Fantasy football drafts are starting up, as NFL preseason football is here. There are plenty of big boards and position rankings out there to help fans draft as well as possible. For different drafting platforms, there are different players who can outperform where they are drafted. Here are players to target in ESPN drafts.
Joe Mixon, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
ESPN has Mixon rated as the 18th player for standard scoring leagues after he finished last season as the ninth-best running back. Mixon rushed for 1,168 yards, which led the AFC, and had 296 receiving yards with nine total touchdowns. Cincinnati didn’t have a good offensive line, which makes his feats even more impressive.
The Bengals lost first-round pick Jonah Williams to injury and guard Clint Boling to retirement, so the line will be suspect again, but they can’t play much worse than last season. If Mixon is healthy for a full 16 games, he can outperform plenty of players ranked ahead of him. Ezekiel Elliot and Melvin Gordon are in contract holdouts. David Johnson finished behind Mixon last season and now has to deal with a rookie head coach and quarterback.
While he is ranked 18th, Mixon should be drafted earlier in fantasy drafts. With him ranked so low, the wise thing would be to target him at some point around the 11th to 15th pick and he’ll be well worth it given how much he can produce in 2019.
Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans
Henry finished the season strong to be ranked the 13th best running back. This season he is ranked as the 35th player by ESPN. He rushed for 1,059 yards and 12 touchdowns last season. Based on how he finished the season, the Titans will likely feed him the ball a lot in 2019.
In the first 12 weeks of the season, Henry had 128 carries. In the last four weeks, he had 87 carries and rushed for 585 yards. He also rushed for seven touchdowns over that stretch. Running behind a quality offensive line, Henry should be fed the ball more, much like the last four weeks of the season.
While he likely won’t be an RB1 this season, Henry should be drafted a little sooner than where ESPN has him rated. He can outperform players that are ranked ahead of him. Devonta Freeman is coming off of an injury, but had a similar season to Henry when he was last healthy in 2017. Nick Chubb should get a lot of carries for the Browns this season, but could have to share carries with Kareem Hunt, when he returns from suspension. Dalvin Cook hasn’t been able to stay healthy and has never had a season as good as Henry last year. For all of those reasons, Henry should be selected before the 35th pick,
Mark Ingram, RB, Baltimore Ravens
He is ranked 50th by ESPN, but he should be moved up a little bit, even more so than Mike Clay ranking him at number 48. Last year for the Saints, he rushed for 645 yards and six touchdowns in 12 games. He split time with Alvin Kamara last year, but now will be featured in a run-heavy attack in Baltimore.
His 4.7 yards per carry from 2018 will help the Ravens move the chains this season. With Lamar Jackson at quarterback, the offense will have a few ball carriers, but Ingram should get more than his 138 carries that he had for the Saints last season. If he can keep his yards per carry up above 4.0, Ingram can well outperform where he is ranked on ESPN.
Sony Michel is ranked higher than Ingram and will be splitting carries with James White and a few other running backs for the Patriots. Damien Williams stepped in when Kareem Hunt was released at the end of last season for the Chiefs, but he has never had more than 50 carries in a season and will have Carlos Hyde looking over his shoulder. While other owners jump on players like Michel and Williams, make sure to target Ingram.
Tarik Cohen, RB, Chicago Bears
Cohen has proven to be a weapon running the ball and catching it for the Bears over the last few seasons. He had 444 rushing yards and 725 receiving yards with eight total touchdowns. ESPN has him ranked as the 62nd best player on their draft tool.
The Bears traded Jordan Howard to the Philadelphia Eagles and then drafted David Montgomery. While Montgomery gets his feet wet, Cohen will have to carry the load. He should be able to get to over 1,000 total yards, meaning he will likely be able to outperform his draft position.
There are several running backs rated similarly by ESPN that Cohen can outperform. Miles Sanders is a rookie for the Eagles, who will have to split time with Jordan Howard and Darren Sproles. Darrell Henderson is Todd Gurley’s backup, but is also ranked similarly to Cohen.
Marvin Jones Jr., WR, Detroit Lions
The Lions utilize Jones well when he is healthy and he was rated 70th by ESPN. He was only able to play in nine games, but finished the season with 62 catches for 508 yards and five touchdowns. Jones played in 16 games in 2017 and accounted for 1,101 receiving yards.
Detroit doesn’t have Golden Tate any longer, but will use Kenny Golladay as one of their top weapons. Jones and Golladay can both be productive, much like Tate and Jones were in years past. Jones should be able to come close to his 2017 season, where he also had nine touchdowns to go along with his 1,101 yards season.
Robby Anderson is rated similarly to Marvin Jones by ESPN, but has never had a 1,000-yard season. He also produces more sporadically than Jones, so let Anderson get picked and focus on selecting Jones.
Jordan Howard, RB, Philadelphia Eagles
There are a lot of questions surrounding the Philadelphia backfield this year. Howard was traded from Chicago this offseason. Splitting carries with Cohen, Howard was still able to account for over 1,000 total yards and nine touchdowns. He was ranked 90th by ESPN.
In Philadelphia, Howard could split carries with the rookie Miles Sanders. If the Eagles use them both right, Sanders and Howard can be productive, but Howard should be the workhorse back this season. With a more balanced attack, he should be able to do better than his 3.7 yards per carry last season.
Rashaad Penny, Latavius Murray, D’onta Foreman and Royce Freeman are all rated similarly to Howard. All of them are likely to get way less than half of their teams’ carries, while Howard could get the majority of the carries for the Eagles. Because of the opportunity he has, choose Howard before the other running backs in the range.
Peyton Barber, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa Bay has a new head coach in Bruce Arians, who is expected to put a jolt of life into the offense. His lead running back will likely be Barber, who got a lot of carries last season. He rushed for 871 yards and five touchdowns. Heading into this season, ESPN has him ranked 91st.
With Arians, Barber should produce a lot more. Ronald Jones could take some carries, but after a terrible rookie season, he has to earn a lot of trust before getting a lot of work. If Arians can make Jameis Winston more efficient, the offense can be more balanced and Barber can make the most of every time he gets the ball.
Like Howard, Barber should get the most carries on the Buccaneers. Other running backs rated around his range are not projected to get most of their teams’ carries. Barber should be selected before those running backs and should outperform his ESPN ranking.