It is August 23rd, 2018. We are currently 14 days away from the first game of the NFL season. While there may (or may not) be many people who do not look forward to this NFL season for various reasons that we will not mention here, there is one thing that continues to fire up the fans, die-hard and/or casual: Fantasy football. For those of us that will never participate with an NFL team in any official capacity, it’s as close as we’ll get to being on the field. Due to this fact, we take fantasy football seriously.
Because we take it so seriously, we always look for advantages over the competition. In some cases, this is for good reason. No one wants to get the tattoo of the unicorn and rainbows for all to see for the rest of your life. It’s just not a good look. To avoid this, we do all within our control to give us the best chance possible to raise that trophy, or at least avoid the permanent shame. One of the best ways to achieve this is finding that one player that no one else has on their radar or that you’ve just lucky enough to draft first. Trying to draft that breakout player is a risky venture, but when it pays off you can go do in fantasy history. Now, we will discuss players that all owners should take a chance on if they want those bragging rights until next season.
Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants:
Even just casual NFL fans have been on the edge of their seats for months to see this young man on the pro level, which is not without merit. In his three years at Penn State, the second overall pick rushed for 3843 yards on 5.7 yards per carry, racked up 43 rushing touchdowns; in addition to 102 receptions for 1195 yards and eight touchdowns. He was once named to the All-America team and was two-time Big Ten offensive player of the year. All of this is not to mention what he brings for you in the return game. If you’re a fan of measurables, he has those as well to the tune of 6’0”, 233 pounds, a 41-inch vertical leap, and a 40 time of 4.4 seconds.
Big, fast, and strong with the upside of becoming a better catcher out of the backfield, Saquon is everything you want out of a modern NFL back. I will caution, however, that Saquon does have a hefty price tag along with him. If you are so fortunate as to have a top-five pick in the first round, you’ve got a shot. If you do not, then it’s up to the fantasy gods. Due to his price tag, Saquon is not someone who may be attainable to start, but you may be able to get him for good value during the lull in which he’s trying to get his feet wet, which I believe will happen.
John Ross, WR, Cincinnati Bengals:
John Ross was someone many people had high hopes for coming out of the draft, especially out of the combine. He was the individual who broke Chris Johnson’s combine record for the fastest 40-yard-dash. All of that came crashing down when Ross played only 3 games in the 2017 regular season due to injury. Coming into his sophomore season, which is actually his rookie season for all intents and purposes (we see you Ben Simmons), there are natural injury concerns. As the saying goes, the best ability is availability. So, John Ross does not come without his risks.
That being said, as the 61st ranked receiver in PPR leagues (per ESPN), John Ross is easily someone who can be had in rounds three through five. As a recap, at Washington in his senior year, Ross total 81 receptions, 1150 yards, and 17 touchdowns. He is not a traditional, old-school receiver, but he has the speed that makes you wonder. Not to mention, he will be lined up opposite one of the best receivers of the past five years in AJ Green. Ross should get numerous looks at solo coverage and can really take the top off of a defense.
Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas Cowboys:
Now, on the surface, this may seem like a nonsensical pick, but hear me out on this one. In his rookie season, Dak hit the ground running and took the NFL by storm. Behind a strong offensive line and one of the best rookie running backs we’ve seen in a while in Ezekiel Elliot, Dak flourished in a generally low-pressure situation. Much was not expected of Prescott, so much was not required. Even still, Dak led the Cowboys to some marquee wins and was close to leading the Cowboys to a playoff victory that season. Then, year two happened.
The offensive line was not great. Zeke and his suspension appeal clouded the team with uncertainty. In addition, Prescott seemed to fold under this new expected pressure. To me, though, all was not as it seemed in Dallas and with Dak. As much as I love him as a player, Dak and Dallas had a major problem: Dez Bryant. In his hay, Dez was an elite receiver. Someone you’d want to target at every opportunity possible. This is something the Dallas tried to replicate; however, largely due to injuries, Dez’ time on top had passed them by. The Cowboys tried to force a relationship with Dak and Dez that never really bore fruit. The obvious lack of chemistry with Dak and Dez hurt the team.
With Dez now gone, Dak can build new relationships with new receivers, like Tavon Austin, and gets to seek targets he loves, like Beasley and Williams. Call it a hunch, but we will see a new Dak this year and he will be easily obtainable for fantasy owners.
Jimmy Graham, TE, Green Bay Packers:
In terms of what one might not think of Graham as a traditional breakout star. Graham is now a veteran in this league. In other words, he’s no spring chicken. This pick is more of a rejuvenation star than a breakout. His numbers may not be jaw-dropping, but I have no reason to think that they can’t be. The biggest thing that Graham has going for him is pretty simple: Aaron Rodgers is a baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad man. Before moving forward, it’s important to say that this is no slight to Russell Wilson. Wilson is a phenomenal quarterback, but he is not Aaron Rodgers.
Not only is Aaron Rodgers the best quarterback in the league, but he will be playing with a chip on his shoulder. After an injury-plagued season and with no recent postseason success to hang his hat on, Rodgers will be a man on a mission. In addition, the Packers sport a better offensive line than that of the Seahawks. With Rodgers ability to read the defense and audible at the line of scrimmage, Graham will have the perfect opportunity to run those drag routes, crossing routes, and slant and go routes that made him a nightmare in New Orleans.
It is important to note that no draft pick comes without its risk, especially those within the first 3 rounds. The best thing you can do is trust your gut. If you’re unsure of your gut, these four players will go a long way to get your bragging rights as league champion. Happy drafting, ladies, and gentlemen!