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 second installment of my top 40 players and as always, happy hunting fantasy friends!
Be sure to check out my first installment.
- Stefon Diggs, Vikings, WR11
Stefon Diggs is one of my favorite sleepers this season. Over his first three seasons, Diggs has 200 catches on 291 targets for 2,472 yards and 15 touchdowns. By comparison, Antonio Brown had 151 catches on 249 targets for 2,062 yards and seven touchdowns over his first three seasons. In year four, Brown exploded for 110 catches on 166 targets for 1,499 yards, eight touchdowns and 308.9 fantasy points; finishing as the WR3.
I don’t expect Diggs to finish as a top five wide receiver this year, but I believe he can have a big jump in production. Diggs finished last season as the WR19 and is currently being drafted as the WR16. Diggs finished as a top-24 wide receiver in 57% of his games last season, compared to 44% for his teammate Adam Thielen.
- Christian McCaffrey, Panthers, RB10
Despite averaging just 3.7 yards a carry, McCaffrey finished the season as the RB10 in PPR scoring. McCaffrey ranked third among running backs with 80 catches and tied for 13th overall in the league. Furthermore, McCaffrey ranked second with 32 targets on third down and finished fourth with 53.1 fantasy points on third down among running backs. The Panthers improved the weapons around McCaffrey this off-season with the additions of first round pick D.J. Moore and C.J. Anderson in free agency.
Combine that with the return of a healthy Greg Olsen and the loss of stud guard Andrew Norwell and many fantasy experts have concerns with McCaffrey. However, last season McCaffrey only got 197 touches, yet he averaged 5.5 yards a touch. I expect the Panthers to push McCaffrey’s touches closer to 240 this season. With that many touches last season, McCaffrey would have finished the season as the RB6.
- Doug Baldwin, Seahawks, WR12
Outside of spending a first round pick on Rashaad Penny, the Seahawks did very little to improve the offensive weapons for Russell Wilson. Instead, the team lost 216 targets from last season and the defense is expected to take a serious step back. Last season Doug Baldwin finished as the WR13, averaging 14 FPPG and had a 21% target share.
Baldwin finished last season as a top-24 wide receiver in 56% of his games. The limited proven passing options combined with the expectation of the Seahawks to be in negative game script a lot this season makes me believe Baldwin can see up to 150 targets this season; which would easily be a career high.
- Adam Thielen, Vikings, WR13
After finishing the 2016 season as the WR29, Adam Thielen finished the 2017 season as the WR8 with career highs across the board. Thielen lead the team in targets, catches, yards, and fantasy points. However; Thielen wasn’t as consistent as his teammate Stefon Diggs. Thielen finished as a top-24 wide receiver in just 44% of his games last season, but did finish as a WR1 six times.
Obviously things will change now that Kirk Cousins is the Vikings’ quarterback, but Thielen ranked third in the league among wide receiver with 78.2 third down fantasy points and second with 56 third down catches last season. Where Thielen has struggled to produce is in the red zone. His career high is five touchdowns in 2016, but he only has 10 touchdowns in his four year career.
- Jerick McKinnon, 49ers, RB11
The general concern with Jerrick McKinnon this season is if he can handle the needed workload to finish as a RB1, and I think he can. Last season the top 12 fantasy scoring running backs averaged 290 touches for the season, or 18.2 per game. Over the last two seasons, McKinnon has averaged 201.5 touches per season while being part of a committee, and yet he missed just one game with an injury. Last season McKinnon averaged 15.3 touches per game in games that Dalvin Cook missed, while finishing the season as the RB17.
If McKinnon can average 15.3 touches per game and stay healthy, there is little reason to think he can’t handle an extra three touches per game, considering he should easily catch 65 or more passes in San Francisco this season.
- Leonard Fournette, Jaguars, RB12
Last season Leonard Fournette finished as the RB9, averaging 17.7 FPPG. In the off-season the Jaguars added former Panthers’ guard Andrew Norwell in free agency to improve the running game. The team didn’t resign Allen Robinson and released Allen Hurns; both of which limit the Jaguars passing game. Much like last season, the Jaguars want to play good defense, run the ball, and limit Blake Bortles’ responsibility.
While that may seem great for Fournette’s fantasy value, the team may use other running backs more to protect Fournette from injuries, as he struggled with them as a rookie and while at LSU. Last season Fournette missed two games with an injury and during the three total games he missed, the other Jaguar running backs averaged four yards per carry compared to Fournette’s 3.9 yards per carry. Given that the production is similar per carry between Fournette and the other running backs, the Jaguars very well could limit his carries to protect him from injury.
- T.Y. Hilton, Colts, WR14
T.Y. Hilton’s fantasy ranking will depend on what we see from Andrew Luck in training camp and the pre-season. If Luck looks like his old form, Hilton will move up in my rankings a few spots If Luck doesn’t throw at all, then Hilton will plummet into the low end WR3 range. Last season Hilton finished as the WR27 with 175.6 fantasy points.
However, 50% of his fantasy production came in three games. In 2016, when Luck played 15 games, Hilton finished as the WR5 with 273.8 fantasy points. In the end if Luck is healthy, Hilton is in line for around 160 targets this season, but if Luck isn’t under center, I wouldn’t draft him anywhere near at his current 3.05 ADP according to fantasy football calculator.
- Joe Mixon, Bengals, RB13
Last season was a disappointing one for Joe Mixon’s fantasy owners as he finished as the RB34, averaging just 10.1 FPPG. However, there is hope for him this season. First off, the Bengals traded for Cordy Glenn at left tackle and spent a first round pick on Billy Price to improve the offensive line. Secondly, Mixon counted for 33% of the Bengals offensive touches last season; more than any other Bengal player. Finally, Mixon had a similar rookie season compared to Melvin Gordon in 2015.
Mixon had 208 touches for 913 scrimmage yards and a 33% touch rate last season while Gordon had 217 touches for 833 scrimmage yards and a 26% touch rate as a rookie in 2015. The following season Gordon finished as the RB7 with 295 touches for 1,416 scrimmage yards and a 39% touch rate while averaging 19.3 FPPG. Mixon is one of my favorite post-hype sleepers this season.
- Tyreek Hill, Chiefs, WR15
Tyreek Hill is one of the most explosive play makers in the NFL and finished last season as the WR9. Hill finished as a top-24 wide receiver in 53% of his games, including as a WR1 twice during the fantasy playoffs. However, the problem with Hill is they have several other explosive weapons on offense and a new young quarterback at the helm. Hill had 83 targets in 2016 and 105 last season. However, Kelce lead the team both years with 117 in 2016 and 122 last season.
Also, the Chiefs’ third leading target receiver was Jeremy Maclin with 76 in 2016 and Albert Wilson with 62 last season. Sammy Watkins was signed to a three year/$48 million contract this off-season and his career low in targets over a 16 game slate is 75 last season with the Rams. While Hill had a great season last year, the addition of Watkins makes me pause before considering him as a WR1 this season.
- Amari Cooper, Raiders, WR16
After a great 2016 season, the Raiders were a mess last year. Amari Cooper finished as the WR14 in 2016 and then fell to the WR36 last season. Both Cooper and Derek Carr battled injuries all season long, while the Raiders pushed all their chips in on Cooper in the off-season by picking up his fifth year option and releasing Michael Crabtree. There is no doubt that there are some serious concerns with Cooper. His catch rate was just 57.4% last season and 56.6% for his career.
Over a 16 game pace, Cooper’s target share was 20% last season. In the red zone, Cooper caught just three of 10 targets. But all three were for touchdowns. If Cooper can do a better job holding onto the ball and in the red zone this season, he could sneak his way into the top 10 wide receivers.