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Rankings are a useful tool for making your way through a Fantasy draft, but they can suffer from a lack of nuance.
The gap between every player and every tier isn’t the same, but rankings by definition have to treat them as such, with one spot separating each player no matter how big the actual talent gap might be.
Breaking the positions up into tiers is one way to handle this problem, but sometimes you might find yourself stuck at a point in a draft where you have to choose between to seemingly even players. In a recent draft we did, I face situation where I had the first pick in a 14-team draft and needed to snag a wide receiver at the turn. I took Carlos Hyde with the 56th overall pick, and faced the choice of Emmanuel Sanders , Marvin Jones or Josh Gordon with the first pick of the fifth round.
With no pick for another 27 picks, I had to make it count. I took Sanders, the safer play among the three, if not the highest-upside one. I may come to regret that one. Hopefully you can handle these decisions, taken from our trio of experts’ rankings, better than I did.
Would you rather have Jamaal Charles, Lamar Miller , or Adrian Peterson ?
Two of our experts are mostly in agreement on this: Dave and Jamey have Miller and Peterson at No. 4 and 5 at running back, respectively, with Charles bringing up the rear. If you’re picking a running back in the late first and going by one of their rankings, that’s your order.
However, it is interesting to note that they weren’t always in agreement. While Jamey has been pretty consistent about having Miller ahead of Peterson, Dave only just made the move Tuesday, in the wake of Teddy Bridgewater ‘s season-ending knee injury. That injury certainly increases Peterson’s degree of difficulty, as defenses are certainly not going to be worried about Shaun Hill beating them over the top, however it could also increase Peterson’s workload, which could make up for any drop in efficiency.
For Heath’s part, he views Peterson as perhaps the ultimate boom-or-bust play in the league this season, and he has him second overall at the position. A few minutes ago he leaned over my cubicle wall and provided me this quote to pass on to you: “Adrian Peterson is either going to lead the NFL in touches, or get hurt.”
Heath is both the highest on Charles (No. 4 RB) and the lowest on Miller (No. 5), but the Charles discrepancy is largest, as he has him two spots higher than Dave and a whopping four higher than Jamey. Coming off his second career reconstructive knee surgery, Charles is certainly a risk coming into this season, and backup Spencer Ware has taken the bulk of the first-team work this preseason, and could have a larger role than your typical reserve, at least to start the season. Still, Charles is the NFL’s all-time yards per carry leader and might still be the most talented back in the NFL, so he can still top 1,500 all-purpose yards and 10 touchdowns even with a bit more limited workload.
Towers’ take: Being of the risk-averse sort, I think I would lean toward Miller. He is fresh after years of infuriatingly inconsistent workloads in Miami and I’m excited to see what he can do on a run-heavy team.
Would you rather have Derrick Henry or LeGarrette Blount ?
Do you go with the veteran or the rookie? Neither has as clear a path to playing time as you might want; Henry will likely be second on the depth chart behind DeMarco Murray to open the season for the Tennessee Titans , while Blount plays for the impossible-to-predict Bill Belichek. Do you want the young up-and-comer who will have to earn his playing time, or the established player who might tote the rock 20 times one week and four the next?
Jamey is the only one of our trio with a clear distinction between the two. He has Henry (No. 28 RB) eight spots higher than Blount (No. 36), and is, unsurprisingly, also the lowest on Murray (No. 19). Murray looked like he lost about four steps last season with the Philadelphia Eagles , but has been tremendous in the preseason, averaging 8.1 yards on his 19 carries, including a whopping 4.3 yards per carry after contact. Henry hasn’t been bad either (27 carries for 154 yards; 3.4 yards per carry after contact), but if Murray can recapture his Dallas form, it’s going to be hard for Henry to live up to his considerable potential this season. It’s worth noting, Murray handled much of the first-team work in the third preseason game, and is a much more accomplished pass-catcher to boot.
Dave and Heath have Blount and Henry right next to each other — Dave is higher on Blount, Heath has Henry on top. It’s certainly more fun to draft Henry, who represents the unknown, compared to the 30-year-old Blount’s established track record. It might be easy to say Henry has more “upside,” however with Blount’s less-crowded path to playing time, he might actually have a more easily attainable upside, even if his theoretical ceiling is a little lower.
Towers’ take: I’m high on Murray having a big bounce-back season, so I think I need to take Blount by default.
Would you rather have Drew Brees, Andrew Luck , or Russell Wilson ?
It should come as little surprise that Heath has Luck the lowest of the three, but there isn’t any consensus on the order here. Heath has Wilson at the top, and that is a fascinating decision. If you knew all three were going to throw the ball the same amount, Wilson would be the easy choice, given his overall efficiency (8.3 Y/A, 34 TD, 8 INT last season), but he has thrown the ball nearly 900 fewer times over the last four seasons than Brees, and nearly 400 less than Luck, who missed much of last season. If you think Wilson might up his passing volume with the emergence of a strong receiving corps and the uncertainty in the backfield, there is a strong case to be made that he will be the better player next season; he outscored both last season, too. Of course, Wilson (No. 36 overall ADP) is also going off the board ahead of Luck (No. 42) and Brees (No. 50), so you can’t exactly argue there is a ton of value available there.
Towers’ Take: In a vacuum, I think Wilson is the best choice, but I’m rarely interested in a quarterback that early. Since Brees is going off the board last, that is the one I will take.
Would you rather have Josh Gordon or Marvin Jones?
Jones has become a trendy breakout pick this preseason thanks to rave reviews out of Detroit Lions camp that have him emerging as the team’s top option in the passing game. We covered his rising value yesterday, but it is still interesting to compare him to Gordon, who has displayed the ability to be arguably the best receiver in football, but will also miss the first four games of the season with a suspension.
All three of our experts have Jones ahead of Gordon right now, and their average draft positions reflect that right now; Jones is going off the board 91st overall, with Gordon following shortly at 96th. Gordon has more upside on a per-game basis, but Jones isn’t exactly lacking in upside, especially if he really can emerge as the top option in a high-volume passing game. Those four games might be the difference maker, especially if you have to draft either as a starter.
Towers’ take: I think Golden Tate is being overlooked a bit recently, with Jones hogging the spotlight. I’m not sure Jones is the most talented receiver on his own team, a question I don’t have with Gordon, so I’ll swallow the four missed games and shoot for the moon with my No. 3 receiver.
Would you rather have Jimmy Graham or Tyler Eifert ?
Perception is a funny thing. Eifert obviously had a better season than Graham last season, but probably not enough to justify his ADP edge. Eifert is currently going off the board as No. 7 tight end 76th overall, with Graham coming off at No. 110, as the 12th tight end. However, while Eifert clearly outpaced Graham in Fantasy scoring (4.2 per game more in standard scoring), he actually finished with just 10 more yards and four more receptions than Graham in two more games. Touchdowns made the difference for Eifert last season, as he had 13 to Graham’s two.
It’s going to be awfully hard to pull off that trick two years in a row, especially since Graham has never before been much of a slouch in the red zone. Both are coming back from serious injuries, and while Graham’s knee injury was more serious than Eifert’s ankle issue, he also still has a chance to play in Week 1. Eifert may not play until Week 6, and while all three of our experts have him ranked ahead of Graham, it isn’t nearly as obvious to me.
Towers’ take: If I’m looking for a tight end right now, I’m definitely going for Graham three rounds later than Eifert. It isn’t a particularly difficult call either. There is almost no way I am drafting a tight end who will miss a quarter of the season in a best-case scenario.
Source: CBS Sports Headlines / Fantasy Football Draft Day Rankings: Sleepers, breakouts, busts compared side by side