Fantasy owners need to be confident on draft day. It’s important to be aware of all the potential outcomes for a player, but your research should help you make decisions well in advance about which players you want to ride with and those who should be left behind.
Here’s a look at five players who could be the catalyst for a fantasy title – or the road block.
Average draft position (ADP) data courtesy of FantasyPros and is based on 12-team leagues with standard scoring.
Fantasy owners are eager to find out if Ajayi can deliver a full season of production after he put himself on the map with three separate 200-yard games last season.
Ajayi was an afterthought in the Dolphins’ offense through the first month of the 2016 campaign. From Week 5 on, however, he averaged over 20 carries per game and compiled 1,197 rushing yards as head coach Adam Gase realized the Dolphins’ best chance of winning came through turning his young rusher into a workhorse.
Now the 24-year-old is going off the board as a borderline first-round pick – a high price to pay for a player who’s only topped 80 yards four times as a pro. The Dolphins’ offensive line should be more stable with Mike Pouncey back under center and all reports out of Miami point to Gase continuing his run-heavy approach.
Ajayi carries more risk than other players around him, but he’s also just scratching the surface of his talent. Don’t hesitate to grab him in the second round and watch as he finishes among the top five fantasy backs.
ADP: Early 2nd round (RB8)
Using valuable draft capital on rookie running backs can be dangerous. Ezekiel Elliott’s performance last season is fresh in our minds, but for every Zeke, there’s a 2010 Ryan Mathews who fails to produce despite lofty expectations.
Elliott’s success has led to several rookie backs going in the first three rounds of drafts, but Fournette is the only first-year back locked in as his team’s starter at the moment.
The LSU product is an elite talent joining a team that’s ready to build the offense around him, so opportunity won’t be an issue. He’ll be aided by an improving Jaguars offensive line and a defense that should keep games closer than they’ve been in Jacksonville for the last few years.
The cost of owning Fournette is high, but the scarcity of three-down backs will force owners to pay up for his services. While he isn’t going to match Elliott’s outstanding debut season, Fournette will be worth his current price of a late second-round or early third-round pick.
ADP: Late 2nd round (RB12)
Jeffery profiles as a No. 1 receiver, and that’s what the Eagles hoped to get when they signed him in free agency, but he hasn’t been the same player since lining up next to Brandon Marshall two years ago in Chicago.
Injuries and a surprising four-game suspension late last season derailed his production and cast doubt on his ability to get back to being a reliable fantasy starter.
The Eagles won’t need to force the ball to Jeffery like the Bears often did, with Jordan Matthews, Zach Ertz, Torrey Smith, and Darren Sproles there to gobble up targets.
Philadelphia’s schedule isn’t doing Jeffery any favors either, as he opens the season against five straight elite corners/secondaries. He bet on himself by signing a one-year deal in Philly in hopes of cashing in next season, but fantasy owners should be wary of selecting him at his current price tag.
ADP: 3rd round (WR14)
New 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan has been able to manufacture quality running games in every NFL city where he’s been employed. It’s only a matter of time before the Niners are churning out yards on the ground too, but it remains to be seen which back will benefit the most from Shanahan’s arrival.
Hyde is the incumbent and the obvious choice to handle lead back duties, but nearly every report coming out of San Francisco suggests the job might be more of a competition than people realize.
At first, that seemed like a motivational tactic by the new coaching staff. But as beat writers continue to question Hyde’s ability to pick up and excel in the team’s new outside-zone system, a committee appears more likely, with rookie Joe Williams and veteran Tim Hightower getting involved.
Hyde could become more comfortable with the new offense in training camp, but until we hear some positive reports out of San Fran, he’s a potential landmine in the fourth round.
ADP: 4th round (RB16)
The history of gimmick players turning into consistent fantasy assets is fairly short, and filled with disappointments like Devin Hester and Cordarrelle Patterson.
Hill will be the latest to attempt to become a full-time fantasy stud after posting 593 rushing yards, 267 receiving yards, and an absurd nine touchdowns on just 85 offensive touches. The 23-year-old also added three more touchdowns in the return game, but the Chiefs plan to limit his special teams usage to punt returns in 2017.
While there’s little chance Hill maintains that touchdown rate, his targets should increase significantly with Jeremy Maclin out of the picture. But the question remains: Can Hill perform in the role of the team’s top receiver, or will he continue to require plays to be drawn up to get the ball in his hands?
There aren’t many fifth-rounders who have Hill’s explosiveness and scoring ability, making him an enticing option on draft day.
ADP: 5th round (WR24)
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