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I've written enough about players this summer. I have comments on almost every ranking. The Upside designation for the players in the Draft Dominator and Top 300? I write those.
And, there are all the Gut Check articles from this summer. You should know where I stand with most of these players. Let's put the pieces of the puzzle together.
HOW THE TIERS WORK
The tiers are based on 20-round, 12-team PPR formats with a serpentine-style draft. I will not be doing a non-PPR tier.
These use this common lineup allotment: 1 QB, 2-3 RBs, 3-4 WRs, 1 TE, 1 K, and 1 DEF. You can easily tweak this to provide one additional flex for RB and WR.
Rather than making one set of tiers, this year I've created separate tiers for those drafting at the early turn (spots 1-4), the middle slots (5-7), and the late turn (8-12). The tiers have many of the same players, but there are also players unique to each draft spot.
This year, I'm providing two lists for each round what I call the Big Pool and the Preferred Picks.
THE BIG POOL
The Big Pool is players that you generally expect to be available in each round. This list will include the following information:
- My ranking of the player (MW Rk)
- The player's position (POS)
- My projected fantasy points for the player (MW Proj.)
- The player's August 6th ADP at Underdog Fantasy.
- Tight End ADPs have two values slashed together. The first is 1 point PPR. The second is ADP's 1.5 PPR premium PPR.
You'll notice that my projected fantasy points do not automatically drive the rankings within the tiers.
While the Big Pool is roughly in order of ADP, there are notable exceptions based on players where there's a notable difference between my valuation and ADP. This difference is roughly a minimum of 15 picks.
When my valuation is significantly higher than the ADP, I often split the gap with the picks and place the player in a tier that's in a sweet spot below my valuation of the player and still above his ADP.
A good example is Cortland Sutton, I value him as the 18th-best fantasy option on the board versus his ADP of 34. Instead of recommending you pick Sutton at my valuation, which would mean losing a chance to take Aaron Jones, Mike Evans, or Tyreek Hill, I placed Sutton 27th on my board, just above Mike Williams and D.J. Moore.
When my valuation is significantly lower than the ADP, I often split the gap in the opposite direction. While any time you value a player lower than his ADP, the likelihood of landing that player decreases, I estimate the spots for these players where I think they would present worthwhile value.
There are exceptional cases with these tiers where I have players valued higher or lower than their ADP and I left them at or near their ADP. The way I have seen drafts unfolding, I found that these players presented some combination of ceiling and/or floor that made them compelling at the ADP value.
I won't be commenting on every player in the Big Pool. Below each round of the Big Pool list is my Preferred Picks. You'll find commentary there.
THE PREFERRED PICKS: WHAT'S UP WITH THE ASTERISKS?
These are my faves based on a variety of factors: film study, team fit, my projections research, and how this relates to their ADP. This is my way of refining the list of players and focusing on prospects that have the right combination of talent, opportunity, and upside.
You'll notice that some of these players are listed in multiple rounds and have an asterisk (*) next to their names. These are the players I valued significantly higher than their current value.
The rounds where the asterisks are next to their names are the beginning and/or end of their recommended sweet spot and should have no problem landing them within these ranges. When that player who had an asterisk next to his name doesn't have one in the subsequent rounds, it means his round listing is close, if not past his ADP.
Because I value these players significantly higher, it's a good idea to consider them when there's an asterisk next to their name. It all depends on your build and balancing being a little aggressive with what I think is a value and letting value fall to you.
If the player has more than 15 picks difference between my valuation and ADP, he's a proven player and should earn starter volume, then I'd be a little more aggressive. If there's a legitimate question mark regarding some of these factors, trust yourself to make a good judgment call.
If you aren't as bullish on these preferred picks, choose someone else from the Big Pool.
MY BASIC DRAFT PHILOSOPHY
It's important to understand the perspective of the list maker when considering their list. Here are some philosophical points that drive a lot of my valuation.
Safety in the Early Rounds
People talk about early-round players based on their potential to deliver top-five or top-10 fantasy upside overall. It's great when you hit the bull's eye of the target, landing multiple picks that generate top-15 or top-20 overall fantasy production.
However, some people are more prone to taking risks with players that have high ADPs who also have lower floors than their athletic ability may indicate due to injury history, off-field entanglements, and surrounding talent.
I don't think you should avoid all players with tangible risks of this type during the first 5-7 rounds of the draft, but it's wise to limit how many you choose. Pick your spots with a more conservative mindset.
Fantasy GMs often win thanks to their prowess for upside picks during the later rounds. However, that's often due to those picks supplementing early-round picks with stable and competitive weekly production.
Certainly, 1-2 late-round players can thrive in the place of injured, suspended, or benched early-round picks that disappointed. Sometimes you'll see winning rosters that did this with even more players from the back half of their drafts, but it's easier to rely on the idea that safe early picks with high ceilings and high floors will generate a competitive baseline and 1-2 upside picks will give you the competitive edge.
Upside after Rounds 10-12
I fall in line with most fantasy analysts here: It's wiser to go for the players with the highest upside rather than high-floor players with low upside. Sterling Shepard and James Proche are good examples of players with the talent to deliver high-floor value if they were starters in their offenses. However, they lack the athletic ability and the roles in their offense (even if they were starters) to generate anything more than low-end flex production.
These are players you will rarely start and if you do, you've been holding them on your roster when you could have acquired a free agent who has the physical talent to deliver starter production with much higher weekly scoring potential. You probably could have acquired Shepard, Proche, or another player like them off the waiver wire during the season.
I don't care as much about age as a factor in re-draft as many fantasy analysts. This is especially the case with tight ends, quarterbacks, and wide receivers with specific skill sets.
Rookies and Young Talent Potentially on the Ascent
I shared a detailed essay with Rookie Scouting Portfolio subscribers on how I value training camp. While I won't share it here, the gist of the analysis is that practices determine which players get opportunities with the first- or second-team during the preseason.
It's these opportunities that drive a lot of decisions about playing time. This is especially true with running backs because no matter what exciting prose you see beat writers use to describe a running back in training camp until there's legitimate hitting from opponents that the running back hasn't faced daily in some fashion for the past 90 days, coaches don't really know what they have in the player.
This often stretches into the regular season. Remember when fantasy analysts were telling you that James Conner was cooked and Benny Snell was the next fantasy starter of value in Pittsburgh?
How about Clyde Edwards-Helaire, the next Brian Westbrook-Marshall Faulk? He had a strong fantasy debut against the hapless Texans but the Chiefs also noted clear issues with his game and those issues never improved.
The Browns used Nick Chubb on special teams early in his rookie year. The coaches didn't really know what they had.
This also applies to other positions:
- Receivers and tight ends: Reading route options and coverage the same way as their quarterbacks.
- Quarterbacks: Dealing with game-planned coverages, unfamiliar pressure schemes, and the enhanced difficulty of NFL pockets.
The Rookie Scouting Portfolio is known in the industry for its identification of ascending talents. While I get annual praise for its utility in dynasty and re-draft leagues, I tend to take a cautious approach with players in re-draft leagues who have late-round or UDFA NFL Draft capital.
You'll have plenty of opportunities to land players who develop beyond their draft standing, drafting Isaih Pacheco in the 12th round won't be a good idea until you learn that he's earning first-team reps during multiple preseason games and the Chiefs are cutting or trading known commodities on the running back depth chart.
He may hit without seeing these events happen and a 12th-round pick may seem well worth it. At the same time, you have a better overall team with a build that includes a late-round quarterback with upside (Jameis Winston and Matt Ryan), a proven running back (Chase Edmonds), or a proven receiver (D.J. Chark) while getting more than enough talented running backs before and after you reached for Pacheco before you have a clear picture of his role.
Tiers: The Big Pool and Preferred LIst (Rounds 1-20)
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