As the draft clock ticks down towards zero, fantasy owners scramble to make the “right pick” for their team. Here are my surefire picks in every round to keep you competitive.
NOTE: based up on 12 team, 15 round PPR redraft league using Fantasy Football Calculator for ADP and The Fantasy Footballers projections for the 2019 season
Let’s not kid ourselves, if you have a top 4 pick then take your preference: Barkley, Elliot, Kamara or CMC. Personally, I prefer Christian McCaffrey. Not only did he lead the Panthers in receptions last year with 107, his 300 yards after contact was second only behind George Kittle in all positions.
The later half of the draft order is where is gets interesting. No.1 wide receivers in a pass-heavy offense is where it is at. Both the Texans and Falcons gave WRs over 65% of target shares last season. That won’t change. DeAndre Hopkins over Julio Jones for me but you can’t go wrong with either.
The Reach: Travis Kelce is outside the top 12 ADP on Fantasy Football Calculator. Don’t sleep on him!
Your first pick skews your thinking on your second far too much, they say! “I took an RB so I have to take a WR in PRR next, right?” Well, maybe. Maybe not. But it is no surprise the current 13-24 ADP spots are made up of 6 RBs, 5 WRs and Travis Kelce. The key to this round is solid, consistent production. For me, that’s JuJu Smith-Schuster
Antonio Brown is gone and Big Ben is still slinging. JuJu had 29 Red Zone targets last season, which was second only to Davante Adams. AB leaves 24 red zone targets up for grabs, Big Ben is sure to throw at least half of those JuJu’s way!
If it is RB you are targeting then James Conner or Joe Mixon are safe bets. Nick Chubb and Dalvin Cook have huge upside, especially the latter with Gary Kubiak’s presence in Minnesota.
The Reach: TY Hilton has a current ADP of 27, that is too good value. Nab him at the end of Round 2 and sit back as he produces Top 5 WR numbers this year
In the modern fantasy world waiting to grab your TE until after Round 5 is just not a thing anymore. The reality is that if you do not pick one of Kelce, Kittle or Ertz within the first few rounds, you are short on production at the position. Kelce will be off the board so my guy in this round is Zach Ertz.
Not only did the Philadelphia Eagle set a single season record for catches by a TE (116) but Pro Football Focus stats tell us he averages 16.1 fantasy points per game, second only to Kelce, and over 4 PPG more than Kittle.
There is plenty of value at WR here too: Adam Thielen, Amari Cooper and AJ Green are all solid picks with big seasons in front of them.
The Reach: Easy one here – Stefon Diggs! Sitting just outside a Round 3 ADP, the Minneapolis Miracle man is projected to outscore Amari Cooper and Keenan Allen according to The Fantasy Footballers.
It is highly possible one of these productive RB1s falls to you early in Round 4: Devonta Freeman, Leonard Fournette or Marlon Mack. Do not hesitate, pick them up!
Devonta Freeman in particular looks set for a huge bounce-back season as long as he can stay healthy. The Falcons lost Tevin Coleman in free agency and did little to replace him, using a late round draft pick on rookie Qadree Ollison out of Pittsburgh. Not only is Freeman a “Matty Ice” security blanket, he is also a good bet for Red Zone targets. If he can replicate his 7 Red Zone touchdowns from 2017, he will tear it up in 2019.
Later round value comes in the form of oft-undervlaued Ram Robert Woods, Matthew Stafford’s favourite target Kenny Golladay, and the explosive Calvin Ridley.
The Reach: I spend hours figuring out the how Bill Belichick will use the Patriots backfield. Yes, I know I am an idiot. Despite this, James White is someone you should absolutely be thinking about late in Round 4. White finished 7th in points scored for RBs in PPR leagues last season, ahead of Melvin Gordon, David Johnson and Joe Mixon. Believe it!
Yes, I haven’t even talked about taking a QB yet. And if you have by now in a PPR league then good luck to you, however you have probably overpaid. In Round 5, however, there are a few stellar picks you could cash in on.
I really love Andrew Luck at this point. The Stanford phenom set career highs in pass attempts (639) and completions (430), finishing top 12 in PPR scoring overall last season. Frank Reich will let him loose once again. Jack Doyle will hopefully be healthy for a full season, and improvements in the receiving core come in the form of Devin Funchess and talented Ohio State wideout (and 2nd round draft pick) Parris Campbell. Aaron Rodgers and Deshaun Watson are incredible consolation prizes if Luck is taken.
Cooper Kupp and Jarvis Landry offer safe, sensible value. RB starts to thin out at this point and after PPR favourites like James White, Tarik Cohen and Phillip Lindsay are gone, Chris Carson and Tevin Coleman don’t sound too appealing.
The Reach: Give me all the Mike Williams I can carry late in Round 5. Likely to steal targets from Keenan Allen, the Clemson product earned the most fantasy points per touch (3.56) among qualifying WRs last year according to Pro Football Focus.
There is some serious breakout potential for players with an ADP in Round 6. Matt Nagy’s offense only went through its warm up last year, and with more creativity for Mitch Trubisky to play with, Allen Robinson stands to benefit. The Bears Head Coach recently made the following comment to the media about Robinson: “He’s one of the top players I’ve ever coached.”
Coming off an ACL, Robinson’s 13-game first season in Chicago was certainly encouraging. But the Wild Card loss to the Eagles flashed a future that allows fantasy owners to drool. Robinson went off for 143 yards and a TD on 10 catches from 13 targets. He will enter the 2019 campaign as the clear WR1 on an offense that needs to allow Trubisky to throw more to take the next step.
Robby Anderson, Dante Pettis and Tyler Boyd are on the cusp of a breakout in offenses that will benefit from QB or scheme upgrades – you should be seriously be looking at drafting these guys here.
The Reach: I generally avoid the RB position in these key rounds to add solid production as you are generally dealing with guys who don’t really have pass-catching in their locker, or solely guys who pass-catch out of the backfield. However, Austin Ekeler does both and with Melvin Gordon holding out, it’s a no-brainer to snap him up ahead of the competition.
You have reached the “stop, take a breath and analyse” stage of your draft. It is likely you will have filled 6 out of 7 of your key position slots (QB, 2 x RB, 2 x WR, TE, FLEX). So, you have a few options:
1. A smart moved would be to fill that last spot with the best available player determined by ADP
2. Bulk up on a position you like because of who is left (take note of bye weeks to maximise value).
3. Get ahead of the league on a back up QB
4. Reach for that rookie you think is going to tear it up
Most people will be looking at QB or TE which is reflected in the ADP options available. Matty Ice, Drew Brees and Carson Wentz all appear as do Eric Ebron, Jared Cook and Vance McDonald. I would go QB in PPR with Matt Ryan being the perfect option. Ryan produced 3 top 30 WRs last season: WR2 Julio Jones (329.8 pts), WR20 Calvin Ridley (208.8) and WR30 Mohamed Sanu (178.2). With Devonta Freeman back also (see Round 4), Matty Ice is the extreme value QB in PPR leagues for 2019.
The Reach: Option 4 is the most exciting of the bunch so let’s take a punt! Miles Sanders has a late Round 7 ADP and stands to benefit from an uncertain backfield in a team who loves to run the ball, the Philadelphia Eagles. Send in the ticket!
All the TEs above hold far too high a price, so if any of them drop I would still say stay away! Instead look to grab some value at RB or WR for your bye weeks. Essentially it is a choice between the consistent tried and tested veterans or the low floor, high ceiling upstarts.
Larry Fitzgerald stands out like a sore thumb here at WR. Kyler Murray is going to lean on the Hall of Fame legend heavily in his rookie campaign, and with Fitz lining up in the slot 70% of the time, he should be pushing WR2 numbers most weeks. Marvin Jones and Sammy Watkins are two other notable veterans in pass-happy systems.
At RB the value is less obvious. Jordan Howard and Royce Freeman are in timeshares; the Bills brought in 3 RBs (Gore, Yeldon, Singletary) to compete with Shady McCoy; Kareem Hunt has an 8 game suspension to serve before seeing the field; and who knows what Ronald Jones II will be in 2019. Don’t worry, there is hope in the form of Latavius Murray, who might still be knocking around early in Round 8. The former Viking quietly improved his overall game in Minnesota and replaces Mark Ingram in the explosive Saints offense. Sleeper alert!
The Reach: if you desperately want to fill that gap at TE then I will scratch your itch. Popular breakout pick David Njoku has an ADP smack bang in the middle of Round 8, which is nice. What is even nicer is that Baker Mayfield is his QB!
..or “The Sleeper Round” as it is also known. We all play fantasy football for the love of the game, right? Well, here is your opportunity to draft a guy you loved coming out of college, or saw take big steps in their second year, or is about to benefit from a timely coaching or scheme change. This is the pick that may win you an extra week, or playoff game, or championship. Get it right!
Marques Valdes-Scantling was the clear breakout of the 3 WRs the Packers drafted last year to help Aaron Rodgers become a Superbowl contender once again. That obviously didn’t happen but MVS flashed the skill-set of a WR2 in what promises to be a creative offense under new Head Coach Matt LaFleur.
Corey Davis stands to be a true X receiver this season after the Titans added A.J. Brown and Adam Humphries. News out of camp is that the former 1st round pick has significantly improved his body control to make the most out of his commanding 6’3″ frame. Despite a run-first offense, at this value Davis is a tasty prospect.
The Reach: a “deep sleeper” if you will! I stay at WR here and give you Anthony Miller. The Fantasy Footballers highlight Miller’s 72.6 % success rate vs. man coverage in his rookie season. Pair that up with an impressive 7 TDs despite playing the season with a separated shoulder. A healthy Miller under Matt Nagy in year 2 is a mouth-watering prospect. His current late Round 11, early Round 12 ADP is insulting.
Those smart enough to resist the urge of reaching for a QB are likely to be rewarded with some very effective, efficient options at this point in your fantasy draft.
Elite talents like Cam Newton and Jared Goff may have fallen to early Round 10. Jameis Winston is a bounce-back darling under the gaze of QB whisperer Bruce Arians, and Philip Rivers never fails to put up big numbers.
My target would be Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger, who set career-highs in passing yards (5,129), TDs (34) and pass attempts (675) last season. Fresh off a contract extension, and with JuJu Smith-Schuster graduating to be his primary receiver, Big Ben will again be a Top 5 QB in PPR in 2019.
The Reach: We are talking QBs so we have to talk about Jimmy Garoppolo. The 49ers franchise stud is coming off an ACL sustained during a miserable opening 3 game stint in which he failed to register 300 yards passing and boasted a completion percentage below 60%. Kyle Shanahan has amassed a series of RBs and WRs begging for dump offs, slants and check downs. It won’t be a pretty offense but it may be productive.
Late Rounds and what to do with rookies
It is much harder to predict the fantasy output of the players ranked 101-200 than it is the the top 100, fact! Public opinion, team bias, handcuffs, etc…there are lots of reasons why. I am going to try cut through the spaghetti to give you 3 players you need to draft for your bench:
- Dede Westbrook is currently hovering just outside the top 100 in ADP and with guaranteed improved QB play from Nick Foles, the 3rd year Oklahoma wide-out is due for a huge year in 2019
- The Atlanta Falcons have one of the most underrated TEs in the NFL in Austin Hooper (ADP 156), who is guaranteed to see a bump in production (from a mere possession TE) thanks to Dirk Koetter’s love of TEs in red zone packages. Feed him Matty Ice, feeeed him!
- Slot receivers are not the sexiest of picks but you cannot shy away from their production at the positions thanks to a steady stream of targets and receptions. Jets QB Sam Darnold gets an upgrade with Jamison Crowder (ADP 178), who is exactly the type of receiver you want to fill in when the bye weeks come rolling.
I will only say this once: if your league has DST and K then please do not draft them before the last two rounds. No exceptions, no excuses. Ok, good chat!
Rookies violently divide opinions in the redraft community. Veteran fantasy players will be adamant that they “will not be drafting any rookies” during their drafts. Others argue that rookies can make a huge impact late in the season when your playoffs and championships are being decided.
3 rookies finished top 10 in PPR leagues between week 13 and week 17 last season: Josh Allen (2), Saquon Barkley (8) and George Kittle (9). Furthermore, Nick Chubb and Justin Jackson were both top 20 RBs in the fantasy championship window (weeks 14 – 16).
So, I think you should be seriously considering rookies with your last couple of bench spots. Here are a couple to consider:
- Darwin Thompson (RB): do not sleep on the Kansas City Chiefs offense. Mahomes journey to stardom will continue in spectacular fashion and everyone will benefit. Thompson is a versatile, 3-down back with explosive spreed and underrated strength. The RB room in KC is far from set and Thompson could be this year’s Phillip Lindsay
- Mecole Hardman (WR): as above! Despite only playing two years as a receiver at Georgia, Hardman not only offers huge upside as he develops with Mahomes but his potential to return punts makes him a clear PRR late round flier.
- Devin Singletary (RB): The Bills love to run the football. An ageing group at RB, including LeSean McCoy, Frank Gore and TJ Yeldon, are likely to be knicked up, traded, or cut as the season goes. Singletary, according to The Fantasy Footballers, finished his senior year in the top 10 in attempts per game and total touchdowns, and just outside the top 10 in rushing yards per game. What is more impressive is he accomplished all of this behind an offensive line that ranked in the bottom third of the NCAA. Tasty!
- Daniel Jones (QB): everyone laughed when the Duke QB was called at No. 6 overall in the NFL draft, right? Nope. I had Jones as my QB1 and his development under QB guru David Cutliffe was all on shown in his 423 yds, 5 TDs performance against Temple in the Independence Bowl. His remarkable athleticism, ability to read the defense and incredible accuracy points to Jones taking over the starting job in New York before their week 11 bye.
- N’Keal Harry (WR): last year the Patriots selected Sony Michel late in the first round of the draft. His performances in the post-season en-route to another Pats Super Bowl win were nothing short of phenomenal. Harry is the first wide receiver ever drafted by Bill Belichick in the first round. Same same, please!
Congratulations, you are now ready to draft your championship fantasy team! Good luck for the season ahead!