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Doug Orth | Archive | Email |
Staff Writer


Top 200 Big Board, PPR: Version 2.0
Preseason Matchup Analysis
8/21/18

PPR | Half-Point PPR | Non-PPR

So, I was one of 24 fantasy analysts fortunate enough to be invited to participate in the inaugural King's Classic at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, over the weekend. (What a great time! Better yet, #KingsClassic was a trending on Twitter at one point on Saturday.) I promise to share details in the coming weeks because the event figures to become a fixture in the industry in the years ahead. But for now, I have other business to attend to - namely delivering a Big Board to meet and exceed the expectations of my audience despite having less than a full day to devote to it..

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

SSI (Success Score Index) - A single number that reflects a score based on meticulously grading and assigning certain weights to several attributes that I feel are critical to fantasy success at a position. It is the number that allows me to compare apples to oranges across the positions.

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: This week, I will release my Top 200 Big Boards for PPR, standard and 0.5 PPR leagues. In the coming days, I will present my final rankings for kickers and defense/special teams as well. Next week will feature Top 200 Big Boards for The Fantasy Championship (TFC) and the Fantasy Football Players Championship (FFPC). The colors in the "Pos" represent the tiers in which I have placed each player.

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

 PPR Big Board - Top 200
Rank Pos Player Tm Age SSI 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16
1 RB1 Todd Gurley LAR 24 1218.3
2 RB2 David Johnson ARI 26 1184.8
3 RB3 Ezekiel Elliott DAL 23 1174.8
4 RB4 Leonard Fournette JAC 23 1163.1
5 RB5 Melvin Gordon LAC 25 1160.5
6 RB6 Saquon Barkley NYG 21 1155.4
7 WR1 Antonio Brown PIT 30 1150.4
8 WR2 Odell Beckham Jr. NYG 25 1140.8
9 RB7 Kareem Hunt KC 23 1136.6
10 WR3 DeAndre Hopkins HOU 26 1136.5
11 RB8 Le'Veon Bell PIT 26 1126.7
12 RB9 Dalvin Cook MIN 23 1086.8
13 WR4 Julio Jones ATL 29 1063.3
14 RB10 Alvin Kamara NO 23 1062.2
15 WR5 Davante Adams GB 25 1055.3
16 RB11 Christian McCaffrey CAR 22 1054.7
17 WR6 Michael Thomas NO 25 1053.3
18 WR7 Keenan Allen LAC 26 1042.4
19 WR8 A.J. Green CIN 30 1038.6
20 RB12 Alex Collins BAL 23 1020.0
21 WR9 Mike Evans TB 25 1015.9
22 RB13 Jerick McKinnon SF 26 1015.6
23 RB14 Devonta Freeman ATL 26 1010.5
24 RB15 Joe Mixon CIN 22 1008.9
25 RB16 Jordan Howard CHI 23 1008.6
26 WR10 Larry Fitzgerald ARI 34 1007.3
27 WR11 Stefon Diggs MIN 24 1007.0
28 TE1 Rob Gronkowski NE 29 1002.0
29 WR12 T.Y. Hilton IND 28 987.8
30 TE2 Travis Kelce KC 28 985.2
31 RB17 Derrick Henry TEN 24 969.4
32 WR13 Demaryius Thomas DEN 30 969.0
33 RB18 LeSean McCoy BUF 30 967.8
34 WR14 Doug Baldwin SEA 29 961.1
35 WR15 Adam Thielen MIN 27 958.3
36 WR16 Amari Cooper OAK 24 946.5
37 WR17 Jarvis Landry CLE 25 929.1
38 WR18 Tyreek Hill KC 24 919.3
39 TE3 Zach Ertz PHI 27 916.8
40 WR19 Chris Hogan NE 29 908.3
41 WR20 Emmanuel Sanders DEN 31 904.5
42 RB19 Jay Ajayi PHI 25 904.1
43 RB20 Lamar Miller HOU 27 895.6
44 RB21 Kenyan Drake MIA 24 892.5
45 RB22 Dion Lewis TEN 27 889.5
46 WR21 Allen Robinson CHI 24 885.5
47 WR22 Marvin Jones DET 28 885.5
48 RB23 Royce Freeman DEN 22 881.4
49 QB1 Aaron Rodgers GB 34 879.5
50 TE4 Jimmy Graham GB 31 873.9
51 WR23 JuJu Smith-Schuster PIT 21 872.5
52 WR24 Golden Tate DET 30 872.1
53 WR25 Corey Davis TEN 23 870.3
54 RB24 Tarik Cohen CHI 23 869.8
55 RB25 Isaiah Crowell NYJ 25 869.8
56 TE5 Kyle Rudolph MIN 28 862.3
57 TE6 Delanie Walker TEN 34 857.5
58 RB26 Rex Burkhead NE 28 856.2
59 WR26 Jamison Crowder WAS 25 850.8
60 WR27 Sammy Watkins KC 25 849.0
61 RB27 Marshawn Lynch OAK 32 846.4
62 RB28 Tevin Coleman ATL 25 843.6
63 RB29 Chris Thompson WAS 27 841.3
64 TE7 Greg Olsen CAR 33 841.0
65 RB30 Chris Carson SEA 23 839.8
66 WR28 Michael Crabtree BAL 30 838.8
67 TE8 Trey Burton CHI 26 836.9
68 RB31 Mark Ingram NO 28 836.5
69 RB32 Kerryon Johnson DET 21 834.8
70 WR29 Robby Anderson NYJ 25 832.9
71 QB2 Deshaun Watson HOU 22 828.3
72 QB3 Tom Brady NE 41 828.3
73 WR30 Julian Edelman NE 32 828.0
74 QB4 Drew Brees NO 39 824.5
75 WR31 Marquise Goodwin SF 27 824.3
76 WR32 Robert Woods LAR 26 823.0
77 WR33 Cooper Kupp LAR 25 822.9
78 WR34 Josh Gordon CLE 27 820.4
79 TE9 Evan Engram NYG 23 819.4
80 QB5 Kirk Cousins MIN 30 818.5
81 WR35 Alshon Jeffery PHI 28 817.0
82 RB33 Duke Johnson CLE 24 816.9
83 WR36 Kenny Stills MIA 26 816.9
84 RB34 Ronald Jones TB 21 815.6
85 QB6 Cam Newton CAR 29 814.3
86 WR37 Brandin Cooks LAR 24 814.3
87 QB7 Carson Wentz PHI 25 812.5
88 QB8 Andrew Luck IND 28 812.3
89 RB35 Jamaal Williams GB 23 812.2
90 QB9 Philip Rivers LAC 36 812.0
91 WR38 Randall Cobb GB 27 812.0
92 RB36 Peyton Barber TB 24 811.4
93 QB10 Russell Wilson SEA 29 810.8
94 TE10 Jack Doyle IND 28 810.3
95 WR39 Jordy Nelson OAK 33 808.0
96 RB37 Carlos Hyde CLE 27 805.9
97 RB38 Sony Michel NE 23 805.4
98 RB39 Adrian Peterson WAS 33 805.3
99 RB40 Matt Breida SF 23 804.0
100 TE11 David Njoku CLE 22 803.6
101 WR40 Sterling Shepard NYG 25 803.0
102 TE12 Jordan Reed WAS 28 795.0
103 RB41 Ty Montgomery GB 25 794.7
104 WR41 Devin Funchess CAR 24 793.8
105 RB42 Marlon Mack IND 22 793.7
106 TE13 Mike Gesicki MIA 22 791.9
107 QB11 Marcus Mariota TEN 24 785.5
108 WR42 Cameron Meredith NO 25 784.0
109 WR43 Will Fuller HOU 24 783.3
110 QB12 Matthew Stafford DET 30 782.0
111 WR44 Nelson Agholor PHI 25 779.8
112 WR45 DeVante Parker MIA 25 779.8
113 QB13 Patrick Mahomes KC 22 779.5
114 WR46 Kelvin Benjamin BUF 27 779.3
115 TE14 George Kittle SF 24 778.6
116 QB14 Matt Ryan ATL 33 778.5
117 QB15 Jared Goff LAR 23 777.0
118 TE15 Ricky Seals-Jones ARI 23 776.1
119 TE16 O.J. Howard TB 23 773.9
120 RB43 Bilal Powell NYJ 29 772.3
121 RB44 Rashaad Penny SEA 22 763.2
122 WR47 John Brown BAL 28 763.0
123 QB16 Ben Roethlisberger PIT 36 762.5
124 QB17 Blake Bortles JAC 26 756.5
125 RB45 Nick Chubb CLE 22 754.7
126 RB46 Frank Gore MIA 35 753.6
127 WR48 Kenny Golladay DET 28 751.4
128 QB18 Jimmy Garoppolo SF 26 750.8
129 RB47 James White NE 26 750.1
130 WR49 Anthony Miller CHI 23 750.0
131 TE17 Austin Seferian-Jenkins JAC 25 749.4
132 TE18 Ben Watson NO 37 747.7
133 QB19 Dak Prescott DAL 25 743.3
134 WR50 Mike Williams LAC 23 743.1
135 RB48 Jordan Wilkins IND 24 743.1
136 TE19 Cameron Brate TB 27 742.3
137 RB49 Devontae Booker DEN 26 740.9
138 RB50 Austin Ekeler LAC 23 740.1
139 WR51 Pierre Garcon SF 32 739.8
140 WR52 Michael Gallup DAL 22 738.9
141 RB51 Giovani Bernard CIN 26 738.2
142 WR53 Josh Doctson WAS 25 736.8
143 QB20 Alex Smith WAS 34 735.3
144 QB21 Eli Manning NYG 37 735.3
145 RB52 Theo Riddick DET 27 734.6
146 RB53 Nyheim Hines IND 21 734.1
147 WR54 D.J. Moore CAR 21 732.8
148 WR55 Chris Godwin TB 22 732.5
149 TE20 Eric Ebron IND 25 732.3
150 RB54 Aaron Jones GB 23 732.2
151 QB22 Andy Dalton CIN 30 732.0
152 WR56 Tyler Lockett SEA 25 725.8
153 RB55 Doug Martin OAK 29 723.9
154 QB23 Jameis Winston TB 24 719.5
155 WR57 Tyrell Williams LAC 26 719.5
156 QB24 Derek Carr OAK 27 716.3
157 TE21 Vance McDonald PIT 28 715.4
158 TE22 Charles Clay BUF 29 710.4
159 WR58 Calvin Ridley ATL 23 705.6
160 QB25 Mitchell Trubisky CHI 24 704.5
161 QB26 Case Keenum DEN 30 703.8
162 WR59 John Ross CIN 22 702.0
163 TE23 Tyler Eifert CIN 27 702.0
164 WR60 Keelan Cole JAC 25 699.5
165 RB56 Corey Clement PHI 23 699.5
166 WR61 Geronimo Allison GB 24 697.8
167 RB57 Jalen Richard OAK 24 696.6
168 WR62 Allen Hurns DAL 26 695.6
169 RB58 C.J. Anderson CAR 27 690.3
170 WR63 Christian Kirk ARI 21 690.3
171 WR64 James Washington PIT 22 689.9
172 QB27 Tyrod Taylor CLE 29 688.5
173 RB59 Tavon Austin DAL 28 685.2
174 WR65 Rishard Matthews TEN 28 683.8
175 WR66 Dede Westbrook JAC 24 682.1
176 WR67 DeSean Jackson TB 31 681.5
177 QB28 Ryan Tannehill MIA 30 681.0
178 WR68 Quincy Enunwa NYJ 26 678.3
179 RB60 Elijah McGuire NYJ 24 674.8
180 RB61 D'Onta Foreman HOU 22 671.9
181 TE24 Hayden Hurst BAL 24 668.4
182 WR69 Taywan Taylor TEN 23 660.4
183 TE25 Jared Cook OAK 31 657.7
184 RB62 Javorius Allen BAL 26 657.5
185 RB63 Latavius Murray MIN 28 655.1
186 TE26 Austin Hooper ATL 23 654.1
187 WR70 Marqise Lee JAC 26 653.3
188 WR71 Courtland Sutton DEN 22 651.6
189 TE27 Gerald Everett LAR 24 650.8
190 WR72 Ryan Grant IND 27 649.3
191 RB64 Kenneth Dixon BAL 24 648.3
192 QB29 Sam Darnold NYJ 21 646.3
193 WR73 Cole Beasley DAL 29 644.8
194 QB30 Joe Flacco BAL 33 641.5
195 RB65 James Conner PIT 23 638.7
196 WR74 Mohamed Sanu ATL 28 634.8
197 RB66 C.J. Prosise SEA 24 634.4
198 RB67 Kalen Ballage MIA 22 632.6
199 WR75 Mike Wallace PHI 32 623.0
200 RB68 T.J. Yeldon JAC 24 620.5


The first round remains mostly unchanged from the first PPR Big Board two weeks ago. And as far as I'm concerned, owners can take the names of any of the top eight receivers, pick them out of a hat and have a decent chance at lining them up in the order they could finish in 2018 barring injury. If owners get at least one of them and a first-round running back, they should off to a great start. Thus, let's begin with the biggest movers and shakers right outside the high-rent district.

It's going to take a full season for me to be convinced Christian McCaffrey will be given a Devonta Freeman-like (or better) role in the Carolina backfield. With that said, setting a draft board is as much about predicting what will happen as it is about what could happen. McCaffrey could very well finish with over 200 carries and nearly 100 targets. If that happens, he will almost certainly be a first-round pick in fantasy next year. If he doesn't, let's remember he wasn't a bad second-round selection as a rookie despite seeing only 197 offensive touches. It bears repeating he scored on both of his carries inside the 5 last season, while four of his six catches inside the 10 went for touchdowns as well. While McCaffrey may not have appeared to be a good bet to top his seven offensive TDs from 2017 earlier this summer, it's not hard to imagine him pushing for 10 as a sophomore. Oh, but that offensive line thank goodness Cam Newton still offers a more than viable run threat to make the backside pursuit think twice about crashing down on McCaffrey too hard.

Sometimes opportunity is created because of talent, while other times a lack of competition on the roster essentially forces a player to become a featured performer. In a way, Alex Collins has both factors working in his favor. While Collins is not an elite talent by any stretch, he is just the kind of physical, hard-nosed runner with enough explosiveness that a defensive-minded team like the Ravens want to embrace. Buck Allen seems entrenched as a change-of-pace back who can spell a back on occasion, but Baltimore seems to understand that is all he is. Kenneth Dixon was supposed to push Collins in training camp this year, but injuries and suspensions have clouded his standing with the team. Unless Gus Edwards, De'Lance Turner or Mark Thompson are poised to make some noise over the final two weeks of the preseason, Collins has essentially no competition entering the season. OGs Marshal Yanda and Alex Lewis return from season-ending injuries as well, giving one of the more physical backs in the league an even better opportunity to thrive. One stat I mentioned a couple weeks ago bears repeating here: Collins became the featured back in Week 8 last season. His 16-game pace stats over that stretch 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.

There may not be a more polarizing player inside the top two rounds than Jerick McKinnon. By now, most of us know or have heard the criticisms: he doesn't have good vision and/or anticipate holes very well, he's never done "it" before for a full season, he's too small, he couldn't "hold off" Matt Asiata or Latavius Murray for the full-time gig when he had his "opportunity," San Francisco can get out of his contract after one year, etc. At this point, it almost feels like most in the industry is reaching on excuses to pass on a lead running back in a system run by Kyle Shanahan, who handpicked the player and asked the front office to pay him like a top-five player at his position. Look, it's not like there isn't a shred of truth to some of those negatives, but some of them have been hammered home so much and so long that it feels as if they have to be true at this point. I've said it before and I'll say it again: there isn't a ton of difference between McKinnon and McCaffrey - the biggest separator being McCaffrey runs between the tackles better. If McCaffrey was a decent second-round value to owners last year and wasn't used properly, imagine what McKinnon's upside is with a coach with the reputation of Shanahan has who will make sure he sees roughly 230 to 250 touches.

Outside of the first three rounds

There simply hasn't been enough discussion this summer about Chris Hogan. Over the first half of the season (through Week 8), he was the WR10 - between Michael Crabtree and Jarvis Landry and ahead of the likes of Julio Jones and Davante Adams. Rob Gronkowski is still "injury-prone." Julian Edelman is "injury-prone" and set to serve a four-game suspension. Danny Amendola left for Miami. Brandin Cooks was traded. The one receiver who is expected to contend for targets has been released (Jordan Matthews). Even Malcolm Mitchell is gone. If Hogan is making out of the fourth or even fifth round in fantasy drafts, he is an incredible value. I suppose the case can be made he also hasn't done "it" over a full season, but I'm not sure three years in Buffalo, one year getting used to the heavily nuanced offensive playbook in New England (2016) and an injury-shortened season in 2017 really count as being given a chance. I believe he's one of six receivers who could legitimately score 10 touchdowns this season.

What are the chances Jimmy Graham was just beat up last year? If there is still a year or two of the elite athleticism he showed in New Orleans left in his body, it's not out of the realm of possibility he could make a run at Gronkowski and Travis Kelce for TE1 honors. One of the more lazy narratives pushed out regarding Graham's prospects for this season is that Aaron Rodgers doesn't look for tight ends. Really? Somehow, over the course of his career of not looking for tight ends, two have scored eight touchdowns in a season. I guess that must mean the legendary group of Donald Lee, Jermichael Finley, Andrew Quarless, Richard Rodgers, Jared Cook and Martellus Bennett were supposed to attract 100 targets while Rodgers was also busy feeding the likes of Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams, James Jones and Randall Cobb. The simple truth is none of the aforementioned six tight ends ever had the resume or athleticism Graham does. Green Bay's receiving corps has arguably accomplished less coming into a season since Aaron Rodgers took over the starting job for good in 2008. In four of the five full seasons Graham has played, he has scored at least 10 touchdowns (the one exception was when he played through injury in 2016 and finished with six). Should we really expect Graham to do less with arguably the best quarterback in the league in an offense where Davante Adams is the only receiver to consistently get it done over the last two years?

Before this season, I didn't think it was possible for a player's value to increase after his suspension was announced. It seems as though Mark Ingram may be doing just that. Ingram carried roughly a fifth-round ADP prior to the announcement of his four-game suspension in large part because it became clear Alvin Kamara would be the 1A back in the offense while Ingram would serve as the 1B. For fantasy leagues in which the postseason starts in Week 14, Ingram will not be allowed to participate in 33.3 percent of the regular season. Let's suppose his owners use him in Week 5 prior to his bye and posit he has a reduced role in that game because he will be coming off a month-long layoff. This means owners may not get any value from their fifth-round pick until Week 7 or 8 - when the Saints visit Baltimore and Minnesota. Do owners really think they will get an RB2 effort from the complementary half of a backfield committee in those games? I've laid out a pretty realistic scenario in which Ingram doesn't approach last year's value until at least Week 9 - against what should be a dominant Rams' defensive line. Yet, Ingram's current ADP is 4.12.

(To drive home this point further, let's use the results from the King's Classic - Blanda Division that I participated in over the weekend. Ingram went 4.07 in the snake draft and for $25 in the auction.) Let's put the latter into some perspective because it is the one that feels the most outrageous. McKinnon went for $23. Kenyan Drake went for $25. Despite what anyone thinks about how many games LeSean McCoy will play this year, he went for $25. Collins went for $24. Each of these backs would seem to have a pretty clear path to lead-back duties, at least 200 - if not 250-plus touches - and could be available all season. I'm not sure I would be bullish on Ingram this season even if Kamara wasn't around, but to treat a player who we know will miss most of the first six weeks of the season as an RB2 is asking for a headache.



Running backs with significant question marks

The preseason often acts as its own little stock market. Players and can move up a round or so on some boards based on a good game, while others can slip a round or more based on injury information or any other number of circumstances. Such is the case for Rex Burkhead, who was moving into fourth-round territory as recently as last week. As luck would have it, a report about a "slight tear" in his right knee sends owners into a bit of a panic, although it is supposed to be an injury he can play through and not something that will keep him from practicing. With New England, a "slight tear" can mean anything from a legitimate sprain that can heal fully in a couple of weeks to an actual tear of one of the less "important" ligaments in the knee. Depending on your risk tolerance, this news either creates a buying opportunity or is the final nail in the coffin when it comes to avoiding the Patriots' backfield in the first half of fantasy drafts.

Sometimes the best play in a muddled backfield is taking the last one on the board, especially if he already has an established role in the offense. While folks dream of Burkhead becoming a plus-version of Mike Gillislee or Sony Michel mimicking Kamara, James White would appear to be locked into about 60 catches and 40-50 carries. I specify "locked into" because that should be his floor; if Michel and Burkhead continue to struggle with injuries, I think it's pretty clear Jeremy Hill isn't going to run the ball 25-plus times per game. The bigger point to be made here is White might as well be Tom Brady's favorite running back. In an offense that that relies so heavily on "easy" passes to the running back, slot receiver and tight ends, White isn't going away.

I'm starting to warm up to the possibility that Jamaal Williams will emerge as the lead back in Green Bay. As much as fantasy football owners hate it, the starting running back job in most NFL cities is often decided by which one of the contestants is the most durable and can be trusted the most to protect his quarterback against the blitz. The answer to both of those questions in Green Bay appears to be Williams. It goes without saying that even if the Packers don't utilize the running back much inside the red zone this year, their starting running back is still going to have a ton of value. I want that guy to be Aaron Jones, but his opportunity to stake his claim to the job may have been sabotaged the moment the league handed him a two-game suspension. It also did not help his cause when he suffered a hamstring injury early in camp. If Jones has seen a first-team rep this preseason, I haven't seen it. Ty Montgomery will be involved, but it seems as though Green Bay has settled on him serving as a movable chess piece/change-of-pace option.

Peyton Barber is finally picking up steam as a likely Week 1 starter in Tampa Bay. As much as the pundits are crushing Ronald Jones at the moment for averaging less than a yard per carry, people need to understand running backs with such ridiculously low averages are almost always small-sample marks and usually reflect how poor the line play was when he was in the game. Jones is not dancing in the backfield and generally getting what he can/should on. If anything, he's done well to gain 11 yards on his 12 preseason carries. And as for him being a liability in the passing game, he has seen two targets. One was thrown at his feet and the other was one in which the quarterback led him into the direct path of a linebacker. While coaches want to see their backs make those catches, they are hardly unforgettable errors. HC Dirk Koetter has said all along he expects Barber to be the starter and is hoping his backfield tandem can eventually replicate (or at least mimic) what Ingram and Kamara have going on in New Orleans. I still ultimately expect Jones to be the better fantasy player at the end of the year, but owners should have a quality flex option if they invest in Barber.

Well, hello Adrian Peterson! Fantasy football isn't worth playing unless I can rest my championship hopes on a 33-year-old running back coming into camp in late August. (OK, I'll admit that's a bit overly dramatic.) And frankly, there's not much recent evidence he's going to be able to hold up for a full season. With that said, he didn't sign with Washington on Monday to share carries, making him a bit of a waiver-wire gift for early drafters and zero-RB advocates. Unlike his time in Arizona, Peterson should benefit from a strong offensive line and more positive game script. The largest downside to Peterson is he may not be a great fit for an offense with Alex Smith as the quarterback. (The Washington Post does a fine job of explaining why.) Another huge downside is a brutal schedule. All in all, Peterson projects to be a high-volume back for as long as he can absorb the punishment, although I clearly prefer Chris Thompson in a PPR setup. If I know owners like I think I know them, he's probably not lasting until the 98th pick in most drafts.

Outside the top 100

Ranking players who have very few flaws outside of health/durability issues is one of the most difficult tasks for owners each season. Upside doesn't score points in fantasy unless it's on the field. When owners/analysts don't get to see much evidence of potential upside in the form of preseason action with such a player, the positive reports coming out of camp for said player tend to ring hollow. However, we've seen John Brown be productive before. Would it be all that surprising if he doesn't emerge as Joe Flacco's favorite target? Brown is exactly the type of player owners need to target in the later rounds because there isn't much stopping him from becoming his team's most dangerous weapon in passing game, he doesn't require a lot of volume to make a big impact on a fantasy box score and he doesn't have any real competition for his job. Owners may recall Flacco was at the helm in 2016 when three of his pass-catchers (Steve Smith, Mike Wallace and Dennis Pitta) topped 70 receptions. There isn't a lot stopping Michael Crabtree and Brown from doing the same this year.

No one wants a 35-year-old back. I get it. The problem is Miami has one and he isn't ready to retire. Almost regardless of how good Kenyan Drake looks, Frank Gore is probably going to see at least 125 carries. He's well-regarded for his ability to pick up the blitz and makes a living running between the tackles. Much like Larry Fitzgerald, Gore has reached a point where we probably need to see a noticeable physical drop-off in his play before we declare his usefulness in fantasy over. This is not to say he is going to be a regular starter in fantasy, but let's also not forget one of the major reasons Drake lasted until the third round in 2016 was because of his lack of durability. Did one five-game stretch change that? At the moment, I have Drake and Gore separated by 26 carries and 21 targets. If Gore ends up being named the goal-line back (which I have not assumed) due to his ability to run inside, the gap between the two becomes that much thinner. In most drafts, there are 10 rounds of separation between the two. Gore may not be a player that helps owners take home a league title, but I'd be willing to bet he helps owners get there by being a very capable flex option. Gore is available late in drafts almost without fail. Not bad for a potential bye-week fill-in with the upside to be a potential low-end flex.

More longshots and enough with the running backs

About the only thing holding me back from ranking Anthony Miller higher is the presence of a red zone threat (Allen Robinson), a dynamic weapon out of the backfield (Tarik Cohen) and a highly athletic tight end who could do a pretty good job of imitating Travis Kelce in the passing game (Trey Burton). Can Mitch Trubisky keep all three of those players reasonably involved and make room for a fourth? That remains to be seen, and not something I'm willing to bet on in from such an inexperienced quarterback. I have no question we will see flashes of greatness from Miller, who I suspect will bump Taylor Gabriel from the starting lineup sooner than later. If Robinson were to get hurt early again this year, Miller could become a 100-target, every-week starter in fantasy shortly thereafter.

Ben Watson needs to be getting drafted with more regularity. Prior to last season when Coby Fleener became an afterthought, a New Orleans tight end hadn't finished lower than 15th in PPR leagues since Jeremy Shockey in 2010 (25th) - and that was due in part to an up-and-comer named Jimmy Graham, who finished 27th. Watson has an ADP of 14.03 and is the 24th tight end coming off the board on average. I have him as my TE18 and that feels too low. Prior to last year, owners could generally count on at least 4,800 passing yards and 30-plus touchdowns from Drew Brees. Isn't there the slightest possibility with Ingram taking a lesser role in the offense and pass-catching weapons galore that the Saints revert to a more pass-heavy team in 2018 against a schedule that figures to stop the run reasonably well? If so, there's going to be enough at the fantasy table for Michael Thomas, Cameron Meredith, Kamara and Watson to get their fill.

Let's wrap this thing up with a few more of my favorite late-round targets at receiver:

John Ross is a younger and more technically savvy version of DeSean Jackson in my opinion. Whether or not that matters in Cincinnati is another story. Still, we've seen Marvin Jones and Brandon LaFell enjoy good years with Andy Dalton throwing the ball, so we've seen production before from A.J. Green's sidekicks - players with less talent and speed than Ross. It's hard seeing Ross being a red zone threat with Green and Tyler Eifert around, but he should be able to deliver a few splash weeks.

Keelan Cole refuses to go away, even when the Jags continue to put obstacles in his way. Thought to be stuck behind "starters" Marqise Lee and Donte Moncrief, the Kentucky Wesleyan product is reportedly receiving the "majority" of starter reps in training camp alongside Lee. Dede Westbrook and second-round pick D.J. Chark have also stood out, according to First Coast News' Mike Kaye. Cole appeared to be on equal footing as Lee by the end of the season and it's hard to find any teammate or reporter say something negative about him. Jacksonville appears content with a "catch by committee" approach to begin the season, but it really feels as if it's only a matter of time before Cole and (possibly) Westbrook force their way into starting jobs.

Geronimo Allison "has quietly established himself as the teams No. 3 receiver," per Ryan Wood of The Green Bay Press-Gazette. As I have said many times over the years, Aaron Rodgers can make three receivers viable in fantasy. Wood notes in the aforementioned article Allison " is always in the right place, and his combination of size (6-3) and sure hands make him a reliable target." While no one should ever expect a player to replicate the season James Jones had in 2013 (64 catches, 14 TDs), Allison reminds me a bit of him. Stash him as a WR5/6 for the first two to three weeks and see if he hits.

While making his mark as a return specialist in college, Christian Kirk also overcame sub-par quarterbacking at Texas A&M to become one of the top receivers in school history. He's making quite an impression in his new (old) home of Arizona and may be making a play to start opposite Larry Fitzgerald in the opener. I gave Kirk an NFL comp of a "slightly quicker Sterling Shepard" in April and believe that still to be an accurate representation of what he is capable of moving forward. Of course, that is not to say he'll draw 105 targets and finish with 65 catches and eight touchdowns like Shepard did as a rookie, but Kirk should emerge from the pack he finds himself in at the moment (J.J. Nelson, Chad Williams and Brice Butler) before long.

Taywan Taylor was a player I picked up in the deepest of my leagues last year because the talent was undeniable. With Rishard Matthews blocking his path to the lineup, Eric Decker presumably more trustworthy in Corey Davis' absence than a "little slot guy" like Taylor and a coaching staff married to a philosophy that did not really suit its personnel anymore, Taylor's opportunity to make a move up the Titans' depth chart was stunted. This year, it would seem Tennessee is embracing an offense more willing to embrace the passing game. It hasn't hurt Taylor's case that Matthews has yet to practice this summer. Meanwhile, Taylor has been running with the first team in camp and is coming off a game over the weekend in which he showed just how much explosiveness he has. One would have to assume if the reason behind Matthews' continued non-participation in camp isn't revealed soon, Taylor will open the season as a starter and have a great shot to keep a substantial role in the offense even if/when Matthews returns. Like John Brown earlier, these are the kind of lottery tickets owners should want to scoop up in the final rounds.

Make the Le'Veon Bell owners in your league really upset and pick up James Conner. If Bell breaks down as my research suggests he will, Conner could pay off in a huge way. He's not the talent Bell is, but his game has made noticeable strides in the last year. He is the clear handcuff in Pittsburgh and one Bell injury away from potentially being a top 10-15 back in fantasy.


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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.