Well, things have changed in the NFL.
Yes, things always change quickly in the NFL.
Doesn’t it seem, though, this year, even more than usual has changed?
Aaron Rodgers wasn’t the best quarterback last season, and he’s not the top quarterback going into this year. The same goes for Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown for running back and wide receiver respectively — and neither plays for the Steelers anymore. The top tight end spot changed with the retirement of Rob Gronkowski.
So, if you blinked and missed it, here’s what you need to know for your upcoming draft.
The top five quarterbacks on the 641. board, in order, are Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers, Deshaun Watson, Andrew Luck, and Jared Goff.
Mahomes was excellent all year. Not only was he extraordinarily fun to watch, he consistently scored high in fantasy. On NFL.com’s standard scoring system, Mahomes’ lowest points total in a week was 15.82. It’s reasonable to expect some regression, but Mahomes is still only 23 years old. He has a chance to be fantastic this season, and depending on your personal draft style, he’s the closest to being a rare case of a quarterback that’s worth an early draft pick.
On the court, Green Bay was beyond disappointing, and Rodgers had a few off-games last year, but even with all of that, he was still really good overall for fantasy owners. In April, ESPN reported that the veteran Packers quarterback played through multiple injuries over the duration of the season, so if Rodgers comes back healthy, this could be a big year for him.
Fantasy misses against Buffalo, Jacksonville, and Washington last year made for a lower season points total for Deshaun Watson than he could have produced, but like Mahomes, Watson is only 23. Also, DeAndre Hopkins is still around. You know, just to throw that out there. Even with those fantasy misses, Watson had the fourth highest fantasy point total among quarterbacks on NFL.com, and he’s a good candidate to improve even more.
After injury concerns for what seemed like an eternity, Andrew Luck returned last year and was mostly great, getting consistently above the 20-point total for his individual weeks. The only problems were in week 13, and in week 15, where he just barely missed double-digits with 9.52 and 9.68 respectively. There’s not really any cause for concern, there — the former game was a Colts defensive battle with Jacksonville, and the latter was a 23–0 team win against Dallas. Keep an eye on his health, but Andrew Luck is a pretty safe pick overall.
Goff is the riskiest pick of these three if you look at last season, as he put up fantasy misses in weeks 6, 13, and 14. That said, in fantasy you’re looking for candidates to improve, and not regress. Goff is a candidate to improve, and he has a great situation around him.
Avoiding Ben Roethlisberger and Drew Brees are risky, but those are the two most likely candidates of the top bunch to regress, especially since Roethlisberger’s working with a much younger group around him. They should both be Top 10 in their position, but it’s hard to recommend them over the five above.
Matt Ryan’s another interesting situation. He was the second best fantasy quarterback last season, but the veteran has been streaky in the past, and it’s a risky situation since there’s a new OC in Dirk Koetter. Koetter has worked with Ryan before, however, and it was a solid pairing, so there’s potential — it’s just a similar situation where there’s more risk here than with the Top 5.
Here’s a bold one. Baker Mayfield is the 10th ranked quarterback on our list. Adding Odell Beckham Jr. to a receiving corps that also includes Jarvis Landry and David Njoku makes for a great potential fantasy group. Mayfield is the riskiest pick of our Top 10, without a doubt, but he’s also potentially high-reward.
Russell Wilson should be as solid as ever. He only played in three games last year where he didn’t score double-digit points, and two of them were against the Cardinals.
There are better options in the mid-to-late part of your draft than Dak Prescott. We like Philip Rivers, Cam Newton, and Tom Brady more as mid-draft options if you miss out on the top ten.
Have an extra bench spot at the end of your draft and don’t mind carrying two quarterbacks? Keep in mind that Carson Wentz still exists and should be getting closer to his brief flash of stardom.
Nick Foles is also still around and still relevant, though we’d rank him just below our Top Ten.
Lamar Jackson is a pretty interesting name to keep an eye on.
- PATRICK MAHOMES, KC
- AARON RODGERS, GB
- DESHAUN WATSON, HOU
- ANDREW LUCK, IND
- JARED GOFF, LAR
- MATT RYAN, ATL
- RUSSELL WILSON, SEA
- DREW BREES, NO
- BEN ROETHLISBERGER, PIT
- BAKER MAYFIELD, CLE
Christian McCaffrey broke out in a big way, didn’t he? I’ve always been a fan of his from a fantasy perspective, ranking him among my players-to-draft as early as 2017. Now, though, he’s really been excellent, and the news that he wants to continue to be excellent at both passing and receiving should make fantasy owners very interested in drafting him at the top of the board.
Then, there’s Saquon Barkley. Barkley had only one fantasy miss in the entirety of last season, against the Titans in week 15, where he scored 9.60. This was as a rookie. Is there a chance that the dreaded sophomore slump is happening? There’s a possibility, but the Giants aren’t exactly a gifted offensive team outside of him. Golden Tate and Sterling Shepard are both alright, as is Evan Engram, but it’s going to be Barkley’s offense.
This is, without a doubt, a case where the top two are the two best players for the top of the draft board, and while both are extremely talented players, our edge goes to Barkley simply because there’s less around him in New York.
Alvin Kamara’s fantasy miss in week 5 against Washington isn’t enough to discredit his name in the third spot.
Todd Gurley’s injury concerns drop him down the board.
James Conner told The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that he expects the backfield to be “spread out pretty evenly.” It’s not great that he’s getting that sense already. It’s probably going to be fine for Conner, as long as he stays as their breakout guy, but some may want to look elsewhere, especially for their RB1.
Aaron Jones has reportedly dropped weight, and he quietly put together a nice week 10–14 stretch last year. He’s a breakout candidate.
If we’re drafting a New England running back, it’s going to be Sony Michel rather than James White, but the higher the ADP goes, the less enthusiastic we’re going to be about it.
Melvin Gordon is an interesting bounce-back candidate. He was really strong when he was on the field last year, but missed five games last year.
Obviously the worries about Kareem Hunt are warranted, but Nick Chubb could have a really nice year, and he’s not likely to be as expensive a value as some of the other names in the same tier.
Welcome back, Le’Veon Bell and Dalvin Cook.
- SAQUON BARKLEY, NYG
- CHRISTIAN MCCAFFREY, CAR
- ALVIN KAMARA, NO
- EZEKIEL ELLIOTT, DAL
- TODD GURLEY, LAR
- MELVIN GORDON, LAC
- JOE MIXON, CIN
- DAVID JOHNSON, ARI
- LE’VEON BELL, NYJ
- JAMES CONNER, PIT
Tyreek Hill and DeAndre Hopkins were separated by 0.50 of a point last season. Hopkins had more yards, Hill had one more touchdown. Tyreek Hill also reportedly just met with NFL investigators after child abuse allegations, but won’t miss time from a suspension. Still though, DeAndre Hopkins is our top wide receiver.
Going down the list, Davante Adams was the favourite of Aaron Rodgers last season, and that’s a really good spot to be in. Expect good things to come from that this season, especially as Adams continues to learn.
Julio Jones is in a good spot as well, even with the offensive shifts that will come to Atlanta this season.
It’s really hard to ignore Antonio Brown, even with all of the off-the-field drama that’s surrounded him over the last few months. Brown is now with Derek Carr instead of Ben Roethlisberger, which is a downgrade, but he’s still tremendously talented. It’s a situation where you can understand buying low, but also pass without too much judgement being thrown in your direction. UPDATE (9/8/19): With the recent news surrounding his helmet, it’s hard to recommend drafting Brown in the first three rounds.
Michael Thomas has a lot of fantasy misses in his resume from last year, and 68.90 of his 315.50 points came in the first two weeks. If you remove those points, he goes from the sixth best receiver last year to number twelve on the list.
JuJu Smith-Schuster is going to be in Antonio Brown’s old role? Yes, please.
Adam Thielen didn’t have a fantasy miss until week 15.
- DEANDRE HOPKINS, HOU
- TYREEK HILL, KC
- DAVANTE ADAMS, GB
- JUJU SMITH-SCHUSTER, PIT
- JULIO JONES, ATL
- ODELL BECKHAM JR., CLE
- ADAM THIELEN, MIN
- MIKE EVANS, TB
- MICHAEL THOMAS, NO
- KEENAN ALLEN, LAC
It looks so different at the top of the list without Rob Gronkowski, doesn’t it?
Travis Kelce averaged just over 18 points a game last year, and scored over 28 four times. The only worry was a week one showing of just 1.60 points, but that was easily his weakest showing of the year. He won’t be as dominant as Gronk was, but he’s still the safest bet at tight end.
George Kittle had two off-games and another that wasn’t great, but outside of that, he was really good. The twenty-five year old is a strong bet to take another step forward this year.
Two of Zach Ertz’ games last year made for 75.50 points of his 280.30 point total. If you remove those two games, only Kittle and Eric Ebron pass Ertz on last year’s tight end points list. Tight end is pretty shallow when it comes to “the elite” versus “the good.” Ertz is the third and final elite option in the position. He’s still boom-or-bust, though. To go with those two monster games, he had five where he didn’t hit ten points, and three where he didn’t hit six.
This time, even the elite have some fantasy flaws. We’re giving a strong recommendation to rolling early with your tight end and ensuring you get one of the top three.
Be wary of the sudden jump in Eric Ebron’s stats. He’s probably going to be solid again, but if 2018 happens again, we’d be surprised.
Jared Cook’s the ultimate hit-or-miss option: He scored 117 points in his best five weeks last season, but only 76.6 in the remaining eleven. He also had five games where he didn’t hit six points. Ultimately, Cook’s a riskier option than some of the others, but he has the potential to break out in a big way as well.
David Njoku had a nice stretch in the middle of last season, and there’s potential there for a breakout year on the receiving end of Baker Mayfield’s second year.
It’s not the worst idea to keep an eye on TJ Hockenson, just in case the Lions saw something that no one else really did. Still though, remember that the Eric Ebron breakout only happened when he left Detroit.
- TRAVIS KELCE, KC
- GEORGE KITTLE, SF
- ZACH ERTZ, PHI
- EVAN ENGRAM, NYG
- ERIC EBRON, IND
- DAVID NJOKU, CLE
- VANCE MCDONALD, PIT
- JARED COOK, NO
- AUSTIN HOOPER, ATL
- TREY BURTON, CHI
Top 10 Overall
Good luck with your draft, and in the upcoming season! These rankings are based on the default scoring for the NFL.com system, but it should be fairly easy to look into tweaks for different standard and PPR formats. We’ll leave you with our top ten overall, or a standard Ten Team first round.
- SAQUON BARKLEY, NYG (RB)
- CHRISTIAN MCCAFFREY, CAR (RB)
- ALVIN KAMARA, NO (RB)
- DEANDRE HOPKINS, HOU (WR)
- TYREEK HILL, KC (WR)
- EZEKIEL ELLIOTT, DAL (RB)
- DAVANTE ADAMS, GB (WR)
- TODD GURLEY, LAR (RB)
- TRAVIS KELCE, KC (TE)
- MELVIN GORDON, LAC (RB)