Remember the song "Safe and Sound" by Capital Cities? It was a big hit a few years back and still holds up today. When that jam comes on the radio, I immediately put the volume to eleven and rock out. And if I end up landing any player on the list below in my fantasy drafts, I'm going to rejoice the same way. All of these guys present the safest options in their respective rounds (ADP data taken from FantasyPros.com). I know, maybe you don't want to reach for a quarterback or tight end as early as Tom Brady or Travis Kelce are going. But they're going so early for a reason because they're consistent and safe fantasy producers to anchor your squad with. It's worth noting that this list only goes to Round 9 because after that, playing it safe is a fool's game. So if my list of riskiest players to draft got you down, let this list of safest players lift you up. Let's do this.
Go ahead and let me have it on Twitter @MattFranchise if you disagree. Chances are that I will promptly block you, but at least I know you're paying attention, so thanks for that.
Round 1: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, New York Giants - You already know Odell Beckham Jr. is a first-round pick in fantasy football. There's virtually zero concern about his production level, his otherworldly athleticism that allows for inhuman plays and his ability to do big things after the catch. A little statistical evidence for good measure: Beckham is just one of three players in NFL history to begin his career with three straight seasons of 1,000-plus receiving yards and 10-plus receiving touchdowns. He has finished as fantasy's WR4, WR5 and WR5 in each of the last three seasons and has a career average of 14.7 standard fantasy points per game. The Giants added veteran star Brandon Marshall to the mix which is nothing but a positive for Beckham's outlook. Marshall should draw some coverage away from Beckham, although he managed the third-highest success rate versus double coverage (67.7%) last season per Matt Harmon's Reception Perception findings. The pair owns the highest combined career receiving yards per game (168.1) of any duo with at least 75 games played entering a season. Safety first, indeed.
Round 2: Jordy Nelson, WR, Green Bay Packers -Jordy Nelson started slow last year, coming off an ACL tear in the 2015 preseason. But don't let the slow start deter you; he finished with 14 touchdowns, over 1,200 yards and was fantasy's WR2 by season's end. Having Aaron Rodgers as his quarterback helps in the safest pick discussion, too. In his last four fully-healthy seasons, Rodgers has averaged an impressive 37 touchdown passes per year. Nelson was out all of 2015, but his production with Rodgers when healthy is absolutely staggering, as my pal Alex Gelhar recently pointed out: Nelson has averaged 88 receptions, 1,346 yards and 14 touchdowns per season in the tandem's last three full seasons together. And in the red zone Nelson led all NFL receivers with 31 targets last season, 15 of which were inside the 10-yard line. The next closest wideout was his teammate, Davante Adams, who had 23 red zone looks. Safe to say, you shouldn't have to think twice about selecting Nelson if he falls to you in Round 2.
Round 3: Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots - Alright, first things first. Tom Brady is the GOAT (so I've heard). So he's a safe pick for that reason, obviously. I understand the strategy of waiting to draft a quarterback and personally employ it often. But there are situations where it makes sense to target Brady here, and if you do land him there is absolutely no reason to worry. Don't look at his 2016 season totals, because they're skewed by the four games he missed to start the year with a suspension. He threw 28 touchdown passes in 12 games last year which put him on pace for 37 in 16 games, that would have been his highest total since 2011 (39). Now factor in that LeGarrette Blount is out, meaning potentially more pass attempts near the end zone. Toss in a healthy Rob Gronkowski, an added speedster in Brandin Cooks and the return of Julian Edelman and a slew of other talented receivers and receiving backs, and Brady is poised for greatness once again. Just to pad the stats a bit, per NextGenStats, Brady ranked in the top five among quarterbacks last year in passer rating on deep passes (an attempt of 20-plus air yards). On throws of that nature, Brady went 18-for-47 with a six-to-one touchdown-to-interception ratio and a 116.8 passer rating. You can see how the addition of a guy like Brandin Cooks would be beneficial to Brady's fantasy outlook. Did I mention he's the GOAT?
Round 4: Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs - Last year Travis Kelce was the TE1 in fantasy football, and in my humble opinion, he has yet to reach his full potential. He had a streak of four consecutive 100-yard games and six total on his way to over 1,100 yards receiving for the season and added four touchdowns. Chatter from coach Andy Reid this summer about the team getting Kelce more involved as a "wide receiver" makes his ceiling even higher as we look ahead. And considering Kansas City is entering the season with the undersized Tyreek Hill as their No. 1 receiver, it makes Kelce's big-bodied presence on the field that much more valuable. The target share, potential for more touchdowns and his league-leading ability to break tackles (Kelce led all tight ends in average yards after catch last year per ProFootballFocus) plus the fact that you don't have to pay the Gronk-price for him, it makes sense why Kelce might be the safest and best tight end pick in fantasy.
Round 5: Keenan Allen, WR, Los Angeles Chargers - Before you balk at Keenan Allen's inclusion this "safe" list, consider that his injuries the last few seasons have been more bad luck than, for lack of a better term, injury-proneness. In 2015 he missed the second half of the year with a freak kidney injury. Last year he suffered a non-contact ACL tear in Week 1, ending his season. That was horrible, but on the bright side, it gave him more time to recover for this year. Now, he's fully back and has allegedly been "abusing" secondaries in camp practice sessions. He recently turned in his best practice session of the summer per the Chargers' official site and has apparently found his groove. With 148 catches for 1,829 yards and 12 touchdowns in his first two seasons (29 games), Allen is the true No. 1 wideout that Philip Rivers has been waiting for. In fact, Rivers is a much better quarterback when Allen is healthy. Since 2015, Rivers sports a 101.6 passer rating with Allen (333 passing yards per game). Without Allen, Rivers owns a 86.3 passer rating (269 pass yards per game) in that same span. The fact that you can get him in Round 5 is lunacy but makes Allen that much safer considering you'll have already insulated your receiving corps by that point.
Round 6: Julian Edelman, WR, New England Patriots - I've already gushed about Tom Brady, so why not talk up his BFF, Julian Edelman? He's about as safe as they come in terms of consistent week-to-week production. In fact, Edelman has racked up 70-plus receiving yards in each of his last 11 games in 2016, the longest active streak in the NFL. Over the last four seasons, Edelman has averaged 9.67 targets per game and while he's beginning to age and does have some injury concerns, it's a good sign that he was on the field all 16 games last year. He recorded 159 targets, ranking him third in the league behind Mike Evans and Beckham. And while he won't necessarily be a huge touchdown guy -- his career-high is seven in 2015 -- the consistently high volume will be difficult to pass over in Round 6 come draft day.
Round 7: Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona Cardinals - Ageless wonder Larry Fitzgerald is shaping up to be the absolute safest pick among middle-round wideouts in fantasy this year. Sure, he'll be 34-years-old when the season starts, but don't let that deter you. The dude led the entire NFL with 107 receptions last year, so he's still got what it takes to be a wide receiver workhorse. He's compiled 145 and 150 targets in each of the last two seasons and 100-plus catches in each. With nothing but negatives out of Arizona in terms of the wide receiver corps over the last few weeks, Fitzgerald has remained a source of positivity. John Brown is reportedly still dealing with injuries hindered by his sickle cell trait, and coach Bruce Arians has made some alarming comments about the rest of the pass-catchers. You might be wondering about Carson Palmer's mediocre performance last year. Well, the team put him on a different regimen this offseason to keep his arm fresh. He wore it out in 2016 and it showed. Even still, the Cardinals' offense ran through Fitzgerald (and David Johnson) and the way things are going this summer, it doesn't sound like that's going to change in 2017.
Round 8: Ameer Abdullah, RB, Detroit Lions - I know you're going to think I'm nuts for labeling Ameer Abdullah "safe" but he's a guy I'm targeting in every draft for a few reasons. Yes, he missed nearly all last season with a foot injury. Yes, he had ball security issues as a rookie. But he's 100 percent healthy heading into 2017, and if Detroit was worried about either of the aforementioned red flags, they would have gone after a running back in the draft or free agency in the offseason. They did not. Abdullah is plugged in as the team's primary back, and it was evident that the Lions want him involved in the offense early and often as he received the first two touches of their first preseason contest. He made a defender miss in one-on-one coverage and gained 14 yards for a first down up the sideline. It was clear from that one play that Abdullah is back. The injury-prone tag isn't fair; he played all 16 games as a rookie and led the team in rushing. He was even dubbed the second-most important player on the team by Lions' beat reporters, after Matthew Stafford. Enhancing his safe-pick status is the fact that you can get him in Round 8, making him nothing more than a flex running back for minimal risk, who could pay huge dividends.
Round 9: Jamison Crowder, WR, Washington Redskins - The Washington Redskins lost two key wideouts in free agency this past offseason, leaving the window of opportunity wide open for third-year receiver Jamison Crowder. You've likely seen the Terrelle Pryor hype train rolling by at some point this summer, and he's a talented, big-bodied, tremendous athlete. But Crowder, a much smaller player who's played mostly in the slot in three-wide sets his first two seasons, has been upgraded to the team's No. 2 role opposite Pryor. Even in such a limited slot role last year, Crowder saw 99 targets and scored seven times. That number should take a huge jump up with the departures of Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson who left 214 targets up for grabs. Reports from Washington beat writers note that Crowder has beaten Josh Norman in coverage during practice, looks like Kirk Cousins' first option on passing downs, is dangerous near the end zone and meshes well with his quarterback's quick-fire approach from the pocket. Washington was one of the most pass-happy offenses in the NFL last year which should continue, making Crowder that much safer given his asking price.