With the 2018 NFL preseason officially underway, most people are now thinking of two things: it’s high time to submit their preseason NFL prop bets, and fantasy football is just around the corner.
Both are working against the clock, but unlike some NFL wagers, fantasy football drafts usually come well before the regular season arrives.
It can often be difficult to gauge what league types to play in, who to take #1 overall, and which players to target late in drafts.
To get to the bottom of things for the 2018 fantasy football season, I gathered together two fantasy industry experts from our team and two league-mates of theirs to see how one should prepare for this year specifically.
This gives our readers two intense perspectives into the new fantasy season, as well as two relatively laxed lenses.
From discussion over PPR vs. standard fantasy leagues to the #1 overall pick, gear up for another year of fantasy ball with a little inside assistance.
Do You Prefer PPR or Non-PPR Leagues and Why?
Noah Davis: I really don’t tend to have a preference. As long as I know what I’m getting myself into when it comes to my fantasy league’s scoring/settings/format, I’ll prepare and draft accordingly.
That being said, I do believe non-PPR does two negative things: it puts way too big of an onus on scoring, and it diminishes the positive impact players can make in other ways.
Whether that’s getting points per reception, return yardage, bonuses for milestones – you name it. I don’t target leagues where the ability to score is constricted in any way.
I also don’t gravitate to full PPR leagues, though. I think more of a middle ground with half-PPR is the way to go. You’re getting the best of both worlds that way, while not allowing reception-heavy receivers or third down scat-backs dominate your league.
Michael Wynn: Personally, I am a PPR guy. I’m not a fan of seeing a player who has 3 catches for 70 yards outscore a player who catches 6 balls for 65 yards.
I like to reward the players who are heavily involved and targeted within their offense, and PPR leagues accomplish that.
In non-PPR leagues, players’ results tend to become too dependent on whether or not they score a touchdown. How much a reception is worth can be tweaked, but I prefer seeing at least some compensation for receptions.
Dennis Ryder: I went back and forth on this, but I agree with Noah and Michael here. I believe PPR fantasy football leagues are a more accurate representation of a player’s importance to their team, whereas a non-PPR format can mask some of that or over-inflate value for certain players.
You look at a running back who gets 10 points. In a PPR league, he probably had a poor day overall if a TD is scored. However, in a non-PPR league, you just see the base stats and think, “10 points is fantastic.”
In the end, PPR leagues make it easier to see the importance of each player, and you have to trust the process a bit more, whereas non-PPR leagues tend to have you get lucky with boom or bust players more often.
Greg Maggiore: I have played in both types of leagues over the years, and I prefer the PPR format. The PPR format helps increase the number of fantasy-relevant players, making deeper leagues more balanced.
I personally feel that non-PPR standard scoring weighs RB value too highly. PPR helps shift fantasy value from RB to WR and TE.
The most important factor as to why I prefer a PPR league, though, is to reduce the impact of touchdowns. By putting less emphasis on TDs and more on categories such as yardage and receptions (that carry less variance), it becomes a game more suited for skilled owners.
How Early Is Too Early to Draft a Quarterback?
Michael Wynn: I am not going to be the first person in my league to draft a quarterback. What I want to do is to make sure I end up with a pair of quarterbacks that I am more than content with starting week to week.
Rather than reach on one QB, I’d rather wait on my first quarterback, but perhaps be the first player in the league to draft their second. That way, I can look at the respective matchups each week and start the guy who I project to score more points.
Dennis Ryder: I understand a lot of people tend to wait on quarterbacks like Michael is suggesting, but I feel it depends on the QB. If you’re looking outside Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady, then anywhere inside the first three rounds is probably too early.
These guys still hold serious value, though. Most fantasy football leagues start just one quarterback, and if you get one of the top passers, you could have an edge on your opponent every single week.
Of course, even if you get Rodgers, his health has been questionable the last few years, which makes you want to shy away from taking him in the first round. Brady is probably a safe bet no matter what, but again, is a 41-year-old quarterback really worth a first- or second-round pick?
I’d say you can hesitate on drafting these guys in round one, but anywhere inside the first few rounds still gets you an elite fantasy passer at a good price. If you’re not getting these top options, though, grab a good pair of running backs and/or wide receivers, and grab a solid quarterback later on.
Greg Maggiore: It seems like Michael and Dennis have similar theories to myself about this highly-debated topic.
Especially in a PPR-format league, if you are even considering a QB prior to the 4th round, STOP! When considering how a PPR format can devalue QBs, there really is no reason to jump the gun and panic in the early rounds.
If my mid-round QB is not working out, I have no problem working the best matchups of the waivers week to week. Just remember that when you see a team reach for a QB in your draft this year, just take a breath and don’t reach yourself. Wait for the middle rounds and ride your team of strong RBs and WRs to the postseason.
Noah Davis: All good points here, but it obviously is going to depend on the league. If you’re not in a double-quarterback or SuperFlex league (allows a quarterback as a Flex), though, I’d wait on your fantasy passer.
Of the fantasy draft strategies listed here, I’m most aligned with Michael. Ideally, I can wait until the middle rounds or a little later to snag my top quarterback, and a few rounds later, I’d grab a viable backup, preferably with a different bye week.
All it takes is a look at past drafts and ADP to see how deep the quarterback position really is. The year Matt Ryan won his MVP, he literally wasn’t even being drafted in most leagues, while Carson Wentz was an afterthought most of the time before finishing inside the top 10 in 2017.
I like to wonder who is going to be this year’s Ryan or Wentz. It might be someone like Andrew Luck, Philip Rivers, Patrick Mahomes, or Dak Prescott – all of which can presently be had in round 8 or far later.
I preach value in fantasy football. I see the upside in someone like Rodgers, but I can get a quarterback close to him 5-6 rounds later. I probably can’t get a running back or wide receiver in round 9 that matches the value of a running back or wide receiver in rounds 2-3, however.
Who Should People Draft #1 Overall in 2018?
Dennis Ryder: Everyone’s going to say Le’Veon Bell. However, his holdout and slow start last year make me hesitate a bit overall. I think teams start stacking the box more against him, a la the Jaguars last year.
True, that opens up Antonio Brown more to shred you, but I think teams are starting to figure them out a bit, and without more wide receiver help and Big Ben not being any more accurate than he has been, I think he doesn’t produce as much this year.
I’m instead going to go with Todd Gurley, who, with the new additions to the offense and defense, has a real chance to be even better than last year. The Rams look all types of nasty this season, and leaning on Gurley while throwing bombs over the top should make up much of their offense this year.
Greg Maggiore: Le’Veon Bell. I think you are safe going with Todd Gurley or David Johnson, but Bell is my top pick for 2018.
I personally lean towards drafting players that are still working towards securing a big contract. After Gurley secured his deal, that makes me go with Bell.
I also believe the Steelers will just run Bell into the ground this season since chances are he will be signing for big money elsewhere in the offseason. Look for Bell’s touches to go up this year as the Steelers make sure to squeeze every last yard out of him before he leaves town.
Noah Davis: I can’t knock a vote for Gurley or Bell. They’re both total studs and absolutely are in the conversation. I’ll even nod at Antonio Brown for PPR-heavy formats or Ezekiel Elliott as a nice pivot.
My favorite play at #1 overall, however, is David Johnson.
Johnson showed in 2016 (#1 fantasy running back) just how dominant he can be, but I feel most people will be scared off due to him missing 15 games last year.
This is a legit superstar running back we’re talking about, and his injury was to his wrist.
Fundamentally, there is no real reason to balk at him at the top spot, and his desire to chase down 1,000+ yards as both a runner and receiver isn’t just admirable – it’s exciting as heck.
Johnson already had upside for days, but he’s now set to be Arizona’s total offense. With a lot of the other top options facing just as many questions, he’s an elite pivot to start drafts this year.
Ironically enough, I’m hopeful he’ll get overlooked and slide to me in the middle of round one in drafts.
Michael Wynn: I’m with Noah here. I like the point that Greg brought up about the Steelers working Le’Veon Bell into the ground as he continues to search for a new deal. Like Bell, Todd Gurley is a back who is independent of game flow and can score points in a variety of ways.
In the end, though, I can’t forget what David Johnson did the last time he was healthy for a full season. The dude not only scored 20 touchdowns, but he went over 2,000 yards from scrimmage while catching 80 balls.
You certainly can’t go wrong with either Bell or Gurley at #1, but I have a feeling that it’s DJ who ends the year atop the RB points list.
Which One Player Do You Covet After Round One?
Greg Maggiore: I think the new #1 WR in Green Bay, Davante Adams, is a good player to covet outside of round one. Adams should be available in the second round and has the potential to be a top-5 WR week to week.
With an increase in targets and red zone opportunities, I expect a big season out of Adams, especially if Rodgers can stay healthy for the year.
Someone is going to have to fill the void Jordy Nelson left, and I fully expect Adams to take advantage of this opportunity and become a top-5 WR in the NFL.
Noah Davis: I covet several players, but if there is one guy beyond the first round I keep finding myself enamored with, it’s Derrius Guice.
A recurring theme in the NFL in recent years is a lot of offenses turning to stud rookie running backs and hoping they can vault them up the ladder. Ezekiel Elliott, Leonard Fournette, Alvin Kamara, Kareem Hunt, and even Todd Gurley at one point have all done that.
I see similar upside with the talented Guice, who was truly a first-round pick in the making but slid until round two of the 2018 NFL Draft.
Washington’s running game was not good last year, so I imagine they’ll give this guy every chance to succeed. The best part? He can slide to round three or later depending on your fantasy league size, and he’s probably going to go into his first season as a pro with a huge chip on his shoulder.
Michael Wynn: For me, Tyreek Hill is a guy that I can’t seem to stay away from in drafts. The Kansas City wideout finished as the 8th highest-scoring WR in standard leagues in 2017, and I think he takes a leap towards the top 5 in 2018.
Do I really need to sell you on his electrifying speed or his play-making ability? First-year starter Patrick Mahomes has a cannon of an arm, and I think we could be seeing plenty of deep balls thrown Tyreek’s way.
For a player who is available in the third round in loads of drafts, Hill’s a guy I want my hands on big-time.
Dennis Ryder: I don’t have anything against these other picks, but I find myself really drawn to Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook. I think Cook could be much improved this year.
With a supposedly better quarterback in Kirk Cousins inspiring more initial fear than Case Keenum (who did wonderfully last year) and a second year in the league, I think Cook could have plenty of room to run with more teams worried about Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs this year.
If he can keep healthy, the arrow is pointing up for him.
Which Mid-Round Player Are You Taking in Every Draft?
Noah Davis: Every chance I get, I’m getting all of the Jordan Reed shares I can get my hands on. I understand the guy’s injury history, but he is a freak athlete that once finished #2 overall at his position.
The risk is obvious, but in round 8 (or later), I don’t think it’s too damaging. I see risk with a lot of tight ends being taken before him, yet Reed has as much upside as anyone.
He gets Alex Smith at quarterback, and the guy has made a living out of churning out elite production for his tight ends. Vernon Davis and Travis Kelce are the two guys that stand out the most.
You’re going to want to protect yourself by snagging a suitable backup behind Reed, but I love the idea of him as my TE1 this year.
Michael Wynn: Good call, Noah. If Reed stays on the field, he’s no doubt in line for a monster season.
But this cat in New York named Evan Engram can really play, ladies and gentleman. The Giants’ first-round pick in the 2017 Draft had a heck of a rookie campaign, hauling in 64 balls for 722 yards and 6 scores.
I keep seeing him get drafted a full round or more behind guys like Jimmy Graham and Greg Olsen, and I think that’s a glaring mistake. The former tight end at Ole Miss has endless upside, and I know that Eli Manning trusts him as a reliable weapon.
Don’t be surprised if we are talking about Evan Engram in the same breath as Rob Gronkowski and Travis Kelce by the time you are preparing for next season’s fantasy draft. If that’s the case, you’ll want him on your team in 2018.
Dennis Ryder: I know it’s not popular, but I’m going to step outside of the norm, because I feel that a defense can set up teams to win.
Having played against teams last year who had the Jags defense, and me getting destroyed both times, I think there are defenses that can be drafted early.
If I get the chance, I’m taking them or the Rams defense early and often. Similarly built, both are fearsome defenses that can get sacks and turnovers all day. The Jags have the better secondary, though the Rams have a truly scary defensive line.
Either one is fine with me. I’m leaning more towards the Rams, as they seem better set up to endure injuries than the Jags, who were incredibly healthy last year, which is hard to reproduce.
Greg Maggiore: Both of the tight end suggestions seem to make sense, but I’m looking at Rashaad Penny as my guy that I’m constantly drafting. The rookie RB for the Seattle Seahawks out of San Diego State University has a chance to be huge in 2018.
The Seattle Seahawks have struggled on the ground the past three seasons, but Penny is their most talented running back since Marshawn Lynch.
Penny averaged almost 8 yards a carry last year in college and has shown in camp that his talent will translate to the next level. So much so that Seattle has talked about using Penny as an every-down back in a heavy rushing offensive system, which gives Penny big upside for a mid-round pick.
Who Is Your Top Late-Round Sleeper?
Michael Wynn: I am going to go with Dolphins wide receiver DeVante Parker. He is being completely overlooked in drafts, as he’s about the 40th wideout to come off the board in most drafts. With Jarvis Landry out of the picture, Ryan Tannehill needs a new #1 target.
DeVante Parker has size and speed to fill that void, and more importantly, he’ll have that opportunity. For a player who should see 8+ targets per game and should be a key component in the Fins red zone attack, he’ll have the chance to be a top-20 wideout in PPR fantasy leagues.
There are too many positive things going for Parker in Miami for me not to take a serious look as I approach the latter rounds of my draft.
Dennis Ryder: I’m going to go with whoever wins the #3 WR spot for the Green Bay Packers. Geronimo Allison currently has the inside track and definitely stands to gain quite a lot if he wins the position in an offense led by Rodgers.
However, I think you also need to look a little below the surface there with the Packers. Green Bay brought in three interesting rookies receivers via the draft, while Jake Kumerow is an undrafted free agent pickup that has been tearing it up in practice.
Kumerow is tough to draft, but he’s been impressing even Rodgers himself with multiple catches that are reminiscent of the recently departed Jordy Nelson. If he makes the team and gets game time, look out.
He’s what Jeff Janis could have been if Janis had ever learned to run a route properly.
Greg Maggiore: I like Ty Montgomery as a late-round sleeper this year. I see the dual-threat RB continuing where he left off last year.
With Aaron Rodgers’ favorite red zone wide receiver gone in Jordy Nelson, I look for Montgomery to get some red zone looks out of the backfield, especially in the passing game.
Aaron Rodgers loves to take advantage of mismatches, and one of the biggest ones for the Green Bay Packers will be Montgomery versus the linebackers trying to cover him out of the backfield. If I see Montgomery undrafted late, I’ll be glad to take him.
Noah Davis: I am a big fan of Parker, so I’m right there with you, Michael. I’ll actually piggyback on Greg here, as I see the interest in Montgomery, but I will actually pivot to Aaron Jones.
Few are giving Jones much of a look, as he is routinely the third Green Bay Packers rusher selected, behind both Montgomery and Jamaal Williams.
Beyond a two-game suspension to start the year, I’m struggling to understand why. Montgomery proved last year that he can’t handle a full workload, while Williams revealed himself to be a plodding type.
Jones has the build to handle a lot of touches, but he’s also versatile with nice explosiveness.
Green Bay has to keep this kid on the field if they want to maximize their offense in 2018, and I actually am thrilled he’s being devalued. I can snatch him up late in drafts at little risk to myself.
Which Player Are You Looking to Avoid?
Dennis Ryder: Mike Evans. He has burned me quite a bit the last two years. I get that he’s extremely talented, but he has failed to produce the past two seasons – at least at a consistent rate.
Some of that’s not exactly his fault, as Jameis Winston as his quarterback isn’t every wide receiver’s dream. However, drafting him high the last few years, he has not produced as a #1 receiver, so I would wait on him until the 5th or 6th rounds if he’s there.
As a point contributor, he can give you some, but he has not shown the ability to do it consistently or big enough to carry a team.
Greg Maggiore: I am avoiding Marshawn Lynch like the plague this season. Now at 32 years old and coming off a disappointing return from retirement, even the Raiders seem to be losing confidence in what used to be the most intimating RB in the league.
With Oakland bringing in Doug Martin and retaining DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard, I see an RB-by-committee situation taking shape in Oakland.
This is the situation you will want to avoid when building a fantasy roster. You want to believe he will get the goal line carries, but it’s never a given with an RB by committee.
Noah Davis: Evans has burned me as well, and I agree, I’m not sure how you trust a 32-year-old Beast Mode after he failed to wreck a year ago.
I think the top guy I’m steering clear of, however, is LeSean McCoy.
Shady has been accused of a lot of nasty deeds this offseason. Even if he wasn’t behind a violent burglary, some people close to him said he did a lot of other bad things.
Even one of those off-field issues could trip up the now 30-year-old. If that weren’t bad enough, McCoy is stuck on what promises to be a really bad Bills offense.
Buffalo has always been rather run-centric, but they AT BEST will be placing A.J. McCarron under center. McCoy is going to face stacked boxes more than ever, and now that he’s another year old, I’m less excited by his massive workload.
Maybe I’ll be proven wrong here, and at his current round three ADP, perhaps he even ends up being a steal. I just won’t be the sucker paying to find out first-hand.
Michael Wynn: Man, these guys stole all my thunder! I’m all over Greg’s point in that I agree that Marshawn Lynch’s days of being a workhorse running back are long behind him.
If you see where I rank LeSean McCoy in my guide to the 2018 Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings, you’ll know my thoughts on the Bills RB. I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t play a single down this season, and therefore, I won’t be going anywhere near him in a fantasy draft.
The situation in Tampa Bay is so bleak that Mike Evans isn’t a guy I’m going to spend a high draft pick on, either. So again, I echo the sentiments of my counterparts.
I’ll go against the grain here and say that I am avoiding Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott. Zeke isn’t a threat in the passing game like the other top fantasy backs, and that’s a “no-no” in PPR leagues.
I could see the Cowboys struggling a bit in 2018, which would open up playing time for the likes of Tavon Austin and Rod Smith, who figure to see work in passing situations. You have to spend a top-8 pick on Elliott, and I’m just not willing to do that whatsoever.
Who Is the Best Overall Value in Drafts?
Greg Maggiore: There is some gambling that goes into making a pick like this. With that said, I will take a shot with Andrew Luck’s value for the 2018 season. He is going late in mock drafts and is ranked #117 in the ESPN top 300.
For someone going as late as rounds 8-10, he still has the potential to be a top-5 fantasy QB in 2018. Owners will be scared to take him coming off missing more than a year after shoulder surgery, so I’ll be looking from some late-round value in Mr. Luck.
Noah Davis: I won’t even try to come up with a different option here. Greg nailed it. Andrew Luck has been away from football for a year, but this is a dude who is fully capable of putting up 5,000+ passing yards and 40+ passing scores.
Luck could show initial signs of rust, but you can get a potential top-5 fantasy quarterback in round 8 or later in just about every league.
There is risk here, but few value picks are available in the middle or late rounds without a red flag or three. Luck is still the top value in drafts, and it’s not particularly close.
Michael Wynn: Greg and Noah are obviously onto something, folks. Andrew Luck is a guy who is ranked #117 in the ESPN top 300, yet he has a legitimate shot at ending the year as a top-5 fantasy QB.
However, to avoid taking the easy route, I’ll throw out another name.
If you are playing in a PPR league and you see Adam Thielen hanging around at the end of the third round – don’t waste any time. Make the selection. Here’s a guy who caught 91 balls for 1,276 yards last season and scored more fantasy points than guys like A.J. Green and Mike Evans.
With Kirk Cousins now under center, I expect Thielen’s production to remain steady and perhaps even take a slight uptick. Adam should deliver as a top-10 WR once again in 2018, and that’s some serious value if you get in at the end of round 3 or early in round 4.
Dennis Ryder: Overall, I have to go with my boy Aaron Rodgers here. Speaking in reality or in fantasy, he does things that simply can’t be matched week in and week out.
If you’re waiting on him until the 2nd round or 3rd, there’s no better deal. Here’s a guy who can throw 300 yards in a half without breaking a sweat.
With new weapons in Jimmy Graham, a stable of wide receivers chomping at the bit to make their mark, and an offensive line getting healthier, Rodgers is top dog overall in any fantasy format period.
I know people want to hear about running backs or wide receivers they can get later in drafts, but here’s the skinny: Rodgers is a threat to put up more fantasy points than anyone else in the game, yet you can get him as late as round four in some drafts.
It doesn’t get much more “value-like” than that.
That does it for our look ahead to the 2018 fantasy football season. The overall consensus is that you probably want to chase down elite running backs and wide receivers early, while finding value at the quarterback and tight end positions.
While that may be true for some, there were also some contrarian perspectives that could be useful come draft time.
Either way, hopefully our four-man look at how to maneuver through your fantasy draft helped you prepare for your coming draft. Good luck on draft day, and enjoy the 2018 fantasy football season!
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