It’s on to round 3 in our pursuit in finding the best players in each round of the 2017 fantasy football draft. Check out rounds 1 and 2, and the average draft positions are changing some, so we’ll avoid looking at players twice, and move them around accordingly.

According to average draft positions in a standard 12-team league, here’s the 12 players in order that will likely be taken in the third round:

25. Lamar Miller, RB, Houston

26. Doug Baldwin, WR, Seattle

27. Brandin Cooks, WR, New England

28. Tom Brady, QB, New England

29. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston

30. Demaryius Thomas, WR, Denver

31. Isaiah Crowell, RB, Cleveland

32. Alshon Jeffery, WR, Philadelphia

33. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina

34. Carlos Hyde, RB, San Francisco

35. Allen Robinson, WR, Jacksonville

36. Sammy Watkins, WR, Buffalo

Best available player

Lamar Miller — This is an easy choice for me. I’m prepared to take Miller in the middle to later stages of round 2 based on my belief that he can be a consistent top-seven running back option on a weekly basis. The volume was there last year. The production wasn’t, but it wasn’t entirely his fault. The offensive line should be better this year and I anticipate better quarterback play, assisting Miller in utilizing his three-down skills. It’s not everyday you can find a proven three-down running back in the third round. If he’s still there, you can’t pass him up.

DeAndre Hopkins will guide Houston to a solid record in 2017. Flickr/

No Miller, so now what?

There’s a lot of receivers in this tier, so you better have your running backs in order if you can’t land Miller. What’s nice about this round is you can still find some solid weapons who can be top-five options at their respective positions during part of the season. For my money, I’m banking on another Texan with Hopkins as my next-best available.

No, I’m not a closet Houston fan. It’s just this offense will be better this season. The defense was the best in the NFL and it will only get better this season. That should allow the offense to take a few chances and maintain their strategy on players who can move the ball down the field. Hopkins was a target monster in 2015 and took a step back last year due to bad quarterback play. Whether it’s Deshaun Watson or Tom Savage, the quarterback isn’t going to be great, but they’ll need to lean heavily on a wide receiver during stressful situations.

That’s how Hopkins became such a machine in 2015 and even though his production wasn’t great last season (much like Miller) he was still being heavily targeted. He averaged the seventh-most targets among wide receivers last year, so there’s no need to sweat his diminished numbers last year. He’ll be back again, so he should be taken high in the third round.

Bust Alert

Doug Baldwin — Baldwin netted 19 targets in week 16 last year. That’s the good news. That game was one of four instances from weeks 4 to 17 where Baldwin had  eight or more targets in a game. That screams bust.

What Baldwin does well is maximize his opportunities. He was still a top-10 wide receiver last year, but it was all boom or bust. And if the third round is going to be your first wide receiver drafted, your team can’t afford that instability. He registered only five weeks where he went for double-digit fantasy football points in 2016. He’s going to have some big games, but a WR1 should be more consistent. You can’t trust Baldwin and at this level, that’s too much of a risk for your team.

What about the other wide receivers?

I actually really like the wide receivers in this tier, so that should affect the strategy before heading into the third round. There’s a clear difference between the top four wide receivers and the rest of the crew. However, I’m not sure there’s that much of a difference between those receivers ranked in the last part of the first round and the second round, and the players available in the third round. That’s why it’s important to make sure to have at least one running back on your roster by this point, because the wide receiver value is still high at this level. For my rankings in this round, there’s really not that much separating these guys.

However, after Hopkins, I’d favor Thomas based on his consistency as a No. 1. The quarterback play in Denver isn’t great, but Thomas is a player who commands a lot of targets (seven games with double-digit targets last year) and will be in play for solid red zone work. The rest of the group is:

Cooks — I’m not sure what to make of him. Was he a product of the Saints system who will get lost in the New England offense that shares the ball better than anybody? Or is he the top-10 option that he’s shown in the past? I’m hesitant on him, but his reward is about as high as anybody with Cooks because of the unknown.

Watkins — He will be better this season. He’s by far the best weapon in Buffalo, and a new coach may come with a new approach. Watkins will be in line for far more targets and should be a nice surprise for owners this season.

Jeffery — I don’t mind him. He has a new team in an offense that should be much improved. He offers a big body to Carson Wentz for solid red zone work, so I expect Jeffery to put up solid fantasy points. The depth is solid among wide receivers, so don’t rush into reaching for anybody. The biggest drawback for Jeffery is that his targets may not be what owners want. But his production with touchdowns should make up for the smaller amount of targets.

Robinson — I’m sold on Jacksonville. I’m just not sold on the passing game. Blake Bortles and company became fantasy studs on the backs of falling way behind and putting up huge second-half numbers. That won’t be the case this year and the production will go down.

Time for a quarterback yet?

No. Tom Brady is really good and he finally has some serious weapons. But he is aging and the depth among quarterbacks is too good to waste a pick this early on the quarterback position. Be patient and stack your roster with high-end running backs and wide receivers.

Rookie overreach again

McCaffrey is an interesting pick, but unlike other highly drafted running backs in the past, he’s not even going to start right away. Jonathan Stewart is still a capable goal line and first and second down back. Durability concerns are why Stewart can’t be trusted as a consistent fantasy option, but McCaffrey being rated higher than Carlos Hyde is a little crazy. Far too often we overvalue rookie running backs and I’m afraid McCaffrey is joining the list. The Panthers will attempt to get him involved, but there’s no guarantee they can find a good fit within the first part of the season. He may pay off later in the season, but I’m not sure how high my patience level will be with a running back as a likely RB2.

If you haven’t gotten an RB2 by this point, there’s a safer pick one spot later.

Hyde has value

If you don’t nab Miller and don’t have an RB2 by round 3, Hyde can fill that role.

I’m assuming Hyde’s value is this low because the 49ers are expected to be terrible, and thus, will abandon the run. I can understand those concerns, but Hyde still gives me a running back who is a proven commodity. There are some murmurs from training camp that he is competing for a spot with Tim Hightower. I don’t buy it. It will take some time to adjust to another new coaching staff, but I anticipate Hyde should mold into a decent RB2 option for owners still looking for a running back in this round.

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