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by Nick Ercolano
April 24, 2018
These 2018 fantasy football rankings are pre-NFL Draft and mid-free agency, so things will definitely change come May, but I decided to dive in anyways.
I'm not going to go into all 30 guys, but let's dive into probably some of the more "questionable" rankings I have up here.
We look at the top of the draft, and I know most people lean Todd Gurley over Le'Veon Bell, I'm fine with that, but Bell's workload is just untouchable. Back to back seasons averaging over 27 touches per game, so heavily involved in the receiving game, it's just too juicy for me to pass up on. Their line again ranking among the best in the league, with all 5 starters returning, Bell should be elite again.
The next ranking that might pop out to you is DeAndre Hopkins -- earlier this summer had drafted him 6th overall in my early 1st Round Mock Draft article/video. This is 100% a positional thing, not a D-Hop thing. I'm much more bullish on the early round RBs, than the WRs. The RBs are TOP-LOADED - there are a bunch of studs in the first few rounds before severely falling off. After pick 30, you're looking at all, while talented, extremely questionable guys like Jay Ajayi, Kenyan Drake, Carlos Hyde, etc. but at the same spots you can grab great WRs with tons of upside, and floor like Doug Baldwin, Josh Gordon, Stefon Diggs, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Golden Tate, Larry Fitz, etc.
So, I want my RBs early. Also for this reason...
It's not that I don't think fantasy WRs are important lol, but elite fantasy RBs produce more, plain and simple. So, if you're picking in the top-10, and you have a choice between someone you think is a top-5 WR, or someone you think is a top-5 RB, on average the RB will finish with more fantasy points on the year. And it just makes sense.. they naturally have much more opportunity and scoring chances. On a week-to-week basis, you would never bet against someone like Le'Veon, Gurley, Zeke, Fournette to score. They probably won't end up with 16 touchdowns, but I like their chances for paydirt every single week.
I have Davante Adams ranked (14) much higher than DRAFT's ADP (29). I feel like if there's anyone in this second tier of WRs that is a lock at finishing inside the position's top-10, if not top-6, it's Adams. The crystal clear WR1 in an Aaron Rodgers offense, with no real talent behind him on the depth chart, I don't think I need to say more.
I think the A.J. Green vs. Julio Jones debate is one worth having. No one wants the consistency, or lack thereof, that comes with Julio. He's a nightmare in redraft leagues. Sure those one or two 35 point games are phenomenal. People yelled all off-season to feed Julio the ball more in the end zone. Guess what? It happened. He ranked 3rd among all WRs with 11 targets inside-the-10 and 8th in redzone targets (19). The result? 3 touchdowns... but overall he probably hurts your team more than he helps if you're looking to invest a top-12 pick on him.
So why A.J. Green after a down year? I'm on the small side of people that think Dalton isn't actually terrible. An average QB, or even above average, in a league filled with awful QB play. More so then ANYTHING else, was the offensive line play of the Bengals in 2017, after losing both Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zietler last summer. Check this out:
To summarize, Green is much better, and more efficient when Dalton has a line that protects him and gives him time to throw. Just because they were bad last year, doesn't mean they'll be good this year. BUT, they're taking steps in the right direction. Swapping their 12th overall pick with the Bills 21st pick in this year's NFL draft gave them LT Cordy Glenn. After playing in 48-of-48 games from 2013-2015, Glenn's dealt with a bunch of injuries which have forced him to miss 15 games over the last two seasons. But, and I know it's a big BUT word to KAREECHUE!!!, when he's healthy, he's among the top LT's in the league. Hopefully Cincy'll address their line further in the draft. If they do, I really like both Green and Dalton's chances of bouncing back in 2018. You also look at their depth, they have almost nothing behind Green. John Ross, Tyler Bord, Brandon LaFell? Nothing suggests Green's ridiculous target totals from the last 5 seasons (10.6 targets/game from 2013-2017) will change.
Speaking on another Bengal, Joe Mixon's a guy sort of like Todd Gurley last year. The previous szn wasn't a good one, but brighter days are ahead. Volume is king in fantasy football, and the Bengals front office have come out and said Mixon is the unquestioned workhorse in their backfield for 2018. It's not like Mixon's just a volume guy either. He's a stupid-good athlete, elite in the receiving game, and a very good runner. An RB who's all but guaranteed to be a 20+ touch/game guy... I'll take that in the late 2nd, early 3rd alll day.
The mid-20's, as is the case almost every year, is where things start to get tricky. This is where I threw a plethora of WRs in the mix together. All of them have WR1 upside. If you want to say Larry Fitzgerald doesn't okay, but I'm sure you said the exact same thing last summer and he was WR6 in 2017, so shut your face hole. Both John Brown and Jaron Brown are gone, they bring in Sam Bradford, who's an extremely accurate short passer, where Fitz runs his routes... he'll be fine. This is almost identical to where I had Fitz ranked last year too.
Mike Evans, Doug Baldwin and Josh Gordon are all the unquestioned #1 WRs on their teams, but Gordon's floor, compared to that of Adam Thielen's is way lower. No doubt Evans season was affected by Jameis Winston's shoulder injury, but it also goes to show what happens when a WR is too TD dependent, their fantasy finishes are going to roller coaster. I love Doug this year to bounce back in a big way. Paul Richardson and Jimmy Graham are both gone, opening up both deep targets (P-Rich aDOT = 15.4; 11th in NFL) and endzone looks. Graham led the entire NFL in both RZ targets and targets inside-the-10. Graham and P-Rich are leaving behind 37 RZ TARGETS and 21 TGTS inside the 10.. Their defense should be terrible, they probably won't have a run game again, so it'll pretty much be the Russell and Doug show.
For instance, if I started my draft RB-RB, I'd be perfectly fine with Evans, Baldwin or Thielen as my WR1, but I probably wouldn't sleep too easy with Flash upon the top of my depth chart.
The last spot I had a tough time choosing between Derrick Henry and the two Kansas City ballers Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. - I decided to go with Henry, who should have a baked in workload if nothing else. Dion Lewis REALLY scares me in that backfield and I wouldn't be surprised, whatsoever, given the new coaches and uptempo offensive scheme, if Lewis and Henry split touches almost evenly. But I expect this to be a good offense, with a really solid offensive line, so Henry's floor is a-okay with me!
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