With just over a week to go until the NFL regular season gets underway, the clock is ticking on finalizing your fantasy football squads. We wanted to give our insight into the most heated fantasy football debates, with hopes of helping you decide between this year’s top players. Some positions — QB (Aaron Rodgers), WR (Antonio Brown) — have a clear top choice. However, when it comes to running back and tight end, the top option is not as simple. Take a look at who we think the best option at RB and TE are, as well as our picks for who should be the second QB and WR off the board:
Bell v. Gurley
Dylan Fraychineaud — Todd Gurley: This is probably the toughest choice to make out of the three positions in question. On one hand, I could see the Steelers running Le’Veon into the ground. If they aren’t keen on the prospects of retaining his services after this season, the black and yellow could maximize his ability and not worry about his future. However, if they are in fact ready to move on, the Steelers could start transitioning to James Conner. When it comes to Gurley, he is the clear No. 1 option and entering his prime. He outscored Bell by 42 points (PPR) last season, and should have a similar output this year. Bell is certainly still a top-4 RB at worst, but Gurley is the safer play.
Harris Ahmadzai — Le’Veon Bell: Gurley’s breakout year in 2018 is nothing to scoff at. The Rams enter the year with one of the strongest offenses in the league, led by savant head coach Sean McVay. There isn’t much competition for touches in LA’s backfield, ensuring Gurley will be featured heavily throughout the season. While the Rams’ rusher is in store for another big year, he hasn’t proven quite enough to leap Bell in my rankings. Bell is more proven, and — quite frankly — more talented. He’s already posted three seasons of 90+ targets and 1,800+ all-purpose yards. Pittsburgh is going to run him until the wheels come off, and there will be plenty of scores and yards to go around in the Steelers’ high-octane attack.
Watson v. Brady
Dylan Fraychineaud —Tom Brady: Until Brady decides to hang up his cleats, it will be hard to pick anyone over him — other than Aaron Rodgers. Watson undoubtedly showed tremendous potential as a rookie, but there a couple things working against him headed into the season. First, you never know how a player will be coming off a serious knee injury. I’m not completely sold on Watson’s decision making, and expect there to be some growing pains this year. Brady finished 2017 with 350 points, second amongst quarterbacks, and has been a top-3 fantasy QB over the past three years.
Harris Ahmadzai — Deshaun Watson: Upside, upside, upside. I know what I’m getting out of Brady — and that’s certainly not a bad thing. The Patriots’ signal-caller will toss for over 4,000 yards, 30+ touchdowns, and have his team fighting for a Super Bowl come January. Those numbers are fine and dandy, until you take a closer look at what Brady has done in the fantasy playoffs over the years. Since 2014, Brady has played 17 games in December, and has posted just three 300+ passing yard performances. In Weeks 13-16 last season, Brady threw for more interceptions (5) than touchdowns (4). The year prior, he had 412 yards combined in Weeks 15 and 16. When your fantasy leagues ramp up, Brady has historically stepped off of the gas pedal. Watson and the Texans should be fighting for playoff position all year long, and will have plenty to play for in the winter months. Before he got hurt last season, Watson was on track for 40 passing touchdowns with 500 rushing yards — a hearty combination of stats only a handful of quarterbacks could dream of matching.
OBJ v. Hopkins
Dylan Fraychineaud — DeAndre Hopkins: With Antonio Brown clearly the No. 1 option at receiver, the next best pick is Hopkins. With OBJ coming off a season-ending injury, and Watson returning to throw the ball to Hopkins, I prefer the Houston wide-out. OBJ has to prove he has recovered fully from his foot injury — and I don’t trust Eli Manning. Hopkins was targeted a league-high 175 times a season ago, and finished the year only one point behind Brown as the top receiver. Until OBJ finds a new quarterback, give me Hopkins.
Harris Ahmadzai — Odell Beckham Jr.: Beckham and Hopkins are both supreme talents, but there’s one facet to OBJ’s game that separates him from his peer — big play ability. In 2016 (Beckham’s last full season), he was third in the league in yards after the catch. Hopkins finished 45th that same year, and saw a moderate increase to 28th during his stellar 2017 campaign. Both guys have an impossibly large catch radius, and are red zone threats, but Beckham’s speed and agility in the open field give him a higher ceiling. He’s also in line for plenty of work after the Giants inked him to the richest contract for a receiver in league history.
Gronk v. Kelce
Dylan Fraychineaud — Travis Kelce: This one comes down to injury risk. Gronk is one of the greatest tight ends in NFL history, but his game log is a red flag for me. Over the past four seasons Gronk has missed 12 games. In that same time frame, Kelce has missed only one game. Combine that with four extra years of punishment for Gronk, and I’ll take the more reliable option. Kelce could see an uptick this season as well, as young quarterback’s seem to have an affinity for TE’s.
Harris Ahmadzai — Rob Gronkowski: There’s no tight end in Gronk’s stratosphere. When healthy (which is more often than you’d think), he’s a lock to lead the position in both yards and scores. The eight-year pro has already compiled five double-digit touchdown seasons. He enters the year as the unequivocal first option in New England’s potent passing attack, and is coming off a season in which he went relatively unscathed. Pick Gronkowski as the first TE off the board with confidence, and watch him further cement himself as one of the very best to ever play the position.
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