Which Player Will Be 2018’s Top League Winner? (2018 Fantasy Football)
There are many routes to winning a fantasy football league. While the winning strategies are plentiful, there tend to be certain players that wind up on a majority of league-winning rosters. Last season, we saw Rams RB Todd Gurley as the most notable example, as he was on nearly half of all league-winning rosters. Another player frequenting fantasy championship rosters was 2017 rookie Kareem Hunt.
So who will it be this year? We asked our writers. Here’s what they had to say.
Which player will be on the most league-winning teams this year?
Dalvin Cook (RB – MIN)
This was a tough decision for me between Melvin Gordon and Dalvin Cook, but I will go with Cook here. My inclination is that the Vikings will be the best team in football and that we haven’t even caught a glimpse of Kirk Cousins’ peak as he enters one of the NFL’s most efficient offenses that made Case Keenum look like an every-week starter. I’m expecting Dalvin Cook to be a huge beneficiary of a vast amount of scoring chances and am perfectly comfortable drafting him coming off of his ACL injury as he has been given ample amount of time to recover (my “Do Not Draft” cut-off following a significant soft-tissue injury is October 31 of the previous season). Cook’s value will be elevated even more by the prospects that the Vikings will have one of the league’s top defenses and there seems to be a significant correlation between elite defensive play and big fantasy seasons for the featured back (i.e. 2017 Leonard Fournette). The Vikings running game flourished last season with much less talented options available in Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon, who promptly became one of the league’s most overpaid players thanks to his production within the Vikings offense as he signed a four-year, $30,000,000 contract with the 49ers. Expect huge numbers from Cook in his second season.
Joey Korman – @leaveit2divac
Dalvin Cook is a clear league-winner this year. He’s coming off of an ACL, but so far, he looks fantastic in camp and the injury may well be behind him. In just four games last season, Cook piled up 354 rushing yards, 11 receptions, 90 receiving yards and two TDs. That’s a full season pace of 1,416 rushing yards, 44 receptions, 360 receiving yards, and eight TDs. That would have been good for an RB6 finish in Standard leagues and an RB7 finish in PPR leagues. The offense has improved with Kirk Cousins at QB, and that helps Cook’s production further. His situation as the bell cow on a good offense and his talent make him appealing. What’s more appealing is his Overall ADP of 13. That means that if you can snag Cook with the 11th or 12th pick in the draft, you can turn around and pair him with Julio Jones or Odell Beckham or stack RBs by adding Melvin Gordon or Leonard Fournette. That’s an extremely solid foundation for a league-winning team, with Cook as the centerpiece.
Zak Hanshew – @ZaktheMonster
Drew Brees (QB – NO)
I think when all is said and done, Drew Brees is going to be the player who you’ll find most consistently ended up on championship teams. Brees had finished in the top six in fantasy quarterback rankings for 11 straight years before 2017’s sub-par effort. He showed little drop-off in actual performance last year, however, as he was more efficient than ever with a career-best 72% completion percentage. Even if you buy that his pass attempts are going to stay closer to the 536 from last year rather than the 632 he has averaged in his career with the Saints, he should see a significant jump in touchdowns from last year’s 23. After all, Brees averaged a touchdown every 18 pass attempts between 2006 and 2016, but just one touchdown every 23 pass attempts last year. If you just gave him his average touchdown rate last year, he’d have thrown for 30 touchdowns and finished as a top-5 quarterback. In other words, even with an excellent running game and much-improved defense, Brees’ touchdown rate should still regress closer to the mean and he should be a top quarterback again. With his ADP, I imagine he’ll end up on plenty of championship teams.
Dan Harris – @danharris80
David Johnson (RB – ARI)
I think many people are forgetting how good David Johnson is. He injured his wrist last year which kept him out for the entire season, but it’s not like he’s recovering from a soft tissue injury or an ACL tear – this puts him at relatively low risk of re-injury. He was the fourth highest-scoring player in all of fantasty in 2016 (behind only Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan, and Drew Brees), yet he is being selected as the fourth overall player. Being able to grab him with the No. 4 or 5 pick in the first round of drafts will give owners a back who can finish as the best in fantasy, with the room to still grab a solid No. 1 wide receiver in the second round.
Jon Munshaw – @jon_munshaw
Sterling Shepard (WR – NYG)
Over the first two years of his career, Shepard has shown the ability to step up and be the focal point of a passing attack, though he doesn’t need to be with Odell Beckham Jr. on the field. To know that he has that ability is a bonus, though, as Beckham Jr. has dealt with injuries throughout his career. Pat Shurmur did wonders for Adam Thielen’s career while working out of the slot, which is where Shepard has played over 80 percent of his snaps the last two years. He’s going to give you WR4 production regardless but has upside for much more.
Mike Tagliere – @MikeTagliereNFL
Lamar Miller (RB – HOU)
Okay, so this one is a little off the board, but Miller’s current cost is just too low when you look at his role in the big picture. First of all, his ECR is 43, as of when this is being written. He’ll be assisted with a much-improved QB in Deshaun Watson that will help take some of the pressure off of his legs and should lessen the number of men in the box for his carries. In games when Watson was QB, last year, Miller averaged around 20 additional total YPG than in games without Watson. On top of this, Houston should move the ball better and Miller could easily see increased usage in the red zone, giving each carry added value. I know it’s been hyped before and I know that Miller has failed to live up to his billing. However, if there is a year for Miller to shine, this will be his opportunity. He has the chance to lock down the starting role as D’Onta Foreman is still on the PUP list. If you’re adding Miller in the fifth and he reaches that ceiling, that is exactly the kind of value that can win a team a fantasy football championship.
Ethan Sauers – @ethansauers
No one in the first two rounds
I feel like I’m partially cheating here by not choosing a specific player, but, in all likelihood, someone unexpected will emerge as an elite fantasy force a la 2017 Alvin Kamara. Someone who exceeds their ADP by multiple rounds will be found on many winning teams. I don’t profess to know who that player is, but merely that the player exists. Hopefully, I can find him!
Jason Katz – @jasonkatz13
Jerick McKinnon (RB – SF)
McKinnon’s move from Minnesota to San Francisco provides a massive boost for his fantasy value, yet there are still plenty of doubters in the fantasy community, presenting a terrific buying opportunity. One of the best offensive minds in the game, 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan, has engineered top-10 fantasy seasons from his lead RB in each of the last three years. Devonta Freemen finished top-six both seasons Shanahan was in Atlanta, and even Carlos Hyde somehow snuck into the top-10 in Shanahan’s first season by the Bay. McKinnon is a fantastic athlete who can play on all three downs and finished as a solid RB2 in a part-time role last year. Now, he’ll get to show what he can do with the bulk of his team’s backfield touches, even if he isn’t a true “bell cow” back (Freeman and Hyde weren’t, either). This is a legit RB1 whose ADP currently sits in the third round.
Andrew Seifter – @andrew_seifter
Joe Mixon (RB – CIN)
Perhaps you heard it on the podcast, but I finally conceded to Mike Tagliere that Joe Mixon is, in fact, a great pick at the end of the second round. I wasn’t buying the notion that he would become a bell-cow back, but it now seems the Bengals actually know what they have in him. Mixon is an all-world talent who could explode if given the opportunity and it seems 300+ touches is not only a possibility but quite possibly his floor this year. Don’t be surprised if he is a top-five pick this time next year after pummeling the NFL for 1,800 yards from scrimmage.
Bobby Sylvester – @bobbyfantasypro
Andrew Luck (QB – IND)
I feel like I am beating a dead horse here. No one is more firmly planted on the Andrew Luck bandwagon than me this season. However, my faith in Luck this season is all contingent on the fact that I believe he is back to full health or at least close. Luck is a football savant so I am expecting very little rust from him to start the season. He is currently being drafted as QB10 which is shockingly low for someone with his ceiling. Fill out the rest of your roster with running backs, wide receivers and a tight end in the first seven or eight rounds and then take Luck in the ninth round. He offers more league-winning upside than any other player based off where you can take him.
Shane Davies – @FantasySD1
Stefon Diggs (WR – MIN)
A running back (i.e. Todd Gurley and Alvin Kamara last year) is more likely to fill this distinction than a receiver taken in the third round. Yet there’s an easily conceivable path to Stefon Diggs deriving first-round value. He was fantasy’s premier wideout through Week 4 before injuring his groin the following week. The 24-year-old then looked healthy in the winter, closing the season with a touchdown in each of the last three games before turning one of 22 postseason targets into a miraculous score. Don’t be shocked if he leaps into the position’s top tier in 2018.
Andrew Gould – @andrewgould4
Aaron Jones or Jamaal Williams (RB – GB)
The first three games of the season, when Ty Montgomery was the starter, he played in roughly 90% of the Packers offensive snaps. In Aaron Jones’s four games as the lead back he played in roughly 72%. In Jamaal Williams’s game? Close to 80%. If we can pick which guy will win the job, we know he will get the lion’s share of work in an Aaron Rodgers offense. A workhorse back in one of the best offenses in the league with (only semi-arguably) the best QB on the planet instantly becomes a high-end RB. With their draft positions in the late mid rounds, I’m actually finding myself taking both of these guys in many drafts. They’re the ideal ZeroRB candidates if you choose to go that route.
Ryan Melosi – @RTMelos
Jamaal Williams (RB – GB)
Remember that scene in the Wire with Marlo and the security guard? “You want it to be one way. But it’s the other way.” Everyone wants Aaron Jones to be the guy in Green Bay, but Williams was drafted ahead of Jones and ran ahead of him after Ty Montgomery went down last year. Williams also isn’t entering the season suspended and injured. He’ll have pole position to be the lead back for a team with one of the best offenses in the league (touchdowns!) and a much-improved defense (positive game scripts!). That’s great value for a player ranked 91st by ECR. Also receiving votes: Jordan Reed, Cooper Kupp, Matt Breida.
Scott Cedar – @scedar015
And there you have it, our writer’s league-winners for 2018. Who do you think will wind up on a majority of league-winning rosters when we look back on the 2018 fantasy football season? Let us know @FantasyPros.
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