In a new weekly article, the DR. will look at the middle rounds of the draft and help you form a strategy when you’re not sure who to draft. We’ll dive into what drives our decision making, and give you an advantage on draft day. For each of these exercises, we’ll run a random Draft Wizard draft and use the results to formulate our ideas.
The real difficult decisions can start as early as round 4. At this point, you’re likely to have two running backs and a wide receiver (or vice versa) and you’re looking at a draft board of players that feature massive ceilings but profile as potential busts.
In this scenario, we’ve got a roster consisting of Dalvin Cook, Jerick McKinnon, and Odell Beckham Jr, and we’re drafting 6th in Round 4. Here’s a quick look at who’s available:
- T.Y. Hilton
- Stefon Diggs
- Demaryius Thomas
- Golden Tate
- Amari Cooper
- Alshon Jeffery
- Allen Robinson
- Russell Wilson
- Jarvis Landry
- Juju Smith-Schuster
It’s interesting that this area of the draft is nearly devoid of RB’s, and I’d suggest preparing for this trend. 2018 seems to be a RB heavy first round so guys may go a little earlier in the 2nd and 3rd as teams try and avoid starting with a poor stable of backs.
To start with, I’ll re-iterate I won’t advocate drafting a QB this early. While I generally like Russell Wilson (I think he and Aaron Rodgers are in a tier by themselves), there is far more value in the later rounds at QB.
Speaking of value, my plan in these rounds is hitch my wagon to players who offer the highest floor. All of these guys have potential WR1 talent, but I’d rather avoid the pitfalls that many of these names represent. For that reason I’ve already scratched off T.Y. Hilton, Amari Cooper, and Golden Tate. All of them are fantastic players, but they all have consistency issues. Tate and Hilton both tend to end the year with great looking numbers, but both tend to do most of their damage over a handful of weeks, leaving owners frustrated with the numerous “bust” weeks. Cooper is intriguing but after last years debacle I’m out on him.
What We’re Left With
Of course these decisions are made in a “snap” manner, so the research you’re doing now should help you determine very quickly who you like the best. I’ve narrowed my decision down to Stefon Diggs, Allen Robinson and Demaryius Thomas.
While I do like Landry and Juju, neither of them are the top dog in their respective offenses, and I’m not spending a pick this early on a teams #2.
Allen Robinson: While Robinson certainly put together two fantastic years in Jacksonville, the issue in Chicago is opportunity. Last year the Bears threw an anemic 473 times. While that number may jump up this year, expecting Robinson to return to the 150 target mark is unreasonable. Still, he represents the best option they have, especially in the red zone, and a sizable target share should be expected. Projections: 65 receptions, 1,000 yards, 7 TDs.
Stefon Diggs: Thielen may have stole the show last year in Minnesota, but I still consider Diggs as the top receiving option in this offense. With the potential for 550+ attempts for Cousins, Diggs and his big play making ability could be on display regularly. Factoring into the decision as well is Diggs high catch rate. Expecting him to maintain his career catch rate average of 68% means even maintaining his target share (roughly 7 targets per game) would result in an 85 catch, 1,100 yard season with 5-7 TDs.
Demaryius Thomas: Denver threw the ball a surprising number of times last year given it’s issues at QB, and the addition of Case Keenum shouldn’t do anything to drop that number. It’s also interesting to note that Thomas hasn’t received fewer than 140 targets in a single year since 2011; he’s probably the safest bet for volume in the 4th round. While Keenum is no safe bet to continue throwing the football as well as he did last year, Thomas should be targeted heavily again this year, probably closer to the 150 mark. Given his consistency, projecting him around 90 catches for 1,100 yards and 6 TDs is conservative and very realistic.
The Decision – Demaryius Thomas, WR – DEN
This was a tough one, but while Diggs and Robinson represented a ceiling that Thomas likely won’t crack at his age, he provides the safest floor of all three. With the sheer volume he’s experienced, and an upgrade at QB, he’s a safe bet for a high end WR2 finish, with very little risk involved.
Every year I run an article where I examine the what I consider to the be the most rewarding same team pairings in fantasy football. The idea, if you’re not familiar, is that by adding high tier quarterbacks with elite wide receivers or running backs you give yourself a larger share of the available points. Of course, this works best with high scoring offenses.
Last year I missed the mark a little bit with my go to; Derek Carr and Amari Cooper, as both disappointed. Luckily I planned well enough that it didn’t impact me too much (I won the league after all), but the same risks exist for any strategy as some guys just don’t show up.
But this year presents a different challenge, as the number of elite quarterbacks have dropped precipitously and the number of sure fire fantasy studs is at a questionable level. Let’s begin:
Earl Round Pairs ( Most Difficult To Manage)
Aaron Rodgers and Devante Adams: Adams is finally getting the respect he deserves, ranking 7th among wide receivers. Pairing the #7 WR with the #1 QB is a healthy strategy regardless of what team they play for, but getting extra point for yards and touchdowns shared has this pairing at the top of list. Still, it’ll cost you two of your first four picks to assemble this pairing.
Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown: While the jury seems to be out on Roethlisberger every year in the off season, Big Ben grinds his way to a top ten finish at the position. What’s NEVER a question is how good Brown will be when he’s on the field. The easy answer is that Brown is the safest pick in fantasy, but it will require you have a top 3 or 4 pick.
Drew Brees and Michael Thomas: Despite still playing at a high level, Brees has sort of slipped behind Thomas and Alvin Kamara as the top targets in the New Orleans offense. That in no way diminishes his ability to produce in fantasy, and I’d argue is a better option than both Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady, but that’s a different article all together. Getting Michael Thomas, though, is the hard part. His ADP of 15 will mean drafting 1-5 will preclude you from drafting him unless you get lucky. If you do get lucky, a 6th or 7th round pick will land you Brees, who’s ADP of 69 is criminally low.
Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski: Draft Brady at your own risk, but if you’re confident that the off season malaise in New England won’t affect Brady’s ability to perform then have at it. The truth is that Rob Gronkowski could set records this year as the only reliable pair of hands left for Brady to chuck it up to. Sure, Edelman will be back in 4 games and Hogan has shown he can play with Brady, but Gronk should see the end zone 10-15 times this year on top of a ton of yards. Grabbing him in the 3rd round to pair with Brady in the 7th gives plenty of time to add skill players besides.
Middle Round Pairs (Easier To Coordinate)
Russell Wilson and Doug Baldwin: This one isn’t as impactful in terms of fantasy because Wilson tends to supplement his passing stats with his legs. Unfortunately for this exercise, his rushing statistics can’t be taken into account. Still, Doug Baldwin is one of the leagues best slot receivers, and as a 4th round pick has a lot of value regardless. Without Jimmy Graham in the red one, he may even see a few more looks there. This one may not be the sexiest pair on the list, but they may be the most effective.
Carson Wentz and Zach Ertz: It may seem strange to see another WR/TE combo, but the fact is Wentz and Ertz seem to share a brain in the red zone, meaning a ton of points are up for grabs between the two of them. While Alshon Jeffrey may be the #1 wide out on the team’s depth chart, the true number one is Ertz. if you miss out on Gronk but you want a stud tight end, pair a 4th round Ertz with a 7th round Wentz and reap the benefits.
Kirk Cousins and Stefon Diggs: Wait, you say. This should be Thielen and Cousins! I’m here to tell you, not so fast. Now, I can see a scenario like in Denver years back with multiple 1,000 yard receivers, but the guy I’m targeting is Diggs in the late 4th round. He was excellent last year even though he wasn’t the top target for the Case Keenum led Vikings. Now, he has Cousins tossing the ball to him. A classic gunslinger, Cousins’ game best fits the strengths Diggs brings to the table. This is one of the least expensive pairings you can get as a 4th and a 10th gets you both players.
Matt Ryan and Julio Jones: You may have to spend a 2nd round pick on Jones, but the wait on Ryan is a bit longer than the other QB’s on this list. As the QB13, he’s being drafted in the 11th round, and I’d argue his value is sky high this year as a bounce back candidate. If you’re like me, and you see more value in grabbing high end skill players to pair with the later round QB, Matt Ryan is a slam dunk. Have him and Julio, and you’ll reap the rewards for all those yards.
Odell Beckham and Eli Manning: If you’re nervous about drafting either of these guys, I’d say you’re hardly alone. Beckham is an otherworldly talent when he’s right, but the combination of recent injury woes and an inability to stay level headed means he may fall towards the end of the first round. What I will say is that if you manage Beckham, Manning is a wonderful pairing if you waited a bit long on your QB. In the 16th round of drafts (current ADP is 152) Manning presents a conundrum. He was awful last year but much of it could be logically blamed on the terrible circumstances around him. With healthy weapons, an upgraded offensive line, and an elite RB to draw the attention, and Manning could be a surprise top 15 QB this year.
Philip Rivers and Keenan Allen: Allen proved last year that when he’s healthy, he’s every bit the stud we thought he was. Rivers remains one of the most under appreciated QB’s in fantasy, and his ADP of 112 presents tons of value. Without Hunter Henry, even more weight will be given to Allen, meaning these two could hook up for a ton of points.
Honorable Mentions: Derek Carr and Amari Cooper (a new coach could help get these two back on track). Jared Goff and Brandin Cooks (it’s a new look for Goff, but Cooks could be his go to early and often). Jameis Winston and Mike Evans (This requires a bounce back year for both, but not guaranteed). Marcus Mariota and Corey Davis (There’s so much talent between these two, it’s hard to imagine both of them laying duds this year).