2. Tom Brady – Torched the Texans last season to the tune of 378 yards and five touchdowns. Should be shootout with DeShaun Watson.
3. DeShaun Watson – Didn’t have Will Fuller the last time he played New England, and still dropped 341 total yards and two touchdowns.
4. Drew Brees – New Orleans will have their way with Tampa Bay, and no CB Brent Grimes is only insult to injury.
5. Cam Newton– Dallas’ defensive line will give the Panther’s injured line trouble, but his best supporting cast and rushing capabilities keep Cam a great play.
6. Matt Stafford – I think the Jets young defense will ascend this season, but Stafford will catch them at the right time with his most well-rounded cast yet.
7. Kirk Cousins – The Niners best pass defender is a 30-year-old coming off an Achilles’ injury.
8. Russell Wilson – I’m high on Wilson this year, but I’m not ready to rank him too high until he proves he can maintain his play with Doug Baldwin and…Jaron Brown?
9. Jared Goff – The Raiders secondary is composed of players way past their prime, with zero pass rush. Game script is the only thing holding back Goff.
10. Andy Dalton – The Bengals secretly have some of the best weapons in football. He’ll be throwing against a team that is relying on storebrand cornerbacks Pierre Desir and Kenny Moore
11. Philip Rivers – Going against one of the worst secondaries in football with an over/under of 48.5.
12. Ben Roethlisberger – Normally any quarterback going against the Browns pass D is a must-start, but the weather in Cleveland scares me.
1. Todd Gurley – Todd Gurley will destroy the Raiders with receptions in the first half, and put them away by milking the clock in the second half. There’s a decent chance this is his best game of the season.
2. Alvin Kamara – Dropped 280 total yards and three touchdowns in two meetings last season. Essentially zero competition for workload.
3. Melvin Gordon – The Chiefs have one of the worst run defenses in football. Receiving usage will be boosted in a shootout.
4. David Johnson – Running will be tough going against a healthy Alabama duo of Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne, but the offense will still run through DFJ, on the air or the ground.
5. Ezekiel Elliott – Gets a boost from LB Thomas Davis’ suspension, and 25+ touches a game make up for any injuries on the offensive line.
6. Leonard Fournette – Increased usage in the passing game + Giants signing horrible coverage linebacker Alec Ogletree x positive game script = potential to be the RB1 in Week 1.
7. Kareem Hunt – Per Evan Silva, the Chargers D yielded the 13th-most receptions to running backs last season.
8. Christian McCaffrey – Already looked like a league winner in the preseason, and the Cowboys allowed the sixth-most receptions to RBs last year.
9. Joe Mixon – The Colts were one the worst teams in football against running backs last year, a perfect catalyst to Mixon’s breakout year.
10. Saquon Barkley – This will be Barkley’s hardest matchup all year. Fresh legs and volume are the only things keeping him this high.
11. Alex Collins – Looking at the best game script of any back this week, and goes against a Bills run D that went to the shitter after trading away Marcell Dareus.
12. Jordan Howard – In what figures to be a shootout, we’ll finally get to see if Nagy’s talk of Howard’s increased passing game usage is the real thing or just smoke and mirrors.
13. LeSean McCoy – Volume trumps anything else going against McCoy this week, which is…everything.
14. Rex Burkhead – Will be used a ton in the passing against against a defense that’s returning JJ Watt and
15. Jamaal Williams – The Packers like to use one running back at a time, and right now Williams is the guy. Mack figures to be used sparingly.
16. Kenyan Drake – League-winning upside in the long term, but that’s if we know what the deal is with Frank Gore. That’s what this week is for.
17. Lamar Miller – Figures to be an every-down back with a ton of receiving upside against New England’s porous defense.
18. James Conner – DC Greg Williams sole goal is to stop the run, and while that may not be smart in terms of real football, it is an unfortunate obstacle for Conner’s first professional start.
19. Dalvin Cook – I think the Vikings will plan to ease Cook in with a 50/50 split to start the season. A lot of the offense should go through the air against the Niners.
20. Marshawn Lynch – The loss of Rams’ ILB Mark Barron is a good sign, but this game could get ugly quick.
21. Royce Freeman – While the timeshare with Booker hasn’t been great, Freeman has earned every right to get 65%+ of Denver’s backfield touches.
22. Derrick Henry – Figures to get out-snap Dion Lewis with positive gamescript.
23. Carlos Hyde – Has held off Nick Chubb so far, and figures to be the focal point of the Browns offense in a storm that might include 40+ MPH wind.
24. Adrian Peterson – Fresh legs running behind a healthy Redskins line. Will lose passing downs to Chris Thompson.
25. Chris Carson – Denver has an elite run defense that just added Bradley Chubb, but Carson is the only trustworthy back in Seattles backfield right now.
26. Peyton Barber – Should get the start, but is in danger of losing third-down touches to Jacquizz Rodgers.
27. Dion Lewis – Passing down back with early-down capabilities.
28. Chris Thompson – Will receive a ton of passing work, but might get eased in.
29. Kerryon Johnson – The Jets have a middling run defense, and Johnson is the most talented in this backfield. I just think it’s going to take some time before he gets the lions share (haha) of touches.
30. Jordan Wilkins – This is a dart throw. He’s the most talented of the bunch.
31. Bilal Powell – Preseason suggests he’ll be the Jets’ lead back. Preseason also suggests the Lions have a bottom-of-the-barrel run defense.
32. Alfred Morris – Not a sexy pick, but he’s the favorite to lead the Niners in carries. Just won’t be a great week against the Vikings spotless defense.
33. Matt Breida – Should get the change-of-pace role, may have earned a stronger role than suggested.
34. Duke Johnson – Gets knocked due to poor weather.
35. Giovani Bernard – Should get 7-10 touches.
36. James White – The healthiest player in the Patriots backfield. Dark horse to lead them in touches in Week 1.
37. Ty Montgomery – Supreme talent. Might be used as a passing down back.
38. Devontae Booker – Sub-par talent. Is the passing down back.
39. Tarik Cohen – Huge question mark heading into Week 1, but has Tyreek Hill upside.
40. Theo Riddick – Huge bump in full PPR.
42. Legarrette Blount – One of the best goal line backs in football.
43. CJ Anderson – Could steal a touchdown or two.
44. Javorius Allen – Solidified role as passing down back.
45. Frank Gore – What are you doing, Miami?
46. Doug Martin – Stinks.
47. Christine Michael – Not sure if he’s real.
48. Jeremy Hill – Bill hates your fantasy team.
1. AJ Green – Tell me the name of one Colts cornerback. Until then, Green stays second to kick off the season. (Ignore my Andy Dalton post)
2. DeAndre Hopkins – Stephon Gilmore is looking like an elite corner, but any game with DeShaun Watson automatically puts Nuk in top-five territory.
3. Antonio Brown – No Le’Veon and HoF talent negate any concerns about weather.
4. Keenan Allen – The Chiefs will essentially trot out four slot cornerbacks in Week 1.
5. Michael Thomas – Vernon Hargreaves doesn’t stand a chance against Thomas and the Saints passing offense.
7. Odell Beckham Jr. – The Jaguars defense is always scary, but a Jaylen Ramsey ankle injury helps Beckham’s outlook.
8. Adam Thielen – If you haven’t noticed, the Niners pass D is bad.
9. Davante Adams – The Bears D is ready for liftoff, but being Rodgers favorite target is matchup proof.
10. Larry Fitzgerald – Will be defended by something call a “Fabian Moreua.”
11. Chris Hogan – Expected to hog targets against a team he dropped 4/68/2 on last year.
12. Tyreek Hill – Hill’s speed paired with Mahomes’ arm essentially makes him an every-week WR1.
13. Doug Baldwin – Legitimately might get 15 targets. Knees and matchups be damned.
14. Brandin Cooks – Oakland’s lack of pass rush pairs perfectly with Cooks’ straight-line speed.
15. TY Hilton – WIlliam Jackson III will be a well-known name by the end of the season. You better hope the Colts put TY in the slot.
16. Mike Evans – Has had nasty splits against the Saints, matched up on Lattimore, and Fitz is still a downgrade.
17. JuJu Smith-Schuster – Any and all players who catch or throw a football in this game receive a major downgrade.
18. Josh Gordon – Freakish upside who gets extra downside in storm. Reporter claims “I have not seen a worse weather forecast for a Browns game in the almost 16 years I have been here and that includes snow events”
19. Allen Robinson – I’m higher on the Packer’s corners than most, and Trubisky still needs to develop rapport with Robinson.
20. Amari Cooper – I’m afraid of all Raiders in this matchup, and Ryan Switzer taking Cooper out of the slot is a bummer.
21. Robert Woods – Start. All. Rams.
22. Cooper Kupp – ^^^^
23. Emmanuel Sanders – Slot reps give Sanders the best matchup between him and Thomas.
24. Golden Tate – A matchup with Buster Skrine and sheer volume gives Tate the nod over Marvin Jones.
25. Marvin Jones – The Jets are secretly very talented on the outside.
26. Devin Funchess – Still the number one option out of Cam’s receivers, despite zero offseason buzz.
27. Demaryius Thomas – Figures to run against Shaq Griffin, which is a downgrade.
28. Jarvis Landry – A slot receiver against Pittsburgh’s zone defense is always a plus, but you know…wind.
29. Corey Davis – Mariota’s been a question mark in the preseason, and will go against ascending corner Xavien Howard.
30. Robby Anderson – Figures to match up with Darius Slay.
31. Jamison Crowder – Should avoid Patrick Peterson in the slot, but still don’t know Smith’s favorite target.
32. Randall Cobb – Rodger’s second favorite receiver. Yes, please.
33. John Brown – Has looked better than Crabtree this year, and is the healthiest he’s been in a while.
34. Michael Crabtree – Favorite for red zone targets.
35. Will Fuller – Upside is through the roof as long as he’s healthy…which he may not be.
36. Jordy Nelson – Still kinda iffy in this game, but a shootout is always possible.
37. Tyrell Williams – Underrated in every aspect heading into this season, Tyrell is a sneaky start this week.
38. Kenny Stills – Could be the Dolphins number-one option with no Devante Parker.
39. Rishard Matthews – Figures to benefit from no Xavien Howard.
40. Keelan Cole – Number-one option on a run-first team. Should lead the Jaguars in targets in Week 1.
41. Marquise Goodwin – Vikings will probably have the best defense in football this year.
42. Quincy Enunwa – Oversized slot receiver who may lead the Jets in targets this week.
43. John Ross – The Bengals offense will be on full display against the sieve-like Colts D.
44. Kelvin Benjamin – Literally SOMEONE has to catch a pass for the Bills.
45. Allen Hurns – Literally SOMEONE has to catch a pass for the Cowboys.
46. Sterling Shepard – Could benefit as the least-covered option on the Giants.
47. Dede Westbrook – Has the easiest matchup against B.W. Webb.
48. Ted Ginn – Always a threat for a big play and might be Saints second option.
49. Pierre Garcon – Not very high on Garcon in general, and coming back from a neck injury to face to the Vikings in Minnesota is an ugly welcome back.
50. Sammy Watkins – Zero connection with Mahomes in the preseason.
51. Kenny Golladay – Golladay games will come this season, but that is not this day!!!
52. Chris Godwin – Fitzpatrick is bad.
53. Donte Moncrief – Slow as hell but he scores touchdowns.
54. Phillip Dorsett – Someone else on the Patriots might catch a pass.
55. DeSean Jackson – Still fast.
56. Anthony Miller – Looked cool in the preseason.
57. Michael Gallup – Also looked cool in the preseason.
1. Rob Gronkowski – Every game Gronk is healthy he is ranked first. Those are the rules.
*The Grand Canyon*
2. Travis Kelce – Doesn’t have a great history with the Chargers, but is one of the most talented tight ends in the league, so it doesn’t matter.
3. Jordan Reed – Will be a gamechanger before he goes to IR in Week 3.
4. Tyler Eifert – Will be a gamechanger before he goes to IR in Week 3.
5. Delanie Walker – Still Mariota’s favorite target.
6. Greg Olsen – Sean Lee is a concern, but still a safe pick.
7. Jimmy Graham – Ceiling is two touchdowns, floor is two targets.
8. Jack Doyle – Should absolutely dust Cincinnati. One of my favorite plays this week.
9. Trey Burton – Looked like Trubisky’s favorite target. Have you ever heard of the Philly Special?
10. Kyle Rudolph – Kirk Cousins loves his tight ends, and I’ll leave you to make a joke about that.
A top-101 is great, but leagues can be won at the end of the draft. Craig and I each made our own sleeper lineups consisting of players being drafted in the 12th round or later. We didn’t necessarily go for the “best” players, but those who are a little more exciting with decent room for upside, who you can either get in the last few rounds, or even off your waiver wire
QB – Blake Bortles – Bortles has been a top-12 QB every year outside of his rookie season. Since coming into the league, only Cam Newton, Russell Wilson, and Tyrod Taylor have more rushing yards. Also, what’s funnier than winning with Blake Bortles?
RB – Jordan Wilkins – With Marlon Mack sidelined, Nyheim Hines rubbing butter on his hands before games, Robert Turbin eating steroids, and Christine Michael possibly being a figment of our imagination, Wilkins can runaway with the starting job.
RB – Jonathan Williams – Looking like the favorite to fill in the Mark Ingram role in Weeks 1-4. It was only last season that Willie Snead barely received one target a game when he returned from suspension, so Williams could hold on to this job.
WR – Tyrell Williams – A catch-radius freak according to PlayerProfiler, Williams has a decent chance to lead the Chargers in touchdowns.
WR – Chris Godwin – A SPARQ stud and Twitter favorite who figures to see a lot of outside work this season, we might finally get our Chris Godwin Breakout Year™. Dirk Koetter’s inability to recognize talent could be his biggest obstacle.
WR – Courtland Sutton – Courtland Sutton is Demaryius Thomas 2.0, while Demaryius Thomas is turning into Demaryius Thomas 0.5. Get’s a huge boost if Chad Kelly takes over.
TE – Austin Seferian-Jenkins – Just turning 26 this year, Seferian-Jenkins has a chance to put it all together in a Jacksonville receiving core that doesn’t have a main receiver. Ceiling is Tyler Eifert, but healthy.
FLEX – Austin Ekeler – Started stealing a decent number of touches from Melvin Gordon in 2017 before going down with an injury. Could be Rivers’ new Danny Woodhead.
QB – Alex Smith – Last year’s QB4 just came to an offense that produced back-to-back QB5 performances out of Kirk Cousins. Currently getting drafted as the QB18.
RB – TJ Yeldon – In the three games Yeldon played without Fournette, he carried the ball 27 times for 190 yards (7.03 ypc) with eight catches for 51 yards. Elite handcuff.
RB – Jeremy Hill – Currently healthy and capability around the goal line are the two reasons why Jeremy Hill could be this years “randomly finishes as the RB11” Patriots running back.
WR – James Washington – In typical Pittsburgh fashion, Washington is among the long list of young WRs who have excelled immediately. Has already secured the third WR spot with Martavis gone.
WR – Mike Williams – The injury to Hunter Henry makes Williams the next man up for red zone target vacuum. After in an injury-riddled rookie season, the 2017 seventh overall draft pick looks great this preseason.
WR – Michael Gallup – Someone has to catches passes in Dallas, amiright?? Allen Hurns, Terrance Williams, and Cole Beasley are the least intimidating competition in the league for the highly talented Gallup.
TE – Ricky Seals-Jones – Per fantasypros.com, every tight end who has played with Sam Bradford, except for Brent Celek, has never had a better season in terms of receptions or yards before or after their season with a healthy Bradford.
FLEX – WR John Ross – The last three seasons in Cincinnati, the #2 WR (Marvin Jones/Brandon Lafell) has averaged 60-742-4. Both are out of the picture, giving John Ross the opportunity to take over. He’s very fast.
It might seem weird that two grown men would spend months writing thousands of words on something that literally claims to be fake in its own name, and it could be even weirder that this nerd-fest is now running four years strong. But maybe that commitment is what makes it so cool pathetic.
To make sure fantasy football truly was a year-round event, Craig and I started our own in-depth rankings in 2015, and have continued the yearly tradition ever since. We compose these rankings in the hopes of providing you with a cheat sheet for the draft. Sometimes it’s difficult to choose between two players, and we can make that decision easier. If you have already drafted, this article can help you discover new things to watch out for in 2018.
If you’re new to this, we compose a list of the top 101 players in fantasy football. To mimic the unpredictability of a real fantasy football draft, we pick our players in alternating fashion. I pick, Craig picks, I pick, Craig picks. And so on. This took a while, and injuries happen, depth charts are released, and preseason reveals how coaches plan to use their players, potentially changing our initial opinions on players. This causes a lot of re-ordering and updating of our rankings, so we have tagged each of our picks with our initials.
Each year, we pose an arbitrary question to decide first pick, and this year it was to guess the city Vanilla Ice was born in, and whoever’s choice was closest in distance is granted first pick. I won with a proximity of 1,215 miles (Detroit), while Craig closely trailed with 1,367 (Baltimore). This is why we are doing fantasy football rankings, not starting a Vanilla Ice fan club…yet
We rank our players using 0.5 PPR because we believe it makes a nice balance between PPR and standard. For the newbies, we’ve created a terminology key at the bottom of the article. We also included a few thanks that we owe to the many awesome people and publications in the fantasy industry who were a big help in creating this article.
Kick back and clear your schedule, because this is a hefty one.
1. Todd Gurley (RB1) – Coming out of college, Todd Gurley was touted as the best prospect since Adrian Peterson, and although that superlative tends to be overused, he truly looked like it last year. With a combination of a new offensive line, a young, bearded coach, and simply not having Jeff Fisher in his life, Gurley realized his full potential. This meant not only finishing as the number-one overall fantasy player, but also came with the best playoff run of all time. Don’t overthink this one, just take Gurley. -CB
2. Le’Veon Bell (RB2) – When addressing the elite talents of the first round you must split hairs to rank the best. All are strong picks, so you want one with a high weekly ceiling and a history of reliability. Bell has averaged 21.6 fantasy points per game in his last two seasons, higher than any non-QB in the league. He’s averaged an absurd 27.5 touches per game in his last two seasons, also the highest amongst all non-QB players in the league during that span. Bell also played an astounding 154 more offensive snaps than any other running back last year. The defense-stretching talent of Pittsburgh’s offense paired with an elite offensive line makes Le’Veon the safest weekly running back to own. His durability concerns are overblown and is a problem for any running back who takes the field each week. Only 26 years old, Bell has played in 27 of his last 28 games. -CH
3. Alvin Kamara (RB3) – In today’s NFL, it’s common for rookie running backs to produce. It’s not common for them to end a Hall-of-Famer’s career, lead all RBs in receiving, and be the most efficient player of all time (real life and fantasy). Kamara now gets a fully healthy line for the first time in his career, one that numberFire projects to be the best in all of football in 2018. And let’s not forget that Kamara’s sole competition for touches, Mark Ingram, will be suspended the first four games of 2018, giving Kamara a chance to run away with the lion’s share of touches. While it may seem extreme to have Kamara as the RB3, remember that he finished third last season while receiving a workload that will dwarf what he should get this year. I can go on and on and on about why you should draft Alvin Kamara, but I’ll leave you with this: in a recent episode of the Fantasy Feast podcast, Rotoworld’s Evan Silva says he envisions a scenario in which Kamara has over 100 catches in 2018. I’ll let you go clean your shorts. -CB
4. Ezekiel Elliott (RB4) – Zeke is the only human being in the NFL who averages over 100 rushing yards per game in their career. He is as consistent as they come, scoring 25 touchdowns in 25 career games. After his six-game suspension last year, he actually outperformed his historic rookie season (1,994 total yards and 16 touchdowns) on a per-game basis. At 23 years old, Zeke is in the prime of his career, with an elite offensive line, in a run-happy offensive scheme. The loss of Dez Bryant and Jason Witten will force Dak Prescott and the Cowboys to lean on Zeke even more on the ground and should pave the way for his best season receiving the ball as well. Besides maybe Todd Gurley, Ezekiel Elliott is the most frustrating running back to face in fantasy. -CH
5. David Johnson (RB5) – David Johnson has achieved the Kawhi Leonard effect. After being away from football for an entire season, it seems like people are forgetting just how incredible his 2016 season was – Craig and myself included. To understand how good Johnson was in ‘16, maybe we should focus on how good our first pick was in ‘17. Todd Gurley took the league by storm last year, finishing as the best player in fantasy by a decent margin. Only one year prior, David Johnson outscored 2017 Gurley by more than a full point per game (367.8 to 351.3). While David Johnson “played” one game more than Todd Gurley, it’s easy to forget that he was hurt only eight touches into Week 17. Had he finished that game at the pace he was on, DJ would’ve closed the season at a Peyton-esque 390 points. Sprinkle in Johnson’s fresh legs, Steve Wilks intention to run the football, checkdown king Sam Bradford at the helm, and a contract-year narrative, and you have the recipe for another league-winning year from the Cardinal’s RB. -CB
6. Saquon Barkley (RB6) – New Giants HC Pat Shurmur has developed and bred bellcow running backs throughout his career. From Steven Jackson in St. Louis, to LeSean McCoy in Philadelphia, to what Dalvin Cook was looking like in Minnesota last year, Saquon has landed on fantasy Cloud Nine. His measurables are off the charts, finishing in the 99th percentile in Nike’s SPARQ (athleticism test measuring speed, power, agility, reaction, and quickness). His ability to accelerate, break tackles, and catch the football immediately includes him in the Le’Veon Bell/Todd Gurley/David Johnson conversation. At the very least he is looking at 250 carries and 50 targets, something only five RBs accomplished in 2017. With a veteran QB, an improved O-line, and a slew of talent surrounding him, Saquon will have every opportunity to dominate in Shurmur’s West Coast offense. -CH
7. Antonio Brown (WR1) – I don’t know what else this guy needs to do. Last year, Brown finished fewer than two points short of the WR1, which would have been his third season as the WR1 over the last four seasons. The other time he wasn’t, he still fell within two points of the top receiver. Since breaking out in 2013, Brown has AVERAGED (!!!!) 121-1,621-11 a season, on a per-game basis. The 288 fantasy points he’s averaged over that span has only been topped by four receivers over the last 20 seasons: Calvin Johnson (2011), Randy Moss (2003, 2007), Torry Holt (2003), and Marvin Harrison (1999, 2001, 2002). Brown isn’t just consistently safe, he also has a crazy-high ceiling, finishing with over 25 fantasy points in 20 of 77 (26%) games played since 2013. For reference, Calvin Johnson had “just” 21 of those over the course of his 135-game career (16%). We are watching one of the five best receivers of all time in Antonio Brown, and that might be underselling it. -CB
8. Kareem Hunt (RB7) – Leading the league in rushing as a rookie is good enough to warrant first-round consideration no matter your situation. However, his situation for this season increases his risk factor by just enough to knock him below the elite fantasy backs. With an inexperienced QB, a revamped receiving core, and a porous defense, game script could get in the way of Hunt’s fantasy potential. But his volume floor and increased role in the passing game is more than enough to let you rest easy at night. Hunt, who led the league in evaded tackles and breakaway runs, is locked in for another stellar year. -CH
9. DeAndre Hopkins (WR2) – Last year’s number-one overall receiver had a one-game advantage over Antonio Brown, but also had a severe disadvantage in terms of quarterback ability. For seven games, Nuk had the first legitimate quarterback of his entire career. What’s incredible is how steady Hopkins remains with everyone else: since becoming the first option, DeAndre Hopkins has averaged 90-1,269-8 with every quarterback not named DeShaun Watson. That floor is what keeps him in the first round, and his Clemson connection with Watson is what could put him in Canton one day. -CB
10. Odell Beckham Jr. (WR3) – Odell has only played 16 games in one of his four NFL campaigns. However, here are the stat lines for every year he played more than four games, 2014: 91-1305-12; 2015: 96-1450-13; 2016: 101-1367-10. Even though these numbers are staggering, it still hasn’t quite felt like he’s had THE YEAR yet. Here’s a fun stat: Odell’s WORST healthy fantasy season (2016) outscored every season of Julio Jones’ career besides one. The number of weapons in New York may prevent him from setting any target records, but Eli Manning should pepper OBJ across the middle of the field. Plus, the NFL new helmet rule should make it even easier for Odell to produce over the middle of the field. If you’re still having trouble forgetting Odell’s ankle injury, watch this. -CH
11. Melvin Gordon (RB8) – It’s weird that the most explosive player in college football history is basically a plodder who puts up the ugliest RB1 numbers in his respective group. Melvin Gordon is an oddly unsexy pick, who finds a way to give you decent numbers despite looking like Trent Richardson with 3.8 YPC. Regardless of his red flags, there is good reason to believe that 2018 sets up to be Gordon’s brightest season yet. He’ll be running behind the best O-line of his career, his best defense which will keep the Chargers in games, and the loss of Hunter Henry and Antonio Gates should give him the largest target share of his career. While we’ve been waiting two years for Gordon’s fantasy points to regress to his inefficiency, 2018 might show us the inverse. -CB
12. Julio Jones (WR4) – The only thing preventing you from drafting Julio Jones at this point is boredom. He no longer jumps off the board as the sexy pick, mainly because touchdowns are sexy, and Julio and touchdowns go to together like NBC and a quality sitcom (WHAM). Unfortunately, the touchdown positive regression we’ve been hoping for has never come, as Julio has only reached double digit scores once in his career and has averaged only 6 per season. It is remarkable that he finished as the WR5 in 2017 considering he only reached the end zone three times. Is it bad luck? Last year Julio and DeAndre Hopkins each drew 19 red-zone targets, resulting in one touchdown for Julio and seven for Hopkins. So you decide. At age 29, Julio is still at the tail end of his prime. He still explodes after the catch (fourth in yards after the catch in 2017), draws high-reward targets (third in target distance) and makes the most of each play (first in yards per route run with 3.20). So draft him. BE BORING. He will still produce steady WR1 numbers regardless of touchdowns, just don’t expect your friends to ooh and ahh as you write his name up on the board. Who knows, maybe this is the year he gets lucky. -CH
13. Leonard Fournette (RB9) – In the 16 games (including playoffs) of Fournette’s career, he amassed 338 carries (first in the NFL), 1,282 yards (fourth), 13 touchdowns (tied for first), and his 43 receptions were eighth highest among running backs with over 200 carries. As the playoffs indicated, Fournette is the most important weapon on the team, and was responsible for 31.9% of the Jaguars yards/touchdowns last season—third most of any player in the league. The only things slowing the LSU pile driver are his nagging ankle injury that has followed him from college, which limited him to only 13 games in the regular season last year, and his reckless running style. Before tweaking his ankle at the end of Week 6, he was averaging 4.58 YPC (third highest among RBs with 200+ carries), and only 3.22 after the injury in his final seven games. Fournette is healthy, reported to camp 15 pounds lighter, and has only recently grasped the concept of adjusting his play style to avoid unnecessary contact, saying that he now understands why running out of bounds sometimes can save his body throughout the season. Fournette’s combination of talent, strong O-line play, and league-leading volume has the potential to produce Ezekiel Elliott-like numbers. -CH
14. Keenan Allen (WR5) – After a promising rookie season, Allen was a relatively disappointing player. For the following seasons, he either failed to stay healthy – playing 23/48 games from 2014-2016 – or looked like Jarvis Landry with a ghastly 10.5 YPR average. Finally, in 2017 he was able to boost his YPR to 13.7, remain healthy, and even showed week-winning upside (from Week 11-14, respectively: 12-159-2; 11-172-1; 10-105-1, 6-111-0). Now with Hunter Henry out for the season, Allen has a chance to elevate the 159 targets he received in 2017. It’s a small sample size, but in the five games Allen has played without an elite tight end, he’s averaged 11.6 targets per game; I think it’s safe to believe he should receive a nice middle ground between that and the 9.9 he received in 2017. Continuing to capitalize on Henry’s absence, there may even be a chance that Allen receives the highest red-zone target share of his career in 2018. -CB
15. Dalvin Cook (RB10) – Last year, Dalvin Cook tore his ACL before he could influence the outcome of anyone’s fantasy season. However, in the 3.5 games he did play, he posted numbers that paced 319 touches for 1,665 yards and 7.5 touchdowns. A versatile athlete who proved he can be a three-down back, Dalvin has the ability to act as the Le’Veon Bell of his team if he can fend off competent backup and potential red zone vulture Latavius Murray. In Week 3, Dalvin logged 27 carries and and caught five passes for 72 receiving yards. They beat Tampa Bay 34-17 and never trailed. A favorable game script could be what separates Cook from his fantasy peers thanks to the stacked Minnesota offense, who finished second in the league in rushing attempts last year (501). Cook received reps during OTAs and is a full go at training camp, giving him plenty of time to develop chemistry with new QB Kirk Cousins, and new OC John DeFilippo. -CH
16. Michael Thomas (WR6) – Close your eyes. I want you to imagine something special: A 6-foot-3, 212-pound college receiver with adept route-running ability and hands comparable to Larry Fitzgerald. A team that boasts one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time – who still clearly has plenty left in the tank after leading the league in passing yards the past two seasons – picks this receiver with high draft capital. The two instantly demonstrate chemistry, and the receiver ends his rookie season with over 90 catches and 1,000 yards. Next season, despite the HoF quarterback throwing 137 fewer passes, the 6-foot-3, 212-pound (in case you forgot) receiver actually finishes the season with better stats, totalling more than 100 receptions and 1,200 yards, and setting the record for the most receptions in a player’s first two seasons. Coming into this season, this receiver is actually set for positive regression in terms of total passing volume and touchdowns. Take Michael Thomas in 2018, even if he sounds too good to be true. -CB
17. Christian McCaffrey (RB11) – McCaffrey’s rookie year was a mixed bag. The first half of the season garnered elite receiving numbers, averaging over six catches for 47 yards per game, while averaging a measly 2.3 YPC. In the the second half, he averaged fewer than four catches for 34 yards per game, but boosted his YPC to 4.7. Goal-line and first-down vulture Jonathan Stewart is off the team this season, but Carolina signed CJ Anderson to act as the early-down back. CJ Anderson has only played 16 games once in his career, and averages a pedestrian 3.7 YPC. In an offense much more suited to McCaffrey’s skillset, look for the second-year man out of Stanford to improve his game on the ground and through the air. If preseason is any indication, the Panthers look committed to feeding McCaffrey on early downs and in the red zone and he is responding well. Although it didn’t seem like it, McCaffrey finished as the RB11 last season and caught the third most passes by any running back in the league. Le’Veon Bell led all RBs with 948 total snaps last season. The second most? Christian McCaffrey. Listed as our RB11, a repeat of last season seems to be McCaffrey’s worst-case scenario. -CH
18. Jerick McKinnon (RB12) – Mckinnon is an athletic freak whose measurables never translated into fantasy or actual stardom in Minnesota. This season he finally has all the presents under the tree after signing a four-year, $36.9 million contract with Jimmy G and the 49ers. With second-year, fourth-round draft pick Joe Williams, newly acquired Alfred Morris, and injured Matt Breida behind him, McKinnon will have to fight for the opportunity to feature his talents at full capacity in the Devonta Freeman role in San Francisco. Should he win that fight, McKinnon will have plenty of opportunities all over the field with head coach Kyle Shanahan calling the shots, who has a history of utilizing his backs in the passing game. In 2015, Shanahan’s first season as OC in Atlanta, Devonta Freeman finished as the overall RB1 and amassed 1,634 total yards, 73 catches, and 14 touchdowns, all career highs. Last season, the first without Shanahan, Freeman totaled 1,182 total yards and 36 catches. McKinnon is a high-risk/high-reward prospect who has quickly become the sexiest prospect in fantasy and will play an integral role on a 49ers team with lofty expectations. -CH
19. AJ Green (WR7) – Green has gone from a sexy, coveted top-five talent, to a “I don’t really want him, but I can’t pass on him at this pick” kind of player. Sadly, it’s pretty easy to validate this narrative; 2017 was Green’s worst season as a pro from a points-per-game perspective, despite seeing the third-highest target total of his career and playing relatively injury free. Now he heads into his age-30 season, and the Bengals haven’t done much to prevent all of the double teams Green saw last year. Still, there’s reason for hope. Green is one season removed from being a top-three receiver in PPG in 2016, the Bengals bolstered their lackluster offensive line, which will both give Dalton time to throw and allow for a more balanced offense, and first-round pick John Ross had a fully healthy offseason and may be able to stretch the field for the Bengals. Green may not be as enticing as he once was, but he’s still a freak talent who is capable of finishing as the WR1. 2018 may be the year that Green goes from “Can’t pass on him at this pick” to “I can’t believe we let Green fall to that pick.” -CB
20. Davante Adams (WR8) – One of the most important aspects of fantasy football is learning to admit when you’re wrong. Come 2016, I had to admit that I was wrong about Davante Adams. After a stat-padded college career, and an underwhelming first two years in the league (his 10.7 YPR average would have placed him 82nd amongst qualifying players in 2017), Adams finally broke out to the tune of 75-997-12 in 2016. While history would suggest that regression would come for Adams’ touchdown total in 2017, he maintained double-digit scores in a season full of inconsistencies for the Packers offense. Now he enters 2018 with an inside chance to create a trilogy of 10-touchdown seasons, along with his premier 1,000-yard season. The addition of Jimmy Graham and Adams’ concussion history are reasons for concern, but the reward of being Aaron Rodgers’ number-one option outweigh any cost that may come with it. -CB
21. Doug Baldwin (WR9) – Imagine averaging 82-1,095-10 over the last three seasons, missing two games in your career, and still being considered a sleeper in 2018. Baldwin doesn’t just have the past accolades going for him this year; he enters this season as the Seahawks lead receiver by a steady margin. Seattle lost 198 targets this offseason – including 42 targets for 15 touchdowns in the red-zone – and did little-to-nothing to replace them. With losses to the defense that include Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Michael Bennett, Sheldon Richardson, and potentially Earl Thomas, Seattle will have to pass often to stay in games. These factors could lead to Baldwin having a career year in every category outside of touchdowns (15), but may still come close. Doug Baldwin is Antonio Brown Lite with the brightest outlook on paper of almost any player on this list, but he’s going to remain underrated simply because his name just isn’t that cool. -CB
22. LeSean McCoy (RB13) – *For the sake of this article, I am setting aside his pending legal issues and judging him only as a football player who is taking the field Week 1.* – The Bills lost their top three offensive linemen this offseason, have the bleakest QB situation in the league (hooray, Browns!), and LeSean McCoy will take the field for his age-30 season having logged more carries than any running back since 2009. The pros? He’s missed five games in five years, finished fourth in the league in YPC vs. a stacked front, and should surpass 300 touches like he did last year when he finished as the overall RB7 while receiving the second most carries in the league. His explosion and quickness has not diminished, as he totaled the second most runs of 15 yards or more and evaded the third most tackles in the league last year (97). His workload will most likely increase on a team that ran the ball 486 times in 2017. This season will not be McCoy’s best, but you shouldn’t draft him like it’s going to be his worst. -CH
23. Devonta Freeman (RB14) – Freeman will go down as one of the weirdest RB1s in fantasy history, but over the last couple of seasons it’s proved to be no fluke. Since Freeman first broke out in 2015, he’s averaged an astounding 1,551 all-purpose yards to go with 11 touchdowns. While his catches took a nosedive last year, second-year OC Steve Sarkisian came out and admitted that he’d like to adjust his offense to get the ball to Freeman and Tevin Coleman more in the passing game. While he isn’t used as one, Freeman has all of the tools to be a three-down back, and may get the opportunity if Tevin Coleman were to miss anytime (which he’s done every year since being drafted in 2015). In an offense primed for touchdown regression, don’t be surprised if Freeman explodes back to his 2015 stats next season. -CB
24. Stefon Diggs (WR10) – Diggs’ talent is undeniable, flashing glimpses of Antonio Brown on plays like this. Before injuring his groin in Week 5, Diggs was averaging 5.5-98-1 per game. Had this average continued, he would have finished as the overall WR1 by 33 points. At only 6-foot, 191 pounds, Diggs recieved Pro Football Focus’ best contested catch rate (64%), grabbing 18 of 25 contested passes and dropping none. His 12 red-zone receptions were good for fifth in the league last season. The upside for Diggs is as limitless as any elite wide receiver in the NFL, his only hindrance is a pesky groin that has been bothering him for the better part of two seasons. Diggs is currently getting drafted eight picks behind teammate Adam Thielen, who broke out last year under former OC and current NYG head coach Pat Shurmer. With a QB upgrade in Kirk Cousins, Diggs is a risk worth taking. -CH
25. Mike Evans (WR11) – Not known for his consistency, Evans is one of only three WRs in history to surpass 1,000 yards in each of his first four seasons (Randy Moss and AJ Green). His touchdowns are a different story. Last season he received 20 red-zone targets, (eighth amongst WRs), but only hauled in five catches (58th amongst WRs with at least 12 red-zone targets). So… is he good or bad? The good: one could say he is due for positive regression after catching 12 touchdowns in two of his first four seasons, and that he is only one year removed from leading the league in targets. One could also say that shotty QB play is the product of Evans statistical fluctuations, considering he led the NFL in contested targets (54) as well as contested catches (23) last season. The bad: The Bucs continue to develop talent in their receiving core (DeSean Jackson, Chris Godwin, OJ Howard, Cameron Brate), his starting QB Jameis Winston is suspended for the first three games of the season, and last year Evans recorded career lows in total yards and yards per game. -CH
26. Adam Thielen (WR12) – Adam Thielen is a sneaky athlete who reminds me of Wes Welker. He’s a real gym rat, and beats you with good fundamentals, and a high motor. When you pair those qualities with the fact that he leads the league in scrappiness-per-target (SPT), and is on pace to top Hall-of-Famer Lance Alworth in career out-hustling, it’s hard to believe that a player with this much heart slid to the third round.
But on top of that grit, here are a few facts to get you nerds all excited. Thielen has above-average big-play ability (14 YPR) to go with his Golden Tate-level volume (91 receptions on 143 targets). In 2017, he received Pro Football Focus’ sixth highest contested catch rate (51.7%), which makes the 6-foot-3 Minnesota native an underrated red-zone target. His red-zone prowess showed up in 2016, when he converted 10 red-zone targets into eight catches for three touchdowns. Up there with Antonio Brown and OBJ in route-running ability, playing with the best quarterback of his career, and still only 27, you can believe that the Adam Thielen breakout continues all the way into 2018. -CB
27. Josh Gordon (WR13) – I get that this guy hasn’t played football in a while, but this being considered a bullish pick is baffling to me. Do you know how many receivers have averaged more than 115 yards per game while playing at least half of a season? Julio Jones, Calvin Johnson, Jerry Rice, and…Wes Chandler? Besides Wes Chandler, who deserves a 30-For-30 on his 1,032-yard, eight-game season, that’s some pretty decent company. Last year, Gordon finally returned in a five-game stint that included a mind-boggling 18.6 YPR (he had 18.9 in 2013), and stat lines of 3-69-1, 4-115-0, and 4-85 on the elite Chargers D. The best cornerback in the league (yeah I said it) Casey Hayward called Gordon his “…toughest matchup all year besides OBJ.” Gordon has shown signs of sticking with his rehab, and while him skipping training camp has some people up in arms, I think it’s a sign of a guy who’s getting his priorities together. After finally reporting to training camp, Gordon has roughly a month to play catch up. There’s always a risk associated with him, but few players offer the upside of Flash Gordon. -CB
28. Jordan Howard (RB15) – John Fox is fantasy football’s Lucifer, and Matt Nagy will be your Lord and Savior. Per 4For4’s TJ Hernandez, Jordan Howard excelled running out of the shotgun, increasing his YPC by a full 2.6 yards, yet they ran out of that formation only a fourth of the time. Meanwhile, the Chiefs ran nearly half of their running plays out of the shotgun. Per PFF, the Bears were the most effective rushing team when using RPOs last season (8.1 YPC), and you can expect RPO savant Matt Nagy to use them at a much heavier rate than John Fox did. Howard’s receiving “abilities” can be cause for worry, but he’s reported to have done a lot of work in the offseason to bolster his pass-catching. It’s a small sample size, but he did increase his catch rate by a solid 14% last season. The third-year back may seem boring, but 2018 might be the time to catch Howard at the right time with a sexy new coach, an above-average line, and a young, ascending defense. -CB
29. Jay Ajayi (RB16) – As the season progressed, Ajayi proved more capable a runner than LeGarrette Blount after joining the Eagles mid-season, receiving more carries than Blount in five of his final six games. Doug Pederson has a history of using his running backs in bunches, but with Blount in Detroit and 35-year-old Darren Sproles returning from ACL injury, early reports suggest the 25-year-old Ajayi may be in line for 250+ carries this season behind the best offensive line in football. In 2016, Ajayi finished as the RB11 with 260 carries behind a poor Miami offensive line. -CH
30. Rob Gronkowski (TE1) – It doesn’t take a lot for Gronk to be the best fantasy tight end in the league. He finished 0.1 behind the TE1 last season while recording only the fourth most catches/yards of his career, and the sixth most touchdowns in 14 games. He basically had a mediocre year for his standards and finished as the TE2. With Gronk and the Pats, the story is always the same. If he can stay healthy – which is a massive if – he will be the best tight end in fantasy. No Brandin Cooks and four games without Edelman should help. -CH
31. Kenyan Drake (RB17) –
♫ Kenyan ♫
♫ Do you love me?♩
♪ Are you running?♩
♫ Say you never leave the field ♫
♩On third downs ♫
♫ Cause I want yards ♫
♩And I need yards ♫
♫ Fuck, he’s down at the goal-line ♫
Haha! What’s up, millenials???? I’m an anthropomorphic business suit!!!!
Now that Frank “Can’t Average More Than Four YPC” Gore has joined the Dolphins, people are getting a little nervous about Kenyan Drake. I’m here to say that those concerns are overblown. Gore has never shared the backfield with this kind of established talent, and the writing has been on the wall for Frank the Tank for years. Now let’s look at the glass half full: Miami didn’t just gain Frank Gore, they lost Jarvis Landry and his 161 targets. Kenyan Drake stands to be a huge beneficiary in an offense that tends to replace its run game with short-to-intermediate passes, and Drake was already receiving 5.8 targets per game as a featured back last season. Drake remains one of the few do-it-all backs at this point in a RB-heavy year, and can leave you with upside for 300+ touches. One extra tidbit that I like: the under-the-radar ‘Bama back had one of the most explosive seasons in over half a decade; per ESPN’s Matthew Berry, 4.5% of Drake’s rushes went for 30+ yards, the highest in six years. -CB
32. Joe Mixon (RB18) – One of the few non-top tier RBs set to be the bell cow of the offense, Joe Mixon showed signs of life in the second half of his rookie season, averaging 5.0 yards per attempt over his last four games after he took over for Jeremy Hill. Mixon is an evasive, powerful runner with wheels and an opportunity to finish as an RB1.
WEIGHT WATCHERS ALERT: JOE MIXON SHOWED UP TO CAMP 12 LBS LEANER AND SAYS HE “FEELS REAL GOOD” = GUARANTEED FANTASY PRODUCTION. -CH
33. Larry Fitzgerald (WR14) – The way I feel about Larry Fitzgerald is similar to the way I used to feel about Marshawn Lynch in his final years with the Seahawks. Every year I avoid him, waiting for the decline, and every year he continues to be a top-12 player at his respective position. Eventually I was right about Marshawn, and eventually I’ll be right about Fitz, but is it even worth it at that point? In 2018, I’m going to go against my fears and trust the process. Since his age-32 season, Fitzgerald has averaged 109-1,133-7, without missing a single game. After losing Carson Palmer, in comes Sam Bradford, who has targeted a slot receiver on 24.8% of his career pass attempts, the third-highest rate in the league, per PFF. Add that to a Mike McCoy offense that has historically peppered its lead receiver with targets, and there’s no reason to believe that Larry Fitzgerald can’t once again return to the fountain of youth this season. -CB
34. TY Hilton (WR15) – Hilton claims to be “all in” on the Colts’ new coaching staff of former eagles OC Frank Reich (now head coach of the Colts) and former Chargers WR coach Nick Sirianni (now OC) according to The Indianapolis Star’s Zak Keefer. A fresh and forward-thinking offensive scheme could be just what the doctor ordered for T.Y. and the refurbished Luck. The last three years T.Y. has played with a healthy Luck he finished as the WR5, WR11, and WR20, respectively. Both only 28 years old, the connection between these two is one of the deadliest in the NFL and could win your league if Luck’s shoulder decides to play nice. -CH
35. Alex Collins (RB19) – Collins appears to have his grip on lead back duties in Baltimore thanks to a 2017 campaign that exceeded expectations after getting waived by the Seahawks only a few weeks before the regular season. In his final nine games, presumably much more familiar with the offense, Collins carried the ball 150 times, which extrapolates to 267 in a 16-game season. Collins finished as the RB18 last season and will have every chance to push for for high-end RB2/low-end RB1 value if he can fend off Buck Allen and Kenneth Dixon in Baltimore’s run-heavy offense. The return of RG Marshal Yanda and LG Alex Lewis will also be a huge boost for Collins efficiency (Keep an eye out for Lamar Jackson becoming the starting QB, mobile QBs tend to have a positive influence on their running backs. See: Lamar Miller). -CH
36. Travis Kelce (TE2) – Zeus has lived up to his nickname these last two seasons, finishing as the TE1 in back-to-back years. It still feels weird to type this, but the biggest knock against Kelce this season is the loss of Alex Smith. Over his career, Alex Smith has targeted tight ends at the third-highest rate of any player in the NFL, per PFF. But there’s still room for hope. Albeit a wildly small sample size, when playing with the backups in week 17, Patrick Mahomes peppered slot receiver Albert Wilson with 11 targets. Guess who was the most efficient slot receiver in the entire NFL? Even if you aren’t a believer in Patrick Mahomes (I am), Andy Reid is an offensive savant and innovator, one who finds a way to get the ball to his best players…usually. Travis Kelce is a week-winning talent at his position, and has a way higher floor than he’s given credit for. -CB
37. Zach Ertz (TE3) – Ertz is the perfect blend of consistency and upside. Ertz is the only tight end in the NFL to record at least 74 catches or receive at least 106 targets in each of the last three seasons, all while missing five games during that stretch. The only thing keeping Ertz from reaching the Kelce/Gronk tier is touchdowns, a stat he has doubled in each of the last three seasons (two, four, eight). Having yet to complete a full season with Carson Wentz, Ertz is poised for his best year yet. -CH
38. Tyreek Hill (WR16) – After having a debut season in 2016 that featured a touchdown in every fashion possible, Tyreek Hill was unfairly compared to gadget players the likes of C.J. Spiller, Dexter McCluster, and Tavon Austin. What’s different about him compared to these “swiss-army-knife players” is that Hill actually has the ability to run routes, and doesn’t simply rely on straight-line speed to win. Not that his 4.24 40 hurts, as all of Hill’s last 13 touchdowns have come from 30+ yards out, per Rotoworld’s Evan Silva. I’m betting that the 30-yard touchdowns keep rolling this season, as Patricks Mahomes showed in the preseason. The volatility is definitely there in 2018, but that’s what you embrace with this pick. Tyreek Hill consistently performs the unsustainable, and that’s what’s so amazing about him. -CB
39. Amari Cooper (WR17) – 2017 was an uncharacteristically disappointing year for the promising Cooper and the up-and-coming Raiders. On October 1st, Derek Carr suffered a transverse process fracture in his back, and fought his way back after only one game, dooming the Raiders offense for the remainder of the season. Cooper’s woes mimed the Raiders’ season, limping to career lows in nearly every category. However, there were a few bright spots in the talented young receiver’s season. In the eight games he received more than only five targets, he averaged 13.1 fantasy points per game, which is good enough to be the WR5. Michael Crabtree is gone, Jordy Nelson and Martavis Bryant are in, meaning Cooper’s targets will not skyrocket, but should reach his career average of almost eight targets per game. New HC and advanced stats GURU Jon Gruden has already stated he would like Cooper to be at the center of Oakland’s offensive game plan. -CH
40. Marvin Jones (WR18) – Every year there are one or two players who finish top-12 at their respective position, but it really doesn’t feel like it. It might be because they had a weird distribution of breakout games, or were just consistent without ever giving you a week-winning game. Marvin Jones was a weird bit of both. In 2018 he scored a touchdown and/or put up 50 yards in 14 out of 16 games, and in the middle of the season had two games with at least 6-100-2. Although he isn’t the sexiest pick, Jones is a dependable WR2 who provides WR1 upside, and may see an uptick in targets with Eric Ebron departing for Indianapolis. -CB
41. Golden Tate (WR19) – Craig and I always have weird labels for certain types of fantasy players that make no sense, and make perfect sense at the same time. Players like Odell and Josh Gordon are “sexy,” while Demaryius Thomas and Michael Crabtree are “gross.” Golden Tate falls right in the middle in what we like to call the “nice” category. When you set your lineup with a “nice” player, you know exactly what you’re getting that week, and while he probably isn’t going to win your matchup for you, he definitely isn’t going to lose it. Since joining the Lions in 2014, Tate has recorded at least 5 receptions in 67% of his games, hasn’t missed a game, and has had 50 or more yards in 40 out of 64 games. That is the epitome of “nice.” -CB
42. Juju Smith-Schuster (WR20) – Juju’s stellar rookie campaign was even more impressive than his stat line suggests. Not only did he finish as the WR16 while playing only 14 games, but among qualifying wide receivers, he led the league in yards per target, QB rating when targeted, and fantasy points per target. In Juju’s final eight games of the season, he averaged 5.7-82-0.5 per game, compared to 3.5-61-0.5 in his first eight. With Martavis Bryant out of the picture, more targets will be up for grab in one of the league’s top offenses in a what should be a second-year leap for Juju. -CH
43. Chris Hogan (WR21) – Two-hundred targets are up for grabs with Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola out of New England. And with Julian Edelman suspended for the first four games for being a cheater, Hogan is going to be the sole proprietor of targets, and is the only pass catcher on the Patriots who has earned Brady’s trust and doesn’t chug vodka waters. Before going down with a shoulder injury, Hogan was a WR1 who hauled in five touchdowns in the first five games of the season. The history of players returning to form after a PED suspension is underwhelming in the NFL, so expect Hogan to remain the top receiver in New England even after Edelman returns. -CH
44. Allen Robinson (WR22) – ACL tears are no longer the season-enders they once were, but it’s still a concern whether or not those players will return to full form. Still, Robinson’s had a full season to recover, and is only a few years removed from a monstrous 80-1,400-14 season. Now he heads to Chicago with creative play caller Matt Nagy as coach, and maaayyyybeeeee the best quarterback he’s ever had in Mitchell Trubisky. I don’t think we can expect Robinson’s breakout 2015 season to happen again, but high-end WR2 numbers are not out of the question for the Dez Bryant reincarnate. -CB
45. Lamar Miller (RB20) – The effect of Deshaun Watson and his rushing ability are directly correlated with Lamar Miller’s efficiency. With Deshaun Watson: 20 touches for 87 yards and 0.6 touchdowns = 13.57 points per game. Without Deshaun Watson: 17 touches for 66 yards and 0.2 touchdowns = 8.94 points per game. Miller was perennially underused and beloved in the fantasy community in Miami, but experienced a steep decline in sexiness after disappointing in his first year with Houston in 2016. The offensive line is reason for worry, but his workload and opportunity is not, so draft Miller and expect numbers closer to his split with Deshaun. D’Onta Foreman is recovering from a torn achilles and Alfred “least intriguing backup in the NFL” Blue is likely to maintain his role as the change-of-pace back this season. -CH
46. Rex Burkhead (RB21) – Rex Burkhead has long been a crush of the fantasy community, and this season he’ll get his opportunity to capture everyone’s hearts. In his lone game as a feature back in 2016, Burkhead showed to be up to the task, totalling 134 yards and two touchdowns on 29 touches. Burkhead suffered an injury-plagued first season with the Patriots, and is dealing with a knee injury, though it has been reported a benign one. In his first stint with the Pats, Burkhead flashed potential with eight touchdowns in 10 games. While there is an understandable aversion to Patriots running backs, Burkhead has an oddly safe floor as New England’s goal-line back – a role that ceded 17 touchdowns to Legarrette Blount two seasons ago. His ceiling is a rare every-down back in one of the most potent offenses in football. -CB
47. Derrick Henry (RB22) – Henry’s career could be described as disappointing if you look at the raw numbers (10 rushing touchdowns, fewer than 1,500 rushing yards in two seasons). Henry is a powerful, fast ball carrier who needs volume to succeed. Last season, in the eight games Henry received fewer than 10 carries, he averaged 2.79 YPC. In the eight games he received more than 10 carries, he averaged 5.14 YPC. With Dion Lewis in the picture, the passing game and third downs will likely be foreign occurrences for Henry, but with DeMarco Murray gone, Henry is set for career highs in carries and red-zone touches. -CH
48. Aaron Rodgers (QB1) – Halfway through the article, and we’ve finally decided to draft the most talented quarterback in the history of football. We all know why you should take Rodgers, whether it be his league-leading 24 PPG since taking the reins in 2008, or that he’s been on pace for 30+ touchdowns in eight of the last 10 seasons, or even that he’s been a top-two fantasy quarterback in seven of his last eight healthy seasons. We all know that. Instead, let’s take a quick look at why you shouldn’t draft him any earlier than this point, and why you may want to wait on QBs if you aren’t taking Rodgers. Last season, seven of the top-12 QBs were found in the ninth round or later, per Fantasy Football Calculator’s ADP archive. Compare this to two out of 12 for wide receivers, and surprisingly two out of 12 for running backs. This means with each early pick you don’t use on running backs or receivers, you miss out on a chance to nab a WR1 or RB1. Meanwhile, the pool of QBs is still wide open as you approach double-digit rounds, and can even be found on the waiver wires if your league tends to be bearish on the position. Last year’s QB12 (Blake Bortles) scored 73% of the QB1’s (Russell Wilson) total points, but 90% of the QB5’s (Kirk Cousins), meaning if you aren’t going to spend the capital on who you consider a top-tier QB, it’s worth waiting and focusing on other positions. -CB
49. Randall Cobb (WR23) – If there were any year where Cobb (still somehow only 27 years old) could come close to matching his transcendent 2014 season (91-1287-12), it’s this year. Per Rotoworld’s Evan Silva, Cobb’s 2017 receiving pace was 96/967/6.4 in five full games with Rodgers. With Rodgers missing his red-zone security blanket Jordy Nelson, Cobb’s 2017 pace could be his floor. He is a value pick this season currently being drafted in the eighth round. -CH
50. Jimmy Graham (TE4) – I am a firm believer that Jimmy Graham is no longer good. There, I said it. In 2018, Graham averaged an anemic 32.5 yards per game, nearly half his career average of 62.2. Graham’s inability to get open only worsened over the season; here are Graham’s yardage totals from week 12-17: 34, 26, 0, -1, 3, 45. The only thing that kept him startable over that course was the three touchdowns he received as the “goal-line back” in Seattle’s running-back-free offense. Now he heads to a Packers team that likes to throw in the red-zone, but also features a talented three-headed monster in the backfield. So why is Jimmy Graham our TE4? Sometimes fantasy football doesn’t need to be hard. The best quarterback in football who gave Richard Rodgers eight touchdowns one season will be throwing to a 6-foot-7 power forward whose specialty lies in scoring. Just get ready for the roller coaster weeks when he doesn’t. -CB
51. Robby Anderson (WR24) – Before “quarterback” Bryce Petty was throwing him the football, Robby Anderson was on pace to be the WR12 in the 13 games he played with Josh McCown. That’s a strong enough sample size to believe that he’s capable of finishing in that range again, with better QB play this year. A possible suspension has caused him to drop this far, but if you can find a replacement for that first week or two, Anderson has the skill set to be a league-winner. -CB
52. Demaryius Thomas (WR25) – Apparently a new diet has persuaded Demaryius to postpone his thoughts of early retirement and pursue a Larry Fitzgerald-like end of his career. Thomas’s career is essentially walking down the stairs, having steadily declined in every statistical category over his last four seasons, but a healthy camp, kale salads, and improved quarterback play (Case Keenum!!) are reason enough to roll the dice on D-Tom as your WR3. -CH
53. Dion Lewis (RB23) – Yeah, yeah, yeah, we’ve all seen the picture. What that picture doesn’t show is that Dion Lewis is the far more efficient short-yardage back. Per Pro Football Reference, when the Patriots needed 1-3 yards, Lewis averaged 5.3 YPC. Henry? A rough 2.0. Looking for the better goal-line back? Dion Lewis averaged 3.5 YPC inside the opponents 10, while Henry came in with 1.8. I’m not arguing that Lewis should be the goal-line back, or is the better bruiser of the two, but that you need to make sure that little stories like this photo don’t drive the narrative for your draft picks.
Realistically, Dion Lewis will end up as the Titans third-down back, and should pace Henry in receptions, but it wouldn’t be the worst move to give him a few early-down snaps. Health concerns and the possibility of Henry’s untapped potential keep him below the former Alabama monster.-CB
54. Chris Thompson (RB24) – Chris Thompson broke out as a dynamic playmaker in Matt Cavanaugh’s first season as the Redskins OC last year. In 2017, Thompson averaged 10 touches for over 80 yards a game and was a RB1 before a broken fibula ended his season in Week 10. Even with standout rookie Derrius Guice out for the season with a torn ACL, don’t expect the offense to lean too heavily on Thompson, who has played 16 games in a season only once. Checkdown artist Alex Smith should provide Thompson with a nice weekly floor. Consider him a solid flex option with a few breakout games sprinkled in. -CH
55. Corey Davis (WR26) – Corey Davis will play the same role Sammy Watkins played in Los Angeles under Tennessee’s new OC and former Rams OC Matt LeFleur. Davis’ rookie season garnered mixed results, but finished strong with a 5-63-2 line against the Patriots in the playoffs. There are a lot of mouths to feed in Tennessee, but Davis is the most talented and offers the highest touchdown upside. Tennessee faces one of the softest first-half schedules, so Davis could get off to a hot start, especially if Rishard Matthews remains sidelined. Davis could be “sell-high trade bait” midway through the season. Fun thought, Corey Davis may already be the best reciever on the Titans since the year 2000. -CH
56. Delanie Walker (TE5) – Delanie Walker is the lock of the century for positive touchdown regression in 2018. No one received a higher target share inside the 10 than Walker’s 42.1% (per Pro Football Reference), yet he ended the season with only three touchdowns. An established receiver and safe pick since joining the Titans, Delanie Walker is one of my favorite targets at tight end. -CB
57. Robert Woods (WR27) – Because Robert Woods was bad on the Bills, we just assumed he’d be bad anywhere else he went (Marquise Goodwin feels his pain). Woods quickly became a mid-range WR2 with the Rams, and ended the season on a high note, dropping 9-142-0 on an underrated Falcons defense. Robert Woods is a legitimate receiver, and can be one for your fantasy team, despite what you’ve been told these last few years. -CB
58. Sammy Watkins (WR28) – While his career hasn’t panned out as well as his class peers, Sammy Watkins was once considered the most talented receiver in what may be the best receiver class of all time. Injuries, misuse, and bad QB play have plagued Watkins, but as of late everything’s been coming up Milhouse! Watkins had a healthy season in 2017, and comes into 2018 as the fourth-highest paid receiver in the league, which suggests that the Chiefs plan to feature Watkins heavily. The only question mark now is how Patrick Mahomes will play, something that creates enough uncertainty to drop Watkins this far. Worst-case scenario, he can be an underrated red-zone target, with seven of his eight 2017 touchdowns coming within 20 yards, good for third in the league. -CB
59. Brandin Cooks (WR29) – Cooks is undeniably talented, no arguments there. Ranking him as our WR31 is based strictly on situation. He is on the most crowded/talented receiving core of his career (Woods, Kupp, Gurley), playing in the most balanced run/pass offense (prev. played with NO and NE), with the most conservative QB in Goff. His upside is still there, and he may win you some weeks with his lid-lifting speed, just don’t knock him for failing to meet his career averages. -CH
60. Alshon Jeffery (WR30) – Alshon finished his first season in Philadelphia with career lows in yards (789) and receptions (57) in seasons where he played 16 games. On the bright side, he finished 2017 with the second most touchdowns of his career (nine). If he can stay healthy (currently recovering from shoulder surgery this offseason, and reports are looking negative), Alshon should provide high-end WR3/low-end WR2 numbers in his second year with Carson Wentz in a crowded Eagles offense. -CH
61. Mark Ingram (RB25) – As young Craigory pointed out, the history of players returning from PED suspensions isn’t pretty. It makes sense; this player used a substance to maintain an advantage over the league, and now you’re asking him to jump back in without that advantage that he’s used to. Combine that with the fact that Kamara has the opportunity to runaway with the starting job, and there’s no guarantee that Ingram returns to his old RB1 ways when he comes back in Week 5. -CB
62. Kyle Rudolph (TE6) – Rudolph is the only tight end in each of the last two seasons to record seven touchdowns, and now has his best QB yet in Kirk Cousins. According to FiveThirtyEight, Cousins was the most efficient quarterback in football when two tight ends were on the field. And new OC John DeFilippo, who comes from the Eagles, ranked third in the league in share of pass plays that came with a two-TE set (24.6 percent). Rudolph is a value pick who has a strong chance to finish in front of the guys going ahead of him in drafts like Evan Engram, Greg Olsen, and Jimmy Graham. -CH
63. Marquise Goodwin (WR31) – A deep threat who proved to be more than a one-trick pony in 2018, Goodwin averaged low-end WR1 numbers with Garappollo in the lineup, and has reportedly developed a rapport with the shiny new QB this offseason. The biggest concern is how he can handle a potentially lower target share, but his big-play ability allows for a decent floor. -CB
64. Emmanuel Sanders (WR32) – Last season, Case Keenum showed an affinity for slot receiver Adam Thielen, and the addition of Courtland Sutton figures to create a lot of slot time for Emmanuel Sanders. While he may receive the moniker of “old,” Sanders is one season removed from finishing as the WR22, and was on pace for a similar finish before his high-ankle sprain in Week 6. Depending on his price range, I may end up with a lot of Sanders in 2018. -CB
65. Evan Engram (TE7) – Evan Engram exceeded expectations in his rookie year, and was the focal point of the Giants offense after Odell went down in Week 4. He closed out his final 10 with five touchdowns and six games with over 50 yards. Saquon and Odell will cut into Engram’s target share, but the second-year tight end has been vocal about his increased comfortability in the offense this year, and will produce solid TE1 numbers as one of the purest pass-catching tight ends in the league. -CH
66. Pierre Garçon (WR33) – Before injuring his neck last year, Garçon was on pace for 80 catches and 1,000 yards without playing a single game with Jimmy Garoppolo. The last time 49ers head coach/offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan had a full season with Pierre Garçon (2013 in Washington), he finished with career highs in targets (181), catches (113), and yards (1,346), and that was with RGIII throwing to him. Garçon is another value pick currently being draft in the seventh round. -CH
67. Jamison Crowder (WR34) – After a disappointing season in 2017, Jamison Crowder is a nice post-hype sleeper. Early reports are coming out that he and Alex Smith are developing chemistry, and with Chris Thompson recovering from injury, Josh Doctson rehabbing his shoulder, and Jordan Reed having glass bones and paper skin, Crowder has a nice chance to set a career high in all categories this year. -CB
68. Will Fuller (WR35) – Per target, Fuller was the most efficient pass catcher on his team by a wide margin; in the NFL, he recorded the fourth most fantasy points per target. Obviously he will not convert 25% of his receptions into touchdowns like he did last year, but Fuller is a promising third-year candidate to exceed his current ADP (74) in a Houston offense devoid of established pass-catching options behind DeAndre Hopkins. Fuller shined with Deshaun Watson when healthy, and has bulked up this offseason with the hopes of increasing his durability. Fuller is a WR3 with upside. -CH
69. Tom Brady (QB2) – Tom Brady is TheFast and the Furious franchise of NFL players. Could Tom and The Fast franchise have called it quits after the emotional and triumphant Furious 7/Tom’s 7th Super Bowl appearance and rode gloriously into the sunset to the tender vocals of Charlie Puth? Sure, if you’re a bitch. Fast 8 and Tom 8 were wilder rides than we could have ever imagined, and I for one am grateful. If they keep making movies, I’ll keep buying tickets, and same goes for the ol’ deflator. Dom said it best, “It’s never goodbye” (The Rock is obviously Gronk). #Tom9 #Fast9 -CH
70. Kerryon Johnson (RB26) – Talented enough to takeover as an every-down back in the Lion’s crowded backfield, but we don’t know if Patricia took Belichick’s RB philosophy with him to Detroit. If fully healthy, Detroit’s line is good enough to support a high-end RB2. -CB
71. Michael Crabtree (WR36) – Crabtree is in line to be the leading receiver in Baltimore. Although that sentence doesn’t exactly turn any heads, Crabtree will be the de facto red-zone target in an offense that just lost Mike Wallace and Jeremy Maclin. Since 2012, Crabtree has the 10th most touchdowns among wide receivers. -CH
72. Marshawn Lynch (RB27) – Marshawn Lynch, I tell ya what, I love this guy. I like to call him Taco Bell, because he’s great, even late in the season. It’s like a Spicy Gordita Crunch in the backfield. I love tacos, man.
Marshawn Lynch is a human battering ram who wears down defenses and only gets better as the season progresses. Over his entire NFL career, Beast Mode has averaged three more points per game over the latter half of the season. While Marshawn looked to be washed up during his opening days with the Raiders, his second-half resurgence went to the next level, as he more than doubled his points per game, and averaged nearly 100 yards from scrimmage. Don’t let the Doug Martin hype fool you, Lynch is the player to own in this backfield. -CB
73. Royce Freeman (RB28) – The antithesis of a typical Oregon running back at 6-foot, 238 pounds, Freeman is built to be a bellcow back in the NFL. After shining in the preseason, and heavily outperforming “first-string” running back Devontae Booker, Freeman is inching closer and closer to earning a starting position. At the very least he should operate as a two-down back for the Broncos, who have secretly been building up their line over the last couple of seasons. -CB
74. Cooper Kupp (WR37) – Kupp was a red-zone shark his rookie year, leading the Rams with 13 catches (third among WRs) and demanding 29.5% of the Rams targets in the red-zone (8th among WRs). Kupp improved as the season progressed last year and early reports throughout camp rave about Kupp and Goff’s chemistry. In year two of McVay’s offense, look for the sure-handed (and surprisingly well-sized at 6-foot-2) Kupp to have a dynamic season out of the slot. Kupp is one of my favorite late-round picks this season. -CH
75. Tevin Coleman (RB29) – Criminally underrated each year because he is a “backup,” Coleman has standalone value as a flex with the silver lining of becoming an immediate RB1/2 should anything happen to Devonta Freeman. Last year, Coleman finished as the RB21 on only 183 touches, and was the only RB besides Duke Johnson to finish as a top-25 back with fewer than 200 total touches. Coleman has scored 19 touchdowns over his last two seasons, so there is a chance for some regression, but his floor is higher than you think. Devonta Freeman’s knee/concussion issues are something to consider while drafting. -CH
76. Jarvis Landry (WR38) – Landry is often the target of disdain due to his ineffectiveness in real football (he had under 1,000 yards last year despite leading the league in receptions, which has to be a first), but we aren’t talking real football. Jarvis has the record for most receptions in a player’s first four seasons, with a satisfying 400. “Juice” even proved to be a decent red-zone slot receiver, taking an impressive, albeit unsustainable, nine out of eleven receptions inside the 10 for a touchdown. While the initial fear was Landry would lose volume in Cleveland, a continually crumbling receiving core paired with a horrendous defensive scheme could give Landry a target share similar to the one he received in Miami. -CB
77. Chris Carson (RB30) – An aggressive, upright runner in the same vein as Demarco Murray and Darren McFadden, Carson is a week-winner who will sacrifice his body in the name of your fantasy team. While that’s great, people need to play to put up fantasy points. Carson’s upside is still that of a talented every-down back, as Rashaad Penny is still recovering from hand surgery, and CJ Prosise has the fragility of an ice sculpture. -CB
78. Rashaad Penny (RB31) – The Chris Carson vs. Rashaad Penny debate is something to monitor. Carson is a seventh-round pick who outperformed his draft capital before breaking his leg in his short NFL career. However, spending a first-round pick on a running back is nothing to overlook from a historical fantasy perspective. According to 4For4, since 2000 there have been six running backs drafted from pick number 20-32 who have started at least nine games as rookies. Those six running backs (Doug Martin, Chris Johnson, Kevin Jones, Michael Bennett, Willis McGahee and Jahvid Best) averaged 18.3 touches per game. Penny has all the physical tools to thrive in the NFL, his 5-foot-11, 220-pound frame led college football in rushing yards his senior year, and Seattle OC Brian Schottenheimer has ranked inside the top three in rushing attempts twice in his nine-season career and has only finished outside the top 20 in rushing yards once. The offensive line in Seattle is still a major concern, and Penny has missed most of training camp with a broken finger. When he returns, he will need to improve his mediocre pass blocking to secure his role ahead of Chris Carson. If he can prove his ability to protect Russell Wilson however, you will be getting Rashaah for a Penny on the dollar. His role would outweigh his presumably average efficiency behind Seattle’s offensive line. If Carson continues to impress, Penny could end up a bust. -CH
79. Jamaal Williams (RB32) – Crowded backfields are always frustrating, but Jamaal Williams has been showered with praise this offseason, and is the best of the three when it comes to pass protection. While his YPC wasn’t pretty, Evan Silva points out that his success rate was outstanding, meaning he got the yards that were needed on a per-down basis. If the backfield splits evenly, he still gets to be a goal-line back in an Aaron Rodgers-led offense. I’ll take it. -CB
80. Nelson Agholor (WR39) – Agholor was a personal favorite of mine coming out of college. He disappointed in his first two seasons, and looked like a bust. Then last year happened, where Agholor lived in the slot and had a better year than his first two combined, going 62-768-8. Agholor is the best blocking receiver on the team, and should see the most snaps of his career. -CH
81. Greg Olsen (TE8) – The history of players returning to their previous form and staying healthy after suffering a Jones fracture isn’t promising (Dez Bryant, Julian Edelman, Julio Jones, Sammy Watkins). Dez and Edelman both required additional surgeries the next offseason, and Watkins has battled lingering issues, stating that “pain tolerance” was his biggest opposition the season after his surgery. Olsen’s presence in Carolina’s offense requires no analysis, and were he to play 16 games this season, he will most certainly outperform this ranking. -CH
82. Carlos Hyde (RB33) – Another blurb, another new Brown who we aren’t sure what to do with. Hyde finished as the RB8 last season, and while he may be one of the more talented backs in the league, that finish is mostly due to Shanahan’s RB-friendly scheme. In 2017, Hyde more than doubled his career targets, receptions, and receiving yards, while also setting a high in rushing touchdowns. Now he joins a backfield that will funnel most of its passes to Duke Johnson, and may allow for a vultured touchdown or two to rookie Nick Chubb. There’s a sliver of a chance that Carlos Hyde continues his success in Cleveland, but I won’t be taking him any earlier than this to find out. -CB
83. Peyton Barber (RB34) – He’s not going to win you any leagues, but he can be a serviceable RB2/flex until Ronald Jones takes over the starting job. Could be worth reaching for if you don’t believe in the USC rookie. -CB
84. Deshaun Watson (QB3) – There are a lot of questions surrounding Watson and his fantasy potential this season. He is coming off his second torn ACL, he has the worst offensive line in the league, and set an unrealistically high standard in the seven games he played last season. Expecting Watson to match last season’s numbers is futile, but you don’t have to. He flashed such brilliance that he doesn’t need to reciprocate to return value. Per Evan Silva, Watson outscoring all QBs by six PPG in Weeks 2-8. SIX POINTS PER GAME. He scored 30.48 points per game over his final five games. Watson is a special talent. If he can continue to weather the storm behind the offensive line, develop with his receivers, and limit risks as a scrambler, he could blow the lid off the fantasy quarterback position for years to come. -CH
85. Cam Newton (QB4) – Number of games with at least 35 fantasy points since Newton came into the league in 2010: Brady, 22; Rodgers, 21, Newton: 20. Cam Newton is already well-known for his elite ceiling game-to-game, but tends to be avoided due to inconsistencies. However, Cam’s rushing ability gives him a safer floor than he’s given credit for. Number of games with 10 or fewer fantasy points since 2010: Brady, 8; Rodgers, 6; Newton: 3. I know owning Newton has driven you crazy in the past – I still go to therapy for his 2016 season – but don’t let the narrative steer you away from one of the best floor-ceiling combos in fantasy football. -CB
86. Tyler Lockett (WR40) – The explosive Lockett is one of the few WRs left on Seattle who has played with Russell Wilson before. With Doug Baldwin on the shelf with a knee injury this offseason, Lockett could find himself in a featured role if Baldwin is sidelined longer than expected. Lockett is one of the best separators in the game and works well with the wild antics of Wilson and that offensive line. -CH
87. Tarik Cohen (RB35) – New head coach Matt Nagy wants to use Tarik Cohen like he did Tyreek Hill in Kansas City last year. Cohen blurs the line between RB and WR more than any player in the league and should line up all over the field. The Bears offense is going to make a point of getting him touches this season. He caught 53 balls last year, and that should be his floor. -CH
88. Marqise Lee (WR41) – After his 0-0-0 dud in Week 1, Lee went on to be a consistent WR3 in fantasy, putting up at least 40 yards in 10 of 12 games. Rising sophomores Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook hurt his stock. -CB
89. Jordy Nelson (WR42) – The always-true-never-hyperbolic training camp reports are immensely supportive of Nelson’s progression in Oakland. Oakland’s offense has the chance to be potent, and if Jordy can stay on the field, his red-zone abilities could make you and Jon Gruden a very happy camper. -CH
90. Kenny Stills (WR43) – Received a career high in targets in 2017, and the Dolphins enter this season with 290 targets missing from last year. A receiver who’s been pegged as a deep threat, Kenny Stills could be a poor man’s version of Marquise Goodwin last season (Marquise Finewin). -CB
91. Rishard Matthews (WR44) – Due to an undisclosed injury, Matthews has yet to practice at camp. This, plus the annually quiet chatter surrounding his fantasy value has sunk Matthews’ ADP into the middle of the 12th round. Matthews has produced WR2/3 numbers in his first two seasons with Tennessee, finishing as the WR19 in 2016 and WR35 in 2017 (missed 2 games). He also doesn’t need much volume to produce, as he was 14th in yards per target last season and averaged nearly 15 yards per catch. If healthy, Matthews will most likely produce the most consistent receiving numbers for Tennessee in what should be their most explosive offensive yet with Marcus Mariota and new OC Matt LaFleur. He is a value pick in the late rounds. -CH
92. Kenny Golladay (WR45) – Good things happened when Matt Stafford targeted Kenny Golladay. The 6-foot-4, 218-pound athlete finished sixth in the league in yards per target, and 13th in fantasy points per target, and earned Stafford a QB rating of 104.2 when throwing to Golladay (15th in the league). Kenny is extremely talented, and his teammates agree. He has standalone flex appeal, and immediately becomes a high-end WR3/low-end WR2 should anything happen to Golden Tate or Marvin Jones. -CH
93. Corey Clement (RB36) – It’s not often I rank someone mainly because of their handcuff appeal, but after his explosion in the Super Bowl and a strong camp, the second-year back would become an immediate high-end RB2 were anything to happen to Jay Ajayi. -CH
94. Carson Wentz (QB5) – Tentatively expected to start Week 1, Wentz made a name for himself last season, leading the league in QB fantasy points per game. Behind the best O-line in the league, with weapons all around him, Wentz is a proven MVP talent. -CH
95. Anthony Miller (WR46) – Already getting rave reviews out of camp, rookie Anthony Miller has a sneaky chance to lead the Bears in receptions. -CB
96. John Brown (WR47) – Outperforming Crabtree at camp. Once a dynamic playmaker in Arizona, Brown could make you look really smart halfway through the season if his sickle-cell trait is no longer an issue, which he says it isn’t. -CH
97. Gio Bernard (RB37) – Put up RB1 numbers in the games without Joe Mixon and Jeremy Hill. I think there’s an inside chance that Mixon eats heavily into Bernard’s snaps this season. -CB
98. Isaiah Crowell (RB38) – The ultimate “someone has to get carries on this team” player, Crowell is not a player you’ll feel exceptionally comfortable about drafting. He goes from a decent Brown’s line, to a poor Jet’s line. He’ll lose third-down snaps to Bilal Powell, who is all-around more talented than Crowell. Plus he received a concussion in the preseason. There’s really not much appeal to Crowell, but if you’re in a pinch at RB, someone has to get carries on this team. -CB
99. Taywan Taylor (WR48) – A measureables darling and a preseason star, I expect Taywan Taylor to LaFleurish in the Titans new offense this season. -CB
100. Ronald Jones (RB39) – I literally had to delete over 100 words on this guy because his preseason has been pure garbage. My pet fish could get 11 yards on 12 carries in the preseason, and he certainly could drop the two targets Jones received. Even pretty average coach Dirk Koetter described his game as “pretty average.” You can draft him if you think he’s going to beat out Peyton Barber, but there have been zero signs of that so far. -CB
101. Trey Burton (TE9) – Burton has major breakout potential in new HC Matt Nagy’s offense. He will assume the receiver/tight end spot called the “U” that Travis Kelce played in Kansas City under Nagy. Burton moves like a wide receiver and will create mismatches over the middle of the field as he will take most of his snaps from the slot. Mitchell Trubisky, although shaky last year and this preseason, is most efficient targeting the middle of the field, and has already shown great chemistry with Burton this year. -CH
YPC = Yards per carry
YPR = Yards per reception
PPG = Points per game
The RB1 = the most points of any player at the running back position
A RB1 = Put up enough points to be in the top-12 of all running backs. Next 12 would be RB2s, RB3s after that, etc.
Floor = The worst outcome a player can experience in a realistic scenario, normally statistical, but not always. Josh Gordon’s floor is not playing a single snap this season. Golden Tate’s floor is around 90-950-3.
Ceiling = The best outcome. Josh Gordon’s ceiling is playing all season and finishing as the WR1. Golden Tate’s ceiling is around 110-1,100-8.
Seven years ago, I was lucky enough to be introduced to fantasy football by fellow Low Upsider, Craig Horlbeck, and from the get-go I was hooked. I loved every second of my draft, even though I had no idea what I was doing. My blind drafting was validated with blind luck a few months later when I won my first-ever week of fantasy football. But I quickly learned how cruel fantasy can be, as I went on to experience that winning feeling only four of the next 13 games, and finished 9th in our ten-man league.
Since then, I’ve gone through the best and worst feelings in fantasy, and have learned a ton along the way. Some of these lessons are strategy-based, but the philosophical have been just as, if not more important. I want to share some of these lessons with the hope that this year of fantasy can be the most enjoyable one for you yet.
And, yeah, I could’ve probably used those thousands of hours of learning on something more productive, but shut up.
1. Quarterbacks Don’t Matter Much
This is going to be the only bit of actual fantasy advice that I give. In real football, there is nothing more important than a drafting a good quarterback. Two out of three of the first picks in this year’s draft were signal callers, and if Gettleman weren’t a stubborn ass, it would have been three for three. Fantasy is a little different.
There are several numbers to suggest that quarterback should be one of your last areas of focus, but I’ll try and keep it to this one: 12. That is the number of starting quarterbacks in the NFL who are startable in one week of fantasy, while the other 20 are either on a team’s bench or sitting there on the waiver wire. This means the pickings are always going to be much larger on a week-to-week basis. I know it seems risky, and the idea of skimping on someone who can score 17-20 points per game for you is scary, but give it a try one year. Instead of reaching for Aaron Rodgers in the second round, boost your receiving core; don’t take Kirk Cousins in the sixth, but instead go for your second RB, or even a solid flex. You may find yourself with a league-winning late-round quarterback (Carzon Wentz) or even a steal off waivers in the middle of the season (DeShaun Watson).
2. Do What You Can To Have A Live Draft
Life is complicated: work happens, people move, some even get married. I understand that it isn’t easy to organize an in-person draft, but it is oh-so worth it. There is no better day of the year than draft day, and doing it with your buddies with a beer in hand is unmatched. You can feel the anxiety clouding the room, only for it to dissipate when everyone collectively shits on the most recent draft pick in a fashion that a chat room can’t do justice. Make it happen and enjoy every second of it. But if you really want to enjoy it…
2B. Have An Auction Draft
This lesson has been one of the most incredible additions to my fantasy football agenda. Auction draft is exactly what it sounds like: everyone in your league has a certain budget, each person announces a player, and the bidding ensues. Each bid comes with a subsequent “Going once, going twice…” from either the commissioner or the app you decide to use. And the tension is maddening.
A snake draft is cool; knowing that you will probably get Antonio Brown at the five spot, and then trying to predict who you’ll snag over the next few rounds is a fun little thing that can build anticipation for weeks prior to the draft. But if you’re getting Antonio Brown, you can kiss your chances at Odell Beckham goodbye. And vice-versa if you’re sitting in the 12 spot, and were hoping for one of the Big Four RBs. Unless one of your leaguemates make the biggest fuck up in fantasy history, that’s not going to happen.
But with auction, everyone is there for the taking. Want Alvin Kamara and Saquon Barkley? Pony up the cash and they’re all yours. Thought you were a lock to get Martavis Bryant this year? Only if you’re willing to outbid your friend who just dropped $30 on him.
Auction is wildly unpredictable, and you’ll need to give it your undivided attention for the entire draft. No bong breaks, no pizza runs, even trips to the bathroom require your laptop, because you never know when your friend is going to bid on your favorite player, and if you miss it, or if you hesitate for a second too long, too bad.
Take your favorite league, suggest they try auction for one year, and thank me later.
3. Embrace The Luck
I’m not telling you to take Indianapolis’ quarterback (HAHAHAHAHA), but to understand that luck is going to have a huge impact on your fantasy team, maybe more than anything else. I know you did your research on Kareem Hunt before last year’s draft, but there’s no way in hell you thought he was going to be a top-five RB. So quit telling your friends otherwise.
The same thing goes when your friend gets lucky and Antonio Gates scores his first two touchdowns of the season against you. As much as you want to be petty and tell them the only reason they won is because of luck, remember that Antonio Brown took a tipped pass off Phillip Gaines for a 49-yard touchdown last week.
Which also means sometimes luckis justgoing to fuckyou (seriously, everyone of those words links to a season-ending injury). Embrace it, because while thriving off of it is one thing, figuring out how to get past it is one of the best parts of fantasy football.
4. Not Every Play Is Going To Go To Your Guy
This is for the newbies in particular. You know him, and you’ve been him. Every single play of the game goes something like this:
“C’mon, Carson!! Throw it to Larry! Throw it to Larry! He’s fucking wide open c’mon!!”
*dump off to Andre Ellington*
“WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT??? LARRY WAS WIDE OPEN! FUCK!!!”
*next play* “
Alright, c’mon! This play better go to Larry…”
*throws it to downfield to John Brown for a 42-yard touchdown*
“God FUCKING dammit!! Larry was literally right there on the other side of the field!! What a fucking dumb play.”
Chill. Bruce Arians is trying to win a game, not your fantasy league. Some plays will go to your guy, others won’t. You can’t expect every week to end with a 62-322-3 statline.
And for the love of god, stop yelling at your mom.
5. Go With Your Gut
Rotoworld. 4For4. ESPN. Fuckin’….other guys. There are so many goddamn options, and when it’s 9:45 a.m. on a Sunday, it can be really hard to figure out whose advice to take for your Flex. Yeah, Mike Wallace has been a top-24 receiver the last three weeks, but Evan Silva says that Jalen Ramsey is going to shadow him all day. Meanwhile, Tarik Cohen has been averaging 22.3 yards a game this season, but John Paulsen says he’s due to blow up against the depleted Cardinals defense. There are hundreds of opinions to follow, and if it doesn’t go according to plan then you’re going to give one of these “experts” 280 characters of your nerd-filled wrath.
I’ve realized over the years that more often than not, I already know who I want to start. You can feel it in your stomach when you set your starting lineup. It’s subtle, but it’s there. See how you feel when you click “Save changes” with Willie Snead in your lineup because Matthew Berry has him in his top-30. If you feel like you’re doing it out of obligation, you can tell.
Roll with your gut. It has the most rewarding feeling when it works, and you know you trusted the process when it doesn’t.
6. Move On From Your Guys
Second-year players in particular, please take note, but this is one that I still struggle with to this day. I know you watched Jarvis Landry more than anyone last year. You saw his ability to get open, his decent mid-air adjustments, his underrated redzone prowess. But trust me, other players are doing this too. Maybe not exactly as I just described, but everyone is far more impressive when you actually watch their stats in real-time instead of on the Yahoo! App.
It can be hard to move on from the guy who did well for you, and even harder to give a second chance to someone who underperformed, but you really need to take it one year at a time. Fantasy football is a fickle mistress, and you should be no different with your past players.
7. Talk Your Shit
This one I just picked up last year, and I’m so glad I did. I always talked my trash after winning, or early in the season before a snap has been taken, but on a week-to-week basis, I was always afraid to run my mouth. Fantasy is centered around luck, and it’s easy to mistake that luck for karma. A lot of owners, myself included, don’t want to talk shit because they feel like as soon as they boast about LeSean McCoy, his knee is guaranteed to buckle. I’m here to tell you that Shady’s meniscus doesn’t give a shit about what you said to your friend this Wednesday.
When going against your undefeated friend in week 9, it really is so much more fun to go into that week after guaranteeing that you’re going to kick his overrated team’s ass. Or if your friend who won the league last year is 2-7 this season and you’re playing him this week, you better be letting him have it. Not only are your pouring gasoline on the fire if you beat him, there’s now an added tension in the slight chance that he beats you by 40 this week. My only rule is to believe what you’re saying, otherwise your trash talk really doesn’t mean anything.
Talk your shit and create a whole new level of competition to fantasy football.