5 things to think about while drafting this year
5. The running back position is extremely thin, while the wide receiver class is loaded
The running back position, as it is most of the time, is a lot thinner than this year’s wide receiver class. There are game changing wide receivers available throughout the later rounds. There will be plenty of game changing running backs available in the later rounds, but they are much harder to predict, and many will not even end up being drafted. The position is so volatile year in and year out. That’s why this season like it is with most, it is important to stock up at the position early and often. A stable of running backs in a standard scoring league can put you in the most envious position in your league. Other players in your league will become desperate for running back help, and using that desperation against them in trades can be what puts your team over the top. In almost all of my mocks, I am drafting at least six running backs, and am spending my top picks on the position.
4. Do not draft by position
I know I just said load up on the running back position, but this one is in a little different tone.
One of the more frustrating things I see fantasy footballers do is draft according to positional need. While I get it, you have to fill out your roster. Position should not come into play until the later rounds. Up until about rounds eight to ten, it should always be take the best player available. In one of my leagues, I drafted six running backs and three wide receivers in the first nine rounds. I still was able to land Kirk Cousins as my starting quarterback, who finished 5th in standard scoring among quarterbacks last season. The key in the draft is to accumulate as much value as possible. You can always trade guys throughout the season to shape out your roster before the playoffs.
And it should be known, kickers and defenses are drafted in the last rounds of standard scoring leagues!
While I do suggest you load up on the running back position, that only means I value running backs more favorably than most do. In some cases, there may be a falling wide receiver that provides the best value and you already have a few star wide receivers on your roster. Don’t reach for a running back you’re not necessarily in love with in that scenario just because you’re thinner at the position.
3. Should you snag Ezekiel Elliot if you can?
It’s not going to be wise for a lot of people, especially if you have a Dallas Cowboys junkie in your league, which most leagues do. However, I think Zeke is worth a late-second, early third-round pick. Six games is a lot. I do not think that is reduced, but if you can survive those six weeks, the payoff at the end will likely be a fantasy football championship. If you do take Zeke, make sure to grab his backup Darren McFadden. McFadden can still provide comparable fantasy production behind that fantasy Cowboys offensive line, and you probably do not have to worry about his extensive injury history considering you will only be needed him for six weeks. The combination of these two could still easily be #1 running back by season’s end.
2. The tight end position is unusually deep this year
Quality tight ends have been few and far between in fantasy over the last couple of seasons. Even the so-called elite tight ends like Rob Gronkowski and Jordan Reed have battled injuries. This season, however, that is not the case. There are about five guys who could produce elite production, another five guys who should be steady options for the entire season and another group of five or so guys who could explode onto the scene because of elite talent. With injuries becoming so prominent to guys like Rob Gronkowski, you might be better off wait until the later rounds and snag a guy like Martellus Bennett or up-and-comer like Austin Hooper to back him up than risking a top pick on a Gronkowski.
1.Championships are won in the later rounds
Ninety-five percent of the time (Not an actual statistic) the champion of your league is going to feature at least one if not multiple late-round studs in their lineup. Championships can be lost in the early rounds, but they are won in the last six rounds, so pay attention to these picks. You’re looking for anybody here who could potentially breakout, and there are usually two ways that happens. One is unrecognized talent and the other is opportunity. There are several stud backups waiting in the wings for their opportunity, and unfortunately, injuries are way too common in football. Load up with high upside players that could be starting on your team come playoff time.
Marshawn Lynch– The one thing I like about Lynch’s situation is the year off for him to clear his mind and heal his body. That may wind up helping him tremendously, but this is a guy who we were questioning the years before he retired. When is Marshawn Lynch’s body going to break down? We were asking those questions before every season until he finally actually retired. Now at 31, a year removed from professional football, he is supposed to be an elite NFL running back again? I am not buying it and there is way too much risk there for a third-round pick, where Marshawn Lynch is going in most drafts.
Leonard Fournette– A lot of people are going to fall in love with Fournette coming into the draft. I get it, I am an LSU guy, there is tons of talent here. But I do not see Fournette having a breakout rookie season. I actually see him having a pretty rough one. He has had injury issues in college, is playing behind a miserable offensive line and in an offense I am not very confident in. Most leagues have him going as an RB1, but I do not expect to even be the top scoring rookie running back.
Doug Baldwin– This one may come back to bite me, but Baldwin is a guy you will rarely see on any of my rosters. His production has been off the charts the past two seasons, and because of that, he is going in the second round of most drafts. That is way too high for a guy, who in my eyes, is not an elite wide receiver talent in the NFL and will be playing on an offense that might struggle this season. The Seattle offensive line is a mess, and I think this is the year Baldwin’s production comes back to earth a little.
Russell Wilson– This is not a Seahawks hate section, I promise. However, for the same reasons I do not love Baldwin, I am not a fan of Wilson. He is going to have a tough year behind a terrible offensive line. I don’t see him finishing as a QB1 this season.
Michael Crabtree– Crabtree had a terrific season last year, catching for over a thousand yards in his second season as a Raider. But that has only happened one other time in his career and that came back in 2012 with the 49ers. I do not see that happening again this season, as Amari Cooper is going to the guy in Oakland. Derek Carr is also coming off a serious injury, and there are just a lot of other receivers being taken after Crabtree that I would rather have.
DeAndre Hopkins– A lot of people looked for Hopkins to have a monstrous season a year ago but were disappointed. However, that had very little to do with Hopkins and a lot to do with poor quarterback play and offense in general. It looks like Deshaun Watson could be the man sooner rather than later in Houston, and I am a big Watson fan. Either way, I think Hopkins has the year we all expected him to have a season ago, and he is available in the third round in most drafts.
Davante Adams– If you want upside, Adams has it for numerous reasons. He finished seventh in scoring among receivers last year and has the best quarterback in football throwing to him. Depending on your draft, he can go from the fourth to the sixth round, but this guy has WR1 talent. Jordy Nelson is still the guy in Green Bay but has had injury issues in the past. If he misses any time, Adams immediately becomes a WR1.
Carlos Hyde– The early worries about Hyde under the new regime are gone, and now there is a lot of chatter about Hyde being in unbelievable shape. As we all know Kyle Shanahan is a wizard as an offensive coordinator, and Hyde will be the man reaping the benefits in the backfield. His talent will be showcased in a new and improved offense. I see Hyde ending the year as a RB1.
Keenan Allen– Now this is especially true in PPR formats, but even in standard leagues, Allen will be a stud. This is the man in San Diego, and like Hopkins was due for a huge year last season. Unfortunately, a season-ending injury in week one prevented that, but Allen has been healthy for a long time heading into the season. There should be no lingering effects, and if he is on the field for sixteen games, he will be a WR1.
Todd Gurley– I am well aware it is a “what have you done for me lately?” world that we live in, but if you take that approach to your fantasy draft, you are going to miss out on a lot of valuable picks. Todd Gurley is going in the late-second, early third rounds of most drafts. Gurley is arguably the most talented back in the league, and a year earlier, we were talking about him as possibly the best back in the NFL. Let’s put it this way, as he enters his third seasons in the NFL the talent has not gone anywhere, and if the Rams can figure something out on offense, Gurley will put up unreal production.
Late-round Quarterbacks– There are so many quarterbacks available after round 10 that could explode for monster seasons in 2017. I remember telling everyone last season, Matt Ryan could be a top 5 fantasy option. He wound up doing much better than even I could have imagined, winning MVP and finishing second in total fantasy points, but he went undrafted in nearly all of my leagues. I snagged him in the last round most of the time and wound up with a huge advantage. The same could happen to guys like Kirk Cousins, Derek Carr, and the aforementioned Phillip Rivers. These guys can be top five quarterback options easily, and you can snag them in the tenth round or late in 10-team standard leagues.
MVP at each position
Quarterback- Kirk Cousins– Cousins will not have the best season of any quarterback, but I am fully sold on his ability and thinks he only he gets better. He is going around the 9th and 10th rounds in most drafts and I’m going to go ahead and say he finishes as a top 3 fantasy QB this season.
Running Back- David Johnson– Last year was just the beginning of the David Johnson show. He is the best running back in football and an absolute workhorse. The Cardinals plan on trying to get the ball in this guys hands as much as possible. If he is healthy for sixteen games, he finishes as the top fantasy running back by a long shot this season.
Wide Receiver- Mike Evans– Everybody talks about the top three wide receivers, but one guy on the outside of that conversation who will leap right into it this year in Evans. He is a superstar and only 23-years old. The chemistry between him and Winston will only get better as they do. Evans has a great chance at being the #1 fantasy wide receiver this season.
Tight End- Rob Gronkowski– He is still far and away the best tight end in football and one of the best players in all of football. I hope he is healthy for close to a full season because when he is, he can put up record breaking numbers. I am betting this is one of those years he is.