2018 Fantasy Football Mock Draft: Round-by-Round Predictions
Now that two full weeks of the NFL preseason are in the books, we're beginning to have an idea of what to expect from teams and players in the 2018 campaign. This is big for fantasy football enthusiasts, who must weight factors such as projected roles, projected performances and player health for their drafts.
To further help prepare you for your fantasy draft, we're here with another preseason mock.
After running a series of draft simulations (10) on FantasyPros and calculating the average draft position (ADP) among them, we've assembled a 12-team points-per-reception (PPR) mock. We'll go through each round and examine the trends, surprises and sleepers of each. Though the preseason can often be a mirage, what we've seen through two weeks of exhibition football will impact our analysis.
Teams for this mock consist of a quarterback, two running backs, three wide receivers, a tight end, a kicker, a defense/special teams, one "flex" (RB/WR/TE) and six bench slots.
1. Le'Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
2. Todd Gurley, RB, Los Angeles Rams
3. David Johnson, RB, Arizona Cardinals
4. Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
5. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys
6. Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints
7. Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants
8. Melvin Gordon, RB, Los Angles Chargers
9. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston Texans
10. Kareem Hunt, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
11. Odell Beckham Jr., WR, New York Giants
12. Leonard Fournette, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars
The first round of our simulations has regularly featured the usual suspects, and that's to be expected. Receivers and running backs who get large and consistent workloads are the players you want to target at the top of the draft.
David Johnson has seen a rise in his ADP since our mock before the start of the preseason, which again is unsurprising. The Cardinals running back missed almost all of last season with a wrist injury, but he has appeared to be at pre-injury form through two preseason games, with an impressive 6.2 yards-per-carry average.
Seeing Le'Veon Bell in the No. 1 spot isn't shocking, but he does carry risks. There's no guarantee of when he will report to the Steelers or if he'll be in regular-season form when the team opens the campaign against the Cleveland Browns on Sept. 9. The payoff should be big, though, as Pittsburgh is likely to ride Bell hard in what could be his final season with the franchise.
1. Dalvin Cook, RB, Minnesota Vikings
2. Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons
3. Michael Thomas, WR, New Orleans Saints
4. Keenan Allen, WR, Los Angeles Chargers
5. Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay Packers
6. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers
7. A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
8. Adam Thielen, WR, Minnesota Vikings
9. Mike Evans, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
10. Jerick McKinnon, RB, San Francisco 49ers
11. Devonta Freeman, RB, Atlanta Falcons
12. Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona Cardinals
In standard scoring formats, it's not uncommon to see multiple teams choosing two running backs at the top of the draft. In PPR, however, wide receivers have additional value, and it's wise to grab at least one in the first two rounds. Waiting until Round 3 could leave you without a true No. 1 pass-catcher.
Running backs who can contribute in the passing game, such as Dalvin Cook, Christian McCaffrey and Jerick McKinnon, are worth targeting high, even if they aren't traditional workhorse backs. Just remember that McKinnon is out of the preseason with a calf strain and may not be at 100 percent when the season starts.
"The good news is it's not going to be long-term; the bad news is it's going to take him up to Week 1, our opener [Sept. 9 at Minnesota], so his opportunity to get more in rhythm in our system, that kind of goes out the door," 49ers general manager John Lynch recently told KNBR radio.
1. Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots
2. Joe Mixon, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
3. Tyreek Hill, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
4. Jordan Howard, RB, Chicago Bears
5. T.Y. Hilton, WR, Indianapolis Colts
6. Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs
7. Alex Collins, RB, Baltimore Ravens
8. Doug Baldwin, WR, Seattle Seahawks
9. LeSean McCoy, RB, Buffalo Bills
10. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers
11. Stefon Diggs, WR, Minnesota Vikings
12. Amari Cooper, WR, Oakland Raiders
Round 3 is where tight ends typically start to come off the board. In this round of simulations, either Rob Gronkowski or Travis Kelce was the first to go. This isn't shocking, as the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs both treat their star tight ends like No. 1 receivers.
It was a little surprising to see Aaron Rodgers consistently sneaking into the third round, which is high for a quarterback. If you're going to reach for one, though, the Packers signal-caller is the guy to target.
Rodgers made his preseason debut in Week 2 and didn't show any lingering effects from the collarbone injury that cost him nine games last season.
If you can grab T.Y. Hilton in Round 3, don't hesitate to do so. With Andrew Luck back under center, the Colts wide receiver should have second- or possibly first-round-quality production. Don't forget, he had 1,448 receiving yards (first in the league) and six touchdowns just two seasons ago.
1. Jarvis Landry, WR, Cleveland Browns
2. Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots
3. Kenyan Drake, RB, Miami Dolphins
4. Zach Ertz, TE, Philadelphia Eagles
5. Lamar Miller, RB, Houston Texans
6. Josh Gordon, WR, Cleveland Browns
7. Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans
8. Golden Tate, WR, Detroit Lions
9. Jay Ajayi, RB, Philadelphia Eagles
10. Brandin Cooks, WR, Los Angeles Rams
11. Demaryius Thomas, WR, Denver Broncos
12. JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
You can find a lot of value at this point, especially in PPR formats. Take Jarvis Landry, for example. The Browns wideout isn't likely to generate much attention at the top of the draft, but he's about as reliable as you're going to find in PPR. He's averaged 100 receptions per season thus far in his career.
Teammate Josh Gordon is a boom-or-bust target for this round. He's potentially valuable because he's one of the league's top receivers when he's on the field. However, he's also a risk. While he has rejoined the Browns, he hasn't been cleared to return to the practice field, per Tom Pelissero of NFL Network. There's no telling when that will happen.
JuJu Smith-Schuster has been generating a lot of buzz recently. The Steelers receiver is coming off a strong rookie campaign (58 receptions, 917 yards, seven touchdowns) and flashed with a stellar 71-yard score in Pittsburgh's preseason opener against the Eagles. If he's a player you're high on, you may need to target him a round early.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has looked as hungry as ever this preseason. In his debut, he racked up 172 yards and two touchdowns in a half of play. He's still a top-tier fantasy quarterback.
1. Marvin Jones Jr., WR, Detroit Lions
2. Allen Robinson, WR, Chicago Bears
3. Mark Ingram II, RB, New Orleans Saints
4. Alshon Jeffery, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
5. Deshaun Watson, QB, Houston Texans
6. Corey Davis, WR, Tennessee Titans
7. Chris Hogan, WR, New England Patriots
8. Dion Lewis, RB, Tennessee Titans
9. Rashaad Penny, RB, Seattle Seahawks
10. Will Fuller V, WR, Houston Texans
11. Royce Freeman, RB, Denver Broncos
12. Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks
You want to continue filling out your starting lineup in Round 5, and these middle rounds can be the ones that make or break your season. You should be getting dependable producers in Rounds 1 and 2. The possibility of whiffing on a player gets bigger at this point.
Look for consistency in Rounds 4 and 5. Workhorse running backs like Derrick Henry (Round 4) and Mark Ingram II—don't forget he'll miss the first month because of a suspension—can be weekly starters and regular game-winners. Ingram, who has averaged 4.2 yards per carry in the preseason, should see significant rushing work upon his return.
This is also the point where it's usually smart to start thinking about a quarterback. Interestingly, Deshaun Watson was regularly one of the first ones off the board in our simulations. This probably shouldn't come as a surprise, though, as the Texans signal-caller was brilliant during his stretch as a starter last season and appeared to be recovered from his torn ACL in the first two weeks of the preseason.
1. Evan Engram, TE, New York Giants
2. Greg Olsen, TE, Carolina Panthers
3. Ronald Jones, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
4. Michael Crabtree, WR, Baltimore Ravens
5. Randall Cobb, WR, Green Bay Packers
6. Sammy Watkins, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
7. Julian Edelman, WR, New England Patriots
8. Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Denver Broncos
9. Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers
10. Robby Anderson, WR, New York Jets
11. Jimmy Graham, TE, Green Bay Packers
12. Cooper Kupp, WR, Los Angeles Rams
If you didn't scoop up Gronkowski or Kelce earlier, now is the perfect time to grab a tight end. There are two types of guys you want to target.
Either grab a high-volume player like Evan Engram or Greg Olsen or go for a red-zone producer like Jimmy Graham. The former group will usually provide you with consistent production from week to week, while the latter will land you the all-important touchdowns. Now that he's playing with Rodgers, Graham may be in both categories and have more value than his ADP suggests.
Expect wideout Julian Edelman to see a lot of work once he returns from his four-game suspension. He made his preseason debut in Week 2 and appeared fully healthy, catching four passes for 26 yards.
1. Kerryon Johnson, RB, Detroit Lions
2. Marquise Goodwin, WR, San Francisco 49ers
3. Delanie Walker, TE, Tennessee Titans
4. Kyle Rudolph, TE, Minnesota Vikings
5. Sony Michel, RB, New England Patriots
6. Carson Wentz, QB, Philadelphia Eagles
7. Kirk Cousins, QB, Minnesota Vikings
8. Jordan Reed, TE, Washington Redskins
9. Devin Funchess, WR, Carolina Panthers
10. Jamison Crowder, WR, Washington Redskins
11. Marshawn Lynch, RB, Oakland Raiders
12. Rex Burkhead, RB, New England Patriots
You're still filling out your starting lineup in Round 7, but it's not likely you will find legitimate No. 1 options at running back and receiver. Instead, you'll be looking for role players at receiver and committee pieces at running back. Tread carefully when targeting them.
Kerryon Johnson is in a crowded Lions backfield alongside Ameer Abdullah, Theo Riddick and LeGarrette Blount. However, he is clearly Detroit's running back of the future, and he has looked the part as both a runner and a pass-catcher in the preseason. Expect him to start the year as a flex option while potentially growing into a solid RB2.
Rex Burkhead is also in a crowded backfield, but he's going to remain a minor part of the Patriots offense. His eight total touchdowns in 2017 make him an intriguing option, but don't expect to get a ton from him in weeks he doesn't find the end zone. Also, remember that he's dealing with a slight tear in his knee and may not be the same player in Week 1.
1. Jordy Nelson, WR, Oakland Raiders
2. Robert Woods, WR, Los Angeles Rams
3. Pierre Garcon, WR, San Francisco 49ers
4. Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints
5. Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, San Francisco 49ers
6. Nelson Agholor, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
7. Tevin Coleman, RB, Atlanta Falcons
8. DeVante Parker, WR, Miami Dolphins
9. Duke Johnson, RB, Cleveland Browns
10. Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions
11. Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis Colts
12. Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers
You can still grab a quality starting quarterback in Round 8, which is why it doesn't typically make sense to be reaching for one in the first five rounds. If there's a run on signal-callers, you may not be able to fill out the rest of your starting lineup before taking one, but if there isn't and you can still grab Ben Roethlisberger, Andrew Luck or Drew Brees here, go for it.
If you've already selected a quarterback, continue to look for utility players with upside, such as Duke Johnson or Tevin Coleman. They can be spot starters if needed, especially since they carry added PPR value.
If you target Miami Dolphins receiver DeVante Parker, keep in mind that he's dealing with a broken finger and may not be at 100 percent when the season begins.
1. Ty Montgomery, RB, Green Bay Packers
2. Jacksonville Jaguars D/ST
3. Kenny Stills, WR, Miami Dolphins
4. Chris Thompson, RB, Washington Redskins
5. Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Buffalo Bills
6. Sterling Shepard, WR, New York Giants
7. Dez Bryant, WR, Free Agent
8. Marqise Lee, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars
9. Carlos Hyde, RB, Cleveland Browns
10. Cameron Meredith, WR, New Orleans Saints
11. Isaiah Crowell, RB, New York Jets
12. DJ Moore, WR, Carolina Panthers
Realistically, this is too high to be taking a defense, but the Jacksonville Jaguars are the team to target if you insist on doing so. Jacksonville allowed an average of just 16.8 points per game last season while also producing 55 sacks and 21 interceptions.
Don't think about drafting free-agent wideout Dez Bryant this high either. He may not even be on a roster when the regular season opens. He certainly won't be integrated into an offense enough to be a fantasy difference-maker.
Bryant's best chance of signing a timely deal was with Cleveland. He met with the Browns, but the team isn't interested in signing him anytime soon, according to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. Focus instead on players who own roster spots.
1. Los Angeles Rams D/ST
2. Allen Hurns, WR, Dallas Cowboys
3. Philadelphia Eagles D/ST
4. Tarik Cohen, RB, Chicago Bears
5. Jamaal Williams, RB, Green Bay Packers
6. Tyler Lockett, WR, Seattle Seahawks
7. Marlon Mack, RB, Indianapolis Colts
8. Rishard Matthews, WR, Tennessee Titans
9. Kenny Golladay, WR, Detroit Lions
10. Martavis Bryant, WR, Oakland Raiders
11. Mike Williams, WR, Los Angeles Chargers
12. James White, RB, New England Patriots
This is where you want to start filling out your bench and looking for potential sleepers and spot starters. Receiving backs like Tarik Cohen and James White are the perfect players to target in Round 10.
This is still a tad high to be targeting defenses, but you're likely to start seeing opponents reach for them here. Don't be tempted to overdraft. There isn't a lot of difference between your second-tier defenses, so unless you're starting the run on the position, you can afford to continue waiting.
While Tennessee Titans receiver Rishard Matthews is trending here, it may be wise to ignore him altogether. He's been out for months with an undisclosed injury, and it's unclear when he'll return and what kind of shape he'll be in when he does.
1. Paul Richardson, WR, Washington Redskins
2. Calvin Ridley, WR, Atlanta Falcons
3. Theo Riddick, RB, Detroit Lions
4. Trey Burton, TE, Chicago Bears
5. Chris Carson, RB, Seattle Seahawks
6. Minnesota Vikings D/ST
7. Aaron Jones, RB, Green Bay Packers
8. Jack Doyle, TE, Indianapolis Colts
9. Nick Chubb, RB, Cleveland Browns
10. Michael Gallup, WR, Dallas Cowboys
11. Giovani Bernard, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
12. Anthony Miller, WR, Chicago Bears
While filling out your bench, focus on players who can jump into the flex spot if other guys are underperforming. Continue to look at receiving backs like Theo Riddick and Giovani Bernard, as you can usually count on them for a few points per week based on receptions alone.
Drafting a backup tight end isn't a great idea, as you're unlikely to play one in the flex and will therefore only be using him in the event of an injury or during a bye week. Things are a bit different, of course, if you took Jordan Reed, who has never played a full 16-game season.
While the Dallas Cowboys lack a top-tier pass-catcher, keep an eye on rookie Michael Gallup. He's looked solid in the preseason, catching three passes for 46 yards and a touchdown. He could emerge as a nice late-round sleeper.
Keep in mind that Packers running back Aaron Jones is facing a two-game suspension to start the season.
1. C.J. Anderson, RB, Carolina Panthers
2. LeGarrette Blount, RB, Detroit Lions
3. Dede Westbrook, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars
4. Jared Goff, QB, Los Angeles Rams
5. Chris Godwin, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
6. Josh Doctson, WR, Washington Redskins
7. Mohamed Sanu, WR, Atlanta Falcons
8. DeSean Jackson, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
9. Philip Rivers, QB, Los Angeles Chargers
10. David Njoku, TE, Cleveland Browns
11. Corey Clement, RB, Philadelphia Eagles
12. Peyton Barber, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
This is a spot where you can grab legitimate sleepers. Look for guys who are being undervalued but who have proven fantasy success. DeSean Jackson is the type of player you want here.
The Tampa Bay wide receiver is coming off a down year and will be without starting quarterback Jameis Winston for the first three games of the season. However, he's still an explosive playmaker who should be more productive in his second campaign with the Buccaneers.
C.J. Anderson is another solid option at this point. The Panthers running back will be splitting time with Christian McCaffrey, but he was a 1,000-yard rusher with Denver last season and has spot-starter potential.
1. Marcus Mariota, QB, Tennessee Titans
2. George Kittle, TE, San Francisco 49ers
3. Patrick Mahomes, QB, Kansas City Chiefs
4. Devontae Booker, RB, Denver Broncos
5. Tyler Eifert, TE, Cincinnati Bengals
6. Nyheim Hines, RB, Indianapolis Colts
7. O.J. Howard, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
8. Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons
9. Ted Ginn Jr., WR, New Orleans Saints
10. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Jacksonville Jaguars
11. Latavius Murray, RB, Minnesota Vikings
12. D'Onta Foreman, RB, Houston Texans
The fact that a quarterback like Matt Ryan is trending in Round 13 is why overdrafting the position is silly. Yes, he took a step back under offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian last season, but Ryan still passed for more than 4,000 yards and tossed 20 touchdowns. He should be better in his second year of Sarkisian's system, but even these numbers make him a low-end starter.
Do target a guy like Ryan or Marcus Mariota to be your backup or stream starter.
Don't overvalue Patrick Mahomes, who has a lot of weapons but just one NFL start on his resume. He has a lot of potential, but he's essentially a rookie in terms of actual game experience.
1. Charles Clay, TE, Buffalo Bills
2. Samaje Perine, RB, Washington Redskins
3. Mike Gesicki, TE, Miami Dolphins
4. Cameron Brate, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
5. Matt Breida, RB, San Francisco 49ers
6. Jordan Wilkins, RB, Indianapolis Colts
7. Alex Smith, QB, Washington Redskins
8. Bilal Powell, RB, New York Jets
9. Tyrell Williams, WR, Los Angeles Chargers
10. Robert Kelley, RB, Washington Redskins
11. Doug Martin, RB, Oakland Raiders
12. John Brown, WR, Baltimore Ravens
Rookie Derrius Guice suffered a season-ending ACL tear, and that has led to an intriguing running back situation for the Washington Redskins. It's one to keep an eye on, as you may get quality value by drafting the eventual starter.
Robert Kelley and Samaje Perine are trending at a similar rate right now, while Chris Thompson is already off the board because of his receiving ability. There is more to consider than simply which of these two is the right one to draft. Perine is dealing with an ankle injury, and the Redskins signed Adrian Peterson on Monday, per Ian Rapoport and Mike Garafolo of NFL Network.
1. Seattle Seahawks D/ST
2. Geronimo Allison, WR, Green Bay Packers
3. Los Angeles Chargers D/ST
4. Houston Texans D/ST
5. Baltimore Ravens D/ST
6. Keelan Cole, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars
7. Denver Broncos D/ST
8. New Orleans Saints D/ST
9. New England Patriots D/ST
10. Kansas City Chiefs D/ST
11. Justin Tucker, K, Baltimore Ravens
12. Stephen Gostkowski, K, New England Patriots
There's nothing wrong with reaching for an elite defense earlier in the draft, but if you haven't grabbed yours by the second-to-last round, now is the time. Pay attention to the scoring format of your league and draft your defense accordingly.
Units that produce sacks and turnovers are obviously going to hold fantasy value. If your league places emphasis on points allowed, however, teams like the Patriots will also be viable options. Yes, the New England defense was awful in 2017, but it also allowed an average of just 18.5 points per game (fifth-lowest in the NFL).
If you did take a chance on a defense earlier, now is the time to fill your final bench spot before turning your attention to the kicker position.
1. Carolina Panthers D/ST
2. Chris Boswell, K, Pittsburgh Steelers
3. Greg Zuerlein, K, Los Angeles Rams
4. Jake Elliott, K, Philadelphia Eagles
5. Wil Lutz, K, New Orleans Saints
6. Dan Bailey, K, Dallas Cowboys
7. Matt Bryant, K, Atlanta Falcons
8. Harrison Butker, K, Kansas City Chiefs
9. Mason Crosby, K, Green Bay Packers
10. Robbie Gould, K, San Francisco 49ers
11. Matt Prater, K, Detroit Lions
12. Graham Gano, K, Carolina Panthers
While you'll undoubtedly see people reach for the specialist they want, the final round is where you should draft your kicker. Finding a good one is fairly simple. Target a quality offense, and grab the guy making kicks for it.
While field goals are more valuable than touchdowns for your kicker, good offenses are going to see more red-zone opportunities. Don't overthink your kicker, and definitely don't ever draft two.