It’s Christmas in August! The most wonderful time of the year! Nearly all Fantasy drafts will take place this weekend. It’s always best to draft after all the preseason games are completed. It wasn’t long ago we lost Jamal Lewis, Tony Romo, Michale Vick, Jordy Nelson and Chad Pennington for all or part of an NFL season due to injuries sustained in meaningless games. The following is a list of players to avoid followed by a short list of players I want in every draft.
Do not draft
Desmond Ridder, QB
The kid QB is talented, and he has solid receivers to throw to. But volume is key in Fantasy, and when it comes to the Falcons, they are no passing fancy. The Birds attempted the second fewest passes in 2022 with 415. The Texans, Dolphins and Raiders threw over 579 times. That’s 165 fewer chances for the likes of Ridder to succeed. It’s a team mindset you can’t ignore. Even when being blown out by the Bengals in week seven (35-17), they only attempted 13 passes. That is not a typo. They threw 13 times. Falcons HC Arthur Smith is a stubborn supporter of the running game come hell or high water…or big losses.
Jonathan Taylor, RB
The nonsense going on in Indianapolis regarding the NFL’s best running back is a joke. The disrespect coming from owner Jim Irsay makes me rethink Pro Bowl QB Andrew Luck’s stunning retirement in 2019 at the age of 30. Luck said he walked away because his body was beat up; maybe his psyche was too in this dysfunctional franchise. Given permission to seek a trade, Taylor was looking for a team that will not only meet his contract demands but also the compensation demands of Irsay. The owner has publicly stated the NFL running back position is no longer worth a premium salary, yet still wants multiple first rounders in return for Taylor. Unable to force a trade by Irsay’s August 29 deadline, the Colts unceremoniously dumped Taylor on the PUP list, meaning he cannot take the field until week five. Stay away from Taylor in the first four rounds. Those picks are too precious to waste on this sideshow.
Jerry Jeudy, WR
Jeudy was very high on my list of “must have” WRs this year. He ended the 2022 season with a bang, catching 33 balls for 458 yards and three TDs in his last five games. Unfortunately, Jeudy had a serious hamstring injury in practice last week. Not all hammy injuries are created equal. Some players are able to limp off the field under their own power. But Jeudy needed a cart to bring him back to the locker room, an ominous sign. Last year Keenan Allen pulled his hamstring in week one and proceeded to miss all or part of the next eight games. The news out of Denver is that Jeudy will miss “a few games”, but that’s a few too many to pull the trigger in anything earlier than round 10 for me.
Michael Thomas, WR
Thomas is back from injury. Again. And again. And again. Missing 40 of his last 50 games, I cannot waste a draft pick on him. Thomas hasn’t played a full season since 2019 when he was the best WR in Fantasy, finishing with 1,725 yards and nine TDs. But that success seems ages ago now, and frequent leg injuries have sullied Thomas’ ability to stay on the field. I admit he looked terrific in his first two outings of the 2022 season, snagging 11 balls for 122 yards and three TDs. But in week three he injured his foot, and Thomas’ year was over. The Saints have some young blood at wideout, headlined by second year man Chris Olave. His 1,042 yards led the Saints and made him a strong candidate for the Rookie of the Year. Let someone else draft Thomas. Good luck getting any more than a few healthy games out of him.
The Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals are a mess. They cut the only decent signal caller on the roster, Colt McCoy, last Tuesday. HC Jonathan Gannon told reporters he won’t name a starting QB until opening day. He thinks it will give his team a “competitive advantage” over their week one opponent, the Washington Commanders. Brave words from a coach that is projected to have just 3.5 wins this year. With journeymen QBs Josh Dobbs or fifth-round rookie Clayton Tune getting the start, no defense will respect the Cards’ ability to throw. They will blitz, blitz and blitz some more. Forget about drafting Marquis Brown, Rondale Moore, Zach Ertz, and even James Conner. Two-time Pro Bowl QB Kyler Murray is on the PUP list, costing him the first four games of the season. When and if he returns, then you can start thinking about playing a Card.
FANTASY MUST HAVES
DAk Prescott, QB
Here’s some fun facts about Dallas’ favorite son: His real name is Dakota. His pregame meal is hash browns with pasta. He has tattoos of Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan, and Kobe Bryant. He plays on a winning team with a great offense and has a Super Bowl winning coach. Yet with all these great attributes, why doesn’t the Fantasy world like Dak? His stats last year were very strong. He threw for at least three TDs in five of his last meaningful 10 games, and the Cowboys scored 24 points or more in all of them. He had eight performances of 250 yards or more, and his 21.1 points per game put him even with higher ranked QBs Trevor Lawrence and Justin Herbert. Still, Dak is falling in drafts, going most often in round ten or eleven. It’s a scenario to take advantage of. Fill out your starting roster and draft Dak as a late round steal. You will love his steady, consistent play. Grab a hash brown and enjoy the show.
Tank Bigsby, RB
Who doesn’t want an RB named Tank? That’s the coolest name ever! The third rounder out of Auburn ran like a tank in his first NFL preseason. He averaged an impressive 5.7 yards per carry, good enough for 159 yards over the last three weeks. This kid runs with power and vision and might have forced his way into a time-share with RB Travis Etienne in Jacksonville. But don’t take my word for it. Here’s what head coach Doug Pederson had to say: “Outside of the size, speed, athleticism, and all that, this kid is a sponge. He’s really a smart, young running back. He understands defense.” Grab Bigsby in the 12th round, especially if you drafted Etienne. He is one of the better RB handcuffs this year. You’ll “tank” me later.
Jerick McKinnon, RB
Sometimes a Fantasy team can catch lightning in a bottle towards the end of the year. The lucky owners who had the guts to pick up McKinnon (and actually start him) were rewarded with performances that carried them all the way to a Fantasy championship. McKinnon crushed it with 27 receptions and nine TDs in his last six games. He would have scored in the Super Bowl as well if not for selflessly taking a knee at the Philadelphia goal line, milking the clock, and securing championship rings for the Chiefs. McKinnon’s game is TD dependent for Fantasy, I don’t deny. But I’d rather have him in my starting lineup as my third RB than the likes of a plodding Latavius Murray or Zeke Elliott.
Diontae Johnson, WR
Would it shock you to learn that Johnson had the 13th most catches for a WR in the NFL last year? It’s true. He had 86 receptions for 882 yards…and no TDs! That TD doughnut was what separated him from the elite WRs, placing him 30th overall. If Diontae pulled in just five TDs, he would have finished as WR 22, which would jettison him past the likes of D.J. Moore, Chris Olave, and Jerry Jeudy. The Steelers’ QB Kenny Pickett only threw seven TDs as a rookie. A positive regression is all but assured. All he has to do is give Diontae a little end zone attention. Currently you can draft Diontae in the sixth round. Not bad for a potential Top 20 wideout.
Jake Ferguson, TE
It’s no secret the Cowboys love to use their TEs. From Mike Ditka to Jay Novacek to Jason Witten to Dalton Schultz, Dallas is a haven for the position. Enter Big Jake. A fourth round pick out of Wisconsin last year, Jake acquitted himself well as a rookie, catching 19 balls for 174 yards and two TDs. Dalton Schultz left the team for Houston, leaving a golden opportunity for Ferguson. Schultz was a top ten TE in Fantasy points for three years in a row. That production should fall right into Ferguson’s lap. QB Dak Prescott recently anointed Fergy as “a big-time player in this league”. Swipe him in the 16th round (like I did in my draft) when everyone else is taking a kicker or a defense. Congrats. You just got the steal of the draft.
Bill Reinhard is a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.