2017 fantasy football position rankings: Wide Receivers

Continuing our series of position rankings for the upcoming 2017 fantasy football season, we’ll take a look at wide receivers before turning to tight ends next week. We’ve ranked the QBs 1-32 and running backs from 1 to 36. We’ll rank the wide receivers 1-36 and the tight ends 1-24. Defenses and kickers will be ranked 1-12.

While there are tiers at every position, knowing them at the wide receiver spot is especially important. What’s nice about this season is that there appears to be a tier of five receivers at the top. A case could be made that any one of the first five in this list could be the No. 1 wideout by season’s end.

1. Antonio Brown, Steelers—His consistency has been rewarded this offseason with a new five-year contract. The last four years have been money in the bank for fantasy owners. Though Ben Roethlisberger toyed with the idea of retirement, he’ll be back, ensuring Brown should shine again this season.

Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburg Steelers runs with the ball against the Cincinnati Benglas at Paul Brown Stadium on January 9, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburg Steelers runs with the ball against the Cincinnati Benglas at Paul Brown Stadium on January 9, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

2. Julio Jones, Falcons—Though he lost Kyle Shanahan to the 49ers, Jones should continue to put up numbers we’re used to seeing. A balanced offense opens things up for receivers and the duo in his backfield takes off some pressure. He’s averaged 108 catches, 1,624 yards and 7 touchdowns over the last three seasons.

3. Odell Beckham Jr., Giants—The addition of Brandon Marshall could make the Giants’ offense very potent in the air. The Giants’ running backs are suited for the passing game and I’d expect Eli to continue to air it out. No need to fear a drop in targets for Beckham.

4. Mike Evans, Buccaneers—His 96 catches last season were a career high, and though DeSean Jackson has been added to the mix, it’s clear that Evans is the top dog. Playing alongside Jackson, rather than being the only target in town, could end up yielding bigger numbers in the end.

5. A.J. Green, Bengals—I consider Green to be in the top tier of receivers. Andy Dalton doesn’t get a lot of respect in terms of fantasy, but he’s not bad at all. Green is also coming off a season in which he tore his hamstring, but don’t get scared off. He’s missed just 10 games in six season.

A.J. Green #18 of the Cincinnati Bengals catches a touchdown over Darrelle Revis #24 of the New York Jets during their game at MetLife Stadium on September 11, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
A.J. Green #18 of the Cincinnati Bengals catches a touchdown over Darrelle Revis #24 of the New York Jets during their game at MetLife Stadium on September 11, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

6. Jordy Nelson, Packers—Is he relatively healthy? Yes. Is Aaron Rodgers still his quarterback? Yes. Does that mean he’ll still be very productive? Yes. Nelson has 27 touchdowns in the last three years. He didn’t play in 2015. Let that sink in.

7. Michael Thomas, Saints—Through eight games last season Thomas already had five touchdowns and it was clear that he was quickly becoming the No. 2 receiver behind Brandin Cooks. Well, Cooks is now in New England so that makes Thomas a popular pick to take a step up.

8. Dez Bryant, Cowboys—Dak Prescott didn’t know he’d be starting for the Cowboys until Tony Romo went down in the preseason last year. Prescott will have an entire offseason to work with his receivers this time around. Improving his rapport with Bryant will help both players rise in value.

Dez Bryant #88 of the Dallas Cowboys dives for the end zone to score a touchdown after catching a pass from Dak Prescott during the third quarter against the Baltimore Ravens at AT&T Stadium on November 20, 2016 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

9. Brandin Cooks, Patriots—Having Cooks in my top-10 of wide receivers is a statement about Tom Brady as a quarterback more than anything. If Cooks keeps his head on straight and learns the Patriots’ offense, Brady will make sure to utilize the talented burner.

10. DeAndre Hopkins, Texans—I overvalued him last season, but Brock Osweiler has left town and the Texans have a new quarterback that may be ready to start before too long. Even if Tom Savage holds off rookie DeShaun Watson, Hopkins has the talent and opportunity to put up big numbers.

11. Amari Cooper, Raiders—He’s been targeted over 130 times, topped 1,000 yards and scored at least five touchdowns in each of his first two seasons. If Derek Carr can learn to treat Cooper like the play-maker he is near the red zone, Cooper could be special.

Amari Cooper had a great game the last time he faced the Chargers. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
Amari Cooper has been a top wideout in his first three years in the league. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

12. T.Y. Hilton, Colts—With the Colts drafting offensive line help, Hilton becomes more likely to get more work. Andrew Luck just needs time in the pocket to make defenses pay and Hilton should remain a WR1 as a result.

13. Doug Baldwin, Seahawks

14. Davante Adams, Packers

15. Alshon Jeffery, Eagles

16. Allen Robinson, Jaguars

17. Sammy Watkins, Bills

18. Demaryius Thomas, Broncos

19. Tyreek Hill, Chiefs

20. Keenan Allen, Chargers

21. Michael Crabtree, Raiders

22. Terrelle Pryor Sr., Redskins

23. Jarvis Landry, Dolphins

24. Brandon Marshall, Giants

25. Martavis Bryant, Steelers

26. Julian Edelman, Patriots

27. Donte Moncrief, Colts

28. Kelvin Benjamin, Panthers

29. Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals

30. Emmanuel Sanders, Broncos

31. Jamison Crowder, Redskins

32. Golden Tate, Lions

33. Rishard Matthews, Titans

34. DeSean Jackson, Buccaneers

35. Stefon Diggs, Vikings

36. Willie Snead, Saints

 

2017 fantasy football position rankings: Running Backs

Continuing our series of position rankings for the upcoming 2017 fantasy football season, we’ll take a look at running backs before turning to wide receivers next week. We’ve ranked the QBs from 1 to 32. We’ll rank the running backs from 1-36, the wide receivers 1-36 and the tight ends 1-24. Defenses and kickers will be ranked 1-12.

The top three running backs are so close, but I give the edge to David Johnson since he had 80 receptions last year and caught passes for more yards than Dez Bryant, Alshon Jeffery, Brandon Marshall and Jordan Reed.

1. David Johnson, Cardinals—He nearly carried the ball 300 times last season and caught 80 passes. There’s no reason to think he won’t be used to that degree yet again.

2. Le’Veon Bell, Steelers—No worries about an early-season suspension this time around. I had him No. 1 early in my rankings, but Johnson’s touches gave him the edge at this point.

3. Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys—Elliott couldn’t have had a better rookie season. Given that, you have to assume he has just a tiny bit of regression. The Cowboys will also want to save him from too much work by using Darren McFadden to relieve some pressure.

4. LeSean McCoy, Bills—Mike Gillislee is in New England now, so if McCoy can stay healthy he might get even more work than he already does.

5. Jordan Howard, Bears—Howard gained the most yardage between the tackles in 2016, according to Pro Football Focus. He should see an increase in touches given that he’ll likely be playing with a rookie quarterback at some point.

Jordan Howard #24 of the Chicago Bears is hit by Ha Ha Clinton-Dix #21 of the Green Bay Packers as he scores a touchdown in the 4th quarter at Soldier Field on December 18, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The Packers defeated the Bears 30-27. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

6. Melvin Gordon, Chargers—Gordon’s value has been improved by this offseason. Danny Woodhead is a Raven and the Chargers didn’t draft a running back, they drafted two offensive linemen. Gordon will continue to dominate touches in the backfield.

7. Devonta Freeman, Falcons—Have no fear of Tevin Coleman, Freeman actually is more productive when Coleman gets touches. If the Falcons can continue to run a potent offense without Kyle Shanahan, Freeman will do well.

Devonta Freeman #24 of the Atlanta Falcons fails to reach the pylon against Vinnie Sunseri #40 of the San Francisco 49ers during the first half at the Georgia Dome on December 18, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

8. DeMarco Murray, Titans—He surprised some people last season, given his average draft position was in mid-to-later rounds. Murray suffered from Chip Kelly’s sideways run scheme the year before so he was undervalued in drafts in 2016. He seems to be back to his Cowboys-era self.

9. Jay Ajayi, Dolphins—Three games rushing for at least 200 yards can’t be ignored. Plus, it looks as if he’s making strides in the passing game. He showed his ability as a pass catcher in college so if he improves in that portion of his game he could be remarkable.

10. Lamar Miller, Texans—The addition of D’Onta Foreman may end up helping Miller stay fresh all season. Quality touches will be the key to his success in addition to decent volume.

11. Todd Gurley, Rams—He remains an RB1 despite his rough season last year. That’s because the volume is still there. His bad season probably means he can be had in the second round. But he’ll end up being undervalued if he goes after the first.

Todd Gurley #30 of the Los Angeles Rams rushes for a first down during the fourth quarter of the game against the Carolina Panthers at the Los Angeles Coliseum on November 6, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

 

12. Spencer Ware, Chiefs—He got great news when the Chiefs didn’t re-sign Jamaal Charles, but they did end up drafting Kareem Hunt. Keep an eye on training camp to make sure Ware holds firm to the starting spot.

13. C.J. Anderson, Broncos

14. Isaiah Crowell, Browns

15. Carlos Hyde, 49ers

16. Mark Ingram, Saints

17. Tevin Coleman, Falcons

18. Adrian Peterson, Saints

19. Latavius Murray, Vikings

20. Eddie Lacy, Seahawks

21. Leonard Fournette, Jaguars

22. Marshawn Lynch, Raiders

23. Doug Martin, Buccaneers

24. Mike Gillislee, Patriots

25. Robert Kelley, Redskins

26. Ty Montgomery, Packers

27. Jeremy Hill, Bengals

28. Derrick Henry, Titans

29. Frank Gore, Colts

30. Bilal Powell, Jets

31. Ameer Abdullah, Lions

32. Christian McCaffrey, Panthers

33. Jonathan Stewart, Panthers

34. Paul Perkins, Giants

35. Matt Forte, Jets

36. Joe Mixon, Bengals

2017 fantasy football position rankings: Quarterbacks

Over the next few weeks we’ll take an early look at our 2017 fantasy football position rankings. This week we’ll talk about the signal callers before turning our attention to running backs next week. We’ll rank the QBs from 1 to 32, the running backs from 1-36, the wide receivers 1-36 and the tight ends 1-24. Defenses and kickers will be ranked 1-12.

First up we’ve got the quarterbacks. You’ll notice Matt Ryan is still in the top-5, but he’s not the No. 1 quarterback like he was at the end of the 2016 season.

Quarterbacks

1. Aaron Rodgers, Packers—He still has Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. Davante Adams is a rising star and the addition of Martellus Bennett should help Rodgers have the best season among QBs.

2. Tom Brady, Patriots—He’ll be 40 by the time the season starts but he seems to have a lot of tread left on the tires. The addition of Brandin Cooks and Mike Gillislee adds more weapons for the Super Bowl MVP.

3. Drew Brees, Saints—Probably one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the history of the NFL, Brees just seems to put up numbers with whatever talent he has on the roster. His home-away split is a factor, but he should still end up top-3.

 

Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints drives for a touchdown during the first half of a game against the Los Angeles Rams at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on November 27, 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

4. Andrew Luck, Colts—All the guy needs is time in the pocket and he’ll feast. The Colts got some protection help in the draft so his production should improve over last year.

5. Matt Ryan, Falcons—Last year was a career year for Ryan, his tenth in the league. He lost his offensive guru in Kyle Shanahan, so I’m expecting a bit of a regression in numbers.

6. Russell Wilson, Seahawks—Wilson’s best seasons have been when he’s been able to run around and make plays with his legs. Last season he was hurt early in the year. If he’s healthy to start the season he’ll start strong and possibly play well wire to wire.

 

Quarterback Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks looks to pass against the New York Jets in the fourth quarter at MetLife Stadium on October 2, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

7. Derek Carr, Raiders—Carr was very solid last season and he seems on the verge of breaking into the top-5. He’s got Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree and now Marshawn Lynch to help him out.

8. Jameis Winston, Buccaneers—A big winner after free agency and the draft was Winston. He got DeSean Jackson, a big-play threat, and O.J. Howard, a versatile rookie tight end, as new weapons.

9. Dak Prescott, Cowboys—You worry about a sophomore jinx, but with how poised he played last season he might be immune. He’ll have a full offseason to work with his receivers and you can’t forget about Zeke Elliott who can take a seemingly harmless screen pass 80 yards to the house.

Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys rushes in the first half against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium on November 6, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

10. Philip Rivers, Chargers—If Keenan Allen can stay healthy, Rivers can be even better than last year. He finished in the top six in standard scoring last season with a bunch of nobodies catching passes. Now he has Mike Williams, the top receiver in the draft, as another option.

11. Kirk Cousins, Redskins—He was actually one of the best fantasy quarterbacks last season and nearly threw for 5,000 yards. Losing DeSean Jackson hurts, but Jamison Crowder is coming on and the Redskins added Terrelle Pryor.

12. Cam Newton, Panthers—He’s still in my top-12, but barely. The addition of Christian McCaffrey should help him. He’s just not an accurate quarterback and his value drops when he isn’t running, which is something he cut back on when he was getting punished weekly.

Cam Newton will have to utilize his running ability to keep his fantasy value high. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Cam Newton will have to utilize his running ability to keep his fantasy value high. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

13. Marcus Mariota, Titans

14. Eli Manning, Giants

15. Andy Dalton, Bengals

16. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers

17. Matthew Stafford, Lions

18. Carson Palmer, Cardinals

19. Alex Smith, Chiefs

20. Blake Bortles, Jaguars

21. Tyrod Taylor, Bills

22. Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins

23. Carson Wentz, Eagles

24. Joe Flacco, Ravens

25. Sam Bradford, Vikings

26. Trevor Siemian, Broncos

27. Josh McCown, Jets

28. Brian Hoyer, 49ers

29. Tom Savage or DeShaun Watson, Texans (will update as starter becomes clear)

30. Mike Glennon or Mitch Trubisky, Bears (will update as starter becomes clear)

31. Jared Goff, Rams

32. Cody Kessler, Browns

2017 fantasy football rankings following the NFL draft

An early look at 2017

It’s never too early to take a look at next season’s rankings, especially now that the NFL draft has happened.

You can probably call the first through third picks 1A, 1B and 1C. It’s really that close, but David Johnson is a real candidate to gain 1,000 yards in rushing and receiving. That would make him the third player to ever accomplish that feat, joining Roger Craig and Marshall Faulk.

Keep in mind if you play in a league that awards six points per touchdown for quarterbacks, they should be ranked higher than what you see here.

1. David Johnson, RB, Cardinals

2. Le’Veon Bell, RB, Steelers

3. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Cowboys

4. Antonio Brown, WR, Steelers

5. Odell Beckham Jr., WR, Giants

6. Julio Jones, WR, Falcons

7. LeSean McCoy, RB, Bills

8. Mike Evans, WR, Buccaneers

9. Jordan Howard, RB, Bears

10. Melvin Gordon, RB, Chargers

11. A.J. Green, WR, Bengals

12. Devonta Freeman, RB, Falcons

13. DeMarco Murray, RB, Titans

14. Jordy Nelson, WR, Packers

15. Michael Thomas, WR, Saints

16. Jay Ajayi, RB, Dolphins

17. Dez Bryant, WR, Cowboys

18. T.Y. Hilton, WR, Colts

19. Lamar Miller, RB, Texans

20. Mark Ingram, RB, Saints

21. Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots

22. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers

23. Brandin Cooks, WR, Patriots

24. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Texans

25. Carlos Hyde, RB, 49ers

26. Amari Cooper, WR, Raiders

27. Spencer Ware, RB, Chiefs

28. Todd Gurley, RB, Rams

29. Doug Baldwin, WR, Seahawks

30. Tom Brady, QB, Patriots

31. Davante Adams, WR, Packers

32. Alshon Jeffery, WR, Eagles

33. Latavius Murray, RB, Vikings

34. Allen Robinson, WR, Jaguars

35. Keenan Allen, WR, Chargers

36. C.J. Anderson, RB, Broncos

37. Sammy Watkins, WR, Bills

38. Jordan Reed, TE, Redskins

39. Tyreek Hill, WR, Chiefs

40. Travis Kelce, TE, Chiefs

41. Isaiah Crowell, RB, Browns

42. Drew Brees, QB, Saints

43. Demaryius Thomas, WR, Broncos

44. Tevin Coleman, RB, Falcons

45. Michael Crabtree, WR, Raiders

46. Adrian Peterson, RB, Saints

47. Andrew Luck, QB, Colts

48. Jarvis Landry, WR, Dolphins

49. Brandon Marshall, WR, Giants

50. Jeremy Hill, RB, Bengals

51. Terrelle Pryor Sr., WR, Redskins

52. Greg Olsen, TE, Panthers

53. Eddie Lacy, RB, Seahawks

54. Doug Martin, RB, Buccaneers

55. Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons

56. Julian Edelman, WR, Patriots

57. Tyler Eifert, TE, Bengals

58. Derrick Henry, RB, Titans

59. Martavis Bryant, WR, Steelers

60. Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Panthers

61. Robert Kelley, RB, Redskins

62. Jimmy Graham, TE, Seahawks

63. Frank Gore, RB, Colts

64. Bilal Powell, RB, Jets

65. Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals

66. Ty Montgomery, RB, Packers

67. Derek Carr, QB, Raiders

68. Donte Moncrief, WR, Colts

69. Jamaal Charles, RB, Broncos

70. Delanie Walker, TE, Titans

71. Jonathan Stewart, RB, Panthers

72. Dak Prescott, QB, Cowboys

73. Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Broncos

74. Jamison Crowder, WR, Redskins

75. Marshawn Lynch, RB, Raiders

76. Leonard Fournette, RB, Jaguars

77. Russell Wilson, QB, Seahawks

78. Ameer Abdullah, RB, Lions

79. Golden Tate, WR, Lions

80. Kenneth Dixon , RB, Ravens

81. Cam Newton, QB, Panthers

82. Kyle Rudolph, TE, Vikings

83. Matt Forte, RB, Jets

84. Rishard Matthews, WR, Titans

85. Hunter Henry, TE, Chargers

86. Paul Perkins, RB, Giants

87. Kirk Cousins, QB, Redskins

88. DeSean Jackson, WR, Buccaneers

89. Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers

90. Mike Gillislee, RB, Patriots

91. Danny Woodhead, RB, Ravens

92. Stefon Diggs, WR, Vikings

93. Randall Cobb, WR, Packers

94. Giovani Bernard, RB, Bengals

95. Marcus Mariota, QB, Titans

96. Eric Decker, WR, Jets

97. Thomas Rawls, RB, Seahawks

98. Dion Lewis, RB, Patriots

99. Theo Riddick, RB, Lions

100. Jameis Winston, QB, Buccaneers

NFL rookies ready to make a fantasy impact

The NFL draft has come and gone and with it the expectations have been set for the incoming rookie class. Here’s a look at the rookies who can make an impact in your fantasy football leagues.

Early contributors

Leonard Fournette, RB, Jaguars — He passes the eye test and has drawn comparisons to Adrian Peterson. I have a few doubts about that comparison, but he’s in a good spot and I’d expect him to get the share of carries next season despite the presence of Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon. Last year’s running back picked at No. 4 (Ezekiel Elliott) turned out all right. Fournette is at least an RB2 in my book, and could end up being a top-8 running back by the time the season is over. He’ll probably go in the second or third rounds of fantasy drafts.

Christian McCaffrey, RB, Panthers — This is a great situation for the rookie; Jonathan Stewart is entering his 11th year and McCaffrey has the versatility to take over touches from the other backs on the roster. If what he did in college is any indication, he’ll be starting outright soon enough. McCaffrey will be expected to take a lot of pressure off Cam Newton, likely acting as an outlet in the passing game. Look for him to go in the second or third rounds if he’s taken early. He may end up putting up flex-to-RB2 numbers.

Christian McCaffrey #5 of the Stanford Cardinal scores on a nineteen yard touchdown run against the Rice Owls in the third quarter of their NCAA football game at Stanford Stadium on November 26, 2016 in Palo Alto, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Mike Williams, WR, Chargers — Outside of Keenan Allen, who is a walking injury waiting to happen, the Chargers have a lot of mediocre options at the position. Williams can make an early impact if he makes the most of his targets. He’s likely to go in the sixth or seventh round.

O.J. Howard, TE, Buccaneers — This could end up being more beneficial to Jameis Winston, who now has Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Cameron Brate and now Howard as targets. Howard can line up almost anywhere on the field and will be a matchup nightmare. He might not be a TE1 to start the season, so don’t reach, but he could be a valuable late-round pick.

Dalvin Cook, RB, Vikings — The offensive line is in rough shape, though they did address the need in the draft. If it improves significantly then Cook has a chance to produce. His ability to take it to the house on any play makes him an enticing pick. I see him as a flex player at this point, so he can be taken as early as the fifth, but maybe the sixth or seventh rounds are more appropriate given that Latavius Murray is in the picture.

Dalvin Cook #4 of the Florida State Seminoles carries the ball in the second half against the Michigan Wolverines during the Capitol One Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium on December 30, 2016 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

Samaje Perine, RB, Redskins — Matt Jones is still in the doghouse, but Rob Kelley is the likely starter. Perine can be an instant short-yardage and goal line specialist, which could prove to be valuable for fantasy. He’s got the size to handle a lot of touches so he may end up as Kelley’s handcuff.

Corey Davis, WR, Titans — The Titans have Rishard Matthews as their No. 1 wide receiver but Davis has the opportunity to become the new No. 1. He’ll have a chance to prove himself early and that’s a big factor for rookie success. He has WR2 potential.

Needing some seasoning

Alvin Kamara, RB, Saints — Draft experts saw him as the fourth best running back in the draft, but going to the Saints where Mark Ingram has been the starter and Adrian Peterson just entered the picture doesn’t bode well for early production.

Alvin Kamara #6 carries the ball against the Vanderbilt Commodores during the second half at Vanderbilt Stadium on November 26, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee. Vanderbilt defeated Tennessee 45-34. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

Joe Mixon, RB, Bengals — So many questions surround this pick. From character issues to the fact that he enters a crowded backfield with a bruiser and a pass catcher already in play. That said, if he gets the opportunity he may end up being the value pick of the draft. People will shy away for various reasons, but the talent is there to be an RB1. It will take some mock drafting to figure out where, if at all, you’re willing to take him.

D’Onta Foreman, RB, Texans — Lamar Miller will be the starter once the season gets going, but he’s had a history of getting run down in the latter part of the season. If Foreman makes a mark early, he can have a solid floor of production, even as a situational back.

Texas RB D’Onta Foreman goes through some pass catching drills as he performed for NFL scouts Tuesday March 28, 2017 during Pro Timing Day at the University inside the team practice bubble.
RALPH BARRERA/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Zay Jones, WR, Bills — He can turn into a possession receiver if he can click with Tyrod Taylor early. Sammy Watkins is the best option on the team, but Jones can turn into the No. 2 WR if he can outplay Brandon Tate and Andre Holmes.

ArDarius Stewart, WR, Jets — With Brandon Marshall moving on to the Giants, there’s room for a new playmaker to rise to prominence. Stewart’s ability after the catch can help him carve a role with the Jets, but is Josh McCown going to play well enough for it to matter?

Possible sleeper

Joe Williams, RB, 49ers — Bad play-calling in the Super Bowl notwithstanding, Kyle Shanahan is an offensive guru and he was very happy grabbing Williams in the fourth round. Williams is definitely a risky pick, which is why you have to make sure your starting spots are filled before taking a flyer on him.

Let’s talk quarterbacks

The top four taken at the position all entered situations where they’ll sit or have to win a starting job. Not one is in a plug-and-play situation. Don’t draft any of them, but monitor closely. The key isn’t to wait on a big game before picking them up off the waiver wire. You have to see signs first. Then, only if you have room on your roster, you take a chance on the wire.

Fantasy football mock draft before dress rehearsal week

It’s dress rehearsal week for NFL teams so we should get a better look at the talent available for upcoming fantasy drafts. Before a majority of those games kicked off, I decided to take another look at where players are going in a mock draft. With a better idea of players average draft positions (ADP), I think I assembled a high value team. There were a couple of missteps along the way, though.

You can see my first mock draft here and my second one here. Here’s what I ended up with this time around, drafting in a 12-team standard league.

  • Round (overall pick)–Player, pos., team
  • 1st (8)–DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Texans
  • 2nd (17)–Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs
  • 3rd (32)–Keenan Allen, WR, Chargers
  • 4th (41)–Latavius Murray, RB, Raiders
  • 5th (56)–Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Broncos
  • 6th (65)–Drew Brees, QB, Saints
  • 7th (80)–Allen Hurns, WR, Jaguars
  • 8th (89)–Chris Ivory, RB, Jaguars
  • 9th (104)–Michael Thomas, WR, Saints
  • 10th (113)–Julius Thomas, TE, Jaguars
  • 11th (128)–DeAndre Washington, RB, Raiders
  • 12th (137)–Panthers Defense/special teams
  • 13th (152)–Derek Carr, QB, Raiders
  • 14th (161)–Tyler Boyd, WR, Bengals
  • 15th (176)–Jason Witten, TE, Cowboys
  • 16th (185)–Chris Boswell, K, Steelers

My first four picks went as well as could be expected. I took DeAndre Hopkins with the eighth pick and he’s going one spot higher in most drafts. Ezekiel Elliott was taken seventh, allowing me to snag Hopkins.

Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (10) keeps his balance after a catch against the New Orleans Saints in the first half of an NFL preseason football game in Houston, Saturday, Aug. 20, 2016. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)
Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (10) keeps his balance after a catch against the New Orleans Saints in the first half of an NFL preseason football game in Houston, Saturday, Aug. 20, 2016. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)

Jamaal Charles was available at No. 17 because someone picking 16th reached for Doug Martin, even though he’s normally taken around the 25th spot.

Taking Keenan Allen with the 32nd pick was very nice since that’s about 10 spots lower than his ADP. Brandin Cooks, Sammy Watkins, Demaryius Thomas, Alshon Jeffery and Amari Cooper went ahead of him.

Latavius Murray was my fourth pick, taken six spots after his ADP. He’s expected to do it all for Oakland so I felt comfortable having taken two good WR1s and a proven RB1.

My biggest mistake came in selecting Emmanuel Sanders nearly 20 spots before his ADP. A minute goes by fast so make sure you have the appropriate amount of windows open while drafting online. I missed out on Andrew Luck, Michael Floyd, Frank Gore and Ben Roethlisberger.

Drew Brees and Allen Hurns made me feel better in the next two rounds. Brees was available six spots after his ADP while Hurns was available 20 spots after his. Hurns also started a run of Jaguars for me. Before you judge, let me explain.

 

Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Allen Hurns (88) makes a catch for a 24-yard touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the first half of an NFL preseason football game in Jacksonville, Fla., Saturday, Aug. 20, 2016. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)
Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Allen Hurns (88) makes a catch for a 24-yard touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the first half of an NFL preseason football game in Jacksonville, Fla., Saturday, Aug. 20, 2016. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

Chris Ivory was too good to pass up in the eighth round as he was available 25 (!) spots lower than his ADP. He’s been going as high as the third round. I took Julius Thomas in the 10th round because the tight end pool was getting pretty shallow.

Sandwiched between Ivory and Thomas was rookie Michael Thomas, who is on my sleepers list. I may have reached a bit, but he’s gone as high as the sixth round in some drafts. If he pans out as a WR2, I’ve got the QB-WR link with Brees.

DeAndre Washington serves two purposes as the 128th pick. He’s a handcuff for Murray but could carve out a role for himself as a third-down option.

 

De Andre Washington #33 of the Oakland Raiders runs with the ball during the first half against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium on August 12, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
De Andre Washington #33 of the Oakland Raiders runs with the ball during the first half against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium on August 12, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

With the Panthers defense slipping to 137th, I decided to fill a starting spot with a top-four defense.

After taking Derek Carr at the 152nd spot, a whopping 48 spots lower than his ADP, I took another shot at a sleeper, selecting Tyler Boyd. He’s gone as high as the sixth round, but don’t take him before the 11th. His ADP is early in the 12th.

With my final pick, disregarding the kicker, I decided to go with a steadying influence in Jason Witten. If Thomas turns out to be a bust, I’ll have insurance.

Other notes and trends:

  • DeMarco Murray is clearly on the rise. He went 90th overall in my first mock but leaped to the 37th pick in this one.
  • Jamaal Charles is nearly falling to the middle of the second round. Don’t be afraid to take him late in the first.
  • Alshon Jeffery continues to hold onto second-round status, but injury concerns could cause him to slip to the third.
  • Don’t take Carlos Hyde in the third round or earlier. Either Murray is a better option.
  • The top three Cardinals receivers all went within eight spots of each other, in the late fifth and early sixth rounds.
  • Tyrod Taylor is a sleeper, but someone drafted him in early in the seventh round when he likely would have been available in the 10th.

Fantasy sleepers and lottery tickets

These next two weekends are the busiest in terms of fantasy drafts. It’s time to talk sleepers and lottery tickets.

Sleepers are those players that aren’t really on anyone’s radar, but can come through for you in the late rounds of your draft. Sleepers are all about finding that player who has the potential to significantly out-perform his draft position. You’re not drafting them to be your starters, but you can hope they’ll work their way into your lineup sooner rather than later.

Lottery tickets are players who, frankly, need the starter in front of them to go down with an injury or demotion in order to be productive.

Here’s a look at some of the potentially most productive sleepers and lottery tickets.

Looking for sleepers and lottery tickets for your fantasy football draft? Here are six possibilities for 2016 (clockwise, from top left): Bill quarterback Tyrod Taylor, Falcons backup running back Tevin Coleman, Rams receiver Tavon Austin, Cowboys tight end Jason Witten, Saints rookie receiver Michael Thomas and Bears receiver Kevin White.
Looking for sleepers and lottery tickets for your fantasy football draft? Here are six possibilities for 2016 (clockwise, from top left): Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor, Falcons backup running back Tevin Coleman, Rams receiver Tavon Austin, Cowboys tight end Jason Witten, Saints rookie receiver Michael Thomas and Bears receiver Kevin White.

SLEEPERS

Kevin White, WR, Bears: He had high expectations before a stress fracture caused him to miss his entire rookie season. He’ll be Chicago’s No. 2 receiver behind Alshon Jeffery, who many fear might not hold up due to his soft tissue injury history. White’s been going around the eighth round in mock drafts, so he could be a WR3/WR4 that produces like a WR2 if things pan out.

Michael Thomas, WR, Saints: There are quality receivers in New Orleans, but Thomas could end up being worth a later-round pick if he continues to impress like he did in his first preseason game — four catches for 67 yards, though just one catch for five yards in his second game. He’s being drafted in the middle of the 10th round, so if he’s around at that point, you might as well snag him.

Tavon Austin, WR, Rams: I’m opening myself up for ridicule with this one, but he totaled over 900 yards of offense and had nine touchdowns last season. He’ll be nobody’s first, second or even third option, but it looks like he finally started to find ways to contribute last year. The Rams will need to lean heavy on Todd Gurley and find ways to continue to get the ball into Austin’s hands in a variety of ways. Going typically in the 11th round, you can afford to take a flyer on this guy.

Tyler Boyd, WR, Cincinnati: Another rookie that could end up contributing meaningful numbers. He’s had three catches for 78 yards and a touchdown so far this preseason. With little reason to believe in Brandon LaFell as a solid No. 2, Boyd could end up being A.J. Green’s lightly covered counterpart. He could be a steal in the 12th round.

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd (83) catches a 12-yard touchdown pass as Detroit Lions defensive back Tavon Wilson (32) defends in the first half of an NFL preseason football game in Detroit, Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016. (AP Photo/Rick Osentoski)
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd (83) catches a 12-yard touchdown pass as Detroit Lions defensive back Tavon Wilson (32) defends in the first half of an NFL preseason football game in Detroit, Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016. (AP Photo/Rick Osentoski)

Sammie Coates, WR, Steelers: He could end up filling the role vacated by Martavis Bryant, who’s suspended this season. Markus Wheaton has had ample opportunity to be the second option behind Antonio Brown, but has been passed up multiple times. Coates has been getting drafted around the 11th round, but you might even be able to get him in the 14th.

Tyrod Taylor, QB, Bills: With an ADP around the 10th round, he could be a nice insurance policy for whichever starter you pick before that. He accounted for 24 touchdowns and more than 3,500 yards last season while missing two games.

Jason Witten, TE, Cowboys: He’s been pretty consistent his entire career, gaining at least 700 yards every year after his rookie season. If you want to carry a second tight end, he could be had in later rounds. It could be one final solid season from the tight end and a healthy Tony Romo.

Charles Sims, RB, Buccaneers: Even with Doug Martin’s resurgent season, Sims had more than 1,000 yards of total offense. He’s getting drafted early in the ninth round and could be a nice flex player even with Martin as the lead back.

LOTTERY TICKETS

Tim Hightower, RB, Saints: He was one of the best running backs at the end of last year, gaining 456 total yards and scoring four touchdowns in the final four games. A pick in the 14th round could end up winning you the lottery.

Christine Michael, RB, Seahawks: Thomas Rawls was impressive last season, but 583 of his 803 rushing yards came in just four games. Michael has looked good in the preseason and might just need an opportunity. He’s going in the 10th round, but might be around in the 12th.

Seattle Seahawks running back Christine Michael is tackled by Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith (22) in the first half of a preseason NFL football game, Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Seattle Seahawks running back Christine Michael is tackled by Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith (22) in the first half of a preseason NFL football game, Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

DeAndre Washington, RB, Raiders: Latavius Murray should be used heavily in Oakland, but Washington has shown flashes in the preseason. He could carve out a nice role for himself, but if Murray goes down, then he could really shine. His ADP is in the 11th, so it shouldn’t be too tough landing this potential lottery ticket.

Tevin Coleman, RB, Falcons: It was odd that Atlanta drafted him a year after taking Devonta Freeman. Freeman then went on to have a great year. I’m not sold on Freeman duplicating his early success last season. He rushed for more than 80 yards just twice in the final eight games. He scored just four touchdowns in that span. Coleman should be available in the middle of the ninth round.