It may seem like it’s way too early to already be thinking about next year’s fantasy drafts, but there’s always room to grow and time to gather information. Quite frankly, it’s also a pretty fun mental exercise.
If you had to draft your 2019 fantasy roster right now, who would you choose? Moreso, who would you take in the ever-important first round? Let’s take a closer look at how a 12-team, PPR league could play out with Super Bowl 53 in the rearview mirror.
Pick No. 1: Christian McCaffrey
The top pick is more jumbled than ever with the way Todd Gurley was used in the playoffs. The Rams star is still in consideration for the top pick but uncertainty is a fantasy value killer. When you’re picking this high you have to know you’re going to get a first-round return. I feel confident I’ll get that from McCaffrey. The Carolina RB was No. 3 in total points and No. 4 in fantasy points per game (FPPG) in 2018. don’t fear a regression from his 107 catches this season. I expect the same in 2019. He’s shown an aptitude for running between the tackles that he didn’t have his rookie year and the Panthers have shown a willingness to let him expand that area of his game. All reports about Cam Newton’s shoulder are positive as well.
January pick: Todd Gurley
Pick No. 2: Saquon Barkley
The reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year moves up one slot as well heading into his sophomore campaign. What more can be said about the Penn State product? He finished as the No. 1 RB in total points and No. 2 (only behind Gurley) in FPPG. I don’t fear regression or the “sophomore slump” per se, but he is slightly more risky than McCaffrey until we see him do it again after teams have a year of film on him. If you take him No. 2 overall you won’t be disappointed. It’s also possible the Giants offense as a whole improves, which will help limit regression but won’t necessarily add to his fantasy totals.
January pick: Christian McCaffrey
Pick No. 3: Ezekiel Elliott
Stud. That sums up Elliott in a word. He’s become a more all-around back, as evidenced by his 77 catches in 2018 after having 58 in his first two seasons combined. I expect more of the same in 2019. The Cowboys offense looked completely different with wide receiver Amari Cooper in the fold. Once Cooper joined the team, Elliott was the No. 2 player in fantasy the rest of the way (only behind McCaffrey). The Cowboys will have 16 games of Cooper next season and they’ll keep feeding Elliott the ball. Fantasy owners won’t complain. This is the safe, but correct pick to round out the top three.
January pick: Saquon Barkley
Pick No. 4: Alvin Kamara
With the top trio of backs off the board we’re right back in Gurley territory. But as I said, uncertainty is a killer. A player whose workload and production isn’t uncertain? Kamara. He finished as the No. 4 RB (No. 5 overall) in points per game in 2018 after finishing as the No. 4 back in 2017. Even though his position ranking stayed the same, he scored nearly four more points per game year over year. There’s also a strong chance that he’s alone in the backfield for New Orleans next season since Mark Ingram is a free agent. The Saints also may look to run up the score on their revenge tour.
January pick: Ezekiel Elliott
Pick No. 5: Todd Gurley
The precipitous fall is over! Regular listeners of the TD Fantasy podcast know that I love Melvin Gordon and think he’s always underrated. I could make the argument that he should go here. However, I can’t logically conclude that Gurley’s playing time is any riskier than Gordon’s injury history. Before he got hurt and disappeared in the playoffs, no player averaged more points per game than Gurley’s 26.6. He was the fantasy MVP of the 2018 season before missing the final two games. He was also the No. 1 player in last year’s fantasy drafts. His spot in these monthly mocks will vary greatly, but right now his slide ends at the bottom of the top five. We still need more information from Sean McVay, however.
January pick: Melvin Gordon
Pick No. 6: Melvin Gordon
Gordon finished as the No. 5 RB and No. 6 overall player on a points per game basis. He continued to grow his passing game presence and will be a very solid pick here in the middle of the first round as he’s a lock for double-digit touchdowns. He does carry some injury risk, but he’s a key cog in a high-powered Chargers offense and has been more consistent than you may think over the past couple seasons. There isn’t a valid argument to take any wide receiver over him. This is the end of the top tier of running backs.
January pick: Alvin Kamara
Pick No. 7: DeAndre Hopkins
Finally, an unchanged pick from the previous month. Hopkins gets the nod as my WR1 because of his consistency and lack of question marks. If you throw out his 2016 season (the year of Brock Osweiler), Hopkins has been a top-5 player at his position every year. He was No. 5 in FPPG in 2015, No. 2 in 2017 and No. 3 in 2018. Because he didn’t miss any time last season, he finished as the No. 1 WR in total points as well. He has a legit quarterback now that should be even better in his second season removed from ACL surgery. It’s hard to see anything but injury keeping Nuk out of the top 3 at WR in 2019.
January pick: DeAndre Hopkins
Pick No. 8: Davante Adams
Adams was the best wide receiver in fantasy in 2018 and moves up one spot month over month. He averaged 22 FPPG — a half-point more than Antonio Brown’s average and 1.2 points more than Hopkins’ average. So why isn’t he my WR1? Well, this is new territory for him. He’s never cracked the top 7 before 2018, even if he was hanging around somewhere near the bottom of the top 10 the prior two seasons. He’s also in an offense that I believe will focus more on the run more in 2019. In my eyes it’s more likely that he finishes the season outside of the top 5 WRs than he finishes No. 1 again. However, he’s less risky than the handful of options right behind him.
January pick: Antonio Brown
Pick No. 9: Antonio Brown
If I had to know Gurley down a peg, it’s only fair I do a little of the same to Brown. However, the demise of AB was completely over exaggerated. You’d think he’d fallen off the face of the Earth and is just a broken down man living on a street corner somewhere in Pittsburgh. Instead, he was the No. 2 WR on a points per game basis last season. No. 2 — you know, after finishing No. 1, No. 1, No. 1 and No. 2 the four seasons prior. Brown is as consistent as it gets and you’d be crazy to undervalue him in 2019. The only reason for concern is that we’re not sure he’ll be back with the Steelers. He could be just as productive in a number of other offenses, but he could get shipped off to a place that reduces his value a bit. Or he could play in Pittsburgh and the end of the season will be forgotten.
January pick: Davante Adams
Pick No. 10: James Conner
I’m not sure why a lot of respected fantasy analysts are down on Conner for 2019. Conner filled in more than admirably as Pittsburgh’s starter and finished as the No. 7 RB on a points per game basis. As mentioned in the Bell section, Steelers running backs have a pretty strong fantasy track record in the last half-decade. Like with Barkley, you do worry ever so slightly about the league adjusting with a year’s worth of tape on him, but Conner just touches too many areas of the game for fantasy owners to be concerned. You’re going to have to pay full price for him this year, but you’re more than likely getting a top-10 RB in the process.
January pick: Le’Veon Bell
Pick No. 11: Tyreek Hill
Do you think this offense is going to slow down at all? Me neither. Hill is a game-changing talent and the centerpiece of Kansas City’s offense with and without the ball. His mere presence sends defenses into a panic. He finished as the No. 4 WR on a FPPG basis in 2018 after finishing No. 7 in 2017. He’s outscored Julio Jones in each of the past two seasons and has averaged a half-point more per game than Michael Thomas over the past two seasons combined. He deserves first-round consideration.
January pick: James Conner
Pick No. 12: Joe Mixon
A new name on this list, Mixon moves up into the first round after closer consideration. Sure there’s some injury risk here, but Mixon was one of the few players who ranked as a top-10 RB on a points per game basis for the season as a whole, post-Thanksgiving and for the fantasy playoffs. He’s a stud who still has some room to grow in the passing game. Maybe new head coach Zac Taylor can expand that element to his game. Mixon finished as RB9 in FPPG and RB10 in total points. Grabbing a top RB early is a must and Mixon starts the second tier of premier RBs.
January pick: Tyreek Hill
Dropped off the list: Le’Veon Bell
Just Missed: Julio Jones, Michael Thomas, Le’Veon Bell