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Week 18 Defense (DEF) Streamers and Starts - 2021 Fantasy Tiers, Rankings

For many of you, the fantasy football season is over. I know the last few weeks made it particularly difficult, but I hope it ended on a high note for you. At the end of the day, we all started playing this game because it was fun, so even though the season can be tilting and is certainly a grind, the hope is that we always get some enjoyment out of these few months and make some trash-talking leverage with our friends.

I'm grateful for those of you who have checked out this column on a weekly basis, as well as those of you just checking it out for the first time. Picking the right DST is always a crapshoot, and I know I've gotten things wrong my fair share this season, but I hope my ranking system and explanations have been useful and helped you to solidify your own process. Remember that, no matter what any writer/podcaster says, it's your team and the final decision should rest with what you feel comfortable doing. Take in all the insight and opinions, but anybody who writes content is just using data, matchup analysis, team information, and trying to make the most educated guess we can.

Lastly, for those of you still working towards a championship this week or using this article for DFS in Week 18, the column will be the same as it always is. My biggest piece of advice for this week is to not lock in your defense this early in the week. Now that more teams have been eliminated, we may hear news about players resting or rookies getting more of a chance, so the rankings will change. We also may see some teams start to give up, as the Giants did on Sunday. I moved the Bears up to #9 towards the end of the week, but that clearly wasn't enough, and I never expected the Giants to run the ball 40 times even though they were down by 20+ for most of the game. However, that is the danger of these end-of-season games, so you'll see that safety is something I'm valuing heavily in this week's rankings.

Make sure to always check the link to my updated rankings as the week goes on. Especially with all of the COVID-chaos, I will likely be updating that Google Sheet every day to reflect the newest information.

Editor's Note: Be sure to also read our other Week 18 waiver wire articles for even more in-depth waiver wire analysis on running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, quarterbackskickers, IDP leagues, recommended FAAB waiver wire bids, and players to consider dropping.

 

Picking The Right Defenses To Pickup and Start

Just a quick recap of my general philosophy and what we discussed at length last year: when choosing a defense, you want to look for defenses that get consistent pressure and takeaways. Sacks and turnovers are more valuable for fantasy defense than preventing yardage, and even to a certain extent, preventing points. If a defense allows a stingy yards-per-play number, that's great and I'll cite some of those numbers below. However, they better also be able to get into the backfield or force turnovers, or else it won't really matter in the long run.

Essentially, we need to move away from points against as being the most important factor in choosing a fantasy defense.  With offenses putting up video game numbers, it means that we can't continue to judge a defense solely by the number of points they allow or the number of yards they give up. Those numbers will naturally be higher than we're used to. Instead, we need to look for which offensive lines are truly weak points and which defenses will either be blitz-heavy or get consistent pressure with their pass rush. These are all incredibly important pieces of information in determining which defenses to play in any given week.

Starting the right defense every week can be a difference-maker, so remember to check back here during the week as I will make updates once we get more information on some of these injuries and also get a better sense of the weather for the game.

 

Week 18 Defenses To Start and Stream: Tiered Rankings

Returning for this year: Confidence Ratings (out of 15) - Since every league's DST scoring is different, projections don't always make a ton of sense. The confidence rating is a guideline for how much more I like one team over another instead of just a point projection. A zero means "do not start," then the confidence rises from there. Typically, the top-three tiers will be DSTs you should target, with Tier 4 being options in deep leagues.

New this year: BOD (Best Overall Defense) Rankings. This is my defensive rankings formula based on the stats that I think are most conducive to fantasy success, which are ones that focus mainly on pressure rate but also on turnover rate since these are metrics that traditionally lead to the most consistent results and are also scheme-dependent, thus highlighting defensive schemes that are more fantasy-friendly. You can see the full updated leaderboard here but the basic formula is:

(Pressure Rate x 2) + (Sacks) + (QB Hurry Rate) + (%Drives ending in a Turnover x 2)

Minus

(% Drives ending in a Score x 2) + (Yards per play)

BOD is designed to tell us who the best fantasy defenses are, but depending on the matchup, they might be ranked differently in a given week. That's why we have this column where I will be breaking down my rankings for each week and an explanation of why I have the defenses ranked the way I do. The rankings will take into account their BOD ranking, opponent, injuries, weather, etc., but I hope my explanation will help make sense of each ranking.

 

Tier 1 Defenses - Fantasy Football Rankings for Week 18

There are few teams with more on the line this weekend than the Saints. The final playoff spot in the NFC will come down to the Saints or the 49ers, and with the 49ers playing a tough matchup against the Rams, the Saints absolutely need to handle business against a poor Falcons team. A week after being short-handed due to COVID, the Saints put a hurting on Carolina on Sunday, finishing as the 2nd ranked defense last week, but they have also been the 3rd-ranked defense over the last month, so last week was not a fluke. That's good news against an Atlanta team that severely dialed back its usage of Cordarrelle Patterson over the last few weeks and might be without Kyle Pitts due to a hamstring injury suffered last week against the Bills. The Falcons allowed five sacks to the Bills and Sunday, so I expect the Saints to get home a few times as well.

Tennessee is another team with a lot on the line as they look to lock up the top seed in the AFC and a bye in the playoffs, which would make it more likely they can get Derrick Henry back in time for their first game. The Titans destroyed a hot Miami team, finishing as the 4th-ranked defense last week by allowing only 256 yards of total offense, sacking Tua Tagovailoa four times, and forcing two turnovers. This isn't new for them as they've been the 2nd-ranked defense over the last month. I know that Houston has been moving in the right direction, and Davis Mills has seemingly been improving every week, but they just allowed three sacks and only scored seven points against a 49ers defense that has been playing slightly worse football than the Titans, so I'm all in on the Titans coming to drop the hammer this weekend.

Tampa Bay failed to deliver on Sunday. It's that simple. They came away with a win, but that was a disaster of a performance against the Jets, both taking into account the on-field and off-field issues. However, if there is anything we can say about Tom Brady it's that he is one of the most competitive players in the NFL, hands down. You can absolutely bet on him making sure this team is ready to go on Sunday with playoff seeding on the line. Add to that a Panthers team that is just atrocious on offense, and you have a real recipe for defensive success. The Panthers gained just 178 yards of TOTAL OFFENSE against the Saints and allowed a ridiculous seven sacks while turning the ball over twice. I know Shaq Barrett won't be out there, but this Tampa Bay defense is going to be playing with their hair on fire.

 

Tier 2 Defenses - Fantasy Football Rankings for Week 18

I'm surprised we've come to this, but the Colts are playing for their playoff lives against the Jaguars on Sunday. That's bad news for the Jaguars. The Colts have only been OK on defense of late, rankings 13th over the last month, but they were getting a lot of players back off the COVID list last week, and we've seen the effect that can have on a player's cardio, so it's possible this defense really wasn't 100% against the Raiders. The Jaguars were also abysmal against the Patriots and have no real dynamic offensive option with James Robinson out. They gained 253 yards of total offense against the Patriots, allowing two sacks and turning the ball over three times. The Colts are the best turnover defense in the league, so I fully expect them to capitalize on that more than once this weekend.

Here we get our first ranking drastically impacted by Week 18. The Eagles clinched a playoff spot last weekend and essentially have the 7th-seed in the playoffs all but locked up, which caused many to speculate that they may choose to rest their starters. On Monday, they put most of their top players on the reserve-COVID list. We certainly don't want to assume anything when it comes to COVID, but it would seem unlikely these players would be activated before the game. Since they would remain on the IR, Philadelphia would have the ability to call up players from the practice squad and sign short-term contracts to field a roster on Sunday without having to rush players back who may not be healthy. So now, a Dallas defense that has been the #1 DST over the last month is going to get the Eagles' bench players in a game that the Cowboys need to win for seeding purposes. If the Eagles don't activate these players before Sunday, I think you can feel extremely confident in this play.

In a game where Josh Allen simply didn't have it, this Buffalo defense came to play, helping to lead the Bills to a key win and finished tied for the 9th-ranked defense last week. The Bills will be playing another game at home with everything to play for as a win will give them the AFC East crown and a first-round home game. A week ago, we would have likely had them as a top-tier defense, but Zach Wilson is improving as a passer. He didn't light the world on fire against Tampa and only threw for 234 yards, but he didn't make many boneheaded, which is clear growth for him. However, the Bills do have a better secondary than Tampa Bay, so this will be a tough test. I expect the Bills to come out looking to make a statement, and their pass rush has really taken a step up recently with the dynamic play of Ed Oliver, so I think they're a high-floor option this week, but we haven't really seen a high-ceiling game from them in weeks and it's time to start to accept that this might be their new reality.

The Patriots find themselves near the end of tier two after finishing as the 6th-ranked defense last week against Jacksonville. They weren't able to get to Trevor Lawrence as much as was expected since Matthew Judon was on the COVID-IR for this game, but we can assume the talented pass-rusher will be back and ready to go in a crucial game for New England. If the Patriots win and the Bills lose to the Jets, the Pats would win the AFC East and have a home game to start the playoffs. That should give them enough inspiration to come out and try to get after Tua, who struggled against the Titans last week. However, one thing to keep in mind is that the Patriots have clinched a playoff spot and cannot play a home game if the Bills win, so if the Bills are up big on the Jets have halftime, it's possible that New England would rest some of its veterans to ensure they're healthy for the playoffs. It might not be the most likely scenario, but it's Week 18, so we need to account for everything.

The Chiefs are still pushing for the top seed in the AFC and play the first game of the week on Sunday, which means they will absolutely be trying to win, even if they'd lose the tiebreaker to Tennessee if/when the Titans beat the Texans. The Broncos, on the other hand, have nothing to play for, so it might not make sense for them to rush back Teddy Bridgewater (concussion) or some of the other players like Jerry Jeudy and Tim Patrick, who were on the COVID-IR for the loss to the Chargers. If the Broncos are short-handed again and starting Drew Lock at quarterback, you have to like this matchup since they're the 5th-ranked defense over the last month and the Lock isn't going to be able to exploit their man coverage the way that Joe Burrow did. However, we also know that Denver wants to just run the ball all game, which means fewer plays overall. The initial reaction might be that this is a good thing because it means the Broncos won't score a lot, but it also means fewer pass attempts, which means fewer opportunities for sacks and turnovers for this Kansas City defense and caps their upside a bit.

 

Tier 3 Defenses - Fantasy Football Rankings for Week 18

I'm going to talk about Minnesota and Washington together because they're essentially in the same situation. Both teams have really good matchups, and we covered above just how pathetic this New York Giants offense is and I've certainly learned my lesson after last week. However, Minnesota and Washington are both eliminated from playoff contention, so we're not yet 100% sure if we're going to see all of their starters play this entire game. I could easily see Washington moving up in the top-10 given how bad the Giants are, but I want to hear whether or not they are going to get some young bench players more game action or not before I feel truly comfortable moving them up.

Miami really struggled last week against the Titans, and I know that is fresh in people's memory, but this is still the 4th-ranked defense over the last month and 2nd-ranked defense over the last six weeks. The New England offense looked great against the Jaguars, but it's the Jaguars; this is still a fairly average offense without real playmaking weapons in the passing game. Miami has been blitz-happy of late and leading the league in pressure rate over the last six weeks, so it could be a tough test for Mac Jones to see how he responds to that. Jones has improved as the year has gone on, and the Patriots have a good rushing attack, which is why Miami falls outside of the top-10, but don't forget about them entirely.

Pittsburgh's defense really took it to Baker Mayfield and the Browns, bringing down the quarterback nine times on Monday night. However, they should be in for a little more of a fight on Sunday with the Ravens, like the Steelers, still competing for a playoff spot. However, we've also talked all year about how Lamar Jackson has been playing behind a beat-up offensive line and without a good rushing attack, which has forced him to try to do more. As a result, he's holding onto the ball longer, taking more sacks, and throwing more picks. With the way T.J. Watt played on Monday, you can expect the Steelers to get pressure on Lamar, which could cause some issues. If it's Tyler Huntley again, the Steelers might move up since it's clear that the Green Bay game a few weeks back was likely a career-best effort from the Utah product.

The Packers would be a lot higher on this list, but they have locked up the top seed in the NFC and have nothing to play for. For now, we're going to keep them here since they're the 10th-ranked defense over the last month and are facing a Lions team that is confusing as hell. After saying they were going to cut D'Andre Swift loose, they may have cut him loose from the team because he was barely used on Sunday. Amon-Ra St. Brown is enjoying a heck of an end of the season, but it may be Tim Boyle again at quarterback, so if Green Bay plays any starters, they could be worth a start. However, in the likely event that Green Bay does decide to sit its starters, we may have to bump them down even a bit further.

This Rams and 49ers game is gonna be a scrap. The 49ers need to win to get into the playoffs, and the Rams need to win in order to ensure they host a playoff game. The Rams are the more talented defense, ranking 7th for me on the season and finishing as the 6th-ranked defense over the last month; however, San Francisco isn't far behind, coming in as the 9th-ranked defense over the last month. However, much of the 49ers' fantasy defense success has come against the Falcons and Texans of late, while the Rams just won four straight games against the Cardinals, Seahawks, Vikings, and Ravens. I trust the Rams' talent and their metrics more than the 49ers' recent run of success as San Francisco has had poor pressure metrics for much of the season.

Arizona played a solid defensive game against the Cowboys on Sunday and needs this game for playoff seeding, so one might expect them to be higher in my rankings. However, the Seahawks can still be a potent offense, as they showed last week. I know it was against Detroit, but Russell Wilson has begun to look better and Rashaad Penny looks like the player he was coming out of San Diego State. Given the injuries to the Cardinals' defense, I just find them a bit hard to trust in such an important week.

Cincinnati is another defense to keep an eye on because Cleveland has been eliminated and Cincinnati might not be playing for playoff seeding. If Cleveland rests some of their banged-up offensive players, Cincinnati could move higher up in the rankings. However, Cincinnati is likely playing for either the 3rd or 4th seed in the AFC playoffs, so they may decide that, since both seeds host a playoff game, they'd rather rest players (like injured Joe Burrow) and get healthy for the playoffs. As of now, the Vegas lines seem to imply that they believe the Bengals will rest starters. If so, they shouldn't be used.

 

Tier 4 Defenses - Fantasy Football Rankings for Week 18

 

Tier 5 Defenses - Fantasy Football Rankings for Week 18



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Happy Wednesday, RotoBallers, we're back for another day of MLB betting picks! Make sure you're following my Twitter, as I can't guarantee that I'll always be able to get the added plays written here in the article, but I will typically add whatever else I'm playing throughout the day. The entire RotoBaller team has been... Read More


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Lamar Jackson - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, NFL Injury News

Week 4 DraftKings NFL DFS Lineup Picks (2022): Break The Slate

Hello RotoBallers and welcome back to Break The Slate, our DraftKings NFL DFS Lineup Picks for Week 4! I appreciate you joining me in our season-long quest to find the best plays at each position for every DraftKings Main Slate. After a Week 3 slate that was heavy on marquee matchups and projected points, we... Read More


Jamaal Williams - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, Waiver Wire Pickups

Bold Predictions for Fantasy Football Week 4 Include Stefon Diggs, Amari Cooper, Jamaal Williams, Breece Hall

Week 4 is here, and we're back with another edition of our fantasy football bold predictions. Today's list will include Stefon Diggs, Amari Cooper, and Jamaal Williams. For those who are not familiar, each week of the NFL season, we'll be providing some fun player predictions for fantasy football. While we wouldn't expect these things... Read More


Amari Cooper - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, NFL Injury News

Updated Week 4 Half-PPR Rankings for Fantasy Football: Alvin Kamara, Keenan Allen, Dameon Pierce, Gabriel Davis, Chris Olave

Time flies, but we're already a month into the NFL season. As always we're here to help you set winning fantasy lineups, and today we're back with our updated Week 4 fantasy football half-PPR rankings for fantasy football, as of September 30th. Our goal as always is to help you set those winning lineups, so... Read More


Christian McCaffrey - Fantasy Football Rankings, NFL Injury News

Fantasy Football Injury Reports For Week 4: Christian McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook, Michael Thomas, David Montgomery, D'Andre Swift

We're heading into the one-month mark of the NFL season, so as always, injuries are beginning to accumulate. Our fantasy football injuries report highlights several players with fantasy significance and their latest status heading into Week 4 as of Friday September 30th, 2022. Guys like Christian McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook, and Jonathan Taylor are high-profile names... Read More


Rashaad Penny - Fantasy Football Rankings, NFL Injury News, DFS Lineup Picks

Booms and Busts - Fantasy Football Starts and Sits for Week 4 Lineups

Week 3 in the NFL felt like the polar opposite of the week prior in fantasy scoring. In Week 2, the fantasy leaderboard was littered with big-time players posting highly productive weeks. In Week 3, we saw some unheralded names rise to the top of scoring leaders for the week. Whether it was players like... Read More


Fantasy Football Week 4 Busts? Players Who May Disappoint: Derek Carr, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, D.K. Metcalf, Jeff Wilson Jr.

Welcome to Week 4 RotoBallers! The season is starting to ramp up, and it is crucial to start getting some wins under your belt to make the playoffs and win a fantasy championship. For those who have started 0-3 or 1-2, this is a huge opportunity to get in the win column. It is getting... Read More


Marcus Mariota - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, NFL Injury News

Sneaky Starts, Pivot Plays and Post-Waiver Pickups for Week 4

There has been no shortage of injuries in the NFL this season. Some say this is because no one plays in the preseason anymore, while others claim this is how it goes yearly. But one thing is for certain – if you have a player up in the air for this week, you need to... Read More


Nick Chubb - Fantasy Football Rankings, NFL Injury News, DFS Lineup Picks

Fantasy Football Start Em, Sit Em - Week 4 Matchups Analysis

Welcome back RotoBallers to our Week 4 matchups analysis and Start Em, Sit Em column for fantasy football. Week 3 featured a lot of disappointing performances with lower overall scoring totals. Some of these players will regress back to the mean while others will continue to struggle. For those who are unfamiliar, each week we'll be... Read More


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Quarterback Starts/Sits for Week 4 - QB vs. Pass Rush Matchups for Lineup Decisions

Week 4 of the NFL season is here, and we’re starting to learn more and more about these teams with each passing week. As we get more and more information, it will become even easier to analyze the best matchups on a weekly basis. Right now, we have some details on each team, but we... Read More


David Njoku - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, Waiver Wire Pickups

Finding Tight End Breakouts for Fantasy Football – Cracking the Code for Week 4

We all know who the elite tight ends are. You didn’t come here for me to tell you about how awesome Mark Andrews, Travis Kelce, and Dallas Goedert are. This is well known. It’s well documented. Even guys like Darren Waller, George Kittle, and Kyle Pitts, guys who have disappointed a bit so far, you only... Read More


Jamaal Williams - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, Waiver Wire Pickups

The King's Week 4 Lineup Rankings and Analysis (Premium Content)

Scott "The King" Engel issues his full Week 4 lineup rankings in PPR, Half-PPR, and Standard formats. He also includes analysis of key players at each position. The rankings will continue to be updated as news breaks prior to Sunday's games. Following the positional analysis below you'll see the rankings widget. Enter KING at checkout to... Read More


Amon-Ra St. Brown - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, NFL Injury News

Wide Receiver Snap Counts and Target Trends - Risers and Fallers for Week 4 (2022)

You are already aware that wide receivers will play a critical role in the success of your teams. The undeniable volatility that exists with the running back position has also presented an increasing rationale for prioritizing wide receivers when you build your rosters - both at the onset of your drafts and as you manage... Read More


Devonta Smith - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, NFL Injury News

WR/CB Matchups to Target and Downgrade - Week 4

Welcome to Week 4 of the WR/CB Matchup chart. As the year goes on, the PPGA metric will become more and more predictive. Results from a small sample like one or two weeks usually tell more about how talented a CB's opponent was rather than the difficulty of the matchup going forward. It is not... Read More


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Daily NBA Injury Roundup for September 30th, 2022

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily NBA injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy basketball (DFS) lineups, every day of the NBA season. Below is our updated list of injured NBA players for September 30th, 2022. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Must Have Late Round Picks For Fantasy Basketball (Premium Content)

All other Premium Tools can be accessed on the premium dashboard. Welcome to RotoBaller's 2022-2023 premium draft kit! We're here to be your secret weapon when it comes to this fantasy basketball season. In this article, I'll be going over some late round picks that I see as must-haves this year in fantasy basketball. All... Read More


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Top 10 Fantasy Basketball Rookies For Redraft (Premium Content)

All other Premium Tools can be accessed on the premium dashboard. Welcome to RotoBaller's 2022-2023 premium draft kit! We're here to be your secret weapon when it comes to this fantasy basketball season. Do you know which rookie finished as the highest-ranked player in 9-category leagues last season? Scottie Barnes? Nope. Evan Mobley? Wrong. Franz... Read More


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Thunder Dan's Fantasy Basketball 9-Cat Specialists (Premium Content)

All other Premium Tools can be accessed on the premium dashboard. Welcome to RotoBaller's 2022-2023 premium draft kit! We're here to be your secret weapon when it comes to this fantasy basketball season. Here I want to highlight my favorite 9-cat specialists, players who can contribute across the board in all of the nine categories... Read More


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Thunder Dan's Breakout Players to Target in 2023 Fantasy Basketball (Premium Content)

All other Premium Tools can be accessed on the premium dashboard. Thanks for grabbing our NBA Draft Kit for the 2022-2023 season, you're not going to regret it! I'm thrilled to be helping out with our premium content this year and bringing you my rankings, favorite 9-cat studs, and breakout players. Some of these players... Read More


Fantasy Basketball Category Studs: Blocks And Steals

Blocks and steals, the two defensive stats used in typical category leagues, may seem secondary but they are just as important to manage as rebounds or assists, and they should not be overlooked. Yes, it feels cool to grab all the guys who can score points and average double-doubles, but if you aren't rostering players... Read More


Thunder Dan's 2023 Draft Rankings: Fantasy Basketball

I am quite possibly more excited for this NBA season than I have been for any previous season since I was a kid. I grew up watching the golden age of the NBA in the '80s and '90s and have been an NBA fan ever since. But this season is hopefully going to be like... Read More


2022-23 Fantasy Basketball - Early ADP Analysis: Centers (Part 3)

A key part of doing a fantasy draft is avoiding players who are overvalued while finding gems buried down the ADP leaderboard. The wrong pick can completely tank your season. The perfect steal can give you a magnificent advantage. Today, let's talk about some players whose ADPs makes little sense given their projections--for the good... Read More


Alex Burns' 2022-23 Fantasy Basketball Rankings and Draft Analysis

I know what you're probably thinking."Fantasy basketball rankings in September? We haven't even begun training camp. Does he have nothing better to do with his time?" While I do find myself suffering from significant boredom during the NBA offseason, I want to clarify one thing: It is NEVER too early to begin discussing fantasy hoops.... Read More


2022-23 Fantasy Basketball - Early ADP Analysis: Centers (Part 2)

A key part of doing a fantasy draft is avoiding players who are overvalued while finding gems buried down the ADP leaderboard. The wrong pick can completely tank your season. The perfect steal can give you a magnificent advantage. Today, let's talk about some players whose ADPs makes little sense given their projections--for the good... Read More


2022-23 Fantasy Basketball - Early ADP Analysis: Centers (Part 1)

A key part of doing a fantasy draft is avoiding players who are overvalued while finding gems buried down the ADP leaderboard. The wrong pick can completely tank your season. The perfect steal can give you a magnificent advantage. Today, let's talk about some players whose ADPs makes little sense given their projections--for the good... Read More


2022-23 Fantasy Basketball - Early ADP Analysis: Forwards (Part 3)

A key part of doing a fantasy draft is avoiding players who are overvalued while finding gems buried down the ADP leaderboard. The wrong pick can completely tank your season. The perfect steal can give you a magnificent advantage. Today, let's talk about some players whose ADPs makes little sense given their projections--for the good... Read More