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.
Here is Part 2 (picks 31-60) of our three-part series pinpointing the best and worst picks at every ADP level.
Safest bet: Stefon Diggs – ADP 31.3, Staff Composite Ranking: 22 (WR10)
A quick review of the advanced metrics on PlayerProfiler help to underscore why Diggs is a rapidly ascending player. Not only could Diggs out-produce his teammate Adam Thielen, but has a great opportunity to catapult himself into the top-five of fantasy receivers. In addition to posting the best Contested Catch Rate (83.3 percent) in the league, Diggs was fourth in QB Rating When Targeted and — despite missing two games — fifth in Red Zone Receptions. He was also seventh in Fantasy Points per Target and 11th in Fantasy Points per Route.
Underrated: Joe Mixon – ADP 37.8, Staff Composite Ranking: 34 (RB14)
Last year, the Cincinnati Bengals ran 57.9 offensive plays per game, which is the fourth-lowest average since 2014. That’s a number that has nowhere else to go but up. Thankfully, this offseason saw the Bengals attempt to repair one of the worst offensive lines in the league. In addition to trading for left tackle Cordy Glenn, center Billy Price was selected in the first round of the draft. Despite playing behind a turnstile line and only seeing double-digit carries in eight of his 14 games, Mixon still managed to finish a respectable 1.54 Yards Created Per Carry, No. 13 among qualified NFL running backs on PlayerProfiler. Mixon has an every-down, bell cow profile and is among the top breakout candidates in 2018.
Overrated: Kenyan Drake – ADP 39.3, Staff Composite Ranking: 47 (RB18)
Over the final five games of 2017, Drake averaged 18.2 carries and 88.8 rushing yards per game. As a receiver, he added an additional 30 receiving yards per game during that time. The first two contests in that small sample – both of which were Miami victories – saw Drake touch the ball nearly 30 times per game and compile more than 140 total yards in each outing.
Yet Drake – who did very little during through four years at Alabama – will face competition for touches with the free-agent signing of the immortal Frank Gore as well as fourth-round pick Kalen Ballage. There are just too many questions over Drake’s workload and plenty of doubts over how good Miami will be in 2018 to recreate such favorable game scripts.
Safest bet: Alex Collins – ADP 49.1, Staff Composite Ranking: 41 (RB17)
Not only was Collins an incredible waiver-wire gem for in 2017, he’s become an extremely valuable find for the Baltimore Ravens. After coming off the practice squad for the team’s Week 2 showdown, Collins quickly rose to the top of the depth chart and hasn’t looked back. In those 15 games, Collins averaged 4.6 yards per carry while scoring all six of his touchdowns during the final seven games. Javorius Allen will likely take on the bulk of the receiving duties, but the embattled Kenneth Dixon – perceived to be Collins’ biggest threat – has been slowed during the offseason by a hamstring issue. Despite limitations as an early-down grinder, Collins’ projected workload and reasonable draft day cost offsets the receptions he’ll likely lose to Allen and Dixon.
Underrated: Jay Ajayi – ADP 48.2, Staff Composite Ranking: 46 (RB18)
Despite playing on a terrific offense anchored by perhaps the best offensive line in football, Ajayi is being marginalized. At this time last year, Ajayi was on a vastly inferior team but still a fringe first-round selection. Now he’s in danger of falling out of the fifth round even though he was shipped midseason from the lowly Miami Dolphins to the eventual Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles. So what’s the problem? It addition to only scoring two touchdowns, usage was a concern. Including the playoffs, Ajayi suited up 10 times for the Eagles. On only five occasions was he given double-digit carries, although all five came in the final six contests. As the running position thins out in your draft consider taking the discount on Ajayi as more touches are on the way.
Overrated: Jimmy Graham – ADP 48.9, Staff Composite Ranking: 55 (TE4)
During his final season with the Seattle Seahawks, Graham was held to 45 receiving yards or fewer in 11 of 16 games. Yet eight of his 10 touchdowns came in those contests, so fantasy owners didn’t really mind. However, after looking revitalized back in 2016 with a career-high 14.2 yards per reception, that figure tumbled to a mere 9.1 last year. The data collected by PlayeProfiler’s game charting team placed Graham first amount tight ends in Red Zone Target Share, Red Zone Receptions, and Contested Catch Rate. But if fantasy gamers are simply crossing their fingers hoping for a touchdown, just stream a tight end in a favorable matchup instead of taking Graham as a top-five tight end on draft day.
Safest bet: Golden Tate – ADP 50.4, Staff Composite Ranking: 36 (WR17)
Do you like receivers that annually see 90 or more receptions and typically record 1,000 receiving yards? Well, the late fifth or early sixth round is where Tate waits to join your fantasy squad. During his four seasons with the Detroit Lions, Tate has averaged 93 receptions for 1,056 yards per year. He’s also yet to miss a game and has been given at least five carries each season to tack on some additional yards. Unfortunately, Tate hasn’t been a prolific touchdown scorer, but that’s why he’s always undervalued in fantasy. At this stage in the draft it’s difficult to find a wideout that’s going to offer such comfortable weekly floor as Tate.
Underrated: Brandin Cooks – ADP 57.5, Staff Composite Ranking: 60 (WR26)
What if I told you there’s a 25-year-old wide receiver on a top offense that has averaged over 1,100 receiving yards and eight touchdowns over the last three years, yet might be available in the fifth round? Well, say hello to Cooks. Even though he is considered a boom-or-bust player he’s managed to record 60 or more receiving yards in nearly 57 percent of his regular season games. Going to his third team in as many years isn’t a great look, but he’s found a home in Los Angeles after he was acquired with a first-round selection and inked to a five-year contract. Fantasy gamers need to acquire pieces of this offense, and Cooks is easily the most athletic wide receiver on the team. Even if Cooks is gone, both Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp are value picks available later in fantasy drafts.
Overrated: Derrick Henry – ADP 52.8, Staff Composite Ranking: 44 (RB19)
Last year was extremely frustrating for Henry Truthers, and I count myself among their ranks. Despite DeMarco Murray being hobbled dating back to the start of training camp, the antiquated coaches for the Tennessee Titans refused to make Henry the starter. Despite numerous eye-opening splash plays to secure victories there was nothing Henry could do to win their favor. Once Murray was done for the season, Henry nearly saved their jobs by steamrolling the Kansas City Chiefs in Arrowhead Stadium to win a playoff game.
Thankfully, there are new coaches in town. But there’s also Dion Lewis, who’s still unproven in terms of durability and workload. However, Lewis is a superior receiver and will flash enough in the running game to possibly force himself into a near-even committee.