With our What to Remember, Rookie Roundups, Sleeper Breakout & Bust and Player Profiles all behind us, it’s time to take a step back and take our foot off the gas… or not. This week is fantasy football draft week, though you could argue that every week is draft week. We start off by taking a look, round-by-round, and sorting out the biggest boom-bust picks (early in your fantasy football draft these are the riskiest picks, but they become the high-upside guys later on) as well as the safest picks, the floor picks. These guys aren’t the ones in your fantasy football draft who are likely to set the world on fire, but they are the ones likely to stick around your roster the longest. We start with the first three rounds of the fantasy football draft. We already looked at the riskiest picks. It’s time to square away the safest picks in the first three rounds.
Safest Pick, Round 1 – Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints (WR1, #5 overall)
This is in the “non-Christian McCaffrey Division” of picks. The #1 overall pick, CMC, is nail gunned, staple gunned and superglued to the top spot on everyone’s draft boards for a reason. But, Michael Thomas easily has the safest floor of every player in the first round not named CMC. First off, he isn’t a running back, which means he doesn’t have the week-to-week downside of getting banged up and missing a month. Call that the first curse I accidentally placed on him. Second, nobody has a safer volume load than Michael Thomas. He broke the NFL record for catches last season and ranks #2 in targets behind DeAndre Hopkins over the last three seasons. Nuk Hopkins switched teams, and we do not know his workload in Arizona.
Michael Thomas is on the shortlist for the best wide receiver in the NFL, gets a ton of targets, and catches virtually everything thrown his way (#1 among wide receivers by over 3% in the last three years). He’s easily the safest pick off the board in the middle of round one. Want more convincing? Michael Thomas posted just one game with fewer than 12.5 half-PPR fantasy points in the 2019 fantasy football regular season.
Safest Pick, Round 2 – Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons (WR5, #13 overall)
If you want a miniature version of everything I said about Michael Thomas, go ahead and slot Julio Jones into your fantasy football lineups. Over the last three years, Julio ranks top-five in targets and receptions, and no wide receiver has more receiving yards than he does in the last few years. He’s a steady Eddie, set-and-forget guy to get at the beginning of round two. If there’s a downside, it’s his lack of touchdowns (17 in the last three years), but even that figure ends up inside the top-twenty at wide receiver.
The Atlanta Falcons are set to basically run out the same game plan as last season, except they swapped Hayden Hurst and Todd Gurley for Austin Hooper and Devonta Freeman. Calvin Ridley will likely garner more targets, but the Falcons aren’t stupid enough to go away from Julio Jones and his top-five yards per target in the league. Julio makes his hay with consistent metrics: targets, catches, and yards. If the touchdowns come, he has a chance to dethrone Michael Thomas for the #1 spot.
Safest Pick, Round 3 – Adam Thielen, Minnesota Vikings (WR11, #2 overall)
Thielen highlights a run of wide receivers in the first half of round three who all should have nice floors. Mike Evans, Amari Cooper, and Allen Robinson all come off the board before Thielen. Unfortunately, we are dealing with a new quarterback, a new star wide receiver, and a new quarterback (maybe, maybe not?) respectively among those three guys. While I don’t anticipate a lot of insane changes for them, I can’t peg them as safer than Adam Thielen. Allen Robinson and his like-clockwork 150+ targets whenever he is healthy came closest. Ultimately, however, I went with Thielen. A hamstring injury derailed his 2019 campaign, but he should be back and ready to go for 2020.
Three guys also come off the board after Thielen: Odell Beckham, Cooper Kupp, and A.J. Brown. To that I say: surgery recovery, spent the second half of 2019 getting pushed aside for tight ends, and one of the most unsustainable production rates of all time last year as reasons to not trust those guys more than Adam Thielen.
The 2020 Vikings passing game features Adam Thielen, a rookie (Justin Jefferson), a fifth-round sophomore wide receiver (Olabisi Johnson), an over-the-hill tight end (Kyle Rudolph) and a yet-to-prove-it sophomore tight end (Irv Smith). The Vikings passing game will be extremely top-heavy, and that means feeding Adam Thielen targets until he throws up. Thielen averaged 131 targets per sixteen games the last three years with target hog Stefon Diggs in the lineup. Now, he’s free to roam about the country and smash production all over the place. He’s not only the safest third-round wide receiver, but he’s the safest third-round player, period.
We’ve outlined the safest and riskiest plays in the first three rounds. Come back tomorrow when we do the same for rounds four through six!