My Guys: Top Fantasy Football Targets For Every Draft And Format
Fantasy football draft season has come and is now rapidly running away from us. Labor Day weekend is when a vast majority of the fantasy football drafts take place in the United States but I have already been through the wringer of more than 300 drafts this offseason. The DRAFT Best Ball Championship, The Fantasy Football Players Championship Main Event, and various other industry leagues mixed with high-stakes fantasy football endeavors. We have been working on the fantasy football projections since February of 2019 and we have reached the crescendo where it is time to plant some flags.
The following list of players is my most-drafted and most-valuable players, comparing our projections to Average Draft Position across the fantasy football industry. If a player is listed here, they are on more than 15% of my total rosters across several extremely competitive formats and will be tied to how much income I am able to generate from fantasy football in 2019 as well as our subscribers. If you have been using the RotoExperts rankings and projections to crush fantasy football this draft season, you too will have a surplus of these players and you should feel great about it.
Flag-Plant Fantasy Football Players In 2019
Lamar Jackson wants you to win your fantasy league. Nothing is more powerful for fantasy football upside than rushing. Over the last 20 years in the NFL, for quarterbacks with 100 or more rushing attempts, the median outcome is 18.9 fantasy points per game. Jackson ran for 147 times last season in only seven starts and we have him projected for over that number in 2019. Even if Jackson shows no improvement as a passer (which seems unlikely), he would still be one of the most valuable commodities in fantasy football. Further, the fact that he is “risky” due to injury or performance is really overblown. The Ravens don’t have a quality backup (benching unlikely) and Lamar missed no time due to injury in college and actually gained weight in the offseason in an effort to handle more carries this season. If you are serious about winning fantasy championships, Lamar needs to be your primary target at the QB position.
First thing is first: Cam Newton seems to healthy and ready to go for Week One after mildly spraining his foot in the preseason. As long as Cam as healthy, you should have sky-high expectations for him in 2019. Newton has been a top 12 quarterback in fantasy in six of his eight seasons, and a top five fantasy quarterback in in five of his eight seasons. Outsiders are extremely encouraged by Newton’s changes to his throwing motion over the offseason and this is by far the most dynamic group of players Newton has ever played with. Devin Funchess and wet diaper Kelvin Benjamin are replaced by the lightning-quick D.J Moore and Curtis Samuel. Christian McCaffrey is perhaps the second-best pass-catching back in the NFL behind Alvin Kamara and Greg Olsen is in town as a reliable short-to-intermediate area target. With his skill as a rusher (39.1 yards per game for his career, 58 rushing TD’s in eight seasons) and these options at receiver, this is primed to be Cam’s best fantasy season since 2017.
The median outcome rookie season for an RB drafted in the first round who weighs over 210 pounds since 2000: 220 carries, 966 yards, 43 targets, 265 yards, 8.5 total TD’s. That includes SaQuon Barkley but it also includes players like Sony Michel and Rashaad Penny who did not even play every game of their rookie seasons. The Raiders released Doug Martin and Chris Warren and are broadcasting to anyone who will listen: Josh Jacobs is going to be fed the ball as much as possible. That doesn’t mean Jalen Richard is a bad Zero RB target as he will still have a role on a team that will trail in games but in positive, neutral or even slightly negative game scripts, Jacobs is going to the man. Per ESPN.Com, the Raiders started asking themselves after Jacobs’ first preseason game if Martin was expendable. In the late-third, early-fourth round there is no other running back who comes close to Jacobs ceiling as a true uber-back. In six years as a head coach at Tampa Bay, Gruden had a running back with at least 250 touches in five of those seasons. If we combined Marshawn Lynch and Doug Martin’s workloads from last season, that is 295 touches for a bad team that won only four games. We expect the Raiders to be better on offense with the addition of Tyrell Williams, Darren Waller and Antonio Brown so something resembling 295 touches in this offense would be quite valuable.
Much like his teammate in Baltimore, Justice Hill wants you to win your fantasy football leagues in 2019. The Oklahoma State alum was the most explosive running back at the combine in 2019, running a 4.40 40 yard dash, and boasting a burst score of 133. Hill sent future NFL player Chris Carson to the bench as a TRUE FRESHMEN, while he then recorded 1,188 scrimmage yards and six touchdowns for a very good Cowboys team. Hill lead the Big 12 in rushing attempts, touchdowns and rushing yards in 2017. He is now the primary backup on a team that will lead the NFL in plays per game and rush attempts per game (both were true last season despite half a season of Joe Flacco). The running back ahead of Hill is 30 year old Mark Ingram who is switching teams, coming off the worst year of his career since 2014 and a PED suspension. There is room for Ingram and Hill to both play but in terms of elite upside Zero RB candidates, it systemically does not better than Hill. He was drafted in the top-125 picks, he plays behind an old running back, he plays with a running QB (+EV for running back success rate), he was an elite college player and he is only 21. This is what winning your league looks like.
Malcolm Brown is probably the best-kept secret in fantasy football right now and it is because we haven’t seen him play. While Darwin Thompson, Justice Hill, Matt Brieda and Tony Pollard all played and looked great in the preseason, Malcolm Brown was on the bench in his warm-ups while Darrell Henderson ran off tackle in the fourth quarter of preseason games. Quite simply: Malcolm Brown is the most valuable handcuff in an all of fantasy football and he is free. Darrell Henderson is in the role that he is in, as a pass-catching back. He isn’t going to be the lead guy if anything happens to Todd Gurley; that is Malcolm Brown. ESPN LA reported “Brown, a 5-foot-11, 222-pound fifth-year pro, has enjoyed McVay’s starter treatment in preseason games. He has not played a snap, and is unlikely to, as McVay has attempted to shield most of his key players from injury.”
Starter treatment. The tea leaves are not even hard to read! For a player as free as Malcolm Brown is, there is truly not a single better allocation of fantasy football resources than drafting him.
The Rams matched the Detroit Lions offer to keep Brown on the team and only used C.J Anderson last year because Brown was unavailable. With Todd Gurley uncertain in terms of snaps/playing time in 2019, whoever is handcuff is should be of extreme interest to you. If you listen to anything I have said all year: please do not leave your draft with Malcolm Brown.
If you haven’t been drafting D.J Moore, well, there is hopefully still time. Moore is THE breakout wide receiver candidate for the 2019 fantasy football season. Moore is part of an elite list of comparable players who, like D.J Moore, had more than 14 yards per reception on 75 or more targets as rookies younger than 22: Randy Moss, Mike Evans, Keenan Allen, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Antonio Bryant, Sammy Watkins, Josh Gordon, Kenny Britt, Robert Woods, and DeAndre Hopkins. Any player with that comp list is going to be enticing but the fact that Moore was a former first-round pick with 92nd percentile athleticism who is playing with a former MVP quarterback and whose offensive coordinator is Norv Turner basically makes D.J Moore a MUST DRAFT at ADP. We are more bullish on Moore than consensus and I try to leave every draft with him as my fifth-round selection. With a reasonable market share, we have Moore with 123 targets, 1,062 yards, and 5.17 receiving touchdowns. My fantasy season is wagering on an over for those numbers.
Brandin Cooks has an absolute explosion season in his range of outcomes but he is being drafted far later than other receivers who do not match his ceiling. For example, a 90th percentile outcome for Cooks would smoke the Vikings duo. Cooks has been over 9.5 yards per target in each of his last three seasons despite playing each of those seasons on a different team. He has been a top 12 fantasy football wide receiver in each of the last four seasons but has been below 119 targets in each of them. So before even accounting for any shift in the volume that might occur because of Todd Gurley’s health, Cooper Kupp’s health, a natural shift towards the most talented pass catcher of the Rams 11 personnel… he is still underpriced. We are projecting him at his career yards per target, below-average career targets and a normal scoring rate AND HE IS STILL WR9. Cooks is my favorite way to get a young, talented player with massive physical upside in what will be one of the best passing offenses in the NFL and you can do so at the average cost of a mid-fourth round pick.
The injury to Keke Coutee opened the doors to Will Fuller even further to me. Much like D.J Moore and Brandin Cooks in the few rounds ahead of him, he is not a locked-in top option for the team he plays in but if that outcome occurred, it wouldn’t be seismic. Fuller ran a 4.32 40 at the NFL combine (faster than Tyreek Hill), had a Dominator Rating of over 40% in college, was drafted in the first round, averages 8.3 yards per target but only has 13 touchdowns on 187 career targets. While we expect that Deandre Hopkins will rightfully lead the team in targets, Fuller still possesses league-winning upside across from him. DeShaun Watson is one of the most efficient quarterbacks we have ever seen. Of NFL players with a minimum of 700 passing attempts, Watson is one of only 20 quarterbacks in the 100-year history of the NFL to have a touchdown percentage over 6% and his career AYA is better than Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson. He could easily sustain two top 15 fantasy football wide receivers, particularly if none of their tight ends establish themselves and Keke Coutee continues to miss time with various maladies. In general, taking players like Fuller who don’t have extremely clear paths to volume but possess avenues to top 12 fantasy seasons is one of the best ways to build league winning teams.
Andrew Luck retiring has not thrown me off the scent of Doyle in fantasy football. In fact, it has done the opposite. When Andrew Luck missed all of 2017, Doyle was second on the Colts in targets, trailing T.Y Hilton by only one. Unlike everyone else on this list, Doyle is not really a plus athlete. At the tight end position, you are drafting O.J Howard, Hunter Henry, and Evan Engram if you are wanting to hunt a potential top-three fantasy football season that crushes the competition. Doyle likely does not have that upside without insane touchdown variance. What does offer is consistent volume at a position that doesn’t have any. Only six tight ends saw 100 or more targets last season and Doyle saw 33 targets in six games. In games that Eric Ebron and Jack Doyle both played in last season, Doyle was on the field for more snaps and saw more targets; his role is locked in. His career catch rate of 77% basically assures that he is able to use the target volume that he does get in an efficient way. I know this is not fun or exciting, but a player who has had at least three targets at the tight end position over his last 22 games at the tight end position should be going three or four rounds ahead of where he is being drafted this year.