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By Eric McClung, Player Profiler
Special to Yahoo Sports
Using a mix of Yahoo’s average draft position (ADP), the staff rankings that create a composite score among five Yahoo analysts, plus PlayerProfiler.com’s advanced stats and metrics, we present a road map through the first 100 picks to come off the board in a typical Fantasy Football draft.
By breaking things down into segments of 10 picks at a time to highlight the safest bet, plus an underrated and overrated player, you are sure to come away with a more streamlined and less overwhelming way to plot out a course for a successful draft. While unexpected twists and turns develop in any draft, walking in prepared is the best way to come out with a competitive squad.
Safest Bet: Todd Gurley – ADP 1.5, Staff Composite Ranking: 1 (RB1)
If you happen to land the first overall pick in a draft the safest way to go is with Gurley. And no, that doesn’t mean you should expect him to score another 19 touchdowns. Last year, the advanced metrics and game charting done by PlayerProfiler show that Gurley enjoyed the best Run Blocking Efficiency in the league. He was also fifth in Breakaway Runs of 15 yards or more and sixth in Evaded Tackles. While the offensive line is rapidly aging and the schedule looks far more imposing when compared to a year ago, Gurley is setup for another big year as the focal point of an otherwise young and exciting offense.
Underrated: Odell Beckham Jr. – ADP 9.9, Staff Composite Ranking: 9 (WR3)
Despite every indication that Beckham is back to full health after suffering a fractured ankle early into last season he’s available at a slight discount. Even though rookie running back Saquon Barkley, second year tight end Evan Engram, and slot receiver Sterling Shepard all provide some competition for targets take a moment to remember that OBJ began his career with three consecutive seasons in which exceeded 90 receptions and 1,300 yards while also scoring double-digit touchdowns. Last year, the Yahoo Staff Composite Rankings had Beckman ranked as their No. 4 player overall. That’s a deal you can’t pass up in the late first round.
Overrated: Alvin Kamara – ADP 6.6, Staff Composite Ranking: 8 (RB6)
Look, throwing shade on any player going inside the top 10 is just inviting criticism. But if you are going out on that limb it’s best to knock a player that overcame limited touches with one of the most efficient seasons of all-time. So here goes. Despite finishing well outside the top 20 in running back touches a year ago, Kamara scored a whopping 13 touchdowns and he led the league with a ridiculous 6.1 yards per carry.
Now, perhaps Kamara can make up for the expected drop in efficiency by adding additional volume; especially if Mark Ingram role is throttled following his four-game suspension. However, such a lofty early-round fantasy investment should come with volume that is totally assured, not hypothetical.
Safest bet: Keenan Allen – ADP 16.9, Staff Composite Ranking: 14 (WR6)
After a couple of seasons cut short due to injury misfortune, Allen delivered the finest season of his career by catching more than 100 balls for nearly 1,400 yards. According to PlayerProfiler, Allen was second in Yards After Catch and recorded the third highest Red Zone Target Share among receivers. Without emerging tight end Hunter Henry – who suffered a season-ending knee injury in late May — Allen’s total target share will likely come close to last year’s impressive 27.7 percent, which placed him sixth at his position. And if Allen can inch toward 30-percent, he’ll enter elite company.
Underrated: Michael Thomas – ADP 14.3, Staff Composite Ranking: 12 (WR5)
Thanks to a vastly improved defense and uncanny rushing attack, the New Orleans Saints were able to limit Drew Brees’ passing attempts to under 620 for the first time since 2009. Yet Thomas saw his receptions, targets, and yards all increase in Year 2. After registering a target share of 19.4 as a rookie, that number jumped to 28.1 percent last year; fifth in the NFL. Thomas has also been among the league leaders in yards after catch for each of his seasons. Even if the Saints defense and running game remain significant factors in depressing the number of pass attempts, Thomas has an extremely high weekly floor having reached 65 or more receiving yards in 13 of 16 regular season games last year.
Overrated: Leonard Fournette – ADP 16.1, Staff Composite Ranking: 21 (RB10)
This offseason saw Fournette lose weight in hopes of avoiding further issues with the troublesome ankles that have bothered him since the start of his junior season at LSU. As a rookie, Fournette was limited to just 3.9 yards per carry over the 13 games he was able to compete in. While the volume and situation are right, Fournette’s lack of receiving ability makes him a suspect selection in the early second round. T.J. Yeldon had a handful of moments last year and has looked more explosive during the preseason. Speaking of explosive, there’s also the ultra-explosive Corey Grant whom the team has been vocal about getting more involved.
Safest bet: Devonta Freeman – ADP 23.4, Staff Composite Ranking: 26 (RB11)
By the end of last season, Freeman didn’t look like himself because he was playing through MCL and PCL sprains in his knee. Thankfully, the issues did not require surgery to repair. And assuming he’s indeed fully healthy, Freeman – who scored 27 touchdowns in 31 games from 2015-16 – should get back into the top-10 fantasy running backs while playing behind an elite offensive line. Another issue last year was a significant dip in targets. Although there’s always the specter of Tevin Coleman sapping away those valuable receptions, Freeman is the one getting the ball in scoring position. Last year, Freeman ranked No. 11 in red zone touches and third in goal line carries.
Underrated: Christian McCaffrey – ADP 27.8, Staff Composite Ranking: 28 (RB12)
If the preseason is a harbinger of McCaffrey’s workload in 2018, he’s going to see double-digit carries far more than the three times it happened a year ago. While C.J. Anderson is an upgrade over Jonathan Stewart, it’s possible that new offensive coordinator Norv Turner will focus on giving the ball to the far more explosive McCaffrey than plod along with Anderson.
Even if things play out in a manner more similar to his rookie season McCaffrey caught 80 passes, which put him top 15 among all players, regardless of position. In PPR formats, McCaffrey has not only a very safe floor but an extremely high ceiling should he be asked to shoulder more carries.
Overrated: Aaron Rodgers – ADP 22.6, Staff Composite Ranking: 38 (QB1)
Fantasy has been around for a while now, but folks are still taking quarterbacks too early in single quarterback redraft leagues. Sure, when Rodgers has been healthy he’s almost always finished among the top-3 fantasy quarterbacks. Yet that’s not a reason to ignore the opportunity cost that comes when drafting a quarterback so early. Quarterback is extremely replaceable. Every week most leagues are going to have viable streaming options on waivers. And if you are looking for free-agent options from the start of the season, you’ll likely find a suitable weekly starter at some point.
Stay tuned for ADP Analysis Part 2 (Picks 31-60)…
H/T to @zach_pereles on the idea for this series last year.