Happy fantasy football draft weekend everyone! It’s good to see you all studying up for your fantasy football finals. Welcome! As we embark on this journey, I will arm you with some of my favorite picks for this season. These are the guys I go into each draft, no matter the settings, ready to take if I’m not sniped.
Christian McCaffrey, RB, Panthers
For the most part, drafters are ready to get hurt again by CMC, as his ADP remains in the Top 2. That doesn’t mean there aren’t detractors who have sworn him off due to his recent injury history. Jonathan Taylor sure looks like a good alternative, but, there are reasons to feel better about McCaffrey’s fantasy upside. The main one being usage. Both have a similar number of touches, but McCaffrey is much more diverse in his touches, averaging 6.2 receptions per game to Taylor’s 2.4 per game. Taylor was able to overcome that discrepancy in PPR leagues by racking up touchdowns last season with 18 rushing and two receiving for 20 total. Touchdowns are impossible to predict, and getting 20 touchdowns in back-to-back seasons doesn’t happen all that often. And when you compare McCaffrey’s huge 2019 season where he scored 19 total touchdowns, there is no comparison in fantasy points. McCaffrey blew Taylor’s 2021 PPR total out of the water. I usually go for upside and McCaffrey has the most upside of any player in the league.
CeeDee Lamb, WR, Cowboys
The Cowboys have a fast-paced offense that put up the second-most total yards, fourth-most passing yards and second-most plays per game last season. Yes, Amari Cooper is gone and Michael Gallup will miss at least Week 1, but I’m really high on Lamb this year based on his ability, which could help him take another step this season. And we know he will have the opportunity.
Michael Pittman, WR, Colts
Pittman is another receiver with worlds of ability and who should undoubtedly be the No. 1 targeted Colt with a capital T. Pittman’s route running and ability to grab contested passes should easily give Matt Ryan his go-to receiver on a team without any other go-to receivers.
Mark Andrews, TE, Ravens
I like Travis Kelce as much as I like Andrews, as both are set up to be their team’s No. 1 receiver. Andrews isn’t on a high passing team like the Chiefs, but Andrews actually had many more targets and receptions than Kelce last season. Of course, that’s just one season and now there is no Tyreek Hill, bbut Marquise Brown is also gone this year for the Ravens. I really like the Ravens chances to have a bounce back year, and the passing game will go through Andrews once again.
Courtland Sutton, WR, Broncos
There are a lot of question marks surrounding the Broncos offense under a new head coach and quarterback. We don’t have a ton to go on, but reports out of camp have Sutton and Russell Wilson as quickly getting on the same page, with Sutton looking like a true WR1. The injury to Tim Patrick took away some competition, but Jerry Jeudy remains. Jeudy is likely to see plenty of work, but, for fantasy, Sutton has the upside as he should see more yards and touchdowns per target.
Mike Williams, WR, Chargers
Williams was on a tear to start last season, but slowed down his torrent pace into a fantasy WR12 season. Getting a WR12 season out of Williams at his ADP great, but there is still meat on the bone for Williams in what could be the best offense in the league.
Rashaad Penny, RB, Seahawks
Penny has been injured most of his career and can’t really be trusted early in drafts, but he’s shown signs of great ability and looks to be the starter for a run-first team. Penny was fantasy football’s No. 1 running back for the last five games of 2021. He’s on a one-year contract and the Seahawks draft pick, Ken Walker, is recovering from a hernia injury. There is little doubt the Seahawks will get everything they can out of him and if he can come anywhere close to his last five games, he will be worth the pick.
Allen Lazard, WR, Packers
Lazard caught eight touchdown passes on 60 targets last season, but injuries slowed him down and of course playing behind Davante Adams never helps. Adams is now in Las Vegas and the Packers are searching for a go-to receiver. They have a couple of interesting rookie receivers, but Lazard has won the trust of Aaron Rodgers, especially around the goal line. Even if he doesn’t end up as a 120 target guy, he’s still going to beat his ADP as WR43 without much trouble if he can stay healthy.
Irv Smith Jr., TE, Vikings
Smith Jr. has wide receiver like skills at TE, but injuries have been a problem. This season under Kevin O’Connell at head coach, the passing game has a higher ceiling and Smith is now the no-doubt No. 1 tight end. He’s going off the board as TE19, so he can easily be a backup on your fantasy team or part of a co-tight end spot with someone like Robert Tonyan.
Nyheim Hines, RB, Colts
Picking that backup/receiving running back for fantasy is always tough. Yes, their upside in PPR leagues is good, but consistent fantasy points are hard to come by. The good news for Hines is the dearth of go-to receivers in Indianapolis and the ouster of Carson Wentz for Matt Ryan. Hines has two 60 reception seasons under his belt, but last year with Wentz was no good. Ryan will likely be more accurate and more willing to check the ball down this season.
KJ Hamler, WR, Broncos
Hamler suffered a torn ACL and dislocated hip in Week 3 last season, but has now returned and caught three passes in their last preseason game. With Tim Patrick out for the season, Hamler appears ready to be the team’s WR3 behind Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy. His ability to play close to the line of scrimmage and accumulate receptions, coupled with his ability to get deep gives him an interesting skill set, much like Tyler Lockett, who Russell Wilson connected with in Seattle. He’s very much a flier with an ADP of WR85, so you can get him super cheap for good upside.