2016 Fantasy Football Draft Guide: The Ultimate Blueprint

Matt Camp@TheMattCampFantasy Football Lead WriterAugust 1, 2016

2016 Fantasy Football Draft Guide: The Ultimate Blueprint

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    David Johnson should turn his strong finish in 2015 into total dominance this season.
    David Johnson should turn his strong finish in 2015 into total dominance this season.Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

    The draft used to be the most enjoyable and most important day of the fantasy season. The excitement and fun are still there, but the importance has dwindled, as the ever-evolving world of fantasy football has made in-season maneuvering a bigger responsibility.

    As much as we prepare, issues will arise. Injuries are the biggest concerns, especially at the running back position, which is why it’s so easy for a strong draft to go up in flames just weeks into your season. Just ask those who had Jamaal Charles or Arian Foster last year. However, a usually reliable group of quarterbacks, including Aaron Rodgers and Andrew Luck, was rather disappointing as well. 

    Taking those experiences and lessons learned into a new season will help you shape the way you construct your team, both during the draft and as you navigate the waiver wire. It’s fair to say that proper roster management has put a lot more onus on how proactive you are working the waiver wire compared to years past, when drafting well could put you on a path to victory.

    This blueprint will take a look at the best ways to attack each position, with a focus on tiers, rookies, breakout players, potential busts and sleepers in points-per-reception leagues. We’ll examine my rankings at each position in addition to average draft position (ADP) and expert consensus ranking (ECR).

    These rankings are coming to you from FantasyPros and will be the first of many updates I’ll provide between now and Week 1 of the regular season. Make sure to bookmark that link, as it will provide my most up-to-date projections.

    Let’s jump into the start of another great year.

Top 100: The Shift Is Clear

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    No one fills up the stat sheet as consistently as Antonio Brown.
    No one fills up the stat sheet as consistently as Antonio Brown.Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

    Whether you were burned by an injury or crowded backfields, it’s common knowledge that running backs aren’t as reliable as they used to be, and that’s resulted in a shift in draft philosophy in recent years. However, this is the first year I’m noticing a major change.

    According to overall ADP data, wide receivers have accounted for seven of the first 12 picks, 14 of the first 24 picks and 22 of the first 36 picks in PPR leagues. That number could jump even higher if Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell does end up with a four-game suspension. 

    With a higher premium placed on wide receivers, running backs who have a legit chance to end up in the RB1 category are still available at the end of the third round of your typical 12-team draft. That includes players such as Carlos Hyde of the San Francisco 49ers and C.J. Anderson of the Denver Broncos. 

    Consistency and reliability should be the key traits you look for in early-round picks. That’s why Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown is on the top of my draft board once again. He’s coming off another monster season with 136 receptions, 1,834 yards and 10 touchdowns.

    In 2015, Brown finished 65.3 points ahead of the top running back, Devonta Freeman of the Atlanta Falcons, so a slight regression wouldn’t be a big deal and would still justify his selection over any running back.

         

    2016 Preseason Top 100 PPR Rankings

    RankPlayer (team/bye)PosECROverall ADP
    1Antonio Brown (PIT/8)WR11
    2Julio Jones (ATL/11)WR22
    3Odell Beckham Jr. (NYG/8)WR33
    4DeAndre Hopkins (HOU/9)WR64
    5Todd Gurley (LA/8)RB55
    6David Johnson (ARI/9)RB46
    7Lamar Miller (HOU/9)RB1013
    8A.J. Green (CIN/9)WR77
    9Ezekiel Elliott (DAL/7)RB99
    10Rob Gronkowski (NE/9)TE810
    11Adrian Peterson (MIN/6)RB128
    12Brandin Cooks (NO/5)WR2322
    13Brandon Marshall (NYJ/11)WR2021
    14Dez Bryant (DAL/7)WR1111
    15Eddie Lacy (GB/4)RB2924
    16T.Y. Hilton (IND/10)WR2726
    17Allen Robinson (JAC/5)WR1312
    18Devonta Freeman (ATL/11)RB1618
    19Le'Veon Bell (PIT/8)RB2150
    20Keenan Allen (SD/11)WR1515
    21Mark Ingram (NO/5)RB2223
    22Amari Cooper (OAK/10)WR2420
    23Jordy Nelson (GB/4)WR1414
    24C.J. Anderson (DEN/11)RB3239
    25Carlos Hyde (SF/8)RB4042
    26Doug Martin (TB/6)RB2827
    27Dion Lewis (NE/9)RB3938
    28LeSean McCoy (BUF/10)RB2631
    29Golden Tate (DET/10)WR3533
    30Sammy Watkins (BUF/10)WR3730
    31Mike Evans (TB/6)WR1919
    32Thomas Rawls (SEA/5)RB5141
    33Randall Cobb (GB/4)WR3132
    34Demaryius Thomas (DEN/11)WR2525
    35Jeremy Maclin (KC/5)WR3837
    36Danny Woodhead (SD/11)RB4954
    37Kelvin Benjamin (CAR/7)WR4536
    38Jamaal Charles (KC/5)RB1716
    39Jordan Reed (WAS/9)TE3435
    40Aaron Rodgers (GB/4)QB4344
    41Andrew Luck (IND/10)QB5255
    42Matt Forte (NYJ/11)RB3634
    43Alshon Jeffery (CHI/9)WR1817
    44Donte Moncrief (IND/10)WR5048
    45Cam Newton (CAR/7)QB4140
    46Travis Kelce (KC/5)TE5862
    47Julian Edelman (NE/9)WR3329
    48Jarvis Landry (MIA/8)WR3028
    49Jeremy Hill (CIN/9)RB6774
    50Greg Olsen (CAR/7)TE4243
    51Eric Decker (NYJ/11)WR4451
    52Latavius Murray (OAK/10)RB4746
    53Russell Wilson (SEA/5)QB5360
    54Ameer Abdullah (DET/10)RB7878
    55John Brown (ARI/9)WR6564
    56Tyler Eifert (CIN/9)TE8668
    57DeVante Parker (MIA/8)WR6866
    58Larry Fitzgerald (ARI/9)WR5647
    59Duke Johnson (CLE/13)RB5556
    60Giovani Bernard (CIN/9)RB5765
    61Drew Brees (NO/5)QB6271
    62Ben Roethlisberger (PIT/8)QB7073
    63Jordan Matthews (PHI/4)WR5449
    64Doug Baldwin (SEA/5)WR4645
    65Emmanuel Sanders (DEN/11)WR6058
    66Frank Gore (IND/10)RB6977
    67Melvin Gordon (SD/11)RB7679
    68DeMarco Murray (TEN/13)RB4852
    69Michael Floyd (ARI/9)WR6153
    70Ryan Mathews (PHI/4)RB6461
    71Matt Jones (WAS/9)RB6357
    72Kevin White (CHI/9)WR8881
    73Zach Ertz (PHI/4)TE8190
    74Theo Riddick (DET/10)RB9392
    75Carson Palmer (ARI/9)QB7783
    76Delanie Walker (TEN/13)TE5967
    77Eli Manning (NYG/8)QB8998
    78Charles Sims (TB/6)RB8485
    79Josh Gordon (CLE/13)WR87148
    80Michael Crabtree (OAK/10)WR7375
    81Marvin Jones (DET/10)WR7982
    82Allen Hurns (JAC/5)WR7163
    83Jeremy Langford (CHI/9)RB7259
    84Arian Foster (MIA/8)RB9596
    85T.J. Yeldon (JAC/5)RB8391
    86Coby Fleener (NO/5)TE7470
    87Isaiah Crowell (CLE/13)RB117107
    88Gary Barnidge (CLE/13)TE8284
    89Steve Smith (BAL/8)WR116104
    90Matthew Stafford (DET/10)QB132151
    91Tyler Lockett (SEA/5)WR7576
    92Justin Forsett (BAL/8)RB10189
    93Rashad Jennings (NYG/8)RB10097
    94Derek Carr (OAK/10)QB115114
    95Stefon Diggs (MIN/6)WR108111
    96Sterling Shepard (NYG/8)WR104100
    97Julius Thomas (JAC/5)TE9194
    98Shane Vereen (NYG/8)RB134131
    99Markus Wheaton (PIT/8)WR107102
    100Jay Ajayi (MIA/8)RB9069
         

    2016 Fantasy Football Rankings powered by FantasyPros

Quarterbacks: Comeback Crew

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    Andrew Luck will bounce back in a big way following an injury-plagued 2015 campaign.
    Andrew Luck will bounce back in a big way following an injury-plagued 2015 campaign.Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

    I’ll always suggest waiting on a quarterback, but sometimes seeing those big names and all the points that come with them might look too good to pass up. That likely cost you dearly last season if you used a high draft pick on Aaron Rodgers or Andrew Luck.

    However, if you waited on a quarterback, you may have scored big with Carson Palmer or hit the waiver wire for top-10 finishers such as Blake Bortles and Kirk Cousins. Unless you’re in a big league (16 teams) or your rules don’t have positional roster limits, you should be able to play the matchups and work the waiver wire to find a reliable quarterback in any given week.

    Chasing Cam Newton's dominant performance or Russell Wilson's hot finish last year will cost you a top-40 pick. That doesn’t leave a big margin for error and will likely weaken another position.

    Here’s how QB shakes out:

    • Tiers: With Luck and Rodgers coming off disappointing seasons for the Indianapolis Colts and Green Bay Packers, respectively, the top of the quarterback rankings aren’t as clear as they’ve been in recent years. I’m keeping both signal-callers at the top with Newton, since they should be able to bounce back in a big way. My projections for New England Patriots QB Tom Brady put him in that group if you're looking at a per-game average, but obviously, his suspension moves him down the draft board. My target zone is the 8-10 group, which features Eli Manning, Matthew Stafford and Derek Carr.
    • Rookies: Don’t expect much fantasy production from this year’s rookie class. Jared Goff isn’t in a fantasy-friendly situation with the Los Angeles Rams, and Carson Wentz might not even play, since the Philadelphia Eagles seem intent on keeping him on the bench behind Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel, per Jimmy Kempski of PhillyVoice. Both are considered long-term dynasty prospects, not immediate fantasy contributors.
    • Breakout: Joe Flacco’s success in reality has rarely translated to consistently strong fantasy numbers, but in 2015, he set a career high with a 64.4 completion percentage and tied a career high with five 300-yard games in just 10 appearances before going down with a torn ACL. Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Marc Trestman is fantasy-friendly.
    • Bust: When you put too much stock into name value and nostalgia, it can cost you dearly. That seems to be the case with Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo. He’s coming off the board as the 11th quarterback after another injury-plagued year. Romo hasn’t thrown for at least 3,900 yards in any of the last three seasons, and the Cowboys should be focused on the run more than ever with their new stud, No. 4 draft pick Ezekiel Elliott, leading the way in the backfield.
    • Sleepers: If we’re going strictly by ADP, Stafford’s name is flashing in big, bright lights as a major value. He’s had great fantasy seasons in the past but has also been disappointing enough to kill his reputation, hence the ADP of 153. However, he turned in what may have been the best stretch of his career over the last eight games of 2015, when he posted the fourth-most fantasy points at the QB position. Also, keep an eye on Tennessee Titans signal-caller Marcus Mariota, who's entering his second season. His ability to run could be a big boost to his fantasy output.

           

    2016 Preseason Quarterback Rankings

    RankPlayer (team/bye)ECRADP by Position
    1Aaron Rodgers (GB/4)22
    2Andrew Luck (IND/10)44
    3Cam Newton (CAR/7)11
    4Russell Wilson (SEA/5)33
    5Drew Brees (NO/5)56
    6Ben Roethlisberger (PIT/8)65
    7Carson Palmer (ARI/9)77
    8Eli Manning (NYG/8)810
    9Matthew Stafford (DET/10)1919
    10Derek Carr (OAK/10)1313
    11Joe Flacco (BAL/8)2428
    12Andy Dalton (CIN/9)1515
    13Tom Brady (NE/9)119
    14Blake Bortles (JAC/5)98
    15Ryan Tannehill (MIA/8)2122
    16Marcus Mariota (TEN/13)1817
    17Philip Rivers (SD/11)1012
    18Jameis Winston (TB/6)1716
    19Matt Ryan (ATL/11)2020
    20Tyrod Taylor (BUF/10)1618
    21Ryan Fitzpatrick (NYJ/11)2229
    22Jay Cutler (CHI/9)2324
    23Tony Romo (DAL/7)1211
    24Alex Smith (KC/5)2526
    25Kirk Cousins (WAS/9)1414
    26Brock Osweiler (HOU/9)2623
    27Teddy Bridgewater (MIN/6)2821
    28Jared Goff (LA/8)3425
    29Josh McCown (CLE/13)37N/A 
    30Sam Bradford (PHI/4)3331
    31Mark Sanchez (DEN/11)29N/A 
    32Colin Kaepernick (SF/8)3232
    33Blaine Gabbert (SF/8)3135
    34Carson Wentz (PHI/4)3533
    35Jimmy Garoppolo (NE/9)38N/A 
    36Robert Griffin (CLE/13)2727
    37Paxton Lynch (DEN/11)3934
    38Trevor Siemian (DEN/11)41N/A 
    39Cody Kessler (CLE/13)45N/A 
    40Geno Smith (NYJ/11)30N/A 

Running Backs: Don't Invest Too Much

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    Todd Gurley is entering his second season healthy and ready to make his mark in Los Angeles.
    Todd Gurley is entering his second season healthy and ready to make his mark in Los Angeles.Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    Whether it’s splintered backfields, players wearing down more quickly or just a lack of special talent at the position, dealing with running backs can be a major headache when it comes to managing your roster. However, it’s also one you cannot ignore because the position is volatile and can shift dramatically from week to week. 

    If you were diligent on the waiver wire last year, you may have grabbed a superstar such as Devonta Freeman or scooped up David Johnson when others dropped him in favor of Chris Johnson. Those were moves that saved your season or strengthened your team even more. 

    The key is being proactive when it comes to running backs no matter where you are in the standings. If you were riding high with Bell, it might have been easy to overlook available, ascending options at the position because you thought you were set with one of the best fantasy options in the league. A mistake like that can leave you scrambling when someone like Bell goes down, and those who had him last season likely were doing that. 

    Because the position as a whole lacks consistent, week-to-week fantasy production, there's no need to invest heavily in it. If I come away with one running back in the first four rounds, so be it. I refuse to reach for any player just to fill a spot in my lineup. Maybe you’ll end up having three strong wide receivers and one great running back, but the production counts all the same in the end.

    For the last few years, I haven’t put a major emphasis on my RB2 spot. If I don’t come out of the first four or five rounds with two RBs, the strategy focuses on finding multiple players to fill that spot over the season, since I don’t expect one to be locked into that role all year. At various times, I used Darren Sproles, Bilal Powell and Jeremy Langford to fill my RB2 spot with the expectation that they might not last there long.

    Other than my RB1 spot, I’m looking for a mix of proven commodities and upside options to use in my other RB positions. A group like Lamar Miller, Duke Johnson, Ryan Mathews and Tevin Coleman isn’t a bad way to go into a season if you decide to focus on wide receivers.

    Here’s how I’m approaching the position:

    • Tiers: Todd Gurley and David Johnson are neck and neck for the top spot, and along with Miller and Elliott, they are the only backs I’d take in the first 12 picks. Peterson is just outside that group. The players in the 6-10 range are a clear step down, but values can be had if they fall into the 30s. I’ve projected Bell assuming he’ll be suspended four games, but expect him to be a strong RB1 upon his return.
    • Rookies: Obviously, Elliott is all alone as the top rookie in a perfect situation. I’m not high on any of the other rookie backs, as I see a lot of committee situations for players like Jordan Howard in Chicago, DeAndre Washington in Oakland and Derrick Henry in Tennessee.
    • Breakouts: Miller did well in a role that was too limited in Miami, so while he was still strong for fantasy, he should be better and more consistent in Houston as a focal point for the Texans. Carlos Hyde should be busy in San Francisco head coach Chip Kelly’s offense. I was happy to see the 49ers shut the 24-year-old down when they did last year since it was clear they weren’t going anywhere. He’ll be fresh and healthy as the key to their offense. Gordon will have limited fantasy potential in San Diego as long as Woodhead is around, so breakout might not be the best way to classify him. He should be a lot more reliable in his second season, however.
    • Busts: Jamaal Charles is coming off yet another ACL injury, which would be enough reason to worry, but I also have a concern with Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid. After seeing Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware handle themselves well in Charles’ absence, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Reid play it safe with Charles and keep those two involved enough to hurt Charles’ fantasy production. The bust label is more about ADP and RB1 expectations for Charles. The DeMarco Murray-Derrick Henry tandem in Tennessee already looks like a headache on a bad team. The same goes for Langford in Chicago. Bears head coach John Fox has and will continue to use multiple backs. Plus, Langford isn’t that good.
    • Sleepers: If Matt Jones hangs on to the football—and he’s been working on it, per CSN Mid-Atlantic's Rich Tandler—he doesn’t have any real competition to worry about in Washington and is primed for a big role. We saw glimpses of his potential last year, so he’s capable of taking a big step forward. I’m intrigued by Coleman in Atlanta since the team has openly talked about scaling back Freeman’s touches, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's D. Orlando Ledbetter. 

          

    2016 Preseason Running Back PPR Rankings

    RankPlayer (team/bye)ECRADP by Position
    1Todd Gurley (LA/8)22
    2David Johnson (ARI/9)13
    3Lamar Miller (HOU/9)46
    4Ezekiel Elliott (DAL/7)35
    5Adrian Peterson (MIN/6)54
    6Eddie Lacy (GB/4)1210
    7Devonta Freeman (ATL/11)68
    8Le'Veon Bell (PIT/8)81
    9Mark Ingram (NO/5)99
    10C.J. Anderson (DEN/11)1314
    11Doug Martin (TB/6)1111
    12Carlos Hyde (SF/8)1617
    13Dion Lewis (NE/9)1515
    14LeSean McCoy (BUF/10)1012
    15Thomas Rawls (SEA/5)1916
    16Danny Woodhead (SD/11)1820
    17Jamaal Charles (KC/5)77
    18Matt Forte (NYJ/11)1413
    19Jeremy Hill (CIN/9)2628
    20Latavius Murray (OAK/10)1718
    21Ameer Abdullah (DET/10)3030
    22Duke Johnson (CLE/13)2121
    23Giovani Bernard (CIN/9)2225
    24Frank Gore (IND/10)2729
    25Melvin Gordon (SD/11)2931
    26DeMarco Murray (TEN/13)2019
    27Ryan Mathews (PHI/4)2324
    28Matt Jones (WAS/9)2423
    29Theo Riddick (DET/10)3335
    30Charles Sims (TB/6)3232
    31Jeremy Langford (CHI/9)2822
    32T.J. Yeldon (JAC/5)3136
    33Isaiah Crowell (CLE/13)4239
    34Justin Forsett (BAL/8)3933
    35Rashad Jennings (NYG/8)3837
    36Arian Foster (MIA/8)3738
    37Shane Vereen (NYG/8)4548
    38Jay Ajayi (MIA/8)3426
    39Chris Ivory (JAC/5)3534
    40Darren Sproles (PHI/4)4949
    41Bilal Powell (NYJ/11)4144
    42Jonathan Stewart (CAR/7)2527
    43Jordan Howard (CHI/9)5155
    44Derrick Henry (TEN/13)4641
    45Jerick McKinnon (MIN/6)4853
    46Tevin Coleman (ATL/11)4340
    47DeAngelo Williams (PIT/8)3643
    48LeGarrette Blount (NE/9)5250
    49DeAndre Washington (OAK/10)5051
    50Shaun Draughn (SF/8)6471
    51James Starks (GB/4)5758
    52Andre Ellington (ARI/9)6875
    53C.J. Prosise (SEA/5)4042
    54Kenneth Dixon (BAL/8)4446
    55Javorius Allen (BAL/8)4747
    56Cameron Artis-Payne (CAR/7)7570
    57Tim Hightower (NO/5)6067
    58Wendell Smallwood (PHI/4)5660
    59Josh Ferguson (IND/10)6166
    60Khiry Robinson (NYJ/11)8087
    61Spencer Ware (KC/5)7064
    62Charcandrick West (KC/5)7252
    63Benny Cunningham (LA/8)8391
    64James White (NE/9)6265
    65Chris Johnson (ARI/9)6757
    66Darren McFadden (DAL/7)5354
    67C.J. Spiller (NO/5)6973
    68Dexter McCluster (TEN/13)8996
    69Devontae Booker (DEN/11)5856
    70Ronnie Hillman (DEN/11)6372
    71Mike Gillislee (BUF/10)7783
    72Matt Asiata (MIN/6)107N/A 
    73Alfred Blue (HOU/9)8590
    74Keith Marshall (WAS/9)8268
    75Chris Thompson (WAS/9)5459
    76Ka'Deem Carey (CHI/9)8179
    77Fozzy Whittaker (CAR/7)114N/A 
    78Karlos Williams (BUF/10)5545
    79Stevan Ridley (DET/10)8892
    80Alex Collins (SEA/5)9376
    81Kenyan Drake (MIA/8)6663
    82Branden Oliver (SD/11)105N/A 
    83Jonathan Williams (BUF/10)9169
    84Robert Turbin (IND/10)9285
    85Donald Brown (NE/9)102N/A 
    86Alfred Morris (DAL/7)7662
    87Lance Dunbar (DAL/7)6577
    88Paul Perkins (NYG/8)5961
    89Tre Mason (LA/8)9089
    90Kelvin Taylor (SF/8)10482
    91Christine Michael (SEA/5)7478

Wide Receivers: Focus on Foundation

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    Another record-setting season isn't out of the question for Julio Jones.
    Another record-setting season isn't out of the question for Julio Jones.Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    As mentioned earlier, the shift to relying on wide receivers is more apparent than ever before, which shouldn’t come as a surprise. The league is more geared toward passing, and the most talented players don’t have to worry about losing significant targets and can do more with less.

    With the abundance of wide receivers coming off the board in the first three rounds, the high-end depth doesn’t last long, but the good news is that there’s a lot of it. There are at least 12 players I’d feel comfortable with as a WR1 and a lot of upside in the group just outside of that, which is why I'd be confident opening my draft with two wide receivers or three in the first four rounds. 

    Plus, the youth at the position is plentiful, and as we’ve seen, you don’t necessarily have to wait three years for a wide receiver to bust out. This is easily the best I’ve ever felt about the position.

    This is how I view the wide receivers: 

    • Tiers: Antonio Brown, Julio Jones and Odell Beckham Jr. are on a level all their own, but not too far behind are DeAndre Hopkins and A.J. Green. The next group will still be right up there with the top running backs, which explains why so many are coming off the board early. Amari Cooper is the last WR1 as my 12th-ranked player at wide receiver.
    • Rookies: Sterling Shepard's landing with the New York Giants might be the best-case scenario for a rookie who can contribute immediately. With Beckham drawing the most attention, Shepard should excel against lesser cornerbacks, and Manning is excellent when it comes to making receivers around him better. Don't get too about Corey Coleman in Cleveland. That quarterback situation isn’t good, especially if the Browns are committed to Robert Griffin III as the starter. I like Laquon Treadwell’s talent but am worried he won't get enough chances in a Minnesota Vikings offense that still features star running back Adrian Peterson and has QB Teddy Bridgewater in development.
    • Breakouts: Cooper and Brandin Cooks are the best bets to become reliable WR1s, although that’s not a major leap for either player based on their talent and situations. Donte Moncrief took a step forward during an ugly season for the Colts, but with the return of Luck, you can expect him to go from a solid WR3 to a good WR2 with upside. He’s the perfect example of how a great situation can elevate a player’s fantasy potential. Tyler Lockett’s rookie season with the Seattle Seahawks was a gradual improvement, but his ceiling remains high. Hopefully, Seattle keeps ramping up its passing attack, as we saw down the stretch.
    • Bust: On the flip side of the Lockett ascension is Doug Baldwin. He was 41st in fantasy points over the first eight games of last season in PPR scoring and third in the last eight games thanks to a five-game stretch of 11 touchdowns. He’ll cost you a fourth-round pick as the 24th wide receiver off the board, so while expectations aren’t as high as his strong finish, they are higher than they’ve ever been before entering a new season. Between the rise of Lockett and return of Jimmy Graham, Baldwin will be closer to the WR3 he’s been for most of his career.
    • Sleepers: Shepard can be a reliable WR3 out of the gate as a rookie, so he has to be a sleeper candidate with an ADP of 101.3 in PPR leagues. He won’t cost you much and may need a few weeks to get healthy and acclimated, but Breshad Perriman is my pick to lead the Ravens in receiving. He’s their most talented receiver and is a great fit with Flacco.     

        

    2016 Preseason Wide Receiver PPR Rankings

    RankPlayer (team/bye)ECRADP by Position
    1Antonio Brown (PIT/8)11
    2Julio Jones (ATL/11)22
    3Odell Beckham Jr. (NYG/8)33
    4DeAndre Hopkins (HOU/9)44
    5A.J. Green (CIN/9)55
    6Brandin Cooks (NO/5)1314
    7Brandon Marshall (NYJ/11)1213
    8Dez Bryant (DAL/7)66
    9T.Y. Hilton (IND/10)1616
    10Allen Robinson (JAC/5)77
    11Keenan Allen (SD/11)89
    12Amari Cooper (OAK/10)1412
    13Jordy Nelson (GB/4)98
    14Golden Tate (DET/10)2021
    15Sammy Watkins (BUF/10)2119
    16Mike Evans (TB/6)1111
    17Randall Cobb (GB/4)1720
    18Demaryius Thomas (DEN/11)1515
    19Jeremy Maclin (KC/5)2223
    20Kelvin Benjamin (CAR/7)2422
    21Alshon Jeffery (CHI/9)1010
    22Donte Moncrief (IND/10)2627
    23Jarvis Landry (MIA/8)1817
    24Eric Decker (NYJ/11)2328
    25John Brown (ARI/9)3132
    26DeVante Parker (MIA/8)3233
    27Larry Fitzgerald (ARI/9)2825
    28Julian Edelman (NE/9)1918
    29Jordan Matthews (PHI/4)2726
    30Doug Baldwin (SEA/5)2524
    31Emmanuel Sanders (DEN/11)2930
    32Michael Floyd (ARI/9)3029
    33Josh Gordon (CLE/13)3855
    34Kevin White (CHI/9)3936
    35Michael Crabtree (OAK/10)3435
    36Marvin Jones (DET/10)3637
    37Allen Hurns (JAC/5)3331
    38Steve Smith (BAL/8)4942
    39Tyler Lockett (SEA/5)3534
    40Stefon Diggs (MIN/6)4747
    41Sterling Shepard (NYG/8)4140
    42Markus Wheaton (PIT/8)4543
    43Vincent Jackson (TB/6)5051
    44Steve Johnson (SD/11)6668
    45Dorial Green-Beckham (TEN/13)5248
    46Pierre Garcon (WAS/9)5967
    47DeSean Jackson (WAS/9)3738
    48Laquon Treadwell (MIN/6)4644
    49Tavon Austin (LA/8)4346
    50Chris Hogan (NE/9)6258
    51Sammie Coates (PIT/8)6354
    52Devin Funchess (CAR/7)5857
    53Travis Benjamin (SD/11)5150
    54Breshad Perriman (BAL/8)6860
    55Willie Snead (NO/5)4041
    56Torrey Smith (SF/8)4445
    57Kendall Wright (TEN/13)5561
    58Rishard Matthews (TEN/13)6064
    59Corey Coleman (CLE/13)4239
    60Mohamed Sanu (ATL/11)5352
    61Robert Woods (BUF/10)7676
    62Phillip Dorsett (IND/10)5759
    63Terrance Williams (DAL/7)6969
    64Kamar Aiken (BAL/8)4849
    65Anquan Boldin (DET/10)6592
    66Brandon LaFell (CIN/9)7386
    67Cole Beasley (DAL/7)9599
    68Seth Roberts (OAK/10)7296
    69Kenny Britt (LA/8)7479
    70Tyler Boyd (CIN/9)7070
    71Nelson Agholor (PHI/4)6763
    72Rueben Randle (PHI/4)7177
    73Justin Hardy (ATL/11)85102
    74Mike Wallace (BAL/8)6162
    75Michael Thomas (NO/5)5453
    76Jermaine Kearse (SEA/5)8987
    77Danny Amendola (NE/9)8282
    78Andrew Hawkins (CLE/13)114N/A 
    79Jarius Wright (MIN/6)117N/A 
    80Will Fuller (HOU/9)7966
    81Eddie Royal (CHI/9)88109
    82Ted Ginn (CAR/7)8075
    83Bruce Ellington (SF/8)6481
    84Ty Montgomery (GB/4)101N/A 
    85Chris Conley (KC/5)92106
    86Josh Doctson (WAS/9)5656
    87Cecil Shorts (HOU/9)105105
    88Davante Adams (GB/4)8680
    89Kenny Stills (MIA/8)99N/A 
    90Albert Wilson (KC/5)94N/A 
    91Victor Cruz (NYG/8)9165
    92Quincy Enunwa (NYJ/11)134N/A 
    93Jamison Crowder (WAS/9)7888
    94Leonard Hankerson (BUF/10)116N/A 
    95Philly Brown (CAR/7)98N/A 
    96Rashad Greene (JAC/5)129N/A 
    97Brian Quick (LA/8)107N/A 
    98Jaelen Strong (HOU/9)7791
    99Braxton Miller (HOU/9)10078
    100Pharoh Cooper (LA/8)8784

Tight Ends: Handful of Consistency

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    Last year, Jordan Reed finally realized his potential. Can he stay healthy enough to do it again?
    Last year, Jordan Reed finally realized his potential. Can he stay healthy enough to do it again?Patrick Smith/Getty Images

    Old and reliable can work at tight end, so you don’t have to invest a high pick in one unless you plan on taking Rob Gronkowski in the first round. He will give you an advantage over your opponent every week—and that has value—but what about the rest? 

    The difference between Gronkowski and the sixth-best TE, Tyler Eifert, was 64.1 points last season. The difference between Eifert and the 11th-best TE, Richard Rodgers, was 31.4 points. It’s hard to suggest a major difference in what you can get from tight ends in the 6-15 range. 

    Of the tight ends who played at least 11 games last season, 15 of them averaged at least 10 fantasy points, which is up from the 11 who did it in 2014. Of those 15, only six players averaged at least 14 fantasy points (Gronkowski, Delanie Walker, Jordan Reed, Gary Barnidge, Greg Olsen, Eifert), so that’s where you can make the divide. 

    Gronkowski, Reed, Travis Kelce, Eifert and Olsen are the best group because they’re reliable with high ceilings. We’ve seen plenty of tight ends with potential but not nearly enough reach it. 

    Here’s a breakdown of the TE position:

    • Tiers: Gronkowski is still alone at the top, although the gap closed a bit last year with the rise of Reed. Walker is the last TE I feel good about before we get into a group of players with legit concerns about their situations, injury history and talent.
    • Rookies: Don’t rely on any rookie tight ends. Hunter Henry in San Diego is the most talented of the rookies, but he still has Antonio Gates in his way. Austin Hooper in Atlanta might have a quicker path to playing time with Jacob Tamme atop the Falcons depth chart, but he’s still a long shot to have fantasy value in 2016. Tyler Higbee could get on the field for the Rams with Lance Kendricks as his only roadblock to significant snaps.
    • Breakouts: Steelers tight end Ladarius Green has a chance to be in this group, but it might not happen right away. Green looks like he has a favorable situation to replace Heath Miller, since the Steelers will be without Martavis Bryant for the season and without Bell for four games. Miller was an active, reliable target for QB Ben Roethlisberger in the red zone, and Green could step right into that role. He’s coming off his best season and was a fantasy starter in San Diego when Gates missed time last year. However, the ankle surgery Green had in January included the insertion of two plates, and as a result, the 26-year-old opened training camp on the physically unable to perform list, per Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com. Before we can consider him a breakout, he has to get over the ankle issues.
    • Bust: There doesn’t appear to be a true bust based on ADP, but the hype on Coby Fleener is a bit out of control. While the Saints offense turned veteran Ben Watson into a reliable fantasy option last season, Fleener has a 58.4 percent catch rate for his career, which is horrible. With an ADP of 70.5 as the seventh TE off the board, I can’t justify taking him that high.
    • Sleepers: He’s been a top TE in the past, but it’s fair to call Martellus Bennett a sleeper because he’s sharing the field with Gronkowski and is being taken as the 14th TE with an ADP of 122.8. We’ve seen the Patriots use two-tight end sets in the past, and with a lack of size and reliable depth at wide receiver, it would make perfect sense to put Bennett and Gronkowski on the field at the same time. Clive Walford has a chance to take a big step forward in his second season with the Raiders, but he’ll "be eased" into training camp following an ATV accident during the offseason, per Adam Caplan of ESPN.com. Jordan Cameron isn't a bad deep sleeper in Miami with new head coach Adam Gase's TE-friendly offense.

           

    2016 Preseason Tight End PPR Rankings

    #Player (Team/Bye)ECRPositional ADP
    1Rob Gronkowski NE (9)11
    2Jordan Reed WAS (9)22
    3Travis Kelce KC (5)44
    4Greg Olsen CAR (7)33
    5Tyler Eifert CIN (9)97
    6Zach Ertz PHI (4)78
    7Delanie Walker TEN (13)55
    8Coby Fleener NO (5)66
    9Gary Barnidge CLE (13)89
    10Julius Thomas JAC (5)1111
    11Ladarius Green PIT (8)1010
    12Eric Ebron DET (10)1315
    13Antonio Gates SD (11)1212
    14Zach Miller CHI (9)1718
    15Dwayne Allen IND (10)1416
    16Jimmy Graham SEA (5)1813
    17Martellus Bennett NE (9)1614
    18Clive Walford OAK (10)2220
    19Jason Witten DAL (7)1517
    20Jordan Cameron MIA (8)2124
    21Charles Clay BUF (10)2022
    22Jared Cook GB (4)2321
    23Austin Seferian-Jenkins TB (6)1919
    24Vance McDonald SF (8)2525
    25Kyle Rudolph MIN (6)2728
    26Benjamin Watson BAL (8)2629
    27Jacob Tamme ATL (11)3923
    28Will Tye NYG (8)2427
    29Maxx Williams BAL (8)38N/A 
    30Richard Rodgers GB (4)3033
    31Ryan Griffin HOU (9)45N/A 
    32Jeff Heuerman DEN (11)3236
    33Tyler Kroft CIN (9)4726
    34Virgil Green DEN (11)41N/A 
    35Lance Kendricks LA (8)3539
    36Brent Celek PHI (4)49N/A 
    37Darren Fells ARI (9)42N/A 
    38Garrett Graham DEN (11)46N/A 
    39Tyler Higbee LA (8)3330
    40C.J. Fiedorowicz HOU (9)57N/A 
    41Niles Paul WAS (9)48N/A 
    42Dion Sims MIA (8)59N/A 
    43Mychal Rivera OAK (10)56N/A 
    44Crockett Gillmore BAL (8)43N/A 
    45Larry Donnell NYG (8)37N/A 
    46Josh Hill NO (5)44N/A 
    47Austin Hooper ATL (11)2931
    48Jermaine Gresham ARI (9)50N/A 
    49Luke Willson SEA (5)51N/A 
    50Garrett Celek SF (8)52N/A 
    51Jack Doyle IND (10)61N/A 
    52Marcedes Lewis JAC (5)68N/A 
    53Jeff Cumberland SD (11)62N/A 
    54Jace Amaro NYJ (11)3437
    55MyCole Pruitt MIN (6)54N/A 
    56Gavin Escobar DAL (7)67N/A 
    57Jesse James PIT (8)58N/A 
    58Hunter Henry SD (11)3132
    59Nick Vannett SEA (5)7334

Defenses: Wait to Win

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    The Denver Broncos defense sits atop the rankings, but it doesn't mean you have to draft it early...or at all.
    The Denver Broncos defense sits atop the rankings, but it doesn't mean you have to draft it early...or at all.Harry How/Getty Images

    As always, my best advice for selecting defenses is to stop chasing last year's points. The best defenses don't always produce for fantasy, and the worst ones can get lucky with some opportunistic TDs—like the Giants, who had six touchdowns on defense and special teams. That made New York an above-average fantasy defense, despite the fact it gave up the most total yards per game in the league.

    There's no reason to take a defense outside the final three rounds, but you will see someone in your league try to take the top-ranked Broncos in the 10th round even though they outscored the fifth-ranked Panthers by just 17 fantasy points. Dominant defenses don’t exist in fantasy football, and they haven’t in years. 

    The approach for defenses is as follows:

    • Tiers: The Broncos, Seahawks, Cardinals, Panthers and Texans lead the way. You probably won’t see a major difference in defense rankings if you look around. Those teams have plenty of talent, and all like to run the ball, which tends to go hand-in-hand when you have a great defense.
    • Breakouts: The Jacksonville Jaguars will likely be a waiver-wire grab, but they’ve invested a lot in their defense through the draft. They snagged cornerback Jalen Ramsey at No. 5 in 2016 and defensive lineman Dante Fowler Jr. at No. 3 the year before, in addition to signing defensive tackle Malik Jackson and cornerback Prince Amukamara this offseason. Head coach Gus Bradley might finally have the pieces to put together a strong unit.
    • Busts: There are no busts of note based on ADP as long as you don't take a defense too early.
    • Sleepers: While the Giants haven’t had much success on the defensive side in a while, they spent a lot of money this offseason to fix those woes on the defensive line and secondary. Their schedule isn’t much of a worry, especially in an average NFC East, so they could surprise this year.

                

    2016 Preseason Defense Rankings

    RankPlayer (team/bye)ECRADP by Position
    1Denver Broncos (DEN/11)21
    2Seattle Seahawks (SEA/5)12
    3Arizona Cardinals (ARI/9)33
    4Carolina Panthers (CAR/7)44
    5Houston Texans (HOU/9)55
    6Los Angeles Rams (LA/8)67
    7New England Patriots (NE/9)88
    8Kansas City Chiefs (KC/5)76
    9New York Jets (NYJ/11)119
    10Buffalo Bills (BUF/10)1212
    11Cincinnati Bengals (CIN/9)913
    12Minnesota Vikings (MIN/6)1011
    13Jacksonville Jaguars (JAC/5)1715
    14Miami Dolphins (MIA/8)1518
    15Green Bay Packers (GB/4)1316
    16Baltimore Ravens (BAL/8)1819
    17New York Giants (NYG/8)2217
    18Philadelphia Eagles (PHI/4)1620
    19Oakland Raiders (OAK/10)1914
    20Pittsburgh Steelers (PIT/8)1410

Kickers: Don't Worry About It

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    Graham Gano finished last season as a top-five kicker, but fantasy players likely scooped him off the waiver wire.
    Graham Gano finished last season as a top-five kicker, but fantasy players likely scooped him off the waiver wire.Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

    Analyzing kickers is a waste of your time, so don’t stress out about it.

    The basic strategy is to get an accurate kicker on a team with a good offense, since he should get plenty of opportunities to score. Don't take a kicker until the final round, if you have to take one at all. If you don’t, just grab one off the waiver wire when needed.

    The kickers at the top of my rankings, such as Steven Hauschka in Seattle and Stephen Gostkowski in New England, are reliable and play on good teams. While it’s not a bad idea to get a kicker who’s indoors for more than half the season, it’s also nice having someone who can handle the elements, such as Mason Crosby in Green Bay. 

            

    2016 Preseason Kicker Rankings

    RankPlayer (team/bye)ECRADP by Position
    1Stephen Gostkowski (NE/9)11
    2Steven Hauschka (SEA/5)23
    3Justin Tucker (BAL/8)34
    4Mason Crosby (GB/4)57
    5Graham Gano (CAR/7)82
    6Dan Bailey (DAL/7)45
    7Adam Vinatieri (IND/10)710
    8Chandler Catanzaro (ARI/9)611
    9Brandon McManus (DEN/11)99
    10Cairo Santos (KC/5)1113
    11Matt Prater (DET/10)1317
    12Josh Brown (NYG/8)1214
    13Blair Walsh (MIN/6)108
    14Dan Carpenter (BUF/10)1521
    15Chris Boswell (PIT/8)146
    16Josh Lambo (SD/11)1725
    17Sebastian Janikowski (OAK/10)2216
    18Mike Nugent (CIN/9)1622
    19Phil Dawson (SF/8)19N/A 
    20Greg Zuerlein (LA/8)21N/A 

Final Thoughts: Be Ready to Pivot

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    When in doubt, look to fantasy-friendly coaches like the Arizona Cardinals' Bruce Arians.
    When in doubt, look to fantasy-friendly coaches like the Arizona Cardinals' Bruce Arians.Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

    You can read up on every player, listen to fantasy advice from people like me and break down every position into tiers, but if someone throws a curveball with a surprise pick right in front of you, any strategy you mapped out may have to change on the fly. That’s why my general advice, especially early on, is to lean toward the best players available and be fluid with your plan. 

    When the draft is done, your work is far from over. Working the waiver wire is how you win championships. You might select a nice foundation, but that foundation will crack along the way. You need to be ready when it does, whether that means preparing for a letdown following a strong start or rebuilding following a bad injury (or two).

    The draft is one of the best days of the year, but it’s only the beginning. Don’t let yourself get too high or too low when it’s over. You’ll probably need to find the next David Johnson, Bortles or Diggs. So pay attention during the preseason action and keep checking back in with our content, since we’ll have plenty of it both on the text and video side to guide you along the way.

       

    Special thanks to our friends at FantasyPros for assisting with our rankings layout in addition to providing stats.

    Do you have a fantasy question? on Twitter.

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