It’s time to start the best season of the year: Football season. One of the best parts of football season is playing fantasy football. It's time to get ready for draft night so you can win your league and have bragging right over your friends. With all fantasy leagues, the most important (and fun!) part is the draft. Having a good fantasy football draft is essential to having a fun football season. You don’t want to be the guy that has been eliminated before November. While diving into the deepest metrics of statistical fantasy research, reading dozens of articles, and listening to hours of podcasts, I have come up solid tips that will guarantee you a solid draft.
1. Breakout Performer: Bills' QB Tyrod Taylor
Having the best quarterback is vital to the success of a real football team, but it is not make it or break it in fantasy football. When drafting your fantasy football team, the best strategy is to wait on a quarterback; one should not draft a QB before the 7th round. Although ESPN makes it seem like there are only 5 good quarterbacks in the league, there is not a huge fantasy production gap between the top tier guys like Aaron Rodgers, vs the middle tier QBs like Alex Smith, Matt Ryan, Phillip Rivers; etc. I'm going to dive in a little farther and give you a quarterback towards the bottom of the QB ranking list in Tyrod Taylor. Taylor had a breakout season last year, but nobody noticed because he hit the injury bug. Taylor put up an impressive stat line in 13 games, throwing for 3034 yards with 63.7% completion percentage, while throwing 30 touchdowns. He had only 6 interceptions, and he produced, (as a runner), 504 rushing yards and 5 touchdowns. Right now, Taylor is ranked the 15th best quarterback. When healthy, Taylor was one of the best scoring quarterbacks in the league; That would have earned him a fifth-place finish among all fantasy quarterbacks. That is tremendous value for a late round QB. With a year of experience under his belt and a healthy season ahead, Taylor has the ability to improve on his numbers from 2015. Let the other players in your league waste their early picks on quarterbacks, and wait for a late gem like Taylor. By drafting Taylor in the late rounds you get a quarterback that can create a lot of production and it allows you to use all the early rounds to stack the rest of your lineup while still having a quality quarterback. Other great late QB options: Derek Carr Kurt Cousins and Phillip Rivers.
2. Best Sleeper: Bears' WR Kevin White
A talent that many fantasy owners have been looking over is Bears' WR Kevin White. I have been watching White dominate since his days at West Virginia where he racked up 1400 yards and 10 touchdowns during his junior year. White is a second year pro, but will get his first taste of NFL this season after missing all of last season with a fractured shin. The Chicago Bears drafted White to pair with Alshon Jeffery after the departure of Brandon Marshall. White will be the key piece that will take the Bears' offense to the next level. Standing with a strong 6’3 build and a 4.3 40 speed, White has elite physical tools to become one of the most productive receivers in the league. White will use his speed to stretch the field and make big plays; a the primary deep threat for Jay Cutler and the Bears' offense this season. Bears will use White in a similar role to how they used former star receiver Brandon Marshall two years ago. White is an perfect position to succeed and rack up a lot of production this year. He is playing on an Bears offense that passed the ball more than 30 times a game last year. In 2016, that the number should grow closer towards 40 times a game when you factor in the regression of the Bears' already horrible defense. This should cause the Bears to trail late in games a lot this season giving White plenty opportunities to rack up easy garbage times points. Also, with the loss of offensive stars Martellus Bennett and Matt Forte there are hundreds of unassigned targets to go around in the Bears offense this season. White will accumulate most of the available targets as the number two threat opposite of Jeffrey. Furthermore when you account for improvements to the Bears offensive line, Cutler should be able enough time in the pocket to throw the ball deep to the White. White presents tons of upside that many fantasy owners are looking over. With fellow the top ten pick Amari Cooper performing well, Kevin White has a lot to prove, and this season White is going to show that he can play with the best. White will turn out to be one of the biggest steals in your fantasy draft. Other sleeper receivers: Marvin Jones, Sterling Shepherd, Michael Thomas, Travis Benjamin, Devante Parker.
3. Early Player to Avoid: Cowboys' RB Ezekiel Elliot
When drafting your fantasy football team, it is imperative hit on your first round pick. If you mess up your first pick you will most likely lose your league. The number one guy to avoid in the first round is rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott. Elliot is the most overhyped rookie running back in the history of fantasy football. After getting drafted by the Cowboys and their huge offensive line, Ezekiel immediately was stamped on the sleeper list for fantasy football writers. However, Elliot has been hyped up so much that he is projected as a first round back, and is no longer a value pick. Ezekiel Elliott in the first round -- no matter the format -- you will finish in the bottom of the league. Regardless of PPR or standard leagues Elliot is not worthy of a first round pick. The 10th overall pick from Ohio State is an exceptional talent, and putting Elliot behind the best offensive line in the league which allowed journeyman Darren McFadden to rush over 1,000 yards looks like a recipe for success. This observation has fantasy owners mouthwatering over the rookie point this season. Fantasy owners are expecting Elliot to have a Demarco Murray 2014 season, but sadly this expectations are not realistic. Here’s why you should avoid Elliot in the first round: Like many rookies it’s hard to predict how Elliot is going to adjust playing at the NFL speed, and how he is going to be used in Cowboys offense. Elliot was exceptional in college, but the NFL is a different beast. Furthermore, Elliott suffered a major hamstring injury in training camp that has kept him out several weeks which is going to stall his development at adjusting to the NFL level, while hindering his comfortability with a new offense and playbook. Rookie running backs rarely have immediate success at the NFL level; in the past 10 years, only two rookie running backs have finished top 5 in rushing; Adrian Peterson and Todd Gurley. Another factor going against Elliot that he is in a stacked backfield with veterans Alfred Morris and Darren McFadden. A big back like Alfred Morris can very likely take away Elliot's goal-line carries. With Elliot coming off a hamstring injury, and large depth at the running back position the Cowboys are unlikely to give a heavy workload on their newly drafted first round pick. All of these factors will prevent Elliot from producing numbers that will justify his first round value. When drafting in the first round let someone else in your league make the mistake of drafting Elliot too early.