My initial 2018 fantasy football rankings were posted last week, with a couple caveats. This morning the rankings are updated for each of quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end and kicker, plus top 125 overall rankings.
That is a good start, but not as helpful as with some commentary to show the thought process behind them. Why are certain players higher or lower than the consensus average draft position (ADP)? Lets start with the Top 12 which is essentially my fantasy football draft round 1.
|1||RB T. Gurley, LAR||RB1||1.02|
|2||RB E. Elliott, DAL||RB2||1.03|
|3||RB L. Bell, PIT||RB3||1.03|
|4||WR A. Brown, PIT||WR1||1.06|
|5||WR D. Hopkins, HOU||WR2||1.09|
|6||WR O. Beckham Jr., NYG||WR3||1.12|
|7||RB D. Johnson, ARI||RB4||1.04|
|8||RB S. Barkley, NYG ®||RB5||1.06|
|9||WR J. Jones, ATL||WR4||2.03|
|10||RB K. Hunt, KC||RB6||1.11|
|11||RB D. Cook, MIN||RB7||1.12|
|12||RB L. Fournette, JAC||RB8||1.08|
|13||RB A. Kamara, NO||RB9||1.06|
|14||WR D. Adams, GB||WR5||2.06|
|15||WR M. Thomas, NO||WR6||2.04|
|16||WR A. Green, CIN||WR7||2.08|
|17||TE R. Gronkowski, NE||TE1||2.12|
|18||RB M. Gordon, LAC||RB10||1.10|
|19||WR K. Allen, LAC||WR8||2.07|
|20||RB D. Freeman, ATL||RB11||2.04|
|21||RB C. McCaffrey, CAR||RB12||2.12|
|22||WR D. Baldwin, SEA||WR9||3.03|
|23||WR T. Hilton, IND||WR10||3.10|
|24||QB A. Rodgers, GB||QB1||3.02|
1 Fantasy Football Calculator (12 team)
Fantasy Football Draft Round 1, Picks 1-6
I have five players in my Tier 1 running backs, adding Saquon Barkley to that group this morning. We know based on history at least one, probably two and possibly more will disappoint the high expectations that come with the fortune of having a Top 4 (or Top 1 or Top 2 or Top 3 or Top 5, depending on the year) draft pick. For me, I tend to rank that top group not so much on floor, ceiling, talent, etc., although that all comes into play, but rather which player is the least likely to disappoint. That is the guy I want with my top pick. That player is Todd Gurley. There are fewer red flags with Gurley compared the each of the next four running backs, which is why he is generally considered the consensus number one overall pick this fantasy draft season.
Elliott has slightly more red flags than Gurley, but I would argue less than Le’Veon Bell, slotting him in the number two spot for me. The Dallas Cowboys are not expected to be a top offense this season given the ultra-thin receiving corps, although coupled with Dak Prescott they should be able to show enough to keep defenses somewhat honest. The offensive line is still a huge strength, and Elliott the best pure runner in the league with a team committed to giving him a heavy workload. Even a dishonest defense is going to get exhausted trying to tackle this guy in the second half of games.
Bell is absolute money for fantasy owners finishing in the RB2-RB4 range since his sophomore season (points-per-game in 2015 due to playing in only 6 games). That is performance scoring, no points-per-reception (PPR), in which he creates even more distance from his peers averaging 80 catches the past two seasons. Too bad that hasn’t translated into a long-term deal from the Pittsburgh Steelers. Which leads us into yet another season in which Bell is skipping all of training camp. I respect his bet on himself mentality playing on the one-year franchise tag, but missed camp worries me he is more likely to get injured early in the season.
Also, “everyone” apparently hated now departed offensive coordinator Todd Haley. I’m sure Haley had a personality that rubbed Ben Roethlisberger and a whole bunch of people the wrong way but lets face facts – the guy knows offense and deserves a good deal of credit for the Steelers offensive juggernaut in recent seasons. Now Haley is gone and that worries me the potential negative impact on the whole offense of which Bell is the main beneficiary. Note these worries are not enough to push Bell far down the board, but based on risk, I am more comfortable with Gurley or Elliott than Bell.
Fantasy football drafts are back sliding into running back heavy affairs, and many will see the top five or six picks all take a RB before the first wide receiver is off the board. That is a mistake in leagues with three or more WR relative to two RB starters, and especially in PPR leagues.
No one would really bat an eyelash if Antonio Brown was drafted number one overall each of the past 4-5 seasons, and you know the guy who drafted him was certainly happy with the results. Wide receivers are safer picks than running backs. Antonio Brown is matchup proof. Taking Brown is a very positive use of draft capital.
The comments on Haley, above, don’t necessarily apply the same here. If the offense keeps chugging along as in the past, great, and great for Brown owners. If the offense stutters at all, the answer will be to throw to Brown. Brown is a worthy Top 4 pick and if you are skittish on any of the running backs, feel free to push him up to as high as number one on your board.
It appears I am higher on Deshaun Watson than most people, as I see repeatedly how fantasy experts state Watson is greatly overvalued. Sure, there is hype based on a small sample from last season and he is returning from a major injury. These are very logical conclusions to avoid Watson where he is typically getting drafted. At what point however do we sit back and say, “the guy is just that good”?
I do not say this lightly, but I think there is something to the thought we are witnessing a generational talent at the quarterback position. Health reports on his rehab are very good, so my concern there is mitigated. To watch him set the league on fire this season, wait until this time next year and declare Watson is in the same tier as Aaron Rodgers, doesn’t show fantasy experts are willing to stick their neck out very far, so I will. He has the ability of finishing QB2+. If I can get Watson around QB4 or later, then I absolutely will draft him.
Oh, my bad, this is supposed to be about DeAndre Hopkins. He will be the primary beneficiary and contributor to Watson’s success. Hopkins is 26 years old and primed to make last season and his 2015 stat line the norm. Anyone else tired of hearing the word regression from fantasy football experts?
Lets call this for what it is. Hopkins is super-talented. He is on a very good team. He will be showered with targets. Again, wide receivers are safer than running backs, putting Nuk in my Top 5.
Similar in concept to my reasons for Le’Veon Bell ranking behind Gurley and Elliott, Odell Beckham Jr. is not less talented or less capable of finishing WR1 than Antonio Brown or DeAndre Hopkins. However, he is a more risky proposition to get there than the other two.
We sometimes forget in our fantasy football analysis that these players are not robots, they are people. And people – particularly professional football players – do stupid things. Brown and Hopkins have shown less evidence of doing stupid things that could impact their on-field performance than someone like, say, Beckham. Its a character thing.
What Beckham accomplished in his first three seasons in the NFL is absolutely ridiculous, and then he got injured last season. I have no trouble drafting Beckham (hey, we are only half way through the first round here), but I feel safer with the other two wideouts. Based on fantasy football drafts so far, with their RB-heavy focus, there is a good chance you end up with Beckham using these rankings but drafting as late as eighth to tenth overall.
Fantasy Football Draft Round 1, Picks 7-12
I am getting a little long with the commentary so time to shorten things up a bit. Anyone who emails me Draft Buddy tech support questions, or questions about their fantasy league, can usually expect a fairly detailed response. Maybe I need to do more fantasy football advice on Twitter to learn to give more concise answers.
David Johnson is squarely in the Tier 1 RB group by most rankings sets, often as high as RB2. The Arizona Cardinals are not expected to be very good though, am I right? For supporting cast we aren’t even positive if or how long Sam Bradford will start ahead of rookie QB Josh Rosen. They’ve got Larry Fitzgerald and … a whole lot of wishful thinking at receiver. Offensive guru coach Bruce Arians is gone. This team is rebuilding. Sure, a lot of volume for David Johnson and his talent puts him in the conversation but I don’t love the idea of using my first round pick on a RB for a team I expect is more likely to struggle than not. For the third time, wide receivers are safer.
We have no NFL history with Barkley which will lead some to say hey, no way am I taking a rookie with my first round pick. I like to have an open mind and try to never say never. Maybe Barkley is the next great thing at RB. Enough smart people who did the necessary scouting and research are singing his praises, and we have come a long way scouting football talent since Ki-Jana Carter, or the 2005 NFL Draft with running backs picks 2nd, 4th and 5th overall (and each of those guys were decent for stretches). Sure, the New York Giants are, like the Cardinals, not a good team. Unlike the Cardinals, there is a decent offensive supporting cast in place to contribute to Barkley’s success.
Not reporting to Atlanta Falcons training camp due to a contract dispute does not make me particularly enamored with Julio Jones right now, so this ranking may drop. The sides each seem pretty stuck in that no new contract will be forthcoming prior to this season. More touchdowns would also be nice. On the plus side, Jones is sliding into the second round. He’s going to play, he might have a chip on his shoulder and I’m sure Matt Ryan has no issue helping Jones pad his stats as much as possible. A 1,400 yard floor and potential for 100 catches, I do feel better with him on my squad than the next group of riskier running backs.
If you drafted Hunt late last year, congrats. He was one of the stories of the NFL and particularly fantasy football in 2017 as an unheralded prospect, flung into action due to an injury to incumbent Spencer Ware. Great offense (although first year starting quarterback) and projected high workload make Hunt the expected man again for 2018. He did fade through the middle of last season but does contribute in the passing game. This is neither an aggressively positive or overly negative outlook for Hunt.
A player that really impressed me last season was Dalvin Cook. Knee injury in Week 4! Bah! What a disappointment. Knee injuries are not the same concern coming back from them as they used to be, especially when they are early in the season. We will want to keep close tabs on reports about Cook through training camp. Skill-wise and playing on a top defensive minded team, this is perhaps a bit high from consensus but a decent ranking for Cook and his upside. Really, the players ranked in this range and through the next six or so picks are all somewhat interchangeable. Pick the guy you like, and Cook is one I do like.
Fournette is very similar to me as Cook. Talented running back, playing on a team with a strong defense, he should be in many games with what the daily fantasy guys call a positive game script. Fournette only played in 13 games last year, finished RB8, and more than 15 points better than RB9. In most leagues drafting end of the first round you will want a RB with one of your first two picks, and Fournette is a good foundation for your team.
This will be the player most will say is mistakenly missing from my Top 12. No doubt Kamara was superb last season, but a player who excels that much in a timeshare is typically a player I will fade the following season when expectations thrust him into the first round.
I absolutely love Davante Adams this year as the trending up and go-to guy for Aaron Rodgers. He can certainly return first round value. Michael Thomas is great too, and I am not writing off Drew Brees yet as some are. My late first round drafts will usually lean to a balanced approach, taking 1 RB and 1 WR, so drafting any combination of Hunt/Cook/Fournette/Kamara and Jones/Adams/Thomas/A.J. Green is an ideal start.
Gronk is a difference maker. With Julian Edelman out to start the season, and Brandin Cooks and Dion Lewis gone from the New England Patriots, a healthy Gronk could be exceptional. Perhaps this is one of the few ways to get value from your late first round pick. In a league giving extra value to the TE position, I would give high consideration to Gronk. In other leagues I wouldn’t begrudge you taking him this high either.
Most fantasy experts will tell you absolutely do not draft Aaron Rodgers with your first round pick. I am not going to do that. That applies to most of their (the experts’) leagues. Lets not worry about their leagues and lets worry about your league. Your league you may very well provide a big advantage owning the consensus number one quarterback.
Without diving too deep into this subject, even if the format and scoring is the same as expert leagues, in more casual leagues QB tend to get drafted earlier, and top RB and WR are more likely to fall deeper in the draft. And it can be more difficult to trade in your local league. So, considering Rodgers is a difference maker at a position potentially valued very highly in your league, if that costs you a first round pick, so be it.