Over the next few days, we here at Dr. Fantasy will take a closer look at each skill position and where the best value is as you prepare for your drafts.
While the classic RB / RB draft strategy has long since gone the way of the dodo, this year is a perfect example of how snagging an elite back early will save you headaches down the road as the questions surrounding the mid tier backs all come with some concern. (these tiers are mostly applicable for re-draft leagues so don’t freak when you see a suspended player far below their actual value)
Elite Tier (1)
- David Johnson – Arizona Cardinals
- Le’Veon Bell – Pittsburgh Steelers
- LeSean McCoy – Buffalo Bills
The role of three down back in the NFL has become increasingly rare, and these three guys will be called upon to lead their respective teams on both the ground and through the air. While standard scoring formats may close the gap, these three guys should be the first three RB’s picked.
Very Good Tier (2)
- Devonta Freeman – Atlanta Falcons
- Jordan Howard – Chicago Bears
- Melvin Gordon – Los Angeles Chargers
- DeMarco Murray – Tennessee Titans
- Todd Gurley – Los Angeles Rams
- Jay Ajayi – Miami Dolphins
Any one of these guys could elevate their game to Elite status but a few questions remain for each of them. Most of them suffer from a lack of sample size. I’d bet Todd Gurley falls in drafts this year due to his dismal 2016 campaign and I’d argue he may be the best value in the rounds 3-5 depending on your league. Jay Ajayi on the other hand is riding high on the back of his 2016 statistics despite the evidence that he’s a boom or bust player who’s three 200 yard games masked lengthy stretches of inefficiency.
Decent Tier (3)
- Leonard Fournette – Jacksonville Jaguars
- Ezekiel Elliott – Dallas Cowboys
- Lamar Miller – Houston Texans
- Isaiah Crowell – Cleveland Browns
- Carlos Hyde – San Fransisco 49ers
- Christian McCaffrey – Carolina Panthers
- Marshawn Lynch – Oakland Raiders
- Spencer Ware – Kansas City
- Joe Mixon – Cincinnati Bengals
- C.J. Anderson – Denver Broncos
- Mark Ingram – New Orleans Saints
- Dalvin Cook – Minnesotta Vikings
- Tevin Coleman – Atlanta Falcons
- Eddie Lacy – Seattle Seahawks
While you may not enjoy drafting in this tier, the fact remains that getting the guy who’ll dominate touches is never a bad thing. Even for rookies like Leonard Fournette and Dalvin Cook the question is only how effective will they be with the ball because they were drafted to be workhorses. Ezekiel Elliott certainly an elite talent in this league, but he’s slated to miss 6 games due to suspension and with the bye week coming in week 6, Elliott won’t suit up until week 8 effectively costing you 50% of the fantasy season – in re-draft leagues I don’t touch Elliott until round 4 or later (assuming he’s there at all)
Make a Prayer Tier (4)
- Frank Gore – Indianapolis Colts
- Ameer Abdullah – Detroit Lions
- Bilal Powell – New York Jets
- Paul Perkins – New York Giants
- Ty Montgomery – Green Bay Packers
- Doug Martin – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- LeGarrette Blount – Philadelphia Eagles
- Theo Riddick – Detroit Lions
- Danny Woodhead – Baltimore Ravens
- Samaje Perine – Washington Redskins
- Terrence West – Baltimore Ravens
- Adrian Peterson – New Orleans Saints
- Mike Gillislee, New England Patriots
- Robert Kelley – Washington Redskins
- Matt Forte – New York Jets
- Derrick Henry – Tennessee Titans
Here is your reward for drafting with a ZeroRB strategy… a combination of backs from this tier. I’m not hitching my wagon to any of these players as a RB2 yet you’ll likely see at least one or two teams you draft with end up here. Sure, if you ignore injury histories, Ameer Abdullah and Danny Woodhead offer fantastic value as odds on favorites to contribute significantly (albeit in very different ways) to their offenses. But the questions surrounding backs like Ty Montgomery who had only two games with 15 touches, are enough to force me into drafting backs early.
Worth a Flyer
- Duke Johnson Jr – Cleveland Browns
- C.J. Prosise – Seattle Seahawks
- James White – New England Patriots
- Jeremy Hill – Cincinatti Bengals
- Jonathan Stewart – Carolina Panthers
- Jamaal Williams – Green Bay Packers
- Kareem Hunt – Kansas City Chiefs
- Alvin Kamara – New Orleans Saints
- Joe Williams – San Fransisco 49ers
- Jamaal Charles – Denver Broncos
- Rex Burkhead – New England Patriot
If you do wait on backs, there’s several in this tier who offer fantastic upside at a very low cost. Jamaal Williams will have every chance to steal the job from Ty Montgomery this off season, and if the Packers value his pass blocking skills (which in that offense I can’t see how they won’t) I could see Williams stealing significant time share in that backfield. Rex Burkhead is another intriguing back that can be had at the end of drafts as he’s closing in on Mike Gillislee for early down work due to the later’s inability to get on the field. James white will dominate 3rd downs so it’s a committee to watch going into the season.
While some will argue that there is great value in loading up on WR’s early in the draft, I’d say it’s just the opposite after reviewing the RB tiers. There’s questions swirling in each tier beyond the top and I’d argue grabbing your favorite low risk RB as early as you dare.
The NFC West has undergone major changes in terms of success. With the 49ers looking to enter a multiyear depression and the Rams still struggling to get out of their own, it’s up to the Cardinals and Seahawks to bring respect to the West.
Notable Fantasy Stars: Jimmy Graham (TE6), Russell Wilson (QB8), Doug Baldwin (WR11), Eddie Lacy (RB20), C.J. Prosise (RB41), Thomas Rawls (RB48), Tyler Lockett (WR59)
Synopsis – The Seahawks will go only as far as Russell Wilson will take them, and an effective run game will go a long way in keeping him healthy. With Prosise and Rawls proving to be injuried or ineffiecient, the Hawks added Eddie Lacy who hopes to bounce back with the new club. Doug Baldwin should garner the bulk of Wilsons attention between the 20’s but Jimmy Graham finally achieved symbiosis in Seattle and can be relied upon as a top 5 TE again.
San Fransisco 49ers
Notable Fantasy Stars: Carlos Hyde (RB12), Vance McDonald (TE29), Brian Hoyer (QB32), C.J.Beathard (QB39), Pierre Garcon (WR39), Joe Williams (RB54), Jeremy Kerley (WR80)
Synopsis – Barring a miracle, this San Fransisco team is looking like an abject disaster. Brian Hoyer as a starting QB isn’t the worst thing that could happen to this team, but between Pierre Garcon and Jeremy Kerley, there isn’t much to work with in this offene. McDonald may be a servicable backup TE but only Carlos Hyde is worth investing in as he proved last year he can be effective despite a crumbling organization around him.
Los Angeles Rams
Notable Fantasy Stars: Jared Goff (QB31), Todd Gurley (RB10), Robert Woods (WR60), Tavon Austin (WR73), Cooper Kupp (WR74), Tyler Higbee (TE27)
Synopsis – Things went sideway on the Rams last year as Gurley faced too many stacked boxes to show the burst we expected of him. With Goff likely to start this year, no one knows if they’ll actually be improved or not, but Gurley should still garner attention thanks to the high volume of carries. Robert Woods will outperform Tavon Austin, but not by much, with Tyler Higbee being the true sleeper candidate on a roster devoid of much fantasy bright spots.
Notable Fantasy Stars: Carson Palmer (QB23), David Johnson (RB1), Larry Fitzgerald (WR26), John Brown (WR48), J.J. Nelson (WR63), Jermaine Gresham (TE36)
Synopsis – David Johnson returns as my number one fantasy player this year, and this season could be the perfect record breaking scenario following the obvious decline to aging Carson Palmer and the lack of weapons not named Larry Fitzgerald to compete with. John Brown is an underwhelming option and J.J. Nelson has more questions than answers. This is David Johnson’s team.
Every year the bottom half of each league laments it’s bad luck. “Why can’t Sammy Watkins stay on the field?” or “When is Russell Wilson going to play like he did last year?”
Both of those scenarios fall firmly under the Dr. Fantasy list of excuses (I lost in the superbowl regardless so it wasn’t all bad), but the beautiful thing is that due to lowered expectations, bounce back players can really help put you over the top.
Bounce Back QB: Blake Bortles
You might be asking, how could a quarterback with a career completion percentage of under 60% be considered a bounce back candidate? Simple; Jacksonville throws the ball a ton. According to Fantasypros.com the ADP for Bortles is the 14th round as the 19th QB off the board on average.
Considering that Bortles finished as QB8 with 271 points (standard ESPN scoring) two years ago, the precident is there that the youngster can provide quality fantasy scoring. Between the volume (expect 600+ attempts), Bortles 300-400 yards on the ground, and the addition of a legit three down back in Fournette should free up Bortles to produce closer to his 2015 numbers.
Bounce Back RB: Todd Gurley
The age old Sophmore slump hit budding superstar Todd Gurley especially hard last year, limiting him to 3.2 yards per carry and 6 TDs.
Not ideal numbers for a back selected in the early first round. But maybe it was to be expected; the Rams had no real QB and aside from Tavon Austin, the skill positions were lacking. Queue the stacked boxes and a rough year for Gurley.
This year, Goff should take ov
er as the starting QB and provide a bit of stability to the offense. While I fully expect Goff to struggle through his first season as a starter, Gurley will have the volume of touches that only a handful of other backs in the NFL get, and he should produce far better than he did in year two. Even a slight improvement puts him in the RB10 range with the potential for a whole lot more.
Bounce Back WR: Sammy Watkins
I’m hesitant to call Sammy Watkins lost season a down year; injuries happen in the NFL. That being said, last year he was trending down to begin with (I watched him fall in fantasy drafts well beyond his projected draft spots) and I expect the same to happen this year.
Obviously health is a big question mark in preseason – teams hold that information close to the vest, but considering that Watkins claimed he was good to go at the end of last year, I’ll expect him to be a full participant when the season starts. Add to the mix Zay Jones and a new coaching regime (and the possible addition of Jeremy Maclin) and you have a recipe for Watkins to have more room to work. If the question of his health is answered, a top 10 WR finish isn’t out of the realm of possibility.
- Adrian Peterson – Peterson is still the king and will be until the numbers say otherwise. 1700 total yars and 11 TD’s and enough in the passing game to plant him at the top even in PPR leagues, he’s the most likely of the top 10 to finish the season atop the most volitile position in Fantasy Football.
- Todd Gurley – He average more per touch than anyone not named Doug Martin (that carried the ball a significant amount). With a new QB in rookie Jared Goff, it will be interesting to see what he’ll do with more informed defensive schemes. I expect he’ll be just fine, but don’t be surprised if he has stretches where he disappears.
- Jamaal Charles – Every year he could be number one, but his injury history isn’t promising. If there was ever a handcuff candidate, it’s the ultra talented Jamaal Charles.
- Lamar Miller – I’m firmly on the hype bandwagon surrounding Millers move to Houston. A team that knows how to run the football will use him as their bellcow… a rarity in the NFL these days. It’s not a stretch to see him approach the league lead in combined yards by the end of the year.
- David Johnson – Carson Palmer was healthy all last year, and Johnson emerged as the Cardinals lead back. Now he has to prove it as the starter that it wasn’t just flash and smoke. If healthy, he’ll be a top 5 back.
- Le’Veon Bell – The only back in the Gurly/Peterson level of fantasy production, Bell did his owners a disservice by being suspended to start the year a second season in a row. Even missing 4 games, he’s nearly a top 5 RB.
- Mark Ingram – Will he be 100% to start the season? Who knows, but the New Orleans offense will put up points, and Ingram has proven that he can do what the coaches ask of him in both the run and the pass game.
- LeSean McCoy – Is Reggie bush an insurance policy or motivation? There’s some question marks with McCoy, and adding Bush to the backfield added just one more to consider when making that late 2nd round RB pick.
- Doug Martin – I feel like I’m being a bit harsh with the “Muscle Hamster” – after all he put up a top 3 season last year. But he’s always been mercurial and he’s just as likely to return to earth as he is to continue at the top of the position.
- Eddie Lacy – I haven’t seen a lot of lists that have Lacy in their top ten, and I can say honestly that I’m excited about getting him later in drafts than he should be going. Lacy clearly heard the chatter surrounding his awful season last year, and he’s put the work in over the offseaon to come into camp ready to go. If it’s one thing Mike McCarthy is, he’s loyal to the players who do what the team asks. Green Bay is still a top 5 offense, and Lacy is likely to get the bulk of the work early on to see if he’s indeed the same player they thought he was when they drafted him.
Missed the cut
Ezekial Elliott (I don’t care that Dallas has the best O-line in football, he’s done nothing at the NFL level to justify a top 10 pick), Devonta Freeman (Whether or not he’ll put it together for 16 strong games remain to be seen. Freeman is gifted and could be a steal if he gets it together), Latavius Murray (A monster, Murray touched the football more than all but a handful of NFL backs. He’s likely to get even better as the youthful offense in Oakland gels) Thomas Rawls (This is a player I’m intrigued by. He’s quietly accepted the mantel from the departing Beast Mode, and we all know how stubborn Pete Carroll is. They’ll run the ball a ton and he’ll have a chance to put up huge numbers if he can run the offense beside Russell Wilson).
Well the NFL Season is right around the corner and The Dr. is in the house! I apologize for my late arrival, but the world around us never ceases. Alas, here we are!
To ease us into the new Fantasy year, we’ll come back with 3 quick hits ( a veritable Fantasy 3 and out, if you will ).
1) Ezekial Elliot, worth the hype?
I wrote this article last year when the Todd Gurley train was a-rolling. I still feel very much the same way about rookie RB’s. Let them be the other guys mistake! Now, I conceed that Elliot is in a fantastic position to provide hefty fantasy dividends, and I’ll also admit that he looks like he’ll be a solid NFL pro at some point, but for every Gurley or Peterson, there are more still of the Bishop Sankey/Felix Jones’ of the world.
2) Suspensions Galore!
One of the most difficult things to gauge is how a player is impacted by a suspension (or even injuries). The offseason so two elite Fantasy players in Tom Brady and Le’Veon Bell find themselves with 4 games suspensions, and leave drafters wondering what their value is. Truthfully, I think both players will provide elite fantasy production down the stretch, and their draft positions will likely reflect that. You’ll have to go earlier than you probably would like to get them, so make sure you’re prepared with a good plan to suppliment their numbers in the middle rounds, otherwise skip on them all together.
3) The continued fall of the RB.
Last year we saw more leagues than ever load up on QB and WR early and take swings at middling RB’s in the hopes that they turned into gold. I was one of the unlucky ones who retained Bell’s services and felt the egg as it hit my face simultanious to his knee injury. Owners of Eddie Lacy, Jamaal Charles, DeMarco Murray, and other top of the draft RB’s who didn’t live up to expectations can attest to that now. Remember, RB is no longer the easiest position to draft, there’s too many committees and offenses that run through the air. Your best bet? Draft elite WR’s first, they’ve shown to be more consistent over the past few years.
It’s easy to go into a draft with a simple plan, and maximizing value is a great way to start your preparations. It’s also important to recognize players that may be overvalued going into draft day in an attempt to avoid wasting valuable picks on players that may not reward you with anything but headaches. It’s especially to remind ourselves that drafting a player because we like them is not the same thing as drafting them based on their value. Below are the five players that at this very moment are valued far to high for my tastes and as a result I will be crossing off on draft lists before the bell to begin even rings.
Rob Gronkowski – TE | New England Patriots
I’ll preface this first player by saying that as a life long Patriots fan, it pains me to include one of my favorite players on this list. The fact remains that his ADP (currently around 10-12) will result in Gronk being drafted near the end of Round 1 and his value begins to become a question mark. There are pro’s to Gronkowski’s fantasy game; he’s the clear-cut number one at a position with a very small top tier, and when he gets going he puts up consistent points week to week. But the Con’s for me outweigh all of this. At his draft position, there are 6-10 players who will likely out score Gronkowski by a measurable margin. It becomes preference if you’d rather target a 6-10th round TE like Martellus Bennett that may score 40 points less than Gronkowski to target a top 5 WR or RB that will likely out score Gronk by the same margin. Sure it seems like a wash in the long run at the TE position, but what you’re doing is hamstringing your other skill positions, especially RB, considering how shallow the elite pool is and how many of those will be drafted in the first two rounds. If it’s me, Gronkowski is out of the question in the first round, and likely in the second. If by some miracle he drops into the 3rd, he provides excellent value, but at his current ADP, he’s on my Don’t Draft list.
Alshon Jeffery – WR | Chicago Bears
With Brandon Marshall gone, everyone bumped Jefferey up due to higher expectations as the clear-cut number one in the Chicago offense. This in spite of the fact that Jay Cutler is the epitome of inconsistent and that Jeffery isn’t known as a crisp route runner. In fact, his biggest asset is his size, which rookie WR Kevin White brings in spades. While White may not usurp the starting job from Jeffery right away, the plan in Chicago is to mold White in to an elite WR, and the expectation is that he’ll steal a good chunk of red zone targets. As talented as Jeffery is, over a complete season he’ll likely under perform his ADP, and the inconsistencies would be infuriating and if poorly timed, could cost your team BIG.
Mark Ingram – RB | New Orleans Saints
When Ingram came into the league, he was expected to step in and contribute right away. He had the skill, and he had the pedigree. Unfortunately he didn’t have the success. It took him three years of under whelming play on the field for him to finally put up numbers that represented the pick the Saints invested in him. Granted, much of his struggles can be attributed to health issues, the fact remains that Ingram is being targeted as a RB2 because of a small sample size of success. With a poor defense that may result in a lot of passing plays, and a better 3rd down back in CJ Spiller on the field, I sense a recipe for disaster. Ingram could be one of the biggest busts of the draft, and I’m determined to not let it be on my roster.
Carlos Hyde – RB | San Fransisco 49ers
Carlos Hyde is a fine player, but a player we’ve seen very little of in a backfield dominated by Frank Gore. The news in the offseason has been tumultuous to say the least, and if you expect San Fransisco to run the ball often, you’d be wrong. I expect a defense decimated by departures to provide for plenty of passing opportunities for a supposedly improved Colin Kaepernick. The fact that Kaep likes to run the ball as often as he does and that Kendall Hunter is still in the fold to steal rushes will impact Hyde’s ability to be anything but a depth pick for bye weeks and injuries. I’d rather draft Frank Gore who has a later ADP in Indy than bank on a player who is just now getting his chance.
Todd Gurley – RB | St. Louis Rams
We all know Gurley’s recent injury history, which is why he’s being drafted in the 4th round despite his immense talent. The issue that I take with even an ADP around 47 is that Gurley will see very little of the field in year one. The team has a capable back in Tre Mason who will get the starts until Gurley returns. To expect that Gurley will suddenly touch the football 20 times a game when he does is plain irresponsible. St. Louis knows what they have in Gurley, and they’ll work hard to limit his exposure as he continues to distance himself from a potentially devastating injury. Unless you’re in a keeper or dynasty league and you can get him with a pick later in the draft, let him be an albatross on someone elses roster.
As the NFL’s dog days settle in, we long for the hooplah that surrounded the draft. We pray to the football gods that a wacky Chip Kelley roster move falls in our laps. We ask that we never have to hear the words “deflated football” again in our lives. Instead we’re left reading reports of how every disappointing player is wowing in whatever camp is being participated in or how backup quarterbacks everywhere are competing to take the starting gig.
So, inspite of my fears that this is far to early to look at the NFL’s fantasy landscap, I’ll begin breaking down the pieces each NFL franchise may showcase come your very own Fantasy draft day. We’ll examine each teams skill positions and rank them from 32 to 1.
Without further adue… drum roll please!
32. Cleveland Browns
No other franchise in the NFL has swung and missed on a QB more than the Cleveland Browns. The most important position on the field, QB is the one position every NFL team focuses on, but Cleveland has a depth chart that has 35 year old journey man Josh McCown on top of their failed experiment of Johnny “football” Manziel. On top of that, Dwayne Bowe and Brian Hartline were brought in to bolster a dismal WR corps, but achieved nothing but making them more mediocre. Despite having a solid stable of RB’s on the roster, this offense is so disfunctional I’d be surprised if they had room to run. Worth Drafting: Dwayne Bowe is a risky pick, but at least he’s his teams #1 option. Isaiah Crowell should be a top 20 back unless Duke Johnson impresses early. I wouldn’t waste a pick in the first 5 rounds on this team.
31. New York Jets
In a similar fashion to Cleveland, the Jets experimented with Geno Smith, and decided that Ryan Fitzpatrick would give them the best chance to win. No fantasy owner would agree. Brandon Marshall is a marquee name, and Fitzpatrick didn’t kill Andre Johnson’s value in Hou, so he may still be worth a pick, but beyond him Decker and Kerley should prove to be inconsistent. Chris Ivory is a steady back but with the addition of Ridley and Zac Stacy, who knows which guy will lead the team. Worth Drafting: I’m sure someone in your league will draft Ryan Fitzpatrick; don’t be that guy. Marshall is an intriguing pick as the Jets haven’t had a goal line guy for a while and they may lean heavily on him, not a WR1 but could have value if he falls. Ivory quietly put together a decent season last year, so I’d think he’ll come out of the gates on top, but I wouldn’t waste and early pick. Ridley and Stacy are both risky, and may only be valuable as a handcuff if it becomes more clear before the season starts who is the #2.
30. Jacksonville Jaguars
Jacksonville is a team on the rise, but will still suffer short term as Blake Bortles and his young WR’s become aclimated to the league. Bortles has the tools to be a good NFL quarterback, but as young as this offense is, he’ll struggle with consistency. TJ Yeldon will likely carry the torch at RB, and should be worth a middle round pick, especially in keeper formats. At WR things are a little murky. There won’t be a huge number of passes to go around, so a big week followed by a zero could have fantasy owners screaming. Julius Thomas should still be a top 10 TE even in this offense. Worth Drafting: Bortles is a project and should be drafted with this in mind. Yeldon has a chance to come out and put up good fantasy numbers, watch carefully as the team may announce him starting over Gerhart before the season starts. Marquise Lee has the most upside of the WR corps but it’s Julius Thomas as a saftey blanket for the young QB who warrants the highest value.
29. St. Louis Rams
Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think Nick Foles is going to be able to handle the lack of protection that St. Louis has been famous for. He won’t have Chip Kelly’s schemes to protect him either, so I have very little faith that Foles will return to a top 15 QB. Todd Gurley looks to be a generational talent, but inuries should limit him in year one, and Tre Mason is a solid but unspectacular RB for fantasy purposes. WR is a soft spot here with Tavon Austin and Kenny Britt being marginal at best atop the depth charts. Jared Cook could be the one fantasy expection with nearly 700 yards last year. At a shallow TE position, he could be worth a pick. Worth Drafting: Foles was average in Philadelphia’s offense, so I expect him to be worth a late round QB2 or bench spot pick. Todd Gurley should be drafted with the understanding he won’t contribute early, and likely valued too high in keeper leagues. Kenny Britt as a depth WR or Tavon Austin as a hold your breath flier would be later rounds and Jared Cook could be cheap points at the TE position.
28. Tennessee Titans
Marcus Mariota has some great tools, but he’s still a bit raw when it comes to the NFL game. I don’t expect him to have much fantasy impact early. Bishop Sankey disappointed his NFL owners along with the fantasy world, so they went out and got David Cobb in the draft. Cobb should eat into Sankey’s carries early, but there’s no garuntee that either will see much success. A ton of talent at WR, it’s a crap shoot with who to pick. Kendall Wright should put up solid numbers but with a rookie QB inconsistency could hurt his value, but I’m a firm believer in Delanie Walker and expect him to repeat with a top 10 TE season. Worth Drafting: Mariota should be drafted as a bench QB only. Walker is a safe bet to put up good numbers, and Dorial Green-Beckham as a flier pick could reap huge rewards with his freakish athleticism. Delanie Walker has a lot of value in the red zone, and should be counted on as a top TE in a shallow field.
27. Buffalo Bills
Matt Cassell is a slight upgrade on paper over E.J. Manuel, but he’s not good enough to elevate the offense into the middle of the pack. The biggest question in this offense is LeSean McCoy. He had a ton of touches last year for Philadelphia and could’t put together a season worthy of being a top pick last year. Now he’s wearing a bills logo and things should only be tougher for him. Sammy Watkins is a stud, but opposing teams will be focused on the talented wideout even more now. I’m intrigued by Charles Clay as well. The converted back has tools to make him a mismatch, but Cassell can’t be counted on to keep his numbers up either. Worth Drafting: I’d stay away from either QB unless in a 2QB format league. LeSean McCoy should be counted on to touch the ball 15-20 times a game, but is a huge risk at his current ADP. Sammy Watkins is a no brainer, but Charles Clay is the toughest to put your finger on. In the later rounds sure, if overvalued due to his success in Miami last year, I’d look elsewhere.
26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jameis Winston is a fine talent, but he’s young and he’s taking over for a team that allowed 52 sacks last season. Mike Evans was a revelation and Vincent Jackson is still a deep threat, but Doug Martin is still a question mark. If the team can’t use him to spell Winston, there could be some growing pains early. I’m not convinced that Austin Sefarian-Jenkins failure to turn into a fantasy option was a result of a terrible passing game. Winston may help revive his prospects. Worth Drafting: Mike Evans will be an early pick based on his athletisism and high ceiling. Vincent Jackson is going to regress eventually, but he’s still worth a WR3. Winston should outperform Mariota in terms of fantasy, but he’s a project that may not reach his hype. Sefarian Jenkins could fall to late in the draft and I’d say he’s a steal there.
25. Washington Redskins
What a mess this organization has become as Dan Snyder wants nothing more than to torment the fans of his storied franchise. Robert Griffin may not have the backing of his Head Coach but ownership has ensure he’ll get the first crack at the job this year. His talent is undeniable, his mental toughness is. If he’s playing his game, defenses can’t defend all of the areas he can attack, adding value to their small but quick recievers. Garcon is a valuable volume reciever when the football is in the air, and DeSean Jackson can still torch a secondary. Two talented TE’s in Jordan Reed and Paul Niles provide nice targets for Griffin but damage each others value significantly if both are healthy. Worth Drafting: Despite not passing the eyeball test, Griffin had a few solid performances down the stretch that show he might be able to turn this thing around. He may be worth a flier if you think so to. Alfred Morris is as boring a pick as they come, but he’s a safe bet to touch the ball 15 times a game. Garcon may have more value in PPR leagues, but DeSean Jackson has shown he can be a difference maker regardless of who is throwing the ball. Injuries derailed Reed’s season and allowed Niles Paul to showcase his skills, but Reed is the more complete fantasy player and warrants a TE2 pick.
24. Houston Texans
Sure, they have Arian Foster who when healthy is among the best at his position. But they lost Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins is being asked to step into his shoes. Last year he was a stud, compiling WR1 numbers with an anemic passing offense. Adding Brian Hoyer may give them a better chance to win, but he’s not going to light up the score board, and this could hurt the WR’s. Jaelen Strong could be a sneaky pick if teams take Hopkins out of games as Cecil Shorts is really only there to stretch the feild. Worth Drafting: Arian Foster should still be considered one of the best in the game, but age and injury concerns could hamstring a fantasy team. DeAndre Hopkins is buzzing now that he occupies the number one spot, but I’m not sure that he’s ready to be the man yet. Jaelen Strong as a rookie has the tools to outperform a flier pick if your filling out your bench.
With the 2015 NFL draft complete, and exciting young players folding into NFL rosters, it’s time to take a look at what the new fantasy landscape looks like.
To assess these players and their impact on their new teams, it’s essential to understand who is in front of them on the organizational depth chart. Will they supplant the incumbent starter? How many touches should they see? Lets take a look at where our top offensive prospects landed.
Todd Gurley / St. Louis Rams : If you’re a Zac Stacy fan, this one stings. Gurley should be eased into the starting role due to his recent injury status, but come playoff time it’s likely he’ll have taken over the bulk of the playing time from Stacy. The Rams threw 3 of their first 5 picks at offensive line players, so a renewed focus on a running game to balance with new starting QB in Nick Foles could mean moderate fantasy relevance for Gurley.
Melvin Gordon / San Diego Chargers : This was a uniquely perfect landing spot for the speedy Gordon. His ability to play on passing downs means he should have an immediate impact for fantasy owners willing to draft him. In PPR leagues his value jumps as San Diego has shown a willingness to use it’s backs in the passing game. With the departure of Ryan Mathews, Gordon slide into the starting roll week 1.
T J Yeldon / Jacksonville Jaguars : Yeldon has elite speed, and shows a lot of promise, but has a spotty history in terms of in the field health. Toby Gerhart is not the answer so expect the Jag’s to give Yeldon the chance to win the spot out of camp.
Ameer Abdulah / Detroit Lions : Great speed, and can be an asset in the running game, but has been labelled as a player who puts the ball on the ground. In my opinion, he’s not a threat to eat into Joquie Bell’s touches too much; view as a late round flier, and only if you think Bell may get dinged up.
Tevin Coleman / Atlanta Falcons : Billed as an extremely violent, top speed type player, Coleman could very well impress and steal the job from under Devonta Freemans nose. Freeman has not shown he can be healthy enough to hold the reigns on the starting spot, so Coleman could be a candidate to slide in drafts and still take the bulk of his teams carries.
Duke Johnson / Cleveland Browns : Drafted by the mess that is the Cleveland Browns, Johnson has the tools to be a good passing down back, but has quite an uphill climb with Isaiah Cromwell and Terrance West ahead of him. The only saving grace is that Cleveland experimented in the backfield frequently after Ben Tate flamed out. If Cromwell or West struggle early, Johnson could find himself on the field.
David Johnson / Arizona Cardinals : A big, physical back, Johnson has great hands and can catch the ball too. His skill set has been compared to that of Pittsburgh’s Le’Veon Bell. More importanty, the underwhelming Andre Ellington sits in front of him on the depth chart. They should compliment each other early on, but if Johnson impresses, could take the reigns later in the season.
Matt Jones / Washington Redskins : Matt Jones is a big boy, and runs like it too. Unfortunately, he sits behind Alfred Morris. He’s unlikely to have much fantasy relevance unless Morris misses a big chunk of time.
Jay Ajayi / Miami Dolphins: Ajayi has one of the best skillsets in the draft, but concerns about his knee injury saw him fall to the Dolphins in the 5th round. Reports of his knee have been said to be greatly exagerated, and if healthy, Ajayi could be a gem in an offense that showed commitment to getting it’s RB’s involved. This could mean Miller’s time in Miami is numbered.
David Cobb – RB / Tennesse Titans : Cobb was an under the radar favorite of pundits and draft experts. More of a compact power runner, Cobb finds himself only slightly behind incumbent starter Bishop Sankey. Sankey failed to impress in his rookie year, but the question remains how much of that can be attributed to an awful passing game? Cobb will have opportunities to steal the job with rookie QB Marcus Mariotta taking over the reigns, but it’s Sankey’s job to lose (for now).
With the first overall pick, the Tampa Bay Bucaneers select… QB Jamies Winston *queue the applause*.
Just like that, the first round of the 2015 NFL draft got underway. On day one we saw 10 skill positions find their first NFL immediately impacting the fantasy landscape surrounding several NFL players. As Zac Stacy so elequently put it on twitter: “yikes”.
What do these picks mean for the teams making them? Keep reading to find out.
Jameis Winston-QB / Tampa Bay: Tampa Bay had two talented WR’s that put up good fantasy numbers in rookie Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson. What Tampa Bay lacked on offense was a steady QB under center. What Winston means to this team is that at some time down the road, consistency will develop and those guys will continue to beat defenses down the side lines. More importantly, it could open up the field for oft-maligned RB Doug Martin. Martin has had to deal with a sub par offensive general and constantly stacked boxes. I expect him to bounce back this year with an added focus on a QB who should be able to contribute.
Marcus Mariota-QB / Tennessee: I’m not sure that Mariota has the tools to be a good fantasy QB right away. Physically he’s gifted but he’s not your prototypical pocket passer, and with the issues Tennessee had keeping it’s QB’s healthy last year, Mariota is going to have to be doing a ton of scrambling. May have some value late, but I imagine inconsistinceny will keep him from being relevant right away. Expect some down weeks out of Wright and Douglas.
Amari Cooper-WR / Oakland: Oakland needed a WR to pair with QB Derek Carr, and they grabbed the best one on the board. What Cooper lacks in speed, he makes up for in crisp route running, good body control, and the ability to beat defensive backs. He’ll make an immediate impact as the defacto #1 receiver in an offense that had too many 2’s and 3’s.
Kevin White-WR / Chicago: This is a perfect marraige of player and team. Chicago has had most success when Jay Cutler can use his big arm to hit long, physical recievers down the side lines. To replace Brandon Marshall, the Bears snagged Kevin White who’s size and speed match up perfectly across from Alshon Jeffery. Expect Mike Evans kind of numbers.
Todd Gurley-RB / StL: I’m not sure this wasn’t just a pick and pray selection hoping Gurley pans out at number 10. His ACL injury clouds his ability to contribute this year, but when healthy he should be a workhorse back. In contrast, Zac Stacy, an in-vogue pick last year has aske to be traded, and if so could throw a wrinkle in elsewhere.
DeVante Parker-WR / Mia: A raw talent with elite skills, Parker won’t be asked to do too much in an Miami Offense that has two solid WR’s in Landry and Stills, and a top end pass catching TE in Cameron. A late grab and stash candidate, would only be relevant in fantasy terms if there were an injury ahead of him.
Melvin Gordon-RB / SD: I like this pick in the same vein as Chicago’s Kevin White pick. What SD likes out of it’s backfield is a quick, shifty back that can play in both running and passing downs. Most experts have pegged Gordon as the early “offensive rookie of the year” leader and in San Diego he should have plenty of opportunities to touch the football.
Nelson Agholor-WR / Phi: So much for the “future to Tennessee for Mariota” tade. Agholor makes a ton of sense to a Philly team that hadn’t replaced DeSean Jackson or Jeremy Maclin but still found a way to win games. The big question will be who starts under center. Mark Sanchez hurts any one’s fantasy value in terms of consistency, but who knows if Sam Bradford would be any better in Chip Kelly’s offense. Expect power outages along with huge fantasy weeks.
Breshad Perriman-WR / Baltimore: Not a big physical receiver, Perriman has + speed (ran a sub 4.3 40) and will slot in nicely where Torrey Smith left. Paired with Joe Flacco’s monster arm, expect moderate fantasy numbers mostly in bunches.
Phillip Dorsett-WR / Idianapolis: Small and speedy, Dorsett may make the Colts a more formidable offense, but it does him no favors to be buried on an offense with TY Hilton, Andre Johnson, Donte Moncrief and Dwayne Allen eating up a chunk of the passes. With as deep as the talent pool is and as many sleeper candidates as there are, Dorsett won’t be on my draft watch list.
When I started doing research for this piece, I was positive I knew how to data would look once compiled but the lines blurred once I saw it on paper. How can we truly evaluate a player who dominated college players as they transition to the NFL? How can we possibly rank or predict how they will perform compared to the current fantasy landscape? The simple answer: we can’t.
Todd Gurley is being compared to Adrian Peterson, another 3 down work horse who is expected to put on a pro jersey and jam the ball down the throats of terrified defenders. Melvin Gordon, the consensus number two is obviously a step behind in terms of NFL readiness but is still seeing a lot of hype as we approach the NFL draft. But we’ve seen this before. Adrian Peterson came into the league in 2007, so my quest started there as I looked at the recent fantasy impact (or lack of) provided by first round RB selections. (2013 and 2014 didn’t feature a 1st round back, so we used the first back selected in the 2nd round for comarison purposes)
Only 3 backs were taken with a top 10 pick since Peterson was selected 7th Overall in 2007. They are Darren McFadden in 2008 (4th Overall), CJ Spiller in 2010 (9th Overall) and Trent Richardson in 2012 (3rd Overall). Believe it or not the only player to outperform their ADP was Richardson (+14*), and partly because McFadden (-74*) and Spiller (-154*) were such fantasy disappointments. Since then, Richardson has been a mega bust and Spiller and McFadden have teased but never approached the fantasy dominance we all expected.
Beyond those picks, there was a lot of flux, the largest return on investment was Chris Johnson who’s ADP of 101 was woefully under predected in 2008.
Here are your first round Draft Day winners:
- 2007: Adrian Peterson (+36)
- 2007: Marshawn Lynch (+10)
- 2008: Jonathan Stewart (+7)
- 2008: Chris Johnson (+77)
- 2009: Knowshon Moreno (+16)
- 2012: Trent Richardson (+14)
- 2012: Doug Martin (+44)
- 2013: Giovani Bernard** (+31)
Big Losers as follows:
- 2008: Darren McFadden (-74)
- 2008: Felix Jones (-111)
- 2008: Rashard Mendenhall (-286)
- 2009: Donald Brown (-154)
- 2009: Beanie Wells (-2)
- 2010: Ryan Mathews (-69)
- 2010: Javhid Best (-19)
- 2010: CJ Spiller (-154)
- 2011: Mark Ingram (-11)
- 2012: David Wilson (-71)
- 2014: Bishop Sankey** (-88)
What can we gather from these numbers? It’s nearly a 50 / 50 coin flip on wether top RB talent pans out in year one, and for the players that finished above their ADP several of them regressed in year two (Martin, Moreno, Richardson, and Bernard). By contast, plus players generally finished just above their ADP with the exception of the flier picks like Johnson, while the minus players likely crippled fantasy owners due to how drastically they underperformed the value we heaped on them.
My advise is to temper your expectations in year one, Peterson is most likely more of an exception than the rule. Gurley will make a fine NFL back, and has the potential to be a huge win on draft day, but the potential is also there with his injury history to hamstring your fantasy team if he doesn’t work out. If you can get Gurley at or beyond wherever he’s projected come draft day, go for it, but I’d have a solid back up plan in case.
*+ or – numbers calculated by comparing avg ADP for said player with their final Fantasy impact. Standard rules for scoring.
** No RB selected in the first round; player used was first RB selected for that draft year.