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).
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!
Over the next few days, we’ll publish a series entitled Sparknotes, each article will take a birds eye view into each NFL division and it’s most important fantasy players.
Last season saw the rookie duo of Zeke Elliot and Dak Prescott carry the Dallas Cowboys to a division championship and an 8-2 run to close the season pushed the Giants into the wild card round in what looks to be one of the most stacked divisions in football once again. Both teams have plenty to be concerned with as Philly and Washington both closed the gap in the offseason.
Notable Fantasy Stars: Carson Wentz (QB21), LeGarrett Blount (RB28), Darren Sproles (RB55), Alshon Jeffrey (WR13), Jordan Matthews (WR45), Zach Ertz (TE10)
Synopsis – While the Eagles managed a 3-0 start to the season, by the end of the year it was painfully obvious that young QB Carson Wentz needed more reliable weapons. He receives those in the form of jump ball specialist Alshon Jeffrey and bruising running back LeGarrett Blount to complement an improving Zach Ertz. Nelson Agholor falls off the radar completely, but Jordan Matthews figures to man the slot and Darren Sproles should reprise his role as the primary passing down back.
Notable Fantasy Stars: Kirk Cousins (QB7), Robert Kelley (RB31), Samaje Perine (RB35), Terrelle Pryor (WR20), Jamison Crowder (WR32), Josh Doctson (WR55), Jordan Reed (TE5)
Synopsis – One massive franchise tag later and the Washington Redskins return their wildly successful QB under center, and as the fates would have it Cousins has a new toy to play with. Converted QB Terrelle Pryor has elevated himself to WR2 status after a monster year in Cleveland and expects even better this year in Washington. Still, there are plenty of targets to go around for Crowder and a healthy Doctson. In the backfield, Kelley is expected to reprise the starting role, but rumors persist that Perine may be in line for some work should he falter.
Notable Fantasy Stars: Dak Prescott (QB9), Ezekiel Elliott (RB3), Dez Bryant (WR9) Cole Beasley (WR71), Jason Witten (TE16)
Synopsis – Prior to last year we had no idea Dak Prescott would push Elliott for the rookie of the year. This year, there are no such misconceptions as Dallas returns its potent two headed monster and hopes for a healthy year out of Dez Bryant. Under appreciated slot man Cole Beasley expects to far outperform his draft position with another 70 receptions, and the ageless Jason Witten is a safe TE2 who could score a bunch of TDs.
New York Giants
Notable Fantasy Stars: Eli Manning (QB19) Paul Perkins (RB30), Shane Vereen (RB72), Odell Beckham Jr. (WR4), Brandon Marshall (WR34), Sterling Shephard (WR54)
Synopsis – Not to be outdone by the rest of the East, the Giants went out and added former WR1 in Brandon Marshall, pointing towards a year in which Eli Manning does most of the offensive work. Paul Perkins should still see plenty of work on the ground (and Vereen on third downs) but this team is going to pass first and pass often. OBJ will still be the teams #1 but Sterling Shephard may take a bit of a hit with attention being given elsewhere.
Every year, I encourage fantasy owners to find a strategy and stick to it. The worst thing you can do is change your plan half way through a fantasy draft. While it’s important to target the players you like, it’s equally as important to note the players you hate, and to never compromise on your research.
Here are five players I refuse to draft this year in any format.
Rob Gronkowski – TE, New England Patriots
I’ve made this point before, and I’ll make it again; drafting a TE in the 2nd or 3rd round is not a smart move. When Gronk is healthy (a big if with him) he’s a world beater and far and away the best TE in football, but at his current draft position he presents too much risk for me with sure fire WR and QB on the board behind him (eg. Amari Cooper, Aaron Rodgers).
Jay Ajayi – RB, Miami Dolphons
I was one of Ajayi’s biggest fans when he was drafted out of Boise St, and I still think he projects to be a very good back in the NFL; I just don’t know if he’s ready to return the investment of a 2nd round pick. He’s currently being drafter around the 11-13 spot (first round in some leagues) and he’s done little outside of three monster games to prove that he’s worth that kind of capital.
Odell Beckahm Jr, WR – New York Giants
I’ll preface this by saying I’m a huge OBJ fan, I think he’s one of the most talented WRs in the league, but the conditions are ripe in NY for him to go bust. Read into Beckham’s antics all you want, but his absense at OTAs and his (alleged) strained relationship with Eli Manning don’t inspire confidence. Add into that mix another year with Shephard in the slot and the addition of Brandon Marshall and that’s a recipe for disaster. At his current ADP in the first round, there’s no chance OBJ ends up on any of my teams following the draft.
Mark Ingram, RB – New Orleans Saints
Ingram has long been labeled as injury prone, but last year he put together the finest season of his short NFL career. Then the Saints draft Alvin Kamara, a receiving specialist out of the backfield, and followed that up by signing one of the greatest RBs of all time in Adrian Peterson. Does this mean Ingram is on the outs in NO? Surely not, but I’ve learned that Peterson is at his best when he’s counted out, and the noise out of Saints camp is he’s playing with a massive chip on his shoulder. Ingram should remain the feature back for now, but there’s no telling if he wilts under the pressure from Peterson or if he loses passing downs to Kamar as the season goes on.
Cam Newton, QB – Carolina Panthers
This isn’t a knock on Newton, who’s unique skillset means he’ll probably put up decent numbers when he’s right; but the Panthers addition of Christian McCaffrey means to me that they want Newton to cut down on running the football and get back to running the offense. I still expect Newton to be servicable, but he’s no where near my QB6 and I’d much rather have several other QB’s ranked behind him in the later rounds.
- Antonio Brown – PIT
- Demaryius Thomas – DEN
- Dez Bryant – DAL
- Odel Beckham Jr. – NYG
- Julio Jones – ATL
- Calvin Johnson – DET
- Jordy Nelson – GB
- AJ Green – CIN
- Randall Cobb – GB
- TY Hilton – IND
- Mike Evans – TB
- DeAndre Hopkins – HOU
- Emmanuel Sanders – DEN
- Alshon Jeffery – CHI
- Kelvin Benjamin – CAR
- Jordan Matthews – PHI
- Julian Edelman – NE
- Keenan Allen – SD
- Brandin Cooks – NO
- Sammy Watkins – BUF
- Amari Cooper – OAK
- DeSean Jackson – WAS
- Golden Tate – DET
- Brandon Marshall – NYJ
- Roddy White – ATL
- Martavis Bryant – PIT
- Allen Robinson – JAC
- Kevin White – CHI
- Andre Johnson – IND
- Mike Wallace – MIN
- Torrey Smith – SF
- Brandon LaFell – NE
- Eric Decker – NYJ
- Vincent Jackson – TB
- Jeremy Maclin – KC
- Michael Floyd – ARI
- Jarvis Landry – MIA
- Anquan Boldin – SF
- John Brown – ARI
- Nelson Agholor – Phi
- Marques Colston – NO
- Victor Cruz – NYG
- Charles Johnson – MIN
- Larry Fitzgerald – ARI
- Steve Smith – BAL
- Breshard Perriman – BAL
- Kendall Wright – TEN
- Kenny Stills – MIA
- Pierre Garcon – WAS
- Davante Adams – GB
- Terrance Williams – DAL
- Rueben Randle – NYG
- Brian Quick – STL
- Malcom Floyd – SD
- Marvin Jones – CIN
- Doug Baldwin – SEA
- Dwayne Bowe – CLE
- DeVante Parker – MIA
- Percy Harvin – BUF
- Cody Latimer – DEN
- Marqise Lee – JAC
- Dorial Green-Beckham – TEN
- Stevie Johnson – SF
- Kenny Britt – STL
- Justin Hunter – TEN
- Cole Beasley – Dal
- Cecil Shorts – HOU
- Devin Funchess – CAR
- Michael Crabtree – OAK
- Phillip Dorsett – IND
- Jaelen Strong – HOU
- Donte Moncrief – IND
- Andrew Hawkins – CLE
- Cordarelle Patterson – MIN
- Greg Jennings – MIA
- Nick Toon – NO
- Devin Smith – NYJ
- Tyler Lockett – SEA
- Sammie Coates – PIT
- Stedman Bailey – STL
Dwayne Bowe – CLE – Let’s be clear, I’m not suggesting Bowe is going to be a world beater or find himself in the top 20 WRs, but based on his tumbling value, I’d argue he’s poised to far out perform his expectation. 75 receptions, 900 yards and 4 TD’s would be a solid 3rd WR line, and in PPR leagues if his value jumps a bit being the best target on nearly ever down for the Browns.
Cole Beasley – DAL – The NFL slot reciever has found itself at the heart of the PPR world as small recieivers can have value in high volume offenses. Although Beasley may have been outperformed by fellow WR Terrance Williams last year, I see a spike in targets with DeMarco Murray out of the picture. Ranked as the 78th best WR by ESPN, I expect him to out perform a slew of receivers taken ahead of him.
Roddy White – ATL – With Julio Jones in the offense it’s easy to forget that White finished 18th in receptions in 14 games and should likely show less signs of slowing down than other recievers his age. While others value him lower and lower, I feel that White’s consistency and familiarity with QB Matt Ryan should keep him around 70-80 receptions and a healthy 6-8 TDs. Plenty good for a top 25 finish among WRs.
Cody Latimer – DEN – If you believe that the Bronco’s are planning on bringing a more balanced attack to the Mile High city with the increased use of the run game, then you should be nervous about drafting Cody Latimer. Despite his skill set, he’s still at best the fourth option on offense behind Thomas, Sanders, and Anderson. He only had 29 catches last year meaning we’re opperating on assumptions and despite my expectations for him to receive more work, he won’t get nearly enough to justify picking him at the 45-50 range for WR’s.
Donte Moncrief – IND – A fine reciever, Moncrief was already buried deep on the Colt’s depth chart, and they’re willingness to get Dorsett in the 2015 draft shows that they either don’t have faith in him or that they plan on spreading the ball around even more. I’d expect Moncrief to be drafted well ahead of his actual value, and caution that he may be the 4th reciever as early as week one for this offense.
Dorial Green-Beckham – TEN – Already dealing with a minor injury, Green-Beckham has generated a ton of buzz due to his extreme athletic abillity and comparissons to another mercurial WR in Randy Moss. Pump the breaks if you will considering he’s a rookie coming into a disfunctional offense with a rookie QB at the helm. In keeper or dynasty leagues he’s worth a stash but reaching early banking on his upside will burn your team for weeks while we wait for him to blossom.
Fantasy Football is a game not unlike chess in that owners are constantly looking for ways to out think each other. It’s not good enough to draft the best player available, you have to work the draft in a way that leaves you with a roster packed full of studs and sleepers.
In our quest for perfection, our draft stratagies have gone from basic to outlandish, as is evidenced by the snowball picking up steam that is Zero RB stratagies.
The argument is that in the first few rounds, you’re better served drafting a WR or QB due to a percieved lack of consistency out of the first two teirs of running backs. The idea that consistency is key rings true, but the idea that it can’t be from the RB position at the top is preposterous.
I’ll give you an example of when this same stratagy submarined my season:
Two years ago, I went into the draft having swung and missed on RB’s early the previous season. I saw the success teams with high profile WR’s and QB’s had and decided I wasn’t going to reach on a RB until I had my elite perfomers elsewhere.
Rounds 1-3 I drafted Julio Jones, Drew Brees, and Randall Cobb – all of whom were near the top of my “available player” ranks. My RB stable consisted of Lamar Miller, Montee Ball, and Le’Veon Bell… I thought I was a genius! Instead, injuries to my top two WR’s limited them to 500 yards or fewer and I tanked, finishing far in last place with very little value to my roster.
The problem with the Zero RB stratagy is that passing on RB in the first few rounds hamstrings you in the same way that over drafting RB’s early does: you’re too reliant on one position.
This is football, injuries and inconsistencies happen. The best way to avoid this is not through the ZeroRB thinking but through drafting a balanced offence and understanding how to work the middle rounds. No one wins a fantasy championship in the first two rounds, the win it with Odell Beckham in the 9th.
Ryan Tannehill quietly put together a borderline top 10 QB season, and Lamar Miller proved he could run the football with some consistency and catch it on occasion in the passing game. The receivers on this team are young and talented, with high volume option in Jarvis Landry and burners in Kenny Stills and Rishard Matthews. Adding Jordan Cameron only makes it harder for defenses to match up when they want to spread you out. Worth Drafting: Ryan Tannehill will likely be valued lower than he should be, as a later QB1 he’s worth it. Lamar Miller may have some competition later in the year from the uber talented Jay Ajayi, expect him to be a workhorse if healthy. Landry should be a good bet for 70+ catches, and Stills could be a weapon for Tannehill over the top. Jordan Cameron, if healthy, will step in and replace Charles Clay’s production very well.
11. San Diego Chargers
Philip Rivers manages every year to put together a top 10 QB season, and expect this year to be no different. Keenan Allen and Malcom Floyd should still see the bulk of the passes, new addition Stevie Johnson has a lot to prove and could be a nice late round WR addition. Despite Ledarius Green’s presence, Antonio Gates went out and killed it last year, and I’ll never again doubt the big mans ability or drive. Worth Drafting: Philip Rivers as always falls just shy of the NFL elite, but is a solid QB if you miss out on the top teir guys. Keenan Allen has the tools to be a WR1 and Michael Floyd will still stretch the field a bit (16.5 YPC last year). Stevie Johnson is a risk/reward player as his pedigree may trick owners into jumping early. Antonio Gates should be himself again this year, and I would caution against Ladarius Green fans against expecting any real fantasy value unless Gates gets hurt. Melvin Gordon could be this years highest scoring rookie… don’t be afraid to draft.
10. Chicago Bears
I know what you’re thinking, “the Bears in the top 10?” They may not be a top 10 NFL team, but we’re talking in terms of fantasy contributions. Jay Cutler may be inconsistent, as is evidenced by his second half slide, but he still has plenty of tools and a big arm. Alshon Jeffery will have an uptick in attempts as Cutler has shown a propensity to seak out his top target despite double teams. Matt Forte is a top 10 RB and top 3 in PPR formats, and Martellus Bennet moves into the top 3 conversation at TE thanks to Jimmy Grahams change of scenery. Worth Drafting: I was high on Jay Cutler last year, and this hasn’t changed. If you look at his first 5 or 6 weeks last year, he had some pretty good numbers that would have been even better if he didn’t turn the ball over. Kevin White is an unknown quantity but he should replace Marshall in the long run with the same kind of build. Jeffry should be a top 10WR and Bennett is a top 3 TE.
9. Atlanta Falcons
Matt Ryan did the best he could with the rash of injuries that clipped the Falcons wings last year, but a healthy squad will make a world of difference. Ryan is a top 10 QB even without his top two targets healthy. Tevin Coleman could push Devonta Freeman but both are talented and whoever makes it out of camp as the #1 should see above average RB numbers. Roddy White is still an every week start even with the top 3 WR in Julio Jones across from him. They have question marks at TE as Toilolo Levine led their active TE’s with 62 points last year (in 1pt PPR). Worth Drafting: Matt Ryan had a few brutal weeks and still managed a top 10 finish, he’ll have a better grasp on this offense and health not withstanding should be a top 10 QB this year as well. Julio Jones has the talent to finish #1, and he’ll likely go in the first 15 picks. Roddy White gets over looked more every year but he’s still a top 20 WR. The real question is Devonta Freeman or Tevin Coleman? I think it’ll be a battle in camp, and both guys should have some fantasy relevance come week 1.
8. New York Giants
The world was against the Giants after a brutal season prior, but Eli Manning still finished top 10 at QB, and Odell Beckham emerged as a top WR threat. With the return of Victor Cruz this offense could have two scary weapons for Eli to use. Rashad Jennings may be a little older than the other top RB’s, but he still averaged 10-11 points per week (depending on your scoring system). Larry Donnell put together an admirable season and the Giants like to use TE’s in the passing game. Worth Drafting: Eli is a safe bet to out perform his numbers last year if he has a healthy WR corps. Beckham will likely be drafted incredibly early, but with Cruz back, he’ll be hard pressed to repeat his second half numbers. Rueben Randle is the real steal here, as his value takes a huge hit with two studs in front of him, but in a passing offense, he should out perform his ADP. Rashad Jennings was fine when he played, but grab Andre Williams late as a handcuff if you need to use Jennings as a RB 1 or 2.
7. Detroit Lions
I hate to say that Matthew Stafford is overrated, because I think he’s an entertaining gun slinger in the Brett Favre mold, but his terrible efficiency actually lowers his ceiling despite as often as he throws the football. That being said, he has two elite WR’s in Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate. Either one can carry the torch if the other isn’t performing. At TE, they have two question marks: is Brandon Pettigrew capable of being used in the passing game and can Eric Ebron be healthy enough to contribute. I think Ebron is the TE the Lions would rather emerge. Joique Bell got a lot of touches last year, but averaged under 4 YPC. His value lies in the passing game, but the Lions served notice in drafting what they think is a 3 down back in Ameer Abdullah. A great talent, he should push Bell for touches early and often. Worth Drafting: Matt Stafford at the right price has enough volume to contribute but he’ll drive you crazy. Calvin Johnson slipping down the ranks only helps the owner who gets him, he’s still the best in the game in my opinion. Golden Tate is a solid second option, and a good one two punch in Bell and Abdullah in the backfield make this a formidable offense. Ebron is the TE to look at with a much higher ceiling.
6. Seattle Seahawks
The beautiful thing about this offense is that it’s predictable and consistent. Russell Wilson will beat you through the air or on the ground, and his ability to run at the right time means he’ll get you a ton of points that other QB’s won’t. Marshawn Lynch is a workhorse unlike any in the league. He’ll touch the ball with greater consistency and efficiency than anyone else. The homeruns aren’t always there, but 4-5YPC and double digit touchdowns make him my #1 back. Doug Baldwin has proven to be a solid #1 for a team that doesn’t throw it that much, his value will reflect that. Beyond him, Jimmy Graham should give Wilson a redzone threat, but no one else is more than a flier. Worth Drafting: This team features three top 5 position options. Russell Wilson ran for 850 yards last year… he’s in my top 3 for QBs. Marshawn Lynch may not have as many 30+ point weeks as a Le’Veon Bell, but his unparralleled consistency (12 weeks above RB average) make him my #1, and Jimmy Graham will likely be the #1 option inside the 20 plus just a tick behind Baldwin elsewhere. Draft all three confidently. Doug Baldwin is a safe WR if he’s available after the top options are off the board.
5. Dallas Cowboys
My value of the Dallas Cowboys is contingent on the offensive line. Darren McFadden’s ability hasn’t been his big question, it’s been his health. If he can stay on the field he’ll benifit greatly from the O-Line that helped DeMarco Murray lead the league in rushing last year. Dez Bryant and Tony Romo have a special connection, allowing both to creep towards the top 5 in their catagories. Cole Beasley should be a good value pick in PPR leagues, and Jason Witten is ageless and productive. Worth Drafting: At their relative ADP’s I’d say nearly all of the offensive weapons are worth a look. Bryant, Romo and McFadden all three will be drafted in the first 4 or 5 rounds. Witten, Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley all have a good chance to produce weekly for this team as well.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers
Who knew Le’Veon Bell would bounce back from a tough rookie year to lead the league in fantasy scoring? We knew he’d be good, but it gave the offense the freedom to throw different looks at the defense. They were rewarded with a career year by Roethlisburger and the emergency of Antonio Brown as a top WR office. Marcus Wheaton will put up solid WR fantasy stats as well, and Heath Miller, although no longer Elite, still has some gas in the tank. Worth Drafting: Ben Roethlisberger may not finish with the totals he had last year, but he’s a good bet to finish at or near a top 5 QB. Le’Veon Bell is going to miss a few games to start the year, but it’s clear he’s the focal point of that offense and he’s young enough to eat up 300+ touches and is a beast in PPR. Antonio Brown is the Marshawn Lynch of the receiving game. Quietly posting 300 or so points in PPR leagues and nearly 15-20 points every week. Bell and Brown are likely first or 2nd round picks. Don’t sleep on Miller either as there is really only 5 or 6 elite TE’s on the board, and after you’re looking at either consistency (miller) or home run weeks.
3. Denver Broncos
This wouldn’t change if Peyton Manning was 50 years old, and that’s because they finally found their RB to compliment their lethal passing game. Peyton is a general, and will use his elite weapons liberaly, and will make mediocre talents look even better. Julius Thomas is gone but anyone that can run routes will look solid in this offense. CJ Anderson as a 3 down back compliments Manning in ways Montee Ball never could, averaging 180+ points in PPR formats over the final 7 weeks (on par with Le’Veon Bell). Worth Drafting: Manning may be falling behind his contemporaries a bit but should still finish in the top 5. Demaryius Thomas looks to be a top 2 WR with Emmanuel Sanders not far behind. CJ Anderson is a bit of an unknown quantity but even if he’s only a quarter of the back he was over the last 7 weeks, he’ll be a top 10 back. Not sure about Virgil Green, but I think we said the same thing about Julius Thomas a few years ago, and Manning turned him into a top option.
2. Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Eddie Lacy… do I need to say more? A high powered offense with consistency and familiarity unlike any squad in the league, they could break records if the schedule shakes out for them. They play through the air, and on the ground, but they give everyone their due which is rare for a team with as many options. Worth Drafting: Aaron Rodgers may have been supplanted by Andrew Luck, but he hasn’t fallen far. All four of the players above will be gone in the first 3 or so rounds, which is scary for opposing defenses. Andrew Quarless is the other player to target, but they’ve never been a heavy TE use team.
1. Indianapolis Colts
AFC Championship withstanding, this is the most outstanding offense in football. A team that is often in shootouts, Indy has a quarterback to compete with them all. Adding Andre Johnson, Frank Gore, and Phillip Dorsett through the draft makes this offense even better than last year. Luck could (and I’d argue should) crest 5k yards and 50 TD’s, contributing to TY Hilton’s continued emergence as a 2nd round WR. Frank Gore has proven he can play forever, and in this Indy offense should contribute on the ground and in the air, and Andre Johnson may have lost a step but as a route runner, the dangerously accurate Luck should have no problem finding him in the soft spots of the defense. Worth Drafting: Andrew Luck will finish the year as the highest scoring player in football, draft him in the first round if you want him, he’s that good. TY Hilton and Andre Johnson should both have 70-80 Receptions with 1100 plus yards, although I expect Johnson to be the bigger red zone threat and higher ADP. Frank Gore may not be a top 5 or even top 10 RB, but expect some huge weeks from the old dog as he will be highighted in the passing game. Even Dwayne Allen, for all his deficiencies, should finish inside the top 10 of the TE ranks.
If you have a problem with any of these rankings, I say good, because debating and conversation is the best way to explain why we feel the way we feel. Tell me where I’m wrong, and who is your Fantasy Elite?
With the NFL draft complete and most of the big time trades and free agent moves in the rear view mirror, the ultra dedicated among us have started our fantasy prep work. If you’re playing in a keeper league, there are so many things to take into account when deciding who you need to have on your roster next year. Using 2014 ADP numbers, we evaluate who are the best candidates to be kept in your leagues.
- Le’Veon Bell – ADP 27: In all likely hood due to his DUI arrest, Bell was drafted later than the back end of the 2nd round. All Bell did was turn in a top 5 RB season and show up as the top pass catching back in the league. Bell is a 1st round target this year, and if you’re lucky enough to have drafted him later in the draft (like I did in the 4th round) he’ll be a heck of a keeper.
- TY Hilton – ADP 56: It’s rare that a player exceeds the pre-draft hype like Hilton did last year. Finishing near the top ten for WR’s in fantasy scoring, Hilton is a volume reciever in an elite passing offense. The only concern here is that recently aquired Andre Johnson may eat into his numbers a little bit. Still, I expect Hilton to be a 2nd round pick.
- Emmanuel Sanders – ADP 67: When Eric Decker left and Sanders came in, we figured he’d slide in as the 4th option behind the two Thomas’ and Wes Welker. All Sanders did was finish with 100 catches, 1400 yards and 9 TD’s. With Julius Thomas gone, it’s a good bet that Sanders will continue to see elite numbers.
- Sammy Watkins – ADP 73: The hype surrounding Watkins was for real as Watkins caught 65 balls for 900+ yards and 6 TD’s. This is even more impressive when you consider he’s the only weapon in the Bills offense. If the parts around him improve, he’s a safe bet for 70-80 catches and 1100 yards.
- Russell Wilson – ADP 84: It’s amazing to me that in Fantasy circles Wilson still doesn’t get any respect. Sure, he may not have the aqumen under center to be mistaken for a Tom Brady or Peyton Manning, but combine his skills on the ground with an efficient passing game, and Wilson finished in the top 3 for Fantasy contributions among QB’s. Not bad in the 8th round.
- Greg Olsen – ADP 94: Olsen has always been an above average TE in the passing game, but he became a true threat this year in Carolina’s offense. With a healthy Cam Newton, expect Olsen to finish at or near the top of the TE rankings again this year.
- Mike Evans – ADP 96: The knock on Evans was that his game played a lot like Vincent Jackson’s and with a lack of QB skill, he may not live up to the hype. Flash forward and Evans finished as the #1 rookie WR in terms of fantasy contributions. A freakish athlete, should continue to produce with Jameis Winston likely being better than the rotation of QB’s the Bucs used last year.
- Carlos Hyde – ADP 103: It was bound to happen at some point. Frank Gore is no longer a 49er, leaving the door wide open for the talented Hyde to run away with the job… pun intended.
- Lamar Miller – ADP 124: Knowshon Moreno arrived from Denver prior to the 2014 season and many thought it signaled the end of Miller in Miami. When the Fins lost Moreno for the year due to injury, Miller stepped his game up and contributed nearly 1100 yards and 8 TD’s on the ground, and was a factor in the passing games for PPR owners. With the passing game getting better through the draft, expect more room to run.
- Jeremy Hill – ADP 134: Hill had to battle for playing time from Giovanni Bernard who was expected to be a 3 down back for the versatile Bengals offense. Instead it was Hill who put up great numbers and enters the year firmly entrentched as the number one option in Cincy.
- Jordan Matthews ADP 150: 67 Catches and 870 yards made for a great season for Matthews. The departure of Jeremy Maclin means that Matthews can expect a bump in production. The only cloud over his 2015 season is that Sam Bradford holds the keys to the car now, and an injury could throw a wrench in the gears.
- Odell Beckham ADP 154: This one shouldn’t surprise anyone, down the stretch Beckham was the most devestating fantasy player, racking up 20+ points (even more in PPR leagues) in 5 of the final 6 weeks of the season. There’s no reason to believe that he won’t perform at the top of the WR rankings.
- DeAndre Hopkins ADP 168: When you’re performance is enough for a team to send Andre Johnson packing, odds are you wowed some people. Hopkins finished 12th in yards (1210) and 20th in receptions (76) all while hauling in 6 TD’s. Now that Johnson is gone, Hopkins is a bonafide #1 and will likely go in the top 30 picks of your draft.
- Mark Ingram ADP 186: Ingram did what other first year busts like Trent Richardson and Darren McFadden couldn’t. He finally came through for owners. Running away with the starting gig, Ingram has 980 yards in 13 games for the Saints. An offseason that saw the Saints look to balance out the offense, Ingram stands to gain the most from the changes and could challenge for a top 15 RB spot.
- Derek Carr ADP 200: I hesitate to put QB’s on here because they are a dime a dozen in the middle of the pack, but Carr was drafted near the end of most standard drafts, and with the addition of Amari Cooper and finally having a competent back means that Carr could be a breakout in his sophomore season.
- Ryan Tannehill ADP 215: Tannehill had a coming out party in 2014, quietly leading an efficient offense in Miami that only got better in the offseason. He may never approach the elite status, but he’s a safe bet to put 4,000 and 25-30 TD’s along with a few hundred yards on the ground.
- Darren McFadden ADP 218: It would take a strong stomach to keep a guy like McFadden, but with DeMarco Murray gone and no RB’s coming in through the draft, McFadden will be the guy running behind the best O-Line in football. If he stays healthy (a big if) he’ll WAY outperform his ADP from 2014.
- Travis Kelce ADP 248: There was a lot of hype surrounding Kelce coming into the season. A massive and athletic TE who can catch, block and score he was drafted criminally low. Drafters won’t be fooled this year as Kelce has very little competition to catch passes in KC from the TE spot.
- Sam Bradford ADP 245: Similar in situation to Darren McFadden the oft injuried but talented starting QB of the Eagles should benefit from having a much better team around him in Philly than he ever did in St. Louis. Just like how Foles and Sanchez had great performances in the Chip Kelly offense, I expect Bradford to finally return the investment that drafters made when taking him.
- Steve Smith Sr. ADP 248: Even at his advanced age and with the addition of Perriman in the draft, Smith should continue to be a PPR machine. He may not command a top 30 pick, but he’ll go well before his 2014 ADP.
- C.J. Anderson ADP – : Anderson was likely a waiver wire guy in your league, and now he’s the stud in an offense full of them. With the Broncos looking to protect Peyton Manning, Anderson could finish as a top 10 RB.
- Brandon LaFell ADP – : There was speculation the Patriots could try to bolster it’s offense in the draft, instead LaFell gets the vote of confidence as he will be the main WR target for Tom Brady in 2015. Gronk and Edeleman will have a lot of touches, but LaFell should finish inside the top 30 WR’s.
- Delanie Walker ADP – : Undrafted, Walker was a beast early in the season. He has the tools to be a top 5 TE in the league, and with Tennessee improving on offense with the addition of Marcus Mariota, a healthy Walker could be in for a bump in production even over a successfull 2014 campain.