I wanted to start this discussion thread before I left town in the morning. I’m not sure how much I’ll be able to check in this weekend, but I’ll try to answer any questions as quickly as possibly.
The most important thing before you begin preparing for any draft is making sure you’re familiar with the league format and rules because they can influence your draft decisions.
The team I just drafted was in a 35 round Draft Champion league. There’s no free agency and your highest scoring lineup is used after all the games are played each week. There are no weekly opponents and the league prizes and overall prizes are determined solely by total points. I drafted that roster much differently than I will my other teams.
My other leagues have a fairly unique format as well, but include three free agency periods after weeks 2, 6 and 9 and you have to set your lineups each week.
I only play in PPR (point per reception) leagues. The lineup is pretty standard, QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, Flex, K, D/ST. The flex player can be RB/WR/TE.
Have some grasp of the offensive scheme and role a player is likely to have in that offense before you draft them. Good players on bad offenses might get a lot of looks, but they will often lose out on scoring opportunities.
Opportunity is everything in fantasy football. Volume often drives value. High carry backs are still the rarest and most valuable commodities. High target receivers are next, followed by elite QBs and then top tight ends.
Schedule can be a tie breaker if you’re undecided about two players. The strength of defenses within the division can be a consideration. Opponents in weeks 14-16 can be a factor, too.
I don’t have time to really devote to position rankings, but I will share some thoughts on the various position groups.
Drafting a quarterback in the first three rounds (Rodgers, Brady) will give you a slight edge at that position, but it is not recommended. You will probably lose volume in the way of carries or targets that can’t be replaced easily later.
If I pick a QB early this year, the soonest it will be is late round four and I will target Drew Brees. I don’t think he’ll notice the loss of Brandin Cooks and he catches the Falcons in weeks 14 and 16. He torched them for 726 yards and five touchdowns in last year’s matchups.
I do not think Matt Ryan can replicate last season’s career year. I do not trust Andrew Luck’s shoulder or his team. Kirk Cousins is a volume god, but he is poor in the red zone and he draws AZ and Den in weeks 15/16. Derek Carr faces a number of tough defenses throughout the season.
Jamies Winston faces a weak schedule and he heads a strong offense, but he is a popular breakout pick. Slightly less so is Marcus Mariota, who I picked in round seven of a 12 team draft last week.
I think the best value at quarterback this season is old nemesis Phillip Rivers. I picked him as my QB the round after Mariota and I think that tandem will be outstanding. Rivers is currently the 13th QB off the board, but he has consistently finished as a top ten scoring fantasy QB and he has never had so many weapons in the passing game. He does face some tough defenses, but some very porous ones as well, including the Jets in week 16.
David Johnson and Le’Veon Bell are rock solid @ 1-2 and you would be crazy to pass on either one.
I can’t see owning Elliott in a redraft league, but that’s up to each individual. Sure you want him for the playoffs, but you have to make the playoffs and doing that without your top pick for 4-6 games is a tall order in some leagues.
Year to year and week to week, you’re not going to find many more dependable players than LeSean McCoy. I would draft him with confidence.
I also think Melvin Gordon and Devonta Freeman are good bets. Everybody from this point has fairly significant question marks.
Jay Howard heads up a poor offense, but his schedule isn’t that tough and he will see a lot of volume. He was very consistent last year once he was featured and is a good bet to avoid a sophomore slump. He will likely see decreased scoring chances because of his quarterbacks.
Todd Gurley still has many fans and he could well explode in a more positive situation, but I’m going to let others draft him in the top 20 this year. One 100 yard game in his last 24 starts is hard for me to wrap my head around.
Jay Ajayi is another guy who is hard to draft with any degree of confidence. Three 200 yard games is historic and impressive, but only one more game over 100 and no others over 80 made him the ultimate boom or bust player last year.
DeMarco Murray faded a bit down the stretch and he will cede more carries to Derrick Henry this season.
Lamar Miller found the volume everyone predicted last year and still disappointed his overreaching drafters. There is not much special about him, IMO and he’s generally about as good as the defense allows him to be each week.
Isaiah Crowell does everything pretty well and he is likely to be somewhat underdrafted in most leagues. When I talked about good players on bad offenses, I think Howard, Crowell and maybe Carlos Hyde are still well worth drafting, but a guy like Bilal Powell is just going to get the crap beaten out of him this year.
The number of quality rookie backs who find themselves in good situations is inordinately high this year. I will target Christian McCaffrey and I think he will be unreal in a PPR format. I also like Leonard Fournette. Jax didn’t pick him fourth not to feed him the rock.
Joe Mixon will lose touches, maybe even ones he shouldn’t, to the veterans in the backfield with him. I wouldn’t be shocked to see him suppressed a bit early. I think Dalvin Cook is in a good situation, except it’s hard to trust the Vikings offensive line. Guys like Marlon Mack and Kareem Hunt should be involved early, but might spend all season in restrictive time shares.
Jamaal Williams is going to see reps in Green Bay simply because there’s nobody to stop him. Ty Montgomery is a much different type of player and they’re probably both worth owning in that high octane offense.
I will own De’Angelo Henderson on every team. He will be overvalued in Colorado, but quite attainable in non-Bronco fan drafts.
Their brief reign of dominance in fantasy football is comparable to mankind’s paltry 200,000 year run when compared to the 175,000,000 years the dinosaurs roamed the planet.
That said, beginning your draft with Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham, Julio Jones, or Mike Evans is pretty fool proof. You’re looking @ 10-12 targets a game with these guys. Jones is probably the only guy in Atlanta who will actually benefit from Shanahan’s departure as his targets should increase to previous levels.
I think AJ Green, Jordy Nelson and Michael Thomas are all rock solid picks in the 9-12 range. I would love to pair up Brees and Thomas on a team this year.
Hilton’s fortunes are tied to Luck’s uncertain health and I will pass. I think Dez Bryant is on the decline already, but it wouldn’t shock me to see him bounce back to his old levels. Amari Cooper has a tough schedule and Brandon Cooks could get lost in New England among all the options.
I would pass on the previous four guys and target Doug Baldwin or Demaryius Thomas instead. IMO, there’s a dropoff at this point, but the next tier is just huge.
Impossible to talk about most of these guys, but I will mention a few I like who could be strong value. Willie Snead will benefit from Cooks departure. He’ll gain those targets and Ted Ginn’s presence will only give him and Thomas more room to operate.
Washington said goodbye to a ton of targets in the off season and Terrelle Pryor will grab his share, but Jamison Crowder will be much cheaper and he will be a nice guy to own in PPR leagues.
I see Stefon Diggs going about 50 picks sooner than Adam Thielen, but I’m not sure who the better receiver is and I think Minnesota will find out this season.
Perennially underrated Rishard Matthews will likely be overlooked again with Eric Decker and Corey Davis joining the Titans, but I think he’ll continue to see a lot of looks.
I don’t typically draft rookie WR, especially those on crappy offenses, but I think Cooper Kupp will be playable in PPR leagues instantly. He will come off the board behind Tavon Austin and outscore him by a good margin.
Michael Floyd will be around in the end game. He has cleaned himself up and is tearing up Vikings camp. He will have to sit four games, but he might have a big impact.
Tyrell Williams is going way too low. He will see plenty of targets in a very good offense.
In most formats, I would recommend against picking one early. Gronk will go late round two. If he plays 15 games, he’ll be a steal. If he plays eight, he’ll wreck a ton of teams. Missing with him is even worse because you passed on a top RB or WR to get him.
I think round four is okay for Travis Kelce who is overdue for a double digit touchdown season.
Greg Olsen is incredibly durable and consistent and he might finally see some red zone looks if Newton stops looking to score himself every trip down. I think last year’s physical woes might convince Cam to share the glory a bit.
Jordan Reed is similar to Gronk, but the unit cost is much lower. If you can get him in round six or later and handcuff him to a dependable TE, he could be a game changer. Be happy if you get more than 12 games out of him.
The best strategy @ TE is to wait as long as you can and grab the last guy from the third tier. I think the best bets for breakouts are often injured Eric Ebron or partially blocked Hunter Henry.
Rookie tight ends rarely produce much. I will still send some flyers on Evan Engram. He is likely to play right away and while he’s going to be behind some high target guys, he’s the only TE on the roster who will get many balls thrown his way.
Draft one. Don’t get crazy. When Tucker, Gostkowski and Bailey are gone, begin to pay attention. Wil Lutz who kicks in a dome for New Orleans’ high powered offense is going ninth overall and hammerfooted Brandon McManus is going 12th. There is no reason to reach.
There are good defenses and good fantasy defenses and they don’t always cross in the Venn diagram. The Broncos are worth drafting in round 12 or so, but you will probably need to act sooner in local leagues. Their return men make them even more dynamic this year. I think 5-7 total touchdowns from the return men and secondary is possible.
The Chiefs will score points, too. Keep in mind, rooting for a fantasy defense is basically rooting for that team. If you pick KC or NE or SEA defense, you’re more or less on their side this season. Only bothers me a little, but could be a deal breaker for some.
For the most part, defenses do not return value in drafts. Houston is drafted top five every year and always finishes much worse.
Look for schedules. Pittsburgh has a cakewalk on defense in the first half and they added Watt’s little brother. Tennessee drafted Adoree’ Jackson and he could be a Tyreek Hill level game breaker on special teams.
Also, if you have roster space to draft two defenses, see if you can sync them up so one isn’t playing New England the same week the other one is in New Orleans. In most cases, though, I wouldn’t recommend devoting a roster spot to a second defense or kicker if your free agency rules allow you to pick them up weekly. Just stream a kicker or defense for a week and leave that roster spot available for a runner or receiver.
Good luck in your drafts this weekend!