It has been a long eight-plus months, but we are finally here.
We have officially entered one of my favorite times of the year. Draft SZN. It’s time to build the perfect fantasy football lineup so you can dominate your league — or leagues — this fall.
Before we get to the dos and don’ts this draft season, I want to make sure I steer you in the right direction with my draft philosophy this season.
First off, it isn’t necessary to draft an Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady to be successful. You can do it, but honestly, I’d suggest you don’t. Wait it out. Quarterback is one of the deepest positions this year.
When it comes to draft strategy, I’m going to try to take two running backs first before I address the wide receiver position.
There’s a pretty big drop-off after LeSean McCoy, who’s currently the 13th running back off the board in ESPN drafts, while Sammy Watkins, Devin Funchess, Pierre Garcon and Corey Davis are all going in the 30s, among wide receivers.
However if you’re sitting with the fifth or sixth pick and Antonio Brown is on the board or you’re drafting at the end of the first round and Julio Jones and DeAndre Hopkins have slipped, don’t overthink it. Draft yourself a stud wide receiver. Just make sure you address running back in Rounds 2 and 3.
In a perfect world, this is my draft order: Running back, running back, wide receiver, wide receiver, flex. I’m even comfortable taking three running backs before I take my first wide receiver.
OK, now time for the fun stuff.
Here’s my draft guide of guys you must have, should be passing up on and are worth a flier.
Must have: Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings
There are only two quarterbacks to throw for at least 4,000 yards and 25 touchdowns in the each of the past three seasons. Cousins and Philip Rivers. Cousins now has the best receiving corps he’s ever had in Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen and add in Kyle Rudolph. Cousins is ninth off the board as far as quarterbacks are concerned, which means you can wait until the eighth or ninth round to take him. That’s a steal.
Pass: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers; Tom Brady, New England Patriots
Like I said in my opening, I’m not drafting a quarterback early this year. Rodgers and Brady are going in the second and third rounds. Way too rich for my blood. Give me Cousins or even guys like Matthew Stafford (QB11), Philip Rivers (QB16), Alex Smith (QB17) or Patrick Mahomes (QB18) late and I’ll mix and match.
Worth a shot: Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
Speaking of Mahomes… Look, the guy is a risk, and that’s why he’s getting drafted 18th among quarterbacks right now. But if you’re into drafting two quarterbacks — you don’t need to if you have a Rodgers, Brady, Cam Newton, Russell Wilson or Drew Brees — draft someone like Ben Roethlisberger in the eighth or ninth round and stack him with Mahomes. Play the matchups.
Must have: Melvin Gordon, Los Angeles Chargers
Gordon is going as RB10 right now. That’s crazy, IMO. Guys like Kareem Hunt and Dalvin Cook are going ahead of him right now. If I can somehow stack Gordon and say Leonard Fournette as my two running backs, I’m set. Gordon has the talent to lead the league in rushing this season.
Pass: Kareem Hunt, Kansas City Chiefs
Is Hunt talented? Of course. Will he be a first-rounder in your league? Yup. But I’m not going to be the guy to take him. After bursting on the scene, rushing for at least 100 yards in four of his first five games a season ago, Hunt fell off in a major way. He only did it twice more the rest of the way. In fact, Hunt rushed for less than 50 yards six times from Week 6 on. When you’re making your selection in the first round, the guy should be as reliable as they come. Hunt wasn’t that a season ago.
Worth a shot: Chris Carson, Seattle Seahawks
Even though the Seahawks drafted Rashaad Penny in the first round back in April, Carson will still have an opportunity to get some work this season. In fact, he could be the lead back to start the season. There are worse flexes in the world than Chris Carson, who’s going as RB31.
Must have: Nelson Agholor, Philadelphia Eagles
This one’s for you, Eagles fans. With Alshon Jeffery likely to miss the start of the season and Agholor currently going as WR47, this might be the biggest steal of your draft. At his worst, Agholor has flex potential, but without Jeffery to start you can think more. This could be a big breakout season for the Eagles wide receiver. Don’t miss out on Agholor.
Pass: Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, Denver Broncos
Thomas and Sanders have been two of the best wide receivers in the league for the last handful of years. But with shaky quarterback play last season, each took hits to their production. Case Keenum quarterbacking the Broncos doesn’t really do much for me either. I understand that Keenum had success last season with the Minnesota Vikings, but I’m much more comfortable in saying that it was a flash in the pan than a foreshadowing of the rest of his career. Thomas is going as WR16 and Sanders is at WR29. I’m looking elsewhere.
Worth a shot: Kelvin Benjamin, Buffalo Bills
You knew a Bills player was going to be in here at some point, right? I understand there’s some worry at the quarterback position, but both Nathan Peterman and Josh Allen have looked really good this season. And if the signs from the first two weeks of preseason games mean anything, Benjamin is going to be a focal point of the passing game this year. And he should be. Getting drafted 40th among wide receivers, Benjamin is certainly on my radar. I’d have no problem with Benjamin as my flex.
Must have: Jimmy Graham, Green Bay Packers
I mean, what’s not to love about Graham being paired up with Rodgers. If you wanted to pass up drafting your flex for a tight end, Graham’s the way to go. He’s currently going fifth among tight ends and in the fifth or sixth rounds.
Pass: Trey Burton, Chicago Bears
I’m sorry Eagles fans, but I don’t see the appeal in Burton. In four seasons with Philadelphia, Burton caught 63 passes for 629 yards and six touchdowns. The guy throws one touchdown in the Super Bowl and goes to a new team, and all of the sudden he’s a borderline top-10 tight end? No thanks. I’d much rather take a chance on a Jordan Reed, Tyler Eifert or Charles Clay than Burton.
Worth a shot: David Njoku, Cleveland Browns
While I worry whether or not Njoku will get enough targets — there’s a lot of mouth to feeds in Cleveland and Tyrod Taylor is the quarterback — there are plenty of worse options at tight end if you want to take yours late. Njoku is currently going as TE12 and in the 11th or 12th rounds. That’s a great spot to draft your tight end.
Reach DJ Eberle at 570-991-6398 or on Twitter @ByDJEberle