The Must List: Fantasy Football Experts Reveal One Player They Must Have This Season

Yesterday our esteemed panel of 15 top fantasy experts picked the one player they are avoiding in every draft, based on current ADP. Now we are flipping the switch and asking the same group of experts the one player they MUST have in every draft. While the avoid list was heavy on ruling backs, the must draft list is an intriguing array of every position.

Andy Behrens, Yahoo!: Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers QB

If we’re all collectively right about Antonio Brown (consensus WR1), Le’Veon Bell (consensus RB2 & PPR treasure) and Martavis Bryant (everyone’s favorite flier), then the fantasy community is severely underrating Big Ben. He consistently falls outside the top-70 overall picks in standard drafts, selected at QB8 or beyond. That’s madness. He offers easy profit potential.

Stephania Bell, ESPN: Keenan Allen, Chargers WR

Sure, in the last two seasons combined, Keenan Allen has only played in 9 games. But how often are you going to lacerate a kidney (as Allen did in 2015)? And, by tearing his ACL in Week 1 of last year, he had four extra months of rehab. That’s how I’m choosing to look at it. His draft value will make him someone I target in every league.

Sigmund Bloom, Marshawn Lynch, Raiders RB

The circuit is complete with Lynch back in Oakland, running behind a line that made Latavius Murray a low RB1

Brad Evans, Yahoo!: Ty Montgomery, Packers RB

His underlying data from 2016 says he’s a freak in the making. Monty ranked No. 1 in yards after contact per touch, No. 2 in breakaway percentage and No. 3 in juke rate among RBs. In other words, his breakthrough campaign was merely the tip of the iceberg.

Pat Fitzmaurice, The Football Girl: Travis Kelce, Chiefs TE

The third round of 2017 fantasy drafts is a minefield, and Kelce has been my third-round mine sweeper in multiple drafts. With 85 catches and 1,125 yards last season, Kelce has become the alpha pass catcher in Kansas City, and there might be 100-catch, 1,300-yard potential now that Jeremy Maclin is no longer with the Chiefs. There are those who believe that Kelce’s disappointing TD totals are a chronic condition brought on by a conservative offense and a fraidy-cat quarterback, but I think there’s a good chance Kelce scores seven or more touchdowns this year. “Zeus” is readily available in the third round of drafts, and I like the idea of getting a tight end in that round who’s capable of producing WR1 numbers.


Alex Gelhar, Pierre Garcon, 49ers WR

Garcon is coming at a huge discount in drafts right now because he’s on the 49ers and Brian Hoyer is his quarterback. But for fantasy wide receivers, volume is king and Garcon could easily eclipse 150 targets in Kyle Shanahan’s offense. That would have been a top-12 total among wide receivers in each of the last five years, and during that span only six wideouts to hit that target threshhold have failed to finish among the top 24 scorers at their position. I believe Garcon will be a top-20 wide receiver even in standard leagues, and is being drafted in the WR30-plus range.

Matt Harmon, Willie Snead, Saints WR

Snead has long been a player I’ve had affinity for after identifying him as a strong route runner with my Reception Perception methodology early in the 2015 season. This upcoming season will see that ability meet with ideal opportunity. Snead will inherit some of the volume opened up by the departed Brandin Cooks and will garner high percentage targets in one of the NFL’s best offenses.

T.J. Hernandez, 4for4: DeAndre Washington. Raiders RB

In his signature Rushing Expectation series, Joe Holka of highlights Washington as one of the better running backs that he has charted this offseason. Washington has stand alone value in an offense that wants to use a committee and boasts arguably the best offensive line in the league. Playing behind Marshawn Lynch, who is on the wrong side of 30 and has played just seven games over the last two seasons, a huge workload for Washington is well within the range of potential outcomes and he’s virtually free in every draft.

Melissa Jacobs, The Football Girl: Brandin Cooks, Patriots WR

Cooks’s ADP is on the rise (currently 3.01) and for good reason. Bill Belichick has been salivating over Cooks’s talent for some time. The ex-Saint has hovered around 80 receptions and 8 TDs the past two years, and should easily surpass those numbers in New England. With Tom Brady’s improved deep ball passing, the fact that New England didn’t bring Cooks in solely for the long ball, New England’s lack of a power rusher to hog production, Brady’s new toy should at least play to his current value. Best case scenario, he’s Randy Moss 2007, and you can all send me bottles of wine as a thanks.

Liz Loza, Yahoo!: James Conner, Steelers RB

If I can’t get Le’Veon Bell in the first round then I’m targeting James Conner in the fourteenth. We all know Bell is destined to go down – be it due to injury or suspension – at some point this season. And even if he doesn’t, his owner will want to insure his/her first-round investment. So nabbing Conner provides fantasy mangers with either stashed points or a bargaining chip. Strategically speaking, that’s a whole lot of value.

Brandon Marianne Lee, Sirius XM and Jimmy Graham, Seahawks TE

This time last season many were skeptical as to whether or not Graham would ever get back to his old self or perhaps ever play again. Instead, Graham played in all 16 games, caught 65 passes for 923 yards and six touchdowns. Graham has the talent and upside of a 1,000+ yard and double-digit tight end. He said he feels 100x better this year, so I’m looking for the old Graham to come back to his fantasy glory.

John Paulsen, 4for4: Pierre Garcon, 49ers WR

Garcon turns 31 in August, but is coming off a season where he caught 79 passes for 1,041 yards and three touchdowns. In fact, he has at least 68 catches in four straight seasons. In San Francisco, he’ll be reunited with his former offensive coordinator, Kyle Shanahan. In Shanahan’s last year in Washington, Garcon caught 113 passes for 1346 yards and five scores. He’s four years older now, but should see heavy volume and plenty of negative game script

Chris Raybon, 4for4: Tom Brady, Patriots QB

I usually use the late-round QB strategy, but I’m making an exception for Brady this season. If Rob Gronkowski stays healthy, I think Brady will have a career year, which is saying something for him.

Mike Tagliere, John Brown, Cardinals WR

There were just three wide receivers in 2015 who finished in the top 24 with less than 105 targets. Two of them are being drafted as top-15 wide receivers this year, while the other sits at No. 49 in early ADP. That player is Brown, who went from playing 93% of snaps the first few weeks to playing just 43% over the final six weeks. He was dealing with the sickle cell trait, as well as a cyst on his spinal cord. Once the cyst was removed, Brown said that he felt like a different person. Despite playing though those sicknesses, Brown performed when he got the snaps/targets. In the four games where he saw more than four targets, he averaged 6.5 receptions for 87.3 yards and 0.25 touchdowns. Larry Fitzgerald is going to be 34 years old when the season starts, and Brown is the lone guy who has been there before. He’s going to see targets, and he’s going to produce. John Brown is fantasy football’s best kept secret.

J.J. Zachariason, numberFire: Eric Ebron, Lions TE

All Ebron needs to do is score more touchdowns. Easier said than done, right? Well, Anquan Boldin’s out of Detroit, and he finished last season second in the NFL in red zone targets and third in targets within the opponent’s 10-yard line. Boldin primarily played out of the slot, which is the area of the field Ebron will roam. With a more conscious effort from the Lions to improve the big-bodied Ebron as a red zone threat, don’t be shocked if he takes a big step this year.