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Fantasy Football 2019: 1st-Round Mock Draft and Winning Strategy

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistAugust 5, 2019

New York Giants' Saquon Barkley reacts after scoring a touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys, Sunday, Dec. 30, 2018, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

The arrival of the NFL preseason means many things. For casual fans, it means we're roughly a month away from the start of the regular season. For more dedicated fans, it means they can scratch that football itch with a little exhibition action. For fans of season-long fantasy football, the preseason generally marks the start of the draft window.

Ideally, your league won't hold its draft until after the third preseason game. Drafting too early can leave you stuck with a player who suffers an unfortunate injury or one headed for an extended contract holdout—as fantasy players who drafted Le'Veon Bell last year can attest.

It's never too early to start preparing for your fantasy draft, however. Here, you'll find some draft strategies based on how things look around the league heading into the first week of league-wide exhibition play—along with an early Round 1 mock.

    

2019 NFL Fantasy PPR Mock

1. Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants

2. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers

3. Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints

4. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys

5. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston Texans

6. David Johnson, RB, Arizona Cardinals

7. Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay Packers

8. James Conner, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers

9. Le'Veon Bell, RB, New York Jets

10. Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs

11. Michael Thomas, WR, New Orleans Saints

12. Joe Mixon, RB, Cincinnati Bengals

      

Know Your League's Format

This may sound simple, but the first thing you need to do before sitting down for your fantasy draft is familiarize yourself with the league's scoring format.

Does your league award a point or a half-point for receptions? If it's the former, feel free to target high-volume receivers like DeAndre Hopkins and Micheal Thomas along with elite running backs in the opening rounds.

How does your league award points for quarterbacks? This can vary greatly from league to league and has a big impact on how early you should take a signal-caller.

In leagues that reward passing touchdowns with, say, four points instead of six, quarterbacks aren't quite as valuable as top skill-position players. In such leagues, it's better to lock up your top running backs and receivers before pulling the trigger on a signal-caller. The gap between the elite players and the next tier isn't as great at quarterback as it will be at other positions.

Does your league award points for rushing to quarterbacks at the same rate as running backs—often one point for 10 yards and six for a rushing touchdown? Then quarterbacks who regularly run the ball, like Cam Newton, Russel Wilson, Josh Allen and Deshaun Watson, have added value.

Has your league ditched the tight end position for a second FLEX spot? If so, only target tight ends who are borderline No. 1 receiving options, like Travis Kelce, George Kittle and Zach Ertz, early in the draft.

     

Know Your Player Situations

Ron Jenkins/Associated Press

Again, this seems like a simple idea, but it's an important one. Know what kind of roles and roster situations your top players face heading into the regular season.

In the first couple rounds, focus on every-down running backs like Saquon Barkley and Le'Veon Bell, along with your high-volume pass-catchers. Be wary of former fantasy stars who could now be entering committee situations—like Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley.

"The days of Todd Gurley just being the straight-up, every-down bell cow are probably over, just based on his knee, his age, the position, the amount of carries he's had," NFL Media's Ian Rapoport said on NFL Total Access back in June.

This is where drafting too early can come back to bite you. We may not see much of Gurley in the preseason, but a long exhibition look at backup Malcolm Brown and rookie Rams runner Darrell Henderson can provide an idea of just how much the Rams can afford to lean away from Gurley in 2019.

In the case of potential holdouts, it's again important to know the situations. Ezekiel Elliott and Melvin Gordon are both avoiding training camps in search of new deals, but their situations are quite different.

The Dallas Cowboys have centered their offense around Elliott, and a deal before the start of the regular season seems likely.

"Just know that like so many things, it'll happen," owner Jerry Jones said of new deals for Elliott, Amari Cooper and Dak Prescott, per Adam Maya of NFL.com.

The Los Angeles Chargers' offense isn't as centered around Gordon, who doesn't have the same kind of leverage Elliott does. If Gordon reports to camp before Week 1, it will likely be because he caved, not because he got the contract he's looking for.

And if a player like Elliott or Gordon doesn't report? Be sure to target their backups early—in Gordon's case, Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson.

      

Know Your Handcuffs

Handcuffs are an important piece of a winning draft strategy. Pay attention to which players are currently dealing with injuries and those with a notable injury history, and don't be afraid to take their backups in the bottom rounds of the draft.

Do this for both your players and your opponents'. Cincinnati Bengals wideout A.J. Green, for example, is expected to miss regular-season games with an ankle injury. If one of your rivals selects him in Round 3, don't be afraid to snag No. 2 Bengals receiver Tyler Boyd in Round 4.

Not only will this increase the value of your own fantasy roster, but it will also give you valuable trade capital should Green go on to miss significant time.

This doesn't only apply to injury situations, either. Running backs potentially entering committee situations can also provide valuable handcuff options.

For example, the Kansas City Chiefs are expected to make Damien Williams their starting running back in 2019. However, they also have Darrel Williams, Carlos Hyde and rookie Darwin Thompson on the roster.

Don't be afraid to take a late-round flier on Hyde because Williams may not pan out as a 16-game starter.