Early Draft Targets
May 11, 2016 | Jeff
Fantasy football draft season is creeping closer and now that free agents and rookies have been shuffled around NFL depth charts, the fantasy scene is beginning to take shape. One great way to keep tabs on the ebb and flow of fantasy drafts is through MyFantasyLeague.com’s “MFL10” leagues, which our main man Justin Edwards covered recently. I have been a high-ish volume player in the MFL10 world in recent seasons, duking it out in 25 leagues in 2014 and 46 leagues in 2015. I’ve had some success in this format and will be sharing my thoughts and drafting trends with you over the remainder of the offseason. I keep freakishly detailed logs of my drafts and am an open book on this topic, so feel free to hit me up at any time on Twitter if you’re curious about how many shares I have of a certain player (good or bad) and I’ll be more than happy to provide that information.
Below are a few thoughts that have been swimming around inside my dome over the last few weeks as I have been drafting. My MFL10 portfolio is 14 drafts strong at the moment and I thought I would take a few moments of your time to share my flaming hot takes on the draft stock of some fantasy football options for the 2016 season. All ADP data is from MFL10 drafts that began after May 1, 2016.
I stick to two quarterbacks per MFL10 team, and my preferred area to strike at the position has changed this season compared to 2015. Last year, I was primarily grabbing my signal callers in the 10th-13th rounds, but early 2016 drafts are seeing decent options sliding further down draft boards. So far, I am living in the 14th-15th round region where the weather is pleasant and boring fantasy quarterbacks like Matt Ryan, Jay Cutler, Joe Flacco, and Ryan Tannehill reside. Of that bunch, Ryan and Cutler are my two most drafted quarterbacks at the moment. You won’t see my husky physique jumping for joy over these options, but they fit nicely into my overall MFL10 game plan and allow me to load up elsewhere in the early/mid rounds.
I wouldn’t mind dipping into the QB pool a bit earlier to be honest, but the tight end landscape has thrown a wrench into that idea, as we will discuss later.
With the WR-heavy look of the first round in 2016 drafts, I think there is some value in swiping a top-level running back still and that is not because I am a dinosaur who began fantasy footballing in the mid-1990’s. Le’Veon Bell has been my target of choice in drafts where I have landed a pick near the top of the opening round, and I have no issue with people giving Todd Gurley or David Johnson a whirl as well. I LOVE the wide receiver options in the second round, so going RB/WR is enticing this year as long as it is the right running back.
Bell, Derrick Henry, and C.J. Anderson are my most drafted running backs to this point. We touched on Bell above, and I was really chasing Henry hard in MFL10 drafts that were held before the NFL Draft. Landing in Tennessee was a bit of a roundhouse to the gut, but Henry’s new ADP in the 8th round (37th RB) is reasonable, as I still think he could turn in some serious red zone production at the very least.
Anderson is a fantastic option and is still attractively priced at the end of the third/start of the fourth round and should be a reliable option this season in Denver. He looked tremendous at the end of the 2015 season and for drafters starting with a WR/WR pair in the opening rounds, Anderson is a solid way to begin building a stable of backs.
Other interesting selections include Zeke Elliott and Lamar Miller, who have shot up the charts due to their new homes. I have no problem with grabbing either of these backs early in drafts and intend on doing so myself in coming weeks. I’ve also started to take stabs at the Cleveland backfield (both backs) and I am liking later round options like James Starks and Zach Zenner when I need some depth. The RB pool dries up pretty quickly once drafts enter double-digit rounds however, so I generally make sure I have my five running backs secured before I get too far into the fringe names.
The second round is where I begin to bust out a Sharpie and doodle hearts around the names of my favorite wide receivers. Mike Evans (16th overall) and Alshon Jeffery (18th overall) are both certified beasts who look mighty fine on fantasy rosters and are great buys in the second round at any point. Alshon is currently my top-drafted wide receiver and will likely remain perched in that position all summer. He dealt with injury issues last season but when he is on the field, Jeffery is a monster and smokin’ Jay feeds this moose with targets by the bucket full. Alshon averaged 10.3 targets per outing in nine games in 2015.
Other names I have heavily drafted so far include Mohamed Sanu, Dez Bryant, and Donte Moncrief. Sanu isn’t very exciting but I was drafting him cheap before he signed in Atlanta and I can certainly live with that landing spot. Dez has been a nice choice in the late first round if my preferred running back options are gone, as he is generally undervalued this season and should be back to his normal self with Tony Romo healthy. Moncrief is a favorite of mine and a fourth round ADP is fair in my opinion. The Indy passing game will return to full strength with Andrew Luck back under center and Moncrief was being fed to the tune of 7.71 targets per game and hauled in .71 touchdowns per outing with Luck on the field last season (h/t to the Rotoviz game splits app).
I usually end up with seven wide receivers, with two coming in the late rounds. Those end-game guys for me so far have been players like Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley as I continue betting on the revival of Dallas’ offense. Kamar Aiken is boring but should be able to hold his own in Baltimore despite newly added pieces, and I have been throwing darts at guys like Oakland’s Seth Roberts, who had some nice moments in 2015 and could chip in a few useful stat lines this season.
2016 drafts have seen the tight end position dry up far more quickly than in 2015, so this is the position that drafters must follow the closest as drafts develop to ensure they can snag three decent options before they are left staring at Jacob Tamme and a pool of tears. For the most part, I have been taking stabs at tight ends in the 10th-13th rounds and prefer to kill this position with quantity over quality. That is not to say that I don’t have some favorites at the position, but I can certainly live with three tight ends being drafted in the TE17-TE24 range and that approach has been successful for me in previous MFL10 seasons.
If I jump into the tight end pool early, it is usually for Ladarius Green or Julius Thomas. I was lucky enough to draft Green a few times before he signed with Large Ben in Pittsburgh, and still feel that his 8th round ADP is fair for the type of monstrous ceiling he possesses. Thomas is going in the 9th round as the 11th tight end off the board and he isn’t overly thrilling but still has some red zone appeal.
Aside from those two options, I have largely been filling my three TE spots with snoozers like Martellus Bennett, Zach Miller, Jason Witten, and Jordan Cameron. Again, my preferred three tight end approach is a quantity play and those four players are guys I can live with.
Not much to say here, but I believe in a three defense approach and like grabbing them in the 17th-19th rounds. I feel as if the late round wide receiver fliers are largely the same whether they are drafted in the 16th or 20th round, so I jump in on the defenses a round early to prevent myself from owning the crusty options at the bottom of the barrel in every league.