Cleat Geeks

Draft Smarter, Not Harder

 

As the 2017 Fantasy Football season approaches, nearly every potential team owner is studying one way or another. Everyone is trying to develop a strategy that they think will put them above the rest of the other players during the draft. The most famous buzzword in all of sports, “sleeper,” is thrown around in casual conversations with friends as they make bold predictions about players they are targeting, but no one pays enough attention to the already well established (and consistently healthy) players enough. As you get ready for your draft, remember, no one will win a league based on the upside of their draft. Winning a league comes from health and consistency, and of course, a little luck. Here is a quick rundown, by position, of healthy and consistent players that you should not pass up for potential breakouts.

Image result for aaron rodgers

Quarterback

We all know it is a passing league these days, and the fact that there were 13 QB’s that threw for over 4,000 yards in 2016 will prove that. Reaching for a QB early in a draft never really made much sense to me unless you absolutely nail your first 2-3 picks. Players like Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees are elite talents, but you don’t need them to win. The difference between the 4th highest scoring QB last year and the 10th was right around 30 points for the season. That means that when you reached for that QB in the 4th or 5th round, you still only got less than 2 points per week more than someone you could have drafted a few rounds later. That is not enough of a difference to warrant a mid-round pick, in my opinion. That is why I will be targeting players like Matthew Stafford in my leagues. He is in a pass-heavy offense and proved that he can still put up very solid numbers even without Megatron. He is a lock for 4,000 yards passing every year and you can bank on him throwing 23-26 TD’s. He will be readily available for you in the much later rounds, and even if there is for some reason a QB run you should feel confident knowing he will be there after you fill out the rest of your starting lineup. Another player I don’t mind waiting for is Russel Wilson. His overall numbers were down, mostly due to injuries that lead to his lack of mobility, but he comes into 2017 healthy and ready to bounce back. He will most certainly fly off the draft board before Matthew Stafford, but he will still probably be there in the later rounds when you begin to draft players who will be spending most of the season on your bench.

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Running Backs

Outside of the top 3 (Johnson, Bell, Zeke), it will be hard to predict who is the next best back because nearly every team has a third down back. There are very few 3-down backs in the league, so you need to look for someone who has the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. Many people will look to Jay Ajayi, but Ajayi has a very rusty and out of shape Jay Cutler as his QB and will likely face defenses that are focused solely on stopping him instead of the Miami passing game. Melvin Gordon is another option here, especially with the departure of Danny Woodhead, but he is coming off knee and hip surgery and is too risky for me at his current first round price. Running backs after the big 3 that I like are Devonta Freeman and LeSean McCoy. Freeman does lose touches to Tevin Coleman, but that didn’t stop him from surpassing 1,500 total yards for the second season in a row. Even though he lost some time to Coleman, Freeman was still one of the better pass catchers out of the backfield, hauling in 54 catches for 462 yards and 2 TDs. LeSean McCoy on the other hand is a three-down back with potential for 300 touches in 2017. Even though he missed one game, McCoy still caught 50 passes in 2016 and scored 14 total TDs. For whatever reason people I talk to seem to forget his age (he is only 28) and say he is over the hill. In my opinion, I think he is one of the safer bets at the RB position.

 

Wide Receivers

TY Hilton was a big surprise to everyone last year and was an absolute gift to the people who drafted him. Setting a career high with 91 catches and led the NFL with 1,448 yards, Hilton took a huge step forward and showed everyone that he is the real deal. Playing in every game over the past two seasons, TY has averaged over 130 targets over the past three years, and his volume and ability to stay on the field make him a bankable fantasy option. He is a great late second round pick and seems to be falling there right into some lucky owners lap. Two other players I see at the WR position having another strong year are Doug Baldwin and Demaryius Thomas. Neither has missed a game in the last three years and are very low-risk players. These two might be available in the third round, and if they are, you better not pass them up unless you already have two wide outs on your roster. Honorable mention here goes to Julian Edelman who will get grossly overlooked this year because of the addition of Brandon Cooks. It would not surprise me if he outplays Cooks or at the very least is on par with him even though Cooks is going 2-3 rounds earlier.

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Tight End

Tight end is another position where if you don’t get an elite talent you should not waste a mid-round pick on. The top three names that usually come off the board are Gronk, Travis Kelce, and Jordan Reed, and each of them comes with a lot of risk. A full 16 games from these players can lead to something special, but I find it hard to reach for players like that early in a draft. I would much rather wait on Jimmy Graham or Greg Olsen if I am planning on filling that spot a little earlier than usual, but two players I like this year are Kyle Rudolph and Martellus Bennett. Bennett is a brand new tool for superstar Aaron Rodgers and has the ability to put up very good numbers. He can be kind of an upside pick, but he is a very safe one at the least. Green Bay will be throwing the ball constantly once again, especially with Ty Montgomery and his inexperience in the backfield. Kyle Rudolph, on the other hand, is no superstar, but he hasn’t missed a game in two years and amassed a whopping 132 targets last season, more than any tight end in the league. He is another forgotten name because of the possibility of greatness at the top and could end up being a great value pick later in your draft. Like Bennett, he is a high floor pick.

Image result for kyle rudolph

In closing, no matter who you draft, no matter how much upside and talent they have, they still need to stay on the field. This list of players can be used as fallback guys if you like. Miss out on Amari Cooper? Look for Baldwin and Thomas. Have a late first round pick? Nab Freeman or McCoy. Forget about drafting a tight end? Hope for Rudolph, wait for Bennett, and remember, you would rather have 4 starting WR/RB players on your roster than 3 and a QB in the 4th.

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