Welcome to the second Fantasy Friday of the preseason here at The Draft Network. Each Friday from July 17th until September 4th will include a fantasy mock draft with its own theme. Most will be three-round mocks, some for PPR formats and some for standard formats. The majority of these mocks will be done by Jaime Eisner, with guest mocks from Paige Dimakos, Jake Arians, and our TDN Premium members sprinkled in. Be sure to check in every Friday to see the latest mock and come back each day to check out the Fantasy section of TheDraftNetwork.com as you prepare for your draft.
Last week, we had a one-round PPR mock drafted partially by Eisner and partially by AI. This week, Eisner goes three rounds deep in classic “what would I do?” format for PPR leagues. Let’s begin the journey from player No. 1 to player No. 36.
1.1 Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers
While some rankings will change throughout the abridged version of training camp and whatever’s left of the preseason when everything is agreed upon, barring injury, this won’t. It’s hard to make an argument against taking McCaffrey No. 1 overall and I simply won’t.
He just had the second-best fantasy season of all time one year after posting one of the 25-best fantasy seasons of all time. That’s truly remarkable. His volume in the passing game is unmatched at the position, as he’s poised to put up a third consecutive 100-catch season. He scored 149.9 more fantasy points than the next-best running back last season (an average of 10 points per week!) and I have him projected for a more modest 65-point cushion over the competition in 2020.
If there is one knock on McCaffrey, it’s all of the unknowns in Carolina. He has a new head coach (Matt Rhule), a new offensive coordinator (Joe Brady), and a new quarterback (Teddy Bridgewater). We don’t really know what to expect from this Carolina offense in 2020. However, it’s hard to imagine them relying on McCaffrey less than they have in the past. He’ll still be a great check-down option for a low depth of target quarterback that will have to throw a lot with the Panthers’ defense unable to stop anybody. I can’t talk myself into anyone else at No. 1.
1.2 Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants
Barkley remains the consensus No. 2 overall pick and for good reason. Barkley is arguably the most talented running back in football, has no competition for carries, and should finish somewhere close to the top-five running backs in receptions. Aside from McCaffrey, Barkley has the best chance to reach 2,000 yards from scrimmage (like he did as a rookie).
Barkley is poised for a huge season if he can remain healthy. An ankle injury cost him three games in the middle of last season. But, he returned early from his projected timetable and really finished the season strong with a huge final three weeks—539 total yards and five total touchdowns.
The only real knock on Barkley is that his pass-catching totals decreased when Daniel Jones took over for Eli Manning as the Giants’ starting quarterback. Barkley averaged 5.3 catches on 7.2 targets per game in 20 games with Manning as the starter. In nine games last season with Jones, Barkley averaged 4.2 catches on 5.7 targets per game. That’s not alarming, but it’s hard to imagine him finishing as the RB1 overall if he can’t get to the 90-plus catches he had in his rookie season.
1.3 Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints
The top three from last week remain intact. The more I evaluate, the more I’m excited about Kamara this season. Although I don’t believe anyone can beat 16 games of McCaffrey, if Kamara plays a full season, he has the upside to reach the No. 1 spot if the Panthers RB misses time.
I’ve planted my flag firmly on the full bounce-back side of the Kamara debate this offseason. After finishing the season outside of the top 10 running backs in total points—although, he was the RB8 on a per-game basis—many wondered whether his days as a no-doubt top-five pick were over. Some were even willing to take another Saint, wide receiver Michael Thomas, before him. I couldn’t justify that at any point in the offseason, especially after news broke about how hurt Kamara was last season.
Aside from being healthy, the biggest thing in Kamara’s favor this season is positive touchdown regression. Kamara scored a touchdown about every 15 touches if you combine his 2017 and 2018 seasons. Last year, he scored one touchdown per 42 touches. That won’t happen again. He’ll be back in double-digit territory in total touchdowns in 2020. If Kamara scored a touchdown every 15 touches last season, he would’ve finished as the RB5 in total points and the RB2 in points per game, despite missing two games. His RB11 finish last season is his downside. Sign me up.
1.4 Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys
Breaking from last week’s mock for the first time, I’ll take the high-floor safety of Elliott over the WR1 or any of the other running backs with more variance in potential outcomes. Aside from maybe (maybe) Barkley, Elliott is the most talented running back in football with a defined role and durability. That’s exactly what you need out of a top-five fantasy pick.
If you want safety, Elliott is as safe as they come at a pretty volatile position. Here’s where Elliott has finished among running backs since being drafted in 2016 on a per-game basis: 3rd, 3rd, 7th, 5th. You talk about a high-floor player, Elliott is the epitome. While that “7th” and “5th” might give the haters some fuel, consider that only McCaffrey, Barkley, and Kamara have scored more combined fantasy points over the last two seasons.
There are concerns from some about new head coach Mike McCarthy coming in and taking away a bunch of carries from Elliott. That fear stems from McCarthy’s scarce use of running backs in Green Bay. However, he did lean quite heavily on Eddie Lacy at times, and McCarthy never had a back even 75% as talented as Elliott. Especially with offensive coordinator Kellen Moore still there, I don’t project any sort of precipitous drop in workload for Elliott in 2020. Plus, his statistical progression as a pass-catcher over the last two seasons compared to his first two is a plus.
1.5 Michael Thomas, WR, New Orleans Saints
This still feels a little high for my taste, but given the holes you can poke in the next few running backs (as opposed to the top four), I settled on the fifth spot for Thomas. He still gets a ridiculous target share and, even if Drew Brees misses some time, he should still perform at a high level if Jameis Winston is called into action.
In some ways, Thomas was McCaffrey-esque last season. He scored 90.8 more points than the next closest wide receiver—an average of about 4.8 points per game more than WR2 Chris Godwin. He led the NFL in targets (185) and set a new record for most single-season receptions in NFL history (149). He did all that despite Brees missing a handful of games.
The optimism is understandable. Wide receivers tend to be viewed as “safer” picks than running backs. However, some of that safety comes from being drafted in the back-end of the first round, not the top five. I wrote an article breaking down why Thomas is going too high in fantasy drafts, but this is the excerpt that may be most pertinent:
If anything, his 2018 season is the best comp for what’s reasonable to expect in 2020: 125/1405/9 on 147 targets. He finished that fantasy season as the 11th-best non-QB and third-best wide receiver on a points-per-game basis (20.5). He was taken as either the WR3 or WR4 (behind Davante Adams and DeAndre Hopkins and with a nearly identical ADP to Julio Jones) the following season with an ADP of 10.4.
Fantasy managers certainly wouldn’t be devastated if Thomas finishes as the WR3 again or even as the WR1 with 2018’s fantasy point total, but it would be disappointing given his current ADP. However, the opportunity cost at pick No. 5 isn’t quite as high as it is at No. 3 or 4.
1.6 Aaron Jones, RB, Green Bay Packers
I’m not sure if Jones is underrated or if fantasy managers are just being cautious. Regardless, he deserves more love in fantasy drafts.
This will be considered a reach by some, as Jones is currently coming off the board early in the second round as the RB10 or RB11 in most fantasy drafts. However, I’m not sure why fantasy managers are so bearish on the Packers running back. In fact, he’s probably the biggest beneficiary of a questionable offseason that saw Green Bay add no weapons of value for quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Jones finished as the No. 2 running back in fantasy last season with 298.5 fantasy points—he was the RB3 on a per-game basis with an average of 19.9 points. He got stronger as the season went on and had a great final four weeks, rushing for 439 yards and five touchdowns (along with a receiving stat line of 10-107-0) from Weeks 14-17. He was also the second-most targeted pass-catcher on the Packers last season (68) behind only wide receiver Davante Adams.
My question is: why is any of that going to change? The Packers didn’t add anyone of note aside from wide receiver Devin Funchess. Fellow running back Jamaal Williams isn’t going to play any more than he did last season. Rookie running back A.J. Dillon isn’t a threat. I’m all in on Jones this season and have him ranked as a top-five running back.
1.7 Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay Packers
If you haven’t taken a glance at Adams’ per-game numbers over the past few seasons, you really need to. Health is the only concern here, as Adams has a good chance to finish as the WR1 if you can guarantee 16 games.
Aside from Jones, no player benefits more from Green Bay’s inactivity this offseason than Adams. He’ll continue to see a massive target share and is my pick to lead the league in that category this season (if he plays at least 15 games). He’s Benjamin Solak’s pick to lead the league in receiving yards. He finished as the WR8 on a per-game basis in 2017, the No. 1 overall player at the position in 2018, and was the WR6 on a per-game basis last season. He’s a touchdown and target hog with no competition, what more can you ask for?
The answer to that question is health. He hasn’t played a full season since 2016. He’s usually not out long, but he has missed seven games over the past three seasons. Still, it’s a factor to consider when players like Julio Jones and DeAndre Hopkins have been more reliable. All that said, the upside is tantalizing. Adams has a 115 catch-per-16-games pace over the last two seasons and my projection on a per-game basis is nearly equal to Thomas’.
1.8 Dalvin Cook, RB, Minnesota Vikings
Sigh… I don’t know. I’m not saying Cook is off my board, but even I’m not sure I’ll pull the trigger here. However, I can’t have him any lower. On a per-game basis, he should easily be a top-five back. But between the potential holdout and his extensive injury history, there’s a tremendous amount of risk for any fantasy manager.
Cook was the only running back not named McCaffrey to average more than 20 fantasy points per game last season (20.9). Despite missing a game during the fantasy season (Weeks 1-16), he still finished as the RB3 in total points with 292.4. There’s little doubt about his RB1 status when he’s on the field, but we just don’t know how often he’ll play. My suggestion to fantasy managers is to come up with a games played projection you can live with and rank Cook accordingly. For me, that’s 12 games and RB6. However, that will likely change as we get closer to the season and more information about his availability is known.
1.9 Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons
No one is going to ooh or ahh when you take Jones near the end of Round 1, but sometimes the best pick isn’t the splashiest.
Despite 2020 being his age-31 season, Jones continues to produce. He was the WR4 overall and WR3 in average fantasy points per game last season. He’s reliable, missing only four games in the past six seasons and only one in the last three. He’d led the league in receiving in two of the past five seasons and in yards per touch in three of the last six. He’s as solid as they come. You can check out my projections for his 2020 season here, including why I have him as my pick to lead the NFL in receiving yards.
The only real downside here is his lack of consistency as a true elite-four option on a per-game basis. He finished as the WR5 in 2016 and the WR7 in 2017 and 2018. The bread for that sandwich is being the WR1 in 2015 and the WR3 last season. Still, his floor is high and he’s less likely to miss time than most. Plus he’s overcome that pesky touchdown issue he had a couple years ago. Despite being north of 30, you can draft him with confidence.
1.10 Tyreek Hill, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
Surprisingly absent from last week’s mock, I have Hill as a top-10 player in PPR formats. Hill has been targeted 208 times for 133 catches, 2,123 yards, and 18 touchdowns in his 26 games with Patrick Mahomes at quarterback. His target share is north of 23% and we all know that he’s arguably the fastest player in the NFL and a home run threat every time he touches the ball.
Hill’s 2019 feels like his floor—and it’s a pretty high floor. He finished as the WR9 on a points-per-game basis and his stats over 16 games would’ve produced a 77/1144/9 stat line. He was the WR6 in both total and average points per game in both 2017 (with Alex Smith) and 2018. He’s missed five games over the past three seasons, so it’s probably best to assume you’ll have to replace him for at least one matchup during the season. Even still, his numbers should be excellent.
You can read about my exact stat projections for Hill here, but a big 2020 appears to be on the horizon.
1.11 Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans
BEAST. That’s the word that comes to mind when discussing Henry’s play. However, I think he comes with more risk in PPR formats than many are accounting for. He has to not only be great, but elite on the ground to return first-round value. Fortunately for those who do decide to draft him, he’s been able to reach that elite level lately.
He’s been absolutely sensational on the ground over the last two seasons, particularly late in the season. He’s been a true league-winner for those who drafted him. This stat might blow your mind: Henry has averaged 106.62 yards per game from Week 10 on over the last two seasons. If that one doesn’t, this one will: If you combine his rushing yards from just his final four games of the last two seasons, he’d have 1,134 yards in what is essentially a half-season. Remarkable.
Henry doesn’t catch passes but he doesn’t have to in order to be an RB1, even in PPR. He’s the favorite to lead the league in rushing yards and carries in 2020 and it’s likely that only an injury can prevent a top-three finish for Henry in those categories. He’ll score a boatload of touchdowns and can be a matchup-winner for you any given week. He doesn’t have top-three upside because he doesn’t do enough in the receiving game, but he has an astronomical floor.
1.12 Joe Mixon, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
One of the trendiest picks in fantasy leagues this season, it’s not hard to see why there’s so much optimism. The talent has always been there, but injuries and not being used in the passing game has put a cap on his fantasy value in previous seasons. But those two negatives appear to be a thing of the past.
Let’s hope the finish to Mixon’s 2019 season is a sign of things to come. He had 494 yards and three touchdowns from Weeks 14-17 and saw a spike in carries up to 24 per game. As a result, he finished as the RB22 in average fantasy points per game. Not quite what you’d be hoping for out of a first-rounder, but last season was truly a tale of two halves.
Through Week 8, Mixon ranked as the RB36 on a per-game basis. From Weeks 9-16, he was the RB14 and scored 6.4 more points per game in the second half than the first half. The Bengals’ offense should be better this year with the return of wide receiver A.J. Green and the addition of No. 1 overall real-life pick Joe Burrow. Mixon’s additional usage in the passing game was a welcomed sight and leaves many hopeful of a return to RB1 territory this season. He was a top-10 back in 2018, so that hope isn’t far-fetched.
2.1 Chris Godwin, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
*Jon Gruden voice* I freakin’ love Godwin, man.
The former Penn State wide receiver surpassed even the highest of expectations last season, finishing as the WR2 in both total points and average weekly points behind only Thomas and his historic season. This season, he’ll be catching passes from future Hall of Famer and notorious slot-receiver-targeter, Tom Brady.
TDN’s Trevor Sikkema says Godwin was the NFL’s best WR in 2019, and it’s hard to argue that point. He’ll gobble up a ton of targets and has proven he can make the most of them. If Brady made Julian Edelman a WR1 in PPR formats, imagine what he can do with someone as talented as Godwin? He’s a great WR to pair with Mixon already on the roster.
2.2 Austin Ekeler, RB, Los Angeles Chargers
Here we go. Ekeler is finally the guy in the Chargers’ backfield. Will he be able to keep up the same level of production without Melvin Gordon’s counterpunch waiting in the wings?
There are two competing thoughts here: 1) Ekeler will get more work and be more productive because he’s not sharing carries with Gordon, and 2) Ekeler is more likely to wear down without a top back sharing the workload. I believe both of those hypotheses are accurate.
Ekeler finished as the RB4 last season in both total and average weekly points and was still a top-10 RB when Gordon returned from his holdout. There’s no doubt he can have true RB1 production. He did all that while finishing 24th among all running backs in touches with 224. The downgrade at quarterback and fear the Chargers will try to get him closer to 280-300 touches (increasing injury risk) gives me a little pause, but his upside is undeniable. Ekeler and Henry are a phenomenal start to any fantasy draft.
2.3 Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs
This’ll be a controversial pick for two reasons. First, starting a draft WR-TE is unconventional. Second, starting a draft with two pass-catchers from the same team is almost unheard of. However, if there are two players worth doing that with, it’s Hill and Kelce on the best offense in football.
In the 29 games Kelce has played with Patrick Mahomes that the QB started and finished uninjured, he is averaging 6.3 receptions, 82.6 receiving yards, and 0.48 touchdowns per game. Over 16 games, that equals 101 catches, 1,322 yards, and 7.7 touchdowns. This is where value-based drafting comes into play. I have Kelce projected as my TE1 and to average more than 2.1 fantasy points per game more than the TE3. As long as an RB is taken in two of the next three rounds, this team will be OK and have a big advantage at WR1 and TE1.
2.4 DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Arizona Cardinals
If you’re going to start WR-WR, it’s hard to find a better, more consistent duo than Jones and Hopkins. Be forewarned that Hopkins won’t get nearly the same amount of targets in the Cardinals’ offense that he had in Houston, but he’ll still be plenty productive at a somewhat reduced fantasy price.
One of Hopkins’ best abilities is his availability. He’s missed a grand total of just two games in his seven years in the NFL. He was the WR3 in total fantasy points last season and was No. 4 on a per-game basis. Hopkins was the WR4 in both categories in 2018 and WR2 in 2017. I’m not sure that sort of upside is still present since he won’t be getting 170-plus targets, but it’s also hard to imagine him being anything but a top-10 WR this season.
2.5 Kenyan Drake, RB, Arizona Cardinals
If you followed my top-200 rankings exactly, a different player should be taken here. However, given the uncertainty any fantasy manager has to deal with after taking Cook in the first round, it’s prudent to add another top running back just in case. Enter Drake, who had a sensational back-half of the 2019 season after being traded from the Miami Dolphins to the Cardinals. From the time Drake was traded, he ranked as the No. 3 running back with an average of 19.9 fantasy points per game.
Drake was fairly boom-or-bust in those games with Arizona, but the booms might’ve helped you win your league. He’ll be the lead back this season and should perform quite admirably if his body can handle the workload. Some may be overestimating his potential rushing output in 2020, but he’ll be involved in the passing game fairly frequently and doesn’t have competition to lose his job as the starter.
2.6 Miles Sanders, RB, Philadelphia Eagles
Talk about league-winning upside, any fantasy manager that starts their draft with Adams and Sanders will be thrilled. Sanders flashed his upside late last season, ranking as the RB6 with an average of 18.8 points per game from Weeks 11-16 with Jordan Howard out injured. That run pushed him near RB1 territory for the season as a whole in total points (RB13). Plus, the Eagles did not bring in a veteran running back to take touches away this season.
Boston Scott will have a role in Philadelphia’s offense, but Sanders will be the bell-cow back with every opportunity to be a superstar. Let’s see if he can get somewhere close to that late-season production over a full 16-game campaign in 2020. If he pulls that off, he’ll be a top-10 fantasy pick next season.
2.7 George Kittle, TE, San Francisco 49ers
Although I have Kittle a couple spots higher in my overall rankings and very close to Kelce, he falls here to the team that already has one of the top running backs in Jones. My full stat projection for Kittle can be found here, but I expect another 1,000-plus yard season from the 49ers tight end—who will only benefit from Deebo Samuel’s early-season absence.
Kittle is much closer to TE1 than TE3, and will be the last tight end you see on this mock. I project a nearly 1.5 fantasy point per game difference between Kittle and my TE3 (Zach Ertz) this season. Just like with the Kelce selection, this is where value-based drafting comes into play. The positional advantage on a weekly basis is too good to pass up.
2.8 Mike Evans, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
With Drake and Sanders off the board, there’s a small gap before the next group of running backs appear in my rankings. So despite taking the overall WR1 in the first round, the best choice is to double up and take another NFC South pass-catcher here in Evans.
Despite his infamous 0-point Week 5 performance against the Saints last season and the hamstring injury that cut his season short, Evans finished as the WR5 in average points per game (17.9) in 2019. He’s one of only two players in NFL history (Randy Moss) to reach the 1,000-yard receiving mark in each of his first six seasons in the NFL. He’ll be the only player to make it to seven when he crosses that threshold this season.
2.9 Kenny Golladay, WR, Detroit Lions
Despite playing half the season with Jeff Driskel and David Blough at quarterback, Golladay continued his ascent last season and had a league-high 11 receiving touchdowns. Matthew Stafford returns healthy at quarterback and that’s great news for Golladay in 2020.
Stafford and Golladay have played 23 games together over the last two seasons. Golladay has 105 receptions for 1,703 yards, and 12 touchdowns in that span. You can see my full stat projections for Golladay here, but another big season appears to be in the works. Starting a draft with a top-five RB and a top-eight WR is the dream scenario for most and becomes a reality here.
2.10 Cooper Kupp, WR, Los Angeles Rams
Kupp’s final 2019 stat line of 94/1161/10 was sterling, but it really was a tale of two halves for the Rams receiver. Aside from his touchdown output (five in both halves), Kupp’s numbers dropped across the board from Week 10 on. After starting the season with 58 catches for 792 yards and five touchdowns, he had just 36 catches for 369 yards—on five fewer targets per game than his first-half average—after Los Angeles’ Week 9 bye.
However, when it was all said and done his production was there. He ranked as the WR4 in total points and the WR7 in average points per game after being the WR15 on a per-game basis at the time of his ACL injury in 2018. My full stat projection can be found here, but he should continue to get plenty of targets and plenty of red-zone action in 2020. You could have two double-digit touchdown producers from the No. 3 spot in fantasy drafts.
2.11 Josh Jacobs, RB, Las Vegas Raiders
The only real knock on Jacobs is his lack of pass-catching. He’s a lock to get 20 carries per game and should be even more productive with them this season with a healthy shoulder and a year of NFL experience under his belt. He doesn’t carry top-five RB upside until he gets more use in the passing game, but he has a high floor.
Barkley and Jacobs both dealt with injuries last season, but healthy 2020 campaigns will make this fantasy manager hard to beat. The focus can now turn to the litany of quality wide receivers still available or maybe even an elite quarterback.
2.12 Leonard Fournette, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars
Fournette’s health and uptick in the receiving game was a much-welcomed sight in 2019. Entering a contract year on his way out of Jacksonville, fantasy managers hope he’ll end his Jaguars tenure on a high note looking to cash in on a big payday.
Fournette’s injury risk doesn’t go away after one healthy season, but he finished as the RB6 in total PPR points and the RB9 in average fantasy points per game last season. Paired with the extremely safe McCaffrey, the upside is potentially league-winning if Fournette can replicate his 2019 season.
3.1 Patrick Mahomes, QB, Kansas City Chiefs
The first quarterback finally comes off the board here. If this were a two-flex league, I’d likely err on the side of another running back or wide receiver, but after securing the RB position with the best fantasy player (McCaffrey) and another quality back in Fournette, let’s add the best quarterback and have an advantage over the rest of the league at two positions (QB1 and RB1).
Mahomes had the greatest fantasy season of all time for a quarterback in 2018 (417.1 points). An injury and inevitable touchdown regression dipped the Super Bowl MVP’s numbers last season, although he was still above 20 fantasy points per game and ranked as the QB6 based on average weekly points. He’ll have his health, a hefty new contract, and his full complement of weapons heading into this season. I expect he’ll lead the league in passing yards and touchdowns, finishing as the QB1 for the second time in three years.
3.2 Lamar Jackson, QB, Baltimore Ravens
Remember above when I mentioned Mahomes having the greatest fantasy season of all time for a QB? Well, that was in total points. On a per-game basis, Jackson was even better in 2019. The Ravens QB finished 1.4 points shy of Mahomes’ 2018 total despite not playing in Week 17. His 27.7 fantasy points per game average was the eight-most of all time regardless of position.
Passing touchdown regression will come for Jackson like it did Mahomes in 2019 and Carson Wentz in 2018, but he has plenty of room to regress and still challenge for the top QB spot. After seeing Mahomes come off the board and with two great running backs already on the roster (Barkley and Jacobs), it’s worth taking a chance on Jackson putting up the numbers to justify this draft slot.
3.3 Le’Veon Bell, RB, New York Jets
While many in the fantasy community are fading Bell, for me, this is a great buying opportunity. For as miserable as things seemed last season in his first year in New York, he actually wasn’t that bad. Bell finished as the RB15 in total points and RB17 on a per-game basis behind a terrible offensive line. The line is still bad, but the slew of offseason moves, including spending a first-round pick on Louisville's Mekhi Becton, should improve it slightly. He should also have some positive touchdown regression.
Bell scored a total of four touchdowns last season. However, he touched the ball 311 times. There’s no way that happens again.
3.4 JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
2019 was a season to forget for Smith-Schuster. Injuries to himself and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger completely derailed his third season in the NFL. There are undoubtedly many who were burned by the former star USC receiver’s high ADP last season, but he should bounce back this season and flirt with top-10 WR production.
Smith-Schuster is only one season removed from his WR8 finish (18.8 FPPG) and should pick up right where he left off. Fun fact: Smith-Schuster is averaging 78.73 receiving yards per game with Roethlisberger since Week 2 of 2017 (Smith-Schuster’s rookie season). Over a 16-game season, that works out to about 1,260 yards. Plus, despite his and his quarterbacks’ struggles, Smith-Schuster was still on a 1,000-yard pace through Week 8 last season.
3.5 Nick Chubb, RB, Cleveland Browns
Chubb is ranked as a top-20 pick by pretty much everyone except me, but this is where I’d feel comfortable taking him. He has a really high floor and I project that he’ll lead the league in carries and rushing yards. However, his lack of pass-catching—that got considerably worse once Kareem Hunt was active—limits his upside in PPR formats. He won’t return mid-second-round value unless he’s used in that area far more often this season.
The big positives are that he’s highly talented and new Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski wants to run the ball early and often. He can be a matchup-winner certain weeks, but many fantasy managers may be frustrated on weeks when he doesn’t get into the end zone and only scores 10 points. However, after going WR-WR to start (Thomas and Evans), he’s a very safe play to be this fantasy team’s lead back.
3.6 Amari Cooper, WR, Dallas Cowboys
After adding the underrated Jones in Round 1 and star tight end Kittle in Round 2, we’re fortunate to add a WR1 to the team in Cooper. Ranking just inside the Top 12 players at the position, I believe Cooper is primed for another big season despite the addition of first-round WR CeeDee Lamb:
The former Alabama Crimson Tide standout has played 25 games in Dallas, racking up 132 catches, 1,914 receiving yards, and 14 touchdowns. He predictably led all Cowboys in targets (119), receptions (79), receiving yards (1,189), and receiving touchdowns (8) in 2019 despite being hobbled, at times, in the back half of the season.
Cooper will be healthier this season and his 16-game pace with Dallas thus far is 84.5 catches, 1,225.0 yards, and 9.0 touchdowns.
3.7 Adam Thielen, WR, Minnesota Vikings
The ability to use a mid-third-round pick on a second WR1 is quite the luxury. After snagging Adams and Sanders to start, adding my No. 12 overall wide receiver with the 31st pick in the draft feels like a bit of a steal.
Thielen is undoubtedly the guy in Minnesota following Stefon Diggs’ trade to the Buffalo Bills. The Vikings should throw a skosh more this season with Gary Kubiak as the OC as opposed to Stefanski, which is a plus. If rookie Justin Jefferson can occupy the attention of defenses enough, and if Thielen remains healthy, he could have another monster season like he had in 2018.
3.8 T.Y. Hilton, WR, Indianapolis Colts
It feels like Hilton is flying under the radar this season after dealing with injury and being saddled with Jacoby Brissett’s poor quarterback play. However, he’ll be new Colts starting quarterback Philip Rivers’ top target and isn’t that far removed from his WR1 production. With a pair of strong running backs already on the roster (Cook and Drake), Hilton’s potential upside is quite exciting. He’s one of the best values in fantasy drafts right now.
3.9 Todd Gurley, RB, Atlanta Falcons
There was a time not too long ago where Gurley, Jones, and Hopkins were all first-round fantasy picks, now it’s possible to roster all three. After going WR-WR to start, grabbing a running back here was a must. There’s some significant risk with Gurley, but the hate may be going too far. He’s the clear lead back in Atlanta with a nose for the end zone and no competition for carries. Also, he still ranked as the RB14 in both total and average points per game in 2019. You can check out my full stat projection for him here, but you’ll see that he’s still worth a third-round pick.
3.10 Chris Carson, RB, Seattle Seahawks
This is a bit of a reach, but after drafting Hill and Kelce in the first two rounds, a fantasy manager can’t take another pass-catcher here without really falling behind at the running back position. Carson finished last season ranked as the RB10 in total points and RB12 in average points per game one year after ranking as the RB18 in both categories in 2018. He has to work out his fumbling issues and return healthy from the hip problem he experienced late in the season, but he could flirt with RB1 territory if everything breaks right.
3.11 Allen Robinson, WR, Chicago Bears
We really need to start a GoFundMe to get Robinson a proper quarterback. He’s too good to be stuck with the passing talent he’s been attached to so far in his career. Still, he was quite productive last season despite a very up-and-down season from Mitchell Trubisky. Robinson was the WR7 in total points and WR10 in average points per game last season, but will likely have a new starting QB this year in Nick Foles. There are enough unknowns to keep him out of the top 30 overall players, but you could do a whole lot worse at your WR1 spot after starting RB-RB.
3.12 Robert Woods, WR, Los Angeles Rams
Woods has been remarkably consistent over the last three seasons. He’s finished as the WR16, WR13, and WR16 on a per-game basis since 2017. He ranked as high as WR9 in total points (2018) and in the top 20 each of the past two seasons. I’d be happy to take him as the 15th WR off the board and as an elite WR2 behind Godwin. The Rams are going to throw a lot this season—they always do under head coach Sean McVay—and Woods never leaves the field. His name value won’t earn you any praise on draft night, but you’ll certainly be happy with the production.
Team 1: Christian McCaffrey, Leonard Fournette, Patrick Mahomes
Team 2: Saquon Barkley, Josh Jacobs, Lamar Jackson
Team 3: Alvin Kamara, Cooper Kupp, Le’Veon Bell
Team 4: Ezekiel Elliott, Kenny Golladay, JuJu Smith-Schuster
Team 5: Michael Thomas, Mike Evans, Nick Chubb
Team 6: Aaron Jones, George Kittle, Amari Cooper
Team 7: Davante Adams, Miles Sanders, Adam Thielen
Team 8: Dalvin Cook, Kenyan Drake, T.Y. Hilton
Team 9: Julio Jones, DeAndre Hopkins, Todd Gurley
Team 10: Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, Chris Carson
Team 11: Derrick Henry, Austin Ekeler, Allen Robinson
Team 12: Joe Mixon, Chris Godwin, Robert Woods