- Fantasy football season is here.
- To help you prepare, we’ve put together a list of some of the safer bets available on draft boards this year.
- There’s no wrong way to draft your team, but a balance of safe plays and risky draft picks will put you in a good position to win your league.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Draft day of your fantasy football league can be an intense experience.
Tracking what positions you need, who is available, and how other teams react to the action as it comes makes for an exciting, if sometimes stressful, evening.
To help, we’ve put together a list of some of the safer picks you can probably find in each round of your draft. Going by ESPN’s average draft position, we found players that should be available in each round and have a chance of providing your team a solid return on their value.
While the home run swings and sleeper picks may be more exciting to think about, it’s the grind of your reliable players that will ultimately help you win your league.
Take a look below at our best bets for the safest picks you can make in your fantasy drafts this week.
Round 1: Christian McCaffrey
Why he’s a safe bet: Christian McCaffrey is the consensus first overall draft pick for a reason. If you are in a position to pick first overall, don’t be a hero. Don’t get cute. Take McCaffrey and enjoy the truckloads of fantasy points coming your way. The desire to shake things up on draft day can be strong, but if you have the chance to take McCaffrey, you have to take it.
Other safe options: Saquon Barkley, Ezekiel Elliott
Round 2: Julio Jones
Why he’s a safe bet: Last year, Julio Jones brought in 99 receptions, 1,394 receiving yards, and six touchdowns to finish as the third-best receiver in fantasy. In terms of yardage, it was his worst season since 2013. Jones may not be the most thrilling receiver on the board, but he’s a machine that churns out 1,400 yards and at least six touchdowns a year. For fantasy, that’s what counts.
Other safe options: Davante Adams, Travis Kelce
Round 3: George Kittle
Why he’s a safe bet: George Kittle is the top target in the 49ers offence, and has proven himself to be one of the few elite tight ends in fantasy football. There are some more dramatic moves you can make in the third round of your draft, but if you are looking to play safe, grab Kittle or one of the other top tight ends to ensure you never have to worry about guessing at how to best fill the position – Kittle, along with Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz, can be your “set it and forget it” tight ends for the whole season.
Other safe options: JuJu Smith-Schuster, Zach Ertz
Round 4: Tyler Lockett
Why he’s a safe bet: While the Seahawks may be one of the few run-first teams left in the NFL thanks to Pete Carroll, Tyler Lockett is a fantasy stud that is often overlooked. He’s Russell Wilson’s top option in the passing attack, and has scored 18 touchdowns over the past two seasons.
Other safe options: Cooper Kupp, Russell Wilson
Round 5: Keenan Allen
Why he’s a safe bet: Simply put, the man can catch everything. The Chargers passing attack may be heading for a down year as the team shifts from Philip Rivers to Tyrod Taylor and possibly rookie Justin Herbert. However, Keenan Allen is still an elite pass-catcher that should be going a round or two earlier than here.
Other safe options: T.Y. Hilton, Terry McLaurin
Round 6: Mark Ingram
Why he’s a safe bet: The Baltimore Ravens offence scores a lot of points, and Mark Ingram is the top running back in that offence. Last year he scored 15 touchdowns. It might be tough to reach that mark again, but he’ll still be a value at this position even if his production falls.
Other safe options: Evan Engram, DeVante Parker
Round 7: Matt Ryan
Why he’s a safe bet: Like his top target Julio Jones, Matt Ryan is a fantasy machine, regardless of where the Atlanta Falcons sit in the actual NFL standings. It’s been literally a decade since Ryan has failed to throw for 4,000 yards. He’s as rock-solid a quarterback as you can find.
Other safe options: Drew Brees, Michael Gallup
Round 8: Aaron Rodgers
Why he’s a safe bet: Aaron Rodgers might not have a huge selection of targets in the Packers offence, but that has never stopped him from producing before. And given the team’s decision to pick up his potential successor in Jordan Love in the first round of this year’s draft, Rodgers could be poised for a brilliant season driven by spite.
Other safe options: Hunter Henry, Kerryon Johnson
Round 9: Sterling Shepard
Why he’s a safe bet: Sterling Shepard has a solid connection with Giants quarterback Daniel Jones, who, in his third NFL season, could be set to take a step forward. If it happens, Shepard could outplay his draft position substantially, but even if Jones doesn’t have a great year, Shepard is involved enough in the offence that he should provide value regardless.
Other safe options: J.K. Dobbins, Jamison Crowder
Round 10: Christian Kirk
Why he’s a safe bet: The Arizona Cardinals offence should finish the season as one of the most pass-heavy units in the NFL. Even with the acquisition of DeAndre Hopkins, there’s plenty of targets to go around in Arizona.
Other safe options: Hayden Hurst, Golden Tate
Round 11: Preston Williams
Why he’s a safe bet: The Miami offence is by no means overpowering, but rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa could change that. Preston Williams is a solid WR3 despite where he is currently going in drafts.
Other safe options: John Brown, Robby Anderson
Round 12: DeSean Jackson
Why he’s a safe bet: By this point of the draft, “safe” is a relative term. DeSean Jackson has struggled with injuries over the past two seasons, but he’s got a path to plenty of touchdowns in the Philadelphia offence if he can just stay on the field.
Other safe options: Curtis Samuel
Round 13: Larry Fitzgerald
Why he’s a safe bet: As we said with Kirk, even with the addition of DeAndre Hopkins, there’s going to be targets available in the Cardinals offence. In the 13th round, taking a guy that never drops the ball feels like a smart play, not to mention that Arizona might be looking to feed Fitz some red-zone targets to see if he can get the nine scores he needs to jump into the top five in all-time receiving touchdowns.
Other safe options: Jimmy Garoppolo, Jared Goff
Round 14: Sammy Watkins
Why he’s a safe bet: In the late rounds, grabbing any piece of the Chiefs offence you can get feels like a good bet.
Other safe options: Jack Doyle, Sony Michel
Round 15: Seattle Seahawks
Why he’s a safe bet: If you’re playing safe, you might want to take a defence a round earlier in order to score one of the better units in the league. But if you like to wait until the end of your draft, the Seahawks are as reliable a team as any to come up with some turnovers when you need them.
Other safe options: Minnesota Vikings, Denver Broncos
Round 16: Harrison Butker
Why he’s a safe bet: Kickers are a crapshoot, but a safe bet is that as a team that scores a lot, the Chiefs will need a lot of extra points kicked. Enter Harrison Butker.
Other safe options: Justin Tucker, Robbie Gould
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