After doing my early top 12 first round picks for 2018, I thought it made sense to follow through with best possible second-round options. The placement of these players will change quickly with any offseason injuries issues or possible addition in the upcoming NFL draft.
13. WR Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers
After two injury-plagued years, Allen finally had a chance to show his full-season value to Fantasy owners. He set a career high in catches over 20 yards (18) and 40 yards (4) leading to 102 catches for 1,393 yards and six TDs. In 2017, Keenan had seven games with over 100 yards receiving highlighted by a special four-game stretch over the second half of the year (12/159/2, 11/172/1, 10/105/1, and 6/111). Over his last seven games, Allen had 58 catches for 797 yards and five TDs on 79 targets. His success over eight games in 2015 (67/725/4) supports Keenan final stats while also showcasing another level in the game. His next step is finding a way to produce more scoring value. In 2018, Allen has a chance to push his way to 120+ catches for 1,500+ yards with mid-level TDs. Great foundation WR who will offer steady value from week-to-week while owning explosiveness as well in the right matchups.
14. WR Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons
Many Fantasy owners have grown tired of Jones’s inability to produce impact TDs over the last two years (6 and 3) while seeing his final catch total fall below expected value in 2016 (83) and 2017 (88). His resume is much stronger than Keenan Allen, but the continued limps off the field tends to be a turn-off. Over the last four years covering 61 games, Julio has 411 catches for 5,048 yards and 23 TDs on 643 targets highlighted by his 2015 season (136/1871/8). In 2017, Jones only had four games with over 100 yards receiving and two games with more than seven catches (9/99/1 and 12/253/2). The Falcons have run the ball better over the last two seasons, and they continue to struggle to get Julio scoring chances at the goal line. Theirs is no doubt Jones will have lowest draft value in years. He has the talent to be the best WR in the game, but he needs to stay healthy, and the Falcons need to throw him the damn ball especially in the end zone. Sometimes in Fantasy sports the player overlooked tend to produce the best results. A Fantasy owner drafted at the end of the first round should be extremely happy to land Julio as his overall skill set, and opportunity should outproduce his draft value if he stays healthy all year.
15. RB Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers
In his first year in the NFL, McCaffery finished third in RB catches (80) and fifth in RB receiving yards (651). When adding in his seven TDs, Christian has a floor of 200 Fantasy points in PPR leagues without even considering his value as a runner. Last year the Panthers’ RB had 349 rushes for 1,350 yards and nine TDs, but McCaffrey had fewer than 33 percent of the early down action (117/435/2). With Jonathan Stewart no longer on the roster, Christian can’t help but gain a much better portion of the run game. I expect Carolina to add a complementary RB in the draft or possibly via free agency. At the very least, McCaffery will see a bump to 50 percent of the RB chances. I expect between 275 and 300 touches for 1,500+ yards with 10+ TDs and a run at 100 catches. His ability to catch the ball gives him a nice consistency factor from week-to-week while adding big game ability when the Panthers are forced to chase on the scoreboard.
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16. WR Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers
The goal of a Fantasy owner early in any draft should be finding the players with the best opportunity while understanding each player upside in scoring. Aaron Rodgers is one of the top QBs in the game who produces plenty of TDs to WRs. With Jordy Nelson no longer on the team, Adams should naturally take over his role and opportunity in the Packers’ passing attack. Over the last two seasons, Davante has two strong years (75/997/12 and 74/885/10) highlighted by his ability to deliver TDs. I expect at a minimum a 20 percent growth in chances setting the stage for 90+ catches for 1,200+ yards and a chance at 15+ TDs. Just think 2014 (98/1519.13) and 2015 (97/1257/14) Nelson with much younger and fresher legs. I’ll rank him higher than most out of the gate, which should tell you he’s a great value early in the 2018 draft season.
17. RB Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville Jaguars
Despite missing three games, Fournette was the 9th highest scoring RB in PPR leagues. He finished with 304 touches for 1,342 yards with 11 TDs and 36 catches. His success projected over 16 games would have led to 1,652 combined yards with 13.5 TDs and 44 catches. Most Fantasy owners were surprised with his value in the passing game. Leonard has three down value with overall skill set to match the top RBs in the game. His opportunity in the passing game won’t match the elite RBs in the game, but he can beat many of them in scoring ability. Fournette runs with power with enough speed to make a long scoring TD. Great complementary player to a team that starts with an elite WR. The bottom line here is: can he stay healthy? In Fantasy football, talent always outweighs injury risk.
18. WR Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs struggled to get Evans the ball in 2017 leading to a drop off in his targets (136 compared to 173 in 2016). Mike has over 1,000 yards receiving in all four years in the NFL while scoring 32 TDs in 61 games. After catching 56 balls for over 20 yards over his first three seasons in the NFL, Evans only made nine catches of 20 yards or more last year. His scoring and big-play ability offset his low catch rate. Mike will start the year at age 25, which is the right area to expect more upside. Possible 100+ catches for 1,400+ yards and double-digit TDs. I like Aaron Rodgers better than Jameis Winston, which is why he’s ranked behind Davante Adams.
19. RB LeSean McCoy, Buffalo Bills
In 2017, McCoy had a much tougher time running the ball (4.0 yards per rush) than 2016 (5.4) with decline in his TD production (8 to 14). He finished with 1,586 combined yards with 59 catches while receiving 346 touches. The Bills’ offense will be different in 2018 with A.J. McCarron starting at QB. Buffalo still has a weak option at TE and questionable talent at WR. LeSean is a high volume back with pass catching and scoring ability. He’ll start the year at age 30, which isn’t the right lane to be shopping in to start a upside Fantasy franchise. Great career resume with back-to-back high-level seasons on his resume. A team starting with a strong WR in round 1 will be drawn to him, which may end up being a trap.
20. TE Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs
In each season in the NFL, Kelce has seen his target rise (87, 103, 117, and 122). His game reached elite status in 2016 (85/1125/4) and 2017 (83/1038/8) with more upside expected with the young gun-slinging Patrick Mahomes taking over at QB. Travis finished with five impact games (8/103/1, 7/111/1, 7/133/1, 8/109, and 4/94/2) while catching seven targets or more in seven starts. His role in Kansas City’s offense is closer to a WR1 while providing an edge at TE. The top end of the TE pool can be tricky and draft flow will determine where the value lies at TE. For now, I’ll the top scoring receiving option in the rising Chiefs’ offense while placing a bet on a young QB. Possible 90+ catches for 1,200+ yards and double TDs, which will be a clear edge over most teams at TE.
21. WR Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs
In first two seasons in the NFL, Hill has filled two different roles in the Chiefs’ offense. In 2016, he worked the short areas on the field in the passing game while offering change of pace value as a runner. Last year Kansas City worked him more into the deep passing game leading to nine catches of 40 yards or more plus a jump from 9.7 yards per catch to 15.8. His ability to test a defense deep helped create more open field at the second level of the defense for Kareem Hunt. In the end, Tyrek only had 122 chances in 2017 while ranking 23rd in WR targets (105). Despite his shorter than expected opportunity, Hill was the fifth highest scoring WR in PPR leagues. The presence of Travis Kelce does hurt his chances plus the Chiefs have a dynamic RB. Tyreek is the right kind of gamble in 2018, and I’d love to see him regain a few more rushing chances to help his floor and ceiling. If he puts both parts of his early resume in 2018, a Fantasy owner will have a first-round value.
22. WR A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals
Based on targets (142), Green had the fifth best WR opportunity in the NFL in 2017. Unfortunately, his catch rate (52.4) was a career low. A.J. has over 1,000 yards receiving in six of his seven years in the league with his only failed year coming in 2016 (66/964/4) when he missed six games. In his career, Green averages 5.4 catches for 80.5 yards and 0.56 TDs per game or 16.9 Fantasy points. He’ll start the year at age 30, which suggests his upside days may be behind him. His long resume sets a high floor, but the Bengals need to improve their offensive firepower in 2018.
23. RB Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings
I’m never a fan of a player coming off an injury as too much could go wrong in his recovery. Last season the Vikings’ RBs finished with 457 rushes for 1,803 yards and 14 TDs plus 84 catches for another 681 yards and two more TDs. With repeated success, Minnesota will once again have a special run game. Of all the backs on the Vikings in 2017, Cook is by far the most dynamic with three down value. In his four games, he had 95 touches for 444 yards with two TDs and 11 catches. His skill set points to 50+ catches at the minimum with a floor of 275 rushes. If the summer reports are positive on his recovery and his early season playing time, I could see some Fantasy owners pushing him ahead of Melvin Gordon in the RB rankings. For now, I need more info before placing my 2018 bet on him.
24. WR Adam Thielen, Minnesota Vikings
Some may look at Thielen as fool’s gold in the Fantasy market. After breaking through in 2016 (69/967/5) in 2016, Adam added follow through to his resume last year. He caught 91 of his 142 targets (9th in the NFL) for 1,276 yards and four TDs. Late in the season, Thielen played through a back injury that led four short games (4/51, 3/30, 2/24, and 6/61) over his last five starts, which led to some stats being left on the table. He played almost the whole season with a backup QB who overachieved his skill set, which is a testament to the upside and talent of Adam. He runs good routes with plus hands (75 percent catch rate in 2016 and 64 percent in 2017). His next step is adding more TDs to his resume. Thielen does have name value, which may lead to him being discounted on draft day. With Kirk Cousins added to the roster, he’ll be positioned to take another step forward. I’ll take the same catches (91) and yards (1,276) while hoping for a handful more TDs in a developing Vikings’ offense.
The second round is going to be a wild ride in the 2018 draft season, and I’m sure I left plenty of players of interest off my list. The second and third rounds will set up future team draft decisions making the front team structure important to have success this season. If you see any oversight by me, feel free to discuss in the forums.