Round 2 (13-24)
13. Dez Bryant
14. Jeremy Hill
15. Odell Beckham Jr.
16. Jordy Nelson
17. Julio Jones
18. Calvin Johnson
19. A.J. Green
20. Aaron Rodgers
21. Alshon Jeffery
22. Randall Cobb
23. T.Y. Hilton
24. Mark Ingram, RB
Best Value: A.J. Green (19)
Among WRs, Green is appropriately ranked. He is definitively the last of the tier-1 receivers. His upside just isn't as high as the others because, although his QB Andy Dalton isn't bad, he's the worst of the group. But Green is a tier-1 receiver nonetheless. He's a safe bet for 1,300 yards and close to double-digit touchdowns and, barring injury, there will be very little that separates him from finishing near the very top at his position. He is pushed down because the list of elite receivers is so large. I picked him as the best value of this round because I've seen him fall even further than his rank in snake drafts and he's consistently bought at a bargain in auction drafts. I don't know if people are forgetting how good he is because he under-performed while playing hurt last season, because the hate train has gone to far on Andy Dalton, or because he's relatively soft-spoken for an elite receiver. Whatever the reason, no one is excited for Green this year and that makes it likely that we can get a good deal on him. If you're lucky enough to get a high enough pick to draft one of the 5 tier-1 running backs, Green might still be around by the time the draft snakes its way back to you in the 2nd. Tier-1 running back and a tier-1 receiver? Yes, please.
"Worst" Value: T.Y. Hilton (23) and Mark Ingram (24)
To be honest, I think this entire round, including Ingram and Hilton, is pretty appropriately ranked. But I picked these two because they are the least likely to end up on my team this year mostly because there are guys behind them that I'd rather have such as Mike Evans (27) and Alfred Morris (29).
He's a great player and one of the best deep threats in the league but his size holds him back in fantasy. At 5'9" he's never going to be a major threat in the end zone (Antonio Brown is an exception). For this reason, I see his 2014 stats (1345 yards, 7 touchdowns, 10th WR in fantasy) as his ceiling. Meanwhile, there are some reasons to think that his production might dip a little this year. Andre Johnson and Frank Gore are considerably better than the men they replaced and will command more touches, especially in the red zone. This means Hilton gets less of the pie. There are other mouths to feed: WRs Donte Moncrief and rookie Phillip Dorsett as well as TEs Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener. It's conceivable that HIlton gets a thinner slice this year.
- Extrapolate Ingram's 154 points over a full 16-game season and he ends up with ~189 tying him with Justin Forsett for 8th among running backs.
- The Saints upgraded their offensive line by trading for C Max Unger and drafting OT Andrus Peat in the first round.
- With TE Jimmy Graham and WR Kenny Stills gone, and WR Marques Colston in decline, the Saints seem to be shifting their focus to the run game.
- Ingram earned his spot at the top of the depth chart and RB Pierre Thomas is gone.
- RB C.J. Spiller doesn't seem likely to eat into Ingram's role as the early-down and goal line back.
- With Brees at quarterback, scoring opportunities shouldn't be hard to come by.
- Despite the shift to the run game, Brees still commands the defense's attention.
There's plenty to like there. The thing is, I'm not willing to forget the fact that all he had done prior to last season was disappoint. Then just after everybody finally gave up on him, he comes out a plays like the running back everybody expected him to be. Would I be surprised if Ingram is a dud in 2015? How can I be, when that's what he's been the majority of his career since entering the league? And while Ingram's schedule is pretty good this season, it is significantly less favorable than the one he enjoyed in 2014 when he had the most favorable schedule in the league for running backs. Finally, I don't expect Ingram's workload to increase significantly. I don't expect it decrease either but I feel like some people think he's going to get like 300 carries this season which is just not realistic considering how the Saints have used their running backs since Sean Payton took over as head coach. Other than Ingram's 226 last year, the highest number of carries by a Saints running back was 157 by Reggie Bush in 2007.
But really, I'm just nitpicking on Hilton and Ingram. I'm not crazy about their upside but they'll more than likely be solid in fantasy this year.
Risky Pick: Odell Beckham Jr. (15)
Overall, I actually believe in Odell Beckham Jr. Extrapolate his 2014 point total to a full 16 games, and he becomes fantasy's #1 receiver with ~263 points. His schedule is more favorable this year and receivers that break out in the their rookie year tend increase production in year 2. But I consider him a risky pick because you're giving up pretty clear alternatives (Jordy Nelson, Julio Jones, Calvin Johnson, A.J. Green) with similar upside and who are far more proven. Is Beckham's upside that much higher than the others that you're willing overlook his lack of experience? Adding to that, OBJ also has a bit of an injury history. Seems like an unnecessary risk.
Safe Pick: Aaron Rodgers (20) and Jordy Nelson (16)
Without a doubt, the best QB in the league right now and the best QB's go-to receiver. You can't go wrong with either. It might not be the best value to take a QB this early but there is decent-sized gap between Rodgers and the rest of the field. In a deeper league, Rodgers is even better value because the quarterback position is more scarce.
Why no Gronk?
In my Best/Worst Value of Round 1, I said Gronk was the worst value in that round because his position wasn't that valuable in fantasy. Isn't it the same for Rodgers? So why am I recommending Rodgers but not Gronk? There a couple reasons:
- First of all, Gronkowski is ranked almost a full round ahead of Rodgers. So you're giving up guys like Dez Bryant or Jeremy Hill to get Gronk while you're giving up guys like T.Y. Hilton or Mark Ingram to get Rodgers.
- Gronkowski is at greater risk for injury based on injury history and the nature of the position he plays.
- Starting TEs are cheaper than starting QBs. Out of the tight ends that finished in the top 12 last year, half were drafted after round 10 and 3 weren't drafted at all. Conversely, just 3 QBs that finished in the top 12 were drafted after round 10. You have to give up more to get a Rodgers alternative than a Gronkowski alternative. Also, from experience, QBs don't tend to slide nearly as low as they are ranked in ESPN leagues. Sometimes players will reach for a QB or draft a backup QB because they're unfamiliar with the more obscure players left on the board. Sometimes QBs are taken early because the owner is a fan of the team. Eli Manning is ranked 150 in ESPN but don't be fooled into thinking he'll be there in a real draft. According to ESPN's own live draft results, Eli Manning's ADP is around 106, 46 spots ahead of his rank. The later the draft goes, the less the ranks matter. People just start grabbing the guys they know and QBs just start flying off the shelves from rounds 9-11. The ADP shows that 15 different QBs have an ADP within that range, all well above their ESPN ranks. QB is one position where drafters ignore the rankings on and always reach. With Aaron Rodgers at the top, there's less room to reach because he's already up there and even newish fantasy football players know that elite running backs and wide receivers are valuable. Meanwhile, starting TEs can always be found late. Travis Kelce and Delanie Walker were not well-known before 2014 and only the more dedicated fantasy football players would have known to draft them.
- Rodgers' production fantasy production seems much more stable and reliable. Gronkowski's has much more variation. In addition, his value is at least somewhat dependent on Tom Brady who is suspended for the first 4 games of the season.
8/23 Update: Reports are that Jordy Nelson has torn his ACL. Because of this, I would rank Randall Cobb after Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, Demaryius Thomas, and Dez Bryant and before Odell Beckham Jr., Calvin Johnson, and AJ Green.