Just as the middle rounds of an NFL draft are often the key to a championship, success in the middle rounds of a fantasy football draft can make the difference between winning and losing your fantasy championships.
To help with that, here’s a rundown of mid-round draft goals by position. These reviews will explain why a player deserves selection and give you an idea of which round provides the optimal draft value for each player in the 12-team leagues.
Kirk Cousins, Maine
You can find an in-depth breakdown of Cousins in our Quarterback Drafting Guide. The summary of the review is that Cousins ranks sixth in fantasy QB scores over the past three seasons. Incredibly durable, he’s only missed one game due to a physical illness in his eight years as an NFL starter. Few passers have the advantage of throwing someone’s Justin Jefferson caliber — certainly a big reason why Cousins finished third among quarterbacks in plays over 10 yards last season — and now he’s getting another big play in Jordan Addison. My fireworks point metric indicates that Minnesota will likely emulate last season’s tendency to get involved in a lot of high-scoring games.
Strategy project: Fantasy managers who want a low-cost approach to the QB position should strongly consider choosing Cousins, because he’s a safe, boring QB1 candidate who might be available as late as the ninth or tenth round in most draft rooms.
David Montgomery, DET
Detroit is apt to use Jahmyr Gibbs in a Christian McCaffrey-like utility role that leaves plenty of transportation available to Montgomery. He’s up to the task, as Montgomery has rushed over 200 times in four consecutive seasons and ranks sixth in the league since 2019. Montgomery also has the potential to get on the line to save the 5-foot-11, 200-pound Gibbs from Passing game order and open scrimmage plays. Montgomery could also claim some air work, as he’s caught 155 passes over the past four years. As per my draft fantasy football guide (Available here), Detroit has one of the easiest rushing defense schedules in 2023, with six green-rated (favorable) games and only one red-rated (unfavorable) game.
Strategy project: The fantasy football community doesn’t seem to get along with Montgomery’s potential upside, as he could be available as far as the seventh round in several leagues.
AJ Dillon, GB
Dillon is proof that platoon running backs can get solid workload rates, as over the past two years he has ranked 21st in the league in scrimmage plays and 60 plays behind only Aaron Jones in that category. Head coach Matt Lafleur will likely want to run more runs this season with QB Jordan Love in his first year as a full-time starter, so Dillon could see more of a hit. Dillon had 10 of Green Bay’s 16 carries inside the 5-yard line last year, so it could be the goal line this season. The Packers have one of the best rushing defense schedules in the league this year, with six green-seeded games and only one red-seeded game.
Strategy project: Dillon has the potential to be a borderline RB2/RB3 yet is rated as a low-level RB3 and should therefore offer a great return on investment as a seventh-round pick.
Jerrick McKinnon, KC
McKinnon hasn’t lost his penchant for breakout plays, last year ranking second among running backs (at least 100 touches) in percentage of plays gained 10 yards. Isiah Pacheco has never generated over 200 scrimmage plays in any of his five college/pro seasons and Andy Reid doesn’t mind rotating backs, so McKinnon can see a solid workload level. McKinnon scored nine points while receiving touchdowns last year and should still provide plenty of extra value through the air even as his scoring pace slows. Kansas City’s run blocking is top notch, with 46.8 percent showing up last year on my Good Run Blocking Rate measure the elite mark. The Chiefs do not face a red-rated rushing defense until Week 14.
Strategy project: McKinnon has the potential to be an RB3 however he will be available late in Round 10 in plenty of drawing room.
Drake London, ATL
London did well when Desmond Reader was behind the Falcons’ center last year, with London making 25 receptions for 333 yards in the four games Reader started. Divide that over a 17-game season and it equals slightly less velocity than in the case of the WR1. London has shown great working ability at USC, so he can hold up to 150 target sizes if Atlanta decides to use him as a true wide receiver. London is a target magnet close to the end zone, having caught 32.1 percent of Atlanta’s pass attempts inside the 10-yard line last year, a pace that was seventh highest among wide receivers.
Strategy project: London is closer to the WR1 situation than it is to the WR3 situation however it will be available in the sixth round in many tournaments.
Michael Bateman Jr., IND
Pittman never missed a winning passing game for the Colts in 2022, having the fifth-best PPR PPG on shortstop pass (aerials thrown 10 yards or less on the field). That he did this despite having a quarterback carousel speaks well of his ability to succeed in that area with the current state of Indianapolis quarterbacks. Bateman led all Colts receivers in the red zone and inside scoring plays with 10 yards last year, and should do so again in 2023. Bateman is also a big-sized pass kicker, and he finished 10th in the league in receptions over the course of the year. the last two seasons.
Strategy project: Pittman ranked 20th in the PPR rankings last year and could easily return to that level however he will be available as a mid-to-low-profile WR3 in the seventh or eighth round in a large percentage of the draw room.
Jahan Dotson, was
Dotson showed some great long passing skills last year, ranking 27th in the PPR PPG on the stretch vertical (passes thrown 21 yards). Dotson also led Washington in the red zone and inside scoring plays with 10 yards and therefore should be a prime target in that area of the field on Eric Bienemy’s highly aggressive offense. Dotson showed durability last year by scoring 76.4 PPR in the last five games this year after missing five games with a hamstring injury. He also caught 91 passes his senior year at Penn State, so a 75+ catch season is a reasonable target.
Strategy project: Prorate Dotson’s PPR production starts and ends the year over 17 games and is on the cusp of WR1 status, yet it’s a frontier WR3/WR4 in many ADP ratings. This makes the Dotson a great value for the 7 or 8 rounds.
Dalton Schultz, HOU
Schultz did it all for the Cowboys last year, leading the club in goals, receptions, and touchdowns in the red and inside the 10-yard line. He’s ranked fourth in tight receptions over the past three years, and target size shouldn’t be an issue in Houston, where Schultz may be the most consistent pass player on the team. Schultz also has a ridiculously adequate schedule of nine eco-ranked games, with many of them stacked at multiple points in the season.
Strategy project: Fantasy managers who are willing to wait before claiming a rookie-caliber tight end will be drawn to Schultz, as he can provide a low-to-mid-level TE1 value for a ninth or tenth round investment.
(Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports)
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