Average draft positions based off of ESPN.
RB Eddie Lacy (Green Bay)
With DuJuan Harris out for the season, who is going to take carries away from him? Alex Green and James Starks are tried and failed backs who might not have even made the team if it weren’t for Harris’ injury, while 4th round rookie Johnathan Franklin has appears overmatched thus far in his brief career. Cedric Benson was averaging 16 carries per game before getting hurt last season with almost the same group of backups behind him. What’s to stop Eddie Lacy, a significantly superior talent, from doing the same? He’ll have plenty of running room and scoring opportunities on this explosive offense. If you want to go running back/running back in the first 2 rounds (a good idea considering the well dries up quickly), Lacy is a very reasonable 2nd round pick.
RB Reggie Bush (Detroit)
The Lions threw to running backs 134 times last season and that was with the likes of Mikel Leshoure, Joique Bell, and Kevin Smith at running back. Sure, the Lions probably won’t throw 727 times like they did last season, but Reggie Bush could still easily surpass 80 catches, which is what the Lions are saying is their goal for Bush. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if he was 2nd on this team in receiving after Calvin Johnson and he’ll almost definitely be 2nd in catches. Oh, and he also runs the football. Injuries might scare you off, but he’s missed just 1 game in the last 2 seasons.
RB Lamar Miller (Miami)
Lamar Miller is Reggie Bush’s replacement in Miami and he too is undervalued. Daniel Thomas is no threat to his job. They were just talking him up as a competitor to Miller to scare and motivate him. He should get around the 227 carries Bush had last season and you can comfortably start him as a RB2. Given how thin running backs are this season, it’s absurd that he’s going in the 5th round on average.
WR Jordy Nelson (Green Bay)
Jordy Nelson caught 68 passes for 1263 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2011 and was on his way to an equally good season in 2012. Nelson caught 40 passes for 532 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns in the first 7 games of last season. That’s 91 catches for 1216 yards and 11 touchdowns over 16 games. A hamstring problem caused him to miss 4 games and limited him in the others, but that seems to be behind him. I’m not predicting a full bounce back because he recently had minor knee surgery, but he was back practicing 2 weeks before the Packers’ 1st scheduled regular season game. He’s a very solid WR2 that isn’t being drafted like one.
WR DeSean Jackson (Philadelphia)
DeSean Jackson was on his way to getting back over the 1000 yard mark last season before missing 5 games with injury. The Eagles offense should, by default, be better than it was last season, especially for fantasy purposes as they’re going to crank up the pace (at the expense of their horrible defense, but still, we’re talking fantasy football here) and Jeremy Maclin is no longer around to steal targets. Jackson is going to see plenty of targets in Chip Kelly’s speed based offense and he’ll probably give you added value on the ground as Kelly will use him from time to time like he used De’Anthony Thomas at Oregon. If you take 3 running backs early like you should this year, you can still get a decent WR2 in Jackson in the 6th round on average.
WR Torrey Smith (Baltimore)
Anquan Boldin is gone. Dennis Pitta is hurt. Who else is Joe Flacco going to throw to? Smith has totaled about 850 receiving yards in each of his first 2 years in the league and could be on the verge of having a 3rd year breakout year like so many receivers have. He’s got an outside shot at 1200 receiving yards and should be able to go over 1000. Like Jackson, he’s a decent WR2 available in the 6th round.
RB Chris Ivory (NY Jets)
Sure he’s an injury risk, but he’s a starting running back with minimal competition for his job. If he stays healthy, I don’t know why he couldn’t have the ridiculous 276 carries the Jets gave Shonn Greene last season. He’s an injury risk, but he’s a really, really strong flex if you can get him there, and, based on his ADP, you probably can.
RB Ahmad Bradshaw (Indianapolis)
Chuck Pagano called Bradshaw a feature back. Sure he’s an injury risk, but he’s always been one and still averaged 257 touches per season in 3 years as the starter in New York. He’s one of the toughest running backs in the NFL. He’s a RB2 being drafted as a RB3 in a year where running backs dry up fast.
WR Cecil Shorts (Jacksonville)
Ignore the fact that he’s a Jaguar. He was a Jaguar last season, but in 9 starts, he caught 47 passes for 774 yards and 5 touchdowns, which extrapolates to 84 catches for 1386 yards and 9 touchdowns over 16 games. He was also 8th in the NFL in yards per route run last season, behind Andre Johnson, Brandon Marshall, Michael Crabtree, Calvin Johnson, Demaryius Thomas, Vincent Jackson, and AJ Green. That’s pretty good company. Going into his 3rd year in the league, things are only looking up for him.
TE Greg Olsen (Carolina)
I’ve done a bunch of mock fantasy drafts and a few real ones and I think I’ve ended up with Greg Olsen as my starting tight end in all of them. A 1st round talent, Olsen finally put it all together last season, catching 69 passes for 843 yards and 5 touchdowns. Once Cam Newton got over his 1st half of his sophomore season slump, Olsen got even better, catching 40 passes for 496 yards and 4 touchdowns in his final 9 games. Steve Smith is another year older so Olsen could see even more targets and if Newton starts passing on the goal line more often instead of running to preserve his body, look out. The #6 scoring tight end last season, Olsen should surpass that this season, especially in a weak year for tight ends, but is, for some reason, the 8th tight end off the board.
RB Mark Ingram (New Orleans)
Yeah he’s burned people before with his inability to stay consistently healthy, but he’s still a former 1st round talent going into only his 3rd year in the league and he’s being drafted outside of the top-30 running backs, behind guys like BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Daryl Richardson, and Rashard Mendenhall. Do you really trust those guys more than Ingram?
RB Shane Vereen (New England)
He’s not the starting running back in New England, but he’ll be used plenty of a change of pace back and a receiver. The Patriots led the NFL in plays per game last season and probably will do so again this season because, unlike Philadelphia, they have the personnel necessary to consistently sustain drives. Vereen could see 200 touches, 60 of which could be catches, but he’s being drafted in the 8th-9th round on average.
WR Mike Williams (Tampa Bay)
He’s being drafted as the 36th wide receiver off the board even though he was 18th among receivers in fantasy points last season and I’m not sure why. You can start Williams as a flex most weeks. He’s surpassed or approached 1000 receiving yards in 2 of his first 3 seasons in the league and after he and Vincent Jackson, Josh Freeman doesn’t have a lot to throw to.
WR Brian Hartline (Miami)
Brian Hartline was a 1000 yard receiver last year. Sure, Mike Wallace is coming in, but Hartline is a better fit for the offense, given that it’s a West Coast offense and that the Dolphins have problems up front on the offensive line that could make it hard for the team to throw deep as often as they’d like. Hartline will see plenty of one on one coverage with Wallace drawing double teams deep (until they realize he’s not as good as he used to be anymore) and might still lead the team in targets. Wallace struggled mightily last season and Hartline knows the playbook better. He’s not even being drafted in 2/3rds of the leagues.
RB Joique Bell (Detroit)
If Reggie Bush gets hurt, the Lions might just put Bell directly into his role, which would make him a RB2. Bell was 2nd in the NFL in yards per route run among running backs last season, behind only Darren Sproles, and also averaged 5.0 yards per carry on 82 carries. He’s worth a late round flier, especially for Bush owners, but he’s barely being drafted, going in 28% of leagues. Mikel Leshoure, the clear 3rd string back, meanwhile, is being drafted in 46%.