The pre-season is just a few weeks away and that means the 2018 NFL season is just around the corner. As we get closer to opening night on September 6th, more and more re-draft leagues will have their draft.
My entire position-by-position PPR rankings will come out in early August but in the mean time enjoy the last installment of my top 40 players and as always, happy hunting fantasy friends!
- Le’Veon Bell, Steelers, RB1
Over the last four seasons Le’Veon Bell has never finished lower than the RB3 on a points-per-game basis. While Bell is labeled an injury prone player, he has missed an average of just 2.5 games per season due to injury over the last four years. Bell is one of the best pass catching running backs in the league and has averaged 66.75 catches per season since 2014.
The Steelers offense is explosive enough that both Bell and Antonio Brown always finish as a top-three player at their position year after year. While Todd Gurley is the hot name to take first overall — as Bell is expected to miss training camp again this season — Bell is way more consistent and hasn’t missed a game due to injury since 2015.
- Todd Gurley, Rams, RB2
Last season’s fantasy MVP, Todd Gurley scored a league-high 383.3 fantasy points in 15 games. However, his 383.3 fantasy points were the second-lowest to lead the league since 2012; showing it was a down year overall for fantasy scoring. There shouldn’t be any debate between Gurley and Le’Veon Bell as to who should be the top pick.
Last season Gurley was responsible for 44% of the Rams entire offense, while Bell who was responsible for 49% of the Steelers offense. Furthermore, 32% of Gurley’s fantasy points game during the fantasy playoffs compared to 27% for Bell. Both players are top-two picks, but for me Gurley is clearly number two.
- David Johnson, Cardinals, RB3
This time last year, David Johnson’s ADP was 1.01 as he was coming off a career year. However, last season Johnson got hurt week one and didn’t play the rest of the season. The Cardinals struggled to get production out of the running back position — whether it was Adrian Peterson or anyone else. As an unit the Cardinal running backs averaged just 3.4 yards per carry and 3.9 yards per touch last season on 377 touches, compared to 4.2 yards per carry and 5.7 yards per touch for Johnson during the 2016 season on 373 touches.
Many have forgotten how dominant Johnson was in 2016, and with a rookie starting quarterback under center at some point this season, the Cardinals will need to rely on Johnson even more this season, to the point of potentially 425 plus touches.
- Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys, RB4
Most fantasy experts have Antonio Brown over Ezekiel Elliott in their PPR rankings. However; I have no concerns with Elliott. Over his career, Elliott has averaged 24.9 touches for 130 scrimmage yards, one touchdown and 21.3 FPPG. The Cowboys improved the offensive line in the draft and will need to focus on running the ball even more this season.
Between Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, and others, the Cowboys lost 247 targets from last season’s team. While a lot of them will go to newcomer Allen Hurns and others, Elliott should break the 50 catch mark this season. With the suspension well in the rear view mirror, Elliott can focus on football and a strong 2018 fantasy season.
- Antonio Brown, Steelers, WR1
The one thing every fantasy expert can agree on is Antonio Brown is the top re-draft wide receiver. Brown has finished as the WR1 every year since 2014 in PPR scoring. However, I have two concerns with Brown; one is his production with and without Ben Roethlisberger. Since 2014 Brown has averaged 24.7 FPPG with Roethlisberger under center in 56 games and just 12 FPPG without Roethlisberger in five games.
My second concern is the emergence of JuJu Smith-Schuster late last season. During the two games Brown missed last season with an injury, Smith-Schuster averaged 24.4 FPPG while catching 88% of his targets. Furthermore; over Smith-Schuster’s last seven games of the season he averaged 19.1 FPPG, while Brown averaged 18.1 during the same games. Brown is clearly the WR1 but there are some concerns to be had with him.
- DeAndre Hopkins, Texans, WR2
Unless Brock Osweiler somehow ends up the starting quarterback for the Texans, DeAndre Hopkins is a lock for a first round pick in any scoring system. Since taking over as the Texans top wide receiver in 2015, Hopkins has averaged 20.7 FPPG without Osweiler, but just 12.3 FPPG with him. Hopkins has caught passes from six different quarterbacks over the past three seasons, and has only really struggled with Osweiler.
Last season Hopkins lead the league in targets with 174 and receiving touchdowns with 13. The Texans didn’t do much to improve the offensive weapons around Hopkins this off-season, and he could easily see an uptick in his 33% target rate from last season.
- Odell Beckham Jr., Giants, WR3
Last season was one to forget for Giants fans and Odell Beckham, Jr. However, he has finished as a top-seven wide receiver in every other year of his career. Beckham has missed 17 games in his four-year career, but the majority of them were last season when he missed 12 on a bad luck leg injury. Beckham was on pace for 164 targets last season, and has averaged 152.3 per season over his first three years in the league.
The Giants added Saquon Barkley in the draft and they expect Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram to take steps forward in their development. However, Beckham is still the focal point of this offense and should continue to get his career average of 10.6 targets per game this season.
- Davante Adams, Packers, WR4
Here is where I have my first tier break. As much as I love Davante Adams this season, he isn’t part of the elite seven players ahead of him. Last season was the first time since 2013 that Aaron Rodgers didn’t play in all 16 games. Between the 2014 and 2016 seasons, the Packers’ top wide receiver finished as a top three wide receiver twice.
In both 2014 and 2016 Rodgers placed two wide receivers within the top ten, including Adams as the WR9 in 2016. Even despite Rodgers missing nine games last season, Adams finished the year as the WR9 on a points-per-game basis. Now as the number one option in Green Bay and coming off a career high 10 touchdowns — good for second in league — Adams is in line for a career year while being a lock to finish as a WR1.
- Keenan Allen, Chargers, WR5
Keenan Allen has wrongly been given the injury prone tag. Over his five-year career, Allen has missed 26 total games. However, he missed 23 of those games with a torn ACL and a lacerated kidney; two injuries that he isn’t likely to suffer again. When healthy, Allen has averaged 16.7 FPPG during his career and had a career high 102 catches and 284.2 fantasy points last season.
Over his last seven games of last season, Allen finished as a WR1 in four times. Allen caught 64% of his targets last season and the Chargers will need to rely on him even more this season with TE Hunter Henry out for the year with a torn ACL.
- Melvin Gordon, Chargers, RB5
The forgotten running back of the 2015 draft class, Melvin Gordon has always been in the shadows of Todd Gurley. While Gurley is clearly the better running back, both on the field and in fantasy, Gordon is very underrated. After a rookie season where Gordon had zero touchdowns, he has posted back-to-back seasons with 12 total touchdowns. Gordon gets knocked for his career 3.8 yards per carry, yet he has averaged 103.3 scrimmage yards per game over the last two seasons.
The Chargers also like to use Gordon in the passing game, as he has 99 catches over the last two seasons. Gordon has finished as the RB7 and RB5 over the last two seasons, and while he doesn’t have the upside to finish as a the number one running back, barring an injury Gordon is a lock to finish as a RB1.