Standard snake fantasy drafts don’t offer an owner much control. You’re at the mercy of your draft slot, and it’s hard to predict the desires of the other members of your league. The players you want aren’t always going to be available to you, so constructing a likeable roster can get tricky. In that regard, there are some draft day strategies that work better than others.
One of our favorites at Rotoworld involves the tiering of players at each position as part of one’s pre-draft prep, which should leave you with a well-rounded fantasy roster when the final seconds tick off the clock. Grab players from the top couple of tiers at each position, and you’re most likely going to be set up for success.
For a preview, here’s Tier 1 for the Running Back position, and Tier 4 for Tight Ends, featuring in-depth, data-driven analysis to help you be fully prepared for draft day. Inside our Draft Guide you’ll find full tiers for every position in addition to a wide array of other tools including more than 500 player profiles, multiple sets of rankings, customizable projections, mock drafts and much, much more. If you want to hold a competitive advantage throughout the entire season, bundle our Draft Guide with our season-long Season Pass product!
Tiered Rankings and Projections for Running Backs
Johnson paced the position in touches (373), receptions (80), yards from scrimmage (2,118) and total touchdowns (20) as he was the highest scoring player overall at the position regardless of format. Johnson has now started 19 non-Week 17 games and has been a top-11 PPR scorer in 17 of those games and the RB1 overall in those weeks seven times. Johnson’s 33 total touchdowns through two seasons rank fourth all-time. He’s no slouch as a runner, tallying 1,239 yards on the ground, but as a receiver, there’s no back in the league that compares to the way he’s used vertically. Johnson accrued 559 air yards in 2016, 330 more than the next closest running back. He gets a larger boost in PPR formats, but Johnson is easily in contention for the first overall pick in drafts regardless of the format.
After returning from a three-game suspension to begin the season, Bell returned to lead all NFL backs in touches (28) and yards from scrimmage (157) per game. He had at least 130 yards from scrimmage in 10 of 12 games and even averaged 24.6 more yards from scrimmage per game than David Johnson over that span. Bell saw 19.9 percent of the Pittsburgh targets and led all backs in receptions per game (6.3). Since entering the league in 2013, only DeMarco Murray has matched Bell’s 39 games with at least 20 touches. While asking for Bell to continue the 2016 usage that would approach 450 touches over a full season again is a tall order, he’s the bell cow back for one of the best offenses in the league. Bell hasn’t shown the same elite nose for the end zone as Johnson, scoring 31 times in 47 games, but is right on the same level as a fantasy option to start drafts.
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Tiered Rankings and projections for Tight Ends
Henry was just the fourth tight end in league history to score at least eight touchdowns in their rookie season and the first since Rob Gronkowski in 2010. 16 of Henry’s 53 targets came from inside the red zone. Los Angeles has already stated that Henry will be the primary tight end entering the season, even with Antonio Gates returning as he pursues the all-time touchdown record for tight ends. However, targets in Los Angeles are still hard to come by in a crowded passing game. Henry will be a popular upside pick because of his touchdown ability and possibly a solid arbitrage selection on a player like Tyler Eifert, but his touchdown dependency could also leave some lean weeks on the table.
Hooper came along slowly in his rookie season, catching just 19 passes for 271 yards and three touchdowns. On those receptions, he posted a gaudy 14.3 yards per catch, showcasing his ability to get downfield. The downside to any potential breakout is that Atlanta tight ends made up just 15.6 percent of their team targets, which ranked 28th in the league. If Hooper is going to make a jump into consistent fantasy relevancy, he’s going to need that number to spike, even if he’s their primary option at the position.
Thomas just hasn’t been able to put a complete season together as he has missed three or more games in every season of his six-year career so far and has averaged four receptions per game just once. He now leaves Jacksonville for Miami, who need a red zone presence, but also ran the fewest pass plays per game in the NFL a year ago. With Thomas’ health issues and lack of team volume to go around, he’s best suited as a secondary tight end option.
Fleener was a disappointment in his first season with the Saints, catching 50 of 81 targets for 631 yards and three touchdowns. He had just three top-12 scoring weeks and was the TE19 or lower in weekly scoring 10 times. He’s worth kicking the tires on as a bench option since he’s attached to a passing offense that has led the league in team PPR output over the past five seasons, but cannot be depended on out of the gate.