The age-old drafting convention is that every player has potential value depending on where they're available. Some of these players who will fall far enough to earn consideration. Yet, many slide to a spot where fantasy GMs will face a tough call between that falling value and an upside player.
There's truth to the notion that these sliders are falling due to the compounding of negative perceptions that are worse than the actual reality of the situation. However, some of these falling values have competition for playing time, injuries that may linger into the season or shaky supporting casts.
It's not a popular idea, but the reason above, as well as a few others, are why streamlining your draft list is a valid strategic move. When you can trim players from your list who you won't pick under any circumstance, you effectively inflate the value of the remaining players on your list as you get deeper into your draft.
Most fantasy GMs understand that ADP has a +/- range of picks that vary 1-2 rounds as you get deeper into the draft, and in extreme cases, that range widens to 3-4 rounds. Streamlining your draft list allows you to see clearly who you value the most and whether you'll leave your drafts pleased with your selections.
Streamlining your list isn't an easy process — especially the early rounds. It is a worthwhile exercise if you've researched the draft pool enough to know that these players account for more noise than signal in your head.
As an exercise, here's my list of 50 players available in the first 14 rounds that I don't want to draft in leagues where we pick prior to 2018 training camps. Many players on this list will wind up on my teams because the situations explained in the comments about the players will change.
Regardless of how my views evolve, you'll see some over-arching themes about these players who I'm removing from consideration:
- High-athletic talent, questionable all-around skills and splitting time with a reliable teammate.
- Can't stay healthy.
- Can't stay out of trouble.
- Hasn't proven enough.
These players are listed in reverse order by round.
50. Eric Ebron: Sure, Ebron earned a free agent contract and he's a marquee athlete who will earn targets from Andrew Luck. However, there's a difference between athletic ability and skill. Ebron's skills have been inconsistent and it took a contract year for use to see moderate improvement with his play. Indianapolis still has the underrated Jack Doyle, who consistently gets open and catches the ball. Why take a chance on Ebron when Ricky Seals-Jones and Ben Watson offer similar upside, have less competition for targets, and are available 1-3 rounds later? Vernon Davis is available much later and a better upside option with Jordan Reed's injury history.
49. Austin Ekeler: The former UDFA performed well as a receiver from the backfield last year and he's the odds-on favorite to begin the year as the No. 2 option. If Justin Jackson plays to his ability, there's an equally good chance that Ekeler finishes the year as the No. 3 option. Because Ekeler isn't a big back, it's likely that if Melvin Gordon gets hurt that Ekeler will have to split time with Jackson, ceding enough volume that he's not the best value. Frank Gore, Spencer Ware, Chase Edmonds, Elijah McGuire, T.J. Yeldon, and Kenneth Dixon all offer greater upside at a lower price.
48. Austin Sefarian-Jenkins: A player who has always looked good in the spring and summer, the buzz is strong once again for an option who hasn't produced to expectation during the regular season. However, the Jaguars have typically delivered 300-500 yards of passing to its tight ends with a potential for 3-5 touchdowns. The last time a Jaguars tight end earned top-10 fantasy production at the position was Marcedes Lewis' 700-yard, 10-touchdown campaign in 2010 as fantasy football's No. 4 tight end. Although Jacksonville will run the ball and that means having a big-bodied, skilled blocker at tight end is important, the Jaguars also love using three-receiver sets with either Keelan Cole or Marqise Lee earning priority targets in the middle of the field. With Seals-Jones, Watson, and Davis all available later, that's a trio where a fantasy GM can pick two with high-production floors at lower prices.
47. Mohamed Sanu: The talk of 2017 training camp, Sanu was supposed to become a significant deep threat. While Sanu had a career-year with 67 receptions and 5 touchdowns, his 703 yards didn't match the summer notoriety. Sanu's yards per reception actually dipped to the third-lowest total of his seven-year career. Enter Calvin Ridley, who is a strong route runner, a bigger deep threat, a sudden runner in the open field. Ridley should relegate Sanu third in the receiver pecking order for targets and it will take an injury to Julio Jones for Sanu to deliver production inside the Top 24 at the position. Like Ebron and Sefarian-Jenkins, Sanu offers a decent production, floor but his ceiling is too low in a round were you can get a similar floor, higher ceiling, and lower draft price from the likes of Anthony Miller, Keelan Cole, Chris Godwin, Taylor Gabriel, and Keke Coutee — all possessing greater upside unless the rest of Atlanta's passing attack gets stranded at Fat Matt's Rib Shack.
46. O.J. Howard: Rare athletic ability is mighty seductive and that's what Howard possesses. What he doesn't possess is a lock on featured tight-end volume because Cameron Brate earned a six-year contract extension last week. Brate also possesses something else vital for fantasy GMs that Howard lacks: History and trust of tight-window targets downfield and in the red zone. Brate has 14 touchdowns during the past two seasons. The one thing Howard has that Brate lacks is skill at the line of scrimmage as a blocker. Unless the NFL begins tracking pancakes and fantasy leagues adopt it, Howard could be the next promising athletic tight end that teases fantasy owners into thinking they can wait until late and acquire an elite option like a gangster when it's more likely they wind up in the fantasy ER with a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
45. Jameis Winston: Speaking of self-inflicted trauma, Winston is about to be on the last nerve of the organization's top brass. A person in the original team interview of Winston at the Combine told an NFL colleague of mine that it was clear that Winston had the personality that could get his teammates to jump off a cliff for him but that he would be an off-the-field roller coaster ride. Welcome to another big hill on the track, fantasy owners. As if turnovers and anemic red zone production despite all-star level surrounding skill talent weren't bad enough, Winston will miss four games and it's likely that Eli Manning, Blake Bortles, Case Keenum, Tyrod Taylor, and Mitchell Trubisky are all better values.
44. Tyler Eifert: His back is the most reliable thing about him as a professional football player — and that's no good for fantasy owners.
43. Michael Gallup: A prospect with potential to become a starter, the question is whether it's now or later? Connor Livesay of Blogging the Boys sees a resemblance to Stefon Diggs. Gallup reads zone coverage well and he's a physical player after the catch for his size, which may not translate as well in the NFL unless Gallup gains 10-12 pounds of muscle and if that happens, he's no longer resembling Stefon Diggs considering that he's already 10 pounds heavier as it is. The Cowboys have two veteran targets with whom Dak Prescott has a rapport: Terrence Williams and Cole Beasley. It leaves one more receiver and a tight end to earn decent target volume if Williams remains a starter. The solid bet is Allen Hurns, who can move around the offense. It means Gallup must beat out Williams and 2-3 others to earn significant fantasy opportunity this year. With DeSean Jackson, Tyler Lockett, and all the receivers available after San (see above), Gallup isn't a wise bet as the next Michael Thomas or JuJu Smith-Schuster.
42. Matt Breida: The athletic back from Georgia Southern performed well in relief of Carlos Hyde last year and displayed good receiving chops and he's the one option on this list after the 10th round that I am not completely sold on cutting from my draft lists. I'll be studying his work against the Jaguars and Rams before revisiting his placement here. Right now, I am on the fence. Still, LeGarrette Blount, Kenneth Dixon, Frank Gore, Spencer Ware, Bilal Powell, and Chase Edmonds all present equal-to-greater upside and are available later in fantasy drafts.
41. Mike Williams: Philip Rivers is a fine quarterback, but Keenan Allen, Travis Benjamin, and possibly Tyrell Williams could hold Williams back from the fantasy-friendly volume that we seek. Williams might be the most likely talent to earn "fake fantasy-friendly" production. You know, like that guy who always initiates the idea of a hang but you know that it's a part of their carefully tailored image and he's trying to be cool in a public setting. Williams will do enough to seem cool this year but due to circumstances beyond his control, he'll leave you hanging because he's young and must develop the in-game rapport with Rivers when it comes to reading defenses and adjusting his routes. However, the loss of Hunter Henry could change this just enough if Williams can play big in the red zone. If so, he'll be "inconsistent fantasy friend," the one who is a joy to be around when he's available, but it's hard to know if and when that will happen.
40. Chris Carson: If you spot rainbow-spotted unicorns galloping around the northwest portion of Washington state, you know that Pete Carroll had a press conference within the past 2-3 hours. It's a great attitude to have as a leader, and it's also a sneaky-good way of not telling the football media anything concrete until it's time to take the field. If Germain Ifedi improves on the right side, he and D.J. Fluker could help this run game get a lot better, but is Seattle going to opt for a split after drafting Rashad Penny in the first round? What about Mike Davis, who might be the best passing-down option in the backfield and performed well when the line didn't? Then there's a healthy C.J. Prosise. There are too many options and unanswered questions, here. The Raiders, Jets, Lions, Ravens, and Vikings could have better offensive lines and their second backs each have less competition for playing time if the starter is lost for the year. Doug Martin, Powell, Blount, Dixon, and Latavius Murray are available later. Sure, Carson could wind up "the" guy, but it's more likely he winds up "a" guy in this running game at a higher price and less upside.
39. James White: See the players listed as alternatives to Carson? Why take White, who will never be the lead back in New England, unless you expect a Danny Woodhead year from him? He's not that caliber of talent between the tackles. While consistent production you can count on is important, the arrow should increasingly point closer towards upside potential after the 10th round of drafts. Once in four years has White produced as a third running back in a fantasy starting line up — and barely did it. He's a smart and capable NFL running back who makes a great reserve and in-game contributor. Could the loss of Dion Lewis give White that shot to earn more production? Sure, but now he's contending with Rex Burkhead and Sony Michel, who offer greater versatility that doesn't make New England personnel-predictable to defenses.
38. Corey Clement: A stronger version of White from the same college program, Clement has a better shot of being the player than what White's proponents are perpetually seeking. This is is one player I'm willing to bend on and put back on my list because the Eagles have such a good offensive line. However, Darren Sproles could be 38 and still be a talent capable of out-producing this depth chart. He's a Hall of Fame talent who didn't earn the offensive touches to get that instant recognition without a serious debate. If Ajayi gets hurt, Sproles will split time with Clement and render Clement a fantasy disappointment.
37. Marqise Lee: A decent player who will produce, Lee is on this list because he's a bit of a tease who lacks the consistent skills that separate primary receivers from secondary options. Lee is an athletic secondary option who dropped the ball a lot last year. However, it's unlikely that his skills, his offense, and his quarterback can support the upside of his peers available in his range, including Calvin Ridley, Rishard Matthews, a healthy Cameron Meredith, and Martavis Bryant. Although Paul Richardson, Kenny Golladay, and D.J. Moore offer greater downside than Lee, their upside is arguably higher, too. If you're weak at receiver and need at someone steady enough to give you points, Lee can do the job for you, but you don't want to pick too many players of his type.
36. Jack Doyle: Although he's the reason Eric Ebron is on this list, he's no longer appealing now that he's splitting time with another talented option.
35. Kenny Stills: There's a lot of love for Stills this year as an underrated pick because Jarvis Landry is gone. There's also a lot of potential that the slot receivers who've arrived in Miami to replace Landry will take enough of Landry's volume to keep Stills' production where it has been. Stills is a good player, and his fantasy value has been trending upward during the past two years, including a fantasy WR2 season in 2017 with over 100 targets to his game. Although Ryan Tannehill wasn't on the field last year, he helped Stills earn fantasy WR3 production in 2016. A potential fantasy WR2 in the 10th round is a pretty strong argument to remove him from the list and put him back in the draft pool. However, it's more likely that Stills' value stabilizes as a low-end and inconsistent WR3 who has to contend with an improved DeVante Parker and 1-2 slot options who commandeer much of Landry's target volume.
34. Devontae Booker: A gap runner who didn't beat out C.J. Anderson last year despite the fact that Anderson is a better zone runner and the Broncos changed the blocking scheme to benefit Booker. The drafting of Royce Freeman and switch back to a zone-heavy scheme is a sign that Booker is not only out of the Broncos' long-term future but that DeAngelo Henderson could also leapfrog him short-term. With all the backs mentioned above, Booker only takes up space on a spreadsheet.
33. D'Onta Foreman: When a running back returns to athletic form after an Achilles tear, let me know. If it's Foreman, congratulations on your pioneering spirit. We'll wait for word from you back at the ranch.
32. Kelvin Benjamin: This quarterback stable is inexperienced, playing in a predictable scheme that is less dangerous with Tyrod Taylor gone, and has three new offensive linemen who have reserve-level talent instead of starter-level talent. Benjamin also lacks the multidimensional skills of a go-to receiver. If he was in New Orleans, he'd be a much more desirable player because the offense, the offensive line, and quarterback are significant upgrades and the coaching staff would use him to his talents and not rely on him to be more than what he is. Buffalo and New Orleans have little in common.
31. Ty Montgomery: It's unlikely that two of three backs in Green Bay will miss significant time with an injury and if that happens, there's enough talent on the street to supplement the depth chart an contribute in their place. Montgomery will technically earn more fantasy points than many of the backs drafted later but his potential to earn them at a high rate on a weekly basis isn't as strong because of the likely committee. The allure of Green Bay as a points-rich team makes Montgomery more appealing to fantasy owners who are focused more on projected total points than the context of how they arrive.
30. Aaron Jones: He's the smoothest runner of the Packers trio, but it's unlikely he'll be a solo act this year because even if one of his teammates gets hurt, the other is good enough to cut into his potential volume.
29. Sterling Shepard: A good football player who doesn't earn the quality of looks to become a fantasy starter, this year could be the year that changes. However, most secondary options in an NFL offense that fields multiple fantasy starters produce big plays. Shepard's role has been restricted to a high-volume short-range option, at best. When Odell Beckham, Jr. and Evan Engram are on the field, the likelihood of 10- and 11-catch weeks diminishes. Although most fantasy owners don't want to take another chance on Cody Latimer, his athletic profile offers great upside than Shepard if Beckham or Engram get hurt. It makes Shepard less desirable and a good football player who readers mistake as a good fantasy player. If you're drafting Shepard as depth who can deliver quality fantasy starts if injuries strike, that's reasonable. Still, the ninth round seems too high for that move when Ridley, Meredith, Bryant, and even Golladay offer a higher floor at a better price.
28. Kirk Cousins: He's a sound choice on paper because he has matured as a decision-maker and he inherits an excellent receiving corps and a stable defense that will support favorable game scripts. This is the most balanced offense that Cousins has led. However, it's difficult to select him in a new offense that will run the ball more effectively and more often than his old offense when Matthew Stafford, Jimmy Garoppolo, Philip Rivers, Andrew Luck, and Patrick Mahomes are all available later. For the past two years, Cousins has produced enough to put some distance between himself and the next ranked quarterback. The difference is Cousins' knowledge of the Washington offense and his multiple years of rapport with at least a few players. Cousins is starting from scratch here and he's not Peyton Manning.
27. DeVante Parker: He's young, athletically talented, and flashed elite moments as a receiver. He has also been immature about his work ethic, unable to piece consistent games together long enough to earn starter production, and there's still a cloud of speculation about is the ability to put it all together. In terms of competition for targets, Parker is the player whom Miami wants to feed the ball. The upside and situation are there to draft Parker, but he has not proven anything. It's wiser to draft enough receivers before the eighth round who will are less likely to disappoint. In terms of expectations and value, the eighth round is a 'tweener spot that isn't worth the consideration.
26. Will Fuller: Keke Coutee has the skills of an instant starter. It may not appear that way because he's a rookie and works the slot, but there's a lot more potential to his game than meets the eye. Because he'll likely get eased in as the slot receiver who will see some work outside, Fuller will still offer big-play value this year. Still, there's enough of a possibility that Coutee plays well enough to diminish Fuller's upside and render him a fantasy WR4 in lineups, that Robby Anderson is a far more preferable option due to the likelihood of consistent volume and upside. Even Marquise Goodwin may offer greater consistency as well. And if there's encouraging news about Jordy Nelson this preseason, expect the Raider to provide extreme value.
25. Jamaal Williams: Like the player, hate the situation for fantasy purposes. Until there are two injuries or long-term suspensions, you want nothing to do with this backfield.
24. Rex Burkhead: At Nebraska, he reminded me of Fred Jackson — a player whom Bill Belichick reserves special football love. He's a versatile, technically-sound option with enough acceleration and quickness to compensate for his lack of a second gear. However, he's a 'tweener whose skills overlap every option on the team. He's that Jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none commodity on the depth chart who could produce well in any given game but there is no long-term viability as a starter. The sixth round is where you're looking for a short-term contributor with starter upside. Burkhead is more like a short-term starter with contributor downside by season's end. No thanks, his projected outlook has more potential for a downward trajectory.
23. Carlos Hyde: He's an underrated player, but Cleveland intends to play the hot hand with three backs. Duke Johnson will be the passing-down option. Nick Chubb is a great prospect who will keep Hyde underrated until he's trying to earn playing time elsewhere. Think of Hyde as a more-skillful Chris Ivory who will continue finding work but will be too this or too that to earn anything more than a one-year starting opportunity due to injuries or suspensions.
22. Marlon Mack: The Colts have declared the offense will feature a committee, Mack is only competent as a gap runner, and Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins have more well-rounded games. Mack will get the first crack at the lead role, but his skills versus his the skills of his depth chart mates give Mack the look of a player whose trajectory is headed down the depth chart as the season progresses.
21. Carson Wentz: Like the player, love the offensive line, and like the surrounding talent, but not loving the push to return to the field within the first four to six weeks of the season. Wentz will make it happen, but there are too many good quarterbacks going later in fantasy drafts who don't rely so much on his legs to make big plays as a runner and passer — especially as a passer.
20. Chris Thompson: Derrius Guice will be the feature back. Maybe there will be enough room for Thompson to deliver fantasy starter totals as the Giovani Bernard to Guice's enhanced version of Jeremy Hill. If you're buying that, he's not on this list for you. Considering that Jay Gruden authored this kind of production for two backs in Cincinnati, it's understandable. Tarik Cohen offers greater versatility and upside at a similar price and there's reason to fear that Thompson's production will be closer to that of Bernard, Hines, Theo Riddick, and James White, who are all available later.
19. Chris Hogan: Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski are the two constants in the offense. The rest of the options are dependent on the match-up and the health of the depth chart. Chris Hogan seemed poised to break out last year, but injuries cost him the opportunity. However, he's more likely the third or fourth option in the Patriots offense when Julian Edelman returns. In contrast, Corey Davis, Emmanuel Sanders, Robert Woods, and Jamison Crowder have more potential to be the first or second options in their respective offenses and with good enough quarterbacks to out-produce Hogan. The same argument could be made for Devin Funchess and even likely third-option Cooper Kupp, who has red zone upside. Hogan is a good football player earning fantasy love by association with Brady that's not warranted if Gronkowski and Edelman play to their capabilities.
18. Pierre Garcon: Only a primary option in an offense once during his career (2013), Garcon lacks touchdown upside. He's a valuable route runner on a team that will target him enough for another shot at 1,000 yards receiving. However, he's never had better than a six-touchdown season during a 10-year career playing with Peyton Manning, Robert Griffin III, and Kirk Cousins. The options who have greater value and upside than Hogan also applies to Garcon. Cohen, Marshawn Lynch, Delanie Walker, and Cam Newton have more appeal as a result of the wide receivers who are available later.
17. Julian Edelman: If he returns from suspension and maintains a pace of production equal to 90-100 catches and 900-1,100 yards, Edelman would have belonged on a draft list. However, Newton and Cohen could offer greater value without a four-game absence in addition to the receivers available after the sixth round mentioned above. Edelman should be healthy enough after more than a year away from the game rehabbing a torn ACL but he is an aging veteran who could warrant concern over the potential loss of quickness and acceleration.
16. Tevin Coleman: The Falcons third-round pick in 2015 has matured as a runner between the tackles during his past three seasons as Devonta Freeman's understudy. He has also earned a larger share of carries and corresponding fantasy production that has made him a fantasy RB2 in starting lineups in consecutive seasons. Even as a committee back, Coleman earned at least 10 fantasy points in PPR leagues in 9 of 16 games. That's solid production for a player with greater upside if forced to take Freeman's place as the lead option. However, is waiting on that possibility worth more than Sammy Watkins or Cam Newton? If you're waiting until the sixth round to take your second runner in a league with a lineup allowance for 3-4 backs, yes it is. If it's a traditional, two-runner lineup or a PPR lineup that supports potentially 4-5 starting receivers, not so much. If you're keeping Coleman on your list, understandable. This was a tougher call, but it comes down to how one wants to shape their draft.
15. Sony Michel: Fumbles were a major problem for this talented back and he lands on a depth chart that will likely use a twosome or threesome in a rotation. Michel might wind up the back with the best upward trajectory of production after mid-season, but a similar and more compelling argument used with Coleman applies here.
14. Ronald Jones: The Buccaneers have issues along its offensive line and that can be a more difficult situation for a young back trying to acclimate to the speed of the league between the tackles. With Royce Freeman available around the same time with a better offense around him and a much greater shot of locking up a lead role without ceding as many carries as Jones will to Peyton Barber, selecting Jones in the fifth round seems like a bet on athletic ability while ignoring the context of the surrounding talent of the line and the intentions of the coaching staff.
13. LeSean McCoy: if the potential criminal issues aren't enough, McCoy's offense lost the threat of Tyrod Taylor's legs, three good starters along the line, and the three replacements for those starters aren't considered starter-caliber at this stage of their careers. McCoy is a great back, but combine these four factors plus the change in offense from 2016 to 2017 that resulted in a vanilla style by comparison to the triple option elements of 2015-16, and McCoy isn't worth the potential hassle — even if the potential criminal issues are resolved.
12. Lamar Miller: The Houston runner is a fantasy football 40-degree day. Nobody gets excited about a 40-degree day. Coleman had 9 of 16 games with 10 fantasy points in PPR leagues with Freeman ahead of him on the depth chart. Miller was the lead back and only 10 of 16 games with that production and only three games with at least 15 fantasy points — the same as Coleman. Miller was a top-10 fantasy option during his final two seasons in Miami, but those were the best touchdown totals of his career and his per-touch efficiency was greater behind a better offensive line. Deshaun Watson offers the potential for bigger creases that will benefit Miller because of Watson's running ability that forces defenses to remain disciplined longer to account for the gaps Watson could run through if he keeps the ball on option looks, but it doesn't appear that Miller is enough of a focal point to deliver the points-per-week advantage that Watson, Brady, or Russell Wilson might as options with comparable ADPs.
11. Rashaad Penny: Pete Carroll had positive things to say about Penny's blocking at this early stage of the summer, but it's the equivalent of a commentator of a marathon speculating who will win based on the first 100 yards of the race. Penny didn't demonstrate capable pass protection skills at San Diego State. Add the question marks along the offensive line and the talent of the Seahawks' running back depth chart to the equation, and Penny's speed and first-round draft capital have potentially inflated his value. He may produce to his potential this year but based on the surrounding talent and competition for playing time on a team that hasn't been as political about its draft capital in the past, Penny is a risky choice.
10. Alshon Jeffery: 2017 was Jeffery's best season in three years — and he did it with a torn rotator cuff. Known as an injury-prone option who has missed 17 games during his 6-year career, Jeffery sought a specialist to re-align his body between 2016 and 2017 so his hamstrings wouldn't be so tight. This worked out well, but has he been able to keep up with his work during the rehab of his shoulder? Even if he has, Marvin Jones and these early-round quarterbacks raise a worthwhile question about Jeffery's relative value in terms of upside, stability, and consistency — especially if he's still uncertain for August training camp.
9. Brandin Cooks: A speed receiver who has struggled against tight man coverage, Cooks offers big-play upside and he'll surely earn starter production in leagues that start at least three receivers. However, he's less likely to deliver Sammy Watkins' red zone production in Los Angeles. Watkins is far more comfortable against tight coverage and earned seven of his eight touchdowns in the red zone. Cooks has never earned more than three scores in this area of the field during a season while working with Tom Brady and Drew Brees.
It would not be surprising if Cooks is as much as 35-45 fantasy points shy of his 2017 production in Los Angeles — the equivalent of 10-15 receptions, 150-250 yards, and 2-4 touchdowns that he won't earn. That's the difference between a top-10 receiver and a receiver at the bottom range of the top 30 at his position. Jones and the aforementioned quarterbacks offer greater stability. It's a tough sell to leave him off a draft list because of the appeal of a late-round quarterback strategy but if correct about the players to leave off this list, perhaps quarterback is a better early choice this year if the masses move to wait on them and due to the anticipated breakouts of younger options in the range of rounds 8-12. Why wait that long and get caught in a feeding frenzy for the position?
8. Allen Robinson: Will he be the primary option in an offense where the head coach just ran a scheme where slot players earn a significant amount of the big plays? Will he earn those opportunities in the slot? Can he recapture his 2015 form in a new system and a new quarterback? If Derrius Guice makes it to a fantasy GM and Robinson is still in play, Guice is more appealing. Jay Ajayi behind an excellent offensive line is, too. So is going for a top quarterback a round earlier than his ADP if you believe Jimmy Graham or Royce Freeman is worth nabbing where you would have taken the quarterback at his listed ADP. Another tough call, but the value at receiver after the sixth round looks pretty good.
7. Jarvis Landry: A PPR machine in Miami for a team that has a track record of spotting production from perimeter receivers, Landry could wind up a third option on a team with Josh Gordon and David Njoku — two freakishly talented options on the perimeter and up the seam. Tyrod Taylor is a solid NFL quarterback, but believing he can support three fantasy starters at wide receiver in a new offense is a risky projection. Landry could easily be one of the two, but Njoku's improvements, Taylor's vertical aggression, and Gordon's otherworldly talents indicate otherwise. If all three options have a strong season with Taylor under center, it's more likely that Landry's value falls to low-end, fantasy WR3 production. He's not a horrible pick, but he's a riskier one based on scheme change.
6. Derrick Henry: Can the Titans support a backfield that fields two fantasy starters? Dion Lewis is a wiser runner than Henry and a better receiver. Will the Titans defense be good enough to support favorable game scripts for Henry that it hasn't in the recent past? Henry is a starter talent and has a promising offensive line. However, Guice, Golden Tate, Marvin Jones, and JuJu Smith-Schuster offer less downside in a situation where Henry seems poised to repeat last year's production of 880 total yards and 6 touchdowns.
5. Kenyan Drake: Drake has the makings of a good offensive line and he's a wonderful athlete. However, even during some of his best games last year, Drake exhibited immaturity with reading blocks and managing space with his footwork. The opportunity to learn from Frank Gore is a tremendous one for Drake's long-term future if he chooses to recognize it as such and not strictly a competition. Drake could easily deliver 1,200-1,400 total yards and 5-7 touchdowns this year if he shows enough development to keep Frank Gore in strictly a reserve role to give Drake a breather. Because he hasn't proven that he has become a wiser runner, it's difficult to buy into these high-end projections. Around 1,000-1,100 total yards seems like a more realistic upside for Drake, and Gore forcing his way into a greater split than Drake's fantasy GMs hope. If that's the case, Josh Gordon, Demaryius Thomas, Alex Collins, Golden Tate, Guice, and Smith-Schuster — all available around the same spot — will have a strong chance of out-producing Drake.
4. Zach Ertz: A good tight end in a friendly offense for the position, Ertz's ADP is in the same range as Aaron Rodgers, Stefon Diggs, Amari Cooper, Larry Fitzgerald, Josh Gordon, and Demaryius Thomas. Greg Olsen, Jimmy Graham, Evan Engram and Delanie Walker are all available later in drafts. Ertz had a pretty nice cushion between himself and the rest of the tight ends producing behind him last year, but Graham lands in an offense better-equipped to use him, Engram didn't begin earning primary targets at the beginning of the season, and there's talk that Eagles rookie Dallas Goedert could earn significant red zone targets this year. If Goedert plays rookie Hunter Henry to Ertz's Antonio Gates, Ertz's ADP seems too high compared to the players a fantasy owner could land in this range of a draft.
3. Joe Mixon: An excellent talent stuck behind an offensive line that still has issues, Mixon has a massive boom-bust quality to his status this year. With Adam Thielen, Tyreek Hill, Cooper, Diggs, Fitzgerald, Gordon, and Thomas all within his range, it seems wiser to take a chance on one of these options and potentially land Guice one round later. While declared the featured back, GMs who draft Mixon may still have to contend with the talented Giovani Bernard if the offense sputters with Mixon as the lead or the game scripts force Bernard into the lineup more than expected. The receivers in Mixon's range all have double-digit touchdown potential and many of them have an expected range of 80-100 catches.
2. Jerick McKinnon: This is another example of the seductive power of the athlete. McKinnon is a workout wonder who has gradually become a contributor-quality player capable of starting in the NFL. On paper, he looks like he could fill that Devonta Freeman role in San Francisco for Kyle Shanahan. On film, McKinnon lacks the same caliber of diagnostic skills, quick decision-making, and finishing power than Freeman has in Atlanta. It won't matter that much if McKinnon is simply competent, because the volume could help him earn starter production. Still, is he good value as the 13th back off the board? That's a high expectation for a career change of pace when Travis Kelce, Doug Baldwin, Jordan Howard, Thielen, and Hill could be had in the same range. Howard is about to play in an offense that could open the field for him in ways that the Chiefs did for Kareem Hunt. Kelce is a stud who now has a quarterback with a better track record with targeting his receivers in tight windows, which could lead to much more red zone work. Baldwin is a reliable primary option for an elite quarterback. McKinnon is a hot commodity but not a wise one at this point.
1. Mike Evans: One of the toughest calls on this list, Evans is part of a talented core of skill players who couldn't produce in the red zone with Jameis Winston, who will also be suspended to begin the year. Chris Godwin's talent could also factor in diluting the targets that Evans sees. It begs the question: Is Evans' situation and talent that much better than the likes of Baldwin, Thielen, Hill, Thomas, and Gordon — especially when a fantasy owner could get Rob Gronkowski and one of these options one round later? Take Gronkowski.
In case you're wondering, all players with first-round ADPs are in play for me although Saquon Barkley's ADP seems a bit high for a team with a struggling offensive line. He's a player who could make this list if I were to revisit it a month later, but that's a story for another time, perhaps.