How early should you draft Patrick Mahomes in 2019?

The biggest boon for fantasy owners in 2018 was drafting Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes late in fantasy drafts. He was typically taken in the latter portion of the 10th round and 5,097 yards and 50 touchdowns later he became the No. 1 overall player in fantasy. Only Todd Gurley (in PPR formats) finished with more points on a per-game basis.

There’s no doubt Mahomes will be the No. 1 QB off the board in 2019 drafts. The only mystery is how high he will go. Could he even creep into the first round?

Value is in the eye of the beholder and you will undoubtably know someone who’s in a league where Mahomes goes No. 1 overall or in the top 10, but where should he actually go? Let’s dive into his numbers and what history tells us.

The young QB averaged 26.1 fantasy points per game in 2018, a full four points more than QB2 Matt Ryan. We haven’t seen a disparity of even three points between QB1 and QB2 since 2013, when Peyton Manning led all players at the position with 25.6 points per game compared to Drew Brees’ 22.4.

The last time there was a four-point gap at the top was all the way back in 2010, when Michael Vick had that magical season with the Eagles. Even then, Vick only played in 12 games when he averaged 26.3 fantasy points per game compared to Aaron Rodgers’ 20.4 in 15 games. The last time we saw that kind of gap when both QBs played a full season was in 2007 when Tom Brady stewarded the Patriots to an undefeated regular season and averaged 24.9 points per game compared to Tony Romo’s 18.7.

So that’s a lot of numbers… what does it all mean? How does that affect what you should do on draft day?

I won’t sit here and compare what those top-scoring QBs did the following season because it’s largely inapplicable here. Mahomes is a different player at a different age in a league where different types of players are succeeding compared to 2007, 2010 and 2013. It’s worth noting that a regression of some sort is likely. I’d be surprised to see another 5,000/50 season from the 23-year-old in 2019. What is applicable, though, is where those QBs were drafted the following season.

Brady in 2008: 5.7 overall

Vick in 2011: 5.5 overall

Manning in 2014: 6.3 overall

If you check out the first edition of my 12-team PPR Round 1 mock draft, you’ll see I don’t have Mahomes in my top 12. He didn’t even make my “just missed” list to crack the top 15. It might seem crazy, but this is where I remind everyone about value in terms of position scarcity. It’s very unlikely we’ll see that kind of gap among the top QBs in 2019, whether Mahomes ends up as QB1 or not. Yet, every year there is a massive drop off at the running back position that requires you to take at least one early to contend.

Here’s where the top QBs have been taken in the last four drafts:

2015: 9.8 (Andrew Luck)

2016: 27.7 (Cam Newton)

2017: 19.8 (Aaron Rodgers)

2018: 28.2 (Aaron Rodgers)

Mahomes should be valued higher than Rodgers was coming into this season for a few reasons. The offense around him is better, he’s younger and he doesn’t have an injury history.

Realistically, there’s no way Mahomes makes it to Round 4 of fantasy drafts. Let’s lock him into Round 2 or 3 and see where he should go between picks 13-24.

Glancing back at my mock draft article linked above, you’ll see 15 players I’d take ahead of him. Is there anyone else? I still think potential production and position scarcity dictates that Nick Chubb and David Johnson should go above him. Aaron Jones and Dalvin Cook should be in consideration here as well, and I think both are in store for really strong seasons. From a purely football perspective, Kareem Hunt could also be in play here depending on a litany of factors.

On the wide receiver side it’s a tougher sell, but JuJu Smith-Schuster as the possible No. 1 in Pittsburgh and Odell Beckham Jr.’s upside is tough to pass on. Adam Thielen is the only other pass-catcher I’d really consider over Mahomes here, but I’d still lean toward the Chiefs QB. I’m not ready to take Travis Kelce here, either.

So where does Mahomes fit? Pending an entire offseason of changes, research and predictions, I have Mahomes as the No. 22 or No. 23 overall player. Taking him somewhere around the Round 2/3 turn would be an attractive spot.