Thanks for swinging by RealGM for my 2018 fantasy football draft guide. Below are a few notes about how to properly use the guide, along with a few additional thoughts regarding your fantasy football drafts. The draft rankings follow this intro

Tier System & Use of Draft Guide

The tier system is the best manner to organize your draft board. You should view players in tier 1 of a position as having similar value, then the same for tier 2, etc. This system provides more utility than just a pure rank of numbers. Importantly though, when comparing players at different positions, use the tier system rankings along with top 150 all-position rankings. For example, a tier 2 wide receiver should absolutely be drafted over a tier 1 quarterback. This point is critical in properly using the guide. The positional tiers exist in the universe of that position only, and you need the top 150 to compare how players of different positions rank against each other. 

So you may not agree with every player’s ranking in this draft guide – that’s totally fine! Feel free to adjust the rankings as you see fit. But the key takeaway here is to make sure you use a tier system of some sort, as that’s the best way to ensure that you get good value for your picks. Also, two very important notes, starting with:

  • KNOW THE RULES, ESPECIALLY THE SCORING SYSTEM, OF YOUR LEAGUE INSIDE AND OUT.
  • WHILE A SUCCESSFUL DRAFT DAY IS CRITICAL, CHAMPIONSHIP TEAMS ALSO REQUIRE MAINTENANCE THROUGHOUT THE SEASON.

Organization of Draft Guide

For this year, I have placed the positional tier rankings plus the top 150 at the beginning of the draft guide, with more detailed positional analysis further back in the guide following the top 150. I wanted to keep everything for you in one link, so you have a one-stop-resource for your fantasy football drafts. If you’re just looking to view the rankings, they’re in the front – and if you want explanations and draft strategy, scroll further down. I’ll be updating this guide regularly through the preseason

Make sure to follow me on Twitter (@NeemaHodjat) to stay up to date on the most recent developments in fantasy football. And please don’t hesitate to reach out to me on Twitter with any comments or questions. Now let’s move to the rankings.

Quarterbacks

Tier 1: Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady

Tier 2: Russell Wilson, Deshaun Watson, Carson Wentz, Drew Brees, Cam Newton 

Tier 3: Andrew Luck, Matthew Stafford, Jimmy Garoppolo, Philip Rivers, Kirk Cousins, Jared Goff, Alex Smith, Matt Ryan

Tier 4: Ben Roethlisberger, Patrick Mahomes, Dak Prescott, Marcus Mariota, Derek Carr, Mitch Trubisky

Tier 5: Eli Manning, Jameis Winston, Tyrod Taylor, Andy Dalton, Case Keenum, Blake Bortles

Running Backs

Tier 1: Le’Veon Bell, Todd Gurley, David Johnson, Alvin Kamara, Ezekiel Elliott

Tier 2: Saquon Barkley, Kareem Hunt, Dalvin Cook, Leonard Fournette, Devonta Freeman 

Tier 3: Jerick McKinnon, Jordan Howard, Christian McCaffrey, Melvin Gordon, Derrius Guice (out for season), Joe Mixon, LeSean McCoy 

Tier 4: Alex Collins, Derrick Henry, Royce Freeman, Ronald Jones, Jay Ajayi, Lamar Miller, Kenyan Drake, Dion Lewis

Tier 5: Rex Burkhead, Marshawn Lynch, Mark Ingram, Duke Johnson, Chris Carson, Sony Michel, Kerryon Johnson, Tarik Cohen, Tevin Coleman, Matt Breida, Isaiah Crowell, Marlon Mack, Chris Thompson, CJ Anderson, Rashaad Penny

Tier 6: Ty Montgomery, Nick Chubb, Theo Riddick, Carlos Hyde, Giovani Bernard, Bilal Powell, Aaron Jones, Nyheim Hines, Jamaal Williams, LeGarrette Blount, James White, D’Onta Foreman, Corey Clement, Kalen Ballage

Tier 7: Devontae Booker, Frank Gore, Kenneth Dixon, Latavius Murray, Spencer Ware, Peyton Barber, Austin Ekeler, Samaje Perine, Doug Martin

Wide Receivers

Tier 1: Antonio Brown, DeAndre Hopkins, Julio Jones, Michael Thomas, Odell Beckham Jr.

Tier 2: AJ Green, Keenan Allen, Davante Adams, Doug Baldwin, Mike Evans, Adam Thielen, Larry Fitzgerald, Tyreek Hill, TY Hilton

Tier 3: Demaryius Thomas, Stefon Diggs, Amari Cooper, Josh Gordon, Allen Robinson, Golden Tate, Robert Woods, Chris Hogan, Jarvis Landry, Brandin Cooks, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Corey Davis, Alshon Jeffrey, Marvin Jones, Devin Funchess

Tier 4: Michael Crabtree, Cooper Kupp, Will Fuller, Robby Anderson, Marquise Goodwin, Emmanuel Sanders, Pierre Garcon, Sammy Watkins, Julian Edelman, Jamison Crowder

Tier 5: Kelvin Benjamin, Allen Hurns, Sterling Shepard, Josh Doctson, Randall Cobb, Rishard Matthews, Marquise Lee, Jordy Nelson, DeSean Jackson, DeVante Parker, Mohamed Sanu, Nelson Agholor, Mike Williams, Kenny Golladay

Tier 6: Kenny Stills, Cameron Meredith, Calvin Ridley, Anthony Miller, Tyler Lockett, DJ Moore, Corey Coleman, Martavis Bryant, Paul Richardson, Dede Westbrook, Danny Amendola, Jordan Matthews

Tight Ends 

Tier 1: Rob Gronkowski, Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz

Tier 2: Evan Engram, Delanie Walker, Greg Olsen, Jimmy Graham

Tier 3: Kyle Rudolph, Jordan Reed, George Kittle, Trey Burton, Tyler Eifert, Jack Doyle 

Tier 4: OJ Howard, David Njoku, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Ricky Seals-Jones, Cameron Brate, Charles Clay

Tier 5: Eric Ebron, Jared Cook, Austin Hooper, Benjamin Watson

Defense/Special Teams 

Tier 1: Jacksonville, Minnesota, LA Rams, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Houston, LA Chargers

Tier 2: Denver, New Orleans, New England, Carolina

Tier 3: Seattle, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Atlanta, Arizona 

Tier 4: Green Bay, Cincinnati, Tennessee, Detroit, Kansas City, Dallas, Washington 

Top 150 

To be used in conjunction with the position tier rankings, here’s the top 150 players based on 0.5 PPR scoring systems, with bye weeks in parentheses.

  1. Le’Veon Bell, RB – PIT (7)
  2. Todd Gurley, RB – LAR (12)
  3. David Johnson, RB – ARZ (9)
  4. Alvin Kamara, RB – NO (6)
  5. Antonio Brown, WR – PIT (7)
  6. Ezekiel Elliot, RB – DAL (8)
  7. DeAndre Hopkins, WR – HOU (10)
  8. Saquon Barkley, RB – NYG (9)
  9. Kareem Hunt, RB – KC (12)
  10. Dalvin Cook, RB – MIN (10)
  11. Julio Jones, WR – ATL (8)
  12. Michael Thomas, WR – NO (6)
  13. Odell Beckham Jr, WR – NYG (9)
  14. Leonard Fournette, RB – JAX (9)
  15. Devonta Freeman, RB – ATL (8)
  16. AJ Green, WR – CIN (9)
  17. Keenan Allen, WR – LAC (8)
  18. Davante Adams, WR – GB (7)
  19. Doug Baldwin, WR – SEA (7)
  20. Jerick McKinnon, RB – SF (11)
  21. Jordan Howard, RB – CHI (5)
  22. Mike Evans, WR – TB (5)
  23. Christian McCaffrey, RB – CAR
  24. Adam Thielen, WR – MIN (10)
  25. Rob Gronkowski, TE – NE (11)
  26. Melvin Gordon, RB – LAC (8)
  27. Larry Fitzgerald, WR – ARZ (9)
  28. Tyreek Hill, WR – KC (12)
  29. Derrius Guice, RB – WAS (4) (out for season)
  30. TY Hilton, WR – IND (9)
  31. Travis Kelce, TE – KC (12)
  32. Joe Mixon, RB – CIN (9)
  33. LeSean McCoy, RB – BUF (11)
  34. Zac Ertz, TE – PHI (9)
  35. Demaryius Thomas, WR – DEN (10)
  36. Stefon Diggs, WR – MIN (10)
  37. Alex Collins, RB – BAL (10)
  38. Amari Cooper, WR – OAK (7)
  39. Josh Gordon, WR – CLE (11)
  40. Allen Robinson, WR – CHI (5)
  41. Derrick Henry, RB – TEN (8)
  42. Golden Tate, WR – DET (6)
  43. Robert Woods, WR – LAR (12)
  44. Chris Hogan, WR – NE (11)
  45. Jarvis Landry, WR – CLE (11)
  46. Royce Freeman, RB – DEN (10)
  47. Ronald Jones, RB – TB (5)
  48. Brandin Cooks, WR – LAR (12)
  49. Jay Ajayi, RB – PHI (9)
  50. Lamar Miller, RB – HOU (10)
  51. JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR – PIT (7)
  52. Kenyan Drake, RB – MIA (11)
  53. Dion Lewis, RB – TEN (8)
  54. Aaron Rodgers, QB – GB (7)
  55. Corey Davis, WR – TEN (8)
  56. Alshon Jeffrey, WR – PHI (9)
  57. Tom Brady, QB – NE (11)
  58. Marvin Jones, WR – DET (6)
  59. Devin Funchess, WR – CAR (4)
  60. Rex Burkhead, RB – NE (11)
  61. Marshawn Lynch, RB – OAK (7)
  62. Mark Ingram, RB – NO (6)
  63. Duke Johnson, RB – CLE (11)
  64. Russell Wilson, QB – SEA (7)
  65. Michael Crabtree, WR – BAL (10)
  66. Cooper Kupp, WR – LAR (12)
  67. Deshaun Watson, QB – HOU (10)
  68. Chris Carson, RB – SEA (7)
  69. Will Fuller, WR – HOU (10)
  70. Robby Anderson, WR – NYJ (11)
  71. Carson Wentz, QB – PHI (9)
  72. Marquise Goodwin, WR – SF (11)
  73. Emmanuel Sanders, WR – DEN (10)
  74. Sony Michel, RB – NE (11)
  75. Kerryon Johnson, RB – DET (6)
  76. Drew Brees, QB – NO (6)
  77. Cam Newton, QB – CAR (4)
  78. Tarik Cohen, RB – CHI (5)
  79. Evan Engram, TE – NYG (9)
  80. Pierre Garcon, WR – SF (11)
  81. Sammy Watkins, WR – KC (12)
  82. Delanie Walker, TE – TEN (8)
  83. Tevin Coleman, RB – ATL (8)
  84. Julian Edelman, WR – NE (11)
  85. Jameson Crowder, WR – WAS (4)
  86. Greg Olsen, TE – CAR (4)
  87. Jimmy Graham, TE – GB (7)
  88. Matt Breida, RB – SF (11)
  89. Isaiah Crowell, RB – NYJ (11)
  90. Andrew Luck, QB – IND (9)
  91. Marlon Mack, RB – IND (9)
  92. Chris Thompson, RB – WAS (4)
  93. Matthew Stafford, QB – DET (6)
  94. CJ Anderson, RB – CAR (4)
  95. Rashaad Penny, RB – SEA (7)
  96. Kelvin Benjamin, WR – BUF (11)
  97. Jimmy Garappolo, QB – SF (11)
  98. Allen Hurns, WR – DAL (8)
  99. Sterling Shepard, WR – NYG (9)
  100. Josh Doctson, WR – WAS (4)
  101. Philip Rivers, QB – LAC (8)
  102. Kyle Rudolph, TE – MIN (10)
  103. Kirk Cousins, QB – MIN (10)
  104. Randall Cobb, WR – GB (7)
  105. Rishard Matthews, WR – TEN (8)
  106. Jared Goff, QB – LAR (12)
  107. Alex Smith, QB – WAS (4)
  108. Matt Ryan, QB – ATL (8)
  109. Jordan Reed, TE – WAS (4)
  110. Marquise Lee, WR – JAX (9)
  111. George Kittle, TE – SF (11)
  112. Ty Montgomery, RB – GB (7)
  113. Jordy Nelson, WR – OAK (7)
  114. DeSean Jackson, WR – TB (5)
  115. DeVante Parker, WR – MIA (11)
  116. Nick Chubb, RB – CLE (11)
  117. Mohammed Sanu, WR – ATL (8)
  118. Trey Burton, TE – CHI (5)
  119. Theo Riddick, RB – DET (6)
  120. Tyler Eifert, TE – CIN (9)
  121. Carlos Hyde, RB – CLE (11)
  122. Nelson Agholor, WR – PHI (9)
  123. Jack Doyle, TE – IND (9)
  124. Mike Williams, WR – LAC (8)
  125. Kenny Golladay, WR – DET (6)
  126. Giovani Bernard, RB – CIN (9)
  127. Bilal Powell, RB – NYJ (11)
  128. Ben Roethlisberger, QB – PIT (7)
  129. Patrick Mahomes, QB – KC (12)
  130. Jacksonville Jaguars, DEF (9)
  131. Aaron Jones, RB – GB (7)
  132. Kenny Stills, WR – MIA (11)
  133. Cameron Meredith, WR – NO (6)
  134. Dak Prescott, QB – DAL (8)
  135. Calvin Ridley, WR – ATL (8)
  136. Minnesota Vikings, DEF (10)
  137. Nyheim Hines, RB – IND (9)
  138. Marcus Mariota, QB – TEN (8)
  139. Derek Carr, QB – OAK (7)
  140. Mitch Trubisky, QB – CHI (5)
  141. Los Angeles Rams, DEF (12)
  142. Philadelphia Eagles, DEF (9)
  143. OJ Howard, TE – TB (5)
  144. Jamaal Williams, RB – GB (7)
  145. Anthony Miller, WR – CHI (5)
  146. Baltimore Ravens, DEF (10)
  147. David Njoku, TE – CLE (11)
  148. Tyler Lockett, WR – SEA (7)
  149. LeGarrette Blount, RB – DET (6)
  150. Houston Texans, DEF (10) 

Positional Analysis:

Quarterbacks

Tier 1: Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady

Tier 2: Russell Wilson, Deshaun Watson, Carson Wentz, Drew Brees, Cam Newton 

Tier 3: Andrew Luck, Matthew Stafford, Jimmy Garoppolo, Philip Rivers, Kirk Cousins, Jared Goff, Alex Smith, Matt Ryan 

Tier 4: Ben Roethlisberger, Patrick Mahomes, Dak Prescott, Marcus Mariota, Derek Carr, Mitch Trubisky 

Tier 5: Eli Manning, Jameis Winston, Tyrod Taylor, Andy Dalton, Case Keenum, Blake Bortles 

Analysis:

This year more than ever, it pays to wait to draft your quarterbacks. While the QB tier list looks normal on its face, there’s not much difference between the value of QBs from tier 1 through tier 3. Plus, tier 4 offers some intriguing options for this year - Mahomes, Mariota and Trubisky each have massive upside.

So please listen to me here…DO NOT DRAFT A QB PRIOR TO ROUND 5, AT THE EARLIEST! The abundance of capable QBs, together with the variance of performance among the group make it a fool’s play to draft a QB early this season. Last year’s top-3 QBs selected (Rodgers, Brady and Brees) finished 29th (injury), 3rd and 11th in QB points, respectively. On the flip side, late-drafted QBs Alex Smith, Carson Wentz and Kirk Cousins were 4th, 5th and 6th in QB points, respectively. So here’s the play for this year – let your league mates take the tier 1-2 guys, and then draft two QBs from the tier 3 -4 levels, and play matchups each week. All this said, I would strongly suggest avoiding the tier 5 group for anything more than a backup or bye week filler.

*** The exception here to the wait-for-QBs rule is for leagues where you start two QBs. In that case, I would suggest trying to grab two QBs from tier 3 or better, which will likely require you to grab both QBs by round 5 at the latest. Scarcity flips strategy, so just be mindful of the stark difference in strategy for two QB leagues.

Finally, quick hits on two QBs who I expect will outperform their ADP, and are therefore reflected higher in my rankings:

Jared Goff – The Rams came out of nowhere last year to win the NFC West. Running Sean McVay’s offense, former Cal QB Jared Goff went from potential bust to budding star. Now heading into year two in McVay’s system, plus upgrading Sammy Watkins with Brandin Cooks, look for Goff to continue to ascend, while not costing much in terms of draft capital. 4,000 passing yards and 30 TDs is certainly a realistic possibility, and a great return for a QB that’ll be drafted outside the top ten of your league. 

Alex Smith – As mentioned above, Alex Smith finished as the 4th highest scoring QB last year. Smith has moved on to the Redskins, who also have a QB friendly offensive system. While I’m usually weary of a QB’s first year with a new team, Smith is a solid pro who’s seen it all. I don’t expect him to finish in the top five again this season, but he certainly has top ten potential – and he’ll be available in the middle rounds of your draft. Smith serves as yet more evidence that you should wait to select a QB. 

Bonus…third QB! Alright, I lied – one more QB I’d like to sneak in here:

Patrick Mahomes – Alex Smith’s successor with the Chiefs, Patrick Mahomes walks into an ideal situation for a young QB. Playing in brilliant offensive mind Andy Reid’s system, Mahomes will have an arsenal of weapons to go along with top notch coaching. Mahomes will have second year RB sensation Kareem Hunt in the backfield, along with downfield weapons Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins and Travis Kelce at his disposal. With a rocket arm on his right shoulder, I may even have Mahomes a bit low here on my board. 

And two QBs who I consider to be overdrafted with respect to their ADP, and are therefore reflected lower in my rankings:

Eli Manning – Eli Manning will have plenty of help this year on offense, with the Giants adding top RB rookie Saquon Barkley through the draft and Odell Beckham through return from injury. Talented second year TE Evan Engram and WR Sterling Shepard round out an impressive group of skill position players for the Giants. But, the Giants offensive line, despite the addition of Nate Solder, will continue to struggle. Plus, Eli is just not that good. I’d pass on him. 

Tyrod Taylor – I was a fan of Tyrod’s last year with the Bills, but I don’t see a good fit for him with the Browns. Taylor struggles to throw in tight windows, while much of Josh Gordon’s game is a tight window pass catcher. Not that Taylor can’t improve this aspect of his game, but he’s also got the added pressure of having first overall pick Baker Mayfield waiting in the wings. Do you think that Mayfield will be sitting the entire season? Me neither.

Running Backs*

Tier 1: Le’Veon Bell, Todd Gurley, David Johnson, Alvin Kamara, Ezekiel Elliott

Tier 2: Saquon Barkley, Kareem Hunt, Dalvin Cook, Leonard Fournette, Devonta Freeman

Tier 3: Jerick McKinnon, Jordan Howard, Christian McCaffrey, Melvin Gordon, Derrius Guice (out for season), Joe Mixon, LeSean McCoy

Tier 4: Alex Collins, Derrick Henry, Royce Freeman, Ronald Jones, Jay Ajayi, Lamar Miller, Kenyan Drake, Dion Lewis

Tier 5: Rex Burkhead, Marshawn Lynch, Mark Ingram, Duke Johnson, Chris Carson, Sony Michel, Kerryon Johnson, Tarik Cohen, Tevin Coleman, Matt Breida, Isaiah Crowell, Marlon Mack, Chris Thompson, CJ Anderson, Rashaad Penny

Tier 6: Ty Montgomery, Nick Chubb, Theo Riddick, Carlos Hyde, Giovani Bernard, Bilal Powell, Aaron Jones, Nyheim Hines, Jamaal Williams, LeGarrette Blount, James White, D’Onta Foreman, Corey Clement, Kalen Ballage

Tier 7: Devontae Booker, Frank Gore, Kenneth Dixon, Latavius Murray, Spencer Ware, Peyton Barber, Austin Ekeler, Samaje Perine, Doug Martin

* Note that rankings are based on 0.5 PPR (point per reception)

Analysis:

After a few years of WRs invading the early part of the first round in fantasy drafts, we return to RB domination at the top. You can argue that the top five draft picks should be RBs, and at worst, it’s fair to say that five of the top six overall picks should be RBs. My preference for the first overall pick is Le’Veon Bell, but you can’t go wrong with any of the first tier RBs at the top. The tier 2 group should be selected in the back half of the first round, spilling into the top of the second round, while the tier 3 group should solidly go in the second round.

So what should be your plan at RB? For this year, you need both quality and quantity. The ideal scenario is to grab two RBs from the tier 1 – 3 groups. If you can only snag 1 from that group, then I’d make sure to grab two RBs from tier 4. Some of the tier 4 RBs will pop, but you cover yourself best by throwing the line out there at multiple options. In all cases, make sure the last few RBs you’re drafting are upside plays (such as Kerryon Johnson or Nyheim Hines).

Finally, quick hits on three RBs who I expect will outperform their ADP, and are therefore reflected higher in my rankings:

Dalvin Cook – Cook comes with some risk, as he returns from a torn ACL suffered early last season. But the reports issued from training camp regarding his health are glowing, and Cook is an absolute beast. With the subtraction of Jerick McKinnon, Cook will be a three down back for the Vikings. With Cousins behind center and a very balanced offense, teams won’t be able to focus on Cook – and he’ll factor into the passing game for PPR leagues as well. He’s a late first round value who’s currently being drafted in the second round.

Derrius Guice (out for season) – NFL teams who selected RBs early in the 2018 NFL draft will regret passing on Darius Guice. Good news for the Redskins, Guice and his fantasy owners – we have a perfect marriage here. The Redskins have a strong run blocking offensive line, and Guice makes his hay between the tackles. His running style does lead to injuries, but if he can stay healthy, look out. Guice will be the second best rookie RB this year behind Saquon Barkley. He’s a high end RB2, with potential for more. Currently being selected at the back end of the third round, you should consider him as high as end of round two / early round three.

Rex Burkhead – Burkhead started slowly out of the gate last season, which was his first with the Patriots. But as he gained comfort in Belichick’s offense as the season progressed. Burkhead scored TDs in the final four games he played. While the Patriots drafted Sony Michel, Burkhead should receive the bulk of the goal line carries – and he’ll continue to serve as a weapon in the passing game. Burkhead is being selected late in drafts, too late in fact – he’ll be a solid flex play who should be picked in the middle rounds. 

And three RBs who I consider to be overdrafted with respect to their ADP, and are therefore reflected lower in my rankings:

Melvin Gordon – Melvin Gordon has been a consistent producer over the last few years, which is exactly what you want from your early round selections. So why does he land in my overdrafted list? Gordon’s merely a decent RB with lots of carries and a sub 4.0 career YPC average. I’m not wholly down on him, but just feel that his ceiling is limited compared to some RBs drafted after him. So I see a late second / early third round value, rather than an early second rounder. Nothing overly alarming here, but just a mediocre value. 

Rashaad Penny – The Seahawks’ offensive line woes are well documented, albeit the team has completely revamped the o-line coaching with Mike Solari replacing beleaguered Tom Cable. The Hawks will be utilizing more man based blocking schemes rather than zone blocking, which better fits the team’s personnel. So while the players remain largely the same, the blocking should be better. Why then am I down on Rashaad Penny? Two main factors here – Chris Carson’s presence and Penny’s struggles with pass protection. Penny faces a strong likelihood of sharing carries and not seeing the field as much as you’d like as his fantasy owner. He’s currently going at the back end of the fourth round, which is too rich for my blood. He’s more of a seventh rounder to me. 

Marshawn Lynch – Jumping now from a rookie Seahawks’ RB to a former legendary Seahawks RB. Marshawn Lynch at his peak was a hall of famer. Marshawn today is just another back with significant tread on his tires. With virtually no upside and a Raiders’ team that’s poised to disappoint in Gruden’s first season back, Lynch poses as an uninspiring fantasy choice. If I’m going to spend an early fifth round pick, I’d much rather roll the dice on upstart rookies such as Ronald Jones or Royce Freeman. 

Wide Receivers*

Tier 1: Antonio Brown, DeAndre Hopkins, Julio Jones, Michael Thomas, Odell Beckham Jr.

Tier 2: AJ Green, Keenan Allen, Davante Adams, Doug Baldwin, Mike Evans, Adam Thielen, Larry Fitzgerald, Tyreek Hill, TY Hilton

Tier 3: Demaryius Thomas, Stefon Diggs, Amari Cooper, Josh Gordon, Allen Robinson, Golden Tate, Robert Woods, Chris Hogan, Jarvis Landry, Brandin Cooks, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Corey Davis, Alshon Jeffrey, Marvin Jones, Devin Funchess

Tier 4: Michael Crabtree, Cooper Kupp, Will Fuller, Robby Anderson, Marquise Goodwin, Emmanuel Sanders, Pierre Garcon, Sammy Watkins, Julian Edelman, Jamison Crowder

Tier 5: Kelvin Benjamin, Allen Hurns, Sterling Shepard, Josh Doctson, Randall Cobb, Rishard Matthews, Marquise Lee, Jordy Nelson, DeSean Jackson, DeVante Parker, Mohamed Sanu, Nelson Agholor, Mike Williams, Kenny Golladay 

Tier 6: Kenny Stills, Cameron Meredith, Calvin Ridley, Anthony Miller, Tyler Lockett, DJ Moore, Corey Coleman, Martavis Bryant, Paul Richardson, Dede Westbrook, Danny Amendola, Jordan Matthews 

* Note that rankings are based on 0.5 PPR (point per reception)

Analysis:

The wide receiver group remains as deep of a position as it’s ever been, which makes sense given the shift to passing offenses. After a few years of WRs infiltrating the top of round 1 in fantasy drafts, they have retreated to the back half of the round. The elite and near elite inhabit tiers 1 and 2, respectively. Tiers 3 and 4 boast a mix of upside plays and steady performers, while Tiers 5 and 6, while also containing upside plays, generally project to WR3/4 type players. 

While RBs should be top priority in your drafts, you should approach the wide receiver position as priority 1A. Ideally you should secure two WRs who reside somewhere in the tier 1 through 3 group. From there, I’d focus on one more steady Eddie type as a third WR (such as Cooper Kupp or Michael Crabtree), followed by upside plays the rest of the way – think Josh Doctson and Kenny Golladay types. Similar to the RB position, spend your last few picks rolling the dice on WRs who can take the next step. 

Finally, quick hits on three WRs who I expect will outperform their ADP, and are therefore reflected higher in my rankings:

Doug Baldwin – The news that Baldwin will likely miss the preseason puts a damper on the situation, but I’m not ready to concede that he’ll miss any regular season games. Baldwin may be the most underrated WR in the NFL. He regularly creates separation through precise route running, and has sticky glue for hands. Baldwin will return second round value for the price of a third round pick. 

Chris Hogan – Will keep Chris Hogan’s writeup short. With Brandin Cooks no longer in New England, Hogan and Edelman (when he returns from suspension) will be the lead WRs for Tom Brady. Hogan demonstrated strong chemistry with Brady last season before he got hurt. Injuries are a concern, but that’s true for virtually everyone. Brady will connect with Hogan plenty, and you should take advantage of this in your drafts. 

Corey Davis – Like most rookie WRs last year, Corey Davis had a disappointing season. So why should we expect a breakout this year? First off, Davis still oozes with talent, as he demonstrated during the playoffs. Next, he’s got a much friendlier offense, how that new offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur runs that end of the game for the Titans. Finally, he’s the unquestioned number one WR for Mariota. He’ll be a very solid WR2 for you, and he’s currently being drafted as a WR3.

And three WRs who I consider to be overdrafted with respect to their ADP, and are therefore reflected lower in my rankings: 

Sammy Watkins – Watkins has been boosted in name largely because he was drafted fourth overall in 2014. Sure, he’s talented. But after four seasons, we’ve got an injury prone WR who has topped 1,000 yards once, and was the third most effective WR on his own team last year. Jumping to a new team with a new QB and several options on offense, look for 700 yards and 6 TDs. That’s WR4 territory. 

Kelvin Benjamin – Have you seen the options the Bills have under center? Hard pass. 

DeVante Parker – DeVante Parker was a hot sleeper candidate in the preseason last year. So what did he do in 2017? He caught 57 balls for 670 yards and 1 TD. Through three seasons, the dude’s got 8 TDs. He should be nothing more than a late round flier. 

Tight Ends*

Tier 1: Rob Gronkowski, Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz

Tier 2: Evan Engram, Delanie Walker, Greg Olsen, Jimmy Graham

Tier 3: Kyle Rudolph, Jordan Reed, George Kittle, Trey Burton, Tyler Eifert, Jack Doyle

Tier 4: OJ Howard, David Njoku, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Ricky Seals-Jones, Cameron Brate, Charles Clay

Tier 5: Eric Ebron, Jared Cook, Austin Hooper, Benjamin Watson 

* Note that rankings are based on 0.5 PPR (point per reception)

Analysis:

Due to seasons plagued by injuries, Gronk now finds himself sharing the top tier with two other tight ends – Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz. Promising second year Giants’ tight end Evan Engram leads the tier 2 group. The line between tier 2 and 3 blurs a bit, which will lead to good value on draft day within the tier 3 group. The first four names in tier 4 have great upside as well, but come with more risk than the tiers above. 

With the depth at tight end, lack of significant separation in tight end scoring after the first few studs, and in most cases, significant year-to-year variance between a tight end’s performance from year to year, my annual suggested strategy to wait to draft your tight end remains firmly in place. The tier 3 group has significant upside, and can be had in the middle to late rounds of your draft. Even tier 4 has some interesting names

Finally, quick hits on two TEs who I expect will outperform their ADP, and are therefore reflected higher in my rankings:

George Kittle – A rising tide lifts all boats. In the latter part of 2017, a rising Jimmy Garappolo lifted all 49ers’ pass catchers, including tight end George Kittle. While Kittle was quiet in Garappolo’s first two starts, he developed a good connection with Jimmy G in the final three games, which included a touchdown in week 16 and 100 yards receiving in the finale. Shanahan’s offense deploys the tight end as a route runner, and Kittle has good athleticism and nice hands - he’s the perfect upside play at the position. Expect back end top 10 value for a tight end going much later in drafts. 

David Njoku – The Browns have quietly assembled a nice offensive core, presuming that coach Hue Jackson doesn’t find a way to screw it up. In Njoku, the team has a somewhat raw tight end with freakish athleticism. Njoku needs to improve his route running and solidify his hands, but the tools are there for him to emerge into an upper echelon tight end. Njoku makes sense as a late round upside play – more TE2 than TE1, unless you’re in a very deep league.

And two TEs who I consider to be overdrafted with respect to their ADP, and are therefore reflected lower in my rankings: 

Jimmy Graham – Despite his 10 TDs last season, Jimmy Graham had a very mediocre 2017 campaign. He ran poor routes, gave up on plays and was disinterested unless the ball was coming his way. While Graham has since moved on to the Packers, I’m concerned about his play on grass – especially as Green Bay turns to ice in November/December. He’s also becoming too TD reliant for his value. I still view him as a top 10 TE, but not a top 5 option.

OJ Howard/Cameron Brate – This is less of a reflection of Howard and Brate, but rather a concern regarding the state of the organization. The Bucs are a mess, with Jameis Winston suspended for the first three games and coach Dirk Koetter a leading candidate to be the first to get the axe mid-season. That’s enough for me to want to stay clear. 

Defense/Special Teams

Tier 1: Jacksonville, Minnesota, LA Rams, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Houston, LA Chargers

Tier 2: Denver, New Orleans, New England, Carolina

Tier 3: Seattle, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Atlanta, Arizona

Tier 4: Green Bay, Cincinnati, Tennessee, Detroit, Kansas City, Dallas, Washington

Analysis:

The rankings above are straight forward, so there’s not much to expand upon here. Matchups always play a key role in terms of a defense’s standing from week to week, with only a few elite defenses serving as weekly plays. The strategy for drafting a defense depends significantly on your league’s scoring system. If the categories in your league provide for defenses to play a large role in scoring, then it’s understandable if you want to select a top team defense once your starting QB, WRs and RBs, along with a few key backups, are all in hand. Conversely, if defenses have tame scoring numbers in your league, then you should pick your team or teams towards the end of your draft. As referenced above, playing the weekly matchups game with defenses is advised.