Following the trade of Corey Coleman to the Bills, it was Antonio Callaway who’s name started showing up on sleeper lists as he began to impress in camps. With Gordon still not practicing, and Coleman no longer in Cleveland, Callaway was looking better and better by the day.
Queue the traffic stop that now has him in the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
In addition to the possession charge, he was also cited for driving with a suspended license. Of course, he’s claiming the bag of contraband didn’t belong to him, but the team is currently evaluating the evidence and will address the issue in the coming days/weeks. While Callaway shouldn’t be written off at this point, it’s important to monitor the situation as any discipline could hurt his chances at securing a role early in the season.
With Gordon expected to return at some point, and Jarvis Landry slowly morphing this receiving corps into his own, there is a question to how much work Callaway would receive even if he doesn’t face discipline. While I like him in deeper formats, I’m preaching caution if you’re considering him in redraft or shallower formats. If he faces any kind of suspension, then it’d be hard to convince me he’s worth drafting in any format.
It’s football season folks! With the Hall of Fame Game officially behind us, we can confidently welcome you to the heart of draft season, and the most critical time in the preparation process.
Undoubtedly you’ve purchased your magazines or draft kits, and are reviewing the print to find players you’re interested in and players you’re out on. But if we don’t pay close attention to what’s going on in camp, we’ll miss the movers and shakers as they separate themselves from their competition.
Chris Carson| RB – SEA| At this point, the prospect of Rashaad Penny inheriting a three down workload looks slim to none as the team, and it’s beat writers, continue to pound the drum for Chris Carson. Being said to have looked like the “most impressive back” in camp doesn’t mean he’ll be a top 10 RB, but it does lend credence to the idea that he could have far more value than his 16th round ADP would suggest.
Isaiah Crowell | RB – NYJ | Still only 25 years old, it’s strange to me that Isaiah Crowell would be considered an after thought; yet here we are. Currently being drafted around pick 100, Crowell offers a ton of upside for a relatively low risk pick. With a firm grasp on the early down work, and less competition with Elijah McGuire finding himself injured, there’s a relatively high floor for The Crow in 2018.
Marquise Goodwin | WR – SF | Maybe I’m just stubborn, or maybe I’m just a Pierre Garcon truther, but I was surprised to hear that Goodwin has been performing well above expectations as Jimmy Garoppolo’s top target. Reading through the off season hyperbole machines that are the local media can be taxing, but the overwhelming signs are pointing to a monster year for the former Bills cast off. With his blend of speed and route running, Goodwin factors to be a major part of San Francisco’s resurgence in 2018.
Lamar Jackson | QB – BAL | There continues to be this narrative around the fantasy community that Lamar Jackson will be starting sooner rather than later in Baltimore, but after his lackluster performance in Thursday’s Hall of Fame Game, I’m thinking Flacco’s job is safe. He was inefficient, completing only 3 of 10 passes, and did nothing to really excite me with his obvious athleticism. He’s a late round prospect in dynasty leagues, but in redrafts and most keeper formats, he’s not worth drafting.
Doug Baldwin | WR – SEA | It’s not an issue with talent, but with his ongoing injury issues, Baldwin’s prospects of repeating as a WR1 are in jeopardy. As his knee injury lingers, likely costing him all of the preseason, there’s a very real chance Baldwin could stumble out of the gates. At his current draft capital (Rnd 4 as the WR15), he’s a risk that I’m not willing to take without some better assurances.
C.J. Anderson | RB – CAR | This one may feel like I’m grasping at straws here, but the news out of Carolina has been nothing but glowing in terms of Christian McCaffrey and his potential uses. Missing from the headlines is anything to do with newly signed bruiser CJ Anderson. With coach Ron Rivera suggesting he’d like to give McCaffrey 25+ touches per game, it’s becoming clear that they value their 2017 draft pick a little more than drafters are expecting. While I still think Anderson will be involved in the offense, I’m questioning, now, just how heavily.
Every year we examine the NFL’s most volatile committees in hopes that we can navigate the potential mine field and find the guys that will eventually rise to the top. Of course, this is one of those articles that must be taken with a grain of salt as many of these turn out to be black holes for fantasy contributors, but if you’re stuck drafting from a committee, this should help you decide where to turn.
New England Patriots
It wouldn’t be a committee report without the Patriots firmly at the top of the list. Of course, this year it’s a different look as the Pats selected Sony Michel in the first round (something the Patriots mostly never do). Also present on the roster are pass catching specialist James White, Rex Burkhead, Mike Gillisleee, and Jeremy Hill.
Current ADP rankings show that Pats backs are being selected in this order: Sony Michel (52nd), Rex Burkhead (81st), James White (148th), Jeremy Hill (204th), Mike Gillislee (UN).
The best value may belong to James White in the 15th round. With his 90 targets last year, his value is equal to that of a decent WR3, yet he’s being selected in the “flier rounds” as teams look to fill in the bottom of their benches. Burkhead has shown promise before, but his role is so undefined that I’m loath to put a pick towards him in the 9th round.
This is the kind of committee that won’t be resolved at all this year, so over paying for a back like Sony Michel could be a sure fire way to torpedo your draft. I won’t suggest he won’t be valuable in fantasy terms, but understanding how the Patriots operate leads me to believe that ball control and inexperience should prohibit him from turning in a top 20 season in 2018.
Another team that’s been devoid of a true number one for a decade or more, the Lions did little to clear up it’s perennial committee by signing LeGarette Blount and drafting Kerryon Johnson to further muddy the future. With Theo Riddick and Ameer Abdullah still floating around, it’s going to be difficult for anyone to separate themselves from the pack in this backfield.
Current ADP draft data shows the following selection information: Kerryon Johnson (78th), LeGarette Blount (111th), Ameer Abdullah (114th), Theo Riddick (UN)
What concerns me is that Detroit has typically been a pass first team, and I don’t expect them to pound the ball with any great frequency this year either. The last time a Lions team had more than 400 attempts as a team was in 2014, and Reggie Bush and Joique Bell had about a 60/40 split.
Considering the consistency of this committee, expecting anything more than 200 carries for either Johnson or Blount is a pipe dream. My prediction is that Blount leads the team in carries with around 170, while Johnson sees 150 and Riddick/Abdullah/Zenner combine for around 30. If Riddick wasn’t as capable a passing down back, one could make an argument for Johnson to contribute in other ways, but as currently constituted, I’m not touching this backfield.
In typical Cleveland fashion, the Browns front office drafted Nick Chubb despite the hefty contract handed out in free agency to Carlos Hyde. Already on the roster is pass catching back Duke Johnson, who figures to remain involved as well. So what does this mean for the fantasy prospects of each back above? It means we have no real idea.
Here is the ADP data for the Cleveland backfield: Carlos Hyde (68th), Nick Chubb (93rd), Duke Johnson (123rd).
The ADP values above represent how difficult it is to value these Cleveland running backs. Of course, part of the problem is that the fantasy community is so in love with rookie running backs that it’s ignoring how much value Carlos Hyde has as a starter. Chubb, on the other hand, doesn’t factor into the passing game, and his draft profile suggests that a lack of game breaking skills and inability to break tackles makes him a distant second in terms of attempts.
What this does mean, is that Carlos Hyde is being seriously undervalued in the 7th round. Of the teams roughly 380 carries, I expect him to handle 240 or so, with Chubb and Johnson splitting the remaining 140. The passing game should shift mostly to Johnson, but don’t discount Hyde’s ability to play in the passing game either; he should have a healthy number of targets, even if Duke Johnson leads the way in the category.
The Dolphins don’t want to be a committee, but this time every year we seem to have the same conversation. Is the guy they picked really the guy to draft? Kenyan Drake had a nice little run at the end of the season, getting three games in with more than 15 rushes and a healthy dose of targets in the passing game. Unfortunately for him, the team brought in veteran Frank Gore and rookie Kalen Ballage to make his RB2 status look worse and worse by the day.
The draft values for these guys look as follows: Kenyan Drake (45th), Kalen Ballage (172), and Frank Gore (177th).
You may think, looking at those numbers, that Drake is a safe bet, but in my gut it feels that these two other backs are here for a reason. With no real track record prior to week 12, the success he had may be no more than a mirage. With two games against Buffalo, a game against New England, and one against Denver, it seems he may have benefited from mediocre opponents. Gore should be given a healthy portion of touches; just enough to hurt Drake’s prospects but not enough to make him draftable.
The more intriguing guy is Kalen Ballage. Miami has enjoyed using it’s backs in the passing game for years and while many of Jarvis Landry’s targets should go to Parker/Amendola/Stills, he stands out as the most capable pass catcher of the trio. If he can pass block, and it sounds like he won’t have a problem, he could see a larger time share than we expect. At 45th overall, I’m not touching Drake without some kind of assurance from HC Adam Gase on his usage. At this point, I’m willing to take a flyer on Ballage, but not much more.
Green Bay Packers
This is a pass first team, so trying to target the running back to own is like trying to decide which warm bottle of water to take quench your thirst with. It’s been years now since Eddie Lacy was a top tier fantasy back, and every year someone else has inhabited the collective minds of fantasy football, and every year we seem to be wrong. Last year it was Ty Montgomery who was the draft season darling; I cautioned you against using a high pick on him. He proved me right.
This year, it’s Jamal Williams who has the “inside track” to the bulk of the carries, but what does that even mean in this offense?
Here are the draft positions for this particular backfield: Jamaal Williams (87th), Aaron Jones (91st), Ty Montgomery (101nd).
Green Bay, not surprisingly, doesn’t run the ball as often as it’s opponents. Of it’s 386 attempts, only 326 of them went to the running backs groups. Ty Montgomery isn’t likely to have more than 40-60 attempts, but that still only leaves around 250-275 rushes for two backs that had, at one point in 2017, held the starter role for this team.
While Williams will have the first stab at the job thanks to Aaron Jones’ suspension, it’s important to note that he was uninspiring with the touches he did get. His 556 yards on 153 carries was good for an underwhelming 3.6 yards per carry. While it was in a smaller sample size, Aaron Jones 5.5 yards per carry looked a lot better from a fantasy perspective.
Drafting any of these backs is a crap shoot, but my breakdown is thus: target Montgomery as a late round flier in PPR leagues, and target Jones in the 9-11th round as a stash. His 2 game suspension shouldn’t prohibit him from wining the job as he was the best suited for 3 downs last year.
The Eagles haven’t had a legit lead back since it shipped LeSean McCoy out years ago during the Chip Kelley debacle. Instead, they’ve been one of the most predictable committees in the NFL. Since McCoy’s final season in Philly (2014), the highest attempts total was DeMarco Murray’s 193 the season after. Since then, it’s been names like Ryan Matthews and LeGarrette Blount leading the committee.
While it’s unlikely to change dramatically in 2018, the addition of Jay Ajayi may clear things up a little bit. We do expect Darren Sproles to handle a lot of the passing downs when healthy, but of the remaining backs, Ajayi represents the teams best chance at stability with Corey Clement and Wendell Smallwood not profiling as a three down back.
A quick at the draft positions for these backs looks like this: Jay Ajayi (32nd), Corey Clement (114th), Darren Sproles (UN)
Still, expecting Ajayi to have 200+ carries is a bit optimistic. It’s hard to qualify head coach Doug Pederson’s track record with running backs because Jamal Charles was hurt every year but one when he was the OC in Kansas City, but when he played, the Chiefs gave the football to Charles a lot. Could that be a sign of things to come with Ajayi representing the best talent he’s had to work with in Philly?
I’d argue at his current draft position, Ajayi is far more stable than some of the rookie backs ahead of him. I don’t expect an RB1 finish, but he’s a solid candidate for RB2 numbers. Likewise, I’m not touching Clement unless it’s as a cuff in deep leagues. Sproles offers a little value in PPR formats, but his health and age don’t inspire confidence that he’ll finish the year healthy.
The Big Finish
While these backs will cost you far less draft capital than some of their contemporaries, it’s important to stay grounded. Overvaluing players because of the research your doing now can cost you big time if you hold on to them too long. These are the perfect players to throw darts at because you can drop them pretty quick. As always, adjust your rankings accordingly (maybe with a few of these guys highlighted), and happy drafting!
When Jason Witten announced his retirement prior to the draft this year, it signaled the end of an era in Dallas. Gone is his steady fantasy production, and instead, Dallas is left with a massive void that has yet to be shored up.
So who should we look at in the late rounds as his potential replacement?
The fact is that this team is devoid of any real obvious choices. For a time, converted basketball player Rico Gathers was garnering attention for his size and athleticism. Likewise, Geoff Swaim, the longest serving member of Dallas’ tight end group, has generated some buzz for his ability to stay on the field as an above average run blocker.
But do any of the incumbents have what it takes to be fantasy relevant?
It’s important to note that the group of players vying for “starter” minutes is about 4 deep. Early depth charts list Swaim as the first option, but from there things get interesting. CBS Sports lists 24 year old former Alabama TE Blake Jarwin ahead of rookie Dalton Schultz and the aforementioned Gathers, despite playing only 3 snaps as an undrafted free agent.
A recent article published at Dallas News made light of the fact that it’s been Jarwin, not Swaim or Gathers, that has been targeted the most in the pre-season by Prescott. Does this kind of chemistry trump the intangibles that Swaim brings to the table in the run game?
While I fully expect Swaim to be the first choice thanks to his acumen in the rushing game, I’ll be keeping an eye on Jarwin to be the kind of player who can step into that safety net roll Witten inhabited for years. Clearly, if the off season reports are to be believed, Jarwin’s rapport with Prescott has impressed already. I wouldn’t suggest drafting him, except maybe in the deepest leagues, but I do suggest monitoring this group as Dallas continues to try and replace the production it lost when Witten retired.
9. Houston Texans
The Texan’s playoff hopes were dashed the moment the team announced budding superstar Deshaun Watson would miss the remainder of the 2017 season with a non-contact ACL tear. What we were witnessing up until that point was nothing sort of miraculous, and the lack of a larger sample size has led many pundits to argue the pro’s and con’s a little more loudly than for some other players.
Players Worth Drafting: DeAndre Hopkins (ADP 8), Deshaun Watson (ADP 45), Lamar Miller (ADP 73), Will Fuller (ADP 79), D’Onta Foreman (ADP 115)
While DeAndre Hopkins is one of the safest bets in any league format, predicting how much regression to expect for Watson is the hardest thing to do. As others have been so quick to point out, Watson’s 2017 pace had him finishing with just under 500 attempts, which when accounting for regression should scare those who are willing to draft him early. The same can be said for Will Fuller who’s ceiling may be sky high, but his bust weeks could be more numerous than other guys in his draft area.
Deep Sleeper: One of my favorite sleepers last year, D’Onta Foreman was hit with the injury bug as well, rupturing his achilles to end his season. While he certainly flashed at times, his usage remained inconsistent despite Lamar Miller’s numerous ailments. I expect that at some point this season Foreman should gain at least a split in the carries, if not a larger time share than that. Blessed with three down talent, he’s one opportunity away from stealing the full time gig.
8. New Orleans Saints
A perennial powerhouse when it comes to churning out fantasy studs, New Orleans looks poised to do so again this year with 2nd year back Alvin Kamara ready to take a larger portion of the offense on, especially in the absence of Ingram who will serve a suspension to start the year. As always, this team goes as far as Drew Brees takes them, and the consistency remains despite his advanced age.
Players Worth Drafting: Alvin Kamara (ADP 6), Michael Thomas (ADP 16), Mark Ingram (ADP 57), Drew Brees (ADP 75), Ted Ginn Jr. (ADP 156), Cameron Meredith (ADP 168), Ben Watson (ADP 182)
Still one of my favorite fantasy commodities, Michael Thomas should return as a fantasy stud, even with Cameron Meredith brought in to bolster this offense. Expecting this team to run the football as much as it did last year would be a bit foolish given the explosiveness this team features in the passing game. Expect a bit of a down turn in Ingram’s usage when he returns from his suspension.
Deep Sleeper: Before the season, I was hyper critical of Ted Ginn’s one dimensional game, and while he was successful last year, Cameron Meredith was brought in to provide a more traditional number two option in the passing game. While his health will certainly be in question, the talent that had him one of the trendier picks prior to his season ending injury in 2017 remains. With an elite QB throwing him the football, he’s a safe bet to out perform his ADP.
7. Pittsburgh Steelers
Is it any surprise that, despite the issues with depth, a team featuring two of the top five players on the planet would finish as a top 10 ranked fantasy juggernaut? We all know what Bell and Brown bring to the table, and Ben Roethlisberger should continue to be boring but reliable. It’s the rest of the offense that presents the biggest risk as well as opportunity.
Players Worth Drafting: Le’Veon Bell (ADP 1), Antonio Brown (ADP 5), Juju Smith-Schuster (ADP 44), Ben Roethlisberger (ADP 89), Vance McDonald (ADP 169), James Washington (ADP 192)
with Bell threatening to hold out for much of the preseason, the question becomes how quickly will he hit the ground running? I doubt there will be much of an impact; this team and it’s offense hasn’t changed much in the last few years, and Bell’s talent trumps any other circumstance. The passing game does have a huge hole at tight end, though, with neither Jesse James or Vance McDonald being worth drafting in almost any format.
Deep Sleeper: This roster consists of a mostly top-heavy spread of talent, so choosing a deep sleeper is difficult. If you’re like me, and the issues surrounding Bell concern you, it’s not hard to see the value in his backup; James Conner. Already, rumblings about how well Conner has looked in off season programs have been surfacing, so either the Steelers are trying to motivate Bell or their preparing for life without him. Either way, any back with the kind of volume a Pittsburgh back has is worth a flier in case Conner sees extended time on the field.
6. Kansas City Chiefs
A breakout year across the board, the Chiefs cut bait with former first overall pick Alex Smith and instead are going to roll with Pat Mahomes as their young gunslinger of the future. Gifted with a monster arm, Mahomes may be better suited for this offense than his predecessor, especially given the addition of Sammy Watkins.
Players Worth Drafting: Kareem Hunt (ADP 10), Travis Kelce (ADP 26), Tyreek Hill (ADP 27), Sammy Watkins (ADP 74), Patrick Mahomes (ADP 113)
With so much speed and so many weapons, it’d be important to caution anyone about over drafting Kareem Hunt. Despite his massive numbers in his rookie year, consistency was never a given, and with Spencer Ware returning to the fold and Charcandarick West still on the squad, it’ll be difficult for Hunt to return with the volume he had last year. Getting a piece of the Chiefs offense may seem like a good idea, but only at the right price.
Deep Sleeper: The fact that Spencer Ware isn’t on anyone’s radar this off season speaks to the impressive nature of Kareen Hunts 2017 season. What it doesn’t account for is that Ware looked might impressive himself when he had the starting gig down the stretch in 2016. What should start as some kind of committee, there’s no way to discount the player that Ware is. While I doubt Hunt falters enough for Ware to take over 100%, any struggle should give Ware time on the field. Should he prove himself, Ware would be a steal in that offense.
5. Carolina Panthers
So I’m man enough to admit that I was wrong about Christian McCaffrey when I tried to talk folks out of drafting him. What I’m not wrong about is the effect C.J. Anderson’s arrival will have on his rushing statistics. When the team brought him in to replace the departed James Stewart, it signaled that McCaffrey would not inherit the first and second downs like many expected.
Players Worth Drafting: Christian McCaffrey (ADP 20), Greg Olsen (ADP 54), Cam Newton (ADP 60), Devin Funchess (ADP 81), C.J. Anderson (ADP 138), D.J. Moore (ADP 146)
Cam Newton, however, should benefit from the additional weapons. Both Anderson’s ability to refocus opposing defenses and D.J. Moore providing a potential #1 WR should make Cam an even safer bet this year to finish as a top five quarterback. I’m bullish on all three of them to far outperform their price on draft day, while less so on McCaffrey and Olsen.
Deep Sleeper: As mentioned above, I believe in the talent that D.J. Moore has, and there’s a reason why Carolina traded up to get him. With Funchess not really possessing the elite receiver profile, he’ll have opportunities early and often to steal a larger portion of targets than most of his fellow rookie receivers.
CJ Anderson | CAR – ADP 92 – RB43|
Never finishing a season at less than 4 yards per carry, Anderson’s career best 1,000 yard season last year seems to be a distant memory for drafters as he’s being disrespected to the tune of a RB4 ranking. He won’t see many passing down plays, but Carolina signed him to compliment McCaffrey on the ground and in the red zone. With RB2 potential even if McCaffrey is healthy, this is a player I’ll have my eyes on.
Bilal Powell | NYJ – ADP 160 – RB51 |
The addition of Isaiah Crowell in New York has many in the fantasy community souring on Powell’s upside. Not the Dr. With Crowell proving to be no more than a between the tackles plodder, Powell will likely return to the complimentary role that landed him on fantasy radars to begin with. A return to 60 or so receptions and a time share in the backfield that should see him hit 100-125 rushes, he may not be a weekly start, but he’ll be a valuable flex piece with plenty of upside should Crowell prove ineffective on first and second down.
Kalen Ballage | MIA – ADP Undrafted – RB61|
You may ask yourself why I’m so high on a player who’s at best third on his teams depth chart. The short answer is that I think he’s the best back they’ve got. He’s got the surprising speed for his size, turning in a 4.46 at 6’2″ 230lbs, and he’s far and away the best pass catcher on the team, giving him the best opportunity to steal plays if he can work his way into the third down role exclusively. While he’s beginning to creep onto the communities radar (Matthew Berry lists him with sleeper potential), the potential to grab a bell cow back late in drafts is too good to pass up.
Honorable Mention: Kenneth Dixon was supposed to be the guy in Baltimore, but a series of injuries and off the field issues opened the door for Alex Collins to succeed in his stead. Still, the Raven’s unwillingness to move on from Dixon signals to me that they still believe in the back, a great low risk play in round 13 of your draft.
Last year I was 1 for 3 on my hidden gems with Carson Wentz success keeping me from a shutout after Eli Manning and Joe Flacco both stunk up the join. This year we plan to do better.
Ben Roethlisberger – Pittsburgh Steelers | ADP 119 – QB 15 |
While the clock is ticking on Big Ben’s career, his current ranking feels like a premature declaration that he’s no longer elite in fantasy terms. His per game performances over the last three years prove that he’s still producing at a high level and my expectation is that he continues to rack up points on the backs of his elite supporting case. Prediction: 4,400 – 35 TD – 12 INT
Mitch Trubisky – Chicago Bears | ADP 178 – QB 24 |
Don’t look too closely at the lack of success Trubisky had last year following his promotion to starter. His numbers were mainly a product of a conservative approach and lack of weapons. This year, new head coach Matt Nagy will be tasked with improving the passing game, and additions like Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel in free agency and Anthony Miller during the draft mean Trubisky has a true stable of receivers to play with. While I won’t predict the same jump as Goff, something similar is in the cards. Prediction: 3,900 yards, 27 TD – 10 INT
Case Keenum – Denver Broncos | ADP 143 – QB 19 |
Going into the off season, I expected Case Keenum’s price to rise into the “no way no how” territory, but a very quick glance proves that this is not the case. Despite being rewarded for his success in 2017, the newest starting QB for the Broncos is being ranked as a mid level QB2. In Denver, he’ll have a very good receiving corps that still features studs like Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, as well as a capable backfield headlined by rookie Royce Freeman. I don’t expect a QB1 finish for Keenum, but wouldn’t be surprised to see plenty of teams benefit from having him come playoff time. Prediction: 3,700 yards, 25 TD, 7 INT
While the season still sits firmly on the horizon, fantasy nerds like myself help prop up the early season ADP data by grinding mock drafts despite having very little information to work with. While I’ll still examine each position with the “hidden gem” feature articles later in the summer, we’re going to provide sleeper updates on a monthly basis until the season begins.
Ryan Tannehill, MIA: Don’t confuse his inclusion on this list as a suggestion that the Dolphins are a team on the rise; because they’re not. What he is, though, is a potential top 15 fantasy quarterback available in the last few rounds of your draft. Ignoring last season, Tannehill has finished 13th (2013), 7th (2014), and 15th (2015), and turned in a dud in 2016 as the QB25 (he did miss 3 games). Those aren’t world beater numbers, but considering the relatively easy schedule he’ll face, and his ability to generate surprising yards on the ground (he averages around 200 yards per season) his floor is well above what we may expect from a player being drafted currently in the 21st round of deep drafts. As a bench player, he costs very little draft capital, but provides more upside than the other QB’s being drafted in a similar spot.
Matt Ryan, ATL: A massive drop off from his QB2 finish in 2016, Ryan’s 2017 has scared off potential suitors and saw him drop to the QB16 spot per current consensus ADP data. No longer playing with the pressures of the QB who blew the biggest super bowl lead, Ryan is poised to bounce back. Atlanta returns it’s superstar backfield, still has Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu, and added Calvin Ridley at the draft, marking a very clear focus on surrounding Matty Ice with weapons. A return to the high flying offensive numbers of 2016 may be a stretch, but I’d find it hard to believe if Ryan turns in another dud this year. I fully expect a top 10 QB finish, and one that can be added in the 11th round of your draft.
Ty Montgomery, GB: I know I was derisive of Montgomery last year, but in spite of that, his current ranking (RB59, ADP – 100) is criminally low for a back that many viewed as a top 20 back last year before injuries derailed his season. While he remains an injury risk, a health Montgomery should resume his lead back role in 2018, especially in the passing game. It doesn’t hurt that he’ll be catching passes from the best QB in the game right now. If you need to add depth at the RB position, or punted on early round backs, Montgomery may help bail out a roster.
Marlon Mack, IND: While Mack was a trendy sleeper pick last year behind the aging Frank Gore, his performance over the season left a lot to be desired. In 16 games Mack garnered double digit touches only twice (in week 1 and week 8) otherwise he was an after thought in a terrible Colts offense. Now, he’s in line to be the lead back with Gore leaving for Miami, and the news that he’s fully recovered from surgery to repair a torn labrum he played the season with further cements his “sleeper” status in my mind. Even if Andrew Luck remains on the shelf, in the 8th round of drafts (ADP of 77th overall), Mack provides a solid floor while presenting plenty of upside.
Devante Parker, MIA: Last year, Parker was drafted with the expectation that he’d take a leap into the positions top 20; instead he was saddled with horrendous quarterback play and inconsistent targets following the season ending ACL injury suffered by Ryan Tannehill. While Tannehill doesn’t present much of an upgrade over Jay Cutler and co in terms of real football, he does have a great rapport with Parker. Coupled with a relatively easy schedule, an Parker is a steal at 104 overall.
Cole Beasley, DAL: Another tumultuous offseason for the Cowboys saw franchise corner stone Dez Bryant leave via free agency and Jason Witten retired. Despite the addition of Allen Hurns, the player who stands to gain the most from the absence should be Cole Beasley. After leading the team in targets in 2016, Beasley felt the effects of the Elliott suspension hard as the season saw him finish with only 36 catches on 63 targets. Let’s not forget, though, that the diminutive slot man led the team in targets in 2016 and saw a healthy 75 targets the year before. Expecting 80+ targets shouldn’t be too difficult a prediction considering that Dak Prescott has to throw to somebody and Beasely represents the best option for slot work on a run first team. Basically an afterthought in drafts so far, Beasley can be had for the low low price of nothing.
David Njoku, Cle: Coming out of college Njoku seemed like a lock to contribute right out of the gates, but as we so often find out, rookies are a crap shoot in fantasy. Now, the word is that targets are going to be scarce for the talented tight end, thanks to three very good receivers and two capable pass catching backs on the roster. I’d argue that with Tyrod Taylor’s propensity to scramble with the football, Njoku could be a nice target for owners looking to add TE depth late in drafts. While he likely won’t finish in the top 15 at the position, he’ll probably see a healthy number of targets in the red zone, giving him value regardless.
Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, Jac: One of these days my Sefarian-Jenkins take is going to pay off in spades, and this year looks like it’s the year. Uber talented, Sefarian-Jenkins toiled away on a Jets team that couldn’t get consistency on offense no matter how hard it tried. It was recently revealed that ASJ suffered from substance abuse issues that he’s since sought help for and claims that he’s sober and focused on football for the first time as a pro. Color me intrigued as an involved Sefarian-Jenkins could be a monster in fantasy, especially given the lack of top tier weapons in Jacksonville following Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns departures. A late round target, he’ll cost you next to nothing to acquire but could be a massive piece of a championship run.
With the NFL season creeping ever closer, we’ll examine current consensus ADP data provided by Fantasypros.com to discuss the players we love and the players we hate based on where they’re being drafted.
- Carolina Panthers DST
- Darren Sproles
- John Ross
- Mason Crosby
- Graham Gano
- Carson Palmer
- Joe Williams
- Zay Jones
- Taylor Gabriel
- Coby Fleener
Player I Love – Zay Jones: Maybe it’s low hanging fruit, but with Sammy Watkins gone and Jordan Matthews nursing a broken sternum, Jones has a very real chance to start the year as the top WR by default. While I doubt he’ll have enough work to be a top 20 WR, he’ll far out perform his late draft position.
Player I Hate – Coby Fleener: The hype should have died a long time ago, but Fleener found himself in the enviable position of catching passes from Drew Brees and fantasy fan boys were salivating. Sadly Fleener was NOT the second coming of Jimmy Graham, and all he offers is the occasional big week when he catches a touch down. The TE position has great depth and Fleener just isn’t that good.
- Cole Beasley
- Tyler Lockett
- Cairo Santos
- Jonathan Williams
- Austin Hooper
- Steven Hauschka
- Adam Vinatieri
- Kenny Golladay
- Sebastian Janikowski
- Julius Thomas
Player I Love – Cole Beasley: Do you think he’ll lead the Dallas passing attack in targets and catches again? Me either, but let’s be honest; he’s being drafted in the 17th round! As the second option in that offense, Beasley should be inline for another 70 or so catches, giving him big time PPR value.
Player I Hate – All the Kickers in this round: Okay, it’s a cop out, but I like all of the skill position players in this round and I hate taking kickers early. That being said, this late in drafts there’s very little downside to grabbing a high value player even if it IS a kicker, but I’d rather one of the other guys.
- Cameron Brate
- Giovani Bernard
- Josh Doctson
- Baltimore Ravens
- Rex Burkhead
- J.J. Nelson
- Los Angeles Rams DST
- Will Lutz
- Pittsburgh Steelers DST
- Jared Cook
Player I Love – Rex Burkhead: The news that Mike Gillislee is “100%” is a bit disconcerting, but the bottom line is Burkhead has looked fantastic in what work he’s gotten and Gillislee hasn’t played yet. Sure, drafting a Patriots back is a nerve racking activity, but there’s relatively low risk and Burkhead could pay off in spades.
Player I Hate: J.J. Nelson: Either you believe John Brown is the next big receiver in Arizona or you don’t but there isn’t likely enough passes to go around in an offense that is unequivocally David Johnson’s to justify rostering Nelson. Sure, keep an eye on him should Brown stumble or the aging Fitzgerald get hurt, but there are a number of high upside players available behind him that should be a priority.
- Kevin White
- Marlon Mack
- Dion Lewis
- Jacksonville Jaguars DST
- Deshaun Watson
- Robby Anderson
- Chalder Catanzaro
- Mohamed Sanu
- Antonio Gates
- Evan Engram
Player I love – Marlon Mack: I’ve tried predicting the demise of Frank Gore in the past, and maybe I just like when he proves me wrong, but at some point he has to break down and with Luck potentially missing time, the workload could prove to be too much. That’s where Marlon Mack comes in – he’ll likely get some work early even with Gore on the field, but it’s only a matter of time before the job is his.
Player I hate – Dion Lewis: Does Lewis even make the team in New England? Who knows, but with additions to the backfield and the return of the now-paid James White mean there’s not much room for Lewis to run. Last year he was a trendy pick to lead the mid-round backs, but this year he’s a cautionary tale of when to read the tea leaves.
- Philadelphia Eagles DST
- Chris Boswell
- D’Onta Foreman
- Cooper Kupp
- Blake Bortles
- Joe Flacco
- Matt Prater
- Kenny Stills
- Atlanta Falcons DST
- Alex Smith
Player I love – Joe Flacco: The Ravens have been taking a cautious approach to returning Flacco to the field, but sooner or later they’re going to need him playing football if they want to win games. With new pass catchers in Danny Woodhead and Jeremy Maclin, not to mention a fairly easy fantasy schedule, Flacco could be see this year return him to fantasy relevance.
Player I Hate – Cooper Kupp: When Sammy Watkins was traded to the Rams, Kupp’s sleeper status took a nose dive. Now the number 3 receiver at best, and expected to miss time, Kupp should be a waiver pick up at best, and even then it’s likely for a spot start.