In my last piece, I covered the riskiest players that you could take a shot on. For this one, I will cover the players who you should pick that offer a high floor to minimize the risk of bust potential in your draft. In other words, which players are least likely to bust. When we are looking at safe picks, there are three things that need to be analyzed. Talent, opportunity/situation, and health. The safest players will check all three of these boxes, making them safer than any other players that you might want to pick.
Safety also comes relative to players ADP. If an ADP is far too high, then their safety at that spot is obviously going to go down. Whereas a safe player, with an ADP that is fair or even too low, makes them an even more attractive safe bet. These are the five safest players that you should be targeting at various points in your draft.
Five High Floor Players for 2017
David Johnson, RB, Cardinals
We may as well get the most obvious one out of the way. This season’s number one overall pick really shouldn’t be up for debate. Cardinal running back David Johnson checks all the boxes and then some. Every other player that could be considered for the No. 1 overall pick carries some risk. The risk with David Johnson though is extremely minimal.
Number one, his opportunity is massive. The Arizona offense runs through Johnson and will again this year. Last season he had 373 touches for over 2,000 yards of total offense. The only injury Johnson has sustained was at the end of 2016 and was only an MCL sprain. In standard scoring last season, Johnson was the best running back by 38 points. That lead was even bigger in PPR formats. This offseason, Johnson expressed his desire to reach 1,000 yards rushing and receiving. At this rate, I wouldn’t be shocked to see him come close again. As far as first round picks go, no pick is safer than Johnson.
Michael Thomas, WR, Saints
Now this one may come as a bit of a surprise, but I’ll tell you why it shouldn’t. Last season Thomas finished as the No. 8 fantasy football wide receiver in standard scoring leagues, as a rookie. The reasons for a regression from Thomas are this; he is only a second- year player, and Brandin Cooks is now gone. But these cons are far outweighed by the pros of Thomas.
The most important thing for Thomas is his opportunity. The Saints have led the league in passing four times since the 2010 season. And now, their second most targeted wide receiver is in New England. After receiver 121 targets in 2016, that number is guaranteed to go up. Thomas’ touchdown numbers should not regress in such a high- powered offense and his yardage should only go up as well.
When we see wide receivers bust like we saw in 2016 (A. Robinson, D. Hopkins), it happens for two reasons. Either the team is really poor or the quarterback/ offense is really poor. The two biggest busts of 2016 were Robinson and Hopkins, both of whom were on average or poor teams and had horrible offenses. Thomas is in an offense that will score points and has a great quarterback. With more targets coming his way, there is almost no possible way for him to bust.
Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers
This pick should come as no surprise either. The Packer quarterback has been an NFL and fantasy staple for years. In 2016, Rodgers was better than the next best quarterback by 40 points. He averaged 27.8 points per game and threw for a league high 40 touchdowns on the season. In fact, Rodgers has thrown for at least 31 scores in each of the past five seasons in which he played 15 games or more.
The only outlier 2013 when he played in only 9 games. Which is another reason Rodgers is so safe, the guy doesn’t get hurt. He carries almost zero injury risk. And while the Packers are likely to trend toward a more balanced attack this year between the running and passing game, Rodgers will still have no issue producing fantasy points. Take away 2013 and Rodgers has finished no worse than 8th in fantasy scoring among QB’s due to his high touchdown totals and his hyper efficiency.
Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals
This pick is about consistency and ADP more than anything else. Even though the Cardinals offense has transitioned into the David Johnson era, they still like to air it out. They have finished in the top 10 in passing each of the past two seasons, and Fitzgerald remains the clear No.1 target. Larry doesn’t get hurt and his situation has hardly changed going into 2017.
Each of the past two years, Fitzgerald has caught over 100 balls for more than 1,000 yards. He led the league last year in receptions, despite a down year overall for the offense and quarterback Carson Palmer. In what should be a rebound season, Fitz will likely challenge for another 100 receptions. Not to mention his biggest rival for targets, John Brown, is again battling leg injuries early this season. Right now Fitz is being drafted as a low-end WR2 or even a high-end WR3. At that price, a guy who might catch 100 balls is tough to find.
Michael Crabtree, WR, Raiders
This choice is extremely similar to the previous. Michael Crabtree is severely undervalued for two reasons. Amari Cooper is the No. 1 receiver and people still remember Crabtree’s failures in San Francisco. But it is time to put both of these to bed. In 2015 he caught 85 passes and scored 9 touchdowns. Last season, Crabtree finished as the No. 11 wide receiver with 89 catches and 8 touchdowns. And the opportunity remains for him to repeat with a third straight productive season.
For two straight seasons, he was the best and most consistent Oakland wideout. But if Amari Cooper does make the leap this season into WR1 range, the Oakland offense has supported two wide receivers for fantasy purposes. In 2015 Cooper finished as the WR22 and in 2016 he finished as the WR12. So even the second wide receiver in this offense produces top- 24 production, which is exactly where Crabtree is being drafted now. Currently, Crabtree is being drafted as the No. 21 wide receiver in standard scoring leagues, behind Martavis Bryant, Tyreek Hill, and Keenan Allen. But he carries much less risk than his counterparts. For where he is being drafted, Crabtree is a safe bet to finish as a WR2, without the risk of falling outside the top 24.