The Perfect Fantasy Football Draft: Picks One-Five In 2019
The Perfect Fantasy Football Draft: Picks One-Five In 2019
There are two types of fantasy football drafts this year: a draft where you get one of the first five picks or a draft where you don't. Being able take your pick of Christian McCaffrey, Ezekiel Elliot, David Johnson, Alvin Kamara or Saquon Barkley is just an inherent advantage over the rest of your league. Therefore, there will be two editions of the perfect fantasy football draft in 2019. The first will be this article, going from the first round to the eighteenth and the second will be the after-pick-five version where you are unable to start with one of the core running backs.
The idea of the perfect fantasy football draft is to illustrate how things would go in a world where you could walk into your league and perfectly land the players that our projections have as favorable in each round. It is unlikely that this draft would come to fruition in practice (though I have been close on a few occasions) but that doesn't mean the exercise cannot be instructive. The functional idea is to arm you with a plan heading into whatever draft it is that you are prepared for. Your home league of 15 years, a high(er) stakes FFPC draft, or any weekly management league should all apply here.
Average Draft Position referenced is from the PPR ADP on FantasyPros.
The Perfect Fantasy Football Draft
Round One: No big mystery here. Saquon Barkley, Christian McCaffrey, Alvin Kamara, Ezekiel Elliot, and David Johnson are the best possible first-round picks to get. Our projections have them as the best running backs by over 20 points over the next tier of guys. My preferred slot is fifth so that I can acquire David Johnson and then have the best possible selection in round two.
Round Two: The very high-end range of outcomes here is being able to take Juju Smith-Schuster. The Steelers wide receiver is coming off a 166-target season where he actually lost competition for targets and redzone touches while being in a historical comp list that only Josh Gordon and Randy Moss can touch. Starting any draft with DJ and Smith-Schuster is basically a fantasy football utopia. This is one of the only start that gives you decent equity at having both the best running back and wide receiver in fantasy football. An important note is that Travis Kelce is maybe available in the mid-to-late second around five percent of the time and you should be taking him at those times.
Round Three: Brandin Cooks and Stefon Diggs are our ninth and 12th projected wide receivers, respectively. This round is rich with talented and high volume wide receivers but Cooks and Diggs are a step above. Cooks averaged 10.3 yards per target last season (his best as a professional) and could stand to gain some touchdown equity if Todd Gurley is indeed load managed. Diggs, on the other hand, plays for a run-first team but offers an almost unparalleled week to week volume. There is also a slight chance the introduction of Chad Beebe as the third wide receiver forces Adam Thielen out of the slot which would theoretically benefit Diggs.
Round Four: He does not always get here but when he does, I take Josh Jacobs every single time. There is enough concern about the strength of the Oakland offense to not take him in the third but the history of first-round rookie running backs is fantasy-friendly. Zeke, Doug Martin, Jamal Lewis, Marshawn Lynch, Leonard Fournette and others all had worthwhile rookie seasons. If Jacobs doesn't last, sometimes you can also get Cooks in this round instead of the third. Chris Godwin is the ultimate high-ceiling play in the fourth round as he is actually our 17th highest projected wide receiver.
Round Five: This is what has become known as the D.J Moore round to the RotoExperts and DailyRoto staff. D.J Moore is THE breakout fantasy football candidate in 2019; he and Curtis Samuel can break out at the same time. In fact, Samuel's emergence is likely welcome for the potential of Moore. Any wide receiver whose comp list is as strong as Moore's (essentially all fantasy WR1's) would be a great value in the fifth. The Chargers' Mike Williams also has some of the similar breakout possibilities but is at best second-fiddle on his own team whereas Moore is likely first.
Round Six: Lamar Miller or Sammy Watkins are the players who the projections suggest are mega-values here. Watkins is the much more attractive option. He plays in the best offense in football, averaged over 5 targets per game in healthy games last season (and over 13 fantasy points per game) and well, isn't Lamar Miller. Miller, on the other hand, is basically guaranteed the lead back in an offense that the fantasy football market expects to be highly productive and just lost his biggest competition for carries. To keep things on track, we are going with Watkins as the perfect pick given that he is our WR19 in the projections.
Round Seven: An important note as we reach the later-ish rounds: not every draft is the same. Some of these guys I am writing about will be long gone or maybe they will free fall. Will Fuller, Christian Kirk, Austin Ekeler and Darrell Henderson are all targets of mine that I feel happy with in the seventh. The projections do not exactly align with these takes but I am also largely drafting for ceiling at this point in the draft. The building blocks of top-five RB X/Smith-Schuster/Cooks/Jacobs/Moore should be in place. Fuller, in particular, offenses league-winning upside due to his combo of elite distance scoring ability and level of offense he plays in. The same could be said of Kirk if the Arizona offense hits the ground running. Ekeler has a top-12 running back projection if Melvin Gordon misses part of the season due to hold out and ditto for Henderson if Todd Gurley's knees become a significant in-season issue.
Round Eight: If any of Fuller/Kirk/Henderson (and sometimes even Sammy Watkins) falls to the eighth, my pick is automatic. Latavius Murray, playing in the Mark Ingram role, is a guy I find myself drawn to. We have Murray projected for 133 carries but there is a chance that number is too light if the Saints continue on their three-year trend of running more and throwing less as Drew Brees ages. Murray's role has the chance to actually be more valuable than Ingram's was, especially last season. Larry Fitzgerald (91 projected targets in a high volume offense) and Dede Westbrook (clear WR1 in Jacksonville with Marquise Lee on PUP) are wide receivers we are interested in here, as well as Marquez Valdes-Scantling.
Round Nine: This selection doesn't work out with DRAFT average draft position, where he is significantly higher, but Marquez Valdes-Scantling is going to follow up Latavius Murray. The physical specimen who ranks in the 90th percentile across the board in athletic testing spent the offseason working out with Randy Moss and has earned verbal praise from the coaching staff and Aaron Rodgers himself. With all the hype surrounding MVS coming out of Green Bay, it is unlikely his ADP stays close to here for long. Substitute goods for MVS would be Curtis Samuel, Keke Coutee, and the aforementioned Westbrook/Fitzgerald.
Round Ten: If Kyler Murray or Cam Newton are here, you should be taking them. Their ADP's are a decent bit before 120 but in sharper, non-best ball leagues, quarterbacks tend to slide a little. Dion Lewis is the best RB/WR going in this range. We have him projected for 104 carries and 52 targets with pretty solid upside for more. Derrick Henry is already injured and fairly one-dimensional to begin with. You've probably noticed this draft has a decent bit of Zero-RB flair to it and that is intentional. Drafting like running back is an attritional position that will suffer injuries is the right way to pursue the perfect fantasy football draft.
Round Eleven: If I was unable to secure Kyler Murray or Cam Newton, Lamar Jackson is just as good but a round later. As I wrote in "Fantasy Football ADP's That Make No Sense", in seven starts last year, Jackson scored over 17 fantasy points per game while throwing for over 200 yards just once! With upside for over our projected 154 carries in 2019, Jackson is easily the best available late-round quarterback. Acquiring a quarterback who has rushing upside is one of the primary elements of the perfect fantasy football draft. Assuming we got a good value on Kyler/Cam earlier, Jaylen Samuels and Kalen Ballage are our preferred upside running backs here. Ballage has a path to a starting RB job while Samuels appears to be the primary passing-down back in Pittsburgh.
Round Twelve: With the midround tight ends not a part of our perfect fantasy football draft, we need to turn our eyes to the Greg Olsen's and Jack Doyle's of the world. The perfect draft may not include a starting tight end for all 16 weeks of the season and that is okay. Outside of super deep FFPC formats, most leagues will allow you enough options on the waiver wire to stream. Greg Olsen has an ADP of 145.6 at the moment while being projected for 95 targets in 16 healthy games. Olsen has been an every-down player while on the field for Carolina and with the overall volume at the position trending downward (only six players with more than 100 targets last season) just being on the field and having a weekly role is worth a roster spot. Doyle, recovering from offseason surgery, should also be an almost every-down player for the high-flying Indianapolis Colts and is one of the most undervalued players in all of fantasy football if he starts the season healthy.
Round Thirteen: Our roster composition by this point is likely one QB/four running back/six wide receiver/one tight end with maybe some slight variation on running back vs wide receiver based on the Lamar Miller vs Sammy Watkins or Christian Kirk vs Darrell Henderson choices in rounds six/seven/eight. Assuming that we are not desperately needing a wide receiver (and you shouldn't be with a Zero RB approach), Justice Hill is going to be our selection in the 13th round. Hill is lightning fast, playing in a run-heavy offense that might lead the league in plays and is a backup to a 30-year old running back coming off a PED suspension.
Round Fourteen: Those who have been reading RotoExperts all offseason know what is coming up next: Kenny Stills. Stills has an ADP in the 180's on the mainstream fantasy football platforms but is projected for 97 targets and 5.84 touchdowns despite playing on the Miami Dolphins. With Albert Wilson still working his way back from injury, Danny Amendola out of town, and Ryan Fitzpatrick under center, Stills is one of the best late-round values on the board. At some point, the fantasy football market will begin to push him up in ADP but it has not happened yet, allowing him to remain part of the perfect fantasy football draft.
Round Fifteen: With our core of wide receivers nailed down, we can turn our attention to high upside running backs. Dion Lewis and Justice Hill should provide some weekly cover if one of our earlier selections get hurt so all we care about now is ceiling. Tony Pollard, Chase Edmonds, Alexander Mattison, Malcom Brown and Mike Davis are the running backs we like the most as late round Zero RB targets. Our selection here is Tony Pollard as he is a key part of any perfect fantasy football draft (for me). Pollard has been stunning at camp and has played well in the absence of Ezekiel Elliot. It is worth noting that handcuffing is better in weekly management leagues than in best balls as it doesn't limit your ceiling the same way it does in a best ball format.
Round Sixteen: If this were a best ball-specific piece, we would probably look even harder into taking a wide receiver here but weekly management presents some interesting wrinkles. If your draft is taking place before the start of the preseason (or before preseason week three) there is simply value in having as many running backs on your team as possible. That means not holding a kicker or defense (and maybe even a tight end) until Week One starts. Every year, there are running back injuries in the preseason. Last year, it was Jerick McKinnon. In the past, it has been players like Spencer Ware who went down in the preseason. RB is so attritional that the position changes even before the games start! As such, instead of taking another wide receiver as we would in a best ball, Mike Davis (ADP of 234) is our selection here. Davis not only would be the primary handcuff in Chicago but appears to have a weekly role regardless per the Chicago Sun-Tribune.
Round Seventeen: Things can go 9,000 different ways in the 17th round of a draft so I am going to give myself the benefit of the doubt and say that Josh Gordon is still around this late. I can still get him in here in around half of my DRAFT best ball drafts and my guess is that in ADP that is a little less sharp (ESPN, Yahoo!, CBS) you should be able to also. Taking Gordon is very simple: if he is somehow reinstated or not suspended for the whole year, you have a high-end WR2. If Josh Gordon doesn't get reinstated, you cut him and pick up your DST or kicker. We know that Gordon is a difference-maker on the field and that he has applied for reinstatement. That's all you should need to know to take him and give your team some upside.
Round Eighteen: You'll likely need to add a kicker or defense before the start of Week One but that doesn't mean you have to take one in your draft (unless explicitly stated in your league rules). If you really want kicker takes, a guy that I really like is Zane Gonzalez for the Cardinals as I think that offense just scores a high number of points but the market is leaving him undrafted. If you are forgoing kicker and defense and waiting until Week One, Ryquell Armstead, Benny Snell and C.J Anderson are all running backs who could find themselves in starting gigs with one injury ahead of them.
The Perfect Fantasy Football Draft In 2019
Quarterback: Lamar Jackson
Running Back: David Johnson, Josh Jacobs, Latavius Murray, Justice Hill, Dion Lewis, Tony Pollard, Mike Davis, Ryquell Armstead
Wide Receiver: Juju Smith-Schuster, Brandin Cooks, D.J Moore, Sammy Watkins, Will Fuller, Kenny Stills, Josh Gordon
Tight End: Greg Olsen
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