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Right now you’re probably thinking, “come on, man, it’s not even April yet and we’re talking about fantasy football?”
And my response to that would be, “don’t you know the grind never stops?”
That’s exactly it—it really never does. Fantasy players spend the entire offseason speculating over players.
With a chunk of free-agency in the books, we have different feelings about certain players than we did at this time last year.
Next up, we have the NFL Draft, which will definitely impact fantasy, but we can still formulate some rankings with the information we already have.
Here, we’ll look at the top-25 rankings for 2018 and touch on some of the key players, in addition to a couple of sleepers.
Note: Rankings do not include incoming rookies.
1. Todd Gurley
2. Le’Veon Bell
4. Alvin Kamara
5. David Johnson
6. DeAndre Hopkins
7. Ezekiel Elliott
8. Odell Beckham Jr.
9. Michael Thomas
10. Leonard Fournette
11. LeSean McCoy
12. Kareem Hunt
13. Melvin Gordon
14. A.J. Green
15. Julio Jones
16. Davante Adams
17. Mike Evans
18. Jay Ajayi
19. Adam Thielen
20. Keenan Allen
21. Doug Baldwin
22. Dalvin Cook
23. Devonta Freeman
24. Brandin Cooks
25. Jordan Howard
David Johnson, RB, Arizona Cardinals
With just 17 total touches and less than one game played in 2017, Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson will be back and better than ever for 2018.
Although Johnson missed almost the entire season due to injury, it wasn’t something that should impact his potential production.
His injury wasn’t a knee or leg—it was a wrist dislocation. While still painful, it was reported earlier this season that he is 100 percent healthy.
With Sam Bradford under center, Johnson will be in a better position than if he had Drew Stanton or Blaine Gabbert in front of him.
Also, the year off after over 370 touches in 2016 might have benefited Johnson for his 2018 production.
There’s really not a lot of deep digging statistically needed to make a case for Johnson—he’s only 26-years-old, he’ll be just fine.
Jay Ajayi, RB, Philadelphia Eagles
After coming over to the Philadelphia Eagles in the middle of the season from the Miami Dolphins, running back Jay Ajayi saw an uptick in production almost immediately.
While Ajayi didn’t exactly rack up the touchdown numbers (two; one rushing, one receiving with the Eagles), he had nearly the same amount of yards with the Eagles as he did with the Dolphins but on 68 fewer carries, and that came with starting just one game.
In 2018, Ajayi will be more in tune with the offense and running behind quarterback Carson Wentz and a stellar Eagles offensive line.
Also, the Eagles have virtually no one behind Ajayi at the moment, with LeGarrette Blount leaving and Darren Sproles still on the market.
Other than that, they have Wendell Smallwood and Donnel Pumphrey, but they won’t inhibit Ajayi whatsoever.
Expect Ajayi to get upwards of 250-275 touches in 2018. With that kind of volume on this offense, things will happen—the sky is the limit.
Dalvin Cook, RB, Minnesota Vikings
Running backs have been a theme here and for good reason—they all have unique circumstances.
Especially second-year running back Dalvin Cook of the Minnesota Vikings.
It may have just been four games, but Cook provided a fantastic return on investment for fantasy owners, averaging nearly five yards per carry, a couple of touchdowns and 11 receptions.
Since his ACL injury in the first quarter of last season, the Vikings have changed quite noticeably.
This Vikings offense should be able to fire on all cylinders, and with quarterback play from new signing Kirk Cousins, that will only help Cook.
Cook won’t need to be relied on to the point where opposing teams are stacking the box anticipating for him to carry the ball.
The Vikings have questions along the offensive line, but they can still address that in the draft.
Cook has had plenty of time to recuperate, and he’ll be coming back to an even better situation than he was in before. He’ll also have no fellow running backs around him cutting into his workload, especially with Jerick McKinnon out of town.
Keelan Cole, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars
With Allen Robinson heading to the Windy City to join the Chicago Bears, the Jacksonville Jaguars’ young receiving corps is ready to take a step forward.
One of those guys is Keelan Cole.
Starting in just six games, Cole saw 83 targets, going for nearly 748 yards and three touchdowns.
The Jaguars were without Robinson for essentially all of 2017, so these were Cole’s stats without Robinson on the field.
In his second season after showing what he was capable of out of nowhere, Cole has probably earned a starting role depending on how the Jaguars address the position in the draft.
For an undrafted free agent from the 2017 class out of Kentucky Wesleyan to do what he did, he’ll only go up from here.
Cole may start off as a bench asset, but he could prove to be a potentially valuable bye week fill-in.
Patrick Mahomes II, QB, Kansas City Chiefs
This is probably the easiest potential sleeper to identify heading into 2018.
Moving on from Alex Smith, the Kansas City Chiefs are now quarterback Patrick Mahomes II’s team.
When Smith was traded, Mahomes was inheriting a team with tight end Travis Kelce, running back Kareem Hunt and wide receiver Tyreek Hill.
But since free agency, it got even better for Mahomes, as the Chiefs added another wide receiver in Sammy Watkins.
Mahomes is equipped with a cannon for an arm and has a group of skill position players that could assemble a track team for the Olympics.
He’ll have plenty of fantastic options to throw to, and who knows what the Chiefs will do in the draft?
This Chiefs offense is prepared to fire on all cylinders. If Mahomes doesn’t fall on his face, he has top-12 quarterback upside, and we’re only in March.
Statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference.