News & Analysis

6 boring-but-solid fantasy picks for 2018

By Dan Clasgens
Jun 19, 2018

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DETROIT, MI - SEPTEMBER 10: Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions calls a play in the first half in the against the Arizona Cardinals at Ford Field on September 10, 2017 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Sex sells. Offense sells tickets. Chicks dig the long ball. The list goes on and on. Clearly, people love the sizzle and fantasy owners dream of upside. It’s that very force in human nature that leads to ageism in all fantasy sports. It also results in productive and often proven commodities falling in drafts much further than they should.

Here’s is a look at some steady producers at different junctures of fantasy drafts that might not be the flashiest name in that round or tier, but chances are they’re the safest bet to get owners a solid return on investment.

Doug Baldwin, Seattle Seahawks

Current ADP: 4.04 (WR17)

Baldwin followed up two straight seasons of being a top 10 PPR wide receiver by finishing as WR14 in 2017. Over that stretch of games the Seahawk ranks second in the league in TD catches (29), eighth in receptions (247), and ninth in receiving yards (3,188).

He hit a rough patch last year as the Seattle offense struggled as a whole. With no rushing attack to keep defenses honest, Baldwin suffered. His 8.5 yards per target represented a three-year low and he only had two 100-yard receiving days all year, which left him nine yards shy of a third straight 1,000-yard season.

With both Paul Richardson and Jimmy Graham departing via free agency, Baldwin is likely to see an uptick on the 112 targets he saw a year ago. The addition of first-round running back Rashaad Penny should also help. Plus, with their offseason losses on defense Seattle figures to be airing it out often late in games.

Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings

Current ADP: 5.11 (QB8)

Now in Minnesota, Cousins is on a better team and surrounded by nice weapons. However, he’s no longer playing in Jay Gruden’s pass-happy offense. With Dalvin Cook and a top-ranked defense the Vikings won’t need him to throw the 37-plus times per game he did eight times a year ago.

Cousins finished fifth in fantasy scoring in 2017 for Washington. He’s one of just three quarterbacks, joining Drew Brees and Matthew Stafford, to finish inside the top 10 in each of the last three seasons. The signal-caller has averaged 4,392 yards and 27 touchdowns per year through the air while rushing for 13 scores during that span.

He will have two top-15 wide receivers in Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen and Pro Bowl tight end Kyle Rudolph to throw to. Owners that snag him as the eighth quarterback off the board in their drafts won’t be disappointed.

Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals

Current ADP: 6.03 (WR26)

People have been writing off Fitzgerald in recent seasons, but the veteran keeps proving he’s still a high-level fantasy producer. He’s finished inside the top 12 in PPR scoring for three years in a row and seven times since 2008 while only missing two games during that stretch.

Fitzgerald will have yet another quarterback throwing him the football with veteran Sam Bradford taking over for the retired Carson Palmer. Fitzgerald had the third-worst expected WR Rating of all wide receivers with at least 75 targets last season but still ranked 17th in actual WR Rating, showing he can produce regardless who is under center.

Even with three different passers throwing the ball to him a year ago, the future Hall of Famer still reached the 100-catch and 1,000-yard plateaus for a third straight time. Those seem like reasonable expectations once again, especially with David Johnson back to help open things up in the offense.

Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions

Current ADP: 8.04 (QB13)

Despite Matt Patricia taking over as the head coach in Detroit, Jim Bob Cooter was retained as the team’s offensive coordinator and that should help keep Stafford’s production in line. Since Cooter’s promotion to OC seven games into 2015, Stafford has completed 66.3 percent of his passes and averaged over 272 yards per contest.

Stafford often goes overlooked, but over the long haul the veteran has proven to be valuable fantasy asset. In six of the past seven seasons, the Lion has finished in the top 11 in per-game fantasy points. Last year he finished as QB6 on his way to passing for 4,446 yards and 29 touchdowns.

Patricia wants the Lions to run more, but Stafford is still going to a rock-solid fantasy option for owners who decide to wait. By no means should he fall to the 13th quarterback taken off the board.

Delanie Walker, Tennessee Titans

Current ADP: 9.04 (TE9)

The aging Walker will likely lose some snaps to second-year tight end Jonnu Smith in the season ahead, but don’t write the veteran off. He’s been a favorite target of Marcus Mariota and has reached 100-plus targets for four consecutive seasons.

Walker played on 74 percent of the team’s offensive snaps in 2017 on his way to pulling in 74 catches for 807 yards and three touchdowns. He only scored three times, which was his lowest mark since joining the Titans in 2013, and he struggled down the stretch yielding just 0.30 PPR points per opportunity over his last four contests.

New offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur comes over from the Rams and there is optimism he can get more out the unit. The Titans tied for 22nd in the NFL with 33 touchdowns. Only four teams threw fewer passes than Tennessee (496), and the Titans ranked 23rd averaging 199.4 yards passing per game.

Pierre Garcon, San Francisco 49ers

Current ADP: 9.09 (WR40)

The 32-year-old had his first season in San Francisco end early with an injury, but still flashed some potential while finishing with 40 catches and 500 yards in eight games and that was with Brian Hoyer and C.J. Beathard at quarterback. Now, he’s fully healthy and will have Jimmy Garoppolo throwing him the football.

There’s more talent on the depth chart than a year ago, but Garcon figures to slide into the familiar “X” role in Kyle Shanahan’s offense where he’s shown success in the past. The veteran wideout led the NFL with 113 receptions in 2013 in that same role under Shanahan while with the Redskins.

Given his track record of consistency and the arrow pointing upward on the 49ers’ offense as a whole, Garcon figures to offer some nice PPR value in the mid-to-late rounds on draft day and should be a nice WR3 option in most 12-team leagues.

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