It’s that time of year again. Preseason is winding down meaning fantasy drafts are in full swing. With the season starting next Thursday, the time for drafting is almost up. Everyone knows who they want to take with their first few picks. But the key to winning fantasy is hitting on those mid round picks. There’s nothing more upsetting than dropping your fifth round pick just a few weeks into the season because you happened to miss on him. Let’s look at five players that you can snag in the mid rounds that are ready to show that they’ll be a top 20 pick next season. Note that a standard PPR league with 12 teams is assumed for analysis. Also note that in this case, ADP (average draft position) is the average round that the player is drafted.
1. James Washington, WR, Steelers (ADP: 9.11)
James Washington is a second year wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers. When I was watching Mason Rudolph film before last years draft, I was mostly impressed with the insane playmaking ability of one of their receivers. Turns out, that receiver was James Washington. With an offense that featured Antonio Brown, Juju Smith-Schuster, James Conner, Jesse James, and Vance McDonald, there wasn’t much room for Washington to sign. With Brown gone, someone will have to step up to help relieve some pressure from Juju. Currently, Donte Moncrief is listed as the number 2 receiver for the Steelers. However, with Washington’s playmaking ability and considering the fact the Steelers spent a second round pick on him, don’t be surprised if he gets reps and makes them count.
2. Duke Johnson, RB, Texans (ADP: 6.11)
With Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt on the team, there just wasn’t much room for Duke Johnson. So, the Browns sent him to Houston. While he would have probably seen a fair number of touches as a backup/third down back, the recent injury to Lamar Miller puts Johnson as THE guy in Houston. Duke Johnson never got a lot of carries in Cleveland but he was always a dynamic pass catcher, recording 61, 53, 74, and 47 catches in his four years. Give him 200 carries and even more targets and we are looking at a guy who is potentially an RB1.
3. Jameis Winston, QB, Buccaneers (ADP: 10.01)
I don’t like Jameis Winston as a QB. I personally think the Buccaneers should move on because he just doesn’t have the skill or maturity to lead any team to a Super Bowl. However, I do think he’s a good fantasy option because of one man: Bruce Arians. Arians is the mastermind behind some high powered offenses seen in both Pittsburgh and Arizona. In his last year in Arizona, he was able to go 8-8 without David Johnson and with Drew Stanton and Blaine Gabbert at quarterback. Arians is known for having a vertical offense that likes to stretch the field. His offense is perfect for someone with a gunslinger mentality, which is Winston. Add that to the fact that the Buccs will probably have to be throwing a lot to keep up with the other high powered offenses in the NFC South and you’re looking at a guy who has the potential to be a top five fantasy quarterback.
4. Marlon Mack, RB, Colts (ADP: 4.01)
I loved Marlon Mack coming into the season. Now you may be worried that his production will go down with Andrew Luck retiring. However, Luck’s retirement actually makes me like Mack even more. His current ADP is 4.01 however, that number will likely go down because of Luck’s retirement. I wouldn’t be surprised if Mack is more of a fifth or sixth round running back at this point. However, he should see just as much action with Brissett at QB. Brissett is obviously a worse passer than Luck, meaning that the Colts will likely lean on their running game more. Also, someone like Brissett is a less aggressive QB than Luck, meaning he’s more likely to check down to Mack rather than look for the big play downfield. And with the Colts having a very solid defense, they may look to control clock, meaning more Mack.
5. Marquez Valdes-Scantling, WR, Packers (ADP: 9.06)
Valdes-Scantling had 38 catches for 581 yards last year. With a full offseason to work with Aaron Rodgers and a year of experience, expect those numbers to at least double this year. The Packers also finally have an offensive coach who’s not living in the dark ages of play calling. With a new, innovative offense and an Aaron Rodgers who’s looking to prove he’s the best, Valdes-Scantling is in a great position to put up big numbers as the clear number two.
-Stephen Brown III (@sbtrey23)