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Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em Week 1: Top Matchup Plays and Sleepers for Opening Games

Fantasy Football
September 5, 2017

Fantasy football enthusiasts spent August laboring over pivotal draft calls. Now they will instead pull their hair out when deciding of those players to start.

Snagging a star sleeper won’t matter if he breaks out on the bench. Most managers will trust their opening picks in Week 1, but the matchups mean more than the draft slots.

This isn’t an endorsement to bench Aaron Rodgers against the Seattle Seahawks, but perhaps Ty Montgomery should ride the pine. Although selected far later, Jacquizz Rodgers is a favorable Week 1 play.

Optimal lineup management can transform a solid team into a championship contender. Let’s start on the right foot by identifying premier matchup plays and sleepers for the opening slate.

                

Quarterback

Top Matchup Play: Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers (at CLE)

Were any numbers discussed more during draft season than Ben Roethlisberger’s home-road splits?

He stumbled away from Heinz Field last season, accumulating just 1,904 passing yards and nine passing touchdowns in eight games. That caused fantasy players to either flee entirely or select him late as a streamer.

Roethlisberger opens the season on the road. Everyone should start him.

The Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback hasn’t played with Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant since amassing 4,952 passing yards and two six-touchdown games in 2014. As noted by Rotoworld’s Evan Silva, Roethlisberger and his fantasy investors should be giddy to see the reinstated wideout return:

Yes, the quarterback left last year’s trip to FirstEnergy Stadium with 167 passing yards and no scores. Don’t panic. The Browns still surrendered Yahoo Sports‘ second-most fantasy points to opposing passers, and Big Ben closed out 2015 with three touchdowns at Cleveland.

Roethlisberger is the star player on a loaded offense against a vulnerable defense. Don’t pass it up because he’ll be playing in front of Browns fans with bags over their heads.

            

Sleeper: Sam Bradford, Minnesota Vikings (vs. NO)

Maybe Sam Bradford is the life of the party off the gridiron, but he’s a boring fantasy option.

In an era where throwing for 4,000 yards is a requirement rather than milestone, he is still aiming to reach the milestone. Seventeen quarterbacks tossed more than his 20 passing scores last year.

His safety is also endearing in the right matchup. Running an overly cautious Minnesota Vikings offense, he registered an NFL-best 71.6 completion percentage. He’ll open 2017 against the New Orleans Saints, who yielded a 64.9 completion percentage and secured nine picks.

For Bradford to earn fantasy relevancy, he’ll need to pair that rousing efficiency with big plays. As detailed by NFL.com’s Matt Harmon, the former No. 1 pick succeeded when given the green light to throw downfield:

Rookie running back Dalvin Cook should balance Minnesota’s offense and enable the 29-year-old to take some vertical shots. A weak Saints secondary gives Bradford the perfect chance to open up the aerial attack and deliver solid streamer value for anyone who needs to replace Andrew Luck.

              

Running Back

Top Matchup Play: Jacquizz Rodgers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (at MIA)

Jacquizz Rodgers may be on borrowed time, but he should offer a short-term jolt during Doug Martin‘s three-game suspension. His brief showcase commences with a favorable matchup against the Miami Dolphins, who surrendered 4.8 yards per carry last season.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers didn’t run effectively last year, averaging 3.6 yards per run with Football Outsiders‘ third-worst Defense-adjusted Value over Average (DVOA). Yet they kept trying; only six teams attempted more rushes.

In five games as the lead runner without Martin and Charles Sims, Rodgers averaged 21.4 carries for 92.4 yards. According to Pro Football Focus, he tied Ezekiel Elliott for the seventh-most fantasy points among running backs during that condensed sampling.

Sims could stifle such a heavy workload this September, but he’s more likely to function as a third-down back. That would leave Rodgers in position to receive plenty of reps, raising his floor as a solid No. 2 running back or flex play.

          

Sleeper: Jonathan Stewart, Carolina Panthers (at 49ers)

Think Christian McCaffrey is heavily hyped now? People may start offering naming rights to their unborn children for the Carolina Panthers rookie if he accepts the scheduling gods’ gift known as the San Francisco 49ers.

San Francisco allowed 27.16 fantasy points per game to running backs in standard Yahoo formats last season, 4.09 points more than the runner-up Browns. McCaffrey should introduce himself to NFL fans with a stuffed stat line, but don’t forget about Jonathan Stewart. 

Since averaging a tame 3.8 yards per carry last season, the running back celebrated his 30th birthday. That makes him archaic in the unforgiving world of NFL rushers.

He also scored nine touchdowns in 13 games, and the 49ers relinquished 23 rushing scores in 2016. Although McCaffrey will eat into Carolina’s backfield touches, he shouldn’t replace the stocky veteran in the red zone. The neophyte will pile up the yards and stockpile catches for his points-per-reception (PPR) owners, but look for Stewart to steal a touchdown or two.

          

Wide Receiver

Top Matchup Play: Sammy Watkins, Los Angeles Rams (vs. IND)

Sammy Watkins is the ultimate boom-or-bust player. His talent is undeniable, but the same cannot be said for Jared Goff and the Los Angeles Rams offense. Although One week won’t offer full clarity, the situation is ripe for a promising debut.

The Indianapolis Colts yielded Football Outsiders’ fourth-worst DVOA to No. 1 wide receivers last year. That was predominantly with top cornerback Vontae Davis, who won’t be ready for Week 1, according to Indianapolis Star‘s Stephen Holder:

Indianapolis also opened 2016 without Davis. In two games against the Detroit Lions and Denver Broncos, they capitulated 8.7 yards per pass attempt and a combined 87 points.

Watkins will likely now line up against Rashaan Melvin and/or Quincy Wilson, setting the bar for matchup-winning upside this weekend. Reaching that ceiling, of course, hinges on Goff feeding him accurate passes. At least the 24-year-old has little competition for targets.

Following a down year, the Rams wideout has unheralded post-hype breakout appeal. In his last 16 games, eight ending 2015 and the other half in 2016, Watkins recorded 1,162 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. Consider him a high-end No. 3 receiver or flex play with massive potential.

            

Sleeper: Ted Ginn Jr., New Orleans Saints (at MIN)

Ted Ginn Jr. may no longer hold sleeper status by the time the New Orleans Saints open their season on Monday night. 

Fantasy managers are still processing the blindsiding news of Willie Snead receiving a three-game suspension, as first reported by ESPN’s Field Yates. Previously a solid bench pick, Ginn now upgrades to an intriguing flex play in deeper leagues.

He’s Drew Brees‘ No. 2 wide receiver behind Michael Thomas, but FantasyPros remains cautious of the all-or-nothing speedster. As of Monday, Ginn is the No. 49-ranked wideout in standard formats.

Although the Vikings limited opponents to the third-fewest passing yards last year, don’t go overboard on the New Orleans road narrative. Drew Brees fared just fine away from the Superdome last year, averaging 305.1 passing yards per game. He’ll look Ginn’s way often if Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes shadows Thomas.

Ginn is a confounding player to trust. He could finish with five yards or justify a starting spot with one big play. As a top option on a consistently elite attack, he at least deserves recognition as a top-40 fantasy receiver.

               

Tight End

Top Matchup Play: Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles (at WAS)

The last time Zach Ertz faced Washington, he caught 10 of his 13 targets for 112 yards. In Week 16 of the 2015 campaign, he reeled off 13 catches for 122 yards.

He also didn’t score in either game, a common refrain for a tight end with 13 touchdowns in 61 career bouts. Last season’s middling tally (four) wasn’t due to a lack of opportunities. Per Pro-Football-Reference.com, he caught six of 14 red-zone targets, three of which he converted into touchdowns.

Alshon Jeffery could absorb some of those chances, but he also may draw Josh Norman’s attention on Sunday. That will redirect Wentz to move the chains with Ertz against a Washington defense that yielded 108 catches for 1,119 yards against tight ends last season.

Ertz didn’t enjoy a grand-scale breakout in 2016, but he quietly placed fifth at the position in targets (101), receptions (78) and receiving yards (816). He should open 2017 with another exceptional PPR performance.

            

Sleeper: Evan Engram, New York Giants (at DAL)

Rookie tight ends take a long time to reach their stride as pass-catchers. Ertz spent years in sleeper purgatory before establishing himself as a worthwhile fantasy starter. The highly regarded group of Evan Engram, O.J. Howard and David Njoku will likely disappoint investors expecting an immediate breakout.

Engram, however, can tease them with a promising debut.

The Dallas Cowboys, his Week 1 opponent, allowed an NFL-high 120 receptions and 1,206 yards to tight ends last season. As the newcomer explained to New York Daily News‘ Pat Leonard, he’s a versatile target and matchup nightmare waiting to happen.

“I think I’m kind of a chess piece,” Engram said. “I can get matched up with a linebacker and really use my speed to my advantage. (Or if I’m) getting on a DB (defensive back), I’m just being more of a receiver and being savvy and physical … And then when the big play comes, it’s going up and making it.”

Eli Manning, who hasn’t had a trustworthy tight end in years, may need to quickly get Engram involved if an injured ankle limits or sidelines Odell Beckham Jr. He’s an intriguing flier for someone planning to work the waiver wire at tight end.

         

Note: All fantasy scoring data obtained from Yahoo Sports

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Fantasy Football 2017: 5-Round Standard League Mock Draft, Potential Team Names

Fantasy Football
September 2, 2017

With Week 1 of the 2017 NFL season quickly approaching, it is prime time for fantasy football drafts ahead of Thursday night’s season opener.

There has been a great deal of turnover in fantasy circles in recent weeks due to surprising personnel moves and significant injuries, and they figure to have a major impact on the way drafts play out now that the picture is clearer for all 32 NFL teams.

As you prepare for your draft, here is a five-round mock for 10-team, standard leagues, along with analysis for each round and a look at some potential team names to consider.

      

Round 1

1. Team 1: David Johnson, RB, ARI

2. Team 2: Le’Veon Bell, RB, PIT

3. Team 3: Antonio Brown, WR, PIT

4. Team 4: Julio Jones, WR, ATL

5. Team 5: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, NYG

6. Team 6: LeSean McCoy, RB, BUF

7. Team 7: Mike Evans, WR, TB

8. Team 8: Devonta Freeman, RB, ATL

9. Team 9: A.J. Green, WR, CIN

10. Team 10: Melvin Gordon, RB, LAC

        

Round 1 Analysis

Perhaps the biggest no-brainer in any fantasy football draft this year is to take Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson No. 1 overall. It was once a competition with Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell and Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, but Johnson is now the clear choice.

Bell could get off to a slow start this season after sitting out all of training camp and the preseason, while Elliott is suspended for the Cowboys’ first six games.

Outside of Johnson and Bell, there is a trio of top-flight wide receivers, although there are some questions surrounding New York Giants wideout Odell Beckham Jr.’s Week 1 availability due to an ankle injury suffered during the preseason.

Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy is the clear third choice among players at his position, but with the Bills trading No. 1 wide receiver Sammy Watkins to the Los Angeles Rams, McCoy is a somewhat under-the-radar option to be fantasy MVP this season and turn in No. 1 overall production provided he stays healthy.

        

Round 2

11. Team 10: Jordy Nelson, WR, GB

12. Team 9: Jay Ajayi, RB, MIA

13. Team 8: Michael Thomas, WR, NO

14. Team 7: Jordan Howard, RB, CHI

15. Team 6: DeMarco Murray, RB, TEN

16. Team 5: Brandin Cooks, WR, NE

17. Team 4: Todd Gurley, RB, LAR

18. Team 3: Leonard Fournette, RB, JAC

19. Team 2: T.Y. Hilton, WR, IND

20. Team 1: Doug Baldwin, WR, SEA

       

Round 2 Analysis

There is plenty of high upside available in the second round, but the bulk of the players coming off the board have some question marks as well.

New England Patriots wide receiver Brandin Cooks could conceivably be in for a massive season with Julian Edelman out for the year, but Tom Brady loves to spread the ball around, which could limit his ceiling in comparison to what he did with the New Orleans Saints.

Rams running back Todd Gurley went from being dominant as a rookie to inefficient as a second-year player. Deciding which version he is closer to is a guessing game of sorts, but with a new coaching staff in place and some weapons in the passing game that can stretch the field, there should be better running lanes for the Georgia product in 2017.

Although rookies are always a risky proposition, Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette is worth a look in the second round. Jacksonville undoubtedly intends to use him regularly after selecting him with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft, and since quarterback Blake Bortles is a turnover machine, keeping the ball on the ground is Jacksonville’s best chance of success.

           

Round 3

21. Team 1: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, DAL

22. Team 2: Kareem Hunt, RB, KC

23. Team 3: Dez Bryant, WR, DAL

24. Team 4: Rob Gronkowski, TE, NE

25. Team 5: Marshawn Lynch, RB, OAK

26. Team 6: Amari Cooper, WR, OAK

27. Team 7: Keenan Allen, WR, LAC

28. Team 8: Christian McCaffrey, RB, CAR

29. Team 9: Lamar Miller, RB, HOU

30. Team 10: Isaiah Crowell, RB, CLE

           

Round 3 Analysis

The third round starts with a bit of an eyebrow-raiser in the form of Elliott. Although he is slated to miss six games, Elliott is a top-three fantasy player when on the field, and that still makes him worth a premium pick. If Team 1 nabs Darren McFadden later in the draft, then it will have the benefit of Dallas’ dominant running game for the entire season.

It has long been assumed that Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey is the No. 2 rookie back behind Fournette in fantasy terms, and while McCaffrey does get taken at No. 28, he has arguably been supplanted by Kansas City Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt.

The rookie third-round pick out of Toledo is KC’s unquestioned top back with Spencer Ware out for the season, and since the Chiefs run a fairly conservative offense, he is in line to get a ton of touches both as a runner and in the passing game.

Also in the third round, Team 3 cracked the seal on the tight end position with Rob Gronkowski. While staying healthy has been a major issue for Gronk in recent years, he is a game-changer when he plays and should benefit from the absence of Edelman in the form of more targets.

         

Round 4

31. Team 10: Aaron Rodgers, QB, GB

32. Team 9: Terrelle Pryor Sr., WR, WAS

33. Team 8: Alshon Jeffery, WR, PHI

34. Team 7: Ty Montgomery, RB, GB

35. Team 6: Demaryius Thomas, WR, DEN

36. Team 5: Tom Brady, QB, NE

37. Team 4: Dalvin Cook, RB, MIN

38. Team 3: Carlos Hyde, RB, SF

39. Team 2: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, HOU

40. Team 1: Golden Tate, WR, DET

       

Round 4 Analysis

Teams wisely held off on quarterbacks in the first three rounds due to the impressive depth at the position, but the elite options come off the board in Round 4 in the form of Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady.

It is essentially a coin flip when deciding which signal-caller will be better from a fantasy perspective in 2017, but these choices came down to fits. Rodgers made sense for Team 10 in order to form a combo with Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson, while Brady joins Team 5 to unite with his Patriots teammate in Cooks.

A few high-ceiling running backs also came off the board, including the Packers’ Ty Montgomery. The converted receiver is still learning the nuances of the running back position, but he has absolutely no competition for touches in Green Bay’s backfield, and he stands to potentially be one of the top backs in the NFL in terms of catching the football.

Minnesota Vikings rookie Dalvin Cook was also selected. Although the team signed veteran Latavius Murray, and he could potentially steal a lot of short-yardage work, Cook is the far more dynamic player, and that should allow him to put a stranglehold on the starting job as the season progresses.

      

Round 5

41. Team 1: Jordan Reed, TE, WAS

42. Team 2: Michael Crabtree, WR, OAK

43. Team 3: Travis Kelce, TE, KC

44. Team 4: Larry Fitzgerald, WR, ARI

45. Team 5: Bilal Powell, RB, NYJ

46. Team 6: Greg Olsen, TE, CAR

47. Team 7: Danny Woodhead, RB, BAL

48. Team 8: Drew Brees, QB, NO

49. Team 9: Joe Mixon, RB, CIN

50. Team 10: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, CAR

        

Round 5 Analysis

A run on tight ends is the name of the game in the fifth and final round of the mock draft, with three of them coming off the board in the first six picks.

Outside of the first four tight ends, the position is a crap shoot as far as fantasy is concerned, which is why it’s a good idea to wait on taking one unless you land a top-flight option. Jordan Reed, Travis Kelce and Greg Olsen all reside in the tier below Gronk, and getting one of them will create a slight advantage over those who are forced to play the guessing game of selecting a mid-tier tight end.

Yet another rookie running back is the most intriguing pick of the round, with Joe Mixon of the Cincinnati Bengals coming off the board at No. 49. Although his off-field issues are well-documented, Mixon is an incredible talent who arguably has a better overall skill set than any other rookie back.

The biggest issue for Mixon is the fact Cincinnati has a crowded backfield that also includes Jeremy Hill and Gio Bernard. Although Hill is likely to vulture some touchdowns and frustrate Mixon‘s fantasy owners, Mixon should get enough work between the 20s to warrant RB2 status or flex consideration most weeks.

        

Potential Team Names

Keenan & Bell (For Kenan & Kel fans who also happen to own Keenan Allen and Le’Veon Bell)

Super Coopers (For fans of Super Troopers and Amari Cooper alike)

McCoy Meets World (Boy Meets World combines with LeSean McCoy)

Zay Darnold (Perfect for teams who have Zay Jones and are also tanking for the first pick in a dynasty league)

Jack Doyle Rules (Billy Madison fans know what I’m talking about)

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Preview/Prediction

Fantasy Draft Prep Kit

Fantasy Football 2017: 1st-Round Mock Draft, Team Names and Sleepers

Fantasy Football
August 31, 2017

Few things are more important than team names and sleepers in fantasy football.  

That’s maybe a bit of hyperbole considering the importance of initial drafts, the waiver wire and actually playing productive lineups on a weekly basis.  

But fantasy owners get the idea: It is almost impossible to win anything in fantasy without hitting on a few sleepers. And winning with a terrible team name might as well be losing. Losing with a great name at least softens the blow. 

Below, let’s put together a digestible guide for owners based on a 12-team league in Yahoo standard leagues, hitting on the important angles ahead of drafts.

             

Mock Draft

        

Team Names to Consider

Hot Lockett

A quality fantasy draft snack and a breakout fantasy player balled into one name?  

That’s a winner, folks.

This deals with Seattle Seahawks wideout Tyler Lockett, of course, the 2015 third-round pick used as a returner in all facets, a rusher and a wideout. He’s climbing up the depth chart and has seven total receiving touchdowns over two years, perhaps a sign he’s ready to make the owner naming a team after him look like a genius. 

           

13 Reasons Ajayi

Popular show and a should-be-more-popular player?

Winner again.

Jay Ajayi broke onto the scene with the Miami Dolphins last year to the tune of 1,272 rushing yards and eight touchdowns on a 4.9 yard-per-carry average. He isn’t going to catch the ball often, but he’s a workhorse on a playoff hopeful sure to see touches.

          

Kizer Wide Shut

Cleveland Browns rookie quarterback, not to mention starting quarterback, DeShone Kizer is all the rage right now. 

It was only a matter of time before Kizer started popping up in team names. A name like this has plenty of opportunities for creative usage. Even better, the second-round pick seized a starting pro gig quickly and might have what it takes to lead a Cleveland turnaround. 

If that happens, this name is just the beginning. 

            

Make America Gronk Again

A phrase everyone knows infused with Rob Gronkowski is something everyone can get behind. 

For fantasy owners, getting Gronkowski on the field even more would be great. He hasn’t played a full 16-game season since 2011 and missed half of last year. Funnily enough, few tight ends have still scored as many fantasy points as him in that span. 

            

Sleepers to Know 

Corey Coleman, WR, Cleveland Browns

Remember the note about Kizer above?

Corey Coleman might be the biggest name to capitalize on the improved play under center after a dud of a rookie year. 

Owners didn’t put a lot of stock into Coleman as a rookie to begin with, both because of his status and locale. He had all of 413 yards and three touchdowns over just 10 games, though the flashes of a big-play wideout were there. 

To say Coleman and Kizer already have a strong connection would be an understatement: 

For those keeping track: Coleman has a better quarterback situation this year, is fully healthy and the Browns are missing names from a year ago like Terrell Pryor and Gary Barnidge

Coleman sitting on an average draft position (ADP) of 10.01 is something owners should look to exploit. 

          

Kenny Golladay, WR, Detroit Lions

On paper, Detroit Lions rookie wideout Kenny Golladay doesn’t necessarily have a starting gig locked up. 

Then again, he hauled in two touchdowns in his preseason debut with the team and worked with the first team in training camp back in mid-August, per Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press

If Golladay can break through, he joins a spread-it-around attack orchestrated by Matthew Stafford, which essentially guarantees production. And with Golden Tate in the slot and Marvin Jones on the outside, unassuming defenses might let Golladay post big numbers right away. 

We’re not talking world-beating numbers here for a rookie, but we are saying Golladay can blow past his 12.06 ADP, a slotting close to other random names like Ted Ginn Jr. and Cooper Kupp.

            

Tevin Coleman, RB, Atlanta Falcons 

In terms of household-name status, Tevin Coleman falls behind Devonta Freeman in the Atlanta Falcons backfield. 

Makes sense as Coleman mostly functions as a change of pace, though he’s one heck of a role player in that regard considering he totaled 11 touchdowns a year ago thanks to his versatility. 

The Falcons don’t figure to change much when it comes to the roles of the committee members, though where this gets interesting is based on ADP. 

Long story short, Coleman sits with an ADP of 7.03, surrounded by unreliable names like Paul Perkins, Derrick Henry and Darren McFadden. Of those names, Coleman sits in the best offense and will see the most opportunities to score more touchdowns thanks to his versatile skill set. 

For owners willing to risk waiting a bit on running back or looking to overload, Coleman is a big sleeper to target.

           

All scoring info, points-against info and ownership stats courtesy of Yahoo standard leagues. ADP courtesy of Fantasy Football Calculator.

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Tevin Coleman

Corey Coleman

Kenny Golladay

Fantasy Football 2017: Mock Draft Analysis and Selection Strategy

Fantasy Football
August 30, 2017

A mock draft in the fantasy football realm is going to look quite a bit different from one in the lead up to the NFL draft.  

GMs in the NFL typically prioritize quarterbacks and the occasional generational edge-rusher, or at least a guy who boasts the upside of one. Fantasy football drafts lean on production and usage, but not at quarterback. 

Like the NFL is a long way removed from taking running backs first overall, fantasy drafts have changed in dramatic fashion to coincide with the on-field evolution of the game. 

After a summer away, it is understandable if fantasy owners need to shake off the rust before heading into drafts. Below is a look at a sample mock for reference before diving into some strategy review, all based on Yahoo 12-team standard leagues. 

           

Mock Draft

 

The disparity between the way the NFL and fantasy football values quarterbacks is as wide as the Grand Canyon.  

Everything centers on the quarterback, arguably the most important position in sports—except in fantasy football. Having the peace of mind that Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady will perform well regardless of options around them is nice, but bulking up other positions means less reliance on the position each week.

Quarterback isn’t just the easiest position to predict on a weekly basis. There are a mass of reliable producers each year, significant injuries are mostly a rarity and waiting until the eighth or ninth round, though extreme, can still produce a Cam Newton or Andrew Luck, who have average draft positions of 8.06 and 8.09 at Fantasy Football Calculator, respectively. 

It’s easy to keep going with values: Dak Prescott (10.04), Matthew Stafford (10.08) and Carson Palmer (12.09) are all notables. Again, nothing completely wrong with getting a Rodgers early and coasting, but when 13 signal-callers flew past the 4,000-yard mark for passing a year ago, it is worth wondering if an early investment on the position in a 12-team league is worth it. 

After all, running back scarcity is a major problem in any league. The league itself isn’t drafting the position at No. 1 anymore, but fantasy owners sure are with 300-touch hogs like Le’Veon Bell and David Johnson. The conundrum facing owners is obvious—more and more NFL teams are divvying up touches to backfield committees, something owners can’t do. Meaning, the rare guys who hog all the touches have more value than anyone else. 

Bell and Johnson are always going to be a better option than say, Jay Ajayi, who carried the ball 260 times last year but only caught 27 passes. 

If quantity is the defining trait there, it also defines running back as a whole compared to wideout. Johnson and Bell don’t have equals in that top positional tier, whereas the top tier of wideouts features Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, Odell Beckham Jr., Mike Evans and A.J. Green

Speaking of wideouts, the sheer quantity between the number an owner needs to start and how many see healthy usage these days almost makes it feel like throwing darts at a board blindfolded. After that top tier, it seems like anything can happen, so the best thing owners can do is look at target numbers and outline a range of results. 

Take a guy like Alshon Jeffery. While it’s exciting he escaped the wideout purgatory known as Chicago, what are the chances he does any better on a new team with sophomore Carson Wentz under center? He’s sitting on an ADP of 4.04, tied with Tyreek Hill of the Kansas City Chiefs, who last year scored six times as a receiver, three times as a rusher and three times as a returner. 

What seems more likely and the safer pick? The guy on a new team for the first time in his career, or the guy contributing in three different ways? 

Tight end isn’t nearly as difficult to figure out. The obvious names like Rob Gronkowski will produce if healthy, though names shouldn’t mean as much as they do elsewhere. 

Look at a small, but telling note about pairing tight ends with their real-life quarterbacks from ESPN.com’s Matthew Berry: “In his first season with Sam Bradford, Kyle Rudolph caught 14 passes in the red zone. In the past five seasons, the only TEs with more such catches in a single season are Jimmy Graham, Jordan Reed and Tony Gonzalez.”

As seasoned owners can attest, any strategy works. And there are a ton of them, ranging from zero-running back to late-round quarterback to early quarterback and beyond. Most data suggests any approach will give an owner a shot at the playoffs, provided the picks pan out and owners do well on the waiver wire and via trades. 

Above all else, luck comes into play. Early-round runners won’t usually disappoint outside of injury. The reliable quarterbacks are the same way. Wideouts with a safe range of results don’t suddenly get demoted. 

Still, knowing these range of strategies and being able to adapt on the fly is a big part of success in a fantasy draft. A league championship isn’t necessarily won during the draft, but it can certainly be lost. 

           

All scoring info, points-against info and ownership stats courtesy of Yahoo standard leagues. 

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Alshon Jeffery

Le’Veon Bell

David Johnson RB

Fantasy Football 2017: 1st-Round Mock Draft and Strategy for Later Rounds

Fantasy Football
August 28, 2017

The NFL preseason is winding down, which means it’s time for you to gear up for your fantasy football draft. 

Being fully prepared for your draft means a lot more than glancing at the latest fantasy football rankings and checking out the injury report. You need to make some decisions ahead of time and plan a strategy so that you don’t get caught frantically looking up information while you’re on the clock. 

To help prepare you for the draft, here’s a look at a first-round mock draft, followed by a few tips you should keep in mind to help you in the later rounds. Being prepared will make you more confident on draft day, and could be the first step towards taking home that championship trophy. 

             

First-Round Mock Draft

1. David Johnson, RB, Cardinals

2. Le’Veon Bell, RB, Steelers

3. Antonio Brown, WR, Steelers

4. Odell Beckham Jr., WR, Giants

5. LeSean McCoy, RB, Bills

6. Julio Jones, WR, Falcons

7. Devonta Freeman, RB, Falcons

8. Mike Evans, WR, Buccaneers

9. DeMarco Murray, RB, Titans

10. Jordy Nelson, WR. Packers

11. A.J. Green, WR, Bengals

12. Jay Ajayi, RB, Dolphins

             

First-Round Strategy

If you own the first or second pick, congratulations; your decision is easy. But after David Johnson and Le’Veon Bell are off the board, the first round becomes a bit of a mess. 

The safer first-round options are the wide receivers. You know what you’re getting from a player such as Julio Jones or Mike Evans. However, wide receiver is also a deeper position. There will be safe selections available in the second and third round as well. 

At running back, however, the depth is severely lacking, which means risky players start coming off the board early.

Take LeSean McCoy for example. As the feature back in the Buffalo Bills offense, he is going to get plenty of touches and will definitely come off the board in the first round. But the Bills are in full rebuilding mode now and the talent around him is lacking. If opposing teams aren’t scared of Tyrod Taylor and the Bills’ depleted receiving corps, the 29-year-old McCoy could see a drop in production. 

So do you want to be the one to gamble on McCoy due to the running back scarcity? Or do you want to take the safer route with an Evans or Jones, and worry about running back when the price isn’t as steep?

Those are decisions you should make before the draft so that you aren’t agonizing over your selection as the clock is winding down. 

         

When to draft Ezekiel Elliott?

Another decision you should make before the draft is whether or not you want to be aggressive in targeting Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott. 

Elliott is suspended for the first six games of the season, which means he’ll miss almost half of your fantasy football regular season. However, when he returns he’ll be fresh and motivated, and his presence on your roster could dramatically alter your outlook down the stretch. 

To determine whether or not to gamble on Elliott, find out how many teams make the playoffs in your league. 

If you play with a deep playoff pool, where at least half the league makes it to the postseason, it might be worth snagging Elliott early. You might miss out on the No. 1 seed, but with Elliott on your roster you’ll be a force once the playoffs roll around.

If you play in a league where only four out of 12 teams make the postseason, however, gambling on Elliott might be too risky. You’ll miss out on early-season production from a high draft pick and potentially dig yourself a hole you can’t climb out of down the stretch. 

             

Make yourself a do-not draft list

Everyone has different criteria for their do-not draft list. Some people like to avoid players with a long injury history. Others use more personal reasons, such as avoiding their rival team. What’s important most important, however, is that you make these decisions ahead of time so that you aren’t rushing mid-draft decisions and potentially hurting yourself by being inconsistent with your strategy. 

A good example of a decision to make before the draft is whether or not you’re going to draft New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski.

Gronk is a game-altering talent on the field and in your fantasy lineup, but only when he’s healthy. Over the past five seasons, he’s only played in 55 out of a possible 80 regular season games. 

If stays healthy you’ll get the No. 1 tight end a couple rounds later than he would go if not for the injury concerns. But there’s also a chance you’ll end up dropping him after another season-ending injury. 

There are good arguments for drafting and avoiding Gronk. But either way, you’ll feel more prepared and make more consistent decisions on draft day if you’ve already decided how to handle that potential dilemma ahead of time. 

Read more Fantasy Football news on NerdyFootball.com

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