As we approach Fourth of July, it’s time to start thinking about fantasy football drafts. As we approach draft season, it’s important to devise a strategy and know who you’re drafting when. Since we only get one pick per round, it’s important to know how you feel about various players at their average draft position. So, we start a fifteen-part series (most drafts are fifteen rounds) highlighting some bold predictions on a round-by-round basis. The data comes from FantasyPros.com, who aggregates average draft position (ADP) data from around the web. There’s no better place to start than the top, which we did over the last couple of days. Below are three bold predictions about players going in the third round.
Bold Prediction 1: Demaryius Thomas finishes as a fantasy football WR1
Over the last three seasons, we’ve seen Demaryius Thomas’ production drop dramatically. In 2014, he was the WR5, then a season with a depleted Peyton Manning and the enigmatic Brock Osweiler sent him down to WR21. Last year he dropped a few more spots as Paxton Lynch and Trevor Siemian couldn’t get him the ball enough to garner production. A lot went into that statistical drop: Thomas sees 2.5 fewer targets per game than he did in 2014, Thomas has 11 touchdowns between 2015 and 2016 after getting 11 in 2014, Thomas has seen his yards per game go from 101 to 81.5 to 67.7. There’s been a gradual decline for Thomas, but there shouldn’t be. Footballguys.com’s Cecil Lammey reports one major development out of Broncos training camp is the return of Thomas’ bubble screen play. He ran this to perfection for several years, but it dried up under Gary Kubiak. With Vance Joseph at the helm, and OC Mike McCoy in tow (who previously got Demaryius Thomas a WR5 finish in 2012), the bubble screen returns, as will Thomas’ fantasy production.
Bold Prediction 2: Brandin Cooks finishes lower than WR20
The Patriots offense is built on an inside-out approach, with shifty slot receivers like Julian Edelman (now), Danny Amendola (when Edelman is hurt) and Wes Welker (traditionally) creating underneath. This creates space for outside receivers and speedsters to do their thing on an inconsistent basis. Then there’s the Gronk factor, who is essentially a supersized WR1 out there; the Patriots offense simply isn’t built around a receiver like Brandin Cooks.
Over the last half-decade, only two non-slot WRs on the Patriots have gotten over 100 targets; the Brandons (Lloyd and LaFell) did it in 2012 and 2014, respectively. No other non-shifty slot guy has come close to those target figures, either. The Patriots offense at this point isn’t built to take full advantage of a guy like Brandin Cooks. Cooks will get a handful of deep targets per game, but a forty-year-old Tom Brady isn’t going to quite be able to sling it deep like he did to Randy Moss a decade ago. Cooks will be good for the occasional long catch, but he fails in most other routes, according to both Matt Harmon and Pro Football Focus. He’ll be a boom-bust WR2 and he’s going as the #12 wide receiver off the board in fantasy football drafts.
Bold Prediction 3: The rumors of Carlos Hyde’s demise are greatly exaggerated
Everyone in the fantasy football community is trying to Tinkerbell Clap rookie running back Joe Williams into being a thing for the 49ers. Shanahan campaigning for the rookie RB, combined with Hyde’s fragility and issues picking up Kyle Shanahan’s running scheme, have people pushing Hyde down their draft boards. That’s fine, but that ignores a lot about the fact that Carlos Hyde is immensely talented.
People also want to question Hyde for not being tough enough to play through an injury. The truth is the 49ers haven’t had much to play for Hyde to play through injuries, and the injuries that cost him significant time were all devastating one-offs, not lingering soft tissue issues (MCL tear, herniated disc, and a broken foot). Here are the plain facts for Hyde: he has 4.3 yards per carry for his career, his 73.3% catch rate in 2015 was a career low, and he had nine touchdowns in 13 games last year for a dumpster fire 49ers team. People are ready to get rid of Hyde in fantasy drafts not because of his own talent level, but of the perceived talent level of the player playing behind him.