It’s finally #DraftSZN! Like myself, I’m sure many of you will be drafting your teams over the next few weekends. You can focus on any draft strategy you want, but the key to winning your fantasy league always comes down to selecting the right players. With preseason hype in full swing, everyone has their own breakout candidates and sleepers, but it’s important not to have tunnel vision by only focusing on sexy names. There’s often a market inefficiency with steady, boring vets that can anchor your team. Knowing that, here is my list of five safe fantasy football picks that are more likely to receive yawns than applause when you select them on draft day.
Mark Ingram, Baltimore Ravens
Ingram will turn 30 in December. Historically, that’s bad news for the majority of NFL running backs. However, Ingram enters this season off a relatively light workload: just 138 carries in 2018. This has been his career norm, as he’s never had more than 230 in a single season.
Since 2013, Ingram has also been a highly efficient runner, averaging 4.7 YPC during a six-year span. And as recently as two years ago, he finished RB6 in standard scoring. Now on a Baltimore offense that is expected to be among the league leaders in carries, there should be plenty of work for Ingram in the lead role—even if he cedes carries to exciting rookie, Justice Hill. After all, why can’t the workload operate similarly to what we saw with Alvin Kamara down in New Orleans? Couple this with a mobile quarterback who should improve the lanes for his running backs, and you should be excited to draft this boring veteran as RB23 in the fourth round of your draft.
RB Jordan Howard, Philadelphia Eagles
Howard is coming off three straight seasons finishing as a top-20 fantasy running back in standard scoring. In each of his past two seasons, he scored nine rushing touchdowns. He is moving to an offense with a presumably healthy Carson Wentz that should live near the goal line. Last season, Howard converted 6 of 12 carries inside the five-yard line into touchdowns. Among 21 running backs with at least 10 carries inside the five-yard line, only James Conner, Alvin Kamara, and Kareem Hunt converted their carries into touchdowns at a higher percentage than Howard.
While he may not have the ceiling of his teammate Miles Sanders, there’s still a high floor for the Eagles’ goal-line back in what is shaping up to be a roughly 50/50 split. I think people are overreacting to the Sanders’ hype because Howard isn’t going to disappear. With the 83rd pick (RB36) according to Fantasy Football Calculator, Howard makes for one of the perfect safe fantasy football picks to target in the late seventh or early eighth round of your draft.
WR Jarvis Landry, Cleveland Browns
Landry feels like he’s been in the NFL for a decade, but he’s still just 26 years old. It’s easy to forget that Landry holds the record for most catches in a player’s first four seasons to start his NFL career (400). He did that despite playing in a questionable offensive system with a subpar quarterback in Ryan Tannehill. Last season, he weathered the Hue Jackson disaster and Tyrod Taylor experiment to start the year and still hauled in 81 passes for a respectable 976 yards.
Now with Odell Beckham Jr. in tow to take away defensive attention and Baker Mayfield’s expected growth in his sophomore season, there’s a real chance that Landry could be in for a career year. Going two full rounds after Chris Godwin, despite similar circumstances, Landry is the definition of a boring but safe fantasy football pick that will be a consistent contributor to your receiving corps.
WR Allen Robinson, Chicago Bears
Trivia time! As of this writing, how old is Allen Robinson? If you said any number greater than 25, you were wrong.
It seems like eons ago that he went for 1,400 yards and 14 TD as a 22-year-old in Jacksonville. Since then, lots of fantasy owners have been burned by him—including last season. However, his disappointing stat line could be attributed to a couple factors: 1) ACL recovery, which takes time for players to return to full strength and pre-injury comfort level, 2) learning a new offensive system after signing with the Bears in free agency, and 3) playing with a young, inexperienced quarterback in his first full season at the helm.
In 2019, he is another full year removed from his torn ACL. He’s been in Nagy’s offense for a full season and he’s been able to participate in offseason activities that should only increase his chemistry with Mitchell Trubisky. Robinson will look to build off the momentum of his 10 catch, 143-yard playoff performance that saw his pre-injury skillset return to form. The best part? No one is excited about it this time around. He’s currently going as WR31, 77th overall. I doubt anyone will bat an eyelash when you select him in the seventh round and that’s perfectly fine.
QB Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys
What if I told you that you didn’t have to take your starting quarterback until the eleventh round of your draft, and you’d still get a Top-10 player at the position? That’s what will happen if you target Dak Prescott this season.
He’s currently being drafted as QB19, despite finishing 6th, 10th, and 10th among quarterbacks in his first three years in the league. In fact, once Amari Cooper was acquired in the middle of last season, Prescott was QB6 from that point forward. He’s also good for six rushing touchdowns each year.
With a litany of weapons and a healthy offensive line, Prescott should once again finish as a QB1. His star isn’t shining as bright as it once was, which makes him the ideal safe fantasy quarterback to target. Whether or not you think he’s worth $40M/year, that’s a different discussion.