The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Fantasy football 2018: Use these tiers to ace your draft

Dallas’s Ezekiel Elliott belongs in an elite group of running backs. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

The one thing no fantasy team owner can do without at the draft is a list of players, whether it comes in a fancy online app or simply printed out on good ol’ paper. However, for those who really want to ace their drafts, that list is divided into tiers.

Grouping players into tiers helps drafters make decisions about when to pick players from different positions — especially after the early rounds, when the “best player available” approach often makes sense. For instance, if you need an RB3 and a WR3, and you see that the group of RBs you still think are start-worthy is drying up while there are plenty of good-looking WRs left, you know to go with the ball-carrier over the pass-catcher.

With that in mind, here is a look at how the four major positions in fantasy football — RB, WR, QB and TE — can be grouped into tiers. (Note that The Post uses PPR scoring as its default.)


Tier 1
Todd Gurley and Le’Veon Bell could probably be in their own tier, as they are going 1-2, in some order, in most drafts. However, it’s not all that hard to conceive of David Johnson, who finished No. 1 in 2016 before a wrist injury knocked him out for almost all of 2017, or Ezekiel Elliott, arguably the league’s best runner on a team that will use him relentlessly, having monster seasons of their own.

Todd Gurley (Rams), Le’Veon Bell (Steelers), David Johnson (Cardinals), Ezekiel Elliott (Cowboys)

Tier 2
All heavily involved in their team’s offense, and all strong RB1 candidates in any format. Questions about Alvin Kamara’s workload and likely regression from his historic per-touch numbers in 2017 keep him from the top tier.

Saquon Barkley (Giants), Alvin Kamara (Saints), Kareem Hunt (Chiefs), Leonard Fournette (Jaguars), Melvin Gordon (Chargers), Dalvin Cook (Vikings)

Tier 3
Solid RB2 types here, with upside for big, if not exactly league-winning, results.

Christian McCaffrey (Panthers), Devonta Freeman (Falcons), Jerick McKinnon (49ers), Joe Mixon (Bengals), Jordan Howard (Bears), Kenyan Drake (Dolphins), Lamar Miller (Texans), Alex Collins (Ravens)

Tier 4
If you don’t have a second RB by the time you reach this group, you probably should dip into it, because it only gets riskier from here.

Tevin Coleman (Falcons), Jay Ajayi (Eagles), Dion Lewis (Titans), Derrick Henry (Titans), LeSean McCoy (Bills), Royce Freeman (Broncos), Rex Burkhead (Patriots), Mark Ingram (Saints), Marshawn Lynch (Raiders), Carlos Hyde (Browns), Ronald Jones II (Buccaneers)

Fantasy Football 2018 beginner’s guide: The best draft picks for Rounds 1-3

Tier 5
Here we start seeing the PPR specialists, as well as backs whose projected lack of involvement in the passing game hurts their upside. Rashaad Penny has ceded the early upper hand in Seattle’s backfield to Chris Carson, but the first-round pick is likely to regain it later in the season. 

Chris Thompson (Redskins), Tarik Cohen (Bears), Jamaal Williams (Packers), Giovani Bernard (Bengals), Duke Johnson (Browns), Isaiah Crowell (Jets), Sony Michel (Patriots), Kerryon Johnson (Lions), Marlon Mack (Colts), Rashaad Penny (Seahawks), Chris Carson (Seahawks)

Tier 6
Most of these guys have consistent roles but need an injury to become attractive options.

C.J. Anderson (Panthers), Devontae Booker (Broncos), Aaron Jones (Packers), Nick Chubb (Browns), Theo Riddick (Lions), Nyheim Hines (Colts), Ty Montgomery (Packers), Bilal Powell (Jets), Matt Breida (49ers), Chris Ivory (Bills), Corey Clement (Eagles), Robert Kelley (Redskins)

Tier 7
We’re just one step ahead of pure handcuff territory here. D’Onta Foreman will become undraftable in all but the deepest redraft leagues if he starts the season on the physically unable to perform list.

Peyton Barber (Buccaneers), T.J. Yeldon (Jaguars), James White (Patriots), D’Onta Foreman (Texans), Jordan Wilkins (Colts), Frank Gore (Dolphins), Austin Ekeler (Chargers), Spencer Ware (Chiefs), Doug Martin (Raiders)


Tier 1
As fantasy’s most bankable commodity, Antonio Brown could have the top tier to himself, but we’ll be accommodating enough to include the other three wide receivers who are set to be the cream of the crop.

Antonio Brown (Steelers), Julio Jones (Falcons), Odell Beckham Jr. (Giants), DeAndre Hopkins (Texans)

Tier 2
Here are the rest of the players who are good bets to return WR1 value, with this analyst clearly bullish on Stefon Diggs’s chances. Just stay healthy, dude!

Michael Thomas (Saints), Keenan Allen (Chargers), Davante Adams (Packers), A.J. Green (Bengals), Mike Evans (Buccaneers), Stefon Diggs (Vikings), Larry Fitzgerald (Cardinals)

Tier 3
Anyone in this group could vault up a tier or two, except perhaps Golden Tate, who makes up in PPR-friendly volume what he might lack in ceiling.

T.Y. Hilton (Colts), Adam Thielen (Vikings), Amari Cooper (Raiders), Golden Tate (Lions), Doug Baldwin (Seahawks), Tyreek Hill (Chiefs)

Tier 4
A very solid-looking bunch of WR2 candidates here, although Brandin Cooks and Josh Gordon (assuming he returns to Cleveland sometime soon) may have week-to-week volatility.

Marvin Jones (Lions), Demaryius Thomas (Broncos), Jarvis Landry (Browns), Allen Robinson (Bears), Brandin Cooks (Rams), Michael Crabtree (Ravens), JuJu Smith-Schuster (Steelers), Josh Gordon (Browns)

Fantasy football 2018: This is what the perfect draft looks like

Tier 5
This is where it starts to become apparent how deep the position is, with all sorts of opportunities in this pack for excellent returns on investment. Julian Edelman, keep in mind, starts off on a four-game suspension, and the health of Alshon Jeffery (shoulder) will have to be closely monitored.

Corey Davis (Titans), Emmanuel Sanders (Broncos), Jamison Crowder (Redskins), Robert Woods (Rams), Randall Cobb (Packers), Julian Edelman (Patriots), Sammy Watkins (Chiefs), Chris Hogan (Patriots), Marquise Goodwin (49ers), Alshon Jeffery (Eagles), Robby Anderson (Jets), Cooper Kupp (Rams)

Tier 6
A mix of guys who might be their teams’ top WR more by default than anything else, and players who are clear No. 2 WRs with talented QBs.

Pierre Garcon (49ers), Kenny Stills (Dolphins), Devin Funchess (Panthers), Nelson Agholor (Eagles), Kelvin Benjamin (Bills), Allen Hurns (Cowboys), Marqise Lee (Jaguars), Devante Parker (Dolphins), Will Fuller (Texans), Tyler Lockett (Seahawks), Jordy Nelson (Raiders)

Tier 7
Pick your favorite out of this grab bag of intriguing WRs, all of whom should get plenty of chances to prove worthy of bigger roles.

D.J. Moore (Panthers), Michael Gallup (Cowboys), Ryan Grant (Colts), Mohamed Sanu (Falcons), John Brown (Ravens), John Ross (Bengals), Chris Godwin (Buccaneers), Josh Doctson (Redskins), Sterling Shepard (Giants), Kenny Golladay (Lions), Anthony Miller (Bears), Geronimo Allison (Packers), Calvin Ridley (Falcons), Quincy Enunwa (Jets)


Tier 1
There’s no good argument for taking any other QB over the man below. 

Aaron Rodgers (Packers)

Tier 2
Just a few more questions with these fine folks, including how much of the remarkable five-game stretch Deshaun Watson authored last season before he got hurt he’ll be able to carry into this season. 

Tom Brady (Patriots), Russell Wilson (Seahawks), Deshaun Watson (Texans), Cam Newton (Panthers), Carson Wentz (Eagles), Drew Brees (Saints)

Tier 3
Good bets to return low-end QB1 value, with Andrew Luck the obvious name that pops out as having a chance to do much more than that.

Matthew Stafford (Lions), Andrew Luck (Colts), Ben Roethlisberger (Steelers), Kirk Cousins (Vikings), Jimmy Garoppolo (49ers), Philip Rivers (Chargers), Alex Smith (Redskins)

Four former fantasy football studs who should drop off in 2018

Tier 4
QBs you’d rather stream than have to rely on every week, although Patrick Mahomes’s skill set and receiving weaponry could make him a fantasy monster if he can put things together quickly in his first season as a starter.

Marcus Mariota (Titans), Patrick Mahomes (Chiefs), Jameis Winston (Buccaneers), Matt Ryan (Falcons), Jared Goff (Rams), Dak Prescott (Cowboys), Blake Bortles (Jaguars), Derek Carr (Raiders)

Tier 5 
The depth of this position is reflected here, as any of these players could keep a fantasy squad afloat in a pinch. Tyrod Taylor would be higher if he didn’t happen to have the 2018 draft’s No. 1 pick breathing down his neck.

Mitch Trubisky (Bears), Eli Manning (Giants), Andy Dalton (Bengals), Case Keenum (Broncos), Ryan Tannehill (Dolphins), Tyrod Taylor (Browns)

Tier 6
Uncertain situations involving first-round picks are the calling cards of this crew.

Sam Bradford Cardinals), Joe Flacco (Ravens), Sam Darnold (Jets), Josh Allen (Bills), Josh Rosen (Cardinals), Baker Mayfield (Browns), Lamar Jackson (Ravens), Josh McCown (Jets)


Tier 1
Gronk smash!

Rob Gronkowski (Patriots)

Tier 2
There’s a Big 3 at TE this year, with just a bit of separation between Gronk and this duo.

Travis Kelce (Chiefs), Zach Ertz (Eagles)

Tier 3
The rest of the TE1 pack, with Jordan Reed’s ever-present health concerns keeping him from making it a Big 4.

Greg Olsen (Panthers), Jimmy Graham (Packers), Delanie Walker (Titans), Kyle Rudolph (Vikings), Evan Engram (Giants), Jordan Reed (Redskins), Trey Burton (Bears), Jack Doyle (Colts)

Tier 4
We’ve only listed 11 TEs so far, so in 12-team leagues, some brave souls are going to have to take their chances with one of these players. The good news is that there is upside to spare here, even with the uninspiring Charles Clay, who could lead the talent-deficient Bills in targets.

George Kittle (49ers), David Njoku (Browns), Charles Clay (Bills), Eric Ebron (Colts), Cameron Brate (Buccaneers), O.J. Howard (Buccaneers), Tyler Eifert (Bengals)

Tier 5
There’s actually some sneaky depth at this position; any of these guys could emerge as major contributors to their teams’ passing attacks.

Benjamin Watson (Saints), Jared Cook (Raiders), Ricky Seals-Jones (Cardinals), Austin Seferian-Jenkins (Jaguars), Vance McDonald (Steelers), Hayden Hurst (Ravens), Austin Hooper (Falcons), Mike Gesicki (Dolphins)

Tier 6
If you find yourself pondering any of these names, congratulations on playing in such a deep league.

Vernon Davis (49ers), Jake Butt (Broncos), Nick Vannett (Seahawks), Luke Willson (Lions), Dallas Goedert (Eagles), Tyler Kroft (Bengals), Virgil Green (Chargers), Gerald Everett (Rams)

More from The Post:

These slumping fantasy football players should return to form in 2018

The top 2018 fantasy football sleepers to draft late

Jalen Ramsey unloads: Josh Allen is ‘trash,’ Matt Ryan is ‘overrated,’ Joe Flacco ‘sucks’

Benches clear after Braves’ red-hot Ronald Acuna drilled on first pitch by Marlins’ Jose Urena