Now that the NFL has closed the final chapter on another season, fantasy football players can reflect on the results and pursue other hobbies before returning with fresh eyes for 2019 draft prep.
Or they can just start now.
The NFL, or any major sport, never leaves the spotlight. While some fans redirect their attention to basketball, hockey and baseball, others started their football rankings immediately after the New England Patriots hoisted the Lombardi Trophy on Sunday.
For everyone already getting antsy entering the first weekend without football, let's take an early look ahead with a 2019 fantasy mock draft. The following results stem from a 12-team draft, using a half-point-per-reception scoring system, conducted against automated teams via FantasyPros' Draft Wizard.
Keep in mind that offseason moves, injuries and the NFL draft will undoubtedly shake up the league's landscape by the summer. Never lock into player evaluations so early.
This is merely the first of many practice runs before getting a better sense of how to approach 2019 drafts.
Mock Draft Results
QB Baker Mayfield, CLE (11.123)
RB Ezekiel Elliott, DAL (1.3)
RB Aaron Jones, GB (2.22)
WR Mike Evans, TB (3.27)
WR Julian Edelman, NE (4.46)
WR Mike Williams, LAC (6.70)
TE Evan Engram, NYG (8.94)
FLEX Derrick Henry, TEN (5.51)
DST Cleveland Browns (15.171)
K Michael Badgley, LAC (16.190)
BN Will Fuller, HOU (7.75)
BN Kenneth Dixon, BAL (9.99)
BN Antonio Callaway, CLE (10.118)
BN Jamaal Williams, GB (12.142)
BN DeVante Parker, MIA (13.147)
BN Tom Brady, NE (14.166)
Wide receivers have infiltrated the first round in recent years, but anyone drawing a top-four pick (in any format) must revert to conventional practices and snag an elite running back.
While most backfields remained group efforts, Todd Gurley, Saquon Barkley, Ezekiel Elliott and Christian McCaffrey all dominated as undisputed bell-cow backs during the regular season. The top choice is tougher given Gurley's postseason vanishing acts, so indecisive drafters should cross their fingers for pick No. 4.
Selecting one spot earlier, Elliott narrowly edges out McCaffrey. Averaging a gargantuan 25.5 touches and 131.6 yards per game, including the playoffs, he offers the highest floor—on a weekly and season-long basis—in all of fantasy football.
The same can't be said about Derrick Henry, who averaged 46.0 total yards per game as a touchdown-or-nothing flex play through Week 13. Anyone who somehow made the playoffs with the middling Tennessee Titans running back, however, rode him to a title.
Henry turned into Jim Brown in December, churning out 585 rushing yards and seven touchdowns—he had 474 yards and five scores in 12 prior games—over the last four contests. According to ESPN.com's Turron Davenport, new offensive coordinator Arthur Smith wants to keep feeding his 6'3", 247-pound back.
"Derrick will be a big part of the offense," Smith said. "He has a rare skill set. Derrick's a home run hitter. We are taking another step hopefully with him. What he did over the last five weeks will open up a lot of things."
Henry fell to the fifth round against computers, but humans prone to recency bias likely won't exude such patience. He could leap as high as the third round, which is reasonable in non-PPR formats. Yet PPR and half-PPR drafters shouldn't reach too early for a volatile rusher who caught 15 of 18 targets.
Those sick of being told to wait on a quarterback will hate this summer's pre-draft coverage.
Looking back at FantasyPros' consensus average draft position (ADP), Andrew Luck, 2018's No. 5 quarterback in fantasy points, was the only passer taken inside the top 10 to outperform his draft slot (No. 9). The top three performers (Patrick Mahomes, Matt Ryan and Ben Roethlisberger) all went after Matthew Stafford, the 10th signal-caller off the board at pick No. 91 overall.
Aaron Rodgers, who finished sixth in quarterback scoring, averaged 0.7 fantasy points per game more than Mitchell Trubisky, the overall QB15, who was typically drafted in the 15th round (176 ADP).
Unless Mahomes slips, keep playing chicken with the deep position. Even if that just means taking the inevitable Philip Rivers discount, there's value waiting well beyond the top 100 picks. Although no one is likely to match Mahomes' massive outburst, Baker Mayfield offers considerable upside.
Despite not making his first start until Week 3, last year's No. 1 draft choice compiled 3,725 passing yards and 27 touchdowns in a promising rookie campaign. After the Cleveland Browns fired head coach Hue Jackson at the end of October, Mayfield outscored all but nine quarterbacks, with 19.0 fantasy points per game from Week 9 onward.
As a reward for resisting the expensive passers, consider pairing one upside play with a stable veteran. While it's not imperative to grab two quarterbacks, it's hard to pass on a six-time Super Bowl champion in the 14th round.
Tom Brady, who will turn 42 before next season begins, accrued his fewest passing touchdowns (29) and most interceptions (11) since 2014. He has also, however, eclipsed 4,100 passing yards in each of the past seven full seasons, so he's a fine floor option if name recognition and real-life value don't artificially inflate his price.
Note: All fantasy scoring data obtained from FantasyPros