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State of the Union: 2018 Pre-Combine Studies and Dynasty-Fantasy Positional Valuations...

Air Date:
February 21, 2018

After previewing the 2018 NFL Combine participants at QB-RB-WR-TE, my general feeling on the ‘big picture’ of dynasty-fantasy football is that we have a real glut of talent surging into the NFL from college and that’s creating some new/unique dynasty-fantasy issues…

(and, sorry – this whole thing is kinda rambling but when I re-read it, I didn’t know how to put it in any better order, nor did I want to edit anything out. I’m pouring out my heart/head on what I’m thinking today -- and you can try to sift through it.)

The main thing I keep trying to process is how many talented players will be drafted onto teams in 2018 and cannot start/beat the starter. Think Derrick Henry…he’d be a 1,000+ yard rusher with 10+ TDs per season in the last two seasons if no Demarco Murray. That’s an RB example…we’ve got the same issue developing at QB and RB in the NFL/fantasy, and in a weird way at WR (more on that in a moment).

It’s going to be great to truly understand the talent of these players, to scout them properly…but it isn’t going to matter for fantasy usage if/when they get drafted onto teams where they cannot start/star (unless an injury to the starter).

It’s going to happen less and less that a player is drafted to be ‘the man’…because there are less teams with real/major voids to fill. Between more talent coming in, free agency, etc. – rookies aren’t going to be expected/hoped for to come in and save the team.

The real glut is happening at RB and QB.

Let’s talk RBs first -- if I go through every team and ask myself “What GM/coach thinks they need a starting RB today?”…it’s maybe Cleveland, and more logically -- Detroit, Indy, NYG, Oakland, SF, TB. I don’t include New England because they’ll recycle a cheap RB(s).

Carlos Hyde is going to fill one of those RB voids. Doug Martin might (cut from TB). Jerick McKinnon could or just split with whomever is brought in. Only a few teams are RB desperate but there are guys like Frank Gore, Isaiah Crowell, LeGarrette Blount, Jamaal Charles, Dion Lewis, Jeremy Hill all floating out there if they wanted to take a shot/start with them and add a young RB…causing more of a logjam for young RBs.

There are a lot of 2018 prospects I ‘like’ (not love) at running back…like 4-5-6-7-8 of them. Besides wherever Saquon Barkley goes there might be 0-1-2 other RBs who will matter right away…the rest could be Samaje Perine – taken later in the draft, didn’t start until later his rookie season and we’re still not sure if he’s the starter now, but we speculate and can buy him semi-cheap today…but was a top 10 dynasty rookie pick post-Draft on speculation.

Besides Saquon Barkley…there might not be another rookie RB who OBVIOUSLY matters coming out of the draft. In 2017, Fournette-McCaffrey looked good/rock solid to start right away. But Mixon-Perine-Cook-Cohen-Foreman-Mack-Hunt-Kamara…all had road blocks, reasons to worry. You could’ve bought Hunt cheaper before the Spencer Ware injury. Perine-Foreman felt like possible take-out-the-starter candidates but 3-4 weeks into the regular-season, no one cared...and today you couldn’t trade away either for rookie draft picks 1.05-1.12 today. They’re old news.

When it comes to RBs…there is an overload of talent and opportunities arise from injury more than anything else, and you or I cannot predict those sudden opportunities with certainty. If I’m looking for RB help in the dynasty rookie draft…I’d use my valuable picks to trade for real/known starting RB and keep/hoard 3rd-7th-round rookie picks for gambling on ‘situations’. Every week new RB possibilities emerge all season. This past year, Kareem Hunt came out of nowhere (for workload), in a sense, when Ware went down right before the season started. Alex CollinsKenyan DrakeDion LewisRex BurkheadChris Carson all kinda came out of nowhere -- you can fix your RB2 or RB3 situation on the fly. Don’t sweat it. All this talent coming in…it gives us (CFM’ers) an upper hand because we ‘know’ these quality-upside backups, etc., ahead of others so we can acquire cheaply when the time is right or know what money to bid for free agent grabs for the week, etc.

2018 is going to display the most RB talent as backups on NFL teams of any season we’ve seen before. Which means…playing great 1-2 punch handcuffs is going to become a thing. I’m not a huge handcuff guy in recent years but there might be some jaw dropping starter-backup combos for talent and you’ll need to get into position. The Dallas Cowboys may shock you when they take a pretty talented (and mid-Draft pick) rookie RB as security against any future Ezekiel stupidity.

Besides aiming for perfection…at least I want one for-sure ace starting RB (DJ, Le’Veon, Fournette, etc.) and I’m OK feeling not-so-good about my RB2 because almost no one feels good about their RB2 because it’s such a mess of talent/revolving doors/injuries. You will have RB options coming at you in waves all 2018 in-season, don’t kill yourself for an RB2 or RB3. Get one great RB and don’t worry about your RB2 too much, do the best you can and we/me/you got other positional issues of more concern, probably.  

I’m not sure the 2018 draft will provide any for-sure starting opportunities for an RB the day after the draft…besides Saquon Barkley, and I’m not sure he’s as great as advertised (let’s see the Combine)…but he will get MAJOR touches.

On the quarterback side…there’s almost too many good QBs out there. Most of you have one or two of Goff-Dak-Garoppolo-Mahomes-Rodgers-RWilson-Trubisky-Brady (the FFM crew)…but if you have Brees-Cam-Wentz-Ben…you’re not hurting either. I just named 12 QBs in that last statement. There’s plenty of QBs…and the talent gets deeper this year, so waivers will have options like never before in-season. I’m usually a two QB guy on my 15-man FF roster…I may take my second/backup QB before some take their first in a fantasy redraft. I want my QB1 and QB2 to have high-end QB1 upside in case I lose one. This year, with so many QBs popping up, I’m not likely to press that second QB issue.

We’re in a golden age of quarterback so don’t overpay but try to have two slices of cake and not all-in on one. Ask those who lost Aaron Rodgers in 2017 know…lose your ace QB without a real/performing backup – season about over. Lost David Johnson right away…but we found 5-17 different RBs that got us by somehow. The QB glut is increasing but I’d still rather comb through waivers for an emergency RB each week than a QB.

I like Baker Mayfield and Mason Rudolph, but I’d take any one of the 12 QBs I listed above before them for FF 2018…and that doesn’t mention Andrew Luck, Deshaun Watson, and someone(s) else I’m probably forgetting.

Great QBs are suddenly cheap due to inflated supply.

RB2s are getting there as well. I still say I’d rather have Joe Mixon, known Cincy starter/franchise RB than any RB in this 2018 NFL Draft besides Barkley (maybe) at this stage.  

WRs is where things are getting weird…

I don’t see an obvious stud WR so far in the pre-Combine studies. Maybe the Combine will reveal one but think about the last 2-3 seasons of high-pick WRs…all disasters. Picking a WR in the 1st-round of a dynasty rookie draft has been a wasted pick for a few years now…and probably again in 2018.

There is a glut of WR2 and WR3 talent…there is a glut of QB1 talent to throw to these WRs. You’ll have options and things we’ll gamble on at WR that will emerge.

The last 2-3 draft seasons, college has been flooding starting QB1 and RB1-2 talent. What it hasn’t done is give WR1 talent as easily. QB1 and RB1 are getting oversupplied for fantasy…and more talent on the way. WR1, true WR1 is drying up. Antonio Brown, DeAndre Hopkins, Odell Beckham…these guys are becoming RARE. I could easily come up with 12 RBs that are THE GUY. WR1 talents + good/great QBs to work with + all the targets to the exclusion of others…it’s becoming scarce. A ton of WR2-3 talent week-to-week, but true 10+ targets every game WR with a great QB…hard to find/maintain.

Go through each NFL team and ask, ‘Who is their #1 WR?’ You’ll be shocked at how many you aren’t sure on and shocked how not-great the #1 guy listed really is. A true WR1 is economically more valuable than your RB1 and QB1, on paper. David Johnson, I want to make an exception for because his receiving capabilities on top of rushing tallies are otherworldly (and maybe Le’Veon too) but everyone else in fantasy is behind Antonio Brown and probably OBJ, DeAndre Hopkins. Then a step down…Tyreek Hill, Julio Jones, and maybe Davante Adams (with healthy Rodgers) are all worth more than the #4-5-6-7-8 ranked top fantasy RBs, economically speaking.

This draft is about to dump more Michael Thomas, Golden Tate, Mike Evans, Keenan Allen type ‘good’ talent into the mix. You’ll have plenty of WR2s and WR3s to work with/discover. True WR1s, the top end ones the QB is BFF with…they are becoming worth their weight in gold.

Larry Fitzgerald is one of the most interesting undervalued WRs out there for fantasy. For 2018, Fitz will likely outscore any WR from this current draft and probably from last year’s draft too. Yet, he trades like a near WR3 because ‘old’.

Outside of Saquon Barkley getting a hype push/workload a la Melvin Gordon and Dalvin Cook…this draft is not going to yield any RB1, WR1, QB1 better than the guys that exist as RB1, WR1, QB1 today (for the 2018 and 2019 season). About a year ago, all the 2017 guys you had interest in…all on sale now – Perine, Kupp, Foreman-Zay Jones-Cohen-Corey Davis. 2018 should be no different. Don’t fall in love too hard with anyone from the 2018 rookie class.

Which means…at this stage of my 2018 scouting studies -- there is no sense overvaluing/chasing the 2018 crop. The 1.01/Barkley is better to trade the hype, I think…and then 1.02-1.12, I’m sure something good will emerge but you can very likely trade these picks into much better FOR SURE players. The value of high 2018 dynasty rookie draft picks is to trade them

However, I do want to accumulate a lot of late 2nd, and 3rd-7th round picks because there is a lot of talent out there…it just will take most of them halfway into 2018 season or into 2019-2020 before it materializes. I like the amount of talent 2018 has, I just don’t like the price of the supposed ‘best in class’ players right now.

The TE position is a whole other animal.

When you think top TEs for fantasy, you think Gronk-Graham-Kelce-Ertz-Jordan Reed. Gronk may be in the WWE in 1-2-3 years. Graham is no longer ‘that guy’. Kelce has an O-C and QB change now. Ertz is a one-year wonder at this point. Jordan Reed may be cut by the Redskins because of his perpetual injuries. Where are the great fantasy TEs?

Well, Evan Engram and O.J. Howard are the future…given to us in 2017. 2018 might deliver one or two more…all eyes on Dallas Goedert’s Combine numbers.

The old high-end TE1s are about to become endangered species in another season or two…yielding over to the young talent coming in. The 2017 TE class was notably deep and 2018 may be deeper. Staying in the middle-late 1st-round of the 2018 dynasty rookie draft may make sense if you are looking for TE help…and if Goedert or Hayden Hurst have nice Combine numbers. We might walk out of the Combine touting Goedert or possibly Hurst as THEE top dynasty prospects in this draft…or we might bail on all of them and thus Engram-Howard go even higher in value.

If I had my druthers at TE…I trade for Evan Engram…a lot…and don’t bother taking a chance on a rookie, and hoping they land right. Most of you reading this made the move for Engram last year…so you’re good. If you haven’t…do so. Yes, he costs but he might be a top 12 overall player for fantasy right now…we like him more than THEY like him.

My dream scenario – possessing Engram as my TE1 and getting a cheaper-than-this-time-last-year O.J. Howard as my TE2. They may be the two best tight ends in football/fantasy from 2019-2025.

That’s a lot of spaghetti I just threw up against the wall. I guess, my main point is – this 2018 NFL and dynasty rookie draft is deep but it’s not necessarily top heavy. The 2017 Draft had more studs, it seems like, and 2018 might just have more ‘B’ players littered throughout the draft.

At this stage, I trade the 1.01 for a king’s ransom or keep it/Barkley and then I’m dealing all other first-round picks for legit starters if I can do it. I want Tyreek, Engram, Mixon, boring RB1s undervalued (Howard, Derrick Henry/if Demarco gone)…you can have ‘picks’ trying to sort out if any of them have a chance to start right away and have an impact.

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About R.C. Fischer

R.C. Fischer is an NFL Draft analyst for College Football Metrics, and a football projections analyst and writer for Fantasy Football Metrics. 

Learn more about RC and the College Football Metrics system >>