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Fantasy Football 2019: Players Who Should Be Getting Drafted Earlier

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistAugust 1, 2019

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd celebrates after scoring a touchdown in the first half of an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Gary Landers)
Gary Landers/Associated Press

The official start of the 2019 NFL preseason is tonight, as the Atlanta Falcons and Denver Broncos are set to face off in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game. For many fans, this means that football is back. For fantasy football enthusiasts, this means that draft season is also officially here.

While it's important to manage rosters and work the waiver wire during the season, the draft is largely where fantasy championships are won or lost. Identifying sleepers and avoiding bust are keys to a successful fantasy draft, but so is getting good value for players who don't fall into either category.

Knowing when to draft a player can be just as important as knowing who to draft. Here, you'll find a look at three promising players who should be drafted higher than their average draft positions (ADP) currently indicate.

We'll examine each player, their current ADP—according to FantasyPros—and why they deserve to be fantasy risers. ADP is based on points-per-reception (PPR) scoring.

    

Tyler Boyd, WR, Cincinnati Bengals (60.2 ADP)

Cincinnati Bengals receiver Tyler Boyd is trending as a fifth-round pick in a 12-team league. This is too low for a player who had 76 receptions and 1,028 yards and seven touchdowns in 14 games last season.

On top of Boyd's proven production, we have to consider two other factors. One is the addition of former Los Angeles Rams quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor as Cincinnati's new head coach. Taylor is expected to bring an exciting and explosive new offensive philosophy to the Bengals, and that could provide Boyd with more opportunities.

The other factor here is the recent ankle injury suffered by No. 1 wideout A.J. Green. The seven-time Pro Bowler is expected to miss an extended period that could carry over into the regular season.

"I don't like to make that projection because everybody heals a little bit differently, but we're ready for him to come back when he feels healthy and ready to go," Taylor said, per Ben Baby of ESPN.com. "Hopefully, it's not more than a couple of games."

Green's injury means that Boyd will likely open the season as Cincinnati's No. 1 receiver. He should be a viable WR1 early in the season and a solid WR2 upon Green's return. Boyd should be targeted no later than Round 4.

      

Hunter Henry, TE, Los Angeles Chargers (64.8 ADP)

Chris Carlson/Associated Press

There are two ways to approach the tight end position in PPR formats. You can either target an elite tight end like Travis Kelce or George Kittle early in the draft like you would a top-tier receiver, or you can grab your receivers and backs first while targeting an upper-echelon tight end in the middle rounds. 

If you're taking the second approach, Los Angles Chargers tight end Hunter Henry should be a prime candidate in Round 4, a full round higher than he's currently trending. Why? There are two reasons here as well.

For starters, Henry is a full year removed from the torn ACL that kept him out of the 2018 season. He's healthy and the unquestioned starting tight end in L.A. He won't be splitting time with Antonio Gates, as he did in 2017, when he amassed 579 yards and four touchdowns.

The second reason is that the Charges may go into the season without starting running back Melvin Gordon, who is in the middle of a contract dispute. This could lead L.A. to be more of a pass-heavy team, especially early in the season before the weather turns.

The Chargers also parted with wideout Ty Williams in the offseason, which should open up even more targets for Henry in the passing game. This should be a breakout year for Henry, and he should be targeted ahead of players like O.J. Howard and Evan Engram—both of whom are trending higher than Henry right now.

    

Rashard Higgins, WR, Cleveland Browns (323 ADP)

Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press

Here's your sleeper pick for the day. Plenty of folks are expecting big things from the Cleveland Browns' passing attack in 2019, thanks to the presence of Baker Mayfield and his top two receivers, Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry.

If the Browns passing offense is as dynamic and explosive as many expect, then Cleveland's No. 3 wideout is going to be a viable FLEX option most weeks. As of now, that No. 3 is looking like fourth-year receiver Rashard Higgins.

"Thus far, Higgins, who has an undeniable chemistry with Mayfield, has been the exclusive third receiver with the first-team offense in camp and seems to have a firm grip on that job, because of his precise route running and consistency both mentally and physically," Nathan Zegura of the team's official website wrote.

Higgins worked well with Mayfield in 2018, amassing 572 yards and four touchdowns in 13 games. The two should build on their established chemistry this season, and Higgins is going to get plenty of one-on-one opportunities with opponents focusing on Beckham and Landry.

While Antonio Callaway remains a deep-threat option for the Browns, Higgins should be the more consistent of the two in terms of fantasy production. Target Higgins ahead of Callaway and other FLEX-option receivers like John Ross, Paul Richardson and Mohamed Sanu.