With NFL season on the horizon, it’s time to take a look at our Fantasy Football value picks. Last year, we nailed it on Drew Brees, Jordan Howard, Frank Gore and Dwayne Allen. We missed pretty badly on Duke Johnson, Demaryius Thomas, Mohammed Sanu and Eli Manning. But fantasy football is all about value. Get half of your final eight picks right, and you’re looking at a team capable of making a run to the championship. This year, we’re looking again at 16 players who might save your season.
The high upside picks
Ben Roethlisberger: You’ll probably only want to start him at home. But when he’s playing in Pittsburgh, watch out. The addition of Martavis Bryant makes this a top three offense in the NFL.
Matthew Stafford: It seems like everyone hates this guy, but with a questionable run attack in a conference that is stacked with good offenses, the Lions will live and die by Stafford’s arm. He’s a great player to draft and pair with another quarterback that has solid games on the docket. Phil Rivers and Andy Dalton come to mind.
Derrick Henry: He’s going mid-7th round. I’m taking him at 66th overall. If Demarco Murray gets hurt, you’re looking at a top-five back. If Demarco Murray gets hurt, you’re looking at a top 25 back, which is fair value in the previous round.
Joe Mixon: If the Cincinnati Bengals stop with the loyalty to veterans (another way of hurting your team and guaranteeing poor outcomes), then Mixon will get 18 to 22 touches per game and run away with rookie-of-the-year honors and have numbers close to Adrian Peterson’s rookie year.
Jarvis Landry: The loss of Tannehill is going to curb the expectations for Devante Parker. Jay Cutler throws the ball to possession receivers. Jarvis Landry moves the chains...and the Dolphins will be throwing a lot if Cutler is there ruining everyone’s dreams in Miami.
Jeremy Maclin: Possession receivers in the slot receive lots of targets. Maclin will lead Baltimore receivers in catches and yards. Yet, people are valuing him and his teammates the same. This is a number four receiver who will offer number two value.
Rob Gronkowski/Coby Fleener: This is the year to take Rob Gronkowski. For a TE, you’re looking at about 168 points on the year (assuming he stays healthy) in the early third round. That is better than all but eight wide receivers (and there is a lot of uncertainty between after you pass through the top 10 receivers). If you’re drafting Gronk, you’ll need insurance. That can be found late with Coby Fleener as a bounce back candidate.
Fantasy sleepers for late in your draft:
Eli Manning: Sometimes you just have to double down. This year, Manning has a shaky running game behind him, and four outstanding receiving threats in Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall, Sterling Shepherd, and tight end Evan Engram.
Tyrod Taylor: A top-eight quarterback going number 16th overall in drafts. Madness.
Jonathan Williams: Mike Gillislee did wonders in Buffalo last year as LeSean McCoy’s backup. Williams is better, and Buffalo is going to run the ball. He is a great value in touchdown-only leagues where points are a premium. Ten touchdowns are possible by the end of the year.
Alvin Kamera: Remember when Darren Sproles played for the Saints and broke off 60-yard screen passes? It will be similar this year.
Randall Cobb: Wide receiver is so deep and uncertain that a guy who was borderline top 12 in 2015 is sitting at a consensus 44 this year. Do people think that Jordy Nelson and Devante Adams are going to catch everything? Cobb is healthy again, and he’ll be all over the field.
Eric Decker: He’s the number one receiver in Tennessee, he has a better quarterback in Mariotta than he did in New York, and he is the team’s only red zone threat. Great value.
Julius Thomas: This is a scheme play. Adam Gase made Thomas a star in Denver, and Jay Cutler made Martellus Bennett a star in Chicago in 2014. Thomas can play, and Gase will make sure he’s open with Parker taking the top off the defense.
Austin Hooper: Upstart and still-unknown Atlanta Austin Hooper is a guy with a lot of upside. If you’re going to take a tight end early, remember that Kelce, Gronk and Reed have injury risk. So, be sure to reach for a guy who can finish the year in the top 10 and not cost you dearly this season.
Check the average draft position before you pick these players
• Round 1: Jordan Howard. Last year, he was a deep value. This year, he’s going in the first round of drafts ahead of Demarco Murray and Todd Gurley. Howard is the center of the Chicago offense, but the Chicago Bears are a very bad team, that could abandon the run very early.
• Round 2: Leonard Fournette: Someone in your draft is going to take him early, but this is not the same player as Ezekiel Elliott and the Jaguars are not the Cowboys. Take Isaiah Crowell or Lamar Miller instead given their more stable floors.
• Round 3: Brandin Cooks: You have to believe he is the second coming of Randy Moss, but this passing game will still run through Gronkowski this year. Cooks is more of a low-end #2 who will have boom or bust weeks. Not what I want in a number one receiver, but take at a price.
• Round 4: Allen Robinson: He’s a rebound candidate, but you have to trust Blake Bortles. No reasonable person trusts Blake Bortles, not even his parents.
• Round 5: Ameer Abdullah: The hype train is heavy with this one, as Abdullah is getting a lot of love in preseason drafts.
• Round 6: Kelvin Benjamin: The addition of Christian McCaffrey makes him a risky proposition.
• Round 7: Emmanuel Sanders: Is Paxton Lynch really going to be the quarterback this year?
• Round 8: Rob Kelley: Avoid Washington running backs not named Samaje Perine.
• Round 9: Jamaal Charles: His knees scare us. Why take him when John Brown is available?
• Round 10: Houston Defense: The second defense usually comes off the board in the 10th round. Meanwhile, Corey Coleman will still be available, and the depth you get right here for a bye week is critical.
• Round 11: Kenny Britt: Can you name the starting quarterback of Cleveland? If not, you should be looking at bounce back candidate Marvin Jones or rookie speedster Zay Jones.
• Round 12: Kenneth Dixon: This is cheating, but it’s also a reminder that Dixon is out for the season due to knee surgery. That said, if you’re setting up on auto draft, make sure you remove him from your late round selections.
• Round 13: Stephen Gostkowski: This is right around the place where we start to see a kicker run. Meanwhile, Jonathan Williams in Buffalo, Ted Ginn in New Orleans, or super-handcuff Darren McFadden are waiting to help teams build depth. Personally, I don’t even draft a kicker in a live draft.
• Round 14: Blake Bortles: Thou