Sometimes it's difficult to organize all of the emotion and information we have swirling in our heads leading up to fantasy drafts. One way I have come to understand how to make my fantasy football research and intuition actionable is simply by level of commitment. There are players I'm willing to select in most cases at or around their ADP. Some players I am considering when I am on the clock, but often passing on at the moment of truth, and of course others that I'm not even willing to consider. There are players that I know could potentially draw my interest at a future date, but aren't going to spend any resources on right now. In other words, there are players I am marrying, flirting with, and dumping in my draft strategy, and a few names I am keeping in my phone for a possible future engagement.
This team has a suspect offensive line, it wasn’t very good at its core missions on offense last year, and its quarterback has a sore back. I’m just fine with leaving my draft sans Ravens.
Woodhead sure seems like the best bet to exceed expectations in an offense that can’t run or throw downfield consistently. He’ll be the high percentage option for a team that already threw to backs a lot before they got one of the best receiving backs in the league. He could be a back-door cover RB1 with 75+ receptions and lots of red zone work.
Perriman is the one possible ascendant player in the Ravens pass offense. He showed the speed and ability in the air last year to be the big play threat the team envisioned when they took him in the first round two years ago. If they don’t have time to throw downfield or Flacco is ineffective, Perriman will be waiver wire fodder, but as long as you can get him in the 13th or later, that’s not an unjustifiable risk to take to see what the 2017 edition of Perriman looks like on your early season bench.
Wallace had solid season-end numbers, but he wasn’t an exciting option week-to-week and that isn’t going to get any better with Maclin in tow. There’s a lot more upside at wide receiver in other options around the range he is going in. Maclin is going higher on reputation, but he might not be a true #1 in this offense and blend in with Wallace and Perriman. If I’m taking a wideout in the seventh or eighth, I want a better offense and more big play ability. West might be the team’s between the tackles back by default and put up some good numbers in decisive wins, but how many of those will there be this year for the Ravens? The team might not want to give him as much work as he is projected to get right now and his value is probably at its peak.
Watson took a pay cut, so he and the team probably except less than they had hoped for when he signed his contract last year, but he could still get the biggest share of the value Dennis Pitta left behind. If it’s not Watson, watch out for the 2015 second rounder Williams, who is still only 23 and seemed to be okay after a “rare” knee surgery in the offseason.
Marry: Kenny Britt
Britt had a 1,000-yard season in a worse situation with the Rams last year, and he’s the clear #1 receiver. If you can get him in the 11th round or later, it’s a layup. I won’t take him over Corey Davis and Marvin Jones, but they are usually gone a round before him in typical drafts.
Crowell looked like a future star at times last year despite playing on a terrible Browns team. They have improved the offensive line, and Crowell is playing for a long-term deal. He can break any touch for a long score, and he’s an underrated receiver. If the Browns are just a little more competitive and the line opens up a few more big holes, Crowell could approach low RB1 numbers and more consistency. I’m fine with him as a late third/fourth round pick and RB2 (or RB1 in a minimal running back approach), but prefer Lynch and don’t consider Crowell essential. Johnson is enticing again in PPR leagues as a potential slot receiver/running back on a team that lacks any proven receiving options after Britt. The lack of touchdowns makes his weekly ceiling lower, and if the Browns are staying in more games, his role could shrink.
Dump: Corey Coleman
Coleman is still going far too high on the momentum of his first-round draft pick pedigree. There haven’t been many positive signs around his development and this pass offense might not support two fantasy relevant options. If his ADP adjusted downward a few rounds to reflect the mixed at best offseason, he might be worth considering, but right now he is still going at or around where Britt is going in drafts.
Keep Number In Phone: DeShone Kizer
This could be obsolete within a few weeks if Kizer wins the job out of training camp. Sooner or later, he will take over, and Kizer should be able to offer a high weekly ceiling on the possibility of catch up game scripts and inclusion of his running ability alone. He can be as good a fantasy quarterback as Tyrod Taylor was last year, even if the way he gets there is a little uglier on the field.
Dalton, like the rest of the offense, has to deal with a line that could be one of the worst in the NFL. His injury and dud game risk goes way up. Still, his weekly and season-long ceiling also go up with the addition of Joe Mixon and John Ross. His ADP more than prices in the risk and doesn’t reflect the mid-QB1 ceiling he has this year. Eifert is actually healthy going into camp and ready to play a big role in this offense again. He has been close to Gronkowski/Reed level production when healthy, which means the reward is more than worth the injury risk represented in his lengthy history of serious injuries and surgeries.
Flirt: AJ Green, Joe Mixon
There’s no doubt that Green is a worthy first-round pick, but he probably won’t dominate targets to the extent that he did last year if Eifert and Ross are healthy. I’m fine with him in the second half of the first, but also fine with a few running backs too. Mixon’s talent is absolutely on the level to leave Jeremy Hill in the dust, and he can be as good as Giovani Bernard is in passing situations. Will the Bengals commit to him as an everydown back? If so, he can still return profit on a 3rd/4th round pick. The problem is that Bernard is healthy and Hill is still a well-suited back for goal line work. They might not go away, making Mixon difficult to start in any given week.
Bernard is healthy and should contribute 150 touches or more, but his weekly and season-long ceilings are low with two backs on the roster who are better between the tackles. Ross is a nice deep threat, but will the Bengals line give Dalton (who is not the best deep passer) time to let those routes develop? Will Ross get and stay healthy enough to contribute consistently?
Keep Number In Phone: Brandon LaFell
LaFell was shockingly good at creating big games last year, even when AJ Green was healthy. If Ross and Eifert can’t stay on the field and the offensive line is functional, LaFell could surprise by creating value again this year.
I know as a Western Pennsylvania native, I wear Steelers-colored glasses, but even when I try to be objective, I want to include this offense in my draft plans. Bell isn’t available outside of the top two and Brown the top four, so having them is a matter of draft position. Bryant is available in the fifth round and the risk that the league drags their feet on resolving his reinstatement is more than outweighed by the boom/bust WR1 second-round value upside he represents. By all accounts, he is in even better shape than he was when we last saw him. He was already one of the most explosive players in the league in 2014-15. If he is better now, you want to see how that translates to fantasy while he’s on your roster, not another. Conner, like previous backup back DeAngelo Williams, can change your season if Bell goes down or gets suspended again.
Flirt: Ben Roethlisberger
Roethlisberger’s gross road/home splits are hard to navigate and a full 16-game season seems impossible at this point. On the other hand, he was QB2 overall when he had Bell, Brown, and Bryant for the last ten games of 2014, a little behind Aaron Rodgers. Roethisberger can provide elite numbers for the fraction of the typical cost of an elite fantasy quarterback, although I find myself going in other directions at quarterback.
This offense is set up to amplify the fantasy value of any competent player that has a large role. I’m even open to drafting Jesse James as the leadoff hitter in a streaming tight end approach because Pittsburgh plays Cleveland Week 1.
Keep Number In Phone: Xavier Grimble
Grimble was a project coming out of USC, but he has progressed past the beta version and should be the more dangerous receiving threat of the Steelers two primary tight ends. He might have a boom/bust scoring profile, but he will also be allowed to run free in the middle of the field about as often as any tight end in the league.