The first round of your fantasy draft is usually pretty predictable. Though there might be some variance in order, you and your buddies pick the usual suspects: Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley, Ezekiel Elliott, etc.
Yawn. Who gets which star largely boils down to the luck of the draft order.
Things get interesting, and fantasy aptitude really comes into play, after that. Leagues are often won by the fantasy manager with the best eye for identifying sleepers -- undervalued talents. We’re talking about the managers who “reached” for Derrick Henry, Dalvin Cook, or Lamar Jackson last year.
We want to help you be that guy this year -- the one who has friends saying, “How’d you know?!” Below are seven players you should target in your draft this season.
Clearly, Gallup isn’t the top dog in Dallas’ passing arsenal -- that status belongs to Amari Cooper -- but the pair of young wideouts formed a two-headed monster last season. While Cooper had 79 catches, the 24-year-old former Colorado State Ram had 66 of his own, to go along with 1,107 receiving yards and six touchdowns.
Gallup’s role in the offense will only increase this season, as veterans (and Dak Prescott favorites) Jason Witten and Randall Cobb both left in free agency. Those guys had a combined 166 targets last year. That’s a lot!
Expect some of that action to go in Gallup’s direction. He isn’t Cooper, but he still belongs high on your WR big board.
Big Ben is back. After a season-ending elbow injury in September limited him to two games for the season, the 38-year-old seems hungrier than ever to prove he’s one of the league’s best QBs. If video evidence from this summer is any indication, he’s healthy, too.
Bet. On. Big. Ben.
People will be dubious because of his age, but remember who we’re talking about here. In his most recent healthy season (2018), he posted 5,129 passing yards and 37 total touchdowns, making him the No. 3 QB in all of fantasy. Though Antonio Brown isn’t wearing the black and yellow anymore, Ben has an emerging, well-rounded receiving corps that includes JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, Diontae Johnson, Eric Ebron, and stud rookie Chase Claypool.
If you can get Roethlisberger among the first 10 QBs -- and we’re guessing you can, given that most rankings have him in the middle of the league -- he’s worth the ‘risk.’
Let’s all pour one out for Allen Robinson. The former Penn State star has had terrible QB luck in the NFL. Blake Bortles. Mitchell Trubisky. Can A-Rob get a break?
Despite his signal-caller misfortune, Robinson has consistently posted top fantasy numbers. Last year, he had 98 catches for 1,147 yards and seven scores.
This season, he could be stuck with the same old Trubisky again...or he could have a new Trubisky, or Nick Foles, under center. Despite spending most of his career as a backup, Foles has better QBR, TD%, and INT% numbers than the 2017 No. 2 overall pick. Foles is a proven winner with the potential to put Chicago’s talented roster over the top.
The worst-case scenario is that A-Rob replicates his output from last season. Not bad! Best-case: the quality at QB improves, either by Foles stepping in or by the veteran’s presence motivating Trubisky to elevate his game, and A-Rob becomes a legitimate top-scoring WR.
This one is more of a long shot, but the payoff could be massive. The Patriots’ running back situation is very much in flux. New England fans are far from sold on 2018 first-round pick Sony Michel, who will start this season on the Physically Unable to Perform list and had a disappointing 2019. James White is an asset who any team would be lucky to have, but he’s a pass-catching back, not an every-down guy.
Last year’s third-round pick, Harris, could step into that role. The versatile former Alabama standout could turn into a mainstay next to Cam Newton (or Jarrett Stidham), or he could simply become the goal-line back, siphoning those precious, beautiful TD points.
Either way, he’ll almost certainly be involved in New England’s RB rotation -- and he’ll likely be available at the end of your draft. Take a flier!
The Chiefs have a number of sexy receiving weapons: Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, and Sammy Watkins foremost among them. Hardman doesn’t have that same sheen -- but don’t sleep on him.
As a rookie in 2019, he had 26 catches. Not too impressive, right? Well, those receptions went for 538 yards and six TDs. He’s a big-play threat every time he touches the ball. Talk about explosiveness.
Expect his role to increase in his sophomore campaign. Watkins has been woefully inconsistent throughout his career, and there’s reason to believe Hardman could overtake him in Andy Reid’s WR pecking order. Additionally, another injury to Tyreek Hill, or one to Travis Kelce (who will turn 31 this season), would mean more opportunity for Hardman.
The defending champs have an embarrassment of riches. With Pat Mahomes throwing the pigskin, Hardman is a mid-round WR to seriously consider.
Man, Todd Gurley. Life really does come at you fast.
With the former fantasy darling now in Atlanta, L.A. has an RB battle on its hands. Rookie Cam Akers and Henderson are squaring off for the top role, and veteran Malcolm Brown is also in the mix.
Internet buzz indicates Akers is in line to be the starter, but keep in mind that we’ve had a shortened offseason. Akers has to learn the offense and adapt to the NFL. That would make life hard for any rookie. Akers also isn’t as versatile as Henderson, who is a strong pass-catcher -- and we know how Sean McVay loves throwing to his backs.
Henderson will have a role in the offense regardless of whether he’s RB1, and he has real breakout upside.
Cooks had a dismal 2019, catching only 42 passes for 583 yards and two TDs -- his lowest totals since his rookie campaign -- before being traded to Houston this offseason. He isn’t DeAndre Hopkins, of course, but expect Cooks to bounce back with the Texans.
Deshaun Watson is one of the best QBs in the league, and Cooks will likely be his top weapon. Cooks is a speed demon with the talent and intellect to adapt to different systems, as he’s shown throughout his career, and he should develop quick chemistry with Watson.
It’s easy to forget Cooks is only 26 and was plagued by concussions last season. During a healthy 2018, he had 80 catches for 1,204 yards. Expect a return to form for Cooks in 2020.