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.
Marry: Rob Gronkowski, Any RB
There’s a lot of production in the Patriots backfield and the various risk/reward propositions are priced to move. Gronkowski was an elite wide receiver when healthy last year, you can tolerate his risk as a second round pick to get that colossal tight end advantage unless you’re enamored with another tight end later.
Brady has maybe the best offense around him since ‘07 Moss/Welker and the Patriots go for the jugular. A worthy early quarterback pick in the fourth, but certainly not the only quarterback I'm happy to tie my team fate to in drafts. Let your leaguemates determine when you pull the trigger on a quarterback based on how long they let various QB1 options fall. The Patriots gave up a valuable commodity for Cooks and will get their investment’s worth. Still I wonder if the target load support for consistent WR1 production will be there. He might deliver TY Hilton’s value at a round plus discount, or DeSean Jackson’s with a three or four-round tax.
Dump: Julian Edelman
He was pedestrian last year when both tight ends were healthy. He might deliver profit because of his injury upside, but I’m not counting on it.
If Gronkowski, goes down, Allen becomes very interesting, and you might be surprised at what the TE3 can do (especially if it’s O’Shaughnessy) if both injury-prone tight ends miss time. I won’t draft the Patriots WR3/WR4, but they are worth desperation starts and have excellent injury upside.
Marry: Jay Ajayi
He’s as prominent in his offense as Bell/Johnson/Elliott. He’s not as talented as those running backs, but his situation is good and late first/early second represents a bigger discount from top three pick than you think.
Flirt: DeVante Parker
Parker’s natural physical ability and skill combined with dedication this offseason could create enough momentum to put him in the WR2 or even low WR1 range, but the Dolphins offense would have to grow greatly in year two or Jarvis Landry and Kenny Stills would have to take a step back. I’m open to the possibility of Parker blowing up, but not investing in him (yet).
Landry’s fantasy value in the past was largely based on volume. He’s better than his reputation, but he is likely to fall back into a WR2/WR3 weekly scoring range. He’s not a fantasy team cornerstone. Stills got a starter deal, but it looks like he’s the third best receiver on a team that will have a relatively balanced offense. There are better late-round wide receivers, but he does have injury upside, so he might be a waiver wire add later after the team that drafts him gets sick of his inconsistency in the box score.
Keep Number In Phone: Ryan Tannehill
Tannehill is athletic and aggressive enough as a runner to add value to his middling fantasy outlook and the offense should get better in year two of Gase. I won’t draft Tannehill, but I won’t be surprised if he starts strong enough to be worth a roster spot in a fantasy game that continues to devalue the quarterback.
Marry: LeSean McCoy
I’m okay with McCoy as a mid-late first round pick. Running backs are riskier and McCoy doesn’t get the goal line chances of his first-round running back peers, but he got better as 2016 went on and the Buffalo running game is one of the best in the league. McCoy vs Gordon vs Ajayi in the second half of the first is a call I lack true clarity on at this point, but I’m fine with a second-tier RB1 over a second-tier WR1 in the first because of the depth at wide receiver this year.
Flirt: Sammy Watkins
When Sammy Watkins is healthy, we should project him as a top 6-8 wide receiver with #1 overall upside every week. The offense should get better now that Rex Ryan is deposed. Watkins also hasn’t stayed healthy for a long stretch at any point in his career and the Bills were reluctant to commit to an injury guaranteed option that would save them three million when compared to the franchise tag. I don’t mind Watkins in the mid-late third if all of my targets are gone, but in the back of my mind, I know I might regret the pick.
Dump: Zay Jones
Bills #2 or #3 receiver isn’t where I go fishing for value at wide receiver late in my draft.
Keep Number in Phone: Jonathan Williams
As long as Williams emerges from the preseason as the backup, he’ll be an insta-add if McCoy hits the injury report. If it’s not Williams, I’ll be watching closely to see if it looks like a committee behind McCoy or if Williams has been passed on the depth chart.
New York Jets
Marry: No One
It’s the Jets offense.
Powell was a strong RB1 in PPR leagues last year once Matt Forte faded into the background. That was in a Chan Gailey offense and Forte is back. The Jets really should trade him just to get younger backs more reps, but they might not. Powell was mostly flex-worthy even when Forte was healthy, so he’s not as risky as he appears, but there are other backs I like as much or more in that same range. Enunwa will be the #1 target in this offense, but will that generate consistent scoring or just frustrate us as the Jets offense convulses like Elaine Benes on the dance floor.
Dump: Matt Forte
He was only a good play when the Jets controlled games last year.
Keep Number In Phone: Robby Anderson
Anderson has the highwire act downfield and chemistry with Bryce Petty, but Hackenberg could start to open the year and it’s the Jets offense.