In our quest to provide the most pertinent information and analysis, we will use current ESPN ADP rankings provided as of Friday 8/31. If you draft in a 10 team league, adjust the rounds accordingly, otherwise this will review the ADP values for a 12 team league. We’ve highlighted three players in each round we like at their current ADP, feel free to argue your point of view in the comments section.
As I look out over the fantasy landscape on the eve of Labor Day weekend, I’m amazed at how different things look following the brutal four week stretch we like to call the pre-season. Littering the battle field are high profile injuries, unresolved position battles, and early draft casualties left to rot in no man’s land.
With a large percentage of drafts scheduled for the final weekend before the NFL kicks off the 2018 season, it’s only appropriate that we make one last run at addressing the current ADP data provided by the largest players in the game. By addressing the value’s assigned to each proverbial tier, we can provide you with extra tools in your quest for fantasy dominance.
Round 1 – 3
The early rounds of your draft are simultaneously the most important and the least important picks you can make all day. As we preach gratuitously… you won’t win your league with the picks, but you can certainly lose.
- 1.01 – Le’Veon Bell, RB – PIT
- 1.02 – Todd Gurley, RB – LAR
- 1.03 – David Johnson, RB – ARI
- 1.04 – Ezekiel Elliott, RB – DAL
- 1.05 – Antonio Brown, WR – PIT
- 1.06 – Saquon Barkley, RB – NYG
- 1.07 – Alvin Kamara, RB – NO
- 1.08 – DeAndre Hopkins, WR – HOU
- 1.09 – Odell Beckham, WR – NYG
- 1.10 – Kareem Hunt, RB – KC
- 1.11 – Leonard Fournette, RB – JAC
- 1.12 – Dalvin Cook, RB – MIN
It’s far from a surprise to see the backs dominating the first round; after all, a large number of league champions can point towards a break out back as the catalyst for their wins. Still, I’d consider grabbing a WR at the back end of the first – the value is just too great.
Best Value: Odell Beckham at 1.09 is stealing – his career per game fantasy production is greater than DeAndre Hopkins single best season. He’s as safe a pick in the first as you’ll get.
Worst Value: Dalvin Cook could have a monster year, but with a capable back in Latavius Murray spelling him, and the unknown of returning from a major knee injury means too many question marks for a round 1 pick.
- 2.01 – Julio Jones, WR – ATL
- 2.02 – Melvin Gordon, RB – LAC
- 2.03 – Keenan Allen, WR – LAC
- 2.04 – Christian McCaffrey, RB – CAR
- 2.05 – Michael Thomas, WR – NO
- 2.06 – Devonta Freeman, RB – ATL
- 2.07 – A.J. Green, WR – CIN
- 2.08 – Rob Gronkowski, TE – NE
- 2.09 – Davante Adams, WR – GB
- 2.10 – Mike Evans, WR – TB
- 2.11 – LeSean McCoy, RB – BUF
- 2.12 – Aaron Rodgers, QB – GB
This years second round features even greater value than the first as the top tiers at several positions become available. For years I railed against drafting Rob Gronkowski in the 2nd, but this year may be the exception with the New England offense likely siphoning through him.
Best Value: It wasn’t long ago that Mike Evans was considered a first round talent. The off season issues Tampa has experienced and the lack of help have suppressed his value, but he’s still the same dominant receiver. Draft confidently.
Worst Value: I’m not suggesting LeSean McCoy is washed up, but even ignoring the off field issues, McCoy is a thirty year old back with high mileage and a terrible team around him. There’s been some great articles about fantasy production for backs on bad teams (Like this one at Rotoworld), and this situation screams bust from day one.
- 3.01 – Travis Kelce, TE – KC
- 3.02 – T.Y. Hilton, WR – IND
- 3.03 – Jordan Howard, RB – CHI
- 3.04 – Joe Mixon, RB – CIN
- 3.05 – Jerick McKinnon, RB – SF
- 3.06 – Tyreek Hill, WR – KC
- 3.07 – Stefon Diggs, WR – MIN
- 3.08 – Larry Fitzgerald, WR – ARI
- 3.09 – Tom Brady, QB – NE
- 3.10 – Adam Thielen, WR – MIN
- 3.11 – Zach Ertz, TE – PHI
- 3.12 – Amari Cooper, WR – OAK
You can see in the third the effects of all those backs going early with some pretty fantastic wide receivers falling in the draft. Most of them are excellent values and some could prove to be top 10 at their position. The backs going in the third are the boom or bust guys who have the talent or opportunity to be in the RB1 conversation.
Best Value: Especially in PPR formats, it’s amazing how Larry Fitzgerald continues to be overlooked simply because of his age. While he’s shifted mostly to the slot and runs far shallower routes, he’s still a lot for 90-100 receptions, 1,000+ yards and 5-7 TDs.
Worst Value: I’m a firm believer that drafting a QB early is a poor way to start your draft. You can make a solid argument for Rodgers as an early pick, but this is the year to fade Brady in the first 5 rounds. He’ll win a lot of football games, and he’ll play efficiently despite the lack of weapons, but his last few seasons have shown that he’s no longer the 3rd round asset he was in years past.
Rounds 4 – 8
These rounds are far more important to your fantasy health that the three that came before. While you’re guaranteed to grab a few guys worthy of early picks, these rounds separate the researches from the consensus drafters. With dinged up superstars, rookie running backs, and one dimensional players, there’s as many pitfalls as league winners sprinkled throughout.
- 4.01 – Demaryius Thomas, WR – DEN
- 4.02 – Kenyan Drake, RB – MIA
- 4.03 – Royce Freeman, RB – DEN
- 4.04 – Doug Baldwin, WR – SEA
- 4.05 – Jarvis Landry, WR – CLE
- 4.06 – Derrick Henry, RB – TEN
- 4.07 – Allen Robinson, WR – CHI
- 4.08 – Golden Tate, WR – DET
- 4.09 – Alex Collins, RB – BAL
- 4.10 – Josh Gordon, WR – CLE
- 4.11 – Brandin Cooks, WR – LAR
- 4.12 – Cam Newton, QB – CAR
There’s a handful of players who could crack the top ten at their position in this round, but each features a good deal of risk. While fantasy champions require a great deal of luck, there’s something to be said for minimizing risk. If you’ve drafted your first three rounds well, then a player like Kenyan Drake or Josh Gordon could put you over the top assuming their healthy and resume the kind of production we expect.
Best Value: Fantasy production doesn’t need to be flashy; 75 yards and a TD is the same if it’s on 5 touches or 15 touches, so seeing Alex Collins fall behind players like Freeman (a rookie) and Henry (entrenched in a committee) lends to his value as a potential 3 down bell cow. He’s not exciting, but he gets the job done.
Worst Value: I won’t go so far as to suggest Cooks is a bust candidate, but considering that he’s going to one of the most crowded wide receiver corps in the NFL, and the headlines in LA have been mostly about the relationship that Kupp and Goff have formed, and you can see how this may be a bit too early for a guy competing for targets.
- 5.01 – Greg Olsen, TE – CAR
- 5.02 – Marvin Jones, WR – DET
- 5.03 – Juju Smith-Schuster, WR – PIT
- 5.04 – Deshaun Watson, QB – HOU
- 5.05 – Marshawn Lynch, RB – OAK
- 5.06 – Jimmy Graham, TE – GB
- 5.07 – Russell Wilson, QB – SEA
- 5.08 – Jay Ajayi, RB – PHI
- 5.09 – Lamar Miller, RB – HOU
- 5.10 – Chris Hogan, WR – NE
- 5.11 – Mark Ingram, RB – NO
- 5.12 – Dion Lewis, RB – TEN
Here’s the best example I can give for the ZeroRB crowd as a handful of lead backs are still available in round 5. With enough knowledge and few late round targets still in tact, there’s plenty of value here at a position many think dries up in the first few rounds. The pit fall here is a potential TE run with Olsen and Graham likely to go at some point. Don’t fall into the trap.
Best Value: Can we all agree that Lamar Miller is the only healthy running back in Houston? With the prevailing opinion being that Houston should be a high powered offense with Deshaun Watson back, how is it that we’ve ignored the RB1 numbers Miller put up when the two were playing? He’s not a sexy name, and his time is coming to an end, but for this season, he’s as safe as you get at this point.
Worst Value: Meanwhile, Juju Smith-Schuster continues his meteoric rise to fantasy stardom in spite of a few important details. He’s got two target hogs ahead of him on the depth chart. With Big Ben aging and a rookie in James Washington also in the picture, it’s going to be difficult for Juju to carve out a role large enough to justify taking over other players available at this point in the draft.
- 6.01 – Alshon Jeffrey, WR – PHI
- 6.02 – Delanie Walker, TE – TEN
- 6.03 – Carson Wentz, QB – PHI
- 6.04 – Evan Engram, TE – NYG
- 6.05 – Michael Crabtree, WR – BAL
- 6.06 – Emmanuel Sanders, WR – DEN
- 6.07 – Robert Woods, WR – LAR
- 6.08 – Marquise Goodwin, WR – SF
- 6.09 – Drew Brees, QB – NO
- 6.10 – Jaguars D/ST
- 6.11 – Tevin Coleman, RB – ATL
- 6.12 – Kyle Rudolph, TE – MIN
There’s a lot to like in the 6th round; a defense isn’t one of them. I won’t waste too many words letting you know why you should draft a defense in the 6th round (after all, the Jags were likely a waiver pick up in your league). The wide receiver depth continues to show itself with several high upside picks reside in the middle of the round, as well as some of the less heralded RB2’s in the league.
Best Value: Drafting the top wide out in an offense that figures to improve dramatically in Kyle Shanahan’s second year with San Francisco is a boon in the 6th round, so grab Goodwin if you can. A lot of the buzz in the Bay is centered on RB Jerick McKinnon and Jimmy G’s dating habits, but the real prize is Goodwin at a seriously inexpensive draft position.
Worst Value: Evan Engram was a revelation last year, but not enough focus is being placed on the laundry list of injuries and inefficiencies that made his TE5 finish possible. With Odell Beckham and Sterling Shepard back and healthy and Saquon Barkley likely to require a good number of touches, there’s little chance that Engram repeats the numbers that he put up last season.
- 7.01 – Carlos Hyde, RB – CLE
- 7.02 – Duke Johnson, RB – CLE
- 7.03 – Corey Davis, WR – TEN
- 7.04 – Sammy Watkins, WR – KC
- 7.05 – Rex Burkhead, RB – NE
- 7.06 – Randall Cobb, WR – GB
- 7.07 – Devin Funchess, WR – CAR
- 7.08 – Jordan Reed, TE – WAS
- 7.09 – Isaiah Crowell, RB – NYJ
- 7.10 – Andrew Luck, QB – IND
- 7.11 – Kirk Cousins, QB – MIN
- 7.12 – Ben Roethlisberger, QB – PIT
This is one of my favorite rounds in the draft as there’s really no one here that’s not worth picking in their spot. The hardest part about evaluating it is only choosing three players I like, and finding someone I really don’t like. Suffice it to say, I wouldn’t consider reaching beyond this group of players if it was me picking.
Best Value: It’s been a few years since Andrew Luck has been on the field and been right, but even at less than 100% in 2016 he managed 4200 yards and 31 TD’s in 15 games. After taking his time to rehab and not putting himself in a bad position, Luck appears ready to take back over under center. With his track record, it’s insane value grabbing a potential top 3 QB this late.
Worst Value: This is a bit of a cop out because I don’t necessarily dislike Sammy Watkins, but of all the names on the list here, he’ll have the hardest time reaching his ceiling. With Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, and a very capable backfield, there won’t be as much opportunity for the former first round pick to really light up the scoreboard. He’ll have weeks that he dominates with big plays, but he’s harder to predict than these other players.
- 8.01 – Pierre Garcon, WR – SF
- 8.02 – Julian Edelman, WR – NE
- 8.03 – Will Fuller, WR – HOU
- 8.04 – Chris Thompson, RB – WAS
- 8.05 – Chris Carson, RB – SEA
- 8.06 – Eagles D/ST
- 8.07 – Cooper Kupp, WR – LAR
- 8.08 – Rams D/ST
- 8.09 – Robby Anderson, WR – NYJ
- 8.10 – Tarik Cohen, RB – CHI
- 8.11 – Kerryon Johnson, RB – DET
- 8.12 – Jordy Nelson, WR – OAK
As always, these ADP lists are made with consensus and compiled data, so while we understand that in mock drafts folks draft more loosely, we never advocate drafting a defense this early. With two going on average, there’s a growing trend that I aim to buck. There’s a lot of value still at the RB position so eschew the special teams and build a juggernaut instead.
Best Value: It’s a toss up here but Cooper Kupp is inexplicably being drafted as the third WR off the board from the Rams despite leading the team in targets last year and running as the top target for Jared Goff. Cooks may be better than Watkins, but it won’t be enough to keep Kupp from approaching 100 targets.
Worst Value: Drafting based on the “bottom line” is short sited, and a player like Will Fuller gets a bump because of a handful of crazy Sport Center Top 10 highlights. The truth is that Houston doesn’t throw enough to give him the targets needed to overcome an unsustainable TD percentage and a 55% catch rate. Much like Martavis Bryant, this is a bit of fools gold.
Round 9 – 14
In these rounds, there’s fewer “hate” players as your general drafting a late QB or TE, or taking fliers on roster depth. It’s imperative that you read up on your targets as hitting on a few of these players gives you the kind of depth that provides a playoff and bye week advantage.
- 9.01 – Rashaad Penny, RB – SEA
- 9.02 – Matthew Stafford, QB – DET
- 9.03 – Matt Ryan, QB – ATL
- 9.04 – Stephen Gostkowski, K – NE
- 9.05 – Jack Doyle, TE – IND
- 9.06 – Vikings D/ST
- 9.07 – Sterling Shepard, WR – NYG
- 9.08 – Kelvin Benjamin, WR – BUF
- 9.09 – Greg Zuerlein, K – LAR
- 9.10 – Jamison Crowder, WR – WAS
- 9.11 – Adrian Peterson, RB – WAS
- 9.12 – Jamaal Williams, RB – GB
If there was ever a picture of how ZeroRB should work, it would be this round. Seeing a first round pick in Rashaad Penny and two starters in Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Williams available in the 9th should prove that the depth at RB isn’t as barren as many make it seem. Sure, it requires a great amount of care and planning, but you can win your league with these players.
Best Value: New quarter back Alex Smith may have had a career year throwing the ball down field last year, but he’s proven to be an efficient passer who finds the receiver who gets open. Not many receivers find separation like Jamison Crowder who should be his go to from day one. This is a potential WR2 being drafted as a WR4; that’s some great value!
Worst Value: Thankfully the rest of the round is worth a pick in the 9th so I can sound off on the practice of drafting a kicker in the 9th! DON’T DO IT! Matt Prater, the 10th ranked kicker last season was only 23 points shy of top ranked kicker Stephen Gostkowski’s 169. There’s no need to spend this kind of draft capital on a kicker… ever.
- 10.01 – Trey Burton, TE – CHI
- 10.02 – Ronald Jones, RB – TB
- 10.03 – Jimmy Garoppolo, QB – SF
- 10.04 – Sony Michel, RB – NE
- 10.05 – Nelson Agholor, WR – PHI
- 10.06 – David Njoku, TE – CLE
- 10.07 – James White, RB – NE
- 10.08 – Peyton Barber, RB – TB
- 10.09 – Patrick Mahomes, QB – KC
- 10.10 – Philip Rivers, QB – LAC
- 10.11 – Alex Smith, QB – WAS
- 10.12 – Kenny Stills, WR – MIA
Round 10 could be called the Rodney Dangerfield round due to the number of players who just seem to never get the respect they deserve. Whether it’s Philip Rivers being in the QB 1 conversation nearly every year or Alex Smith who almost won an MVP last season, there’s plenty of names in this area of the draft worth throwing darts at. That doesn’t mean there aren’t some pitfalls.
Best Value: With the injuries at the running back position in New England and the lack of reliable passing game targets, James White is looking more attractive than ever. With excellent passing down abilities and the trust of Tom Brady, he could be a RB2 if the Pats don’t address their current issues. While he won’t be asked to do much more than he has on the ground, he’ll approach the 90 or so targets he seems to get every year.
Worst Value: When the draft concluded, many were proclaiming their love for the rookie running back selected by Tampa Bay, but Ronald Jones hasn’t looked like he deserves the comparisons to Jamaal Charles just yet. While the jury remains out on him in his first season, it’s crazy that he’s being drafted before Peyton Barber who is expected to start. With Charles Sims no longer on the roster, and Jones being awful in the passing game, Barber is a safe pick either way.
- 11.01 – Dak Prescott, QB – DAL
- 11.02 – Josh Doctson, WR – WAS
- 11.03 – Jared Goff, QB – LAR
- 11.04 – Texans D/ST
- 11.05 – Ravens D/ST
- 11.06 – Justin Tucker, K – BAL
- 11.07 – DeVante Parker, WR – MIA
- 11.08 – Allen Hurns, WR – DAL
- 11.09 – Mohamed Sanu, WR – ATL
- 11.10 – Derek Carr, QB – OAK
- 11.11 – Marcus Mariota, QB – TEN
- 11.12 – Marlon Mack, RB – IND
With the depth beginning to dwindle, you may be justified stabbing at a player you like here despite them not showing up on many rankings sheets. Don’t feel bad doing something the “experts” wouldn’t do, the truth is many would do the same thing. Guys like Tucker and the Texans defense are far better values here than the guys taken several rounds ago, but I still don’t advise locking up either this early.
Best Value: Despite being a constant on the “bounce back” lists, Mariota is still being drafted as an afterthought. With a new OC in Matt LaFluer (who turned Goff from an embarrassment to an exciting NFL QB), an improved passing game with a healthy stud in Corey Davis, and a complimentary run game with pass catcher Dion Lewis, there’s little chance he disappoints in this round.
Worst Value: It’s sad when we finally give up on a player we’ve been behind for years, but that’s the case with DeVante Parker and Dr. Fantasy… as I write this brief obituary, I’m reminded of all the talent that he has yet the inability to catch the football or beat out lesser receivers. With all the competition now in the Miami offense, it’s time to give up on Parker as a break out candidate.
- 12.01 – Tyler Eifert, TE – CIN
- 12.02 – Eli Manning, QB – NYG
- 12.03 – Chris Boswell, K – PIT
- 12.04 – Patriots D/ST
- 12.05 – Ty Montgomery, RB – GB
- 12.06 – Keelan Cole, WR – JAC
- 12.07 – Charles Clay, TE – BUF
- 12.08 – Kenny Golladay, WR – DET
- 12.09 – Matt Bryant, K – ATL
- 12.10 – Aaron Jones, RB – GB
- 12.11 – Paul Richardson, WR – WAS
You have now entered the “Dart Throw” zone where you’re drafting sleepers and backups in the hopes to land the next diamond in the rough. Guys like Alvin Kamara (who was likely later in your drafts or undrafted) are the kinds of names you hope to scratch off in what is the fantasy version of a 5 dollar scratch ticket. I’m less inclined to berate someone for a special teams pick, but again, don’t do it.
Best Value: When the Packers needed a running back and Montgomery and Williams were hurt or ineffective, Aaron Jones was a workhorse, averaging 5.5 yards per carry and looking like a true RB1. Now suspended, and sitting behind the vanilla Jamaal Williams, Jones value has plummeted. The talent is still there though, so it’s only the opportunity part that is lacking, and Williams may not be good enough to keep Jones down.
Worst Value: I believe in Tyler Eifert’s talent, but until he proves to me he can stay healthy, I’m not touching him in any round. Coupled with the fact that Marvin Lewis (the greatest destroyer of talent in this current NFL generation) plans on using him as sparingly as possible to preserve him for a playoff run that won’t happen, and I’m even less inclined to draft him.
- 13.01 – Nick Chubb, RB – CLE
- 13.02 – Chargers D/ST
- 13.03 – Benjamin Watson, TE – NO
- 13.04 – Tyler Lockett, WR – SEA
- 13.05 – Calvin Ridley, WR – ATL
- 13.06 – Jared Cook, TE – OAK
- 13.07 – Cameron Meredith, WR – NO
- 13.08 – Danny Amendola, WR – MIA
- 13.09 – LeGarrette Blount, RB – DET
- 13.10 – Latavius Murray, RB – MIN
- 13.11 – Tyrod Taylor, QB – CLE
- 13.12 – Broncos D/ST
This is where the forgotten men come to be drafted, despite there being a lot of value even this late in drafts. First round pick Calvin Ridley may be considered a more marquee name, Tyler Lockett and Danny Amendola should contribute a healthy amount too. If your league is a keeper league, Chubb and Ridley begin to look even more attractive, assuming they’ve fallen this far. Don’t forget to know your format!
Best Value: When the Seahawks gave Tyler Lockett a big contract extension, it was a bit of a head scratcher as he’s only ever flashed in limited action. Still, the extension coupled with the loss of Jimmy Graham and the ongoing injury issues with Rashaad Penny and Doug Baldwin, and Lockett could see a big increase in work as well.
Worst Value: I was a Cameron Meredith fan last year before his injury, and I expected him to make the leap in New Orleans as the number two target for Drew Brees, but this offseason has been a complete bust for the former Bear. With very little rapport with the QB and not much success even against lesser competition, he could be a roster drag that forces you to drop him much earlier than you’d like.
- 14.01 – Michael Gallup, WR – DAL
- 14.02 – Cameron Brate, TE – TB
- 14.03 – George Kittle, TE – SF
- 14.04 – O.J. Howard, TE – TB
- 14.05 – Mike Williams, WR – LAC
- 14.06 – D.J. Moore, WR – CAR
- 14.07 – John Ross, WR – CIN
- 14.08 – Mitchell Trubisky, QB – CHI
- 14.09 – Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, TE – JAC
- 14.10 – Giovani Bernard, RB – CIN
- 14.11 – Courtland Sutton, WR – DEN
- 14.12 – Corey Clement, RB – PHI
If you’re in need of a Tight End, there’s plenty of upside with any one of these guys, but the real value is at the wide receiver position. It’s impossible to hit on every one of these guys, but with so much talent still on the board, these are all low risk options with plenty of high reward upside.
Best Value: Much like Corey Davis several rounds earlier, Mike Williams was once considered one of the best WR prospects in football. Injuries derailed his 2017 season but there’s no excuse for the degree of his fall from grace. With his back healed and only Tyrell Williams to compete with for the #2 spot on the Chargers depth chart, it’s almost a guarantee that he’ll outpace the draft spot.
Worst Value: While I like D.J. Moore as a long term prospect, his 2018 prospects are poor. There’s far too many hurdles to meaningful target shares for me to invest in him in redraft leagues. Already behind Devin Funchess and Greg Olsen, it’s become clear that McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel will out target him as well. In deep formats maybe, but not in the 14th round.
Round 15 and 16
I won’t spell out the 15th and 16th rounds (or beyond) as they tend to be more specific formats that require help in these areas. In standard Redraft leagues, you should be drafting a D/ST and Kicker here. I suggest grabbing whichever is the highest rated on your board in the 15th and grabbing someone to stream in the 16th.
In case you went off script and drafted one or both previously, here’s a list of players I like that are going later than this.
- Anthony Miller, WR – CHI
- DeSean Jackson, WR – TB
- Jeremy Hill, RB – NE
- Jordan Wilkins, RB – IND
- Chris Godwin, WR – TB
- James Washington, WR – PIT
- Tyler Kroft, TE – CIN
- Blake Jarwin, TE – DAL
While the Dr. typically does his sleeper prognosis earlier in the off season, it is a beneficial exercise to examine who our newest breakout and sleeper candidates are as we approach the final countdown to our drafts. While there’s still a ton of players we like outside of this list, these are some of our favorite late round targets and the reasons why we’re targeting them ourselves.
Tyrod Taylor, QB – CLE
It’s a fair concern for drafters that the Browns selected Baker Mayfield first overall in the draft. With as well as he’s playing, it would make sense to expect him to start at some point in 2018. But the fact remains that Hue Jackson has been unmovable in his stance that Taylor is his starting QB. With the chemistry already building between Taylor and his receiving group, especially Jarvis Landry, a hot start could mean less chatter about him being replaced. Being able to add a potential top 15 QB in the 19th round (current ADP data shows him going around pick 183), sure qualifies as a sleeper to the Dr.
Blake Bortles, QB – JAC
We understand why Bortles is considered a bottom of the barrel NFL starter, but the real-world hate has seriously suppressed his value in the fantasy community as well. According to data supplied by the consensus ADP rankings at FantasyFootballCalculator, Bortles is being selected on average with the 204th pick of drafts. As the 29th QB off the board, it may surprise you to know that 2017 was his worst finish as the QB 15; his previous two seasons were as the QB9 in 2016 and the QB3 in 2015. While we expect a similar finish in 2018 thanks to an elite defense and high end run game, being able to select a borderline QB1 in the 21st round is larceny.
Jeremy Hill, RB – NE
I’ve been pounding the Jeremy Hill drum since he was released from the Bengals in the off season. Much to my delight he landed with my hometown Patriots, and has slowly been working himself into the good graces of the coaching staff and fans alike. Currently, both Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead are on the shelves with non-serious injuries, but their absence opens up the door for Hill who was far more impressive than Mike Gillislee in the teams first preseason action. While it’s unlikely that he’ll receive the massive workload that saw him compile 1,400 rushing yards early in his career in Cincinnati, the chance to be the primary goal line back and work on early downs makes him an intriguing play at 180th overall. His ADP has been climbing steadily, but currently provides incredible value as a flier.
Bilal Powell, RB – NYJ
When Isaiah Crowell was brought in, it was seen by many as a sign that the Jets didn’t believe in Powell as a starting running back. What we’ve seen through the first weeks of the off season is that Powell may have the better chance to start, especially with Crowell experiencing a head injury in the first preseason game. With his role pretty well defined as the third down back, Powell offers excellent value in PPR formats regardless at his current ADP (192nd) but his status with the teams starters means there’s a chance he could provide even more value as the clubs lead back despite Crowell’s presence on the roster. While I doubt he’ll be a full three down back, the needle is pointing up for one of the leagues most underrated backs.
Dede Westbrook, WR – JAC
The wide receiver competition in Jacksonville is wide open with the uninspiring Marqise Lee sitting atop a receivers group that has plenty of depth but not a lot of experience. A lot of folks were high on Keelan Cole after his explosive stretch to finish the fantasy season last year, but talk in camp has centered on 2nd year receiver Dede Westbrook. A talented receiver, Westbrook has been turning heads with athletic plays and his growing chemistry with Bortles. I’m not a big believer in Lee, and while I was in love with Cole last year, it’s sounding more and more like Dede is going to be the late round guy to draft.
Chris Godwin, WR – TB
Staying in Florida, Chris Godwin has been turning up on a lot of these sleeper lists, yet he’s still being drafted on average around the 21st round of only the deepest drafts. The Tampa coaching staff has already expressed it’s interest in starting the young receiver opposite Mike Evans as the teams #2 receiver, and with DeSean Jackson running as often as he has out of the slot, I’m beginning to believe it. Working in Godwins favor is that Evans draws as many double teams as he does, opening up the other side of the field for plenty of work. Expect a bit of a delay in his progress, as Fitzpatrick tends to target his #1 receiver an inordinate percentage of plays, but it won’t be long before Godwin is a must start.
Mike Gesicki, TE – MIA
It’s nearly a clean sweep for the Florida teams, as the Miami Dolphin’s rookie TE Mike Gesicki pops up on our list. A lot was made of the high number of targets that are up for grabs in the Dolphin offense after Landry left in the off season, but all the attention has been on the incumbent receivers and the two off season additions in Albert Wilson and Danny Amendola. What I’ve been reading, though, is that Tannehill has begun to target Gesicki as one of his favorite receiving weapons. In the past, his TE usage has fluctuated, much to the dismay of owners, but I expect a flier on Gesicki to offer a sizable return on that late round investment. I don’t expect a top 5 finish like Engram had last year, but a border line TE1 finish is in the conversation
Michael Gallup looked good in limited action, and the timing pass that Prescott landed in his hands is a good sign that he’ll be heavily involved in Dallas. Jordan Wilkins has been on and off these lists, but with Mack nursing a hamstring injury, a fine showing could move him up the depth chart and put him within striking distance of lead back duties. Jameis Winston may still feel like a risk, but given his pedigree and obvious ability, he’s more than worth a flier in the 19th round. Make sure you have a starter to pair him with, though, for the first three games.
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.