Scott Engel of RotoExperts.com has more than 20 years of experience in the Fantasy industry and is an inaugural member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association's Hall of Fame. This is his seventh season providing Fantasy Football coverage and advice on Seahawks.com.
When planning for a draft, many Fantasy owners always want to know in what rounds should certain players be targeted. It's never good to focus on attempting to acquire certain players at certain points, because the flow of your draft can work against you in that regard. A guy you may want can always be selected anywhere before it's your turn in a specific round. You cannot rigidly expect to build the team the way you ideally want to in any draft. You must adjust to the nuances of the draft as it progresses. In each round, have groups of players queued up for each round. You don't want to be frustrated and disappointed and even discombobulated when your pick comes up because you were hoping to nab that one guy you really wanted and then he is no longer available. Just take the best player left at the top of your cheat sheet, there is always the "Next Man Up" on Fantasy draft day, as Pete Carroll might say if he played Fantasy Football.
That being said, these players I will spotlight here are guys I would very much prefer to have on my teams this season wherever possible. If you can land them, you should feel even more confident about your Fantasy team heading into the new season. I will provide their NFL.com Average Draft Positions so you can feel free to maybe take them a few slots earlier than they are going if you'd like to. Be aggressive, you should "Always Compete" for who you really want, as coach Carroll might add as well. These are the guys I would want to build around or have in key roster spots this year if I could. Of course, keep the big picture in mind, and remember that every player has his range or tier he belongs in, and don't leap several rounds too early for anyone.
Le'Veon Bell (NFL.com ADP of 1.55): There is a "Big Four" of Fantasy Running Backs this year that are in a clear class by themselves for superstar production. They are Bell, Todd Gurley, David Johnson and Ezekiel Elliott. But many Fantasy owners with a Top Two pick want to know which one of the four is he best, and we have to split hairs as Fantasy analysts to come to such a decision at a high level. So Bell is the one I go with, because he has the longest track record of excellent versatility at this rarified level, and he will certainly catch more passes than Elliott. Bell has caught 75 or more passes for at least 600 yards in three of the past four seasons while rushing for over 1,250 yards in each of those campaigns. If you are a Fantasy owner who likes to trade higher into the first round, be bold and get into that number one slot, and the rest of your team can just be built around Bell.
Dalvin Cook (16.51): We barely saw Cook last year before a knee injury ruined his rookie season. But he is more than 10 months past a torn ACL and as this report indicates Cook has made terrific strides in his recovery and is close to fully recovered. Cook is a versatile weapon in a very good offense that may only get better this season, and he may give you first round type of production from a second round draft slot.
Joe Mixon (42.44): His was a hot Fantasy name as a rookie, but he averaged just 3.5 yards per carry in 2017. But the Bengals made big changes on their offensive line in the offseason, and Mixon has promise as a pass-catcher also, as evidenced by his 24-yard catch and make defenders miss TD in the preseason opener. Mixon is especially appealing in PPR leagues, and figures to be a high-floor producer with the upside to be one of the best running backs in the AFC this year if his blocking improves as hoped.
Tarik Cohen (107.9): He will certainly go earlier than the 11th round in PPR formats, and in those type of leagues, I would view him as an exciting RB3. Cohen is one of the most explosive dual threats at the position, and new head coach Matt Nagy is going to fully take advantage of his talents after he was not utilized enough last season, much to the chagrin of Bears fans and Fantasy players who saw his potential flashed with 46 and 36-yard runs in Weeks 1 and 3, and a 70-yard reception in Week 7. The Bears offense could vastly improve this season, especially by midseason, and Cohen is going to make a lot of big plays that will really help your Fantasy team from the flex spot in PPR formats.
DeAndre Hopkins (11.13): If you are not in a position to get Antonio Brown, Hopkins can be your next best option. He has a second round ADP on NFL.com, but I say he is a mid first-rounder. In two of the past three years, he has soared past 1,350 receiving yards and scored a combined 24 TDs in those campaigns. That was accomplished mainly while dealing with issues at the QB position in Houston. Now Hopkins embarks on his expected first full season with Deshaun Watson. The promise of Hopkins playing with his best QB ever over a complete year gives him an actual ceiling over his 96 receptions, 13 TDs and 1,378 yards from 2017. Watson started only six games during that latest Hopkins run to superstardom.
Davante Adams (23.40): Aaron Rodgers is obviously one of the game's very best QBs, and by association, he turns his most prominent pass-catchers into highly productive Fantasy producers. Personnel changes and injuries in the Green Bay WR crew, plus improving play from Adams, have pushed him into the clear No. 1 WR spot on the team as the 2018 season beckons. Adams has caught 22 TD passes over the past two seasons and is ready to easily vault past the 1,000-yard mark for the first time in his career. The statistical possibilities are quite exciting.
Doug Baldwin (34.19): Because of a preseason knee injury, Baldwin's ADP is starting to drop. But Pete Carroll has openly said he is not worried about Baldwin's health. As I said in this space last week, Fantasy players get overly concerned about short-term injuries when they are drafting. That creates value opportunities on a player such as Baldwin. You want to draft who is going to be available during the regular season in a situation like this one, not worry about a player who is going to miss exhibition games. Because of such perceptions, you can gleefully grab Baldwin as your WR2 in many upcoming drafts.
Chris Hogan (90.17): This is much like the Adams situation in Green Bay, but with Hogan, it's more of an instance where he is a breakout candidate. Hogan is a sizable target with big-play ability, and he caught five TD passes in nine games last year. He will be the Patriots clear No. 1 WR as Julian Edelman misses the first four games and still will be a primary target when he returns. He is a superb WR3 pick.
Kirk Cousins (63.99): I always recommend waiting on a QB because the position is so deep, and you can land Cousins in the seventh round. He will be playing with the best supporting cast of his career in Minnesota and he's at least going to be solid, and sometimes spectacular. I can certainly win in Fantasy with Cousins, I don't need a superstar QB to contend. It's better to stock up at RB and WR as needed in the first five to six rounds.
Philip Rivers (125.53): The 13th round price tag makes Rivers ridiculously undervalued, and is the most glaring proof of how long you can wait to grab a very good starting QB in some leagues. Rivers has been a Top 10 Fantasy passer in five of the past six seasons.
Delanie Walker (60.61): I also do not recommend taking a TE in the first five rounds. This is more of a PPR play, as Walker has caught 140 passes and gone over 800 yards in each of the past two years and is not showing any signs of slowing down at age 34.
Jack Doyle (100.00): As Seahawk fans witnessed this week, Andrew Luck is looking healthy again. Doyle will be his second-most preferred target in the passing game and could be on the verge of a career year.
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