I know a good number of fantasy drafts have already taken place. But, I also know a good number of drafts will take place over the next few weeks – this article is for you guys. While things may change between now and the start of the season, here are a few players at each position I will be keeping a close eye on (or in some cases not) in my upcoming drafts.
Reaching for a QB should be avoided. Aaron Rodgers was first off the board in 2018 and finished ninth. Cam Newton was first off the board in 2017 and finished at 19. It’s a gamble that doesn’t need to be made. Owners will reach way too early for Patrick Mahomes this year, but the odds of him having 50 TD again is unlikely – particularly against the stingy defenses he’ll be facing this season.
Kyler Murray is currently being drafted per ADP as a 9th rounder and the 13th QB off the board. Rookie QB do not have the best track record fantasy-wise. Murray finds himself on a Cardinals team with a bottom-6 offensive line ranking. He has a rookie head coach who has never coached in the NFL, and his offensive coordinator (with 5 years of experience) may be rusty after not calling a play for a few years.
- Mid/Late Round Gem
A slew of veteran QB (who never seem to get any love) include Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, Philip Rivers, Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisbrger. A pair of quarterbacks to stash as backups are Jimmy Garoppolo and Nick Foles. Garoppolo returns from his ACL injury and has a small sample size but has done well. Meanwhile, Foles (who has not really done well outside of Philadelphia) takes over with some nice weapons and a new pass-happy offensive coordinator John DeFilippo.
Besides reaching for Alvin Kamara if I had the first overall pick, two other backs that I feel are underrated are Joe Mixon and Devonte Freeman. Kamara won’t have to share Mark Ingram’s 42% of the Saints touches, and I seriously don’t see new Saint Latavius Murray coming close to that percentage. As for Mixon, he quietly averaged over 100 all-purpose yards per game – only 9 RB accomplished that average. Freeman, meanwhile, averaged a hair under 19 touches per game from 2015-2017. This is significant because based on ADP, no one seems to show much confidence in Ito Smith as the Falcons’ RB2 to take over for the departed Tevin Coleman. This reasonably could translate to more work for Freeman.
James Conner gets the nod for me. What he accomplished last year in the absence of Le’Veon Bell was nothing short of phenomenal. But besides the off-season rumors that the backfield will be a committee, opposing defenses will no longer have to worry about Antonio Brown either. This could mean added and unwanted focus on Conner. I don’t hate him, however he’s going to be drafted too soon for my liking.
- Mid/Late Round Gem
See Ito Smith above. Falcons really didn’t address the RB position. Smith is currently going in the thirteenth round so pulling the trigger a round early could be a nice payoff. The Ravens added veteran Mark Ingram, and fourth-round rookie Justice Hill to go along with the oft-injured Kenneth Dixon. I’m going out on a Raven-sized limb and recommend that if you have the roster space, Gus Edwards – who essentially is not even being drafted in redraft leagues – should be a late round, no risk flyer.
This one leaves me speechless. Between injuries, coaching changes, and adjusted depth charts – this season, I’d be content to let most of the top tiered receivers just fall to me. That said, I believe that Tyreek Hill’s issues are behind him and I’d take him as the third WR behind DeAndre Hopkins and Davante Adams.
If the Browns are cursed – and if you believe in curses – then it would make sense to question if Odell Beckham is worth a second-round pick? Some also believe that the Raiders will not be much better statistically begging the same question about Antonio Brown. The pro-Beckham and pro-Brown owners will argue that talent trumps circumstances. If you fall into that line of reasoning, you may want to research Larry Fitzgerald’s career (who is as talented as they come) then compare his seasons when his stats suffered at the hands of green, aging or less-than-stellar QB at the helm.
Mid/Late Round Gem
Suppose I can’t fault anyone for taking a chance on some middle and late round targets. There are so many that combined with varying opinions – you’re best going with your favorite (whomever that may be).
While I generally do not burn late round picks on TE, Mark Andrews is intriguing enough to challenge that thinking. In the last decade, only 5 rookie TE had more receiving yards than Andrews. Also, Andrews had more rookie yards than both Rob Gronkowski and George Kittle. More importantly, Andrews is locked in as the starter and finds himself on a Ravens team with plenty of question marks at both the RB and WR position.
While I like Jared Cook, I hesitate to invest in his seventh round ADP. He goes from an anemic Raiders offense to Mardi-Gras-wild Saints offense. Hard to fathom, but the last Saints TE to have over 500 yards was Coby Fleener back in 2016. Cook will hardly be the focal point as he was in Oakland.
- Mid/Late Round Gem
Unless your league makes it mandatory to draft a second TE, I’d recommend waiting for someone to emerge in week 1 or 2. There were 17 TE that had at least 500 yards last season, so someone is bound to step up. Plus the fact that you’re only going to reap a few fantasy points per week from them anyway, you’d be better served throwing a dart at a RB or WR late.
- Top Target
Since most will be tripping over themselves to land the Bears or Rams, the team that allowed the fewest yards per game was actually the Ravens. Baltimore also allowed the second-fewest points by a measly .2 more than the Bears. Ravens would be a nice late round consolation DST and you wouldn’t have to burn a mid-round pick on a DST.
- Regression Candidate
Players that have a career year are usually earmarked to regress. If that’s true of players, then the Bears qualify to regression. They had 36 take-aways last season. The NFL average was 19 take-aways. Granted, the Bears may still be a top 5 or even a top 3 defense, but expecting another league-leading 36 turnovers might be setting the bar too high.
The Titans allowed the third-fewest points last year. They also allowed the eighth-fewest yardage. Coach Vrabel coached them to a top-10 fantasy finish. If the offense improves enough to give the defense more of a breather, I see them finishing as top-10 fantasy finishers again.