With the pre-season now complete, fantasy football leagues are in high gear to complete the draft prior to kickoff next week.  In this article, I will walk you through your fantasy draft and identify which player to target in each round.

The first rule of fantasy football is to be prepared.  Win Column Sports helps with your preparation in this article, but it is important to remember that the players we suggest in specific rounds are simply a guide to get you through your draft.  Every draft will be different.  Players that go early in one draft may go late in the next.  It is your job to be aware of which players are left on the board and determine which of them is most valuable.  Just like the stock market, you will not always hit on every pick.  There will be injuries, breakouts, and other events that you simply cannot predict.  In the end, while we provide suggestions here, you are the one that knows your team, your league mates, and the specific rules of your league.  You are ultimately responsible for your own team.

For the purpose of the article, we will assume a standard 12-team point per reception (PPR) ESPN league with a 16 round draft.  The starting lineup will include 1 QB, 2 RB’s, 3WR’s, 1 TE, 1 Flex (R/W/T), 1 DST, 1K and 7 bench spots. While there has been significant discussion around various strategies (zero-RB, for example) we will target a well-balanced roster in this article.  We also assume that we’ve been randomly selected to draft in the eighth position.

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Fantasy Draft Round 1 (8th Overall)
RB Devonta Freeman (ATL)

Freeman is entering his fourth pro year with Falcons.  With a brand new six-year $43 million contract, Freeman is clearly set as the RB1 for the dirty birds.  Devonta is a high-floor, high-ceiling back who should have no problem accumulating 1,500 all-purpose yards and adding at least 13 TDs.  Freeman will provide a dependable anchor for your fantasy team.  Others to consider in this spot include WR A.J. Green (CIN) and WR Jordy Nelson (GB).

Fantasy Draft Round 2 (17th Overall)
WR Doug Baldwin (SEA)

Seattle’s top receiver, Baldwin is as dependable as they get.  Count on Baldwin for 85 receptions and 1,100 receiving yards.  With a healthy Russell Wilson, Baldwin is likely to increase his TD total to ten or more.  Others to consider include WR Dez Bryant (DAL) and RB Todd Gurley (LAR).

Fantasy Draft Round 3 (32nd Overall)
RB Kareem Hunt (KC)

With an extremely favorable situation in Kansas City, Hunt could quite possibly turn out to be the 2017 rookie of the year.  With Spencer Ware out for the entire season with a severe knee injury, Hunt will be the bellcow back in a run-first offense.  Hunt has the potential be a top end RB1 in 2017. Others to consider include TE Travis Kelce (KC) and WR Terrelle Pryor (WSH).

Fantasy Draft Round 4 (41st Overall)
WR Golden Tate (DET)

Expect to see Tate’s 2017 performance reflect what we saw after Week Four of the 2016 season.  Detroit’s journeyman receiver will be their top receiver in 2017 and should catch close to 100 balls for 1,000 yards. While Tate’s touchdown total has never been more than 7, Tate should increase his 2016 total of 4 now that Boldin is no longer with the team. Others to consider in Round 4 include WR Larry Fitzgerald (ARZ) and RB Carlos Hyde (SF).

Fantasy Draft Round 5 (56th Overall)
RB Bilal Powell (NYJ)

Yes, the Jets may have the worst offense in the NFL’s modern history and they will have a negative game script in almost every game, but the Jets are not even phased by their position.  Powell looks like the only legitimate fantasy player on this travesty of an offense.  In the last four games of 2016, Powell was the second best RB, behind only Le’Veon Bell. As long as opposing defenses don’t stack the box (which is a completely legitimate concern), Powell will continue to be a strong RB1.  Others to consider include WR Sammy Watkins (LAR) and TE Jimmy Graham (SEA).

Fantasy Draft Round 6 (65th Overall)
WR Pierre Garcon (SF)

Garcon was given a huge contract ($47.5 million over five years) to play for the 49ers.  Garcon will be the top receiver in San Francisco and will earn his salary as a target monster being peppered with the ball all season.  Others to consider include WR Martavis Bryant (PIT) and TE Zach Ertz (PHI).

Fantasy Draft Round 7 (80th Overall)
RB Tevin Coleman

While I tend not to rush out and pick up handcuffs for my running backs, Coleman does have standalone value as he tallied nearly 950 yards and 11 TDs in 2016.  However, Coleman would easily become an RB1 should anything happen to Freeman.  Coleman is a good value late in Round 7.  Other targets include RB Mike Gillislee (NE) and RB Doug Martin (TB).

Fantasy Draft Round 8 (89th Overall)
TE Martellus Bennett

The Packers have not had an upper tier tight end for several years, but they went out and actually spent money on free agent TE Martellus Bennett in the off season.  This is a significant indication of the direction of the offense because the Packers have been notoriously known to draft and develop their talent from within and only spend money in free agency when necessary. Bennett should be a huge red-zone target for pass-happy Aaron Rodgers, making Bennett a solid fantasy tight end in the eighth round. Other targets include RB Adrian Peterson (NO) and WR Adam Thielen (WR).

Fantasy Draft Round 9 (104th Overall)
QB Andrew Luck (IND)

Who would have thought Andrew Luck would ever be available in the 9th round?  When healthy, Luck is easily a top four quarterback.  Luck underwent shoulder surgery in January, however, and has not recovered nearly as quickly as the Colts had hoped.  Luck may miss the first few games of the season, but if you draft a decent backup to weather you until Luck returns, Luck will be a huge sleeper that will carry you well into the fantasy playoffs.  Others to consider include RB Derrick Henry (TEN) and WR John Brown (ARZ).

Fantasy Draft Round 10 (113th Overall)
TE Eric Ebron (DET)

Ebron has improved in each of his first three seasons and 2017 looks to be a breakout year for this tight end.  With Anquan Boldin gone, Ebron should command a large share of the red-zone targets. Others to consider include QB Dak Prescott (DAL) and TE Hunter Henry (LAC).

Fantasy Draft Round 11 (128th Overall)
WR Kevin White (CHI)

Kevin White has been very unlucky with injuries as he has only played four games in his first two seasons.  With Alson Jeffery gone to Philly and Cameron Meredith done for the year with a knee injury, White become the Bears’ WR1 by default.  2017 will be the year the Bears find out what White can really do as the former seventh overall pick thrives.  Other targets include QB Matthew Stafford (DET) and TE Coby Fleener (NO).

Fantasy Draft Round 12 (137th Overall)
QB Andy Dalton (CIN)

Despite finishing among the top 12 quarterbacks three of the past five seasons, Andy Dalton is the most under rated quarterback in this year’s fantasy draft. The Bengals may have offensive line woes, but Dalton also has the best mix of receivers he has ever had, including rookie receiver John Ross and running back Joe Mixon. Dalton is an excellent choice to fill the gap while Luck is gone, but I wouldn’t hesitate to pick him up as my QB1 either. Other options include QB Philip Rivers (SD) and QB Dak Prescott (DAL).

Fantasy Draft Round 13 (152nd Overall)
RB Rex Burkhead (NE)

The Patriot’s backfield is a mystery going into the season.  James White will be the receiving back, but either Gillislee or Burkhead could be the early down back.  In the 13th round, we can afford to take chances and if given the opportunity, Burkhead could turn out to be a steal here.  Other options include RB Jeremy Hill (CIN) and RB Alvin Kamara (NO).

Fantasy Draft Round 14 (161st Overall)
WR Kendall Wright (CHI)

Kendall Wright is another receiver benefiting from Meredith’s injury.  While I’m not a huge fan of quarterback Mike Glennon, the Bears will inevitably be involved in many negative game scripts this year, providing plenty of targets for the receivers. Wright will be the WR2 on the field for most two-wide formations and, if Kevin White struggles with injuries again, Wright is in line to become the WR1. Other options include RB Tarik Cohen (CHI) and RB De’Angelo Henderson (DEN)

Fantasy Draft Round 15 (176th Overall)
DST Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers are a great option for your defense/special teams. The Steelers have a good group of young defenders that will hold their own against their early schedule opponents - Browns, Vikings, Bears, Ravens, and Jaguars.  Other options include DST Giants amd DST Jaguars.

Fantasy Draft Round 16 (185th Overall)
K Mason Crosby (GB)

The kicker should always be the last player drafted on your team.  There is simply not enough discrepancy between kickers to warrant being drafted anywhere else but last.  You are foregoing too much talent in other rounds if you choose to draft kickers early. With a high scoring offense in Green Bay, there will be plenty of opportunity for Crosby to rack up points. Other options include K Cairo Santos (KC) and K Will Lutz (NO).

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Fantasy Focus – A Balanced Fantasy Draft From The Eight Position
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