- The NFL and fantasy football season is approaching.
- We took a look at 15 players who could be steals this year.
- These are not sleeper picks – they are players who offer the most value, who could exceed where they are currently being drafted.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
With the NFL season fast approaching, it’s time to start prepping for fantasy football season.
Fantasy football is always a crap-shoot to some extent, but the idea of value plays into every draft – who is the best pick when, who is under-valued, over-valued, etc.
We took at 15 players who could become steals in 2019. These are not quite sleeper picks. Instead, these are players who offer the most value at what they’re currently being drafted. They could easily live up to, if not out-perform, their current draft positions.
We used Fantasy Pros’ consensus rankings and average draft positions to identify 15 players you should target if available in fantasy football.
1. Odell Beckham Jr., WR
Team: Cleveland Browns
Average draft position: 18th
Consensus ranking: 12th
2018 stats: 77 catches, 1,057 yards, 6 touchdowns
Why he could be a steal: In 12 games last season, in a “meh” offence, with a quarterback who struggled to get him the ball, Odell Beckham finished as WR16. Beckham is now with the re-loaded Browns, with a talented young quarterback in Baker Mayfield who shouldn’t struggle to get him the ball. The plethora of weapons on the Browns is a slight worry, but Beckham figures to dominate targets, and he’s already shown a rapport with Mayfield. Would it be that surprising to see Beckham lead the league in receiving touchdowns?
2. Chris Carson, RB
Team: Seattle Seahawks
Average draft position: 35th
Consensus ranking: 25th
2018 stats: 1,157 rushing yards, 163 receiving yards, 9 touchdowns
Why he could be a steal: Initially a member of “risky” draft list, Carson now looks like a potential league-winner based on his current draft position. The Seahawks are the most run-heavy team in the NFL, and after looking like he’d split carries with Rashaad Penny, Carson now looks like the lead back. Additionally, the Seahawks want him to get more involved in the passing game, and they’re short on receivers at the moment. There’s a clear path to Carson finishing as a top-10 running back, and he’s being drafted in the third and fourth rounds.
3. Leonard Fournette, RB
Team: Jacksonville Jaguars
Average draft position: 22nd
Consensus ranking: 27th
2018 stats: 439 rushing yards, 185 receiving yards, 6 touchdowns
Why he could be a steal: Fournette’s tumultuous, injury-riddled 2018 season burned fantasy owners last year, but he’s primed for a bounce-back. The Jaguars improved at quarterback by signing Nick Foles, got their offensive line healthy, and didn’t add much at running back to threaten Fournette’s job. They also want to involve him more in the passing game. Fournette has said he’s in a better place mentally this year, too. He should be in line for “bell-cow” type of work.
4. Brandin Cooks, WR
Team: Los Angeles Rams
Average draft position: 39th
Consensus ranking: 32nd
2018 stats: 80 catches, 1,204 yards, 5 touchdowns
Why he could be a steal: All Cooks does is produce 1,000-yard seasons. Last year, he had more yards than Keenan Allen, Stefon Diggs, and Amari Cooper and just 66 fewer yards than T.Y. Hilton. Cooks has to compete with more weapons than those four receivers, but if Cooper Kupp isn’t fully recovered from a torn ACL and if Todd Gurley’s knee issues continue, Cooks could be in line for more work. If not, he has a safe floor – 76 catches, 1,100 yards, and 7 touchdowns, his averages the past four years.
5. T.Y. Hilton, WR
Team: Indianapolis Colts
Average draft position: 41st
Consensus ranking: 54th
2018 stats: 76 catches, 1,270 yards, 6 touchdowns
Why you should reach for him: Hilton’s ADP has understandably tumbled following Andrew Luck’s retirement. It may be an overreaction, however. Hilton shouldn’t be drafted like a top-12 receiver anymore, but he’s now going as WR22. Last season’s WR22 in standard scoring was Jarvis Landry, who had 976 yards and four touchdowns. Even if Hilton experiences a dip in production with Jacoby Brissett under centre, he should be able to hit those numbers. The rest of the Colts offence remains strong, and the game script could favour Hilton. If Hilton is suddenly available in Round 5, take him.
6. Evan Engram, TE
Team: New York Giants
Average draft position: 60th
Consensus ranking: 60th
2018 stats: 45 catches, 577 yards, 3 touchdowns
Why he could be a steal: Engram had a disappointing second season after an impressive rookie campaign, but with a top-heavy tight end crop this year, he could emerge as the best option in the second tier. The Giants’ wide receiver corps has taken a beating in training camp. While the Giants may have trouble moving the ball, they have to throw to someone, and Engram could make good on what could be a massive amount of targets early in the year.
7. James White, RB
Team: New England Patriots
Average draft position: 61st
Consensus ranking: 66th
2018 stats: 425 rushing yards, 87 catches, 751 yards, 12 touchdowns
Why he could be a steal: White finished eighth among running backs in fantasy points last year. FantasyPros projects White to finish with around 900 total yards, six touchdowns, and 133 fantasy points – a significant regression from last season and numbers that would have placed him about RB25 last season. Though his efficiency and scoring rate is likely to decline, the Patriots haven’t added many offensive weapons this year, and White is currently going as RB29.
8. Curtis Samuel, WR
Team: Carolina Panthers
Average draft position: 97th
Consensus ranking: 82nd
2018 stats: 39 catches, 494 yards, 5 touchdowns
Why he could be a steal: Samuel is primed for a breakout after drawing rave reviews from coaches, teammates, and reporters alike in training camp and preseason. D.J. Moore is projected as the Panthers’ No. 1 receiver, but Samuel could pass him, and if he doesn’t, he’s locked in as No. 2. He’s currently being drafted as WR34. If Cam Newton is healthy, Samuel has the chance to exceed his ninth- and 10th-round draft position.
9. Jordan Howard, RB
Team: Philadelphia Eagles
Average draft position: 84th
Consensus ranking: 88th
2018 stats: 935 rushing yards, 20 catches, 145 receiving yards, 9 touchdowns
Why he could be a steal: Howard may no longer be a clear-cut starter, as he plays in a crowded back-field that includes rookie Miles Sanders. But he has gotten first-team snaps and drawn praise from Eagles coaches in camp. This is a running back who has averaged 1,123 yards and 8 touchdowns per season in three years. This late in the draft, it’s hard to do better than a proven running back who could get over 50% of the touches in a strong offence.
10. Dede Westbrook, WR
Team: Jacksonville Jaguars
Average draft position: 83rd
Consensus ranking: 90th
2018 stats: 66 catches, 717 yards, 5 touchdowns
Why he could be a steal: Westbrook appears to be the No. 1 receiver on a team that just spent $US88 million to upgrade from Blake Bortles to Nick Foles. Westbrook and Foles showed a nice connection during the preseason, and there will be plenty of opportunity in the Jaguars’ offence. How many No. 1 options are still available this late in the draft?
11. Jared Goff, QB
Team: Los Angeles Rams
Average draft position: 89th
Consensus ranking: 94th
2018 stats: 4,688 passing yards, 108 rushing yards, 34 touchdowns, 12 interceptions
Why he could be a steal: Goff suddenly went cold last year after the Rams’ Week 12 bye. Before that, he had thrown for 26 touchdowns and 6 interceptions and ranked fifth among QBs in fantasy points. His cold finish can’t be entirely discounted, but he’s now had another year in Sean McVay’s system, and he’ll have Cooper Kupp back this season. With the unknown surrounding Todd Gurley, Goff may have to throw more, meaning the potential for more yards and touchdowns is there.
12. Emmanuel Sanders, WR
Team: Denver Broncos
Average draft position: 93rd
Consensus ranking: 113th
2018 stats: 71 catches, 868 yards, 4 touchdowns
Why he could be a steal: Sanders is 32 and coming off a torn Achilles, but it didn’t seem to stop him in his lone preseason appearance, when he had a five-yard catch, 19-yard rush, and a 45-yard catch that was called back because of a holding call. Sanders has battled injuries in recent years, but in his last fully healthy season, he was WR21. Last year, in 12 games, he was WR24. Currently being drafted as WR46, it’s easy to imagine Sanders outplaying his current draft spot.
13. Mitchell Trubisky, QB
Team: Chicago Bears
Average draft position: 143rd
Consensus ranking: 122nd
2018 stats: 3,223 passing yards, 421 rushing yards, 27 touchdowns, 12 interceptions
Why he could be a steal: Quarterback is deep this year, but Trubisky is a sleeper. He finished as QB15 last year in his first year under Matt Nagy and his second overall season. He should have more familiarity with the offence this year and better weapons around him. Trubisky also adds more value with his legs than other quarterbacks. Per ESPN’s Matthew Berry, Trubisky had three of the NFL’s seven 315-passing-yard, 45-rushing-yard games last year.
14. Delanie Walker, TE
Team: Tennessee Titans
Average draft position: 114th
Consensus rank: 122nd
2018 stats: 4 catches, 52 yards, 0 touchdowns (injured Week 1)
Why he could be a steal: There is risk in taking the 34-year-old Walker after he missed all of the 2018 season with a fractured ankle. But prior to the injury, Walker had four straight seasons of 800 yards or more with 3-7 touchdowns. It’s not exciting, but there’s no harm in taking an historically reliable fantasy player who remains one of his quarterback’s favourite targets, particularly in a year with a weak crop of tight ends.
15. Tyrell Williams, WR
Team: Oakland Raiders
Average draft position: 135th
Consensus ranking: 128th
2018 stats: 41 catches, 653 yards, 5 touchdowns
Why he could be a steal: Given the uncertainty around Antonio Brown, it’s possible that Tyrell Williams becomes the focal point of the Raiders’ passing attack. Even if he’s the clear-cut No. 2, as expected, he should have no problem topping the 65 targets he received last year, when he finished as WR46. Williams had over 1,000 yards with 7 touchdowns in 2016 and finished as WR13. He probably won’t top those numbers this year, but it’s easy to imagine him finishing in the top 30 among WRs.