Fantasy Football Love/Hate: Rounds 1-10

This fall, millions of people worldwide will spend outlandish amounts of time and money researching and preparing for one thing: fantasy football. Some call it a waste of time, some call it a reason to live; most are somewhere in between those two, but either way, the end goal is to prove that you’re better than your friends, and isn’t that what friendship is all about?

Every fantasy football website is different, but they all have one thing in common: their rankings suck. Every year I play on multiple sites and the rankings are horrendous on every single one of them. However, the most used, and maybe most despicably ranked, site is ESPN, so I’ll be basing this article on the current ESPN rankings. 

I will be choosing one pick I love and one pick I hate for each of the first ten rounds. So, players ranked 1-10 are the first round, 11-20 are the second round, and so on. This will be based on PPR scoring because everyone knows that’s the superior scoring method. Even if you aren’t in a 10-person league, I will still be tying everything back to the overall ranking, so you can see where that player may fall in any league.

Round 1- Love: WR Michael Thomas, NO (5)

Michael Thomas is undoubtedly the best receiver in fantasy football, but what most people don’t realize is that he is miles ahead of the competition. Last season, Thomas finished as Position Rank 1 (PR1) amongst receivers with 374.6 points, almost 100 points more than Chris Godwin (PR2) with 276.1. This season, his offensive line is the same, Drew Brees is still playing quarterback (hopefully for the whole season), and the Saints added Emmanuel Sanders, which will free up some room for MT because he’s no longer the only real threat in the passing game.

I don’t think that MT will have the volume he did last year, but I can see him getting more touchdowns with fewer receptions while still finishing within 200 yards of his total from last season. 

Appropriate Draft Position: 3

Round 1- Hate: RB Alvin Kamara, NO (4)

Going heavy on the Saints players this time around, but hey, if there are two inside the top-5, one will most likely disappoint. Kamara is a great football player, no doubt about it, but the hype surrounding him is mostly fabricated from highlight tapes. He has never started more than 13 games in a season, he has never rushed for more than 1,000 yards, and he finished as PR9 last season in PPR. Kamara definitely has upside due to his pass-catching ability, but drafting him at fourth is a bargain I’m not willing to take.

Why take an injury-prone back in a pass-friendly offense when you could have a receiver who will get you 100 more points (MT), or a different back in an offense that runs the ball 20+ times a game (Zeke or Dalvin Cook)? Kamara also has Latavius Murray, who, in my opinion, is a better down-hill runner, to steal carries. Kamara isn’t a bad pick, but fourth is just too early.

Appropriate Draft Position: 6 (8 in non-PPR)

Round 2- Love: RB Joe Mixon, CIN (19)

I know most Joe Mixon owners from last season have some PTSD, but you’ve got to stick with him because he is primed for a huge year. Last season, the Bengals had the 26th ranked run-blocking unit in the league, but they had a few injuries on that line and very poor depth. This offseason, the injuries have healed and the Bengals have signed a lot of line depth, not to mention, Mixon is no longer the only player on that offense who can play football!

Former Heisman winner Joe Burrow has rolled into town with his cigar after having one of the best seasons in college football history, star receiver A.J. Green is back, John Ross is finally healthy, Tee Higgins was just drafted out of Clemson, and Tyler Boyd is still in top shape. The Bengals will finally be able to move the ball without force-feeding Mixon behind a poor offensive line. I love Mixon’s upside this year and I think he’s worth a look early in the second round.

Appropriate Draft Position: 13

Round 2- Hate: WR Mike Evans, TB (14)

Repeat after me: “I will not buy into the hype about the Bucs.” I won’t get into the Bucs’ ridiculously high expectations as a team; I’m just going to talk about Mike Evans. Tom Brady doesn’t have the arm strength he used to and Mike Evans is used primarily as a deep threat in that offense. That’s pretty much all you need to know. Brady loves tight ends and slot receivers (aka Julien Edelman and Gronk). Well, Gronk is back with his best bud, and they have Chris Godwin, who is basically just a taller, sure-handed, faster version of Edelman.

Where does this leave Evans? It leaves him as the Randy Moss, which sounds really good, except the Patriots lived off of play-action deep passes during his time with the Patriots. The Bucs have no run game and a horrible offensive line, so they won’t be able to develop those plays as often or as well as Brady did with the Patriots. Evans just doesn’t fit in that offense this year and he isn’t worth a second-round pick.

Appropriate Draft Position: 24

Round 3- Love: RB Josh Jacobs, OAK (21)

Josh Jacobs at 21 is thievery. Jacobs is going to have a phenomenal sophomore campaign after being robbed of OROY in 2019. Last year, the Raiders ranked sixth in run blocking and Jacobs’ yards-per-carry was still better than the line’s adjusted yards, according to Football Outsiders. He has excellent vision and runs with both power and elusiveness, evidenced by his 2.8 YAC/Att ranking fifth and his broken tackles ranking eighth.

Jacobs is 5’10” and weighs 220 lbs, so to rank in the top ten in both of those categories, he had to utilize his strength, low center of gravity, and agility to evade tacklers. That skillset is fantastic to begin with, but if you factor in one of the best offensive lines, then how do you rank him at 21?! Jacobs is an early second-round pick in my book and an even safer bet than Mixon. 

Appropriate Draft Position: 12

Round 3- Hate: WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, PIT (26)

JuJu fell off hard last year and I don’t trust him to get back to form just because Big Ben is back. Last season, JuJu created only 2.4 yards of separation, which is basically nothing, he ranked in the top-25 in the entire league in drop percentage, and he got upstaged by two younger teammates in James Washington and Diontae Johnson.

Johnson created 3.6 yards of separation, which ranked first among all qualified wide receivers last season, and Washington accounted for 33% of the team’s target share while JuJu only accounted for 17%. Any way you look at it, JuJu just didn’t perform as well as his teammates last season, and I don’t see any reason that should change just because Big Ben is back. I think he will do better this year for sure, but there is no way he goes from 550 yards in 12 games to 1000-1300 yards and 7-10 touchdowns, which is what you should expect from the other receivers in this round.

Appropriate Draft Position: 41

Round 4- Love: WR A.J. Brown, TEN (40) 

I’m expecting the Titans to regress a bit this year due to defensive struggles, but look for A.J. Brown to break out after a very solid rookie year. The man produced over 1,000 yards on 52 catches and 84 targets. Last season, Brown was just a highlight waiting to happen. It seemed like every time he got the ball, it went for 20+ yards.

He had 55 touches and nine touchdowns, meaning that 16.4% of his touches went for touchdowns. Tennessee drafted offensive line help early in the draft, they still have Derrick Henry, and they just paid Ryan Tannehill. Brown is the clear number-one in that offense, and while they will still be run-heavy, the Titans paid Tannehill and not Henry for a reason. That reason is to get the ball to A.J. Brown.

Appropriate Draft Position: 32

Round 4- Hate: RB Melvin Gordon, DEN (38)

The Broncos offense has too many weapons, which is great for them as a team, but bad news for fantasy owners. I don’t think people really understand how good Phillip Lindsay has been for the Broncos in the past two years. He ran for 1,037 yards and 9 touchdowns with 5.4 yards per carry as an undrafted rookie and made the Pro Bowl.

He then ran for 1,011 yards and 7 touchdowns in his sophomore season. What was Melvin Gordon doing these past two seasons? He played only 12 games in each season, he didn’t rush for 1,000 yards in either, and last season, he held out only to play like Cardinals’ Emmitt Smith and rush for 3.8 yards per carry. This is going to be a running back by committee all the way because an undrafted guy like Lindsay is not going to give up his spot without a fight, and Lindsay’s explosiveness is undoubtedly better than Gordon’s. 

Appropriate Draft Position: 50

Round 5- Love: WR Cooper Kupp, LAR (43) 

Cooper Kupp finished as PR4 last season after racking up 94 receptions for 1,161 yards and 10 touchdowns. Now, a season later, Todd Gurley and Brandin Cooks have left that Rams offense, but Kupp is now a fifth-round pick? Cooks’ departure opens up more targets for Kupp and Gurley’s departure means that McVay hands their backfield to three unproven backs to split the load, which means he might want to throw more. So, Kupp will be handed more opportunity in the same offense after finishing as PR4 just a season ago. I don’t see why he shouldn’t be a second or third-round pick, to be honest, but since you can get him later, there’s no need to rush.

Appropriate Draft Position: 34

Round 5- Hate: WR D.J. Chark, JAX (50)

As a receiver, I think D.J. Chark is terribly underrated and extremely talented, but you should stay away from him in fantasy. As much as I love Minshew Mania, that offensive line has him scrambling on almost every single drop back. That tells me one of two things: Either Minshew can’t read a defense or the coaches are dialing up plays the offense can’t execute.

Either way, I don’t trust the Jaguars enough to take Chark. Sadly, it gets worse. The Jaguars have the third-toughest overall cornerback schedule in the league this upcoming season. Chark is a great receiver who will put up middle-of-the-pack numbers, but in the fifth round, there are still guys on the board that could be top-7 at their position. Chark isn’t one of them.

Appropriate Draft Position: 58

Round 6- Love: RB Jonathan Taylor, IND (55)

This was a difficult decision to make, because, to be honest, I’m not super excited or nervous about anybody from this round. However, Jonathan Taylor has one thing that nobody else in this round does: help. His offensive line is near the top of the league in ranking, but here is what really sells me on Taylor: the Colts’ offensive line ranked fourth in second-level yards last year.

The first three were Dallas, Baltimore, and Tennessee. Dallas had one of the best lines in the league to go along with Zeke, Baltimore’s rushing game had elusive Lamar and powerhouse Ingram, Derrick Henry always fell forward, and the Colts had Marlon Mack and Nyheim Hines. This means that the Colts line was able to attack the second level better than anyone else in the league because their backs couldn’t create their own yardage. A downhill runner with 4.39 speed like Taylor will have a ton of success behind that offensive line and he will have command of that backfield by Week 6. 

Appropriate Draft Position: 52

Round 6 Hate: NA

I feel like everyone else in this round is either placed well or is unpredictable at the moment. 

Round 7- Love: TE Darren Waller, LV (62) 

When is the right time to pick a tight end? Is there a right time? Tight ends can make or break your team and Darren Waller will make it. He burst onto the scene last year and finished as PR3 after only scoring 3 TDs the whole year. He earned over 200 points just on yards and receptions alone. Now, he is ESPN’s TE5 and I have no idea why. For me, if I can find a tight end who gives me 10 points a game in PPR, then I’m ecstatic.

However, Waller has all the tools to score close to 14 points per game and be a top-3 TE again this year. If he’s available in the sixth round, just take him. I know there are a lot of mouths to feed in LV, but Waller is a mismatch nightmare for any linebacker with his speed and for any corner with his size. I just don’t see a world in which Waller stays healthy and isn’t a top-3 TE.

Appropriate Draft Position: 49

Round 7- Hate: RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn, TB (67)

I watched tape on Ke’Shawn Vaughn leading up to the draft and let me tell you, this guy is not ready to be an NFL running back. The Bucs reached for him in the third round to begin with, but now they want to put him into an NFL backfield in the NFC South. That will end poorly. Vaughn has great quickness and his game speed is a lot faster than what his 40-time reflects.

However, his vision is actively bad and he doesn’t take contact well. Vaughn just puts his head down and relies on his speed. That isn’t going to fly in the league, especially when you have to play the likes of Demario Davis, Deion Jones, and Shaq Thompson six times a year. Ronald Jones may not be great, but he will be the leader of that Bucs backfield, not Vaughn.

Appropriate Draft Position: 85

Round 8- Love: WR Marquise Brown, BAL (71)

Brown is very boom or bust, but I love his upside this year. Hollywood played all of last season with a foot injury. This offseason, he had a screw in his foot removed, which was said to be the cause of the discomfort. On top of that, he’s been working all offseason and is rumored to have added about 15 pounds of muscle.

If you didn’t know, this guy has some serious speed. The Ravens didn’t pass the ball all that well last season, so if Brown can establish himself as the lead pass catcher early in the season, it’s game over. His route-running is pristine and his speed is hard to match down the field. Brown is definitely a wild card after his disappointing rookie campaign, but he is definitely worth a look in the seventh. 

Appropriate Draft Position: 61

Round 8- Hate: WR Will Fuller, HOU (74)

Will Fuller cannot stay healthy to save his life, he still isn’t the number one option in Houston, and yet he’s above Brandin Cooks. ESPN, please explain what the meaning of this madness is. Fuller is probably one of the most unreliable and inconsistent players in the history of fantasy football.

His route-running and hands are below average, so he relies solely on speed to get him open. He could go undrafted and it wouldn’t bother me in the slightest because he will score 40 points in one week, get injured the next, and then get 3 points in the other 5 games he plays. Never trust Will Fuller.

Appropriate Draft Position: 98

Round 9- Love: TE Evan Engram, NYG (87)

Again, tight end is not a deep position, so if you can find a good one late, don’t hesitate to take them. The way I see it, Engram has a real chance to be the true number one in New York this year. Darius Slayton, Golden Tate, and Sterling Shepard are all great options, but Engram has insane agility at the TE position, he’s got good hands, and he can get open anywhere on the field.

Saquon will obviously be the focal point of that offense, but he can’t carry the ball 60 times a game. The Giants have a sub-par offensive line, so Jones will be looking to get rid of the ball quickly, and who better to throw to than the sure-handed tight end who lines up either in the slot or on the line. Everyone knows Engram has potential, but this could be the year he finally puts it all together. 

Appropriate Draft Position: 81

Round 9- Hate: TE Rob Gronkowski, TB (89)

There are too many mouths to feed in Tampa. Brady said he wanted to play with Gronk again, and then suddenly, Gronk appears on the Bucs. It just doesn’t sit right with me. It feels like Brady just wants Gronk there so his team can be around winners. If I’m the Bucs and I have two young stud tight ends in OJ Howard and Cameron Brate, there is no way I’m bringing in a retired, WWE-fighting, 31-year-old Gronk unless he’s a veteran role model.

That doesn’t seem to be the case here, because Gronk is ranked very highly in all fantasy apps. Nobody truly knows what Gronk’s role will be until the season starts, but the point is, I’m not willing to take the risk on him when I could have Hunter Henry, Tyler Higbee, or Evan Engram instead.

Appropriate Draft Position: 106

Round 10- Love: WR Brandin Cooks, HOU (97)

Am I missing something here? Is Brandin Cooks not the WR1 on a Houston Texans team that throws the ball a lot and deep? Unless ESPN knows something that the rest of us don’t, this is just a gift to anybody who knows what they’re doing. If you can grab a flex/WR2 talent like Cooks in even the seventh round, you should do it, but in the tenth?

That’s insane. He and Watson have already started working out in 100-degree Arizona weather and they looked very in-sync. Cooks has racked up 1,000 yards at least once with every team he’s been with. I don’t see why the Texans should be any different. At 97, he might be the best value pick in the entire draft. 

Appropriate Draft Position: Value: 60, Real Pick: 75

Round 10- Hate: RB Damien Williams, KC (92)

Damien Williams just isn’t going to get much work with Clyde Edwards-Helaire now in that backfield. There are only two reasons to draft Williams this season: as a handcuff to CEH or in the hopes that he gets a big workload in the first couple of weeks so you can trade him for a decent haul. Other than that, Williams will have virtually no value come Week 5.

CEH is the perfect fit for that Kansas City backfield. He’s got great vision, he takes contact well, he can move laterally with ease, and he can run sharp routes out of the backfield. Damien Williams did a great job in the Super Bowl last year, but the Chiefs did not use their first-round pick on CEH just so he could be on a committee. Andy Reid loves his feature backs, and now he has one.

Appropriate Draft Position: 108