2017 Draft Plan
It’s our favorite time of the year. The dog-days of summer are coming to an end, you’re making plans for your final summer getaway, the baseball season is winding down, the kids are about to be back to school… and football is back!
The return of the NFL ushers in the hopes and aspirations of many fantasy owners, dreaming of fantasy glory. My job, in this article, is to give you a solid plan to help you increase your chances of fantasy glory.
IT’S ALL ABOUT VALUE
I have had a lot of success in fantasy football over the years, and the main reason I have been so good is really quite simple… it’s the same reason why real estate developers make money: buy low!
I know that the overwhelming majority of fantasy football participants would agree with this statement, but it is always shocking to me how many fantasy football owners violate this every single year. Literally, 99% of guys tell me they look for value but yet less than 10% of those same guys actually target undervalued players.
Every year I have guys (and some gals too) that ask me, “Hey bro, what do you think of my roster?” My answer is always the same. “I have no idea.” It’s hard to just look at a roster and determine if you drafted well or not. Why? Well, because players do not inherently have any value. Everything is relative.
Let me give you an example. What if you told me that you just bought a brand-new car. Let’s say you bought a Honda Accord that is valued at $30,000. Let’s say you paid $30,000 for that car. Let’s say you asked me, “What do you think of my car?” I’d probably say, “Sure, nice. Hondas have great reputations.”
But you paid full price. Now, is paying full price a bad thing? Not if you actually get what you paid for, right? I mean, if the Honda runs great for you and you love it, that’s awesome! But you still paid $30,000. The question would be, “Could I have gotten similar results from another car for less money?”
Okay… so, let’s say your friend buys a slightly used to Honda Accord, similar model to yours, but maybe it’s just one year older than yours. Let’s say that his car is low miles and valued at $25,000 but because of his connections he is able to buy it at $15,000.
Which scenario is better? Which would you prefer? The car valued at $30k that cost $30k or the car valued at $25k that only cost $15k? Well, it’s obvious. The better “deal” will be better. Why? Because that guy got similar car but paid $15k less… meaning he could spend that $15k elsewhere. Maybe now he can use that extra $15k to upgrade his house in some way or take his wife on a great cruise or payoff his credit card debts or whatever (you get the point).
In this scenario, the guy that bought the used Honda Accord got the better value and it put him in a stronger position to upgrade another arena of his life. The same is true in fantasy football. If you can nail some great values at certain positions on your roster, then that’ll give you flexibility to upgrade at other positions.
Now, I realize that this is a very shaky metaphor in a lot of ways. But I do think it gives us some understanding of the importance of value… and this concept should govern our choices in fantasy football.
Value should be the name of the game!!!!
The owner that gets the best value picks is the owner most likely to win a league title. The owner that is able to draft players that will out-play their average draft position (ADP) is the owner that will win a lot of games!
The days of drafting the totally “Darkhorse sleepers” is pretty much gone, with the advent of the internet and the incredible rise in popularity a fantasy football. Too many people are just too knowledgeable these days, so the deep sleeper might not be as easy to keep secret, but the ability to target “undervalued” players is still very much alive in fantasy football and ought to be your main goal every time you pick.
The goal is simply this: Select a player that is highly likely to outperform the draft spot at which you are drafting that player.
Remember, most players don’t have inherent value.
If you tell me that you drafted Aaron Rodgers with the first overall pick of your draft this year I will tell you I hate that pick. But if you tell me you have Aaron Rodgers on your roster because you drafted him in the fifth round, I would tell you that is awesome and you are well on your way to a championship!
Remember, the player himself isn’t necessarily the problem per se, but it is the value that the players represent that ultimately matter. Every player has some value.
SCARCITY DRIVES THE PRICE
Remember when your economics teacher told you about the laws of supply and demand? Well, it matters a lot in many arenas of society, and matters tremendously in the world of fantasy football.
Have you ever been to a supermarket or grocery store on the day before a big storm? You walk in looking for bottled water, but they’ve run out. What do you do? You see, in that moment, many people would be willing to pay more money for the bottled water than in normal circumstances, right?
Whether you’re a Floridian that’s been in the path of a tropical storm or a northerner that’s had your house buried under several feet of snow, you realize that the value of those essential items have gone up. You also realize that in these moments, when those essential items are now scarce, you should be willing to pay more for them than you otherwise would have in typical situations. Scarcity makes the value go up. Embrace this truth and use it to your advantage.
There are some positions in fantasy football that are simply scarcer than others.
What I mean by that is this: There are some positions at which it is much harder to replace quality production than other positions. Therefore, there ought to be a premium placed on acquiring quality players at the more scarce positions.
What causes scarcity? Two things:
- The availability of quality NFL players (or lack thereof)
- Your league roster and starting lineup configuration
Going into the 2017 season there are only two slam-dunk running backs, LeVeon Bell and David Johnson (there were three before Zeke Elliot was suspended for 6 games). And then we have a handful of running backs, or so, that I happen to feel good about starting each and every week. Just about every other running back has some concern that makes me pause before selecting them.
If you’re in a 12-team league that starts two running backs per team, that’s 24 starters each week. That means that there will be 15-18 sketchy running backs starting each week in your league. Yikes!
Now consider the quarterback position. There are probably 10-12 quarterbacks that I feel very good about as we head into the 2017 season. If you’re in a 12-team league that requires you to start one quarterback, well, you’re pretty much guaranteed to have a decent one, relatively easily. There are only 12 starters at QB each week in your league, and there are 10-12 decent options.
Now, this would of course change significantly if your league requires two starting QB’s. After the top dozen or so quarterbacks we start seeing a significant drop-off in quality. If your league would need 24 starters each week at QB then that means that half of them are sketchy. Yikes again! The running back position still feels scarcer to me, but a two-quarterback league would balance the scales significantly.
Now consider the wide receiver position. There’s the big three: Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham Jr, and Julio Jones. Then, after this, I’ve got a list of about 15-18 wideouts that have a real chance of posting quality WR1 numbers just about any given week. After that, I’m looking at a list of about two dozen pass catchers that have a real shot to post WR2 type numbers on any given week.
Honestly, in every mock draft I have done this summer, I’m well into the second half of the draft before I get into the territory where I start feeling sketchy about the wide receivers. This year the WR’s are deeper than ever.
The laws of supply and demand will reveal where the value is presenting itself.
TOO MANY PEOPLE IGNORING THE SCARCITY OF RUNNING BACK
I’ve been playing fantasy football for more than two decades. I’ve seen a trend over the last decade or so away from running backs being the most important commodity. There are a lot of variables as to why this has happened.
This trend is so strong that you now have lots of analysts promoting the “Zero-RB” theory (this is where you bypass the running back position entirely during your draft until the mid or later rounds).
While there is some merit to the philosophies that have inspired these sorts of theories, there is still one thing that is true about the running back position that is not true about the other positions. It is virtually impossible to replace premium running back production.
Running back is typically going to be the most scarce position overall.
Sure, every year there are a few running backs to come out of nowhere to be great fantasy producers. But there’s very few of them each year, they are hard to pinpoint, and even when you do pinpoint them, there’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to land that player before the other owners in your league are able to do so.
Furthermore, most leagues require that you start the same number running backs as wide receivers. Well, if you will end up needing the same amount of running backs and wide receivers, but the running backs are much more scarce overall, then that simply means that you’ll want to have a higher premium on running backs than you do on the wide receivers.
Most leagues require 2 RB’s and 2 WR’s in your starting lineup, but of course, if your league requires that you start 2 RB’s and 3 WR’s each week, then that begins to tip the scales a little bit.
The reality is that the lack of quality running backs still makes the running back position the most valuable overall, but being forced to start more wide receivers than running back’s does help to balance the scales to some extent.
Let’s looks at each position in more detail.
THE 2017 PLAN: QUARTERBACKS
This summer, in most leagues, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady are being selected very early in drafts, and several other QB’s are being selected in the early rounds right after them.
Do I think that Rodgers and Brady will be awesome in 2017? Of course!!! Will one of these two great players finish as the #1 QB this season? Well, it is certainly very possible. But I still wouldn’t draft them at their current ADP.
Rodgers is being drafted in the 2nd round of most leagues. Brady is typically being selected in the late 2nd round or early portions of the 3rd round.
But other quality passers such as Andrew Luck, Matt Ryan, Drew Brees and Russell Wilson are all typically going in the 4th or 5th rounds. Are Rodgers and Brady better than these second-tier guys? Yes. But how much better? The difference in real-life football might be big, but the difference in fantasy football is nominal.
In all honestly, any of these second-tier guys could finish as the #1 QB in 2017 ahead of Rodgers or Brady.
Then, let’s consider guys like Ben Roethlisberger, Jameis Winston, and Philip Rivers. On any given week, all three of these guys can post elite QB numbers (I am very bullish on Winston taking a big step forward in 2017). But these three are all being selected in rounds 7 thru 9 in most drafts.
Why would I select Rodgers in the 2nd round when I can have Big Ben, Rivers, or Jameis in the 7th or 8th round? Doesn’t make sense to me!
Again, is Rodgers better than Big Ben, Famous Jameis, and Mr. Rivers? Yes, of course Rodgers is better than them. But is he worthy of being drafted 5 or 6 rounds earlier? The numbers say “No way!”
Then there’s Marcus Mariota, Derek Carr, Kirk Cousins, Cam Newton, Dak Prescott, Andy Dalton, Matthew Stafford, Eli Manning, Carson Palmer, and Carson Wentz. In most mock drafts I’ve done this summer, at least half of them are typically still available in the 10th round.
These lower tier guys may vary significantly in their style and their level of talent, but in terms of fantasy numbers they will all likely be in the same range most weeks.
If your league only requires you to start one QB (like most leagues) then the QB position is simply not scarce enough to make it a priority. It is not worth a premium draft selection.
So, when should you draft your QB?
Well, this will depend on your competition. If you play against guppies and newbies, you can probably get away with waiting very late in the draft before drafting a QB because newbies often overspend on QB and let the “middle-of-the-road” guys last longer in the draft than they should. But in most of my leagues my competition is decent so I need to be a little more savvy.
It is safe to say that even in leagues with very seasoned owners, QB’s still are often over-drafted, therefore waiting is the smart move. The exception would be if one of the top-2 guys somehow fall passed the top 35 picks or so.
So, if you’re in the 4th round of a 12-team league and Rodgers or Brady happen to be on the board, and if you have serious concerns about the RB’s and WR’s available, then go ahead and draft the QB.
SIDE NOTE: Before I tell you my preferred plan for 2017 for the QB position, it is important to remember the connection between the QB position and the TE position. In most fantasy formats, if you draft both a QB and a TE in the first three rounds, it will be virtually impossible for you to field a viable starting line-up most weeks.
If you play against bad competition or non-savvy owners, you might get lucky and be able to draft RB’s and WR’s in the 4th thru 8th rounds, but in most leagues this will probably not be the right course of action. So, if you draft a QB in the first three rounds, you ought to plan to wait to draft a TE until round 10 or later (which I will talk about in more detail later in this article when we cover the TE position).
Here’s when I would draft a QB in 2017 (based on 12 team league):
- Aaron Rodgers in the 4th round or later
- Tom Brady in the 4th round or later
- Drew Brees in the 7th round or later
- Matt Ryan in the 7th round or later
- Russell Wilson in the 7th round or later
- Jameis Winston in the 7th round or later
- Philip Rivers in the 7th round or later
- Andrew Luck in the 7th round or later
- Ben Roethlisberger in the 8th round or later
- Matt Stafford in the 9th round or later
- Cam Newton in the 10th round or later
- Eli Manning in the 10th rund or later
- Marcus Mariota in the 10th round or later
- Dak Prescott in the 10th round or later
- Kirk Cousins in the 10th round or later
- Derek Carr in the 10th round or later
- Carson Palmer in the 11th round or later
- Carson Wentz in the 11th round or later
NOTE: In a smaller leagues (such as 10-team), I’d wait even one more round later on each of these guys.
The best option this season is Jameis Winston, Philip Rivers, or Ben Roethlisberger in the 7th round or 8th round. All three of these guys have relatively safe floors and all three will have the potential to put up elite numbers most weeks.
Winston is not as good as Rivers or Big Ben in terms of raw passing talent, but he’s pretty close to them and he has huge upside with the improvements of the Buccaneers offense. I also think he’ll have a few more rushing touchdowns in 2017 than he had in 2016.
Most of the time, I’ve been drafting Winston in the 7th or 8th rounds of 12-team mock drafts; typically as the 8th or 9th QB off the board.
If by chance you miss out on Rivers, Winston, and Big Ben, don’t worry. Just draft at least two of the guys I’ve mentioned in the 9th and 10th rounds. Your team will be fine with any of these guys.
THE 2017 PLAN: RUNNING BACKS
The running back situation in 2017 is interesting and scary. It seems very top-heavy and sketchy throughout.
In most mock drafts, I find that if I have selected 3-4 RB’s through the first 8 rounds, then my team typically looks pretty good overall. Whenever I don’t achieve this in mock drafts, my team typically doesn’t appear to be a quality playoff contender.
There are only two running backs that are slam-dunks to be elite (barring injury)… and only a handful of running backs that I like or trust at all… and then there’s a dramatic drop off.
The slam-dunk running back for 2017 are:
- David Johnson
- LeVeon Bell
They are elite. If you have a top-2 pick, take one of these guys and don’t look back.
I know some people will make the case for one of the big three WR’s at the top of the draft, but the WR position is just so deep this season it’s much easier to achieve your WR needs in the middle rounds… and you’ll regret passing up the chance to have one of these two guys on your roster.
Even if your league starts 2 RB’s and 3WR’s, I would still take one of these two elite guys. And even if your league is PPR, I’d still take Johnson or Bell over any WR in 2017.
The next tier of RB’s:
- Melvin Gordon
- LeSean McCoy
These two backs have question marks for sure, but they also have the elite talent to be solid RB’s each week, and they both have situations that should help them produce quality RB numbers most weeks.
If you are in a league that makes you start more WR’s than RB’s (as previously discussed) and if the league is also PPR-scoring (points-per-reception), then I would probably draft one of the big three WR’s (Brown, Beckham, or Jones) over McCoy or Gordon. But if not, then I would stick with RB, even over the big three WR’s.
After McCoy and Gordon, there is a drop-off, both in talent and situations. The table below lists all of the RB’s that are in my personal overall Top 100 players (for typical 12-team leagues with standard-scoring).
In the table I have designated where I think each player ought to be drafted (the “My Grade” column shows where I would draft the player). The “ADP” column shows where each player is actually being drafted in mock drafts (their “ADP”).
|Devonta Freeman||Late 1st/Early 2nd||1.11|
|Todd Gurley||Mid-to-late 2nd||2.05|
|Jay Ajayi||Mid-to-late 2nd||2.01|
|Lamar Miller||Mid-to-late 2nd||2.11|
|Jordan Howard||Late 2nd||1.12|
|Leonard Fournette||Late 2nd||3.05|
|Dalvin Cook||Late 2nd||5.08|
|Marshawn Lynch||Late 3rd/Early4th||3.11|
|Mark Ingram||Early 4th||4.11|
|Joe Mixon||Late 4th||5.05|
|Isaiah Crowell||Late 4th||3.08|
|Doug Martin||Late 4th/Early 5th||6.11|
|Rob Kelley||Late 5th/Early 6th||8.09|
|Eddie Lacy||Late 6th/Early 7th||6.05|
When you look at this table, you’ll see that there are some RB’s being over-drafted and some being under-drafted.
If you are drafting in the middle or later portion of the 1st round, then I think going with a WR might end up being your best bet.
If you happen to like Devonta Freeman enough to be your RB1, then draft him late in the first, but if it were me, I’d be more inclined to go WR in that spot. Freeman is a very good player in a very good situation. He is not an elite talent, but his situation (ie: great offensive line and great supporting cast) may give him enough chances to produce numbers similar to McCoy and Gordon.
After the top five RB’s (Johnson, Bell, Gordon, McCoy, and Freeman), there’s a bunch of RB’s with serious question marks being drafted in the 1st and 2nd rounds. Most of them are slight reaches at the top of the 2nd round, but if you’re drafting at or near the 1st/2nd round turn, slightly reaching for a RB in the 2nd round might end up being your best bet because by the time you come back to draft at the bottom of the 3rd there might not be a bunch of quality RB options left. Plus, the WR position is so deep that you’re going to have ample opportunity to build a great WR corps from rounds 4 thru 9.
If there is one RB that I’m going to reach for, it’s Todd Gurley. The 2015 version of Gurley was electric. He was truly awesome that season. I thought so highly of him that I ranked him as my #1 overall RB in standard leagues going into the 2016 season. That obviously didn’t work out. But even though Gurley disappointed us in 2016, he was still a decent RB2 or better most weeks. It could have been far worse considering how bad the Rams were. Gurley is an elite talent.
Now, as we head into 2017, Gurley has a new coaching staff. Also, the Rams upgraded their offensive line through free agency and they upgraded their WR corps (both through the draft and via trading for Sammy Watkins). The Rams’ situation should be much better. I think Gurley could return to elite form.
Now, as I examine the table, the biggest values that stick out to me are the rookies. This is surprising to me being that we’ve had some very good rookie RB’s over the last few seasons. The market doesn’t seem to love these guys as much as I thought it would.
I gave Leonard Fournette a 2nd round grade but he’s going in the 3rd in most drafts. He’s got the best size-speed combination we’ve ever seen in a rookie RB.
Dalvin Cook is a great straight ahead runner with good vision and great elusiveness. He was very productive at Florida State. The Vikings offensive line isn’t good, otherwise I’d be pushing Cook much further up my rankings. If you’re drafting late in the first round and you decide to go WR-WR with your first two picks, then targeting Cook early in the 4th round might be a good option. He’s a far greater talent than most of the RB’s being drafted in that area of the draft. If you’re drafting near the top of the first round, then you ought to consider going WR-WR in the 2nd/3rd rounds and then target Cook late in the fourth.
Joe Mixon is the most talented all-around RB in this rookie class. But the Bengals have made a lot of changes and their offensive line has been downgraded significantly. Plus, Gio Bernard and Jeremy Hill are still there, so Mixon’s upside this season is somewhat capped. But if he gets the chance to be the primary ball carrier, he could produce great numbers most weeks.
Other slight values at RB for 2017 are Ty Montgomery, Carlos Hyde, Tevin Coleman, and Terrance West. If you end up going heavy WR early in the draft, then I recommend that you select at least 3 of these players from rounds 4 thru 8 (Obvious Caveat: If there are better RB’s than these guys on the board when you are selecting, then take the better RB’s. I am assuming these guys will be the best available when you’re drafting, but that might not be the case in your league).
Bilal Powell is also a slight value that some analysts are promoting, and he’s not a terrible option, but the Jets are going to be very bad in 2017. Do you really want to pin any hopes on that offense? I mean, even the worst teams can produce viable fantasy options sometimes, but I don’t ever feel good about betting on bad teams.
SIDE NOTE: I don’t fully recommend going heavy WR in the early rounds; I would much more preferred a balanced approach if possible, but I also understand that sometimes you’ll find yourself in a spot where going WR heavy early in the draft might end up being your best bet.
The biggest RB values that can be had later in the draft are Rob Kelly, Jonathan Stewart, and Jamal Charles. They all should easily out-produce their current ADP’s, and if their situations break in their favor, then they could all potentially produce quality RB2 numbers (and in Charles’ case, maybe even better if he’s healthy… which, of course, is a very big “if”).
Kelly’s upside is limited because he lacks talent overall, but he’s currently the started in Washington and should remain the starter for a while into the season.
Stewart and Charles are both lower on their respective depth charts, but Stewart and Charles are two of the most talented RB’s of the past decade. If their offenses can rebound from poor performances in 2016, and if the guys on the depth charts ahead of them falter in anyway, then both JStew and Mr Charles will both be quality producers. In Charles’ case, it’s mostly about health. If his knees have fully healed and if he can at least be somewhat like the “old Charles” that we all loved, he could be the surprise of the 2017 season. JStew’s ADP is 9th round and Jamal’s is 13th round. I have frequently found myself taking both of them 1-2 rounds ahead of their ADP’s just to ensure that I get both, but that might not be necessary in your league.
THE 2017 PLAN: THE WIDE RECEIVERS
The wide receiver position is probably the most straightforward position in your draft this season. Just stick to the ADP and you’ll be fine. The WR options in 2017 are the deepest that I have ever seen. Like I stated before, in most mock drafts I have typically been well into the middle rounds or beyond before I began to get nervous about the quality of WR’s available to me.
As I stated in the RB section, in most mock drafts, I have found that if I have selected 3-4 RB’s through the first 8 rounds, then my team typically looks like a quality playoff contender. So that’s my barometer as I’m going through the draft: I want four quality RB’s before the end of round 8 (and more preferably I’d like to have 4 RB’s by the end of round 7, if possible).
Whenever it is your turn to draft, you will need to determine whether or not you need another RB. Ask yourself these questions…
- Am I on pace to hit the goal: 4 RB’s through the first 7-8 rounds?
- If I pass on RB at this selection, is it likely that there will be quality RB’s to choose from the next time I select?
Allow these questions to govern and guide you as you draft. If you determine that you do not need a RB with the current selection, then select the best WR available.
SIDE NOTE: If you determine that you do not need a RB, you’ll also want to consider QB/TE starting in the middle rounds. If there is extraordinary value at QB or TE, then consider drafting one of those positions, but if not, then continue filling out your roster with RB’s and WR’s. Overall, the RB and WR positions are a much higher priority over the QB and TE positions, unless extreme value ever happens to present itself at those positions.
At the top of the first round, I am shouting to everyone to take one of the elite RB’s (Johnson or Bell). After that, your league rules will determine whether you ought to draft one of the big three WR’s (Beckham, Brown, or Jones) or if you should draft one of the other 1st round RB’s (McCoy or Gordon).
If you are in a PPR league that forces you to start more WR’s than RB’s (ie: 2RB and 3WR, not including flex spots), then I would endorse drafting one of the big three WR’s over a RB. But if your league is 2RB and 2WR, or if your league is not a PPR league, then I would certainly stick with one of those top four RB’s.
For the majority of league formats (PPR and non-PPR), I’m still drafting one of the big three WR’s before I draft Devonta Freeman. And in most cases I’m probably drafting Mike Evans, Jordy Nelson, and AJ Green ahead of Freeman too, but this is a matter of preference. I wouldn’t argue with you if you choose Freeman (RB) over any of those WR’s being drafted late in the 1st round, especially if you’re in a league with a bunch of super savvy owners who will be scooping up all the RB talent at the right times.
Here is the Table of WR’s with my grade and ADP’s:
|Name||My Grade 2||A.D.P.|
|Odell Beckham Jr||Early-to-mid 1st||1.04|
|Antonio Brown||Early-to-mid 1st||1.03|
|Julio Jones||Early-to-mid 1st||1.05|
|Mike Evans||Mid-to-Late 1st||1.07|
|Jordy Nelson||Mid-to-Late 1st||1.10|
|A.J. Green||Mid-to-Late 1st||1.09|
|Michael Thomas||Late 1st/Early 2nd||2.02|
|Amari Cooper||Late 1st/Early 2nd||2.08|
|T.Y. Hilton||Early 2nd||2.06|
|Demaryius Thomas||Late 2nd/Early 3rd||3.02|
|Dez Bryant||Late 2nd/Early 3rd||2.03|
|Stefon Diggs||Late 5th/Early 6th||6.07|
Amari Cooper, T.Y. Hilton, and Demaryius Thomas are all slight values where they are being drafted. They are three very different players, but all three are relatively safe options in the 2nd round.
Larry Fitzgerald and Pierre Garcon are veterans being slightly underrated by the market. Both have safe floors. And they’ll be even better in PPR formats.
Keenan Allen is being slightly over-drafted in standard leagues (as seen in the table) but he is being slightly under-drafted in PPR leagues. Allen is one of the few players where his standard rank is significantly different from his PPR rank.
Same goes for Jarvis Landry, Julian Edelman, and Golden Tate. All three are being over-drafted in standard leagues, but are being undervalued in PPR leagues.
Dez Bryant, DeAndre Hopkins, and Brandin Cooks are all being slightly overvalued to some extent, but it’s not egregious. All three could put up elite numbers on any given week, but based on their current situations, I think it’s more likely than not that each of them fail to live up to their current ADP’s.
Davante Adams is being seriously over-drafted, but his teammate Randall Cobb, who is a better overall player than Adams (IMO), is being slightly undervalued.
One player that I am absolutely drafting on pretty much every team is Tyreek Hill. He was incredibly efficient last year, scoring a bunch of touchdowns on not many touches, as compared to what the premier wide receivers typically would get. Certainly, he cannot keep up this pace. Some observers have compared him to guys like Tavon Austin and Cordarrelle Patterson or Percy Harvin. But Hill has much better football instincts than those guys, he’s a smooth route runner, and I think he could be a better receiver than those three guys. It appears the Chiefs are ready to feed him the majority of the receiver targets having released Jeremy Maclin. The way Hill was utilized last year certainly will not make him a WR1, but I’m assuming that volume is going to increase. Of course, you’ve got to bake in the possibility that the Chiefs are not able to utilize him to his full potential, and you also need to consider that Alex Smith is still as quarterback. So, for that reason I’m only giving him a third round grade. But most people see him as a fifth or sixth round player. I obviously disagree.
Stephan Diggs is a smooth route runner with good hands. He’s being relatively underrated. His ADP is in the sixth round, but my grade for him is just slightly higher than that. I think he’s a potential target monster in Minnesota again this year and I find myself drafting him frequently. I think the Vikes’ offense will be better than it was last year, giving Diggs a chance to out-produce the current consensus.
Tyrell Williams is a good overall athlete with very good vertical speed. He can’t run the full route tree, but the routes that he does run he does a great job. I see him taking a step forward this season, and with Mike Williams injury Tyrell has a chance to see lots of targets on a team that should have a decent offense this year. He’s a value towards the end of the 7th round or early 8th round.
Brandon Marshall is being drafted in the sixth round of standard leagues. I think that’s about right. And I think that if I’m ever drafting early in the sixth and I need a wide receiver, I may take him over some of the other receivers that are in the same tier. He’s always had a knack for touchdown scoring. And his first year on the teams he’s been on have typically been great. I recognize that his situation with the Giants is very different than any situation he has ever been in, but I’m still willing to take the chance.
Willie Snead is being drafted more than a full round later than he should. Honestly, he’s not a great athlete and he’s not a speedster by any means. But he’s a smart player with decent hands, and he runs very good routes. Most importantly, Drew Brees seems to trust him, and that counts for a lot in my eyes. With Brandon Cooks being traded to the Pats, there seems to be a lot of targets up for grabs. I think he’s clearly better than most of the receivers being drafted in the sixth and seventh round.
Jordan Matthews’ ADP has been up-and-down over the last week since he’s been traded. Not fully sure where it’s going to end up, but my guess is that he’ll be drafted anywhere from the 11th round to the 13th round, but either way, he is significantly better than where he is being drafted. Anquan Bolding just retired, so there should be some targets available. Matthews is significantly better than the majority of the receivers being drafted in the 11th, 12th, and 13th rounds.
Adam Thielen is one of those guys that doesn’t do any one thing super well, but he does a lot of things decent. And the coaching staff in Minnesota seems to trust him. I’m higher on the Minnesota offense than many others, so that gives us an opportunity for some value. His ADP is in the 10th round. I’ve given him a seventh round grade.
Martavis Bryant has a wide range of outcomes. He could produce numbers that make him worthy of being drafted in the first three rounds of your fantasy draft. Or he could be completely dysfunctional and flame out and not even be worth the seventh round pick that you would need to spend in order to get him on your team. His ADP in the 7th round is probably about right, but he’s got great upside There aren’t any other players being drafted in that range that have a chance to post elite wide receiver numbers other than Bryant.
I’ve given Cory Davis an eighth round grade but his average draft slot is in the 11th. He’s been injured all summer, so that makes me nervous, but I still think I want to take the chance. If he doesn’t play at all in the preseason, I’ll probably have to downgrade him in my ranks, but that also means that your league-mates will likely downgrade him too. I’ve seen him go as late as 15th round in some drafts. All the scouting reports on him have him grading out to be a pro-bowl caliber wide receiver. He has all the measurables, athletic ability, and ball skills to live up to that sort of projection. And he’s in a great situation. He’s a slight risk, but it’s rare that you could potentially draft a guy with his ability so late in your draft.
Robby Anderson is a decent player from my hometown, played at Temple University (known more for basketball than football). He’s got straight-line speed and he’s got decent ball skills. He’s really not a great overall receiver, but I think he’s just good enough to be the guy with the Jets that scoops up a bunch of targets on a very bad team. I think it’s pretty safe to say that could very easily produce WR3 type of numbers, which means he ought to be drafted somewhere between the seventh and ninth rounds. But his current ADP is in the 13th. That’s very good value.
Cameron Meredith had a nice campaign last year. He’s an average player. Not a good athlete. But seems to be a smart gritty player with just enough ball skills to be the target monster on a bad team (similar to Robby Anderson). He also should be drafted somewhere between the 8th and the 10th rounds, but he’s typically being drafted in the 11th or the 12th. That’s good value.
Marvin Jones is a decent athlete. The first month last year he was great, and then he faded pretty quickly. I still think you can be a productive player in the Detroit system. I gave him the 10th round grade and if things break his way, he could potentially have some decent upside. He is being drafted in the 11th or 12th. Easily worth a late round pick.
Tyler Lockett is a guy that I’m drafting on many of my teams. His rookie year he flashed brilliantly. He’s got a quick feet, great long speed, and good hands. He’s a little bit of a limited player, but certainly can be a great weapon in the NFL. Of course, the big issue, can he stay healthy? He’s currently being drafted in the 14th round. That’s criminal. Basically, four to five rounds too late. If the Seattle offensive line can improve just a little from 2016 (they were terrible last year), then that’ll give Russell Wilson more time to throw downfield and take shots at Lockett. If that happens, and Lockett is healthy, then he’ll easily out produce most of the WR’s being drafted in the 5th or 5th rounds. There’s no receiver that you can draft in the 14th round or later that could potentially give you that sort of upside.
Nelson Agholor has been disappointing his first two years. But by all accounts he seems like he’s ready to progress. The Eagles’ recent trade of Jordan Matthews to Buffalo frees up the slot for Agholor. Supposedly he’s had a great camp and he’s building rapport with Carson Wentz. When he came out of USC he was touted as being the type a guy who had all the tools to be a great NFL receiver. He’s a lottery ticket at the end of the draft, but might be worth it.
John Ross might be the fastest guy in the NFL. The Bengals have a lot of things going on, and a lot of changes on the offense, which could impede him. But Andy Dalton is just good enough to get the ball down field to a speedster like Ross. With defenses always needing to roll DB’s to AJ Green, I can’t help but wonder if Ross will get a lot of one-on-one opportunities. He could be dynamic.
Curtis Samuel was the best offense of player Ohio State last year. He’s a running back converted to wide receiver, sort of in the mold of Percy Harvin. He could be another Tyreek Hill type of story. Certainly worthy of a late round pick.
THE 2017 PLAN: THE TIGHT ENDS
The most important key to know about the TE position is simply to realize that in most league formats, the difference in fantasy scoring between the #3 TE and the #16 TE is incredibly nominal! And this is not a new trend… this has been the case since the late 1990’s.
Every year there are typically 1-3 TE’s that are dominate and the all the rest are all about the same.
So what does this mean? This means you either need to draft one of the top guys early OR you ought to wait until VERY late in the draft and draft whatever decent TE is “leftover.” I much prefer the later option.
Now, if you decide to draft a TE early, there is an important correlation to remember between the QB position and the TE position. As I stated earlier in this article, in most fantasy formats, if you draft both a QB and a TE in the first few rounds, it will be VERY hard for you to field a viable starting line-up most weeks this season. You will just be far too behind in the RB and WR categories.
If you draft a QB in the first few rounds, you ought to plan to wait to draft a TE later in the draft. And if you draft a TE in the first few rounds, you ought to wait until later in the draft before you grab your starting QB.
In most cases, I think you ought to wait to draft both QB and TE until the later rounds, and just keep stocking up at RB and WR. The “stock up at RB and WR” strategy ultimately gives your team the best shot to compete over the full length of the NFL season.
My TE targets for 2017:
- Rob Gronkowski in the 4th round or later
- Travis Kelce in the 5th round or later
- Greg Olsen in the 8th round or later
- Jimmy Graham in the 8th round or later
- Hunter Henry in the 9th round or later
- Zach Ertz in the 9thth round or later
- Martellus Bennett in the 9th round or later
- Jason Witten in the 11th round or later
- Jack Doyle in the 11th round or later
- CJ Fiedorowicz in the 13th round or later
- Charles Clay in the 13th round or later
Guys like Tyler Eifert, Kyle Rudolph, Coby Fleener, and Delanie Walker are all being selected way too early. As my poker-playing friends often say, “Too rich for my blood.” The guys that I’m targeting for TE in 2017 will produce similar numbers, but will be drafted in the later rounds.
Jordan Reed is a fantastic talent, but he’s injured far too often. He makes me nervous.
Gronk, Kelce, Olsen, and Graham are all great players, but they will likely all be long gone before the target rounds that I have set for each of them. But don’t worry. There are plenty of decent later round options.
My favorite targets are Hunter Henry, Zach Ertz, and Martellus Bennett (in that order).
Hunter Henry is a great talent. He literally has everything you want in a TE. He’s got good size, strength, quickness in tight spots, and decent hands, and he also seems to be a smart gritty player too. Now, I don’t expect the same touchdown rate that he had last year, that’s unrealistic. But I do expect his overall workload to increase. At some point in the next three years, it is very likely that Hunter Henry will be a top-2 TE in NFL, but I’m not sure if 2017 is the year, mainly because of the presence of Antonio Gates who will still be there stealing targets. Also, the Chargers’ offensive line will likely still be mediocre (or worse), which means Henry may need to be utilized as a blocker frequently, which could impede his fantasy potential. But his upside is great and he is well worth being someone that you target in your draft.
Overall, Zach Ertz is clearly one of the most athletic TE’s in the NFL. He has started slow each of the last two seasons, but both times was due to injury. In each of the last two seasons, he’s been a top-3 TE over the last 6-8 weeks of the NFL regular season. Assuming he’s healthy, there’s no reason to believe that he couldn’t produce those sorts of fantasy numbers over the course of the whole year. Add to this the fact that the Eagles’ offense should be better in 2017 (due to off-season acquisitions and the progression of 2nd-year QB Carson Wentz). Ertz is a safe pick with great upside.
Martellus Bennett has been a very good and productive player his entire career. He’s still one of the best leapers in the NFL. And now he’s playing with the best QB on the planet Aaron Rodgers. I know Rodgers hasn’t targeted his TE’s a bunch over the last few seasons, but he’s also not had a TE as good as Bennett in several years. The last time Rodgers had a quality TE it was more than five years ago, Jermichael Finley, and when Rodgers and Finley were together they were a very productive pair. I think Rodgers and Bennett could do the same. I guess it has more to do with the fact that I just love Rodgers and I love the Green Bay offense. Bennett is worth being one of your targets if you can get him at the right price.
As for the other guys…
Jason Witten is the ageless wonder. You’ll always know what you’ll get with him. He’s got very little upside to put up big numbers, but he’s solid and consistent, and you can draft him late in your draft if you miss out on the younger guys.
Jack Doyle, CJ Fiedorowicz, and Charles Clay are mediocre talents, but they should be decent options for your fantasy team, and they can be had very late if you miss out on any of these other names.
THE 2017 PLAN: THE DEFENSES
Team defense is somewhat similar to TE’s… what I mean by that is simply that having a “middle of the road” starting Defense is typically the same as having the #16 Defense or so. There is very little difference at all.
There is occasionally a defense that is special in some way or another, and they make a big difference, but in all reality, we never know ahead of time. We think we might know, but we are usually way more wrong on defenses than we are right. Defenses change so much from year to year, it’s hard to promote spending any draft capital on a defense.
You should draft a defense with one of your last three picks. Let’s say your draft is 16 rounds total. When you get to the 14th round if Denver or Kansas City or the LA Charges are still available, then go ahead and draft one of them. If not, then wait until the next round to draft a defense and just select the best leftover team.
Also, you should be looking at Week 1 matchups. Here’s the real key: Defenses are ALL about match-ups!
I rarely look for a good Team Defense; I look for match-ups! I especially look for the match-ups in the second half of the season, and especially during my fantasy playoffs.
I typically draft one Defense and then simply add/drop Defenses all season long depending on match-ups… but if there is a legitimate reason you don’t want to do a lot of add/drops, then consider drafting two mediocre defenses and play the match-up each week.
Again, either draft Denver, KC, LAC in your 2nd to last pick, or just pick the best leftover defense with the best early season match-ups with your “next-to-last.”
THE 2017 PLAN: KICKERS
Who cares??? Why are we even still using Kickers in fantasy football!!! UGGHHH!!! Seriously, we need to start a movement to eliminate Kickers from fantasy football.
Anyways, since most of you are in fantasy leagues that require kickers, here my advice… just get a Kicker on a good team, that’s all.
If one of these guys are still on the board when you select in the “next-to-last” round of your draft, and if you already have your starting Defense, then draft one of these guys:
- Stephen Gostkowski (NE)
- Matt Bryant (ATL)
- Mason Crosby (GB)
- Wil Lutz (NO)
If all four of these guys are gone by the time you get to your “next-to-last” round, then just go ahead ans skip the Kicker position until your absolutely last pick.
Also, if you don’t have a defense already on your team when you get to your “next-to-last” round, then simply select a Defense before your draft a Kicker, and then just wait until the last round of your draft to get a Kicker. In that last round, just select whichever Kicker you think is the best.
And please, do not draft a back-up kicker unless you can’t use the waiver wire in your league.
So there you have it! Those are all my thoughts on the value plays at each position.
- Wait on QB and TE if at all possible.
- Be balanced in the early rounds, but be sure to draft 3-4 RB’s in the first 7-8 rounds.
- Pounce on the WR values in the middle rounds.
- Build your team around selecting players with great value!