Jody Smith’s 2018 Fantasy Football Rankings vs. ECR

by Jody Smith | @JodySmithNFL | Featured Writer
Jun 13, 2018

Is Ben Roethlisberger generally being ranked too high?

The early part of summer is often the most frustrating time of the year for football fans and especially for fantasy football fans. Sure, this is a great time to be studying and doing intense prep work for you August drafts, but the lack of NFL activity and breaking news leaves a slight lull.

But a large portion of fantasy fanatics is putting in the work, absorbing every tidbit of data they can and preparing for many different strategies and scenarios for those upcoming drafts. One of the best tools at the arsenal of any well-prepared fantasy drafter is to know what the industry’s best analysts and experts are thinking by checking the FantasyPros Expert Consensus Rankings, the ECR.

I pulled off the impossible and won the FantasyPros Most Accurate Expert contest in 2012 and have been writing projections and rankings for more years than I’d care to admit. And just like any other year, there are players that I view differently than the masses, including my fellow ECR contributors. Let’s take a look at some of the players that I differ the most from the consensus and analyze my thoughts on why those players are either overrated or potential values on draft day. All rankings listed are in standard scoring.

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Quarterbacks I’m Higher On

Marcus Mariota (TEN) ECR QB18,  Smith QB11, seven spots higher
There were times last season where Mariota looked lost in Tennessee’s “exotic smashmouth” offense, but make no mistakes about it. Mariota is a talented young passer who is far closer to the player we saw in 2016 than 2017. Even though he was hurt last year, Mariota still ran for 312 yards and five scores, and he’s going to be an excellent fit in a Matt LeFleur offense predicated on the run/pass option. LeFleur has coached the NFL’s highest-scoring offense two years in a row, and the Titans have an underrated group of skill-position talent around Mariota.

Dak Prescott (DAL) ECR QB19, Smith QB13, six spots higher
As a rookie, Prescott was the QB8 then had to play six games without RB Ezekiel Elliott as a sophomore and still finished as the QB11. Excluding Week 17, in the nine games that Prescott started with Elliott in the backfield, he averaged 222 passing yards, tossed 16 touchdowns against six interceptions, ran for an additional 24 yards-per-game and scored four of his six rushing touchdowns. Those are top-five fantasy QB numbers. While the Cowboys lost a lot of weapons in the passing game, I think that Prescott’s rushing prowess (two straight years with six rushing scores) makes him a solid weekly fantasy starter, and an underrated value in 2018.

Jameis Winston (TB) ECR QB14, Smith QB10, four spots higher
Winston missed three games with a shoulder injury and was limited in two others. In the 11 full games he played, Winston was on a 16-game pace that translated into 4911 passing yards–which would have easily led the NFL–and 27 touchdowns. The Bucs also boast one of the deepest groups of pass-catchers in the NFC, making Winston one of my favorite QB1 targets that can be had as late as the 10th or 11th round.

Quarterbacks I’m Lower On

Jimmy Garoppoloo (SF) ECR QB11, Smith QB17, six spots lower
People are focusing way too much on Garoppolo’s five-game stretch to end the 2017 season. Admittedly, he put up impressive numbers and went undefeated, but Garoppolo and the 49ers feasted on some lousy secondaries in that stretch, including an average Rams pass defense and games against Houston and Tennessee’s bottom-10 secondaries. Garoppolo’s dynasty value is even worse, as I’ve seen him go top-five, even though he’s older than Blake Bortles and significantly older than Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, and Dak Prescott, who I feel are much more proven. Like with Big Ben, Jimmy G. is a fine option, but there are just other players that I feel more comfortable with.

Ben Roethlisberger (PIT) ECR QB10, Smith QB14, four spots lower
It’s not that I dislike Roethlisberger as a starter this season, I just like some of the other younger, more durable signal-callers more. Roethlisberger has played a full 16-game slate only three times in his 14 NFL seasons. Big Ben also lacks the top-five potential of other quarterbacks that can be targeted here.

Roethlisberger has only topped 30 touchdowns passes once in the past 10 seasons and offers little as a rusher. Finally, in looking at the 2018 strength of schedule for quarterbacks, Pittsburgh’s is the third-toughest in football.

Baker Mayfield (CLE) ECR QB32, Smith QB36, four spots lower
As a prospect, I love Mayfield and think he’s going to be a good NFL signal-caller. That said, I’m not sure that he’ll play much this season. Early reports out of Cleveland are that Tyrod Taylor is doing an excellent job mastering Todd Haley’s offense and looks to be miles ahead of Mayfield.

And I believe that’s the Browns’ plan — to use Taylor as a stopgap and allow Mayfield a year to be groomed to take over once Taylor departs as a free agent following this season. Mayfield is a solid dynasty addition, but I think Josh Rosen is far more likely to play more as a rookie.

Running Backs I’m Higher On

Marshawn Lynch (OAK) ECR RB 30, Smith RB19, 11 spots higher
Lynch played 15 games last season for a moribund Oakland offense and still managed to put up RB19 numbers. Jon Gruden is on record as saying he intends to instill an old-school offense which will include plenty of totes for Lynch, who is assured of the starting role after restructuring his contract this spring. Don’t read into the hype of Doug Martin being a credible threat. Martin has been one of the worst runners in the league for consecutive years, tallying under three yards-per-carry in each campaign. I think Lynch will easily exceed 225 carries and is a good bet to punch in eight or more scores.

Aaron Jones (GB) ECR RB39, Smith RB 31, eight spots higher
I have Jones one spot behind teammate Jamaal Williams, who I think will get the first crack at the “starting” job in Green Bay. Williams was far better than Jones in pass protection and got much more of a workload, but Jones was the more dynamic player. Unfortunately, what I see happening is a frustrating committee, and if that turns out to be the case, Jones becomes an excellent change-of-pace option with his big-play ability. This is the fantasy battle I feel is the most important to observe in July and August, and I find myself unopposed to nabbing both Packers backs on the six-seven turn where I can.

Darren Sproles (PHI) ECR RB68, Smith RB51, 17 spots higher
Sproles was well on his way to 150+ touch pace last season before tearing his ACL in Week 3. All indications are that Sproles is fully recovered and should be right back on the field for his usual PPR-friendly role. I like Sproles and Corey Clement quite a bit more than their current ECR because I think they’re going to both be quite busy as receivers in this offense.

Running Backs I’m Lower On

Derrick Henry (TEN) ECR RB19, Smith RB28, nine spots lower
I think people are underestimating how good Dion Lewis was last year and how much better of a fit in a Matt LeFleur offense he is than Henry. Both backs have value, I just think that Lewis is ultimately going to get more touches and is the far better value. Henry will have a role as the banger but is very limited in the passing game, and Lewis was quite effective in short-yardage situations. Ultimately, I think Lewis is a good bet to be a weekly RB2 in PPR leagues with RB1 upside. Henry will undoubtedly have his moments but will be neutralized in games where the Titans are forced to go pass-heavy.

Mark Ingram (NO) ECR RB23, Smith RB31, eight spots lower
Ingram’s current ADP from our friends at Fantasy Football Calculator is 46, which is the ninth pick of the fourth round. That’s RB24, just one spot below his ECR of RB23. That’s a bit too rich for me, as Ingram is slated to miss the first four games of the season. For Ingram to finish as the RB23 in only 12 games of action, he’s going to have to produce over 11 fantasy points-per-game in standard scoring–something only 11 running backs did last season. If the Saints are doing well with Alvin Kamara as a featured back or another of the club’s running backs is doing well in Ingram’s role, there’s also a chance Sean Payton will simply go with the flow, leaving Ingram to a reduced role.

Theo Riddick (DET) ECR RB46, Smith RB56, 10 spots lower
Riddick is a nice pass-catching option, but the arrival of LeGarrette Blount and second-round rookie Kerryon Johnson is going to really eat into Riddick’s touches. Johnson is an underrated receiver who is already being talked up as a three-down option and Blount is going to absorb the vast majority of early-down and short-yardage work. That’s going to leave Riddick with far fewer opportunities to make an impact, which will especially hurt him in standard leagues.

Wide Receivers I’m Higher On

Randall Cobb (GB)  ECR WR42, Smith WR31, 11 spots higher
Without Aaron Rodgers for a full slate of games, Cobb’s numbers dipped last season, but he should be in a good bounce-back spot here with Jordy Nelson now in Oakland. Cobb isn’t the red-zone threat that he once was now that Davante Adams has assumed that role but he’s still a reliable slot receiver that my projections like to surpass 110 targets, which makes him an excellent WR3/4.

Sterling Shepard (NYG) ECR WR44, Smith WR35, nine spots higher
Shepard is also an underrated athlete and stands to benefit from the offensive addition that New York added. A healthy Odell Beckham Jr. will draw significant attention and leave Shepard to see lesser cornerbacks. TE Evan Engram is also going to draw more attention and No. 2 overall pick Saquon Barkley is going to surpass 70 targets. I like Shepard’s touchdown numbers to rebound and think he’ll see a career-high in targets in his third season.

Kenny Stills (MIA) ECR WR47, Smith WR38, nine spots higher
We all know that Jarvis Landry and his 161 targets are gone, leaving the other Dolphins pass-catchers to pick up the slack. The common opinion is that DeVante Parker will finally have that elusive breakout campaign this season. Meanwhile, Stills has easily outscored Parker in each of the past two seasons, including a 15-to-five edge in touchdowns. You’d think Stills is the one with the higher ADP, but you’d be wrong. I tweeted my thoughts on the matter a couple of months ago:

Wide Receivers I’m Lower On

Julian Edelman (NE) ECR WR33, Smith WR46, 13 spots lower
Undoubtedly, this is a product of the Expert’s not reacting to Edelman’s four-game suspension yet. In time, that will not be a factor but for now, I’m obviously much lower on Edelman than the consensus. When Edelman starts sliding down draft boards, he might end up being a really good value in PPR leagues. Even with just 12 games, he’s a good bet to catch 75-plus balls.

Robby Anderson (NYJ) ECR WR40, Smith WR52, 12 spots lower
Anderson may have avoided felony charges, but he’s almost certain to be slapped with a suspension. My current projections also aren’t favorable for the Jets’ passing attack, so I just have no interest in Anderson as a WR3/4.

D.J. Moore (CAR) ECR WR54, Smith WR70, 16 spots lower
I’m also skeptical of effective Norv Turner is going to be with Carolina’s young and talented skill-position players. Rookie wideouts are notoriously slow to develop, but in Moore’s case, he is going to be well behind Christian McCaffrey, Devin Funchess, and Greg Olsen in the pecking order. Last year, no other wide receiver outside of Funchess drew more than 51 targets, which Kelvin Benjamin got in the first eight games as the WR1. Hard to see Moore having enough opportunities to make much of an impact in 2018.

Tight Ends I’m Higher On

Ryan Griffin (HOU) ECR TE35, Smith TE25, 10 spots higher
While Bill O’Brien probably doesn’t intend to heavily involve his tight ends in Houston’s offense, Griffin is still the locked-in starter for an offense that was electric with QB Deshaun Watson last season. C.J. Fiedorowicz was forced to retire, leaving Griffin to take the majority of reps in the passing game. He’s got weekly streaming potential and is being all but ignored in almost every draft.

Clive Walford (NYJ) ECR49, Smith TE29, 20 spots higher
Even deeper down the “sleeper” ranks is Clive Walford, who’s barely even owned in any format. The Jets relied fairly heavily on Austin Seferian-Jenkins last season and Walford is now penciled in as the club’s starter. Walford is just two years removed from a 33-catch campaign and is the only tight end on New York’s current roster that has any promise as a pass-catcher.

Tight Ends I’m Lower On

Jesse James (PIT) ECR TE26, Smith TE34, eight spots lower
Vance McDonald is expected to be a much bigger part of Pittsburgh’s passing attack this season, leaving James to play mostly as a blocker and occasionally in ’12’ formations. The Steelers have the league’s best receiving back and use a ton of three-wide sets, so there’s simply not going to be enough targets for James to be draftable.

Gerald Everett (LAR) ECR TE27, Smith TE35, eight spots lower
Like Jesse James, Everett is unlikely to command enough looks to warrant fantasy consideration. The Rams have a potent offense, but also have a terrific receiving back and traded for Brandin Cooks, who joins Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp to get Los Angeles and deep and talented receiving corps. Last year, Sean McVay’s offense only targeted the tight ends 88 times all season or roughly 5.5 times per game. With McVay remaining the play-caller, I don’t see Everett making enough of a leap to justify fantasy considerations.

Here are my entire rankings:

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Jody Smith is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Jody, check out his archive and follow him @JodySmithNFL.

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