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Tough picks generate ambivalence within a fantasy owner. At the sight of their name, you can imagine the glorious heights of their ceilings and the dark and dank floors of their basements — and with little clarity about the direction that they're headed.
These are my 10 toughest picks heading into 2018 drafts. Yours will surely differ, but you may find that your picks share similar reasons as mine.
10. KIRK COUSINS (ADP 98, QB9)
A two-time top-5 fantasy QB in 2016-17, Cousins signed with a Vikings team that has more reliable starting receivers and a better defense than Washington. Dalvin Cook flashed his immense talent before suffering a knee injury that he's on track to return fully healthy this summer.
How can Cousins be a risk? The Vikings offensive line and Cousins' pocket behavior under pressure.
Minnesota's offensive line was healthier last year than it was the previous two years and it upgraded through the draft. The unit allowed the third-fewest sacks last year. However, Pro Football Focus believes that Case Keenum's scrambling mitigated a lot of issues that would have been more apparent with a different quarterback under center. The site charted Keenum under pressure on nearly 40 percent of his drop-backs.
The site ranked Minnesota's line one spot behind Washington's last year despite Washington giving up 181 pressures surrendered to Minnesota's 154. Offensive line analysis is a difficult frontier that has a lot of subjectivity baked into its process. Speaking with an NFL analyst about this subject the other day, he characterized offensive line grades as "a really noisy thing to try and encapsulate...tough to pull off because of the crippling small sample sizes in most cases."
That said, it's notable that Washington left tackle Trent Williams has allowed the fewest pressures of any tackle in the NFL since 2015. Washington's line tanked last year due to injuries that forced 11 players to play at least 140 snaps. The Vikings line was weakest against the pass rush at center and late in the year when Mike Remmers moved to guard.
Edge pressure is less insidious to a quarterback's performance than consistent interior pressure. Cousins authored a top-5 fantasy season with a tattered offensive line and one top-35 PPR fantasy receiver (Jamison Crowder) so it stands to reason that the Vikings unit is an upgrade. However, Keenum is a better quarterback under pressure than Cousins.
According to Football Outsiders 2017 Quarterback Rankings that adjusts for situation and opponent as well as performance in high-leverage situations, Keenum was the No. 3 quarterback in Total QBR; Cousins No. 17. When examining quarterback runs within its rubric, Keenum had the best DVOA (Defensive-Adjusted Yards Over Average, which differentiates runs based on situation and opponent) in the league and Cousins was 24th.
If the Vikings line doesn't dramatically improve, the offense could feel Keenum's loss more than we're anticipating. Cousins has improved his decision-making and he's learned to slide and find the shallow routes as a check-down.
Even so, his eyes remain bigger than his arm under pressure. It's a problem Cousins had at Michigan State when he tried to stand in the pocket and fire a target from a bad platform that requires more arm strength than he had, and it still shows up too often as a pro.
If the Vikings allow more pressure inside the tackles than Cousins can handle, it may not matter how good his receivers are. If the difference for Cousins between last year and this is 25 yards per game — approximately the yards gained from two completions — that's at least 40 fewer fantasy points than 2017. It could put Cousins outside the top 12 rather than inside the top 5.
This is how tight the field is among fantasy quarterback performances, which is why Cousins changing teams with a different dynamic of weaknesses along the offensive line could play into his greatest weakness and make him less of a value than it appears on paper.
The verdict on Cousins: On talent alone, Cousins is worth the risk. However, picking Cousins is not as easy when factoring ADP (98) into the equation. Matthew Stafford (100), Jimmy Garoppolo (102), Philip Rivers (112), Jared Goff (113), Matt Ryan (119) and Patrick Mahomes (121) are all available later, and there's some appealing depth at running back still on the board with lead back or feature back potential — Kerryon Johnson, Nick Chubb, Aaron Jones, Giovani Bernard and C.J. Anderson. There's also a chance Ben Roethlisberger (93) slips a round or two.
There's a compelling argument to wait on a quarterback for another round. Substituting Rivers, Goff, Ryan, or Mahomes for Cousins allows a fantasy owner to take a chance on valuable depth at the running back position and still follow up with Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston, Derek Carr, Dak Prescott, or Alex Smith as a viable second quarterback.
This depends on your league. If your competition plays the late-round quarterback strategy, these options after Cousins may fly off the board earlier if the competition reacts with a run on the position.
However, if you're having ambivalence about Cousins near the 9-10 turn, Rivers, Goff, Ryan, and Mahomes have equal upside as Cousins. Other than Mahomes, the other three haven't experienced significant changes in system, personnel, or role between 2017 and 2018.
While Cousins receivers remain good fantasy players, Cousins is a tougher pick at his price. Unless his value falls, the upside isn't worth the potential pitfalls.
9. JOE MIXON (ADP 31, RB16)
Like most of these players, Mixon's surrounding talent and usage is a greater risk than his individual skills. He's an elite talent at the running back position. Some are questioning that take after a rookie season where he didn't produce to the level of Alvin Kamara, but they aren't giving enough weight to the Bengals offensive line play in 2017.
The unit was PFF's 28th ranked line and averaged the third-lowest average per carry on outside zone runs among teams that ran this scheme at least 100 times. Football Outsiders charted Cincinnati's line as 24th in the league on short-yardage runs on third and fourth down and 31st in yards in the open field. They were a much better team running behind its guards and center — 13th in the league.
The Bengals added veteran Cordy Glenn and drafted Billy Price during the off-season, which should help the unit overall. Still, there's a question about how much. There's also Giovani Bernard, a proven option who can earn more looks at any point the Bengals decide that its designation of Mixon as the bell cow back isn't paying dividends.
A good center is one of the most important cogs in the offensive line because he has to mesh with the guard play and communicate adjustments to the entire line. The best centers help a unit of good individual linemen — and even some middling talents — gel into a productive unit.
The verdict on Mixon: He has the talent, the commitment to his in 2018 has been stated, and the Bengals upgraded two of its five linemen from last year. Considering the availability of talented receivers and tight ends later in this class, Mixon's risk profile relative his running back peers (Jordan Howard, Kenyan Drake, Derrick Henry and Alex Collins) in the same range is low enough that if you're going to "shoot your shot" with on an RB2 with RB1 upside, he's the most talented of the bunch.
8. Josh Gordon (ADP 42, WR20)
There's little need to discuss how good Gordon is or what could go wrong off the field. We've seen both happen. Last year's tape was proof that he still has high-level skill. The question is his fit in the offense and relationship with his quarterback.
Most important, which quarterback will he be working with?
Tyrod Taylor is the safest bet. He maintains a low turnover rate, he has an excellent deep ball, and the Browns can use the ground game and Taylor's mobility as leverage for the play-action vertical game. Gordon will benefit from intermediate and deep crossing routes as well as double moves and straight-up go routes.
However, is Gordon's drug history and the Browns' ineptitude too much to risk taking him as the 20th receiver off the board?
The verdict on Gordon: The answer to the above question comes down to safety versus upside. If using an Upside Down Strategy, Gordon feels like a great pick as your fourth receiver in a starting lineup with three or four wideouts. At his ADP, you're likely picking in the 1.06 to 1.08 spot and will have a shot at Odell Beckham, DeAndre Hopkins, or Julio Jones in the first round, A.J. Green, Davante Adams, or Mike Evans in the second round, and Adam Thielen, Larry Fitzgerald, Amari Cooper, or Stefon Diggs as your third option.
If you're taking Gordon as one of your top two receivers, after selecting non-receivers in the first two rounds, it still has appeal — especially in two-receiver lineups where there's a lot of mid-round value. However, in leagues starting four receivers, the risk of Gordon and this offense becomes higher.
While a tough pick because bad history, the skills are still intact and if you believe talent wins out, Gordon is your kind of choice even as a fourth-round value.
7. LEONARD FOURNETTE (ADP 13, RB9)
Fournette is a gap runner who thrives behind a fullback. Think of him and a gap blocking scheme as a cement mixer heading towards a toll plaza at 90 MPH.
If Fournette knows which gap — or toll booth — that he's supposed to run through in advance, he can adjust to the location of the booth and even if the gate is down, he'll snap that arm into splinters. However, if Fournette doesn't know which booth he's supposed to run through until the last second, that cement mixer is likely to wipe out and destroy the entire toll plaza.
This is often the difference between Fournette in a gap scheme and a zone scheme. It's also the difference between Fournette running behind a fullback or in a single back set with the quarterback under center and Fournette running from the shotgun.
Although Fournette had enough runs from the gun to see the difference, the Jaguars realized this about Fournette's game when they scouting him at LSU and planned accordingly. Jacksonville mainly used Fournette as a sledgehammer and won with a physical running game.
Based on last year's production, Fournette's ADP is aligned with 2017's performance. It's also the second season where Fournette dealt with an ankle injury — an issue many speculated would progressively get worse and could spell a short career for this rough-and-tumble cement mixer who plays like a running back from the 1980 and early 90s.
That's a high compliment for those of you who were born after Eddie George injured his toe.
The tough part of drafting Fournette this high is that 60-70 percent of the running backs who finished in the top-12 the year prior don't repeat and Fournette has what may already be a chronic injury.
The verdict on Fournette: The fact that Jene Bramel broaches the topic that Fournette's ankles will never get tighter is a good indication that he's riskier option than it may appear. Bramel said in a June segment on the Audible Live! that regardless of Fournette doing more straight-line running as a gap player than he would as a zone runner, there's still enough times where those ankles will deal with difficult stressors.
The longer his career is, the greater the risks. If you're looking for safe picks early, Fournette's projected volume and big-play speed and power make him one of the safest. His ankle issues make him riskier than it appears. Even so, the fact he's available at the turn with a top receiver as available in tandem eases the risk enough at this early stage of his career to remain optimistic.
However, if you're an ultra-conservative drafter in a league with at least four receivers in the starting lineup, it's safer to take two receivers at the 1-2 turn and lead with the Upside Down approach.
6. JORDAN REED (ADP 93, TE9)
Reed has a long injury history. Last year, he dealt with a hamstring injury that forced him to injured reserve, and now we're hearing that the hamstring was a compensatory injury due to his toes, which required an April surgical procedure that he's still rehabbing and will not participate in OTAs. Jene Bramel speculated on the Audible Live! that Reed's toe procedure could have been done two years ago and that there's a possibility that some of his past leg injuries were compensatory issues for the lingering problem with his toe.
If this is the case, perhaps Reed's days as an injury-prone player will be a thing of the past. Considering that Reed has two top-10 fantasy seasons, but he has only played 12 games in an NFL season twice (guess which times...), a fantasy owner can dream.
Reed is a run-after-the-catch player with the quickness to stretch the seam. Alex Smith has improved his willingness to attack vertically, but his data is a bit deceptive. Smith's receivers in Kansas City were among the leaders in separation gained on targeted passes. Smith is not a tight-window thrower in the vertical game; he needs that space to deliver with confidence.
Reed and Paul Richardson Jr have that kind of skill to make Smith comfortable targeting them. However, Reed isn't available for Smith to gain rapport with him. Compared to Reed's overall availability, the time needed to gain rapport isn't as pressing of an issue. Even so, it adds another factor to the mix.
The verdict on Reed: With the exception of the arguably brittler Tyler Eifert, Reed is the last proven fantasy tight end on the board who isn't scheduled to share time with another pass-catching option. Trey Burton (Adam Shaheen), Jack Doyle (Eric Ebron), Cameron Brate (O.J. Howard).
George Kittle is the one exception, and he's available two or three rounds later than Reed. Considering that Reed is available 7-10 picks before the run of quarterbacks mentioned in the section above, the pick comes down to the elite upside of Reed if he plays at least 12 games and the upside of quarterbacks — many of them with QB1 production potential at the right price.
At this time, Reed's ADP has to fall more than it has to be worth the pick, because his injury history still remains an issue and the toe issue resolving it remains speculative, at best. If he's available 30-40 picks later than his current ADP, his appeal makes it worthwhile. However, it's more likely that his ADP rises as he gets healthy enough to practice in August.
5. Ronald Jones II II (ADP 63, RB26)
Everyone loves the bright and shiny new toy. Jones' speed and agility make him one of the marquee toys in the storefront window in this draft class. The fact that his ball security efficiency is strong and his quality of third-down skills is more promising than the quantity are also appealing. It doesn't hurt that the Buccaneers let Doug Martin go and selected Jones in the second round of this year's draft.
T.J. Yeldon, Derrick Henry, Ameer Abdullah, Bishop Sankey, Jeremy Hill, Giovani Bernard, Eddie Lacy, Montee Ball, and Christine Michael were all bright and shiny second-round toys between 2013-2017. Few of these players went to teams that ran the ball effectively and close to half of them were ill-equipped to perform to their round grade.
Many fantasy owners have co-opted the Jamaal Charles comparison for Jones. While yours truly has a slightly different player in mind (Chris Johnson) for Jones, there are compelling reasons for the Charles-Jones comparisons.
Neither comparison will seem compelling if the Buccaneers offensive line doesn't improve. Statistically, Tampa's unit was all over the place in 2017. According to Football Outsiders, the Buccaneers were 12th in the league when it needed to run on third and fourth down but 17th in stuffed percentage and 31st in reaching the 2nd level of the defense and 30th in the open field.
The run game was much better off-tackle and inside the tackles, than it was on the perimeter. This is ground zero for the debate: Does Jones's speed help the ground game where it's lacking or will the offensive line drag Jones down to its level of past performance?
Football Outsiders showed how many yards backs gained in the second level and not how many times backs reached that zone of the defense. Even so, there's little debate that Jones' speed and quickness should make him a more productive big-play threat when he reaches the second level.
The bigger question is whether he's more equipped to reach the second level than Barber, who is still a young NFL player and has steadily developed to the point of climbing the depth chart to the starter role. Barber has starter-level quickness, a low center of gravity, good power, and balance — more power and balance and Jones.
Barber also has proven that he can earn tough yards without making immature decisions that young backs with Jones's athletic profile are prone to make as rookies trying to do too much.
The Buccaneers want to use Jones in a passing-down role this year. If he can make some slight improvements in his hand usage and keeping his head up, he has a shot to earn that opportunity. If not, Rodgers and Barber are proven commodities.
Jones is exciting but like the second-round picks mentioned earlier, is the fantasy community's enthusiasm too much, too soon?
The verdict on Jones: The fantasy community values him as a top flex-play with a likelihood of RB2 value in 12-team fantasy lineups. However, it's likely that he splits time with Barber this year in an offense where Jameis Winston has been a turnover machine and a red zone bust despite more weapons than most quarterbacks can hope for.
In terms of role, Jones is slated to be Tampa's version of Dion Lewis whose ADP (60) is essentially identical to Jones and he's a proven commodity. Then there's the Evan Ingram (ADP 62) who is a must-have by comparison. There's also a strong argument that if Marvin Jones continues to drop from his ADP (59) into Ronald Jones II's range, that the wise fantasy owner would prefer a top-10 fantasy receiver who is getting discounted for foolish reasons.
Tevin Coleman is another proven option in this role that Jones will occupy and he's available in the same range (65). Then there's Sammy Watkins (67), who has more upside on a team with surrounding talent that should earn him big plays and volume.
Unless Jones beats Barber outright before the season, fantasy owners will be picking Jones high with the assumption that it will happen. That's a more dangerous proposition than it looks.
4. Tarik Cohen (ADP 70, RB30)
There's no question about Cohen's talent. Yours truly rated Cohen the top scheme-based fit of the 2017 rookie class and predicted he'd be a top-25 PPR running back.
After Week 1 of the 2017 season, it appeared the Bears might use Cohen to his greatest capacity. Against the Falcons, the Bears used Cohen as a runner and receiver from the backfield, put him in the slot, and split him outside. Cohen responded with an impressive performance.
This is a well-run route with an excellent break to the outside that Mike Glennon throws it low and behind the runner, but Cohen still manages to pluck it behind his frame one-handed.
He's an instant mismatch against linebackers and safeties on routes breaking to the flat when used from the backfield or the slot and the throw is on-time. Against Atlanta, the Bears targeted Cohen on a deep pass that was well-covered, but he nearly caught.
Unfortunately, Week 1 was the most imaginative use of Cohen all year. John Fox and his staff reverted to a conservative game plan that did not come close to maximizing Cohen's potential as an offensive weapon.
Fast-forward to this spring, and Chicago's new coaching staff says it will use Cohen in every facet of the offense. Cohen says, "I feel like this is the offense for me."
As Fox said last preseason, Cohen isn't small; he's short. Cohen didn't play small as a runner, receiver, or blocker last year, which is why there's reason for optimism that he'll earn the volume of a fantasy starter.
We've seen it from Darren Sproles with the Saints when he was the 5th and 13nd-ranked PPR fantasy runner in 2011-12 and no worse than an RB3 in 12-team fantasy lineups in 2009, 2013, 2014, and 2016. In 2011 and 2012, Sproles' teammate Pierre Thomas as the No. 21 and No. 32 PPR back, respectively.
Washington's Chris Thompson reprised the "Sproles Role" in 2016-17 with 28th-ranked PPR production among backs in '16 and 27th during an injury-shortened '17 where he was the No. 10 PPR fantasy runner before he got hurt. Washington didn't have another back authoring a season-long starter-caliber fantasy total the past two years.
Danny Woodhead lacks the downfield capabilities of Sproles, Thompson, and Cohen, but he had four years as a PPR starter and two years as an RB1 in 12-team fantasy lineups. In 2015, Woodhead was the only back with fantasy starter production on the team. In 2013, Woodhead finished the year as the No. 12 PPR fantasy starter and Ryan Mathews finished 17th. In 2012 with the Patriots, Woodhead was 24th among PPR backs and Stevan Ridley 15th.
As promising as this sounds, Cohen is a tougher pick this year. Last year, Footballguys staffers were joking with me in our league when I selected him at the end of a 20-round draft. We're barely into June and Cohen is leaving boards as a No. 3 RB in fantasy lineups despite the presence of Jordan Howard, a top-12-caliber fantasy talent.
Cohen's current ADP matches his finish as the No. 29 PPR back last year, but he wasn't a consistent fantasy performer. He had nine games last year where fantasy owners were undoubtedly disappointed with his inability to earn double-digit outputs.
While many would like to forget, Tavon Austin inspired excitement after 2015 when he paired with rookie back Todd Gurley. The 21st-ranked receiver in standard leagues and 28th in PPR formats, there was thought that the Rams figured out how to use the mercurial athlete.
However, intent and implementation are two different animals. Austin never returned to those heights in Los Angeles, and now it's the Cowboys' turn to figure him out.
Cordarrelle Patterson is the best open-field runner without a running back number that this analyst has ever seen. Patterson began his career as the No. 38 receiver in standard leagues thanks to his otherworldly talents with the ball in his hands. However, Minnesota and Oakland didn't figure him out. Now, Bill Belichick is promising Patterson that the Patriots will make the receiver the player he should be.
The verdict on Cohen: Gadgets get lost in couch cushions and somewhere between the offensive coordinator's press box and the playing field. In football, a gadget-player lacks a well-rounded game at a single position.
Austin never developed into complete route runner, and he never had the ball-tracking and tight-coverage skills of Victor Cruz. Patterson can catch but he's always been characterized as a player who needed a lot of coaching to perform exactly as needed on the field from week-to-week. His route running also never advanced to the level of a primary option.
Cohen is not a gadget; he's a running back who can run a lot of underneath routes with the quickness of a receiver and has the speed and ball-tracking for the intermediate and deep game. If he's used like Sproles or Woodhead, he can co-exist with Howard and both backs can deliver starter-caliber fantasy production in 2018. However, attaining that balance and production is easier than it sounds.
Matt Nagy is an unproven NFL head coach, and we've often seen highly-touted football minds on one side of the ball take the reins of a team and fail miserably in the area where their reputation is the greatest. Sproles and Woodhead succeeded in these multi-faceted roles alongside another productive running back in offenses that featured Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, and Drew Brees. Mitchell Trubisky is a second-year starter with a whole new set of young receivers and his second new offense to learn in two years.
Believing in Cohen's ability and potential is easy; betting on him as a fantasy RB3 at pick 70 when a potential full-time starter in Royce Freeman is available in the same range is another question. The intensity of that ambivalence grows when considering that Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods, and Delanie Walker have reliable fantasy floors and even greater upside.
The fact that Brees also available at this range — still a top-10 fantasy quarterback last year despite a receiving corps consisting of Michael Thomas, Michael Thomas, and Michael Thomas — also makes Cohen a gamble.
If Cohen is part of an Upside Down Draft Strategy, he's worth the risk. Otherwise, fantasy owners better map their draft plans with enough mocks to determine if they can live with what they're missing by taking a chance on the talented scat back.
3. DESHAUN WATSON (ADP 50, QB2)
Watson's second start in Week 3 against the Patriots through his Week 8 performance against the Seahawks was a 5-week run with 18 passing touchdowns and at least 250 yards from scrimmage. Adding to the aura is the likes of Wes Welker telling Bill O'Brien on the sideline that he's never seen anything like Watson.
Despite a torn ACL midseason, fantasy owners have Watson as its second quarterback off the board. While there are still leagues that take quarterbacks early and often, Watson's ADP isn't based on the picks of fantasy writers who are often vocal proponents of late-round quarterbacks.
Fantasy owners selecting Watson are betting on five NFL games and a healthy enough knee that Watson will be significantly better than every quarterback not named Aaron Rodgers. While there have been seasons where the gap between the second and third quarterbacks has been as much as 4-5 fantasy points per game (Drew Brees vs. Andy Dalton in 2013), the gap has often been closer to 0.8-1.5 points per game.
Watson has rehabbed an ACL, returned to the field, and played at a high level in the past. However, the NFL is a grind that the college season is not, and we have not seen Watson perform at a high level through a 16-game season where quarterbacks get beaten up, arm-weary, and defenses make fruitful in-season adjustments.
There are a lot of quarterbacks with consecutive weeks of strong performances who didn't sustain that production throughout the course of their careers. While Watson could be different, it's a tough call to say it will manifest Year 2 during what will hopefully be his 6th through 22nd games as an NFL starter.
The verdict on Watson: Watson is a fine prospect in an offense that has played to his strengths while minimizing his weaknesses, which is something a lot of old-school NFL coaches have failed to understand about designing offenses for young passers. However, expecting Watson to out-produce every quarterback but despite his injury, lack of experience, and one proven receiver is expecting to hit a bull's eye with your quarterback pick — and that his production will be significantly better than the pack that only one other owner will also hit a bull's eye at the position.
At the same time, who has more potential value and is more difficult to do without at Watson's ADP (50), Watson? Or...
- Jimmy Graham (54)
- Greg Olsen (56)
- Evan Engram (62)
- Michael Crabtree (58)
- Marvin Jones (59)
- Sammy Watkins (67)
- Pierre Garcon (69)
- Lamar Miller (52)
- Derrius Guice (53)
- Dion Lewis (60)
- Rashaad Penny (61)
- Ronald Jones II II (63)
- Sony Michel (64)
- Tevin Coleman (65)
- Carlos Hyde (68)
Graham, Engram, Marvin Jones, Watkins, and Guice are the most appealing of this group and there's a compelling case with possibly the exception of Engram that there are players available later with equal or greater value. At the same time, Russell Wilson and Tom Brady have better track records than Watson at a similar price and there are 10 other quarterbacks available no worse than 20 picks later who have top-5 upside.
It comes down to this: Do you think Watson and whatever tight end, receiver, or back after Guice can offer more than 10 proven quarterbacks plus one of Graham, Engram, Jones, Watkins, or Guice.
Tough call. However, it's easier to acquire a quarterback who can help a team than it is a top runner or an elite tight end. Graham and Engram's values won't rise much. However, Guice's will, if he has a strong preseason, and Jones's may fall as the Kenny Golladay fan club grows vocal and the perpetual lack of appreciation for Jones remains strong.
This author isn't likely to do it and wouldn't recommend it, but there's merit to the idea.
2. CARSON WENTZ (ADP 72, QB6)
Like Watson, Wentz had success in an offense that figured out his weakness and played up his strengths. In Wentz's case, he's less accurate in the intermediate and vertical game when he has to perform drop-backs. Last year, the Eagles used a spread system and let Wentz pivot into a throwing position in the timing game and it minimized the attempts where his feet were out of position to deliver an accurate throw.
Wentz suffered a difficult injury late in the year and while there's a lot of optimism that he'll be at full strength by training camp, it's still not a guarantee. While a lot of positive things have been written about the video of him pivoting and throwing in OTAs, it's not enough to consider him on track to start Week 1.
A lot of these videos looked uglier than the gloss given to them. At this point, it's pollyannish to think he'll deliver a season-long performance close to that of a top-five fantasy passer — especially with a healthy Nick Foles available.
The verdict on Wentz: There will be enough media buzz around Wentz that the temptation to take him will be great. However, just like Watson, there are 8-10 quarterbacks available after Wentz with a longer track record of success, better health, and good offenses.
Wentz also had a more difficult injury than Watson and doesn't have Watson's experience of successfully rehabbing one. Wentz's current value is on par with Emmanuel Sanders, Robert Woods, Delanie Walker, and Royce Freeman. These are four options with upside that could rival what a fantasy owner might miss if he opted for Watson instead of the players at his ADP.
In this sense, Watson seems like the better risk than Wentz. Of course, there's appeal to skipping Watson and Wentz, taking Brees — whose team upgraded at tight end and wide receiver — and getting one of Engram, Graham, Jones, Gruice, or Watkins
1. LeSean McCoy (ADP 22, RB 13)
Want to see how difficult offensive line rankings are? Look at the way PFF and Football Outsiders ranked the unit's 2017 season. PFF has the Bills seventh overall and one of the Bills' bragging points was a 1.92 yards before contact average that was fourth in the NFL.
However, Football Outsiders listed Buffalo 27th overall and were in the bottom-third of the league in short-yardage runs on 3rd and 4th down and the 4th-worst team in percentage of stuffs allowed. The unit was in the middle of the pack at reaching the second level of a defense and in the top 10 of yards in the open field, which is likely a testament to McCoy more than his teammates.
In fact, McCoy was second in the league with 772 yards before contact last year. Is that the line or was it McCoy? Rarely is it the runner, but McCoy is a special back. The contrast between him earning more yards gained before contact than any back other than Todd Gurley but also leading the league by a large margin with 55 stuffs indicates that McCoy did a lot of work on his own.
At best, Buffalo's line was good at really specific plays and bad everywhere else. The Bills were the best in the league when running to the right end and average up the middle but among the worst on the left side of the line — guard and tackle.
This was before the team lost Cordy Glenn, Richie Incognito, and Eric Wood — arguably the three best options on the team. Their replacements aren't journeymen and reserves lacking top talent.
Buffalo also lost its one veteran quarterback who was proven with run/pass adjustments pre-snap that we may not see with A.J. McCarron, Nathan Peterman, or Josh Allen. None of this looks good for McCoy and it begs the question: Is McCoy talented enough to overcome a worse-performing line than last year and with an unproven quarterback depth chart that lacks experience getting a pro offense in and out of bad plays?
The verdict on McCoy: He's a great runner but with these losses and his ADP in a range where Devonta Freeman, Rob Gronkowski, Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, and Doug Baldwin are likely available, McCoy is no longer an automatic pick. Based on past history — especially last year and his lower ADP than normal — the appeal to trust McCoy will be high.
While the running backs around at this ADP (other than Freeman) don't offer much greater appeal, the receivers do. Add to the equation backs like Jay Ajayi, Mark Ingram, Alex Collins, and Derrius Guice who are available 2-3 rounds later, and the emotional appeal for McCoy will make his value among the toughest calls of the 2018 season because it's time to cut the cord.