Let’s take a look at some of the players that are being reached for in the early rounds. Lots of people often claim that fantasy leagues are won after the 10th round because that’s where the sleepers are found. The guys who are taken in the 100’s and become breakout stars can definitely have a huge effect on your team, but it’s in the first seven rounds where you draft the nucleus of your team. The majority of those selections should be weekly starters, regardless of their matchup.
Arian Foster and Doug Martin: 1st Round
If Foster is your top selection, you’re putting an awful lot of faith in his ability to stay healthy and Ryan Fitzpatrick to not be awful. Foster has the ability to be a top tier RB, but it’s not worth the risk, when you can take any one of the top WRs–Demaryius, Dez, or A.J. Green. Those guys are all selected near Foster and don’t have nearly as much risk. After the top six RBs, there are very few sure things. It’s tempting to go for a stud RB with the position being so scarce, but there’s a lot of risk. At the end of the 1st round, you can always find one of the best WRs in fantasy, and that’s something I wouldn’t pass up. Doug Martin falls in the same boat as Foster. Martin is coming off of an injury, but he has less of a pedigree than Foster. Martin had a really good rookie year that was inflated because of two monster games. Beside those games, he was good, but not great. And with a new offensive coordinator, Martin will probably get a lighter workload than the previous two years.
Le’Veon Bell: 2nd Round
Another 2nd tier RB who isn’t worth their draft position this year. Bell will slip a little bit because of the impending discipline he’ll face due to his recent legal troubles. Even if Bell isn’t suspended by the league yet, he could face internal discipline from the team. And that’s not even factoring that he’s being taken too early to begin. Bell had a weak 3.5 YPC and didn’t even tally 900 rushing yards last season. Even with his 400 receiving yards, Bell isn’t worth taking in the top 20 picks. There are better options at that spot. Julio Jones, Brandon Marshall, Jordy Nelson are usually available, as are Zac Stacy and Montee Ball.
Rob Gronkowski: 3rd Round
Why is he still being taken so early? Sources keep saying he’s on track to be back for the full regular season, but he’s sitting out the preseason, and it’s hard to trust Gronk’s health at this point. He’s being selected in the early 30’s. If he’s healthy for all 16 games and plays like he has in the past, then yeah, he’s worth a 3rd round selection. But he’s only played 18 of the last 32 regular season games. You can get much safer players in the 3rd round than Gronk. The Pats just traded for another Tight End Tim Wright the other day too. That might mean the Patriots aren’t so confident in Gronk’s health right now. It at least looks fishy. Even if Adam Schefter says otherwise.
Percy Harvin: 4th Round
I know how good Harvin can be. I had him a few years ago when he was a top 10 WR through the first half of the year before getting injured. On the Vikings, he was basically the same type of player Cordarrelle Patterson is now. He was an explosive playmaker that got was the top WR target, got some rushes, and also worked with the return team. The team would try to get him the ball as much as possible, especially to keep teams honest against AP. Harvin still is that player; he’s only 26 years old, but his injury history is a huge risk. He has only played 10 games in the last two seasons, but he’s being chosen in the late 40’s/early 50’s in most drafts. If he plays to his potential AND stays healthy, he’s worth that. If he can do those things, that might even be a little bit of a steal. But why take the chance that early in the draft when more consistent options like Roddy White and Victor Cruz are available? I know those aren’t the two best examples since they both had down years last season, but they are still more reliable than Harvin, and their ceiling isn’t much lower.
Trent Richardson: 5th Round
This should be obvious. I don’t care how badly you need RBs in your draft. It doesn’t matter if you began your draft WR-WR-WR-QB or TE-WR-QB-WR. Or any other combination that excludes RBs. You don’t take Trent Richardson in the 5th round. He doesn’t have a track record of success in the NFL. He’s hardly even been mediocre so far in his career. Richardson could easily lose his job at some point this year, not because Ahmad Bradshaw is a good backup, but because Richardson has done nothing to distinguish himself as the starter in Indy. I’d much rather have a guy like Rashad Jennings, who’s being drafted a few spots behind Richardson.
T.Y. Hilton: 6th Round
It’s astounding that Hilton is being taken so early. Hilton’s stats were inflated last year after Reggie Wayne went down with a torn ACL, and Hilton was incredibly inconsistent. He had 5 TDs all season, all coming in two games. The (lack of) TDs aren’t the problem though. Despite surpassing the 1,000 yard mark, Hilton only had more than 55 yards six times. Hilton had 67 more receiving yards last year than Brian Hartline, who’s going undrafted in some leagues! Hilton is a boom or bust player who is a bust more often. He only caught for more than 100 yards four times, once in week 17, which most fantasy leagues don’t count, so it’s more accurate to say he only did it three times. THREE! Some people might rationalize selecting him by saying that the 6th round is for boom or bust guys. It’s for high upside picks. But how much upside does Hilton really have? If it’s a bet on Andrew Luck being great, then yeah, I agree, Luck is an amazing QB who’s only getting better. But with a healthy Reggie Wayne and the addition of Hakeem Nicks, Hilton won’t be in the top-15 in targets again like last year.
Eric Decker: 7th Round
I wouldn’t trust any Jets this year. I’m putting all the blame on Geno Smith. Last year as a rookie he had no options and had no chance. This year, the Jets spent money on Decker and Chris Johnson this offseason to help out Geno, but that offense is still horrendous. Decker is not a bad player, but one who benefitted a lot from playing with Peyton on a team with tons of options. Teams had to focus on Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas, Wes Welker, and Decker. Good luck with that. This year though, Decker will be going up against the top corners on each team with a mediocre or below-average QB. The only chance Decker puts up good numbers is if the Jets are behind in games often and have to chuck it 25 times in the 2nd half every game.