Jeff’s 2014 Fantasy Draft Targets
August 21, 2014 | Jeff
About a month ago, I touched on some of the players that were popping up most frequently on the fantasy teams I had drafted through that point in the summer. That was a fun little chat, but now we have a mountain of data to check out since I have completed about 15 new drafts since that piece was published. I know, I’ve got some issues. Please don’t share this with my wife.
The draft data I have compiled comes from roughly 30 MFL10 drafts, hosted by the good folks at MyFantasyLeague.com. Since way back in April, I have been a fantasy drafting fool, so we have plenty of draft data to analyze. Compiling each and every team into a roster matrix was time consuming, but was a great way to check out which players I am saddling up with for the 2014 season. The following are the Top Three players I have drafted at each fantasy position, including their current average draft position (ADP’s courtesy of FFCalculator.com). Check it out!
1. Jake Locker (ADP undrafted)
I am the highest of The Fake Football rankers when it comes to Jake Locker and I have backed it up here with plenty of late round picks. Locker has been either my 16th or 17th round selection in many drafts and I think that is a perfect spot to snag a quarterback with a crazy high ceiling. Ken Wisenhunt is in charge in Tennessee this year and that could mean good things for Locker. The Wiz revived Philip Rivers’ career, so he very well could be the spark Locker needs to breakout. As long as Locker stays healthy and gets a grip on his accuracy issues (plenty of “ifs”), he could present monster value as he feeds his young wideouts Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter.
2. Ryan Tannehill (ADP 171st overall)
I tend to wait on drafting a quarterback as you can probably tell, and Ryan Tannehill is always in my cross hairs. Tannehill is generally about a 12th or 13th round selection, so he goes best paired up with another lower tier quarterback with potential draft value like Carson Palmer or Locker. With Bill Lazor taking charge as the new offensive coordinator in Miami, let’s all give Tannehill a little break on the disastrous Miami offense from 2013 and look ahead to the potential of this offense under new leadership. Hopefully Lazor can have the same impact on Tannehill as he did Nick Foles in 2013.
3. Cam Newton (ADP 84th overall)
At some point, the “wait on a quarterback” strategy goes overboard. The result is a late 7th round ADP for Cam Newton, which we should all smile about. Cam’s ankle seems to be fine so far this preseason and another Top Five finish at quarterback is in store. Steve Smith is gone, but new goal line moose Kelvin Benjamin will ease Newton’s transition into life without #89. Greg Olsen is still around, and it’s not like Newton has ever had a breathtaking group of wide outs at his disposal anyhow. The value is in Cam’s legs and goal line capabilities, both of which are still in tact. I encourage you to abuse this ADP mishap as well.
1. Ben Tate (ADP 62nd overall)
Of the wide array of mid-round running back values, Ben Tate is my favorite. Not only has he looked solid so far this preseason (76 yards on 16 carries), but he has shelved all discussion of a possible time share with rookie Terrance West. The Browns look like the sort of team that will have to pound the ball with their inexperience at quarterback, and the new offensive coordinator in Cleveland Kyle Shanahan oversaw some outstanding years from Alfred Morris in 2012 and 2013. This all adds up to what will be a strong season from Tate, which makes his late 5th round ADP laughable. Feast on this, my friends.
2. Mark Ingram (ADP 124th overall)
I discussed Ingram in a little more depth recently in my running back sleepers article, but I really enjoy drafting Ingram in the 11th/12th rounds of drafts. Once you have stockpiled a strong stack of running backs and wide receivers, players like Ingram are perfect bench targets. Ingram has looked good so far this preseason and will lead the New Orleans backfield in carries in 2014. Pierre Thomas will still rack up his receptions, but it will be Ingram running between the 20’s and handling the goal line work in the Superdome.
3. Jonathan Stewart (ADP 156th overall)
Stewart was another of my sleeper running back picks (hey, I practice what I preach), and I have been snatching this guy up at every opportunity. His ADP may be on the rise thanks to a two touchdown performance in Week 2 of the preseason, but Stewart possesses plenty of upside for a late round running back. Riverboat Ron Rivera loves to run the ball, and Stewart has the pass catching chops to chip in on third downs as well. Like we stated with Jake Locker above, health is the key here. If we get 14 games out of Stewart, he will be piling up some terrific draft value.
1. Golden Tate (ADP 80th overall)
Golden Tate is my most rostered player at this point in the summer, and his 7th round ADP is perfect for my usual draft approach. I am partial to selecting running backs in the early stages of drafts in most cases and receivers like Tate help to bolster my receiving crew in the middle rounds. As a resident of the Pacific Northwest, I have watched Tate closely throughout his young career and my one thought is this: Golden Tate is good. Masked by low passing volume in Seattle and a 5’10” frame is a wide receiver who is an absolute beast. Tate can create plays in the open field and can do some serious work on cornerbacks on the outside as well. Stuffed into Detroit’s passing attack under new offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi (who comes from New Orleans), Tate is set to shred defenses opposite the great Calvin Johnson.
2. Michael Crabtree (ADP 49th overall)
Crabtree played only five regular season games in 2013 (plus the playoffs) after returning from a torn Achilles’. Of course that type of injury is worrisome for an NFL player, but Crabtree was able to get plenty of game action last season as he worked his way back. Recently, Crabtree spoke of his 2013 campaign with CSNBayArea.com. “I was fast enough to be on the field,” Crabtree said last week. “But I wasn’t me.” With another offseason under his belt, Crabtree should now be back at full strength for what looks like a monster upcoming season. Before the injury, Crabtree stacked up an 85 catch, 1,105 yard, nine touchdown stat line in 2012. With his wheels fully healthy and San Francisco likely increasing their passing attempts this season, who is to say Crabtree couldn’t match his 2012 season totals…or even exceed them?
3. Harry Douglas (ADP undrafted)
It’s very easy to crack open Harry Douglas’ statistical history and boldly proclaim that he won’t sniff his 85 catch, 1,067 yard season of a year ago. However, that doesn’t mean he won’t be useful this season alongside the now healthy Roddy White and Julio Jones. Douglas has traditionally been Atlanta’s slot wide receiver option when big Tony Gonzalez isn’t roaming around. In 2012, 79% of Douglas’ targets came in the slot and in 2013, 57% of his targets were in the slot as he filled in outside a bit more while White and Jones were hurt. Now with the retirement of Tony G, an additional heap of slot targets have been freed up for Douglas to feed on. Gonzalez ran 424 of his 609 pass routes in the slot last season (per ProFootballFocus), which is an absolute ton. If Douglas inherits that work in the slot and is present in three wide receiver sets in Atlanta, he could be a fine contributor this season at his bargain basement price.
1. Jared Cook (ADP undrafted)
Jared Cook’s name doesn’t pop out when you scroll through the list of available tight ends during a draft, but for those who prefer to wait at the position like I often do, Cook is a fine option. He finished in the Top 12 among NFL tight ends in both receiving yardage and targets in 2013, despite dealing with the inconsistent quarterback play of Kellen Clemens for most of the season. If Sam Bradford turns in a somewhat respectable year, Cook will be right on the edge of TE1 status, which is a nice buy at this ridiculously low cost. Plus, Cook supplies an added advantage as you can simply cut him if a better tight end streaming option is available on your waiver wire, as you didn’t invest much to acquire him.
2 (tied). Tyler Eifert (ADP undrafted), Kyle Rudolph (ADP 85th overall), Ladarius Green (ADP 124th overall)
These three tight ends make frequent appearances on my 2014 rosters. None of these players require extremely high draft picks, which is what I am always looking for if I don’t pull the trigger on a top level option like Jimbo Graham or Rob Gronkowski.
Tyler Eifert is the cheapest of this trio and while I am not a big fan of the direction that Hue Jackson will likely take the Cincinnati offense, I do like the potential of young Eifert. As a rookie in 2013, Eifert ran far less routes and played far less snaps than fellow Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham, but was only out-targeted 63 to 56. Quarterback Andy Dalton rightfully enjoyed finding his much more athletic option at tight end and Eifert’s share of the Cincinnati passing attack will only grow. The recent injury to Marvin Jones makes Eifert even more appealing.
Kyle Rudolph has gotten plenty of hype this offseason as he teams up with new offensive coordinator Norv Turner in Minnesota. Norv oversaw big seasons from Antonio Gates and Jordan Cameron in recent seasons and Rudolph is next in line for a breakout. Last season, Jordan Cameron ran the 2nd most pass routes out of the slot among NFL tight ends (behind only Tony Gonzalez), so hopefully Rudolph will be moved around more in the Vikings offense this year. Rudy has already turned some heads this preseason, so he looks to be well on his way to a breakout stat line.
Ladarius Green has been a target of dynasty owners for quite a while but he will be making his first jump into redraft relevance in 2014. This preseason, Green has been playing plenty of snaps alongside Antonio Gates, which is great news because playing time is all that is holding Green back. 2015 will be the true coming out party, but Green’s athleticism should shine bright this season, even with grandpa Gates still kicking around in San Diego.