Sometimes, the biggest moves in fantasy are the ones you don’t make. After all, we can all remember seasons in which a couple of busts in the early rounds of our drafts sunk our teams past the point of recovery. Although every player in this article has enough of a resume to be enticing, these are the ones who I am avoiding at their current Yahoo ADP.
Round 1: Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans (Overall ADP 5.6)
Life comes at you fast in the NFL, and as much as I enjoy watching Henry carry the football, I can’t invest a first-round pick in him. Sure, the hulking rusher returned for a playoff game after breaking a bone in his foot, but we don’t know yet if he will be the same explosive player he was prior to the injury. And at age 28, he is past the age where RBs peak from a fantasy perspective. With little usage in the passing game, Henry has to be one of the league’s leading rushers in order to warrant a first-round pick, leaving him little margin for error.
Round 2: Nick Chubb, RB, Cleveland Browns (Overall ADP 17.3)
Like Henry, Chubb can make a strong case to be ranked as the best ball carrier in the NFL. But also like Henry, the Browns' lead back is not heavily involved in the passing game, thanks to the presence of teammate Kareem Hunt. To warrant a second-round pick, Chubb will need to combine plenty of touchdowns with a high rushing total, and there are significant concerns surrounding the Browns' offense during the 11 weeks of the season that Jacoby Brissett will be under center.
Round 3: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys (Overall ADP 29.2)
The biggest problem for Elliott is he may not be the best RB on his own team. The Ohio State alum has looked more like a plodding rusher than a workhorse the past two seasons, struggling to average more than 4.0 yards per carry and rarely providing big plays in the passing game. Meanwhile, Tony Pollard, who is two years younger than Zeke, enters his fourth season having averaged 5.1 career yards per carry and 8.6 yards per catch last year. For a Round 3 pick, I need more job security than Elliott can provide.
Round 4: Cam Akers, RB, Los Angeles Rams (Overall ADP 40.5)
For the fourth straight round, I need to tab a rusher as the overvalued pick. Rams head coach Sean McVay has told us early in training camp that the backfield opportunities will be shared between multiple backs, which will make it hard for Akers to separate from Darrell Henderson. And similar to my feelings on Elliott in Round 3, I want my Round 4 running back to clearly be the dominant presence in his backfield.
Round 5: Diontae Johnson, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers (Overall ADP 50.9)
I could have written about a running back for the fifth consecutive round by profiling Josh Jacobs, but I’ll mix things up and downgrade a wide receiver. Johnson had great chemistry with Ben Roethlisberger, who emphasized a short passing game late in his career due to waning arm strength. But new Steelers QBs Mitch Trubisky and Kenny Pickett have no such issues, and they may be a better match for other talented Pittsburgh receivers such as Chase Claypool and rookie George Pickens. Overall, there is more risk with Johnson than many drafters realize.
Round 6: DK Metcalf, WR, Seattle Seahawks (Overall ADP 58.8)
Metcalf is undoubtedly one of the most talented receivers in the NFL, but he may not be able to overcome having Geno Smith and Drew Lock as his quarterbacks this season. Quite simply, this is one of the worst QB situations we have seen in recent years, and head coach Pete Carroll has always been inclined to call running plays at a high rate. Seattle could finish last in the NFL in passing yardage.
Round 7: Buffalo Bills Defense (Overall ADP 70.2)
I don’t need to use much of my word count to explain this one – don’t draft a defense in the seventh round. This is a point in the draft where managers will still need to draft starters at key positions or fill the most important bench spots in shallow leagues. Defenses should be drafted in the final 3-4 rounds, with a focus on teams who have favorable matchups in the initial weeks of the season.
Round 8: Dawson Knox, TE, Buffalo Bills (Overall ADP 79.9)
Knox had a surprising touchdown total last year (9), but he did not reach the 600-yard mark in any of his first three NFL seasons. He doesn’t profile as the kind of athlete to post a massive yardage total, and there are plenty of other mouths to feed in the Bills' offense. There are several tight ends available 50 picks later who have similar upside.
Round 9: Amari Cooper, WR, Cleveland Browns (Overall ADP 86.3)
Cooper is on this list for a similar reason as Metcalf – I’m not confident this team can have a competent passing attack this season. The former Cowboy will spend 11 games catching passes from Brissett, who has twice started 15 games in a season and didn’t pass for 3,100 yards in either campaign. Cooper will have already let managers down when Deshaun Watson returns in Week 13, and at that point, it’s hard to predict that Watson will be able to shake off nearly two years of rust in time to make Cooper successful down the stretch.
Round 10: Tyler Bass, K, Buffalo Bills (Overall ADP 99.2)
Along with Justin Tucker and Evan McPherson, Bass is one of three kickers who are being selected in the first 10 rounds. These picks are all even worse than the choice to take a defense, as kickers are very hard to predict in fantasy. Although I would be happy to have any of these kickers on my roster, I’ll wait until the final two rounds of my draft and grab the best remaining option.