Fantasy High 5: Draft Prep. Rookies & More!
Fantasy High 5 is Gridiron Experts’ fantasy football group discussion article. This week our staff will go over a few hot topics going into the most active week for fantasy football drafts. Is there a top 20 players that’s not worth the pick? If you won’t pay the price for Jimmy Graham, who is another safe pick? Who should be heavily targeted this season?
Which fantasy rookie has sparked your interest the most?
A couple months ago, or even a month ago, I probably would have said Bishop Sankey, Jordan Matthews or Terrance West, but I’ve developed a man crush on Brandin Cooks recently. The Saints’ prolific offense combined with Cooks’ prolific speed is too potent a combination to ignore. He could be the biggest playmaker in that offense this year and will be a nice replacement for Darren Sproles. While I’m not necessarily reaching to draft him, I would probably still take him at his current ADP in the early seventh round of standard drafts and the late sixth round of PPR drafts.
Kelvin Benjamin has looked pretty good in the preseason and due to the Panthers’ need, he’s jumping right in as a WR1. Cam Newton did great with Steve Smith, but Benjamin is about a head taller. That size makes him a end zone target and ups his value even more. In drafts, it seems most owners are forgetting about him. You can get him late and near round 10 at times. For a guy with his upside, his price is pretty low. I also am looking forward to seeing what Jordan Matthews with the Eagles. I really like that he’s going to play in the slot. He can also be had at a low price.
Like the rest of my football brethren, the man-crush on Saints wideout Brandin Cooks is so real. I recently traded up in my own dyno rookie draft to land him. Another rookie I’ve been pleasantly surprised with is Browns running back Terrance West. It’s not that I didn’t believe West was capable of looking this good. I just didn’t think he’d look this good, this early. As a Towson alum myself, no one has made me a prouder Tiger supporter as of late than West. I watched a lot of his smack downs in college, knew he had the stuff, but still figured it’d take him a couple years to get acquainted. While I know this is all just practice and preseason, West is arguably the most exciting and studly fantasy prospect in Cleveland’s backfield right now. Sign me up.
Hands down, the rookie man crush is on running back Carlos Hyde. I was really disappointed when the 49ers drafted him in the 2nd round in May, mainly because I knew San Francisco had a crowded backfield and figured he wasn’t going to have value. That was before a few injuries occurred and his recent eye-opening performance in the 49ers’ first preseason game. Gore is a machine and has defied all odds for an older running back, but Hyde is a very capable replacement/counter punch. I think Hyde is the future in San Francisco.
Carlos Hyde has looked very good, but will be firmly behind incumbent Frank Gore. Still, Gore is nearing the end of his career and could be spelled by the rookie, giving Hyde some short-term value, but significant dynasty appeal. Brandin Cooks has shown why the Saints traded up to select him and could help fill the void vacated by Darren Sproles and Lance Moore. Cook’s ADP has shot up about four rounds in the past month and will likely continue to climb.
I have been singing Brandin Cooks’ praises for almost two months now. For a while, I was one of few on the bandwagon, but over time it has gotten pretty crowded. A steal I could once get in the 9th or 10th round will now likely cost me a 7th round pick on draft day. Nonetheless, I think Cooks is worth the pick. People are quick to point out the fact that rookie wide receivers rarely put up stellar numbers. The few that are successful are the ones that fall into the best situations. Brandin Cooks could not be in a better situation. Paired with an offensive mastermind coach, the most accurate QB in the NFL and considering the huge play-making void Darren Sproles left, it is easy to see why Cooks can have an instant impact. He’s a phenomenal route runner with electric speed and impressive ball skills. Give me Cooks with Brees over Watkins and Manuel or Evans and McCown any day.
I continue to be a big proponent of Jeremy Hill. The rookie from LSU is likely to replace BenJarvus Green-Ellis in Cincinnati’s rushing attack this season and Hill has received glowing praise from new Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson. Giovani Bernard is the number-one back in Cincy, but given Jackson’s propensity for running the ball – his Raiders were top-7 in the NFL in attempts, yards and rushing scores during his most recent tenure as OC and then head coach in 2010 and 2011 – there should be plenty of work to go around. Hill could grab 10-15 carries per game right away, including short-yardage and goal line work. With so few workhorse backs in the NFL these days, that should be enough activity to make him very relevant for fantasy purposes.
Who is the one player you will heavily target in your leagues this year?
Andrew Luck for me. I’m not the type to use a first or second round pick on a quarterback, so the odds of me grabbing Manning, Rodgers or Brees is unlikely. While I do agree there’s tons of depth at the QB position, I would argue Manning and Brees smoked the competition last year. In standard scoring, Peyton averaged greater than 7 points per week more than the 3rd ranked QB (Newton). There were also a handful of weeks where he flat out eviscerated the competition. Each year, I try to find the best QB outside of those three guys. Last year, I chose Cam Newton. This year, it’s Andrew Luck. I don’t want Luck. I need him. He won me over with his remarkable theatrics against the Chiefs. In his third year, I believe he is poised for a leap to that elite class of quarterbacks. He’s got the weapons and I think it’s his time.
The Cowboys will be passing a lot as usual this season. Dez Bryant will be the main beneficiary of their passing attack. When Bryant is healthy, he’s arguably the best receiver in the NFL and I actually have him ranked ahead of Calvin Johnson this year. If I have a late-round pick in the 8-12 range I almost always try to get Bryant.[ad id=”Ad1″]
In terms of rookie drafts, I’m targeting Brandin Cooks, Bishop Sankey and Terrance West. As for the other guys… Dez Bryant is up there for me, as well as Giovani Bernard in PPR formats, Le’Veon Bell, Brandon Marshall, Kyle Rudolph, Marlon Brown, and (drumroll) Carson Palmer. I’ll first preface by saying I hate fantasy quarterbacks and routinely opt for streaming them from week-to-week. However, it’s a hunch with Palmer this year. According to Fantasy Football Calculator, Palmer’s current ADP is somewhere near the late-twelfth round and I get this warm feeling in my belly that he’s poised to have a strong season despite playing in the tenacious NFC West. Hell, depending on your league size, you may not have to draft Palmer at all. Once the final pick is through, head over to the waiver wire and do the deed. I’m not sure how many will agree (maybe none), but 27 touchdowns and maybe 14 INTs are in Palmer’s future for 2014. That’s well worth his current stock price.
I feel Roddy White is undervalued and a bargain in PPR leagues. I have been able to snag him in the 4th round with ease this year. To me, that’s a massive steal. Gridiron Experts is projecting 89 receptions for the veteran Falcon in 2014.
I’ve done a lot of drafts and mocks and have managed to nab Reggie Wayne on a majority of those teams. Before last season, Wayne was the epitome of a consistent, healthy and productive receiver. He’s getting up there in age, but the Colts have an easy road to the playoffs and should be primed to put up excellent offensive numbers. Wayne can be had as late as Round 9 or 10 and should still put up very good WR2/3 numbers.
People are probably tired of hearing me talk/write about Pierre Thomas, but I believe he is going to have a big year in New Orleans. He’ll compete with Khiry Robinson and Mark Ingram for carries, but his biggest value comes in the passing game. He had 77 receptions for 513 yards and 3 touchdowns last season. With the departure of Darren Sproles (71 catches a year ago), Thomas should be even more involved in the Saints’ high-powered passing game. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him make a run at 100 catches this year, along with another 1,000-total-yard season. I am regularly waiting on my RB2 in fantasy drafts and plugging in Thomas around the 7th round.
Who is the safest fantasy tight end after Jimmy Graham?
It’s probably Julius Thomas or Jason Witten, but if you’re looking deeper down the draft board I like what I’ve seen in the new system and the style from the Ravens, I think Dennis Pita can be an easy weekly starter.
Also, and you may laugh, but Antonio Gates has amazingly low ADP for a guy that was ranked 4th in targets in 2013 among all Tight Ends. He is old, and is a serious injury risk, but arguably on a team that lacks an arsenal of receiving depth. If you’re looking for an excellent bench player Gates is it for me.
It’s Julius Thomas. Because Peyton Manning, that offense, etc… Thomas will also cost you. He was a top-4 player at his position last season and his price changes accordingly. If you want to go with a cheaper option who is poised to go from bottom of the barrel to cream of the crop… keep an eye out for Kyle Rudolph around the eighth round (his current ADP). In all fairness, Rudolph finished as the 31st-ranked tight end last year because he missed half the season with a foot injury. This season, with a new contract signed and Norv Turner in charge of the Vikings offense, Rudolph has “breakout” stamped on his forehead. Perhaps that’s all the more reason to avoid him, but this kool-aid sure is tasty.
Since 2007, the yearly fantasy rankings for the lead tight end on a Norv Turner offense are as follows: 2nd, 4th, 3rd, 2nd, 7th, 12th, and 4th. It doesn’t get much more consistent than that and Turner is set to work his magic on Kyle Rudolph in 2014. The fourth-year tight end has always had a knack for finding the end zone (15 touchdowns in his last 30 regular season games) and he will be playing this year in by far his most dynamic offense as a pro. Given his own skill set and Turner’s consistent boon for fantasy tight ends, Rudolph is a safe bet for a top-10 season at his position, with top-5 upside potential.
I’ve taken a chance on Gronk two years running and both years he screwed me. As great as he is, Gronkowski has an uncanny ability to get hurt. While Julius Thomas was hampered from time-to-time last year, he still played in 14 games, caught 65 balls and scored 12 TDs. People forget how raw Julius was last year. He came out of nowhere. I will never bet against Peyton Manning’s weapons. With Decker gone and Welker in question, Julius carries even more value in my eyes.
It’s all about consistency when I go with Jason Witten. Gronkowski has the obvious injury history. Julius Thomas missed some time last year because of knee and ankle issues. Jordan Reed has the concussion history. Witten has produced year after year, so he’s my safest bet for tight end after Graham this year.
Which fantasy team defense do you feel is due for a bounce back year?
The Houston Texans were among the first three or four defenses selected during fantasy drafts in 2013, but they ended up being the worst option in all of football last year. However, a unit built around J.J. Watt, always has a chance to be special. Top draft pick Jadeveon Clowney could pair with Watt to be one of the premier sack combinations in the NFL. The return of middle linebacker Brian Cushing also bodes well for a team that has a favorable schedule including dates with the Raiders, Giants, Bills, Browns and the Jaguars, twice.
The only thing that bothers me more than streaming QBs is defenses. I’m in the group that rants about not drafting ’em. That said, if I were to look to a defense to bounce back, how can we not be excited about the Denver Broncos? They ranked 14th last season with just 67 points and posted better than eight points only three times all year. It was gross, but then the offseason happened and the upgrades ensued. The Denver offense is still the Denver offense and everything seems to scream improvement for the Broncos defense in 2014. According to the simple criteria of a bounce back year, Denver has some of the most potential of any defensive unit relative to last season’s output.
This isn’t just wishful thinking on my part. I really believe the Denver Broncos’ defense has top-ten potential or better. I was extremely impressed with their pass rush across the board against the Seahawks in their first preseason game. Adding Aqib Talib, T.J. Ward and Bradley Roby really improved their secondary, plus their best cornerback from a season ago, Chris Harris Jr., is returning from injury. If Von Miller can stay healthy, watch out for Denver’s defense in 2014.
A consistent fantasy defense is a dime a dozen these days. I’ve really grown into a defensive streamer over the last few years. However, if I were to take a gamble on a breakout defense, it would probably be the New York Football Giants. They drew one of the easier schedules in the NFL (on paper) and after starting Jon Beason, they looked pretty stellar last year. Eli’s turnovers and the Giants overall inept offense put the defense in no position to succeed last year. Even so, they really rose to the challenge and played pretty well. With Stevie Brown back, JPP feeling healthy, DRC and a few others recently added, the Giants defense actually looks pretty formidable this year. Currently ranked #23 ADP wise, the Giants are a lock to be there in the last round.
I’ll go with the Cleveland Browns. They finished outside the top 20 last year, but I think they can near the top 10 in 2014. Karlos Dansby was one of the top LBs last year and will man the middle for the Browns. In addition is some secondary help with veteran Donte Whitner and #8 overall draft pick Justin Gilbert. Cleveland does not play a division laden with offensive talent and gets two games apiece against the Ravens, Bengals and Steelers.
Whose a top 20 fantasy player that you want nothing to do with this season?
Here is a list of injuries Arian Foster has been hampered with over the years: ribs, knee, hip, hamstring, quadriceps, heart, calf, chest, thumb and back. Now he’s recovering from another lingering hamstring injury. As much of a reward he could turn out to be at his current average draft position, I’ll pass on Foster in the top twenty.
I’ve been cooling on Arian Foster for a while now. I am somewhere near ice cold at this point when we’re talking about him as a top-20 guy. Could he make me look like an idiot and present huge ROI for owners who select him in the late second-round? Of course. I’m just not willing to take that risk. At that point you have to think of what you’re passing on in order to draft a nicked-up running back – guys like Doug Martin, Andre Ellington, Alfred Morris and Zac Stacy. I think I’d rather have any of those guys, especially so in dynasty formats.
I hate to pile on Arian Foster here, but he likely won’t find his way onto any of my rosters this season. Given the injury history, it’s hard for me to believe that so many people are still trusting Foster in the early-to-mid second round of fantasy drafts. In addition to the injuries, it’s also concerning to me that Foster managed just one rushing touchdown in eight games last season. Excluding one great day against the Rams (20 carries for 141 yards), he averaged less than four yards per carry on the year. Huge injury risk, declining production and a generally poor offense… I’ll pass.
Holding out for a contract, the threat of Christine Michael, allegations of battery off the field – the red flags are starting to pile up for Marshawn Lynch. Each year, I doubt Marshawn and he makes me eat my words. Even he can see his window is closing. He wants that contract before his clock expires. He won’t completely fade this year, but I think we finally start to see some regression out of Beastmode in 2014.
Peyton Manning, but not because he isn’t elite or a wonderful fantasy option. It’s simply because it makes no sense to spend a second round pick on a signal-caller when you can get 85-90% of Manning’s output as late as Round 9 or Round 10.
This article was written as a group effort by our team. Make sure you bookmark Gridiron Experts today to stay update on all our content!