2017 Fantasy Football Draft Kit

2017 Fantasy Football Top-10 Safest Players: Reliable Veterans

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If you read my recent 2017 Fantasy Football Top-10 Riskiest Players article then you know my philosophy on balancing risky players with safe players. This is the follow-up article to that one.

Here I will go over the Top-10 Safest Players for the 2017 season. In selecting players to fit this category I focused on players being drafted in the third round or later, at the time of writing this.

If you choose to load up on high-risk, high-upside players early in your draft, consider drafting these guys to balance out the risk.

2017 Fantasy Football Top-10 Safest Players

Demaryius Thomas, WR, Denver Broncos (ADP 31)

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Since 2012, Thomas has finished as a top-20 wide receiver every year. In that five-year span he has also finished as the overall WR2 twice and the WR5 once. That’s three top five performances in five years. He has averaged, over those five years, 11.92 standard fantasy points per game. He has accomplished this even with Peyton Manning’s corpse and Brock Osweiler throwing him the ball in 2015, and shaky quarterback play from Trevor Siemian, last year.

The thing that makes Thomas safest, besides his talent, is the amount of targets he receives. Last year, Thomas garnered the 11th most targets in the NFL, with 144 targets. In fact, since 2012, Thomas has received over 140 targets in every season which has translated into FIVE STRAIGHT 1,000 plus yard seasons. Based on opportunity alone, Thomas is one of the safer wide receiver assets in Fantasy Football.

After another year to develop, expect the quarterback play in Denver, whether it is Paxton Lynch or Trevor Siemian, to improve. This should help drive Thomas’s targets up closer to the 170 plus targets he received in 2014 and 2015, or at least somewhere in between.

With where Thomas is being drafted this year, look to capitalize on him as your WR2 and be content with a very safe wide receiver to count on each week.

Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs (ADP 37)

Tight end is one of the most frustrating positions in all of Fantasy Football. Finding a tight end that is safe and reliable is not one of the easier tasks. Kelce, on the other hand, is a lock as one of the safest players at his position.

He was one of six tight ends to receive more than 100 targets last year and one of two to finish with over 1,000 receiving yards. In fact, he has garnered over 100 targets in each of the last two years. Kelce led the Chiefs in targets last year and is expected to do so again this year. His targets should even increase due to the surprising release of Jeremy Maclin.

Based on his commanding 22% target share, the fact that he finished as the number one tight end in fantasy last year, and injury concerns with other tight ends like Rob Gronkowski and Jordan Reed, Kelce makes for one of the safer picks in Fantasy Football.

Greg Olsen, TE, Carolina Panthers (ADP 49)

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Back to back tight ends, I know, how boring? But Greg Olsen really has proven to be one of the safest and most consistent Fantasy players over the last five years.

Since 2012 Olsen has finished in the top-10 at the tight end position in fantasy points and total receiving yards. Here are his standings over those years (2012, TE6) (2013, TE8) (2014, TE4) (2015, TE4) (2016, TE2). He has three straight years with over 1,000 receiving yards and has played in all 16 games every year, besides his rookie year in 2007.

This ability to rack up yards, not just touchdowns, as Cam Newton’s preferred target is what makes Olsen such a safe pick at a very shallow tight end position. Olsen is one of the few tight ends that if he doesn’t score a touchdown, he can still put up respectable numbers.

Olsen led the Panthers in targets in 2016 with a 23% target share and 129 targets. He has garnered over 100 targets in five straight years. Olsen is one of the safest picks you can make at the tight end position. Feel confident in selecting him.

Michael Crabtree, WR, Oakland Raiders (ADP 47)

Crabtree has turned out to be Derek Carr’s go to receiver over the past two seasons. He has led the team in targets and receiving touchdowns in both of those years, finishing with over 140 targets and 8 touchdowns in each of those seasons. This has resulted in over a 24% target share while being a member of the Oakland Raiders.

These stats have translated into solid reliable Fantasy production. He has averaged over 9 standard fantasy points per game in each of the past two seasons and has finished as a top 20 wide receiver in both years (2015, WR19) (2016, WR11).

Amari Cooper is likely to take over a larger role in his third year in the NFL, but Crabtree is still one of the safer picks at the position and has a great value in drafts.

Frank Gore, RB, Indianapolis Colts (ADP 77)

Since his rookie season, one thousand years ago, Gore hasn’t finished outside the top-20 at the running back position. In his 11 seasons, Gore has rushed for over 1,000 yards all but three times; his rookie season, 2010 when he missed five games, and the 2015 season in which he fell short by 33 yards.

Gore continues to produce year in and year out, even behind a lackluster 25th ranked Colts’ offensive line.  What’s more significant is Gore’s ability to stay on the field. I mean he hasn’t missed a game since dinosaurs walked the earth…I think I used that same line last year. Oh well. The man has played a full season in six straight years.

His ceiling isn’t very high but he has one of the safest floors, averaging ten standard points per game last year, and scoring double digit points in ten games. He only scored less than 7.6 points twice last year.

Going later than the eighth round, and coming off of back to back top-12 fantasy running back finishes, Gore is one of the better/safer picks you can make at the running back position.

Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay Packers (ADP 43)

The Packers’ offense has supported two top-ten fantasy wide receivers in two of the last three years with the one off year being the Packers’ outlier horrendous offensive year in 2015. They were well on the way to making it three out of the last four years if Randall Cobb didn’t get hurt in week six of the 2013 season.

This is just the way the Packers do things. They are always near the top of the list for passing attempts, and with Aaron Rodgers’ talent, they are able to support two top fantasy wide receivers.

Adams averaged 10.7 standard fantasy points per game last season and received 121 targets from Aaron Rodgers. Banking on volume and targets from Rodgers is usually a smart strategy when it comes to selecting a fantasy wide receiver.

Golden Tate, WR, Detroit Lions (ADP 57)

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Many people predicted a career year for Tate in 2016, with the departure of Calvin Johnson. Unfortunately, these expectations were not met and Tate didn’t come alive until week six. From week six on, Tate had double digit targets in seven of 11 games and averaged 85.7 yards per game. He also scored four touchdowns in that span.

This type of usage is what owners hope to receive from Tate for an entire season. Last year he still managed to lead the Lions in targets with 135, and receiving yards with 1,077. He has posted more than 1,000 receiving yards and has led the team in targets in two of his three years with the Lions. He has finished with more than 127 targets and 89 receptions in three straight years.

More valuable in PPR leagues, Tate still holds value in all formats and his volume makes him one of the safer picks in the later rounds.

Jarvis Landry, WR, Miami Dolphins (ADP 42)

Landry and Golden Tate are very similar players when it comes to Fantasy Football. PPR machines. This doesn’t mean they don’t have value in standard leagues too. In fact, Landry has finished as a top-16 receiver in two straight years. His ceiling may not be deliciously high but he has one of the safer floors and is consistent week in and week out.

Landry averaged 9.8 points per game in 2015 and 8.6 points per game in 2016, even with Matt Moore throwing him the ball from week 14 on. Landry has had back to back 1,100 plus receiving yard seasons and averages over 71 yards per game. This makes for a safe floor to rely upon each week. Landry has also seen over 130 targets in each of the past two years with 166 in 2015 and 131 in 2016. This equates to a massive 28% target share.

Though I am not a fan of his current draft position with higher upside guys around him, there is no doubt that his opportunity and role on the Dolphins’ offense combine to make him one of the safest players to draft.

Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers (ADP 25)

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Not much to say here. Rodgers has been the best fantasy quarterback of the past nine years. He has four number one finishes (2009, 2011, 2014, 2016). He has three number two finishes (2008, 2010, 2010). Rodgers was well on his way to another top finish before getting hurt in 2013 and he finished as the number seven quarterback in the Packers’ outlier 2015 year. It is Rodgers, he throws the ball a lot, he has good weapons around him, they added Martellus Bennett to his arsenal, and he just gets things done.

Drafting him will cost a high draft pick, which isn’t always the best strategy. Check out my Fantasy Football Quarterback Draft Strategy article for more information on the topic. But, there isn’t much of a parallel to Rodgers’ consistent and elite status. He is arguably the safest quarterback available.

Pierre Garçon, WR, San Francisco 49ers (ADP 94)

With not much talent and mostly late round fliers surrounding Garçon, he could turn out to be a steal in the ninth round or later. Why? Because of his already established rapport with Head Coach Kyle Shanahan and Shanahan’s tendency to rely heavily on a team’s number one receiver. Since 2010, number one wide receivers in Shanahan’s offense have always had over 100 targets, and Julio Jones got 203 in 2015. Don’t expect 200 targets for Garçon, but over 140, isn’t unreasonable.

In 2013 when Shanahan was the coordinator for the Redskins and Garçon played all 16 games, Garçon led the league in targets with 182. He finished with over 1,346 receiving yards, five touchdowns, and averaged 10.3 standard fantasy points per game. He finished as the 13th best wide receiver. In 2012, when he only played ten games, his 16 game pace was 109 targets for 1,013 yards and six touchdowns.

Garçon has a good shot at over 120 targets 1,000 yards and six touchdowns, as the main guy in San Francisco. He has absolutely no competition around him for targets and Brian Hoyer has produced fantasy relevant receivers in the past. This makes him one of the safer picks that you can get in the later rounds.

Honorable Mention: Larry Fitzgerald, WR, ARI; Jeremy Maclin, WR, BAL; Tom Brady, QB, NE


2017 Fantasy Football Position Previews
QuarterbacksRunning BacksWide ReceiversTight Ends

For more F6P preseason coverage please visit our 2017 Draft Kit section.

About Alex Hamrick

Alex is an avid fantasy football enthusiast and writer for Fantasy Six Pack. With a background in quantitative methods and analysis, Alex enjoys using statistics and data analytics to develop detailed fantasy football analysis. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram @AlexBHamrick

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