2018 Fantasy Football
It may be difficult to believe this, but the first Sunday of the 2018 NFL Season is less than 80 days away. That means if you are the type of fan who enjoys partaking in the time consuming and incredibly frustrating (yet completely exhilarating) season-long hobby of Fantasy Football, then you’ll be on the clock in about 50 days.
Now of course, you could grab a Fantasy Football magazine or print out some website’s rankings a few days before your draft and go in practically blind, but what’s the fun in that. Part of the fun of playing Fantasy Football is putting on your GM cap and scouting the hell out of the players you might be drafting.
If you’re that type, then you’ve likely started your research and that’s why you are here. The most important thing you can do as you head into your Draft is ensure that you are adequately prepared. A good place to start is gauging where players are most likely to be drafted.
Of course, your plans will go out the window at some point during your actual Draft. Things never go perfectly according to plan. But having a firm grasp of average draft position for each player and comparing that to how your value of each player should allow you to peg some of your pre-draft favorites, and if your eye for talent is any good, then you’ll be off to a great starting heading into your Fantasy Season.
If you go through this process, you’ll certainly be able to find players who seem undervalued to you, and those are the players you should end up targeting on Draft Day. Here’s a look at eight players who feel like steals. All current ADP’s (Average Draft Position’s) are according to https://fantasyfootballcalculator.com and they operate under the assumption that you’ll be participating in a 12-team league.
T.Y. Hilton (Average Draft Position – 39th Pick, Round 4) – Indianapolis Colts
Last year was the first season in the last five that T.Y. Hilton didn’t reach the 1,000 receiving yards mark on the year. Maybe it seems like ages ago, but we’re actually only one year removed from Hilton leading the entire NFL in receiving yards.
Hilton can be frustrating for fantasy owners. Even at his best, Hilton’s the type of player who can be slightly hit or miss each week. But with a decent amount of confidence, we can assume that a healthy Andrew Luck would greatly improve Hilton’s position within the WR hierarchy. In 2016, Luck’s last season under Center for the Colts, Hilton was targeted at least 10 times in nine of sixteen games.
Hilton is currently 15th among Wide Receivers in ADP, but if Luck comes back the same guy he was in 2016, it’s possible that you could be getting top five value at the WR position in Round 4 with Hilton.
Brandin Cooks (Average Draft Position – 46th Pick, Round 4) – Los Angeles Rams
Cooks has been durable over his short career — he hasn’t missed a game in his previous three seasons — and he’s consistently produced over those three years. Cooks is one of only seven Wide Receivers in the NFL with at 3,000 yards, 225 receptions and 20 receiving touchdowns over the previous three years.
Part of excelling in Fantasy Football is finding a mix of sure-things and sleepers. Cooks feels like a sure-thing who has become a sleeper. The expectations for Cooks were sky-high last year in New England. In some respect, it felt like Cooks disappointed, but he still finished with the 7th most fantasy points among all Wide Receivers last year.
The Rams were the highest scoring team in the NFL last year, and Jared Goff didn’t have a weapon on the outside to throw to nearly the caliber of Cooks. I’d expect that both Goff and Cooks are among quite a few LA Rams who have strong fantasy seasons this year.
Carson Wentz (Average Draft Position – 64th Pick, Round 6) – Philadelphia Eagles
Maybe it seems nuts to call the guy who was the favorite to win the league’s MVP Award heading into December last year a Fantasy Football sleeper, but in some respect he has become just that. Last year Wentz was one of only seven Quarterbacks with over 3,000 yards and 30 passing touchdowns, and he did so in only 13 games. He was 5th among Quarterbacks in fantasy points.
Wentz was on pace for a 40 touchdown/4,000 yard passing season, which has been done only nine times since the year 2000. It seems unlikely that, so long as he doesn’t get re-injured, Wentz will play fewer than 13 games this year. His progress in rehabbing his torn ACL has been encouraging, and as great as Nick Foles played in Super Bowl LII, there is no Quarterback controversy in Philadelphia. Wentz is the guy in the short-term and the long-term, and if five QB’s are already off the board by the time Round 6 rolls around, snag Wentz while you can.
Carlos Hyde (Average Draft Position – 69th Pick, Round 6) – Cleveland Browns
In a captivating twist on the norm, it’s actually plausible that the Cleveland Browns offense could be league-average this year. They’ve re-loaded in a number of spots, and Carlos Hyde is one of the most important additions.
Hyde has been a top-15 fantasy Running Back each of the last two years, and if you’re participating in a PPR league (Points Per Reception), Hyde’s value may be even greater. Hyde was 6th among RB’s in receptions last year. It might be wise to grab Nick Chubb and/or Duke Johnson as handcuffs for Hyde.
Sammy Watkins (Average Draft Position – 74th Pick, Round 7) – Kansas City Chiefs
It’s fair to say that Watkins has been a bust since he came into the NFL with as much hype as almost any Wide Receiver has over the last decade. To be fair to Watkins, we should note that he had to suffer through three seasons with below-average Quarterbacks in Buffalo for three years, and he was never able to find his footing in one year with the Rams.
Watkins first two years in the NFL he was a Top 25 Fantasy WR, and he’s ranked 29th heading into the 2018 season according to Fantasy Football Calculator. It’s difficult to know for sure what to expect from Watkins in his first year in Kansas City, but we do know this: Patrick Mahomes is a quarterback tailor-made to throw a ton of play-action deep shots to Sammy Watkins. This could be a dynamite partnership, just don’t get carried away and leapfrog Watkins ahead of Travis Kelce or Tyreek Hill.
Tarik Cohen (Average Draft Position – 89th, Round 8) – Chicago Bears
Personally, I’m not usually in favor of drafting players on my favorite team (the Chicago Bears) partly because they don’t usually have an abundance of attractive Fantasy Football options, but mostly because if they don’t perform well I’m double disappointed. With that said, I’d be very tempted to snag second-year Running Back Tarik Cohen if he’s still on the board in Round 8.
The Bears offense was a disaster last year. They were young, ravaged by injury and rarely dynamic. Still, Cohen averaged 4.3 yards per carry and pulled in 53 receptions in his Rookie season. It feels like he’s bound to have a much bigger and perhaps more creative role in Matt Nagy’s offense this season playing behind Jordan Howard.
DeVante Parker (Average Draft Position – 102nd Pick, Round 9) – Miami Dolphins
Parker is a deep sleeper, probably a WR3 on your Fantasy roster at best, but there’s always some value in snagging a team’s 1st option so late in the Draft. Miami traded Jarvis Landry to Cleveland on March 9th, leaving a void on the Dolphins depth chart to be filled. Landry was targeted 160 times last year and he pulled in 112 catches for 987 yards and nine touchdowns.
The Dolphins brought in Danny Amendola and Kenny Stills in the offseason to bolster their aerial attack, but Parker resembles the most traditional #1 Wide Receiver in Miami. He’s never produced to that degree, but there’s a reason why Parker was picked 14th overall in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Philip Rivers (Average Draft Position – 125th Pick, Round 10) – Los Angeles Chargers
A Fantasy Football strategy I occasionally enjoy using is resisting the temptation to pull the trigger early, and instead making sure that I’m the last person in my Draft to select a Quarterback after snagging as many high quality Running Backs, Wide Receivers and Tight Ends as possible. If you’re comfortable with a handful of Quarterbacks who sit on the outside of the Top 10 in pre-Draft rankings, I’d suggest giving it a shot.
This year I’d go one step further with my advice: take a long, hard look at LA Chargers Quarterback Philip Rivers. Rivers is 16th among Quarterbacks on Fantasy Football Calculator, but he finished 8th among QB’s in Fantasy points last season. Rivers has been a top 12 Fantasy QB five times in the previous seven seasons, and he’s had ten straight seasons of at least 3,600 yards and 25 touchdowns. Nine of those ten seasons he’s topped 4,000 yards and he’s surpassed 30 touchdowns five times.