THE Z REPORT
Lance Zierlein: Value picks for your NFL fantasy drafts
I’ve been a long-time radio host here in Houston, but there are people around the country who know me as an NFL draft writer for NFL.com. What most of those people don’t realize (and many here in Houston if my guess is correct) is that I’ve also been an NFL fantasy football writer for the Houston Chronicle, Rotoworld, and FantasyGuru.com.
I have a feel for how successful NFL general managers draft and for how successful fantasy owners draft. While the methodology may be different, there is an underlying truth that exists in both realms. Drafting well with your earliest picks gives you a good chance to be a playoff team, but excelling in the middle rounds of a draft is often the key to building a championship team.
The word “sleeper” gets thrown around quite a bit and I’ve found that different people have different definitions of what a sleeper really is. Instead, I’m going to give you some “value” picks that you should be keeping your eyes on for your fantasy drafts and auctions.
* The ADP (average draft positioning) of each player is based upon a 12-team, PPR league and was found on FantasyFootballCalculator.com
Jimmy Garoppolo, SF, ninth round: Garoppolo generated some heat at the end of last season by going 6-0 to end the year, but his touchdown production was underwhelming during that stretch. However, if you plan on waiting for a quarterback, it might make sense to grab a Kyle Shanahan coached player. Matt Schaub (2009) finished fourth in fantasy scoring at QB, Robert Griffin, III (2012) finished fifth, and Matt Ryan (2016) finished second. The 49ers are an average bunch at best at WR, but Shanahan has a great feel for putting his QBs in position to succeed.
Kenyan Drake, MIA, fourth round: While some may not see the fourth round as “value” round, Drake has been coming off the board at around the 20th RB spot. Over his last two games of 2017, Drake wowed head coach Adam Gase with 56 touches for 334 yards. Sure, he’s got Frank Gore, who will be getting some work as well, but Drake is clearly the more explosive player on the ground and through the air and it should show up this season.
Wide Receivers / Tight Ends
Trent Taylor, SF, Late Round/Undrafted: Taylor will be flying under the radar in most leagues, but it was obvious from the 49ers practices against the Texans that Garoppolo is in love with his safety blanket, Taylor, from the slot. Don’t be shocked if Taylor becomes the most targeted receiver on the team and a sneaky effective option in PPR leagues.
Calvin Ridley, ATL, 10th round: While Ridley has been going in the 10th/11th round in many drafts, he could come off the board just a little bit earlier in some leagues due to his name value out of Alabama. To be honest, I think he could be a value pick beyond the eighth round. Ridley has homerun long speed and has game-ready route running skills that should translate into open opportunities. With much attention expected to head Julio Jones’ way from defenses, Ridley could make real noise - even as a rookie.
David Njoku, CLE, ninth round: I will admit that while many owners like to target the top tier tight ends relatively early in the draft, I prefer to search for value with ascending tight end talent in the back half of the draft. Njoku fits that mold. Njoku played in all 16 games, but started just five and yet still managed to finish with 32 catches for 386 yards and 4 TDs. Both Tyrod Taylor and Baker Mayfield have shown a willingness to target tight ends in the past which should bode well for Njoku’s rise into the top eight TEs in the fantasy world.