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Jay Ajayi leads 2018 fantasy football draft bargains

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I guarantee you if Warren Buffett has a solid BOGO coupon on all-leather loafers, that man is cashing in that discount. Why? Because you like a good deal, I like a good deal, we all love a good deal.

In fantasy, there is nothing better than reading your draft mates and attempting to stretch out "your guy" one, two or three rounds to maximize value. Last year it was having Kareem Hunt graded as a third and getting him in the fifth. Grading Marvin Jones as a ninth and getting him in the 12th. I was like Stretch Armstrong with those picks because I knew I valued them way higher than the guys I was playing with.

Who are those guys for me this year? Well let's say I'll be rocking a lot of powder blues. With that let's get into my 2018 bargains.

Bargain level: Free Sales Tax


Jay Ajayi, RB, Philadelphia Eagles
Current ADP range: 35-60

I have him currently as a top 20ish player, which I understand is quite aggressive but also why I think if you get him at any point past pick 30, Ajayi is a no brainer.

LeGarrette Blount is gone and while I love Corey Clement as a sleeper, Ajayi figures to be the clear-cut lead back in what should be another high-scoring, high-octane season for the Eagles. And no, I'm also not buying the coach-speak silliness that 97-year-old Darren Sproles (ed. note -- Sproles will be 35 next season) will lead the team in backfield touches.

In his seven games as an Eagle last season, Ajayi averaged an otherworldly 5.83 yards per carry over 70 totes and in total racked up 499 scrimmage yards along with two touchdowns. Keep in mind, Ajayi came in mid-season, completely cold and attempting to learn a new playbook on the fly.

With a full off-season and with workload on the clear upswing, 1,200 total yards, eight touchdowns and 30ish receptions seems like an entirely reasonable projection. Those are top 10 fantasy RB numbers by the way (and you're still exposed to upside!) all while paying a top 20 price.

JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
Current ADP range: 40-60

Weeks 8-17, he averaged 19.1 points per game in PPR, the fifth-best average among all wide receivers who played at least five games. This guy can ball. With Martavis Bryant all the way gone and JuJu still only TWENTY-ONE FREAKIN' YEARS OLD, look for him to emerge as a top flight receiver on a high-scoring offense.

To give you an idea of how insane of a run JuJu was on to close the season, he averaged eight targets and 98 yards per game to go along with five total touchdowns. If you extrapolated his final seven games into a full 16, you'd get 1,568 yards and at least 10 touchdowns. Now, I'm not saying he's getting to those insane heights but clearly that's the upside. And you're getting that in the fifth?!?!? Sign me up all day long.

Bargain level: Last Chance


Marshawn Lynch, RB, Oakland Raiders
Current ADP range: 85-110

After taking nearly two years off, Beast Mode was like you on Madden after you "found yourself" by backpacking through Europe and/or had your first kid. Sure, you were a little rusty on the sticks at first but after a month or so you were back dominating and talking trash to that 12-year old through your headset like your usual maniac self.

After his extended sabbatical, Marshawn in the first half of the season was still finding his sea legs, as it were, averaging just 3.69 yards per carry from Weeks 1-7. But in the back half of the season, Lynch was back to his mud-stomping ways, breaking tackles and bursting through seams.

From Weeks 9 and on, Lynch averaged 4.63 yards per carry and was a top 13 fantasy back regardless of format. He is currently being drafted around the RB30 range and at that price I'm buying all day long.

Doug Martin scares me zero percent and with Jon Gruden as the head man it appears this team will look to pound the rock up front early and often.

If you're getting this Marshawn after pick 90, get him and go.

Bargain level: Everything Must Go!


Philip Rivers, QB, Los Angeles Chargers
Current ADP range: 105-185

Posting 4,500 yards and 28 touchdowns to 11 total turnovers, Rivers was the QB8 on the season last year. Despite the name, the pedigree and the numbers, mock drafters apparently don't believe in a repeat performance which is confounding to me because the offense on paper could be better this year.

The team added Mike Pouncey, a three-time Pro Bowler, at center and also get 2017 second rounder Forrest Lamp back from injury.

The loss of Hunter Henry certainly hurts but with all the weapons that still remain (Keenan Allen, Melvin Gordon) and an improved offensive line, Rivers is one of my favorite late-round quarterbacks that could flirt with top 5 positional upside.

Mike Williams, WR, Los Angeles Chargers
Current ADP range: 110-200

If Rivers is to maintain his top 10 fantasy QB status, certainly a lot of it will be because of 2017 first round pick Mike Williams.

After suffering a back injury last offseason, Williams was clearly not his normal explosive self even in his return from injury. With a clean bill of health entering 2018, expect Williams to be that proto-typical big-body WR that Rivers has loved to throw to downfield throughout his career.

Hunter Henry is gone for the season opening up plenty of red zone opportunities for Williams and with Keenan Allen sucking in coverage underneath, there will be plenty of chances for Williams to make plays deep this season.

I currently have Williams ranked as a top 100 player because of anticipated targets and air yards but for some reason he is going typically in the 150-175 range. This presents tremendous value for those of you savvy enough to follow my advice and take him in rounds 11 or 12.

Bargain level: Back of someone's trunk, probably a hot item, but you're not PO so it's not your problem


Paul Richardson, WR, Washington Redskins
Current ADP range: 150-undrafted

I have no idea what I'm missing here with Richardson. He was a terrific real-life wide receiver last year and a borderline starter in fantasy as well. Clocking in as the WR39 last year in PPR he was playing third fiddle behind Doug Baldwin and Jimmy Graham in the Pacific Northwest.

Now in Washington (D.C., not the state) Richardson projects to be the team's 1A/B alongside Josh Doctson.

An excellent route runner, Richardson has proven to be a solid Marvin-Jones type weapon downfield as well. His 15 air yards per target last year were the 10th-most in the NFL per Next Gen Stats, putting him in similar company to DeSean Jackson, Will Fuller and the aforementioned Jones. (An extensive argument why air yards are just as important as targets in projecting fantasy points can be found here.)

With Terrelle Pryor and Ryan Grant gone, that's about 100 targets up for grabs. And with Alex Smith under center, I believe he will find Richardson as a more reliable target than Doctson.

My love affair with Doctson is well documented but he is more of a "throw it up and go get it" receiver while Richardson is much more a technician. If we know anything about Alex Smith, he will most certainly not just "throw it up" and ask his receivers to make plays. Look for Richardson to emerge as a go-to weapon. A stat line of 1,000 to 1,100 yards (yes, I'm going there) with 6-8 touchdowns is a realistic expectation.

I have Richardson as an easy top 100 player and yet we're seeing him come off the board after pick 150. If he's around after pick 120, you're practically stealing.

Austin Ekeler, RB, Los Angeles Chargers
Current ADP range: undrafted

Outside the top 200 in nearly every mock and currently not considered a top 60 running back, Ekeler's services can be had for free -- and who doesn't like free?

The little-known, 5-foot-10 back out of Western State in Colorado ran a 4.43 40 at his pro day to go along with a 40.5-inch vertical. He has quicks all day long. But don't let his 195-pound frame fool you, Ekeler plays with power that belies his size.

His overall stat line last year was nothing to write home about (260 rushing, 279 receiving, 5 touchdowns) but he showed flashes last year that have me extremely excited about this second-year player.

During an 11-game stretch from Week 4 to Week 15, Ekeler was averaging 9.6 points per game in PPR, ON JUST SIX TOUCHES PER GAME.

I'm not saying he can maintain that cray-cray productivity but I do think it's reasonable to expect a slight uptick in touches after it took the rookie some time to be fully integrated into the offense.

Ken Whisenhunt used him all over the field last year, which is why a 400/400 season with 35 receptions and 5-7 touchdowns is an absolutely attainable stat line for Ekeler. Those numbers would easily make him a top 30 RB. Bottom line, Ekeler has standalone value even if you don't view him as a handcuff to Melvin Gordon.

Tarik Cohen in the eighth round or Ekeler in the 16th? I know where I'm going.

James D. Koh is an anchor and host for NFL Network. He is also the host of the NFL Fantasy Live Podcast and a guest columnist for the NFL.com editorial staff. Follow him on Twitter @JamesDKoh to tell him how wrong he is.

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