Fourth round and the pickings are already slim at running back as fantasy owners are gambling on players like Ahmad Bradshaw, Darren Sproles, Frank Gore and BenJarvus Green-Ellis for RB2 production. Something to think about for those of you who have lived on reverse drafting over the years.
31. Wes Welker
Expect Wes Welker to be in camp on time, but his numbers are likely to dip some with the addition of Brandon Lloyd. No, Lloyd isn’t a possession receiver, but Tom Brady is likely to spread it out a little more as he has another weapon in the offense.
Still a top-10 receiver for PPR leagues, I would pass on Welker as a WR1 in standard scoring leagues. With so many receivers to target, look to options like Julio Jones, Victor Cruz, Mike Wallace or Jordy Nelson as better big-play, upside targets on draft day.
32. Julio Jones
The Falcons are going to spread the football around a little more this year, but we should anticipate Julio Jones being the top receiver to target in standard leagues in Atlanta. Jones will lead this team in touchdowns going forward, not Roddy White.
While White will remain the leading possession receiver, it is Jones who dwarfs him in physical ability and big-play potential. If you should take White over Jones, you will be screaming at your television, wondering why they continue to target Jones for the big scores and not the top receiver.
Don’t be that guy; put Jones in front of White as the receiver to target on draft day.
33. Victor Cruz
Defenses won’t be caught off guard by Victor Cruz this year, but he’s still going to be a nightmare in the slot as most squads don’t have the personnel to match up. Yes, Cruz will play some on the outside, but the Giants will move him back to the slot in three and four receiver sets.
It would help matters if Hakeem Nicks could stay healthy, as opposing defenses will look to him as another option to take away, and at times he will garner double coverage over Cruz. Still, even with an expanded role in the offense, Cruz may not have the yardage numbers from a year ago, but we should still expect 1,300 yards and at least eight touchdowns.
34. Mike Wallace
I remember playing street football when I was a kid, and back in those days we used to joke about having only two pass patterns, the first being go deep and the second go deeper!
That’s exactly what I think about when Mike Wallace comes to mind. Hey, it worked for us on the streets, and it works for Wallace in the NFL. Perhaps only Calvin Johnson is a better deep threat in the game today, as Wallace will blaze by most opponents, especially if they allow him a free release off the line.
Wallace won’t run a full route tree, which makes me a little nervous looking to him as more than an early WR2 because of potential consistency issues.
Antonio Brown is the crisp route runner and the true possession receiver on this squad, but he doesn’t have the upside (at this point anyway) of Wallace, so in a standard scoring league, consider the fourth round as a fair spot to land him.
35. Roddy White
No one had more targets in the NFL last year than Roddy White. That said, White has publicly admitted he will see fewer targets as the Falcons opt to spread the football around. White is still a quality receiver for fantasy leagues, but view him as a late WR1 at best, especially in non-PPR leagues.
36. Ahmad Bradshaw - Yeah, Ahmad Bradshaw had an injection in his troublesome foot in February, and he claims it feels great. That’s fine in the offeason, but Bradshaw was held out of OTAs and it will be interesting to see how the foot holds up upon contact of live games.
At this point, Bradshaw is likely worthy of a late RB2 selection, but you need to have David Wilson tucked away later in your draft. Wilson has flashed in OTAs and could have a huge breakout second half if Bradshaw goes down. He displays patience to let things develop in front of him, rather than bounce outside prematurely.
Things may be fine now, but I’ll place my bets on Bradshaw breaking down by the middle of the year.
37. Darren Sproles
The Chargers clearly made a big mistake by letting Darren Sproles go, and the Saints have benefited with a dynamic game changer. Sproles may not be good for 100 carries in a season, but he’s going to make an impact as a flex play.
I find his selection to be a little high at this point for non-PPR leagues, but then again, we don’t have much to work with after the first 15 running backs go off the board, so Sproles is likely going to fall in his range.
38. Frank Gore - Ride him until the wheels fall off, because when they do it’s not going to be a pretty sight for Frank Gore’s fantasy prospects. With potentially Brandon Jacobs, Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James behind him, expect the 49ers to give Gore 18 touches a game as long as he flashes the skills he had in the first half of last year.
I think he will do that early because he’s had the entire offseason to rest, but as the season wears on, Gore is likely to break down. When that happens, it only makes sense to use a heavy committee with the talent stockpiled behind him.
If Jacobs should make the team, he would also pose a threat to Gore's goal-line touches, something to keep in mind.
39. Jordy Nelson - One of my sleepers from last year, Jordy Nelson had a ridiculous season, but we shouldn’t expect more than 10 touchdowns again. Nelson is a decent player, and the Packers do a good job of setting him up through scheme and the ability of Aaron Rodgers to make big plays vertically.
Greg Jennings is still the top receiver to target on this team, but it’s tempting to wait for a round or two, passing on Jennings to take Nelson instead.
40. BenJarvus Green-Ellis
At first glance, I liked BenJarvus Green-Ellis as the next feature back if you will of the Bengals. Cincinnati has a history of using one tailback to touch the football 20-plus times, with Cedric Benson, Rudi Johnson and Corey Dillon as past examples.
According to Bengals beat writer Joe Reedy, we should expect different as it appears the Bengals are set to go with a committee approach with Bernard Scott in the mix. This hurts Green-Ellis’s value and what looked like a possible low-end RB2 situation is now more of a RB3 projection.
Don’t target Green-Ellis in the first five or six rounds of your draft, and let someone else nab him up at this point.