Fantasy values that could change in the draft
The 2018 NFL Draft is less than a week away. As you prepare for your 2018 fantasy football seasons, best ball leagues, DFS, and your upcoming dynasty league season, it’s important to get ahead of the changes in value that the draft should bring for a wide variety of players. Today, we’re breaking down the players who could very likely see the biggest swings in value after this year’s draft. The goal is to help you get out ahead of the game in dynasty leagues while also giving you players to put on your target and do-not-draft lists for all other formats.
(All ADP data comes from FantasyFootballCalculator.com.)
Players who could lose value
Following the release of Dez Bryant, Hurns jumped multiple rounds in early average draft position all the way up to No. 141 overall (per FF Calculator). That was a leap of faith to begin with for a wide receiver who has never worked with Dak Prescott and finished with just the 44th-best yards per route run on just 537 snaps in 2017. The Cowboys have since continued to show interest in the 2018 wide receiver draft class, most recently bringing in athletic marvel Courtland Sutton for a private visit. If the Cowboys invest their first-round draft pick at wide receiver, it will hurt Hurns’ value. If the Cowboys make this another cluster draft at the wide receiver position (similar to how they attacked cornerback in the last draft), it will be devastating to Hurns’ outlook.
Ajayi has long been a favorite of ours due to his ability to force missed tackles and create yards after contact — he finished ranked 22nd and third in elusive rating (the combination of those two) in his past two seasons, respectively. While it might seem easy to project a jump in fantasy value heading into his first full season with the Eagles, Philadelphia has been curiously active during the pre-draft process with the rookie running back class. We don’t expect head coach Doug Pederson to change his philosophy and go with a featured back, but if the Eagles grab Sony Michel or Derrius Guice at the end of the first round, Ajayi could quickly become waiver-wire fodder due to a lack of touches.
Riddick has operated as a fantasy asset in PPR leagues for the past three seasons in large part due to his role in the offense. Some of the reason why Riddick has seen such a high-volume role has to do with the failure of former second-round pick Ameer Abdullah to emerge as the passing game and all-around threat that he was supposed to be. Now, the Lions have jumped in and done their due diligence on what some scouts believe to be the deepest and most talented running back class in the last decade. If the Lions use their first- or second-round pick at the position, they will have a great chance to land a foundation back. As we learned with the Vikings offense before Dalvin Cook tore his ACL, even offensive coordinators who prefer to use multiple backs in their offense won’t take a running back off the field if he is able to contribute in all aspects of the game. The addition of a premiere running back could signify a shift in the Lions offensive plan of attack and that’s bad news for Riddick.
According to ESPN’s Todd McShay, it’s a matter of when and not if the Giants select Saquon Barkley. Take that with a grain of salt, however, as the 14 days leading up to the draft can be filled with intentionally false leaks. However, the Giants have shown an incredible amount of interest in Barkley during the pre-draft period, meeting with him at the combine, his pro day, and for a private visit at the facility. There are Gallman truthers out there after the rookie who entered the NFL with a career 3.5 yards-after-contact-per-carry average at Clemson performed well behind a porous Giants offensive line, but the addition of Barkley would immediately sink his value.
Sanu has been talked about as a sneaky mid- to late-round fantasy football draft pick due to his assumed role in the Falcons offense. We like him too if the Falcons choose to stand pat in the draft. However, the Falcons would be unwise to go that route after their offense stagnated in 2017. With few needs across the board at other positions, the Falcons could invest in one of the draft’s top wide receivers to take some coverage away from Julio Jones. This could mean Sanu goes from late-round sleeper to struggling for targets.
McKinnon’s ADP has skyrocketed since the 49ers signed him to a lucrative multi-year deal to join Kyle Shanahan’s offense with Jimmy Garoppolo. Now may be the perfect time to sell him in dynasty leagues. When Shanahan’s offense operated at its fullest capacity, he had a two-back system with Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. In a running back class this talented, Shanahan is bound to fall in love with a one-cut runner who fits his scheme. That runner will cut into McKinnon’s value and could possibly usurp him depending on when the 49ers pull the trigger on a running back.
Players who could gain value
Now that the Howard trade rumors have died down following head coach Matt Nagy’s assurance he would be the featured back, he could end up a screaming value on a franchise that seems destined to continue building an offense around Mitchell Trubisky. The addition of Allen Robinson will surely help Howard see fewer stacked boxes, but the tea leaves in Chicago read Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson is a lock to be the pick if he drops to No. 8 overall. PFF analyst Steve Palazzolo recently broke down why Nelson is the best guard prospect in years. He would immediately provide a massive boost for the Bears run game and Howard.
This blurb will take a long and winding road, but it will get there. The Bengals offense took a major step back in 2017 in large part due to the departures of left tackle Andrew Whitworth and left guard Kevin Zeitler. Andy Dalton has always struggled under pressure and his numbers were while pressured were no different last season. Dalton’s struggles carried over to Green, and while he still put together a solid season by fantasy standards, the lack of a deep passing game capped his ceiling. Green finished with just the 38th-most yards on passes that traveled 20-plus yards in the air. The Bengals have already added left tackle Cordy Glenn, and given their draft history, it is fair to wonder if they invest early in the offensive line in what promises to be a deep and talented interior offensive line rookie class. If they do, Green will benefit.
Pryor was one of the hottest mid-round picks last August after dominating padless practices in Washington. The combination of a bad offensive scheme fit and an ankle injury completely derailed his 2017 season and the hype has dissipated. Pryor has a great chance to jump back on fantasy radars with the Jets and could emerge as the No. 1 wide receiver for whomever of the top rookie quarterbacks they traded up to No. 3 to select. History tells us rookie quarterbacks lock on to one wide receiver and Pryor could be that guy. Now is the time to buy low.
The Buccaneers offense was supposed to explode in 2017 with the addition of DeSean Jackson and another season in Dirk Koetter’s vertically attacking scheme. Offensive line injuries and a nagging injury to Winston’s throwing arm derailed that plan. The Buccaneers seem likely to end up with Barkley in this draft class if the Giants address quarterback and the Colts address the defense. His addition would open up the offense and give Winston another dynamic option in the passing game. Barkley led the entire 2018 running back class with 40 targets and finished with the third-most yards per route run (1.90) in the entire class as a receiver out of the backfield.
The Saints were in the running to sign Jimmy Graham this offseason after watching Brees’ red-zone efficiency drop off in 2017 without any true threats besides Michael Thomas. The Packers signed Graham and the Saints settled for 37-year-old tight end Ben Watson, but they might not be done with their search for a red-zone threat down the seam. The Saints have shown pre-draft interest in South Dakota State tight end Dallas Goedert, who is PFF’s No. 1 ranked tight end overall. Goedert’s skill set will create the kind of mismatches head coach Sean Payton and Brees thrived on during the Graham era. His addition will help Brees get back into fantasy’s elite QBs again in 2018.