We are in the thick of fantasy football draft season, so whether you've already nailed your draft or are just about to head into the draft room, here are the notes and observations that you'll need to come out strong.
You can't wait on running backs
There are really 4 running backs that make up the first tier: Gurley, Bell, Johnson, and Elliott. There's a pretty solid dropoff in projected points between Tier 1 and Tier 2. If you don't have one of the first four picks in your draft, it's important to try and get at least one of those Tier 2 guys (Kamara, Barkley, Gordon, Hunt, or Fournette). In last night's FFN Users League III draft, 58% of the picks in the first two rounds were running backs. If you can land a Tier 1 or Tier 2 RB and pair him with a Tier 3 or 4, you'll be sitting pretty.
If you're drafting 10th - 12th, you've got a decision to make because the elite wide receivers are going to be sitting there and there's definitely a point differential between them and the Tier 2 RB's. DeAndre Hopkins, Julio Jones, and Odell Beckham, Jr. are all viable options, and if you use the Best Available Player approach, you may find yourself with two of those guys. That's not a bad thing - just know that you'll probably be looking at guys like Derrick Henry, LeSean McCoy, Alex Collins, and Royce Freeman as your lead back. Not an ideal situation, but we'll have to hope that your elite WR's will pull your team up.
Once you get past the 6th round, RB quality gets pretty ugly while there's still plenty of solid WR2's on the board like Corey Davis, Marvin Jones, Julian Edelman, and Emmanuel Sanders.
We've written before about the effectiveness of the Zero RB Theory. 2018 is no different.
You can wait on a quarterback
In a standard 12-team league, you're very likely guaranteed to get a Top 12 QB. Once Aaron Rodgers is taken (generally around the start of the 4th round), the other QB's are often being taken two full rounds later. Unless you're in a SuperFlex league or passing touchdowns are worth more than the standard 4 points, there's little benefit to taking a QB early. Even perennial fantasy favorite Tom Brady is going near the start of the 6th round, and you can get Newton in the 7th, Andrew Luck and Kirk Cousins in the 8th, and Jimmy Garoppolo in the 9th. All are good options with minimal point differentials between them.
If you read our Top 10 Fantasy Football Draft Tips for 2018, you'll know that we talk about the difference between price and value. I can't stress how important that concept is. Using standard scoring, let's say that you took Deshaun Watson in the 5th round (ADP of 5.02). The 5th round is what you paid for him. He's projected to score 275 fantasy points this season. That means that you likely passed on Marquise Goodwin (ADP of 5.03) who is projected to score 129 points.
Let's say that you waited on QB until the 10th round (10.11) where Ben Roethlisberger (projected for 270 points) is available and you passed on a WR like Calvin Ridley (projected for 97 points) in that round. Using your 5th & 10th round picks, would you rather have paid the price for Watson & Ridley or Roethlisberger & Goodwin? You paid a 10th-round price for Big Ben and his point differential with Watson is 6 points (0.3125 points per game). The total projected points for Watson/Ridley is 372 points while Roethlisberger/Goodwin is 399 points - almost 2 full fantasy points more every week. You know the prices, but sometimes the value is a little harder to get at. If you don't get one of the top name QB's, don't worry. That position is plenty deep.
In just about every draft so far this year, I've seen both Mark Ingram and Julian Edelman go as either RB3/WR3 or RB4/WR4. Do your best to be one of those people. If they end up as your third or fourth RB or WR, you likely won't need them for the first few games. When they come back, you've got the starting workhorse RB on New Orlean's high powered offense and Tom Brady's favorite target on another high-powered offense. There is tremendous value to those two picks.
Here are the players where we have found great value based upon their rankings versus their average draft position - useful to know when you can wait a round or two and have a guy fall to you.
Cam Newton, QB - CAR
Cam is ranked 60th overall on FFN with an average draft position ten spots later. He has finished among the top six quarterbacks in 5 out of his 7 seasons. Of all the QB's on the board, he may present the best value. As a comparison, QB Deshaun Watson is ranked one spot lower in our rankings at #69 but his ADP is 42 meaning that Watson is going so much earlier than his projected value.
Jamaal Williams, RB - GB
I think we were all expecting to see a strong committee approach in Green Bay, but with Aaron Jones out for the first 2 games and Ty Montgomery playing that pass-catching role, it's Williams' job to lose. When he was the Pack's starting RB last season, he finished as a Top 10 fantasy player over the final 8-game stretch. He carries that kind of upside as we head into 2018.
Emmanuel Sanders, WR - DEN
Don't let last year's down season sour you on Sanders. His QB play was awful and it's hard to understate just how much that factored in. Case Keenum is an upgrade, and prior to last year, Sanders had been a reliable fantasy WR2. For the previous three years (2014-2016), he averaged 138 targets, 85 catches, 1,190 yards, and 6.7 touchdowns. In PPR formats, that's a Top 15 finisher. He's currently ranked 69th overall on FFN with an ADP of 80. There's a great chance that he's available for you in the late 7th round. He's a great bounceback candidate.
Jordan Reed, TE - WAS
This one comes with some risk, but his ADP means that you can have a potential Top 10 TE for a ridiculously-low price...if you can handle the risk. Reed is notorious for his injury issues. He has missed 28 games in his 5-year career including playing just 6 games last year with a career-low 27 catches for just 211 yards. The upside here is that he's healthy, ready for Week 1, and has a new QB in Alex Smith. Reed is all about potential. When he was on the field in 2015 and 2016, he led all tight ends in PPR points - including even Gronk. If you can handle the risk, there's value in his late 8th / early 9th-round ADP.
Danny Amendola, WR - MIA
There's obviously some injury risk with Amendola, but the slot position in Miami is a great fit for him. Jarvis Landry averaged 143 targets in that role, and while there's little reason to think that Amendola will see that same workload, it's not out of the realm of possibility that 100 targets could definitely come his way. With an ADP in the 14th round of PPR drafts, he's almost guaranteed to be there as one of your last picks.
Here are the players that have surpassed expectations for the preseason. You're going to see their names on the
Christian McCaffrey, RB - CAR
McCaffrey looked incredible during the preseason. His usage was much higher than anticipated (89% of the first team snaps) and we've watched his ADP climb from the 5th-round during the summer to the start of the 2nd-round now. His 113 targets last year was the 13th-most in-season among RBs since 1992. He is clearly the workhorse in the Carolina backfield.
Peyton Barber, RB - TB
There was plenty of speculation leading up to camp that rookie Ronald Jones would have a legitimate shot at the starting gig in Tampa Bay, but it was Barber who shined brightly playing in 66% of the first team snaps. He visited the end zone twice and averaged 5.8 yards on 15 carries. It's quite possible that the RB situation changes as the season progresses, but Barber deserves his spot atop the depth chart when Week 1 gets here.
Marquise Goodwin, WR - SF
Before camp, the beat writers in San Francisco had Pierre Garcon pegged as the top wide receiver, but it has clearly been the Goodwin show. Jimmy G targeted him 10 times, and Goodwin caught 7 of those passes for 119 yards. Garcon saw just 3 catches, and while he has a good connection with Garoppolo, it's just not the same as with Goodwin.
Andrew Luck, QB - IND
There has been so much speculation around Andrew Luck's return. He looked a bit rusty, but has started to find his groove again. The real takeaway however is that he's on the field and playing. His production history is enough justification to consider him a Top 10 fantasy option and elevates the play of the backfield and wide receivers.
Tyreek Hill, WR - KC
There are a lot of mouths to feed in Kansas City, and chances are that the 69-yard bomb from Mahomes get fantasy owners salivating. There has been enough volume thrown Hill's way to help alleviate those concerns. It may be hard to match his 20.6% target share with Watkins added, but his outstanding 71.4 CR/15.7 YPR and excellent 2.3 FP per TGT along with big plays coming with Mahomes is exciting.
Trey Burton, TE - CHI
There's one tight end outside the Top 10 that you should definitely be targeting if you end up waiting on the TE position. That guy is Trey Burton. Trubisky targeted him with 5 of his 14 throws and Burton caught 4-for-45 and a score. Burton could easily outperform his ranking and crack the Top 10 by the time December rolls around.
Late Round Fliers
If you're looking for someone to take with your last flier pick, consider taking a chance on either Dez Bryant, Kenny Gollady, or Adrian Peterson. Dez may not be with a team right away, but with teams like Jacksonville and New England in need of wide receivers, there's a good chance that he lands somewhere. He's available in the 14th round of most drafts. With Marvin Jones and Golden Tate featured heavily in the Detroit passing game, you may want to pass on Golladay, but not so fast. The Lions have been playing Golladay over Tate in 2-wide sets and he has a ton of upside. Finally, he may not be All-Day any longer, but Peterson may still have some gas left in the tank. Jay Gruden was very happy with Peterson in his first game as a Redskin. He's a good bet for 15+ carries most weeks. While his body may break down when he piles up the touches, his value is great with an ADP in the 14th round.