By Nick Martinez
As we wind down to the final week before the season starts, I evaluated my drafted teams and noticed some trends. Some of the same names popped up more than twice, and other names I couldn’t find on a single roster.
Here are a few players I’ve been taking and some I’ve been avoiding in all my draftsL
Three Players I’ve taken in Almost All My Drafts:
Giovani Bernard – Whether or not I have been drafting zero-RB, I have been targeting Bernard in almost every league, snagging him in at least four. The North Carolina product finished as the 21st RB in standard and 16th in PPR last year despite just scoring twice. With Tyler Eifert on the shelf and the departure of Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu, the Bengals will need to find someone to pick up the slack. The three mentioned above accounted for 17 of the Bengals’ 50 touchdowns last year. Bernard gives them a dynamic weapon out of the backfield, already scoring an impressive 25-yard touchdown lined up as a wide receiver in Week 3 of the preseason. In his first three seasons, he’s averaged 65 targets and 445 receiving yards a year. He rushed for a career high 730 yards last season on 154 attempts, the lowest total of his career. Going in the 6th round, Bernard has RB2 potential and low end RB1 upside in PPR leagues. Bernard will be used in the offense in any way possible and being severely overlooked.
Delanie Walker – Another player going in the 6th round, the Titans’ tight end will finish in the top 10 once again this season. Walker has solidified himself as Marcus Mariota’s favorite target. He led the team last season in receptions with 94 for 1,088 yards and six scores. Second on the team? Harry Douglas with 36. That’s almost a 60 reception difference between the two. Walker is far and above the main focus in the passing game for the Titans. Yes, they’re going to try to pound the rock with their two running backs and rookie Tajae Sharpe will get a bunch of targets but I don’t see either of these issues getting the in the way of Walker finishing in the top 10. Since joining the Titans in 2013, his stats have only gotten better. If you feel you have a solid core by the sixth round, look for Walker to complete your lineup and free yourself of the tight end position giving you headaches.
Philip Rivers – When Rivers had Keenan Allen on the field last season, he averaged 26.5 fantasy points per game. Without Allen, he averaged 17.5 fantasy points per game. Well, guess what? Allen is back, the Chargers offensive line his healthy, and he is surrounded by a great combination of weapons. If you have read any of my work you know I love to wait on a quarterback and Rivers is exactly the type of guy I want to target. Going toward the end of the eighth round, he will definitely finish in the top 10 with a chance to crack the top 5. Since 2013, Rivers has finished inside the top 10 in passing yards and top 12 in touchdowns every single year. This offense will be completely rejuvenated and I’m buying in. With two drafts left, I am targeting Rivers in both because having him in three leagues isn’t enough.
Three Players I’ve avoided in Almost All My Drafts:
Thomas Rawls – Even before the emergence of Christine Michael I was still very hesitant to spend a third or fourth round pick on the undrafted sophomore out of Central Michigan. The latest reports have all been good news with head coach Pete Carrol saying he’s on track to play Week 1, but there are a few reasons I’m still avoiding Rawls. One, I think the Seahawks are moving away from the heavy run scheme they implemented with Marshawn Lynch. When Rawls went down last year, Russell Wilson started playing at a whole other level. With Lynch gone, I believe they’re going to see what he can really do with his arm. Second, I love some of the running backs going after Rawls. Just to name a few, Jeremy Langford, Melvin Gordon, and Ryan Mathews are all going a round later than Rawls and all have great upside. Lastly, and maybe more importantly, the Christine Michael hype train is chugging along at full speed. Michael has looked incredible this preseason and there’s no way he goes back to being just a backup for Rawls. He will get work, especially if they plan to ease Rawls back into the lineup. The injury risk, change in offense and play of Michael give me more than enough reasons to pass on Rawls this season.
Rob Gronkowski – It hurts to pass on one of my favorite fantasy players but I just haven’t been able to justify taking Gronkowski this year. First, is the obvious four games without Brady. Jimmy Garoppolo has had flashes of great play this preseason but nothing to convince me that the Patriots role players will retain their high draft prices. Garoppolo will be much more of a game manager than a provider for fantasy. Second, is definitely the injury risk. He just started practicing again this week after “coming up lame” in a practice earlier in the month. He hasn’t played a full 16 game season since 2011 (although he played 15 in both ’14 and ’15). Had he been healthy all offseason and Brady wasn’t suspended, I wouldn’t hesitate to take him at the end of the first, beginning of the second but neither of those things have happened. There are just too many red flags for me this season.
DeVante Parker – Speaking of red flags, Parker might have a whole collection of them. It’s bad enough that the media portrays you as injury prone but when your head coach calls you out? That’s a different story. The sophomore receiver tweaked his hamstring in the begging of this week and is falling further behind Kenny Stills on the depth chart. There is no doubt that he’s talented, but it doesn’t matter how talented you are if you never see the field. It’s very possible Parker could get lost in this offense. Fellow wide receiver Jarvis Landry is a ball magnet, and the team added Arian Foster, the pass catching specialist out of the backfield. Still has looked sharp in the preseason and has greatly outshined Parker. I have been drafting Willie Snead, Stefon Diggs (even with the Teddy Bridgewater injury), and Kamar Aiken over Parker and you should too.