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Fantasy Insider: Which Players To Target In Round One?

Scott Engel of RotoExperts.com is in his seventh season of Fantasy Football analysis on seahawks.com. Scott is an inaugural member of the Fantasy Sports Writer’s Association’s Hall of Fame and a former FSWA Fantasy Football Writer of the Year Award Winner. He can be heard on FNTSY Radio every morning and seen on FNTSY Sports Network daily on CenturyLink’s sports package and Dish Network.

The earliest parts of the draft are what most Fantasy owners focus on and try to get a handle on as soon as they begin looking forward to their new seasons. They obsess about who to pick first, and how the next round or two may play out after that. Many even try to guess about what the order may play out ahead of them. That often proves to be a fruitless exercise, as every draft is different and you will never know for sure, in most cases, what will happen in the picks ahead of you.

To get ready for the first round, if you know where you are picking, you simply should have the amount of players equal to your selection queued up. So if you are picking eighth, have your Top 8 players ready, and when your pick comes up, you simply take the top one on the board. No need to obsess about who is going to fall to you. If you are well prepared, you just take the best available guy when it is your turn.

David Johnson is often the first player off the board in most drafts regardless of format, and he has a current NFL.com Average Draft Position (ADP) of 1.32. He was the highest scoring non-Fantasy QB in NFL.com leagues last year with 327.80 points, he is versatile and explosive, and is a major crux of his offense. Le’Veon Bell has an ADP of 2.43 and these two running backs are considered in a class by themselves for their all-around superstar levels of play. Bell may go first in some leagues, which is sensible, as he did not finish far behind Johnson in in terms of receptions despite playing in fewer games. Bell has dealt with some minor issues regarding his availability in the past, so when making a close call, Johnson seems to get the nod.

Antonio Brown now moves into a natural third overall slot in most formats with questions about the availability of Ezekiel Elliott. Brown has an ADP of 4.35 and was third among NFL.com wide receivers with 201.30 points. His excellent year to year consistency is simply unmatched at the position. Despite not being the protoypical big wide receiver needed for TD production, he was a scoring machine again last year, with 12 TD receptions. If the two running backs go off the board prior to slot three, Brown is one of the easiest picks in the draft.

Julio Jones is next off the board on NFL.com at an ADP of 5.40. In terms of yardage upside, there may not be any player in Fantasy Football with a higher possible ceiling. How can any Fantasy player forget his 1,871 yard campaign in 2015? If Jones can stay healthy and the Falcons utilize him more frequently in the red zone this year, he will certainly justify the lofty draft spot.

Odell Beckham Jr. is being taken next in many drafts, with an NFL.com ADP of 6.55. If you have noted past health concerns for Jones and feel Beckham is a better bet for TD production (10 last year), you will find yourself with some others who feel like the Giants standout is the guy to take fifth. I have Beckham slightly ahead of Jones in my overall rankings on RotoExperts.com, but both are fine first-rounders who are tenants of the top tier at the position.

Elliott’s ADP has dropped from third overall to 7.03, but with the questions about how many games he will play, he is too risky of a first-rounder. You want your pick to be a sure thing, and it’s better to take the risk on him on the second round if you want to take the chances. But the early selections are so key to your roster structure and it’s perfectly fine to let someone else deal with the situation.

LeSean McCoy has been seeing his draft stock rise recently, and now has an ADP of 8.23, but he has been going as early as fourth overall in some leagues. His 13 TD runs last year are a big attraction to Fantasy owners, and he will be seemingly even more of a focal point of the offense now with some key roster changes by the Bills. McCoy is the clear No. 3 RB in Fantasy right now, but it may be hard to pass on a WR who is still arguably in the top tier at the position.

Tampa Bay WR Mike Evans has an ADP of 8.47, but he was the No. 1 player at his position last year with 208.10 NFL.com points. He caught 12 TD passes and started to become comparable with Beckham for the first time in PPR formats, as he passed the 90-reception mark for the first time. With improved complements around him and a rising Jameis Winston getting him the ball, I would opt for him as early as fifth or sixth overall.

After busting out with 10 TD runs in his second pro season, Melvin Gordon is the ninth player off NFL.com boards, and he could soar over 1,100 yards in 2017. In PPR formats, though, you may opt for Devonta Freeman or DeMarco Murray first. They are right behind Gordon on the NFL.com draft ladder. Freeman has rushed for 11 TDs in each of the last two seasons with over 1,500 yards from scrimmage. Murray was fifth in NFL.com standard scoring last year at RB with 240.80 points and he also caught 53 passes. He will remain a major central focus of the Tennessee offense, working behind a great offensive line.

Three players who deserve strong first round consideration but have lower NFL.com ADPs are WRs Jordy Nelson, (15.56), A.J. Green and Michael Thomas. Nelson finished second at WR last year on NFL.com with 207.70 points and is still going strong as the leading target in the NFC’s best passing game. A healthy Green can be right near Beckham and Evans in terms of Fantasy production. Thomas is being drafted too low at 19.67 after a superb rookie season. He totaled 1,137 yards and nine TDs in 2016, and is a rare combination of size and speed. He plays in a great offense and is set to firmly establish himself as the top target for Drew Brees in 2017.

Here are my Top 15 recommended overall selections for PPR leaguers. Use this as a quick listing to work off in your own draft.

  1. David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals
  1. Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers
  1. Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers
  1. Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants
  1. Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  1. Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons
  1. A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals
  1. LeSean McCoy, Buffalo Bills
  1. Devonta Freeman, Atlanta Falcons
  1. Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers
  1. DeMarco Murray, Tennessee Titans
  1. Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints
  1. Melvin Gordon, Los Angeles Chargers
  1. Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys
  1. Jay Ajayi, Miami Dolphins

For more rankings and insights from Scott Engel and his team, register now for the Xclusive Edge Fantasy Football package at rotoexperts.com/discount. Seahawks.com readers get 10 dollars off with promocode “seahawks” at checkout.

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