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Drafting League Winners in Every Round - Fantasy Football Upside Picks

Courtland Sutton - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, NFL Injury News

Many league-winning players will be picked up off the wire due to injuries or depth chart changes. But, there are some players that we can draft from the get that can greatly outperform their respective ADPs.

I don’t like using the word sleeper, because to me it refers to surprise players; and many of the players that I’m going to suggest are already solid producers. I prefer the term league winner or potential league winner because that’s what I believe they can be; the Stefon Diggs of two years ago or the Cooper Kupp of last year and so on.

Now usually, we like to balance our draft with upside potential and stability, but I think there are situations where it makes sense to draft a bunch of these guys.

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When to Draft for Upside in Fantasy Football

Are you playing in a league with hundreds or even thousands of entries?
Do you play in a large number of leagues?
Do you find yourself in an ultra-competitive league where you can’t seem to reach or compete in the playoffs?
Is fun a big reason why you play? Drafting safe players is boring.

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are in a situation where it may be time to draft purely for upside, at least in one of your leagues.


Possible Outcomes From Drafting this Way

Your whole team busts – By busting, I mean that no one lives up to potential. If this is the case, you will have a tough season ahead of you. But remember, your team as a whole could fall flat even if you draft with a more balanced approach. Multiple players could get injured and so on.

Some hit and some miss – This is the most likely outcome and a pretty good situation to find yourself in. Some strong in-season management from waiver wire moves to trades could make up for the misses. But guess what? You could have a few league winners that take you to the promised land!

Most hit! – The dream scenario for this type of draft strategy. Imagine if you had taken Jonathan Taylor, Cooper Kupp, Ja’Marr Chase, Deebo Samuel, Mark Andrews, and Mike Williams? We all should be trying to hit like this with one of our drafts every year.


The Potential League Winners for Fantasy Football

Ok, ok, ok I’m done with the fluff. Let’s get to the player in each round that I think can be a league winner. It’s important to note that there are several players in each round that fit this category, but I’m going to choose one (maybe two) for each that I believe will find their way onto winning rosters around the fantasy universe.

Round 1 Pick – Dalvin Cook

There’s a new head coach in town and he’s coming from the pass-happy Rams. Some would say this favors the great receiving corps and Kirk Cousins, and I’d agree. But I also think it favors the great pass-catching back, Dalvin Cook.

Is he an injury risk? Of course, but all running backs are a risk. Most importantly Cook has what it takes to be up there with the other workhorses towards the top of the RB 1 chart. Safe picks are for losers.

Round 2 Pick - Leonard Fournette / Saquon Barkley

Leonard Fournette - No more Ronald Jones, clearing the way for a bell cow role. Rob Gronkowski has retired, again, vacating a ton of third and fourth down and endzone targets along with Antonio Brown’s departure from the NFL and planet Earth. Chris Godwin suffered a late-season knee injury, leaving the possibility of missing 1-3 weeks and/or underperforming. The Bucs signed Russell Gage, but I still feel confident Tom Brady will rely on Fournette heavily in all circumstances and particularly when it counts most.

If he can drop some more pounds, which he's apparently already started to do, I believe we have RB 1-3 in potential outcomes. I’m not suggesting drafting him in the first four to five picks of Round 1, but I believe he could be the Jonathan Taylor or Austin Ekeler of this year later in the first or in the second.

Saquon Barkley - The Giants had a horrible offense last year, but here is the good news: the Giants were also terrible during Saquon’s most productive year in 2018. Ok, that doesn’t sound like good news but here is some more; they have a new sheriff in town in Brian Daboll who helped Buffalo’s offensive explosion as OC. Saquon is finally healthy off his ACL tear, which is the biggest factor. Combine that with better coaching and a better line and Saquon’s ceiling is sky high in my opinion.

Is there doubt? Sure, but that’s part of this whole exercise and drafting this way isn’t for the faint of heart. Bottom line, Saquon is one of maybe four or five RBs with true RB 1 in his possible outcomes.

Round 3 Pick – Cam Akers

I almost selected Terry McLaurin here, but just couldn’t rely on his new QB enough to provide the upside that Cam Akers has for the Rams. In the third round, you are getting an opportunity to select a very talented running back who should see a huge opportunity for one of the best offenses and defenses in the NFL. Bottom line is that they will be scoring a ton and Cam Akers should be the beneficiary of goal-line opportunities and game script. Sure, his health is a concern, but that’s why he’s discounted. It was also a great sign that he returned for the playoffs last year. If you want to take David Montgomery, I won’t argue, but I am aiming for the stratosphere and Cam has a seat on the rocket ship.

Round 4 Pick – Michael Pittman Jr. / Breece Hall

Michael Pittman Jr. - I don’t think people realize how good and exciting Michael Pittman is. It’s probably because Colts receivers have struggled to excite the fantasy community since Andrew Luck retired and T.Y. Hilton declined. It’s also because Jonathan Taylor took all the buzz. But, Michael Pittman quietly produced with over 1000 yards, six TDs, and a 19th (Half PPR) finish. Now we get an upgrade at QB in Matt Ryan, who should enjoy a far superior O-line and has a proven resume of supporting WR1s. Michael Pittman could take a giant leap in his third year. Could he be the Diggs or Kupp we are looking for? It’s going to be challenging to draft him ahead of players like Keenan Allen, but you should because he can far exceed those ceilings and finish as a top-six WR.

Breece Hall - His closest comp is Jonathan Taylor and he should get a massive opportunity in New York. Michael Carter and Ty Johnson had a ton of success, especially in the receiving game, and they are nowhere near the talent level of Breece Hall. He’s as fast as Jonathan Taylor, with an even higher burst score! Hold your horses; I’m not suggesting you’re going to get Jonathan Taylor of 2021 but possibly from 2020, where as a rookie, he ran for 1169 yards, 11 TDs, and caught 36 receptions for 299 yards and one TD.

Round 5 Pick – DJ Moore

I love DJ Moore and I’ve drafted him since his sophomore season. He hasn’t been a WR1 because of horrible QB play and in turn a lack of TDs. In comes Baker Mayfield, who isn’t exactly a stud, but holds a nearly 2-1 TD-Int ratio, which far exceeds that of Sam Darnold. I don’t think this is an enormous upgrade but I do think it gets Mo to the 8-12 TD range coupled with 1200+ yards. This man has it all from speed to catch radius and tremendous YAC and it’s going to show this year as he takes a leap up.

Round 6 Pick – Courtland Sutton / Dalton Schultz

Courtland Sutton - Talk about a QB upgrade. The Broncos are going to be a very good team and Russell Wilson is going to cook, to the benefit of Courtland Sutton. He has all the physical attributes, much like D.K. Metcalf, and I think it’s going to pay dividends in the red zone. We are hoping the additional year removed from the ACL injury will go the way it did for Cooper Kupp last year.

Dalton Schultz is going to ball out this year. Schultz has already proven himself as the dominant TE for the Cowboys and now you’ve got a ton of vacated targets from Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup. I’m gonna go on a limb here and say Schultz finishes a top-four TE, giving your team a major advantage at the position.

Round 7 Pick – Darnell Mooney

In some rankings, he’s in Round 7 and others 8 but it doesn’t matter. This guy already had over 1000 yards as Justin Fields' favorite target. Allen Robinson and Jimmy Graham are out of town and they haven’t really brought any difference makers over (Byron Pringle and N’Keal Harry). I think we see the yards again and a bump in TDs for the second year, making him a WR2 and possibly WR1 late in the draft.

Round 8 Pick – Rashaad Penny

Seattle is going to take a step backward and Rashaad Penny has burned us before. But man, was he incredible as a league winner towards the end of last season. Do we really feel the Seahawks or any NFL team wouldn’t want to give him the rock to see if he can keep it going? In weeks 14 -18, he exceeded 130 yards rushing in 4/5 weeks. As we get past the first 6-7 rounds, our risk factor drops giving even more of the reason to grab Penny here.

Round 9 Pick – Zach Ertz

Another TE? That’s right, I believe Zach Ertz will help many teams get off to a great start while Hopkins waits for the PEDs to clear his system. And if you’ve read any of my articles from past seasons, you’ll know that I value early-season wins very heavily. Ertz has always been a great red zone target and is by far the biggest target on the field for Kyler Murray with short wide receivers like Marquis Brown (5’9") and Rondale Moore (5’7”). I love waiting till the ninth rather than wasting draft capital on the top-four or five tight ends, especially Waller or Pitts.

Round 10 Pick – Kadarius Toney

We saw it for a brief period last year when he broke out in Weeks Four and Five for over 260 yards. As already mentioned (refer back to Barkley above), the Giants have a new coach in town who ran the offense for the Bills. Kenny Golladay has looked pedestrian and the alpha receiver spot is up for the taking. Toney had 10 for 189 in Week 5 vs. Dallas last year. Just imagine that x 17 weeks, duh.

Round 11 Pick – Marquez Valdes-Scantling

A supreme talent with size (6’4”) and speed (4.37) who just never developed that connection with Aaron Rodgers. Is Patrick Mahomes the man to make MVS a superstar? He took a while to breakout (age 22) and maybe needed time and a change of scenery to grow into his potential. The truth is that we don’t know who is gonna be the favorite target not named Kelce, but the 11th round makes it a worthwhile roll of the dice. Honorable mention: Rondale Moore who will have a big opportunity while Hopkins is out to showcase a highlight reel.

Round 12 Pick – D.J. Chark

Physically gifted like the previous entry at 6’4” with 4.34 speed. But unlike MVS, Chark already has a big season in the books where he managed 1,008 yards and eight TDs. Worried about Jared Goff? D.J. had his big year with a horrific Nick Foles at QB. The Lions did see the emergence of Amon-Ra St. Brown last year, but game script and talent have me thinking that Chark will have an opportunity to shine. Not a Michael Pittman third-round opportunity, but a worthwhile 12th-round opportunity. I like shooting for the stars late on guys who are physically gifted and have shown signs of upside in the past.

Round 13 Pick – Tim Patrick

This may be my favorite pick of all. Tim Patrick has been a producer now for two years; showcasing stability, great hands, and production despite horrible and inconsistent QB play. Jerry Jeudy is being drafted much higher even though Patrick saw a higher snap share. I’ve also heard the saying follow the money and Denver paid Tim Patrick handsomely this year. With Russell Wilson at the helm, I think Tim Patrick takes a substantial step forward from an already high floor (734 Yards and five TDs). I think Patrick will easily surpass 900 Yards and seven TDs with way more upside. I think he could even lead this WR corps!

Round 14 Pick – David Njoku

I love me some David Njoku. I felt this guy should have broken out already, but maybe this is the season! The Browns have franchise-tagged him and shipped out Austin Hooper. Clearly, his potential will be affected by the outcome of Deshaun Watson’s season, but I think he outperforms this ADP regardless. Njoku will be a security blanket for Jacoby Brissett, who loves short passes and targeted Mike Gesicki 77 times in just 11 games last season!

Rounds 15 on – Sorry peeps this is the end of the ride. Please take your belongings.


Thanks as always for reading my strategic takes. Find me on Twitter @BrettMitchellFB for any comments or questions.

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