Every year Fantasy owners face the tough dilemma of deciding who to draft with their first overall pick. As the saying goes, “you can’t win your league in the first round, but you can lose it.” However, Fantasy owners have been known to stress over the first round too much, taking away some of the focus that should be applied to later rounds, where they can land one of those difference making players to help them win a title. This article will help owners review the first round and after having a stronger grasp on who to target, they will be free to focus on identifying their sleepers to nab in later rounds.
The first question when looking at the first round is who should be the top pick? That is more difficult this year, than in seasons past because there is no consensus top selection this year. Originally, I had Eddie Lacy pegged for the top pick, but as Le’Veon Bell’s suspension was lowered to just two games I have come around to recommending him. In a PPR format Bell was head and shoulders the best running back, and the only one who gave him competition for the top spot was DeMarco Murray, who many, including myself, have projected to drop off this year on the Eagles.
Bell did it all last year, rushing for over 1,300 yards and eight touchdowns, while hauling in 83 receptions for over 850 yards and three touchdowns. It will be rough for owners to set their lineups without him the first two weeks, but after that any owner that drafts him will have the best player in Fantasy down the stretch and on their team for the playoff run.
With Bell off the board owners will then have to decide what to do next. My recommendation would be to take Lacy, Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Charles, in that order. I know so many Fantasy experts are raving about the top WRs this year and I am all about taking them, but there is only a handful of running backs that can be great week-to-week and these three all have that ability to be consistent. Lacy will be in perhaps the best offense in football, and we all know the numbers Charles is capable of putting up. The biggest question mark is Peterson, since we haven’t seen him in nearly a year, he has a lot of wear and tear on those tires and he is 30-years-old. However, he will rejoin an offense that targeted it’s running backs over 100 times last year, with the bulk going his way this year. An owner could add one of these running backs and land an A.J. Green or Alshon Jeffrey in the second round.
After the top RBs go off the board owners should look towards the receivers. The unquestioned number one is Antonio Brown and the fifth pick is the perfect place to target him. After that there are a number of receivers you could make the case to be the second one off the board. My next target would be Dez Bryant, who has posted three straight years of at least 1,233 yards and 12 touchdowns. He also set a career high last year with 16 touchdowns, despite only having 16 targets in the red zone. That number ranked 27th in the league and those 16 targets led to eight touchdowns, showing there is perhaps room for improvement.
After Bryant, next would be Demaryius Thomas, who has posted three consecutive seasons with 1,430 yards, and 10 touchdowns. Last year he put up 111 receptions, 1,619 yards and 11 touchdowns, while leading the league with by far the most red zone targets at 40. With Peyton Manning at the helm there is no reason to doubt this pick.
The second half of the first round for me would shape up with Odell Beckham Jr., Marshawn Lynch, , C.J. Anderson, Julio Jones, Jordy Nelson and Rob Gronkowski.
OBJ last year showed his immense talent, posting 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns in just 12 games. He was targeted 130 times in those games and that is something that should continue this year. Even if he cannot keep those numbers up on a per-game basis, he should be able to crack 1,300 yards and double-digit touchdowns again if he can stay healthy. Those are top five WR numbers.
Lynch is a proven veteran who is as close to a lock for 1,200 yards and double-digit touchdowns as a player can be, as he has done so in four straight seasons. An owner will be able to pair him with a top WR in the second round. As for Anderson, he may have only started seven games, but he posted 849 yards and eight touchdowns, along with 34 receptions, 324 receiving yards and two touchdowns. He has the potential to total 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns as well as some big receiving numbers.
The somewhat appealing picks late in the first round or early in the second to some could be running backs, such as LeSean McCoy, and Murray, but my advice would be to take the sure thing with the receivers in Jones and Nelson, who both should post over 1,200 yards and flirt with double digit touchdowns. Then I would recommend taking Gronk, who is likely the safest bet in all of football to be the best player at his position.
Good luck to all of those drafting and if you have any questions follow me on Twitter, @MichaelFFlorio.
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