Gut feelings aren't a term many numbers-based analysts like to hear about in fantasy football, but there is value in simply drafting a player based on his overall talent combined with his ADP (average draft position) value and likely role on his respective team. Here are five players we're interested in adding to our fantasy teams for all of those variables.
1. Jeremy Maclin, wide receiver for Kansas City Chiefs
Average draft position: WR23 (50th overall)
Why we want him: One word. Volume. Maclin was, and still is, the No. 1 wide receiver on an offense that values efficiency over flashiness and the results are just as deadly for your fantasy opponents if you end up going with the 28-year-old receiver. Through 16 games played last season, Maclin saw at least 9 targets in eight games and averaged 8.3 targets for this season. That's the kind of consistency you want from a WR2/3.
Though he didn't blow up all that much (only three 100-plus yard receiving efforts), he had just two true down weeks where he scored 2 points or less. The rest of the time he hovered around the 50-60 yard mark and cashed in eight touchdowns. With Alex Smith and Andy Reid running the exact same offense that made Maclin successful last season, no injuries to halt his progress and still in the prime of his career, Maclin is a near lock to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark again and score on a consistent enough basis to be well worth his fourth or fifth round ADP value.
2. Larry Fitzgerald, wide receiver for Arizona Cardinals
Average draft position: WR27 (60th overall)
Why we want him: For similar reasons to Maclin, Fitzgerald is a target hog. He averaged nine targets per game last season on a team with several other receiving weapons that could've devalued the future Hall of Fame receiver. Instead, Fitzgerald continued to prove just how valuable he was in the slot by catching 109 passes for over 1,219 yards and 9 touchdowns.
At 32 years of age, Fitzgerald might drop off a tad but his ADP is currently hovering around receivers like Jordan Matthews and Emmanuel Sanders, two players who are a bigger risk due to potential poor quarterback play. Expect Fitzgerald to be the least likely bust of the two due to his velcro hands and big body still providing plenty of matchup nightmares over the middle of the field.
3. Duke Johnson, running back for Cleveland Browns
Average draft position: RB27 (No. 76 overall).
Why we want him: Receiving running backs are always a great bargain in the later rounds and Johnson is slated to assume the passing-down role in Cleveland. Johnson gets the benefit of playing in a run-friendly system under Hue Jackson and shouldn't fall victim to poor game script in Cleveland's potentially bad offense. Point being — his receiving ability will keep him on the field in blowout losses. Johnson also has the instincts of a quality NFL running back and can see and hit running lanes that most running backs can't.
Some may argue Johnson's Cleveland teammate Isaiah Crowell is the better bargain due to his inside running ability and touchdown potential, but there is some belief that Johnson is capable of seeing more than just screen passes on third down. This article from Joe Holka summed it up best. Overall, there's more potential in Johnson turning into a receiving and rushing back than there is Crowell turning into a receiving and rushing back.
The one big issue with Duke Johnson though is his injury history and carries a 82% injury risk per Sports Injury Predictor. You could also argue his ADP is a bit too high given that you can get guys like Giovani Bernard and Frank Gore for around the same price. Still, we think Jackson's presence as an RB-guru is one of his best fantasy weapons since he'll still see some carries and his receiving ability and instincts as a football player are off the charts. Those should outweigh the risks.
4. Martellus Bennett, tight end for New England Patriots
Average draft position: TE14 (147th overall)
Why we want him: Potential Rob Gronkowski value without the Gronk price. Tight ends are a fascinating position for fantasy football this season because there are so many boom/bust options in the later rounds. However, you'd be hard-pressed to find more value for a tight end than in the Patriots offense. To give you an idea, backup tight end Scott Chandler scored four touchdowns last season as a No. 2 tight end to Gronkowski.
When Gronkowski suffered an injury (a more common theme than people might think), Chandler saw 18 targets over the next two games. It's safe to say Bennett is a much better athlete than Chandler and is just a few years removed from a Pro Bowl season with the Chicago Bears. His current ADP means you can get him in the later rounds of your draft and Jason Witten, Dwayne Allen and Antonio Gates are all good options, Bennett has the chance to be a Top 5 tight end in the right circumstances.
5. Kirk Cousins, quarterback for Washington Redskins
Average draft position: QB14 (115th overall)
Why we want him: OK, to be fair, there are a couple other quarterbacks in this range that would be just as good to have (Eli Manning, Tony Romo to name a few) but Cousins has some added benefits that these other quarterbacks don't have. For one, the Redskins have one of the deepest groups at wide receiver in the NFL to go along with an elite tight end in Jordan Reed. Cousins also plays in a quarterback friendly offense that has been known to produce 30-touchdown passers.
He's also playing in a contract season (I know, maybe it doesn't mean much) but he has every incentive to pile on the stats this season in hopes of landing a big deal next offseason. Cousins also has the added benefit of playing the Dallas Cowboys defense (a depleted unit) twice and gets another weak defense in the New York Giants twice as well. His current ADP means he'll be available near the end of your draft so it would be wise to take him as your backup quarterback at least, though he'll likely finish with QB1 numbers this season.