Were you hoping to see some early 2018 fantasy football rankings?
Well, that’s what I was planning to put together at first. But the explosion of best-ball drafting over the past few years has rendered the idea of “way too early rankings” obsolete. February FF rankings no longer serve as mere talking points. They carry a practical application.
So why no rankings here?
NFL free agency is still a month away. The NFL Draft sits more than 2 months away. I haven’t bothered starting my 2018 projections. So, honestly, I didn’t see a ton of value in just throwing together some rankings that I knew would change drastically.
Instead, I put together something that should prove much more valuable if you’re already getting your 2018 fantasy football season going.
MFL 10 drafting has moved from MyFantasyLeague.com to Fanball this year (which should, apparently, let folks like us New Yorkers back into the game). Drafting hasn’t opened for 2018 there yet, but the FFPC is launching 2018 drafting this week and PlayDraft.com has been running best-ball drafts since January.
That means we already have some actual ADP data to check out.
I’d love to say, “Here are my rankings. Draft by these, and you’ll kill it.” But I’m not that arrogant. Volume (number of drafts) and roster diversification are key to best-ball success. If you draft the same (or nearly the same) team every time, you’re either gonna make a bunch of money or none.
Of course, that also doesn’t mean that you want to draft different guys every time just to make sure you get shares of everyone. We still want to look at draft trends to how we might differentiate from other drafters and mine for potential values.
Below you’ll find average draft position rankings by position for PlayDraft 2018 drafting as of Monday, Feb. 12. I’ve compared those ADPs to each player’s ADP rank in MFL public-league drafts from last August.
The 2 formats do differ a bit. PlayDraft uses half-PPR scoring, as opposed to full PPR in MFL 10s. Both use a 2-RB, 3-WR lineup with a flex spot. MFL 10 lineups include D/ST, and the drafts go 20 rounds. PlayDraft doesn’t and drafts 18 rounds.
So the ADP comparisons aren’t exact, but they at least give us a glimpse at the players who have (or haven’t) moved most drastically up or down draft boards in the early going for 2018.
In many cases, the moves are expected. It shouldn’t shock anyone to see Todd Gurley, DeAndre Hopkins and Alvin Kamara going in Round 1, for example. But we could also find value potential in some ADP changes. Jay Ajayi, for instance, remains on the board about 3 rounds longer at the moment than he did last summer.
I’ll add further notes and pick out some favorite targets after revealing each position.
A few names toward the top probably jump out first: We all knew Carson Wentz would climb into the top 8 after his breakthrough campaign. And the late-season breakout that made Jimmy Garoppolo the league’s highest-paid player has also propelled him into the top 10 among fantasy QBs (so far).
My biggest takeaway here, however, is the reminder of how long we can wait to draft QBs.
The PlayDraft rankings skew a little earlier, likely for a couple of reasons: First, the league sizes vary. There are drafts of 12, 10, 8, 6 and even 3 teams. Second, no defenses. That doesn’t affect the early QBs, but it’s 1 less position to worry about from, say, Round 11 or 12 on.
That difference also gives us another roster spot to play with. Traditionally, we’ve been comfy with 2 QBs on MFL 10-style rosters. But 3 fewer roster spots and 2 fewer rounds leaves 1 would-be D/ST to move around.
To me, the sweet spot looks like about Philip Rivers to Marcus Mariota. I’m happy with any 2 of those 4 QBs -- and I don’t mind waiting for it because Andy Dalton, Mitchell Trubisky, Eli Manning and Ryan Tannehill remain as safety nets. I’m even willing to take a shot with 3 QBs from Alex Smith down (though I’m not drafting Case Keenum right now).
If you draft anywhere in the 2nd half of Round 1 and are hoping to start with a RB, then you’ll likely be chasing the position. Ten players carry an ADP of less than 12.0 overall; 8 of them are RBs. I’ve found myself leaning WR in that range. Antonio Brown has been reaching the middle of the round on average, which makes DeAndre Hopkins, Odell Beckham and Julio Jones regularly available from picks 9 through 16.
Devonta Freeman looks like arguably the 1st potential value on the RB board, going 12th at the position. He finished 6th in half-PPR scoring in 2016 and 1st the season before.
I like the Carlos Hyde-Joe Mixon-Jay Ajayi range next. Hyde’s waiting for a free-agency landing spot, but he finished last year 9th in the format in an offense that stunk for most of the year. With Mixon, I’m willing to bet on talent and a more consistent role -- plus the likelihood that Cincinnati’s run game can only improve over a brutal 2017.
I expect Ajayi to open 2018 as Philly’s lead back -- not a workhorse to the degree he was in Miami, but the easy touch leader in 1 of the league’s top offenses. Corey Clement’s early Round 17 ADP (in a 12-team draft) makes him an easy and attractive stack with Ajayi. There’s room for both to deliver useful fantasy numbers in that offense.
A few other favorite later targets (PlayDraft has no incoming rookies yet):
Tarik Cohen: The switch from stodgy John Fox to Matt Nagy and a college OC certainly shouldn’t shrink this guy’s role and could enhance it.
Marshawn Lynch: He’s risky right now because we don’t yet know whether he’ll stick around to play under Jon Gruden. But if he does, you definitely won’t be able to draft Lynch anywhere near RB35 this summer. Buy a few shares now.
C.J. Prosise and Kenneth Dixon: Neither make the current top 60 in ADP. Each young guy remains in a situation without a clear-cut starter.
As drafters keep pushing RBs up the board, you can see top WRs lasting a round or more beyond where you needed to select them a year ago. If you’re playing around with different draft approaches, it’s suddenly possible to start a team with Antonio Brown, A.J. Green and Mike Evans as your top 3 WRs. All those guys carried top-8 ADPs in MFL 10 drafting last summer.
Of course, there are various other potential values in the early rounds depending on how your draft falls and which paths you decide to travel with your picks.
Here are some WRs whose ADPs could change quite a bit through drafting season:
Allen Robinson: Hitting free agency fresh off an ACL tear, Robinson presents loads of uncertainty -- especially when you throw in that Jacksonville must decide whether QB Blake Bortles is worth $19 million in 2018. But that’s all baked into a WR27 ADP that finds Robinson a little more than 2 rounds behind his 2017 position.
Demaryius Thomas: His QB situation can’t get any worse than it was in 2017. The 30-year-old’s ADP could quickly climb from its current WR31 level if his franchise signs Kirk Cousins, though.
Sammy Watkins: Free agency looks like a good thing for Watkins after he barely fit in following his late-summer arrival with the Rams. Draft him at WR36 range now before his situation clears up.
And now for some (early) late targets:
John Ross: It was easy to see his lost rookie season coming, from the spring shoulder surgery to the constant camp absences. But it’s also easy to take a chance at the end of any draft on a speedy young wideout Cincinnati drafted in the top 10 just last year.
Malcolm Mitchell: Drafting him now is like taking a flier on Dion Lewis at basically any time last spring/summer. I can’t tell you how Mitchell will fit into the New England offense this fall. But I liked the guy coming out of college. He looked good as a rookie. And I’m willing to make late bets on Patriots offensive pieces.
Demarcus Robinson: Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill and Kareem Hunt are the only Chiefs currently under contract who reached 30 catches last year. Robinson finished the year with 4 receptions in each of the final 2 games and flashed for a 3-127-1 line with Patrick Mahomes in the preseason finale. He could be heading toward a 2018 starting gig with the exciting new QB.
Perhaps the half-PPR (rather than full) component is pushing WRs down draft boards a bit relative to RBs and TEs on PlayDraft.
I remain willing to take Rob Gronkowski in Round 2. (I’m not buying that he’ll retire to Hollywood in 2018.) Otherwise, I don’t mind waiting on this position. Jordan Reed’s an attractive early buy after a messy 2017 has knocked his ADP nearly 5 rounds off last summer’s number.
The back-to-back Austins look solid at their ADPs, while Trey Burton and Vance McDonald could each climb well above their current positions as their outlooks clear up.