Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Way-Too-Early 2019 Fantasy Football Mock Draft

With Super Bowl LIII and the 2018 NFL season behind us, it's time to look ahead to the 2019 NFL season and how the early rounds of a fantasy football draft could play out.

Before you're drafting teams for real, there is obviously plenty that will impact the fantasy outlooks of players -- NFL free agency in March, the NFL Draft in April, injuries and/or holdouts over the offseason, etc.

Taking that into consideration, I thought it'd be fun to run through a back-of-the-napkin exercise to map out how the first three rounds of a mock draft would play out if I were the GM for all 12 teams.

[Note: This mock draft uses half-point per reception scoring.]

Round 1

1.01 - Team 1: Todd Gurley, RB, Los Angeles Rams
Despite insisting that he's healthy, there is no chance that Gurley wasn't limited by his knee given his inexplicably-low usage when the games mattered most. That said, he is as good as it gets when healthy. Only 24 years old (turns 25 in August), the versatile back is the focal point of one of the league's most explosive and innovative offenses. Leading the NFL in rushing scores in each of the past two seasons, Gurley has scored 40 total touchdowns -- 30 rushing and 10 receiving -- and racked up 3,924 yards from scrimmage since 2017.

1.02 - Team 2: Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants
The second pick in the (real) 2018 NFL Draft, Barkley is the second pick here but there isn't much of a dropoff, if any, from Gurley. In 2018, the rookie led the NFL in YFS (2,028), scored 15 total touchdowns and had a team-high 91 receptions. That said, what gives Gurley the edge over Barkley is the overall offensive potency. With Eli Manning under center in 2018, the Giants were middle of the pack -- 17th in total offense and 16th in scoring offense.

- MORE: Will the Giants draft a QB in 2019 NFL Draft

1.03 - Team 3: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys
Not only does Elliott have two rushing titles in three seasons, but he has led the NFL in rushing yards per game every year since being a top-four selection by the Cowboys in 2016. Not only has he averaged 21.7 carries per game in his young career, he was much more involved as a receiver in 2018 -- 77 receptions on 95 targets.

1.04 - Team 4: Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers
If this were a full PPR mock (as opposed to half-PPR scoring), he would be at least one spot higher than this. Breaking Matt Forte's single-season receptions record for a running back, McCaffrey followed up his 80-catch rookie campaign with 107 receptions in 2018. In 2018, he nearly reached the 2,000-YFS mark (1,965) and scored 13 total touchdowns.

1.05 - Team 5: Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints
The second-year back saw a significant bump in workload from his rookie season, but he was much more involved in the first four weeks (with Mark Ingram suspended) than the final 12 weeks. Kamara averaged 22.75 touches per game (Weeks 1 to 4) vs. 16.73 (Weeks 5 to 17). In full-PPR scoring formats, he was actually the weekly RB1 in three of the first four weeks of the season. With Ingram set to become an unrestricted free agent, Kamara has legitimate RB1 upside, especially if Ingram signs elsewhere.

1.06 - Team 6: Melvin Gordon, RB, Los Angeles Chargers
Setting a career high in yards per carry (5.1), Gordon also extended his streak with 12-plus touchdowns to three seasons. That's the good news. The bad news is that MG3 has now missed multiple games in three of his four NFL seasons. It would make sense for this team to pair Gordon with Austin Ekeler, who has stand-alone value even when MG3 is healthy.

1.07 - Team 7: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston Texans
Posting career highs in receptions (115) and yards (1,572), Hopkins now has at least 95 catches, 1,375 yards and double-digit touchdowns in three of the past four years including both seasons with Deshaun Watson under center. While Nuk is a safer bet than any of the next tier of running backs, I'd still be tempted to draft my next-ranked running back here given the scarcity of workhorse running backs.

1.08 - Team 8: James Conner, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Filling in more than admirably for Le'Veon Bell, Conner is a bonafide first-rounder in 2019 fantasy drafts depending on how the Steelers address the position in free agency and the NFL Draft. Less productive and missing some time in the second half of the season, he was as good as it gets in the first eight games. With four games of 100-plus rushing yards and multiple touchdowns, Conner accounted for 1,085 YFS, 38 receptions and 10 touchdowns in the first eight games of the season.

1.09 - Team 9: Joe Mixon, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
Mixon has missed multiple games in both of his seasons, but he rushed for 1,168 yards (4.9 YPC) and eight touchdowns in his second season. Mixon added 43/296/1 receiving as well. Mixon closed the season strong with 100-plus rushing yards in three of four games.

1.10 - Team 10: Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons
The obvious concern with Jones is the lack of touchdowns -- eight or fewer every year except 2012. Given his combination of size and speed and the overall production of the offense, however, that shouldn't be the case and the good news is it wasn't down the stretch -- all eight of his touchdowns came in the final nine games. With a career-best 10 100-yard games, Jones had 113 catches for 1,677 yards and now has 1,400-plus yards in five consecutive seasons.

1.11 - Team 11: Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay Packers
Many may take Adams (or Michael Thomas, or Antonio Brown, or Odell Beckham) ahead of Jones and an argument could be made for all of them as the next receiver off the board here as well. Unlike Jones, Adams is a red zone machine with double-digit scores in each of the past three seasons and he set career highs across the board last year -- 111 receptions, 1,386 yards and 13 touchdowns. And it has never a bad thing to be the clear-cut No. 1 receiver in an Aaron Rodgers-led offense.

1.12 - Team 12: Michael Thomas, WR, New Orleans Saints
Thomas has built upon his production each season -- 92/1,137/9 (2016), 104/1,245/5 (2017) and 125/1,405/9 (2018). Even though he ranked 11th in targets (147), his 125 catches led the league (Zach Ertz was second with 116). While he's yet to score double-digit touchdowns in any season, the good news is that only Hopkins (15) had more targets than Thomas (14) from inside the 10-yard line last season.

- Continue reading our 2019 Fantasy Football Mock Draft

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