Cody Pagels
Should You Draft Him?: NFC South WRs and TEs

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I didn’t get a chance to talk about this last time, but when you consider the receiving talent, how incredible is the eight-years-and-counting run of statistical dominance from Drew Brees in New Orleans? His receivers have never exactly been bad, but when possession-type former seventh-round draft pick Marques Colston has been his top downfield threat for nearly a decade, it’s proof positive that he’s gotten it done with less than elite physical talent. And the physical deficiencies don’t stop with the wide receivers. The man himself is vertically challenged, and his non-existent mobility results in him actually putting up negative rushing yards some seasons. But still, he just kills it every year. Look at 2008, a year when he put up 5,000 yards passing despite not having a single receiver hit 1,000 yards. He can put a team on his back in a way that would make Greg Jennings with a broken leg jealous. The 35-year old recently said that he feels like he could play 10 more years. We should be so lucky.

This season could be one of his better ones by his standards. Colston is still there, Jimmy Graham is the best tight end in the game, and the New Orleans Saints have some exciting new young talent. With the Atlanta Falcons looking to bounce back, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers doing all they can to accommodate their passing targets to new quarterback Josh McCown, and the Carolina Panthers desperately scrambling to get anyone for Cam Newton to play with, there’s plenty going on here. So how about I cut the Purdue homerism and actually talk about some fantasy football? Should you draft him?

(ADP, or average draft position, is based on current data from 12-team standard league drafts)

New Orleans Saints

Marques Colston (ADP: Early Round 7): He’s undeniably risky. Let’s just get that out of the way. He still holds appeal as one of the most incredibly reliable and consistent fantasy producers of the last decade, but a foot injury last season caused his numbers to dip to their lowest in years. He says his foot won’t limit him this year, but Saints coaches pledging to monitor his usage in practice and in games tells another story. Then you’ve got his knees. They haven’t given out yet, but it’s a concern that’s always in the back of the mind of his team and fantasy owners. He’s presently being drafted as a low-end WR3. I don’t expect him to be terrible, but I’m also projecting another sub-1,000 yard season. Mike Wallace and Terrance Williams can be had at roughly the same draft position and present much better upside.

Should You Draft Him: No.

Brandin Cooks (ADP: Late Round 8): I am much more excited about him. Despite being a rookie wide receiver and all of the risk that comes with that, you’ll hardly if ever see a rookie receiver with a more perfect storm of opportunity. Lance Moore and Darren Sproles are gone, Marques Colston is in decline, and Drew Brees is something like a 90-to-10 shot to pass for more than 5,000 yards. After Jimmy Graham gets his, there’s still something like 4,000 yards up for grabs. The Saints, a team well within their championship window, didn’t trade up in the draft to get Cooks just to bring him along slowly. Yes, Brees tends to spread the ball around, and rookie receivers tend to struggle out of the gate, but going as a WR4 with the potential to crack the top 15, he is quite undervalued.

Should You Draft Him: Yes.

Kenny Stills (ADP: Late Round 10): The Saints’ other speedy deep threat isn’t generating as much buzz as Cooks, but there’s still quite a bit to like. His 32 receptions for 641 yards last season wasn’t much to get excited about, but I am very impressed with his efficiency. Despite being an exclusive deep threat who averaged 20 yards per catch, he managed to haul in nearly 70 percent of his targets. If Torrey Smith could do that, he’d flirt with 2,000 yards every year. I’m more impressed with the talent of Cooks, and I worry that the type of game Stills plays will result in inconsistent production or being a less-utilized Devery Henderson-type also-ran, but there’s way too much breakout potential for him to not be worth at least a 10th-round pick.

Should You Draft Him: Yes.

Jimmy Graham (ADP: 7th Overall): He’s the best tight end in the game and the weekly advantage he gives you over an average fantasy tight end is massive. Last year, the standard league difference between Graham and the seventh-highest scoring tight end was nearly 100 points. Now, some other fantasy writers have accurately pointed out that running backs actually present a pretty similar point advantage. The discrepancy between the No. 1 running back and the No. 7 running back was a little more than 100 points last year. This causes them to inaccurately label Graham as overrated. Here’s the difference: We have no idea who the top-scoring running backs are going to be. Over the past three seasons, 11 different backs have finished among the top 5 in fantasy scoring. Meanwhile, over the past three seasons, Graham has been the No. 1 scoring tight end twice and No. 2 once. If we could predict with any certainty who the top running backs are going to be, it would be a different story, but Graham is a sure-thing advantage, while those top running backs only offer that advantage in hindsight. Graham is part of a very exclusive club of players who guarantee a weekly positional advantage, and it’s a club that no running backs are a part of. That’s why he’s worth a pick anywhere in Round 1.

Should You Draft Him: Yes.


Atlanta Falcons

Julio Jones (ADP: 16th Overall): He’s really, really good. He’s also already missed 14 games in only three years at the pro level. He averaged 116 yards a game last year, but he also broke his foot and hasn’t participated fully in offseason activities. Aside from his foot, he has always had known hamstring issues. What to do, what to do. As long as he’s upright and healthy, there’s real no question he’ll absolutely dominate, so it’s just a question of how much injury risk you can stomach. Personally, I would pass on Jones in Round 2 and reach for Brandon Marshall instead because I’m a wimp, but Jones is so good and wide receiver is probably the most replaceable position in fantasy, so the less faint of heart would do well to get him.

Should You Draft Him: Yes.

Roddy White (ADP: Late Round 4): I’ve spoken before about older fantasy players that I stay loyal to for longer than I should. White might be one of those guys, but I don’t think he is. Nagging injuries that really should have kept him off the field for more than three games and the general collapse of the entirety of Atlanta’s offense basically made 2013 a lost season for White, but it also followed six consecutive seasons of at least 1,150 yards and six touchdowns. He turns 33 this year, but one hard-luck season is not going to scare me away from a player who has been a top 10 fantasy receiver in six out of the last seven seasons. If anything, being the 19th wide receiver off the board seems a little low. A decline will come someday, but I don’t think we’re there yet. He’s a safe bet for good production and he has top 10 upside. The value is great.

Should You Draft Him: Yes.

Levine Toilolo (ADP: Undrafted): He’s taking over the job of Tony Gonzalez. That’s about the full extent of good things that can be said about him. Some have him pegged as a sleeper because they believe that most of Gonzalez’s targets will go his way, and his hulking, 6-foot-8, 265-pound frame will make for lots of red zone opportunities. I couldn’t disagree more. I think Gonzalez getting lots of targets had more to do with him being the greatest tight end in the history of football than anything else. Expect Matt Ryan to direct most of Gonzalez’s targets at his incredible duo of wide receivers. Lots of blocking and little fantasy relevance are in order for Toilolo.

Should You Draft Him: No.


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