Drafting a fantasy football team can be way more stressful than it sounds, but that’s a necessary evil of sports fandom. Those who don’t participate don’t understand why we pace for seven-plus hours every Sunday, rooting for our real-life and fantasy teams to win. It’s all part of the fun, even if it seems like we’re not having it in the moment.
The first couple rounds of fantasy drafts are usually more lighthearted. Everyone knows the big names and while you might get sniped on a player before your turn, there are a plethora of quality back-up options at your disposal. This season, it appears the third round—particularly the back-half—is when the pressure really gets cooking… and when championship decisions can be made.
The third round feels like a natural pivot point for fantasy managers this season. Let’s take a look at the 11 players with an ADP between 29.0 and 37.8, prime candidates to go in the third round:
- Todd Gurley (RB - ATL)
- Leonard Fournette (RB - JAX)
- Allen Robinson (WR - CHI)
- D.J. Moore (WR - CAR)
- Odell Beckham Jr. (WR - CLE)
- Adam Thielen (WR - MIN)
- Chris Carson (RB - SEA)
- JuJu Smith-Schuster (WR - PIT)
- Amari Cooper (WR - DAL)
- Le’Veon Bell (RB - NYJ)
- David Johnson (RB - HOU)
What a fascinating list of players. Right off the bat, four of the five running backs on this list (excluding Carson) are former no-doubt first-round fantasy picks that are now going between RB15-20 in ADP.
Do you take a chance on Gurley, who joins a great offense—although not one terribly friendly to running backs—and has no competition for carries anywhere on the field? He’s a walking injury risk at this point despite his age, but he’s also only missed four regular season games over the last three years. He’ll get plenty of red zone carries and could prove to be an RB1 again if he can match his 15 games played from last season.
Fournette finished as the RB6 in total PPR points and the RB9 in average fantasy points per game last season, but has an extensive injury history of his own. If he’s used as often in the receiving game in 2020 as he was in 2019 (76 receptions on 100 targets), he’ll provide a solid return on his ADP. But if he gets hurt, will he preserve his body for free agency?
Carson is a personal favorite of mine, but he’s recovering from a hip injury and had a bad case of fumblitis last season. Should either of those issues crop up again this season, he could lose playing time to Carlos Hyde or Rashaad Penny.
I’m pretty bullish on Bell this season, but given the fact that he’s running behind a poor offensive line, his head coach hates him, and he’s coming off the least efficient season of his career, there are plenty of reasons to worry.
The unceremonious ending to Johnson’s Cardinals career is concerning, but Johnson averaged more than 20 PPR fantasy points per game through the first six weeks of the 2019 season, ranking as the No. 5 overall fantasy running back in total points. Injuries and the addition of Kenyan Drake sapped his rest-of-season value, but can he stay healthy and re-find his first-round fantasy game as Houston’s lead back?
What about the wide receivers?
Robinson is a star, but he’s attached to terrible quarterback play yet again. Moore is talented, but how will he fit in Carolina’s new offense? Beckham Jr. was healthy last season, but has an extensive injury history of his own and the Cleveland Browns may run a lot more this season under new head coach Kevin Stefanski. Thielen is the man now in Minnesota, but now that he won’t be moving back into the slot the majority of the time, is his fantasy value capped? He also has an injury history.
Keeping with the injury theme, Smith-Schuster has plenty to prove after a very disappointing third season. However, he gets starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger back. Cooper is fairly safe, though, unless you’re really worried about rookie CeeDee Lamb getting a lot more looks than Randall Cobb got last season.
There’s always a risk drafting any players, but the extreme variance of reasonable possible outcomes for this group of players is astounding and must be noted. With young, potentially high-upside players like Jonathan Taylor, A.J. Brown, Cortland Sutton, and others going one round later, this feels like area fantasy championships are won and lost. Make sure you do your research and draft with confidence when you’re on the clock for your third (and fourth) picks.