Updated: Friday, June 20, at 1:25 EDT
Early drafts are picking up steam, and fantasy owners are looking for a leg up on the competition. While many drafts this time of the year are rehearsals, the recent-year surge in “set and forget” leagues, like the MFL10 competitions, require gamers to be on top of their, well, game.
All ADP figures are based on 12-team, PPR scoring, unless noted.
Mitchell Trubisky, Chicago Bears: Sleeper (ADP: 14:05)
A brand-new offensive system has been installed, complete with quarterback-friendly coaches. The second-year passer saw his weapons cache drastically improved during the offseason, with the likes of Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller and Trey Burton added around the oft-injured but promising Kevin White. Check off boxes for a strong running game and offensive line, as well as a dangerous third-down back, and the athletic Trubisky could emerge as a useful rotational quarterback in fantasy leagues.
Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints: Undervalued (ADP: 7:09)
It isn’t hard to understand why even the most consistently dominant fantasy passer of the last decade is now a midround selection. But should he be? Brees, 39, stepped back in a big way last year, falling from 5,208 yards to “just” 4,334. He shed an ugly 14 touchdowns from the previous season and was relegated most weeks to being a game manager. Don’t think he will return to the 5k club or pitch 35 scores again, but something like 4,700-30 is absolutely reasonable. No Mark Ingram for the first month and an improved cast of receivers work in his favor. The offense was so impressive on the ground last year that Brees rightfully took a back seat. Injury and a backhand by Father Time are major concerns, no doubt, but a midround pick on Brees feels like robbery in this situation.
Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons: Undervalued (ADP: 10:04)
Two years ago, Ryan was a fantasy toad in drafts. Last summer, the veteran was a selection darling. Currently, gamers want little to do with him. Sure, he won’t be in 2016 form. That was a career year, but he has improved weapons and a second offseason to improve in this offense. Remember how poorly he played in the first year of Kyle Shanahan’s system vs. Year 2? Julio Jones should return one way or another, and the rest of the weaponry is as good as any team fields. The needle points north for Mr. Ryan as a midround value.
Case Keenum, Denver Broncos: Undervalued (ADP: 14:08)
Denver has worked hard to upgrade its offensive line, and the draft focused on bettering an already dangerous receiving corps. The backfield saw attention, too, perhaps by way of addition through subtraction. Keenum finally came into his own last year with the Vikes and was given a vote of confidence when Denver opted not to draft high-level competition. With a pick this late, he could provide safety to a risky starter or even see the field as a matchup play.
Nyheim Hines, Indianapolis Colts: Sleeper (ADP: 13:11)
Marlon Mack is coming back from shoulder surgery, and even if he returns without a hitch, the rookie will be needed to complement Mack’s slashing style. Hines is a capable receiver and has more worth in PPR setups. He impressed coaches in rookie minicamp, too. The rookie could catch a load of dump-offs in an offense without a great deal of talent at wide receiver. Jordan Wilkins could be in play for touches, but he’s more like Mack than Hines.
Chase Edmonds, Arizona Cardinals: Sleeper (ADP: 21:07)
David Johnson’s return to form is no guarantee. Should he look like his 2016 self, it is hard to imagine the Cardinals pounding him into the turf again. He was overused that year and will need a breather. Edmonds is the logical replacement, since his style greatly varies, and he’s more explosive than Elijhaa Penny. The rookie can serve as a third-down option but is more likely a change-up to DJ.
Carlos Hyde, Cleveland Browns: Undervalued (ADP: 7:02)
Nick Chubb is expected to be the future of this backfield, perhaps as soon as 2019, but gamers are currently drafting in single-year setups like Chubb already is the dude. Hyde was a top-10 fantasy back a season ago, and while much of his value will be depressed with Duke Johnson stealing the third-down chores, investing a midround pick on Hyde is a low-risk, moderate-reward scenario. Full disclosure: Since Cleveland is barely committed to the veteran, if Chubb stands out in the offseason, abandon this wagon for the younger back. Until then, don’t get too distracted by shiny things.
Chris Thompson, Washington Redskins: Undervalued (ADP: 7:03)
A serious leg injury derailed Thompson’s breakout 2017 season. He returns healthy and ready to resume his role as the third-down and change-of-pacer for this offense. A questionable cast of wide receivers firmly secures his status as a consistently reliable flex play in PPR. While everyone seems to be drooling over Derrius Guice, remember Thompson will be a fine consolation if your league rewards for receptions.
Latavius Murray, Minnesota Vikings: Undervalued (ADP: 13:01)
There is little to no upside in this pick if Dalvin Cook (knee) returns to form. The way this could work in your favor is if Cook is slow to return to form or outright struggles coming back from a devastating injury. Murray offers virtually nothing on passing downs, but Jerick McKinnon is gone, so Minnesota — under a new play-caller — could deploy Cook more on third downs and look to Murray to shoulder more work on early-down carries. Murray also enters a contract year with the hopes of showing enough to secure a starting job elsewhere in 2019.
Christian Kirk, Arizona Cardinals: Sleeper (ADP: 14:02)
Kirk stepped in and immediately contributed at Texas A&M. Behind Larry Fitzgerald and David Johnson, his only true competition for touches in the desert comes via untested second-year man Chad Williams and deep threat J.J. Nelson. Kirk, a volume player who makes his mark after the catch, could easily exceed 50 receptions and string together enough looks to warrant fantasy consideration throughout the year. Quarterbacking may be an issue, mainly from an inconsistency perspective, but the drop-off from Sam Bradford to rookie Josh Rosen probably is more perceived than real. Kirk’s off-field citation isn’t to be of much concern.
Cameron Meredith, New Orleans Saints: Sleeper (ADP: 11:02)
The Saints didn’t add Meredith, a restricted free agent in Chicago, to watch him ride the pine. The offense needed another playmaker to step up on the outside and assist Michael Thomas. Meredith stands 6-foot-3, like Thomas, and could be devastating in the red zone. He returns from missing all of 2017 with a torn ACL, but the timing will mean he should be as close to 100 percent as possible when the year opens. Ted Ginn has played admirably late in his career, though he is 33 this season and teetering on the brink. No Mark Ingram for a quarter or more of the season should mean increased passing. The tight end position’s lack of talent suggests Meredith could be utilized much like when Jimmy Graham was flexed out wide days gone by.
Paul Richardson, Washington Redskins: Sleeper (ADP: 14:04)
Despite the former Seahawk coming off of a career-best season, Richardson is flying so far under the radar based on his potential that he deserves “sleeper” over “undervalued” as a label. In short, as long as he is healthy, Richardson sports low-end WR2 potential. He finished with a 44-703-6 slash last year, his first full one as a pro. Alex Smith commands Jay Gruden’s system, working with Richardson as the deep threat, Jamison Crowder the intermediate guy, and Josh Doctson handling the possession chores. Richardson will fill that DeSean Jackson role and has tremendous upside with Smith’s mobility helping to extend plays. A ceiling should look something like 60-1,000-8.
Tyrell Williams, Los Angeles Chargers: Sleeper (ADP: 19:03)
The loss of Hunter Henry for the year will open up looks in the middle of the field and down the seam. Williams is being pushed by last year’s top pick, Mike Williams, for a starting receiver spot. Even if the younger Williams wins the battle, “House Tyrell” still has a sound chance of claiming some fantasy territory. Furthermore, there is a strong chance Mike Williams simply cannot stay on the field. Having two years of established chemistry with Philip Rivers, Tyrell is WR5 depth all day long and offers a possible weekly play.
Allen Hurns, Dallas Cowboys: Sleeper (ADP: 10:04)
Barring an injury, Hurns should lead the Cowboys in receptions. Cole Beasley is a viable challenger, although there are more than enough looks to go around after Jason Witten retired and Dez Bryant was sent packing. Hurns isn’t flashy and won’t dominate games. In 2015, as a Jaguar, he racked up a 64-1,031-10 line as Allen Robinson’s sidekick. Able to line up anywhere, Hurns provides Dak Prescott a mostly reliable pair of hands, adequate size (6-foot-3, 201 pounds), and a little ability after the grab. Gamers have nothing to lose at his ADP, but he will go sooner in more competitive formats.
Deon Cain, Indianapolis Colts: Sleeper (ADP: 21:03)
T.Y. Hilton is great when he has someone to help him. Donte Moncrief was that guy in between injuries and inconsistencies, but he is now a Jaguar. Ryan Grant — you’re probably saying, “Who?” right about now — was a signing from Washington and is a possession guy. Chester Rogers has earned some praise this offseason. The Colts added Eric Ebron to complement Jack Doyle at tight end. If Ebron is the answer, I don’t want to know the question. Cain can get down the field and offers adequate size (6-foot-2, 202). Gamers looking for a deep flier have nothing to lose in the final round.
Trent Taylor, San Francisco 49ers: Sleeper (ADP: 23:09)
“But they drafted Dante Pettis in Round 2?!?” … yeah, yeah. Taylor should retain his slot role either way, but if he doesn’t, how much are you willing to stake on a soon-to-be 32-year-old Pierre Garcon staying healthy? Taylor caught 43 balls as a rookie fifth-rounder last season. Pettis is a threat, being the 12th pick of Round 2, but he’s also a dynamic return man, which may be where his career begins. We’ll monitor this situation throughout the summer, but for now, Taylor is the guy to take a flier on late in drafts.
NEW – Danny Amendola, Miami Dolphins: Undervalued (ADP: 13:07)
It is easy to dismiss Amendola based on injury history, but it becomes increasingly difficult to ignore his opportunity for a large share of the vacated 161 targets in 2017 left by the departure of Jarvis Landry. Amendola turns 33 roughly midway through the year, and he’s coming off of a masterful postseason effort. Health is always a worry, and the downgrade at quarterback is also a factor. But when we get into the final few rounds, especially in PPR, gamers would be foolish to overlook a player poised to see roughly 100 targets.
Marqise Lee, Jacksonville Jaguars: Undervalued (ADP: 11:05)
Lee’s placement is understandable and might be a hint closer to his proper value than truly undervalued. In the 12th round, however, finding a possible WR2 is as good of a return on investment as anyone can expect. Injuries are a factor to drive down his stock. Blake Bortles, regardless of how well he plays, has not done enough to command respect. The offense is run-oriented, and Lee has a plethora of hands around him vying for touches. He is the most proven of this group, has considerable experience with Bortles, and does a little bit of everything. Unless an unheralded option makes a dramatic ascension or Donte Moncrief proves he was a worthy one-year signing, Lee should hog the majority of targets.
Trey Burton, Chicago Bears: Sleeper (ADP: 8:01)
Burton flashed in 2017 as a hybrid tight end behind Zach Ertz in Philly, but it is a safe bet that many casual gamers don’t know the name. Chicago will turn to him as a pass-catching tight end to work as a safety valve for Mitchell Trubisky. The entire passing game was revamped in the offseason, and while Burton shouldn’t be the focus, he’ll be an important asset. This system has always utilized his position, and he’s more rangy than tight end Adam Shaheen. Burton may prove to be a popular sleeper.
Ricky Seals-Jones, Arizona Cardinals: Sleeper (ADP: 17:01)
Mike McCoy is the play-caller in Arizona, and while two Cardinals are already on this list, Seals-Jones gets a hat tip. He impressed late last year in limited action and is the most gifted player at this position on the roster. McCoy’s offense has utilized tight ends — albeit somewhat through necessity — year over year. The likelihood of RSJ being a consistent fantasy weapon is low, but he could slide into lineups a handful of times with the right matchups.
Rico Gathers, Dallas Cowboys: Sleeper (ADP: 21:02)
Gathers has gone through a pair of summers on an NFL roster without actually playing a regular-season game. The massive tight end caught seven balls for 106 yards (15.1 YPC) and a pair of scores in two contests last preseason, showing range and athleticism. Standing 6-foot-6, 285 pounds, he’s a capable blocker and surprisingly nimble. The sudden retirement of Jason Witten, plus the release of Dez Bryant, paves the way for someone to step up, especially since the rest of Dallas’ tight ends are nearly as green as Gathers. He is among the most intriguing final-round fliers of the draft.
Luke Willson, Detroit Lions: Sleeper (ADP: 23:11)
Drafting Willson won’t alleviate the need for choosing someone earlier in the selection process, particularly since he is anything but a sure bet. The former Seattle Seahawk comes to Motown with a reputation as a blocker first, receiver second. That is not to say he cannot catch. The biggest obstacle here will be finding steady looks without an injury to one of the primary receivers. Golden Tate, Marvin Jones and third-down back Theo Riddick should dominate the target share.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Jacksonville Jaguars: Undervalued (ADP: 15:09)
Take 3. A fantasy tease in two previous stops, Seferian-Jenkins passed up a chance to return to the New York Jets in favor of joining the Jaguars. As mentioned in the Marqise Lee section above, this offense needs someone to rise up among a crew of mostly unprovens in the passing game. It is difficult to imagine Seferian-Jenkins becoming a high-volume target for Blake Bortles. He can contribute in the red zone and may land somewhere around 55 receptions, but his ceiling is capped. Even still, as a TE2 with a hint of upside, there is absolutely nothing to lose by landing him as late as his ADP suggests gamers can find him available.