The must-draft list: Players you want to target in fantasy drafts

You probably can't get all these guys, but Jeff Ratcliffe says these 10 have special value this year and warrant a longer look.

| 3 weeks ago
(AP Photo/Brad Penner)

(AP Photo/Brad Penner)

The must-draft list: Players you want to target in fantasy drafts


There’s never going to be a situation where you’re going to draft all of your must-have players. Draft dynamics simply don’t allow for it, even in auctions. However, it’s a good idea to sit down and identify the “swipe right” players on your draft board. I don’t mean Antonio Brown. We all want him on our fantasy teams. Let’s dig a little deeper and highlight some guys who aren’t as obvious.

1. Devonta Freeman, RB, Atlanta Falcons

The chatter this offseason has been about the potential for a reduced role for Freeman with Tevin Coleman expected to see more carries. While the general reaction of the fantasy community has been to downgrade Freeman, we may want to pump the brakes a bit. Freeman is coming off a massive breakout season where he posted 15 runs of 15-plus yards and ranked third among receivers in targets.

Coleman is a good bet to get some work on early downs, but Freeman remains the third-down option. Better yet, Freeman has already flashed in the preseason, scoring on a nifty 19-yard run in the Falcons’ second preseason game. Freeman was last year’s top fantasy running back, and you get him at a nice discount in the middle of the second round. That’s especially beneficial if you happen to draft a wide receiver in the first round.

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| Director of Fantasy

Jeff Ratcliffe is the Director of Fantasy at Pro Football Focus. He produces all of our projections and is one of the most accurate rankers in the fantasy industry. Jeff also is the host of our show on SiriusXM fantasy sports radio and is one of the main hosts of our Fantasy Slant podcast.

  • Nate Hile

    Ugh. Enough with the Devonta Freeman. Dude is Eric Rhett 2.0. Marginal talent with a versatile skill set. Speed was is and always be the thing that seperates an average back from a good one. Freeman is slow. That is why Tevin Coleman and his 4.4 speed remains a threat to his touches.

    • Phil

      Marshawn Lynch ran a 4.5 and Le’veon Bell ran a 4.6 forty at the combine so WTF are you talking about? Speed has little to do with how well a RB succeeds in the NFL.

      • Nate Hile

        Lynch ran 4.47. Sub 4.5 is excellent for a RB. Bell ran that 4.6 at 244 lbs. He is much lighter and quicker these days. 4.6 is fine when you are 225 pounds or more. It means you are a marginal talent at 205. There are outliers of course. We remember the outliers so we skew the data and say dumb things like 40 time does not matter. But it does. Look up the 40 times of backs with 5000 or more career yards. You will find that the overwhelming majority were fast. Even many you don’t think of as fast (John Riggins). You will also notice that the ones not quite as fast a bigger backs. Freeman low ypc speaks to his marginal talent.

        • geo2209

          A couple of things. 1) Speed don’t mean squat when you have a good to great OLine like the Falcons have. Look at Run DMC last year who was constantly banged up yet still produced. 2) Look up how many tackles Freeman broke – he’s shifty. That in conjunction with #1 will tell you how productive he will be. Speed only matters once the back has identified the hole properly (how quick can they make a decision – TRich’s demise) and Freeman has no issues there. Summary – with a superior run blocking line like ATL, speed doesn’t matter as much. In conjunction with Freeman’s superior receiving prowess over Coleman, he has nothing to worry about as the alpha dog and is a second round steal in PPR leagues.

    • Timothy B Sarver

      Commas were, are and always will be the thing that separates an average comment from a great one.

      • Nate Hile

        If you are Nathaniel Hawthorne. Long sentences with lots of commas are considered bad style by the rest of us.

  • Danimal

    This is where stats can lie. PFF has been trashing on Langford and his poor efficiency but the more concerning player should be Freeman. He was a volume player last year with below average efficiency. The Falcons are airmailing their desire to use more Coleman. Any loss of playing time for Freeman is concerning considering he either needs to greatly improve his career efficiency (a normalized sample size suggests he wont) or sustain a crazy high TD rate for a guy his size. TDs can be fluky so while I will admit theres a chance he repeats in that department theres also good reason to expect those to regress as well. He had a 1.5% TD rate his rookie season compared to a 4.1% rate in 2015. I expect him to end up somewhere in between those two extremes which spells disaster if he does lose touches to Coleman. To me hes a high risk player in the 2nd round.

    • Mondo

      Those stats aside, you’re not actually saying that someone should draft Langford over Freeman are you? Or are you just arguing Freeman’s 6-10 draft position is a little bit high? Or Langford’s later rounds is too late?

      • Danimal

        Definitely not Langford over Freeman nor am I investing heavily in either. I think Freeman is a trap player at his current ADP.

        • Mondo

          I’m all about E.E. this year, even with Romo’s injury.

    • Zach

      They’ve taken his decrease in touches into account I believe, I think a lot of his production they predict will be in his receiving, where last year he was clearly better than Coleman. I think even at his floor of splitting time 50-50 (which I don’t think he’ll get to) he’s still going to be productive. Though definitely won’t be as good as last year