Fantasy Football Today - fantasy football rankings, cheatsheets, and information
A Fantasy Football Community!




Create An Account  |  Advertise  |  Contact      




 

Doug Orth | Archive | Email |
Staff Writer


Top 150 Big Board, PPR: Version 1.0
Preseason Matchup Analysis
8/7/18

PPR | Half-Point PPR | Non-PPR

Football is simple at its very core but a very complex game to evaluate and analyze well because 11 men are being asked to work in harmony roughly 60 times per game, while 11 other men are being asked to create chaos. Pro football is not pro basketball in that a team can clear out one side of the court when things break down and the offense can still score. Pro football is not pro baseball in that one player can defeat a pitcher and eight fielders by timing his swing just right. Even as great as Barry Sanders was, he never beat a defense all by himself. In football, a player always needs help from at least one teammate to accomplish his goal. That is part of what makes football so great and part of what it makes it so highly unpredictable. The violence of the game - even by the tamer standards in this day and age - adds another element to the equation that is difficult to account for quantifiably.

Regardless, it doesn't mean we shouldn't try. Over the last 1 1/2 weeks, I have evaluated the weekly matchups for 500 players and assigned between five and seven grades for each player based on the areas I believe are critical for fantasy success at their respective positions. Analyzing matchups alone requires me to make 7,500 "decisions". Grading each of those players in at least five categories pushes the decision-making number well over 10,000.

The preceding paragraph is not meant to be a brag of any kind. Each year, my goal is to give those who put their faith in my evaluations the confidence they have the best draft-day tool at their disposal. I like to think that even if readers believe my logic is flawed for whatever reason, they can count on the fact that much thought has been put into that opinion.

Fantasy football is a stock market game, and our job as analysts is identifying when stocks may be poised for an increase or ready to tank. While last year's results help owners/analyst set the table for the following season, they are merely a starting point. Fantasy rankings and drafting need to be predictive, not reactive. This is the approach I have taken for more than 10 years. While some of the processes have changed in that time, the main goal has not. I'm pretty certain I owe a great deal of my success to it. Based on the feedback I receive from readers throughout the year, it would seem many of them have enjoyed similar success. At any rate …

I am still fine-tuning my updated Success Score Index (SSI), which involves meticulously grading and assigning certain weights to several attributes that I feel are critical to fantasy success at that position. Having enjoyed the success I did with it last year and not needing to reinvent the wheel this year, I feel comfortable enough using it to rank the players on the first set of Big Boards (unlike last year). It is the number that allows me to compare apples to oranges across the positions.

For all of those unfamiliar with my Big Boards, allow me to explain the color-coding system before we start:

Red For lower-level players, a red matchup is the most difficult one a player can face. For a second- or third-tier player, drop your expectations for them at least one grade that week (i.e. from WR2 to WR3). For elite players, expect them to perform one level lower than their usual status (i.e. RB1 performs like an RB2).

Yellow For lower-level players, he is a borderline start at best. For a second- or third-tier player, the slight edge goes to the defense in what is essentially a toss-up. For the elite players, expect slightly better than average production.

White This one can go either way, but I favor the player over the matchup. In some cases, I just don’t feel like I have a good feel yet for this matchup. Generally speaking, these matchups are winnable for all levels of players.

Green For non-elite players, the stage is set for a player to have a productive day. For the elite player, this matchup could produce special numbers.

Note: Later this week, I will set up the first non-PPR Big Board. Next week, I will release my first Big Boards for 0.5 PPR leagues as well as The Fantasy Championship (TFC) and FFPC Big Boards. In the final set of Big Boards over the following two weeks, I will rank 200 players and present my final rankings for kickers and defense/special teams.

Here is the scoring system that I used to rank the players in the PPR format:

 PPR Big Board - Top 150
Rank Pos Player Tm Age SSI 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16
1 RB Todd Gurley LAR 24 1207.6
2 RB Leonard Fournette JAC 23 1160.6
3 RB Ezekiel Elliott DAL 23 1158.9
4 RB David Johnson ARI 26 1158.3
5 WR Antonio Brown PIT 30 1150.4
6 RB Melvin Gordon LAC 25 1150.1
7 RB Saquon Barkley NYG 21 1142.7
8 WR Odell Beckham Jr. NYG 25 1140.8
9 WR DeAndre Hopkins HOU 26 1132.3
10 RB Kareem Hunt KC 23 1124.7
11 RB Le'Veon Bell PIT 26 1101.7
12 RB Dalvin Cook MIN 22 1100.0
13 WR Davante Adams GB 25 1078.1
14 WR Michael Thomas NO 25 1051.5
15 WR Julio Jones ATL 29 1046.0
16 WR A.J. Green CIN 30 1038.6
17 RB Alvin Kamara NO 23 1032.0
18 WR Keenan Allen LAC 26 1030.9
19 RB Christian McCaffrey CAR 22 1029.0
20 RB Joe Mixon CIN 22 1026.2
21 WR Mike Evans TB 24 1024.5
22 RB Jerick McKinnon SF 26 1017.5
23 WR Larry Fitzgerald ARI 34 1013.0
24 WR Adam Thielen MIN 27 998.4
25 TE Travis Kelce KC 28 998.0
26 RB Devonta Freeman ATL 26 995.8
27 RB Alex Collins BAL 23 995.7
28 WR Stefon Diggs MIN 24 995.5
29 RB Jordan Howard CHI 23 992.8
30 WR T.Y. Hilton IND 28 987.8
31 TE Rob Gronkowski NE 29 979.5
32 RB Derrius Guice WAS 21 974.5
33 RB LeSean McCoy BUF 30 963.4
34 WR Doug Baldwin SEA 29 961.1
35 RB Derrick Henry TEN 24 949.8
36 WR Allen Robinson CHI 24 949.3
37 WR Amari Cooper OAK 24 946.5
38 WR Demaryius Thomas DEN 30 946.0
39 TE Zach Ertz PHI 27 924.4
40 RB Isaiah Crowell NYJ 25 914.7
41 WR Jarvis Landry CLE 25 911.9
42 WR Michael Crabtree BAL 30 900.4
43 QB Aaron Rodgers GB 34 900.3
44 WR Emmanuel Sanders DEN 31 893.0
45 RB Jay Ajayi PHI 25 889.1
46 WR Golden Tate DET 30 883.6
47 WR Sammy Watkins KC 25 883.5
48 RB Kenyan Drake MIA 24 882.5
49 RB Dion Lewis TEN 27 879.5
50 WR Tyreek Hill KC 24 879.0
51 RB Lamar Miller HOU 27 877.6
52 RB Tarik Cohen CHI 23 873.6
53 RB Tevin Coleman ATL 25 869.3
54 TE Delanie Walker TEN 33 868.8
55 WR JuJu Smith-Schuster PIT 21 862.5
56 WR Alshon Jeffery PHI 28 862.3
57 TE Jimmy Graham GB 31 861.4
58 QB Carson Wentz PHI 25 860.8
59 WR Jamison Crowder WAS 25 859.4
60 TE Kyle Rudolph MIN 28 857.2
61 QB Tom Brady NE 41 856.0
62 WR Corey Davis TEN 23 855.9
63 QB Deshaun Watson HOU 22 855.5
64 QB Kirk Cousins MIN 29 854.5
65 QB Drew Brees NO 39 853.5
66 WR Chris Hogan NE 29 848.3
67 WR Robby Anderson NYJ 25 847.9
68 WR Marvin Jones DET 28 846.8
69 WR Julian Edelman NE 32 842.0
70 RB Ronald Jones TB 21 840.8
71 RB Mark Ingram NO 28 840.5
72 WR Josh Gordon CLE 27 840.5
73 WR DeVante Parker MIA 25 838.5
74 RB Rex Burkhead NE 28 834.6
75 QB Cam Newton CAR 29 834.3
76 TE Greg Olsen CAR 33 830.8
77 RB Sony Michel NE 23 825.7
78 QB Russell Wilson SEA 29 825.0
79 WR Robert Woods LAR 26 823.0
80 WR Cooper Kupp LAR 25 822.9
81 RB Marshawn Lynch OAK 32 821.2
82 QB Andrew Luck IND 28 821.0
83 TE Evan Engram NYG 23 819.4
84 TE Trey Burton CHI 26 818.9
85 RB Chris Thompson WAS 27 817.9
86 QB Philip Rivers LAC 36 816.5
87 WR Brandin Cooks LAR 24 814.3
88 QB Marcus Mariota TEN 24 809.3
89 RB Royce Freeman DEN 22 808.7
90 RB Ty Montgomery GB 25 808.6
91 RB Kerryon Johnson DET 21 806.2
92 RB Duke Johnson CLE 24 805.8
93 QB Matthew Stafford DET 30 805.8
94 WR Sterling Shepard NYG 25 803.0
95 QB Patrick Mahomes KC 22 800.8
96 QB Jared Goff LAR 23 799.5
97 TE Jack Doyle IND 28 797.5
98 WR Jordy Nelson OAK 33 792.3
99 RB Marlon Mack IND 22 791.6
100 QB Ben Roethlisberger PIT 36 791.5
101 WR Marquise Goodwin SF 27 791.3
102 RB Chris Carson SEA 23 791.0
103 TE Jordan Reed WAS 28 789.9
104 RB Matt Breida SF 23 786.2
105 WR Devin Funchess CAR 24 785.1
106 WR Cameron Meredith NO 25 784.0
107 WR Randall Cobb GB 27 781.0
108 WR Nelson Agholor PHI 25 779.8
109 TE George Kittle SF 24 778.6
110 RB Carlos Hyde CLE 27 776.7
111 WR Kenny Stills MIA 26 776.6
112 RB Nick Chubb CLE 22 776.6
113 TE Mike Gesicki MIA 22 776.6
114 TE Ricky Seals-Jones ARI 23 776.1
115 RB Rashaad Penny SEA 22 775.2
116 TE O.J. Howard TB 23 773.9
117 TE David Njoku CLE 22 773.6
118 RB Devontae Booker DEN 26 773.3
119 QB Matt Ryan ATL 33 772.3
120 QB Jimmy Garoppolo SF 26 772.0
121 WR Will Fuller HOU 24 771.8
122 QB Blake Bortles JAC 26 770.3
123 WR Rishard Matthews TEN 28 762.6
124 QB Dak Prescott DAL 25 758.3
125 QB Andy Dalton CIN 30 754.5
126 QB Alex Smith WAS 34 754.3
127 TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins JAC 25 749.4
128 WR Pierre Garcon SF 31 747.8
129 RB Frank Gore MIA 35 747.2
130 QB Eli Manning NYG 37 745.8
131 RB Aaron Jones GB 23 745.1
132 RB Peyton Barber TB 24 743.3
133 TE Tyler Eifert CIN 27 742.3
134 TE Cameron Brate TB 27 742.3
135 RB Theo Riddick DET 27 739.4
136 QB Derek Carr OAK 27 738.8
137 QB Jameis Winston TB 24 738.3
138 WR Mike Williams LAC 23 737.4
139 WR Kenny Golladay DET 28 735.6
140 RB Nyheim Hines IND 21 735.0
141 RB Jamaal Williams GB 23 734.5
142 QB Mitchell Trubisky CHI 23 734.3
143 WR D.J. Moore CAR 21 732.8
144 WR Chris Godwin TB 22 732.5
145 WR Kelvin Benjamin BUF 27 726.3
146 TE Eric Ebron IND 25 724.6
147 QB Tyrod Taylor CLE 29 719.8
148 RB James White NE 26 719.7
149 WR Tyler Lockett SEA 25 719.3
150 WR Anthony Miller CHI 23 715.5


Unrest at the top

Every year I talk about how my rankings are unlikely to look like any of the hundreds or thousands that exist online. My first 17 probably doesn't contain any surprises, but the order of them will almost certainly draw criticism. Why do I say that? Because I know there are going to be at least three players who look out of place, especially for those readers who are just now getting back into fantasy football mode. Let's discuss those players first:

There's a whole lot to love about Leonard Fournette this season. I take many other factors into account than just upcoming opponents, but he is tied with a handful of other running backs for second in green-coded matchups with seven. After averaging more than 20 carries (and 23.4 touches) despite playing more than half of the season with a bum ankle, the Jaguars released his only competition for "big-back" carries (Chris Ivory) in the offseason. Jacksonville then replaced the weak link on its offensive line (OG Patrick Omameh) with All-Pro Andrew Norwell. Multiple reports have suggested Fournette is down to 223 pounds after playing at 235 as a rookie - a promising development for a player who finished 14th in the AFC with 18 runs of 10 or more yards. Last but certainly not least, the Jaguars' defense may be even more formidable than it was in 2017, which should mean even more positive game scripts for a team ran the ball 527 times a year ago.

Let me be clear about Le'Veon Bell: if I have the good fortune of picking inside the top four in a handful of drafts over the next month or so, I will take him at least once because I want to have at least one share of all the top backs if at possible. But I have laid out the case against him multiple times over the last two months and I don't imagine my opinion is going to change. His supporters will claim Bell keeps himself in phenomenal shape and logged 400-plus touches in 15 games last year despite missing the entire preseason, so he can do it again this year. Some may even mention he should be entering the prime of his career at age 26 and doesn't have the wear-and-tear of other feature backs his age since he has missed 18 regular-season games over the first five years of his career due to suspension or injury.

Now the case against Bell: I have cited the following multiple times in this space and in other publications, but I'll expand a bit on it here. Since 2000, there have been 16 instances (Bell will make it 17) in which a back saw 400-plus touches one year and played the next. Fifteen of the 16 failed to match or exceed what they did the previous year and the average drop-off was 110 touches, 796 total yards and 7.4 touchdowns! For those that care about such things, those backs averaged 0.7 yards per carry less than the previous year. Think about that for a second. If Bell experiences a similar decline, he will finish with 296 touches, 1,152 total yards and four TDs. (That is comparable to what C.J. Anderson did last year as the overall RB18.) Let's say he beats the odds and regresses only half as much as the average: 351 touches, 1,548 total yards and seven scores - almost the equivalent of what LeSean McCoy did on his way to an RB7 finish in 2017. Worthy of a first-round pick in fantasy? Sure. No. 1 overall? No.

Of course, there's more. While he did average 4.5 yards per attempt in December, he was at 3.9 YPC on 251 carries through the end of November, leading to his most inefficient season (4.0 YPC) since he was a rookie in 2013 (3.5). His longest run on 321 attempts was 27 yards. The only play-caller he's ever known in Pittsburgh (Todd Haley) now in Cleveland, leaving first-time NFL offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner to call the shots. Bell is skipping training camp and the preseason for the second straight season. His team has declined to give him a long-term extension two times in as many years. Owners can choose to see the positive in some of the negatives I have pointed out, but I also have him down for eight yellow matchups as well - many of which would be red if not for his unique talents and heavy volume. I think I have briefly touched on enough reasons for concern to give owners some pause and make the case for Bell being the riskiest pick in the first round this summer.

Alvin Kamara is a special case in that he averaged 6.1 yards per carry on 120 carries - only the fourth back since 1997 to do so on 100-plus attempts - and scored a touchdown once every 15.5 touches. Among running backs with at least 200 offensive touches in a season, Kamara joined Curtis Dickey (1980) and John Riggins (1981) as the only ones since the merger to maintain that rate (all three scored 13 times on 201 combined rushes and receptions). Dickey scored only 27 more times over the remainder of his seven-year career, while Riggins scored only three times on 187 touches the following season.

Natural regression isn't the only concern. Kamara was New Orleans' third-leading slot receiver in 2017, finishing with 255 yards - right behind second-place Ted Ginn Jr. (262). While he is certain to see some time at the same spot in 2018, Cameron Meredith is expected to occupy the "big slot" role for the Saints. Ben Watson was also signed in free agency to give Drew Brees yet another option in the short passing game. Both players are upgrades on the men New Orleans had to fill those roles last year - Brandon Coleman and Coby Fleener, respectively. While it would be foolish to suggest Kamara is going to see a huge drop-off in the passing game just because the Saints upgraded both spots, it would be equally foolish to believe it won't make some difference.

More running back talk

Take a second to look at the matchups for the projected early-down running backs of the NFC East. None of them have more than three green matchups or fewer than six yellows. I put a fair amount of weight into player talent (and obviously his offensive line's ability to create holes) when going through the matchup analysis process, which explains why Ezekiel Elliott, Saquon Barkley and Derrius Guice have a combined one red. While I don't keep track of how many "borderline yellows" I assign. Suffice it to say I was shaking my head multiple times as I was grading the matchups for the division's running backs. Fortunately for the aforementioned three backs, two of them run behind some of the league's best lines. As for Barkley, I expect he'll be used much like the Steelers use Bell.

I expect the cluster of Devonta Freeman, Alex Collins and Jordan Howard to raise an eyebrow or two as well. Before the critics get too noisy, consider each player's "warts." The most surprising ranking of the three - for everyone, including myself - has to be Freeman, who typically goes in the mid-second round of most drafts. Freeman has been a staple on several of my teams over the last two seasons, so I've generally felt he was worthy of the first- and second-round picks I've used on him over that time. However, unless owners want to predict another multi-game absence from Coleman that caused a bit of a perfect storm for Freeman in 2015 or a return to the ridiculous efficiency the entire Atlanta offense experienced during the 2016 campaign, we may have seen what we can expect going forward from Freeman in 2017. The former fourth-round pick got beat up last season (knee, concussion), so it's fair to wonder if the clock is ticking on his 206-pound body already. His involvement in the passing game has also dropped off dramatically in each of the last two years. Another such decline is unlikely to happen in 2018, but the upside that seemingly existed with him as a receiver seems to be going away as Tevin Coleman appears to be getting a similar amount of work in that area.

Of the aforementioned trio, Collins probably has the best chance of busting through and being a first-round pick next season. It's far from a given, however, as his physical running style makes him as susceptible to injury as any back in the league. Ball security has long been an issue for him too, as he fumbled 17 times (nine lost) on 692 career offensive touches in college and has six fumbles (three lost) on 279 career offensive touches as a pro. Competition also exists in the form of Kenneth Dixon - a player the Ravens have stuck with despite getting very little out of him two years into his NFL career due mostly to multiple injuries and a suspension. With that said, owners need to remember Collins was trusted to be a workhorse over the second half of last season and averaged 4.6 yards per carry for the season on a team missing its best offensive lineman (OG Marshal Yanda) and boasting little more than Mike Wallace as a threat in the passing game. If we merely extrapolate his production over the final nine games of last season - he became the featured back in Week 8 - Collins' 16-game pace stats were 282 carries, 1,103 rushing yards, 12 touchdowns, 44 receptions and 344 receiving yards - good for 260.7 PPR fantasy points and an RB8 finish. This year, Baltimore is at least respectable at receiver and has Yanda back.

Anyone who believes they have a good read on Howard this season is most likely kidding themselves. Whether he becomes a better pass-catcher or not, the odds of him being a two-down back are very high. Backs like Michael Turner from a few years ago can sometimes make the most of that role and be a low-end RB1 in all leagues because they are in a good offense that is usually playing with the lead and/or frequently in the red zone. While Chicago's offense should be vastly improved, it's debatable if the Bears will have a "good" offense in 2018. If we knew Howard was going to see roughly a third of the snaps on passing downs and finish with 35-plus catches, he'd be a fine selection in the late second round. The fact of the matter is that we don't, so owners have to hope his rushing workload doesn't take too big of a hit (252 carries in 2016, 276 in 2017) now that he is no longer the only offensive weapon in Chicago. Hoping for 1,300 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground from any back in today's NFL is a tall order, yet that is about what owners are going to need from Howard unless his receiving skills have improved drastically in the offseason.



Dude, you realize there are other fantasy positions, right?

The degree to which the public is undervaluing Denver's receiver tandem of Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders is somewhat understandable but strikes me as a bit shortsighted. While I would agree with anyone who suggests Thomas' skill-set is not what it used to be, we are talking about a player who hasn't finished fewer than 140 targets in six straight seasons. With the kind of quarterbacking he had not seen since the days of Tim Tebow and Kyle Orton in 2011, Thomas still managed to end up as the 16th-highest scoring receiver in PPR leagues last season. All indications from Broncos' training camp have Case Keenum lighting it up, so if we can assume Keenum will be more serviceable than the 2016 or 2017 versions of Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch, then we should be able to feel good about a target hog like Thomas who hasn't missed a game since before Peyton Manning signed as a free agent.

Sanders' fall into the seventh round in drafts can easily be explained by his WR60 finish last season. Casual observers will point to his age (31) and likely say he lost a step or is about to do so. While it wouldn't be wrong to say he appeared to lose a step last year, I think it had a lot more to do with a receiver trying to play through a high-ankle sprain and running routes for a pair of quarterbacks who didn't belong on the field. With average quarterbacking in 2015 and 2016, he was the WR19. The year before that, he was the WR5. This season, Sanders should spend as much time as he ever has in the slot while Thomas and rookie Courtland Sutton soak up coverage on the perimeter, allowing Sanders to take advantage of more advantageous matchups. Even if we ignore the narrative that Keenum helped turn the last slot receiver he played with (Adam Thielen) into a star in 2017, Denver figures to have at least 500-plus targets to distribute just like every other NFL team and not a lot of players besides Thomas and Sanders worthy of seeing more than 50.

Two more players whose ranking will likely send the masses into a frenzy are Tyreek Hill and Marvin Jones. All seven of Hill's receiving touchdowns last season covered more than 30 yards, while 10 of his 13 career receiving scores have been from similar distances. So it's safe to say Hill has established he is a big-play threat. In theory, that should mean he is poised for even more production with big-armed Patrick Mahomes under center. The problem is Kansas City just paid Sammy Watkins like a No. 1 receiver and has arguably the best tight end in the league. HC Andy Reid is asking Watkins to play all of the different receiver spots (X, Y and Z) as well. To this point in his career, Hill hasn't had a real threat opposite him to steal targets. He does now. If his career catch rate - an impressive 72.3 percent - takes even a slight hit with a quarterback in Mahomes who figures to be less accurate than Alex Smith and loses targets to Watkins on top of that, he has virtually no shot of repeating as a top-10 or perhaps even as a top-15 wideout.

Jones' 2017 campaign wasn't so much an outlier in terms of his ability to produce big plays - he has a career average of 15 yards per catch - but his career-best 18 yards per reception combined with an inordinate number of big-play scores - five of his nine TDs came from at least 22 yards away (he had scored four such touchdowns over the first five years of his career combined) - conspired to make Jones a WR1 in fantasy last year. Consider three of his four biggest fantasy efforts last season - and all of his double-digit target games - came with Kenny Golladay out of the lineup.

Mark Ingram has a lot of the makings of being a value pick. (Believe me, I enjoyed the value he provided me last year on my title-winning high-stakes team.) He's a very good all-around back. He plays in a great offense. He has touchdown upside. The problem with him this year is his four-game suspension hasn't lowered his value from last year. In fact, his current 4.12 ADP per Fantasy Football Calculator is almost a full round higher than his ADP was last summer. At that time, he was thought to be the co-lead back with Adrian Peterson. This year, he is expected to be the 1B to Kamara's 1A. Last season, the Saints experienced historical efficiency in the running game. Can we really count on that happening two years in a row?

Not convinced? Fine. I have more. Take a look at Ingram's bye week. That's right, for the cost of a fourth- or fifth-round pick, owners will have the privilege of playing him once in the first six weeks of the season. (The one game he will be eligible for should be against a vastly improved Washington run defense.) When New Orleans returns from its Week 6 bye, four of the first five teams the Saints play figure to be top-10 rush defenses (Ravens, Vikings, Rams and Eagles). While there is no question New Orleans has one of the best offensive lines in the league, the Saints cannot afford to experience any kind of drop-off up front or they will struggle a bit in 2018. Considering the volume that has often been Ingram's friend in recent years won't be working in his favor this season, I will be passing on him until right about the point where I have valued at - late in the sixth round of 12-team leagues.

Seattle Slew

Another criticism I expect to receive has to do with Russell Wilson. After all, even if everybody is saying to wait on a quarterback this year, there's no way I can make a case that last year's QB1 is only the seventh-best option at his position in 2018, right? Sure I can. At some point, Wilson's athleticism and improvisational skills are going to begin to decline, although I'm not sure that will be the case quite yet as he enters his age-30 season. The offensive line should be somewhat improved over last year, but the emphasis all offseason has been on running the ball more often, so we should probably not expect a repeat of the 553 pass attempts from a season ago.

The most worrisome point to be made against Wilson has to do with his supporting cast. Doug Baldwin is unlikely to play the preseason due to a knee injury. While he is expected back for Week 1, will he hit the ground running? Tyler Lockett has only officially missed only three of 48 games in his three-year career, but it seems like he's played hurt in at least half of them. C.J. Prosise has a ton of upside as a mismatch weapon out of the backfield, but he has yet to play more than six games or touch the ball more than 41 times in a season. Jimmy Graham is gone. Does Brandon Marshall have anything left? Even if owners play up the "he'll be passing all day long this season because his team will be trailing" card, negative game script can often be as much of a curse for fantasy quarterbacks as a blessing. More attempts mean more opportunities, but more attempts in known passing situations with more men in coverage also tends to lead to more forced throws and interceptions.

Staying in the Pacific Northwest, I haven't been able to understand the utter fascination with Rashaad Penny in the fantasy community. Draft capital is important, so I don't want to pretend as if I don't understand the notion that NFL first-round picks will get chance after chance to prove they deserve to start. I understand Chris Carson isn't a sexy name and didn't come into the league with the same fanfare. I also understand Penny will almost certainly, at some point, overtake Carson. Still, while Penny's current ADP of 5.05 is about a round lower than I remember it being the last time I looked, he is still being drafted as if he is the clear No.1 running back in Seattle. Do owners not remember how bad the run-blocking was last year? Even if the Seahawks make significant strides under respected new OL coach Mike Solari, they may end up being a run-blocking average unit.

Let's not forget what I said the previous paragraph about the expectation that Seattle will be facing negative game scripts more often this year than at any other time in recent memory. More negative game script means more pass attempts. Just about anyone with access to the team says Carson has earned the trust of the coaching staff in pass protection. Penny was reportedly picking things up well in that regard during the offseason, but his execution in those situations at San Diego State was horrendous more often than not. And while Penny is a better receiver than some draft analysts gave him credit for, he's not going to play ahead of Prosise in known passing situations. So what we have here is a player in Penny who is not guaranteed a starting job and may not aspire to be more than a committee back as a rookie with very little hope of boosting his value in the passing game running behind a line that has a lot of work to do to be an average unit and playing for a team that figures to be trailing in games much more often than leading them. Got it.

Tight ends are people, too

There are two particularly fascinating names at tight end this season: Trey Burton and Mike Gesicki. In case readers think I might be new to the Burton bandwagon, here is an article from 2016 singing his praises. As many have heard by now, Burton is expected to assume the Travis Kelce role in HC Matt Nagy's offense (and being paid like it). I fully expected to fall inside my top-five tight ends prior to going through my grading process, but his matchup schedule simply does not let up. My confidence in his abilities led to a number of his 10 "yellows" not being red, so unless Nagy features him near the goal line in the same way the Patriots do with Rob Gronkowski, he is going to have his work cut out for him.

Most of my loyal readers already know where I stand with Gesicki. (Here's a small sample.) Unless the Dolphins' front office completely tuned out everyone - including their own scouts - during the draft process, they knew they were selecting an insanely talented tight end who needed a lot of help as a blocker because he wasn't asked to do it much at Penn State. Even in the event he is merely a part-time player in 2018 - an unlikely scenario - he will be featured in the red zone because, well, it's kind of hard for linebackers or safeties to cover a 6-6, 250-pound tight end with 34 1/8-inch arms who can run 4.54 and possesses a 41 1/2-inch vertical jump for more than a couple of seconds. In addition, Gesicki can hit a vertical plane most defenders simply can't reach. I'm not sure Gesicki will get the kind of opportunity Evan Engram had last season in New York (thanks in large part to the season-ending injury to Odell Beckham Jr.), but owners aren't crazy to believe he could have a similar impact in fantasy.

Favorite late-round receivers

For the sake of simplicity, I'll talk about only those outside of the top 100. I will be buying Cameron Meredith at his current ADP (11.01) all month long. My only concern with him besides his knee holding up is that I still have him ranked too low in the last part of the ninth round. While Michael Thomas and Kamara are almost guaranteed to be the most heavily targeted Saints, Meredith is the best slot option New Orleans has employed since Marques Colston. So while I don't expect Colston-like production per se, I do expect Meredith to be a regular fantasy starter this season.

Kenny Stills is another player I have about one round higher than current ADP, and he's a player I probably need to bump up some more. Regardless of whether he can maintain his scoring efficiency, the 26-year-old speedster has set a pretty nice floor by averaging over 10 PPR points in three of his last four seasons. Even if popular opinion is wrong and this is the year DeVante Parker finally realizes his potential, I'm not sure it changes Stills' floor all that much. Gesicki may end up stealing some of his touchdowns, but Stills figures to pick up some of the leftover targets the combination of Danny Amendola and Albert Wilson don't absorb following the departure of Jarvis Landry.

It's a shame my algorithms didn't allow Kenny Golladay and Chris Godwin to sit by one another because I view them pretty much as the same fantasy player. Both players are great picks to exceed their current ADP. Even though he is only in his second season, Golladay (12.12 ADP) is no stranger to summer hype. The 2017 third-round pick begins the year as the clear No. 3 receiver behind Golden Tate and Marvin Jones, but I'm a firm believer he can make a Godwin-like charge at Jones at some point. The attraction to Golladay is that his path to targets isn't filled with as many obstacles as Godwin's, especially after Detroit let Eric Ebron leave in the offseason. The Lions essentially have three receivers and Theo Riddick to soak up the majority of what figures to be about 550 targets. If Tate or Jones are forced to miss multiple games in 2018, I would expect there would be a minimal drop-off in production.

Regarding Godwin (undrafted in 12-team leagues per Fantasy Football Calculator?!?!), it was only a matter of time before he became a thing in fantasy. He obviously gets a slight boost following the recent news he is either on equal footing with DeSean Jackson or has moved ahead of him. Godwin made his first start at home last season when Mike Evans was suspended and posted five catches for 68 yards. When Jackson missed the final two games of the season with an ankle injury, Godwin erupted for 10 catches, 209 yards and a touchdown. His performance in training camp has reportedly been so good that Tampa Bay is giving more reps to Jackson in the slot. HC Dirk Koetter commended Godwin for being as good of a blocker as the team has, which will only help his cause to stay on the field over Jackson. While it's entirely possible owners will end up being one year too early on the Penn State product, he has the kind of upside owners should target in the double-digit rounds.


Non-PPR Big Board | Half-Pt PPR Big Board


Doug Orth has written for FF Today since 2006 and been featured in USA Today’s Fantasy Football Preview magazine since 2010. He hosted USA Today’s hour-long, pre-kickoff fantasy football internet chat every Sunday in 2012-13 and appears as a guest analyst on a number of national sports radio shows, including Sirius XM’s “Fantasy Drive”. Doug is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.