By John Evans
Special to Yahoo Sports
Like the levels of a video game adventure, each round of your fantasy draft features pillars of safety, landmines, and hidden gems. The trick is knowing which is which. While countless variables (injuries being the biggest) come into play, it is possible to predict the best strategy at each level. An underutilized insight for many fantasy gamers is the influence of offensive lines on skill players’ production. That’s a factor I focus on in my analysis, and will again here as we break down the draft, one round at a time.
Here is final edition of our three-part series: Picks 71-100
Safest Bet: Tevin Coleman – Pick No. 76 overall
I expect San Francisco’s offensive line to dominate in the running game, setting up Kyle Shanahan’s patented outside-zone scheme for success. The question with Coleman has been the committee nature of this backfield, but clarity could be close at hand. At this point, it would be surprising if Jerick McKinnon plays a large role in 2019. Matt Breida is blazingly fast but may lack the durability to shoulder a large workload. It’s all lining up for Coleman, whom Shanahan utilized effectively in Atlanta. He may not be a league winner, but he has the profile of a steady contributor.
Underrated: Alshon Jeffery – Pick No. 77 overall
Philadelphia boasts the deepest, most talented offensive line in the league, and their triggerman was flirting with MVP status two seasons ago. Yes, they’ve added the ever-dynamic DeSean Jackson to go deep and Zach Ertz remains a black hole sucking up targets in the middle of the field, but Jeffery will get his in an offense that could be elite. This is the first year in a while that he hasn’t been dealing with an injury or a suspension. Jeffery could be that low-end WR2 you score after 25-to-30 wideouts are off the board, which is great value.
Overrated: Eric Ebron, Pick No. 73 overall
The Colts’ offensive line is clearly on the upswing, so their tight ends probably won’t be required to block much. That’s it for the good news with Ebron. Putting aside Andrew Luck’s surprise retirement, the ex-Lion still derives much of his fantasy stock from a high touchdown total that is extremely unlikely to be matched in 2019. Jack Doyle and Deon Cain are healthy, Devin Funchess was added in free agency and Parris Campbell was drafted early. And Jacoby Brissett is now the starting QB of the Colts. Give me D.J. Moore, Coleman, or Jeffery over Ebron every day of the week.
Safest Bet: James White – Pick No. 81 overall
You might think that the return of Josh Gordon could cut into White’s usage, but if anything, his presence will keep defenses from shutting down the short and intermediate routes Tom Brady has lived on over the last couple of years. Gronk’s retirement is only good news for White, who has a stable role as the complement to Julian Edelman over the middle. He may not reach the statistical heights he did last season but White won’t be marginalized, either. He’s a safe pick.
Underrated: Vance McDonald – Pick No. 90 overall
He’s been a tease up to this point in his career, largely due to injury, but McDonald is one of the few tight ends who could crash the party at the top of the leaderboard. The Steelers traditionally throw a ton and their ever-impressive o-line should give Big Ben the superior pass protection he’s become accustomed to. None of the candidates to fill the target void left by Antonio Brown have staked a decisive claim. McDonald seems poised to post TE1 numbers and, with the possible exception of Mark Andrews, no one going later in drafts is in a better position to do so.
Overrated: David Njoku – Pick No. 89 overall
I wouldn’t draft Njoku in picks 91 to 100. With Cleveland’s offensive line problems he’s likely to be called upon to block, there’s a multiplicity of pass-catchers here, and he may need another season or two of development before blossoming to his full potential. It might happen now, but why take long odds when there are so many better bets to be made? Instead, draft McDonald, Murray, Watkins, Sanders, Josh Gordon, Austin Ekeler, or Dede Westbrook.
Safest Bet: Latavius Murray – Pick No. 99 overall
Unless Murray suffers a season-ending injury, it’s hard to imagine this being a bad pick. We know the Saints don’t want to overuse Alvin Kamara, and no one has come close to threatening Murray’s role as the No. 2 back this preseason. There will be lots of quality touches for Murray and double-digit touchdowns are a possibility for him. Were Kamara to miss significant time, Murray becomes a potential league winner. In whatever role he plays, Murray will benefit from one of the NFL’s finest run-blocking fronts and an offense that makes frequent trips to the red zone.
Underrated: Sammy Watkins – Pick No. 95 overall
We have plenty of great options at WR, but few have the ceiling Watkins offers with the Kansas City Chiefs. If he simply remains healthy Sammy should post a career year in this tremendously explosive offense. If Watkins is available and either Travis Kelce or Tyreek Hill are not, look out. It’s not the most likely scenario, but stranger things have happened. While Watkins is getting a bad rap for his injury history — justifiably so — he remains attached to a quarterback who can make magic happen on a weekly basis. Throw the dart.
Overrated: Jordan Howard – Pick No. 93 overall
Whoever is running the ball for Philly will benefit from solid run-blocking. But is it Howard? Miles Sanders had a bad case of fumble-itis at Penn State, but that specter hasn’t reared its ugly head this summer. Sanders faltering or falling by the wayside are the scenarios Jordan Howard needs to be more than a glorified change-of-pace back this year, but the rookie has gotten healthy and held onto the rock. Now Sanders seems to be running away with the lead-dog job, so Howard is looking more like a handcuff than a flex option. Take Sanders instead (ADP 103 overall!).