Fantasy football draft season is reaching its apex. The vast majority of leagues will be drafting over the next couple of weeks. While many people have an overall strategy, it is important to revise this on a yearly basis. The current pool of players and their situations change yearly. This means that the approach that worked last season may now be outdated. This article will outline my specific strategy for fantasy football in the 2017 season. This is going beyond “do your research”; these are tips for experienced players that are ready to win this year.
Get A Top Running Back If At All Possible
The top tiers of running backs are razor thin. With Ezekiel Elliott suspended for six games, there are less than ten running backs that I think can be a RB1. It is understood that in a snake draft players are limited to what their draft slot allows. For anyone playing in an auction draft, I would say that overpaying for a top 5 back may be necessary. Settling for second level backs will put your team at a severe disadvantage unless things really break the right way for you.
This strategy mainly applies to standard format leagues; ppr evens the playing field a bit. In these standard leagues, I have serious questions about all of the backs after number 9 or 10. Just to give you an idea, my top 10 are:
- David Johnson ARI
- Le’Veon Bell PIT
- LeSean McCoy BUF
- Jordan Howard CHI
- Melvin Gordon LAC
- Devonta Freeman ATL
- Jay Ajayi MIA
- DeMarco Murray TEN
- Leonard Fournette JAC
- Isaiah Crowell CLE
I feel relatively safe with having one of these guys as my RB1 (fluke injuries aside). Out of those players, I would be most concerned about Fournette just because he is an unkown. Again, after the 10 spot, things start to get very dicey. I am avoiding Ezekiel Elliott altogether unless he falls DRASTICALLY below where he is being taken at the moment. He is missing about half of the fantasy football regular season. By the time he comes out, your team could be out of playoff contention because you used a fairly high pick on a dead roster spot. That is a no-go in my book.
Sleepers For RB1 Status
There are a couple of backs that I think have an outside shot at a RB1 type season if things go right.
Ty Montgomery is one player that I think has a great opportunity. He plays with Aaron Rodgers, so he will not be seeing a lot of stacked defensive fronts. Montgomery is also an outstanding pass catcher which adds an extra explosive aspect to his game. If he can hold down the feature back spot for Green Bay, Montgomery could put up top 10 running back numbers
- Joe Mixon is an extremely talented rookie playing for a decent offensive unit. He has looked very impressive in the preseason and would be a top pick for me if the situation was clear. Unfortunately, the Bengals refuse to ever have a clear backfield. They have two backs behind Mixon that have started for the team in the past. Jeremy Hill is listed as the starter. It may all be subterfuge, but it is still a red flag for prospective Mixon drafters.
- Spencer Ware has the ability to be a high level starting running back. Many people have lost faith in him with the arrival of impressive rookie Kareem Hunt. It seems that Ware still has the starting job locked down for the moment, as he should. He was sandbagged by concussion symptoms last season, but Ware has a nose for the endzone. If he can have a healthy season as the starter, Ware could easily have top running back numbers.
If you're in a PPR league here are my cheap options at running back.
Wide Receiver Is VERY Deep
The top tier of wide receivers are appreciably better than everyone else. However, the gap is not as wide as between the top running backs and the rest. Solid contributors at wide receiver can be found in almost every round of the draft. Of course everyone would like to have Antonio Brown or Julio Jones. If you draft one of them, you probably miss out on a top running back though.
There is no shame in taking a different approach, but my advice is to grab running backs with starting jobs and then move on to the deeper positions. There are plenty of solid receivers that are being drafted much too low or even not being drafted at all. A couple of good sources for these wide receivers to target are:
More Sleeper Options
- Ted Ginn is one of my favorite lower cost wide receivers this year. He is a veteran that still has great speed playing with a hall of fame quarterback. Ginn is going to see plenty of playing time and he could have his most productive season to date.
- Nelson Agholor will see some real benefits now that Jordan Mathews was traded away. The Eagles still have Alshon Jeffery (if he plays) and Torrey Smith, but Agholor should have the slot work. He has not been given a real chance in Philly and I think he will run with this.
Tyler Lockett has game breaking physical abilities; nobody can argue that fact. It also cannot be argued that he has not yet put it together on the field. Last year he showed some flashes of brilliance and he will build on that in 2017. This speedster is ready for a breakout season.
- Cooper Kupp has the potential to be productive in LA. The Rams have Sammy Watkins now, but I don’t trust him to stay healthy. Kupp is just what Jared Goff needs, a sure handed target for desperation dump offs. It will not be pretty for the Rams, but Kupp should rack up the catches. Just for clarity, this is a deep sleeper, last round, $1 auction flier type pick.
I Say “No Thank You” To Tom Brady And Aaron Rodgers
This is not my way of saying that these two all time great quarterbacks are going to bust this season. Brady could have a season for the ages and Rodgers is rock solid. What I AM saying is that I would rather take a quarterback later; potentially much later. There are a lot of QBs with the potential to do well enough to start for fantasy teams this year. Having a top tier quarterback is excellent, but someone in your league is going to overpay for that privilege. Make sure that you are not the one to make this mistake.
Common Mid And Late Round Options
Kirk Cousins is about the highest rated quarterback that I am taking. He goes in the middle rounds but has the potential to be a top shelf performer. He implodes at times, but his big games are huge.
- Marcus Mariota is the sexy breakout pick this season. He has all of the pieces in place for a huge season. My only concern is his health, which has been spotty. I tend to pair him a lot with the next guy.
- Philip Rivers is perennially disrespected by fantasy football players. He is a solid but not spectacular performer playing in a small market. Rivers is good enough to start for a fantasy team most weeks, but he is best used situationally.
- Tyrod Taylor is a top level quarterback by fantasy points scored. He is also going at QB18-20 in most drafts. I have seen drafts where he was not even taken. I know that Sammy Watkins is gone, but he barely played when he was in Buffalo and Taylor still produced.
Tight End: Top Heavy With Injury Prone Stars
The tight end position is tough if you want a superstar in your lineup. Rob Gronkowski and Jordan Reed are easily the most skilled receivers at the position. They are also not going to play a full season if you draft them. My advice here is grab Travis Kelce or Greg Olsen or else wait until the end of the draft. Kelce and Olsen should both have big seasons and are worth the going rate for a top tight end. Like the quarterback position, I prefer to wait until much later to address Tight End. The one exception is Delanie Walker; if he is there in the middle rounds I will take him.
My Late Round Favorites
- Austin Hooper is the starting tight end in Atlanta this year. He showed some flashes last season and he will quickly build on that in 2017. I like Hooper about as much as Hunter Henry this season.
Antonio Gates is old at this point and it shows. He also knows how to produce touchdowns with Philip Rivers. I would set the over/under for Gates touchdowns at about 6 this season. The yardage will not be there, but Gates should be a better than adequate option as a fill in.
- Austin Seferian-Jenkins has been a flat out bust thus far in his career. Now he is in the wasteland that is the New York Jets offense. My thought here is that somebody will have to catch some passes. I like Seferian-Jenkins’s skill set much more than any of their wide receivers. The other benefit is that you can pretty much have him for free; it’s a win-win.
Do Not Overthink It: Worry About The Defense And Kicker Later
Please do not be the person taking a defense or kicker before the last two rounds. I get it if you are in an auction and want to get kicker out of the way, but don’t bid more than $1. Defenses change so much on a yearly basis that it is almost impossible to predict who will play well. Streaming is just as effective as taking last year’s top defense. Kicker is just fluky; I would prefer to eliminate them from fantasy entirely. If your league does use a kicker, just be sure that you take them after your other needs are addressed.
That is my plan for the 2017 fantasy football draft. I hope that it helps you prepare for your draft (unless you are in one of my leagues).
If you have any specific questions, refer to the rankings on FantasyKnuckleheads.com or hit me up on Twitter @brendancole16.