As much as my inclination as an analyst is to teach you how to fish, I know many of you have a draft soon and you're just hungry. And who am I to deprive you of sustenance? If you're willing to read my work, I'm willing to give you what you want.
So let's go round by round and I'll tell you exactly who I'm targeting (and who I'm not) based on the Average Draft Positions of the 47 NFC drafts from Saturday, August 17 to Tuesday, August 20. It's not a huge sample, but I wanted to be as recent as possible. It's a full PPR scoring format.
Nothing too shocking at the top. I have Christian McCaffrey essentially on par with Saquon Barkley, with Alvin Kamara not far off. It's a tier drop behind them, then it's Ezekiel Elliott, DeAndre Hopkins and David Johnson in the next tier. I would draft all six, though I'm most apprehensive about Elliott while he's away from the Cowboys. Like I said, nothing too shocking.
Beyond them, Davante Adams is the clear No. 7 pick right now by this ADP. Smith-Schuster is my No. 2 WR in PPR formats; he has an ADP just outside the first round, but I'm including him here. Beckham is my No. 3. I then go Julio Jones, Michael Thomas, Tyreek Hill and Adams seventh. I still think Adams will be fantastic, and I would take all seven of those WR before my RB6, but I prefer the other six WRs to Adams.
The Jets offense has looked great this preseason, but Bell's price will keep me out on him this year. I've moved him up my board as I've grown more optimistic on the offense, but for me he's in the same tier as running backs available in the second round.
I have Chubb in the same tier. I'm concerned he'll still cede some passing downs to Dontrell Hilliard even after Duke Johnson was dealt, and I think the Browns will be heading toward the playoffs when Kareem Hunt returns and have plenty of incentive to balance out the backfield touches to keep Chubb fresh. I just don't have similar concerns for the top receivers.
When I'm picking at the turn, I'm hoping to exit the first two rounds with two top-tier WR or Travis Kelce. Once those players are all off the board, my next four backs follow NFC ADP -- James Conner, Dalvin Cook, Joe Mixon, Kerryon Johnson -- but I'm more inclined to take Mike Evans, especially in the latter part of the round if I started with an early RB. Evans is sort of between tiers for me; not quite in my top group but ahead of the rest of the names at the position.
Gurley's ADP sits at 17.29 over the past few days, and that's too rich for me. I've been tempted all offseason by how productive he was last year even while missing two games and being limited in several more down the stretch, but running backs are risky enough that I'm not willing to take the plunge with a second-round pick on a guy I know is entering the season banged up, and with a team that has invested in alternatives to spell him.
I've been low on Brown all offseason, and even though I think the helmet situation will work itself out, he's missed considerable practice time with his new team. He's my WR13 at this point, so not someone I'd consider in the second round. I'm fine taking Mahomes in the early part of the fourth, but he's not a second-round pick for me, either.
We're already starting to reach the Running Back Dead Zone. Hilton and Diggs are my priority third-round targets among those with third-round ADPs, though Brandin Cooks is another I will target here. Kittle is a value in the third, and I've had a hard time deciding which two of these three to take at the 2/3 turn when I've picked in the upper part of the first round. Most recently, I went with Hilton and Diggs.
Damien Williams pops up with an early-third ADP, but a range that stretches from pick 2.06 to pick 4.04. He's my preferred running back in this range, but I like his price more at the back of the round, and I'm more likely to consider RB in the third when I've started WR-WR or WR-TE with a later pick.
I'm worried about Gordon holding out for a substantial amount of time, and there are just too many players I actively want on my teams to mess around with that.
There are indications Mack will work as more of a three-down back this year, but he needs to catch far more passes than the 17 he registered last year to have the type of upside that justifies a third-round RB pick, and Frank Reich's coaching history doesn't contain a lot of feature backs. Andrew Luck's retirement has added further concern to the offense. Many are hopeful Mack will build on his nine rushing scores in 12 games last year, but the Colts as a team had just 13 rushing touchdowns against 39 through the air. Without Luck, Mack is likely to lose some scores.
Everyone knows the deal with Chris Godwin by now, right? Playing the Larry Fitzgerald role in Bruce Arians' system, something that's been confirmed by preseason usage. In an offense that will throw plenty. Very good in limited time thus far; also as a prospect coming out of Penn State. His cost can be overwhelming, but it's a good idea to have at least a few shares.
The top two Rams receivers are hard to choose between, and they were similarly productive last regular season before Cooks really exploded in the playoffs. I lean Cooks for upside, but still really like Woods, and Woods is far more likely to fall a bit. I'm also fine taking both in the same draft, as Chris Towers and I did in June.
Mike Williams has an ADP of 48.64 in these recent NFC drafts. I'm targeting him in formats where I can get him later.
It's so fun to draft in this range, where there are more potential breakout pass-catchers than you could possibly pick. Imagine taking a running back with the WR options or O.J. Howard available to you. Couldn't be me.
This group, and the Round 4 WR above, are all big targets for me in auction formats this year. I may not buy a player with a second-round ADP, and instead opt to nab several players in this range.
I don't know that I've seen much in the way of positive buzz around either of these guys, certainly not enough to justify Round 5 price tags on them if we step back and really think about it. But this is the RB Dead Zone, so guys get drafted because people think they need running backs. I don't get it, either.
I'm typically not ready to shift back over to RB yet, but if I were, Miles Sanders and Austin Ekeler would be two with enough upside to entice me, as would Tevin Coleman (whose recent ADP at NFC is in the late fifth). I'm also likely not taking a QB yet, but Baker Mayfield is someone I have taken in this range or (ideally) a bit later.
That leaves more pass-catchers to target, either these names or reaching up for someone in my Round 7 target list. Landry is the WR29 in ADP after previously never finishing lower than WR30 in any of his five seasons, and I do think he has more upside if the Browns' offense takes off than he's given credit for. Anderson and Kirk are the presumed most valuable receiving pieces of passing offenses that have potential to step forward.
Rodgers traditionally added some value with his legs, something I'm expecting less of in his age-36 season. There's also some concern the Packers could run more.
Jeffery is an effective receiver, but has trouble staying healthy and the Eagles have added tremendous depth at the position. He's a boring pick and I'm usually deep enough at WR to be prioritizing upside by this point in the draft.
If you've been following along, you know my teams typically don't have much RB depth at this point. Fuller and Samuel are players I'll consider in the sixth, and the seventh is when I might consider starting to build a stable of high-upside running backs traditionally thought of as Zero RB targets.
All three of these backs are the second options from their offenses in drafts, but they should all have roles that give them some stand-alone value. On top of that, all play in offenses that will produce running back Fantasy scoring, and all have plenty of upside if they find themselves with a larger share of the backfield due to injury or, in the case of Penny, performance.
Earlier this offseason -- before Miller went down with a knee injury that will cost him the entire season -- I called him "the type of pick you make to feel secure about your depth on Draft Day, but (who) doesn't actually move the needle and instead takes a roster spot from another shot at a true difference-maker." I believe in that strategy. You only have so many roster spots. Make them count.
Cook is coming off a career year and switching to a pass offense that was highly concentrated last year. There are better options later at both positions.
I'm not real fond of the 12 names going in the eighth round in recent NFC drafts, but these are three players I'd target depending on roster construction. Valdes-Scantling is a backup option if I miss on priority options above. McDonald is my favorite tight end option after the top six are off the board, but I'm often looking to grab him in Round 9 or even later.
I've changed my tune on Ballage, especially given Drake's injury and Miami giving Ballage the starter's treatment in the second week of the preseason, keeping him out of the game entirely. But I still have a hard time seeing the upside in the Miami offense and knowing Drake will be involved when healthy.
Players I'm avoiding: Derrius Guice
There aren't many clear fades in this range either, but Guice is one I thought was a reasonable value earlier in the offseason, but who I've soured on with a lack of positive news in the preseason. The offense isn't good, and Guice would need to be the lead back to have significant upside. Indications are they won't push him this year with Adrian Peterson and Chris Thompson still in the fold.
A big reason I'm hesitant to take quarterbacks in the sixth or seventh round, even as top options routinely seem to fall there, is guys like Newton and Winston are easy selections in this range (and there are still plenty more later).
Johnson is a good Zero RB candidate, though it takes some projecting as Deshaun Watson hasn't been fond of throwing to backs in the past. That could change with Johnson on the roster, and with Lamar Miller as his only competition for heavier touches, there are scenarios where Johnson finally gets his chance to be an every down back.
Howard just doesn't have Darren Sproles miss time, I'd expect the Eagles to use guys like Corey Clement and Wendell Smallwood (or whoever they add if they've moved on from those names), as they have in the past.for me to see enough upside in the ninth round in what will be a committee at best. Even in a wild scenario where, say, both Miles Sanders and
Before 2018, the last time a Steelers' WR2 hit 100 targets was in 2013. That had plenty to do with Antonio Brown being Antonio Brown, but Ben Roethlisberger locked into previous WR1s before Brown's emergence, as well. And given I'm high on both JuJu and McDonald, as noted above, you can imagine I don't see as much upside in the WR2 role as others do.
But also, we have a long track record on Moncrief that says he might not be all that good.
I routinely take all three of these names before the 10th round. Jones and Breida are two of my top RB targets overall.
Needless to say, I think the reaction to Jones' rookie season was over the top, and he's a preferred option when I've put off addressing the position. Breida is an easy selection at this point as someone I have no problem starting Week 1. I'd take both over Ballage, to make a direct comparison.
Murray is a pure upside play at quarterback, and it seems a small preseason sample has already impacted his ADP despite the Cardinals making it clear they aren't running their full playbook. He might not be a smash hit from Week 1 — he might! — but the big picture is still a dual threat quarterback with plenty of weapons in an up-tempo, spread offense. He also plays the most replaceable Fantasy position so the questions about his ability to stay healthy don't really seem relevant.
Sanders has been one of my favorite Fantasy players of this era, and it's a tremendous story that he's already returned and looks healthy. Even if he avoids any complications and plays 16 games, he'll be in a low-volume pass offense with several other good, young options. The Broncos aren't likely to be in the playoff hunt, and you have to expect guys like Courtland Sutton, DaeSean Hamilton and Noah Fant will get plenty of run late this season.
Tate is suspended and already showed that he didn't fit as well in a new offense last year after leaving Detroit. He could certainly beat this ADP through volume alone, but I'm not worried about missing out on him.
In the double-digit rounds, my primary focus is running back depth. What sets this list apart from other late-round running back targets is pass-catching chops and my belief they either are already or will be the clear second options in their backfields.
As I build my teams in 2019, the first few rounds are flexible, but I'm typically hammering the WR position in the Running Back Dead Zone. I certainly have exposure to earlier tight ends, but also have rosters where I wait.
An optimal roster, for me, consists of one running back early, with at least three wide receivers and potentially four through the first five rounds. I have no issue taking one of my preferred quarterbacks in the ninth or 10th round, and by the end of the 10th I might have one QB, two or three RB as I start to build out that depth, five or six WR (and might be done at the WR position), and a TE. From there, I'll build out my running back depth, specifically targeting high-upside options using the methodology I described in my TRAP series.
Good luck and happy drafting!
So what Fantasy Football sleepers should you snatch in your draft? And which RB2 can you wait on until late? Visit SportsLine now to get 2019 Fantasy Football cheat sheets from the model that called Andrew Luck's huge 2018, and find out.