With the lack of sports over the last few months and the nearly inevitable cancellation of the college football season, there will never have been more attention paid to the National Football League. And with the return of the NFL season, comes the return of fantasy football.
There is no greater joy at the end of the summer for fantasy football fans than pouring over countless predictors and stats, with the goal of figuring out exactly who they need to draft to shove their fantasy football dominance in the faces of their friends.
So with that in mind, we’ve put together a list of the top 15 “Must-Have” stars and the same number of players you shouldn’t bother with drafting. Some of the names may surprise you. Take a look!
When Kenyan Drake was traded from the Dolphins to the Cardinals last season he immediately became one of the top fantasy producers in the league. The numbers speak for themselves; Drake averaged 101.75 yards per game with Arizona and 58 with the Dolphins.
His last five games alone he scored seven touchdowns. With offensive guru Kliff Kingsbury calling plays, Drake is sure to improve on these numbers in what should be one of the best offenses in the league. Don’t sleep on Drake just because the press goes to Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins.
If you’re looking for a stat filler at quarterback then Patrick Mahomes is your man. Sure, last season Mahomes numbers dropped a bit from his MVP season the year before, but they were so good that season that there was nowhere to go but down.
Also, Mahomes played through some injuries last year. With a Super Bowl ring earned last year, Mahomes will be looking to solidify his legendary status with another this year. A healthy and hungry Pat Mahomes is dangerous and he should definitely find a place in your team.
Austin Ekeler is a safe pickup this upcoming season. He’s got himself a brand new 4-year contract after putting on a show last year. What makes Ekeler especially appealing is the departure of Melvin Gordon, who received the lions share of the carries last season once he ended his holdout.
The other reason you need to pick up Austin Ekeler is his production in the passing game. Ekeler caught a whopping 92 passes for 993 yards and 8 touchdowns. That’s incredible production from the running back position and is especially valuable if you’re in a PPR league.
Michael Gallup made huge strides last season in Big D, in what was only his second season in the league. He finished the year with 1,107 yards and 6 touchdowns in just 14 games. Let’s talk about why he’s such an important name for you to remember come draft day.
He is going to put up big numbers but he’s not a big name. Sure, people know who he is but his ADP is way below his actual value. This means that if you jump ahead of that and pick him a round or two ahead of that ADP you’ve got yourself a steal.
For years Julio Jones has flirted with being WR1 in all of NFL fantasy football. His talent and number of targets should have combined to make him the undisputed number one in the league before now, but something was always holding him back.
Not anymore. Falcons offseason moves have left 2000 targets from last season on the table, meaning if Julio Jones stays healthy he’s going to put up massive numbers. The Matt Ryan- Julio Jones connection is going to be one of the most common threads in highlight packages this season.
The best argument for picking Anthony Miller is that an actual professional quarterback is throwing him the ball this season instead of Mitchell Trubisky. Despite this, Miller actually increased his receptions and yardage from his rookie season.
Throw in former Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles and you’ve got a breakout season in the works for young Anthony Miller. No, he isn’t your WR1, but he’s a late-round pick that your friends won’t know about that will win you some matchups down the road.
The Chargers had a prolific ground attack last season relying on a three-man rotation of Melvin Gordon, Austin Ekeler, and Justin Jackson. Gordon is now out of the equation which means Jackson is getting more of those carries.
If he can replicate the season Ekeler had last year, then fantasy owners are in for a treat. In typical Chargers fashion, Jackson should be putting up solid numbers in the receiving game, making him a great flex selection for your lineup.
Noah Fant came into the league with high expectations placed on him. He didn’t quite live up to those expectations, but with the quarterback situation perpetually in flux who could blame him. He did finish the year with some strong performances that proved there is a player there.
This year with Drew Lock the established starter his numbers should continue to rise. He saw the second-most targets on the team last year but was just the 14th ranked tight end in PPR leagues last year. He has a good chance to jump this year.
Travis Kelce has been TE1 in PPR leagues in each of the past three seasons so there’s no reason he won’t be again this year. His quarterback is putting together a legendary career and Kelce is no slouch either. It’s possible his production begins to slip as he’s turning 31 during the season but that risk is small.
He’s worth drafting as high as 10 overall and would be an absolute shocker if he lasted past 20. If you want a guy who can put up well over 1,000 yards and 7-8 TD’s per year then Kelce is your guy.
T.J. Hockenson got off to a good start last season but ended it in disappointment. The combination of an ankle injury suffered on Thanksgiving Day and Matt Stafford’s back injury stalled what could have been a great rookie year.
But, Hockenson and Stafford are both healthy heading into this season and the incredibly athletic tight end should be primed for a massive season. He’s not in the Kelce, Ertz, or Kittle territory yet, but if you can’t get one of them, Hockenson is a good choice.
Lamar Jackson is a no-brainer. If he’s available when you’re picking, draft him. He put up absolutely absurd numbers in his first season as a full-time starter last season on his way to the MVP award. While his yardage numbers weren’t incredible he had a stunning 36 TD to 6 INT ratio on the season. He scored at least one touchdown in every game.
Looking ahead to this season, it’s hard to come up with a reason to doubt he will put up similar numbers again. It seems like the only thing that would hold him back is injuries. He’s going to put up over 1,000 yards on the ground and probably 5,000 yards total. He’s an absolute freak and you’d be crazy to pass him up.
Perriman’s stock is rising. He had his best year as a pro last year in Tampa and that was with a quarterback who threw it as much to the other team as he did his own team.
Sam Darnold may not be a finished product yet, but if the pair is able to form strong partnership it could lead to the development both men need. Perriman is a great late-round pickup who will be able to provide quality numbers at the back end of your lineup.
Allen Lazard came out of nowhere last season to put up really respectable numbers for the Packers. Actually, he came off the Jaguars practice squad, but that’s neither here nor there. His 13.6 yards per reception showed he’s got big-play potential.
The Packers must believe they have something in Lazard because they didn’t draft a receiver this year. That tells us he’s set to be the solid number 2 receiving option for Rodgers this year. This could be a big year for the third-year man.
Harry played so little last season that it’s basically like the Pats got a new receiver to work with this offseason. He caught 12 passes for 105 yards and 2 TD’s. The good news for Harry is that he’s got a chance to develop a rapport with Cam Newton, the new gunslinger in town.
Harry was a first-round draft pick and that talent didn’t leave him just because he missed a lot of games last season. There’s tremendous upside here for picking the massive wideout. He’s a great value pick in the 10-11th round region.
Raheem Mostert had a great season last year while sharing the load with Matt Breida. Kyle Shanahan rode those two hard on their way to the Super Bowl last season but now Breida is gone, traded to the Dolphins during the draft.
That means Rasheem is going to get even more carries. Last season, Mostert ranked just inside the top 25 of all fantasy backs and 25th in the league in rushing yards. Expect a 1,000-yard season and a top 10 fantasy performance from him this year.
Avoid at All Costs
DeVante Parker repeatedly disappointed fantasy owners for the first four years of his career, and then finally last season he puts it all together and put up the 11th best season of all receivers in PPR leagues. Don’t count on that kind of production again.
Reminder, the quarterback situation in Miami is uncertain. He could be catching passes from the aged Ryan Fitzpatrick or the rookie Tua Tagovaiola, but neither inspires much confidence. Also, Parker has proven he can’t be counted on. We’re going to wait until he produces two years in a row to take a chance on him again.
Odell Beckham Jr.
He burned us last season. Everyone told us that the Browns were going to be great, and part of the explanation was the addition of OBJ. Well, the Browns were a dumpster fire of ineptitude and OBJ was a huge disappointment.
As it turns out he played most of the season with a hernia, so that explains part of his issues. However, we aren’t sure yet that the Browns can be counted on. They have yet another first-year head coach, and Baker Mayfield has a lot to prove.
Ok, here’s some controversy. For years, maybe even a decade, Gronk was one of the top fantasy performers in the league. He was a redzone monster. But that was a long time ago. Just a reminder, Gronk sat out all of last season, “retired.” What kind of football shape is he in after not taking hits all year? Well, football hits at least.
Sure, he’s got his good buddy Tom Brady tossing him passes but we don’t really know what Tom Brady we’re going to get yet either. There are better, safer choices at tight end than Gronk.
To be clear, you can take him in the later rounds if you need a backup, but do not make Kyler Murray your QB1. Yes, he had a good year as a rookie but he’s not going to turn into Lamar Jackson this quickly. Part of his success last season was his novelty, teams just hadn’t seen him play.
You’ll be tempted to take him because it’s a trendy thing to do but his ADP is way too high for the lack of experience he’s showing up with. There are better, safer options out there.
The Patriots made a splash when they replaced the departed Tom Brady with former league MVP Cam Newton. But as everyone knows, Cam Newton has taken a beating over the course of his career and has only managed a full 16 games in half of his professional seasons.
Do not count on Cam Newton being your QB1, because the Pats aren’t even counting on it even if he’s healthy. Newton’s TD to INT ratio has been dropping since his MVP season and you can imagine Belichick will have a quick hook if things start to go south. He’s an intriguing pickup in the late rounds just in case he comes good, but don’t stretch for him.
If you didn’t know any better you might consider drafting the quarterback who led his team to the conference title game a year ago. But you’d be wrong.
Tannehill is a really efficient passer, and that’s why Mike Vrabel values him. But, part of the reason he’s so efficient is that he doesn’t have to do much. Simply, the Titans don’t throw the ball very much. When they do, they don’t throw it far. Last season, Tannehill became the first quarterback since 2016 to average under 10 yards per pass attempt. For these reasons, he’s no more than a fantasy backup.
Josh Jacobs is a fantasy football mirage. He looks like he should be really valuable based on his stats, but a closer inspection reveals he’s not Tier 1 personnel. He finished last season with 1150 yards, which was good enough for 7th best in the league. However, he finished 17th in touchdowns. Overall, he was the 20th ranked running back in fantasy football last season. Mirage.
Besides the raw numbers, does anyone really trust the Raiders? Now that they’re in Vegas, we trust them even less. If he can stay healthy, Jacobs could be a solid RB2 pick or even a flex, but don’t snap him up early in the draft.
First of all, Sony Michel isn’t a lock to be ready for Week 1 after offseason foot surgery. To make matters worse, the Pats have signed an insurance policy in Lamar Miller in case this is a recurring injury throughout the season. If Belichick isn’t confident he’ll play, you shouldn’t be either.
The second issue with drafting Sony Michel is that the Patriots rotate their backfield and spread out the carries so much that he’s just not able to put up the numbers that he would in another team. He’s failed to hit the 1,000-yard mark in both of his professional seasons.
Adam Thielen crushed the dreams of many a fantasy owner last season. In 2018 he recorded 1,373 receiving yards and 9 touchdowns. Last year he caught just 30 passes for 418 yards and 6 TD’s. he dropped off a cliff.
What’s especially worrying about his numbers was not the six games he missed due to injury, it’s that he was well off the pace of his previous season even without the injuries. At 30 years old, it’s safe to say Adam Thielen’s best years are behind him. So, keep him off your roster.
Will Fuller will most likely get more targets this year with the offseason trade of DeAndre Hopkins but do not get confused, Will Fuller is going to put up Hopkins like numbers. There are plenty of reasons for this and the first one is he is too injury prone.
Fuller has played no more than 11 games in the last three seasons. He could be poised for a breakout season if only he could stay healthy. The other reason to avoid Fuller is simple, all that coverage that was focused on Hopkins will now be refocused on Fuller. Pass.
For Darren Waller, the issue comes down to one thing. His ADP is way too high at such a high-volatility position. Yes, he had a breakout campaign last season catching 90 passes for 1,145 yards. Those are big numbers, but unless you are an elite-level tight end those numbers are not guaranteed to continue.
Part of the problem is that Tight ends are weapons that are either built into the game plan or seldom used. Last season, the Raiders used him. The year before with the Raiders, he had 6 catches. Too much volatility.
Everything is going against Kirk Cousins ahead of this fantasy season and that should scare you. First of all, Cousins lost an elite weapon in Stefon Diggs. He’s left with Adam Thielen, who also finds himself on this list after his production dropped off a cliff last season.
More importantly though, Cousins lost his offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski, who is the new Cleveland Browns head coach. Stefanski’s replacement, Gary Kubiak is a more run-heavy play-caller which will be good for Vikings running back Dalvin Cook, but not Kirk Cousins.
Todd Gurley is still a tempting pick for most fantasy owners. Unfortunately, he’s not that guy who helped take the Rams to the Super Bowl two years ago. Yes, running backs drop off that quick. If he’s healthy, he’s the Falcon’s number one back.
The problem is no one knows how healthy Todd Gurley is coming into the year, even his offensive coordinator who wondered that very question aloud to reporters just the other day. Todd Gurley isn’t 100% and he is coming off his worst statistical season. This is not the guy you want to draft.
Mark Ingram was a crucial member of the stable of runners last season for the Ravens record-setting ground game. The team set the NFL record for total rushing yards for a team, and will likely break it again this year.
The problem is they spent a second-round pick on Ohio State bruiser J.K. Dobbins who will take carries from Ingram. Make no mistake, Dobbins is NFL ready right now. The Ravens just got faster and younger at the position which means the 30-year-old Ingram just dropped in the pecking order.
Stefon Diggs landing in Buffalo should worry fans of the former Vikings wideout. First of all, the Bills have had only two 1,000-yard receivers in the last five seasons. The reason for that is mostly because they don’t pass much. They ranked 24th in the league in pass attempts last season.
To add to that, Buffalo is all in on their super athlete Josh Allen at quarterback, who values his legs more than his arm. He is complimented on offense by an up and coming running back, Devin Singletary. Oh, and did we mention the weather? All that means Stefon Diggs should not be anywhere near your draft board.