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Published: Aug. 24, 2016 at 05:05 p.m.
Updated: Aug. 24, 2016 at 05:31 p.m.

15 players to target in fantasy drafts

Often times the key to building a winning fantasy roster in the draft comes down to finding the right value at the right time. With that in mind, I've highlighted a player in each round I feel great about at their current average draft position (ADP), based on the data provided by fantasyfootballcalculator.com. These aren't the only players to target in each round, but I try to provide context as to why you should target the following 15 fantasy options at each spot. Lastly, this isn't necessarily a round-by-round draft strategy, though looking at it I'd be pretty happy walking away from a draft with this team. If you have more questions or need additional insight on a certain player, hit me up on Twitter @AlexGelhar.

15 Photos Total

  • Miller just sneaks into the first round (ADP 1.09), and I think he's a prime player to target there if the elite wide receivers are gone. Last year he averaged just shy of 16 fantasy points per game when he received 15-plus touches, but just 7.14 fppg when receiving fewer than 15 touches. That includes his 12-touch, 89-yard, two-touchdown performance against the Giants in Week 14, where he scored twice on his first seven touches. Bill O'Brien, his new head coach in Houston, has given one running back 15-plus touches in 26 of 32 games with the Texans. Arian Foster crossed that mark in virtually every game in which he was fully healthy, so had he been injured less that total would likely be higher. O'Brien wants a featured running back to take pressure off of Brock Osweiler, and that burden will fall on Miller's shoulders. I wouldn't be surprised if he's in the mix to lead the league in yards from scrimmage by the end of the year. 15

    Matt Patterson/Associated Press

    Round 1: Lamar Miller, RB, Texans

    Miller just sneaks into the first round (ADP 1.09), and I think he's a prime player to target there if the elite wide receivers are gone. Last year he averaged just shy of 16 fantasy points per game when he received 15-plus touches, but just 7.14 fppg when receiving fewer than 15 touches. That includes his 12-touch, 89-yard, two-touchdown performance against the Giants in Week 14, where he scored twice on his first seven touches. Bill O'Brien, his new head coach in Houston, has given one running back 15-plus touches in 26 of 32 games with the Texans. Arian Foster crossed that mark in virtually every game in which he was fully healthy, so had he been injured less that total would likely be higher. O'Brien wants a featured running back to take pressure off of Brock Osweiler, and that burden will fall on Miller's shoulders. I wouldn't be surprised if he's in the mix to lead the league in yards from scrimmage by the end of the year.

  • It's hard to find a safer pick than Allen Robinson in Round 2. Many of the other players are returning from injury (Dez Bryant, Jamaal Charles) or carry other question marks into the season (Devonta Freeman: workload, Eddie Lacy: fitness). Robinson truly broke out last year, but early indications this offseason and preseason are that he's taken his game to another level in 2016. While Robinson isn't likely to see 18 targets within the 10-yard line again, he's still an elite red zone option in a young offense that should be able to move the football. The worries of regression around Robinson are far overblown. He'll put up WR1 totals again, making him an ideal second-round choice. 14

    Kirby Lee/USA TODAY

    Round 2: Allen Robinson, WR, Jaguars

    It's hard to find a safer pick than Allen Robinson in Round 2. Many of the other players are returning from injury (Dez Bryant, Jamaal Charles) or carry other question marks into the season (Devonta Freeman: workload, Eddie Lacy: fitness). Robinson truly broke out last year, but early indications this offseason and preseason are that he's taken his game to another level in 2016. While Robinson isn't likely to see 18 targets within the 10-yard line again, he's still an elite red zone option in a young offense that should be able to move the football. The worries of regression around Robinson are far overblown. He'll put up WR1 totals again, making him an ideal second-round choice.

  • I'm simply baffled by Allen carrying a third-round ADP on both fantasyfootballcalculator.com and NFL.com. Prior to his season-ending lacerated kindey last year (a freak injury), the Cal product was on pace for 134 catches and 1,450 yards. He's an elite wide receiver reuniting with the offensive coordinator (Ken Whisenhunt) who helped make him a fantasy darling as a rookie. Add in that Stevie Johnson is on injured reserve, and Allen's target share of the Chargers offense could reach astronomical heights. His touchdown upside is a bit lower than other wideouts, but Allen's share of the targets in this offense will make him a consistent weekly contributor to any lineup. 13

    Greg Trott/Associated Press

    Round 3: Keenan Allen, WR, Chargers

    I'm simply baffled by Allen carrying a third-round ADP on both fantasyfootballcalculator.com and NFL.com. Prior to his season-ending lacerated kindey last year (a freak injury), the Cal product was on pace for 134 catches and 1,450 yards. He's an elite wide receiver reuniting with the offensive coordinator (Ken Whisenhunt) who helped make him a fantasy darling as a rookie. Add in that Stevie Johnson is on injured reserve, and Allen's target share of the Chargers offense could reach astronomical heights. His touchdown upside is a bit lower than other wideouts, but Allen's share of the targets in this offense will make him a consistent weekly contributor to any lineup.

  • The disrespect shown towards Randall Cobb in fantasy drafts right now makes no sense to me. Throw out last year, as Cobb was playing out of position in an offense lacking surrounding talent while dealing with a nagging shoulder injury. That's a recipe for fantasy disaster ... as we saw. The biggest boon for Cobb is the return of Jordy Nelson. Per the Rotoviz Game Splits app, Cobb averages 4.08 more PPR points per game and 3.59 standard points per game when Nelson plays alongside him, since 2012. He's a high-end WR2 being drafted like a high-end WR3, so be sure to take advantage of this oversight. 12

    Matt Ludtke/Associated Press

    Round 4: Randall Cobb, WR, Packers

    The disrespect shown towards Randall Cobb in fantasy drafts right now makes no sense to me. Throw out last year, as Cobb was playing out of position in an offense lacking surrounding talent while dealing with a nagging shoulder injury. That's a recipe for fantasy disaster ... as we saw. The biggest boon for Cobb is the return of Jordy Nelson. Per the Rotoviz Game Splits app, Cobb averages 4.08 more PPR points per game and 3.59 standard points per game when Nelson plays alongside him, since 2012. He's a high-end WR2 being drafted like a high-end WR3, so be sure to take advantage of this oversight.

  • Earlier in the offseason I was higher on Giovani Bernard than Jeremy Hill given Hill's 2015 performance (it wasn't great) and the losses the Bengals suffered to their wide receiving corps (Mohamed Sanu, Marvin Jones). However, seeing Hill run in the preseason and <a href="https://twitter.com/pauldehnerjr/status/768123217483620352" target="new">hearing rumblings</a> that he could be set for a breakout season have me re-thinking how I see this backfield. Rather than Bernard gaining a wealth of additional passing game targets, the team could lean on a more run-heavy approach with a reinvigorated Hill. That's why I love him in Round 5 -- he has RB1 upside again in a good offense, but at worst offers a touchdown-dependent floor as one of the team's top red-zone options. 11

    Frank Victores/Associated Press

    Round 5: Jeremy Hill, RB, Bengals

    Earlier in the offseason I was higher on Giovani Bernard than Jeremy Hill given Hill's 2015 performance (it wasn't great) and the losses the Bengals suffered to their wide receiving corps (Mohamed Sanu, Marvin Jones). However, seeing Hill run in the preseason and hearing rumblings that he could be set for a breakout season have me re-thinking how I see this backfield. Rather than Bernard gaining a wealth of additional passing game targets, the team could lean on a more run-heavy approach with a reinvigorated Hill. That's why I love him in Round 5 -- he has RB1 upside again in a good offense, but at worst offers a touchdown-dependent floor as one of the team's top red-zone options.

  • Donte Moncrief is probably the year's <a href="http://www.nfl.com/fantasyfootball/story/0ap3000000674857/article/aj-green-donte-moncrief-lead-mustown-wrs" target="new">most obvious breakout candidate</a>, so his sixth-round price tag in most drafts is an absolute steal. It's all lining up for Moncrief after he emerged last year as a dynamic, polished receiver with immense physical gifts. Add in a healthy Andrew Luck and Phillip Dorsett, and the Colts passing offense looks ready to take flight. It'd honestly be an upset if Moncrief failed to finish as a top-24 wide receiver in 2016. 10

    Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

    Round 6: Donte Moncrief, WR, Colts

    Donte Moncrief is probably the year's most obvious breakout candidate, so his sixth-round price tag in most drafts is an absolute steal. It's all lining up for Moncrief after he emerged last year as a dynamic, polished receiver with immense physical gifts. Add in a healthy Andrew Luck and Phillip Dorsett, and the Colts passing offense looks ready to take flight. It'd honestly be an upset if Moncrief failed to finish as a top-24 wide receiver in 2016.

  • This wasn't the prettiest round based on ADPs, but the hate has gone too far on Frank Gore. You can look at his 2015 campaign as a sign that Father Time finally caught up to Gore, or you can look at it realistically. Gore averaged over 18 touches per game behind an abysmal offensive line with no passing game for much of the season to keep defenses honest. It's a wonder he even managed 3.7 yards per carry and played in all 16 games. With Andrew Luck back under center and an improved offensive line in front of him, Gore should be smack in the middle of the RB2 tier by the season's end. He's an epic bargain in Round 7. 9

    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    Round 7: Frank Gore, RB, Colts

    This wasn't the prettiest round based on ADPs, but the hate has gone too far on Frank Gore. You can look at his 2015 campaign as a sign that Father Time finally caught up to Gore, or you can look at it realistically. Gore averaged over 18 touches per game behind an abysmal offensive line with no passing game for much of the season to keep defenses honest. It's a wonder he even managed 3.7 yards per carry and played in all 16 games. With Andrew Luck back under center and an improved offensive line in front of him, Gore should be smack in the middle of the RB2 tier by the season's end. He's an epic bargain in Round 7.

  • No one is expecting Marvin Jones to replace Calvin Johnson, but to let what could be the No. 1 wide receiver on a pass-happy offense fall to the eighth round is insane. Jones and Tate figure to be at worst a 1a-1b duo, with Jones having a bit more of an edge as a boundary and deep threat. Look for Jones to far out-perform his ADP, and it's not crazy to reach for him a round or two earlier than he's currently going. 8

    Raj Mehta/USA TODAY

    Round 8: Marvin Jones, WR, Lions

    No one is expecting Marvin Jones to replace Calvin Johnson, but to let what could be the No. 1 wide receiver on a pass-happy offense fall to the eighth round is insane. Jones and Tate figure to be at worst a 1a-1b duo, with Jones having a bit more of an edge as a boundary and deep threat. Look for Jones to far out-perform his ADP, and it's not crazy to reach for him a round or two earlier than he's currently going.

  • I went back and forth a lot with Eifert here, but his upside is simply too great to pass up in Round 9. We don't know exactly how many games he'll miss to start the season, but once he comes back he'll immediately be the No. 2 option in an efficient offense with a solid quarterback. You can grab a tight end in the final rounds to hold out for Eifert (Jared Cook, Zach Miller, Vance McDonald, etc.) very easily. Eifert is near uncoverable around the goal line thanks to his size and natural ability. Last year he converted six of his seven targets inside the 10-yard line into touchdowns, and scored 11 times on 15 red-zone targets overall. 7

    Frank Victores/Associated Press

    Round 9: Tyler Eifert, TE, Bengals

    I went back and forth a lot with Eifert here, but his upside is simply too great to pass up in Round 9. We don't know exactly how many games he'll miss to start the season, but once he comes back he'll immediately be the No. 2 option in an efficient offense with a solid quarterback. You can grab a tight end in the final rounds to hold out for Eifert (Jared Cook, Zach Miller, Vance McDonald, etc.) very easily. Eifert is near uncoverable around the goal line thanks to his size and natural ability. Last year he converted six of his seven targets inside the 10-yard line into touchdowns, and scored 11 times on 15 red-zone targets overall.

  • To me, Philip Rivers is the crown-jewel of the late-round quarterback options for two main reasons. First, he welcomes back a healthy Keenan Allen and Antonio Gates, as well as new arrival and field-stretcher in Travis Benjamin. Second, he is reunited with offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt. The last time these two were together (2013), Rivers completed a career-high 69.5 percent of his passes, finished fourth in the league in yards (4,478), fifth in passing touchdowns (32), and sixth in fantasy scoring (18 fppg average), despite finishing 22nd in pass attempts. Rivers will be a QB1 in 2016 and comes at a steep discount. 6

    Mark Zaleski/Associated Press

    Round 10: Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers

    To me, Philip Rivers is the crown-jewel of the late-round quarterback options for two main reasons. First, he welcomes back a healthy Keenan Allen and Antonio Gates, as well as new arrival and field-stretcher in Travis Benjamin. Second, he is reunited with offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt. The last time these two were together (2013), Rivers completed a career-high 69.5 percent of his passes, finished fourth in the league in yards (4,478), fifth in passing touchdowns (32), and sixth in fantasy scoring (18 fppg average), despite finishing 22nd in pass attempts. Rivers will be a QB1 in 2016 and comes at a steep discount.

  • Since he made the jump to the NFL in 2013, Chip Kelly has never had a No. 1 wide receiver finish worse than 20th in fantasy scoring at his position (Jordan Matthews, 2015). DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin had career years in Kelly's high-volume offenses, and Torrey Smith fits that mold. Sure, the quarterback position in San Francisco isn't ideal, but was Sam Bradford all that great in Philadelphia? The 49ers also figure to see a number of pass-heavy game scripts while trailing this year, setting up Smith for a potentially huge year. 5

    Tony Avelar/Associated Press

    Round 11: Torrey Smith, WR, 49ers

    Since he made the jump to the NFL in 2013, Chip Kelly has never had a No. 1 wide receiver finish worse than 20th in fantasy scoring at his position (Jordan Matthews, 2015). DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin had career years in Kelly's high-volume offenses, and Torrey Smith fits that mold. Sure, the quarterback position in San Francisco isn't ideal, but was Sam Bradford all that great in Philadelphia? The 49ers also figure to see a number of pass-heavy game scripts while trailing this year, setting up Smith for a potentially huge year.

  • If you miss out on Philip Rivers, look to land Tyrod Taylor a few rounds later. Or grab both, if you're into that sort of thing. Taylor missed two games with injury last season, but from Weeks 1-4 (pre-injury) he was the fourth-highest scoring quarterback, and from Weeks 9-17 (returning from injury), he was the ninth-highest scoring quarterback. Had he played 16 games and kept his 19.33 fppg average, he would have finished as the QB5 on the year. His running ability gives him a safe weekly floor, and he boasts a great connection with No. 1 wideout Sammy Watkins. Taylor is a steal in the double-digit rounds. 4

    Gary Wiepert/Associated Press

    Round 12: Tyrod Taylor, QB, Bills

    If you miss out on Philip Rivers, look to land Tyrod Taylor a few rounds later. Or grab both, if you're into that sort of thing. Taylor missed two games with injury last season, but from Weeks 1-4 (pre-injury) he was the fourth-highest scoring quarterback, and from Weeks 9-17 (returning from injury), he was the ninth-highest scoring quarterback. Had he played 16 games and kept his 19.33 fppg average, he would have finished as the QB5 on the year. His running ability gives him a safe weekly floor, and he boasts a great connection with No. 1 wideout Sammy Watkins. Taylor is a steal in the double-digit rounds.

  • With Martellus Bennett now in New England, Zach Miller is the starting tight end for the Bears, a position that sees an average of 24 percent of Jay Cutler's targets over the last three years. Miller could very likely end up the second-most targeted player in Chicago behind Alshon Jeffery, and offers TE1 upside in Round 13. It's tough to find too many better bargains than Miller right now in fantasy. 3

    Al Messerschmidt/Associated Press

    Round 13: Zach Miller, TE, Bears

    With Martellus Bennett now in New England, Zach Miller is the starting tight end for the Bears, a position that sees an average of 24 percent of Jay Cutler's targets over the last three years. Miller could very likely end up the second-most targeted player in Chicago behind Alshon Jeffery, and offers TE1 upside in Round 13. It's tough to find too many better bargains than Miller right now in fantasy.

  • I profiled Mohamed Sanu earlier this week as a <a href="http://www.nfl.com/fantasyfootball/story/0ap3000000689373/article/spencer-ware-tyrod-taylor-lead-deep-fantasy-sleepers" target="new">deep sleeper</a>, but here are the highlights as to why you should draft him late. Last year, Leonard Hankerson was on pace for 68 catches, 964 yards, and eight touchdowns at the quarter-season mark. Those would have been good enough numbers for Hankerson to finish as the WR21 in standard leagues. Sanu is a better overall player than Hankerson and figures to command most of the 116 targets vacated by the departures of Hankerson and Roddy White. He possesses WR2 upside at a WR4 asking price. 2

    David Richard/Associated Press

    Round 14: Mohamed Sanu, WR, Falcons

    I profiled Mohamed Sanu earlier this week as a deep sleeper, but here are the highlights as to why you should draft him late. Last year, Leonard Hankerson was on pace for 68 catches, 964 yards, and eight touchdowns at the quarter-season mark. Those would have been good enough numbers for Hankerson to finish as the WR21 in standard leagues. Sanu is a better overall player than Hankerson and figures to command most of the 116 targets vacated by the departures of Hankerson and Roddy White. He possesses WR2 upside at a WR4 asking price.

  • Spencer Ware is the one handcuff I am 100 percent on board with taking this year, but that's because he also potentially provides a lineup with standalone value. Ware was a beast in 2015, averaging 5.6 yards per carry, leading all rushers (min. 50 carries) in <a href="https://twitter.com/Pat_Thorman/status/713378482600951808" target="new">yards after contact per attempt</a>, and scoring touchdowns on five of his nine attempts inside the 10-yard line. He's the top backup for Jamaal Charles, but could get worked into the mix on a much more regular basis as a physical, between-the-tackles hammer for the Chiefs. 1

    Ryan Kang/Associated Press

    Roudn 15: Spencer Ware, RB, Chiefs

    Spencer Ware is the one handcuff I am 100 percent on board with taking this year, but that's because he also potentially provides a lineup with standalone value. Ware was a beast in 2015, averaging 5.6 yards per carry, leading all rushers (min. 50 carries) in yards after contact per attempt, and scoring touchdowns on five of his nine attempts inside the 10-yard line. He's the top backup for Jamaal Charles, but could get worked into the mix on a much more regular basis as a physical, between-the-tackles hammer for the Chiefs.