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Fantasy football rankings – Mike Clay’s 192 players who should be drafted


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Mike ClayESPN Writer

CloseFantasy football, NFL analyst for ESPN.com
Member of Pro Football Writers of America
Founding director of Pro Football Focus Fantasy
2013 FSTA award winner for most accurate preseason rankings

During the offseason, 2,880 human beings (32 teams x 90 players) can be rostered by an NFL team. Once Week 1 rolls around, that number is cut down to 1,760 (32 x 55). The ESPN Fantasy Football player database includes nearly 2,500 players.

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You can’t be expected to know all of those players, which is why “The 192” is here to make your life easier.

Why 192? Fantasy leagues come in all shapes in sizes, but many have settled into the vicinity of 12 teams and 16 roster spots. “The 192” is a list of the 192 players who should be drafted (and thus rostered) in a 12-team, 16-round, PPR league with relatively standard scoring and lineup settings. The players are technically listed in the order they should be drafted, though it’s important to remember that drafts are fluid and your decisions should be altered based on what’s left on the board and your previous selections.

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What if you’re in an eight-team league? Or a 16-teamer? The 192 can still help you win, but you’ll certainly need to make tweaks in the middle to late rounds. For example, in a smaller league, you may want to wait even longer at quarterback because the position is so deep. In deeper leagues, running backs and tight ends should be more of a priority, as those positions lack depth and could leave you with a weak spot if you wait until late.

The 192 should serve as a simple guide to help you maximize the value of your starting lineup while making the best possible decision in each and every round.

For a deeper look, here are my latest 2020 fantasy football rankings and here is round-by-round analysis via my Ultimate Draft Board.

The 192

1. Christian McCaffrey, CAR, RB1

McCaffrey outscored the next-closest running back by 156 fantasy points last season. He’s a strong bet to see a decrease in production in 2020, but he can afford one and still easily pace the position.

2. Saquon Barkley, NYG, RB2
3. Ezekiel Elliott, DAL, RB3
4. Dalvin Cook, MIN, RB4
5. Alvin Kamara, NO, RB5

There’s a “Big 5” at running back this season, and though McCaffrey is in a tier of his own, the next four players should be off the board by the midpoint of the first round. Kamara might seem surprising here, but note that, despite struggling to find the end zone, he was fantasy’s No. 5 back after returning from injury in Week 10 last season.

6. Michael Thomas, NO, WR1

Thomas, who outscored the next-closest wide receiver by 99 fantasy points last season, is the only wide receiver I’m currently considering in the first round. More on why in the next section.

7. Derrick Henry, TEN, RB6
8. Miles Sanders, PHI, RB7
9. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, KC, RB8
10. Kenyan Drake, ARI, RB9
11. Nick Chubb, CLE, RB10
12. Josh Jacobs, LV, RB11
13. Aaron Jones, GB, RB12
14. Austin Ekeler, LAC, RB13
15. Joe Mixon, CIN, RB14

As far as I’m concerned, there are 14 running backs I truly feel comfortable with in my Week 1 starting lineup. Because of the impending drop-off at the position, I’m very much trying to get two of these 14 backs with my first two picks. If I don’t take two, I’ll essentially be fading that second RB slot in order to load up on other positions. Speaking of which …

Expanded Fantasy Cheat Sheet

Karabell’s tiered rankings: Running backs | Wide receivers

Bowen: Eight who have skills, need opportunity

Clay: Murray leads top breakout candidates

Karabell: Do-Not-Draft list

16. Davante Adams, GB, WR2
17. DeAndre Hopkins, ARI, WR3
18. Julio Jones, ATL, WR4
19. Tyreek Hill, KC, WR5
20. Travis Kelce, KC, TE1
21. Chris Godwin, TB, WR6
22. Mike Evans, TB, WR7
23. George Kittle, SF, TE2
24. Kenny Golladay, DET, WR8
25. DJ Moore, CAR, WR9
26. Allen Robinson, CHI, WR10
27. Adam Thielen, MIN, WR11
28. JuJu Smith-Schuster, PIT, WR12
29. Amari Cooper, DAL, WR13
30. Courtland Sutton, DEN, WR14
31. Odell Beckham Jr., CLE, WR15
32. Calvin Ridley, ATL, WR16
33. A.J. Brown, TEN, WR17

Holy wide receivers, Batman!

One of the primary reasons to attack running back early this season is the absurd depth at wideout during the early to middle stages of drafts. The likes of Evans, Moore, Robinson, Beckham and Cooper can routinely be had in the third round, with Thielen, Smith-Schuster and everyone else listed in this tier available even later. This is also a good spot to grab an elite tight end, Kelce or Kittle.

34. Lamar Jackson, BAL, QB1
35. Patrick Mahomes, KC, QB2

Jackson and Mahomes are in their own tier at quarterback. I value the duo in the late stages of the third round, though generally they’re off the board earlier. I recommend waiting for a better value unless one of them remains on the board at the Round 2/3 turn.

36. Robert Woods, LAR, WR18
37. Tyler Lockett, SEA, WR19
38. Cooper Kupp, LAR, WR20
39. Leonard Fournette, JAC, RB15
40. Chris Carson, SEA, RB16
41. Mark Andrews, BAL, TE3
42. Zach Ertz, PHI, TE4

Woods, Kupp and Lockett could easily be placed in our earlier tier of wideouts, but that group has just a bit more upside this season. Fournette and Carson are viable RB2 targets. Andrews and Ertz, who has come at a nice discount this season, remain quality TE1 plays.

43. David Johnson, HOU, RB17
44. Todd Gurley, ATL, RB18
45. Le’Veon Bell, NYJ, RB19
46. Melvin Gordon, DEN, RB20
47. James Conner, PIT, RB21
48. Jonathan Taylor, IND, RB22
49. Devin Singletary, BUF, RB23

This tier of running backs has generally come off the board before several of the players already listed, but a lot of that is fantasy players panicking over the early RB run and trying to play catch-up. The third and fourth rounds is a good time to pivot away from these shaky options and instead focus on the aforementioned wide receivers and perhaps a tight end.

50. Keenan Allen, LAC, WR21
51. T.Y. Hilton, IND, WR22
52. Terry McLaurin, WAS, WR23
53. Jarvis Landry, CLE, WR24
54. DK Metcalf, SEA, WR25
55. DJ Chark, JAC, WR26

More quality WR options, you say? Allen’s stock is down and Hilton’s up as the former loses and the latter gains the talents of Philip Rivers. The veteran duo joins McLaurin, Landry, Metcalf and Chark as WR2/3 plays.

56. D’Andre Swift, DET, RB24
57. Kareem Hunt, CLE, RB25
58. David Montgomery, CHI, RB26
59. Cam Akers, LAR, RB27
60. Ronald Jones, TB, RB28

If you skipped the earlier veteran RB tier, this is an intriguing area to perhaps throw a dart. Hunt has the highest standalone value for a No. 2 back, as he’ll be busy as a receiver and is an elite insurance option behind Chubb. Day 2 picks Swift and Akers are potential lead backs as rookies. Montgomery and Jones have a bit of “post-hype” breakout appeal after fairly slow starts to their careers.

61. DeVante Parker, MIA, WR27
62. Tyler Boyd, CIN, WR28
63. A.J. Green, CIN, WR29
64. Stefon Diggs, BUF, WR30
65. Michael Gallup, DAL, WR31
66. Will Fuller, HOU, WR32
67. Marquise Brown, BAL, WR33
68. Deebo Samuel, SF, WR34
69. Darren Waller, LV, TE5

We’re into the fifth and sixth round of a draft and still have quality options at wide receiver. Six of the eight listed here are the probable No. 1 options for their respective teams, with Boyd and Gallup coming off a pair of top-25 campaigns. Samuel would be closer to the top 20 WRs if he wasn’t expected to a miss a few games due to injury. Fantasy’s reigning No. 3 tight end, Waller, will see fewer targets but score more touchdowns in 2020.

70. Raheem Mostert, SF, RB29
71. Tarik Cohen, CHI, RB30
72. Mark Ingram, BAL, RB31

We have a short running back tier here, with a few options for your flex spot. Cohen’s ceiling is low, but his floor high as a receiving specialist, whereas Mostert and Ingram might struggle for consistency and receiving volume despite lead-back roles.

73. Deshaun Watson, HOU, QB3
74. Kyler Murray, ARI, QB4
75. Dak Prescott, DAL, QB5
76. Russell Wilson, SEA, QB6

If you don’t take Jackson or Mahomes, you can wait quite a while to target your quarterback. Watson lost Hopkins, but he adds a ton of value with his legs and still has a good WR foursome to throw to. Murray is one of this year’s most likely breakout players. Prescott and Wilson were both top-three finishers in 2019 and are safe QB1 targets.

77. Marvin Jones, DET, WR35
78. Diontae Johnson, PIT, WR36
79. Jamison Crowder, NYJ, WR37
80. Brandin Cooks, HOU, WR38
81. Julian Edelman, NE, WR39
82. Evan Engram, NYG, TE6
83. Tyler Higbee, LAR, TE7

We’re at the midway point of our draft and looking for solid flex options. Jones, Crowder, Cooks and Edelman are fairly safe veterans, with Johnson a strong second-year breakout candidate after posting a top-40 campaign in Pittsburgh’s struggling 2019 offense. We also have a pair of midrange TE1 targets in Engram and Higbee.

84. Kerryon Johnson, DET, RB32
85. Darrell Henderson, LAR, RB33
86. Phillip Lindsay, DEN, RB34
87. James White, NE, RB35
88. Jordan Howard, MIA, RB36
89. Matt Breida, MIA, RB37
90. J.K. Dobbins, BAL, RB38
91. Zack Moss, BUF, RB39
92. Tevin Coleman, SF, RB40

This is a good area for “Zero-RB” drafters to go shopping. Johnson, Henderson, Coleman and Howard/Breida are competing to open Week 1 as their team’s lead back. Lindsay, Moss and White figure to push for double-digit looks most weeks in situational roles. The rookie Dobbins is stuck in a Baltimore timeshare but could emerge as a lead back in time.

93. Sterling Shepard, NYG, WR40
94. Christian Kirk, ARI, WR41
95. Golden Tate, NYG, WR42
96. Preston Williams, MIA, WR43
97. Robby Anderson, CAR, WR44
98. Darius Slayton, NYG, WR45
99. John Brown, BUF, WR46
100. Henry Ruggs III, LV, WR47
101. Emmanuel Sanders, NO, WR48
102. Curtis Samuel, CAR, WR49

This is a fine tier to find flex options and/or your top backup at wide receiver. Ruggs is my top-ranked rookie WR as Las Vegas’ No. 1 at the position, whereas Slayton and Williams are Year 2 leap candidates.

103. Latavius Murray, NO, RB41
104. Alexander Mattison, MIN, RB42
105. Tony Pollard, DAL, RB43

Insurance! Get your insurance here! None of these backs have standalone value, but each will be RB1 plays if Kamara, Cook or Elliott, respectively, miss time. Murray was the top-scoring fantasy RB during the two weeks Kamara was out last season.

106. Mecole Hardman, KC, WR50
107. Jerry Jeudy, DEN, WR51
108. Mike Williams, LAC, WR52
109. Justin Jefferson, MIN, WR53

We’re past Pick 100, which is generally your window to get more aggressive in looking for upside. Here are four more wide receivers who fit the bill, with second-year Hardman and rookies Jefferson and Jeudy positioned for regular playing time. Williams loses some juice with Rivers gone, but is a shoe-in for touchdown regression to the mean.

110. Hunter Henry, LAC, TE8
111. Jared Cook, NO, TE9
112. Noah Fant, DEN, TE10
113. Rob Gronkowski, TB, TE11
114. Hayden Hurst, ATL, TE12
115. T.J. Hockenson, DET, TE13

There’s a lot of value at tight end this season, so if you pass on one of the top guys, you can afford to wait quite a while (like you might normally at quarterback) and still come away with a fine TE1 option. Recent first-round picks Fant, Hockenson and Hurst are terrific breakout options. Gronkowski, Cook and Henry are high-floor veteran plays.

116. Matt Ryan, ATL, QB7
117. Tom Brady, TB, QB8
118. Carson Wentz, PHI, QB9
119. Josh Allen, BUF, QB10
120. Drew Brees, NO, QB11
121. Matthew Stafford, DET, QB12
122. Aaron Rodgers, GB, QB13

This tier rounds out your starting options at quarterback. Brady and Stafford are often available in the double-digit rounds and both are quality options.

123. Breshad Perriman, NYJ, WR54
124. Jalen Reagor, PHI, WR55
125. DeSean Jackson, PHI, WR56
126. CeeDee Lamb, DAL, WR57
127. Parris Campbell, IND, WR58
128. Duke Johnson, HOU, RB44
129. Antonio Gibson, WAS, RB45
130. Nyheim Hines, IND, RB46
131. Marlon Mack, IND, RB47
132. Ke’Shawn Vaughn, TB, RB48
133. Justin Jackson, LAC, RB49
134. Mike Gesicki, MIA, TE14
135. Chris Herndon, NYJ, TE15
136. Austin Hooper, CLE, TE16
137. Daniel Jones, NYG, QB14
138. Ben Roethlisberger, PIT, QB15

At this point, you’re looking to add depth and upside to your bench. Rookies Reagor, Lamb, Gibson and Vaughn should be on your radar. Campbell and Herndon are two of my favorite late-round sleepers. Jones is a sneaky breakout and has QB1 upside.

139. Boston Scott, PHI, RB50
140. Adrian Peterson, WAS, RB51
141. Damien Harris, NE, RB52
142. Jerick McKinnon, SF, RB53
143. Chase Edmonds, ARI, RB54
144. Anthony Miller, CHI, WR59
145. Brandon Aiyuk, SF, WR60
146. Sammy Watkins, KC, WR61
147. N’Keal Harry, NE, WR62
148. Michael Pittman Jr., IND, WR63
149. Larry Fitzgerald, ARI, WR64
150. Randall Cobb, HOU, WR65
151. Allen Lazard, GB, WR66
152. Mohamed Sanu Sr., NE, WR67
153. Denzel Mims, NYJ, WR68
154. Tee Higgins, CIN, WR69

This tier isn’t quite as strong as the prior one, but a lot of the analysis is the same. These are depth and/or upside options, including potential RB breakouts (Harris, Scott) and a handful of recent early-round WR draft picks (Aiyuk, Harry, Pittman, Higgins, Mims), all who could play significant roles as soon as Week 1. This is the range in which players such as A.J. Brown, Terry McLaurin and Deebo Samuel were discovered last season, so don’t be afraid to throw darts at rookies.

155. Joshua Kelley, LAC, RB55
156. AJ Dillon, GB, RB56
157. Darrynton Evans, TEN, RB57
158. Ryquell Armstead, JAC, RB58
159. Carlos Hyde, SEA, RB59
160. Anthony McFarland Jr., PIT, RB60
161. Jack Doyle, IND, TE17
162. Eric Ebron, PIT, TE18
163. Dallas Goedert, PHI, TE19
164. Cam Newton, NE, QB16
165. Ryan Tannehill, TEN, QB17
166. Jared Goff, LAR, QB18
167. Baker Mayfield, CLE, QB19
168. Jimmy Garoppolo, SF, QB20

Our final tier of skill-position players includes a few young insurance RB options (Kelley, Dillon, Evans, Armstead, McFarland) and rounds out the short list of quarterbacks and tight ends who should be drafted in 12-team leagues.

169. Steelers D/ST, PIT, DST1
170. Bills D/ST, BUF, DST2
171. 49ers D/ST, SF, DST3
172. Ravens D/ST, BAL, DST4
173. Patriots D/ST, NE, DST5
174. Colts D/ST, IND, DST6
175. Broncos D/ST, DEN, DST7
176. Bears D/ST, CHI, DST8
177. Saints D/ST, NO, DST9
178. Vikings D/ST, MIN, DST10
179. Buccaneers D/ST, TB, DST11
180. Chargers D/ST, LAC, DST12
181. Justin Tucker, BAL, K1
182. Harrison Butker, KC, K2
183. Wil Lutz, NO, K3
184. Matt Prater, DET, K4
185. Greg Zuerlein, DAL, K5
186. Robbie Gould, SF, K6
187. Chris Boswell, PIT, K7
188. Matt Gay, TB, K8
189. Zane Gonzalez, ARI, K9
190. Ka’imi Fairbairn, HOU, K10
191. Jake Elliott, PHI, K11
192. Austin Seibert, CLE, K12

Did you learn nothing from the Jaguars’ D/ST two years ago? What about the Bears’ D/ST last offseason? Wait until the final two rounds to select your defense and kicker.

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