Every Friday until the end of fantasy draft season, SI.com fantasy football experts Michael Beller and Pat Fitzmaurice will bat around a number of questions in a quest to help you assemble the best fantasy team possible.
We put a twist on this week’s roundtable: Instead of answering specific questions, Beller and Fitzmaurice examined eight sets of teammates who play the same position and broke down which player they’d rather have at his current average draft position.
Lions WRs: Golden Tate (44.2) vs. Marvin Jones (94.9)
Beller: I’m a fan of both of these players and would be willing to take either one at his ADP. I prefer Jones, however, entirely thanks to relative value. Tate is coming off the board right after Jordan Reed and Julian Edelman, and before Michael Floyd and Eric Decker. Jones is rubbing elbows with Tevin Coleman, Charles Sims, Stefon Diggs (whom I love, as I laid out in my sleepers column) and Corey Coleman. I think Jones has a much better chance of outproducing his ADP peers than Tate. Ultimately, I think both finish the season as top-30 receivers, but neither has a ceiling better than the high teens or low 20s. While you have to pay that price for Tate, you don’t have to for Jones. In other words, there’s profit potential for the new Lion, but precious little for the holdover.
Fitz: There’s been some speculation that Jones is the guy to own regardless of cost. Not sure I buy that. Tate has caught 189 passes from Matthew Stafford over the past two years, and with their chemistry established, Tate will likely remain the alpha dog in the Detroit WR kennel. But at their relative ADPs? Jones is not only the superior value but a must-buy. A late-eighth-round price is a bargain for a good young receiver who was given a five-year, $40 million contract to help fill the gaping hole left by the retirement of the great Calvin Johnson. Tate is fairly priced, but Jones is the receiver to target.
Bengals RBs: Jeremy Hill (47.4) vs. Gio Bernard (74.1)
Beller: We could play the 2016 season 100 times, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Hill and Bernard finished with the better season 50 times apiece. That makes this one pretty easy. I’d much rather have Bernard in the seventh round than Hill late in the fourth or early in the fifth. Even if all things were equal, I’d lean toward Bernard. I’ve made my thoughts on him well-known at this point. I just don’t see a realistic scenario in which he comes up short of 1,100 yards from scrimmage and six touchdowns, given his talents as a runner and receiver. I’ll happily lock in those floors with my seventh pick, even though I know he’ll be fighting an unfairly maligned (at least by many in the fantasy community) Hill for touches.
Fitz: Yeah, I’m with Beller on this one, too. It would be nice if we were getting more of a discount on Hill after a down season, but I suppose that a running back who’s punched in 21 touchdowns over his first two seasons isn’t going to fall very far. Hill’s price isn’t absurd, but I’m not inclined to pay it. Bernard, on the other hand, has made it onto a lot of my rosters in industry drafts and MFL10s (best-ball leagues in which owners draft but don't set lineups, automatically getting the highest weekly scorers at each position). The dude has produced more than 1,000 yards from scrimmage in each of his first three seasons. Bernard has averaged 49.3 catches per year, has a career average of 9.0 yards per catch, and has fumbled only once since turning pro. With Marvin Jones gone and Tyler Eifert ailing, the Bengals will probably need Bernard to play an even bigger role in the passing game. He’s well worth grabbing.
Patriots RBs: Dion Lewis (45.4) vs. LeGarrette Blount (103.6)
Beller: This is probably the easiest call of the bunch for me. I’m not sure I’d take Lewis even if he were coming off the board 20 or 30 picks later. But you’re telling me that I have to use a fourth-round pick on a running back who really doesn’t run all that much, is coming off a torn ACL and has a teammate (James White) who’s healthy and has largely the same skill set? No thanks. There’s a reason why Lewis had a prime spot in my busts column. I don’t even like Blount all that much, but he has a defined role in the New England offense, and it’s not that hard to predict when the game script is going to be in his favor. Moreover, his ADP places him in the middle of the ninth round of a typical draft. That’s still a bit pricier than I’d like, but for my money, he’s an obvious choice instead of Lewis in the fourth round.
Fitz: You diss Dion, yet you have no issues with paying a Maybach-level sticker price for Le’Veon Bell, who’s also coming back from a major knee injury, who has a far better RB than Blount behind him, and who’s looking at a four-game suspension to start the year? C’mon, Beller, you hypocrite. I’m not trying to make the case that Lewis is Bell’s equal, but Dion is a dynamic playmaker who fits perfectly into New England’s short-range passing game. Lewis was on pace for more than 1,400 yards from scrimmage and nine TDs last season before he went down. His ACL tear is less scary to me than Bell’s MCL-PCL double-shredder. I think Lewis is fairly priced. The reasons why I’m uninterested in Blount at any cost: 1) He moves with the speed of a sea anemone; 2) he’s a knucklehead; and 3) good luck figuring out which weeks he’s going to get 18 carries and which weeks he’s going to get three.
Dolphins WR: Jarvis Landry (38.2) vs. DeVante Parker (80.5)
Beller: This is a fun one, since Landry and Parker are wildly different players. Parker has a higher ceiling—I’m on record as believing in his WR1 bona fides—but Landry has a high, enviable floor. While everything went wrong in Miami last year, he had 110 catches for 1,157 yards, and the Dolphins brought in one of the most respected offensive coaches in the league to take over this season. Still, Landry’s touchdown upside is limited, and just 16 of his 194 career catches have gone for 20 or more yards. This is another one where I’d be happy with either player on my roster, but I’m again siding with the cheaper player. Parker has the breakout ability that can make a good fantasy team great. Landry is who he is, and while he still has plenty of value and is coming off the board at a fair price, Parker’s upside and affordability is too great to ignore. This is probably the hardest decision of the eight for me.
Fitz: The Jarvis Landry Fan Club keeps mailing me membership information, and I keep throwing it in the trash. I suppose Landry commands respect in PPR leagues, where all of those five-yard receptions effectively count as 15-yard receptions. (Which is why the PPR format is an abomination, but I’ll save that rant for another time.) As for Landry in standard formats … meh. An early-fourth-round ADP is too high for a guy who doesn’t score many touchdowns or make many big plays and who could conceivably play a lesser role under new Dolphins coach Adam Gase. Parker came on strong late last season and figures to play an expanded role this year. His size, speed and draft pedigree fit the profile of a true WR1, and his ADP is quite reasonable.
Jets WRs: Brandon Marshall (15.9) vs. Eric Decker (54.3)
Beller: Finally, a debate where I’m going with the higher-priced player. I’m one of Decker’s foremost backers in the fantasy community, and I can’t believe you can still get him outside the first four rounds in a typical 12-team league. It’s not as though he’s dirt cheap, however, and there’s a reason Marshall is a second-round pick. He has at least 1,200 yards and 11 touchdowns in three of the last four seasons, topping 1,500 yards twice in that span and playing in all 16 games in every year but 2014. As good as Decker is, we saw his ceiling last year, and it’s more likely than not that he tops out as a WR2 this season. Marshall can play his way back into the top five at the position.
Fitz: Marshall is terrific, but it wouldn’t shock me if Decker had the better year. I love how Jets offensive coordinator Chan Gailey lets the 6' 3" Decker do so much of his work out of the slot, creating advantageous matchups against small, overmatched cornerbacks. The perennially underrated Decker has finished in the top 10 in WR fantasy scoring in three of the last four years, averaging 10.3 TDs a season over that span. He was a model of consistency last year, producing either 80-plus yards or a TD in each of the 15 games he played. I don’t have that much of a problem with Marshall’s cost, though I’m not crazy about paying a premium price for a 32-year-old. Decker is the choice here.
Colts WRs: T.Y. Hilton (29.9) vs. Donte Moncrief (56.1)
Beller: Moncrief is a chic breakout selection, a status reflected in his ADP. Despite an undeniably great setup heading into the season, we’re still talking about a receiver with 96 catches, 1,177 yards and nine touchdowns to his name in two years. We have seen flashes from Moncrief in his career, but his breakout is still just a theory at this point. On the other hand, Hilton is a known commodity, especially with a healthy Andrew Luck. The two entered the league in the same draft and have played 53 games together. Hilton has 245 receptions for 3,837 yards and 22 touchdowns, which translates to 9.73 fantasy points per game. That rate of production would have made Hilton the No. 18 receiver last year, and it doesn’t account for the leaps he has taken in his four seasons as a pro. Hilton is a bankable high-end WR2 with top-10 upside. He’s the pick here.
Fitz: It’s Moncrief for me. This is another instance where it wouldn’t be a big surprise if the lower-priced guy turned in the better season. I’ve been trying to invest in both of these guys, but I never seem to be in position to get Hilton, and the sharps have been all over Moncrief in industry drafts. I do expect Hilton to be the slightly more valuable fantasy commodity and a top-20 receiver, but Moncrief may well be on the verge of a big, noisy breakout year, and if you can get him at anything close to this ADP, I would urge you to seize the opportunity.
Jaguars RBs: Chris Ivory (68.1) vs. T.J. Yeldon (91.0)
Beller: The Jaguars signed Ivory with an eye on rejiggering their offense a bit, both out of necessity and circumstance. They’re not likely to step back toward playoff relevance without improving a run game that ranked 27th in the league last year, and they needed a back who could milk the clock to protect the leads they expect to have this season. Looking at the roster as a whole, it’s hard to come away with a backfield conclusion that doesn’t have Ivory leading the way. And yet, Yeldon is my man in this battle. Life’s hard enough for a rookie running back in the NFL, and even more so when you’re on a team that is always playing from behind. That Yeldon ran for 740 yards and two scores on 182 carries in those circumstances is an endorsement, not an indictment, of his lead-back chops. What’s more, he’s a dangerous receiver—certainly more skilled than Ivory—catching 36 of his 46 targets for 279 yards as a rookie. If I’m taking a shot on one Jacksonville back, it’ll be Yeldon all day. I’m only too happy to take the discount.
Fitz: Close call, but give me the young blood here: Yeldon. I thought Yeldon acquitted himself well as a rookie, and he’d probably be held in higher regard by fantasy owners if not for some curious play-calling near the goal line that kept his TD total low. Ivory is a joy to watch—Jon Gruden described him as “a rolling ball of butcher knives”—and he’s probably destined to be the Jaguars’ goal line back, but I don’t like drafting RBs who don’t catch many passes. Yeldon should catch plenty, and I think he’ll get a goodly portion of the carries, too.
Seahawks WRs: Doug Baldwin (46.2) vs. Tyler Lockett (76.7)
Beller: This is the only pairing in which I don’t really like either player at his respective ADP. Even if Baldwin did permanently ascend to a new level with his second-half run last season, it’s hard to overlook the fact that he was your standard WR5 from his first day in the league through the middle of November of last year. Lockett significantly exceeded expectations last year, but I’m comfortable forcing him to prove himself to me again this season thanks to the depth of the receiver position. If I’m going to have one of them, however, it’ll be Baldwin. No one should pay for his second-half numbers, but the market doesn’t force that. His ADP makes him the 23rd receiver off the board in a typical 12-team league, and he can easily produce low-end WR2 numbers this year. His ceiling, in fact, is much higher, as we saw while he did his best Jerry Rice impression last season. Lockett’s production feels a bit more gimmicky, the sort of player who’s far more valuable in real life than he is in fantasy. With the likes of DeVante Parker, Kevin White and DeSean Jackson still on the board when Lockett goes, I’ll almost always be passing on him.
Fitz: This is probably the toughest call on the board. I think they’re both pretty reasonably priced. It’s almost a waste of breath at this point to say that Baldwin’s kooky late-season TD pace of 2015 is unsustainable. But it’s also undeniable that he very much looked the part of a true No. 1 receiver during that torrid stretch. Lockett is an exciting young player who figures to take a big step forward this season, but he produced in fits and spurts as a rookie, and I’m still not sure how dependable he’ll be from week to week. Baldwin, on the other hand, is a player I’d be willing to throw into my starting lineup every week without a second thought. To me, that’s worth the 2.5-round price difference. Give me Baldwin.