Must-Have Players in Fantasy Football Drafts (2018)

Jul 10, 2018

Sony Michel (left) could change the way Patriots running backs are viewed

The recent heat around the world is naturally coinciding with the simple fact that we’re moving closer to football season. Or at least we can pretend that’s the reason. Weather aside, we are in fact inching toward August and before you know it, you’ll be drafting a fantasy team and replaying each pick in your head afterward. All you can hope for at that point is that you end up drafting 2018’s version of Alvin Kamara or Carson Wentz (pre-injury of course) from last season.

The goal of every draft should be to pick guys who are going to score you the most points. Easy enough, right? Often times, that will come from the first couple of rounds, but like those names above, there’s value to be had with every pick. You should always go into a draft with a game plan and a solid set of rankings. Part of that includes a list of players you really want to target. To help with figuring out who those players might be, we asked nine experts across the fantasy industry to tell us which one guy they’re hoping to roster in all of their leagues. See their answers below.

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Q1. What one player outside the top 30 in the expert consensus are you hoping to end up with in all your leagues?

Sony Michel (RB – NE)
Overall Ranking #58
“This one is pretty easy for me because while everyone reaches for their second running back, I can get mine in the fourth- or fifth-round every single time. Sony Michel plays on a top-three scoring offense, was drafted in the first-round, and can play all three downs. Seriously, what’s not to like? Many will say the Patriots have an ‘unpredictable’ backfield, but I disagree. Think about the running backs that have been there the last handful of years – LeGarrette Blount can’t catch, Mike Gillislee doesn’t play on third-downs, James White is a passing-down specialist, Rex Burkhead is a utility-back, Stevan Ridley didn’t play many third-downs, Shane Vereen was a passing-down specialist, and BenJarvus Green-Ellis was a two-down back. The only one who could arguably do it all was Dion Lewis, who shined over the end of the 2017 season. The Patriots haven’t had a running back like Michel and they spent a first-round pick on him when they know they’re win-now. He’s going to finish as a top-18 running back, yet his ADP is outside the top-50 players. Did I mention that he’s got the 2nd-easiest schedule among running backs?”
– Mike Tagliere (FantasyPros)

Chris Hogan (WR – NE)
Overall Ranking #75
“Hogan will be on every one of my teams in 2018, unless it’s a dynasty or keeper league where he’s already owned, and even in those instances, I’ll do my best to acquire him. Hogan was a top-10 fantasy wideout through the first eight weeks last year before injuries sidelined him. Brandin Cooks is gone and Julian Edelman will be serving a four-game suspension, meaning Hogan is once again set up to be Tom Brady’s top receiving weapon not named Gronk. With a reasonable shot to return WR2 value, I’ll be targeting him as early as the late fourth round.”
– Justin Boone (theScore)

Larry Fitzgerald (WR – ARI)
Overall Ranking #34
“People have been writing off Fitzgerald in recent seasons, but the veteran keeps proving he’s still a high-level fantasy producer. He’s finished inside the top 12 in PPR scoring for three years in a row and seven times since 2008 while only missing two games during that stretch. Even with three different passers throwing the ball to him a year ago, the future Hall of Famer still reached the 100-catch and 1,000-yard plateaus for a third straight time. Those seem like reasonable expectations once again, especially with David Johnson back to help open things up in the offense.”
– Dan Clasgens (Pro Football Focus)

Ronald Jones (RB – TB)
Overall Ranking #57
“I’m bullish on Ronald Jones beating out the ‘competition’ in Tampa Bay and becoming the Bucs’ three-down back. I love his track record from Southern Cal and think he’s a well-rounded rusher. The opportunity is just too good — Tampa Bay improves its offensive line and defensive line, both of which should plenty of rushing chances. This is also a team that under coach Dirk Koetter has finished among the top-10 in rush attempts in two of the last three years. They especially need playmakers to help them get off to a decent start with Winston suspended and Jones should help there.”
– Dave Richard (CBS Sports)

JuJu Smith-Schuster (WR – PIT)
Overall Ranking #47
“The Steeler defense was woeful to close out the 2017 season, as Pittsburgh couldn’t stop the Ravens, Bengals and Jaguars, all of which had pedestrian offenses. The reason for this was Ryan Shazier’s injury, and Shazier won’t play in 2018, meaning Ben Roethlisberger will have to throw as much as he did at the end of the year (most of his high-volume games came in Week 11 or later.) JuJu Smith-Schuster should continue to see lots of targets; he had four or more receptions in his final seven games, three of which were 100-yard efforts. Smith-Schuster should be due for a big second season in the pros, so I’d like to have him in all of my leagues.”
– Walter Cherepinsky (WalterFootball)

Cam Newton (QB – CAR)
Overall Ranking #60
“He’s the perfect combination of draft capital and top end upside. With Greg Olsen back in tow and star rookie DJ Moore in the mix, Newton will be the one quarterback I’ll target late in drafts.”
– Andy Holloway (The Fantasy Footballers)

Tyrell Williams (WR – LAC)
Overall Ranking #171
“I want as much Tyrell Williams as I can get in 2018. According to NFL.com’s Next Gen Stats, he generated more average separation (3.1 yards) than second-rounders like Doug Baldwin (2.8), Davante Adams (2.8), and his teammate Keenan Allen (2.7). And of all wideouts with at least 50 targets last season, Williams ranked fourth in yards per target (10.6), just ahead of Marvin Jones (10.3), and Williams posted a better catch rate than Jones to boot. All Williams lacked last year was target volume, no longer a concern with Hunter Henry lost for 2018, and the consensus has yet to catch up to the value of Williams’ projected role.”
– Greg Smith (TwoQBs)

Marlon Mack (RB – IND)
Overall Ranking #77
“According to FantasyPros ADP, Marlon Mack is currently being drafted as the RB31 late into the 8th round of leagues; potentially ten running backs too late. He’s currently slotted as the Colts starting running back, but the consensus is uncertain with not only the team’s running back depth chart and their dependency on the run, but also 4th-round rookie running back Nyheim Hines is generating a decent amount of hype in fantasy circles. I think there’s a lot of value to be had as a result of this hype, and if the potential for high volume and touches is what you seek in a late-round running back (as anyone should), there’s not much of a safer bet at running back to be had after the 7th round of drafts than Mack. He’s a great candidate for those going the ‘Zero-RB’ route, and I would look to target him as a late RB2 no later than the 7th round of your drafts.”
– Robert Waziak (Pyromaniac)

Deshaun Watson (QB – HOU)
Overall Ranking #61
“Every single year a few players stand out more than others when looking at early top 30 consensus rankings. This year, Deshaun Watson stands out the most, and I will go so far as to say that no player has ever stood out more to me than Watson does this year. And that’s a bold statement considering Alvin Kamara was our #7 bold prediction last year. Watson has the ability to not only explode from his 60ish overall consensus ranking, I predict that in hindsight (at season’s end), he will have been worth a top 10 overall pick. Kurt Warner, Dante Culpepper, Mike Vick, all these guys once commanded top-12 overall consideration in fantasy. Now, everyone waits on a passer, and rightfully so, the QB pool is deep. However, come this time next year, Watson might break that cycle given his ability to far exceed 4,000 yards passing, 40-45 total TDs, and 500-600 rushing yards.”
– Smitty (SleeperU)


Thank you to the experts above for naming their must-have players. Be sure to give them a follow on Twitter and check out our latest podcast below for more fantasy advice.


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3Ezekiel Elliott (DAL)RB
4Melvin Gordon (LAC)RB
5James Conner (PIT)RB
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21Rob Gronkowski (NE)TE
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16Javier Baez (CHC)2B,3B
17Christian Yelich (MIL)LF,CF
18Trea Turner (WSH)SS
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