performances and a sickle-cell issue that threatened his health.
Now he finds himself as the #2 receiver for a Baltimore team that seems committed to improving the passing game this year. While the addition of Lamar Jackson may scare owners away from this offense, the added motivation should get Flacco playing a better brand of football, which will only benefit Brown as he attempts to bounce back in a Ravens uniform.
DeSean Jackson, TB: This one may be a bit polarizing, as Jackson was considered a boom or bust player prior to last year as well, but after spending most of the season struggling to sync up with Jameis Winston, the fantasy community has soured on the aging speedster. Not Dr. Fantasy, though.
While he posted his worst YPC number since his rookie year (13.4), it was more of a sideffect of an inefficient passing game that saw too many deep balls not connect. Jackson still possesses elite speed, and Winston has an elite arm. With Evans expected to bounce back as well, Jackson should see the space he needs to perform at a level well above his current ADP of 143.
Over the next few days, we here at Dr. Fantasy will take a closer look at each skill position and where the best value is as you prepare for your drafts.
The wide receiver position features unparalleled depth this year, and despite the relative safety of the position thanks to the new NFL and how teams tend to spend more time passing these days, there are still pitfalls in each tier that need navigation to draft effectively.
Elite Tier (1)
- Antonio Brown – Pittsburgh Steelers
- Julio Jones – Atlanta Falcons
- Mike Evans – Tampa Bay
- Odell Beckham Jr. – New York Giants
- A.J. Green – Cincinnati Bengals
There are few surprises in the Top tier so we won’t spend too much time dissecting these picks. Despite his obvious skill, OBJ in the first round requires a bit of caution with the red zone addition of Brandon Marshall. The aging Eli Manning is as volatile a QB as there is in the league and while I fully expect fantastic numbers from Beckham Jr, I would not be surprised if he has a few weeks where he disappears, which could be an issue for a top 5 pick.
Very Good Tier (2)
- Jordy Nelson – Green Bay Packers
- Michael Thomas – New Orleans Saints
- Amari Cooper – Oakland Raiders
- Doug Baldwin – Seattle Seahawks
- T. Y. Hilton – Indianapolis Colts
- Dez Bryant – Dallas Cowboys
- Alshon Jeffrey – Philadelphia Eagles
- Brandin Cooks – New England Patriots
- Allen Robinson – Jacksonville Jaguars
If you miss on one of the elite guys, there’s several fantastic options in this group. Expect to spend a 2nd or 3rd round pick to grab one though. Dez Bryant could be the biggest problem child of the bunch, though, with the difficulty surrounding his early season schedule. He faces a murders row of elite DB’s and while he’ll very likely put up decent numbers, Prescott may be forced to look elsewhere to move the chains. On the other side of the coin is Brandin Cooks who’s stock began rising the moment he became a Patriots. Despite the number of mouths to feed it’s evident through joint practices that Brady is interested in using his new weapon to the fullest of his ability.
Decent Tier (3)
- DeAndre Hopkins – Houston Texans
- Sammy Watkins – Los Angeles Rams
- Demaryius Thomas – Denver Broncos
- Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers
- Michael Crabtree – Oakland Raiders
- Davante Adams – Green Bay Packers
- Golden Tate – Detroit Lions
- Tyreek Hill – Kansas City Chiefs
- Larry Fitzgerald – Arizona Cardinals
- Terrelle Pryor – Washington Redskins
- Kelvin Benjamin – Carolina Panthers
- Stefon Diggs – Minnesotta Vikings
- Jarvis Landry – Miami Dolphins
- Julien Edelman – New England Patriots
- Emmanuel Sanders – Denver Broncos
At the top of the Third Tier are our stud wideouts who drop on boards thanks to poor quarterback play or significant injury history. Michael Crabtree may fall several picks behind Amari Cooper in Oakland, but his rapport with Derek Carr is undeniable and should lead him to another WR15 season. Terrelle Pryor seems to be continually overrated; not because he’s lacking in skill but because he’s leaving an offense where he was the only weapon and joining a Washington team that has many. He’ll likely disappoint if you select him as a WR2 as he’s more suited to the WR3/4 role.
Make a Prayer Tier (4)
- Martavis Bryant – Pittsburgh Steelers
- DeSean Jackson – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Jamison Crowder – Washington Redskins
- Willie Snead – New Orleans Saints
- Eric Decker – Tennessee Titans
- Jordan Matthews – Buffalo Bills
- Pierre Garcon – San Francisco 49ers
- Donte Moncreif – Indianapolis Colts
- Devante Parker – Miami Dolphins
- Cameron Meredith – Chicago Bears
- Kenny Britt – Cleveland
- Randall Cobb – Green Bay Packers
- Corey Davis – Tennessee Titans
- Rishard Matthews – Tennessee Titans
- Adam Thielen – Minnesota Vikings
Undeniably there are several fantastic athletes in this tier but either quarterback situations or log jammed wide receiver charts mean that you’re taking a bit of a risk by drafting these guys in the first 7 rounds. Eric Decker has been the subject of a lot of fantasy talk as he continues to recover from off season surgery but the talk out of Tennessee is that Mariota and Decker have shown an immediate chemistry and Decker could emerge from the preseason as his #1 target. Donte Moncrief on the other hand is firmly in my “do not draft” list thanks to the ongoing saga in Indianapolis. At this point, even if Luck does play in the first four weeks, the lack of practice prior to the season means Moncrief fails to live up to his expectations yet again.
Frequent Flier Tier (5)
- Corey Coleman – Cleveland Browns
- Jeremy Maclin – Baltimore Ravens
- John Brown – Arizona Cardinals
- Mike Wallace – Baltimore Ravens
- Marvin Jones – Detroit Lions
- Josh Doctson – Washington Redskins
- Kevin White – Chicago Bears
- Sterling Shepard – New York Giants
- Mike Williams – Los Angeles Chargers
- Robby Anderson – New York Jets
- John Ross – Cincinnati Bengals
- Robert Woods – Los Angeles Rams
- Taylor Gabriel – Atlanta Falcons
- Kenny Stills – Miami Dolphins
- Tyrell Williams – Los Angeles Chargers
While I’m well aware that we may disagree on the ranks of some of these bottom tier guys, the truth is that there’s plenty of upside for each of them, even if it’s far fetched to expect most of them to reach those expectations. Josh Doctson has been a pre-season darling in Washington yet the arrival or Pryor has completely taken the wind out of the sails coming into the season – expect a great value. It’s hard to bump Sterling Shepard too far down my list because the skill is there, but the Giants are OBJ’s team first and Brandon Marshall is going to eat up touches inside the 20 severely limiting Shepards upside in re-draft leagues.
As with any rankings list, I beg you to do your own research. Much of what builds my opinions are the observations of people close to the teams, and as always information available before the season is often times skewed to the positive. Don’t be discouraged if your rankings don’t look like the experts and have fun drafting!
While I’ve certainly been a detractor of the ZeroRB strategy, I certainly see the value in loading up on elite talent and a well put together strategy can reward any owner regardless of how they feel.
I’ve been a mocking fool lately (one of my favorite parts of the fantasy football process is the mock season during the run up to the our actual drafts) and I decided I would take some time and really try to hammer out a solid ZeroRB strategy to share with you.
Before we discuss how my draft shook out, lets revisit the cardinal rules when adopting a ZeroRB strategy. It’s important to load up on top teir wideouts early in drafts; I suggest not swinging at a QB or TE in the first 3 or 4 rounds unless one of the elite guys falls to you. Once you’ve filled out your starters at WR, QB, and TE is when you throw a whole lot of heat at the RB position in the middle rounds.
I used the fantastic Draft Wizard at Fantasypros.com to set up the draft to my preferences, and I started by opting for a straight PPR format with one RB/WR/TE flex position. Standard scoring and 6 bench spots made up the rest of the rules. Randomizing the draft spot I ended up drafting 8th.
- Round 1. Mike Evans (WR5) – Evans is a stud, but in the first round you get what you pay for.
- Round 2. Jordy Nelson (WR7) – Nelson could easily finish as a top 3 WR, not bad for a 2nd round pick.
- Round 3. Demaryius Thomas (WR15) – This one was a bit of a stretch, but with a big run on WR’s in round 3, I had to decide if I wanted Thomas, Alshon Jeffrey, or Jarvis Landry.
- Round 4. Tom Brady (QB2) – Brady fell to me in round 4 and I felt comfortable with the remaining RB pool to push off my first RB selection to add an elite QB.
- Round 5. Carlos Hyde (RB17) – For my first RB I grabbed the boring but effective Hyde. Despite the rumblings that Hyde may not be a fit in Shanahan’s offense, at 26 he presents a safe floor in round 5.
- Round 6. C. J. Anderson (RB19) – For my money, Anderson offers the closest thing to a top 10 RB of the remaining backs. Dalvin Cook was available but throwing a rookie in as my 2nd RB scares me.
- Round 7. Bilal Powell (RB22) – Drafting Powell in standard leagues is nerve racking, but in PPR (with his ability to catch the football) he’s one of the safer committee backs.
- Round 8. Eddy Lacy (RB25) – I’ll admit it, this one is a crap shoot. Lacy has turned in two fantastic seasons and two awful ones… which back will show up in Seattle this year? I hope it’s the former.
- Round 9. Frank Gore (RB35) – I don’t think Gore will ever get the respect he deserves, and in the 9th round I’m giddy that a starting RB on a high scoring offense is still available.
- Round 10. Zach Ertz (TE10) – Ertz still has some proving to do but his skill set and place in the Eagles offense makes him a safe pick in the 10th round as the tenth TE drafted.
- Round 11. Jordan Matthews (WR 45) – Adding an impact player in the 11th is difficult, and with Decker and Rishard Matthews as the the next highest ranked WRs it was a no brainer to add Matthews and his 100+ targets.
- Round 12. Mike Wallace (WR 49) – This is Baltimore’s Mike Wallace, where I consider him a flier after major offensive shakeups leaves hundres of targets up for grabs (even AFTER adding Jeremy Maclin in the off season).
- Round 13. Tyrod Taylor (QB 18) – I could have gone with Blake Bortles here, but Taylor put up top 10 QB numbers for a good portion of the year and I’m not keen on starting Tom Brady without some kind of backup plan in case the 40 year old struggles or goes down to injury.
Overall, the draft went pretty much as planned. I could have Greg Olsen or Jimmy Graham in the 5th round and started my run on RB’s a round later, but that would have left me exchanging a player like Carlos Hyde for someone like Samaje Perine or Jamaal Williams, two players I like but who are no lock to play meaningful snaps.
- QB – Tom Brady
- RB1 – Carlos Hyde
- RB2 – C.J. Anderson
- WR1 – Mike Evans
- WR2 – Jordy Nelson
- WR3 – Demaryius Thomas
- TE – Zach Ertz
- Flex – Bilal Powell (RB)
- D/ST – Houston Texans
- K – Sebastian Janikowski
- Bench – Eddie Lacy (RB)
- Bench – Frank Gore (RB)
- Bench – Jordan Matthews (WR)
- Bench – Mike Wallace (WR)
- Bench – Tyrod Taylor (QB)
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.